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Title: Settling Day
Author: Gould, Nat, 1857-1919
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Settling Day" ***

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  Settling Day


  _By the same Author_

  =SPORTING SKETCHES=

  Some Press Opinions

     'We are inclined to regard this volume as the best work he, Mr
     Gould, has yet done.'--_The Field._

     'These vivid, varied and altogether delightful
     sketches.'--_Glasgow Herald._

       *       *       *       *       *

  =A RACECOURSE TRAGEDY=

  Some Press Opinions

     'Most of the characters are delightful, and the love scenes
     towards the close--in which two of Mr Gould's best-depicted
     characters are the actors--furnish an extremely pleasant ending
     to an exciting and well-told story.'--_Scotsman._

     'A good example of a plain, straightforward story, without any
     mystery, yet strong in human interest.'--_Nottingham Guardian._

       *       *       *       *       *

  =WARNED OFF=

  Some Press Opinions

     'Nat Gould's stories are so lively and full of "go" that they
     never drag for a moment, and the topics of the Turf are sure to be
     found discussed by the characters in the typical style. "Warned
     Off," the latest of the series, is a capital story of a gentleman
     rider who suffers an unjust Turf sentence.'--_Leeds Mercury._

     'The plot affords plenty of scope for the style of writing in
     which Mr Gould indulges, and the book comes out at an appropriate
     time, inasmuch as some of the most exciting incidents take place at
     Epsom.'--_The Field._

       *       *       *       *       *

  For further List of Authors please refer to end of book.



                    SETTLING DAY


                        BY
                     NAT GOULD

                     AUTHOR OF
      'THE DOUBLE EVENT,' 'A RACECOURSE TRAGEDY,'
             'WARNED OFF,' ETC., ETC.


                      LONDON
                 R.A. EVERETT & CO.
            42 ESSEX STREET, STRAND, W.C.

              [_All Rights reserved._]



CONTENTS


  CHAP.                                   PAGE

      I. The Little Chap                     1

     II. Black Sal                          10

    III. Potter's Shanty                    17

     IV. Jim's Trouble                      25

      V. A Regular Savage                   34

     VI. Rodney Shaw                        43

    VII. Outwitted                          53

   VIII. At Cudgegong Station               62

     IX. The Sort of Man Dr Tom is          71

      X. A Frightened Scoundrel             80

     XI. 'Try Willie'                       89

    XII. Mainly Concerning a Dog            97

   XIII. Speculation                       106

    XIV. The Half-Caste's Warning          115

     XV. A Cowardly Assault                123

    XVI. The Morning of the Race           132

   XVII. At the Post                       141

  XVIII. His First Race                    149

    XIX. Sal at Work                       158

     XX. Danger at Hand                    168

    XXI. A Clever Escape                   177

   XXII. Determined Men                    187

  XXIII. The Attack on Barker's Creek      196

   XXIV. A Fierce Fight                    205

    XXV. A Stricken Woman                  214

   XXVI. Settling Day                      223

  XXVII. Neptune's Son                     232

 XXVIII. Grey Bird is Admired              240

   XXIX. A Glorious Victory                249

    XXX. In the Days of Prosperity         258



SETTLING DAY



CHAPTER I

THE LITTLE CHAP


He was riding hard and fast, the thud of his horse's hoofs resounded
from the sun-baked ground. He rode for a life, the life of his child, a
little chap six years old. As he urged on his mare he fancied in every
moan of the wind he heard a cry of pain. His face was set and his eyes
were tearless, but his heart throbbed painfully, and each pulsation
seemed to increase his dread of what might happen in the homestead
during his absence. In the Australian bush doctors are few and far
between, and many miles have to be covered before assistance in case of
sickness can be obtained.

Jim Dennis's had not been a happy life. He was practically an outcast
from society, a solitary man, living in a lonely spot in the wilds of
New South Wales. He had been grievously wronged, and knew it, but others
did not, and the world's judgment upon him had been harsh and unjust.
He hated the world, so he said, and thought he meant, it; but there was
one connecting link with the past that softened his heart, and that was
the little chap who lay fighting for life while he rode at a mad pace to
fetch aid so necessary to save him; and the mare, with that unerring
instinct which horses possess, knew she was set no ordinary task. The
sun was glowing down upon man and beast, and the ground felt like hot
bricks. There was no grass, for the wretched substitute in the dried
shrivelled blades that nodded faintly in the wind could scarcely be
designated as such.

No trees afforded a cool shade, and a stagnant water-hole or two was no
temptation to drink.

Jim Dennis had several miles to go before he reached Swamp Creek, the
nearest township to his lonely station.

He urged the mare on, and faster and faster she went, taxing her
strength to the uttermost, and yet never faltering, her courage still
high, her spirit undaunted. Her nostrils were extended and fiery red, a
few faint traces of foam were on the bit, but her mouth was dry and
parched as the ground she galloped over.

Her breath came in short, quick sobs, and Jim Dennis knew she would be
well-nigh spent in another hour. He was not a cruel man, and he had
great affection for all animals. It was mankind that he warred against,
not the brute creation.

'Poor old lass,' he murmured as he patted her hot neck. 'Poor old Bess.
This is a hard day's work for you old girl; but don't think me cruel.
You must save his life--my little chap's life. He's dying, Bess. Do you
hear--? he's dying!' He almost shouted the last words in a long wail of
agony.

The mare pricked her ears at the sound, and, noble beast that she was,
stretched out in a final effort.

She almost flew over the ground and even Jim Dennis, who knew her so
well, was surprised.

'She knows,' he thought. 'Good old Bess! She's never gone like this
before.'

There was a singing in his ears, and a monotonous, wailing cry hovered
around him.

If the little chap died he knew there was nothing left for him to live
for. That small life breathed hope into him, and if it were extinguished
the last flicker would go out of his heart.

In the far distance he saw a small cluster of houses, shanties would
perhaps be the proper word. It was the dim outline of Swamp Creek, a
miserable little place, but to Jim it seemed a haven of rest and hope.

The local doctor was a curious compound of self-conceit and good nature.
He had been a ship's surgeon for many years, and if he was somewhat
addicted to drink, no better hearted fellow could be found for a hundred
miles round.

He was stranded in Sydney, but through the aid of a brother medico of
repute he managed to establish himself at Swamp Creek, where in his
bachelor state he eked out an existence.

Dr Thomas Sheridan, or, as he was familiarly known in Swamp Creek
district, Dr Tom, was simply idolised by the inhabitants, and this
adoration was not undeserved, for it often stood in lieu of medical
fees.

Dr Tom, even when in his cups, was never known to refuse to undertake
any journey, no matter how far, or in what weather, or how remote the
chance of payment.

Although he did not look it, Dr Tom was by no means unskilful, and he
had an iron nerve which no amount of bad, fiery liquor, could shake.

It was to Dr Tom that Jim Dennis was riding, and he felt every
confidence in his being able to pull the little chap through if he could
only get him there in time.

That was the all-important question: Would Dr Tom arrive in time?

Nearer and nearer the mare galloped towards the township, and the
doctor, whose house stood at the edge of the village, saw them coming.

He was in a good humour. That morning he had completed a difficult
operation to his entire satisfaction, although the patient had alluded
to him as a 'blundering old idiot,' and wondered why such men were
permitted to 'adorn' the medical profession.

Dr Tom was used to strong language, Swamp Creek was famous for it, in
fact the Creek had almost a language of its own. The atmosphere probably
had something to do with the warmth of the expressions used by the
inhabitants.

Dr Tom looked at the mare and her rider, and said to himself:

'That's Jim Dennis. Wonder what the devil he's up to, tearing about the
country like a madman in this heat. He's on a "jag," I guess. Well,
he'll get no assistance here, I can do with all the "jag mixture"
myself.'

Jim Dennis pulled the exhausted mare up with a jerk, and, springing out
of the saddle, rushed up the steps of the doctor's house.

'He's dying, Dr Tom, the little chap's dying. Come at once. For God's
sake man hurry! We haven't a moment to lose. You must save him. You can
save him. You _will_ save him! He's all I have in the world.'

'What, little Willie!' exclaimed Dr Tom. 'What's got hold of him?'

'Fever, or something. He's raving. Don't stand talking. Hurry up! Get
out your buggy and horses. Never mind if you drive 'em to death. I'll
pay for 'em. Only get there in time.'

'I'll be ready in a crack, Jim,' said Dr Tom, as he went inside, and, in
a very short space of time, the buggy, with a decent pair of horses
hitched to it, was at the door.

'Leave your mare here, she's dead beat,' said Dr Tom.

Away they went at full gallop, and as the doctor's buggy dashed out of
the township, people looked after it and thought it must be a desperate
case for him to drive his cattle at such a pace.

'Keep calm, man; keep calm, or you'll be ill yourself,' said Dr Tom.

'I can't do it, doc, the little chap may be dead,' and Jim Dennis
groaned.

'Cheer up, mate, you never know what a youngster can pull through;
they'll beat a man hollow. Many's the child I have seen live when a man
would have died,' said Dr Tom.

There was a gleam of hope in Jim Dennis's eyes, but it quickly faded,
and he said,--

'Bad luck has dogged me all my life. There's a curse upon me, and now
it's fallen on the little chap.'

Dr Tom looked at him. He did not know the history of this man's life but
he guessed some of it. He was a shrewd judge of character, and in his
heart he believed that Jim Dennis was more sinned against than sinning.
He had heard strange stories of this lonely man, and he had more than
once had a stand-up fight on his account. He liked Jim more than anyone
about Swamp Creek, and he was very fond of the little chap, as Willie
was called.

He meant to save the child if possible, and he had fought many a fight
with grim Death and beaten him. Nothing gave Dr Tom more satisfaction
than to rescue a patient from danger. It was not so much that he loved
his profession as that he desired to overcome obstacles.

'Get up!' said the doctor, and laid the lash across the backs of his
horses. 'It will ruin my pair, but I don't mind that. They are not
accustomed to this pace.'

'You can take the best pair I have,' said Jim.

'I know that. You are not like the bulk of my patients. Cross words is
the most I get from some of them,' said the doctor.

Jim Dennis smiled faintly. He knew Dr Tom did not exaggerate.

The buggy swayed from side to side and bumped up and down in a manner
suggestive of an early turn over.

It was a rough country and there was only a track, made by the mail
coach, which ran past Jim Dennis's place twice a week.

The doctor's buggy, however, was made to bear plenty of wear and tear,
and, although it looked anything but elegant, it could stand a lot of
knocking about. The last time it had been washed the Swamp Creek folk
were so surprised that they turned out _en masse_ to look at the
unfamiliar operation. Dr Tom, who said he disliked publicity, had not
since repeated the operation. The harness had several suspicions of bits
of rope about it, and the horses were accustomed to do most of their
own grooming by rolling in the stable yard. Altogether the turnout was
not one to inspire confidence, but it was, nevertheless, a welcome sight
to many a sufferer round Swamp Creek.

'We'll be there soon, Jim. Cheer up, old man. Don't let the little chap
see you with a downcast face. Whom have you left with him?'

'Sal!'

'What! the half-caste?'

'Yes. She's a good sort.'

'Humph!' said the doctor.

'Who else could I leave?'

'No one, of course,' and Dr Tom applied the whip vigorously.

A cloud of dust rose around the buggy and they came to a stop; the
sudden jerk nearly threw them out.

One of the horses was down. With a muttered curse, Jim Dennis jumped out
and urged the animal to rise. The tired horse struggled to his feet and,
as Jim sprang into the buggy, moved on again.

'Dead beat,' said Dr Tom; 'but he'll last to your place.'

In half an hour they saw Dennis's homestead in the distance, and again
the lash came down on the horses' backs, wielded by Dr Tom's vigorous
arm.

It was a moment of terrible suspense to Jim Dennis when the buggy pulled
up, and Dr Tom, springing out with more activity than might have been
expected, hurried into the cottage.

Jim was almost afraid to follow him.

If the little chap was dead he felt he could not bear the blow.

The minute or two he stood outside waiting seemed an eternity.

Then came a relief that was well-nigh as insupportable. It was Dr Tom
who called out,--

'Come in, Jim, the little chap's alive. I'll pull him through. He's not
so bad after all.'

'Thank God!' said Jim Dennis, whose prayers had been few and far
between.



CHAPTER II

BLACK SAL


Jim Dennis's homestead was anything but an enticing place. He had built
the bulk of it himself, and said it was good enough. The boards were
fairly weather-beaten and the galvanised iron roof was torn at the ends
by wind and rain. A small verandah in front was reached by five rickety
steps, and some of the piles on which the house was built afforded a
fine refuge for white ants. These insects were so industrious that one
stump was a crumbling mass, so laboriously had it been honeycombed.

Around the homestead was the stable yard, a dull, dreary-looking place,
consisting of two or three sheds hurriedly run up, a heap of refuse, a
dirty old dog kennel, home made, a sheep pen, and a few etceteras, that
men who have known such places will imagine.

For all that, however, Jim Dennis had a fair station. He had purchased
it in the rough from the Government and obtained it on easy terms. All
payments had been kept up and the land was his own.

Jim Dennis was never known to repudiate debts. His name was 'good' with
the storekeepers for miles round, but he was more feared than
respected. No one seemed able to understand him. He had an inscrutable
face, and was seldom seen to smile except when the little chap was with
him.

'He's a bad lot,' was the Swamp Creek opinion.

'And let me tell you, you "bounders,"' said Dr Tom, 'that half of you
are not fit to black Jim Dennis's boots.'

'He never has 'em blacked, doc.'

'Then you're not fit to scrape the dirt off 'em, never mind the
blacking,' was the retort.

Inside Wanabeen, the name of Jim's place, the little chap lay gasping on
a camp bedstead, with the half-caste Sal crooning near him.

Sal was not so black as the aborigine, and had been brought up on a
mission station. She was not a bad-looking woman, about four or
five-and-twenty.

How came she there?

It happened in this wise. Sal was the offspring of a rich squatter. Her
only disgrace was her birth, not to her, but to the man who begot her.
She lived with the blacks on the station for several years. She grew up
in wild, unrestricted freedom. She was lithe and active as any young
black on the run, and her fleetness of foot had more than once stood her
in good stead.

Sal had dark brown liquid eyes, a nose somewhat too large for her face,
but not unprepossessing, full cheeks, a forehead well set on, small
ears, thickish lips, and a mass of dark curly hair that never seemed to
be out of order. She had small hands and small feet, and her supple
limbs were graceful.

When the 'boss' of the station went to England to spend the money others
had made for him, Sal was annexed by the mission people.

Not that these good folk meant any harm, quite the contrary, they took
the girl for the good of her health and her soul.

It so happened that Sal did not know the meaning of the word soul, but
it was explained to her. She thought it curious that a certain portion
of her body when she died would go to regions far away. If she happened
to be good her soul would revel above the blue sky in unrestricted
freedom for evermore; if she by any chance turned out badly--well, there
was another place where her soul would suffer torments suitable to her
misdeeds.

Sal argued this matter out with herself, and commenced to take
observations. She saw much in the conduct of her preceptors which caused
her to wonder whether their souls were destined for the blue skies or
the other place.

Having white blood in her veins, Sal had an imagination far beyond her
dull, thick-skulled people. She had a mind and a will of her own. The
former suggested to her that she ought to run away from the mission, and
the latter carried it out. In a word, Sal 'bolted.'

For several years she wandered about with the members of her own tribe,
loathing the savage, uncouth part of their nature, yet loving the
liberty they enjoyed. She was a curious mixture, a compound of black and
white, a study in unharmonies. Half tame, half wild, reasoning yet
unreasoning, knowing good from bad, yet undecided on which side lay
happiness. The chief of her tribe, King Charlie, who had dreamt the
dream and seen the vision of the 'Spirit of the Lilies' and of the
bursting of the cloud that turned the great western plain into a lake,
understood her.

He protected her and saved her from danger.

King Charlie had a metal plate suspended from his neck, which covered
his hard, black, hairy chest--in the shape of a half moon--and on this
plate was written the 'order of the garter' of his tribe. King Charlie
loved Sal, and she ruled him, as women have ruled those who love them
since the day that Adam fell.

There came a time, when the land was parched and food was scarce, when
the wandering camp split up and some went one way, some another.

Sal found a resting place at Wanabeen. She crawled, half dead, to the
foot of the steps of Jim Dennis's homestead, and, panting, lay down to
die.

She stretched out her scantily-clothed limbs and pillowed her black
curly head on her shrunken arms.

She commenced to think about her soul and wonder when it would leave her
body, and whether it would soar to that bright blue, hot, pitiless sky
above. Then she fell asleep, and when Jim Dennis came out of his cottage
with the little chap in his arms he stumbled over her.

Jim Dennis did not curse or swear or tell this outcast to 'get out.'

He put the little chap down, who was then three years old, and picked up
the sleeping woman. He carried her on to the verandah--he was a big,
powerful fellow--and then he went inside, dragged out his own mattress
and put her on to it.

The little chap watched him with wondering eyes, and commenced to make
three-year-old remarks, such as 'Who's that, daddy? Pitty woman. Whoo's
seepy, daddy,' and so on.

Jim Dennis brought water and moistened her lips. Then he stood watching
her.

Sal slept right through the night, and when she came round in the
morning she saw Jim Dennis before her with the child in his arms. She
rubbed her eyes and looked at them. Then she explained what had
happened, and Jim said,--

'You can stay here and look after the little chap. Will you?'

Her big brown eyes glistened, and, weak as she was she stretched out her
hands for the child.

Jim put him down, and, after a moment's hesitation, he toddled towards
her.

From that day, three years ago, black Sal had been devoted to the little
boy. In her wild, half-tamed way she loved him more than anything on
earth.

It was Sal who sat at the child's bedside when Jim Dennis rode out to
Swamp Creek for Dr Tom. The woman watched every movement of the little
face, every quiver of the body. Each moan from his lips pierced her like
a knife. The child was not her own, and yet she loved him, and
worshipped with a dog-like devotion the big man who was his father.

Sal would willingly have submitted to any torture could she by so doing
have saved the child a moment's pain.

During the long weary hours when Jim Dennis was absent she felt as
though something in her body must snap.

Then she heard, with her keen ears, the low, dull thud of the horses'
hoofs, and she knew they were coming, and that help was at hand. She did
not leave the bedside to look out, she would not have done that for
worlds. When Dr Tom came into the room she gave a gasp, and watched him
as he looked at the child. She saw hope in his face and caught his hand.

Dr Tom pressed it and said,--

'Come in, Jim, the little chap's alive. I'll pull him through. It's not
so bad after all.'

All that night Dr Tom fought for the child's life, and the dark woman
and Jim Dennis looked on in silent agony.

With the first streaks of dawn a change came over the child. It was as
though the coming day had ushered in new life and hope.

For two days Dr Tom remained at Wanabeen, and at the end of that time
the boy's life was out of danger.

The tension relapsed, Jim Dennis said,--

'I have a lot to thank you for, doctor. You have saved him, and he is
dearer to me than my own life. I shall never forget it. There may come a
time when I can be of service to you, and then you must not be afraid to
ask what you will of Jim Dennis.'

Dr Tom was not a sentimental man, but even his hard, rough-used nature
felt the delicacy of the situation.

'It has given me more pleasure to save that child's life than I ever
experienced before. Jim Dennis, you're a brick.'

Jim smiled as he replied, 'Swamp Creek thinks I'm a shocking bad lot.'

'Then Swamp Creek can go to--'

'Hold hard, doc.'

'Let 'em say anything against you in my presence, that's all,' said Dr
Tom.

'You are quite sure he is out of danger?' asked Jim.

'Certain. I'll leave all the necessary medicine and tell Sal what to do.
She's like a mother to him.'

A dark cloud gathered on Jim Dennis's face, and Dr Tom saw it.

'Jim, my man, where is the lad's mother?'

'Wait and I'll tell you on--' he hesitated.

'On!--when?' asked Dr Tom.

'Settling Day,' said Jim.



CHAPTER III

POTTER'S SHANTY


Dr Tom remained for three days at Wanabeen.

'If there's anyone ill they know where to find me,' he said.

'They'll never come to Wanabeen for you. There's a bad name about this
place,' Jim replied.

'Who's given it?'

'The police, and well--you know--others.'

'Why?'

Jim Dennis shrugged his shoulders. It was an expressive gesture, it
meant so much to a man who understood him.

'You are one of the old gang, they tell me, Jim--is that true?'

'What do you mean by the old gang?'

'One of the men who stuck the beggars all up at Potter's Shanty when the
coach was stopped,' said Dr Tom.

'They say that--do they?'

'Yes.'

'Then let it rest. I was there that night.'

'Were you in it, Jim?--no halves.'

'No, doc, I was not in it in the sense you mean.'

'Who put it up?'

The question was a simple one, but Jim Dennis turned round like a lion
at bay, and said,--

'You--you--dare ask _me_ that?'

Dr Tom felt uncomfortable.

'I don't want you to give a pal away,' he said.

Jim Dennis strode over to him and took his arm. The pressure was painful
and Dr Tom winced.

'This is not an amputation case,' he said.

Jim Dennis dropped his arm and said quietly,--

'Forgive me, doc; but don't you really know the fact of that matter?'

'No, on my honour.'

'Then I am the last man to tell you.'

Dr Tom sighed and glanced out of his eyes at Jim.

That 'sticking up' case at Potter's Shanty had puzzled more than one
clever man.

Now the little chap has pulled through, and death is not knocking at his
door, it may be as well to relate the incident.

Potter's Shanty was a public-house, a wayside hotel, a dispensary for
every kind of infernal liquor, bad and indifferent--there was no good.

The mail coach stopped at Potter's, and it was reported to the police
that sometimes the mails stopped there also. Potter's was a curious old
place, and lay, or, to be more correct, tried to stand, between Swamp
Creek and Wanabeen. Old Potter was a relic of bygone days. He had been
mixed up with the Kelly gang over the border, and at various times a
hospitable Government had entertained him without his sanction.

Old Potter was a trifle of a moralist in his way. He could neither read
or write; so on one occasion when he was accused of forgery he brought
forward unimpeachable evidence in his favour.

The Crown had produced a mass of evidence which proved up to the hilt
that old Potter was an unmitigated thief, but the prosecution went too
far, as prosecutions occasionally do, and proved too much. It was sworn
on oath (Potter was particular about oaths) that old Samuel Potter had
forged a signature to a bill.

'What's a bill?' asked Samuel.

The Court tittered. There were a few remarks made as to Samuel Potter's
blissful ignorance.

'Do you mean to tell me you don't know what a bill is?' asked the Crown
prosecutor.

'Well, that depends,' said Potter.

'What depends? Depends on what? Answer me that, sir!' thundered the
irate man with the flowing wig.

'Well, it's this way, you see. If you stayed at my shanty and ran up a
score, which you didn't pay, and I asked you for the amount, I'd call
that a bill.'

The learned gentleman pulled his black cloak furiously and said,--

'If I owed you a bill I would pay it, provided you presented it in due
form.'

'That's what I couldn't do, your worship,' said Potter.

'Why?' asked the judge.

'Because I can't read or write.'

The judge put on his spectacles, which had been reposing on his
notebook, and said, as he eyed the Crown prosecutor with severity,--

'I understood this man was charged with forgery.'

The Crown prosecutor blinked, and eventually Samuel Potter was
discharged.

Although it was perfectly true that Potter could neither read or write,
he was a shrewd man, and his shanty had been the scene of many an
illegal transaction.

Swamp Creek folk had a wholesome dread of Potter's, and the solitary
mounted constable in the place knew it was wise for him to 'keep in'
with old Sam.

The police magistrate for the district was also aware that Potter's
Shanty was a house of ill repute, but what could he do, he was one
against many?

The incident alluded to by Dr Tom was exciting enough in its way.

Ned Glenn, the driver of the coach, pulled up as usual at Potter's to
refresh his horses, five of them, fairly good animals. The passengers
also endeavoured to cool their parched throats, but old Sam was one too
many for them. His liquors were strong and 'home made,' and so the
passengers discovered.

It so happened that on this journey the young manager of the Swamp Creek
branch of the Nation's Bank was on his way to the headquarters for the
Western District at Bourke. He carried with him a considerable sum of
money, much in gold, more in notes.

It was his way of doing it. He thought that by not giving notice of the
fact, publicity would be avoided, and that he might escape observation.
Thirty or forty years ago things were very different in Australia to
what they are now, and coaches were run in districts where the trains
may now be seen daily.

Jim Dennis was at Potter's Shanty the night the coach stopped and the
manager of the Nation's Bank was robbed.

A month after the robbery he cashed a note for five pounds in the Swamp
Creek Hotel, and this same note was proved to have been in the
possession of the manager of the Nation's Bank on the day of the robbery
at Potter's. There was no direct evidence to prove Jim Dennis had any
hand in the business, but in those days suspicion once fastened on to a
man was difficult to get rid of. The majority of the people in the
district believed Jim Dennis had a hand in the robbery, in fact was the
instigator of it, and Sam Potter encouraged the impression.

Between Potter and Jim Dennis a continual war had been waged ever since,
and, what made matters worse, Ned Glenn, the coach driver, sided with
the owner of Wanabeen. Ned Glenn was no fool. He had driven the coach
between Swamp Creek and Bourke for several years. He knew every inch of
the road, or, to be more correct, the track, and no man could frighten a
box-seat passenger out of his senses better than Ned. He was a
weather-beaten old fellow, with a face like cracked parchment, merry
little twinkling eyes that were suggestive of unlimited fun and roguery.

Ned Glenn was a character. He had figured, even in those early days, as
a prominent man--a full page all to himself--in the _Sydney Lantern_. In
this remarkable sheet Ned Glenn was depicted as a kind of Claude Duval
on the box seat of his coach. Passengers were notified to 'beware of the
driver,' and Ned's pockets were bulging out with stolen notes and
various articles of attire alleged to have been the property of his
passengers.

Ned was advised by the local lawyer at Swamp Creek that he had a good
action against the paper and would recover heavy damages.

'And who'll get 'em?' said Ned.

'You will,' replied the lawyer.

'And what about your share?' asked Ned.

'I shall expect some recompense,' said the legal luminary.

Ned winked his near side eye and thought they had better let the matter
slide. To tell the honest truth, Ned Glenn was rather proud of figuring
in the _Lantern_. He had seen the Premier occupying the front page, also
the Governor, and even if reflections were cast upon his character by
the sketch, it was good to be in such company.

'And the hartist's signed his name to it,' said Ned, proudly, as he
produced the crumpled up journal for the benefit of the 'bagman,' who
occupied the box seat. Ned Glenn was a thick-and-thin supporter of Jim
Dennis and Dr Tom, not to mention the little chap, and Sal. If the whole
of the members of the ministry had been on his coach, Ned would have
pulled up at Wanabeen.

It so came about that the night Dr Tom was to leave Wanabeen Ned's coach
was due.

The doctor and Jim Dennis were standing on the verandah, and saw him
tooling his team along at a shambling gallop.

'Funny thing we should be talking about that affair at Potter's,' said
the doctor. 'Here's Ned's coach.'

'He'll pull up here, he always does,' said Jim. 'I'll go and get him a
drink ready. I feel quite light-hearted now the little chap is
better--thanks to you, doc.'

Jim Dennis passed inside, and before he came out again Ned Glenn had
pulled up his horses in front of the homestead.

There were no passengers; he merely had the mail and some luggage.

'Hullo, doctor, what are you doing here?' sang out Ned in his cheery
voice.

'Jim's youngster has been very ill. I've been here these three days.'

'Eh, Gad! What! the little chap?' exclaimed Ned, as he scrambled down.

'Yes, the little chap; but he's out of danger now,' said the doctor.

'Where's Jim?'

'Gone inside to get you a drink.'

Ned Glenn left the mails, the coach and the horses to look after
themselves. His old-fashioned figure glided round the side of the
homestead, and when he saw Jim Dennis he said,--

'He's all right, eh, Jim? We can't afford to lose him. There never was
such a child.'

'Yes, Ned, he's safe, thanks to Dr Tom; but he's had a tough time of
it.'

'And pulled through,' said Ned. 'I hope I'll live to see him on the back
of a cup winner for his dad before I peg out.'



CHAPTER IV

JIM'S TROUBLE


Left alone with his son, Jim Dennis watched him tenderly, and Sal looked
keenly at him, with dog-like devotion gleaming out of her deep, dull,
liquid eyes.

She understood what the life of this child meant to the man who had been
kind to her when all others had deserted her. Her heart bled for him in
his trouble, and she would willingly have given her life to spare him
pain.

Jim Dennis gazed long at the child's now peaceful face. As his little
head lay pillowed in peaceful slumber on one arm, the features of the
sleeping boy recalled many memories.

It brought back thoughts of a woman he had loved and married, and who
left him when Willie Dennis was but an infant. It was a cruel, heartless
blow she struck him, and he meant some day to 'settle' an account with
the man who had robbed him.

It was the old story. The life at Wanabeen was lonely and Maud Dennis
was city bred. Jim Dennis had deceived her in nothing when he married
her. He told her of the solitary life he led, and painted his home in
anything but glowing colours. He would rather have risked losing her
than deceive her.

Maud fancied she loved him, probably she did then, and said life with
him would be worth living anywhere. Jim Dennis believed her, married her
and took her home to Wanabeen.

For a time all went well. Then the loneliness commenced to tell upon her
somewhat frivolous nature. She pined for the city, the pleasures of
Sydney life, the shops, the gaiety, the dances and picnics, the
admiration of men and the thousand and one other attractions that are
all in all to some women. Jim Dennis saw she felt lonely and it troubled
him. He was absent on the station the greater part of the day, it could
not be otherwise in his life. He thought when the child was born it
would cheer her and render her life more tolerable.

He was grievously mistaken. Maud was not a woman to make a devoted
mother. She was too selfish, and little Willie was rather a 'bore' to
her.

With a great trouble at his heart, Jim Dennis saw this, and he felt he
must do something to relieve the strain. He asked her if she would like
to go to Sydney for a few months for a change. Maud was delighted at the
prospect, but asked, much to her husband's astonishment, what would
become of the child.

'Take him with you,' said Jim. 'You cannot leave him here.'

'Surely you can find someone to mind him. I shall not be able to enjoy
myself in Sydney if he is there,' was her unfeeling reply.

Jim Dennis was a man of few words.

'Leave him with me. I will take care of him,' he said, as he took the
little chap in his arms and kissed him.

'I am sure you will manage all right, Jim,' she said; 'and he will be
far better here than in Sydney. It is a trying journey, and the coach is
such an uncomfortable one. Yes, he will be far better here.'

So Willie remained at Wanabeen, and his mother went to Sydney. It was
with a sad heart, and a feeling of bitter disappointment, that Jim
Dennis watched her wave her hand in farewell from the box seat of Ned
Glenn's coach.

He stood on the verandah with the child in his arms, and remained there
until it was out of sight. He saw her talking gaily to Ned, and she did
not look back after that one farewell.

A presentiment of coming evil oppressed him. Ought he to have allowed
her to go? that was the burden of his thoughts. He hardly knew what he
feared. She was his wife, and he trusted her; then what harm could come
of it?

He had never seen her from that day, but her face and form came vividly
to mind as he looked at his child.

He received letters from her during the first month of her stay in
Sydney. He was pleased with them. She was happy, the change was doing
her an immense amount of good. She inquired lovingly after him and the
child. As the month wore on her letters became shorter, and excuses were
made that she had so much to do, and such a short time to do it in, that
she must make the most of it, and so on.

In the last letter he received no mention was made of Willie, and he
felt it keenly.

Then there was an interval of suspense. He waited a fortnight and no
letter arrived. He could stand it no longer, and he wrote to her father
asking how it was he had not heard from Maud. Was she ill? Then came the
reply that seemed for days and weeks to blot out his life, and he
wandered about in an aimless, half-dazed way, heedless where he went,
not knowing what he was doing.

'Maud left home to return to Wanabeen a week ago,' wrote her father.
'What can have happened?'

Jim Dennis knew what had happened. His heart told him that she had left
him and deserted her child. He did not answer the letter, and another
came.

Maud's father wrote to say his daughter was a disgrace to her family. He
heard she had gone to England, but he did not know with whom. He advised
him to think of her as dead and cast her memory out of his life, as he
meant to do.

'She is not worth a thought from such a man as you, Jim Dennis. You are
worth a hundred times more than she is. I am sorry for you, very sorry.
Can we help you at all with the little one? If so, please say in what
way. I wish to heaven she had never been born to bring this disgrace
upon us all.'

Jim Dennis wanted no help, and wrote to that effect. 'I will find her
out, and the man who has ruined our lives, and then there will be a
heavy settling day between us. As for blotting her out of my memory, I
cannot do that yet, but the day may come when it will be done. If ever
such a day arrives, there will be no mercy for the man or the woman--at
present I have some for her.'

It took him a long time to write this letter. He was not much of a hand
at letter writing, and his thoughts did not flow freely. Living his
lonely life, he did not hear for a long time the story his wife had
circulated in Sydney.

She had not only deserted him, but she had cast aspersions upon his
character. She had blackened his name and accused him of many sins. To
hide her own shame she threw blame for it upon him. Nay, she even went
so far as to repudiate her own son, and say he was not her child. No
outrage to the feelings of such a man as Jim Dennis could have been
worse. He heard faint rumours of such things, but he refused to believe
them. However, the truth was forced home to him by a friend from Sydney,
who thought it better he should know the facts and try to refute them.

But Jim Dennis refused to do so. He bore his second blow as he did the
first, in silence, but he brooded long and deep over his wrongs. He
hardened his heart and cursed the mother of his child.

He clenched his hands and swore a solemn oath the child should never
hear its mother's name. Nay, more, he would, if necessary, uphold what
his wife had said, and make Willie think he had another mother who was
dead.

At all events, the lad should never learn, if he could possibly guard it
from him, of the disgrace that had been put upon them both. Time had
softened the blow to Jim Dennis, but had not healed it, and he was
thinking of the bitter past as he sat by the bedside of his son.

Then old Ned Glenn's words occurred to him.

'What was he to make of the boy?'

Time enough for that, but still it had to be thought about. He had often
mapped out an imaginary career for the little chap, but had never been
able to satisfy himself the conclusions he had arrived at were for the
best.

Ned Glenn's remark:

'I hope I'll live to see him on the back of a cup winner for his dad,'
had sent off his thoughts in another direction.

Jim Dennis was a splendid horseman, no man in the wild district in which
he lived could compare with him.

He had broken-in the most obstinate of buck-jumpers and took a delight
in mastering their stubborn natures. If a neighbour had a particularly
savage, untameable animal, he would send to him and ask him if he could
'make the brute manageable.'

Nothing suited Jim better. He did not think it a trouble, but a
pleasure, and regarded it more as conferring a favour upon himself than
the other way about.

He would ride miles to lend a hand at this 'amusement,' as he called it,
and thought he risked neither life nor limb by undertaking the task.

'You are the rummiest fellow I ever knew,' said Dr Tom to him. 'You
never charge anything for your trouble, and, bless me, if you don't seem
to regard risking your neck as legitimate sport.'

'Is there anything I can do for you in the breaking-in line?' Jim asked
with a smile.

'Yes, there is. I have bought a brute that licks creation,' said the
doctor.

'Ah!' said Jim, expressively. 'Didn't try him before buying?'

'No, not much.'

'How long was the price?'

'Only a fiver.'

'You cannot expect much for that.'

'But I got more than I bargained for. The seller said he was quiet
enough,' said the doctor.

'Have you had him in the buggy?'

'Can't get him to look at the vehicle, and he has kicked down a portion
of the stable already.'

'It wouldn't take long to kick the lot down,' laughed Jim.

'Don't abuse my property, or the next time you are ill I shall decline
to attend you.'

'You mean the first time I am ill. I have never troubled you for any
medicine yet,' said Jim.

'Only for whisky,' said the doctor, with a twinkle in his eyes.

'How about this horse? Must I tackle him for you?' asked Jim, changing
the subject.

'If you will be so obliging.'

Jim Dennis took the doctor's steed in hand, and in the course of a
severe tussle, extending over several hours, completely cowed him.

To such a man as Jim Dennis the thought of his son being a jockey came
natural. With a critical eye he looked him over and thought, 'He is just
cut out for it. He'll never be a heavy weight and he's the exact shape.'

'He'll have to pretty well live in the saddle here,' thought Jim; 'and
he may as well make the most of his skill if he has any in that
direction.'

The lad turned over and, opening his eyes, looked into his father's
face.

'Do you feel better now, Willie?' he asked tenderly.

'Yes, dad, all the pain has gone.'

Sal put her hand on his head and smoothed back his hair. 'You will soon
be well, Willie,' she said.

'Does Dr Tom say so?'

'Yes,' answered his father.

'I'm so glad, dad. I want to be a big man and help you. There's no one
to look after you but Sal and me. We'll take care of you. I mean to be
as good a rider as you are.'

'That's right. I hope you will be even better.'

'I could not be better, because you are the best.'

'You must rest now, and keep quiet. Give him his medicine, Sal.'

The woman measured out the dose and placed the glass to his lips.

'That's not nasty. I like it,' he said.

A low, rumbling sound was heard. 'We are going to have rain,' said Jim,
and his face brightened, for they were sorely in need of it.

'That will do good, dad.'

'Yes, and cool the air for you. You are not frightened at storms, are
you?'

'No, not when you are here. I'm never frightened at anything when you
are near me.'

