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Title: The Gully of Bluemansdyke - And Other stories
Author: Doyle, Arthur Conan, Sir, 1859-1930
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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Transcriber's Note: The use of [oe] is a representation of the oe
ligature.



     THE GULLY OF BLUEMANSDYKE,
     AND OTHER STORIES.


     A small Edition of this Book was published
     in 1889, under the Title of "Mysteries and
     Adventures."


     THE GULLY OF

     BLUEMANSDYKE,

     AND OTHER STORIES.


     By A. CONAN DOYLE,


     _Author of "Micah Clarke," "The White Company,"
     "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes," &c._


     LONDON:
     WALTER SCOTT, LTD., 24 WARWICK LANE,
     PATERNOSTER ROW



CONTENTS.


                                          PAGE

     THE GULLY OF BLUEMANSDYKE               7

     THE PARSON OF JACKMAN'S GULCH          50

     MY FRIEND THE MURDERER                 79

     THE SILVER HATCHET                    114

     THE MAN FROM ARCHANGEL                144

     THAT LITTLE SQUARE BOX                188

     A NIGHT AMONG THE NIHILISTS           226



_THE GULLY OF BLUEMANSDYKE._

A TRUE COLONIAL STORY.


Broadhurst's store was closed, but the little back room looked very
comfortable that night. The fire cast a ruddy glow on ceiling and walls,
reflecting itself cheerily on the polished flasks and shot-guns which
adorned them. Yet a gloom rested on the two men who sat at either side
of the hearth, which neither the fire nor the black bottle upon the
table could alleviate.

"Twelve o'clock," said old Tom, the storeman glancing up at the wooden
timepiece which had come out with him in '42. "It's a queer thing,
George, they haven't come."

"It's a dirty night," said his companion, reaching out his arm for a
plug of tobacco. "The Wawirra's in flood, maybe; or maybe their horses
is broke down; or they've put it off, perhaps. Great Lord, how it
thunders! Pass us over a coal, Tom."

He spoke in a tone which was meant to appear easy, but with a painful
thrill in it which was not lost upon his mate. He glanced uneasily at
him from under his grizzled eyebrows.

"You think it's all right, George?" he said, after a pause.

"Think what's all right?"

"Why, that the lads are safe."

"Safe! Of course they're safe. What the devil is to harm them?"

"Oh, nothing; nothing, to be sure," said old Tom. "You see, George,
since the old woman died, Maurice has been all to me; and it makes me
kinder anxious. It's a week since they started from the mine, and you'd
ha' thought they'd be here now. But it's nothing unusual, I s'pose;
nothing at all. Just my darned folly."

"What's to harm them?" repeated George Hutton again, arguing to convince
himself rather than his comrade. "It's a straight road from the diggin's
to Rathurst, and then through the hills past Bluemansdyke, and over the
Wawirra by the ford, and so down to Trafalgar by the bush track.
There's nothin' deadly in all that, is there? My son Allan's as dear to
me as Maurice can be to you, mate," he continued; "but they know the
ford well, and there's no other bad place. They'll be here to-morrow
night, certain."

"Please God they may!" said Broadhurst; and the two men lapsed into
silence for some time, moodily staring into the glow of the fire, and
pulling at their short clays.

It was indeed, as Hutton had said, a dirty night. The wind was howling
down through the gorges of the western mountains, and whirling and
eddying among the streets of Trafalgar; whistling through the chinks in
the rough wood cabins, and tearing away the frail shingles which formed
the roofs. The streets were deserted, save for one or two stragglers
from the drinking shanties, who wrapped their cloaks around them and
staggered home through the wind and rain towards their own cabins.

The silence was broken by Broadhurst, who was evidently still ill at
ease.

"Say, George," he said, "what's become of Josiah Mapleton?"

"Went to the diggin's."

"Ay; but he sent word he was coming back."

"But he never came."

"An' what's become of Jos Humphrey?" he resumed, after a pause.

"He went diggin', too."

"Well, did he come back?"

"Drop it, Broadhurst; drop it, I say," said Hutton, springing to his
feet and pacing up and down the narrow room. "You're trying to make a
coward of me! You know the men must have gone up country prospectin' or
farmin', maybe. What is it to us where they went? You don't think I have
a register of every man in the colony, as Inspector Burton has of the
lags."

"Sit down, George, and listen," said old Tom. "There's something queer
about that road; something I don't understand, and don't like. Maybe you
remember how Maloney, the one-eyed scoundrel, made his money in the
early mining days. He'd a half-way drinking shanty on the main road up
on a kind of bluff, where the Lena comes down from the hills. You've
heard, George, how they found a sort of wooden slide from his little
back room down to the river; an' how it came out that man after man had
had his drink doctored, and been shot down that into eternity, like a
bale of goods. No one will ever know how many were done away with there.
_They_ were all supposed to be farmin' and prospectin', and the like,
till their bodies were picked out of the rapids. It's no use mincing
matters, George; we'll have the troopers along to the diggin's if those
lads don't turn up by to-morrow night."

"As you like, Tom," said Hutton.

"By the way, talking of Maloney--it's a strange thing," said Broadhurst,
"that Jack Haldane swears he saw a man as like Maloney with ten years
added to him as could be. It was in the bush on Monday morning. Chance,
I suppose; but you'd hardly think there could be two pair of shoulders
in the world carrying such villainous mugs on the top of them."

"Jack Haldane's a fool," growled Hutton, throwing open the door and
peering anxiously out into the darkness, while the wind played with his
long grizzled beard, and sent a train of glowing sparks from his pipe
down the street.

"A terrible night!" he said, as he turned back towards the fire.

Yes, a wild, tempestuous night; a night for birds of darkness and for
beasts of prey. A strange night for seven men to lie out in the gully at
Bluemansdyke, with revolvers in their hands, and the devil in their
hearts.

       *       *       *       *       *

The sun was rising after the storm. A thick, heavy steam reeked up from
the saturated ground, and hung like a pall over the flourishing little
town of Trafalgar. A bluish mist lay in wreaths over the wide track of
bushland around, out of which the western mountains loomed like great
islands in a sea of vapour.

Something was wrong in the town. The most casual glance would have
detected that. There was a shouting and a hurrying of feet. Doors were
slammed and rude windows thrown open. A trooper of police came
clattering down with his carbine unslung. It was past the time for Joe
Buchan's saw-mill to commence work, but the great wheel was motionless,
for the hands had not appeared.

There was a surging, pushing crowd in the main street before old Tom
Broadhurst's house, and a mighty clattering of tongues. "What was it?"
demanded the new-comers, panting and breathless. "Broadhurst has shot
his mate." "He has cut his own throat." "He has struck gold in the clay
floor of his kitchen." "No; it was his son Maurice who had come home
rich." "Who had not come back at all." "Whose horse had come back
without him." At last the truth had come out; and there was the old
sorrel horse in question whinnying and rubbing his neck against the
familiar door of the stable, as if entreating entrance; while two
haggard, grey-haired men held him by either bridle, and gazed blankly at
his reeking sides.

"God help me," said old Tom Broadhurst; "it is as I feared!"

"Cheer up, mate," said Hutton, drawing his rough straw hat down over his
brow. "There's hope yet."

A sympathetic and encouraging murmur ran through the crowd.

"Horse ran away, likely."

"Or been stolen."

"Or he's swum the Wawirra an' been washed off," suggested one Job's
comforter.

"He ain't got no marks of bruising," said another, more hopeful.

"Rider fallen off drunk, maybe," said a bluff old sheep-farmer. "I kin
remember," he continued, "coming into town 'bout this hour myself, with
my head in my holster, an' thinking I was a six-chambered
revolver--mighty drunk I was."

"Maurice had a good seat; he'd never be washed off."

"Not he."

"The horse has a weal on its off fore-quarter," remarked another, more
observant than the rest.

"A blow from a whip, maybe."

"It would be a darned hard one."

"Where's Chicago Bill?" said someone; "he'll know."

Thus invoked, a strange, gaunt figure stepped out in front of the crowd.
He was an extremely tall and powerful man, with the red shirt and high
boots of a miner. The shirt was thrown open, showing the sinewy throat
and massive chest. His face was seamed and scarred with many a conflict,
both with Nature and his brother man; yet beneath his ruffianly exterior
there lay something of the quiet dignity of the gentleman. This man was
a veteran gold-hunter; a real old Californian 'forty-niner, who had left
the fields in disgust when private enterprise began to dwindle before
the formation of huge incorporated companies with their ponderous
machinery. But the red clay with the little shining points had become to
him as the very breath of his nostrils, and he had come half-way round
the world to seek it once again.

"Here's Chicago Bill," he said; "what is it?"

Bill was naturally regarded as an oracle, in virtue of his prowess and
varied experience. Every eye was turned on him as Braxton, the young
Irish trooper of constabulary, said, "What do you make of the horse,
Bill?"

The Yankee was in no hurry to commit himself. He surveyed the animal for
some time with his shrewd little grey eye. He bent and examined the
girths; then he felt the mane carefully. He stooped once more and
examined the hoofs and then the quarters. His eye rested on the blue
wheal already mentioned. This seemed to put him on a scent, for he gave
a long, low whistle, and proceeded at once to examine the hair on either
side of the saddle. He saw something conclusive apparently, for, with a
sidelong glance under his shaggy eyebrows at the two old men beside him,
he turned and fell back among the crowd.

"Well, what d'ye think?" cried a dozen voices.

"A job for you," said Bill, looking up at the young Irish trooper.

"Why, what is it? What's become of young Broadhurst?"

"He's done what better men has done afore. He has sunk a shaft for gold
and panned out a coffin."

"Speak out, man! what have you seen?" cried a husky voice.

"I've seen the graze of a bushranger's bullet on the horse's quarter,
an' I've seen a drop of the rider's blood on the edge of the
saddle--Here, hold the old man up, boys; don't let him drop. Give him a
swig of brandy an' lead him inside. Say," he continued, in a whisper,
gripping the trooper by the wrist, "mind, I'm in it. You an' I play this
hand together. I'm dead on sich varmin. We'll do as they do in Nevada,
strike while the iron is hot. Get any men you can together. I s'pose
you're game to come yourself?"

"Yes, I'll come," said young Braxton, with a quiet smile.

The American looked at him approvingly. He had learned in his wanderings
that an Irishman who grows quieter when deeply stirred is a very
dangerous specimen of the genus _homo_.

"Good lad!" he muttered; and the two went down the street together
towards the station-house, followed by half-a-dozen of the more resolute
of the crowd.

       *       *       *       *       *

One word before we proceed with our story, or our chronicle rather, as
every word of it is based upon fact. The colonial trooper of fifteen or
twenty years ago was a very different man from his representative of
to-day. Not that I would imply any slur upon the courage of the latter;
but for reckless dare-devilry and knight-errantry the old constabulary
has never been equalled. The reason is a simple one. Men of gentle
blood, younger sons and wild rakes who had outrun the constable, were
sent off to Australia with some wild idea of making their fortunes. On
arriving they found Melbourne by no means the El Dorado they expected;
they were unfit for any employment, their money was soon dissipated, and
they unerringly gravitated into the mounted police. Thus a sort of
colonial "Maison Rouge" became formed, where the lowest private had as
much pride of birth and education as his officers. They were men who
might have swayed the fate of empires, yet who squandered away their
lives in many a lone wild fight with native and bushranger, where
nothing but a mouldering blue-ragged skeleton was left to tell the tale.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a glorious sunset. The whole western sky was a blaze of flame,
throwing a purple tint upon the mountains, and gilding the sombre edges
of the great forest which spreads between Trafalgar and the river
Wawirra. It stretched out, a primeval, unbroken wilderness, save at the
one point where a rough track had been formed by the miners and their
numerous camp-followers. This wound amid the great trunks in a zigzag
direction, occasionally making a long detour to avoid some marshy hollow
or especially dense clump of vegetation. Often it could be hardly
discerned from the ground around save by the scattered hoof-marks and an
occasional rut.

About fifteen miles from Trafalgar there stands a little knoll, well
sheltered and overlooking the road. On this knoll a man was lying as the
sun went down that Friday evening. He appeared to shun observation, for
he had chosen that part in which the foliage was thickest; yet he seemed
decidedly at his ease, as he lolled upon his back with his pipe between
his teeth, and a broad hat down over his face. It was a face that it was
well to cover in the presence of so peaceful a scene--a face pitted with
the scars of an immaterial smallpox. The forehead was broad and low; one
eye had apparently been gouged out, leaving a ghastly cavity; the other
was deep-set, cunning, and vindictive. The mouth was hard and cruel; a
rough beard covered the chin. It was the cut of face which, seen in a
lonely street, would instinctively make one shift the grasp of one's
stick from the knob end to the ferrule--the face of a bold and
unscrupulous man.

Some unpleasing thought seemed to occur to him, for he rose with a curse
and knocked the ashes out of his pipe. "A darned fine thing," he
muttered, "that I should have to lie out like this! It was Barrett's
fault the job wasn't a clean one, an' now he picks me out to get the
swamp-fever. If he'd shot the horse as I did the man, we wouldn't need a
watch on this side of the Wawirra. He always was a poor white-livered
cuss. Well," he continued, picking up a gun which lay in the grass
behind him, "there's no use my waiting longer; they wouldn't start
during the night. Maybe the horse never got home, maybe they gave them
up as drowned; anyhow it's another man's turn to-morrow, so I'll just
give them five minutes and then make tracks." He sat down on the stump
of a tree as he spoke and hummed the verse of a song. A sudden thought
seemed to strike him, for he plunged his hand into his pocket, and after
some searching extracted a pack of playing cards wrapped in a piece of
dirty brown paper. He gazed earnestly at their greasy faces for some
time. Then he took a pin from his sleeve and pricked a small hole in the
corner of each ace and knave. He chuckled as he shuffled them up, and
replaced them in his pocket. "I'll have my share of the swag," he
growled. "They're sharp, but they'll not spot that when the liquor is in
them. By the Lord, here they are!"

He had sprung to his feet and was bending to the ground, holding his
breath as he listened. To the unpractised ear all was as still as
before--the hum of a passing insect, the chirp of a bird, the rustle of
the leaves; but the bushranger rose with the air of a man who has
satisfied himself. "Good-bye to Bluemansdyke," said he; "I reckon it
will be too hot to hold us for a time. That thundering idiot! he's
spoilt as nice a lay as ever was, an' risked our necks into the bargain.
I'll see their number an' who they are, though," he continued; and,
choosing a point where a rough thicket formed an effectual screen, he
coiled himself up, and lay like some venomous snake, occasionally
raising his head and peering between the trunks at the reddish streak
which marked the Trafalgar Road.

There could be no question now as to the approach of a body of horsemen.
By the time our friend was fairly ensconced in his hiding-place the
sound of voices and the clatter of hoofs was distinctly audible, and in
another moment a troop of mounted men came sweeping round the curve of
the road. They were eleven all told, armed to the teeth, and evidently
well on the alert. Two rode in front with rifles unslung, leisurely
scanning every bush which might shelter an enemy. The main body kept
about fifty yards behind them, while a solitary horseman brought up the
rear. The ranger scanned them narrowly as they passed. He seemed to
recognise most of them. Some were his natural enemies the troopers; the
majority were miners who had volunteered to get rid of an evil which
affected their interests so closely. They were a fine bronzed set of
men, with a deliberate air about them, as if they had come for a purpose
and meant to attain it. As the last rider passed before his hiding-place
the solitary watcher started and growled a curse in his beard. "I know
his darned face," he said; "it's Bill Hanker, the man who got the drop
on Long Nat Smeaton in Silver City in '53; what the thunder brought him
here? I must be off by the back track, though, an' let the boys know."
So saying, he picked up his gun, and with a scowl after the distant
party, he crouched down and passed rapidly and silently out of sight
into the very thickest part of the bush.

       *       *       *       *       *

The expedition had started from Trafalgar on the afternoon of the same
day that Maurice Broadhurst's horse, foam-flecked and frightened, had
galloped up to the old stable-door. Burton, the inspector of
constabulary, an energetic and able man, as all who knew him can
testify, was in command. He had detached Braxton, the young Irishman,
and Thompson, another trooper, as a vanguard. He himself rode with the
main body, grey-whiskered and lean, but as straight in the back as when
he and I built a shanty in '39 in what is now Burke Street, Melbourne.
With him were McGillivray, Foley, and Anson of the Trafalgar force,
Hartley the sheep-farmer, Murdoch and Summerville, who had made their
pile at the mines, and Dan Murphy, who was cleaned out when the clay of
the "Orient" turned to gravel, and had been yearning for a solid square
fight ever since. Chicago Bill formed the rear-guard, and the whole
party presented an appearance which, though far from military, was
decidedly warlike.

They camped out that night seventeen miles from Trafalgar, and next day
pushed on as far as where the Stirling Road runs across. The third
morning brought them to the northern bank of the Wawirra, which they
forded. Here a council of war was held, for they were entering what
they regarded as enemy's country. The bush track, though wild, was
occasionally traversed both by shepherds and sportsmen. It would hardly
be the home of a gang of desperate bushrangers. But beyond the Wawirra
the great rugged range of the Tápu mountains towered up to the clouds,
and across a wild spur of these the mining track passed up to
Bluemansdyke. It was here they decided at the council that the scene of
the late drama lay. The question now was what means were to be taken to
attack the murderers; for that murder had been done no man doubted.

All were of one mind as to what the main line of action should be. To go
for them straight, shoot as many as possible on sight, and hang the
balance in Trafalgar: that was plain sailing. But how to get at them was
the subject of much debate. The troopers were for pushing on at once,
and trusting to Fortune to put the rangers in their way. The miners
proposed rather to gain some neighbouring peak, from which a good view
of the country could be obtained, and some idea gained of their
whereabouts. Chicago Bill took rather a gloomy view of things. "Nary
one will we see," said he; "they've dusted out of the district 'fore
this. They'd know the horse would go home, and likely as not they've had
a watch on the road to warn them. I guess, boys, we'd best move on an'
do our best." There was some discussion, but Chicago's opinion carried
the day, and the expedition pushed on in a body.

After passing the second upland station the scenery becomes more and
more grand and rugged. Great peaks two and three thousand feet high rose
sheer up at each side of the narrow track. The heavy wind and rain of
the storm had brought down much _débris_, and the road was almost
impassable in places. They were frequently compelled to dismount and to
lead the horses. "We haven't far now, boys," said the inspector
cheerily, as they struggled on; and he pointed to a great dark cleft
which yawned in front of them between two almost perpendicular cliffs.
"They are there," he said, "or nowhere." A little higher the road became
better and their progress was more rapid. A halt was called, guns were
unslung, and their pistols loosened in their belts, for the great gully
of Bluemansdyke--the wildest part of the whole Tápu range--was gaping
before them. But not a thing was to be seen; all was as still as the
grave. The horses were picketed in a quiet little ravine, and the whole
party crept on on foot. The Southern sun glared down hot and clear on
the yellow bracken and banks of fern which lined the narrow winding
track. Still not a sign of life. Then came a clear low whistle from the
two advanced troopers, announcing that something had been discovered,
and the main body hurried up. It was a spot for deeds of blood. On one
side of the road there lowered a black gnarled precipice, on the other
was the sullen mouth of the rugged gully. The road took a sharp turn at
this spot. Just at the angle several large boulders were scattered,
lining and overlooking the track. It was at this angle that a little bed
of mud and trampled red clay betokened a recent struggle. There could be
no question that they were at the scene of the murder of the two young
miners. The outline of a horse could still be seen in the soft ground,
and the prints of its hoofs as it kicked out in its death-agony were
plainly marked. Behind one of the rocks were the tracks of several feet,
and some pistol wadding was found in a tuft of ferns. The whole tragedy
lay unclosed before them. Two men, careless in the pride of their youth
and their strength, had swept round that fatal curve. Then a crash, a
groan, a brutal laugh, the galloping of a frightened horse, and all was
over.

What was to be done now? The rocks around were explored, but nothing
fresh discovered. Some six days had elapsed, and the birds were
apparently flown. The party separated and hunted about among the
boulders. Then the American, who could follow a trail like a bloodhound,
found tracks leading towards a rugged pile of rocks on the north side of
the gully. In a crevice here the remains of three horses were found.
Close to them the rim of an old straw hat projected through the loose
loam. Hartley, the sheep-farmer, sprang over to pick it up; he started
back in the act of stooping, and said in an awe-struck whisper to his
friend Murphy, "There's a head under it, Dan!" A few strokes of a spade
disclosed a face familiar to most of the group--that of a poor
travelling photographer well known in the colony by the _sobriquet_ of
"Stooping Johnny," who had disappeared some time before. It was now in
an advanced stage of putrefaction. Close to him another body was
discovered, and another beside that. In all, thirteen victims of these
English Thugs were lying under the shadow of the great north wall of the
Bluemansdyke gully. It was there, standing in silent awe round the
remains of these poor fellows, hurried into eternity and buried like
dogs, that the search-party registered a vow to sacrifice all interests
and comforts for the space of one month to the single consideration of
revenge. The inspector uncovered his grizzled head as he solemnly swore
it, and his comrades followed his example. The bodies were then, with a
brief prayer, consigned to a deeper grave, a rough cairn was erected
over them, and the eleven men set forth upon their mission of stern
justice.

       *       *       *       *       *

Three weeks had passed--three weeks and two days. The sun was sinking
over the great waste of bushland, unexplored and unknown, which
stretches away from the eastern slope of the Tápu mountains. Save some
eccentric sportsman or bold prospector, no colonist had ever ventured
into that desolate land; yet on this autumn evening two men were
standing in a little glade in the very heart of it. They were engaged
tying up their horses, and apparently making preparations for camping
out for the night. Though haggard, unkempt, and worn, one still might
recognise two of our former acquaintances--the young Irish trooper and
the American Chicago Bill.

This was the last effort of the avenging party. They had traversed the
mountain gorges, they had explored every gully and ravine, and now they
had split into several small bands, and, having named a trysting-place,
they were scouring the country in the hope of hitting upon some trace of
the murderers. Foley and Anson had remained among the hills, Murdoch and
Dan Murphy were exploring towards Rathurst, Summerville and the
inspector had ascended along the Wawirra, while the others in three
parties were wandering through the eastern bushland.

Both the trooper and the miner seemed dejected and weary. The one had
set out with visions of glory, and hopes of a short cut to the coveted
stripes which would put him above his fellows; the other had obeyed a
rough wild sense of justice; and each was alike disappointed. The horses
were picketed, and the men threw themselves heavily upon the ground.
There was no need to light a fire; a few dampers and some rusty bacon
were their whole provisions. Braxton produced them, and handed his share
to his comrade. They ate their rough meal without a word. Braxton was
the first to break the silence.

"We're playing our last card," he said.

"And a darned poor one at that," replied his comrade.

"Why, mate," he continued, "if we did knock up agin these all-fired
varmin, ye don't suppose you and I would go for them? I guess I'd up an'
shove for Trafalgar first."

Braxton smiled. Chicago's reckless courage was too well known in the
colony for any words of his to throw a doubt upon it. Miners still tell
how, during the first great rush in '52, a blustering ruffian, relying
upon some similar remark of the pioneer's, had tried to establish a
reputation by an unprovoked assault upon him; and the narrators then
glide imperceptibly into an account of Bill's handsome conduct towards
the widow--how he had given her his week's clean-up to start her in a
drinking shanty. Braxton thought of this as he smiled at Chicago's
remarks, and glanced at the massive limbs and weather-beaten face.

"We'd best see where we are before it grows darker," he said; and
rising, he stacked his gun against the trunk of a blue gum-tree, and
seizing some of the creepers which hung down from it, began rapidly and
silently to ascend it.

"His soul's too big for his body," growled the American, as he watched
the dark lithe figure standing out against the pale-blue evening sky.

"What d'ye see, Jack?" he shouted; for the trooper had reached the
topmost branch by this time, and was taking a survey of the country.

"Bush, bush; nothing but bush," said the voice among the leaves. "Wait a
bit, though; there's a kind of hill about three miles off away to the
nor'-east. I see it above the trees right over there. Not much good to
us, though," he continued, after a pause, "for it seems a barren, stony
sort of place."

Chicago paced about at the bottom of the tree.

"He seems an almighty long time prospectin' it," he muttered, after ten
minutes had elapsed. "Ah, here he is!" and the trooper came swinging
down and landed panting just in front of him.

"Why, what's come over him? What's the matter, Jack?"

Something was the matter. That was very evident. There was a light in
Braxton's blue eyes, and a flush on the pale cheek.

"Bill," he said, putting his hand on his comrade's shoulder, "it's about
time you made tracks for the settlements."

"What d'ye mean?" said Chicago.

"Why, I mean that the murderers are within a league of us, and that I
intend going for them. There, don't be huffed, old man," he added; "of
course I knew you were only joking. But they are there, Bill; I saw
smoke on the top of that hill, and it wasn't good, honest smoke, mind
you; it was dry-wood smoke, and meant to be hid. I thought it was mist
at first; but no, it was smoke. I'll swear it. It could only be them:
who else would camp on the summit of a desolate hill? We've got them,
Bill; we have them as sure as Fate."

"Or they've got us," growled the American. "But here, lad, here's my
glass; run up and have a look at them."

"It's too dark now," said Braxton; "we'll camp out to-night. No fear of
them stirring. They're lying by there until the whole thing blows over,
depend upon it; so we'll make sure of them in the morning."

The miner looked plaintively up at the tree, and then down at his
fourteen stone of solid muscle.

"I guess I must take your word for it," he grumbled; "but you are
bushman enough to tell smoke from mist, and a dry-wood fire from an open
one. We can't do anything to-night till we feel our way, so I allow we'd
best water the horses an' have a good night's rest."

Braxton seemed to be of the same mind; so after a few minutes'
preparation the two men wrapped themselves in their cloaks, and lay, two
little dark spots, on the great green carpet of the primeval bush.

With the first grey light of dawn Chicago sat up and roused his comrade.
A heavy mist bung over the bushland. They could hardly see the loom of
the trees across the little glade. Their clothes glistened with the
little shining beads of moisture. They brushed each other down, and
squatted in bush fashion over their rough breakfast. The haze seemed to
be lifting a little now; they could see fifty yards in every direction.
The miner paced up and down in silence, ruminating over a plug of
"Barrett's twist." Braxton sat on a fallen tree sponging and oiling his
revolver. Suddenly a single beam of sunshine played over the great blue
gum. It widened and spread, and then in a moment the mist melted away,
and the yellow leaves glowed like flakes of copper in the glare of the
morning sun. Braxton cheerily snapped the lock of the pistol, loaded it,
and replaced it in his belt. Chicago began to whistle, and stopped in
the middle of his walk.

"Now, young un," he said, "here's the glass."

Braxton slung it round his neck, and ascended the tree as he had done
the night before. It was child's-play to the trooper--a splendid
climber, as I can testify; for I saw him two years later swarming up the
topmost backstay of the _Hector_ frigate in a gale of wind for a bet of
a bottle of wine. He soon reached the summit, and shuffling along a
naked branch two hundred feet from the ground, he gained a point where
no leaves could obstruct his view. Here he sat straddle-legged; and,
unslinging the glass, he proceeded to examine the hill, bush by bush and
stone by stone.

An hour passed without his moving. Another had almost elapsed before he
descended. His face was grave and thoughtful.

"Are they there?" was the eager query.

"Yes; they are there."

"How many?"

"I've only seen five; but there may be more. Wait till I think it out,
Bill."

The miner gazed at him with all the reverence matter has towards mind.
Thinking things out was not his strong point.

"Blamed if I can help you," he said apologetically. "It kinder don't
come nat'ral to me to be plottin' and plannin'. Want o' eddication,
likely. My father was allowed to be the hardest-headed man in the
States. Judge Jeffers let on as how the old man wanted to hand in his
checks; so he down an' put his head on the line when the first engine as
ran from Vermont was comin' up. They fined him a hundred dollars for
upsettin' that 'ere locomotive; an' the old man got the cussedest
headache as ever was."

Braxton hardly seemed to hear this family anecdote; he was deep in
thought.

