THE OLD CONVICT TIMES

The settler who remembered Old Cranky’s antecedents was Mr. Walter
Daventry, son of a deceased Captain Daventry, who had moved up into the
Kakadua district from the sea-coast, where he had first made himself a
home. If I tell you something about Mr. Walter’s boyhood, you will get a
notion of Australia in the old convict times. This Captain Daventry was
a military settler. When Mrs. Daventry, and her son Walter, and her maid
Phœbe, went out from England to join the captain on his grant, both
mistress and maid thought they were never to know what comfort was
again—that they were going, so to speak, to the world’s back-yard, in
which all kinds of dirty rubbish were shot. Walter would have preferred
India or Canada; people teased him so when they learnt that he was going
to “Botany Bay”—asking him when he was sentenced to transportation—how
many years he had got—and a good many more such silly questions, which
they thought a great deal wittier than Walter did. Still, any change was
acceptable that would take him away from the dull little Norfolk town
that never seemed thoroughly awake, and its dark, long, low-pitched
grammar-school, in which two masters, in cap and gown, nodded over their
far-apart desks, and pretended to teach Walter and another small boy,
and tried to fancy that they were preparing a lanky hobbydehoy for the
University. Masters, hobbydehoy, and small boy all half-envied Walter,
in a drowsy kind of way, when one morning he burst into that gloomy old
school-room to say good bye. An hour afterwards he was rattling out of
the dreamy little town along the Ipswich road, _en route_ for London.
The coachman was making his leaders and the off-wheeler canter, the
guard was _tootle-tooing_ on his horn; the townspeople stood at their
doors and the inn gates, sleepily watching the coach that had come from
great Norwich and was going to still greater London, and sleepily waving
their hands to proud Walter, who had begged for an outside place,
instead of being shut up in the stuffy inside with Mamma and Phoebe and
an old gentleman, who wore a bandana under his fur travelling-cap, and
got out for refreshment at every inn at which the coach stopped to
change horses, munching ham sandwiches and drinking cold brandy and
water almost without intermission when the coach was in motion. Walter
had a much pleasanter companion in the coachman, behind whom he sat, and
who told him stories about the gentlemen’s seats they passed, and gave
him the biographies of all the horses, and even let him hold the reins
sometimes, when Mr. Jehu got down at a roadside house to deliver a
parcel or drink a glass of ale. Walter enjoyed the first part of the
journey exceedingly, but he was very tired and sleepy before it was
over.

As the coach swung through Mile End turnpike, the coachman woke him up
with a back thrust of the butt-end of his whip, and said,

“Now, then, squire, you can reckon yourself in London.”

Walter just opened his heavy eyes, and then shut them again—not thinking
much of the Great City, if _that_ was London. By the time the coach got
to its inn, he was so sound asleep again that a waiter had to carry him
up to bed. The ride from Norfolk to London, however, was flying on
eagles’ wings compared with the voyage from London to Sydney. In those
days the magnificent steamers and sailing clippers that now arrive
almost daily at or from Australia had not been dreamt of. At long
intervals clumsy old tubs of ships and barques sailed for the far-off
southern land, pottered about for months at sea, and at last turned up
at the Antipodes, seemingly more through good luck than good management.
The barque in which our party sailed was named the _Atalanta_. Walter
had often read through the proper names at the end of his Latin
dictionary, and was greatly amused by the barque’s flying name when he
found how she crawled. She had to put in at Plymouth, Lisbon, Bona
Vista, Rio, and the Cape. She was just half a year and half a month in
getting from the Nore to Port Jackson Heads.

Once inside the Heads, however, even Mrs. Daventry and Phœbe picked up a
little spirit, and Walter was in ecstasies. Both sky and water were so
brightly blue, the islands sprinkled on the water looked so pretty, and,
though the trees seemed almost as black as ink to English eyes, the
rocky, wooded shores, sweeping down to the little coves and bays,
beached with white sand that shone like silver under the glowing sun,
had a fairyland-like look. Sydney then had not the fine buildings it
boasts of now, but the town was so much more civilized in appearance
than Mrs. Daventry and Phœbe expected, and the little country houses,
that even then had begun to dot the south side of the harbour, were such
darling little nests, that both mistress and maid fell in love with
Sydney. Captain Daventry came on board as the _Atalanta_ let go her
anchor in Sydney Cove. He was very brown, and he had a long curly beard.
He was dressed more lightly than he would have been at home, but still
he was dressed, and like a gentleman. A horrid load was lifted from Mrs.
Daventry’s mind, since she had half given in to Phœbe’s belief that
Master would only wear a bit of ’possum or kangaroo skin about his
loins, and that he would carry a spear instead of a walking-stick. As
for Walter, he was very proud of the brown manly-looking Papa whom he
had not seen since he was almost a baby.

“Oh, Walter,” cried Mrs. Daventry to her husband, when the kissing was
over, “I hope your farm is close by. I used to think that they sent the
convicts out here because it was a hideously ugly hole, but this is a
love of a place.”

“It’s nicer to look at than to live in,” the captain answered. “What
with convicts and emancipists, you’d soon be sick of living in Sydney.
No, my grant is some miles up-country. There’s a nasty swarm of
ticket-of-leavers round it, but, of course, you’ll have nothing to do
with them. And then there are some good fellows of our sort within
reach—some of them married, too. What a time you’ve been! I was down two
months ago looking out for you. It’s quite by chance I’m down now.
However, there’ll be room on the dray for your luggage, if you haven’t
brought out a ship-load, and we’ll start home to-morrow, if one night
will be rest enough for you. I’ve been buying some horses, and you and
Walter can ride two of them, and help me to drive the rest. You’ll be
better off than you were before you married me, old lady. You had only
one horse then, but I can give you your pick out of a dozen or two now.
Of course Walter has learnt to stick on a horse somehow, though you
couldn’t keep a pony for him? The girl will have to learn to ride, too,
if she wants to get about up-country. In the meantime she can go up on
the dray. The bullock-driver is an assigned servant, but he’s as true as
steel, and that’s more than I can say for some of the beggars I’ve got.”

But when the loaded dray was brought to the inn door next morning, with
a chair on it for Phœbe, she had learnt that assigned servant meant
convict, and refused at first to take her seat. She wasn’t going to have
her throat cut with her eyes open, she screamed. The bullock-driver,
Long Steve, was a good-tempered fellow, and did his best to calm her.

“Why, law bless ye, miss,” he said, “I’ve got an old ’ooman an’ half a
dozen kids. What call have I got to do any harm to a pretty gal like
you?”

But flattery was thrown away on Phœbe. She entreated her mistress not to
leave her to the tender mercies of that wicked-looking man, and made
such a fuss that at last her master was obliged to say,

“Well, look here, Phœbe. If you don’t go in the dray, you must either
stay in Sydney, or walk, or ride one of the horses. Take your
choice—which shall it be?”

Phœbe mounted the dray then, and though it was night when she reached
her journey’s end, she was on quite good terms with Long Steve when he
helped her off the dray. She had been talking to him for hours, half
condescendingly, half propitiatingly, thinking all the time what a
capital adventure it would be to relate in her first letter home. In
that letter Phœbe made out that Long Steve had committed half a dozen
murders, whereas the honest fellow had never committed one. A great many
terrible scamps were sent out to Australia in the old convict times,
but, mixed up with them, there were men who were far better fellows than
many of the people left at home.

Late in the afternoon the Captain and his party reached his farm. “Oh,
what a first-rate broad!” Walter, fresh from Norfolk, exclaimed, when
the riders had mounted the top of the shore-hills, and were looking down
on the lagoon which the farm fringed—a lagoon with thickly-wooded banks,
cleared here and there, a little stream running into it at one end, and
at the other a sandy bar over which the sea was breaking.

Mrs. Daventry was delighted at first with her new home. A pretty
flower-garden sloped down to the lagoon, and the verandah of the snug
one-storey house of brick and weather-board was smothered in
passion-flower. The Captain had furnished the house as comfortably as he
could for his wife, and altogether it seemed a much smarter, livelier
place than the dark old house in the dull, grass-grown side-street of
the little Norfolk town where she had been economizing whilst her
husband was first doing military duty, and afterwards building this snug
nest in New South Wales. There was no need, apparently, to economize
now. Beef and mutton were the commonest of things at Daventry Hall.
Cream, butter, eggs, honey, pigs, poultry, fish and game were all to be
got, to almost any extent, upon the premises. Besides English
vegetables, there were pumpkins and sweet potatoes in the kitchen
garden. There was a nice vineyard, which Walter mistook at first for a
field of currant-bushes; and in the orchard there were raspberries and
strawberries and mulberries, pears and pomegranates, figs and plums and
loquats, oranges and lemons, peaches, apricots and nectarines, and
gigantic rock and water melons. Walter thought of the scanty pennyworths
of sour apples that he used to get in Norfolk, and for a week or two
devastated the orchard and the vineyard like a ’possum or a flying-fox.
As soon as it was known that Mrs. Daventry had arrived, the Captain’s
friends and their wives rode over to Daventry Hall, and then there was a
round of dinners at the friends’ houses, and then the Captain gave
dinners in return, and both Mrs. Daventry and Phœbe were delighted with
the gaiety. But when things settled into everyday course, and, as often
happened, Captain Daventry was away from home for hours together, they
both began to fall back into their old dread of Australia. Mrs. Daventry
had been proud at first of having so many servants inside and outside
the house, but it was not pleasant to remember that all except Phœbe
were convicts. Captain Daventry was a strict, but then not a severe
master, and so he got on pretty well with his assigned servants, but in
all their faces—except Long Steve’s and his wife’s—there was a shallow,
time-serving look, however cringingly civil they might be, that was not
assuring.