It was a great consolation in Jim Dennis's life when he heard his child
speak like this. He almost forgave the mother for deserting them,
because it left Willie entirely for himself.

The only thing he was selfish in was the love of his son, and he could
not bear that to be shared with anyone.



CHAPTER V

A REGULAR SAVAGE


For days and weeks there had been no rain at Wanabeen or in the Swamp
Creek district. Jim Dennis was not a rich man, far from it, and he had
to depend upon his small station for his living. Everything depended
upon the weather. Without rain the land became a mere barren waste, and
the stock perished. There were no artesian bores then, no artificial or
scientific means of drawing supplies of water from under the ground,
although Jim had a shrewd suspicion, from observations he had made, that
underground rivers existed. He wished such rivers above instead of
beneath the surface, or that he could find some means to tap them.

Owing to his boy's illness he had not been on his run for several days,
quite an unusual occurrence with him. He could not leave the lad while
in danger. He would have lost everything sooner than do so. But now he
was on the high road to recovery, he went about his ordinary duties as
usual.

The low rumbling still continued, and he went outside the house to look
at the sky and watch the signs of the approach of the welcome storm. In
the distance he saw black masses of clouds, but they were a long way
off, and he was fearful that, after all, the storm might not reach
Wanabeen.

The cattle and horses already recognised the coming rain, and sniffed
the air and looked around with eager anticipation.

'I'll saddle up and have a look round,' he said to himself. 'Willie will
be all right.'

He stepped inside and found his son asleep. He beckoned to Sal and told
her to look after him and that he would not be long gone.

He saddled his horse, a fine bay about six years old, and one he had
bred himself. There was a certain amount of comradeship between Jim
Dennis and his horses. They seemed to understand him as well as he did
them. He rode out at the gate and went in the direction of the storm.

It was with a glad heart he heard the rumbling of the thunder, and from
the various signs around him he knew the rain was near at hand. As far
as he could see there was a peculiar haze in the atmosphere, dense, like
falling rain.

The brown, bare earth, with here and there a scanty tuft of green,
seemed to lie gasping for water. Big cracks appeared in the ground where
it had been unable to stand the constant baking any longer, and so had
given way. The trees were gaunt and well-nigh leafless.

He rode along keeping his eyes fixed on the clouds ahead. With
surprising suddenness he felt a cool breeze commence to blow. It fanned
his face and refreshed him, and his horse snorted and tossed his head as
though he would say, 'This is a pleasant change. There will be a chance
of a good feed soon.'

He reined in and waited; there was no occasion to ride on, for the storm
was coming towards him fast. It was a thing to be welcomed, not avoided.

A few drops of rain fell, and he turned round to ride home. He had gone
out to greet it and give it the welcome due to such a guest.

A dozen horses came galloping towards him, and he saw one of them was a
strange animal and did not belong to him.

Jim Dennis knew there were lawless characters in the district who would
be only too glad to get him into trouble. He was a straight goer and
would have nothing to do with them, although he was credited with being
hand and glove with the gang. The mounted police, too, had a 'down' on
Jim, with one exception, Constable Doonan, who was his staunch friend.
It was over the sticking up of the mail at Potter's Shanty and the
robbery of the bank agent, that the police were strong against him. At
that time Doonan was not in the district, but he had heard all about it,
and when he came to know Jim Dennis he refused to believe he had a hand
in it.

Sergeant Machinson, however, and the men who were engaged with him in
investigating the robbery, wished to lay the blame upon Jim Dennis, and
they, no doubt, honestly thought him the guilty party, or one of it.

Jim, however, was too many for them, and, managed to keep out of their
clutches.

Sergeant Machinson had been called over the coals for not capturing the
thieves, and he was wroth over the affair accordingly.

'That fellow Dennis was at the bottom of it, I'll be sworn,' he said to
the other constables; 'or how did he come by the five-pound note? We
must have him yet, my lads, but he'll take some catching. He's a smart
fellow, but those very clever men often do some foolish act and it gives
them away.'

As the bad characters in any district generally know what is going on,
they soon discovered Sergeant Machinson and the bulk of his men had a
'set' against Jim Dennis. This helped them considerably in their
dealings with the owner of Wanabeen.

Fortunately, however, for Jim Dennis, Constable Doonan was stationed at
Swamp Creek, and looked after the district around Wanabeen.

Sergeant Machinson was quartered at Barragong, about ten miles away, and
was in charge of a large tract of country. He had several men under him,
amongst them Doonan. He would have removed Doonan elsewhere, as he knew
he was partial to Jim Dennis, but had no ostensible reason for such a
step.

When Jim Dennis saw the strange horse running with his own, his first
thought was that some evil-disposed person had put it on his run in
order to get him into trouble. Such things were often done out of spite
or revenge, in fact Jim had narrowly escaped getting into trouble from
this cause.

The rain was now coming down fast and the thunder crashed overhead with
loud, startling cracks. The vivid lightning frightened the mob of
horses, and they galloped at headlong speed in the direction of the
homestead.

The strange horse was a splendid mover and soon headed the others.

Jim saw he was a thoroughbred, or nearly so, and thought to himself:

'By Jove! he can gallop. Mine are a fast lot, but he has given them the
go-by. He's a stallion too. Wonder whose he is? I must make inquiries.
This is no put-up job to get me into trouble. Abe Dalton and his gang
never have horses like that to handle!'

He galloped after them and as he neared home saw the yard gates stood
wide open.

'They'll go in,' said Jim to himself; 'and I must get up in time to shut
them in.'

Faster and faster came the rain, and the hot ground steamed under the
grateful cooling shower. In a few days the whole aspect of the country
would be changed, and nature appear in a different form. Instead of the
dull, dry brown would come a bright, refreshing green. The grass grows
with remarkable rapidity in such regions and the scene changes as though
by magic. The horses had gone under the sheds for shelter, and Jim,
dismounting, closed the gates. Having unsaddled his horse, and peeped
inside to see how Willie fared, he went to look at the stranger amongst
his mob.

Already there was a fight on and the stallion was trying to savage his
nearest neighbour. A battle royal seemed imminent, but Jim Dennis meant
to stop that.

He went for a stock whip, and quickly gave the combatants to understand
he was acting as referee and that he had called time.

Crack came the lash and caught the stallion on his flank. He jumped as
though he had been shot, and stood still quivering. Crack came the whip
again, and the other combatant galloped round the yard.

The strange horse stood looking at him with a fiery light in his eyes.
He evidently did not understand this unceremonious treatment, and
resented the lash of the whip.

'You try it on. Just you try it on. You'll savage me, will you? My boy,
you don't know Jim Dennis.'

Jim stood bareheaded, with the rain pouring down upon him, and he
revelled in the glorious shower bath. He had on a rough shirt, such as
stockmen wear, a dullish red, it having seen some service, and his
breeches fitted neatly into his riding boots. He was rather particular
about such things for a bushman, and he may be called such without it
being a misnomer.

The horse eyed Jim, and Jim kept his eyes steadily fixed on the horse.

There was a moment or two of uncertainty, and then, before the animal
had time to plunge forward towards him, Jim Dennis whirled his whip
round, and the lash came down on the horse's neck and curled.

With a jerk Jim had it freed again, and then the horse rushed at him.

He sprang on one side and escaped the furious attack. Quick as
lightning, before the animal could turn, he had brought the lash down
again on his back, and this time the horse did not turn, but galloped to
the far side of the yard.

But the struggle was not ended.

The stranger again made an attack on the horse nearest him, and there
was a general uproar and stamping of hoofs amongst the mob.

Jim returned to the attack and separated them. In doing so he became
wedged in a corner against the fence, and the stallion came straight at
him.

He had no time to use the lash, so, seizing it short in his hand, he
twisted it round and raised the stock.

He struck the now infuriated horse a blow on the forehead, which dazed
him for a moment but did not daunt him. The horse stood on his hind legs
and commenced to strike at Jim with his fore feet.

Jim Dennis knew he had never been in such a tight fix before, and he
commenced to wonder what would happen.

He struck the horse's fore legs again and again with the stock of his
whip, but could not beat him off.

He heard the gate opened, but did not see who was there. Presently the
stallion was attacked in the rear, and a vigorous lashing from a strong
arm made him alter his tactics. He came down on all fours and then
kicked furiously. Jim Dennis dodged round him, and, standing back to
give himself more room, again plied his lash with effect.

The horse was now beaten, and took his defeat sullenly. He retreated,
and received a parting whack as he went.

Jim Dennis then saw it was Constable Doonan who had so timely come to
the rescue.

'You were in a tight corner, Jim. I came just in time. That's a brute of
a horse. Where did you get him?'

'I didn't get him, he came of his own accord. He doesn't belong to me. I
found him with my mob when I was out on the run. The storm gave them a
fright, and they galloped into the yard. He commenced to savage my
horses, so I had to separate them. We have had a toughish struggle.'

'Curious,' said Doonan. 'I wonder to whom he belongs. Looks like a
thoroughbred. I have heard nothing about a horse being lost. He must
have broken loose. Can you keep him here until I make inquiries?'

'If we can box him he'll be all right. Perhaps they were bringing him
from Sydney or somewhere, and he managed to get away. Come inside, Fred,
you are wet through.'

'It will do me good,' laughed Doonan. 'It is a long time since we had
such a soaking. What a difference it will make to your place. By the
way, how's the young un? I heard from Dr Sheridan he had been very ill.'

'He has had a narrow squeak, but he's pulled through, thanks to Dr Tom.
Come in and see him. Willie is very fond of you,' said Jim.

'Oh, did you hear Rodney Shaw has come back from England?' said Doonan,
as they went indoors.

'Has he?' said Jim. 'Why, he must have been away six or seven years.'



CHAPTER VI

RODNEY SHAW


Rodney Shaw was the wealthiest squatter round Swamp Creek. He inherited
the property from his father, and had taken no share in amassing the
very large sum of money he found himself in possession of at an early
age.

He was only two-and-twenty when he found himself his own master, and
soon after his father's death he left his property in the hands of a
manager and went to Sydney, where he remained for some time before he
took his departure for London. The name of his station was Cudgegong,
and it comprised an area of about thirty to forty square miles. In
addition to this he held big shares in several mines in the western
district, most of which paid good dividends. On his return from England
he went straight to Cudgegong, 'to put things in order,' he said,
although everything had gone on well during his prolonged absence.

As a lad he was not liked in the district, and as he grew older he
became domineering and somewhat vicious in his habits.

He had the usual love of horses which seems bred in all Australians, and
before he was of age he owned race horses.

He was a younger man than Jim Dennis by several years, but the two men
had not been bad friends, in fact Rodney Shaw got on better with the
owner of Wanabeen than with anyone else.

Jim Dennis was surprised to hear of his return, and asked Doonan if he
was sure his news was true.

'Certain of it,' said the constable.

'I had it from Dr Tom, and he knows everything that goes on in these
parts.'

'There's not much escapes him, I grant you,' laughed Jim; 'but I hardly
think he is correct this time.'

'Why not ride over and see?' said Doonan. 'You were always welcome at
Cudgegong, I hear.'

'I think I will,' replied Jim, 'as soon as the weather takes up. Perhaps
I can be of use to him as he has been away so long.'

Constable Doonan remained at Wanabeen for the night, and had a long talk
with Willie. The lad loved to hear of his exploits, and how he had
captured bushrangers in Victoria, and Queensland, before he came into
New South Wales.

When Doonan described the races he had seen in Melbourne the lad's eyes
glistened, and he became quite excited.

'I'd like to ride in a real race,' he said.

'You're just cut out for a jockey,' laughed Doonan.

'Am I? Then I'll be one if dad will let me.'

'Do you hear that, Jim?' said the constable. 'Your boy wants to be a
jockey.'

'Does he?' said Jim, as he entered the room. 'That's strange. I was only
thinking the other day what a good one he would make.'

'Wait until I am strong and old enough, and I shall ride some winners,'
said Willie.

'Hullo, there's the coach coming,' said Jim. 'I forgot it was Ned's day.
Ned will be glad of this rain, for he has had a rough time of it
lately.'

Ned Glenn pulled up at Wanabeen as usual, and, leaving a couple of
passengers to grumble on the top of the coach, came inside for his
accustomed chat.

'Mind no one runs away with the mails,' said Doonan, laughing.

'No fear of that near Wanabeen,' said Ned. 'I shouldn't mind if someone
would take those two male passengers, though, and leave them somewhere.'

'Not very sociable, are they?' asked Jim.

'Regular bears. They have been growling all the way.'

'Put 'em inside,' said Doonan.

'No such luck. I'm glad they are fairly wet outside, but they must be
precious dry inside.'

'I'll give them a quencher,' said Jim, good-naturedly.

'Don't be a fool; it would be wasted on them,' replied Ned. 'I can do
with their share.'

Ned Glenn sat down and caught sight of one of the passengers looking at
the house, evidently in search of him, and in hopes of a speedy
departure.

'You keep calm, my friend,' said Ned, shaking his fist. 'It will do you
good to cool in the rain a bit.'

'Any news?' asked Jim, when he had attended to Ned's want.

'Yes. Rodney Shaw has come back to Cudgegong. I don't know whether that
can be reckoned as good news or bad, but it's true,' said Ned.

'It is a long time since he went away,' said Jim.

'Nigh on seven or eight years, I should think, maybe not quite so long.'

'He'll find his property all right. Benjamin Nix is a good manager,'
said Jim.

'And a good fellow too,' answered Ned. 'Better than his boss, I reckon.'

Turning to Doonan, he said, 'There's likely to be trouble in this
district before long, I hear.'

'How's that?'

'Horse thieves about again,' said Ned.

Jim Dennis thought of the strange stallion boxed in his yard, and
glanced at Constable Doonan. Was there more rumour and suspicion to
surround him?

'It's a rum go too,' said Ned. 'Rodney Shaw bought a fine stallion in
Sydney, a thoroughbred, and sent him up to Cudgegong. The man in charge
of him complains that someone either stole him or let him loose while
he was resting at Potter's. There'll be a deuce of a row at Cudgegong
about it.'

'That's queer,' said Jim. 'A strange horse galloped into the yard with
my mob yesterday during the storm. I wonder if he belongs to Mr Shaw.'

'You don't say so!' exclaimed Ned.

'Yes, I do; and, what's more, the brute would have made short work of me
had not Fred Doonan arrived in time.'

He then explained to Ned what had happened.

'If he's such a savage horse,' said Ned, 'I shouldn't be at all
surprised if the man did not let him go through sheer fright and now
wants to cast the blame on someone.'

'That's probable,' said Constable Doonan. 'I'm going round by Potter's
and will make inquiries. In the meantime, Jim, I would ride over to
Cudgegong and let Mr Shaw know about it.'

'I'll go to-morrow,' said Jim.

Doonan took his departure, and soon afterwards Ned, much to the relief
of his two passengers, clambered into the box seat and continued his
journey.

Next morning it was still raining, but Jim Dennis cared little for this,
in fact was glad of it. He saddled Bess and rode over to Cudgegong, a
distance of about fifteen miles.

The mare revelled in the good going, and the already green grass gave
way beneath her feet. It was a luxury that had not befallen her for many
a day, to gallop on yielding ground.

Midway between the two stations he saw a couple of mounted police, and
recognised Sergeant Machinson and another constable he did not know.

'Wonder what brings him round here. Perhaps he has been to pay his
respects to Rodney Shaw.'

Then he thought:

'If he has, he'll have heard of the loss of his horse. He's such a
suspicious beggar, he might think I had a hand in "lifting" it. If the
stallion in my place is the missing one, Machinson would be only too
pleased to get me into trouble, though why I don't know. It's sheer
spite because of that Potter's affair, and poor spite it is too. They
have seen me, so I may as well ride over to them.'

He was passing them with a casual remark about the rain when Sergeant
Machinson said,--

'We have just been over to Cudgegong. Mr Shaw has returned from England.
He bought a valuable stallion in Sydney, which has been stolen. The man
in charge of it says it was taken from Potter's. Have you seen anything
of it yet?'

Jim Dennis did not hesitate to tell the story of how he found a stray
stallion in his mob, and also said that Constable Doonan arrived at an
opportune moment to rescue him.

'I was just riding over to Mr Shaw's to tell him about it,' said Jim. 'I
heard from Doonan, and Ned Glenn, that he had lost a thoroughbred
stallion.'

A suspicious, sneering smile came over Sergeant Machinson's face. 'Then
you do not know who is the owner of this horse? It is not often you find
stray thoroughbreds running about the country, I suppose?'

'No, do you?' asked Jim, who was not afraid of half-a-dozen Sergeant
Machinsons.

'It is part of my duty to find them when they have been stolen,' said
the sergeant.

'So I believe,' replied Jim; 'but if this horse I have is Mr Shaw's, it
will save you any trouble in that line.'

'Except to catch the thief,' said the sergeant.

'Always provided the horse was stolen,' said Jim.

'Of course it was stolen; the man says so.'

'Then how did it come to be running about with my mob?' asked Jim.

'That's what I'd like to know,' was the suggestive and uncalled-for
reply.

'What do you mean to infer by that?' asked Jim, hotly.

'Anything you please. Don't you think it needs some explanation?'

'I have told you what happened.'

'But you omitted to state how the horse came to be amongst your lot.'

'That is what I should like to find out. Perhaps you can help me,' said
Jim.

'I shall do all in my power to apprehend the thief. There is too much of
this sort of thing going on round here.'

'Yes, there is,' said Jim; 'and it is partly your fault, because you
never catch the thieves. Why don't you try Dalton's gang?'

'That's my business,' said the sergeant, angrily. 'Remember I can make
you account for having that horse on your premises.'

'I have accounted for it.'

'Shall you tell that story to Mr Shaw?'

'Certainly; that is what I am going over for.'

'Then we will ride back with you.'

'As you please,' said Jim; 'but I should prefer your room to your
company.'

Sergeant Machinson bit his lip, but made no reply. He knew in his heart
Jim Dennis's story to be true, yet this only aggravated him the more.
Such is the nature of some men, but Jim Dennis was not of them. When
they arrived at Cudgegong station they were received, after a brief
delay, by Rodney Shaw.

'I am glad to see you back, Mr Shaw,' said Jim, holding out his hand,
and looking him straight in the face.

Rodney Shaw took his hand in a half-hearted way and said hesitatingly,--

'I have been away such a long time I have almost forgotten all my old
friends, but you are none the less welcome for all that.'

'How he has altered,' thought Jim. 'I should not have recognised him had
he been anywhere but at Cudgegong.'

'So you returned with Dennis?' said Shaw to the sergeant.

'Yes. I fancy he has your horse,' said Sergeant Machinson.

'Let me tell you the story,' said Jim, 'or it may be misrepresented.'

He then gave Rodney Shaw an account of what had happened.

'It is very strange,' was his comment. 'I wonder how the horse got into
your paddocks. My man says it was stolen.'

'I am as ignorant as yourself,' replied Jim, 'how the horse came there.
If he is your horse, you can have him back by sending for him.'

Jim Dennis did not like the tone in which Rodney Shaw spoke; it seemed
to imply a doubt about his story.

'Of course I will send for him. One of my men shall return with you.'

'I think you had better send two,' replied Jim, smiling.

'Is the horse as dangerous as that?'

'He was, but Doonan and myself tamed him down. Still, I think it would
be safer to have two men.'

'Will you bring him over?'

'If you wish it,' said Jim, 'but I had rather your own men did it. He
might get lost on the way again.' This with a glance at the sergeant.

'Perhaps it would be better to send your own men,' said that worthy
guardian of law and order.

Jim Dennis rose to go. He had not received a hospitable reception, and
he was not a man to remain where he saw he was not wanted.

'I hope I shall see you again soon,' said Rodney Shaw, who seemed
suddenly to think he had been too frigid.

'You may if I am riding this way,' was the quiet answer.

Although Rodney Shaw was wealthy, Jim Dennis considered himself his
equal as a man, and so he was.



CHAPTER VII

OUTWITTED


Dennis waited a short time to see if Rodney Shaw's men would return with
him to Wanabeen, and as they did not appear he took his departure.

As he rode back he thought of the strange change that had taken place in
Rodney Shaw.

'I suppose living in England has done it,' thought Jim; 'but I had no
idea it would make such an alteration in a man. He looks so much older,
and speaks differently. There's something about him I can't make out. He
has such a shifty look, and might have done some great wrong, he has
that half-frightened glance as though he feared detection. It is quite
evident he does not mean us to be on our old footing. That will not
trouble me, I'm as good as he any day. Strange how a few years can alter
a man. He never was a friendly fellow, but he seems a regular bear now.'

'If he prefers such men as Machinson, he's welcome to him. I'll get even
with the sergeant one of these days. They say he is none too straight,
and is not above accepting a tip now and again. If he lets me alone
I'll let him alone, but I'm hanged if he shall meddle in my affairs
without any cause. Doonan ought to be in his place, he's a man anyway.'

The rain was still coming down, but it did not interfere with Jim's
meditations. He wished it would keep on for a fortnight, but there were
already signs of a break in the sky.

The reins hung loosely on the mare's neck, for he knew he could trust
her not to stumble over any of the numerous rabbit holes, and she would
make straight for Wanabeen.

In due course he arrived home.

'Two men have been here,' said Sal.

'What did they come for? Who were they?'

'I have not seen them before, but they said they had come for the horse
they had lost a few days ago, and that had been seen on your run,' said
Sal.

Jim stared; he could hardly believe what she said. Then it dawned upon
him that the men who had stolen Mr Shaw's horse must have lost him again
and tracked him on to Wanabeen; they were clever at such work, and only
one set of men could do it, Abe Dalton's gang.

'Did they take it away?'

'Yes, and it went quietly enough,' said Sal. 'I think you took it all
out of him.'

Jim smiled. He thought it very probable such was the case.

'How long have they been gone?'

'A couple of hours, or more.'

'I must go after them,' said Jim.

'Be careful, dad,' said Willie; 'they may belong to Dalton's gang.'

'I have something here that will settle half-a-dozen of Dalton's men,'
he said, as he took a six-chambered revolver out of a cupboard and
loaded it, putting more cartridges in his pouch. It was an old-fashioned
weapon, or would be considered so now, but it was apt to be dangerous
when handled by Jim Dennis. He kissed the boy and went out, saying he
would return as speedily as possible.

'Poor old dad, he's always in trouble over something,' said Willie. 'I
wonder why it is, when he is so good to you, and me, and everybody.'

'There's men about here as hate him 'cause he's honest,' said Sal; 'but
don't you be feared for him, Willie, he's a good man and he'll come to
no harm.'

'I wish I were a man,' said the lad. 'You'd see what I'd do.'

'What would you do?' she asked, smiling.

'Stick up for him. Back Dr Tom up when he stuck up for him, and Fred
Doonan too. They're fond of dad, aren't they, Sal?'

'Yes, very fond of him.'

'And Fred Doonan's fond of someone else here,' said the lad.

'You, Willie? He's very fond of you,' she said.

'And he's fond of you, Sal. He said you are a real good sort, a regular
white woman, even if you had dark blood in you. Oh, yes, he's fond of
you, Sal.'

The half-caste's eyes gleamed with pleasurable pride, and her whole face
changed. She was a comely woman, a very comely woman, with a heart and
nature that would love fiercely, half savagely, if such a sentiment were
roused within her.

'He said that about me?' she asked in a low voice. She could hardly
believe it, so few, very few men had been kind to her, and none of her
own sex. The black gins had hated her because of their ugliness and her
good looks--they were not so very unlike their white sisters after all.
Even in this almost deserted land there was love and hate, sorrow and
joy, comedy and tragedy.

'Yes, he said that and more.'

'More! More, Willie?'

'He said you were like a mother to me, and you have been, Sal. I never
had a real mother that I knew of; dad says she died when I was a baby.'

The woman stroked the child's hair and said,--

'I will always be your mother. I love you, and your father has been
kinder to me than any man in the world.'

'Good-bye,' shouted Jim, and they sent him an answering cry.

'Two hours' start or more. Which way must I go?' thought Jim. 'If it is
Dalton's men who have taken him, I know their ropes as well as they do
themselves. They'll make for Barker's Creek. I'll chance it.'

Barker's Creek was a small hamlet consisting of half-a-dozen shanties,
all occupied by the members of the gang of which Abe Dalton was the
head. They were a lawless, licentious lot, blacks and whites living
together, regardless of law or order. There were about two dozen white
men, and double that number of gins,--old and young,--and black fellows,
camped around the wooden structures in humpies.

These blacks were part of King Charlie's tribe, but the old chief had
cast them off; savage that he was, he had an instinctive feeling that
his people were better than Dalton's men. He cursed them as they threw
in their lot with the white men, and his sentence of excommunication was
heard by those of the tribe who remained with him, and they carried the
tidings into many places far distant. Even these blacks, uncouth and
savage, had their laws, and rendered obedience to their old king.

It was a dangerous place was Barker's Creek, and its tenants ought to
have been rooted out, but Abe Dalton was a cunning man and had contrived
to keep Sergeant Machinson from meddling in his affairs.

Jim Dennis had no intention of riding alone into Barker's Creek. He
wanted to catch his men before they arrived there.

He had a fresh horse under him, and he made the most of his mount.

He rode over the plain at a great pace, from time to time pulling up and
dismounting to look for tracks. His practised eye soon found them, and
sure enough there were three horses going in the direction of Barker's
Creek.

'It's all right,' he muttered. 'I only hope I shall come up with them. I
feel in a fighting humour, and they will have to stand and deliver,
"hands up"; they are used to the sounds, they will know what they mean.
It will put me in a bit of a hole if they reach Barker's Creek first.
Machinson will swear I had a hand in sending the horse there, and that
my ride over to Cudgegong was a ruse to deceive them and get the horse
away; any cock-and-bull story would serve his purpose so long as it got
me into a hole.'

He galloped on at a fast pace, and towards evening saw his men in the
distance. They were in no hurry, and evidently did not fear pursuit. The
horse was with them and going quietly.

'I have tamed him at anyrate,' said Jim. 'I'll tame them before I have
done with them.'

He rode away to the left, for he knew a track by which he thought he
could get ahead, and there wait until they came past.

The country near Barker's Creek was covered with scrub, and there was a
considerable amount of shelter, much of it never having been cleared or
touched in any way, but just left in its wild condition. He knew it
would be a near thing between them, as the round would take him several
miles out of his way. It was, however, the only course to pursue, so he
sent his horse along at his best pace and hoped for success.

There is scarcely any twilight in the colonies, the sun goes down
quickly, and day turns into night rapidly.

When Jim Dennis reached the spot he had ridden for he saw it would be
almost dark in an hour, but that would serve his purpose.

If he could get hold of the stallion he knew the horse would gallop
readily enough alongside his own.

He waited with the best patience he could muster, for he did not know
whether they had passed the place. As the time went by he began to be
afraid they had beaten him after all, and he had had his ride for
nothing.

Presently, however, his quick ears caught the sound of horses' hoofs,
and then he knew he had a chance of success. As they drew nearer he made
ready to ride straight at them. Peering through the bushes that
concealed him, he saw the two men coming along at a careless pace,
evidently unaware there was any danger at hand.

When they were about fifty yards away he rushed up at them, and before
they could prepare to meet him he covered one man with his revolver and
said,--

'Now, you Dalton fellows, give up that horse. There are six shots here,
so you have no chance.'

They knew him, and a volley of oaths came from them.

'He's not your horse,' said one of the men.

'That's my business. He is not yours, and you took him out of my yard.
Hand him over.'

'You'll suffer for this, Jim Dennis. Abe Dalton is not the man to forget
it.'

'You tell Abe Dalton and the whole of your dirty gang that I am not
afraid of any of you. Now hand over the horse.'

He rode forward, still keeping his revolver handy.

The horse was handed over, and the man who had spoken before said,--

'We'll be even with you for this.'

'You are a set of cowards,' said Jim. 'There is not a fair fight in you.
I am not afraid of half-a-dozen such as you.'

Then he thought, if they have revolvers it may be awkward, but he knew,
after a moment's consideration, that had such been the case they would
have risked it and used them.

It was Abe Dalton's plan to often send his men out unarmed, so that
there was no danger of any shooting, for he knew when it come to murder
it was a serious matter.

Jim rode away with his capture, and a volley of abusive language was
sent after him.

He was undecided whether to take the horse to Wanabeen, or go to
Cudgegong. He could reach the latter place early in the morning, so he
made up his mind to go there. He could wait about until some of the
hands were out, and as they were generally up early there would not be a
long delay.

He reached Cudgegong about two o'clock, and as there was no one to be
seen he tied the horse securely and, having hitched up his own some
distance away from the other, he went to see if there was a chair on the
verandah he could rest in.

It was no uncommon thing for a stranger to sleep on the verandah at one
of the stations, and in the morning be provided with a breakfast and
then sent on his way.

He stepped quietly along the boards and soon found a comfortable seat.

He was tired, for he had been in the saddle many hours, and, although he
was a man who could do with but little sleep, he commenced to feel
drowsy.

How long he had been asleep he did not know, but he awoke with a start
and listened.

There was a peculiar sound inside the room near which he sat.

He thought it was a man moaning, but was not sure. Then he heard someone
moving about, and footsteps approached the window of the room which led
on to the verandah.

He remained perfectly quiet and waited expectantly for some explanation
of what he had heard.



CHAPTER VIII

AT CUDGEGONG STATION


He had not long to wait. The doors were pushed open and someone looked
out.

In the dim light he saw it was Rodney Shaw, and he seemed to be
listening intently. Then he went inside, leaving the windows open.

'He must have heard me step on to the verandah,' thought Jim.

He heard him moving about the room again, and, although he had no desire
to spy upon him, he thought it better to remain in his present position.

'Perhaps he has been indulging too freely,' said Jim to himself. 'He
could take more than his share before he went away.'

'Curse the thing!'

Jim heard these words distinctly, and then came the sound of a man
stumbling over a chair.

It was strange behaviour on the part of Rodney Shaw, and Jim Dennis
could not understand it.

In a short time all was quiet, and he decided to slip off the verandah
and go round to the horses.

He was passing the open window when he heard a cry of surprise, almost
of terror, from within, which caused him to stop.

Looking into the room, he saw Rodney Shaw sitting on his bed, in his
pyjamas, and glancing at him with wide, staring eyes.

'Who the devil are you?' said Shaw in a wild tone of voice.

'It's only me, Jim Dennis.'

'What are you doing there? Why are you spying about on my verandah? I'll
have you locked up,' said Shaw.

Jim laughed, and made excuses for him.

'He's not himself, he's been drinking,' he thought.

'I brought your horse back, and I camped in a chair on the verandah to
wait until some of the hands were about.'

'I don't believe it. It's a--' began Shaw.

'Stop,' said Jim. 'Even if you have been on a "jag," I allow no man to
call me that.'

He spoke in a resolute tone, and Rodney Shaw, pulling himself together,
thought better of what he was about to say, and went out to him.

'You took me by surprise,' he said in an apologetic way. 'I have been
absent so long that I am not accustomed to the change again.'

'How haggard and worn he looks,' thought Jim. 'I wonder what ails him.'

'Have you been on a "jag"?' asked Jim, smiling.

Rodney Shaw looked at him. He evidently did not understand what he
meant.

Jim thought this strange.

'Surely you have not forgotten what a "jag" means. You have been on one
or two in your time at Swamp Creek.'

Rodney Shaw laughed.

'You think I have been drinking. Well, I own up I did have a drop too
much--first with Machinson, then after he left. It soon got hold of me.
I am not as strong as I was.'

'I thought there was something of that kind,' said Jim. 'Let me tell you
why I came here with the horse at this hour.'

'All right. Sit down.'

They seated themselves in a couple of chairs, and Jim commenced his
story.

Rodney Shaw did not appear to take much interest in it, he seemed to be
thinking of other things.

'It was Dalton's gang stole your horse,' said Jim; 'and if I were you I
would insist upon Machinson "going" for them. They are a bad lot, and
ought to be cleared out of Barker's Creek. They are a danger to the
whole district.'

'You and Machinson don't seem to hit it,' said Shaw.

'No; but it is not my fault. He does not act on the square, and he has
accused me of things I have never been mixed up in,' said Jim. 'You
ought to be able to convince him that it is his duty to clear Dalton's
gang out.'

'Why me in particular?'

'Because you are the biggest owner about here, and have more influence
than any of us. You have only to mention the matter to the P.M. and
he'll soon see that Sergeant Machinson carries out his duties or he'll
know the reason why.'

'The P.M.?' questioned Shaw.

Jim laughed.

'Surely you have not forgotten Adye Dauntsey, the police magistrate at
Barragong. He's stood your friend more than once when you have been in a
scrape. Don't you recollect when he made it up between yourself and your
father after that row in Swamp Creek?'

Rodney Shaw seemed uneasy, but Jim Dennis did not notice it. He was
laughing to himself over the thought of the row in which he had taken a
hand himself.

'So old--?'

'Dauntsey,' said Jim.

'Yes, Dauntsey. Is he there still, eh? Queer beggar and a rum name. How
does he spell his Christian name?'

'Adye,' said Jim, spelling it out.

Shaw scribbled it on the back of the rest of his chair with a pencil he
had near him.

'You don't mean to forget it,' said Jim. 'You must have a deuced bad
memory.'

'I have. I met with a nasty accident in England. I was riding in a
hurdle race and came a cropper on my head, and my memory has not been
the same since.'

'I'm sorry for that,' said Jim. 'That accounts for it. I thought you
seemed curiously forgetful about things around here.'

Rodney Shaw gave a sigh of relief.

'Yes, that explains it, as you say. If you remind me of people I knew,
and places I have been to with you, and what we formerly did together, I
shall recall it all, and not forget it again, but the spill seemed to
knock a lot of old memories out of my head.'

'I have heard of such things before,' said Jim. 'I once knew a
steeplechase rider who almost entirely lost his memory through an
accident.'

'My case exactly,' said Rodney Shaw. 'What was that row at Swamp Creek?
I forget it.'

'We were on a bender at old John Slade's pub,' said Jim, 'and you kissed
his daughter, and he went for you hot and strong, although I don't think
the girl had any objections.'

'You were fairly powerful in those days, and you fired Joe out of the
bar, and a regular free fight took place, in which a lot of damage was
done. Your old man was very angry about it, but Adye Dauntsey smoothed
it over. I took your part, of course, and should have got into trouble,
only they couldn't very well drag me into it and leave you out.'

Rodney Shaw laughed as he replied,--

'I recollect it quite well. We had some rare sprees in those days. You
were always ready to stand by me.'

'I hope I shall always be ready to help a pal in trouble,' said Jim.

'I am sure you will. I am afraid I treated you rather off-handed the
other day.'

'I didn't like your manner, I confess,' said Jim. 'I thought you were
glad to get rid of me.'

'Not at all. You misunderstood me. I hope we shall be as good friends as
ever.'

'I hope so,' said Jim. 'It will not be my fault if we are not.'

'I don't think I will meddle with Dalton's gang. No good will come out
of it, and I have my horse again, thanks to you,' said Shaw.

'As you please,' replied Jim.

'But it would be for the good of the district if they were bundled out,
neck and crop, and you are the proper man to see it done.'

'Sergeant Machinson has the matter in hand, and I will tell him all
about your capture of the horse from Dalton's men. He is bound to take
action then.'

'He will not; you see if he does,' replied Jim.

'You don't mean to say he stands in with a lot like that?'

'I won't go as far as that,' said Jim; 'but it looks like it. He never
lifts a hand against them.'

'Well, I'll think the matter over. There is a good deal in what you say.
Wait until I put some decent clothes on, and we'll go round and have a
look at the horse. It would be rather a joke if he did not belong to me,
after all this trouble.'

'There's not much fear of that,' answered Jim. 'Thoroughbred stallions
are scarce in these parts.'

They went round to the back of the house to where Jim had fastened up
the horses.

The hands were about, and Rodney Shaw called to a man who was crossing
the yard.

'This is Alec Beg, the man who brought the horse as far as Potter's,'
said Shaw.

Jim Dennis looked him over and did not like him.

'A shifty customer, I'll bet,' he thought.

'We have found the stallion,' said Shaw.

'Have you?' exclaimed the man in evident surprise. 'Where is he?'

'Over there,' said Jim, pointing to the horse.

'Where the deuce did he come from?'

'I made the thieves give him up,' said Jim, looking straight at him.

'Then you knew who stole him?'

'Dalton's gang.'

'Who may they be?' asked Alec Beg.

'You'll find out before you have been long in this district,' said Jim.
'I'd advise you to keep out of their way, they'll do you no good.'

'I'm not likely to mix up with a lot like that.'

Jim had his doubts on that head, but made no remark.

'You'll have to be careful with this horse,' said Jim. 'He's got a devil
of a temper, but I have tamed him down a bit. He had one of the biggest
hidings he'll ever get, and it has done him good. He looks a well-bred
horse.'

'He's by Fisherman out of Mermaid, and his name is Seahorse.'

'That's something like blood,' said Jim, enthusiastically. 'I'd like to
send a couple of mares to him, if you will allow me.'

'With pleasure. It is the least I can do after all the trouble you have
taken,' replied Shaw.

'I have some very well-bred mares,' said Jim, 'and I'll bring a couple
over some day.'

Alec Beg was standing by, and muttered,--

'He's a blooming fool to let a man like him get hold of that blood. He's
one of those prying sort of fellows. Hang me if I like him.'

It was not feasible that Alec Beg would like Jim Dennis, because the
latter was an honest man.

