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Title: The Bushranger's Secret
Author: Clarke, Henry, Mrs., 1853-1908
Language: English
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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.

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[Illustration: cover art]



[Frontispiece: "SO YOU HAVEN'T LEFT ME TO THE CROWS"  Page 159]



The Bushranger's Secret


BY

MRS. HENRY CLARKE


Author of "The Ravensworth Scholarship"
  "The Mystery of the Manor House" &c.



_ILLUSTRATED BY W. S. STACEY_



BLACKIE AND SON LIMITED

GLASGOW AND BOMBAY

_Printed and bound in Great Britain_



  BOOKS OF THIS SERIES


  _BOYS_

  The War of the Axe.                    J. Percy-Groves.
  Hammond's Hard Lines.                  Skelton Kuppord.
  The Bushranger's Secret.               Mrs. Henry Clarke.
  The Penang Pirate.                     John C. Hutcheson.
  In the Hands of the Malays.            G. A. Henty.
  In the Hands of the Cave Dwellers.     G. A. Henty.
  Dick Chester.                          G. I. Whitham.
  For the Old School.                    Florence Coombe.
  Sturdy and Strong.                     G. A. Henty.
  Marooned on Australia.                 E. Favenc.
  In the Great White Land.               Dr. Gordon Stables, R.N.
  The Captured Cruiser.                  C. J. Cutcliffe Hyne.
  Westward with Columbus.                Dr. Gordon Stables, R.N.
  Hal Hungerford.                        J. R. Hutchinson.
  Dr. Jolliffe's Boys.                   Lewis Hough.
  Olaf the Glorious.                     Robert Leighton.


  _GIRLS_

  The Two Dorothys.                      Mrs. Herbert Martin.
  Susan.                                 Amy Walton.
  The Hawthorns.                         Amy Walton.
  Penelope and the Others.               Amy Walton.
  The Ravensworth Scholarship.           Mrs. Henry Clarke.
  The Eversley Secrets.                  Evelyn Everett-Green.
  The Mystery of Kittle-Boy.             Jennie Chappell.
  A Soldier's Daughter.                  G. A. Henty.
  Comrades from Canada.                  May Wynne.
  An Unexpected Hero.                    Elizabeth J. Lysaght.
  The Ferry House Girls.                 Bessie Marchant.
  Meg's Friend.                          Alice Corkran.


  _BOYS AND GIRLS_

  Into the Haven.                        Annie S. Swan.
  A Pair of Clogs, and other Stories.    Amy Walton.
  That Merry Crew.                       Florence Coombe.
  Our Friend Jim.                        Geraldine Mockler.
  The House of the Five Poplars.         Lucy Crump.
  Three Bears and Gwen.                  May Wynne.
  Tony's Chums.                          May Wynne.
  When Auntie Lil took Charge.           May Wynne.
  The Eagle's Nest.                      S. E. Cartwright.
  Three's Company.                       May Wynne.
  The Lady Isobel.                       Eliza F. Pollard.


  BLACKIE AND SON LIMITED

  LONDON GLASGOW BOMBAY



CONTENTS.


Chap.

    I.  A Fugitive
   II.  Tempted!
  III.  At Warrandilla
   IV.  In Quest of Treasure
    V.  Deadman's Gully
   VI.  The Treasure Found
  VII.  Deserted!
 VIII.  Lost in the Bush
   IX.  Facing Death
    X.  A Grim Sort of Picnic
   XI.  A Ruthless Villain
  XII.  Under Green Boughs



ILLUSTRATIONS


"SO YOU HAVEN'T LEFT ME TO THE CROWS" . . . . . . _Frontispiece_

"HERE, GIVE IT ME BACK," SAID THE BUSHRANGER

THE MEETING IN "DEADMAN'S GULLY"

A TREACHEROUS BLOW



THE BUSHRANGER'S SECRET



CHAPTER I.

A FUGITIVE.

Two men were sitting together in a small outlying hut on one of the
great grazing farms of South Australia.  The hut was a comfortless
place.  The floor was of beaten earth.  Two bunks for sleeping were
fixed to the log wall.  Above one of the bunks hung the framed
photograph of a comely woman, with two bright-faced lads leaning
against her.  It was the only picture on the walls.  A rough table
stood opposite the window, and behind the table was a wooden bench.
Above the bench there was a shelf, and a stand for guns.

The men were sitting on the bench.  They had not long returned from a
hard day's riding.  The elder man was leaning back against the wall in
a heavy sleep.  The other, a slender, dark-eyed fellow, hardly more
than a lad, was looking at him with a gloomy contemptuous irritation in
his glance.

"Better asleep than awake, though," he muttered to himself, after a
moment.  "What can he talk about but cattle and horses?"

He shrugged his shoulders, and got up from his seat and stretched
himself.  The dog lying at the older man's feet, with its paw resting
on one of them, raised its head sharply at Gray's movement, but did not
attempt to get up even when Gray went to the door and opened it,
letting the light of their lamp flow out in a steady stream.

All round the hut stretched the gray level grass-lands, rolling away in
vast monotony to a far horizon.  A wide sky arched over them, in which
the stars were shining with a soft yet brilliant splendour.  Gray
glanced carelessly up at that glorious sky.  He believed himself to be
endowed with a keen sense of the beautiful.  He prided himself on his
distaste for ugly surroundings.  When he had earned the fortune he had
come to Australia to earn he meant to prove to the world how keen and
true his artistic tastes were.  But he glanced carelessly up at the
shining stars.  They had no message for him.

After standing in the doorway a moment he turned back into the hut,
shutting the door behind him with a sudden bang that made Harding start
up, rubbing his eyes.

"Why, I must have been asleep!" he said with a surprised air.  He drew
himself up to his full height, towering like a good-tempered giant over
Gray's slight figure.  "I'm tired out, and that's a fact," he added
apologetically.  "I think I'll turn in."  Gray did not answer.  He
flung himself down on the bench and began to pare his finger-nails,
looking at each finger critically as he finished it, and taking no
notice of Harding.  The elder man regarded him doubtfully.

"In a wax, old man?" he said in a deprecating voice.  Gray flung him a
vicious look over his shoulder, and returned to his nails.  Harding's
face had a very tender expression in it as he advanced a step and put
out his hand to touch the young man's shoulder.

"If it's anything I've done," he began in a shuffling, awkward, kindly
tone--

Gray turned upon him with startling suddenness.

"Anything you've done?" he demanded, squaring his arms on the table,
and fixing his dark glance on Harding.  "You needn't flatter yourself
that I care a rap for what you do or don't do.  Turn in, and leave me
to myself."

"Come, come, Gray, don't take a fellow like that.  You're tired out; I
can see you're just tired out."

"I _am_ tired out," responded Gray grimly.  "Tired of it all.  Tired
and sick of you along with the rest of it.  A pretty life this is to
live.  A pretty companion you make, don't you?"

"Well, well, things may better soon," said the other soothingly.  "I
wish I was more book-learned for your sake, old fellow.  But that's
past wishing for, ain't it?  And you'll have to make the best of me for
a spell."

"Best or worst, I can't endure this life any longer," returned Gray
impatiently.  "I'll ride over to the station to-morrow and give it up;
or end it quicker than that perhaps;" and he glanced up with a dark
look at the loaded gun lying across the shelf.

Harding knew Gray well enough to be able to disregard that look, but he
spoke very seriously.

"You'll not be such a foolish lad as to throw up your berth in a fit of
temper.  This won't last much longer.  You will be called in to the
station in a week or two and given a better post; and it's your duty to
stick on here till you're called in, you see."

"Duty!"  Gray flung the word at him like a missile.

Harding's mild eyes looked at him in gentle reproof.

"It's a fine thing to do, my lad.  No man can do more if he lived in a
king's palace.  And a man who does his duty is greater than a king."

"That's all rubbish, talk like that," returned Gray sharply.  "You just
drop it, Harding."

He got up, thrusting his hands deep into his pockets, and leant against
the wall.  His eyes went round the hut.

"A king's palace!" he said with a hard laugh.  "Verily it needs strong
imagination to think of such a place here.  What a hole to live in!
But I'll not stand it much longer."

Harding did not answer this time.  He went up to his bunk and took from
under the pillow his little shabbily bound Bible and sat down to read
his evening chapter.

Gray watched him moodily; but in a moment his attention was drawn off
by the strange behaviour of the dog, which, when Harding had sat down
on his bunk, had crawled under it.

But it had come out again almost at once, and now stood in the middle
of the hut, with its head bent and its ears upraised in the attitude of
intent listening.

"What's the matter with the dog?" said Gray.  "He hears somebody."

Harding looked up.

"Nobody ever comes this way; it's out of the track.  Come here, Watch.
You're dreaming, old fellow."

The dog turned its head and looked at its master, gave a slow wag of
its tail to show that it heard his voice, and then with a dash it
sprang at the door, barking fiercely.

Harding got up and flung back the door.  His movement was so sudden,
that a man who had crept up to the hut and was now leaning against the
door had no time to recover himself, and staggered forward into the
hut.  Watch retreated, still growling fiercely, but restrained from
attacking the stranger by a gesture of its master.  Gray made a clutch
at the gun above his head, but the next moment withdrew his hand.  That
pitiful, abject, trembling fugitive was not a man to take arms against.

The stranger staggered across the hut and crouched down against the
opposite wall, breathing in short hurried pants.  His face was
painfully thin, and as white as death.  From a long jagged wound, half
hidden by his matted hair, blood was trickling in a dark slow stream.
The clothes he wore were torn to tatters.  You could see his skin
through the rents.

He crouched back against the wall, hugging his arms against his breast,
and looking from Gray to Harding with a wild agonized entreaty in his
eyes.  It was the look of a hunted animal appealing for mercy rather
than the look of a man asking help of fellow-men.  He was evidently
unable to speak.  He tried to articulate something, but his baked,
blistered lips refused their office.

"He's just done for," said Gray.  Harding nodded, and going up to the
pannikin of cold tea on the shelf took out some in a cup and held it to
the stranger's lips.  He drank it up greedily and then words came to
him.

"Don't give me up," he cried out in a strange hoarse scream, and fell
along the floor huddled up in a dreadful heap.

The two men looked at each other.

"It's plain enough to see what he is," said Gray with a slight shrug of
the shoulders.  "Shall we have to entertain the rest of the gang, do
you think?"

"The police, more likely, lad.  They're close on his track, I fancy."

He bent over the man and straightened him out.  Gray did not attempt to
help him; he stood looking down at the wretched fugitive with a cold
unsympathizing curiosity in his handsome face as he said:

"He isn't dead, is he?"

As he spoke the man opened his eyes and gazed up at them.  Wild
gleaming dark eyes they were, looking all the darker for the haggard
pallor of his face.  He raised himself on his elbow and made a clutch
at his breast.  There was something hidden there, and he kept his hand
closed upon it.

Harding put the cup with more tea to his lips again, and again he drank
greedily.  Then he tried to raise himself into a sitting posture, but
sank back on the floor.

"I'll cheat the beaks after all," he said hoarsely.  A grim smile
flickered over his face.  "I swore I'd never be caught."

He looked from one man to the other.

"They'll make no gallows-bird o' me," he added with a sort of hoarse
chuckle.  He still kept his hand clutched upon his breast.  Gray
noticed the action, and a vivid curiosity rose up in him to know what
the man kept so jealously hidden there.  He must have shown this in his
face, for the man addressed him sharply.

"What are you starin' at, eh?  Do you think I've got the Kohinoor
hidden about me?  Well, I ain't got it."

"I don't think anything about you, my man," replied Gray loftily.  He
turned to Harding.  "What are we going to do with him?"

"Lend me a hand and we'll lift him on my bunk," said Harding.

"I'll lie here," broke from the man.  "You just leave me alone."  He
pushed away the food Harding offered him.  "I can't swallow.  Just
leave me alone."

Gray shrugged his shoulders and walked to the door.  The man's eyes
followed him with a suspicious glance.

"Thinks himself a fine gentleman, it's plain," he muttered.  Then he
beckoned to Harding.  "Do you know Princes Street, Adelaide, mate?" he
whispered.

Harding nodded.

"No. 5 Princes Street, top floor.  You give two knocks.  Write that
down."

Harding took out his worn pocket-book and wrote it down.  The man lay
staring up at him, then with a sudden effort, as if his mind was at
last made up, he dragged a tattered scrap of yellow paper from his
breast and held it up to Harding.

"Send it--_there_," and he feebly nodded at the pocket-book in
Harding's hand.

Gray was still standing in the doorway, looking out over the level
pastures.  He half expected to hear the gallop of well-trained horses,
the shout of authoritative voices; but all was still, the police had
missed the track.  He shut the door and came back into the hut.

"Make your mind easy, my friend," he said in a half-sneering tone.
"It's all quiet outside."

The man gave him a dark look and raised himself towards Harding.

"Here, give it me back," he said, with a hasty snatch at it.  "Your
pal's no call to see it."

[Illustration: "HERE, GIVE IT ME BACK," SAID THE BUSHRANGER]

Harding had raised the paper towards the lamp-light, and was looking
scrutinizingly at it.  It seemed to be a rough map.  There was a wavy
line that evidently represented the course of a ravine or gully, and on
each side were jagged marks that betokened rising ground.  Right across
the paper ran the words in large ill-formed characters:

"_Deadman's Gully._"

About the middle of the paper there was a sort of big blot, and
underneath in smaller words was written:

"_Big gum.  Dig five feet due south from hole._"

Gray came leisurely up to Harding's side.

"What is it?" he said, holding out his hand for the paper.

A scowl came over the face of the man on the ground.  He flung himself
upward and snatched the paper from Harding's hand with a violent oath.
The effort was too much for him, and he fell back groaning and
helpless.  But he still kept the paper clutched in his right hand, and
his eyes fixed themselves on Gray with something of the look of a
trapped wild beast.

"Keep off, can't you!" he gasped out.  "A pretty gentleman you are,
pryin' and sneakin' like that."

Gray stood over him, looking down upon him with a cold cynical regard
that seemed to madden the man.

"Better step back and leave him to me," whispered Harding.

Gray laughed.

"All right! but play fair, old fellow."

Harding's mild eyes looked their wonder at him, but Gray only laughed
again and went back to the table, where he sat with his head propped on
his hands watching the two.

Harding dragged his box out from under his bunk and sat down on it.
The man lay still for a moment and then painfully raised himself into a
sitting posture against the wall.

"Look here," he said.  "Do you think I'm dyin'?"

"Yes," said Harding briefly.

"Before mornin'?"

"I don't believe you have many hours to live."

"Right, that's what I think myself.  I've cheated the beaks, eh?"

Harding was silent.  The man looked sharply at him.

"You've got that address written down?"

"Yes, but I can't send that paper."

"You can't send it?"

The words dropped slowly from the man's lips.

"Of course I can't," returned Harding.  "You know that well enough."

"You won't send it," repeated the man again, with a dull rage in his
voice.  The paper was still clutched in his hand, and he looked at it
and then up at Harding.  "There's a fortin in it," he whispered under
his breath.  "Bill 'ull go shares.  Here, you take it.  You go to 5
Princes Street, top floor, and ask for Bill Clay.  He'll go shares, and
thankful."

Harding made no attempt to take the paper.  He merely said:

"Tear it up if you like, but if you give it to me I shall hand it over
to the police."

The man stared at him with a fierce incredulity in his gleaming dark
eyes.

"There's a fortin in it," he repeated, as if the words must convince
Harding of his foolishness--"a fortin, mate.  And you carn't miss the
place.  Bill, he knows Deadman's Gully."

He held out the paper, but Harding shook his head and said:

"You are wasting your words."

"You won't send it?  Look here, just look here."  He stopped to moisten
his dry lips, and then went on:

"You've heard of Tom Dearing?"

Harding nodded.  It was the name of a noted bushranger, whose last
crime had been a daring robbery of the chief bank of Adelaide.

"Well, I'm Tom Dearing.  Now you know."

Harding gazed silently at him.  He could not get the right words to
speak, but it did not need words to make Dearing understand the intense
ardent desire to help him that was flooding Harding's soul.  It
affected the man strangely.  He forgot the buried treasure for a
moment.  The paper fluttered out of his hand and fell on the floor as
he cried:

"You're sorry for me; sorry for _me_!"

"I'm dead sorry for you, lad," said Harding with slow fervent
utterance.  "You've been spending your life in getting trash like
that"--he waved his hand toward the paper.  "And now you've got to die,
and go before God.  He'll be sorry for you too.  If I'm sorry, a man
like me, what must God's sorrow be for such a life as yours has been!
Don't think about that hateful money, lad.  Let it lie where you've
laid it if you like."

Harding took the paper up and thrust it back into the man's fingers as
he said:

"Tear it up.  But you've got a chance to show you're ashamed for what
you've done.  Give the money back to those you stole it from.  'Tis all
you can do now to make amends."

The man gazed irresolutely at him.

"You talk mighty fine, but what's to hinder you grabbin' the whole
blessed lot?"

"Nothing."

That single word said everything.  Dearing stared fixedly at Harding
for a moment, and then thrust the paper into his hand.

"Here, take it," he said.  "And if there's anything good you've got to
say to me, let's hear it.  I'll listen to you, old man.  You act up to
what you talk of."



CHAPTER II.

TEMPTED!

Dearing died next day just after sunrise.  They buried him down by the
creek, out of sight of the hut.

"So that's the end of Mr. Tom Dearing," said Gray, as they turned away
and walked back towards the hut.  "He didn't manage well, did he?"

Harding gave him one of his pained, wondering looks.

"Don't talk like that, dear lad," he said, "you don't mean it, you
know."

Gray gave a laugh that had not much mirth in it

"What a fellow you are, Harding!  You insist on everybody being as
virtuous as yourself.  But I mean exactly what I say.  Why did Mr. Tom
Dearing take to robbing his neighbour unless he could insure himself
against being found out?  It may be bad to be a rogue; it's
unpardonable to be known for one."

"What difference does it make in the sin, lad?" said Harding, with a
sorrowful look at him.  "And it's the sin we've got to think of."

"Yes, I know that's your view," said Gray, with a scarcely concealed
sneer.  "But it's a sadly old-fashioned one, my dear fellow."

Harding was silent.

"It's only the fear of being found out that keeps men honest," Gray
went on after a moment.  "We're told, from our youth up, that 'Honesty
is the best policy,' and most of us are sensible enough to believe
it--and so we're honest."

"Don't you believe it, lad?" burst with emphasis from Harding; and not
even Gray's flippant rejoinder, "Not believe that 'Honesty is the best
policy?' you can't mean that?" was able to check his eagerness to
speak.  He stopped in the path and laid his hand on Gray's arm, more
moved than Gray had ever seen him before.

"You wouldn't talk like that if you'd seen that poor fellow die, Gray,"
he said.  "There's more difference between doing right and doing wrong
than just that you get punished for wrong-doing if you're found out.
Sin drags a man down, lad; it eats the manhood out of him.  It makes a
ruin of what's best in him."

The words fell on ears dull to their meaning.  And Harding was quickly
silent; speech was always a difficult thing to him.  He had never
spoken so earnestly to Gray before.

When they came back to the hut Harding took out the tattered sheet of
yellow paper from his breast-pocket and placed it in the small desk
upon the shelf.

"One of us must take that over to the station," he said.  "The bank
authorities will be glad enough to get it."

Gray had heard enough of the conversation between Harding and Dearing
to know what the paper was about, though Harding had not mentioned it
before.

He stood at the door, swinging his heavy stock-whip in his hand.

"I should like to have a look at it," he said carelessly.

"So you shall, lad.  And I think you'd better go over with it.  But
we'll talk of that to-night."

"What made him hide the money, do you know?" he asked.

"He didn't say.  The police were after him, I expect, and he hoped to
be able to get back sometime and dig it up."