"Look here, old man," said he; "sit down by me on the trunk and listen
to what I say. Remember that you are here as a volunteer, Bill--you've
no call to come; now, I am here in the course of duty. Your name is
known through the settlement; you were a marked man when I was in the
nursery. Now, Bill, it's a big thing I am going to ask you. If you and I
go in and take these men, it will be another feather in your cap, and in
yours only. What do men know of Jack Braxton, the private of police?
He'd hardly be mentioned in the matter. Now, I want to make my name this
day. We'll have to secure these men by a surprise after dusk, and it
will be as easy for one resolute man to do it as for two; perhaps
easier, for there is less chance of detection. Bill, I want you to stay
with the horses, and let me go alone."

Chicago sprang to his feet with a snarl of indignation, and paced up and
down in front of the fallen trees. Then he seemed to master himself, for
he sat down again.

"They'd chaw you up, lad," he said, putting his hand on Braxton's
shoulder. "It wouldn't wash."

"Not they," said the trooper. "I'd take your pistol as well as my own,
and I'd need a deal of chawing."

"My character would be ruined," said Bill.

"It's beyond the reach of calumny. You can afford to give me one fair
chance."

Bill buried his face in his hands, and thought a little.

"Well, lad," he said, looking up, "I'll look after the horses."

Braxton wrung him by the hand. "There are few men would have done it,
Bill; you are a friend worth having. Now, we'll spend our day as best we
can, old man, and lie close till evening; for I won't start till an hour
after dusk; so we have plenty of time on our hands."

The day passed slowly. The trooper lay among the mosses below the great
blue gum in earnest thought. Once or twice he imagined he heard the
subterranean chuckle and slap of the thigh which usually denoted
amusement on the part of the miner; but on glancing up at that
individual, the expression of his face was so solemn, not to say
funereal, that it was evidently an illusion. They partook of their
scanty dinner and supper cheerfully and with hearty appetites. The
former listlessness had given place to briskness and activity, now that
their object was in view. Chicago blossomed out into many strange
experiences and racy reminiscences of Western life. The hours passed
rapidly and cheerily. The trooper produced a venerable pack of cards
from his holster and proposed euchre; but their gregariousness, and the
general difficulty of distinguishing the king of clubs from the ace of
hearts, exercised a depressing influence upon the players. Gradually the
sun went down on the great wilderness. The shadow fell on the little
glade, while the distant hill was still tipped with gold; then that too
became purplish, a star twinkled over the Tápu range, and night crept
over the scene.

"Good-bye, old man," said Braxton. "I won't take my carbine; it would
only be in the way. I can't thank you enough for letting me have this
chance. If they wipe me out, Bill, you'll not lose sight of them, I
know; and you'll say I died like a man. I've got no friends and no
message, and nothing in the world but this pack of cards. Keep them,
Bill; they were a fine pack in '51. If you see a smoke on the hill in
the morning you'll know all's well, and you'll bring up the horses at
once. If you don't, you'll ride to Fallen Pine, where we were to
meet,--ride day and night, Bill,--tell Inspector Burton that you know
where the rangers are, that Private Braxton is dead, and that he said
he was to bring up his men, else he'd come back from the grave and lead
them up himself. Do that, Bill. Good-bye."

A great quiet rested over the heart of that desolate woodland. The croak
of a frog, the gurgle of a little streamlet half hidden in the long
grass--no other sound. Then a wakeful jay gave a shrill chatter, another
joined, and another; a bluefinch screamed; a wombat rushed past to gain
its burrow. Something had disturbed them; yet all was apparently as
peaceful as before. Had you been by the jay's nest, however, and peered
downwards, you would have seen something gliding like a serpent through
the brushwood, and caught a glimpse, perhaps, of a pale, resolute face,
and the glint of a pocket-compass pointing north-by-east.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a long and weary night for Trooper Braxton. Any moment he might
come on an outpost of the rangers, so every step had to be taken slowly
and with care. But he was an experienced woodman, and hardly a twig
snapped as he crawled along. A morass barred his progress, and he was
compelled to make a long detour. Then he found himself in thick
brushwood, and once more had to go out of his way. It was very dark here
in the depth of the forest. There was a heavy smell, and a dense steam
laden with miasma rose from the ground. In the dim light he saw strange
creeping things around him. A bushmaster writhed across the path in
front of him, a cold, dank lizard crawled over his hand as he crouched
down; but the trooper thought only of the human reptiles in front, and
made steadily for his goal. Once he seemed to be pursued by some animal;
he heard a creaking behind him, but it ceased when he stopped and
listened, so he continued his way.

It was when he reached the base of the hill which he had seen from the
distance that the real difficulty of his undertaking began. It was
almost conical in shape, and very steep. The sides were covered with
loose stones and an occasional large boulder. One false step here would
send a shower of these tell-tale fragments clattering down the hill. The
trooper stripped off his high leather boots and turned up his trousers;
then he began cautiously to climb, cowering down behind every boulder.

There was a little patch of light far away on the horizon, a very
little grey patch, but it caused the figure of a man who was moving upon
the crest of the hill to loom out dim and large. He was a sentry
apparently, for he carried a gun under his arm. The top of the hill was
formed by a little plateau about a hundred yards in circumference. Along
the edge of this the man was pacing, occasionally stopping to peer down
into the great dusky sea beneath him. From this raised edge the plateau
curved down from every side, so as to form a crater-like depression. In
the centre of this hollow stood a large white tent. Several horses were
picketed around it, and the ground was littered with bundles of dried
grass and harness. You could see these details now from the edge of the
plateau, for the grey patch in the east had become white, and was
getting longer and wider. You could see the sentry's face, too, as he
paced round and round. A handsome, weak-minded face, with more of the
fool than the devil impressed on it. He seemed cheerful, for the birds
were beginning to sing, and their thousand voices rose from the bush
below. He forgot the forged note, I think, and the dreary voyage, and
the wild escape, and the dark gully away beyond the Tápu range; for his
eye glistened, and he hummed a quaint little Yorkshire country air. He
was back again in the West Riding village, and the rough boulder in
front shaped itself into the hill behind which Nelly lived before he
broke her heart, and he saw the ivied church that crowned it. He would
have seen something else had he looked again--something which was not in
his picture: a white passionless face which glared at him over the
boulder, as he turned upon his heel, still singing, and unconscious that
the bloodhounds of justice were close at his heels.

The trooper's time for action had come. He had reached the last boulder;
nothing lay between the plateau and himself but a few loose stones. He
could hear the song of the sentry dying away in the distance; he drew
his regulation sword, and, with his Adams in his left, he rose and
sprang like a tiger over the ridge and down into the hollow.

The sentry was startled from his dream of the past by a clatter and a
rattling of stones. He sprang round and cocked his gun. No wonder that
he gasped, and that a change passed over his bronzed face. A painter
would need a dash of ultramarine in his flesh-tints to represent it
now. No wonder, I say; for that dark active figure with the bare feet
and the brass buttons meant disgrace and the gallows to him. He saw him
spring across to the tent; he saw the gleam of a sword, and heard a
crash as the tent-pole was severed, and the canvas came down with a run
upon the heads of the sleepers. And then above oaths and shouts he heard
a mellow Irish voice--"I've twelve shots in my hands. I have ye, every
mother's son. Up with your arms! up, I say, before there is blood upon
my soul. One move, and ye stand before the throne." Braxton had stooped
and parted the doorway of the fallen tent, and was now standing over six
ruffians who occupied it. They lay as they had wakened, but with their
hands above their heads, for there was no resisting that quiet voice,
backed up by the two black muzzles. They imagined they were surrounded
and hopelessly outmatched. Not one of them dreamed that the whole
attacking force stood before them. It was the sentry who first began to
realise the true state of the case. There was no sound or sign of any
reinforcement. He looked to see that the cap was pressed well down on
the nipple, and crept towards the tent. He was a good shot, as many a
keeper on Braidagarth and the Yorkshire fells could testify. He raised
his gun to his shoulder. Braxton heard the click, but dared not remove
his eye or his weapon from his six prisoners. The sentry looked along
the sights. He knew his life depended upon that shot. There was more of
the devil than the fool in his face now. He paused a moment to make sure
of his aim, and then came a crash and the thud of a falling body.
Braxton was still standing over the prisoners, but the sentry's gun was
unfired, and he himself was writhing on the ground with a bullet through
his lungs. "Ye see," said Chicago, as he rose from behind a rock with
his gun still smoking in his hand, "it seemed a powerful mean thing to
leave you, Jack; so I thought as I'd kinder drop around promiscus, and
wade in if needed, which I was, as you can't deny. No, ye don't," he
added, as the sentry stretched out his hand to grasp his fallen gun;
"leave the wepin alone, young man; it ain't in your way as it lies
there."

"I'm a dead man!" groaned the ranger.

"Then lie quiet like a respectable corpse," said the miner, "an' don't
go a-squirmin' towards yer gun. That's ornary uneddicated conduct."

"Come here, Bill," cried Braxton, "and bring the ropes those horses are
picketed with. Now," he continued, as the American, having abstracted
the sentry's gun, appeared with an armful of ropes, "you tie these
fellows up, and I'll kill any man who moves."

"A pleasant division of labour, eh, old Blatherskite," said Chicago,
playfully tapping the one-eyed villain Maloney on the head. "Come on;
the ugliest first!" So saying, he began upon him and fastened him
securely.

One after another the rangers were tied up; all except the wounded man,
who was too helpless to need securing. Then Chicago went down and
brought up the horses, while Braxton remained on guard; and by mid-day
the cavalcade was in full march through the forest _en route_ for Fallen
Pine, the rendezvous of the search-party. The wounded man was tied on to
a horse in front, the other rangers followed on foot for safety, while
the trooper and Chicago brought up the rear.

       *       *       *       *       *

There was a sad assemblage at Fallen Pine. One by one they had dropped
in, tanned with the sun, torn by briers, weakened by the poisonous
miasma of the marshlands, all with the same tale of privation and
failure. Summerville and the inspector had fallen in with blacks above
the upper ford, and had barely escaped with their lives. Troopers Foley
and Anson were well, though somewhat gaunt from privation. Hartley had
lost his horse from the bite of a bushmaster. Murdoch and Murphy had
scoured the bush as far as Rathurst, but without success. All were
dejected and weary. They only waited the arrival of two of their number
to set out on their return to Trafalgar.

It was mid-day, and the sun was beating down with a pitiless glare on
the little clearing. The men were lying about on the shady side of the
trunks, some smoking, some with their hats over their faces and half
asleep. The horses were tethered here and there, looking as listless as
their masters. Only the inspector's old charger seemed superior to the
weather--a shrewd, _blasé_ old horse, that had seen the world, and was
nearly as deeply versed in woodcraft as his master. As Chicago said,
"Short of climbin' a tree, there weren't nothin' that horse couldn't
do; an' it would make a darned good try at that if it was pushed." Old
"Sawback" seemed ill at ease this afternoon. Twice he had pricked up his
ears, and once he had raised his head as if to neigh, but paused before
committing himself. The inspector looked at him curiously and put his
meerschaum back into its case. Meerschaums were always a weakness of
poor Jim Burton's. "Demme it, sir," I have heard him say, "a gentleman
is known by his pipe. When he comes down in the world his pipe has most
vitality." He put the case inside his uniform and went over to the
horse. The ears were still twitching.

"He hears something," said the inspector. "By Jove, so do I! Here, boys,
jump up; there's a body of men coming!" Every man sprang to his horse's
head. "I hear hoofs, and I hear the tramp of men on foot. They must be a
large party. They're heading straight for us. Get under cover, boys, and
have your guns loose." The men wheeled right and left, and in a very few
moments the glade was deserted. Only the brown barrel of a gun here and
there among the long grass and the ferns showed where they were
crouching. "Steady, boys!" said Burton; "if they are enemies, don't fire
till I give the word. Then one by one aim low, and let the smoke clear.
Rangers, by Jove!" he added, as a horseman broke into the clearing some
way down, with his head hanging down over his horse's neck. "More," he
growled, as several men emerged from the bush at the same point. "By the
living powers, they are taken! I see the ropes. Hurrah!" And next moment
Braxton and Chicago were mobbed by nine shouting, dancing men, who
pulled them and tugged at them, and slapped them on the back, and
dragged them about in such a way, that Maloney whispered with a scowl--

"If we'd had the grit to do as much, we'd have been free men this day!"

And now our story is nearly done. We have chronicled a fact which we
think is worthy of a wider circulation than the colonial drinking-bar
and the sheep-farmer's fireside, for Trooper Braxton and his capture of
the Bluemansdyke murderers have long been household words among our
brothers in the England of the Southern seas.

We need not detail that joyful ride to Trafalgar, nor the welcome, nor
the attempt at lynching; nor how Maloney, the arch criminal, turned
Queen's evidence, and so writhed away from the gallows. All that may be
read in the colonial press more graphically than I can tell it. My
friend Jack Braxton is an officer now, as his father was before him, and
still in the Trafalgar force. Bill I saw last in '61, when he came over
to London in charge of the barque of the _Wellingtonia_ for the
International Exhibition. He is laying on flesh, I fear, since he took
to sheep-farming; for he was barely brought up by seventeen stone, and
his fighting weight used to be fourteen; but he looks well and hearty.
Maloney was lynched in Placerville--at least so I heard. I had a letter
last mail from the old inspector; he has left the police, and has a farm
at Rathurst. I think, stout-hearted as he is, he must give a little bit
of a shudder when he rides down to Trafalgar for the Thursday market,
and comes round that sharp turn of the road where the boulders lie, and
the furze looks so yellow against the red clay.



_THE PARSON OF JACKMAN'S GULCH._


He was known in the Gulch as the Reverend Elias B. Hopkins, but it was
generally understood that the title was an honorary one, extorted by his
many eminent qualities, and not borne out by any legal claim which he
could adduce. "The Parson" was another of his _sobriquets_, which was
sufficiently distinctive in a land where the flock was scattered and the
shepherds few. To do him justice, he never pretended to have received
any preliminary training for the ministry or any orthodox qualification
to practise it. "We're all working in the claim of the Lord," he
remarked one day, "and it don't matter a cent whether we're hired for
the job or whether we waltzes in on our own account," a piece of rough
imagery which appealed directly to the instincts of Jackman's Gulch. It
is quite certain that during the first few months his presence had a
marked effect in diminishing the excessive use both of strong drinks
and of stronger adjectives which had been characteristic of the little
mining settlement. Under his tuition, men began to understand that the
resources of their native language were less limited than they had
supposed, and that it was possible to convey their impressions with
accuracy without the aid of a gaudy halo of profanity.

We were certainly in need of a regenerator at Jackman's Gulch about the
beginning of '53. Times were flush then over the whole colony, but
nowhere flusher than there. Our material prosperity had had a bad effect
upon our morals. The camp was a small one, lying rather better than a
hundred and twenty miles to the south of Ballarat, at a spot where a
mountain torrent finds its way down a rugged ravine on its way to join
the Arrowsmith River. History does not relate who the original Jackman
may have been, but at the time I speak of the camp it contained a
hundred or so adults, many of whom were men who had sought an asylum
there after making more civilised mining centres too hot to hold them.
They were a rough, murderous crew, hardly leavened by the few
respectable members of society who were scattered among them.

Communication between Jackman's Gulch and the outside world was
difficult and uncertain. A portion of the bush between it and Ballarat
was infested by a redoubtable outlaw named Conky Jim, who, with a small
gang as desperate as himself, made travelling a dangerous matter. It was
customary, therefore, at the Gulch, to store up the dust and nuggets
obtained from the mines in a special store, each man's share being
placed in a separate bag on which his name was marked. A trusty man,
named Woburn, was deputed to watch over this primitive bank. When the
amount deposited became considerable, a waggon was hired, and the whole
treasure was conveyed to Ballarat, guarded by the police and by a
certain number of miners, who took it in turn to perform the office.
Once in Ballarat, it was forwarded on to Melbourne by the regular gold
waggons. By this plan, the gold was often kept for months in the Gulch
before being despatched, but Conky Jim was effectually checkmated, as
the escort party were far too strong for him and his gang. He appeared,
at the time of which I write, to have forsaken his haunts in disgust,
and the road could be traversed by small parties with impunity.

Comparative order used to reign during the daytime at Jackman's Gulch,
for the majority of the inhabitants were out with crowbar and pick among
the quartz ledges, or washing clay and sand in their cradles by the
banks of the little stream. As the sun sank down, however, the claims
were gradually deserted, and their unkempt owners, clay-bespattered and
shaggy, came lounging into camp, ripe for any form of mischief. Their
first visit was to Woburn's gold store, where their clean-up of the day
was duly deposited, the amount being entered in the store-keeper's book,
and each miner retaining enough to cover his evening's expenses. After
that all restraint was at an end, and each set to work to get rid of his
surplus dust with the greatest rapidity possible. The focus of
dissipation was the rough bar, formed by a couple of hogsheads spanned
by planks, which was dignified by the name of the "Britannia drinking
saloon." Here, Nat Adams, the burly bar-keeper, dispensed bad whisky at
the rate of two shillings a noggin, or a guinea a bottle, while his
brother Ben acted as croupier in a rude wooden shanty behind, which had
been converted into a gambling hell, and was crowded every night. There
had been a third brother, but an unfortunate misunderstanding with a
customer had shortened his existence. "He was too soft to live long,"
his brother Nathaniel feelingly observed on the occasion of his funeral.
"Many's the time I've said to him, 'If you're arguin' a pint with a
stranger, you should always draw first, then argue, and then shoot, if
you judge that he's on the shoot.' Bill was too purlite. He must needs
argue first and draw after, when he might just as well have kivered his
man before talkin' it over with him." This amiable weakness of the
deceased Bill was a blow to the firm of Adams, which became so
short-handed that the concern could hardly be worked without the
admission of a partner, which would mean a considerable decrease in the
profits.

Nat Adams had had a roadside shanty in the Gulch before the discovery of
gold, and might, therefore, claim to be the oldest inhabitant. These
keepers of shanties were a peculiar race, and, at the cost of a
digression, it may be interesting to explain how they managed to amass
considerable sums of money in a land where travellers were few and far
between. It was the custom of the "bushmen," _i.e._ bullock drivers,
sheep tenders, and the other white hands who worked on the sheep-runs up
country, to sign articles by which they agreed to serve their master for
one, two, or three years at so much per year and certain daily rations.
Liquor was never included in this agreement, and the men remained, per
force, total abstainers during the whole time. The money was paid in a
lump sum at the end of the engagement. When that day came round, Jimmy,
the stockman, would come slouching into his master's office,
cabbage-tree hat in hand.

"Morning, master!" Jimmy would say. "My time's up. I guess I'll draw my
cheque and ride down to town."

"You'll come back, Jimmy."

"Yes, I'll come back. Maybe I'll be away three weeks, maybe a month. I
want some clothes, master, and my bloomin' boots are well-nigh off my
feet."

"How much, Jimmy?" asks his master, taking up his pen.

"There's sixty pound screw," Jimmy answers thoughtfully; "and you mind,
master, last March, when the brindled bull broke out o' the paddock.
Two pound you promised me then. And a pound at the dipping. And a pound
when Millar's sheep got mixed with ourn;" and so he goes on, for bushmen
can seldom write, but they have memories which nothing escapes.

His master writes the cheque and hands it across the table. "Don't get
on the drink, Jimmy," he says.

"No fear of that, master," and the stockman slips the cheque into his
leather pouch, and within an hour he is ambling off upon his long-limbed
horse on his hundred mile journey to town.

Now Jimmy has to pass some six or eight of the above-mentioned roadside
shanties in his day's ride, and experience has taught him that if he
once breaks his accustomed total abstinence, the unwonted stimulant has
an overpowering effect upon his brain. Jimmy shakes his head warily as
he determines that no earthly consideration will induce him to partake
of any liquor until his business is over. His only chance is to avoid
temptation; so, knowing that there is the first of these houses some
half mile ahead, he plunges into a by-path through the bush which will
lead him out at the other side.

Jimmy is riding resolutely along this narrow path, congratulating
himself upon a danger escaped, when he becomes aware of a sunburned,
black-bearded man who is leaning unconcernedly against a tree beside the
track. This is none other than the shanty-keeper, who, having observed
Jimmy's man[oe]uvre in the distance, has taken a short cut through the
bush in order to intercept him.

"Morning, Jimmy!" he cries, as the horseman comes up to him.

"Morning, mate; morning!"

"Where are ye off to to-day then?"

"Off to town," says Jimmy sturdily.

"No, now--are you though? You'll have bully times down there for a bit.
Come round and have a drink at my place. Just by way of luck."

"No," says Jimmy, "I don't want a drink."

"Just a little damp."

"I tell ye I don't want one," says the stockman angrily.

"Well, ye needn't be so darned short about it. It's nothin' to me
whether you drinks or not. Good mornin'."

"Good mornin'," says Jimmy, and has ridden on about twenty yards when
he hears the other calling on him to stop.

"See here, Jimmy!" he says, overtaking him again. "If you'll do me a
kindness when you're up in town I'd be obliged."

"What is it?"

"It's a letter, Jim, as I wants posted. It's an important one too, an' I
wouldn't trust it with every one; but I knows you, and if you'll take
charge on it it'll be a powerful weight off my mind."

"Give it here," Jimmy says laconically.

"I hain't got it here. It's round in my caboose. Come round for it with
me. It ain't more'n quarter of a mile."

Jimmy consents reluctantly. When they reach the tumble-down hut the
keeper asks him cheerily to dismount and to come in.

"Give me the letter," says Jimmy.

"It ain't altogether wrote yet, but you sit down here for a minute and
it'll be right," and so the stockman is beguiled into the shanty.

At last the letter is ready and handed over. "Now, Jimmy," says the
keeper, "one drink at my expense before you go."

"Not a taste," says Jimmy.

"Oh, that's it, is it?" the other says in an aggrieved tone. "You're too
damned proud to drink with a poor cove like me. Here--give us back that
letter. I'm cursed if I'll accept a favour from a man whose too almighty
big to have a drink with me."

"Well, well, mate, don't turn rusty," says Jim. "Give us one drink an'
I'm off."

The keeper pours out about half a pannikin of raw rum and hands it to
the bushman. The moment he smells the old familiar smell his longing for
it returns, and he swigs it off at a gulp. His eyes shine more brightly,
and his face becomes flushed. The keeper watches him narrowly. "You can
go now, Jim," he says.

"Steady, mate, steady," says the bushman. "I'm as good a man as you. If
you stand a drink, I can stand one too, I suppose." So the pannikin is
replenished, and Jimmy's eyes shine brighter still.

"Now, Jimmy, one last drink for the good of the house," says the keeper,
"and then it's time you were off." The stockman has a third gulp from
the pannikin, and with it all his scruples and good resolutions vanish
for ever.

"Look here," he says somewhat huskily, taking his cheque out of his
pouch. "You take this, mate. Whoever comes along this road, ask 'em what
they'll have, and tell them it's my shout. Let me know when the money's
done."

So Jimmy abandons the idea of ever getting to town, and for three weeks
or a month he lies about the shanty in a state of extreme drunkenness,
and reduces every wayfarer upon the road to the same condition. At last
one fine morning the keeper comes to him. "The coin's done, Jimmy," he
says; "it's about time you made some more." So Jimmy has a good wash to
sober him, straps his blanket and his billy to his back, and rides off
through the bush to the sheep-run, where he has another year of
sobriety, terminating in another month of intoxication.

All this, though typical of the happy-go-lucky manners of the
inhabitants, has no direct bearing upon Jackman's Gulch, so we must
return to that Arcadian settlement. Additions to the population there
were not numerous, and such as came about the time of which I speak were
even rougher and fiercer than the original inhabitants. In particular,
there came a brace of ruffians named Phillips and Maule, who rode into
camp one day and started a claim upon the other side of the stream.
They outgulched the Gulch in the virulence and fluency of their
blasphemy, in the truculence of their speech and manner, and in their
reckless disregard of all social laws. They claimed to have come from
Bendigo, and there were some amongst us who wished that the redoubted
Conky Jim was on the track once more, as long as he would close it to
such visitors as these. After their arrival the nightly proceedings at
the "Britannia Bar" and at the gambling hell behind became more riotous
than ever. Violent quarrels, frequently ending in bloodshed, were of
constant occurrence. The more peaceable frequenters of the bar began to
talk seriously of lynching the two strangers who were the principal
promoters of disorder. Things were in this unsatisfactory condition when
our evangelist, Elias B. Hopkins, came limping into the camp,
travel-stained and footsore, with his spade strapped across his back and
his Bible in the pocket of his moleskin jacket.

His presence was hardly noticed at first, so insignificant was the man.
His manner was quiet and unobtrusive, his face pale, and his figure
fragile. On better acquaintance, however, there was a squareness and
firmness about his clean-shaven lower jaw, and an intelligence in his
widely-opened blue eyes, which marked him as a man of character. He
erected a small hut for himself, and started a claim close to that
occupied by the two strangers who had preceded him. This claim was
chosen with a ludicrous disregard for all practical laws of mining, and
at once stamped the new-comer as being a green hand at his work. It was
piteous to observe him every morning as we passed to our work, digging
and delving with the greatest industry, but, as we knew well, without
the smallest possibility of any result. He would pause for a moment as
we went by, wipe his pale face with his bandanna handkerchief, and shout
out to us a cordial morning greeting, and then fall to again with
redoubled energy. By degrees we got into the way of making a
half-pitying, half-contemptuous inquiry as to how he got on. "I hain't
struck it yet, boys," he would answer cheerily, leaning on his spade,
"but the bed-rock lies deep just hereabouts, and I reckon we'll get
among the pay gravel to-day." Day after day he returned the same reply
with unvarying confidence and cheerfulness.

It was not long before he began to show us the stuff that was in him.
One night the proceedings were unusually violent at the drinking saloon.
A rich pocket had been struck during the day, and the striker was
standing treat in a lavish and promiscuous fashion, which had reduced
three parts of the settlement to a state of wild intoxication. A crowd
of drunken idlers stood or lay about the bar, cursing, swearing,
shouting, dancing, and here and there firing their pistols into the air
out of pure wantonness. From the interior of the shanty behind there
came a similar chorus. Maule, Phillips, and the roughs who followed them
were in the ascendant, and all order and decency was swept away.

Suddenly, amid this tumult of oaths and drunken cries, men became
conscious of a quiet monotone which underlay all other sounds and
obtruded itself at every pause in the uproar. Gradually first one man
and then another paused to listen, until there was a general cessation
of the hubbub, and every eye was turned in the direction whence this
quiet stream of words flowed. There, mounted upon a barrel, was Elias B.
Hopkins, the newest of the inhabitants of Jackman's Gulch, with a
good-humoured smile upon his resolute face. He held an open Bible in his
hand, and was reading aloud a passage taken at random--an extract from
the Apocalypse, if I remember right. The words were entirely irrelevant,
and without the smallest bearing upon the scene before him; but he
plodded on with great unction, waving his left hand slowly to the
cadence of his words.

There was a general shout of laughter and applause at this apparition,
and Jackman's Gulch gathered round the barrel approvingly, under the
impression that this was some ornate joke, and that they were about to
be treated to some mock sermon or parody of the chapter read. When,
however, the reader, having finished the chapter, placidly commenced
another, and having finished that rippled on into another one, the
revellers came to the conclusion that the joke was somewhat too
long-winded. The commencement of yet another chapter confirmed this
opinion, and an angry chorus of shouts and cries, with suggestions as to
gagging the reader, or knocking him off the barrel, rose from every
side. In spite of roars and hoots, however, Elias B. Hopkins plodded
away at the Apocalypse with the same serene countenance, looking as
ineffably contented as though the babel around him were the most
gratifying applause. Before long an occasional boot pattered against the
barrel, or whistled past our parson's head; but here some of the more
orderly of the inhabitants interfered in favour of peace and order,
aided curiously enough by the afore-mentioned Maule and Phillips, who
warmly espoused the cause of the little Scripture-reader. "The little
cuss has got grit in him," the latter explained, rearing his bulky
red-shirted form between the crowd and the object of its anger. "His
ways ain't our ways, and we're all welcome to our opinions, and to sling
them round from barrels or otherwise, if so minded. What I says, and
Bill says, is, that when it comes to slingin' boots instead o' words
it's too steep by half; an' if this man's wronged we'll chip in an' see
him righted." This oratorical effort had the effect of checking the more
active signs of disapproval, and the party of disorder attempted to
settle down once more to their carouse, and to ignore the shower of
Scripture which was poured upon them. The attempt was hopeless. The
drunken portion fell asleep under the drowsy refrain, and the others,
with many a sullen glance at the imperturbable reader, slouched off to
their huts, leaving him still perched upon the barrel. Finding himself
alone with the more orderly of the spectators, the little man rose,
closed his book, after methodically marking with a lead pencil the exact
spot at which he stopped, and descended from his perch. "To-morrow
night, boys," he remarked in his quiet voice, "the reading will commence
at the 9th verse of the 15th chapter of the Apocalypse," with which
piece of information, disregarding our congratulations, he walked away
with the air of a man who has performed an obvious duty.

