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Title: Blacks and Bushrangers - Adventures in Queensland
Author: Kennedy, E. B.
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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Library of Australia.)



[Illustration: Dromoora.]



                        BLACKS AND BUSHRANGERS
                      _ADVENTURES IN QUEENSLAND_


                                  BY
                            E. B. KENNEDY
              AUTHOR OF “FOUR YEARS IN QUEENSLAND,” ETC.

               _WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY STANLEY BERKELEY_

                            [Illustration]

                                LONDON
              SAMPSON LOW, MARSTON, SEARLE, & RIVINGTON
                              _Limited_
                         St. Dunstan’s House
                   FETTER LANE, FLEET STREET, E.C.
                                 1889
                       [_All rights reserved_]



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    |           ST. DUNSTAN’S HOUSE, FETTER LANE, E.C.           |
    +------------------------------------------------------------+


                                  TO

                               W. R. K.



                        LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.

                                                                  PAGE

  Dromoora                                               _Frontispiece_

  “He, by a quick movement, bitted the animal with the rope”         24

  The Wreck of the _Young Austral_                                   41

  The “Corroboree”                                                   63

  Climbing for Honey                                                 67

  Mat throws the Tingura                                            112

  Mat collars the Buckjumper                                        142

  The death of Magan                                                211



                               PREFACE.


A few words concerning the following narrative may not be out of place.

Many years ago, and before the present township of Townsville, in
Northern Queensland, was thought of, I found myself wandering in the
neighbourhood of Mount Elliott, and also about the waters of the
Burdekin river, in latitude a little south of 19 degrees.

Whilst so engaged, looking for country suitable for stock, hunting,
&c., it was my privilege to make the acquaintance of one “Jimmy
Morrill,” and through him I enjoyed the unusual advantage of
intercourse with the perfectly wild blacks.

A word about Morrill.

Many years before my meeting with him, he had been wrecked upon the
northern coast of Queensland, and when I met him he had just left the
northern tribes who had protected and cared for him for seventeen
years; his own English language he had nearly forgotten, never having
seen a white man all that time.

At the end of that period, civilization, in the shape of a handful of
white men, had crept up to him, the sole survivor of the wreck, from
the southern districts.

From Morrill I heard of customs and ceremonies of the natives which no
other white man but himself had ever been permitted to witness.

One of these “rites” I have described in my story, it is called the
“Boorah” or “Boree.”

Therefore that part of the narrative referring to the native blacks
and their habits is absolutely founded upon fact, and the statements
made concerning them I will answer for.

I spent many months amongst the Queensland natives, and at a later
period, when Morrill had journeyed farther south, and had been induced
to publish a “Sketch of his residence among the Aborigines,” he gave
me a copy of his pamphlet, which I have retained, and from which I
have refreshed my memory.

I may mention that the adventure with the big cockle, or giant clam
shell, _Tridacna gigas_, was a fact; also that the account of the
walking fish, _Ceratodus forsteri_, is true.

I am indebted to the kindness of my friend, Dr. Günther, of the
British Museum, for the scientific names.

The buckjumper, “Satan the first,” was a notorious horse, the worst of
many which I saw ridden on a northern station in 1864.

In that portion of my story where the scene is laid in New South
Wales, the bushranger “Magan,” and his coat of mail will be recognized
by many old Colonials, who will remember the great excitement caused
by the cruel crimes of this monster, and the subsequently strange
manner by which his death was brought about.

In the hopes that this little work may amuse and interest the youth of
Great Britain, and also those of my Queensland friends who may come
across it, I now offer it to the public.

                                                          E. B. K.



                              CONTENTS.

                               ——————

                              CHAPTER I.
                                                                   PAGE
  The New Forest—Sampson Stanley the gipsy—Mat and Tim—A New
      Forest sportsman—Braken Lodge                                   1

                             CHAPTER II.

  Squire Bell—Annie’s gift of a book—Shooting a New Forest
      deer—Felony—Chased by a keeper—Capture—Escape—Fight with
      a bloodhound                                                   11

                             CHAPTER III.

  Mat bids farewell to the Forest—The _Young Austral_—Tim and
      Jumper on board                                                26

                             CHAPTER IV.

  Life on board the _Young Austral_—The wreck—A swim for life—Safe
      ashore                                                         35

                              CHAPTER V.

  The island—The gigantic cockle-shell—Amongst the blacks—The
      _Corroboree_                                                   48

                             CHAPTER VI.

  Wild honey—They find the wreck—The Thunderstick                    65

                             CHAPTER VII.

  Spearing geese—Killing ducks with boomerangs—Possum-hunting—How
      to make fire—The tribe shift camp—The Boorah—Mat and Tim’s
      journal                                                        82

                            CHAPTER VIII.

  Gold—Hostile natives—Flight by night—The great battle—Clubs—
      Fists—New Forest wrestling—“Old Joe”                           99

                             CHAPTER IX.

  After the battle—Burial rites—The Waigonda wish to make chiefs of
      the white men—Our “twins” leave with Dromoora and Terebare
      for the south                                                 118

                              CHAPTER X.

  Burns’ station—The horse-breaker—Colonial “Blow”—Satan the
      First—Mat “collars” the buckjumper                            137

                             CHAPTER XI.

  An official summons—Travelling in state—Brisbane—On board
      ship again—Triumphal entry into Sydney—In a church again—The
      lecture—Meeting old friends—Soft reflections                  147

                             CHAPTER XII.

  Tim starts for the Darling Downs—French as spoken by Mrs.
      Bell—Parson Tabor—Leichardt’s grave—The French
      “professor”—Mat unmasks the “professor”                       165

                            CHAPTER XIII.

  Tim’s unpleasant reception at Bulinda—The bushranger’s camp—The
      robbery—Annie kidnapped—Tim’s good Samaritans                 188

                             CHAPTER XIV.

  Mat on the trail of the bushranger—Annie’s signal—Mat tracks the
      bushranger to his lair—The cave—Our hero as the black
      warrior once more—A fearful fight—Dromoora’s timely
      cry—Annie’s rescue—Blissful moments                           202

                             CHAPTER XV.

  Magan’s armour—Safe at Bulinda Creek again—The professor’s last
      lesson on the island—Mat and Tim once more together—Tim
      convalescent                                                  221

                             CHAPTER XVI.

  The Squire’s offer—Tim decides to go home—Our heroine’s advice
      to Mat—Our forester takes to gardening—The “new chum’s”
      difficulties and troubles                                     231

                            CHAPTER XVII.

  English Society _v._ Colonial—Music—The “new chum’s”
      letter—“Two’s company and three’s none”—Unpleasant
      reflections—Parson Tabor’s advice—Mrs. Bell shows that she
      has a “down” on our hero—The “Spider”—The “new chum” proves
      that he is “not such a fool as he looks”—Tim returns home     249

                            CHAPTER XVIII.

  Our hero visits the old Waigonda country once more—The
      overlanding—The Golden Gully—The last sight of Dromoora       274

                             CHAPTER XIX.

  Bulinda Creek once more—Mat again asks Tabor’s advice—The parson
      “on matrimony”—Annie’s little arbour                          294

                             CHAPTER XX.

  Back in the old Forest—Jumper’s last home—Return of our hero and
      heroine for good and all to Bulinda Creek—Conclusion and
      farewell                                                      306



                       BLACKS AND BUSHRANGERS.



                              CHAPTER I.

  The New Forest—Sampson Stanley the gipsy—Mat and Tim—A New Forest
                       sportsman—Braken Lodge.


About the year ’43 there had lived for a long period in the little
hamlet of Burley, in the New Forest, a clan of gipsies of the name
of Stanley. Sampson, the head of the tribe, had commenced life as
a knife-grinder, and by tramping the Forest summer and winter,
and plying his trade in the neighbouring parishes, had collected
sufficient funds to purchase a good van, an old horse, and some
donkeys.

He was also known, in the Forest phraseology, as a “terrible” good man
with an axe, and in those days of wooden ships there was plenty of
timber to be hewn.

So Sampson always found enough to do when he chose to exert himself,
but he infinitely preferred going out with the keepers after deer,
and these men were not sorry for his company, for he was a wonderful
tracker, and could follow up a wounded buck almost like a hound.

Though nearly fifty years of age, Sampson could still hold his own
at most of the sports that took place annually in the neighbourhood.
His fleetness of foot was remarkable, and though occasionally beaten
by younger men whilst racing, at wrestling he had never yet found his
match; and so good was he in his own county of Hampshire, that one or
two of the squires proposed to send him up to London to meet some of
the famous north-country men who gathered there once every year to
exhibit their prowess; but when they suggested this, Sampson remarked
that he was “afeard he shouldn’t do no credit to the money as they
proposed to lay out on him; reckoned he warn’t man enough for them
north-country folk, as knew tricks he’d never larnt, but that if any
of the zquires liked to get a chimpion down to t’vorest, he’d ’av a
turn with ’im.”

Sampson’s appearance denoted that of an athletic wild man of the woods.

Over six feet in height, straight as a spear, a spare figure with but
little flesh on him, the muscles of arms and legs showed prominently
through his buckskin jacket and breeches, whilst his dark brown eyes
gleamed out from under a rabbit-skin cap; eyes that took in everything
around him, and were only still when fixed with a steady gaze upon the
face of any one addressing him.

Such was Sampson, the gipsy, a man who spoke little, but thought much
upon matters connected with his means of livelihood.

Some years before this story opens Sampson had married the daughter
of one of the small forest “squatters,” a hard-working, merry-eyed
woman, who owned but little gipsy blood in her veins. She had not had
much “schooling” herself, but for this very reason determined to do
her best for the children born to her, and, with the help of an old
schoolmaster, these were taught to read and write, and learned the
elements of arithmetic.

At the period of which we write there was no church in the district
of Burley, but Sampson’s wife read to her children, though with
difficulty, every Sunday out of her Bible, and explained what she
read. She taught them to say their prayers at her knee before going
to bed in the great van. Her system was not to have the young ones’
heads crammed with much learning, but, following the advice of the old
schoolmaster, to “ground” them well.

Besides this careful supervision of her children, her gentle counsels
often influenced her husband, and other men of the tribe, for the
better, when sometimes they were inclined to challenge the forest
laws, or to throw away their money by “getting on the spree;” so that
the neighbours round about came to say of the tribe, “They’re a bit
‘sobererer’ since old Sampson married.”

Two sons were born to Sampson and his wife, twins—named “Mat” and
“Tim”—and a daughter.

It is with Mat that our story chiefly deals.

Always recognized as the eldest, and at this time still in his teens,
Mat Stanley closely resembled his father in many respects, and from
having accompanied him for some years on his various expeditions he
was intimately acquainted with the Forest, its woods and glades. No
one knew better than he the haunts of the deer and blackgame, and he
alone of all the Forest youths could climb the gigantic beeches of
“Vinney Ridge” to rob the herons’ nests.

Mat could also hold his own very fairly at both boxing and wrestling
with far bigger lads than himself.

Besides these achievements he made small sums now and again by
breaking-in forest colts, and otherwise helping the squatters with
their cattle. By nature he was always ready to help any one, who
through misfortune or physical cause was not able to help himself;
though possessed of a quick temper, he was never anxious to pick a
quarrel, but when one was forced upon him, ready to show of what
determined stuff he was made.

“Tim,” the brother, was of a more retiring disposition, by reason of
his health. His constitution not being so robust, and suffering as he
did sometimes acutely from rheumatism, he was not calculated either to
join in the active pursuits of Mat, or accompany him or his father
during their expeditions; but he stayed at the camp, where he proved
useful in helping his mother and others of his tribe in looking after
the animals and pitching tents, though when the proper season arrived
he took his share at cutting and “rinding” timber.

The sister, Ruth, also assisted her mother in cooking, washing, and
other details of camp life.

Having thus shortly described the family, we must not omit to
mention the guard of the camp, a long-legged, bob-tailed, powerful,
rough-coated lurcher, named “Jumper.”

As a pup he had been brought up to mind his master’s grinding-machine
and tools, and his chief duty he thoroughly understood from that time,
namely, never to allow a stranger to approach any property belonging
to the gipsies; moreover, he would fetch in the donkeys and horse
unaided, and on many occasions proved his speed by running down a
wounded deer.

Just previous to the time we are writing of, Mat had made the
acquaintance of a young stranger, who was shooting in the forest, and
this is how it came about.

Early one morning in the month of October, Mat was looking for a colt
which he had partly broken in, when his attention was arrested by a
shot immediately outside the enclosure he was searching. Ever alive
to the chance of sport, he ran through the intervening trees, and
discovered a young man dressed in a new and rather gaudy sporting
costume, who was engaged in searching a small bog with a setter.

Seeing Mat, the stranger accosted him somewhat imperiously with,—

“Come here, youngster, and find this snipe I’ve shot, look sharp.”

“Not till I’ve found a colt I’ve lost,” responded Mat, who did not
appreciate this off-hand command.

“Do you know who I am?” demanded the stranger, standing up.

“No, and don’t care; however, if you’ll speak civil, I’ll give you a
hand.”

And not waiting for further remarks, Mat vaulted over the rails of the
enclosure, and very soon pointed out the wing of the snipe protruding
from a puddle, into which the bird had been trodden by the foot of the
gunner.

“Now,” said the latter, pleased with this quick find, “will you beat
for me homewards to Lyndhurst?”

“I don’t mind,” answered the gipsy, “if you will come into this
enclosure first, and help me to find my colt.”

“Very well, as I’m a stranger in this forest, I shall be rather
curious to see how you find a pony in that thick wood.”

So they stepped in, and Mat went back to the spot where the animal had
effected an entrance over a broken part of the fence, saying,—

“This ’ere colt’s been lost for the best part of three days, and
I’m a bit upset about him, as he’s about as good a one as I’ve ever
handled.”

“Oh! then you’re a horse-breaker?” remarked the stranger.

“Yes, and employed finding lost cattle too, as I know t’vorest; I was
born not far from where we are now.”

Thus speaking, Mat took up the animal’s tracks, and strode swiftly
through the underwood, carrying a small axe in his hand. This tracking
was all new to the stranger, who could only admire the dexterity with
which his companion kept the trail, taking no heed of numerous other
tracks, which led off in various directions; these, as Mat explained
subsequently, belonging to ponies whose feet were shod.

The colt had pursued a very zigzag course in his efforts to find food
amongst the dry “sedge.”

In an hour’s time the searchers came to a deep dyke overgrown with
heather.

“I was afeard so,” muttered Mat, as he pointed to a spot where the
animal had fallen into the ditch, and a few hundred yards further on
they found the poor colt standing benumbed, with his coat all staring,
at the bottom of the drain.

By great efforts they induced him to walk along till the banks
became less steep, and here, with his axe, Mat levelled a bit of the
edge of the drain, cut down some saplings and furze, and so built a
temporary roadway, up which they managed at length to push and drag
the exhausted beast.

“Good work,” said the stranger, as he and Mat sat down for an instant
to recover their wind. “_This_ part of the business I understand, at
all events,” and taking a flask of brandy from his pocket, he poured
the contents down the throat of the colt.

They then made him up a bed of “sedge,” and cutting a quantity of the
best herbage they could find, placed it under his nose, and left him
lying comfortably down; Mat observing that he looked brighter, and
that he hoped “to get him home afore night.”

This incident occurred in Boldre Wood, and as the day was getting on,
the stranger said,—

“Take a straight line to Lyndhurst, and we’ll get something to eat and
then go out again.”

Mat acquiesced, and, leading the way through Mark Ash, brought his new
acquaintance in an hour’s time to Braken Lodge, outside Lyndhurst.

It is now time to introduce the stranger.

His name was “Stephen Burns.”

Three months only had elapsed since he was pursuing his studies,
or rather, perhaps, his sporting instincts, at Oxford, when he was
suddenly summoned home to Braken Lodge, the paternal seat.

His father had long been ailing, but the end came suddenly, and
Stephen was only just in time to see him before he died, and to find
himself an orphan, having lost his mother during his infancy, and
alone in the world, at all events the civilized world, for his only
relative, an elder brother, had emigrated to Australia some years
previous to this.

Braken Lodge he hardly looked upon as home, for he had left it early
for a preparatory school, and his father, whose sole aim and interest
in life consisted of betting and racing, was rather relieved to get
his two sons comfortably disposed of, that he might the better indulge
his favourite pursuits, which he continued until he left the estate
heavily mortgaged, as Stephen found when he returned to the Forest.

When Burns arrived at the lodge, piloted by Mat, he showed the latter
into a dilapidated smoking-room, where he told him to make himself at
home, whilst he sought the housekeeper, and bidding her take in some
refreshments, followed her into the room, then seating himself, he
prepared to learn more of the independent young Forester. With that
end in view, he remarked, “We have not much time to spare, either for
eating or talking, but, by-the-bye, what’s your name, and where do you
live?”

“My name’s Mat Stanley,” was the answer, “and we’re camped down to
Wootton.”

“Oh! gipsies, that’s a free life, any way.”

“Yes, pretty well, but I zeem to want a freer one.”

“More liberty than gipsies have?” returned Burns, “why, how do you
mean?”

“Do you know Squire Bell?” continued Mat. “No? well, he lives t’other
zide of Wootton, been all his life forrin—in Australia—and he says
as I should get on there well. He gave me two books, which I carries
about with me, they’re all about Australia, and I know ’em pretty nigh
by heart. I’ve had the whole run of his library and museum, and bin
over ’em times without number. And Joe Broomfield, that’s he as the
colt belongs to, he’s got a brother out there whot’s getting 1_l._ for
every colt as he breaks in, and plenty of grub found him besides. Fact
is, I’d like to go out if I had the money.”

The subject evidently appeared to excite the otherwise taciturn gipsy,
and kindled a certain amount of enthusiasm in Burns, who, however,
responded,—

“What, go and leave all your tribe, and live in the Bush amongst black
fellows?”

“Oh! I don’t mind leaving my tribe, I might zee ’em again some day,
and then they’re a-going to make new laws here, and not let gipsies
camp in one place more’n a few days together. I’d like to get away,
and the squire he says I _shall_, only I want to work a bit of money
together first to pay my passage out.”



                             CHAPTER II.

       Squire Bell—Annie’s gift of a book—Shooting a New Forest
      deer—Felony—Chased by a keeper—Capture—Escape—Fight with a
                              bloodhound.


We must now digress a little; the squire that was alluded to in the
last chapter, was no British squire at all, but born and bred a
colonial. In earlier days he was known as one of the wool kings of
Australia, and his “brand” was still to the fore in the home markets.
In his native district of “Liverpool Plains,” he was always spoken of
and recognized as “the Squire,” a title given him solely on account
of his personal appearance. In later years he had taken up additional
country to the north of the “Plains,” and a young man who went from
England to join him in this new country thus described him in a letter
home:—

“Bell calls himself a native, but I don’t believe it, there’s no
‘cornstalk’ look about _him_; everyone out here refers to him as ‘the
Squire,’ and truth to tell he is just like old Squire Mangles, of
Greenmount, same red face, hearty laugh, breeches, drab gaiters and
all.”

The “Squire,” then, having made a considerable fortune in wool, left
an agent to look after the property, came home, and settled down with
wife, son, and daughter, in the New Forest; but arriving there, he
soon found that it would take ten years or more before the Forest
aristocracy were likely to notice him or his wool-sacks; in fact, a
candid Irish friend, an old resident, told him that unless he had a
handle to his name, they would not notice him at all, but added, “If
ye _had_, me boy, they’d just jostle ye.” To which the squire replied
that he did not want to be either jostled or slighted, and that he
thought that anyhow, “before he suffered from either the coldness of
English society or that of another British winter, he had better get
back to his own country.”

During the period that he had been in Hampshire, he had interested
himself much concerning the Forest and its breed of ponies, and in
this way had come into contact with Mat. He took a great interest in
the young man, even to the extent of permitting him to take lessons
with his son’s tutor, besides interesting himself in the lad’s general
career; and Mat, who had always had a craving for improving his mind,
proved himself a ready and apt pupil.

Though this conduct on the part of Bell in taking up young Mat, and
admitting him to his home circle, may seem at first sight strange,
and indeed, as the squire observed, “It put the dead finish on to the
neighbouring gentry,” yet it must be borne in mind that he had little
in common with English habits and customs. Those who knew Australia in
the early days, before the Victorian gold-rush, and long _after_ that
period, will remember that it was not at all uncommon for a man who
had just taken up country, not only to be thrown into the society of
all sorts, but for him and his family to live with the station hands
all together, both in tent-life and afterwards when the station was
formed, sitting down to the same table and sleeping under the same
roof together, it being a rare exception when these same “hands” did
not act and behave as gentlemen, when properly treated.

The squire, though he did not take Mat for a gentleman bred and
born, yet saw, on making his further acquaintance, that he was one
by nature; and this was sufficient for Bell, who had had so much
experience amongst the same class of people. As he said,—

“Mat doesn’t speak the best English, but he doesn’t mind my teaching
him, and it’s a real pleasure; he’s so quick at picking anything up.”

And Mat found that his tasks were to his liking. What pleased him most
was the fact that he could give a return, in many little ways, for the
kindness shown him. One of his chief delights was teaching Master Tom,
the squire’s son, how to ride, and also to shoot,—tramping through the
forest, and beating up the game for him.

One day Mat and Tom were engaged in this way, when the latter, having
been wanted at home earlier than usual, Annie, his sister, was sent
after them on her pony. Having found them, she delivered her message,
and galloped home again.

Mat, coming in the back way soon afterwards, happened to meet the
gardener, who was a great friend of his, with a book in his hand,
walking towards his cottage.

“What book is that?” asked Mat.

“‘Robinson Crusoe,’” answered the man.

“Why, that’s the very book Master Tom told me to get and read; I wish
you’d lend it me.”

“I can’t,” answered the gardener, “it belongs to Miss Annie, and she
wants it back.”

“Oh! well, then, never mind,” answered Mat, as he passed into the
gun-room with the game-bag.

A few minutes later a young girl flew quickly into the room, and as
rapidly said in a breath,—

“Here, Jim says you want to borrow this book; it’s mine; I’ll _give_
it you; you’re so nice to Tom. I’ve written your name in it to show
it’s your very own. I’ll lend Jim another some day.”

Mat had only time to take off his cap and say, “Thank you, miss,”
blushing to his ears as he took the book, when the fair young
apparition was gone.

On recounting the circumstance to Tim afterwards, he said that he
could “only remember a girl out of breath, with eyes like a fawn, a
complexion like a rose, and hair all down her back, which was just
the colour of the tail of old Broomfield’s colt—the foxy one—and she
came and went a’most afore I could zay ‘knife.’”

“Well, she warn’t a beauty, then?” remarked Tim.

“Why, p’raps not, ’zactly; but I was that took aback I couldn’t see,
but you’ve no call to say she’s ugly.”

“I _didn’t_,” retorted Tim, “only you said her hair was the colour of
Broomfield’s colt.”

An old resident of the forest, a Mrs. Taplow, who, up to this time had
been doubting whether she should call on Mrs. Bell, and being reminded
by one of her neighbours that she had at length promised to go the
first fine day with the Miss Taplows, answered decidedly,—

“_No_, I have now _quite_ made up my mind; I don’t know, and I do not
_want_ to know, these Australians; _he_ lets his son go about all day
with a common forest gipsy, and _she_ sends this same gipsy books
and messages by her daughter; of course, the poor girl, never having
been in England before, knows no better. Fancy! dear Jane and Bella
consorting with the vulgar _herd_; yes, look in the dictionary—‘vulgar
crowd;’ Walker describes them exactly.”

                   *       *       *       *       *

“Ah! the Forest is not like it was when I was a girl,” broke in Bella
(aged 40).

And then the two Miss Taplows lifted up their noses, and sniffed
scornfully.

                   *       *       *       *       *

We will now return to Burns’ smoking-room, where we left the two young
men discussing emigration.

“It is curious,” said Burns, in answer to Mat’s remarks concerning the
colonies, “that you should get on this subject, for I know something
of Australia from my brother, who has been for a few years in New
South Wales, and that very map hanging there came from him last mail;
he sent it to show the boundaries of the new colony called Queensland,
in which his station will shortly be included. A ship named the _Young
Austral_ sails in a day or two from London to Moreton Bay. I daresay
that if you are in the same mind next trip, I could help you about the
passage. I know the skipper, and he is taking out a heap of things to
my brother for me. But now let us be off; I would like to get back to
the enclosure you called ‘Boldre Wood;’ there must be cock there.”

To Boldre Wood they then proceeded, and, striking into a thicket of
hollies, Mat proceeded to beat, with the result of putting up several
woodcock, which either flew the wrong side of the bushes for Burns,
or which he missed. Though usually a fair shot, this snap-shooting in
dense hollies was new to him; so, getting tired of missing, and the
light being worse here than in the open, he called to Mat, and stepped
out on to a furzy plain. No sooner were they in it than up sprang a
doe from her seat. Burns threw up his gun, and, in spite of the cries
of Mat, rolled her over with a charge of shot in the head.

“What the ‘limb’s’ to be done now?” quoth Mat, as he hurried up to the
fallen beast, at the same time casting a glance behind him. “My eye!
it _is_ a keeper. I zee’d zome one just as you throwed up yer gun.”

Burns, looking in the direction towards which his companion was
gazing, saw a man hurrying up from the hollies which they had just
quitted.

Instantly the gipsy gripped his companion by the arm, saying, “It’s
writ down felony to kill a deer, two years at least, quick! You go
that way, right through the enclosure on to the Lyndhurst road. Give I
the gun, and he’ll take after me.” Then grasping the gun, and giving
Burns a push that nearly sent him on to his face, Mat was gone.

“What a fuss about a deer,” thought Burns, as he plunged into the
thicket; “but I suppose the gipsy’s right, though if I did not see
honesty written on his face, I should have thought it a dodge to clear
off with my gun.”

Meanwhile the keeper, seeing Mat disappearing with the gun, shouted to
him to stop; but as no heed was paid to this summons, he started off
at a run to seize him. Mat no sooner perceived his intention than he
bounded into the hollies, and by doubling and dodging tried to throw
his pursuer off, but the latter was just as active as he was, and
drove him right through the thicket into the old beeches beyond, and
through them again on to a plain; and here commenced a terrific race;
but it was soon evident to Mat that he had met his match, for being
handicapped with the gun and bag of Burns, neither of which would he
part with, he felt that the keeper was gaining upon him.

“If I can only get over the Bratley Brook I’ll do him yet,” thought
Mat, who was getting his second wind, as he put on a spurt down the
hill; but, alas for his hopes! the brook was swollen by the recent
heavy rains, and as he rose to take the leap his pursuer was close
behind him. The opposite bank came down with him as he lit full and
fair upon it; he had just time to throw the gun on to the land as he
fell backwards into the water. At the same instant the keeper’s arms
encircled his neck, for the latter had, on seeing Mat’s mishap, jumped
up to his middle in the brook, and seized him with “Now then, my lad,
if you fight, down you go.”

Mat, who was half-drowned, and woefully out of breath, choked out,
“I’ve saved the gun so far, any way; and be hanged to you.”

“Have you, then, my young poacher?” returned the keeper. “I’ve got it,
and you too; and if you don’t go quietly, and without any ‘sarce,’
maybe you’ll get the contents of the weapon. I’ve got one on yer,
at any rate. Who was yer mate?” A question to which Mat did not
vouchsafe any answer.

“Never mind; we’ll soon find out, after I’ve changed my things at
the cottage, and when you go to Lyndhurst with me on a charge of
killing deer, I knows where the beast lays, and, hullo!” he cried,
as he examined the weapon, “stealing a gun, too; for I’ll swear this
‘Manton’ never belonged to you.”

Seeing that the game was up for the present, Mat stalked moodily along
in front of his captor to Boldre Cottage.

Arriving there, the keeper locked him in a back room, telling him that
he might jump out of the window if he liked; but that the bloodhound,
who had already about killed a former poacher, would make short work
of him if he did; adding, in a sneering tone, that _he_ would take
care of the gun and bag, and all that it contained.

Mat was now left to his own reflections, which were not of the
pleasantest.

Drenched to the skin, he paced the room for the best part of an hour,
to keep himself warm, revolving in his mind all manner of means of
escape, but only _with_ the gun. He had just concluded that if only
the keeper would leave the house for a few minutes, he would have a
chance, because, he argued, he _must_ think I’m a greenhorn to fear
the dog. Why, he ain’t even loose. I se’ed him chained in the shed,
a fine-looking beast too, and keeper he’ll—But here his meditations
were interrupted by a noise which sounded like the clinking of a
glass, and applying his eye to a chink in the logs, he saw his captor
with his legs stretched out before a turf fire, filling a glass from
Burns’ flask, which he had appropriated from the game-bag.

Mat could scarcely suppress his joy on witnessing this sight. He now
remembered that Burns had refilled his flask at the Lodge with old
whisky.

“Drink away, my fine fellow,” he almost whispered; “drink away; that’s
not public-house tipple. _I_ know the strength of that whisky, as I
drank Burns’ health with it.” And then he softly resumed his walk.

It was now quite dark, and shortly again applying his ear to the logs,
he could hear the keeper’s steady snore.

Now or never was his time. So cautiously getting out of the window,
Mat crept round to the front door, taking care to go round the
building on the side opposite to the shed of the bloodhound. In the
porch he saw the shimmer reflected on the barrels of Burns’ gun,
and might then have made straight off with it; but “No,” he said to
himself, “keeper didn’t ax me if _I’d_ like a drop, after all my hard
work, so I’ll just help myself.”

Gently opening the door, he dropped on his hands and knees, and guided
by the heavy breathing of the keeper, who was now in a drunken sleep,
he approached that worthy, reared himself up to the table, found the
flask, slipped it into his pocket, felt that the keeper was sitting on
the empty game-bag, so left it to keep that worthy man warm, retreated
as silently to the porch where he had left the gun, and picking it
up, he got clear out without disturbing man or dog, and with long
strides made off in the direction of Vinney Ridge, and in little
over an hour’s time was taking a breather under his old friends, the
great trees of the herons. Throwing himself down at full length, he
pulled the flask from his pocket, and was just finding fault with the
greediness of the keeper for having drunk so much of its contents,
when in the far distance he distinctly heard the baying of a hound!

“So soon!” angrily exclaimed Mat, as he jumped up. “Lucky it’s a still
night; but I’ve almost ‘drove it off’ too long. However, here’s my
health, and good luck,” as he applied the flask to his lips. “_Now_
for the stream, and the scheme, which I’ve been planning!”

In two minutes he was down to the river, and, knowing every inch of
the ground, quickly found the object of his search. This was a rude
bridge, formed of a couple of saplings, which spanned the swollen
stream. This he crossed, and, from the opposite side, threw the logs
in, when they were quickly carried away by the current. He then cut
down a very thin, whippy, seedling oak, and twisted it round and round
until he had a supple rope strong enough to hold an unbroken colt;
then, ensconcing himself behind a bush, he awaited events.

For the first time Mat felt a bit nervous—nervous as to the
approaching contest, which he knew now to be inevitable; and nervous
in that his body had been for hours in wet clothes. He could hardly
bear the tremendous strain of _waiting_. The tension was almost
overpowering, for he was aware that he had to deal with one of the
fiercest of the fierce breed of bloodhounds lately imported into the
forest.

Nearer and nearer came the bell-like notes of the hound, now
apparently dying away, then again breaking out into a deep roar, as
the intervening timber shut out the sounds or let them be heard again.
At last a most appalling roar, which seemed to Mat to thunder into his
very ear, told where the animal had come on to his resting-place on
the ridge, and then all was silent.

Mat took another little refresher from the flask, and had hardly
replaced it on the ground beside him when the great hound burst into
sight in the moonlight. “That’s a bit of luck,” thought Mat, as the
clouds cleared away, and allowed him to see the animal’s movements.

Coming to the water’s edge, the beast quested up and down, and then,
throwing his head up with another roar—of satisfaction, as it sounded
to Mat—prepared to spring into the river exactly opposite to where his
would-be prey was watching.

At this moment the hound was completely at Mat’s mercy; our forester
could have blown his head to atoms with the gun which was lying loaded
by his side, but no such thought crossed his mind. On the contrary,
his one idea for a brief second was, “What a noble beast!”

The next moment the animal plunged into the stream; but, before it
could rise to the surface, Mat, holding his rope in his teeth, with
a lightning-like bound was on to him, and, seizing the dog’s huge
throat, at first endeavoured to keep him under water, but the animal,
though taken at a disadvantage and half-choked, fought so with its
muscular paws that it knocked Mat off his legs, and, as he lay for
a second underneath, made a grab at his throat. Had he secured his
grip, then and there would our gipsy’s life have ended; but Mat was
too quick for him, by plunging his head under water. The beast thus
lost sight of this most vulnerable part of his foe, but gripped him
instead through his buskins and deep into his thigh. Mat felt during
this terrible struggle that his only chance of life was getting into
deeper water. The pain of the bloodhound’s teeth was excruciating;
but, securing a grasp of the loose skin of the dog’s throat, he never
let go, only struggled with his free leg to get into deeper water.
Thus locked in a deadly embrace, man and hound rolled down stream.
At length, by a lucky touch of his foot on the bottom, Mat got
uppermost, and by keeping his full weight on the dog, caused it at
last to open its jaws for a gasp. Had not the water rushed into that
gaping chasm of teeth, Mat’s chance would still have been small; but,
excited now to frenzy, and watching eagerly for the chance, he, by a
quick movement, bitted the animal with the rope, which he had held
on to with his teeth as if it had been the rope of a life-buoy, and
as quickly took a half-turn round the lower jaw, over the upper, and
had time to make all fast before the hound had sufficiently recovered
to prevent him. Then Mat crawled exhausted out of the water and lay
motionless, hardly caring whether the animal followed him or not,
so faint did he feel from loss of blood. But the beast came after
him, and, striking savagely with its heavy fore-feet, caused him to
get up once more. However, finding it could not use its teeth, it
acknowledged Mat as master for the time being, and made no further
attempt at fighting; but giving a shake, and with a last ferocious
glare out of its bloodshot eyes, turned and trotted sullenly off into
the moonlit glades.

Mat felt it an immense relief to hear his own voice, as he said in a
low tone, “Well, thank God, I’m out of that business! He’s tied up
like a ferret, and every knot is good. He’d have killed me if we’d
fought on the shore, that’s certain. The Bratley stream served me a
dirty trick a few hours ago, but the Blackwater saved my life this
night.” Pulling off his cotton handkerchief, he bound up the wound in
his thigh tightly, emptied his flask, and limped off at once before
his leg should get stiffer than it was, and to make good his way to
Lyndhurst ere the hound should have returned to the keeper, whom he
surmised had only been prevented from coming up to help his hound by
being too “boosy” to make his way quickly over the rough ground.

[Illustration: “He, by a quick movement, bitted the animal with the
rope.”]



                             CHAPTER III.

      Mat bids farewell to the Forest—The _Young Austral_—Tim and
                           Jumper on board.


At length, shortly after midnight, as far as he could judge by the
moon, Mat arrived once again at Braken Lodge, and knocked up Burns,
who, though astonished to see him at that hour, immediately routed
out the old housekeeper to light a fire, brew some coffee, and get
provisions, whilst he found a change of clothes for Mat, and bound up
his wound with a healing ointment. And all these things he did without
asking our gipsy any useless questions, wherein he showed his sense.

After Mat had thoroughly refreshed himself, he said,—

“Now, Mr. Burns, I’ll just stretch out afore the fire—that’ll ease my
limb—and tell you all about it.”

He then related shortly but accurately every detail from the time of
their parting in Boldre Wood down to the termination of his fight with
the hound, adding that he was very sorry for the loss of the game-bag,
which Burns said did not matter a snuff.

“Perhaps not for itself,” continued Mat, “but they might trace you by
it.”

Burns listened with intense interest to the narrative, and remarked,—

“_I_ should have shot that hound, I know I should; but then, you see,
I would not have thought of that dodge of yours of tying him up;
besides, I could not have done it, I’m not so quick and handy.”

“And now,” went on Mat, “I’ll ask you a favour: help me to get away in
that ship you spoke of this very night, and the matter’ll blow over,
for they can’t really prove anything ’gin you.”

Burns looked at his watch; then pondered awhile over this suggestion.
At last, after several vigorous puffs at a black clay pipe which he
was smoking, he spoke:—

“It would be a very mean trick to send you out of England because _I_
have broken the law—for I find it’s true what you said,—were it not
that a few hours ago, before all this happened, you were wishing to be
off as soon as you could earn some money. Now promise, if I help you
to start, never to go back on me by saying, when you find what a hard
life it is out there, ‘If it had not been for Burns I might have been
home now.’”

“Yes, I promise,” answered Mat eagerly.

“Then I’ll start you fair. You shall have enough money to keep you
until you can look about, and the gun you stuck to so bravely is
yours. You must get more clothes in London, and I will write a line
to the captain for you to take; I will also send a letter to my
brother on the Darling Downs about you, and give you his address. And
now come round to the stable; you have no time to lose if you wish to
catch the mail at Southampton. You can leave the horse at the station
inn there.”

When bidding good-bye, the gipsy wrung Burns’ hand and said,—

“I thank you for what you’re doing for me; it’s just what I’ve set my
heart on this long time, and if hard work will do it, I shall make it
a first matter to pay you back the money as you’ve started me with.
And there’s one thing, let them know at my camp all about my going. It
won’t go no farther, anything you tell ’em; and bid good-bye for me to
my old dad, and mother and sister, and tell my brother—we’re twins,
you know—and I can’t abide not saying good-bye to him,—tell him all
about Broomfield’s colt, and—”

Here Mat’s feelings entirely failed him, wearied with pain both in
body and mind, he clambered stiffly on to the horse. Burns called out,—

“I’ll tell them all you say, and send your brother to see you off;
there’s time yet before she sails.”

“Thank you for that,” replied Mat. And, waving his arm, rode off, with
his gun on his back, and a bundle of things strapped to the bow of the
saddle.

As Mat rode along, he found plenty of time to ponder over the events
of the last few hours. Curiously enough, he first considered the
matter of the forsaken colt, and its owner, Broomfield.

“He’ll think it mean of me,” he mused, “when he finds I’ve bolted
clean away, and left the colt; but, after all, he ‘jacked out’ when we
once settled to work our way to Australia together. Burns he’s behaved
like a man, and I’m a lucky chap; ten guineas to start with, and
passage found me; yes, and I’ll work to pay him back, and send some
money to the old folk.”

Thus soliloquizing, he found himself at the station, and had just
time to put up his horse and feed him, when the train came in. Buying
a ticket, he jumped into an empty compartment, and though it was the
first time he had ever travelled by rail, his fatigue was so great
that he fell asleep at once, and only woke up as the train drew up at
the London terminus. Here he procured a cup of coffee, and then made
his way in a cab to the Docks, whilst the great city was still asleep.

With some difficulty the driver of his hackney carriage found the
_Young Austral_. On going on board Mat was told that the captain would
not be there for some hours, and that the ship would possibly leave
the docks next evening. So leaving his gun and bundle on board in
charge of a good-natured mate, and telling him that he was expecting
his brother, he hobbled out to get his leg dressed again, and to look
at the shops, which were just being opened.

Strolling down Wharfgate Street, Mat encountered an old man in the act
of taking down his shutters. Perceiving that it was a bookseller’s, he
asked the owner whether he had any good novels.

“Yes, plenty,” was the reply. “Come in; what will you have? Dickens,
Thackeray, or something racy?”

“Why, zomething what’s useful on a long voyage,” answered Mat, who was
somewhat puzzled for an answer.

“You don’t look much like a sailor,” remarked the shopkeeper, “more
like a youngster bolted from home.”

“Well, what if I have? I want some books all the same.”

“Here you are, then; take this second-hand lot for three shillings.”

So the bargain was concluded, and Mat found afterwards that the old
man had given him a liberal selection of all sorts of literature.
Strolling on he entered a second-hand clothes shop, where he concluded
his purchases with the addition of a few clothes and necessaries; and
some hours later returned to the ship, the mate of which accosted him
with,—

“Heart alive! If ’twasn’t for your ‘duds,’ I’d a thought you’d been
the same youngster that came here an hour ago, but he’s down below
overhauling the ship.”

So down jumped Mat, and found his brother and Jumper.

“Hullo, Tim,” he shouted, “this is splendid! How quick you’ve got
here—brought the old dog to take care of you, eh?”

“No, fact is, father thought you ought to have Jumper to take care of
_you_, amongst the niggers; and I’ve brought your clothes and some
tools, and I didn’t forget the axe, and the ‘print,’ that Garrett the
smith made for you; maybe you’ll want to print yer mark on to a horse
out there. And I got all the books the squire gave you, and a lot more
Mr. Burns shoved into a box for you. _He_ drove me to the station in
his own trap, else I’d never a’ caught the train.”

For the rest of the day, and indeed far into the night, the brothers
sat up; for Mat had not only much to relate concerning his late
adventures, but also many instructions to give Tim with regard to
colts, which he had undertaken to break in; besides, there were
innumerable messages to be conveyed to his family and friends, more
especially to the squire. At length their conversation was interrupted
by the voice of the mate singing out,—

“Now then, youngsters, turn in, you can find bunks in the emigrants’
quarters to-night.”

Whilst looking for these night quarters they passed the doctor’s
cabin, and Mat had his leg dressed; this he had forgotten to have
done ashore. The doctor, a kindly hearted Irishman, told him he must
lie up as much as possible for some days, or he would have—so Mat told
his brother afterwards—“hurryslippiness.”

Next morning the emigrants began crowding on board, and Mat and Tim
found plenty to occupy and amuse them in scanning the new arrivals,
and witnessing in particular the various farewell takings of the Irish
families.

“It’s pretty nigh time for us to part too,” said Mat, “for the day’s
wearing on, but I’ll write a letter home for you to take.”

Having finished this epistle, he gave it to his brother, and grasping
his hand said,—

“Good-bye, Tim, we’ve been long mates in t’vorest, mind and write to
me when I give you the address.”

Another grasp of the hand, and Tim walked slowly down the planks for
the shore, and Mat thought that he had seen the last of him, and was
turning away, when back he came, crying,—

“Where’s Jumper?”

But Jumper could not be found amongst the crowds of people and heaps
of deck gear.

Tim ran ashore, calling and whistling, but came back without having
found him. Then they attempted to search the ship all over, but no
result: at length they bethought them of looking into a cabin, into
which Tim had entered on first coming on board. With some difficulty
they found it, when there, sure enough, they found the faithful
beast, with his paws stretched over Mat’s bundle which Tim had
deposited there.

But so much time had been lost in the search, that upon ascending to
the deck again, they found the vessel on the point of being tugged
down the river by a small steamer.

Tim was in despair, which being observed by one of the sailors, the
man inquired what ailed him.

“Why, I want to go ashore.”

“Oh! is that all,” laughed the sailor, “you can get away in one of the
shore-boats, or the pilot’s, later on, for that matter.”

So Tim resigned himself to the situation, which so far pleased him, in
that he should now enjoy a few more hours of his brother’s society.

After some hours towing the tug cast off, and they found themselves
scudding down towards the channel under a fair breeze. Night was
coming on, so the brothers turned in for a short sleep, intending to
wake in good time for Tim to get away with the pilot: but when they
came on deck again, at daylight the next morning, what a sight met
their view! To their judgment they were far out in a tempestuous sea,
whilst between them and the distant shore they descried what appeared
to be a heap of furious foam-swept whirlpools.