"I wonder if he had told any of his friends and acquaintances?" said
Gray, looking up at the desk where Harding had put the map.  "If so, I
wouldn't give much for the bank's chance of getting the money."

"He hadn't told a soul," was Harding's answer.  "He wanted me to send
the map to some mate of his, but he thought better of that afterwards."

"Better?"  Gray lifted his dark eyebrows.  "What does the bank want
with the money?  It's rich enough to stand the loss.  It isn't as if he
had robbed a poor man, you know.  It's the best thing I've heard of
him, his wanting to send that map to his mate."

"Stolen money does no good to anybody," said Harding rather shortly.

"It didn't do any good to him at any rate," said Gray.  He moved from
the door to let Harding pass.  "I suppose we must start," he went on
with a yawn.  "Another day of this hateful stock-riding! and another
day of it to-morrow, and the next day, and the next day!  How am I
going to stand it, I wonder?"

Harding had disappeared into the stable, and Gray said the last words
to himself.  There was a heavy frown on his handsome young face, bitter
discontent in his dark eyes.  When Harding brought his horse to him he
scarcely thanked him, and he rode away by his side in sullen silence.

When they returned that night, Harding was too fagged out to talk of
anything.  He went off into a heavy sleep directly after supper, and
Gray found it impossible to wake him sufficiently for rational
conversation.

The desk in which he had placed the paper was not locked, and Gray took
out the paper and sat down by the lamp to study it.  It was very easy
to understand.  Anyone who knew Deadman's Gully could not fail to find
the treasure, Gray thought to himself.

And his thoughts ran on something like this:

"Suppose I had found this map, not knowing whose it was, and had gone
to dig in Deadman's Gully on the chance, what a wonderful and blessed
change it would have made in my life?  No more hateful stock-riding; no
more dreary days spent with this dull-witted Harding; but a glad return
to civilized England, and a rich cultured life in congenial society.
If it only had happened so!  Yet, even now--?"

But there Gray's thoughts took pause.  The secret was not his alone.
It was shared by Harding.  Even if Harding would allow him to--  But
Harding would not, and there was an end of it.

They arranged at breakfast next morning that Gray should ride over to
the station the day after and carry the paper with him.  From the
station it could be easily sent in to the inspector of police with the
report of Dearing's death.

Gray got the paper down for another look at it.

"I believe I've heard you speak of Deadman's Gully, Harding."

"That's most likely, old man.  I know the place well.  I was stationed
within a mile of it once.  You know Rodwell's Peak?"

"Haven't the honour," said Gray flippantly.  He got up and put the
paper back in the desk.  "Rodwell's Peak and Deadman's Gully!  The
Australian mind isn't gifted with imagination in regard to names."

"Deadman's Gully got its name rightly enough.  It was the haunt of a
gang of bushrangers.  A track runs right by the mouth of it, and they
buried the travellers there that they waylaid.  That wasn't in my time,
but I've heard old Jebb speak of it.  He went with the police there
once.  A lonely dismal spot, he said, between high rocks, with a few
trees in the middle."

"Our friend Dearing knew the spot well, it seems."

"Yes; but he didn't belong to that lot.  He used it as a hiding-place,
I fancy.  He'd had a miserable life from what he told me."

Gray was putting on his boots, and apparently paying but little
attention to Harding's remarks.

"I suppose you could find it, though?" he said carelessly.

"Easily enough.  You've just got to follow the track till Rodwell's
Peak is right in front of you.  You've never been in the uplands, have
you, Gray?" Harding broke off to say.  "It's grand scenery.  You ought
to go there one day."

"Suppose we go there now."

Gray had finished putting on his boots, and was taking his whip down
from the nail.  He said it laughingly, looking back at Harding over his
shoulder.  Harding, who was washing the dishes at the table, returned
his laughing look with a wondering glance.

"How could we?  Who'd look after the stock?"

"Leave them to take care of themselves, the ugly brutes," went on Gray
in the same laughing way.  "Let us run up to Deadman's Gully and
appropriate that coin, Harding.  What do you say to that plan, eh?"

Harding laughed, but half-sadly.

"I believe you'd make a joke of anything, lad.  But don't joke about
that money.  It don't seem right."

"It isn't a joke the bank would appreciate at any rate," returned Gray,
with another laugh.

He did not continue the subject

"You get a talk with Mr. Morton, lad," said Harding to him, as they
stood outside the hut, ready to start for their day's work.  "He'll
listen to you, I know.  Tell him you're tired of the work here."

"What's the good of telling him that?" returned Gray, with a shrug of
his shoulders.  "I'm tired of work everywhere--tired and sick of this
horrible country, and everything and everybody in it."

"Well, Morton might help you to a post in Adelaide," said Harding, who
had been much troubled by Gray's constant despondency of late.  "You'd
have better company there.  It's more like England, you know."

"What post could he get me in Adelaide?" returned Gray, with a bitter
irony in his tone.  "And do you think it would be any pleasure to me to
sit in an office and see the carriages driving by?  I had enough of
that in England.  No, I'd be off to the diamond fields if I'd the cash
for the journey.  Do you think Morton would lend me that?"

Harding shook his head sorrowfully.

"I wish I knew how I could help you, lad.  I can't bear to see you like
this.  I wish Polly was here.  She'd know how to talk to you better
than I do."

Gray cast a scornful look at his companion's troubled face.  It rankled
in his heart that Harding should pity him.

"Are we going to stand talking here all day?" he said irritably.
"Aren't you going to get the horses out?"

They rode off in different directions that morning.

Gray went on a long round.  His ride took him to a distant part of the
run, from which he could get a glimpse of the far-off mountains.  The
peak towering up in the blue air so far above its fellows was Rodwell's
Peak.  Gray remembered now that Harding had pointed it out to him when
they had been together at this spot.  He checked his horse and paused
for some time gazing at the peak.  Close under it was Deadman's Gully!
Gray knew well enough how deceptive distance was in that clear air.  He
knew how far off those hills really were; but the sight of Rodwell's
Peak seemed to bring the money close within his grasp, to give the
convict's story a reality it had wanted before.  It was with a darker
face, and a heart overflowing with bitterness, that he left that spot
and turned his horse's head homewards.

Harding was not at home when he returned.  This was a new cause for
vexation, for Gray had to light the fire and prepare the tea, a task he
hated.  It was with a muttered curse against Harding that he set about
it, and he was ready with a very unpleasant greeting for him when he
should at last appear.

Gray was very slow and awkward over his unaccustomed work; but tea was
at last got ready.  Gray finished his meal, and still Harding had not
come.

It was getting dark now; the stars were coming out; the wide outlines
of the pastures were growing indistinct.  Gray went outside the hut and
looked searchingly in the direction from which he expected Harding to
come.  But there were no signs of him.

Up to this point Gray had not even wondered at his lateness; he had
only felt annoyed at it.  But now a wild thrill went over him.  Had
something happened?  Had Harding met with some accident?

Gray caught hold of the top rail of the fence to steady himself as the
thought swept over him.  It brought such a throbbing of wild hope with
it that Gray recoiled at his own feelings, but the feelings remained.
He could not crush them out.  He knew--even while the knowledge
horrified him--he knew that if Harding did not return, if some dark
fate had overtaken him, that he would be glad--yes, glad!  For then the
secret would be his alone.  Then there would be nothing to prevent him
from taking possession of the buried treasure.

But it was early yet.  He and Harding, Gray reflected, had often been
out together as late; only, Harding had said so decidedly that he
should be back long before dusk.  What could be keeping him?

Gray left the hut and walked for some distance along the grassy plain,
but he could see nothing, hear nothing.  He "coo'eed" once or twice,
but there was no answer.  All was dark and still under the starry sky.

He went back, and sat down in the hut and waited.  Once or twice he
thought of taking his horse and riding out to search for Harding.  But
that would be of no use, he reflected.  Harding had had a wide stretch
of country to cover.  It was a million chances to one that he could
find him.  So Gray sat still and waited.

Towards midnight he rose, drawn by a horrible sort of fascination, and
took the paper from Harding's desk.  He spread it out on the table, and
sat down to study it.  The more he looked at it the more easy it all
seemed to be.  It was such an absolutely safe thing.  No one could
possibly know the contents of that paper but himself and Harding.  If
Harding never came back he would be the sole owner of the secret.

Gray made his plans as he sat there with his eyes fixed on the faded,
dirty sheet.

He would destroy the paper--he did not need to keep it now; he knew its
contents too well.  Then he would give up his work at the first
opportunity, and after waiting a certain time would make his way to
Deadman's Gully, get the money, and be off to England.  Then he would
begin to live his life in earnest.

Dazzling visions of that new life began to rise before Gray.  Not a
life of vulgar dissipation--Gray was not that sort of man; he loathed
coarseness and riot--but a life of cultured ease, of refined luxury,
rich in all the beautiful things that wealth could bring him.

A sudden noise without brought him back with a shock to present
surroundings.  He rose hurriedly and pushed the paper back in the desk.
He thought Harding had returned.  But it was only his own horse moving
uneasily in the stable.  It was missing its companion, and was restless
and unhappy.

Gray soothed it as well as he could, and then went out once more to
look across the plain.  But dark and silent the land lay beneath the
stars.  No sound, no movement.

Gray went back into the hut and sat down again; but he did not touch
the paper any more.  The certainty that Harding would never return
began to grow upon him, and he was frightened at himself.  It was as if
his half-formed wishes had brought about Harding's fate.

The hours passed, and at last the dawn came--a clear, beautiful dawn,
with a fresh wind blowing over the grass and a rosy radiance flooding
the sky.

Gray went out once more to look along the horizon.  This time his
search was not in vain.  Almost at once he discerned a small moving
object against the sky.  It was moving slowly towards the hut.  Gray
knew at once what it was.  It was the dog, and Harding must be close
behind.

The dog came slowly on, moving with heavy, dragging steps, very unlike
its usual joyous bounds; and it was quite alone.  Gray could see no
other moving thing along the plains.  The dog had come back, but not
its master.

Gray hurried forward to meet it.  He saw the dog leap up when it caught
sight of him, and make a dash forwards, but before it had gone a dozen
steps it slackened its pace again and began to drag itself slowly
forward as if utterly worn out.

It was a pitiable object to look at.  Its beautiful coat was matted
with blood and dust.  One of its ears was almost torn away, and its
body was covered with wounds.  But it dragged itself onward, moaning
now and then, until it got near Gray.  Then it sank down on the grass
and lay there, faintly wagging its tail, and fixing its eyes on Gray
with a pathetic, supplicating glance.

It was plain to see that the dog had been attacked and sorely wounded.
Gray surmised that one or more of the herd had turned savage, and in
conflict with them Watch had got his wounds.  He bent over the dog and
unfastened its spiked collar.

"Poor old fellow, what--?"

He broke off suddenly.  A scrap of paper fastened by a string to the
collar caught his eye.  Some words were scrawled on it:

"_Badly hurt.  Watch will show--_"

There was an attempt at another word or two but they were illegible.

Gray read the paper and let it flutter from his fingers to the ground.
The next moment he picked it up again, and crushed it between his
fingers.

He had not made up his mind what to do; but the thought flashed through
him as he saw the paper lying on the ground, that it might be necessary
to destroy it, if--

If what?  Gray hardly dared finish the thought, even in the secrecy of
his own soul.

The dog followed his actions with a dumb pathetic glance, and then
slowly struggled to its feet.  It stood looking up at Gray, lifting one
paw towards him with an indescribable air of supplication in its whole
attitude.  Then it turned, and began to move in the direction it had
come from, looking round at every painful step to see if Gray would
follow.

A rush of pitiful feeling swept over Gray.  He ran back towards the hut
with one thought uppermost in his mind, to get his horse and go with
the dog.  Everything else was forgotten.  When he had run a short
distance he looked round at Watch and whistled.  The dog was lying on
the grass regarding him, but it refused to come at his whistle.

Gray stood still, and began to argue with himself.  It was absurd to
start at once.  Watch would die on the way.  It would be far better to
wait for some hours till the poor creature was rested.  Harding, in all
probability, was already dead.  Still he would go--of course he would
go; but not just yet.  It would be the height of absurdity to start
just now.  He would fetch Watch some water and food where it lay, if he
could not get the dog to go back to the hut.

He whistled again, but Watch made no response.  It lay with its head
between its paws, and its eyes still fixed on Gray.

"Stay there, then," muttered he impatiently, and went on towards the
hut.  The dog was still lying in the same place when he brought the
food and water for it.  It ate and drank greedily, and then rose and
shook itself with a glad, eager movement, and ran a few steps forward.
It was pitiful to see the change that went over the dog when on turning
its head it saw that Gray was walking steadily back towards the hut.
It lay down again, and gave a series of short barks and then a long
pitiful howl when it found that Gray still went steadily on.

Gray did not turn round this time.  He went into the hut, and sat down
to think the matter over.  What was the use of going with the dog at
all? he began to say to himself.  Would it not be better to go over to
the station at once? or, better still, go later on in the day, so as to
reach the station in the evening when the men would have come in from
their work?  Yet--was not every moment precious?  If he went at once
with the dog, might he not be in time?

He sat thus, swaying to and fro between different decisions, till a
violent scratching at the door roused him.  He got up and flung back
the door.  Watch stood there with drooping tail, and eyes full of dumb
entreaty.  Gray shut the door sharply on him.  "Lie down, sir!" he
exclaimed imperatively.  The sight of the dog filled him with rage.
Watch whined once or twice; but then came silence.

Gray sat down again at the table.  "I will not go," he said to himself.
And he put the thought of Harding from him, and tried to plan how he
would carry out his scheme.  But suddenly, before he was aware, a wave
of remorseful shame came over him, and he sprang to his feet as one
awaking from some hideous dream.  He grasped his whip and hurried to
the door; but,--

The dog was gone.



CHAPTER III.

AT WARRANDILLA.

An hour after, Gray was riding swiftly across the plains on his way to
the station.  He was urging on his horse with voice and hand and spur,
riding as if for dear life, yet even while he rode he was making up his
mind to keep back from Mr. Morton all knowledge of Dearing's map.  Of
Dearing's death he was bound to tell him, but he would say nothing of
the map.  If Harding was found it would be so easy to say he had
forgotten it in his anxiety; if Harding--  Gray did not finish the
sentence to himself, but he determined to keep back the map.

It was not much past noon when the plains began to give place to
undulating ground, richer in vegetation, and with great clumps of
dark-foliaged trees here and there; and it was soon after that that
Gray caught his first glimpse of the river, and saw the roofs of the
station gleaming in the sunlight.

Mr. Morton had spent the morning watching the men at work on the new
cottages he was building near his own house for his head shepherds and
stock-keepers.  They were comfortable, roomy cottages, looking down on
the river, with gardens before them, which Mr. Morton intended to be as
well stocked and as pretty as his own.

"They will be finished in another week," he said to his wife.  He had
come back to the house across the garden, and found her sitting in the
shady verandah.  "And I have made up my mind, Minnie, who's to have the
one we meant for Murray."

Mrs. Morton put down her needle-work, and looked eagerly at her
husband.  Murray had lately left them to start a run of his own, and
Mr. Morton had been undecided who should take his post.

"I shall give it to Harding," he said.  "I'll ride over and tell him so
to-morrow.  You'll like having him on the station, won't you?"

"I am very glad indeed," said little Mrs. Morton with energy.  "And how
delighted he will be.  He will be able to get everything ready before
his wife and boys get here.  They don't leave England till next week.
He was telling me all about them when last he was over here."

"Oh, I knew he was a great favourite of yours, my dear," said her
husband with a well-pleased look.  "And if he isn't as sharp as some,
he is as true as steel.  I thought it all over this morning, and I
believe he's my best man."

Mrs. Morton was called into the house at that moment, and her husband
strolled into the garden to await his summons to the mid-day meal.  He
had not been there many moments when his quick ear caught the sound of
rapid hoof-beats on the road below the house.  A gate from the garden
led into the road, and Mr. Morton hurried towards it.  Gray had
intended to ride up to the other side of the house, but when he saw Mr.
Morton at the gate he checked his horse and flung himself off.  There
was no need for him to speak for Mr. Morton to know he brought bad
news.  His whole frame was trembling as he stood steadying himself by
his horse; his lips were white as death.

"Something has happened to Harding, is that it?" exclaimed Mr. Morton
when Gray had twice tried to make his voice audible and failed.

"I fear so," Gray gasped out.  "He has not come back.  He started
yesterday morning for Big Creek, and he has not come back."

Gray had determined beforehand what to say, but he had not known it
would be so difficult.  His eyes fell before Mr. Morton's glance, as if
that glance could read his soul.  But Mr. Morton had never felt so
warmly towards Gray as he did at that moment.  He was a better fellow
than he had thought him, he said to himself, to feel Harding's
disappearance so keenly.

"Look here, my lad," he said kindly, "you go into the house and ask
Mrs. Morton to give you something to eat.  You're just tired out, you
know, and won't be fit for anything till you've had a rest.  Oh, you
shall go with us," he added as he saw Gray's hesitating look.  "But we
can't start for another hour.  I must send over to Billoora for a man
or two.  Don't be so downhearted about it, Gray.  We shall find him,
never fear."

But Mr. Morton's cheerful prophecy was not destined to be verified.
The search for Harding was long and thorough--and fruitless.  His horse
was found lying dead, with an ugly wound in its neck from the horn of a
bull; but Harding and his dog were gone.

Gray grew very worn and haggard in those weeks of waiting.  His youth
went from him.  They attributed his changed looks at the station to his
grief for Harding.  It was enough to unhinge any man, they said--that
mysterious loss of his mate.  And in this explanation they were partly
right.  At first, Gray's remorse was almost more than he could bear.
He was one of the most eager in the search-party.  He rode day after
day across those barren wastes of back-country, and spared no effort to
find some sign of the missing man.  But when the search was at last
given up as hopeless, when those on the station began to take Harding's
death for granted, and life began to flow on in the ordinary channel,
then Gray's mind went back to the map he had destroyed, and the
treasure hidden in Deadman's Gully.

He was thinking of it one afternoon as he was riding across to Billoora
on an errand for Mr. Morton.  It was a clear beautiful afternoon, and
the air on the grassy uplands was fresh and bracing.  Gray might have
taken the river road, which was a mile or two nearer, but it would have
led him past the cottages, and he could not bear to look at them--the
remembrance that Harding was to have had one of them was too
exquisitely painful.  But on the uplands there was nothing to remind
him of Harding--the richly-green rolling wooded pastures were
altogether unlike the gray plains round the hut.

Gray gazed about him and thought of England.  If he got that money he
would go back there; his mind was fully made up on that point.  And
though he had not yet said so in so many words to himself, he knew he
intended to get the money.  Only the day before he had refused a new
post offered to him by Mr. Morton, and said that he wished to leave the
station in a week or two.  And this afternoon, for the first time since
Harding's disappearance, he allowed himself to dwell on the great and
wonderful change the finding of the treasure would make in his life.

Absorbed in these thoughts he did not notice the approach of a man
along the grassy track.  The man was walking slowly and painfully,
carrying a bundle over his shoulder.  He was a small, wiry,
narrow-shouldered man, with a thin peaked face, from which a pair of
small eyes looked keenly out from under thick reddish eyebrows.  He had
caught sight of Gray long before Gray saw him, and after walking some
distance towards him, he sat down on the bank and waited for him to
come up.  Gray checked his horse to speak.

"You look tired, my man."

Gray's tone of cool superiority was not resented by the wayfarer.  He
got up and came nearer.

"I've had a longish tramp," he said in a thin, not unpleasant voice.
"I'm bound for Warrandilla, Mr. Morton's place.  I've begun to fear as
how I've missed my road."

"Oh, you're all right!" Gray returned indifferently; "the station is
just over the rise there.  You'll see it in a mile or so."

