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Title: The Bushranger of Van Diemen's Land
Author: Charles Rowcroft
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0607171.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: September 2006
Date most recently updated: September 2006

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The Bushranger of Van Diemen's Land
Charles Rowcroft



INTRODUCTION.

IT is well known to those who have the opportunity of observing the
actual condition and the opinions of various classes of society in
this country, that a dangerous notion is prevalent, among those
especially where a misconception of the truth is most mischievous,
that a transportation to the penal colonies is not, as the law
intends, a punishment, but rather a change of country to be desired,
from the opportunity which it is supposed to afford for the rapid
acquisition of large fortunes in many ways; and for the sake of the
licentious liberty of action which the wide wilderness holds forth the
promise of, and which, to restless minds, presents so fascinating an
attraction.

The publication, therefore, of the following narrative, taken from
the oral communication of the facts by the party principally concerned
in the adventures to which they relate, may perhaps be useful, at the
present time, in counteracting the pernicious tendency of the false
ideas which prevail in respect to the penal arrangements of the
Australian settlements; and the circulation of the history,
inculcating the certain punishment and remorse which follow crime, may
assist in repressing that morbid craving after notoriety which of late
years has increased with such lamentable rapidity. With respect to the
curious psychological phenomena developed by the peculiar condition of
solitude to which the modern Cain, of which this history treats, was
exposed, they cannot fail to interest deeply all those who think that

"The noblest study of mankind is Man."



VOLUME 1.




Chapter I. The Arrival.

IT was on a fine spring morning in the month of September that a
vessel was seen to thread her way through D'Entrecasteaux' channel, at
the mouth of the river Derwent, on the southern side of Van Diemen's
Land. The sky was clear and bright, its usual aspect in the early
spring in those salubrious regions, and there was scarcely wind
sufficient to fill the sails, so that the vessel was able to do little
more than make headway against the tide, tantalizing those on board
with the sight of the land on either side, while the vessel remained
provokingly stationary in mid--stream.

The passengers in the vessel, which was a small brig of not more than
a hundred and twenty tons' burthen, were a gentleman, with his two
daughters. Major Horton had resolved to mend his broken fortunes in a
new world, where there was verge and scope enough for enterprise and
exertion. It was the hardihood, perhaps, of his previous career as a
military man, that had prompted him to dare in his humble bark, with a
scanty crew, the dangers of the seas for a distance comprehending the
half of the globe, and to approach fearlessly the coasts of a new
country, of the points of which no seaman on board possessed any
previous knowledge. His daughters were young girls of remarkable
beauty, and with all the delicacy of appearance which, it might be
supposed, would be impressed on them from a former life of ease and
elegance, and from the habit of frequenting the high society in which
they were born to move. They both partook of their father's
adventurous spirit and of his courage, though their outward exhibition
of those soldierly qualities was modified by their respective
dispositions.

Helen, the elder of the two, was tall and slight; strikingly
handsome; of a mind bold and prompt to execute her resolves; full of
ardour and enterprise; a fit heroine for a romance; fearless of
danger, and confident in her own resources. Louisa, on the contrary,
was mild and retiring; possessing almost the ideal perfection of that
amiable softness of woman which poets love to fancy, and lovers fondly
doat upon with affection the most abiding. Being only in her sixteenth
year, and two years younger than her sister, the gentle Louisa had
learned to look up to the more energetic Helen for advice and
assistance on all matters relating to the difficulties to which their
present course exposed them; and the love which the high-spirited
Helen bore to the affectionate girl was increased by the feeling of
the protection which her more masculine mind afforded to her less
intrepid sister.

The only other passenger on board was a personage of a very different
grade; and how he had come among them, and with what imaginable object
he had set forth to brave an adventurous life in the Australian
colonies, had more than once puzzled himself, as well as those with
whom he had become accidentally associated. This aspiring emigrant
rejoiced in the name of Silliman, which singularly accorded with the
character of the man, so that the name of Jeremiah Silliman seemed to
have become attached to the individual by some mysterious process of
elective attraction, exhibiting in his person an illustration of the
harmonious principle of nature which ever strives to amalgamate
together things congenial.

This young gentleman had first seen the light, or rather the smoke,
in Ironmonger Lane in the City; which fortunate circumstance, as he
was sometimes inclined to boast, conferred on him by birth the rank
and dignity of a citizen of London, invested with various privileges
and immunities, and with the inchoate right of exercising regal sway
over that imperium in imperio; all of which advantages, however, he
had sacrificed in his insatiable thirst of romantic adventures. Having
already made frequent dangerous voyages to Putney, Richmond, and
Gravesend, and on one occasion as far as Margate, he considered
himself a finished sailor; and when he first appeared in a blue jacket
and white trousers, and with an exceedingly diminutive round straw hat
aboard the Nautilus before she set sail from the port of London, he
quite imposed on the unsophisticated natures of the young ladies, who
flattered themselves that they had the advantage of being accompanied
by an accomplished mariner whose skill and daring would form a
valuable addition to the small crew which had been engaged to navigate
the vessel.

It was true that the mate regarded him with an extraordinary and
significant grimace when he appeared on deck at Gravesend in his
sailor's rig; but it was not until the vessel had reached the Downs
that the false pretensions of the cockney were made manifest by his
most urgent vociferations for the "steward." This little imperfection
was overlooked, however, during the voyage, as he had immediately
fallen in love with both the sisters, and as his services were found
convenient by the ladies, in performing many little offices, which he
did with invariable good nature, and with an intelligence, as Helen
remarked to her sister, of a lap--dog who had been taught to fetch and
carry.

The major, who had in his youth been a member of the yacht club,
considered himself quite competent to take the general charge of the
vessel of which he was the owner, and over which he presided as
captain, trusting to the mate, an excellent seaman, for the management
of the vessel and for assistance in its navigation. One boy for
steward, and another as "the" boy, whose prescribed duty was to be
perpetually in motion with an immense swab in his arms to sop up the
water which the little vessel was continually taking in, from the
proximity of its deck to the surface of the water, and nine sailors,
one of whom acted as the carpenter, formed the whole of the crew; but
thus slenderly equipped the good little ship had arrived in safety
over fifteen thousand miles of the ocean, to the entrance of the
channel which led to the promised land.

There was just sufficient wind to fill the sails and enable the
vessel to stem the rapid current of the channel. The mate examined the
chart; scrutinized the shore; heaved the lead; sounded the bottom;
looked over the side, and took a sight at an object on land to
ascertain if they made any the least progress. But the vessel seemed
riveted to the spot, and presented the appearance of active motion
without making the slightest advance.

"We shall have to anchor at last," said he to the major, who, with
his daughters and the assiduous Mr. Silliman, were assembled on the
deck, surveying the new country of their adoption with eager interest;
"there is seldom much wind, Horsman says, in this season in these
parts--except when it comes in squalls and gales--and what there is
seems to be dying away. We had better hold our ground, and wait for
the turn of the tide."

"We do hold our ground for the present," observed the major; "how
far are we from the shore to the left here?"

"Larboard;--why, I should say about couple of miles, not more."

"It is my opinion," said Mr. Silliman, who, on nautical matters,
considered himself an authority, in virtue of his sailor's jacket and
trousers, and supported in his assumptions by his little round hat,
which had grown excessively tarry during the voyage; "it is my opinion
that we had better send the boat on shore and examine the country; we
may perhaps make some discoveries, or meet with some of the natives,
or something. How I wish I could see a kangaroo!"

"I can see smoke," said Helen, who was looking through the ship's
glass, obsequiously held by Mr. Silliman, "just under that low hill
yonder."

"Some of the natives, perhaps," said her father; "there are no
settlers, I understand, so low down as this. I see;--I can see a curl
of smoke quite plainly; but now it grows less; and now I can see no
more of it. It seems to have been extinguished suddenly."

"We are making lee-way now," said the mate, "that's certain; the
wind has quite gone down, and the sails stick to the masts. Shall we
let go the anchor?"

"You know best, Mr. Northland; it is very annoying not to be able to
get up before dark; but I suppose there's no danger in these parts; we
are quite out of the way of pirates; and the natives don't know the
use of boats, the books say."

"Pirates and natives! major; no fear of them; I wish there was
nothing else to fear in this channel; you see it is very intricate,
full of shoals and headlands; and if it was to come on to blow, it
might be an awkward matter, weakly manned as we are."

Presently the grating of the cable against the davits informed all
on board of the resolution that had been formed, and in a brief space
the little vessel lay quietly at anchor in the stream.



Chapter II. The Plot.

THE detention of the vessel, which gave rise to so much mortification
on board, excited very different feelings in the minds of a party who
were watching their proceedings from the land.

This party consisted of seven men, of whom six were clothed in the
government dress of convicts suits of yellow; but the seventh appeared
in the ordinary garb of a gentleman, or rather of a merchant or
storekeeper; for there were too few idle gentlemen in those times to
allow of the latter distinctive appellation. They sat round the
remains of a fire which had been hastily kindled and as hastily
extinguished, as if in fear that the smoke from the burning wood might
betray their resting-place. The cause of their appearance in a spot so
remote from the dwellings of the colonists may be best collected from
the following conversation:--

"I wish we had some grub," said one of the yellow jackets; "it's poor
fun being in the bush without anything to eat; suppose we go aboard
that brig and ask for some provisions? we can say we are shipwrecked
seamen."

"And get grabbed and strung up," interposed another; "as if they
would be taken in with that gammon! Haven't we got our canary-bird
feathers on us, and won't that let 'em know what we are?"

"Curse on this livery!" said a third; "it doesn't give a man a
chance. If one does give the overseer the slip, these confounded rags,
that brand a man wherever he goes, betray us. I wish I could go about
like a native, without clothes. By-the-by, they say there are lots of
natives down this way. What shall we do if we fall in with them? We
have not so much as a pistol among us."

"We must use our clubs; one white man is enough for half a dozen
natives, any time."

"But their spears, man? Why, they will riddle you through in no time!
What can you do against long shots? And then, as to trying to come to
close quarters, why, you might as well look for a needle in a hay
stack as hunt for a native in the bush."

"You can't tell the devils from the black stumps of the trees; but,
for my part, I don't see what we are to do, now that we have got off,
without arms, and without provisions--"

"But we have a boat," said a strong deep voice, which had not
hitherto joined in the conversation.

"And what's the use of that? What's the use of a boat like that to go
to sea in? We can't get back to England in a boat. I begin to think we
have not got much by our venture?"

"We have liberty," said the same voice which had checked the
complainings of the men; "we have liberty; that's worth all!"

"But what can we do with our liberty, Mark? We can't live on gum and
opossums like the natives! And we can't eat the natives, neither;
though they say they eat the white people when they can catch 'em; and
that's not such a pleasant thing to look forward to.--I say, Mark,
what's to be the next move? As you're our captain, it is for you to
give us a lift out of the mess you have brought us into; and we want
it bad enough; for my very inside seems stuck together with that lot
of gum that I tucked in just now."

"I've heard say," said one of the party, "that the grubs of the blue
gum--tree are very good eating. I know the natives eat 'em. They take
them up by one end, and let them fall down their throat, as we do
oysters. A nice dinner for a gentleman--gum and caterpillars! But I
can't stand this! we must do something. I say, Mark, what's to be
done?"

The man thus addressed said nothing, but pointed to the little brig
riding quietly at anchor in the channel.

"Ah, yes; I see that craft plain enough; but what's the use of it to
us, unless they would give us something to eat, and, better than that,
something to drink?"

"Suppose we asked them?" said their leader.

"Ah! and get some handcuffs for answer."

"Suppose we entreated them to give us food?"

"And suppose they wouldn't?"

"Suppose we took it?" quietly replied their leader.

"Eh!" said several voices at once; "suppose we took it! why, you
don't mean by force?"

"Why not?"

"Why! what could seven unarmed men do against an armed vessel?"

"Nothing," said their leader, "by open force; but, when force cannot
be used, we can use stratagem."

"I tell you what, Mark, you are a clever chap, no doubt of that; and
you have a tongue that would almost carny a jailor out of his keys--
that's the truth--or you never would have talked us over to make our
escape without arms or provisions. But if you will show us how to get
some rum out of that vessel yonder, you will deserve to be captain of
the island."

"I will do more than that."

"More!" cried out all, excited by their leader's air of calm and
fixed determination.

"I will get possession of that vessel," said the leader, in a firm
and resolute voice; "and in that vessel we will make our escape from
this accursed place of shame and punishment."

"Well, that beats all! And how will you get possession of that tight
little brig, captain? Talk 'em over, and persuade them to make us a
present of it?"

"May be so; and if you are the man that I take you to be, and have
coolness and courage, and will follow my directions implicitly, I will
show you how to set about it."

"What, without arms?"

"Yes, without arms."

"And without fighting?"

"Perhaps."

"Mark, you're a regular trump! Don't let us lose any time. Depend
upon it that craft is as full of rum as an opossum of peppermint
leaves; settlers always think it the best investment they can bring
out to pay their men with. Now, captain, what are we to do?"

"You see," said the man who, by the common consent of his companions
and by the force of hi superior intellect, had been unanimously raised
to the bad eminence of their leader, "that the brig is now lying at
anchor, becalmed, with the tide against her, and with little chance of
wind till the sea-breeze sets in, in the afternoon. She will not
venture to float up with the tide in this dangerous channel; so that
she will be there, safe, for some hours. Now, she would, no doubt, be
glad of a pilot, and I dare say is now looking out for one."

"What's the use of that to us?"

"This use: I will be the pilot. Two of you shall go with me--only
two, to avoid suspicion; those two will pass for my government men;
that will account for their yellow dress. Fortunately, you see, my own
dress may serve for a pilot's; and in this way I will get on board the
vessel and look about me."

"And what's to become of us who remain behind?"

"We shall return for you, on the pretence that more hands are wanted
to work the vessel. My first visit will have disarmed suspicion of our
real object. Besides, I can say that the governor has established a
settlement on the other side of the hill, where the look-out is
towards the sea, for the purpose of lending assistance to strange
vessels; and--in short--leave the rest to me."

The band of desperadoes looked inquiringly at one another; each man
tried to read in his fellow's countenance his secret thoughts; for on
such occasions distrust, and suspicion, and jealousy, soon sow the
seeds of disunion among them. Every man is in fear of the treachery of
his neighbour; and, being conscious of his own individual selfishness
and knavery, he naturally suspects their existence in others.

"Who are to be the two to go first?" asked one of them, with a
doubtful air.

"You may cast lots for that," said their leader; "but they must be
careful to act up to their characters, because it is likely I shall
have occasion to call them thieves and rascals, and perhaps worse. You
will not mind that, I hope?"

"Not a bit; we're used to it: besides, hard words break no bones. But
it's a bold scheme, Mark; if they suspect you, you're done."

"It is our only chance," replied Mark; "and fortunate it is for us
that luck has thrown this opportunity in our way. Did I not tell you
that brave men are sure to succeed when they stand by one another?"

"Hurrah!" cried the men, their courage and expectations raised by the
animating words of their leader. "We will stand by one another to the
death! Now, captain, get on with the work. Here are six rushes; the
two that draw the shortest go first; the rest remain."

The choice fell upon the grumbler of the party and another man who
had not taken much part in the conversation, and who was of a meek and
quiet look.

"Now, Jemmy," said the former, "let us see which can make himself
look most like a government man."

"I could not compare with you, Roger, no way," replied Jem; "your
father and mother have given you such a gallows hang-dog look, there
would be no mistaking you in the best long-tail's toggery that ever
came out of store."

"Now," summoned Mark, "if you are ready, come along. And remember
your characters."

"Ay, ay, your honour," said Jemmy, touching his hat with mock
humility; "we will do the dodge as if we were convicts in earnest."

Roger laughed at this sally, and, the two worthies getting into the
boat, Mark Brandon took his seat in the stern, and they left the
shore.

In the mean time the party on board, when they caught sight of the
boat on the smooth surface of the water proceeding heavily towards the
brig, indulged in various speculations as to the character and
intentions of their approaching visitors.



Chapter III. Flattery.

IT was still early in the forenoon when the boat containing Mark
Brandon and his inferior confederates drew near to the motionless
brig, on the deck of which the passengers and crew were assembled to
view the first appearance of the occupiers of the new world. Their
surmises on its appearance were as various as their characters.

"There are three of them," said the major; "what can be their
object?"

"It's a sweet boat," said the mate; "it floats on the water like a
duck! But those are lubberly fellows in the yellow jackets; they don't
seem much used to handle an oar, to my thinking."

"Gracious! what an odd way to dress in!" remarked Louisa; "they must
be very fond of yellow."

"It's the livery, most likely, of the servants of the gentleman who
sits in the starn of the boat," remarked the cockney (he always said
starn instead of stern, because he thought the broader sound more
nautical). "Perhaps it is the governor coming to visit us?"

"It's a pilot, no doubt," said the mate; "though he is but a rum-
looking one, I see, by his coat-flaps hanging over; but pilots' tails
grow on this side of the earth. Well, perhaps he'll bring a wind with
him. Stand by, there, and ship the hand-ropes."

By the aid of these conveniences the supposed pilot swung himself up
on board, and, without betraying by a muscle of his countenance his
apprehension of the daring risk which he was running, should it happen
that any one on board was acquainted with the persons of the true
officials, he touched his hat in a respectful manner to the major, who
seemed the principal person on board, nodded to the mate, took off his
hat to the ladies, to the eldest of whom he presented a sprig of wild
geranium which he had plucked from a shrub on shore, and, having
glanced at the sails and gear with a professional look, he asked the
usual question:--

"Where from?"

"London," replied the major.

"I suppose you're a pilot?" asked the mate.

The pilot nodded an affirmative.

"What sort of berth have we got here? bottom good?"

The pilot shook his head:--

"Ah! very well," he replied; "if it doesn't come on to blow; but
this is a dangerous channel. All well on board?"

"All well," replied the major. "You see the whole of us," he added;
"our craft is but a small one."

"You don't seem to be strong-handed," remarked the pilot, carelessly.

"Only nine men with the mate, and the steward, and the boy, making,
with myself, thirteen--Oh! I forgot Mr. Silliman; he makes fourteen;
and, with my two daughters, sixteen in all."

The pilot looked at Mr. Silliman with an expression that a close
observer might have construed into an opinion, that he did not
consider it of much importance whether that young gentleman was
included in the number or not; but he examined the crew with more
attention. It did not seem to him that there was much fight in them if
it came to a struggle; but with the major, he saw in a moment, he had
to deal with a man of determination and energy; and the mate, too, he
thought, might prove an ugly customer. As for the rest, their air and
appearance did not affect him with any particular uneasiness.

"What chance of a wind?" asked the mate, who, sailor-like, was always
thinking of the wind or his sweetheart; "what chance of a wind? its
dull work sticking here."

"Do you want wind?" asked the pilot.

"Want wind!" exclaimed the mate, surprised at such an unprofessional
observation; "why, what else does any one want aboard ship but wind?--
'The wind that blows, and the ship that goes--'"

"'And the lass that loves a sailor,'" chimed in the smiling Mr.
Silliman, casting a sentimental look at both the sisters, which Louisa
laughed at, but which Helen returned with a look of scorn that made
the unfortunate cockney wish himself back within the sound of Bow
Bells. The pilot observed the look, but gave no sign of noticing
anything but the masts and sails of the vessel.

"I am afraid," he said with a serious air, "that you will soon have
more wind than you can make use of. Has any one on board been in this
part of the world before?"

"Not one of us," said the major, who began to be uneasy at the threat
of a gale of wind from such an authority as the pilot, and in the
midst of a channel that was imperfectly known:--"Not a man on board
has been in this country before, and we know nothing of the ways of
the place."

So much the better, thought the pilot. "I am sorry for that," he said
aloud; "however, the commandant will allow some of our men to lend you
a hand, I dare say. There is no fear of the wind coming on before mid-
day. First we shall have a dead calm, just as it is now; and then
there will come a burst from the Wellington Mountain that you see
peering over those trees yonder, that will spin you round like a
humming-top."

"Like a what?" said the mate ....

"The land on the right-hand side there."

"The right-hand side!" exclaimed the mate, again astonished at the
fashion of the sea-lingo in the new world.

"I mean to starboard, mate," said the supposed pilot, recollecting
himself; "but you know, mate, when we speak to ladies, we ought not to
make use of our nautical jargon. And I can tell you what, my friend,
the man that brought this tiny craft half round the globe safe and
sound, as you have done,--and in sailor-like trim, too,--I say that
such a man is a credit to the service, and I have no doubt the
governor will make a public proclamation of the feat, for the
encouragement of all future navigators."

The honest mate, albeit that the language of the pilot was not of a
description with which his rough ears had wont to be regaled among his
hardy messmates of the sea, was hugely mollified by this well-timed
compliment: and at once attributed the unseamanlike phraseology and
bearing of the pilot to the transmogrifying qualities of the new
country. The pilot then turned to the major:--

"You must have had great experience, sir, and great courage, too, to
take on yourself the charge of so small a vessel to this distant
place. It is the smallest craft, I think, since the time of Captain
Cook, that has visited these seas."

The major was excessively pleased at this flattering eulogium from so
experienced a person.

"And as to these young ladies, they do honour, sir, to their country.
Sir, they will be regarded by all Australia as the heroines" (here
Helen's eyes flashed, and Louisa shrunk back)--"as the heroines of the
new world. But you are short handed, sir, very:--however, this
gentleman was as good as an able seaman to you" (Jerry actually
thrilled with delight to the very tips of his fingers, and he shook
the pilot's hand cordially); "and you must have had a capital crew,"
he added, raising his voice, so as to be heard by those who were
lingering within earshot to catch any information from the oracle of
sailors in an unknown sea; "a capital crew, and every man of 'em a
seaman--every inch of him, or you would never have succeeded in the
exploit of bringing your vessel so far in safety, and with so few
hands; every hand must have been worth two, that's certain."

The official commendation of the pilot was immediately carried
forward, and it was received by the crew with no less satisfaction
than it had been devoured by their superiors.

"And now," he continued, after having noted every particular of the
vessel into which he could find an excuse for prying, and, after
having extravagantly praised the juvenile steward for the admirable
order in which he kept the cabins and their appurtenances, wondering
how they could contrive to find room for their arms in so confined a
space, and the boy having replied that they were all stowed away in
the lockers, the pilot took his leave "to make interest with the
commandant" to allow some of the best behaved men in the government
employ, and who could be trusted, to assist in securing the vessel
from the coming storm. It was with great difficulty that he defended
himself from the pressing offers of Mr. Silliman to accompany him,
which he was enabled to parry only by judicious hints of the
inconvenience which might arise to the vessel from the absence of so
efficient a hand at the present time; but he gave the major reason to
understand that as the commandant was stationed at an out-of-the-way
place, to which it was difficult to convey supplies, a few bottles of
brandy, &c., might be acceptable--a hint which was readily complied
with. Thus provided, the pilot returned to the shore, and the parties
on board hastened to pass their different opinions on his person and
demeanour.

"A very well spoken man," observed the major; "quite a superior man,
indeed, to what one would expect; but perhaps, like the rest of us, he
may have been better off in the old country."

"He has a very fine countenance," said Helen; "but there was
something in his look that did not quite satisfy me; he seemed to me
to be playing a part; but for what purpose, I'm sure I cannot
imagine."

"I thought him a very nice man for a pilot," remarked Louisa; "but
this little sprig of geranium which he gave to us has no smell; what a
deception, for a geranium to be without fragrance! A knavish Van
Diemen's Land weed in the disguise of an honest flower."

"He was a very determined-looking fellow, that," said the mate,
after some reflection, his mind dwelling with considerable
satisfaction on the praise which had been artfully instilled into the
unsuspecting ears of the honest seaman; "though I can't say he looked
much like a sailor; but I suppose they are not so particular in these
parts; and it's not to be supposed that a thorough-bred seaman who
could do better, would be dodging about here after a stray vessel now
and then. It wouldn't be worth his while. He's not a bad chap, for all
that."

"In my opinion," said Mr. Jeremiah Silliman, giving his little tarry
hat a vigorous slap to set it firmer on his head, which he held
considerably higher since the eulogistic observations on his nautical
qualifications so judiciously administered by the stranger; "in my
opinion that is the most sensible man I ever met with--the present
company always excepted:--he knows what a sailor is, that man. None of
your shore--going, conceited fellows, but a perfect sailor. I knew it
directly; I saw through him, though he did wear a long-tailed coat;
but I dare say that was because he couldn't get a regular jacket--like
mine."

In the mean while, the object of these self-satisfactory encomiums
was making the best of his course to the shore, not disdaining to take
an oar to make the better way, and in little more than half an hour he
had rejoined his fellows.

"What news?" asked his famished confederates.

"Rum, biscuit, beef, and brandy."

"Hurrah! Mark for ever!"

The provisions were rapidly consumed with the avidity of hungry men;
but as they were afraid of making a fire, lest the smoke should betray
their whereabouts, they divided the uncooked meat with the remains of
the bread into equal portions, of which each man took his share, to
provide against an emergency.

But of the "drink" their leader insisted ontheir being sparing for
the present, as the prize was too valuable to risk the loss of it for
the sake of temporary indulgence in liquor which they could revel in
on board in the event of their success. This argument prevailed
against the strong desire to make the best use of their time in that
respect; besides, they were aware of the difficulty of existing for
any length of time in the bush, where they would be constantly exposed
to danger from the natives on the one hand, and from the parties of
soldiers and constables who would be sent in pursuit of them on the
other; and that their only hope of ultimate escape from the death to
which their flight into the bush condemned them was some such chance
as the present. The much--longed-for spirits, therefore, were placed
in the custody of their leader, and the men, sober and steady, after
having been perfectly instructed in the parts they were to act, rowed
in a vigorous and orderly manner to the devoted brig.



Chapter IV. Danger.

THE appearance of so many yellow jackets, some of them in a
condition of considerable dilapidation, and their wearers, for the
most part, of most villainous aspect, rather surprised the people on
board; but the persuasive pilot lost no time in making the major and
his officer understand that their condition was the result of their
exposure to the hardships and labours incident to a new location in
the bush; where it was necessary to cut out roads, build huts, and
clear away timber, without regard to the devastations or habits of
roughness which such employments produced in the habiliments or
manners of the working portion of the projectors. The present men, he
assured them, "had been carefully selected by the commandant from
nearly a hundred and fifty government servants working on their
probation, and that seeing the great peril to which the brig was
likely to be exposed, he would not allow the men to change their
clothes, but had sent them off as they were, thinking the safety of
the vessel and the security of those on board (whose skill and
courage, he said, had filled the commandant with admiration) of much
more importance than the appearance of the party despatched to assist
them."

It would seem as if fortune favoured the conspirators in this subtle
plot; for at the moment of their coming on board, a gentle play of
wind came down the channel, slightly rippling the surface of the
water, thus justifying the cautionary forebodings of the supposed
pilot; at the same time that a gathering of light clouds was seen on
the lofty summit of Mount Wellington in the distance. The whole of the
scanty crew were gathered together in a body, curious to look at the
new comers, so that their leader judged it would be too hazardous to
attempt a surprise at a time when all the male protectors of the
vessel were on deck, and ready to defend themselves. He waited,
therefore, for a more fitting occasion. The opportunity presently
presented itself. The mate, after exchanging a word of approval with
the major, without waiting for the authority of the pilot, went
forward with the crew to weigh the anchor; for the tide was beginning
to flow, and with wind enough to give the vessel steerageway, it was
desirable that not a moment should be lost in working the ship out of
the dangerous channel in which they were confined.

The leader of the band at once seized the opportunity:--

"Here, my lads," he cried out to his yellow-jackets, "take the
capstan--bars in your hands, and work away cheerily; show the boys on
board what you can do. These capstan-bars," he observed significantly,
"would form good weapons in case of need."

His followers took the hint. They possessed themselves of the bars
instantly, and looked to their leader. But Mark saw that it was not
yet the time; the sailors were all on deck, as well as the major and
the steward, who were in the stern of the vessel, and within reach of
the hatchway of the cabin in the lockers of which the arms were
deposited. Besides, it was an important object with them to get the
vessel speedily under weigh, and to contrive to put out to sea, for he
calculated that the authorities at Hobart Town would not be long in
ascertaining their escape from the barracks; and the boat, which would
soon be missed, would make them aware of the object of the absconders.
With these thoughts, he urged his men to put their strength to the
work, and in a few minutes the anchor was apeak, and the vessel under
sail.

"We shall be able to beat up now," said the mate, cheerfully, and
rubbing his hands; "the wind is getting up, and soon we shall have a
stiffish breeze if it holds on."

"We shall never be able to work up with the wind dead against us,"
said the pilot; revolving in his mind some expedient to get the
vessel's head put the other way; "you have come in by the wrong
passage; you ought to have gone round, and made your way up by Storm
Bay."

"An ominous name," observed the major, "for an entrance into a new
country!"

"You have plenty of sea-room there," said the pilot; "and if it does
blow, you can keep off the land; but in these narrow channels, what
with the juttings out of land, and the shoals, and currents running in
all sorts of directions where you least expect them, it is difficult
to get through them with a fair wind--much less with a wind right in
your teeth as this is."

"Perhaps it would save time to go back," said the major, "and make
the other passage?"

"The tide would be against us," said the mate.

"But the wind is against you now," observed the pilot; "and that's
worse, if it should come on to blow hard, and there's every appearance
of it. You see Mount Wellington has put on his nightcap, and that's
always a sign of a gale. But you are too good a seaman," he added to
the mate, "not to know the advantage of having sea-room in a gale of
wind. And it would be a sad thing," he continued, turning to the
major, "for this little vessel to be lost after having come safely all
the distance from the other side of the globe."

The major was struck with the apparent candour and justice of these
observations, and looked at his officer inquiringly. But that clear-
headed and plain-dealing son of the sea could not be made to
understand that the nearest way to a port was to sail away from it. He
sturdily resisted the proposition.

"If the worst comes to the worst," he said, "we can let go the anchor
again, and that will hold us on; even though it should blow great
guns, which, upon my word, looks likely, for the breeze is freshening
up every minute, and I don't like the look of those mares' tails to
windward yonder."

"And how will you get your anchor to hold?" pursued the pilot. "It's
all very well there-abouts," pointing towards the spot from which the
vessel was flying at a rapid rate; "but this channel has scarcely any
anchorage ground, as every one knows; why, most parts of it are paved
with rocks as regular as the Strand in London! You would never get
your anchor to bite--much less hold!"

"We might gain time, after all," said the major to the mate, "by
trying the broader passage; this wind would soon take us out of this
strait; and we should be at the same distance from Hobart Town as we
are now, in a few hours, with a better chance of beating up. How long
does the wind last in this quarter," he asked the pilot, "when it
blows fresh?"

"Three days; always three days; it's as regular as a clock. Every
inhabitant of the colony knows it; it's a sort of proverb among the
towns--people to say, that a thing will last as long as a three days'
spell from Mount Wellington."

"I think we had better take the pilot's advice," said the major; "he
must know best."

"I can't gainsay that he ought to know best in these parts, which he
understands the ways of, and I don't," replied the officer; "but I can
never agree that the shortest way to a port is to go away from it; and
as to this wind--why, it's nothing to what we have gone through
before!" But at this moment, as if to belie the honest seaman's
judgment, and to aid the iniquitous designs of the conspirators, a
furious blast from the north called the attention of all on duty to
the care of the vessel; and the pilot, profiting by the opportunity,
immediately put her before the squall with her head towards the
entrance of the channel. The squall passed over as quickly as it came,
but the pilot still continued his outward course, though not without
the expression of considerable dissatisfaction on the part of the
mate, whose suspicions of the ignorance of the pilot became
strengthened by a course of proceeding so contrary to the worthy
officer's experience in the practice of navigation. But as his
employer, the owner of the vessel, was an assenting party, he
submitted, though with a very ill-grace, giving vent to his
displeasure in a succession of grumblings much resembling the sound of
the north wind, which was roaring and increasing behind them.

Nor were the crew of the vessel better pleased with the proceedings
of the Australian pilot, who, they were not long in detecting, with
that almost instinctive knowledge possessed by sailors of their
brothers of the ocean, had very small pretensions to the name of a
seaman. But as they were only humble subordinates on board, they had
nothing to do but to obey, though the pilot saw by their looks that
they were not in a humour to submit tamely to any overt aggression. He
waited, therefore, patiently, till an opportunity should occur to put
his plan in execution; for it was not until the crew were below, and
his own men conveniently disposed about the hatchway of the
passengers' cabin, that he could hope to get possession of the ship's
arms, and be in a position to command success.

The retrograde course of the vessel, however, inspired a general
gloom over all on board, except those interested in its execution, and
who were anxiously waiting for the signal of their leader to adopt
measures more open and decisive. The sisters felt a vague presentiment
of evil arising from the disappointment of being obliged to recede
from the long-desired haven of their hopes and fears, the encompassing
hills of which were in tantalizing sight; nor could the major divest
himself of a certain feeling of dissatisfaction with himself for
having yielded to the authority of the pilot in opposition to the
opinion of his officer.

But the storm, which rapidly increased, seemed to justify the
pilot's apprehensions, and the major felt ashamed to suspect the
judgment of a man who had so clearly warned him of its coming. The
mate, also, was almost shaken in his opinion; but as the gale
increased, he had no thoughts for anything but the safety of the ship,
which, urged by the furious north wind, made her way rapidly back to
the entrance of the channel, and stood out towards the open sea.



Chapter V. The Pursuit.

IN the mean time the flight of the prisoners had not escaped the
vigilance of the authorities at head-quarters; but it was not until
the discovery of the abstraction of the boat which had been left
unguarded at the further end of Sandy Bay, which lies to the right as
you look from Hobart Town towards the sea, that the party made ready
for the pursuit of the runaways could be put on the right scent.

Thus guided in their search, the pursuing party, consisting of two
constables and a corporal's party of soldiers, embarked in a light
boat made of the aromatic white pine, a wood of peculiar lightness,
which is obtained chiefly by the labours of the convicts at Macquarie
Harbour to the west of the island of Van Diemen, and which is
admirably adapted, from its lightness, elasticity, and toughness, for
the construction of whale-boats. They had four sailors from the
government armed brig to use the oars, and the whole party was well
armed, as well to guard against any attack on the part of the natives,
as to be in an efficient state to contend with the bushrangers, should
they have been able to supply themselves with arms. It seemed that
their business was considered in no ordinary degree of a serious
nature, as the wife of one of the constables accompanied him to the
jetty where the party was to embark, where she took leave of him with
much appearance of affection:--

"You will be making a widow of me, one of these days," said she, "if
you go on these dangerous expeditions; and Mark Brandon is not a man
to be taken alive without a scrimmage."

"Never fear," said her considerate helpmate; "there's plenty of
husbands to be got in Van Diemen's Land; that's some comfort for all
of you. I'll be bound before the end of the week you'll have another."

"A week! you brute! Do you think I don't know what's decent for a
respectable woman to conform to? A year, you mean; that's the regular
mourning; or, at the least, six months, as it's not a regular country,
and only a colony. To be sure, Kitty Flurriman did marry again one
month after her poor man met with his misfortune;--it was a shame to
hang such a good-looking man as he was;--but to think that I would do
such a thing at the end of a month, or even two months!"...What
definite time the lady might have fixed as the ne plus ultra term of
widowhood it is impossible to say, as the boat was now out of hearing.
The conversation, however, on Mark Brandon was continued in the boat.

"Who is this Mark Brandon?" asked the corporal, who was a sub--
officer in the "Buffs," a battalion of which had recently arrived in
the colony.

"Don't you know Mark Brandon?" said the constable with some surprise;
"why, he's as well known here as Dick Turpin in the old country. He is
the most famous bushranger that ever went out. He was pardoned by the
governor only last year, when he was cast for death; but you see,"
said the constable, winking his eye, "there was a lady in the case."