After viewing this strange scene for a moment, Tim anxiously asked his
brother whether he thought they could find the pilot; in vain they
looked about for such a personage.

“But that’s the captain, no doubt,” said Mat, pointing out a
weather-beaten man on the poop, and before he could be prevented, Tim
had walked up to and commenced addressing the skipper with,—

“If you please, sir—”

“Don’t bother me,” answered the latter, without looking at him, “till
I’m clear of Portland Race—get off the poop.”

“But I want to go ashore.”

“So you will,” said the captain in a tone which admitted of no further
argument, “so you will, in about three months’ time, please the
pigs—_go_.”

Following the direction of the captain’s eyes, Tim saw that they were
fixed alternately on the whirlpools which had attracted the attention
of his brother and himself, and the sails of his ship. Feeling that
he had made a mistake, he returned dolefully to Mat, who was for’ard,
saying,—

“It’s all up, I’m in for the whole journey.”

“Never mind,” answered his brother, who was secretly rather pleased,
“we must make the best of it, and we’ll talk to the captain, if we see
a good chance, but it musn’t be _yet_ a good bit.”

“I wouldn’t mind so much,” said Tim, “if it wasn’t for the old folks;
they’ll think I’m lost in London.”

Shortly after this conversation, the emigrants were divided into
“messes,” and Tim found from inquiries he made that he was indeed in
for the _whole trip_.



                             CHAPTER IV.

        Life on board the _Young Austral_—The wreck—A swim for
                           life—Safe ashore.


Thus it was that both brothers joined the full-rigged ship _Young
Austral_, bound for Moreton Bay direct, joining a band of sturdy
Britons who were going to seek their fortunes in the new colony.
Though Tim started against his will, he very soon _did_ “make the best
of it,” seeing that there was no present hope of returning. Mat, too,
helped to cheer him, telling him that the voyage would do him good,
and buying him clothes and a few necessaries from those emigrants who
had any to part with.

A day later on, Mat was summoned to speak to the captain, who, until
then, had not had time to read the letter from Burns, which Mat had
sent into his cabin upon first coming on board.

Said the skipper, as Mat made his appearance, followed by Tim,—

“I understand your story, this letter from my friend explains all;
that’s your brother alongside you, I’ll be bound. Mr. Burns has
arranged it all, so that you will get better accommodation than the
‘free’ passengers, and your stowaway brother can mess with you; I’ve
been hearing about him from my mate, and I’m not sorry that he’s on
board. If we speak a homeward-bound ship, we _may_ have a chance of
sending a letter home before long—that’s all”—and the skipper waved
the two lads out of the cabin.

Comforted by these words, soon perceiving that this gruff,
hard-featured captain was a good-hearted man, Mat and Tim
congratulated themselves now with having had the luck to ship under
him.

It is not our business, nor indeed our wish, to go into the many
details of a long sea voyage, tedious alike to either passengers or
readers: voyages which have been described in many hundred volumes, in
many thousands of private letters. The emigrant-ship has no battles to
recount, no running down of slavers, in fact no life of the tar pure
and simple, further made interesting by his adventures and exploits
ashore. The emigrant-ship, though just as useful in her line, runs the
same humdrum voyage year after year, unrelieved by any adventure, save
the inevitable meeting with shark or whale, the capture of albatross
or Cape pigeons, varied with such innocent amusements as a little
dancing, and a very fair amount of interesting scandal. In fact a
little world, of no interest scarcely to any one excepting those on
board.

But as far as Mat was concerned, the voyage promised to be full of
interest. He had long wished to better himself in reading, in general
knowledge, and, as he himself said, in speaking better English, and
here, in three months’ idleness, as the landsmen chiefly regarded it,
was the opportunity he had sought for.

The first few days after leaving the Channel were devoted by officers
and crew to getting the vessel ship-shape, by the emigrants in
arranging their “kits,” and generally “shaking down,” not, however,
that they were shaken down or _up_ by the action of the _sea_, for
light breezes and calms prevailed for the first week after losing
sight of the coast of Devon, and it was not until the twelfth day out
that the island of Madeira was sighted.

At the period of our story, many ships went to sea underhanded; the
_Young Austral_ was one of these, and the captain, who had been
casting his eyes over any likely lads, one day called all hands aft
to say, that if any men liked to form themselves into a volunteer
crew, it would not only give them plenty to do during the voyage, but,
besides, they would have the opportunity of gaining general knowledge.
For that he would be glad to hold a class during his spare hours, for
instruction in matters connected with working and steering a ship,
that a _willing_ volunteer crew would be of great help in the manual
working of the ship, and that though he could not _compel_ any one
to attend to his duties, which would be often hard, and sometimes
monotonous, yet he expected that any one that joined would stick to
his word and obey those over him.

At the conclusion of this speech, most of his audience retreated,
saying they had had work enough ashore, where they were paid: but
some sixteen, differently disposed, stepped forward, amongst them Mat
and Tim, and offered their services. These men were divided into port
and starboard watches, and by the wish of the majority, Mat was made
lieutenant of port watch, with Tim as “Bo’sun.”

It was in the “Doldrums” that the _Young Austral_ signalled a
homeward-bound ship, which, in answer to a request from the former,
said she would take letters home, so a boat was lowered, bearing a
small mail, and containing amongst other letters one from Mat to the
Squire, begging him to make the acquaintance of Burns, by taking a
letter, which he enclosed, to him. Tim wrote to his father, explaining
all the circumstances of his absence, winding up by saying that he
was very happy, with plenty to do, and that he did not try to get a
passage in this homeward-bound ship, the _Asia_, because the captain
said that “the old tub was one hundred days out from Akyab, and that
_we_ would never get home at this rate.”

As time passed, our voyagers found that they were making good
progress; the rough sports connected with crossing the line were
forgotten—the brothers vied with their messmates in zealously taking
their share of the working of the ship, keeping watches, washing
decks, and to such efficiency had they attained in going aloft, that
by the time that their good ship was in the “roaring forties,” they
sometimes drew forth praise from even the old “salts,” who, at the
commencement of their apprenticeship, had watched their proceedings
somewhat contemptuously.

More than one of the volunteers by this time had “jacked out,” as Mat
said, and others appeared likely to follow their example, some from
sheer inability to go aloft.

“Probably never been up anything bigger than an apple-tree,” said Tim.

The captain complimented the remainder on “sticking to their guns,”
and both he and the doctor gave them regular instructions. With the
latter, our twins worked hard, both in writing and also reading out
loud, whilst their time was also taken up with the captain, in some of
his leisure hours, in studying geography, also working the ship both
by sun and stars, and afterwards learning how to prick off her track
on the chart.

Nor was this the only tuition which they strove for. During a
succession of calms, they asked permission to borrow the dinghy, which
was readily granted them, and our lads, accompanied by a young cabin
passenger who knew the rudiments of swimming, took long lessons in
the art, not forgetting to practise treading water for long periods
at a time; this latter accomplishment was, their instructor told
them, under certain circumstances more useful to learn perfectly than
the simple one of swimming. _He_ himself usually stayed in the boat,
whilst the brothers were paddling, as sharks were about, so it was
said, though none were seen on these occasions.

Before the calm weather ceased, the brothers found that they could
keep up with the ship, when she was just moving, for long periods at a
time.

No bad weather of any consequence was met with, until off the
“Crozets,” when a stiff gale came on, accompanied by a violent
thunderstorm. These storms and gales continued for several days,
obliging the captain to take the ship south of Tasmania instead of
going through Bass’s Straits.

Whilst rounding the Tasmanian coast, they exchanged signals, “All’s
well,” with a homeward-bound ship.

It was on the eighty-fourth day out, and when nearing their port, that
an ominous-looking bank of black clouds showed itself astern. This was
early in the morning; by noon they were enveloped in partial darkness,
with wind and sea increasing in fury; at night both elements had risen
to a terrific pitch.

Tim told his brother that he had seen the captain consult his glass
many times, and on the last occasion shake his head, “and he looked
awful solemn, Mat,” he added.

[Illustration: The wreck of the _Young Austral_.]

“It does seem hard, too,” said Mat, “just when we expected to land.”

The storm raged for three days and as many nights; the days seemed as
the nights in their utter darkness; no reckoning could be taken; any
sail they attempted to get on the ship was at once blown clean out of
the bolt-holes. Captain and officers consulted together frequently,
poring over the chart.

As it proved later, they were well aware that they must already be
nearing a portion of the “Great Barrier Reef,” and that unless the
wind changed, they would be carried surely and rapidly to destruction.

All deck gear had long since been either washed overboard or smashed,
and two of the boats carried clean off the davits. The emigrants were
battened down; whilst on deck remained captain, crew, and volunteers
gazing into the gloom ahead with calm but anxious faces.

The brothers, with some half-dozen other passengers, were holding on
to the shrouds for bare life—silent, because talking was out of the
question in the fearful din of the elements.

Seeing the crew at the pumps, they joined them, all labouring till
well-nigh exhausted, when suddenly Tim cried,—

“Look at the line of white waters.”

The next instant there was a crash and a shock, followed by several
heavy bumps, which threw all hands to the deck.

“Where are we,” shouted Tim, as soon as he could muster breath.

“On the reef,” roared the captain, who was standing close by, “but
work and trust in God, my lads—clear away the masts.”

This was a work of great peril, owing to the huge seas which, breaking
one after another on the reef, rose over the doomed vessel.

All the boats had now been swept away but one; crew and volunteers
were clinging to anything and everything they could lay their hands on.

No tool was forthcoming—none could be found; when the captain had
ordered the masts to be cut away, men shrunk from crossing that
terrible storm-swept deck, even our hero who had faced the bloodhound,
felt his spirit quail, but only for an instant. Turning to get a
view of the captain, he saw that which decided him. The skipper was
standing with one arm round the mizen-shrouds, his hair and beard
apparently almost swept from his head by hurricane and brine; but the
expression on his face!

Mat had once seen a copy of one of the grandest faces that he had
conceived possible—it was that of an ancient martyr.

There he saw the same look, at the same moment of death in life, on
his beloved captain’s features. As Mat turned round, their eyes met,
the skipper gave him one sad nod, which contained a world of meaning;
Mat, without thinking of either storm or wave, made a rush, burst open
the cabin-door, and returned safely with his forest axe to his post of
temporary shelter, the next moment an enormous billow swept the deck
he had lately trod.

Watching his opportunity, with a few sharply delivered strokes, our
forester sent the mizen-mast overboard, this was shortly followed
by the main-mast, for two of the crew having witnessed Mat’s daring
act, had seized his axe, prevented his following them, and felled
the main-mast before another wave covered the spot where they stood;
the fore-mast then went by the board, and as if the gallant ship had
made an effort to shake herself free, by thus heaving over this last
obstacle to her righting—she had been on her beam ends—relieved now
of her top weight, she rose again, but alas! only to be lifted in one
wild plunge farther on to the reef.

This last shock was too much for her solid timbers, and she broke her
back.

“Let the emigrants up,” hoarsely shouted the captain; and then
commenced a scene which, if it were possible, added fresh horrors
to the situation. In hundreds they came on deck, some of the men
yelling and cursing, others the picture of fright and despair; but all
struggling and fighting to get to the one boat left. The poor women
screaming, praying, and beseeching, the whole forming a maddened
crowd of human beings, most of whom were washed about the deck, till
stunned and bleeding, they were swept overboard. Some dozens of both
men and women had seized the boat, and managed in the frenzy of
despair, and despite the efforts of captain and crew to prevent them,
to get it overboard; but the few that succeeded in jumping in were
at once engulfed with the craft in the whirlpool of mighty waters: a
last despairing shriek being heard even above the horrible din as they
disappeared, a huge sea overwhelming them, as it careered onwards with
its white crest towards the land, a glimpse of which could now be seen
for an instant looming through the lurid sky.

Another moment, and the poor old ship parted asunder, the brothers
finding themselves clinging to the poop, together with the captain and
two others.

“Every man for himself, and God for us all,” cried the skipper; “but
_I_ stick to this last bit of my old ship; if any one thinks he can
swim ashore, he can try; but I hardly advise it.”

“We’ll stand by you,” said the brothers in a breath, as they grasped
each other’s hands.

That portion of the hull on which stood the last few survivors, was
evidently being impelled by a current, and at this moment was drifting
past a headland, which appeared to be some quarter of a mile away.

All eyes had been anxiously watching this, when the captain again
spoke.

“My lads, there’s a slight lull in the storm, and there is just a bare
chance of a good swimmer reaching that shore; two minutes more, and it
will be too late.” Then turning to the brothers, “Go, lads, and make a
brave fight; he who remains has no hope.”

Drifting along as they were, on the ship’s poop, their chance of ever
being able to swim ashore seemed small indeed, and the prospect of
casting themselves into such a stormy, raging sea, was enough to awe
the spirits of even such stout-hearted lads as our forest twins; but
it was their only hope of escape, and slender as it seemed, they did
not hesitate, at the captain’s suggestion, to make that last effort
for dear life.

The brothers looked at one another, and saw in each other’s eyes that
a brave hope remained. They then turned to the captain to bid him
farewell; but they only saw his broad back shaken with emotion, his
face buried in his hands.

Hurriedly divesting themselves of their clothes, they slid down into
the billows by means of some of the ropes which were dangling over the
bulwarks. As Mat came down last, he was aware of Jumper springing into
the sea after him.

Everything now depended on strong arms and a cool head. As each
roller came they found that they had to give up striking out, and let
themselves be carried on in its dark and roaring body, then up they
would come again, and strike out until overwhelmed once more. With the
strength of despair, our lads continued to forge ahead for that land,
which appeared to _their_ eyes as passing _them_. After this struggle
had continued a cruelly long time, they were aware that the billows
did not break so heavily, and that therefore they could the more
easily keep on the surface of their crests.

The land was now to the right of them, when Mat, who was slightly
ahead, heard Tim shout, “Go on; never mind me.” This sounded so like
a despairing cry that Mat turned himself slightly round, and shouted
back, “Tread water!” And here came in that part of the science of
swimming which is so often neglected; but the brothers had learnt
their lesson well, as we shall see.

Keeping their mouths tightly shut to avoid the spoon-drift as much
as possible, treading water enabled them to rest their arms and legs
alternately for a minute or so, then on they swam again; but they
were both, more especially Tim, getting very exhausted, and were on
the point of giving up in despair their struggle against the waves,
when the sight of a piece of wreckage being drifted landwards, showing
them that they had got into a current setting that way, revived their
drooping energies, and gave them spirit to make a final effort.

An undercurrent now caught Mat, and carried him rapidly round the
point; he raised a feeble shout of joy as his feet touched bottom. Tim
ranged up alongside him, and being now under the lee of the point in
shallow water, both lads were enabled to wade hand in hand over the
sharp coral bottom to the shore.

Utterly spent with their tremendous exertions, they threw themselves
down upon the sandy beach, thanking God for their merciful
preservation.



                              CHAPTER V.

     The island—The gigantic cockle-shell—Amongst the blacks—The
                            _Corroboree_.


After getting out of the water, Mat and Tim remained stretched on the
sand without moving a limb, enjoying the sense of perfect security
from the sea; but at length they felt that they must commence to look
for water, their thirst was so great after all the salt water that
they had swallowed. On trying to rise, they found they could scarcely
stand, so numbed and weary were their limbs; but by stamping and
running, they caused the blood to flow through their veins, and were
thus enabled to start on a small voyage of discovery.

The island, as it proved to be, consisted of large rocks full of caves
with a few bushes and ferns growing here and there. There was no lack
of water in the crevices of the rocks, and astringent though it was,
it seemed like nectar to the thirsty lads. In one of the caves they
found that the sand was deep, dry, and even warm, and in this spot
they determined to take a good long rest, which they felt themselves
sadly in need of. Tim had proceeded to explore one of these caves,
when Mat heard him call, “Look here,” and proceeding to the spot,
found his brother examining the floor of the cave, which was covered
with oyster shells; a further search showed the remains of several
small fires with more shells round them.

“Some one has had a good feast here, Mat; let us have a nap, and then
_we’ll_ look for oysters.”

So without more ado, they buried themselves in the sand up to their
necks, and fell into a sound sleep.

How long they slept neither of them knew, but Mat was awakened by a
cold feeling about his nose, and jumping up, found to his astonishment
and delight, his faithful dog, which greeted him with short, sharp
barks of delight; the noise woke Tim, who perceiving his favourite,
seized him, and the two rolled over together with joy. They found to
their surprise that Jumper’s coat was quite dry, and on emerging from
the cave, perceived that whilst they had been sleeping, the storm had
abated, and the sun was now shining, also that the tide had run out,
leaving their island connected with the mainland by a spit of sand.
The tracks of the dog plainly showed that, having landed farther down
the coast, he had been trying along the edge of the water for his
masters, until led to them by this streak of sand.

Congratulating themselves upon the recovery of their dog, which they
had given up for lost, Mat and Tim proceeded to gather a supply of
oysters—these being rock oysters were easily detached by the tap of a
stone.

In the pools, left by the receding tide, amongst the rocks and coral,
many kinds of fish were imprisoned, and there were quantities of crabs
in a muddy belt of mangroves, so that there was no lack of food,
which, however, had to be eaten raw.

“We’ve always eaten oysters raw,” quoth Mat, “and why not fish that
swim?”

But Tim was too much engaged to answer, he had seen some large mullet
endeavouring to escape out of a channel in the rocks, and was wading
about amongst the green weed, piling stones across the outlet of this
creek, previous to pursuing the fish, when suddenly under water, in a
cleft of the rocks, he felt his foot seized, and held in a vice-like
grasp. The shock nearly threw him down, but recovering himself, he
shouted,—

“Mat! _here_, quick!”

The latter rushed up at once, crying,—

“Got a rock on your foot?”

“No,” gasped Tim, “it’s more like a dozen rat-traps, and it’s pinching
fearful.”

Mat by this time had cleared away the weed, and at length, through the
dark water could be seen the outlines of a gigantic double shell, with
his brother’s leg imprisoned in its jaws.

“Look, how awful!” cried Tim; “I can never get loose from that big
brute of a cockle.”

Mat tugged and tore at the shell, and, being a powerful lad, he
expected to be able to rip one side off by the hinge, but he could no
more move it than he could the rocks to which it was attached.

“It’s no good, old man, it’s too far for me to reach it yet, but,
thank God, the water’s falling; if ’twere rising we’d be done. Do you
feel you can last out an hour or so?”

“I don’t know, Mat, I feel awful queer and sick, but I can find the
pain is out of my foot, for I can’t feel the limb at all.”

The first thing that Mat did was to pile up rocks under his brother,
by this means getting him into a more restful position, he then wedged
stones into the jaws of the fish, hoping thus to take some of the
frightful pressure off the foot, and, bidding Tim be of good cheer,
started for the shore, returning presently with a heavy, waterlogged
piece of wreckage, and—

“See here, Tim!” he cried, as he approached him, and triumphantly held
up an iron spike, “I knocked this out of the old timber, this’ll do
the job.”

The water had now fallen so much that the jaws of the huge shell were
well exposed.

First scraping the mud and stones, so as to get down to the base of
the fish, Mat placed the heavy spike against the shell, which Tim
had graphically enough described as a huge cockle; such, indeed,
it exactly resembled, but on a gigantic scale, measuring along the
jaws over three feet; he then dealt his piece of iron a heavy blow
with the piece of timber, but the iron would not penetrate—flew off
at a tangent: recovering it, he proceeded to examine the shell more
closely, and for this purpose baled out most of the remaining water
with his hands, then inserted the end of the spike at another angle;
the next time he essayed he drove the bolt right through the shell up
to the hilt; this, however, had no effect upon the clasping powers of
the monster, the foot was jammed as tight as ever.

“Oh! for my axe!” said Mat, “but never fear. Now to get the spike out.
I’ll kill this devil _somehow_.”

It seemed a long time before the spike could be released, but at
length, succeeding in this, Mat drove it in every direction through
the living, leathery substance of the creature itself.

It would _not_ relax.

He then rammed the piece of timber in, and, exerting his full
strength, attempted to prise open the shell, he felt that the enemy
was slowly opening, when snap went his rotten lever, broken short off.

“It’s too ‘brow’” (brittle), gasped Tim.

Nothing discouraged, Mat set to work with the remaining bit of his
stick, but after another hard struggle, and sweating at every pore,
he had to sit down a moment to recover; literally a moment, for he
had hardly settled himself in a position to catch the breeze, turning
towards the open sea for this purpose, when his ear caught the dull
moaning of the tide, which had turned!!

Without a word, but with an agonized feeling in his heart, Mat jumped
up, and driving his lever far down into the mutilated fish, and
planting his feet against the opposite rock, gave one long and frantic
“prise;” when, oh, joy! through the blinding streams of perspiration
that ran over his face, he first saw the stones falling in, and he
plainly _felt_ the double shell slowly give.

“Pull, Tim!” he yelled; and his brother was free, being, however,
forced to lift his crippled foot with both hands out of the jaws of
the fish, whilst Mat never relaxed his hold of the lever.

The instant that the foot was released, and the timber thrown aside,
the stones fell completely in, and the shell closed with a sudden
snap. Mat, however, did not wait to see more, for merely administering
a furious blow on to the beast, which only had the effect of
splintering the lips, he seized the almost unconscious Tim, hoisted
him on his shoulders, and hurried as fast as he could over cruelly
sharp rocks to the shore, somewhere about a quarter of a mile distant.
With a couple of rests he got over the distance, and at length sank
down with his burden under some shady trees, through which a little
stream of water flowed on its way to the sea.

“I believe that pure water has saved my life,” said Tim, after he had
drunk his fill, and had his leg, which was terribly swollen and cut,
swathed in some soft bark, which was hanging down in ragged tatters on
a large tree close by, and which Mat wetted in the sweet water before
applying.

Our foresters, it must be borne in mind, were in a woeful plight.
True, they had escaped the one great danger which they shared during
that terrible swim; but what had been their experience, so far, on the
shore? In the first place, they were aware that savages were about,
for they had seen their lately-used camping-places, at all events
their fishing resorts, and remains of their recent fires. Then the
action of the salt water and wind on their skins; still worse, the
powerful rays of a tropical sun, subsequently, had caused a sort of
boiling-peeling process to set in. Added to this, Tim, as we have
seen, had had his ankle-bone nearly crushed through, and Mat, now
that he had a moment of leisure, found that his old wound—that one
inflicted by the bloodhound—had broken open, a fact which he was aware
of during the last two hours from the pain he felt. It is doubtful,
had they not found shade and _good_ water, whether our lads would not
have left their bones on the strand.

After Mat had made up a soft bed of grass and bark for his brother,
and covered him over with the same material, he stepped outside the
timber to have a look round.

Having finished his survey, he was returning to doctor his own leg
when he descried a thin column of smoke, which seemed suddenly to
shoot up in the distance. Hastening to Tim, he told him what he had
just seen, and that he believed the fire must have been just lit, for
that there was no appearance of smoke when he first quitted him to
look round.

“Now, Tim,” he continued, “men have lit that fire, and, be they
friends or foes, we’d better seek them out when we can travel; for
I know we can’t last long without fire or clothes, and both of us
wounded; but I’ll strap up my leg tight with this soft bark stuff, and
then after a bit I’ll be able to carry you. I can easily do it, with
rests; anyhow, we’ll get away from this salt water, there’s too much
danger in it.”

Tim answered wearily enough,—

“Let’s rest here a day or so, and then, I think, with your help, in a
cool night or early morning, I can get along.”

So Mat brought up a heap of shell-fish to the camp, and by evening had
made their sleeping-quarters a little more comfortable by means of
boughs and bark.

The night passed without further incident; but it was a period of
feverish nightmare to both brothers; lie how they would, their skins
were so blistered that the pain was almost unendurable, and Mat,
besides, was up many times to cool his brother’s wounded leg with
water.

At daylight they were awakened from a doze by the barking of Jumper.
Mat was on his legs in a moment, and, proceeding cautiously to the
spot, discovered the dog trying to claw up a tree, evidently striving
to get at something in the branches. This proved to be a huge lizard,
which was lying out on a limb a few feet from the ground.

Being an adept at “squirrelling” at his old home in the Forest, Mat
knocked the animal off his perch with sticks; and Jumper, who had been
intently watching the proceedings, had it in his jaws almost before it
reached the ground.

Near this spot Mat observed lying on the ground some tempting-looking
fruits, in colour and shape somewhat resembling an orange, which had
evidently fallen off a kind of stunted palm-tree. These he gathered
up, and, together with the lizard, carried them back to their camp.
With a sharp shell he cut out the fat from the lizard, and put it by
to dress their wounds with; but the raw flesh of the beast proved
quite uneatable by reason of its utter want of taste; whilst the
delicious-looking fruit was far worse from the opposite reason—it was
so intensely bitter and acrid that they quickly spat it out again.
However, Jumper made a hearty meal off the lizard, the poor dog not
having had anything but raw fish up to this time.

The view from their camp was a calm and peaceful one. The Pacific
Ocean, which had so lately belied its name, now stretched, as far as
the eye could reach, in one unruffled surface; beautiful bays indented
the coast both north and south, whilst huge grey-looking forests
seemed to mingle with the now blue waters, growing apparently to their
very edge. Not a sail of any description had the brothers seen upon
the ocean; the only sign of man was the smoke, or rather smokes, for
by the second day the fires had evidently increased in numbers.

Our foresters found that the fat of the lizard well rubbed in did them
more good than cold water bandages, and one afternoon Tim said he
thought he could travel. They both agreed that it would be a relief
even to move camp, though they might take a long time before they
reached the strange fires. Mat procured a couple of stout sticks to
lean upon, remarking, as he gave one to his brother with a smile,
“We’ve no call to trouble about the luggage;” which, indeed, so far,
was lucky.

As long as they travelled quite slowly, with long rests, they found
they could “keep going” very well. Mat—by far the most able man,
though they were both cripples—carried Tim over bad bits of ground;
but on level country the latter managed well enough by resting one
hand on his brother’s shoulder. Having thus covered some miles of
country, they came to a water-hole with several small tracks leading
to it; round the margin were prints of numerous feet freshly stamped
in the sand.

“Here they be,” whispered Mat, pointing to the signs, “big feet and
little feet, a whole tribe of ’em, and can’t be far off neither. We
must go careful like.”

Resuming their journey, they crossed a plain of treeless waste, and
then entered a country thickly overgrown with scrub.

Jumper, who was ahead, and had entered the thicket, returned growling,
with bristles erect, and at the same moment some dark forms could be
seen rushing into a lagoon, which now appeared in a sort of clearing.
Then all was still.

Mat, whose eyesight was specially sharp, whispered,—

“I can see what looks like a black nose shaking the water by that
great water-leaf.”

The brothers stood quietly, hesitating what to do next.

Suddenly Jumper commenced growling again, with his gaze fixed on one
side of the lagoon. At the same instant more than one black fellow
could be seen stealthily approaching through the long grass, their
bodies glistening with beads of water.

“Some have got behind us,” again whispered Mat.

And indeed the white men appeared to be surrounded.

“You hold the dog tight, Tim, and I’ll try and make friends.”

Perceiving that Jumper was held, an old black fellow, armed with
club, spear, and shield, walked boldly up to Mat, jabbering loudly the
whole time, with chin in the air, and after feeling him all over, was
about to do the same to Tim; but this Jumper would not stand, and Tim,
by signs, implored the native to keep back.

The old man understood, and called to the other blacks, who
immediately flocked up, and, hearing the white men talk, were
evidently relieved to find that they were human beings like
themselves, and thereupon made signs to know from whence they came.
Mat, for answer, pointed to the sea, imitating the action of swimming.
One of the blacks, who seemed to be the chief, comprehended at once;
and the brothers saw by his gestures that he was explaining to the
others what was meant, at which there was much jabbering and guttural
ejaculations.

Mat pointed out how blistered and wounded their bodies and legs were,
and explained by pantomime that they were hungry.

The natives now seemed satisfied, and led them by the hand, or rather
conducted Mat in this manner—for they were afraid to approach Tim
again, on account of the furious growls of Jumper—to the camp fires,
where they intimated to the white men they should lie down; they then
gave them a couple of cloaks of ’possum skin to cover their bodies
with, and a quantity of roasted roots and fish to eat; this fare
seemed to put new life in the brothers as they reclined on their soft
rugs.

A black fellow then cooe’ed loudly, and several women and children
seemed to spring up from the long grass around, where they had
doubtless been hiding until the men knew with whom they had to deal.

Mat so far knew, as the whole tribe had now surrounded them, that
he and his brother had fallen amongst blacks of the mainland of
Australia, for he not only recognized types of visage, pictures of
which he had seen in the squire’s museum in the Forest, but also most
of the camp equipment, of which the squire had many specimens. Thus
he was able to point out and name to Tim spears, woomeras, yelamans,
boomerangs, stone tomahawks, and nullah-nullahs; also their dilly
bags, large and small, containing fish and roots, and many small
articles wrapt up in ’possum skins.

Whilst they were regaling themselves the tribe kept up an incessant
jabbering, as they pointed out the white men to each other.

One of the blacks showed by signs that there were other white men, but
men clothed; he seemed to imply far, far away to the west. This gave
the brothers hope that there might be a settlement in that direction,
until by repeated signs they surmised that they must be white men
travelling to the north.

It was almost night when our gipsies encountered the natives, and by
the time that they had finished their meal, the camp was wrapped in
darkness, save for the light given out by the tiny fires.

Seeing that the white men had eaten up all their food, the blacks gave
them a gourd of water, and then, taking Mat by the hand again, and
signing to Tim to follow, conducted them to a gunyah, or hut, which
was made of saplings and covered with bark. It contained a tiny upper
story, also made of sheets of bark, just large enough for two men to
lie down in. Pointing to this, they intimated that the white men might
sleep there, which, indeed, they were nothing loth to do.

Mat, having first placed some cool green leaves on his brother’s
ankles, pulled the rugs over them, for the night was chilly, and
prepared to sleep.

Before darkness had quite set in they had observed two blacks start
off on their back trail towards the coast, which caused Mat to remark
that he “had read that blacks never travelled at night. However,” he
added, “we shall know more about it in the morning. If I’d a pipe of
’baccy now, I’d be all right, but we can’t have everything, and these
chaps don’t seem a bad lot, though they’re rum ’uns to look at.”

“That they be,” said Tim; “we shall know all about ’em in a day or
two. If they’d meant badly you said as they’d have killed us at once.”

“Yes, from what I’ve been told, it was a good sign their bringing up
the women and children so soon. We might get them to take us to the
white men they spoke about, who knows?”

The conversation, which took place as they were lying in their hut,
was at this point interrupted by the sound of a high-pitched voice
singing a sort of mournful ditty; presently other voices joined in.

“Hullo! let’s see what’s up,” said Tim; and from the opening in their
gunyah they witnessed a curious sight.

Three or four women, or “jins,” were seated on the ground, singing
and beating time with pieces of stick; a dozen little freshly-lit
fires were burning in a circle, and in the midst of them were some
fifteen painted warriors, white paint and red paint was daubed in
regular lines over their faces and jaws, causing them to resemble so
many death’s heads, whilst their bodies were streaked with broad white
stripes, each rib being distinctly marked.

These white lines followed the course of their limbs, giving them the
appearance of so many skeletons, as they appeared in the flickering
light cast upon them.

“What a rum sight!” said Tim, who, with his brother, was intently
watching these proceedings, as we have said.

“Yes, a sort of free-and-easy, I should fancy, but, look!” for as Mat
spoke each warrior took up the refrain of the “jins,” and, whilst
singing a hoarse chant, sprang high into the air, descending so
heavily that the earth seemed to shake under them; then shaking
their spears with a quivering motion, and uttering tremendous yells,
they sprang again into the air and ran “amuck” against each other.

[Illustration: The “Corroboree.”]

As they pursued these ferocious antics, the sight made the white men’s
blood curdle, for they thought that this must be the prelude to a rush
upon themselves.

The “Corroboree,” as they afterwards found was the right name for this
peculiar form of black-fellow recreation, waxed louder and fiercer,
each man working himself up to a perfect frenzy, now darting in and
out of the fires, and even in some cases plunging _into_ them, and
scattering the blazing embers, till exhausted, they would here and
there “fall out” and beat time to recover.

Their aspect appeared terrible and unearthly, the brothers were
spell-bound, not knowing whether fury or joy was the cause of this
extraordinary scene. Then the infernal din died away, only to be
renewed louder than ever, as fresh warriors took the places of those
pumped out, until the exhibition reached, as it seemed, a fight in
terrible reality, as man closed with man, fending off each other’s
spears and clubs with their “yelamans,” showing surprising feats of
agility as they sprang high into the air, shouting fiercely a sort of
war-cry the whole time.

The ceremony was brought to a close by all stamping their feet with
heavy thuds on the ground, and then each coiled himself up by his
fire, exhausted.

Our foresters breathed again.

“Well, if they ain’t the most bloodthirsty-looking devils I ever
seed,” said Tim; “but I suppose it’s all sham; the women don’t dance,
and ain’t painted, they’re what’s called the ‘Orkistry’ in the
playhouse, I suppose.”

“Just _about_ a rum go,” joined in Mat; “I reckon we’re all right to
sleep now, though.”

It was about midnight when the whole camp had retired to rest, so the
brothers followed the general example.



                             CHAPTER VI.

          Wild honey—They find the wreck—The Thunderstick.


During the voyage out Tim had proved to his shipmates that he had a
fair voice for singing, and on the strength of this was deputed to
lead the hymns, when the captain performed the little Sunday service
on deck.

So it struck Mat, upon awakening the next morning after the
“Corroboree” in the native camp, that Tim should give them one of
the hymns they had learnt on board ship. So, whilst lying in the
“gunyah,” Tim struck up at the top of his voice, “From Greenland’s
icy Mountains,” and Mat joining in, the black fellows flocked round,
squatted themselves, with awe-struck faces, on the ground, and stared
in utter amazement.

But just as the singing concluded, the two blacks who had been to the
coast, returned, and evidently conveyed some important news to the
tribe, for they all began talking excitedly together, and pointing to
the direction from which the white men had come, intimated that they
must go with them there.

The possibility of some of their late shipmates being cast ashore
occurred to the brothers, and they signified their readiness to go.

“I must have something to eat first though, Mat,” said his brother,
“for I feel terrible ‘leer.’” So, in response to their signs, the
natives brought them more roots and fish, and after partaking of a
good breakfast, the whole party started.

The blacks noticed before they had proceeded far that both brothers
were lame and weak, so cut them each a stout “yam” stick as staves,
and purposely walked very slowly. Mat tried to explain that a dog
bigger than Jumper had caused his wound; however, his black brethren
concluded that that animal itself was the culprit, and in consequence
gave it a wider berth than ever.

The tribe of blacks who had received our lads in such a friendly
way were a fine body of men, as Mat and Tim perceived now that they
appeared in broad daylight with clean skins—minus the paint of
the preceding night. Their bushy but finely-textured hair was now
ornamented with tufts of the white cockatoo and other feathers; their
brows encircled by a band of reddish-coloured material; their eyes
were dark and glittering.

Though small of bone as to their wrists and ankles, and fine in
loin, yet their every movement denoted perfect muscular strength and
agility. Many of them were over six feet high, though Mat found by
subsequent experience that this stature was more peculiar to the
coast-tribes, owing probably to the better class of food which they
were able to procure.

[Illustration: Climbing for honey.]

Upon starting for the coast our young adventurers found that the
natives were conducting them step by step over the very route which
they had traversed from the island.

“They’re terrible good trackers,” said Mat, who had been watching
them; “I thought _I_ knew something about it, but I’d often have lost
the trail here. Why, their eyes are everywhere, staring into the
trees, and looking into the tops of them too. Whatever can they be
after?”

These examinations puzzled the lads vastly, till suddenly a black
stopped, and uttered an exclamation, and looking up to where he was
gazing, a quantity of diminutive insects could be indistinctly seen
hovering about a broken “spout” in the highest part of a tall gum-tree.

To Mat’s astonishment, the black evidently intended to ascend this
tree. “How on earth is he going to get up there?” said he, as he eyed
the tall, smooth trunk, without branch or break for sixty feet. “Why,
that tree’s a good three feet through; he can’t ‘swarm’ it, and they
haven’t climbing-irons here.”

But the black fellow soon showed them how ’twas done.

First he cut a thick ropy vine, or creeper, out of the shrub, and
joined it in a circle round the base of the tree and his own body,
then hanging a dilly bag round his neck, in which he had placed his
tomahawk, he commenced the ascent by planting his feet against the
trunk, and by this means literally walked up the great tree, shifting
his hoop at every step, and getting a purchase by pressing his loins
against the circle of the vine which supported them. When he had
reached the first branch he paused to take breath.

“That beats anything I _ever_ saw,” said Mat, gazing up in
astonishment; “if ever I get back to the Forest, I’ll try that game
too.”

Meanwhile the climber arrived at the dead limb, and commenced
chopping, brushing off the swarms of insects every now and again which
had settled on his face. But this cutting was the slow part of the
process; it took a long hour before the little stone axe had opened up
the old branch sufficiently for the black fellow to insert his hand.

Meantime his brethren below had lit a fire, having brought a
smouldering brand with them for that purpose; whilst all this delay
afforded a welcome rest to our lads.

At length the man in the tree descended, and opening his bag,
displayed about a quart of dark-coloured honey, swarming all over with
a diminutive bee, which proved to be stingless. It was evident that
this was an immense treat to the natives, for they quickly ate up
honey, bees and all, giving the brothers only sufficient to make them
wish for more.

Resuming their journey, our party shortly afterwards arrived opposite
the island on which the brothers had landed, and two of the black
fellows pointed down the coast for Mat to look.

“I can only see something like a black rock,” he said, in answer to
Tim’s query, as he strained his eyes.

“Why, it might be a bit of the wreck,” suggested Tim.

“Yes; that _must_ be it, Tim. It’s what I saw drifting when we were
coming ashore.”

The natives were now very excited, and, as was their wont when in
this state, “jabbering” unceasingly together; but as darkness was
coming on, they evidently meant to go no farther that night, for they
proceeded to make several fires on the sand, and lying down, bid the
white men do the same. These latter found themselves comfortable
enough, excepting for the mosquitoes, to which they had been a prey
ever since they landed.

Before they went to sleep, a black fellow appeared with a huge
hammer-headed shark, which he had speared in shallow water. This
proved large enough to furnish a meal for all. A black threw a piece
of the cooked fish to Jumper, who, however, resented the way it was
given him by growling and refusing to eat it then.

Mat was interested in the way the blacks made their fires. All the
little sticks were pointed to the centre of the embers, and each man
had his own fire.

Next morning at daylight the camp was broken up, and after broiling
and eating more fish, they started along the margin of the salt water.
As they approached the wreck they noticed that there was a larger
portion of it than had appeared when viewed the previous evening,
the whole of the bows and a portion of the waist being visible. The
brothers had hoped that the poop might be farther down the coast, and
the blacks evidently thought this might be possible too, for one of
their number was sent off to reconnoitre past the next headland; but
he came back after awhile, presumably without having seen any more of
the old ship, but that he had found _something_ was evident by his
gesticulations.

Upon clambering on board with their companions, our lads found that
the portion of wreck they had arrived at, though much battered and
riddled like a sieve, yet by the strength of her outer timbers,
held together, and thus had saved a portion of her contents. Some
barrels and chests could be seen, and Mat found the place which had
been occupied by his bunk; and to his great delight, on looking
closer, he espied his gun jammed by the stock between the beams, but
otherwise uninjured, excepting by the action of salt water. These
beams, however, he could not part; no axe could he find, so he and
Tim collected the black fellows, and on pointing out the gun, they
at once understood what was wanted, so by their combined effort, and
bringing their little tomahawks into play, the gun was freed.

“The gun’s no use without powder, Tim,” remarked his brother as he
fondly handled the weapon. “Didn’t Robinson Crusoe make powder? Oh! if
I could only come across my chest!”

The black fellows soon carried everything ashore that they could
lay their hands on, and the result of their labours made quite a
respectable pile on the beach. They then returned to strip every
single nail, bolt, and bit of ironwork and lead from the wreck; from
the way they went about this, it was evident that it was not the first
time they had been so engaged.

On further examination it was seen that most of the chests were
smashed and empty. Mat threw these aside, looking, however, first
carefully at their marks; on scraping away the sea-weed and sand from
one at the bottom of the pile, and turning it over, there, oh! joy!
stood out plainly the two letters M. S., burnt into it with the Forest
print, which Tim had brought to the docks on leaving home.

The chest was full and locked.

“Hurrah!” shouted Mat.

“Hurrah!” joined in Tim, when he found what had caused Mat’s joy,
exclamations which so startled the blacks that they came crowding
up and wanted to knock the chest to pieces at once, but Mat gently
prevented them, and showed them where to prise the lock open. Then
out came the greater part of his outfit and that of Tim, not much the
worse for _wear_, but drenched into many colours. Mat promptly put
on a shirt and a pair of moleskin trousers. Tim arrayed himself in a
light coat and pair of drawers, and the black fellows observing this,
a most ludicrous scene ensued.

One tall black drew his legs through a pair of trousers, holding the
garment upside down, the consequence was that when he tried to walk
he waddled a few steps and fell prone; another slipped on a pair of
canvas ducks hind part before. One young “buck” pulled the sleeve of a
shirt on, the balance of the garment, to his great delight, fluttering
in the wind: whilst yet another sat down into Tim’s best felt hat,
thinking that article could only be meant for a seat.

All these antics were accompanied with shouts of laughter, the dark
men chasing each other about like so many children. This festive scene
much relieved the owners of the property, pleased as they were to find
their comrades in such good-humour.

As suddenly tired with this buffoonery as they had been ready to
commence it, the natives pulled off their eccentric-fitting garments,
and signed to the white men to come along the shore. These wanted to
examine further into the chests and casks, but were not allowed any
further delay.

“What can they want down there?” cried Tim.

“Why, I expect that chap they sent down the coast found another
chest,” suggested Mat.

“Come along, then, my darkies; more clothes, perhaps!” laughed his
brother.

When they turned the point of the cliff it was clothes, sure enough,
that they found, but clothes enveloping a corpse.

“The poor old doctor!” murmured Mat, as he went down on his knees
beside the body, and recognized the portly form. “He’s awfully
battered, but not been touched by the fish or anything. He wasn’t on
the poop, so there’s a small hope yet for the skipper and those we
left with him. Let’s bury him right up there, above high-water mark.”

Up to this the blacks had held aloof, but now made signs that they
would divide the body or burn it, and seemed offended when the
brothers showed that they could not have their own way in this. Mat
wished to bury his old comrade without making them angry, so he
pointed to the body, then to the sky, shaking his head solemnly, upon
which the natives fell back, and did not attempt to interfere again.

The brothers then bore the corpse up the low cliff, scooped as deep a
hole as they could in the sand, placed it there, rolled a great rock
on the grave, and walked away silently from the spot.

Many an anxious glance did they cast seawards that day in hopes of
seeing a vessel, but not a sign of one was visible on the placid
ocean.

Returning to the scene of the wreckage, the black fellows shouldered
everything that had been found in or on the wreck, and the whole party
returned to their camp in the woods without further adventures.

