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The Stories of Ernest Favenc, Volume III:
Ernest Favenc:
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The Stories of Ernest Favenc, Volume III


Ernest Favenc

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This e-book edition: Project Gutenberg Australia, 2023

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Ernest Favenc (1845-1908)


British-born and educated at Berlin and Oxford, Ernest Favenc (1845-1908; the name is of Huguenot origin) arrived in Australia aged 19, and while working on cattle and sheep stations in Queensland wrote occasional stories for the Queenslander. In 1877 the newspaper sponsored an expedition to discover a viable railway route from Adelaide to Darwin, which was led by Favenc. He later undertook further explorations, and then moved to Sydney.

He wrote some novels and poems and a great many short stories, reputedly 300 or so. Three volumes of his stories were published in his lifetime:

The Last of Six, Tales of the Austral Tropics, 1893

Tales of the Austral Tropics, 1894

My Only Murder and Other Tales, 1899

His short stories range from bush humor to horror, supernatural to strange, and to the privations of late 19th century exploration in Australia's unforgiving inland. His first two short story books (consolidated into one volume, as there is considerable overlap), are available free as an ebook from Project Gutenberg Australia.

—Terry Walker, January 2023




As by "Dramingo"

Brisbane Courier, 13 December 1873


EVERYBODY says that I was made a regular fool of, so I suppose that I was. Anyhow, I will tell all about it, and leave the reader to judge for himself.

I was a new chum when the following events happened, and I resided on Idolvale Station, where I was supposed to be acquiring what is known as "colonial experience." Old Wiggins was the owner of said Idolvale, and a decent enough old fellow he was. Mrs Wiggins was boss (I trust I am not obscure). Miss Wiggins, aged five and twenty, more or less, was second boss. I beg to state that all names of persons, places, and everything else are of course fictitious. I might be getting my head punched if I am not careful.

I paid old Wiggins the sum of one hundred pounds per annum, in return for which he kindly allowed me to help milk the cows in the morning, tail cattle when required, and do a little amateur fencing. On the other hand, I had the pleasure of being introduced to all visitors, under the sounding title of Mr Horatio Spoffy, of turning over the leaves of Miss W's music, and putting her up on her horse when she went out for her evening ride. I intend to make this as short as possible, so shall introduce to you only the real actors in the amusing episode, please therefore to take the usual number of station hands on a good sized cattle station, neighbours, etc., as so much left to the imaginative powers of the reader.

Mrs. Wiggins was a woman who always had a grievance; now it was the state of her health, then Mr. Wiggins' backslidings, now the dullness of bush life; but her favorite subject was the scarcity of good domestic servants. I am a young man of singularly prepossessing appearance, and noble, open manner, attracted, I suppose, by this, Mrs. W. was good enough to make me a receptacle of the many troubles of her life, and almost persuaded me into the belief that she was really and truly a bona-fide martyr. She also in confidence told me what an amiable creature Caroline was, what a model daughter, etc, for all of which I, of course, felt duly honored.

Knowing as I did Mrs. Wiggins' pet grievance, I had grown accustomed to the constant change of cooks and housemaids, and therefore felt no surprise when one day, in the course of conversation, Mrs. Wiggins announced the expected advent of a new housemaid that evening. Little did I think how that arrival forebode sorrow for me; the coming events cast no shadow before it.

I stood at the piano that night, in my usual graceful attitude, and listened to Miss W, as, with languishing eyes, she sang, "Oh! stay with me, my darling, stay," when a knock was heard at the door, and a voice informed Old Wiggins, who was sleeping the sleep of the just in his arm chair, that "Soopgot, the carrier, had come."

Old W. arose, growling like the typical bear of being disturbed from his slumbers; as he departed, said Mrs. Wiggins, "James, if the new servant is there, send her up to me."

James went, and shortly afterwards a light foot-step came along the hall, and in answer to Mrs. Wiggins' "come in," there appeared a slender figured girl, with a face like a Madonna, downcast brown eyes and pretty, pouty lips.

"Folding her pale hands so meekly," whilst Mrs. Wiggins put her through her facings, she answered all queries in a low, but firm voice. Mrs. W having finished entreating some person or persons unknown to stay with her for the term of their natural lives, wheeled round on the music stool, and stared at the newcomer as though she were a horse brought in for inspection. I, artful dog, picked up a piece of music, and over the top of that took a sly glance at her.

"She seems a respectable sort of girl," said Mrs. W, after dismissing Jessie, that being the name she confessed to.

"Yes," replied Miss, "but very plain, don't you think so Mr Spoffy?"

I, arch hypocrite, replied that "I had scarcely looked at her." (Hadn't I though?) I fell head ever heels in love with her before she had shut the door.

Old Wiggins came back. Miss expressed her opinion vocally that "He would come back, she knew he would."

Bed time arrived in due course, and I went to bed only to dream that I was drafting on the main camp, and trying to cut Jessie out from amongst a mob of Carolines, when just as I had succeeded, she turned into a bullock, charged, and knocked me into a water hole. I awoke to find my head in the wash hand basin, and my heels on the pillow. I mention this dream because it was in some sort prophetic.

In the course of a few days, Mrs. W. stated her opinion that the new maid was a perfect treasure. We had had a good many treasures at the start, so that I did not lay much stress on that. All the males around about, of high and low degree, were agreed on the one point, that she was the prettiest little girl to be seen anywhere, for what human heart that beat beneath his waistcoat (a shirt I should say, for waistcoats are not much worn in the bush) could withstand those eyes, and oh! such ankles.

All the other women, of course, said that she is nothing at all to look at, in fact, made her out to be positively ugly.

Two months had nearly passed, and considering the difficulties incidental to our respective positions, and the holy dread I had of incurring the resentment of either Mrs. or Miss Wiggins, managed to push my acquaintanceship with pretty Jessie, towards, as I thought, a favorable termination. She and the sweetest of smiles to me in return for elegant compliments that I paid her, and accepted the presents I made her with murmured thanks and an upward look of gratitude that rendered me a hopeless lump of humanity for the remainder of the day.

Young Clockett, the owner of the next station, was always over at Idolvale now, and even old Mackintosh, from Bugaboo might be seen coming in that direction far more often than business required.

In fact, it was quite the fashion about that particular portion of the district for the young fellows to chaff one another about Mother Wiggins' pretty housemaid. Jessie accepted all their attentions presents as matter of course, she gave all for a fair field and no favor, and taught her many admirers to behave respectfully. In fact, young De Nekty, who was in the civil service in —— just fancied himself as a lady-killer, and was stopping on a visit at Idolvale, coming down as one morning, and finding Jessie alone dusting the rooms, tried to take a kiss, and had a vase broken over his head in return, and was informed in addition that "he was the essence of a cad," which however, he wasn't for he took it in very good part, and told Mrs. Wiggins that he broke the vase, averting thereby the wrath of that lady.

Now Clockett had a stockman, a quiet sort of fellow called Jack Devitt; he came to Clockett's about a month previously, looking for work, which he obtained, and turning out a very good hand, was retained permanently. The only account he gave of himself was that he had been unfortunate on the diggings, and wished to make a small rise in order to try his luck again. A very quiet fellow was master Jack, and though civil spoken enough, had an air of independence about him that made you somehow feel that there was more about the fellow than he chose to let you see.

I always thought that Jack had seen Jessie before somewhere for the first time that he came over to Idolvale, I thought she was going to faint when she saw him, but he took no notice of her, and in fact accrued quite indifferent to the charms of the household beauty. The account Jessie gave of herself was that she had come to —— as a barmaid, but not liking the life, had taken the first situation that offered, which proved to be Mrs. W.'s.

As to where she came from before that, or anything about her past life, nobody over succeeded in eliciting any information from her.

I was riding through the bush with Jack one day during the muster, and in my superior, condescending manner chaffed him about the girl. Ignoring altogether my allusion to himself, Jack quietly replied, "Don't let that girl make a fool of you, Mr Spoffy; she is a conceited little flirt."

I laughed, though I must confess rather foolishly. The idea! Horatio Spoffy, who had broken hearts in England, being made a fool of by a little colonial servant girl. Ha ha!

One more little episode, and I come to the final denouement: Mrs. Wiggins was, or feigned to be, quite unconscious of the admiration Jessie was exciting in the inflammable breasts of surrounding makes. The fact was, Jessie was such an admirable servant that Mrs. W., who could appreciate comfort as well as most people, was not at all inclined to part with her. However, one unfortunate morning old W. put his foot into in, and thereby brought Jessie into the old lady's bad books. I had finished my breakfast before work in the milking-yard, and was sitting in the verandah, when I heard Mr. Wise slippered feet come into the breakfast-room just behind me. He rang the bell.

"Jessie, bring me my boots, please."

The obedient handmaiden appeared with them in due course, and stooped to place them on the ground before his arm-chair.

"Why Jessie, girl, how fresh you look this morning," I heard the old fellow say, and, looking round saw him administer a paternal pat on the blooming cheek of the neat-handed Phyllis. Somebody else saw the innocent action too!

"Mr. Wiggins! James!" sounded in an awful voice from the door, "how dare you! Leave the room instantly, you impudent, bold-faced hussy," said Mrs. Wiggins, turning on Jessie.

"My dear," said Wiggins. I would not have been in his shoes at that moment for a trifle. "Don't attempt to excuse your conduct," said Mrs. W., "I saw you myself. You an old man with a faithful wife! Oh! and a loving daughter! Oh! Oh! kissing that abandoned creature."

It was too much, she should have kept to the truth the worm turned.

"I did not kiss her, Caroline, nor think of doing so; I merely patted her cheek quite innocently, and—and—if I had kissed her, she is better worth, kissing than ever you were."

Under cover of this broadside, Wiggins fled the field, and Mrs W. fell into hysterics on the sofa, with a shriek.

A shriek that echoed through the joisted roof,
And up the hills it rang with horrid clatter
The kangaroos who browsed there, far aloof,
Jumped, crying, "What's the matter!"


IT was a balmy evening in May, some short time after the before-mentioned incident, that I resume my narrative. How the old couple made it up, I know not; this only do I know, that Mrs and Miss W. sported now and resplendent jewellery, and Mr. W. never, never by any chance looked towards Jessie. It was a balmy evening' as I said before; the golden king of day sank behind the distant hills, throwing a last lingering, glorious look over the fair plains, smiling like a black gin over a fig of tobacco, so. I was standing in the verandah, twisting up a cracker, admiring the fit of a new pair of moleskins and thinking, with a conscious smile, of the impression they would make on Jessie's susceptible heart. Wiggins was expatiating to Mackintosh on the merits of a newly-purchased Hereford bull. Clockett, who had ridden over on some lame excuse, made the striking and original remark that he saw the mailman coming that being the first speech he had favored us with since saying, "How do you do?"

Mailbag brought in and opened. Letters all round. One for me, to the effect that old uncle Benjamin had shuffled off this mortal coil, and left me about eight thousand pounds. He was a kind old fellow, and I did really feel sorry to hear of his death, and rather inclined to take Miss W. up short, when with outstretched band and beaming eyes, she said, "Oh, Mr. Spoffy, how I do congratulate you."

But I am going ahead of my story.

Mrs. Wiggins, having overlooked the directions of Wiggins' letters, and seeing no female handwriting amongst them, permitted him to read in peace, Mackintosh, finding everybody rather absent-minded, said good-bye, and rode off. The ladies, having asked Mr. Clockett to accompany them for a drive which he declined, saying that he was in a desperate hurry to get home, departed for their constitutional on wheels.

Clockett, who had suddenly forgotten his haste, muttered something about going to look at the plan of the stables (to know every slab in them), and was strolling off when Wiggins, starting out of a reverie into which he had fallen since reading his letters, said, "If you I are going to the back, Clockett, here is a letter for Jessie, you can give to her or one of the servants as you pass. Spoffy, just take a turn with me, will you?"

Linking his arm in mine, who strolled about, without his speaking a word, for some time. At last he said, "I want you to be up before daylight to-morrow, and go down the paddock and catch Tartar for me. I am going to B—— to-morrow, and do not want the old woman to know till I am gone."

I felt rather surprised, and I suppose showed it, for after a bit he went on:

"You know, Spoffy, I got into G. and Westlands some time ago, and what with commission, interest, and all the many ways these fellows have of swelling the account, together with my own expenses, fencing, etc, I am rather behind hand. They are going to put the screw on, I hear by this post; and unless I can raise the money before next week, it will be all up with Idolvale. Now, if the old woman know that I was going down to B—— in a hurry, she would give me no peace till I gave her the reason and I don't want her to know until I am obliged to toll for I may make it all right yet."

I felt sorry for the old boy, and had my newly-acquired capital been in my pocket in hard cash, should doubtless have pressed him to accept it. Fortunately it was not, and remembering that some time must necessarily elapse before I could touch it, I wisely contented myself with promising to hold my tongue, and have his horse up ready in the morning.

We went back to the house; Wiggins plunged into a little don he called his office I turned into the dining-room, where there seemed to be a low murmur of voices going on. Pre-occupied as I was, as I entered I had a confused notion of seeing Jessie fly out of the room in tears, and Clockett standing at the table looking rather foolish.

"Been taking a stroll with the old man?" he said, and seemed busy putting something into his pocket that looked like a cheque-book. "Well, good-bye for the present," he went on, holding out his hand. "When shall I see you over at my place?"

"Stay to dinner," I said.

"No, thanks; I must be off. Jack has left—did I tell you?"

"No; thought he suited you A.1."

"So he did; very good man. But he got some money from somewhere, and wouldn't stop. Broken down swell, I think. Good-bye, old follow."

He left the room, but it must have been nearly half an hour before I saw him cantering across the plain.

The coast being pretty clear, I thought it would be a fine opportunity to have a flirtation with Jessie; so strolled towards the back regions, chuckling as I thought what a successful dog I was amongst the petticoats. The first thing I saw on getting into the passage and a charming picture it made was Jessie's lithe figure leaning against the pantry door, her pretty face buried in her pocket handkerchief. I am no stronger than the rest of my sex where a woman's tears are concerned, and was by her side in an instant, beseeching her to tell me the cause of her trouble, whilst my arm stole insidiously round her waist. She sobbed out for a few seconds; then drawing herself away she said, "I did not think that you would have taken advantage of my being in grief to insult me, Mr. Spoffy."

"I insult you, Jessie? I am so sorry as I can be for you. Tell me what it is."

She had ceased crying, but looked steadily away from me, and her frame seemed convulsed with emotion.

"Tell me, Jessie," I pleaded.

"I cannot," she said. "My troubles are my own."

"But perhaps I can assist you."

She shook her head.

"Try me," I said. I had taken her hand, and its warm clasp acted like a galvanic battery. "Is it money you want?"

She snatched away her hand. "Money! and from you?"

"And why not, Jessie? I love you. Do, thou, let me help you."

"You love me! Yes! I am pretty girl, and a servant, so you think that you can make a fool of me! and also broke out sobbing again.

"Indeed! indeed, Jessie, I love you truly and honorably. Oh, believe me!"

Her tear-stained cheeks and enchanting ways put me quite beside myself.

"Dare I hope that you mean it?" and she turned two swimming eyes up to mine.

"I am true, Jessie; I am!" I said, nearly ready to cry myself.

"Then I will tell you all." Just then the whole of the buggy were heard, bringing the ladies back from their drive. "I must go," said Jessie; "but meet me here to-night." I got a hurried kiss somewhere on the top of her head, and she was gone.

Oh! how long it seemed to bedtime that night. Wiggins was nearly as absented as myself, and answered several times at random.

"Papa is in love, I think—" said Missey, glancing archly at me, and emphasizing the "love;" "—and you, too, Mr. Spoffy," she concluded, giggling.

Mrs. W. glanced scornfully at her helpmate, who was doing his best to keep trouble from her door, and snorted contemptuously.

The clock struck ten. Mrs. W. yawned, and announced her intention of retiring. Miss W. dutifully followed suit. My prayers for their sound slumbers followed also. Half-past ten, Wiggins said "Good-night," to which he whispered, like a second Charles, the mystic word, "Remember!"

I was getting impatient, and taking off my boots, stole to the trysting place. I had to wait some time before a white-robed figure came gliding noiselessly along, and my shy little Jessie nestled for a moment in my arms, and then drew away.

"It is very wrong, I know, to meet you like this alone at night; but I am so unhappy."

An emphatic hand squeeze was my answer.

"Your sympathy I may have," she went on.

"Tell me, darling, all your trouble," I said.

In a low voice, Jessie told her simple tale. A widowed mother, an invalid sister, a long-standing debt, and a hard creditor, who, unless paid off, would sell the small farm on which they resided, leaving them homeless.

"Mr. Clockett caught me crying over the letter," said Jessie, "and would insist on hearing all about it. He would have given me some money, too, but I could not take it from him," and she gave a great sob. Fancy this tale told in the dead stillness of the night, to a young fellow of one-and-twenty, by a velvet checked girl, with her hair hanging down her back, and crying her heart out on your shoulder! This was the second tale of money embarrassment poured into my ear. But how different the narrator one young and winsome the other old and prosaic.

"Jessie, you will let me give you the money."

"Oh no, no."

"But you must be reasonable now; surely you would rather be indebted to me than see your poor mother turned out of her home? How much is it?"

"Seventy-five pounds," came a low voice.

I had a balance at the bank of one hundred and odd pounds and bidding Jessie wait till I came back, I stole to my room, and got my check book.

"Come into the dining-room;" and like, two ghosts we crept in. Jessie cautiously lit a candle, and stood with her arm lovingly through mine, whilst I drew out a cheque for one hundred pounds. When I handed it to her she glanced at the amount.

"You are a dear old fellow," she said, in quite an altered voice, throwing her arms round my neck and giving me an earnest kiss. The next moment I was alone.

I must say I thought that an hour or two's mild spooning would not have come amiss after transacting business; but Jessie's modesty fired up at the bare thought of stopping up with me after the others were all in bed, so with solemn promises of meeting again, I had to content myself.

I went to bed, but slept not. The house seemed full of mysterious voices and subdued whispers. Several times I could have sworn to hearing a stifled laugh from somewhere. But at 4 o'clock, when I got up to further old Wiggin's departure, everything was quiet.

Wiggins was standing at the door with his boots in his hand when I got back with his horse, and daylight was peeping gray and ghost-like over the distant trees.

"I shall be back the day after to-morrow," he said. "I have left a letter in your room for you to give Mrs. Wiggins. Good-bye."

About one o'clock that morning Miss Wiggins came tripping into the room.

"Good morning, Mr. Spoffy. Have you seen papa any where?"

"No, Miss Wiggins; but will you give this note to Mrs Wiggins?"

"Yes. Why, it's pa's writing!" and she flew out of the room like a startled kangaroo rat.

Very soon afterwards Mrs. W. bustled in.

"Mr. Wiggins says that he has had to leave home this morning to arrange some very important business in B—. Do you know anything more, Mr. Spoffy?"

"No, Mrs. Wiggins," I commenced.

But she went on, "Why, how is this? No breakfast laid. Call that lazy girl up directly."

"Jessie! Jessie!" resounded through the house, but no answering "Yes, marm." I began to feel very queer.

"Her room is empty," said missy, coming back.

"Mary!" screamed Mrs. Wiggins. The cook appeared.

"Where is Jessie?"

"I don't know, mam."

"But you do know you must know!" asserted Mrs. Wiggins, vehemently.

"I know no more than that dog where she is. All I know is that she said late last night that she was going for a pleasure trip down to B——, and that Mr. Clockett and Mr. Spoffy were going to shout!"

Mrs. Wiggins stared at me with dilated eyes, whilst my brain seemed in a whirl.

"They have gone together!" she yelled, in a voice like a bo'sun; "and you helped them! Deceived! Abandoned!" and without the slightest warning she fainted, and fell against me. We should both have fallen prostrate, but for a convenient chair into which we tumbled. Of the scene that ensued I cannot write distinctly.

It was a babel of crying, talking, abusing, scolding, me and every time that I attempted flight I was brought back with, "Do not desert us, Mr. Spoffy, in our affliction."

Of course I endeavored to make Mrs. Wiggins understand the real cause of her husband's absence, but it was all in vain.

"Embarrassed circumstances I never heard of before," she said. "And where is Jessie, Mr. Spoffy; girls don't go for pleasure trips by themselves. Oh!" and she clenched her hands and tooth, "if I could just drop upon them I'd spoil their pleasure trip!" And no doubt she would.

As for my share in the explanations, I confess that, in face of those two tearful, injured women, I denied all knowledge of Jessie's remark about Clockett and I having shouted. What else could I do alone in the house with two women who only wanted an object on which to expend the vials of their wrath? Luther or Cranmer would have denied had they stood in my bluchers.

TWO days passed, and such days! Everybody went staggering about their work as though the finest joke in existence had happened. Clockett never showed up. Somebody carried the news over there, and after receipt of it he was said to have d—d everything an inch high and an hour old, and led all hands on the station the lives of dogs.

No news came to us of the absent. Nothing was found in Jessie's room but some worthless articles of clothes and a letter, which, however, throw no light on the subject. It ran as follows:

Dear Dolly,

You may plunge for a hundred between the two, but no more and no matrimony. I mean it.


THE second day passed, but no Wiggins. Until now my belief in his innocence had been strong; but now—. Wild speculations began to course through my brain. Every time I looked at the butt of my cheque-book, my hopes of Wiggins grew fainter. I had been thrown over for an ugly old married man, and made to pay the expenses of their trip to B—. There was madness in the thought, added to the impossibility of believing that such a girl as Jessie could act so, and I was in a maze of perfect perplexity. Mrs. Wiggins and her daughter never ceased to abuse Jessie, and say what a blessing it was to have such a friend as I was, at such a trying time. This at last reached such a pitch that I determined to stop it by confessing my backsliding as regarded the guilty fair one. But my awe of Mrs. Wiggins was so great, and I commenced in such a confused manner, that she imagined I was declaring my passion for her daughter, and accepted me forthwith!

After that, I remember things but in a confused manner, until the return of Wiggins, which event happened nearly a week after his hasty departure. That I remember well. The innocent, guileless manner in which he rode up to the door; the look, the indescribable look upon Mrs. W.'s face; the way in which Miss Wiggins hung upon my neck, and entreated her dear Horatio to be calm.

He spoke first; the betrayer spoke: "Well, old girl, I surprised you the other morning; but I have made it all right."

"Don't touch me! Don't come near me! Go back to your Jessie, you disgraceful old sinner!"

Which opened the widest—Wiggins' mouth or eyes—I know not.

"Whatever do you mean?" he managed to gasp.

"How dare you show your vile, guilty face before your outraged, injured, abused wife, and bereaved daughter, you awful old scoundrel!"

This calmed Wiggins somewhat; he gave his wife a reproachful look, and turned to me. "Do you know what she means, Spoffy?"

"Be calm, dear," whispered Miss W. I had not the slightest intention of being anything else, for I felt sure that Wiggins was innocent.

"Jessie has run away, and we thought you had taken her," was what I said.

"Gone! has she? That was her, then, I saw in B—, with Clockett's stockman, Devitt. And you, Caroline, were so foolish as to imagine that a man of my years, with enough troubles, heaven knows, would go feeling after a girl about the country, merely because she has brown eyes and a pretty figure. After being my wife for thirty years, you thought no better of me than that! For shame! Not another word. Do you hear? Come in, and I will tell you what I have been doing."

If he had been the Iron Duke himself, his voice and manner could not have been more determined. Mrs. Wiggins saw that he meant it, and obeyed at once.

"SO you want Caroline, you young dog!" he said, facetiously, a few hours afterwards. "You are the very fellow I would have chosen."

I WAS walking down Q—— street, in B—— sometime afterwards, plunged in gloomy thought, when I saw Jack Devitt in the flesh walking towards me. He was well dressed, and quite a different looking individual to Clockett's rough-and-ready stockman. I felt very indignant when the fellow came up and offered to shake hands.

"What's the row?" he said, laughingly. "Is it because I was working as a stockman you won't know me?"

"No, Mr. Devitt," I said, "you might be a stockman and a gentleman both, but not gentleman and a swindler."

"Come, be civil," he said, flushing up. "I don't want to have a row with you. I suppose you were touched; but how did I swindle you?"

"You helped Jessie to do it, at any rate."

He laughed so loud and long that the passersby stopped to look at him.

"The wicked little devil!" was all that I could make out. "Come in here, and I will tell all I know," he said, when he stopped laughing.

We went into the parlor of a neighboring hotel.

"Try some P.B.; you will stand it better. Now then: Twelve months ago I had a few hundreds, and am sorry to say was knocking them down in Melbourne in the approved style, during which performance I became acquainted with Jessie, as you know her—Dolly Vardon, as she was called then. The money was soon gone, and I cleared out for the diggings, No luck there and after working until I was penniless, I started looking for work, and took a job of stock riding with Clockett, as you know. Hearing the fellows talking about Wiggins' pretty servant girl, I went over on some excuse to see her. Imagine my amazement when I saw my demure Dolly playing the part she was then engaged in! She was frightened, I can tell you, under a belief that I would tell tales about her but it was too good a joke to spoil, and I kept quiet. She meant to marry either you or Clockett; but I would not stand that, and told her so, for which both of you owe me some thanks. For also had you both caught, you can't deny."

I groaned in spirit.

"What brought her up there, I cannot tell; but she was heartily sick of it before she had been there long. Perhaps she had a longing after me, after all; but that is neither here nor there. To cut it short, seeing that I put a veto I on her matrimonial schemes, and hearing that I had come in for a little money, which she hoped to share, she asked me to lend her a horse, and bring her down to town. I did so, as it suited me to leave just then but, on arriving here, gave her plainly to understand that I was not to be caught. So she took her departure for Melbourne, dressed in the deepest and most becoming mourning. She told the passengers on board that she was an orphan going tomorrow strange and distant relations in Victoria. All the males married and single were eager to console her, and all the women to throw her overboard. I believe she ultimately entangled a rich old contractor, and is now, I believe, Mrs. O'Rowney, and a house in Melbourne."

"Then all that yarn about her invalid sister and mother, was, of course, fudge; but I need not ask—"

"Not altogether; I believe she has got a mother in the position described, and, schemer as she is, I believe that half the money she got out of you and Clockett was sent to her."

"That is the hardest of all to believe," I said, rising to go.

"Sounds tough, does it not?" said Jack, and we parted.

THE MAIL has arrived, and with it a letter saying that a later will of Uncle Benjamin's has been found, cutting me out. Mrs Wiggins says that unless I can explain that mysterious money affair in connection with Jessie, she cannot consent to my marriage with her daughter. I have only twenty pounds in the world, and I start for the Palmer to-morrow, where there are no man catchers at present. I am free! Hurrah!

And wiser—I hope.


A Sensational Novelette in Three Parts,
With an Orthodox Christmas Introduction

As by "Dramingo"

Queenslander, 25 December 1875


IT was Christmas Day, and I, the wearied super of a cattle station far out in the back country, was swinging idly in a hammock, in an iron-roofed verandah, where the thermometer stood at a hundred and ten; and imagining that I was keeping a merry Christmas. Not a sound, save the indistinct hum of insect life, was to be heard; all hands on the station, having succumbed to the influence of colonial rum and pudding, were asleep; and I lay and perspired, and smoked, and thought—of what? That is a question that will be answered directly. With my hands clasped under the back of my head, one foot projecting over the side of the hammock, and occasionally touching the verandah post in order to keep myself swinging, I began gradually to lose full consciousness of surrounding objects. I knew that it seemed to be getting hotter and hotter, that the iron roof overhead appeared to be assuming a molten appearance; that I was getting too lazy to keep myself rocking, that my eyelids were growing heavy, and that I should soon give it up and fall asleep, when I heard a deep, deep sigh close to me. I turned—

Saw throned on a flowery rise,
One sitting on a crimson scarf unrolled.

Well, not exactly.

This was a man, and he was sitting in one of the squatter chairs leaning against the slabs, and a curious looking figure he was to see in such a situation. I knew him at once; he was the Genius of Christmas. There he was, holly wreath, white beard, laughing countenance, and all the attributes complete. I said, "Good day, old man—how are you?" for I felt astonishingly bold somehow. He was reading in a large book, the print of which seemed possessed with life, and to be constantly moving and changing; but when I made this remark he raised his head, and gazed at me with "a countenance more in sorrow than in anger," but did not speak.

"I know who you are," I went on; "you're the Genius of Christmas."

"I am," he said.

"And you're going to show me all manner of pictures and scenes of human life, and I shall awake by-and-by and find that it has all been a dream; and I shall be very good and charitable all the rest of my life."

"Not you," said the Spirit; "you couldn't be charitable if you tried."

"Spirit," I said, "that's very hard, why could I not be charitable if I tried?"

"When you couldn't show mercy to a poor old ghost who's been harped upon, and written about, and carolled over,—there, I'll say no more; but man's inhumanity to me makes a Christmas Spirit mourn."

"Spirit," I said, "you mistake, surely, I who esteem and venerate the Christmas season."

"You do, do you? Now, answer me truly, were you not trying to compose a Christmas tale as you lay in that hammock?"

"I confess it, I was."

"And you say you venerate me; pretty veneration I call that, but I'll be revenged. I'll stand it no longer. I'll read Christmas poetry to you for the next three hundred and sixty-five days."

"Spirit, do not judge me unheard; be calm."

"Be calm! Who could be calm under such provocation? Listen! We are seven,—that's Wordsworth isn't it,—never mind, as I said before, we are seven; seven spirits, one for each day in the week. I'm Saturday. When Christmas Day falls on a Saturday, as it does this year, I have to attend to it. Now every leap year one of us has to do double duty, and as next year is a leap year I am told off for the extra day's work; but there is a chance for any of us to get out of this extra work, thus,"—he went on as though quoting from some rule or regulation,—"If a Spirit when in the execution of its duty, can find a place upon earth inhabited by Christian, or supposedly Christian people, where no Christmas Literature is to be found upon Christmas Day, he shall be able to claim exemption from extra duty on leap-year, and the Spirit following him shall do his work."

"Spend your Christmas here," I cried, starting from the hammock. "Search the house from garret to basement (it was only a two-roomed hut), and see if you can find a Christmas magazine or paper."

"That Christmas story," the Spirit sternly replied, "That Christmas story, which shall never see the light, by its mere presence in your idiotic skull has spoilt my chance of a holiday, and I wanted to put Sunday into it"—the long faced sanctimonious hypocrite. "But I will be revenged, revenged!"

"Spirit," I cried, casting myself at its feet and clutching its robe, "have mercy; I am not strong-nerved. I could not bear to be transported to regions of ice and snow, and see poor people kind and generous to one another, and pretty girls playing at blindman's-buff, and all the many signs you would show me—have mercy!"

"Can you ask it knowing that during the whole of the past year I have wandered to and fro seeking for a place wherein to rest on this twenty fifth day of December? I marked this spot, noted the dense stolidity, not to say stupidity, visible in your face, and I said here is a place where I shall be safe; nicely situated in a warm comfortable climate, mails always a month late; here I am secure for my holiday. This morning I took a turn through Europe, Asia, Africa, and America, just to see that everything was going on all right, come here to finish my day quietly and peace fully, in the virtuous frame of mind that a Spirit feels in who has done his duty, and I find, what! That you—a being than whom a generation of apes could not produce a greater fool—have dared to compose a Christmas Story; that you have committed two pages of it to paper, and it is even now lying there in your bedroom. Can you deny it?"

I could only bow my head in guilty assent.

"But vengeance can still be mine—yes, Vengeance! Vengeance!! Vengeance!!!" Here his voice rose to such a shriek that I expected to see the stockman and cook come rushing in to see what was up; but no help came to me, and he raged on.

"I will read to you, commencing with your own wretched two pages, all the Christmas literature that has been published in the world this season!" Uttering this awful sentence he leaned back in the chair, and glared furiously at me.

"Mercy, mercy," I said faintly.

"No mercy, I know it not; I reckon it will just comfortably occupy us until the end of next year to get through it all."

"Spirit!" I cried, "I have sinned, but I repent; I will be a new man, Christmas shall be to me a season of mourning and desolation; spare me." Its only answer was to open its book and commence reading.

As though its first word was a blow, I fell back spell-bound and motionless, and there I lay whilst the Genius began to read my now detested production of two pages. First he read it in an ordinary colloquial tone, then he gabbled it over, next he sung it, then he tried to chant it. Then he read it in a facetious manner, stopping to laugh every now and then; then he read it in a dismal manner, pretending to cry; then he tried to make blank verse of it, and I tried to stop my ears, but all in vain; over and over again he read the horrid sentences I knew so well, until at last he seemed out of breath, and stopped.

"How do you like it," he said, "will you ever do it again?"

"Never, never," I groaned. He chuckled, and turning again to his book, the pages of which produced anything he liked without his having to turn over the leaves, he inflicted the following story upon me:—


CALM in the serene solemnity of their solitude; grand in the outstretched vastness of their extent, and golden in the Pactolean wealth of their beauty, lie the sands of Plimlivon. But what huge, gloomy object is that, the rugged outlines of which mar the tranquil beauty of their level expanse? Like the fossilised form of some gigantic inhabitant of a world long forgotten, or like a Brobdignagian bandbox labelled, "This side up, with care," stands a mighty isolated rock, and casts upon the otherwise unflecked extent of stainless sand around it, a shadow, weird, gloomy, and mysterious. Why does that rock—that grim, portentous sentinel, challenging the gladsome sunlight, with its ominous "Qui vive," stand there and throw its gruesome shade over sand-grain and pebble that would else be revelling in the glorious radiance of day? Say, why does the shadow of some awful secret crime fall across the otherwise unblotted course of a fair, fresh life, and turn the rich colors of the flowers of life into the sombre hues and tints of death? I know not, gentle reader, but that rock stands there because I intend to use it in the third and last chapter.


"MY daughter," said the Marquis of Marborough.

"Yes, my father," replied the Lady Ermetta, who was of a most dutiful disposition, and when she did not say 'No said 'Yes' with undeviating regularity.

"The hour has now arrived when I feel it incumbent on me to reveal to you the secret—the secret upon which hinges your future welfare and happiness, and is also the central point of interest in this story in which we are two of the principal characters. Therefore, arm yourself with fortitude, and prepare to hear it as becomes a heroine."

"Very well, my father," returned the dutiful girl, "but will you kindly tell me exactly what to do."

"Clasp your hands convulsively, lean forwards attentively, and with an expression of anxious horror on your beautiful features, exclaim, 'Speak, speak, my father; I can bear the worst!'"

The Lady Ermetta followed his directions to the eighth part of an affygraffy.

"You know, my child, that in the third and last chapter you are to be married, as becomes a heroine; and you also know that Baron Gadzooks is the bridegroom elect. But you do not know that a dark secret hangs over his birth, a secret which I am now about to reveal, therefore listen attentively."

"I am all ears," said the lovely girl.

"My dearest, that is a most irrational remark; now, really, how can you be all ears?"

The Lady Ermetta blushed to the tips of the articles in question, and muttered something that sounded like a request for her father to go and put his boots on.

"Silence, Ermetta!" said her father sternly, "such conduct is unbecoming in the heroine of a novel. Now, listen to me—The Baron was changed at birth."

"Then Baron Gadzooks—"

"Is somebody else."

"And somebody else?"

"Is the Baron. You now comprehend the situation."

"Not altogether, my father, you have neglected to inform me who somebody else is."

"That, my dear child, is a question that even the author could not answer."

"Then supposing that I marry the Baron, I in fact marry 'somebody else,' and as you say that 'somebody else' is the Baron, why of course my husband will be the Baron."

"How the deuce is that?" said the Marquis; "let's see. If you marry the Baron—but you can't marry the Baron, because he's not the Baron—he was changed at birth."

"He's somebody else."

"Yes, exactly."

"Then, as he is not the Baron, somebody else is the Baron."

"Well, yes, I suppose so."

"Then, again, if I marry Gadzooks, I marry 'somebody else,' and somebody else, you say, papa, is the Baron," said the Lady Ermetta, triumphantly. "Come now," she added rather maliciously, "I think you are a little irrational now."

"Really Ermetta, you will look at the matter from only one point of view; don't you see that he's not the right somebody else. There are any amount of somebodies else; but let me tell you all about it. This important secret came out in a conversation that was overheard to pass between two servants. One was the nurse of the then infant Gadzooks, the other was a fellow servant. The nurse was heard to make the following remark about her youthful charge:—'The blessed dear was a layin' in my arms as quiet as a lamb, and smiling like a cherrup, when he changed all of a sudden, and has been that cross and frakshus ever since that I ain't had a minnit's peace with him.' The person who overheard this startling disclosure was a devoted friend of the family; he acted with decision and promptitude. The servants were first got rid of—one was strangled, the other hung. He then took the secret, hushed it into a sound sleep, wrapped it carefully in tissue paper, and put it into a box."

"Then where is the danger to come from?"

"Here lies the danger. When that devoted friend put the secret into the box he made a fatal mistake—he put it into the wrong box, and the secret might awake and find itself."

"In the wrong box! How truly awful."

"It is indeed; it might awake at the very moment of your marriage, and forbid the ceremony to proceed. There's no knowing to what lengths a secret that's been kept asleep, in the wrong box for many years might proceed when once awakened."

The Lady Ermetta sobbed deeply. "I can never give up Gadzooks," she said, "I have never seen him, for he has not been introduced personally into this story yet, but I feel that he has my poor heart."

"Restrain your feelings, my child; picture to yourself what would be the result if the secret should awake after your marriage, and announce to an astonished world that you had married somebody else; why you might almost be tried for bigamy."

"Have you the secret, my lord?"

"I have; the two boxes are in my study, but calm your agitation, for you know that Squire Hardpuller will soon be here, and should you bring yourself to think of giving up Gadzooks, why, he is rich, and I do not object to the idea of having him for a son-in-law." So saying, the Marquis left Ermetta to her tears and lamentations.


NOW that she was alone, Lady Ermetta gave full vent to her grief. "I can never give him up," she murmured, between her convulsive sobs; "I feel that he is entwined around the very tendrils of my existence. We were to have been married in the third chapter, and now—this is the second, and we are to be separated. And what separates us? A secret! A secret that sleeps. Sleeps, why should it awake, why should it not die:" and uttering these last words in the strange hissing tone used by people who have determined on perpetrating some crime, Ermetta raised her head and stared into vacancy, with a cold hard look stealing over her sweet face.

The tears soon ceased to flow, her hands clenched themselves tightly, and she who might but just now have stood for a statue of the weeping daughter of Tantalus, was transformed into Lady Macbeth, demanding the daggers.

Muttering sternly, "It shall be so," she left the apartment with a step befitting a representative of that strong-minded woman.

Let us watch her as she enters her father's study, where the light falls but dimly through the deep-set windows, as though winking at the deed about to be done. Watch her as she kneels before two quaintly carved ebony boxes, and applies her ear to the keyhole of each in turn. Watch her as the look of gratification steals over her face on detecting, in one, a low but perfectly distinct and regular respiration, the ghost of a feeble snore. Watch her as she applies the key to the lock, lifts the lid, and takes out the secret—takes it out gently and carefully, with the tender touch of a woman, so as not to disturb the slumber that has lasted now so long. Watch her, the guilty thing, as she starts at hearing the sound of voices in the hall, and, concealing the secret in her pocket, passes from the room to hasten to receive her expected visitor. As yet the deed is not done. As yet she can gaze out of those clear blue eyes with a soul unstained by actual murder. But how long will her innocence last; even now as she stands by the window in the morning room where she intends to receive her would-be suitor, the weird, wild look that must have been ever on the faces of the Di Medici and Brinvilliers is visible. She has deposited the secret (still asleep) on a chair, and she abides her time.

He comes. The door opens, and Squire Hardpuller is announced. She greets him with a winning smile that makes his heart bound again; poor man, he little thinks that she is bent upon making him accessory to her deed of death. Skillfully she backs him on to the chair of doom. Blandly she bids him be seated. Cordially she welcomes him. Will he look behind him? Will he apologise, and remove the innocent secret slumbering upon the seat of the chair? No, Ermetta, your eyes have him spell bound. What man could look away when you smilingly desired him to take a seat? You have—alas! for beauty, for youth, for guileless innocence, and sweet simplicity—you have made a murderer of him. He is a heavy man, and he sits down on the secret. It is done, and fiends may chuckle ha! ha! Now to keep him there.

Squire Hardpuller was a sporting character; he had been introduced into a great many novels, and was always looked upon as a great bore by the other characters, on account of his endless stories of horses, dogs, runs, and other sporting anecdotes. In the present case nobody could have answered Ermetta's purpose better; once fairly started upon his favorite and only topics, he prosed on contentedly for over two hours; then, blushing to find that his visit had trespassed on her time to such a length, he rose and made his adieux. She beamed on him to the last with her siren-like smile, and then, when he had gone, the re-action set in, and she who had listened unmoved for two mortal hours to a lot of sporting anecdotes, quailed before a dead secret. But such is human nature. She went to the chair in which he had sat; she lifted up the tissue paper containing the secret; with one white hand she held it to her ear, and with the other held her breath.

Not a sound, not the faintest suspicion of sound was to be heard. For nearly ten minutes did that high-bred resolute girl strain every nerve tighter than wire in a sheep-fence, but all was still. The secret, then, was dead. For a moment the rush of feeling overpowered her, then curiosity came to her aid; she would open the paper and see the secret. She had never seen a secret; she had often heard one. Nay, she had read a book called the "Dead Secret;" now she held one in her hand, she would see it.

She was about to unfold the covering of tissue paper, when a shadow fell across her, and somebody knocked at the window. She looked up startled. The car of a balloon was dangling in front of the glass, and seated in it was her father. She went to the window and opened it.

"Come, my child," he said, "the third chapter is at hand, and we must be at the appointed place. Step in." Putting her hand on the sill, Ermetta sprang lightly into the car of the balloon, which immediately commenced to ascend. She at once communicated the important event that had just taken place to her father, and carrying them with it the balloon soon became a mere speck in the blue regions of the infinite.

But a close observer, one of unequaled vision, might have detected a small minute object come fluttering down from the empyreal vastness. Down it descended, gyrating hither and thither, the sport of every wandering zephyr. They tossed it mockingly about, played with it, then let it fall lower and lower, until the broad bosom of the pitying earth received and sheltered it. It was the corpse of the poor murdered secret. And the shadow of the rock, on the sands of Plimlivon, is darker, and deeper than ever.


BARON GADZOOKS was walking up and down on the sands of Plimlivon. He looked out to sea, and tapped his teeth with the top of his pencil; in his hand he held a note-book. He was composing a poem. Presently he commenced to read it over.

Exsuffolating memory, get thee hence,
Nor seek to melodise the scathful past;
When rampant Ruin, drunk at my expense,
Rose, and the empty bottle at me cast.

"That's rather good," he said, thoughtfully; "the simile in the last line particularly, the empty bottle, stands for the dregs of life."

That rounded throat, that wealth of tumbled hair: That mouth so rose-like, kissable, and tender, She'd glue to mine, as if she didn't care If suffocation should ensue and end her.

"Hem! that ought to fetch her," he went on; "quite in the modern style; now for some thing hot and strong."

Must I forget all these; if so, then let me Be chained within a sea of fire volcanic.

"What will rhyme with 'let me?' Let's see. Wet me, pet me, bet me, get me, net me;" and the Baron cast his eyes upwards, for inspiration, and caught sight of a speck in the canopy of heaven overhead that made him shout "Ball-o-o-n!" Then suddenly remembering that he was one of the principal characters in a novel, and as such bound to act with propriety, he blushed, sat down, and commenced to pick his teeth with one of his gilt spurs. On second thought, however, he started up again, frowned fiercely, and in deep tragedy tones said:—"Ha! ha! they come." Then he picked up a telescope that had been left behind by a party of excursionists, because they knew that it would be wanted for my plot, and, applying it to his eye, gazed at the rapidly increasing speck.

"Ah!" he muttered, "I see her, there—now she winks; now—yes, she's about to blow her nose. Angelic being! But hold! What's this?"

The noise of horses galloping at top speed had struck upon his listening ear. Nearer they came, and two horsemen appeared tearing along the level sand. And hark! the beat of paddles. Over the surface of the hitherto tenantless deep glided a mighty steamer, with crowded decks, the captain standing on the bridge, and shouting, "Full speed ahead! full speed astern!" alternately. A shrill whistle drew the Baron's attention again inland. A traction engine, dragging a long string of carriages, appeared, full of characters out of all sorts of novels, who had got in for the sake of a ride. Amazement held the Baron dumb, so he said nothing.

Nearer and nearer everything came, everybody cheering and waving another man's hat. At once the occupants of the balloon stepped upon terra firma; the two horsemen, one being Squire Hardpuller, alighted from their panting steeds; the train disgorged its occupants, and the people from the steamer sprang into the sea and waded on shore.

They all approached and surrounded the Baron; they waited for him to speak, but he was silent.

"Read the will," said a tall man who looked like a lawyer.

"I have no will," said the Baron, "or I should not be here."

"Then reveal the secret," said another.

"Unfold the plot," exclaimed a third.

"Open the red box," said a fourth.

"Produce the real heir," said a fifth.

"Bless you, my children," said a sixth.

"Last dying speech and confession," said a seventh.

Then spake the Lady Ermetta: "Baron, papa has consented; the Bishop is ready, and here are the witnesses."

"Hurrah for the witnesses!" shouted everybody.

"Good heavens!" said the astounded Baron, "I know now what you mean. I was only introduced in this chapter; how the deuce am I to know what's been done in the other two chapters?"

"He jibs!" said the Lady Ermetta, "and I have sinned in vain." She would have fainted, but nobody seemed inclined to catch her, so she didn't.

The Marquis then advanced, and in his usual dignified tone said, "Are there any bad characters present?"

Nobody was fool enough to answer yes.

"Then," said the Marquis, turning to the Baron, "I am afraid that you must be the bad character of this story, and if so, Poetical Justice demands that you must be punished."

"This is hard," said the Baron, whose high bred composure did not desert him under these trying circumstances. "I came out here simply because I was informed that I was wanted for the proper completion of the plot, and now I am to be made a scapegoat of."

"There is some show of reason in what you say," said the Marquis; "so one more chance shall be given you."

"Are there any bad characters present?" he again asked in a louder voice. As before, nobody was fool enough to answer yea.

"If there are any bad characters present," he went on, "let them step forward and be hung instead of this innocent nobleman."

At these awful words three bad characters, who had been hiding behind the big rock, waiting for a chance to commit a murder, or some thing of that sort, tried to sneak away unseen.

Squire Hardpuller, who had been anxiously looking out for an opportunity to cry tally-ho! and thereby identify himself as a sporting character, saw them, and immediately cried, "Stole away! yoicks! yoicks! away!"

With one consent the whole assemblage joined in the cry, and rushed in pursuit, with the exception of the Marquis and his daughter.

The Lady Ermetta had big feet and thick ankles, which she was frightened of showing if she ran, and the Marquis thought it beneath his dignity to go out of a walk.

"Ermetta," said the Marquis gravely; "we are flummoxed."

"Perhaps they'll come back," said Ermetta.

"I'm afraid not," said the Marquis, looking after the fast vanishing multitude. He was deceived, however. Nerved by despair, the three bad characters ran well, and now doubled back and came once more to the isolated rock on the sands.

Instantly new life seemed to enter into Ermetta; she whispered something to her father, who shook his head, and said, "too late," but suffered his daughter to lead him behind the rock.

Breathing heavily—with their pursuers, headed by Hardpuller and Gadzooks, close upon their heels—the three bad characters approached;—they passed and made for the sea. As Gadzooks, in hot haste, pressed after them, running close by the fatal rock, a foot clad in a French kid boot, and a very substantial white-stockinged ankle, was thrust forth from behind it, right in front of him; he tripped, he fell; and the next moment the Marquis was holding him down.

"Poetical Justice!" he cried. "Poetical Justice!" echoed Ermetta, who limped a little, for the Baron in falling had inadvertently kicked her on the shin, and she didn't like to rub it before so many people.

Everybody halted, glad of a spell, and the bad characters swam out to sea.

"Where's the Bishop?" said the Marquis.

"Here," cried his lordship, coming forward hot and perspiring. "Look sharp, or the end of the chapter will be here," said the Marquis. Gadzooks was dragged to his feet, and held firmly, in spite of his struggles and protestations.

"Quick, or we shall be too late," reiterated the Marquis.

"Never mind, papa, we have got him fast, and I can be married in the Epilogue."

"Nonsense, my child, epilogues are only to tell the reader what he knows already."

The Bishop gabbled over the service— "keep-thee-only-unto-her-as-long-as-ye-both-shall-live?"

"I will!" yelled everybody, drowning the voice of the wretched Gadzooks, who said, "I won't."

Away went the Bishop again, etc., etc.

"I will!" said Ermetta; and she meant it

"Thank goodness!" said the Marquis; "she's off my hands!"

YEARS have passed, and the rising tide has washed away the footsteps that were imprinted that morning on the sands of Plimlivon. But that lonely rock still holds its steadfast watch, and the shadow it casts is deeper and darker than ever. But the shadow on the heart of the stricken Gadzooks is deeper and darker still.


NOW, during the reading of the latter portion of the foregoing story, a gleam of hope had shot across my brain. As soon, therefore, as the Spirit had finished, I proceeded to put it into practice.

"What do you think of that!" said the Spirit.

"I like it immensely," I replied; "really you can't think what a jolly year I anticipate; it will be all beer and skittles."

The Spirit, I thought, looked slightly crestfallen.

"You've no idea," I went on, "how dull it is up here; and now to have you to read these charming little stories to me—really, old fellow, it will be delightful."

"Don't be so sure of that," he answered. But I fancied that he seemed staggered.

"Now," he said, opening his book again; "for the next, one of the real old sort—'How the King got his own again.'"

"'Twas Christmas Eve, and a bitter cold one to boot. What of that? It but made the crackling log fire seem the warmer and snugger. 'Be-shrew me!' said mine host of the Holly Bush, as he stood with his back to it, warming his portly calves; 'but if sad-colored garments and cropped heads are to be the fashion of the day, we shall scarce know Merry England.'"

He had got thus far before I could well stop him; then I interrupted him as blandly and politely as I could, "Excuse me; one moment. That promises to be a most interesting tale, but you will be tired and hoarse if you go on reading without pause. Now just to give you a spell I'll sing you a song."

"A what!" he said.

"A song—a carol. A Christmas carol."

"You daren't," he said; but the blow had gone home I could see.

"No trouble at all, my dear fellow, just the reverse, and it's one of my own composing too," I added boldly, for I thought that I could see victory ahead. I have no more voice than an alligator with a cold in its head, and scarcely know one tune from another, but without more ado I struck up:—

Come, your hands entwine, for this toast is mine,
A health to Christmas bold.
Round his head the leaves of the holly shine,
In his arms he does earth enfold.

"Patience! Grant me patience," muttered the Spirit; but he seemed to clench his teeth firmly, as if with a determination to sit it out. I went on, and hurled the next verse at him like a boomerang:—

When over the ground he spreads around The snow that he so does love, The robin comes out, and he looks about—

With one wild yell of anguish that made every sheet of iron in the roof ring like a bullock bell, the Spirit of Christmas started from the chair.

"Man! man! You have conquered. I forego my revenge. That robin is too much for me. Live unharmed by me; but," and here his voice softened into a tone of beseeching pathos, "as you have some charity in your disposition, as you may stand in need of consideration and forbearance yourself some day, do not add to the heavy woes of a tortured Spirit by casting your additional stone. Do not ever again attempt to write a Christmas story."

I was deeply touched, there was such a look of heartfelt anguish on his face.

"You promise?" he asked.

"I do."

"Then, we part friends; but, ah! that robin," and, waving me a parting salute, he stepped out into the glaring sunshine, and passed away.


Evening News, Sydney, 21 September 1895

THE moon shone brightly through the many chinks of the old hut, in the walls of which were several gaps caused by the slabs having fallen down. Two travellers who were camped on the hard earthen floor for the night were suddenly aroused by a wailing sound that seemed to pass by their resting place like the sigh of a breeze.

Both raised themselves on their elbows and listened. The wail came round once more, and as it swept by a passing gloom seemed to glide through the hut, as though the moon's light had been eclipsed for one brief instant...

The men were silent. Rising with one accord, they went to one of the gaps and looked out, for the sound was approaching once more. It came, it passed, and for an instant there was again a shade of gloom, and both men afterwards swore positively to seeing a plainly-defined shadow cross the broad path of moonlight. Not a shadowless man, but a shadow without the necessary substance to cast it.

The wail died down in the distance, and the men broke their silence.

'Rum sort o' thing, Jim. See that shadder?'

'My oath I did. And did yer hear what the thing cried out?'

'Sounded to me as if it was calling out, "Blind, blind."'

'Just what I took it to be.'

'Blame these old huts,' said the first speaker, as they returned to their blankets. 'A fellow never knows what he's going to get. If they're not chockful of fleas, why, it's ghosts as come moanin' around.'

When the men reached the next township, some thirty odd miles away, they told their tale. They were two fencers who had just finished a contract and were well known in the district as steady, decent men, not by any means given to romancing.

The story seized on the superstitious feelings of the townsmen, of which every man has a more or less sized share, the oldest inhabitant failing to recall any tragic story connected with the old hut and several excursions were made to test the truth of it by daring spook-hunters. They all, with one exception, came back unsuccessful, the exception being a party of three, who, having loaded themselves up inside and out with whisky, returned with a richly-embroidered yarn of ghosts, devils, imps, and hobgoblins, sufficient to satisfy the yearnings of the wildest imagination.

In due time the story was forgotten, save by one man, who, having a theory of his own, had carefully noted the date of the vision of the shadow, and on the following year departed without beat of drum one morning of that date.

Although the moon's age was slightly different, it was old enough to give a good light, and the night was clear and still, and the inquirer after the supernatural slept restlessly, as a man would do who had exchanged a comfortable bed for a blanket on a hard floor. He was awakened by footsteps, not by the mysterious sounds heard by the former temporary occupants. A man's figure appeared at the doorless aperture, peered in, then entered.

'Who's that?' demanded the first tenant.

'Hell!' replied a voice, somewhat cracked and shaky. 'Who's that yourself? I'm not frightened of you, darn you.'

The ghost-seeker struck a match, and saw before him an old swagman, with a white, tobacco-stained beard, having the usual swag over one shoulder. He blinked at the sudden flare of light, then remarked:

'Dossing here, old man? What brought you out here? Don't look as though you were in the bluey line.'

'No; I came here to find out if this hut's haunted as they say it is.'

'Yes, that blessed yarn got in the papers, and as I was coming around this way, I thought I'd just go out of my road a bit to have a look myself; so I'll keep you company.'

And he threw his swag on the ground. At that moment a wail of downright agony, a cry of 'Blind! blind!' rang through the forest without, startling both the men in the hut.

On it came, and with it the gruesome darkening of the moonlight. The ghost-seeker had not recovered himself sufficiently to look out for the moving shadow the others averred they had seen; but on the second approach of the ghostly voice, now wailing loudly, as though knowing that there were listeners to shriek its torments to, he went to the open door and stepped out. There was no doubt of it—a shadow did cross the open space in front of the old hut. A shadow, it seemed to the watcher's excited fancy, like that of a man, stumbling along, holding both hands to his eyes.

He waited for the third repetition, and just as the weird shadow became visible he felt himself thrust on one side, and the old sundowner pushed past him, saying, 'He's come for me. I must go after him, and see what came of him.'

He went on and followed the invisible presence, and the ghost-seeker felt himself constrained to follow too and see the end. On through the silent forest they went, the viewless leader, the muttering old man, and the entranced spectator. On, on, a zig-zag course they kept, until at last they stopped.

The old man looked about still talking to himself, saying:

'He must'a bin about here, must'a bin here as he died.'

The supernatural voice had ceased, and presently the old man squatted down on the ground, with his back against a tree, and the other stooped over him and urged him to get up and return.

'I'm a-going to stop here,' he replied. 'Come daylight, p'raps I'll find him.' This was all that could be got out of him.