"Oh, ho! handsome fellow, eh?"

"As clean-made and good-looking a fellow as ever you set eyes on.
Here's a description of him in this paper." The constable read from
the list:--

"'Mark Brandon, five feet eleven inches in height; broad-shouldered;
waist slim; foot small; brown hair; blue eyes; fair complexion; his
hands rather white and delicate.' Then here's the description of the
others: 'Roger Grough, James Swindell---'"

"Never mind them just now," said the corporal; "tell us about this
Mark Brandon: what was he lagged for?"

"Smuggling;--at least so they say; but of course you can never get
the truth of what they are sent out for from the prisoners; but I
believe it's the truth in his case."

"That was nothing very bad," remarked the corporal.

"Bad! no: nobody thinks anything of it here. It's only when a fellow
has done anything at home that's unfair and mean, such as murders and
robberies, and such like, that he's looked down on. But as for
smuggling! bless your heart, nobody thinks much the worse of a man
here for that, nor at home neither, so far as I know. What is it? It's
only giving the go--by to the government: Lord love you! what's the
harm of that?"

"How was it, then, that they treated this Mark so bad as to drive him
to take to the bush? Has he been doing anything wrong here?"

"Why, you see, he was assigned when he came over, to a master up the
country; and some of the settlers treat their government men
dreadfully severe, and Mark couldn't stand it; and when his master
threatened him with his cattle-whip one day, he knocked his master
down. He might have got off if he had suffered himself to be taken
before the magistrate, for the settlers are not allowed to strike
their men. But Mark's blood was up, and he took to the bush--that was
more than two year ago--and of course he robbed the settlers' houses
of tea, sugar, and ammunition, and things; but he never shed blood;
only tied people neck and heels together, and things of that sort--
very wrong of course--but not near so bad as some."

"Bad enough, to my thinking."

"Well; he was taken at last, as they all are, sooner or later, and
cast for death; but somehow interest was made with the governor--and
they do say a certain lady had taken a fancy to him--but that's no
business of mine; and so the best was made of his case, how it was,
through the tyranny of his master, that he was driven to take to the
bush; and how civil and polite he was to the settlers that he robbed,
especially the ladies, and so he got off. But they made him work in
chains, and that's what galled him, I dare say. He was not the chap to
stand that any ways."

"And what sort of a man is he?" asked the corporal; "a lady's man?"

"When he has a mind to it, they say, he is the most carnying devil
that ever came over a woman. But he is a most determined fellow for
all that. He will not be taken alive, you may depend upon it; for he
must know he has nothing to expect but to scrag for this last break-
out."

"Of course not: then I suppose we may look out for a tussle." The
soldiers at this mechanically handled their firelocks.

"Are the bushrangers armed?"

"We don't know; but it stands to reason that they never would start
for the bush this way without arms and ammunition; for it's not like
the interior where they might get arms from the settlers; there are no
inhabitants down the river but the natives."

"There goes the signal up!" said the corporal; "some vessel in
sight."

"I see," said the constable; "we may fall in with her, perhaps, when
we get further down the river. But where to look for these fellows?
that's the point! We think they made away with the boat last night,
just after dark, so that they have a good start; but they can hardly
do anything with such a boat at sea, for she was but a small one, and
had nothing in her but her oars. If they are after going round the
coast, they will take the western side, so as to avoid the track of
vessels between this and Sydney; and so we will keep away to the right
towards the channel, and keepand a sharp look-out as we go by."

With this view they hugged the shore on the west, and a breeze soon
after springing up, with the assistance of their sail they made rapid
progress down the river without seeing anything suspicious in their
way. The constable, who had the direction of the party, as the most
experienced among them, was inclined to make a stop after they had
proceeded some way down the channel; but at this moment, in turning
round a projecting point of land, the steersman caught sight of a
vessel in the distance, which was standing across the channel, and
beating her way up under a stiff breeze on the larboard tack; when
suddenly the vessel, which was made out to be a brig, and of small
burthen, was seen to change her course, and under a press of sail,
make her way down the channel.

This strange manoeuvre roused the suspicion of the pursuers of the
runaways, and as their boat was light and fast, they determined to
endeavour to overtake the brig, not without some misgivings that the
cleverness and the daring of the celebrated Mark Brandon had enabled
him to get possession of the vessel.



Chapter VI. The Stratagem.

THE gallant brig had nearly reached the entrance of D'Entrecasteaux'
channel when the squall from Mount Wellington ceased as suddenly as it
rose; and presently the wind was lulled into a calm. The experienced
mate, however, was not to be deceived by this suspicious suspension of
the blast.

"What are we going to have now?" he said to the leader of the
bushrangers, whom, in his capacity of pilot, it was his duty to
consult: "I don't like this lull; they are only getting ready a fresh
hand to the bellows, I fancy. I suppose the wind shifts on this side
of the world much as it does on t'other. I think the bank right
ahead--to the south, yonder--begins to rise."

"You are quite right," replied the supposed pilot; "and with such a
man as you on board you have no need of a pilot; the vessel is quite
safe in your hands: you seem to know the way of the winds in the New
World as well as if you had been born among them. A better seaman I
never...."

"Avast there, mate!" said the honest officer; "you give us too much
of that; why, you have got the gift of the gab like a sea-lawyer! To
be sure this is not the first time I've looked the winds in the face.
But we had better try to put her head about; if it comes on to blow
from the south, it will be a fair wind for us up the channel."

"Better get out," said the pilot, "and have searoom; when it comes
on to blow from the southward it always blows great guns; and this is
a nasty channel to be sticking in--full of shoals and rocks, and
headlands stretching out in every direction."

"You seem to have taken a great dislike to the channel," replied the
mate: "for my part I don't see any great harm in it: and Horseman says
it's good enough if you mind your soundings; and the chart is clear.
What makes you so anxious to get out of it?"

Two or three of the yellow jackets were standing in the fore part of
the vessel near the pilot and the mate during their brief colloquy,
and it struck the worthy officer that there was an expression in their
faces incongruous with their characters; and he thought he observed a
glance of intelligence pass between one of them and their leader. A
vague suspicion crossed the mate's mind; but as there was nothing
definite to give it substance, it passed way for the moment, but
afterwards it recurred to him. As he went aft to take the orders of
the major, he heard a voice, which it seemed to him proceeded from the
same man whose look he had observed, ask in a low tone:--

"Is it time?"

The mate turned round, and gazed inquiringly at the group in the
forecastle.

"Is it time?" he repeated; "time for what?"

"He was asking," replied the pilot, rather hastily, "if it was time
to go about: but I see the major has come on deck; we will consult him
as to what he would like to do with his vessel." Saying this, he went
aft, following the mate.

The sisters were gazing listlessly at the land from which they were
unwillingly receding with the change of tide, and the gallant Mr.
Silliman found it impossible to inspire either of them with those
feelings of mirthful gaiety with which they were accustomed to receive
his assiduities. The major was supporting his youngest daughter by the
arm, as the motion of the vessel from the broken sea rendered it
difficult for her to stand on deck. Helen, on the contrary, stood
erect and alone, with one hand grasping the bulwark, and the other
holding the ship's glass, which she condescended to allow Mr. Silliman
to support at the other end, to keep it steady. The honour of this
position was perfect bliss to that enraptured individual, who made
extraordinary exertions to call into exercise the utmost dexterity of
his sea legs, so that the view of the beautiful Helen might not be
disarranged.

"Do you see anything, Miss Helen?" he ventured to inquire in a tone
of extreme insinuation.

"Nothing but the brim of your ugly hat," replied the lady.

"Bless me! I beg a thousand pardons; it's the rolling of the sea:
there again; I hope I did not hurt you: now do you see anything?"

"I see something. Papa, come and look through the glass just as it is
now. Stand still," she said to Mr. Silliman, "and do try to be steady:
a pretty sailor not to be able to bear the rolling of the ship! Look,
papa, I see something like a swan."

"A swan! my love: then it must be a black one, for all the swans are
black, they say on this side of the earth. A swan! my dear; no it's no
swan, but the sail of a boat that you see, I think.--Mr. Northland,
what do you make of it?"

"A boat with her square-sail up," pronounced the mate, with
professional precision, after taking a brief earnest look at the
object. "She looks like a large whale-boat by her make; but she is too
large for that work,--she is coming down with the tide. What do you
say to it, pilot?"

There was a visible embarrassment, on the part of the supposed pilot,
at this communication. A slight paleness came over his countenance, as
if he was struck with some uncontrollable emotion, and then his face
flushed with excitement. As he looked round with an attempt to appear
unconcerned, he encountered the eye of Helen, which was fixed
steadfastly upon him. He quailed for an instant beneath the
penetrating gaze of that brilliant eye, and, hastily taking the ship's
glass from the mate's hands to cover his confusion, he directed it
towards the object; but his hand trembled, and the glass shook
visibly.

"Rather a shaky hand," remarked the mate to the major, in a whisper;
"but there's no duty on grog in this part of the world."

The whisper of the mate seemed to discompose the pilot a little. He
took his eye from the glass, and searched the countenances of the
bystanders; but seeing nothing in them to alarm, he applied himself
again to his scrutiny of the boat.

While he was so employed, Helen made a sign to her father to come
near her. They moved round to the side of the binnacle, leaving the
pilot, with his back towards them, looking through the glass.

"Papa," said Helen, in a whisper, "I have been watching the
countenance of that man. He changed colour when the mate spoke of the
boat. Depend upon it, there is something about that boat that troubles
him."

"It must be fancy, my love; there can be nothing in the appearance of
a boat to disturb the pilot. It is only fancy."

"Dear papa, it is not fancy. I cannot be mistaken in the countenance
of that man; it is one of the most remarkable I ever saw. I watched
him; and I am sure that the boat in sight has had some powerful effect
on him. He does not look like a man to be moved by a slight cause."

"Well, my dear girl, the shortest way is to ask him.--Pilot," said
the major, addressing the bushranger, "what do you see in that boat to
disturb you?"

"To disturb me!" replied the pilot, regarding the major fixedly. "Why
do you suppose that the sight of that boat disturbs me? What do you
suppose the boat has to do with us--I mean, with me?"

"But what do you think of her?" interrupted the mate, who was a
little out of patience with the lengthened examination of the pilot.
"You have had a pretty long spell at the glass; long enough to make
her out, I'm sure. What do you think of her?"

"I will take another look at her," replied the bushranger, who was
anxious to gain time to enable him to devise some scheme to counteract
the dangerous approach of the boat, which, he had no doubt, had been
despatched after him and his associates by the government authorities;
"I can see her plainer now."

"And what do you make of her?" repeated the mate.

"It's only a boat," replied the bushranger, continuing to look
anxiously through the glass.

"Well, if it's only a boat, there's an end of it," said the mate.
"There's a light air coming from the southward," he said to the major;
"I suppose we may stand up now with the wind in our favour."

"But the tide is against us," observed the pilot, "and if it comes on
to blow--and I don't like the looks of that bank which you first
observed rising yonder--you would find yourself cramped in this narrow
channel."

"I'll never agree to go out of the channel with a fair wind up,"
exclaimed the mate. "Why, friend, you are for not going up the channel
any way! Before, it was the wind that was against us, and then we were
not to go up; and now that we are getting the wind, it is because the
tide is against us that we are not to go up! Beg pardon--no offence
meant; but, to my thinking, you don't want us to go up the channel at
all?"

"The boat is coming nearer," cried out Mr. Silliman, who, as all the
others had done with it, was allowed to use the glass: "I can see it
as plain as can be; and they have taken the sail down, and they are
pulling with all their might, I can see. They have got the tide in
their favour, and they will soon be down on us; we shall hear some
news now! Hurrah!"

The bushranger snatched the glass out of the exulting Mr. Silliman's
hand with an abruptness which made that astonished individual open his
mouth with surprise. With a firm hand, and with a certain air of
determination, he applied the glass to his eye, and directed it to the
still distant boat, which, however, propelled by the oars of the
pursuing party, and assisted by the tide, was rapidly approaching the
brig. Helen had observed the impetuous motion of the pilot, and had
watched his varying countenance as he gazed through the glass.
Prompted by an irresistible impulse, she gave vent to her vague
suspicion of danger, and spoke:--

"Sir," she said to the pilot, "I am sure there is something about
that coming boat which disturbs you. You know something about it, you
do--I am sure you do," she repeated, her eyes kindling, and her cheeks
reddening with excitement. "If there is danger, do not deceive us, but
tell us in time, that we may be prepared for it. Do not suppose," she
said, taking hold of her sister's hand, "that because we are women we
are afraid. We have looked on the dangers of the sea without terror,
confident in our skill and our courage; and we can look without fear
on this new danger--for danger there is, I know, by your look and
manner at this moment, Speak, I say, and let us know at once what the
danger is?"

The spirited words of the heroic girl unfortunately inspired the
bushranger with a happy thought. He seized on the suggestion of danger
from the boat with the readiness of practised dissimulation. Forming
his plan on the instant, he replied without hesitation, and with an
expression of feeling and interest in the welfare of the women which
disarmed suspicion:--

"Major, I fear your gifted daughter is right. I wished to make my
communication when they were gone below; but there is no time to be
lost; and these courageous girls shame us with their spirit. But I
will do justice to their courage! and say at once there is danger....
..."

"Danger!" said the mate, looking about him: "where from?"

"Danger!" repeated the major, in a voice of mingled surprise and
emotion, and clasping his youngest daughter with instinctive
tenderness,--"danger from that boat?"

"Yes," replied the supposed pilot; "and there is no time to lose if
we are to defend ourselves. That boat, I have no doubt, contains the
party of bushrangers that broke away from camp some days ago: the
commandant at the look-out has had notice of them; and their design
must be to endeavour to take this vessel. They are well armed; it is
supposed there are about a dozen of them: and as the villains are
desperate, they will make a determined attack on us. However, I for
one am ready to fight for you; and if you will arm your men, my people
shall work the vessel while they defend us."

"Let it be done at once," said the major. "This is a most unlucky
accident! However, it is fortunate that we have you on board to help
us." So saying, he descended to the cabin in all haste to prepare the
arms and ammunition.

The bushranger, meantime, went forward, as if for the purpose of
giving directions to the party under his control. As he passed his
confederates, he said, in a low firm voice, to each of them:--

"Be ready."



Chapter VII. The Attack.

THE consummate art of the bushranger in proposing that the crew of
the vessel should be armed, while his own men undertook the management
of the vessel, had its intended effect. There was no suspicion on the
part of the major or of his people that the approaching boat was
really in pursuit of the absconded prisoners on board the brig; and
the activity of the supposed pilot in preparing the means of defence
was regarded as corroborating evidence of the danger threatened to the
vessel. All was activity on deck; muskets, pistols, and cutlasses were
brought up from the cabin, and ammunition was disinterred from the
lockers: and the bushranger took care to provide himself amply with
the means of defence or offence, as the case might be.

Still he was well aware that the moment was critical and most
perilous. He was now in the worst position: his confederates were
defenceless; the sailors of the vessel were armed, and prepared to
resist aggression: and the boat, which he had no doubt contained a
government party in pursuit, was coming nearer and nearer every
minute. But with a coolness and courage worthy of a better object, he
bided his time, and waited with patience for the result, which he
calculated must take place when his men attempted to work the vessel.

At this time a brisk breeze had sprung up from the south, which gave
the advantage to the brig over an attacking boat, as it enabled the
vessel to choose her position. The increase of the wind rendered a
corresponding arrangement of the sails necessary; but here the
ignorance and blundering of the supposed pilot's men was too provoking
to be endured by the angry mate:--

"What do you call your fellows?" he broke out to the pilot: "do you
call that chap a sailor? See how he handles a rope! By----! look at
that fellow sticking in the shrouds! There's another creeping through
lubber's hole! That's right, my man, take care of your precious limbs!
Oh! this will never do," he said to the major; "these men will never
work the vessel: such a lubberly set I never set eyes on! There goes
the jib! Hold on there, hold on! By----! you'll have the maintopsail-
yard down by the run. Pilot, hold your men off. What's the use of such
a pack of fools? Keep an eye on the boat, some one, can't you? A
pretty set, that don't know the main-sheet from the topsail-halyards;
and they can't fight! No, not they! I should like to know what they
are fit for?"

"Do you think your men would stand by us?" asked the major, eagerly,
of the pilot; "you see we want our own people to work the vessel."

"Fight!" said the pilot; "they will fight like devils, depend upon
it, when the time comes; but of course you can't expect them to be
used to arms," he added carelessly: "however, they will do their best.
Come aft, my men." They quickly came at the voice of their leader.

"The major says he wants his sailors to work the vessel; and he asks
me if you will stand by us to defend the brig from the bushrangers
coming on to attack us in the boat yonder?"

The diligent Mr. Silliman, who was examining the boat through the
ship's glass, cried out at this moment, "I can see the men in the
boat, and I can see the gleam of some muskets: the boat is full of the
rascals!"

"Make haste, then," said the bushranger; "relieve the sailors of
their arms; and be ready to use them," he said, significantly, "when I
give the word."

The exchange of duties between the sailors and the conspirators was
the work of a minute only; and the crew of the vessel became
immediately busied in trimming the sails and attending to the ship;
while the supposed pilot and his gang stood with arms in their hands,
ready to pounce on their unsuspecting victims.

The bushranger felt that the time had come when he must strike a
decisive blow; but first he ran rapidly over in his head a scheme to
get the major and his chief officer below, in order that the crew,
being deprived of their leaders, might be more easily mastered: his
object was unexpectedly furthered by the officious Mr. Silliman.

"Major," said that bustling individual, as he hurriedly loaded his
musket with an excessively martial air, "would it not be better for
the young ladies to go below? they will only be in our way on deck,
and hinder us from fighting."

"We shall work the better," put in the pilot, "if we are assured that
your daughters, major, are out of the reach of the bullets."

Louisa, who was very pale, assented to this suggestion without reply;
but Helen, who was flushed and excited, remonstrated and resisted. "I
can fire a gun," she said, "as well as any of you; any woman can do
that: and where my dear father is there will I be also:" and saying
this she seized a musket, and held it in the attitude of a heroine
prepared for war.

It required all her father's entreaties and, at last, commands to
induce her to descend into the cabin. The major was obliged to lay
down his weapons and accompany her below. The bushranger saw his
opportunity, but the troublesome Mr. Silliman came breathless to the
entrance of the companion-way, and bawled "Major, major, I can see the
red coats of soldiers in the boat!"

"Soldiers!" said the major; "what can that mean? But they are in my
line; I'll soon be up and give a look at them."

"Mr. Northland," called out the pilot, "the major is asking for you
below; something about the dead-lights, I believe."

"Aye, aye, sir," said the mate, as he ran aft; "look out, pilot, the
boat's upon us;" and by an indescribable process of locomotion, which
sailors alone possess, he dived down below, and his head disappeared
in a twinkling.

The bushranger immediately made a sign to four of his men who were
near him to close the hatchway: it was done in an instant. At the same
time he presented his own musket, which he cocked with an audible
click, at the man at the wheel. Mr. Silliman observed these
extraordinary manoeuvres, which altogether exceeded his nautical
experience, with inexpressible astonishment; but before he had time to
make up his mind what to do, he was seized by two of the bushrangers,
disarmed, and on his resisting, with the courage of desperation, their
attempt to bind his hands and feet, was without ceremony pitched into
the sea.

"That was wrong," said Mark Brandon, quietly; "never take life if you
can avoid it: but the boat will pick him up; and after all, perhaps,
he was of no great value."

In the mean time, the carpenter, who was a cool and determined
fellow, with three of the crew, armed themselves with the capstan-
bars, resolved to resist, though unable to make out the reason or
object of the sudden attack on them by the pilot and his followers;
but the bushranger, rushing forward with four of his fellows,
presented their muskets; and the sailors, taken unawares and in
amazement at the suddenness and strangeness of the proceeding, and
seeing, besides, that resistance was hopeless, quietly surrendered.
The rest of the crew were as easily brought under subjection, and,
having been bound hand and foot, were placed singly in convenient
places below, and in less than ten minutes the vessel was in the
possession of the marauders.

"Now, my men," cried out Mark Brandon, "a cheer for liberty!" His
associates raised a wild hurrah, which conveyed to the inmates in the
cabin the information that the vessel was overpowered; but by whom or
how was a mystery! The mate put his head out of the stern window, but
the bushranger was too well on his guard to permit such an escape;
and, meeting the muzzles of two muskets close to his face, the enraged
officer was obliged to retreat, though not without venting his
discontent in a vigorous volley of nautical abjurations.

Mark Brandon now took the helm, and, making a gesture of defiance
with his fist at the still distant boat, he immediately turned the
vessel's head back again towards the south; and, under all the sail
that she could carry, the captured brig making short tacks stood out
to sea.



Chapter VIII. Information.

THE unfortunate Mr. Jeremiah Silliman made more philosophical
reflections during his rapid evolution from the deck of the brig to
the waters of the sea, than had ever occurred to him in the whole of
his previous life. The first dreadful thought that presented itself to
him was that he could not swim! but before he could give vent in words
to the novel sensations which assailed him he found himself plunged
under the waves, and descending beneath them with a velocity
proportionate to his specific gravity and the precipitancy of his
descent. As he felt himself hurrying down to those abodes, which in
the poetical simplicity of his imagination he had been wont to picture
as the dwelling-place of sea--nymphs with green gauze robes and coral
necklaces, but which he now contemplated with affright as abounding in
enormous crayfishes and voracious ground-sharks, deeply and
energetically did he lament that his love of the romantic had led him
away from the peaceful haunts of Cheapside and Cornhill to the
villainous shores of Botany Bay; and much did he marvel at the
disagreeableness of his reception into the bosom of the land of his
adoption.

Such and so sad were the curious reflections which were suddenly
forced on him by the novelty of his situation; and still he went down
and down, as it seemed to him, and deeper and deeper still, till his
thoughts became confused, and he felt a cold, fishy sensation, as if
he had became partially transformed into the semblance of a scaly
inhabitant of the deep; gradually his feelings became blunted; his
last thoughts were of the brig from which he had been unceremoniously
cast, and the bright eyes from which he was for ever separated,--even
in the last moment he could not make up his mind which he preferred--
and then the dimness of death came over him;--he mentally uttered a
fragment of a prayer, and all was oblivion!

The party in the boat, however, had not failed to notice the
summerset involuntarily performed by the luckless individual in
question: and the occurrence, indicating that violence was going on in
the brig, confirmed the suspicion to which the unaccountable changes
in her course had given rise,--that the bushrangers had got possession
of the vessel.

"There's bloody work going on, I'm thinking, on board that craft,"
said the constable, who was sitting with his face towards the head of
the boat. "I saw one chap pitched overboard plain enough: I wonder
which party he belonged to."

"Give way, my men," cried the corporal, standing up in the boat, and
looking through a glass with which he was provided. "I can see the
body, it has come to the surface of the water; it's not above half a
mile from us. Give way--stick to your oars--and we shall save him yet,
whoever he is!"

The men bent stoutly to their oars, and in a few minutes, the tide
being in their favour, they shot up alongside of the floating body,
which they caught just as it was sinking for the last time. The
lifeless corpse as it seemed, was quickly hauled into the boat, and a
brief consultation was held as to the best means to be adopted for its
recovery.

"Nothing better than a bit of salt beef," suggested an old sailor:
"rub it well in; I know it recovered a man off Yarmouth--at home--that
had been in the water more than four hours: the salt, you see, rouses
him up, if there's any life in him."

"This is not one of the bushrangers," pronounced the constable, as
they stripped off the clothes from the drowned man in order to give
him the benefit of the salt beef recipe prescribed by the old sailor;
"this must be one of the people of the vessel; he looks like a sailor
by his dress, but his hands are too smooth for that; perhaps he's a
passenger."

"Rub away, my hearties," urged the sea-doctor; "rub it into him, and
if there's any life left, the beef will fetch it out."

The body of the unconscious Jeremiah was excoriated accordingly,
secundum artem (salsi junki), the boat continuing its pursuit of the
vessel nevertheless, as the surmises of the officials were confirmed
by the appearance of the body which they had rescued from the water.
At last, after a prodigious quantity of rubbing, which reduced the
person of the apparently deceased to a substance closely resembling
the material which was made use of as a flesh-brush, signs of warmth
were observed in the body, and presently a sigh was ejaculated which
indicated returning sensibility. The progress of the boat was
suspended for a few minutes at this interesting success of the old
mariner's surgical operation, and the attention of all was directed to
foster the breath of returning life which the stranger now exhibited.
The result was speedily favourable;--the man, rescued from death, sat
up, and looked around him.

"How do you find yourself, my hearty?" said the corporal; "you have
had a narrow escape."

The stranger stared at him unmeaningly.

"Who are you?" asked the constable, anxious to ascertain the
condition of the vessel, and to learn some tidings of the bushrangers;
"what's your name, and who are you?"

But the intellects of the poor man had been too much obfuscated by
the salt water, to say nothing of the subsequent scarification to
which he had been subjected, to understand where he was, or what had
happened to him.

"Can't you tell us who you are?" repeated the constable, impatient to
get at some information for his guidance; "what are you?"

"A freeman of London, and a liveryman," answered Jerry, his mind
wandering to former scenes.

"His wits are a wool-gathering," said the constable.

"It's the water that's swamped 'em," said the ancient mariner; "salt
water grog's poor stuff at any time, 'specially without the rum: and
this cove has had too much of it for one bout."

"What are you, and who do you belong to?" repeated the constable,
giving the reviving man a little shake in his impatience.

"The Chandlers' Company," replied Jerry; "and so did my father before
me. I'm a freeman, I say--and a liveryman; and if I don't shoot the
centre arch of Battersea bridge...."

"What company did he say he belonged to?" asked the corporal, "the
Chandlers'? He means Captain Chandlers!--Ask him what regiment? And he
said something about shooting; I can't make it out at all."

"It's not that," said the constable; "but he seems plucking up a bit.
How is it now with you, my man? We have saved you from drowning. Who
was it that chucked you overboard from the brig yonder? Have the
bushrangers got possession of the vessel?"

The word "bushrangers" seemed to strike some responsive chord in the
bewildered man's memory.

"Bushrangers!" said he, "bushrangers! Ah, that's it! The bushrangers
have got me, and now I'm done for!"

"No, no," said the corporal; "we are not bushrangers: look at our red
coats; we are soldiers going after the bushrangers. Look here, man,
bushrangers don't keep their arms bright like ours. Can't you tell the
difference between a bushranger and a gentleman in his Majesty's
service? Look at our firelocks; bushrangers can't show such tools as
these!"

By degrees, the recovered Jeremiah began to understand what had
happened to him, and the character of the party who had saved him from
drowning. He was excessively rejoiced at his fortunate escape, and
vowed manfully that if he could only come across that insinuating
rascal of a pilot, he would serve him out for his ungenteel behaviour.
He narrated all the events that had happened; how the chief of the
gang had introduced himself on board as a pilot; the plot which he had
schemed to get his confederates into the vessel; and the art with
which he had contrived to transfer the arms of the sailors to his own
followers, under the pretence of leaving the crew of the brig at
liberty to manage the vessel in the approaching encounter with the
boat which the major was made to believe contained the runaway
prisoners who actually were on board all the time.

"By George!" said the constable, "that is Mark Brandon all over! That
man would circumvent the very devil himself! It's impossible to be up
to all his dodges! But what's to be done now? The wind's getting up,
and that's all in favour of the rascals on board the brig. How many
did you say there were with Mark?"

"Six others," replied Jerry. "And now I recollect we all thought them
most desperate-looking ruffians: but that Mark Brandon, as you call
him, is quite a genteel person; there doesn't seem to be much harm in
him."

"Didn't he chuck you overboard?" asked the corporal.

"No; it was two other chaps. Mark, as you call him, was standing by
the man at the wheel with a cocked musket presented at his head."

"Just like him!" said one of the sailors; "that's their way. Somehow,
all the bushrangers take to the same ways. When they attack a man they
make him throw his arms above his head, and then they stick the muzzle
of a fowling-piece, or a musket, if they have one--but they don't like
muskets, they are so heavy to carry about--close to his ear; and then
what can a man do? No pleasant thing, I can assure you; I have felt it
myself."

"But what's to be done," repeated the constable; "are we to attempt
to attack the bushrangers in the brig with this boat? Let us see;--how
many are we? Four at the oar--two of us constables, and the corporal
with his two men--that's nine; and with the new comer, ten against
seven: we can do it easily, corporal."

"If we could only get at them fairly, we could do it," replied the
corporal; "but the odds would be against us with a vessel under sail:
they could fire on us from the protection of the sides of the vessel;
and four of our party at least would have to use their oars. There
ought to have been more of us."

"There are more of the bushrangers," replied the constable, "than
were reckoned on in camp to have made their escape; it was supposed
that only Mark and two others had gone off: but half a dozen, with
Mark Brandon at the head of them, is a formidable party--and all well-
armed too!"

"There will be the major's party on board, as this gentleman says, to
help us; and, as the major has seen service, he would know how to
second us if it came to a brush."

"Lord bless you!" replied the constable, "you don't suppose the
bushrangers will be troubled with the crew of the vessel; bless your
heart! they'll get rid of'em in no time."

"What, murder them in cold blood!"

"Ay, any way: why their rule is, never to give away a chance: depend
upon it there's not one of the crew left alive at this moment."

"What! nor the old major neither!" exclaimed the corporal, his
professional sympathies excited for the fate of an officer; "will they
kill the major, think you?"

"Have killed him," said the constable; "they have killed him, I'll be
bound. You're new in the colony, corporal, and don't know the ways of
these fellows: they make short work of it when it serves their plan to
do so. Do you think they would keep a witness alive to hang them?"

"But the young ladies!" interposed Jeremiah; "the poor major's
daughters! They would never kill them! They couldn't be such brutes as
to kill two young girls!"

"Are they pretty?--though that would not matter much with
bushrangers:--but are they pretty?"

"Both," replied Jeremiah, "very beautiful; the elder one--that's
Helen--she's about eighteen; she is very handsome: and Louisa--she's
about sixteen; she's very beautiful: I don't know which is the
handsomest of the two; but Helen is the spirited one."

"Then Mark will take her, and the rest will cast lots for the other;
so they will be saved--likely. The spirited gal would be just Mark's
taste."

"Better be both dead than suffer that fate," said the kind-hearted
Jeremiah. "I'm sure Louisa would die, and Helen would kill herself, at
the thoughts of it! But I say, corporal, you will never let those
rascals murder and go on that way without making an effort to save
them! I'm sure those ill-looking sneaking ruffians would never fight
if it came hand to hand."

"That's the difficulty," said the corporal: "if it was hand to hand
we could manage them, because we could fire three times to their once;
besides our being steady and used to handle our arms."

"There will be no fight hand to hand, or any way," said the
constable, as a violent blast from the southward nearly overset the
boat, "if it comes on to blow, as it looks likely, I think our best
plan is to get under shelter in some creak somewhere, for I think we
are going to have a regular hurricane from the south by the look of
those clouds rising up yonder like blocks of black wool."

The attention of all in the boat was now peremptorily directed to
their own safety, as the wind rose and the storm increased to fury.
The same squall was observed to assail the brig, now dimly seen
through the murky atmosphere. In a short time the sky was enveloped in
darkness, as the gathering winds prepared from the thick curtains of
the clouds to expend their rage on the agitated waters.



Chapter IX. The Summons.

MARK BRANDON, by one of the most daring stratagems in the annals of
piracy, had got possession of a vessel admirably adapted for his
purpose, and the crew, bound hand and foot, were stowed away here and
there in convenient places; but still he felt he was not quite secure;
the major and the mate were unbound; and, although confined in the
cabin, and unable by themselves to cope with seven desperate men, it
was possible for them to be dangerous; and the bushranger had too much
experience in the power and resources of even a single man not to be
alive to the possibility of the escape, and the successful resistance
of two determined spirits--the one having at stake his pride and
reputation as the chief officer of a ship, and the other urged by the
still more powerful feeling of a parent struggling for the
preservation of the life and honour of his daughters. Filled with
these thoughts, but attending anxiously at the same time to the course
of the vessel, he turned over in his mind a scheme to entice the
officer on deck, and to neutralise the hostility of the major. The
increasing storm favoured his project.

In the mean time the parties in the cabin were a prey to the most
agonising anticipations.

"This takes one all aback!" said the mate, quite confounded by the
unexpected aggression of the pilot and his followers. "Many a rum go
have I been witness to; but this beats all! Who are these fellows? I
never liked the look of that soft jawing pilot and his men, as they
called him. And all the arms are on deck. This is what I call being
thorough done!"

"I am afraid," said the major, "that the case is too clear; in
short, we have been deceived all along; and this sham pilot is some
desperate man with his gang endeavouring to escape from the island."

"By George," said the mate, slapping the table with an energy which
at any other time he would have considered an unpardonable breach of
good manners in the state cabin, and in the presence of ladies, too;
"that's it; and that accounts for the rascals shying the up-passage,
and trying to get out of the channel with every tide, and with every
wind that blew! That's it! we're hard up! and we shall have all to
walk the plank, every one of us; I know what that game is in the West
Indies! But it's hard for you, Miss Helen, and for you, Miss Louisa:
it dosen't matter for the like of me; it all goes in the day's work,
as sailors say: but for you--" and here the worthy mate gave the table
a tremendous thump with his fist in the excess of his emotion. The
sound was echoed from the outside of the cabin window from the nozzle
of a musket.

"What's that?" cried out Louisa alarmed.

"That's a summons, Miss," said the mate.

"Better not to frighten you, but I suppose they want us to walk the
plank; not you, perhaps," he added, "nor your sister; but me and your
papa. Major," he said, turning to their father, "you don't mean to
give in without a struggle?"

"What can we do?" said the major; "we are unarmed: better make terms
for the girls."

"Better drown them at once," said the honest seaman, having before
his eyes the scenes of horror which he had seen and known in the seas
prolific of piracy in the West Indies; no use mincing the matter. "If
they were sisters of mine, I know what I would do."

Helen calmly rose at these words: she first kissed her father, and
then her sister, and then extending her hand to the mate, she shook it
warmly. Without speaking, her gestures sufficiently intimating her
intention, she sought in the steward's locker for a large table-knife:
she selected one with a point, tried its sharpness, deliberately with
her finger, and placed it in her girdle; she then resumed her place by
the side of her father.

Louisa observed her proceedings with trembling interest. When the
high-minded Helen took her hand in her's she shuddered convulsively,
and placing the other hand before her eyes, as if to shut out at once
the peril with which she was threatened, and the aspect of the
Lucretian death meditated by her sister, she threw herself into the
arms of her father. The major embraced her with despairing tenderness;
the tears ran down his manly cheeks; and he lifted up his head to
heaven as if he would pierce through the obdurate deck in his mental
appeal for succour. But the action of the heroic Helen suggested other
thoughts to the mind of the hardy mate:--

"Major," he said, "Miss Helen shames us men. There are weapons
still," pointing to the knife appended to Helen's side; "and they may
stand us in good stead at a pinch. Let us do our best to defend the
cabin from an attack from without, and trust to chance for the rest.
How the vessel pitches, poor thing! Those fellows don't know how to
handle her--and the wind blows stronger and stronger every minute.
That top--gallant mast will be sprung as sure as fate, if they don't
look alive! But what does it matter what becomes of the masts, or the
sails, or the gear, or any thing? we shan't live long to see the ruin
that's coming on this prime little brig that I've brought over from
the other side of the globe, safe and sound! Well, it will be all the
same a hundred years hence! They are knocking at the window again, as
if they were determined to have an answer this time."

A voice was at this moment heard:--

"Below there!"

"Ay, ay," said the mate, answering with professional promptitude.
"What the devil do you want with us?" he added, raising his voice;
"can't you let us be quiet?"

"The captain wants to speak with the major."