When Jim Dennis took his departure, Alec Beg said to Rodney Shaw,--

'I don't think you are wise to let him get hold of the Fisherman blood.
You ought to keep it yourself about here.'

'A couple of mares will not matter much, and, besides, he got the horse
back for me,' replied Shaw.

'That constable who came with Sergeant Machinson says he's a bad lot,
and not to be trusted. He may have been in with Dalton's gang over this
affair.'

'Don't be a fool and talk rubbish,' said Shaw. 'If he were one of the
gang we should not have recovered the horse.'

He went inside, leaving Beg grumbling in the yard.

'I must keep in with Jim Dennis,' Rodney Shaw said to himself. 'He'll be
useful to me. I am sorry my memory is so bad,' and he laughed curiously.
'So Adye Dauntsey is police magistrate at--what the deuce is the name of
the place?--oh, here it is, and he picked up a piece of
paper--Barragong. I wonder if the worthy P.M. will think I have altered
much during the last eight or nine years. Probably he will, most people
about here think me changed, even Benjamin Nix, my manager, says he
would hardly have known me. The worthy Nix has not altered much, I'll be
bound. So far as I can judge, he has managed things all right at
Cudgegong--what a name to give a place! but it is suitable.'

'Jim Dennis is a man to be trusted, and he will stick to a pal, he says,
and I know he will keep his word. It's deuced slow here after London. I
think in a few years I'll sell out and go back again. And if I do
return, that lady friend of mine will probably find me out and create a
scene. I hate scenes. Perhaps I am better off here, and in time I may
settle down into a respectable married man.'

He laughed again, but there was no mirth in the sound. It was an ugly
laugh, a laugh that betrayed the baseness of the man, the treachery
lurking within. It was not a good laugh to hear.



CHAPTER IX

THE SORT OF MAN DR TOM IS


Dr Tom Sheridan sat in his den concocting cooling drinks for himself,
and mixtures of quite a different prescription for his patients.

On board ship, when he acted as medical adviser to the skipper, his
officers, the crew, and the passengers--the last-named lot he considered
of little account--he had been in the habit of dosing them with the same
compound for all manner of complaints.

'It saves a heap of trouble, and it's always handy,' said Dr Tom, as he
filled a bottle from his regular tap. 'If it does no good, there is the
blessed and everlasting consolation that it can do no harm.'

Passengers annoyed Dr Tom, as they have continued to annoy ships'
doctors ever since, for the doctor had a soul above medicine. He
considered himself a poet, a truly dramatic poet, and he was sore with
the world because his efforts had not been appreciated. He had cast his
poems upon the mess-room table, in the hopes of them bearing fruit, and
they had been neglected in the most aggravating fashion.

The skipper put the finishing touch to one of Dr Tom's efforts. The
worthy medico had, after much toil and brain work, composed a poem which
he believed would appeal to the skipper's heart.

It was a wild, weird thing, a concoction of fiery skies, blistering sun,
howling winds, dashing waves, heaving billows, snow-flecked seahorses,
and what not, and in the midst of this poetic chaos was a good ship,
commanded by a worthy skipper with a fiery beard. That was where Dr Tom
blundered. He had no tact, even if his poetic ship had, and the
skipper's hair being of a bright, flaming colour, he resented this
personal allusion.

When the poem was solemnly presented to him by his 'boy,' he read the
first few stanzas with pride, but arriving at the fiery beard period, he
flew into a rage, hurled himself into Dr Tom's cabin, and said,--

'Did you write this... d----d insulting thing?'

The doctor was mortally offended, nay, he was more than that, he was
hurt. He had expended many hours on the composition of that poem, and
had neglected the groans of many patients in order to finish it off.

'That, sir, is an effort that has cost me dear,' he said.

'By the Lord, if there are any more such efforts, it will cost you
untold wealth!' yelled the frantic skipper with the fiery beard, and he
flung the offending poem into a mass of half-empty drug bottles.

Dr Tom picked it up carefully, smoothed it out, and caressed it as
though it had been a pet kitten.

When he arrived in Sydney he secured the shipping reporter of the
_Morning Light_ and took him into his cabin.

'Read that,' said Dr Tom, in a solemn manner, handing the rejected of
the skipper to the worthy press man.

The shipping reporter of the _Morning Light_ blinked and looked uneasy.
He had read Dr Tom's poems before, or pretended to, and the effect was
not pleasing.

But the doctor kept good whisky in his den, and the man who chronicled
the doings of ships on their voyages from far countries dearly loved a
drop of the real stingo, which money could not then purchase in Sydney,
and of which very little is to be had even unto this day.

The poem was duly read.

'It is one of your best efforts,' said the scribe. This opinion was
diplomatic, and committed him to nothing.

The doctor smiled, and there was a pleasant jingle of glasses, and a
soothing odour penetrated the stuffy little medicine box.

'Ah!' sighed Dr Tom, 'I knew _you_ would appreciate it.'

A sound of liquid flowing into a glass was balm to the shipping reporter
of the _Morning Light_.

'Try this. It's a drop of the best.'

The man of letters--ships' letters, sipped it with the air of a
connoisseur.

'Splendid stuff, doctor, splendid,' he said.

'That poem has cost me many hours' deep thought,' said Dr Tom.

'No doubt. It is an elegant composition.'

'I wonder if the _Morning Light_ would publish it,' mildly suggested the
doctor. 'Here, try another; it will do you no harm.'

'I'll ask our sub; he's not a bad sort. He might cram it into the
weekly,' said the reporter.

The doctor looked crestfallen.

'The weekly,' he said sorrowfully. 'Surely it is worthy of a place in
the daily.'

'It is, doctor. Upon my word, it is; but you know what they are in the
office. They're death on poems. It would be risking my place to suggest
it for the daily.'

Dr Tom jingled the glasses, and there was something in them when the
sound ceased.

'Try your best,' said Dr Tom. 'I'll give you a couple of real good
startling pars about this voyage if you'll get it in the daily.'

'And you'll not tell the other fellows?'

'No. I'll not breathe a word to 'em,' said Dr Tom.

'Then I'll risk it. Now for the news.'

The doctor related a couple of rather spicy incidents that had occurred
during the voyage from London, and the shipping reporter chuckled over
them.

'I reckon these will get that poem in, doc.' The whisky had made him
familiar in his speech. Sure enough Dr Tom succeeded in his object, and
when his skipper read the poem in the _Morning Light_ next morning, he
went about Sydney saying things, and, encountering the happy doctor,
vowed he would not take him back in his ship.

'I have no ambition to sail again in your old tub,' said Dr Tom. 'My
fortune is made.' So Dr Tom remained in Sydney, found his fortune was
not made, and eventually came to Swamp Creek.

As Dr Tom sat meditating over his fortunes, or what remained of them, he
thought of many things.

He thought of the first mate on the ship he had left in Sydney, and who
had cleared out at the same time as himself. He had never liked that
mate, he was a bad lot, and Dr Tom had at one time serious thoughts of
dosing him and giving him to the sharks.

He also thought of the days he had spent wandering about Sydney, almost
penniless, until a friendly hand had helped him to Swamp Creek and a
monotonous existence, and yet it was an existence he did not dislike. He
had not an enemy in the place, so far as he knew, and everyone was kind
to him.

True, he did a lot of work, and got very few fees, and had even on one
occasion to borrow money from Jim Dennis to purchase drugs to supply to
sick people.

'When all my accounts are settled,' said Dr Tom to Jim Dennis, 'I mean
to buy a station and throw this job up.'

'Don't let the folk around here know that or you'll never be paid. They
would not lose you for anything, old man.'

It was very hot after the rain, and Dr Tom had very little else to do
but kill time.

Having bottled up his medicines, he commenced to smoke and think.

What a life his had been. One of those men who with a little exertion
might have made a name for themselves, he had been contented to drift
carelessly and aimlessly through life.

On board ship he had acquired the art of cultivating laziness, and he
was an adept at killing time.

The doctor was a visionary dreamer, and happy in a thousand fancies he
conjured up in his imagination.

Children loved him, for no one could tell them a yarn suitable to their
tender years better than Dr Tom.

The youngsters of Swamp Creek darted in and out of his dwelling in
unrestricted freedom.

'Bless their little hearts, they have overturned that medicine chest
again,' he would say on looking at the havoc they had made, and then
proceed to put matters to rights in his own careless way.

But when there was danger at hand and Dr Tom was called, as he had been
to Willie Dennis, to try and save life or relieve suffering, the best
part of the man in him came out, and he strove with might and main to
conquer death, and he often succeeded.

He was pottering about as usual, with no coat or waistcoat on, when
Constable Doonan came in.

'Busy as usual, Dr Tom,' said the constable in a hearty voice.

'No, my boy, I am not busy. I have been sitting down making up a few
prescriptions and picking up a few threads of the past.'

'And how do the threads unravel?' asked Doonan.

'Fairly well, my lad. There's a few tangles, but they are not of much
account; there's no occasion for any cutting.'

'No, I'll bet there's not,' said Doonan. 'Jim Dennis is mighty proud of
the job you have made of that lad of his.'

'Nice little chap,' said Dr Tom. 'He had a narrow squeak, and I don't
mind telling you, if it hadn't been for Sal's care he might have gone
before we got there. That woman's a marvel. Wonder who her father was.'

'They give Rodney Shaw's father the credit for it,' said Doonan.

'Eh! You don't say so! Bless me, what a heathenish lot they are about
here.'

'Try and convert 'em, doctor.'

'Not I. We ought to import a few pulpit thumpers and let them try their
hands.'

'They ought to start on Dalton's gang. I hear there is trouble brewing
there.'

'Who's the victim this time?' asked Dr Tom.

'Jim Dennis.'

'Then, by heavens, he'll find one or two to help him!' said Dr Tom,
bringing his fist down with such a bang on the table that all the
bottles danced.

'What's it about?'

Doonan related how Jim Dennis had taken Seahorse from Dalton's men and
restored him to Rodney Shaw.

'Just like Jim. He's the best fellow in the world,' said the doctor. 'We
must see him through this. Why does not Machinson clear the whole lot
out?'

'That's what I would like to know,' answered Doonan. 'It's not my place
to interfere.'

'Something will have to be done soon,' said Dr Tom. 'The gang is a
regular pest, and gets worse and worse every week.'

'You go to Barker's Creek sometimes, I think?' questioned the constable.

'Yes. I cannot refuse to attend a sick woman or child even amongst such
a crowd, but I have told Abe Dalton I would not go near him or his men
if they were dying.'

'You have plenty of pluck,' said Constable Doonan, admiringly.

Dr Tom waved his arm in a gesture of disdain as he replied,--

'There's not much pluck wanted to beard a fellow like Dalton. I'm going
to Barker's Creek to-morrow to see a woman and her child. One of the
ruffians came in here to-day to ask me. I gave him a bit of my mind, you
may bet. I'll go, and if I see Abe Dalton, I'll tell him in the midst of
his gang that if he harms Jim Dennis, or anything belonging to him, I'll
make him suffer for it.'

'It will only make matters worse for Jim,' said Doonan.

'Nothing of the kind. Dalton knows as well as I do that I am the only
man around here that can help him when there is sickness at Barker's
Creek, and such men are terribly afraid of diseases and fevers. If an
epidemic broke out at the Creek it would not be an unmitigated evil, but
I would do my best for the women and children all the same. As for
Dalton and his curs, they ought to die in a heap, like rabbits in a
drought.'

Constable Doonan had seldom seen Dr Tom so much in earnest, and he was
almost sorry he had mentioned Jim Dennis in connection with the gang,
for he knew that he had roused the worthy man.

'Shall I go with you to-morrow, doctor?' he asked.

'No. You would do harm, not good. A constable at Barker's Creek is like
a red rag to a bull. They would rush you, Fred, my lad--rush you.'



CHAPTER X

A FRIGHTENED SCOUNDREL


Barker's Creek was several miles from Swamp Creek, and next morning Dr
Tom's black boy, aged about forty, and looking ten years older, hitched
the ill-groomed horses to the worse-kept buggy.

It was indeed a remarkable turnout, and so the doctor thought as he
examined the 'joins' of the harness to see if it would hold out.

The black boy contemplated the whole thing with ludicrous pride,
evidently under the impression he had done his duty by both horses and
buggy.

The doctor stowed his bag under the seat, together with a
suspicious-looking flask, and clambered into the buggy. His weight
caused it to heave over in an alarming manner, and when the start took
place Dr Tom appeared to be in danger of being hurled from his seat.

He drove slowly, and it was well on towards noon when he arrived at
Barker's Creek, and looked around him with an air of disgust.

'What a hole,' he muttered, 'and what beasts these men are.'

Barker's Creek was not an inviting place by any means. It lay in a
hollow and was surrounded by a rough, uncleared bush country. Tall,
gaunt trees, branchless until near the tops, towered round the place
like huge scaffold poles. Their appearance at night was weird, as they
were of a slaty white colour, and resembled huge, gaunt spectres. The
shanties in which the men lived and the humpies of the blacks were not
visible until the visitor was close on to the spot. It was secluded, cut
off from the world, and fittingly so.

Some terrible orgies took place here, and the howls and cries of the
black gins, when Dalton's men were amongst them, denoted that scenes of
brutality were being enacted.

The blacks were herded together like animals, and their humpies were
made of the branches of trees suspended, tent-like, on poles, and their
resting-places were on the ground.

Numerous stray curs were prowling around, playing with the naked little
black children, who had no more intelligence, if so much, as the dogs.

The men of the gang had better accommodation, but it was poor enough,
and the only really decent house in the place was Abe Dalton's. It was
before this house that Dr Tom pulled up his horses, and, getting out of
the buggy, went up the steps on to the verandah. The house, like all the
others, was built on piles, and stood a considerable height from the
ground; in fact horses were often sheltered beneath.

'Are you in, Abe Dalton?' shouted Dr Tom.

'Yes; come in,' said a gruff voice.

Dr Tom entered and found Abe Dalton lying on a camp bed, groaning and
tossing from side to side.

He was a big, powerful man, with a coarse face that would have been red
had not constant exposure to all winds and weather made the skin as
brown as parchment. His hair was long, black, and ill-kept, and his big
hands and feet denoted the coarse blood in his veins.

Dr Tom looked at him, and it dawned upon him that he had been summoned
to Barker's Creek under false pretences. It was not a woman and child
who needed his aid, but Abe Dalton himself.

'So it was a lie,' he blurted out.

'What's a lie?'

'That hound you sent to me, said a woman and child were ill.'

'Don't you call my men hounds,' growled Dalton.

'I call them by their proper names. Perhaps curs would be better,' said
Dr Tom.

Even Abe Dalton winced at the cutting tones.

'I'm devilish bad, doctor,' he said, 'and I was afraid you would not
come if I sent for you to attend me. Now you are here, it is not worth
while going back without trying your hand on me,' said Dalton.

'You will get no assistance from me,' said Dr Tom. 'I would prefer to
kill rather than cure you, and the country would be well rid of you.'

'But I am real bad,' groaned Abe Dalton. 'Can't you see I'm bad?'

'Yes. I never saw a man in a worse state of fever, and other
complications. I shall not be at all surprised to hear of your death in
a day or two; and, mind you, it will not be an easy death. You will not
fall asleep and pass out of the world peacefully. Oh, dear, no. You will
struggle and fight and gasp for breath, and eventually choke and go
black in the face, but your looks will not matter where you'll go to.
It's precious hot at Barker's Creek, but it's a mere trifle to the oven
you'll be put into.'

A volley of oaths came from the tormented man, and Dr Tom chuckled to
himself.

'I think I have frightened him,' he thought, 'made him a trifle uneasy.
He's not as bad as all that, but it will do him good to make him think
he is going to peg out.'

'I can cure you, Abe Dalton, but I am not going to try. Not I. I'm not
the man to cheat the devil, or anyone else, of his due. You are not a
picturesque object now, but this is nothing to what you will be in a day
or two. You'll be such a horrible sight that no one will come near you,
not even a black gin. And you have a real good, thirsty fever on you,
and you'll not be able to get a drop of water. I'll tell you what will
happen before the end comes. You'll see things, shadows of your
victims, and they'll sit all round you, grinning, and waiting for the
end. You are in for a good time, Abe Dalton, and I'll leave you to it,'
and Dr Tom moved towards the door.

Abe Dalton was thoroughly frightened and cowed. The perspiration stood
in big drops on his grimy forehead, and after lingering there a few
moments, started to race down his face like raindrops on a window-pane.
He swept them away with his great, horny hand and, turning over with a
groan of pain, called out,--

'For God's sake, don't leave me to die, doctor. I ain't fit to die. I
daren't die. Come back and I'll do anything for you, give you any money
you care to ask for, only come back and save me!'

Dr Tom came back.

'I can't die. I daren't die. I'm afeared,' and the wretched man
shuddered and fell back, terror-stricken.

The doctor heard him and stopped. A thought had occurred to him.

'This may be useful in Jim Dennis's case,' he said, and returned to the
room.

'So you are afraid to die, Abe Dalton? Don't take God's name in vain, He
will not hear you; you have cursed Him all your life, and now you want
Him to save you. Stop that shivering, you coward!'

'You'll help me, doctor, you'll help me?' he moaned.

'Yes; I'll help you on one condition,' said the doctor.

'Name it. Any condition you like. I don't care what it is.'

'Swear to me you will not allow any of your gang to injure Jim Dennis,
or anything belonging to him.'

Abe Dalton could have howled with rage. He hated Dennis and meant to be
even with him.

'You hesitate,' said Dr Tom.

'No, no,' said Dalton. 'I'll swear it. None of my gang shall harm a hair
of his head.'

'And not molest anything that is his,' said Dr Tom.

'No. I swear no harm shall come to him or his property,' said Abe
Dalton.

'How do I know I can trust you?' asked Dr Tom. 'An oath from such a man
is worthless.'

'I'd not dare to take a false oath, when I might die in a couple of
days,' groaned Dalton.

Dr Tom thought this probable. Even if Abe Dalton recovered, he might,
for once in a way, keep his oath; at anyrate he would risk it, and Jim
Dennis would be safe from the gang.

'I am willing to trust you this time,' said Dr Tom. 'I can pull you
through; but, mind, if you break your word, I'll never leave you until I
have put a halter round your neck. There's evidence enough to hang you
on, if it is only hunted up.'

He gave Abe Dalton a draught, and waited until he was asleep, then he
went outside and breathed more freely.

A cluster of men, members of Dalton's gang, stood round the buggy. They
seemed anxious about their leader, for he was the cleverest of them all,
and if he went they knew there would be trouble amongst themselves
before another chief was elected. It would be a shooting matter
probably, and some of them would lose their lives.

The man Dalton had sent to Swamp Creek to tell Dr Tom a woman and child
were ill, stepped forward and said,--

'How is he? Will he pull through?'

'Yes,' said Dr Tom, 'with care; but he must be kept quiet. Now, you
fellows, first listen to me. I am doctoring Abe Dalton on one condition,
a condition he has sworn to fulfil. He has promised that none of his
gang shall molest or harm, in any way, Jim Dennis or his belongings. Do
you hear that?'

The men looked sullen. None of them had any liking for Jim Dennis, for
he was more than a match for them, and they did not like being beaten.

'What do you say to it?' asked Dr Tom. 'Remember Abe Dalton's life rests
upon your answer.'

'We'll keep his promise--eh, mates?' said the man who had already
spoken.

The others assented moodily.

'That is well,' said Dr Tom. 'Mind, if any harm comes to Dennis through
you, I'll not rest until I see you all hanged. You know me, and you know
I am not afraid of you.'

They admired Dr Tom and knew his courage. Not many men would care to
come alone to Barker's Creek as he had done many times.

'You're a plucky chap, doctor,' said one of the men.

'It does not require much pluck to face a lot of beggars like you,' was
the retort.

'Then the police can't have much of it,' laughed one.

'Some of these days you will find they have plenty of pluck,' said Dr
Tom. 'If they were put on your track now, they would be only too glad of
the job. It's Sergeant Machinson holds them back, and he'll have to
answer for it in due time.'

'Machinson,' laughed one man. 'He's a beauty, he is. Ask him how much
Abe Dalton has put into his pocket. It's squaring Machinson that keeps
us poor, d----n him!'

Dr Tom pricked up his ears.

This was a nice little bit of information that might come in handy and
do his friend Constable Doonan a good turn some day.

'So Machinson fleeces your leader, does he?' said Dr Tom. 'A nice
scandal that is, but no one would believe you fellows.'

'We can prove it,' came from two or three of them.

'Can you, indeed?' said Dr Tom. 'A nice lot of beauties you are to give
evidence. No sane man would hang a dog on your evidence.'

They growled at him and used powerful language, but he laughed in their
faces.

He left them to attend to Abe Dalton, whom he found still asleep.

Dr Tom remained at Barker's Creek all night, and the next day still saw
him there.

He did not leave Abe Dalton until he was out of danger, and even that
arrant scoundrel could not help feeling grateful for the attention shown
him, although gratitude was a stranger to his nature.



CHAPTER XI

'TRY WILLIE'


A few years quickly pass by, and very little change is noticeable in
such places as Swamp Creek and on stations like Wanabeen and Cudgegong.
The life there was monotonous enough, but there was a kind of
fascination about it, and Jim Dennis would not have changed places with
any man.

When he had thoroughly recovered from his illness Willie Dennis rapidly
became strong, and now at twelve years of age was a fine, healthy lad.

Like his father, he was a good horseman, and already, even at this early
age, he could ride any horse on the station. He had, as it were, been
born and bred in the saddle, for ever since he could remember he was
accustomed to ride about with his father.

It was the lad's ambition to be a jockey, and win a good race for his
father. He did not mean to ride for everyone, there was no occasion for
that; all he wanted was to be on the back of his father's horses when
they ran in races.

Jim went in for breeding blood stock during the past few years, and had
several promising youngsters by Seahorse, and Rodney Shaw was rather
jealous at Dennis's stock turning out better than his own.

'I was a fool to allow him to mate those mares with Seahorse. I ought to
have kept the blood for myself, especially after the trouble it cost me
to procure it.' He forgot that, had it not been for Jim Dennis, he would
probably have lost the horse altogether.

Rodney Shaw had been to Wanabeen several times, and of late his visits
had been more frequent. He was an unprincipled man, and once he coveted
anything he tried all in his power to possess it.

Of one thing he envied Jim Dennis, and that was his possession of the
half-caste woman Sal. Rodney Shaw laughed at the idea of this woman
living under Dennis's protection and being sacred to him. He had been
assured such was the case by people who knew the life the owner of
Wanabeen led, but he laughed at the assurance and said he knew better
than that.

On one occasion he had, in a roundabout way, asked Jim Dennis if he
would part with her, and hinted at a consideration. The look Dennis gave
him made him quail, and he stammered out a lame excuse that he meant no
offence, and that, of course, a black woman could not be regarded in the
same light as a white.

'Black Sal has been more faithful to me than the white woman, and for no
recompense. She has been a mother to my boy ever since my wife left
me.'

Rodney Shaw started, and looked uneasily at the speaker. He had heard
but little of Jim Dennis's past life, and the owner of Wanabeen seldom
alluded to his troubled matrimonial experiences.

'I did not know you had been married,' he said.

'Yes,' replied Jim, bitterly, and then unburdened himself of his
wretched story. It did him good to talk about it sometimes, relieved his
feelings and revived his desire for vengeance on the man who had wronged
him.

'It would go hard with that man if you came across him?' said Rodney
Shaw.

'Yes, it would go hard with him.'

'Perhaps he did not know she was a wife--your wife. She may have
deceived him, as she did you.'

'Make no excuses for him,' said Jim Dennis. 'Wife or no wife, he must
have wronged her, because he could not marry her. That is enough for me.
Only let me come across him, anywhere, and at any time.'

Rodney Shaw was glad he was not that man.

Young Willie Dennis had ridden over to Cudgegong many times, and Rodney
Shaw made him welcome. He seemed to like the lad, and enjoyed his
prattle. He learned a good deal of the life they led at Wanabeen from
him, and gathered that black Sal was indeed a mother to the lad.

In his heart, however, he wished to possess her, and wondered how best
to accomplish his end. It would be difficult to attain, but he had in
his life overcome many such difficulties, and his victims rued the day
they met him.

Country race meetings in those days were carried on with an amount of
enthusiasm the ordinary phlegmatic race-goer of to-day would fail to
understand.

The whole district for miles round was roused, and there was earnest
rivalry between owners of horses to win events for which only a few
pounds, or a cup of small value, were given as a stake.

It was mainly through the exertions of Jim Dennis, backed by Dr Tom
Sheridan, who acted as secretary, that the Swamp Creek races had become
so popular and successful. Two meetings were held during the year, and
five events decided on each occasion. The chief interest, however,
centred in the Swamp Creek Cup, and this year it was to be of the value
of two hundred pounds, and a silver cup.

Rodney Shaw had increased his popularity by giving half this stake, and
it had been a comparatively easy matter for the enthusiastic Dr Tom to
collect the money necessary to provide for the other event. Jim Dennis
had a laudable desire to win this cup, and he had a horse he thought
possessed a first-rate chance, if properly and carefully trained.

The difficulty at these meetings was to obtain a good rider, and Jim
Dennis wished his son had been a year or two older, and had more
experience, so that he might have the mount on Neptune, the horse he
thought might win.

Neptune was by Seahorse, and his dam, La Perouse, was one of Jim's best
mares. He was a grey, a beautiful colour, and uncommon in race-horses.

'There are not many good greys,' said Jim; 'but once you do get a good
one that colour he is generally an out and outer.'

He thought this description applied to Neptune, whose fault was that he
inherited a good deal of the temper his sire displayed on a memorable
occasion at Wanabeen.

The grey stood sixteen hands high, or a shade over, and was powerfully
built, and no fault could be found with his shape in any respect. He was
fast as the wind, and, moreover, could stay, and was sound in wind and
limb.

If carefully handled he seldom displayed much temper, but it was in him
all the same, and great caution had to be exercised to keep it in check.

Neptune had taken a great fancy to Willie, and the lad could do almost
anything with him.

It gladdened Jim Dennis's heart to see his boy perched on the grey's
back, and he watched them with pride as Neptune went a long, striding
gallop with his light burden.

'If I could only persuade myself Willie would not lose his head in the
race, I would let him ride the horse, but it is too much to expect a lad
of his age to keep cool in the midst of so much excitement. If I put Ben
Madsley up, he's as likely as not to ruffle the horse's temper, and then
farewell to all chance of winning. I have a good mind to put Willie up
and risk it, although I shall be laughed at and called a fool. If he
won, the laugh would be on my side, I reckon.'

It wanted a month to the day of the races, and Neptune was doing
splendid work, being ridden each day by Willie Dennis.

Jim rode over to Swamp Creek to consult Dr Tom. That worthy man of many
occupations was, as usual, glad to see Jim. Since the day he saved Abe
Dalton from death, the leader of the gang had kept his word, and Jim
Dennis and his belongings had not been molested.

Jim was surprised at this, because he knew how Dalton would feel about
him in the matter of rescuing Rodney Shaw's horse from his clutches. He
did not know he owed this immunity to Dr Tom, and the doctor took good
care he should not learn it from him.

'Well, Jim, and what's the news? How does Neptune fare, and is Willie
all right?' said Dr Tom.

'Everything is going on splendidly,' said Jim. 'The horse could not be
doing better, and Willie's as fit as a fiddle. I'm in a bit of a fix,
though.'

'Not short of money surely?' said Dr Tom.

'No, not that,' laughed Jim. 'There is not much chance of throwing money
about freely at Wanabeen.'

'I suppose not,' replied the doctor. 'In Swamp Creek there would not
appear to be much chance of spending to the casual outsider's vision,
but it's wonderful how the money goes even here. I'm always hard up, and
blessed if I know how it happens. What do you think Alf Sniggers asked
me this morning?'

'I don't know, could not even make a guess at it,' said Jim. 'He's a
funny chap is Sniggers.'

'He owes me an account, and he wanted to know if I'd take a bullock in
payment. Now what the deuce is the good of a bullock to me? I couldn't
sell it--everyone round here wants to sell, not to buy. There's no
chance of eating it, and, being of the wrong sex, there's no milk to be
got out of it, and, in fact, it would be on my hands and a perfect
nuisance. I explained these little facts to Sniggers, and what do you
think he said?'

'Out with it,' laughed Jim.

'The beggar said that any doctor who wouldn't swop a few dirty drugs for
a real live bullock must be a fool, and he "wouldn't have nothing more
to say to him." Upon my word, Jim, he went away in a high state of
indignation, for all the world as though I had done him an injury.'

'Did he settle the account?' asked Jim, laughing.

'Not he. I have put it down in my third volume of bad debts,' said Dr
Tom, mournfully. 'But what's your trouble? I was forgetting about
that.'

'It's not exactly a trouble, it's a difficulty,' said Jim. 'I don't know
who to put up on Neptune in the race. Madsley will ride for me, but he's
got a queer temper, and a rider with a nasty temper and a horse with a
nasty temper generally have differences. If Madsley and Neptune happened
to differ in the race, or just before it, and commenced to argue the
matter, there would be no cup or two hundred sovs. for me.'

Dr Tom looked thoughtful, and shook his head.

'I don't think I'd risk putting Madsley up.'

'But who the deuce am I to put up?'

'Willie. Try Willie. Give the little chap a chance. By Jove, Jim, he'll
win it, I feel it right here,' and he banged his chest with his fist.



CHAPTER XII

MAINLY CONCERNING A DOG


'It's asking too much of the lad,' said Jim Dennis, in reply to the
doctor's suggestion to 'Put Willie up.' 'He's only twelve, and you can't
expect him to have the head of a man.'

'But that is just what he has when he is on a horse,' commented Dr Tom.
'The little chap is a splendid rider, and as cool as his dad, which is
saying a lot. He'll take a pride in riding Neptune, and Ashworth himself
would not frighten the little chap. No, Jim, you can take my word for
it, he has an old head on his young shoulders, and if you put him up he
will do both himself and the horse justice.'

The doctor's argument coincided with Jim's inclinations, and he did not
require much persuading.

'Ride back with me to Wanabeen,' said Jim, 'and we'll break it gently to
him. It will be great news for him. He'll not believe it at first.'

'Oh, yes, he will,' said Dr Tom. 'Not believe it! He'll be only too
proud to believe it. There's only one thing I envy you of, Jim, and that
is the possession of such a lad as Willie. I'm not a marrying man, but
I would give a good deal to possess a little chap like him.'

'Shocking, doctor. You ought to know better. Consider your morals,'
laughed Jim.

'Oh, you dry up. You know exactly what I mean. I want a companion, such
as the lad is to you. I sit and talk for hours at a stretch at my
medicine bottles and old Baalim down there,' and he pointed to a
sleepy-looking old dog snoring in a corner, half-dingo, half-kangaroo
dog, and a dash of other breeds thrown in.

'I'll find you a better dog than that,' said Jim, with a quiet smile,
knowing that any reflection cast upon Baalim's character would be
indignantly repudiated by his owner.

'Find me a better dog!' exclaimed Dr Tom. 'Where is there a better dog?
I wouldn't part with Baalim, not for money down to the extent of volume
one of my bad debts library. That dog, let me tell you, Jim Dennis, is a
marvel of intelligence. He's a humorous dog. He's about the only dog I
ever knew who appreciated my violin playing. I have never known him howl
when I am manipulating that instrument.'

'He must be extraordinarily patient,' said Jim. 'Perhaps he has no ear
for music.'

'I have no wish to quarrel with you, Jim Dennis,' said Dr Tom, with a
lordly air. 'Perhaps you have not heard my latest composition,' and he
went off in the direction of his violin-case.

'I am afraid I must be going,' said Jim, innocently.

Dr Tom turned round sharply and said,--

'I'm sure you will like it.'

'I'll take it for granted,' said Jim. 'Please don't rob Baalim of his
legitimate amusement. If that dog can stand your violin playing, Dr Tom,
I'd never part with him; no other member of the canine race would ever
put up with it.'

'I have composed an "Ode to Spring,"' said Dr Tom.

'I should have thought you were owed quite enough without piling up
additional debts,' said Jim.

'Seize him, Baalim,' shouted the doctor.

Baalim raised his head, yawned, licked his fore paws one by one, turned
over and snarled.

'How long have you had that dog?' questioned Jim, anxious to keep the
doctor away from the violin-case.

'Several years. He arrived here one morning casually, on his own
account. I shall never forget the inquiring look on his face as he came
up those steps. It was the sort of look which conveyed the impression
that he was thinking, "I wonder what kind of boots he wears and if he
kicks hard?" It was not exactly a frightened look, but the glance of a
dog that had seen a good deal of the slings and arrows, I think--the
arrows of outrageous fortune. He didn't ask to remain, but he demanded
his breakfast in such an appealing manner that I fed him. From that day
to this he has never left me. He is a faithful companion, and his breed
may be defined as "various." Moreover, he is an ass of a dog, that's why
I call him Baalim.'

'Has he many good qualities?' asked Jim.

'He's full of good qualities, but he's a fool to himself. Instead of
seeking repose on his mat, he circulates round the Creek on
knight-errant adventures. He has fought every dog in Swamp Creek singly
and in batches. He not only gets himself into trouble, but he drags me
into it along with him. The number of excuses I have made for that dog's
behaviour would surprise you. I believe he is grateful. Baalim, are you
grateful?'

The dog slowly rose from his recumbent position and waddled up to Dr
Tom. He placed his big, shaggy head on the doctor's knee, and looked up
into his face. If ever a dog wished to express gratitude in a canine way
it was Baalim at that moment.

'What an ugly beggar he is,' said Jim; 'but he looks a real good dog.'

Baalim was ugly, and he seemed to glory in it. He was unlike all other
dogs. He had a dirty, yellowish-brown coat, his hair was uneven, it
seemed to stick out of him in shreds and patches. His body was long and
his legs were short, stumpy, and out of proportion. His tail was useful
for whipping off flies, and it resembled the thick part of a stock whip
lash. His head was wolfish in shape, and when he smiled, as dogs will
smile at strangers, his teeth were ominous. His eyes were the best part
of him. They were expressive, and he talked to Dr Tom with them, or, to
be more correct, through them, in a most interesting way.

Baalim was a shrewd dog, and he was a bit of a diplomatist. He was an
adept at the art of creating quarrels and of patching them up. In his
perambulations round the Creek with Dr Tom he found much to interest and
amuse him.

When the doctor was attending a patient, Baalim attended to the
patient's dog, and these attentions generally ended in a dispute.

He was a particular dog, and after the doctor he bestowed his affections
upon Jim Dennis and Constable Doonan.

When Baalim was left in charge of Dr Tom's sanctum no man dare enter it.
Any attempt to do so would have been followed by serious consequences.

'Ride back with me, and ask Baalim to attend us,' said Jim.

'He wants a run; it will do him good. Take some of the fat off him.'

'Then you'll return with me?' asked Jim.

'Yes, and take the dog with me. He'll amuse Willie for an hour or two.'

'And to pass the time he can have a battle royal with Towser in the back
yard,' said Jim.

Dr Tom shouted for his boy to saddle his horse, and the black fellow
soon brought it round to the front.

They were not long before starting, and in due course arrived at
Wanabeen.

Willie was out somewhere, and Sal went in search of him. She was not
long in finding him, and when the lad heard Dr Tom was there he was
overjoyed.

The doctor was as pleased to see him as Willie was to greet him.

'There's some good news for you, Willie,' said Dr Tom.

'What is it?' asked the boy, eagerly.

'How would you like to ride in a race, a real race, not a helter-skelter
race with your dad? A dozen horses or more, my lad, and the colours up,
and the people shouting and cheering and yelling themselves hoarse.'

'That would be grand,' he replied; 'but it's too good to be true.'

'Not a bit of it; ask your father,' said Dr Tom.

Willie looked at Jim Dennis, and his father said,--

'How would you like to ride Neptune in the cup? Do you think you could
manage him?'

The lad clapped his hands.

'Manage him!' he cried. 'Why, I can do anything with Neptune. Will you
let me ride him?'

'Yes, my lad, you shall ride him, win or lose. I'll risk it, although
you are only a youngster.'

Willie capered with delight and ran outside, followed by the doctor's
dog.

'Come along, Baalim,' shouted Willie. 'We'll have a rare romp over
this.'

Away they went towards Neptune's box, the dog scampering after him in
his usual clumsy fashion.

'Bless the lad, how full of life he is!' said Dr Tom. 'I take quite a
fatherly interest in him. I guess he's half mine, because I saved his
life.'

'Do you think I shall ever forget it?' asked Jim.

'No, old pal, I don't think you will; but there are people who regard a
doctor as a mere instrument, a thing to play upon and tune to their own
fancy. If he cures, well and good, and he doesn't get any credit for it,
and sometimes no pay. If he fails--well, if it hadn't been for that
clumsy, blundering fool of a doctor--you know the rest, Jim.'

'You are a clever fellow, and you are wasting the best years of your
life in a hole like Swamp Creek,' said Jim.

'I'm not a clever fellow. I might have been. I had every chance. I
drifted, old man, just drifted. Do you know my besetting sin?'

'Didn't know you had any sins,' said Jim.

'I have, and the worst of the lot is a constant "it
isn't-worth-the-bother" sort of feeling. If it had not been for that I
might have got on. As a medical student I was quick at learning, too
quick. Things came so easily to me that I never bothered about 'em.
That's not the way to get on. It's the plodders beat all chaps like me.'

'Nonsense!' said Jim. 'You never value yourself at your true worth.'