Suddenly the other asked, 'What do you know about this?'

'Know about it? Why, I knows all about it. Just you listen and I'll tell yon. You can't see in the dark, but I'm a boko' (one-eyed) 'and it was Bill Simmons as made me so. It was nigh upon thirty years ago, and I could make good wages anywhere, and one night we was having a bit of a jamboree, and Bill was there, and he was one of the nastiest-tempered fellows in his drink as ever you came across. Bill got on to me, and presently he got my monkey up, and I gives him the lie straight out.

'"Say that again," he shouts; "call me a blooming liar again, and I'll split y'r skull open."

'Of course, I ups and calls him no end of a thundering liar, and what does the cur do but let drive at me with one of them big, heavy tumblers. It caught me fair in the eye, and smashed all to bits, and a piece of it cut right into my eyeball.

'The other fellows bandaged me up, and took me to the doctor, and he said I must go to the hospital; and they took me there. Some of 'em went for Bill, but he never seemed sorry; said it served me jolly well right for calling such names, and he'd never given any provocation, and paid out a lot of slack of that kind. I had to stop weeks in the hospital, and while I was there he cleared out of the district: and you bet he didn't give any address where to find him. When I came out, t'other eye was a bit bandy—doctor says as how it was for sympathy. Queer sort of sympathy, it seemed to me.

'Well, all my bad luck set in then. First of all, a young woman as was going to marry me went back on me—says as how she never could abide a man with one eye; didn't seem natural like. Beside, that dead eye of mine would give her the jim-jams—always reminded her of an old horse her father had who took fright at some washing hanging out and smashed the cart. I told her as how I didn't intend to take fright at no washing; but she wouldn't have it at any price, and I got left. A few of the people who knew what a good workman I had been gave me an odd job, but it was poor truck, and gradually I had to drift about, travelling, getting anything I could do. So years went on, and I never clapped my one eye on Bill Simmons, until one blazing hot day I come to that old hut where you was camped. It was sound enough then, and there was a shepherd there with a flock of sheep. But there was no sheep about when I came there—only a man with his eyes tied up lying groaning on the bunk, and my colonial! if it wasn't Bill Simmons, blind as a bat with sandy blight. I knowed him by his snarly voice, with which he cussed me for letting the light in.

'"I say, damn you, whoever you are," he said, "will you go into the head station and tell 'em as I'm stone blind with the sandy, and 'the sheep's all over the country, and they must send out and get 'em together 'fore the dogs get among 'em?"

'"No, I'm hanged if I will," says I. "My name's Jim Donnelly, who you made a boko of years ago with chucking a glass at him, and you just about ruined me, you cur."

'"Jim Donnelly, are you?" he said. "Yes, I am, and you can just lie on your bunk and swear until somebody comes out from the station. If you wasn't as you are I'd take it out of your hide."

'He lay quiet for a bit; then he said: "I'm sorry, Jim Donnelly," in a humble kind of voice, and I thought he was going to cry small; but he burst out as savage as a meat-axe, "as I didn't knock both of your cussed, squinting eyes out when I was at it!"

'This got my hair off at once. "You'll repent those words, Bill," I says.

'"I repent 'em! When I get right I'll follow you up and just wallop the soul out of your carcass."

'Well, he kept on raving and abusing of me, and I got madder and madder as I thought of all the years of my life wasted through that wretch lying there blaspheming at me; but I kept cool. I cooked myself a feed of the best in the hut. How he did swear when he heard me opening his pickles and jam.

'When I'd finished, I says, 'Now, Bill Simmons, you want bringing down off your perch a bit—a peg lower will suit you,' so I went over to him and just took the bandage off his eyes. What a scream he gave, just like the way that ghost shrieked.

'"You've blinded me," he cried, putting his hands up to his eyes; but there was a. devil in me, and I only laughed at him. I took all the things out of the hut, as I thought he could find and make fresh bandages of, and emptied all the water away; then I went and sat down on the bundle and smoked his tobacco until sundown.

"He'd stopped raving after a bit, and when it was dark I heard him calling in a very pitiful voice 'Jim Donnelly! Jim! for the Lord's sake bring me a little water to wash my eyes, the lids is all glued together."

I would not answer him, though I felt sorry, so after a while he fell to cursing me agin, and presently he got up and I heard him groping his blind way out. He'd got his boots off, and was feeling for the track to the waterhole with his naked feet. He passed close to me, but I made never a move, although I was beginning to think better of it, and making up my mind that I would doctor his eyes up again and leave him.

'"Blast you, Jim Donnelly," he kept saying as he stumbled along. 'May a blind shadder haunt you all your days.'

By and bye he gets off the track, and then he comes to grief agin a stump, and gets so outrageous mad over this that he muddled himself up together, and finally got on a sheep track and started to follow that I calls out to I him as he's wrong, but he was so busy swearing that he didn't hear me, so after letting him go on a bit I started after him meaning to bring him back, but being boko of one eye and not seeing well out of the other, I come to grief myself over a stump, and bringing my head agin a tree, and lay there stunned like for a bit. When I picked myself up Bill Simmons was nowhere in sight and I never set eyes on him again, no more did anybody else, although I looked high and low. He must have lost himself altogether, and wandered in the blazing sun next day till he died of thirst, and being without a hat.

'I heard of this yer yarn about, them fencer chaps seeing a shadder at this hut as called out it was blind, so I thought I'd just check up to see if Bill had been found; that's to say his bones or whatever left of him. Now, as it's pretty well daylight, we'll have a look round for 'em, they're dead sure to be about here somewheres.'

The two looked for the bones of Bill without success, until the sun got high, then the ghost seeker tried to induce Donnelly to return to the hut, but without avail. The old fellow announced his intention of staying there until he found Bill's bones or died there.

When the ghost-seeker got back to the township, and told of the success of his adventure he became a temporary hero, much to the jealousy of the oldest identity, who now professed to have remembered all about the mysterious disappearance of Bill Simmons, and predicted that the dead body of Donnelly would be found beside the bones of the lost man.

It wasn't, however, for when some curious people went out they found neither the old sundowner nor the swag he had left in the hut; nor has the wailing shadow ever been heard again, nor the bones of the bad-tempered Bill Simmons found.


Evening News, Sydney, 6 October 1900

'WHAT do you make of it?' said the skipper, as he took his glasses from his eyes, and turned to the chief mate, who had been inspecting the object in sight through a telescope as big as a small sized cannon. The chief mate, who had been resting his weapon on a boat, straightened his back, and replied:

'An abandoned junk, I take it.'

'Maybe somebody dying on board. Won't be far out of our course, at any rate, to go and see. Keep her for the junk, Mr. Stewart, and call me when we are close to it.'

The sea was oily and calm; there was a nasty looking haze low down on the horizon, and, although there were no clouds, there was a constant distant rumble of thunder.

In about an hour the steamer was within hail of the derelict, which turned out to be a Malay proa. No sign of life was visible, and the captain looked uneasily round at the growing haze and the apparently deserted proa.

Just then a figure was visible on the forward part of the proa. It had a cap on, which, it waved.

'It's a blackfellow of some sort—a d—d ugly one,' said the captain, lowering his glasses. 'Get the boat away, Mr. Stewart, and board her;' then he added as an afterthought, 'Take your revolver and a couple of rifles.'

The boat got away quickly, and pulled smartly to the proa. The mate clambered on board, followed by the quartermaster and the Chinese Serang.

The next instant the watching passengers and crew heard a cry of alarm. What followed next they could not make out; but the end was that the Serang seemed to be bundled overboard by a strange figure in an American military service cap. Then there was rapid firing on board, the Serang was fished out of the water by the boat-keepers, and a dead silence ensued.

It was broken by sounds like the blows of an axe, and presently the mate and quartermaster appeared, carrying an inert figure between them, and passed it into the boat.

The steamer had meanwhile drifted nearer the derelict, and the mate, making a trumpet of his hands, hailed, 'Shall I scuttle her?'

'Yes, but be quick!' returned the captain.

The mate and quartermaster disappeared, but In a very short time reappeared and hurried into the boat, which immediately pulled off. The captain went to the gangway when the boat approached, and the doctor came forward to receive the survivor who turned out to be an emaciated Malay boy.

Meanwhile, the proa was settling slow, and as the crew were hauling the boat up to the davits, a cry arose that she was sinking. At that instant the figure with the cap appeared on the wallowing proa. It waved the cap wildly, and then plunged overboard and commenced to swim towards the steamer.

'Don't let it come on board,' shrieked the mate, 'we have seen enough of its devilish work.'

Snatching up one of the rifles, which had not yet been returned to the stand, he fired at the swimmer.

'What the devil is it?' demanded the captain.

'One of those wild men of Borneo. Those monster apes. It murdered the crew of the proa.'

The being was now near the side, and several of the passengers called to the captain to pick it up. For answer, he stepped forward with the rifle, took deliberate aim, and fired. The thing gave a human-like shriek, threw up one hand, and sank, its body turning over with the wash of the screw, which had commenced to revolve. The cap could be seen floating in the wake of the steamer until it was lost to sight.

At the same time the proa disappeared.

There was silence on board for a few minutes, then the captain, gave some quick, hurried orders, and before half an hour had passed the typhoon had burst, and was howling and shrieking at the steamer's heels.

THE mate's story ran: They boarded the proa, and to their horror found the dead bodies of the Malay crew, four in all, lying on the deck. All appeared to have been strangled. The bodies were decomposing, and the stench awful. While they were examining the bodies, the ourang outan sprang amongst them, and, seizing the Serang, threw him overboard, half killed by its grip The mate and quarter-master then fired on the animal, and the thing retreated wounded. They then heard a feeble knocking down below, and on going down found the Malay boy they had rescued, barricaded behind some cases and dunnage of one sort or another.

The rest of the story the others knew. The typhoon had blown itself out without injury to the steamer, before the Malay boy, Ali Sadoo, was able to tell his story.

'The ourang-outang was being taken to the Rajah, or Sultan, of one of the small islands of the archipelago. When taken on board it was tame and quiet, and, in fact, in the Bornean village where it was obtained he was noted for his good and quiet behavior. So it was docile during a greater part of the voyage, and it was allowed to roam about the proa as it liked; in fact, it did a lot of work—it would lay on to a rope, or do anything of that sort. Now they had on board several jars of native spirit they were taking down as cargo. Three of the crew and Ali Sadoo were good Mahomedans, who would not touch it, but the fourth was a Manilaman—a Filipino—and he it was who brought the American service cap on board.

He soon broached the cargo, and finding that none of the others would join him, in a drunken fit be took the ourang-outang down, and gave it some liquor. This went on for a day or two, and suddenly, one evening, when the men were lounging on the deck, and it was a dead calm, the ourang-outan appeared, mad with drink.

In its arms it carried the mutilated body of the dead Filipino. On its head it wore the American cap the man had worn. It hurled the corpse amongst the affrighted, unarmed men, and then commenced a hideous massacre which the boy did not witness, for he crept below and barricaded himself in to the best of his ability. There he remained until, half dying, he heard the shots on deck, and managed to make his presence known.

While lying there, he heard the ourang-outan come down and drink at the jars, and once it smashed one, in a fierce outburst of rage.

'AH!' said one of the passengers, when the steamer reached Singapore, 'I can never forgive you, captain, for shooting that highly intelligent animal. Think what an example he would have been for a temperance lecturer to carry round with him. Think of the interests of science and cold water.'

The captain laughed grimly.

'If I had thought of that I would have taken him aboard and kept him chained up till I met a temperance lecturer who wanted a frightful example. Would you have taken the risk?'

'On the whole,' said the passenger, 'I think he is best where he is now. You didn't take any risks, and you were quite right.'


Evening News, Sydney, 13 August 1898

'DID I ever tell about Matthewson's invisible pig? asked Jim of me one day.

'No, is it worth hearing or not?'

'Well, that depends on whether you choose to believe it to be a true story or only a yarn. I assure you that it's as true as gospel; but there have been some people who have had the cheek to say it's not true, Sammy Greenup amongst them—'

NOT the Greenup who sold his farm because he believed the world was coming to an end. But a brother of his, and the very biggest-sized liar in the district; got a yarn he tells about a knock-kneed duck, and swears that it's a fact. I'd be ashamed to tell such a thing.

Matthewson had a prize sow, which he was very proud of, and some say that he thought more of her than he did of his wife and family. Anyway, he made an awful fuss about her. Well, she had a fine litter of young pigs, and Matthewson went about as proud as a dog with a new gilt tail, calculating what he'd make by these pigs, and boring the soul out of everybody to come and look at them.

I went, and a fine lot of young suckers they were, but Matthewson needn't have made such a song about it; other people had pigs as well as he. Well, we were looking at the piggies, and Matthewson had just gone into a calculation as to what money he would make out of them when I heard a little squeak behind me.

I looked round, couldn't see anything, and thought I must have made a mistake, and went on listening to Matthewson, who was just buying a new farm with the pig money, when I heard a squeak again.

I turned round sharp once more—nothing there.

'I wish you'd listen to me, Jim, instead of turning round and starting in that loony kind of way,' says Matthewson. Just then there was a little, grunt right at my heels, and it felt like something sniffing at them. I turned round like a shot. Nothing there again.

'At it again,' he says. 'You've been drinking, Jim Parkes, and got the jumps.'

'You're an everlasting teetotaller,' I said. 'But there's something grunting and squeaking about my heels; can't you hear it?'

'No, I can't,' he said; 'and you put me out in my calculations.'

I tried to listen steadily, but that grunting and squeaking kept on, and I had to back kick once or twice.

'Jim,' he said, 'you tire me with your goings on. I've got a nip or two inside; come in and get one if you want to steady your nerves, but own up like a man.'

'Matthewson,' I replied, 'I won't refuse your offer, for there's something going on I don't understand; but you know well enough I'm not a bcozer.'

'No, Jim, and I'll admit it; but you're very jumpy for all that.'

We went inside, and I had some whisky, and sat down and listened quietly to Matthewson developing into a millionaire, but all the time I was turning the occurrence over in my mind.

When we went outside again we had another look at the pigs, and I listened, and presently heard a grunt and a squeal where there was no pig at all to be seen. Then the truth flashed on me.

'Matthewson,' I said, 'that old sow's a ventriloquist.'

'Jim Parkes,' he exclaimed, 'I won't allow anyone, not even you, to call my prize sow names. She's no more a ventriloquist than you are.'

'I didn't miscall your sow at all, but she's a ventriloquist for all that. Ever since I've been here I've been hearing grunts and squeals where it isn't natural for them to come from, so if she isn't a ventriloquist, and doing it for a lark, what's up?'

'Your nervous system is all upset, Jim. That's what's up.'

'My nerves are as good as ever, but you're as deaf as a post, or you'd have heard the noises.'

Then Matthewson got downright mad, for he really was a little deaf, but would never admit it, and didn't like it mentioned. We got to words, and I went away.

Matthewson went about telling everybody how I was jealous of his sow, and said she was a ventriloquist, out of pure spite and envy. And the neighbors sympathised with him, and he got worse than ever about his sow and her litter. By and bye, a nephew of Matthewson's came up to recruit. He'd been an a bad spree, and his people sent him up to his uncle's to get round.

Well, he used to go down and look at the pigs and compare himself to the prodigal son, for he was in the repentant stage and very shaky, and one day he heard the grunting at his heels and couldn't see anything. So he ran, hard as he could lick, up to the house, and had a fit.

Even this did not satisfy Matthewson that there was something queer about his sow; but he packed the nephew home, and said he wouldn't take charge of lunatics any more. However, the yarn got about, and people began to poke fun at his old sow, and he laid it all down to me. Said that everyone knew I was always blowing about what I knew about ghosts, and if there was anything wrong about the sow I must have bewitched her, and he'd have the law of me and get heavy damages.

Seeing how things stood, I was rather surprised to see him coming up to my place one day.

'Jim Parkes,' he said, 'you're not the one to bear malice; and for what I may have said about you I ask your pardon. There is something queer about those young pigs. It's not the sow; she's as good as gold, and her character hasn't a stain upon it; it's one of the young ones that's wrong.'

'What's up?' I asked.

'You thought the mother was a ventriloquist,' he went on, 'and I admit now you had some cause for your belief; but it wasn't her. Now come over and find out with me what it is, and beg her pardon.'

Of course I went back with Matthewson to investigate. We had a bit of a job. They were all comfortably asleep, but we roused them up, and chivied them round a bit, for by this time they were pretty strong, on their legs, and after a while I says to Matthewson, 'How many grunters have you?'

'Eight, by rights.'

'There's nine; but one of 'em's invisible.'

Matthewson stared at me for a long time before he could take it in, but when something ran between his legs with a squeal, and he couldn't see it, he was satisfied.

'What shall I do?' says he. 'I've never done nothing to deserve this.'

'Why, you everlasting fool,' I said, 'it's a rare piece of luck. Why, an invisible pig's a rarity.'

'I suppose it is,' he replied, after thinking a bit. 'Anyhow, I never heard of the breed before. What's it called?'

'You jolterhead! It's never been heard of before. You can take the pig to any country in Europe, and get thousands for it. People will pay to see him.'

'They will, will they, Jim? Pay to see an invisible pig that nobody can see. How do you make that out?'

'Well, it was just a figure of speech. The pig's worth more than all the others put together and the sow thrown in.'

'Perhaps she may have an invisible litter next time, and that would mean something big. But I'd nave to keep the breed to myself, or they'd get too common.'

Matthewson was always thinking of money—nothing else seemed to interest him much.

'How am I to secure them?' he says. 'I can't ear-mark or brand them. And everybody will claim them.'

He was getting quite silly over it, so I amused myself with hunting the invisible animal about to make sure of his presence. It was not long before the yarn was all over the place, and people came from all parts to hear the pig grunt. This worried the old sow considerably, but she had to put up with it, and Matthewson got that conceited he could scarcely put his hat on. He had a photograph taken of himself with the invisible pig on his lap.

Of course, he hadn't any pig on his lap In reality, and nobody never caught that pig, but it pleased people to think so, and the photograph sold. Clergymen came, heaps of 'em. They all said it was a wonderful manifestation of Divine Providence and a testimony of the truth of the doctrines of their particular church, and asked Matthewson for a subscription. But he never gave them anything. Said they must excuse him because the responsibility of the thing was wearing him to the grave, and he didn't think he'd have enough money left to pay for his funeral.

As that pig grew up he was a very devil for mischief. Mrs. Matthewson and the girls said that life wasn't worth living. It was nothing but shrieking and equalling all over the house, with the invisible pig rooting unexpectedly round their ankles. They couldn't keep him out anyhow, for when they'd shut all the doors and congratulate themselves on being safe for a bit, they'd find they'd shut the invisible pig in with them, instead of outside.

Several learned and scientific men came down to inquire into the matter, and whenever they met they came to high words. Most of them refused to believe it, and said it was a clever piece of jugglery and ventriloquism; but some wrote long articles on it, and explained it to their satisfaction. A lady medium said that it was a spirit called Major Mompus, whom she knew well, and she would make him materialise himself for £50.

But Matthewson wouldn't allow it—said that it wouldn't pay; the pig would only be an ordinary pig then. Other mediums came, and they all said: it was a spirit of their acquaintance, and wanted to know how Matthewson did it so well. But he wouldn't tell them, for a very good reason, because he had nothing to tell.

I puzzled my brains about it a good bit. I thought at times that it must be some kind of ghost trick or other, and presently I noticed that the pig always kept very quiet when I was up at Matthewson's. I put this down to fancy, and got Mrs. Matthewson to take notice for me whether he was more frisky when other, people were about than when I was, and she did, and confirmed my views on the subject.

It's some sprightly old ghost, I thought, having a game. And when I saw that the old sow never noticed the invisible pig's presence or absence I was sure that I was right.

I mentioned this fact to Matthewson, but he got quite cross about it; and when I hinted that I'd undertake to expose the old fraud of a ghost he burst out: 'Now look here, Jim Parkes, I'll have none of your interfering. Who asked you to shove your oar in? Is it your invisible pig or mine? Answer me that, now.'

I got riled, and replied, 'As for that, that invisible pig don't belong to anybody. If he's yours, catch him.'

'I could catch him quick enough if I wanted to, and I'll trouble you to let my property alone.'

'I don't know if it as your property. Anyway, that old sow's not its mother.'

'Taking that old sow's character away again. I might have known what you were after. I'll bet you the next litter she has are all invisible. Come now.'

I laughed at him, but he annoyed me, all the same, and I determined to have a try, in spite of Matthewson. But the pig stuck close to the place, and I could never get a chance at him. I saw that I'd been a fool to quarrel with Matthewson, so I determined to make it up with him.

You may say that I had no business to interfere in the matter. If Matthewson chose to have an invisible pig about his place, surely it was his business. But you know how it is with me when there's anything ghostly about—I must have my finger in the pie.

So I laid my plans.

First I went to Matthewson and apologised for being so hot the other day, and that I'd changed my opinion on the subject. I remanded him that I first found out that he had an invisible pig. I said I had thought of a way by which I could prove that it was the old sow's pig, and not a common ghost; and that if I could do that, why, his fortune was made.

Matthewson was touched at this, and we shook hands. We went up to the pig-yard and leaned on the logs, looking at them.

'What's that strange grunter you have?' I said suddenly.

'There's no stranger there,' says Matthewson.

'Yes there is,' said I; 'a razor-backed, long-legged brute's got in from somewhere.'

Matthewson looked, but couldn't see anything strange, and he began to grow uneasy.

'You're kidding me,' said he; 'you're gammoning. I've no long-legged, razor-backed animal.'

'By Jupiter, then, I can see the invisible pig at last—and a mangy, brute it is!'

As I said this there was a squeal from the little pigs, and I knew I was right, and that it was some old screw of a ghost up to his larks.

Matthewson looked very downcast.

'If you can see him really, and he's such a mongrel, why, he can't be the old sow's,' he said, dejectedly.

Matthewson wouldn't go back on his prize sow.

I put my leg over the logs, and went into the yard, pretending I could see the pig all the time. Just then something ran between my legs, and down I went in the dirty litter.

'What did you do that for?' said Matthewson.

'That darned pig disappeared again, and ran between my legs,' I said, getting up, sulkily. But I wasn't sulky in reality, for I felt that that pig knew who I was, and meant what he did.

Matthewson laughed like anything.

That settled it. A man who could laugh at his friend being capsized in a pigyard was not deserving of consideration. Matthewson might want to keep that invisible pig going, but henceforth it was war to the knife between the pig and I. Still the pig had the best of it, for I could only get near him with the assistance of Matthewson, and he did not altogether trust me.

'This makes things doubtful,' I said to him when I was once more outside the pig-pen. 'We must keep quiet about it. If the pig is really such a brute as the thing I saw, he couldn't be the offspring of your well-bred sow, could he?'

'Seems not,' he said, 'but you won't say a word to anybody.'

'Not a word. But if I were you, I'd sell that sow. You'd get a big price for her, as the mother of invisible pigs.'

'I might, certainly; but, strictly speaking, I don't see much market value in invisible pigs. You can't kill and eat them, and what else are pigs good for?'

'That's the bow you and your brother had the dispute over.'

'Yes. Poor Harry he used to have queer notions. Would have it that sow was his, because he lent me the money to buy her, and I didn't paid it back Before he died. Some people have queer ideas about money matters.'

'They have,' I said.

Now not far from me was a lazy galoot of a fellow who had a wife and a large family all lazier than himself. He kept pigs, mostly in the house. They were bred like racers, and lived principally on empty jam tins and broken crockery. I went down to him and borrowed a young pig. Before daylight I had him in Matthewson's pen.

Matthewson overslept himself that morning. He had been dreaming of pig all night, when the redheaded man, who was knockabout, rushed in and said that he had seen the invisible pig, Matthewson was up like a shot, and ran to the pen.

There sure enough was the steeplechaser I'd put in there. I managed to be about pretty early that morning, and Matthewson seeing me in the paddock, coo-eed to me to come up. Up I went end found Matthewson and his red-headed man gazing, struck dumb, at the pig.

'He's a beauty!' I said.

Just as I spoke there was a row in the pen. The real invisible pig seized the invisible impostor, and a curious fight ensued.

The visible pig could feel the other, but he couldn't see him, and though he fought and squealed and did his best, he got spots knocked off him. The invisible pig had him by the ear, and was dragging him round the yard, the others all singing out pen and ink. It was the most curious sight you ever saw to see that pig hauled along by nothing, protesting all the time.

There was a lump of a sapling lying by the fence, and picking it up and judging just where the invisible pig must be, I landed him one on the back that must have astonished him. He let go with a loud squeal, and the other pig jumped the logs, capsized the red-beaded man, who was standing with his mouth open, and fled home.

'You've killed my pig, and by Jingo you'll pay for him.'

'Where's his dead body, anyhow?' I asked.

There were high words, and Matthewson and I quarrelled again over the blessed pig.

That night I was woke up by a noise in 'my' room, grunting and squealing, and enough row for forty pigs. I guessed it was the invisible pig, and sang out to it.

'Who are you?'

'I'm Matthewson's brother,' came back a human voice.

'What's the matter with you?'

'I was just paying off that brother of mine for cheating me out of that sow, and what you wanted to interfere for I don't know.'

'What did you upset me for?'

'You began It. You think too much of yourself, Jim Parkes. Who are you after all?'

'I'm not invisible, at any rate.'

'Well, I am. I thought it would scare that brother of mine off the place, and, Instead of that, the old fool's as proud as anything about it. How can I get even with him?'

I thought a bit. I knew there had been sharp practice between the brothers over that sow, but there seemed no sense in the ghost of Harry playing the fool.

'What do you want to do?'

'I want him to sell that sow. It makes me rank sick to watch him coddling her, and talking about her, add carrying on so. I can't get my proper wast.'

'How did you suppose you could do it by coming back as an invisible pig? Why did you not come in your own shape, and scare the soul out of him till he sold the sow, and gave the money away in charity?'

'I must give up this pig racket, I see.'

'Not yet; come and see me to-morrow night; I might think of something.'

I went to sleep again, and the next day went over to Matthewson's.

'Pig come back?' I asked.

'Yes, but you've injured him severely, I can tell it by his squeal. Sounds all out of tone. What sort of a game was it to belt an invisible pig with a sapling?'

'Well, the beggar capsized me, didn't be?'

'Served you right for calling him names. But just listen to that squeal—hasn't got half the music in it that it had.'

I couldn't tell any difference in it; tout Matthewson thought he could. However, it gave me an idea.

That night I told the ghost of Harry. Matthewson what to do, and he gave me a sample of his powers.

A day or two afterwards, Matthewson came down to me, and said he, 'That there invisible pig's mighty queer. He's making the most outrageous noises possible; and I can't see him or catch him to find out what's the matter with him.'

I went back with Matthewson; and of all the rows you ever heard that pig was making the most diabolical. It was like a mad foghorn phasing a railway whistle. You couldn't get away from it if you stuffed your ears full, and put your head in a Bucket of water.

'He's got some sort of a fit now,' said Matthewson, in a hollow tone of voice. 'Times he's not so bad; times he's worse.'

Well, this went on till Matthewson got thin and haggard. He couldn't sleep for listening to the moaning of the pig.

'I wouldn't mind if I could see him, and doctor him, but to hear that animal suffering tortures, and not be able to physic him. It's killing me, Jim.'

'Do you think me and the girls' like it any better than you do?' put in Mrs. Matthewson, and I could see that Matthewson was suffering.

'Better get rid of the sow; then the pig will go with her,' I suggested.

He shook his head dismally, and I saw that if Harry kept it up properly, he'd give in. Harry did keep it up. His groans and cries were the terror of the neighborhood, and Matthewson used to walk about bewailing the fact of not being able to doctor the pig.

At last his wife would stand it no longer, and he tried to sell the sow. But no one would buy her along with that horrible fog-horn. At last a dealer came along, and as the ghost had the sense to keep quiet, he managed to get rid of her for about half her value. But it broke his heart, fairly broke his heart. And when the dealer came by again, and said he'd had no trouble with any noise, it was the last straw. He took to his bed.

But he never knew that it was the ghost of his dead brother that drove him to an early grave. All through liking to get the best of everybody, too. It's a bad failing for a man to have, though permissible in horse-dealing.


Evening News, Sydney, 27 November 1897

DIGGS was my partner for many years. Not a bad fellow, but apt to grow peppery over trifling matters. I remember the first time we were discussing buying the station, the question arose as to what the name of the firm should be—Diggs and Feeling, or Feeling and Diggs.

We both would be on equal terms financially, so we found if very hard to decide, and nearly fell out over it. Diggs said I was obstinate in the matter, and I thought him the same. At last we determined to refer to Bagot—Bagot would be our neighbor if we bought the station we were thinking of investing in—so we did so.

Bagot put his considering cap on as we sat smoking on his broad verandah and waiting for the oracle to speak. A long wait it was, and we both followed Bagot's example of emptying our glasses of rum and water twice, before he spoke. A bright idea came into his head, for he was something like that unknown character of Shakespeare's, the husband of Juliet's nurse—'Ah! a merry man.' He laughed heartily, and said:

'I've got it.'

'Possibly,' I remarked, 'but we haven't.'

'Call the firm Feeling and Diggs, and make your station brand D.F.'

'Why this combination?' said Diggs, after a pause. 'Well, the initials of Diggs and Feeling, as the firm's signature, would stand for d—d fools, but on the cattle they'd stand for d—d fat.'

Diggs and I looked at each other; it seemed a way out of the difficulty, and we accepted it on the spot, which mightily pleased old Bagot. He told his version of the story all over the district, and became the acknowledged wit in consequence. We didn't mind. We bought the station, and I am happy to say got on very well for some years, and the DF brand was very popular.

Then an episode I am about to relate broke up the peaceful life we were leading, and finally led to breaking up the partnership of Feeling and Diggs.

It was not the fault of either of us—simply an unhappy conjunction of circumstances. The head station, when we took the station over, was in a very inconvenient place for working the run, and after some years, when the house and yard began to show signs of decay, we determined to shift it to another site.

The site we chose was an old station site, much more favorable in every way, and we wondered why it had ever been deserted. None of the men about could tell us, not even old Bagot. But one night a hoary old traveller came along, and from what he said in the men's hut one of them came over to us in the morning, and informed us that 'old Captain,' as the swagman was called, could tell us all about the old homestead at Four Junction Creek.

So we called him over, and promised him a day's spell and some tucker if he would tell us all he knew. He was a queer-looking old fellow, with a white beard, badly stained with tobacco.

''Four Junction Creek was where old Smithfield—he who took this place up first—was murdered by two of his men.'

'Well, but,' said Diggs, 'that's no reason. I know of lots of stations with graves on them, all over the country.'

'Ah, but ye don't know a case like this, for the troopers happened to come that very night. The sergeant, he was a very queer sort of cuss, and to save the trouble of carting them two hundred miles as prisoners, he shot them both out of hand. Then he swore, and his men swore, that they resisted, and fired at the police.'

'I suppose they're pretty well rotten and decayed by this time,' I said.

'I've more to tell you,' returned the old man. 'The one who set them on to do the work was the biggest devil of the lot, and that one was Smithfield's young wife. A handsome handful she was! She walked out of the house on to the verandah and watched the shooting. Then she called to the sergeant, 'Am I the next?'

'What do you mean, Mrs. Smithfield?' said the sergeant, who knew her, but nothing of her deviltry.

'That I had as much to do with it as anybody.'

'Then, if you make a confession like that, It's my plain duty to make you my prisoner,' and he advanced towards her.

'No man will do that,' and therewith she put a pistol to her head—one that she had held behind her all the time—and shot herself.'

'Oh! I thought you were going to say shot the sergeant,' I remarked.

'No, shot herself; there was no earthly use in shooting anybody else,' said the old man, in annoyed tones. 'You see, that made the party complete—old Smithfield, who was murdered; the two murderers, who were executed; and the woman, who committed suicide. A regular happy party to make a fresh start in a new existence.'

'Well,' said Diggs. 'That doesn't tell us why the homestead was deserted for this place I suppose they were buried and done with.'

'Oh! were they?' chuckled the old man with a ghastly laugh. 'Were they? Did you expect that those four could lie quiet, cheek by jowl, like four little kids who'd been drowned in a Sunday school picnic? My! you're soft. Old Smithfield's nephew came in for the station, and up he came from the south to take delivery and possession. Which, he did, and got things all licked into shape when the trouble commenced. All four of 'em began to walk, and old Smithfield began to have his innings.

'Man! to hear the yells, and the shrieks, and the groans, of 'em. To see old Smithfield with, the blood on his white hair, where he had been chopped down by the axe, running after his wicked wife. Through the house, through the walls, through the table, beds, chairs, anything. Why, it was enough to make anyone desert the place, wasn't it?'

'Depends on who they were,' said Diggs, who was a confirmed sceptic.

'Does it?' said the old man, with a grunt. 'At any rate the young fellow found that he couldn't keep a man on the place, for it was not alone in the house, but outside as well, where old Smithfield used to chase those two murderers and chop them about with the axe, they groaning horrid all the while.'

'What did he want to do it for? His axe was not a real axe, and he never hurt anybody.'

'I like your way of looking at it, as if the old fellow was not due for his revenge. Anyhow, he did it. His nephew could not sell the station with all that racketing going on, and so he moved over, here. Now just tell me, will you? You seem to know so much about it, what would you have done in Smithfield's place?'

'Why,' answered Diggs, who was the man addressed, 'I'd have washed the blood off my head, and tidied myself up, and if I felt obliged to walk, of which I don't see the necessity, I'd have done it in a quiet, decent manner, and not have gone ramping and killing through another man's house, for you must admit that after Smithfield was killed the house no longer belonged to him.'

'So that is your way of looking at it, is it?' replied the old man.

'It is,' returned Diggs, who seemed to take an interest in the matter. I didn't speak myself. The old man amused me with his thorough belief in the matter. The old fellow thanked us for the spell and the tucker, and toddled off to the men's hut, where he camped for the remainder, of the day.

'What do you think of him?' asked Diggs.

'Some looney old shepherd who has lost his wits. But we'll go out to-night and camp on the site, and lay out our plans.'

It was a lovely spot for a homestead at Four Junction Creek, and very central in every way. Diggs and I decided on the respective buildings, with a due regard to my partner's approaching marriage. We were not disturbed by anything during the night, and laughed at the old man's story, which, we presumed, he had learned by heart, and repeated at every station for a dole of rations.

ALL the time the removal and building were going on we were kept hard at work, and never saw anything of old men with blood stained hair on their heads and axes in their hands, careering through the place.

At last it was all finished, and Diggs departed to bring home a bride.

I was sitting in the cool of the evening on the verandah smoking a meditative pipe, when an old fellow walked up, and, bidding me good evening, ascended the verandah and took one of the canvas chairs.

'I seem to remember your face,' I said, 'but I can't place it.'

'Smithfield is my name. I saw you and your partner last year at your old place.'

'The devil you did! I don't remember your name there.'

'Yes, I told you the story of this place, if you remember.'

'Remember!' I cried, starting up. 'Are you the old swagman?'

'I am, and I was so struck by your partner's advice that I adopted it, and I think I shall be very much more comfortable.'

'Then that murder and suicide story was a fact?'

'Actual fact; and I am thankful to you for not disturbing my grave.'

'We saw a grave, and of course respected it.'

'Yes; and I promise in return to behave myself, and not play any more fool's tricks.'

'What shall I call you if you turn up when there's anybody here?'

'Whitefield will do; now I think I'll go back and turn in. I just called to see if you were frightened, and don't intend to bother you very much. Good night.'

'Good night, Mr. Whitefield,' I said, in reply, as he stepped from the window, and went back to his grave.

He kept his word, and a more quiet, genial companion than that ghost, on his occasional visits, I never met. Old Bagot took a great liking to him. In due course Diggs came back with Mrs. Diggs, and I warned Whitefield to keep away for a bit, so that I could have an opportunity of putting Diggs up to his visits, and he did so.

Diggs looked rather startled when I told him of Mr. Whitefield's visits, but I assured him his behavior was most discreet; he need not see much of the new 'missus.' Besides I urged he had given up his howling, tearing tricks just to oblige us, and had therefore a claim on our hospitality. He saw it in this light after a bit, especially as he was the author of the advice, so Whitefield resumed his visits, and all things went smooth. Mrs. Diggs wondered much that she saw nothing of that nice old gentleman, Mr. Whitefield, in the daytime; but Diggs explained that his duties kept him busy.

Then came the great catastrophe that severed our partnership.

Whitefield usually sat quietly on the verandah, not saying much, but enjoying the company. This night, for some reason, Mrs. Diggs asked him to come inside. He came, and stayed about an hour, and then rose to go, and, forgetting my repeated warnings, walked straight through the wall, instead of going through the doorway.

Mrs. Diggs saw it, but thought her eyes must have deceived her, when the wretched ghost, utterly forgetting himself, walked back through the wall, and apologised, and went out through the proper mode of exit. Mrs. Diggs sat down in shrieking hysterics, and I gave Diggs a clear field to recover her. He had a terrible job, I believe, being new at that sort of thing, but at last succeeded in stilling her wild outcries to be 'sent back to her mother,' and got her to bed.

It broke us up. She could not be persuaded to stop, and Diggs and I had to agree to sell the station and relinquish partnership. He took her down, and we sold the place very well. Smithfield only turned up once, he felt so much ashamed of himself. I refrained from reproach, for I knew he was as truly sorry as any ghost could be.


Evening News, Sydney, 10 April 1897


I KNEW that Sir Denvil Dancer was a fool—it did not take long to find that out; but for all that, he was a baronet, and when a fellow is travelling with his family on board a P-and-O steamer it looks well to know, and be on familiar terms with a baronet. It impresses your fellow-passengers; not that I am aware that there is any benefit to be derived from that, but it is the correct thing to do—to impress your fellow-passengers, and regard everyone else as though they had lately been shot up out of a volcano. Well, Sir Denvil Dancer had allowed me to become intimate with him on the voyage out—allowed me to monopolise him, in fact, and dearly have I paid for that condescension.

We arrived in Sydney, and Sir Denvil Dancer went to the club, and my wife and I returned to our olive branches and our home. But Sir Denvil was not ungrateful. He came put and had dinner with us once or twice, and finally departed on his fatuous, globe-trotting way to Noumea, by the M.M. steamer.

More than two months had passed, when one day a vagrant individual presented himself at my house, and demanded in broken English to see me. After much hesitation he was ushered into the room I call my study, though I generally use it to go to sleep in.

I was told of his presence, and went there. He was seedy, but not with the seediness of an English, vagabond. He was picturesque and theatrical. He looked like, the man who comes on the stage in rags. But he was very dirty, there was no mistake about that.

He sprang to his feet when I entered, and uttering some remark about 'Sir Denveel Dansah,' presented me with a letter from that esteemed member of the aristocracy. I asked him to be seated whilst I read the epistle. It ran thus:

Dear Bagshot,

The bearer—M. Louis Derona—is, unfortunately, under a cloud for some political offence that we should think nothing of. I have told him to call on you, if he manages to reach Sydney and that you will gladly befriend him for my sake.

Then followed the usual good wishes and compliments to self and wife.

Now, have you ever noticed how a fool always gets the best of you? A man may go through life as a drivelling idiot; but he always complacently gets someone else to hold the baby. One of the best characters in the world, to assume is that of a fool—he always gets the best of it.

My friend Sir Denvil Dancer did not put himself out of the way to assist M. Louis Derona, under a political cloud! Oh! no. He passed him on to me. I had scarcely finished reading the letter, when my uninvited guest sprang up, and said—

'It is what you call all right, then? You are my dear Backshot, the friend of Sir Dansah?' How he rolled out that horrible 'Dansah.'

I admitted that I was Bagshot, and immediately his arms were round my neck. I disentangled myself, and we got seated again, and a happy thought struck me. I offered him a cigar, and rang for some refreshments. At any rate, that would keep his arms away from me. He accepted a cigar with gratitude, and when the spirits were brought in I expected to see him greedily swallow half a tumbler full; but no. He poured himself out a very little brandy, and filled his tumbler up with water; but his eyes glistened at the biscuits in the jar. Sir Denvil's friend Derona was evidently half-starved.

I sat down thoroughly puzzled. Was he an escapee? I did not think so. But what was I to do with him? The poor devil, whoever he was, had come to me, evidently in bitter want, on the strength of the confounded Baronet's letter, and I couldn't well turn him out in the street.

I would consult with my wife. I knew, of course, what she would say beforehand; but still it was necessary to tell her. The fellow, as I said before, was a picturesque blackguard, and would pass muster with women. I made some excuse, and went in search of her. She said exactly what I anticipated; said that she always thought Sir Denvil was a horrid, selfish cad; she never approved of my making friends with him, and, finally, she would see this man, and get rid of him pretty quickly.

Full of this design, she proceeded to my study. Derona sprang up again at her appearance. And was this the charming Mme. Backshot whom his friend Sir Dansah raved about? Might he, most respectfully, salute madame's hand? And madame gave him her hand, and sat down and asked this poor, starving, hungry-eyed devil if he had had a pleasant voyage? and did he like Noumea as a place of residence?

Well, there's no counting on a woman! What with the biscuits and the weak brandy and water, and the sight of a petticoat, Derona plucked up wonderfully, and when my wife rose to go, and, by mental telegraphy indicated that she wished to speak with me, he darted to the door, and held it open for her, with a low bow.

'We must ask him to stay to dinner,' said my wife, coming with a letter of introduction from Sir Denvil, you know.'

I murmured a few words concerning her saying something about getting rid of him, but she took me up at once.

'Nonsense! The man is quite different to what you described him. He must he somebody, for Sir Denvil to have done so much for him—'

Here I coughed loudly.

'You heard how he spoke of him as his good and generous friend?' she said, indignantly.

'Has imaginative manner; he called you the charming Mme. Bagshot.'

'If, instead of trying to be satirical, you thought I of something sensible, it would be more to the purpose.'

'Very well, I will try and find out who he is and what he wants.'

'The Duneauves were over in New Caledonia lately,' said my wife. 'Ask him if he met them.'

'Look here,' I said, exasperated; 'the poor w retch is a starved stowaway, I take it. He is probably a released prisoner, without money or friends, who came across Dancer, and he, like the dog he is, instead of paying his passage to Marseilles, which he could easily have dome, gave him a letter to me. If there's nothing criminal about the fellow I'll see what the Consul here and some of his own countrymen will do to get him a passage. I'll invite him to dinner, tout don't torment him by asking him how he liked the climate of Noumea.'

I left before my wife had time to formulate a fitting answer, and joined Derona. His story was very much what I had guessed. A penniless man, released from prison, he had appealed to Sir Denvil, and "the fool" had scored by sending him on to me with his blessing and the letter.

He had got across by same connivance of a friend in the engine-room, and wandered about Sydney, foodless and shelterless, for two days before some friendly person, to whom he showed the address on the letter, directed him to my house.

I had formed a plan concerning him, and by a few adroit questions managed to find out that his offence was really a mere political one that British law would not condescend to notice. He was a boyish fellow, whom the mere talking to, and the effect of sitting in a decent room, had restored to self-confidence and harmless audacity.

Mr. Dick's advice to Miss Trotwood was strong within me—'I should wash him.' I determined to do so. It was still early in the day, so I took my new friend into town, and by the evening, I had made him a different man. He was a well-made fellow, easy to fit, and the ready-made clothes sat on him as if built by a first-class tailor. As we passed a florist's window I saw him look longingly therein, and I gratified him by adding the desired flowers. He was magnificently and childishly happy. His hair cut short, beard pointed and moustache waxed, the adored frock coat on his back, a glass of absinthe in his digestive organs, I took back a prince, whom I had received as a houseless vagrant.

It was worth the money to see how he flashed forth at the dinner-table. The repression of three years had to find vent, and always he wound up with a reference to his good, his admirable friend, Sir Dansah.

I carried out my little programme, and was met with a generous response. Derona was taken up and helped. It was some time before the M.M. steamer left, and at his earnest request took him one evening to the talk-shop in Macquarie-street. Never did I see a man so interested in the dreary twaddles of the ordinary politician. Suddenly he gripped my arm fiercely and looking up I saw his gaze fixed intently on the speaker who at that moment had the ear of the House.

It was a harmless speech, and made by the harmless leader of the Opposition; but it excited Derona so that I was glad to get him outside.

'Ah!' he aid; 'why had I not a bomb to cast at that oppressor's feet and shatter the tyrant!'

'What's the matter? He was only advocating a tax on coffee.'

'That is everything, my friend. Nobody but a tyrant would tax anything. Here, now,' he went on, 'is an honest man of work,' stopping a passing mechanic.

'Do you like being taxed, my friend?'

'No, I'm hanged if I do,' replied the astonished man.

'That is so. We are of one mind. Down with taxation. Down with the tyrant.'

And he shook the dumbfounded artisan by the hand.

'I live but for one thing,' he continued, as I got him away, 'and that is to see my good and generous friend, Sir Dansah take has seat in your Common House.'

Luckily I thought of the Domain, and its orators on Sunday afternoon, and that fairly enchanted him. To see him stand in a Napoleonic attitude, with his arms, folded, and a fierce frown on his face, was worth money.

Finally the time dawned for the steamer to leave, and he came to have a farewell dinner with us. He asked me, as a favor, to let him propose the health of our dear but absent friend, Sir Dansah! And he cried over my wife's hand when he said good-bye; but he never thanked me.

His countrymen came to see him off when the steamer started, and he hung over the rail as she was warped out, and shouted affectionate messages to his dear Sir Dansah, and made a spectacle of me and himself. Then the steamer disappeared round the point, and I went home to meditate on snobbishness and its reward.


OUR next visitor was Sir Dancer himself, going round the world the other way in his slow, stupid, unseeing manner. I came home one afternoon, and found him explaining to my wife how Derona had aroused his sympathy by his helpless condition, and he had gone out of his way to serve him, and a heap of other fat lies that my wife either believed, or pretended to believe. But there. I give women up.

Sir Denvil dined with us once or twice, and then left for San Francisco, still in his selfish, phlegmatic way, playing the fool; and I naturally thought that I had seen the end both of him and Derona, but I had not.

Derona arrived in France safely, and wrote to me, saying that he had joined the staff of a southern newspaper, and after a month or two began to send me copies, which, as I am a wretched hand at attempting to read French, were not of much good to me. My wife, however, seemed to like to get them—it gave us a sort of travelled air with the postman, I suppose.

Presently one came with a marked paragraph. I puzzled that out, and found that it referred to the 'celebrated English philanthropist, Sir Denvil Dancer, Baronet,' arriving somewhere or departing somewhere, or doing something. Then came another, and I found that referred to the wedding of that celebrated philanthropist and renowned traveller, etc., which that infatuated fool, Derona, had come across in some obscure English county paper.

A YEAR passed, and Sir Denvil and his wife came to Sydney on one of the baronet's periodical excursions, by which he sustained the reputation of being a scientific traveller. Lady Dancer was a tall, fine woman, infinitely superior to her husband, who was fatter and more foolish than ever, and they had scarcely left before, to our astonishment, Derona put in an appearance.

He was in great feather, had come out to see about some antimony mines reported to exist in New South Wales, partly for his paper, and partly for some capitalists. He was as big a foe of taxation in any form as ever—I believe he thought it a hardship to have to pay his railway fare. He was moved to tears when he heard that, he had just missed his distinguished benefactor, as he now termed him.

However, Sir Denvil was coming back, and Derona vowed to be down in Sydney to meet him, and he did, the antimony mines having been disappointing, to put it mildly. To hear him explain to Lady Dancer how her husband had heard of his languishing in chains, and had travelled all the way out to New Caledonia to use his influence to release him was very amusing. And Lady Dancer found it so, for she laughed heartily at the relation, and evidently knew too much about her husband to believe a word of it.

Derona came to me a day or two afterwards, and in broken tones assured me that he knew his esteemed friend was not happy in his marriage.

'That woman,' he said, 'is cold, unsympathetic; she does not appreciate and admire the noble qualities of Sir Dansah.'

I told him that I thought Lady Dansah did exactly estimate the qualities of Sir Denvil, and was a woman in a thousand. But he would not have it. Sir Denvil should have married somebody light, sympathetic, spiritual, who would have led him on to becoming Lord Mayor, which was the highest dignity my friend could think of just then.

Shortly afterwards he had a brilliant notion.

'I will release my friend, even as he released me. See! I will make love to her, and run away with her!'

This was said in such preposterously innocent good faith that I had to look grave to keep myself from laughing outright in his face. He mistook my expression, for he went on.

'Ah! you condemn, you disapprove. But what care I for right or wrong, or what you call morality!'

'My dear Derona,' I said, 'perhaps I care as little about morality as you do; but I, know if you attempt to make love to Lady Dancer she will probably take you by the ear and lay into you with a whip herself.'

He shrugged his shoulders, and went away, evidently revolving schemes for the happy release of his esteemed friend Sir Dansah, who had just the capable sort of wife to suit such a dull-brained clod.

I did not witness the catastrophe, but Lady Dancer told me about it.

'Jim literally drowned the poor man,' she said. 'I can never bear to see him again; I shall dream of it always.'

This is what happened. Sir Denvil, his wife, and Derona were out in a boat in the harbor. Whose fault it was I don't know. Derona was dilating on the beauties of social equality, and suppose Dancer was asleep, when they were run down by one of the small steamers, and found themselves afloat in the water.

Lady Dancer could swim, and fortunately got hold of one of the sculls. Derona, like most Frenchmen, had received a good athletic training, and was a strong swimmer; but poor Sir Denvil could just paddle feebly. Derona would have gone first to Lady Dancer's assistance, but she called to him that she was quite safe till the boat came, so he turned his attention to the struggling, gasping baronet. Now the easiest way to support a man, if he has presence of mind, is to let him rest his hands lightly on your shoulders, which leaves your own hands free to swim with; if he hasn't got presence of mind you had best grab him behind somehow, to avoid his grabbing you.

Derona probably thought that Sir Denvil was fully possessed of his wits; that such a great and good man could not get paralysed with funk; he therefore got the baronet to rest his hands oh his shoulders for support till help came. Now resting, and putting your whole weight on, are two very different things, and when the pudgy frightened man got his hands on Derona's shoulders he downed him under water immediately.

It must have been a horrible sight for Lady Dancer, who had drifted too far away to render assistance. Vainly she shrieked to her husband, whose head was visible, to let go, but he was deaf with fright.

Once Derona managed to get to the surface, but he could not free himself from that desperate, tenacious, drowning clutch, and went under again. Even then, if the boat from the steamer had gone to the men first, they might both have been saved, but naturally they made to pick up the woman, and when they finally pulled the unfortunate Derona and his admired friend out of the water, one was past recovery.

They coaxed back life in the baronet, but the other poor, foolish, gallant soul had fled. Lady Dancer kept her word; she returned to England by herself, and I understand they have since lived apart.

Sir Denvil Dancer doesn't seem to mind, however; he has to act up to the part of a fool, it suits him so well.


Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser, 9 October 1907

THE three men sat on the top-rail of the horse yard, enjoying the mixed delight of a Sunday morning smoke and a good horse yarn. A black-boy was permitted to cockatoo as well; but he was a superior boy from the Dawson River, in Queensland, who had been in the native police in the old days, and always spoke of the other blacks about the place as 'niggers.'

It being Sunday, only a few horses were in the yard for special purposes, but they were sufficient to serve as a text, and that was all that was wanted.

The super and a young jackeroo might be seen in idleness on the station homestead verandah; and though they would, in their hearts, have dearly liked to have sunk all social distinctions and joined the gossiping party, and aired their experiences of horses and their ways, still, the unwritten law of station etiquette must be observed, no matter how a man's soul may lust after the dear delight of a good blow.

Australia has her full share of fine, enjoyable mornings—some residents even say that she has occasionally more than her share—but on this Sunday there had been a sufficiency of rain for all pastoral purposes, and life was worth living and man felt like a man towards his fellow worm.

Harry Braybridge, the super, was a good-tempered young fellow, who got along smoothly with his men, and Brinkingdale, though but a far-back cattle station, had no fly of large dimensions in its local honey pot.

Just now Braybridge was lazily thinking in a dreamy sort of way, of how bewitching and charming the figure of a certain girl of his acquaintance looked in a riding habit. Sparks, the jackeroo, was reflecting with complacency that his moustache was really sprouting at last. One of the yarning stockmen was meditating with pride on the last jocularity he had got off; and the cook in the kitchen, who was an artist in his way, was cogitating over the respective merits of a bun-loaf and a fat-cake for Sunday's dinner, when Braybridge started up with an exclamation that astonished everybody.

The peace of the quiet morn was rudely disturbed, for his sudden ejaculation had been loud enough and hot enough to put everybody's seraphic calm to flight. Braybridge had been pleasantly and idly dreaming, as aforesaid, of the rounded contours of a girl whom he was beginning to admire very much, of her graceful seat on a horse, and then, by an easy transition, of how well she would look on Nettletop—then, with a start and the loud outcry that had so upset the erstwhile Sabbath calm—'Where is Nettletop? When did I see him last?'

And with a jump and a roar Braybridge plunged off the verandah, and hurried up to the yard to question the men on the matter. It was very strange, nobody could exactly call to mind when they had seen Nettletop last. He was the pride of Brinkingdale, who was destined to carry the station colours to victory in the next race meeting.

All agreed that it was about a week ago, but nothing more definite, and as such a state of anxiety was insupportable, two men and the black boy were at once bidden to go down the big horse paddock after the missing animal, and make sure that he was safe. Dinner time arrived, and the meal, greatly to the disgust of the cook, who, like most artists, had a tender soul, was not appreciated.

Time drew on, the men returned, and to the astonishment and dismay of every one were willing, individually or separately, to asseverate on a sackful of Bibles, if necessary, that Nettletop was not visible above ground within the bounds of the big horse paddock.

This was a staggerer. It was too late to start out again on a forlorn hope, even if anyone could suggest where to go; there was nothing for it but to seek, an uneasy couch, after sitting up debating the possibilities and impossibilities of every phase of the question. Nettletop was gone, of that there was no doubt. It was a long time before the races, and the horse had only been turned out to stretch his shapely legs for a bit, no one dreaming but what he was as safe as the proverbial house.

Braybridge, whose temperament was what is called mercurial, alternating between hope and despair, went to bed with but one thought in his brain—Nettletop, the rising star of hope, was gone.

The next morning, everybody on Brinkingdale rose feeling that a subtle atmosphere of impending gloom overhung the station. The cook's temper, always regretfully short, was that morning worn into rags and tatters, by the unusually well-behaved milkers refusing to give their milk down freely, and indulging in several other little idiosyncrasies that no rightly-disposed milker should ever Indulge in.

Braybridge himself, on the testimony of Sparks, got out of bed on the wrong side, although from the arrangement of the furniture it was a physical impossibility so to do. The stockman condensed the general feeling in a few words:—

'I feel just as though I had been on the tear last night, and hadn't a pick-me-up to settle my nerves this morning.'

The morning was devoted to another fruitless search for the missing horse, and the day passed without further elucidation of the mystery of Nettletop's disappearance.

On the following morning, however, Braybridge roused himself like the infuriated Achilles. Sitting still would do no good, nor would pottering about after tracks that, when found, proved to be those of a horse with a clean bill of health; no, he must bestir himself in the matter if he ever wished to see Nettletop again. He sallied forth to inform the police, offer a reward, and give a description of the horse, and let the other neighbouring stations know that they might keep a look-out for his missing property. For Nettletop was his own ewe lamb, and not station property.

FIVE AND TWENTY miles from Brinkingdale was a sheep station called Red Plains, owned by Beveridge, a man of means, who resided on it with his two sons and one daughter. His wife was a chronic invalid, and the reins of domestic government were in the capable hands of Miss Beveridge, who, truth to tell, was the young lady with the trim figure who haunted Harry Braybridge's waking dreams.

Red Plains was on his road to the police station, and from the fair lady in question, who was as good a horse-lover as she was a bonnie girl, Braybridge was sure of much kindly sympathy, as well as indignation at the theft.