We found that his parting words were no empty threat. Hardly had the
crowd begun to assemble next night before he appeared once more upon the
barrel and began to read with the same monotonous vigour, tripping over
words, muddling up sentences, but still boring along through chapter
after chapter. Laughter, threats, chaff--every weapon short of actual
violence--was used to deter him, but all with the same want of success.
Soon it was found that there was a method in his proceedings. When
silence reigned, or when the conversation was of an innocent nature, the
reading ceased. A single word of blasphemy, however, set it going again,
and it would ramble on for a quarter of an hour or so, when it stopped,
only to be renewed upon similar provocation. The reading was pretty
continuous during that second night, for the language of the opposition
was still considerably free. At least it was an improvement upon the
night before.

For more than a month Elias B. Hopkins carried on this campaign. There
he would sit, night after night, with the open book upon his knee, and
at the slightest provocation off he would go, like a musical box when
the spring is touched. The monotonous drawl became unendurable, but it
could only be avoided by conforming to the parson's code. A chronic
swearer came to be looked upon with disfavour by the community, since
the punishment of his transgression fell upon all. At the end of a
fortnight the reader was silent more than half the time, and at the end
of the month his position was a sinecure.

Never was a moral revolution brought about more rapidly and more
completely. Our parson carried his principle into private life. I have
seen him, on hearing an unguarded word from some worker in the gulches,
rush across, Bible in hand, and perching himself upon the heap of red
clay which surmounted the offender's claim, drawl through the
genealogical tree at the commencement of the New Testament in a most
earnest and impressive manner, as though it were especially appropriate
to the occasion. In time an oath became a rare thing amongst us.
Drunkenness was on the wane too. Casual travellers passing through the
Gulch used to marvel at our state of grace, and rumours of it went as
far as Ballarat, and excited much comment therein.

There were points about our evangelist which made him especially fitted
for the work which he had undertaken. A man entirely without redeeming
vices would have had no common basis on which to work, and no means of
gaining the sympathy of his flock. As we came to know Elias B. Hopkins
better, we discovered that in spite of his piety there was a leaven of
old Adam in him, and that he had certainly known unregenerate days. He
was no teetotaler. On the contrary, he could choose his liquor with
discrimination, and lower it in an able manner. He played a masterly
hand at poker, and there were few who could touch him at "cut-throat
euchre." He and the two ex-ruffians, Phillips and Maule, used to play
for hours in perfect harmony, except when the fall of the cards elicited
an oath from one of his companions. At the first of these offences the
parson would put on a pained smile and gaze reproachfully at the
culprit. At the second he would reach for his Bible, and the game was
over for the evening. He showed us he was a good revolver shot too, for
when we were practising at an empty brandy bottle outside Adams' bar, he
took up a friend's pistol and hit it plumb in the centre at twenty-four
paces. There were few things he took up that he could not make a show at
apparently, except gold-digging, and at that he was the veriest duffer
alive. It was pitiful to see the little canvas bag, with his name
printed across it, lying placid and empty upon the shelf at Woburn's
store, while all the other bags were increasing daily, and some had
assumed quite a portly rotundity of form, for the weeks were slipping
by, and it was almost time for the gold-train to start off for Ballarat.
We reckoned that the amount which we had stored at the time represented
the greatest sum which had ever been taken by a single convoy out of
Jackman's Gulch.

Although Elias B. Hopkins appeared to derive a certain quiet
satisfaction from the wonderful change which he had effected in the
camp, his joy was not yet rounded and complete. There was one thing for
which he still yearned. He opened his heart to us about it one evening.

"We'd have a blessing on the camp, boys," he said, "if we only had a
service o' some sort on the Lord's day. It's a temptin' o' Providence to
go on in this way without takin' any notice of it, except that maybe
there's more whisky drunk and more card-playin' than on any other day."

"We hain't got no parson," objected one of the crowd.

"Ye fool!" growled another, "hain't we got a man as is worth any three
parsons, and can splash texts around like clay out o' a cradle? What
more d'ye want?"

"We hain't got no church!" urged the same dissentient.

"Have it in the open air," one suggested.

"Or in Woburn's store," said another.

"Or in Adams' saloon."

The last proposal was received with a buzz of approval, which showed
that it was considered the most appropriate locality.

Adams' saloon was a substantial wooden building in the rear of the bar,
which was used partly for storing liquor and partly for a gambling
saloon. It was strongly built of rough-hewn logs, the proprietor rightly
judging, in the unregenerate days of Jackman's Gulch, that hogsheads of
brandy and rum were commodities which had best be secured under lock and
key. A strong door opened into each end of the saloon, and the interior
was spacious enough, when the table and lumber were cleared away, to
accommodate the whole population. The spirit barrels were heaped
together at one end by their owner, so as to make a very fair imitation
of a pulpit.

At first the Gulch took but a mild interest in the proceedings, but when
it became known that Elias B. Hopkins intended, after reading the
service, to address the audience, the settlement began to warm up to the
occasion. A real sermon was a novelty to all of them, and one coming
from their own parson was additionally so. Rumour announced that it
would be interspersed with local hits, and that the moral would be
pointed by pungent personalities. Men began to fear that they would be
unable to gain seats, and many applications were made to the brothers
Adams. It was only when conclusively shown that the saloon could contain
them all with a margin that the camp settled down into calm expectancy.

It was as well that the building was of such a size, for the assembly
upon the Sunday morning was the largest which had ever occurred in the
annals of Jackman's Gulch. At first it was thought that the whole
population was present, but a little reflection showed that this was not
so. Maule and Phillips had gone on a prospecting journey among the
hills, and had not returned as yet; and Woburn, the gold-keeper, was
unable to leave his store. Having a very large quantity of the precious
metal under his charge, he stuck to his post, feeling that the
responsibility was too great to trifle with. With these three exceptions
the whole of the Gulch, with clean red shirts, and such other additions
to their toilet as the occasion demanded, sauntered in a straggling line
along the clayey pathway which led up to the saloon.

The interior of the building had been provided with rough benches; and
the parson, with his quiet, good-humoured smile, was standing at the
door to welcome them. "Good morning, boys," he cried cheerily, as each
group came lounging up. "Pass in! pass in. You'll find this is as good a
morning's work as any you've done. Leave your pistols in this barrel
outside the door as you pass; you can pick them out as you come out
again; but it isn't the thing to carry weapons into the house of peace."
His request was good-humouredly complied with, and before the last of
the congregation filed in there was a strange assortment of knives and
firearms in this depository. When all had assembled the doors were shut
and the service began--the first and the last which was ever performed
at Jackman's Gulch.

The weather was sultry and the room close, yet the miners listened with
exemplary patience. There was a sense of novelty in the situation which
had its attractions. To some it was entirely new, others were wafted
back by it to another land and other days. Beyond a disposition which
was exhibited by the uninitiated to applaud at the end of certain
prayers, by way of showing that they sympathised with the sentiments
expressed, no audience could have behaved better. There was a murmur of
interest, however, when Elias B. Hopkins, looking down on the
congregation from his rostrum of casks, began his address.

He had attired himself with care in honour of the occasion. He wore a
velveteen tunic, girt round the waist with a sash of china silk, a pair
of moleskin trousers, and held his cabbage-tree hat in his left hand. He
began speaking in a low tone, and it was noticed at the time that he
frequently glanced through the small aperture which served for a window,
which was placed above the heads of those who sat beneath him.

"I've put you straight now," he said, in the course of his address;
"I've got you in the right rut, if you will but stick in it." Here he
looked very hard out of the window for some seconds. "You've learned
soberness and industry, and with those things you can always make up any
loss you may sustain. I guess there isn't one of ye that won't remember
my visit to this camp." He paused for a moment, and three revolver shots
rang out upon the quiet summer air. "Keep your seats, damn ye!" roared
our preacher, as his audience rose in excitement. "If a man of ye
moves, down he goes! The door's locked on the outside, so ye can't get
out anyhow. Your seats, ye canting, chuckle-headed fools! Down with ye,
ye dogs, or I'll fire among ye!"

Astonishment and fear brought us back into our seats, and we sat staring
blankly at our pastor and each other. Elias B. Hopkins, whose whole face
and even figure appeared to have undergone an extraordinary alteration,
looked fiercely down on us from his commanding position with a
contemptuous smile on his stern face.

"I have your lives in my hands," he remarked; and we noticed as he spoke
that he held a heavy revolver in his hand, and that the butt of another
one protruded from his sash. "I am armed and you are not. If one of you
moves or speaks, he is a dead man. If not, I shall not harm you. You must
wait here for an hour. Why, you _fools_" (this with a hiss of contempt
which rang in our ears for many a long day), "do you know who it is that
has stuck you up? Do you know who it is that has been playing it upon you
for months as a parson and a saint? Conky Jim, the bushranger, ye apes!
And Phillips and Maule were my two right-hand men. They're off into the
hills with your gold---- Ha! would ye?" This to some restive member of
the audience, who quieted down instantly before the fierce eye and the
ready weapon of the bushranger. "In an hour they will be clear of any
pursuit, and I advise you to make the best of it and not to follow, or
you may lose more than your money. My horse is tethered outside this door
behind me. When the time is up I shall pass through it, lock it on the
outside, and be off. Then you may break your way out as best you can. I
have no more to say to you, except that ye are the most cursed set of
asses that ever trod in boot-leather."

We had time to endorse mentally this outspoken opinion during the long
sixty minutes which followed; we were powerless before the resolute
desperado. It is true that if we made a simultaneous rush we might bear
him down at the cost of eight or ten of our number. But how could such a
rush be organised without speaking, and who would attempt it without a
previous agreement that he would be supported? There was nothing for it
but submission. It seemed three hours at the least before the ranger
snapped up his watch, stepped down from the barrel, walked backwards,
still covering us with his weapon, to the door behind him, and then
passed rapidly through it. We heard the creaking of the rusty lock, and
the clatter of his horse's hoofs as he galloped away.

It has been remarked that an oath had for the last few weeks been a rare
thing in the camp. We made up for our temporary abstention during the
next half-hour. Never was heard such symmetrical and heartfelt
blasphemy. When at last we succeeded in getting the door off its hinges
all sight of both rangers and treasure had disappeared, nor have we ever
caught sight of either the one or the other since. Poor Woburn, true to
his trust, lay shot through the head across the threshold of his empty
store. The villains, Maule and Phillips, had descended upon the camp the
instant that we had been enticed into the trap, murdered the keeper,
loaded up a small cart with the booty, and got safe away to some wild
fastness among the mountains, where they were joined by their wily
leader.

Jackman's Gulch recovered from this blow, and is now a flourishing
township. Social reformers are not in request there, however, and
morality is at a discount. It is said that an inquest has been held
lately upon an unoffending stranger who chanced to remark that in so
large a place it would be advisable to have some form of Sunday service.
The memory of their one and only pastor is still green among the
inhabitants, and will be for many a long year to come.



_MY FRIEND THE MURDERER._


"Number 43 is no better, Doctor," said the head-warder in a slightly
reproachful accent, looking in round the corner of my door.

"Confound 43!" I responded from behind the pages of the _Australian
Sketcher_.

"And 61 says his tubes are paining him. Couldn't you do anything for
him?"

"He's a walking drug shop," said I. "He has the whole British
pharmacop[oe]ia inside him. I believe his tubes are as sound as yours
are."

"Then there's 7 and 108, they are chronic," continued the warder,
glancing down a blue slip of paper. "And 28 knocked off work
yesterday--said lifting things gave him a stitch in the side. I want you
to have a look at him, if you don't mind, Doctor. There's 31, too--him
that killed John Adamson in the _Corinthian_ brig--he's been carrying on
awful in the night, shrieking and yelling, he has, and no stopping him
neither."

"All right, I'll have a look at him afterwards," I said, tossing my
paper carelessly aside, and pouring myself out a cup of coffee. "Nothing
else to report, I suppose, warder?"

The official protruded his head a little further into the room. "Beg
pardon, Doctor," he said, in a confidential tone, "but I notice as 82
has a bit of a cold, and it would be a good excuse for you to visit him
and have a chat, maybe."

The cup of coffee was arrested half-way to my lips as I stared in
amazement at the man's serious face.

"An excuse?" I said. "An excuse? What the deuce are you talking about,
McPherson? You see me trudging about all day at my practice, when I'm
not looking after the prisoners, and coming back every night as tired as
a dog, and you talk about finding an excuse for doing more work."

"You'd like it, Doctor," said Warder McPherson, insinuating one of his
shoulders into the room. "That man's story's worth listening to if you
could get him to tell it, though he's not what you'd call free in his
speech. Maybe you don't know who 82 is?"

"No, I don't, and I don't care either," I answered, in the conviction
that some local ruffian was about to be foisted upon me as a celebrity.

"He's Maloney," said the warder, "him that turned Queen's evidence after
the murders at Bluemansdyke."

"You don't say so?" I ejaculated, laying down my cup in astonishment. I
had heard of this ghastly series of murders, and read an account of them
in a London magazine long before setting foot in the colony. I
remembered that the atrocities committed had thrown the Burke and Hare
crimes completely into the shade, and that one of the most villainous of
the gang had saved his own skin by betraying his companions. "Are you
sure?" I asked.

"Oh yes, it's him right enough. Just you draw him out a bit, and he'll
astonish you. He's a man to know, is Maloney; that's to say, in
moderation;" and the head grinned, bobbed, and disappeared, leaving me
to finish my breakfast and ruminate over what I had heard.

The surgeonship of an Australian prison is not an enviable position. It
may be endurable in Melbourne or Sydney, but the little town of Perth
has few attractions to recommend it, and those few had been long
exhausted. The climate was detestable, and the society far from
congenial. Sheep and cattle were the staple support of the community;
and their prices, breeding, and diseases the principal topic of
conversation. Now as I, being an outsider, possessed neither the one nor
the other, and was utterly callous to the new "dip" and the "rot" and
other kindred topics, I found myself in a state of mental isolation, and
was ready to hail anything which might relieve the monotony of my
existence. Maloney, the murderer, had at least some distinctiveness and
individuality in his character, and might act as a tonic to a mind sick
of the commonplaces of existence. I determined that I should follow the
warder's advice, and take the excuse for making his acquaintance. When,
therefore, I went upon my usual matutinal round, I turned the lock of
the door which bore the convict's number upon it, and walked into the
cell.

The man was lying in a heap upon his rough bed as I entered, but,
uncoiling his long limbs, he started up and stared at me with an
insolent look of defiance on his face which augured badly for our
interview. He had a pale set face, with sandy hair and a steelly-blue
eye, with something feline in its expression. His frame was tall and
muscular, though there was a curious bend in his shoulders, which almost
amounted to a deformity. An ordinary observer meeting him in the street
might have put him down as a well-developed man, fairly handsome, and of
studious habits--even in the hideous uniform of the rottenest convict
establishment he imparted a certain refinement to his carriage which
marked him out among the inferior ruffians around him.

"I'm not on the sick-list," he said gruffly. There was something in the
hard, rasping voice which dispelled all softer allusions, and made me
realise that I was face to face with the man of the Lena Valley and
Bluemansdyke, the bloodiest bushranger that ever stuck up a farm or cut
the throats of its occupants.

"I know you're not," I answered. "Warder McPherson told me you had a
cold, though, and I thought I'd look in and see you."

"Blast Warder McPherson, and blast you, too!" yelled the convict, in a
paroxysm of rage. "Oh, that's right," he added, in a quieter voice;
"hurry away; report me to the governor, do! Get me another six months
or so--that's your game."

"I'm not going to report you," I said.

"Eight square feet of ground," he went on, disregarding my protest, and
evidently working himself into a fury again. "Eight square feet, and I
can't have that without being talked to and stared at, and--oh, blast
the whole crew of you!" and he raised his two clenched hands above his
head and shook them in passionate invective.

"You've got a curious idea of hospitality," I remarked, determined not
to lose my temper, and saying almost the first thing that came to my
tongue.

To my surprise the words had an extraordinary effect upon him. He seemed
completely staggered at my assuming the proposition for which he had
been so fiercely contending--namely, that the room in which we stood was
his own.

"I beg your pardon," he said; "I didn't mean to be rude. Won't you take
a seat?" and he motioned towards a rough trestle, which formed the
headpiece of his couch.

I sat down rather astonished at the sudden change. I don't know that I
liked Maloney better under his new aspect. The murderer had, it is
true, disappeared for the nonce, but there was something in the smooth
tones and obsequious manner which powerfully suggested the witness of
the Queen, who had stood up and sworn away the lives of his companions
in crime.

"How's your chest?" I asked, putting on my professional air.

"Come, drop it, Doctor, drop it!" he answered, showing a row of white
teeth as he resumed his seat upon the side of the bed. "It wasn't
anxiety after my precious health that brought you along here; that story
won't wash at all. You came to have a look at Wolf Tone Maloney, forger,
murderer, Sydney-slider, ranger, and Government peach. That's about my
figure, ain't it? There it is, plain and straight; there's nothing mean
about me."

He paused as if he expected me to say something; but as I remained
silent, he repeated once or twice, "There's nothing mean about me."

"And why shouldn't I?" he suddenly yelled, his eyes gleaming and his
whole satanic nature reasserting itself. "We were bound to swing, one
and all, and they were none the worse if I saved myself by turning
against them. Every man for himself, say I, and the devil take the
luckiest. You haven't a plug of tobacco, Doctor, have you?"

He tore at the piece of "Barrett's" which I handed him as ravenously as
a wild beast. It seemed to have the effect of soothing his nerves, for
he settled himself down in the bed, and reassumed his former deprecating
manner.

"You wouldn't like it yourself, you know, Doctor," he said; "it's enough
to make any man a little queer in his temper. I'm in for six months this
time for assault, and very sorry I shall be to go out again, I can tell
you. My mind's at ease in here; but when I'm outside, what with the
Government, and what with Tattooed Tom of Hawkesbury, there's no chance
of a quiet life."

"Who is he?" I asked.

"He's the brother of John Grimthorpe; the same that was condemned on my
evidence, and an infernal scamp he was too! Spawn of the devil, both of
them! This tattooed one is a murderous ruffian, and he swore to have my
blood after that trial. It's seven year ago, and he's following me yet;
I know he is, though he lies low and keeps dark. He came up to me in
Ballarat in '75; you can see on the back of my hand here where the
bullet clipped me. He tried again in '76, at Port Philip, but I got the
drop on him and wounded him badly. He knifed me in '79 though, in a bar
at Adelaide, and that made our account about level. He's loafing round
again now, and he'll let daylight into me--unless--unless by some
extraordinary chance some one does as much for him." And Maloney gave a
very ugly smile.

"I don't complain of _him_ so much," he continued. "Looking at it in his
way, no doubt it is a sort of family matter that can hardly be
neglected. It's the Government that fetches me. When I think of what
I've done for this country, and then of what this country has done for
me, it makes me fairly wild--clean drives me off my head. There's no
gratitude nor common decency left, Doctor!"

He brooded over his wrongs for a few minutes, and then proceeded to lay
them before me in detail.

"Here's nine men," he said, "they've been murdering and killing for a
matter of three years, and maybe a life a week wouldn't more than
average the work that they've done. The Government catches them and the
Government tries them, but they can't convict; and why?--because the
witnesses have all had their throats cut, and the whole job's been very
neatly done. What happens then? Up comes a citizen called Wolf Tone
Maloney; he says, 'The country needs me, and here I am.' And with that
he gives his evidence, convicts the lot, and enables the beaks to hang
them. That's what I did. There's nothing mean about me! And now what
does the country do in return? Dogs me, sir, spies on me, watches me
night and day, turns against the very man that worked so hard for it.
There's something mean about that, anyway. I didn't expect them to
knight me, nor to make me Colonial Secretary; but, damn it, I did expect
that they would let me alone!"

"Well," I remonstrated, "if you choose to break laws and assault people,
you can't expect it to be looked over on account of former services."

"I don't refer to my present imprisonment, sir," said Maloney, with
dignity. "It's the life I've been leading since that cursed trial that
takes the soul out of me. Just you sit there on that trestle, and I'll
tell you all about it; and then look me in the face and tell me that
I've been treated fair by the police."

I shall endeavour to transcribe the experiences of the convict in his
own words, as far as I can remember them, preserving his curious
perversions of right and wrong. I can answer for the truth of his facts,
whatever may be said for his deductions from them. Months afterwards,
Inspector H. W. Hann, formerly governor of the gaol at Dunedin, showed
me entries in his ledger which corroborated every statement. Maloney
reeled the story off in a dull, monotonous voice, with his head sunk
upon his breast and his hands between his knees. The glitter of his
serpent-like eyes was the only sign of the emotions which were stirred
up by the recollection of the events which he narrated.

       *       *       *       *       *

You've read of Bluemansdyke (he began, with some pride in his tone). We
made it hot while it lasted; but they ran us to earth at last, and a
trap called Braxton, with a damned Yankee, took the lot of us. That was
in New Zealand, of course, and they took us down to Dunedin, and there
they were convicted and hanged. One and all they put up their hands in
the dock, and cursed me till your blood would have run cold to hear
them, which was scurvy treatment, seeing that we had all been pals
together; but they were a blackguard lot, and thought only of
themselves. I think it is as well that they were hung.

They took me back to Dunedin gaol, and clapped me into the old cell. The
only difference they made was, that I had no work to do, and was well
fed. I stood this for a week or two, until one day the governor was
making his round, and I put the matter to him.

"How's this?" I said. "My conditions were a free pardon, and you're
keeping me here against the law."

He gave a sort of a smile. "Should you like very much to go out?" he
asked.

"So much," said I, "that, unless you open that door, I'll have an action
against you for illegal detention."

He seemed a bit astonished by my resolution. "You're very anxious to
meet your death," he said.

"What d'ye mean?" I asked.

"Come here, and you'll know what I mean," he answered. And he led me
down the passage to a window that overlooked the door of the prison.
"Look at that!" said he.

I looked out, and there were a dozen or so rough-looking fellows
standing outside in the street, some of them smoking, some playing cards
on the pavement. When they saw me they gave a yell, and crowded round
the door, shaking their fists and hooting.

"They wait for you, watch and watch about," said the governor. "They're
the executive of the vigilance committee. However, since you are
determined to go, I can't stop you."

"D'ye call this a civilised land," I cried, "and let a man be murdered
in cold blood in open daylight?"

When I said this the governor and the warder and every fool in the place
grinned, as if a man's life was a rare good joke.

"You've got the law on your side," says the governor; "so we won't
detain you any longer. Show him out, warder."

He'd have done it too, the black-hearted villain, if I hadn't begged and
prayed and offered to pay for my board and lodging, which is more than
any prisoner ever did before me. He let me stay on those conditions; and
for three months I was caged up there with every larrikin in the
township clamouring at the other side of the wall. That was pretty
treatment for a man that had served his country!

At last, one morning, up came the governor again.

"Well, Maloney," he said, "how long are you going to honour us with your
society?"

I could have put a knife into his cursed body, and would, too, if we had
been alone in the bush; but I had to smile, and smooth him and flatter,
for I feared that he might have me sent out.

"You're an infernal rascal," he said; those were his very words to a man
that had helped him all he knew how. "I don't want any rough justice
here, though; and I think I see my way to getting you out of Dunedin."

"I'll never forget you, governor," said I; and, by God, I never will.

"I don't want your thanks nor your gratitude," he answered; "it's not
for your sake that I do it, but simply to keep order in the town.
There's a steamer starts from the West Quay to Melbourne to-morrow, and
we'll get you aboard it. She is advertised at five in the morning, so
have yourself in readiness."

I packed up the few things I had, and was smuggled out by a back door
just before daybreak. I hurried down, took my ticket, under the name of
Isaac Smith, and got safely aboard the Melbourne boat. I remember
hearing her screw grinding into the water as the warps were cast loose,
and looking back at the lights of Dunedin, as I leaned upon the
bulwarks, with the pleasant thought that I was leaving them behind me
for ever. It seemed to me that a new world was before me, and that all
my troubles had been cast off. I went down below and had some coffee,
and came up again feeling better than I had done since the morning that
I woke to find that cursed Irishman that took me standing over me with a
six-shooter.

Day had dawned by that time, and we were steaming along by the coast,
well out of sight of Dunedin. I loafed about for a couple of hours, and
when the sun got well up some of the other passengers came on deck and
joined me. One of them, a little perky sort of fellow, took a good long
look at me, and then came over and began talking.

"Mining, I suppose?" says he.

"Yes," I says.

"Made your pile?" he asks.

"Pretty fair," says I.

"I was at it myself," he says; "I worked at the Nelson fields for three
months, and spent all I made in buying a salted claim which busted up
the second day. I went at it again, though, and struck it rich; but when
the gold waggon was going down to the settlements, it was stuck up by
those cursed rangers, and not a red cent left."

"That was a bad job," I says.

"Broke me--ruined me clean. Never mind, I've seen them all hanged for
it; that makes it easier to bear. There's only one left--the villain
that gave the evidence. I'd die happy if I could come across him. There
are two things I have to do if I meet him."

"What's that?" says I carelessly.

"I've got to ask him where the money lies--they never had time to make
away with it, and it's _cachéd_ somewhere in the mountains--and then
I've got to stretch his neck for him, and send his soul down to join the
men that he betrayed."

It seemed to me that I knew something about that _caché_, and I felt
like laughing; but he was watching me, and it struck me that he had a
nasty, vindictive kind of mind.

"I'm going up on the bridge," I said, for he was not a man whose
acquaintance I cared much about making.

He wouldn't hear of my leaving him, though. "We're both miners," he
says, "and we're pals for the voyage. Come down to the bar. I'm not too
poor to shout."

I couldn't refuse him well, and we went down together; and that was the
beginning of the trouble. What harm was I doing any one on the ship? All
I asked for was a quiet life, leaving others alone, and getting left
alone myself. No man could ask fairer than that. And now just you listen
to what came of it.

We were passing the front of the ladies' cabins, on our way to
the saloon, when out comes a servant lass--a freckled currency
she-devil--with a baby in her arms. We were brushing past her, when she
gave a scream like a railway whistle, and nearly dropped the kid. My
nerves gave a sort of a jump when I heard that scream, but I turned and
begged her pardon, letting on that I thought I might have trod on her
foot. I knew the game was up though, when I saw her white face, and her
leaning against the door and pointing.

"It's him!" she cried; "it's him! I saw him in the court-house. Oh,
don't let him hurt the baby!"

"Who is it?" asks the steward and half-a-dozen others in a breath.

"It's him--Maloney--Maloney, the murderer--oh, take him away--take him
away!"

I don't rightly remember what happened just at that moment. The
furniture and me seemed to get kind of mixed, and there was cursing, and
smashing, and some one shouting for his gold, and a general stamp round.
When I got steadied a bit, I found somebody's hand in my mouth. From
what I gathered afterwards, I conclude that it belonged to that same
little man with the vicious way of talking. He got some of it out again,
but that was because the others were choking me. A poor chap can get no
fair-play in this world when once he is down--still I think he will
remember me till the day of his death--longer, I hope.