'I believe you are right, although I'm not conceited enough to let the
world think so. By gad, Jim, I'd like a chance, a big chance. Something
with danger in it. Something I might risk my life in to benefit my
fellow-creatures. Do you know, Jim Dennis, I'm always hovering on the
verge of a grand discovery, and it never comes off. When I have it all
fixed up nicely, and think this is the thing, the whole blessed fabric
topples over, and I am buried in the ruins of my own fancies.'

'But you manage to scramble out of the _débris_,' said Jim.

'That's just it. I scramble out of the _débris_ and commence to pick up
the best part of the breakages. It's the piecing 'em together again,
Jim, that troubles a fellow. They never seem to fit in, or to stick
together when they are fixed up,' said Dr Tom, dreamily.

Jim Dennis knew Tom Sheridan had grit in him. He knew that no man had a
braver heart or nobler courage, if put to the test, but it would be an
uncommonly hard test, to bring out those qualities to their fullest
extent.

A disappointed man Dr Tom Sheridan certainly was not, nor was he an
unhappy man. He was too good for Swamp Creek, and yet it was good for
the Creek for him to be there.

'Look at that youngster,' said Dr Tom, suddenly.

Jim Dennis turned round and saw his son leading Neptune out of his box,
and the doctor's dog following at his heels.

The horse seemed to place implicit confidence in his young guide, and
walked sedately and quietly.

'You would never think Neptune had such a deuce of a temper to look at
him now,' said Jim.



CHAPTER XIII

SPECULATION


Never had there been such excitement over the Swamp Creek Cup. The stake
was good, as country stakes go, and in addition to this a splendid entry
had been obtained, and Dr Tom prophesied that at least fourteen or
fifteen runners would face him when he held the flag, for in addition to
being secretary, stake holder and general manager, the doctor was also
the starter.

It spoke well for his reputation for fairness that he gave universal
satisfaction in these various departments, and had he been able to get
back from the starting post in time, he would undoubtedly have been
appointed judge.

The local bookmaker at Swamp Creek had already commenced operations, and
a horse from Bourke named First Class was favourite. This worthy
penciller owned the Gum Tree Hotel, and his name was Aaron Hyam. He was
of the persuasion indicated by his Christian name, and as his eldest son
and clerk was called Moses, there was no reason to doubt it when he said
if ever he had a daughter, or rather his wife had, he should call her
Rachel.

Aaron Hyam was a well-to-do man. Old Ned Glenn, the coach driver, said
Aaron had made his money mainly through his good offices, because he
invariably persuaded passengers to stop at the Gum Tree Hotel.

'The money I have put into that man's pocket would keep me comfortably
for life,' he growled; 'and the mean son of Jerusalem has never had the
decency to tip me more than a fiver.'

Aaron Hyam's hotel was the resort of the Swamp Creek folk and the whole
of the better-class people for many miles around. It was quite a
different place from Potter's Shanty, and for a country hotel was
respectably kept even in those rough and often lawless times.

The astute Aaron worked his cards well and was in good odour even with
such men as Dalton's gang. He likewise kept well in with the police, and
Sergeant Machinson was a supporter of his.

A fortnight before the race for the Swamp Creek Cup, two or three
bookmakers from Bathurst, Bourke and Orange arrived in the place and put
up at Hyam's hotel.

Aaron would have preferred to have the manipulating of the market to
himself, but as he could not very well do this, he had to remain
contented with fleecing the visitors to his hotel as best he might.

One of these bookmakers was a friend of the owner of First Class, and
he remonstrated with Aaron for making that animal favourite.

'He's never done much, only won a bit of a handicap at Bathurst,' said
Price James, the friend of the owner. 'What do you make him favourite
for?'

'That's my business,' said Aaron. 'If you care to lay longer odds, do
so. Four to one is quite enough for me to lay against a horse like First
Class amongst our lot. Why, his name gives him away at once! Had you
called him Third Class, or No Class, it would have been different, but
First Class--well, four to one is a very fair price against a horse with
such a name.'

Rodney Shaw had two horses entered, both by Seahorse. They were named
Seaweed and Distant Shore, and he fancied one of them would win.

When Ben Madsley heard from Jim Dennis that he was going to let his son
Willie ride Neptune he laughed, and thought to himself,--

'I'll frighten the life out of the youngster before the flag falls.'

Rodney Shaw engaged the jockey to ride the better of his pair, and gave
him his choice.

After a trial at Cudgegong, Ben Madsley selected Distant Shore as his
mount, and the horse certainly galloped remarkably well.

No sooner did it become known that Jim Dennis had decided to put his son
up, when long odds, comparatively speaking, were offered against Neptune
in the betting.

Aaron Hyam thought this was a particularly good chance of making a bit
without much risk, and when anyone wished to back Neptune he was always
ready to lay a fair price.

In the meantime Jim Dennis was taking every care to have his horse fit
and thoroughly wound up to go two miles. There was no pampering about
Jim's method of treatment. Plenty of fresh air and exercise was his
motto, and he trusted more to nature than art.

Neptune was given plenty of long, strong, steady work. He was not
galloped at racing speed over a mile one day and then cantered for the
next two or three days.

Willie Dennis rode the horse two-mile gallops at an even pace, and the
work Neptune did suited him. As for Willie, he never felt happier or
more elated than when he was on the back of his father's horse. Jim
Dennis was proud of the lad, and gave him every encouragement. Day by
day he saw the horse become better and better, and he knew that on the
eventful date Neptune would be as hard as nails.

Rodney Shaw was very anxious to win the race, and now he had secured the
services of Madsley he was sanguine of success. At the same time, he had
a wholesome dread of Neptune, but consoled himself with the thought that
Willie Dennis would hardly be able to do the horse justice.

Although Abe Dalton was regarded as an outlaw and a sort of social
pariah, Dr Tom and the committee of the race club thought they could not
exclude his entries from the races.

Dalton had done some desperate deeds in his time, but since his illness
he seemed to have changed for the better.

'It will not last long. He is certain to break out again,' said Dr Tom,
and he was right.

Abe Dalton entered a half-bred horse called The Captain for the cup, and
two others in minor races.

No one knew much about The Captain, and when it came to handicapping him
there was a difficulty.

The committee did the work of adjusting the weights, and great arguments
they had over it at Dr Tom's house.

'If we accept Dalton's entries, as I take it we must, his horses shall
be fairly weighted,' said the doctor.

'How can we weight a horse we know nothing about?' said the chairman. 'I
say, give The Captain top weight, and if Abe Dalton does not like it let
him do the other thing.'

'But The Captain is only a three-year-old. We ought not to give him top
weight,' said the doctor.

'Some horses are better at three years than at any other age,' was the
reply.

'The lowest weight is to be seven stone,' said Dr Tom; 'and I think if
we say nine stone seven for top weight that will leave a sufficient
margin.'

There was a lot of wrangling over the matter, but eventually First Class
was weighted at nine stone seven, and The Captain put on the same mark
with Rodney Shaw's horses and Neptune, who were all to carry eight stone
seven.

These comprised the first division, and the tail end were in the
seven-stone list.

Considering the committee knew very little about some of the horses
entered, the general opinion was that their work was well done, and
Aaron Hyam soon found his book would be profitable, as most of the
runners were backed.

Despite his weight, First Class, who was a fair public performer in the
district, was favourite. Abe Dalton's horse was well backed by several
members of his gang, who came into Swamp Creek for the purpose.

Rodney Shaw backed both his horses, Distant Shore for the most money,
but Neptune was almost out in the cold, as Jim Dennis was contented to
run for the stake and a few modest wagers.

Dr Tom was most enthusiastic, and went about the Creek, followed by
Baalim, with an air of importance, as though greatness had been suddenly
and unexpectedly thrust upon him.

A night or two before the day of the races the crowd at the Gum Tree
Hotel was large, and Aaron Hyam was doing a brisk business both at the
bar and with his book.

Abe Dalton had ridden in from Barker's Creek, and as he was somewhat the
worse for liquor there was every prospect of a row, for he was a
quarrelsome fellow when in this state.

'I wish he'd go,' thought Aaron Hyam to himself, but dared not say
anything to him.

Dalton was swaggering about his horse, and swore he would beat anything
'in these parts.' He offered to back The Captain against any other horse
in the race for a hundred.

'Come, some of you fellows. Have you no pluck?' he said. 'He's only a
three-year-old, but he'll beat the whole blooming lot.'

Dr Tom was in the bar and said quietly,--

'I'll bet you a score I name one to beat The Captain.'

'Bravo, doctor! Don't let him have it all his own way.'

'Done with you,' said Dalton. 'Name it.'

'Neptune,' said Dr Tom. 'How will that suit you?'

Abe Dalton gave a coarse laugh as he replied,--

'That will suit me very well. You've not much chance of landing that
score with a little brat like young Dennis up.'

'You had better not let Jim Dennis hear you call his son a brat,' said
Aaron Hyam.

'And why not? Who is Jim Dennis that I should be afraid of him?'

'He's more than a match for you and your crew,' said one.

'Is he?' sneered Dalton.

'He's proved it.'

'Has he?'

'Yes, and he'll prove it again if you ruffle him about his son.'

Abe Dalton swore, and looking at the speaker said,--

'I'll say what I like about Jim Dennis, or any other man; and as for
that lad, why, he's only a half-caste. Ask black Sal if he isn't.'

Abe Dalton suddenly felt a pressure at the back of his neck, and he was
swung round as though he had been on a pivot.

'You say that again, you cur, and I'll smash your face in!' said Dr Tom.
'If Jim Dennis heard you he'd screw your head off. Get away from me. You
are not fit to touch!' and Dr Tom flung Dalton against the side of the
bar, where he had to clutch at the railing to prevent himself falling.

There was a chorus of approval from those present, for Abe Dalton was
hated as much as Dr Tom and Jim Dennis were liked.

A row seemed imminent, when Dr Tom said,--

'If he wants a fight he can have it, and I'm the man to take him on.'

Abe Dalton had no desire to tackle the doctor, and he growled,--

'If you hadn't saved my life I'd throttle you.'

Dr Tom laughed as he replied,--

'Don't let that trifle stand in your way. Come and try!'

'Let him alone, doctor. He's not worth troubling about,' whispered Aaron
Hyam.

'I think you are right,' was the doctor's reply. Then, turning to Abe
Dalton, he said,--

'I have offered to bet you twenty pounds Neptune beats The Captain, and
I'll not go back on my word; but, mind you, if I win I will not touch
your money. Aaron Hyam shall send it to the Bathurst Hospital,' and the
doctor stalked out of the place amidst a volley of cheers.



CHAPTER XIV

THE HALF-CASTE'S WARNING


Jim Dennis heard of the row at the Gum Tree Hotel, and he also heard of
the cause.

Ned Glenn, who happened to be there, told him all about it when he
pulled up at Wanabeen.

'You'd have laughed, Jim, to see the funk Dalton was in,' he said. 'I
never saw such a blooming coward in my life. He's not fit to sew a
button on his own shirt. He cowed down before the doc like a whipped
kangaroo dog, and darn me if he even so much as swore when Dr Tom asked
him out to fight.'

'But what was it all about?' asked Jim.

Then the story came out, with embellishments by Ned Glenn.

'And Abe Dalton said that about my lad?' said Jim.

'Yes, he did; but I wish I had never mentioned it; you look so
ferocious.'

'You wait until I come across Dalton. He'll have to answer for it.'

'Leave him alone,' said Ned. 'Treat him as Dr Tom treated him. Let him
slide.'

'And so it was Dr Tom who stuck up for me and mine,' said Jim.

'Didn't I tell you so?' exclaimed Ned; 'and I can tell you a bit more.
It's through Dr Tom you have not been molested by Dalton's gang for the
past few years. Don't you know the yarn? Why, every man in the Creek
knows it.'

Jim Dennis said, 'You're--sure--it's--true?' He caught up his few words,
and they seemed to stumble over each other.

'Certain. Gospel. I had it from Abe himself. It happened this way:
Dalton was dying, and Dr Tom was called in under false pretences. Some
blackguard of the gang told him a woman and child were dying. You know
what the doc is in such cases. Well, he went. He drove out in that
wretched ramshackle of his and he pulled up at headquarters--Abe
Dalton's.

'All he heard in answer to his call was groans. He went inside--he's
told this to me himself. He don't often give much away in that way do
the doc, but he opened his big heart and let me have it; and, by gosh,
as you know, Jim, I'm a good receptacle for news.'

Jim nodded; he was taking it all in--and a lot more.

'So the doctor did what?'

Ungrammatical, but it is what Jim said, and I have to record it. We are
not all born grammarians.

'The doc did this for you, Jim, but don't let on or split to him, or
he'd knock the life out of me. The doc says to Abe Dalton. "You're going
to die, old man, and your sins will provide the fuel to roast you." From
all accounts--there is only one account, but the doc gets a bit confused
when he's on this track--the fact of the matter is that Abe Dalton was
in a very bad state. Tom--I mean the doc--pulled him through on one
condition; that condition was that you were not to be molested, or your
belongings, for ever more.'

'And Dr Tom compounded'--it was a big word for Jim--'with a brute like
Dalton? He saved his life at the price of shielding me from this gang?
Wait until I see the doctor. I'll tackle him over this.'

'I'm going,' said Ned.

'About time,' answered Jim. 'I'll tell that story of yours to the little
chap.'

'Don't. By gosh, Jim, don't,' said Ned, as he got to his horses' heads.

'I will. He ought to know black Sal, eh? Good-bye, Ned.'

Ned Glenn was on the box seat. He looked round at Jim, cracked the whip
over his team's ears, and said,--

'I'll be back in time for the cup, my lad, and if Willie don't win on
Neptune, s'help me, I'll chuck up the job.'

Jim Dennis's face cleared. The passing cloud had drifted. The gloom was
dispelled at the mention of the child. What little things, what small
words, what rightly-spoken words can change a man's heart.

'Bah!'

It was an emphatic expression. Jim Dennis spat on the verandah, he
kicked a chair over, he swung the hammock round and went inside.

'Sal, do you know what they have said about you? Do you know what Abe
Dalton says?'

She shuddered.

'Sal, you have been a mother to my lad.'

She remained silent.

'Do you know what that scoundrel Dalton says?'

'No.'

'That Willie is your child.'

A wail came from her, a piteous, heart-rending wail. She fell on her
knees at his feet. She put her head on his boots, and she cried--cried
many bitter tears. It was hard for her. She loved this white man, the
man who had helped her, had come into her life, picked her up when she
was dying, starving, her tongue cleaving to her mouth from thirst, on
his verandah steps. He was not a missionary, he never talked to her
about God--and the devil. He never frightened her with unknown terrors,
he had been good and kind and gentle to her, and they said these things
about him!

She thought not of herself, her whole thoughts were for him, the man who
had protected her.

'Willie, Willie!' she wailed.

She wished he belonged to her, that he were flesh of her flesh. She
craved for that child as mothers crave for their own.

'Get up, Sal. I thought you ought to know,' he said.

She lifted her face to his, and the tears were streaming down her
half-black cheeks.

'You have been more mother to Willie than his own,' he said.

With the quick motion always noticeable in the black races, she rose to
her feet. She went to the door.

He watched her with wondering eyes.

She came back, caught him by the arm and peered into his face.

'You have a bad friend,' she said.

'Only one,' said Jim, with a smile, as he patted her on the head much as
he would a dog.

She glanced to the right and then to the left.

'Do you know his name?' she said.

'Yes, Abe Dalton.'

She laughed, and he started.

'Abe Dalton!' she exclaimed. 'No! what has he to do with you? My people
can guard you from him. It is not Dalton; it is--' she hesitated.

'Name him,' said Jim.

'Rodney Shaw!' she said.

He caught her by the wrist. He had met with treachery in black blood
before, and he half mistrusted her.

'What do you mean?'

She looked frightened.

His grip tightened.

'What do you mean?' he asked again.

'I am afraid of him, afraid for you, for myself, for Willie,' she said
in a low voice.

'Some of your legends,' he answered roughly. 'You blacks are all alike,
half-brutal, half-beast.'

She shrank from him. They were the hardest words he had ever said to
her.

'I'm sorry, Sal. I forgot myself. Tell me what you mean.'

'You know the legend of our tribe,' she said. 'No white man's blood
shall mingle with our own unless calamity--I was taught that
word--befall us.'

'Tell me the story, I forget it,' said Jim, as he sat down.

'This is as it was told to me by King Charlie, the chief of our tribe.
He rose from his meal and stood up alone, solemn, in the moonlight.'

Sal had posed for this effect, and Jim took it all in--but it was a
genuine pose, which is not the case with _poseurs_ of the present day.

'He had eaten kangaroo and wallaby, and had supped well. You have seen
King Charlie. True, he is only a black, but he has not the white man's
curse upon him.'

Jim Dennis knew Sal in these moods, when the savage was uppermost.

'He looked upon me--I can see him now--a gaunt figure with the chain
around his neck and the half-moon badge of his tribe on his chest. His
hand was slowly raised, and he pointed at me. I will not give you the
words of our tribe, it would be shame unto me, but I will tell you what
he said.'

She raised herself to her full height.

'"You are cursed!" I can hear the words now. They hissed through my ears
like a sound of running water at flood. "You are cursed!" Again he said
it, and I shrank from him. What had I done, what fearful deed had I
committed that I should be cursed?

'It was my mother's sin, not mine, and yet not hers. She was taken as a
slave might be taken--and I was begot.

'"You are cursed!" It rang in my ears, it rings now. I can see the old
king of our tribe rise up and cast me out.'

Jim Dennis watched her; he had never seen Sal in quite this mood before.
She looked like a prophetess.

'And when he cast me out what did I reply? I defied him. I said the sin
of my mother ought not to be visited upon me. I said that the white
man's hand was strong in the land, and that _he_ ought to suffer for his
sins, not the poor "gin" that succumbed to him.

'I know King Charlie. He is a just man and good. He has dreamed the
dream of our race, and he has wonderful visionary powers. But because he
cursed me I left the camp and wandered forth. I was weary and I
fell--you know where I fell--on the steps there, and you took me in as
you would a little child, and saved me.

'Rodney Shaw is your enemy--he is mine,' she went on. 'He has tempted me
and I have urged him on.'

'You have?' said Jim.

'Yes, and why? I have tried him and tested him. He desires me. He says I
am to him more than all his stations and cattle. But why does he say
that? He is your friend. And they say--Abe Dalton says--I am the mother
of your child. They lie--and we know it.'

He tried to calm her.

'But where is the danger to me, Sal? You must be mistaken,' he said.

'Shaw hates you. There is something in him I do not understand,' said
Sal.

'Never mind, my girl, we can get level with Rodney Shaw any day. I'm
just commencing to find things out,' said Jim.



CHAPTER XV

A COWARDLY ASSAULT


At first Jim could hardly credit Sal's statement, but several things
that had happened of late caused him to place credence in her words.
Moreover, he knew she was truthful and would not deceive him.

He consulted Dr Tom, and that worthy man agreed with Sal; he had no
special liking for Rodney Shaw. Constable Doonan had noticed Rodney Shaw
coming from the direction of Barker's Creek on several occasions, and
wondered what he had been doing in that quarter. Jim Dennis meant to
have an explanation from the owner of Cudgegong; he did not mean to
allow Rodney Shaw, or any other man, to insult Sal, or to prowl around
his place during his absence. When the races were over he would have
more time on his hands, and meant to inquire into these matters. He had
no desire to quarrel with anyone before the cup was decided, because it
might possibly put obstacles in the way of Neptune winning. The horse
had been well tried, and had done a capital preparation, and Willie
seemed to handle him with the skill of an old hand. The lad was
confident of winning, and when he saw the new yellow jacket his father
had purchased for him he was delighted.

This jacket had been specially made in Sydney, and arrived in charge of
Ned Glenn. 'There you are, Willie,' said Ned, as he handed him the
parcel. 'You will find something in there that will please you, I
reckon.'

Jim Dennis, Sal and Ned Glenn eyed the lad admiringly when he put the
yellow jacket on, and he looked well in it, quite a model of a youthful
jockey.

The day before the races Jim Dennis with his son and Neptune rode over
to Swamp Creek and put up at the Gum Tree Hotel.

There was quite a crowd around the place waiting for the horse to
arrive, and the comments passed on the appearance of Neptune were on the
whole favourable.

There was a lot of wagering at night at the hotel, and, the township
being full of visitors, many strangers were present.

Jim Dennis had taken special precautions that his horse should be well
looked after, and Dr Tom's black boy was left on guard with strict
injunctions not to leave the door of the box on any pretext whatever.
There he sat like a black sentinel with old Baalim at his side, and the
pair kept off all inquiring visitors.

Jim Dennis knew that Abe Dalton was bent upon winning the race with The
Captain, and would not stick at a trifle to accomplish the end. Most of
the horses were backed, and there was every prospect of an exciting
race. Willie was at Dr Tom's house and was to remain there for the
night.

'He's better there than in the hotel. You never can tell what fellows
like Dalton may get up to,' said the doctor, as he and Jim went round to
the Gum Tree to see how the wagering was going.

The place was packed, and Aaron Hyam was doing a brisk trade behind the
bar and also with his bookmaking. First Class was a hot favourite at
three to one, and seemed likely to see a much shorter price.

Rodney Shaw was present, and backed Distant Shore freely, and offered to
back his horse for a hundred against any one of the runners.

Jim Dennis had not met him since Sal had warned him that the master of
Cudgegong was no friend of his. In his straightforward way Jim would
have had it out with him there and then, but Dr Tom counselled patience,
and Jim knew his advice was good. Shaw came up to them in a friendly
way, and was evidently unaware that Sal had reported his misconduct or
expressed any doubt about him.

He had been indulging somewhat freely and was in a boisterous mood.

'Now then, Dennis, I'll give you a chance,' he said. 'No one else seems
willing to take it on. I'll bet you a level hundred, or any part of it,
that Distant Shore beats Neptune.'

'Considering the odds, you ought to lay me a hundred to fifty,' said
Jim. 'You have Madsley riding, and my lad has not his experience.'

'I'm not particular,' said Shaw. 'I'll bet you a hundred to fifty if you
like that Distant Shore beats your horse.'

'Very well, it's a wager,' said Jim.

'I'll lay you a hundred to ten against Neptune,' said Aaron Hyam.

'That will suit me,' replied Jim.

'I'll take that too,' said Dr Tom.

The people crowded round them, and there was a lot of jostling and
pushing in a good-humoured way.

Abe Dalton was there, but wisely kept in the background. He had no
desire to risk an encounter with Jim Dennis.

Dalton would have given a good deal to ensure Neptune being beaten, and
when he saw Dr Tom and Jim together it occurred to him that Willie
Dennis was probably alone at the doctor's house.

He went out at the back and quickly made his way in that direction. He
had no very distinct idea what he intended doing, but he was determined
Willie Dennis must be incapacitated from riding.

'If the lad can't ride Neptune,' said Dalton, 'the horse will not run,
because he won't be able to find another jockey.'

He had not forgotten his oath to Dr Tom, but he had kept it so long that
he felt absolved from it, and to a man like Dalton oaths do not count
for much.

He went stealthily as he neared the house, and, cautiously treading up
the steps on to the verandah, he looked in at the open door.

Willie Dennis was asleep in a cane chair, and Abe Dalton, creeping
round, saw one of the doctor's pestles, which he used for pounding
various things in a mortar. He picked it up, and then, approaching the
lad from behind, hit him a violent blow on the head.

Willie fell forward out of the chair, face downwards, on to the floor.

Abe Dalton rolled him over, and, looking at him, said to himself,--

'He'll get over it all right, but I reckon it's settled him for
to-morrow.'

He put the pestle back in its place, and quickly leaving the house
hurried back to the Gum Tree Hotel.

Constable Doonan happened to meet him, and Abe Dalton could not avoid
him.

'You are in a hurry,' said Doonan. 'Going to back The Captain, I
suppose?'

'Yes,' said Dalton, 'and I'd advise you to do the same.'

'I shall have my bit on Neptune,' said Doonan. 'I want to see young
Willie Dennis win the cup.'

'He'll not win it,' said Dalton. 'He's had no experience. Take my tip
and put your bit on The Captain,' and he went on his way towards the
hotel.

'He'll not know where I have been,' said Dalton to himself. 'Lucky he
did not meet me near the doctor's place or he might have suspected
something.'

The hotel was still full, and Dalton again backed his horse with two or
three bookmakers.

'You seem pretty sanguine of winning,' said Shaw to him.

'Yes, I am. He's a good horse.'

'I think mine will beat you, but I don't much care what wins if Neptune
is out of it.'

'You seem to have a "down" on Dennis lately.'

'He's a precious sight too good for this world,' said Rodney Shaw.
'Thinks such a mighty lot of himself. I'll tell you what, Abe Dalton,
I've a piece of work for you to do, if you care to undertake it. It will
be a risky job, but you are accustomed to take risks, and I am
accustomed to having my own way.'

'What is it?' asked Dalton. 'We can't talk here.'

They went out at the back, and Rodney Shaw said in a low voice,--

'I want that half-caste woman of Jim Dennis's. Can you get her for me?
I'll give you a stiff price.'

Abe Dalton laughed as he said, 'She's not worth taking any risks about.'

'Oh, yes, she is, and I have taken a fancy to her. Can you get her?'

'Of course it could be done, but there would be the deuce to pay about
it. Besides, you couldn't keep her when you had her. She would go back,
and as likely as not Jim Dennis would shoot you or burn your place over
your head.'

'I'll risk all that. Can you get her? Your gang ought to be able to
manage it.'

'It's a difficult job, but it could be done. What's your price?'

'A hundred pounds when she is brought to my house,' said Shaw.

'I'll think it over and let you know, but you are a fool for your pains.
Fancy risking so much for a black gin.'

'She is not a black gin, she is a very fine woman,' said Shaw.

Abe Dalton shrugged his shoulders and looked at the speaker with
undisguised contempt, which was, however, lost upon him.

'Is it a bargain?' asked Rodney Shaw.

'I'll do my best. Money down, mind you, and you take all the blame,'
said Dalton.

'Agreed,' said Rodney Shaw; 'and the sooner you kidnap her the better.'

'A little bit of "blackbirding" ashore,' laughed Dalton, and Shaw joined
him in his mirth.

When Dr Tom and Jim Dennis had seen Neptune safely locked up for the
night, with the black fellow inside his box, they walked home together.

'Willie's asleep,' said Jim, as he saw him lying on the floor.

'Funny little chap. Why didn't he lie on the couch?' said Dr Tom; then,
with his practised eyes, he noticed how still and unnaturally calm the
lad was. He stooped over him and gave an exclamation of surprise, with a
tone of alarm in it.

Jim Dennis was down on his knees beside the boy in a moment.

'He must have fainted and fallen out of his chair,' said Dr Tom, picking
him up and placing him on the sofa.

Jim Dennis was in an agony of fear. He seemed utterly helpless. Dr Tom
felt Willie's head, and found a lump at the back where he had been
struck with the pestle.

'Jim, he's been hit on the head, and a heavy blow it must have been.
Keep quiet and I'll soon pull him round.'

Jim Dennis looked on half dazed. He could not realise what had happened.

In a short time, under Dr Tom's treatment, Willie came round, and,
opening his eyes, looked about him.

'Oh, my head,' he said faintly, and seemed on the verge of going off
again.

The blow was severe, but not so serious as might have been expected.

When he had recovered sufficiently, they questioned him as to what had
happened, but he knew nothing about it, or how he had been struck.

'I went to sleep in the chair, and I remember nothing more,' said
Willie.

'There's been some dirty work here,' said Jim. 'Let me find out who has
done it, that's all.'

'Shall I be able to ride to-morrow?' asked Willie. 'My head seems to go
round and round. Oh, I do hope I shall be able to ride Neptune.'

'Don't worry about that, Willie,' said his father.

'After a good night's rest you will feel better,' said Dr Tom. 'I think
you will be able to ride. I'll fix you up with a good nerve tonic in the
morning.'

Willie smiled faintly; his head was very painful and ached badly.

He was put to bed and a sleeping-draught given him; after which he
rested peacefully.

'We must get to the bottom of this business,' said Jim. 'I should not
wonder if Dalton had a hand in it. He'll find he has gone a step too far
if I can sheet it home to him.'

'That blow might have killed him,' said Dr Tom. 'It must have been a
heavy weapon he was struck with.'

'Is there any danger?' asked Jim, anxiously.

'No, you can rest assured of it; but the little chap has had a narrow
escape,' said the doctor.



CHAPTER XVI

THE MORNING OF THE RACE


The lad passed a peaceful night, but it was an anxious time for Jim
Dennis and Dr Tom when he awoke next morning. They had money at stake,
but it counted for little. Willie's health was far more to them than any
paltry wagers. They were very much afraid he would not be fit to ride,
and they knew how the lad would feel about it, and how jubilant certain
people would be over the mishap.

Willie, however, was much better than Dr Tom expected.

The sleeping-draught and the night's rest had pulled him together
wonderfully, and, although he staggered and for a few moments seemed
dazed when he got out of bed, he soon recovered.

'I shall be all right in an hour or two,' he said. 'My head still swims,
but one of Dr Tom's tonics will soon pull me round. I am going to ride
Neptune and win on him.'

'Bravo, laddie!' said Dr Tom. 'There's pluck for you, Jim.'

'Have you no idea how this happened?' asked his father.

'No. I did not even feel the blow,' said the lad.

'I'll stroll round to the Gum Tree,' said Jim, 'and perhaps I may pick
up some information there.'

'As you please,' said Dr Tom. 'Only don't forget this, keep your head
cool and your temper well in hand. I will look after Willie.'

Although it was early, the people were already astir, for a great day
was before them. Jim Dennis went round to Neptune's box and found the
horse all right, and Dr Tom's black fellow had been true to his trust.

Neptune looked a picture of health and was as fit as his master knew how
to make him. The horse had not been pampered, but had received a genuine
preparation, and had done enough work to break the average modern
thoroughbred down completely. Having satisfied himself all was right
with Neptune, Jim Dennis went into the hotel. Business was already
brisk, and visitors were arriving every few minutes.

Adye Dauntsey, the police magistrate at Barragong, had arrived, and he
dearly loved a good race. He was partial to Jim Dennis and a great
friend of Dr Tom's.

Sergeant Machinson was there with several constables, to keep order, but
he was not popular at Swamp Creek, and the inhabitants were not slow in
showing their likes and dislikes.

Adye Dauntsey saw Jim Dennis, and, going up to him, shook hands with him
heartily. This caused Sergeant Machinson to scowl and mutter to
himself,--

'There's not much chance for a man in my position when the P.M. is hand
and glove with a fellow like Dennis.'

'Well, Dennis, what chance have you to-day? I hear Neptune is a bit out
of the common, and that the cup will go to Wanabeen.'

'I hope it will,' said Jim.

'Your son rides, does he not? Quite a little chap?' asked Dauntsey.

'He's only twelve, but he's a rare boy on a horse. I think you'll say he
is a wonder after the race,' said Jim.

Abe Dalton was hanging around, and, hearing this remark, smiled to
himself as he thought, 'He's trying to hide it. He knows well enough his
lad won't be able to ride. Perhaps he wants to hedge his money.'

'I have never seen so many people at Swamp Creek races before,' said
Dauntsey. 'Dr Tom has worked the handicapping well; he deserves every
credit for it.'

'Everything the doctor takes in hand he does well,' said Jim.

'You are right there. Where is he?'

'At his house. I am going there. Will you walk with me? My son is
staying there.'

'With pleasure,' said the P.M., and they went out together.

'I say, Aaron,' said Abe Dalton when they had gone, 'how do you stand
against my horse?'

'Badly, but he'll not win. I'm going for Neptune, although I have laid
some wagers against him to oblige customers,' replied Hyam.

'I'll bet you a hundred The Captain beats him,' said Dalton.

'No,' replied Aaron, 'I will not make that wager; it spoils my book.'

'Come, I'll lay you a hundred to fifty my horse beats him,' said Dalton.

'You seem pretty sure of a win,' was Aaron's response. 'I'll take that
wager.'

'All in, run or not?' said Abe.

Aaron laughed as he replied, 'As you please; but there's not much fear
about Neptune being a non-starter.'

'You never can tell until the numbers go up,' said Dalton; 'and Jim
Dennis is a curious fellow.'

'But he does not do dirty tricks like that,' said Aaron Hyam. He was
about to add, 'It's more in your line,' but checked himself in time.

'That's your opinion, it is not mine,' was the reply of Abe Dalton.

Dr Tom was pleased to see Adye Dauntsey, and the good-humoured
magistrate was equally delighted to again meet the doctor.

'You are quite a stranger at Barragong,' he said. 'We very seldom see
you there.'

'I have so much to do here,' said the doctor, smiling; 'but I mean to
trespass upon your hospitality some day before long.'

'And you may be sure of a hearty welcome,' said Dauntsey. 'Is this the
young jockey who will ride Neptune?' he added, as he patted Willie on
the head.

The lad shrunk from his hand, for his head was still painful.

Adye Dauntsey looked up surprised. Jim Dennis hastened to explain.

When Adye Dauntsey heard what had happened the night previously he
looked severe.

'This must be inquired into,' he said; 'but you were quite right to wait
until after the races. I should not be at all surprised if that
scoundrel Dalton had a hand in it. I think you made a mistake, doctor,
in allowing him to run horses at the meeting.'

'I could not very well prevent him, and it might have caused an
unpleasant scene.'

'But he's such an out-and-out bad lot.'

'He is, I'll grant you that.'

'Why does not Sergeant Machinson lay him by the heels?' asked the
doctor.

'That is a question I have frequently asked myself,' said the
magistrate. 'You see, Machinson holds a very responsible position and
works a large district, and so far as I know does his duty, but I have
often thought he ought to pay a little more attention to Barker's Creek
and its inhabitants.'

'And you are quite right too,' said Jim Dennis. 'If you knew all
Machinson's little games he would not be sergeant in your district
long.'

Adye Dauntsey looked grave. He had his doubts about the sergeant's
integrity himself, but it was a difficult case to inquire into. If he
made a mistake there would be nothing for him to do but to resign his
position. He must be very sure before he moved.

'One thing I must do,' he said, 'I will instruct Machinson to inquire
into this assault upon your son, Dennis; and I shall expect him to find
out the culprit.'

'That he will not do,' was Jim's answer.

'Why?'

'Because I firmly believe Dalton had a hand in it.'

'And why should it prevent him from doing his duty?' asked Adye.

'That is best known to himself. Machinson has never been fair to me. He
still believes, or professes to do so, that I had a hand in that Potter
affair, and he circulated a rumour at the time that I was responsible
for the Seahorse business.'

'No one believes it, Dennis,' said Dauntsey.

'I am glad to hear you say so again,' said Jim; 'but it sticks, after
all these years. There is trouble brewing again around here, let me
tell you. Seth Sharp has been at Barker's Creek ever since his discharge
from prison. They ought to have hanged him.'

'Seth Sharp at Barker's Creek!' exclaimed both Dr Tom and Adye Dauntsey.
'Surely you don't mean that?'

'I'll swear I saw him last week, and where should he be located around
here if not at Barker's Creek?'

'That man's a murderer,' said Adye Dauntsey. 'How he got off with only
fifteen years the lord only knows. How quickly time flies. Are you quite
sure, Jim, you have made no mistake?'

'Certain. I know him. Haven't I fought him and beaten him? The look he
gave me as we passed each other was quite enough.'

'This shall be attended to,' said Dauntsey. 'Machinson must inquire into
it. He cannot know anything about it.'

'He ought to,' said Jim. 'It is more his business than mine.'

There was a shout outside, and Dr Tom went to the door.

'Come in, Shaw,' he said.

Rodney Shaw entered the room and, after greeting them, said--

'What's up with the jockey? He does not look very well.'

'No, and you would not look any better if you had had a crack on the
head last night,' blurted out Jim.

'Was he hurt? Who did it?' asked Shaw.

'That's what I would like to find out,' said Jim.

'Will he be able to ride?' asked Shaw, anxiously.

'Yes,' said Willie, 'and win too.'

Rodney Shaw laughed.

'Don't be too sure, my lad. You have Distant Shore to beat, and The
Captain, and a dozen more.'

'And I shall beat them all. It is my first race, and I am going to win
it.'

Dr Tom had seen Rodney Shaw several times, but did not know him well.
Something in his voice seemed to recall memories. He had only been to
Cudgegong three or four times, and had never seen much of the owner of
that station. 'Where the deuce have I met him, years ago?' thought Dr
Tom.

Of course it could only be fancy, he knew that, but still he could not
get rid of the idea that Rodney Shaw was a man he had known in days gone
by.

'You think Distant Shore will win?' asked Adye Dauntsey.

'Yes. With Madsley up, I have a really good chance.'

'It promises to be a most interesting race,' said Dr Tom.

'The handicap is not bad considering the committee framed it,' said
Shaw.

'I think they have done their work well,' said the doctor. 'Do you
think it could have been improved upon?'

'Oh, no, I would not suggest that for a moment,' said Rodney Shaw. He
was looking hard at Willie, who sat very still with his hands fixed
firmly one on each arm of his chair.

'He'll ride but he'll never win,' was Rodney Shaw's inward comment. 'He
must be a plucky little chap'--this he thought grudgingly.