"And who the devil's the captain?"

"Mark Brandon."

"And who is Mark Brandon? One of the rascally convicts, I suppose,
escaped from gaol?"

"He will soon let you know who he is if you give us any of your
sauce. Look out of your stern windows at the sea beneath you; plenty
of ground sharks at the bottom;--do you understand that?"

"Major," said another voice from the top of the companion-ladder,
which they instantly recognised as Mark Brandon's, "the ship is in
danger, and you and your daughters will be lost if something is not
done for the management of the vessel."

"Ah, ha!" cried the mate, "it is come to that, is it?"

"If we let you free will you pledge your word of honour not to make
any attempt against us? You are a soldier and a gentleman; and I know
if you pledge your honour you will keep your word."

"Do it," whispered the mate, "if you do make a promise with such
rascals, you need not keep it."

"And my daughters," asked the major, "what do you say of them?"

"If you can trust to my word," replied Mark Brandon, "they shall
remain in this cabin, and be respected. Our only object is to leave
the colony, and regain our liberty: that done, we have no desire to do
violence to any one. But you must decide quickly."

"Don't let him come in, papa," said Louisa.

"Trust him," said Helen; "we are in his power; and if there is a
spark of generosity in the man it can be kindled into goodness only by
confidence: trust him."

The major hesitated; the danger was imminent: on the one side was
certain death in case of unavailing resistance; on the other, the
possibility of good treatment if the leader of the bushrangers were
not thwarted in his object. Besides, there was hope in
procrastination:--"Perhaps after all," he said to the mate, "the only
object of these men is to effect their escape; and it is quite clear
that they cannot navigate the vessel by themselves. We must bend to
circumstances. Pacifying measures are always the best for the weaker
party. Will you promise to do no violence to the mate?" he asked of
the bushranger.

"I promise not to take his life," replied Mark Brandon through the
door.

"Shall we trust him," said the major to his officer, "or shall we
sell our lives dearly?"

"I don't see how we are to help ourselves," replied the mate; "and it
will be something to save the vessel, for with the wind that is raging
outside, these fellows will never be able to keep her off the land."

"What is the alternative if we refuse?" asked the major, still
hesitating.

"Death!" replied the bushranger: "it is our lives or yours; we do not
want to take yours, nor to harm you unnecessarily; but if it must be
one or the other, you cannot expect us to sacrifice our own. My object
is to save the vessel."

"He's right in that, at any rate," said the mate; "that's the first
thing to be looked to; for if the vessel goes down we all go down with
her--that's certain. Take him at his word, major; we can do no better:
'and needs must,' as the saying is, 'when the Devil drives.'"

"I promise," said the major.

"I cannot pay you a higher compliment than to trust to your honour,
major," said Mark Brandon, undoing the barricading of the door, at the
entrance of which he appeared with two of his men with their muskets
cocked and levelled at the parties within. Louisa screamed, and Helen
put her hand on her weapon. "Now, sir, if you please, you may come
out."

His daughters clung to him instinctively, but Helen presently
loosened her grasp; Louisa, however, would not relax her hold, but
begged and prayed him, with the wildest grief, to remain to protect
them. The mate, anxious to get on deck to take a survey of matters on
board, passed up the ladder, and was instantly seized by four of the
conspirators, who in a moment bound him hand and foot, and placed him
by the wheel.

"If your father prefers remaining below," said Mark Brandon,
courteously, to Helen, "he is quite at liberty to do so; at the same
time he may come on deck when he pleases: but as the waves are high,
and as we have shipped several seas already, I think it will be more
agreeable to you to close the hatchway;" and so saying he closed the
door, and turned his attention to the prostrate mate, who, with a
storm of oaths outrivalling in ferocity even the fierceness of the
increasing storm, was cursing the bushranger and his gang:--

"You precious infernal rascal!--this was your promise, was it? I
thought you said you would do me no harm?"

"And I have done you no harm," replied the bushranger. "I promised
not to take your life, and I will keep my promise. But I did not
promise not to bind you, to keep you from doing harm to yourself and
to others. And now, my friend, what do you say? will you help us to
save the vessel, or shall it be a short prayer and a long plunge to
see what the sharks will say to you?"

"Do what you like, you rascally, lying, lubberly sneak--do what you
like; I'll do nothing for you with my hands bound this way. You and
your villainous gang may go to the bottom, and your souls to--that is,
if your friend there will take you in; but two of a trade, they say,
never agree--so there must be some place made on purpose to hold such
a rascal as you! I only wish I had my hands free, and a marline spike
in one of them--you should not be grinning at me in that cool way."

"Well, my friend," replied Mark, "there's no time to lose; you must
make up your mind at once. Roger and Dick," he said to two of his men,
"put your muskets to his head." The men obeyed promptly.

"What do you say now?"

"I won't;--while my hands are bound I'll do nothing."

"Cock your muskets," said their leader to his men.

There are few things more disagreeable than the click of the lock of
a musket, when the muzzle of it is placed close to your head by a
hostile party; but the mate was firm.

"Are you ready?" said Mark.

"Yes," said the men, with their fingers on the triggers.

"What do you say now? in one moment you will have the contents of
those pieces through your brains."

"Fire away," said the mate.

"Stay," said Mark Brandon.

Knowing well the habitual horror which sailors have of drowning and
of sharks, and their superstitious dread of remaining unburied after
death, he thought he would try another method.

"The shortest way," he said, "will be to throw him overboard. Take
him up and heave him over the taffrail, and then there will be an end.
Now, my men--one, two, three.--Have you nothing to say to stop them,"
he said to the mate, who, with hands and legs tied and bound tightly
together, was utterly incapable of the slightest resistance--"have you
nothing to say to stop them?"

At this moment a tremendous sea struck the little bark, and the
main--top-mast, with a crash, came rattling down, encumbering the deck
with its ruins. The mate and his executioners were nearly washed
overboard; but high above the din and the roar of the elements the
mate's voice was now heard:--

"Unbind me," he cried out, "and I promise to save the ship. You will
all be lost, and this tight little brig, that I have brought so far,
will go down with you all."

"You will promise, then, not to make any attempt to regain the
vessel," said Mark Brandon, preserving his coolness in the midst of
the confusion around him.

"I will promise anything," said the mate, "only let me save the
vessel. There's another sea coming! Starboard the helm, or it will be
upon us."

A monstrous sea burst over them, doing fresh damage, and adding to
the confusion and danger. Mark Brandon, seeing that the case was
desperate, and trusting to the instinct of the seaman to abandon all
other thoughts than that of saving the vessel, at once cut the cords
which tied him, and the mate, starting to his legs, immediately rushed
to the wheel and assumed the command of the vessel.



Chapter X. The Storm.

THE storm raged; and the shattered ship, pitching and reeling under
the influence of the roaring wind and raging sea, was driven with
desperate speed towards a projecting promontory on the western side of
the channel. The voice of the sturdy mate was heard above the
shrieking of the tempest, but in vain; the terrified followers of the
bushranger, unused to wage war with the elements, were utterly useless
in the extremity. It was in vain that their leader exerted himself
with almost preternatural energy, and endeavoured to rouse the
exertions of his men: they were not sailors; and they had neither the
bravery to dare, nor the skill to execute, the feats of seamanship
which were necessary to give them a chance of escaping the perils of
the storm.

"We shall never save the ship with these fellows," said the mate to
the bushranger, the urgency of the danger drawing into momentary
fellowship two minds, though belonging to different characters, of
kindred courage; "if you don't let my own blue jackets free, the ship
is a lost ship."

"Can I trust them?" said the bushranger, balancing the two perils in
his mind, and at a loss to decide to which to give the preference.

"Trust them! You may trust them to save the ship--at least to do
their best for it;--every sailor will do that: as to the rest, that is
another matter, and you must look out for yourself; that's fair and
above-board, at any rate, Mr.----Pilot!"

Mark Brandon was not a man to give way under difficulty: with a firm
mind he rapidly compared the two dangers, and, with the decision of a
bold one, he determined on giving liberty to the crew. Without
hesitation, he directed his men to unbatten the fore hatchway, and to
release from the hold the sailors who were confined there. This was a
matter by no means of easy execution; but at the expense of shipping
much water it was effected, and the liberated sailors gladly jumped on
deck. The bushranger directed his men to retain their arms, and
endeavour to keep them from the wet to guard against a surprise; but
the seamen, cheered by the voice of their officer, and in a moment
conscious of the extreme danger of the vessel, thought only of their
duties, and of saving themselves from shipwreck, leaving the
bushrangers to keep guard as they could or as they pleased, and paying
no other attention to them than to tell them to get out of their way.

It is not to be supposed that the noise of the raging wind, and the
confusion caused by the fallen mast, had passed unnoticed by the
parties in the cabin. The major wished to go on deck; but Louisa clung
to him with so tenacious a grasp, and the uncertainty of the nature of
his reception by the bushrangers was so great, that the father yielded
to the entreaties of his youngest daughter, and remained below. But
when he heard and recognised the familiar voices of his own sailors
battling with the thunder of the storm, he ventured to raise his head
above the companion ladder.

A washing of the waves drove him quickly back, at the same time that
it deluged the cabin. By taking advantage of a lull, he again essayed
to emerge from his place of security, and to his amazement beheld his
vessel apparently in the possession of his own people, and his officer
at the wheel, issuing his commands as usual, for the management of the
ship. He quickly joined him, though it was with difficulty he was
enabled to make good his footing.

"What chance is there," he asked, "of saving the vessel?"

"Very little; you see we are a mere wreck; there's scarcely a rag of
sail left: we are driving before the wind on that point of land that
you may see yonder through the haze. Our only chance is getting a soft
berth to bump on; but that chance is very small, for most of this
coast seems rocky. It won't be long, however, before we shall know our
fate. These rascally lubbers of bushrangers have done for the poor
brig. Serve 'em right, for pretending to know how to take care of a
vessel they knew nothing about. More fools they for binding with
fetters those who might have saved them: and now they see what they've
got by it."

"Had I not better prepare the girls for what is to happen?" said the
major, his mind borne down for the moment by the extent of his
disaster; his gallant vessel lost, his property presently to be
scattered to the waves, and his children's lives and his own in
imminent peril!

"I hardly know what is best to be done," replied the sturdy seaman,
almost subdued by the danger of the ship, and the thought of the
women: "but better let 'em stay below till the shock comes; they
couldn't hold on here."

"Could the boat be of any use?" asked the major, in a sort of
despair.

"It was washed overboard a quarter of an hour ago. But look at the
raging sea around us! Do you think a boat could live in such a sea as
that? If our own vessel--poor thing!--wasn't as good a sea-boat as
ever swam, it never would live in such a whirlpool as it's in now! I
wonder what has become of the boat that we saw coming, before the wind
caught us:--gone to the bottom, I fear, long ago!"

"And the people in that boat, perhaps, were our deliverers," said
the major. "Good God! that land seems fearfully close! Is there no way
to save ourselves?"

"Look out for a soft place," replied the mate, with a grim smile, for
he knew full well that the death-struggle of the gallant little ship
was at hand. "The sea refuses to keep us, so we must needs trust to
the land; though I must say it doesn't look very smiling at us."

As he spoke, the impetuous winds seemed to gather up their strength
for a final effort to hurl the devoted ship on the expectant rocks;
but at this moment the watchful mate, as cool in the moment of danger
as if the vessel was within view of the windmill at Gravesend, caught
sight of a break in the cliff, forming a little creek or armlet of the
sea: with a vigorous hand he directed the ship's course to the
opening, and in another minute, by an instantaneous and seemingly
miraculous change, the shattered brig, with a sudden turn, found
itself floating on the smooth surface of a little bay sheltered from
the wind and the waves. The vessel glided slowly towards a grassy
bank, and, gently touching it, remained stationary.

For a brief space every man on board held his breath with joy and
surprise at an escape from the horrors of shipwreck which struck them
as something supernatural! But presently the consciousness of the
unsafe position of either party called into fresh activity the
energies of both to guard against the aggression of each other; and,
before the major had time to congratulate his daughters on the
extraordinary preservation of the brig, the bushranger summoned his
men to his side, and assumed an offensive attitude, while the seamen,
hastily clutching at any materials within their reach which might
serve for weapons, gathered together in a body, and stood in defiance
of the threatening muskets of their opponents, and, with the stern
determination of revenge depicted on their worn and hardy
countenances, turned their eyes to their officer for directions in the
new emergency.

At this moment a column of thick smoke, as if from damp wood newly
fired, was observed to rise from the other side of a low hill bare of
trees. Mark Brandon seemed struck with a sudden thought at this
indication of other parties being near at hand. In his own mind he
feared that the fire had been kindled by the people in the boat, who,
he felt sure, were in pursuit of himself and his companions. Aware
that if his conjecture was right the reports of fire-arms would
quickly bring his enemies upon him, he stood before his men, and
repressing their preparation to fire by a gesture of his arm, he
directed his voice to the major, who was standing on one side,
restrained by his promise from taking part in the threatened conflict,
and filled with hope that the result would be favourable, even against
the superior weapons of the bushrangers, to the injured party.

"Major," said Mark Brandon, in the clear, cool, and articulate voice
for which he was so remarkable, "I see that you can keep your promise
like a soldier and a man of honour; and you shall see that I will keep
mine. Do you see that smoke yonder? That smoke proceeds from the body
of natives on the coast--the most numerous and the most savage of all
the mobs on the island! If we weaken our force by fighting with each
other we shall become an easy prey to them."

"Gammon!" said the mate.

"I do not wish to be devoured by those wretches," replied the
bushranger, without being in the slightest degree moved by the
contemptuous expression of the mate: "nor do I suppose the major there
would like to see his daughters torn limb from limb, and chucked on
that fire that the black devils have kindled yonder, and eaten before
his face."

"Gammon!" repeated the mate.

"That would be a fate," continued Mark, "too dreadful to contemplate.
And therefore, I say, let us forget for a while our own quarrel, and
join together to resist the attack of the natives."

"But we are not sure that they are natives," replied the major.

"Suppose it is the party that we saw in the boat coming after us,"
said the mate--"the party that you persuaded us were bushrangers or
pirates, or whatever you may like to call them; then, you know, there
would be no danger from them. I propose that two of us--that is, one
from each side, should go and find out; and in the mean time we will
agree to a truce till our messengers come back."

"Agreed!" said Mark. "I will go for one on my side, and you for one
on the other."

"I can't help thinking," said the mate to the major, in a whisper,
"that he is hatching some mischief or other; but he will find me wide
awake."

While the mate communicated this suspicion to his commander, Mark
Brandon gave some directions to his followers; and then the bushranger
and the officer set out together, each keeping a wary watch on the
other to prevent surprise or treachery.



Chapter XI. The Bushranger's Generous Confidence in the Mate.

MARK BRANDON had a very disagreeable suspicion that the smoke which
had been observed on the other side of the hill, proceeded from the
party in pursuit, who had taken advantage of one of the little creeks
or inlets with which that part of the coast abounded, to shelter
themselves from the storm.

The fire was not likely to have been kindled by natives; for, so far
as their haunts were known, they were not in the habit of making that
part of the island the place of their temporary habitation, as from
its exposure to the cold and boisterous winds of the south, and from
the greater part of its surface being scrub and rock, kangaroos were
scarce, and opossums by no means plentiful; neither was the gum which
forms so large a part of the food of the natives, to be found there in
sufficient quantities to make it an eligible place of encampment, as
the mimosa, from which it is obtained, does not thrive in bleak and
exposed situations.

The chance in his favour of its being the natives who had lighted
that fire, Mark Brandon felt was so small, that nothing but his own
eager desire that it might be so, could prompt him to cherish the
hope. On the other hand, if it was the party in pursuit who had
landed, then indeed his position was most critical and dangerous.
There was the vessel lying in a basin from which it was impossible to
extricate it against a contrary wind; the present storm, which still
raged, might last, perhaps, for some days; and the sailors who
composed the crew were at liberty, and prepared to resist any new
aggression to the death.

It was true that his own men were in possession of all the fire-
arms, which gave them a decided superiority; but still the struggle
would be a doubtful one; and the reports of the muskets during the
contest, would be sure to give information to those in pursuit of him
and his followers, should it turn out as he feared, that the smoke
which had been observed, proceeded from a fire made by the party in
the boat; and it was not to be supposed that they would neglect to
keep a good look-out in the direction where the vessel might be
expected to be visible.

The bushranger revolved all these thoughts in his mind, and in vain
sought for a way out of his difficulty: for once, his ingenuity was at
fault; he could devise no plan of escape; he found himself in a "dead
fix." But still, while there was life there was hope; and he thought
that if he could get rid of the sturdy mate who strode by his side,
and who, he observed, kept a close watch on him, he might have a
better chance of succeeding in any ulterior operations.

The bushranger carried a double-barrel fowling-piece, strong in the
stock, and the mate had in his hand a drawn ship's-cutlas. Mark
measured the distance with his eye which separated the buttend of his
piece from the back of the mate's head; he calculated that he might
swing the fowling-piece round by a quick and vigorous movement, and,
without noise, rid himself of his inconvenient companion by a single
blow. With his accustomed caution, his hands mechanically following
out the thought which had suggested itself, he thought it right to
remove the risk of the piece discharging itself from the shock. He
stopped, therefore, for a moment on the precipitous hill which they
were descending, and opening the pans of the locks, shook out the
primings and let down the hammers.

"What do you do that for?" asked the mate, surprised at the
proceeding; "is that the way to be ready for the natives? Why, they
may be on us before you have time to prime again."

"This is rather an awkward place to scramble down," replied Mark,
with an air of polite concern, and pointing to the gulf below them;
"you see, if I was to chance to have a tumble, my piece might go off
and lodge its lead where it was not intended to go--in my body, or,
perhaps, in yours, friend."

"Humph!" said the mate, ejaculating a sea-grunt, which at the same
time served as a vent to his own feelings, and conveyed to his
companion the intimation that he was not to be gammoned by Mark's
blarney about his excessive care for the mate's valuable person;--"he
means something now, by that move," he said to himself; "but whatever
it is he's up to he'll find me wide awake."

Shall I shoot him, thought Brandon:--no; the report of the piece
would be heard by both parties--by the vessel's people, and by the
soldiers; it must be done some other way; but he keeps out of my
reach, as if he suspected the trick:--I must try another game.

By this time they had descended into a deep and narrow gulley:
looking up, they saw before them a sharp and abrupt hill to climb,
interspersed here and there with low shrubs and irregular masses of
pointed rocks and stones. The bushranger guessed at once the sort of
country they had lighted on, which was a succession of abrupt stony
hills like the huge waves of a sea suddenly petrified into solidity:
an exceedingly difficult country to make progress in, either on
horseback or on foot, for while the actual distance gained in a
straight line, as the bird flies, is very small, the length of ground
gone over is very great, and very fatiguing from the continual up and
down movement, and from the annoying obstructions of the cutting
fragments of sharp rock and loose stones met with at every step.

As they mounted the hill, therefore, it is not to be wondered at that
the worthy seaman found the process of making way on shore, with his
own legs, a much more laborious operation than making way on the water
with sails and oars; and although he took advantage of his nautical
experience, and made short tacks to the right and to the left of the
hill, as he would have done against a contrary wind at sea, the work
soon became too hard for him.

"I say, mate," he said to the bushranger, "this is going dead against
a wind with a vengeance! now it's rattling down stream and then it's
up against tide, and whichever way it is it doesn't seem the better
for my legs!--I tell you what it is, I must come to an anchor, and
that's the long and the short of it:" and saying this, he plumped
himself down on the softest stone he could find convenient, and
proceeded to swab himself with much diligence.

"Luck's with me, after all," thought Mark, as he received this
gladsome communication from the sailor, and saw him in an attitude of
utter exhaustion from his exertions in the unusual exercise of walking
on land; "luck's with me after all! and now is the time to disarm my
very clever and very cautious friend of all suspicion by a false
confidence, and then he is mine to do what I please with--at least so
far as one point.

"Friend," he said to the mate, "I see I was wrong to propose that you
should go with me; I ought to have remembered that you were more used
to make your way up the shrouds of a ship than the sides of such hills
as these;--but I am used to them. However, we will not lose our
object; I must see how many natives there are yonder; come now; we
have had a bout I allow; but we are comrades in this venture: if I
could trust to your honour not to take advantage of my confidence, I
would try to have a look at the black rascals alone--but you must be
ready to stand by me."

"I'll stand by you, if that's all," said the mate; "but what do you
want me to do with your 'confidence' and your 'blarney?'"

"There," said the bushranger, placing his fowling-piece in the hands
of the astonished mate; "there's no blarney in that; now, if you could
be dishonourable, and treacherous, and a rascal--which I know you
cannot--you have me at your mercy."

"What the devil do you mean by this?" said the honest seaman,
completely overpowered by an act which placed the bushranger,
seemingly, completely in his power.

"What I mean is this; we are now all bound up together; unless we
stand by one another we shall never be able to resist the attack of
two or three hundred natives, for they have learned the way of
shooting with lighted arrows, and they never show any mercy to white
people:--and the food they are fondest of above everything is human
flesh."

"The black villains!"

"And I don't suppose you have any particular desire to form one of
the principal dishes at their supper to-night?"

"That would be no joke!"

"Now I will tell you what to do; for I shall rely on your courage and
coolness, which I am sure I can do as surely as on your honour--for my
own life as well as your own and the lives of the major and his
daughters depend on our activity."

"Well, what do you want me to do?"

"You must remain here without moving, and especially without making
the least noise till I return."

"And how long shall you be away?"

"We shall see: I will get as near to the natives as I can on my hands
and knees, and try to find out what they are doing. If they are going
away, we have only to lie close and wait for their departure. But if
they are waiting for the wreck of the vessel, I must find out their
numbers, and then we must prepare for the worst."

"Well--let them come; I don't much mind them; only let me be on board
the brig, and then we will astonish them, perhaps, with something they
don't expect."

"But if they discover me, I shall have to make a run of it; and in
that case I must depend on finding you here, and then we must fight
our way back to the ship as well as we can."

"Well, I'm your man as far as the fighting goes; but as to making a
run of it, that's out of my line."

"Then, I trust I may depend on you," added the bushranger; "that you
will neither move nor make the least noise to betray yourself till I
return."

"Never fear," replied the mate; "I never betrayed any man yet, and
never will; you have placed confidence in me, by giving me your gun:
let you be bushranger or what not, you are safe with me as long as the
bargain lasts--as long as the bargain lasts, mind, no longer."

"Good," replied the bushranger; "and now I go on my errand;" and
mounting the hill with a vigorous step he passed over the top and
presently disappeared from view.

"And now," thought Mark Brandon, as he sat down on the brow of the
hill behind a low shrub, and examined the charge and priming of the
pistols which he carried,--"what's to be done next? I have secured the
mate: if he had insisted on going on instead of being so well inclined
to sit still, it would have been impossible to prevent him from
discovering that instead of the smoke proceeding from a party of
natives eager to devour us, it has been lighted, as I strongly
suspect, by the very party sent to assist the vessel, and to capture
me and my companions! But, luckily, he is knocked up; I thought his
sea legs would never carry him far over these hills.--Now my game is
clear before me; I must keep the major and his people close, and
especially this troublesome fellow of a mate, by making them believe
that the natives are coming down on them every minute;--that will keep
them quiet.--Shall I get rid of the whole lot? I might do it perhaps;
but there would be too much murder in it; and besides, I fear I could
never get the vessel out of that basin and through the narrow opening,
which is not much wider than to allow it to pass through, without the
assistance of the mate and his sailors; my fellows could never do it.
And that vessel is my only chance of escape from wretchedness and
bondage!--To be sure I might take to the bush, for we have plenty of
arms, and we might contrive to make a plant of provisions and
necessaries. But what is the use of wandering about in the bush? Of
all lives that is the most wretched! To be exposed to betrayal from
one another every day and every hour, waking or sleeping!--No--that
existence is not worth having.--Or to be alone--exposed to all the
horrors of the terrible solitude of the bush, with every man's hand
against you, without friend or companion.--No--that is a life of
melancholy madness! The brig--the brig's the thing! At all hazards,
and cost what lives it may, she must be secured! But first I must
assure myself to a certainty from what source that suspicious smoke
proceeds."

With such thoughts half muttered, and taking advantage of all the
inequalities of the ground which would enable him to see without being
seen, the bushranger proceeded rapidly, but warily, on his stealthy
way.




Chapter XII. Mr. Silliman Dances "The Polka" with a Kangaroo.

SNAKELIKE and with tortuous windings, keeping a sharp look-out in
his hazardous course, and stopping from time to time to catch any
sound that might betray his proximity to his enemies, the bushranger
edged his way to the top of a sheltered height, from which he could
command a view of the valley below.

At a glance, he found his suspicions confirmed; he distinguished the
red coats of the soldiers, and the peculiar dress and air of the
constables. He counted nine; and in one of them he had no difficulty
in recognising the hated person of one of the most active and
intelligent officers of the colony, well known for his activity and
courage, and one usually selected by the government authorities for
the pursuit of runaway convicts in the bush. Mark knew him well, for
on more than one occasion he had come into personal collision with
him: and he ground his teeth, and clutched the shrub by which he was
holding, as he looked down at his old enemy, who, like a pertinacious
bloodhound, was on his track.

The party sat listlessly about the fire, and seemed, as he thought,
to be waiting for information to be brought by some scout, for they
frequently looked in the direction of the south; but the storm which
still raged violently, although it had ceased to rain, was a
sufficient reason why they should remain under shelter for a time; and
the bushranger judged that as they would be too prudent to divide
their strength, they would remain where they were till the lulling of
the waters should allow them to put to sea in their boat. He descended
from his post of observation and set out on his return to the spot
where he had left the mate.

He saw at once that the game to be played was to delay any outbreak
on board till the pursuing party, missing the vessel, and supposing it
to have escaped to sea, should return home and report their failure;
but this was a difficult task to accomplish. The fears of the major
for the safety of his daughters, and the determination of the mate and
of the incensed sailors to resist further violence, were fairly
aroused; and he felt that anything to be done could be effected only
by the most consummate address and stratagem.

The first thing, however, was to make the major and his crew believe
that the natives were likely to be on them in force, and so to induce
them, for the sake of the common safety, to act together, and to
postpone their hostile intentions of retaliation till a safe
opportunity. In this scheme accident favoured the bushranger in a way
that he least expected.

The romantic Mr. Silliman found his spirit considerably damped by the
supplemental wetting which he got in the boat before it was sheltered
from the broken seas, at the entrance of the channel, but it was with
a tolerably heroic air that he stepped on shore, and placed his foot
on the land of his adoption. The novelty of his sensations excited him
to deliver his sentiments to the company on the occasion, and he was
about to hail the land of Van Diemen in a short and neat speech, and
had lifted up his leg, in his enthusiasm, to assist his arm in an
appropriate flourish, when he was hailed by the constable:--

"Hold hard, sir!--don't put your foot down yet: keep still; and keep
your leg up; hold it up a little longer.--There! it's going quietly
away now."

"What is it?" exclaimed the alarmed Jeremiah, with his arms
outstretched, and with one foot in the air, in an attitude which,
however becoming it might be in assisting a sudden burst of oratory,
was both embarrassing and ludicrous when continued beyond its
appropriate purpose;--"what is it? what's the matter?"

"Only a black snake," said the constable, quietly; "I thought it
would have been at you, for you are standing right in the way of its
path, and a bite from a black snake is an ugly affair, I can tell
you."

"A man of ours was bit by one of those ugly reptiles," said the
corporal, "up at Sidney, in the bush there; and in a few hours his
body was as black as your hat, and so gone that you could scarce
distinguish his features. They're nasty creatures those black snakes!
the diamond ones they say are as bad, but at any rate they are not so
bad-looking. Take care, sir, where you sit," he added to Mr. Silliman,
who was about to seat himself on a low piece of stone convenient for
the purpose; "those stones are sometimes full of scorpions."

"Scorpions!" cried out Jerry, who had an unspeakable horror of that
mysterious reptile which he had never seen except in a bottle of
spirits, and of whose powers and venomous disposition he had the
greatest dread: "are there scorpions in this country?"

"Lots! You can hardly sit down in the bush without getting into the
midst of them. Just pull up that stone and you'll soon see if you have
lighted on a family."

With the assistance of a stake which was near him, Jerry presently
upheaved the block of stone on which he had unwaringly seated himself,
and, to his infinite dismay, beheld some scores of those lively
indigenes of the country, who, considerably isturbed by the
unceremonious uplifting of their habitation, scudded to and fro with
their abominable tails curled over their backs, and eyeing their
enemy, as Jerry thought, most viciously.

"Upon my word, this is a nice party to come among, and a pleasant
reception do I have in this new country! I think I had better move
farther off."

"They are nasty disagreeable things those scorpions," said the
constable, "in the bush especially; and it's wonderful what quantities
there are of them in this country; but they are seldom large, at least
those that I have seen; I never saw one bigger than a good-sized
bluebottle, and I never heard of their doing any body any harm, except
stinging them a little. They're not near so bad as the tarantula
spiders; those creatures really are ugly beasts, and venomous too."

"How big are they?" asked Jerry, by no means gratified at this
enumeration of the inhabitants of the Paradise which he had promised
to himself: "anything like the spiders at home?"

"Lord love you! Spiders at home! why, the spiders at home are
nothing to the spiders here; the tarantula is something like a spider!
There," said the constable, spreading out the fingers of his brawny
hand on a bit of ground bare of grass--"There, suppose a greenish body
as big as a chestnut, with hairy legs reaching out as far as my
fingers--that's a tarantula spider!"

"How very disgusting! And pray what do the creatures live on?"

"Oh! all sorts of insects;--they do say that they will sometimes
catch small birds: but I can't say I ever saw them do it. You
generally find them living two together like man and wife, under a
stone, where they make themselves a chamber; and they grow monstrous
big sometimes. I have often seen them on the blue gum trees, so I
suppose they find food on them to their liking. It's a remarkable
fact," continued the constable, who was fond of showing his knowledge
of colonial customs and productions, "that the tarantula spider will
always drop on your face if it has the opportunity; I have often
thought why it was, but I never could make out the reason; may be the
white man's face resembles some surface where they catch their food;
some think that it's the motion of the eyelashes that attracts them;
but whatever it may be, they do it, that's all I know. I declare--if
there isn't one of them just above your head, on that dead branch,
just agoing to make a drop on you!"

As he spoke one of the spiders so described and vituperized, as if
in retaliation of the abuse which had been so copiously lavished on
its species, and invited perhaps by the temptation of the broad round
cheeks of Mr. Silliman, who was lying on his back in a position of
luxurious repose, dropped slap on his face, and embracing it with its
long hairy legs presented an admirable specimen for the cabinet of a
naturalist. But the thoughts of the terrified Jeremiah were by no
means inclined to take that scientific direction. On the contrary, he
roared out most lustily, as he hastily brushed the creature from his
face, and regained his legs with almost unexampled activity.

In truth, the afflicted Jerry was almost at his wits' end with his
succession of misadventures; he had been chucked into the sea; rubbed
into life again by the medium of salt-junk; assailed by snakes;
infested with scorpions; and now was pitched on by an ugly tarantula
for his feeding-ground!

"What's coming next?" he cried out, "I can neither sit, nor stand,
nor lie, but something attacks me! I shall be driven out of the
island!"

"I have observed that before," said the constable; "those spiders
have a fancy to drop on the face; I suppose it resembles something
they are used to feed on."

"Much obliged to you," said Jerry, as he pinned a pointed stick
through the bloated body of the spider, whose size and ugly appearance
fully answered the description of the constable; "but I'll thank you
not to make a meal of any part of my precious features. I'll put an
end to your fun at any rate," he continued, smashing his enemy up with
the stick; "and now," he ejaculated disconsolately, "what to do I
don't know! for stand or sit where I will, it seems I am sure to put
my foot in some mess or other. Would there be any harm," he asked, "in
taking a look over that hill yonder? Any natives about here?"

"Oh! there are no natives on this side of the island," said the
constable; "they like to be where there are plenty of trees for the
opossums and grass for the kangaroos. You can take a spell over the
hill if you like; go straight on and keep us in sight;--there's no
fear of the natives so far down as this, they seldom come to the coast
at this end; but don't go far away, or you may lose yourself; a
stranger soon loses himself in the bush in this country."

"Who will go with me?" asked Jerry; but the men were exhausted with
pulling at the oar, and no one was inclined to accompany him; the
adventurous Jerry therefore was obliged to go alone. "I shall know my
way back," he said, "by the smoke of our fire;" and so saying, he
ascended the hill to get a view of the country, and was disappointed
to find that he could see nothing but another hill before him.

He descended, however, to the bottom, and found himself in a deep
gulley or cleft between the hills. He had already received
considerable alarm from a horrible-looking animal poking his nose out
at him from a thicket: the animal was quite black, of the size of a
little pig, rough and of ferocious aspect, popularly known in the
colony by the name of a "devil," that being the most appropriate
appellation which could be hit on in a hurry to convey the combined
idea of its savageness and ugliness.

In trying to avoid it, Jerry stumbled over a wombat, a creature about
as big as a badger, and considered good eating by the natives. The cry
of terror which he uttered scared them both away, but he began to
repent him of his adventurous expedition.

Winding his way to the right, he came to an open space of green grass
clear of brush and stones, and to his inexpressible delight beheld a
living specimen of the animal whose likeness he had often gazed on in
books with wonder and admiration,--a real, live kangaroo!

It happened that on this occasion he had fallen in with a male of the
largest species, known popularly in the colony as a "Boomah." The
animal stood nearly six feet high on his haunches, and was feeding
with much relish on the young sweet grass. As it hopped leisurely and
lazily to a fresh place, Jerry had the opportunity of admiring the
length and thickness of its immense tail which protruded in a straight
line from behind, forming a triangle with its two legs, and affording
a firm support to its body as it sat upright.

Struck with the size and beauty of the creature, the enterprising
Jerry was seized with an irresistible desire to appropriate the
magnificent piece of venison to himself; and having read that the
kangaroo is a timorous beast, he thought he should have no difficulty
in becoming master of its person, if he could only get close enough to
the animal to give it a knock on the head. Had he been near enough to
observe the principal claw on the kangaroo's hind legs, about five
inches long, as hard as an iron spike and tolerably sharp at the
point, he might have paused in his valorous design; but as this weapon
of offence and defence was unknown to him, he had no idea that there
could be any danger in a personal encounter with a kangaroo.

Armed with a stout stick, therefore, he advanced, slowly and
cautiously, endeavouring to reach the animal from behind in order not
to give it the alarm, and calculating that one smart blow on the head
would stun the creature, so as to render it an easy prey. In this way
he approached within ten yards of the boomah, when suddenly raising
its head from the grass the creature turned round and sat up on its
haunches, gazing on Jerry as it seemed with not less curiosity than
Jerry gazed on the kangaroo.

Whether it was that it mistook the adventurous cockney for one of its
own species, or that it was desirous on its own part to investigate
the new specimen in natural history which Jerry's person presented,
the creature was apparently desirous to make acquaintance with the
strange animal, and making a little hop it alighted close to its new
friend.

Astonished at this unexpected familiarity, and catching sight of the
middle claws of his hind legs as the kangaroo made his fraternal
approach, Jerry made a corresponding hop backwards.

Confirmed in his opinion of relationship by the dexterity with which
Jerry executed this movement, the boomah wagged his great tail and
made another advance, which was met with a similar movement backwards
on the part of Jerry, and in this way they performed a circle round
the green sward, much to the amusement, it is to be presumed, of the
kangaroo, but by no means satisfactorily to Jerry.