They dragged me out into the poop and held a damned court-martial--on
_me_, mind you; _me_, that had thrown over my pals in order to serve
them. What were they to do with me? Some said this, some said that; but
it ended by the captain deciding to send me ashore. The ship stopped,
they lowered a boat, and I was hoisted in, the whole gang of them
hooting at me from over the bulwarks. I saw the man I spoke of tying up
his hand though, and I felt that things might be worse.

I changed my opinion before we got to the land. I had reckoned on the
shore being deserted, and that I might make my way inland; but the ship
had stopped too near the Heads, and a dozen beach-combers and such like
had come down to the water's edge, and were staring at us, wondering
what the boat was after. When we got to the edge of the surf the
coxswain hailed them, and after singing out who I was, he and his men
threw me into the water. You may well look surprised--neck and crop into
ten feet of water, with shark as thick as green parrots in the bush, and
I heard them laughing as I floundered to the shore.

I soon saw it was a worse job than ever. As I came scrambling out
through the weeds, I was collared by a big chap with a velveteen coat,
and half-a-dozen others got round me and held me fast. Most of them
looked simple fellows enough, and I was not afraid of them; but there
was one in a cabbage-tree hat that had a very nasty expression on his
face, and the big man seemed to be chummy with him.

They dragged me up the beach, and then they let go their hold of me and
stood round in a circle.

"Well, mate," says the man with the hat, "we've been looking out for you
some time in these parts."

"And very good of you too," I answers.

"None of your jaw," says he. "Come, boys, what shall it be--hanging,
drowning, or shooting? Look sharp!"

This looked a bit too like business. "No you don't!" I said. "I've got
Government protection, and it'll be murder."

"That's what they call it," answered the one in the velveteen coat as
cheery as a piping crow.

"And you're going to murder me for being a ranger?"

"Ranger be damned!" said the man. "We're going to hang you for peaching
against your pals; and that's an end of the palaver."

They slung a rope round my neck and dragged me up to the edge of the
bush. There were some big she-oaks and blue-gums, and they pitched on
one of these for the wicked deed. They ran the rope over a branch, tied
my hands, and told me to say my prayers. It seemed as if it was all up;
but Providence interfered to save me. It sounds nice enough sitting here
and telling about it, sir; but it was sick work to stand with nothing
but the beach in front of you, and the long white line of surf, with the
steamer in the distance, and a set of bloody-minded villains round you
thirsting for your life.

I never thought I'd owe anything good to the police; but they saved me
that time. A troop of them were riding from Hawkes Point Station to
Dunedin, and hearing that something was up, they came down through the
bush, and interrupted the proceedings. I've heard some bands in my time,
Doctor, but I never heard music like the jingle of those traps' spurs
and harness as they galloped out on to the open. They tried to hang me
even then, but the police were too quick for them; and the man with the
hat got one over the head with the flat of a sword. I was clapped on to
a horse, and before evening I found myself in my old quarters in the
city gaol.

The governor wasn't to be done, though. He was determined to get rid of
me, and I was equally anxious to see the last of him. He waited a week
or so until the excitement had begun to die away, and then he smuggled
me aboard a three-masted schooner bound to Sydney with tallow and hides.

We got fair away to sea without a hitch, and things began to look a bit
more rosy. I made sure that I had seen the last of the prison, anyway.
The crew had a sort of an idea who I was, and if there'd been any rough
weather, they'd have hove me overboard like enough; for they were a
rough, ignorant lot, and had a notion that I brought bad luck to the
ship. We had a good passage, however, and I was landed safe and sound
upon Sydney Quay.

Now just you listen to what happened next. You'd have thought they would
have been sick of ill-using me and following me by this time--wouldn't
you, now? Well, just you listen. It seems that a cursed steamer started
from Dunedin to Sydney on the very day we left, and got in before us,
bringing news that I was coming. Blessed if they hadn't called a
meeting--a regular mass meeting--at the docks to discuss about it, and I
marched right into it when I landed. They didn't take long about
arresting me, and I listened to all the speeches and resolutions. If I'd
been a prince there couldn't have been more excitement. The end of it
all was that they agreed that it wasn't right that New Zealand should be
allowed to foist her criminals upon her neighbours, and that I was to be
sent back again by the next boat. So they posted me off again as if I
was a damned parcel; and after another eight hundred mile journey I
found myself back for the third time moving in the place that I started
from.

By this time I had begun to think that I was going to spend the rest of
my existence travelling about from one port to another. Every man's hand
seemed turned against me, and there was no peace or quiet in any
direction. I was about sick of it by the time I had come back; and if I
could have taken to the bush I'd have done it, and chanced it with my
old pals. They were too quick for me, though, and kept me under lock and
key; but I managed, in spite of them, to negotiate that _caché_ I told
you of, and sewed the gold up in my belt. I spent another month in
gaol, and then they slipped me aboard a barque that was bound for
England.

This time the crew never knew who I was, but the captain had a pretty
good idea, though he didn't let on to me that he had any suspicions. I
guessed from the first that the man was a villain. We had a fair
passage, except a gale or two off the Cape; and I began to feel like a
free man when I saw the blue loom of the old country, and the saucy
little pilot-boat from Falmouth dancing towards us over the waves. We
ran down the Channel, and before we reached Gravesend I had agreed with
the pilot that he should take me ashore with him when he left. It was at
this time that the captain showed me that I was right in thinking him a
meddling, disagreeable man. I got my things packed, such as they were,
and left him talking earnestly to the pilot, while I went below for my
breakfast. When I came up again we were fairly into the mouth of the
river, and the boat in which I was to have gone ashore had left us. The
skipper said the pilot had forgotten me; but that was too thin, and I
began to fear that all my old troubles were going to commence once
more.

It was not long before my suspicions were confirmed. A boat darted out
from the side of the river, and a tall cove with a long black beard came
aboard. I heard him ask the mate whether they didn't need a mud-pilot to
take them up the reaches, but it seemed to me that he was a man who
would know a deal more about handcuffs than he did about steering, so I
kept away from him. He came across the deck, however, and made some
remark to me, taking a good look at me the while. I don't like
inquisitive people at any time, but an inquisitive stranger with glue
about the roots of his beard is the worst of all to stand, especially
under the circumstances. I began to feel that it was time for me to go.

I soon got a chance, and made good use of it. A big collier came athwart
the bows of our steamer, and we had to slacken down to dead slow. There
was a barge astern, and I slipped down by a rope and was into the barge
before any one had missed me. Of course I had to leave my luggage behind
me, but I had the belt with the nuggets round my waist, and the chance
of shaking the police off my track was worth more than a couple of
boxes. It was clear to me now that the pilot had been a traitor, as
well as the captain, and had set the detectives after me. I often wish I
could drop across those two men again.

I hung about the barge all day as she drifted down the stream. There was
one man in her, but she was a big, ugly craft, and his hands were too
full for much looking about. Towards evening, when it got a bit dusky, I
struck out for the shore, and found myself in a sort of marsh place, a
good many miles to the east of London. I was soaking wet and half dead
with hunger, but I trudged into the town, got a new rig-out at a
slop-shop, and after having some supper, engaged a bed at the quietest
lodgings I could find.

I woke pretty early--a habit you pick up in the bush--and lucky for me
that I did so. The very first thing I saw when I took a look through a
chink in the shutter was one of these infernal policemen standing right
opposite, and staring up at the windows. He hadn't epaulettes nor a
sword, like our traps, but for all that there was a sort of family
likeness, and the same busybody expression. Whether they'd followed me
all the time, or whether the woman that let me the bed didn't like the
looks of me, is more than I have ever been able to find out. He came
across as I was watching him, and noted down the address of the house in
a book. I was afraid that he was going to ring at the bell, but I
suppose his orders were simply to keep an eye on me, for after another
good look at the windows he moved on down the street.

I saw that my only chance was to act at once. I threw on my clothes,
opened the window softly, and, after making sure that there was nobody
about, dropped out on to the ground and made off as hard as I could run.
I travelled a matter of two or three miles, when my wind gave out; and
as I saw a big building with people going in and out, I went in too, and
found that it was a railway station. A train was just going off for
Dover to meet the French boat, so I took a ticket and jumped into a
third-class carriage.

There were a couple of other chaps in the carriage, innocent-looking
young beggars, both of them. They began speaking about this and that,
while I sat quiet in the corner and listened. Then they started on
England and foreign countries, and such like. Look ye now, Doctor, this
is a fact. One of them begins jawing about the justice of England's
laws. "It's all fair and above-board," says he; "there ain't any secret
police, nor spying, like they have abroad," and a lot more of the same
sort of wash. Rather rough on me, wasn't it, listening to the damned
young fool, with the police following me about like my shadow?

I got to Paris right enough, and there I changed some of my gold, and
for a few days I imagined I'd shaken them off, and began to think of
settling down for a bit of a rest. I needed it by that time, for I was
looking more like a ghost than a man. You've never had the police after
you, I suppose? Well, you needn't look offended, I didn't mean any harm.
If ever you had you'd know that it wastes a man away like a sheep with
the rot.

I went to the opera one night and took a box, for I was very flush. I
was coming out between the acts when I met a fellow lounging along in
the passage. The light fell on his face, and I saw that it was the
mud-pilot that had boarded us in the Thames. His beard was gone, but I
recognised the man at a glance, for I've a good memory for faces.

I tell you, Doctor, I felt desperate for a moment. I could have knifed
him if we had been alone, but he knew me well enough never to give me
the chance. It was more than I could stand any longer, so I went right
up to him and drew him aside, where we'd be free from all the loungers
and theatre-goers.

"How long are you going to keep it up?" I asked him.

He seemed a bit flustered for a moment, but then he saw there was no use
beating about the bush, so he answered straight--

"Until you go back to Australia," he said.

"Don't you know," I said, "that I have served the Government and got a
free pardon?"

He grinned all over his ugly face when I said this.

"We know all about you, Maloney," he answered. "If you want a quiet
life, just you go back where you came from. If you stay here, you're a
marked man; and when you are found tripping it'll be a lifer for you, at
the least. Free trade's a fine thing, but the market's too full of men
like you for us to need to import any!"

It seemed to me that there was something in what he said, though he had
a nasty way of putting it. For some days back I'd been feeling a sort
of home-sick. The ways of the people weren't my ways. They stared at me
in the street; and if I dropped into a bar, they'd stop talking and edge
away a bit, as if I was a wild beast. I'd sooner have had a pint of old
Stringybark, too, than a bucketful of their rotgut liquors. There was
too much damned propriety. What was the use of having money if you
couldn't dress as you liked, nor bust it properly? There was no sympathy
for a man if he shot about a little when he was half-over. I've seen a
man dropped at Nelson many a time with less row than they'd make over a
broken window-pane. The thing was slow, and I was sick of it.

"You want me to go back?" I said.

"I've my orders to stick fast to you until you do," he answered.

"Well," I said, "I don't care if I do. All I bargain is that you keep
your mouth shut, and don't let on who I am, so that I may have a fair
start when I get there."

He agreed to this, and we went over to Southampton the very next day,
where he saw me safely off once more. I took a passage round to
Adelaide, where no one was likely to know me; and there I settled,
right under the nose of the police. I've been there ever since, leading
a quiet life, but for little difficulties like the one I'm in for now,
and for that devil, Tattooed Tom of Hawkesbury. I don't know what made
me tell you all this, Doctor, unless it is that being kind of lonely
makes a man inclined to jaw when he gets a chance. Just you take warning
from me, though. Never put yourself out to serve your country; for your
country will do precious little for you. Just you let them look after
their own affairs; and if they find a difficulty in hanging a set of
scoundrels, never mind chipping in, but let them alone to do as best
they can. Maybe they'll remember how they treated me after I'm dead, and
be sorry for neglecting me. I was rude to you when you came in, and
swore a trifle promiscuous; but don't you mind me, it's only my way.
You'll allow, though, that I have cause to be a bit touchy now and again
when I think of all that's passed. You're not going, are you? Well, if
you must, you must; but I hope you will look me up at odd times when you
are going your round. Oh, I say, you've left the balance of that cake of
tobacco behind you, haven't you? No; it's in your pocket--that's all
right. Thank ye, Doctor, you're a good sort, and as quick at a hint as
any man I've met.

       *       *       *       *       *

A couple of months after narrating his experiences, Wolf Tone Maloney
finished his term, and was released. For a long time I neither saw him
nor heard of him; and he had almost slipped from my memory, until I was
reminded, in a somewhat tragic manner, of his existence. I had been
attending a patient some distance off in the country, and was riding
back, guiding my tired horse among the boulders which strewed the
pathway, and endeavouring to see my way through the gathering darkness,
when I came suddenly upon a little wayside inn. As I walked my horse up
towards the door, intending to make sure of my bearings before
proceeding further, I heard the sound of a violent altercation within
the little bar. There seemed to be a chorus of expostulation or
remonstrance, above which two powerful voices rang out loud and angry.
As I listened, there was a momentary hush, two pistol shots sounded
almost simultaneously, and, with a crash, the door burst open, and a
pair of dark figures staggered out into the moonlight. They struggled
for a moment in a deadly wrestle, and then went down together among the
loose stones. I had sprung off my horse, and, with the help of
half-a-dozen rough fellows from the bar, dragged them away from one
another.

A glance was sufficient to convince me that one of them was dying fast.
He was a thick-set, burly fellow, with a determined cast of countenance.
The blood was welling from a deep stab in his throat, and it was evident
that an important artery had been divided. I turned away from him in
despair, and walked over to where his antagonist was lying. He was shot
through the lungs, but managed to raise himself upon his hand as I
approached, and peered anxiously up into my face. To my surprise I saw
before me the haggard features and flaxen hair of my prison
acquaintance, Maloney.

"Ah, Doctor!" he said, recognising me. "How is he? Will he die?"

He asked the question so earnestly that I imagined he had softened at
the last moment, and feared to leave the world with another homicide
upon his conscience. Truth, however, compelled me to shake my head
mournfully, and to intimate that the wound would prove a mortal one.

Maloney gave a wild cry of triumph, which brought the blood welling out
from between his lips. "Here, boys," he gasped to the little group
around him. "There's money in my inside pocket. Damn the expense! Drinks
round. There's nothing mean about me. I'd drink with you, but I'm going.
Give the Doc. my share, for he's as good----" Here his head fell back
with a thud, his eye glazed, and the soul of Wolf Tone Maloney, forger,
convict, ranger, murderer, and Government peach, drifted away into the
Great Unknown.

       *       *       *       *       *

I cannot conclude without borrowing the account of the fatal quarrel
which appeared in the columns of the _West Australian Sentinel_. The
curious will find it in the issue of the 4th of October 1881:--

"Fatal Affray.--W. T. Maloney, a well-known citizen of New Montrose, and
proprietor of the Yellow Boy gambling saloon, has met with his death
under rather painful circumstances. Mr. Maloney was a man who had led a
chequered existence, and whose past history is replete with interest.
Some of our readers may recall the Lena Valley murders, in which he
figured as the principal criminal. It is conjectured that, during the
seven months that he owned a bar in that region, from twenty to thirty
travellers were hocussed and made away with. He succeeded, however, in
evading the vigilance of the officers of the law, and allied himself
with the bushrangers of Bluemansdyke, whose heroic capture and
subsequent execution are matters of history. Maloney extricated himself
from the fate which awaited him by turning Queen's evidence. He
afterwards visited Europe, but returned to West Australia, where he has
long played a prominent part in local matters. On Friday evening he
encountered an old enemy, Thomas Grimthorpe, commonly known as Tattooed
Tom of Hawkesbury. Shots were exchanged, and both men were badly
wounded, only surviving a few minutes. Mr. Maloney had the reputation of
being, not only the most wholesale murderer that ever lived, but also of
having a finish and attention to detail in matters of evidence which has
been unapproached by any European criminal. _Sic transit gloriâ
mundi!_"



_THE SILVER HATCHET._


On the 3rd of December 1861, Dr. Otto von Hopstein, Regius Professor of
Comparative Anatomy of the University of Buda-Pesth, and Curator of the
Academical Museum, was foully and brutally murdered within a stone-throw
of the entrance to the college quadrangle.

Besides the eminent position of the victim and his popularity amongst
both students and townsfolk, there were other circumstances which
excited public interest very strongly, and drew general attention
throughout Austria and Hungary to this murder. The _Pesther Abendblatt_
of the following day had an article upon it, which may still be
consulted by the curious, and from which I translate a few passages
giving a succinct account of the circumstances under which the crime was
committed, and the peculiar features in the case which puzzled the
Hungarian police.

"It appears," said that very excellent paper, "that Professor von
Hopstein left the University about half-past four in the afternoon, in
order to meet the train which is due from Vienna at three minutes after
five. He was accompanied by his old and dear friend, Herr Wilhelm
Schlessinger, sub-Curator of the Museum and Privat-docent of Chemistry.
The object of these two gentlemen in meeting this particular train was
to receive the legacy bequeathed by Graf von Schulling to the University
of Buda-Pesth. It is well known that this unfortunate nobleman, whose
tragic fate is still fresh in the recollection of the public, left his
unique collection of mediæval weapons, as well as several priceless
black-letter editions, to enrich the already celebrated museum of his
Alma Mater. The worthy Professor was too much of an enthusiast in such
matters to intrust the reception or care of this valuable legacy to any
subordinate; and, with the assistance of Herr Schlessinger, he succeeded
in removing the whole collection from the train, and stowing it away in
a light cart which had been sent by the University authorities. Most of
the books and more fragile articles were packed in cases of pine-wood,
but many of the weapons were simply done round with straw, so that
considerable labour was involved in moving them all. The Professor was
so nervous, however, lest any of them should be injured, that he refused
to allow any of the railway employés (_Eisenbahn-diener_) to assist.
Every article was carried across the platform by Herr Schlessinger, and
handed to Professor von Hopstein in the cart, who packed it away. When
everything was in, the two gentlemen, still faithful to their charge,
drove back to the University, the Professor being in excellent spirits,
and not a little proud of the physical exertion which he had shown
himself capable of. He made some joking allusion to it to Reinmaul, the
janitor, who, with his friend Schiffer, a Bohemian Jew, met the cart on
its return and unloaded the contents. Leaving his curiosities safe in
the store-room, and locking the door, the Professor handed the key to
his sub-curator, and, bidding every one good evening, departed in the
direction of his lodgings. Schlessinger took a last look to reassure
himself that all was right, and also went off, leaving Reinmaul and his
friend Schiffer smoking in the janitor's lodge.

"At eleven o'clock, about an hour and a half after Von Hopstein's
departure, a soldier of the 14th regiment of Jäger, passing the front of
the University on his way to barracks, came upon the lifeless body of
the Professor lying a little way from the side of the road. He had
fallen upon his face, with both hands stretched out. His head was
literally split in two halves by a tremendous blow, which, it is
conjectured, must have been struck from behind, there remaining a
peaceful smile upon the old man's face, as if he had been still dwelling
upon his new archæological acquisition when death had overtaken him.
There is no other mark of violence upon the body, except a bruise over
the left patella, caused probably by the fall. The most mysterious part
of the affair is that the Professor's purse, containing forty-three
gulden, and his valuable watch have been untouched. Robbery cannot,
therefore, have been the incentive to the deed, unless the assassins
were disturbed before they could complete their work.

"This idea is negatived by the fact that the body must have lain at
least an hour before any one discovered it. The whole affair is wrapped
in mystery. Dr. Langemann, the eminent medico-jurist, has pronounced
that the wound is such as might have been inflicted by a heavy
sword-bayonet wielded by a powerful arm. The police are extremely
reticent upon the subject, and it is suspected that they are in
possession of a clue which may lead to important results."

Thus far the _Pesther Abendblatt_. The researches of the police failed,
however, to throw the least glimmer of light upon the matter. There was
absolutely no trace of the murderer, nor could any amount of ingenuity
invent any reason which could have induced any one to commit the
dreadful deed. The deceased Professor was a man so wrapped in his own
studies and pursuits that he lived apart from the world, and had
certainly never raised the slightest animosity in any human breast. It
must have been some fiend, some savage, who loved blood for its own
sake, who struck that merciless blow.

Though the officials were unable to come to any conclusions upon the
matter, popular suspicion was not long in pitching upon a scapegoat. In
the first published accounts of the murder the name of one Schiffer had
been mentioned as having remained with the janitor after the Professor's
departure. This man was a Jew, and Jews have never been popular in
Hungary. A cry was at once raised for Schiffer's arrest; but as there
was not the slightest grain of evidence against him, the authorities
very properly refused to consent to so arbitrary a proceeding. Reinmaul,
who was an old and most respected citizen, declared solemnly that
Schiffer was with him until the startled cry of the soldier had caused
them both to run out to the scene of the tragedy. No one ever dreamed of
implicating Reinmaul in such a matter; but still, it was rumoured that
his ancient and well-known friendship for Schiffer might have induced
him to tell a falsehood in order to screen him. Popular feeling ran very
high upon the subject, and there seemed a danger of Schiffer's being
mobbed in the street, when an incident occurred which threw a very
different light upon the matter.

On the morning of the 12th of December, just nine days after the
mysterious murder of the Professor, Schiffer the Bohemian Jew was found
lying in the north-western corner of the Grand Platz stone dead, and so
mutilated that he was hardly recognisable. His head was cloven open in
very much the same way as that of Von Hopstein, and his body exhibited
numerous deep gashes, as if the murderer had been so carried away and
transported with fury that he had continued to hack the lifeless body.
Snow had fallen heavily the day before, and was lying at least a foot
deep all over the square; some had fallen during the night, too, as was
evidenced by a thin layer lying like a winding-sheet over the murdered
man. It was hoped at first that this circumstance might assist in giving
a clue by enabling the footsteps of the assassin to be traced; but the
crime had been committed, unfortunately, in a place much frequented
during the day, and there were innumerable tracks in every direction.
Besides, the newly-fallen snow had blurred the footsteps to such an
extent that it would have been impossible to draw trustworthy evidence
from them.

In this case there was exactly the same impenetrable mystery and absence
of motive which had characterised the murder of Professor von Hopstein.
In the dead man's pocket there was found a note-book containing a
considerable sum in gold and several very valuable bills, but no attempt
had been made to rifle him. Supposing that any one to whom he had lent
money (and this was the first idea which occurred to the police) had
taken this means of evading his debt, it was hardly conceivable that he
would have left such a valuable spoil untouched. Schiffer lodged with a
widow named Gruga, at 49 Marie Theresa Strasse, and the evidence of his
landlady and her children showed that he had remained shut up in his
room the whole of the preceding day in a state of deep dejection, caused
by the suspicion which the populace had fastened upon him. She had heard
him go out about eleven o'clock at night for his last and fatal walk,
and as he had a latch-key she had gone to bed without waiting for him.
His object in choosing such a late hour for a ramble obviously was that
he did not consider himself safe if recognised in the streets.

The occurrence of this second murder so shortly after the first threw
not only the town of Buda-Pesth, but the whole of Hungary, into a
terrible state of excitement, and even of terror. Vague dangers seemed
to hang over the head of every man. The only parallel to this intense
feeling was to be found in our own country at the time of the Williams
murders described by De Quincey. There were so many resemblances between
the cases of Von Hopstein and of Schiffer that no one could doubt that
there existed a connection between the two. The absence of object and of
robbery, the utter want of any clue to the assassin, and, lastly, the
ghastly nature of the wounds, evidently inflicted by the same or a
similar weapon, all pointed in one direction. Things were in this state
when the incidents which I am now about to relate occurred, and in order
to make them intelligible I must lead up to them from a fresh point of
departure.

Otto von Schlegel was a younger son of the old Silesian family of that
name. His father had originally destined him for the army, but at the
advice of his teachers, who saw the surprising talent of the youth, had
sent him to the University of Buda-Pesth to be educated in medicine.
Here young Schlegel carried everything before him, and promised to be
one of the most brilliant graduates turned out for many a year. Though a
hard reader, he was no bookworm, but an active, powerful young fellow,
full of animal spirits and vivacity, and extremely popular among his
fellow-students.

The New Year examinations were at hand, and Schlegel was working
hard--so hard that even the strange murders in the town, and the general
excitement in men's minds, failed to turn his thoughts from his studies.
Upon Christmas Eve, when every house was illuminated, and the roar of
drinking songs came from the Bierkeller in the Student-quartier, he
refused the many invitations to roystering suppers which were showered
upon him, and went off with his books under his arm to the rooms of
Leopold Strauss, to work with him into the small hours of the morning.

Strauss and Schlegel were bosom friends. They were both Silesians, and
had known each other from boyhood. Their affection had become proverbial
in the University. Strauss was almost as distinguished a student as
Schlegel, and there had been many a tough struggle for academic honours
between the two fellow-countrymen, which had only served to strengthen
their friendship by a bond of mutual respect. Schlegel admired the
dogged pluck and never-failing good temper of his old playmate; while
the latter considered Schlegel, with his many talents and brilliant
versatility, the most accomplished of mortals.

The friends were still working together, the one reading from a volume
on anatomy, the other holding a skull and marking off the various parts
mentioned in the text, when the deep-toned bell of St. Gregory's church
struck the hour of midnight.

"Hark to that!" said Schlegel, snapping up the book and stretching out
his long legs towards the cheery fire. "Why, it's Christmas morning, old
friend! May it not be the last that we spend together!"

"May we have passed all these confounded examinations before another one
comes!" answered Strauss. "But see here, Otto, one bottle of wine will
not be amiss. I have laid one up on purpose;" and with a smile on his
honest South German face, he pulled out a long-necked bottle of Rhenish
from amongst a pile of books and bones in the corner.

"It is a night to be comfortable indoors," said Otto von Schlegel,
looking out at the snowy landscape, "for 'tis bleak and bitter enough
outside. Good health, Leopold!"

"_Lebe hoch!_" replied his companion. "It is a comfort indeed to forget
sphenoid bones and ethmoid bones, if it be but for a moment. And what
is the news of the corps, Otto? Has Graube fought the Swabian?"

"They fight to-morrow," said Von Schlegel. "I fear that our man will
lose his beauty, for he is short in the arm. Yet activity and skill may
do much for him. They say his hanging guard is perfection."

"And what else is the news amongst the students?" asked Strauss.

"They talk, I believe, of nothing but the murders. But I have worked
hard of late, as you know, and hear little of the gossip."

"Have you had time," inquired Strauss, "to look over the books and the
weapons which our dear old Professor was so concerned about the very day
he met his death? They say they are well worth a visit."

"I saw them to-day," said Schlegel, lighting his pipe. "Reinmaul, the
janitor, showed me over the store-room, and I helped to label many of
them from the original catalogue of Graf Schulling's museum. As far as
we can see, there is but one article missing of all the collection."

"One missing!" exclaimed Strauss. "That would grieve old Von Hopstein's
ghost. Is it anything of value?"

"It is described as an antique hatchet, with a head of steel and a
handle of chased silver. We have applied to the railway company, and no
doubt it will be found."

"I trust so," echoed Strauss; and the conversation drifted off into
other channels. The fire was burning low and the bottle of Rhenish was
empty before the two friends rose from their chairs, and Von Schlegel
prepared to depart.

"Ugh! It's a bitter night!" he said, standing on the doorstep and
folding his cloak round him. "Why, Leopold, you have your cap on. You
are not going out, are you?"

"Yes, I am coming with you," said Strauss, shutting the door behind him.
"I feel heavy," he continued, taking his friend's arm, and walking down
the street with him. "I think a walk as far as your lodgings, in the
crisp frosty air, is just the thing to set me right."

The two students went down Stephen Strasse together and across Julien
Platz, talking on a variety of topics. As they passed the corner of the
Grand Platz, however, where Schiffer had been found dead, the
conversation turned naturally upon the murder.

"That's where they found him," remarked Von Schlegel, pointing to the
fatal spot.

"Perhaps the murderer is near us now," said Strauss. "Let us hasten on."

They both turned to go, when Von Schlegel gave a sudden cry of pain and
stooped down.