CHAPTER XVII

AT THE POST


Swamp Creek race-course was not an attractive place, nor was it an ideal
ground for the purpose. The track was somewhat uneven, and only a mile
round, so that for the cup race the horses had to compass it twice. It
was, however, a track that gave the people a good chance of seeing every
part of the race, and they could thus watch the struggle with the
keenest interest.

At a comparatively early hour the course was crowded with a large number
of vehicles of all descriptions, from the smart buggy to the more humble
ramshackle which hardly seemed capable of holding together. There was an
improvised ring, but no stand, and in these railed-off enclosures the
bulk of the wagering took place.

The first two races were not of much interest, and as Abe Dalton won one
he was sanguine of The Captain taking the cup. The bulk of the people
present would have been sorely disappointed had The Captain won, for Abe
Dalton's character was well known, and he was decidedly unpopular and
looked askance upon by honest folk.

Half an hour before the cup race the scene was animated, not to say
picturesque, and the excitement was worked up to fever pitch. There were
fourteen runners, and each horse had followers who backed their fancy
freely. Aaron Hyam was busy pencilling wagers down almost as fast as he
could write, and his son, with numerous assistants, was equally busy at
the booth; so it was evident the host of the Gum Tree Hotel was in for a
good day. He avoided laying much against Neptune, and was standing Jim
Dennis's horse to win a good stake.

Abe Dalton was anxious about Willie Dennis, and he was surprised when he
saw him on the course, apparently sound and well and very little the
worse for the cowardly attack made upon him.

Considering it was a country meeting, the horses running for the cup
were a credit to the district. It was a genuine sporting affair, and the
rivalry was keen, and each runner might be depended upon to do its best.
The difficulty was in procuring riders, and some of them were not likely
to make a brilliant display in the saddle. Still, they all meant to win
if possible, which is not always the case at more fashionable
gatherings.

When Willie Dennis donned his new yellow jacket and red cap he felt
proud, and walked about the ring with an amusing air of importance which
did not ill become him. His head still ached and at times he felt faint,
but he pulled himself together and shook it off, for he knew he must
have all his wits about him to win the cup on Neptune. Many curious and
inquiring glances followed him, and the ladies smiled upon him, and said
he was 'a dear little fellow, and so good-looking.'

Sal was there, but she kept away from the crowd, and her anxiety to see
Willie win was almost painful. She knew nothing of the attack made upon
him the night before or she would have been still more anxious. She
never doubted that he would win, but she wished the race was over.

'How do you feel now, my lad?' said Adye Dauntsey, putting his hand on
Willie's shoulder.

'Much better; a little dizzy at times, but it soon passes off. I hope I
shall be all right in the race, at any rate I shall try my best.'

'I hope you will win,' said Adye Dauntsey, 'both for your own sake and
your father's.'

'I think I shall,' he replied. 'Have you backed Neptune?'

'Yes, I have a fiver on with Hyam, but he would not lay me more than six
to one.'

'Which horse is favourite?' asked Willie.

'I should say Distant Shore is as good a favourite as anything,' said
Adye Dauntsey; 'and The Captain is second favourite. There are a lot of
them backed, such as Wamba, Wattle Tree, Dingo, Reindeer and Scamp, and
some people have been tempted by the long odds to put a few pounds on
Seaweed, Mr Shaw's second string. I suppose he will make the running
for Distant Shore. You must not let him steal a march on you and get too
far ahead; there's many a race lost in that way.'

'I'll take good care of that,' said Willie, smiling. 'I know Neptune can
stay every yard of the two miles, so I shall not hesitate to make good
use of him.'

Ben Madsley came up wearing the green jacket and white cap, which were
Rodney Shaw's first colours, a black cap denoting which was the second
string.

'Well, youngster, do you fancy yourself for this race? I think I shall
beat you. Your father ought to have let me ride Neptune; it would have
been a good thing then.'

'It is not a bad thing now,' said Willie; 'and I know how to ride the
horse, and he understands me. You'll find we shall be thereabouts at the
finish.'

'You have never ridden in a race before,' said Madsley, 'so you don't
know what it's like. All I can say is that, if you win, you are a bit of
a wonder.'

'I hope I am,' said the lad, smiling, and Ben Madsley could not help
laughing at him.

A jockey named Jackson was riding The Captain, and carried the black
jacket of Abe Dalton.

Jackson had not a very good reputation, and on more than one occasion
there was suspicion of foul riding connected with some of his work.

Abe Dalton had promised him a good round sum if he won, and had told him
he must lose no chances, and if there were any risks to take them.

'Remember I want to win,' said Dalton. 'Never mind the other beggars; if
you can jostle one or two of them out of it, so much the better.'

'I am not a nervous chap,' said Jackson, 'and I can take a risk as well
as any man, you know that.'

'I have seen you do some fairly sharp bits of work,' said Dalton; 'but
you have, so far, been lucky enough to steer clear of trouble.'

Jim Dennis had saddled Neptune, and seen everything right, and, leaving
the horse in charge of one of his hands, he went to have a quiet chat
with his son before the race.

'There's no need for me to tell you much,' said Jim. 'You have ridden
him in his work, and if you ride as well in the race I feel pretty sure
of your winning. Don't let them crowd you on to the rails or block you
at the finish. You had better lose ground by going on the outside than
take any risk of being shut in. Keep an eye on Madsley, he's a good
rider, and Distant Shore is a good horse. Steer clear of Jackson and The
Captain, because he is not very particular what he does, so long as he
thinks it will help him to win. Above all, keep cool, and ride with your
head as well as your hands. You have a good horse under you and can make
the most of him.'

This was a long speech for Jim, but it was good advice he gave, and he
was anxious his son should win.

Willie listened attentively, and promised to follow his father's
instructions.

Dr Tom was very busy, being here, there and everywhere, but he had a
cheerful word for all his friends, and seemed to have time to spare a
few minutes with each one.

He gave Willie some parting words of encouragement, and said with a
laugh,--

'I hope I shall not have to fine you for disobedience at the post. I
know you will be anxious to get off, and I'll not leave you if you are
smart.'

The bustle and excitement increased as the horses were mounted and filed
out on to the course.

Only one side of the track was fenced off, and the carriages and carts
made a boundary line on the other side near the judge's box.

Distant Shore went past with a great dash, Ben Madsley sitting him well,
and horse and rider were heartily cheered. Rodney Shaw's horse was a
firm favourite, and he felt confident of winning. His second string,
Seaweed, also went well, and as he was very fast for a mile the pace was
likely to be good for the first half of the journey. The Captain also
looked well, but there was very little applause as Jackson rode Dalton's
horse down the course. Wamba, Scamp and Dingo went together, and then
came Neptune, with his small jockey perched on his back and riding like
an old and experienced hand. There was a rare burst of cheering as he
went past the crowd, and Willie felt a thrill of excitement as he heard
it.

This was the first time he had ridden in a race, and he experienced the
pleasurable thrill which applause from a big crowd gives.

Neptune moved like a piece of machinery, his lovely, sweeping stride
getting him over the ground at a great pace, and Willie thought to
himself, 'This is glorious. He can go and no mistake. If he gallops like
this in the race there will be nothing to touch him.'

He saw the bright-coloured jackets ahead of him, and quickly raced
Neptune up to them. He had never felt the pleasant rustle of a racing
jacket before, and the sensation was delightful. They were soon back at
the post, and Dr Tom took them in hand. On a circular course such as
this there was a natural desire on the part of several of the jockeys to
get a good position on the rails, so as not to lose ground by going
round on the outside.

Jackson on The Captain was jostling and pushing about, caring very
little for the other riders and their mounts so long as he got a good
place himself.

Dr Tom spoke sharply to him once or twice, and when this had no effect
he said, 'The next time you disobey my orders, I'll fine you, Jackson,
and if that has no effect I'll send you back into the paddock.'

Jackson knew the doctor would be as good as his word, so he kept his
horse well in hand. There were several false starts, and Willie knew
Neptune was becoming restless, and inclined to show temper.

'I must humour him,' said Willie to himself, 'and take him on the
outside. If they bustle him he'll turn nasty.'

He wisely pulled Neptune back and kept him away from the others.

The start was from the winning-post and every movement was plainly seen
by the crowd. Some people, more excitable than others, were shouting at
the jockeys, tendering them well-meant, though ill-advised, instructions
as to what they ought to do.

Willie took no notice of repeated cries such as,--

'Get Neptune on the rails.' 'You'll be left at the post, little fellow.'
'Give us a chance for our money, Dennis,' and so on.

The lad smiled, and sat the restless Neptune comfortably.

Adye Dauntsey watched him and thought,--

'That lad will make a smart rider when he has had more experience. He
keeps his head like an old hand.'



CHAPTER XVIII

HIS FIRST RACE


Eventually, after much patience, the doctor lowered the flag to a
capital start, and amidst a volley of cheers the horses started on their
journey.

Neptune got well away, although, being on the outside, he did not get
such a lead as The Captain, Jackson having pushed his mount through just
as the flag was lowered, a clever piece of horsemanship, but risky and
dangerous.

Although Neptune was on the outside, it gave him the advantage of a
clear run. Rodney Shaw's second string made the pace a cracker and
sailed round the first bend with a long lead. At this point Neptune ran
wide and lost a good deal of ground, but Willie soon steadied him, and
determined to be more careful in future. It was a sharp circle round the
side, and Jackson hugged the rails with The Captain; Ben Madsley, being
alongside him on the favourite, who also was going remarkably well.

In a cluster behind this pair came Wamba, Wattle Tree, Dingo and
another, and Neptune was close after them.

Round the far side of the course Seaweed still held a good lead, but as
they neared the turn into the straight run home it soon became apparent
he would not retain it long, as his jockey was even then at work on him.

There was not much in it as they neared the judge's box; in fact, at the
end of the first mile it seemed a very open race.

Past the long line of vehicles and the crowds of people they galloped,
all well together, and the thud of their hoofs echoed amongst the
throng.

How the people shouted, first the name of this horse, then that, as they
caught sight of the colours.

Jim Dennis, who was standing near the judge's box with Adye Dauntsey,
saw how splendidly his horse was going, and that Willie had him well in
hand, and said to the magistrate,--

'If Neptune is as full of running next time he passes here we shall win,
I think.'

'By Jove! how well your lad rides! He is a plucky little fellow,' said
Adye.

'Yes, there's not much fear in him, and he is a rare judge of pace; I
have proved that when we have ridden together on the station; he has
often come with a sudden rush and beaten me,' said Jim.

Round the turn they swept again, and this time Willie held his horse
well in hand and secured a good position.

Seaweed had shot his bolt and fallen back, and The Captain now held the
lead, Jackson steadying him and keeping a wary eye on the others.

Ben Madsley felt confident of success, for Distant Shore was going well,
and pulling him out of the saddle. Still, it was too far from the
winning-post, he thought, to take up the running. He glanced to the
right, but could not see Neptune, and thought to himself,--

'Dennis has not much chance. He'll be sorry he did not put me up.'

He could not see that Neptune was going strong, not more than a couple
of lengths behind him.

At this point the favourite and The Captain held the advantage, and
already there was a tumult of excitement at the prospect of one of them
winning. Abe Dalton loudly proclaimed that The Captain would win.

'My horse wins for a score!' he kept on shouting, but no one ventured to
take his offer.

Jackson still held the lead, and was evidently bent on getting a clear
run round the home turn. This, too, was the intention of Ben Madsley,
and the riders of Wamba and Dingo were also on the alert.

Willie still had Neptune on the outside, as he did not care to risk
being crowded on to the rails and possibly not be able to find an
opening at the finish.

Dr Tom was watching the race closely, and thought,--

'If Neptune wins he's a real clinker, for he has run wide all the way.
I'm not at all sure this is not the best plan to ride such a big,
striding horse on this course. I hope Willie will last it out. It looks
like being a close finish, and he will want all his wits about him. That
blow on the head will not help him, it might cause him to feel faint at
the last moment. I wish I knew who did it.'

As the horses neared the turn into the straight the crowd became more
and more excited, for this was the critical moment, and there had been
more than one spill here on previous occasions.

Jackson sent The Captain along at his best pace, but could not shake off
Distant Shore. Neck and neck they raced for the turn, with Wamba and
Dingo and Scamp, who had come with a rattle close behind, and Neptune
still on the outside.

A thought had come into Willie's head which he resolved to put into
execution if possible. If he could be sure of Neptune, he thought it
might be done, and the horse had great speed.

He meant to come with a rush round the turn, and get so far in front as
to be able to sweep down on to the rails without any danger of crossing
or interfering with the other horses. It was a bold plan and might
succeed.

At last the bend was reached and he brought Neptune round with such a
tremendous rush that it electrified all who saw it.

'What's his little game?' muttered Dr Tom.

'He means to get on to the rails,' said Jim to his companion, 'but it is
too much to expect of the horse; look what a sweep he has to make.'

'He'll do it, I believe,' said Adye.

'It is a dashing move at anyrate, and worth trying for.'

Neptune, however, was not quite equal to the task, for Jackson saw what
Willie meant to try and accomplish, and sent The Captain along at such a
pace that it was impossible for Neptune to draw clear of him. This run,
brilliant as it was, gave Neptune an advantage, even if it didn't
accomplish all Willie had intended.

The pace, for the end of a two-mile race, was terrific, and there was
soon a long tail in the rear.

Jackson had been pushing The Captain for some time and it commenced to
tell upon him.

Madsley noticed this, and thought he had the race as good as won, but he
could not get rid of either The Captain or Neptune. The green jacket was
so conspicuous that Rodney Shaw became excited at the prospect of
winning and commenced to shout the name of his horse. He was standing
not far from Jim Dennis, who, hearing him, turned round and said,--

'Neptune beats yours for fifty.'

'Done,' said Shaw, 'a hundred if you like.'

'No, fifty will do,' said Jim.

'I'll have the other fifty,' said Aaron Hyam, and Shaw accepted it.

The yellow jacket was now almost level with the green and the black;
close behind came Scamp, Wamba and Dingo. The issue was confined to this
lot.

The crowd shouted until they were hoarse.

'The Captain's beaten!'

It was an ominous sound, and Abe Dalton smothered an oath as he looked
and saw Jackson hard at work upon his horse. Still The Captain struggled
on and answered gallantly, and Dalton thought he might just get home.
Whips were out, and Ben Madsley was calling vigorously upon Distant
Shore.

On the outside, nearly in the middle of the course, was Neptune, coming
along with giant strides, and Willie sitting still upon him.

At this critical moment the shouts of the crowd, the intense excitement
of a desperate finish, caused his head to swim, and he felt faint. He
nerved himself for a last effort. He must not fail now when the goal was
nearly reached, and Neptune looked all over a winner.

The excitement was tremendous. Never had such a finish been seen at
Swamp Creek, and the people surged and swayed in their frantic desire to
see the end of this great struggle.

Sympathy was with Willie Dennis. He was such a youngster, and so small,
and had ridden such a splendid race. Then Jim Dennis was popular, and
neither Abe Dalton nor Rodney Shaw possessed much of this. So the crowd
yelled, and waved hats and handkerchiefs, and the name of Neptune
echoed far and wide.

'Neptune wins!' 'Bravo, little un!' 'Neptune wins!'

'The Captain's done!'

Abe Dalton clenched his hands and set his teeth. The Captain was the
first of the three leaders to crack, and, despite every effort on the
part of Jackson, fell back. Dalton showered a torrent of oaths on the
people round him. He cursed Jackson and cursed his horse, and well-nigh
choked with rage, but no one heeded him, they were too intent upon the
race.

Rodney Shaw was almost frantic as he shouted the name of his horse until
his throat felt sore.

Jim Dennis seemed unmoved, but he was seething with intense excitement,
hidden beneath a calm exterior.

As for Willie, he hardly knew where he was or what he was doing. The
blow he had received caused his head to ache painfully, and a dimness
came over his eyes, and he only saw faintly.

He saw a mass of people swaying to and fro, like phantoms in a mist.
There was a surging in his ears and a tight feeling at his heart, but he
held on like grim death, and rode Neptune for all he was worth. In a
hazy sort of way he saw the judge's box, then he fancied he caught sight
of his father's set face, but he knew that could hardly be true.

Everything was jumbled up in his mind, and the only thing he recollected
afterwards with distinctness was that the green jacket was still level
with him and Ben Madsley was riding desperately.

'Distant Shore!' 'Neptune!'

'Neptune wins!' 'Distant Shore wins!'

These were the sounds he heard, in a dull sort of way, and he wondered
what it all meant.

He kept his eyes fixed on that green jacket. Would it never leave? Why
could he not shake it off? It seemed to dance before his eyes, to be
first on one side and then on the other, and a white cap on top, bobbing
up and down like a ball. He seemed to be flying through the air, and he
knew Neptune was going at a great pace; the horse could do no better, no
matter what he did or how he rode, and he sat perfectly still. Had he
moved he believed he would have fallen off.

It was all for the best that he could not move, for, had he done so,
Neptune might have shirked his work. There was no shirking now, and
again and again the ringing cheers proclaimed that Jim Dennis's horse
would win. At last, amid a perfect roar of exciting shouts, the pair
passed the post almost neck and neck.

Which had won?

The yellow or the green?

Ben Madsley thought Distant Shore had just struggled home in front, but
he was not sure.

As for Willie Dennis, he indistinctly recollected that the judge's box
was passed, and therefore the race must be over, and with an effort he
pulled Neptune up and turned him round. He did not know whether he had
won or not, but the crowd did, for Neptune's number had been hoisted,
and the judge's verdict was a short head.

'What a great race the lad rode,' said Adye Dauntsey. 'He's a little
wonder, Jim. You must take him to Sydney. He sat as still as a mouse.'

Jim Dennis hurried across to lead his horse in, followed by Dr Tom and
an excited crowd of people.

'Well done, Willie,' said Jim, and then, catching sight of his son's
face, he trembled all over. Willie was pale as death and looked straight
before him with wide, staring eyes.

Dr Tom came up, and, seeing the lad's state, said,--

'He'll hardly be able to weigh in, Jim. Hold on fast, Willie,' he said.
'You must not fail us now; that will never do. You have won the race. Do
you hear me? Neptune's won!'

The lad smiled faintly and nodded.

'I'm all right now, Dr Tom,' he said in a dull voice.



CHAPTER XIX

SAL AT WORK


He staggered as he got out of the saddle, and in a mechanical way
unbuckled the straps. Then he walked into the weighing-room with his
father and Dr Tom, one on each side.

He scaled all right, and there was another deafening cheer.

When the tension relaxed, and he knew everything was right, and that he
had done what had been asked of him, he fainted.

It quickly got about that Willie Dennis was in a bad way, and some
people said the race had been too much for him, and that it was a shame
for his father to let him ride.

When Dr Tom heard such remarks, he could no longer refrain from speaking
out, and said indignantly,--

'If you knew the cause of this fainting fit you would not talk like
that. There's been foul play somewhere, and I don't care who knows it
now the race is over.'

'Foul play? What do you mean, doctor?' said Aaron Hyam.

'Listen, and I will tell you. Last night Jim Dennis and myself went to
your place and left Willie at home. When we returned, we found him
insensible on the floor, and he had received a violent blow on the back
of the head. Some scoundrel, I suppose, who had laid against Neptune,
did it, but we mean to find out the culprit.'

There was an angry murmur at this, for the Swamp Creek people knew and
trusted Dr Tom, and they hated foul play.

They were standing inside Aaron Hyam's booth, and Abe Dalton heard what
passed, but he knew he had little cause to fear, because no one had seen
him enter Dr Tom's. Constable Doonan was also there, and said to Dr Tom,
'Have you repeated this to Sergeant Machinson?'

'No, but the police magistrate knows; and he saw Willie Dennis early
this morning and felt the lump on his head.'

Sergeant Machinson, seeing the crowd gathered in the booth, came up and
asked what was the matter.

'Matter enough,' said Dr Tom. 'Willie Dennis was attacked last night and
hit over the head. I hope you will make inquiries into the matter.'
Then, catching sight of Abe Dalton, Dr Tom said, 'Perhaps Dalton can lay
his hand on the man who did it. He's about as likely a person as anyone
I know for that job. They have some shady fellows hanging around
Barker's Creek.'

'You let me alone,' said Abe Dalton, menacingly. 'What right have you to
make such accusations against me?'

'The right every honest man has to think ill of a thief,' said Dr Tom,
boldly.

'You shall pay for this,' said Dalton.

Constable Doonan put his hand on Abe Dalton's shoulder and said,--

'I saw you coming from the direction of Dr Sheridan's house last night.
Be careful what you say and do.'

'And who the devil are you that I should be afraid of you? Can't a man
walk about the street without being suspected of such a thing as this?
Wait until your betters speak to me,' said Dalton.

'I think you had better let the matter rest for the present,' said
Sergeant Machinson to Dr Tom. 'I will see every inquiry is made.'

'Mind you do,' said the doctor, who had a temper when it was roused.
'Mind you do, and don't forget to call at Barker's Creek for
information.'

'I know my work, and need no instructions from you,' said the sergeant,
and walked away. The doctor's statement was soon known, and sympathy was
expressed for Jim Dennis and his son.

Willie, the hero of the town, was taken to a comfortable buggy, and Jim
Dennis was about to remove him from the course when the lad recovered
and opened his eyes.

'Are you better now?' asked his father.

'Yes,' said Willie, faintly. 'Please do not take me home; it will do me
good to watch the other races.'

'If you think you can stand it, we will remain.'

'I'll be all right, dad. It was more the excitement of the race than
anything else upset me.'

When Sal saw Neptune battling out the finish with Distant Shore she
rushed down towards the crowd to find out which horse had won.

As she did so she encountered Rodney Shaw, who stopped her and said,--

'Where are you going? You seem to be in a hurry, Sal.'

'Has Willie won? Has he won? Please tell me, Mr Shaw.'

'Yes, he has beaten me and won the race; at least the judge says so. I
think my horse won,' he replied.

Sal clapped her hands in delight, and her eyes sparkled. She really
looked a handsome woman at that moment, and so thought Rodney Shaw as he
saw her hurry away in her eager desire to find Willie.

'I'll have her,' he muttered. 'Abe Dalton must do the trick. He _can_
manage it, and he shall.' The look on his face was not pleasant to see.

Sal knew nothing of race-courses, and had only been to Swamp Creek three
or four times.

She was helpless, and blundered about in the crowd until, by good
chance, she came across Constable Doonan. She at once recognised a
friend, and recalled what Willie had told her Doonan had said about her.

The constable recognised her, and was surprised to see her in such a
place.

'Where is Willie?' she asked. 'Please tell me where I can find him. Mr
Shaw told me he had won the race.'

'Mr Shaw!' said Constable Doonan. 'Have you been with him?'

'I met him a few minutes ago. He said Willie had won.'

'I hope you do not have much to say to Rodney Shaw,' said Doonan.

'No, I do not like him. I am afraid of him. He is a bad man, and he is
no friend to Jim Dennis,' she said.

'I will take you to Willie,' said Doonan. 'Come with me.'

Sergeant Machinson saw Sal speak to Doonan, and when they walked away
together he intercepted them, and, drawing the constable aside, said,--

'You know very well you ought not to be walking about with that woman.
That is not part of your duty. Do you think it is?'

'Yes. She asked me where Willie Dennis was, and I thought there was no
harm in showing her. She is Jim Dennis's housekeeper, and looks after
his place well. She is a very decent woman, let me tell you.'

Sergeant Machinson laughed.

'Housekeeper, eh! He seems to pick out the best he can find. Does she
come from about here?'

'Yes, I believe so, and she has been with him for some years.'

'Well, take her to Dennis, and be quick; but remember it's not the sort
of thing to do here--people notice it,' said the sergeant.

'You go to the deuce,' said Doonan as he walked off, but the sergeant
did not hear him.

He took Sal to the buggy, and when she saw Willie she looked frightened,
he was so pale.

'What's the matter, lad?' she asked. 'What ails you?'

'He is over-excited,' said Jim, 'and something happened him last night.'

'Happened him!' she exclaimed.

'Yes, he was knocked on the head, but we mean to find out who did it,'
said Jim.

The woman's eyes blazed angrily.

'Let me help you to find out,' she said eagerly.

'What can you do, Sal?' asked Jim, surprised.

'I'll find him out. They shall not hurt you, Willie, for nothing.'

'Where are you going?' called Jim as she walked away.

Sal did not look round, but went straight on to where she saw Constable
Doonan standing.

'Here again!' exclaimed the constable. 'Why have you left Willie?'

'Do you know what happened to him last night?' she said, answering him
with another question.

'You mean at the doctor's place? Yes, I know about it; I wish I knew who
did it.'

'You'll find out,' she said. 'Have you any idea?'

He looked at her doubtfully. He was very fond of Sal, but he did not
know whether he ought to communicate any suspicions he might have to
her. She saw him hesitate, and said,--

'Can't you trust me? I might be able to help you.'

'You?'

'Yes, why not? They say blacks are more cunning than whites.'

'But you are not black, Sal; you are a woman of quite another colour,'
and he smiled at her.

'You do suspect someone. Tell me who it is.'

'I met Abe Dalton, alone, coming from the direction of the doctor's
house. I thought it strange he should be there when all the people were
at the Gum Tree, and wagering going on,' said Doonan.

'Where is Dalton?'

'I saw him last in Hyam's booth. You must not question him about it.'

'Leave that to me,' she said. Then, placing her hand on his arm, she
added, 'Find out who did it. You will; I am sure you will.'

'All right, Sal, I'll do my best, but Sergeant Machinson may take the
matter out of my hands.'

A contemptuous look came over her face.

'I don't think much of the sergeant,' she said. 'You are worth a dozen
of him.'

Constable Doonan felt satisfied with himself, and thought Sal a woman of
much discernment. He determined then and there to do what she asked,
sergeant or no sergeant.

Wandering around, Sal saw Abe Dalton after the next race, and he also
saw her.

'This will be a good opportunity of speaking to her,' he thought. 'I
would like to do this bit of business for Rodney Shaw; he's rich, and a
rich friend is always handy, more especially if he happens to be a
partner in a suspicious transaction.'

He put himself in her way, little thinking she was also intent upon
seeing him.

Sal was a woman of more than average intelligence and strength, and
quite equal to Abe Dalton in cunning when desirous of pitting herself
against such a man.

Jim Dennis was the only one who knew her worth and of what she was
capable, and when she left him sitting with Willie in the buggy he had
not the slightest doubt she had some scheme on hand for discovering the
perpetrator of the assault.

'So you came to see your pet lad win?' said Abe Dalton, as he stood in
front of her.

'He beat you and that fellow Jackson,' said Sal, exultingly.

Abe Dalton was still boiling over this defeat, and he had not much faith
in Sal's sagacity, or in that of any man, woman, or child, with black
blood in its veins.

'He never ought to have won. The horse won. Neptune is a good one, I can
tell you. The little ass was half dazed at the finish,' snapped Abe.

'So would you have been had you been struck on the head like he was the
night before,' she retorted.

'So you believe that story, eh? Well, let me tell you, it's a lie, an
undiluted lie, not a single thing to redeem it. Struck on the head!
Well, I'm blessed! And you believe it?'

'I not only believe it, but I know who did it,' was the unexpected
reply.

In spite of himself he started, and she noticed it.

He laughed harshly.

'You think yourself----clever, I suppose?' he growled.

'Some of your men did it because you wanted The Captain to win,' she
said.

He felt a sense of relief. She did not think he had done it.

'Who are my men?' he asked.

'Shall I tell you?' was her fierce answer.

'Go on, let's have it.'

'Your men are the worst lot yet unhung. They are the lowest of the low,
and had not Jim Dennis taken me in I might have been herded with those
outcasts from the tribe at Barker's Creek. Beware, Abe Dalton! King
Charlie is not yet dead, and he never forgets. Some day Barker's Creek
will run with blood. I can see it--see it now. Run with blood, I tell
you, Abe Dalton--and your own will mingle with it, the black and the
white together.' And she raised her hand as though she would strike him.

He left her without another word.



CHAPTER XX

DANGER AT HAND


After the races, Swamp Creek settled down into its usual quiet ways, and
the excitement quickly subsided.

Most of the inhabitants won a trifle over Neptune's victory and were
therefore gratified at the result of the cup.

Willie Dennis was none the worse for the blow he had received, but his
father was desperately angry, and no steps appeared to have been taken
by the police to ascertain who committed the outrage.

'They are a dunderheaded, sleepy lot,' he said to Sal; 'and Doonan
appears to be no better than the others.'

'It is not his fault,' she replied. 'I know who did it, and so do you.
It was Abe Dalton. I could see it in his face when I tackled him at the
races. The coward shrank from me.'

'I think he is the man,' said Jim; 'but we have no proof. I am going
over to Barragong with Dr Tom. We shall not be away more than two or
three days. You can look after things here. Willie will be able to
attend to the hands, and see Neptune and the other horses are properly
exercised. I will tell Silas Dixon to keep a watchful eye on everything,
but I do not think there is anything to fear, and you will not be
molested.'

'I am not afraid,' she said; 'and I can use a revolver as well as most
men.'

'Yes, you are a good shot,' he answered her. 'I hope there will be no
occasion for shooting.'

He rode over with Dr Tom Sheridan on a long-promised visit to Adye
Dauntsey.

Jim Dennis was a regular stay-at-home, and never cared to be long away
from Wanabeen.

The police magistrate, however, knew how to entertain such visitors, and
he possessed a fund of anecdote, and had gone through a wide and varied
experience, which enabled him to relate many stories of interest
connected with the district.

Abe Dalton was not slow to learn that Jim Dennis was absent from
Wanabeen, and he thought it would be a good time to attempt to get
possession of Sal during his absence.

He laid his plans accordingly, and four of his men were allotted to
undertake the task.

There were, however, in the blacks' camp at Barker's Creek, women who
had come to loathe and hate Dalton and all his belongings, and who
sometimes managed to escape the vigilance of his men and get away
unseen, when they would visit Sal at Wanabeen, or search out their own
tribe. They were bound to return to the Creek, or it would have gone ill
with those remaining behind.

Dalton's men took but little heed of the blacks, talking freely in front
of them, and it came to their knowledge that Sal was in some danger, so
they determined to warn her. The nature of the danger they failed to
understand, but that it existed they were certain.

At night one of the gins slipped away unobserved and walked to Wanabeen,
where she arrived at daybreak. These blacks knew the country well, and
had they been treated in a decent manner would not have been slow to
appreciate kindness.

Sal was always willing to give them a helping hand, and tried to
persuade them not to go back to Barker's Creek when they came to
Wanabeen, but without avail. They regarded her with a sort of awe,
knowing her to be partially one of themselves and yet far superior. They
could not understand how a woman who had once been in their tribe became
as she was.

When Sal went outside she saw the black gin waiting on the steps of the
verandah. She welcomed her and gave her food, and then questioned her.

She gathered that some danger threatened her from Dalton's gang, and
that Jim's absence from Wanabeen was known at Barker's Creek.

She thought but little of herself, all her anxiety was for Willie and
Jim Dennis's property.

Where was Constable Doonan? That was her first thought, for she knew he
would help her, and the arm of the law was strong. In such a district it
was a hard matter to know where the mounted police are to be found.

Constable Doonan was stationed at Swamp Creek, but he might not be
there, and there was no time to lose.

She thought for a few moments, and then sent Willie to tell Dixon she
wanted him. She knew she could trust Silas Dixon, although he was a
surly, misanthropical sort of man.

Dixon came, and growled out something about being interfered with in his
work, and that he wished the boss was at home and there was no women to
meddle with him.

'So do I wish he was here,' said Sal, 'for danger is at hand. You must
ride to Swamp Creek and seek out Constable Doonan, and if he is not
there you must find him.'

'Easier said than done,' was his answer.

'But you must find him, Silas. There is danger!' And she related what
the black gin from Barker's Creek had said.

'Whew,' whistled Silas, 'Dalton's lot, eh! They have left us alone for a
good number of years, and now the scoundrels are breaking out again.
I'll go, and I'll find Doonan. I owe Dalton one, as many another good
man round here does.'

'Lose no time about it, find him as quickly as possible,' said Sal;
'and, mind, not a word to Willie about it.'

'He'd better know. That lad's useful. He's as good as a man, bless yer
heart.'

'Tell him, then. Do as you think best,' said Sal.

Willie had been riding Neptune in an early morning spin, and when he
returned Silas said to him,--

'I know you'll not be frightened, Willie, at what I'm going to tell you.
One of the blacks from Barker's Creek's here, and she tells Sal there's
to be ructions around Wanabeen.'

'When?' said Willie, quietly.

'While the boss is away, sure,' said Silas.

'What'll we do?'

'I'm going for Doonan. If he is here they'll get pepper,' said Silas.

'I'll go with you.'

Then, as the lad thought for a moment or two, he added,--

'If I go there will be no one with Sal, but we shall not be long away.'

Silas smiled.

'I thought he was as good as a man,' he muttered to himself. 'He's a
chip off Jim Dennis, if ever there was one. Whoa up, you beggar! You
just missed me.'

The latter part of these remarks were meant for Neptune, who had lashed
out at Silas with both heels.

Willie laughed as he said,--

'He's beaten Abe Dalton once, and he'd do it again if he could only get
one home like that.'

'When can you come?' asked Silas.

'I'll have a snack and be with you quick,' replied Willie.

Neptune having been installed in his box and properly looked after,
Willie went inside to refresh himself.

'He's told you,' said Sal.

'Yes,' said Willie, consuming a square meal with considerable rapidity,
'he's told me.'

'And you'll go with him?'

'Rather.'

'And when you see Constable Doonan what will you say?' asked Sal.

'Leave that to me. I'll fetch him quick enough.'

'You will be able to find him?'

'I know where he is.'

'Where?'

'Just outside of Barker's Creek, on the watch.'

'What for?' asked Sal.

'Business, so he said,' answered Willie, 'whatever that means.'

The lad finished his meal and left the room.

They were quickly mounted, Silas and the boy, and rode off in the
direction of Barker's Creek, for Willie had told him where he had seen
Doonan.

'You "copt" him there this morning. You must have given Neptune a rare
good spin,' said Silas.

'He wants it,' said Willie. 'Long and strong work he wants. That won him
the cup. Do you know how I felt, Silas, when he was winning?'

'No, lad, but I'd like to.'

They were riding at a good pace, and the old hand thought, 'What a seat
the boy has! He can beat me with all my knack of doing it.'

'I felt just like shooting through the sky on a comet,' said Willie.

'As fast as that?'

'Yes; and when we passed the box I had no idea what had won or where I
was. Neptune went over the ground at a tremendous rate.'

'But you were bad, ill, and you had no idea what you were doing. That's
the yarn they tell me,' said Silas.

'I felt a bit queer, but I stuck on fast and sat still. That's the way
to ride Neptune. If I'd moved on him I believe he would have lost. That
knock on the head helped me, I _had_ to sit still.'

'There's someone over yonder,' said Silas. 'Your eyes are better than
mine. Who is it?'

'It is Doonan. Come on,' shouted the lad.

They rode at their horses' best pace, for Constable Doonan was well
ahead of them.

'I'll coo-ee,' said Silas, and he did, and the familiar sound carried
far, to Doonan's ears. The constable looked round, and as he did so
reined in his horse. He knew there must be something 'up' or they would
not have ridden after him at that pace.

He rode towards them.

'You two appear to be having a race,' he said.

They looked at each other.

'Tell him, Willie,' said Silas.

The lad was not long in explaining.

'I'll ride back with you,' said Doonan. 'They can have done no harm
yet.'

'Why are you around here?' said Silas.

'I want Seth Sharp,' said the constable.

'What for?'

'There's been murder done.'

'Who is it?'

'Ned Glenn.'

Willie and Silas looked at him in horror. They could not believe it. Ned
Glenn, the old coach-driver they had known for so many years!

'Dead--not Ned, surely!'

'It's right, lads; and he just had time to say it was Seth Sharp shot
him and that Dalton's lot were in it. Let me get hold of any of them,
that's all,' and the constable raised his clenched fist and looked
fierce.

The tears came into Willie's eyes. Ned Glenn was a real old friend, and
he could not bear to think of it.

'How did it happen?' said Silas.

'The coach was stuck up about three miles outside Swamp Creek. All I
know, and the others know, is that Ned was found lying on the ground
dying. Two horses were killed, and there were no passengers. What the
motive for the business was I don't know and cannot imagine. There was
no gold in the coach, and it is most likely Seth Sharp did it out of
revenge. You may remember, Silas, it was Ned Glenn who put him away?'

'So it was, so it was,' said Dixon.

'We must make haste,' was Willie's comment. 'Suppose Sharp was one of
the men sent over to our place?'

'He'll not venture there. He has put his neck in a halter this time,'
said Doonan; 'and Barker's Creek will have to be wiped out.'



CHAPTER XXI

A CLEVER ESCAPE


'They cannot well be ahead of us,' said Doonan. 'I have seen no one
about.'

'Precious good care they would take you did not see them,' answered
Silas.

'We must make the best of our way back,' said Willie, and set the pace
faster than Constable Doonan's horse cared to go.

'I shall be left if you go at that rate,' he shouted to Willie.

As Wanabeen came in sight all appeared quiet and safe, and they
anticipated nothing had happened there. They were mistaken.

Abe Dalton had laid his plans well. Together with three of his men he
had been on the watch for some hours. By a mere chance the absence of
the black gin from the camp had been discovered, and Dalton had found
brutal means to find out where she had gone.

'It will cost her her life,' he muttered, and then he cursed his men for
talking of such matters in front of the blacks. Sal being warned, as he
expected would be the case, no doubt either Willie Dennis or one of the
hands would be sent to Swamp Creek for assistance.