Our foresters had hoped that when they should have arrived at what,
for the present at any rate, they designated “Home,” they would have
had ample time to rummage into the chests and casks which had been
saved. But what was their astonishment to find some fifty or sixty
strange natives assembled at the camp. These had evidently arrived
from some distant part, and had only come into camp shortly before the
brothers and their friends, for the “jins” had not all disencumbered
themselves of the children, whom they carried on their backs, the
infants’ legs hanging straight down, according to the native custom.

Directly these freshly-arrived blacks saw our white lads—who were now
clothed—they scampered off in every direction, only returning when
the friendly natives went after them and explained matters, when they
at length summoned up courage to come up to where the brothers were
standing. They finally felt them all over, looked into their mouths,
and with gestures begged them to strip. This request being also
acceded to, their examiners seemed satisfied, and squatted themselves
on the ground to talk the white men over.

But it was soon evident that these visitors had arrived for a special
purpose, for, on a signal being given, every man assembled was formed
up so as to make a large circle. A corroboree on a grand scale was
about to take place.

Whilst the brothers were led into the circle the “friendlies” went
away to the chests, soon to reappear, not only in war-paint, but
clad in every conceivable form. These northern blacks—men and women
alike—were never in the habit of wearing the most minute particle of
dress, or even covering.

The contrast, then, between the friendly tribes and the strangers was
very great, and the lads took the liberty of attending to the costumes
in small particulars. Tim this time clapped his hat on the head of his
dark friend, who thereupon assumed a look of conscious pride; for,
though it was the only article of dress he had on, yet he guessed
that for this occasion the hat had been placed upon the _real_ seat
of honour. A pair of spectacles had also been brought to light in one
of the rescued boxes. These were being passed around in wonder by the
blacks, when our boys placed them on a very skinny old jin, and led
her into the ring.

“She looks quite grandmotherly, don’t she, Mat?” said Tim.

When the proper place for spectacles was thus seen, the nude old woman
became the envy and delight of the admiring natives.

Then the whole crowd, dressed and undressed, stepped into a ring
formed of spears stuck into the ground, all bearing on their faces
a look of extreme dignity, which gave them even a more ludicrous
appearance than when they were gambolling in like attire on the
sea-shore. But when our foresters saw the old granny standing up, as
if for her picture to be taken, with nothing on but a pair of big
goggles, they could scarcely forbear from going into fits of laughter;
however, by great efforts, they controlled their mirth, seeing how
grave were the faces of all around them.

This corroboree commenced with a song, which seemed as if it would
never terminate, and which evidently entirely referred to the presence
of the white men, as they were constantly pointed to.

The strange natives looked on silent and open-mouthed, till it was
over, when they all turned to, to examine the shirts and other
clothing; after this the brothers were conducted to their gunyah, and
upon making signs that they were hungry, food and water were quickly
set before them, and they stretched out in their bark hut for a rest:
they could see the natives after a time drop off one by one and go to
sleep.

More than once that night a visitor would steal up to have a peep at
the white men, but Jumper’s ominous growl forbad a too close approach.

Night after night was the same scene enacted, corroboree and singing,
as fresh tribes came to take the place of those who had already
seen the wonderful white men. At length this trotting-out became so
wearisome that Mat and Tim flatly declined upon one occasion to go
and be overhauled, and pinched, and have their mouths looked into by
every fresh lot of black fellows.

This refusal enraged the natives, who rushed towards them, fiercely
swinging their waddies, or clubs, over their heads. Our foresters
stood perfectly unmoved, which conduct evidently pleased the dark
men, as they dropped their weapons, and did not call for any more
exhibitions for some time to come. Most of the tribes also living
within “calling distance” had satisfied their curiosity by seeing the
strange men; and matters resumed their usual course, the “friendlies”
keeping the brothers always well supplied with food, to their great
comfort.

Mat had now time to examine the remaining stores, which had not as
yet been interfered with. At the bottom of his sea-chest he found his
books, amongst them his beloved “Crusoe;” and what was of far greater
importance, he discovered in a water-tight barrel, a tin of gunpowder
stowed away amongst a quantity of rice.

The brothers had many a talk over this powder, as they surmised that
if they proved to the natives that they possessed the power of dealing
instantaneous death, it would cause them to be respected by all in the
district. So they resolved to show the power of the weapon.

Mat set to work to clean and burnish up the gun thoroughly, whilst Tim
cut up some slugs from the lead.

The black fellows had looked at this gun, smelt it, and could not make
it out.

Said Tim,—

“I was talking with our good old doctor, whom we buried the other
day—about the blacks, and he said as they thinks a thing’s a kind of
spirit if you go into a lot of fooling over it; so now do you shoot a
bird, but afore you fire we’ll have a game round the old gun.”

There happened, on this day of the conversation, to be several hawks,
which were fully gorged with odds and ends thrown out of the camp,
placidly blinking on the branches of the trees high overhead.

Having made their arrangements, the brothers collected their friends
and pointed to a particular bird, which was sitting on a branch by
himself, some forty yards above their gunyah.

“Old Joe” was then brought out, Mat bringing it along with mock
humility, as he crawled on his knees; the weapon was then placed on
the ground at a spot which Tim had been carefully dusting and removing
twigs from, burying this rubbish with the greatest care. Then, with
a great appearance of solemnity, Tim knelt at the muzzle, Mat at the
stock, as the gun was placed carefully on the sacred spot. This was
all done so far in perfect silence. The natives remaining awe-struck
at these proceedings, commenced to whisper.

“Hush-sh!” said both brothers, putting their fingers to their lips.

Then sang out Mat, “High cockelorum, jig, jig, jig,” and at the last
jig was on his brother’s back with a flying leap, _both_ in this
fashion careering round the gun; Jumper lying perfectly still beside
it, as he was told. They then suddenly stopped, and in sepulchral
tones sang bits of every song they had learnt when working the ship,
commencing with, “Oh, a bully ship and a bully crew,” following this
with another solo, “And what do you think we had for dinner?” then
both taking up the refrain, “Blow, boys, blow,” “A goose’s lights and
a louse’s liver, blow, my bully boys, blow.”

Many other ditties followed, finishing with,—

    “Now upon my life and upon my soul,
     I never knew a nigger but had wool on his pole,”

&c., &c.

“Now we’ll conclude the performance,” whispered Mat; so first gently
speaking to the lock of the gun, and then emitting a most atrocious
noise down the barrel with his lips, he loaded, took a steady aim and
fired, whilst Tim was making horrible faces in the background.

There was a death-like silence for an instant after the report had
died away; and then, amidst the shrieks of the jins, the howls of the
children, and the terrified yells of the men, who knocked each other
over in their frantic efforts to escape, the camp was deserted.

Mat and Tim fairly rolled on the ground, convulsed with laughter,
whilst Jumper amidst all this uproar rushed joyfully in, and worried
the remains of the carrion bird.

Not a black skin could be seen, excepting a couple of unfortunate
babies, who had been deserted by their mothers in the general
stampede, and who were now squalling on the ground.

“I think that act went off pretty tidy,” remarked Tim, as soon as he
could speak.

“Not much the matter with it,” answered his brother, “I reckon they
won’t ‘ankor’ us, they were just _about_ scared; but I won’t put five
fingers of powder into ‘Old Joe’ again, she’s nearly taken my shoulder
off. If we always handle the gun as if ’twere an evil spirit, I expect
we’ve more power in it than we think of; it’s very certain they never
heard _that_ noise before; besides, she went off like a young cannon.”

By-and-by the blacks stole silently, one by one, into the camp;
amongst the first arrivals were two women, who seized the sprawling
infants they had left behind, and then retreated quickly into the
scrub.

Mat and Tim, peeping out of their hut, to which they had retreated, as
became properly behaved wizards, at length saw their friends gathered
round one man, who was examining the defunct hawk with trembling
fingers, to see what had killed it.

There was a dead silence amongst the tribe that night, not one moved
from his fire.

Next morning a native braver than the rest, the chief in fact, asked
by signs whether he might approach the gun, which he saw peeping
out from the hut; but the brothers, by pantomime, showed that the
consequences would be too awful if he awoke the evil spirit, and he
was glad to make his escape back again to his mates. No more inquiries
were made after this, but both brothers were watched whenever they
came out, to see that they had not the evil thing in their hands.

However, the startling incident was gradually forgotten, as the gun
was carefully put by, and no more powder used, for they never knew
when they might really want it.



                             CHAPTER VII.

                   Spearing geese—Killing ducks with
      boomerangs—’Possum-hunting—How to make fire—The tribe shift
                camp—The Boorah—Mat and Tim’s journal.


After our boys had been with the tribe for seven months, as near as
they could guess, by means of a notched stick on which they nicked
off the days, they began to acquire a smattering of the dialect, so
that both black and white men could understand each other to a limited
extent.

In this way the brothers made out that in four moons many tribes would
visit them.

They now went out regularly hunting with their black friends, and in
this way learnt much concerning the habits of the native game; also
where to look for edible roots, of which there were many sorts; and
though they found that the blacks were adepts at snaring all sorts
of fowl, yet from their experience at home, and the many lessons in
knots which they had picked up from the sailors, the brothers soon
became even more successful in their art, more especially with regard
to snaring animals. They also made strong kangaroo nets out of a fine
flax, which the natives showed them how to prepare; these they turned
out very rapidly, and with superior knots to those formed by the
tribe, which pleased the latter.

But if the blacks were surprised at the quickness of the white men,
the clever way in which they learnt their habits and customs, and
quite confounded at the effects of the “Thunderstick,” by which name
they had dubbed the gun, in their hands, still more on their side were
the brothers astonished at the prowess displayed by the former in
using their spears.

Upon one occasion there was great preparation in the camp; dilly
bags were filled with food, large bundles of small light sticks were
brought in and fashioned into spears, and Mat and Tim were invited
to attend an expedition over the plains, to which the natives kept
pointing, and repeating the word “Noorgooral.”

The constant repetition of this word, coupled with the preparations
for the hunt, raised the curiosity of the brothers, and they were glad
to have the chance of going; so, divesting themselves of their scanty
and now ragged clothes, which they found irksome to them when away
from the camp, they prepared to follow the tribe.

After walking for several hours, the party came in sight of a long
chain of narrow lagoons. This was towards evening, and geese could
be seen coming in flocks of tens and twenties, and dropping into the
pools.

“Flight time,” whispered Mat, who felt all his sporting instincts
aroused at this sight.

The blacks no sooner saw the geese than they dropped into the long
grass, bidding the white men do the same. Each native had a bundle of
the spears in his hand, and thus crawling through the blady grass,
they stealthily approached the nearest pool, when all formed a line
along and directly over the water, without having disturbed a single
bird.

At a given signal, up jumped each black fellow, and, as quick as
lightning, hurled spear after spear into the dense bodies, or flocks,
of the affrighted geese as they rose clamorous from the water.

“Why, guns couldn’t do better!” exclaimed Tim in astonishment, seeing
the water covered with dead and dying fowl.

“No, a lot of them hit with guns would go away wounded,” said Mat,
“and see, each bird that’s struck with those spears drops.”

These spears at short ranges flew like arrows from a bow, many birds
fell dead, more were struggling in the water; but other flocks were
approaching, so down went the blacks again, and, rising up just as
the fresh arrivals had discovered their mistake, and before they had
settled, hurled their darts as before, until they had no spears left.

With the exception of a whispered sentence or two between the
brothers, not a sound had escaped the lips of the hunters up to this;
but _now_, with wild yells of triumph, they gave vent to their
pent-up feelings, plunged into the lagoons and their reedy edges, and
commenced to retrieve both game and spears.

The brothers were rushing in like the rest, when they were seized
and implored by the natives, by signs, not to go into the water;
however, they laughingly shook themselves free, and dived in off the
bank, bringing geese to land, and returning for more. When the blacks
saw how completely at home they were in the water they raised joyful
exclamations, and afterwards explained that they thought the white men
had been _blown_ ashore at the time of the shipwreck on a piece of the
vessel.

Subsequently our lads accompanied their friends on a similar
expedition, but this time the birds they were after proved to be
ducks—a large black duck, and another sort, brown and white in colour,
which perched on trees. On this occasion the weapons used were
boomerangs. Keeping a bundle of these under the left arm, the natives
hurled them one after another into the midst of the scared fowl, as
they rose from the water, bagging over forty birds before darkness
terminated the sport.

The remarkable tameness of all the water-fowl struck our foresters,
for unless when being actively pursued, both geese, ducks, and smaller
water-birds would simply swim a few yards away from the bank on the
approach of a human being, and this when the whole lake was thickly
covered with them.

By dint of long practice the white men at last succeeded in using the
boomerang effectively; the spear came to them much more readily; but
the boomerang required far greater patience and practice to learn than
they could have conceived possible. At length they could hurl it even
to the satisfaction of the natives.

They had been told by men on board the _Young Austral_ that a black
fellow could so hurl a boomerang that it should cut off his enemy’s
head, and then, after taking a little circular flight, presumably to
examine the country, return obediently to the feet of its master.
Their tribe soon exploded this absurd fable, for they showed them
that when the weapon struck full, there it stayed; if it glanced off
an object it might terminate its flight anywhere; if it met with no
resistance they had to go after it and pick it up. But they also
showed them one or two other boomerangs, which, owing to some unseen
peculiarity in the cutting, _did_ come back, in this way. A group of
seven tall trees grew on the edge of a water-hole, which was situated
on a plain close to the camp. An able-bodied black beckoned the
brothers to follow him; then, taking his stand some thirty yards from
the trees, he selected three boomerangs. Taking a short run, he cast
one so as to shape its course to the _right_ of the clump of timber,
the weapon whirled gracefully upwards, higher and higher, turned
completely round the topmost branches to the _left_, and descended
with a heavy thud to the feet of the thrower. The second failed in its
perfect flight by striking a small twig, whilst the third was as great
a success as the first.

The worst wound a boomerang could make (our brothers were informed)
was by either of the sharp points entering; each end terminating in
one of these.

That which Mat and Tim had all along been most anxious to learn was
the art of making fire, and an opportunity soon presented itself.

One of the natives, who was recognized as the chief, and named
“Dromoora,” a man who with his jin had always proved most staunch and
friendly to the white men, invited them one day to go ’possum-hunting
in some high ranges, a considerable distance from the camp.

Both Mat and Tim had often hunted these animals before, and knew how
to seek them, and when found, how to cut them out; but they at once
accepted Dromoora’s invitation, as he was such a good fellow.

Having arrived at the range, Mat soon picked out a tree where the
recently ascending marks, cut by the claws of the little beast through
the white bark, showed that it had gone up the preceding night, whilst
there were no tracks to denote its having come down again. So Mat cut
little steps up the tree, sufficiently large to afford a hold for the
big toe, ascending by this means till he reached the branches, when he
found the hole, and after chopping for a considerable time, dragged
out the little animal and knocked it on the head.

When they had collected some dozens of ’possums amongst them, Mat
explained to the jin, whose name was “Terebare,” that he wanted to
make fire, whereupon, with a good-tempered smile, which displayed her
beautiful row of white teeth, she disappeared into a neighbouring
scrub, and brought back a bit of very rotten dry wood, the size of an
ordinary walking-stick: this was a branch of the black fig-tree. She
then split it down the middle, and placed it on the ground, flat side
uppermost, holding it down with her well-shaped little feet. Dromoora
meantime had cut a sound piece, round and straight about a foot long.
Placing this round piece straight up on end, the girl rolled it with
her hands round and round on the split wood under her feet, pressing
it with some force into it, until after the lapse of a minute or two,
she had bored a hole nearly through the latter, then cutting a notch
on the under side of this, the fine dust fell through on to some fine
dry grass which she had already placed there. She then resumed the
rolling motion until sparks appeared, when, picking up the dry grass
and blowing into it, it flamed up.

“That’s a secret worth knowing,” said Mat, as he saw the small fire
kindled; “fancy, if we’d been able to do that when we were wrecked.
I expect it isn’t as easy as it looks.” And Mat went to work to make
fire himself. He slaved and he rolled until the perspiration ran off
him, being much laughed at by Dromoora and his wife in consequence,
who told him he must stay there until he succeeded. After repeated
failures he at length saw his heap of grass begin to smoke and Tim
kneeling down and blowing into this, the flame of victory flashed up.
They then shouldered their game, and returned in good spirits to camp.

Heavy rains setting in soon after this, Dromoora’s tribe shifted camp
to higher ground some miles away.

There was another reason for this movement on the part of the natives,
the fact that their old district was getting short of roots and game.
Of salt-water fish there was plenty, though some distance off.

The blacks made many more excursions to the coast, on rare occasions
accompanied by our twins, always returning with fish and odds and ends
in the shape of nails and other portions of metal.

After one of these trips Dromoora brought his white friends something
which he had carefully wrapped up in ’possum skin, telling them as he
unfolded the precious flotsam, that he had found it floating near the
shore, and that he thought it must something to do with the gun, or
“Teegoora,” as the weapon was known in the tribe.

When the parcel was unfolded Mat saw that it was a pencil—an immense
“find,” as he could now jot down notes, and keep a rough journal
on the margin of his books, which he had long since dried and put
carefully away.

Thus time passed on.

Once a report was brought to the brothers by blacks of a distant tribe
that a white man had been seen again far to the west; but upon asking
whether they could not go and find him, they were told that it was
impossible, as not only was the distance enormous, but there were many
hostile tribes between them and the country where the white man had
been seen.

After the rains had ceased, numbers of strange natives began to
collect. These were the tribes that Dromoora and his men had spoken
about.

Some eight tribes were represented amongst these new arrivals, and at
one time our foresters counted over 600 on the ground together.

After the usual examination of the white men, which was rendered
more bearable by Dromoora being present, and giving orders to the
blacks that they were to treat them as warriors, the strange tribes
introduced themselves to the “friendlies” by organizing a grand
“corroboree,” which lasted two nights. At its conclusion it was
evident by the preparations made that something unusual was about to
take place.

Upon inquiry it was found that they were about to celebrate a
“Boorah,” or “Boree,” a ceremony to make the lads young men.

Dromoora explained that for eight months previous to this event the
lads have to go into the bush and cater for themselves, that during
that period they must on no account see a female, and that after this
term of independence they are brought in, and cane rings are placed
round their arms, and twisted tightly.

Upon this special occasion the brothers were prevented from sleeping
all night by the hideous cries and howls of the youths, who were
enduring agony from the pressure of the rings.

When daylight at length came, they saw forty of the victims seated
on the ground, surrounded by their mothers, sisters, and female
relatives. These women were crying and cutting themselves all over
with sharp stones, in token of joy at seeing them.

The youths they had put comfortably to sleep in shady places, while
the old jins were away in the swamps to get roots to make them cakes.

The older men had collected the spears of the youngsters, which they
had been carrying with them during their eight months’ absence; these
they had fixed in the earth in a semicircle, fastening grass festoons
from head to head of each spear.

In the evening the young men were placed under the decorated spears,
and their sisters and female cousins lay with their heads on the
swollen arms.

Next morning the young men were taken into the bush, and returned
decorated with shells and feathers, generally painted up and made to
look becoming, when they set about choosing their sweethearts, and
another grand “corroboree” closed the proceedings.

But there was much quarrelling and fighting after this, for these
newly-fledged warriors commenced stealing the old men’s daughters,
and even their wives; so that the brothers on this occasion presently
found themselves amongst a lot of infuriated savages fighting chiefly
with their clubs.

However, Dromoora came to their rescue, and, leading them into their
gunyah, bid them lie quiet, and on no account in any way to interfere
with the jins, for that they always caused these troubles; advice
which Mat thought was quite uncalled for, as they had long seen that
whenever there was fighting it was invariably about the women; but he
answered the chief good-humouredly enough, remarking that white men
_also_ were known to have trouble about women in their own country.

However, in the present case the fierce uproar did not last long, and
no one was killed, though some terrible blows were exchanged. The
combatants had to leave off to go and find food.

Though Mat and Tim would not be separated from each other, they
gradually joined other tribes in the district, or rather stayed with
them during hunting expeditions; and though both were now so far
settled that they got on well with the natives, were accomplished
and keen hunters, and never lacked food, yet they often thought and
conversed together concerning their white brethren and civilization.

The time had now dragged along until they were aware that they had
been more than five years amongst the blacks, and still they saw
no chance of release from their somewhat degrading life. One great
comfort which supported them amidst their hardships was that they
could keep up their spirits in each other’s society—in their own
language, with their own books. Had there been only one white man, he
must have almost forgotten his own language by this time.

During this long period of “free captivity,” our foresters had
acquired half a dozen different dialects, which they had picked up
amongst neighbouring tribes. They had often spoken of trying to work
their way south, but had been dissuaded by their friends, who told
them that the danger was too great, the tribes in that direction being
fierce, and that they dare not go themselves beyond a certain limit.
At the same time it was judged by our boys that their friends wished
them to stay, and possibly exaggerated these dangers.

Though at first they “got out” very much in their dates, the brothers
kept a journal as regularly as circumstances permitted, putting
down everything of interest in their own lives, but more especially
entering into a description of the manners and customs of the natives.

Tim contributed also by giving specimens of the language with their
equivalents in English; also he mentioned with accuracy the edible
plants, describing the places where they should be looked for, and
their native names, as “Kaourou,” a blue water-lily, of which the
natives eat seeds and roots. “Kadolo,” good root, something like a
carrot, grows in every valley, plain, or creek bank, has three narrow,
long, sharp-pointed leaves. He also mentioned the native yam, the wild
banana, and a sort of tobacco. Many of these fruits and roots Mat
guessed the English names of from pictures which he recollected.

There was not much order in their journal, as both brothers simply
jotted down events and descriptions independently of each other. For
instance, Mat wrote on the fly-leaf of the largest volume:—

“This book we hope to carry with us into civilization; but if God
wills that we both die here, it may be found some day amongst our
black brethren, who look upon our books as a sort of white man’s
spirit, and they promise always to take care of them. Tim and I
are now as naked as when we landed from the wreck of the _Young
Austral_, our clothes having rotted long ago; but our bodies are
sun and weatherproof. Tim gets a touch of rheumatism now and again,
but otherwise we are very well, though rather thin. We don’t know
what ’tis to be tired; when we’re caught by darkness far from camp
we just lie down where we are with our dog, and sleep as soundly as
ever we did at home. We know two sorts of trees that always hold good
drinking-water; Tim is going to describe them, he says, so we hope
never to die of thirst. Food we can get as easily as the natives can.”

Mat then went on to describe the blacks in the same somewhat
unconnected manner:—

“These natives amongst whom we are living are called the ‘Waigonda;’
they are not really black, but more the colour of an old penny. When
a child is born ’tis a sort of dirty white; but the jins squeeze
their milk over it, when about three days’ old, and rub charcoal into
its skin. Many of the natives are treacherous and cunning: they have
broad, flat noses, sunken, black eyes, and terrible great mouths.

“Sometimes twins are born, and we’ve known the father kill one of them
to save the trouble of bringing up two.

“They are awful lazy, the men have—some of them leastways—eight or
nine wives, who do most all the work for him, and often supply him
with food for days together.

“I’ve known a man sell a wife for a new kangaroo net; or _lend_ one
for some article they want. They eat everything that creeps on the
earth; snakes they are very fond of, particularly one that’s not
poisonous, called “manoo.” Many of the fruits _look_ like English
ones, but they’re just about nasty, and mostly all stone. One fruit
looks like a big orange, but it will just turn your throat inside out
if you try to suck it, but the blacks pound and soak it, and then bake
it, and it makes good flour. There’s a little fig the size of a cherry
that’s really good.

“The blacks use the juice of different sorts of bark for making
fish stupid, so that they float belly upwards and can be caught.
Fish-hooks they cut out of fresh-water turtle shells. Sometimes they
eat human flesh, but only a friend killed in battle or by accident,
never their enemies. The bodies of these they cut into strips, dry,
and divide the pieces amongst the tribe: then they think that the
strength of the dead man is added to their own. They sometimes get
killed by crocodiles and snakes. They have no remedy for snake-bites;
if they get bitten by a poisonous one, they just lie down and die,
and the whole tribe howls for hours. They cannot in any way write
their language, but can send messages by notched sticks, which are
understood. They can’t count above five; more than that they show by
their fingers.

“They speak very thick in the throat, but the young women speak nice
and soft. They measure time by wet and dry seasons, and by moons. They
fear some sort of spirit, and don’t like to move about at night.

“There’s a great mountain near us; Tim and I have often hunted on
it. The blacks tell us that their forefathers once saw a great flood,
which drowned all the tribes, but that they got away in time and ran
up this mountain, and built a big canoe and escaped. Tim and I judge
from this that their forefather’s name was Noah, as mentioned in our
Bible, which was saved. These natives cut their bodies into all sorts
of queer patterns, and make the wounds heal with the lips open. They
haven’t much hair on their faces, as a rule; I’ve only once or twice
seen good whiskers or beards. They cut the hair on their heads when
they are boys with tomahawks. Tim and I have long beards.

“In their language a canoe or any ship is ‘woolgoora;’ water,
‘doongalla.’

“They believe that the moon is a human being like themselves; that
one tribe throws it up, and it rises, and then comes down again, when
another tribe catches it to prevent its hurting itself. Falling stars
mean danger or something extraordinary, in the direction in which
they fall. They declare that some fell over the sea just before Tim
and I landed; we didn’t see them, however. An eclipse frightens them
terribly, and they cower down and mumble grass till it is over.”

Much more to the same effect wrote Mat, and to his jottings copious
notes were added by Tim. These dilapidated books, the margins of which
were covered with their pencilled notes, they preserved with the most
jealous care; noting also the seasons as they passed, and the hot
Christmas time.

Nothing very eventful had, so far, happened to them; the same routine
of hunting and fishing every day, varied by an occasional tramp to the
beach, partly to collect crabs and shell-fish, but more particularly
to look out for any passing vessel; and though more than one was
seen during these years, they always proved to be far beyond any
signalizing by smoke.

And what was Jumper doing all this time? Though beyond the middle age
of dog life, he was as fleet and strong as ever; the only ailment he
suffered from was a slight deafness, which first became apparent after
his long swim from the wreck. He had long got over his dislike to the
natives, though suspicious of any belonging to other tribes. He proved
of great use in running down wounded kangaroos and wallaby, but more
especially did he distinguish himself when the great nets were set and
the hunters drove the game into them; then the dog was in his glory,
helping, as he had before done at home when cattle had to be driven in
a certain direction. He was a great favourite with the Waigonda tribe,
and the dingoes, or half-wild dogs, belonging to the camp, treated him
with the greatest respect.



                            CHAPTER VIII.

            Gold—Hostile natives—Flight by night—The great
          battle—Clubs—Fists—New Forest wrestling—“Old Joe.”


Though our foresters were looked upon and treated as brothers by
the Waigonda tribe, signs were not wanting to show that some of the
neighbouring blacks, who had been present at the Boorah, were envious
of their position, and of the goods which they possessed, and an
incident happened before long to prove this in an unpleasant way.

The brothers had gone on a distant hunting expedition by themselves;
they eventually reached a country of dry gullies which they knew of
old. Resting after their long march, Tim happened to scrape in the
sand for water under the roots of a tree, when he suddenly called to
his brother with a startled exclamation.

“What’s up?” answered Mat, running up, thinking he had been bitten by
a snake.

“Look here, if this ain’t gold, I never saw a sovereign!” cried Tim,
as he displayed a water-worn piece of the precious metal.

Mat could hardly believe his eyes, and whilst yet examining the
nugget, Tim brought forth another from under the bank of the dried-up
watercourse in which he was standing.

Both brothers now fell to with pointed stakes to dig in the sand,
and, before another hour had passed, had unearthed several nuggets of
various sizes.

At length this “pocket” of treasure ceased, and their digging-sticks
came on to hard rock, which, at length, laying bare and following up
the creek, they discovered was milky white, with distinct veins of
gold running through it.

“Why, the gully is full of gold! our fortune’s made!” panted Tim, as
he sat down to rest, and surveyed the beautiful rock beneath him.

“So it might be if we were away from here, Tim; as it is, it’s not so
much use to us as if ’twas a lot of lead; all the same, we’ll take the
bearings of the gully, and as it’s late, and we’ve lost the best of
the day digging, we’ll camp to-night with the Tinguras, they seemed
friendly enough with the Waigondas, though Dromoora says they’re
thieves.”

The brothers marked the trees slightly, took up their spoils, and
moved away from the “golden valley,” as they christened the spot, and
by sundown were at the camp in question, which they intended to make
their headquarters for a few days.

Upon arriving they showed the blacks one of the nuggets they had
found, but these merely remarked that such “stones” had often been
found by them, and that they were of no use.

It struck them that this tribe did not receive them very cordially
upon this occasion, for they made uncalled-for remarks, said there was
no food in the camp for strangers, never showed them where they might
sleep, and behaved generally in a rough and uncouth manner.

However, this behaviour did not trouble our lads, they merely took the
precaution to load their gun that night; this weapon, together with
ammunition, being their constant companion, when away from home.

Next evening the brothers were engaged a few yards from their
sleeping-quarters, when a black fellow took the opportunity to steal
up, with the intention of taking the gun, which was lying under
their ’possum rug, not having the respect for that weapon which the
Waigondas had, but coveting it on account of the beautiful engravings
upon the locks. Jumper had always considered the weapon as under his
especial charge, and no sooner had the black stretched out his arm to
take it than his wrist was seized in the dog’s powerful grip.

Howling and yelling, the native tried to shake off the dog, but
Jumper, who owed more than one grudge for insults put upon him by
black skins, took this opportunity to make his teeth meet in the bony
wrist, nor would he let go, until another black fellow, coming to the
rescue, hit him a violent blow on the head with his club.

Mat and Tim hurrying up at the uproar which ensued, found their
faithful dog lying half stunned and bleeding on the ground, whilst
the blacks were “jabbering” together in angry knots about the camp,
casting fierce glances towards them, and handling their weapons in a
menacing manner.

Before he appeared in view Mat distinctly caught the words, “Kill all
three.”

Upon seeing that the white men were calmly sitting down with their
gun, the natives, who had heard some rumours of the death-dealing
powers of the “Teegoora,” appeared to quiet down, and retired in a
body, discussing matters in an undertone.

But the brothers had lived long enough amongst these tribes to know
them and their ways, and turning to his brother, Mat said, in a quiet
tone, “They mean murder to-night.”

“I was thinking the same thing,” was Tim’s reply, as he attended to
the dog’s wound. “We’ll clear out.”

So directly it was dark enough to slip away unobserved, the brothers,
carrying gun and Jumper, glided silently out of the camp, and, taking
a “bee line” for the Waigonda country, never paused from a long,
slinging trot, until they drew up at midnight at a water-hole.

“It’s _something_ to know how to work yer way in the dark,” said Mat,
as he put down the dog.

The fact was that the brothers were as good bushmen as the blacks, and
in one respect even better, in that they were accustomed to travel at
night whenever there was any reason to do so, whereas the blacks had a
great horror of moving after dark.

Mat and Tim had hit off the very pool of water which they had intended
to, and now meant to take a rest, eat something, and bathe the dog’s
head.

They felt, now that they were so far safe, that a whole night’s start
would enable them to reach the country of their friends before the
Tinguras could overtake them.

The rest refreshed them all, more especially Jumper. The brothers had
carried him, up to this point, by turns, but when they started again
they found that he could follow fast enough to keep up with them.

Thus the little party of fugitives continued through the night, going
at a more leisurely pace during the greater part of the next day, and
towards evening had gained the new camp which their Waigonda friends
had formed.

No sooner were the brothers in sight than their friends turned out
with shouts of joy to receive them; but upon hearing the reason of
their sudden appearance—for they had not expected them for some days
later—they looked grave, and without more ado hastily summoned a
council of war, for they told Mat that the black which had been bitten
by Jumper was the chief of the tribe, a revengeful brute, who would
be sure to come, with all his fighting-men, after them, and that, so
far, it was lucky they had got into camp when they did.

“And they _will_ come,” said Dromoora, after he had commanded silence.
“We must fight, and we shall be glad to fight them; but you white men
must kill with the ‘thunder-stick,’ for they number two to our one.”

So the brothers consulted together, and resolved to do as the chief
had requested, and use the gun, but only at the last moment, their
intention being to fight the enemy fairly with their own wooden
weapons, in the use of which they were proficient. But they resolved
that if they saw that the Waigondas were driven back, and that the day
was almost lost, then and only _then_, at the chief’s command, would
they show the power of “Teegoora.”

So they informed the chief and his warriors of their decision, adding
that the “thunder-stick” was already prepared to strike and kill.

At this news the blacks expressed their deep sense of gratitude with
many guttural exclamations, and hoped, they said, that the white men
would “thunder” all the enemy dead, for that this tribe had often
molested them, and had even stolen their women.

Mat replied to these remarks by requesting his friends to give him
all the lead which they had kept after stripping it from the wreck.
This they joyfully agreed to do; and the brothers went away to cut
up slugs, and see that “Old Joe” was prepared to back them up at a
critical moment.

Whilst thus employed, Dromoora informed them that he and his wife
would have the honour of decorating them for the battle.

Scouts had already been sent out to bring in all stragglers, whilst
the men and women in camp were busily engaged in trimming up spears
and other weapons, and preparing food and filling many gourds with
water.

The brothers soon cut up a goodly heap of slugs, divided their one
canister of powder into exact loads, and freshly chipped the flints of
“Old Joe.” They had now reason to congratulate themselves that they
had never wasted this powder, and that, besides that, they could rely
upon its strength, having often tested its fitness.

By nightfall all preparations were completed to give the enemy a warm
reception.

None of the scouts had reported the appearance of any of them yet; and
as three sentries were to be on the alert all night, Dromoora said
that they might sleep in camp tranquilly, for that no attack would
take place before early dawn.

Besides carefully arming themselves, Mat and Tim had, with the help
of the natives, prepared a cunningly-devised trap, in the shape of
concealed kangaroo nets, the use of which we shall see further on.

In one respect Mat’s nature was a peculiar one, or, as _he_ thought,
peculiar to himself _only_; and this was, that he would shake like
a leaf when _waiting_ for a foe. It had always been the same. Once,
when a boy, a burly lad had tripped him up purposely on the ice. Mat
walked to the bank of the pond, took off his coat, and told the bully
to “come on.” But the bigger boy had walked away, having forgotten the
circumstance. Mat still remained, sending a messenger to say he was
ready. When this was known, a crowd of his companions collected around
to see the fun. The other lad was a long time coming, and it was
noticed, to the astonishment of all, that, during the whole time of
this “waiting,” Mat was trembling in every limb. But the village lads
better understood their mate when, a few minutes later, after half a
dozen rounds, they saw his antagonist lying, stunned and bleeding,
on the ice, having been knocked clean off the bank by one of Mat’s
terrific “facers.”

So it was on this eventful night before the great battle. Mat said to
his brother, “It’s no good, I can’t sleep; feel just as I did before
the bloodhound came at me.” And in fact he passed most of the night
pacing, with short, quick steps, amongst the fires.

The sun had scarcely risen next morning when two of the scouts came
rushing into camp to say that the hostile tribe was coming in full
war-paint, singing their war-chant, and that they might be expected by
the time that the sun was high in the heavens; further, that there
were no women with them, and only a couple of lads accompanied the
warriors.

Dromoora, on hearing this, ordered all the women and children to
disappear and hide in the scrub, and at the same time asked our
foresters to accompany them, “for,” said he, “if you are killed, we
cannot use the ‘thunder-stick,’ as you only know its secret; besides,
they will all try to kill _you_ first.”

Then up spoke Mat,—

“We will not obey you in this, Dromoora; I and my brother will be in
the front rank fighting the enemy, with wooden weapons; if we are all
driven in, we will retreat to the gun, and when you give the order,
but not before, we will make it speak. If we are _both_ killed, which
is not very likely, you will save the thunder-stick, and our books,
and fly with them to the white man.”

This speech was received with grunts of satisfaction; and the chief
answered in the name of the rest,—

“So be it. We have taught you how to use our own weapons; you are
brave men; when I call the word ‘Teegoora,’ but not before, give forth
the death-dealing noise, it will end the fight.”

Terebare and other of the women, before retiring to their
hiding-places, proceeded to decorate the white men, under the eyes of
the chief. When this was completed, Tim very truthfully remarked,—

“That their own mother would never know them.”

In truth our foresters, both men of splendid physique, presented a
noble, and at the same time somewhat strange appearance.

At this period they were only a shade lighter in colour than their
black brethren; their hair had been cut moderately close to their
heads, by means of tomahawks, and now it was adorned with heavy plumes
of the black and scarlet feathers of the parrot; beards black, and
reaching down over their chests; bodies painted with white, yellow,
and red ochre, in all sorts of grotesque patterns; their appearance
was calculated to inspire awe even amongst the natives themselves;
whilst, to complete their terrible appearance, Terebare insisted on
tying to the forehead of each one of the damaged old books saved from
the wreck, in such a manner that at each movement the leaves opened
and shut.

The natives gathered round the brothers when their toilet was
completed, and could not forbear a shout, and even a short corroboree
for the occasion.

This, however, only lasted a few seconds, for the enemy were now
reported as being near, and every warrior at once got into position.

But long before the hostile band appeared one of their youths, as
forerunner, hailed a Waigonda scout, and signified that he wished to
speak.

Dromoora sent a young man to ask him what he wanted, and this was the
answer brought back,—

“We, the tribe of Tingura, have come openly, not creeping in upon you,
and we intend to kill you all if you do not give up the white men,
their dog, and the white men’s stick.”

“Tell the messenger,” bellowed the enraged Waigonda chief, as soon as
he could get over this audacious threat, “that neither white men nor
stick will be given up—that the Tingura may prepare to lay their bones
here; that we shall take all their women, and that we have long wished
to see how the cowardly, thieving dingoes will fight.”

When Dromoora’s message was conveyed to the enemy, who were now quite
close, tremendous yells, mingled with derisive cries could be heard,
accompanied by the thunder of rushing feet, and the next moment, as it
seemed, a whole flight of boomerangs entered the camp.

These were dodged or warded off by the yelamans (or shields), and
Dromoora and his warriors rushed forth to meet the foe, and with clubs
and spears the battle commenced in earnest.

For the first few minutes Mat and Tim had their attention entirely
engaged in warding off or dodging the numerous blows aimed at them,
and whilst so engaged had not received a scratch, though more than one
assailant had felt the power of their arms.

At the very first onset, by sheer weight of numbers, the friendlies
were driven temporarily back a few steps, when Mat, who towered
above most of his assailants, caught sight of a stoutly-built black
fellow, wearing an enormous head-dress of emu feathers, fighting his
way through friends and foes to get at him. At the same moment he
recognized Tim’s voice, roaring out in English above the awful din,—

“Look out! the devil who the dog bit.”

And he it was, sure enough, with his wrist bound up with some animal’s
skin, and with fury gleaming out of his deep-set eyes.

The man got close enough to Mat to hurl two heavy spears at him; but
our forester was now in his element. Never taking his steady eye off
that of his adversary, he received the first spear on his shield, and
the second, which followed instantaneously, he escaped by springing
high into the air.

Recognizing the fact that two great braves had met to fight to the
death, friends and foes in the immediate vicinity suspended their
struggles for the moment, to watch the combatants.

After, as we have seen, escaping the spears, Mat rushed upon his
opponent before he could raise his club, and, profiting by a lesson
which he had learnt at home, namely, the use of his fists, he dropped
his shield, and at the same moment feinted with his left. These
tactics, evidently new to the black fellow, somewhat disconcerted him,
and for one instant he was irresolute; that moment proved fatal to
him, for Mat brought down his club with terrific force on the mass of
plumes.

Down went the Tingura chief half stunned, but the thick, stiff
feathers of the emu had deadened the force of the blow, and he was
up and on his feet again, club in hand, but before he could raise the
weapon Mat repeated the blow behind his ear, driving in his skull.

On seeing the chief fall to rise no more, the friendlies gave a loud
shout, whilst the enemy yelled with rage, and the fight waxed fiercer
than ever.

Mat was well aware that there was a concerted effort to kill him at
any price. Yet for the moment, having seen the power of his arm, and
never having thought that the white men could fight them with their
own weapons, the enemy held aloof, until, amidst loud Tingura cries,
another warrior advanced upon him. At the same moment, in an effort to
defend himself from a side blow, Mat’s club was dashed from him.

Our forester was now unarmed, but to the astonishment of his enemies
and admiration of his friends, this fact seemed not to discourage him
in the very least.

Striking out right and left with his fists, he felled a couple of his
immediate opponents, with a bound was over their prostrate forms, and
had this fresh warrior in his grasp, when, wrenching his club from him
as he seized him, but disdaining to use it, he threw it high overhead
to where he judged his Waigonda friends would be.

It now became a question of brute force between the white man and the
black, the advantage being slightly on the side of Mat as a wrestler.
Had the native been brought up in the same school as our forester, the
issue would have been doubtful as to which would have come off the
victor; for two finer proportioned men it would have been difficult to
find.

Although the battle was raging before and behind them, again were the
two combatants left to themselves for the time being. Mat had seized
his man by the wrist in disarming him, but at once found that the
black could twist this wrist round and round like an eel, no matter
how firmly he grasped it; the thin muscular arm was too slippery to
hold _still_. So, changing his tactics as the fellow “screwed” away
from him, Mat let go suddenly, got a partial grip round his loins, and
for a brief moment held him as in a vice; but a sudden wrench, and
again Mat’s hands partially slipped. Owing to this final exertion the
Tingura fell, dragging Mat with him. There they rolled together in the
thick dust, locked in a deadly embrace; but the black, not relishing
this kind of fighting, by a violent effort was on his legs again, yet
still in the partial embrace of our forester.

Thus for an instant stood the two gladiators, with quivering limbs,
their muscles standing out like cords ready to burst, when Mat got
a full grip, this time round the loins of the Tingura, and with one
tremendous heave, aided by his knee, threw him completely over his
shoulder, and left him, stunned and bleeding, a good three yards
behind him.

[Illustration: Mat throws the Tingura.]

The chief cause of Mat being at length able to give his man this
deadly fall was the fact that when they rolled together on the ground
he was enabled to secure a handful of _grit_, and thus secure a firm
grip of the black’s skin. He had never before attempted to _hold_ a
black fellow, and he now realized that when he tried to, there was a
natural sort of grease in the native skin which prevented him. He had
thus, during the struggle, been watching for an opportunity to grab
some sand; an effort which we have seen he succeeded in.

Our forester was now pretty well exhausted, and had it not been that
the Waigonda formed round him, and covered his retreat towards the
“thunder-stick,” he must have been either struck down or made prisoner.

Tim, meantime, with Dromoora and the rest of the tribe, had been
bravely fighting against overwhelming odds. They were being driven
slowly but surely back to the point at which they had previously
determined to make their final stand, but it looked as though they
could not be forced to reach it, so stubborn was their defence.
Thinking by means of a bold dash to finish the battle, the Tingura
made a rush, and Tim found himself separated from his tribe.