Walter did not trouble himself about such things. He made friends after
a fashion with the men, and rode about with his father to look after the
horses, and cattle, and sheep; the maize-paddock and the potato fields;
the clearers, the fencers, and the sawyers. His father soon let him go
about by himself, and then he _was_ a proud and happy boy. He could
scarcely believe that only a year ago he was stumbling through the
irregular and defective verbs in that gloomy old Norfolk school-room.
Walter could leap logs now far better than he could conjugate _Fio_ or
_Inquam_ then. Of course, his father or his mother gave him lessons
every now and then, but that was not like regular school, you know. Long
Steve had taught him to crack a stock-whip, and Long Steve’s wife had
plaited him a cabbage-tree hat (in those days the lagoon was studded
with cabbage-tree palms), and Walter used to gallop through the bush
like a Wild Huntsman on his own three-parts blood chestnut Dragon-fly.
Sometimes he went out on foot with his little gun, and after a bit he
managed to shoot wallabies and kangaroo-rats, and quail and snipe, and
bronze-wings, and parrots and cockatoos to make pies of. Sometimes, too,
he took his gun out with him in the boat, and shot wild duck, and now
and then a black swan, on the lagoon. In the lagoon and the little
river, moreover, he caught eels and schnappers, and guard-fish, and
so-called bream, and mullet and trout, and delicious oysters. The
Captain was very proud of the way in which his little boy took to the
colony, but Mrs. Daventry was very anxious because he was out so much
alone.

One day, when the Captain and Walter rode home, they found Mrs. Daventry
and Phœbe almost dead with alarm. A party of blacks had taken possession
of the front verandah, on which they were jabbering and
gesticulating—rubbing their sides and poking their fingers down their
throats. Poor Mrs. Daventry and her servant thought that these were
signs that the blacks wanted to eat _them_, and therefore were ready to
faint from fear. The Captain soon bundled the black fellows off the
verandah, but he made it a point of policy to be kind to them, and so he
ordered the cook to supply them with tea and damper and mutton chops.
They ate and drank until even they could eat and drink no more, and then
remarking, with great self-satisfaction, that they had “budgeree big
belly,” they drowsily tramped into the bush, and lay down in the sun to
sleep off their surfeit.

The black fellows were not grateful to the Captain for his kindness.
Unfortunately, they had tasted his potatoes, and thought them so nice
that they twice saved him the trouble of digging up his crop, and once
even scooped out and baked his seed-potatoes. The Captain did not want
to make enemies of the darkies, but he was obliged after that to give up
supplying them with chops and damper, except when they had fairly earned
them by working for them.

Far worse thieves than the black fellows, however, persistently preyed
on Daventry Hall.

All the assigned servants, except Long Steve and his wife, were habitual
thieves. They did not get any wages for their work, and so they thought
themselves free to help themselves to their master’s property. So many
pounds of salt or fresh meat and flour, so much coarse brown sugar and
inferior tea, and a little tobacco, were the rations served out to each
man every week; but there was good living in the men’s huts for all
that. China pigs, ducks, turkeys, &c., mysteriously disappeared. The men
made out that they had wandered into the bush, and been devoured by bush
beasts and birds, or else starved to death; but if Captain Daventry had
gone to the huts a little more frequently, instead of trusting, as he
did, to his overseer, the savoury scent that often issued from them
would have told him what had become of his poultry, &c. Walter noticed
the savoury steam one evening, but the overseer said that he had shot
some wild ducks, and given them to the men. The overseer was a convict—a
smooth-faced, smooth-tongued rascal. He was trusted to weigh out the
rations, and the men used to carry a good deal besides their rations out
of the store. The house servants, too, whenever they had a good
opportunity, would appropriate unguarded valuables. They had no
difficulty in disposing of them, since all the assigned servants, except
Long Steve and his wife, were in league with the ticket-of-leave farmers
round about. Most of these ticket-of-leavers were a thieving, drunken
lot. Some of them would reconvey their Government grants for a keg of
rum. As for conveyance of another kind—Pistol’s—they did not rob one
another, but gentlemen-settlers they considered fair game. Captain
Daventry’s bullocks found their way into the ticket-of-leavers’
beef-casks. They stole his best horses; they clapped their brands on his
best colts, fillies, and calves; they pastured their own horses and
cattle on his grant; through the villany of his overseer and convict
shepherds, they robbed him of his sheep wholesale. They had even the
impudence to steal Dragon-fly!

“Why, Daventry,” said one of the Captain’s friends one day, “what made
you sell that capital chestnut your little fellow used to ride? He
fetched a good price, though, I believe.”

“_I_ didn’t sell him,” answered the Captain, moodily; “he was stolen. A
nice lot of neighbours we’ve got; however, I think I’ve scared ’em for
one while.”

When Dragon-fly was first missing, the overseer had comforted Walter by
telling him that his horse could only have strayed a little way into the
bush, and was sure to turn up soon. Mounted on another nag, Walter rode
about for days in search of his favourite, but never saw him more.
Walter found out something, however. He was riding home very
dispiritedly one evening, when he noticed Black Poley—as one of his
father’s shepherds who lived at an out-station was nicknamed, from the
resemblance his head bore to a hornless bullock’s—mounting the rise on
the right of the gully in which Walter was riding. Walter could not
understand what Poley was doing there at that time of night, and having
been made suspicious by the loss of his horse, he pressed after Poley as
quietly as he could. By the time he topped the ridge it was nearly dark,
but he could make out Poley going down the other side of the ridge, and
another man coming up to meet him. Walter was a brave little fellow. He
tied his horse to a tree, and, slipping down the ridge, got within
earshot of the two men, who were sitting, smoking and talking, on a
fallen tree-trunk.

“Well, Poley, how many can you let me have this time?”

Poley gave a gruff laugh, and answered with an oath: “—— if I don’t try
it on with three score! The cove is so jolly green, it’s my belief he’ll
never miss ’em. I began with twos an’ threes, an’ now I have worked it
up to a score, and I’ve al’ays got over the cove somehow. What does sich
as him know about sheep an’ farmin’? —— if I don’t try _four_ score—good
yows, too; so you must stand something handsome.”

“To-morrow morning then, at the old place—Sal’s Pannikin.”

“All right! I’ll work round there about an hour after sunrise.”

Then something was said about the overseer; but what, Walter could not
make out. Not waiting to hear any more, he crept back to his horse,
mounted, galloped home, and told his father what he had heard. At first
the captain was going to consult with the overseer; but one or two
little things recently had rather shaken his confidence in the overseer,
and so he sent for Long Steve instead. Long Steve knew Sal’s Pannikin
well. It was a lonely hollow in an unoccupied part of the bush, and was
called Sal’s because on its brink a Mrs. Sarah Mullins had once kept a
most disreputable sly drinking-house. Strange goings on had taken place
there. At last the landlady had been brutally murdered in her own house,
and after that it was allowed to go to ruin, and had the reputation of
being haunted.

“What was the other man like, Master Walter?” asked Long Steve.

Walter could only say that he talked very much as if he had a hot potato
in his mouth.

“Oh, that’s little Dick Green, at the head of the lagoon,” cried Long
Steve, half disappointed at not having found a worthier foeman. “It’s
hard, Cap’en, if you an’ me can’t nab little Dick Green an’ the Poley.”

“Would you like to go, Walter?” said the Captain. “I think it’s only
fair that you should see the fun.”

Of course Walter wanted to go. So it was arranged that Steve should have
tea and chops ready, and three horses saddled, at his hut (which stood
apart from the other men’s), and call his master and Walter at half-past
two next morning. The Captain thought it advisable to start thus early,
in case the sheep-stealers should have changed their minds after Walter
left them, and agreed to meet at an earlier hour for safety’s sake.

Walter greatly enjoyed his early breakfast by the wood fire in Long
Steve’s hut, and the silent ride through the bush—all three armed. But
when they had put up their horses in Sal’s ruined stables, and were
crouching in Sal’s roofless parlour, on the cracked hearthstone of which
a frog was croaking dolefully, the adventure did not seem quite so jolly
to Walter.

But presently, while it was still quite dark, a light came dancing down
the other side of the hollow. Long Steve sallied out to reconnoitre.
When he came back he said,

“Yes, it’s little Dick, sure enough, busy finishing off his
brush-hurdles. He’ll soon ha’ done, and then you and me, Cap’en, had
better creep down to the fold whilst it’s yet dark. Master Walter can
stay here with the horses, and bring ’em down when we _cooey_. Oh, yes,
Cap’en, he’ll be safe enough. Neither Dick nor the Poley would set a
foot in here if you’d give them a thousand pounds.”

In spite of this assurance, Walter wearied of his lonely vigil.