Dalton at once decided to ride in the direction of Wanabeen and keep a
sharp lookout. He knew every inch of the country and every place of
concealment.

Not far from Wanabeen homestead was an old disused boundary rider's hut,
and it was here he meant to hide and keep a sharp lookout.

Luck favoured him. With some difficulty the horses as well as the men
were packed inside, and no signs of them could be seen.

Abe Dalton caught sight of Willie and Silas Dixon riding away at a fast
pace, and knew they must have been put on their guard, but he was
surprised at the direction in which they were going, as it did not lead
to Swamp Creek.

'What's their little game?' he wondered. 'Perhaps they are on the
lookout for Doonan. I shall have to make an example of him. He hangs
around Barker's Creek too often for my liking. That fool Sharp; I must
get rid of him, or he'll land us in some trouble. He'll have to be fired
out and take his chance. There is no help for it.'

When Willie and Silas Dixon were out of sight, the party emerged from
their hiding-place, and, quickly mounting, rode as fast as the horses
could gallop to Wanabeen.

Sal heard them as they drew near, and looking out at the door saw it was
Abe Dalton and his men.

Her heart almost failed her, but she was courageous, and quickly
slamming the door, locked and bolted it. Then she fastened the windows,
and, taking up the revolver, resolved to defend herself until help
arrived. The black gin was crouching in a corner, quivering with terror,
for she knew Dalton would show her no mercy when he found her there. It
was useless for Sal to ask her to assist in the defence, the poor
creature was helpless from sheer fright.

Dalton reached the house first, and banging at the door with the butt
end of his whip, shouted,--

'Open the door, my black beauty. No harm shall come to you if you go
with us quietly, but we mean to have you.'

She made no answer, and Dalton, becoming impatient, sent a couple of his
men to the rear of the house, where they commenced to smash in a window.

The crack of a revolver was followed by a cry of pain, and the smashing
of glass ceased.

'She's got a revolver,' said Dalton. 'We must be careful, but she cannot
attend to both the back and the front of the place.'

He saw a heavy axe standing in the yard and called to the man who was
minding the horses to bring it him. The fellow put the horses in the
yard and then brought him the axe; it was one used for splitting logs
and was very strong. Dalton brought it down with a crash on the door,
and the wood splintered. He put his hand inside to unlock it, or to pull
back the bolt, when Sal fired at him, but missed.

Nothing daunted, Dalton stepped back and again raised the axe. The door,
not being strongly built, was soon forced open, and as it fell inwards
there was a crash heard at the back of the house, where Dalton's men had
also forced a way in. Sal was so intent upon taking aim at Abe Dalton
that she did not hear one of the men steal quickly up behind her. He hit
up her arm as she fired, and this saved Abe Dalton's life, as the bullet
went through his hat.

She was at once pinioned and her arms strapped behind her.

'That was a near shave, Sal,' said Dalton; 'and if you belonged to me
I'd damage that face of yours. As it is, I'll leave that for your new
master to operate on when he's tired of you.'

'My new master!' she said. 'What do you mean?'

'A very nice man has fallen in love with you, Sal, and we are going to
take you to him.'

'You will suffer for this. Wait until Jim Dennis returns,' she said.

Sal knew it was useless to offer resistance; she must escape by some
other means when out of Dalton's hands.

Where were they taking her to? It could not be Barker's Creek. Then she
recollected what Rodney Shaw had said to her, and shuddered. Would he
dare to risk this outrage, with the assistance of such men as Dalton and
his gang? A man in his position dare not do it.

She little knew of what Rodney Shaw was capable.

They took her outside and strapped her on one of Jim Dennis's horses.

The black gin cowering in the corner had escaped notice until,
unfortunately for her, as Dalton was leaving the room he caught sight of
her.

'There you are!' he said with a savage scowl. 'I'll teach you to play
the spy, you black devil!'

He rushed at her and hit her across the face and head with his whip. She
howled with pain, a piteous cry, almost like that of a dying animal, a
long wail that caused Sal to shudder.

'I'll teach you,' he said, and, picking up Sal's revolver, he shot her
through the head with no more compunction than he would have done a
dingo.

'You will tell no more tales,' he said as he kicked her body away from
him. 'I'll leave you here for the boys to clear away when they return.'

The party were soon on their way to Cudgegong, and they kept a lookout
in every direction for signs of Willie Dennis and Dixon.

'We shall leave them on the left,' said Dalton. 'I don't think there is
any danger of our being seen. I hope you are comfortable, Sal,' he
added with a grin.

She made no reply. She was busy thinking how she would act, for she knew
they were going in the direction of Cudgegong.

It was a long, tedious ride, and the men were in a bad humour. They
thought Abe Dalton a fool for being mixed up in a job like this.

'Did you shoot that black gin?' one of them asked.

'Yes; she will tell no tales,' he answered.

'There'll be a lot of trouble over it, and with Seth Sharp's bungling
piece of work the Creek will be too hot to hold us.'

'If you are afraid to stay there you know what to do,' growled Dalton.

'Clear out, I suppose. You are mighty fond of telling some of us that.
Mind we don't clear you out.'

'Yes, I'll mind that, and I'll not forget what you have said. That's
your gratitude after I have kept you all these years,' said Dalton.

'Kept me!' echoed the man. 'Come, I like that. It's me that's helped to
keep you, and more fool I have been to do it.'

Sal was in hopes they would quarrel and give her a chance to escape,
but, although Dalton and some of his men were always falling out, their
mutual interests were too inseparable for any really serious quarrel to
arise.

Rodney Shaw was awaiting their arrival at Cudgegong, for Dalton had sent
him word the previous day that he might expect them. He was in an
excited state, and had been screwing up his courage with his favourite
liquor. He knew he was doing a rash and cowardly act, one that would not
only get him into trouble possibly, but would cause everyone to regard
him as a scoundrel.

He was, however, a man who cared little for such things, and, if the
worst came to the worst, he could clear out from Cudgegong. He had come
to hate the place, and there were other matters connected with it,
memories that haunted him and caused him to have many sleepless nights.
He thought in time Sal would settle down with him, as she had done with
Jim Dennis, and that she would be company for him. Until such time
arrived he meant to keep her safe and do as he liked with her.

He little knew the task he had set himself or the woman he had to deal
with. There was much of the cunning of the black in Sal, and she was not
a woman to submit tamely to indignities. When Abe Dalton and his party
arrived at Cudgegong Rodney Shaw at once had Sal taken to the room
prepared for her.

'You will soon be happy and contented here,' he said to her; 'and you
will not find me a bad master. You would not come to me of your own free
will, so I thought I would send for you.'

Sal gave him a fierce look from her big dark eyes, and said, as she
faced him,--

'You are a coward, not a man. Jim Dennis will throttle the life out of
you when he finds out what you have done.'

'He will not find out, because he will never suspect you are here,' he
replied.

She made him no answer. She felt Jim Dennis would know what had befallen
her.

He left her and went to settle with Dalton.

'You will find yourself in a nice mess over this,' said Dalton.

'I'll take the risk. I have the woman, that is what I wanted. Here is
your money.'

'It was a stiff job,' said Abe Dalton, 'and we have run a big risk.
Can't you make it a trifle more?'

Rodney Shaw swore at him, and said a bargain was a bargain, but he
eventually gave him twenty pounds over the sum agreed upon.

When they were gone he went again to Sal. He meant to try and coax her
into a good humour. He succeeded ill, and, losing his temper, said,--

'Remember I am your master now, and you will have to obey me. Think it
over during the night, and make up your mind to be contented.'

With that he left her, and she looked round for some means of escape.
The one window was heavily barred, and the door was fastened on the
outside.

Rodney Shaw had taken every precaution, so he thought, to secure her;
but he did not anticipate she would try to attempt what seemed
impossible, and escape. He did not know Sal. She meant to try every
means in her power to get out of that room.

The house was, as usual, built on thick wooden piles and was some height
from the ground. As Sal walked round and round she heard a board creak,
almost in the same spot, each time she passed over it. She knelt on the
floor and felt closely round the skirting. To her joy she discovered the
white ants had been busily at work on one of the piles and that they had
penetrated the skirting board of the room. She tapped it, and the sound
told her it was hollow inside, crumbling away. So great was her joy that
she had much difficulty in restraining herself from testing her plan at
once.

She knew, however, it would be safer to wait until it was dark and all
was still. The time passed slowly, but at last she determined to risk
it.

She pressed her hand heavily on the board, and, as she expected, it gave
way and crumbled to pieces. It was an easy matter for such a powerful
woman to rip the rotten portion away, but a more difficult task awaited
her when she attempted to pull up the flooring boards, and she had to be
very careful not to make much noise. Her hands were cut and bleeding,
but she heeded it not. She pulled and tugged with all her strength, and
at last one board gave way, but the space made was not wide enough for
her to squeeze through. The second board did not take so long to raise,
and this gave her a sufficient opening.

She slipped through and found herself underneath the house, free, if she
could only manage to get away unobserved or without rousing any of the
dogs.

She crawled along the ground, hardly daring to breathe, until she
reached the fence, which she quickly climbed.

Once outside she commenced to run for her life, and as she was fleet of
foot she soon put some distance between herself and Cudgegong. She knew
in which direction Wanabeen lay, and could tell by the star-lit heavens
that she was on the right track.

All night long she struggled on, until at last she could go no further,
and, falling from sheer exhaustion, she was soon in a deep sleep.



CHAPTER XXII

DETERMINED MEN


As Willie Dennis and his friends drew nearer to the house they saw their
first conjecture was wrong and that something serious had taken place
during their absence.

As they reined in their horses Constable Doonan said,--

'Let me go in first,' and, drawing his revolver, he walked cautiously
into the house.

There he saw the black gin huddled up in the corner, a pool of blood
round her and a bullet wound in her head.

'Sal!' he shouted. 'Sal, where are you?'

There was no answer, everything was ominously quiet.

Willie Dennis and Silas Dixon followed the constable, and were horrified
at what they saw.

'There has been a desperate scene here,' said Doonan, 'and Sal is gone.
They may have taken her away. We must send a messenger at once for your
father, my lad.'

'I'll go,' said Willie. 'I am a light weight and can ride fast. You and
Silas must search for Sal.'

'That will be the best plan,' said Doonan.

'I'll start now,' said Willie. 'We can clear up here when we return.'

'We must leave everything as it is until I have made my report to
Sergeant Machinson,' said the constable. 'He will have to make a move
against Dalton's gang this time.'

Willie was soon on his way to Barragong, his blood boiling with rage at
the outrage that had been committed at Wanabeen, and he wondered what
had become of Sal.

In the meantime, Constable Doonan and Silas Dixon were scouring the
country in search of the missing woman.

At the hut where Dalton and his men had been in hiding Doonan examined
the place and found the members of the gang had been concealed there.

'They must have seen you and Willie ride away,' he said; 'and in that
case they would have a long start of us.'

They camped out that night near a creek, and ate the food they had
brought away with them from Wanabeen. They were used to roughing it and
to lie on the bare ground with the saddle for a pillow.

They were astir early in the morning, and rode round in a wide circle,
looking for tracks or any signs of Sal. At last Constable Doonan thought
he saw an object lying on the ground which resembled a human being. It
was too far distant for him to discover clearly, but he knew it was not
an animal. He rode towards it, and, with a shout of joy, roused Sal,
who was still asleep where she had fallen, and at the same time it
recalled Silas Dixon.

When Sal saw who it was she could hardly believe in her good fortune. At
first she thought it was Rodney Shaw who had overtaken her.

Doonan was off his horse and at her side very quickly, and knelt down to
support her, for she was still very weak. He moistened her lips from his
flask, and, when she had recovered somewhat, questioned her.

Sal gave him a brief account of all that had taken place, and when
Doonan heard who was the instigator of the outrage he could hardly
credit it.

'Rodney Shaw!' he exclaimed. 'A man in his position! He must be mad.
Rich man as he is, he shall suffer for it, Sal. He need not think he can
do as he pleases, even in this lonely place. I pity him when he gets
into Jim Dennis's clutches; he'll about settle him.'

He put Sal on his horse and walked by her side. They had several miles
to go before reaching Wanabeen.

'Who was it shot the black gin?' asked Doonan.

'Abe Dalton. The other men were outside, he was alone in the house. I
heard her cry out when he lashed her with his whip, then followed the
shot, and she cried no more. Dalton killed her,' said Sal.

'He shall swing for it,' said the constable, savagely.

They proceeded for some distance in silence, and then Doonan said, in a
tone of admiration,--

'You were clever to escape from Cudgegong, Sal.'

'I meant to get away somehow. Had I not escaped I would have killed
myself rather than be in Shaw's power. He is a wicked man.'

'There are not many worse,' said Doonan. 'I never had much opinion of
him, but I did not think he was such an out-and-out "rotter."'

Next morning the party arrived from Barragong, accompanied by Adye
Dauntsey, Sergeant Machinson and half a dozen mounted police.

When Jim Dennis heard how Abe Dalton had acted, and that Sal had been
taken to Cudgegong, his whole body trembled with rage and excitement.

Had he not been persuaded to act otherwise, he would at once have ridden
to Cudgegong and, taking the law into his hands, have called Rodney Shaw
to account.

Both Dr Tom and the police magistrate, however, restrained him.

'Leave it to me,' said Adye Dauntsey. 'I'll see they all meet with their
deserts.'

'If Sergeant Machinson had done his duty this would not have happened,
and poor Ned Glenn would have been alive.'

Dr Tom's dog Baalim caught sight of the dead woman and howled piteously,
and the sound was so weird it started them all.

The police magistrate questioned Sal as to what had taken place, also
Constable Doonan, Willie Dennis and Silas Dixon. He took their
depositions and then called Sergeant Machinson on one side.

'We must act at once, sergeant. The sooner the better,' he said. 'Dalton
and his gang ought to have been rooted out of Barker's Creek years ago.
I am afraid there has been some neglect of duty here. Take my advice and
make up for it now by extra vigilance and alertness in securing these
men. You understand me. I have no wish to do you an injustice or injury,
but I must report this matter as I see it. Let your conduct now wipe out
any defects of the past, and then all will be well. I shall state what I
think in my report, and I hope I may be able to add something to the
effect that any mistakes you have made in the past have been amply
atoned for by your activity and bravery at Barker's Creek.'

The P.M. spoke kindly yet firmly, and Sergeant Machinson was well aware
that much of his conduct in connection with Abe Dalton's gang would not
bear investigation. He had sense enough to see that the course Mr
Dauntsey advised him to take was the best. He knew he could trust the
magistrate in every respect. He was surprised at his firmness on this
occasion, because he had not 'put his foot down' before. Sergeant
Machinson also knew that recent events could not be passed over, and
that in future it would be impossible for him to shield Abe Dalton in
any way. What he dreaded most was the thought of Dalton being taken
alive, in which case he would be likely to 'let out' some curious
business transactions in which the sergeant had been mixed up.

'It is very kind of you, Mr Dauntsey, and you may rely upon me to follow
your advice to the best of my ability. I think you will have no cause to
complain of me when all is over.'

'That's right, sergeant, the proper way to look at it. I am sure you and
your men will do your duty. I am also sure of one other thing, that you
will freely acknowledge you have done Jim Dennis a gross injustice. You
can see now he has never had any dealings with Abe Dalton's gang, quite
the reverse. The manly course for you to take is to tell Dennis you have
been mistaken.'

Sergeant Machinson did not relish this, although he knew it was but
just.

'I'll do it,' he said at last. 'He deserves it.'

Adye Dauntsey was well pleased that he had put matters on such a good
footing before the attack on the camp at Barker's Creek commenced.

He knew there would be a desperate resistance and much danger, and he
was resolved to share in it.

Sergeant Machinson went up to Jim Dennis and said,--

'May I have a word with you?'

Jim looked surprised, but replied,--

'If you wish; but you can have little to say to me that I shall be
pleased to hear.'

This did not lighten the sergeant's task or make it more pleasant, but
he resolved to go through with it.

'I wish to state that I have done you an injustice and that my
suspicions have been unfounded. I am sorry for what has happened and I
know you have had nothing whatever to do with Dalton's gang. I will do
all in my power to bring them to justice for making this attack on your
place, and I hope you will lend us a hand in securing them. It will be a
tough struggle, and some of us may not come out of it alive. Will you
shake hands?' said Sergeant Machinson.

Jim Dennis had a kindly nature. He shook the sergeant's hand heartily
and said,--

'I like to hear a man own up when he has been in the wrong. You have
been hard on me, sergeant, but we will forget that. I will help you all
I can. I have a score to settle with Abe Dalton and Rodney Shaw; they
can be classed together now.'

A council of war was held at Wanabeen, after things had been put fairly
straight, at which Adye Dauntsey presided.

He thought they had better lose no time, but attempt to take Abe Dalton
and his gang at once. 'They will not leave Barker's Creek,' he said. 'It
is their only safe place. There are eight of the police and four of us,
if Silas Dixon will join us.'

'Five,' said Willie, who was present. 'What about me?'

Adye Dauntsey smiled as he replied,--

'You must ask your father about that, Willie.'

'He can go with us if he wishes,' said Jim, looking at him admiringly.

'I can shoot well,' said the lad.

'You can,' said Dr Tom. 'You beat me at revolver practice the last time
we met.'

'That settles it,' said the magistrate. 'We will include Willie. Now,
how many men are there at Barker's Creek?'

'A score or more,' said Jim, 'and all desperate characters. We need not
reckon the blacks.'

'They like a fight sometimes,' said Dr Tom.

'Dalton's men have ill-treated them. They are more likely to turn on his
gang than attack us,' said Jim.

'That is probable,' said Dauntsey. 'What do you think, sergeant?'

'The best plan would be to surround the place to-night and attack them
when there is light enough. If we can conceal ourselves, and they do not
know of our presence, we might take them unawares. It is not probable,
for they are sure to be on the watch, but it is just possible the rush
could be made through the blacks' camp by four or five of us, and the
remainder must ride straight for Dalton's house and the men's shanties.
Of course, if they are prepared for the attack we can change our plans
accordingly.'

'Constable Doonan and Dr Tom know the place very well,' said Jim
Dennis. 'What do they think?'

'Sergeant Machinson's plan is all right,' said Dr Tom; 'but I think you
may be quite sure they will be ready to receive us. Abe Dalton, when he
considers it over, will know an attempt will be made to disperse his
gang and he will not be caught napping.'

Constable Doonan agreed with Dr Tom and said,--

'When Rodney Shaw discovers Sal has escaped he may go to Barker's Creek
to see Dalton. We might get him there, and if he is caught with the gang
it will be the worse for him.'

'I cannot think whatever possessed him to commit such an act of criminal
folly,' said Dauntsey. 'He can have hardly realised the consequences of
his conduct.'

They finally resolved to go to Barker's Creek that evening and attempt
to secure Dalton and his gang next day.

They had a tough task to accomplish, and they knew it, but they were all
eager to match their strength against Dalton and his men.



CHAPTER XXIII

THE ATTACK ON BARKER'S CREEK


They made a move when the sun went down and the atmosphere became
cooler. There was sufficient light for them to see their whereabouts,
but the darkness increased in a short time.

This was, however, desirable for the work they had in hand.

Sergeant Machinson with the police magistrate, Jim Dennis and Dr Tom,
rode together, Willie being close behind them with Constable Doonan, and
two of the mounted police went on some distance ahead. The remainder of
the little force brought up the rear.

Soon after their departure Sal heard a soft footfall outside; it
startled her at first, but she knew it was a black fellow and she had no
fear. She was pleased when she saw it was old King Charlie and that he
was alone.

The old man had heard of the doings of Dalton's gang and was determined
to find out if Sal was safe. He almost reverenced her, for she had
always been kind to him and understood him, and listened to his weird
tales with attention and belief.

He had a strange imagination this old black king, and a wonderful love
for and knowledge of nature, curious in one so ignorant.

'You here, Charlie?' she said. 'Come in and rest.'

King Charlie hated houses; he preferred to remain outside and said so.

Sal brought him something to eat and drink, and watched him with kindly
eyes. She guessed why he had come.

'You are safe. It is well,' he said in the peculiar way the blacks
speak, and which is necessary to put into English as nearly as possible
to convey their meaning. 'It came to me that you had been carried away
by that wicked man who is steeped in every crime.'

'And it was true, King Charlie. He carried me off, but the good spirit
saved me, and I am here safe and well,' she replied.

'They laid rough hands upon you, they beat you with sticks, lashed you
with their whips, called you vile names. Is it so?'

'No, they did not beat me. They stole me for another man--Rodney Shaw,'
she said.

King Charlie stood up and called down the wrath of all the powers and
spirits he knew upon that gentleman's head, then squatted down exhausted
and beat his hands.

She soothed him and said, 'The white men are gone to Barker's Creek and
they will kill Dalton and his gang.'

'It is good,' said King Charlie. 'We will go too.'

Sal thought for a moment, and it occurred to her that King Charlie and
his tribe might be of use to them. She knew these blacks, the best of
the whole tribe, could fight, and were hardy, tough men. They would do
anything King Charlie told them, for they were wont to obey.

'It is far and you are weary,' she said. 'Where is the tribe?'

'Woolloola,' he said, and pointed with his hand.

Sal knew Woolloola was the name given to one of their camping grounds;
there were no houses there, it was not a township, merely a black
fellows' camp.

'They take the gang to-morrow early,' she said. 'You will not be in
time.'

'The fight will be long. We shall be in time,' was the reply.

'Follow me,' she said.

She got an old lantern and, lighting the candle, went out into the
paddock. Standing still she took his arm and pointed to a mound of
newly-turned earth.

'The black gin from Barker's Creek who gave me warning lies there. Abe
Dalton shot her through the head. Thus was she repaid for trying to save
me.'

She felt him tremble, and he raised his hand and shook it as though
brandishing a spear.

'She shall be avenged!' he muttered. 'Blood shall be spilled for her.
The tribe will avenge her and King Charlie will lead them on. Come!'

The old black walked before her with a peculiar dignity that would have
been amusing had it been assumed, but it was not, it came natural even
to this savage.

'Give me food and I will go,' he said.

'You are weary; rest.'

'I am no longer weary. She shall be avenged.'

He left her, and Sal knew he might prove a friend in need to the white
men who were attacking Dalton's gang.

King Charlie, although a great age, was still active, and walked many
miles a day. Leg weary he seldom was, but long fasting and starvation
caused him bodily weakness. In a case such as this he was stirred on by
thoughts of vengeance on Dalton and his gang, who had so bitterly
wronged him. He went swiftly and surely in a direct line for his
Woolloola camp, and arrived there before Sergeant Machinson and party
reached the outskirts of Barker's Creek.

King Charlie harangued the tribe and roused them from their accustomed
apathy. It was long since they had been in conflict with white men, but
they were nothing loath to try their strength with such natural enemies
as Dalton and his men. They knew every member of the gang, from bitter
experience, and were not likely to make mistakes in the conflict.

They were quickly on the march, and travelled rapidly, leaving their
women wailing behind.

The party from Wanabeen had no conception of what had happened, and they
were only to find out later on, much to their surprise and that of
Dalton's men.

On their arrival in the dense country round the Creek it soon became
evident there was to be no surprising of Barker's Creek or a bloodless
victory.

As they were consulting the best plan to adopt, a shot was heard,
evidently a signal from one of Dalton's men who had by some means
discovered their whereabouts.

'They must have had spies out in different parts of the country,' said
Jim Dennis. 'We are in for a warm time, depend upon it. I don't see why
you or Dr Tom ought to risk your lives over this job,' he added, looking
at Mr Dauntsey and then at the doctor.

'Look here, Jim Dennis, I'm not in the habit of turning my back on the
enemy, and it's a trifle mean of you to suggest such a thing.'

'No one doubts your courage, doc,' said Jim; 'but you ought to take care
of yourself, because your professional services may be required.'

'And the doctor's duty is in the thick of the fight, where all the blood
is being spilt. What do you say, Mr Dauntsey?'

'I am going to take my part and you will take yours, so there is an end
of it; but Dennis meant well in what he said. If anyone ought to be
kept out of harm's way it is Willie,' answered the magistrate.

'He will not run any risk. Will you, my lad?' said his father,
anxiously.

'No, dad; but if there is a chance of potting one of the gang I'll try
how I can shoot,' he replied.

It was growing light, and in half an hour there would be sunshine and no
chance of further concealment.

They had decided to spread out in a circle, and make for the centre of
the Creek at a signal to be given by Sergeant Machinson.

They separated, Willie keeping near his father.

It was impossible to see whether anyone was concealed in the bushes, and
they had to keep on the alert in case shots were fired.

They had not long to wait, for in a few moments the crack of rifles was
heard in the bush. A bullet whizzed past Jim Dennis, and he called out
to Willie to follow him and galloped on some distance.

'Why does not Machinson give the signal?' he thought. 'It is not much
good hanging around here to be shot at; I want to get at close
quarters.'

A shrill whistle sounded, and Jim Dennis charged straight through the
bush, followed by his son.

A shot from Jim's revolver was followed by a heavy fall, and he
shouted,--

'Winged him, Willie; he's down. Come on!'

In a few minutes the little party were inside Barker's Creek, and they
then saw Abe Dalton's plan of defence.

From Dalton's house, and the others near it, came a regular hail of
bullets, and a mounted policeman threw up his arms and dropped out of
his saddle like a stone.

One of his comrades dismounted, placed him across his horse, then sprang
up behind and followed the others, Sergeant Machinson calling out,--

'Back! back for your lives! We have no chance in the open.'

It was a wise order, for there was nothing in standing to be shot at by
men who were so well sheltered.

They halted in the bush out of rifle shot distance, and Dr Tom attended
to the wounded man.

After a brief examination he said,--

'He'll pull round if there is no inward bleeding. He has been hit in the
chest.'

'Your work has commenced early, doctor, bad luck to it,' said Jim
Dennis. 'We'll make them pay for this later on. My advice is, fire them
out.'

'We cannot get close enough,' said the sergeant.

'Fire the bush in their rear,' said Jim. 'It is dry, and the flames will
soon spread.'

'What about the blacks? There's a lot of them around there.'

'We must tell them to clear out. If they do not go they will quickly
move when they smell fire. I guess some of them know what a bush fire
means. It is our best chance. Those fellows are all well armed,' said
Jim.

'We must capture Abe Dalton and Seth Sharp alive,' said Mr Dauntsey,
'and as many of the others as possible. Shooting is too good a death for
them; they must be hanged.'

'I will fire the bush and give the blacks warning,' said Jim Dennis.
'Let me go alone.'

'You are taking on a big risk,' said the doctor. 'They will not leave
the rear unprotected and you'll get shot.'

'I wish to go,' said Jim.

'Let me go with him, sergeant,' said Doonan.

'Very well; only remember we cannot afford to lose a man, so run no
risks that you can avoid,' replied Machinson.

They rode away and took a wide circuit round the Creek. They reached the
rear of Dalton's house safely, and Jim dismounted while Doonan held his
horse.

They were, however, seen from the shanties, and fire was at once opened
upon them, and they retreated.

'I must crawl through the bush, snake fashion,' said Jim, 'and when I
have the wood fairly alight run back as fast as I can.'

'It is a terrible risk; think of the lad,' said Constable Doonan. 'Let
me go. I have no belongings.'

'I said I would do it, and I will,' said Jim.

'Wait a while; they may think we have returned, and it will give you
more chance.'

They remained in their position for a considerable time, when Jim Dennis
assumed a listening attitude. His solitary life had caused him to be
quick at distinguishing sounds.

'What's up, Jim?' asked the constable.

Jim Dennis held up his hand to ensure silence.

Doonan watched his face, and saw his expression change to one of
triumph.

'By the Lord, we have 'em now,' he said. 'Listen! Can you hear that
noise?'

Doonan was all attention.

'It's a humming kind of sound. I have heard it before.'

'You have. It is blacks on the march, and they are coming here. If it's
King Charlie and his tribe we will catch these scoundrels like rabbits
in a net. Come with me, we will ride to meet them.'



CHAPTER XXIV

A FIERCE FIGHT


When the blacks, more than a hundred in number, saw Jim Dennis and
Constable Doonan riding towards them, they halted, not being sure as to
who they were.

King Charlie, however, recognised them, and went forward to meet them.

'How came you here?' asked Jim.

'Sal said you were on the war-path. I heard of the attack on your house
and went to see if she was safe,' said Charlie.

'And you thought you would come on here and help us?'

'Yes.'

'And so you shall. We will give you plenty of work. Are your fellows
armed?' said Jim.

'We have spears and boomerangs, and nullah nullahs and stone hatchets,'
said Charlie.

'I think they will come in handy at close quarters,' said Jim with a
smile. 'We shall have no occasion to fire them out. We can capture the
lot alive.' Then, looking at Charlie, he said,--

'Listen to me. When you hear shots fired rush through the bush and
attack the rear of the houses. We shall be in front, and they will not
suspect any assault at the back. Creep close up, and hide in the bushes
until you hear the signal. There are a lot of blacks over there to the
right, and they will probably join you when the fight commences.'

The old man was all attention, and signified that he understood what was
required and would carry out the orders.

'My revenge is near,' he said. 'They stole my people and made dogs of
them, and they shall die.'

'We want to take them alive,' said Jim. 'Do not kill if you can secure
them.'

Charlie struck his spear on the ground and said savagely,--

'Blood for blood, and we spare them not!'

Jim Dennis saw it was useless to argue with him, and he knew if any of
Dalton's men fell into King Charlie's hands they would not have an easy
death.

They rode back to their comrades, and King Charlie and his men advanced
into the bush unseen.

'Back again so soon?' said Mr Dauntsey. 'Anything fresh to report?'

'The best of good luck has befallen us,' said Jim, excitedly. 'Charlie
and his tribe are here. The old fellow heard from Sal what we had afoot,
and came on here to help us and take his revenge. There's over a hundred
of them, and they are by this time concealed in the bush at the back of
the houses. When we advance in front and fire they will make a rush in
the rear, and I promise you they will not be slow about it.'

'This is splendid,' said Mr Dauntsey. 'What do you say, sergeant?'

'It is the best thing that could have happened, but we shall have to be
quick or those black fellows will kill them all. They will show no mercy
to any of the gang,' said Machinson.

'We had better all advance in line, about a dozen yards apart,' said Mr
Dauntsey, and to this the sergeant agreed.

No time was lost; the wounded man was left in as comfortable a position
as possible, and they moved ahead.

'All fire quickly,' said Machinson. 'If you see no one, aim where the
smoke is, on the off chance of hitting.'

In a few minutes, when Dalton and his men saw them again advancing, the
firing recommenced, and it was sharply returned.

Above the crack of the rifles, however, was heard a terrific yell, which
completely drowned the sound of the firing. There was a tremendous
crashing in the bush at the rear of the houses and the cries of many
blacks.

Dalton and his gang were surprised, and when they realised what had
happened were almost in despair. They knew no mercy would be shown them
by the blacks and preferred to risk capture at the hands of the police.
They did not mean to give in without a desperate struggle, for their
lives were at stake.

In Dalton's house, besides himself, were six of his men, including Seth
Sharp and Rodney Shaw.

When Shaw discovered Sal had escaped, his rage knew no bounds, and he
acted like a madman, so much so that his manager thought he had lost his
senses.

Benjamin Nix tried to calm him and partially succeeded.

'Why make such a fuss over her? She's far better away from here,' said
Nix.

'I'll be even with her,' replied Shaw; and there and then made up his
mind to ride to Barker's Creek and bribe Dalton to scour the country for
her.

When he arrived at Dalton's he found affairs had reached a crisis.

Abe Dalton was in no mood to be trifled with or to stand upon ceremony.

'This comes of meddling in your affairs,' he said savagely. 'Curse you
and the girl too! You have ruined us all, yourself included, you
blundering fool!'

Rodney Shaw commenced to realise the extent of the scrape he had got
into, but he did not mean to be beaten.

When Abe Dalton explained to him what had happened, and that his spies
had brought in news that an attack was to be made on Barker's Creek
Rodney Shaw said,--

'I'll stay with you and see it through. I'd like to get a chance of
putting a bullet in Jim Dennis.'

'There's more than you would give a good deal for such a chance,' said
Dalton. 'If you mean to stay, well and good; I'm not going to stop you;
but let me warn you it will be putting your neck in a noose to be found
here. You had better clear out and do the best you can for yourself.'

Rodney Shaw, however, decided to remain. He thought Dalton and his men
would easily repulse any attack made upon them, and Dennis might be
killed in the struggle. He meant to have a shot at him if possible, for
he had learned something during the past week that had caused him to
tremble whenever he thought of the owner of Wanabeen. What that
something was will be related later on.

This was how Rodney Shaw came to be at Barker's Creek, which was the
worst place he could possibly be found in.

'These blacks will do for us,' said Dalton, savagely; 'and it is all the
fault of you fellows keeping the gins here.'

'We must fight it out,' said Shaw. 'Curse the blacks!'

He took a steady aim and fired at Jim Dennis, but missed.

The tumult was tremendous. The black fellows, now they were let loose
and had a chance of revenge, were so many infuriated savages. They
yelled and danced, brandishing their spears, and rushed upon the
houses, heedless of the shots fired at them.

In the blacks' camp at the creek there was a regular pandemonium. The
gins shrieked with terror and thought their end was at hand, and so it
was for many of them. Some of these black women had left behind in King
Charlie's camp husbands and brothers, and they now took their revenge by
spearing or clubbing them. It was a horrible scene, but King Charlie
took no heed of it, nor did he attempt to stay the slaughter. In his
savage way he regarded it as an act of justice, and he may have been
right.

Round Dalton's house the fight was fierce. At the rear the blacks were
forcing an entrance, at the front the police had already battered in the
door.

All were on foot now and it soon became a hand-to-hand conflict.

Seeing the game was up, Rodney Shaw thought of his own safety.

At the back of the house several horses were stabled, and these had not
been injured, although they were frightened. Shaw thought if he could
make a rush for it he might reach them and gallop off. They were all
saddled and bridled ready for an emergency.

The blacks were now swarming into the house, and Dalton's men kept them
back with their revolvers.

Passing into a side room, Shaw saw a chance of escape.

The attack was mainly confined to the other part of the house, where a
desperate stand was being made. Squeezing himself through the small
window, Rodney Shaw managed to reach the ground safely.

Clutching his revolver, he hurried across to the horses. He was kicked
and jostled by the excited animals, but escaped serious injury.

Mounting one he had fairly under control, he was riding away when some
of the blacks saw him and with a yell rushed after him.

Constable Doonan also saw him, and, making for his horse, was quickly in
pursuit.

Shaw, however, was too far ahead, and Doonan, halting, pulled out his
carbine, took a steady aim and fired.

His shot he saw took effect, but Rodney Shaw did not fall. 'I hit him,'
said Doonan. 'That will prove he was here.' Then he rode back,
dismounted, and drawing his revolver, rushed into the fighting mob.

Blood flowed freely and many blacks lay dead, but still Dalton and his
men held out.

From the other houses the members of the gang came out and joined in the
fight, for they knew it was their last chance.

Dr Tom was busy looking after the wounded.

Jim Dennis was hit in the fleshy part of the arm, but went on fighting.

Two of the constables were mortally wounded, and the doctor was doing
what he could for them.

Willie Dennis had accounted for one man, and from a distance watched the
fight.

'Help me, Willie,' said the doctor. 'You will be more use here than over
yonder.'

Ten of Dalton's men were killed by the blacks, and the remainder were
nearly all wounded.

Dalton fought like a tiger, and when he saw Sergeant Machinson and
another constable rushing upon him to seize him, he shouted,--

'So you have done for me at last, sergeant. Take that!'

He fired his revolver, and the unfortunate man fell dead, shot through
the heart.

Adye Dauntsey saw him fall, and fired at Dalton, hitting the hand in
which he held his revolver, and shattering it. He was at once secured.

There was no resistance now except on the part of Seth Sharp, who fought
like a wild beast, but he was eventually beaten down and firmly bound.

The house presented the appearance of a shambles.

The body of Sergeant Machinson was carried outside, and Dalton said as
they passed him, as he lay bound on the floor,--

'That's how I treat men who play me false. He's better dead. He was
false to his trust and false to me.'

Adye Dauntsey heard him, but made no remark. The sergeant, whatever his
misdeeds, had paid for them with his life while doing his duty.

They were all tired and worn out after the struggle. Many blacks had
been killed, and King Charlie and his tribe set about burying them by Mr
Dauntsey's orders.

The attacking party had lost two constables and Sergeant Machinson, and
nearly all of them bore marks of the severe encounter.

Seth Sharp and Abe Dalton were firmly secured, and only five other men
of the gang were taken alive. The blacks had already set fire to the
houses and humpies, and Barker's Creek was in flames.

'They have settled the difficulty for us,' said Mr Dauntsey, 'and I
think it is the best thing that could have happened. Barker's Creek will
be wiped out at last.'



CHAPTER XXV

A STRICKEN WOMAN


The affair at Barker's Creek caused a great sensation, and the Sydney
and Melbourne papers had long accounts of it, chiefly supplied by Adye
Dauntsey and Dr Tom Sheridan. The latter took care to let it be known
how Rodney Shaw had acted, and his report was the cause of a startling
and unexpected _dénoûment_.

A week after the fight Jim Dennis had retired for the night. He was
alone in the house with Sal, as Willie had gone to Barragong for a
change. He had been out all day, and, being thoroughly tired, slept
soundly.