The man looked in the direction Gray pointed, and then turned his eyes
again on Gray's face.  Curious, shifty, cunning eyes they were--eyes
that went well with the narrow, cruel mouth, and the sharply-pointed
chin.

"Perhaps you're Mr. Morton yourself, sir," he said ingratiatingly.
"You deserve to be, I'm sure."

"No such luck," said Gray with a laugh, not ill pleased at the man's
suggestion.  "But you'll find him at home if you go on.  I've just left
him."

Gray was about to ride on, when the man spoke again.

"I won't detain you a minute, sir, but perhaps you can tell me if I've
got a chance of some work over there."

"It depends on what you can do, and who you are, you know," said Gray,
with a brief comprehensive glance over the man's figure.

"You'd better not try to play any tricks with Morton if you want him to
help you.  That's a friendly bit of advice I'll give you."

"Thank you, sir; I'll remember it," was the humbly-spoken answer,
though there was a sudden gleam in the pale blue eyes that Gray did not
see.  "I've heard along the road what a good employer he is.  They were
tellin' me at Billoora last night about the poor cove what was lost.  I
suppose there's no chance that he'll ever be found now, sir?"

Gray felt the colour going out of his cheeks at the sudden reference to
Harding.

"I'm afraid not," he said hurriedly.  "But I must go on.  There's your
road straight in front of you.  You can't miss it."

The man had put his hand on the neck of the horse, and he still kept it
there.

"I'm sorry I spoke, sir.  I can see as how you're a friend of his, and
I wish I'd held my tongue.  But 'tis his mate I pities most.  How's he
bearin' it now, sir?  They was tellin' me he's nigh broken-hearted."

Gray stared blankly at the man for a moment without answering.  Then he
recovered himself and said with some haughtiness, "I would rather not
talk of it, my man.  Just let my horse go, will you?  I'm in a hurry."

The man stepped back instantly with a word of apology, and Gray rode on
without looking back.  If he had turned his head he would have seen his
late companion gazing after him with a satirical smile on his crafty
face.

"We'll have some more talk afore long, my fine gentleman," he was
saying.  "You didn't think, did you, that I knowed who you was?  Them
men at Billoora aren't half-bad at a description."

And with a laugh Mr. Lumley, as he chose to call himself at that
particular moment, went on his way.

He was bent on staying at Warrandilla for a time, and would have tried
his hand at any work offered to him, but as it turned out the work he
could do best was just the work that was wanted, and he got regular
employment at once.  Mrs. Morton was devoted to her garden, and Lumley
was really a clever gardener; so that, though she could not help
agreeing with her husband's verdict about the man, she was eager to
keep him.

Lumley made no secret of his past "misfortunes."

He had been shipped to the colony while it was still a convict station,
and his record was by no means a good one since his first term had been
worked out.

"But I have never had a good chance before, madam," he said to Mrs.
Morton, trying to keep his shifty eyes fixed in a straightforward look
upon her face.  "I've never had a good kind friend like you before.
Please God, I'll do well now."

And though Mrs. Morton distrusted his professions of reform, she found
him a clever steady workman, and one most anxious to please.  He became
one of the most frequent attendants at the religious services which Mr.
Morton held two or three times a week in the little chapel next his
house.

If Mr. Morton had been a different sort of man the new gardener might
have gone on to worse hypocrisy still, but there was something in his
employer's strong keen face that kept him back from that.

As Lumley put it to himself, "Shammin' religion is no go with him."

It was about three weeks after Lumley's appearance at the station that
Gray's time for departure came.  Everyone was very kind to him; their
kindness and sympathy cut him to the heart.  They tried to comfort him
by telling him that no one could have shown more energy in the search
than he had, that nothing had been left undone, and that Harding
himself would have been the last to wish that his friends should grieve
too much.  In some such strain Mr. Morton talked to him when he went to
the house to bid him good-bye.

"You must cheer up, my lad," he said kindly.  "You have done all you
could.  No man can do more."

Gray made no reply, nor did he raise his gloomy eyes to meet the
pleasant kindly glance of his employer.  Mr. Morton went on: "So you
are thinking of going back to the old country, Gray.  Well, there ought
to be room there for a man like you; and I don't wonder at your wanting
to get away from here after what's happened."

"I am not sailing for a month or so," said Gray.  He spoke hurriedly,
clearing his throat before he could articulate the words properly.  "I
think of taking a trip into the mountains.  I don't feel equal to the
voyage just now."

"Well, take care of yourself; and let us know how you get along."  He
took Gray's hand and pressed it warmly.  "God bless you, my lad!"

Gray looked up into his face with such a strange, wild, miserable
glance that Mr. Morton started.  He put his hand on the young man's
shoulder and looked earnestly at him.

"What is it, Gray?  There is something troubling you.  Can I help you?"

But Gray drew back.

"There is nothing," he said coldly.

"But there _is_ something," Mr. Morton said to his wife that evening.
"Can Gray be keeping back something about Harding, Minnie?  I confess I
am not altogether satisfied with the result of the search.  Harding was
not a man to get lost in the Bush; he knew the country too well.  And
yet--"

"You don't suspect Harding of pretending to be lost?" said his little
wife with an amazed look.

"No, no; Harding was not a man to do that sort of thing.  I never
suspected anything till I saw Gray's face this afternoon.  But there is
some mystery; and Gray knows more than he has told.  I feel sure of
that."

"What shall you do?" asked Mrs. Morton, with a startled look on her
pretty face.

"What can I do?"

"You don't think Gray--"

"Don't put it into words, Minnie.  I have no right to think anything.
But his face startled me.  No man ever looked like that who hadn't got
some great trouble weighing on him.  And he wasn't so devoted to
Harding as all that, you know.  It surprised me to see how much he felt
it."

"I always thought he patronized Harding; believed himself too good for
him."

"Oh, I know you never liked Gray much," returned her husband, "Harding
liked him though.  He must have something in him."

To get back to his own quarters Gray had to cross the garden.  It was
looking its loveliest this afternoon.  The turf was as green if not as
smooth as the turf of an English lawn, and the glow of colour was more
brilliant than any English garden could show.  Gray loved flowers.  But
he passed through that beautiful garden without a glance right or left,
with his eyes bent upon the ground.

Not far from the gate which he would have to pass through Lumley was
busy cutting the grass with a hand-machine.  He had been working in
another part of the garden when Gray had gone up to the house, but had
caught sight of him as he crossed to the verandah steps.  Soon after he
left the work he was about in order to cut the grass by the gate.

It was a curious trait in his vicious character that he really loved
his gardening work.  He had come to the station for a definite purpose,
a purpose nearly fulfilled--he was leaving the place at dawn next
morning--yet he was working busily still in the pleasant evening light,
anxious to leave the grass in perfect order.  Mrs. Morton never had
such a good gardener again.  He was not working too busily, however, to
be unmindful of Gray's approach.  He watched him with a crafty sidelong
look as he came swinging down the path, and when he was quite close to
him he touched his cap as an English servant might have done in
respectful greeting.  He had saluted Gray in the same manner before,
and Gray had been curiously pleased by it.

"Good evening, my man," he said loftily and would have passed on.  But
Lumley stepped out on the path.  He had taken off his cap and he turned
it round and round in his hands as he spoke.

"Beggin' your pardon, sir," he said humbly, "But I was wantin' to speak
to you.  I took the liberty of callin' on you this afternoon, but you
was out."

"What is it you want?" said Gray.  "I am leaving the station to-morrow,
you know."

"That's the very reason, sir."  He looked up suddenly from under his
bushy eyebrows.  "I'm leavin' the station too.  Perhaps you didn't know
that, sir?"

"I hadn't heard it," said Gray indifferently.  "Aren't you comfortable
here, then?"

"It isn't what I've been used to, sir.  I've been a gentleman's
servant.  Gentlemen as knows how to treat a servant.  _Real_
gentlemen."  Then came again the sudden crafty look.

"That was in England, I suppose?"

"Yes, sir, before my 'misfortunes' came upon me.  I had many good
places; and that's the sort of work which suits me best.  I'm goin' to
try to get a place again, sir."

"Indeed," said Gray, a little impatient at all this.

"And when I heard as you'd come into a fortune, sir, I says to myself,
'Mr. Gray'll be wanting a servant, and if he would take me on how
blessed I should be!'"

Gray's face had turned an ashy white.

"What are you talking of?" he said sharply.  He recovered himself with
an effort, and added in a milder tone: "I expect I'm poorer than you
are, Lumley.  I've hardly enough to live on myself, let alone a
servant."

"Indeed, sir!  I'm very sorry, for if anybody would grace a fortune
'twould be you, sir."

He turned his cloth cap round and round in his hands as he added:

"Then you don't want a servant, sir?"

Gray laughed out.

"Most decidedly not, my man.  But I must go on, I'm busy."

Lumley stood in his way and did not move.

"If I didn't want any wages, sir?  I'd like to go along with you, if
only for the journey down to Adelaide.  I'd serve you faithfully, sir."

"It's utterly impossible--out of the question," exclaimed Gray with a
wave of the hand.  "Besides, I'm not going to Adelaide."

"Indeed, sir!"

It had been a slip of the tongue, which Gray repented at once.

"It's altogether out of the question, my good fellow," he said.  "You
must have been dreaming to think of it.  Now, will you let me pass?  I
have a great deal to do."

Lumley stepped aside.

"I wish you humbly good-bye, sir, and good luck.  There's riches in
your face, sir; I see 'em as plain as can be.  You'll think of me when
the good times come."

Gray turned a quivering face upon him.

"What do you mean?" he gasped, and then he stopped and gave an unsteady
smile.  "I'll certainly think of you when my riches come, my man.  It's
an easy promise to make."

He waved his hand in hurried farewell and hastened along the path.
Lumley stood looking after him with an evil glance.

"You will think of me, my fine gentleman, and no mistake."

And he chuckled harshly to himself.



CHAPTER IV.

IN QUEST OF TREASURE.

Gray's spirits rose when he had left the station behind him and found
himself riding along the well-worn track towards the hills, that showed
themselves in clear outline against the brightening morning sky.

With a good horse under him and the fresh wind blowing on his face, he
found it easy to convince himself that it would not have made any
difference if he had gone back with the dog.  He found it easy to look
forward instead of backward, to make resolutions about using the money
well, instead of indulging in vain repentance for the past.

It was a clear beautiful morning.  The country Gray was riding through
was very unlike the level pastures he had lived on for months.  It was
undulating and richly wooded.  Here and there a stream, full and strong
in this joyous spring-time, flashed white in the dawn.  Westwards rose
the great hills, blue in the distance, the hills towards which Gray was
riding.  It was a country to make glad the heart of man, where he might
richly enjoy the fruits of his labour.

It was not thickly settled as yet.  Gray passed but few houses in that
day's far ride, and it was long past dusk when he rode up to Mr.
Macquoid's, who owned the run next to Mr. Morton's, and where Mr.
Morton had advised him to stop that night.

Gray received a warm welcome.  Tea was brought for him into the
pleasant sitting-room, where Mr. Macquoid's wife and daughters were
eager to hear Gray's account of Harding's disappearance.  Mr. Macquoid
had sent out a search-party on his own account, for he knew Harding
well.

It irritated Gray savagely to find how warm and eager an interest they
all took in the lost man.  He could have spent such a delightful
evening in that charming house, with those pretty girls.  The piano was
open, and Gray was fond of music and could sing well.  It would have
delighted him to prove to them his musical abilities.  And the books in
the low book-cases, the etchings and engravings on the walls, the
periodicals and newspapers fresh from England, that lay heaped on the
round table by the window, showed that the Macquoids had a keen
cultured interest in literature and art.  Gray could have talked to
them of so many things, showed them so easily how wide his knowledge
was, how correct his taste.

But they would talk of nothing but Harding.  They seemed to think it
was the only subject Gray could feel any interest in just then.  He was
thankful when the evening was over.

His next resting-place was a small station close under the shadow of
the hills.  Here only vague rumours of Harding's loss had come, and
Gray found it easy to say nothing of his connection with the lost man.

A strange thing happened to him that night.  He was put to sleep in a
small room opening on the rough verandah that ran round the house.  It
was a hot still night, and the window was left open.  Gray lay awake
for the first part of the night.  He was restless and excited and could
not sleep.  But towards morning he fell into a heavy dreamless slumber,
from which he was roughly awakened by a sharp, sudden noise.

He started up in bed and looked round the room.  A man was standing
with his back to him in the act of picking up the chair he had just
thrown over.  In the dim starlight Gray could just see him as he bent
over the chair.  With a sharp exclamation Gray sprang out of bed and
made a dash at him.  But the man was too quick.  He wriggled out of
Gray's grasp as a snake might wriggle out of its captor's clutch, and
keeping his head well down, that Gray might not see his face, he dashed
out of the window and across the court-yard.  Gray saw him disappear
over the fence, and run swiftly down the hollow.

He struck a light and carefully examined the room.  His purse was safe.
Everything in his pocket was left intact.

Gray's story caused great excitement next morning.  There had never
been an attempt at robbery in the station before.

"It must have been a black fellow," Mr. Stuart said.  But Gray was
certain it was no black man.  If it had not been absurd to think of
such a thing, he would have said it was Lumley, the Mortons' gardener.

But he dismissed that idea as absurd and impossible.

His next day's ride took him into the heart of the hill-country.  The
track was far less clearly marked here, and often difficult to follow.
It ran through deep lonely ravines walled in by precipitous heights of
dark rock, and along the sides of mighty hills from which glimpses
could be got of still higher hills, towering up into the still blue
sky.  Some of the hills were darkly wooded, others were clothed in rich
grass and flowering shrubs almost to the summits; others again, and
these more numerous as Gray rode on, were bare of blade or leaf, heaped
with dark scarred rocks, waterless, desolate.

Gray missed his road once or twice that day; and once he was unable to
cross a furious torrent which had swept down the frail bridge laid
across it, and was forced to make a long round.

There was a small cottage in these parts kept by M'Pherson, an old
stock-keeper of Mr. Macquoid's.  Gray had hoped to leave it far behind
him in this day's journey, but he was only too glad to see it when he
had at last regained the track just after sunset.  He and his horse
were both tired out.

The old man came to his cottage door as Gray clattered up the hilly
path.  He looked at Gray, and then beyond him.

"Ye're kindly welcome, lad.  But hasna your mate come up wi' ye?"

Gray looked involuntarily behind him.  The path stretched away lonely
and desolate in the gathering darkness.

"What do you mean?" he asked; turning a pale face on M'Pherson.  "I am
quite alone."

"Weel, weel; there was a callant here no' sae lang syne, speering after
ye.  Aye, 'twas you he meant.  A weel set-up, black-haired chap, he
said, riding a roan horse wi' a white blaze in front."

Gray got off his horse and stood with his hand upon the bridle.

"I know no one about here.  You must be mistaken," he said.  But he
said it falteringly, and a cold sweat broke out upon his brow.  The
idea had flashed upon him that it might be Harding who was tracking his
footsteps.

"What was he like?" he asked, as carelessly as he could.

"A soft-spoken callant wi' reddish hair--a puir thin sort o' body wi' a
ferrety face.  Sae ye didna luke for him?  Weel, weel, maybe it's no a
maitter for greeting that ye havena come across him.  I wadna hae gi'en
muckle for his honesty.  But ye wull be wanting a meal, lad, and your
bonnie horse too.  Yon's the stable.  A gude man is gude to his
beastie, and ye'll no be wanting me to assist."

He bustled into the house without waiting for Gray to speak.  He would
have waited long, for Gray was too startled to speak.  He began to
think it must be Lumley who was following him.  He slowly led his horse
to the stable and made it comfortable, and then went back to the house.
He stopped at the door to look back into the dusk.

The house was built in a green hollow carved out of the side of a steep
hill.  The ground rose steeply behind the place, rising up into a
jagged ridge against the sky.  In front there was a small flat meadow
immediately before the house; then the ground fell almost precipitously
and then rose again, with only a narrow ravine between.  The opposite
hills were higher than the hill under which the cottage was built, and
frowned above it in heavy overhanging masses of rock.  As Gray looked
up he could only distinguish the vague dark outlines of the gloomy
hills.  A thousand men might have been hidden in the hollows and he
would have been none the wiser.  He listened intently, but there was no
sound of human life.  The wind had fallen, and the rush of the stream
at the bottom of the ravine was the only sound that struck his ear.

M'Pherson had a comfortable meal prepared for him, late as it was.  But
Gray could not eat.  He was too excited and uneasy.  He tried to get a
clear description of the man who had asked for him, but M'Pherson could
tell him little more.  The man had come to the door about four in the
afternoon.  He explained that he was expecting to come up with a friend
along that road, and wanted to know how far he was ahead.

"He seemed verra oneasy when I told him I'd set eyes on naebody the day
lang.  I tauld him ye must hae gone the ither road."

"I missed my way."

"Aye, 'twas that made ye sae late.  And sae ye arena acquent wi' the
man?  'Tis verra strange."

Yes, it was very strange.  The more Gray thought of it the more
alarming it seemed.  And then quite suddenly an explanation came to
him, which, while it did not remove the annoyance of the occurrence,
robbed it of all its more alarming elements.  The explanation was
this:--

Lumley had evidently conceived an absurd dog-like affection for him.
The fellow had not taken his refusal to have him as a servant as a
final one, and was following him in the hope that he might still be
taken on.  He had not dared to come face to face with Gray.  Perhaps
when he had entered the room at Mr. Stuart's (for Gray was now
convinced that it was Lumley he saw) he intended to make one more
appeal, but Gray's sudden wakening had startled him too much.

Gray's face cleared as he forced himself to accept this explanation as
the true one.  He stretched himself with the air of one who throws off
a burden.

"I'll turn in," he said, yawning as he spoke.  "But I'll have another
look at my horse first."

"Aye, do, my lad.  But ye needna feel oneasy aboot your horse.  Sandy
here"--and he looked down at the old sheep-dog at his knee--"wull hear
ony step that comes near the house, be it e'er sae saft."

Gray shuddered as his glance fell on the dog.  He was looking up at his
master just as Watch used to look at Harding.

"Ye arena that fond o' dogs," said the old man quickly.  He had noticed
Gray's look.  "But Sandy's nae common dog.  I could tell you mony a
tale o' his cleverness."

He patted the dog's head and looked across at Gray, who had resumed his
seat and was staring fixedly into the fire.  He had turned deadly pale.
M'Pherson's shrewd kindly eyes dwelt on him for a moment.  Gray was
conscious of the look and roused himself with an effort.

"How far is it to Daintry's Corner?" he asked abruptly.

Daintry's Corner was close to Rodwell's Peak, and Gray was making that
the apparent end of his journey.

"Aboot a maitter o' twal mile or sae.  Ye'll win it by mid-day the
morn."  He paused a moment and then added: "Ye look ower pale, my lad,
for sic journeying amang the hills.  Ye wad do weel to tak' a bit rest;
and it's lang since I've set een on a braw lad like you.  A day or
twa's rest wi' me wad freshen you up."

Gray hastily declined the invitation, and then, feeling he had been too
abrupt, he said:

"I am sailing for England in a month, and I want to get a good idea of
your hill scenery.  I've lived on the plains a great deal, and this is
my first opportunity."

"Eh!  I ken what the plains are.  I lived nigh the allotted span o'
life upon them--saxty years I lived there.  I cam from Scotland a bairn
o' seven, and I lived on the Macquoid estate till I cam up here."

"Whatever made you leave your home for this lonely spot?" Gray asked,
glad to keep the old man talking about himself to prevent any more
curious inquiries about his own doings.