At length the eastern sky brightened, the laughing-jackasses hooted out
their hideously hilarious morning chorus, and the sun came up, bronzing
the scrub and the tree-tops. Walter could see Dick quite plainly now. He
was lying on the ground smoking his pipe. Then came another weary watch,
but at last up started little Dick and went to meet Black Poley, who was
coming down to the Pannikin with the stolen sheep. They were all driven
into the fold, and the two thieves were quietly talking together, when,
as it seemed to Walter, from beneath their very feet the Captain and
Long Steve jumped up like Jacks-in-the-box. The Captain felled Black
Poley as if he had been indeed a bullock. Long Steve laid little Dick on
his back as if he had been a child of four years old. By the time Walter
had obeyed the cooey and galloped down with the horses, both thieves had
their arms strongly bound behind them with green hide. With strips of
the same they were fastened to the Captain’s and Long Steve’s stirrups,
and then driving the ewes before them, the three thief-takers set out
for home. As Long Steve had expected, they found the rest of the flock
on the other side of the ridge that sloped down into Sal’s Pannikin.

The overseer turned as white as a sheet when his master rode up to
Daventry Hall with his sheep and his prisoners, but neither Dick nor the
Poley peached.

Black Poley was sentenced to an awful flogging before he was sent back
to Sydney, and little Dick got ten years in a chain-gang. The Captain
thought now that his property would be safe for a while, but he was
utterly mistaken. He had only weeded out two scoundrels, whose places
were almost instantly supplied by two at least as bad; he had managed to
focus the hatred of the district on himself, and, moreover, just then
Hook-handed Bill and his gang came on circuit, so to speak, to the
country round the lagoon. They had made their last _habitat_ rather too
hot to hold them, and with secure hiding-places in the range of
shore-hills, they promised themselves some rich raids on the
gentlemen-settlers who were dotted here and there around the lagoon.

Hook-handed Bill was a bushranger, without any of the redeeming
qualities which a certain set of story-tellers are so fond of giving to
robbers. He was a greedy, savage brute. Physically he was a left
handed-giant, who owed his _sobriquet_ to the fact that he had lost his
right hand, and supplied its place with a sharp hook. Horrid tales were
told of what that hook had done; “ripping up” was Hook-handed Bill’s
favourite mode of murder. Burning alive in a bullock’s hide stood next
in his estimation. It was said, too, that he was in the habit of
waylaying bullock-drivers on their way down to Sydney with their
masters’ wool, of shamming to be on the best of terms with them, and
then murdering them wholesale in their sleep, afterwards disposing of
the wool through the agency of some of his ticket-of-leave friends.

Such a villain, with half a dozen followers only not quite so bad as
himself, was no pleasant bush neighbour. Some of the gentlemen-settlers
sent their wives and children into Sydney. All rode about armed by day,
and at night had their most valuable cattle driven into the stockyards,
and their favourite horses into the stables, whilst their houses were
turned into little forts. In spite of all precautions, the bushrangers
committed the most impudent robberies, and though some of the
gentlemen-settlers assisted the policemen in hunting the robbers, no
capture was made.

One afternoon, when Walter was in a lonely part of his father’s grant, a
huge, shaggy-bearded, roughly-clad fellow sprang from behind a clump of
trees, and seized him by the collar. The stranger’s right arm had no
hand, but brandished a sharp hook, and Walter thought that his last hour
was come. He was awfully frightened, but he tried not to seem so.

“Let me say my prayers first,” said Walter.

Hook-handed Bill gave a grin which was even more hideous than his
habitual frown, as he answered,

“Time enough, youngster. I ain’t a-goin’ to kill you afore night. I want
you to take a message to your —— father. He’s a deal too cocky for my
taste, is the Captain, flogging his men, and lagging his neighbours, and
now he’s been boasting that he’ll take me dead or alive. Will he? We’ll
soon see who’s master. I’ll show him how much I care for his blowing.
You take him Hook-handed Bill’s compliments, and tell him that I give
him fair warning that I mean to pay him a visit to-night, and to
half-flog the life out of him and his sneak of a bullock-driver, and
then to string ’em both up—an’ you, too, you —— young spy!—an’ to carry
off the womenfolk he’s brought from —— Old England to look down on their
betters. There! you be off, youngster!”

At first the Captain was inclined to treat the bushranger’s threat as
mere bravado.

“However,” he added, “if the rascal does choose to come, he could not
have consulted my convenience better. The police are coming over
to-night, Walter, my boy. We meant to have given the bushrangers a hunt
to-morrow morning, but if they like to save us the trouble, so much the
better. Don’t say anything to your mamma, but go and call Long Steve.”

The bullock-driver was firmly convinced that Hook-handed Bill would keep
his word, and advised his master to begin his preparations at once, in
case the bushrangers should hear from some of their scouts of the
intended police visit, and resolve to rush the house before the arrival
of the constables. Accordingly guns, pistols, ammunition, a sword, a
cutlass, and a bayonet were got in readiness by the Captain—not that he
really believed that there would be any use for them that night. The
kitchen clock struck seven—eight—nine, and still the constables did not
come. A little after nine the convict house-servants went away to their
huts, and Long Steve carefully bolted the doors after them. Mrs.
Daventry and Phœbe were persuaded to go to bed. The garrison of three
sat in silence—the Captain expecting every moment to hear the police
ride up; Long Steve and Walter, on the other hand, dreading the arrival
of the bushrangers. About ten a party of men _were_ heard galloping up.

“There they are!” cried the Captain, and before Long Steve could stop
him, he had opened the front door and run down to the garden-gate. “Why,
what a time you’ve been, Saunders,” the Captain shouted to the supposed
police-sergeant.

“Have we?” growled back a gruff voice. “Well, we’ll try to make up for
lost time, you ——!”

Discovering his mistake, the captain fired his pistol at the speaker,
and rushed back to the house. A hailstorm of lead soon rattled on the
weatherboards, and Mrs. Daventry and Phœbe got up and rushed about like
maniacs. The women’s screams were not calculated to improve the Captain
and Long Steve’s aim, and though they had the advantage of cover, and
Walter to load for them, and of the moon which came up presently, seven
to two are heavy odds. (The overseer and assigned servants said next
morning that they had been sound asleep—one, indeed, had heard a little
firing, but thought that it was the Captain out duck-shooting!) I am
afraid that the besiegers would have been the victors, had not a party
of the Captain’s friends suddenly made their appearance. They had been
dining together about ten miles off, and a drunken convict had let out
in their hearing the intended attack on Daventry Hall. They had
instantly rushed to horse, and galloped the ten miles at racing speed.
The bushrangers turned tail when the new-comers poured a volley into
them. Five of the scoundrels, altogether, had been hit, but only one was
taken. When the prisoner was escorted to the nearest police-barracks
next day, the reason of the constables’ non-appearance at Daventry Hall
the night before was discovered.

The escort were very much astonished to find no one at the barrack
gates, or in the barrack-yard. They were still more astonished to find
the sergeant and his men lashed down on the mess-room floor—all gagged,
pinioned, and fettered.

Hook-handed Bill had been fully aware of the Captain’s arrangements with
the police, and had taken them by surprise in their lonely barracks
before he dispatched his insolent message by Walter.

Although the bushranger had been beaten off, he and his ticket-of-leave
allies continued to harass Captain Daventry. They did it to such an
extent—cruelly hamstringing and mutilating cattle and horses when they
did not choose to take the trouble to steal them—that Captain Daventry
soon found that he was losing money fast. Being a soldier, however, he
thought it would be disgraceful to give in to such “a lot of vermin,”
but Mrs. Daventry declared that she could not live any longer in
constant fear of her own life and her husband’s. The Captain could face
bushrangers, but he could not stand hysterics. The Kakadua was then
“outside”—as the colonists used to call unsettled districts—but Mrs.
Daventry was willing to go thither when she found that bushrangers did
not think it worth their while to visit the district. The Captain took
up some good land on both banks of the river, and there—soured by his
experiences—he became the Tartar his son owned that he had been.

When Sydney Lawson left home to take up new country for himself, there
happened to be no tutor at Wonga-Wonga, and so Harry and Donald were
allowed to go with the young squatter, both to keep them out of mischief
and to enlarge their “colonial experience.” Besides, they would be of as
much use as, at least, a man and a half. The boys were away for months,
but they never grew tired of their long holiday, although they often had
to work hard enough in it. It was the thought that they were doing real
man’s work, and yet holiday-making at the same time, that made the
holiday so jolly.

Just after sunrise one calm bright morning, the little expedition
started—Sydney, Harry, Donald, and King Dick-a-Dick’s heir-apparent,
“Prince Chummy,” on horseback, and in charge of a small mob of horses
and another of cattle, and two old hands in charge of the bullock-dray
that carried the baggage, stores, tools, nails, horseshoes, arms,
ammunition, &c. “Jawing Jim” and “Handsome Bob” were the _sobriquets_ by
which these two old hands were known—both given on the _lucus a non
lucendo_ principle, since Jim scarcely ever opened his mouth, and Bob
was nearly as black, and not nearly so good-looking, as Prince Chummy.
Jim was a Staffordshire man, and Bob was a Cockney. They were both good
bushmen, but they had both been sent out for burglary, and therefore
they may seem to have been strange guards for the commissariat-waggon,
though the spirit-cask _had_ another cask outside it as a precaution
against furtive tapping. But for one thing, they were pretty well under
the eye of the rest of the party; and for another, each watched the
other like duplicated Japanese officials. There was a long-standing
rivalry between them. Each sneered at the other’s home exploits. When
Jem did open his lips to any one except his bullocks, it was generally
to launch some sarcasm at Bob, but in a tongue-fight he was rarely a
match for the ugly Londoner, whose lonely bush life had not cured him of
his Cockney glibness.