During the night a woman might have been seen toiling with weary steps
across the lonesome land. She was footsore and hungry, well-nigh
starving. She had been at Swamp Creek and found there no rest or
shelter. She seemed to shrink from contact with everyone, and had it not
been for the doctor's dog she would have gone on without food or drink.
Baalim was sniffing round his master's house as usual, on the lookout
for a canine encounter, when he saw this woman. Baalim knew every man,
woman and child in Swamp Creek, and he perceived she was a stranger.
Such an important fact must be communicated to the doctor.

The dog bounded into the house barking furiously, and Dr Tom, coming out
to administer a caution to him, saw the woman standing, uncertain,
outside in the street.

'She looks deuced tired and hungry,' he thought, and without hesitation
called to her.

'My good woman, you look tired,' he said. 'Have you come far?'

'From Sydney,' she said in a weak voice.

Dr Tom was staggered and incredulous. Sydney was some hundreds of miles
away.

'A team-master gave me a lift as far as Barragong,' she explained. 'I
have walked from there.'

'Come in and rest, and I will find you something to eat,' said the
worthy doctor.

She hesitated, but he insisted, and she came inside.

'She's seen better days,' thought Dr Tom, but delicately forbore
questioning her, although he wondered what she could want at Swamp Creek
if she had no friends, which seemed probable.

She ate like a famished woman, and he was sorry. When she had finished
she thanked him and left, and he made no effort to detain her; he had no
right to do so.

He watched her walk wearily down the street and leave the town.

'Poor soul!' he said to Baalim as he patted his ugly head. 'She's seen
trouble, old dog; and, by Jove! she must have been a handsome woman
once. What a pity! Where the deuce can she be going to?'

Her meal at Dr Tom's had given her strength, and under the starlit sky
she struggled on. She followed the coach track and at intervals sat down
to rest.

Towards morning she came in sight of Wanabeen and stopped. For fully
half an hour she stood and looked at Jim Dennis's home. Her eyes filled
with tears which coursed down her sunken cheeks, and she sank down upon
her knees and tried to pray.

The words could not come, for there was a great sin upon her soul. Her
breath came in sobs and gasps, she panted like a wounded creature.
Staggering to her feet, she pushed on hurriedly, fearing her strength
would fail, and at last sank, exhausted, on the steps of Jim Dennis's
house, much as Sal had done years before.

Then she passed into a fitful slumber, and as Jim Dennis had found Sal,
so the half-caste found her.

Sal rubbed her eyes and looked.

'A white woman!' she exclaimed, and then felt afraid.

What could a white woman want here? How did she get there?

Sal looked at her long and earnestly, and something in the woman's face
seemed familiar to her.

Where had she seen a face like that?

She must call Jim Dennis and let him act as he thought best.

She roused him and he started up.

'Is it late, Sal?'

'No, early, about five'

'What has happened?' he said sharply, noticing the scared look on her
face.

'There's a woman asleep on the steps--a white woman.'

Jim Dennis clutched her arm.

'A white woman,' he repeated in a hoarse voice.

'Dress and go out to her,' said Sal.

Jim Dennis put on his clothes mechanically; he dreaded he knew not what.

'A white woman,' he muttered, 'and she has tramped it here.'

He went out in a hesitating kind of way.

'What is she like?' he asked quietly, but she noticed the tremor in his
voice.

'Go and see. She is asleep. You can look at her face.'

He had not pulled on his boots, and he went quietly outside. He looked
at the sleeping woman and staggered back as though he had been stabbed.
He put his hand to his face to shut out the sight.

What a flood of memories rushed over him.

Sal watched him. She knew now where she had seen such a face before. It
was like Willie's face when he was at the point of death.

Jim Dennis looked at the sleeping woman again, and his features became
hard and stern; his mouth was cruel and his eyes flashed ominously.

Yes, it was Maud come back. The woman who had so deeply wronged him and
blighted his name, the woman who had disowned her own son--he could have
forgiven her, perhaps, but for that.

He went inside and took up his revolver.

Sal looked at him, terrified, then she darted forward and held him by
the arm.

'No, no, not that, master, not that. I know her. It is Willie's face.
You found me there half dead and carried me in your arms and restored me
to life. You cannot kill her. She is Willie's mother!'

He still held the revolver and shook her off.

'It is murder, murder--and a woman in her sleep. Jim Dennis, you are a
coward for the first time! Deal with the man who wronged her and you.
Have a settling day with him first.'

She had roused him. The taunt struck home.

'By God! I will, Sal. Settling day with him. It will be a heavy one.'

Out on to the verandah he went again, and when the woman opened her eyes
she saw the man she had so deeply wronged looking down upon her like an
embodiment of the spirit of vengeance.

So terrified was she at his look that she fainted and rolled on to the
ground.

Sal went to her assistance.

'She comes not into my house again,' said Jim.

'What of the man?' asked Sal.

'She can come in,' answered Jim.

'Carry her in.'

'No.'

'Then I will,' and Sal lifted the light form in her arms and placed it
on her own bed. 'What you did for me I do for her,' she said.

Maud Dennis, for such it was, although she bore no right to the name,
gradually recovered.

Sal was at the bedside and smoothed her hair.

'Who are you?'

There was a faint suspicion of jealousy in the tone of her voice.

'I am Sal, Jim Dennis's housekeeper.'

'Not his wife?'

Sal looked at her with contempt as she answered,--

'No, not his wife.'

'Forgive me. I loved him so much long ago.'

'Then why did you leave him? It was cruel,' said Sal.

'It was kind. I should never have made him happy,' she said.

Jim Dennis came in.

'Leave us alone,' he said to Sal.

'You'll not hurt me, Jim? You'll not kill me?' said the wretched woman.
'Oh, if you knew how I have suffered! I am dying, Jim, and I have come
to tell you all.'

'No, I will not kill you, and you deserve to suffer. I want to hear
nothing, only one thing--his name,' said Jim Dennis.

'You must hear. I was tempted, tried. I did not tell him who I was, and
he would never have known but when he deserted me in London, I meant to
follow him some day and denounce him for the villain he is. He knows
now, and let him beware of you. He ill-treated me. I lived a wretched
life, and then when he had tired of me he cast me off. I wronged you
past forgiveness, but how have I suffered for my sins? I worked and
slaved day and night until at last I had to fall still lower.'

She shuddered, and he turned his face from her. This was the mother of
his Willie! The lad should never know it, never see her. He must send to
Barragong at once and have him detained there until he could act.

'I scraped enough money together to pay a passage to Sydney in a sailing
vessel, one of the poorer class, and the miseries of that long voyage I
shall never forget. In Sydney I found my parents were dead. I had no
friends, very little money. I started to walk here. A team-master gave
me a lift to Barragong.'

Jim Dennis started. Willie was there. Then he recollected the lad would
not have known her had he seen her.

'From Barragong I walked to Swamp Creek, where a kindly man gave me food
and rest.'

'Had he a big dog?' asked Jim.

'Yes, it was the dog attracted his attention to me.'

'Dr Tom, just like him,' thought Jim. 'He little thinks who she is.'

'Then I came on here. Let me die here, Jim. I have not long to live. You
cannot thrust a dying woman out.'

He made no answer.

She moaned piteously.

'Let me die here, Jim. Let me see Willie before I go and ask him to
forgive his wretched mother.'

'You may die here,' said Jim, harshly; 'but you shall never see my boy.
You disowned him and he thinks you are dead.'

She was crying bitter tears of repentance, but they had come too late,
and she was afraid to die without forgiveness on earth.

'Jim!' she said suddenly as she caught his arm. 'Jim, I dare not die
without your forgiveness.'

There was such a look of horror in her eyes that even he was softened,
and said quietly,--

'I will forgive you, Maud, freely forgive you; but you must never let
Willie know, and he shall not see you.'

'Not even when I am dead?' she asked.

'No, not even then.'

She sobbed bitterly, and Sal, hearing her, felt the tears well up into
her eyes.

'I never knew him to be cruel before,' said Sal to herself.

'One thing more,' said Jim Dennis. 'Who was the man?'

'Your friend, Jim. Your black-hearted, treacherous friend,' she
answered.

'I had no friends,' he said.

'A man who called himself your friend. He was in Sydney. I met him. He
was going to England, and offered to take me and spend his wealth with
me, marry me when it was possible.'

Light was dawning upon Jim Dennis, and his hands clenched so that the
nails bit into the flesh.

'It was Rodney Shaw,' she said.

Jim Dennis sprang up with an oath.

'By God! can such a villain live?' he cried.

'He had not seen me at Wanabeen, you recollect; he had gone to Sydney
before I came here, and lived there some time before he went to England.
He is a cruel, heartless man, and ruined our lives. He deserves no
pity.'

'He shall have none from me,' said Jim Dennis. 'I will flog him like a
cowardly cur and then shoot him.'

'He is a dangerous man,' she said.

Jim Dennis laughed harshly. He was not afraid of such a man or a dozen
of them.

'Sal,' he called, 'there is work for me to do before it is too late.
Send Silas Dixon for Dr Tom as soon as he comes in.'

'Where are you going?' she asked.

'To kill the man that wronged me and tried to ruin you.'

'Rodney Shaw?' she exclaimed in horror.

'He is the man. Settling day has come at last.'



CHAPTER XXVI

SETTLING DAY


Jim Dennis rode towards Cudgegong, vengeance gnawing at his heart.

So Rodney Shaw was the man who had wronged him, and he, Jim Dennis, had
clasped his hand in friendship since then.

How he hated the man, this thief who had robbed him and dishonoured his
house. It was with a glow of exultation he thought the hour was at hand
when he could call him to account. He meant to settle with Rodney Shaw
before he got into the more tender clutches of the law. He would show
him no mercy, for he had a double score to pay off now, as there was the
insult to Sal to be wiped out.

He worked himself up to such a pitch of savage resentment that he was
scarcely answerable for his actions.

This was what he desired, to deaden all the better feelings in him so
that there was no possibility of his showing any mercy.

He had heard from Constable Doonan that he had hit Rodney Shaw as he
escaped from the fight at Barker's Creek, and the wound might have
proved dangerous. So much the better, his enemy could not escape him
then.

And Rodney Shaw, what of him?

When he made good his escape from the Creek he rode on to Cudgegong, and
arriving there in safety, had his wound dressed. The bullet struck him
between the shoulders and caused him intense pain.

He explained as well as he could to Benjamin Nix how it happened, and
accounted for his presence at the fight by saying the police had
surrounded the place while he was at Dalton's house.

'Doonan fired at me as I was escaping, and that is how I got the wound.
Do the best you can for me, Nix, I am in a bad way.'

'It serves you right,' thought Nix, and did his best to relieve him.

Rodney Shaw had something else to contend with in addition to his wound.
He had heard from Maud Dennis and discovered who she was, and that she
intended to let Jim Dennis know the name of the man who had wronged him.

This preyed upon his mind and made his wound worse. He tossed about
restlessly and was soon on the high road to a bad attack of fever.

'I will send for Dr Sheridan,' said Nix.

'It is useless; he will decline to come,' said Shaw.

'I have never known him do so in a serious case,' answered Nix. 'He has
even attended Abe Dalton and pulled him through a severe illness. If he
attended Dalton surely he will come to you.'

'I tell you it is useless,' persisted Shaw. 'There are matters you know
nothing of that will prevent his coming.'

Rodney Shaw, however, knew it would not be long before someone else
came, the man he dreaded most to see--Jim Dennis. He wished the shot he
had aimed at him had taken effect, then he would have been well rid of
him.

He knew when Jim Dennis heard the truth nothing would keep him from
Cudgegong. If it had not been for his wound he would have been well on
his way to Sydney, and might have escaped. He made an effort to rise,
but fell back exhausted. He felt it would be better to risk everything
rather than face this angry, wronged man. He called Nix and said,--

'If Jim Dennis calls tell him I am too ill to see him.'

'I will,' was the reply; but Nix thought to himself, 'If Jim Dennis
wishes to see you no one can stop him after what you have done.' He
meant the abduction of Sal; he did not know of Rodney Shaw's greater
sin.

When Jim Dennis arrived at Cudgegong he got off his horse and strode
into the house.

Benjamin Nix barred the way, and asked,--

'Do you wish to see Mr Shaw? If so, he is too ill; it would be dangerous
to disturb him.'

Jim Dennis laughed.

'I have no quarrel with you, Ben,' he said, 'but I must see him. If the
shock of my presence kills him, well, so much the better, it will save
me doing it.'

'You don't mean to harm him?' said Nix, alarmed.

'That's precisely what I do mean,' said Jim.

'Then you must be prevented from doing so,' said Nix.

Jim Dennis knew there were several people about the place, and he did
not wish to be hindered in his work, so he tried to propitiate Ben Nix.
'I shall not be long with him,' he said; 'and when I have done with him,
and you know all, you will side with me.'

'I always do that,' said Ben. 'You and I have never been bad friends.'

'But we shall fall out if I do not see him quietly,' said Jim. 'I mean
to do so, and you had better let me pass.'

Benjamin Nix saw he meant it, and stood on one side.

He argued that a disturbance would probably be as dangerous to Rodney
Shaw, or more so, as an interview with Dennis.

'Which room is he in?' asked Jim.

Ben pointed it out to him, and he went to the door.

He knocked, and Rodney Shaw said angrily,--

'Come in. There is no occasion for you to knock, Nix. I have not had a
wink of sleep for hours.'

'You will have plenty of sleep shortly,' said Jim Dennis, entering the
room.

Rodney Shaw lay on his bed and stared with glassy eyes at the speaker.
He felt as though his last hour was at hand, and he wished he could rise
and fight for his life. He could not move without causing intense pain,
and there he lay, helpless, at the mercy of his bitterest enemy.

Jim Dennis strode up to the bedside and shook him roughly.

'Get up and answer for your sins, you black-hearted scoundrel!' he said
in a voice of suppressed passion. 'No shamming sick with me, remember.
Stand up and fight for your life like a man--Heaven forgive me for
calling you one!'

Rodney Shaw groaned.

'I am wounded,' he said. 'I have been shot.'

'Where?' asked Jim Dennis. 'Show me the wound.'

'I cannot.'

'Show it me.'

'It is in my back, between my shoulders,' said Shaw.

Jim Dennis laughed savagely.

'In your back. A fitting place for it. Things such as you never face an
enemy, they are always wounded in the back.'

He pushed him over and saw there was blood on the bed.

'So you have not lied this time,' said Jim. 'I have come to have a
settling day with you. It is a long-standing account and a heavy one.
You are the scoundrel who stole my wife and robbed my child of its
mother. You are the man, and you have taken my hand in friendship
since.'

He raised his whip and was about to bring it down across Rodney Shaw's
body. He hesitated. He would not strike a wounded man with his whip.

'I meant to thrash you, but you cannot stand up and take it. That part
of your punishment I will count out, but you must pay the rest in full.'

'What do you mean to do?' asked Shaw.

'Kill you before I leave the house, anticipate death by a few hours. You
are bound to die anyway. I can see it in your face. Your miserable
victim is at my house, dying, and you are going fast, but I will not
give you that chance, for I mean to kill you, Rodney Shaw.'

'At your house?' gasped Shaw.

'Yes, she dragged herself there to die, a victim to your treachery and
cruelty. Even when you had stolen and dishonoured her you could not be
true to her. You are too vile a thing to live, therefore you must die.'

'One word, Dennis. I wronged you, but not knowingly. I did not know she
was your wife.'

'That makes no difference to me. You wronged her, that is sufficient.
Leave me and my wrongs out of the question. I have waited for this day
for years and have sworn you shall pay the penalty.'

Rodney Shaw was gasping for breath. The excitement and the moving of his
body had caused his wound to bleed profusely, and he soon became
exhausted, and fainted.

Jim Dennis watched him with a bitter smile on his face.

'I have been cheated at last. He cannot stand up and take the punishment
I would give him. I cannot shoot an insensible man, it would be murder.
Sal was right, it would be as cowardly with him as with her.'

He opened the door and called Benjamin Nix.

'He is insensible,' said Jim. 'His wound has opened again and he is
bleeding to death.'

'Then nothing can save him?' said Nix. 'I have sent for Dr Sheridan.'

'He is at Wanabeen by now,' said Jim.

'Who is ill there?'

'My wife, or the woman who was my wife.'

Benjamin Nix knew something of that story.

'Has she returned?' he added.

'Yes, to die in the home of the husband and child she had deserted for
that man,' said Jim, as he pointed to Rodney Shaw.

Benjamin Nix started back and said,--

'Can it be possible he is such a villain?'

Rodney Shaw opened his eyes and looked at them vacantly. A violent fit
of coughing seized him and the blood poured from his mouth. He commenced
to struggle, for the terrible flow choked him. They went to his
assistance and raised him, but it was too late, his head fell back and
he was dead. A higher power than Jim Dennis's had summoned him to answer
for his sins.

'Jim, I'm glad of it; I mean that I'm glad it happened this way, not
your way,' said Nix.

'It is better so,' said Jim. 'He will have a heavy settling day when he
is called before his last Judge.'

'Sometimes I have thought he was not Rodney Shaw,' said Ben Nix,'but
someone very like him.'

'Who knows?' said Jim. 'That's strange. I have thought the same thing.'

Jim Dennis rode back to Wanabeen.

During his absence Dr Tom had arrived and done all that lay in his power
to ease the dying woman and render her last moments free from pain.

The messenger sent to Barragong had missed Willie Dennis, who was on the
way home.

When Jim Dennis arrived at Wanabeen and entered his house he saw his son
standing by the bedside holding his mother's hand. To violently pull him
away was his first impulse, but Dr Tom stopped him by saying in a low
voice,--

'She is going fast, Jim. Be very quiet.'

Peacefully and quietly the woman who had wronged and been wronged
passed away, with Willie's hand in her own.

'Who was she, father?' asked Willie.

Those words spoke volumes to Jim Dennis.

He bent over and kissed the dead woman's forehead.

'An unfortunate woman I once knew well, Willie,' he said, and thought to
himself, 'She died without letting him know; it was brave of her. May
she be forgiven as freely as I forgive her.'

'Rodney Shaw is dead,' said Jim to the doctor.

Dr Tom looked at Jim and then at the dead woman. He fancied he had
solved the problem of Jim Dennis's life, and he was not wrong.



CHAPTER XXVII

NEPTUNE'S SON


The trial of the Barker's Creek gang excited much interest, and it took
place at Bathurst.

It is needless to go through the evidence given at the trial, as it
merely recapitulated the events with which we are already familiar.

All the prisoners were sentenced to death, and there was a general
feeling of satisfaction with the verdict.

Constable Doonan was soon afterwards promoted and raised to the rank of
sergeant, and had charge of the district formerly under control of the
unfortunate Machinson. All who took part in the fight and the
extermination of the gang were eulogised for their bravery.

One lady was so enamoured of Dr Tom that she wrote and offered him her
hand and fortune, which he respectfully declined.

Jim Dennis prospered during the next few years, and his son Willie was a
great help to him.

A claimant to Cudgegong Station appeared in the person of a cousin of
Rodney Shaw, and he made good his claim.

The new owner of Cudgegong, Chris Shaw, was a very different man to his
cousin, and he soon became a firm friend of Jim Dennis's. He was not,
however, enamoured of station life, as he had lived in Sydney, and one
day he made a proposition to Jim that he should take over the management
of Cudgegong.

'I mean to live in Sydney, Dennis,' he said. 'This life does not suit
me, and I want to get back to my racing and town amusements. Will you
take it in hand?'

'What about Ben Nix?' said Jim. 'I should not care to oust him out of
his billet.'

'Ben is growing old,' said Chris Shaw, 'and he is quite willing to
remain and leave the responsibility to you. He says you always got on
well with him.'

'Very well,' said Jim; 'I will accept, and the terms you offer are quite
good enough; in fact, generous.'

'And if at any time you can afford to buy Cudgegong you shall have it at
a reasonable figure,' said Chris Shaw.

Jim's eyes glistened. He would have dearly loved to make Wanabeen and
Cudgegong one property for Willie's sake, but it seemed beyond his most
sanguine dreams.

He thanked Chris Shaw for his offer, but said there was very little
chance of his being able to buy such a large station.

Chris Shaw went to Sydney, and Jim Dennis and Willie had their hands
full with Wanabeen and Cudgegong.

Everything prospered, and they had no severe droughts. Jim Dennis put by
all the money he earned as manager, and also made a big profit out of
Wanabeen. He commenced to have hopes of realising his ambition after
all.

Neptune had grown into a fine sire, and Jim Dennis had many good horses
and mares by him.

One in particular he set great store by. This was Grey Bird, a beautiful
horse the colour of his sire, out of a mare named Seamew.

Grey Bird was a four-year-old, and had won a couple of minor races at
Swamp Creek and Barragong, but so far as the big meetings were concerned
he was an unknown quantity.

Jim Dennis knew if he could win a race, such as the Sydney Cup, he could
win a lot of money and not risk much. Against such a horse as Grey Bird
the odds in a big race would be remunerative, more especially if Willie,
an unknown rider in the metropolis, had the mount.

He had entered Grey Bird for the Sydney Cup, but it was regarded as a
piece of bluff, and no one ever thought it was his intention to run the
horse.

The journey to Sydney was long and tedious, as there was no railway
communication within some hundreds of miles, and then it was hardly safe
to train a valuable horse.

Jim Dennis had, however, overcome far greater difficulties than the
sending of a horse to Sydney. His never-failing counsellor, Dr Tom, was
consulted, and expressed his opinion that the thing was feasible and
that Grey Bird would have a chance in the Sydney Cup.

'Try it, Jim. Try it,' he said. 'There's nothing like self-confidence,
and I am sure none of the southern jockeys can give Willie much. He's
the cleverest lad I ever saw on a horse. By Jove, how he snatched that
Barragong Handicap out of the fire on Dart! It was a better race than
the memorable one he rode on Neptune.'

'I think I'll try it. We can all go down to Sydney together with the
horse. You will go with us?' said Jim.

Dr Tom looked gloomy. As usual, funds were low, and he did not think he
could stand the expense.

'Of course you will go as my guest,' continued Jim. 'I want your
company, and your skill would come in useful in case of accident.'

Dr Tom smiled as he replied, 'Generous as ever, old man. You know where
the shoe pinches. I will accept your offer because I know it is made
with a good heart.'

'I am not afraid to leave the stations now Dalton's gang are out of the
way. What a curse they were!'

'No mistake about that. It was a fight! I'm itching for another.'

'There will be no chance for a nest of thieves round here with such a
man as Sergeant Doonan about.'

'No,' replied the doctor; 'he deserves all the praise he receives.'

Willie Dennis was delighted at the thought of going to Sydney and riding
his pet Grey Bird in the great race. He loved the horse, and Grey Bird
was so fond of his young rider that he was uneasy when anyone else rode
him.

The arrival of the coach was anxiously awaited, in order to see the
weights for the Sydney Cup.

At last the paper came, and Jim Dennis eagerly tore the wrapper and
glanced up and down the columns, Willie looking over his shoulder.

'There it is!' said Willie, pointing to a long list of horses.

'That's it. I say, Taite's horse has top weight, nine stone twelve
pounds; that's a fair start. Our fellow will be near the bottom. What
will he get? Let's guess!'

He put down the paper and looked at Willie.

'I'll guess seven stone twelve pounds,' said Jim. 'That would give him a
chance.'

'Too much,' replied Willie. 'I'll say seven stone six pounds.'

Jim opened the paper again and looked down the list.

'Here's luck, Willie. He's only got seven stone.' Then his face fell and
he said, 'You will not be able to get down to that weight.'

'Yes, I shall,' said Willie, and ran outside to the weighing-machine.

'I am only seven stone seven pounds now,' he shouted. 'That seven pounds
can soon be knocked off. Dr Tom will see to that. Tell him he will have
to dose me.'

'We will have no dosing,' said Jim. 'It weakens you too much, and you
require all your strength for a long, severe race like the Sydney Cup.'

It was considered a stroke of good fortune for Jim Dennis's Grey Bird to
have only seven stone in the Sydney Cup, and Swamp Creek and Barragong
folk vowed they would back the local horse no matter how good the others
in the race might be.

Adye Dauntsey and Dr Tom were present at Grey Bird's final gallop before
his long walk to Sydney commenced. The magistrate meant to take a few
weeks' holiday and go to Sydney to see the race.

'I saw his sire win one of the best races I ever witnessed at Swamp
Creek, and I must see his son eclipse even that performance.'

'We shall be mighty proud of your company at Randwick,' said Dr Tom. 'To
have the celebrated P.M. from Barragong with us will considerably
enhance our reputations.'

'Chaffing as usual, doctor. I believe you would laugh at a funeral.'

'Probably, if I had not been attending the deceased in a medical
capacity,' replied the doctor.

'I suppose under such circumstances you might possibly think you had a
hand in facilitating his departure from this life,' laughed Mr Dauntsey.

The Sydney Cup was a great race even in those days, when such horses as
Yattendon, Fishhook, The Barb, Flying Buck, Zoe, Archer, Banker,
Lantern, Toryboy, Flying Colours, Clove, and many other good ones were
winning, or had just won, all the big events at Sydney and Melbourne. It
was the year of good horses when Grey Bird went south, and Jim Dennis
knew that with only seven stone his horse would have no easy task.

The handicapper had not much regard for station-bred and trained horses,
and he said to himself, when he came to Mr James Dennis's Grey Bird,
four years, by Neptune--Seamew, 'From Wanabeen, eh? That's near the
place where that fight occurred with Dalton's gang a few years ago. They
cannot have much idea of training in that quarter; and I do not suppose
the horse will run. If they have the pluck to bring him all that way,
and run him against such cracks as we have now, they deserve to be given
a good chance. Seven stone will do you, Grey Bird,' and then he set to
work to try and give others a chance with the top weights, a somewhat
difficult task.

Grey Bird's final gallop pleased them all, and Willie rode him
splendidly.

'He is a mover,' said Mr Dauntsey. 'He'll not disgrace our district in
looks or in the race.'

'If my property would carry a mortgage, I'd back Grey Bird for all I
could get on it, but I am afraid a loan would cause the premises to fall
down,' said Dr Tom.

'Shaky, are they?' asked Mr Dauntsey, laughing.

'Very,' replied the doctor.

All preparations were made for the departure for Sydney, and Dr Tom
decided to ride one of Jim Dennis's horses, as he said he doubted
whether his own would carry him so far.

Adye Dauntsey was to join them at Barragong. He preferred good,
congenial company to the quicker way, and more doubtful society, by
coach.

Ben Nix was left in charge at the stations, and Sal had a friend from
Swamp Creek to stay with her.

Sergeant Doonan promised to keep a strict eye on Wanabeen, and this was
a pleasing duty to him, as he was very partial to Sal's company.

'And, Jim, just put me this on Grey Bird for luck,' said Sergeant Doonan
as he handed him five one-pound notes.



CHAPTER XXVIII

GREY BIRD IS ADMIRED


They arrived in Sydney without any misadventures, and the long journey
proved far more enjoyable than could have been expected.

The party, small as it was, had this advantage, they were all friends
and understood each other, and had fought side by side in the time of
danger. Great care was taken of Grey Bird, and the constant walking
exercise suited him, and he arrived in Sydney in fine condition.

The cup was to be decided the following week, and in the meantime the
horse was stabled near Randwick with a friend of Mr Dauntsey's.
Permission was given to exercise him on Randwick track, and much
interest was manifested in the cup horse from 'way back.'

Grey Bird was conspicuous owing to his colour, as he was the only grey
horse at exercise.

Willie rode him a strong two-mile gallop, Dr Tom and his father being
interested spectators.

The local trainers were considerably impressed with Grey Bird's style of
moving, and comments were made on the folly of handicappers letting
unknown horses in with such light weights.

There was considerable speculation on the Cup, as usual, and several
horses were backed for heavy stakes.

Against Grey Bird fifty to one could be had when he reached Sydney, and
Jim Dennis was not slow to accept such tempting odds to win him several
thousands. He took a thousand to twenty five times from one bookmaker,
who regarded him as fair and legitimate spoil. He then obtained these
odds again to another hundred, so that he had the nice bet of ten
thousand to two hundred. After Grey Bird had been seen out at Randwick
only half this price was obtainable, and the men who had laid fifties
were not well pleased with their books.

Dr Tom managed to collect a few outstanding accounts, some several years
old, before he left Swamp Creek, and he backed Grey Bird to win him five
hundred.

'If it comes off, Jim,' he said, 'I'll have a new turnout and buy
sufficient drugs to doctor the neighbourhood with for the next five
years.'

Willie became anxious as the eventful day drew near. He had come down to
seven stone without dosing, having had long walks during their journey
to Sydney. He never felt better in his life, and thought he had a good
chance of success. He knew the Cup course well, having galloped Grey
Bird over it two or three times.

He found the going on the rails was excellent, but the centre of the
course was holding.

The morning of the race was beautifully fine, an ideal day for good
sport.

Randwick presented the usual bustling scene, and everyone was on the
tiptoe of expectation.

The favourite for the Cup was Defiance, owned by one of the best-known
sportsmen in the colonies. The horse had nine stone eight pounds to
carry, and was top weight, Taite's horse having been struck out.

Defiance had several fine performances to his credit, amongst them being
the Melbourne and Australian Cups, and he was regarded as the best
stayer in Australia. The crack jockey, Jack Ashton, was engaged to ride,
and so eager was the desire to back his mount that five to one was taken
freely. Target, owned by Chris Shaw, who had registered his cousin's
colours--green jacket and white cap--was also in good demand. Tatters,
Warfare, Bung Bung, Baby, Walwa and Hova all figured prominently, but
Grey Bird had dropped back to a hundred to three, as no one appeared
inclined to support the country-bred one.

This was a very tempting price, and so Jim Dennis thought, and took a
thousand to thirty twice, so that he stood to win a matter of twelve
thousand besides the stake.

Before the race a long interval took place, and much curiosity was
shown in Grey Bird on account of his colour.

The horse looked a picture. He was one of those greys that show their
colour well, not a washed-out grey, but bold and shiny in his coat. He
was as fit as he could be made, and his powerful quarters and strong
loins and back caused good judges to think seven stone would be a mere
feather-weight to him.

A crowd collected round as Jim saddled him, and some curious remarks
were passed about country-bred horses.

'He looks well,' said one; 'but they cannot be expected to know how to
train in such a God-forsaken hole as Swamp Creek.'

Dr Tom turned round and said to the speaker,--

'I come from Swamp Creek. It is not quite the place you have described
it. After the race you will sing very small. Take my advice and back the
horse from that "God-forsaken place."'

The man looked ashamed of himself and walked away.

Mr Dauntsey was well known in Sydney, where he had been popular before
he was sent to Barragong.

He came up with several friends, amongst them three ladies, who were
eager to see the famous grey he had said so much about.

'What a beautiful creature! Mr Dauntsey.'

'He is. I knew you would admire him; and he is as good as he looks, Miss
Corbold.'

The lady who had admired Grey Bird was about four-and-twenty and very
good-looking. She was a cousin of Mr Dauntsey's and had been to
Barragong once or twice.

'Why do you persist in calling me Miss Corbold?' she said, smiling. 'It
used to be Molly.'

'You have grown beyond Molly,' he replied.

'Oh, no, indeed I have not, and Molly I insist it shall be.'

'I am quite willing, Molly.'

'That's better. Now show me Mr Dennis, the man with the history. What a
sad life his must have been! Is he very interesting?'

'Very, and as good a fellow as ever lived. He is just saddling the
horse.'

Molly Corbold looked at Jim Dennis, and her scrutiny was satisfactory.

'Will you introduce me?' she said.

'With pleasure. I am sure you will like him.'

Jim Dennis, having put Grey Bird to rights, left him in charge of the
attendant to walk him about.

'Allow me to introduce Miss Corbold,' said Adye Dauntsey.

Jim Dennis, raised his hat, and, as he shook her hand, he thought,--

'What a good-looking woman.'

'I have heard so much about you from my cousin,' she said, 'that I was
anxious to meet you. What a splendid horse Grey Bird is!'

'I am glad you like him,' said Jim, well pleased. 'I think he will run
a good race. My son rides him. Here he is,' and he introduced Willie.

Molly Corbold liked the son at first sight as well as she had done the
father, and she expressed the hope that he would win the race.

'I think so,' said Willie. 'I shall try my very best.'

There was not much time for conversation, as the signal was given for
the horses to go to the post.

Amidst a chorus of good wishes Willie was lifted into the saddle, and
Grey Bird walked quietly down the paddock.

Defiance, the favourite, had been mobbed by the people, and his trainer
was glad the ordeal was over.

The roar of the ring could be heard and the hoarse shouting of the odds.
There had been several ups and downs in the market, and Grey Bird again
touched twenty to one, so many men, after looking him over, deciding to
'save' on him.

Jim Dennis met Chris Shaw as he walked towards the stand. Shaw had
backed Target to win him a good stake and was sanguine of success.

'What chance has Grey Bird?' he said to Jim.

'I advise you to have a trifle on at the odds; but of course you have
backed your own horse.'

'Yes, and he'll run well. I think I will have a score on yours. Are you
going for a big stake?'

'Big for me. I have an object in view.'

'What is it?'

'Cudgegong,' laughed Jim.

'By Jove, you shall have it! I'm sick and tired of it, and can make
better use of the money. I hope you beat me, upon my word I do,' said
Chris Shaw.

'I shall not be able to pay all the cash down--'

'Never mind that. You will work it off. How much do you stand to win on
Grey Bird?'

'About twelve thousand.'

'Then you shall have Cudgegong for that amount of cash down if you win.'

'It is very kind of you,' said Jim.

'Not at all. You are doing me a kindness by taking it off my hands,' and
he hurried away after a friend.

Jim Dennis had not expected this, and it made him more anxious to win.

He walked across the ring and joined Mr Dauntsey and Dr Tom. The horses
were passing in the preliminary canter with Target leading.

'That's Chris Shaw's horse,' said Dr Tom. 'I trust you will lower those
colours like you did at Swamp Creek.'

'I have just left Mr Shaw and he hopes the same thing,' said Jim.

'Surely he has no desire to be beaten,' said Mr Dauntsey.

'He wants me to win,' said Jim. 'He has promised to let me have
Cudgegong for twelve thousand down, and said he hoped Grey Bird would
win, so that I could take it off his hands.'

'They are a rum lot, these Shaws,' was Dr Tom's comment.

'Here we are! By Jove, look at him! What a horse! Willie sits him as
firm as a rock,' said Mr Dauntsey as Grey Bird swept past amidst a
murmur of admiration from the crowd.

'No horse went better,' said Jim, as the last of the eighteen runners
galloped past.

'I have a spare fiver,' said Dr Tom, 'I'll risk a bit more,' and away he
went into the ring. 'I had a job to get a hundred to five,' he said on
his return. 'He will start at a shorter price than that. I heard Chris
Shaw back him.'

Mr Dauntsey also stood to win a fair amount, and thought it nothing
derogatory to his position to do so.

Some delay took place at the post, and this told against the heavy
weights.

Willie did not mean to be jostled out of his position by the local
jockeys, who seemed to regard him with a certain amount of contempt.
Frighten him they could not, as they quickly discovered.

'Now, then, pull out!' said Jack Ashton, as he tried to force Defiance
between Grey Bird and the rails.

Willie took no notice of him.

'Pull out, you country-bred imp! Do you hear me?' yelled Ashton in a
rage.

Still Willie made no answer; but he thought,--

'If I get alongside you at the finish I'll show you what a country-bred
imp can do!'

'Go back, Ashton!' shouted the starter. 'The lad's in his right place.
You can't have it all your own way.'

Jack Ashton had given the starter a lot of trouble at different times,
and that official was glad of a chance to rebuke him. He also admired
Willie's pluck and patience.

'That little beggar sha'n't be left if I can help it,' he said to
himself.

Ashton was in a furious passion. Being the crack jockey, and on the
favourite, he thought he ought to do as he pleased.

Target was next to Grey Bird, and Hurley, his jockey, said to Willie,--

'I'm glad you held your own with him. He's a bully. It doesn't matter
much to you, because you don't often ride against him, but with us chaps
it's different. He's a dangerous beggar. You steer clear of him in the
race or he'll like as not drive you over the rails.'

'Thanks,' said Willie. 'It is very good of you to tell me. I'll keep a
sharp lookout.'

In another minute the flag was lowered and the lot went off to a very
fair start.



CHAPTER XXIX

A GLORIOUS VICTORY


Grey Bird being a thorough stayer, Willie determined to make the most of
his light weight, but the horse was not a quick beginner, and when
fairly in his stride half the field was ahead of him.

Tatters, a six-stone chance with a smart light-weight named Jones in the
saddle, made the running at a great pace, and so had a lead of many
lengths. In a cluster came half-a-dozen more, then Defiance and Target,
with Grey Bird on the rails behind them.

At the end of the first mile Tatters still held the lead, and was going
so well that some people thought he might retain it to the end.

At this distance Defiance crept up closer with Target, and Willie kept
Grey Bird near them.

As they passed the stand Tatters led, the bright orange jacket showing
out distinctly.

The favourite was going well, pulling Ashton out of the saddle.

'Willie's on the rails,' said Mr Dauntsey. 'I hope he will not be shut
in next time round.'

'It is good going there,' replied Jim, 'and he'll manage to get through,
never fear.'

Dr Tom was excited; he had never stood a chance of handling such a lump
sum before. Six hundred pounds! It seemed untold wealth to him.