"Ye wadna understand if ye werena born amang the hills, lad.  The
gudewife, she kent how I felt, and when the Lord took her hame the
hills seemed to ca' more and more on me.  It's no lonely here; there's
voices everywhere.  Did ye ever think, my lad, o' the way the Bible
speaks of hills an' a' high places.  'The shadow o' a great rock in a
weary land.'  Yon's a grand passage; but the fu' meaning naebody can
understand wha hasna kent the thirst and heat o' a waterless desert.
Were ye ever lost in the Bush, lad?"

Gray stared across at him in angry bewilderment.

"Never," he said abruptly.

"Ye may be thankful; 'tis a terrible place.  The skies like brass abune
your head; the grund like parchment under your feet.  I was a lost man
amang those deserts once.  Four days I wandered through dry and thirsty
places.  Eh, sirs, 'twas a terrible time!  But the Lord brought me
through; thanks be to His holy name!"

Gray did not speak.  The old man's words had called up in clear vision
those endless deserts of scorched sand, where the very herbage was
hateful to look upon, and the blessed light became a consuming fire.
Had Harding, faint with his wounds, wandered helplessly there till he
fell to rise no more?

M'Pherson got up and reached down the great Bible that lay by itself on
the shelf above his head.

"'Tis time for evening worship, my lad.  I'll read ye a chapter."

He sat down and placed the Bible on the table, and put on his
silver-rimmed spectacles.  Gray leant back in his chair and folded his
arms, and prepared himself to listen.  The old man looked at his face,
and then turned over the leaves of his Bible with a sigh.

"I'll read ye what has often been a comfort to me, my lad," he said.

But Gray's eyes had fallen on the sheepdog, and he had seen it drag
itself up, with ears upraised and head pointed at the door, in the very
attitude of Watch that night the fugitive Dearing had been outside the
hut.

"Look at the dog!" he stammered out to M'Pherson.  "He hears someone
outside the house."

"That's verra onlikely," said M'Pherson with a calmness that was
intensely irritating to Gray.

"He isn't much use as a dog if he makes that fuss for nothing," Gray
returned.

"Weel, weel, we are baith getting auld thegither."

M'Pherson rose as he spoke and went to the door to open it.

"You are not going out?" Gray cried.

The old man turned a wondering face upon him.

"Wad ye keep the door barred on sic a nicht as this, if there's onybody
outside i' the wind and rain?  A braw laddie like you suld hae nae
fears: ye suld leave that to the women, puir feeble folk."

Gray's face grew scarlet at the rebuke.  He said no more, and M'Pherson
opened the door and peered out into the dark, stormy night.  He shouted
once or twice, but there was no answer nor sound of footsteps.  If the
dog had heard footsteps they had now ceased; and only the voices of
wind, and rain, and rushing torrent came up the glen.



CHAPTER V.

DEADMAN'S GULLY.

Gray reached Daintry's Corner before noon on the following day.  For
some miles before reaching his destination his road had lain through a
deep narrow gorge, with gigantic walls on each side of almost
perpendicular rock.  Much of the rock was bare, and of a sullen,
cheerless brown, but here and there trees sprang out of hollows and
showed green against the rock, and dark-leaved climbing plants flung
their long arms from crevice to crevice, and hung in gloomy wreaths
along the broken ground.

The morning had come with sunshine and gentle breezes, but no sunshine
reached this frowning ravine, and the air there was damp, and heavy,
and close.

The ravine had run in an almost straight line for some miles, and Gray
was beginning to weary for its end, when he suddenly checked his horse
with a start of amazement and dismay.  Some few hundred yards before
him the ravine apparently came to a full stop.  A great precipice rose
up before him closing up the end of the gorge--a precipice far too
steep for any track to run over it.

Gray began to think he had come to a cul de sac, and that he should be
obliged to retrace his steps, but before doing so he determined to ride
on to the foot of the precipice before him and examine the ground
carefully.

A new surprise awaited him there.  He found that the gorge took a
sudden turn here, in fact, ran on at right angles to its former course,
though considerably narrower and closed in by walls of rock higher and
gloomier than ever.

The bottom of this new part of the gorge was not open and grassy, but
studded thickly with enormous trees clad in dark heavy foliage.  It was
a gloomy spot to enter, and Gray hesitated; yet it was evident the
track went this way.  There was the mark of a horse's footstep just
before him, freshly made too!

Gray's eyes fell on this as he was looking along the ground, and he
sprang off his horse to more closely examine it.  Some one had
evidently passed here quite lately.  As Gray looked he saw that the
footsteps ceased a short way up the glen, and that when they ceased the
ground was slightly broken away as if horse and rider had tried to
climb the cliff.  With a rush of sudden, unexplainable terror, Gray
looked up the steep impassable wall of rock.  Horse and rider had gone
that way!  But how?--and for what purpose?  He listened intently, but
no sound came to his ear that spoke of a living presence.  An
oppressive silence reigned on every side.

Gray was no coward, but the blood forsook his cheek and his knees
trembled under him.  Who was it that was haunting him thus?  He dared
not make any answer to himself.  He dared not stay longer in that dark
and silent spot.  Taking his horse by the bridle he led him hastily
onwards, picking his way with difficulty through the mighty tree-trunks
and among the wave-worn boulders that lay between them.  The trees grew
so near together that it was impossible to see more than a yard or so
ahead.

Gray was stumbling blindly on, with the belief growing in him that the
gorge was impassable, and that he would be forced to go back past that
spot in the cliffs which chilled him to think of; when suddenly the
light grew brighter through the trees, a keen breeze blew upon his
face; in a few steps, the trees ended, and the gorge ceased.  Gray
found himself standing on a rocky platform commanding a glorious view.
There lay the hills, rising range after range before him, bathed in the
sunshine of early noon.  It was a wonderful prospect--a sight to make
one's heart leap up; and Gray stood entranced, drinking in all its
beauty, forgetting himself and his errand.

But not for long.  He had soon to consider his path; and, as he looked
round him with that purpose in his mind, all the glory seemed to die
out of the scene, and his pleasure in it passed away.  For this must be
Daintry's Corner, Gray concluded.  He must be very near the end of his
journey.

He looked keenly along the ranges of hills in front of him, but he
could not see the towering battlements of Rodwell's Peak.  That must
lie behind him.  M'Pherson had directed him to a small settlement some
miles beyond Daintry's Corner.  Gray could see the roofs of the houses
over the slope of one of the lower hills to the right of him.  He
determined he would spend the night there if he could reach it in time,
but his first business was to find Rodwell's Peak, and then to search
for Deadman's Gully.  Once the exact spot was reached, he hoped soon to
find the treasure.  Gray did not anticipate much difficulty in taking
it away.

The robbery of the Bank at Adelaide by Dearing had made a great
sensation at the time.  He had carried off more than £30,000 in gold
and notes; and he had managed to change much of the gold and all the
notes for Bank of England notes, whose numbers were not known.  The
notes Gray could easily carry away and much of the gold.  The remainder
he had determined to leave behind him safely buried.  It was better to
lose a part than run the risk of discovery by weighting himself too
much.  A few hours would suffice for this, he thought, then he
determined to go down to the settlement for the night, and make his way
to Adelaide by another route.  Nothing should prevail upon him to go
back the same way: he had long ago decided that, and recent events had
made his determination more fixed than ever.

But now to reach Rodwell's Peak!  Gray carefully examined the ground,
and made up his mind that his road lay along the rocky platform or
terrace on which the gorge had ended, and which seemed to run along the
hills through which the gorge had cleft its way.  He made a rough
calculation, and then decided to follow the terrace in its westerly
direction.  He called his horse, which had begun to graze on the short
sweet grass that clothed the gentle slopes above the terrace, and set
off on the road he had chosen.

If he had looked backwards down the gloomy ravine he had just left
behind him, he might have seen a face looking cautiously out through
the dark boughs of the trees--an evil sallow face with reddish slanting
eyebrows.  But Gray did not look back.  He was too excited at the near
fruition that awaited his hopes.  All the fears that had assailed him,
all the remorse that had been growing up in him disappeared as mists
disappear before the morning sun.  He mounted his horse and rode gaily
along the broad even platform, whistling as he went.  The platform or
ledge continued for some time, sloping almost imperceptibly downwards
till it ended in a wide, grassy, meadow-like valley, with a giant
eucalyptus in the midst of it.  Through the valley a stream went
singing--every ripple making a line of silver in the sunshine.

Gray crossed the valley, stopping to let his horse drink at the stream,
and to take a draught himself.  The hills beyond the valley were strewn
in places with great boulders, but it was easy to find a path, and Gray
made good progress for a time.  Then the way became rougher and more
precipitous, but Gray pushed hurriedly on; for over the shoulder of the
next hill rose the jagged crest of Rodwell's Peak.  He knew the
knife-like edge of the lower summit, the towering outlines of the peak
itself.  Now a well-defined track began to disclose itself running in
easy curves down the hill and along the rocky bottom.

Gray rode more slowly, his heart beating wildly.  This must be the
track Harding had spoken of, leading from the settlements below.  He
kept a sharp look-out, but no sign of a gully disclosed itself, though
Rodwell's Peak rose well in front.

The valley, at the bottom of which the track ran, had been wide at
first, with sloping shelving sides, richly covered with foliage.  But
now it was narrowing fast; the sides were growing steeper and steeper,
and the vegetation less abundant Gray rode slowly, stopping every now
and then to examine the rocks for an opening between them.  It could
not be far off.  Looking down the valley the towering crest of
Rodwell's Peak was all that could be seen.  It rose at the mouth of the
valley like a mighty sentinel guarding the fortress of the hills.  But
though Gray carefully examined the rocks on either side, he could find
no trace of a gully running between them.

He rode on until he reached the point where the valley ended, and the
land began to shelve upwards before him.  He saw that the track ran
across the shoulder of Rodwell's Peak, but he did not follow it.  It
was useless to do that.  He felt certain that the opening into
Deadman's Gully lay in the valley behind him.

He turned his horse and rode backwards.  As he turned, a sharp sound
caught his ears, and he checked his horse to listen.  It ceased
instantly, and though he stopped there for some moments listening
intently it did not recur.  The sound had been like the beat of a
horse's hoofs against hard rock.  But there was no sign of horse or
rider to be seen.  The valley was silent, save for the hoarse cry of a
magpie among the trees and the rush of a stream in the distance.

Gray rode slowly back, but he did not pursue his search with any
vigour; he had been too much startled by that sudden sound.  He tried
to reason himself into believing that it was a mere hallucination of
hearing, that the fall of a stone down the steep hill had been mistaken
by him for the clatter of a horse's feet.  But reason as he would the
conviction remained strong within him that it was a horse he had heard,
and he was looking more carefully, as he rode down the valley, for
other signs of a horseman's presence, than for the opening into
Deadman's Gully.

It was quite accidentally that, about half-way down the valley, he
noticed a crevice in the rocks, on his left hand, thickly hung with
creepers.  It was more a crack in the rock than a crevice, so narrow
was it, and only by looking some distance up could it be seen at all,
for its lower portion was entirely hidden by a curtain of hanging
foliage.  But it was the only opening of any sort that Gray had
discovered, and he determined to examine it more closely, though it
seemed absurd to suppose that this could be the entrance he sought.

He rode up to the bottom of the fissure and dragged aside the heavy
creepers.  A wild thrill went through him as he discovered that the
crack widened towards the ground into an opening just large enough for
a man and horse to pass through.  Gray could not see where the dark
passage before him led, for after a few yards it took a sudden turn to
the right, but he determined at once to make a thorough investigation.

He got off his horse and cut away with some difficulty enough of the
curtaining foliage to allow an easy passage through.  Then, with a long
fearful look up and down the lonely valley, he entered the cleft.  His
entrance disturbed a vast number of bats, that flew shrieking out of
the damp hollows of the rocks and whirled wildly round him.  Their
cries had an eerie sound well in keeping with the gloomy spot.  But
Gray pushed doggedly on, soothing his good horse with voice and hand,
and becoming more and more convinced that he was on the right track.

After some distance the passage widened, and he began to see broad
daylight ahead of him.  A few yards more and he came out into a narrow
valley heaped with rocks.

It was a gloomy, dreadful place, shut in by high, bare, precipitous
cliffs.  The passage by which Gray had just entered seemed to be the
only mode of access: no human foot could scale those dark overhanging
cliffs.  There was but little vegetation.  Some coarse grass grew in
the hollows and on the ledges of the rocks, and a gray-leaved
repulsive-looking bramble spread its gnarled branches thickly along the
uneven bottom of the gully.

But Gray looked in vain for the mighty tree he had expected to see,
towering up in the midst of the valley.  There were no trees of any
kind in the place.  Yet Gray felt sure that he had reached the right
spot, and a discovery he made after a brief survey supported his
opinion.  This was a ruined hut built under the shelter of a shelving
piece of rock.  It was a hut built of logs; the roof was partly off and
the roughly made door was lying rotting on the ground.  This deserted,
ruinous hut only added a new touch of desolation to the dreary gully.
Gray involuntarily shivered as he stood before it and his horse tugged
restlessly at the bridle.

He fastened the horse securely to the door-post and stepped into the
hut.  The floor was of beaten earth.  It was heaped up now with the
_débris_ of the fallen roof, but Gray could see where the rude hearth
had been and where a half-smouldered log still lay.  The walls were
intact.  They were strongly built of heavy logs fastened securely
together.  The hut might have been built for a miniature fortress, so
strong were its walls.

Who had built the hut?  Where had the logs come from that formed its
walls?  Gray carefully considered these questions.  He remembered now
that Harding had told him of some big trees that were in the gully when
a gang of bushrangers, who had made the place their home, had been
broken up.  There were trees in the gully then.  What had become of
them?

Gray stepped hastily out and carefully examined the ground.  It did not
take him long to find the scarred trunks of a few trees hidden by the
brambles.  He cut away the brambles, and tried by measuring to decide
which had been the largest tree.  But he could not decide.  The trunks
were all about the same size.  Either the trunk of the largest tree had
been taken away altogether, or it had not been much larger than the
trunks of the other trees.

Wearied out by his search, Gray returned to the hut.  He sat down on
one of the fallen rafters of the roof and considered what it was best
to do next.  He was beginning to feel hopeless.  The direction had
seemed so clear on Dearing's map.  He had been so certain that he would
easily find the treasure if he once could reach the gully.  Yet here he
was, apparently as far off as ever from the attainment of his hopes.

Some hours had now passed since Gray entered the gully.  The afternoon
was drawing to a close.  There were only a few hours of daylight before
him.

Gray had brought a little food with him, pressed upon him by the kindly
old Scotsman.  He took down his knapsack and ate the food.  It was no
matter of regret to him that he had only a sufficient store for one
meal.  Nothing would have induced him to spend the night in the gully.
Even now, in the broad daylight, an unreasoning terror was taking hold
of him.  Every little sound, the movement of his horse, the cry of a
bird as it flapped its way across the sky, the rustle of the long grass
in the hollows of the cliffs, even his own footsteps as he moved to and
fro, struck upon him with a sense of fear.  He could have sworn once
that he had heard a footstep that was not his own, a slow and wary
footstep, among the brambles.  So sure was he, that he sprang to the
door and looked out.  There was nothing to be seen.  And with a bitter
laugh at his own fears he went back and sat down.  But he made up his
mind there and then that he would not stay much longer in the gully.
He would not have spent the night there for all the wealth the world
could offer him.

He had now to consider what was best to do in the short period of
daylight that lay before him.  It seemed a hopeless task to dig south
of each of the trunks in the gully, yet what else was there to be done?
It was best for him to set about it at once.  He decided this, and yet
he sat still.  He could not make up his mind to go out into the gully
again.  The place was becoming a horror to him.

As he sat thus on the broken rafter, thinking miserably of the task
before him, his eyes fixed themselves on the little window of the hut.
It was the only window and was very small.  It was, in fact, a hole
drilled in one of the beams.

With that strange power the mind has, of carrying on two trains of
thought at once, Gray found himself, in the midst of his weary thoughts
about the hidden treasure, wondering why the window had been made so
small and such an odd round shape.  The explanation quickly occurred to
him.  The hut had been built by men who were in daily fear of capture.
It had been built not so much as a shelter from the weather, for there
were deep caves in the rocks that would have served that purpose, but
as a means of defence.  Safe inside the hut, with the door shut and
that small window guarded by a good rifle, one man might have defied a
score.

Gray guessed, and guessed truly, that Dearing had built the hut.  The
gang of bushrangers who had formerly used the gully for their
lurking-place had lived in the caves.  The gully was an unknown place
then, and having once reached it all fear of detection was over.  But
when once the place was discovered, some means of defence within it was
necessary, and Dearing had built this place.

Gray remembered Dearing's face as he staggered into the hut, the look
of abject horrible fear upon it.  What days and nights he must have
spent in this gully, watching, waiting, no rest, never safe for a
single moment!

"Poor wretch!" Gray murmured to himself.  "What a life to live!"  And
his thoughts went back, by force of sudden contrast, to the life of
another lonely man.  He remembered how M'Pherson had answered, with a
glad, deep peace in his old face, "It's no lonely here.  There's voices
everywhere."

Gray would not dwell on that.  He rose, throwing back his head and
straightening himself with a quick proud gesture.  He told himself he
had no part or lot with the fears of Dearing, any more than with that
strange faith that kept M'Pherson glad in his lonely old age.  There
was no need for him, he said to himself, to have the fear of man before
his eyes; and if he need not fear man, what was there to fear?
Nothing.  He repeated it to himself.  Nothing.  It was only women and
uneducated men who believed in the supernatural.

Yet even as he said it his face turned an ashy white; the great
sweat-drops broke out upon his brow, his knees trembled under him.  He
had heard again the sound of a cautious footstep and the rustle of the
brambles as if some hand was moving them.  He rushed to the door of the
hut and looked round; but as before all was still and silent.  He gave
a loud shout, but no answer came, save the echo from the rocks.  He
waited there some moments, but he saw no sign of a human presence.

Yet he was now absolutely certain he had heard a footstep.  The very
hair began to rise on Gray's head, a freezing terror seized hold of
him.  A moment before he had feigned to disbelieve in the supernatural,
but now, in an agony of mortal fear, he cried out to himself that it
was no living man who was dogging him thus.  A living man he could have
faced, but not this mysterious visitant from the world beyond the grave.

In a calmer moment Gray might have reasoned with himself, but he did
not stop to reason now.  He felt he must escape from this horrible
place at once, or madness would come upon him.  His horse was still
tied to the door-post, and was cropping the thin grass that grew up
between the crevices in the rocky platform on which the hut was built.
Gray hurriedly unfastened him and led him towards the entrance to the
gully.  He had gone a short distance when he remembered he had left his
knapsack and pistol-case on the floor of the hut.  All the money he
had, a scanty store, was in the knapsack.  He could not leave it behind.

Still holding the horse by the bridle he went hurriedly back.  He flung
the rein over the door-post and made one step into the hut.  Then he
fell back with a sharp and sudden exclamation.  The hut was no longer
empty.  Leaning in an easy attitude against the window with a revolver
in his hand stood Lumley, the ex-gardener of the Mortons.

[Illustration: THE MEETING IN "DEADMAN'S GULLY"]

There was a sardonic grin on his thin peaked face.

"So you have come back of your own accord, Mr. Gentleman Gray," he
said.  "I was just about to order you back."



CHAPTER VI.

THE TREASURE FOUND.

Gray's first feeling was one of intense, overpowering relief.  That
dreadful terror which had beset him left him when he saw that it was
indeed Lumley who had followed him.  He spoke sharply:

"What do you mean by following me up like this, and skulking in the
brambles?  It was a dangerous game, mind you!  I might have sent a shot
into them just now, you know."

Lumley looked at him and laughed.

"You're a pretty fellow to go bushranging.  When did you look at your
pistols last, eh?"

Gray caught up his pistols and looked at them.  The charges had been
tampered with.  They were useless.