All the Wonga-Wonga-ites mustered to see the little party off—Mr. Lawson
riding with it for a mile or two. There was a little confusion at
starting. A young imported bull strolled up, angrily snuffing and
pawing, as if jealous of the superior size of the bullocks; and just as
they had begun to obey Jim’s very strong language and oft-cracked long
whip, the little bull took a mean advantage, made a mad flank charge on
the middle yoke, and threw the whole line into disorder. Thereupon Bob,
who had made himself comfortable on the flour-sacks in the dray, began
to chaff his comrade, in his own elegant style, on his clumsiness.

“Call _your_self a bullock-driver?” Bob was saying, when an old shoe
that Mrs. Jones had thrown after Harry hit Bob in the face.

He was going to abuse Mrs. Jones then, but Jim growled out,

“Doan’t get inta a scoat, lahd! It hit thee wheer tha ken’t be hoort,”
and Handsome Bob had to subside into his flour-sack couch again,
silenced for once.

With much cracking of whips, trampling of hoofs, clanking of chains,
jingling of tin pots, grinding of wheels, and creaking of pole and
yokes, the expedition at last fairly got under way. We watched it go
down the rise, across the flat, and through the slip-panels that led
into the bush beyond; and then, when we could see nothing but the dust
above the tree-tops, Mrs. Lawson and Mrs. M‘Intyre, who was visiting at
Wonga-Wonga, went into their bed-rooms—perhaps to pray for their boys’
safety.

I saw them start, but can only relate their adventures from what I heard
of them when the boys came back.

The settled country through which they passed would have seemed wild
enough to most English people, accustomed to hedged-in little fields,
fitting like patches in a patchwork quilt, with roads and lanes curving
between them, and railways running over them in the most rural places.
In this “settled country” there were miles without a fence, and our
pioneers generally camped out at night; although, when they came to a
public, or an “accommodation-house,” with a paddock, about sundown, they
would have a night between sheets for a change, and when they chanced to
halt near a head-station at nightfall, they could make sure of hearty
hospitality, although not always of a bed. As they went on, the country
seemed wilder and wilder to their eyes, although perhaps we should not
have seen much difference.

When I went out to New South Wales, I expected, from what I had read in
guide-books, to see capital convict-made roads running through the
colony everywhere. What I found was a tolerable bit of road reaching as
far as Parramatta (not twenty miles from Sydney), but beyond that there
was nothing that we should call a road in England. Deep ruts running
right across the road; grey logs that the mail-cart used to bump over,
and black jagged tree-stumps that it used to graze against; the
smoothest bits of road like a ploughed field; unbridged creeks;
“corduroy” causeways of tree-trunks across swampy places;—that is what I
remember of Australian up-country roads in dry weather; and in wet
weather they were chains of ponds, with marsh that swallowed you to the
ankle, and bog that gobbled you above the knee, intervening; and bogged
blue-bloused dray-drivers sitting here and there on the tops of their
loads of wool-bales, smoking in sullen resignation, like mariners in the
tops of gradually-sinking wrecks.

At last, however, our pioneers came to the end of even such roads as
these, and had to trust to rare cattle-paths, the sun, the compass, and
“gumption” for guidance. They had reached the march-land on which the
white man, who has grown nearly as wild, meets the black man who has not
been tamed, and shoots him or poisons him with strychnine-damper for
spearing his flocks and herds, and sometimes gets speared by him in
return. On the last run our pioneers crossed they met a stockman who was
herding cattle with pistols in his holsters and a carbine in his hand. A
strange wild-looking fellow was this stockman. He wore a rain-blackened,
sun-bronzed, cabbage-tree hat, with a jetty, greasy cutty pipe stuck
into the discoloured band; a faded, stained, white-seamed red shirt,
buckled round him with a chapped brown belt; and tattered moleskin
trousers falling in vandyked fringes over rusty gaping boots. One of his
stirrup-leathers was made of knotted green hide. His face was just the
colour of his hat—the little of it that could be seen peeping through a
foot or two of coarse black hair like a guardsman’s bearskin. He had
lived so long by himself that, when he first began to talk to the
new-comers, he stammered like a bashful girl. He soon recovered his
tongue, however, and the first thing he asked for was tobacco. They were
smoking tea on that station, owing to the long time the drays that were
bringing them fresh stores had been delayed upon the road. When Sydney
gave the man a fig or two of colonial tobacco, and another of glossy
Barrett’s twist, he pounced upon them as if he could scarcely believe
his eyes. The American negrohead he put away jealously in his
trousers-pocket for special occasions, and then began to slice and rub
up the dull-green saltpetery colonial tobacco, as if he was famishing
for want of a “proper smoke.” As it spluttered in his pipe he told the
strangers some strange tales about the blacks. They had sighted them
several times before this; but, as the blacks had always bounded off
like so many kangaroos as soon as they were sighted, our pioneers had
begun to think that they would not have much to fear from them.

“Don’t you believe it,” said the stockman. “They’ll be on ye when you’re
least lookin’ for ’em, the sneaking divils!”

This is one of the stories he told about the blacks, and from it you
will see that white men can be quite as bloodthirsty in those wild
parts:

“When we come up here, two er the chaps that the cove hired was
brothers. I niver seen brothers so fond er each other as them two young
fellers was. Strappin’ young fellers, though they was new to this kind
er work. They’d been knockin’ about, an’ was glad to git anythin’ to do,
I guess. Wal, one day Tom—that was the youngest—was down by the creek
yonder, lookin’ arter a duck, or summat er that. Me an’ Fred—that was
the eldest—was up on the rise beyont, lookin’ arter the bullocks. All of
a suddent we heerd a _cooey_.

“‘That’s Tom,’ says Fred. I didn’t want him to tell me. It worn’t a bit
like a black feller’s.

“‘He’s come to grief,’ says I, for it sounded like that, an’ down we
galloped to the creek full pelt. Jist as we got into the scrub we heard
another _cooey_, an’ presently another, fainter an’ fainter like. Wal,
we hunted about, an’ onder a grass tree we found poor Tom with a spear
stickin’ into him.

“‘Mother—poor old gal!’ he says, when we come up to him, an’ Fred was
kneelin’ by his side. I guess he was the old gal’s pet, and Fred had
promised to look arter him when they come out, or summut er that. Anyhow
Fred looked like a very divil.

“‘Which way?’ says he, lookin’ about an’ cockin’ his gun. ‘Who was it,
Tom?’ says he, with his face as white as ashes.

“Poor Tom had jist breath enough left to say ‘Black Swan,’ an’ then the
blood bubbled out er his mouth, an’ he was dead, an’ his brother
a-blubberin’ over him like a gal over her sweetheart. I let him blubber
for a bit to ease hisself, but he was ser long about it that I gives him
a nudge with my foot. ‘Come,’ says I, ‘Fred, git up—that ain’t no good,’
says I.

“‘No,’ says he, jumpin’ up, ‘that _ain’t_ no good—but you hear me, Tom!’
An’ then he clinched his fist like the playactors, an’ swore that, if he
iver cotched Black Swan, he’d cut him in two with a cross-cut saw.

“‘Sarve him right,’ says I, ‘but there ain’t much chance er that.’

“Black Swan was a black divil we’d called so ’cos of his gallus long
neck. Wal, we cotched Tom’s horse, and Fred took the corpse back on it
to the station, and buried his brother close ahind our hut. I can’t say
I relished that azactly, nor the way Fred ’ud go an’ sit by the grave
arter sundown, mumblin’ to hisself as if he was silly. He’d been a jolly
chap afore that—not half as jolly as Tom, though. The hut was like a
dead place when _he_ was gone. All that Fred seemed to care about was to
get a pop at the blacks. Wal, one day when we’d had a scrimmage with
’em, Fred hit Black Swan in the knee. He was a-hoppin’ off, boohooin’
like a babby, a one leg, but Fred was down on him in no time. I ’spected
he’d blow his brains out right off, an’ have done wi’ him. But Fred
knocked him down with the butt-end er his gun, an’ tied his hands an’
feet, an’ lugged him back to our hut, an’ kicked him into the skillion
ahind.

“‘What are you going to do with that poor divil, Fred?’ says I, when we
was havin’ our smoke arter supper.

“‘Niver _you_ mind,’ says he.

“Wal, it worn’t no business o’ mine, an’ so I turned in. Next mornin’
the black was gone, an’ Fred didn’t show. Then I guessed what was up,
an’ told the cove. Him and me rode down to the place where poor Tom was
skewered, an’ there, right afore the grass tree, was the black, lashed
atween two planks, an’ sliced through as neat as you’d cut a sangwidch.
Fred niver showed arter that, an’ I worn’t sorry to be rid er his
company, though, arter all, it were on’y a black feller.”

Prince Chummy was far less affected by this horrid story than Harry and
Donald were. There is not much love lost between black fellows of
different tribes; the tribes are not united by any feeling of common
patriotism; but native Australian lads have the same kind of liking for
the blacks that a young squire has for his peasant foster-brother.

“The cowardly English cur!” cried Harry, indignantly. “If they’d fought
fair with spears and womeras, the Englishman would precious soon have
cut his lucky.”

But before he left his brother’s station, Harry had learnt to think
somewhat more harshly of the blacks.