"Something has cut through my boot!" he cried; and feeling about with
his hand in the snow, he pulled out a small glistening battle-axe, made
apparently entirely of metal. It had been lying with the blade turned
slightly upwards, so as to cut the foot of the student when he trod upon
it.

"The weapon of the murderer!" he ejaculated.

"The silver hatchet from the museum!" cried Strauss in the same breath.

There could be no doubt that it was both the one and the other. There
could not be two such curious weapons, and the character of the wounds
was just such as would be inflicted by a similar instrument. The
murderer had evidently thrown it aside after committing the dreadful
deed, and it had lain concealed in the snow some twenty mètres from the
spot ever since. It was extraordinary that of all the people who had
passed and repassed none had discovered it; but the snow was deep, and
it was a little off the beaten track.

"What are we to do with it?" said Von Schlegel, holding it in his hand.
He shuddered as he noticed by the light of the moon that the head of it
was all dabbled with dark-brown stains.

"Take it to the Commissary of Police," suggested Strauss.

"He'll be in bed now. Still, I think you are right. But it is nearly
four o'clock. I will wait until morning, and take it round before
breakfast. Meanwhile, I must carry it with me to my lodgings."

"That is the best plan," said his friend; and the two walked on together
talking of the remarkable find which they had made. When they came to
Schlegel's door, Strauss said good-bye, refusing an invitation to go in,
and walked briskly down the street in the direction of his own lodgings.

Schlegel was stooping down putting the key into the lock, when a strange
change came over him. He trembled violently, and dropped the key from
his quivering fingers. His right hand closed convulsively round the
handle of the silver hatchet, and his eye followed the retreating
figure of his friend with a vindictive glare. In spite of the coldness
of the night the perspiration streamed down his face. For a moment he
seemed to struggle with himself, holding his hand up to his throat as if
he were suffocating. Then, with crouching body and rapid, noiseless
steps, he crept after his late companion.

Strauss was plodding sturdily along through the snow, humming snatches
of a student song, and little dreaming of the dark figure which pursued
him. At the Grand Platz it was forty yards behind him; at the Julien
Platz it was but twenty; in Stephen Strasse it was ten, and gaining on
him with panther-like rapidity. Already it was almost within arm's
length of the unsuspecting man, and the hatchet glittered coldly in the
moonlight, when some slight noise must have reached Strauss's ears, for
he faced suddenly round upon his pursuer. He started and uttered an
exclamation as his eye met the white set face, with flashing eyes and
clenched teeth, which seemed to be suspended in the air behind him.

"What, Otto!" he exclaimed, recognising his friend. "Art thou ill? You
look pale. Come with me to my---- Ah! hold, you madman, hold! Drop that
axe! Drop it, I say, or by heaven I'll choke you!"

Von Schlegel had thrown himself upon him with a wild cry and uplifted
weapon; but the student was stout-hearted and resolute. He rushed inside
the sweep of the hatchet and caught his assailant round the waist,
narrowly escaping a blow which would have cloven his head. The two
staggered for a moment in a deadly wrestle, Schlegel endeavouring to
shorten his weapon; but Strauss with a desperate wrench managed to bring
him to the ground, and they rolled together in the snow, Strauss
clinging to the other's right arm and shouting frantically for
assistance. It was as well that he did so, for Schlegel would certainly
have succeeded in freeing his arm had it not been for the arrival of two
stalwart gendarmes, attracted by the uproar. Even then the three of them
found it difficult to overcome the maniacal strength of Schlegel, and
they were utterly unable to wrench the silver hatchet from his grasp.
One of the gendarmes, however, had a coil of rope round his waist, with
which he rapidly secured the student's arms to his sides. In this way,
half pushed, half dragged, he was conveyed, in spite of furious cries
and frenzied struggles, to the central police station.

Strauss assisted in coercing his former friend, and accompanied the
police to the station; protesting loudly at the same time against any
unnecessary violence, and giving it as his opinion that a lunatic asylum
would be a more fitting place for the prisoner. The events of the last
half-hour had been so sudden and inexplicable that he felt quite dazed
himself. What did it all mean? It was certain that his old friend from
boyhood had attempted to murder him, and had nearly succeeded. Was Von
Schlegel then the murderer of Professor von Hopstein and of the Bohemian
Jew? Strauss felt that it was impossible, for the Jew was not even known
to him, and the Professor had been his especial favourite. He followed
mechanically to the police station, lost in grief and amazement.

Inspector Baumgarten, one of the most energetic and best known of the
police officials, was on duty in the absence of the Commissary. He was a
wiry little active man, quiet and retiring in his habits, but possessed
of great sagacity and a vigilance which never relaxed. Now, though he
had had a six hours' vigil, he sat as erect as ever, with his pen behind
his ear, at his official desk, while his friend, Sub-inspector Winkel,
snored in a chair at the side of the stove. Even the inspector's usually
immovable features betrayed surprise, however, when the door was flung
open and Von Schlegel was dragged in with pale face and disordered
clothes, the silver hatchet still grasped firmly in his hand. Still more
surprised was he when Strauss and the gendarmes gave their account,
which was duly entered in the official register.

"Young man, young man," said Inspector Baumgarten, laying down his pen
and fixing his eyes sternly upon the prisoner, "this is pretty work for
Christmas morning; why have you done this thing?"

"God knows!" cried Von Schlegel, covering his face with his hands and
dropping the hatchet. A change had come over him, his fury and
excitement were gone, and he seemed utterly prostrated with grief.

"You have rendered yourself liable to a strong suspicion of having
committed the other murders which have disgraced our city."

"No, no, indeed!" said Von Schlegel earnestly. "God forbid!"

"At least you are guilty of attempting the life of Herr Leopold
Strauss."

"The dearest friend I have in the world," groaned the student. "Oh, how
could I! How could I!"

"His being your friend makes your crime ten times more heinous," said
the inspector severely. "Remove him for the remainder of the night to
the---- But steady! Who comes here?"

The door was pushed open, and a man came into the room, so haggard and
careworn that he looked more like a ghost than a human being. He
tottered as he walked, and had to clutch at the backs of the chairs as
he approached the inspector's desk. It was hard to recognise in this
miserable-looking object the once cheerful and rubicund sub-curator of
the museum and privat-docent of chemistry, Herr Wilhelm Schlessinger.
The practised eye of Baumgarten, however, was not to be baffled by any
change.

"Good morning, mein herr," he said; "you are up early. No doubt the
reason is that you have heard that one of your students, Von Schlegel,
is arrested for attempting the life of Leopold Strauss?"

"No; I have come for myself," said Schlessinger, speaking huskily, and
putting his hand up to his throat. "I have come to ease my soul of the
weight of a great sin, though, God knows, an unmeditated one. It was I
who---- But, merciful heavens! there it is--the horrid thing! Oh, that I
had never seen it!"

He shrank back in a paroxysm of terror, glaring at the silver hatchet
where it lay upon the floor, and pointing at it with his emaciated hand.

"There it lies!" he yelled. "Look at it! It has come to condemn me. See
that brown rust on it! Do you know what that is? That is the blood of my
dearest, best friend, Professor von Hopstein. I saw it gush over the
very handle as I drove the blade through his brain. Mein Gott, I see it
now!"

"Sub-inspector Winkel," said Baumgarten, endeavouring to preserve his
official austerity, "you will arrest this man, charged on his own
confession with the murder of the late Professor. I also deliver into
your hands Von Schlegel here, charged with a murderous assault upon
Herr Strauss. You will also keep this hatchet"--here he picked it from
the floor--"which has apparently been used for both crimes."

Wilhelm Schlessinger had been leaning against the table, with a face of
ashy paleness. As the inspector ceased speaking, he looked up excitedly.

"What did you say?" he cried. "Von Schlegel attack Strauss! The two
dearest friends in the college! I slay my old master! It is magic, I
say; it is a charm! There is a spell upon us! It is--Ah, I have it! It
is that hatchet--that thrice accursed hatchet!" and he pointed
convulsively at the weapon which Inspector Baumgarten still held in his
hand.

The inspector smiled contemptuously.

"Restrain yourself, mein herr," he said. "You do but make your case
worse by such wild excuses for the wicked deed you confess to. Magic and
charms are not known in the legal vocabulary, as my friend Winkel will
assure you."

"I know not," remarked his sub-inspector, shrugging his broad shoulders.
"There are many strange things in the world. Who knows but that----"

"What!" roared Inspector Baumgarten furiously. "You would undertake to
contradict me! You would set up your opinion! You would be the champion
of these accursed murderers! Fool, miserable fool, your hour has come!"
and rushing at the astounded Winkel, he dealt a blow at him with the
silver hatchet which would certainly have justified his last assertion
had it not been that, in his fury, he overlooked the lowness of the
rafters above his head. The blade of the hatchet struck one of these,
and remained there quivering, while the handle was splintered into a
thousand pieces.

"What have I done?" gasped Baumgarten, falling back into his chair.
"What have I done?"

"You have proved Herr Schlessinger's words to be correct," said Von
Schlegel, stepping forward, for the astonished policemen had let go
their grasp of him. "That is what you have done. Against reason,
science, and everything else though it be, there is a charm at work.
There must be! Strauss, old boy, you know I would not, in my right
senses, hurt one hair of your head. And you, Schlessinger, we both know
you loved the old man who is dead. And you, Inspector Baumgarten, you
would not willingly have struck your friend the sub-inspector?"

"Not for the whole world," groaned the inspector, covering his face with
his hands.

"Then is it not clear? But now, thank Heaven, the accursed thing is
broken, and can never do harm again. But see, what is that?"

Right in the centre of the room was lying a thin brown cylinder of
parchment. One glance at the fragments of the handle of the weapon
showed that it had been hollow. This roll of paper had apparently been
hidden away inside the metal case thus formed, having been introduced
through a small hole, which had been afterwards soldered up. Von
Schlegel opened the document. The writing upon it was almost illegible
from age; but as far as they could make out it stood thus, in mediæval
German--

"Diese Waffe benutzte Max von Erlichingen um Joanna Bodeck zu ermorden,
deshalb beschuldige Ich, Johann Bodeck, mittelst der macht welche mir
als mitglied des Concils des rothen Kreuzes verliehan wurde, dieselbe
mit dieser unthat. Mag sie anderen denselben schmerz verursachen den sie
mir verursacht hat. Mag Jede hand die sie ergreift mit dem blut eines
freundes geröthet sein.

     "'Immer übel--niemals gut,
       Geröthet mit des freundes blut.'"

Which may be roughly translated--

"This weapon was used by Max von Erlichingen for the murder of Joanna
Bodeck. Therefore do I, Johann Bodeck, accurse it by the power which has
been bequeathed to me as one of the Council of the Rosy Cross. May it
deal to others the grief which it has dealt to me! May every hand that
grasps it be reddened in the blood of a friend!

     "'Ever evil, never good,
       Reddened with a loved one's blood.'"

There was a dead silence in the room when Von Schlegel had finished
spelling out this strange document. As he put it down Strauss laid his
hand affectionately upon his arm.

"No such proof is needed by me, old friend," he said. "At the very
moment that you struck at me I forgave you in my heart. I well know that
if the poor Professor were in the room he would say as much to Herr
Wilhelm Schlessinger."

"Gentlemen," remarked the inspector, standing up and resuming his
official tones, "this affair, strange as it is, must be treated
according to rule and precedent. Sub-inspector Winkel, as your superior
officer, I command you to arrest me upon a charge of murderously
assaulting you. You will commit me to prison for the night, together
with Herr von Schlegel and Herr Wilhelm Schlessinger. We shall take our
trial at the coming sitting of the judges. In the meantime take care of
that piece of evidence"--pointing to the piece of parchment--"and, while
I am away, devote your time and energy to utilising the clue you have
obtained in discovering who it was who slew Herr Schiffer, the Bohemian
Jew."

The one missing link in the chain of evidence was soon supplied. On the
28th of December the wife of Reinmaul the janitor, coming into the
bedroom after a short absence, found her husband hanging lifeless from a
hook in the wall. He had tied a long bolster-case round his neck and
stood upon a chair in order to commit the fatal deed. On the table was a
note in which he confessed to the murder of Schiffer the Jew, adding
that the deceased had been his oldest friend, and that he had slain him
without premeditation, in obedience to some incontrollable impulse.
Remorse and grief, he said, had driven him to self-destruction; and he
wound up his confession by commending his soul to the mercy of Heaven.

The trial which ensued was one of the strangest which ever occurred in
the whole history of jurisprudence. It was in vain that the prosecuting
council urged the improbability of the explanation offered by the
prisoners, and deprecated the introduction of such an element as magic
into a nineteenth-century law-court. The chain of facts was too strong,
and the prisoners were unanimously acquitted. "This silver hatchet,"
remarked the judge in his summing up, "has hung untouched upon the wall
in the mansion of the Graf von Schulling for nearly two hundred years.
The shocking manner in which he met his death at the hands of his
favourite house steward is still fresh in your recollection. It has come
out in evidence that, a few days before the murder, the steward had
overhauled the old weapons and cleaned them. In doing this he must have
touched the handle of this hatchet. Immediately afterwards he slew his
master, whom he had served faithfully for twenty years. The weapon then
came, in conformity with the Count's will, to Buda-Pesth, where, at the
station, Herr Wilhelm Schlessinger grasped it, and, within two hours,
used it against the person of the deceased Professor. The next man whom
we find touching it is the janitor Reinmaul, who helped to remove the
weapons from the cart to the store-room. At the first opportunity he
buried it in the body of his friend Schiffer. We then have the attempted
murder of Strauss by Schlegel, and of Winkel by Inspector Baumgarten,
all immediately following the taking of the hatchet into the hand.
Lastly, comes the providential discovery of the extraordinary document
which has been read to you by the clerk of the court. I invite your most
careful consideration, gentlemen of the jury, to this chain of facts,
knowing that you will find a verdict according to your consciences
without fear and without favour."

Perhaps the most interesting piece of evidence to the English reader,
though it found few supporters among the Hungarian audience, was that of
Dr. Langemann, the eminent medico-jurist, who has written text-books
upon metallurgy and toxicology. He said--

"I am not so sure, gentlemen, that there is need to fall back upon
necromancy or the black art for an explanation of what has occurred. What
I say is merely a hypothesis, without proof of any sort, but in a case
so extraordinary every suggestion may be of value. The Rosicrucians, to
whom allusion is made in this paper, were the most profound chemists of
the early Middle Ages, and included the principal alchemists whose names
have descended to us. Much as chemistry has advanced, there are some
points in which the ancients were ahead of us, and in none more so than
in the manufacture of poisons of subtle and deadly action. This man
Bodeck, as one of the elders of the Rosicrucians, possessed, no doubt,
the recipe of many such mixtures, some of which, like the _aqua tofana_
of the Medicis, would poison by penetrating through the pores of the
skin. It is conceivable that the handle of this silver hatchet has been
anointed by some preparation which is a diffusible poison, having the
effect upon the human body of bringing on sudden and acute attacks of
homicidal mania. In such attacks it is well known that the madman's rage
is turned against those whom he loved best when sane. I have, as I
remarked before, no proof to support me in my theory, and simply put it
forward for what it is worth."

With this extract from the speech of the learned and ingenious
professor, we may close the account of this famous trial.

The broken pieces of the silver hatchet were thrown into a deep pond, a
clever poodle being employed to carry them in his mouth, as no one would
touch them for fear some of the infection might still hang about them.
The piece of parchment was preserved in the museum of the University. As
to Strauss and Schlegel, Winkel and Baumgarten, they continued the best
of friends, and are so still for all I know to the contrary.
Schlessinger became surgeon of a cavalry regiment; and was shot at the
battle of Sadowa five years later, while rescuing the wounded under a
heavy fire. By his last injunctions his little patrimony was to be sold
to erect a marble obelisk over the grave of Professor von Hopstein.



_THE MAN FROM ARCHANGEL._


On the fourth day of March, in the year 1867, I being at that time in my
five-and-twentieth year, I wrote the following words in my note-book,
the result of much mental perturbation and conflict:--

"The solar system, amidst a countless number of other systems as large
as itself, rolls ever silently through space in the direction of the
constellation of Hercules. The great spheres of which it is composed
spin and spin through the eternal void ceaselessly and noiselessly. Of
these one of the smallest and most insignificant is that conglomeration
of solid and of liquid particles which we have named the earth. It
whirls onwards now as it has done before my birth, and will do after my
death--a revolving mystery, coming none know whence, and going none know
whither. Upon the outer crust of this moving mass crawl many mites, of
whom I, John McVittie, am one, helpless, impotent, being dragged
aimlessly through space. Yet such is the state of things amongst us
that the little energy and glimmering of reason which I possess is
entirely taken up with the labours which are necessary in order to
procure certain metallic disks, wherewith I may purchase the chemical
elements necessary to build up my ever-wasting tissues, and keep a roof
over me to shelter me from the inclemency of the weather. I thus have no
thought to expend upon the vital questions which surround me on every
side. Yet, miserable entity as I am, I can still at times feel some
degree of happiness, and am even--save the mark!--puffed up occasionally
with a sense of my own importance."

These words, as I have said, I wrote down in my note-book, and they
reflected accurately the thoughts which I found rooted far down in my
soul, ever present and unaffected by the passing emotions of the hour.
Every day for seven months I read over my words, and every day when I had
finished them I said to myself, "Well done, John McVittie; you have said
the thought which was in you. You have reduced things to their least
common measure!" At last came a time when my uncle, McVittie of
Glencairn, died--the same who was at one time chairman of committees of
the House of Commons. He divided his great wealth among his many nephews,
and I found myself with sufficient to provide amply for my wants during
the remainder of my life, and became at the same time owner of a bleak
tract of land upon the coast of Caithness, which I think the old man must
have bestowed upon me in derision, for it was sandy and valueless, and he
had ever a grim sense of humour. Up to this time I had been an attorney
in a midland town in England. Now I saw that I could put my thoughts into
effect, and, leaving all petty and sordid aims, could elevate my mind by
the study of the secrets of nature. My departure from my English home was
somewhat accelerated by the fact that I had nearly slain a man in a
quarrel, for my temper was fiery, and I was apt to forget my own strength
when enraged. There was no legal action taken in the matter, but the
papers yelped at me, and folk looked askance when I met them. It ended by
my cursing them and their vile, smoke-polluted town, and hurrying to my
northern possession, where I might at last find peace and an opportunity
for solitary study and contemplation. I borrowed from my capital before
I went, and so was able to take with me a choice collection of the most
modern philosophical instruments and books, together with chemicals and
such other things as I might need in my retirement.

The land which I had inherited was a narrow strip, consisting mostly of
sand, and extending for rather over two miles round the coast of Mansie
Bay, in Caithness. Upon this strip there had been a rambling, grey-stone
building--when erected or wherefore none could tell me--and this I had
repaired, so that it made a dwelling quite good enough for one of my
simple tastes. One room was my laboratory, another my sitting-room, and
in a third, just under the sloping roof, I slung the hammock in which I
always slept. There were three other rooms, but I left them vacant,
except one which was given over to the old crone who kept house for me.
Save the Youngs and the McLeods, who were fisher-folk living round at
the other side of Fergus Ness, there were no other people for many miles
in each direction. In front of the house was the great bay, behind it
were two long barren hills, capped by other loftier ones beyond. There
was a glen between the hills, and when the wind was from the land it
used to sweep down this with a melancholy sough and whisper among the
branches of the fir trees beneath my attic window.

I dislike my fellow-mortals. Justice compels me to add that they appear
for the most part to dislike me. I hate their little crawling ways,
their conventionalities, their deceits, their narrow rights and wrongs.
They take offence at my brusque outspokenness, my disregard for their
social laws, my impatience of all constraint. Among my books and my
drugs in my lonely den at Mansie I could let the great drove of the
human race pass onwards with their politics and inventions and
tittle-tattle, and I remained behind stagnant and happy. Not stagnant
either, for I was working in my own little groove, and making progress.
I have reason to believe that Dalton's atomic theory is founded upon
error, and I know that mercury is not an element.

During the day I was busy with my distillations and analyses. Often I
forgot my meals, and when old Madge summoned me to my tea I found my
dinner lying untouched upon the table. At night I read Bacon, Descartes,
Spinoza, Kant--all those who have pried into what is unknowable. They
are all fruitless and empty, barren of result, but prodigal of
polysyllables, reminding me of men who while digging for gold have
turned up many worms, and then exhibit them exultantly as being what
they sought. At times a restless spirit would come upon me, and I would
walk thirty and forty miles without rest or breaking fast. On these
occasions, when I used to stalk through the country villages, gaunt,
unshaven, and dishevelled, the mothers would rush into the road and drag
their children indoors, and the rustics would swarm out of their
pot-houses to gaze at me. I believe that I was known far and wide as the
"mad laird o' Mansie." It was rarely, however, that I made these raids
into the country, for I usually took my exercise upon my own beach,
where I soothed my spirit with strong black tobacco, and made the ocean
my friend and my confidant.

What companion is there like the great restless, throbbing sea? What
human mood is there which it does not match and sympathise with? There
are none so gay but that they may feel gayer when they listen to its
merry turmoil, and see the long green surges racing in, with the glint
of the sunbeams in their sparkling crests. But when the grey waves toss
their heads in anger, and the wind screams above them, goading them on
to madder and more tumultuous efforts, then the darkest-minded of men
feels that there is a melancholy principle in Nature which is as gloomy
as his own thoughts. When it was calm in the Bay of Mansie the surface
would be as clear and bright as a sheet of silver, broken only at one
spot some little way from the shore, where a long black line projected
out of the water looking like the jagged back of some sleeping monster.
This was the top of the dangerous ridge of rocks known to the fishermen
as the "ragged reef o' Mansie." When the wind blew from the east the
waves would break upon it like thunder, and the spray would be tossed
far over my house and up to the hills behind. The bay itself was a bold
and noble one, but too much exposed to the northern and eastern gales,
and too much dreaded for its reef, to be much used by mariners. There
was something of romance about this lonely spot. I have lain in my boat
upon a calm day, and, peering over the edge, I have seen far down the
flickering ghostly forms of great fish--fish, as it seemed to me, such
as naturalists never knew, and which my imagination transformed into the
genii of that desolate bay. Once, as I stood by the brink of the waters
upon a quiet night, a great cry, as of a woman in hopeless grief, rose
from the bosom of the deep, and swelled out upon the still air, now
sinking and now rising, for a space of thirty seconds. This I heard with
my own ears.

In this strange spot, with the eternal hills behind me and the eternal
sea in front, I worked and brooded for more than two years unpestered by
my fellow-men. By degrees I had trained my old servant into habits of
silence, so that she now rarely opened her lips, though I doubt not that
when twice a year she visited her relations in Wick, her tongue during
those few days made up for its enforced rest. I had come almost to
forget that I was a member of the human family, and to live entirely
with the dead whose books I pored over, when a sudden incident occurred
which threw all my thoughts into a new channel.

Three rough days in June had been succeeded by one calm and peaceful
one. There was not a breath of air that evening. The sun sank down in
the west behind a line of purple clouds, and the smooth surface of the
bay was gashed with scarlet streaks. Along the beach the pools left by
the tide showed up like gouts of blood against the yellow sand, as if
some wounded giant had toilfully passed that way, and had left these red
traces of his grievous hurt behind him. As the darkness closed in,
certain ragged clouds which had lain low on the eastern horizon
coalesced and formed a great irregular cumulus. The glass was still low,
and I knew that there was mischief brewing. About nine o'clock a dull
moaning sound came up from the sea, as from a creature who, much
harassed, learns that the hour of suffering has come round again. At ten
a sharp breeze sprang up from the eastward. At eleven it had increased
to a gale, and by midnight the most furious storm was raging which I
ever remember upon that weather-beaten coast.

As I went to bed the shingle and sea-weed was pattering up against my
attic-window, and the wind was screaming as though every gust were a
lost soul. By that time the sounds of the tempest had become a lullaby
to me. I knew that the grey walls of the old house would buffet it out,
and for what occurred in the world outside I had small concern. Old
Madge was usually as callous to such things as I was myself. It was a
surprise to me when, about three in the morning, I was awoke by the
sound of a great knocking at my door and excited cries in the wheezy
voice of my housekeeper. I sprang out of my hammock, and roughly
demanded of her what was the matter.

"Eh, maister, maister!" she screamed in her hateful dialect. "Come doun,
mun; come doun! There's a muckle ship gaun ashore on the reef, and the
puir folks are a' yammerin' and ca'in' for help--and I doobt they'll a'
be drooned. Oh, Maister McVittie, come doun!"

"Hold your tongue, you hag!" I shouted back in a passion. "What is it to
you whether they are drowned or not? Get back to your bed and leave me
alone." I turned in again, and drew the blankets over me. "Those men out
there," I said to myself, "have already gone through half the horrors of
death. If they be saved they will but have to go through the same once
more in the space of a few brief years. It is best, therefore, that they
should pass away now, since they have suffered that anticipation which
is more than the pain of dissolution." With this thought in my mind I
endeavoured to compose myself to sleep once more, for that philosophy
which had taught me to consider death as a small and trivial incident in
man's eternal and ever-changing career, had also broken me of much
curiosity concerning worldly matters. On this occasion I found, however,
that the old leaven still fermented strongly in my soul. I tossed from
side to side for some minutes endeavouring to beat down the impulses of
the moment by the rules of conduct which I had framed during months of
thought. Then I heard a dull roar amid the wild shriek of the gale, and I
knew that it was the sound of a signal-gun. Driven by an uncontrollable
impulse, I rose, dressed, and, having lit my pipe, walked out on to the
beach.

It was pitch dark when I came outside, and the wind blew with such
violence that I had to put my shoulder against it and push my way along
the shingle. My face pringled and smarted with the sting of the gravel
which was blown against it, and the red ashes of my pipe streamed away
behind me dancing fantastically through the darkness. I went down to
where the great waves were thundering in, and, shading my eyes with my
hand to keep off the salt spray, I peered out to sea. I could
distinguish nothing, and yet it seemed to me that shouts and great
inarticulate cries were borne to me by the blasts. Suddenly as I gazed I
made out the glint of a light, and then the whole bay and the beach were
lit up in a moment by a vivid blue glare. They were burning a coloured
signal-light on board of the vessel. There she lay on her beam ends
right in the centre of the jagged reef, hurled over to such an angle
that I could see all the planking of her deck. She was a large,
two-masted schooner, of foreign rig, and lay perhaps a hundred and
eighty or two hundred yards from the shore. Every spar and rope and
writhing piece of cordage showed up hard and clear under the livid light
which sputtered and flickered from the highest portion of the
forecastle. Beyond the doomed ship out of the great darkness came the
long rolling lines of black waves, never ending, never tiring, with a
petulant tuft of foam here and there upon their crests. Each as it
reached the broad circle of unnatural light appeared to gather strength
and volume, and to hurry on more impetuously until, with a roar and a
jarring crash, it sprang upon its victim. Clinging to the weather
shrouds I could distinctly see some ten or twelve frightened seamen,
who, when their light revealed my presence, turned their white faces
towards me and waved their hands imploringly. I felt my gorge rise
against these poor cowering worms. Why should they presume to shirk the
narrow pathway along which all that is great and noble among mankind has
travelled? There was one there who interested me more than they. He was
a tall man who stood apart from the others, balancing himself upon the
swaying wreck as though he disdained to cling to rope or bulwark. His
hands were clasped behind his back, and his head was sunk upon his
breast; but even in that despondent attitude there was a litheness and
decision in his pose and in every motion which marked him as a man
little likely to yield to despair. Indeed, I could see by his occasional
rapid glances up and down and all around him that he was weighing every
chance of safety; but though he often gazed across the raging surf to
where he could see my dark figure upon the beach, his self-respect, or
some other reason, forbade him from imploring my help in any way. He
stood, dark, silent, and inscrutable, looking down on the black sea, and
waiting for whatever fortune Fate might send him.