Lumley stood regarding him with vicious amusement in his foxy eyes.

"You'd best have stuck at an honest trade, mate," he said.  "You're no
good at bushranging at all.  It's been too easy to take you in.  You
needn't look at 'em any more, you know.  I made 'em safe enough at
Stuart's place."

Gray dropped the pistols on the ground.

"How dare you?" he began in a choked voice.  Then he checked himself.
"I'll trouble you to tell me what you mean," he said.  "And--"

He made a dash to snatch the revolver from Lumley's hand, but Lumley
was too quick for him.  He jumped back and levelled the weapon full at
Gray.

"Stand where you are or I'll fire," he said coolly.  "Move a limb, and
you'll have a bullet into you."

Gray stood still.  A cold sweat broke out upon his brow.  Lumley had
dropped all disguise now.  The evil soul of the man looked out from his
face.

"That's better," he said.  "Just stand there, will you?"  He seated
himself on some of the fallen _débris_, still keeping his revolver
pointed at Gray.

"Now we'll have a comfortable little talk together, mate," he said.
"You can sit down now if you like."

Gray looked round and carefully chose a seat.  The pallid look of
terror had gone from his face.  He had recovered his calmness and his
power of thought.  He saw clearly enough that he was in Lumley's power.
He guessed his reason for following him; and he had determined on his
course of action.  If Lumley chose to insist upon it, he would tell him
Dearing's secret and leave him to get the money if he could; and he
would go straight to the nearest station and inform against him.  Not
for all the money in the world, Gray declared to himself, would he put
his reputation into this man's keeping.

"That's right, mate.  Now we'll be comfortable," said Lumley, with a
grin, "and we'll talk about the business that's brought me here.  You
know what it is well enough."

"Well, I can make a pretty good guess," Gray said, carefully selecting
a cigar and proceeding to light it.  "But you'll have to tell me
plainly, you know, before going any further."

The change in Gray's manner was too striking to escape Lumley.  He
looked at him with a steady crafty look before answering.

"There ain't no money hid here, I s'pose?  You're on a pleasure toor,
ain't you?  That pick in your knapsack is for ge'logical specimens,
ain't it?"

Gray carefully flicked a little ash from the end of his cigar, and then
looked up.

"You are quite wrong, Lumley.  That pick is not meant for geological
specimens at all.  It's meant to be used for digging up a large sum of
money hidden somewhere about here.  Unfortunately I don't know where."

"You don't?"

"I haven't the faintest idea.  Perhaps you know?"

Lumley glared at him like a wild beast.

"Was that why you were going away?"

Gray nodded.

"Tom Dearing didn't tell you where 'twas hid?  Don't you try to deceive
me, man.  I'll not stand it.  I'll have that swag if I've got to swing
for it to-morrow.  What made you go proddin' and pryin' round those old
trunks for, eh?  You tell me that."

"With all the pleasure in life, my man.  But I should like to hear a
few things from you first.  How did you get to know of this money?  I
may not be far wrong in supposing you an accomplice of our good friend,
lately deceased, Mr. Tom Dearing?"

"I'd wring your neck for tuppence," Lumley muttered savagely.

Gray looked up at him with a pleasant smile.

"What did you say?"

Gray was beginning to feel thoroughly satisfied with himself again.  He
felt himself very much more than a match for Mr. Lumley.

That individual made no reply to his last inquiry.

"So you want to know how I got on this job.  I'll tell you quickly
enough.  Dearing made a dying speech and confession, didn't he?"

"Something of the kind."

"He'd do that for sure and certain.  That was his way.  He was always
half-hearted, Tom was.  P'r'aps he didn't mention a pal of his, Bill
Clay, eh?"

"I think he did, now I come to think of it.  I suppose you are that
gentleman.  Is Clay your real name, or one of your many aliases?"

"You're right, mate.  I'm Bill Clay, as you'll find out before you're
done with me," said Lumley, with a savage look.  "I wasn't in that
business with the bank, but Tom told me he'd hidden the money; but he
didn't tell me where he'd hid it, d'you see.  _You've_ got to tell me
that, Mr. Gentleman Gray."

Gray leisurely took his cigar from his mouth and said:

"With pleasure, my man, if I knew it myself; but you see I don't."

Lumley gave him a savage frown.

"Think I'm going to believe that?  Look here, I'm in a hurry, and
you've just got to tell me all you know.  If you don't, I'll--"

He lifted the revolver again with a significant gesture.

Gray did not speak for a moment.  His hand might have trembled slightly
as he stroked his moustache, but he showed no other sign of agitation.
Lumley watched him narrowly.

"Ain't you goin' to tell me?" he said.

"Yes I am," said Gray; "on one condition."

"What's that?"

"Unload that pretty little weapon of yours, and hand it over to me.  I
don't trust you, you see, Mr. Lumley, alias Clay.  You might find it
convenient to leave this place all by yourself.  Dead men tell no
tales."

"Good for you they don't, ain't it?" Lumley answered darkly.

Gray looked sharply up.

"What do you mean by that?"

"I don't mean anything.  But you're a pretty fellow, ain't you, to crow
over me?"

The taunt was more than Gray could bear.

"What do you mean?" he exclaimed again, with sharper emphasis as he
leapt to his feet.  "How dare you?"

Lumley laughed out--a rough, coarse, jeering laugh, which filled Gray
with sickening, helpless rage.

"Don't you be afraid of me," he said; "a partner's always safe with me.
I don't set up to be a virtuous cove like you, but a partner's always
safe with me.  We'll go shares, mate--share and share alike.  That's a
fair offer, ain't it?"

His manner was as coarse and offensive as he could make it.  He seemed
to find delight in the sort of torture he was inflicting on Gray.

Gray seated himself again and tried hard to recover his coolness.
After all, he told himself, he had but to bear Lumley's insults for a
time.  He had but to wait till they reached a settlement for this
hideous partnership to be over.

"It seems to me we are wasting good time, my man," he said, in the
lofty tone that so nettled Lumley.  "I don't pretend to understand your
innuendoes, but let that pass.  What you want is the money, isn't it?"

"What _I_ want?  You don't want it; no, of course not?  You didn't come
here to get it?"

Lumley laughed.

"I certainly came here to get it.  There's a considerable reward
offered for its recovery, as I daresay you know.  I intended to claim
that reward."

Lumley looked at him in silence for a moment, and then burst out into
another laugh.

"You are a cove!" he said, when his mirth would let him speak.  "So
that's your game, is it?  Bah!"

He spat on the ground in fierce derision, and then with a sudden change
of manner he came close up to Gray.

"Stow all that nonsense, lad.  Tell me what Dearing said, and be quick
about it.  We're goin' to be fond partners, share and share alike.
Come, shell out this minute!"

Gray looked up at him; then he took out his note-book and rapidly
reproduced the map he had destroyed, and handed it to Clay without a
word.  The light was fading, and he took it to the door to examine it.
Gray's eyes followed him with a savage concentrated hate in them.

It was the man's coarse scorn of himself that was hardest to
bear--harder even than the knowledge that he had lost the money he had
sacrificed so much to gain.  Gray had been accustomed to the admiration
of his fellow-men.  He had been liked and respected wherever he had
been.  It was horrible to him to be the object of this convict's coarse
taunts and sneers.  He, who had so prided himself on his clean name and
unblemished record, had fallen low indeed.  And he could not feel that
the taunts were undeserved.  Slowly and grudgingly, just for a moment,
the curtain that hid his true self was lifted for Gray, and with a
shudder he confessed that Lumley did him no wrong in claiming
partnership with him.

His gloomy thoughts were broken into by a chuckle from Clay.

"I always said he was the 'cutest of us all," he declared in an
admiring tone, as he came back to Gray.  "Too soft for me.  We lost a
goodish pile once because he wouldn't use these little beauties," and
he touched the revolver in his hand.  "But that 'cute he was; up to
every trick of the profession.  You couldn't understand this, couldn't
you?"

He did not wait for an answer, but went on in a quicker tone.

"Of course you couldn't; you'd have been searching here for a month of
Sundays if I hadn't kindly come to help you.  '_Big Gum Tree_.'  Ha!
ha!  Tom was 'cute, to be sure."

Gray did not speak; he did not even look up.

"Don't be down on your luck, my lad," said Clay jocosely; "there's
enough for both of us.  It'll be more than the reward, any way," and he
chuckled with a cruel sort of mirth.  "You've got a handy little pick
in that knapsack of yours; just fetch it, will you?"

"Get it yourself!"

Clay gave him a fierce threatening look.

"None of your airs and graces here, young man.  You do what I tell you,
or it'll be the worse for you."

He sat down on the block of wood opposite Gray, folded his arms and
added:

"You're the junior partner, and you'll just wait on me, my fine fellow.
You go and fetch me that pick to begin with."

Gray ground his teeth with helpless rage, but he got up and took the
pick from his knapsack.  It was a small slender tool, but very strong.
Clay looked at it approvingly.

"Now, you dig up that hearth-stone, mate, and you'll see what you'll
see."

"The hearth-stone?"

"You do what I tell you," returned Lumley with a nod.  "You go and dig
up that hearth-stone."

Gray flung down the pick.

"I won't do anything of the sort.  I won't stand any more of this sort
of treatment.  You may shoot me if you like"--for Lumley had raised his
revolver--"but do your bidding I won't."

Gray fully expected, even half-wished for, a shot from the revolver
Lumley held up at him for a moment.  But the convict changed his mind.
He put the weapon in his pocket and got coolly up.

"Well, if you won't I must," he said, and went over to the hearth-stone
that lay buried under a heap of earth and timber.

Gray sank down on the fallen rafter and buried his face in his hands.
No man can look on death and bear an unchanged front, not even the
bravest and the most prepared, and Gray was not of these.  For a brief
moment he had believed that death was close to him.  It was to Lumley's
interest to kill him now that he knew where the gold was, and there had
been murder in his eyes as he had looked across at Gray.  And Gray sat
with his hands clasped over his eyes, in sick, horrible fear at the
thought of himself lying cold and stiff, with eyes staring blindly up
at the sky; his soul gone--where?

At the other end of the hut Clay was busy.  He dashed away the heap of
rubbish on the hearth-stone, and digging the pick into the loose earth
round it, dragged it up without much difficulty.  A cry of exultation
broke from him as he did so.  Embedded in the ground below the
hearth-stone lay a small tin box, bound round and round with whipcord.
To drag up the box, cut the already decaying cord, and wrench open the
cover was the work of a moment.  Two or three wrappings of thick brown
paper lay over the contents of the box.  He tore these off, and
clutched at what lay beneath.

"Come here, partner," he shouted; "what do you say to this, eh?"

Gray slowly rose and came towards him.  How he had anticipated the
moment when this money should lie before him!  There it was, and he
looked at it with a shudder.

Lumley emptied the contents of the box on the floor before him, and
began eagerly to count over the notes and gold.

"A prime catch, eh?" he remarked, as he caught up a handful of
sovereigns and let them fall back in a glittering heap.  "We'll be able
to cut a dash on this, partner.  Look at this nugget!  And the flimsy
is all safe--  Tom took care of that; there ain't one of the numbers
known."  And he held up the banknotes to Gray with a grin.  "Better
than the reward after all, my boy, even the half of it, though not
_quite_ so good as the whole lot.  You thought you were going to grab
it all, didn't you?  You were a green un to think so.  Why, I've
followed you up from the moment I heard of Tom's death.  I knew he'd
leave some paper or other to tell where 'twas.  Tom wasn't greedy, not
he."  He went on with the examination of the treasure while he spoke;
counting the gold and notes, and putting the nuggets into a heap apart.
Presently he looked up with his cunning smile at Gray's dark face.

"You don't ask me, partner, how I came to hit on the hearth-stone."

"How was it?" said Gray indifferently.  The gold might have been
withered leaves, the notes blank pieces of paper for all the interest
he could feel in them.

"'Twas a good job for you I followed you," returned Lumley cheerfully.
"You might have prodded round till doomsday.  I knew what Tom meant by
'_hole in Big Gum_,' d'you see.  That big log there with the window was
from the biggest gum of the whole lot we cut down.  And the window was
the hole.  Ain't it plain as daylight now, eh?"

"Plain enough."

It was getting dusk outside, and Lumley got up and went to the door of
the hut.

"We'd best be starting, partner," he said over his shoulder.  "There's
nothing out against me that I know of, but I'd rather not be seen by
daylight with you just at present, as you'll understand."

Gray hardly heard the words.  He picked up his knapsack from the floor.

"I'll start this minute.  I suppose you have got a horse?"

Lumley came back to the money before he answered.  He began to divide
it into two heaps.

"Yes, I've got a horse, partner, a pretty good one too.  We scared you
pretty well just now, eh? down along the track.  My horse can climb
like a 'possum, and I didn't want you to see me then."

The man's manner had changed again.  It was smoother and more refined.
It was as if he had slipped on a mask, and Gray's loathing of him
increased as he marked the sudden easy transition.  His coarseness was
almost better than this oily softness.  It maddened Gray.

"You needn't divide that money," he broke out in a sudden impulse of
miserable rage.  "I'll have none of it.  And if I leave this place
alive I'll give you over to the police.  You mark my words!"

Lumley looked up at him with a quiet smile.

"Two of us can play at that game, my fine fellow!"  Then his manner
changed quickly from softness to ferocity.  "You young fool, you!
Don't you know the police are after you?  They may be outside this, for
aught I know, this minute.  Anyway, they're close upon your track."

Gray stepped fiercely towards him.

"You lie!" he gasped out.

"You'd better ride down to Ford's to-night and find out," returned
Lumley in a sulky, indifferent tone; "you'll have a warm welcome!"

"It's false!" Gray almost shouted the words.  "They have no reason."

Lumley looked up at him with a grin.

"That's a pretty statement for you to make, partner.  Anyway, there's a
warrant out against you.  Not for this pretty stuff alone, mind
you--suspicion of _murder_!"

His crafty, cruel eyes fixed themselves on Gray's pallid twitching face.

"Murder of your mate, partner.  'Twas a pity you had to do it, for it's
a hanging matter; but he was an obstinate chap, I expect.  Pious and
all that."

"They believe I murdered Harding?" Gray gasped out.

"Don't take on, partner," returned Clay cheerfully; "murder will out,
as they say.  And the police haven't got you yet.  You trust to me: I
know a track that'll take us out safe enough.  I daresay you feel
queer, though.  It's unpleasant to be tracked by the police.  I'm used
to it, but I don't like it.  I expect you wouldn't have done it if
you'd thought you'd have been found out; eh, partner?"

It overwhelmed Gray to find that he could be suspected of a
cold-blooded treacherous murder.

"You think--you dare to think--" he broke out, and then his voice
failed him.

Had he not, in very purpose and act, been the murderer of his mate?
The words of angry defence faltered on his tongue.  He stood
self-convicted, seeing for the first time all the horror of his
act--unable to say a word to clear himself of the charge Lumley brought
against him.



CHAPTER VII.

DESERTED!

A vast sun-scorched plain stretching away in endless miles under a
blazing sky.  A waterless desert, where the horses sunk fetlock-deep in
shifting sand, or were cruelly pricked by the thorny leafless shrub
which was the only living plant to be seen.  No trees; no flowers; no
grass; no sparkle of water far or near.  Such was the land Gray and
Lumley were riding through, four days after leaving Deadman's Gully.

In dull despair Gray had submitted to Lumley's plan for escaping the
police.  It had never occurred to him to disbelieve Lumley's statement.
There seemed no reason for the lie, and he remembered Mr. Morton's
sudden keen glance at him the night he left the station.  If it had
leaked out that he had gone searching for Dearing's hidden treasure,
they might well suspect him of ridding himself of Harding.

Gray's confidence in himself had altogether gone.  Dull despair had
taken possession of him.  The past he could not bear to think of.  The
future made him shudder when he looked along the dreary years.  What
was there left for him to live for?

They had passed the hill-country on the second day, and were now
crossing a portion of that arid region which lies to the north-west of
the mountains.  Clay had brought with him a stock of food sufficient
for a week or more.  There was no danger of starvation.  It was water
that failed them.

A consuming thirst came upon Gray as the sun rode higher and higher in
the heavens.  It was ten hours since he had tasted water, and his lips
and throat were becoming baked and painful.

"You are sure you know the track?" he said to Lumley, checking his
horse to look round him.

A light heat-mist was quivering over the plains.  The air was intensely
hot and dry.

Lumley stopped his horse too.

"Thought you were never goin' to speak again," he said jeeringly.  "I
know the track well enough.  We shall see water in another twenty-four
hours, take my word for it."

Gray marvelled within himself how it was possible to follow any track
in such a place as this.  They had been riding for miles and miles
without seeing a tree or a hillock, or even a dry water-course.  One
mile was exactly like any other mile.  But he said nothing more to his
companion.  Silence was a boon Gray craved almost as much as he longed
for water.  At first Lumley had thrust his talk upon him, and found
pleasure in the misery he inflicted on Gray by his coarse jokes and
cruel jeers.  But he had grown more silent lately, and for the last
hour or so had not spoken at all.

He was riding now a little in advance of Gray, looking round him with
somewhat anxious eyes.  He was looking for a group of cypress-trees.
He felt sure they were riding in the right direction, but he had a
strong reason for wishing to see them rise on the horizon before
another halt.  When once he saw them his course would be clear and
easy.  He would know his position exactly, and reach water in an hour
or two.

Gray saw that his companion was looking for some landmark; but Lumley
said nothing of the object of his search.  He had never mentioned the
cypress-trees to Gray.  Gray had asked him once how he would guide
himself across the desert, and he had refused to answer.

"You'd like to make off by yourself, wouldn't you?" he had said with a
jeering laugh; "stick a knife into me, and leave me for the flies to
feed on?  No, no, partner; we'll jog on together.  You sha'n't serve me
as you served your mate.  Not if I know it."

Gray had given up asserting his innocence of Harding's actual murder.
His words had not the slightest effect on Lumley.  It was not that he
pretended to believe in Gray's guilt Gray saw, and saw truly, that his
companion actually believed that he had murdered Harding in cold blood
and buried him in some secret place.  Clay had only laughed at his
declarations of innocence.

"What's there to make such a fuss about, partner?  I never did see such
a cove for making believe.  But you can't take Bill Clay in, my lad.  I
can tell a rogue directly I set eyes on him.  By fellow-feeling, you
see."

The day grew hotter and hotter.  The air that blew against their faces
as they rode along was dry and scorching.  It was like riding in a
heated furnace.  Suddenly Lumley gave a shout.  He had seen on the
horizon, through the quivering heat-mist, three cypresses pointing with
black fingers to the sky.  He knew as he looked that it was but an
illusion, a mirage.  But he knew, too, that the real cypresses, of
which he saw the shadows, were in that direction, and not so very far
off.

Gray saw the cypresses in the same moment.

"Trees!" he cried eagerly--for where trees grew water must be near.

"You're a pretty fellow to go bush-riding," grumbled Lumley.  "They
ain't trees--not real ones, so to speak.  They're clouds."

And Gray saw for himself how misty the dark outlines were; and even as
he looked he saw the mirage disappear.  But he marked the point in the
horizon at which the mirage had appeared, and was astonished to see
Lumley suddenly turn his horse in a totally different direction.

"Surely it would be better to go that way.  There must be water near."

"Go by yourself, then," snarled Lumley, over his shoulder; "and a good
riddance too."

He rode sulkily on and Gray followed him.  When they had gone a few
miles Clay's horse gave a stumble, and Clay sprang off.

"He's dead beat," he said.  "We'll rest here."

"But---" Gray began, and then he stopped.  What was the use of
speaking?  He was forced to trust to Lumley's guidance.