When Sydney’s party had left that last run, and crossed a wide stretch
of dry scrub country, they struck a creek shaded by red gum-trees, and
ran it down until they came to what was, for Australia, a fine river.
Fig trees and pines—all kinds of trees—laced together with creepers and
wild vine, grew thick along the river’s banks. They were pink and purple
and crimson and yellow with wild flowers, and big white water-lilies
with huge green leaves almost paved the water inshore. There were wild
fowl, too, in the river; and scores upon scores of pigeons, bronzewings,
and green and purple wompoos, were feasting on the wild figs and
cherries, and making them patter down like rain. Besides a host of
little birds, there were snowy cockatoos and flashing parrots and lories
galore, and sometimes a paddymelon was seen.

“Just won’t we blaze away, Donald!” cried Harry, in ecstasy.

But what pleased Sydney more was the grassy, light-timbered land, that
stretched like a wild park for miles on both sides of the river. He
determined to seek no farther, and as soon as he had pitched his camp,
he was in the saddle again, and off to mark out his run. He scored the
bark of a tree from which he started with his initials, and then rode a
dozen miles or more, and slashed another tree with his tomahawk. In that
free-and-easy fashion he took possession of all the land between the
trees for ten miles on both sides of the river. Then he galloped into
camp again, and scribbled off a rough description of the district he had
taken up for the Crown Lands Office, using the dray for his
writing-desk. With this specification Prince Chummy was sent back upon
their tracks to the nearest post-office. It was by no means certain that
Prince Chummy would return, although he did seem so fond of his young
master, since black fellows are very fickle; but he could best be spared
from the station when hard work had to be done—that being an occupation
not at all to a black fellow’s taste. He might safely be trusted to post
the letter, since Sydney had made him believe that it would come back to
tell of him if he didn’t.

Whilst he was away Sydney and Jim and Bob set to work at timber-felling
and splitting, whilst Harry and Donald in turns mounted guard over the
stores or looked after the cattle. Before Prince Chummy got back, a
store had been run up, and a hut for Sydney and the boys, and another
for the men, and the stockyard was nearly finished. Masters and men
fared very much alike. In neither hut was there any superfluous
furniture. The bedsteads were bullocks’ hides stretched on posts driven
into the ground. All this time not a black had been seen at Pigeon Park,
as Sydney had christened his station. They came often enough afterwards,
as you will read in my next chapter; but in this I have only room to
tell how they first made their appearance there.

One evening the cattle and horses had been driven into a grassy
horseshoe peninsula made by the winding river, not far from the huts.
Sydney and the men had knocked off work, and were sitting, smoking, on
their verandahs, and the boys were out with their guns. Presently Harry
cried out,

“Hark! I can hear a horse galloping yonder. Perhaps it’s Chummy come
back. Let’s go and meet him.”

When Donald put his ear down to the ground, he heard the hoofs quite
plainly, and agreed to go. As a rule, young Australians think it is
necessary to ride when they set out anywhither of set purpose. They will
take the trouble of running a horse up from a flat almost a mile off in
order to ride a mile. But if the boys had gone back then for their
horses, the chances were that the horseman, whoever it was, would get to
the station almost as soon as they did; so they trotted off on foot. In
a few minutes the rider topped a rise, and though the setting sunlight
bathed him in bright blood, they could make out that it was Chummy. He
reined in as he drew near the boys in a place in which there was a belt
of scrub on both sides. He was grinning, and shouting back greetings to
his young friends, when from the scrub on both sides whizzed a flight of
spears. Poor Chummy, bristled like a porcupine, fell forward on his
horse’s neck, clutching the mane with the rigid grasp of death, and the
fear-maddened horse, which had been wounded in the neck itself, rushed
past the boys like a whirlwind. Out of the scrub darted a score or two
of darkies, dancing and jabbering, “Wah! wah! wah!” like angry apes, and
advancing on the boys with brandished spears and wildly-waved boomerangs
and waddies.

“I did feel funky then, and no mistake, Mr. Howe,” Harry afterwards told
me; “but, you see, if we’d shown the white feather then, it would have
been all up with us. So we turned round and stared at the blacks.

“‘We must pepper them,’ I said to Donald.

“‘Ay, lad; but ane at a time, and then load whilst the ither is firin’,’
says Donald.

“He’s a cool customer, is Donald, with his _t’anes_ and _t’ithers_. We
hadn’t much time to talk, for I saw one of the beggars just going to let
drive at us, so I up with my gun and let drive at him. I was loaded with
duck-shot, and though it scattered, I must have spoilt his beauty, for
the blood came streaming down his face. It was queer to see how scared
the big beggars were—over six foot some of ’em were. They couldn’t have
been much used to powder. They all of them stopped short when they saw
the blood, as if they’d _all_ been shot.

“‘Don’t wait for me,’ I said to Donald, when I was going to load again;
but, though he gave ’em both his barrels pretty quick when he saw how
things were, he only marked ’em behind. They’d all turned, and before
you could say ‘Jack Robinson’ they’d vanished in the scrub. Syd and the
men weren’t long in rushing up, I promise you; but there was nothing
left for them to do. Poor old Chummy was as dead as a doornail by that
time. We buried him before we went to bed, with some of the spear-heads
still sticking in him. We couldn’t have got ’em out without tearing him
all to bits. I suppose the beggars had got it into their heads that he’d
brought us, and so wanted to finish him off first. It’s strange the down
black fellows have on black fellows. Poor old Chummy! And yet, after
all, if you think of it, you can’t blame the beggars. I can’t see what
right we whites have to this country. If you were to get up at night and
see a fellow helping himself to your swag, you’d do your best, I guess,
to shoot him if he wouldn’t bundle out. And that’s how the blacks must
feel when they see us taking up their country. It sounds soft, and yet I
can’t help half wishing sometimes that they were as ’cute and as plucky
as the Maories. _They_ won’t stand nonsense, for all your English
red-coats; though the soldiers and settlers between them might eat up
every Maori, if they could only catch ’em and kill ’em. There’s enough
of ’em to do it.”

After that first brush, the blacks still for a time kept clear of the
station buildings, but, now here, now there, they were always giving
unpleasant proofs of their presence on the run. It was, in fact, the
best bit of their hunting-ground, and therefore it is not astonishing
that they considered the whites, instead of themselves, to be the
trespassers. The black fellows speared the cattle and horses, and tried
hard to kill the men and boys too. They had to look about them “with all
their eyes” when they were riding past any cover.

Once Handsome Bob was missing for a couple of days. When he was found he
was almost dead; for the blacks had knocked him off his horse with a
boomerang, gashed him with their tomahawks, prodded at him with their
spears till his flesh was like a perforated card, and then tied him to a
tree which ants had connected with their hill by a little sunken path
like a miniature railway-cutting. The ants and the flies had made an
awful object of poor Bob’s patchwork of wounds; and though he did at
last most marvellously “recover,” as it is called, he was half silly
ever afterwards. Jawing Jim was kinder to him than you would have
expected whilst he lay helpless in the hut, and Sydney and the boys, of
course, looked in, and did what they could for him. But for hours he had
to be left alone, with the chance that the blacks would swoop down upon
him and finish their work. When he did get about again, although half
silly in other things, he had a strange, fierce knack of surprising
black fellows, and potting them from behind a tree as if they had been
so many wild ducks.

Long before Handsome Bob was up again, his mates had been forced, as
they thought, to be almost equally savage. Whenever they saw a black,
they tried to kill him, as “naturally” as one tries to kill a snake or a
wasp or any vermin. It is not pleasant to have to write about such
things, but I must if I am to tell the whole truth about Australia.
Sydney soon got quite envenomed against the blacks, whom he had robbed
of their hunting-ground, because they were killing off his cattle; and
not long afterwards Harry and Donald fully sympathized with him. Not one
of the three felt the slightest scruple in shooting down a black, and
then cutting off his head and hanging it _in terrorem_ on a tree, as a
gamekeeper nails a hawk against his gable. There is a terrible amount of
the tiger in human nature. When blood has once been tasted, so to speak,
in savage earnest, “civilization” peels off like nose-skin in the
tropics, and “Christian” men, and even boys, are ready—eager—to shed
blood like water. They are _not_ eager to talk about what they have done
when they get back from the Bush amongst their mothers, sisters, wives,
and sweethearts; but then, they think white mothers, &c., are so
different from black gins and their offspring—and when the white women
hear of what the black fellows have done or tried to do to their
darlings, they are very apt to frame excuses for the white atrocities
which they dimly guess at when they kneel beside their beds at night to
give God thanks for their darlings’ return to districts in which it is
possible to go to a “real church” and “regular services” every Sunday.
Jawing Jim wanted to “polish the blacks off” like dingoes, by setting
baits of poisoned food about the run; but at poison Sydney drew the
line, and the boys, who were half startled by the kindliness with which
they had taken to their killing work, could not help feeling relieved at
finding that the line was to be drawn anywhere.

“No, Jim,” said Sydney. “Fighting’s all fair. If we didn’t shoot down
the blacks when we came across ’em, they’d precious soon spear us. But
it’s sneaking to poison the beggars, when they haven’t a chance of
hitting back.”

“Boot ye poiason the warrigals, Mester Sydney, an’ ah kent see as
there’s mooch to choose atween the two soarts o’ warmin.”