He fixed his eyes on the grey horse and did not see any of the others.

Round the turn and past the road they swept, the orange jacket still in
the lead, but the others were gradually drawing nearer. It was a fine
race so far, all the runners being well together.

Willie was anxious for an opening, and it came sooner than he
anticipated. As they entered the back stretch, round the bend, Target
ran wide and bored Defiance out, and this gave Willie a chance.

With marvellous quickness he shot Grey Bird through the opening and went
along at a great rate after Tatters. It was a good bit of horsemanship,
and recognised as such on the stands.

'That up-country fellow knows how to ride,' said someone at the back of
Jim Dennis's party.

'He does indeed. It was a fine move on his part to squeeze through;
there was some risk in it. Won't Ashton be mad! He fancies he is the
only man can do such things,' replied the gentleman with him.

Jim Dennis was in high spirits and so were his friends.

'He must be as cool as iced water,' said Dr Tom, 'to slip through like
that. What a run I am having for my money.'

'And you look like winning it,' said Mr Dauntsey.

The yellow jacket was fast drawing nearer the orange, and a couple of
lengths behind Grey Bird came the favourite, and Target, followed by
Hova, Baby, Warfare and Walwa, the remainder going well.

Past the top bend they went, and there was a great race for the home
turn.

Willie 'hugged' the rails with Grey Bird, and he felt his mount was
going better than he had ever done. The horse seemed to feel the
excitement of his surroundings and the exultation of being at the head,
or nearly so, of a Sydney Cup field.

Grey Bird was not a 'shirker' at any time, but he was surpassing himself
on this occasion.

Jack Ashton was very wrath when he saw the grey shoot past him on the
rails, and he was now making up for the ground he had lost.

Defiance, despite his big weight, held his own, and as the turn into the
straight was reached Ashton sent him along at top speed, and drew
alongside Grey Bird as they rounded the bend.

Willie saw the white jacket, and recollected what Hurley, the rider of
Target, had said to him.

Jack Ashton closed in upon him until Defiance seemed to bore Grey Bird
right on to the rails.

The riders' legs actually touched, but Willie kept his head and sang
out,--

'Ride fair. Give me room!'

Jack Ashton made no reply, but tried his best to head Grey Bird.

This was more than he could accomplish, and he set his teeth and vowed
vengeance on Willie Dennis.

Neck and neck they raced together, with Tatters a couple of lengths
ahead, and Target, Warfare and Walwa close behind, Bung Bung coming fast
on the outside.

The crowd on the stand and the lawn was seething with excitement.

The favourite was drawing ahead, the white jacket looked dangerous, and
visions of spoiling the bookmakers arose in the minds of his backers.

'What a pace!' exclaimed Dr Tom.

'It's a terribly fast race,' answered Jim; 'but Grey Bird is as fleet as
the wind.'

'If Willie can hold his own with Jack Ashton he's a young wonder. Ashton
has frightened many a lad out of a race. Look there! He'll have Grey
Bird over the rails,' said Mr Dauntsey, the latter part of whose remark
was caused by Ashton boring on to Jim Dennis's horse.

'That's not fair riding,' said Dr Tom.

'It's foul riding,' said Jim, 'and Ashton ought to be reported for it. I
hear he is fond of cutting things fine.'

'The rider of the favourite, I suppose, thinks he may take liberties,'
said Dr Tom.

'He'll not take them with my horse,' said Jim.

The excitement was rising every moment; it was evident a desperate
struggle was at hand, for Bung Bung and Warfare, not to mention Target
and Walwa, were all dangerous. It was an open race three furlongs from
home, and the pent-up feelings of the people at last found vent.

At first there was a rumbling sound, which grew and swelled into a sort
of roar, and culminated in loud shouts.

'The favourite!' 'The favourite!' 'Defiance wins!' 'Go it, Ashton!'
'Bravo, Jack!'

Then a momentary pause in the din, and again!

'Grey Bird!' 'Grey Bird!' 'Bung Bung has it!' 'Walwa!' 'Walwa!'
according to the wishes of the backers of these horses.

Tatters had run himself out, and although Jones managed to hold the lead
he knew his mount was beaten.

As Tatters fell back it became necessary for Willie to pull out and pass
him, but Jack Ashton did not mean him to do so.

The crack jockey took in the situation at a glance.

Tatters was falling back beaten, and he raced Defiance level with him,
completely blocking Grey Bird, unless Willie Dennis risked going round
the leaders.

At this critical moment Willie almost slipped out of his saddle, his
left stirrup's leather having given way. He swayed to one side, and for
a second thought it was all up with him, but by a vigorous effort he
righted himself.

They were all in view of the crowd on the stand, and a terrific cheer
went up as he made his clever recovery. It was a marvellous bit of work,
and lovers of racing are not slow at recognising skill and pluck.

'Wonderful!' said Dr Tom; 'but it will lose him the race.'

'If Grey Bird wins now it will be the most sensational finish I have
ever seen,' said Mr Dauntsey.

Jim Dennis made no reply. He saw what had happened and he felt his hopes
of securing Cudgegong were extinguished for some time to come.

His disappointment was, however, mitigated by his son's superb riding,
and he felt proud of 'the little chap' and hoped for the best. Tatters
fell back beaten and Grey Bird passed him on the outside.

Defiance on the rails was a length or more to the good, and Willie was
handicapped by the broken leather. He stuck to his work, and Grey Bird
quickly made up the lost ground. Jack Ashton was certain of success now
and took matters easily.

He little thought Grey Bird and the 'up-country imp' were coming on the
outside at a great rate.

Bung Bung had put in a brilliant run and was close up with Jim Dennis's
horse. Target was not beaten, and Hurley was riding him out for a place.

Willie heard the deafening shouts, and so did Grey Bird, and horse and
rider were encouraged by the applause which many affect to despise but
secretly rejoice at in their hearts.

Jack Ashton received a shock when he was sure of a win.

He suddenly saw a yellow jacket on his left hand, and then he caught
sight of the pink-and-white of Bung Bung's jockey.

Had these horses dropped from the clouds? That country chap too, was he
a good rider, a worthy rival after all? He could hardly believe it, but
the indisputable evidence of his eyes convinced him. That yellow jacket
was not only visible, it was level with him for a moment, and then he
had not to look sideways to see it, for it was slightly ahead, and the
pink-and-white was level with him.

Seldom had Jack Ashton received such a startler. He rode Defiance for
all he was worth, and got every ounce out of the horse. The gallant top
weight ran a game as his name indicated he would. Defiance defied defeat
until his strength was exhausted. The great horse was giving away 'lumps
of weight' to Bung Bung and Grey Bird, and he did his level best to
enhance his reputation.

Amidst a tornado of maddening cheers and cries the trio raced neck and
neck. The white, the yellow, and the pink, seemed hopelessly mixed
together, and they could not be separated.

Jim Dennis held his breath and caught hold of Dr Tom's arm.

Dr Tom emitted a sound somewhat resembling a groan, so intense was his
anxiety, and to relieve the tension grasped Mr Dauntsey's arm, until the
worthy magistrate winced in spite of the excitement he was under.

So great was the struggle, such a powerful effect had it on the dense
mass of people that they had barely enough breath left to shout.

Willie saw the judge's box, he saw the head of Defiance on one side, his
red nostrils glowing like coals, his eyes starting out, his neck
outstretched, and heard the gallant horse's breath coming in sobs and
gasps.

On the other side was the head of Bung Bung, who was equally done up,
and whose eyes had a dull, beaten look in them.

He saw the head of Grey Bird was slightly in front of the other two
heads, and, by a great effort, he lifted the grey forward and shot him
past the post--a winner by a neck; and Bung Bung just beat Defiance by a
head for second place.

The scene which followed baffles description.

As Jim Dennis led in the beautiful grey tumultuous cheering rent the
air.

'Bravo, young un!' 'Well ridden!' 'He's lost a stirrup!' 'Great riding,
by Jove!' 'Hurrah for the little chap!' this last from the excited Dr
Tom.

Smiling in triumph, Willie dismounted, unbuckled the saddle-girths and
went to weigh in.

The scale _would not go down_.

'Fetch the bridle,' said Willie.

In an agony of suspense Jim Dennis waited for the bridle. He seemed to
live weeks in the short space of a minute. As for Willie, he went very
pale, but retained his nerve with wonderful coolness.

The bridle was handed to him and the scale turned.

'All right.'

What a welcome sound! The cheers broke out again, and Willie Dennis,
Grey Bird and the little party from 'up country' were fairly mobbed.

'I never want such another couple of minutes as I had when the bridle
was sent for,' said Jim. 'It seemed like a lifetime.'

'I don't know how I felt,' said Willie. 'I seemed dazed, but when the
scale went down I could have yelled for joy.'

Jack Ashton was cut up at his defeat, and it did not improve his temper
when Willie remarked as he passed him in the paddock,--

'What about the "up-country imp" now?'

Ashton scowled at him and made no reply.



CHAPTER XXX

IN THE DAYS OF PROSPERITY


'It is five years since Grey Bird won the Sydney Cup, and I feel all the
excitement over again as I look at him,' said Dr Tom, as he admired the
handsome grey who was now doing stud duty at Cudgegong.

'You will never ride a better race than that, Willie--never. Don't you
wish you had accepted Mr M.'s offer and remained to ride for his stable?
Think of the big races he has won, and you would have ridden all those
winners. What a triumph that would have been!'

'I am far happier here,' said Willie Dennis. 'My father has been so kind
to me ever since I was a little chap that it would have been selfish on
my part to leave him in his loneliness. It was no sacrifice, I assure
you, Dr Tom, because I love station life.'

'You are a good lad, and your father may well be proud of you. I expect
you will be married one of these days,' said Dr Tom.

'No prospects of it yet,' said Willie, laughing; 'and I am quite
contented.'

'I must look round for a suitable mate,' said Dr Tom. 'It is not good
for man to live alone.'

'You are a standing refutation of that saying,' replied Willie. 'It is
different with me. I was cut out for an old bachelor.'

Cudgegong and Wanabeen were now the property of Jim Dennis, and he was a
prosperous man. He paid down twelve thousand pounds, after settling day,
over Grey Bird's Cup, to Chris Shaw, and the whole of the purchase money
was handed over in three years.

Chris Shaw was as glad to handle the money and be rid of the station as
Jim Dennis was to buy it, so they were mutually satisfied. Only one bad
season had troubled them, and during that time Jim Dennis lost heavily,
but quickly recouped himself when better days dawned.

Sergeant Doonan married Sal, and Jim Dennis had to look out for another
housekeeper.

He searched in vain for some time, until at last he was well-nigh in
despair of securing a suitable person. About this time he visited
Barragong, and again met Molly Corbold at Adye Dauntsey's house.

The magistrate's wife died suddenly and she came to keep house for her
cousin.

Molly Corbold's father had met with many severe reverses in business in
Sydney, and she was glad to accept such a position as Adye Dauntsey
offered her in order to relieve him. She admired Jim Dennis and was not
afraid to show it, and he was not insensible to her charms and many good
qualities, but considered she was 'a cut above him,' as he put it.

Mr Dauntsey saw how matters were drifting and was not ill-pleased. He
knew Jim Dennis's worth, and also that he was a man of substance and
well calculated to make a woman like Molly Corbold happy.

'Molly,' he said to her one day, when Jim Dennis had returned to
Wanabeen. 'I think Dennis admires you. Do you like him?'

'Yes, I like him very much,' she replied openly. 'He is a very genuine
man.'

'Precisely, that exactly describes him,' said her cousin. 'He is well
off, and, although not well educated, he may be said to be one of
Nature's best make. He is coming again next week.'

'Oh,' she replied, 'I shall be very pleased to see him.'

Jim Dennis came and tried his chance, and Molly Corbold accepted him as
her husband, and was thankful she had secured such a good match.

They were married, and at the time of which we read had been living
happily together for three years at Cudgegong. Willie Dennis was very
fond of his father's wife, and they were a united family.

Jim Dennis found it very different living at Cudgegong, with such a
clever wife as Molly, to the deserted life he spent at Wanabeen.

He told her the history of his past life, omitting no details, and she
pitied him for all he had suffered.

Molly Dennis was as popular as her husband at Swamp Creek, which had
developed into quite an important township owing to the discovery of
gold in the vicinity.

The population had increased by leaps and bounds, until Dr Tom found he
had quite as much work on his hands as he could manage, and had serious
thoughts of obtaining the services of an assistant from Sydney.

Sergeant Doonan's position was no sinecure, and he had his headquarters
at Swamp Creek. The rough element, attracted by the rush for gold,
abounded, but he kept them in order with a firm hand, and Swamp Creek
was grateful to him.

The races there were the most important out West, and the valuable
prizes given attracted owners from far distant parts.

It was at such races as these Willie Dennis often rode his father's
horses with signal success, but he refused to ride for anyone else,
although offered large sums to do so. Jim Dennis remonstrated with him,
but Willie stood firm, and his father allowed him to have his own way.

The Cudgegong stud was fast becoming famous, and breeders from many
parts of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland visited the station
and made extensive purchases.

They were surprised to find in Molly Dennis a well-educated, refined
woman, and wondered how she managed to exist in such a lonely part.

Molly Dennis was not lonely; she was very happy. Her husband was kind
and devoted to her, and she did all in her power to please him. They
generally had someone staying with them, and constant visitors came from
Swamp Creek and Barragong. Altogether it was a 'jolly life,' Molly said,
and she meant it.

She was an excellent horsewoman, and had long gallops over the big
paddocks with Willie Dennis.

Adye Dauntsey generally spent the week-end with them, and on the
occasion of these visits Dr Tom would drop in for a chat.

Dr Tom had never been so prosperous before, and he was quite accustomed
to having his fees paid, a thing he had never dreamt of even in his most
sanguine moments.

He had built a new house at Swamp Creek, and his buggy and pair was
highly presentable.

Altogether Dr Tom was somewhat of a reformed character, but he was still
the same good-natured, even-tempered, kind-hearted man who had answered
Jim Dennis's call for help when Willie lay at death's door.

No man was more beloved than the doctor, and no trouble was too great,
he thought, to deserve the kindness of his many friends. Molly Dennis
was his favourite, and he amused her for hours with his quaint tales of
ship life and his early struggles at Swamp Creek. He still had a mania
for poetry, and Molly Dennis was his theme, 'his inspiration,' he said.

'I declare I am quite jealous of you, doctor,' said Jim. 'I wish you
would teach me to write poetry so that I might have a chance of winning
back Molly's affections.'

'Poetry is not taught,' said Dr Tom, grandly. 'It is born in men. It is
a genius, a gift from the gods.'

'You don't say so?' replied Jim. 'Then you are a spoilt child of the
gods.'

'Very much spoilt,' said Dr Tom, laughing. 'In order to calm your
jealous suspicions I will write my next poem upon your many admirable
qualities.'

'Don't; please spare me that,' said Jim. 'I could not stand it. Anything
but that, doctor. Have some mercy upon me.'

'Jim, you are too severe upon him,' said Molly. 'I am sure some of Dr
Tom's poetry is beautiful; the sentiment is charming.'

'I am amply repaid,' said the doctor. 'Such praise from so fair a lady
is a grand recompense for hours of toil.'

They all laughed merrily, and Dr Tom vowed he would do something
brilliant in the future.

       *       *       *       *       *

One calm, peaceful night Jim Dennis sat on the broad verandah at
Cudgegong, and, looking across the green lands before him, thought over
the past and contrasted it with the present.

As far as his eyes could see he owned the land, it was his to hold for
ever, until he died.

After all, fortune had favoured him, and Providence, having chastened
him, was now amply recompensing him for his early sufferings.

He had a loving wife, a dutiful son; what more could he want?

He thought of the old days at Wanabeen; of the time when, well-nigh
broken-hearted, he learned Willie's mother, his wife, had deserted them.
It caused a passing sadness in the midst of his happiness. Then he
recalled how the sinning woman came back to die, and he clenched his
hands as he thought of Rodney Shaw and his villanies.

Of the fight at Barker's Creek he had a vivid recollection, and his eyes
glistened as he thought of the hand-to-hand conflict with Dalton's gang.

A light touch on his shoulder, and Molly said in a low voice,--

'Dreaming of the past, Jim? Do not recall it; think of the present--and
me.'

She nestled at his feet and laid her head on his knee. He stroked her
hair, and said,--

'I was thinking of the past, Molly, but it is a very far-off memory.
With you near me all the black days vanish and there is nothing but
light and joy and peace. I little thought such happiness as this would
ever be mine.'

'Then you are contented?'

'Yes; no man could be more so, and I owe it all to you,' he said.

The trials and troubles of Jim Dennis's earlier days were past, and the
autumn of his life was full of peace and contentment.


THE END



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  September 1901


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The special attention of the reading public is directed to the Books in
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  By NAT GOULD.
    Author of 'The Double Event,' etc.

  =Sporting Sketches (of Horses and Horsemen).=
  =A Racecourse Tragedy.= A Sporting Novel.
  =Warned Off.= A Sporting Novel.
  =Settling Day.= A Sporting Novel.


  By FOX RUSSELL.
      Author of 'The Haughtyshire Hunt,' etc.

  =Outridden.= Third Edition.
  =A Judas of To-day.=
  =Tricked.=


  By 'THORMANBY.'
      Author of 'The Horse and its Rider,' etc.

  =Romances of the Road.=
  =Boxers and their Battles.=
  =Captain Mounsell in Love, War and Adventure.=


  By G.G. (H.G. Harper).
      Author of 'Winkles a Winner,' etc.

  =Snooker's Racing Adventures.=
  =On the Grass.=
  =Horses I have met.=


  By C. DUDLEY LAMPEN.

  =Barcali, the Mutineer.= A Tale of the Great Pacific.


  By CHAS. JUNOR.
      Author of 'Dead Men's Tales,' etc.

  =A Ruby from the Sea.= A narrative of Adventure compiled from the
  Diary of Richard Brice, Esq., Consul at Malaga to the Court of
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  London: R.A. EVERETT & CO., 42 Essex Street, Strand, W.C.

  Press Opinions

  By NAT GOULD

  A RACECOURSE TRAGEDY

      'Most of the characters are delightful, and the love scenes
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  WARNED OFF

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  SPORTING SKETCHES

      'We are inclined to regard this volume as the best work he, Mr
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      'These vivid, varied and altogether delightful
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         *       *       *       *       *

  By G.G. (H.G. HARPER)

  SNOOKER'S RACING ADVENTURES
  (The Amusing Adventures of a Racing Man)

      'We have never read a book where so much of the inner circle is
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         *       *       *       *       *

  By FOX RUSSELL

  OUTRIDDEN

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  A JUDAS OF TO-DAY

      'The reader who likes his novels like his wines, "=full-bodied=,"
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      devices of the enemy, while the wicked in the closing chapters are
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      permitted to run at large so long as he did is one of those
      mysteries known only to the sensational novelist and his
      complacent reader.'--_Glasgow Herald, 11th July 1901._

         *       *       *       *       *

  By "THORMANBY"

  ROMANCES OF THE ROAD

      '=There is a fine old-world flavour about these stories=, "The
      Strange Passenger by the Night Mail," "The Highwayman's Bay Mare"
      and "The Snow-bound Chaise." There was always romance about the
      King's highway when the coaches thundered along. Thormanby, who,
      of course, is a master of all knowledge relating to the road,
      gives us ten short stories, which will pass the time pleasantly on
      a wet afternoon. =They are full of the life of the seventeenth
      century, when horses were such important adjuncts to man's life.=
      We hear of runaway couples, and bold highwaymen, and lonely inns,
      and a lady in a mask. =We do not regret one bit that they all
      belonged to another time than ours=, but we own to a certain
      pleasure in reading about them, just as we may like to turn over a
      bundle of old sporting prints.--_Glasgow Herald, 11th July 1901._

  BOXERS AND THEIR BATTLES

      'That the author writes well goes without saying. But he writes
      with point, graphically, a restricted sense of humour, and a
      capacity to make telling pictures that merits the highest praise.
      "Boxers and their Battles" should find a place in every English
      sportsman's library.'--_Birmingham Daily Gazette._

  London: R.A. EVERETT & CO., 42 Essex Street, Strand, W.C.


                     BOOKS ON HORSES


  BY FRANK T. BARTON, M.R.C.V.S.
  Author of 'Our Friend the Horse,' etc.

  The most recent and up-to-date work on this important subject

  THE VETERINARY MANUAL FOR HORSE OWNERS
  By FRANK T. BARTON, M.R.C.V.S.

  With about Sixty Illustrations from Original Drawings
  Crown 8vo, well printed and strongly bound, 10s. 6d. nett.

      The object of this 'Veterinary Manual' aims at supplying the
      intelligent horse owner with a thoroughly reliable book upon the
      general management of the horse in health, and its treatment when
      suffering from accident or labouring under disease.

      Every care possible has been taken to make the work 'practical' in
      its teaching with an avoidance of technical terms, without
      sacrificing facts of importance.

  SOME PRESS OPINIONS

      'The teaching of this book is up-to-date in its character, and it
      will certainly prove a boon to the farmer or owner when he happens
      to reside far from veterinary advice, and may require to act in an
      emergency.'--_Glasgow Herald._

      'After careful perusal we consider the book sound in its essential
      facts and certainly much preferable to the older
      manuals.'--_Veterinarian._

      'There is no doubt that the horse owner will find the manual very
      useful.'--_Field._

      'It is a manual which deserves a hearty welcome from those for
      whose use it has been designed, for it is a workmanlike, handy and
      comprehensive book.'--_Scotsman._

      'Mr Barton has written a book which will be of use to not a few
      people. The book takes rather a wider scope than most books of
      this class, as the author has written not only for horse owners
      but for veterinary students also. =By no means the least useful
      chapter in the book is that on shoes and shoeing, and it is
      only just to the author to say that he gives more particulars than
      can be found in any one work with which we are
      acquainted.='--_Saturday Review._

      'There is always room for a well-thought-out work by a practical
      writer who has a thorough knowledge of his subject, and the author
      has taken every care to render the work ("THE VETERINARY MANUAL")
      practical in its teaching.... Shoes and shoeing receive due
      attention, and the miscellaneous recipes, with a list of some
      commonly-used drugs and their doses, will be found extremely
      useful.'--_The Australasian._

         *       *       *       *       *

  HOW TO CHOOSE A HORSE
  Or, SELECTION BEFORE PURCHASE
  BY
  FRANK T. BARTON, M.R.C.V.S.

  Crown 8vo, Cloth, 2s. 6d.

  CONTENTS
      Special Parts and their Relationship to Unsoundness--Buying--The
      Age of the Horse--Horse Societies--Points of Typical Breeds and
      How to Choose--Objectionable Habits, etc.

         *       *       *       *       *

  THE GROOM'S GUIDE
  His Duties and How to Perform Them
  BY
  FRANK T. BARTON, M.R.C.V.S.

  Crown 8vo, Cloth, 2s. 6d.

  CONTENTS
      Foods and Feeding--Watering--Air--Ventilation--Cleaning
      Stables--Temperature of Stable--Bedding--Disinfectants.

      Cleaning Harness Mountings, Stirrups, Bits, etc.--Cleaning Rusty
      Bits--Cleaning Saddles--Cleaning Harness and Preservation of
      Same--List of Stable Requisites--Lamps and Candles--Measuring for
      Harness--Washing and Preservation of Carriages--Treatment of
      Horses on Board Ship, etc.


  London: R.A. EVERETT & CO., 42 Essex Street, Strand, W.C.

         *       *       *       *       *

  _A Letter to the Publishers from Earl Roberts, K.G., V.C., etc._

                                        25th March 1901.
      'Gentlemen,--I am desired by Field-Marshal Lord Roberts to
      acknowledge with many thanks the receipt of a copy of
      "Sharpshooting for Sport and War," by Mr W.W. Greener, which you
      have been good enough to send to him, and which his Lordship will
      read with much interest.--I am, Yours faithfully,
                       'H. STREATFIELD, Major, _Private Secretary_.'

  Second Edition. Completing 20th thousand.
  Crown 8vo, 200 pp., 90 Illustrations. Price 1s. In Cloth, 1s. 6d.
  nett.

  SHARPSHOOTING FOR SPORT AND WAR.
  By W.W. GREENER,
  Author of 'The Gun and its Development.'

  OPINIONS OF THE PRESS

      'No one who has read "THE GUN AND ITS DEVELOPMENT" and "THE
      BREECH-LOADER AND HOW TO USE IT" will have any hesitation in
      admitting that Mr W.W. Greener has a thorough knowledge of his
      subject. No less acceptable, we opine, will be the smaller
      BROCHURE, which has been recently published under the title of
      "SHARPSHOOTING," and which is, we are informed, already in a
      second edition. No doubt the present is an opportune time for a
      discussion of the subject, and in less than two hundred pages Mr
      Greener has contrived to give a good deal of practical
      information, made all the clearer by the illustrations which have
      been selected. In so far as the art of shooting with the rifle can
      be taught by words, Mr Greener has essayed to make all who read
      his treatise proficient sharpshooters, and his remarks, both in
      sporting and military weapons, are eminently practical.'--_The
      Field._

      'Like all men who have had any experience of rifle shooting,
      insists on training the beginner to shoot, and shoot well, at
      stationary targets at short distances, and only advancing as each
      stage is thoroughly mastered. He dilates on the benefits to be
      derived from having all men trained to use the rifle, and urges
      the Government to remit the annual tax for a gun license to all
      who can prove their efficiency as marksmen. The book is thoroughly
      practical, and is an excellent manual for all who are desirous of
      becoming sharpshooters.'--_Glasgow Herald._


  Yesterday, July 20th, 1901, the forty-first annual meeting of the
  National Rifle Association was brought to a close by the presentation
  of prizes by Field-Marshal Lord Roberts, Commander-in-Chief.

  LORD ROBERTS on Shooting.

  Earl Roberts, after presenting the prizes, said the war in South
  Africa had more than ever impressed him that rifle shooting was the
  most essential part of soldiers' training, and a qualification which
  took precedence of all others. Full-sized ranges were very necessary
  for practice, and he appealed to the patriotism of the British public
  not to unreasonably oppose the construction of such ranges, =as it was
  on the perfect shooting of our men that the efficiency of the British
  Army mainly depended=. He expressed his pleasure at witnessing such
  wonderful shooting that day.

  London: R.A. EVERETT & CO., 42 Essex Street, Strand, W.C.

         *       *       *       *       *

  Shots from a Lawyer's Gun
  A Manual of Law relating to Sporting Rights
  By NICHOLAS EVERITT
  (H.R.E.)

  A FEW PRESS OPINIONS

      'We have read this book from end to end with great pleasure. Mr
      Everitt's style is well calculated to lure any sportsman into
      reading his lectures to the end. Even the professional poacher may
      be grateful to the writer. The pages are full of chatty and
      amusing anecdotes. We may disinterestedly commend Mr Everitt's
      book, from which readers will obtain both sound instruction and
      more amusement than they would find in the average sensation
      novel.'--_The Field._

      'We can congratulate Mr Everitt on this interesting work. We may
      say that Mr Everitt's law is thoroughly sound.'--_Land and Water._

      'A comprehensive survey of all matters likely to interest
      sportsmen. It is interesting and amusing to note the number of
      popular fallacies which Mr Everitt explodes. Here hunting men will
      find that fox-hunting is a trespass in spite of a contrary popular
      belief; landowners will discern that the popular four-feet rule in
      connection with ditches is fallacious; shooting lawyers will find
      how easily they may be "cornered" by difficult questions of game
      ownership. The author's easy, familiar and yet instructive style
      will be recognised. The book is really an amusing dissertation in
      the form of articles and interviews on a subject of interest to
      all who live in the country. We can promise all buyers their full
      money's worth in both instruction and amusement.'--_Law Notes._

      'Mr Everitt has made many a good shot in his book, which mixes the
      useful with the agreeable. Mr Everitt is a safe guide. He knows
      his subject uncommonly well.'--_The Athenæum._

      'An instructive and, at the same time, an amusing little manual on
      this interesting subject, a good deal of it being given
      dramatically in the form of a dialogue between solicitor and
      client.'--_The Standard._

      '"Shots from a Lawyer's Gun" is one of those books which no
      country house should be without.'--_The Sporting Times or 'Pink
      'un.'_

      'We commend the book to all sportsmen and farmers, and do so
      because it is packed with information, and at the same time as
      readable as any novel.'--_The Leeds Mercury._

      'In reading this volume you can gain knowledge and have a jolly
      good laugh at the same time. There is not a dry sentence in the
      entire book. Sportsmen should read it, gamekeepers should read it,
      and so should tenant farmers and even poachers.'--_The Shooting
      Times._

  _Illustrated 8 pp. Prospectus Post Free._

  SPECIAL NOTICE.--A copy of this book has been graciously accepted by
  His Majesty the King.

  London; R.A. EVERETT & CO., 42 Essex Street, Strand, W.C.

         *       *       *       *       *

  Mrs Maclurcan's
  Cookery Book
  A Practical Cookery Book containing over 1000 recipes

  DEDICATED TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE THE COUNTESS OF HOPETOUN
  _Crown 8vo, cloth extra, 3s. 6d._

  PRESS OPINIONS

      'The book deals largely with different ways of cooking meats,
      poultry, fish, game, and the making of different soups, jellies,
      and sweets generally. A considerable part is devoted to the making
      of beverages, starting with "How to make Tea," and right through,
      including punches, claret, and champagne cup, and ending with the
      homely and refreshing beverage, ginger beer. Under the heading of
      "Useful Hints," there are receipts for almost every imaginable
      household matter, from the polishing of furniture down to the
      cleaning of white straw hats. There are also a host of toilet
      remedies, which all ladies should carefully
      read.'--_Australasian._

      'Up-to-dateness, variety, and a well-arranged collection of
      recipes accompanied by simple directions, without too many details
      to bewilder the reader, characterise this most useful book on
      cookery.'--_The Sheffield Independent._

      'As a cookery book to read, it is perhaps a little too matter of
      fact, but we cannot dip into it without gaining an appreciation to
      discover some dishes that have been met but never before laid
      bare.'--_Court Journal._

  London: R.A. EVERETT & CO., 42 Essex Street, Strand, W.C.

         *       *       *       *       *

  A Century of English
  Fox-Hunting
  By GEORGE F. UNDERHILL
  _Author of 'Hints to Hunting Men,' Etc._

  Demy 8vo, cloth, gilt top, with coloured frontispiece by
  John Leech, 9s. nett.

  PRESS OPINIONS

      'Fox-hunting is a tolerably well-worn theme; of books on the
      subject there is an abundance, both ancient and modern; so the
      author deserves credit for a fair measure of originality and
      presenting old friends in new dresses. "A Century of English
      Fox-Hunting" will prove a valuable addition to the libraries of
      all sportsmen.'--_Westminster Gazette._

      'The contents of the volume before us are remarkably cleverly
      compiled, for although many of the facts recorded within the cover
      will be familiar to the student of fox-hunting lore, yet even the
      most learned, we believe, will find some little anecdote of field
      craft that will be new to him.

      'Taking the volume as a whole, we consider it extremely well
      mapped out, and that it will have a large circulation is not
      only our desire, but our opinion as a sporting writer. We embrace
      this opportunity of congratulating you, Brother GEORGE F.
      UNDERHILL.'--_The Shooting Times and British Sportsman._

      'Mr GEORGE F. UNDERHILL has written a very entertaining book in
      his "Century of English Fox-Hunting." He has succeeded in all his
      purposes, and has produced an admirable volume, notwithstanding
      the fact that, as soon as he commenced his work, the war denuded
      the hunting field of many of the keenest fox-hunters. In short,
      the book is an apologia for, and the exposition of, sport, and
      will be welcomed in the libraries.'--_Army and Navy Gazette._

  London: R.A. EVERETT & CO., 42 Essex Street, Strand, W.C.

         *       *       *       *       *

  BOOKS ON SOUTH AFRICA
  Crown 8vo. Second impression. With specially designed cloth cover, 2s.


  In the Land of the Boers
  OR
  THE OTHER MAN AND MYSELF
  By Oliver Osborne
  ILLUSTRATED BY J.B. CLARK

  PRESS OPINIONS

      'Mr OLIVER OSBORNE belongs to that cheery company to whom hardship
      is a mere excuse for jocularity, and positive peril seems
      generally to suggest nothing more terrifying than a pun. It is an
      eminently readable record, for Mr Osborne was in Kruger's country
      at a very interesting time--the days of Barberton and the De Kaap
      Mines, the days when the Outlander first began to loom large in
      the Transvaal.'--_Academy._

      'A book with instruction and amusement in it.'--_Daily Telegraph._

      'Seldom has an unvarnished record formed more pleasant reading
      than does the account of these adventures.'--_Glasgow Herald._

      'This is a book of no ordinary literary merit.'--_Western Morning
      News._

         *       *       *       *       *

  Royal 8vo, Sewed, 1s. 6d.

  Britain and the Boers
  WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE
  WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA
  BY LEWIS APPLETON, F.R.H.S.
  _Author of 'Foreign Policy of Europe,' 'Memoirs of Henry Richard,'
  'Reminiscences of the Franco-German War,' Etc._


      Giving the political and diplomatic history of the relations and
      negotiations between Great Britain and the South African Republic,
      from its retrocession in 1881 down to the outbreak of war, October
      1899.

         *       *       *       *       *

  CAPTAIN HAYES'S EXPERIENCES AMONG THE BOERS

  Crown 8vo, bound in khaki cloth. With frontispiece. Price 5s.

  Among Horses in South Africa
  By Captain M.H. HAYES, F.R.C.V.S.
  _Author of 'Points of the Horse,' 'Among Horses in Russia,' Etc._

  London: R.A. EVERETT & CO., 42 Essex Street, Strand, W.C.

         *       *       *       *       *

  Are Racehorses Doped?

  No Racing Man should be without a Copy of 'Dopes'
  1s. Nett. Cloth, 1s. 6d.

  NATHANIEL GUBBINS' 'Slasher' on the LAST STATE OF THE TURF!

  DOPES: A Criticism of American Arts and English Efforts
  By NATHANIEL GUBBINS
  (Capt. E. Spencer)
  Author of 'Cakes and Ale,' 'The Great Game,' etc.

  PRESS OPINIONS

      'Remarkably lively reading.'--_Glasgow Herald._

      'Distinguished for the brightness and style made familiar by the
      author.'--_St James' Gazette._

      'The volume may be regarded as a text-book, and so far the best on
      the market.'--_Sportsman._

      'A very readable book, ably discussed from an English and American
      point of view.'--_County Gentleman._

      'It deals in a thoughtful and fairly exhaustive manner with the
      present state of the English Turf generally, and with the
      "American Invasion."'--_Westminster Gazette._

      'No one is more at home than Gubbins in the world of horses. This
      book will be read with amusement and instruction. Such a one will
      lay down the book with a sigh of satisfaction, whisper to himself
      "Good old pink 'un!" and before the waiter leaves the room call
      for what he may desire.'--_Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic
      News._

  London: R.A. EVERETT & CO., 42 Essex Street, Strand, W.C.

         *       *       *       *       *

  To be Published on October 7

  THE LOVE LETTERS of a Sportswoman
  By.....

  THE LOVE LETTERS of a Sportswoman
  By.....

  THE LOVE LETTERS of a Sportswoman
  By.....

  THE LOVE LETTERS of a Sportswoman
  By.....

  Published Price and further Particulars will be announced later

  London; R.A. EVERETT & CO., 42 Essex Street, Strand, W.C.

         *       *       *       *       *

  Crown 8vo, Illustrated, Cloth, 3s. ed.

  RACING
  By W.C. A. BLEW
  Author of 'The Quorn Hunt,' 'History of Steeplechasing,' etc.

  Famous Racehorses--Horse Owners--Trainers--Jockeys,
  Touts and Tipsters--Betting Men and Bookmakers,
  The Finances of the Turf, etc.

  OPINIONS OF THE PRESS

      'It may be recommended as easy and agreeable to read ... and a
      safe and trustworthy guide.'--_Athenæum._

      'He has written a book which contains chapters on "Famous
      Racehorses," "Horse Owners," "Trainers," "Jockeys,"
      "Steeplechasing," and other matters associated with the Turf.
      Those who in any way take an interest in horse-racing will not
      find a dull page in the volume.'--_Morning Post._

      'For these reasons this new work entitled "Racing," which, being
      written by that well-known authority, W.C. A. Blew, is naturally
      full of interesting information in all matters connected with the
      Turf, and is also written in a light, gossipy, and eminently
      readable form, will be welcomed and appreciated by all lovers of
      the sport of which it treats.'--_Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic
      News._

      'It is a very readable book, and contains a lot of valuable
      information.'--_Pall Mall Gazette._

  London: R.A. EVERETT & CO., 42 Essex Street, Strand, W.C.



  Transcriber's Notes:

    Obvious punctuation errors repaired.
    Page 81: word "hugh" changed to "huge" (place like huge scaffold)
    Page 88: word "kelp" changed to "help" (could not help feeling)
    Page 217: word "aleep" changed to "asleep" (She is asleep)
    Page 224: word "Cudegong" changed to "Cudgegong" (he rode on to
          Cudgegong)
    'Mrs. Maclurcan's Cookery Book' ad: word "op" changed to "of" (the
          countess of hopetoun)
    'In the Land of the Boers' ad: word "interesing" changed to
          "interesting" (a very interesting time)





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