Far from being gratified with the performance of this "Kangaroo"
Polka, he was, on the contrary, very angry to find himself chasséed in
so peremptory a manner. Watching his opportunity, therefore, he raised
his stick and dealt his partner a blow on the head which made the
kangaroo shake it with visible dissatisfaction; but incensed it seemed
to meet with so ungracious a return for his acts of courtesy, the huge
boomah made a bound to Jerry, and embracing him with his fore paws was
about to apply his terrible claw in the way in which those animals rip
up in a moment the strongest dogs, when Jerry set up so fearful a cry,
that the creature, after making a few hops with him in his paws, let
him go with affright; and Jerry, rejoiced to be released from the
formidable hug of his new friend, without looking behind him, and
expecting every moment to feel the kangaroo's great toe at his back,
rushed down the hill and tumbled over head and heels to the bottom.

Opening his mouth to give vent to a great breath, and his eyes to
look about him, he suddenly found the barrel of a horse-pistol thrust
into the former, and with the latter he beheld, to his horror and
amazement, the features of the bushranger! who, not less surprised to
behold the man who had been tossed overboard, but more practised in
concealing his emotions, intimated to Mr. Silliman in a calm, distinct
voice, whose tones were suitable to the politest and most agreeable
announcement:--

"If you move or make the least noise, I'll blow your brains out!"



Chapter XIII. An Extempore Native.

WHATEVER inclination the unfortunate Jerry might have had to indulge
in exclamation or remonstrance was effectually checked by the
proximity of the horse-pistol; nor could he fail to observe that it
was on the full-cock, and that the finger of the bushranger was on the
trigger!

If the reflections which he hastily made during his transit from the
deck of the brig were grave, those that he made on the present
occasion were of a cast still more serious, inasmuch as the danger was
greater and more imminent; for he felt that the slightest movement or
shock, either on his own part or on that of his enemy, would cause the
contents of the pistol to be discharged into the innermost recesses of
his brain.

He took especial care, therefore, to keep perfectly still, with his
eyes wide open and fixed in extended horror on the bushranger, but
mentally vowing, with all his might, that if ever it should be his
infinite good fortune again to get within sound of the bells in
Cheapside, he would take most particular care to keep within hearing
of them for ever afterwards!

"Hold up your arms," said the bushranger, after he had contemplated
for a brief space the excessive terror of his victim.

Jerry held up his arms.

"If I take the pistol from your mouth will you promise to be quiet?"

Jerry made the best sign he could to signify his entire concurrence
with that proposition.

"Be still then," said the bushranger, "while I empty your pockets."

The operation was completed to the bushranger's satisfaction, but
nothing appeared to cause particular observation.

"Now," said Mark, who had suddenly conceived what he thought a novel
and bright idea, "strip!"

"Strip!" said Jerry; "what, take my clothes off?"

"All," said the bushranger.

"I shall be so cold," Jerry ventured to remonstrate.

"Strip!" repeated the bushranger, re-cocking the pistol.

Jerry looked behind him, and before him, and around him; but there
was no help nigh; he was entirely in the bushranger's power.--He took
off his blue jacket; and then his waistcoat; and then he paused.

"Breeches next," said Mark, with a fierce air.

"What are you going to do with me?" said Jerry, in a lamentable tone;
for he began to apprehend that the bushranger had a design to turn him
naked into the bush, and visions of snakes, and scorpions, and
tarantula spiders rose before him!

"Off with them!"

"I shall be bit to death," said Jerry.

"Quick," said the bushranger, presenting the pistol.

"Well, you needn't be in such a hurry; there--I suppose that will do
now."

"Stockings and shoes off."

"But my feet will be cut to pieces on these horrid rocks; and I shall
catch cold. Gracious heaven! was ever man so treated before? There--I
hope that's all," said poor Jerry, as his shirt fluttered in the
breeze.

"For the present; now pack up your clothes in a bundle."

Jerry did as he was bid.

"Now march on to that little pool of water that you see yonder."

What, in the name of all that's extraordinary, is the man going to do
with me? thought Jerry, as he marched on before with his bundle, with
the bushranger behind, his eternal pistol touching his back
occasionally, as if to remind him to be on his good behaviour. They
found, as the bushranger expected, a particular sort of black mud,
which he considered would be well suited to his purpose; on his way he
had picked up several pieces of soft red ochre, which he placed to
soak at the edge of the pool.

What's the meaning of all this? thought Jerry; is the bushranger a
madman after all?

"You see that nice black mud," said Mark.

"Yes, I see it," said Jerry.

"Now let me see how soon you can make a native of yourself; you will
smear yourself all over with that paint; and be quick about it; for I
am rather in a hurry, and if I can't finish the business this way," he
added, "I shall be obliged to finish it in another," tapping the
barrel of his pistol with his finger.

"This is downright brutality to make me dirty myself all over in that
way! Heavens! what a figure I am making myself!"

"You mistake," said the bushranger, sarcastically, and with a
Mephistophelian smile; "unencumbered and undisguised with artificial
vestments you have now recovered the natural dignity of man; and, by
plastering your body all over with that mud, you will defend it from
the attacks of numerous insects which would otherwise annoy you. Stay,
I will just finish you up a bit, and then I think you will do."

Saying this, he hastily made him a wig of long grass, which he stuck
on his head, and availing himself of the red ochre, which was now in
the condition of a convenient pigment, he flourished two round red
patches on either cheek, and made sundry daubs with it on Jerry's
chest and legs.

"And now," he said, "you look really like a child of nature, and the
natives themselves would take you for a brother; there is only one
other little thing to do; excuse me, but it must be done, because, you
are aware, we never give away a chance;--yes--I must gag you, I must
indeed; but I won't hurt you, if you will be quiet. There, that will
do nicely, and now you may come along and finish the next part of your
performance."

The bushranger looked about, and presently, spying what he wanted,
he cut from the other side of the pool three long slender sticks
resembling the spears of the natives, which he placed in Jerry's
hands, and desired him to shake them menacingly when he gave
directions, threatening him with instant death if he disobeyed his
injunctions in the slightest point. In this way he led him by a
convenient route, carefully avoiding the place where he had left the
mate, to a spot in view of the vessel, where he desired him to remain,
for the greater security, binding his hands together; and then he
sought the mate with all expedition, and led him back to the vessel.

"Well," said the mate, "what have you seen? any natives?"

"Three hundred at the very least; the most ferocious mob I ever set
eyes on! They are aware, I am sure, that the vessel has been driven
into the bay yonder, and that we are few in number, for the women are
preparing their weapons, and the men are dancing their war-dance; we
shall have them down upon us before night. We must lose no time in
regaining the brig and putting her in a state of defence."

"The devil! Then we must make a fight of it. What's that?" said the
seaman, after they had proceeded some distance, when he turned round
to see what was in his wake; "what's that?" pointing to the spot where
the bushranger had left Jerry, who had now become visible.

"That's one of their scouts; they have sent him on, I have no doubt,
to watch us; but I'll be bound they are placed all round us, only
their bodies being black, you can't distinguish them from the charred
stumps of the trees."

"Are those spears that he has got in his hands, shaking that way?"

"Yes; spears curiously tipped with sharp pieces of flint; they can
hurl them to a great distance, and when the natives are in numbers
they become formidable weapons, to say nothing of their waddies and
their womeras."

"Waddies! What are they?"

"They are short thick clubs about four feet long, made of hard wood,
with which they batter in your skull by repeated blows; but the womera
is the worst weapon."

"What's a womera?"

"It's a semi-circular piece of hard wood shaped in the form of an
elongated crescent, with a sharp edge inside; the natives have the
knack of throwing it with a peculiar sleight of hand difficult to be
described, and they can bring down with it an emu or a kangaroo, or a
man in their fights; and the curiosity of the weapon is, that if it
misses the object at which it is cast, its revolving motion in the air
causes it to return to the same spot nearly from whence it was thrown.
I have stood by a Sydney native who was hurled it at an angle of about
forty-five degrees almost out of sight, and I have had to jump aside
pretty quickly to avoid being struck with it on its return to the spot
it was thrown from."

"Very curious, indeed! but here's the vessel, thank Heaven! And now
we will put her in fighting trim. If we must have a bout with these
natives, we'll teach 'em a thing or two before we have done with 'em."

Expectation was eager on board to hear the information of the
explorers, but the sight of the supposed native had so taken
possession of the mate's mind, and he was so full of his plans for the
coming fight, that he relieved the bushranger of all trouble to coin
more lies to deceive the major and the rest of the crew as to the
hostile intentions of the savages. And the ship's glass having been
directed to the spot in the distance where Jerry had been judiciously
posted by Mark Brandon to serve as a conspicuous object to corroborate
his story of the natives, they beheld that much-abused individual in
all the glory of black mud and red ochre, performing the part of a
native to the bushranger's admiration, and brandishing his spears and
stamping about in the cold with a vigour and a ferocity of manner
calculated to inspire awe in the beholders!

But there was one thing which Mark, astute as he was, had overlooked
in his proceedings. He had forgotten that in the same way that the
person of Jerry disguised as a native was visible to those on board,
so was the brig visible to Jerry. Indeed, no sooner did Jerry catch
sight of the vessel in the bay than he almost jumped out of his skin
in the excess of his delight, and in his endeavour to give intimation
to those on board of his own identity; but as he did not know how near
the dreaded bushranger might be to him, he was afraid for a long time
to move from his position. But he endeavoured to make up for that
self-denial by the most frantic antics and gestures, which served only
to confirm those on board the vessel, who were watching him through
the ship's glass, in their opinion of the ferocious and cannibalistic
intentions of him and his blood-thirsty companions.

Mark Brandon, however, was presently struck with the fault which he
had committed in making known to Jerry the fact of the safety and of
the position of the vessel. He announced, therefore, to those on
board, who were industriously putting the brig in a state of defence,
that he would go on shore again and endeavour to ascertain further
information of the movements of the natives, an offer which was highly
applauded by the mate, and cordially approved by the major, who were
almost led to forget the bushranger's duplicity and violence in his
laudable anxiety to preserve the women from the threatened attack.
Besides, the honest mate's heart had been quite won by the
bushranger's confidence in placing his gun in his hands:--

"Let by-gones be by-gones," he said; "after all, it was natural for
the man to wish to escape from the country where he was a convict and
a slave; and if he is ready now to stand by us, and fight against the
natives like an honest man, why his help is as good as another's."

It was not without some anxiety, however, that Mark proceeded in the
direction of the spot where he had left his prisoner; and when he
arrived there he found his fears confirmed, for nothing was left of
Jerry and his accoutrements but two of the spears, and the cord with
which the bushranger had bound him.



Chapter XIV. A Surprise.

JERRY'S first impulse was to rush down to the vessel, and take his
chance of the reception he might meet with, as anything was better
than to be stuck up on a height, and made to perform a pantomime in
which he was the chief and only performer; but the fear of
encountering the bushranger and his associates, with a lively
remembrance of the very unceremonious manner in which he had been
pitched overboard on a former occasion, added to his modest
disinclination to appear before the young ladies in a character as
novel as it was unbecoming, decided him against that course, and he
determined, bound as he was, to endeavour to find his way back to his
companions in the boat.

By dint of great exertion, and of convulsions of wriggling, he
contrived to extricate his arms from their confinement, and was about
to resume his clothes, which lay in a bundle at his feet; but catching
sight of the bushranger at that moment in the hollow, who was
hastening to rectify the blunder which he had made in allowing his
prisoner to get sight of the vessel, he snatched up his bundle, and,
with a celerity which would have done credit to a real native, he
darted off in the direction o the hill, which he had marked as
overtopping the spot where the soldiers and constables, with the boat,
had taken shelter.

Mark had no sooner ascertained the flight of his prisoner than he
guessed his course, and felt all the danger which would result from
the information which he would give of the safety of the vessel, and
of its position in the bay. Without hesitating a moment, he followed
in the direction which he judged Jerry would take: and as he was more
used to keep a straight line among the undulating hills than the
pursued, it was not long before he caught sight of Jerry, with his
shirt tails streaming in the wind, making vigorous attempts to
surmount the hill which overhung the inlet where the boat of his
companions lay sheltered.

The bushranger was strongly tempted to put an end to the
embarrassment in a summary manner. He put his piece to his shoulder,
and covered the unfortunate Jerry with a deadly aim; but at this
moment the form of another person uprose over the crest of the hill,
who, although visible to the bushranger, was unseen by Jerry.

The man came over the top of the hill in the direction in which Jerry
was advancing; when, to his amazement, beholding the figure of what he
supposed to be a native in a state of active aggression rushing on him
with a spear in his hand, he hastily fired off his musket, and,
immediately turning tail, made the best of his way back, followed by
Jerry, who, out of breath and unable to articulate connected words,
screeched and screamed unearthly sounds, which only made the terrified
man scramble on the faster.

In this way they dashed into the constable's temporary encampment;
when Jerry, overjoyed and exhausted, threw himself on the ground,
where he was immediately seized and held fast.

The soldiers, meanwhile, held their muskets ready to repel what they
conjectured to be an attack from the natives, although the mode of its
commencement seemed contrary to all the rules of war, native or
foreign. But by this time Jerry had been raised up: joining his hands
together, and looking up towards the sky, he uttered a pious
ejaculation:--

"Thank God!"

"Why, man, what has happened to you?" said the constable, who,
notwithstanding the black mud and red ochre, had no difficulty in
recognising the podgy person of the corpulent Mr. Silliman; "what on
earth has induced you to disguise yourself this fashion?"

"It wasn't me," sighed out Jerry, "it was the bushranger!"

"The bushranger!--What, Mark Brandon?"

"The very same! He's here, and there, and everywhere!--I was trying
to catch a kangaroo, when somehow the plaguy beast caught hold of me,
and I tumbled down the hill, and when I got to the bottom, who should
there be waiting for me but that confounded bushranger, and the moment
I opened my mouth to speak, he clapped a pistol in it, and there I was
hard and fast."

"How is this?" said the corporal; "Mark Brandon was on board the
vessel, and now you say he is on shore--are you quite sure it is the
same man?"

"Sure!--There can be no mistake about that; whoever has been in his
clutches once will be sure to know him again!--He set me on the top of
a height, and there I saw the brig safe and sound in a little bay,
surrounded by hills just like a basin."

"The brig near us!" exclaimed the constable in surprise; "well,
that's a bit of luck I didn't expect. We must look about us, corporal,
and be alive;--we shall have work to do before night now."

"Yes," continued Jerry, "there was the brig; and with the glass they
could have seen me, if they had looked that way; and that rascal,
Mark, made me jump and caper about like a native--but what for, I'm
sure, I don't know; I only know it was extremely disagreeable."

"I have it," said the constable, after a few moments' reflection.
"Mark never does anything without a reason. Depend upon it that, by
some means or other, Mark has discovered that we are here; and his
object has been to keep the crew close, and to persuade them that the
natives will attack them; and he made this little gentleman paint
himself up for that very purpose, and placed him in view of the vessel
to make those on board believe that the natives really were near
them.--Now, corporal, we have no time to lose; we must get on board
that vessel somehow, before a change of wind will allow it to leave
the bay and put to sea. What is your sentry making motions at, and
pointing up channel as if he saw something? Go, and see," he said to
the other constable. "It can't be the bushrangers coming down on us;
look to your arms, my men--let us be ready. Corporal, you had better
take the command when it comes to fighting: I am used to the bush, and
to the ways of the bushrangers; but, when it comes to the scratch, I
am under your orders, you know.--Every man to his trade, say I."

The constable's messenger quickly returned with the tidings that
another boat was coming down the channel along the coast, and would
presently be near the entrance of the creek.

He had scarcely delivered his message, when a large boat shot round
and entered the inlet, containing a serjeant's guard, under the
command of an ensign, who had been despatched by the government
authorities, in consequence of the suspicious movements of the brig,
which had been telegraphed to head-quarters. They brought the
information, also, that a large body of convicts, supposed to be
thirty in number, had escaped in the same direction as Mark Brandon;
and it was feared that if they were able to join him they would
become, under his leadership, a formidable body, and requiring the
additional aid which was sent to the constable's assistance.

The ensign, on whom now devolved the command of the party, proceeded
to make the necessary inquiries for his guidance, in which Mr.
Silliman became an important person, as he alone had been a witness of
the acts of the bushrangers. The ensign proceeded to interrogate him
with military precision:--

"How many of the bushrangers are there?"

"Six," replied Mr. Silliman, "besides Mark Brandon; but he is as good
as a dozen himself."

"That's seven. Now, how many are the crew and passengers on board the
brig?"

"There are nine sailors," replied Mr. Silliman, "and the mate, and
me--no, I'm here--that's ten men; and the steward and the boy--that's
twelve; and the major and his two daughters--that's fifteen in all. If
I was there it would be sixteen."

"The major!--major who?"

"Oh! I forgot--Major Horton and his two daughters."

"Major Horton!"

"Yes, Major Horton."

"And his two daughters, did you say?"

"Yes. Helen is the elder one, and Louisa the other."

"Helen Horton!" exclaimed the ensign, not able to restrain his
surprise; "how very extraordinary!--And pray," said he, in a tone in
which might be observed a little vexation, "have you come in the same
vessel with them the whole way from England?"

"To be sure I did. I gave the major a hundred guineas for my passage,
and paid the money down before I left the river; and the only thing I
bargained for was, that there should be lots of bottled porter;--the
cigars I found myself."

"Major Horton--with Helen and Louisa!" repeated the ensign; "what a
singular circumstance! Those rascals have not ill-treated them?" he
asked, suddenly turning to Mr. Silliman; "if they have insulted them
by word or look I will show them no mercy, so far as depends on me."

"Oh! Mr. Brandon is quite the gentleman," replied Jerry: "He just
chucks you into the sea, or knocks you down with the butt-end of a
musket, or makes a native of you, but it's all done in the politest
way in the world! It's impossible to complain of him! and I wish I had
him, with his neck just under my two thumbs; if I didn't give him such
a squeeze as he would remember all the days of his life, my name's not
Jeremiah Silliman, that's all!"

Mr. Trevor, who held a commission in the regiment a division of which
had lately arrived in Van Diemen's Land, was a young man about two--
and-twenty years of age, who had entered the army from an enthusiastic
predilection for a military life. He had eagerly embraced the
opportunity of going out to Australia, as he considered that those new
and unexplored regions presented a new field of adventure, untrodden
by the foot of the vulgar traveller, and likely to furnish scenes of
romantic adventure, in which his spirit of enterprise might find
opportunity for exercise. He had met Helen Horton about two years
before at a foreign watering-place, where he had been captivated by
her beauty, and had been powerfully struck with a character of mind
which, in its courage and independence, was similar to his own.
Circumstances had separated them at the time; but the impression which
Helen had made on him was too powerful to be forgotten, and he had
taken much pains to trace out the place of her abode, in England and
abroad, but without success.

To meet with her again, after his vain search for her in Europe,
struck him as the most romantic coincidence in his life; and it added
not a little to his zeal in recovering the vessel, and in capturing
the marauders, to think that he should at the same time do a most
important service to one whom he now regarded as reserved, by a
propitious destiny, to enable him to show to the world a gallantry and
courage, for the exercise of which he had never yet found an
appropriate occasion. Full of ardour, therefore, for the enterprise,
and bearing in mind the possibility of the thirty additional prisoners
having joined Mark Brandon's party, he lost no time in consulting with
the constable, who was an experienced hand in the bush, as to the best
means of regaining possession of the vessel.

The shades of evening were now fast drawing in, but as the nature of
the business was pressing, and as it was possible for the brig, by a
sudden turn of wind, to be carried out of the bay by the bush-rangers
who were supposed to have possession of her, he decided on making an
immediate attempt to recover her, and at any rate to establish his
party in a position commanding the outlet of the bay.

As the wind and sea were too rough and high to allow of their making
progress in the boats, it was resolved that a sufficient guard should
be left for their protection, and that the ensign, with the soldiers
under his command, with the addition of the constables as guides and
assistants, should proceed at once to a convenient spot in the
vicinity of the bay, and then to act according to circumstances.

They moved on accordingly, guided by Jerry and one of the constables;
but as the darkness increased, and as the country was difficult,
interspersed with loose rocks, and intersected continually with deep
ravines embarrassing to cross, and as they were obliged to be cautious
to avoid a disgraceful surprise, their progress was necessarily slow.

In the mean time Mark Brandon had not been idle. He had viewed, from
a convenient ambush, the whole proceedings of the pursuing party--the
arrival of the reinforcement, and the arrangements which he partly saw
and partly guessed for the advance of the military. But as night was
approaching, he judged that no attempt would be made in the dark to
recover possession of the brig; and he calculated, therefore, that he
had eight hours before him to form his own plans, and make his own
preparations.

But at this point his ingenuity was for a time at a loss. He had
fully succeeded in impressing on the fears of the crew, that an attack
from the natives was to be apprehended--a delusion in which he had
been materially assisted by the admirable acting, unconscious though
that individual was of his pantomimic talents, of the excited Jerry;
but the time was now come when some other scheme must be contrived,
either to put off the threatened attack of the soldiers, or to repel
it successfully when made. Any attempt to persuade the major and the
mate that it was an attack of bushrangers he felt would be idle, as,
at the first appearance of the rescuing body, and especially of the
red coats of the soldiers, they would be aware that it was a party
sent to their succour, and they would be prepared to assist in their
own liberation. Could he contrive to get the mate and the major again
in his power with the crew, and then, by keeping the vessel in the
middle of the bay, which was of an oval shape, and about two miles
across in its broadest part, fight it out with the parties on shore,
and trust to chance for the favourable opportunity of a change of wind
to run the vessel out to sea?

That was a bold thought; but it was the best plan if it could be
done. But how to do it, with the major and his chief officer on their
guard, and the crew ready to resist? Still it was his only chance of
escape from the colony, and a life in the bush was both hazardous and
unprofitable. Such an opportunity might never occur again; the vessel
was small and handy; he had possession of her; she was ready for sea,
for under the directions of the mate her deck had been already
disencumbered of the main-top--mast which had been shattered in the
gale, and the vessel had been put in as good trim as circumstances
allowed. If he could once get to sea he could repair damages, he
considered, at his leisure; and as to any boats which might be sent in
pursuit, he had no fear of being able either to distance them, or to
beat them off.

He determined, therefore, on the bold plan; and he immediately bent
his thoughts to effect its execution before daylight and the knowledge
of the proximity of their friends should give the major and his party
the advantage. As he revolved these thoughts he arrived at the edge of
the bank to which the vessel was moored, and stepping on board,
hastily gave directions for moving the vessel into the centre of the
bay.

"I have been watching the natives," he said, "and they are preparing
for a night attack; our best plan therefore is to remove the vessel
out of the reach of their spears and arrows."

"I have no great fear of their spears and arrows," said the mate;
"there are enough of us, I think, to stand any attack that the natives
can make on us; but there's no harm in moving the brig to the middle
of the bay, if you can keep her there. You see there are little eddies
and currents of wind flying all round us under these hills, and
there's no knowing where a puff may come from; and it's getting
darkish, and we don't know what rock or shoal we may light on in this
outlandish place.--But do as you please, there's no harm in being safe
at any rate. I only wish the wind would change, and then we might get
out of this trap; though it has proved a lucky trap for us for the
matter of that: I thought it was all over with the poor brig just
before she shot into that opening yonder! But let us thank God for our
luck, and keep our eyes open for what's to come next. Your friends
there don't look very sociable," he continued, pointing to the six
bushrangers, who, with their muskets in their hands, stood ranged in a
line on the larboard side of the quarter-deck, while the sailors
unarmed were congregated together in the fore-part of the vessel: "is
this to be the game all night?"

"Sorry to hurt your feelings," said Mark Brandon, "but you know it's
a truce at present; but my people feel more easy in their minds that
way; no offence meant, however."

"Well," replied the mate; "but that's not the way to make other
people feel easy in their minds, to have loaded muskets cocked at them
that fashion all night; it's not very polite to the ladies--Mister--
Mister pilot!"

"Perhaps the ladies might prefer to go on shore," replied Mark.

"But who are to protect them from the natives?"

"Take your own crew to protect them, if you will, while I take care
of the ship."

"But our sailors have no arms."

"Let them take arms," said Mark; "you see, Mr. Northland, I am
inclined to trust you, though you will not trust me."

"Eh!" exclaimed the mate, a sudden, and, as he flattered himself, a
brilliant thought occurring to him, "and you say you will let us take
arms on shore with us?"

"To be sure I will, to protect the ladies."

The mate immediately dived down to the major, who was in the cabin
with his daughters, and proposed to him to accept the bushranger's
offer.

"But that would be abandoning the vessel to the bushrangers,"
suggested the major.

"No matter," said the mate; "they cannot get the vessel through the
narrow entrance of the bay without our help; those fellows could never
do it, so that we should have them at our mercy; besides, what can we
do on board? They have possession of the arms, and if it came to a
struggle, although we might make a fight of it, we could scarcely
expect to get the better of them. But with arms in our hands, although
outside of the vessel, we might do something; besides, we should fight
together and without being embarrassed with the fear of the women
being hurt. Only let us get arms in our hands, and trust to fortune
for the rest."

"But the natives?"

"We must do as well as we can with them; besides, I can't help having
a suspicion that there is some sham about this threatened attack of
the natives. I never read nor heard of such a large body of natives
collecting together, and this is the first I have heard of their bows
and arrows."

"But we saw one of their scouts on the height," said the major,
"shaking his spears at us; he was a most ferocious-looking monster,
though it struck me he was shorter and fatter than the natives are
represented to be in the books which I have read about them."

"It's a great point," said the mate, "to get ourselves out of the
immediate power of this man and his fellows. It is not easy to fathom
his plans, but it seems to me we can't be worse off than we are, and
with arms in our hands we may be better. What do the young ladies say
to it?"

Helen and Louisa, who were lying exhausted on their couches, rose up
at this appeal, and added their entreaties that their father would
take advantage of the bushranger's offer and take them on shore. It
was not without some difficulty, however, that the major could bring
himself to leave the vessel which contained nearly the whole of his
property:--

"Why," he remonstrated with the mate, "I should have thought you the
last man in the world to quit the ship, and abandon it to the
bushrangers!"

"Will you fight it out now then," said the mate, "and take our chance
of the result?"

"We are unarmed," replied the major; "we can have no chance against
men with fire-arms, fighting too with halters round their necks."

"That's just it," replied the mate; "we are unarmed, and what can we
do? That Mark Brandon can drive us all below when he pleases, and put
to sea if his men can work the vessel, and what are we the better for
that? Better have our liberty on shore, than be bound hand and foot
here, to be heaved overboard whenever it may suit him to do so. If it
came to that, I would rather trust to the natives than to rascally
convicts."

"Agreed then," said the major; "we will go on shore, and trust to
chance for the rest."

The mate lost no time in communicating the major's acceptance of the
offer to Mark Brandon, who, on his side, seemed quite ready to perform
his part of the treaty with good faith and sincerity. But first he
desired to have an interview with Major Horton.



Chapter XV. A New "Dodge."

"MAJOR," said the bushranger, assuming, with immeasurable impudence,
the tone of the injured party, "I am sorry to find from your officer
that you do not trust me!"

The major was exceedingly embarrassed; he was summoned into the
presence of the man who had fraudulently taken possession of his brig,
and monopolised all the arms for his own followers, having committed
violence on his mate and on the crew, and he found himself suddenly
called on to exculpate himself from a charge of want of confidence in
the very man, who with consummate duplicity had succeeded in
committing an act of piracy on his own vessel! The scene would have
been ludicrous from the absurdity of the accusation, if the appearance
of the six bushrangers with muskets cocked and presented had not given
too serious an aspect to the affair to allow him to deal with it
lightly.

"You do not trust me," repeated Mark Brandon, with an air of outraged
virtue which was highly melo-dramatic; "but as I have said before, I
will trust you, if you will pledge your word of honour not to take
advantage of my confidence by turning your arms against me."

"What is it you propose?" demanded the astonished major.

"Your officer," continued Mark Brandon, "has expressed his suspicion
that I may take advantage of your defenceless condition during the
night, and endeavour to confine your crew below as they were before."

"Well," said the major.

"Now to prove to you that I have no such design, but on the contrary
that I am desirous to act together to resist the attack of the
natives, I am ready to allow you all to go on shore immediately."

"But the arms?" said the mate.

"Just so; and not only will I do that, but I will allow your men to
take arms and ammunition for their defence should they be attacked;
when you can either return on board, or we will land and assist you as
may be thought best."

"That sounds all fair enough," said the mate, shaking his head, and
trying to penetrate into the secret object of the bushranger, if there
was one:--"that sounds all fair enough. What do you say to it, major?"

"I have no objection to pledge myself not to make use of our arms
against you for twenty-four hours," replied the major; "that is,
presuming that you will allow us at the same time to supply ourselves
with provisions, and that you will let us take such necessaries on
shore as we require."

"And you, major, and you, Mr. Northland," said the bushranger, "now
pledge your word of honour for yourselves and your crew, that for
twenty-four hours you will not use your arms against us?"

"We do," said the major and the mate; "and so do we," echoed the
sailors, who had gathered aft to witness the conference.

"It is agreed then," said Mark Brandon, rejoiced at the success of
his scheme. "And now the first thing is to get the ladies on shore."

"We will just land a couple of men first," said the mate, "to see
that the coast is clear; we don't want to be eaten up by the natives."

Two of the sailors, accordingly, after having first received arms and
ammunition according to compact, stepped on shore; and the rest of the
sailors being employed to convey to the land various articles of
comfort from the principal cabin, together with provisions, with wine
and spirits, the party was quickly transferred from the deck of the
vessel to the greensward by its side. Mark then adjusted the sails so
as to propel the brig into the centre of the bay, where, by proper
manoeuvres, he kept it nearly stationary, praying heartily for a
change of wind, which would enable him to take the vessel through the
narrow entrance of the basin into the open sea.

In the mean time the party on shore prepared for their night bivouac.
It was more than dusk, and they could not see far beyond the immediate
spot which they occupied, but the major, not forgetful of his military
habits, soon pitched upon a place where they were secured by a high
rock in their rear, and having in front loose masses of stone which
would serve as obstructions to an advancing enemy, and afford a
shelter to the assailed party, behind which they might defend
themselves with advantage.

They thought it prudent not to light a fire, as it might attract the
observation of the savages; but the major having fortified the spaces
in his front with logs and branches of trees, and disposed of his
daughters behind a projecting mass of rock, sent out a scout to gain
intelligence of the enemy. After a short absence the scout returned
with the information, that to the left of the major's post, there was
the reflection of a fire, which was burning brightly.

This was a piece of news too serious to be neglected; and the major
commissioned the mate therefore to proceed with great caution to
examine into the state of affairs, and to report the numbers and the
apparent intentions of the natives. This the worthy officer proceeded
to do; advancing slowly and stealthily towards the fire, and surprised
not to observe any appearance of the natives of whom Mark Brandon had
discoursed so largely. As he got nearer to the light he crawled on his
hands and knees, expecting every moment to light upon a native, and
admiring the cunning with which they had contrived to conceal
themselves from observation.

It happened that Mr. Silliman had volunteered, in the excess of his
enthusiasm, to keep watch at that point, and although the ensign in
command was too prudent to trust the safety of his men to an
inexperienced person, he permitted him to occupy a position in advance
of his own sentries to give notice of any distant alarm.

It was while the romantic Jerry, unconscious of danger, was looking
up to the stars of the southern firmament, and was comparing their
light with the gas-lamps of Cheapside, that he felt his leg suddenly
grasped in the rough embrace of the worthy mate, who was silently
groping his way round the rock near which Jerry was standing. The
first thought of the affrighted Jerry was that he was seized by some
ferocious animal indigenous to the country; by some immense boa-
constrictor perhaps, or by the native hyaena, of whose fierceness and
voracity he had read frightful accounts in books of travels.

Too much terrified to cry out, he stood for some seconds paralysed!
while the mate, on his side, finding that he had got hold of a man's
naked leg, did not doubt that he had clutched a native, and waited, it
must be confessed, not without some anxiety, for the yell which he
expected would bring to the spot a crowd of black fellows to the
assistance of their brother.

Jerry, however, had strength of mind and strength of finger left to
give a desperate pull at the trigger of his musket, which, in virtue
of his quality as sentry, had been entrusted to him by the constable.
The noise of the report amazed the mate, who, with a seaman's
pertinacity, however, did not relinquish his grip of Jerry's leg,
albeit that it overturned all his calculations to find fire-arms in
the possession of a native.

The major's quick ear caught the well-known sound immediately, and he
redoubled his diligence to secure his fortifications from a sudden
attack. The ensign and his soldiers stood to their arms: while the
faint echo of the musket-sound conveyed to the watchful bushranger the
fatal intimation that some discovery had taken place on shore which
could bode only ill to him, from the junction of the parties now
united for his destruction, and which required the exercise of all his
cunning and unequalled daring to guard against and to repel.



Chapter XVI. Mr. Silliman Insists That He Was Not Drowned.

THE mate, astonished to find a native, as he supposed, in the
possession of fire-arms, was a little at a loss for a few seconds to
know how to act; for there seemed to be as much danger in retreating
as in remaining where he was. But as the report of the musket was not
followed as he expected by a yell from the other savages, and as the
ensign's party was too far off for their movements to be heard, the
sturdy seaman quickly recovered his presence of mind, and with
professional audacity conceived the design of carrying in the native
as a prisoner to the major's encampment.

He still kept a firm grip of Jerry's leg; and that astounded
individual, persuaded that his limb was clutched either by a real
native or by some ferocious animal of the woods, was too terrified for
some time to give vent to his fright by vocal exclamations. Nor did
his enemy give him time; for the mate starting on his legs, suddenly
clasped him in his arms, and before Jerry could cry out, threw his
prisoner on the ground, and ramming his handkerchief into his mouth in
a moment with a bit of lanyard which, sailor-like, he always carried
about him, he tied Jerry's elbows together, and so had him hard and
fast.

Poor Jerry finding himself trussed up after this fashion, with his
face to the earth and his antagonist's knee in his back keeping him
down, immediately concluded from the celerity and dexterity of the
operation, that by some horrid mischance he had again fallen into the
clutches of the dreadful bushranger, and he gave vent to his anguish
in a doleful groan!

But the mate, who had possessed himself of the musket and bayonet of
the captured sentinel, immediately endeavoured to make the native
sensible that any noise would be promptly punished; and "unshipping"
the bayonet, as he mentally expressed it, that it might form a handier
instrument for his purpose, he applied it gently but decidedly to the
fleshy part of his prisoner's person, which caused the party afflicted
to perform an undulatory contortion of his body, wriggling it
snakelike, and digging his toes into the ground with a quick and
convulsive motion, strongly expressive of his dislike to the
operation.

Several attempts at crying out were repressed in the same way; but
the mate could not help being exceedingly surprised to find a native
of Van Diemen's Land clothed like an European; which was altogether at
variance with all that he had heard on the subject. But his
astonishment was increased when Jerry, not being able any longer to
bear the arguments à posteriori repeatedly applied by the mate to keep
his prisoner quiet, with a convulsive effort contrived to disengage
the handkerchief from his mouth, and in the extremity of his despair
roared out "Murder!"

Sailors are proverbially superstitious. The voice was the voice of
Mr. Silliman, whom the bushrangers had chucked into the sea, and whom
the mate had supposed long since to have become food for the
Australian fishes! Utterly unable to account for the resurrection of
the drowned Jeremiah at such a time and in such a place, the amazed
mate--his faculties wearied and confused with the events of the day,
and the strangeness of an unknown country, and the darkness, helping,
as he afterwards explained, "to flabbergast him entirely"--was struck
with the notion that he was the sport of the Evil One!--or else that
it was with the spirit of the murdered passenger that he was now
contending!

For a moment the courage of the hardy seaman was at fault. As to
bushrangers, or natives, or anything living, howsoever dangerous, he
snapped his fingers at them; but to have to do with an unreal thing!
the ghost of one who had met with a violent death! that was more than
his nautical philosophy could bear; and he meditated a hasty retreat,
when his prisoner, who had recovered his breath, set up a second
shout:

"Murder! help! Here are the bushrangers on us! Help! murder!"