“P’r’aps there isn’t,” answered Sydney. “But anyhow there’s something of
a man, so far as look goes, in a black fellow; and so we’ll fight fair.
I’ll have no strychnine used—do you understand, Jim?”

“_Ah_ oonerstaun’,” growled Jim, “boot _thee_ doosn’t. Pooder or
poiason—wha-at’s the oadds?”

After a good many brushes in the scrub, the black fellows grew more used
to fire-arms, and ventured down one night upon the station buildings.
Fortunately it was moonlight, and Donald, who chanced to be awake and
looking out of the window, could plainly distinguish the invaders as
they crept out of a patch of scrub about a couple of hundred yards off,
and came crouching towards the huts with their noses almost touching the
moonlit grass.

“Sydney! Harry!” he shouted, “here come the blacks!” and snatching up
his gun, he deliberately levelled it, and let fly at the foremost black
fellow.

When the blacks found that they were discovered, they sprang up erect,
streaked and spotted with white and red clay, daubed on in stripes, and
hideous faces, brandishing their spears, waving about their boomerangs
and waddies, knocking their bark shields together, and advancing rapidly
in a wild tramping dance to a horrible chorus of “Wah! wah! wah!”

But Donald’s shot had aroused all the white folk. Handsome Bob was
strong enough to fire a gun then, and rushing to _his_ window, he was
the first to follow suit to Donald. Five marksmen were soon popping away
incessantly. A shower of missiles whizzed through the moonlit air, and
hurtled against the slab sides and bark roofs of the huts; but several
of the blacks were down on the ground, and more had been slightly hit.
Leaving their dead and badly wounded, the blacks turned and fled in
disorder, and the five whites, who had defeated more than a hundred
savages, sallied from their cover flushed with victory, and commenced an
incautious pursuit. In their contempt for their enemy, they straggled
from one another, and whilst they were thus giving chase, a tall black
suddenly sprang from behind a tree, stunned Harry with a blow of his
waddy, and carried him off.

When Harry came to himself, he was lying in a black fellows’ encampment.
It was broad daylight. The wounded warriors were crouching here and
there, with earth instead of ointment stuffed into their wounds. The
unhurt warriors, for the twentieth time, were bragging about their
prowess. The gins had already celebrated it in a song, which they sang
as they dragged a water-hole for fish, with a mat rather than net of
twisted grass, and as they squatted on the ground inside and outside the
gunyahs—conical huts of bark and wild vine—that were scattered about and
clustered together under the weeping acacias. Grey, glistening bark
canoes were lazily rubbing their sides together on a large lagoon hard
by. “Tamed” dingoes slouched at their masters’ heels, or snuffed about
the gunyahs, gaunt as starved wolves. One woman was suckling alternately
her own piccaninny and a puppy dingo! Two or three of the gins were
guarding some opossums that were being cooked under a round layer of
stones, on the top of which the kitchen fire was kindled. (Sometimes,
instead of using this oven arrangement, the blacks bury their game,
unskinned, in the hot ashes). The men had nothing on but a strip of
kangaroo-skin round their loins, but the women wore kangaroo and ’possum
rugs.

When Harry came to himself, he ached all over, and felt so stiff, that,
although he was not bound, he could not rise from the ground. He fell
sometimes on his face, and sometimes on his back, when he attempted to
get on his feet. Some black boys who were standing near jeered at him
when they saw this, and pricked him with their spears, at the same time
mimicking his motions, like so many monkeys. But an old black, who was
sitting with his back to the tree under which Harry was lying, left off
nursing his knees for a minute, waved the young rascals off, and
beckoned to a party of old gins to come near. These old ladies felt
Harry all over, and when they found that no bones were broken, they took
off his clothes, and began to dig their skinny black fists into him as
if they were kneading bread. Then they dipped him in a water-hole, and,
after he had lain down to dry, they trotted him about till all his aches
and pains were gone, and he was able to eat a hunch of baked ’possum
with relish—strong as it did taste of peppermint—even though he could
not help seeing that he was being attended to in this careful way simply
that he might give his captors more sport afterwards, when they began to
torture him. But one of the old women who had kneaded Harry had noticed
a mole on his back which was very much like one that a dead son of hers
had on _his_ back, and so the old woman had come to the conclusion that
her dead son had “jumped up white-fellow,” as the blacks phrase it, in
Harry. The other members of the tribe opposed this view, and there was a
hot argument about it, in which, although it lasted for an hour, the
name of the dead son was not once mentioned—the Australian blacks
carefully abstaining from _naming_ their dead. At the end of this
controversy Harry was placed on a little mound, and a shield was given
him; three of the adroitest spear-throwers being stationed at some
distance opposite to him. The first threw, aiming at Harry’s stomach,
but Harry, more by good luck than good management, caught the spear in
the shield.

“It is the son of Kaludie,” shouted the old gin who claimed him as her
son.

“Kaludie is blind,” shouted the others: “the son of Kaludie, when he
played with the spears, waved like the wild vine; the white boy stands
stiff as the tea-pole.”

The second thrower hurled his spear, and that, too, quivered in the
shield, instead of piercing the heart at which it had been hurled.

“It is the son of Kaludie,” shouted the old gin again.

Harry’s marvellous luck still continued. He caught the third spear also,
which was aimed at his head.

“It is the son of Kaludie,” for the third time shouted the old gin,
running to throw her arms around Harry, and at the same time gashing her
cheeks with a stone.

“Kaludie has eyes,” shouted the others, at last convinced. “The white
fellow is slow as a koala, but this white boy is quick as a wink.”

After this, although he was strictly watched, a great deal was made of
Harry. He was taken hunting and fishing with the tribe, and was helped
more plentifully than the other boys to the wallaby, snake, parrot,
iguana, yam, figs, honey, grubs, or whatever else happened to be going
for food. This made the black lads jealous of him, and one of them
asked, “Was not the son of Kaludie a kipper?” and then pointed to
Harry’s mouth, out of which, of course, no tooth had been knocked,
black-fellow fashion, at the “kipper” age. This discovery brought on
another long argument, and it was at last decided that the son of
Kaludie must be made a kipper over again next full moon. Accordingly
poor Harry was obliged to submit to have a front tooth knocked out. That
was rather unpleasant; but if Donald had been with him, he would have
enjoyed the hunting and fishing. He learnt to hurl the spear and fling
the boomerang almost like a black fellow. But just as he was getting a
little reconciled to his captivity in the open air, something occurred
which made him long more than ever to get back to his own people. In a
fight with another tribe, several of his captors were slain. The corpses
were brought back and roasted, peeled like potatoes, and eaten by their
own comrades. When the bones had been picked, they were put into baskets
of native grass, sent about to be howled over, then brought back to
their families’ gunyahs to be kept for a time _in memoriam_, and at last
hung on the branches or dropped into the hollows of trees, on which the
emblem of the tribe, a waratah, was carved. A plump arm was thrust into
Harry’s hands, as a special treat. When he flung it down, and rushed
away from the horrid banquet, even Kaludie became half sceptical as to
whether he could indeed be her son. For days afterwards he could not
touch flesh food of any kind, and the natives’ suspicions might have
been seriously aroused, had not their attention been diverted from him
by a mysterious illness which struck down young and old in their camp.
In vain were dead men’s skins brought out for the invalids to be laid
on. In vain did adventurous warriors waylay the members of other tribes,
in order to secure their kidneys to make ointment for the sufferers. In
vain did the old gins rinse their mouths and spit beside the sick,
invoking curses on the sorcerer who had caused them to writhe in agony.
It was manifest, the blacks said, that the sorcerer came and went as he
pleased, underground, to the camp, and that he must be slain before its
peace could be restored. Handsome Bob was the sorcerer credited with its
calamity.

One day a boasting young black bounded into the camp, and, striking an
attitude, began to chant (of course in black fellow’s lingo):

“I have slain—whom have I slain? Is it the white wizard that burrowed
like the wombat? Is it he whom we caught and fastened to the tree? Is it
the white wizard with the face like the flying fox? Yes, it is the white
wizard that lies slain under the wattle—slain by the spear of me, the
brave Jooragong.”

Then the excited gins took up the song—

“Jooragong is young, but he has slain him who slew the blacks—the white
wizard who burrowed like the wombat—the white wizard with the face like
the flying fox. Jooragong is young, but he is braver than the old men.
We will all be the gins of Jooragong.”

And then there would have been a great corroborree, had not a sceptical
old warrior said,

“Jooragong is brave in his own mouth. Why did Jooragong leave the scalp
of the white wizard under the wattle? Let us go and look on the face of
the flying fox. Let us be sure that the white wizard will no more burrow
like the wombat.”

Jooragong looked very much like a trapped dingo, but he could not refuse
the old man’s challenge. A party of the blacks started under his
guidance to make sure of the death of the white wizard, and the son of
Kaludie went with them. At last Jooragong stopped and said,

“The white wizard lies dead under _that_ tree,” pointing to one in the
distance; but when they came to the tree, there was no corpse there. “He
is gone—he is a wizard,” said Jooragong.

“Let Jooragong show me the white wizard’s tracks,” answered the old
warrior.

“He burrows like the wombat,” said Jooragong.

“Then Jooragong, who is young, but braver than the old men, has not
speared the wombat,” sneered the old man. “We will go back, and the gins
shall sing of Jooragong—‘Jooragong is young. Jooragong is brave. His
enemies are dried up before him like water. We look for the enemies whom
he hath speared, but we find them not. When dead they still fear
Jooragong, who is braver than the old men.’”