He stayed that night at Red Plains, and received the tenderest commiseration from Miss Beveridge, together with the outspoken vituperation of her young brother, Jim; who vowed that the American custom of hanging horse thieves would alone satisfy the outraged laws of the land.

Considering that Jim was but a boy of 18, and had always had a sneaking regard for bushranging literature, this fiery denunciation rather surprised Braybridge. But he was still more surprised when Jim, at the suggestion of his sister, offered to ride with him next day to the police station, saying that the inspector in charge was an old friend of his father's and would put himself out of his way to interest himself in the matter.

So the next morning Braybridge left, feeling that the loss of a hundred Nettletops was well repaid by the interest in his misfortune evinced by Miss Beveridge.

'Going to have any horses in, Jim?' said Braybridge, as they rode on, referring to the coming race meeting.

'Just one for the sake of the station's name; but he has turned out a duffer. We haven't got a flyer like your's.'

'Like mine was,' returned the other, dolefully.

'Oh, cheer up,' said Jim, 'he'll turn up all right, yet.'

He heaved a dolorous sigh. 'I should have liked your sister to have tried him,' he said. 'Nettletop would have made a perfect lady's hack.'

'I'll tell her,' said Jim.

'Oh,' replied poor Braybridge, who was rapidly getting down in the dumps again, 'it's too late now.'

'Better late than never,' said Jim, with cheerful irrelevance.

Arrived at the township, they interviewed the police inspector, who promised all due aid and assistance; and, furthermore, had a private and apparently most important interview with Jim.

'We've made a bit of a private racecourse,' said Jim, as they rode back to Red Plains, the following afternoon, 'but our colt turned out such a crawler that I don't suppose it will be used unless you like to have a flutter with Nettletop—when you get him back, I mean.'

'It's confidential information that I am disclosing to you,' said the inspector, 'but it is as true as gospel, and as I thought that we could manage it quietly amongst ourselves, I am taking you into my confidence, and have not brought any of my men with me.'

The inspector was out at Birkingdale, talking to Braybridge with a glass of whisky and water and a preternaturally quiet face.

'Going to have another go at the place, are they? And we'll lie in wait and catch them red-handed. Jove, it's just the chance I want.

'Let me get my hands on the chap who stole Nettletop, and he won't want to steal another horse for some time.'

The inspector had come out to Brinkingdale with the information that he had heard that the horse thieves meditated another swoop, and was making arrangements with Braybridge to lay a trap for them and catch them in the act. The next afternoon, about 4 o'clock, was to be the critical time, which, the inspector informed Braybridge, he had found out through one of the gang having turned King's evidence, and the preparations for the surprise party were made accordingly.

The inspector and Braybridge and the black boy were to secrete themselves outside the fence at a particular spot where the fence ran through a belt of scrub; and the other men were to be on watch about the sliprails and secure them, after the thieves had passed through, and so pound them In the paddock.

The thieves in the paddock were going to muster the horses up, and pass those they had selected through a panel, where the wire had been cut, to the two principals in waiting.

'By the Lord Harry, it they haven't got a cheek, to expect, to do this in broad daylight!' sputtered Harry savagely.

'Looks as if they were not much afraid of your catching them,' said the chuckling inspector.

'Nor the police, either,' returned Braybridge, viciously.

All went well, and the Inspector and his two attendants were safely and closely secreted in the patch of scrub to await events. The officer produced, with some ostentation so Braybridge thought, a pair of handcuffs and a regulation revolver. He handed another pair of bracelets to him, saying:

'You know the knack of slipping them on, and you've your own revolver?'

Braybridge nodded, and then commenced the weary, nervous expectancy of waiting.

'That fellow come up,' said the black-boy quietly.

They peered cautiously out of their leafy screen. Two riders were approaching, and three horses, one being led. Were his eyes deceiving him? Had madness suddenly assailed him?

The two riders were Miss Beveridge and her young brother Jim. And the led horse was the long-sought Nettletop.

He would have risen and made his presence known, but the stern hand of the policeman withheld him. The pair rode up to the fence and dismounted. Jim went up to a panel and pressed the wire down, then he slipped out his stirrup-leathers and strapped the top and bottom wires together, making it low enough for any horse to almost step over.

But Nettletop when led up to it obstinately refused so to do. The strain of some wire-hating ancestor asserted itself, and he declined to enter.

'Put my saddle on,' said Miss Beveridge, who was watching the struggle.

'Don't come a cropper,' said Jim, with all the calm nonchalance of a brother, as he changed his sister's saddle on to Nettletop.

'Not if you brush it up well,' she replied, and Jim, breaking down the needful boughs, concealed the hateful wires with a clumsy baulk. He gave his sister a hand up, and taking a short canter she put Nettletop at the boughs, and he cleared the obstruction like a bird. Once more he was at home in his own familiar paddock.

Miss Beveridge took her saddle off, handed it across the fence to Jim, then, as she slipped the bridle off the horse's head took his nose in both her hands, gave him a kiss on the tip of it, and said: 'Good-bye, old fellow. Mind and win the race for Harry.'

Nettletop galloped off with an ungrateful snort, and the concealed party broke from their ambush.

'Stand, in the King's name!' sang out the laughing inspector.

'It's a hoax, I see,' said Braybridge, 'but I'd have it all over again to feel as jolly as I do at this moment.'

'Yes, we wanted to try the two horses on the measured course, on the quiet, and see what chance our horse had,' explained Jim, 'and we hadn't a show.'

'I wish I had been the horse just now,' whispered Harry, as he put Miss Beveridge up on her own horse. 'But he shall win that race, or I'll break my neck.'


Mercury, Hobart, 11 July 1900

I HAVE always looked up to and admired the people of good birth and standing, and in consequence when I found myself wrecked on a desert island with an aristocratic widow and the highly-descended Mr. Jobblestone, I naturally took up an inferior position.

I will not go into the story of the wreck; suffice it to say that with my assistance the aristocratic widow got ashore; and Jobblestone was washed ashore also. Of the rest of the passengers, officers and crew of the steamer, I confess I do not know. I imagine they got away in the boats, and in the confusion my companions and myself were left behind. It was a small island in the Pacific, uninhabited, but with plenty of coconut trees, bearing fruit, growing on it, and, as I afterwards found out, turtles, fish, and shellfish in the sur-rounding waters. Moreover, when day-light broke, we saw that the hull of the steamer had been driven well ashore, and at low tide could be easily reached; so her cargo was available for use.

The day was fine, and the sea going down, and the outlook was not so bad. I managed to regain the deck of the wrecked steamer, and obtained from the widow's cabin some necessary articles for her to make her toilet after the night's adventures. Jobblestone wished to go, but the widow would not hear of it, so he allowed me to go and fetch him also a dry suit out of his cabin.

The widow adjourned to the opposite side of the island when I returned, and Jobblestone and I changed our clothes, and discussed the situation. He agreed that I should keep a signal fire burning day and night, with the aid of timbers from the wreck; that I should bring as many stones ashore as possible, in case of the wreck breaking up; fruit I should build a shelter ashore for the widow; and that he should constitute himself chief adviser and superintendent. Knowing his birth and breeding, I consented—for, as I said before, I felt honoured by performing any small services for a distinguished gentleman far above me in a social position. That was a failing, a weakness, of mine; but it is effectually cured.

So I worked hard while Jobblestone talked to the aristocratic widow, and told her how Jobblestone was a corruption of Joppastone in consequence of one of his ancestors, a Crusader, having been hit on the head with a stone at the taking of Joppa. The widow, the Hon. Mrs. Carbuncle, approved of the rustic shelter I constructed for her, also of the dishes I cooked, the fish I caught, and the coconuts I obtained. As for Jobblestone, he did nothing but give good advice.

"I am going to try some curried turtle," said I to him one day. "I think it would make a good dish; so I'll go on board the wreck and have a hunt amongst the ship's stores for some curry powder."

Jobblestone looked uncomfortable. "I wouldn't if I were you," he said. "I don't think that the Honourable Mrs. Carbuncle, likes curry."

I asked her the question.

"I adore it," she replied; "simply adore it. And what is more, I am a very good hand at making it. At least my dear late husband always thought and said so. Jackson, find me some curry powder, and I will kill time making curries. We have everything here that is wanted, including coconut."

Jobblestone said nothing, but I noticed that he was deadly pale. He wandered away from us, and stood musing on the coral sand. I passed him as I went to the wreck. He had been tracing some-thing on the sand, which he tried to efface as I approached; but I saw what it was. He had written three words:

"Curry, currie, curree." What it meant I know not; but he was ghastly to look at. I went on board and started to search. It was long before I was successful; but at last I found what I sought a small case of curry powder. It was branded on the outside, "One dozen bottles of Jobblestone's Marvellous Curree Powder."

I started as read. Was the man an impostor? His sudden pallor, the coincidence of name, and the writing on the sand, all, all were evidence against him. Instead of his ancestors being valiant Crusaders, they—or at least a recent one, if not the man himself—made and sold curry powder. I would expose him, for I felt that the devotion of a lifetime had been thrown away. I carried the case ashore and opened it; then took out a bottle and gave it to Mrs. Carbuncle. She did not look at the label, for she was busy chopping up turtle meat, and coconut and other things. I said nothing, but assisted her in the cookery until the dish was ready and the rice properly cooked. Then we called Jobblestone, who, in company with an evil conscience, was wandering aloof. He came and with a sickly smile said that he did not like curry.

"Nonsense," said Mrs. Carbuncle. "I have made this myself. You must eat some. I insist."

He took a plate of it, with a bad grace, and we all fell to. It was a capital curry. As a judge of curries, I say with a clear conscience that it was the best curry I ever tasted.

"That is excellent curry powder," said the widow; "let me see who is the maker of it." She took up the bottle and read, "Jobblestone's Marvellous Curree Powder."

"What a strange coincidence! No relation of yours, Mr. Jobblestone, I suppose?"

Jobblestone rose to his feet and hurled his plate far from him. "Madam," he said, "it is my unhappy father. Listen! While I was wandering down on the beach I saw in the distance a fleet of war canoes approaching. In half an hour they will be here, and we shall be there," and he pointed upwards. "Under the circumstances I will reveal my guilty secret. My father was a poor man, but, I hope, honest, for he knew how to make good curry powder, and did not deceive the public. But his curry powder did not sell, and we boys had to eat it all. We had curry for breakfast, dinner, and tea. We had little else to eat; in fact, nothing with which to gratify the pangs of hunger but curry. My father was conscientious, and knowing that the curry powder was good, determined that it should not be wasted. If the public would not buy it, we must eat it. Can you wonder that I loathe the sight of curry. But a change came. My father had tried to sell his curry powder under different names. I admit that the idea occurred to me of selling curry—curree. The idea took with the public, and my father died rich, leaving the bulk of his fortune to me, on consideration that the business was carried on. It is being carried on by my brothers, but I wander over all the world telling the name of curry, but even on this desolate isle my fate has found me out."

"Then your ancestor was not a Crusader?" said Mrs. Carbuncle.

"He might have been anything for all that I know, or care. But the enemy approaches."

"In the first place Jobblestone," I said, "you just go and do some work; go and hold them in conversation for a while."

"I will," he said meekly; "but I fear my eloquence will be thrown away." But he went.

Mrs. Carbuncle and I set to work and carried the whole of the turtle. Fortunately, a breeze sprang up and delayed their landing, and by that time we had every available utensil filled up with fragrant curry. The fleet of canoes resolved itself into two, and the savages, ten in number, landed. Some were returned islanders, and could talk a little English. We offered them curry, and they fell upon it tooth and nail—mostly tooth. Now was our chance. We ran down to the canoes and launched them. Jobblestone would have stepped into the same one that we were in, but Mrs. Carbuncle sternly pointed to the other, and said, "No, impostor; henceforth I know you not."

Fortunately a trading schooner hove in sight, and we were soon picked up. On hearing our story, the captain put back to the island, salvaged the cargo, and offered the islanders the option of going back as labourers to Queensland, or remaining, without anything to eat. They all went, and the captain made a good thing out of that cruise.

The Honourable Mrs. Carbuncle, who was as big an impostor as Jobblestone, but a very good cook, forgave him, and married him. As for me, my reverence for high-born people is shattered for ever, since that little adventure.


Evening News, Sydney, 15 July 1899

A TYPHOON was howling astern, and we were doing our level best to keep, ahead of it; also we had but the faintest possible notion of where we were, except that it was somewhere off the north coast of Borneo, so that things were particularly exciting. Our engines were first-class, nearly as good as our engineers, otherwise we should have been pooped over and over again; but as yet we had escaped with flooded cabins and saloon.

The cook was a Chinaman, and a martinet, and kept his boys going under the greatest provocation, and only said 'What for?' when he was chucked bodily, by a sea, into the galley on top of one of the boys, who unwillingly, but kindly, saved him from being roasted on the stove by falling underneath.

The cabin boys, too, right down to the lowest number, worked well, and we were anticipating getting out of the trouble with safety, when an obvious list became observable in the steamer late one night. In twelve hours the list was more than obvious—it became mighty uncomfortable, and it was patent that our cargo had shifted.

Things began to look ominous, when the weather made a pretence of breaking, and cleared sufficient to show us a group of islands. We were in time to stand off, and then took the opportunity of running under lee of the group, and found ourselves in comparatively tranquil water, with our decks swept almost clean of everything by the seas which broke and tumbled over us as we changed our course. Worst of all, the captain was swept off the bridge, and although he fortunately did not go overboard, he had three of his ribs broken, and his leg also broken.

While the doctor and one or two volunteers looked after him, the chief got the vessel into an anchorage; and afterwards the chief engineer and his crowd went over the engines to see if they had not received any injury from the constant racing which they had inevitably undergone. We had been bound from Singapore to Hongkong, but the typhoon had blown us right away out of our course, and we had only the most forlorn idea as to the identity of the group under which we had sheltered.

There were only five of us passengers on board, and one woman, who was getting a passage to Hongkong by acting as stewardess; but as we had no lady passengers her billet was a sinecure. When the next morning broke, the storm had blown itself out, leaving, of course, a big sea on; but overhead the sky was blue, and summer like.

The group we were under appeared to consist of a good number of islands of the usual type of those seas fringed with bamboo and mangroves, and with a scattered village arid patches of cultivation visible on the nearest one.

'When the sea goes down, we'll send ashore and get some fowls and eggs,' said the second officer, who was standing amongst us while we were examining the group.

'Take my advice and do nothing of the sort, said one of the passengers, an elderly man of reserved manner, who had joined us at Singapore.

We looked at him inquiringly, and he went on, 'I used to know the ways of all these islanders about these seas, and I don't suppose they have changed very much since my time. They'll come on soon enough with their eggs and poultry, and come aboard if we are fools enough to let them, and have their knives at our throats in no time. I'll go with the chief and speak to the captain if you like, and tell him what I think. Is he well enough, doctor?'

'No, he is feverish. Tell the chief all you know; he's in charge.' Paine, which was the name of the hitherto silent passenger, went forward, leaving us remarking on the singular change in his manner. We saw him and the chief officer in earnest discussion; then one of the quartermasters was summoned, and he and another, went down and brought up the rifles from the stand, and commenced examining them.

Before we went down to breakfast all the Europeans on board had a revolver on, and a rifle apportioned to him.

'The fact of the matter is this,' said Paine, as we sat at breakfast; 'the list we have got will make these fellows imagine that we are either broken down or hard and fast on a bank, and they'll come round, and under pretence of boarding us for trade, rush the steamer and murder us. They're real beauties about her—half Malay and half devil.'

When we got on deck a screen had been stretched round the poop, and the awnings were being replaced. Already some canoes were coming off, and the way they weathered the still turbulent sea was something wonderful to witness. They were halted, and told, to stand off, when they came near enough; but they held up drenched fowls and bunches of bananas as proof of their desire to trade, and pretended not to understand.

However, a rifle shot made them understand, and they stopped and commenced sounding with immense long bamboos they had with them. Evidently, as Paine had said, they were under the impression that we were aground.

They were anything but handsome fellows, and had long hair tied back, and hanging down. Their canoes were very 'leaky, and 'one of them was; incessantly employed a baling nut.

The crew went to work's shifting cargo and trimming the ship, and gradually we got used to the presence of these islanders, who, with the dogged persistency of the savage, hung around and occasionally vainly appealed to the two quartermasters who stood in charge at either gangway.

It must have been nearly eleven o'clock, and we were sitting on deck yarning and smoking, when there was the report of a revolver distinctly heard arising from the saloon.

We all went below in a body, and found the stewardess emerging from her cabin trailing out one of the long bamboos we had seen the islanders using as sounding poles and which now, it appears, had a hook on the thin end of it.

The stewardess, when the revolvers were served out, also put in a claim for one and received one. She was sitting in her cabin, when to her astonishment a bamboo came through the porthole, and, as if endued with life, began to wander around seeking to get the hook, with which it was armed, entangled in something it could lug out through the port hole.

The stewardess had had some experience in Eastern waters, and had heard of this harpoon trick; she grasped the bamboo with one hand and with the other fired her revolver out of the port hole. This startled the man holding it, and he let go, and she hauled it in as a trophy of victory. After congratulating her on her presence of mind, we went on deck again, and found the chief mate doing a war dance on the quartermasters for allowing a canoe to sneak up alongside.

There was a very vigilant lookout kept all the remainder of that day. The crew worked hard, and the sea, too, was rapidly going down, and we anticipated being under way again by the morning.

'I thought so,' remarked Paine, about three o'clock; 'we are in for it with a vengeance this evening.'

I followed the old man's glance, and saw canoes coming from several points. Evidently a local fiery cross had been sent round, and allies were hastening from many quarters. It would take time to make the cargo secure and weigh anchor, and it was evident that before we could get away the canoes would surround us.

Paine went forward, and had a yarn with the chief officer and the chief engineer; then he came back. I noticed as he came along that there was quite a young look on the man's face, and a fire in his eye that seemed to tell of a natural love of fighting.

'I'll take charge aft,' he said, in a loud and decided tone; 'I've had a scrap with these coves before.' And we thought it quite natural that he should; it appeared the man's proper place.

'Now, these fellows must be cleared out first,' he went on, 'and when the others come up you will have to keep under cover, and shoot straight, for they will have firearms with them.'

He advanced to the gangway, and hailed the nearest canoe. However, probably rendered confident by the near approach of reinforcements, the men refused to move, and one of them called out something in return. Paine seemed to understand its purport, for he immediately raised his Martini and fired and the fellow went headlong over.

'No, no. That's murder!' said a trembling voice beside me, and looking round I saw a young fellow who was going up as a missionary to some station In China.

'You had better go below,' said a woman's voice. 'I'll take your place,' and, to my astonishment, the young fellow took the advice, and the stewardess, revolver in hand, stepped forward.

'He has never seen a man shot before,' I said in apology for him.

'Well, I have,' she returned, 'But I wish these Martinis were not too heavy for me to use.'

'Bravo!' said my next neighbor, a returning tea merchant. 'We'll beat them off, never fear.'

The boats which had so long surrounded us drew back, on the man being shot, but the others were close at hand, and their numbers were considerable. It was a long fight, but if it had not been for Paine I verily believe they would have got a footing on the vessel. He was like a darting flame about, and although an old man in appearance seemed quite a young man again. Every shot he fired told, and when one canoe was sunk alongside by a heavy weight, and half a dozen miscreants scrambled on board, he grappled the leader and fairly threw him back into the sea.

That was the end of it. By this time the stokers had steam up, the engineers had hot water and steam both trained on the canoes; and they gave up the attempt to board us, and retreated. But when I turned round from looking at them I saw Paine lying on the deck, and the stewardess sitting there at his head with It upon her lap. In that last grapple he had received a knife thrust from his foe which was now letting his life out.

The doctor came, but the wound was mortal, and he could do nothing. Paine was quite resigned, but said that he wanted the chief officer. That individual left his duties to the second and came. Whatever was said was whispered in the officer's ear, and the latter seemed to understand his wishes. Then his mind began to wander, and he began to talk of strange things, interspersing his wanderings with scraps of native tongues.

The doctor told us not to move him, and he lay there, with, his head on the woman's lap, for she obstinately refused to move, and he babbled himself to his death. Forward the anchor was coming up, the donkey engine was rattling, and on deck was the bustle of the ship going on.

Paine raised his head and gazed at the scene.

'Not a bad death for a sailor,' he said to me, as I knelt beside him. 'And with my head on a brave woman's lap, too! More than I deserved! Yard arm, or back against a wall was what I expected!'

Then his eyes glazed, his head fell; back, and life was over.

TALKING to the chief officer, who was an old friend of mine, he told me a strange story.

That man,' he said, 'has been dead for years. At least, he was supposed to have jumped off a Spanish gunboat when in irons, and gone to the bottom. How it was managed I do not know; but evidently the yarn is not true, and he escaped somehow, and has been living in strict retirement ever since. There is no doubt that he is the right man, I am sure of it; for he gave me directions about some property in Hongkong. I'll tell you the name of his partner, and then you'll, know who this man was,' and he mentioned the name of a notorious scourge of the South Seas.

'Well!' concluded the mate, 'We gave him a sailor's burial yesterday, and if he was a desperate villain in his time he was a splendid fighter.'


Evening News, Sydney, 13 Mar 1897


THAT parrot of Miverson's was an example—a shocking example; a bird without moral principles or decency of conduct. This troubled Miverson, who had a sneaking regard for respectability in spite of his occupation, which was that of a publican. He had owned the parrot from the time it was a crooning nestling, and he had purchased it off a blackfellow. It turned out a wonderful talking bird, and though Miverson tried his best to keep its tongue in the ways of virtue, the customers and others led it astray, and it habitually indulged in 'language.' It was a corella, with an extravagantly hooked beak, and blue wattles round its eyes, and when excited it could look more devilish than a nightmare. At last, in spite of Miverson's efforts, it took to drink.

Rum was its favorite beverage, and if rum was not forthcoming' when demanded, the place was rendered unbearable with its devilish yells and cries. It would go to sleep at dark very drunk, and pass the night muttering strange oaths, and falling off its perch at intervals. In the morning it would have a head on it. It was touching to see it standing against the side of its cage waiting, with its poor sore head resting on the bare, until some kind soul opened the door of the cage, when it could get out, clamber on to the bar, and dip its hot beak into something strong.

The oldest topers used to say that to see that bird throw its head back and take down its first swallow of rum with a grateful sigh in the morning was enough to draw tears from a tiger snake.

Miverson got an idea that the bird's falling away was laid to his score, and being a good-intentioned man it grieved him very much. He had been offered large sums for the bird, but refused them—first, because he had grown fond of the reprobate, and next, the bird brought in a good deal of custom.

It was only the small nucleus of a township on the bank of a river crossing, where Miverson had established his household gods, but there was a good deal of traffic on the road, and Miverson's parrot became known far and wide. The opposition house had vainly endeavored to get up a counter attraction, but without avail, and any attempt to injure the bird would have raised the country against the perpetrator of the outrage.

So Miverson's grew and flourished. It was a crowded time at Miverson's one day. Two or three teams were camped at the river crossing, and the coach had broken down, and most of its passengers had to stop overnight, and chose Miverson's. The coach had brought up news of the Melbourne Cup and the victory of the favorite, and great was the rejoicing—so great that it promised to drink Miverson's dry.

But Miverson's saw it out, and next day the renovated coach departed, the teams moved on, and stagnation reigned where riot had just been. Only in Miverson's cash-box was a solid and satisfactory memento of the late invasion.

Polly Miverson had a very bad head, and he deserved it. The excitement of the many visitors, and the mixing of drinks, had been too much for him. He had to use his claw very, very gingerly indeed when he wanted to scratch his head. He sat on his perch morosely, regarding the only guest in the place, and occasionally bidding that individual to go to Sheol.

The only guest was leaning back in the rough chair made of a sack, and meditatively smoking. He was about 30 years old, not bad-looking, but with two fatal defects: His eyes were set deep, and close together, and his beard and whiskers grew unevenly, and in patches. He was dressed in the usual bush style, so that it was hard to say what his social rank was. He had been there some three days spelling his horse, he said, on his way to the little seaport where the steamers called.

For some strange reason the parrot, who was usually hail fellow well I met with everybody, refused all friendship with him, and heartily cursed him whenever he came I near him.

The evening closed in wet and gloomy, and the inhabitants of the little cluster of houses by the side of the river betook themselves to bed early. Ah Sin, the Chinese cook at Miverson's, had gone with some other of his countrymen to have a quiet all-night gamble at the gardener's. The knockabout man, who had won £2 over the Cup, and got happy, had gone to rest in a retired lean-to against the stable; Miverson was making up his books, and the and the solitary lodger were alone in the house.

The traveller yawned over a tattered yellowback. Once or twice he wandered to the bar and invited the landlord to drink with him, but Miverson was a temperate man, and did not respond very genially, being anxious to get his work done and retire to bed. At last the man went to his room, mine host shut his books, and closed the bar, and all was dark and silent save for the heavy downpour of rain upon the roof.

It was past midnight when the traveller, who had not undressed, stole out of his room and listened attentively. All was still but for the steady patter. The man, who had surveyed his ground before, unclosed the back door and sneaked out. The room where the landlord slept opened out of the bar. To reach it from inside the bar door and bedroom door would have to be broken open, and the man thought that the roughly-shuttered window opening into the back verandah would prove the easiest mode of entrance. Twice he had been within an ace of bailing Miverson up behind the bar when he called him out to have a drink; but a man had been hanged at Brisbane not many years before for failing to stick up a bank properly, and his courage had failed him.

Softly he crept round to the window, and commenced operations. Everything was in his favor—the falling rain, and the dark night, broken only now and again by a flash of lightning. He worked noiselessly, and soon worked the bolt of the ill-fitting, shutter back with his sheath-knife and had the shutter open.

All was easy now. Miverson had been kept up all the night before by his noisy guests and slept heavily. The cash-box, as the man knew, was in a box under the bed—one that could be carried out and opened at leisure. He got skilfully and noiselessly into the room. Soft as a cat he felt for the box, listening to the heavy breathing of the sleeper as he did so, and had taken the box out and made one step towards the window when a sleepy voice said somewhat huskily:

'You damned thief!'

The parrot, who always slept in the room, was I only muttering in his uneasy dreams, but it was enough to startle the nerves of the intruder. With a start he nearly dropped the box, but managed to let it on to the ground with a good deal of noise.

'Who's there?' cried Miverson, sitting up. A quavering flash of lightning illuminated the room, and the men saw each other, and the thief saw that Miverson's hand was under the pillow as if feeling for a revolver. There was no time to be lost. His life was forfeit, and drawing his sheath-knife the robber sprang on his opponent and stabbed recklessly and furiously. Scream after scream suddenly came from the startled bird. When a parrot is properly scared at can make as much noise as a terrified woman, and mad with the rage of murder and baffled purpose, the thief tore the cage open and dragged the shrieking bird out to silence it. In the darkness he did not get hold of it property, and the bird, savagely biting, escaped from him and flew through the open window, still screaming like an avenging fiend, and disappeared in the storm.

Impelled by wild fear, the man followed, and when help arrived they only found the bleeding body on the bed. Some life was left in it, which was nursed back before morning, and they took down what they thought would prove his dying deposition. It did not, however.

Miverson eventually recovered, to live a life-long invalid. In the morning the river was flooded, and all the anxious tracking that was undertaken by black and white did not reveal any clue as to the course taken toy the murderer. Two of the searchers, a black and a white one, were, busy scouring the bush, when they were startled by the same wild screams that had rung out and frightened the sleepers. The parrot came to them. They took it home, but from that time the bird, although it recovered from its fright, never spoke, and refused all offers of its once favorite refreshment. Whether the would-be murderer escaped or died in the bush, the people of the little cluster of settlement never knew for long years.

Miverson had a brother down south who came up, and looked after the business until he was able to leave, when he sold cut and left the district, taking the parrot who had saved his money. With him, and the superstitious people persisted in the story that the mark of the murderous hand upon his breast never died out.

Every time the bird moulted it was renewed, so they avowed.


MISS Dare, the daughter of one of the wealthiest men about Brookstone, was locally considered equal to any professional beauty that the world could bring forward. Unfortunately, she was of the same opinion herself in consequence of the spoiling process she had undergone, which rendered her a rather disagreeable person, not very popular amongst the other girls. In reality she was a pretty woman, with a weak, silly head.

She was an only daughter; and old Dare, who had been one of the original settlers of Brookstone, was believed to be able to leave her something warm. Consequently she was much courted, and led to imagine that she had the Australian world at her feet.

Brookstone was in a state of mild excitement just at this time. Reefing had been discovered in the neighborhood, and the traffic in shares had for a time run high. Finally it settled down into one or two paying mines, and several doubtful ones.

To one of these doubtful ones came a new manager, who was going to make things hum generally. He talked glibly, and with much apparent knowledge, of the wonderful new process about to be started, of the elaborate machinery about to be erected, of the mistakes made by former managers by which one of the best-paying mines in Australia had been left undeveloped, and of the great future that lay ahead.

Shares rose, and amongst those to invest largely was old Dare. Dare was noted as a cautious man, and others followed his example; so that things looked up with the 'Purse of Fortune.' Dare and Hollingshed, the new manager, became what is known as thick as thieves, and the now popular Hollingshed rode and drove with Miss Dare when not engaged in his mining duties, to the envy, hatred, and malice of all the other suitors. There were not wanting seme to say that the wonderful new process was only a very old one, better known as blow, unlimited blow; but these were said to be men who had failed in getting cheap shares. At last it was rumored that Hollingshed had carried off the beauty and heiress—he was engaged to Miss Dare.

Meanwhile the mine exhibited no very great progress in the shape of development. It was bruited about everywhere that the proprietors were only waiting for the arrival of the new and expensive machinery from England, and some visitors from Melbourne and a champagne chivoo on the ground served to fully restore public confidence.

The marriage day was fixed, and there was to be a great celebration on the occasion, as the local paper said of 'Mr. Hollingshed, the popular manager of the "Purse of Fortune," and the lovely and accomplished daughter of our esteemed, townsman Mr. John Dare becoming united.'

The day approached as days generally do if one waits long enough, and amid much health-drinking, congratulation, and all the rest of it the daughter of our esteemed townsman was married to the popular manager. The happy couple were to go to Sydney for their honeymoon, and by the time they returned the 'new and expensive machinery' would be on the ground, and the golden stream would commence to flow.

'Don't be surprised, my dear fellow,' said the manager to the editor of the local paper in strict confidence, 'if there should be a fall in 'Fortunes.' Our people want to get as many shares as they can into their own hands. They are going to put a lot of shares on the market to bring down the price a bit, and then buy in again. An old dodge, you know. Don't you be frightened, but just hold on like grim death.'

'Trust me,' said the editor, with a wink born of champagne.

Then they started to drive thirty miles to the town, where they would take the train for Sydney, and papa Dare was to join them in a day or two. The new Mrs. Hollingshed found her husband in high spirits as they drove along the country road. They had arranged to stop for an hour or two at a pretty little township nestling in a farming district, about half way.

There was a decent sort of public house there, where the bride had stayed once before, and found everything very comfortable. They drove into the stable yard, and the horses were taken out and given a feed. The bride went to her room with a maid, and Hollingshed strolled into the quiet bar for a drink, the breakfast champagne requiring a little freshening up after the drive. It was a peaceful little place, more like a country inn in Europe than in a bush township in New South Wales. A sleek cat was asleep on the counter, a white parrot dozing in a cage, and a pleasant-faced girl came forward to serve him.

'Have you some good whisky?' asked the mining manager, with his persuasive, killing smile.

'Yes, sir,' replied the girl, putting the required article down. Hollingshed helped himself, and commenced a conversation in the intervals of lighting a cigar. Suddenly the quiet was broken by a succession of piercing shrieks. The parrot was clinging to the bars of his cage as though he would tear them apart. His wings beating furiously the while, he poured forth shrill screams mingled with oaths and curses. So violent was its rage that its body seemed suddenly animated by a devil.

Aghast the girl stared at him, murmuring, 'Uncle Dick's dumb parrot!'

Hollingshed dropped his cigar, and looked with a white face at the accusing bird. His hand trembled as he clutched the bar, and he cried out as if in spite of himself, 'Miverson's parrot!'

What passed through his mind? He saw a blood-stained figure prone on the bed, illumined by a flash of white light. He saw a barefooted, hunted fugitive fleeing through the bush amid storm and tempest, with the same shrieks ringing in his ears. He saw the same starved wanderer alone, shrinking from the night and the blackness, and always pursued by a white, shrieking spirit with a bloody brand on its breast. He saw the same wanderer come to an out station with a pitiful tale of losing his horse and everything he had in the flood, and being taken in and fed! Now, when he saw money before him, and had just married, was it all to be dashed from his grasp by an accusing and avenging sprite in the shape of a wretched bird?

The mad, blind rage he felt once more came over him. He would have sprung on the bird, and torn it to pieces, but another voice was heard. In the doorway behind the bar stood a stooping figure, pale and thin, the ghost of Miverson.

'Uncle! uncle!' cried the girl. 'Your parrot's gone mad!'

The bird ceased its clamor when it heard its master's voice; but still flapped its wings and beat against the wires.

'The parrot suddenly shrieked out at this gentleman,' the girl explained to her uncle.

The ghost of Miverson directed his lack-lustre gaze on their visitor. Four long years had passed since the two men had confronted each other. The recognition was mutual. Miverson's eyes blazed up.

'You villain! At last! at last!' he cried. 'Lucy! quick! Call your father!'

Hollingshed stood his ground. Flight would have been fatal; his best game was to treat the whole thing with contempt.

'That's the man who tried to rob and murder me,' said Miverson to his brother when he came.

'Why, that's the manager of the new mine up at Brookstone.'

'So I am,' broke in Hollingshed, 'what's up with this old lunatic?'

'That's him right enough,' said another voice, that of the old knockabout whom Miverson had brought down with him out of charity.

The police station was but a few steps away, and Hollingshed found himself in an awkward fix. His bluff about being a mining manager did not arouse much sympathy as a guarantee of respectability. Miverson Brothers were well known and respected; the case had been much talked of at the time, and the policeman had the details that were forwarded of the missing man at the time. He felt justified in arresting him on suspicion.

When the bride descended she found that the bridegroom was in custody. As he had left the bar in company with the policeman the girl looked at the cage and gave a cry. The parrot was lying on its back, stone dead.

A great surprise awaited the people of Brookstone. The shares of the 'Fortune' certainly fell, and they did not recover again. The shares put upon the market belonged to Dare, Hollingshed, and his partner—a seedy agent in Melbourne. The new and expensive machinery, needless to say, did not turn up. No more did our esteemed townsman, John Dare, in Brookstone. His property was mortgaged to the hilt, and he left his creditors lamenting. Hollingshed was passed over to the Queensland police, tried, and got seven years. The poor beauty of the district will, doubtless, get a divorce under the act.


Evening News, Sydney, 30 July 1898

'THIS is a lively lookout,' said Barnlow to his partner as they sat in the verandah, and meditatively smoked while they watched a red hot sun go down. 'Cook down with Gulf fever, Thomson with sandy blight, and you've got the blue devils. Nothing to eat but salt beef and the usual accompaniments, and nothing to do till we get some rain.'

'Which apparently is as far off as ever. Why don't you run over and see Burrows, he's always good company for a day or two.'

'I've a jolly good mind to; but it looks mean to go away, and leave you all alone.'

'Don't mind me; I'm more used to it than you. Get away to-morrow in the cool, and come back at the end of the week. I'll doctor the fellows.'

Barnlow looked half persuaded.

'We can't both go, and if you won't, I will, I think.'

'That's right. I'll amuse myself blessing the clerk of the weather and the mortgagees. We've about come to the end of our tether; and I expect the bank will send a man up soon.'

'Yes, and the day after we give delivery, it will rain cats and dogs, and there'll be three good seasons straight on end.'

Langdon grunted assent, and Barnlow, who seemed to have cheered up somewhat under the prospect of a visit to their neighbor, whose spirits were notoriously irrepressible, went out to give the sick cook his quinine, and doctored the other man's eyes.

A black gin appeared with their tasteless fare of dried salt beef, bread, and tea, placed it on the table, and lit a kerosene lamp. The mosquitoes came in with a rush, and Langdon got wearily up, and went into their living room. Barnlow soon returned with the welcome intelligence that the cook was better, and thought he would be able to get about to-morrow.

The two sat down to their meal, and two or three hungry dogs looked in at the door, and seemed to reproachfully intimate that it was a long while since last killing time.

'You will, be able to manage if you kill tomorrow, if Jack can knock about?' asked Barnlow.

'Yes. Wellington and I can manage whether or no.'

Wellington, which was the heroic name bestowed on the black boy, just then pattered along the verandah with his bare feet.

'Mine think it Marmee come up,' he said.

Wellington had been in the native police, and Marmee is the usual term they apply to their officers.

'All right,' said Barnlow, as they rose from the table; 'you tell Bathsheba to put the billy on, and make some more tea.'

Wellington, who was the worser half of Bathsheba, the gin who acted as temporary cook, retired, and the two men went outside to await the coming of the sub-inspector. He rode up with one boy with him, and was greeted by the partners; as a welcome guest.

'Come in, Whitlaw; the boys will look after the horses, though you might as well put them in the yard for all the feed there is about,' said Barnlow.

'Where are you off to?' asked Langdon.

'Up to see Burrows; he made me promise a month or two ago to come up and stay a week. You fellows coming?'

'Barnlow will go over with you to-morrow; I can't get away.'

'Come on man, Burrows will be fearfully disappointed; he's had a case of whisky planted somewhere for the last three months; that is, if he has not broken his solemn vow, and broached it.'

'You can get through it without me; or you're not Gulf men. What's the news? Seen anybody lately?'

'Not a soul. People don't knock about much when there's neither grass nor water.'

'Hanged if there will be anybody left to knock about, soon,' said Barnlow, 'if this weather keeps on much longer.'

Here Bathsheba came in with a fresh supply of tea, and Whitlaw sat down at the table, and commenced to eat.

'By Jove, I quite forgot,' he said, jumping up again. 'I brought some papers over with me, they're pretty old, but that can't be helped.'

He went into the verandah, and took some newspapers from his saddle pouch. He sat down, and chatted with Barnlow, while Langdon opened, and looked at the papers.

'Seems to have been plenty of suicides lately; there's a deuce of a lot about some Melbourne one.'

'Yes; it's highly sensational. Fellow with plenty of coin, and happily married, as far as is known, blew his brains out. Last man expected.'

'Couldn't have had many to blow out,' said Barnlow. 'Now if he had to run a cattle station up here, through two droughts with the bank writing to you every mail, to reduce your overdraft, there would be nothing to wonder at. But in Melbourne, with plenty of coin, I don't see the necessity.'

'It's an old affair revived it seems,' said Langdon. 'Somebody says he has seen the man since, and that he never committed suicide at all.'

'What's the lunatic's name?'


'Then who was the man who blew his brains out?'

'That's what they want to find out,' said Whitlaw. 'The body had been lying in a patch of scrub outside Melbourne somewhere on some vacant ground. It was identified by the general appearance, clothes, and contents of the pockets. The face was frightfully disfigured. Now, after the body has been buried three weeks, an intimate friend of Whitby's swears positively that he saw the supposed suicide alive and well. That he tried to interview him, but the fellow got away.'

'When did this happen?'

'Nearly three months ago, by the dates.'

The men talked and killed, mosquitoes viciously for some time, and then sought refuge in their nets to toss through the hot, windless night.

In the morning everybody was awake early, and they were soon off, to take advantage of all the cool they could get.

Shortly after 12 o'clock Langdon and Wellington came back with a few head of cattle, and yarded them. Langdon lay down on his bunk, and picked up one of the papers brought by Whitlaw the night before. He ran his eyes carelessly over it, when a paragraph that had escaped him suddenly awoke him out of the listlessness that oppressed him.

'That Sensational Suicide' it was headed. 'It is not generally known,' it ran on, 'that the name of the alleged suicide, whose identity is causing so much sensational interest was formerly Seymour. Just before coming to Victoria he inherited considerable property conditionally on taking the name of Whitby. This fact, which has not been made public before, may, perhaps, lead to some clues as to the true nature of this extraordinary affair. At present the mystery is as unfathomable as ever. The exhuming or the body led to nothing, and we are no nearer finding out whether it was an unaccountable murder or an equally unaccountable suicide.'

Langdon got up, and walked out on the verandah with the paper in his hand. Seymour! Could it possibly be the same man? The name was a pretty common one. He looked again to see if the initials had been given anywhere. Yes; there they were—C.F. Whitby, that would be formerly C.F. Seymour, or Charles Fairfield Seymour. The man he hated so, and with such just cause.

He walked up and down, pondering it all over. This man had once been his close friend, until he came to know the hidden villainy of his nature—came to feel the almost reasonless malignity of his actions. Dark hints and suspicions used to be current that Seymour must be irresponsible. That no man could act the open-hearted, generous friend like he did, and yep could at the same time be a relentless enemy from mere perverse impish deviltry. All the black stories that had been whispered about Seymour came back to his memory, and proved to him beyond doubt that it was the same man, and that this was some devilish plot of his warped brain that ordinary men could not conceive possible.

He felt convinced that it was not suicide, but some ghastly, treacherous murder, and that this mad homicide was at large chuckling over the idea of being thought dead.

Who was his wife? Was it possible that his arts had succeeded, and that the woman who should have been his own wife had married Seymour? Seven years ago exactly—seven years that very month—he and she had parted, sundered by some secret treachery that he could not fathom. Since then he had cut himself off from all associations with the past, and lived the rough pioneering life or the north. Seymour must have married the girl he still loved, and this atrocious act was a scheme of lingering hatred and vengeance against both.

He looked through the papers carefully to see if there was any reference to the supposed widow; but, beyond a statement that she was living in strict seclusion, there was none. Langdon spent a restless afternoon thinking—thinking of all the possibilities of the future, if Seymour, of Whitby, was really dead things might disentangle themselves.

The loss of the station would not leave him altogether penniless, and he would learn from his old sweetheart what the truth really had been. If Whitby was alive, why, there was trouble ahead.

Just before sundown he went up to the yard to kill. As he pulled the trigger, and the beast dropped he could not help thinking that it was a pity that it was not Seymour's devilish, scheming brain that got the bullet.

THE unexpected thunderbolt fell. The bank foreclosed, and Barnlow agreed to manage for them. This suited Langdon exactly, and it was not long before he was on-board a steamer, speeding south.

The two stood talking in the house to which the supposed widow had retired. All the black cunning and villainy that had parted them had been cleared away, and they could now speak freely.

'Lawrence,' she said, 'I am convinced that he is alive, and watching me to torture me in some way. If you only knew what I have been through. From almost the moment we were married he showed his real character, and threw off that veneer he could assume so easily, and which deceived everybody. How he used to torture me! Any pet animal, or pet bird of mine, he would take and deliberately torment and kill before my eyes. He told me that he only sought me in marriage because he could make my life wretched, and perhaps send you to the dogs. All the venomous hate of his nature seemed concentrated on us two and his brother.'

'I didn't know he had a brother.'

'Yes, a year younger and as bad as himself. Lawrence, I firmly believe that was the brother whose body was found.'

'Did he murder him, do you think?'

'Heaven knows. They were both mad—the worst kind of madmen, who could hide their madness and walk about amongst their fellow-men and play their wicked pranks with impunity. Sometimes he could not keep his madness under, and would break and destroy and shatter things when the fit came on. He never touched me strange to say. I think he knew that if he laid his hand on me the fury of his hate would overpower him and he could not have helped murdering me.'

'Have you any children?' asked Langdon.

'One boy. Thank God, he died when he was 3 years old.'

Langdon looked inquiringly at her.

'He was an idiot. Can you wonder at it. If he had lived, his wretched life would have been passed in restraint.'

'What happened the last time you saw him?'

'He had just had one of his violent fits of rage. I had locked myself in my room. Presently he came and demanded admittance. His voice sounded more composed, and I opened the door. He looked at me viciously for some time. Then he said: "I'm going out. I must kill something to-night. If I stop here I might kill you, and I don't want to yet. Not yet; you've not been wretched enough, yet. Besides, I want to Kill Langdon first. Perhaps I might kill myself; I don't know. If I don't come back you'll know that I have taken my own life." He rambled on like this for some time, always talking about killing something. He often went on this way when he was sure we were alone, because he knew how it frightened me. You know how rational and quiet he could always be when others were within hearing. I did not put much stress on his words, as I was only anxious he should go before he worked himself up to another dangerous fit. At last he went down to the hall, put on his overcoat and hat, lit a cigar, and went quietly out with a smiling face. I have not seen him alive since.'

'And that body?'

'Had on the clothes, and as far as one could judge, resembled him. But, Lawrence, he never killed himself. It's some cunning trick. He wants to keep me in uncertainty and doubt. Perhaps thinks that I may forget, and believe him dead; then he will suddenly appear again, and crush me.'

'Have you seen his brother?'

'Yes, he is very like Fairfield, both in appearance and voice. But he is not so restless, and, he drinks.'

'And you say they hated each other.'

'I don't know about Herbert. They both had the same madness of abusing everybody and everything, but when we were alone Fairfield used to give vent to terrible expressions of hate against Herbert, although when together he was as smiling and pleasant as he used to be to everyone. Often I thought that I might be able to get him confined, but no one would have believed me. No one. How could they be expected to.'

'How are you off?' 'Fortunately, I have my own money, which he could not touch. As for his property, his lawyers are looking to that.'

'If he is alive, do you think that he murdered this brother?'

'I must think so.'

'Where was he supposed to be?'

'In West Australia. But his movements were uncertain.'

They, were standing by the French light opening on the garden, and the dusky shadows were gathering fast. He took her hand to say farewell.

'I see nothing for it but to wait; he'll betray himself before long, or if he is really dead his brother may turn up. For myself I shall go up country again. We had better be apart.'

She lifted a sad, wistful face towards his. In the dim twilight he could see the tears in her eyes, and he bent his head downward and kissed her. Suddenly she started back with a faint shriek.

'Look there! Look there! What is that?'

He wheeled round, but the garden seemed tenantless and silent.

'What was it?' he asked.

'A man's figure. It stood there on the grass for a moment, and seemed to dance and jump with joy.'

She had covered her face with her hands, and was trembling violently.

Langdon went and searched the garden, but without avail.

'Was it Fairfield?' he asked, when he came back.

'I don't know; it was like a devil rejoicing over some wickedness.'

'Is it safe for you here?'

'I think I'll go to a friend's house to-night; there are only two women in the house.'

'Do so; write to me. But I won't see you again until I have found this mystery out It is better and safer for you.'

Langdon went home convinced that the supposed suicide had actually been a diabolical fratricide. The madman's brain had evolved what he thought an exquisite scheme of cruelty, which his old sweetheart could not well put in plain words. Thinking him dead, they might come together again, and marry. Then he would appear on the scene.

Whether the murder of his brother had been planned or circumstances had played into Whitby's hands could not then be determined. He must run him to earth, if he was to have any future peace—hunt him down, and consign him either to the gallows or the criminal lunatic asylum. Several times he cast wary looks behind him. If the figure Mrs. Whitby had seen in the garden was in truth her husband, he might be following him with homicidal intent; but he reached his hotel in safety.

SIX months passed slowly. Langdon had gone back to the bush again, having fruitlessly wasted some time in trying to satisfy himself as to whether Whitby was alive or dead. Both to him and the police it was still a matter of doubt. Business had taken Langdon once again to the Gulf country of Northern Queensland, and having some time at his disposal he employed it in paying a visit to his old friend and partner Barnlow, now managing their old station for the bank.

There was a short cut across country, which would lessen the journey a good deal, and he took it, anticipating striking a waterhole near the boundary of their former run, where he could camp for the night. It was a lonely lagoon surrounded by poor, scrubby country, and had a bad name from two teamsters having been murdered by the blacks there in the early days. An old road, now disused for years, ran by it.

Langdon reached the spot just as the sun set, and saw to his surprise a light smoke rising on the opposite side. Blacks he thought, and rode to the edge to give his horses a drink, keeping his eyes about him as they put their heads down. The blacks were no longer considered dangerous, but as yet they could not be thoroughly trusted.

He saw a bough-shed, and by its appearance judged that it was the work of some wandering white traveller, who had chosen this secluded spot to spell in for a few days. His horses having drank their full, he, rode round, and approached the bough-shelter. He dismounted, and walked up to it. Someone was inside, so engrossed in writing, stooping over his knees, and scribbling by the fading light, that he did not see his visitor.

'Good evening,' said Langdon.

The occupant started, and gave a loud cry of startled terror, then jumping to his feet stared at Langdon with blazing eyes. It was Whitby without doubt—Whitby with his insanity now fully developed, and past all disguising, lurking here in concealment like a hunted beast.

Before Langdon could, make a move the maniac sprang at him with a snarl of rage. Down they went—Langdon fighting for his life, and the other with a madman's strength. Grappling and struggling they rolled down the bank into the lagoon, and Langdon got the upper hand, and desperately tried to hold the other's head under the water. They splashed and fought amongst the clinging leaves by the water lilies, but Langdon managed to retain his advantage, and at last the other, half drowned and beaten, ceased to resist.

Langdon dragged him to the bank, and let him lie there; while he regained his own breath. But the maniac did not stop quiet long. Suddenly he sprang up, and evading his enemy's grasp, fled down the edge of the lagoon into the darkling shadows of the scrub. Pursuit was useless, nor was Langdon in a position to pursue.

He caught his horses, and determined to ride on to the station, fourteen miles away, and procure help. He was about to mount when he remembered the occupation of the man when he arrived, and went into the bough-shed, and picked up the book from the ground. It was a fair-sized 'Lett's Diary,' and probably contained some horrible secrets set down by the madman's hand. He mounted and rode, away, hearing as he did a long, dismal howl arise behind him; but whether it came from the throat of a human being or a wild dog he could not say.

It was midnight when he rode up to the station, and a sleepy voice called out from the interior and demanded to know who it was. Barnlow's surprise was great at greeting his old friend, and he hastily helped him to unsaddle.

'Whitlaw's here,' he said; 'seems quite a coincidence. By the way, will you have a nip, old fellow; we haven't finished it all, thank goodness?'

'Will I have a nip? Yes; about five fingers! I've been half-murdered at the old road lagoon, and am wet through.'

Barnlow hurried his preparations, and Whitlaw came out to welcome him. When Langdon had got into dry things he told his wondering listeners his story: 'I must read this before I can sleep. Heaven knows what crime he has since committed to be hiding there,' he said as he finished his tale.

'Strikes me,' returned Whitlaw, 'that he was on the lookout for you. He probably does not know that the station has changed hands, and came up here to watch for you.'

'That must be it.'

'Well, if you are going to sit up, call us before daylight, and we'll make an early start. It's evidently my duty, even without special orders, to capture homicidal maniacs who are wandering about loose.'

They went to bed and left Langdon to his task of deciphering the madman's diary.

It took Langdon the remaining hours of the night to decipher the diary, which had evidently been written at various times, and in various degrees of legibility. The confession, for it was nothing else, ran as follows:—

AS long as I can remember I have felt a hatred to every living thing in the world. As a child I used to vent it on all things that came in my power. Kittens and puppies and all the pets that children generally have had to be kept out of my reach, for I always hated them in some way. My mother could not conceal her horror of me, and as I grew up, and understood things, I began to see that people avoided me, and I overheard them say I was mad.

Then I began to think and talk with my brother about this. He was of the same temper as myself, and we hated each other; but I felt that he was with me against the rest of the world. We saw that we must hide the feelings we entertained, or there was danger of our being put in confinement. So from that out we were cunning enough to keep our hatred of things to ourselves. One person we never deceived, and that was our mother.

Our father died when we were boys. I and my brother stole into the room where his dead body lay during the absence of everybody. He had often chastised me for my cruelty, and I mocked him as he lay there motionless—

'Why don't you get up and punish me!' I said as I struck the dead face again and again, and my brother laughed.

A scream of horror disturbed us, and looking round we saw our mother staring at us. From that day she kept her room until death came after years of lingering illness. Her last words, an urgent prayer that we should not be allowed to come near her dead body. One day my brother and I were walking by the side of a canal, when a boy came along the towing path, a little fellow, whistling as he came along. We accosted him, and began to tease him. He took it very good-naturedly until I proposed to throw him in the water. Then he was frightened.

'Doant 'ee do it, masters!' he pleaded; 'I bain't able to swim.'

We threw him in, and delightedly watched his struggles as he drowned. Once he nearly gained the bank: but I pushed him out again, and he sank. His body was found, but it was thought that he had fallen in. When my brother was of age he was a year younger than I the property that we inherited was divided between us, and we went our different ways.

I had now succeeded in concealing my real feelings towards my fellow-creatures, and found most exquisite joy in acting the hypocrite, and only giving vent to my passion when it was quite safe to do so.

I met Margaret Campbell and Langdon on the same day. The girl attracted me strangely, and first made me think of marriage. I saw there was a great capacity for suffering in her nature, and it occurred to me that a wife whom I could torture with impunity in my own way, and before whom I need not go to the trouble of hiding my real nature, would be a great pleasure. But it was evident that an engagement was pending between her and Langdon, and I saw that I could have a great deal of diversion in breaking it off. I was much troubled by a girl at the time.

She was the daughter of a widow who lived in that part of the country, and being without protection, her mother being an invalid, she had easily been fooled and made my victim. Now she had become troublesome. I received a desperate letter from her, threatening suicide if I would not save her from disgrace. I made an appointment to meet her, and her body was found in the river a day or two afterwards, and in her pocket was the incriminating letter; but it was addressed to Langdon, not to me.

The plan succeeded admirably. The rumor soon reached Miss Campbell that Langdon was morally responsible for the girl's suicide. The fools thought it was suicide; but the girl might have been alive now if she had consented to act as my tool in the matter. But it was better as it was. She would never be able to betray me, dead; while she might have repented if alive.

Naturally I was very indignant at Langdon being accused—vowed it was a plot to ruin him, and defended him in the most generous way—so much so that he himself suspected my genuineness in the matter. I protested too much, and from what he heard—for, of course, many inquisitive, prying busybodies knew that I was in the habit of meeting the girl—I think the whole plot became patent to him, and very foolishly he declared his open belief that I was the guilty party. Nor did he hesitate to express his doubts about it being a case of suicide.

Of course, he could not prove anything in support of his wicked charges, and everybody was indignant with the black ingratitude of his conduct. Miss Campbell was especially disgusted with him, and Langdon left England. Now was my opportunity, and I advanced my cause so well that we were married. Before our honeymoon was over I had told her of the cunning contrivance by which I had blackened and banished Langdon.

This was the commencement of our married bliss. Then there was that brat. How I did love to make that imp shriek and rave in its idiot fury, while she begged and entreated me to desist! The whelp died, and the mother was relieved. Then I remembered Langdon, and I determined to come out to Australia in the hope of meeting him, as I heard that that was the country he had gone to.

I took a house in Melbourne, and as, fortunately, just before I left England a relation died, and left me a sum of money provided I assumed his name, it was under a different name I was known in this country. This suited me, as Langdon would not recognise it. But I could hear nothing of him.

Who should I meet in Australia but my brother, who had been wandering in many parts of the world. He came to see us several times, and one, evening, when my wife happened to remark upon the resemblance between us, a glorious thought flashed through my brain. I did not see the beauty of the scheme at first, but gradually it dawned upon me better, than I had at first conceived.

Some days afterwards I put it into execution.

I went out with Herbert to a lonely piece of scrub on some waste ground. I told him what my scheme was, and he was delighted at the idea—that is, at the way I put it to him. I told him that it had long been my purpose to commit suicide; that my constant fear was that in some unguarded moment I should do something which would bring me to the gallows, and that I had determined to take my own life. I proposed to him that, taking advantage of our close resemblance, we should exchange clothes, and then I would shoot myself. He could go back and personate me.

He grasped the idea in all its ingenuity, and agreed to it at once. He had no pity for me, the brute, so I had none for him. He talked of the fun he would have acting as myself.