One assailant, who rushed at him with a “waddy,” he knocked down
with his right fist, receiving the intended blow from the club on
his shield. Whilst still staggering from the shock of this, another
native hit him a crushing blow on the ribs, which knocked Tim down.
The black was in the act of raising his club again to give him a
finishing blow on the head when a yellow form seemed to spring out
of the long grass, hurl itself on to the native’s back, and by sheer
weight bear him to the earth, and there fix its teeth firmly in his
throat. Mat, having been a witness of this act, rushed to the spot,
and shouting, “Cheer up, Tim, I’ll put this brute out of his misery,”
finished the Tingura by a blow on the head, which, seeing that Jumper
had torn the savage’s throat open, was the most humane act to perform.

But though fortune had so far befriended the brothers, yet she had
not altogether acted in like manner with Dromoora and the rest of his
tribe.

The Tinguras were so enraged at the unexpected opposition, that with a
savage yell the only surviving chief gathered his men round him, and
determined to annihilate the Waigondas by their still overpowering
numbers.

They had succeeded in driving Dromoora and all his fighting-men into
the timber, where “throwing weapons” were of no avail, so that each
side relied on their clubs only.

Many fell at this spot, both friends and foes. Blows were given and
received which would have rendered any white man _hors de combat_; not
so these wild men. During this last struggle Mat saw more than one
knocked down apparently dead, and the next instant this man would be
on his legs again, fighting more fiercely than ever.

The yells and shrieks were positively appalling. Mat and his brother,
who was on his legs again, had never heard or read of anything to
resemble this last effort for victory.

The blacks, both friends and foes, seemed literally to increase in
stature as they sprang from side to side to avoid each other’s blows,
whilst the countenances of the combatants were positively fiendish.

At this period of the battle it was evident that the Tingura were
doing their utmost to kill Dromoora, and in their efforts to
accomplish this did not now attack the brothers to the extent that
these latter had anticipated.

But numbers told; many of the Waigondas had dropped in that clump of
timber, never to rise again, whilst a devoted band rallied round their
beloved chief.

The brothers were in an agony of doubt, and Mat had more than once
said, “I’ll shoot!” as he handled the gun, which he had snatched
from its hiding-place; but Tim had begged him to wait for Dromoora’s
command.

At last Mat said, “I’ll wait no longer!”

As he uttered these words, two blacks, one of whom was the last
survivor of the Tingura chiefs, sneaked suddenly round a large tree,
behind the group of Waigonda warriors, and, with a fierce war-whoop,
threw themselves on Dromoora, who, wounded as he already had been in
the earlier part of the battle, was no match for this sudden onslaught.

One black had already knocked him against the tree by a blow, which
was luckily partly fended off by the shield of the chief; the other
was in the act of striking him with a heavy wooden sword, when
Dromoora, holding his hands high over his head, shouted,—

“Teegoora!!!”

Mat had _seen_ the signal coming, and, thundering out a loud British
“Hurrah!” to call off the attention of the attacking party, in one
bound he was up to the combatants, and, holding “old Joe” out at arm’s
length, he simply blew off the head of one of his chief’s assailants,
and with the remaining barrel scattered the entrails of the other, as
he stooped from the shock of the explosion. This happened in the very
nick of time, for Dromoora at the same instant fainted from wounds and
exhaustion, thus making it appear to all excepting the brothers that
all three men had been shot.

“Quick!” sang out Mat, as soon as he had fired; “quick, powder and
lead!”

But there was no need for such haste to load.

With the reports of the gun the weapons of the attacking party fell
from their hands, and, without looking for a way, they fled in a
frenzy of terror.

Our foresters had calculated on this final panic, had foretold it to
their friends, and had laid their plans accordingly.

At the signal of the double report up jumped a number of youths from
the grass, and, aided by the jins, “rounded up” and drove the greater
part of their bewildered enemies in a body towards a previously
prepared cutting in the scrub, whilst Mat on one side and Tim and
Jumper on the other, kept them from breaking away.

When Mat saw the fugitives fairly entering the cleared path, he gave a
loud war-whoop, and fired a dose of slugs at their retreating forms,
which, owing to the distance, did not wound them; but it had the
desired effect; for, never looking for any impediment that might be
in their path, the Tinguras fell one over the other into two rows of
kangaroo nets, which had been set there to entrap them.

Leaving the Waigondas, who had passed him in pursuit, to deal with the
prisoners, Mat and Tim returned to Dromoora.



                             CHAPTER IX.

    After the battle—Burial rites—The Waigonda wish to make chiefs
     of the white men—Our “twins” leave with Dromoora and Terebare
                            for the south.


When the brothers returned to Dromoora they found that chief lying on
the ground, surrounded by Terebare and her maidens, who had not joined
in the pursuit.

These were weeping and wailing, supposing him to be dead; but Tim
brought a gourd of water and poured it over his face and head. This
act aroused Terebare, and she quickly procured some young shoots
of the rough-leaved fig, then making poultices of the milky juice,
applied them to her lord’s wounds.

“I knew he warn’t dead,” said Tim; as, after the lapse of a few
minutes, the wounded man commenced to breathe heavily. “But I expect
they’d ’av gone on howling till he _was_, unless we’d flung the water
over ’im.”

The brothers then helped to place the chief in a little arbour of
boughs, which was erected for him, and left him there in the hands of
his wife.

The whole of that night were the Waigonda lamenting their dead, the
howls of the jins being specially erie and dismal.

It was noticed with surprise by the brothers that, notwithstanding the
length of time that the fight had lasted, and the numerous crushing
blows given, they could not find more than a score bodies on the
battlefield; but it was explained to them that many of the Tinguras,
stricken down apparently to death, had so far recovered that they had
crawled away, most probably to die later on; and, besides this, that
many more of the enemy had been clubbed to death by the Waigondas,
when caught in the nets.

Next day the natives proceeded to burn their own dead, reserving the
body of a youth for a feast. After the bodies were burnt, the ashes
were tied up in pieces of bark and put carefully away; whilst portions
of the defunct Tinguras were divided into thin strips and portioned
out amongst the tribe, Mat and Tim each receiving a share of the two
blacks who had fallen to their gun.

As they were supposed to receive these relics with great pride and
solemnity, they wrapt them up with extreme care and gravity in the
presence of the black, and, as carefully, a few days afterwards, left
them within reach of the dingoes or wild dogs.

This is how it happened that Jumper appeared so opportunely on the
scene of battle.

Before the fight commenced he had been tied up, but fancying, no
doubt, that his masters were in distress during the uproar which
ensued, he had bitten through the cord, or rather vine, which held
him, had made his way to Tim, whose voice he heard, and had fastened
on the very black who had struck him a day or two previously, when
guarding his master’s gun.

The native whom Mat had thrown so heavily was found moaning near a
water-hole, to which he had dragged himself, his spine being injured.

As soon as he was discovered, he was brought up by the Waigondas to be
butchered by Mat, as they said that they had reserved that honour for
him; but on being told that white men were not such cowards as to kill
a helpless prisoner, one of the natives jumped up and said that _he_
would willingly club him then and there.

The brothers insisted that the life of the prisoner should be spared,
but it was not until Mat threatened them with the gun if they
attempted to carry out their threat, that they agreed to spare the
life of their enemy for the present.

Shortly afterwards he was brought up before a council of the elders,
who told him that he was not to be killed because the white men so
wished it, that that being the case he should be cared for until he
recovered, when he was to go back to the remnant of his tribe, and to
tell them and certain other tribes that the first time they molested
man, woman, or child of the Waigondas, the white men would at once
come and crush the whole lot by thunder.

The effect of this speech was to cause the prisoner to tremble
violently, for when lying helpless in the grass he had been a witness
of the death of Dromoora’s assailants, and, as he acknowledged, had
nearly then and there died of fright at the reports of the weapon, and
the result of the discharges.

Our foresters tended the man carefully, as the Waigondas would
have nothing to say to him, yet the Tingura man never showed the
slightest sign of gratitude for this conduct, but scowled, at Mat more
especially, to the last, and at length departed, cured, but with a
look of hatred in his eyes.

As soon as he was sufficiently recovered, Dromoora sent for the
brothers, having heard that they wished to get rid of their war-paint.
When they appeared before him, he thus addressed them,—

“Two such brave men, who have saved our tribe, must be made chiefs,
and for this ceremony join in a ‘Corroboree’ of triumph as well.”

Mat and his brother, who hated this everlasting foolery, as they
termed a “Corroboree,” begged to be excused from taking part in it, on
account of their bodies being so bruised and stiff from the effects of
the late strife, and for the same reason requested that the ceremony
of making them chiefs might be deferred.

The chief said there was reason in their request, and continued,—

“If it had not been for you, oh! brave brothers, Dromoora and his
tribe would have been swept away, I will give you all I have, anything
you want, if you will give me the ‘stick’ and tell me its secret.”

When Dromoora had sent for the brothers, they had partly suspected
that the conversation would take this turn, and had therefore agreed
upon their answer.

So Mat replied,—

“You, oh, noble chief, and your brave tribe, have saved _our_ lives
from the beginning, ever since we landed on your coast. We were able
to fight and kill in this battle because we knew things that the
Tingura did not, and because we possessed the Teegoora ‘stick.’ _We_
have also a favour to ask. You shall have a ‘thunder-stick,’ and be
taught the secret; you shall have iron tomahawks, and many other
beautiful things, if you will take us to where we can meet the white
man.”

“That cannot be,” answered Dromoora, “the strange white men might kill
me.”

“_Then_,” eagerly broke in Mat, “let your tribe keep me as prisoner,
till you return safely—take only my brother with you.”

This idea seemed to strike the chief, and saying he would talk it over
with the elders, the conversation terminated.

“That’s very pretty of you saying you’d stay while I went,” said Tim,
as the brothers walked towards their hut, “but I don’t stir without
you, not a step.”

After some farther discussing the pros and cons of the matter, our
foresters received a summons to attend the elders.

They found the whole of their friends seated upon the ground, awaiting
them.

Upon their making their appearance, the chief at once proceeded to
cross-examine the brothers as to their wishes, telling them that he
utterly declined to have anything to do with their going west, as the
tribes in that direction were very hostile and treacherous.

Mat answered this by saying that they had long wished to go to the
_south_, as they were convinced that there were white men there, many
moons distant.

The chief said that he would go nowhere were it not for the fact that
the brothers held the power of life and death in their hands; would
they kill a white man if he attempted to murder him, Dromoora?

To this question the brothers answered together,—

“Without the slightest hesitation.”

After much desultory talk it was agreed that both brothers might go
with the chief, who should also be accompanied by his wife, if they
promised to bring the two natives back again unharmed, under care of
white men armed with “thunder-sticks;” and, further, that all the
tribe should receive presents, which Dromoora would choose, and that
no member of the tribe would be harmed.

To these terms Mat joyfully agreed, with the proviso that amongst the
presents there should be only one Teegoora “stick,” and _that_ for the
chief, and that to him alone would they impart the secret.

Our foresters were so overjoyed at this decision that they wished
to start off at once; but Dromoora said he should not be ready for
ten days’ time, holding up the fingers of both hands to express the
number; so they were forced to curb their impatience, occupying
themselves during the _now_ long days in looking through the small
stock of belongings which they had managed to keep all these long
years, and throwing away such as would no longer be necessary.

At length the eventful day arrived, and gathering up their weapons
of wood, “old Joe,” the nuggets, and the remains of their library,
the white men started with Jumper and the two natives; without much
leave-taking between the travellers and the rest of the tribe,
excepting that they shouted messages to each other until out of
hearing.

The little band commenced working their route by the sun and
coast-line by day, and the stars by night, when they happened to
travel late.

They avoided the neighbourhood of all tribes by the way, and journeyed
but slowly, Tim and the chief having scarcely recovered the effects
of their wounds, so that at first they did not cover much ground, for
having Jumper to guard them, they were enabled to sleep every night
far later than they would otherwise have done, and the sun was often
high in the heavens before they resumed their march next morning.

During the daytime they were also much detained by having to procure
food, but in spite of all hindrances to a quick progress, the spirits
of our foresters were buoyed by the glorious hope of once again
joining their own kind, and hearing something of that outside world
which had been a blank to them for many weary years.

Every description of country they passed over that it was possible to
conceive.

Large undulating prairies covered with rich grass and interspersed
with running streams, across miles of dry and stony ranges, now
cutting their way through dense and seemingly endless scrubs, where
the heat was like a furnace, then out again across a complete network
of great sandy beds of rivers, which in flood-time were roaring
torrents, as denoted by the drift-wood hanging thirty and forty feet
high in the trees on both banks.

At length they came to a river which was so different to any they
had yet seen that, though it was mid-day when they arrived on its
banks, they determined to “spell” there a few days and explore the
neighbourhood.

This river was running with a blue and sparkling stream, numerous
islets peeped up amongst its waterfalls and cascades, its banks were
clothed with dense and lofty palm-tree scrubs.

Wondering how it was that this special strip of country should be
blessed with a large running river when all the others were dry, or
nearly so, our travellers started to explore its source.

They found, after many miles of rough walking, that it was fed by many
springs which issued from the foot of a good-sized mountain amongst
some Basaltic rocks. Judging from experience in other places, the
chief said that these springs would never fail, probably never _had_
done so.

Our party caught plenty of fish in this river, amongst which were many
large eels, and a specially good eating fish which resembled a great
silvery perch, with an eye the colour of a ruby.

The country on the banks of this river consisted of rich black soil,
covered with wild bananas and other tropical growth, and carpeted with
a wealth of wild flowers. Besides all this there were numerous signs
of game. Traces of small fires both up and down the valley showed that
it was a favourite hunting-ground of the natives.

But this paradise of a country had two drawbacks, one of which was
that the river swarmed with crocodiles, and the scrubs were full of
stinging trees.

This gigantic nettle was well known to our party, and therefore they
never came into contact with it, but its pungent smell and handsome
blossom seemed to pervade every scrub; and as Jumper had a narrow
escape from the jaws of a crocodile, the travellers found themselves
rather disappointed with the district on the third day of their
sojourn, and so decided to continue their journey southwards.

Three months had they thus crawled through the bush, when one day,
trudging along through a sandy scrub, they descried two natives
digging yams on the plain beyond.

“You hide here whilst I go and talk to them,” said Dromoora, and the
next moment he and Terebare were off to interview the strangers.

They were away an unusually long time, and returned at length bearing
an emu, which the chief had stalked and speared.

Throwing down the bird, he informed his companions that the two
strange natives belonged to a tribe lying far to the west, and that,
as far as he could understand their language, he understood them to
say, that white men were camped a day’s journey to the west, men who
use thunder, and killed ducks with it.

“_Then_,” exclaimed Mat, “let us first have a feast of emu, and then
be off west also, as soon as possible.”

However, by the time they had finished their repast, the day had worn
to its close; and Tim feeling twinges of rheumatism again, the little
party decided to camp where they were.

When they looked out next day, they saw several more strange natives
on the plain, so that in going west they had to make a considerable
détour to avoid them.

That evening they came on the tracks of unshod horses, as Mat joyfully
pointed out, telling his dark friends at the same time that when the
white man’s camp was reached, they must stay behind, and that Tim had
better remain with them, as he was still a bit leg-weary.

Dromoora and his wife willingly consented to this plan, as they were
much frightened at the enormous tracks of the strange beast which Mat
had pointed out.

Whilst it was still light, Mat spied the camp of the white men,
situated near a lagoon. What first met his eye was a tent, a solitary
figure, and smoke proceeding from a good-sized fire near it.

The sensation was new to him—the first white men, the first signs of
civilized life, that he had seen for many a year—and as he gazed he
shook in every limb as he considered how best to approach the camp.

Having made up his mind, he first proceeded to hide his weapons, then
walked boldly up to within fifty yards, and gave a loud whistle to
announce his presence. He had noticed _two_ men sitting by the fire
now that he was so much nearer.

The strangers, on hearing the whistle, looked round, then, seeing, as
they supposed, a strange black fellow, instantly snatched up their
guns.

Mat, expecting this movement, cried, “Don’t shoot! White man!”

“Come, I know better than that; you are a black who has learned
English!” shouted one of the men. “A step nearer, and we shoot. Put
down your gun,”—for Mat had retained this weapon—“and then come here!”

Mat complied with this request, and placed his gun against a tree;
then, seeing that he was unarmed, the strangers allowed him to
approach.

In a few words Mat told his story, how he had been shipwrecked,
together with his brother, up north, had lived for many years with the
blacks, and was now journeying south with his friends and brother.

“Well, this beats creation,” said one of the young men whom Mat was
addressing. “You’re a regular Crusoe, only without the clothes. Come
and sit down, and tell us more about it.”

“Will you first let me bring up two of the blacks who have befriended
us all these years?”

“Yes, if they are unarmed, and their tribe does not come with them.”

Mat gave a reassuring answer, and then went back for the chief and his
wife, whom he shortly returned with, introducing his brother at the
same time.

Our foresters were soon comfortably seated at the fire, revelling
in the long-forgotten luxuries of tea, sugar, and tobacco, their
hearts too full to speak, and, as Tim observed, “he did not know
_how_ to think even, it was so like a dream.” Our heroes, in fact,
felt prostrated with joy. They wished, in this supreme first hour of
_real_ liberty, to hear _no_ news, to ask _no_ questions; which their
new acquaintances observing, simply put another “billy” of tea on the
fire, and very thoughtfully left them to meditate undisturbed.

The evening had closed in, when two black boys belonging to the camp
came up.

Dromoora could not make out these “boys” at all, dressed, as they
were, in gaudy-coloured flannel shirts and moleskins. He hailed them
in every dialect he knew, but all to no purpose; they only stared at
him, and more still did they stare at the brothers, whom, however,
they told their masters at once “were white fellow, only all the same
black fellow.”

The strangers, seeing that Tim suffered from rheumatism, had
thoughtfully rigged him up a kind of tent, or “lean to,” of canvas,
in a sheltered spot at the back of the camp, his two native friends
sleeping in the same part, and carrying on their own and Tim’s cooking
there.

Mat stayed with his hosts, and slept by their open fire.

Before going to sleep this first night, one of them said to him,
“Now that you have collected your thoughts a bit, tell me more about
yourselves, and we’ll let you know what _we_ are doing up here. By
the way, if you had not dropped across us, you would have wandered a
lot further before finding anything like a station.”

However, Mat had not much more to tell, for the brothers had agreed,
on first discovering the strangers, that, though they would of course
relate their adventures in a general way, yet that many particulars
and incidents of their past lives they would withhold until they knew
more of their new comrades.

So Mat soon brought his story to a conclusion, being also anxious to
hear the strangers’ account of themselves, and of colonial matters
generally.

As Mat’s narrative was brought to a close, the younger stranger
knocked the ashes out of his pipe, and said,—

“Now I’ll tell you about ourselves. My name is Carew, and my mate’s
name is Terry. We came out about two years ago, as ‘new chums,’ to a
station on the ‘Downs,’ but—well, there wasn’t much going on, and it
didn’t suit, so we are looking out for a bit of country up here for
ourselves; and Burns, that’s the boss—”

“Burns!” interrupted Mat, “why, that’s the man I had a letter to, I do
believe.”

“Now you mention it,” continued Carew, “I remember Burns said that he
_had_ been expecting a new chum out years ago; he often referred to
it. The ship was called the _Austral_, I think. She was signalled off
Hobart Town, and has never been heard of from that day to this. I see
it all; you must be the man whom he was looking out for. I remember
now, he said that steamers were sent everywhere to look for the ship.
I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll lend you one of our boys to put you
on the direct track for Burns’ station, and you shall take a second
letter to him. My eye, _won’t_ he be astonished!

“By-the-bye, the other chap, who’s always in that tent, and generally
drunk, looks a bad lot, drunk or sober; I can’t tell you anything
about him, excepting that his name is Boyd, he has an awful scar on
his face, caused in some drunken row probably; we came across him on
the road, riding a thoroughbred-looking horse—stolen I expect; he
forced his company on us, and we shall be glad when he goes, and now I
vote we turn in.”

Dromoora and his wife felt more at home after they had been for a few
hours in the company of their dark brethren. They even, at length,
summoned up courage to stroke the horses, causing much laughter by
asking what the big kangaroos ate? whether the white men ate _them_?
And many remarks of a like nature, all of which were interpreted to
the strangers.

After they had spelled for three days, the camp was broken up; Carew
and Terry to go north, the brothers and their party south.

Carew had packed a horse with rations for the brothers, giving them
some “notes” as well, so that they would be able to purchase clothes,
in time to be decently rigged out before they entered the district of
the Darling Downs.

Mat thanked his newly-found friends for their generosity, and promised
to repay the money as soon as he could make a little; he then gave
them directions where to find some of the good cattle country, through
which he had lately been travelling. The parties bid good-bye,
mutually pleased with each other, and a quarter of an hour later the
camp was lost to sight.

On the way south, our party conversed with each other concerning their
late acquaintances.

“I only saw the third white man once, the first morning, and then only
for a second,” remarked Mat.

“But _I_ saw him again,” said Dromoora. “One evening I was lying very
still, and he crawled to the opening of his tent to get a better light
from the fire, so that he might look at some of those yellow stones,
like yours. I suppose all white men have them?”

“Did he?” asked Tim in a startled tone, “Let’s count the nuggets.”

Forthwith the dilly bag was opened, and several of the lumps of gold
were found to be missing!

Yet this loss did not affect our foresters much, for they knew where
more was to be found; besides, were they not “Homeward bound.”

For weeks more our little party journeyed on, happy and contented,
the brothers realizing that they were _really_ leaving their lonely
life behind them, and knowing that their guide was taking them
straight to their destination, for the black told them one day that
they were getting near a small store, pointing to the tracks of drays
and bullocks.

Having reached this building, our party had to go through so many
examinations as to who they were, and from what part of the world
they hailed, that it was a long time before they could be rigged out
in clothes. Dromoora said he knew all about shirts and trousers, and
declined to be burdened with anything but a straw hat and a thin
cotton shirt, the former of which he ended by giving to his wife.

A looking-glass proved as great an object of interest to the brothers
as it did to the natives.

Keeping along a well-marked track, after quitting the store, they came
to a fenced-in country; and, guided by the barking of dogs, found
themselves at Burns’ Station.

Walking up to the house, Mat, who acted as spokesman, was confronted
by a tall and dissipated-looking man, who was lounging in a canvas
chair, smoking and reading.

This individual’s first words were not encouraging, as putting down
his paper, he stared at Mat, and drawled out,—

“What do _you_ want? I don’t require any hands now, certainly not a
half-caste.”

But Mat’s answer in right good English considerably astonished Mr.
Burns.

“My name is Stanley, I was bringing out a letter to you some years ago
from a more civil-tongued fellow than yourself, and that’s your own
brother, only I and my brother here got wrecked, were the only two
saved, and we’ve lived with the blacks up north ever since; how long I
don’t know, as I’ve lost all tally, but a great number of years.”

Before the conclusion of this speech, Burns had started from his chair
and was critically examining the speaker.

“Well, I be hanged!” he cried, as soon as he could grasp the fact
that he was addressing one of the only two survivors of the ill-fated
_Young Austral_; for he guessed that was the ship. “I didn’t mean to
speak roughly, only I’ve been so bothered lately; that’s your brother
there, I’ll go bail by the likeness. But come in, come in, and let’s
talk all about it; fetch the niggers up too, I beg your pardon, I mean
the _natives_. You shall all have a good square meal before anything
else.”

Burns’ manner completely changed as he ordered in the dinner, and bade
them all be seated. Mat then gave his host Carew’s letter, and whilst
he was reading it, our travellers were only too glad to be left to
enjoy their meal, having fasted since early morning.

Burns reappeared after the lapse of a few minutes, with a bottle of
grog, saying,—

“Now you’ve about finished, let me hear something of your doings.”

So Mat gave him an outline of the history that he had related to
Carew.



                              CHAPTER X.

      Burns’ station—The horse-breaker—Colonial “Blow”—Satan the
                  First—Mat “collars” the buckjumper.


Burns listened in wonder to Mat’s narrative, and when it was
concluded, said,—

“You are the first white man who have lived amongst the blacks of
the northern coast, and come again into civilization. I remember my
brother writing out by mail about you perfectly well; there were a lot
of my stores on that ship, but she never turned up. Well, wonders will
never cease; what are you thinking of doing? By-the-bye, Stephen said
that you were the most undefeated rider, for your age, in Hampshire.”

“I could ride a bit then,” replied Mat, “but I don’t know what I could
do now.”

“Oh, _you’ll_ do all right, one does not forget riding any more than
swimming, and if you like to spell here, why I shall be pleased to
have you and your mates too, and you can look about you. I’ve had no
end of new chums; but unless they can ride anything, and everything,
they are of no use to me, and I believe those men you met went off in
a huff, because I talked in the same way, and swore at them a bit for
their laziness; but then, you see, one always _has_ to swear at new
chums.”

Burns’ remarks were not altogether free from strong language; many
of his expressions were remarkable, and quite new to the brothers;
moreover they were assisted “up” by sundry nips from a bottle of
“Three Star” on the table, so that in a short time he grew maudlin and
monotonous, finally settling down in his “squatter” chair for a sleep.

“Well, what do you think of _him_?” queried Mat, as soon as Burns had
disappeared.

“Why he drinks like a fish, and is such a swearing chap, that I don’t
wonder at those men clearing out.”

“I don’t fancy him very much, myself,” agreed Mat, “but I don’t think
he’s a bad sort when he’s sober. Let us stay on a bit here; he’s got a
chap coming to break in colts, and I want to see him at work.”

So they stayed on until the breaker arrived—a long limbed, actively
built Victorian native (i.e. a white man born in Victoria).

Mat had heard that this station of Burns’ carried some notorious
buckjumpers amongst the mob of horses which pastured on it, so after a
few general remarks, he asked the man whether he could sit out a real
_bad_ one.

“Buckjumper!” answered the breaker, “me sit a buckjumper? There ain’t
a horse in the whole country I can’t ride, and smoke my pipe on ’im,
and without a ‘kid,’ too.”

“What’s that?” asked Mat.

“Why, it’s plain, _you’re_ a new chum, not to know as a ‘kid’s,’ what
boobies use, a stick strapped in front to keep ’em on. _I_ never uses
it, as Burns will tell you.”

“All right,” cried Burns, who now came up and joined in the
conversation, “We shall have the mob up to-morrow, and see how you
shape on Satan the First.”

This sudden challenge somewhat sobered the bragging tone of the
trainer, to whom it was addressed; for after examining Burns for some
seconds with a bleary eye, he remarked,—

“You’re in such a blooming hurry, I must prepare a bit first.”

“Which means,” said Burns aside to Mat, “that with a few more nobblers
he will get some Dutch courage into him. I can see that he has heard
about the horse from the change in his tone.”

The next morning, however, our rough-rider was as full of “spirits”
and bounce as ever; yet he looked “full of riding” as he turned out
in jack-boots, clean white moleskin breeches, blue shirt, a silk
handkerchief of the same colour round his throat and a serviceable
old “cabbage-tree” hat on his head; it was evident, though, that his
nerves were not very fit, when the horse was at length saddled.

“Too shaky about the hands,” whispered Burns.

And sure enough at the third “buck,” “Satan” proved the victor by
sending his rider into a bunch at one corner of the stockyard.

“I never knew a horse shape like that of all I’ve crossed,” swore the
discomfited rider, as soon as he could get his wind.

“Never mind,” laughed Burns, “when he’s fresh to-morrow, I’ll mount my
friend on him, and we’ll all go and see the fun.”

“What! that bloke with the black beard, what had never heard tell on a
‘kid’—he ride! I’ll bet you five notes he don’t sit him as long as I
did.”

“Done with you,” cried Burns, who had long since seen that the man
ranked amongst the common class of “blowers,” or “braggarts,” peculiar
to his profession in the colony.

The next day Mat was up early, and meeting Burns, told him that as
there was a bet on his riding, he must take a “stretch” with another
horse first, or he could not answer for keeping his seat.

So a hot-looking chestnut was saddled, Mat straightway mounted and
disappeared into the Bush.

When he returned a couple of hours later, he said to Tim, as he threw
himself out of the saddle, “The greatest treat I’ve had for years;
felt like a man again on that horse, but he’s a hot ’un, and no
mistake.”

An hour’s rest, a gentle run, and then Mat changed his shirt, and told
Burns he was ready.

“What! going to ride with bare legs and feet?”

“Yes, I seem to feel more supple, and my feet are as hard as leather.”

These remarks were followed by a jeer from the breaker, who hiccoughed
between his cups, “Ring up, the show’s a-going to commence.” “Hullo!”
he added, “what’s the nigger up to?” for Dromoora approached at this
moment, armed with spears and club, and calling Mat aside, whispered,—

“Take the ‘thunder-stick,’ that thing will kill you.”

Mat laughed, and was proceeding to explain the matter to his
companion, when they saw that the horse had at last been yarded.

The last bit of advice came from the breaker. “Take a drink, mate;
it’s the last you’ll ever taste.”

“No thanks,” laughed Mat, as he walked towards the stockyard, which
by this time was surrounded by every man, woman, and child about the
station.

It was a long time before the stock-riders could induce the horse to
put his head into the “bail,” as he rushed open-mouthed at every one
who approached, causing a general stampede to the rails.

When at last his head was between the two beams, and these had been
locked, he gave a heave with his neck to test the timbers, and then
remained quiet for a moment.

“Now bridle and saddle,” called out Burns. The bridle difficulty
was soon arranged; but getting on the saddle took more time, as the
animal’s hind legs were at liberty.

This being at length accomplished, a “greenhide” crupper was slipped
under the tail, when from the top rails two men quickly spliced the
hair partially into it.

When all was ready, Burns sang out, “Let go.” The bail was opened, and
the horse was free, and making for the first man which caught his eye.

However, all hands were prepared for this rush, and quickly gained
the top rail of the stockyard fence—all save Mat, who at first
coolly dodged the brute; but at length followed the example of his
companions, as “Satan” was evidently determined to kill him, and he
could see no present chance of getting on his back.

Finding now that he had the yard to himself, the horse gave a moderate
buck or two; but realizing that the saddle could not be shifted,
contented himself with walking round and round, and glaring sullenly
at the spectators.

Not a sound could now be heard. All eyes were fixed on Mat, who,
watching his opportunity, sprang lightly down, and seizing the bridle
by both reins close to the bit, was preparing to mount. Taken for
the moment unawares—so quickly and silently had Mat accomplished
this—the horse gave an angry snort, and the next moment was careering
round, swinging Mat off his feet; but our forester’s grasp was
powerful, and could not be shaken off.

[Illustration: Mat collars the buckjumper.]

Finding that he could not free himself, the horse was preparing to put
in practice some of his old tricks, when Mat vaulted, or swung himself
as quick as thought into the saddle; yet before he could get either
foot into the stirrups, up went “Satan” into the air, with head and
tail down.

Three, four, six, ten, and more bucks, till the rider appeared as if
permanently balanced on a pivot.

Finding this process of no avail, and that Mat did not feel to him
like coming off just yet, the beast next tried to bite his legs,
gnashing his teeth in his furious but futile efforts, as Mat cast each
threatened limb backwards, and thus baulked him. Then he struck at
his legs with his hind feet; but here again no result. The man’s leg
seemed simply to alight on the horse’s neck at each threatened stroke.
The next “round” was of a very different nature. Satan threw himself
down, and _rolled_ with his rider.

To those who were witnessing this mighty struggle of man _versus_
brute, it appeared as if this last act was a decisive one, and as if
Mat had “gone down,” never to come up again. Both had disappeared
amidst a mountain of dust; but a lusty cheer rang out as the rider
again showed himself, and still sitting in his saddle, when the horse
rose, though so covered was his face and beard with blood and black
dust, that his features were barely recognizable.

The spectators could now no longer control themselves, but crowded
into that portion of the yard farthest from the contest. The horse
took no notice of them whatever, finding he had that on his back the
like of which he had never had before.

And now, not giving his rider time even to grasp a wet towel which was
thrown to him, “Satan” tried his last and hitherto never-failing trick.

Gathering himself together with a snort of triumph, he made a wild and
terrific sidelong plunge against the massive timbers of the stockyard
fence.

The sensation of “bucking,” as this horse had bucked, had been new to
Mat; he had never been rolled with before, in the peculiar manner with
which this horse had tried to crush him; but of the last “round” he
had had many former experiences in his old forest days; whilst riding
young colts in the beech-woods, and as he afterwards remarked to Tim,—

“It seemed quite ‘homely.’”

So when the horse made his plunge on the off side, our forester slung
his right leg behind him, and “Satan” came with his ribs crashing
against the heavy fencing, with a shock that knocked the remaining
wind out of him, and which at the same time nearly dismounted his
rider.

One of the old stockmen in the yard now begged Mat to get off during
this lull; but before he could answer, a black form rushed through
the throng, and with spear poised in the air, screamed in Waigonda,—

“Look out! whilst I spear the man-eater through the throat.”

Mat stretched out to catch the poised weapon—seized it—at the same
moment the horse made another plunge for the fence. Mat again saved
his leg but was overbalanced trying to do two things at once, and he
fell off. Never, however, quitting his hold of the reins, he gave
Satan a sound slap with his open hand as he regained the saddle,
prepared for further hostilities.

But the fight was over.

The horse stood there, never caring even for the jostling of men who
were round him; two jets of steam spouting from his nostrils, his wet
flanks heaving with spasmodic jerks, and accompanied by a noise of
choking sobs.

Mat appeared ready to faint, so, without more ado, Tim and his friends
dragged him from the saddle, bore him away on their shoulders out of
the yard, and deposited him on a mattress, which had been placed under
a shady tree by Terebare’s forethought.

Burns, during the time that this “man-horse” struggle had lasted, had
been in a perfect ecstasy of delight, hopping round the crowd with
a bottle of his favourite “three star” in his hand, out of which he
constantly “pledged our hero,” or proffered it to the bystanders for
the same purpose. When he saw Mat at length carried out of the yard,
he hurried up to him with,—

“By Jove! old man, finest thing I’ve ever seen; if it hadn’t been for
the two feet of dust, though, he’d have killed you outright when he
rolled. By gad, you’re the best man I’ve seen in over twenty years of
bush-life. I’d offer you a hundred a year, and more, if you’d stop;
but anyhow, take a ‘ball’ now, you look as though you wanted it.”

But Mat, though he was glad of the brandy, and took a deep pull at the
bottle, had no voice left in him.

So they left him to the care of the faithful Terebare, who, taking his
head on her lap and bathing his face, sung him a soothing native chant
until he fell asleep from exhaustion.



                             CHAPTER XI.

      An official summons—Travelling in state—Brisbane—On board
    ship again—Triumphal entry into Sydney—In a church again—The
            lecture—Meeting old friends—Soft reflections.


Some few weeks after this, the brothers were discussing their future
plans with Burns.

The fact was that ever since the riding episode, he had been trying
to induce them to stay altogether at his station, and they had almost
agreed with his proposal to do so, at all events for six months,
when their conversation was interrupted by the arrival of a mounted
messenger, who, with a loud clinking of spurs, came up the verandah
steps and handed Burns an official-looking document, saying shortly,
as he did so,—

“From the Governor.”

“Hullo, you Stanleys,” shouted Burns, as soon as he had skipped
through the letter, “here, read this. You are both—all of you—expected
to accompany the bearer back to Brisbane at once, to wait on the
acting-Governor, and then be shipped off to Sydney. But here, read it.”

The brothers read the letter carefully through, and found that it was
indeed a summons to Brisbane from headquarters; that “the two natives
were to go with them, and that Burns was to find the horses.”

“But how do they know anything about us?” inquired Mat.

“That’s what beats me,” said Burns. “Oh, stop; I’ve got it! That
drunken rider who was here has a brother, sort of head-clerk in
Government House. The breaker has told his brother, and thus the
whole matter has come to the ears of the Governor. That breaker, as
you know, went back to Brisbane; but I daresay you _don’t_ know that
he never paid me my five pounds; only, I suppose just to show that
there was no coolness between us, took a bottle of my best brandy with
him. But now, my friends, this is no time to talk. You must get your
‘swags’ as quickly as you can, and I’ll see about the horses: you
don’t know what luck may be in store for you.”

“But one moment,” said Tim. “The natives can’t ride.”

“Oh, bother the blacks! never mind, I’ll send you all in the buggy,
besides, it will be easier going for rheumatics and stiff joints. It’s
lucky we have all finished letters for the home mail; you can post
them.”

A few hours later, having bid farewell to their good-natured host,
we again find our little party heading southwards, but this time
_clothed_, driving a carriage and pair, with an outrider in uniform to
show them the way; and, in fact, “travelling like gentlemen,” as Tim
said.

Dromoora and his wife, who had at first been much frightened, and
ultimately as delighted, at the novelty of being driven on four
wheels behind two of the terrible horses, were still more dazed and
astonished at the appearance of the town of Brisbane, when they
arrived there,—at that time a township of wooden huts roofed with zinc
sheeting.

Our party drove straight to the house occupied by the acting-Governor,
who, after being satisfied that the story reported of them was true,
told them that he had received a request from Sydney to send them
there at once, as every one was impatient to see the only survivors
of the emigrant-ship, and to hear their story; and that, as a steamer
was waiting for them at the wharf, they had better get away before
the inhabitants found them out. He added that he had procured some
suitable clothing for them, so that they had only to shift and walk on
board.

“Our twins” were a handsome couple, as they stepped on to the boat
which was to convey them south.

Owing, doubtless, to the better class of food on which they had been
subsisting lately, they had grown stouter and broader, whilst their
dark red complexions were set off by the suits of white Indian drill
in which they were clothed.

As their tall manly forms appeared on the poop, one might well echo
the captain’s greeting, as he said,—

“Gentlemen, I’m proud to take you in my ship;” adding aside to his
chief officer, “twins, I’m told, and a right handsome pair, too.”

Dromoora and his wife were rather subdued during the voyage, for
after leaving the Brisbane river a choppy sea rendered them violently
sea-sick, and they had barely recovered their spirits when, after
three days, the vessel was standing up the magnificent harbour of
Sydney.

As they approached the town, the brothers remarked that the wharf
was densely crowded with people, whilst flags were fluttering in the
streets adjacent to the landing-place.

“What does all this mean?” asked Mat of the captain.

“Why, it’s in honour of your arrival, of course; don’t you see I have
‘dressed’ my ship, too.”

As they slowly neared the quay, a band on shore struck up, “See, the
conquering Hero comes!” whilst the people cheered again and again on
catching sight of the tall figures of our foresters.

“Well, this _is_ coming it rather strong,” remarked Mat with a smile.
“Lucky that we’ve come a bit gradually into civilization, and know a
few things, and how to handle a knife and fork properly. I almost wish
I was back in the bush again.”

As the steamer sheered alongside, many of the more active of the
spectators sprang on board, whilst more of the crowd poured in as soon
as the gangway was available.

The brothers were almost overwhelmed by the army of reporters who
besieged them, note-book and pencil in hand, whilst volleys of
questions were poured in from every side. However, much to their
relief for they found it impossible to reply to the numerous and
varied questions, and their arms were aching from the continued
handshaking, an orderly forced his way up, and told them that he had a
carriage ashore to convey them to Government House.

All four shortly found themselves seated in the vehicle, and,
accompanied by an enthusiastic portion of the inhabitants running
alongside, drove off.

The Governor, who stood on the steps of his house to receive them, was
a spare-built, shrewd-looking man, between fifty and sixty years of
age.

After welcoming our travellers to Sydney, he ushered them into the
house, and continued,—

“You may have been surprised at the reception you have met with, but
you must remember that the citizens are aware that you are the two
sole survivors of the ship _Young Austral_, in which ill-fated vessel
they had many relatives; at least, we have quite lately been told
that you were the only two who came ashore; but that which also adds
an intense interest to your presence here is the fact that you are
the only two men ever known in this country who have lived for years
amongst the wild _northern_ blacks and survived; and, judging from
your appearance, you have evidently been well treated during your
captivity.

“When the news of your escape arrived from Brisbane, the townspeople,
the squatters also from up country, inundated me with letters and
special messengers, begging me to get you down to Sydney. The
Government was appealed to, and—here you are. We will make you as
comfortable as possible whilst you stay in this town; and now I will
introduce you to my _aide-de-camp_. And your two blacks,—would they
like a tent, or where shall we put them?”

On being appealed to, our dark friends said that they would prefer to
erect a “gunyah” out of doors, if they might cut down a few branches;
so a suitable spot was found, and strict orders given that they were
not to be molested.

Mat and Tim were then introduced to the _aide-de-camp_, Captain
Marvin, who led them into the smoking-room, and, having made them
comfortable in easy chairs, said,—

“You must not be afraid that I am going to cross-examine you, but I
may as well tell you at once that a rather delicate affair has been
deputed to me to propose to you, and that is, to plunge at once into
matters, you are requested by every one—by the voice of the people—to
appear, one night, with your two natives, at the School of Arts, and
give a short account of your adventures in the unknown northern
country.

“I know that you will be well received. They do not want to stare at
you as if you were newly-caught savages, but to _listen_ and to learn;
and my impression is that, if you choose to appear, it will save you a
world of worrying questions in the future, besides, it will be a kind
act, as the door-money will go to a very deserving charity, which I
shall be glad to tell you all about.”

“We will think it over,” said Mat when Marvin had finished speaking.
“Meantime, we have some old books, in which we have written a rough
diary, and when you began speaking it seemed to me that perhaps the
people would like to have it published, instead of our lecturing to
them.”

“May I glance at the diary? I promise not to divulge a word.”

“Certainly, you are welcome; there are no secrets.”

So Mat fetched the old novels, with their closely pencilled margins,
gave them to Marvin, and then sauntered into the garden with Tim to
discuss the question of the lecture.

“_I_ shan’t speak,” said Tim, as soon as they were by themselves, “but
_you_ can tell them a few things straight, and they’ll be pleased
enough. For all Marvin says, I’ll bet they _do_ want to have a good
look at us; it’s natural enough, too, and ’twont hurt us.”

“I’ll try, then,” said Mat; “and if I break down, they can still
stare—that’s all.”

In the evening, “our lads,” as we may, perhaps, still be permitted to
call them, for old associations’ sake, were introduced to Mrs. Marvin,
who told them that she had already made the acquaintance of the native
girl, who had come to the house for something to drink.

“What a nice, dark-eyed woman she is,” said Mrs. Marvin; “such a sweet
voice, and she looks quite pretty when she smiles and shows her white
teeth; and she knows a little English, too; she said ‘milk,’ and
‘bread,’ and several other words. What is her name?”

“Terebare,” Mat informed her, “which means in her language, ‘Rainbow.’”

“And a pretty name, too. I shall go and talk with her, if I may.”

“Oh, please do! They are a bit dull; it is such a new life to them.”

And Mrs. Marvin departed, laden with good things for our chief and his
wife.

Before they went to bed that night, our brothers adjourned with
Captain Marvin for another consultation.

As soon as they were comfortably seated behind a couple of the
captain’s best cigars, he said,—

“I have looked over your journal, and if you would write it out at
length, I should like to show it to our publishers; I know that they
would agree with me that it would make an interesting and valuable
book. You have described unknown native customs, besides dwelling upon
the different sorts of country (most important this); nor have you
forgotten to jot down useful notes about geology and plants. It will
sell. Many words have got rubbed out, but doubtless you know what they
are.

“We will re-write it carefully then,” said Mat, “now we can get pens,
ink, and paper; and leave it in your charge. But now about this
lecture. We have talked about it, and I will try it if you will first
let me try speaking—as though I was talking to a lot of people, I
mean—in this room, before you, when we’re quite alone.”