The son of Kaludie, however, did not go back to camp. Jooragong had led
the party of searchers within sight of the station buildings, and Harry
determined to make a bolt for them, if he died for it. He found it
easier work than he had expected to get away. The rest of the blacks
were so busy jabbering jibes at Jooragong that Harry was not noticed
when he lagged behind, and in a few minutes he was able to slip behind a
tree, and thence make a slant for the station. When he had once ventured
to begin to run, he kept on running as if he was racing Death. He
tumbled to the ground dead-beat, but panting like a steam-engine just
about to blow up, when he had almost reached the huts. Donald ran out,
and then looked half inclined to run away again.

“Harry,” he said, “are ye sure it’s yoursel’, of your wraith? Hech, man,
ye’re a sicht for sair een,” Donald went on, with the tears gushing up
into his own generally hard-looking grey eyes, like water oozing from a
rock. “We thocht ye’d been deid, an’ buried inside the blacks this long
while.”

After Harry’s escape the blacks again made very audacious descents on
the station buildings. For one thing, they wanted to recapture the son
of Kaludie; for another, they wanted to kill the white wizard, who,
instead of having been speared by Jooragong, had made the braggart dodge
from tree to tree before his gun. For a third thing the black fellows
had a great relish for the white fellows’ stores, to which every now and
then they found a scrambling chance of helping themselves. More fighting
took place, and every now and then a black was shot. Still the blacks
came down upon the homestead. As it was impossible to guess when they
would come, the place could not be efficiently guarded unless the whole
of the little garrison always stayed at home—and in that case how was
the work of the station to be done?

“Ah tell thee whet ’tis, Mester Sydney,” said Jawing Jim (who up in the
bush had almost begun to merit his _sobriquet_); “if tha wan’t poiason
the warmin, tha moost skeer ’em. Me an’ Boab’ll do it for thee. Boab
ain’t mooch fit for nawthing else nowa, poor lahd!”

This was the stratagem the men contrived: They cut off the head of a
dead black fellow, and put it into a full flour-cask, the top of which
was left open. Then leaving the store door unlocked, and the flour-cask
just behind it, all the pioneers left the buildings; the boys, however,
returning by a roundabout route, and “planting” in some scrub not far
off to witness what might happen. They had to wait some time, but at
last the blacks made their appearance. Even their keen eyes detecting no
trace of the presence of any whites, they soon swarmed up boldly to the
store. Jooragong, bravest of the brave when there was nothing to be
feared, rolled out the cask that stood so conveniently near and open,
and began to scoop out the flour with both hands. But presently they
brought up his countryman’s head. The other blacks raised a wild howl
and fled, but Jooragong stood stock-still, gaping, with eyes starting
from his head at his hideous handful. The firing of the boys’ guns broke
the spell. Off Jooragong bounded also, dropping the floury head out of
his floury hands back into the cask; and so long as Harry and Donald
stayed at Pigeon Park, the blacks never again ventured within gunshot of
the store.

Soon after Harry and Donald returned to Wonga-Wonga, the station was
excited by the news that gold had been found about seventy miles to the
north of Jerry’s Town. At first the news was partially pooh-poohed at
Wonga-Wonga.

“We’ve heard of _storekeepers’ rushes_ before now, haven’t we?” Mr.
Lawson said to the men, who were getting unsettled by the tidings.
“Those fellows would make out that there was gold in the moon, if people
could get there to buy their damaged goods; and nicely they’d clap it on
for carriage.”

It soon became certain, however, that something more than the mere
“colour of gold” had been found at Jim Crow Creek. Three parts of the
population of Jerry’s Town started for the new diggings, and yet the
town was busier than ever, such a stream of people poured through it.
Nearly every township between Jerry’s Town and Sydney contributed its
quota, and amongst those who came from Sydney were a good many who had
sailed thither from Melbourne. Perhaps they had been doing very well on
the Victoria diggings, but diggers have almost always a belief that they
could do better somewhere else than where they are; and so, when they
hear of new diggings, off they flock to them, like starlings from
England in autumn.

Wonga-Wonga and the other stations near Jerry’s Plains soon became very
short-handed. Shepherds and stockmen sloped wholesale for the Creek,
sometimes helping themselves to their masters’ horses to get there. To
make the best of a bad job, Mr. Lawson resolved to avail himself of the
market for meat that had suddenly been created at Jim Crow Creek; and,
accordingly, he and the boys started thither with some of the sheep and
cattle that had been left with scarcely any one to look after them.

As they rode into Jerry’s Town, they passed a mob of Chinamen, in baggy
blue breeches, who were preparing to encamp by the roadside. Most of
them still wore their tails, coiled up like snakes, or dangling down
like eels. The Jerry’s Town youngsters were pelting the Chinamen, and
taking sly pulls at the dangling tails, whenever they got the chance,
meanwhile shouting “Chow-chow” and singing in chorus—

“Here he was, and there he goes,
Chinaman with the monkey nose.”

As the Chinamen laid down the bamboos they had carried on their
shoulders, with bundles hanging from them like milk-pails from a yoke,
and gathered sticks to boil their rice, their almond eyes glanced very
evilly from under their beehive hats at the young outside barbarians. I
am sorry to say that is not only the _young_ barbarians who behave very
brutally to Chinamen in Australia.

All the way from Jerry’s Town to Jim Crow Creek the road, that used to
look even more solitary than Highgate Archway Road looks during the
greater part of the year, was every here and there almost as crowded as
Highgate Archway Road during the time of Barnet Fair. Men on horseback,
with saddle-bags and pistols peeping from their holsters, were ambling
and cantering along, singly and in couples, and in threes and fours.
Moleskin-trousered pedestrians, who had “humped the swag,” were toiling
along, footsore and perspiring, their red or blue shirts rolled up and
laid upon the top of their heavy loads. Greenhorn-looking young fellows,
fresh from the counter or the desk, were sitting down, dead beat.
Tarpaulined drays ground along in a long line, monotonously jingling the
pots and pannikins slung beneath.

[Illustration: “MEN ON HORSEBACK, WITH SADDLE-BAGS AND PISTOLS.”]

Here and there a dray had broken down, and the driver was fussing about
as angry as a wasp, or smoking in sulky idleness, because he could not
get any one to stop to help him right his cargo. Every public was
crammed with rowdy-looking, bronzed, bearded fellows, shouting for
nobblers, spiders, and stone-fences. The free commons which every
traveller in Australia used to look upon as a right rather than a
favour, had ceased to be supplied by either house or hut. If any
passenger wanted food or drink, he had to pay for them, and pay smartly
too. Some of the parties taking their meals along the road were faring
jollily, but some of the pedestrians who limped past them cast enviously
hungry glances on their commissariat. To say nothing of brandy, bitter
beer, sardines, and potted salmon, _they_ were speculating anxiously as
to how much longer they could make sure of tea and damper.

Jim Crow Creek was reached at last. A week or two before, it had been so
quiet that the shy water-moles would come up and bask for the half-hour
together on the surface of its gravy-soup-coloured water. There was
nothing to startle them except the sudden scream of a flock of parrots
flashing across, or the lazy rustle of the long, inky, lanky-tassel-like
leaves which the grey-boled trees upon the banks dipped into the smooth
stream. But now for two or three miles upon both banks there was bustle.
The trees had been cut down, the banks scarped and honeycombed, and
dotted with big boil-like heaps of dusty earth. The tortured creek, here
dammed, there almost drained, and yonder flowing in a new channel,
seemed to be as puzzled as to its identity as the old lady who had her
petticoats cut all round about. Steam sent up quick, angry white puffs;
windlasses went round and round at the top of yawning wells of dirt; the
grinding, rattling dash of shovels into soil, the ticking click of picks
on stone resounded everywhere. Cradles rocked; hip-booted men, who
looked as if they had not washed either face or hands for a twelvemonth,
swished their precious mud round and round in washing-pans. Scattered
along the sloping sides of the creek, and jostlingly jumbled on the flat
it once crept round, so sleepily quiet, were all kinds of extemporized
stores and dwellings: a house or two of corrugated iron; more hastily
knocked-up ones of slabs; canvas-walled houses, roofed with
asphalte-felt; round tents, square tents, polygonal tents, and mere bark
gunyahs. Some had their owners’ names roughly painted on the canvas.
Outside one tent hung a brass plate inscribed with “Mr. So-and-So,
Photographer.” Keen-looking gold-buyers stood at the doors of their
wooden “offices.” A commissioner, swellish in gold lace, cantered
superciliously through the bustling throngs. Policemen lounged about,
striving to look unconscious of the “Joey!” which the miners found time
to shout after them in scorn. Hanging about the sly grog-shop tents,
there were men who might have been thought to have more time for such
amusement, since smoking and nobblerizing was all that they seemed to
have to do; but these gentry appeared by no means eager to attract the
attention of the police. The gold-buyers looked anxious when the
rascals’ furtively-ferocious eyes chanced to fall their way, and they
were not the kind of man that a solitary digger would have liked to see
peeping into his tent at night, or loitering before him in the bush.
Everybody at Jim Crow Creek had guns or pistols of some kind, and took
care to let his neighbours know that he was armed by firing off his
weapons before he turned in, and then ostentatiously reloading them
after the gun-powdery good night.