It was certainly the voice of the deceased Jerry! But the sincerity
of his terror as exhibited in the energy of his cries, and the plump
substantiality of his person so indicative of a real living body,
struck the worthy mate, and dispelled the superstitious feeling of
ghostly apparitions or supernatural agency. Wishing to test still
farther the fact of the body under his knee being that of a real
living man, he applied the bayonet in a manner calculated to elicit
that fact by some further demonstration.

"Don't," beseeched Jerry; "pray, sir, don't; good bushranger! Mr.
Mark Brandon! I'll do what you please; but don't--don't keep sticking
that ugly bayonet into me every instant...."

"Why!" exclaimed the mate, "who the devil are you?"

"Mr. Northland! By George, it's all right after all! What! don't you
know me? Don't you know Mr. Silliman, the passenger on board your
ship?"

"But that Mr. Silliman was drowned," returned the mate, still keeping
his knee stuck into Jerry's back, as a precautionary and preventive
measure against sudden retaliation; "I saw him go down myself."

"I know I went down," replied Jerry; "but I came up again:--I wasn't
drowned. The boat that we thought was full of bushrangers, contained a
party of soldiers and constables, who were in pursuit of Mark Brandon
and his gang, and they saved me."

"And where are they?" asked the mate. But before Jeremiah had time to
answer the question, the mate uttered a peremptory "Hush! I hear
footsteps approaching."

"Who comes there?" said a voice, which Jerry recognised as that of
the ensign; "Mr. Silliman, is that you?"

"Ay, ay," said Mr. Silliman, getting on his legs, to which the mate
assisted him; "it's me, and more than me. Here's the mate of the brig,
Mr. Northland. He caught hold of my leg in the dark, and I fired off
my musket."

"Are you sure it is the mate of the brig?"

"Sure! Haven't I made all the voyage with him? and do you think I
don't know his voice as well as I do my own?"

"Where are the bushrangers?" inquired the ensign.

"On board the brig," replied the mate. "They offered to let us go on
shore with arms to protect us from the natives; and as they had us
completely in their power, the major thought it best to agree to it.
When I gripped Mr. Silliman's leg, I thought I had got hold of a
native."

"There are no natives in this part of the island," said the
constable; "what put that in your head?"

"Why, Mark Brandon declared there was a mob of at least three hundred
natives preparing to attack us! And I saw one myself, a most
ferocious-looking rascal, brandishing his spears at us from the top of
the hill..."

"That was me!" said Jerry. "It was that confounded bushranger who
made me paint myself like a native with his filthy black mud, and
stuck me at the top of the hill to frighten you."

"By Jupiter," exclaimed the mate, "I see it all now! And that
confounded bushranger, with his jaw, has been persuading us all the
time that you were a party of natives; for we saw the smoke of your
fire over the hills. That we could ever be such fools as to be so
bamboozled!"

"Don't be ashamed," said the constable, availing himself of the
freedom of the bush to put in his say; "Mark Brandon has bamboozled as
good heads as yours; but now we must see if we can't bamboozle him."

"Come on to the fire," said the ensign, "and then you can explain
more of this matter to us. There is something in it that I can't
altogether comprehend. This Mark Brandon seems to have the art of the
devil himself to deceive you all in the way that he has done."

The mate, during this colloquy, had freed his prisoner from the cord,
and at the invitation of the ensign, he moved on with Jerry to the
spot where the fire was blazing brightly. They were duly challenged by
the sentries as they approached; and having reached the light, it was
with considerable curiosity that the mate surveyed the well-known
podgy person of his fellow-passenger of the brig; not without some
vague lingerings of doubt, however, as to whether he could be the real
Silliman after all, so strongly was his mind impressed with the
remembrance of having seen him going down to the bottom of the sea in
D'Entrecasteaux's channel. He was glad, however, to sit down by the
side of the fire with the ensign, while Mr. Silliman endeavoured to
rest himself on his knees.

The ensign, observing that he continued in that unnatural and
inconvenient posture, asked him, goodnaturedly, why he did not sit
down? But Jerry shook his head, and rubbing himself behind with a most
lugubrious expression of countenance, intimated that the mate's
vivacious hints with the bayonet had incapacitated him from enjoying
that luxury for some time to come.

The mate having explained the meaning of Jerry's pantomimic action,
the bystanders, as is usual on such occasions, set up a hearty and
simultaneous laugh, which was rendered the merrier by the comical
seriousness preserved by the smarting Jerry, who did not laugh at all;
and, as he observed, "couldn't see what there was to laugh at. How
would they like it themselves?"

Their merriment quickly gave way, however, to the more serious
consideration of the steps to be pursued for the recovery of the brig.
The major's daughters were safe; that was a great point; and George
Trevor's heart beat quick as he thought that the Helen, whom he had
sought over a large part of Europe in vain, was even now within a
short distance from him, and that in a brief space he should have the
happiness of beholding her again!

In his romantic enthusiasm he was almost angry that circumstances had
disappointed him of the opportunity of showing his courage by rescuing
her from the power of the bushrangers! But that idea soon gave way to
more sober thoughts. Her father, by the mate's account, would be
ruined by the loss of the brig, in which had been embarked nearly the
whole of his property; besides, it was his duty to leave no means
untried of capturing the runaway convicts, who were in arms against
the government, and whose escape it was important to prevent, lest it
should operate as an encouragement to similar attempts.

He turned his attention, therefore, firmly to the business of
retaking the brig, without allowing the thought of Helen, whom he
burned to see again, to distract him from his duty; but, as he
considered that the major's military experience would be valuable in
deciding on the proceedings to be adopted, he determined on joining
him without delay.

Desiring his party to follow in Indian file, and requesting the mate
to act as guide, they proceeded as rapidly as the darkness and the
inequality of the ground would permit to the spot where the major,
with his daughters and the crew of the vessel, held their entrenched
encampment.



Chapter XVII. Love in the Bush.

IN the mean time the major, with the vigilance of an old soldier, had
kept a good look-out. On the departure of the mate he had pushed
forward a couple of scouts to give notice of anything indicating
danger.

It was not long before one of them came back with the intelligence
that footsteps were heard approaching. The major went to the outside
of his fortifications a little in advance, and placing his ear to the
ground was enabled to distinguish plainly the sound of the tread of
many men. Giving instant directions to the crew to be on their guard,
and retiring his two scouts within the breast-work, the sturdy sailors
stood with their arms ready and prepared to repel the attack of the
natives, which they now were convinced was on the point of taking
place.

The major was by no means at ease in respect to the result of the
conflict; for he was aware of the power of numbers, and the advantage
which a night attack, under such circumstances, gave to the attacking
party. He hastily spoke a few words to re-assure his daughters'
confidence, with some brief instructions as to the course they were to
pursue in the case of his being overpowered by numbers.

Helen, and especially Louisa, could not help feeling the alarm
natural to their sex at the prospect of an encounter with savages, not
only on their own account, but for their father's sake, who was not a
man, as they well knew, to be backward where fighting was going on, or
to shrink from danger when his presence and example were needed to
encourage others.

But, with the strong-minded Helen, the tremors which the first alarm
had excited, quickly subsided, and, arming herself with a ship's
cutlass, she planted herself before the entrance of the rock to guard
from harm her less courageous sister.

"Shall I fire, sir?" asked one of the sailors, who held in his brawny
arms a huge blunderbuss, the threatening aspect of which was alone
sufficient to scare away a whole mob of natives, had there been light
to distinguish the capaciousness of its expanding muzzle:--"I can hear
them coming on, and my blunderbuss covers them nicely; shall I let
fly?"

"No, no," said the major, "never fire, man, till you have hailed your
enemy; always give fair play; don't fire."

"Avast, there!" cried out the mate, who heard the word "fire," and
was by no means desirous of receiving such a compliment from his
friends. "Avast! we are friends, all of us. Here is Mr. Silliman come
to life again, and a party of soldiers come to join us; and now, by
Jupiter, we'll have the old brig again; and I'll take the liberty to
tell Master Mark Brandon a bit of my mind. And, with your leave,
major, we'll make up a fire, for we are strong enough now to defy the
bushrangers, even if they were to come on shore, which they won't do,
for it's not their game; they will be trying to get the vessel through
the opening and out to sea; but we'll put a stopper on that, or my
name's not Jack Northland."

"Major Horton," said Ensign Trevor, introducing himself by name, "I
think I cannot do better than put myself under your orders; your
knowledge and experience in these matters are far superior to mine."

This deferential offer Mr. Trevor made by no means with the desire of
propitiating the major, but entirely from the impulse of his natural
modesty, so becoming in youth. But the major replied with military
decision, in terms not less courteous:

"By no means, Mr. Trevor; you are on duty, and I am retired from the
service. But I shall be happy to give you the benefit of my advice if
you should think it worth having. But, your name! I had the honour to
be acquainted abroad with a gentleman of the name of Trevor; is it
possible that I can have the pleasure of meeting him again in this
most extraordinary manner? And now, that the fire begins to burn up, I
can see by the light that I am not mistaken. Helen, my dear, you may
come forward; Louisa, my love, there is no danger. I have a surprise
for you both; here is an old acquaintance. Mr. Trevor, my dears, whom
you knew in Germany, is in command of the party that has joined us.
Strange meeting this, Mr. Trevor! My poor little girl, you see, has
not recovered from her alarm at the thoughts of the natives. Where is
Helen, my love? She is generally foremost when there's danger; not
that there's any danger now, and especially from you, Mr. Trevor. I
see that the expectation of a brush has excited you a little. Oh! here
comes Helen! My dear, why do you walk so slowly? Are you ill? Is
anything the matter with your sister, Louisa? I am afraid, Mr. Trevor,
that her spirits are too much for her! She is quite a heroine, sir; an
Amazon! I believe to defend her poor father and her sister she would
fight like a lioness! Helen, my dear, look up; this is Mr. Trevor;
don't you remember Mr. Trevor? Surely you can't forget the long walks
we used to take with him at Vienna! There--there--don't be making
formal court'sies in the bush! This is not a place for ceremony, nor a
time, neither. You are heated and flushed, my dear, with the
excitement of our preparations for the natives. Well, upon my word, I
never saw so much bowing and courtseying before! Mr. Trevor, I admire
the deference due to the ladies as much as any man, but there's no
need to be so very formal among gum-trees and opossums."

"I am happy to see Mr. Trevor," at last said Helen, in a low voice,
which faltered slightly, and with an air of dignity which might have
become a queen on her throne receiving an ambassador.

"Circumstances," began Mr. Trevor,....

"Major," said the mate, coming forward from the rock, by which
another fire had been kindled, "we want your assistance here about the
provisions: our men say they ought to have some grog."

"Excuse me," said the major, "for a moment; I must attend to my
fellows. Sailors, you know, Mr. Trevor, are an unruly race wherever
rum and brandy are in question."

So saying, he withdrew.

His daughter, Louisa, feeling, with the instinct of her sex, that
George Trevor and her sister would prefer that their conference should
take place without the presence of a third person, had the
complaisance to accompany him; and the ensign and Helen were left
alone together.

The spot on which the two found themselves in this most strange and
unexpected meeting was one of the most romantic of that beautiful
island, abounding, as it does, in varied and romantic scenery. It was
a spot worthy of the pencil of Salvator Rosa. Nothing could exceed the
gloomy grandeur of the scene, and the lights and shadows cast by the
fires around added to the solemn beauty of the picture.

Scattered about were huge masses of rock, interspersed with dwarfy
shrubs, among which appeared one or two umbrageous peppermint trees of
enormous height, whose leaves presented towards the fire the vivid
tints of their bright green, while the masses of boughs behind were
involved in impenetrable shade. In the background, about a hundred
yards from the fire, near which George Trevor and Helen were standing,
arose a lofty mass of brown and rugged rock, disclosing in its front a
natural cave of gigantic proportions, the entrance of which was now
revealed by the light of the fire which had been kindled by the
sailors, and who, with their muskets in their hands, were grouped
around it in picturesque disorder. To the left, the bay, on which the
moon now shed a feeble light, might be faintly traced to the base of
the hills in the distance; and on its tranquil bosom the masts of the
devoted brig were indistinctly visible. Still further, and to the left
of the great rock, the open sea appeared, its undulating surface still
crested with foam which glistened in the white beams of the rising
moon beyond.

As George Trevor and Helen were standing on the side of the fire
farthest from the rock, their persons could be but imperfectly seen by
those in the vicinity of the sailors' fire, and the sentry in advance
was removed from sight and hearing by the obstruction of the temporary
fortification of timber and branches which had been thrown up for the
protection of the major's party. Thus secured from the observation of
eyes or ears, the two had full opportunity to make their mutual
explanations; but it was some time before the ensign could muster up
courage to break silence, as Helen stood, with her arms slightly
folded, in an attitude of freezing rigidity.

"Miss Horton may think, perhaps," he began, "that she has reason to
complain--"

"Sir," said Helen, "I make no complaints."

"I mean," resumed the gentleman, "that my seeming neglect--after
what had passed--I mean, the declaration which I made--"

"Mr. Trevor," interrupted Helen, "I require no apology for the
neglect that you speak of, and it is superfluous for you, therefore,
to offer it. This meeting, in these wilds, is not of my seeking--nor
of yours, doubtless," she added, with some degree of bitterness; "but
such as it is, sir, we must be to each other as if former meetings had
never been. I require from you, sir, nothing but respect--and
forgetfulness of all the rest. Permit me, sir, to join my father."

"Stay, Miss Horton! Helen! for God's sake do not go away with such
an erroneous notion of my feelings! When I quitted you at Vienna, I
was called away by the sudden and dangerous illness of my nearest and
dearest relation...."

"And the lady, sir, who accompanied you? Was she a near and dear
relation too?"

"That lady was the betrothed of one of my dearest friends. It was to
serve them both that I accompanied her to a village not five miles
off, where her future husband awaited her. It was for the purpose of
giving a false scent to those who might pursue her, that I consented
to act the part I did, and which I have felt since might have given
rise to the most fatal misconstruction. The lady is long since married
to my friend; and as I am sure that you will not doubt my sacred word
of honour, I hope I may trust that you will believe in the truth of
what I tell you, which I now sacredly affirm. I addressed a letter to
you at Vienna..."

"I never received it!!"

"...to which I received no reply; but as the letter was not
returned, I conceived, perhaps, an erroneous opinion of you from the
slight, as I felt it, of your silence; and feared...but I will not
dwell on that point. In short, I do not hesitate to avow, that I
searched for you through a great part of Germany, and afterwards in
England; but, as you are aware, without success. My travels in pursuit
of you occupied me for an entire year...."

"Can this be true?" said Helen, her voice faltering with emotion.

"You cannot doubt my truth, Helen. At last, wearied with a vain
search, and suspecting, from your not having replied to my letter,
that--that--I am ashamed even now to breathe such a suspicion--in
short--that you were trifling with my affections...."

"Oh--no!--it was not that!" said Helen, her eyes suffused with
tears.

"And wishing to fly from the misery of remembrances too bitter to be
borne..."

Helen sobbed!...

"I determined to try if a total change of scene and new occupations
would have the effect of making me forget one whom I had loved so
tenderly--and who had treated me, as I thought, so capriciously--but
whom I was determined to forget!"

"George--George--you have done me wrong I never was capricious. I
thought you had wronged me;--and it was the thought of that neglect
that reconciled me to exile--to this distant part of the world--where
I might bury my grief and disappointment far away from the eyes of all
observers. And I, too, have tried to forget--but I could not. No! a
woman cannot forget! How often have I wished that she could!"

"Then--at this spot--" exclaimed George Trevor--"I repeat the
declaration of my love; and by this token," unbuttoning his vest and
displaying a locket, in which his mistress had formerly enclosed a
lock of her beautiful hair, "I claim the promise which I received..."

"George, you have it before you ask it. There is something so strange
and so romantic in this singular meeting on the other side of the
globe, after so long a separation, that I think it is fated that we
are to belong to each other! You know," she added, smiling, "it is
said that marriages are made in heaven! There is my hand; I need not
tell you that which you have made me so often tell you before: but be
sure that where my hand is given, there my heart is also."

The happy ensign bent down in reverence, and kissed devoutly the
proffered hand that was extended towards him in sign of
reconciliation; and he was about to repeat the homage, when the voice
of the major suddenly interrupted his devotions.

"Hulloa! hulloa!" said the major; "what is the meaning of all this?
Kissing of hands in the bush! Why, Mr. Ensign, you make your military
approaches with promptitude, at any rate! We want you to join a
council of war with me, and the mate, and the constable; as we are the
four dignitaries it seems, on whom the fate of the bushrangers
depends. Well, upon my word, sir, you do me very great honour! You
tuck my daughter under your arm as if she belonged to you! That's the
military fashion of modern days, I suppose?"

"You forget, major, that our acquaintance is of old date: it was
begun at Vienna."

"Eh! what? acquaintance! Mr. Trevor, what do you mean?"

"I mean, major, that the acquaintance and the addresses which your
daughter permitted in Germany, she allows me to renew in Van Diemen's
Land."

"Addresses! and, renew! Upon my word, you make quick work of it, you
young fellows. This, I suppose, is a new edition of an old story! Love
in the Bush! And you say that all this nonsense began at Vienna! Well,
I think, Helen, you might have made me a confidant in the affair. You
know I never would cross you in such a matter; but a father is
something, after all! One likes to be consulted, at any rate!"

"My dear papa," said Helen, in her most winning tones, "it was our
intention to ask your permission--"

"What! after you had fallen in love you intended to ask my permission
to do it! Ah! that's always the way!"

"My dear papa!" interrupted Helen, in great confusion, "pray don't
talk so! I assure you it was our intention--but--you forget we were
more than a year in Germany with Mr. Trevor."

"Well--"

"A whole year!"

"Well--what of that?"

"Miss Horton means to say," said the soldier, gallantly coming to the
rescue, "that it was impossible for me to be in her society for a
whole year--short as the time was--without becoming penetrated with a
sense of her many excellent qualities...."

"Ah! you're both in the same tale, that's clear enough: the one keeps
the other in countenance."

"Dear papa, if I had thought that you disapproved....."

"Of course! If you had thought that I disapproved! Oh! then you would
both have fallen out of love again, I dare say! But let me tell you,
although you thought yourselves so clever, that your old father saw
plainly enough what was going on; and if he had disapproved, he would
not have allowed Mr. Trevor to improve his opportunities as he did:
your father was too old a soldier for that...."

"Oh! my dear papa!"

"Oh! my dear sir!"

"Well, let me see--some explanations are necessary, Mr. Trevor."

"Oh, papa! George has explained everything."

"But not to me, miss. Mr. Trevor, you can do that when we have more
leisure. Our first business is to get possession of the brig, and to
capture these rascally convicts. Now, Mr. Ensign, you will have the
opportunity of showing what mettle you are made of. Mark Brandon is a
desperate fellow, and he will not be taken without blood-shed, depend
upon it."

"Oh, heavens! Papa, what does it matter about the brig now? we are
all safe out of it, and I cannot bear to think that any lives should
be sacrificed in attempting to get it back again."

"We are all safe out of it," replied her father, "but all my property
is safe in it; and we must endeavour to get it again. Besides, it is
the duty of Mr. Trevor to leave no means untried to take the runaway
convicts. He is in the king's service now, and is not his own master."

Their further conversation was interrupted by the mate, who, at the
suggestion of the constable, took the liberty to break in on the
conference of the higher powers, to warn the major that it was near
midnight; and that if the boats which had been left at the creek were
to be brought round, no time was to be lost in effecting that
desirable object, in order to intercept the brig, should a change of
wind enable the convicts to attempt to force their way out through the
narrow entrance of the bay.

The constable was summoned to add his advice to the council; and it
was resolved, that all the crew of the brig, with the two constables,
should make the best of their way to the place where the boats were
left, and under the direction of the mate, lose no time in bringing
them round into the bay, where the military under the command of the
ensign would meet them. A corporal's guard was to be left at the rock
for the protection of the women; and as the corporal was a veteran
whose looks inspired confidence, this arrangement was agreed to by
Helen and Louisa with tolerable resignation, although Helen ventured
to throw out a hint that she should like to be a spectatress of the
fight; and Louisa insisted a little on the propriety of her father
remaining to protect them. But, soldiers' daughters as they were, they
would have been ashamed to urge the absence of their father or their
lover from the dangers to which others exposed themselves.

The resolutions relating to the boats were put promptly in course of
execution, by the departure of those appointed for that service; and
the ensign, after having posted sentinels to prevent surprise, desired
the rest of his men to lie down with their arms at hand, and to take
such rest as they could snatch from the fleeting hours of the early
morning. For himself, he determined to remain on the watch.

The major, with his daughters, returned within the cave, and soon the
whole party, with the exception of sentinels and their officer, were
buried in profound sleep.



Chapter XVIII. Mr. Silliman's Studies in Natural History.

THE report of the musket discharged by Mr. Jeremiah Silliman in the
excess of his fright from the sudden clutch of the iron fingers of the
mate, the faint echo of which was wafted in the silence of the night
over the waters of the bay where the brig was temporarily moored, was
not unmarked by the watchful desperado who had possession of the
vessel.

The bushranger felt that the sound boded no good to him! It must have
been heard, he feared, by some prying scout from the party in the
boat; and the junction of the parties of the major and of the
constable was thus certain; but although that was an anticipation, in
point of time, of a mutual discovery which could not fail to take
place, it was not an event which he had left out of his calculations.
But he had hoped that the junction would have been deferred until a
late hour in the morning; and, in the mean time, he trusted to his
good fortune, that, at the dawn of day, a change of wind might take
place, which would enable him to make his way through the narrow
passage which formed the entrance of the bay; but now it was likely
that he should have the two parties to contend against instead of one,
and it was possible that the boats might be made use of to intercept
his passage.

However, he reckoned that he should be able, from the vantage ground
of the higher deck of the brig, to beat off the boats; and he trusted
that the fire of the shore party would not be sufficient to clear his
decks and prevent the manoeuvring of the vessel before the wind would
take him out to sea and place him beyond the danger of further
pursuit.

He busied himself, therefore, during the night, with putting the
vessel into the best state of defence against boarding of which she
was capable and the materials at hand afforded; and, taking care that
each sail was ready to be set to the wind, and that every rope was in
order, he scanned the sky with eager gaze, and waited anxiously for
the change of wind which the experience of his smuggler's life told
him was preparing.

In this way the night was passed by the respective parties; the
sailors attached to the pursuing body, with the crew of the brig
working vigorously at their oars to bring the boat round to the
entrance of the bay before the change of wind,--which, with nautical
foresight of the weather, they were aware, from the appearance of the
clouds, was likely to take place in a few hours,--should come; the
convicts in the brig, with the wakefulness of the fear which
accompanies crime, afraid to trust themselves to sleep lest they
should be surprised they knew not when nor how, remaining in anxious
watchfulness; and the united party on shore seeking in a brief repose
for the renewed strength which would be wanted on the morrow.

Their peaceful slumbers, however, were suddenly broken at the
earliest dawn of day by loud cries for help from the vicinity of the
encampment.

The luckless Mr. Silliman was unable to close his eyes that night,
partly from his excessive joy at being restored to the presence of his
divinities, Helen and Louisa, and partly from the inconvenience of the
flesh-wounds which had been inflicted by the mate, when that active
officer mistook him for a native. It was with extreme apprehension of
the fatal consequences that he reflected, that bayonet-wounds were, of
all others, the most dangerous and the most difficult to heal, from
the triangular form of the weapon which prevented the orifices from
closing and healing, as the surgeons term it, "with the first
intention."

Full of these thoughts, and sorely grieved with the smart, he cast
about, being as he was apt to boast, of a reflecting turn of mind, for
some means of relief. Fortunately, as he thought, it occurred to him
that the natives of some island in the South Seas, the name of which
he had forgotten, made use of chewed leaves to apply to the wounds
made by their spears and tomahawks. Much pleased with himself at this
ready recollection of his reading from books of useful knowledge, he
resolved to lose no time in turning it to account on the present
occasion. He looked about, therefore, for a tree or shrub of an aspect
sufficiently inviting for his experiment.

Seeing a noble tree at no great distance from the fire, he threaded
his way cautiously to its base, and then he had the satisfaction of
learning the cause of a particular sort of squealing and scratching
which he had heard during the night, and for which he had been unable
to account. Looking up to a projecting bough over his head, he saw
that it was almost covered with some furry little animals resembling
cats or squirrels, and which his knowledge of natural history enabled
him at once to recognise as opossums. There was sufficient moonlight
to allow him to see that the creatures devoured the leaves of the tree
with much apparent relish.

This was another fact in natural history which he considered was of
infinite advantage to him on the present occasion; for he had learned
from descriptions of foreign countries, that travellers might safely
venture to eat of that which they observed animals, and especially the
birds, to feed on. He was by no means inclined to carry that theory
into practice in respect to thistles, but, fortified by this
demonstration of the taste of the opossums, he plucked some of the
leaves of the luxuriant tree, which was one of those known by the name
of "peppermint trees," which abound in Australia, and whose odours
perfume the air very pleasingly at a distance. Collecting a handful of
these leaves, he forthwith set to at chewing them.

If the opossums were as curious in studying objects of natural
history as their spectator, doubtless they would have admired the
extraordinary contortion of countenance exhibited by the venturesome
Jerry, as he became aware of the horrible nastiness of his first
experience in practical botany. But the smart of the tattoeing of the
bayonet at that moment becoming sharper, and acting as it were as a
counter-irritation to the filth in his mouth, he recovered his
surgical courage; and calling to mind that, by some curious
ordinations of Providence, almost all medicines are valuable and
curative in the inverse ratio of the pleasingness of their gustation,
he resolutely chewed on; and having reduced the leaves to a proper
state of pulp, he applied it in the form of a poultice to the part
affected, and reclining himself in a convenient posture, endeavoured
to compose himself to sleep.

But alas! little was he aware of the potent effects of the leaves of
the fragrant peppermint tree! The acrid juices of the leaves acting on
parts already vulnerised, had the same effect as cayenne pepper on an
excoriation!

Wild and energetic was the dance now performed by the burning Jerry
under the branches of the deceitful tree! His dance of the polka with
the kangaroo was not to be compared with it! In vain he hastily
divested himself of his torment, and threw it in his rage at the
opossums chattering above his head! The smart grew sharper and
sharper! and still the opossums, as it seemed, chattered and grinned
at him from the bough, and hung by their tails, and turned over head
and heels as if in scorn and mockery of the intruder on their
retreats.

Stung with indignation at their taunts, and furious with the pain,
the angry Jerry determined to take signal revenge on the little
wretches, and he looked about for the means of climbing the tree, that
he might secure some of the animals as offerings to his mistresses,
opossum skins, as he had heard, being useful to make up into tippets
and coverings for footstools. Presently spying out some inequalities
on the bark of the tree, he climbed from knob to knob, till he reached
the base of the branch on which he had watched his prey, which now,
however, had retreated into the interior of the decayed trunk.

Nothing doubting that he should easily make prizes of some of those
Australian curiosities, and balancing himself as well as he could,
over the interior of the cavity, he dived his arm down boldly,
expecting to reach the heads or tails of some of them. In this attempt
he was, unhappily for himself, too successful; for the attacked
opossums, as if with one consent, instantly seized upon his arm with
teeth and claws.

The astonished Jerry, terrified at these unexpected assaults, and
losing his presence of mind and his balance at the same time, fell
into the hole among the opossums, when the enraged animals, looking at
this fresh aggression as an overt act of hostility, fastened upon him
with the most vehement squeaks, which were exceeded, however, by the
violent shrieks of Jerry for assistance!

The horrid noise of the combined squealings and scufflings of the
opossums, and the excited lamentations of Jeremiah, quickly roused up
every one from his sleeping place; and the soldiers starting from the
ground, seized their ready arms, and stood prepared to repel the
enemy, who they supposed was close upon them.

"Now, major," said the ensign, as the former emerged from the
interior of the cave, "we shall have a brush! those impudent rascals
are upon us!"

"Give me a sword," said the major, seizing a ship's cutlass. "Now
Trevor, I consider that you are in command! Where is the enemy?"

"Murder!" shrieked a stifled voice from the interior of the tree,
about a hundred yards from the fires; "Murder! help!"

"That's Mr. Silliman's voice," said the major, "surely; but where is
he?"

"Murder!"

"It is Mr. Silliman's voice," said both the girls, who, unable to
restrain their curiosity, had come to the cave's mouth. "It's
impossible to mistake it!"--

"Murder!"

"It comes from that tree," said the ensign.

"Corporal, take two file to that decayed tree yonder, with the thick
wide-spreading branches, and see what's the matter."

The corporal, making his military salute, immediately obeyed, and
took his way rapidly but warily to the point.

At this moment, the head of the unfortunate Jerry appeared for an
instant above the cavity, and as all eyes were directed to the spot,
it was visible to the whole party. The head cast an imploring look at
its friends, and then with another vociferous shout of--murder!
instantaneously disappeared!

"Some wild beast must have got hold of him," said the ensign. "This
is a false alarm, it seems, excepting so far as it concerns that poor
gentleman! It is the same person, is it not, whom your mate punctured
last night to keep him quiet?"

"It is the same--poor fellow!--he was nearly drowned, too,
yesterday."

"Indeed! He seems to be unlucky. But I see the corporal has
extricated him from his trap. What has happened, sir? What made you
cry out so loudly?"

"Oh! the little devils! They have got claws like cats, and teeth
like rats! Look at me!" said Jerry, displaying his hands and face,
which were scratched and bitten in a hundred places. "In trying to
catch an opossum, I fell into the hollow of the tree, and a whole host
of the brutes fastened on me with all their teeth and claws! and all
smelling like essence of peppermint!...."

A general burst of laughter saluted the mortified Jerry at this
pathetic account of his reception by the opossum family--so prone are
people in general to treat with ridicule such comical disasters as do
not harm themselves; but the general attention was suddenly turned
from the spectacle of Jerry's damaged person, by the information of a
sentinel posted on an adjacent eminence, which commanded a view of the
bay, that "the brig was in motion!"



Chapter XIX. Preparations for the Fight.

THE sentry's announcement of the brig being in motion at once turned
the attention of all parties from Mr. Silliman's disaster to the
business of the day. The few light clouds which were floating over
their heads had already made them aware that the wind had changed, and
that unless the boats arrived in time, there was little hope of their
being able to prevent the escape of the brig from the bay.

The cheering light of dawn now enabled the major and his daughters to
take a better survey of the spot which had formed their first resting-
place on the shores of their adopted country; and although the
southern and western coasts are remarkable for their general rugged
and barren appearance, the sheltered nook in which they found
themselves presented some of the most pleasing features of the
country: and the more so from its contrast with the bare hills and
sterile character of the country beyond.

The girls felt the influence of the scene; and had it not been for
the expedition of danger on which their father and Mr. Trevor were
intent, they would have keenly enjoyed the change from the boisterous
storm at sea of the preceding day to the present tranquil scenery of
their encampment.

The morning was clear and bright. The cold southern gale, which had
driven the shattered brig into the land-locked bay, had been succeeded
by a gentle air from the warm north; and the rising sun gave promise
of one of those genial spring days in September, which delight so much
with their enlivening freshness in Van Diemen's Land.

The melodious note of the native magpie was heard welcoming the dawn,
A flock of white cockatoos from a neighbouring gum tree surveyed the
strangers with curious eyes, as they elevated their yellow crests and
chattered among themselves, without betraying the slightest alarm at
the presence of their enemy--Man. Mr. Silliman wanted to have a shot
at them; but the sisters prayed him to desist, and with some
reluctance he obeyed; for with the true instinct of a Cockney, he
wanted to fire at everything he saw, without caring much what it was
that he killed, so long, as he expressed it, he "brought 'em down."

A kangaroo rat would now and then hop across the grass, and scurry
away when Jerry tried to catch it by the tail; and the shy bandicoot
would timidly poke its nose out of a bush to see what was going
forward.

On the withered branch of a distant tree sat a pelican, gravely
watching the waters of the bay, on which a group of black swans were
disporting, unconscious of danger.

A pair of black cockatoos, in a thicket hard by, were busy building
their nest. Numerous Rosina parrots, with their bright green plumage,
and pink heads and throats, flew hither and thither; and Mr. Silliman
horrified the gentle Louisa by informing her that, according to the
information of his vulgar friend, the constable, they made excellent
pies!

A pair of eagles, soaring in circlets close above their heads, gave
indication that the nest of those kings of the air was somewhere near,
as with discordant screechings they strove to scare away the intruders
from their haunts; while the singular cry of the little bird, not
inappropriately called by the colonists "the laughing jackass," and
which particularly attracted Mr. Silliman's attention, added variety
to the sounds of the awakened bush.

These novel sights and sounds were little heeded, however, by Mr.
Trevor and the major, who had other matters of more pressing import to
attend to.

The one had to consider the best means of regaining possession of the
vessel, in which nearly the whole of his property was embarked, and
the loss of which would leave him almost a beggar in a strange land,
where the worst of all conditions is that of a poor gentleman
unskilled in mechanical employments and without capital; and the other
was impressed with the serious responsibility that attached to him, as
the official commander of the party, if, in spite of him, the convicts
should succeed in effecting their escape with the brig from the
island; and, in defiance of the measures taken by the colonial
government, set the dangerous example of a successful piratical
expedition for the imitation of the other convicts, too many of whom
would be ready and eager to make similar attempts at plunder and
escape.

He had plenty of force to cope with a much larger body of bushrangers
than those on board the brig; but without the boats his men were
useless, and many accidents might prevent the arrival of the boats in
time; and in such case it was impossible to prevent the escape of the
brig to the open sea, where pursuit would be difficult, and perhaps
impossible. Under such circumstances, all he could do was to take the
best means in his power to intercept the brig at the entrance of the
bay, with a faint hope that by a lucky shot some important rope might
be cut in two, which would lead to a confusion on board, of which he
might be able to take advantage.

Having refreshed his men, therefore, and seen that nothing was
deficient in their equipments, he marched them to a platform on a rock
which commanded the passage.

As it was of importance to have as heavy a fire as possible directed
against the sails and rigging of the vessel, he did not think it
consistent with his duty to leave a single man behind; but as Mr.
Silliman could hardly be considered in a condition fit for active
service, he left him in charge of the cave, which was turned into a
temporary fortress for the protection of Helen and Louisa, and, with
the aid of some dead timber, scientifically disposed, it was deemed
that the safety of the ladies was secured against any sudden attack of
the natives, should any be lurking in the vicinity; an event, however,
which was regarded as quite beyond all possibility.

Mr. Silliman therefore remained on guard, to his infinite
satisfaction; and, stifling his feelings in respect to the ills which
remained behind, the warlike Jerry placed his hand upon his chest, and
assured the major that before any harm should happen to Miss Helen or
to Miss Louisa, the savages should eat him, musket and all!
Shouldering his weapon with martial energy, he gave the departing body
a military salute by holding up his firelock in a style which was a
very good imitation of that military courtesy as performed by the
soldiers, and which, to judge from the smiling sign of approbation of
their officer, and the grins of the men, seemed to afford to those
professionals not less amusement than satisfaction. The scene,
however, presently grew more serious.

The sails of the brig meanwhile became gently distended with the
favourable breeze which had sprung up from the north with the rising
sun; and it was observed by the major that a sort of screen had been
erected aft on the starboard side of the vessel to protect the man at
the wheel from the fire of a hostile party on shore. Saving this
indication of the presence of a steersman, there was no sign of a
living soul on board; the sails seemed to act without the direction of
human agency, and the gallant brig glided slowly through the tranquil
water as if by the power of its own volition.