'Don't trouble, old fellow,' he said; 'I'll sustain the reputation of the family!'

We went into all the details of the matter, and arranged everything to our mutual satisfaction. How I enjoyed the fool's prattle! He little thought what was coming! We changed our garments, and Herbert kept recalling old times.

'How that boy gasped and choked in the canal! But you might have let him out, Fairfield.'

'Oh, come now!' I answered. 'It was your proposal.'

'Yes. But I never killed a girl like you did.'

'I expect you have, if the truth were known.'

'Well, it does not matter now. Are you ready?'

'Directly! You're in a mighty hurry!'

'Don't shoot yourself in the face. I saw a man shot there in Africa, and he didn't look pretty.'

'Whereabouts was it?' I had taken out my revolver, and was carelessly handling it.

'Just there,' he said, indicating the bridge of his nose. 'The bullet traveled upwards through his brain.'

'Like that,' I replied, and pulled the trigger.

Naturally, he didn't answer, but fell dead, and put the revolver Into his hand, which still moved convulsively, and left him. I went to his hotel, paid his account, everybody taking me for Herbert, and went away to wait until the body was found. I had talked to Margaret about suicide before leaving her, and there was no question of my death when the corpse was at last discovered. Like a fool, I went back to Melbourne again without taking the trouble at disguising myself in any way, and met a friend, but though I managed to avoid him. I have seen by the papers he recognised me. I must take greater care. It wouldn't do to be hanged for Herbert.

At last Langdon has turned up, and my plot works. It was a clever plot, after all. I saw them standing together at the window, and he kissed her. They will marry; and then? I have found out where Langdon is. He has a station in the north of Queensland. He must have gone there, for I have not seen him since. If he does not come quick I must pay him a visit. I can't wait long, or I shall kill her; I know it.

This is a nice quiet place. A man can be free here, and shout with joy, without people saying he is mad. It was hard work to get here quietly without being suspected. It was awful on that steamer with the song of the machinery going all night. Beating out a rhyme that never stopped; that made you listen, listen, and think of all the things you could do. But Langdon must be killed first. To-morrow I will go to the station. How Margaret will cry when I go down and tell her he is dead, dead, and I shall stamp and spit on his face tomorrow....

THIS was the end of the mad, rambling record, and Langdon did not know but what every word, was true. He rose and went on the verandah. The stars were paling in the east, and it was time to call the others. They rose hastily, and after a hurried breakfast started on the man hunt. They went straight to the lagoon, as it was the nearest point where they could pick up the tracks. It was deserted, but it was evident from the tracks that the madman had a couple of horses with him, though Langdon had not seen them the night before.

The tracks were soon found, and with the black trooper Don, and Barlow's boy, Wellington, riding ahead a little apart from each other, they were followed without a break for about ten miles. Then ahead of them loomed a dark belt of brigalow scrub, and above, the crests of the trees could be seen a line of red rock.

'Is he going at random, or making for anywhere?' asked Barnlow.

'Making for somewhere seemingly. I know that dyke; there's a tableland on top, but I doubt if the horses can get up,' returned Whitlaw.

The tracks led them right to the foot of the conglomerate wall, and-there they lost them.

They dismounted, and there being a little water in a rock-hole, they were able to eat something. The boys searched about, and presently announced that to the left there was a ravine, up which the tracks went.

'Looks like making for a known point. I wonder how long he's been hanging about the district,' said Whitlaw.

'Can't tell from that diary; there are no dates,' answered Langdon. He had confided to his companions, the main facts of the record he had read the previous night.

They were soon off again, and riding in single file up the ravine, wherein there was a beaten pad.

'A black's track,' said Whitlaw, when they at last reached the tableland of level ground, of which the precipitous wall formed the edge. 'Don! You knowem this fellow track?'

'One time big corroboree make him,' replied the boy.

'Ah! I remember now. They had a big cattle slaughter about two years ago, and we found a lot of them assembled for a big jamboree of some sort. The place is over here somewhere, but we came to it from a different direction. That lunatic must have made friends with the niggers while he has been at that lagoon.

'Blackfellows' track sit down?' he asked the boy. Don said that there had been two blacks with the white man for some miles. On they went, but sundown found them still on the level scrubby tableland. Wellington said there was a creek a little bit off their track, and to it they went, and were lucky in finding water and feed.

'What mad motive can the man have in his brain?' remarked Barnlow, as they smoked in camp.

'Heaven knows! He is aware that he will be hunted, and has some insane idea that the blacks will shelter him—perhaps thinks he can incite them to mischief,' answered Langdon.

'He's wrong there. They've had the fear of the Lord put into them too well,' said the sub-inspector. 'We must try and get hold of some of the niggers; they might catch him for us.'

In the morning they soon came across more tracks of blacks tending the same way, and presently they heard the chop of a tomahawk in the scrub. They halted, and Don and Wellington went ahead on foot. They were absent some time, and presently returned with a couple of bucks.

The madman was with the blacks; the camp was at the other edge of the tableland, about five miles away. They were going to kill one of the white man's horses to-night and have a big feed. They didn't want the white man with them—they were afraid of him. He kept talking to himself. But he had promised them the horse, and after they had eaten it they intended to get him to go away.

'I want to capture him alive,' said Whitlaw.

'And I want to shoot him out of hand!' put in Langdon.

Whitlaw grinned meaningly. 'Perhaps we can manage both,' he said.

A consultation took place. It was arranged that Don and Wellington should strip and join the blacks. Then they could induce a good number of strong bucks to help seize the madmen during the progress of the horse feast The whites would remain in concealment, as if they showed up Whitby would at once take flight.

The camp of the blacks was between a scrubby gully and the descent from the tableland. At that place the wall was steep and precipitous, a sheer fall of nearly a hundred feet. There was a spring at the head of the gully, and in the scrub the three men concealed themselves. The horse had been killed and dismembered before they reached their hiding-place, and the many fires illuminated a strange and savage scene, Don and Wellington looking just as wild as their temporary associates.

Whitby was sitting, or rather squatting, by himself, seemingly enjoying the surroundings. At times he talked loudly to himself, but the blacks did not heed him—they were too busy devouring the half-cooked flesh.

Presently the natives got up, and began to assemble in groups, as the gins commenced a monotonous chant, keeping time by beating sticks together. The men formed in two lines for a corroboree. Some were painted, some were not. It was agreed that during the performance the signal should be given to secure Whitby, but he anticipated matters!

At sight of the flitting, circling figures a frenzy seemed to seize him, and he rose suddenly to his feet, and dashed in amongst them, shouting at the top of his voice. So scared were the blacks that they scattered apart, and left him alone.

The madman, now possessed by a legion of devils, commenced to rave and declaim. He appeared to be addressing imaginary figures, but his words were so rapid and incoherent that his listeners could not follow them. Presently he jumped into one of the fires, and commenced kicking the live coals and brands about, raving frantically all the time. The blacks were afraid to approach him, and even Don and Wellington were as scared as the others.

'He'll get away,' whispered Langdon to Whitlaw. 'Shall I shoot him?'

'No, I must make an effort to arrest him, else I shall get hauled over the coals. Wait a little.'

The madman still kept up his demoniac capers, and the men watched, hoping that he would soon fall with exhaustion. He was evidently growing weaker and fainter, and at last he sank down, panting hoarsely, and frothing at the mouth. The devil within him had spent itself at last.

'Now for it!' cried Whitlaw, rushing forward with the handcuffs in his hand, followed by the others. Don and Wellington sprang to help, but the blacks stood stupidly staring.

But the frantic wretch was not to be taken so easily. He was on his feet like a wild cat. In the flickering light he recognised Langdon, and a cry like a savage beast's came from him. Whitlaw, who was first, was dashed aside like a child; but Langdon instinctively raised his revolver and fired at the hideous being, who, with his blazing eyes and dripping mouth, looked like nothing human.

Whitby received the bullet; but annihilation alone would have stopped his rush. He sprang on Langdon and hurled him violently to the ground; but the others tore him off as fighting dogs are torn apart, Struggling and biting, he got away from them, and ran straight for the edge of the cliff.

Suddenly he disappeared, as if by magic.

'Over the cliff!' cried Barnlow, and they went and peered over, but could not at first see or hear, anything. A moan of mortal agony, however, arose from the ground at their very feet, and one of the blacks came forward and' pointed out what bad happened.

A narrow cleft fissured, the rock for some distance from the brow of the cliff, and into this crack the madman had fallen. Down he had crashed about thirty or forty feet, when the narrowing: sides of the fissure gripped and held him—held him pinioned beyond release to endure a living death.

Barnlow turned back and went to where Langdon was still lying. He got water and strove to revive him. The sub-inspector stood and looked at the crack in the ground, from which pitiable moans and whimpers ascended. There was only one thing to do. The man was dying by inches, and there was no chance of getting him out.

'Shoot me, oh shoot me!' groaned the voice, the agony seemingly having restored his reason. Whitlaw spoke a few words to his boy; then he, too, turned away.

The report of a Martini rang out on the night; and Langdon, looking stupidly round, said, 'What the deuce are they firing at?'


Evening News, Sydney, 26 June 1897

'YES, It's a man in a canoe,' said the one who was looking through the big telescope.

'He's dead, at any rate, or surely he'd make some movement,' replied the other, who was holding a field glass to his eye.

The course of the steamer had been changed, and she was rapidly approaching the subject of speculation; the boat swung on the falls a short distance above the surface of the water: the crew in their places, all ready to be lowered.

It was a hot, calm day, and the steamer would do most of the work better and quicker than many would. The motionless canoe—for they could see now it was a sort of canoe—was getting close; the telegraph rang, the engine ceased to throb, and in a minute or two the boat was off, and a few strokes brought her alongside the curious-looking craft.

The doctor had gone off in the steamer's boat, and presently the second officer hailed the ship to say that the man had still some life in him, and they would be on board with him directly.

The boat came alongside; the man had been lifted out of the canoe into it, and the doctor remained with him supporting him as the boat rose up to the davits. With great care the wasted, sun-blackened figure was lifted on the deck and laid under the shade of the awning. Suddenly he opened his eyes, and, dim though they were, he seemed to recognise where he was, and what had happened.

'My boat! My boat!' he said in English faintly, and struggled feebly to rise. The doctor guessed his meaning; and spoke to the captain.

'Strange to say the boat, or canoe, that had been left when they took the man out, had drifted into the ship, and was now close alongside.'

The captain said something about the vessel's attraction, and told the second officer to get rope and tackle on the old catamaran and haul her aboard, but to take everything but first. Then he went back to the survivor with the doctor, and they watched his removal.

The interrupted voyage was soon renewed, and the captain had finished entering it in his log, when Cliffe, the doctor, came in.

'How far's the nearest land?' he asked.

The captain unrolled the chart, and took a compass and swept a radius round his last pencil mark.

'Strange to say, for these seas, 150 miles all round would not land us anywhere. The nearest islands are some of the islands in the Sulu Archipelago, on ahead.'

Cliffe stood beside him; he and the captain had been friends for some time, apart from their present situation. 'Impossible to believe. If that man had come from any land in that canoe-thing, how long would he have taken to do 150 miles and over?'

'Can't say, haven't looked at the thing.'

'Come and see it.'

They descended to the deck, and approached the Noah's Ark, which had been laid on the hatch. It was certainly a queer-looking craft; like a huge clumsy canoe, dug out, or burnt-out of a tree trunk of giant girth. But then the material was not wood. It clinked like metal, or slag of some sort. The captain regarded it curiously.

'Was it heavy?' he asked the second officer.

'Not particularly.'

'Anything in it?'

'Only some parcels done up In what looked like the legs of a pair of trousers and the sleeves of a coat. No paddles or sails.'

The doctor nodded.

'They're his,' he said. 'Run up, stop her, and then heave the lead, I quick,' said the captain. The officer, rather amazed, ran up to carry out the order. The captain and doctor followed more slowly.

'How's the man getting on?' he asked, as he unrolled his chart.

'He'll be right enough, although he ought to be as dead as a door nail. I put him to sleep.'

The captain was standing listening with his forefinger on the chart. Then came the voice of the quartermaster, followed by the startled voice of the mate, repeating the cry of 'Fifty fathoms!'

Cliffe, who had been watching the direction of his companion's finger, turned' his face up with a scared look. There should have been no bottom properly speaking, as the Admiralty chart made it over a thousand fathoms.

'Pick up some of the bottom, if you can, Mr. Greaves,' said the captain, quietly. Then there was silence while a tallowed lead was sent down.

'Looks like black coral,' said Mr. Greaves, coming up with the lead in his hand. The captain and doctor examined it. Some curious looking stuff had been picked up, looking, as the officer said, something like fragments of black coral.

'Keep another lead going, and go half speed,' said the captain. 'Cliffe, you get these cinders off the lead and clean them, will you. I want to have another look at that old junk.'

The lead showed fifty, sixty, seventy fathoms as they went on, then suddenly there was no bottom, and shortly the steamer was again at full speed.

'Queer start this,' said Haughton, the captain, as he compared the stuff he had gathered on the floor of the canoe with the stuff that bad come off the lead.

The steamer was not a regular passenger steamer, and on this occasion she had only a couple of passengers on board in the shape of two Portuguese merchants from Singapore, so there was no fuss made, and the friends had leisure to discuss the affair without interruption.

'Where did the man come from? That's the question,' returned Cliffe.

'He didn't come 150 miles in that tank without paddles, sails, or provisions. He would have been roasted.'

'I don't believe he was on it more than forty-eight hours, but I think he must have suffered a good bit before. What the devil is the thing made of?'

'I can't make out, but it once was wood, and wood that doesn't grow in these seas. I hope your man won't die before he awakes.'

'You bet, I will look after him. But what do you make of this stuff from the sounding lead being the same as that you got out of the canoe?'

'That they came from the same place.'

'The bottom of the sea?'

'Not quite, but it's the bottom now, whatever it was when he left it. In return, what do you make of our getting bottom where there ought to have been a thousand fathoms?'

'Been some sort of a heave-up down below.'

'Certainly, and thanks to the depth at which it occurred it was not felt about here so much as it might have been.'

Towards evening the patient awoke, much restored but Cliffe thought it wise not to allow him to excite himself by telling his story for a while. He asked for his parcels, which were given him unopened, and he took a little food and went off to sleep again. Next morning he was strong enough to talk.


'I HAD been in Borneo collecting natural history specimens, and hearing a good deal about Celebes, I agreed with some natives who were in Borneo on a trading voyage to take me with item when they returned. There were four of us on board; the two brothers from Macassar, who owned the proa, and a Dyak. I, of course, was only a passenger. We got caught in terrible weather, and were driven clean out of our course. One of the brothers was washed overboard, and when the weather broke we were dismasted and helpless. The weather, I tell you, had been such as I had never experienced even in these seas. I tried to get things patched up, and an attempt was made to rig something up; but I found it was useless. The Macassar man had gone cranky, as they're fond of doing, and before long he and the Dyak started a fight. He knifed the Dyak and then came for me; but luckily I had my revolver, and he thought it better to go overboard, which he did, and I was left alone with the other fellow. Very unreliable men to deal with are men from Macassar, when anything goes a bit bandy.

'The other fellow died, and I put his body overboard, and tried to get some sort of sail spread, and figure out where I was—I imagined somewhere in the middle of the Celebes Sea, and I also imagined I might pull up the Philippines if I had no luck; and nothing picked me up before.

'It was the second night after I been alone that I ran aground. You may well stare; but it was a fact.

'At dark, there was no land visible; but here I was, awakened by getting in amongst rollers and the proa being thrown bodily on to what sounded like a reef or spit coral. There was a kind of mist about, and I could make nothing out as to where I was or what sort of a place I had got on to. I concluded that it must have been all to glory in my calculation, for I knew there could be no uncharted coral reef where I imagined myself to be. The roller that had pitched the proa ashore had been a good, strong one, and the proa was light, and we were pretty well high; and dry. I took the end of rope and got down. Before me was a dark, flat mass, and on either side the white dance of the rollers. I didn't like the appearance of things. The ground, or whatever it was, felt hot through my canvas shoes, and there was a nasty, steamy, treacherous vapor about. I decided that the best thing to do was to stop on board till daylight.

'When day broke the white mist was like a fog, but when the sun rose it lifted, and I had a chance of seeing my position. It was anything but cheerful one. Before me stretched a rising slope of black cinders—scoriae, in fact—and that was all there was to be seen, for it extended beyond my vision right and left, ringed by the white-crested rollers. That was not quite all, for jets and puffs of steam were rising here and there. I knew what had happened. I had drifted on to an upheaved island, probably one that had risen during the bad weather we had just experienced. There was nothing comforting about it. To the officers of a surveying man-of-war the sight would have been more interesting than it was to me. I wanted an island with something living on it, not an expanse of half-cold cinders that would take centuries to become inhabitable. I determined to explore it, any way. It would be an exceptional adventure. I took the bit of an anchor out of the proa and carried it ashore and made her fast, got a bottle of water, and started. By this time the mist had cleared. It was hot, and the stuff was fatiguing to walk oh; so I went slow. But still I was pretty well pumped when I got to the top of the rise.

'Lord! I had no idea that the place was such a size! I was on a tableland stretching far away, and covered with all manner of strange-looking objects. Give me a drink, doctor, will you, please?'

'I gassed at these a long time before approaching them. They looked like ruins, but all was black, silent, and lifeless, so I advanced. I gave one backward glance at my proa, took a swig out of my bottle, and then walked forward on that strange plain! They were ruins, ruins of an ancient prehistoric town that had gone down to the bottom of the sea in some unknown past, and remained there, preserves until it was again upheaved. The volcanic dust and cinders had choked the habitation, covered the inhabitants and hardened above them, but it had been a civilised city. I was there a week, and I will show you what I found.'

Then parcels were produced and opened. They contained bracelets and other ornaments of gold and silver, beautifully chased and worked, some studded with gems, weapons and instruments of steel, iron and brass, domestic utensils made of copper, figures of men and women worked in metal, and showing a high degree of art, assimilating somewhat to the Japanese style; and one strangely-shaped object which he held out to them triumphantly. The article in question was clogged with the half-ossified stuff that covered it, so that the captain did not at first recognise its shape. Suddenly he perceived what it was.

'Good Gracious, man! It's a revolver.'

'Yes it is. Nothing new under the sun, you see. It's not a modern one.'

Both men examined it carefully, but it bore no resemblance in shape to the modern weapon, although the working principle seemed the same.

They put it aside for after examination.

'Tell us about the city?' said the doctor.

'The city must have been an immense octagon in shape. At all the angles stood huge figures, as gigantic as those on Easter Island, but of infinitely better workmanship, buried to the waist in ashes and cinders, solidified almost to rock. The houses must have been low and massive, seemingly, built by people who were aware that they lived on an unstable land.

'All remains—human, animal, and vegetable—were buried beneath my reach. The articles I had managed to secure, I found half exposed, or on shelves and places above the level of the fall of ashes and cinders. Now, the boat that you found me in was one of many down at a certain part of the city that I suspect must, at one time, have been part of the harbor. Some were much larger than others, and larger than this one you have on board.'

'What do you think they were made of?'

'I think they were originally built of wood, and subjected to some chemical process. I went round the island, or at least, far enough to see its circumference, and I should put it down as being about thirty miles round—that is, it had risen that much out of the sea. But the original land may have been part of a continent. Probably was.

'I used to return at night to the proa, for the nights were uncomfortably warm on the island of Scoriae, as I christened it, and the immediate neighborhood of the sea was pleasanter. Fortunately, my provisions held out, and there were one or two inert springs on the island, the water of which, when allowed to cool, had only a slight mineral taste.

'I kept an anxious look out once or twice a day from the highest point, but though I saw the smoke of several steamers, they all passed without seeing the new upheaval. One evening when standing at the edge of the plateau, I saw that the proa was in white water. What could have happened? She was firm as a rock; she could get go to the sea, the sea must have come to her. My island was subsiding!

'Desperately, I was about to start and rush for my only hope, the proa, when I saw that I was too late; she lay over with a list, and the waves were already rioting over her. She would sink, water-logged, with the island. I looked around; there was no motion; but the circle of surf was slowly but surely, diminishing.

'The old boats occurred to me, and I fled to them, and selected this one, as probably, being the highest up and standing upright, it might float. I collected the different things I had found, and got into the ancient boat, and awaited life or death. The waters came on and on, but it was nearly midnight before they reached me. I was afraid that the closing in of the breakers would cause a turmoil, in which my craft would upset; but fortunately most of this dispersed and quieted down before the island sank to my level. I floated buoyantly over the Island of Scoriae. I know little more, beyond the burning, pitiless sun, the heated vessel that seemed doomed to be my floating coffin, and the thought that it would have been better to have gone down with the island and had it all over. You know the rest.'

The relics were again examined and admired, and being safely done up, were, put in the strong-room by the captain. One of the Portuguese merchants seemed particularly, struck, with the appearance of the strange craft that lay on the deck, and several times he was seen to smile. But he said nothing, neither to his countryman nor Captain Haughton.

The rescued man was well and strong by the time they arrived at Hongkong. The doctor had rigged him out, and he begged the captain and his friend the doctor to accept some things from his store, which would repay them for their kindness. Amongst other things, the captain accepted what they took to be an ancient revolver, he having taken a great fancy to the curio. On reaching Hongkong the captain found an Imperative telegram awaiting him, ordering him off to Shanghai at once.

That night the rescued man came off in a sampan with coolies, and removed his ark. He gave them an address where they would find him on their return. Captain Haughton duly returned in the course of a few weeks, but the rescued man was not at the address he had given, nor had he appeased there.

The captain, on his way back to, his ship, met the Portuguese merchant, who returned to take tiffin with him and Cliffe.

'It is very strange,' he said, during the meal, 'but I have received very peculiar news from Macassar, where I once had a business. You know that in Celebes there are many native rajahs reputed to possess much wealth. One of these, a rajah of the Maudars, lately lost some of his treasures. He kept them concealed in an ancient sepulchre, where the rajahs were buried. The treasure was also very ancient, the spoils of centuries, and the place of concealment was in the outer coffin of a very celebrated rajah who had been embalmed and placed in several coffins. You may imagine that the outer one was of considerable size. The thieves were disturbed, but they escaped with much booty, and the outside coffin of the dead and gone rajah. They reached their proa and got to sea, and it is reported that one was a white man.'

Haughton looked at Cliffe.

'Of what were these coffins made?'

'Of a timber peculiar to Celebes. As it ages it hardens, until it becomes like tough metal! light and buoyant. I've seen several of them; the last time was on the deck of this steamer.'

The captain and doctor rose and went to their cabins. They returned with the articles presented Up their grateful guest.

'Are these likely to have been part of the rajah's ancient loot?' asked Cliffe.

'Very likely; I should say certainly. This, for instance; is a very ancient Portuguese pistol. I once dealt in antiquities. It was a clumsy thing, worked with a wheel; and about the of the first pistols ever invented. This has been lost in some limestone creek,' and partly petrified over with some deposit—no, it has nothing to do with a prehistoric revolver.'

'But,' said he captain eagerly, 'How about the soundings?'

'Ah!' said, the Portuguese merchant politely, 'I am not a mariner, I cannot, possibly offer an opinion. But, knowing these seas, it is not beyond possibility that English, Dutch, and French survey boats may have left a fifty-fathom bank unmarked.'

'Why did, you not give us a hint when you recognised the—coffin?'

'Was it any business of mine? And besides, captain, the man has not swindled you; those relics are valuable enough.'

'YOU know, Cliffe,' said the captain afterwards: 'I'd just been reading up submarine eruptions and things, until I got it on the brain. When you suggested that the man never got there in that coffin from any known land, I jumped to the idea of an unknown shoal or reef, and ordered the soundings.'

'But how about the man getting the idea?'

'If you remember, we were talking of it beside his bunk, when he must have been shamming insensibility. What a glorious liar the fellow must be to reel it off like that. I respect him.'

'What became of the real proa?'

'That,' said the captain, 'is one of the stories of the sea that for many reasons are never told.'


Evening News, Sydney, 22 April 1899

SENSIBLE people said Jones was a fool. Flippant people also said laughingly that Jones was a fool, adding, besides, some few remarks about old fools being the worst; and even the general ruck of people who did not take any interest in Jones or his belongings said, when they heard the details, that Jones was a fool. This was hard upon Jones. He had simply pleased himself, as he had a perfect right to do, and yet the whole scattered, population of the district in which he lived took it upon themselves to dub him a fool.

All that Jones had done, in his comparatively old age, was to marry a young widow, and a pretty young widow as well. Considering that half, or the whole of the young fellows in the neighborhood would have been only too glad to marry her, the reason why Jones should be considered a fool seem rather incomprehensible.

But the reasons given why Jones was a fool were many and various. She would get tired of him, and run away with some younger man. She would spend his money like water, and bring him to poverty, and his grey hairs in sorrow to the grave; and all the other things which giddy young wives are supposed to do to old and doting husbands.

But sweet-faced Mary Jones did none of these things. She looked after the domestic affairs of her husband's homestead staidly, and properly. She showed no sign of a wish for gaiety, nor a spendthrift dissipation. Her elderly husband grew young again beneath her smiles, and seemed to value them more than anything, until the astonished residents on the various stations and selections round about had to confess that, after all, Jones had not been such a fool as they thought.

And so things went on peacefully, quietly, and I prosperously. And Mary Jones never thought of any looming thundercloud about to burst over her head. But there was one, although she was innocent of its origin. Jones had met Mary at a boarding house in Sydney, and considering how many widows there are sailing under false colors in Sydney, it certainly was a rash thing for Jones to accept her story on trust, and marry her. But Mary was a bona fide widow, and the old fool Jones was quite right in trusting her and her story.

And her story was that she did not want to say much about her husband, and Jones, concluding, therefrom that he had been a bad lot, did not press the matter. Jones was sitting upon the verandah in the cool of the evening, putting a lash on a stockwhip, and Mary was sitting beside him. They had no children, although three years had passed, and this had drawn the old husband and young wife nearer together. It was about an hour before sunset and the evening, was calm and peaceful. A man was seen riding up the home paddock, a stranger to the place. He hung his horse up at the hitching tree, and walked up to the verandah.

'Good evening, Mr. Jones.'

'Evening, Sam,' returned Jones, recognising the man, who kept a small public house, and the changing place for the coaches, about three miles away. 'The coach left a lady at our place. She has come up to see Mrs. Jones. Could you send the buggy over for her, sir?'

'Tea, certainly; I'll see about it at once.'

'Thanks, Mr. Jones; I wish you would.'

How's that, Sam?' asked Jones quickly.

Sam looked down at his feet 'You see, sir, I she's come up from Sydney, and 'we're not altogether used to the ways of the place down there.'

Sam said this as though the local surroundings were instinct with innate virtue. Then he beckoned to Jones, and in a hoarse whisper, which could be heard a mile off, but was intended to be quiet and discreet, he continued:

'You see, she I says she's Mrs. Jones's sister-in-law, and she's just about as drunk as drunk can be. Coachman I glad to get rid of her, for she was using the most I awful language, and he had a lot of passengers I aboard. Lord! look at Mrs. Jones!'

Swiftly turning round, Jones saw that his wife had fallen back in her cane chair in a faint.

He got the water bag, and moistened his handkerchief. 'Run, Sam, like a good fellow, and tell Mat to get the horses harnessed up!' Sam departed, and Jones set himself to work to revive his wife. Gradually she came to, and after a deep sign or two, she said—'Fred, must you let that woman come here?'

'I see nothing else to do. She can't stop where she is, and we'll try and get her right, and pack her back again. She is your sister-in-law, I suppose?'

'Yes; from the description of her, I should think so; that man's sister. Don't go for her yourself, Fred; send Mat.'

'But if she is as Sam says, I must go, dear.'

'What does it matter?' said his wife, with more passion than he had ever heard before in her voice. 'Sam has seen her. The coachman saw her; what does it matter? Besides, I must tell you something.'

The rattle of the buggy was heard approaching, and Jones went to the edge of the verandah, and called to the driver—'Mat! I want you to go over to Sam's place, and bring back a lady who's been left there by the coach!'

Mat drove off, and Jones went back to his wife.

'Fred, there's really no harm in what I am going to tell; no harm of mine, only being such a fool as not to tell you before. But I couldn't, I couldn't. I must now: That man died in prison; he is buried in the Rookwood Cemetery, in the portion set apart for convicts. Before he got into prison he led me a life of misery, which afterwards, when poverty overtook us, he, at the instigation of his sister, tried to turn into one of shame, and I fled in horror from them.'

She hid her face in her husband's shoulder while she told this part of her story, and when she felt his arm tighten around her she went on with more confidence.

'I had a good old friend, a sort of aunt by name only, and I went to her, and a day or two afterwards my husband was arrested, and I was free. He died in gaol, and relieved me from the hateful tie. Oh! surely, he was the vilest man who ever breathed, and this woman who is coming is the vilest of women. It was she who made that horrible proposition to him. Oh! Fred! Fred! what have I brought upon you!'

'We'll worry through, little woman; you needn't see her. I'll fix things up.

'See her! I must see her. How can I leave you to bear it all, alone? No, I must take my share.'

They talked until the lights of the buggy were seen coming across the paddock. The buggy drove up to the stable, and Mat's voice was heard crying out, 'Here, hold on, missus!' The woman had made an attempt to jump out as soon as the buggy stopped, and catching her skirt in the step, had fallen on her face. She stumbled up again as Jones approached, and remarked, interspersing her words with foul oaths—'This is a pretty way to welcome a lady, isn't it? Throw her on her face in the road!'

Jones said quietly, 'Are you Miss Benison? If so come inside and have some tea. Then you can have a rest.'

'Tea, you old fool,' she returned. 'I've something better than tea here,' and fumbling in the bosom of her dress she drew forth a flask, and, taking out the stopper, put it to her lips; she tilted her head back, and drained the last drops that were left, then with a drunken laugh threw the empty flask away.

'She's been swiping at that all the way. Blessed if I haven't been frightened of my life,' said Mat.

Jones took the woman by the arm and led her away, Oh, the horror of it? Her hat was awry, her dress disarranged, her face red, bloated, and leering. And waiting in the verandah was his quiet, pretty Mary, with her face blanched white with disgust. She stumbled up the steps of the verandah, and wanted to embrace Mary with maudlin effusion but she shudderingly put her off. Somehow or other they got her to her room, and she subsided into drunken slumber.

No need to tell of the days that followed. They linger still in the memories of Jones and his wife as a fearful nightmare. The woman managed to get liquor through some unprincipled man on the station, but Jones could not determine who. She had money with her, and this happened when he had refused to give her more liquor. She was cunning, with the cunning of madness, and just as sleepless as a maniac. One evening in her mad range she told Mary that her husband was still alive. There had been two Benisons in the gaol, and the one that was buried was not her husband.

'Ah' she screamed in her drunken fury. 'Bigamy, that's the word, and that's what you'll go to gaol for, my prim and proper lady. I never committed bigamy, bad as I am,' and she staggered away to her room, leaving two horror-struck people behind her.

'Fred,' whispered his wife. 'This cannot be true. The governor showed me the named full in the gaol books—John Aubrey Benison. There could not be two of the same Christian names.'

'It's a wicked, drunken lie,' he said, and soothed her as best he could.

Nevertheless he was seriously upset He could not leave his wife alone on the station with a woman who might at any moment develop symptoms of insanity, and go down and investigate this hideous assertion. No, he must stay and bear his burden, and a burden it was. He was the scorn and the pity of 'the place.

A night or two after this the woman got up, and wandering about the place fell off the verandah, and they picked her up senseless. They put her in bed, and Mary, stopped with her. The doctor came, but could do nothing, and for days she lay unconscious, while Mary, and her husband took it in turns to watch. At last she opened her eyes, still dim and bloodshot, but conscious, and she lay like that for hours, not speaking, only following Mary about with her eyes wherever she went. At last she spoke.

'Mary, I am dying. But you have been very good to me. I have something to tell you.' She paused from weakness, then she went on. 'There's a plot against your husband to get money out of him under the assertion that your first husband is still alive. It's all a lie. He's dead and rotten safe enough. They're old friends of my brother's who've hatched it, and one of 'em will be up here soon. I came on first to see how the land lay; but the drink's killed me, and I'm not sorry.'

Then quietly, without another word, the woman passed the border.

She had been lying in her quiet grave at the station for some time, when one day a stranger came riding up to the station, and asked for Mr. Jones. In return Mr. Jones went out to see him, refraining from asking him in, as his character was written on his face.

'I come from a firm of lawyers in Sydney,' said the man. 'There is an unfortunate mistake in the matter of your marriage—'

'Wait a bit,' said Jones. He approached the stranger's horse, tied the reins to the stirrup iron, and started the steed down the paddock.

'What the—'

He did not complete the sentence. Next minute Jones was laying the stockwhip he carried in his hand into him. In vain he roared and sought shelter. Even when he got on the roof of the stable the lash followed him.

At last Jones desisted, called him down, and dispatched him with a parting kick. And that was the last Mr. and Mrs. Jones ever saw of any remains of her unfortunate and unhappy past.


Evening News, Sydney, 22 July 1899

'I WON'T have it,' said the shepherd.

It was in the old days of shepherds and ration-carriers, before wire fences stretched their webs over the country.

'Won't have what?' said the ration-carrier sulkily as he dismounted. The rations for the brigalow hut had to be brought on horseback, as there was a particularly piece of rough country to cross, and the usual ration cart was liable to be knocked about a bit if it ventured on the track.

Therefore the shepherd who lived and worked at the brigalow hut had his rations brought to him on horseback, and as it was generally late before the hut was reached, the ration-carrier always stepped the night. On this occasion Ned Byrne, the man with the rations, muttered sulkily to himself as he undid the pack and unsaddled, something about having to stop with a loony all night for Donstan, the then shepherd, was notorious for being just about ten times as cranky as most shepherd put together.

'What is it you won't hive?' he asked testily alter the horses had been hobbled, rations post away, and he had picked a firestick out of the fire and lit his pipe with it.

Donstan had been putting the tea things on the table, a loin of mutton was sizzling in the camp oven, and a comfortable-looking currant damper reposed an the table; and Ned Byrne thought it would not be such an uncomfortable camp after all.

Donstan stood by the rude table a sheath-knife in his hand, tapping the table with it as he spoke. He was a shout, sturdy man, with a white beard, well-trimmed for a shepherd of those days, and looked what he really was, a broken-down gentleman with a story, but in the opinion of the station folks he was simply an extra shingle shorter than the rest of the shepherds. It may be noticed all the shepherds stationed at the brigalow hut were addicted to mania more or less.

Donstan stood there tapping the knife on the table in a nervous manner. 'What is it I won't have?' he repeated.

'Well, I won't have that white-faced Chinaman with the hole in his forehead corning out of that brigalow scrub every night, and knocking at the door.'

Byrne looked at him in amazement, and began to wish he had not turned his horses out. A ride some in the dark would be nothing out of the way, but this was too much altogether out of the way.

Donstan went on quite quietly.

'There is no particular reason why he should take such trouble to come and knock at my door. I did not make the hole in his forehead.'

'No, I don't suppose you did,' said Ned, to break the uncomfortable silence that ensued after this statement.

Donstan laughed uneasily, and put down the knife, much to Ned's relief.

'I've been talking nonsense?' he asked.

'Not at all,' replied Byrne, anxious to please him. 'Very dry weather, as you were saying.'

Donstan took the lid off the camp oven and lifted out the loin of mutton, and finished the other preparations for the meal. He now seemed to have become quite himself again, and invited Ned to commence in quite a different manner. Ned, much relieved, sat down and began to play a very good knife and fork, inwardly hoping that Donstan would not have any more uncomfortable fits of the sort. Nor did he, and they turned into their two bunks at the proper time, having passed quite a cheerful evening. Ned was awakened in the middle of the night by his companion talking.

He listened, and distinctly heard what sounded like three loud knocks at the door. Donstan got out or bed, and Byrne, uncertain what was going to happen, get out as well. The shepherd, muttering to himself, opened the door, and made a headlong rush outside, striking at something with a weapon he had in his hand, and which Byrne saw, to his dismay, was a sword. It was moonlight, but the ration carrier could see no one there, and the lunatic was apparently striking wildly at nothing. Presently he came back, still talking; and Ned prudently drew back.

'You saw him, the wretch, didn't you?' he demanded of Ned when he had shut the door again. Byrne was just going to reply 'No,' when he remembered having been told that one should always humor a mad person, so he answered: 'Oh, yes, quite distinctly. You cut him about terribly! I don't think he'll trouble you again.'

'It was the Chinaman with the hole in his forehead. You saw him?'

'Yes, an ugly wretch he was; like his impudence knocking at a man's door as though the whole place belonged to him.'

Ned got under his blanket again, but assuredly aid not sleep, keeping a wary eye upon Donstan, who, however, appeared to sleep calmly, until daylight; then he got up, and let the sheep out of the yard, while Byrne went for his 'horses, not sorry to find himself alive.

At breakfast, Donstan did not betray any symptoms of mania, and as Ned rode home, he reflected whether, alter all, Donstan had not been playing a joke to frighten him.

'But where did the knocking come from?' and that thought made him pull up and ponder. It had certainly been without any doubt that the knocking came from outside, and not from inside, Ned's bushmanship was too keen to admit any doubt on that subject; so he rode in with the burden of unexplained mystery on his shoulders.

Arrived at the station, a bright idea struck him. Instead of talking about the thing in the men's hut, he would go and confide in the super. Sinclair was a youngish man, but he had won all their hearts by the accurate knowledge he had displayed of station matters, and, moreover, by the sunniest of tempers, and the most even disposition, that made him laugh under the most depressing conditions, and keep other people's spirits up.

When Ned told him his tale, Sinclair's face grew grave, and he remarked, 'Don't say anything to any one on the station, or we will have some fool going out, and driving the man rank crazy, by playing foolish jokes.

'He's the best shepherd we've had out at the brigalow hut for a long time, and has lost less sheep. Keep your tongue between your teeth, and I'll try and find this puzzle out.'

One night, when the moon was at the full, shortly after Byrne's experience at the brigalow hut, Sinclair called him, and told him to get a couple of horses, and come with him to the shepherd's hut. Ned did not mind when in company, and, besides that, was anxious to find some clue to the mystery of the knocks, so he readily rode out that night.

Arrived at the neighborhood of the hut, they tied the horses to trees, and approached it on foot. All seemed silent, the sheep were in the yard sleeping quietly, and the accustomed smell of the yard was rising strong. Sinclair thought as he looked that the scene was one of perfect peace and quiet, and apart from all ghostly associations.

Suddenly, Ned touched his arm. From the shadow of the brigalow scrub, from which the hut took its name, a white form was stealing. Both men saw it plainly. It was a Chinaman in white garments, and he stole up to the hut, and gave the three ghostly knocks that Byrne remembered so well. What followed?

The door opened, Donstan issued, and commenced the wild attack with the sword that Ned had witnessed before. But this time, it ended differently. Donstan, in his mad fury, fell over a stump, and lay senseless, the figure of the Chinaman disappeared. Sinclair hurried forward, and Byrne, awakening from his stupor of fright, followed him.

Donstan was insensible. He did not appear to have hurt himself seriously, but he had received a mental shock of some sort that had rendered him a babbling idiot for a time.

Sinclair had him conveyed to the station, and sent a hard-headed Scotchman to take his place.

DONSTAN, on his recovery to consciousness, which took place the day afterwards, confided to Sinclair a story which, to some extent, explained the mystery of the brigalow hut.

'We had been repulsed from the Peii Ho Forts in China, and a Chinese merchant, who was a bit of a traitor, came on board, and suggested that he could show a way of landing, by which the forts could be taken in the rear. A party of us were sent to investigate the matter, and I, a middy at the time, was taken by the Chinese, and kept prisoner until the end of the war. Even then, I would have been kept hidden, unless I joined one of their secret societies, and took all the oaths. I consented, and joined. I don't know to this day what was their reason for making me do this, but I have cause to think they mistook me for another officer, against whom they had a bad grudge. When I got back again amongst my own people, I forgot most of their mummery, and on one occasion had to give evidence against some pirates we had captured, who were duly hanged. This was expressly against the oath I had taken, these pirates being members of the society I had been forced to Join. From that day tut, my life has been a torture to me.

'I had to leave the navy on account of what was thought to be my eccentric conduct, and this has dogged me ever since, and dragged me down to what I am now. I suppose I have been quite crazy at times, and it was, I believe, in one of these mad fits that it is asserted that I attacked a Chinaman on a small goldfield, and killed him with a driving pick. I do not believe that I did it. The man was killed in a quarrel with his own countryman, but owing to my total lapse of memory for a time, I could not prove where I had been. I escaped, however, with a short detention in an asylum. Since then this Chinaman with the hole in his forehead has persistently haunted me.'

'Ned,' said Sinclair, after he had heard the story, 'let us go out and see how Mac is getting on.'

IT was evening when they reached the brigalow, and Mac was just putting the hurdles up.

'The very man I wanted to see, Mr. Sinclair. Just come with me.'

They followed him into the hut, and there found a Chinaman securely tied up with straps and a dog chain.

'I could not go in to tell ye of it, but this heathen came, and woke me up knocking at the door last night. When I opened it he gave a kind of shriek, but before he could run I had him by the windpipe, and when I had well-nigh choked him I tied him as you see. I couldn't leave the sheep to go in, and I thought I'd keep him so till Ned came. He's one of those bodies from the old diggings, and can speak English as well as possible, but he won't say a word. Wake up, John!' and Mac gave the sullen man a good kick, but he only grunted in return.

'So that's the ghost!' said Sinclair, and told Mac how poor mad Donstan had been tormented.

'How did he slip away the night I was here?' said Ned.

'Oh, just dodged aside and let the lunatic go hacking away at a spectre of his own fancy. But it must be a wonderful society to be able to pass this game on from one to another. However, we'll make my gentleman trot into the station, and Donstan shall decide what to do with him.'

The effect was magical, and eventually Donstan, convinced of his illusion, regained his mental health. As they could not well prosecute the Chinaman for merely knocking at a door, he had to be let go with a caution, enforced with a stockwhip.


Australasian, Melbourne, 18 June 1892


A BROAD-BOWED, high-pooped ship is lying hove-to off the western coast of New Holland, A.D. 1629. It has been a busy morning on board, for Francis Pelsart has been hanging the mutinous members of the crew of his wrecked vessel—the Batavia—and only two are left, and they are to be dealt with after a different fashion. A boat puts off, and pulls shoreward; in it, heavily ironed, are the last couple of the misguided followers of Jerome Cornelis.

It is a calm day, and the seamen have no difficulty in finding a landing-place. The prisoners are ordered out of the boat, and on the beach their irons are knocked off. A bag of biscuits and a keg of water are put on shore. Not a word passes, for the two culprits know full well that the alternative is to swing from the yard-arm. The boat is pushed off, and pulls back to the ship.

The men sit sullenly down and watch. They can see the boat hoisted on board; they can even hear the chorus of the sailors as they make all sail. The light wind is favourable, and gradually the Nardam grows smaller and smaller, sinks below the horizon, vanishes, and they are alone on the unknown continent of New Holland.

The marooned men interchange a few words; one shoulders the keg, the other the bag of biscuits; then they make their way across the sand to the higher ground that juts on the beach. They disappear in the low scrub, and no white man ever sees them again.

FIFTEEN years afterwards three vessels anchor off the same place. Several boats are soon out, and while some make for the rocky I islets that are visible, two row to the shore, and an armed party of men land and proceed to form a small encampment. The leader is a swarthy sailor-like man, whose name is destined to be linked with Australia, one Abel Tasman. He gives his orders, and small parties of men spread over the country in different directions. They return by evening, reporting no success. A watch is set and the captain returns to the ship.

The boats from the reef come back empty handed. The chest containing many thousands of rix-dollars thrown over from the Batavia is still at the bottom of the sea—undiscoverable. Next morning, on going ashore, Tasman finds that some natives have ventured to approach the camp. He feeds them and tries to question them concerning the two white men. After some trouble they understand him, and an old white-haired man leads them to a tall tree, and makes signs to them to dig. They do so, and in a shallow grave soon unearth a skeleton. The blackfellow imitates a blow and pats his head; they look and find that the skull has been fractured. Then the native points to the north and walks a step or two, indicating the way the other man has taken.

Tasman notes it all down, and gives orders to strike the camp. The party embark the boats, still searching about the islands, are recalled, the Limmen and her two consorts make sail, and the lonely coast is left once more to its native inhabitants.


A YOUNG and pretty girl is sitting on a cane chair in the broad verandah of a station homestead. Her book is lying unread on her lap, and she is leaning back, with hands clasped behind her head, dreaming a girl's day-dream, before her is spread as charming a view as could be found anywhere in broad Australia.

Down the gentle slope towards the winding river, gleaming here and there between the trees that fringe its banks, are garden and vineyard, and cultivated pod; docks, green with lucerne and young maize; beyond the rising ground is dotted with clumps of shady timber, and in the background is a low range of hills. But she is not conscious of the familiar sight until her attention is drawn to a horseman approaching the house. Rising, she goes to the edge I of the verandah, and when the rider sees her he waves his hat, to which she replies with a little flutter of a white handkerchief.

It is not hard to guess they are lovers when they meet.

"All out for a drive," she says, in answer to his inquiries after the remainder of the family. "I stayed at home because—"

"—You thought I might come."

The girl laughs and denies the charge.

"My cousin Fred has come back," he says, after a short interval of lovers' foolish talk.

"I know," she replies; "I was over at the Danbys' yesterday, and met him there."

"He never told me," he returns in a slightly surprised voice, little guessing that the faint blush was caused by the fact that her wayward fancy was dwelling on Fred Marshall at the very moment when became in sight.

Charley Marshall and Agnes Macdonald had been engaged for over a year, and had been unacknowledged sweethearts for a year before that It was all very prosaic. Charley was an excellent fellow, a good all-round man, but wedded to his station, which he was slowly working out of debt; his father had left a heavy mortgage on it, which delayed their marriage. His highest ideal was to breed good stock and live a quiet country life, with on occasional trip to Sydney or Melbourne.

Fred, on the contrary, had roamed all over the world. He had lived with the Dyaks in Borneo and searched for diamonds in South Africa. He was reported to have made money on distant goldfields. He could talk well and modestly of what he had seen and done, and, moreover, had evidently been impressed by tier. To a girl fond of reading, with a deep tinge of romance in her nature, there was an attraction in all this, none the less strong for owning a touch of disloyalty.

The sun was within an hour of setting before Charley said the lost good-bye, and started for his own place, about seven miles away. Dinner over, during which his cousin had been unusually silent, Fred and he lit their pipes and made themselves comfortable on the verandah.

"Charley," said his cousin at last, "I may as well tell you now what brought me back to Australia. Will you be able to leave the station for a month or two?"

"Yes, in a few weeks."

"Right; then yon shall come with me, and I hope to put a thousand or two in your pocket."

Charley watched a long puff of smoke he exhaled, and in it he saw a vision of his speedy marriage with Agnes.

"Where are you going?'

"To Western Australia, and on a most romantic expedition. Dot I will tell you the whole yarn. You know I was knocking about in the Straits for a number of years, and made one or two trips to the I island of Flores, to hunt up a supposed gold-field, of which; however, I could get no trace. I got great friends with an old Rajah there, a very cute, sensible, old fellow; far too cute to let me get hold of any information about the old goldfield; but otherwise he was kindness itself. He was greatly interested in Australia, and told me that his ancestors had been, yearly, to their fishing grounds on the north coast almost as far back as their history went. He could read English, and had got several books about Australia; he was quite an exceptional old fellow.

"'Some of our people found a Dutchman there over two hundred years ago:' he said once.

"'What became of him?' I asked.

"'They brought him here, and lie lived here for many years, and died here.'

"'Couldn't he get to his country men in Java':' I asked.

"'So far as I can make out from the old stories, he had some very good reason for not wanting to; he must have been an escaped murderer, I think.'

"Of course, I am putting the old boy's words into good English; and, to make a long story short, the Rajah finally showed me an old parchment manuscript, apparently written in old-fashioned Dutch, he said he could make nothing of it, that I was the first person he had shown it to; and that it was supposed to have been written by the Dutchman who had been found on the Australian coast. Finally I persuaded him to give it to me and some old coins that the man had had. I thought I had got hold of something new about the past history of Australia, and when I was in Batavia I hunted up some of the old manuscripts there, and after much trouble made a very free translation of what was written. Come inside and read it."

Fred went to his room and returned with a paper which he gave Charley, and smoked silently while the other read.

I, Gillies Claus, and another man, Pieter Meybeck, were left on the west coast of New Holland by Captain Pelsart. We made friends with the savages, and managed to live with them for some time. One day when out in a canoe amongst the islands where we were wrecked I saw, just beneath low water, one of the treasure chests from the Batavia. I told Pieter, and after some trouble, for he had given up all hope, persuaded him to assist me in bringing the contents ashore. This took some time, for it was full of rix-dollars, and the canoes used by the Indians are very frail.

Pieter had made up his mind to die there, but I could not help hoping that some other ship might come that way and take us off. I therefore hid the money in a cave. Soon after this Pieter and I quarrelled, and he thrust at me with one of the Indians' spears; I struck him with a club and he died, and I buried him. At last; finding that no ships came, and as I could now go naked like the Indians, and live like them, I made up my mind to work my way up north from one tribe of savages to another, and perhaps I could get to some civilised people.

I don't know how long I was travelling; it must have been nearly two years, for sometimes I stayed months with a tribe. I took two hundred of the dollars with me, and through all my wanderings managed to keep them.

At last, one day, when I went down to the shore, I saw a proa at anchor. They were fishing for sea-slugs, as I afterwards found. I made signals, and presently some of them came ashore. I gave the Serang some of the dollars, and explained that I was a white man. He recognised the money and took me on board. I went in the proa to a town in one of the islands of the Indies, and was handed over to the chief. I found that they traded with Batavia: but I had no wish to go there to be hanged, and as they treat me well, I have remained here.

I have tried to persuade them to go with me and get the hidden money, but they have some superstition against sailing down the west coast of New Holland that I cannot overcome.

The cave is about five miles back from the beach at the foot of a small hill. You get to the cave by going down a hole alongside a big, shady tree with a bulgy trunk. The money is in the third cave. I have everything I want, and do not care about it now, but I should like to see a priest before I die, for I have many crimes on my soul.

FRED rose when he saw that his cousin had finished reading, and silently put down three broad silver pieces on the table. Charley picked them up and looked at them. "How many of these are supposed to be in the cave?"

"According to one of the old documents I hunted up in Batavia, the chests contained each twenty thousand. According to another, fifteen thousand."

"And you think you could find the place?"

"Yes, with a little trouble. The site of the wreck of the Batavia has long been identified; the country is all settled, and we will turn prospectors for lead; some lodes have been discovered about there. Will you come t I will pay all expenses."

"Yes, in three weeks' time."

The cousins said "Good night," and were separating, when Charley suddenly said, "Why did you not mention meeting Miss Macdonald the other night? Do you not know that we are engaged to be married.

"What! to that pretty girl I met at the Danbys'? You are a lucky fellow, Charley!" and Fred went into his room, and shut the door.


THREE weeks can work a wondrous change in a girl's heart; particularly in a young girl who has led an uneventful existence and first finds out the difference between a placid affection and a sudden o'ermastering passion.

Fred was a constant visitor at the Macdonalds'; and Agnes soon found herself gradually slipping away from her betrothed, fight against it as she would, and surrendering herself more and more to the attractive influence of his cousin. Charley guessed nothing of it. He was busy at his work, and attributed the altered manner of his betrothed to his approaching departure, when she bade him a calmly affectionate farewell he little thought that only a short hour before she had been weeping passionately In Fred's embrace, and sobbing incoherently.

"I have only one thing to hope for. That is, that only one of you may come back; perhaps I may learn to forget..."

"Am I not to come back?" whispered Fred.

"Oh no! You must come!" she cried; and then, breaking from his arms, she said, "Let me go! I don't know what I am saying. Good-bye, good-bye!" and fled from the room.

THE cousins, on arrival in Western Australia, soon procured horses and an outfit, and, under the pretence of looking for a galena lode that they had heard of, made their way to the neighbourhood of the place where Fred had located the cave. Nor had they much trouble in finding the cave itself. A few days search discovered the large shady tree with the bulgy trunk, now in extreme old age. It was a kind of bottle-tree of great size an girth, but there was no sign of any hole at its foot. Further search, however, revealed a slab of limestone that gave forth a hollow sound indicating a cavity beneath. They soon prised up the slab, and revealed a small shaft-like hole slanting towards the ridge. Lighting the candles they had provided, they scrambled down about eight or ten feet, and found them selves in a good-sized cave with a sandy floor, and a few stalactites pendant. The air was good, and it was evident that the outer air penetrated through some cracks in the roof.

"The third cave," said Fred. "This will be the first,"

They examined the walls, and found a narrow cleft through which a man could squeeze. This brought them into another cave, in which the air was close and oppressive. The candles emitted but a feeble light, and the darkness surrounding them seemed almost palpable in its blackness.

In this cave there were more stalactites, and in the silence they heard the occasional drip of water. Feeling carefully round the wall, they made the circuit of the cave without discovering any opening. They tried again without success, only finding in one place a number of loose slabs and boulders, as though a slip or fall had taken place; that was all. The perspiration was now streaming down them, and the air was so stifling that they agreed to return and continue the search in the afternoon.

The second visit they brought more candles and examined the walls most carefully; this time they were rewarded. At the spot where the boulders were they discovered an opening only between two and three feet in height.

"This must be it," said Fred; "but we shall have to crawl on our bellies to get through."

The passage extended some four or five yards and it was by no means a pleasant feeling to drag oneself along beneath the overhanging rock, that at times seemed perilously low. Their candles, too, went out, and it was with panting lungs and beating hearts that they at last found themselves able to stand upright.

To their pleasurable surprise, the air in this cave was better than in the one they had just quitted, proving that there was some opening at the other end.

"This is the third cave," said Fred, when he had recovered his breath; "now for it." He struck a match and lit the candles. They burnt well, and by their light they saw the coins they were in search of, piled up on some slabs of limestone.

Charley sat down, feeling suddenly faint. Surely it must be a dream; the whole thing had been so easily and quickly accomplished that it was incredible. Fred approached and inspected the hoard. They were piled neatly up, as the dead and gone mutineer had left them, having evidently amused himself by arranging the coins and counting them.

Charley now approached, and they speculated oil the best manner of getting the money out of the cave. "A very few trips through that passage would satisfy me," said Charley; "is there no other way?"

"I was thinking," returned Fred, "that if one of us stopped in here, and the other in the second cave, we could draw one of the pack bags backwards and forwards. The one in here could till the bag, and the other draw it through into the outer cave."

"That would do first-rate; our reins and surcingles will be long enough to pull the bag backwards and forwards. Now let us get above again; I long for the fresh air."

They retraced their steps, and determined to postpone commencing work until the morrow, both men passed a sleepless night, Fred was haunted by the words Agnes had uttered, scarcely comprehending their import, "I hope that only one of you may come back."

In their absence would her fickle fancy revert to Charley again? He knew that, away from him and his influence, she would think with regret of her old sweetheart, and yes, it would be much better if only one came back.

Charley's thoughts had also been strangely troubled. The sight of the silver had awakened hitherto unknown feelings in his breast. His share would almost redeem the mortgage, but, supposing he had the whole; supposing an accident happened to Fred? He sat up, with his heart beating wildly, and looked up at the calm stars. What could he be thinking of?

"Fred!" he cried, leaping to his feet; "let's saddle up and get out of this. D—n the silver! Let it rot there. It's cursed."

"What on earth is the matter? Got a nightmare?" said Fred, sitting up.

"No; but I would rather let that money moulder there than go back in that cave for it."

"Nonsense, man. You're off colour. Go to sleep, we have hard work before us tomorrow," and his cousin turned his back to him as lie lay down again.