Before Mr. Lawson and the boys reached the “township,” as the Jim Crow
Flat was already called, their sheep and cattle were bought up by a
butcher who was waiting on the road. They bought their chops of him for
their evening meal, and when they found what he charged for them, Mr.
Lawson was not quite so satisfied with his cattle bargain as he had been
when he made it. After tea, the boys strolled out to look about them,
and presently came to a large tent, with the American colours flying
above it. There was a crowd at the entrance, and it was as much as two
money-takers could do to make sure that they did take the
admission-money from all the boisterous fellows who were rolling in.
Amongst them were a few women, with faces like brown leather, who were
still more boisterous.

“Let’s go in, Donald,” said Harry. “It must be those Ethiopian chaps
that passed us on the road in the American waggon.”

The boys struggled in at last, and then wished, but in vain, that they
could struggle out. They were jammed in a steaming, smoking, rum-scented
mass of miners, good-tempered enough in the main, but apparently of
opinion that the proper place for a man’s elbows was in his neighbour’s
ribs, and for his feet upon his neighbour’s toes. Not more than half had
seats, and sometimes they swayed about so, that it seemed certain the
bulging tent must fall. They joined most discordantly in all the
choruses, and when especially pleased, pitched coppers, and sixpences,
and shillings on the stage. They threw other things that were not so
pleasant. One wag threw a potato, which hit Bones upon the nose just
when he was propounding a conundrum to Tambourine; and Mr. Bones, in
spite of his fun, being a very irascible little serenader, leaped down
amongst his audience, and made frantic efforts to get at his assailant.
There was very nearly a battle-royal between house and performers, and
Mr. Bones was pulled up at last by his brethren, with his woolly wig
half off his head, his long-tailed coat split from waist to collar, and
his huge shirt-collar and cravat in a sadly crumpled condition. Whilst
the scrimmage lasted, Donald had noticed a broad-shouldered mulatto, in
red shirt and ear-rings, who had kept on plunging backwards and forwards
in the crowd, apparently bent on increasing the confusion.

“Hae ye got anything in your pockets, Harry?” said Donald, when
comparative calm had been restored. “Just spot yon body in the red
shirt. He tried my pockets more than once. I suppose he thocht I’d bring
a bundle of notes in here. I’m nae sae daft.”

It was nearly midnight when the “entertainment” concluded, and it was
Sunday morning before all the entertained got into the open air again.
As the reeking crowd struggled out, the mulatto recommenced his plunging
manœuvres. When the boys got out, they saw him hurrying in the moonlight
down an alley between two little rows of tents.

“He’s a nice young man for a small music party,” said Harry, looking
after him; “and there seems to be plenty of his sort. Come along,
Donald; we’ve a good step to go, and I should feel so spoony if I got
bailed up by those fellows; though it isn’t much, is it, they could ease
us of?”

Mr. Lawson had pitched his tent on the other side of the “township,”
some little way down the Jerry’s Town road, in a place where there were
no other tents near.

When the boys had crossed the flat, and were ascending the steep rough
bush track dignified with the name of Jerry’s Town Road, they were not
exactly pleased to see a man who looked very much like the mulatto, and
two other men, slip out of the bush, and seat themselves on a log and a
stump by the roadside.

“It don’t seem game to turn out of the road for those fellows, does it,
Donald?” said Harry. “But I’ll go bail they’re up to no good, and
they’re hulking big beggars, and I’ll be bound they’ve barkers, and we
haven’t.”

“I dinna think they’re planting for us,” answered Donald; “but, as like
as not, they’d gie us a knock on the head if we went up to them; an’
what’s the use o’ gettin’ a knock on the head for nae guid, if ye can
avoid it?”

“I should uncommonly like to know what they’re scheming,” said Harry, as
the boys turned aside into the bush. “They’re jabbering fast enough
about something. Let’s creep up behind and listen. P’r’aps it’s the
governor they’ve a down on.”

This is what the boys heard when they had crept like cats to a
listening-place:

“It’s a squatter fellow that sold some bullocks to Wilcox the butcher,”
said one of the mulatto’s companions. “He’s camped out yonder by
himself.”

“Well, but,” objected the mulatto, “Wilcox would pay him in orders, and
what’s the good of them?”

“Ah, but I heard him ask Wilcox for some in cash or notes, if he had it.
The fellow said he’d got cleaned out on the road up, and must have some
money to take him back. So Wilcox gave him some; I can’t say how much it
was, but any’s worth finding. Besides, he’s a gold ticker—a real
handsome one, as big as a frying-pan. And then there’s the three horses,
and first-chop colonial saddles.”

“Is there anybody with him, then?”

“Two young ’uns came with him, but they’ve gone down into the town, an’
if they’ve come back, it don’t matter much. I fancy he’s turned in now.
I’ve been watching him this good while, till I come down to hunt up you
and Bill.”

“Well, let’s be off then,” said the mulatto; and the three began to run.
The boys tried to make a short cut for the tent, but lost ground
instead. When they reached the tent Mr. Lawson was on his back,
half-throttling, however, the mulatto who knelt upon him, whilst the
other two scoundrels were giving him savage blows and kicks.

“Put—a—ball—in—to—him,” gasped the mulatto.

Before a pistol could be pointed, however, the two boys had leaped on
the two men, and by the suddenness of the onslaught toppled them over,
tumbling at the same time themselves. For a minute a confused heap of
trunks and limbs heaved and wriggled on the floor; but Mr. Lawson rolled
himself out, and, getting uppermost in turn, brought down his huge
Northumbrian fist with a tremendous thud upon the mulatto’s face. As
soon as the other two men could scramble to their feet, they took to
their heels. The boys had got hold of their pistols by that time, and
Mr. Lawson was reaching out his hand for his revolver. Three bullets
whistled after the two runaways, but neither was hit. Meantime the
mulatto, save for his stertorous breathing, lay like a log upon the
ground.

“Get your horse, Harry, and ride in for the police,” said Mr. Lawson.
“We’d best tie the scoundrel first, though.”

Harry and Donald went to catch the hobbled horse; Mr. Lawson turned to
refasten an up-pulled tent-peg, and to get a cord, and when he turned
round again, the mulatto was gone.

“The rascal was only shamming,” said Mr. Lawson, feeling rather silly,
when the boys returned. “I turned my back for a second, and he wriggled
off like a snake. Now, boys, turn in, and I’ll keep watch till the sun
comes up. If I hadn’t been in such a hurry to get a snooze, I shouldn’t
have been laid on my back by those mean curs. I must have been sleeping
like a top when they pounced in upon me. I’ve to thank you, boys, and
let us all thank God.”

Mr. Lawson and the boys stayed over the Sunday at Jim Crow Creek, but it
was a strange Sunday. The miners knocked off work, but they economized
the Sabbath hours in fighting out the week’s quarrels, which they could
not spare time to settle on week-days. The only “service” was one
conducted by a tall, gauntly-sinewy Cornish miner, who shouted at the
top of his voice, and worked himself into a pale perspiration as he
flung about his long limbs as if they were galvanized. A few of his
hearers looked pleased to be reminded anyhow of what the day was. A few
more looked ashamed _because_ they were ashamed to look pleased too. But
most grinned, and then passed on to find more exciting amusements.

“Faix, it’s the crathur’s way o’ divartin’ himself,” said the
police-sergeant, who had stopped for a few minutes to hear his own creed
anathematized; “and a mighty queer kind o’ divarsion it is, to my
thinkin’.”

The sergeant, when spoken to about the attempted robbery, instantly
recognized the mulatto.

“It’s that thief o’ the worruld, Baltimor-r-e Ben. That’s who it is
entirely. They call him Baltimor-r-e Ben becase he came from
Mel-bour-r-ne. He’ll lie dar-ruk for a bit afthur this, but we’ll have
him, sir-r; an’ if we won’t, the digger bhoys will string him up if they
catch him. An’ was it the young gintlemen settled the other bla’guards?
More power to their elbows! You should have kicked him on the shins,
sir-r. A neegur’s head’s as harrud to crack as an Irishman’s.”

At Wonga-Wonga, as well as by the Jim Crow Creek police-sergeant, Harry
and Donald were considered great heroes, when their exploits were told
there. If Mrs. Lawson had had her way, however, neither her husband nor
the boys would ever have gone to Jim Crow Creek again. Once more,
nevertheless, they drove stock over thither. And then, suddenly, the
place was deserted by all except a few Chinese fossickers, who
mysteriously made a living out of claims which Europeans had thrown up
as not worth a speck. The tide of diggers rolled back to Sydney, cursing
the storekeepers as they went. Some waves of the tide crept rather than
rolled, and some of the tide never got back. There was misery, sickness,
starvation, at Jim Crow Creek and along the road; but sundry
storekeepers had balanced their ledgers greatly to their satisfaction.

“Those miners ought to be ’cute enough by this time to take care of
themselves,” said Harry, when he was talking over the matter; “but still
it does seem an infested shame that they should be done so. I wish
Hargreaves had never come back from California. I don’t see what gold
has done for the colony, except spoilt the runs and run up shepherds’
wages.”

“Ah, that is how you Boys in the Bush talk,” said Miss Smith, who had
recently returned from Sydney.

“Miss Smith,” replied Harry, majestically, “I no longer consider myself
a _Boy_ in the Bush.”

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