They lay down on the baked scorched soil, hobbling their horses that
they might not wander far.  Gray flung himself on the sand, face
downwards, careless of the hot sun that poured upon him.  Lumley went a
few paces off to a bed of polygonum, the gloomy leafless bramble of the
wilderness.  He scooped out a hollow in the sand below the bramble and
lay down there in the tiny oasis of shadow he had thus obtained.
Unseen of Gray he took a bottle he had secreted in his pocket and drank
the few drops remaining in it, then corked it and put it back.  Then he
turned upon his side and slept.

He was sleeping still when Gray roused himself from the heavy stupor of
despair that had come upon him and sat up.  There lay the grim horrible
wilderness all about him.  A short distance off the horses were
standing with drooping heads and panting sides.  In the scanty shadow
of the bramble Lumley lay asleep.

Gray got up and walked to Lumley's side, and stood looking down on the
evil face as if his eyes were drawn there by some horrible fascination.
The convict slept heavily, his face turned upwards to the sky.  Gray
saw that his lips were wet.  He had water, then!  Gray had suspected
that he had, but he did not try to find out where it was hidden.  He
turned away with a shudder and flung himself down upon the ground again.

It was growing dusk when Lumley woke from that heavy sleep.  He started
up wildly and looked round him.  For days he had kept awake fearing
treachery from Gray if he let sleep overcome him.  Now he had been
sleeping for many hours.  The sun had been blazing in a clear sky when
he fell asleep; now the sky was covered with thick gray clouds, and
night was close at hand.  He looked round him and saw at once the two
horses.  A second glance showed him Gray lying with his face upon one
arm not far from him.  Lumley approached, and saw that he was asleep.

He bent over him to satisfy himself the sleep was not feigned, and then
turned towards the horses.  It was not difficult to catch them, and he
had prepared to mount when an idea struck him.  Taking a scrap from his
pocket, the page on which Gray had reproduced Dearing's map for him, he
scrawled a few words, putting the paper on his saddle to write.  Then
he softly approached Gray, and stuck the paper into the sand by a
branch of bramble.  When this was done he crept back again to the
horses.

He remained looking at them reflectively for a moment.  His own horse
stood with drooping head and panting sides, evidently nearly done for,
but Gray's horse had borne the long journey well.  Lumley had already
fastened the bag containing the money and the pistols to his own
saddle, but now he shifted it to the other.  Gray's horse turned an
uneasy glance on him as he did so; and Lumley had a little difficulty
in mounting it.  But he got into the saddle at last, and taking the
bridle of his own horse in his hand he rode away, giving a backward
look now and then to the man he was deserting.

Night came, a thick starless night with clouds hanging low over the
desert.  A cool wind came with the clouds and blew on Gray, and he
slept.  He was worn out, and he slept hour after hour.  The dawn was
breaking when he at last awoke.  His sleep had been so deep, so
dreamless, that in it he had forgotten all that had happened.  But
memory came quickly back.  He started up and looked round for Lumley
and the horses.

All was still, with a stillness unknown save in desert lands.  The
silence was profound.  In the gray dawn he could see the plains with
perfect distinctness.  He looked round him from horizon to horizon.
There was no living thing in sight.  He was alone.

He understood instantly what had happened.  Lumley had deserted him.
His first feeling was one of absolute relief.  He had escaped from that
hateful bondage.  It was not for some moments that he realized the
hopelessness of his position.  Ignorant of the track, alone, on foot,
without water or food, what hope was there for him of escaping from the
desert?  Gray knew how little hope there was.  As he had deserted
Harding, so he in turn had been deserted.  As Harding had perished, so
he too would perish.  He looked his fate in the face with the calmness
of despair.

Before he had fallen asleep he had made up his mind to give himself up
to the police and meet the charge brought against him if once he
escaped from the wilds.  It seemed to him now as if God had refused him
a chance of proving his repentance.  He was to perish in the
wilderness, an outcast from God and man.

He sank down on the ground again, and sat there with his elbows on his
knees, his head propped on his hands, staring steadily before him.  In
the dawn the wide level spaces of the wilderness resembled the pastures
that had surrounded their hut.  Gray found himself remembering his life
there with intense clearness.  He saw Harding busy about the hut, ever
cheerful, ever ready.  He saw him among the cattle, strong of hand,
alert of eye.  He saw him riding home in the twilight, talking of his
wife and his little lads; turning in his stirrups to give a word of
cheer to Watch; or bearing Gray's grumbling talk with cheerful patience.

What depths of steadfast affection there were in the heart of that
rough man!  Once when Gray was ill he had tended him like a woman.  He
had sat beside him night after night in unwearying affection.  Gray
remembered how he had lifted him from bed to chair, as he might have
lifted a child.  He seemed to feel the pressure of his hand on his
shoulder still as he stood over him, pressing him to eat some dainty he
had prepared, to see his rugged kindly face bending over him.  What
would he not give for a sight of that kind face now, and a touch of
that strong honest hand?

Gray's stony despair gave way; the hard, desperate look on his face
softened.  He burst into bitter tears.  His frame shook with the
strong, terrible crying of despairing grief.

But the tears did him good; they cleared his brain, and made it
possible for him to think of what was best for him to do.  He no longer
felt inclined to give up without a struggle for life.  He got up from
the ground and looked round him with a new strength.  It was then he
saw the note Lumley had stuck into the sand beside him.  He picked it
up and read it.  It was only a few scrawled words:

"_The police ain't after you at all, Mr. Gentleman Gray, so you can
clear out of the Bush as soon as you like.  I'll not split on you, and
you won't on me, I guess._

"_N.B.  Dead men tell no tales._"

The words were perfectly clear in the pale morning light.  Gray read
them and then threw the paper away with a shudder.  He felt no anger
against Lumley, only a sick horror that made anger impossible.  What
Lumley had done was what he himself had done.  He deserved his fate.

The knowledge that the police held no warrant against him, that the
story was but a trick of Lumley's to get him into the Bush, affected
him strangely little.  He had made up his mind to tell the whole story
if ever he got back to the haunts of men again.  The confession he had
to make would be a purely voluntary one now; that was his chief thought
as he read Lumley's letter.



CHAPTER VIII.

LOST IN THE BUSH.

Gray lost no time in starting forwards.  The choice of direction made
by him was determined by remembering the cypresses of which they had
seen the mirage.  He believed that they had been a landmark to Clay,
and that his turning in another direction was but a feint.

It was difficult for Gray to decide the exact direction.  The sky was
heavy with clouds, and no sun could be seen behind them.  But he
carefully calculated as well as he could whereabouts on the horizon the
trees had appeared, and turned towards that point.

He knew enough of Bush stories to know the tendency of wanderers there
to travel in a circle; and in this sterile waste, where every mile was
like every other mile, Gray felt he might travel round and round and
never know it.  To prevent this he dug shallow holes with his knife
here and there, and stuck boughs of the bramble in them, so that he
might recognize the spot if he came to it again.

Towards noon the clouds gradually dispersed and the sun blazed down
upon him.  This bettered his position in one way, as he could now be
sure of walking forward, but it increased the torment of thirst until
it became almost unendurable agony.  He struggled on till past noonday,
but no dark cypresses lifted themselves on the sky-line.  The desert
stretched round him in its blank, dreadful loneliness.  The blazing sun
beat down upon him, making sight a torture.  He could go no further.
He flung himself down on the unsheltered burning sand and hid his eyes
from the light.

Towards evening the clouds gathered again, and he rose and struggled
on.  He walked many miles that night, and towards dawn lay down and
slept.  The second day passed much as the first had done.  The sky
cleared again, and the fury of the sun beat down upon him.  He
struggled on for a time, and again gave up the struggle and lay down
and waited for evening.

On the third day his agony of thirst had become unbearable.  He knew
that in a few more hours death must end his sufferings if he could not
reach water.  With grim determination he battled on that day through
the flaming sunshine and gave himself no rest.  Every moment he
expected to see the cypresses rise on the horizon; and he was sweeping
it with his glance when his eye fell on a white object fluttering on
the wind from shrub to shrub.  At first he could not discern what it
was--his bloodshot weary eyes refused their office---but on approaching
nearer he saw it was a piece of paper.  It fluttered across his path.
He picked it up with a horrible foreboding.  It was Lumley's letter,
written on the back of the map he had drawn in the hut.

It was just possible the wind had carried it onwards to cross his path.
Gray made an effort to think that this was so.  But a few staggering
steps further on brought him to the shallow holes in which the brambles
stood upright.  He had come back to the place from which he had
started!  All hope died within him as he saw those hollows.  He sank
down on the sand to wait for death.

He was lying face downwards on the sand, with his arms flung out before
him, when a low distant sound suddenly broke the stillness.  He started
up and looked wildly round.  The twilight had fallen, and he could not
distinguish objects clearly; but as he strained his gaze from side to
side the sound came again to his ears--the sound of a horse galloping
at full speed across the desert.

Gray could now distinguish from what direction the sound came, and he
hurried forward, hope once more rising up in him.  Was it Lumley come
back to help him, repentant for his desertion?  Or was it some lost
traveller like himself, seeking a way out of these dreadful wilds?  Or
had Lumley sent a party to search for him from the nearest station,
while going onwards himself to safety?  Gray asked himself these
questions as he hurried on through the gathering darkness.  He still
could hear the galloping hoofs, and for a time they seemed to come
nearer and nearer.  But suddenly he became aware that they were
receding from him--the sound was becoming fainter and fainter, it was
dying away in the distance.

Gray stopped.  A cry of despair broke from him, and then, summoning all
his strength, he raised a loud "Coo-ee!"

The shrill shout died away upon the air and left profound stillness
behind it.  Gray could no longer hear the faintest sound of the horse's
hoofs.  Either the rider had stopped to listen to his call or had gone
on beyond hearing.  Gray moistened his baked and blistered lips, and
then again shouted.  The shout again died away, leaving intense
stillness behind it.  But this time the stillness only lasted for a
moment.  There came a faint answering cry, far-off and indistinct, but
unmistakably the cry of a human voice.

Gray once more hurried forward.  The ground was growing rougher; it was
broken up into hillocks, and his progress was less rapid.  After a time
he stopped and called again, and again heard the answering call.  He
was no longer alone in the wilderness; friendly help was near.

The moon rose as Gray hurried on, rose in full splendour, making the
plain almost as light as day.  Gray looked in vain for what he had
hoped to see--the outline of horse and rider against the pale silvery
glow of the sky.  There was no horse anywhere to be seen; there was
nothing to be seen but the low bushes and the bunches of dry grass, and
the great circle of the desert against the horizon.  But as Gray stared
round him, refusing to believe the evidence of his own eyes, the shout
came again--came with a mocking ring in it that made Gray's blood run
suddenly cold.  He knew the voice now: it was Lumley's voice.  But it
was as cruel and mocking as ever.  Gray's dream of help from him
vanished like a breath as he heard it.

He stumbled on across the sand hillocks, and presently could discern a
huddled figure on the ground, with its back propped up against a
hillock.  The moonlight was full on the haggard blistered face that
looked up at Gray with twitching lips.

"Welcome, partner," were Lumley's first words.  "You didn't expect to
see me again, did you now?"

Gray made no answer.  He was too far gone in despair to have even a
flicker of curiosity as to how Lumley came to be lying there.  But
Lumley proceeded to enlighten him.  He thrust forward his foot, from
which he had cut away the boot, and Gray could see that it was
discoloured and badly swollen.

"I owe that to your cursed horse," he said, in a sulky, vindictive
tone.  "Just as I'd hit upon the track again, too."

Gray cast a wide glance over the moonlit plains before he spoke.  But
no horse was visible.

"He flung you, I suppose?" he said, in a quiet, expressionless tone.
"I could have warned you not to play any tricks with him.  Where is
your own horse?"

The absence of vindictiveness from Gray's manner puzzled Lumley.  He
stared up at him, wondering what it meant.

"Dead," he said sulkily after a moment.  "I'd better have stuck to you
after all, you see, mate.  But I'd have sent after you the first chance
I had.  I meant to do that all along."

He had paused before adding the last sentence, and his manner had
suddenly altered, had become smooth and conciliating.

Gray did not attempt to answer him.  He moved away a few paces and
flung himself down on the ground, and sat with his head propped on his
hands, staring straight in front of him.  Lumley watched him in
silence.  His face showed none of the dull despair that had settled on
Gray's, but was alight with fierce excitement.  And the glance he bent
on Gray was a strange one.  There was hate in it, and longing, and a
torturing doubt.

"You're pretty bad, ain't you, partner?" he said at last.  "Had a bad
time since we parted, I daresay."

"Did you expect me to have a good time?" Gray answered without looking
at him.

"Missed the track?  Been wanderin' round and round?  Just what happened
to me, you see, though I thought I was dead sure of my way.  But I got
my right bearings again--if it hadn't been for that horse of yours--"

He was tearing up fiercely the scanty grass beside him as he spoke, and
there broke out a sudden fury in his face.  But he thrust back the oath
that came to his lips, and spoke, after a pause, in the same
conciliating tone.

"We've had bad luck, both on us, haven't we, partner?  And my bad
luck's been yours; for I'd have sent back for you.  I only meant to
frighten you a bit."

"What's the good of talking about it?" Gray said wearily.  "It'll soon
be over for both of us now.  Another day must see the last of it."

He just turned his head to speak, and then went back to his old
position, his eyes staring hopelessly across the silent waste.  His
apathy seemed to rouse Lumley to a sort of frenzy again.  With an
effort that forced a groan from him he dragged himself a pace forwards
and plucked Gray by the sleeve.

"You'd not sit there long if you knew what I know, you fool," he burst
out.  "Didn't I tell you I found my bearings again?  Didn't you hear me
say it?"

His excitement communicated itself to Gray.  He turned round with a
wild questioning glance.

"Do you mean--For God's sake tell me the truth!  Do you know where we
are?  Is that it?"

He had not sprung up, but life and energy had come back to him.  His
hands clenched, his shoulders straightened themselves.  He had it in
him, he felt, to make a good fight for life yet.

Lumley grew cool as he saw the hope leap into Gray's face.  He let go
his sleeve and sank back against the hillock.

"Suppose I do know," he said in the old mocking tone; "what then,
partner?"

Gray stared at him without speaking, and Lumley repeated the question:

"What then, partner?"

Gray was silent.  He had fixed his eyes on Lumley's face, as if his
glance could drag out the truth from him.  Lumley gave him back glance
for glance.  Then he suddenly bent down and drew a rough circle on the
sand.  Gray drew close, bending towards the circle with intent eyes.

"That's where we are, partner, d'ye see?" said Lumley, making a hole
with his finger in the middle of the circle; "and here's the moon,"
making another mark.  "You're follerin' me so far, eh?"

"Yes, go on," said Gray breathlessly.

Lumley gave him a quick look from under his bushy eyebrows, and then
bent over the plan again.

"Do you remember them trees we saw just afore we parted?" he said,
looking on the ground as he spoke.  "'Twas the sight of them made me
sure we was in the right road.  I made tracks for them when we parted
company."

He looked up furtively at Gray again.

"You got that bit of a note I wrote you, partner?"

Gray hardly heard the words.

"Never mind that.  Go on, go on!" he hurried out with passionate
eagerness.

He was sure now that Lumley knew in which direction the trees lay, knew
where water was to be obtained.

Lumley looked into his face with a sardonic grin.  He had grown cooler
and cooler as Gray's excitement rose.

"What's the hurry, partner?" he said; "there's nobody as I knows on
who's likely to interrupt us.  Well, as I was sayin', I made straight
for them trees, but somehow I missed the track.  That cloudy weather
put me out, you see; and 'twasn't till near sundown last night I got
sight of them."

He stopped, gave a rapid glance round the horizon, and then bent over
the sand again.

"They can't be far off then?" asked Gray, who had followed his glance
with breathless impatience.

"Too far off for me anyways," Lumley answered, with a quick upward look
at him.  "I'd tried that afore I answered your call, partner.  Did you
think 'twas me, now, when you got an answer?  I knew 'twas you in a
minute."

"I don't know; I forget.  What's the good of wasting time like this?"
cried Gray, getting suddenly on his feet.  "Tell me which way to go.  I
can do it now, but in another hour or two it will be too late.  Which
way?  Be quick!"

"It can't be more than half a dozen miles or so," returned Lumley in a
slow reflective tone that almost drove Gray out of his senses with
impatience.  "You make a bee-line for the trees, and then strike off to
the left where the ridge is, and it's just over the ridge that there's
water.  Yards of it, partner, all shining and sparkling in the
moonlight.  Why, you could be close to it in an hour almost.  And
there's no mistake about it; it isn't no salt-pan, but fresh water fit
for a king to drink.  I've seen it afore me all the time I've been
lyin' here.  Can't you see it, partner?"

It was a maddening vision which Lumley's words had called up before
Gray.  A cool stretch of limpid, shining water--there it lay before
him, close to him.  He was kneeling down by it, plunging his fevered
face into it, slaking the thirst that was burning his life away.  And
it meant life, that cool, delicious draught; it meant more than
life--it meant opportunity for atonement, for undoing, as far as in him
lay, the wrong he had done, for proving his repentance a real and
lasting one.

Lumley was stooping over the sand, but his eyes were on Gray's face,
and he saw all the eagerness in it.  He saw it, and interpreted it
according to his own nature.  He broke into a harsh laugh, and with a
sweep of one hand on the sand, he destroyed the rough chart he had made.

"You'd like to start this minute, wouldn't you, partner? and the crows
might make their meal off me.  I saw a flock of them nigh here
yesterday; they're waiting for their feast.  You wouldn't like to
disappoint them, would you?"

Gray did not comprehend him in the least.

"Don't waste time like this," he said imploringly; "let me be off at
once.  I could be back to you by sunrise if I have good luck.  And you
have a bottle about you, haven't you?  Let me have it.  And who
knows?--I may fall in with the horse."

Lumley laughed again.

"So you may, partner, so you may.  'Twas the smell of the water that
drove him frantic, I believe.  He made straight for it.  And there's
the swag upon him, and the pistols, and the grub.  You'll be well set
up if you come across the horse."

A sudden terror had come upon Gray as he listened to this speech of
Lumley's, and looked down upon his sneering, evil face.

"You are playing with me!" he burst out, and the cold sweat stood out
upon his brow as he said it.  "You know nothing of the water!"



CHAPTER IX.

FACING DEATH

Lumley paused a moment before answering that last speech of Gray's.
Then his tone was mild and smooth.

"What's the good of talking like that, mate?  But just look there."  He
pointed to his foot again as he spoke.  "Does it look as if 'twould
carry me half a dozen miles?  Or a mile?  Or a couple of yards?  And
I've hurt my side as well.  Broke a rib or two, maybe.  I tried
crawlin' a while ago, but I couldn't even manage that.  I'm no better
than a log--only fit for the crows, partner.  What's the good of water
to me when I can't get at it?"

His tone was so mild and reasonable that Gray felt no difficulty in
answering him.

"But half a dozen miles is nothing to me.  Give me that bottle.  I'll
be back before sunrise."  He paused a moment, and then as he saw the
expression in the other's face he added impetuously, "I swear it.  Good
heavens, Lumley, you don't think I would desert you?  You don't think
that?"

The fury that had once or twice swept away Lumley's coolness had come
upon him again, and he no longer cared to restrain it.  He lifted
himself, shaking one clenched fist towards Gray.

"Do you think I'd trust you for a single minute, you smooth-tongued
hypocrite!" he screamed.  "You'd be glad enough to leave me lyin' here,
wouldn't you?  But you're not going to get the chance, Mr. Gentleman
Gray.  We'll stick together, like partners should.  The crows sha'n't
feast on me alone, I'll tell you that."