It seemed to me that that problem would very soon be settled. As I
looked, an enormous billow, topping all the others, and coming after
them, like a driver following a flock, swept over the vessel. Her
foremast snapped short off, and the men who clung to the shrouds were
brushed away like a swarm of flies. With a rending, riving sound the
ship began to split in two, where the sharp back of the Mansie reef was
sawing into her keel. The solitary man upon the forecastle ran rapidly
across the deck and seized hold of a white bundle which I had already
observed, but failed to make out. As he lifted it up the light fell upon
it, and I saw that the object was a woman, with a spar lashed across her
body and under her arms in such a way that her head should always rise
above water. He bore her tenderly to the side and seemed to speak for a
minute or so to her, as though explaining the impossibility of remaining
upon the ship. Her answer was a singular one. I saw her deliberately
raise her hand and strike him across the face with it. He appeared to be
silenced for a moment or so by this; but he addressed her again,
directing her, as far as I could gather from his motions, how she should
behave when in the water. She shrank away from him, but he caught her in
his arms. He stooped over her for a moment and seemed to press his lips
against her forehead. Then a great wave came welling up against the side
of the breaking vessel, and, leaning over, he placed her upon the summit
of it as gently as a child might be committed to its cradle. I saw her
white dress flickering among the foam on the crest of the dark billow,
and then the light sank gradually lower, and the riven ship and its
lonely occupant were hidden from my eyes.

As I watched those things my manhood overcame my philosophy, and I felt
a frantic impulse to be up and doing. I threw my cynicism to one side as
a garment which I might don again at leisure, and I rushed wildly to my
boat and my sculls. She was a leaky tub, but what then? Was I, who had
cast many a wistful, doubtful glance at my opium bottle, to begin now to
weigh chances and to cavil at danger? I dragged her down to the sea
with the strength of a maniac, and sprang in. For a moment or two it was
a question whether she could live among the boiling surge, but a dozen
frantic strokes took me through it, half-full of water but still afloat.
I was out on the unbroken waves now, at one time climbing, climbing up
the broad black breast of one, then sinking down, down on the other
side, until looking up I could see the gleam of the foam all around me
against the dark heavens. Far behind me I could hear the wild wailings
of old Madge, who, seeing me start, thought no doubt that my madness had
come to a climax. As I rowed I peered over my shoulder, until at last on
the belly of a great wave which was sweeping towards me I distinguished
the vague white outline of the woman. Stooping over I seized her as she
swept by me, and with an effort lifted her, all sodden with water, into
the boat. There was no need to row back, for the next billow carried us
in and threw us upon the beach. I dragged the boat out of danger, and
then lifting up the woman I carried her to the house, followed by my
housekeeper, loud with congratulation and praise.

Now that I had done this thing a reaction set in upon me. I felt that my
burden lived, for I heard the faint beat of her heart as I pressed my
ear against her side in carrying her. Knowing this, I threw her down
beside the fire which Madge had lit, with as little sympathy as though
she had been a bundle of faggots. I never glanced at her to see if she
were fair or no. For many years I had cared little for the face of a
woman. As I lay in my hammock upstairs, however, I heard the old woman,
as she chafed the warmth back into her, crooning a chorus of "Eh, the
puir lassie! Eh, the bonnie lassie!" from which I gathered that this
piece of jetsam was both young and comely.

       *       *       *       *       *

The morning after the gale was peaceful and sunny. As I walked along the
long sweep of sand I could hear the panting of the sea. It was heaving
and swirling about the reef, but along the shore it rippled in gently
enough. There was no sign of the schooner, nor was there any wreckage
upon the beach, which did not surprise me, as I knew there was a great
undertow in those waters. A couple of broad-winged gulls were hovering
and skimming over the scene of the shipwreck, as though many strange
things were visible to them beneath the waves. At times I could hear
their raucous voices as they spoke to one another of what they saw.

When I came back from my walk the woman was waiting at the door for me.
I began to wish when I saw her that I had never saved her, for here was
an end of my privacy. She was very young--at the most nineteen, with a
pale, somewhat refined face, yellow hair, merry blue eyes, and shining
teeth. Her beauty was of an ethereal type. She looked so white and light
and fragile that she might have been the spirit of that storm-foam from
out of which I plucked her. She had wreathed some of Madge's garments
round her in a way which was quaint and not unbecoming. As I strode
heavily up the pathway she put out her hands with a pretty childlike
gesture, and ran down towards me, meaning, as I surmise, to thank me for
having saved her, but I put her aside with a wave of my hand and passed
her. At this she seemed somewhat hurt, and the tears sprang into her
eyes; but she followed me into the sitting-room and watched me
wistfully. "What country do you come from?" I asked her suddenly.

She smiled when I spoke, but shook her head.

"Francais?" I asked. "Deutsch?" "Espagnol?"--each time she shook her
head, and then she rippled off into a long statement in some tongue of
which I could not understand one word.

After breakfast was over, however, I got a clue to her nationality.
Passing along the beach once more, I saw that in a cleft of the ridge a
piece of wood had been jammed. I rowed out to it in my boat and brought
it ashore. It was part of the sternpost of a boat, and on it, or rather
on the piece of wood attached to it, was the word "Archangel," painted
in strange, quaint lettering. "So," I thought, as I paddled slowly back,
"this pale damsel is a Russian. A fit subject for the White Czar, and a
proper dweller on the shores of the White Sea!" It seemed to me strange
that one of her apparent refinement should perform so long a journey in
so frail a craft. When I came back into the house I pronounced the word
"Archangel" several times in different intonations, but she did not
appear to recognise it.

I shut myself up in the laboratory all the morning, continuing a
research which I was making upon the nature of the allotropic forms of
carbon and of sulphur. When I came out at mid-day for some food, she was
sitting by the table with a needle and thread mending some rents in her
clothes, which were now dry. I resented her continued presence, but I
could not turn her out on the beach to shift for herself. Presently she
presented a new phase of her character. Pointing to herself and then to
the scene of the shipwreck, she held up one finger, by which I
understood her to be asking whether she was the only one saved. I nodded
my head to indicate that she was. On this she sprang out of the chair,
with a cry of great joy, and holding the garment which she was mending
over her head, and swaying it from side to side with the motion of her
body, she danced as lightly as a feather all round the room, and then
out through the open door into the sunshine. As she whirled round she
sang in a plaintive, shrill voice some uncouth, barbarous chant,
expressive of exultation. I called out to her, "Come in, you young
fiend; come in, and be silent!" but she went on with her dance. Then she
suddenly ran towards me, and catching my hand before I could pluck it
away, she kissed it. While we were at dinner she spied one of my
pencils, and taking it up she wrote the two words "Sophie Ramusine" upon
a piece of paper, and then pointed to herself as a sign that that was
her name. She handed the pencil to me, evidently expecting that I would
be equally communicative, but I put it in my pocket as a sign that I
wished to hold no intercourse with her.

Every moment of my life now I regretted the unguarded precipitancy with
which I had saved this woman. What was it to me whether she had lived or
died? I was no young hot-headed youth to do such things. It was bad
enough to be compelled to have Madge in the house, but she was old and
ugly, and could be ignored. This one was young and lively, and so
fashioned as to divert attention from graver things. Where could I send
her, and what could I do with her? If I sent information to Wick it
would mean that officials and others would come to me, and pry, and
peep, and chatter--a hateful thought. It was better to endure her
presence than that.

I soon found that there were fresh troubles in store for me. There is no
place safe from the swarming, restless race of which I am a member. In
the evening, when the sun was dipping down behind the hills, casting
them into dark shadow, but gilding the sands and casting a great glory
over the sea, I went, as is my custom, for a stroll along the beach.
Sometimes on these occasions I took my book with me. I did so on this
night, and stretching myself upon a sand-dune I composed myself to read.
As I lay there I suddenly became aware of a shadow which interposed
itself between the sun and myself. Looking round, I saw, to my great
surprise, a very tall, powerful man, who was standing a few yards off,
and who, instead of looking at me, was ignoring my existence completely,
and was gazing over my head with a stern set face at the bay and the
black line of the Mansie reef. His complexion was dark, with black hair
and short curling beard, a hawk-like nose, and golden earrings in his
ears--the general effect being wild and somewhat noble. He wore a faded
velveteen jacket, a red flannel shirt, and high sea-boots, coming
half-way up his thighs. I recognised him at a glance as being the same
man who had been left on the wreck the night before.

"Hullo!" I said, in an aggrieved voice. "You got ashore all right,
then?"

"Yes," he answered, in good English. "It was no doing of mine. The waves
threw me up. I wish to God I had been allowed to drown!" There was a
slight foreign lisp in his accent which was rather pleasing. "Two good
fishermen, who live round yonder point, pulled me out and cared for
me--yet I could not honestly thank them for it."

"Ho! ho!" thought I, "here is a man of my own kidney. Why do you wish to
be drowned?" I asked.

"Because," he cried, throwing out his long arms with a passionate,
despairing gesture, "there--there in that blue smiling bay lies my soul,
my treasure--everything that I loved and lived for."

"Well, well," I said. "People are ruined every day, but there's no use
making a fuss about it. Let me inform you that this ground on which you
walk is my ground, and that the sooner you take yourself off it the
better pleased I shall be. One of you is quite trouble enough."

"One of us?" he gasped.

"Yes--if you could take her off with you I should be still more
grateful."

He gazed at me for a moment as if hardly able to realise what I said,
and then, with a wild cry, he ran away from me with prodigious speed
and raced along the sands towards my house. Never before or since have I
seen a human being run so fast. I followed as rapidly as I could,
furious at this threatened invasion, but long before I reached the house
he had disappeared through the open door. I heard a great scream from
the inside, and, as I came nearer, the sound of the man's bass voice
speaking rapidly and loudly. When I looked in, the girl Sophie Ramusine
was crouching in a corner, cowering away, with fear and loathing
expressed on her averted face and in every line of her shrinking form.
The other, with his dark eyes flashing, and his outstretched hands
quivering with emotion, was pouring forth a torrent of passionate,
pleading words. He made a step forward to her as I entered, but she
writhed still further away, and uttered a sharp cry like that of a
rabbit when the weazel has him by the throat.

"Here!" I said, pulling him back from her. "This is a pretty to-do! What
do you mean? Do you think this is a wayside inn or place of public
accommodation?"

"Oh, sir," he said, "excuse me. This woman is my wife, and I feared
that she was drowned. You have brought me back to life."

"Who are you?" I asked roughly.

"I am a man from Archangel," he said simply: "a Russian man."

"What is your name?"

"Ourganeff."

"Ourganeff!--and hers is Sophie Ramusine. She is no wife of yours. She
has no ring."

"We are man and wife in the sight of Heaven," he said solemnly, looking
upwards. "We are bound by higher laws than those of earth." As he spoke
the girl slipped behind me and caught me by the other hand, pressing it
as though beseeching my protection. "Give me up my wife, sir," he went
on. "Let me take her away from here."

"Look here, you--whatever your name is," I said sternly, "I don't want
this wench here. I wish I had never seen her. If she died it would be no
grief to me. But as to handing her over to you, when it is clear she
fears and hates you, I won't do it. So now just clear your great body
out of this, and leave me to my books. I hope I may never look upon your
face again."

"You won't give her up to me?" he said hoarsely.

"I'll see you damned first!" I answered.

"Suppose I take her," he cried, his dark face growing darker.

All my tigerish blood flushed up in a moment. I picked up a billet of
wood from beside the fireplace. "Go," I said, in a low voice; "go quick,
or I may do you an injury." He looked at me irresolutely for a moment,
and then he left the house. He came back again in a moment, however, and
stood in the doorway looking in at us.

"Have a heed what you do," he said. "The woman is mine, and I shall have
her. When it comes to blows, a Russian is as good a man as a Scotchman."

"We shall see that," I cried, springing forward, but he was already
gone, and I could see his tall form moving away through the gathering
darkness.

For a month or more after this things went smoothly with us. I never
spoke to the Russian girl, nor did she ever address me. Sometimes when I
was at work at my laboratory she would slip inside the door and sit
silently there watching me with her great eyes. At first this intrusion
annoyed me, but by degrees, finding that she made no attempt to distract
my attention, I suffered her to remain. Encouraged by this concession,
she gradually came to move the stool on which she sat nearer and nearer
to my table, until, after gaining a little every day during some weeks,
she at last worked her way right up to me, and used to perch herself
beside me whenever I worked. In this position she used, still without
ever obtruding her presence in any way, to make herself very useful by
holding my pens, test-tubes, bottles, etc., and handing me whatever I
wanted, with never-failing sagacity. By ignoring the fact of her being a
human being, and looking upon her as a useful automatic machine, I
accustomed myself to her presence so far as to miss her on the few
occasions when she was not at her post. I have a habit of talking aloud
to myself at times when I work, so as to fix my results better in my
mind. The girl must have had a surprising memory for sounds, for she
could always repeat the words which I let fall in this way, without, of
course, understanding in the least what they meant. I have often been
amused at hearing her discharge a volley of chemical equations and
algebraic symbols at old Madge, and then burst into a ringing laugh when
the crone would shake her head, under the impression, no doubt, that she
was being addressed in Russian.

She never went more than a few yards from the house, and indeed never
put her foot over the threshold without looking carefully out of each
window, in order to be sure that there was nobody about. By this I knew
that she suspected that her fellow-countryman was still in the
neighbourhood, and feared that he might attempt to carry her off. She
did something else which was significant. I had an old revolver with
some cartridges, which had been thrown away among the rubbish. She found
this one day, and at once proceeded to clean it and oil it. She hung it
up near the door, with the cartridges in a little bag beside it, and
whenever I went for a walk she would take it down and insist upon my
carrying it with me. In my absence she would always bolt the door. Apart
from her apprehensions she seemed fairly happy, busying herself in
helping Madge when she was not attending upon me. She was wonderfully
nimble-fingered and natty in all domestic duties.

It was not long before I discovered that her suspicions were well
founded, and that this man from Archangel was still lurking in the
vicinity. Being restless one night, I rose and peered out of the window.
The weather was somewhat cloudy, and I could barely make out the line of
the sea and the loom of my boat upon the beach. As I gazed, however, and
my eyes became accustomed to the obscurity, I became aware that there
was some other dark blur upon the sands, and that in front of my very
door, where certainly there had been nothing of the sort the preceding
night. As I stood at my diamond-paned lattice still peering and peeping
to make out what this might be, a great bank of clouds rolled slowly
away from the face of the moon, and a flood of cold, clear light was
poured down upon the silent bay and the long sweep of its desolate
shores. Then I saw what this was which haunted my doorstep. It was he,
the Russian. He squatted there like a gigantic toad, with his legs
doubled under him in strange Mongolian fashion, and his eyes fixed
apparently upon the window of the room in which the young girl and the
housekeeper slept. The light fell upon his upturned face, and I saw once
more the hawk-like grace of his countenance, with the single
deeply-indented line of care upon his brow, and the protruding beard
which marks the passionate nature. My first impulse was to shoot him as
a trespasser, but as I gazed my resentment changed into pity and
contempt. "Poor fool," I said to myself, "is it then possible that you,
whom I have seen looking open-eyed at present death, should have your
whole thoughts and ambition centred upon this wretched slip of a girl--a
girl, too, who flies from you and hates you! Most women would love
you--were it but for that dark face and great handsome body of
yours--and yet you must needs hanker after the one in a thousand who
will have no traffic with you." As I returned to my bed I chuckled much
to myself over this thought. I knew that my bars were strong and my
bolts thick. It mattered little to me whether this strange man spent his
night at my door or a hundred leagues off, so long as he was gone by the
morning. As I expected, when I rose and went out there was no sign of
him, nor had he left any trace of his midnight vigil.

It was not long, however, before I saw him again. I had been out for a
row one morning, for my head was aching, partly from prolonged stooping
and partly from the effects of a noxious drug which I had inhaled the
night before. I pulled along the coast some miles, and then, feeling
thirsty, I landed at a place where I knew that a fresh water stream
trickled down into the sea. This rivulet passed through my land, but the
mouth of it, where I found myself that day, was beyond my boundary line.
I felt somewhat taken aback when, rising from the stream at which I had
slaked my thirst, I found myself face to face with the Russian. I was as
much a trespasser now as he was, and I could see at a glance that he
knew it.

"I wish to speak a few words to you," he said gravely.

"Hurry up, then!" I answered, glancing at my watch. "I have no time to
listen to chatter."

"Chatter!" he repeated angrily. "Ah, but there! You Scotch people are
strange men. Your face is hard and your words rough, but so are those of
the good fishermen with whom I stay, yet I find that beneath it all
there lies kind, honest natures. No doubt you are kind and good too, in
spite of your roughness."

"In the name of the devil," I said, "say your say, and go your way. I am
weary of the sight of you."

"Can I not soften you in any way?" he cried. "Ah, see--see here"--he
produced a small Grecian cross from inside his velvet jacket. "Look at
this. Our religions may differ in form, but at least we have some common
thoughts and feelings when we see this emblem."

"I am not so sure of that," I answered.

He looked at me thoughtfully.

"You are a very strange man," he said at last. "I cannot understand you.
You still stand between me and Sophie. It is a dangerous position to
take, sir. Oh, believe me, before it is too late. If you did but know
what I have done to gain that woman--how I have risked my body, how I
have lost my soul. You are a small obstacle to some which I have
surmounted--you, whom a rip with a knife, or a blow from a stone, would
put out of my way for ever. But God preserve me from that," he cried
wildly. "I am deep--too deep--already. Anything rather than that."

"You would do better to go back to your country," I said, "than to
skulk about these sand-hills and disturb my leisure. When I have proof
that you have gone away, I shall hand this woman over to the protection
of the Russian Consul at Edinburgh. Until then, I shall guard her
myself, and not you, nor any Muscovite that ever breathed, shall take
her from me."

"And what is your object in keeping me from Sophie?" he asked. "Do you
imagine that I would injure her? Why, man, I would give my life freely
to save her from the slightest harm. Why do you do this thing?"

"I do it because it is my good pleasure to act so," I answered. "I give
no man reasons for my conduct."

"Look here!" he cried, suddenly blazing into fury, and advancing towards
me with his shaggy mane bristling and his brown hands clenched. "If I
thought you had one dishonest thought towards this girl--if for a moment
I had reason to believe that you had any base motive for detaining
her--as sure as there is a God in Heaven I should drag the heart out of
your bosom with my hands." The very idea seemed to have put the man in a
frenzy, for his face was all distorted and his hands opened and shut
convulsively. I thought that he was about to spring at my throat.

"Stand off!" I said, putting my hand on my pistol. "If you lay a finger
on me I shall kill you."

He put his hand into his pocket, and for a moment I thought that he was
about to produce a weapon too, but instead of that he whipped out a
cigarette and lit it, breathing the smoke rapidly into his lungs. No
doubt he had found by experience that this was the most effectual way of
curbing his passions.

"I told you," he said in a quieter voice, "that my name is
Ourganeff--Alexis Ourganeff. I am a Finn by birth, but I have spent my
life in every part of the world. I was one who could never be still, nor
settle down to a quiet existence. After I came to own my own ship there
is hardly a port from Archangel to Australia which I have not entered. I
was rough and wild and free, but there was one at home, sir, who was
prim and white-handed and soft-tongued, skilful in little fancies and
conceits which women love. This youth by his wiles and tricks stole from
me the love of the girl whom I had ever marked as my own, and who up to
that time had seemed in some sort inclined to return my passion. I had
been on a voyage to Hammerfest for ivory, and coming back unexpectedly,
I learned that my pride and treasure was to be married to this
soft-skinned boy, and that the party had actually gone to the church. In
such moments, sir, something gives way in my head, and I hardly know
what I do. I landed with a boat's crew--all men who had sailed with me
for years, and who were as true as steel. We went up to the church. They
were standing, she and he, before the priest, but the thing had not been
done. I dashed between them and caught her round the waist. My men beat
back the frightened bridegroom and the lookers-on. We bore her down to
the boat and aboard our vessel, and then getting up anchor, we sailed
away across the White Sea until the spires of Archangel sank down behind
the horizon. She had my cabin, my room, every comfort. I slept among the
men in the forecastle. I hoped that in time her aversion to me would
wear away, and that she would consent to marry me in England or in
France. For days and days we sailed. We saw the North Cape die away
behind us, and we skirted the grey Norwegian coast, but still, in spite
of every attention, she would not forgive me for tearing her from that
pale-faced lover of hers. Then came this cursed storm which shattered
both my ship and my hopes, and has deprived me even of the sight of the
woman for whom I have risked so much. Perhaps she may learn to love me
yet. You, sir," he said wistfully, "look like one who has seen much of
the world. Do you not think that she may come to forget this man and to
love me?" "I am tired of your story," I said, turning away. "For my
part, I think you are a great fool. If you imagine that this love of
yours will pass away, you had best amuse yourself as best you can until
it does. If, on the other hand, it is a fixed thing, you cannot do
better than cut your throat, for that is the shortest way out of it. I
have no more time to waste on the matter." With this I hurried away and
walked down to the boat. I never looked round, but I heard the dull
sound of his feet upon the sands as he followed me.

"I have told you the beginning of my story," he said, "and you shall
know the end some day. You would do well to let the girl go."

I never answered him, but pushed the boat off. When I had rowed some
distance out I looked back and saw his tall figure upon the yellow sand
as he stood gazing thoughtfully after me. When I looked again, some
minutes later, he had disappeared.

For a long time after this my life was as regular and as monotonous as
it had been before the shipwreck. At times I hoped that the man from
Archangel had gone away altogether, but certain footsteps which I saw
upon the sand, and more particularly a little pile of cigarette ash
which I found one day behind a hillock from which a view of the house
might be obtained, warned me that, though invisible, he was still in the
vicinity. My relations with the Russian girl remained the same as
before. Old Madge had been somewhat jealous of her presence at first,
and seemed to fear that what little authority she had would be taken
away from her. By degrees, however, as she came to realise my utter
indifference, she became reconciled to the situation, and, as I have
said before, profited by it, as our visitor performed much of the
domestic work.

And now I am coming near the end of this narrative of mine, which I have
written a great deal more for my own amusement than for that of any one
else. The termination of the strange episode in which these two Russians
had played a part was as wild and as sudden as the commencement. The
events of one single night freed me from all my troubles, and left me
once more alone with my books and my studies, as I had been before their
intrusion. Let me endeavour to describe how this came about.

I had had a long day of heavy and wearying work, so that in the evening
I determined upon taking a long walk. When I emerged from the house my
attention was attracted by the appearance of the sea. It lay like a
sheet of glass, so that never a ripple disturbed its surface. Yet the
air was filled with that indescribable moaning sound which I have
alluded to before--a sound as though the spirits of all those who lay
beneath those treacherous waters were sending a sad warning of coming
troubles to their brethren in the flesh. The fishermen's wives along
that coast know the eerie sound, and look anxiously across the waters
for the brown sails making for the land. When I heard it I stepped back
into the house and looked at the glass. It was down below 29°. Then I
knew that a wild night was coming upon us.

Underneath the hills where I walked that evening it was dull and chill,
but their summits were rosy-red and the sea was brightened by the
sinking sun. There were no clouds of importance in the sky, yet the dull
groaning of the sea grew louder and stronger. I saw, far to the
eastward, a brig beating up for Wick, with a reef in her topsails. It
was evident that her captain had read the signs of nature as I had done.
Behind her a long, lurid haze lay low upon the water, concealing the
horizon. "I had better push on," I thought to myself, "or the wind may
rise before I get back."

I suppose I must have been at least half a mile from the house when I
suddenly stopped and listened breathlessly. My ears were so accustomed
to the noises of nature, the sighing of the breeze and the sob of the
waves, that any other sound made itself heard at a great distance. I
waited, listening with all my ears. Yes, there it was again--a
long-drawn, shrill cry of despair, ringing over the sands and echoed
back from the hills behind me--a piteous appeal for aid. It came from
the direction of my house. I turned and ran back homewards at the top
of my speed, ploughing through the sand, racing over the shingle. In my
mind there was a great dim perception of what had occurred.

About a quarter of a mile from the house there is a high sandhill, from
which the whole country round is visible. When I reached the top of this
I paused for a moment. There was the old grey building--there the boat.
Everything seemed to be as I had left it. Even as I gazed, however, the
shrill scream was repeated, louder than before, and the next moment a
tall figure emerged from my door--the figure of the Russian sailor. Over
his shoulder was the white form of the young girl, and even in his haste
he seemed to bear her tenderly and with gentle reverence. I could hear
her wild cries and see her desperate struggles to break away from him.
Behind the couple came my old housekeeper, staunch and true, as the aged
dog, who can no longer bite, still snarls with toothless gums at the
intruder. She staggered feebly along at the heels of the ravisher,
waving her long, thin arms, and hurling, no doubt, volleys of Scotch
curses and imprecations at his head. I saw at a glance that he was
making for the boat. A sudden hope sprang up in my soul that I might be
in time to intercept him. I ran for the beach at the top of my speed. As
I ran I slipped a cartridge into my revolver. This I determined should
be the last of these invasions.

I was too late. By the time I reached the water's edge he was a hundred
yards away, making the boat spring with every stroke of his powerful
arms. I uttered a wild cry of impotent anger, and stamped up and down
the sands like a maniac. He turned and saw me. Rising from his seat he
made me a graceful bow, and waved his hand to me. It was not a
triumphant or a derisive gesture. Even my furious and distempered mind
recognised it as being a solemn and courteous leave-taking. Then he
settled down to his oars once more, and the little skiff shot away out
over the bay. The sun had gone down now, leaving a single dull, red
streak upon the water, which stretched away until it blended with the
purple haze on the horizon. Gradually the skiff grew smaller and smaller
as it sped across this lurid band, until the shades of night gathered
round it and it became a mere blur upon the lonely sea. Then this vague
loom died away also, and darkness settled over it--a darkness which
should never more be raised.

And why did I pace the solitary shore, hot and wrathful as a wolf whose
whelp has been torn from it? Was it that I loved this Muscovite girl?
No--a thousand times no. I am not one who, for the sake of a white skin
or a blue eye, would belie my own life, and change the whole tenor of my
thoughts and existence. My heart was untouched. But my pride--ah, there
I had been cruelly wounded. To think that I had been unable to afford
protection to the helpless one who craved it of me, and who relied on
me! It was that which made my heart sick and sent the blood buzzing
through my ears.

That night a great wind rose up from the sea, and the wild waves
shrieked upon the shore as though they would tear it back with them into
the ocean. The turmoil and the uproar were congenial to my vexed spirit.
All night I wandered up and down, wet with spray and rain, watching the
gleam of the white breakers, and listening to the outcry of the storm.
My heart was bitter against the Russian. I joined my feeble pipe to the
screaming of the gale. "If he would but come back again!" I cried, with
clenched hands; "if he would but come back!"

He came back. When the grey light of morning spread over the eastern sky
and lit up the great waste of yellow, tossing waters, with the brown
clouds drifting swiftly over them, then I saw him once again. A few
hundred yards off along the sand there lay a long dark object, cast up
by the fury of the waves. It was my boat, much shattered and splintered.
A little farther on, a vague, shapeless something was washing to and fro
in the shallow water, all mixed with shingle and with sea-weed. I saw at
a glance that it was the Russian, face downwards and dead. I rushed into
the water and dragged him up on to the beach. It was only when I turned
him over that I discovered that she was beneath him, his dead arms
encircling her, his mangled body still intervening between her and the
fury of the storm. It seemed that the fierce German Sea might beat the
life from him, but with all its strength it was unable to tear this
one-idea'd man from the woman whom he loved. There were signs which led
me to believe that during that awful night the woman's fickle mind had
come at last to learn the worth of the true heart and strong arm which
struggled for her and guarded her so tenderly. Why else should her
little head be nestling so lovingly on his broad breast, while her
yellow hair entwined itself with his flowing beard? Why, too, should
there be that bright smile of ineffable happiness and triumph, which
death itself had not had power to banish from his dusky face? I fancy
that death had been brighter to him than life had ever been.