Captain Marvin was delighted to hear that Mat would give the lecture,
and promised to help him. “We will settle the day as soon as we can,”
he said. “To-morrow will be Sunday, there is rather a famous man going
to preach in the evening in a church close by, and if you are so
inclined why there is plenty of room for us all in the Governor’s pew.”

“Yes, we’ll go,” said Tim; “we haven’t been to church since we were
lads in t’vorest, excepting on board ship, and that ain’t ’zactly
church.”

“That’s settled then; I’ll look out for you two to-morrow evening. You
will like Parson Tabor; he is a good man.”

When the brothers entered the church next evening they found it
crammed to suffocation, and with difficulty they followed Captain
Marvin to the Governor’s pew.

The grand and solemn tones of the organ were playing a voluntary as
they passed up the aisle,—music which sounded sweet and soothing to
their unaccustomed ears.

During the prayers which followed, our foresters carefully imitated
Mrs. Marvin in kneeling, standing, or sitting, as the case might be.
She also helped them to find their places in the prayer-book, when at
a loss.

Prayers over, the sermon commenced. Complete silence reigned as
the clergyman ascended the pulpit; the brothers, looking up, saw a
broad-shouldered man of florid complexion and square-cut jaw, whose
profile reminded Mat for an instant of a fighting-man, whom he had
once known in the Forest, but the resemblance quickly changed when he
saw his full face, with its solemn, earnest expression, and heard his
voice.

The preacher gave out a text which at once enwrapt the attention
of our twins, so applicable did it and the eloquent sermon which
followed, appear to their own case in having escaped so many dangers.
As they walked homewards their thoughts were with the parson Tabor,
and what he had said to them. Yet Tim made one remark,—

“Mat, if ever I want help or advice I’ll go to that man.”

In the middle of the succeeding week, and after Mat had rehearsed, to
Marvin’s satisfaction, the latter came in with the morning papers.

“Look here,” he cried, “you are in for it now; here’s the announcement
of the lecture, there, read it—‘Under the patronage, &c.’”

“Yes, I am,” laughed Mat, as he glanced at the advertisement. “As you
are pleased to say I shall pass, thanks to you, I shall go at it with
a light heart.”

The much-thought-of evening had arrived. Though Mat and his party,
supported by the Governor and suite, arrived early, they found the
large building already crammed, every seat having been engaged some
days beforehand.

Having gained the platform, the Governor introduced his friends in a
few happily chosen phrases, and Mat, as soon as the applause was over,
at once commenced; his brother and the two natives standing by him.

He told his audience that he had never addressed a meeting of his
fellow-countrymen in his life, and that he hoped they would forgive
any shortcomings.

When he and his brother were told that not only the citizens, who had
received them so warmly at the steamer, but that also many influential
squatters had expressed a wish to hear how they had passed their
time with the northern blacks, they determined to come to that house
to-night and obey the call. He said,—

“To begin with, we are gipsies, born and bred in the New Forest, in
England—”

At these words, a stentorian voice in the audience called out,—

“I knew it; the lad I broke in myself.”

Mat looked in vain to see who spoke, but only noticed in the quarter
from whence the voice proceeded, a burly individual with a purple
face, and a long white beard, sitting rather prominently amongst the
audience, so he continued,—

“I did not come out at the expense of my country, but for all that I
helped to break the Forest laws by being out with a friend when he
shot a deer.”

Mat then gave a full account of the wreck, of the subsequent escape,
and of life amongst his black friends.

He added that he reckoned that as near as he could put it the wreck
happened in about seventeen degrees south latitude.

That which interested his audience more especially was his account of
the habits of the wild blacks; and as the chief and his wife were led
forward by the brothers, tremendous cheers went up from the people;
who were already aware in what manner these two natives, together with
their tribe, had befriended the white men.

It so happened that Dromoora had been told, upon the occasion of
their being cheered on board the steamer, that when the white man
“corroboreed” he must take his hat off; so remembering his lesson,
or rather knowing that it had something to do with his hat, and not
having that article on his head, he seized it from the chair where
it had been placed, with one hand; whilst with the other he dragged
his wife’s from off her head, throwing them both into the air; then
shouting, “White fellow, corroboree,” he was proceeding to force his
“jin” to beat two chairs together, when he was promptly seized by the
brothers and conveyed to a seat.

Mat continued his lecture for a good hour after this occurrence, and
finally concluded by stating that their trade consisted of breaking-in
horses, and that they looked forward to carrying it on in the country
which had given them such a kind reception.

Mat brought his lecture to a conclusion amidst enthusiastic cheers,
and the four guests of the evening were preparing to retire, when a
crowd of squatters jumped on to the platform, amongst them the jovial
looking individual with the white beard, who elbowed his way up to
Mat, and said, with outstretched hand,—

“Don’t you remember the squire, Mat? a bit grey about the muzzle, eh?”

“Why, my good old master,” eagerly replied our forester, as gazing
earnestly at him, he recognized the well-known features of years gone
by.

“Here, Tim,” he continued, as he wrung Bell’s hand; “here’s the squire
I so often told you of.”

“And my daughter, Annie,” added the squatter “I don’t suppose you
will remember her either.” And Mat certainly did _not_ at first
recognize the young lady who now came forward, holding out her
hand,—and small blame to him.

It will be remembered that the last time he saw Annie was in the
gun-room of the squire’s home, in the New Forest, and then only for
a brief two minutes; but during the many years that had elapsed
since then, he had secretly kept in one corner of his brave heart a
remembrance of the fair young vision. Without having a very distinct
idea of her features generally, he never had forgotten the soft look
in her eyes, the gentle voice, and above all the beauty of her hair.
He had never seen, in either man or woman, hair of that peculiar type
before; in fact, he had not been able to depict its colour, when
describing the young girl to Tim.

On this eventful evening Mat was confronted with a young lady, with
masses of the same beautiful dark auburn hair gathered up in neat
coils at the back of her head. He knew that he had only seen that
colour once before in his life, and when Annie spoke, the whole scene
of his boyhood came back to him.

In her sweet, soft voice, yet in cheery tones, she welcomed him to
Sydney, and added slowly with a smile, and raising her eyes to his,—

“I remember you in the Forest home, Mr. Stanley.”

As she stood there, her blushing face half-hidden behind a bouquet of
“stephanotis,” the perfume—he could not realize at the moment whether
the scent was of the flowers or Annie’s hair—the situation, this
sudden _rencontre_, and all the novelty of speaking in public, which
he had gone through that evening, caused our hero to feel completely
unnerved, so that he felt himself blushing in _his_ turn, and
murmuring some words of “pleasure at the meeting,” was turning away,
when the squire came to his rescue.

“You and your brother, and those frisky natives, must come at
once—to-morrow—and stay with us at our new station quite near here. We
shall all be delighted to see you; and Tom, whom you taught to shoot,
you remember, when I told him I was sure it was Mat Stanley who had
escaped, said,—yes, by gad, Mat!—he said he’d never speak to me again
if I didn’t bring you home! What do you think of that for cheek to his
old governor? He would have been here to-night, but was obliged to
meet a man about some cattle at an out-station.”

“Thanks,” responded Mat, who had now found his tongue. “I must speak
to them at Government House first; they have been so kind to us.”

“Here’s Tom’s tutor,” interrupted the squire. “Not the one you knew in
England,—wants to grasp the hands of the foresters.”

Our boys turned, and met the earnest face of the man who had so
impressed them by his sermon a few days before. They exchanged
friendly greetings with him; and after refusing, for the present,
many kind and pressing invitations from their late audience, Mat
and Tim were glad to make their escape to Captain Marvin’s snug
smoking-room, where they intended to have a quiet chat; but hardly had
they sat down when the Governor came in and carried them both off to
supper.

Some time before they entered the dining-room a young colonial had
been giving his views concerning the evening’s lecture.

“My word,” he said, “it _was_ a good yarn, and well told. Why that man
Stanley speaks as good English, and almost as good grammar, as if he
had been to college,—and mostly self-taught they say. I thought that
gipsies in England were a sort of half-breeds, who made tin kettles
and ‘jackshays,’ those quart pots, you know, and ‘planted’ people’s
fowls and things; but this fellow’s a gentleman, and—”

His remarks were here interrupted by the entrance of the individuals
in question, and the conversation was abruptly changed by the young
“native,” for such is a white person termed who is born in the
colonies, who from that moment, as he intimated to Mrs. Marvin,
intended “to take a back seat.”

During supper-time the conversation turned upon many interesting
subjects connected with the past adventures of our twins. From these
it drifted into colonial matters, the latest news from “home” as
England is always so referred to in the colonies; and the party broke
up.

Mat could get but little sleep that night; the events of the evening
had been almost too much for his otherwise strong nerves.

Besides the excitement of his lecture, and the remembrance of that,
thoughts of a softer nature rushed through his mind.

It must be remembered that his experience of woman-kind had been of
the roughest description, amounting to an exchange of chaff with
the lassies at the Hampshire fairs, and owing to the nature of his
occupation and mode of life in and around the gipsy camp, he had but
rarely come in contact with the better class of New Forest “squatters”
in his old home.

Bearing this in mind, let us follow his thoughts as he lay awake in
the town of Sydney, New South Wales.

“I’ve met to-night for the second time a real lady, and such a
beautiful and gentle lady. I wonder whether they are _all_ like _her_.
Oh, but how she has altered! Would she laugh at me if she knew I had
stuck to ‘Robinson Crusoe.’ I expect she’d only open her eyes big,
as she did to-night, when she seemed surprised. What a fool she must
have thought me! I couldn’t even say anything civil. I don’t know what
came over me. I could talk easily enough to that big crowd of people,
and to Mrs. Marvin, and be civil to _her_. Perhaps Captain Marvin’s
cigars are too strong for me. Yes; _that must be it_.”

Having thus determined the nature of his malady, though not _entirely_
to his satisfaction, our forester turned over, and went to sleep.



                             CHAPTER XII.

       Tim starts for the Darling Downs—French as spoken by Mrs.
    Bell—Parson Tabor—Leichardt’s grave—The French “professor”—Mat
                       unmasks the “professor.”


Next morning the leading newspapers of the town were placed in Mat’s
hands by Marvin, who triumphantly remarked,—

“See what an excellent ‘coach’ I proved.”

The entire lecture was given _in extenso_,—what Mat had said, and, as
he remarked after a perusal, some things he had _not_ said.

“The old folks must have these,” agreed the brothers, and the papers
were accordingly sent home to the Forest.

“And now, brother,” said Tim, “there was a Darling Downs squatter got
hold of me last night, and said I must come up to his station. I felt
so well up there, the air is so grand, I think I’ll go. He’s promised
me work, and pay, and grub.”

“True; we must get work,” rejoined Mat; “we have had enough ‘spreeing’
about; besides, I must see about getting Dromoora and Terebare to
their home, only the squire has made me promise to go to his station
first—a new place, called, I think, ‘Bulinda Creek.’ I can ‘spell’
there a few days, and then start overland with the chief, join you on
the Downs, and send our friends on from there with a party perhaps.”

Thus it was settled, and after saying good-bye to their hospitable
friends at Government House, Mat went to seek out the squire, whilst
Tim found his way to the Keens, who were leaving by steamer for
Brisbane.

Henry Keen was one of the early squatters of the Darling Downs, and
was now returning to his station accompanied by his wife and daughter.
The chief object of his visit to Sydney had been to fetch the latter
from school.

Tim wondered, as he stepped on board the steamer, how he would be
received by the ladies, as he had not yet made their acquaintance, but
he was not long left in doubt, for Miss Charlotte Keen at once met
him as he stepped on to the boat, and giving his hand a hearty shake,
said,—

“You need not bother about an introduction to _me_, I knew who you
were as you came along the wharf; where is your brother who lectured,
I thought he would have come too?”

“Oh, no!” replied Tim, who was rather taken aback by this voluble
welcome. “He has gone to Bulinda Creek.”

“What! Squire Bell’s? I was at school with his daughter Annie, a
stuck-up girl, full of stupid, old-country notions. Got ‘a down’ upon
me, because I suppose she went ‘home’ for a few months, and knew I had
never been; or because, as some say, she’s full of nonsense, learnt
from an old parson, a sort of private tutor to her brother, who’s
sponging on the squire. Did you see the daughter? she’s a ‘native,’
you know.”

“Yes, I _did_ see a shy-looking, pretty girl with splendid hair, for a
few seconds, whilst she was standing with her father.”

“Shy! pretty!” snapped back Miss Charlotte; “well, _my_ word, if you
called rusty-coloured hair, and red cheeks pretty, why she _is_; but
it’s not my idea of a handsome girl. _I_ admire the true class of
beauty—the statuesque; and now I must look after pa and ma in the
saloon.”

With which announcement she turned abruptly on her heel and departed.

“Here’s a row,” said Tim; “I wonder whether there are many more like
_her_ on the Downs;” whilst he gazed after the retreating form of Miss
Keen, as she stamped her way rapidly towards the companion. “I suppose
then, that that girl’s washed-out face and tow-coloured hair is _true_
beauty. What did she call it—the statue sort? Well, I prefer t’other
sort of statue.”

Leaving Tim to pursue his journey with the Keen family, we will return
to Mat.

Two days after his brother’s departure, he and the squire had started
on horseback to the Creek, Annie and Parson Tabor, with the two
natives, having gone on before in the buggy.

It was early on a beautiful morning, as the two men wended their way
out of Sydney, the air enlivened with the cries of hundreds of Blue
Mountain parrots, busily engaged in chasing each other, in whole
flocks in the forests, or sucking their breakfasts from the blossoms
of the gum-trees.

The gay chirping of the tree-crickets, the crisp morning air, which
clearly defined the soft outline of the Blue Mountains in the
distance,—all combined, with the fact that he was on horseback once
more, to make Mat in the highest spirits, as he and Bell cantered over
the high downs.

Not so the latter, who was evidently in deep thought over some
perplexing matter, which had caused his usual boisterous spirits to
desert him. At length he broke silence with a sudden,—

“Drat it, man, I may as well say it at once, only you are such an
independent chap, I do not know how to begin. Fact is, the Governor,
and a heap of my mates in town and country, want you and your brother
to accept a purse from them to help you to start.”

Mat was certainly startled by this proposition, but answered promptly
enough,—

“It’s very good of you all, but we have no wish to accept money until
we have worked for it.”

“I knew you would say that, but _do_ take it, Mat, in the spirit in
which it is offered. It will hurt their feelings—_my_ feelings—for I
have a little hand in it, if you don’t.”

“In that case, squire, I’ll ask you to keep it for us, and if either
or both of us come to grief, we will ask you for a little help till
times are better.”

“You promise that?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Then I’ll hold it in trust for you.”

“And now, squire,” said Mat, after the two had ridden some distance
farther, “I’ve got something to tell _you_, that I have told to no man
living, excepting Tim. This ‘swag’ holds a lot of nuggets, Tim has an
equal quantity, and they should start us without the purse, thanks to
you all the same; and now I will tell you about our gold discovery.”

Mat then recounted full particulars of their “find” in the Golden
Gully, which Bell listened to with interest, saying he “would not tell
it to the _ground_.”

By the time Mat had finished his narrative, they reined their horses
up at the station.

As soon as Mat had made himself presentable, the squire reintroduced
him to Mrs. Bell, and they shortly afterwards sat down to dinner,
where they were joined by Annie and Parson Tabor.

Mrs. Bell was an easy-going soul, who, whilst mutilating her own
English tongue, managed to utterly murder the French one, on the
strength of having once paid a few weeks’ visit to France, for the
sake of her daughter’s education. Her husband and children had long
since quenched these foreign outpourings as far as they themselves
were concerned, but whenever an unlucky stranger came to the house,
Mrs. Bell would open fire as soon as her guest was seated, never
caring whether he or she knew French or not.

Here then was a chance when Mat made his appearance, which she was
not slow to avail herself of, by asking him whether he could speak or
understand French, knowing perfectly well that in his case he could do
neither.

Mat, who wished to be specially civil to the mother of Annie,
answered,—

“No, ma’am, I have never learnt it, and I would hardly care about
trying to.”

“Not want to learn French! _the_ language of the present day! And
pray, Mat, don’t call me ‘mum,’ as you did in the Forest. If I _must_
’ave a ’andle, let it be light and pretty, and pronounce it as I
do—Madam. And now will you pass me the ‘ménoo.’”

It so happened that this was the exact word, as pronounced by Mrs.
Bell, for one of the snakes of the Waigonda country.

Mat was puzzled, but thinking that he must have overlooked the dish,
he carefully glanced over table, sideboard, and mantlepiece; but not
perceiving any roast snake, replied,—

“I do not see it, ‘mydam.’”

Mrs. Bell was just commencing, with a kindly wave of her hand, “Oh,
numport,” when the squire bade her, “Stop that fooling.”

Annie meantime slyly conveyed the bill of fare over to her mother.

But the latter was not going to be shut up so soon before her guest,
on this, her favourite topic, and in spite of her husband telling her
either to talk English or “Blackfellow,” she continued, to Bell first,—

“Yes, my dear, I can see, having lived in Parry, not to mention Cally,
that Mat does not know the divine language, but it’s never too late to
learn.” Then turning to our forester: “I see you’re not quite ‘comme
il faut au fait,’ but I want to hear the ’ole of your adventures, so
we’ll have a little ‘cosy’ after dinner on the verandah. It is late,
so come along.”

Mat said to himself, “Whatever language cosy is, it means a pipe for
_me_,” as he followed the others out of the room.

Parson Tabor, whose age was nearly sixty, had, in his earlier days,
had a hard life of it in Western Australia.

At one period of his life he had headed a little band of explorers to
that country, starting from Melbourne in a small, badly-found vessel,
with a small cargo of sheep, which they had intended taking the whole
way by coast.

The result was disastrous. Their vessel was wrecked when off the
north-western portion of the continent, their sheep drowned, and
themselves only escaping ashore to find that they had come to a land
in which there was scarcely any water, and inhabited by hostile
blacks. Most of the party managed with difficulty to reach, at length,
the settlements; and Tabor found means to return to Victoria by a
coasting-vessel. But the hardships which he had endured for many
months had told severely upon his constitution, and from the time of
his arrival in civilized life, he had taken holy orders, and settled
down as a clergyman. Upon arriving at Sydney, he had also accepted the
situation of tutor in the squire’s family. Before leaving Victoria on
his ill-fated expedition he had lost his wife, and it was this event,
so preying upon his mind, which had caused him, by seeking a new
colony, to endeavour to blot out associations connected with the old.

When the little party at Bulinda Creek had stepped out on to the
verandah, and made themselves comfortable in easy chairs, Tabor turned
to Mat, and said,—

“Your history, that you related the other night, is of the
deepest interest to me, for I have suffered hardships and lived
for a time amongst the natives, but in my case they were not the
friendly-disposed fellows that yours proved.

“One matter that you mentioned has struck many of us, especially a
friend of mine—an old explorer, too—named Lund. He was not in Sydney
at the time of your lecture, but he received the newspapers which so
fully gave the account, and wrote to me by return of post. This is
what he says: ‘Find out from Stanley anything more about the white men
he heard of as passing to the west.’

“I mention this to you, as Lund asked me to; but I may as well say
that I heard you asked this very question by numbers of people after
your lecture, and, from what I gathered, you said that you knew no
more than what you had told them there.”

“That is so, Mr. Tabor; I can add but little to it. Before we knew the
language, we guessed, from the signs of the natives, that there _were_
other white men far to the west of us; and months afterwards, when we
could speak to the tribes and understand two or three dialects, they
again said that they had heard that there was a white man, with some
black men and some very large and strange animals, working their way
northwards.”

“_Then_,” said Tabor, with emphasis, “_that_ which every one surmises
_must_ be the case. The white man, without doubt, was one of our
greatest explorers, who has disappeared for years without leaving the
slightest clue as to his ultimate fate.

“My friend, who loved this man as a brother, found himself too old
to search for him himself, but he organized an expedition to try and
follow him up, with but faint hopes, however, of finding the lost
man, as previous similar attempts had utterly failed.

“I have made myself acquainted with poetry and poems, more or less,
which have been written by the greatest British and American poets,
but _never_, to my mind, have I ever heard anything which, for lovely
expression of holy feelings and great beauty of wording, came up
to the lines which my friend wrote on the eve of the departure of
the explorers in search of the lost _one_,—on the _one_ who ever
dwelt lightly on the keen sufferings he endured on his former grand
expedition, whose simple faith in the goodness of the Almighty seems
silently to have supported him in his trials, and to have been
thankfully acknowledged.”

So far, the conversation had been carried on between Parson Tabor and
Mat, but at this point Annie broke in with,—

“Do you remember those lines, Mr. Tabor, and can you repeat them to
us?”

“Do I remember them, Annie? _Yes_; I could never forget them. Listen!”

It had now become almost too dark for our little home party to see
each other’s faces. A “moon-plant,” in the full glory of its lovely
large white flowers, partly covered a corner of the verandah, which a
last streak of evening light had brightened from the surrounding gloom.

Under the soft white blossoms of the gigantic convolvulus Parson Tabor
took his stand, and with outstretched hand, and in soft, yet manly
tones, rehearsed the following lines:—

    “Ye, who prepare with Pilgrim feet
       Your long and doubtful path to wend,
     If whitening on the waste ye meet
       The relics of my murdered friend.
     His bones with reverence ye shall bear,
       To where some mountain streamlet flows,
     There by its mossy bank prepare
       The pillow of his long repose.

    “It shall be by a stream whose tides
       Are drunk by birds of every wing,
     Where every loveliest flower abides
       The earliest wakening touch of spring.
     Oh! meet that he who so caressed
       All beauteous nature’s varied charms,
     That he, her martyred son should rest
       Within his mother’s fondest arms.

    “When ye have made his narrow bed
       And laid the good man’s ashes there,
     Ye shall kneel round about the dead
       And wait upon your God in prayer.
     What though no reverend man be near,
       No solemn anthem with its breath,
     No holy walls invest his bier
       With all the hallowed pomp of death;

    “Yet humble minds shall find the grace,
       Devoutly bowed upon the sod,
     Which calls a blessing round the place,
       And consecrates the soil to God.
     When ye, your gracious task have done,
       Heap not the rock above his dust.
     The angel of the Lord alone
       Protects the ashes of the just.

    “And oh! bethink in other times,
       And be those happier times at hand,
     When Progress, like the smile of God,
       Comes brightening o’er this weary land.
     Then shall her pilgrims hail the power
       Beneath the drooping myall’s gloom,
     To sit at eve and mourn an hour,
       And pluck a leaf from Leichardt’s tomb.”[1]

As the parson concluded his recital, the suspicion of a gentle little
sob came from the direction where Annie was sitting, whilst Bell and
Mat said they thought that they would take a turn and finish their
smoke in the garden, until it was time to go to bed.

The next day, after breakfast, the squire said,—

“Come along, Mat, let’s go towards the stockyard; I want to have a
chat with you. You will have to hang your hat up here. I will show you
a room I have for you in the bachelors’ quarters presently.”

“You are very kind,” answered our forester, who had noticed the little
preparations made for him, and had been thinking it all over; “but I
would rather join Tom at the out-station.”

“Bless my soul! Why, you have had enough of a lonely life, surely, my
boy. Tom is out all day, and there are only blacks there, besides a
stockman.”

“Well, squire, I’d like to see Tom again; besides, I am not used to
ladies’ society.”

“My prophetic soul! Stuff and nonsense! Mrs. Bell wants to hear your
adventures from your own lips, and says you _must_ stay. I’ll call
her. Follow me into the house!”

When Mrs. Bell appeared, she begged that Mat would remain; as, she
said, she “’adn’t ’eard ’alf his adventures,” and, besides, there was
a most “distinguéy” professor of the French language coming to stay
with them, who had brought most flattering testimonials from friends
down south, and she wished him to make his acquaintance.

“Thank you, ‘mydam,’” answered Mat; “but I do not want to know the
Frenchman.”

“But he’s such a tall, distinguished-looking ‘parrty,’ and he is
coming to perfect my daughter in his language. Of course, I shall hear
what his pronunciation is like before regularly engaging him.”

Mat was still obdurate. So Mrs. Bell continued,—

“If you _must_ go and join Tom, as the squire says you wish to, will
you drop in sometimes—it’s not twenty miles from ’ere, you know—and
take a short lesson? You will find it the greatest comfort.”

“Yes, I will do that,” answered Mat, thankful to have “got out” of the
Frenchman for the present.

“I am so glad to hear you say so. The professor won’t be here for a
month, I expect, but I shall see you before then. Now, go and get some
air, for you look quite ‘dégagé.’”

“Is she gone?” asked Bell, who, finding that French was coming up
again, had made his escape, and now met Mat as he appeared outside the
house. “Well, then, I want to ask you where you would like to stow
those nuggets you were telling me about. The bachelors’ quarters are
not safe, as every one goes in there. Supposing you put them in my
room?”

“Thank you; that will be safe enough, I am sure,” and the two men
separated.

The following day Mat had intended to join Tom, but was delayed on
account of Dromoora and his wife.

He had told them that the squire had promised them an escort to see
them safely back to their tribe; but the chief, being now away from
the towns, begged to be allowed to see a little more of station life,
as he could hunt and fish, and be his own master in the bush, besides,
he had made friends with some station blacks who were camped at
the lagoon, and now he thought Mat might teach him how to use the
thunder-stick.

This change of plans relieved Mat, as he knew that Bell was rather
short-handed, and could ill spare the men for this escort just then;
so he took the opportunity to instruct Dromoora in the use of a gun,
finally leaving that doughty chief a proficient in the art of shooting
anything sitting or swimming.

Our forester had been for some few weeks at the out-station, when one
morning two letters were handed to him, one from Mrs. Bell to say
that the professor had arrived, and the other from Tim—a very short
one—saying that he did not much fancy the Keens, that he had got
rheumatism again, and altogether felt restless, and was determined to
join his brother, and might turn up any day.

To Mrs. Bell’s delight the Frenchman had, indeed, arrived at Bulinda
Creek, bowing his way into the house and making pretty speeches to the
ladies.

Mrs. Bell had once before, in Sydney, had an interview with him, and
now, after introducing him to her husband, beckoned the latter out of
the room.

“Isn’t he _charming_, Bell,” she said; “I really quite felt in dear
Parry again when he spoke.”

But the squire was by no means so favourably impressed. He had eyed
the professor askance, and now told his wife to lock up her spoons.

“What! my dear!” she answered, “you’re joking; look at his manners,
look at his ‘ton.’ What a grand face, what eyes, and such a lovely
moustache!”

“Yes, it’s just his face I don’t like,” retorted her husband; “and his
eyes are beastly cunning when he thinks you’re not looking at him; his
moustache, to _my_ mind, is rather _too_ good.”

“But,” sharply continued Mrs. Bell, “you will never see that the
French, though perhaps a little vain as to their personal appearance,
are ‘au fond,’ a noble race; which means that they are a fine people
‘at bottom.’”

“Ha! ha!” laughed the squire, “you’re getting worse and worse, that’s
exactly what the great Duke said,—but I’ll tell you the story.

“Some time after the Battle of Waterloo, Wellington’s health happened
to be proposed at a great dinner at which he was present, and at which
there happened to be also a number of French officers. These stood up,
but on hearing who the individual was that was about to be pledged,
immediately faced round and turned their backs towards the Duke,
who simply remarked, as he sat at the table, ‘Not the first time,
gentlemen, that you have turned your backs upon me.’

“I want no more arguments,” concluded Bell, “but the less I see of
this hair-dresser, the better I shall be pleased.”

So Monsieur Rayon, such was the Frenchman’s name, was duly installed
at the Creek, making himself agreeable to the ladies, and, whilst
showing an equal civility to the squire, avoiding him as much as
possible, explaining to Mrs. Bell that it was natural her husband
took no notice of _him_, as he disliked the French language. Matters,
however, went on smoothly enough, Rayon giving lessons to mother and
daughter, and rendering himself tolerable to the squire, by insisting
upon every one speaking _English_ when he was present, a language
which seemed as facile to him as French.

After Rayon had been settled a few days at Bulinda Creek, Mat happened
to return late one evening to the station, and discovered the squire
smoking a cigar with the Frenchman.

The latter, as it turned out, had brought some full-flavoured
“Havannahs” with him. Now, if Bell had one weakness, it was a good
cigar; so that in spite of his dislike to the foreigner, he felt bound
in honour, as he explained to the members of his family, to smoke with
him, when these were produced.

Mat had never seen Rayon till now, and on _this_ occasion it was too
dark to see his features distinctly. On reaching the verandah he was
introduced to him, when the foreigner made him a profound bow, and
said how proud he was to make the acquaintance of such a “voyageur,”
as all Australia was ringing with his name; which flowery speech Mat
received with a slight bow, and addressing himself to the squire, the
two were soon deep in matters connected with the out-station, which
they discussed until it was time to turn in.

Next day, Mrs. Bell seeing Mat at the station, accosted him with,—

“I’m so glad to see you, Mat; now you’ll stop and ’av a lesson.”

“No, I’m sorry I can’t,” he replied. “I only came in for the two
horses ‘Wallaby’ and ‘Timeringle,’ and Tom must have them to-night;
but I’ll be back again soon, and stay a few days.”

“Oh, _do_! Monsieur Rayon is such a dear man, and tells such amusing
stories of ‘Parisien’ society, and he’ll talk to you in English too.
Poor man, he is dreadfully troubled with indigestion, and walks in
his sleep. One night I was sleeping heavily, as I had taken a little
chloral for neuralgia, when my husband saw him in our room, and
called out; yet he took no notice, but walked on, out of the ‘French
light’ and back to his own quarters, and the next day remembered
nothing about it. What a wonderful thing somnambulism is!”

Mat reached the out-station and delivered the horses in good time. Tom
thanked him for his ready help, and asked him if he would go again on
the following Monday and bring his father back, as there was to be a
meeting of importance, at which Parson Tabor would also be present,
who with his sound advice would be of great service in discussing
the question as to how they could put an end to the encroachments of
the “cockatoo squatters,” or small free selectors who, as a gang of
useless loafers, infested the run, with suspicious-looking intent.

Mat expressed his readiness to go, and accordingly, when the time
approached, prepared to start for Bulinda, but as he could not find
the horse he wanted for the journey, he had to put up with an old one
that had had a hard week of it after cattle, and in consequence he did
not reach the station until midnight.

Having turned his weary beast into the paddock, he entered the house
to tell the squire of Tom’s wishes.

Bell was asleep, but came out at once on hearing Mat’s summons, told
him in answer to his question that he would be ready to start in the
morning with Tabor, bade him get some refreshment, and turn into the
empty room next the Frenchman’s.

Mat went off to the sleeping-quarters to which he had been directed;
but not finding any light, felt his way to the “bunk,” and turned in,
though he did not go to sleep, as he had much to divert his thoughts
with regard to a proposition which Tom had made him in connection
with his taking charge of the out-station. After he had been in bed
but a short time, his train of thoughts was diverted by the sound of
whispering; then a match was struck apparently close to him, yet he
could see no light. Softly creeping out of bed, he was aware of a
glimmer which came through a chink in the log-hut, evidently from a
room next his own.

Straining his eye to the crack, he saw a human hand on a table—more he
could not see. So feeling about he found a beam, and cautiously drew
himself up to where the chink was larger, when just as he was about to
apply his eye to the crevice, he heard the whispered but unconnected
words, “That—gipsy—to-morrow.” Again straining his eyes, he could
indistinctly make out two scrubby heads in the dim light beneath him.
Whilst he was thus watching, one of the speakers slightly raised his
face. Our forester was certain that he had seen those features before,
but to obtain a better view he slightly shifted his position, and in
doing so knocked off a piece of harness which had been left hanging on
the beam, and which fell with a heavy thud on to the earthen floor.

Instantly the light was extinguished, and dead silence reigned.

Mat quickly let himself down, regained his bunk, and sat there till
morning, pistol in hand, and nothing more happened to disturb him
through what appeared an endless night. Had Jumper been there to guard
him, he might have enjoyed some sleep, but Jumper he had always left
to guard the squire’s bedroom at the latter’s request.

When the family were assembled for breakfast next morning, the
Frenchman, amongst others, greeted Mat most cordially, and asked him
how he had slept after his fatiguing journey, not being aware that he
had occupied a different room to that which he was accustomed to use.

“Not very well,” replied our forester. “Some one talked all night, and
struck lights, and I could not sleep.”

This he said, fixing his piercing eyes on the Frenchman as though he
would look him through. But Rayon, whilst avoiding his gaze, answered
in an apparently unconcerned manner,—

“Ah, my dear friend, I expect it was _me_ you heard. I had such an
attack of indigestion, and when I suffer from that, I walk in my
sleep.”

“Oh!” began Mat, still fixing the man with his gaze; but he was
interrupted at this point by the entrance of a boy with the mail from
Sydney.

One letter was for Rayon, who, after glancing at its contents, said in
an apparently agitated voice,—

“Business of great importance obliges me to ‘render’ myself in Sydney.
I bought some valuable land there, and my agent, I now hear, has run
away with the title-deeds.”

“How dreadful!” said Mrs. Bell. “When will you be back?”

“Directly I find the deeds, madame; I must be off at once, and try
to discover the agent.” And bowing profusely in a general way, the
Professor left the table.

“And I will see him off,” thought Mat, as he followed the Frenchman
out.

Going to the hut, Mat found “his man” in the act of packing his
things, and under pretence of helping him to strap his valise,
brushed his arm across Rayon’s head, when, presto! off tumbled a wig,
disclosing a shock head of hair of a much lighter colour underneath.

A furious oath of a strictly British character escaped Rayon’s lips,
but the next instant he collected himself together, apologized most
deeply for swearing, and explained that having had a fever, he was
obliged to wear a “peruke.”

“Yes, I see,” laughed Mat; “but I wish you would give me the address
of the gentleman who cropped you. I want my own hair cut!”

By this time Rayon had mounted a horse which was tied up close to the
hut, and which Mat saw was a stranger to the station, a better class
of animal than he had seen on the run yet. Feeling himself now safe,
the “Professor” turned to Mat with a scowl,—

“You’ll find out before long, you low-bred gipsy.”

“Ha! ha! ha!” yelled our forester, as the man rode away. “You lost
your _head_ when you lost your wig. Why didn’t you keep to French, you
fool? I mightn’t have understood you _then_. _I do now._”

Rayon seemed half inclined to rein up as he heard this parting shot,
but thinking better of it, only replied by an insulting gesture, and
the next minute galloped out of sight.

Mat was now in a dilemma.

He would have given anything to have stayed behind, and let the squire
and Tabor go on to Tom’s abode; but when, upon meeting with Bell, he
suggested this, and gave his reasons, the latter would not listen to
him, but for once lost his temper with our hero, replying in an angry
tone,—

“Stop behind? We go without you? Don’t talk like that, Mat, when
there’s all this bother at the out-station. You don’t know foreigners
as I do (the squire had met somewhere about a dozen in his life).
Three parts of the French nation wear wigs, just as all the Germans
wear spectacles. Tell “Dromoora” to look after the station; we shan’t
be gone long. Come.”

Mat was not convinced, but was fain at length to let the old man have
his way, as he was getting more purple than ever with rage. So calling
up the chief, he put him on his guard, at the same time telling him to
warn Tim, who might arrive any hour.

Dromoora replied that he would look out a good deal now, as he had to
be all round the country to procure some plain-turkeys, or bustards,
which Mrs. Bell wanted him to shoot.

So Mat, bidding farewell to Mrs. Bell and Annie, rode away with his
two companions to the out-station.

[1] The writer learnt these verses in Northern Queensland many years
ago from an old Bushman (since dead), who had picked them up in the
same casual manner.



                            CHAPTER XIII.

    Tim’s unpleasant reception at Bulinda—The bushranger’s camp—The
            robbery—Annie kidnapped—Tim’s good Samaritans.


We will now take up the thread of Tim’s movements since he quitted the
“Keen” family. He first made his way by sea to Sydney, and, hiring a
horse, rode out to the first station on the road to Bulinda Creek,
leaving his “traps” to be sent direct to the squire’s by one of the
drays which were passing at intervals between the town and the station.

Having arrived at his destination, he found, upon making the
acquaintance of the family who owned it, that they were so glad to
welcome him, and so hospitably inclined, that he determined to stay
there a few days. At the end of that time he felt himself so much
improved in health, that he made up his mind to walk the rest of the
way to Bulinda Creek.

Having informed his newly-made friends of his intention, and bidding
them farewell, he started one bright moonlight night, having before
him, as he had been told, a well-defined track as far as the outside
fence of Bell’s property.

Tim had just reached the Bulinda home-paddock fence, when a horseman
rode out from a neighbouring scrub, and, without the slightest warning
or preface, came close up to him, and exclaimed, “Be your name
Stanley?”

Tim, rather taken off his guard at this sudden question, answered,
“Yes! Why?”

“Then take that!” replied the man, with an oath, and without another
word drew a pistol and shot poor Tim through the chest.

This terrible incident happened only a few hours after Rayon had
quitted Bulinda.

To the north of Bulinda, but several miles from that station, lay a
deep creek with a broad sandy bottom.

In the rainy season this ravine was a roaring torrent; _now_, not a
drop of water was to be seen, with the exception of one or two tiny
pools far down in the rocks, where the sun could not pierce.

Three men were seated one day round a tiny fire in this creek. All
three bore the same stamp of low brutality on their clean-shaven
faces; and as all possessed the same scrubby heads of hair, they might
at first sight have been taken for brothers.

A couple of horses, which, to judge by their appearance, had just come
off a hard journey, were tethered close by, and the men were preparing
camp for the night, though retaining their clothes and boots.

One of the party, who exhibited a huge scar on his face, was
evidently looked upon as the leader, and treated with a certain amount
of respect by his companions.

This leader, who was addressed as “Jack,” was saying with many oaths,—

“I tell you it’s all right. You may say he rode off, but I know he was
on foot when I met him, and I shot him as dead as a door-nail, I’ll
swear it, as sure as I was ‘lagged’ for sheep-lifting.”

“Ay, but I’ve got eyes in my head, too,” returned the tallest of his
companions. “You must have had too much grog, and shot the wrong
man—some chap looking for work, I expect. Why, _I’ll_ swear they had
got all their horses saddled and were riding off to the out-station
when I left.”

“Yes,” broke in the man who had not as yet spoken, whose name was
Mike, “when I was doing the cooking for young Bell, I heard him say he
expected all three that day.”

“You lie,” said Jack, turning to the first speaker. “I shot a bloke
who said his name was Stanley, and he had a black beard. It’s _you_
who were drunk; and if I find you’ve been playing me any of your old
tricks, I’ll shoot you as dead as a ‘nit.’ I knows what I knows.
There’s only that cursed nigger about now, and Mike here says as he
knows for sure that he’s always away shootin’ birds with his gun. I
’av’nt followed them nuggets down from the north to be baulked now.
I’ve ’ad one bite of ’em, and I’ll ’ave another, and the girl at the
same time. Now the gipsy’s ‘copped’ I’ll do it; I’ll collar the wench
through blacks and whites. Well, I’ve told you two what to do; but
I’ll tell you again, else you’ll make a ‘hash’ of it. You”—this to
the tallest man—“get into the house first, and lead the way, as you
know where the ‘swag’ is; and you”—to Mike—“must hold the horses ready
outside. T’other blokes I’ve told to look after the camp whilst we’re
away. Now you two get back to your ‘Humpy,’ and meet me here to-morrow
night after sundown, and mind you’re both sober.” Saying which, Jack
took a pull at a bottle he had with him, kicked out his fire, and
prepared to sleep in an old blanket which he pulled off one of the
horses.

These men consisted of a portion of the murderous gang who, under the
guise of “free selectors,” had for present purposes settled down in
the district.

These outlaws, partly from fear, more from the hope of gain, supplied
the man they called Jack with food, acted as scouts for him, and,
under the pretence of looking for country, made it their business to
find out stations and branch banks which were worth “sticking up;”
whilst Jack himself was nothing less than the famous bushranger of the
day, John Magan.

An escaped convict, he had committed more murders—many of them of the
most cold-blooded description—and robberies, single-handed, than had
any of the other gangs by which the country was infested. He had
long since been outlawed, and a price put upon his head. However, by
constantly changing his camp and assuming different disguises, but
more particularly by having so many of his “pals” in league with him,
he was still free.

More than once had the police tracked him to his lair, fired at, and
even hit him, as they believed, but hitherto he had borne a charmed
life, and seemed actually proof against powder and lead, whilst his
assailants came off second best in the fight, and Magan escaped on his
horse, which he always kept ready saddled close to him.

According to agreement the conspirators met again the next evening at
the appointed time, and arming themselves, proceeded at once by the
nearest route to Bulinda Creek.

So far everything seemed to favour their plans, for the night was
pitchy dark, and not a sound could be heard as they approached the
house.

When they arrived within a stone’s throw of the building they
dismounted, and leaving Mike to hold the horses, Jack and his
companion crawled to the steps of the verandah. The tall man ascended
first, and in his stockinged feet gained the bedside of Mrs. Bell; he
then felt for, and commenced to drag silently out the heavy box of
nuggets.

The noise caused by this act, however, woke old Jumper, whose senses
had latterly been very dull, and springing out he fastened his teeth
in the intruder’s arm. This was met by a blow from the butt end of
a pistol, which though partly stunning the dog, never caused him to
relax his hold. But the tall ruffian had a far worse assailant to deal
with, and this time from above his head.

It so happened that Mrs. Bell had been lately suffering much from
neuralgia, and lying half asleep had been awakened to her full senses
by the rush and furious growl of Jumper. At the same moment she put
out her hand to feel for the old dog, when it came into contact with a
scrubby head of human hair.

Uttering a scream, and losing her balance at the same moment, she came
right down on the top of the crouching figure, and in doing so she
dragged a voluminous mosquito-net with her, when a dim night-light
burning in the room showed her the form of a man struggling with
Jumper.

In an instant she comprehended the situation; her self-possession did
not desert her, for seizing her bottle of chloral, she dashed half the
contents into the man’s eyes and nose, and as he opened his mouth to
give vent to most fearful curses, she rammed the rest, bottle and all,
into his throat.

Whilst this scene, which barely occupied a minute, was taking place on
one side of the room, a struggle of a different character was going
on, on the other.

Annie had been reclining fully dressed on a couch, so as to be ready
to fetch some medicine for her sick mother in case of need, from a
little store-closet outside the house.

Dozing somewhat wearily, she felt herself suddenly seized in the grip
of a powerful arm, and in spite of her frantic struggles, a towel was
the next moment forced into her mouth, and she felt herself carried,
whilst struggling for breath, towards the verandah.

Magan had nearly reached his horse with his almost unconscious burden,
when a dark figure came rushing out of the surrounding gloom and
drove a heavy spear on to his back, being the only part of his body
which could safely be assaulted, by reason of Annie’s form guarding
the rest. The spear reached its mark with a heavy thud, but the only
effect of the blow was to make the bushranger redouble his efforts to
gain the horse.