Gray made no attempt to answer him just then.  When Lumley stopped
speaking and sank back with a groan of pain on the sand, Gray turned
and walked away a few paces, and stood trying to get some mastery over
the trembling sick misery that seemed ready to overpower him.  There
was no anger in his heart against the man whose deep, laboured breaths
he could still hear behind him.  It was only natural, Gray said to
himself, that he should believe him capable of deserting him.  He had
deserved to be thought willing to commit even such a baseness as that.

Yet if he could not convince Lumley that he was to be trusted, there
was nothing but death for both of them.  Gray had felt incapable of
reasoning with his companion for the moment, incapable even of speech.
He had felt ready to give up the struggle--to let it all end there.
But as he stood fighting manfully with his weakness, strength came to
him--power to will and act as a brave man should.  The far-off
moon-clear skyline, the stars faintly shining in the upper blue, the
solemn moonlight, the rustle of the wind in the dry grasses, all seemed
to have a message for him--to whisper hope, to lift him out of himself,
to give him courage to make another fight for life.

He went back to Lumley, and sat down again where he had sat before.

"Listen to me a moment, Lumley," he said.  "You say you know where
water is?"

"_Say_ I know?  I _do_ know, partner; you may lay your life to that,"
responded Lumley harshly.

He had been lying watching Gray, wondering what his next move would be.
Gray's quiet manner was a surprise to him.

"Very well, you do know.  Now, I will tell you what I am going to do.
I shall wait a few moments for you to tell me where it lies--"

"You may wait a hundred years if you like," broke in Lumley with a
savage look.

"And then I mean to set off to try and find it for myself," went on
Gray, as if Lumley had not spoken.  "You have told me too much if you
did not mean to tell me more.  I shall walk six miles in one direction,
and if I do not get in sight of the trees, I shall walk back and try
again.  I must hit upon them at last, you know."

"You'd never do it," said Lumley scoffingly.  "You're nigh beat
already.  You'd die in your tracks."

"You're wrong there," returned Gray, with a quiet confidence that had
its due effect on his companion.  "I shall not be walking aimlessly,
you see, and in this moonlight there's no fear of going over the same
ground again.  I am convinced I shall reach the water in time enough
for myself.  It is you who will probably suffer for keeping back the
information you possess."

"What d'ye mean by that?" broke from Lumley fiercely.

"Just this," said Gray, keeping his glance steadily fixed upon him: "if
I could reach this water without delay I should be able to get back to
you with a supply; but if I wear out my strength in getting there, I
may not be able to get back to you in time.  Surely you can see that?"

Lumley glared at him like a trapped beast.

"You're just the one to come back, ain't you?" he exclaimed.  "A cove
what murdered his own mate for a bit of flimsy.  You're one to be
trusted, ain't you?"

"You must believe that if you will," said Gray calmly.  His voice
faltered as he went on after a momentary pause.  "I betrayed my
mate--the truest, best mate man ever had; but I'll be true to you,
Lumley, if you'll give me the chance.  I am not the man I was."

The only answer Lumley vouchsafed to that was a harsh mocking laugh.
Gray did not speak again, and they sat in silence for some moments,
while Lumley dragged up his injured foot and rubbed it, keeping a
furtive scrutiny on Gray's determined face.  When he had first heard
Gray's call and answered it, he had not made up his mind as to whether
he should trust him or no, and through their first talk he had wavered
to and fro--now feeling ready to risk the chance that Gray would come
back to him, now savagely vowing within himself that they should both
die, almost within sight of the water that would be life to them,
rather than Gray should alone escape.  At the last this savage mood had
conquered, and he had felt it impossible to trust Gray with his
precious secret.

But now he began to see clearly enough that he had outwitted himself.
The trees were so near, and such a striking landmark, that Gray was
certain to find them if he had strength enough to persevere for some
hours in the search; and that he had strength enough, Lumley could not
but believe as he looked at his quiet resolute face.

The silence continued for some moments.  It was broken by Gray.

"I think I have given you time enough," he said, getting deliberately
on his feet.  "Now, which is it to be, Lumley?  I shall start in
another moment."

A fierce oath escaped Lumley's lips.

"I'll not be left to rot here," he snarled out.  "I'll walk it somehow.
Give me your arm, partner."

He made a clutch at it, and dragged himself slowly and painfully to his
feet.  The agony of movement turned Lumley's face to the clammy hue of
death, but he would not give way to the pain.  He essayed to walk
forward, but after the first step Gray stood still.

"You can't do it, Lumley.  It is madness to attempt it."

Lumley glared at him for a moment, and then suddenly yielded.

"You're right, partner; I'm beat.  You've got the best of it this time.
Now help me back again, and I'll tell you all I know."

Gray helped him back to the hillock, and put his foot in as comfortable
a position as possible.

"I'll be back to you before many hours are over, Lumley.  I'll make all
the haste I can," he said, his tone softened by a sudden pity for the
disabled man.

Lumley looked up at him with implacable eyes.

"Ill believe you when I see you, mate.  But you've bested me all round,
and I've got to trust you, you see."

He dragged out the flat bottle from his pocket, and held it up to Gray.

"Turn your back on the moon and walk straight on; and if I ever see you
again you're a bigger fool than I take you for."

"I shall come back," Gray said briefly.

He pocketed the bottle, and turned sharply away in the direction Lumley
had pointed out.

He was hardly conscious of fatigue as he pressed across the sandy
waste.  Even the torture of thirst had grown less since hope had come
to him.  He hurried on with strong, eager footsteps, expecting every
moment to see the trees lift themselves against the sky.  Once the
terrible thought came to him that Lumley had been deceiving him all the
time, and his story of the water was a lie; but as he remembered
Lumley's looks and words, and recalled the intensity of excitement in
his face when he had left him, he knew that there was indeed water
close at hand.  Then, again, when he seemed to have been walking for a
long time, and the horizon still lay before him bare and unbroken, he
began to suspect that Lumley had wilfully misled him, and the water lay
in another direction.

But it was almost immediately after this that his foot struck against a
shrub, and looking down he saw he had come upon a banksia, a sign, as
he was bushman enough to know, that better country was close ahead.
The green leaves of the pretty little shrub were a welcome sight, and
it was shortly after passing this that he saw the tops of the cypresses
begin to show themselves against the sky-line, as the mast of a ship
lifts first above the sea-line.

Gray pushed on with renewed energy, and it was not long before he was
close to the gloomy trees.  A cloud of birds, the crows Lumley had
spoken of, rose from the trees as Gray approached, and flew screaming
over his head.  He listened to their harsh voices with a shudder, and
hastily struck away to the left, where a low ridge crossed the plain
and hid what lay beyond.

It took him some time to reach and breast the ridge, and his strength
was nearly at an end when he at last gained the top and looked down on
the shallow valley below.  He could not see the shining stretch of
water Lumley had spoken of, the valley was too thickly covered with
shrubby undergrowth for that.  But even in the moonlight Gray could see
that this undergrowth was densely green, and that the trees that sprang
above it were full of life and vigour.

And as he descended the ridge he came upon a faint track through the
underwood--a native track, Gray felt sure, and one that led to the
water.  He hurried along it, piercing deeper and deeper into the dark
recesses of the wood.  But the darkness had no terrors for Gray.  He
felt the track under his feet, and pressed boldly onward, pushing away
the interlacing boughs with his hands as he went.  And presently there
came a faint light through the trees ahead, and in a few more steps he
came out into a little open space, and saw the reflection of the
moonlight in a round, deeply-fringed pool close before him.

For the moment he saw nothing but the glimmering sheen of that water.
He flung himself down with a cry, and plunged his face in it.  It was
stagnant, it was thick with mud and floating weeds, but it was fresh,
and to Gray it was purest nectar.  He had self-control enough left not
to drink too much at once, but he lay by the side of the pool with
hands and arms buried deep in it, utterly oblivious for the moment of
everything but the mere physical delight the water brought to him.

How long he lay there he never knew.  He could never recall that time
except as a vague memory.  He could remember breaking out of the wood
and seeing the little moonlit pool before him, but after that it was
all confused.  What brought him back to clear consciousness was a
movement somewhere on the other side of the pool, where the branches of
a tree cast a flickering shadow on the grass.  Gray started up, dizzy
and trembling; but his first glance showed him what it was.  His horse
had found its way to the water before him, drawn by some sure and
marvellous instinct, and now had drawn close again to the pool, gazing
across at its master with mild recognizing eyes.

Gray cautiously approached it, fearing it might start away; but it
showed no desire to escape.  It arched its neck and whinnied joyfully
when Gray came close.  It was evidently delighted to feel its master's
hand again.  Gray stood by its side, patting it and speaking to it,
finding strange delight in its joyful welcome.  The wallet containing
the money still hung at the saddle, with the rough bag in which Lumley
had carried the food.

Gray, standing by the horse, took out some food and hurriedly ate it.
He would not trust himself to sit down again; he felt that sleep might
suddenly overcome him unawares.  When he had eaten a few morsels--he
found it too difficult to swallow to be able to eat much--he carefully
filled the bottle he carried, and the larger bottle that was in the bag
with the food, drank a deep draught himself and allowed his horse to
drink, and then, holding the horse by the bridle, he began to pick his
way along the path by which he had come.

The horse followed him quietly; it was only when they emerged from the
wood and began to ascend the slope of the ridge that it showed the
first signs of unwillingness.  Gray had to encourage it by voice and
hand before he could prevail upon it to take the upward path.

Gray was able to discern more clearly now how worn out the poor
creature was by all it had gone through.  He felt an impulse once to
let it have its way, and let it remain in the valley, but he dismissed
the impulse at once.  The horse was too useful, too necessary to be
dispensed with.

They reached the brow of the ridge, and there Gray rested for a while.
He had not mounted the horse, he had determined to go on leading it for
some time longer at least.  He doubted if it had strength left to carry
him.  He stood beside the horse with the bridle in his hand, and looked
down upon the vast plain stretching away from the foot of the ridge.

Up to that point Gray, since finding the horse, had acted
instinctively, almost as an automaton might act.  He was so worn out,
so numb with privation and fatigue, that he had not gone in thought
beyond the present moment.  But now it was as if a cloud had lifted
from his brain; he saw the whole position in a glance.  What had been
his heart's dearest wish was fulfilled for him.  All he had coveted,
all he had betrayed his mate Harding to get, was at last within his
grasp.  He had but to turn his horse's head away from that silent,
secret-keeping bush, and the gold was safely his.

Gray did not thrust the thought from him; he let his mind dwell upon
it, he regarded it steadily; for his eyes had been opened to see in
what the real happiness and worth of life consisted.  Through suffering
and humiliation he had learnt to measure things at their right value.
In contact with a man who had deliberately chosen evil to be his good
he had been taught what evil meant.  The temptation that had once been
too strong for him was no longer a temptation.  He could see the full
baseness of it now.  Better death, better open confession and a
dishonoured name, than life and honour bought by treachery and guile.

The trees stood up dark and funereal against the cloudless sky.  His
path lay beneath them, and on towards the moonlit east.

"Come, we must start, old fellow," Gray said to the reluctant horse,
and he began to descend the slope of the ridge.



CHAPTER X

A GRIM SORT OF PICNIC.

The dawn was breaking when Gray approached the spot where Lumley lay.
He had walked the whole distance, for his horse was evidently too
dead-beat to carry him.  He had had no difficulty in keeping to the
right track.  Indeed he had calculated so well, that when he first
stopped and "coo-eed" to make sure he was going right, Lumley's answer
had come from a point straight ahead, and no considerable distance off.

Lumley had seen him before that call.  Though he had told himself again
and again that Gray would never come back, that it was too much in his
interest to leave him there to die, his eyes had anxiously watched the
western horizon.

There had been something in Gray's look when he had spoken his last
words that had impressed Lumley powerfully, and so it was not
altogether a surprise to him when he at last could distinguish a dark,
moving object against the sky.  The surprise came later when he was
able to discern that Gray was leading his horse with him.

A strange change came over Lumley's face when he realized that; his
thin lips set themselves together, his brows contracted with a frown of
anxious thought, his eyes grew like the stealthy, waiting eyes of a
beast of prey which has not the strength to attack its victim in the
open, but lurks in ambush and springs upon it unawares.

With that look on his face he watched Gray approaching him through the
clear rosy light of the sunrise, but it was gone before Gray came near
enough to see his face clearly.  He made an effort at a smile of
grateful welcome.

"So you haven't left me to the crows, partner?" he said, raising
himself on his elbow as he spoke to grasp the bottle Gray held out to
him.  "I'm glad enough to see you, I can tell you that."

Gray nodded silently, and then went back to the horse and took the bags
from the saddle.  He brought them to the spot where Lumley was lying,
and flung them down at his side.  He saw that Lumley had done little
more than wet his lips from the bottle, but that he had torn some
strips from the lining of his coat, and was proceeding to pour water on
them with a careful hand.

"You'd better let me do that for you," Gray said quietly.  "And there
is more water, Lumley; take another pull.  I can fill the bottles again
if they are empty before you can move."

He had knelt down as he spoke, and taken the wet rags from Lumley's
hand to bind round his injured foot.

"The horse will have to carry me," said Lumley after watching Gray's
bandaging for a moment.  "You found him by the water, didn't you,
partner?"

"Yes, close by it."

Lumley eyed the horse with a quick furtive glance, and then looked at
Gray again.

"Did you tramp it all the way, partner?  I'd have let the horse save my
legs if I'd been you."

"He's dead beat," Gray said briefly.  "He had enough to carry."

Lumley's eyes turned involuntarily to the bags at his side.  He had
avoided looking at them since Gray had placed them by him.

"'Tis a mercy we've got the grub all right, ain't it, partner?" he
said.  "Though I'm blessed if I feel a bit peckish.  'Twas water I
wanted."

He drank a little from the bottle and corked it again.  Gray marvelled
at the self-control he showed in taking so little.

"I'd finish that bottle right away if I were you, Lumley," he said.
"It's only a few mouthfuls after all.  I sha'n't want any more for a
good time yet."

Lumley took another sip and then put the bottle away from him.

"'Tain't good to take too much at once, partner.  And so you found it
pretty easy, eh?  Now, how far should you reckon it?"

"Perhaps eight or nine miles."

Gray had finished his bandaging, and had opened the bag containing the
food.  As he sat down on the ground near Lumley he pushed the wallet of
money from him with his elbow, but Lumley did not give it a glance.
Neither he nor Gray had yet referred to it.

"Here's the other bottle of water," Gray said, taking it out and
sticking it in the sand.  "And here's the damper."  He took out some of
the dry uninviting scraps and laid them close to Lumley.  "There's
nothing else," he added, looking into the bag.

Lumley gave a quick glance at the bag.

"Didn't I put the pistols there, mate?  I haven't got 'em about me."
He spoke carelessly.

"Oh, they're here," Gray returned.  "But that's all the food left.
Still, there's enough to last us for a day or two."

"A kind of grim sort of picnic, isn't it?" said Lumley with a grin, as
he took up a bit of damper.  He ate a few mouthfuls and then drew out
the bottle for another sip.  "Here's to you, partner," he said with an
awkward nod at Gray, "and good luck to both on us."

Gray returned his nod, but made no answer in words.  Lumley put back
the bottle again, and watched him for a moment from beneath his heavy
brows.

"You don't bear no malice, I hope, mate?" he said suddenly.

Gray raised his heavy eyes and looked at him inquiringly.

"I was pretty rough on you last night," went on Lumley in a persuasive,
apologetic tone; "but I was drove up in a corner, you see.  I'd served
you so bad that I reckoned you'd be glad enough to pay me out.  Though
I'd have sent back for you from the nearest station, partner.  I meant
that all along."

Gray did not believe him, but he did not think it worth while to tell
him so.

"We'll let bygones be bygones, Lumley," he said in a friendly tone.
"We've both had a hard time of it, but it's nearly over now, I hope.
And you'll be able to trust me for the future."

"So I shall, so I shall, partner," returned Lumley rapidly.  "'Tisn't
many as would have come back--not after they'd got the horse and
everything.  What a bit of luck 'twould have been for you if you'd come
back and found me dead.  Didn't you hope you would, now?"

"No," said Gray.  He got slowly up and looked round for a hillock that
would give him a little shelter from the sun.  "I must get a sleep," he
said.  "I shall be fit for nothing till I've had that.  I'm dizzy for
want of it."

Lumley was staring up at him with sudden fierce suspicion in his
glance.  A new thought had struck him.  Ever since he had seen Gray
with the horse he had been wondering what had made him come back.  Such
refusal of good fortune seemed inexplicable to him.

"You didn't come across the police, did you?" he said.  "You've not set
a trap for me?"

But even as he said it he saw how unfounded his suspicion was, and the
sudden fierceness left his face, giving way to the anxious, apologetic
look it had worn all through his late talk with Gray.

"I haven't seen anyone," Gray said indifferently.

He moved away as he spoke, and Lumley watched him settle himself for a
sleep a little distance off.  Gray lay down with his back to him, under
the scanty shade of a hillock, and drew his hat over his eyes.

Lumley watched him intently till he had satisfied himself that he had
fallen into a deep sleep.  Then he made a quick clutch at the wallet of
money, and drew it close to him.  He hurriedly counted it over, giving
furtive looks at Gray the while.  Once Gray moved, and he crushed the
notes he held back into the bag, and pushed the bag from him.  But Gray
did not move again, and after a pause he resumed his counting.  When he
had satisfied himself that the money was all there he replaced it in
the wallet, which he put back into its original position.

He then, in the same cautious, hurried way, examined the pistols, and
replaced them in the bag.  He left them there for a moment, then took
one out again, and thrust it into his pocket.  But he changed his mind
after a short consideration, took out the pistol from his pocket and
replaced it in the bag.  Then he poured some water on the rags Gray had
bound round his foot, took a sparing sip from the bottle, and having
corked it and pushed it back into the sand, turned himself round to get
a sleep; and almost at once sleep, heavy and dreamless, came to him.

Many hours elapsed before either of the men awoke.  It was Gray who
came back to consciousness first.  He was roused by the glare of the
sun on his face, and sitting drowsily up he saw that it had travelled
right across the sky while he slept, and was now declining towards the
west.  His next glance showed him the horse languidly cropping the dry
grass some few paces off, and Lumley asleep with one arm flung up above
his head.

But almost at once, before his eyes had travelled away from him, Lumley
awoke.  He raised himself quickly, looking round him with a wild
suspicious stare and thrusting out a hand to clutch the bag of money at
his side.

Gray got up and slowly approached him.

"How is your foot?" he asked.

"Bad," returned Lumley with a groan.

He said no more, and Gray sat down by him in silence.  Lumley drew up
his foot and began to wet the bandages again.

"The pain's worse than ever," he muttered, without looking at Gray.

"The water will do it good," replied Gray.

He drew the bag of food towards him as he spoke.  "I believe I can eat
something now," he said.  "That sleep has done me any amount of good."

"How long have you been awake?" asked Lumley, with one of his quick
glances.

"Not more than two minutes.  I must have slept pretty nearly all day by
the look of the sun."

"That's just what you've done, partner," returned Lumley, without
saying he had done the same.  He looked across at the horse.  "What do
you think of him?" he asked, with a nod towards it.  "Doesn't look up
to much in my opinion."

"I think the sooner we can start the better," answered Gray.  "The poor
old fellow can get nothing here.  What do you think?  Could you manage
to mount him?"

Lumley shook his head in decided negative.

"Let's see what my foot's like to-morrow, partner.  I couldn't stand on
it to-day to save my life."

"The sooner we get off the better," Gray returned.

Lumley made no reply to this.

"You found the water just as I said, didn't you?" he asked presently.
"'Tis years agone since I was in this part, but I was sure of it."

"I expect the place is a good deal overgrown since then," replied Gray.
"You can't see any water from the ridge, but there's a track leading to
it.  I had no difficulty."

Lumley listened intently, but did not pursue the subject of the water.