"That bushranger," said the major to the commander of the party,
"neglects nothing; my principal hope was shooting down the man at the
helm and taking our chance of the vessel being swayed against the wall
of rock on either side; and now there is no hope of that, for so far
as I can make out, he has raised an effectual bulwark between us and
the wheel. Musket balls will be of no use against that mass of canvass
and stuff that he has built up so ingeniously. What is become of the
boats?"

"They are here," said the ensign, as he pointed to the head of one
of them which at that moment came in sight from behind the projecting
cliff, and which was quickly followed by the second, the largest of
the two; "and they are just in time, for in another half-hour the brig
would have been out at sea! Now, major, what do you advise to be
done?"

"We must try to board them at once, and without giving them time to
prepare themselves; although I fear that crafty freebooter has not
left anything undone for his defence; but we must try at any rate. Let
the brig come up close enough to allow the fire of half of your men to
take effect from the shore, which will clear their decks, and give the
opportunity to the boats to get alongside without loss. That shall be
my duty in the large boat, while my mate commands the other. Do you
back me up with your party from the top of the rock, and keep up as
brisk a fire as you can, and try to keep the rascals on board below
till we get alongside."

The boats were not long in coming within hail, and the plan of the
major was immediately acted on; with the difference only, that Trevor
insisted on going in one of them, as it was the service of danger
leaving his sergeant in command of the remaining military on shore,
with directions to support the movements of the boats by keeping up a
sharp fire at all who appeared on the deck of the vessel.

In the mean time the brig advanced slowly on towards the entrance of
the bay, where the boats were lying to intercept her.

The vigilant bushranger, however, who surveyed the preparations made
for his reception with a cool and deliberate eye, was well aware that
if he persisted in attempting to force his way out through the enemies
who were assembled to greet him, the chances would be prodigiously
against his success.

He had only six followers, making, with himself, seven in number;
whereas the party in the boats could not be less, as he calculated,
than twenty persons or more, many of whom, he could see, were
soldiers; and besides, there was a party of a dozen soldiers at least
on the top of the rock at the entrance, in a position to sweep his
deck with their fire. Under these circumstances, it was clear that
while his enemies remained together he was by far the weaker party.
His game therefore was to entice the boats from the entrance of the
passage, and if possible to divide them.

He was inclined at first to run the gauntlet and take his chance; but
his usual habit of cool and cautious policy prevailed; and he judged
it best to endeavour to gain time and wait for the breeze to freshen,
which it seemed likely to do, and which would give him a better chance
of baffling the boats and of shooting through the narrow entrance of
the bay.

With this intent, he kept the vessel steadily on her course, the
sails requiring no trimming, as the wind was nearly fair; but when he
had advanced within a quarter of a mile of the boats he suddenly
changed her course, and directed the head of the vessel towards the
opposite side of the bay.

"Now for it!" called out the mate; "we have him now. Give way, boys!"

"Stop!" said the constable, standing up and addressing his commander,
who was in the other boat; "don't be in too great a hurry; depend upon
it, Mark Brandon has not made that movement for nothing: he has some
design in it, I'll swear. You see, sir, so long as we stay here we are
sure of him, for he can't pass us--he sees that--but if we go after
him, we may not catch him, perhaps, and we shall leave the passage
open."

"You are right," said the officer, who was by no means offended at
the interference of the constable, who was an experienced hand, and
bush expeditions always allowing liberty of speech and of advice to
those qualified to give it; "but suppose the other runaway convicts
that we have had notice of should come up and join the party on board
the brig? They might be too strong for us then; or at any rate it
would cost the loss of more life in the capturing of them."

"That's true," said the constable; "but all I say is this, that Mark
Brandon has not made that move for nothing; he is up to some dodge,
depend upon it."

"I am inclined to think," said the major; "that our surest plan is to
wait for him here: if we leave our position we leave the passage free,
and he might slip through before we could come up with him."

"No, no, major," said the mate, whose head was too clear not to see
at once the best course to be pursued in a case requiring nautical
skill and judgment; "it will never do to stick here: it's all very
well so long as there is but little wind, because we can be on him
before he can help himself; but if it was to come on to blow a
stiffish breeze, d'ye see, he might bang through us, and run down one
of the boats, perhaps, before we could be aboard of him. My advice is
to go slap at him. Lord! we are enough to eat him; and with two boats
he can't get away from us. There he goes about again: you see what
he's after; he's manoeuvring for the wind to get up, and then he'll
pass us with a wet foresail, and leave us to grin at him!"

The harangue of the mate was received with a general hurrah by the
sailors, who had their own wrongs to avenge, and the soldiers showed
by the restless handling of their firelocks that they were not less
pleased at the prospect of getting at the possessors of the brig;
although the habit of military discipline prevented any outward
expression of their inclination.

"Why," continued the mate, "we can take them with one boat, and the
other can remain here, to catch 'em, if they get away from us. If the
major will say the word, I'll be bound to have the rascals under the
hatches, with our own men, without troubling the soldiers."

"I think that is a good plan, Mr. Trevor," said the major; "sailors
are best for boarding. But we will alter Mr. Northland's plan a
little, this way. I will go with him and the blue-jackets in chase of
the vessel; while you, with your own boat, can keep steadily on in a
straight line, so as to intercept her either way, and then we shall be
able to close with her fore and aft."

This plan was instantly adopted, and an interchange of the men in the
boats having been effected, the major, in command of the blue-jackets,
having his trusty mate as his lieutenant, immediately started in
pursuit.

These arrangements were not unobserved by those on board the brig.
The dimensions of the bay being about five miles from the entrance,
and three broad, it seemed impossible for the brig to escape one or
the other of the boats, although the wind was most favourable for her
manoeuvres, as it blew directly from the north towards the open sea,
and gave the advantage to the vessel to make tacks on her quickest
point of sailing from one side of the bay to the other.

But this game the bushranger was aware could not last long, if both
the boats did their duty, and his only chance of escape was to delude
them into pursuing him to the bottom of the bay, from which the fair
wind would enable him easily to emerge; and then, as he calculated, if
the breeze would only freshen a bit, he should be able to distance the
boats, and get out to sea. As to the party lying in ambush for him on
the rock at the entrance, he cared very little for their opposition,
as the worst that their musket balls could do would be to riddle his
sails here and there; and if the wind kept up, he should soon be out
of their reach.

But when he saw the systematic plan adopted by his enemies, he began
to fear that for once he had met with his match, and that his fate, so
far as the brig was concerned, was sealed. With these thoughts he
turned his attention to the possibility of making his escape to the
shore; but before he did that, he was resolved to try every possible
means of getting the brig out of the bay, either by stratagem or
force. An unexpected accession of strength seemed to favour most
opportunely the latter plan.

The second body of convicts who had taken to the bush as the ensign
had informed the constable when he first joined that party, and whose
escape had caused the authorities at Hobart Town to despatch the
auxiliary detachment of soldiers under an officer's command, had made
their way to the southern part of the island, whither, the report was,
Mark Brandon had led his followers.

They had formed part of a road gang stationed about six miles from
Hobart Town, on the road beyond Sandy Bay, and were most of them
characters of the worst description, having been returned from
settlers' service up the country to government employ, on account of
bad conduct and insubordination.

It was the monotonous work, the restricted indulgences, and the
severe discipline to which they were subjected when working on the
roads, that had prompted them to the desperate expedient of taking to
the bush, to which they had been stimulated also by the report that
was abroad of a brig having been telegraphed which had not come up the
river, and which led them to surmise that its capture was the object
of Brandon's flight, a man who was well known to all the prisoners as
one whose cunning in difficulties and daring in danger was sufficient
for the successful execution of almost any enterprise howsoever
difficult.

By dint of forced marches, which nothing but the desire of liberty
could have enabled them to sustain, the runaways had contrived to make
their way to the southern part of the coast, and to reach the hill
which overlooked the bay--and which was the same on which Mr. Silliman
had performed the part of a native with such dramatic effect--by
daylight, on the morning when the boats commenced their active
hostilities against the brig.

For some time they were doubtful how matters stood, and which was the
party of Mark Brandon--that in the boats, or in the brig; and they
watched the proceedings of both parties with intense interest from
their covert behind the crest of the hill. But when the brig neared
that side of the bay where they were concealed, and the rising sun
glancing on the polished firelocks revealed the presence of the
military, they had no doubt of the presence of enemies in that
quarter; the more especially as the ensign standing up in the boat
betrayed in a moment by his dress and demeanour his soldierly
character.

They could see only four or five figures on board the brig, which
confirmed them in their belief that it was in the possession of Mark
Brandon, who was reported to have taken to the bush with half a dozen
followers. Fired with the prospect of escape which this state of
things afforded to the runaway convicts, and seeing the disproportion
of strength between the attacking party in the boats and the small
number which they concluded to be on board the brig, they saw at once
that if they could add their additional numbers to Mark Brandon's
force they might be able to beat off the boats, and fight their way
successfully to the open sea. A consultation was immediately held
between them.

They found that all their party were in an efficient state,
notwithstanding the fatigue of their forced march through the bush,
which nothing but the fear of pursuit and the desperation of their
condition could have enabled them to perform. They had among them one
musket and five fowling-pieces, which they had contrived to purloin
previous to their escape from camp, with a dozen axes. They had no
doubt of finding more arms on board: once there, they felt sure of the
result. But how to apprise Mark Brandon of the arrival of friends--
that was the point?

It was proposed that one of them should endeavour to swim on board;
but that experiment was rejected as too hazardous. Another suggested
that a signal should be made to the brig from the shore; but that
course it was feared was as likely to attract the observation of the
boats as of the vessel, and then their project would be defeated:
besides, how was Mark to know from whom the signal proceeded--from
friends or foes?

The attempt of communicating with the brig might have been altogether
baffled if one rogue more ingenious than the rest, who had been a long
time in the colony, and was well acquainted with bush expedients, had
not thought of making a bark canoe after the manner of the natives,
which would enable one of them to get afloat and reach the vessel.
This idea was unanimously approved, and half a dozen immediately
repaired to a cluster of stringy-bark trees, which were observed about
a quarter of a mile off, in a hollow, sheltered from the cold and
boisterous south winds.

One of them being mounted on the shoulders of the rest, cut the bark
horizontally all round, while the same operation was performed below;
then slitting the bark in a vertical direction from top to bottom of
each cut, they peeled the bark from the tree, which came off in a
single piece, about ten feet long. Gathering up the two ends, they
tied them firmly with such materials as they had about them, at either
end, so as to prevent the admission of water, and the machine then
presented the appearance of a long and narrow canoe, in which two men
could sit easily, but which, from its shape and frail manufacture, was
liable to overturn, or to split at the slightest impediment.

The man who had suggested the expedient volunteered to make his way
on board, and "whether he was drowned or whether he was shot," he
said, "made little odds, for he was tired of his life of slavery, and
he would as lieve die as live any longer in such a wretched state."

Two branches were cut down and shaped as well as the hurry and
circumstances permitted, to serve as paddles, and the man putting the
canoe on his shoulder and taking the paddles under his arm, went
stealthily down to the edge of the water. Having launched his canoe,
and crept into it carefully without his shoes, to prevent its
upsetting, he balanced himself in a sitting posture in the centre, and
by the aid of his paddles propelled his light bark over the water in
the direction of the brig.



Chapter XX. The Bushranger's New Stratagem.

THE canoe lay so low in the water, and the two boats were so intent
on the movements of the brig, and the brig of them, that it entirely
escaped the notice of both parties; but as it was directly in the
course of the vessel, the man on the look-out forward presently sung
out to the bushranger, who was aft attending to the steering of the
vessel, that "there was a canoe right ahead with a man in it."

Brandon had scarcely time to put the helm hard up before the brig was
close upon the frail machine, and at the same moment the man in the
canoe recognising a fellow-prisoner on board, called to him by name.
His comrade without hesitation threw a rope to him, which its occupant
instantly securing round his body, he was pulled out of his canoe and
dragged for a few moments astern as the vessel continued her course.

When he was hauled up on board he quickly explained to Brandon that
there were eight-and-twenty of them ashore, some with fire-arms, and
all with weapons of some sort or other ready to join them, and to take
their chance on board the brig.

Mark, who was as quick as a bandicoot and as cunning as a platyplus
in perceiving and avoiding danger, was not less ready to take
advantage of all opportunities in his own favour without regard to the
interests or safety of those whom he made use of for his purposes.
Despairing of making his way out by force, but seeing at once the
advantage of making a diversion so as to draw off one of the boats
from the pursuit of the vessel, he pretended to hail the news of such
an accession of strength with delight, and proposed that the messenger
should without delay assemble all his comrades on the beach, from
which the brig would manage to take them off by means of ropes and
other contrivances, which he would invent by the time they were ready
to avail themselves of them.

To this effect he kept on his course towards the land till he had
arrived within less than a quarter of a mile of the beach, and then
urging the messenger to do his best in swimming on shore, he dropped
him into the water, and turning the vessel's head round on the other
tack, shot over to the further side of the bay.

The hoisting of the man on board from the canoe which had been just
visible on the surface of the water, but which had turned over with
the jerk of his being pulled out of it, and was no longer to be seen,
was not unobserved by the vigilant mate, who was standing up in the
boat, and who was at a loss to comprehend the meaning of it; and which
was rendered more puzzling by the vessel running the needless risk, as
it appeared to him, of keeping so close in-shore.

He kept his eye on the spot, and, shortly, he saw a something which
he presently made out to be a man emerge from the water, and make his
way rapidly up the slope of the bare hill. Struck with this
circumstance, he bade the men lay on their oars a moment while he
pointed out the object to the major.

"What can be the meaning of that?" said the major: "that's a man
making his way up that hill as plain as can be; but whether it is a
native or not, is more than I can tell."

"Whatever it is," said the mate, "I saw him come out of the water in
that direction, and he must have come out of the brig; where else
could he come from?"

"There he goes," said the constable: "now he has disappeared over the
top of the hill. What the deuce is the meaning of this? Some new dodge
of Mark's. Depend upon it, whatever Mark does he has a reason for it;
but what his game is in sending that chap over the hill beats my
guessing."

"Can it be to see what we have done with the girls at our fortress?"
asked the major of the mate, with some anxiety--natural under the
circumstances. "There is only that poor fellow Silliman to protect
them."

"No fear of harm there," said the constable; "if the young ladies'
sentinel only keeps himself close, and shows the muzzle of his musket
through the barricade at the cave's mouth, no single man will venture
to attack him; but after all, the man's leaving the vessel in that way
means something. Mark is as full of tricks as a hunted fox: but what
this new move is, is more than I can tell."

"Never mind," exclaimed the mate; "don't lose time in guessing; our
business is to get possession of the brig, and have her we must; for
you see we are regularly chasing her into a corner, and we must bring
her to close quarters at last, and then we will at her, and hurrah for
the first in! Now, my men, give way."

"Stay," said the constable; "keep the boat steady a moment longer. I
see a body of men coming over the hill; there are twenty or thirty of
them. What's the game now?"

"I see them," said the mate; "and look! the brig has gone about to
meet them. Hulloa! we shall have a spree by-and-by! If those chaps are
Mark Brandon's friends, and they get aboard the brig, we shall have
more work to do than we reckoned on. And here comes the soldiers'
boat, pulling with all their might: hold hard, my sons: the soldier
officer, I suppose, wants to speak to us."

"Have you observed that body of men?" said the ensign eagerly to the
major as his boat came up alongside. "From all appearances they are
friends of those on board, and I have no doubt that they are the other
body of prisoners escaped from camp. If they join those who are on
board they may prove too strong for us: I have counted nearly thirty
of them."

"Bless your heart!" said the mate, "they will make no difference;
it's only a little more fighting, and it's all in the day's work! Why,
such fellows as those can do nothing when it comes to downright hard
knocks. We can take 'em easy. Hulloa! what's that lubberly bushranger
doing with the brig, knocking her about that way! Going about again--
what's that for? Is n't he going to take the other fellows on board?
No: he's about again. Major, we are only losing time; we had better
make way and join him in the bottom of the bay; we must have him
then."

"Those fellows on shore," said the major, "may be making their way
to our fortress. Don't you think your party on the rock would be well
employed in making head against them before they do mischief?"

The ensign eagerly caught at the suggestion. There was no knowing
what outrage a band of desperate miscreants might commit on
defenceless women. Their only protection at present was Mr. Silliman;
and the party of soldiers on the rock was at least half a mile from
the fortress,--a long distance, as he had already learned, in the
pathless bush.

"I will make my way back to the rock," he said, "and direct the
sergeant to march his men against this new body of marauders. If it be
done promptly, it may have the effect of preventing their junction
with their friends on board the brig."

"Do so," said the major: "we will lay on our oars till you come
back; and then as the brig cannot escape us now, we will attack her in
concert, and bring this affair to a conclusion. The sight of the two
boats together may perhaps frighten the rascals, and cause them to
surrender without bloodshed."

"Not he," said the constable, as the ensign's boat left them. "If
you think Mark Brandon will let himself be taken without fighting, you
are mistaken, I can tell you that. Mark will have a tussle for it,
depend upon it; but I think we have him at last. I don't know, though;
he has so many schemes in his head--has that man--that you never know
when you have got him and when you haven't. After all I should not be
surprised if he was to slip through our fingers--sure as we are of
him."

"Never fear," said the mate, rubbing his hands impatiently, "I only
wish I was as sure of the command of an East Indiaman as I am of
grabbing that rascal. I wouldn't give up my chance for...See! the
fellows on the beach are going back; and now the brig goes about
again. Ha! they see it; and now they are coming down to the beach
again. What is all that backing and filling for? Is the brig going to
take them on board or not?"

"That's more than any of us can tell," said the constable; "nobody
knows Mark's plans but himself: but depend on it, whatever he does, is
done with a reason. He is watching us now, and knows what we are about
as well as we do ourselves, I'll be bound. He has seen the ensign's
boat join us, and go away again towards the rock where the other party
of soldiers is, and I'll swear that he knows at this minute what it's
for. But why he waits for the soldiers to attack his fellow-prisoners
on the beach is more than I can tell. You might as well try to fathom
the middle of the sea as Mark's deepness."

"Our friend Trevor has reached the rock," said the major; "I see the
men saluting. Now he is giving his orders; now they move on. That's
right, double quick time my men. Now--I lose sight of them;--I see;
they are going to take the rascals behind, and hem them in between
themselves and the sea. Only twelve file, though. However, they are
soldiers, and the others are ragamuffins; so there's force enough; and
they can fire three times for the others' once. Here comes Trevor,
again. Now, my boys, we shall wait no longer; the brig can't escape
us. We will board her while the red coats engage her attention in
another way. Hard case this, Northland, to be obliged to take our own
vessel again by force of arms."

"Force of arms!" said the mate disdainfully, and with a contemptuous
motion of his hand towards the brig; "force of a fiddlestick! Those
fellows will never stand us; we have only to show ourselves on board.
And suppose they do fight?--all the better. I'm blest," said he, with
a jovial grin at his brother blue-jackets, "if we arn't all of us
getting rusty for want of a scrimmage! Hurrah! here's the red-coats!
Now, major, I suppose we may be moving?"

The breeze from the north in the mean time had freshened
considerably, and it threatened to blow hard, so that the advantage on
the side of the brig was considerably increased, and she made her way
so rapidly through the water as to give hope to the Bushranger that he
should be able to baffle his enemies by her speed of sailing. The
boats however neared him every minute, and he made up his mind to make
a dash through them with the fair wind which he had in his favour--
when one of those changes occurred, so frequent at that season of the
year. The wind suddenly lulled; the boats set up a cheer, and pulled
vigorously to their mark. They were within half a mile of the brig
when a blast of air from the high hills on the other side of the bay
suddenly filled her sails, and she again shot through the water.

At this time the party of convicts on shore had caught sight of the
soldiers coming down upon them over the bare hills, and they hastily
retreated, keeping within reach however of the margin of the bay, in
the hope of being taken on board the brig.

But the wind now began to blow from all quarters of the heavens, and
it was impossible for the brig's crew to lend their assistance to
those on shore, even had they been willing; and as Brandon had
accomplished his object in making use of them for the purpose of the
diversion which he desired, and had succeeded in drawing away the
party of soldiers which had been stationed on the rock at the entrance
of the passage, he would have had no objection to receive them on
board had the opportunity been afforded to him. But it was too late;
it was as much as he could do to attend to the sails and steering of
the brig, feebly assisted as he was by his companions, unused as they
were to manoeuvring a vessel.

In the mean time the retreat of the convicts on shore had drawn the
sergeant's party round the bay to the further side, and a few shots
were faintly heard, indicating that the fray was becoming serious in
that quarter.

The elements also seemed to be mustering up their strength, and a
squall from the south-east twisting round the brig, drove her
furiously, and before those on board could trim the sails or avoid the
danger, to the bottom of the bay. There was a low sandy shoal
stretching from the shore far into the water, towards which the brig
was propelled rapidly. There was no help for it. The bushranger saw
that all exertion was vain; all hope of escaping by the brig was lost.

Making up his mind on the instant, with the rapid decision for which
he was so remarkable, and which in an honest course of life might have
raised him to high fortune and distinction, he summoned up all his
energy to bear the bitter disappointment with fortitude. He knew that
if he allowed his mind to be depressed by the failure, his ideas would
become clouded and his invention blunted, so as to lessen his chance
of escape from the imminent danger which now hung over him.

In a very few minutes he had formed in his head a new scheme, by
which he calculated he might make terms for himself in case of
extremity; and in any event, he considered he could take to the bush,
and wait for another chance, though he did not disguise from himself
that taking to the bush was a desperate expedient, and to be had
recourse to only in case of the failure of all other means of safety.
He had no sooner made up his mind as to the best thing to be done
under the circumstances than he set about its execution.

He immediately collected in the cabin, which at the moment was the
place most easily got at, all the combustibles that he could readily
heap together, which, with the assistance of his companions, was
quickly done, and he then disposed it so as to be readily fired,
taking care that the materials were so placed as to make as large a
blaze as possible. The sight of the brig on fire he calculated would
cause his pursuers to occupy themselves in the first place with
extinguishing the flames, without busying themselves about him, which
would give him time to execute his ulterior project.

He had scarcely made this arrangement, and prepared himself and his
companions for leaving the vessel, when the brig struck violently on
the shoal, and swinging round, while the mainmast went by the board
with the shock, presented her broadside to the sands.

Mark Brandon instantly set fire to the lumber in the cabin, and then
descending the ship's side, with his confederates, they made their way
to the top of a low hill in the immediate vicinity of the shore.

In pursuance of the plan which he had formed, and knowing well that
numbers are an inconvenience in the bush, unless so great as to defy
attack, which in the present case was out of the question, he
immediately selected two men on whom he thought he could entirely
depend, and who had not the ability to outwit him, but on whose dogged
courage he could rely; and at the same time he directed the remaining
four to lose no time in joining the party who kept up a running fight
with the sergeant's party of soldiers.

"Our only chance, my mates," he said, "is to keep together; but we
must try to draw off the attention of the soldiers in the boats, and
lead them in a different direction. Tell our friends to keep up the
fight and retreat towards the north, while I will, with Jim and Roger,
entice the boat party to the westward. And, do you see that high hill
yonder, quite in the distance--may be a dozen miles off, or more?
Well; rally round that hill, and before night I will meet you there,
and then we can consult together as to the best course to be taken.
See! the soldiers have turned our party of friends somehow, and they
are retreating inland. The sergeant's party will not follow them far;
it's only for every man to make the best use of his legs, and get at
once into the bush. Now, my men, start, and do the business cleverly,
and leave me to do mine."

The four subordinate ruffians, unable or unwilling to dispute the
direction of a leader, whom they had become accustomed to obey as much
from the superiority of his force of mind as by their voluntary
adoption of him as their chief, lost no time in following Mark
Brandon's directions, and in a brief space they had joined their new
companions, and given them the word.

But the soldiers in pursuit had pushed them too closely to allow them
to put Mark's advice in execution, and, by a quick military movement,
they contrived to place the convicts between their fire and the water;
and the fugitives thus turned, were driven in the direction of the
burning brig, towards which the boats were rapidly hastening.

"It will do," said Mark, as he cautiously peered over the top of the
hill and observed the progress of affairs below; "it will do; and now
for my work. Roger, tread like a native: there must be no noise.
Jemmy, my man, wind yourself after me like a snake; sharp's the word;
but there must be no sound--not a word spoken; and mind, the report of
a musket would ruin all my plan."

So saying, he proceeded by a circuitous route, and at as rapid a pace
as possible, to the back part of the rock which had formed the site of
the major's temporary encampment the preceding night, and the exact
locality of which he had marked from the light of the bivouac fires
which had been made on the occasion of the junction of the ensign's
party of soldiers with the ship's crew of the brig. The bushranger
went on with confidence; and conscious of his powers in plots and
stratagems, with a sort of joyous prescience that his artful and
diabolical plan would be successful.

It is necessary, however, to return to the scene of the advancing
boats and the devoted vessel, from the stern windows of which volumes
of smoke and flame now broke out with appalling fury.



Chapter XXI. The Skirmish.

IT is impossible to describe the mingled rage and sorrow of the
mate, when he beheld the gallant little brig, which he had brought
safely fifteen thousand miles over the sea from the other side of the
globe, with its mainmast lying shattered on the deck, and its stern-
ports evolving clouds of smoke and flames,--the wicked work of the
ignorance or the malice of the pirates.

All the epithets of execration which nautical or other phraseology
could furnish, were lavished on the rascally bushranger and his
villainous crew. Regarding, as the affectionate seaman did, his ship
as his mistress, and personifying it, as sailors love to do, as a
thing of life, he felt the ravages inflicted on her beautiful frame as
much almost as wounds on his own body.

Nor was the major less exasperated at the sight of his burning
vessel, on board of which was nearly the whole of his fortune, and
which now seemed consigned irremediably to the flames. He forgot the
bushrangers and everything else, in the all-absorbing desire to save
his property, without which life would be to him a weary exile indeed
in the colony of Van Diemen's Land.

The ensign, also, was quite alive to the ruin which threatened to
overwhelm his anticipated father-in-law, and he urged his rowers to
put out their utmost strength, in order to reach the vessel before the
progress of the flames should render all assistance hopeless.

But of the three, the mate was the most energetic in his action, as
he was most eloquent in his exclamations:--

"Give way, boys," he said, as he stood up, and endeavoured by the
motion of his own body to add impetus to the movement of the boat;
"give way, as you would save your souls! Oh, the infernal rascal! To
set fire to her! What harm had the poor little brig done him, I should
like to know? The dirty, sneaking, cowardly, shore-going, long-tailed
blackguard!--There goes the sergeant after the other fellows! Pepper
them well, my lads; stick it into 'em; they're all alike! There comes
more smoke from the stern portholes! It's only smoke, perhaps, after
all! No: it's flame too! Give way--bend to it; stretch to it; that's
the stroke; hurrah! now she goes! Shouldn't I like to put out that
fire with the lubberly carcasses of the villains! Hanging's too good
for them,--the murdering, fire-raising thieves! Hurrah! my boys, we
are just on her. Hold hard; jump ashore; no ceremony; follow me."

So saying, the mate, seizing a rope which was hanging from the
bowsprit, quickly slung himself on deck, and was followed with cordial
promptitude by the crew of the brig, and with not less alacrity by the
sailors belonging to the government boats. As in all cases of
difficulty and danger, where the most skilful and courageous are
instinctively looked up to for advice, he at once assumed the
direction of those on board.

"Major, make half a dozen fellows clear away the mast. Carpenter,
come along with me. Get the buckets, and pass them aft down the
companion-ladder. Boy, get the swabs and soak 'em well; and quick! be
alive! I'll try to find my way down below, if it's a thing that's
possible."

Thrice did the sturdy mate endeavour to force his way through the
smoke and flames: and thrice was he repulsed by the heat and vapour.
But at last he was able to reach the cabin door, and he contrived to
throw in a few buckets of water: he was relieved by the carpenter, who
in his turn was compelled to retreat; and in this way the crew, taking
it by turns, were able to withstand for a brief space the stifling
effects of the smoke, and to deluge the cabin with water.

In the mean time the sergeant's party had driven the convicts close
to the brig, and the ensign, seizing the opportunity, added his own
force to that of the assailants, and hemmed in the prisoners on the
beach, in a hollow crescent, close to where the brig was burning.

"Surrender yourselves!" he called out; "you have no chance of escape;
you see we are too strong for you. Surrender yourselves, and trust to
the governor's mercy."

There was a pause for a moment on either side. The convicts looked at
one another, and looked at the soldiers. There were only nineteen
against them; and their own party, by the accession of the four from
the brig, was raised to thirty-two. It was nearly two to one in their
favour; and the four muskets of their new comrades were an important
addition of strength. But their habitual dread of the military, and
the smart of the wounds which one or two of them had already received,
made them waver in their determination. At last one of them acting as
spokesman, came a step forward, and asked, "If, on surrender, their
lives would be spared?"

"I have no authority to promise that," replied the officer; "but as
my desire is to prevent the shedding of blood, I will promise to make
the most favourable representation of your submission to the governor;
but your surrender must be unconditional."

"What's the use," said one of the convicts to his fellows, "of having
our lives spared, as you call it? If they are spared, we shall be sent
to Macquarrie Harbour, and that's worse than death. If we can't get
our liberty, let us die where we are. We are two to one, and it's hard
if we can't beat those soldiers: they are only men like ourselves; and
when it comes to close quarters, one man is as good as another. I'm
for fighting it out, and taking our chance."

"If we can only make our way to the hill, which you can see from the
top of the ridge there," said one of the men from the brig, "we shall
meet with Mark Brandon and two more, and then we may be able to have a
try at the vessel again, and get clear off--who knows? There may be
luck for us, as well as another."

"I wish Mark Brandon was with us," exclaimed several; "we want a
leader; there's nothing to be done without a leader."

"If Mark was with us he would soon hatch a scheme to outwit that
young officer, there. Let us take our chance, and try to join him; we
can but surrender at last."

"Hurrah, then! let us make a rush, and break through the soldiers;--
if we can get into the bush, we shall be more of a match for 'em. Now,
then, altogether!"

With a loud hurrah the prisoners fired a volley, and rushing forward,
made their way through the soldiers, killing one, and wounding two
more. But they had received a deadly discharge from the few whose
position in front enabled them to take aim with effect; the soldiers
at the sides of the short crescent being prevented from firing, from
the consideration that if they did, their balls were likely to take
effect on their comrades opposite.

Three of the prisoners fell on the beach; but the main body effected
their retreat over the brow of a low hill, hotly pursued by the
soldiers, who were exasperated at the death of one of their comrades.
Their escape, however, did not avail them long; for as the country was
nearly bare of trees in that direction, they were exposed to the
practised aim of the military.

Three more prisoners were the sufferers by this running fire, both
parties hastening forward at their best speed. But the prisoners, who
were weary and footsore with their long and hurried journey from the
camp, were outstripped on this occasion by the soldiers; and had not
the latter been delayed in their pursuit by their occasional halts to
reload, and by the habit of military precision which caused them to
keep together, they would soon have overtaken the runaways, and have
brought the matter to a sharp conclusion. As it was, the prisoners
might have succeeded in effecting their escape had not an unexpected
obstacle stopped their further progress. This was the inlet of the
sea, branching out of D'Entrecasteaux's channel.

The ensign, at the instigation of the constable, had edged away to
the left, by which manoeuvre he forced the prisoners to continue their
flight more towards the right, whither they were gradually propelled,
till they were stopped by the broad part of the inlet in which the
constable's boat had taken shelter, and in which recess the ensign's
boat had afterwards joined the first pursuers.

The prisoners saw the trap into which they had been driven too late;
they found themselves enclosed in the angle formed by the channel on
the one side, and the inlet on the other; the soldiers' line, which
now advanced in order, forming the base of the triangle. Without
giving them time to recover themselves, the officer instantly summoned
them a second time to surrender, and seeing that they turned round in
an attitude of offence, he at once gave the word to fire.

Three volleys from the military disabled fourteen of the runaways,
and their numbers being now reduced to twelve, Trevor gave the word to
charge, when the prisoners, bewildered and panic-struck, allowed
themselves to be taken without resistance.

Being disarmed, and bound with their hands behind them, they were
carefully secured on the spot; and as the number of wounded was too
large to be transported to the bay, the officer despatched half a
dozen of his men back to the boats at the bay with orders for the
larger one of the two to be immediately brought round by the
government sailors, in order that the captured runaways might be
transported with as little delay as possible to Hobart Town, where the
wounded could receive the necessary medical assistance, and the whole
be dealt with according to law.

On questioning the prisoners, he learnt from some of them who were
now willing enough to make terms for themselves by any disclosures
they could offer, that Mark Brandon was to meet them at the foot of
the hill, which they pointed out in the distance; and that the
soldiers would be sure to find him there if they did their office
warily, as Mark would have no suspicion of their having been set after
him.

This prompt betrayal of their associates by the sneaks who trembled
for their own skins, while it inspired the disgust with which it could
not fail to strike an honest man's heart, abated considerably the
commiseration which the ensign, as a brave soldier, could not avoid
feeling for the sufferings which he was compelled to inflict in the
execution of his duty.

"The dirty scoundrels!" said the constable, "they would betray their
own father, most of them, for a glass of rum! And this you see," he
said to the ensign, "is what enables us to keep them down; they can
never trust one another; every rascal knows that his fellow-rascal
would sell him if he had the opportunity. Do you know," he continued,
"I have my doubts about Mark having intended to join them again. If he
wanted to join them, why didn't he do so at once, and while there was
a chance of their being able to resist us successfully? That Mark
Brandon is up to some dodge, depend on it: no doubt he set the ship on
fire that we might busy ourselves about putting it out without going
after him; and--that hill? let me see: that lies to the north, and if
Mark takes to the bush his game would be to go to the westward. By
George, it looks very like it!"

"Looks very like what?" asked the ensign.

"Why, you see, dealing with Mark is like playing at all-fours, or
cribbage,--or drafts, more like: it's all a matter of circumventing;
but I'm up to his game; I've been after him before."

"And what is his game, as you call it, now?"

"Look!" said the constable; "here's the north, and there's the west.
Now, if Mark wanted to draw you and your men away from himself, what
could he do better than tell these poor devils that he would meet them
at that hill yonder, and so egg 'em on to fight their way there, and
you after them, and that would leave the coast clear for himself?"

"But there was the major's party to watch him," said the ensign, a
flush coming over his face, as if struck with some sudden thought.

"He had provided against that by setting the ship on fire; and
sailors would never leave their ship, he knew very well, at such a
time, to go after all the bushrangers that ever went out."

"You think then that this Mark Brandon, if he took to the bush, would
go westward?" said the ensign, with much interest.

"To be sure he would! Why, he never would run into the lion's mouth
by going on the road back to camp; and he can't go eastward, because
there's the broad channel between him and that side of the island. No;
he has started off to the west, depend upon it, and he is going to try
his chance in the bush, and that's why he has allowed only two of his
six men to be with him, because he knows that in the bush the great
point is to avoid being tracked;--besides, it's easier to feed three
than seven."

"If he has gone westward," said the ensign, meditatingly.....

"No doubt of it."

"The place where the major left his daughters is on the west side of
the bay?"

"To be sure it is."

"Do you think he would visit it?"

"I don't know," said the constable; "it would be running a risk: to
be sure there's only that poor Mr. Silliman there. What have they got
with them? any money, or watches, or trinkets? any thing valuable that
is easy to be carried?"

"I rather think the major said he had secured one or two bags of
dollars; but there are the young ladies--of more consequence than
money."

"I don't know: women are all very well in their way, but they are
dreadful troublesome in the bush. I don't think Mark would be bothered
with them. He likes a pretty gal, though, if all stories be true, and
...."

"Could you engage to take charge of these prisoners," said the
ensign, suddenly, "if I left you?"