There was little conversation the next morning. They tossed up who should go into the inside cave, and it fell to Fred. They rigged up two leathern pack-bags with the tent-line, reins, etc., so that they could be drawn out full and pulled back empty, and then started to work. Fred disappeared under the low arch and Charley remained outside.

The work went on quickly, and all the time that Charley stood in the suffocating atmosphere of the second cave something seemed whispering in his car, "Supposing anything happened to Fred—supposing he could not get out from that cave—supposing something blocked up the passage?"

At last he could stand it no longer; he felt he must fight this tempting devil somehow. More that half the coins had been pulled through, and as the heap beside him grew bigger he knew that in the end he must succumb, and that his cousin would never leave the cave again.

"Fred!" he shouted through the low passage.

"Ullo!" came back the answer.

"Will you change places for a bit? I cannot stand this bad air any longer."

"Right you are. I was just thinking of it."

In a few minutes Fred head appeared, and he dragged himself through the aperture. Charley gave a gasp of relief; the tempter had been exorcised. He crawled through, and the work went on. Presently his cousin shouted to him, "How much more is there?"

"Only one bag," he replied as he filled it. There was no answer; and when he had put the remaining coins in the bag he gave the signal to pull, there was no response. "Fred has gone for a breath of air," he thought, and, lying down, proceeded to wriggle under the arch. He reached the end, and his blood ran cold with horror; Fred had blocked up the exit, even as he had dreamt of doing.

He shouted and shouted, but the only answer he got was a dull noise, as though more boulders were being piled on. Lying prone on his stomach, he could exert no strength to push at the obstruction, even if that would have availed him. He was buried alive.

He felt he would faint if he remained there any longer, and crawled back into the cave, where he threw himself, in the bitterness of death, on the sandy floor.

"HE will never come out of that," thought Fred, as he rolled the last stone into its place; then staggered out in the fresh air. "Oh God, what have I done for the sake of a girl who doesn't know her own mind."

He remained seated for some time, then rose and looked around. It was still early in the morning, and the day was calm and sunny. His first fit of remorse had passed away, and an obstinate devil had taken its place.

"I will have a rest, and then get the coin up here," he thought, as he laid himself down under the shade of the mighty tree, and wearied by the sleepless night and the morning's work, fell asleep almost at once.

MEANTIME Charley after the first feeling of terror had worn off, determined to make some effort to escape It had flashed across him that he might find the opening by which the air was admitted that rendered the cavern wholesome.. He extinguished the candles and waited patiently for his eyes to get accustomed to the darkness. After a while he thought he could distinguish a faint ray of light, and he carefully made his way towards it. It was some distance above his head, but the wall was sloping and broken and he managed to climb up to it.

There was an opening, and it was big enough for him to crawl into. He squeezed and dragged himself along, the sharp edges of the limestone cutting and wounding him, until at last, as he forced himself, gasping, through a narrow crevice, he saw distinctly daylight ahead of him. He got to it at last and found himself, exhausted and worn out, beneath a crack through which he could see the blue sky. But the crack was but a narrow slit through which a child could not pass; on either side were rocks weighing probably tons and tons, that dynamite could scarcely move. It was but a mockery after all. He lay there some time, then, actuated by a desire to be as near the open air as possible, climbed up the incline that led to the slit.

He put his hand through it; on one side smooth rock, on the other a narrow knife-like edge. Was it possible it was only a thin slab of limestone on that side? He got a firmer footing, put his back under it, and gave a mighty heave. It gave, rose, and he stood upright, and threw it down ringing on the smooth rock beside it; and leapt on to the earth's free surface once more. He was on the opposite side of the ridge to where they were camped, and he made his way over the low crest towards it.

There was no one in the camp; Fred was probably below, securing the money. Charley descended. No one in the first cave; no one in the second; but the stones that blocked the entrance of the narrow passage had been rolled away. Charley felt his heart thrill with pleasure. His cousin had come back to release him after all. He stooped and listened, and heard Fred calling his name in the third cave.

"Here I am," he shouted.

FRED woke up out of his sleep with a sudden start, the cold perspiration on his forehead. What had happened! He had left his cousin to die a lingering death in the dark. He would never sleep again, he knew and felt. Was Agnes Macdonald worth the torture he should evermore feel?

Without stopping to think, he jumped down the hole and made his way into the cave. Working like a fiend, he tore down the boulders he had piled up, and crawled through as soon as the opening was large enough.

"Charley! Charley!" he shouted, "it was only a stupid joke of mine, but I fell asleep, or I would have been back before."

There was no answer to his cries, and he searched frantically around, expecting to find his cousin lying senseless. Again he shouted, and a voice, seemingly from the ground, said, "Here I am!"

It came through the low passage he had just traversed.

"Fred," said Charles Marshall, as they stood at the top of the hole, "shall we do as I said last night—leave this cursed, blood-stained silver to rot where it is? I was nearly playing the same stupid joke on you that you did on me. There is nothing to forgive between us."

Fred held out his hand; they filled up the hole with boulders, replaced the slab of limestone, confident that the next thunderstorm would hide all trace of their visit. Then they rode away, and left the mutineer's hoard to the darkness where it had been hid so long.

ONLY one cousin returned to New South Wales. Fred had business elsewhere.

It is presumed that occasionally husband and wife can keep secrets from each other. For to this day Agnes Marshall does not know of her husband's imprisonment in the cave. Nor does Charley know that it was not on account of the treasure that Fred shut him up there.


The Bulletin, 11 Aug 1894

Collected in "My Only Murder and Other Tales," 1899


On Maparunga, the Canoe-Maker; and What he Did Not Know.

MAPARUNGA was noted amongst his tribe as a clever fashioner of canoes. His people were sea-coast blacks of Carpentaria, having their abode principally on the Sir Edward Pellew Group of Islands. The canoes used by this people were not the common kind of rude and hasty manufacture. They were far more cunningly contrived. Sheets of pliable bark were cut to a particular pattern so that when pieced together they fitted harmoniously into the shape of a really presentable little craft. These strips of bark had to be sewn to each other with currajong string and the seams next rudely caulked; then, when an outrigger had been fixed on, she was ready for inter-island navigation, and could stand some rough weather, too.

Now, Maparunga was a born shipwright in his humble, aboriginal way, and could manage a canoe after building it, and, moreover, could conceal it in so dexterous a manner beneath the mangroves, or up an inlet, as to look like part of its surroundings. This accomplishment was one often needed in the flight or pursuit of native warfare, when to swim across a creek swarming with sharks and alligators meant certain death. As yet the whites of this generation had not troubled the waters surrounding this lonely group. In the days probably of Maparunga's great-grandfather a bluff-bowed ship had come there and stayed some time, the crew boating about, sounding, and using strange instruments. Finally, they had gone away with, if the natives only knew it, their island homes neatly charted and named by that captain who earned a deathless name for himself. Only the long, red island of Vanderlin retained the name given by the old Dutch sailor who saw it from a distance and called it Cape Vanderlin.

But Dutch and English had gone and their coming been forgotten in one generation, for black tradition lives but from father to son. Even the dusky Malays who once sailed their proas to the coast fishing for bêche-de-mer, and who fought with the aborigines, had ceased their visits for many years, and were almost forgotten. So Maparunga, the canoe-maker, had never seen anyone but men of his own race. True, he had heard dimly of the whites from the natives of the mainland, but they came not through the broad fringe of mangrove swamps and slimy, oozy creeks; nor from the sea as Flinders had come; and Maparunga knew nothing of ships, save the light, frail vessels he built so well.

Maparunga had his camp in the inlet that bites into the middle of Centre Island. The camp was on a beach of pure, white sand laved by a sea of brilliant blue, so clear that fish and plants a fathom or so deep looked as though one could lean over the canoe side and grasp them. Behind were low, abrupt hills, rock-crowned, with jungle half-way up their sides out of which shot up here and there a tall and beautiful palm.

The sun was declining, and Maparunga's attention was drawn to the approach of his gin laden with the afternoon's hunting spoils. As he licked his lips in anticipation, a shrill call from the highest of the rocks behind him made him jump up and look. A blackfellow—Nimpoo, of his own tribe, and a friend of his—stood there beckoning eagerly, and Maparunga hastened through a native path in the jungle, up to the boulder-strewn summit, and joined the other. There Nimpoo grasped his shoulder and pointed northward, and away past the jutting-out reef of Craggie Island, on which the white surf never stops from breaking, they saw a strange and wonderful thing.

It was a great sea beast with white wings coming steadily on between Craggie Island and Vanderlin as though it was going to run right on to the black bank of mud and mangrove that marked the mainland.

Then Maparunga called to his wife, and she and his children and all in the camp covered up the fires with sand and ran into the jungle; and all the blacks watched the strange beast until it came right opposite to where they were, but much closer to the red rocks of Vanderlin Island, and then, the strange thing from the wide sea where canoes cannot go far, shut up its wings and stopped, and the blacks watched it until the sun sank behind them over the top of West Island, where there is always good water and sometimes good roots to eat.

"When it is dark it will come over and eat us up," said the wife of Maparunga. "I shall stop in the scrub all night."

And the others all said the same except Nimpoo and Maparunga. They, too, watched with the others until two lights burned on the beast, and that was all they could see of it. Then Maparunga and Nimpoo got a canoe and went in the darkness to look at the beast with wings. But they did not paddle straight across, for they were cautious, as all of their race. They went across the open sea between them and South West Island; on by the dark mangroves and black shadows where there are so many creeks, where at night the alligators splash and grunt in the mud. Still keeping their eyes on the two lights burning on the beast, Maparunga, the canoe-maker, and Nimpoo, his friend, paddled on, not frightened at the strange noises they heard to their right, for they were used to them. At last they reached the southern end of Vanderlin Island, and crept on close in shore until they were opposite the beast, then they stopped and listened, and heard men's voices, and both guessed at once that it was a great big canoe and no beast, for, though they could not understand what was spoken, they knew they were men like themselves that they heard. Softly they paddled out, for it was a dark night, and went round and round the big canoe, and heard men talking loudly, as men talk before they fight. Then they went straight back, across the open water, and not round the long way by the mangrove shore; for they were much braver men now that they had found out what it was.

For a long half century, ever since the Endeavour had weighed her anchor, the silent group had been unvisited and unseen by Europeans. Now, a schooner had come down through the lifeless Carpenterian sea; wherein there is never a sail, and seldom a bird; and anchored under Vanderlin.


What Maparunga Saw on the Island of Vanderlin

WHEN the two natives arrived at their camps, they reassured the others, but told them to keep close, for the men might be bad men. Then, they took some food in the canoe and started back in the darkness to the island of red rocks. When they reached there, Maparunga, who was so skilful, hid the canoe so that no one could find it, and the two went high among the rocks, ate their food, and waited.

When the light came and the sun rose behind Vanderlin, they saw men on the big canoe moving about, and presently a little canoe, like their own, only bigger, fell into the water, and men—more than they knew how to count, came down the side of the big canoe into the small one. Four of them—they could count that number—sat by themselves, and four others, all alike, sat down one after the other, and, putting out long paddles, made the canoe move to the land.

Right below where the natives were hidden was a sandy beach, and to this the canoe came, turned round, and the four men who sat together got out, but the others stopped in the canoe. The four men walked off together a little way along the sand, and then they parted, and two walked away from the other two, but only for a short distance. After a very little while one man again walked away from each of the two, and left them standing turned partly away from each other. Suddenly, the two men turned their heads round, lifted one arm, and there was such lightning and thunder came out of their hands that Maparunga and Nimpoo were too frightened to look; but they both heard a shriek like a gin's come across the sea from the big canoe.

When they looked up again one man was lying on the sand, with blood coming from him like a native who is speared, but the others all stood upright. Then two men went and looked at the one fallen down; then they came back to the man who stood quietly there, and said something to him, to which he bent his head. Next, they turned away and went back to the canoe; here one of the men who had waited put some things on the sand, and then four men came and carried the dead man away, and they all went back in the little canoe to the big one. The man who was left behind watched them go, standing quite still until the big canoe put up her white wings and moved away towards the sea where there is no one living. Then he lifted one hand, shook it, calling out aloud, and turning away put both hands before his eyes.

Maparunga and Nimpoo, watching the big canoe, saw something white fall from it into the sea. The big canoe turned round partly, a little canoe dropped into the water quickly, men jumped in, paddled off and, picking the white thing out of the sea again, took it back to the big canoe, and the big canoe went on, on, out of sight. Now, although Maparunga and Nimpoo saw this, the man did not, for when they turned to look at him again he was sitting on a rock with his head still buried in his hands.

This is the end of what Maparunga and Nimpoo saw on the Island of Vanderlin; only that the white man left behind made friends with them, and lived with their tribe for many years teaching them good things, until one day old Maparunga, the clever maker of canoes, told him of the white thing he and Nimpoo saw fall from the big canoe. Then the white man got very sad, and when they heard from other tribes that more white men were living on the mainland beyond the mangroves, he got them to take him up the salt-water river to some friendly tribes who knew the whites, and who took him on to his own people, for he never came back. But to the day of his death old Maparunga, the clever maker of canoes, looked out each morning to see a big canoe with wings coming from the sea where no man lives, bringing his white friend back again.

"IN a certain year, which I need not particularise, I, Lloyd Broughton, then newly-married, started on a long voyage in a schooner-rigged yacht, owned by two intimate friends of mine. On board were the two brothers Grenow, the owners of the yacht, my wife and her brother. We were out many months and visited Java, and touched at several other islands in the Coral Sea. Then, as my wife was anxious to see real savage, uncivilised country, we made south to the north coast of Australia, which we understood to be then unsettled. This led us to the scene of my crime and its expiation. If ever I loved a human being I loved my young wife. But I am, or was, of a morbidly jealous nature; one of the wretched self-tormentors of this world who seek out doubts to construe and torture them into confirmation of their own vile and degrading suspicions. If any man who reads this does not know who jealousy destroys a man's best impulses and changes his nature, let him humbly thank his Maker.

"Being so long on board together, this hateful thing within me led me to suspect that my wife's affections had been transferred to the younger Grenow. Now, as I, a dying man, solemnly declare, there never was the slightest reason for such a wicked thought. And I am confident to the day of her death that my unhappy wife's affection for me was unaltered; even after my crime of murdering the innocent man whom I wrongly suspected.

"Seeing then that no one but myself could have suspected the delusion that I at last believed to be the truth, my fatal outbreak of rage and wrath excited an almost equal storm of indignation in the other three men. We were just then sighting some part of the South Coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria, a group of islands called the Sir Edward Pellew Group. I had conceived the wild idea that our purpose in visiting that lonely, unknown part was to leave me on shore—desert me, in fact, as opportunity offered. Nobody but a man goaded by jealousy, who is, after all, a madman, could have believed such a thought could be harboured in the breasts of my wife or my friends. In the end I was left—but, justly.

"My rage was so violent that they at last thought me mad, and were about to confine me, when I grew quite calm and insulted the younger Grenow so grossly and vilely that I awakened in him, his brother, and my wife's brother, a mortal hatred equal to my own. That night we anchored close to a long, low island, with red, bare rocks on it. Our arrangements were made, and the conditions have been faithfully kept by all but me. I am murderer and perjurer—both.

"We were to proceed ashore and fight at sunrise, the conditions agreed to being that, after the duel, the survivor stayed on the island alone, bound never to return to Europe if he lived. This was what I insisted on in order that if I fell my adversary should not return in the yacht with my wife.

"We landed, and I shot Grenow through the heart at the first fire. I wonder his brother did not shoot me, but the conditions were honourably observed on their side, and I was left alive on the uninhabited island of Vanderlin.

"No sooner was the deed done and I alone, than the devil that had tempted me deserted me. At once remorse opened my eyes to the hideous crime of which I had been guilty. I had aspersed the fame of the woman I loved best on earth, murdered my friend, reduced myself to the condition of a worse than outcast Cain.

"From the depths of my anguish I was roused by the timid approach of two natives; they were friendly, and for years I lived with their tribe expiating my offence in the miserably degraded life of a savage.

"I taught then what I could, toying to do something in return for my wasted life; but O, the hideous agony of those years of lonely remorse! One day old Maparunga, one of my rescuers, told me that he saw a white object drop from the side of the yacht and it was immediately rescued by a boat. At once the conviction flashed across me—a conviction I now know to be true—that my poor wife, hearing of my fate, had sprung overboard to try to swim to join me.

"From that moment I could rest no more; I must go back, in spite of my vow, make full confession of the injustice of my accusations, and die. I was no longer fit to live, even amongst savages.

"Hearing that white men were settling on the mainland I persuaded the blacks to take me to another friendly tribe, and so finally joined my countrymen. In time I worked to the more settled parts and earned enough to pay my passage to London. Here I found some friends who remembered me, and from them I learned that I was too late; my wife died of grief before the yacht reached home. I was doomed not even to make such wretched expiation as I tried to, I contrived to let the elder Grenow know of my return, and he at once demanded the fulfilment of the conditions—namely, that if the survivor broke his oath and returned he should either give himself up a self-confessed murderer, or kill himself. Since then he has sent me word to keep my wretched life, but this I do not want. I am writing this to send him as a proof of the wicked injustice of my charge against his brother."


Evening News, Sydney, 28 Dec 1895

'I ONLY found out what ailed the dog by accident,' said Jim. 'You see, it was this way. The dog was not an ordinary dog, but it possessed another identity, a what-do-you-call-it? An astral body, or something of that sort. Quite unexpectedly this poor dog's being would be projected into space somewhere, and then the form that was left could do nothing but sit on end and howl until the spirit returned. This was rough on the dog, and also on Brewster, for he was continually having to fight people for kicking his dog because the brute howled so. Sometimes, too, the astral dog would come back and sit down and jeer at his own body and refuse to go inside, and that body could do nothing in return but howl; so the dog lived in considerable hot water.

'Now, there happened to be on the station a young fellow, horse-breaking, who was just the ordinary kind of bush hand, without a spark of imagination, and he and Brewster were always at loggerheads about the afflicted dog. His name was Cotten, and he particularly disliked being kept awake by the howls of the dog. One night the dog was perfectly quiet, strange to say, and—'

'How did you find out about the dog's astral body, Jim?' I asked.

'Well this way—it was the only theory that seemed feasible, and, as the dog never contradicted it, I came to the conclusion that it was true. However, the dog, although the actual cause of the trouble, was not the chief actor in it. Cotten and Brewster had to go out together early that morning after the quiet night I spoke about, and Brewster hunted high and low for his afflicted dog and found him not. He accused Cotten of having made away with the animal, and they came to high words, and called each other the usual number of scarlet liars. They went away together still quarrelling; but only one came back, and that was Cotten. He told a fairy tale that when they were out together they saw two dogs racing through the scrub. The first one didn't try to dodge trees or anything, but seemed to let the trees pass through his body; the other one in pursuit had to slew about all roads, and lost, ground.

'"There's my dog!" cried Brewster, and started after him as hard as he could lick. Cotten was not such a fool as to go pelting through a thick gidea and brigalow scrub after another man's dog, so he waited where he was, but Brewster did not come back, so he came home. Next morning we turned out to look for Brewster, and, true enough, we found him with a broken leg.

'He was very bad for some time, but at last he began to pull around; but Cotten had to keep away from him, the sight of him excited him so. He declared that Cotten had been up to some tricks with his dog, and blamed him for his broken leg.

'Now, I believe Cotten was quite right in what he saw, or said that he saw, and could no more have invented the yarn than he could have flown; as I said, he hadn't a spark of imagination—he couldn't even tell a decent lie without being found out. The afflicted dog turned up about a week after the accident, miserably poor and thin; but he seemed to have no life in him, and there was a vacant look in his eyes, and, in my opinion, his astral body bad succeeded in giving him the slip for good.

'Brewster gradually got better, and at last was able to hop about on crutches. Certainly, he confirmed what Cotten had related, but, at the same time, he seemed to think that Cotten had cast some unholy spell on the dog, which, at any rate, proved that Brewster had imagination, for the idea, of Cotten knowing anything about "unholy spells" was too immense. The only thing Cotten knew about "spells," that I can think of was when he wrote a letter once a year, and used to put his head down on the table, and stretch his tongue out and curl it round, while he asked somebody if r-a-n-e-s spelt reins.'

'Oh, hang it, Jim! What the deuce has Cotten's spelling to do with Brewster's dog?'

'Nothing, I admit But, at any rate, the dog pined away and died—that is to say, that empty frame of the dog died; and then the tragedy happened.

'You see, Brewster's leg had not set well, and he was bound to limp for the rest of his life, and that made him cranky, and—between ourselves—a bit off his chump, and this dislike of Cotten had become a regular craze, until at last the place became unbearable, and the owner told them that, one must leave. Brewster was the best man of the two before this accident, but what with that and his cranky temper he was mot much good, so he had to go.

'You can imagine that this did not improve his feelings towards Cotten, and when he had his cheque and his horses were brought in, he broke out and threatened Cotten, who sat with has mouth open all the time, not half understanding what it was all about. He was very bitter, and just as he was riding away he forgot himself and whistled to his dog, not remembering that the dog was dead.

'The Chinese cook swore that when Brewster whistled, a dog, just like his, came from somewhere and trotted off at the horse's heels. None of the rest of us saw it.'

'I am glad to hear you admit that, Jim.'

'Brewster went away and five days afterwards Cotten's horse came home without Cotten on his back. Of course, we ran the tracks back until dark without success, and had to give it up until the next morning. For although we tried tracking with firesticks and matches we made no fist of it, and had to give it up. There was, of course, no suspicion of foul play, for Cotten had been riding a green colt; and anything might have happened. We camped where we were, and to the middle of the night we were aroused by a most doleful howl.

'"Hang the dingos!" said one fellow.

'"Dingos?" said another; "them's no dingos; that's Brewster's dog!"

'We all of us listened intently. Sure enough, when the howl went up again, we all recognised it as the howl of Brewster's dog. The dog we knew had been dead for weeks. I tell you it was a very unpleasant camp for the rest of the night. In the morning we started off on the tracks at the first glimmer, and about 10 o'clock we found poor Cotten dead as a herring.

'What's worse, though, he had been killed. It was no accident. There had been a fight and Cotten had been stabbed with a sheath knife.

'Of course everybody said "Brewster!" and with good reason, as it afterwards turned, out.

'One of us went back for the tray buggy the rations were carried on, and Cotten's body was taken in and the police sent for.

'Of course they could do nothing but agree with us that it was probably Brewster; but the question was to find Brewster.

'Now, you may think us very stupid, but none of us thought of connecting the howling of that dog that night with the disappearance of Brewster, and it was not till a dog came and howled round the quarters all one night that we thought anything about it. Then Dick Mathers said to me at breakfast, "Do you remember that dog howling that night we were tracking Cotten?"

'"Of course I did."

'"Well, it's my opinion that it was the same dog as was round here last night. Do you think, if we could get leave to go out and camp there, we could fix that spot?"

'"I am pretty well sure of it."

'"Then, let's go."

'To make a long story short we went, and while we were trying to get the right direction, there came the howl again. There was a very fair moon, so Dick and I started after it, and presently, at a bit of an opening, we came to the spot. A dog was certainly sitting there howling, but he seemed to vanish as we came up; but there was something else that did not vanish, and that was the body of Brewster, hanging to a tree.'

Jim paused, and I was just going to say good night, when he spoke again.

'I just want to ask you a question. There's that there astral dog still wandering about somewhere, and I want to know what's become of him? The other dog is a skeleton long ago, so he can't get back there. Has he got to wander around forever?'

'He shouldn't have been such a fool as to project himself out of the other body,' I said. 'It's his look-out anyhow. I suppose the story is true?'

'Quite true,' said Jim, as he went off into the sleep of innocence.


Evening News, Sydney, 13 Feb 1897

Jimbras, bunyips, and the like were some of the mythical creatures widely
believed, in the 19th century, to exist in the vast, unexplored outback. —TW.

THE things here related happened in West Australia, many years ago, in the early days of the gold discoveries. I have constantly expected to hear more of the matter since, but have not done so, but it will come some day.

Camels were not so common then as they are now, and my mate and I had pushed out prospecting with horses, which were used to the country, and in excellent condition. We got well out into the interior, having been lucky in getting water, but not very lucky in prospecting. One afternoon we came on a little family of blacks camped at a bit of a rock-hole, and managed to make friends with them. There was a white-headed old man, two gins, and three or four kids. When they got used to us we tried to get something out of them about the country ahead, but were not very successful. The old man, whose name was Boodgin, gave us to understand that there was water and hills up to the north-east, but was urgent in explaining to us not to go there. He kept on repeating the word "Jimbra," "Jimbra," but we could not understand him. He seemed much hurt at his failure to explain himself, seizing us by the arms, and squeezing them, grinning horribly the while.

We concluded that jimbra meant some sort of animal, but could not place it anyhow. Next morning the old man took us to the top of the rock mound, and showed us the hills he had spoken of far off to the north-east. They looked only a short day's journey, so after giving the blacks some trifling presents, we started. It was mostly desert country, until we reached the neighborhood of the hills, when we struck a creek, and a most encouraging change took place. Following the channel, it at last led us into a little pocket amongst the ridges, fairly grassed and timbered. Here we found a small soak, or spring, sufficient for our wants. We had not seen any sign of blacks, so camped with great satisfaction, for we had not expected to get half such a good camp. In the middle of the night I awoke, and the air being a trifle chilly, I got up and put the fire together. The flames blazed up cheerily, and I lit my pipe and squatted beside it, half asleep and half awake.

Suddenly across the fire I saw a face—a black face, but not the face of a blackfellow. What the exact difference was I could not then tell, for I was too much taken by surprise, but it was more revolting and horrifying than any face I had ever seen, but it was still human. Then it flashed across me that it was there for no good, but as I grabbed for my revolver the thing vanished in the darkness, and I heard its quick retreating footsteps. I did not fire for fear of hitting one of the horses, not knowing exactly where they were. I roused up my mate, Bergholm, and told him of my adventure, which he scarcely believed until morning broke, and we looked up the tracks, and they were those of a man.

The horses were all well, and as we ate our breakfast we made our plans for the day, which included looking up our nocturnal visitor. Taking two riding horses, we proceeded to inspect the pocket wherein we found ourselves. It was a wonderful little patch of country to exist in such an isolated manner in the midst of the desert, and what made it more remarkable was the luxuriant way in which the trees grew on the banks of the creek—they were as close together as if they were on some coast creek in a temperate climate.

We found two or three likely patches for prospecting, and presently, towards the middle of the day, returned to our camp to follow up the track of our intruder. It did not go far, only to the bank of the creek, where it strangely disappeared, and nothing could we further find of it, although we were both fair trackers.

During our inspection of the valley we had noticed native tracks, but no sign of any camp. In the afternoon I proposed we should go up one of the highest hills and see, if possible, how far the good country extended. Selecting one with a good spur, up which we could ride or lead our horses, we started. The last part was rather rough, and we had to lead our horses up to the crest. From the top we had a fine view, the range, which was surrounded by the good country, seemed quite isolated, and we could see the distant desert seemingly all round it. Various other gullies like the one we were camped in, ran down to the different points of the compass, and, in fact, the place seemed like an island in a sea of aridity.

After noting all we could we descended, and had reached that part of the spur where we could ride again, when suddenly a huge boulder came bounding down the hill straight after us. We were just mounting, and the blessed thing shot past us like a steam engine, luckily not giving us a chance to try and dodge it or we should have probably got right in its road. We pushed on as fast as we could, but another came thundering down, though wide of the mark. When we got in a moderately safe place we stopped and looked at one another.

"Is that your friend of last night?" said Bergholm.

"He'd better not show himself any more," I returned, "or he'll get a bullet through him on spec."

We rode home feeling rather uncomfortable—it was not pleasant to have such neighbors. On our way back we were riding by the bank of the creek underneath the trees I spoke of, when suddenly there was a sharp crack overhead, and a dead limb of the tree we were under came crashing down. Our horses had naturally started of their own accord at the rending, breaking noise above their heads, and the limb fell clear of us. We stared in wonder at each other, but it was impossible to say whether the occurrence was natural or not. The limb was dead and ripe for falling, and we could detect no trace of any one up in the tree; but, taken in conjunction with the boulders, it was a very similar coincidence.

We made up a roaring fire and kept it going all night, keeping watch by turns. Nothing happened, but some distance away we found many native tracks, as though somebody had been prowling about. In the morning we went to one of the places we had noticed the day before, and did a little prospecting. We got a small show in a reef, but nothing very wonderful, and about midday I went back to camp to get the midday meal ready, leaving Bergholm pottering about the reef.

I was riding quietly, and when I got close to the camp, I suddenly saw there was somebody there. I pulled up, and watched. It was a naked black, a hideous-looking being. Shock-headed, with no forehead, and projecting jaw, long arms and body and short legs, he was the type of all that was fearsome and revolting. He was wandering through the camp picking up things, and seemingly trying them with his teeth; some he twisted and threw away. I had come up under cover of a bit of scrub, and was pretty close. Remembering the boulders, the dead limb, and witnessing the destruction of our property in this manner, I did not hesitate in getting out my rifle and firing at the brute.

I hit him in the body, and he fell, but jumped up again, and bit at the wound like a hurt dog, and then took to his heels, and ran to the creek with astonishing speed, I after him. He reached the bank first, but the loss of blood was too much for him, and he fell, gasping. I cautiously got off, and approached him, keeping my rifle ready. He glared at me out of his small red eyes, and made an effort to rise, but it was in vain. While I was looking at him wonderingly, Bergholm came galloping up to see what I was firing at.

"Good God! what a monster!" he exclaimed, and at the moment I fairly screamed with pain. Incautiously I had stood too near the monster, and, throwing out one hand, it caught me round the ankle.

Never did a man feel such a grip of physical force. The relentless crushing of machinery is all that I can compare to it. The agony was so awful, as though the bone was being pulverised beneath the pressure, that I blew the brute's brains out with my rifle, and dropped almost fainting.

I pulled myself together after a bit, and we examined the monster closely, and measured him. The thickness of his body was enormous, and the length of arms, his legs were short, and did not display the abnormal strength of his arms. His head was human in shape, and that was all you could say, for otherwise it was that of a brute.

I examined my ankle, and though there was nothing actually broken; it was still almost numb with pain, and I could only stand with Bergholm's help.

"Well, this is a nice crowd we have got amongst," he said. "If this is your friend of the other night, I suppose his sisters and his cousins and his aunts will be inquiring after him."

"I am afraid so. Let's get back to camp, and see what damage he has done."

It was fearful pain having to limp to the camp, but I did it somehow. It was in great disorder; our quart pots were squeezed flat by the creature's grip, a pack-saddle torn up, and the iron twisted as one might twist a piece of wire.

"It's lucky he didn't find one of us in the camp," said Bergholm. "Well, he's not done very much damage after all; let's have some grub and discuss the best thing to do."

"By Jove, these must be Jimbras that old man was so anxious to warn us about," I said.

As if in answer to what I said, a shrill cry arose behind me, and, looking round, we saw a white haired old nigger making signs to us.

"By Jove, it's that old Boodgin come after us," said Bergholm, and beckoned to him. Whether the old man had really followed us to see how we were getting on, or in the hopes of getting a few pickings in case we had been killed I am unable to say, but he was very glad to see us, and mighty hungry and thirsty, too.

"Jimbra!" he exclaimed when he saw I was crippled. I nodded, and after we had finished eating Bergholm took him down to the dead body. They returned after some time, Bergholm looking rather upset.

"We're in a nice fix," he said, "that is if we stop here. These Jimbras are a nice crowd; they live mostly in the trees, it seems, and have the strength of about ten men. They catch these poor devils of niggers when they camp here, and how do you think they kill them? Why get them against a tree, and put their arms round and crush them. Pfaugh! there are bones against every tree along there."

"What shall we do?"

"Well, we can go straight away, but there's a good show, and I don't believe in being frightened away by a lot of man-monkeys. We might camp out side, and keep watch. Old Boodgin says they don't venture out where the trees are small and far apart. We could carry water out and bring the horses in to feed, and old Boodgin to keep watch while we work."

"That'll do; its a pity to leave this place without giving it a good try; and if there was a rush set in I'm afraid the jimbras would have to go. I must try and get my leg right as soon as I can."

"Boodgin says that these gullies are full of them, and that they must eat one another."

Just then there was a fierce yell from the creek, and we both saw a jimbra come swiftly down one of the trees, and disappear under the bank, having apparently gone to the body. Next minute it appeared coming desperately towards us.

"Good God! it's a woman!" said Bergholm, "we must shoot her."

It seemed a fearful thing to pull trigger on a woman, but she was mad with rage at the death of her mate, and it was her life or one of ours.

"Together," I said, and the two bullets stopped her half way. It was not safe policy to fire together, but neither Bergholm nor I wanted to know whose bullet it was.

Her cry seemed to have raised the jimbras in all directions, for now they answered all round, and nearly twenty must have appeared from all quarters approaching us.

"Fire to wound them," said Bergholm, and when they came within shot I did so, and it was good policy, for the wounded ones snarled and shrieked, and the others came round to look at the wounds, and altogether it was the most horrid sight one ever saw. They soon had enough of it; and retired discomfited; and we proceeded to follow out Bergholm's suggestion.

Old Boodgin was greatly elated at seeing these terrible enemies put to flight, and he was of great use to us finding the nearest available camp which, in his opinion, was safe from the jimbras. We kept a couple of horses tethered, for naturally the main body made back to the better grass in the pocket, and it would not do to venture in there on foot after them.

And so for some days we kept at work, but such a ghastly experience I never had. I forget to say that the same night the two bodies of the male and female jimbras were both devoured, picked clean to the bones. Grim, cruel faces would suddenly peer out of the foliage overhead, a hideous figure making threatening gestures in the distance; but we had given them too good a lesson for them to come near us. We visited most of the other gullies, and, sooth to tell, got little for our pains. There was gold there, but we got no show worth speaking of. We scarcely gave the place a fair trial, for those awful jimbras got on our nerves, and haunted us day and night. They never touched our horses, I think they must have got fooling round one, a noted kicker, and he had established a funk.

My ankle got a little easier, and I could walk a bit, when one day we were working at the reef, old Boodgin, as usual, on the look-out, when Bergholm got a bit of stone in one eye. He tried to get it out by bathing it in a quarter pot, but it did not come out, and thoughtlessly he started down to the creek to bathe it. Old Boodgin had been looking another way, and only turned round as Bergholm's head disappeared. Instantly he went almost frantic, dancing and yelling, which awoke me to the sense of the danger, and I, too, shouted to Bergholm to come back. For answer there came a wild scream for help, and snatching up my rifle I ran as hard as I could to the bank, accompanied by Boodgin.

Too late. A huge jimbra had caught Bergholm, thrown him across his shoulder like a child, and was running at full speed across the creek. I could not fire at his body for fear I should hit my mate, and although I fired at the creature's legs, my hand shook so through running with my lame leg across the hot and heavy sand that I missed him, and he reached the further bank unhurt, and disappeared among the tree trunks. I could follow him by Bergholm's cries, and the jimbra soon began to climb a thickly foliaged tree.

Try as I would I could not get a shot at him as he ascended, until at last, with a mighty spring, he bounded on to the next tree, one of the tallest gums in that part of the creek. Now I saw him distinctly, but a successful shot would bring them both down, and the fall would be fatal to Bergholm.

Suddenly, to my horror, the brute, seemingly hanging on by his feet and one hand, held his victim out by the back of the neck, shaking him as if in sport over the drop. As he turned back to the tree I saw Bergholm clasp the trunk desperately with his arms and legs.

"Hold on!" I yelled, and fired, but my unsteady hand only inflicted a sharp flesh wound; fortunately, it was the best thing that could have happened. Leaving hold of his prey for a moment he roared and shook his huge hand at me below, as I jammed in another cartridge. In doing this he exposed the whole of his great breast, and the next minute the bullet went through it. He dropped like a stone, leaving Bergholm clinging despairingly to the trunk of the tree.

Fortunately, there was a limb not far below him, and be managed to slip down into the fork, where he could rest. His position was still critical. How I was to get him down the long naked trunk, after being half squeezed to death by those arms, now helpless enough I did not know. Although I couldn't catch sight of the brutes, I knew many of the tribe had been attracted by the firing, and were watching around unseen. What to do I knew not.

Presently old Boodgin touched me, and made motions like the chopping of a tomahawk, and then pointed to himself. I guessed what he meant. He would cut steps after the manner of a blackfellow, and go up and help Bergholm down. It was just the thing; and then I felt cold, very cold. The tomahawk was at the reef. How could it be got? The reef was very probably held by the jimbras, and I could not leave my watch over Bergholm to go and disperse them and get the tomahawk. Then Boodgin did a very brave thing. He motioned that he would go and get the tomahawk.

I hesitated. I could go half way and protect him; no jimbras could reach Bergholm in that time, and if the camp was clear Boodgin might be quick enough to get there and back before the brutes could descend. I made him understand that I would come half way, and we started. Being a myall nigger I could not trust him with a revolver, otherwise there would not have been so much danger.

Arrived half way Boodgin darted off like a startled wallaby, and I went back, only just in time. A jimbra had just jumped on to the gum tree, intending to bring Bergholm down. He was plain potting for me, and two shots brought him headlong in the creek beside his comrade. In a minute or two I heard brave old Boodgin running and panting, For a wonder they had not visited the camp, being too much engaged, I suppose, in the capture of Bergholm.

I made Boodgin understand to cut the notches deeper, and not so far apart as usual. I was greatly afraid that they would spring on him when he was passing the place where the two had already sprung, and made him understand to cut the notches on the opposite side of the tree. He had brought me Bergholm's rifle from the camp, so that I had-two instantaneous shots handy. It was a weary time watching Boodgin's progress, and it must have been terribly hard for him, but he was tough, When he approached the ticklish spot I thought I detected a movement in the foliage of the next tree, so fired on chance. I brought down my man. He hung by one arm, and I let him hang, for he kept any more away until Boodgin was up above, Then I dropped him, to lie alongside the others.

When Boodgin reached Bergholm he found him in great pain from the terrible squeezing he had undergone, but cheered up by the presence of somebody he mustered up what strength he had left to make an effort to descend. Boodgin descended first, placing Bergholm's feet in the notches he had cut, and slowly and painfully they at last reached the ground.

The jimbras still kept themselves concealed with wonderful art, and after much pain and trouble we reached the reef. The jimbras had gone there as soon as Boodgin had paid his flying visit, and destroyed everything, but that didn't matter much. Our horses had fled away a short distance; they took everything with supreme indifference. Bergholm could scarcely ride to camp, but by making slow progress I managed to get him there, and much relieved I felt.

Bergholm was wild for vengeance. The horror of that moment when the jimbra held him out from the tree would remain for ever in his memory, and he longed to clear the whole lot out. I was for leaving the place at once, and at last persuaded Bergholm to consent. I had had quite enough of the jimbras, and the gold prospect was nothing very promising.

We took a last look round the place before leaving, when Bergholm got better, partly in hopes of having a shot at our foes; but they kept well hidden. The bones of those in the creek showed that a hideous feast had been enjoyed, and at the tree-butts we saw the bones of many more crushed victims.

We managed to reach old Boodgin's camp, and camped there a bit. I cut out a collar for him to wear out of a salmon tin, so that he might be recognised as a friendly nigger by any whites who came after us. We left the old fellow enough presents to make him the millionaire of his tribe.

Whites may have found their way out since we were there, but if so I fancy they must have missed seeing Boodgin and gone to their fate. I forgot to say that I scrawled a message to any whites that came that way, telling of the jimbras, and left it with Boodgin to show them.

Our story received no credence, of course, when we returned but Bergholm and I will carry the marks to our grave.


Evening News, Sydney, 17 July 1897

HE was indifferently well dressed, and always seemed to have a handful of silver in his pocket when he paid for his drink; but the strangest thing of all was in the way he took his drink. His hand was perpetually shaking, to such an extent that sometimes the attempt to get it to his lips was hopeless. This failure would quite unnerve him, and he would go out, leaving it on the bar counter. When he succeeded in getting it to his mouth he bolted the fluid as though frightened it would he snatched from him, then with a sigh of relief replaced the glass.

In company with a friend I generally visited the hotel he frequented about the same hour that he put in an appearance, and naturally our attention was attracted to this case of chronic 'jumps.' It is a singular fact in the problem of drink that a man suffering badly from the effects of it can lift anything to his mouth but a glass of spirits. Some unaccountable revulsion seems to set in and relax the sinews, even to dropping the glass. My friend and I put this down as a very bad case, and took some notice of him, without making it remarkable. We put him down as a professional failure of some sort, who had enough means left to drink himself to death. He always wore a singularly high collar, and often' a scarf around his neck. And he had a very suspicious way of looking furtively round him, which was not at all genial. He never spoke to anyone, and walked out as soon as he got his liquor safely stowed away inside him.

It was some months after I first noticed him that I was staying at a marine suburb of Brisbane. I was sitting on the beach trying hard to think of nothing, when I noticed a familiar figure approaching, and on its coming closer I recognised the mysterious shaky stranger of the hotel. We had never spoken, but meeting on this retired spot seemed a sufficient excuse for us to exchange a nod of recognition, and he sat down beside me and entered into a conversation on different topics. He was just as shaky as ever, and his hand rattled the mouthpiece of his pipe against his teeth when he put it into his mouth. At last he gained confidence enough to tell me the following story:

'I am a surgeon by profession, and at one time was in fairly good practice, which I lost under peculiar circumstances. Fortunately, I have some independent means, so can live without following it, which, now that I have lost my nerve, would be impossible.

'I had a close friend, who married a pretty and clever woman, but I was sorry to see that their married life was not a particularly happy one, and that my friend, whose name was Hastings, took to taking more than was good for him. At that time, as my profession necessitated, I was a very temperate man, with a trained nerve. Incompatibility of temper was, I suppose, the original trouble; there was not the least suspicion of infidelity on either side, but they were unfitted and unsuited for mutual life. I am certainly not in favor of a law rendering divorce too easy, but it seems a pity that two people who have married under a mistake as to each other's dispositions should not be able to rectify that mistake without committing some social crime on a large scale. Well, Hastings took to tippling, and his wife to scolding, and their future was a poor lookout. I stuck to him, for he had been an exceedingly good fellow, and was so still if he could be rescued from his surroundings, and much the same could be said of her. With the right man she doubtless would have made a model wife, but as it was, the latent evil in both was developed by their marriage.

'One night Hastings called to see me, and I at once saw that he had been on a long debauch, although, being a man of strong physique, it made no great outward sign upon him. Mentally it was quite different, and I entertained some doubts of his sanity, at least upon one point. He wanted to know if I could perform a surgical operation on his arms, so, that while he could still write, and eat and drink, he yet could not use them with any degree of strength; in fact, he wanted to know whether, by any operation on the muscles or sinews, I could partly, paralyse him. I treated the idea lightly, told him that it was an impossibility, and attempted to turn the subject, but without avail. He left me gloomy and discontented, and I hoped that it was only the after effects of liquor, but still I felt very uneasy. One would have thought that a separation by mutual consent would have somewhat ended the unhappiness, but both had now become morbid in their resentment of each other, and would not seek peace for themselves, if that way would also give peace to the other. So it kept on, and gradually I saw less of them, for it was an unhappy home to visit, and a visitor only made things worse.

'Hastings kept on drinking, and his temper gradually lost all check, and from being a popular man with many friends he became shunned and disliked. Months passed, and I had seen very little of either for some time, when Mrs. Hastings came to consult me professionally. She was greatly changed, both physically and mentally I had put her husband down as verging on insanity, and I did the same to her. The verdict I had to pronounce was one that would have affrighted most women, but it seemed to give her a sort of fiendish joy. She was suffering from what would end in a painful death, though possibly a timely operation would prolong her life. She had cancer of the breast, and I guessed the cause, although she did not tell me in plain words Now I understand the meaning of the mad suggestion he had made to me in the past. He had struck her. This is what it had ended in after all; struck her what would prove to be a murderous blow. And he had foreseen it coming.

'"For every pang I suffer, he will suffer ten," she said as she left.

'He did, too, and smothered it with drink.

'I did not perform the operation that was at last necessary, but she died from it, and in the moments of consciousness that preceded death she asked to be left alone with her husband. What she said to him, how she cursed him, I never knew in exact words; but from what I gathered afterwards, it was the most appalling concentration of hatred that ever came from a dying woman's lips addressed to the man who once had loved her, and had killed her by an agonising death.

'The day after her burial a hasty messenger came clattering to my door, and I went at once to see Hastings, who had cut his throat.

'To say he had cut his throat is to put it mildly; rather, he had attempted to cut it about a dozen times. Each time his trembling and ineffectual hand had failed to inflict more than a superficial wound, and though he had lost blood he had not succeeded in making a dangerous wound, unless the state of his blood brought on complications. Fortunately, the servant had come straight to me, and the matter was hushed up without the police knowing anything about it. I stitched him up and looked after him myself until he was better, and somewhat restored to reason.

'I had a nice time whilst he was in delirium but especially one night. Then he told me of his wife's dying moments, and how she vowed she would, carry her prayers with her Into the next world; his hands should be palsied and refuse to do their office; and that the hand that struck her might never carry food or drink to his mouth unless it was nerved by drink. Then he had told her that he dreaded the madness that was growing on him, and had begged me to, cripple his arms so that they would not obey him and how I had refused to attempt it. Then she cursed me as well, and upon my soul I was so worked upon by having to watch this lunatic that I began to feel as frightened as he did.

'Well, I nursed Hastings back to life, and he took to drink worse than ever. True enough his hand shook so that he could not lift anything to his lips until he had drunk enough to steady his nerves every morning. Then it came out to me. I found myself nervous and queer one morning, and for the first time in my life took some whisky for a pick-me-up. My hand shook so that I hastily replaced the glass, for fear of dropping it. Again and again I tried. The thing was so unusual that I could not believe it. Then I suddenly recalled what Hastings had told me. I shook worse than ever at the thought of such an improbable thing, but it was true. When after some trouble I managed to get some spirit swallowed.

'I never got over that. I sold my practice before I had to give it up, for I foresaw the end, and that it would give me up if I had to keep my nerve up with whisky continually.

'Hastings made many more attempts to cut his throat and always failed, and was at last confined to an asylum. But I heard he was released about a year ago. I suppose he'll succeed at last.'

THE man arose, and without another word started; for home. I rose and followed him.

He was still only just ahead of me when I turned into the hotel I was staying at. I had a suspicion and asked a man I knew who was standing on the verandah who my late acquaintance was.

'That man,' said he. 'Oh, that's Hastings. Always tight; and occasionally shut up for his own safety.

'Is he a doctor?'

'He was, I believe; but nobody would trust him now.'

'Did his wife die of cancer, and did he try to cut his throat?'

'Never knew he had a wife, and certainly he couldn't cut his throat if he tried, his hand's too shaky.'

'Well, he's a first-class novelist.'

But all the same, Mr. Hastings did successfully cut his throat that very night; and at the inquest the medical evidence showed that the throat of the deceased bore numerous old scars of former attempts in the same direction.


Evening News, Sydney, 15 Aug 1896

THE Mowbrays of Pentavon Station were well known throughout the district in which they resided the eldest family there.

Tom Mowbray, the grandfather of the present owner of the station, had been amongst the first pioneers, and the venerable gum-tree bearing his initials, rudely chopped out with a tomahawk, was still reverently respected, though many a man with an eye for timber had cast longing eyes on it.

Truth to tell, the present owner and his father had had the task of living down the evil reputation left behind by old Tom; but they had inherited a good solid fortune to enable them to do it, and thus had seen the descendants of their ancestor's fellow-pioneers gradually pass forth from their lands, won from the wilderness, leaving them in the possession of banks and companies.

Old Tom Mowbray had been known as the hardest working and hardest-hearted man of his day. Certainly, his pay was sure, but it was extremely small, and if a blackfellow could do the work for a small fee of tobacco and rations, no free white man need expect the job. All manner of grisly tales were told about him, more or less true, but it had been a matter of faith with his descendants to glorify the old fellow's memory, and these legends were only whispered.

Publicly, he was always spoken of in an after-dinner-speech kind of manner as one of those gallant, dauntless pioneers who had led the vanguard of civilisation into the wilderness, and made Australia what it was, etc., ad nauseam.

There was, however, one tradition concerning this hero of the old days that was currently and persistently believed in. That was to the effect that one of his assigned servants of old Tom's had a strange and secret influence over him. Tom Mowbray, it was said, was in this man's power, and hated him accordingly. It was not hinted at that Mowbray finally got rid of him by violence, but certain it was that a stormy scene was overheard between the two men; that Dopper (the assigned servant) was sent to the magistrates for a severe flogging on a charge of assault and insubordination, and narrowly escaped being sent back to the chain gang.

Dopper took to the bush, and no man saw him again, although it was said that his hand was visible on several daring robberies that took place afterwards. Some six months after the disappearance of Dopper the Pentavon homestead was broken into during the absence of the family, and from that day old Tom was a different man. What wrought the change no one knew, nor did he ever tell; but he shrank from everybody, the sound of an approaching horse tread made him start nervously, he grew thin and haggard, and ever tote suspicious eyes seemed dreading the approach of an enemy.

One evening he told his son that on the morrow he would tell him something that it was necessary for him to know in the event of anything happening to his father. The son saw nothing unusual in his manner. The old man retired to the room he occupied alone, but he did not appear at breakfast the next morning. His son, then a man of 25, and virtually manager of the place, went to his room and found him seated in his arm-chair with blood dripping from his mouth, still alive and conscious, but nearly speechless. In his hand a piece of paper was tightly grasped, and the feebly beckoned to his son to stoop dawn. His voice seemed to bubble through the blood that welled up in his throat and appeared to be choking him; but all young Mowbray could make out from has halting speech before death silenced it was—'Keep—this, other—half. Give nothing up—Swear, swear. Who shows—it.'

This unintelligible muttering was no further explained by any subsequent discovery. No marks of violence were found; and the paper, when taken from his stiffening band, was torn across, and no trace could be found of the corresponding half, by which a key to the meaning might have been found. The paper was settled and crumpled, and appeared as though it had been torn during a struggle. The fragment ran, in good, legible writing:

at once make over
perty to me on
ed and turned
ascendants. I have
will never find
manage things
night at my
e when the
d grindstone
G. Eustace.

THE strictest search did not reveal the absent piece, and no efforts at supplying the words furnished any clue. The only thing that made it of any importance were the broken words he had muttered. The paper in appearance had been torn for some time, months perhaps. Other papers were strewn around, as though the old man had been going through them, preparatory to the disclosure he was to have made to his son in the morning. Death had been occasioned, in all probability, by some mental shock, and old Tom Mowbray went to sleep for ever under the soil he had won with his own hand.

Nothing happened during the reign of Oscar Mowbray, and his son Sidney inherited the family mystery with the broad lands of the station. Sidney was unmarried and about 27 years of age when the mystery of the torn letter was at last solved.

Naturally, the district was considerably altered since old Tom's day. A town had, sprung up not ten miles away, and a railway joined it with the metropolis. The old homestead had given place to a modern building, surrounded with lawn, orchard, and garden, and many a square mile off freehold called Mowbray owner.

One day stranger called to see Sidney. He presented a letter from a well-known firm of solicitors, which said that the bearer, Roderick Eustace, had important business with Mr. Mowbray which it would be well to look into. The name did not at first strike Sidney, as the affair of the torn letter had almost faded from his memory; but it was quickly renewed in the course of the conversation which ensued.

The visitor was a good-looking young fellow somewhere about Mowbray's own age; self possessed, well-mannered, with something of the air of a sailor about him.

'I may as well come to the object of my visit at once, Mr. Mowbray. I presume you are satisfied by that letter that I have the right to ask the question I am about to. Have you a torn letter in your possession which was found in your grandfather's hand at the time of his death?'

In an instant the story told him by his father, and the name of Eustace, flashed through Mowbray's mind.

'I still have the letter,' he said in reply. 'I presume from the similarity of names that you know something about it?'

'I did not until the other day, but I think I can find the missing part if you allow me to copy it.'

Mowbray hesitated, and referred to the stranger's credentials.

'I scarcely know,' he returned at last, 'how to answer you. Your name and the letter you have brought me assure me somewhat that you do not ask out of idle curiosity. You have a motive?'

'A motive that may greatly affect my future.'

'Wait for me,' said Mowbray.

Left alone, the stranger went to the French light and stepping on the verandah, gazed over the beautiful scene of peace and plenty that smiled under the brilliant sun.

'A good place to own,' he muttered, 'and confounded hard lines to have to part with it.'

Mowbray returned with a cash-box, which he unlocked, and taking out the fragment, read it over carefully; then handed it to the stranger. He in his turn read it somewhat eagerly, then gave it back to the owner.

'It is what I seek,' he said. 'Can I copy it?'

'Yes, on condition that you inform me what is the results of your investigation. They may be of interest to me.'

'Doubtless; and be sure, Mr. Mowbray, that you shall hear from me when I have compared it with the other half.'

Mowbray invited his visitor to stay for dinner and sleep there the night, but after a short hesitation Eustace excused himself, and after copying the letter, took his departure.

On arrival at the township he went to the principal hotel, and entering a private sitting room, was greeted by a young and handsome girl, sufficiently like him to indicate the relationship of brother and sister.

'Have you got it?' she eagerly asked.

'Yes, a copy of it. Where is the other piece?'

She left the room and presently returned the corresponding portion. For half an hour they pored over the papers, making notes as they proceeded. On the conclusion of their investigation they looked at each other questioningly.

'I think it will be easy to find the place,' said the man at last.

'What sort of person is this Mr. Mowbray?' asked his sister.

'I took a liking to him. He appears to be perfectly straightforward and bears a good reputation about here. A fine, manly sort of fellow.'

The girl mused. 'I should like to see the place,' she said, 'We can easily take a drive through and see it. He wanted me to stay to dinner and sleep there, but I couldn't, of course, do that.'

A few weeks elapsed before Mowbray heard anything more of, or from, his late visitor, Then he received a letter from the same firm of solicitors notifying that they had a communication of importance for him, and begging his attendance in Sydney.

Mowbray proceeded at once, and learned from the lawyers that they were acting on behalf of Mr. Victor Eustace, who claimed the whole of the property as legitimate heir of his grandfather, Thomas Mowbray. But they thought matters could be arranged, Mr. Eustace being willing to treat amicably. Mowbray thought he must be the sport of a dream, and repudiated the whole thing as an imposture. Did they infer that his grandfather had never been married to his grandmother?

Not at all; but he had a wife living at the time, was the answer.

A meeting was arranged for the next morning, and Mowbray, after a sleepless night, met Eustace and his sister in the presence of one of the legal firm.

'Mr. Mowbray,' said Eustace, 'you were open enough with me, and I shall be glad indeed if we can settle this matter on a mutually, satisfactory basis. First and foremost, I will give you a copy of the complete letter. Here it is.'

You will at once make over the station and all your property to me on peril of being exposed and turned out by me or any descendants. I have regained the proofs, and have bestowed them safely where you will never find them. If you like to manage things quietly, meet me to-night at my old hut. I will be there when the shadow touches the old grindstone tree.

G. Eustace.

Mowbray looked at the other with an astonished smile.

'Is this the substance of your claim to all I possess?' he added somewhat superciliously. Eustace drew forth another piece of paper with oblong holes cut in it.

'This is the key,' he said; 'and when you have used it I have a story to tell you.'

Following directions, Mowbray placed, the paper with the holes over the letter, and copied the words visible through them. They came out thus:

Station and property, the proof find at my old hut when the shadow touches the old grindstone tree.

'I suppose you know the little knoll still called 'Dopper's Hut?'

'Of course I do.'

'That is the place meant. Dopper, as he was called, was your grand-father's brother-in-law; his sister my grandmother.'

'I presume that owing to my allowing you to copy the half of the paper found in my grandfather's hand you got the clue to the hiding-place of these so-called proofs, and obtained them?'

'Quite so. The important words "my" and "grindstone" gave the locality. Now, if you like I will tell you some family history.'

Eustace spoke lightly, as though winning or losing a magnificent property were an every day occurrence; but his hearer felt by no means so comfortable as he proceeded.