"There's a station not so far off.  We'll have to get on there and rest
a bit," was his next remark.

"You know the way I suppose?" asked Gray.

"I know it well enough.  You won't get lost again, I promise you."

He was slowly rubbing his leg as he spoke, with his face turned from
Gray.

"Couldn't I find it by myself?" said Gray after a moment.  "They'd send
a wagon back for you."

Lumley gave a curious sort of chuckle.

"We'll see, partner, we'll see.  We won't part company again unless
we're forced to.  And while I think about it, there's a little point
we've got to settle."  He stopped rubbing his leg, and turned his pale
blue eyes full on Gray.  "What about this?"  He touched the wallet of
money with his elbow.  "Share and share alike, eh?"

Gray had been expecting a question of this sort.  He returned Lumley's
glance as steadily as he could.

"I shall tell the whole story to the first responsible person we meet,
and hand the money over to him for safe keeping."

"Which story are you goin' to tell, if I may make so bold as to ask?"
said Lumley with an ugly smile.  "You've forgot, maybe, about the
reward you meant to claim.  You told me that was all you wanted when
first we met, you know, mate."

"I told you a lie.  I meant to steal the money just as much as you
did," returned Gray quietly.  He waited a moment, and then went
nervously on.  "I need not mention your name to the authorities,
Lumley, but I wish you could come to see as I do.  When a man's been
face to face with death, as you and I have, he begins to learn the
truth about himself."

Gray's voice faltered before he stopped speaking, and he did not say
all he had wished to say.  Lumley's cold mocking glance was too hard to
bear.

"You're as good as a parson, ain't you, partner?  But you've always
took the virtuous line, ever since we've been together.  Why, the first
time I set eyes on you you preached to me; and now you're at it again!
I never did see such a chap for sermons."

Gray's face grew scarlet.

"You can't think worse of me than I do of myself," he returned; "but I
mean what I say about the money, Lumley,--I mean every word of that."

"Well, you're master, I s'pose," the other returned with an odd look
that Gray remembered afterwards.  "But no tricks, mind; no going in for
the reward when my back's turned, mate; though, p'r'aps, you'll not get
the chance."

"I think I've proved to you whether or not you can trust me now," said
Gray, with just a touch of the old superiority in his tone.

Lumley gave a short laugh.

"Yes, you'd best stick to the virtuous line, partner.  You're not cut
out for any other; you're too soft-hearted and afraid.  P'r'aps you
thought my ghost would haunt you unless you came back--but I don't
believe in ghosts, mate."

Gray made some answer, he hardly knew what, and presently he got up and
moved away.

A shiver went over him once or twice as he stood talking to his horse,
who had come up to him as he left Lumley.  He had involuntarily
recalled Lumley's mocking, incredulous look when he had tried to speak
of the change his sufferings had wrought in him.

Next morning Lumley complained that his foot was worse than ever, and
that it would be impossible for him to mount the horse that day.  Gray
did his best to persuade him at least to try, but with no effect.  And
Lumley positively declined to let Gray ride on to the station.

"I shall be able to start to-morrow," he declared; "and we can do all
right till then."

There followed a day that Gray found very hard to bear.  The moments
seemed to lengthen themselves out into hours, the hours into weeks--the
day seemed as if it would never end.  It passed at last, and the night
came--a lovely moonlight night like the last.

Gray had not slept during the day, and he hardly expected to sleep
during the night; he felt too feverishly eager for the morning.  But
sometime after midnight he fell into a troubled, restless slumber.  It
was still bright moonlight when he awoke; the east showed no sign of
dawn.

He woke suddenly with a strange sense of terror upon him.  He started
up, and looked suspiciously round.  The horse was there, not far from
the spot where he had last seen it, but Lumley was no longer lying
against the hillock, and in his first hasty glance Gray failed to find
him.  But a rough laugh broke on his ear.

"Don't go off your head with fright, partner," called out Lumley, who
was crouching on the ground close beside the horse.  "I've just been
tryin' my strength a bit.  We can start at sunrise, if you like."

Gray walked slowly across to him.

"How did you manage to get here?" he said wonderingly.

Lumley had got hold of the bridle of the horse, but he let it go as
Gray approached.

"Crawled on my hands and feet," he said.  "And a pretty hard bit of
work it's been."

Gray could see he was much exhausted.  His face was deathly pale, and
there were great drops of sweat upon it, brought there by the pain he
had gone through.  He had been trying to mount the horse by his unaided
efforts, and had given up the attempt in despair just before Gray woke.
But he did not tell Gray this, and Gray did not guess it.

"You should have waited till I could help you," Gray said after a
moment.  "I hardly understand how you can have got so far.  Your foot
must be much better."

He was still looking down on Lumley with a wondering look He saw that
he had fastened the wallet of money round his shoulders, and was half
lying upon it with one arm tightly grasping it.

"P'r'aps you think I was tryin' to clear off?" said Lumley sulkily;
"what would be the good of tryin' that.  You know the way now, don't
you?  You'd be pretty soon on my tracks.  And, besides, I'm not much
better than a log; I can't do without you yet, partner."

Suspicion after suspicion flashed through Gray's mind, only to be
dismissed at once.

It was impossible, he said to himself, that Lumley could be meditating
foul play against the man who had saved his life.  And, besides, it was
as he said, he could not do without him.

Lumley read his thoughts correctly enough.

"You needn't stare at a cove like that," he said in the same sulky
tone.  "You were so mighty anxious to get off I thought I'd try what I
could do.  And we can start at sunrise, mate.  You'll not have much
longer to spend in company with me; you'll be glad of that, won't you?
I'm not good enough for the likes of you."

"Couldn't we start before sunrise?" Gray said quietly; "it's almost as
light as day now."

"It'll be dark as pitch in another hour when the moon goes down.  And I
want a rest," returned Lumley; "I'm not goin' to stir from here till
sunrise for anybody, Mr. Gentleman Gray."

His sulky rage reassured Gray more than smooth language would have
done, as Lumley perhaps had guessed.

"Very well, at sunrise, then," he said, and turned away to lie down
again in his old place.

The moon went down, and, as Lumley had said, there followed an hour of
darkness in which the stars shone forth with undimmed splendour.

Gray lay on the ground staring up at them.  A little way off Lumley was
stealthily watching him, wondering what his thoughts were.  But Gray
had forgotten Lumley--he was thinking of Harding.



CHAPTER XI.

A RUTHLESS VILLAIN.

It was just before sunrise that they started on their way; Lumley
riding the horse, and Gray walking by the horse's side.  It was with
great difficulty that Gray had managed to get his companion on the
horse.  Lumley had made it more difficult than it need have been.  He
was anxious that Gray should believe his foot was much worse than it
really was.  The night before he had found himself quite capable of
getting rapidly along on hands and feet, and even of standing for a
moment, holding on by the horse.

"Goes like a lamb, don't he?" he said to Gray as they went across the
plain.  "No fear of his kicking up his heels again, is there?"

"Not much," said Gray with a pitiful look at the poor worn-out creature.

"Well, he won't run off with anything this time," said Lumley with a
laugh; "I've taken care of that.  But he'll go straight for the water
again, that's what he'll do, and carry me with him."

Lumley spoke again after a moment

"You might go after that wagon when we get to water, partner.  What do
you think of that plan, eh?"

"I think it's the best plan."

"And you could take the money with you, couldn't you?  I suppose you
wouldn't leave it with me?"

"I had better take it," Gray answered heavily.

Lumley darted a suspicious glance at him.

"You're down in the mouth, ain't you, partner?  You'd better be advised
by me."  He stopped the horse.  "Come, mate, let's strike a bargain.
Share and share alike.  Half of it's a pretty pile for any cove.  And
who'd be the wiser or the worse for it?  You go off to England and live
like the gentleman you are.  I'll not blow on you, and nobody else
knows a word about it.  Come, there's a fair offer; and I mean it, mind
you."

Gray looked steadily up at him.

"It's no good, Lumley; nothing you could say would tempt me.  You're
wasting your words."

A sulky frown settled on Lumley's face.  He jerked on the horse.

"Wastin' my words, am I?  I won't waste any more of 'em.  You can do as
you like."

They went on in silence for some time.  Gray broke it.

"There are the trees," he said.

Lumley gave a sudden start, and Gray saw his face change colour.

"I didn't expect 'em so soon," he said huskily.  He stared at them with
a gloomy troubled look, and then glanced at Gray, who was walking on a
pace or two ahead with his head sunk on his breast.  Lumley's hand
stole to his pocket.  There was a pistol there.  He gripped it, then
let it go and dragged his hand away.

"Look here, partner," he cried out hoarsely.

Gray turned round.

"You'll leave us the reward?  The bank will pay it in a jiffy, and glad
enough.  You ain't goin' to be fool enough to lose us that?"

Gray's face set in stern determination.

"You are wasting your words, as I told you just now.  What claim have
we to the reward?  They don't reward thieves for returning what they
stole.  I have told you what I mean to do.  I shall do it."

Lumley's hand had gone back to his pocket, and lay hidden there.  He
did not speak again for some moments.  They were full in sight of the
trees now, and to the left the low ridge had become visible.

"We'd better strike off here, I think," said Gray.  "It will be easier
for the horse a little lower down."

They turned as he suggested.

"It's pretty close now, ain't it?" asked Lumley huskily.

"Just over the ridge.  The track was plain enough, even by moonlight,
We can't miss it."

Lumley made no answer, but the moment after he came to a stand-still.

"What's the matter with the horse?" he exclaimed.  "It's dead lame."

Gray turned round and looked at it

"A stone in the hoof, perhaps," he said, bending down to take a look.

The moment he stooped Lumley drew out his pistol and took aim at him.
Gray's life was saved by the horse.  As he bent down and lifted up the
hoof it made a sudden, violent swerve away from him.  It was at that
moment Lumley pulled the trigger.  The bullet whistled past Gray's
head, and he sprang up, dazed and horrified, but quite unhurt, and made
a clutch at Lumley's arm.  But the arm was already lifted with the
smoking pistol in it, and it descended with crushing force on Gray's
upturned brow.  Lumley had no need to repeat the blow.  Gray fell back
without a groan, and lay upon the earth as senseless and motionless as
one already dead.  For the moment Lumley thought he was dead.

[Illustration: A TREACHEROUS BLOW]

"He brought it on himself," he muttered, as he stared down at the still
figure.  And then added, "I'll make sure; it's safest."

He levelled his pistol again, but he did not fire.  His arm fell by his
side.  He could not fire.  An oath at his own weakness broke from his
lips.  He thrust from him the pity that had taken the strength from his
arm, and raised the pistol again.  He meant to fire this time.  But his
opportunity was gone.  The horse had been straining at the reins ever
since he had fired, and now with a sudden jerk it got its head free and
bolted off at a wild gallop along the bottom of the ridge.  Lumley
clutched at the reins again, but the horse was beyond control, and he
had the utmost difficulty in keeping his seat.  He tried to turn the
horse up the ridge, but the frantic animal rushed blindly on.  It was
mad with terror.

The blow had badly stunned Gray, and it was some time before he
recovered consciousness.  Even then he could not recall clearly what
had happened or where he was, but lay looking up at the sky, trying
vainly to get his confused thoughts clear.

After a few moments he raised himself slowly and languidly on his arm,
and looked round him.  The trees were close at hand.  There were crows
sitting on them watching him, and on the sand not far off him two or
three more had stationed themselves.  Quite near them there lay
something that Gray recognized with a thrill.  It was the pistol Lumley
had dropped as the horse dashed away.

Gray could remember it all now.  He lived over again that terrible
moment when the bullet had sung past his ear, and he had leapt up to
clutch Lumley's murderous arm.  But where was Lumley?

Gray raised himself into a sitting posture as he asked himself that
question, and looked up the ridge, half expecting to see Lumley just
crossing it to the water below; but the ridge showed no signs of him or
of the horse.  Yet as Gray looked and listened he could plainly hear
the sound of galloping hoofs, just as he had heard them two nights
before.

He turned his head away from the ridge, and looked in the opposite
direction.  And then with a cry he staggered to his feet.  The horse
was coming rapidly towards him with Lumley clinging to it, his body
thrown forwards, his arms clutching the horse's neck.

"Help me!  Save me!  Stop the horse!" broke in shrill cries from the
lips of the terrified man as he was whirled past Gray.

Gray staggered forward and made a clutch at the hanging rein; but he
might as well have tried to stop a whirlwind.  The horse dashed past
him along the ridge, in the path it had traversed before, and then, as
before, swerved aside and rushed away into the Bush.

Gray sank back upon the ground, and covered his face with his hands.
He could do nothing.

It was not long before he heard the sound of the returning hoofs.  He
struggled to his feet once more and looked.

The horse was coming back on its path, swaying wildly from side to
side, with foaming mouth and staring eyeballs; and this time no
terrified, white-faced suppliant was clinging to its back shrieking out
to Gray for help.  The horse was riderless!

Riderless!  But what was that dark lifeless weight hanging by the
stirrup, dragged across sand and bramble as the horse staggered on?  A
sickening, paralysing fear took possession of Gray as he saw and knew.
He stood with his eyes fixed upon it unable to move.

The horse staggered on, but not far.  It suddenly gave a dreadful cry
and fell.  There was a struggle, a moan, and then it lay still, as
still as the dead body by its side.

Gray drew near, drew close.  He looked down upon the face of the man
who had deserted him, and attempted to murder him.  Then with
difficulty he dragged the body from under the horse and straightened it
out.  The wallet containing the money fell from the shoulders of the
dead man as he did so, and opened, showing the gold and notes.  Gray
did not even look at them.  He laid the body out in decent fashion, and
covered the dreadful face.

Then he stumbled away across the sands, caring not whither he went,
caring only to get away from the spot where the dead man lay.  His eyes
were burning and throbbing, there was a great singing in his ears.  He
sank down again.  His limbs refused to carry him further.  Then came a
sudden silence, a great darkness, and he knew no more.



CHAPTER XII.

UNDER GREEN BOUGHS.

When Gray came to himself again he was lying on a bank of green herbage
under the shadow of a mighty tree.  The boughs kept up a pleasant
murmuring.  Bright-hued birds were flitting to and fro, now in the
shadow, now in the sunshine.  Through the waving boughs Gray could see
a blue sky shining.

It was all so beautiful, so unlike the scene on which his eyes had
closed, that he could not believe it to be real.  It was a fevered
dream, he said to himself; and presently he would awake and see the
vast sun-baked plains stretching round him in their awful loneliness,
and _that thing_ lying not far off beside the horse.

But the dream lasted!  He slept and woke again, and still the trees
waved above him and the birds fluttered to and fro.  He could even hear
now the tinkling of bells not far off, such as oxen wear upon their
heads.  He lifted himself on his elbow, for he was too weak to rise,
and looked round him.  As he raised himself he saw a dog lying a few
feet off, with its head between its paws, gazing at him with brown
intelligent eyes.  Gray fell back on the bank.  The dog might have been
Harding's dog.  The sight of him brought back the past again.  He
remembered all he had done, and the wish rose in him that he had died
like Lumley, that--

But the thought was never finished, for at that moment a hand was laid
upon his shoulder, a cheery voice sounded in his ears.  Gray dropped
his hands and looked up with a wild glad cry.  It was Harding's self
who stood at his side!--thinner, paler, with white streaks in his brown
hair that were new to Gray, but Harding's very self.

"Don't speak, don't try to speak, my lad," he said, sitting down by
Gray and taking his hand.  Gray held that rough brown hand tight,
putting his other hand over it, and looking into Harding's face with
eyes that could scarce believe the reality of the joy that had come to
him.  But memory came to cloud the rapture of that first moment.

"I am not fit to touch your hands, Harding," he said in a low voice.
But he did not attempt to let go his grasp, and Harding stretched out
his other hand and laid it on his shoulder.

"You mustn't talk, old fellow; you've been ill, you know.  No, I won't
hear anything just now," he added, as Gray attempted to speak; "I'm
spokesman just now.  Don't you want to know--"  He made a sudden,
awkward stop, and then continued lamely:

"I'm all right, you see.  Got picked up by some friendly black fellows.
I'd hurt my leg, you see, and couldn't walk.  They carried me with them
till I could tell them who I was.  I had a touch of fever, and was out
of my head for a time; but they nursed me well.  I was off my head a
while, you see, and they carried me along with 'em.  We were crossing a
bit of the bush when I got myself again.  And I found--"  Harding
stopped and cast a hasty, commiserating glance at Gray.  "Well, I found
that map you'd drawn, and the letter on t'other side.  It didn't take
me long to put two and two together, you know."

Gray had turned from him and hidden his face.  Harding stretched out
his hand again and put it on his shoulder.

"Well, I got two of the trackers, clever fellows, and we hit upon your
trail; and found you, you see."

"Did you--did you--"  Gray could not finish.

"We buried him," Harding said shortly.  "And I've got the money in the
wagon.  We sent over to Ford's for a wagon.  You were close to water,
lad, if you'd only known it."

"I knew it," said Gray; "we had water."

Harding looked inquiringly at him.

"It's a long story," said Gray.  A shudder went over him, and he
hurried on.  "He got out of the track when he left me, and I found him.
The horse had thrown him, and he had hurt his foot, but he knew where
the water was and I got it.  And I found the horse by the water."

Harding put his hand on his shoulder.

"Did he give you that blow, lad?"

Gray nodded, and Harding asked no more questions just then.

Gray remained silent for a moment, then he turned his face to Harding.

"I have got to tell you--"

"I won't hear, lad.  You've said a lot in your fever, and I won't hear
any more just now.  I can see how it's all happened."

Watch was lying at his master's feet, and here he looked up with a
short bark and a delighted wag of his tail.  Harding pulled his ears.
"I don't know how Watch managed to live through it all; but he did--old
faithful fellow!"  And then Harding's face turned scarlet.

He would have got up to move away, but Gray held his hand fast.

"The dog was faithful," he said in a low tone, "while I--  No; you must
let me speak, Harding."

"Not now, my lad; you are not fit for it."

"I got your letter."

Gray said the words firmly, almost roughly; then his voice faltered,
and he went brokenly on:

"God has been merciful to me, a sinner.  He sought me wandering, set me
right; He showed me what I'd done when--when I thought it was too
late."  He stopped a moment, then his voice strengthened itself.  "I
had made up my mind to confess everything if ever I got back.  I little
thought I should be able to confess it to you.  Do you understand me,
Harding?  I got that letter."

"My poor lad!"

It was all Harding could say.

"I did not deliberately say I would not go," went on Gray; "but it was
just the same.  I put it off, and put it off; and then Watch
disappeared, and I was _glad_.  You know why?"

Harding nodded sadly.

"It all seemed easy then.  If I had been successful--I don't know--I
hope even then I might have found myself out; but I was sent into the
wilderness--I was brought face to face with the fruits of sin."  Gray
shuddered as he spoke.  "I saw myself as I was, Harding."

"My poor lad!" said Harding again.

There was silence between them for a while; then Gray spoke again.

"I mean to live a different life, Harding.  You will have to help me.
The first thing is to tell Mr. Morton everything."

"Yes, lad, except one thing.  I won't have that told.  No, I insist on
that, old fellow.  Let's forget it.  Promise me never to speak of it.
I never shall.  You didn't mean to do it, you know."

Gray shook his head.

"About the money," went on Harding quickly.  "Well, you'd best tell Mr.
Morton; and the bank can have it all right.  And we'll go back to the
run, Gray, until Polly and the lads come.  Thank God, she had started
before a letter could reach her.  She will have been spared this time
of suspense."

"Morton won't have me back," said Gray under his breath.

"Yes, he will.  It's the best thing you can do, lad.  If you go off by
yourself--"

"If you will have me--if Morton will let me, it is what I most desire,"
said Gray brokenly.

"Then, that's all right," Harding said.





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