"Ay, ay: leave your sergeant here with his party, and I'll engage to
take care of them. We have 'em now as safe as bricks. You are going
after Mark, then?"

"I think that unless we take him we shall effect but half our object.
I will give instructions to the sergeant, and leave you in charge. The
corporal and his two men will go with me."

"Take care," said the constable, as the ensign hastily took his
departure, "that you don't lose your way going back: a man's easily
lost in the bush, especially a new hand."

"Now, corporal," said Trevor, "we must put our best legs foremost;
our work is not half done yet. Are you in good marching order?"

The corporal answered for himself and his men gladly, preferring much
the roving and exciting life of such expeditions to the dull monotony
of barracks and daily drill; and full instructions having been left
with the constable and the sergeant in anticipation of all accidents,
Trevor set out on his way, his mind filled with the most lively
apprehensions of alarm for the fate of Ellen and her sister, should
the bushranger take it into his head, for any purpose of plunder or
violence, to visit the place of their retreat.



Chapter XXII. Mr. Silliman Makes a Declaration.

THE sisters in the cave suffered the deepest anxiety during the
events which have been related; but as their father and Mr. Trevor had
exacted from them the promise that they would not on any account quit
the protection of their covert, but wait with patience the issue of
the conflict, they were precluded from attempting to ascertain what
was going forward in the bay; and their ignorance of the posture of
affairs between the bushrangers and their own friends added to the
painfulness of their apprehensions.

"Could not you climb that tree," asked Louisa of Mr. Silliman, who
was assiduously keeping guard at the entrance behind the bulwark of
dead timber, which had been erected for their defence, "and see what
they are doing?"

"I've had enough of climbing," replied their sentinel, with a rueful
countenance, at the remembrance of his reception by the opossums; "but
to oblige you I would do it with pleasure, only, as I have been left
here by the officer, as a sort of sentry, you see, Miss, I am doing
military duty, as it were, and a soldier must not quit his post."

"I thought you prided yourself more on being a sailor," said Louisa,
with that sweet smile which the sex are always ready to exhibit when
they want anything to be done for them; "and sailors are always such
good climbers."

"I could climb," replied Jeremiah, with enthusiasm, "anything for
you, Miss Louisa, if it was the biggest tree on all the island! But
..."

"Mr. Silliman is right," said Helen; "he must not leave his post; as
soldier's daughters, we know that; but this state of uncertainty is
really very painful. I will try to explore the inside of the cave."

"Don't be so foolish, Helen," said her sister; "it is too dark for
you to see where you are going; and perhaps there may be savage
animals, or snakes, or something."

"I will take care of myself; I cannot bear standing still, doing
nothing; perhaps this place has an outlet at the back."

Jeremiah and Louisa were left alone.

Jerry's heart had been excessively touched by the amiable manner in
which the major's youngest daughter had recently been pleased to
address him; and her preferring to remain with him to accompanying her
sister on her exploring expedition seemed to him a favourable sign.
His heart beat with great bumps, and he experienced, as he afterwards
described it, a feeling of alloverishness, which convinced him that it
was to Louisa, and not to Helen, that his heart was entirely devoted;
a fact which he had doubted before, never having been able to make up
his mind as to which of the lovely sisters he preferred. But his
present symptoms decided him as to his predilection. Oppressed,
however, with the pleasing sensation, he heaved a prodigious sigh!

"What's that?" said Louisa, ready to take alarm at the slightest
sound, and coming closer to Jeremiah. Jeremiah's heart beat quicker
than ever! As he characteristically explained the emotion, "it went up
and down just like the steam-engine in the Margate packet!"

"It's me!" said Jerry, pumping up another sigh, and looking at the
young lady with eyes squeezed into the extremest point of tenderness.

"You, Mr. Silliman? Heavens! what's the matter?"

"Ah! Miss Louisa!"

"Are you in pain?" asked Louisa; for she was a kind and gentle girl,
and she spoke with the sweetest commiseration.

"Ah, Miss Louisa! the wounds which you have inflicted on...."

"You mean the opossums?" said Louisa.

"No, Miss; it is not the opossums. Sharp as their bites and scratches
were, the wounds that I feel are sharper still!"

"Good gracious! Mr. Silliman, what do you mean?"

"Do you not feel," said Jerry, "the genial influence of this
beautiful morning? The bright rays of the sun, and the notes of that
melodious bird, which the ensign said was the native magpie, although
for the life of me I can't make out how that can be--but I suppose it
is so....."

"I hear nothing at present," replied Louisa, "but the curious cry of
the bird that Mr. Trevor calls the laughing jackass."

"Think only of the agreeables," resumed Jerry. "I have been thinking
how happy two people might live together, in a beautiful cave like
this--loving one another! and listening to the birds, and gazing at
the cockatoos as they fly about; eating the wild fruits of the earth,
and drinking the water from the spring....all love!"...

"What! without any bottled porter, Mr. Silliman?"

"All love, Miss, and a little bottled porter! This is a beautiful
country--Isn't it?"

"You have not had a very beautiful reception in it," observed Louisa,
looking round for her sister, and rather desirous to avoid a
declaration, which, with the instinctive prescience of her sex, she
felt was on the point of exploding; "it was hard to make your first
acquaintance with the land, by being thrown into the sea by those
wicked bushrangers!"

"It was hard, that! but it was for the best; for my being chucked
into the sea was the means of making known to the constables and
soldiers that the bushrangers had got possession of the brig."

"Was not the coming to life again, after being drowned almost as you
were, a very curious sensation?"

"Not so curious as the sensation I now feel, Miss Louisa, nor nearly
so delightful! I...."

"Dear me! I should have thought it was rather a painful one! And did
you not say," she continued, wishing to force the conversation from
the point that Mr. Silliman was obviously seeking, "that you were
bitten by a great tarantula spider as big as a cheeseplate?"

"It might have bitten me, perhaps, but I killed the nasty thing;--but
do you not think that two...."

"And the scorpions! Didn't they sting you?"

"No; I escaped them; but I was very near sitting down on a whole nest
of the little wretches. I was going to say, Miss Louisa...."

"How horrible it must have been when you found yourself again in the
hands of that dreadful man!--Mark Brandon, isn't he called? and when
the kangaroo had hold of you--gracious! were you not frightened?"

"A man, Miss Louisa, is not easily frightened," said Jeremiah,
assuming an heroic air. "I was not aware that kangaroos have such long
sharp claws, or I should have killed the plaguy beast at once."

"And when the bushranger put his pistol into your mouth--heavens!
what a mercy it was that it did n't go off! Were you not frightened
then?"

"I was astonished, Miss, but not frightened. A man to whom lovely
woman looks up as her protector," said Jerry, putting his hand to his
heart, "must have courage. How could I ask you to depend on me, if
...."

"But how did you feel when Mr. Northland caught hold of your leg? The
mate said that you did n't cry out, but stood as firm as--I forget
what...."

"No, Miss Louisa, it does not become a man to cry out in danger like
a woman: of course a woman cries out naturally when she is in a
fright, because that is all she can do; but I fired off my musket, as
was my duty, to give the alarm. But, dear Miss Louisa, this is not
what I want to talk to you about. If you could see into my heart .."

"Oh I have no doubt I should see a great many curious things! but I
want you to tell me about the opossums...."

"You would see in it your image," continued the impassioned Jerry;
"and your beautiful face engraved...."

"Dear me! that would be comparing it to a wooden one! But I wonder
what is become of Helen?"

"She is not wanted at this moment, She is very pretty; but you, dear
Miss Louisa," said Jerry, growing dangerously energetic, "are prettier
still! You are indeed! And I always thought so--all the way out--
though I never told you so! I never did, because I feared I should
offend you...."

"Where can Helen be?--Helen!"

"Don't call her, dear Miss Louisa; let me tell you how I...."

"Really, Mr. Silliman, I'm quite frightened that Helen does not come.
I must go and see after her, while you keep watch here. Stay; look
there! Is not that smoke rising, a long way off, over those low
rocks?"

"What is the matter?" asked her sister, returning hastily from the
interior of the cave.

"The smoke, Helen! Do you see the smoke? there...."

"I do; and, listen! Was not that the sound of muskets firing?" said
Helen, excited.

"The sound of firing?" said Louisa, trembling.

"Yes, the sound of firing. There, again! I am sure it is; but it is a
long way off: it comes from a point to the right of the smoke."

"O Heavens!" exclaimed Louisa, "then they are fighting at this very
moment, and dear papa perhaps is killed!"

"I hope George will not be rash!" unconsciously uttered Helen.

"It must be the boats attacking the brig," said Mr. Silliman.

"What can the smoke mean?" said Helen, anxiously.

"I know that something dreadful is happening," said the timid Louisa,
bursting into tears, and sinking on to the log of a tree, which had
been placed in the cave for their accommodation.

"Go," said Helen, to Mr. Silliman, "and try to see what is going on."

"But Miss Helen," he remonstrated, "remember that I promised not to
leave my post."

"Then I will go myself," said Helen. "Do n't be frightened, Louisa;
Mr. Silliman shall remain with you, and I will go to the edge of the
bay, and try to find out what is going on. There can be no doubt of
our party getting the better; but, perhaps.....But the shortest way
is to go and see." So saying, notwithstanding the remonstrances of
Jerry, who was sorely perplexed between his notions of gallantry,
which prompted him to accompany Helen, and his sense of duty, and his
inclination also to remain with Louisa, the spirited girl issued forth
from the cave with a ship's cutlass in her hand, and was presently
lost to their sight behind the rocks and bushes.

"The smoke grows thicker, but the firing is more faint," observed
Jerry.

"I hope nothing will happen to Helen!"

"There is no danger, Miss; the bushrangers are far away, to judge
from the sounds; and they say there is no fear of meeting with natives
in this part of the island."

"But natives perhaps might come?"

"I wish your sister had not gone," said Jerry; "but she will soon be
back."

There was a pause in the conversation for some time. Louisa was
anxious and nervous, and Jerry was endeavouring to contrive some means
of renewing the declaration which the return of Helen had interrupted.

"I wish you would have the kindness to stand up on these pieces of
wood, and try if you can see Helen," said Louisa.

Jerry mounted on the wood.

"I can't see anything of her," he said.

"Don't you think she has been gone longer than was necessary?"

"She has been gone a little longer than I expected," replied Jerry,
doubtingly.

"Had you not better go and see after her?" said Louisa, anxiously.

"And leave you alone, Miss Louisa?"

"If you wish to oblige me," said Louisa, hesitating and crimsoning
slightly, "you will do what I wish."

"I will go directly," said Jerry, dismounting from the pile of
timber. "But I don't like to leave you alone."

"It will be only for a minute; just go to the other side of that
rock and look about you."

"I will run there and back, then, as fast as I can," said Jerry.
"Take this pistol; you are not afraid to fire off a pistol? See, it's
quite a little thing, compared to my musket; and if you hear any sound
to alarm you, let it off. Not that it will be necessary, for I shall
not be away more than a minute or two, and you will scarcely lose
sight of me all the time. Now I'll run as quick as I can; and when I
come back, perhaps you will allow me to...."

"Run--and run quick," said Louisa.

Jerry girded up his loins, and ran enthusiastically.

Louisa remained at the entrance of the cave behind the woodwork for
some time listening attentively, and straining her eyes to discover
her sister or Mr. Silliman coming back; but to her surprise the latter
did not return as she expected. She held her breath and listened, but
she could hear nothing; and neither her sister nor Jerry came. She had
her right arm extended, holding the pistol as far from her as
possible, and in no inconsiderable fear lest it should go off with a
terrible shock, of its own head.

In this posture she remained for many minutes, which seemed to be as
many hours, waiting, and listening, and trembling with apprehension.
She cast her eyes back into the interior of the cave; but on that side
all was dark, and the obscurity of its uncertain recesses chilled and
frightened her. She began to experience the fear which is apt to
overtake the timid, and especially those of the gentler sex, when they
find themselves alone and exposed to unknown danger. She tried to fire
off the pistol; but in her state of alarm, not understanding how to
set the lock, she pulled at the trigger with her soft and feeble
finger in vain; and every now and then she endeavoured with anxious
eyes to penetrate the depths of the cavern, whose darkness filled her
with vague fears of some native, or something, on the point of
emerging from its recesses!

At last, her fear altogether mastering her, and feeling it less
terrible to seek for her sister in the bush than remain where she was,
with the courage of desperation she clambered over the fortification
of logs, and with her pistol in her hand, which she feared alike to
hold or to relinquish, she rushed towards the bay, in the direction
taken by Helen.

She looked around her, but she saw nothing. She listened, but she
could hear nothing. There was a high ridge of rocks between her and
the bay: remembering that it had been planned that a party of soldiers
should be stationed to the right, she ran forward in that direction.
She wandered for some minutes, lost, and confused, and frightened at
meeting with no one, when on a sudden a sight met her eyes which
stopped the current of her blood, and froze her heart within her!

She could not scream; she could not move! She sank down behind some
rocks, and with eyes glazed with terror, stared through a cleft at the
appalling scene before her!



Chapter XXIII. The Captives.

THE scene before her eyes was of a description to strike with terror
a far stouter heart than that of the gentle Louisa.

At a little distance, on a loose piece of rock, sat her sister Helen,
with her hands tied behind her; over her mouth had been tied a silk
handkerchief, which, however, had slipped down, so that she was able
to breathe freely. By her side stood a most repulsive looking man,
with a musket which he held pointed towards her in a threatening
manner; and he seemed ready at the slightest cry or motion to
discharge its contents through her head. Even in that time of mortal
peril the heroic girl, though deadly pale, seemed calm and collected;
and although her beautiful head and neck, fixed and motionless,
resembled rather a piece of marble statuary than the living flesh of a
human being, there was a flashing light from her eye which revealed
the stirring thoughts that agitated her within.

Not far from her sister, and exhibiting the very personification of
surprise and fear, was the wretched Jeremiah, prostrate, on his knees,
gagged, with his hands bound behind him, and turning his eyes
sideways, with an expression which, had it not been for the horrible
reality of the danger, would have been ludicrously doleful, towards a
man who stood guard over him with a musket, the muzzle of which
touched his ear, and who, with his finger on the trigger, seemed
momentarily inclined to relieve himself from the fatiguing restraint
of such a posture by a gentle touch which would free him in a moment
from the trouble of guarding his prisoner.

"Mark is a long time away," said the man who was guarding Helen, to
the other; "we are losing time."

"He is settling the young one," said his companion; "I thought I
heard a squeak just now."

"That's the shortest way," replied the first; "but she was a nice
gal." Here he exchanged a peculiar wink with the other, nodding his
head and setting his eye at Helen, a signal which she could not avoid
perceiving, and which the other responded to by a peculiar grin.

Mark in the mean time had gone to the cave for the purpose of getting
possession of the money which the Major had taken from the vessel, and
which the bushranger wisely judged might stand him in good stead at
some future time. Jeremiah, in the excess of his terror, and
stimulated by the propinquity of a loaded musket to his head to tell
all he knew, had let out the secret that there was a large sum of
money deposited in the cave, consisting of sovereigns and dollars, but
as their concealment had been effected before he had joined the party,
he had been unable to state more than the money was deposited
somewhere.

Mark had no doubt of being able to terrify the youngest daughter into
confessing where the treasure was concealed; but to his surprise he
found the cave vacant; and after a hasty search for the money, which
he was unable to find, he made up his mind at once that his only
chance was to get the secret out of Helen: and as time pressed, and as
the absence of Louisa was an alarming incident, he hastily returned to
the spot where Helen and Jeremiah were held in durance by his
companions.

The appearance of Mark Brandon redoubled the terror of Louisa, who
now gave herself up for lost, expecting every moment that the
searching eyes of the ever-watchful bushranger would spy her out
amongst the rocks, and that she would be suddenly dragged from her
retreat to share the fate of her sister! But, fortunately for her,
Mark passed in such a direction that she was hidden from his view as
she lay crouched down in her hiding-place, and she saw him proceed
straight to Helen.

Making a sign to his companions, which it seemed they well
understood, he took the place of the man who had been mounting guard
over Helen, and who, in obedience to some brief directions which Mark
gave him, stepped to the margin of the bay, with his face towards the
north, on the look-out for enemies from that quarter, in which might
be seen the smoke of the burning vessel.

Mark Brandon, with his fowling-piece carelessly thrown over his arm,
with admirable coolness commenced his operations.

He was burning with impatience; but he felt that his object was not
to be attained by violence. He resolved, therefore, to put in practice
all the arts of his deceptive tongue, for which he was so famous among
his fellows, and which had often helped him out of difficulties when
all other resources failed him. But he took care not to let his
impatience be visible.

In this position the parties remained for some little time; and
Louisa, seeing that her sister was in the power of the dreaded
bushranger, strained her ears to catch the words which presently he
began to speak in a quiet but earnest tone to Helen.

From his attitude, which was in the highest degree respectful, and
from the tone of his deep clear voice, which, though earnest and
determined, was mild and low, it might have been supposed that he was
soliciting some favour from a young lady of his acquaintance which he
had a right to demand, but which he nevertheless requested with a
polite deference to her sex rather than insisted on as a matter of
right which he had the power to enforce; but the appearance of his
companion with his cocked musket close to Mr. Silliman's ear, and the
fowling-piece which Mark held in his hand, was an overt demonstration
of possible violence which contrasted strangely with the bland manner
of his address.

"Miss Horton," he began, "I am quite ashamed to say anything that
could imply a doubt of a lady's word; but you must excuse me if I
cannot understand how the spot where your father has deposited the
dollars that Mr. Silliman there speaks of can be unknown to you! Your
frank and immediate communication of the fact, permit me to say, will
save much trouble to all parties--and to yourself, perhaps, some
inconvenience."

Helen made no reply.

"It is quite useless," pursued the bushranger, "to pretend ignorance
of this matter; besides, if I were willing to forego this prize
myself, my companions would not agree to it: so that you see, Miss
Horton, your best course is an immediate avowal of the truth. That
man," he continued, "who has his musket at your friend's head, is one
of the most audacious persons you can possibly conceive, and there is
no saying what lengths he might go to in his passion, for it would be
impossible for me to control him. Jem Swindell," he added, raising his
voice and addressing his associate, whom it would be difficult to say
that he very much calumniated, "take your finger from the trigger of
your musket; it might go off at a start, and that would be a pity, for
we don't want to inconvenience the gentleman more than we can help;
besides, the report might give an alarm, which is best avoided. Mind
how you let the hammer down in putting it on half-cock, for it might
slip, and then the poor gentleman would receive the contents of your
barrel through his head, which is far from my wish: but keep it in the
same position, Jemmy, that you may be ready."

It is impossible to describe the agony of poor Jeremiah as his
sentry, at the intimation of Mark Brandon, whom he inwardly thanked in
his heart for the considerate suggestion, made the little arrangement
with the lock of his musket which removed the immediate apprehension
of having his brains blown out by any sudden impulse or accidental
agitation of the finger of the inexorable Jemmy, who, despite the
pleasing familiarity with which Mark spoke to him, was one of the most
ferocious-looking rascals that ever took to the bush.

But as Helen's eyes were naturally and involuntarily turned to the
position and danger of her harmless acquaintance, she could not but be
aware of the peril to which he was exposed, and, by reflection, of the
immediate danger in which she herself was, and how entirely they all
were at the mercy of the desperate men who had them in their power.
The thoughts which agitated her mind were visible on her countenance.

Mark observed the change which appeared in her features, and he
congratulated himself that his little contrivance to impress on her
unostentatiously but forcibly the desperate condition of her affairs
had succeeded. He pursued his arguments, therefore, briskly, without
giving time for her agitation to subside:--

"You may believe me, Miss Horton," he resumed, "when I say that I
should be most sorry to see you placed in the position of your friend
there; but what can I do? You see my companions are two to one against
me, and the money they will have, even if they proceed to the last
extremities; and if a man in my situation might presume to offer his
respectful deferences to a young lady of personal attractions and
accomplishments such as you possess, I would entreat you to believe
that your life is what I would endeavour to preserve, even at the
sacrifice of my own. But as I said before, they are two to one, and
all that I can do is to endeavour to prevail on you to reveal the
place where the money is deposited, without obliging my comrades--who
I confess are rather rough in their manners--to use the most dreadful
means to compel you."

The artful words of the bushranger, whom the constable had not
inaptly described as "the most carnying devil that ever got over a
woman," began to have an effect on Helen; and she could not suppose
that the man who addressed her with a demeanour so respectful, and
with such a propriety of language, could be the unprincipled ruffian
that he really was.

Besides, his mode of proceeding was altogether unlike what she had
pictured to herself under such circumstances, and what she had feared
at his hands. Instead of the boisterous threats and the instant
violence which she had anticipated, she was met with the most bland
expressions and the most earnest desire apparently to save her from
personal insult. Seeing, however, that Mark Brandon was in this
complacent humour, she thought that she might turn it to account.

Her principal anxiety at the moment was for her sister. Knowing
Louisa's gentle and timid nature, she feared that in her terror she
would reveal and submit to all rather than encounter the dreadful
death which would be threatened by the bushrangers. The point for her,
therefore, was to gain time, in the hope that her father or Trevor
would send assistance. But she little thought of the consummate art
and duplicity of the mind with which she had to contend.

Mark Brandon, on the other hand, was quite as much alive as she was
to the importance of time; but as he had ulterior designs, which she
could not penetrate, it was only in pursuance of his plan that he now
endeavoured to arrive at his object, that of getting possession of the
money, by the mildest means: and he had his reasons for treating her
with a deference and attention approaching almost to gallantry--his
loaded fowling-piece always excepted--which, had Helen been aware of,
would have made her shudder, and would have put her effectually on her
guard against his insinuating expressions.

It is to be observed, also, that Mark Brandon had had the address to
make his companions secure Helen's person and bind her hands, so that
he avoided coming into personal collision with her in a way which, he
was aware, could not fail to be extremely disagreeable to a young and
delicate girl, and which was sure to make her regard her aggressors
with aversion and horror. According to his own expression, he did only
"the genteel part of the business," leaving to minor and subordinate
hands to execute the practical parts of the ruffianism; and, as has
been before remarked, having certain ulterior views, not only as to
the money, but also with respect to Helen, which he did not allow for
the present to be apparent, he was anxious that she should not
conceive any irreconcilable hatred towards himself; but, on the
contrary, that she should regard him as an unfortunate and perhaps
ill-used man, who was the victim of necessity, and who was desirous to
alleviate the hardships of her fate by all the means in his power.

Such were the relative positions of these two parties: the one, with
the ardour and hope of youth and innocence, fancied that her own
purity was a sufficient shield against the refined duplicity and the
consummate villainy of the other--on whom it may be said the spirit of
a Mephistopheles had been infused to aid him in his iniquitous
designs.

Helen wished to gain time, and with that view she endeavoured to
prolong the conversation:--

"I thank you," she said, after some little reflection, "for the good
intentions which you express towards me; but if you are sincere, why
do you allow my hands to remain bound behind my back, which," she
added, "hurts me?"

"It is a severity that I could not have brought myself to practice,"
replied Mark: "but as it is done, if I was to attempt to remove the
cord it would excite the suspicions of my companions; besides, under
the circumstances, I assure you it is best for yourself that your
hands should be confined, for if you were entirely at liberty, your
high spirit, which I so much admire, might prompt you to make attempts
at escape which could not possibly succeed, but which would stimulate
one of those men to commit a violence on you which I should deplore as
much as yourself. You must consider the confinement of your hands,
therefore, as a protection against yourself and your own courage;
although, if it was not for the presence of my companions, I assure
you I would release them on the instant; and, indeed, to see you in
such a position gives me more pain than I can possibly express. But
you will permit me to observe to you that you have it in your own
power to put an end to it by informing me of the place where the money
is concealed."

While Mark was making this little speech, in which he endeavoured to
convince his victim that her hands were bound behind her back, and
that she was reduced to her present state of helplessness entirely for
her own good, Helen was revolving in her mind the remarkable
circumstance that he made no mention of her sister Louisa, who knew as
well as herself where the money was deposited.

It struck her that, perhaps, Louisa, alarmed by the lengthened
absence of herself and of Mr. Silliman, had ventured from the cave in
search of them, and so had escaped being molested by the bushranger.
The possibility of this immediately inspired her with hope. Her
sister, she considered, when she failed in finding them, would
endeavour to join her father. In that case not only would Louisa be
saved, but the news of their being missing would certainly cause her
father to despatch some of the soldiers to look for them, and by that
means they might be delivered from the power of the bushrangers.

These thoughts urged her the more strongly to endeavour to gain
time: and as Mark Brandon seemed inclined to treat her with respect,
she bent her whole soul to the invention of expedients for prolonging
the conversation. Her anxiety for her sister furnished her with a
ready subject.

"I am waiting for your answer," said Mark Brandon.

"How was it," said Helen, "that my sister did not tell you where the
money was concealed?"

"Your sister," he replied, with the slightest possible hesitation
and embarrassment, which Helen, however, did not fail to observe,
"said that she was not acquainted with the spot."

"That could not be," replied Helen, "because she assisted to place
it there."

"Where?" said Mark.

"What have you done with my sister?" said Helen, anxiously and
imploringly. "I will tell you nothing till you let me see my sister."

"She is in the cave," replied Mark; "you can see her there if you
will. But time passes, Miss Horton, and it is necessary that you
should understand that I cannot continue this conversation any longer.
We must have the money, or else you will find yourself in the hands of
my companions, who, I fear, would not treat you with the respect which
I observe. It is very painful to me to be obliged to insist thus
peremptorily; but for your own sake I entreat you to tell me at once
where is the money?"

"I will tell you nothing," said Helen, firmly, "before I know what
is become of my sister."

"In one word, then, Miss Horton, I will tell you the exact truth.--I
did not see your sister in the cave: doubtless she had fled into some
part of its interior which I had not time to explore. So far as I am
concerned, therefore, your sister is quite safe. You may easily be
satisfied that what I tell you is true, by reflecting for a moment,
that had I seen your sister I could not have failed to persuade her to
tell me what I wanted to know; that is, without using any violence
towards her, which is as far from my wish with her as it is in regard
to yourself. But again, I say, Miss Horton, that my comrades will not
longer be trifled with in this matter. If it only concerned myself, I
would not care; but those two others who are engaged with me would not
have the patience which I have had. Be so good as to say, then,
whether you have made up your mind to be taken possession of by Mr.
James Swindell, yonder, or whether you will be reasonable, and let me
know at once that which they will make you tell at last. Jemmy, my
man," he continued, raising his voice a little, "I know what you look
at me for, but I can't help it; the young lady will not let us have
the money. Yes--I know what you mean; you mean to say that she wants a
little of your persuasion."

"What shall we do with this chap?" said Jemmy, with a ferocious
grin, cocking his musket again, and putting his finger on the trigger;
"settle him at once; or suppose we stow him away with a stone round
his neck at the bottom of the bay, yonder? He wouldn't get out again
easily, I fancy. Now, Mark, we have had enough of this. If you have
finished your jaw with the gal, let me take a turn; I warrant I'll
bring her to her senses in no time. Fair play, you know, Mark, among
friends: you must n't mind her squeaking out a bit."

"Stay," said Helen to Mark Brandon. "Promise me that no harm shall
be done to us--to Louisa,--nor to me,--nor to Mr. Silliman, and I will
tell you."

"You may rely upon my word," said Mark. "If harm was intended, it
would have been done already. All that my men want is the money; and,
considering their condition, you must allow that their desire is
excusable. Now--tell me--speak!"

Helen paused for a short time. She perceived that now, more than
ever, time was everything. She felt assured that Louisa had escaped;
and in that case it was most likely that she would fly in the
direction of the soldiers. Under such circumstances she thought that a
subterfuge on her part was allowable; and for the sake of gaining
time, which to them was life and liberty, and perhaps to her even more
than life, she told Mark Brandon to look in a recess on his left hand
as he entered the cave, and there he would find two bags--the small
one of gold, and the other, large and very heavy, of dollars.

Without losing a moment, Mark summoned the man on the look-out, who
bore a most murderous aspect, to resume his position by the side of
Helen, and having whispered a few words in his ear, the obedient
myrmidon presented his musket at her head--an action which he followed
up, as soon as Mark was out of hearing, by a most diabolical threat,
which made her wish for the return of his less ferocious principal,
who was, however, notwithstanding his polished address, by far the
greater villain of the two.

Mark's absence was not long. Although he was much disappointed, and
inwardly was savage at not finding the treasure where he expected, his
extraordinary mastery over his passions when it was to his interest to
conceal them enabled him to preserve towards Helen a demeanour which,
although expressive of his discontent, was not indicative of
revengeful or hostile feelings towards herself. According to his plan,
to which he firmly adhered, he left the threatening and violent part
of the proceedings to his subordinates.

"It is of no use," he said, addressing his companions, "to wait any
longer; the money is not to be found. You must determine for
yourselves what to do. But the money is there, sure enough, if we
could only find it."

"But," said the man who had the custody of Helen, and swearing a
terrible oath, "have it we will, or else"...

"Of course," said the bushranger, "you will use no violence."

"I tell you what it is, Mark," said the man; "all this gammon is
very well between you and the gals, but it won't do for us. The long
and the short of it is, we must draw lots for her; that's fair bush
play. Jemmy, put your ball through that chap's head, and have done
with it. I'm tired of this. What do you say, Jemmy?"

"And so am I too," said Jemmy. "Come, Mark, let us know what your
game is. We may settle this chap, I suppose, without more ado. But as
to the gal, I'm of Roger Grough's mind--let us draw lots for her; and
as to the other young one, why the two that lose can draw lots for her
afterwards."

"Stay," cried out Brandon, as Jemmy was coolly going to put his
threat in regard to the unfortunate Jerry in execution, "let us give
them another chance. Now, Miss Horton, you see how things are; I can't
keep my companions from having their will. It is for you to say what
shall be done: but you must decide at once, for I can't interfere any
further. Where is the money?"

"I will go with you to the cave," said Helen, who had prolonged the
result to the last possible moment, and who now saw that any attempt
at further evasion was useless; "I will go with you to the cave, and
show you where the money is lodged. Only promise me," she said,
hesitatingly, "that you will not use any violence."

"I promise," said Mark.

"And I will go with you," said Grough, "to see fair play. No offence
meant, Mark, my boy; but the cave, and the opportunity? All on a level
in the bush, you know, Mark, and fair play's the word; no gammon with
us: better draw lots before you go."

"No, no," said Mark, who had his own reasons for wishing to be alone
when he made prize of the gold and silver; "there's no time for that
nonsense. Do you keep a good look-out, Roger, towards the smoking
vessel; we may have the soldiers down on us before we are aware, and
then we shall have to run for it. Let us only get the money; we can
have the other at any time."

So saying, he proceeded with Helen, still with her hands bound behind
her, in the direction of the cave.




VOLUME 2.



Chapter I. Deception.

NOTWITHSTANDING the habitual caution of Mark Brandon, and his maxim
of always sacrificing minor objects to his grand aim of escaping from
bondage, it is impossible to say how far the temptation of the
presence of the beautiful girl, who was utterly in his power might
have overcome his resolution, had not Helen herself conceived some
misgivings of the prudence of being alone with a man of his dangerous
character. The fears which assailed her caused her, before they were
out of sight of his companions, to refuse to proceed farther.

"It will be better for you to go on," said Mark.

"I will not go farther," said Helen, stopping with a determined air.

"Then Grough will take the matter in hand," said Brandon.

"You may put me to death, if you will, but I will not go on with you
to the cave."

"And the money?" said Mark.

"The money you will find behind the rock, at the back of the recess."

"You did not say this at first."

"I did not, because I forgot at the moment that the bags were removed
from the first place in order to hide them better."

"I will try again, then," said Mark, "trusting entirely to your word:
but I fear my comrades are growing savage."

"Could you not untie my hands first?" said Helen, throwing into her
appeal just that slight tinge of earnest and confident supplication
which has ever so powerful an effect on men, however brutal, when
uttered by a woman in winning tones.

"Certainly!" said Mark, readily. "But no," he added, reluctantly, and
almost sorrowfully--"their eyes are upon me, and it might cost you
your life. I assure you, Miss Horton, I will free your hands and
yourself too the moment I can find the opportunity; but at present it
would be dangerous, for those men naturally consider that their safety
depends on your being secured. And now let me particularly request you
not to make a noise, nor move a step, for I could not answer for that
man Grough, nor Swindell neither, they are so very passionate and
violent. They would shoot that poor Mr. Silliman dead on the instant,
and then they would not scruple to use you as they pleased. For your
own sake, therefore, be still and silent."

Having thus cautioned her, and it being impossible for her to escape
in his absence, bound as she was, and within sight of his
confederates, he repaired with all speed to the cave, and, to his
great joy, found the money behind the stone. Judging from the weight
of the gold, he guessed that the smaller bag did not contain less than
a thousand or more sovereigns; and the bag of dollars was almost as
much as he could lift.

With respect to the gold, it was far from his intention to share such
precious stuff between his two associates; he therefore looked about
for a convenient spot to make a plant of his treasure. Spying at a
little distance the hollow tree in which Jerry had made acquaintance
with the opossum family the night before, he quickly examined it, and
judging it to be a safe place for hiding the treasure, he gently
dropped it to the bottom of the hollow, and the clink of the coin as
it fell to the ground inside assuring him that it was safely stowed,
he immediately returned with the bag of dollars to his companions.

The eyes of Jemmy and Roger eagerly devoured the money, which
amounted, as they guessed, to about a thousand dollars a-piece; and at
the suggestion of Brandon, having taken as many as each could
conveniently carry, the bag was forthwith buried by Brandon and
Swindell under a stone at some distance, Grough keeping guard the
while over their two prisoners; and it was solemnly sworn between the
three that it should be divided between them at some future time in
equal shares.

This matter having been arranged, they turned their attention to
their prisoners. As they had no time to lose, they resolved to proceed
immediately to the cave, and take from the stores deposited there
whatever they might want for their use in the bush--trusting to the
chance of being able to surprise some boat on the coast, and of making
their escape by such means from the colony. Committing Jeremiah to the
charge of Jemmy and Roger, and taking Helen under his own care,
Brandon at once led the way to the cave.

Their first care was to remove, as quickly as possible, all the
stores which they thought would be useful to them hereafter to a
considerable distance, and to bury them and hide them in proper
places, taking careful note of the various "plants." All this they did
most diligently and rapidly. Their next step was to load themselves
with the various provisions and stores, including an ample supply of
spirits: but here a difficulty arose; the articles were so numerous as
to be extremely cumbersome to carry; and of all desirable things in
the bush, one of the most desirable is to be lightly laden.

"What a pity it is," said Jemmy, "that we have no donkeys in the
island; one of the long-ears just now would be the very thing for us.
As to carrying these loads ourselves, I can never do it; the toil is
more than the pleasure."

"The brandy is worth carrying, at any rate," said the more
industrious Roger; "and remember the bottles are sure to get lighter
as we go."

"It will never do," returned Jemmy. "What to do I don't know! I can't
carry them; but it goes against my heart to leave them behind. I say,
Mark, what shall we do? It's a sin to leave such a lot of lush behind
us for those rascals of soldiers and constables to tipple! What do you
say?"

"Perhaps this gentleman," suggested Mark, pointing to Mr. Silliman,
"would have the goodness to carry our provisions for us. And as he
will not have to carry arms and ammunition, the load would not be an
inconvenience to him?"

"By George! a capital thought! he will be almost as good as a
donkey!" exclaimed Jemmy in the enthusiasm of his approbation. "But I
say, Mark, won't there be danger in that? He may betray us, eh?"

"Not he," replied Brandon; "besides, as I mean to take the young lady
with me, he will be useful as a servant."

"No, Master Brandon," said Grough, "that won't do. We are all one in
the bush; and if we are to have the gal with us, we must draw lots, as
I said at first. I don't see why one of us is to have her more than
another."