Madge and I buried them there on the shores of the desolate northern
sea. They lie in one grave deep down beneath the yellow sand. Strange
things may happen in the world around them. Empires may rise and may
fall, dynasties may perish, great wars may come and go, but, heedless of
it all, those two shall embrace each other for ever and aye in their
lonely shrine by the side of the sounding ocean. I sometimes have
thought that their spirits flit like shadowy sea-mews over the wild
waters of the bay. No cross or symbol marks their resting-place, but old
Madge puts wild flowers upon it at times; and when I pass on my daily
walk, and see the fresh blossoms scattered over the sand, I think of the
strange couple who came from afar and broke for a little space the dull
tenor of my sombre life.



_THAT LITTLE SQUARE BOX._


"All aboard?" said the captain.

"All aboard, sir!" said the mate.

"Then stand by to let her go."

It was nine o'clock on a Wednesday morning. The good ship _Spartan_ was
lying off Boston Quay with her cargo under hatches, her passengers
shipped, and everything prepared for a start. The warning whistle had
been sounded twice, the final bell had been rung. Her bowsprit was
turned towards England, and the hiss of escaping steam showed that all
was ready for her run of three thousand miles. She strained at the warps
that held her like a greyhound at its leash.

I have the misfortune to be a very nervous man. A sedentary literary
life has helped to increase the morbid love of solitude which, even in
my boyhood, was one of my distinguishing characteristics. As I stood
upon the quarter-deck of the Transatlantic steamer, I bitterly cursed
the necessity which drove me back to the land of my forefathers. The
shouts of the sailors, the rattle of the cordage, the farewells of my
fellow-passengers, and the cheers of the mob, each and all jarred upon
my sensitive nature. I felt sad too. An indescribable feeling, as of
some impending calamity, seemed to haunt me. The sea was calm, and the
breeze light. There was nothing to disturb the equanimity of the most
confirmed of landsmen, yet I felt as if I stood upon the verge of a
great though indefinable danger. I have noticed that such presentiments
occur often in men of my peculiar temperament, and that they are not
uncommonly fulfilled. There is a theory that it arises from a species of
second-sight--a subtle spiritual communication with the future. I well
remember that Herr Raumer, the eminent spiritualist, remarked on one
occasion that I was the most sensitive subject as regards supernatural
phenomena that he had ever encountered in the whole of his wide
experience. Be that as it may, I certainly felt far from happy as I
threaded my way among the weeping, cheering groups which dotted the
white decks of the good ship _Spartan_. Had I known the experience which
awaited me in the course of the next twelve hours, I would even then at
the last moment have sprung upon the shore, and made my escape from the
accursed vessel.

"Time's up!" said the captain, closing his chronometer with a snap, and
replacing it in his pocket. "Time's up!" said the mate. There was a last
wail from the whistle, a rush of friends and relatives upon the land.
One warp was loosened, the gangway was being pushed away, when there was
a shout from the bridge, and two men appeared running rapidly down the
quay. They were waving their hands and making frantic gestures,
apparently with the intention of stopping the ship. "Look sharp!"
shouted the crowd. "Hold hard!" cried the captain. "Ease her! stop her!
Up with the gangway!" and the two men sprang aboard just as the second
warp parted, and a convulsive throb of the engine shot us clear of the
shore. There was a cheer from the deck, another from the quay, a mighty
fluttering of handkerchiefs, and the great vessel ploughed its way out
of the harbour, and steamed grandly away across the placid bay.

We were fairly started upon our fortnight's voyage. There was a general
dive among the passengers in quest of berths and luggage, while a
popping of corks in the saloon proved that more than one bereaved
traveller was adopting artificial means for drowning the pangs of
separation. I glanced round the deck and took a running inventory of my
_compagnons de voyage_. They presented the usual types met with upon
these occasions. There was no striking face among them. I speak as a
connoisseur, for faces are a specialty of mine. I pounce upon a
characteristic feature as a botanist does on a flower, and bear it away
with me to analyse at my leisure, and classify and label it in my little
anthropological museum. There was nothing worthy of me here. Twenty
types of young America going to "Yurrup," a few respectable middle-aged
couples as an antidote, a sprinkling of clergymen and professional men,
young ladies, bagmen, British exclusives, and all the _olla podrida_ of
an ocean-going steamer. I turned away from them and gazed back at the
receding shores of America, and, as a cloud of remembrances rose before
me, my heart warmed towards the land of my adoption. A pile of
portmanteaus and luggage chanced to be lying on one side of the deck,
awaiting their turn to be taken below. With my usual love for solitude
I walked behind these, and sitting on a coil of rope between them and
the vessel's side, I indulged in a melancholy reverie.

I was aroused from this by a whisper behind me. "Here's a quiet place,"
said the voice. "Sit down, and we can talk it over in safety."

Glancing through a chink between two colossal chests, I saw that the
passengers who had joined us at the last moment were standing at the
other side of the pile. They had evidently failed to see me as I
crouched in the shadow of the boxes. The one who had spoken was a tall
and very thin man with a blue-black beard and a colourless face. His
manner was nervous and excited. His companion was a short, plethoric
little fellow, with a brisk and resolute air. He had a cigar in his
mouth, and a large ulster slung over his left arm. They both glanced
round uneasily, as if to ascertain whether they were alone. "This is
just the place," I heard the other say. They sat down on a bale of goods
with their backs turned towards me, and I found myself, much against my
will, playing the unpleasant part of eavesdropper to their
conversation.

"Well, Muller," said the taller of the two, "we've got it aboard right
enough."

"Yes," assented the man whom he had addressed as Muller; "it's safe
aboard."

"It was rather a near go."

"It was that, Flannigan."

"It wouldn't have done to have missed the ship."

"No; it would have put our plans out."

"Ruined them entirely," said the little man, and puffed furiously at his
cigar for some minutes.

"I've got it here," he said at last.

"Let me see it."

"Is no one looking?"

"No; they are nearly all below."

"We can't be too careful where so much is at stake," said Muller, as he
uncoiled the ulster which hung over his arm, and disclosed a dark object
which he laid upon the deck. One glance at it was enough to cause me to
spring to my feet with an exclamation of horror. Luckily they were so
engrossed in the matter on hand that neither of them observed me. Had
they turned their heads they would infallibly have seen my pale face
glaring at them over the pile of boxes.

From the first moment of their conversation a horrible misgiving had
come over me. It seemed more than confirmed as I gazed at what lay
before me. It was a little square box made of some dark wood, and ribbed
with brass. I suppose it was about the size of a cubic foot. It reminded
me of a pistol-case, only it was decidedly higher. There was an
appendage to it, however, on which my eyes were riveted, and which
suggested the pistol itself rather than its receptacle. This was a
trigger-like arrangement upon the lid, to which a coil of string was
attached. Beside this trigger there was a small square aperture through
the wood. The tall man, Flannigan, as his companion called him, applied
his eye to this and peered in for several minutes with an expression of
intense anxiety upon his face.

"It seems right enough," he said at last.

"I tried not to shake it," said his companion.

"Such delicate things need delicate treatment. Put in some of the
needful, Muller."

The shorter man fumbled in his pocket for some time, and then produced a
small paper packet. He opened this, and took out of it half a handful of
whitish granules, which he poured down through the hole. A curious
clicking noise followed from the inside of the box, and both the men
smiled in a satisfied way.

"Nothing much wrong there," said Flannigan.

"Right as a trivet," answered his companion.

"Look out! here's some one coming. Take it down to our berth. It
wouldn't do to have any one suspecting what our game is, or, worse
still, have them fumbling with it, and letting it off by mistake."

"Well, it would come to the same, whoever let it off," said Muller.

"They'd be rather astonished if they pulled the trigger," said the
taller, with a sinister laugh. "Ha, ha! fancy their faces! It's not a
bad bit of workmanship, I flatter myself."

"No," said Muller. "I hear it is your own design, every bit of it, isn't
it?"

"Yes, the spring and the sliding shutter are my own."

"We should take out a patent."

And the two men laughed again with a cold, harsh laugh, as they took up
the little brass-bound package and concealed it in Muller's voluminous
overcoat.

"Come down, and we'll stow it in our berth," said Flannigan. "We won't
need it until to-night, and it will be safe there."

His companion assented, and the two went arm-in-arm along the deck and
disappeared down the hatchway, bearing the mysterious little box away
with them. The last words I heard were a muttered injunction from
Flannigan to carry it carefully, and avoid knocking it against the
bulwarks.

How long I remained sitting on that coil of rope I shall never know. The
horror of the conversation I had just overheard was aggravated by the
first sinking qualms of sea-sickness. The long roll of the Atlantic was
beginning to assert itself over both ship and passengers. I felt
prostrated in mind and in body, and fell into a state of collapse, from
which I was finally aroused by the hearty voice of our worthy
quartermaster.

"Do you mind moving out of that, sir?" he said. "We want to get this
lumber cleared off the deck."

His bluff manner and ruddy, healthy face seemed to be a positive insult
to me in my present condition. Had I been a courageous or a muscular man
I could have struck him. As it was, I treated the honest sailor to a
melodramatic scowl, which seemed to cause him no small astonishment, and
strode past him to the other side of the deck. Solitude was what I
wanted--solitude in which I could brood over the frightful crime which
was being hatched before my very eyes. One of the quarter-boats was
hanging rather low down upon the davits. An idea struck me, and,
climbing on the bulwarks, I stepped into the empty boat and lay down in
the bottom of it. Stretched on my back, with nothing but the blue sky
above me, and an occasional view of the mizzen as the vessel rolled, I
was at least alone with my sickness and my thoughts.

I tried to recall the words which had been spoken in the terrible
dialogue I had overheard. Would they admit of any construction but the
one which stared me in the face? My reason forced me to confess that
they would not. I endeavoured to array the various facts which formed
the chain of circumstantial evidence, and to find a flaw in it; but no,
not a link was missing. There was the strange way in which our
passengers had come aboard, enabling them to evade any examination of
their luggage. The very name of "Flannigan" smacked of Fenianism, while
"Muller" suggested nothing but Socialism and murder. Then their
mysterious manner; their remark that their plans would have been ruined
had they missed the ship; their fear of being observed; last, but not
least, the clenching evidence in the production of the little square box
with the trigger, and their grim joke about the face of the man who
should let it off by mistake--could these facts lead to any conclusion
other than that they were the desperate emissaries of some body,
political or otherwise, and intended to sacrifice themselves, their
fellow-passengers, and the ship, in one great holocaust? The whitish
granules which I had seen one of them pour into the box formed no doubt
a fuse or train for exploding it. I had myself heard a sound come from
it which might have emanated from some delicate piece of machinery. But
what did they mean by their allusion to to-night? Could it be that they
contemplated putting their horrible design into execution on the very
first evening of our voyage? The mere thought of it sent a cold shudder
over me, and made me for a moment superior even to the agonies of
sea-sickness.

I have remarked that I am a physical coward. I am a moral one also. It
is seldom that the two defects are united to such a degree in the one
character. I have known many men who were most sensitive to bodily
danger, and yet were distinguished for the independence and strength of
their minds. In my own case, however, I regret to say that my quiet and
retiring habits had fostered a nervous dread of doing anything
remarkable, or making myself conspicuous, which exceeded, if possible,
my fear of personal peril. An ordinary mortal placed under the
circumstances in which I now found myself would have gone at once to the
captain, confessed his fears, and put the matter into his hands. To me,
however, constituted as I am, the idea was most repugnant. The thought
of becoming the observed of all observers, cross-questioned by a
stranger, and confronted with two desperate conspirators in the
character of a denouncer, was hateful to me. Might it not by some remote
possibility prove that I was mistaken? What would be my feelings if
there should turn out to be no grounds for my accusation? No, I would
procrastinate; I would keep my eye on the two desperadoes and dog them
at every turn. Anything was better than the possibility of being wrong.

Then it struck me that even at that moment some new phase of the
conspiracy might be developing itself. The nervous excitement seemed to
have driven away my incipient attack of sickness, for I was able to
stand up and lower myself from the boat without experiencing any return
of it. I staggered along the deck with the intention of descending into
the cabin and finding how my acquaintances of the morning were occupying
themselves. Just as I had my hand on the companion-rail, I was
astonished by receiving a hearty slap on the back, which nearly shot me
down the steps with more haste than dignity.

"Is that you, Hammond?" said a voice which I seemed to recognise.

"God bless me," I said as I turned round, "it can't be Dick Merton! Why,
how are you, old man?"

This was an unexpected piece of luck in the midst of my perplexities.
Dick was just the man I wanted; kindly and shrewd in his nature, and
prompt in his actions, I should have no difficulty in telling him my
suspicions, and could rely upon his sound sense to point out the best
course to pursue. Since I was a little lad in the second form at Harrow,
Dick had been my adviser and protector. He saw at a glance that
something had gone wrong with me.

"Hullo!" he said, in his kindly way, "what's put you about, Hammond? You
look as white as a sheet. _Mal de mer_, eh?"

"No, not that altogether," said I. "Walk up and down with me, Dick; I
want to speak to you. Give me your arm."

Supporting myself on Dick's stalwart frame, I tottered along by his
side; but it was some time before I could muster resolution to speak.

"Have a cigar," said he, breaking the silence.

"No, thanks," said I. "Dick, we shall all be corpses to-night."

"That's no reason against your having a cigar now," said Dick, in his
cool way, but looking hard at me from under his shaggy eyebrows as he
spoke. He evidently thought that my intellect was a little gone.

"No," I continued; "it's no laughing matter, and I speak in sober
earnest, I assure you. I have discovered an infamous conspiracy, Dick,
to destroy this ship and every soul that is in her;" and I then
proceeded systematically, and in order, to lay before him the chain of
evidence which I had collected. "There, Dick," I said, as I concluded,
"what do you think of that? and, above all, what am I to do?"

To my astonishment he burst into a hearty fit of laughter.

"I'd be frightened," he said, "if any fellow but you had told me as
much. You always had a way, Hammond, of discovering mares' nests. I like
to see the old traits breaking out again. Do you remember at school how
you swore there was a ghost in the long room, and how it turned out to
be your own reflection in the mirror? Why, man," he continued, "what
object would any one have in destroying this ship? We have no great
political guns aboard. On the contrary, the majority of the passengers
are Americans. Besides, in this sober nineteenth century, the most
wholesale murderers stop at including themselves among their victims.
Depend upon it, you have misunderstood them, and have mistaken a
photographic camera, or something equally innocent, for an infernal
machine."

"Nothing of the sort, sir," said I, rather touchily. "You will learn to
your cost, I fear, that I have neither exaggerated nor misinterpreted a
word. As to the box, I have certainly never before seen one like it. It
contained delicate machinery; of that I am convinced, from the way in
which the men handled it and spoke of it."

"You'd make out every packet of perishable goods to be a torpedo," said
Dick, "if that is to be your only test."

"The man's name was Flannigan," I continued.

"I don't think that would go very far in a court of law," said Dick;
"but come, I have finished my cigar. Suppose we go down together and
split a bottle of claret. You can point out these two Orsinis to me if
they are still in the cabin."

"All right," I answered; "I am determined not to lose sight of them all
day. Don't look hard at them, though; for I don't want them to think
that they are being watched."

"Trust me," said Dick; "I'll look as unconscious and guileless as a
lamb;" and with that we passed down the companion and into the saloon.

A good many passengers were scattered about the great central table,
some wrestling with refractory carpet-bags and rug-straps, some having
their luncheon, and a few reading and otherwise amusing themselves. The
objects of our quest were not there. We passed down the room and peered
into every berth; but there was no sign of them. "Heavens!" thought I,
"perhaps at this very moment they are beneath our feet, in the hold or
engine-room, preparing their diabolical contrivance!" It was better to
know the worst than to remain in such suspense.

"Steward," said Dick, "are there any other gentlemen about?"

"There's two in the smoking-room, sir," answered the steward.

The smoking-room was a little snuggery, luxuriously fitted up, and
adjoining the pantry. We pushed the door open and entered. A sigh of
relief escaped from my bosom. The very first object on which my eye
rested was the cadaverous face of Flannigan, with its hard-set mouth and
unwinking eye. His companion sat opposite to him. They were both
drinking, and a pile of cards lay upon the table. They were engaged in
playing as we entered. I nudged Dick to show him that we had found our
quarry, and we sat down beside them with as unconcerned an air as
possible. The two conspirators seemed to take little notice of our
presence. I watched them both narrowly. The game at which they were
playing was "Napoleon." Both were adepts at it; and I could not help
admiring the consummate nerve of men who, with such a secret at their
hearts, could devote their minds to the manipulating of a long suit or
the finessing of a queen. Money changed hands rapidly; but the run of
luck seemed to be all against the taller of the two players. At last he
threw down his cards on the table with an oath and refused to go on.

"No, I'm hanged if I do!" he said; "I haven't had more than two of a
suit for five hands."

"Never mind," said his comrade, as he gathered up his winnings; "a few
dollars one way or the other won't go very far after to-night's work."

I was astonished at the rascal's audacity, but took care to keep my eyes
fixed abstractedly upon the ceiling, and drank my wine in as unconscious
a manner as possible. I felt that Flannigan was looking towards me with
his wolfish eyes to see if I had noticed the allusion. He whispered
something to his companion which I failed to catch. It was a caution, I
suppose, for the other answered rather angrily--

"Nonsense! Why shouldn't I say what I like? Over-caution is just what
would ruin us."

"I believe you want it not to come off," said Flannigan.

"You believe nothing of the sort," said the other, speaking rapidly and
loudly. "You know as well as I do that when I play for a stake I like to
win it. But I won't have my words criticised and cut short by you or any
other man; I have as much interest in our success as you have--more, I
hope."

He was quite hot about it, and puffed furiously at his cigar for a few
minutes. The eyes of the other ruffian wandered alternately from Dick
Merton to myself. I knew that I was in the presence of a desperate man,
that a quiver of my lip might be the signal for him to plunge a weapon
into my heart; but I betrayed more self-command than I should have given
myself credit for under such trying circumstances. As to Dick, he was as
immovable and apparently as unconscious as the Egyptian Sphinx.

There was silence for some time in the smoking-room, broken only by the
crisp rattle of the cards as the man Muller shuffled them up before
replacing them in his pocket. He still seemed to be somewhat flushed and
irritable. Throwing the end of his cigar into the spittoon, he glanced
defiantly at his companion, and turned towards me.

"Can you tell me, sir," he said, "when this ship will be heard of
again?"

They were both looking at me; but though my face may have turned a
trifle paler, my voice was as steady as ever as I answered--

"I presume, sir, that it will be heard of first when it enters
Queenstown Harbour."

"Ha, ha!" laughed the angry little man; "I knew you would say that.
Don't you kick me under the table, Flannigan; I won't stand it. I know
what I am doing. You are wrong, sir," he continued, turning to me;
"utterly wrong."

"Some passing ship, perhaps," suggested Dick.

"No, nor that either."

"The weather is fine," I said; "why should we not be heard of at our
destination?"

"I didn't say we shouldn't be heard of at our destination. No doubt we
shall in the course of time; but that is not where we shall be heard of
first."

"Where then?" asked Dick.

"That you will never know. Suffice it that a rapid and mysterious agency
will signal our whereabouts, and that before the day is out. Ha, ha!"
and he chuckled once again.

"Come on deck!" growled his comrade; "you have drunk too much of that
confounded brandy-and-water. It has loosened your tongue. Come away!"
and taking him by the arm he half led him, half forced him out of the
smoking-room, and we heard them stumbling up the companion together, and
on to the deck.

"Well, what do you think now?" I gasped, as I turned towards Dick. He
was as imperturbable as ever.

"Think!" he said; "why, I think what his companion thinks--that we have
been listening to the ravings of a half-drunken man. The fellow stunk of
brandy."

"Nonsense, Dick! you saw how the other tried to stop his tongue."

"Of course he did. He didn't want his friend to make a fool of himself
before strangers. Maybe the short one is a lunatic, and the other his
private keeper. It's quite possible."

"Oh, Dick, Dick," I cried; "how can you be so blind? Don't you see that
every word confirmed our previous suspicion?"

"Humbug, man!" said Dick; "you're working yourself into a state of
nervous excitement. Why, what the devil do _you_ make of all that
nonsense about a mysterious agent which would signal our whereabouts?"

"I'll tell you what he meant, Dick," I said, bending forward and
grasping my friend's arm. "He meant a sudden glare and a flash seen far
out at sea by some lonely fisherman off the American coast. That's what
he meant."

"I didn't think you were such a fool, Hammond," said Dick Merton
testily. "If you try to fix a literal meaning on the twaddle that every
drunken man talks, you will come to some queer conclusions. Let us
follow their example, and go on deck. You need fresh air, I think.
Depend upon it, your liver is out of order. A sea-voyage will do you a
world of good."

"If ever I see the end of this one," I groaned, "I'll promise never to
venture on another. They are laying the cloth, so it's hardly worth
while my going up. I'll stay below and finish my smoke."

"I hope dinner will find you in a more pleasant state of mind," said
Dick; and he went out, leaving me to my thoughts until the clang of the
great gong summoned us to the saloon.

My appetite, I need hardly say, had not been improved by the incidents
which had occurred during the day. I sat down, however, mechanically at
the table, and listened to the talk which was going on around me. There
were nearly a hundred first-class passengers, and as the wine began to
circulate, their voices combined with the clash of the dishes to form a
perfect Babel. I found myself seated between a very stout and nervous
old lady and a prim little clergyman; and as neither made any advances,
I retired into my shell, and spent my time in observing the appearance
of my fellow-voyagers. I could see Dick in the dim distance dividing his
attentions between a jointless fowl in front of him and a self-possessed
young lady at his side. Captain Dowie was doing the honours at my end,
while the surgeon of the vessel was seated at the other. I was glad to
notice that Flannigan was placed almost opposite to me. As long as I had
him before my eyes I knew that, for the time at least, we were safe. He
was sitting with what was meant to be a sociable smile on his grim
face. It did not escape me that he drank largely of wine--so largely
that even before the dessert appeared his voice had become decidedly
husky. His friend Muller was seated a few places lower down. He ate
little, and appeared to be nervous and restless.

"Now, ladies," said our genial captain, "I trust that you will consider
yourselves at home aboard my vessel. I have no fears for the gentlemen.
A bottle of champagne, steward. Here's to a fresh breeze and a quick
passage! I trust our friends in America will hear of our safe arrival in
twelve days, or a fortnight at the very latest."

I looked up. Quick as was the glance which passed between Flannigan and
his confederate, I was able to intercept it. There was an evil smile
upon the former's thin lips.

The conversation rippled on. Politics, the sea, amusements, religion,
each was in turn discussed. I remained a silent though an interested
listener. It struck me that no harm could be done by introducing the
subject which was ever in my mind. It could be managed in an off-hand
way, and would at least have the effect of turning the captain's
thoughts in that direction. I could watch, too, what effect it would
have upon the faces of the conspirators.

There was a sudden lull in the conversation. The ordinary subjects of
interest appeared to be exhausted. The opportunity was a favourable one.

"May I ask, captain," I said, bending forward, and speaking very
distinctly, "what you think of Fenian manifestoes?"

The captain's ruddy face became a shade darker from honest indignation.

"They are poor cowardly things," he said, "as silly as they are wicked."

"The impotent threats of a set of anonymous scoundrels," said a
pompous-looking old gentleman beside him.

"Oh, captain!" said the fat lady at my side, "you don't really think
they would blow up a ship?"

"I have no doubt they would if they could. But I am very sure they will
never blow up mine."

"May I ask what precautions are taken against them?" said an elderly man
at the end of the table.

"All goods sent aboard the ship are strictly examined," said Captain
Dowie.

"But suppose a man brought explosives aboard with him?" said I.

"They are too cowardly to risk their own lives in that way."

During this conversation Flannigan had not betrayed the slightest
interest in what was going on. He raised his head now, and looked at the
captain.

"Don't you think you are rather underrating them?" he said. "Every
secret society has produced desperate men--why shouldn't the Fenians
have them too? Many men think it a privilege to die in the service of a
cause which seems right in their eyes, though others may think it
wrong."

"Indiscriminate murder cannot be right in anybody's eyes," said the
little clergyman.

"The bombardment of Paris was nothing else," said Flannigan; "yet the
whole civilised world agreed to look on with folded arms, and change the
ugly word 'murder' into the more euphonious one of 'war.' It seemed
right enough to German eyes; why shouldn't dynamite seem so to the
Fenian?"

"At any rate their empty vapourings have led to nothing as yet," said
the captain.

"Excuse me," returned Flannigan, "but is there not some room for doubt
yet as to the fate of the _Dotterel_? I have met men in America who
asserted from their own personal knowledge that there was a coal torpedo
aboard that vessel."

"Then they lied," said the captain. "It was proved conclusively at the
court-martial to have arisen from an explosion of coal-gas--but we had
better change the subject, or we may cause the ladies to have a restless
night;" and the conversation once more drifted back into its original
channel.

During this little discussion Flannigan had argued his point with a
gentlemanly deference and a quiet power for which I had not given him
credit. I could not help admiring a man who, on the eve of a desperate
enterprise, could courteously argue upon a point which must touch him so
nearly. He had, as I have already mentioned, partaken of a considerable
quantity of wine; but though there was a slight flush upon his pale
cheek, his manner was as reserved as ever. He did not join in the
conversation again, but seemed to be lost in thought.

A whirl of conflicting ideas was battling in my own mind. What was I to
do? Should I stand up now and denounce them before both passengers and
captain? Should I demand a few minutes' conversation with the latter in
his own cabin, and reveal it all? For an instant I was half resolved to
do it, but then the old constitutional timidity came back with redoubled
force. After all there might be some mistake. Dick had heard the
evidence, and had refused to believe in it. I determined to let things
go on their course. A strange reckless feeling came over me. Why should
I help men who were blind to their own danger? Surely it was the duty of
the officers to protect us, not ours to give warning to them. I drank
off a couple of glasses of wine, and staggered upon deck with the
determination of keeping my secret locked in my own bosom.

It was a glorious evening. Even in my excited state of mind I could not
help leaning against the bulwarks and enjoying the refreshing breeze.
Away to the westward a solitary sail stood out as a dark speck against
the great sheet of flame left by the setting sun. I shuddered as I
looked at it. It seemed like a sea of blood. A single star was twinkling
faintly above our main-mast, but a thousand seemed to gleam in the water
below with every stroke of our propeller. The only blot in the fair
scene was the great trail of smoke which stretched away behind us like a
black slash upon a crimson curtain. It seemed hard to believe that the
great peace which hung over all Nature could be marred by a poor
miserable mortal.

"After all," I thought, as I gazed upon the blue depths beneath me, "if
the worst comes to the worst, it is better to die here than to linger in
agony upon a sick-bed on land." A man's life seems a very paltry thing
amid the great forces of Nature. All my philosophy could not prevent my
shuddering, however, when I turned my head and saw two shadowy figures
at the other side of the deck, which I had no difficulty in recognising.
They seemed to be conversing earnestly, but I had no opportunity of
overhearing what was said; so I contented myself with pacing up and
down, and keeping a vigilant watch upon their movements.

It was a relief to me when Dick came on deck. Even an incredulous
confidant is better than none at all.

"Well, old man," he said, giving me a facetious dig in the ribs, "we've
not been blown up yet."

"No, not yet," said I; "but that's no proof that we are not going to
be."

"Nonsense, man!" said Dick; "I can't conceive what has put this
extraordinary idea into your head. I have been talking to one of your
supposed assassins, and he seems a pleasant fellow enough; quite a
sporting character, I should think, from the way he speaks."

"Dick," I said, "I am as certain that those men have an infernal
machine, and that we are on the verge of eternity, as if I saw them
putting the match to the fuse."

"Well, if you really think so," said Dick, half awed for the moment by
the earnestness of my manner, "it is your duty to let the captain know
of your suspicions."

"You are right," I said; "I will. My absurd timidity has prevented my
doing so sooner. I believe our lives can only be saved by laying the
whole matter before him."

"Well, go and do it now," said Dick; "but for goodness' sake don't mix
me up in the matter."

"I'll speak to him when he comes off the bridge," I answered; "and in
the meantime I don't mean to lose sight of them."

"Let me know of the result," said my companion; and with a nod he
strolled away in search, I fancy, of his partner at the dinner-table.