Dromoora, for he it was, now hurled a heavy club at the man as he
hoisted himself into the saddle, aided by Mike. The blow told, and
knocked Magan forward in his saddle; Dromoora with a bound was on
to him with a long-bladed knife, making a blow at him between the
shoulders; the bushranger’s horse at that moment gave a bound forward,
the knife glanced off and entered the calf of Magan’s leg, causing a
wound, which, however, in no way had the effect of unseating him, and
with another bound the horse and his rider had disappeared into the
surrounding darkness, with Annie stretched across the saddle-bow.

Mike would have gone to the help of his chief, or would more likely
perhaps have attacked Dromoora, had not his time been entirely taken
up during the latter part of the fray in trying to curb the remaining
two horses which he was holding.

These animals, affrighted at the combat, plunged and reared to such an
extent that one of them broke clean away, when Mike, seeing Dromoora
rushing upon him with an open knife, flung himself on to the back of
the other, and galloped off.

Our Waigonda chief had been out hunting the whole of the previous
day, in a vain endeavour to shoot a turkey for Mrs. Bell. These
birds had been much disturbed of late, and in consequence had sought
more distant plains, too far for Dromoora to pursue them, as he had
promised Mat to sleep at the station always during his absence. So
the chief had come in late at night tired with his tramp, and from
carrying a number of ducks, which he had procured without difficulty
on the numerous lagoons near the station. He and his wife were camped
within two hundred yards of the house in their usual place, when
Terebare woke him up, saying, “Quick to the station.” She had heard
several shrieks which Mrs. Bell had given vent to after she had fallen
on the burglar. Dromoora seeing that the case was urgent, left his
gun, which he had no time to load, and with spears and a club rushed
into the darkness, and encountered Magan as we have seen.

When he saw that Mike had escaped him also, he turned to Terebare, who
had followed him out of their camp with fresh weapons, and pointing in
the direction of the out-station, said, “Quick, run all the way; there
are no white men here, bring the white chief and his friends.”

He then jumped on to the verandah, and hearing a moaning noise
proceeding from the house, struck a match, and, guided by the sound,
walked into the squire’s bedroom, when an extraordinary scene
presented itself to his gaze.

Amidst a quantity of overturned furniture and medicine-bottles, lit
up by the feeble glimmer of an expiring night-light, lay a man as
white as death, enveloped in a mosquito-net, struggling for breath,
which came in convulsive gasps from his foam-bedewed lips, whilst his
face appeared to be smeared over with a brown liquid: near him, and
supported by the legs of the bedstead, lay Mrs. Bell in a kind of
stupor. Remembering how water had brought him to in the great fight
with the Tingura, our chief, casting his eyes around, to his great joy
espied a large bath full of water; and intending to empty the whole
of the contents over Mrs. Bell, commenced the operation by pouring
a gallon or two on to her head. The effect was surprising; for his
patient immediately sprang to her feet, asking wildly where she was,
and what had happened. Paying no attention to these questions, as
he saw that she was not hurt, Dromoora next approached the partly
insensible prisoner, and whilst playfully toying with the edge of his
long knife, asked permission to cut the throat of the white man. But
Mrs. Bell, with a horrified look, cried, “Oh, _no_, _no_.”

Finding that this pleasure was denied him, the chief proceeded to
tie the legs and arms of the prisoner together with the bed-clothes,
making all fast to the leg of the bed.

Then turning again to Mrs. Bell, he said,—

“Missy gone along a ‘yarraman’ and white fellow.”

“What horse! what white fellow?” she shrieked. “What! Annie carried
off, do you mean?”

Our chief was beginning to explain matters, and to describe the late
fight with great zest, when Mrs. Bell interrupted him with,—

“Don’t ‘yabber’ any more; oh! if the others were only home.”

“Me send Terebare long ago—come by-m-by.”

“Good man,” faltered Mrs. Bell, “there’s nothing _can_ be done till
they come.”

At length, after a weary waiting of some six or seven hours,
Dromoora’s well-practised ear caught the sound of hoofs, and rushing
out, and then along the track, he encountered the horsemen before they
reached the “slip-rails” of the home-paddock.

As they galloped, so Dromoora ran alongside Mat’s horse, giving our
forester an account of the fight in a few hurried sentences, which
Mat interpreted to his companions.

Not a word spoke the squire or Mat as they flung themselves off their
horses at the steps of the verandah.

The squire and Tabor went into the house, Mat into the bachelors’
quarters to his room, and returning immediately, called out the
squire, and told him that he was off at once on the tracks of the
bushranger, and bade the old man not to fret. Bell pressed his hand,
and in a husky whisper said,—

“Find my daughter, Mat, and God prosper you; I will come after you
soon.”

Just previous to the raid of the bushrangers on Bulinda Creek, on a
clear morning, with a touch of frost in the air, two hawkers, named
Langridge, father and son, were travelling with a light cart along one
of the many tracks which led from the Blue Mountains to Sydney.

These men had been up country with fancy goods, and having disposed
of them to their satisfaction, were returning in high spirits to
their native town. The particular road which they were using was new
to them, and they had camped in one of Bell’s paddocks without being
aware that the station was close to them.

Whilst engaged discussing the various classes of goods which they
should lay in for their next trip, their little dog, which had been
frisking along in front of the horse, suddenly turned off the track
into the long grass, and commenced barking round some object lying
there.

Ever alive to the chance of killing a snake, which they were certain
it was, father and son rushed up, armed with a whip and some sticks,
but when they gained the spot they were startled and horrified to find
there the body of a man stretched out to all appearance dead.

The two men went down on their knees to examine more closely the
supposed corpse, and to their joy found that the man not only
breathed, but moved his head and opened his eyes, as though the sound
of their voices had awakened him.

Father and son then gently lifted him into a sitting position, and in
doing so remarked blood upon the grass, which had evidently escaped
from the man’s mouth, whereupon they forbore moving him again until
they could discern the nature of his wound; whilst looking for this
the wounded man whispered “water,” upon which the younger man at once
ran back to the cart, and returned with a large tin mug, which he had
filled with water, adding a few drops of rum.

The suffering man gulped this down eagerly, and seemed at once to be
considerably revived, whilst a faint colour returned to his cheeks,
which before had been deadly pale.

The hawkers, seeing that he had more appearance of life in him, whilst
still supporting him asked him his name.

“Stanley,” was the feeble answer.

It was indeed the youngest of our foresters, the unfortunate Tim.

“Don’t know that name,” remarked the elder traveller shaking his head;
“however, _that’s_ no odds. Now, Stanley,” he continued, “you shake
your head or make signs according as you want me to do this or that,
’cos I can see your lungs are wrong somehow, so don’t speak. Where are
you hurt?”

Tim pointed to his chest, which was enveloped in a thick blue jumper
or jersey; for when he had started on his moonlight walk the weather
had been very keen. On looking to where Tim pointed the hawkers could
see a little round hole in the jersey.

“I know of no doctor about here,” continued the elder man; “shall we
take you on to Sydney, we can carry you in a cart pretty easy?”

Tim made an affirmative sign, and the men left him to prepare their
cart, having first made him as comfortable as circumstances would
permit, by propping him up with some bundles of grass. They then
proceeded to make a high and springy bed in their empty cart, forming
it of alternate layers of grass and soft ti-tree bark; then bringing
the little waggon up to where Tim was lying, they lifted him carefully
and tenderly in.

Whilst one man walked by the side, and attended to any wants of the
sufferer, the other guided the horse carefully over rough places, and
in this way they reached Sydney after several hours’ travelling, and
without any conversation on the road, excepting that when they rested
once to give Tim a little relief from the jolting, they asked him who
shot him.

Tim whispered back, “Don’t know; never saw him in my life.”

The two good Samaritans deposited our forester at the hospital, and
upon inquiring of the doctor whether it was a very bad case, received
for answer, “Don’t know yet; shot through the lung, and chilled all
night in the dew.”



                             CHAPTER XIV.

   Mat on the trail of the bushranger—Annie’s signal—Mat tracks the
  bushranger to his lair—The cave—Our hero as the black warrior once
  more—A fearful fight—Dromoora’s timely cry—Annie’s rescue—Blissful
                               moments.


Before Mat made his start after the bushranger, he had buckled on a
brace of pistols, loaded his gun with a heavy charge of slugs, and put
some matches in his leather pouch. Trusting entirely to his powers of
tracking, he went on foot, knowing that he could approach his quarry
in this manner, and no other. Food he did not stop for, either to eat
or to burden himself with, _that_ he could procure whenever he wished
it. One thing that puzzled him was, what had become of Dromoora; the
chief had disappeared directly the white men had dismounted after
their ride from the out-station. However, he had no time to search,
his first object was to find the tracks of the horse which carried the
greatest weight; he could tell as well as any of the station blacks
whether a horse was being ridden, or simply driven without a rider.

Daylight had broken, and our forester very soon discovered that one
horse had galloped away free, one had been ridden by an ordinary
weight, whilst the third, which had gone straight away, had carried a
double weight.

The tracks of this last animal he followed up for the first few miles
at a steady run, only pulling up at mid-day for a short respite at
a water-hole. Towards evening, as the tracks became fainter, he
changed to a more moderate pace, so as not to overrun the trail; all
night he stuck to it like a sleuth-hound, sometimes subsiding into a
walk, then, as the tracks stood out in the soft ground in the clear
starlight, quickening his pace again.

For the first few miles of his pursuit he had noticed the track of
a naked foot which had followed the horse, and which he presumed
belonged to some one of the station blacks who frequented that part,
but after a bit these footmarks disappeared in a direction away from
the one that the horse was taking.

By early morning the trail brought him to another water-hole—evidently
these small lakes were well known to the man he was pursuing—he
perceived here that the rider had dismounted to get a drink, and he
also saw that there were a few spots of blood on the grass, as he sat
down, for the first time that he had done so, to roast and eat some
“unios,” a sort of shell-fish, which he found in the water.

Though burning for revenge on a wretch who dared to touch the girl who
was ever uppermost in his thoughts, and whilst horrible doubts arose
in his mind as to her possible fate, there was a very large amount
of savage or wild feeling in all Mat’s plans since he started on this
race, which gave him an intense pleasure: so perfect had been his
training in the Waigonda country, that in his mind he ridiculed the
idea of any white man or men being his match as long as he employed
his native tactics. In fine, from the moment that he took up the
trail, he dropped the white man, and became once more the Waigonda
warrior.

After a rather long rest, Mat once more resumed the trail, again
following it all night, and the next morning to his relief found that
he was gaining on his quarry, for the bushranger’s horse, having to
bear a double load, had been walking for several miles.

Our forester then had another rest, to roast and eat a carpet snake
which he had killed, and smoke a pipe.

Off again, he crossed a rocky creek, and from there the tracks entered
a dry stony country and trended towards the east. On this particular
part of the country the footprints of the horse were not discernible
to the ordinary eye. Mat smiled, as he quickly stepped over this hard
ground, and said to himself, “The fool thought, I suppose, that his
tracks would now be lost.” Farther on Magan had again dismounted to
get water, and here a little matter was cleared up which had puzzled
our forester, namely, how had the horse been fed all this time? by
_bread_, for by this water-hole was a small hollow full of crumbs,
distinctly showing to Mat’s eye that the animal had there crunched up
a loaf.

One invariable habit of a native black is to cast his eyes all round
into the branches of the trees, so it was with Mat—a habit which he
never lost, and as he passed his eyes across a mimosa-tree which
over-shadowed the pond, he saw something which made his heart beat
wildly with delight. For there hung a small shred of muslin. _Now_ he
knew that Annie was well enough to leave a little signal, hanging it
up whilst sitting on the horse’s back.

With redoubled efforts he started on again, when, upon ascending some
high ground, there lay the _ocean_ before him,—the Pacific Ocean,
which formed a silvery horizon in the distance.

“Going to get away in a boat,” muttered Mat, as he spurted along the
trail.

But in this surmise he was mistaken. Magan knew better than to trust
to the sea as a means of escape. Besides, his villainous schemes
tended in another direction altogether.

Our forester soon again considered it prudent to “slow down,” as
certain signs showed him that the man he was pursuing could not be far
off. On rounding the corner of a hill, he found himself over a broad
and steep creek, which was covered on its banks with dense stunted
scrub.

Viewing the nature and “lay” of this ravine, as he halted above it Mat
entirely changed his method of procedure, and once more prepared to
follow the tactics he had pursued for so many years with the Waigondas
when engaged in stalking game.

Divesting himself of his clothing, and twining green leaves into his
hair and beard, he dropped into the long blady grass which grew along
the bank of the creek, and, wriggling himself, like a snake, to the
cover of a hibiscus bush, peered cautiously through, and found that he
was _right over the robbers’ camp_!

A couple of hundred yards to the right of him, and in the dry bed of
the creek, were two men lying stretched out under a huge specimen of
the eucalyptus (known as the ti-tree, but pronounced _te_-tree), with
their cabbage-tree hats over their eyes, fast asleep, and, as Mat
hoped, in a _drunken_ sleep, for he saw the glitter of empty bottles
strewed around them. Their guns he could also see leaning against the
ti-tree.

All this our forester took in at a glance. Without shifting his
position, he peered anxiously about, until at length he descried a
third man, Magan, wide awake and eating something, seated on a spit of
sand a few yards higher up than the two sleepers. The bushranger had
chosen his position with great cunning, not a tree or bush to afford
cover to a foe being near him.

Mat could see, even at the distance that he was, that the whole
attitude of the man betokened extreme fatigue; yet ever and anon he
turned his head about, as if listening for any sign of pursuit.

Here was evidently a stronghold of the gang, for Mat could see a cave
in the side of the gully, with saddles and swags lying in the mouth
of it.

The _two_ men, Mat guessed, had awaited the bushranger at this spot.
At all events, he had seen no other tracks during his pursuit of the
robber.

And where was Annie?

Our forester decided—_in that cave_.

Long and anxiously did he study the situation, for one false step
would now ruin all.

He had hoped, during his pursuit, that he would overtake the
bushranger as he sat down to rest, with no one but his helpless victim
near him; but it was now evident that the cunning robber had never
intended to stop for more than an instant until he had gained his lair
and joined his “pals.”

Once the thought crossed Mat’s mind that, as he had three enemies to
deal with, he would wait until the solitary one followed the example
of the others, and went to sleep; but this idea he at once dismissed.
The agony of _waiting_, as we know, he never could tolerate; and
_now_, with Annie a prisoner, to be unoccupied would be intolerable to
him.

At length, after having viewed the pros and cons of the life-and-death
struggle which he knew must ensue, our forester made up his mind, drew
himself back from his place of concealment, made a long détour, and,
crossing the creek far below the big tree which sheltered the two men,
he approached their camp from the other side.

Drawing himself along the ground, he found that he was out of sight of
the _single_ robber, and thus could approach the other two, whom he
found still asleep, and breathing heavily.

Having reached the guns, he cautiously put out two fingers, eased
the nearest one down from its position against the tree, drew it
towards him, opened the pan, shook out the powder, and replaced it as
carefully in its former position, serving the other one in the same
way. A large powder-flask lying against one of the men had not escaped
his eye. This he buried deep in the sand. So far, mere child’s play to
our forester. He then retreated a few yards behind a bush, looked to
his own weapons, and took stock of the place where he knew Magan was
sitting. Cautiously peeping, he saw that he could shoot the man dead
from where he was lying concealed, but this act did not enter into his
_plan_. He wanted to get his gun, and so have him, he hoped, at his
mercy.

He found, upon further spying, that he would have to make another
détour to get round to the back of his man; and herein lay the
difficulty, owing to want of cover.

He now, for the first time, saw what he knew the robber must have with
him—the gun, lying near Magan’s right hand, and slightly behind him.
“If I get _that_,” thought Mat, “it will be _the_ stalk of my whole
life;” and he crawled away. It seemed hours to him before he had come
_round_ to the edge of the sandy plain to the rear of Magan. Once
there, he wormed his way in the required direction with eyes fixed on
the robber, and grasping his gun ready for any emergency.

Every time that the man was not looking at his food—each time that he
looked up or about him—Mat was as a _stone_, and, in truth, his body
being the exact colour of the ruddy sand on which he lay, it would
have taken something sharper than a white man’s eye to detect him.

Slowly he crept on. He could hear once, in the stillness of the air,
one of the two men turn over and grumble in his sleep, and again was
Mat motionless.

At last, his heart thumping so that he was afraid it would be heard,
silently and gently he drew himself so close behind the bushranger
that he could hear him breathe; his hand was upon the gun, lifting it
gently, when the man made a movement as though he would get up.

Mat’s other hand stole to his pistol, but Magan had only reached
forward to get a bottle, and whilst applying it to his lips, our
forester took the opportunity to slip back behind a slight ridge in
the sand, Magan’s gun in his hand. This he securely hid as soon as he
could do so with safety.

Continuing his retreat by the way he had come, he passed the two
sleepers, helped himself to a small “damper” which was lying ready
baked near a tiny fire and which he had previously noticed, but had
left until his retreat, and recrossing the creek again regained his
clothes.

Putting these quickly on and eating a mouthful of the bread, he came
again into the creek, walked up, hidden by the bushes, to within
thirty yards of Magan, stepped out into the open, and cried, “Throw up
your arms, my mates are behind me,” at the same time covering the man
with his pistol.

The bushranger looked up and felt for his gun, but not finding it, he
got up leisurely on his feet, instead of _springing_ up as Mat had
expected.

But once erect he snatched a pistol from his breast and shot at Mat.

Our hero, watching his eye, had seen his intention, and springing to
one side, the bullet flew harmlessly by him.

Mat returned the fire instantaneously and hit Magan full in the chest,
but to his astonishment the latter instead of falling was merely spun
partly round, and steadying himself once more discharged another
pistol at Mat.

The ball again flew wide, and Mat returned the fire with the same
result as before, and Magan drew yet a third pistol.

Our hero had dodged the two first shots by springing to one side or
the other, but at this third attempt at shooting him he tried
another ruse by springing high into the air; he did not, however, come
off scathless, for he was aware of a smarting blow like a red-hot
iron, passing round his thigh.

[Illustration: “The Death of Magan.”]

The thought that flashed through his mind at this period of the fight
was, “I did not put enough powder into the pistols, but Old Joe’s got
a fearful dose in her.”

Magan at this moment turned his head on one side to look for his gun.
Mat threw up his Manton to riddle his antagonist’s neck, and was in
the act of pulling the trigger, when a voice from the bushes almost
under his feet yelled out in Waigonda,—

“Hit in lower legs for your life.”

For an instant Magan darted a glance to the spot from whence the voice
proceeded.

Mat never moved his head, such was our hero’s nerve, but depressing
his aim, poured the contents of both barrels into his adversary’s
legs, when the bushranger fell to the ground with a hideous yell, his
remaining pistol flying into the air with a spasmodic jerk.

Mat walked cautiously towards the man to see that he was not shamming,
but as he approached him he was received with such a volley of curses
from his late antagonist, who he saw was terribly wounded, the lower
portions of both legs being completely smashed, that he came straight
up to him and stooped over to see if he could render any assistance
by staunching the flow of blood, which was pouring in a torrent over
the sand.

“Ah! _you gipsy_,” groaned Magan, as soon as he saw him close. “Who
are you, _his ghost_? I shot you dead near the station, I’ll swear it!
Ghost or not, I’d have killed you if I could have got my gun in time;
but that nigger standing there—they’ve always been my curse,—_he_
told you _something_! Yes, I’d have killed you and left you to rot as
you will me now, if it hadn’t been for _him_!—curse you both. I never
pulled straight with the pistols ’cos I believed ’twere a ghost! I—”
but here Magan fell back in a swoon.

This is how it was that Dromoora appeared on the scene.

Some days before the night of the visit of the bushrangers, when out
with his gun, he had come upon a deserted camp higher up this creek
which had evidently quite lately been occupied by white men; so
thinking that Magan would make for this spot, as he had found some
cooking utensils hidden away there, Dromoora, directly Mat and his
party arrived at Bulinda, and thus left him free to act, took a short
cut to this old camp,—it will be remembered that Mat had noticed the
steps of a native,—but finding that no one had been there since, he
made a cast down the creek, taking a line parallel to it, and then
‘cut in’ to the track of pursuer and pursued; following this up he
was in time to watch Mat’s proceedings from a spot close to that on
which the latter had disrobed himself, from which coign of vantage he
speedily realized his friend’s scheme, but did not discover himself
until the opportune moment, as he did not wish to interfere with his
plans in any way.

Dromoora now complimented our hero upon his stalking powers, telling
him that no black in the whole of the Waigonda tribe could have
procured the guns more neatly.

“I was so glad,” he said, “that you did not try to kill the man when
you were creeping upon him, as I should have done had I not known
_something_.

“I saw at the last that you would get the worst of it, and therefore
cried out telling you where to shoot.

“_For that man has iron all over his body, head and neck!!!_

“And when you were going to shoot at his neck he was just turning,
when all the lead would have struck against the iron skin; it’s all
hidden, but I will show it you; I found this out when I tried to drag
him off his horse, but my knife went into his leg, and I knew there
was no iron there; let us take his clothes off and you shall see.”

Mat, who had listened rather impatiently to the rapidly delivered
utterances of the now excited chief, replied,—

“Yes, yes, but first where is the white girl?”

“In that cave,” promptly replied Dromoora. “Tracks go in, none come
out.”

Together they searched the cave, but found it empty, as far as they
could _see_, so Mat felt for his matches, but not finding them at the
moment bade Dromoora fetch a fire-stick, when suddenly a stone came
rolling down from the upper part of the cavern, which lay buried in
darkness.

“Quick! fire-stick,” shouted Mat. The chief seized one from the small
fire outside, and returning, blew it into a flame, when to Mat’s
intense relief and joy they discovered Annie, lying on a ledge far up
the cave, with feet and hands tied, and a handkerchief bound round
her mouth. To cut through cords and handkerchief was the work of an
instant, and the two men then carried her into the open air, and
laying her gently down on some soft grass under the great ti-tree,
placed water by her side, and left her to recover herself.

Seeing that he could be of no further use, and feeling that as yet he
had had no direct hand in exterminating the enemies of his beloved
white chief, our Waigonda, disdaining firearms and contenting himself
with a steel tomahawk, was off before Mat could stop him, shouting
back, in answer to the latter’s question as to where he was going,—

“To get the other two and their thunder-sticks.”

As Mat afterwards found out, when the duel between him and the
bushranger commenced, these two other ruffians had jumped up and
taken deliberate aim at him, with the result of two flashes in the
pan. They had then looked for their powder-flask, and not finding it,
the truth had dawned upon them; so seizing their guns they had bolted
for their lives, leaving Magan to shift for himself.

Our forester had taken care to place Annie in a position from where
she could not possibly see the dying bushranger.

“Thank God, you are now safe, Miss Bell,” he said, as he approached
her. “I will leave you for a few minutes whilst I look for the horse,
but you’re quite safe. I will hardly be out of your sight.”

Saying which he was turning away, in reality to look after Magan, and
also to see that there were no signs of further miscreants, when Annie
called him back.

“Oh! don’t be long; I want to get out of this horrid place! But, ah!
forgive me for only thinking of myself instead of my preserver—for
such you are, Mr. Stanley.”

“Call me simply ‘Mat,’ as the others do,” he replied. “And rest
yourself; I know you must be terribly stiff with all you’ve gone
through; plenty of time to tell me all about it afterwards. I _must_
see first that we have no enemies left.”

With that he took a turn round the camp, and then walked up to Magan,
who, he found had regained his senses, but was slowly bleeding to
death. Mat saw that the case of the man was hopeless, but at the
same time felt that he was utterly powerless to help him; however, he
procured him water, placed his bottle close to him, and asked him if
he could do anything at all for him.

“No, curse you,” hissed the man between his teeth, “haven’t you done
enough? Why didn’t I kill you and the others when I was with Carew,
and you came to the camp? I got some of your nuggets, and meant to
wipe out the lot of you, only there were too many niggers about; if
ever I stirred even to the mouth of the tent, there was one watching
me. They’ve been my curse all along.”

Mat had once, when camping with Carew, caught a glimpse of the
mysterious man in the tent, who he was told was such a drunkard that
he never stirred out; and now, as he gazed carefully at the features
of the wounded man before him, he recognized the great scar on his
face.

Astonished at this recognition and the man’s words, he said,—

“Why, then, you’re Boyd!”

“In course I _was_, and now I’m Jack Magan, and shall be both Boyd
and Magan under the sod soon. How did that nigger tell you where
to shoot? If it hadn’t been for him, I’d ’av got a thousand pounds
ransom for that wench, after killing you! I wish you and him felt as
I do now. They’ve tried to take me these years, and never would, only
for you two finding out the secret; but perhaps that liar who lived
with Bell, that liar we called ‘Frenchey,’ perhaps he peached. But my
senses are going; what’s the good of talking to a ghost? I saw your
black beard fly into the air when I shot you one moonlight night at
the paddock, and I’ll swear you never stirred afterwards.”

Every sentence of the foregoing remarks was larded with horrible
oaths, and Magan soon after died, cursing with his last breath the man
who had dealt him his death-blow. But Mat, seeing that his presence
only infuriated the bushranger, placed some shady branches lightly
around him before he was dead, and turned away.

The horse he found in a miserable condition, so tied that he could
neither lie down nor get about to seek for food or water, so our
forester freed him, led him to a small pool in the rocks, and left him
at liberty amongst some good feed.

He then rejoined Annie, whom he found brighter, and refreshed from her
rest.

In answer to his questions, she told him that the men had treated her
without insult, and that the wretch called “Jack” had informed her
that he had killed the gipsy days ago, which she knew at the time
must be a story. He also told her that some of his men were guarding
his camp; it was quite impossible for her to get away, and that his
intention was to get a large sum of money for her ransom, keeping her
prisoner until he could communicate safely with her father. If his
hiding-place was discovered, and a force sent against him, he did not
intend to be taken himself, nor should he burden himself with her if
he had to fly, but should simply cut her throat before going.

“Oh, it’s _so dreadful_!” continued Annie. “But I will tell you more
as I think of it. Yes, and when we arrived here I was given damper and
meat and water, and then they tied a handkerchief round my mouth, and
my legs and arms together, and put me in that dreadful cave. When they
struck a match in there I glanced round and spied that ledge, so when
the firing began I remembered the man’s threats, and struggled inch by
inch, until, in despair, I got not only on to the ledge, but rolled
beyond it out of sight, and there I lay shaking with fear. At last I
recognized your voice—though in black-fellow language I knew it—and I
knew I was saved! And I just managed to kick a stone down, as I could
not call out. But, oh! Mr. Stanley—Mat, I mean—are my parents safe?
Tell me everything. And how was it you came up alone? How I prayed
for you all, and my prayers have been answered, have they not? I knew
_you_ would come, as you can track anything, but where are the others?”

Mat assured her that her people were all safe, and would be with her
soon, at all events the squire would, and that as he had started
first, so he had arrived before the others, having gone night and
day; as she had surmised, he had followed the tracks, and at a run,
whereas the other white men were not accustomed to tracking, and,
moreover, they would be mounted, which would still more add to their
difficulties in following a trail; and, “believe me,” concluded Mat,
“I would have followed across Australia to save you, Miss Annie.”

Annie gazed at our hero earnestly for a moment, but did not respond; a
dreamy look came into her eyes as she looked at him and thought, “What
a noble, manlike fellow he is!” And the forester’s hitherto rather
stern-like expression gave way to a softer one, as he met that gaze,
and took in the appearance of the fair girl beside him; her rich long
auburn hair had fallen over her shoulders, its dark shades relieved by
golden gleams, where the sunlight played upon it. Annie had loosened
her dress at the neck, to get all the air she could, thus disclosing
her pure white skin and the soft outlines of her throat, whilst her
gentle fawn-like eyes, still moist from the hours of agony she had
gone through in the cave, looked with a startled anxious expression
into those of our hero.

Truly, hers was a lovable, confiding nature, and Mat felt it,—felt it
as in a dream,—as in a heavenly trance, and he also _felt_ that he was
rewarded....

After they had thus sat for a brief space in silence, Mat went on to
tell Annie, without entering into particulars of the fight, that if it
had not been for the faithful Waigonda chief, matters might have had
a very different termination, for that he could not do much against
bullet-proof armour.

“Yes, that armour!” cried Annie, “I knew that there were many things
I wanted to tell you; I soon found out how impossible it would be
for any one to harm the bushranger, for once he took off a lot of
armour when resting and eating, for he had a bag of provisions, and
then I remembered reading somewhere about a man who defied every
one, and shot all who tried to take him, and they supposed he wore a
breastplate of iron, because no one could ever hurt him; and, Mat, how
agonizing were my feelings when I found I had no means of scrawling
this fact on a bit of paper to let you know, for I knew you would
come. I tied a bit of handkerchief on to a tree to show I was alive
and—”

“And here it is,” said Mat, with a smile, as he produced the remnant.
“And there’s a ‘cooee,’” he cried, jumping up. “Terebare’s, I know,
yes! there she is, on that high bank, and the squire on horseback.”

Annie sprang to her feet, and a few moments afterwards was weeping
tears of love and thankfulness on her father’s breast.



                             CHAPTER XV.

      Magan’s armour—Safe at Bulinda Creek again—The professor’s
     last lesson on the island—Mat and Tim once more together—Tim
                             convalescent.


After the first transports of joy at again meeting each other were
over, Annie led her father under the big ti-tree, and recounted to
him some of the adventures that had befallen her since she had been
carried off.

“And where is the man that saved you, lassie?” said the squire, as
soon as he had heard her narrative.

“He was here just now, father.”

Mat had retired, not wishing to disturb the meeting between father and
daughter, but he now came forward, when Bell took his hand in both of
his, saying as he did so,—

“Mat, you have saved my daughter’s life, like a brave and noble fellow
that you are. Accept the gratitude of an old man, who owes her life
and honour to you. I cannot say all that I think, and wish to, _now_,
my nerves have been too much shaken, but I _will_ when we get home;
I should never have got here if it had not been for ‘Terebare,’ who
ran pretty well the whole way in front of my horse. I insisted on the
others staying behind, so as not to come away and leave the station
undefended. Now let us have some rest and refreshment.”

Whilst Annie went off with Terebare to cook some provisions, which the
squire had brought, Mat took the latter aside and told him a few of
the particulars connected with the rescue of Annie, adding,—

“Miss Bell knows scarcely anything of what I’m telling you, and she
certainly does not know that the bushranger is lying dead about fifty
yards up this gully; she must not go near the spot; but come and see,
and then you’ll judge.”

So the two men proceeded to the place, and found the man lying dead
sure enough.

Before they thought of burying him, which they knew must be done in
that climate without much loss of time, they proceeded to take off and
examine his armour, which both viewed with astonishment.

“How _could_ the man bear the weight in this climate and move about?”
queried Bell.

“I don’t think he _did_ move about much,” replied his companion; “I
expect he always rode. What I could not understand at the time was the
slow way in which he got up when I surprised him; why, looking at the
weight of this lot, he must have carried nearly a couple of hundred
pounds.”

“Not far off it,” said the squire, who, with the help of Mat, had
now got off the thigh pieces, breastplate, back piece, and a sort of
helmet with a cover for the neck, from the body, all this iron being
concealed by ordinary clothing.

“This has stood some shooting,” continued Bell, “and here’s your
‘brand’ too,” as he pointed to a couple of deep dents in the
breastplate. “We’ll keep all this gear, and bury the body under that
tree in the scrub, where the others can’t see us at work; I’m glad
that Annie did not see this frightfully-mutilated corpse.”

So they scraped a hole, put Magan’s body in, marked the tree, and made
a “cache” of the armour.

“I saw you limping when helping to carry the body,” said Bell; “are
you wounded?”

“No, it’s nothing,” answered Mat, “else I couldn’t walk, but I may as
well look at it before we go back.”

Mat found that the ball from Magan’s pistol had travelled just under
the skin of his outer thigh, causing a slight flesh wound, but causing
him little inconvenience.

After the little party had refreshed themselves, they prepared to
start for home.

Terebare brought up the horses; Annie was mounted on her father’s, the
squire insisting on Mat’s riding Magan’s, taking turn and turn about
with him.

In this manner they reached home by easy stages, and without further
adventure. As they approached the house, Mrs. Bell, rushed out to meet
them, having recognized them from far off, and once again the family
party met in safety and happiness on the verandah of Bulinda Creek.

When they had partly got over the first feelings of thankfulness at
the rescue of Annie, Mrs. Bell said to her husband,—

“And who do you think is the wretch we caught?”

“I don’t know,” answered Bell; “I was too much engaged to look at the
man; some escaped convict, probably.”

“You are partly right, but you ’av’nt guessed _who_ he is,—’e’s Rayon,
the Frenchman! The police have recognized ’im as an escaped convict,
and ’av carried him off to jail more dead than alive. I remembered
afterwards, when Dromoora was tying him up he said, ‘French feller’;
but I was ’alf stunned by all that ’appened, and didn’t know what he
meant. I’ll never speak French again.”

“I see it all now,” replied her husband; “what a lot of fools we were
to be gulled so, and what a doubly-distilled ass _I_ was not to listen
to Mat when _he_ wanted to stay behind, saying he thought there was
danger about.”

Mrs. Bell listened eagerly to the account of Annie’s rescue by Mat.

“What a brave man he is,” she said; “he must live with us altogether;
we can never repay him. I must ‘embrasser’ him; I—I—mean embrace him,
and Dromoora too.”

“As you say, we _cannot_ fully repay him,” joined in her husband; “but
I have some plans that I will talk over with you by-and-by.”

The news of the death of one bushranger and the capture of another
soon rang over the whole district, the newspapers especially devoting
their columns to what they knew of the history and doings of the two
miscreants.

There was no doubt that it was the intention of the bushrangers to
murder all who opposed them.

One paper stated that the leader of the gang, the notorious Magan, had
long been outlawed, and that he fought with a halter round his neck,
for that his previous career showed that he had shot more than one man
in cold blood; it related that—

“Upon one occasion this fiend had ridden up to a station down south,
and had ordered the inmates to ‘Bail up!’ This they at once did, being
taken by surprise. Magan had then shot at and wounded one of the men,
then despatched another for the doctor, and then had deliberately shot
_him_ as he was going away upon his errand.”

Concerning Rayon, whose real name was never clearly made out, this
much was known—that he was English-born, had been very well educated
travelled as courier in France with some of the best families. Having
learnt French perfectly, he had settled in Paris, but eventually ran
away from there, owing to his being found out at card-sharping. He
next turned up in London, and, being an accomplished penman, had
forged whilst there the name of one of his former patrons for a large
sum of money; was tried, convicted, and transported for life to Botany
Bay, and escaped.

As we have seen, he was now captured again, and doomed to pass the
rest of his life, _this_ time on a well-known island, whose sole
sentries consisted of swarms of gigantic sharks, which had already
snapped up more than one unlucky prisoner upon his attempting to swim
to the mainland.

Our forester was surprised on his return to Bulinda after the rescue
of Annie, not to hear any news of Tim. The squire, too, could not make
it out, but said,—

“I expect he did not start from the ‘Downs,’ as he said he intended to
when he wrote; so, as we have not done with this police business yet,
having to go to headquarters again soon, supposing we make a start
to-morrow to Sydney; we may then hear news of Tim.”

Mat gladly agreed to this proposal, and as Parson Tabor also wished to
visit the capital, the three men started the next day.

Passing the station where Tim had “spelled” before starting on
his moonlight walk, the travellers were astonished to find that
Tim had been there, and as they had heard no tidings of his being
about Bulinda, they thought that he must have forgotten something
important, and returned to Sydney. So, without further delay, they put
spurs to their horses, and galloped into the town.

Leaving their horses in a stable, they were walking down one of the
chief streets when a man accosted Mat with,—

“Beg pardon, how is your brother to-day?”

“Brother!” replied Mat, “why, where is he?”

“I know it’s your brother,” replied the man, “I saw you both at the
School of Arts, at your lecture, he’s ill in the hospital, so they
say.”

Without another word the three friends hurried off to the hospital,
and there learnt that it was indeed Tim who was one of the patients,
but further they could not learn until the house-surgeon appeared,
who gave them particulars of the case, and then, in answer to their
questions, said that Tim was now out of danger, and that one of them
might visit him; so it was settled that Mat should go to his brother,
whilst the others, Bell and Tabor, would transact some business in the
town and call for him again.

Our forester found his brother looking very white and wan, lying in
a small bed in one of the wards. One of the nurses, before ushering
him in, had warned Mat not to let the patient talk above a whisper by
exciting him in any way, and not to stay long.

So he went in very softly, took his brother’s thin hand, in his, and
pressed it, saying,—

“Don’t talk, Tim, only a little whisper now and again. The doctor
has told us all about you, and I would have come before, but have
been away from the station, and only heard you were here by accident.
Squire and the parson are in the town—”

Tim here interrupted him with a questioning look, so Mat bent his head
to hear what he had to say.

Tim’s whispered words came faintly to him,—

“I want to get to the station where you and t’parson are.”

Mat replied,—

“I will go and ask the doctor,” and was leaving the room, when Tim
motioned him back with a plaintive look,—

“I want to go to-morrow.”

Mat nodded, went out, and having found the doctor, repeated his
brother’s wish to him.

The doctor was a little spare man, short in stature and short in
manner. He said,—

“We knew some time ago who your brother was, and where _you_ were
living, but we were also aware that the patient’s life depended upon
utter quiet, and up to two days ago it would have been madness for
any of his friends to have seen him, therefore we sent no message to
Bulinda Creek: we meant to have let you know to-day or to-morrow. As
I told you, a bullet in the lungs is no joke; still if you could get
a very easy carriage and take him by short stages, only travelling by
day, it might be safe _now_.”

Mat told Tim the good news, and waited quietly by his brother’s
bedside until the squire and the parson sent up to say that they were
waiting below.

The three men then had a consultation, the doctor being present, when
it was decided to bring a carriage there next day, should the weather
be favourable. Mat was requested not to disturb his brother again so
sending word to him of their intention, they adjourned to a hotel for
the night.

The weather was warm and balmy, and looked as though it would remain
so for the next few days, as the carriage drew up on the morrow at
the hospital, and Tim was comfortably and slowly driven to the Creek,
which he reached in two days’ time, escorted by his brother, the
squire and the parson, and not any the worse for his journey.

The doctor, as he had promised Mat, came out to see his patient on the
day after his arrival, and finding him all that he could wish, called
Mat out on to the verandah, and said,—

“What he wants now is absolute quiet, no exciting talk, no physic,
merely cooling drinks; your brother is not likely to live to be an
old man, but the best chance of lengthening his days is, when he is
well enough, to get him out of this hot climate—a mild sea voyage, if
possible, I would suggest, even to going home. But, above all, _gentle
nursing now_.”

Annie, who had entered the verandah during the latter part of the
conversation, walked up to Mat, and addressing him and the doctor,
said,—

“Let _me_ look after him; I will do so night and day, I promise it.”

And Annie was as good as her word, never leaving Tim without his
cooling drinks, making him jellies and other delicacies with her own
hands, sitting by his bedside night after night, and when at length he
was able to leave his bed, it was upon the same fair nurse’s arm that
he leaned, to take his first feeble walks on the verandah.



                             CHAPTER XVI.

    The Squire’s offer—Tim decides to go home—Our heroine’s advice
        to Mat—Our forester takes to gardening—The “new chum’s”
                      difficulties and troubles.


The squire, one evening after the inmates of Bulinda Creek had once
more settled down to their quiet every-day life, beckoned Mat on to
the verandah for a smoke. When they had made themselves comfortable in
a couple of “squatters,” or easy seats made of canvas, propped on two
poles, the old man spoke.

“Mat, my lad, I have heard the opinion of the doctor, that Tim should
go home. I hope that you and he will accept the offer that I am going
to make to you. If he wishes to go, and I believe he does, I propose
to pay his passage to the old country in the best ship that we can
find, and I intend to start him in the forest with a thousand pounds,
so that he can take a little farm, or buy a bit of land, and he shall
draw upon me for any farther sum he may require.”

Mat was about to thank him for this generous proposal, but the squire
stopped him.

“I know that you will never take money without working for it and all
that, but remember, should you wish to ease your conscience, you can
repay me when you are a rich man, and I intend to put you on a road
by which you may attain this, the particulars of my scheme I will
explain to you in good time. Another thing, you can also help your
brother and yourself by accepting the purse that was subscribed for
you, and which money I long ago placed out at interest in the bank,
and then there are your nuggets worth at least three pounds sterling
an ounce, and—”

“True enough, squire,” interrupted Mat, “_they_ are what brought all
the misery to your house, and to Tim too, for ’twas Magan, of course,
that shot him. I wish I had put _them_ in the bank, when I landed in
Sydney.”

“Very well, Mat, and now I have a proposition to make which concerns
yourself. No one in this country could have rescued my daughter
under the peculiarly difficult circumstances of the case, as you did
it”—here Bell paused to light up another pipe, whilst our forester
waited with impatience, he scarcely knew why, for his next words. The
squire quietly puffed at his pipe, and continued, “Had the police come
up with this Magan, I feel convinced that, proof as he was against
their bullets, he would have retreated fighting to the cave, and
rather than surrender would have killed Annie, for the brute would
as soon have shot a woman as a man; and, bear in mind, I never shall
forget that that gallant chief of yours saved your life, and thus the
lives of others, and I will make it one of my first cares to reward
him and his wife, and the whole of his tribe, in any way you think
they will most appreciate. But to come back to yourself, Mat. You of
all men will appreciate deeds rather than words, and I propose that
from this date you take up your abode with us, and go equal shares
with me in all the property I possess.

“Tom wishes this as well. Remember that you will be, as the younger
man, the working partner, and will consequently be of the greatest
assistance to me, who am getting a bit portly and old. Now go and
sleep over all this. To-morrow I will show you my books, and then you
can tell me if you agree. Tom, who is well provided for, says you
_must_, and I say you _shall_.”

Mat did not “sleep over it,” but lay _awake_ that night thinking
over the squire’s proposal. To his own way of thinking, he had not
done anything so wonderful after all in the way that he had rescued
Annie; though true he recollected that Dromoora had praised him in the
matter, which praise, coming from the lips of that old warrior, meant
a very great deal indeed. He plainly saw what a splendid opening lay
before him; such a career had never occurred to him in his wildest
dreams. And then he thought how splendid it would be if Tim could join
him in anything of the sort; or should he go home with Tim? No, _that_
would be no advantage to either; besides, he thought he _would_ like
to stay at Bulinda. Thus, reasoning the matter over in every possible
way, in trying to come to a conclusion, he went to sleep.

Our forester was sauntering along the verandah the next day, thinking
of what he should say to the squire, when Annie came softly out of
Tim’s room, and Mat almost ran against her, so absorbed was he in his
thoughts.

“Oh, Mat,” she said, “I was coming to look for you. Tim would like to
speak to you, and after that I want you to help me get some bananas
for him.”

“Is that you, Mat?” said a faint voice, as our hero entered the
sick-room. “I want to talk to you about what we were saying the other
day, when I wasn’t allowed to talk any more. I’m much better this
morning. The doctor says I can never ride, or do anything worth doing
again, _that’s_ what pains me; ’taint the wound so much as that. But
I ought to be very thankful, I know, ’taint no worse, cos t’ parson
says I oughter. Oh! he is just like an angel; steals in and prays;
yes, prays at night, when he thinks I’m asleep; but I can hear him
whispering his prayers. And Miss Annie, she _do_ just about take care
of me; I never have to ask for anything I want. I feel better in body
and in mind when those two are here, and they come different times,
and never bother me with ‘How did you sleep last night?’ because they
_know_; they tell each other. And I told t’ parson as how I’d like
to get back to t’ forest, and he said the doctor told him that he
wished I _was_ back, and if I went on so well as now, I might go in a
few weeks; and that is why I wanted to see you, to ask you, is there
enough money as my share, do you think, for me to go?”