'Mowbray,' commenced Eustace, 'I scarcely think that either you or I have much cause to be proud of our mutual ancestor Thomas Mowbray. He was a bigamist and a murderer.'

Mowbray started up in rage.

'Keep quiet; be was my grandfather as well as yours, and I am by no means proud of the fact.'

'He left a good property, however, which you seemingly hanker after.'

'And which you and your fattier have illegally enjoyed; but we shall gain nothing by sparring at each other—suffer me to tell my tale. Thomas Mowbray and my great-uncle, George Eustace, or Dopper, were great friends. Their station in life was equal—that is to say, that they were both as poor as rats. My grandmother had some money left her by an aunt, on which she was able to live and sometimes assist her brother. Mowbray married her. Things did not improve, and both my grandfather and grand-uncle got into bad company and bad ways. Without mincing matters, they became criminals. They were surprised one night when they had forcibly entered one of the old-fashioned county banks common in those days. Mowbray escaped with some of the plunder. Eustace was taken. There had been a scuffle, and such things were then hanging matters. How Eustace escaped the gallows I know not. Mowbray always assured him that it was through a judicious expenditure of the portion of the stolen money saved by him. This was a lie, and with the same falsehood he persuaded his wife to advance her little capital for the defence of her brother. Eustace was transported. Mowbray, with the two stolen sums of money—for his wife's had been obtained under false pretences—sailed secretly for Australia, leaving—amiable man that he was—his wife and infant daughter to live or die as Providence determined. A free man with some ready cash, he soon got on, and, having decided to cut the painter for good, married again, and became a responsible and highly respected member of the community.

'After his bigamous marriage, we may presume that he grew cautious, and thenceforth acted with passable honesty. Meantime his old friend and scapegoat had suffered all the penalties of those days, until, as some kind of tardy acknowledgment, Mowbray got him assigned to him, and he lived a tolerably easy life on the station.

'It was a strange position. Mowbray was frightened of Dopper—the alias my great-uncle went under—and Dopper was anxious to preserve the semi-state of freedom he enjoyed. He recognised the fact that if it came to open war he, as a convict, would probably get the worst of it. However, he bided his time. He managed, after many years, to get a letter conveyed to England, in which he asked his sister to forward him copies of all papers necessary to prove her legal standing as Mowbray's wife. He did not know if she was living or dead when he addressed the letter to the old village, where she was well known; but, after some time, she received it.

'She was old. She had gone through trouble, poverty, and slow starvation. Her daughter had married a good man—a distant cousin of the same name, "Eustace"—our father. He was a kindly-hearted man, and cared for his wife's mother. She was comfortable, and at peace. Still, as her brother hinted that the possession of these copies might alleviate his position, she sent them. For herself, she did not seek to rake up the unhappy past and bring shame on the innocent children.'

Eustace paused, and Mowbray remarked,

'That argument does not appear to influence you.'

'To a certain extent it does, as I will presently explain. However, through some mischance the packet fell into my grandfather's hands. There was a violent scene, and Mowbray sent his servant and ex-friend to the flogger. Dopper took to the bush, and Mowbray never knew peace again. Then Dopper broke into the station homestead, regained the documents, which Mowbray had with one of those unaccountable oversights not destroyed. And that act sealed the fate of both men.

'That letter—the pieces of which we have just put together—was written, of course, by Dopper to my grandfather, and the appointment was kept. When the shadow of the hut touched the old grindstone-tree the two men met, and, according to the only witness, who dared not give evidence—for his own neck was forfeit—the mutual and long-nursed hatred broke forth at once.

'Mowbray defied the convict, and holding the letter in his clenched hand shook his fist in the other's face, and swore that he would drag him single-handed to the gallows. A fierce struggle ensued, in which the letter was torn. The watcher, who was Dopper's companion, and also an outlaw, was hastening to the rescue, when Dopper fell, stabbed; and Mowbray hearing the advancing footsteps, fled for his life. Dopper was dying: He had just time to give some directions to his mate, and that was all. His body was buried by the other man; and six months afterwards old Mowbray followed him, dying, as his mate did, with the blood bubbling from between his lips and the corresponding half of the torn letter in his stiffening grasp.

'Dopper's mate—a fallen gentleman—was able to carry out his last instructions, after much difficulty and trouble. The torn half of the letter, the key, and some other papers, eventually found their way into my mother's hands, together with a statement of the scene that occurred at Dopper's death, which, of course, has no legal value.

'What freak made Dopper include the secret of the hiding-place of the papers in the letter addressed to my grandfather I cannot say. Probably for the same reason he appointed the meeting at the very place where they were buried. Doubtless he intended to leave more definite, instructions had not death cut him short. Mowbray evidently guessed that the claimant would possess the torn half of the letter.

'My father would take no action in the matter. He had no wish to open up such an evil scandal; and my mother agreed with him.'

'You intend, then, to prosecute what you consider your rightful claim?'

'That depends upon you. I have no wish to be exacting; and I probably would have let it pass as my father did but that I have had severe losses, and I am anxious to restore to my sister her portion of my father's fortune which has been lost. For myself, I have my profession of the sea.'

'But these proofs are mere copies, of no value by your own showing.'

'Quite true; but they saved me all trouble in hunting up the original entries. Dopper's hut stands no longer; but the old tree to which the grindstone was affixed is still there, and I had not much difficulty in locating the hut, as one of the corner-posts is still in existence.'

'But why this affected mystery about the shadow? Why not have said at the foot of the grindstone tree?'

'A bit of superfluous cunning. I was bothered at first, then I guessed that it should have read, 'The old grindstone tree's,' meaning the tree's shadow. This would bring it to the opposite side of the tree. I searched there and found an old gun barrel, plugged at one end. In it were the papers.'

'Can I see you to-morrow at the same hour?' said Mowbray abruptly, getting up. 'I have much to think over.'

'Certainly,' returned Eustace, 'believe me an amicable adjustment will he better for us both.'

Mowbray had indeed much to think of. True, he himself did not bear the stain of illegitimacy, even if Eustace's story was true, but he had been brought up with a due appreciation of his own importance, and the blow to his pride was terrible. Then, too, the somewhat cavalier manner of the sailor irritated him. Always accustomed to hear his grandfather spoken of with respect, to hear him referred to as a criminal of the lowest type, guilty of nearly every crime in the calendar, was not exactly pleasant.

Strange to say, the bright and beautiful face of Miss Eustace came between him and his gloomy thoughts, and when it did he felt his burden somewhat lighter. There seemed only the slightest chance for him to fight the claim successfully, and that was the contention that the Mowbray of Eustace's story was not identical with Mowbray of Pentavon Station, but he felt that this was but a slender reed to lean upon.

The next morning brought the appointed meeting.

'Mr. Eustace,' he said, taking the initiative; 'I will to-day place the case in the hands of my solicitors, and get their opinion. I have no doubt they will advise me to fight, but I do not say that I shall follow that advice, although my purse being longer than yours, I should probably tire you out. If you can convince me that you are in a position to prove the identity of the Mowbray you claim as grandfather, and the one I have inherited the property from, and your other proofs are forthcoming, and found to be genuine, I shall not contest your claim.'

'I am glad to hear it. We can let sleeping dogs lie. Your name is Mowbray, mine is Eustace. All I shall take will be enough to restore the fortune my sister and myself have lost through an unlucky venture. The station—and landed property can remain yours.'

'I shall take nothing. It is all yours, or all mine.'

As Mowbray spoke he caught Miss Eustace looking at him with admiration plainly expressed on her face.

'Excuse me, Mr. Mowbray, but that is outright nonsense. I only want what I have said; your action would make all public and the unsavory reputation of our common grandfather be trailed in the mud.'

Mowbray winced, but answered firmly, 'I know that, but once I believe in the justice of your claim, believe me that will be no obstacle.'

'It will take time to adjust things,' said the sailor, 'and during the delay I hope that my sister and I may induce you to change, your mind.'

Mowbray rose, and the girl frankly held out her hand to him and gave him a hearty pressure.

'I trust with my brother that we may get you to think differently, but I honestly confess that in your place I should feel as you do. And I believe my brother thinks the same.'

Eustace laughed. 'Jessie, you are romantic,' he said,

'I WISH it had been a different sort of man we had to deal with,' she said, after Mowbray had left.

'So do I, but we must persuade him out of it somehow.'

Time passed and the friendship between the strangely matched opponents grew deeper; but Mowbray showed no sign of changing his determination. Not even the passion springing up in his breast for his supplanter's sister could induce him to listen to argument. It was all his, or none of it, was the stand he took.

Jessie Eustace saw nothing but complications ahead; she felt that a mutual affection was ripening between them, but that Mowbray would never speak, never accept the easy way out of the difficulty, if the lawyers advised compromise. She began to wish their claim might turn out valueless.

At last the case was complete. Mowbray's solicitors advised him to agree to a compromise, as his only chance was to weary his opponent out by successive and expensive appeals.

Mowbray came to see the brother and sister that night. It was a chilly night, and they were seated near the fire discussing the vexed question. Mowbray still being resolved to change the subject, he asked to see the musket barrel in which the papers had been concealed.

Eustace produced it. The top of the barrel had been sawn off to admit of inspecting the inside.

'How did you guess the papers were inside?' asked Mowbray.

'The plug being so firmly jammed in I was led to think that the barrel must have been used for security and concealment.'

'An old Tower musket, by the look of it, big nipple, stopped up as well.'

He handed it back to Eustace, seated in front of the fire, who began to reiterate his arguments as to an equal division of the estate. As he spoke he carelessly tapped the top bar of the grate with the butt end of the barrel.

'Don't do that,' exclaimed Mowbray, 'you never know—'

His words were interrupted by a loud explosion, and the sailor fell from his chair with a ball through his breast. The gun barrel had been loaded, the cap had rotted off, but the fulminating powder still remained in the nipple, and the idle tapping had exploded it. Dopper's legacy!

WHAT ARGUMENT could not effect, Mowbray consented to do to ease the death bed of his new found cousin, the bright young sailor for whom life was just opening, with a rosy future in view.

Whether it was inadventure, or Dopper had purposely loaded the musket in case that if Mowbray found the plant he might accidentally get the benefit of the charge, no one could say. But it did its work too well. It need scarcely be written that the property was finally united by the marriage of Mowbray and Jessie Eustace, and the memory of the victim to the inheritance was always kept green.


Evening News, Sydney, 7 March 1896

THE moon was full and about half-way to the zenith, and the tall trees on either hand threw black shadows across the bridle track I was riding alone. The shadows were abrupt and strongly marked. Presently I heard the sound of a horse's footfall following me, and glanced round to see who it was who was overtaking me. To my surprise, I could see no one, although the footfall had sounded quite close, and appeared to be travelling swiftly. Twice this occurred, and I began to fancy that I was encouraging a hallucination, when the station lights came in sight, and I rode gladly on, for a nasty superstitious feeling was beginning to creep over me.

The station was owned by a widow—doubly bereaved—for six months after the death of her husband her only son, a promising young fellow of about 18 or 19, was killed by his house falling on him only three miles from the station. I was living on a neighboring station, so rode up to the bachelors' quarters as a matter of course, and unsaddled and turned my horse out. A hearty welcome, a nip of Mackay, and a rough but plentiful feed, soon drove all thoughts of the supernatural out of my brain. I told the boys, however, what queer fancies had come into my head on the road, and I was astonished to see that they took it gravely said—

'That sound has been heard before,' said Doyle, the oldest r man there. 'It was on just such a moonlight night as this that young Murdoch was killed, and at the very place where you heard the footfall. He was cantering along, with the Mack boy riding behind, when his horse tripped and rolled right over on top of him. Killed him instantly.'

'And is it only on moonlight nights like this that he walks?'

'So they say; but that is not all the yarn. It was on that same night that Mis.. Murdoch—you know what a severe woman she is—found out that pretty little Maggie, the girl she brought up with her as half-servant, half-companion, was likely to become a mother. She got in a terrible state, and when Maggie, in her shame and terror, confessed that young Murdoch was the man, she nearly went mad. Late as it was, she had the horses put in the buggy, and told me to drive Maggie over to the township—she would not have her on the place another night. I protested, but it was useless, and when we got about three miles away, for that bridle track is a short cut on to the road, there was the dead body of the man who had sworn to marry her and save her good name, lying in the moonlight on the dusty track.

'I don't want to go through that scene over again, I can assure you. The black boy had ridden in and raised an alarm, and some men came out to bring the body in. I managed to quieten the girl somewhat and pushed on to the township; but next morning she was in a raging fever, and what with that and having a dead child born prematurely, poor Maggie nearly died too. She recovered, however, and went away somewhere—nobody knew where. Ever since the clatter of a horse can be heard coming along that bridle track on moonlight nights. I don't know whether Mrs. Murdoch has heard of it or not, but I expect she has.'

MRS. MURDOCH soon left the station which had such bitter memories for her. Doyle and the other fellows had wandered off one by one, until at last there were none of the old hands left. The superintendent had occasion to hire a married couple, and procured one in the neighbouring township. The man was a surly ill-conditioned lout, whilst the woman was neat and tidy, with the remains of past prettiness on her sad and worn face; they were without children.

They had not been there long before it was found out that he was in the habit of beating his wife, and being tackled by one of the other men about it, he showed up a cur. But this did not help the poor woman, who probably received extra punishment on the quiet in consequence of the man's interference. The story of the ghostly footfall had of course been handed down, and it was noticed that often of a moonlight night the poor silent woman would steal out and walk along the ghost's pad, as it was called.

One night, when it was almost as clear as day, one of the men, smoking in the verandah of the men's hut, saw the woman steal out along the ghost's pad. Shortly afterwards he noticed the husband slink after her, and, fearing he meant mischief, the man who was the same one who had interfered before, went after him. The woman was standing looking expectantly along the road, when her husband went up to her, and, putting his hand on her shoulder, told her roughly to go home. She shrank away from, him and he lifted his fist. At that moment the watcher heard the approach of the invisible horse and rider. Whether the woman really saw anything or not it was not possible to tell; but she lifted her hands up and her face was transformed with joy. As for the husband he gave one glance in that direction, then took to his heels and ran home.

After that the woman, was free to wander out to the ghost's pad whenever she liked, but it did not alter her husband's behavior to her when on the station. It was about 12 o'clock one night when the whole homestead was awakened by a shriek of mortal terror. It came from the room off the kitchen where the couple slept. Hastening there they found the woman with her face bruised and bleeding from a blow, standing half-dressed in the middle of the room and the man extended on the floor senseless.

The tale told by the woman was that her husband had quarrelled with and struck her. That then something, she knew not what, had come between them, and her husband had fallen to the floor, uttering the cry they had heard.

When the man came to his senses he could tell nothing, excepting that he admitted having struck his wife and being immediately felled by what, he said, was a red hot fist. Strange to say, there was now visible a distinct burn on his temple where he said he had been struck. The story was very strange. The poor woman had not the strength to strike such a blow, and the man could not have inflicted it himself. The mystery was never solved, but the man became different after that; less violent, but more taciturn and sullen. Some months after that a distant shot heard in the middle of the night roused one or two sleepers whose rest was light, but nobody took the trouble to rise and investigate the matter. In the morning the husband waited on the super, and told him that he had accidentally shot his wife during the night.

His story ran that he had followed his wife, suspecting that these visits of hers to the ghost's pad were only a screen for covering an illicit love affair. He saw his wife seated on a log beside a young man or boy, who had his arm round her waist. That he took aim and fired at this man, and that the bullet passed through the man and struck his wife.

The body of the one-time pretty Maggie was found at the place he described, and buried by the side of young Murdoch. And from that date the tramp of the ghostly horse was heard no more. The author of her death persisted in his story up to the minute that the bolt was drawn and he dropped into eternity. He avowed that the youth embracing his wife was no being of this earth, for the charge had no effect on him at all. And the doctor who had examined the corpse of the murdered woman told a strange story that few could believe.


Evening News, Sydney, 26 Oct 1901

FEVER Camp was the bank of a swollen flooded river, and all around the country was a quagmire that, in the slang of the bush, would 'bog a duck.'

There were three men in the Fever Camp and all three of them were suffering more or less, mostly, more, from the malarial fever that haunted the bush in the earlier days of North Queensland settlement. They had finished all the quinine, and there was no possibility of getting any more until there was a break in the weather. Occasionally one of the three had a good day, that is, a day when he did not feel so much like a frozen, toasted scarecrow as usual, and then that lucky man got up and cooked some food.

At other times their only recreation, apart from groaning, was retailing their symptoms to one another. One man had a full advantage over the others, which he did not hesitate to meanly take advantage of. He had had the fever on the West Coast of Africa, and he insisted on retailing the symptoms he had experienced there, in addition to what he then felt.

Reynolds, one of the men, had a good, day, and he was standing before the fire under the shelter they had built over it, encouraging the fire to burn by the application of some twigs. He had a blanket round his shoulders, and was debating in his own mind whether he felt, cold or hot. The fire at last ceased smoking sulkily, and commenced to blaze. Reynolds gave a sigh of relief and stepped outside, as it had ceased raining for a wonder.

Looking up at the sky, he caught sight of a patch of blue, across which the clouds were scudding at a tremendous rate. The clouds, too, were higher, and the surrounding haze had disappeared—a change had taken place.

'Come out, you fellows,' he said; 'it's going to break up at last.'

One after another two hollow-eyed skeletons crawled out of the tent, and gazed around with heavy eyes; at the same moment the sun, looking a little watery, and the worse for wear, peeped out, and blinked at them. If they had not been so weak they would have given it a cheer.

Said Carthew, the man who had been on the West Coast of Africa, 'I wonder where the horses are? Who heard the bells last?'

'I did, last night,' replied Reynolds. 'They're up the river. I expect they'll stick there; the banks are sandy, and sounder than the other country.'

'Really, I feel as though I could eat something,' said Maxwell, the third man, 'anything cooked?'

'Yes,' returned Reynolds, 'I was just going 'to put the billy on.'

In a quarter of an hour the three men were making a fairly successful attempt at a meal, the first they had taken together for many days. The sun made gallant attempts to shine, and the hurrying clouds were fast taking on a denser and more solid appearance, as though they had bottled up the residue of their watery contents for another opportunity. As evening drew on there shone forth a fiery red sunset, and Reynolds, looking out of the tent some hours after dark, announced a clear starlit sky.

NEXT MORNING was clear, bright, and beautiful, and but for the muddy river flowing along a tanker, and the sheets of water standing on the level country, no one would have thought that it had been raining and storming for the last week. Reynolds and Carthew both felt better, but Maxwell was still very low. Reynolds said he would go a little way up the river and see if he could see anything of the horses, so sauntered away soon after breakfast.

After a mile or two, he began to feel languid, and sat dawn on a log to rest. The sub was growing hot, the moist ground getting steamy, and he had overrated his strength. He sat idly upon the log watching the water flowing past, and wondering stupidly at the debris that glided like a constantly-moving panorama before him.

Presently a strange object, amidst the flotsam of the flooded river, fixed his attention, and he aroused himself from his half-stupor, and earnestly regarded it. It was the body of a man. Thoroughly aroused, he hurried down to the edge of the water, the better to see it. He was too weak to go into the water after it; if the current took him off his legs he would be drowned, he felt sure. A swirl of the stream sent the ghastly object nearly within his reach, and in his eagerness to reach it he got into deep water. Choking and struggling, he fought his way desperately back to the bank, and pulled himself out, trembling and panting.

'That was a near go.' he said. 'Why, I've no more strength than a sick cat' He looked around for the body; it had floated past, but down below there was a projecting point, and above this there was a by-wash, and towards this haven of refuge the corpse was steering.

When, still weak and trembling, Reynolds reached the point, he found the object in still water, awaiting him. With the help of a long stick he guided it to where the bank sloped gradually, and after much trouble got it ashore.

The body must have been in the water some three days, and was the corpse of a tall, middle-aged man, with a big, fair beard. While Reynolds was regarding it, the horse bells suddenly rang out on the bank above him, and going up to the top be found the horses he was in search of camped in a patch of scrub, and he was not long driving them back to the camp. There he told his tale, and Carthew caught a horse, and they went back together; Maxwell being too ill to leave the camp.

The two men, by the utmost exertion of what poor strength the fever had left them, got the body on to the top of the bank, to a place where they could bury it.

The man was dressed in the usual bush rig; his clothes and boots were good, and he had a good watch in his watch pouch. It had stopped at 4 o'clock. In his other pouch there was a pipe, knife, and tobacco, and he had a revolver pouch on, but there was no revolver in it. On his temple there was an ugly bruise, which, from the discoloration, must have been made some time before death.

They had finished their examination, and had taken off the man's belt, with the pouch on, when Carthew drew attention, to the tightly-clenched hands of the deceased, and they opened the sodden fingers. In one hand were same twigs and sticks, in the other a crumpled and soaked letter.

Carthew spread it out gingerly and carefully in the sun.

'When it dries we may make something out of it, but I am afraid it has been in the water too long.'

They had laid the body out as decently as possible, and were about to return to the camp on get tools to dig a grave, when Reynolds suddenly clutched Carthew's arm.

'Isn't he like Maxwell?' he said. 'By Jove, the likeness is wonderful. Perhaps it's only the beard. Better not say anything to him while he's ill—it might be a relation.'

Reynolds nodded, and they went back to the camp; Carthew taking the half-dried letter with him. They had a meal, and discussed the probabilities of the man's habitation.

'There's a crossing twenty miles tip,' said Reynolds. 'He might be a traveller who tried to swim across, and got kicked by his horse.'

'What had he got the letter in his hand for? A traveller wouldn't do that. Any stations up the river?'

'Yes, two, on opposite sides of the river—one ten miles above the crossing and one fifteen. Above the top one the range comes in,' replied Reynolds.

'Well,' said Carthew, 'it's not a pleasant job, but we must bury the poor fellow, and get it over. I can spare a blanket to sew him up in.'

'Sorry I can't give you a hand,' said Maxwell, 'but I haven't the strength of a staggering bob.'

'We can manage, old man; it would only upset you.' And the two men went down to the river again.

They could not bury the poor wretch very deep, they were too fagged out, but they piled logs above, the shallow grave to keep it from desecration by the wild dogs; then utterly wearied out they returned to camp.

IT was nearly a week before the three men could leave the fever camp and travel slowly up the river to the crossing. During the time they had been detained Carthew had made an attempt to decipher the letter. It was in a woman's hand, and, as far as he could make out an invitation to someone to come and see her, for somebody else would be absent. The names were a smear, and, the whole thing a puzzle, too; it bore the appearance of a guilty assignation.

The crossing consisted of an embryo township of two pubs, a blacksmith's shop, and a habitation for a police trooper. Under the bright sunshine, down the fast-drying road, a young man rode the morning after the three travellers had arrived. He was such a good-natured, fresh, and innocent-looking young fellow that it was no wonder he was popular in the district. He dismounted at the best of the two pubs.

'Good morning Mr. Goring,' said the landlord. 'Maxwell's body has been found.'

'Impossible,' said Goring, with a start 'Where was it found?'

'Floating down the river. Some travellers, who were camped down the river, found it, and buried it. One of them is going back now with Walters, the trooper, to identify and examine it. They say there was a nasty bruise on the forehead.'

Goring drank his whisky slowly and deliberately.

'I must go with them,' he said, 'I am a J.P., and was his friend and neighbor.'

Once more the unhappy corpse that bad been the sport and plaything of the flooded river was brought into the glaring light of day, and fully identified as William Maxwell, the manager of Bovis Downs, the station ten miles above the crossing. Carthew, for half a dozen good reasons, had not mentioned the letter.

Goring was visibly affected at the sight of his old friend and neighbor, and expressed his relief when the body was decently re-interred in a deeper grave. Carthew made some excuse to ride ahead the following morning, for the distance had compelled the party to camp at the fever camp that night. He went straight up to the room where Maxwell was in bed.

'Can you manage to get up, old man?'

'I'll try, what for?'

'I want you to come in to the bar directly, when I give a signal. It's only an experiment. I'll tell you all about it presently.'

Maxwell languidly got up and dressed himself, and Carthew returned to the bar. The others had returned, and were in the bar drinking.

Goring was talkative, and excited. He was leaning hack against the counter talking to Walters and Carthew, when suddenly his face turned livid, and he put out his hand in a trembling manner and gave a frightened shriek.

'By God, earth and water won't hold him! It was an accident, I swear. He struck at me first. Keep him from me, men!'

And he slipped down in a convulsive fit, overcome by a terrible shock.

Maxwell, gaunt and hollow-eyed, looking the very image of the corpse, had entered the bar at the signal from Carthew.

When Goring came to himself, Walters arrested him for the murder of William Maxwell, but his nerve were shaken, and he made a full confession, which saved his life.

Young, foolish, and of a boastful nature, he had drifted into an intrigue with Maxwell's wife. On the day of Maxwell's death she bad sent a letter across the flooded river by a native, telling him that Maxwell would be away at the crossing that night. Whether Maxwell suspected them or not was never known, but instead of going to the crossing Maxwell rode down the opposite side of the river soon after the letter, and hailed for the boat.

Goring, who was preparing to leave, went over himself with the boat. Maxwell seemed friendly enough, and said he wanted to see him on business, so he entered the boat, and they started back, Maxwell pulling.

Now, out of boyish bravado and vanity, what must Goring do but take out Mrs. Maxwell's letter and commence to read it before her husband's face. Of course he did not expect that Maxwell would recognise the handwriting at the distance they were apart, but the situation appealed to his youthful conceit. Maxwell did recognise the writing, and in an instant the letter was snatched from Goring's hand, and he started up to find himself, confronted by a stronger man than, himself, in a furious rage.

Goring had a loaded thong in his hand, and in blind terror he struck at Maxwell and hit him in the temple. Maxwell reeled and fell overboard, nearly capsizing the boat, and when Goring recovered his wits he was no longer in sight.

Caught by snags, and detained in eddies, sheltered at times in quiet back waters, and at times exposed to the full force of the riotous flood, the corpse, still clutching the damning letter, had drifted down to near the fever camp, until Reynolds had seen and rescued It. Carthew's suspicions had been aroused by the letter. Blurred and blotched as it was, he had made out enough to show him its purport, and he naturally arrived at the conclusion that a woman would not make such an appointment with her own husband. The name was too smeared to decipher, but there was only one man, and that man was Goring.

The two Maxwells were cousins, but were not aware of each other's whereabouts. The guilty man's story was believed, and he got off lightly, but as when once more a free man Mrs. Maxwell found him out, and never left him alone afterwards, perhaps the scaffold would have been the most merciful punishment of the two.


Evening News, Sydney, 4, 11 Feb 1899


THE sombre shadow of the gorge we were riding through rather weighed upon our spirits. It may have been that, or perhaps the uncanny echo that waited on every word we uttered was the reason that we did not speak to each other.

It was in the Macdonnell Ranges, and we were following a gorge that seemed likely to lead us in the direction we wanted to go. Like many of the gorges of that region, the sides were more abrupt than are usually found I amongst the hilly country of Central Australia, and it seemed as though it would turn out a gorge that would carry us easily, through the particular range the rugged sides of which had frowned on us all the morning. It got narrower as we proceeded, and on either side were detached boulders that had fallen at one time or another from the sides. Sometimes they had rolled right to the middle of the gorge, and we had great difficulty in getting the pack-horses past.

'I hope we'll get out of this soon,' said Erskine to me in a low voice, 'We need not expect a bite of feed anywhere about here, and the horses did not have much between their ribs last night.'

I pulled out my watch, for the gorge was now so narrow and the sides so high that we could not see the sun. It was nearly three o'clock, and, like Erskine, I sincerely hoped that we would soon get on to less barren country. But it got rougher and rougher, until it seemed that our onward way would soon be blocked altogether, and we should have to retrace the long, weary way we had already come.

At last, our way seemed barred altogether, at least against progress with our horses, and we got off to examine the obstructions, and see if we could remove them. They certainly looked as though they had been placed there by artificial means, and, leaving the boy to look after the horses, Erskine and I clambered over the rocks and went on a few yards to see how it was ahead. For a short while it was no better; then it suddenly became clear, the gorge opened out, and evidently there was an improvement in the country. We looked about, but could see no tracks. Whoever had blocked up the passage had not been there lately.

We came back slowly, and came to the conclusion that by removing some of the worst boulders, which we might do by a lever, we could get the horses through one by one. But where to get a lever; the gorge was guiltless of timber, save for some gnarled shrubs. We looked up and down the gorge in vain, no timber was in sight anywhere.

I turned my attention to the boulders and saw something strange about the one immediately in front of us. It was locked in position by a good sized stone.

'Erskine,' I said, 'if we could shift that stone the boulder would roll away of itself.'

'By Jove, it's been done that way on purpose; fixed so that one man can shift the boulder if needed.'

'I don't quite see how one man could do it,' I replied.

Erskine regarded the stone with great earnestness. 'I think the slightest jar would shift that rock, and there's something about here to do it with.'

He began to search around, and the black boy and I followed his example. True enough we found a long, heavy sapling concealed amongst the rocks. Erskine poised it, and found that one man could manage it. He chose his position, and gave the stone chock a hard jarring thrust. It sprang out from under the boulder, and the rock released from the check rolled on one side of it's own weight. The first barrier was removed, but another and exactly similar one lay next.

'Hold on a minute,' I said, 'This is all very well, but what does it lead to? Whoever put these rocks in position did not want any visitors. How many men did it take to chock these boulders up?'

Erskine looked at them. 'Three could do it with good handspikes.'

'Shall we go ahead?'

'I think so, there are only two more.'

In five minutes they were shifted with the same ease as the first, and leading our horses through one by one we were soon riding on again. Very quickly the gorge developed into an open valley, and grass and timber began to put in an appearance. Still there were no tracks nor signs of those who had blocked up the gorge. Presently a watercourse began to form, and when others came in it assumed the appearance of a good-sized creek. 'If we get water we ought to camp,' I said. 'Then we shall have a clear day ahead tomorrow.'

Erskine agreed, and within a mile we came upon a hole in the sandy bed of the creek in which there was a very good supply of water. Here with much satisfaction we turned out, but on Erskine's suggestion we did not put the bells on the horses, as we did not know whom we had for neighbors.

The night passed quietly, although we did not sleep very sound, but everything was all well, and we were away from camp soon after sunrise.

'How long do you think those stones have been there without being moved?' I said as we rode along.

'A good while,' answered Erskine. 'I doubt If they have been moved at all since they were fixed up.'

'How do you account for that?'

'Just as you suggested. The people who did It blocked the place against possible visitors. They may have another way out for themselves. I suppose they have found something good here and don't want to be disturbed. May be gold, may be rubies.'

'You think it was whites then who did it?'

'Certain. Did you ever know blacks do such a thing?'

We rode on for five miles, keeping a good look out. The country had opened out considerably, and we were riding through a basin of open forest country which by the look of the ranges closing in ahead was not of any great extent. The creek, however, had rapidly attained a considerable size, and was well watered, but, strange to say no tracks of natives nor signs of recent encampments were anywhere visible. Soon rocky bars began to cross the bed of the creek, and the ranges, rough and rugged, loomed close ahead. There was no sign of a gap or gorge through which the creek could issue out of the pocket, and we were wondering what would become of it.

Suddenly and unexpectedly the question was answered. Erskine, who was ahead, pointed to a light like that of a plain visible ahead; then we saw the sheen of water, and the bed of the creek suddenly became shallow, and finally lost, and we found ourselves on the edge of the most dismal half-swamp, half-lake that I ever saw. The shore was mud and shallow water, a few tussocks of wiry reeds grew around, and a fringe of dead trees also bordered this marsh. The range rose abruptly on the opposite side about half a mile away, rugged, bare, and steep; and the marsh itself was about a mile long, encircled, excepting where the range formed on one side, by the ragged reeds and skeleton trees. From pleasant, open forest country we suddenly emerged on to the dismal shore of what seemed a marsh of death and decay.

'So that's what becomes of the creek,' I said. 'It drains into this lovely swamp.'

'Seems like it,' said Erskine. 'There's not much catchment area, so the soakage and evaporation account for any overflow; but I never came across a basin shut in like this one is without egress or ingress, except that gorge we came through.'

'And what's become of the men who blocked it up?' I said.

'Seem to have flown away. Devil a track of anything white or black have I seen yet.'

'Which way?' I asked.

'Doesn't matter; whichever way our horses heads are, I supposed. "Lay on, Macduff!"'

I followed the edge of the dreary swamp around, and Erskine droned behind, and drove the spare horses with the blackboy. Gradually we worked round the edge of the water to the range; but still saw nothing of any tracks or camp. Presently, on one of the dead trees standing at the edge of the sullen water I saw what looked like a rope depending from one of the upper boughs. I rode up to it, and, sure enough, it was a rope. But at the foot of the tree lay a dank heap of rottenness and bones.

We got off our horses and looked at it. It was the remains of a man, and a man who had been hanged. The rope had parted through weather and decay, and the wretched thing had fallen to the ground, and had lain there in the filthy ooze until only the bones and rotting rags remained to tell us that it had been a white man. The noose of the rope was still around the scattered vertebrae of the neck, and beyond that another knotted piece of rope told that the man's hands had been tied. The execution, murder, or whatever it was, had been carried out with due observance. It was no suicide.

The blackboy got a sheet of bark, and on it we put the remains, and removed them to drier ground. There seemed no article of any sort to determine who the poor thing was—no watch, knife, or even a belt buckle remained; only the skull grinned at us as if laughing at our attempts to find out who he was.

'This licks creation,' said Erskine. 'What do you make of it?'

'Only that there's been some sort of a tragedy here, and that we'd better go round to the mountain, and then back up the creek and get a decent camp, and turn out. We'll have to spend a day or two here, and I'm hanged if I like this dismal swamp to camp alongside.'

'Right you are,' said Erskine. 'I don't like the place any better than you seem to do.'

We rode on round the edge of the lake to where it washed against the foot of the range, and progress was stopped, but, could see nothing to cast any light on the hanged man. Turning, we went back, and, retracing our way a short distance into favorable country, camped on the creek. It was still early in the afternoon, and after we had turned out and fixed our camp our talk naturally fell on the strange discoveries of the day.

'We might as well go and bury that unfortunate,' said Erskine, as the sun began to sink. 'It is not more than a mile straight across.'

I nodded acquiescence, and, with such tools as we could muster, we started on our mission, leaving Paddy the blackboy to mind camp. Presuming that the heap of bones and nameless substance of some sort that represented defunct humanity was a white man and a Christian, we buried him with what maimed rites, we could remember, and then went back to camp.

'Where's Paddy?' said Erskine, looking round.

'Gone after 'possums, I suppose,' I answered, 'You never can trust a blackboy to stop in camp by himself.'

Sundown came, but Paddy did not appear. Erskine made up the fire and we had our meal as darkness fell, but still no sign of the boy. We were discussing his strange disappearance, when suddenly out of the darkness came a scared and frightened Paddy.

'Man come up!' was all he could say for some time. At last, when he had got his wind and had recovered a little courage, we got a curious story out of him.

He asserted that after we left to bury the hanged man, a strange white man had come to the camp. What the white man did or said we could not properly discover, but apparently he had frightened Paddy out of his senses, and he had cut and run for it. He stated that the man pursued him, but he got away and hid until dark; then he mustered up courage to return. The yarn was altogether wild and improbable, or at least would have been so but for our discovery of the body and the other singular surroundings we had happened on. That the boy had got a good fright was evident; but his story was so incoherent, that we could not well comprehend it.

He described the man as partly dressed in rags, with a wild demeanor, and eyes like a snake's.

'We'd better keep watch to-night,' said Erskine. 'Perhaps that genius will pay us a visit.'

We kept watch, but the night passed untroubled. Only the plover's melancholy cry came to us from the distant marsh.

In the morning Paddy showed us unmistakably the tracks of our visitor. We had no desire to move our camp, but the blackboy turned nearly white when we proposed leaving him alone in camp while we pursued our investigations round the other side of the lake. Finally Erskine volunteered to stop, for it certainly did not seem safe to leave the camp and horses unguarded, with an apparent lunatic knocking about. Paddy, it was evident, would have cleared out and planted as soon as we were out of sight, so I took him with me.

The end lake much resembled the one we had already gone round, but there was no human body about. When we got to the range, Paddy drew my attention to a cave, or what looked like the entrance to a cave, some distance up. I got off, and, telling Paddy to mind the horses, climbed up what appeared to be a well-beaten path towards it. I reached the spot and looked in. It was dark, and to enter one would have to stoop considerably.

I was just about to go in, when a yell of fright from below startled me. I looked down. Paddy had scrambled on his horse and was in full flight, my nag racing after him, while, pursuing both was a half-naked figure, with long beard and hair, racing nearly as fast as the horses. I was about to descend when It struck me that the den of the creature must be in the cave and now that he was not likely to return for sometime it would be a good chance to examine it. Paddy would so to camp, and Erskine would dame back to look for me, if the lunatic did not account for both. I drew my revolver, and went into the cave. It was dark and evil-smelling, so I struck a match, and by its flickering light I saw that it was used as a habitation.

I had but glanced around when I was attacked and borne down by the spring of a large dog, who commenced to worry my throat. If It had not been for having my revolver in my hand I should never have got up again. As it was, I fired three shots into the brute before his grip relaxed, and I got up more or less damaged. I had no mood for further explorations. I staggered out weak and bleeding, and sat down to get my strength back. Then, after a while, I got up and went down and bathed my wounds in the lake.


THE hurts were painful, but neither deep nor dangerous, and a good washing would probably remove all possible venom of the dog's teeth, so when I had washed them I went out on the bank, and considered the position. It was possible that Erskine would learn from the terrified Paddy where I was, and come to look for me. It was equally possible that Paddy would be too frightened to say anything, or that the lunatic would be too much for both.

I reloaded my revolver, and determined to start and walk; I had great faith in Erskine as being an all-round man, but what effect an excited nigger, chased by an equally, or more, excited lunatic would have on his nerves, I could not say. Probably, he would shoot the pair of them on spec; but he might get taken by surprise, and fall a victim to the lunatic. Therefore, although not much enamored of walking, I started back for camp at the best pace my wounds allowed me.

I had gone about three miles, when to my great relief I saw Erskine coming along towards me leading my horse.

'What's up?' he asked when we met.

'Paddy came home like a madman, your horse galloping after him.'

'Anybody behind them?' I queried.

'No, not to my knowledge, but Paddy must have had the devil behind him to judge from his looks.'

'Well, he looked very much like the devil, but as far as I could see, he was a human devil.'

'You saw him then?'

'Yes. That's the only thing I did see, except when I went into the old scoundrel's camp the dog tackled me, and got me down.'

I showed him my wounded hands and arms.

'He'd got a dog, had he?' replied Erskine. 'What became of him?'

'I shot him.'

'Let's go back and look at the cave. The dog's dead, and there are two of us, so one can stop and look out for the madman.'

'And Paddy,' I said. 'Trust Paddy for looking after himself. You bet he's up a hollow log by this time.'

I got on my horse and rode back to the range, and not feeling very adventurous after my encounter with the dog, I stopped below to guard the horses while Erskine entered the cave. He had been gone about twenty minutes when I heard him calling to me.

'Will you come up?' he said, 'or shall I come down to you; perhaps you're shaky still?'

He came quickly down to me.

'There's gold and rubies up there, a dead dog, and a dead female. You can account for the dead dog; but how about the dead woman?'

'How long has she been dead?'

'Goodness knows. She is a dried up mummy, and the gold and rubies are strewn all over her. You can tell she is a woman by the dress she wears. She's got up in state, and evidently the dog guarded her body while the lunatic went wandering about.'

'Here's the lunatic coming back,' I said.

Sure enough the desperate-looking wretch came back, wild-eyed as ever, but he would not approach us, but remained at a distance, crying out to us to know if we were white or not.

It was long before Erskine could get near him and tell him that we were willing to be friends, but at last he succeeded. Then the haggard spectre approached.

'Come,' he said, 'and I will show you my home.'

Muttering to himself he led the way to the cave, seemingly unconscious that we knew of it. I tied the horses up and followed. As soon as lie entered, his eyes, better accustomed than ours to the semi-dusk, detected the dead body of the dog. He gave a wild shriek:—

'Plutus, you are dead; who has killed you?' looked round, and fell in an epileptic fit on the earth.

We did what we could for him, but that was little. Presently the convulsions subsided, and he fell into an unconscious state. Then Erskine and I looked round the cave. On a slab of granite lay, as he said, the body of a woman, shrivelled to a mummy. She was dressed in an old dress, and on her lifeless breast lay a little heap of gold nuggets and dust, and some dull, uncut rubies. Not the common water-worn ones of interior Australia, but stones which looked as though, like diamonds, they awaited the mechanic's art to blossom out in their full lustre.

A movement of the man recalled our attention to him. He was coming back to consciousness, and his eyes had regained their sanity. But the man seemed dying. He looked round at us several times as we wiped away the bloody ooze from his lips; then spoke slowly, and with difficulty, and the tale he told was this:

'We came here, my mate and I—Franks was his name. I hanged him out there on a dead tree in the lake.'

'Hanged him?'

'Yes, I hanged him by myself, but first I had beaten him and stunned him. Never mind, I hanged him all right. Why did I hang him? Because the dead woman told him secrets she did not tell to me. We found the dead woman here, at least. Plutus, my dog, found her in this cave when he was hunting about. He found her, and always stayed with her. She was like this when we found her, the gold and rubies on her breast. After we had exhausted our wonder and surprise, we talked long about it; and decided that there were some ancient workings about, where some race of old had worked, and this woman was some dead priestess of theirs. Therefore, we must find these old workings. Then we blocked up the passage.

'We looked for them for months, until we both got gloomy and tired, and then strange things happened. The ghosts of the dead came out of the lake, and told us how the flood in the past had overwhelmed them and their works. Franks fell to coming to the cavern and talking to the dead woman, and she told him things, but me she would never speak to. So I determined to kill him, and then for want of somebody else, she would speak to me. We fought, and I beat him senseless. Then I took him round the lake so that he could not come and speak to the dead woman, and hung him on the tree while his senses were dead; and Plutus I watched me and howled. But the woman never spoke to me, and I got so lonely that I tried to find the gorge to get out again and find the horses we had left. But I could never find it. The blacks must have closed it up somehow. Then I remember no more, only that I lived here with Plutus.'

This was the substance of his story, and Erskine and I had before us the strange evidence of the mummified corpse, the gold and rubies, and the stagnant lagoon, besides the dead man and the dog. He never rallied, and our coining seemed to have snapped the thread of his mad life.

We buried him and the dog beside the body of his mate, whom he had murdered. As for the mummy, we left it in its sepulchre, the cave, as fittest. But I the rubies and gold we took. We searched throughout that strange basin, but found nothing more, and could only believe that there was some strange tincture of truth in the madman's yarn, and that some ancient race had lived and been entombed in that strange valley, and the rotting waters of the lake alone remained to mark their grave.

This happened in the early days of the overland line, and none, as far as I know, have found the place since.


As by "Dramingo"

Queenslander, 15, 22, 29 June 1878


"I THINK I have had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Mascham before!"

Certainly she had that pleasure; I for one had not forgotten it. And this is how it came about.

I like to lie in bed of a morning, consequently it generally happens that I put in a late appearance at the breakfast table. Where I am a privileged guest—as at Cumbeannah—I don't object to this, in fact rather prefer it, for I hold that it is much nicer to drop into the middle of a conversation—to find one ready to hand than to waste time, and good remarks probably, in vain attempts to start one. And then if your bedroom window opens on to the garden, how delightful to lie, and sleepily gaze at the blossoms peeping in at you; perhaps a dewy rose-bud, with a fragrant good morning breathing in every petal, or a spray of honeysuckle making as though it would like to come in if only it were not too bashful. It seems like repining at the goods the gods provide, not to indulge in a dreamy half-hour between sleeping and waking, before deciding to get up and encounter the prosaic outer world once more.

It was at Cumbeannah, my partner Wilmot's station, that I had been indulging in my favorite weakness on the morning on which my story opens, and was late at breakfast as usual. There was a small party of us there having a very jolly time of it. Wilmot's idea of making up a lively party was original; his plan was to get together as good a lot as possible, then dash an utterly incongruous element right into the midst. The incongruous element in this case was Proggleton—Proggleton, the Victorian capitalist, who had been investing largely in western country, and was now having a look round generally, and blowing the merits of Victoria with a trumpet of great power and volume of sound.

Queenslanders could only hide diminished heads when he commenced to perform upon his favorite instrument But I must apologise to the ladies, and beg Proggleton to fall back for a minute, whilst I introduce them. First, there was Mrs. Wilmot.

Gentle reader, please imagine the most amiable and most lovable little woman of your acquaintance, and there you have her. Nest came Miss Cassandra Mundersen, an elderly maiden sister of Mrs. Wilmot; severe, especially upon her own sex, and with an unmitigated down upon pretty girls. Then the two Misses Minchin, Vanessa and Rhoda, passably good-looking, passably accomplished, and carrying on alarmingly with Proggleton. Next, our beauty, Miss Delhanty, good-looking—in fact, almost handsome but undeniably stupid, running the two very hard for Proggleton.

Proggleton-n-n! I should like to give forth his name like a bugle-call, but print won't do it! An unsanctified beast! He had. been—well, there were half-a-dozen stories about his first start in life, but that was nothing. He might have been a hangman's apprentice, and then not a bad fellow—so long as he did not talk shop. But what we (the male element) objected to in Proggleton was not what he had been but what he was at the period of my story.

Wilmot admitted that in this instance the dash of incongruity was perhaps a little too strong; but he held out that Proggleton was a rare study, that compensated for many annoyances. The worst of Proggleton was the fact that he was trying to correct his social education, and also to make atonement to the letter h for his former ill-treatment of it. I will say that for him, that he worked diligently to remedy these deficiencies, and in both instances was partially successful. Only partially! that was where the sting came in; for, one minute he would be distressingly, oh, so distressingly polite, and the next, blusteringly, oh so blusteringly, boorish: you never knew where to have him. And his h's took a mean advantage of him at times, when he would at once go back and make sure of them, which was amusing at first but aggravating after a short while.

With the exception of Mrs. Wilmot—who gave him his fair share of attention as his hostess, and no more—the women went for Proggleton, and wore the Proggleton colors to a woman: he was single! and so were they. Wilmot called it the race for the Proggleton Cup, and used to say, "Wait! wait! I've got a dark horse, who will force the pace directly."

This dark horse, I found out from Mrs. Wilmot, was a Mrs. Peechy—a young widow, governess at the next station, Mundarabba, who was expected over daily, in company with her two young charges, aged respectively twelve and fourteen.

Mrs. Wilmot would afford me no information about the personal appearance of this mysteriously dark horse, saying I must judge for myself; but from Wilmot's remark I concluded that she was something striking.

There was another expected guest who delayed putting in an appearance, and this was Master Jack Avington, an old friend of Wilmot's and mine, who had ruined his liver in India, and was trying to rectify it in Queensland.

Well, to get back to this eventful morning again; on entering the breakfast room I saw that the seat next to mine was occupied by an unfamiliar morning toilette, that there were two strange girlettes at the table, and that when Mrs. Wilmot said "Mr. Mascham, Mrs. Peechy," a pair of soft brown eyes looked up at me as gravely as the eyes of a born coquette could look, and a gentle voice said, "I think I have had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Mascham before."

I can take a hint; and that look said, "No reminiscences at present," as plainly as the tongue could have done; so I sank down murmuring something about "feeling flattered at being remembered," and commenced my breakfast and the solution of the following enigma at the same time:—Why should Mrs. Peechy require silence on the subject of the whereabouts of our former acquaintanceship when we had simply been travelling companions for a couple of days?

Unconsciously I listened to Proggleton telling some of his European experiences to Miss Vanessa Minchin, commencing, "When I was at 'ome." Here the strange presence of Mrs. Peechy put him out, and he lost an h; he went back for it, however, like a man, and went on, "When I was at home—"

I heard no more, for it suddenly flashed across me that Mrs. Peechy did not call herself Mrs. Peechy formerly, but Miss Probit.

Even so. It was twelve months ago, and she might easily have married and buried a husband in that time, and be on the war path again. Women are very quick in these little matters sometimes.

The circumstances under which we met were as follows, if the reader will allow me to run away from breakfast again:—Ramshackle is a small bush township in Queensland—anywhere you like; I won't be confined to localities—consisting of a public-house, store blacksmith's shop, saddler's shop, carriers' families, and goats. Cobb's coaches made it a terminal point of one of their lines, and bringing you from a railway station in a day and a half left you to your fate and fighting rum, in Ramshackle.

I rode up to this pastoral municipality (a contradictory denomination, but let it pass) one day, intending to leave my horses, and proceed coastwards by coach. I had scarcely dismounted when a buggy, driven by a stern-looking gray whiskered old gentleman, and containing one lady passenger sitting behind, dashed up and pulled in, right at my horses' heels. The lady got up to descend, the grim driver looked neither to the right hand nor to the left, but straight between the horses' heads; and, being so close, I stepped up and offered my assistance.

An accurately-gloved hand was placed for a moment in mine, very well-made figure balanced itself easily on the wheel, and then came lightly to earth beside me. By this time a rising young Queenslander had gone to the horses' heads, so the veteran got down, and, still maintaining the same unbroken silence, marched into the sitting-room of the public-house and rang a fierce peal on the little hand-bell. The lady seemed rather undecided, and I certainly felt so: first she looked at a corpulent portmanteau in the buggy, then she glanced through her veil at me, and very bright eyes looked. I took the hint, also the portmanteau, travelling bag, shawls, too, and carried them on to the verandah. Out marched the white moustache, walked past both of us, looking apparently into space; reascended the buggy, gave young Queensland a cut with the whip in return for holding the horses, and disappeared at a hand gallop.

But for the substantial presence of the lady, the corpulent portmanteau, and the travelling wraps, I should have put it all down as an optical delusion. Apparently an elder sister of young Queensland now appeared to show the forlorn fair one a room, and favoring me with a gracious bow she disappeared, and I was left to go back to my interrupted task of unstrapping my valise. This accomplished, and my horses confided to the original young Queensland to take to the paddock.

I went into the public house, and after the manner of my countrymen had some bad brandy and water on the strength of my perplexed mental condition. The maid of the inn looked full of profound importance when laying the tea things in the little sitting-room that the inn boasted; the boy's boots she wore stumped and creaked twice as loudly as usual, as though they would proclaim some dreadful secret if not well watched. In fact the air of awful mystery that appeared to hang about the place was more befitting a haunted castle on the Rhine than a three-year old township in Queensland.

Under these circumstances I was not at all sorry to see the late arrival come out of her room, without her hat and veil, and give me a chance of verifying the opinion I had formed that she was a very pretty woman. I was quite right; she was very pretty, and, what's more uncommon, was capitally dressed. She had bright brown eyes, plenty of good hair, and cheeks and chin that fitted on to her white throat as though they belonged to it—not as though they had been put there by mistake. Add to all a remarkably graceful carriage that was evidently studied, but none the less pleasing, and she was decidedly a remarkable sort of woman to meet up the country.

She chatted well and easily about the topics of the day during our meal, although our ministering attendant still contrived to throw a dash of gloom over the banquet. However, I learnt that we were to be fellow-passengers in the coach that left in the morning, and I retired to rest on a bed 18 inches broad and 5 feet long, congratulating myself on my luck in having such a pleasant companion to go down with.

One strange thing I noticed, that throughout the whole evening the fair unknown never afforded me the slightest hint as to her name or residence, although on finding that we were to be thrown together for the next two days I had at once introduced myself.

As for the mysterious handmaiden, she said, "I don't know, sir," to any questions I put to her, so that I was altogether floored. The incognita was up betimes, and, unlike all but the very youthful of her sex, looked as well in the early morning as at any other time; so after having had the felicity of helping her up on to the box-seat, and taking my place beside her, we lost sight of Ramshackle just as the sun rose.

What a change came over my companion; as the last galvanised iron roof-top was shut out by a clump of brigalow, she became as confidential as heart could wish! That was her uncle who had driven her up to the township; such an old darling, but in great grief about his only son, who had done something—something wild (here my fair informant got rather vague and very red), and—and she had gone up to the station to obtain his forgiveness, and, having made his peace, was going back to send the prodigal home rejoicing. She was so glad that really the inconveniences of the journey were as nothing.

I remarked that she must have had a little trouble with her uncle, as he had an extremely determined look about the face. No, I misunderstood it—he was the kindest, best of men; but they had agreed not to speak at parting, lest emotion might overpower one of them; they had said good-bye before starting from the station, so that what I took for ill-temper was only deep-seated grief—too deep for words.

So with this thought "we skipped our dear uncle," and following the advice of the immortal Walrus "talked of many things." We were the only passengers; the driver's soul was centred in saying "Hi! get along up, down there!" to his horses; so it was a delightful tête-à-tête the whole way down. My charming companion seemed to have seen plenty of the world, and I began to wish we could drive on together for a week at least.

Having to help a lady in and out of a coach five or six times a day must of necessity force the intimacy very quickly, not to mention the hundred and one little wants that have to be attended to, and which give the gentle one an sir of proprietorship in you that she is seldom slow to take advantage of. By the time we readied the flourishing seaport of—anywhere Miss Probit had got into a pretty way of ordering me about that completely did for me; I was almost gone, but not quite.

No! not quite, but the last night nearly finished me. The steamer was to leave on Monday morning, and we got in on Sunday evening. There was nobody to meet Miss Probit at the railway station—her brother whom she expected could not have received her telegram; so I had to procure the young lady rooms at a quiet hotel, and as it was Sunday evening she expressed a great wish to go to church. Of course I could do no less than escort her there, and to see the look of pious devotion that came into that Madonna face was worth watching.

Pensive nun! devout and pure,
Sober, steadfast, and demure.

How could a man help falling in love with her? Why, when with clasped hands she gazed reverently up at the clergyman during the sermon, even he was affected, and preached quite a poetical sermon about "Angels upon earth in the guise of women," etc., and finally, when the benediction was pronounced, she drew a deep sigh and looked around with startled doves' eyes, as though she had been away somewhere in Paradise, and was astonished to get back to earth again.

So we said good-bye in the private sitting-room of the select family hotel (vide advertisement), and her voice faltered as she thanked me for what she called my care and attention; we would soon meet again, she was sure; and she gave me a look that nearly made me own up to a hopeless passion. "Good-bye, good-bye, my kind—friend!" and with tear-blinded eyes she left the room. And now—that we did meet again—it was evidently to be on the coolest terms of intimacy.

Who can understand a woman? Of course I did not expect she would jump up in a dramatic manner, crying "My friend! my guardian I do I see you at last? It is too much," etc. But why this stern silence? Not even the most distant allusion to the many adventures we had on the road down, not the faintest suspicion of a smile.

I engaged Proggleton in a fierce argument, and vanquished him. I flirted desperately with Miss Delhanty, who was trying to pique Proggleton. I felt very bitter, and smoked a wrathful and moody cigar on the verandah when breakfast was over. I was alone, I thought, and would have liked to have said "ha! ha!" in a fiendish manner—if I had ever been acquainted with a fiend, so that I could imitate him; but my education had been neglected in that respect, so I could only puff volumes of smoke into the passion-fruit.

"Mr. Mascham," said a well-known voice, "do, do let me apologise for my apparent forgetfulness just now; but if you knew how—how—" By this time a soft warm little hand was squeezing mine penitently, and I was protesting—"Really, Miss Probit—I mean Mrs. Peechy—there is nothing to a—apologise for."

"But there is. I must explain that not for worlds would I have it known that I was at all mixed up in that sad affair of my brother's."

"Your cousin's, was it not, Mrs. Peechy?"

"I mean my cousin of course. You, I am sure, will respect my confidence; I feel so safe in your hands; with anybody else it would be different. I would not dare to ask them; but with you—"

So a treaty of alliance, offensive and defensive, was ratified forthwith, and in discussing several things appertaining thereto I forgot to ask Mrs. Peechy how it was that she had changed her name to quickly.