Left to myself, I bethought me of my retreat of the morning, and
climbing on the bulwark I mounted into the quarter-boat, and lay down
there. In it I could reconsider my course of action, and by raising my
head I was able at any time to get a view of my disagreeable neighbours.

An hour passed, and the captain was still on the bridge. He was talking
to one of the passengers, a retired naval officer, and the two were deep
in debate concerning some abstruse point in navigation. I could see the
red tips of their cigars from where I lay. It was dark now--so dark that
I could hardly make out the figures of Flannigan and his accomplice.
They were still standing in the position which they had taken up after
dinner. A few of the passengers were scattered about the deck, but many
had gone below. A strange stillness seemed to pervade the air. The
voices of the watch and the rattle of the wheel were the only sounds
which broke the silence.

Another half-hour passed. The captain was still upon the bridge. It
seemed as if he would never come down. My nerves were in a state of
unnatural tension, so much so that the sound of two steps upon the deck
made me start up in a quiver of excitement. I peered over the side of
the boat, and saw that our suspicious passengers had crossed from the
other side and were standing almost directly beneath me. The light of a
binnacle fell full upon the ghastly face of the ruffian Flannigan. Even
in that short glance I saw that Muller had the ulster, whose use I knew
so well, slung loosely over his arm. I sank back with a groan. It seemed
that my fatal procrastination had sacrificed two hundred innocent lives.

I had read of the fiendish vengeance which awaited a spy. I knew that
men with their lives in their hands would stick at nothing. All I could
do was to cower at the bottom of the boat and listen silently to their
whispered talk below.

"This place will do," said a voice.

"Yes, the leeward side is best."

"I wonder if the trigger will act?"

"I am sure it will."

"We were to let it off at ten, were we not?"

"Yes, at ten sharp. We have eight minutes yet." There was a pause. Then
the voice began again--

"They'll hear the drop of the trigger, won't they?"

"It doesn't matter. It will be too late for any one to prevent its going
off."

"That's true. There will be some excitement among those we have left
behind, won't there?"

"Rather! How long do you reckon it will be before they hear of us?"

"The first news will get in in about twenty-four hours."

"That will be mine."

"No, mine."

"Ha, ha! we'll settle that."

There was a pause here. Then I heard Muller's voice in a ghastly
whisper, "There's only five minutes more."

How slowly the moments seemed to pass! I could count them by the
throbbing of my heart.

"It'll make a sensation on land," said a voice.

"Yes, it will make a noise in the newspapers."

I raised my head and peered over the side of the boat. There seemed no
hope, no help. Death stared me in the face, whether I did or did not
give the alarm. The captain had at last left the bridge. The deck was
deserted, save for those two dark figures crouching in the shadow of the
boat.

Flannigan had a watch lying open in his hand.

"Three minutes more," he said. "Put it down upon the deck."

"No, put it here on the bulwarks."

It was the little square box. I knew by the sound that they had placed
it near the davit, and almost exactly under my head.

I looked over again. Flannigan was pouring something out of a paper into
his hand. It was white and granular--the same that I had seen him use in
the morning. It was meant as a fuse, no doubt, for he shovelled it into
the little box, and I heard the strange noise which had previously
arrested my attention.

"A minute and a half more," he said. "Shall you or I pull the string?"

"I will pull it," said Muller.

He was kneeling down and holding the end in his hand. Flannigan stood
behind with his arms folded, and an air of grim resolution upon his
face.

I could stand it no longer. My nervous system seemed to give way in a
moment.

"Stop!" I screamed, springing to my feet. "Stop, misguided and
unprincipled men!"

They both staggered backwards. I fancy they thought I was a spirit, with
the moonlight streaming down upon my pale face.

I was brave enough now. I had gone too far to retreat.

"Cain was damned," I cried, "and he slew but one; would you have the
blood of two hundred upon your souls?"

"He's mad!" said Flannigan. "Time's up! Let it off, Muller."

I sprang down upon the deck.

"You shan't do it!" I said.

"By what right do you prevent us?"

"By every right, human and divine."

"It's no business of yours. Clear out of this!"

"Never!" said I.

"Confound the fellow! There's too much at stake to stand on ceremony.
I'll hold him, Muller, while you pull the trigger."

Next moment I was struggling in the herculean grasp of the Irishman.
Resistance was useless; I was a child in his hands.

He pinned me up against the side of the vessel, and held me there.

"Now," he said, "look sharp. He can't prevent us."

I felt that I was standing on the verge of eternity. Half-strangled in
the arms of the taller ruffian, I saw the other approach the fatal box.
He stooped over it and seized the string. I breathed one prayer when I
saw his grasp tighten upon it. Then came a sharp snap, a strange rasping
noise. The trigger had fallen, the side of the box flew out, and let
off--_two grey carrier-pigeons_!

       *       *       *       *       *

Little more need be said. It is not a subject on which I care to dwell.
The whole thing is too utterly disgusting and absurd. Perhaps the best
thing I can do is to retire gracefully from the scene, and let the
sporting correspondent of the _New York Herald_ fill my unworthy place.
Here is an extract clipped from its columns shortly after our departure
from America:--

"Pigeon-flying Extraordinary.--A novel match has been brought off, last
week, between the birds of John H. Flannigan, of Boston, and Jeremiah
Muller, a well-known citizen of Ashport. Both men have devoted much time
and attention to an improved breed of bird, and the challenge is an
old-standing one. The pigeons were backed to a large amount, and there
was considerable local interest in the result. The start was from the
deck of the Transatlantic steamship _Spartan_, at ten o'clock on the
evening of the day of starting, the vessel being then reckoned to be
about a hundred miles from the land. The bird which reached home first
was to be declared the winner. Considerable caution had, we believe, to
be observed, as British captains have a prejudice against the bringing
off of sporting events aboard their vessels. In spite of some little
difficulty at the last moment, the trap was sprung almost exactly at ten
o'clock. Muller's bird arrived in Ashport in an extreme state of
exhaustion on the following afternoon, while Flannigan's has not been
heard of. The backers of the latter have the satisfaction of knowing,
however, that the whole affair has been characterised by extreme
fairness. The pigeons were confined in a specially invented trap, which
could only be opened by the spring. It was thus possible to feed them
through an aperture in the top, but any tampering with their wings was
quite out of the question. A few such matches would go far towards
popularising pigeon-flying in America, and form an agreeable variety to
the morbid exhibitions of human endurance which have assumed such
proportions during the last few years."



_A NIGHT AMONG THE NIHILISTS._


"Robinson, the boss wants you!"

"The dickens he does!" thought I; for Mr. Dickson, Odessa agent of
Bailey & Co., corn merchants, was a bit of a Tartar, as I had learned to
my cost. "What's the row now?" I demanded of my fellow-clerk; "has he
got scent of our Nicolaieff escapade, or what is it?"

"No idea," said Gregory: "the old boy seems in a good enough humour;
some business matter, probably. But don't keep him waiting." So
summoning up an air of injured innocence, to be ready for all
contingencies, I marched into the lion's den.

Mr. Dickson was standing before the fire in a Briton's time-honoured
attitude, and motioned me into a chair in front of him. "Mr. Robinson,"
he said, "I have great confidence in your discretion and common sense.
The follies of youth will break out, but I think that you have a
sterling foundation to your character underlying any superficial
levity."

I bowed.

"I believe," he continued, "that you can speak Russian pretty fluently."

I bowed again.

"I have, then," he proceeded, "a mission which I wish you to undertake,
and on the success of which your promotion may depend. I would not trust
it to a subordinate, were it not that duty ties me to my post at
present."

"You may depend upon my doing my best, sir," I replied.

"Right, sir; quite right! What I wish you to do is briefly this: The
line of railway has just been opened to Solteff, some hundred miles up
the country. Now, I wish to get the start of the other Odessa firms in
securing the produce of that district, which I have reason to believe
may be had at very low prices. You will proceed by rail to Solteff, and
interview a Mr. Dimidoff, who is the largest landed proprietor in the
town. Make as favourable terms as you can with him. Both Mr. Dimidoff
and I wish the whole thing to be done as quietly and secretly as
possible--in fact, that nothing should be known about the matter until
the grain appears in Odessa. I desire it for the interests of the firm,
and Mr. Dimidoff on account of the prejudice his peasantry entertain
against exportation. You will find yourself expected at the end of your
journey, and will start to-night. Money shall be ready for your
expenses. Good-morning, Mr. Robinson; I hope you won't fail to realise
the good opinion I have of your abilities."

"Gregory," I said, as I strutted into the office, "I'm off on a
mission--a secret mission, my boy; an affair of thousands of pounds.
Lend me your little portmanteau--mine's too imposing--and tell Ivan to
pack it. A Russian millionaire expects me at the end of my journey.
Don't breathe a word of it to any of Simpkins's people, or the whole
game will be up. Keep it dark!"

I was so charmed at being, as it were, behind the scenes, that I crept
about the office all day in a sort of cloak-and-bloody-dagger style,
with responsibility and brooding care marked upon every feature; and
when at night I stepped out and stole down to the station, the
unprejudiced observer would certainly have guessed, from my general
behaviour, that I had emptied the contents of the strong-box before
starting into that little valise of Gregory's. It was imprudent of him,
by the way, to leave English labels pasted all over it. However, I could
only hope that the "Londons" and "Birminghams" would attract no
attention, or at least that no rival corn-merchant might deduce from
them who I was and what my errand might be.

Having paid the necessary roubles and got my ticket, I ensconced myself
in the corner of a snug Russian car, and pondered over my extraordinary
good fortune. Dickson was growing old now, and if I could make my mark
in this matter it might be a great thing for me. Dreams arose of a
partnership in the firm. The noisy wheels seemed to clank out "Bailey,
Robinson & Co.," "Bailey, Robinson & Co.," in a monotonous refrain,
which gradually sank into a hum, and finally ceased as I dropped into a
deep sleep. Had I known the experience which awaited me at the end of my
journey it would hardly have been so peaceable.

I awoke with an uneasy feeling that some one was watching me closely;
nor was I mistaken. A tall dark man had taken up his position on the
seat opposite, and his black sinister eyes seemed to look through me and
beyond me, as if he wished to read my very soul. Then I saw him glance
down at my little trunk.

"Good heavens!" thought I, "here's Simpkins's agent, I suppose. It was
careless of Gregory to leave those confounded labels on the valise."

I closed my eyes for a time, but on reopening them I again caught the
stranger's earnest gaze.

"From England, I see," he said in Russian, showing a row of white teeth
in what was meant to be an amiable smile.

"Yes," I replied, trying to look unconcerned, but painfully aware of my
failure.

"Travelling for pleasure, perhaps?" said he.

"Yes," I answered eagerly. "Certainly for pleasure; nothing else."

"Of course not," said he, with a shade of irony in his voice.
"Englishmen always travel for pleasure, don't they? Oh, no; nothing
else."

His conduct was mysterious, to say the least of it. It was only
explainable upon two hypotheses--he was either a madman, or he was the
agent of some firm bound upon the same errand as myself, and determined
to show me that he guessed my little game. They were about equally
unpleasant, and, on the whole, I was relieved when the train pulled up
in the tumble-down shed which does duty for a station in the rising town
of Solteff--Solteff, whose resources I was about to open out, and whose
commerce I was to direct into the great world channels. I almost
expected to see a triumphal arch as I stepped on to the platform.

I was to be expected at the end of my journey, so Mr. Dickson had
informed me. I looked about among the motley crowd, but saw no Mr.
Dimidoff. Suddenly a slovenly, unshaved man passed me rapidly, and
glanced first at me and then at my trunk--that wretched trunk, the cause
of all my woes. He disappeared in the crowd; but in a little time came
strolling past me again, and contrived to whisper as he did so, "Follow
me, but at some distance," immediately setting off out of the station
and down the street at a rapid pace. Here was mystery with a vengeance!
I trotted along in his rear with my valise, and on turning the corner
found a rough droschky waiting for me. My unshaven friend opened the
door, and I stepped in.

"Is Mr. Dim----" I was beginning.

"Hush!" he cried. "No names, no names; the very walls have ears. You
will hear all to-night;" and with that assurance he closed the door,
and, seizing the reins, we drove off at a rapid pace--so rapid that I
saw my black-eyed acquaintance of the railway carriage gazing after us
in surprise until we were out of sight.

I thought over the whole matter as we jogged along in that abominable
springless conveyance.

"They say the nobles are tyrants in Russia," I mused; "but it seems to
me to be the other way about, for here's this poor Mr. Dimidoff, who
evidently thinks his ex-serfs will rise and murder him if he raises the
price of grain in the district by exporting some out of it. Fancy being
obliged to have recourse to all this mystery and deception in order to
sell one's own property! Why, it's worse than an Irish landlord. It is
monstrous! Well, he doesn't seem to live in a very aristocratic quarter
either," I soliloquised, as I gazed out at the narrow crooked streets
and the unkempt dirty Muscovites whom we passed. "I wish Gregory or some
one was with me, for it's a cut-throat-looking shop! By Jove, he's
pulling up; we must be there!"

We _were_ there, to all appearance; for the droschky stopped, and my
driver's shaggy head appeared through the aperture.

"It is here, most honoured master," he said, as he helped me to alight.

"Is Mr. Dimi----" I commenced; but he interrupted me again.

"Anything but names," he whispered; "anything but that. You are too used
to a land that is free. Caution, oh sacred one!" and he ushered me down
a stone-flagged passage, and up a stair at the end of it. "Sit for a few
minutes in this room," he said, opening a door, "and a repast will be
served for you;" and with that he left me to my own reflections.

"Well," thought I, "whatever Mr. Dimidoff's house may be like, his
servants are undoubtedly well trained. 'Oh sacred one!' and 'revered
master!' I wonder what he'd call old Dickson himself, if he is so polite
to the clerk! I suppose it wouldn't be the thing to smoke in this little
crib; but I could do a pipe nicely. By the way, how confoundedly like a
cell it looks!"

It certainly did look like a cell. The door was an iron one, and
enormously strong, while the single window was closely barred. The floor
was of wood, and sounded hollow and insecure as I strode across it. Both
floor and walls were thickly splashed with coffee or some other dark
liquid. On the whole, it was far from being a place where one would be
likely to become unreasonably festive.

I had hardly concluded my survey when I heard steps approaching down the
corridor, and the door was opened by my old friend of the droschky. He
announced that my dinner was ready, and, with many bows and apologies
for leaving me in what he called the "dismissal room," he led me down
the passage, and into a large and beautifully furnished apartment. A
table was spread for two in the centre of it, and by the fire was
standing a man very little older than myself. He turned as I came in,
and stepped forward to meet me with every symptom of profound respect.

"So young and yet so honoured!" he exclaimed; and then seeming to
recollect himself, he continued, "Pray sit at the head of the table.
You must be fatigued by your long and arduous journey. We dine
_tête-à-tête_; but the others assemble afterwards."

"Mr. Dimidoff, I presume?" said I.

"No, sir," said he, turning his keen grey eyes upon me. "My name is
Petrokine; you mistake me perhaps for one of the others. But now, not a
word of business until the council meets. Try your _chef's_ soup; you
will find it excellent, I think."

Who Mr. Petrokine or the others might be I could not conceive. Land
stewards of Dimidoff's, perhaps; though the name did not seem familiar
to my companion. However, as he appeared to shun any business questions
at present, I gave in to his humour, and we conversed on social life in
England--a subject in which he displayed considerable knowledge and
acuteness. His remarks, too, on Malthus and the laws of population were
wonderfully good, though savouring somewhat of Radicalism.

"By the way," he remarked, as we smoked a cigar over our wine, "we
should never have known you but for the English labels on your luggage;
it was the luckiest thing in the world that Alexander noticed them. We
had had no personal description of you; indeed we were prepared to
expect a somewhat older man. You are young indeed, sir, to be entrusted
with such a mission."

"My employer trusts me," I replied; "and we have learned in our trade
that youth and shrewdness are not incompatible."

"Your remark is true, sir," returned my newly-made friend; "but I am
surprised to hear you call our glorious association a trade! Such a term
is gross indeed to apply to a body of men banded together to supply the
world with that which it is yearning for, but which, without our
exertions, it can never hope to attain. A spiritual brotherhood would be
a more fitting term."

"By Jove!" thought I, "how pleased the boss would be to hear him! He
must have been in the business himself, whoever he is."

"Now, sir," said Mr. Petrokine, "the clock points to eight, and the
council must be already sitting. Let us go up together, and I will
introduce you. I need hardly say that the greatest secrecy is observed,
and that your appearance is anxiously awaited."

I turned over in my mind as I followed him how I might best fulfil my
mission and secure the most advantageous terms. They seemed as anxious
as I was in the matter, and there appeared to be no opposition, so
perhaps the best thing would be to wait and see what they would propose.

I had hardly come to this conclusion when my guide swung open a large
door at the end of a passage, and I found myself in a room larger and
even more gorgeously fitted up than the one in which I had dined. A long
table, covered with green baize and strewn with papers, ran down the
middle, and round it were sitting fourteen or fifteen men conversing
earnestly. The whole scene reminded me forcibly of a gambling hell I had
visited some time before.

Upon our entrance the company rose and bowed. I could not but remark
that my companion attracted no attention, while every eye was turned
upon me with a strange mixture of surprise and almost servile respect. A
man at the head of the table, who was remarkable for the extreme pallor
of his face as contrasted with his blue-black hair and moustache, waved
his hand to a seat beside him, and I sat down.

"I need hardly say," said Mr. Petrokine, "that Gustave Berger, the
English agent, is now honouring us with his presence. He is young,
indeed, Alexis," he continued to my pale-faced neighbour, "and yet he is
of European reputation."

"Come, draw it mild!" thought I, adding aloud, "If you refer to me, sir,
though I am indeed acting as English agent, my name is not Berger, but
Robinson--Mr. Tom Robinson, at your service."

A laugh ran round the table.

"So be it, so be it," said the man they called Alexis. "I commend your
discretion, most honoured sir. One cannot be too careful. Preserve your
English _sobriquet_ by all means. I regret that any painful duty should
be performed upon this auspicious evening; but the rules of our
association must be preserved at any cost to our feelings, and a
dismissal is inevitable to-night."

"What the deuce is the fellow driving at?" thought I. "What is it to me
if he does give his servant the sack? This Dimidoff, wherever he is,
seems to keep a private lunatic asylum."

"_Take out the gag!_" The words fairly shot through me, and I started in
my chair. It was Petrokine who spoke. For the first time I noticed that
a burly stout man, sitting at the other end of the table, had his arms
tied behind his chair and a handkerchief round his mouth. A horrible
suspicion began to creep into my heart. Where was I? Was I in Mr.
Dimidoff's? Who were these men, with their strange words?

"Take out the gag!" repeated Petrokine; and the handkerchief was
removed.

"Now, Paul Ivanovitch," said he, "what have you to say before you go?"

"Not a dismissal, sirs," he pleaded; "not a dismissal: anything but
that! I will go into some distant land, and my mouth shall be closed for
ever. I will do anything that the society asks; but pray, pray do not
dismiss me."

"You know our laws, and you know your crime," said Alexis, in a cold,
harsh voice. "Who drove us from Odessa by his false tongue and his
double face? Who wrote the anonymous letter to the Governor? Who cut the
wire that would have destroyed the arch-tyrant? You did, Paul
Ivanovitch; and you must die."

I leaned back in my chair and fairly gasped.

"Remove him!" said Petrokine; and the man of the droschky, with two
others, forced him out.

I heard the footsteps pass down the passage, and then a door open and
shut. Then came a sound as of a struggle, ended by a heavy, crunching
blow and a dull thud.

"So perish all who are false to their oath," said Alexis solemnly; and a
hoarse "Amen" went up from his companions.

"Death alone can dismiss us from our order," said another man further
down; "but Mr. Berg--Mr. Robinson is pale. The scene has been too much
for him after his long journey from England."

"Oh, Tom, Tom," thought I, "if ever you get out of this scrape you'll
turn over a new leaf. You're not fit to die, and that's a fact." It was
only too evident to me now that by some strange misconception I had got
in among a gang of cold-blooded Nihilists, who mistook me for one of
their order. I felt, after what I had witnessed, that my only chance of
life was to try to play the _rôle_ thus forced upon me until an
opportunity for escape should present itself; so I tried hard to regain
my air of self-possession, which had been so rudely shaken.

"I am indeed fatigued," I replied; "but I feel stronger now. Excuse my
momentary weakness."

"It was but natural," said a man with a thick beard at my right hand.
"And now, most honoured sir, how goes the cause in England?"

"Remarkably well," I answered.

"Has the great commissioner condescended to send a missive to the
Solteff branch?" asked Petrokine.

"Nothing in writing," I replied.

"But he has spoken of it?"

"Yes: he said he had watched it with feelings of the liveliest
satisfaction," I returned.

"'Tis well! 'tis well!" ran round the table.

I felt giddy and sick from the critical nature of my position. Any
moment a question might be asked which would show me in my true colours.
I rose and helped myself from a decanter of brandy which stood on a side
table. The potent liquor flew to my excited brain, and as I sat down I
felt reckless enough to be half amused at my position, and inclined to
play with my tormentors. I still, however, had all my wits about me.

"You have been to Birmingham?" asked the man with the beard.

"Many times," said I.

"Then you have of course seen the private workshop and arsenal?"

"I have been over them both more than once."

"It is still, I suppose, entirely unsuspected by the police?" continued
my interrogator.

"Entirely," I replied.

"Can you tell us how it is that so large a concern is kept so completely
secret?"

Here was a poser; but my native impudence and the brandy seemed to come
to my aid.

"That is information," I replied, "which I do not feel justified in
divulging even here. In withholding it I am acting under the direction
of the chief commissioner."

"You are right--perfectly right," said my original friend Petrokine.
"You will no doubt make your report to the central office at Moscow
before entering into such details."

"Exactly so," I replied, only too happy to get a lift out of my
difficulty.

"We have heard," said Alexis, "that you were sent to inspect the
_Livadia_. Can you give us any particulars about it?"

"Anything you ask I will endeavour to answer," I replied, in
desperation.

"Have any orders been made in Birmingham concerning it?"

"None when I left England."

"Well, well, there's plenty of time yet," said the man with the
beard--"many months. Will the bottom be of wood or iron?"

"Of wood," I answered at random.

"'Tis well!" said another voice. "And what is the breadth of the Clyde
below Greenock?"

"It varies much," I replied; "on an average about eighty yards."

"How many men does she carry?" asked an anæmic-looking youth at the
foot of the table, who seemed more fit for a public school than this den
of murder.

"About three hundred," said I.

"A floating coffin!" said the young Nihilist, in a sepulchral voice.

"Are the store-rooms on a level with or underneath the state-cabins?"
asked Petrokine.

"Underneath," said I decisively, though I need hardly say I had not the
smallest conception.

"And now, most honoured sir," said Alexis, "tell us what was the reply
of Bauer, the German socialist, to Ravinsky's proclamation."

Here was a deadlock with a vengeance. Whether my cunning would have
extricated me from it or not was never decided, for Providence hurried
me from one dilemma into another and a worse one.

A door slammed downstairs, and rapid footsteps were heard approaching.
Then came a loud tap outside, followed by two smaller ones.

"The sign of the society!" said Petrokine; "and yet we are all present;
who can it be?"

The door was thrown open, and a man entered, dusty and travel-stained,
but with an air of authority and power stamped on every feature of his
harsh but expressive face. He glanced round the table, scanning each
countenance carefully. There was a start of surprise in the room. He was
evidently a stranger to them all.

"What means this intrusion, sir?" said my friend with the beard.

"Intrusion!" said the stranger. "I was given to understand that I was
expected, and had looked forward to a warmer welcome from my
fellow-associates. I am personally unknown to you, gentlemen, but I am
proud to think that my name should command some respect among you. I am
Gustave Berger, the agent from England, bearing letters from the chief
commissioner to his well-beloved brothers of Solteff."

One of their own bombs could hardly have created greater surprise had it
been fired in the midst of them. Every eye was fixed alternately on me
and upon the newly-arrived agent.

"If you are indeed Gustave Berger," said Petrokine, "who is this?"

"That I am Gustave Berger these credentials will show," said the
stranger, as he threw a packet upon the table. "Who that man may be I
know not; but if he has intruded himself upon the lodge under false
pretences, it is clear that he must never carry out of the room what he
has learned. Speak, sir," he added, addressing me: "who and what are
you?"

I felt that my time had come. My revolver was in my hip-pocket; but what
was that against so many desperate men? I grasped the butt of it,
however, as a drowning man clings to a straw, and I tried to preserve my
coolness as I glanced round at the cold, vindictive faces turned towards
me.

"Gentlemen," I said, "the _rôle_ I have played to-night has been a
purely involuntary one on my part. I am no police spy, as you seem to
suspect; nor, on the other hand, have I the honour to be a member of
your association. I am an inoffensive corn-dealer, who by an
extraordinary mistake has been forced into this unpleasant and awkward
position."

I paused for a moment. Was it my fancy that there was a peculiar noise
in the street--a noise as of many feet treading softly? No, it had died
away; it was but the throbbing of my own heart.

"I need hardly say," I continued, "that anything I may have heard
to-night will be safe in my keeping. I pledge my solemn honour as a
gentleman that not one word of it shall transpire through me."

The senses of men in great physical danger become strangely acute, or
their imagination plays them curious tricks. My back was towards the
door as I sat, but I could have sworn that I heard heavy breathing
behind it. Was it the three minions whom I had seen before in the
performance of their hateful functions, and who, like vultures, had
sniffed another victim?

I looked round the table. Still the same hard, cruel faces. Not one
glance of sympathy. I cocked the revolver in my pocket.

There was a painful silence, which was broken by the harsh, grating
voice of Petrokine.

"Promises are easily made and easily broken," he said. "There is but one
way of securing eternal silence. It is our lives or yours. Let the
highest among us speak."

"You are right, sir," said the English agent; "there is but one course
open. He must be dismissed."

I knew what that meant in their confounded jargon, and sprang to my
feet.

"By Heaven," I shouted, putting my back against the door, "you shan't
butcher a free Englishman like a sheep! The first among you who stirs,
drops!"

A man sprang at me. I saw along the sights of my Derringer the gleam of
a knife and the demoniacal face of Gustave Berger. Then I pulled the
trigger, and, with his hoarse scream sounding in my ears, I was felled
to the ground by a crashing blow from behind. Half unconscious, and
pressed down by some heavy weight, I heard the noise of shouts and blows
above me, and then I fainted away.

When I came to myself I was lying among the _débris_ of the door, which
had been beaten in on the top of me. Opposite were a dozen of the men
who had lately sat in judgment upon me, tied two and two, and guarded by
a score of Russian soldiers. Beside me was the corpse of the ill-fated
English agent, the whole face blown in by the force of the explosion.
Alexis and Petrokine were both lying on the floor like myself, bleeding
profusely.

"Well, young fellow, you've had a narrow escape," said a hearty voice in
my ear.

I looked up, and recognised my black-eyed acquaintance of the railway
carriage.

"Stand up," he continued: "you're only a bit stunned; no bones broken.
It's no wonder I mistook you for the Nihilist agent, when the very lodge
itself was taken in. Well, you're the only stranger who ever came out of
this den alive. Come downstairs with me. I know who you are, and what
you are after now; I'll take you to Mr. Dimidoff. Nay, don't go in
there," he cried, as I walked towards the door of the cell into which I
had been originally ushered. "Keep out of that: you've seen evil sights
enough for one day. Come down and have a glass of liquor."

He explained as we walked back to the hotel that the police of Solteff,
of which he was the chief, had had warning and been on the look-out
during some time for this Nihilist emissary. My arrival in so
unfrequented a place, coupled with my air of secrecy and the English
labels on that confounded portmanteau of Gregory's, had completed the
business.

I have little more to tell. My Socialistic acquaintances were all either
transported to Siberia or executed. My mission was performed to the
satisfaction of my employers. My conduct during the whole business has
won me promotion, and my prospects for life have been improved since
that horrible night, the remembrance of which still makes me shiver.


_Printed by_ WALTER SCOTT, _Felling, Newcastle-on-Tyne_.





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