Tim broke down at this point from exhaustion, and Mat gave him a
cooling drink from a bottle which his brother pointed out, and begged
him not to talk any more.

“You only _listen_, Tim,” he said. “I’ve settled all about the money;
you’ll have plenty, and _will_ go home. I’ll tell you all about it
another time. I am going now to get some bananas for you.”

“Will you come again after I’ve had a sleep, Mat? for I feel so much
happier now I’ve seen you, I shall get to sleep and dream of home.”

Mat promised, then stepped out and rejoined Annie, and they proceeded
to the garden, where he cut a large bunch of “Lady’s Finger” bananas
which she showed him, and carried it back to the house.

When he had deposited his burden, Mat turned to Annie.

“I am afraid I nearly pushed you over just now, Miss Annie, when you
were coming out of Tim’s room, but I never looked up in time. I was
stupidly going along with my head down, thinking so much of what your
father said to me last night.”

“Why, what _did_ he say?”

“I’ll tell you in a few words. He asked me to live with him and be his
partner.”

“I guessed that might be it, for we were all talking about it. And
what was your answer?”

“Why, he told me to give him an answer this morning; and it’s such a
grand prospect for a poor man like myself. But then, I am not used to
live amongst your class, Miss Annie, and I don’t know _what_ to say.”

“Well, then, I will tell you what to say; and you must say it to
please me. Tell my father that you will be glad to avail yourself of
his terms. And as to what you say about ‘class,’ I daresay you will
get accustomed to ours, and all the other ‘classes’ round about here,
in time.”

“Then, Miss Annie, I’ll say as you tell me.”

There was a noble specimen of the crimson-flowered “poinciania-tree”
growing near to the entrance of the house, and a seat had been put up
under its shady branches. This tree was a favourite resort of various
members of the family, by reason of the cool currents of air which
played around it. The verandah, though perfectly shady, was rather
confined as to atmosphere; the perfume of the creepers which shut it
in was also rather overpowering.

After his conversation with Annie, our forester departed to look for
the squire, but not finding him thought that he would smoke a pipe
under the “poinciania-tree,” and there await his return.

Strolling up to the seat, he found it already occupied by Annie, who
had brought her work there.

“I cannot find your father. Miss Annie, do you know, I was thinking,
before I spoke with you just now, that I would go back to England with
Tim.”

“Why, Mat? do you like England so much better?”

“No, I don’t think I do, since you said I might stay here.”

“Yes, I would rather you _would_ stay,” said Annie, as she went on
rapidly with her knitting. “I should not like to think that the man
who risked his life to save mine was going away for ever.”

“Miss Annie, do you know that during the whole of that wild, savage
life I was leading, I used often to get out a book that I saved, and
think of the young lady who gave it me.”

“Was she such a _very_ nice girl, then?” inquired Annie.

“She _was_—she was Miss Annie Bell!”

“_Me! me_ give you a book! I never _did_, Mat.”

“I think perhaps you will remember when I show it you.” And Mat
went off to his room, and returning presently, laid an old and
much-battered copy of “Robinson Crusoe” in her lap.

“There!” he said triumphantly.

“I _do_ remember it,” said Annie, after looking at the old
yellow-leaved volume. “I gave it you in the forest, when I was a
school-girl.”

“Yes; I never expected to show it to you again.”

“Do you always keep presents like that, Mat?”

“No; but that is the only present I ever had from a lady who was kind
to me, and I _was_ pleased when it was washed up from the wreck.
By-the-bye, would you like to see my journal? I have been writing it
out as carefully as I can, because a publisher in Sydney has offered
me a good price if I’ll let him print it, and it will be so nice if
Tim and I can make a few pounds by it.”

“I should _like_ to hear it, if you will read it to me, Mat.”

Mat fetched the manuscript, and, taking his seat by Annie said,—

“I won’t give you all this beginning part, because you heard most
of that at the lecture; but do listen to this page, because, when I
read that part to the publisher, he threw himself back in his chair,
shoved his spectacles on the top of his forehead, put his thumbs
into his waistcoat, and said, ‘Um—ah!—yes; just so. I believe there
_are_ some curious freaks of nature in those northern parts, but this
is—well—er—er—a _little_ strong.’ What he _really_ meant was—‘You and
your brother are terrible liars.’

“This is the account, as I wrote it, only I’ve had the ‘wording’
improved:—

“Tim and I were returning to the camp on a moonlight night, along a
chain of small water-holes, which were fringed with ‘blady’ grass,
when some beast or other suddenly floundered into the water, but
never rose to the surface again. Whilst I watched, Tim went off to
the camp close by, and soon returned with half a dozen blacks with
their clap-nets. These entered the little pool, and, after working
their nets for some time, one of them jumped out with a fish of about
six pounds in his net. ‘Very good,’ I said to my black friend, ‘but
that is not the beast we heard in the dry grass.’ ‘Yes, that is it,’
he replied. ‘Look! he has two sorts of legs on his stomach, and he
eats grass at night, like a kangaroo, and we call him “Barramundi”
(_Ceratodus forsteri_); and sometimes we have caught him on the banks
of water-holes on moonlight nights. He can breathe in the water
because he has _these_ things, showing me his gills; and he can
breathe on land because he has _these_—I will show you;’ upon which
the black cut open the fish, and showed me his lungs.”

“I can only say,” said Mat, as he stopped reading, “that we both _saw_
all this, and, after all, it’s not much more wonderful than some of
the tree-snakes. I can show you, on the next one I kill, two little
short points or legs under his stomach, to help him to grip getting
about trees.”

Before Mat could continue his journal they were summoned to dinner, so
Annie took up the book, saying,—

“We must go on with it this evening. I am sure that I shall like it so
much.”

When, however, the evening came, Annie remembered that her garden
_must_ be watered, for she had neglected this of late; so she asked
Mat to come and help her to carry the buckets, saying,—

“If you will fill the buckets at the water-hole, and then carry them
across the paddock to those trees—that is where my garden is—I will
walk on first, for I do not suppose that there are any bushrangers
about now.”

Mat had often passed this garden, with its hedge of prickly “Osage
orange,” but had never penetrated through the little gate.

He soon filled his buckets, and was by Annie’s side, in her garden,
waiting for orders.

She pointed out those shrubs and flowers which were specially thirsty
subjects, and told him the names of many of the plants.

“These many-coloured flowers are Balsams; that great bush, with its
deep red flowers, is a Bouganvillia; and the creeper joining it,
over the summer-house, with its bunches of waxy flowers, is called
Stephanotis; it scents the whole garden at night.”

“I know the smell of _that_,” said Mat, “if I do not know the name,
for you had a nosegay of it when I saw you in Sydney.”

“Yes, I _had_, and I wear it at all the balls and parties I go to. It
is my favourite flower.”

Our hero watered everything he was told to, and a good many dead
sticks and cuttings that he was not told to. When they had finished,
he asked Annie whether they should come again the next evening to
water; also whether he might look after her garden a bit, for that it
was “terrible” weedy.

“Yes,” she returned, “I should be glad if you would help me this dry
weather. What funny expressions you _do_ use sometimes!”

“And,” continued Mat, “will you give me a bit of the—the—sweet-smelling
plant.”

“Certainly I will,” she said, as she plucked a spray and gave it him,
“and I will write down those difficult names for you. Now we will go
in; they will wonder what has become of us.”

Mat told his brother that evening, before he went to bed, that
he had heard of three plants quite new to him, called “Balsam,”
“Boug-and-villia,” and “Ste-phen-oh-tis;” and Tim agreed that whatever
the plants were like, the names were very wonderful.

The following day our forester found the squire and Tom alone in the
former’s room. Parson Tabor had been away a great deal of late upon
affairs connected with the station in Sydney, with Tom as companion.
“Our Parson” was always taken into the confidence of the family in
matters both temporal and spiritual; he was one of those men who
seldom ventured an opinion upon any important matter until it was
asked for; but when he _did_ speak, his remarks and advice were worth
considering, and to the point.

Mat had hoped when he entered the squire’s room that the clergyman
would have been there too, but in this he was disappointed: the parson
was too busy writing, they said, to attend; besides, they had not much
to discuss, for, said Bell,—

“I’ve got a new chum coming, but _first_, what is your decision Mat,
with reference to the matter we were discussing the other night?”

Mat replied that if the squire and Tom still wished him really to have
a share in the station, and become one of the partners, he would do
his very best, and certainly would be very proud of such a distinction
being conferred upon him. He would like, he said, to begin work
at once, and be off to the out-station in a couple of days’ time.
(Mat did not say so, but the fact was he had taken a great fancy to
gardening all at once, and wished to have a couple more evenings at
that delightful occupation.)

Bell and his son were much pleased at having secured such a powerful
and useful aid as our forester for the working of the station, and Mat
was as delighted at having achieved the very height of his ambition,
though he could never conceive that such a possibility would be
afforded him in Australia, when he left the New Forest, as to rise
suddenly to the position of partner in one of the finest properties
in the country; for though the “books” of the station were at present
a little beyond his understanding, yet by this time he was well
acquainted with the whole of the “run,” and the thousands of cattle
and horses upon it, and during frequent visits to Sydney for purposes
connected with Bell’s affairs, he had heard nothing but praise on all
sides of the squire’s management, and of the “solidity” attached to
his name.

When Mat proposed to lose no time in commencing his work at the
out-station, Bell replied that he wished him to wait at Bulinda until
a “new chum” arrived from England, who was expected daily.

“Fact is,” he said. “I thought I had done with ‘new chums,’ but a
letter I received some time ago reminded me of a promise I once made
to an old friend at home, that I would take his son on my station.
He says it’s his only son, who will enter into no profession, loves
horses, and can ‘rough it’ to any extent. I know what _that_ means by
experience,” growled Bell. “Anyhow he comes—‘The Honourable Lionel
Fulrake;’ the ship was in a week ago. We will do our best to welcome
him anyhow, and we shall soon see how he ‘shapes.’”

A few hours after this conversation, Mat was in his room tidying up
his things, arranging his “manavlins,” as Tom dubbed his odds and
ends, when the sound of wheels caught his ear; so he stole round the
building to see who had arrived.

A buggy and pair of horses, driven by a coachman in livery, was just
pulling up at the verandah. The vehicle was laden, or rather piled
up, with every conceivable description of luggage: portmanteaux,
hatboxes, guns, fishing-rods, a tent, and, perched on the top of all,
an enormous canteen.

Presently, a young man could be seen clearing out of these
impedimenta, and descending the vehicle. “What a swell!” thought Mat;
and the new arrival certainly _was_, if one judged by his clothes: a
tall white hat, an irreproachable collar, a scarf with two pins in it,
dust coat, nankeen trousers, and patent boots.

“Brought over in a bandbox,” whispered Tom, who had joined Mat in the
inspection. “I don’t think _he_ will ‘shape’ much!”

“I don’t know,” rejoined his companion; “I’ve seen swells just like
him at home, and I’ve seen them _fight_!”

Mr. Fulrake, for he it was, had now ascended to the verandah, and,
looking about for a bell, but finding none, subsided languidly into a
“squatter,” and lit a cigarette.

Having finished this without seeing anyone, he got up to examine
the house, and finally entered a room, which happened to be the one
occupied by the ladies and the squire.

“Welcome to Bulinda!” said Bell, coming forward. “I know it must be
Mr. Fulrake from the family likeness!”

“Thanks!” replied the new arrival, as he exchanged bows with Mrs. Bell
and her daughter. “I’ve been outside for about a quarter of an hour;
couldn’t find any one, you know. Will you send the servant to bring
in my luggage?”

“All right,” returned Bell; “we’ll get in your traps, but it’s not
_here_. I’ll tell the man to drive round to the bachelors’ quarters;
your room is all ready there. Sorry we never heard you come. You
should have walked in at once!”

“Thanks! I’m awfully tired with that jolting cart!”

“Well, then, rest here; the ladies will look after you!”

Saying which, the squire went out, called his son and Mat, and with
their help proceeded to attack the pile of luggage.

Our “new chum’s” appearance was distinctly _striking_, in one especial
peculiarity—that of his _hair_. It was the lightest possible hair
ever seen, almost white in colour, whilst his moustache and the down
on his cheeks was only a shade darker. The contour of his delicately
pink-hued face denoted an equal mixture of good temper and languor,
whilst a pair of thin legs supported an apparently frail body, and a
pair of remarkably long arms.

As soon as the squire had disappeared, Fulrake threw himself into an
easy armchair, which Annie offered him, and, first gazing in a vacant
sort of way round the room, prepared to rest himself, and answer
questions.

“’Ad you a good passage,” inquired Mrs. Bell.

“Pretty fair, only a horribly dirty ship, not a very first-class lot
of people on board, bad cook, and all that sort of thing, don’t you
know.”

“You must find your first impressions out here rather different to
those of the old country—we live in a very simple way, you know, Mr.
Fulrake.”

“Oh, well, it’s rather hot, and all that sort of thing, but I’m rather
used to roughing it, you know—led quite a wild life in Norway, had to
cook my own food.”

“You did not find that so _very_ hard, did you,” inquired Annie, with
a smile; “how long had you to do it?”

“Why, quite three weeks, last time I was there.”

“_Dear me_, but could you not find any one to cook?”

“As a matter of fact, there _was_ a man with me, but he was so dirty I
would not let him cook, and my interpreter pretended he _couldn’t_.”

“I really do not think you were so badly off with two men,” remarked
Annie, “unless, of course, you had any _real_ discomforts.”

“Yes, but I had, though. One night I got drenched, and had to have my
clothes dried at the canteen fire; never travel without a portable
stove. If you’ll excuse me, I’ll go and get a change and hot bath, I’m
so dusty, don’t you know.”

“_Well_,” said Annie, as soon as he had gone, “‘Mr. Matter-of-fact
don’t you know,’ has a pretty good opinion of himself and his personal
comforts, I should think, with his short answers, too; what do _you_
think, mother.”

“My dear, I don’t like your talking in that light way about him, he
is evidently a gentleman of good education and talents, and we _know_
that he comes of a good family. We have seen little of him as yet,
I’ve no _doubt_ but what he speaks Fren—, no, I mean I daresay you
will like him when you know him better, you must take him in hand a
little.”

“_Me!_” answered Annie, in a tone of scorn, “_me_ take him in hand! No
thank you; my opinion is, that at his best he’s an amusing _fop_—what
a funny-looking little creature he is. But don’t you think, my dear
mother, that you are rather too fond of being taken with strangers
directly you see them? remember that wretched sham Frenchman.”

“Yes, yes, my dear; there, you know I never can abide an argument, but
only remember that Mr. Fulrake is a thorough-bred English gentleman.”

Meantime, Fulrake had been shown the way to his room, and entering
it, sat down perfectly aghast, uttering his thoughts out loud. “Why,
hang it, no better than a Norwegian log-hut—worse—earthen floor! no
armchair! no toilet-table! no bell! no _nothing_!” “Hi, you there,” he
called out, hearing some one in the next apartment.

And a man in moleskin trousers, and flannel shirt with sleeves tucked
up, appeared at his summons.

“I want a warm bath, and my things put out, and a dressing-table, and
above all a glass.”

“All right,” said Mat, for he it was, “I’ll speak to the squire, a
glass of _what_ shall I tell him, he only keeps whisky.”

“Idiot,” was on Fulrake’s lips, but on second thoughts, he said, “a
_looking_-glass, please.”

“Queer place and queer people,” he muttered, as Mat disappeared. “What
a rummy sort of flunky! and who on earth is the squire, I wonder?”

However, as Bell never appeared, he had to unpack his boxes himself,
and after much hunting and bad language, got out his dress clothes,
but without the aid of a looking-glass he could neither arrange his
moustaches nor put on his tie.

“The bath I’ll go without for once,” he said, “but a glass I must, and
_will_ have.”

After considerable searching, he found the segment of a looking-glass
containing a minimum degree of quicksilver; and finally he reached the
house as the family were sitting down to supper.

Upon arriving in the room, he was introduced to Parson Tabor, Tom, and
Mat, with all of whom he exchanged bows.

“Is this the fellow,” he thought, as he eyed our forester, “that I
took for the ‘bush flunky,’ I suppose though they have their servants
in to dinner in these parts; at least he’s had the decency to change
his things, and put on a collar.”



                            CHAPTER XVII.

         English Society _v._ Colonial—Music—The “new chum’s”
          letter—“Two’s company and three’s none”—Unpleasant
    reflections—Parson Tabor’s advice—Mrs. Bell shows that she has
    a “down” on our hero—The “Spider”—The “new chum” proves that he
          is “not such a fool as he looks”—Tim returns home.


The conversation at supper turned upon station matters, varied by a
discussion concerning a concert which had just taken place in Sydney;
and here Fulrake, who had a good knowledge of music, and who had
been present at the concert, was both interesting and amusing, at
all events to the ladies of the party; but he spoilt this favourable
impression which he had created, a little later on by making sarcastic
remarks upon the society of Sydney, this called forth a mild reproach
from Parson Tabor, as he found that no one else took up the cudgels in
the case of Colonial versus English society.

“I think, Mr. Fulrake,” he said, “that you have only been a few days
in the colony, and whilst I fancy you have very fairly criticized the
music, I hardly think so young a man as yourself would be a proper
judge of _any_ society in that time.”

“Excuse me, Mr. Tabor, it’s true that I have not been very long
amongst you, but I’m considered at home to be a very quick judge of
characters,—as a matter of fact always keep my eyes and ears open,
always on the _qui-vive_, don’t you know.”

“Oh, how nice you speak French,” cried Mrs. Bell, unable to restrain
herself. “_Etes-vous_”—but at this point the squire brought his fist
on the table, making the glasses ring again, as in angry tones he
said,—

“For _goodness’_ sake, Mrs. B., don’t let’s have all that over again,
or I’ll get Rayon back and chain him in your sitting-room.”

This threat was so dreadful, that Mrs. Bell said not another word, but
afterwards whispered to Fulrake,—

“You must excuse my ’usband, but he can’t ‘abide’ French.”

After supper was ended, our new chum asked Annie if she would favour
him with a song, as he had heard that all colonial ladies played and
sang so well.

“I sing very little, Mr. Fulrake; another evening I will try, but
to-night I promised Mat—Mr. Stanley—that I would visit my garden to
see what he has been doing there. He has been weeding, and says that
he is afraid that he has pulled up some of my young seedlings.”

Mat, who was standing by, on hearing this, promptly got his hat, and
the two left the room together.

Mrs. Bell then turned to Fulrake, and asked him if he would play or
sing.

“I play a little,” he answered, and thereupon sat down to the piano,
and, first running his fingers in a critical manner over the keys,
went through a difficult piece by Weber with such taste and feeling,
playing it perfectly by ear, that the squire, who had stepped out to
smoke a pipe with his son, said,—

“Tom, my boy, I’m not much of a judge, but I declare I do believe we
have got a professor of _music_ instead of French this time. By Jove,
he _can_ play!”

“So he can, governor; but I think he had better stay here with the
ladies, instead of going with us to the out-station. He’ll amuse
_them_, anyhow.”

When Mr. Fulrake got back to his room that night, he unpacked his
writing-materials, lit a cigar, and wrote a letter to his father,
which ran thus:—

                                        “Bulinda, N.S.W., 18—,
                                            “Christmas-time, 11 p.m.

  “MY DEAR DAD,—At this hour it is a little cooler, so I will
  write you another line. I sent you a letter from Sydney about the
  voyage, colonial _town_ society, &c., so I’ll say no more on that
  score, but bring you at once to Bulinda Creek station.

  “To begin with, the only good things in my sleeping apartment—a
  veritable den—are the cigar I am smoking and the pen I am writing
  with, both of which I brought from home. Oh! but I must tell you of
  my light. My _lamp_, I didn’t bring _that_ out. There’s nothing very
  patent about it, excepting that it’s a piece of rope floating in a
  bowl of dirty grease. Forgive the apparent joke, but I can only say
  that it ‘couldn’t _hold a candle_ to a farthing dip.’ It is called a
  ‘fat-lamp,’ I find. But these are trifles.

  “Judging from what we _hear_ at home concerning bush-life, and taking
  our impressions from the books we read upon the subject, all _should_
  be very romantic, and free, and beautiful. But the reality, great
  Scot!

  “I’ll say nothing of the offensive independence of the so-called
  labouring classes, which I met with from the time I landed to my
  arrival here. You may say that my colonial experience has only
  lasted a few hours. True, oh, worthy dad! but, let me tell you, I
  don’t think it will last _very_ many hours _more_, at all events in
  these parts; for, unless matters change very much, the probability
  is that the next time I shall write to you it will be from some
  partly-civilized district, or maybe I shall start home straight.

  “I won’t bother you any more about myself; but first I must tell you,
  as a matter of fact, that there is little comfort and no furniture in
  the place, and the food is of the coarsest.

  “Now for _society_. Well, you know old Bell; but, by gad, sir! you
  don’t know his wife. Vulgar aint the word to describe her; ’tisn’t
  _in it_; so, to use her own expression, ‘let her abide.’

  “Next we come to a plump daughter, rich colour as to hair, good
  eyes, head well set on, good temper. I may have more to say about
  Miss Annie, as I intend to ‘cultivate’ her, please the pigs!

  “Her brother Tom, a regular boor, who eyes one heavily, yet sits
  and says nothing excepting joining in in a ponderous way if the
  conversation turns upon horses,—or ‘scrubbers,’ he seemed to call the
  ones _he_ referred to. By the way, there’s very little scrubbing done
  here, either to man or beast.

  “There is a parson, named Tabor. He _looks_ a Christian, and
  undoubtedly _is_ a gentleman, and, I should say, is a good sort.

  “And then there’s a man named Stanley. Every one in Sydney was
  talking of a sort of escaped gipsy of that name, who had been living
  with the blacks or wounded by bushrangers—all that sort of thing, you
  know,—and no doubt this is the same individual whom Bell has caught
  again. He’s a dark, good-looking man, and fairly-well cultivated I
  should fancy. But the most extraordinary thing is, perhaps, not so
  much that the whole family—daughter and all—call him by his Christian
  name and have him in to supper, but that they let him take evening
  rambles alone with Annie—that’s the daughter, you perceive.

  “Listen! On this, my first evening, I gave the family some music.
  Now, I don’t play very badly, and I wanted the daughter to listen.
  But no; colonial manners step in. This is the signal for her to rise;
  and, under the pretence of weeding some garden or other, she retires
  out of doors to star-gaze with the hanger-on Stanley!

  “I did _not_ like to suggest that, in the absence of a moon, it was
  a case of gardening under difficulties, as, to speak honestly, my
  mother’s one ewe lamb didn’t want to get his sucking-teeth knocked
  out—and this gipsy is a big ’un, very. The balance of the family
  seemed to like my efforts on the piano; at all events, Mrs. Bell
  asked for another ‘toon,’ but I don’t care about throwing my pearls
  before those who can’t possibly appreciate them, so I shut up—anyhow,
  shut the piano up, a good one, by the way. The whole thing smacks,
  to my mind, of the opening of a three-volume novel; only I say at
  once that I don’t much fancy the hero, and I _do_ rather like the
  heroine, as far as I’ve got, if, indeed, they do represent these two
  characters, ‘which I hopes it isn’t.’ At all events, I shall tell you
  if the plot thickens, as it will be some amusement to watch events.

  “Give my love to my mother, and tell her that I must now retire to my
  couch of sticks and rotten bags—for of such does my bed appear to be
  composed, as viewed by that brilliant meteor, the ‘fat-lamp.’

                                  “From your affectionate son,
                                                “LIONEL B. FULRAKE.”

The next occasion on which our new chum saw Annie was one afternoon
shortly after the evening on which he had written the letter to his
father.

He lay stretched on the seat under the poinciania-tree, lazily rolling
a cigarette, when Annie passed him with a basket of flowers in her
hand.

Daintily dressed in a white gossamer material, the graceful and pretty
girl—and our heroine looked especially winning on this occasion as she
came tripping by—caused the usually collected Fulrake to start with
surprise, and murmuring to himself, “how _sweetly_ ‘_crisp_,’” sprang
off his seat, and taking off his hat said,—

“Miss Bell, may I see your garden?”

“Certainly, Mr. Fulrake, I will show it you; but I expect that you
will not think much of it after the well-kept old-country greenhouses.”

As they wended their way laughingly towards the little grove, Mat
followed at some distance behind with two buckets of water; but
finding that they passed through the garden gate without apparently
taking any notice of him, he deposited the buckets outside and walked
away to the stockyard.

As soon as they were inside the garden Fulrake turned to Annie with,—

“Who is that man Stanley that seemed to watch _you and I_ into this
place, and then disappeared? I suppose what you would call in this
country a sort of educated ‘Wood and Water Joe’?”

“What!” answered Annie, her temper beginning to rise at these remarks,
“Mr. Stanley; where is he? I don’t see him. I wanted him here with
the water, and expected to find him.”

“Well, I saw him ‘slam’ his buckets down and disappear over that rise.”

“Then I hope that he will be back soon,” answered Annie warmly.
“Mr. Stanley is a very old friend of ours; we knew him in the old
country; and if he is not a gentleman bred and born, he is one by
nature. _And_, Mr. Fulrake, I will thank you not to couple _you and I_
together again in the familiar manner you did just now. You may fetch
the water if you like, or I will get it myself.”

Fulrake fetched the water, and depositing the pails, said to Annie, in
a tone which seemed to her to have a perceptible sneer in it,—

“I’m sure I beg your pardon; I had no idea he was a friend of _yours_.”

“I said a friend of _ours_,” replied Annie, who was now rather amused
by noticing the peculiar way in which the little man carried his two
heavy buckets.

“Yes, but by the way you fired up I think I must have trod on some
soft place.”

“You are treading _in_ one now,” retorted Annie, with a laugh,
“spilling all the water about like that; why, you will quite spoil
your dandy shoes; they must be wet through.”

“Very well. Shall I call _Mr._ Stanley, then?” said Fulrake, who felt
that he was getting the worst of it.

“Yes, if you like; he is not so clumsy. And then you can go in and
change your shoes.”

This last was a crusher to our new chum, who was not accustomed to
be snubbed or talked to in this way. However, determined to take
himself off decently, with his front to the fair foe, he was stepping
backwards; but forgetting, in his retreat, that one of the buckets of
water was behind him, he came against it, overturned it, and found
himself partly sitting in the bucket and wholly in a pool of water.

“I’m _so_ sorry,” cried Annie, scarcely able to prevent herself from
going into fits of laughter.

“Don’t mention it, Miss Bell,” called back Fulrake, who was now
walking rapidly away, as he muttered the following lecture to himself:—

“You did _not_ quite score there, Lionel, my boy. Always _will_ rush
your fences with the fair sex; yes, and very often come an awful
cropper. What a fool you must have looked with your ‘pins’ in the air.
How glad you must have been that the gipsy wasn’t there. You’ll hardly
look for him _now_; no, you will see him _somewhere_ first.”

And so, having blown himself severely up, Fulrake gained his room,
changed his things, and rolling a cigarette, soon forgot his intention
of “cultivating” Annie in a new novel which he found in his bag.

Meantime, where was Mat? Poor Mat! he had walked up to the stockyard,
and finding the place deserted, he placed his arms on one of the
rails and thus addressed the fence around him.—

“I knew how ’twould be when that swell came with the dancing-shoes. Of
course she’d prefer his genteel manners to my rough ones. He’s ‘The
Honourable;’ well, so am I—at least, I always try to be. I’ll break
his head,—no, I won’t, that _wouldn’t_ be honourable; besides, they’d
kick me off the place if I did, and rightly, too, and _she_ would be
no longer kind. No, I’ll go home—home to the Forest; yes, with Tim.
And yet, the other day I said I’d stop. Why, I _must_ stop; I’ve
signed articles for partnership. Hardly know what to do; wish some one
would tell me. Wonder whether the parson would. I’ll ask _him_.”

Mat! Mat; heretofore your strongest point amongst men—amongst dangers
by flood and field—has been self-reliance and presence of mind; _now_
you do not even seem to _know_ your own mind. Have patience! Try to
live these thoughts, these trifles, down, as you have before overcome
great and serious troubles.

Annie had watered her plants, and returning homewards, thought that
she would leave her empty pails outside Mat’s door; but when she
arrived there, late in the evening, she found the door wide open,
papers and accounts being blown about by the wind, whilst a candle was
dimly burning in a sheltered corner of the room.

Seeing that the apartment was unoccupied, she stepped in to blow out
the candle, when her eye lit upon the old book, “Robinson Crusoe,”
which Mat had once before shown her, and, taking it up, she made
out on the fly-leaf, written in barely legible round-hand, “From
Miss Bell to M. S.,” then the word “Forest;” but all the rest was
nearly obliterated. Pinned on to the same page was a fresh sprig of
stephanotis.

She was still examining the old volume when an approaching step caused
her to shut it hastily, and blow out the candle, so that she might
escape unseen; when, turning to leave the room, she found herself
seized and held by a strong pair of arms.

“Let me go! Who are you?” she cried, on finding herself thus suddenly
captured.

“Oh! Miss Annie, I beg you ten thousand pardons!” said the deep voice
of Mat. “I thought I had caught some one pilfering in my room.”

“_You_, Mat! Oh, how relieved I am! I thought I was being carried off
again by bushrangers. Yes, I _was_ pilfering, or, rather, looking
at your old books; but I went in to blow out the light. You have no
business to leave a candle burning in such a dangerous position.”

“I’m very sorry, Miss Annie; but I was star-gazing—and—thinking—and
forgot.”

“Well, and what were you thinking of so deeply, when the whole place
might have been in a blaze through your carelessness?”

“I—I cannot tell you.”

“But you _must_, and you _shall_, Mat. Come! I know. You thought that
Mr. Fulrake should have taken _his_ turn carrying the water for me.”

“Oh, _no_! _no_! Let _me_ always wait upon you! I want no help. And
oh! won’t you take _my_ arm, instead of his, next time in going up the
steps, or anywhere. Indeed, I’ll take you safely.”

“Why, Mat, what _has_ come over you? Mr. Fulrake merely repeated the
formality of taking me in to dinner, and that was only once. I’m sure
I would always rather you _did_ come with me and carry my buckets, for
Mr. Fulrake was dreadfully clumsy, upsetting the water everywhere, and
quite rude when I laughed at him; and—”

“Was he?” broke in Mat, with sudden anger; “then I’ll have him out,
and—”

“_Stop_, Mat! Where are you going?”

“Going? Why, any one that is rude to you—” and Mat was making off when
Annie seized him by the arm.

“Listen to me! Mr. Fulrake was not insultingly rude. I merely meant
that he answered me rather shortly when I laughed at his wetting his
grand shoes.”

Mat, who was secretly pleased to find that Fulrake had been sent to
the rightabout by Annie, now said,—

“That is different. I will tell you what I was thinking of. Of going
back to the old country.”

“What! Leaving us, after you said you would stay? Leaving all your
friends?”

“Would you be very sorry if I did go, Miss Annie?”

“Yes, I should be _very sorry indeed_.”

“Then forgive me for appearing so shifty. I expect that I got rather
stupid trying to understand accounts and figures, and such things, in
those papers;” and Mat pointed to a pile of documents which littered
one of the tables near him, and which he had attempted to study after
his visit to the stockyard, but had given up the attempt, and strolled
into the night air to think of Annie.

“And now,” said Annie, with a smile, “I must go in, so you may give me
an arm up the verandah steps.”

One conclusion which Mat arrived at after the foregoing conversation
was that he would still consult the parson on the morrow. The
clergyman had on more than one occasion given him good, hearty advice,
and he therefore again sought him.

Parson Tabor was engaged writing when Mat walked into his room, but
he got up with a smile of welcome and motioned him to a seat, saying,
“You look rather fagged, Mat; not slept well?”

“No, I have not, Mr. Tabor, and I have come to you, as I have come
before, when I am bothered, and want to do the right thing. I will
tell you straight. Yesterday—last night—I made up my mind to go home,
and never come out here again; but, after that I met Miss Bell, and
she said she would be sorry if I went home—and—and—”

“I see it all,” gently interrupted Tabor, “and I _have_ seen it all
for some time. But before any more is said, I’ll tell you what is
right—to go _and talk to the squire_—I know that you have not said
anything to him—and Mrs. Bell, and _then_, if you like, you can come
to me; but I will _not_ be the first to interfere in these affairs.”

“But I do not know what to say to them. I _daren’t_ say it, Mr. Tabor;
that’s why I have come to you.”

“Mat, you are not a nervous man; go!” And with gentle force Tabor
pushed him out of the door.

Our forester knew, at all events, that he had received good advice,
and he acted upon it there and then. Knocking at the door of Bell’s
study-smoking-room, a cheery voice bade him enter, and he found the
squire at his accounts.

“Just in good time, Mat,” he said, looking up for an instant, “to go
through the ‘muster’ book. Here, partner, sit down,” he added, with a
laugh, “roll up your sleeves, light a pipe, and to work.”

“Squire, I’ll smoke afterwards, but I want to talk seriously first.”

“What’s up now, Mat. Drive on. Must be very bad, you look so solemn.”

“And ’tis very bad, Squire; and I feel very bad about it. I’m—I’m in
love with your daughter, and I can’t help it. _There_, it’s out!”

“Mat, you surprise me,” said Bell, turning round in his chair; “but
say on.”

Now that the ice was broken our hero took courage, and made quite a
speech, for him; telling Bell that he had liked his daughter when
she was a little girl in the Forest, that he had never forgotten her
during his long years of wild life in the north, and that now that he
had met her again as a grown-up woman he _loved_ her.

“Men say in books that I have read, squire,” continued our forester,
“‘I am not worthy of her.’ And _I_ say truly that _I_ am not, neither
by birth, manners, nor education.”

“Has my daughter given you any encouragement?”

“No,” replied Mat; “but I do not think that Miss Annie dislikes me.”

The squire mused.

“I will talk to Mrs. Bell about it,” he at length said. “I will give
no opinion now; but this must not prevent your helping me in the
station-books, so sit down.”

But when the squire afterwards sought his wife and made her acquainted
with Mat’s feelings, she expressed herself as being highly indignant
at the very idea.

“Look,” she said, “at the grand chances all through this season
that Annie will have of making a really good match. You know how
she has been admired at every ball, party, and picnic that she has
been to. Why, quite lately there’s that young Lord Roulette, who
’asn’t been out long in the colonies; he seeks out Annie at every
reception she goes to; and I know he’ll be a millionaire. Then there’s
the Governor’s nephew. See how well she might do with any of these
eligible ‘parrties.’”

Mrs. Bell took care to keep inside the English language whilst
pronouncing this word, but she could not forbear a slight roll with
her tongue on the r’s.

“On the other hand, my dear, though Stanley is a fine fellow, and
has saved Annie’s life, we _must_ think of her future. Fancy being
introduced to Mat’s people; to their tents and caravans. When _you_
mixed with those people—”

But Bell stopped his wife; he knew of old that this was only the
commencement of a long, wordy harangue, which would develop into a
lecture upon his own many supposed shortcomings and slights, from
which she had suffered in former times. Thus the argument would become
purely personal; so he said shortly,—

“Enough. It’s no good further discussing the question until Annie
gives us a bit of _her_ mind; so we’ll drop it.”

Bell walked away, and thought, weakly enough, that he had had the last
word. But his wife called after him,—

“I _forbid_ Mat to speak on the subject to Annie.”

The next time the squire saw Mat he told him of the interview that he
had had with Mrs. Bell, and of her reasons for opposing an engagement
between Mat and his daughter.

“She says she forbids you to speak on the subject to Annie. But one
thing I’ll tell you, my boy,” said Bell, in conclusion, “I have
generally noticed that these things right themselves; so keep up a
good heart.”

Mat replied, “I have often thought of what Mrs. Bell has now
mentioned, and as I expected that that would be her argument, I have
been thinking the matter over deeply since I spoke to you. I would
not for the world stand in the way of Miss Annie’s future prospects,
therefore, I propose this: Dromoora and Terebare have told me several
times lately that they would like to return to their country. I will
take them there, and return here. The journey there and back will take
weeks—months. During that time Miss Annie will have opportunities of
seeing a great number of families and people in Sydney, and will have
a lot of gaiety and pleasure, which she deserves. I will not say a
word on the subject to her now, but when I _return_, why perhaps I
may.”

“Mat, my lad,” said the squire, “your sentiments are noble ones, and
worthy of your nature. We will now let events work themselves out.”

Our forester occupied himself for the next day or two in getting
Tim’s traps packed and settling his brother’s affairs and his own
generally with the squire. The wound in his brother’s side had healed
outwardly, though he could feel the bullet within him every now and
then. Still, he was able to get about now unassisted, and was anxious
to be off, in a ship which sailed shortly.

And how had our new chum, the Honourable Lionel, been “shaping”?

He certainly showed no aptitude for bush-life or work, and said as
much. The solitude of the station did not suit him, and, though he
accompanied the others on horseback once or twice on the run, and
proved a good rider, yet he never could be induced to take any active
part in station matters. As Tom said,—

“He shot a kangaroo one day, and that’s all he’s done, and all he
wants to.”

So it was with a feeling of relief to Fulrake that Tom asked him one
day whether he would like to go to Sydney with him. He gladly accepted
the proposal, adding,—

“Yes, and I have heard of a good kangaroo hound there I would like to
buy.”

An event occurred during this visit to the town which greatly raised
him in Tom’s estimation.

After Tom had transacted his business in Sydney, and Fulrake had
purchased his hound, the two young men were crossing a ferry in the
harbour, when the man who was rowing them made a rough remark to
Fulrake, and asked him what he was going to pay for the cur he had
with him, for that he interfered with the balance of his boat.

Fulrake, who was dressed with his usual care, and was lying back in
the stern-sheets, smoking, blew a cloud of smoke out of his mouth, and
languidly raising himself half up, shifted his big hound, and then
resumed his former position, without troubling himself even to look at
the abusive rower. The calm disdain with which he was treated seemed
to put the man into a fury, as with many oaths he recommenced his
abuse, saying,—

“Just like you blank loafing new-chum swells, don’t want to _pay_ for
him, I suppose? I’ve half a mind to pitch yer cur overboard.”

“If you do,” replied Fulrake, with a quiet wink at Tom, “I should most
certainly pitch you after him my man!”

This answer considerably astonished the ferryman as well as Tom, as
they glanced at the small, spare figure of the new chum. And yet
the man did not seem to have any intention of putting his threat
into execution. He seemed to forget the dog; but, staring rudely at
Fulrake, and rowing with all his might, he thundered,—

“Wait till I get ashore, my young bloke!”

“Exactly what I’m going to do,” replied Fulrake, with a calm smile, as
he blew a huge cloud of tobacco out of his nostrils.

The ferryman made one mistake; for when the boat reached land he
jumped out to fasten her to her usual moorings—a tree some way up
the bank. This gave Fulrake the opportunity he had foreseen. All his
apparent languor disappeared as he sprang ashore with the ability of a
cat, and before the rower had completed the fastening of the boat, he
had given Tom the hound to hold, and taken off a pair of well-fitting
kid gloves. He then addressed the ferryman in a tone that sounded
almost tender, and certainly was quite touching in its plaintiveness,—

“You told me just now, in a rough and uncivil manner, that the dog
was interfering with the balance of your boat. I caused the animal to
shift his position. You then called me a blank new chum, and applied
the same epithet to the _cur_. I think I shall presently show you
which is the real cur; but, _firstly_, perhaps you think that that
vulgar word which your low class use on every possible occasion is an
oath: it is merely the corruption of an old expression.”

The man he was addressing had never been appealed to in this kind and
gentle manner before, and stood listening with open mouth, which,
however, he closed as Fulrake continued,—

“_Secondly_, and what was more important, you called me new chum.
As a matter of fact, this is true; but at all events, I paid my
passage out, and, judging by your dirty scrub of a head, I should
unhesitatingly put you down as a blackguard of a remarkably low type;
what you are pleased to call out here a ‘lag’—an old hand—but which I
prefer to put into new chum language as a _convict_, sent out at the
expense of the country, and I should judge, in your especial case, for
kicking some defenceless creature to death. I have no doubt, if you
_ever_ fought, you would fight like the _cur that you are_.”

The ruffian before him evidently could not get the meaning of
Fulrake’s calmly delivered sermon into his thick head at first, but
towards the end of it a full sense of the words dawned on his heavy
mind, and when he heard the concluding words, coupled with immoderate
laughter of Tom, he broke out into a volley of furious oaths, and
seizing a huge stone which lay at his feet, hurled it with terrific
force at Fulrake’s head. The latter, quite prepared for this, never
shifted his ground, but simply throwing his head to one side with a
professional movement, the well-aimed missile flew harmlessly by.

“I thought so,” said our new chum, “you’re too big a coward even to
fight fair. Who is the cur now?”

This last taunt brought on his adversary, livid with rage, and,
sparring with both arms in the air, he tried to deliver a round-handed
blow on the new chum’s head. If that blow had got home, the little
white-haired man would have gone down, probably never to rise again.

But the boatman did not know that he had to deal with the “Spider,”
for such was the name that his insignificant-looking antagonist went
by in London, and in his own county, where he was well known to both
friends and foes by his extreme agility, clever defence, and the
punishing power of his fists, _and_ by the cool and indomitable pluck
he showed when facing heavy odds.

The round-hander that was intended to smash our Spider, went, like
its forerunner the rock, harmlessly over his head, fended off and
upwards by his left arm, whilst with his right he countered his man
full in the mouth, sending him down with a crash which would have had
a stunning effect had not the oarsman lit in the ooze which lined the
bank.

This gave the Spider time to get his wind, which, owing to his want of
exercise of late, was none of the best, as he remarked to Tom,—

“Bit breezy inside, long sea voyage against training; but we’re
getting on, eh?”

“My word you are,” was Tom’s answer; “you _did_ get on; gave him fits.”

“Round two,” cried the Spider, as the boatman, after rinsing his mouth
in the salt water, prepared to renew the combat.

This time the ferryman, looking more nasty than ever, and covered with
blood, came at Fulrake literally like a bull, as with head down he
tried to butt the little man off his legs.

The Spider met this charge with a terrific left-hander, which he
intended for his adversary’s face, but which, owing to the man’s
dropping his head so low, struck on the top of his skull; this he
followed with a smart delivery from his right, which landed on the
ferryman’s jaw as he staggered from the first blow, and down he went
again, this time rolling under the bows of his own boat; and there he
lay still.

But Tom thought it time to interfere, so stepped up to the man and
asked him if he had had enough.

The boatman looked up in a dazed way, hardly able to articulate, his
mouth being full of ooze and blood.

“Enough!” he said; “I’ve got _too_ much! Is he gone? All my front
teeth are driven in, and I believe my jaw is broken!” Then, getting
slowly up, he approached his lips close to Tom, and said, in a
confidential whisper, “That young’un hits like a kick from a bullock!”