Mrs. Peechy was a great addition to our party, and, as Wilmot said, she would force the pace with a vengeance. Proggleton was greatly struck, and the Minchin and Delhanty party came on with a rush, but had to fall back again. I felt rather jealous of Proggleton at times; but the way in which she used to mimic him when we were by ourselves was sufficient to put my mind at ease. Mrs. Peechy could sing very well but could not play, and was dependent on the other ladies for an accompaniment. She had a fresh strong voice, and great confidence: if—to use a favorite Americanism of the present day—if she did not exactly fetch the note she went after, she brought down something very near it. But the other girls invented another source of annoyance.

As I said before, Mrs. Peechy could not play, and when, with apparently the best intentions in the world, one of the opposite faction would sit down to accompany her, just when the songstress wad soaring amongst her clearest notes and warbling in her most expressive manner—crash would come some horrible discord in the accompaniment, and then the fair pianist would stop abruptly and apologise so sorrowfully—it was so stupid of her; she knew she could not play such a difficult accompaniment; she ought never to have tried; and the smiling young widow would look like a fair saint undergoing martyrdom, but blessing her persecutors to the last; leaving me lost in admiration at the wonderful self-control of women. We had to thank the restraints of modern civilisation that there were not "wigs on the green" many a night in that drawing-room.

But Mrs. Peechy had a tower of refuge in Miss Cassandra: she fought fair; there was a good deal of the masculine element about the "Oracle," as Wilmot used sometimes to call her, from a habit she had of delivering her opinions in three short pithy sentences—and she scorned taking petty advantages; so if she played she played conscientiously, and we got some very good music in the evenings.

But Proggleton was the grandest study at this time; he so evidently felt that he had perfect command of the position, and had only to throw his highly-scented handkerchief whenever he chose and wherever he chose. Not Malvolio himself behaved more fantastically at times than did this impersonation of capital. And then the hidden virtues that the women discovered in him! He was such a sterling fellow! Really, after all, intrinsic worth was far before mere outward refinement; he was so genuine, so frank, so different from the stereotyped people you met every day; so everything—but rich. The dear girls all protested in one breath that his wealth was his least charm. Not but what they were informed often enough of his store of treasure—laid up certainly where moth and rust do corrupt (but fashion changes too quickly now-a-days for moth to trouble, and rust does not sully gold)—but very tantalising for all that Proggleton the victorious, the irresistible, spared no opportunity of boasting of his financial transactions, and spoke as carelessly of thousands as Wilmot and I would of shillings. The social atmosphere was charged with a kind of monetary electricity that became often so oppressive that we used to feign business out on the run to get a little fresh air.

"I wish Jack would turn up," said Wilmot one day, as we were returning homewards from one of these excursions; and it really seemed as if his words had invoked a spirit, for the sharp canter of a horse sounded suddenly close behind, and the missing Avington pulled up between us.

"Talk of the devil," I said, not very politely, as I shook hands with him; "and why did you not let us know you were coming?"

"And what detained you?" added Wilmot.

"Business! Business! most important business!" returned Jack, with a laugh. "But really I did write, only I must have got ahead of my letter, for when I got to Willis' I found that you had not sent anything—either buggy or horse—to meet me, so borrowed this animal, and came on."

"Well, your presence is earnestly desired: we are at war, old man. You have doubtless read a good deal lately about labor and capital being antagonistic; here you will see it exemplified, and you must join the ranks as a combatant. Wilmot and I at present represent labor, Proggleton personifies capital."

"Proggleton, I know him; at least, met him once. Victorian man, isn't he?"

"He is an interesting product of that modest little colony."

"I can reach his weak point; he's fine fun."

"But the women are all on the capital side, or on the side of capital, whichever you like, Jack."

"All of them? One ally in that quarter would be invaluable."

"Oh! Alice of course is strictly neutral," said Wilmot; "but there's Mrs. Peechy; you might call her undecided."

"Mrs. Peechy?"

"Yes; governess from Mundarabba; she's here with the youngsters."

"Young, good looking?" queried Jack.

"Both," I replied; and as we were now close to the station little more was said. I was wondering what sort of an impression our widow would produce upon the new arrival; but was hardly prepared to see her give a very evident start at the sight of him—a start she cleverly covered by pretended terror of a lizard that just then ran across the verandah.

"I thought it was a snake, Mrs. Wilmot; and it went straight for the children; it gave me such a start!" she said with a pretty blush. Jack's face betrayed nothing.

It might have been fancy on my part, but I felt sure she was looking at Avington and not at the lizard when that scared look crossed her face. Our old friend was a glorious acquisition; the conversation grew quite healthy again. Proggleton fought hard, but was continually getting worsted. Jack would lead him into a discussion and get him excited; the inevitable consequence would be the defection of an h; then, while Proggleton was back looking for the delinquent, Jack would quietly pass the argument over his head to somebody else, and when our millionaire came up to time again with the culprit letter he would find himself quite left behind in the conversation.

But Proggleton bore it, and bore it quietly to my surprise. He and Mrs. Peechy were very confidential just at this time—much to my chagrin—and I think she must have given him a hint that open hostility would not avail against an enemy who was so cunning of fence.

But now a strange event happened that added considerably to my perplexity, and deepened the mystery that seemed to enshroud this too confoundedly good-looking widow—at least I began to find her so. But it must be reserved for the next chapter in this small romance.


THE third night after Jack's arrival it was full moon, and, enticed by the beauty of the night, we sat smoking on the verandah until the small hours were almost upon us. Wilmot retired first, followed by Avington—the ladies having been gone for some time. I commenced another cigar, and after favoring Proggleton with monosyllabic answers for some time had the satisfaction of seeing that worthy take his departure, and leave me the sole occupant of the verandah.

There was not a cloud visible, nor a breath of wind stirring, yet the night was comparatively cool; so calm was it that the flowers in the garden seemed really sleeping, and you could almost imagine that they would wake with a little start if you went and touched one of them. I think I must have been asleep too, as my cigar was out, and on looking at my watch found it was half-past two o'clock, when the sound of voices aroused me. Just for a second I heard them, some little distance away, and seemingly speaking in an undertone, but the night was so wondrous still that the slightest sound was audible.

After listening some time I could hear nothing more, so concluded that it was some of the men talking in one of the huts a short distance away. Throwing my lifeless cigar on to the grass, I was on the point of rising when I became aware of the fact that somebody was walking towards the house. Wondering much who it could be at such a time, I remained quiet. This late visitor approached the gate of the garden, and after a minute's hesitation, and apparent examination of the premises, entered and came to the front of the house.

Seated as I was in the shadow of the verandah, and partly hidden by a passion-fruit vine, I was invisible; but the intruder, standing on the little lawn in the white moonlight, was as plainly to be made out by me as if it had been the brightest noon. He was a stranger, a young-looking man, dressed like any ordinary traveller or sojourner in bushland, carrying in one hand a riding whip, in the other a white pocket-handkerchief; this last he displayed in a very ostentatious manner, almost as though it were a signal he was waving. Concluding that it must be somebody who had business on the place, but was unwilling to disturb all the household at such an unseasonable hour, I was about to make my presence known, when another actor appeared on the stage.

This person came out of the house and advanced to the middle of the verandah; this person was a woman, but so muffled up in a long wrapper as to be almost disguised; this person made angry gestures to the man outside to go away, and, throwing a piece of crumpled paper towards him, vanished back into the house as silently as she had appeared. This person—unless my brain was wandering—was Mrs. Peechy.

I don't think any of the other ladies could have achieved the graceful sweep with which she turned—fortunately away from the direction where I was seated, an interested, if bewildered, spectator. The stranger picked up the piece of paper, looked at it closely by the moonlight, and walked away.

Should I follow him? Out?

Cui bono! He would hardly tell me his business, and although in one sense I had a right to ask it, in another I had not; for evidently Mrs. Peechy had some sort of knowledge of him, and if she chose to transact business at half-past two in the morning, why who can baulk a fair lady's inclinations? Certainly it was not an amorous assignation: the coldest lover would hardly have gone away contented with such a hasty and distant interview, particularly when there was apparently no fear of interruption.

Thinking that Mrs. Peechy would in all probability be awake, and remembering with what awful distinctness sound is conveyed through a silent house at night, I—not wishing her to know that I had witnessed her strange interview—took off my boots, and stole to bed like a ghost. But I had noted the man's face well, and, having a little talent for sketching, I drew his likeness from memory in my sketch-book the next morning, and succeeded rather happily so far as I could remember. He was a good-looking fellow, with a certain flash air about him; looked as if he was a constant attendant at race meetings and other places where horsey men most do congregate.

Who so fresh and debonnaire at the breakfast table the next morning as the smiling young widow? Apparently not a thought or care had put a mark on the eyelids that enshrined those bright eyes, or traced a line on that smooth forehead. Proggleton was in great force; she was especially gracious to him that morning, and, in spite of all the doubts that harassed me, I was proportionately jealous.

Being in this spiteful frame of mind, I took a very mean revenge, that makes me blush to remember. We happened to be alone in the drawing-room shortly after breakfast, and I drew her attention to a book of engravings. She walked right into my trap.

"Mrs. Wilmot says that you sketch, Mr. Mascham. I should so like to see your sketches; will you show me some of them." This in her archest manner. Muttering some feeble protests, I produced the little book and handed it to her. She commenced turning over the leaves, commenting in the usual style of a lady critic:

"And this is Cumbeannah from the plain! Oh! what a dear little cow! How nicely you have this, but," etc. She was now almost at the page on which I had that morning sketched the likeness of her nocturnal visitor, and the next instant turned the leaf. The fidelity of the sketch to the original was guaranteed, for she turned white to the lips, and I felt as mean as a man could feel at seeing it, and knowing that I had caused it.

She quickly recovered her courage, and, making no attempt to disguise that she had been hard hit, closed the book, and, handing it back to me, looked straight into my eyes coolly and boldly. "Do your wont," that look seemed to say: "I will explain nothing; I defy and disdain you!"

Under her gaze the thought crossed me, how unwarrantably cruel I bad been to let her know that I had witnessed her interview that morning; to have seen which any of the laughing girls on the verandah would have given me one of their pretty little ears.

I took the book back, and her hand with it.

"Trust me," was all I could say for apology, but she seemed to understand that I meant that her secret was safe, for she pressed my hand, and genuine tears of wounded pride came into her eyes as she turned away. I put the sketch-book carefully under look and key, and joined Wilmot, Avington, and Proggleton, who were talking on the verandah, feeling that in more ways than one I had made a false step.

Jack was just commencing an old Indian yarn, apropos of something that I had not heard.

"Well he was about the coolest fellow I ever met. Once he received what he considered a very impertinent letter from a firm in business, under the name of Peake and Allen, actually requesting payment of their account which had only been outstanding three years. He was of course very indignant at such presumption, and replied as follows:—

"Gentlemen,—I am astonished and grieved in no slight degree at the tone of your letter, especially as the fact of your not having been paid rests entirely with yourselves. Some years ago I determined to pay off my debts alphabetically, and had you started in business as Allen and Peake, instead of Peake and Allen, your account would long since have been settled. As it is, I am afraid you will have to wait some little time, as I have not yet succeeded in liquidating further than the letter B. And at that letter I believe he stuck."

"And I suppose took care never to deal with a firm whose name might endanger his assets," said Wilmot.

"Did I ever tell you about Macgruffin's widow?" asked Proggleton.

"No! I should like to hear it," said Avington with suspicious warmth. "Do any of you know Macgruffin? As if any of us would know a man with such a name!"

Now, as Proggleton is not a very euphonious appellation, this was a trifle rude, but you must have noticed, dear reader, that a man under the influence of the tender passion is very often rude.

"Well, Macgruffin was a fellow—"

"So I presume," said Avington blandly, "but I thought you were going to tell us about his widow. If the man was alive it must have been his wife."

"No, it was another man's wife who—"

"Then what business had he with another man's wife?"

"No, no, another man's widow."

"But I thought you said it was Macgruffin's widow?"

"Wait till you hear," protested Proggleton. "We used to call her Mac's widow because—"

"Are you sure she was a widow?" I asked.

"Sure?—of course. Macgruffin's widow was the name she went by."

"Then what was her real name?" asked Jack.

"Oh do get on," said Wilmot, "I'm so interested."

"But they keep interrupting me," replied the millionaire, who was getting excited.

"What is the matter, Mr. Proggleton?" said Mrs. Wilmot, who just then joined us.

"Mr. Proggleton is going to tell us an amusing story, and we were delaying him till you were here to hear it," returned Jack.

"I shall be delighted," said our fair hostess, "if Mr. Proggleton will allow me to make one of his audience."

But that gentleman had turned sulky, and declined to satisfy our curiosity. It had just dawned across him that Jack had been bantering him, and the Padisha-like airs that he had been giving himself lately had elevated him to such a height in his own imagination that he could not brook such treatment, and stalked away to find consolation at the hands of Miss Vanessa Minchin.

The girls had got their riding-habits on, and we were about starting for a ride as soon as Mrs. Peechy put in an appearance. This she did almost directly, and looked so well in the dress that so very few women can wear with impunity that Proggleton immediately deserted Miss Vanessa—much to that young lady's disgust, and pushed forward to assist Mrs. Peechy to mount Greatly to his surprise, his services were declined, Avington being the lucky man selected for the duty. This surprised me, for Jack and the widow had not become very intimate during his short stay. However, the fair ones having been safely got to horse, we started.

Proggleton was rather out of temper, for I had taken his place with the lately-deserted Vanessa. Her sister Rhoda and the Delhanty were riding one on each side of Wilmot, and, to judge by their merry laughter, being most successfully entertained by him. Avington and Mrs. Peechy had dropped some what behind, so he was for a time an unhappy odd man until Miss Delhanty beckoned him to join her in a canter.

"Dear me!" exclaimed my companion about half-an-hour after we had started, "how slowly Mr. Avington and Mrs. Peechy are riding." I looked around, and certainly the pair in question did not seem in any hurry to diminish the distance that separated them from the rest of the party—seemed rather bent on increasing it.

"Piqued by Jack's indifference, and trying to bring him in captive," was the mental conclusion I arrived at, so dismissed the subject from my mind and devoted myself to the sprightly Vanessa, who was really a very nice girl—apart from the common failing of her sex,—and for that she had to blame the accident of her birth.

"Are you a good actor?" said Miss Vanessa suddenly, as if inspired by a hasty thought.

"Not particularly so," I replied; "but why do you ask? What recent act of hypocrisy have you detected me in?"

"I don't mean socially speaking; you are not at all a good actor there," and she glanced archly back at the pair behind us as though to point the thrust.

"What I mean is in private theatricals. As you know, we are all going over to Munderabba for the races they are about to get up there, and this morning were talking of trying something of the sort at night, if you gentlemen will put your services at our disposal."

"Mine you may be sure are always at your disposal."

"Don't mistake me for Mrs. Peechy. But do you think that Mr. Proggleton could act?"

"Yes; act the part of a bear," I said savagely.

"That's rude. He's a very nice fellow, and why you should all pretend to run him down I can't understand."

"He's such a favorite amongst you ladies that we are jealous of him."

"I really believe that is the reason, although you only spoke in jest. But to return to our former subject: Will you act?"

"Yes, if I am wanted, and you are going to be one of the company."

"Mrs. Peechy is, which will be a greater attraction for you."

"And who are the others?"

"Well, we reckoned on you, Mr. Avington, and Mr. Proggleton. My sister does not care about acting, and Miss Delhanty could not remember ten words of a part."

"But will none of the others at Munderabba be available?"

"No; we shall have no opportunity to rehearse with them, so we must get-our material here."

"Well, I am always at your command, and I can answer, I think, for Mr. Avington. Mr. Proggleton will doubtless be only too glad; there's a character in 'She Stoops to Conquer' would suit him admirably."

"Spiteful again. How jealous you must be of his favor with Mrs. Peechy."

"At any rate Jack is in a good place in that race at present."

"Yes, they seem to have a very engrossing topic behind there. Let us canter on, then perhaps they will follow."

There was to be a display of social fireworks at Munderabba, the station where Mrs. Peechy had charge of the education of the rising generation. Picnic races were to be the order of the day, and we were all going over in a body.

Our neighbors there, Mr. and Mrs. Blackstock, were a very worthy couple, with a tendency to put on "side;" but it was a harmless failing, and we all liked them very much. Mrs. Blackstock always had a pet subject for the time being, to bore people with, and just now it was her astonishing good luck in obtaining the services of Mrs. Peechy to educate her daughters.

True, it was a pity that the widow could not play; but still her daughters were very young, and in everything else Mrs. Peechy was far above the average; and as for her French, her accent was of the purest. As neither Mrs. Blackstock nor her husband understood a word of French, I was rather puzzled to know how they had determined the purity of Mrs. Peechy's accent.

But what had evidently been the substantial foundation upon which Mrs. Blackstock had erected her temple of admiration of Mrs. Peechy was the aristocratic nature of the testimonials she had produced—brought with her from England. They had, to use an Americanism, quite "fetched" Mrs. Blackstock. First there was one from Baron Blumenthal, written in such marvellously bad English, and in such a scrawling hand, that nobody could read it. Next, the Countess of Turnberry's handwriting bore witness to the pain with which the countess had parted with Mrs. Peechy. There were several more, all titled names, that Mrs. Blackstock showed me one day in a fit of confidence; but one signed "Jean Vicomte d'Abord" attracted my attention, because I felt certain that I had seen the handwriting before—when or where I could not recall, but I was convinced that I knew it; however I said nothing, but quite agreed with Mrs. Blackstock as to the high value of the treasure she possessed.

Men are curiously constituted in one particular—that is, that let a woman once establish herself in your fancy, and no amount of mystery enshrouding the object of devotion will shake your fealty. A sort of innate loyalty to the clay-fashioned idol of one's own making keeps one from accepting anything except the most unmistakable testimony. So it was with me at this time; the widow had thrown the spell of her brown eyes over me; and, though I felt that there must be something very strange in her antecedents, I still used to admit to myself at times that it was on the cards that I might make a fool of myself.

Our rehearsal now became the amusement of everybody. We had Wilmot as prompter and general stage manager, and the ladies who were not going to act as an audience. Miss Vanessa, being a clever girl, came out very well, but as for Mrs. Peechy—she was the admiration of everybody.

Her impersonation of character was certainly good, but her knowledge of stage business was the great secret of her success. She made every point tell, and knew exactly where to place herself so as to make them of the greatest advantage.

But Proggleton was immense! Avington and I entered into a solemn compact to fool him to the top of his bent, and we succeeded to perfection. We did it of malice aforethought, and the womenfolk aided and abetted—doubtless with ulterior motives, but still in a manner that kept the Victorian in a state of self-complacency it would have been hard to shake the foundation of.

In the last scene of the little comedy we were rehearsing he had to fight a duel with Avington, and in this situation he really fancied himself. He used to march to his place as though he was the ghost of Hamlet's father amalgamated with Lord Chesterfield, and extend his arm with a look of gallant determination on his face that fairly convulsed poor Jack, and put him hors de combat before the fatal shot was fired. However, it all went down splendidly; the women kept their countenances to perfection, and Proggleton became convinced that he had missed his vocation in not taking to the stage earlier in life.

It was a very fair race between Vanessa and the widow at this period; as Wilmot expressed it, the betting was level, and he'd put his money on either horse. But I must say that my feelings at the time were not enviable. I have already taken the reader into my confidence as to the true state of my inclinations; but I was sedulously striving to keep my partner and Avington in the dark. They both thought that I had a fancy for a desperate flirtation with the widow; but neither gave me credit for the deeper emotions that were plaguing me. And so the time drew on for the races at Munderabba, only one noticeable event occurring in the meantime. In the duel scene we had to use revolvers, they being the only stage property available.

One afternoon soon after lunch we strolled out a short distance from the house, and were amusing ourselves with a little pistol practice; presently the ladies joined us, and some of them expressed a desire to try their bands at shooting. Miss Delhanty was the first to take pistol in hand, and, with many affected little screams and starts, put us all in mortal terror of our lives until Wilmot steadied her wrist, and the revolver and a shriek were discharged together.

Miss Vanessa, supported by Proggleton, made a very fair shot at a big gum tree, which was tied by Mrs. Peechy, and, as none of the others wished to distinguish themselves as marksmen, Miss Vanessa and Mrs. Peechy had another trial of skill.

Really it was, above all, a capital study to note the two women; and, in the cynical frame of mind I then was, I enjoyed it immensely. Both were so conscious of their good looks, and adopted so many little artifices to heighten them.

To see the fair Vanessa lift the pistol, glancing archly along the barrel with a roguish smile like a modern Cupid taking aim at one of his mother's doves; then lower the weapon again, complaining in a playfully pettish manner—with a comprehensive look all round that was meant to finish everybody within killing range—

"Oh, it is no good my firing; I am sure I can't hit anything; or I shall shoot somebody, I know I shall."

Then Proggleton tried a compliment about her eyes, and shooting people, in which he got very much mixed, so that nobody could possibly make head or tail of it; but doubtless Vanessa thought that the intention was good at any rate, for, re-assured by it, she took aim anew, and, more by good luck than management, put a bullet right into the mark she was aiming at. And then with what a little laugh of satisfaction she surrendered the pistol to her rival, who took it with the most loving smile that ever beamed on a woman's face; although I have not the slightest doubt that she would have put the deadly bullet it contained into a carefully selected spot in the well-fitting dress of the lady handing it to her, and have slept the sound slumber of triumphant innocence after it. Mrs. Peechy took the revolver and looked very confidently along the barrel.

"By Jove," whispered Jack to me with a chuckle, "if we would only all clear out and leave those two together they'd measure off twelve paces and settle the thing quietly without any seconds."

The widow, knowing that the attitude she was standing in displayed her lithe figure to perfection, remained with arm outstretched and her well-poised head slightly thrown back, taking a quiet steady aim while a man might count thirty; then she fired. Those who had sharp eyes could see the bark fly close to where Vanessa's bullet had entered. Avington went over to the tree. It was a very pretty shot, having struck within an inch of the other ball—the mark she had aimed at.

"Allow me to compliment you on your skill, Mrs. Peechy," said Wilmot.

"Was it really a good shot, Mr. Wilmot?" she returned in an amusingly ingenuous tone.

"A very good shot with such an uncertain weapon as a revolver."

"But it was quite an accident, quite. I never fired a pistol before in my life." When a lady chooses to make a statement of the foregoing order, who shall refuse to give it credence? But I know I never saw Jack Avington look so grave in all my life, and yet somehow I found it impossible to catch his eye.


PROGGLETON, the Proggleton of every-day life, was irritating, exasperating, and aggravating enough, goodness knows; but Proggleton on the racecourse at Munderabba, arrayed in a silk jacket—like Joseph's coat of many colors—elate with the prospect of carrying off the Ladies' Bag, the great event of our little meeting, basking in the smile of the widow and the maiden—generally speaking more blatant and self-asserting than ever—what was he but a thing to be remembered for years in bad dream; he was a fit of indigestion incarnate.

Mrs. Peechy had made his jacket, Miss Vanessa his cap; he had lost gloves to the ladies and had won small money bets from the rest of us, so that nothing was wanting to complete his satisfaction. Had he lost a bet of ten shillings the thought of it would have hung like gloomy shadow over the rest of the day's pleasure, and completely ruined it.

The races promised to be a success. In addition to our somewhat large party from Cumbeannah, the other stations round about had contributed contingent, and matters were getting off very smoothly.

One of the chance visitors attracted my notice from his resemblance to the nocturnal visitor to Cumbeannah; in fact so closely did he resemble the individual in question that I felt I could safely put him down as the man. Young Blackstock introduced him as Mr. Probit, and, from what I could gather, his acquaintanceship with him must have been of very recent date. Beyond the fact that he was there, and had been staying in the neighboring township for the last week or two, nobody seemed to know anything about him.

Mrs. Peechy had preceded us to Munderabba by a couple of days, in order to assist Mrs. Blackstock in her house-hold preparations for the entertainment of her guests, so that it was impossible to judge upon what footing the widow, and the mysterious stranger had first met, but on the course they seemed rather distant—at least on the lady's side.

The Ladies' Bag was the race about to come off, and Avington, Proggleton, and I were all going to ride for the prize, which of course contained contributions from all the fair ones of the district. Wilmot had given Jack and the Victorian the pick of the horses on Cumbeannah, to ride over and enter for any of the races if so minded; and the millionaire, with his usual luck, had secured the smartest horse we had on this place, so that lie stood a very favorable chance of carrying off the victory. There were about ten entries altogether, and only for Proggleton's bad riding the race would have been a foregone conclusion. As it was, it was well contested by three—Avington, Blackstock, and Proggleton. I was about twenty yards behind them, and the rest nowhere, when they passed the winning-post.

From my position I could not see who was the winner, but what I saw was Jack's horse stumble and fall as he was pulling him in, and when I got up Master Avington was picking himself up with a broken collar-bone. A sapling cut close to the ground in clearing the course had caused the mishap, which fortunately was no worse, as had it happened during the race the rider's neck would most likely have suffered.

Avington got any amount of sympathy of course, and, after fixing him with a figure-eight bandage and sling, he watched the rest of the proceedings In state, surrounded by an attentive bevy of self-constituted nurses. But he had won the race, much to Proggleton's disgust, who was third, Blackstock being second, only a head behind Jack. Proggleton turned very sulky immediately. I am not sure but that he felt rather rejoiced at Jack's mishap, and looked upon it as a judgment upon him for daring to beat such an important individual as himself. Miss Vanessa tried to console him, and seemingly succeeded so well that she flattered herself that she had scored a point; but then the widow showed out equally well in her gentle attentions to the disabled winner, so that even a rival had to confess the power of such an exhibition; and perhaps after all she scored as many as the artless Vanessa.

But the last race was over, the private matches decided, and we all adjourned to the station, when a new difficulty arose. Jack's accident threw our private theatricals out of gear: who was to take his place? Proggleton was awfully put out at the idea of all his rehearsals being wasted, and got sulkier than ever. But an unexpected volunteer put in an appearance: no other person than the mysterious Mr. Probit. He said that he had acted the part before, and, give him time to read it over once or twice, thought he could manage to get through with it. Need I say that his offer was joyfully accepted? The girls had killing dresses prepared for the occasion, and it would have been a thing to be deeply deplored that they should not have had the opportunity of displaying them.

It was a calm night, and we had fixed the verandah up as a stage, the audience being seated in the open air. This was Mrs. Peechy's idea, and met with universal approbation. Behold us all then at 8 o'clock taking final looks at our parts, and feeling as though we should like to back out at the very last moment. Proggleton was very nervous indeed.

"I feel as though I could not remember a word," he said to me, piteously. "I know that new fellow will put me out; I had got used to Avington, and he would prompt me a little; but now I'm awfully nervous."

I comforted the despondent amateur as well as I could; but I did not feel so very confident myself, particularly when the curtain drew up and I had to face the audience with a soliloquy to start with. But I got through it, and when Mrs. Peechy came on the stage we got on swimmingly, and the first scene closed amid loud applause—the new actor, Mr. Probit, turning out a first-rate acquisition. Proggleton managed to stumble over his part in the next scene, was cleverly picked up by the widow, and put on his feet by Miss Vanessa; and the first act was over.

Proggleton wiped his perspiring brow and fortified himself with some brandy and water whilst the ladies were making some change in their dresses for the next act. Probit was standing idly toying with the revolvers that were to form the firearms in its duel scene in the third set, and I was looking at him and wondering who the deuce he was. Was he the cousin that Mrs. Peechy bad interceded for with her stern looking uncle? If so, why not acknowledged as such? Why set as strangers towards each other? Had his sin against society been of so deep a dye that he could not be reinstated? or what was the meaning of it. Certainly if he had been a relation of mine I should have been very glad to have had an excuse to shunt him, for he was anything but good form; at least that was the idea that struck me in my then savage state of mind.

I was interrupted in my train of thought by a remark of Proggleton's—

"Are those things loaded?"

"I believe not: but I'll put the blank charges in," returned Probit.

They were Tranter revolvers of the old-fashioned style, and were to be loaded with powder for the duel scene, in which Probit took Avington's place, The remark had scarcely been made when Miss Vanessa tripped lightly into the room, and going up to Proggleton, asked him coquettishly to button her glove for her; and of course he was only too glad; and of course she slowly strolled away off the stage, and he, in duty bound, followed, just as Mrs. Peechy came in and was about to make the same request to him if she had not been forestalled, Failing him, she turned to me, but I was sulky, and, after buttoning the glove as required, fought shy of any little flirtation, and pretended to be absorbed in looking over my part for the next scene, and, with it in my hand, I went off just as Mrs. Peechy was addressing some remark to the mysterious Probit, which I did not catch.

I strolled once up the verandah and back again. Somehow the scene that I saw on my return has always been fixed on my memory. As I said before, the stage occupied the centre part of the verandah, and the audience ware sitting on chairs put out on the lawn in front. The verandah being temporarily enclosed with calico, the stage only occupying about 15 feet or so, there was of course a wide space on each side. I was walking up and down one of these wide spaces, the widow was on the part forming the stage, and the rest were on the other and of the verandah. Mrs. Peechy was standing near the table whereon the pistols were lying, looking fixedly and fiercely away from me at—There were two figures standing at the far end, in partial shade, and remarkably close to each other, a decidedly lover-like position in fact; but she was not looking at them with such a vindictive look in her brown eyes; there was a man standing half-way, a man looking moodily down, and kicking one foot impatiently against the verandah post, whilst his hand twisted his manuscript part about. Probit and the widow was looking at him, or I was much mistaken. I turned and walked back. When I reached the end the bell rang for us to commence the second act, and the mock comedy took the place of the real one.

After the second act was over I had not to appear again, so took my place amongst the audience, between Jack—who was furnished with an easy chair—and Mrs. Wilmot We wars all watching anxiously for Proggleton's appearance in his pet situation, and when he did come on we greeted him with a round of applause that made him beam with self-complacency. The quarrel commenced, Probit acting really well. In due time the pistols were produced and the ground measured; two quick reports, one much louder than the other, and Probit fell—everybody said in a most ungainly and unnatural manner. It might have been so, but still when Wilmot and I went on to the stage he was as dead as a man could well be, for Proggleton had shot him through the heart.

Amidst the scene of dismay and excitement that ensued I can distinctly remember two things: I never saw a woman more calm or self-possessed than Mrs. Peechy was; and I never saw a man with a look of greater horror on his face than Jack Avington—but then perhaps he had not quite got over his fall.

Poor Proggleton, I did feel for him. When he kept piteously explaining to everybody that he could not possibly be aware that the pistol was loaded, he was an abject spectacle. He evidently thought that he would be hanged, and every bit of windy conceit and self-sufficiency vanished at once under the thought of such an impending doom.

When we got things a little quieter, and began to enquire into the affair, it really was a most inexplicable accident. The unfortunate man had loaded the revolvers himself; I saw him doing it, so did Proggleton, and, to the best of her belief, so did Miss Vanessa Minchin; so also did Mrs. Peechy; he was doing it when I buttoned her glove for her.

How could it have happened? It was a perfect mystery that no one could solve, and the unhappy victim, whom no one knew, was buried before it was solved. Was it ever solved? Partly, perhaps.

A magisterial enquiry was held as to the cause of death, and Proggleton was acquitted of all blame; but the shock had done our friend good, and when he took his leave of us he was a milder-mannered man than when I first introduced him to the reader.

And the Proggleton Cap was still unwon: Vanessa had played every card in her hand, but she had not the nerve of her rival; when everybody was helpless and worse than useless, the widow had come to the fore. Mrs. Blackstock might retire to her room and become invisible, indulging in wild lamentations that such a thing should have happened in her house. Old Blackstock might indulge in unlimited nips with, and tearful partings from his guests; but the widow took the reins of government into her hands, and elicited everybody's admiration by the way in which she handled the team.

Wilmot and I remained behind to render what assistance we could, and, when a day or two afterwards we rode over to Cumbeannah, we found everyone still full of the sudden catastrophe that had put a stop to our merrymaking. Proggleton was on the eve of departure, only awaiting our return to start to the congenial climate of that little colony that bean the name of our Queen. Jack was low-spirited and reserved—something more than the fall had evidently upset him. Mrs. Wilmot looked rather fagged and bored, and a decided change had come over our little party of a week ago. Proggleton left Combeannah, and as an active character he disappears from this narrative. That he did not propose to Hiss Vanessa before leaving was evident: first, because of the peculiarly snappish temper that young lady evinced towards every woman she came In contact with; and, secondly, because of the more than amiable manner she developed towards Jack and me, the only two eligibles left within range.

About a fortnight after the accident at Munderabba, old Blackstock drove over with Mrs. Peechy to call on Mrs. Wilmot, Jack was still wearing his arm in a sling, and resolutely kept it there, so that he was not able to benefit by taking the hand the fair lady so kindly extended to him. Mrs. Peechy was leaving—was going south as soon as Mrs. Blackstock was quite recovered from the shock to her nervous system caused by the sudden death of Probit I heard the news without any feeling of sorrow; my passion, or rather infatuation, had received a sudden check—as sudden as the unfortunate man who succumbed to Proggleton's bullet; in fact, I was rather glad to hear that she was going, and looked on at the loving farewells extended to the ladies on Cumbeannah with perfect equanimity. Vanessa and the widow parted like heart-broken sisters; I don't mean to say that some of the stern joy that warriors feel in foemen worthy of their steel was not in that embrace, but the outward and visible sign was one of deep and tender sorrow. And whilst, they were wiping tearless eyes and watching the disappearance of the buggy, the widow's character suffered severely, yon can easily imagine.

Then the paternal Minchin came for his daughters and Miss Delhanty, and we were left alone with the events of the past to talk about.

In about a month Jack's arm, or rather shoulder, was quite well, and at about the same time a notice in the Melbourne Argus informed us that Mrs. Peechy had won the Proggleton Cup, her marriage with Proggleton being chronicled therein.

"Come for a stroll, old man; I want to speak to you," said Jack, after we had discussed the above item of news. "Do you know what Mrs. Peechy, as she chose to call herself, was when I first knew her."

"No, but I always thought you were old friends or acquaintances, whichever you like to call it."

"Yes, so we were. Of course I never said anything even to you, because it was a woman's secret, and as such sacred; but now it can do no harm, and there is another subject I want to talk to you about Mrs. Peechy was a clever little second rate actress in Brussels."

"Which accounts for her knowledge of French and singing, without any other accomplishment."

"Yes, and that poor devil who was shot at Cumbeannah was her husband."

"I half guessed something of the sort, but not quite that How did you know it?"

"I met a fellow some eighteen months ago who told me the story, not thinking that I should see the end of it. This young Probit's father had a station; being a very strict and severe man with his children, as a natural consequence the boys all went to the bad as soon as they got out on the world, and the eldest one married our friend the late governess at Munderabba. Old Probit was in England at the time, and when he came back and found that Us son had taken unto himself a wife without his sovereign leave or pleasure, and that moreover the said wife had nothing but her face as a fortune, he was pretty disgusted. There was no particular reason for his cutting up so very rusty about it, for the girl was quite good enough; in fact, too good for the unfortunate fellow; but he was one of those domineering old fools who want everything done according to their orders. So rows very soon commenced on the station. You can fancy that the widow, as we thought her, was not the sort of person to be sat upon with impunity; she has a very pretty notion of taking her own part; doubtless also she began to find station life, with a fool for a husband, rather monotonous. Anyhow, things came to a climax at last, and they agreed to separate, the old man offering to give her a certain sum of money on condition that she took another name. She jumped at the offer and came away." (I thought of Ramshackle, and the parting there.)

"Young Probit took to drinking after his wife was gone, and finally his father hunted him. I suppose he has been wandering aimlessly about the country ever since, till his unlucky fate drove him here."

"Perhaps he was hard-up, and thought to get some money from his wife?"

And I told Jack about the scene I had witnessed at Cumbeannah in the early morning.

"Phew!" said Avington, "I begin to see things clearer now. I remember my informant told me that he thought he had degenerated into a third-rate bookmaker, or something of that sort."

"But, Jack, do you think she was seriously in earnest, or only going in to cut the other women out? I mean at the start."

"Heaven knows! Trusting to the chapter of accidents."

"Accident! Was it an accident?" Jack looked at me when I made this remark, and I saw that the same awful thought had struck him.

"No; it can't be. Surely she had no hand in it?"

"I never thought of it before, because I did not know that she had such weighty reasons for Probit's death. But if anybody touched the pistols after be loaded them it was Mrs. Peechy."

"Did you see her touch them?"

"No; but she was standing by herself at the table where they were lying."

"This must be a secret between us; it can do no good now. Whether shot by accident or on purpose, the man is dead. She is married again, and a deuced deal too good for the man who has her."

"Queer morality, Master Jack; but what magnificent pluck that woman mutt have. If she did put the bullet in the pistol, and make that brute commit a murder, just remember how perfectly calm she was. She was the only woman there who showed any self-possession at ail."

"The more I think of it, the more satisfied I am that she did do it. The pistols were different sizes, and it would have been easy for her to ensure Proggleton getting the one loaded with ball. It was a sudden thought, and but for that unlucky spill I got that fellow might have been alive now."

"Oh dear; I ought to be very thankful to Proggleton, for, but for him, I might have—"

"Not at all, old man," said Jack, taking my arm. "Her secret was safe with me only so long as the ordinary run of mortals were concerned. A fellow must draw the line somewhere, and with regard to her I drew it at you. She might hare thrown the hatchet anywhere else with impunity."

"And she did. But that murder was too awful. I hope it was an accident. What made you look so cut up that night? You suspected nothing then?"

"No; but the woman's callousness horrified me. I knew it was her husband who was killed."

"Jack, who was the Vicomte d'Abord?" I asked, as a sudden thought struck me.

"The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices, etc.," said Jack. "I remember at a quiet little supper years ago, in that jolly town—when you know it—called Brussels, Miss Peechy announced her intention of leaving the stage and getting a billet as governess somewhere. It was hailed as a good joke, and we all wrote her recommendations on the spot I confess that I was the Vicomte d'Abord."

"And what shall we do about this affair?"

"Do? What can we do? The man's dead. It's all surmise on our part. She's won the cup; let her keep it. But my dear fellow, don't you think it's a retribution on our Victorian friend? I trust she won't get number three to put him out of the way for her."


As by "Dramingo"

Queenslander, 12 February 1876


THE end of a dry season; the roads foot deep in dust; the grass, what was left of it, as brown as grass could be; the waterholes dwindled down into puddles of liquid mud—in fact, everything looking just as it always does after an Australian drought, as though it only wanted a fire-stick put into it to burn the whole concern up, and forestall the last day.

It was just sundown one day, daring this desirable, period of the year, when a traveller came cantering along the road leading to the Stratford station. On he went, raising as much dust as a marching regiment would in any other country, until he pulled up at the slip rails, dismounted, let himself and hone in, and wended his way up to the homestead.

The house he was approaching was the usual style of thing in the bush: two or three rooms, and verandah, with smaller huts scattered around. A very tall man was leaning against one of the verandah posts, smoking. He turned as he heard the horse's tread, and welcomed the horseman by the name of Jackson. They shook hands, Jackson unsaddled his horse, and they went inside. The tall man's name was Starr, and he was the owner of the place. Jackson handed him a couple of letters, remarking as he did so that he heard he was mustering, and had come down to look after his cattle if it was the case.

"No," said Starr, as he broke the envelopes, "I was only getting some fat cattle for Blatherskyte; I start to-morrow with them."

"The beggars told me you were mustering down hen, so I've had my ride for nothing. Luckily I am not very busy, for one can't do much till we get some rain."

"Well, I'm glad to see you down here. Tea will be in directly."

"I will just rinse some of the dust off," said Jackson, stepping into one of the bedrooms.

A trampling was just then heard outside. Starr went out, and was immediately greeted by name by one of the newcomers—a young and good-looking man. The other was dark-eyed, with a black moustache, and rather a theatrical looting personage.

"Why, Starr, you an looking jollier than ever. I think you have grown even taller since I last saw you."

"Glad to ate you back again, Harris," returned Starr as they shook hands.

"Mr. Haughton," said Harris, indicating his companion.

Starr bowed, and Jackson made his appearance, giving his face a finishing rub with a towel.

Harris and he were old friends, so his greeting done, and Mr. Haughton having been presented for the second time, they went inside.

"What is the news from Blatherskyte, Harris," said Starr, when they were all seated at tea.

"Any amount of gold being got by some; nothing by others. Mr. Haughton is one of the unlucky ones."

The other two glanced enquiringly at the stranger, who had scarcely spoken as yet. He remarked that he had been up there for the last six months, that he went on to the field with money, and had now scarcely enough left to carry him off; so his luck had not been in.

"Everybody drunk last night," said Harris, taking up the thread. "We were going to have a concert, but the singer got too drank to sing, and the audience to listen—so that it was a failure as far as the melody of the affair went. You are going up to-morrow, did you not say, Starr?"

"Yes, I start in the morning, with some bullocks, and expect to get in some time during the nest day. Any water at the twenty-mile creek?"

"Yes, enough to do you, and that is about all. When will you be back?"

"I intend to come straight back the day after I get in. I am going down to Imberwalla, to take down some gold I want to get rid of."

"You will be worth sticking up."

"Yes, I shall; for old Jawdon, the butcher, owes me for half of the last draft, which I shall get this time. I shall have about seven hundred, mostly in gold."

"Well, that is not such a great sum, but many a man has lost his life for less.

"I hope that is not going to be my case," replied Starr; and after the usual bush talk about horses and cattle they rose from the table.

"Where is your old hut-keeper?" said Jackson, after the things were cleared away. "I had a row with him thin morning; he had been here too long, and was getting cheeky, so he went this morning. This man happened to be passing, and wanted a job, so he got the place."

"I never did like that other fellow, he had an evil look about him," remarked Harris.

"He was a very good cook," returned Starr. "Let us have a game at whist," he said, rising. "Do you play, Mr. Haughton?"

"I don't mind taking a hand."

They sat down, Harris and Jackson against Starr and Haughton. They played for some time, but after the first game or two all the luck went over to Haughton and his partner. Harris, who was a volatile sort of fellow, after a great deal of restlessness, proposed changing the game to euchre. The game was changed, but not the luck; Haughton and Starr still won. It was about ten o'clock when they left off playing, the winnings then amounted to a couple of pounds or so.

Haughton proposed to his partner 'that they should play off—who took the lot. They did so, and Haughton won.

Starr rose, and, going into his room, brought out a couple of pair of blankets.

"You will have to be contented with a shake down to-night, Mr. Haughton; I have no spare bed to offer you."

"Oh, I will do right enough," said the other, smilingly. "I will sleep in the verandah; it is cooler."

He went outside, after bidding the others good night Jackson was sitting on the table, playing at patience with the cards.

"Well, I intend starting early to-morrow, so shall say good night," said Starr.

"All right; but don't go just yet; it's not so very late. I have any amount of news to tell you, but I cannot get it all out at once," returned Harris.

"Well, let us hear some of it."

"You know Rowdy Jack, who was horse breaking for you. He has got board and lodging at the expense of the country for three years."

"It is certainly news that he has got it, but none that he deserved it, Anybody else come to grief?"

"Yes, two or three married."

"You call that coming to grief, do you?" said Jackson, putting the fourth storey on a card house.

"In most cases I do," said Harris.

Jackson's card house came down with a run. "What do you know about it," he said.

"I am a married man, and speak from experience."

"You married, Harris! You are only joking."

"No, unfortunately, I am not. You two fellows are old friends, so I will tell you all about it."

"When I came out here ten yean ago a regular new chum, I went up to live at Bloomfield's station, on the Wantagong. I had been up there about two years, and being only a raw, foolish boy found it very dull after the first novelty wore away. The place is all cut up into farms now; it was pretty well selected on even when I was there. I got very intimate with one of the selectors, an old fellow named Delaney, who used to live upon his wits I suppose, for it was very little I ever saw growing on his selection. I said that I got intimate with him. I ought to have said with his daughters. They were the attraction. The eldest I thought a regular beauty. Looking back on her now with the utmost detestation, I must admit she had remarkable good looks. She possessed a great deal of tact, too, and concealed her defects of manner and education admirably. I fell over head and ears in love with her; she was two or three yean older than I was, and could do anything she liked with me. One day I called just as the priest, one Father Carroll, was leaving. I went in and found Mary crying, sobbing at least. Of course I was up in arms directly, and when we got by ourselves I insisted upon knowing the cause of it After a great deal of feigned bashfulness and reluctance, she told me that Father Carroll, whom the Lord confound, had been warning her, telling her that my visits were becoming common talk, that I was only trifling with her, meant nothing serious, and all the many hints you can imagine. L am convinced now that this was nothing else but lies from beginning to end. Father Carroll, who was much respected in the neighborhood, knew too much of her to talk in that strain; repentance was the subject he would be most likely to choose for his homily. I confounded him just now, for if his name had not been introduced I do not think I should have been worked upon like I was. How I could I have been such a mad infatuated fool is incredible to me now. But I was only a boy, and she and the devil had regularly ensnared me. I had a little money, not much; rumor had greatly magnified it, and they thought they had a prize. Anyhow, to make short work of it I married her that day week. I left the cottage immediately after the priest had married us, and hastened home to prepare a place to take my wife to. When within two miles of home I met a man on horseback. He pulled up at we came together, and I recognised a young fellow who had left the station shortly after I arrived on it.

"'I was looking for you,' he said. 'They told me I should find you down at old Delaney's. I am looking for some horses of mine that are running down this way. Mr. Morgan (the superintendent) told me that you knew where they were running." I was in a hurry, but the horses were no distance away I knew, so I turned off to show him the place. He commenced asking me about the people in the neighborhood as we went along; he said that he had been in Queensland ever since he left the station, and only came back two or three days ago.

"'You have been down seeing the Delaney, girls,' he went on to say; 'how is Mrs. Morgan?"

"Mrs. Morgan," I said. "I don't know her."

"Why Mary Delaney, of course. Did you not know that she consented to be Mrs. Morgan for six months or more? She might have become Mrs. Morgan in reality, for she was making a regular fool of him, but old Bloomfield in Sydney heard of it, and he saw that he had either to lose her or his billet, so he sent her away. That is not the first trial she has had of married life, and her sisters, I suppose, are running the same track. They say that you are down there pretty often.

"He had scarcely finished speaking when we caught sight of his horses, and he started after them, leaving me to meditate on the pleasant piece of information he had just imparted to me.

"I did not do anything sudden or rash, but rode quietly home. Next morning I left the district, never to return. I wrote to her a letter I do not think she would forget very easily, and have made her an allowance—as much as I could afford—ever since, on condition that she never called herself by may name or attempted to join me. She consented perforce, for I went to New Zealand, and remained there for three years."

"Have you heard of her lately; are you sure your information was correct?" said Starr, after a pause. "I have; and her conduct since my departure fully comes up to, nay exceeds, the character I heard of her."

There was a pause of some minutes, during which the regular breathing of the sleeper outside could be heard. Jackson's attention was attracted by it.

"Who is he?" he said, in an undertone to Harris, indicating the object of his remark by a move of the head.

"I don't know; I only met him a day or two ago, and we travelled down together. He says that he has been in the army."

"Looks more like a skittle-sharper," said Starr, rudely.

"Don't be spiteful now, because be won when you played off!"

"Not I, bat I saw something that you fellows didn't see. The stakes were not worth making a noise or a scene about, but the cards know him as well as he knows them."

"What! did be cheat?" said Harris, turning as red as fire.

"Something very like it."

"Confound him for ever. To think of my baring brought him here. Old Fitzpatrick introduced him to me; he seems to hare been educated, and I supposed that he was as good as most of the other men you meet. Of course, Harris, it is impossible to know what a man is from just riding along a road with him. Good night," he went on, shaking hands, "we shall have breakfast at sunrise to-morrow, but you need not get up unless you are going to start early too."

"I am off the first thing," replied Jackson. "And Harris, of course you will come to my place to-morrow?"

"Yes. But I hare a good mind to wake Mr. Haughton up, and tell him something that will stop him from proceeding with us to-morrow. I feel almost as though I had been found out doing something dirty myself."

"Oh, nonsense," said Starr, "it is not worth speaking about; only don't play at cards with him any more."

BY sunrise next morning breakfast had been despatched, and the horses were ready, saddled. Haughton complained of an attack of fever, and declined any breakfast. Starr and Jackson bade him good morning, and made some ordinary remarks. Harris stalked by him like a muzzled tiger past a shin of beef. Haughton took no notice of his changed behaviour, though it was open enough. He said that he would ride slowly and overtake them in an hour or two if he felt better. The station was soon tenanted by the cook and stockman only. Haughton's horses were in the yard, and about an hour after the others had left, the men saw Haughton catch and saddle them, then ride away along the same road taken by Jackson and Harris.

They had pushed on, and by three o'clock arrived at Jackson's station, Glenmore. Harris was easily persuaded to stop the next day, the station of which he was superintendent being only fifteen miles distant.

"Mr. Haughton does not seem to be showing up," he said, as he was preparing to start the following morning.

"No, he could not help noticing your behaviour towards him. I will be down your way in a day or two—good bye."


ON the second day after Harris' arrival at home, Jackson rode up to the station, a black boy following him. Harris came out to meet him, and was immediately struck by the grave expression of his friend's face.

"Why, Jackson, you look serious enough for half-a-dozen parsons; what is the matter?"

"Starr has been murdered," returned Jackson, shortly.

"Good God! You can't mean it!" But Jackson's face assured him that he did mean it.

"He was found dead at Yorick's Lagoon, shot through the head. Here is his black boy, Dick, who found the body."

Harris turned to the boy. "Mr. Starr been killed?"

"Yes; ben shootem here," touching the top of his head.

"Had he been robbed too, Jackson?"

"There were no tracks of any other horse but his own within two miles of the place; no signs of a struggle, and his body appeared to be untouched by anybody after falling."

"And the gold?"

"No gold was found upon him. Some papers, two or three £1 notes, and some loose silver, were all the articles of valve on his person. His hone was found with a mob of station horses, but without the valise, which Dick says was on the saddle when he left the Blatherskyte diggings. This is all I can learn from Dick. If you can come we will start back at once. An inquest will be held to-morrow or the day after; Williams has gone up to Blatherskyte."

All that was elucidated at the Inquest was, that on Monday, the 24th of January, James Starr had left Blatherskyte diggings alone, leaving a stockman named Williams and the black boy, Dick, to come on slowly. He was not again seen alive by anybody then present.

Williams stated: That he was a stockman in the employ of the deceased; assisted him to drive a mob of fat cattle to Blatherskyte; that he left the diggings on the same morning, though some hours later, than the deceased did; a storekeeper of Blatherskyte, named Thompson, and the black boy, Dick, accompanied him; went as far as the creek called the "Twenty-mile," and camped there that night; arrived at Yorick's Lagoon about twelve o'clock; saw the body of a man lying at the edge of the water; the upper portion of his body was on a log; went over to it and found it to be the body of his employer, James Starr; a bullet wound was visible on the top of his head; appeared to have been dead about twelve hours; the body was quite stiff; deceased had some gold in a valise on the front of his saddle when he left the diggings; did not know the amount; found his horse close to the station, with some other station horses; the saddle was on the horse, but no valise.

Thompson's testimony was to exactly the same effect. Jawdon, a butcher of Blatherskyte, stated that he paid the deceased the sum of one hundred and sixty ounces of gold, and a cheque for £155, before he left the diggings; it was in payment for cattle sold and delivered to him by the deceased; saw the deceased put it into a valise and strap it on in front of his saddle; made some remark at the time about the horse getting away with it on; Starr left his place immediately afterwards; did not see him stop anywhere as long as he was in sight; believed that he went straight away. Williams, recalled, stated that after finding the body the black boy, who was an excellent tracker, want round with him to look for trades; no fresh tracks of either hone or man, excepting the track of deceased and his horse; knew the track of deceased's horse by his having been newly shod on the diggings, and having a very peculiar shaped hoof; could swear to it; had shod the same horse himself at various times; the track of Starr's horse went straight to the place where the body lay, and from then back to the road, and along it until the horse joined the mob be was found with; the lagoon was a small piece of water, about five miles from the station, close to the road; saw no horses tracks on the other side of the lagoon; it was about thirty to forty yards broad; cattle had been watering on the opposite aide of the lagoon during the previous night; saw fresh tracks of a large number; saw the tracks of Starr's horse all the way along the road to Yorick's Lagoon; saw no other fresh tracks; met no one on the road.

The medical testimony showed the cause of death to tare been a bullet wound in the top of the head; bullet produced was a small one, seemingly belonging to a very small bored rifle. Jackson and Harris were examined, but of course their testimony threw no light on the affair.

Suspicion first settled on Starr's discharged cook. He was found at a public-house, some fifty miles from the scene of the murder. Had gone there direct from the station, and had been there ever since, "on the spree." Several witnesses could swear to his presence there at all hours of the day and night. Haughton was then enquired for, and found at Imberwalla. Proved to have stopped at a shepherd's hut six miles beyond Glenmore station, the night after he left Stratford; he accounted for not calling at the station by mentioning the changed manner of Harris towards him; arrived at Imberwalla three days afterwards; had to camp on the road, on account of sickness; was still suffering from fever; did not possess either a rifle or revolver; had not had one for the last six months.

A verdict of wilful murder against some person or persons is unknown was returned; but years passed and nothing ever transpired. Dick went into the service of Harris, and one day passing the scene of the tragedy he persuaded Harris to ride over, and then made an explanation which seemed to have been troubling him.

"You see, Mitter Starr bin get off to drink, lay down like it there, doss up along a log. Some fellow been come up along on other side, you see, where cattle track big fellow come up. That fellow bin shoot em Mitter Starr when he bin stoop down drink. Then go away along a cattle track. Cattle come up along at night, look out water, put em out track all together."

Dick's conclusion struck Harris as being correct, but it went no further towards pointing out the murderer.


MORE than twenty years after the events of the chapter, Jackson and Harris met in Sydney. They had not seen each other for several years, both having left the district in which they formerly resided.

"Jackson, you must come and stay with me for a while. I want to introduce you to my wife. No! not the one I told you about She it died, died from drink I believe. I heard she was dying, and went to see her. If I had not seen it, I could not have believed that a woman could alter so. I am not a hypocrite, Jackson, nor are you, to I can say thank God she is dead without fear of your pretending to be shocked. No! I can show you a wife I am proud of."

Jackson stayed several days with Harris, whose wife certainly merited her husband's praise. One evening the conversation turned upon spirit rapping. Mrs. Harris remarked that some friends of her's, who were devout believers in it, had pressed her strongly to accompany them to a seance the next evening. She did not at first mean to go, but on Harris and Jackson saying that they would accompany her, they made up their minds to see the wonder of spirit-land the next evening.

Mrs. Harris' friends called at about three o'clock in the afternoon, and the party, after proceeding down several rather shabby streets, stopped at a more than rather shabby house. Jackson whispered that he wondered the spirits did not select a more fashionable, or at least cleaner, neighborhood to make their communications in. After payment, they were shown into a dimly-lighted room, where several other well dressed persons were present. Some were seated round a table, others standing.

The medium and another person, who was not a medium at present, only a disciple, were holding a conversation on spirit-rapping for the good of the company. The medium was a thin-faced, crafty-looking man, evidently in bad health. Not bad looking, but still not exactly prepossessing. After a time, he seated himself at the table, the disciple left the room, and silence was demanded. The medium having explained the meaning of the knocks, what one knock stood for, etc, put himself into communication with the spirits. Several people asked questions of deceased relatives, some trustingly and confiding, others sneeringly. Sometimes the answers were strangely correct, to judge from the countenances of the enquirers; others, and by far the greater number, were evidently wrong.

Presently a conversation arose, which soon ended in a discussion between believers and unbelievers. The medium then took a pencil and paper, and stated that any of the company might write a question on a piece of paper, fold it, and lay it on the table; that his arm would be guided by the spirits to write the answer, without having seen the question.