Thereupon Tom told his friend that the man had had enough of it.

“As a matter of fact,” replied the Spider, “so have I.” At the
same time showing Tom his left hand. “I’m not used to hitting my
fists against the top of a thick skull like that. It has, I think,
driven one of the knuckles in.” Saying which, the Spider lit another
cigarette, went up to his late antagonist, and putting a sovereign
into his hand, said, “There, my man, that will pay the boat and help
to straighten you up; only don’t do it again, don’t you know.”

“No, I won’t,” said the fellow, “leastways, I won’t fight with _you_
again, if that’s what you mean.” Then, as he spit on the gold in his
hand, he added, “You’re a gentleman, though you be a new chum.”

“Well, you _have_ a nerve,” said Tom, as they walked away; “and how
you kept your temper in the boat I can’t understand.”

“Very simple to understand, Tom: if there had been a row in the boat,
she might have capsized, and _I can’t swim_. I guessed rightly he
wouldn’t chuck the dog overboard; I’d have had him as he seized it.”

But to station life Fulrake never _would_ take. As Tom said to the
squire a few days after the fight just recorded,—

“The little chap has tremendous pluck and nerve, but he _is_ such a
lazy fellow, and so full of fads about his grub and everything.”

And Fulrake, alias the “Spider,” soon after quitted the country,
taking passage in the same ship with Tim and Jumper, for the old dog
was getting very feeble, and his master was much delighted when the
captain of the ship told him that he might take him with him.

Tim arrived in the New Forest in due course, and wrote a letter to
his brother, which reached him many months afterwards, telling him of
their parents, who though much aged were still hearty; of their sister
(who had long been married, as they were aware); and he ended a long
letter of Forest news by saying that Fulrake had tended him during the
voyage like his own brother, and had looked after the old dog too.

And so the “Spider” disappears from the scene of our story.



                            CHAPTER XVIII.

       Our hero visits the old Waigonda country once more—The
      overlanding—The Golden Gully—The last sight of Dromoora.


Our hero, having seen his twin brother comfortably off, and well
provided for by the liberality of the squire, decided to start at once
with Dromoora and Terebare to the northern wild country, the land of
the Waigonda tribe.

Tom had often expressed a wish to accompany him, whenever he made up
his mind to go, and Mat gladly accepted his offer now that he was
actually organizing the little expedition. The squire said that he
would get an extra hand or two to help him during the absence of “his
boys,” and remarked how glad he was that there were at least _two_
white men for such a long “overlanding.”

So they started—a party of six—for two of the station blacks joined
the little band; these were partly to aid in looking after two extra
pack-horses, which were laden with useful and handsome articles
destined for the Waigondas, and chosen by the chief and his wife.
There was no occasion to take a buggy this time, for our natives had
learnt to ride during their life at Bulinda Creek: besides this,
a wheeled vehicle would have been utterly useless in the wilder
districts.

On the last evening of their stay at the Creek Mat had bidden farewell
to Annie in her little garden, whither they had resorted to water the
plants as usual, he had also requested her to take charge of his old
book for him, saying that instead of taking _that_ with him on his
journey, he had a great favour to ask of her, namely, to give him a
little lock of her hair that he might carry it with him.

Before Annie could open her lips to reply to this request, Mrs. Bell
came running out of the house which the two were approaching, and,
calling sharply to her daughter, said,—

“Come, it’s nigh time for you to be a-bed, you’re always about that
garden now.”

Annie laughed and went in, and Mat saw her no more that night.

The next morning when the family were collected on the verandah to see
the little party of adventurers off, Annie stole softly up to Mat,
placing a tiny paper packet in his hand. Our hero grasped it, and the
hand that held it, and whispered,—

“I can go through anything now, Annie.”

And when shortly afterwards he turned from the “Apple-tree” ridge,
to have a last look at the _station_, so he informed Tom, he saw
a little white handkerchief being waved from _her_ corner of the
verandah, and our forester went on his way rejoicing.

Mat had kept to his promise of not speaking to Annie of the one
absorbing thought that lay deep in his manly bosom; he had reasoned
this matter so far out that he had concluded that it was best to
take this overland trip, away from her sweet presence, away from the
constant round of station-work. During the long days and nights in the
silent bush he could commune with himself.

Besides, Mat was aware that there was always a certain amount of
danger amongst the districts whither he was bound; and, again, there
was a double feeling of honour, so to speak, in his conduct, he had
given his promise to Annie’s parents, and he knew that she would have
the opportunities of attending many gay parties during his absence, so
that, reasoned Mat, “she will see plenty of other men besides me. At
all events, it shall never be said by others that I stood in her way.”

Mrs. Bell had noticed the little farewell tribute which Annie had
given Mat, and determined to “have it out” with her daughter, who
was still earnestly gazing at the distant cloud of dust made by the
receding horsemen.

“Annie, come here,” called Mrs. Bell, but Annie took no notice of this
appeal beyond saying,—

“In a moment, when they are out of sight.”

“Yes, but they are out of sight, besides Tom will be back in a few
months.”

“Tom!” replied Annie in a tone which implied that _he_ did not enter
into the subject of her thoughts; “yes, I suppose they will come back;
but how I wish we could write to them, or they to us; it’s a dangerous
journey, mother, many have told me so.”

Annie had been correctly informed, for in the enormous stretch of
country between Bulinda Creek and the scene of Mat’s shipwreck, many
events had taken place, and though around the Waigonda country the
natives had not been disturbed, yet south of that many collisions had
taken place between the white and the black man; much country had been
taken up; the new settlers had had their cattle speared, and even
one or two of the camps of these white men had been destroyed, and
themselves murdered. It was a very old story, which had been often
repeated, as new colonies were taken up, from south to north of the
entire continent. The black man looked upon any one, whether black or
white in colour, who encroached upon his territory, as an enemy, and
dealt with him accordingly, and the white man avenged the murders of
his countrymen by shooting the natives.

When Mrs. Bell saw that her daughter was really grieved, and that her
last words were spoken in a choking tone, she said,—

“They can’t write, dear, of course, there’s no post up there, but we
will try to forget for the time; and you will have plenty to amuse
_you_, I’m sure. Just think of the engagements we have; why, as you
know, I’ve a tray full of _minor_ invitations. Then, look at the
grander ones; there’s—where shall I begin? Let me see; first, the trip
to the ‘Heads’ with the Governor in his special steamer; his nephew,
of course, will be there, that _will_ be a picnic; then there’s
_another_ grand picnic at ‘Rose Bay’ with the Gilletts—Lord Roulette
is a great friend of theirs, you know—‘Manly Beach’ afterwards, and a
ball at—”

“Oh; yes, I know,” interrupted Annie impatiently, “how you can
remember it all I can’t think, I’m tired of all those people and
places, and prefer home life, riding with my father and—my garden.”

“That garden again! why, I declare you have gone gardening mad, Annie,
at least lately you have; since Mat has been interfering in it you
have thought of nothing but flower-raising.”

“Perhaps now he has made it tidier I take more interest in it,”
replied her daughter, and feeling that she was reddening slightly
under the solid stare of her mother, added, “And I’m going there now
to put in some seeds.” And so escaped further questions for the time.

Matters were dreary enough at the station now. Bell without “his
boys;” Annie having no one to confide in, for she saw plainly that in
one sense, in her sense, Mat was not now in her mother’s good graces.

Parson Tabor was the only one to cheer up the spirits of the little
party.

As an outsider, he had for some time been conversant with the feelings
of all parties, and though he had so far been made a confidant of
Mat’s secret, that he guessed the state of our hero’s feelings, yet
he followed his fast rule of making it no business of his, unless
specially appealed to by the elders. Yet somehow he was always taking
Mat’s part when the conversation happened to bring in his name, or
touch upon the absent ones, and it was wonderful to see how both Bell
and his daughter brightened up on hearing the good man speak in this
strain.

Annie had always been fond of horses, and was an accomplished
horsewoman, and to help pass the days, which seemed long to her now,
she took regular rides with her father.

She, mounted on her favourite, Robin Hood, which Mat had broken in as
a colt, and left behind for her special use; and Bell bestriding his
own especial fancy, a confidential weight-carrier, sure and steady.

Upon one of these occasions, it chanced that father and daughter had
ridden many miles around the run, and, approaching home again, came
across one of the numerous small lagoons which lay to the north of the
station.

The day had been intensely hot, scarcely a breath of wind moved the
leaves of the stately Eucalypti, but over this lagoon hung a group of
the drooping Myall, affording such shade that the squire proposed to
dismount and rest themselves and their horses.

Bell, having found a comfortable resting-place, lit a pipe, stretched
himself out and prepared for a rest, or, as he called it, a “Bange.”

He had not taken many puffs at his pipe when, turning his head, he
found Annie busy with her sketching-block, a tiny one, which she
carried in the pouch of her saddle.

“Why, Annie, what on earth are you going to sketch here?” said he.
“Not that old scaly Moreton Bay ash on the opposite bank, surely?”

“No, father, you know I cannot sketch; but I am going to _try_ and
draw Robin Hood as he crops the grass there, and, if it is anything
like, send it to Mat.”

“Why, you foolish little thing, there’s no post to where Mat has gone!”

“Then I will keep it until he returns, and give it him _then_.”

“I suspect, my girl, that you are keeping that little _heart_ of yours
until he returns.”

The colour mounted into Annie’s face as she heard these words from the
squire’s lips, and, hastily putting down the drawing materials, and
gazing with wide-open appealing eyes at her parent, she exclaimed,—

“Father, my good daddy, why did you say that? Would you be very,
_very_ angry?”

“There, lassie, don’t cry!” said Bell. “It has been my earnest wish
for many a day; and when Mat spoke—I mean I am getting old, and long
have I hoped that you would be wedded to one of the most honest,
upright, and, by Jove! manly fellows I have ever met.”

“You have made me so happy,” whispered Annie, who had now thrown
herself into her father’s arms and was silently weeping on his neck.
“I knew that _you_ would not be against me, nor against _him_.”

“There, my dear,” said the squire, as he gently disengaged himself
from her embrace. “Let us keep this to ourselves until that young
rover returns home.”

“I _must_ kiss your dear, kind old face again, dad.”

“That will do, lassie,” laughed Bell, as he submitted to half a dozen
little smacks administered in quick succession over his rugged face.
“Go on with your drawing, and let me smoke in peace.”

“I cannot finish it now, father; let us go home!” and Annie packed up
her drawing materials and called Robin.

The noble beast threw up his head from the grass that he was cropping,
fixed his great, calm eye upon his mistress, and then, walking
solemnly up, commenced “nuzzling” his nose into her hand.

“Why, how you must have petted the rascal!” said the squire, who had
watched these proceedings with an amused smile.

“Yes, I often stroke his head, and kiss that pink spot on his soft,
velvety nose; but I expect that his affection is all cupboard love,
for, you see, he is sniffing about for the bread and salt which I am
in the habit of giving him.”

As soon as the squire had finished his smoke he mounted Annie on to
her horse, when she said, “Now, dad, I must have a good gallop,” and,
without waiting to see if her father was in the saddle, she spoke to
Robin, who no sooner found that his head was directed towards the
Creek than he flew homewards as hard as he could gallop.

Together girl and horse cleared the home-paddock fence, and pulled
up breathless at the verandah, followed a few minutes later by the
squire, who remarked,—

“I never saw you go like that, Annie; I really cannot keep up with you
another time. I hope that you enjoyed your ride!”

“Father, I shall _never_ forget it!” said our heroine, as she flew up
the steps to her own room.

From this period both Annie and her father seemed to find the time
pass more quickly and cheerfully. A “something” had been removed
between them which caused her to seek her father’s companionship for
a daily ride with eagerness, whilst most of the evenings she devoted
to her garden; and the squire, when he could find the time, wended
his way to Sydney on business connected with the station, and matters
concerning the publication of our forester’s journal or narrative,
which Annie had finished reading with great delight.

We must now follow our hero and his little party on their trip
northwards.

Before starting, Mat had pointed out to Tom, on an outline map, his
proposed route as near as he could guess. Placing his finger on a spot
high up on the north-eastern coast, he said,—

“I should fancy the wreck took place within fifty miles of this line,
which, you see, is marked seventeenth degree of south latitude. It
must be a good bit over eight hundred miles from here the way that we
shall have to go; but, by hitting off Moreton Bay, we can surely find
a vessel which will carry us and our horses some way north, and so
give us a rest.”

At first, after leaving the Creek, they pursued their way through the
more settled districts for some weeks, sleeping either at stations or
camping out, as time or fancy suited, and, reaching Brisbane, were
lucky enough to find a schooner there, which they hired, the captain
of the boat saying that he knew the northern coast up to a certain
point, and so far he would take them.

On the evening of the sixth day the skipper anchored at the mouth of
a fair-sized river, and declared that he could not risk his vessel
further, so our party reached the shore, when the tide was suitable,
by swimming their horses; their food, ammunition, and fancy articles
being taken in the ship’s boat.

They found, upon coming ashore, that they had landed amidst dense
mangrove-swamps, and for many hours had to cut their way through these
scrubs, until they at last emerged into higher ground, which consisted
of palm-tree scrubs, with a thick undergrowth of vines and rattan-cane.

The difficulty of getting their horses through this wilderness of
trees was enormous, and when at length a suitable spot was found, they
determined to rest a whole day to recruit themselves and their tired
animals, and to repair the packs which carried their goods.

They, however, found time for hunting and fishing as well, and Tom
said that it was the most sporting district that he had ever been into.

They caught numbers of fish—eels, bream, and a species of perch which
ran up to twenty pounds’ weight and more, as far as they could guess.

In the palm-scrubs were quantities of scrub-turkeys, and another
smaller species of bird somewhat resembling the domestic fowl, and, as
they had no lack of powder, the camp was well supplied.

This river reminded Mat and the chief of the one they had crossed on
their way south which was so full of crocodiles, but they saw none of
these reptiles which fact Dromoora explained by saying that they did
not often frequent mouths of rivers so near to the salt water.

But delightful as this camp proved, Mat was anxious to push on; so,
after having enjoyed a thoroughly good spell, they crossed the river,
and then kept a north-westerly direction, hugging the coast-line as
much as the great mangrove scrubs and swamps would allow.

Three of our party being perfect scouts, and all being good bushmen,
they were enabled to avoid anything like a near approach to strange
natives, as they agreed that a collision with them would be most
disastrous to all concerned.

At length, after many weeks of monotonous travelling, and after
following a large river almost to its source, they entered on to a
large salt-bush plain, which was bounded on the horizon by a range of
hills terminating in a solitary mountain.

As soon as the big mountain was sighted the chief and his wife broke
into a corroboree of joy, and Mat was as delighted as his two friends
at seeing the termination of their journey within sight, for this
mountain was situated in the Waigonda country. It was long before this
range of hills, which had appeared comparatively near, was reached;
but when they at length found themselves in their _own_ country,
Mat and his two friends went forward, the others forming a camp and
guarding the horses, for our natives knew that they could never
approach their tribe on these terrible-looking animals.

The first members of the tribe who appeared to them were a party of
jins digging yams, who no sooner saw them than they fled in terror.
But Dromoora said, “Do not attempt to stop them! they will go home:”
which sure enough they did, for, following up their trail, our party
of three found themselves within sight of a cluster of black fellows,
all gazing towards the supposed danger.

Dromoora then gave a peculiar call known to his tribe, upon hearing
which all those who were in the Waigonda camp sprang forth to welcome
their long-absent friends, and with joyous shouts escorted them to
their fires.

Messengers were then despatched to bring in all the blacks who were
out hunting, whilst Terebare brought up Tom, and introduced him and
the Bulinda Creek natives.

When all were assembled, the usual feasting, dancing, and corroboree
were gone through, and after Dromoora and Mat had detailed all their
adventures to numerous knots of natives, Mat left the chief to give
his impressions of the white man and his wonderful ways, whilst he
superintended the unpacking of the pack-horses, having first assured
his friends that the big “kangaroos” would not injure them; they were,
however, hardly satisfied about this until, their chief being free
from his numerous questioners, they prevailed upon him to mount one of
the terrible “kangaroos.” When, however, they saw him sitting in the
saddle, their fears gave way to immoderate laughter, and every man,
woman, and child was brought up to see their beloved chief in such a
novel position.

Mat, during this spectacle, was engaged counting over the presents, or
“spoil” as he called it, to see that nothing was broken, and beyond
the fact that one or two of the numerous mirrors were cracked, he
found nothing damaged, calling to Dromoora in the midst of his task,
he said,—

“I told the Waigondas long ago that there should be only one gun, or
“teegoora” amongst them, but you have brought two besides the one I
gave you.”

“Yes, oh, white chief,” answered Dromoora, “but I got these two
fighting: I never wished to tell you how, but I will now. I killed
those two white men, who would have killed you when you were fighting
the robber.”

“Then,” said Mat, “keep them, but never use them to kill white or
black men with, but only to shoot game.”

“I promise,” returned Dromoora, “I will only use them against men in
defence of our lives.”

Leaving the chief and his wife to distribute the much-prized presents,
Mat and Tom mounted their horses, took a few provisions and tools,
and started on a visit to the “Golden Gully.” Our forester taking
a straight line to the place, they soon reached the valley, and
proceeded to work.

Tom, who had previously had some experience on diggings, after working
for some hours in the dry watercourse, called his companion, and said,
“I have found these few small nuggets, and there is gold, I expect,
in this sand, and you have some too, I see,” as Mat produced a few
nuggets also, “but this I’m pretty sure is ‘a poor man’s diggings.’ I
will tell you what I mean; you would have to take all this sand and
shingle away to the nearest water, and wash it in a ‘cradle,’ and
even then the gold would not last long, for _here_ is where the real
quantity of the ore is, in these rocks of hard white quartz, up the
creek.”

Then taking Mat to the spot, he explained that this gold-bearing
quartz which was rich in veins of ore, might be almost endless.

“But then, you see,” he continued, “_this_ part where all the gold
is, is not ‘a poor man’s diggings;’ to win this gold means erecting
machinery, costing thousands of pounds, on the spot; and what would it
cost even if it were possible to land it on the coast, to transport it
hither? It cannot be done, Mat; some future day, when the country is
opened up, there is no doubt that it will be done; but _we_ can’t do
it, mate.”

Mat saw the truth of Tom’s argument, and at once agreed to take what
they could find, but not to waste any more time there, adding, “No
doubt Tim and I got most of the loose gold, excepting the small stuff
which could only be found by using the cradle and water as you say.”

Upon their return to the camp, they found the whole tribe laughing and
dancing round their “toys,” axes, large and small, beads, and gaudy
handkerchiefs. The whole of the “spoil” was taken out every morning
to be examined, and fresh wonders were discovered in the treasures
every moment. Dromoora had had to explain the secret powers of the
thunder-sticks till he was tired.

Mat returned for a few days to his wild, savage life, chiefly to show
Tom the various methods employed in hunting the game, as pursued by
really wild blacks, and Tom took such a fancy to the life, that he
wished to stay on for some weeks, but Mat insisted that they had
already stayed long enough, that it would not be fair to the squire to
delay, as station matters required their presence at the Creek, and
that they really _must not_ leave the ladies any longer by themselves.
To which Tom replied that his mother and sister were perfectly well
able to take care of themselves, and besides that they had the squire
and parson to look after them.

Dromoora and his tribe, upon hearing Mat’s decision to return
immediately, implored him to remain and be their chief.

To refuse this request, when he saw their urgent appeals, went to
Mat’s heart, but he was obliged to harden his feelings, and also to
show some diplomacy in refusing them.

But Mat had a powerful and steadfast friend in Dromoora, with whom he
had been conferring apart, and when the tribe gathered round him to
hear his decision, he thus addressed them,—

“I have brought your chief and Terebare back safely. I have brought
the things I promised. Now I ask you to let me go back; there are bad
white men about my friends at home. The chief will tell.”

Mat had told Dromoora, of what that chief was well aware, that
though the gang of the bushranger was broken up, that some of them
had escaped over the border into Victoria, and though it was not
likely that they would return into New South Wales, yet it was always
possible; but he had _not_ told Dromoora many other things, which the
faithful chief took upon himself to explain to the assembled tribe,
for, after giving a rapturous account of Mat’s doings in general, and
a specially detailed account of the gallant fight with Magan, the
whole scene of which he acted to the life, and to the death, by making
another black fellow personate the bushranger, he concluded,—

“Our white chief, who won the white girl in a hard and fair fight,
claims that he should be rewarded by taking her as his wife to his
‘gunyah.’”

This speech was received with loud bursts of pleasure, mingled with
cries of “Such would be the reward of a black warrior; such shall be
the reward of the white chief.”

Tom, to whom this language was Greek, asked Mat to interpret it,
and the meaning of the shouts, which our hero very conveniently and
truthfully did, by telling him that they were making a great deal too
much of his fight with Magan. “But then, you see, they do love a good
fight.”

So the Waigondas agreed that Mat should start whenever he felt so
inclined, and before another white man “should come along and steal
his girl,” and from that moment of their decision, they made many
little preparations to render the southern journey comfortable by
collecting for the travellers all the best roots and fruits they could
find.

Mat made them a feeling speech on the morning of his departure. When
the whole tribe were assembled once more, he said,—

“Oh Chief, and Terebare, and men of the Waigondas, you saved my
brother’s life and mine; you cherished us as brothers for many years.
The white man does not forget; the white man learns from a book of the
Great Spirit that he should try to do unto others as he is done by. If
you ever foresee troubles with strange men, send a messenger to me,
Dromoora knows the quickest way; and if ever the white man threatens
to take your country, show him this paper if you can. I have had it
written by the white man’s ink which never fades; this is what it says
on many pieces, so that you may all have them:

“Dromoora, and his whole tribe of Waigondas saved the lives of the two
brothers Stanley, and cared for them as brothers, for many years. I
ask you to carry out their precept, and do unto _them_ as ye shall
wish that they do unto you; as they did to me.—MAT STANLEY,
Bulinda Creek, Sydney.”

Before our hero, Tom, and the two Creek blacks started south, one of
the Waigondas came to him bearing an enormous shell, saying,—

“The beast that you used to tell us of, that nearly killed your
brother; we found it when fishing once, it was dead and open. Many
tides we looked for it.”

“That shall go to my brother, some day,” said Mat, as he thanked the
man; and one pack-horse was told off to carry the monster south.

“They won’t believe it, Tom,” said our forester; “unless I carry it
home; at least the one who’s going to print my book won’t.”

When the white men turned their faces homewards the chief and his
whole tribe accompanied them as far as the boundaries of the Waigonda
country, then the black men silently sat down to view them over the
next hill, and when Mat turned round for a last wave of the hand he
saw his old chief with his arm round Terebare, seated on a stone, the
attitude of despair.

The tears rose in his eyes as he witnessed this spectacle, which Tom
observing, said soothingly,—

“Never mind, old man, you might see them again, some day.”

“Yes, in heaven, I hope,” responded our forester in a choking voice,
as he turned his face southwards.

But at nightfall, when they camped, Mat was himself again, and could
talk of nothing but Bulinda Creek, and the delights of that distant
station. He was further cheered that evening by the arrival of a young
black fellow whom the chief had sent, as the youngster wished to go
to the white man’s home with Mat; he proved to be a valuable addition
to the party as a scout, and our hero was pleased to have him as a
connecting link with his old tribe of the Waigonda.



                             CHAPTER XIX.

       Bulinda Creek once more—Mat again asks Tabor’s advice—The
             parson “on matrimony”—Annie’s little arbour.


Many weeks again passed over, and once again the travellers reined up
at Bulinda Creek, travel-stained and weary, but otherwise as well as
when they had quitted that station.

They arrived during the night, whilst all the inmates were asleep, so
turned out their horses, and retired to their quarters.

Mat was up and out again by daylight, and, seeing no one about,
thought that he would stroll down and look at Annie’s garden, but
early as he was he found by the tracks that some one had preceded him,
and passing through the little gate, he came face to face with Tabor.

“Why, Mat, I _am_ right glad to see you,” was the cheery greeting as
he grasped his hand; “I guessed it was you last night when I heard the
horses. I have been doing a bit of weeding and looking after Annie’s
plants, for she says that her gardener is away, and that the whole
place is going to ruin.”

Mat longed to ask about her, anything and everything, but he
controlled his impatience until an opportunity should arise.

“Let us sit in the arbour whilst I rest my old back,” said the parson,
“and you can tell me of your travels until breakfast-time.”

Mat was only too pleased to have a quiet chat with his good old
friend, but the account of his late overland journey gradually drifted
into questioning Tabor concerning events which had taken place at
Bulinda during his absence; from this he led up to talking of the
family, and eventually said,—

“Mr. Tabor, I must tell you now of what passed between the squire and
me after I had been to consult you once,” and having detailed the
conversation that had taken place, Mat continued,—

“And now, sir, tell me, am I wrong in presuming to think of asking
Miss Bell to be my wife? And please give me your opinion about
marriage generally; it may seem a strange question, but I never
_could_ and I never _would_ ask any one but yourself.”

His companion sat with face hidden in his hands, and head bowed in
deep thought for several minutes, without opening his lips; then,
raising himself, he faced round so as to meet Mat’s gaze, and at
length thus spoke Tabor, the oracle,—

“My lad, as you tell me that you have appealed to the squire, who
has never said a word to me on the subject, and that on the whole he
was not unfavourable to you as a possible suitor for the hand of
Annie, I may now advise you according to my lights; at the same time
I warn you not to raise your hopes through any words that may drop
from my lips; for though I do not mix myself up in these matters, I
cannot have failed to notice the great attention that has been paid
to Annie during your absence, upon the few occasions on which I have
accompanied her and her parents to Sydney.

“First you ask my opinion as to your _presuming_ to the hand of Miss
Bell.

“This question I will at once dismiss by saying that I think you may,
for whatever the difference in your respective stations may have
been at home, _here_, circumstances have brought you on more level
terms,—and if I may so express it without violating family secrets,
for it _is_ no secret, though not a matter to be proclaimed from the
house-tops,—Mrs. Bell’s father was master of a small collier, in fact
a very small collier or barge, with which he navigated the canals; a
very worthy man, for I happen to have known him personally.

“From what you have told me of your father as chief of his clan,
so I understood, I fail to see a very great difference between the
respective stations of these two men.

“Mind you, Mat, gipsies have _not_ got a very good name in the old
country, chiefly from their habits of poaching, I suspect.

“I have no doubt you were a sad poacher,” added the parson, with a sly
smile.

Mat shook his head, and laughed.

“However that may have been, there is not much encouragement for the
same line of business in this country; but I am wandering.

“Your other question is a solemn one. I have never been asked it
before. A dissertation upon marriage embraces many wide and different
questions and arguments; and if you asked fifty men, and they
answered you truthfully, you would probably get about fifty different
statements or ideas.

“However, I will answer you to the best of my ability, drawing my
experience from the lives of many good, true, and loyal friends of
mine, and—I will give you my own experience, for I am a widower, Mat.”

The parson paused, and seemed to be revolving thoughts of long ago in
his mind.

At length, he resumed,—

“Courtship and married life _usually_, mind I say _usually_, resolve
themselves into _three_ phases, or, as you will understand the
expression better, three _periods_.

“The first is the young lover, who once having gained the affections
of a girl, thinks that there can be no other like her in all the
world. _He_ sees not the imperfections in her that others do; she
must have faults, who has not? but _his_ goddess is absolutely
without _one_ fault in his eyes, and who would dare to tell him that
she is not perfect? Certainly not _his_ friends, or _her_ friends;
more especially not those women who, fancying that the young people
are suited to each other in the main points of character—in a case
which we may _suppose_—urge on the courtship by many little innocent
devices. Thus these perfect beings, for the man has equally no fault
in the eyes of the girl who has chosen him—are brought up or rather
carried along in an atmosphere of mutual bliss and affection. Then
follows the marriage. So far the first period.

“Now the second is like unto it, excepting that after the
honeymoon—yes, usually _after_ that term of bliss—during the first
months of married life _he_ has sobered down a bit, _she_ is much the
same, and expects the same ardent attentions as she received during
courtship; _he_, though just as fond of the girl as his wife, thinks
a little more of himself, is more selfish—how shall I put it?—perhaps
now and then absents himself for the whole of the day; if in the
country, it may be for purposes of sport; if in town, he may remember
that he has neglected his club of late, and, rejoining his companions
there, returns home somewhat later than his wife thinks there is
occasion for.

“In this conduct the wife sees a change, considers herself neglected;
and her spouse, for not quite the first time, notices upon his return
home, a little ‘mou’ in her mouth.

“The fact is that the man before he met this woman was perfectly free
in all his works and ways, was selfish—that is, regarded his own
interests _solely_—he now finds that he has surrendered his liberty,
this he never foresaw, or never dwelt upon during the intoxication of
courtship.

“Granting that they are people imbued with common sense, they soon
find that they must give in to each other a little if they wish to
live happily together.

“Let us suppose, in the case we are picturing, that they _have_
succeeded in giving way to each other, the years then roll on to the—

“Third period.—A new feeling has been springing up between them, a
_better_ feeling, a better understanding exists, there is more _real_
reliance upon each other than ever truly took place during the days
of courtship. That long past event _he_ never regrets, though perhaps
sometimes the thought has crossed his mind for a brief instant that
when he lost his heart he lost his head too; but _now_ he feels that
he has gained a faithful and gentle companion, who has helped to
render _him_ more gentle, and to think more of others, and, we will
hope, Mat, to help him to think and to _know_ that there is a world
beyond this, where ‘they two may meet again.’”

The parson stopped, and fixed his honest, grey eyes on Mat, who,
however, was lost in thought, and did not respond.

Presently he resumed,—

“And now, my boy, I have, as you see, pictured a case where they lived
happy ever afterwards, Mat, I have told you _my own experience_, and
though, if it were necessary, I could tell you of many matrimonial
careers, where the ending has _not_ been as related in various fairy
tales, yet believe me that _my_ picture, the one I now tell you of,
is drawn from _my_ life, my very own. And before I quit the subject I
will give you a theory of mine which I stand by, and against which I
am positive there are few exceptions, and that is, that in ninety-nine
cases out of every hundred, when two young people are thrown together
for any length of time into each other’s society, it invariably ends
by their feeling that they are necessary to each other, that they
cannot part, that they are, in fact, what is generally understood as
being in love with each other.

“My boy, I have given you a long enough sermon, but I am inclined
to give you one or two more of my ‘notions,’ as I find you such a
patient member; these ideas I likewise stand by, and have given forth
publicly, and by so doing I am aware that I have made many enemies.

“I have tried hard to preach down the frightful expenditure of money
that is spent when people marry; the parents and the young heads
forgetting how useful that money would be in after years; and, turning
to a very different subject, but one that must come to the minds of
all men, I have the same ‘down’ on the hundreds of pounds which I
have seen squandered on a funeral.

“In conclusion, to sum up, I have long thought that Annie is one of
the sweetest and frankest girls I ever met. I have seen her temper
severely tried many times by one who should have been the last to so
test her, and though she was not aware that I was looking at her, I
never saw that ‘mou’ in her mouth of which I have spoken, but always a
bright smile on her face.

“And though I am sure it will make you jealous,” added Tabor with
a smile, “I have been in love with her myself ever since I first
knew her. As for her faults, I have yet to learn them; though I once
overheard a prattling old woman say that ‘she has no character.’ You
need not start, Mat, I will explain another time what that means;
suffice it that for the present you may bear in mind that a woman with
a great deal of ‘character’ very often means with a great deal of
_temper_.

“As for you, Mat, well, you are not a bad fellow; so now let us go in
to breakfast, unless you wish to continue pondering, and—God bless
you!”

The parson got up, and walked towards the house; not so Mat; he
remained sitting in the arbour, and puzzling over what he had heard;
as for breakfast, it never entered his head; but let us follow his
train of thoughts as he sat on that wooden bench.

“Tabor is a good man and speaks out; ain’t afraid of his opinions;
what a lot he knows! I don’t believe he ever _was_ selfish, not he.
I’m glad now I didn’t have my name put down for that club when they
wanted me to in Sydney; but if _she_ would have me; I don’t believe
she would mind; well, I’d be sure to be away all day amongst the
cattle, but I don’t think when I came back she’d have a—what did the
parson call it?—a ‘mou’ in her mouth; no, I never saw any sulks in
her sweet mouth. No, before I go in, I will try and reason all the
parson’s words out, and I’ll talk to my lock of golden hair, first.”

Mat’s hand stole into his breast, and, drawing forth a small leathern
pouch, he took out of it a little lock of dark auburn hair, which
he was in the act of reverently placing to his lips, when a light
step sounded under the heavy creepers, which, twining their tendrils
together, almost covered the entrance to the arbour, and, looking up,
his eyes encountered those of Annie.

Mat sprang up, blushing to the roots of his hair, and in the first
moment of surprise attempted to return his keepsake to his breast.

Annie was equally unnerved at thus unexpectedly finding Mat in her
arbour, but was the first to find her tongue.

“I _am_ so glad that you have all come home safely,” she said; “but,
Mat, we have all had breakfast; Tom is still asleep, I thought that
you were too. I—”

But Annie saw when she had got thus far, that Mat’s thoughts were
not of breakfast, and something in his look caused her to stop. This
little speech had given him time to recover himself.

“Annie,” said our hero softly, as his dark eyes looked into hers,
“come and sit down, and let me tell you my story in your own arbour,”
and gently leading the unresisting girl by the hand, he placed her on
the rustic seat which he had just vacated.

“My story is not long,” he pleaded, “but oh, listen to it patiently;
and honestly will I lay my thoughts and feelings before you.”

Here Mat came to a pause, for both thoughts and feelings were so
surging through his brain, that for a moment he was at a loss how to
proceed, but only for one brief moment; for suddenly taking up the
lock of Annie’s hair, he placed it in her lap.

Annie was not looking at him, but gazing out far away, with a soft,
dreamy look towards the distant blue hills which could be seen through
an opening in the creepers. Encouraged by something he saw in her
face, our forester proceeded,—

“Annie, when you were a little girl, and I was a rough lad, you gave
me a little book which I showed you the other day; _you_ thought
nothing of this; I did. I kept it through all my wanderings, as
sacredly as I did my old mother’s Bible, and I confess looked at it a
great deal more than my Bible. I escaped to Sydney, and saw you again.
I _thought_ of you in the wild bush, I have _loved_ you here at the
‘Creek,’ and I have felt a better man since. Annie, will you take
the forest gipsy as your husband; to help you, to love and honour you
as he always has loved and honoured you? I cannot say more, except,
_forgive me_.” And as he concluded the last sentence, in tender,
faltering tones, Mat fell on one knee, and buried his face in Annie’s
lap.

A few more moments passed of perfect silence, broken only by the
chirruping of the tree-crickets around them, when Mat felt the touch
of a gentle hand on his head, and the sweet breath of the girl as she
whispered in his ear,—

“Dear Mat, I have nothing to forgive; let us go home; let me go to
father.”

Two minutes later, and Annie was telling her story, interrupted by
little sobs, on the breast of her father. That worthy man told her
that he had been searching for Mat all the morning, and had then
applied to Tabor to help him. “And what do you think the parson said?”
he continued. “Why he answered me quite rudely, said that Mat might be
engaged—or asleep; better not be disturbed, and that he, Tabor, could
not be bothered looking for him, as his back ached from weeding the
garden, and that I might send Annie to fetch a pruning-knife which he
had left in her arbour, ‘to save his old legs’—old legs indeed!—artful
old chap!

“And then, lassie, I looked for you. Couldn’t find you amongst your
poultry; had not even visited ‘Robin Hood,’ as you do every morning;
so I came back here, and here you are.

“And to think that that rascal, Mat, had not even had his breakfast,
bless my soul! In my time, we managed these little affairs much more
conveniently.

“But seriously, child, I am glad, relieved, that now, and afterwards,
when I am gone, I can leave my little girl to the care of as
honourable a man as ever trod forest heather or Australian bush.”



                             CHAPTER XX.

     Back in the old Forest—Jumper’s last home—Return of our hero
     and heroine for good and all to Bulinda Creek—Conclusion and
                               farewell.


Mrs. Bell had some time before this given up all hopes of her daughter
becoming attached to any of the young visitors to Sydney whom she had
set her heart upon.

Addressing her husband upon the subject, some weeks previously, she
said,—

“It’s no good, Bell, I did ’ope she would take to some one of those
young men with a ’andle to their names; _they_ are ready enough to
come forward; but though she is pleasant and gay enough with them
all, it’s very soon, ‘Mother, riding at the Creek suits me better
than these stuffy rooms;’ and back we have to come to Bulinda. I ’ate
the Bush, and should be glad of a change to Tasmania or somewhere; it
would do Annie good too to be right away from the station.”

Two days after our hero and heroine had plighted their troth in the
little arbour, Mat, with Annie by his side, requested the whole of
the family to meet them on the verandah; and when they were assembled,
he told them of his wish—and Annie’s—to be married in the old country,
in his forest home, so that he might once more see the land of his
birth, before settling for good in Australia.

In this wish, the fair girl by his side seconded him, provided that
her father and mother would come home also. “Yes, that is what we
want,” added Mat, “and we ask Mr. Tabor as a great favour to come too,
and marry us.”

Many plans were discussed before the little family council separated,
but the wishes of Mat and Annie were ultimately agreed to.

The squire had long been contemplating a change for his wife, after
the rough times which she had been through, and as he actually hinted
at a month on the Continent, perhaps in Paris, Mrs. Bell appeared
suddenly to approve of the marriage of her daughter with our forester,
and professed herself as keen to make a start for the old country
without loss of time.

Tom decided to stay and look after the station. He had no attractions
in the old country, but much to occupy himself with at Bulinda Creek,
and Bell was relieved that he could leave such a good manager behind
him during his absence.

Parson Tabor was glad to have the chance of going to and returning
from England with those who were so dear to him, and, besides the
pleasure of their company during a long voyage, he had relations
at home, whom he had not seen for many years, and so he seized the
opportunity which might never occur again.

“Besides,” as he said to our hero with a smile, “I told you of my love
for Annie, which I fear now is a hopeless attachment, but at _least_ I
shall not now have the misery of pining in solitude, as I should have
if I stayed behind at the Creek.”

A few weeks later our hero and heroine found themselves in the New
Forest—a happy couple, indeed.

They had been married quietly at Boldre Church by Parson Tabor; the
latter had then accompanied Bell and his wife for a trip to Paris,
previous to their all returning to Australia together.

Mat and his bride were spending their honeymoon at Lyndhurst, or
rather making that little town their headquarters, for they were
seldom at home, but wandering about, sometimes on foot, but more often
mounted on forest ponies, together they explored the scenes of Mat’s
early life.

Our forester showed his bride everything connected with the adventures
of his youth. Round by Stoney Cross they rode into Boldre Wood. He
was able to show her the ruins of the cottage in which he had been
imprisoned. He took her into Vinney Ridge, and pointed out, in the
Blackwater Stream close by, the scene of his encounter with the
bloodhound.

Annie had often, during the voyage to England, expressed a wish to see
these places; for, besides being new to her, as she had never been
much beyond Burley, all these scenes were associated with the early
days of her hero.

But though _she_ seemed as though she would never tire of these forest
rambles, Mat confessed to her that some things about his old district
disappointed him.

The gipsies and most of his old friends were either dead or had
emigrated to other lands; some of the good old Forest families, it was
true, remained—such as the Youngs and Broomfields, but of a generation
that knew not him. Stephen Burns had long gone to join his brother on
the Darling Downs; Mat had paid the debt to his old friend and backer,
and on inquiry at Lyndhurst he found that the money had been received,
to his great relief, as it had never been acknowledged.

One matter which especially shook our hero’s pride in his forest home,
was the fact that most of the grand old trees associated with his
youth had been cut down for ship’s timbers. Only some of his ancient
friends in ‘Boldre Woods’ and ‘Vinney Ridge’ had been spared, and
another eye-sore to him was that he found the forest ‘fenced in,’ in
all directions. As he observed after one of their long rambles,—

“It is too small, Annie, there seems to be no room left, too
civilized, too taken up, none of the good _old_ breed of ponies left.
I suppose Australia has spoilt me; it is _yourself_ and _your_ country
I love, and we will soon return.”

Mat’s parents had settled down in their old age on a small farm
which they had been able to purchase and cultivate through the aid
of money sent home to them by their sons. When Tim arrived in the
forest, he found that the money so generously given him by the squire
would increase this farm of his father and mother, and also enable
him to improve the breed of the forest ponies. As he was not able to
do manual work this latter occupation suited him well; and when Mat
arrived he found that his brother had taken up his abode with the old
couple altogether. And the faithful “Jumper”?—

Shortly before Mat’s arrival in England, the old dog had taken his
last sleep. He had laid himself down in his usual place, at the foot
of Tim’s bed one night, and in the morning they found him dead, his
rough and scarred old body lying in the position he had taken up on
going to sleep,—a faithful guard to the last.

Tim took his dumb companion of many a hunt and many a fight, up in
his arms, and with tears rolling down his cheeks, spoke to him as
if addressing a human friend: “Oh! _my dog_, my _old_ dog—my _old
chum_, shall I never see you in this life again? Some have told me
that dogs have another world as well as us; then I _may_ meet you
again. Oh! I _can’t_ stand the look of that once affectionate eye.
‘Jumper,’ _come_.” And poor heart-broken Tim carried his last treasure
to the old gipsy camping ground, and there buried him deeply under a
gnarled old beech-tree, leaving an appropriate stone to mark his last
resting-place.

When the Squire, his wife, and Parson Tabor returned from their trip
to the Continent, they found that our hero and heroine were quite
ready, and indeed anxious to return to their Australian home; and
gladly did they again rejoice, when some few weeks later the little
party of five found themselves one balmy evening collected together on
the verandah of Bulinda Creek.

Thus we take leave of our forester; this man of humble birth, who,
like all brave men and true, entertained a modest opinion of his
own merits; who by manly and steadfast perseverance overcame all
difficulties, and who ever bore in mind and strove to act up to
that—to many of us difficult lesson—which _he_ had learnt at his
mother’s knee, namely, “to do to others as we would be done by;” which
precept Mat continued to carry out for long years after he had finally
settled down as a rich and prosperous squatter at Bulinda Creek,
proving it by his conduct in being not only ever ready to give a
helping hand to his white brethren, but by the kindness he showed and
the just feelings he displayed towards the blacks of every district,
both north and south; in which conduct he was ably seconded by his
kind old friend and adviser, Parson Tabor. Thus he showed that however
others might misjudge the natives, _he_ who knew them so well, if from
feelings of gratitude _alone_ would ever be their friend.

In these noble sentiments he was ever aided and encouraged by his
loving wife; and we now bid them a kind and long farewell, at the
moment when as our hero and heroine were once more wending their way
into the little arbour in Annie’s garden, Mat turned to the girl whose
hand was in his, with,—

“My darling, I am happy now, I have lived my troubles down, and have
won a dear and loving wife.”


                                FINIS.


GILBERT AND RIVINGTON, LD., ST. JOHN’S HOUSE, CLERKENWELL RD., LONDON.



  Transcriber’s Notes:

    - Text enclosed by underscores is in italics (_italics_).
    - Blank pages have been removed.
    - Silently corrected typographical errors.
    - Spelling and hyphenation variations made consistent.





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