This was evidently the display of the evening, and the company evinced a good deal of interest in the proceeding. As before, some few of the answers seemed to be correct, and the majority wrong. The spirits, to judge from the manner in which the medium jerked his arm about, were fighting for possession of the pen.

Harris and Jackson determined to ask a question out of fun. Harris took out a note-book, wrote a question on a leaf, tore it out, and then handed the book to Jackson. He took it, but did not write anything. Harris walked up to the table and placed his folded paper on it; at the same time looking half-laughingly, half-enquiringly, into the face of the medium, immediately afterwards though turning his gaze on to his wife. The medium's sharp black eyes looked for a moment disconcerted, as they met Harris' frank look, but they noted its after direction, and a curious puzzled expression came into them.

The spirits at first did not seem inclined to answer the question, but presently the mystic arm moved, and with a doubtful, look, which soon changed into a triumphant one, the seer handed the answer to Harris. It was a small piece of paper, and there were only two words on it, but they were quite enough to make Harris look at the medium with a scared face that was quite, ludicrous; he drew back without speaking.

Jackson, who had been intently watching his friend's success, wrote a question rapidly on a sheet of the note-book, tore it out, folded it, strode forward, and laid it on the table. The medium looked at Jackson, his lips moved, but no sound came. His face grew very pale, and his gaze turned with a fixed look on the folded paper; it deepened into such an expression of intense and absolute horror as to startle the surrounding company. It was evident to the most sceptical that there was no acting now. His hand moved over the paper and formed a few hasty words, he folded it, trembling as he did so, handed it to Jackson, and fell with a deep groan on to the floor.

Jackson, nearly as startled and scared-looking as the prostrate medium, put the paper into his pocket, and stooped over the fallen man. The rest crowded round, the people of the house were called, and they conveyed the pallid conjurer, now slowly recovering from his swoon, out of the room.

The seance was broken up, and the company began to disperse. Some expressed mat curiosity to see the answer which had produced such a commotion. Jackson, however, did not satisfy them. They looked for his question, but that and the former one had disappeared.

"Taken by the spirits," one devout believer suggested. In reality quietly pocketed by Harris during the confusion occasioned by the medium's collapse.

Harris, his wife, and Jackson, left their friends a short distance from the spirit's residence and went home. Scarcely a word passed between them on the way. Jackson appeared to be lost in deep thought, The only remark he made:

"Did you ever see that fellow before, Harris?"

"Never that I know of," was the answer. Jackson was silent the rest of the way.

When Jackson and Harris were alone in the room, Mrs. Harris having gone upstairs to remove her bonnet, etc, Harris drew forth the two questions, his own and Jackson's. He handed his to Jackson. It was—

"If the spirit of my first wife is really present, let her sign her name."

"Here is the answer," he said.

"Mary Delaney."

Jackson looked very scared and excited as he almost whispered:

"Look at my question, then we will look at the answer."

Harris read—

"Who was the murderer of James Starr?"

Jackson opened the paper, the writing on which do one but the unhappy seer had as yet seen. On it was written in a good, bold hand, differing entirely from the writing on Harris' paper—

"Rudolph George Rawlings, known to you under the name of Haughton."

"It was him! I knew it!" exclaimed Jackson, in a voice which brought Mm. Harris into the room in a fright.

"Who? Who?" cried Harris, nearly as excited as his friend.

"Haughton himself; I thought I knew him. No wonder he should faint; he wrote and handed to me his own death warrant." Harris still held the paper in his hand. "Look Jackson," he said, "it is Starr's handwriting."

He went to a bookcase and took down a book, on the fly-leaf was written "T.C. Harris, from James Starr." The handwriting was identical.

"Let us go at once and get a warrant, and have him arrested," said Jackson, whose excitement could scarcely be controlled.

"We have no evidence to do so," replied Harris; "we are no nearer towards doing justice on Starr's murderer than we were before. This may carry conviction to you and me, but what magistrate would issue a warrant on such a lame story? We can inform the police that suspicious circumstances connect this medium—who you may be sure is well known to them—with the Haughton who was mixed up with Starr's murder. They may find out some further evidence, but we are powerless."

A knock at the door. Mrs. Harris, who was listening with a white face, went and opened it. The servant said that a woman wanted most particularly to see Mr. Jackson. Harris looked at him, then told the servant to show her up. She came in, a faded-looking woman, who handed a slip of paper to Jackson. He read on it:—

"Come and see me before I die. R. Rawlings."

He passed it over to Harris; his wife read it over his shoulder.

"I will come with you," said Jackson to the woman.

"And so will I," said Harris.

She led them back to the house of the seance, to a room with a miserable bed in it, wherein lay the man they had seen acting the part of medium. He gazed wistfully at Jackson and spoke very feebly, and in abrupt sentences.

"I am dying, but I will tell you how it was done."

The woman left the room, and closed the door.

"That night, which you remember as well as I, I went out on the verandah to sleep. I did not go to sleep until long after you all went to bed. I heard every word you said. I heard Harris tell the story of his marriage, which enabled me to make the lucky answer I did today. I knew you both directly you came in. I heard Starr expose me about the cards in a contemptuous sort of way that made me hate him. This led me on to recall your talk about the gold. I determined to rob him, but I was a coward, and assassinated him. I had not the courage even of a common bushranger to stick him up. I knew the exact day he would be back, as you knew. I feigned sickness the next morning, and only went as far as the shepherd's hut. The next day I went on a short distance past Harris' place and camped. That night after dark I started back to Yorick's Lagoon.

"I meant to conceal myself behind the bushes growing on the bank, and shoot him as he rode along the road, which, as you know, is close to the lagoon. I reached the neighborhood of the lagoon about daylight. My keeping off the road as much as possible led to my coming in along the cattle track, on the side of the lagoon opposite to the road. I had a short rifle in my pack, the barrel taken off the stock, which was the reason you did not notice it. I tied my horse up some distance off, and went down the dusty cattle track to the water's edge on foot There I waited the whole of the morning—how long it seemed! It was about three o'clock when I saw Starr coming. I was about aiming at him when he pulled up, got off and stooped down to drink. He was right opposite to me, his horse drinking alongside of him, his head down on the surface of the water. I was a dead shot, and struck him right on the top of the head. He scarcely seemed to move; his horse gave a slight start and snort, stretched his neck, and snuffed once or twice at the body of its rider; presently, finding itself free, began feeding, and after a few minutes' nibbling at the grass, walked towards home.

"I was in doubt what to do, but determined to follow the horse and obtain the valise. Should the gold not be in it, I would have to return and search the body. During the latter part of my watch, several mobs of cattle had come along the track I was lying on, smelling me when they got close; they had run back again. This gave me the idea of following the track back for a couple of miles, trusting to the cattle to obliterate all marks of my presence. Starr's horse seemed to be making straight home. I determined to chance finding him somewhere along the road. I followed the track out, took a circle round, and came on to the road just as Starr's horse and some more he had picked up with came along. He was quiet and easily caught The gold was in the valise. The presence of the other horses prevented my track being noticed, and by midnight I was back at my camp. At daylight I looked along the road, and saw by the tracks that no one had passed during my absence.

"I was safe. You know all about the inquest. I am ill of a terrible disease which plagues me with fearful torments. I must die in a day or two, perhaps to-night. Remorse now is useless, but I tell you that I have known little peace since I shot Starr. Leave me now, and don't attempt to preach to me."

Neither of the two friends felt either fitted or able to attempt it, and seeing that their presence there availed nothing, they left. But when they reached the foot of the stairs, Harris called the woman, and, giving her money, told her to call and inform him of the fate of Rawlings. She came next morning and told them that he died a few hours after they left, never having spoken again.


Evening News, Sydney, 28 March 1896

DO you remember that grey horse of Jonson's? said Jim. Maybe it was not in your time; at any rate his was the only ghost-horse I ever saw or spoke to. Moreover, he was a very exceptional horse. In the first place he was said to be one hundred years old. Now you know the average age of a horse I suppose? This horse, this flea-bitten grey of Jonson's had just succeeded to his hundredth birthday when Jonson came in to possession of him.

Greys get flea bitten with age, and this horse was about the worst flea-bitten horse you ever clapped your eyes on. In point of fact, he need not have been called a grey at all, except as a matter of courtesy, and you must be civil to a horse occasionally. Now, as I stated before, when Jonson got this horse he was just one hundred years old.

How do you know that? This way. Jonson's brother married Sally Parsons; he was a man I never liked, because, although be was a hard smoker, he never carried any matches with him. What has Sally Parsons's husband to do with it? Come to think of it, I don't know, I was only refreshing my memory a bit.

Jonson got the horse from his father, and his father got the horse from his father, and as both of them each lived for fifty years, that made 100, didn't it, when Jonson got the horse—Anyhow, that's how he reckoned it.

When I knew Jonson he was boundary-riding, and, like these men often do, he got gloomy and out of sorts; used to be always talking to himself. Most of these fellows who live all alone get queer that way. One day he came to me and said: 'Jim, what is the best thing to do with that horse?'

'Keep him till he dies or sell him; his keep doesn't cost you anything.'

'Now,' he replied, scarcely heeding me. 'I ask you, as a white man, is it natural for a horse to live over 100 years. I tell you it's preying upon me, and either that horse or myself must succumb under the strain. Which is It to be?'

'Don't be a fool, Jonson,' I said. 'Go home and let the horse be.'

He left me, remarking that there was bound to be trouble between him and the horse soon, and I did not see anything more of him for some time. About three weeks afterwards he came to me again, and sat down by the fire; it was winter time.

'I had to do it,' he remarked, as he knocked his pipe out, 'I tried all I knew to get that horse to talk, but it was no good.'

'To get him to talk! Do horses generally talk, then?'

'No, not as a rule, but a horse 100 years old ought to be able to. Just fancy all he could remember about the colony. Why he would have made my fortune. Think I was going to lose that. Not me.'

'So you killed him?'

'Yes, it was necessary, there was nothing else to be done.'

'Why necessary?'

'I keep telling you. That horse would not talk. He used to grin at me, and try and express his ideas that way. But I couldn't understand him. No, that horse mistook his vocation. He was meant for a man.'

'Well, Jonson, you're simply a common-place kind of idiot. You could have got a fiver for that horse, old as he was.'

'Perhaps I am. Never mind, that horse had to talk or die; and he was obstinate—and died.'

Jonson got up, kicked my dog, and started home.

I knew what was the matter with him after I had meditated over his case a bit. The ghost of his horse was haunting him, and making things lively. Now listen, I love ghosts; they are twelve-fig tobacco to me; so I thought I would go and camp with Jonson for a few days, and find out what was really the matter. Jonson had a dog, a bad dog in every day. He could eat strychnine bait without a wink.

This dog and the flea-bitten grey had never been friends. The dog considered the horse too old, and the horse thought the dog too young. I have my suspicions that the dog prompted Jonson to the killing of the horse, but I couldn't bring it home to him. This dog was quite altered. He would constantly start and shiver, and give little yelps and howls. Jonson used to kick him for it, and when I found out the real cause I actually pitied the dog, bad as he was.

The shade of that old horse used to come round and worry the life out of that dog. He'd insist on his listening to his yarns, and when the dog did not laugh in the right place, he'd suddenly materialise himself, and kick the dog. The dog never had a chance, for before he could get a bite in the horse was a ghost again. One second he was a materialised horse, kicking a dog, hard; the next he was a spectre, and it's no good biting a spectre. What between, the materialised kicks outside and Jonson's kicks inside, it was not a fair deal at all.

I made up my mind to interview this ghost and try and induce him to stop his visits, for Jonson was getting decidedly loony. So, one moonlight night I went outside about the time that Jonson said the horse usually came. The ghost turned up to time, but for a long time he would only grin at me, and go off into a horse laugh. At last I asked him what the joke was.

'I'm laughing at that fool, Jonson,' he said. 'The ass thought I was 100 years old when he killed me.'

'Well, everybody thought so,' I said, on behalf of Jonson. 'Didn't you belong to his grandfather?'

'Bah! I wasn't 20 when he killed me. Besides, Jonson never had a grandfather.'

'But he must have had some sort of a grandfather,' I suggested.

'Yes, if you put it that way, of course he had, but I don't suppose he was anything to blow about, or that he ever owned a horse in his life. But what do you want interfering here for? I'm enjoying myself, which is more than I did when I was alive.'

'I tried my best to get Jonson to let you alone,' I replied. 'He was a bit off before, but if you keep this racket up I'm quite sure he'll go clean cranky.'

'Serve him right; but can you suggest any other kind of amusement?'

I thought for a bit, and then his kicking the dog put an idea into my head. 'You could have had great fun on the road,' I said. 'You could materialise yourself and eat up the bread and sugar and salt in the travellers' camps, and have all manner of high jinks.'

'Never thought of it,' said the ghost. 'Tell Jonson I won't worry him any more, but that I shall have an occasional kick at that dog.'

As he spoke he gradually faded away.

I went back and told Jonson of my success. He was very grateful; owned up that the ghost horse had been preying on his nerves, and that he felt like a new man.

In spite of all that, the ungrateful brute turned dog on me in the end.

I told you that Jonson's brother married Sally Parsons. I knew she had something to do with the yarn, and this is where she comes in. She and her husband were the first to see the horse. They were driving home one night in a spring cart, and it was bright moonlight. Jack Jonson had a drop or two in him, and he suddenly saw two horses in front of him.

'Why, dash my buttons!' he said, 'I'm not so bad as all that. Wake up, Sally!' for Sally was nodding.

Sally opened her eyes, but there was no horse there, and she called him a drunken hog, and wished she'd never married him, when she had plenty of better offers, and cried and went to sleep once more. There was the horse again.

Jack Jonson rubbed his eyes.

'Dash my buttons,' he said again, 'if it isn't Teddy's old grey.'

As I say, he had a drop in him, and before that horse could dematerialise himself he'd given him a stinging cut with the whip. The old grey rattled his heels against the horse in the shafts, and nearly knocked the whole caboodle over.

Sally woke up, and gave Jack a bit of her tongue for driving over a stump, and they quarrelled all the way home, so much so, that when Sally's baby was born, folks said it used to neigh like a horse in its cradle.

This game continued, everybody driving along that, road on a moonlight night would see two horses instead of one, or three instead of two, as the case, might be. When they got home and told the story to their wives they were accused of being mops and brooms; and the whole of the married population in the district were soon at loggerheads. How that wicked old ghost must have chuckled.

Now, most of them recognised the spectral appearance as Jonson's flea-bitten grey, and, in consequence, there was much indignation against Jonson for killing the horse, which, as the nuisance increased, came to a head, and a large number of people interviewed Jonson, to inform him that he must either get rid of the ghost or go himself.

Then it was that he played dog on me. He told them that it was all my fault, and that I had invited the ghost of the old grey to play these tricks, so they transferred their attentions to me.

I did my best, I begged and entreated that old shade to give up his tricks, but it was no use. He said he was enjoying himself, and meant to keep it up; so I had to come away. I was sorry, too, for it was a splendid district for ghosts. What became of the dog? Oh, he died. Whether Jonson killed him or the horse kicked him to death I don't know.



As by "Dramingo"

Goulburn Herald, New South Wales, 3 August 1889

THE ill-temper of cooks is proverbial, but for general perverse crankiness the old-fashioned bush cook could be backed at long odds against any or every class of workman. On a station in the west of Queensland, then newly settled country, there was a cook, who, in addition to possessing more than his share of bad temper, was nearly as deaf as it was possible for man to be, which added considerably to the standing annoyance and irritation he was to everybody on the place.

However, men were not plentiful; he was undeniably a good cook, clean and industrious, and all hands on the station did their best to put up with his abominable tongue.

There was a boy of fourteen or fifteen engaged on the place, who, possibly on account of the difference between youth and crabbed age, was always in hot water with Jim the cook. The boy had come to the station with a mob of store cattle, and being smart and a light-weight, he had been kept on, and was rather a favourite with everybody, the sole exception being the deaf cook.

Even if Jim had been a man of good or genial temper, his intense deafness would have been a source of aggravation to his companions in the men's hut, but when he used his infirmity as another weapon wherewith to annoy his fellow-men, matters were made still more uncomfortable. Explanations were useless when a row once commenced, as he affected never to hear them, and when at last something was bellowed into his ear, would ask indignantly what they were shouting for, as if he could not hear plainly.

He was old and crippled, so nobody could well thrash sense into him, and at last he was looked upon more and more as a curiosity: a man with a moral warp in his nature, and a shingle short, who was not altogether responsible for his actions.

The manager of the station—a good-natured fellow—had taken a fancy to the boy Mat, as he was called, and finding him intelligent, with hardly any education, made him come up to him of an evening, and practise writing and reading, a proceeding which still more increased the malignant dislike which Jim felt for the boy.

Whitely, the manager, in conversation with his protégé, drew out his story, which was sufficiently commonplace. He belonged to a country township in New South Wales, was the youngest of four, had never seen his father, who he thought must have left his mother when he was two or three years old. The boy always spoke most affectionately of his mother, to whom he sent a considerable portion of his earnings, and said that his brothers, who were at bush work in different parts of the mother colony, did the same. Great was the boy's pride at the improvement in his handwriting, which was evinced by his addressing his own envelopes to his home, instead of, as heretofore, asking Whitely to do it for him.

One night the boy was sitting at the rough table with his arms duly squared, and his paper pushed up close to the flickering, sputtering slush-lamp, when Jim came to the table, and purposely plumped his baking-dish of flour alongside him, so as to discompose the lad.

Mat looked up at him and made some remark about the table being big enough for both of them without disturbing him. Jim, who could not hear what he said, guessed the purport, and immediately returned:

"Ugh, you snivelling young beast; writing to your mammy, eh! Here, send her some flour to make a cake for you," and he threw a handful of flour over the letter which Mat had just been regarding with such pride. In a second the boy jumped up, and sent the slush-lamp full of hot fat into the cook's face.

Before Jim could retaliate the other two men in the hut separated them, and both taking Mat's part, the cook had to rest content with raving and cursing himself nearly into a fit, until the men threatened seriously to run him out of the hut into the waterhole if he didn't keep quiet.

It was summer-time on the great downs of the west, and the next morning, before the sun had risen high enough to exert any great heat, all hands on the station, with two exceptions, had breakfasted and saddled up their horses preparatory to starting out on a three-days' camp, a young "colonial experiencer," who acted as storekeeper, and the deaf cook, being the only occupants left to look after the place, as was the custom of those days.

About mid-day on the third day, Mat came back with the two pack-horses. He said that Mr. Whitely and the men would be home some time that night, or early the next morning. The boy was standing some short distance from the huts, unsaddling the horses, the cook standing at the door of the kitchen, and the young storekeeper, Peters, on the verandah of the larger of the two buildings. Suddenly—as Peters, who told the story, said afterwards—the whole air echoed with yells; and, as if by magic, natives sprang up all around the place, and a shower of spears came indiscriminately in amongst them all.

The horses bolted at once, and went careering across the plain, distributing parts of the packs all over the place. Mat, who was nearly knocked down by them, ran for the kitchen, but before he got there the door was slammed and fastened, and he beat vainly at it for admittance. The blacks were coming up fast, and the poor boy turned them, still and drew his revolver and fired at shouting to the cook to let him in.

Peters, who was a plucky young fellow, had got hold of a double-barrelled shotgun, and fired with such good effect on the advancing natives that he was able to keep them back, and run out and help Mat into the hut where he and the manager lived.

Fortunately there were plenty of firearms and ammunition in readiness, and during the next ten minutes things were made pretty lively for the attacking party, the cook in the kitchen making play with his revolver through the slabs. Mat had been knocked about a little with waddies, but was not seriously hurt.

Presently the blacks disappeared behind the kitchen, and as the firing from there had ceased, it became evident that Jim's ammunition had run out, and the natives now could come up safely so long as they kept the kitchen between them and the hut. It was not long before—watching and listening keenly as they were for the chance of a shot—Peters and Mat heard the blacks breaking into the kitchen from the back.

The two youngsters looked at each other and the same thought must have been in the minds of both: Should they risk their lives for the old brute who had deliberately fastened Mat out to take his chance.

"No, by Jove, serve him well right," said Peters at last, as if answering a query of his companion's.

Mat's voice was irresolute. "What will the others think if we leave him, Mr. Peters?" he replied.

"Well, if we're alive to tell them, they'll say, 'Serve him right, too,'" was the answer.

"Couldn't we have a try?" pleaded the boy, half opening the door.

"Come on then," said Peters; "you go round one side, and I'll go round the other."

They both started, but when they reached the opposite corners of the kitchen they found they were too late; the blacks had pulled out some of the slabs, and were dragging the deaf cook out, beating him with their clubs whenever they got a chance.

The simultaneous discharge from the two corners startled them so that they left their victim, and at the same moment some gins in the background set up a shrill, wild jabbering, pointing across the plain. In an instant the blacks fled, followed by repeated shots from Peters and Mat.

Far away through the shimmering mirage the gins had caught sight of the figures of approaching horsemen—Whitely and his men returning sooner than they had expected. They were quite ignorant of the state of affairs until they were close to the station. On plain country sounds do not travel far, and at the distance they were the blacks on foot could not be easily discerned.

They found the two doing what they could for the wounded cook, who had been sadly knocked about. A few hurried words explained everything, and without dismounting Whitely and his men went off in pursuit, for a lesson was necessary.

It was taught before sundown; there was a lagoon seven miles from the station that for years afterwards was never used for drinking purposes, by any human being, white or black.

The deaf cook's fate seemed very doubtful; during the night he was delirious, and Peters volunteered to sit up with him; towards morning however he spoke quite rationally, and, strangest thing of all, his hearing was apparently restored to him. He answered the questions Peters put to him without his having to raise his voice at all.

"What did you mean by shutting young Hawkins out?" asked his nurse, who was very sore on the subject.

"Young who?" said Jim.

"Mat," returned Peters. "Young hound," muttered the sick man; "did the niggers get him?"

"No," was the indignant reply; "but only for him they'd have got you, and I wish they had. I'm sorry I helped him."

"Hawkins! Mat! that's Matthew Hawkins," repeated the cook unheedingly. "I never heard his name before."

"Suppose not; you've always been, or pretended to be, stone deaf."

The wounded man put his hand up to his head in a dazed way, and at last said to Peters, "he came up with the cattle from Walringar, and he's got a mother there, hasn't he?"

"Yes," returned Peters.

The deaf cook gave a loud cry, turned his face to the wall, and beat wildly with his hands against the slabs, unheeding the rough splinters that pierced his flesh. Peters caught his wrist, thinking he was growing delirious again.

Jim started up in the bunk, gazed at him with horror-struck look, and, with an unearthly laugh, cried out, "why, he must be my son, and that's where I left his mother years ago!"

The next moment he fell back dead.

To the relief of Peters, Whitely, who had been awakened by their voices, came in to see what the matter was, and to him Peters told the strange tale.

After investigation proved that it was quite true. The man's temper, aggravated by his infirmity, led to his quarrelling with and leaving his wife and children. His deafness prevented his ever hearing Mat's surname, which was rarely used, and he was within an ace of causing the death of his own son at the hands of the blacks, for there could be no doubt that his fiendish temper had prompted him to leave Mat outside at the mercy of the natives.

Peters was exceedingly thankful that he had acceded to the attempted rescue, as the poor boy had now nothing to reproach himself with, with the exception of throwing the fat-lamp at his unknown parent. The blacks had evidently been watching the place for some time, and only for Mat's return would have caught the two occupants quite off their guard, as they would have probably been lying down reading or dozing.

Altogether, it was a lucky thing for the hero of the yarn, for fortune seemed to stick to him from that time, and he is now one of the few men who have been successful in settling new country, and the general verdict is that he deserves it.


As by "Dramingo"

Queenslander, 30 October, 6 November 1880

Reprinted in the Evening News, 15 December 1900, as "The Compact"


ON the 26th of last January I left Toowoomba by the early train. In the compartment in which I was seated there was only one other passenger—an apparently elderly man, with gray hair and beard, and wearing blue spectacles. Now I take great interest in the scientific questions that of late years have been agitating the learned and theological circles of the Old World; and am always glad to meet anybody who is open to a little discussion on the merits of the different theories. My fellow-traveller somehow impressed me with the idea that he was such a one. Hoping, therefore, to beguile the tedium of the journey to Brisbane with a little instructive argument, I made a few remarks on the ordinary topics of the day. He answered me in grave quiet tones that seemed to betoken that he possessed the inclinations I gave him credit for.

"By-the-by," I said, plunging at once into the middle of my subject, "Do you believe in the proteinaceousness of all forms of protoplasm?"

He gave an unaffected start of dismay, and gazed curiously at me through his spectacles.

"I have not studied the subject sufficiently to give you a decided answer," he said at last in a slightly constrained tone, "but am rather inclined to take that view of the case."

"There I differ with you," I said eagerly. "Now take for instance the effect produced by the action of galvanism as applied to producing contraction of the component parts of the fundamental substance. The very same effect can be produced upon matter which contains only two of the elements common to both; and chemical analysis as applied to the living subject."

"No you don't!" he cried, starting up and showing himself to be a tall athletic man, much younger than I had supposed. "Not alive! I defy you!"

"My dear sir," I stammered, "you must have completely misunderstood me."

"I don't misunderstand you. You have tracked me down, but"—and he seized me by the shoulder—"you'll never live to boast of it. I'm going to throw you out of the door!"

We were half way down the range when he uttered this threat, just crossing a viaduct, with the tops of tall gum trees far below us.

"Do you mean to murder me?" I gasped, horror-stricken, for I felt helpless in his strong hands.

"Self-defence," he replied coolly, as he opened the door; "you are an agent of Allcut's, and, as such, deserve no mercy at my hands."

"Allcut!" I cried; "never heard of the man before, and have no more evil design against you 'than a helpless monad."

He seemed to hesitate.

"I may be mistaken," he said; "I should not like to kill you without reason, but I scarcely know whether to let you off or not."

After blinking at me doubtingly, as if still debating the feasibility of throwing me into the next gully we crossed, he—to my great relief—closed the door, released my shoulder, and sat down.

"I owe you an apology for my behaviour just now," he said after a pause, during which he scrutinised me narrowly. "I believe I was hasty; but your words were suspicious, as you would admit if you knew all."

I mumbled something about its not being of any consequence, although I still felt the effects of his grip on my shoulder.

"To tell you the truth," he went on, "if I'm found by certain people my life will not be worth much, and naturally I am a little suspicious."

I thought that throwing a man off a railway train was a little hasty, but said nothing, as we just then plunged into a tunnel. When we were in the middle of it, and in total darkness, my companion laid his hand on my arm, and shouted in my ear:

"Properly speaking, I am a dead man!"

"Don't joke about such things," I said nervously, as I thought what a nice situation I was in, shut up with a lunatic seemingly. "Pooh! I don t mean that I'm a ghost, but by rights I ought to be."

"Unless yon are a little more explicit," I said, "I am afraid I cannot quite follow you."

"Will you swear not to reveal to any man for at least a fortnight what I am going to tell you? By the end of that time I shall be well out of harm's way."

"I will readily promise that."

"It's a long story, so don't grumble if you get bored."

The adventure that he then related to me I found so remarkable that I requested him to allow me to take notes of it as he proceeded. I do not therefore profess that I heard it in the same unbroken manner in which it is given here, but in substance it is the same.


NEVER mind how I came to be reduced to the state of poverty in which New Year's day of 1869 found me, but poor I was, and as destitute as man could be. I had neither money, nor home, nor clothes worth speaking of. Cold, hungry, and houseless in London during a bitterly hard winter, that was my then condition. Of course I was gazing into a cookshop like the typical starving man of fiction; and if this portion of my story seems rather stereotyped I cannot help it; it is perfectly true.

"What a splendid physical development!" said a voice behind me; "that is to say, if properly filled out. Allow me;" and the speaker extended a gloved hand, and pinched my scantily-clothed ribs in a critical manner. I turned round prepared to strike him, for I did not believe in such a liberty; but he said hastily: "No offence meant; pray pardon me, I mean you nothing but well."

I surlily damned him and his meaning too, and was moving away, when he followed, and passed his arm under mine. He was dressed in a fur-lined overcoat with the high collar turned up above his ears; a round fur cap such as they wear in Germany was upon his head; and all I could see of his face was a well-shaped aquiline nose, and bright gleaming eyes.

"Now pocket your pride, and answer my questions," this cool stranger said. "Are you hungry?"

"Well, yes, I can't deny it."

"Very hungry?"

"Yes. Had nothing to eat all day."

"Are you cold?"

"I look warm?" I asked ironically.



"And about the future?"

I jerked my arm away indignantly. "What business is it of yours. Hang myself, drown myself, or starve I suppose."

"Will you come home with me to-night?"

"Yes; go with the devil if he asked me."

My companion without another word hailed a passing hansom, and we got in and drove away. We stopped at a large house in Malison-street, and, passing through double doors, I found myself in a warm lighted hall. My new friend or patron—I may as well mention his name—Professor Allcut—told a servant to take me to a room, and furnish me with clothes. When I entered the dressing-room I stood for a moment or two surveying my figure in the glass and grimly contrasting it with the luxurious surroundings.

An hour afterwards I looked into the same glass, and could hardly persuade myself that it was the same figure I saw imaged there. My disordered and neglected hair and whiskers had been brought into order again by an accomplished valet, and my clothes fitted to perfection. The gaunt ruffian who entered the room was now—I flattered myself—a rather striking looking gentleman. I followed the servant downstairs, and was ushered into a drawing-room where I found Allcut in evening dress; a gray haired man whose name was Dr. Irving; and two young and remarkably handsome girls, whose names I need not mention.

Allcut introduced me to the others; and I was received with a cordiality that was perhaps a trifle overdone. We soon went to dinner, and to a man suddenly brought from hunger and desolation, and placed in the situation I now found myself in, I need scarcely say that everything acquired a double zest and flavor. The dinner was excellent, the wines still better, and the company best of all. Perhaps the manner of the two girls had not quite sufficient of the reserve that "stamps the class of Vera de Vere;" but I was in no mood for criticism, and by the time the ladies left my late life seemed only a troubled nightmare.

We did not sit long, and I presently found myself installed upon a couch next to one of my fair friends, the other playing a low sweet sonata upon the piano. Almost directly we reached the drawing-room, Allcut begged me to excuse Irving and him for a short time, and I was left alone, and in perilous company. The soft dreamy music; the unaccustomed influence of the wine and dinner; the warm odorous atmosphere of the room; and the close proximity of my two beautiful companions—for the couch was drawn up cozily near to the piano—lulled me into a state of ecstatic satisfaction with my lot that was simply beatitude. What we talked about, I scarcely remember; my neighbor at the piano occasionally throwing a sprightly remark into the rippling stream of conversation I was carrying on with the other fair one, and laughing in a tone as silvery as the music itself.

Quite an hour must have quickly glided away, when Allcut re-entered and came and joined in the gay badinage we were carrying on. Presently the girls moved away to the further end of the room and he took the vacated place beside me.

"Life can be made very pleasant, can it not?" he asked with a meaning smile. I assented moat emphatically. "And life—a life such as you were living can be nothing but a prolonged torture?"

Again my assent was undoubted.

"Which then is the best? A few years of enjoyment, with every wish bearing fruition, every desire fulfilled, and every dream realised with wealth to carry out schemes of benevolence and good towards our fellow-men, to further the ends of science, and buy the beautiful surroundings that gratify an innate love of art—to have young and lovely companions of the other sex to soothe with their presence, and in their caresses to forget the past, or to remember it only sufficiently to make its memory lend an added charm to the enjoyment of the present would not such life, terminated by a death of glorious self-sacrifice, be better than many weary years spent in fighting cold and hunger, and the desolate horror of feeling yourself outcast and exiled from your proper sphere. Weary years to linger through without hope or solace, and at last to die, like—"

He pointed forward as he uttered the last words; and as by enchantment the room and its voluptuous fittings disappeared, and I was gazing once more on the bleak deserted street. The pavement was encrusted with half-thawed discolored snow, and the drizzly winter sleet beat upon a wretched form that crouched shivering and moaning in a doorway. I recognised my own image. Aye, so real was it that it seemed as though I could feel the bitter raw wind racking my aching bones as I drew my soaked rags around my starved and emaciated body—could feel the piercing cold striking its relentless dreadful fangs deeper and deeper into my cowering shrinking frame—experienced in my own person all the unutterable agony of a protracted death from cold and hunger; even as I watched the apparition of myself fall forward with a feeble moan, and lie on the hard pavement, free at last from all the ills that torture the wretched of this world—freed by the blessed angel of Death.

Then the vision was gone. I was once more in the room, and oh either side of me, bending down and looking tenderly and enquiringly into my face, were the two girls. Allcut was standing a few paces in front, and he spoke again in his deep rich voice:

"You have your choice. I can give you life: a life such as you are now enjoying, for a few years, and after that—death! Or you can go forth again into the streets and linger on—perhaps for but a few months; perhaps for double the number of years you might have spent happily here, and then—" He waved his hand towards the spot where I had seen the late apparition. As he concluded, one of the girls sank down on the couch beside me, and, resting her soft shapely hand on my shoulder, glanced with lustrous eyes over the delicate down fringe of the fan with which she coquettishly concealed the lower part of her face.

"Stay with me," she murmured, bending nearer. "Stay with me," echoed the other as she struck a few melodious chords upon the piano, and sang in her seductive voice the following words. The two joining in the last line of each verse.

Seeks not the wearied bird refuge and cover?
Hastes not the stag to the sheltering tree?
Turns not the maid to the arras of her lover?
Then why do you doubt us? O stay, love, with me!

Dreamily, happily, hall we the morrow here;
No frown on our features you ever shall see.
No shadow of trouble; no want, and no sorrow here;
Why do you doubt us? O stay, love, with me!

The dying cadence of their blended voices put me past all consideration; even if any such would have stayed me.

"My choice is made," I cried; "I stay!"

"Then follow me," replied Allcut. I turned regretfully from the delightful smiles of the two syrens, and followed him into another room—a library, where Irving was seated at a table.

"He consents," said Allcut as we entered.

"Let me congratulate you upon your determination," replied Irving, rising and addressing me.

"Will you explain the nature of the services we require from Mr. Vallance?" said Allcut as we seated ourselves.

"You must know," began Irving, who remained standing, "that for years my friend and I have devoted ourselves to the solution of the greatest problem that can occupy the human understanding. Need I say that it is the origin of life? Sometimes we have held the secret apparently in view, but it has ever eluded us; and we are still toiling steadily on hoping for the dawning of light. Some of our greatest scientific truths have been learnt by the aid of vivisection. And—as perhaps you know—in plants, and the lowest order of apparently inanimate things, a motive power of life has been proved to exist Could we assimilate these particles of protoplasm with the microscopic germs of existence contained in the blood, and distributed throughout the body of living man, we should have picked the lock that has defied thousands of generations to open—have established truth, great, unassailable, Truth, upon an everlasting foundation; have shattered at one blow the creeds and superstitions that have enslaved men since the beginning; have elevated ourselves, and you with us, into immortality. You, the heroic victim. We, the pure philosophers who look indifferently upon pain and suffering when they lead to light. We offer you five years of uninterrupted worldly enjoyment We offer you every pleasure that humanity values or that money can command. And in return we ask—your life. At the expiration of the lustrum, on a specified date, we require that you place your living body at our disposal. If again driven forth into the streets, you will probably die before five years have passed."

"And if I agree," I asked, "what death do you purpose that I shall die when my day of forfeit comes?"

"I have said before—and I in no way wish or seek to hide our purpose from you—that vivisection has lent marvellous aids to science. That is the process we intend to employ upon you."

"How long will this process last? I mean how long will you take killing me?"

"We cannot say. No unnecessary pain will be inflicted; but it would militate greatly against the success and accuracy of our observations were we to deaden your sense of pain with narcotics daring the progress of our operations. What we require is a human body of fine physical organism, mentally cultivated, and in the prime of life. In fact a good type of the highest form of life. During the intermittent periods of tranquil observations that may occur whilst the experiments are in force, you will be supplied with every stimulating nourishment known to science, and be carefully tended."

"Then I may be days dying?"

"Certainly you will be. The minute microscopic observations that we intend to make upon the action of the internal organs of generation during life will occupy a day or two. We must not trust to induction for gaining our final knowledge; every step must be proved with undoubted accuracy before the next is taken. The crowning secret that will repay all our long labors we hope to learn during your expiring moments. And the hour of your death will be the date of the birth of true physiology. I have stated the case without going into scientific particulars, which would not enlighten you any more, as doubtless you have not studied the subject. We await your answer."

I was staggered. Away from the unreal atmosphere of the room I had just quitted, and here, before these grave unbending men, the proposition assumed a far more serious hue.

"I need not say," put in Allcut as I pondered, "that if posthumous fame is dear to you it will be yours. And what fame will equal that awaiting us—the three discoverers of the source of human existence, the foundation of life?"

I thought and thought. Many men endured quite as much pain so I probably should have to suffer, and bore it unflinchingly. Again, I might die before the allotted time expired. I turned the proposal over and over in my mind, and—consented.

"Now," said Allcut, "this is the understanding between us: If before the expiration of the five years you attempt to escape from us, or to commit suicide, and fail, we are at liberty to at once put our experiment in force. This is the penalty you must agree to pay for any effort to evade your obligations. For the rest, you will receive £15,000 to £20,000 yearly income during the specified term, and this house is at your disposal, with the exception of the laboratories. I will write out a simple memorandum of our agreement, which we will all three sign; a mere matter of form, as we could not of course enforce it legally."

He wrote; they both signed; I added my signature, and sold myself for £15,000 a year for five years.

"Now may I ask," I said, "how it is that, having all this power and wealth at your disposal, you do not procure by force the subject for your experiment, instead of paying such an exorbitant sum for it?"

"It would be murder, which is totally repugnant to our feelings, although you may not believe me when I say so."

"On the other hand," remarked Irving, "if we tempted some dying patient from the hospital to sell to us his few remaining hours of existence it would not aid us much. We want—as I think I told you—a type, an average type that is, of the highest form of human life. Yon are so physically; we can see that at a glance. And that you are up to the mental average we discovered during dinner."

"What prevents me from applying to the police for protection when the time draws near?"

"It would be to our advantage if you did, as your life would be forfeited at once by the terms of the bond you have signed. No power you could marshal against us could save you. You would go to a police-magistrate with this tale; be laughed at, or arrested on suspicion of being a lunatic at large, and would be back in our power very shortly. Try it!"

"One more question: The vision of my possible death that you showed me just now—was it effected by natural means?"

"Of course; what other means are there? A mere mechanical illusion, produced with the assistance of some new discoveries in photography. You did not think, whilst posturing before your glass, that your likeness was being taken. Now shall we rejoin the ladies?"

We did so; and in half-an-hour I had quite forgotten my strange agreement.


OF the events of the three years that followed my strange agreement suffice is to say that I crammed as much excitement and dissipation into them as I possibly could. And when this began to pall I fell into a fit of gloomy despondency that made me suddenly shun all society, break up my other establishments, and retire to the house in Malison-street I thought of nothing else but my approaching end, and how I could best avoid it. My dread of my two purchasers was so great that I feared making the slightest false step lest it should be a signal to them to claim the fulfilment of the bond.

I had soon found out that their boast was true. My every movement was known, and could have been checked at any time. It had been one of the terms of my agreement that I was not to communicate what had passed to anybody, and thus I was debarred from seeking a confederate to aid me in escaping from my doom. I tried to ingratiate myself with my bondmasters, and to take an interest in their pursuits and studies.

I soon saw, however, that nothing would be gained by that move: they were both as steeled against human feelings or affections as if they had been inhabitants of the stars. Then I took a morbid and sickly interest in attending anatomical lectures and obtaining admission to the hospitals to witness surgical operations. And so time sped on to the day of fulfilment I saw no hope of escape save in suicide, and that I kept for a last resource. And I was so well watched that I believe I could not have successfully accomplished that.

ABOUT a month before the bill drawn on my life was due, I was sauntering moodily about the Park, when I saw before me a man whose appearance suggested an idea that promised to elaborate into something. He was evidently a poor devil of the Beau Tibbs breed who spent his little all in buying cheap fashionable clothes, and airing them upon his back, to the robbery of his stomach. I did not doubt that he knew me, as my three years career in the fastest of fast life would have made me a marked man; especially with fellows of his stamp, who would consider it indispensable to be able to recognise temporary lions. I therefore deemed there would be no difficulty in making his acquaintance; and, after a turn or two in order to think out the plan that was beginning to assume shape in my brain, I went up and accosted him.

As I expected, he was evidently beside himself with gratification at my notice, and we walked up and down two or three times discussing current topics of the time. I did not push my acquaintance too openly at first, but after meeting him once or twice more asked him to dinner at an hotel, and in fact played much the same part with him that Allcut had formerly acted with me. Only I carefully avoided taking him to Malison-street; and took rooms at an hotel in order to work out my scheme. I knew I was watched, but I did not care for emissaries, as long as Irving and Allcut did not personally supervise my proceedings.

My new friend's name was Kingley, and of all the selfish vulgar brutes I ever met he was the worst. All the better for my purpose. Such an event as the close acquaintanceship of a rich man had never occurred to him before, and he was evidently determined to make the most of it; his absurd self-conceit leading him to suppose that I was attracted by the social talents he professed to possess.

"By-the-bye, Kingley," I said one day after dinner as he reclined smoking such a cigar as he could only have dreamt of before, "I wonder a fellow like you never got married—a girl with money, of course, I mean."

"Well, I have had one or two chances of that sort but couldn't quite make up my mind; and now I'm rather sorry I let them slip; mightn't get another."

"Really, apart from flattery, old fellow, a man with your appearance should not say that."

"Oh, if the opportunity showed I could profit by it; but the opportunity, as the devil said, that's all I want."

"Now I've been having that opportunity thrust down my throat for the last six months, and would give as much to avoid it as you would to meet it."

"Ah! that's the way of things; you don't want money, and it's offered to you."

"And supposing it were offered to you, what would you do?"

"Jump at it, my boy, like a bird."

"You see, I am in a fix altogether. It's an old family affair, and until the last few months I was quite willing to carry out the arrangement; but latterly I've met somebody else, and—you understand."

"Yes; spoony in another quarter. Well, tell the parents or guardians you won't."

"What excuse can I make after agreeing to everything and having all the necessary documents drawn out: besides the lady herself is to be considered in the matter, remember."

"Oh, the girl's nothing," said the brute; "hang her, she'll get over it."

"Now I've a good idea but I can't carry it out alone; I want your assistance."

"What is it?"

"Come here," I said, and I took him into my bed-room; we stopped before the glass.

"What do you see?" I asked.

"Two devilish good-looking fellows," he replied.

I took a hair-brush and brushed my hair in the same manner as my companion's.

"By gad," he said; "we are alike, there's no two ways about it."

"Do you guess my idea now?" I asked.

"Not altogether."

"Take my place."

"And be married instead of you?"



"Ten thousand a year."

"Good looking?"

"As you'd see in a day's walk."

"Done with you, I say."

We went back to our cigars. And I proceeded to unfold my views to my companion:

"Of course you will be married in my name, but that's nothing—you are or will be just as much married as if you had been married in your own: but to avoid all chance of detection you must not substitute yourself for me until the last moment, and the intervening time you can profitably employ in practising a good imitation of my voice and manner."

"And you think I can carry it off all right?"

"I'm sure of it; besides you will lose nothing if you fail, and are detected; I shall be the sufferer."

"And when is the marriage to come off?"

"To-morrow fortnight."

"So soon? no wonder you were ready for a desperate game. Now confess," he said with more cunning than I gave him credit for; "was it not with this idea in your head that you made my acquaintance first?"

"Well, I admit that it was, but you can't grumble at that when it brings you a rich wife and a pretty one."

"Not I, old fellow; it's a deuced lucky likeness for me."

We parted for the time. He went away doubtless to imitate my gait, gestures, etc, before a glass; I to ponder over the more difficult step that lay ahead of me—namely, introducing Kingley into the house in Malison-street without the knowledge of Irving or Allcut. I thought of many ways before a feasible plan began to be shaped in my brain.

At last I hit upon one. I told Kingley that we must not be seen together any more; that I would explain his course to him, and then we need not meet again. This would not excite suspicion. I drew out a plan of the house in Malison-street, and made him perfect himself in it, as a mistake would be fatal. He was as anxious to succeed as I was, having such a prize in view, and in a short time he was proficient, and I felt sure could be depended on. In fact all he had to do was to enter the house at a certain hour, and walk up to my bed-room, decline all attendance, and go to bed.

I posted him up in his proper conduct during the approaching marriage, but this was only to deceive him; I, of course, knew he would never require it. If Irving and Allcut thought they had me safely in the house, the vigilance outside would be relaxed and I might escape; the worst that could happen to my friend would be a good fright, and the disappointment of not getting his bride. And meanwhile I should be across the Channel. I had taken care, having saved most of my income during the last two years, to forward sums of money to different parts of the world in the hope that I might be able to escape. Certainly I felt that I had robbed the two philosophers of £100,000 or so should I escape; but life! what will not a man do for that?

I next procured a bottle of laudanum and with a great show of secrecy conveyed it to my room. I guessed what would be the result: the contents were changed and an innocent sleeping draught substituted.

Now came the critical day. The next morning at 6 o'clock I was—so said the bond—to deliver over my body to its purchasers. Allcut met me about 8 o'clock as I was descending the stairs.

"To-morrow at 6, Mr. Vallance," he said, "we shall require you to fulfil your part of the agreement."

I muttered a fierce oath, that only made him smile; it was what he expected from me. Then, as if a sudden thought had struck me, I turned and rejoined him.

"I'll dine with you to-night," I said.

He looked curiously at me, evidently puzzled, but merely said he, should be most happy; and we joined Irving in the dining-room. My arrangement with Kingley was that at eleven o'clock he should meet me at an appointed place in a hansom cab, and we would both drive around for about ten minutes; then up to the house in Malison-street, where he would descend and bid me good-night, taking care to show himself well. He would enter, and I would drive away. I had put on one or two marked articles of dress of which he had the duplicates, and I trusted to this, and the resemblance between us, to shifting the spies that followed me on to his track, and giving me six or seven hours start.

I think I forgot to tell you that one of the conditions of my agreement was that I was not to leave England. Of course I would remain in the cab, and intended to cut off my moustache and whiskers, with a sharp pair of scissors I would take for the purpose, during the preliminary drive.

I saw Kingley about 10 o'clock in the morning, and he had seemed very nervous as the time approached; he also appeared to have been having recourse to stimulants in order to keep his courage up. Dreading that he might call one of the servants to get him some brandy, after he got into the house, I told him he would find a capital pick-me-up in my room labelled "Laudanum." I was certain that an innocuous soporific had replaced the poison, and a dose of it would keep him quiet until morning.

May I never eat such another dinner as that one I ate with my two purchasers that night. And yet they were cordiality itself. They evidently thought that I intended suicide; and so I did if all else failed, but not in the way they thought. In my pocket was a small revolver, and the first ball out of it was intended for Allcut, if I got the chance.

Thus we dined, I knowing that my life was forfeit on the morrow; that the well-trained servant behind me ministering to my wants was watching every movement I made; that gold had surrounded me with spies so that I could not move or speak without the motion being noted; and that to escape this net woven around me I had to depend on a very clumsy manoeuvre, assisted by a still more clumsy confederate.

Now that the time had arrived for its performance, my stratagem appeared a most flimsy one, doubtless already seen through and laughed at: surely the sharp-sighted spies had already noted the likeness between Kingley and me, and guessed what my motive was in cultivating his acquaintanceship. Win or lose, I must stand by it now.

Slowly the time crept on. At 10 o'clock, unable to control myself, I left the room, and went down stairs to walk up and down the street; anything to dull the sense of anxious expectancy I was in.

At the head of the first flight of stairs leading from the entrance hall a green baize door had been put up, to deaden all sound from the lower part of the house. From the landing where this was, a descent of about half-a-dozen steps led to the laboratory, a detached-building erected by the two physiologists after they purchased the house. As I put my foot on the landing the green baize door opened, and my double appeared, intoxicated evidently.

"Well, old fellow," he said; "a little before my time, but I suppose it's all right."

Behind me was Allcut's most trusted servant, witnessing this fatal denouement. I need scarcely say that I felt that all was lost.

"Glad to see you all the same," I said as a desperate resolve crossed my mind; "go up to my room; it's all right; make yourself at home."

"Make myself at home," he repeated as he went on; "So I will if I don't lose myself."

"Open the door," I said carelessly to the servant.

The fool did so, or was about to do so, but as he necessarily turned partly away to do it he gave me the opportunity I wanted. My pistol shooting was perfection at close quarters, and I had studied anatomy to some purpose: he fell on the floor shot through the heart, without uttering more than a gasping sob. Seizing him by the arms I dragged his body down the laboratory stairs, and then listened. The beautifully fitted baize door prevented the report being heard downstairs, where most if not all the servants then were.

But what would be the result in the dining-room where I had left Allcut and Irving? Kingley had kept on; I heard the dining-room door open and Allcut's voice speaking to him. Thank goodness, he had sufficient sense left to push surlily past, and make for the bed-room; I could distinguish that much. Next moment two of the servants ascended the stairs, evidently summoned by a bell, which I could not hear on account of the baize door. One came down again; the other no doubt was watching at my bed-room door, where I was then supposed to be. The report, which was not a loud one, had been heard in the dining-room, but Allcut, seeing me as he thought re-ascending, did not trouble himself any more about it, beyond letting a double watch upon me in my bedroom.

But how was I to get away? There was only one mode of egress beyond the ordinary one by the hall door—namely, through the conservatory; but it was impossible for me to reach that without being seen. The servant who admitted Kingley must have imagined that I had gone out that way, which accounted for his unquestioned entrance. If I went out by the door I should be watched and tracked down; I was in a complete fix. Meanwhile the body at my feet must be disposed of. I tried the laboratory door; it was open. I took the corpse in and carried it to a case wherein a skeleton had formerly been kept; before it hung a curtain, but the tenant had been sent to a museum.

Fortunately the victim of misplaced confidence had bean lying on a thick door mat, which had soaked up all the blood; this I also put in the case, which resembled a wardrobe with a curtain instead of a door. Hearing voices approaching, my only resource was to get in myself as well, it being the only place of concealment the room afforded. Irving and Allcut entered; I watched through a slight rent in the curtain, revolver in hand.

"Where is Hall, I wonder?" said Allcut. I was sitting on him—Hall was the man I had shot.

"I told him he might go off duty to-night," said Irving. "Brown and Williams are upstairs."

They entered into chemical experiments which were doubtless interesting and instructive, but which I, sitting on a dead body in a most uncomfortable position, did not appreciate. I could not at first make up my mind as to a course of action, whether to emerge from my place of concealment and run the risk of a fight, or remain quietly and await the course of events; eventually I decided on the latter. The two physiologists remained in the laboratory all night; they were evidently preparing for their crowning experiment upon my living body.

Six o'clock struck, the hour of doom; and five minutes afterwards the two servants entered bringing in the inanimate form of Kingley. He had taken the sleeping draught, and, coming as it did on the top of the spirits he had swallowed, it had rendered him completely insensible. This was a result I had not calculated upon; what was I to do? Remain quiet and await the result of circumstances; nothing like it.

The two servants divested Kingley of his clothes, and placed him, face downwards, upon a marble slab in the middle of the room. Iron clamps were fixed on it, so as to render it impossible for the sufferer to move when once they were secured. One passed round each ankle; one round the back of each knee, round his waist, round his neck, and around each wrist. Having fastened him down the two servants left the room. Then Irving and Allcut approached. Irving drew down a flexible gas tube and arranged it so that by means of a reflector an intense penetrating light could be directed upon any portion of the subject; Allcut then with a surgeon's knife quickly and skilfully cut out a piece of flesh in the neighborhood of the spine.

As might have been expected, this treatment brought the subject to his senses; he uttered a cry of pain, and doubtless essayed to move, but that was impossible. Irving directed a spray of some chemical mixture upon the sides of the incision made by Allcut, that had the effect of stopping the flow of blood. Meanwhile Kingley proceeded to give vent to the most awful cries and yells of pain. He called on me, and prayed for release. Irving and Allcut paid no more attention than if they had been stone deaf. They proceeded methodically to make their microscopic examinations, relieving one another at the task every now and again. Presently fresh incisions were made on the corresponding side, calling forth renewed shrieks from the unhappy sufferer.

All that day it kept on, and I had to sit there, faint and hungry, listening; to it. At times they would leave off and recruit themselves with refreshment, some of which they administered to Kingley, releasing his bead for the purpose. His prayers and entreaties for mercy were agonising. Sometimes he would blaspheme and execrate me for bringing him into the snare; to this my two purchasers gave not the slightest heed, putting it down, I suppose, as an attempt of mine to delude them.

By twelve o'clock that night the wretched subject presented a fearful sight. His tortured quivering body was half cut away, and yet done with such anatomical skill that no vital part had been touched. He had fainted for a time, and an awful silence had succeeded his moans and screams. Awful to me, for the uproar he had made hid covered any noise I inadvertently caused at times. Three o'clock, and a look of triumph beamed upon the faces of the operators; they were evidently upon the eve of a discovery. Their researches became more minute in the internal organs of the victim, whose sobs of pain and hollow groans grew more heartrending. Suddenly his broken prayers that they would kill him, and torture him no longer, ceased. Both the physiologists lifted their heads with an ejaculation of disappointment. Dead!

"And the secret has once more escaped," said Irving, "on the eve of discovery."

"This is not Vallance," said Allcut; "his constitution and nerve would have lasted out longer."

"I have guessed so for some time," returned Irving. "However, we have gained something, and, as Vallance cannot escape—well, we shall have an opportunity of starting further advanced than we were before."

"Yes," said Irving, "Vallance, I must say, showed great ingenuity in providing a substitute. I suppose he did not tell this fellow what he would have to undergo."

While speaking they had gone on dissecting the body of their victim, drawing one another's attention to different points as they did so. Then washing their hands, and leaving the ghastly members of the late living healthy man upon the bloodstained slab, they went out and locked the door after them.

I need scarcely say I felt remarkably happy! One thing I did enjoy, however, the opportunity of stretching my cramped limbs. Then I hunted up the refreshments, and satisfied the cravings of hunger. It was not pleasant company to eat in, two dead men—one beautifully cut up into small pieces; but the prospect of becoming like him troubled me more than the ghastly society I was taking my meal in.

As six o'clock struck I heard a hand on the door and hastily regained my place of concealment. A man entered with a large basket on his arm. I knew him by sight; he was a porter at one of the hospitals I had formerly haunted. His purpose was obvious; to remove the mangled remnants of my friend Kingley. The porter proceeded to put the portions of the human body in his basket, whistling carelessly as he did he; meanwhile I decided upon a course of action. Having finished his task my visitor glanced curiously round the room, and stood for some time examining some colored anatomical engravings lying on a side table.

Taking an iron rod that had formerly supported the skeleton whose place I had usurped, I stole noiselessly behind the unsuspecting porter. I had no wish to kill him, only to stun him, but am afraid that in my excitement I struck rather too hard; however I never had an opportunity of hearing, so cannot say. Having felled him I put on his outer clothing, dragged his body into the cabinet to keep Hall company, took the remains of poor deceived Kingley upon my head, and sauntered out whistling the same air the porter had been solacing himself with. I found a cart and horse in the street as I had expected, and drove off in the cold winter twilight a free man.

I knew the routine at the hospital well; my former visits stood me in good stead now. I therefore got rid of my burden successfully, and plunged into the lowest suburb to be found in London. I had money, having always carried a large sum in cash on my person to be ready for an emergency. I lived for six months in a quarter where the police never entered unless in a large force; and then, thinking that the vigilance of the pursuit must have relaxed, I shipped on board an outward-bound emigrant ship and arrived in this colony before the mast. Queensland was one of the places to which I had formerly forwarded money, and I found it here safe and untouched. This has given me sufficient courage to see if my other remittances are equally secure, and I am about starting for—Is this Ipswich?—yes! Well, remember your promise; I'm not a man to stand on trifles if you break it. Good-bye.


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