"Suppose we leave it to the young lady herself," said Mark, "to
choose one of us; and the other two must abide by her decision?"

"That is fair," said Jemmy; "that gives us all an equal chance."

"I don't know that," said Grough. "Mark has been carnying her over
already. However, I don't want to make words;--I agree."

"Who shall propose it?" asked Jemmy.

"I will," said Mark.

"No, no!" said the suspicious Grough, "let's have it all fair and
above--board--all three together."

"Then it will be better to postpone this question," said Brandon,
"till we make our halt for the night. I don't expect that we shall
have the Major's people nor the soldiers on us before we have plenty
of time to make a long stretch in-land. The Major is busy about his
vessel--we gave him something to do there; and the young officer is
after the main body of our fellows out by the hill, that I pointed out
as the place of our meeting."

"You don't mean to go there?" said Jemmy.

"I think," replied Brandon, "that, under the circumstances, it will
be best for us to keep together by ourselves: too many at a time in
the bush is inconvenient. And now, my boys, let us make a start."

When Mr. Brandon communicated to Mr. Silliman the decision of the
bushrangers, that he should accompany them in their retreat in the
capacity of a pack-horse, and promised him good treatment if he
behaved well in his employment, that wretched individual was rather
rejoiced than otherwise at his promotion; for anything was better than
to have the disagreeable musket of the careless Jemmy Swindell
everlastingly set at his head: and while there was life, he sagely
argued, there was hope; and the intention of the bushrangers to make
him their slave showed that they had no present design of taking away
his life.

He acquiesced, therefore, with great submission, and his hands being
released and the gag in his mouth a little relaxed, he proceeded to
assist Jemmy and Roger in loading himself with much alacrity, and with
a readiness to oblige, which was both prudent and philosophical on the
occasion. But when Mark Brandon intimated to Helen that it was their
intention to take her with them, she at once refused, and declared she
would rather suffer death than allow herself to be removed from the
cave.

"You may be quite sure, Miss Horton," said Mark, in his most
insinuating way, "that I strenuously opposed this plan; but I found my
men so obstinate and determined, that it was impossible for me to
persuade them to forego their resolution. They said, that if you were
left behind, you would give information to your pursuers of our
numbers and our plans, which would lead to our destruction. All that I
could do was to prevail on them to consent that you should return with
your friend Mr. Silliman after we had reached a sufficient distance
from this place to render pursuit of us hopeless."

"Is it possible that I can believe that you speak truth?" said Helen.

"The alternative," quickly replied Mark, "is too dreadful for me to
dare to mention to you; but the loss of your life, I fear, with such
desperate men, would be the least of the evils that you would have to
suffer. Observe that Mr. Silliman will accompany you."

"And we are to be released when you have reached a place of safety?"

"Certainly," replied Mark; "your own sense must tell you that a lady
in the bush would be a most inconvenient addition. But to satisfy the
apprehensions of my companions it is absolutely necessary that you
should go with us for a certain distance, in order to prevent your
giving information of our proceedings to those who might be inclined
to follow us."

"But am I to be taken away with my hands bound in this painful way?"
said Helen, a wild hope flashing on her mind, that if her hands were
free she might find an opportunity to escape.

"The moment we have passed from the vicinity of these rocks," replied
Mark Brandon, "my companions consent to your being unbound; but for a
short distance, however painful it may be for me, Miss Horton, to see
you in such a state, we must submit to a force that is stronger than
ours."

These words the bushranger spoke in a tone so tender and yet so
respectful, that Helen could not help fancying that she possessed a
power over him which she might use advantageously for herself and her
fellow--prisoner. Mark Brandon, with his usual art, had succeeded in
infusing into her the idea that his actions were controlled by his two
associates, and that the rigour with which she had been treated was
their act and not his; and that, on the contrary, he would willingly
aid her escape if he were not bound by ties of fellowship to his
comrades, and, indeed, overmatched by them in strength, insomuch as
they were two to one against him.

Possessed with this flattering hope, and little aware of the extent
of the diabolical deceit of the man whom she had to deal with, she
suffered herself to be persuaded to accompany them without
resistance,--thus justifying Mark's observation to his associates:--

"You see, my mates, that 'softly' does it."

Helen was so afraid that the bushrangers would commence a search
after Louisa that she forebore to mention her name, trusting that her
sister had made good her escape in the direction where the burning
vessel pointed out the presence, most likely, of her father and the
ship's crew; and Brandon, considering that the girl had wandered into
the bush, and being bent on securing Helen, and of getting away before
it was too late, did not trouble himself to look after her: but
satisfied with his booty, and with his still dearer prize, whom he had
resolved to appropriate to himself, though at the sacrifice of the
lives of his two comrades, and Jeremiah being driven before them like
a beast of burden, he made the best of his way into the thickest
recesses of the bush.

It is easy to be supposed that, while much of the scenes which have
been described were passing, the terrified Louisa was a prey to the
most dismal apprehensions.

At first she supposed that her sister and poor Mr. Silliman were
instantly to be put to death; and she feared that in such case her own
life would be the next sacrifice, for she felt that it would be
impossible for her to avoid screaming out! But when she found that it
was not the intention of their captors, as it seemed, to take away
their lives, and that Mark Brandon addressed her sister, as she
observed, in the most respectful manner, she recovered herself
sufficiently to note accurately the whole of the proceedings that met
her view.

When the bushrangers, taking with them their prisoners, departed for
the cave, she lay close in her hiding-place; but as she had the
advantage of being able to see without being seen, she watched them
till they were out of sight.

Now was the time, she thought, to get away, and to endeavour to find
her father or the soldiers. If she kept near the banks of the bay she
judged that she must fall in with one or other of the party; though
she was sadly in fear lest she should meet either bushrangers or
natives on her way. Stimulated, however, by the danger which was close
to her, and urged by the desire to save her sister from the hands of
the desperate men who held her captive, and not without an amiable
wish to save the harmless and good-natured Jeremiah from the fate with
which he was threatened, she mustered up courage to set out.

Once in motion, she never looked behind her, but, taking advantage of
the rocks and bushes which were scattered about, to screen herself
from the observation of her enemies, she fled on the wings of fear
towards the spot where she doubted not she should meet with friends
with whom she would be safe, and who would promptly hasten to her
sister's rescue.

Chapter II. Hopes.

IN the mean time the Major, assisted by his active officer, and ably
supported by the crew of the vessel and the government sailors, was
vigorously engaged in battling with the fire which had been kindled in
the principal cabin of the brig by Mark Brandon, who had perpetrated
that most diabolical act in order to occupy the attention of his
antagonists, and to prevent them from turning their thoughts to him
and to the inmates of the cave.

In this he had fully succeeded; for so busy were the sailors, with
their commanders, in extinguishing the flames, and in repairing the
damage that had been done to the vessel, as well by the fire as by her
striking on the shoal, that they could think of nothing else but the
urgent work on which they were employed.

The extinguishing of the fire proved a less difficult matter than
they had hoped, although the parts which had been ignited continued to
send forth smoke for some time after the flames had been overcome.

This being effected, however, and all danger on that score over, the
sailors began to recollect that it was near eight bells--that is to
say, that it was about mid-day;--and that they had been able to
procure no refreshment, since the night before, more than a bite at
some hard ship's biscuit, which was by no means sufficient to satisfy
seamen's appetites when "better grub," as they nautically expressed
it, was to be got.

With one accord, therefore, they signified to the mate that they
would take it as a particular favour if the skipper would be pleased
to make it twelve o'clock; it being the peculiar function of that
omnipotent person on board-ship--the captain--not only to make it
twelve o'clock every day at his will and pleasure, but on the
extraordinary occasion of a voyage eastward round the globe to make
either an extra Sunday or an extraworking day on some one week of the
circumnavigation, according to expediency, and to his own particular
convenience.

As the Major well knew that one most important means of keeping
sailors in good humour is to feed them and grog them well, he
forthwith gave orders for striking eight bells, according to the
request conveyed to him; and as the brig's cabouse was found to be
sadly out of order from the effects of the storm, which Mark Brandon's
people had neither the time nor the skill to remedy, he gave
directions for making up a huge fire of wood on the beach; and it was
the smoke from this extempore ship's kitchen that the party at the
cave mistook for the burning of the vessel.

The dinner from the ample stores of the brig's beef and pork went on
favourably, while a judicious distribution of rum completed the
general satisfaction; and the jovial sailors, refreshed with rest and
food, rushed joyously to their work, which was to get the brig off
from the shoal.

Fortunately for the bottom of the gallant vessel, the part of the
shoal where she struck was entirely of sand, so that there were hopes
that so far she had escaped uninjured. The mate, also, did not fail to
take advantage of the rising tide, by carrying out an anchor seaward,
and putting a strain on the cable from the bow of the vessel. The
position of the brig, however, was an awkward one, and it required all
the skill and exertions of their united strength to warp her off on
the rising of the tide with the assistance of both boats, and with the
strain of two cables attached to the anchors besides.

This, however, by the perseverance and encouragement of the mate, who
bent his whole soul to the work, and by the liberal promises of the
Major, was at last effected, and the little vessel was once more
afloat on the bosom of the waters. The wind had gone down again; but
there was a broken swell which caused the vessed to toss about like a
maimed and crippled thing, filling the worthy mate with a poignant
pain which almost counterbalanced his joy at seeing the mistress of
his affections swimming with a melancholy flauntiness on her native
element.

Ah! poor thing! he said, as he stood on the shore and surveyed her
changed appearance, you see what has happened to you, you hussey, by
letting yourself get into bad hands! But it wasn't her fault neither,
he said; but mine, for listening to the blarney of that cursed pilot,
with his sea--lawyer's jaw and his damn'd long-tailed coat! I ought to
have known better--I ought--and that's the truth of it. I mistrusted
those long tails from the first; it wasn't seaman-like, to say the
least of it--it was indecent! and I deserve to be flogged, I do, for
being so flummoxed by such a lubberly-looking rascal! But I'll make
you all right again, my beauty! I will. There's a lovely foresail in
the mainhold, and I'll spread it on her, and she shall look as saucy
as a new bride!

"But her mainmast is gone," said the Major, interrupting his
officer's self-accusatory and affectionate exclamations; "how shall we
manage for that?"

"It's a bad job, I confess," replied the mate. "But look at that
grove of trees, yonder, with their tall straight stems; those are the
stringybark trees, I take it. There's a new mast ready-made to our
hand; and it is but a light bit of timber that we want for our little
boat, God bless her! and we'll ship it in no time, that is, if it
wouldn't be better to rig out a jury--mast enough to carry us into
port in the Derwent; and then we can do it at our leisure, and more
ship-shape."

"Bear-a-hand, my sons," he sang out to the sailors, "and clear away
this gear," pointing to the shattered mainmast which had been cut away
from the vessel, and was lying half in the water on the shoal.

"I think," he continued, turning to the Major, "that we had better
trust to a jury-mast to take us round the headland and through the
channel: we shall not make so good a job of it here, and it's best to
be in port as soon as we can. There's no knowing how soon we might
have another visit from these confounded bushrangers--the devil burn
them! the place seems to grow bushrangers! And the sooner, perhaps, we
get the young ladies on board the better: to my mind it's safer for
them to be on board than on shore any time. When one is on board ship
we know where we are, which we never do ashore; for the streets run in
and out, and the houses are all alike--and there's no getting a sight
of the sun, so that you never know your bearings; and as to your
latitude and longitude, it's all a guess! But on boardship you know
what to look out for and what to prepare against; there's the wind and
the sea--and a lee-shore, may-be, and that's all: but on the land you
never know what the danger is, for it is never over! What with land-
sharks and fireships of all sorts--let alone the difficulty of keeping
steady on one's legs when there's no motion to help one, and not one
in a hundred knows starboard from larboard, or how to put up their
helms when you're bearing up, may-be in Cheapside, against a wind!--
for my part, I say the sea for me: and all the use of the land, so far
as I can see, is to grow vegetables on!"

"And now, Major, if you will take my advice, you will let me tow the
brig opposite your camp, over the water, yonder, so that the young
ladies can come easy on board; and I should like to see the bushranger
that would attempt to take them out again!"

From this long and characteristic harangue, it may be seen that the
worthy mate was in excessively high spirits; and as the Major
expressed his immediate approval of his suggestion, all the materials
belonging to the vessel were collected without delay, and the two
boats being manned, they were on the point of giving way, when a shout
from the top of the hill overlooking the shore attracted their
attention, and the ensign with three soldiers, was seen coming down in
all haste towards the vessel.

The Major desired the boats to rest on their oars, and presently
Trevor reached the beach:--the vessel being beyond convenient hail, he
made the most energetic signs to make the Major understand that he
wished to communicate with those on board. One of the boats being
detached, the Major stepped into it and proceeded to the shore.

"Are you aware," were the first words uttered by Trevor, "that Mark
Brandon, with two of his comrades, have escaped?"

A sudden fear came over the father as he thought of his daughters.

Trevor then communicated to him, in as few words as possible, that
his party of soldiers had hemmed the bushrangers into a corner, and
that all who were not killed in the conflict were captured, but that
Brandon and two others were not among them. He said further, that some
of the convicts had informed him that Brandon had promised to meet
them at the foot of a certain hill, about a dozen miles off, but that
it was the opinion of the head constable, who was a most intelligent
fellow, that this was only a feint on the part of Brandon, and that he
would most likely visit the cave where the Major's daughters had been
left, and where many of the Major's valuables had been deposited.

The Major changed countenance at this communication, and for a few
moments was at a loss how to act; for he could not make up his mind
which was the best way of reaching the side of the bay near which the
cave was situate, whether by land or water.

Trevor saw that his mind was troubled as if with a presentiment of
some disaster, and he immediately offered to go round by land with his
men while the Major proceeded by sea. The Major, without speaking a
word, but with lips pale and his teeth clenched, immediately agreed to
this arrangement, and stepping back into his boat, nodded his head to
the men to take to their oars; when a new apparition arrested his
sight, and gave rise to sudden hopes and fears, which took from him
the power of speech, and it was only by a sign that he could intimate
to the boat's crew to remain still.

On the summit of a low green bank he beheld a female, whom the
father's eye instantly recognised as his daughter Louisa, descending
with precipitate but staggering haste. Extending his arm to the
object, he pointed it out to Trevor, who, in a moment, started off to
meet her, followed by his men.

The Major could not move; he saw his daughter, but he saw only one!
Where was the other? Where was Helen? It might be, that, exhausted
with her flight, she had sunk down on the way;--but was that It was
Louisa that was likely to be exhausted, not the strong-minded and
intrepid. Helen! The courage of the old soldier was destroyed by the
apprehensions of the father! He awaited the arrival of Louisa, and the
tidings which she brought in gloomy silence.

She was not long in coming, or rather she was carried by Trevor down
the slope and placed in her father's arms. Frantically embracing him
with convulsive joy, she sank down, faint, exhausted, and collapsed,
and burst into an hysterical flood of tears!

Hitherto she had not spoken a word; but her flight, her exhausted
state, with terror still imprinted on her countenance--all gave
evidence that she had been witness of some shocking catastrophe, and
was the bearer of terrible tidings. The Major, for some moments, could
not interrogate her; the sight of her, and the fears which that sight
suggested, unmanned him, and for some minutes he mingled his tears
with those of his recovered daughter.

The hardy boat's crew, who were acquainted with all the circumstances
attending the seizure of the brig by the bushrangers, and the perils
to which the Major's daughters had been exposed, and who, with the
true feeling of British sailors where the safety of a woman was
concerned, were generously alive to everything that affected her and
those to whom she was dear, regarded the sorrow-stricken father with
sympathising looks, and one or two of them laid their hands on the
ship's cutlasses which were in the boat, as if eager to revenge any
wrong that had been committed on a female whom they considered
especially under their protection.

When the first burst of Louisa's emotion had subsided the Major
removed her from the boat, and taking her apart to some little
distance on the beach--for he was fearful that she had some dreadful
disclosure to make which it would shock her delicacy to speak of
except if he asked her the reason of her sudden appearance, and of her
flight from the place of their retreat, and desired her to tell him
without disguise all that she could of what had occurred since he had
left her and her sister with Mr. Silliman at the cave.

The poor girl, who was well aware of the necessity of being prompt in
affording succour to Helen, stifled her sobs; and by a great effort
was able to recover her voice sufficiently to narrate to her father,
that they had seen the smoke, and that Helen had heard the sound of
firing in the distance; and that, unable to control her curiosity, she
had ventured from the cave to endeavour to see what was going forward,
but, alarmed at her not returning, she had prevailed on Mr. Silliman
to leave the cave to seek for her; and that when Mr. Silliman did not
return, she being frightened at the continued absence of him and of
her sister, went out to look for them.

She then described the scene of her sister and Mr. Silliman in the
hands of the bushrangers; and she said, that when she saw Mark Brandon
she gave up all for lost!--herself also!--but fortunately, they had
not perceived her, she was so well hidden among a confused heap of
rocks. She told, also, the conversation which she had overheard
between Mark Brandon and her sister about the money which had been
taken from the brig and deposited in the cave, and that Helen had been
prevailed on by Brandon to tell him where it was concealed; that the
three that is, Mark Brandon and two other men whom she recollected as
having been on board the brig, from the remarkable fierceness of their
countenances--went away to the cave, taking Mr. Silliman and Helen
with them, and that when they were out of sight she ran off by the
shore of the bay to the spot where she saw the smoke.

She added, though with some hesitation, that before the bushrangers
went away to the cave they talked of casting lots for her sister,
which she supposed meant that one of them was to take Helen away into
the bush.

When she had concluded her narrative the Major beckoned to Trevor,
who was within sight, and made Louisa repeat all the circumstances
which she had related to him, which Louisa did, nearly in the same
words, but omitting that part of it where the bushrangers talked of
casting lots for her sister, but stating that she feared from their
talk that it was their intention to take Helen away with them.

It is impossible to describe the agony which overwhelmed the father
and the lover at this dreadful communication. The loss of his money
was as nothing compared with the horrible fate of his daughter. The
Major sat for a few minutes in silence, stunned with the blow, and
unable to exert himself in thought or action. But Trevor, wild and mad
with grief and rage, stamped frantically on the beach, and called out
to his soldiers to advance and get ready to follow him instantly in
pursuit. He ran to the boat, and with vehement declamations told the
story to the crew.

The sturdy sons of the sea, albeit they could not understand how the
male guardian of the women had allowed the bushrangers to maltreat a
girl without first sacrificing his own life in her defence, were
roused to the highest pitch of indignation at the idea of the rascally
pilot who had played such a trick on themselves, having carried away a
nice girl into the bush, and--climax of villany and cruelty!--with her
hands tied behind her! "It wasn't," they said, "giving the gal a
chance, and was altogether contrary to all manliness, and unfair to
the last degree; and none but a rascally convict would be guilty of
such an abominable action."

They demanded eagerly to be led in pursuit; and Trevor took advantage
of their enthusiasm so far as to urge them to pull with all their
might to the opposite shore of the bay towards the right, as he
thought that would be the quickest way of reaching the scene of
Helen's adventures. The Major also, having recovered from the first
effects of the shock, was desirous of losing no time in taking
measures for the recovery of his daughter, alive or dead; for his
knowledge of her character convinced him that the high-minded Helen
would not survive any indignity offered to her by the miscreants who
had her in their power. But there was a sadness, and a solemnity, and
a quiet sternness in his manner, which contrasted remarkably with the
wild restlessness and the extravagant gestures and impetuosity of
Trevor.

Hastily making known to the mate, as they passed the brig, the reason
of their hurried passage across the bay, and putting Louisa on board
under his care, the Major bidding him make all speed in taking the
brig to the place of her destination, the excited sailors made the
blades of their oars bend and quiver as they propelled the boat
rapidly through the water, Trevor standing up and urging them by voice
and action to put forth all their strength to arrive as quickly as
possible to the shore before the bushrangers had time to make good
their retreat, or to consummate their premeditated villany on the poor
girl in their possession.

Urged by such lusty arms and such willing hearts, the boat soon
touched the sandy beach abreast of the lofty rock at which the Major
had established his encampment on the previous night, and without
waiting for the Major, Trevor leaped on shore, followed by his
soldiers, and made his way to the cave. The sight of the remains of
the ransacked trunks and packages told him in a moment that the
bushrangers had done their work, and had doubtless escaped with their
plunder.

While he was still gazing at the wreck of the property, the Major
arrived with four armed sailors, among whom was the carpenter, who had
acted as second mate of the vessel, leaving the rest of the crew to
guard the boat. Paying little attention to the loss of his goods, he
directed his sailors to light torches from the branches of a
peppermint-tree which grew close by, and to explore the interior of
the cave, while two of the soldiers were directed to use their best
endeavours to discover the track of the bushrangers and their
captives.

In the mean time Trevor with the corporal made a circuit round the
place, with the hope of meeting with some object which might serve as
a hint for their future proceedings.

He readily recognised the spot amongst the rocks where Louisa had hid
herself, and the relative positions of the parties during that
agonising scene. Then ascending a high mass of rock, he took a view of
the surrounding country, but he could not see far, owing to the
intervention of low scrubby hills and occasional clumps of trees; he
saw enough, however, to impress him with the feeling that it was a
most romantic part of the country, though of a rugged and savage
character, and affording opportunities, as he judged, for successful
concealment of a most embarrassing nature.

But considering the "lie," as it is colonially called, of the country
in a cooler and more attentive manner, it became clear to him that the
fugitives could have taken their flight through one particular segment
only of the semicircle which extended from the end of the lake on his
right to the sea-coast on his left. Mark Brandon, he argued, would not
dare to proceed northwards in the direction of Hobart Town; nor was it
likely that he would attempt to keep along the sea-shore to the left,
from the high and precipitous cliffs which he was aware bounded much
of the coast on that side; nor would he try to skirt the coast, from
the extreme difficulty of making progess over a line of country so
unfavourable for pursuing the rapid flight which was necessary for his
safety.

There was only one direction, therefore, left open for him, which was
comprised within a small angle; but still there was room and scope
enough for them to baffle their pursuers, unless the most prompt and
energetic means were adopted for getting on their track.

Carefully noting all the points which might serve him for marks of
distance, Trevor descended from the rock, and keeping the direction in
his mind's eye, he immediately started off, accompanied by the
corporal, on the line which he judged would be the probable course of
the bushrangers, and proceeded without stopping several miles.

He then made a halt; and, after surveying the scenery narrowly on
all sides, he made excursions from right to left, like a sportsman
beating for game, inspecting the ground narrowly to discover some
indication of the track of feet. This toil he continued for some time
in vain; but at last his exertions were suddenly rewarded with
success.

Passing near a low rock he saw, to his surprise, something lying on
it which he was sure could be neither leaf nor twig, and eagerly
running up to examine it, to his excessive joy he found that it was a
woman's glove!

In a moment he felt sure that at such a time and in such a place the
glove could be no other than Helen's; and it was partly with the
gladness with which it inspired him from this discovery of the track,
and partly with the rapture of a lover at beholding an article of
dress which had been worn by his mistress, that he was about to snatch
it up and carry it to his lips, when it struck him that its position
as it lay was remarkable, and, as it presently occurred to him, was
intentional.

Three of the fingers and the thumb, he observed, were bent together
as if with a hasty compression, while the fore-finger was, as it
seemed to him, purposely left free and pointing in a particular
direction. He followed with his eyes this direction, and saw that it
pointed to an opening between two hills at a considerable distance.

Taking into consideration all these circumstances, which, howsoever
trivial they might be thought at other times, were now most important
signs for his guidance, he felt sure that Helen had contrived to leave
one of her gloves on the rock, and that she had bent the fingers into
the shape in which he found them as a sign to her friends, should they
be so fortunate as to light on it in their search. The corporal also,
whom Trevor consulted was of the same opinion, remarking "that it was
evidence also of the young lady's hands having been set at liberty."

This was a fresh source of satisfaction to Trevor, who argued from
it also that Helen had hopes of being succoured, and that her mind was
cool and ready enough to devise this means of indicating the direction
of their retreat.

The shades of evening were now beginning to encompass them, and the
corporal counselled his officer that he should return to the cave for
the other two soldiers, and for such materials and provisions as would
be necessary for them to take with them in their pursuit.

But Trevor, who had now become warmed and excited, would not listen
to any such proposal, as it involved a certain loss of time,--and time
was everything; besides, it was, for many very powerful reasons,
extremely important that they should come up with the bushrangers
before night. Trevor had his own motives for this, but from some
secret feeling which perhaps it would have been difficult for him to
explain in words, he did not communicate them to the corporal.

He contented himself with asking him, whether he could depend on him
to stand by him in the conflict which would be certain to take place
on their coming up with the enemy.

The corporal, who was a cool and brave old soldier, although he had
not a lover's enthusiasm to excite him on the present occasion to a
dangerous enterprise, slapped the butt-end of his firelock with his
hand, and assured Trevor with energy that he would stand by his
officer to the last drop of his blood, and wherever his ensign would
lead, he would follow him!

Thus encouraged and supported, Trevor wrote on a leaf which he tore
from his pocket-book, his intention to pursue the bushrangers
accompanied by the corporal only, and directing any friend who might
see the writing to take the direction of the opening between the two
high hills in the distance which was nearly west-north-west. Having
written this, he stuck it on a small stick, which he secured to the
rock with a heavy stone; and having set up a pole from a neighbouring
clump of thin trees, known in the colony by the name of the tea-tree,
used by the natives for their spears, and to which he affixed a tuft
of native grass to attract attention, with the corporal for his
companion, he set out rapidly in the direction indicated by Helen's
glove, which, loverlike, he had deposited in his bosom.

As they had now got on the track, which was occasionally visible,
they kept their arms in readiness, in the hope of coming suddenly on
the freebooters, to whom the corporal secretly vowed he would grant no
quarter, and on whom the ensign was determined to take summary
vengeance.

Chapter III. Perils.

TREVOR had conjectured rightly when he supposed that the glove which
he had found on the rock had been left there purposely by Helen to
indicate the direction in which her captors were conveying her.

It was at this spot that Mark Brandon had released her from her bonds
on her obstinate refusal to proceed further without such liberty being
granted to her; and she insisted also on the performance of Brandon's
promise to permit her to return to the cave, now that they had reached
a distance which placed them beyond the risk of immediate surprisal
from pursuers, should any be on their track.

But to this the other two men were vehemently opposed. Having
succeeded in "planting" the bag of dollars, and in rifling the Major's
effects with impunity, and having got the girl so far along with them,
the ruffians were unwilling to let go their prize; and as their
obstinacy favoured Mark's scheme, he took care, when not in Helen's
hearing, to throw out such suggestions as would irritate and confirm
them in their determination.

But he kept the merit to himself of releasing Helen's hands, which he
did with apparent gladness and great gentleness, taking care to drop
some expressions in a low tone of his extreme sorrow that his
companions would not consent to her release, and giving her reason,
though ambiguously, to understand that on the first opportunity he
would favour her escape.

At the same time, the bushrangers untied Jerry's hands, as he had
already made several awkward falls, and as the restraint of his being
so fettered impeded the celerity of their march. They also ungagged
his mouth in order that he might breath more freely, and be able
better to bear the task of being the pack-horse of the company. In
order to prevent any attempt on his part to escape, and to insure his
good behaviour on the journey, the ill-featured Grough preceded him at
a little distance with his loaded weapon, while the hang-dog looking
Jemmy kept close to him behind with the bayonet of his musket fixed,
and handy to act as an incentive to the unfortunate Jerry to be active
in his motions. This was the order of march prescribed by Brandon, who
continued to retain his supremacy as the leader of the party, although
he was well aware that the roughness and hardships of the bush would
soon endanger his present insecure authority. For his own share he
took on himself the charge of Helen, endeavouring by all possible
means to ingratiate himself in her favour by the way, and assiduously
offering to her all those little attentions for which it may be easily
imagined there was abundance of opportunity in their rapid and uneven
path.

Although Helen refused his assistance, and would not allow herself
to be touched by him, it was impossible for her to avoid hearing the
artful discourse which he poured into her ear with a skill and tact
which he had found so effectual with women on other occasions.

Fully aware that all the ordinary forms of flattery were
inappropriate with a high-spirited girl like Helen, of whose character
he had been able to form an accurate estimate during her trials on
board of the brig, he confined himself to the idea which he well knew
must be uppermost in her mind, and adroitly insinuated his willingness
to promote her escape if it could be done without exciting the
suspicion of his comrades, whom he described as two desperadoes of
malignity so atrocious and violence so furious, that it would be in
vain for him to endeavour to contend against the open force; besides,
as he affected to say with much regret, he was bound to them by those
ties of honour which forbade him to make any attempts on their lives,
even for her sake.

By this consummate duplicity the arch-hypocrite contrived to make
his captive regard him as an unexpected friend;--the more valuable
under the circumstances, as without him she felt she should be
entirely at the mercy of his unscrupulous comrades; and with this
feeling she was glad to have him by her side, considering him as a
sort of protection against coarser villains.

Mark, with his usual quickness of discernment, penetrated her
thoughts, and inwardly congratulated himself on his progress so far in
her good graces; as he had succeeded in causing her to look on him not
as an object of repugnance, but as one whom, as he held favourable
intentions towards her, she was inclined to regard with reciprocal
good feeling. In this way they journeyed on, at a rapid rate, till
both the overburthened Jerry and the anxious Helen showed symptoms of
exhaustion.

It was now nearly dark, and they had travelled many miles from the
cave. The bushrangers were desirous of continuing their march for some
distance farther, in order that their track might be lost in the dark;
but as Helen now sank to the ground, it was found impossible to
proceed without adopting some contrivance for assisting her steps.
Helen prayed them, earnestly and imploringly, to allow her to remain
where she was, and to continue their course without her; but as this
by no means squared with the intentions of the two bushrangers,
although Mark Brandon pretended to be inclined to consent, they were
determined to urge her forward. Seeing that such was the determination
of his comrades, as Mark whispered to Helen, he proposed that they
should cut a convenient branch from a tree, and by placing it under
her arms, two of them would be able to carry her forward while he took
charge of Jerry in the rear.

This arrangement he proposed, in order that, according to his plan,
he should not bring himself into a personal collision with Helen,
which, he was aware, could not fail to be most unfavourable to his
designs; and he trusted also that the savage countenances and rude
language of his coarse and brutal mates would make his own mildness
and silky tongue appear afterwards in favourable contrast for himself,
and that the young lady would be glad to seek refuge in his protection
against the horrible insults of ruffians so revolting: with such
devilish art did this most consummate villain turn every circumstance
to his own advantage, and wind his way, like a serpent, into the
confidence and comparative good opinion of his destined victim.

With all their endeavours, however, the bearers of Helen were unable
to proceed far on their way over the rough country which they were
traversing, encumbered as they were with a burthen so embarrassing to
their steps; but, fully alive to the importance of cutting off their
track, by the dark, from any one in pursuit, they persevered in their
laborious course till the sun went down, and the gloominess of the
night approached. They continued their course for about a mile
further, till they felt sure that all trace of them must be lost.

A low valley, at some little distance out of their direct course, in
which mimosa trees were growing abundantly, forming a convenient place
to spend the night, they came to a halt; and first unloading Jerry,
and then binding his hands and feet together, notwithstanding his most
energetic protestations and promises that he would make no attempt to
run away, they prepared to make their supper, in which they set forth
a liberal allowance of rum, as a principal part of the entertainment.

There was light enough for them to see what they were about, although
not sufficient to enable a pursuer to distinguish their footsteps,
which indeed was a difficult matter even in open day; and they sat
down, notwithstanding their fatigue, in very good humour, promising
Jerry when they had finished their meal, that they would give him a
turn; "for it would be a pity," they said, "that so able and willing a
pack-carrier should be knocked up for want of grub."

As to Helen, they left her to the care of Mark, first taking the
precaution, however, to tie her hands behind her back, which they
assured her with many jocular phrases, was always their custom when
they took young ladies into the bush till they got used to their ways,
which, they said, they had no doubt she would soon be, after she had
had the benefit of a little experience.

But before they confined her hands, Mark Brandon offered her food and
drink, which she at first refused; on consideration, however, she
determined to support her strength in order to facilitate her escape;
but she refused to taste the rum, which the two men were inclined to
force on her had they not been remonstrated with by Brandon.

Brandon had the consideration also to cut down with his axe, which he
carried with him, a quantity of the bushy boughs of the mimosa, with
which he formed a sort of hut for her accommodation; and leaving her
there to await her fate, but keeping a wary watch over her at the same
time, the three set-to at the provisions and liquors before them, and
the raw rum presently getting into the heads of Swindell and Grough,
they were soon ripe for any deed of brutal atrocity.

Mark Brandon now found that his refined scheme of setting his two
associates to do the work which could not fail to render the
aggressors still more hateful to the lady, operated against himself,
for Grough and Swindell having borne the burthen of the girl for some
miles unassisted by Mark, they considered that their right to her was
thereby so far increased as to give them a prior claim on the captive.

This they urged with impudent confidence, and being inflamed with
liquor, they determined to carry their claims into effect without
further delay, and almost, without caring to consult Brandon's mind in
the matter; for in the madness of their drunken excitement they lost
all respect for the superior intellect of which at other times they
felt themselves under the invincible control.

"What do you say, Roger?" said he who among his companions was
familiarly called Jemmy, to which the epithet of hang-dog was
occasionally added, taking one of the Major's dollars from his pocket,
"shall it be a toss-up?"

"There's not light enough for that," replied his mate; "let us put a
lot of dollars in a hat, and guess odd or even."

"And who is to be the umpire?" said Jemmy; "a fair toss up is the
best way; the moon gives light enough to see whether it comes down man
or pillars."

"You forgot, my mates," said Brandon, interposing, "that I have a
vote in this affair; the girl is as much mine as yours."

"And who was it that carried her the last four miles?" said the pair
both at once.

"We have worked for her," added Jemmy.

"We have brought her here," said Roger, "and we will have her.--Who
says nay?"

"But I have an equal right, surely," said Brandon: "who was it that
persuaded her to come on so quietly?"

"Oh! we all know that you have a devil of a tongue for the girls,
Mark; but those that do the hard work ought to have the first
chance,--that's what I say."

"Come," said Brandon, "don't let us quarrel about a girl when we are
running for our lives, as I may say; and when our only chance of
escaping from the colony is to agree together; with the money that we
have got safely planted we may have half the women in the colony."

"I tell you what, Jemmy," said Roger Grough, "fair play is fair play
all the world over.--Share and share alike--that's bush law.--Let us
all three cast lots, and he who wins has her."

"Agreed," said Brandon, who trusted that his own sober state would be
more than a match for the united wit of his two drunken companions; "I
will prepare the lots."

"What shall they be?"

"Here are three sticks," said Brandon; "come closer. See, they are
all of the same thickness. Two shall be short and one shall be long;
he who draws the longest wins."

"And who is to hold them?"

"You, Jemmy, if you like."

"And who is to have the first draw?"

"I and Roger will toss for that."

"Agreed," said Roger.

The sticks were prepared, Brandon making a dent on the longest with
his thumb-nail, so as easily to be able to distinguish it from the
rest. Then taking a dollar from his pocket he offered it to Grough to
toss.

"Do you toss?" said Grough.

"No!" said Brandon, whose game was to deprive the other two of the
right to accuse him of foul play; "you shall toss, Roger, then you
will be sure you have had a fair chance."

Roger tossed: Brandon won.

"Now for the sticks," said Roger, a little dissatisfied.

"You have still an equal chance with me," said Brandon, wishing to
sooth him.--"For my own part, I don't much care which way it goes."

"Gammon!" said Jemmy Swindell.

"Now!" said the holder of the sticks, "try your luck, Mark."

"Hold!" said a voice which startled the three.

"What the devil is that?" cried Grough, starting up.

Brandon immediately went to the hut of boughs in which Helen was
placed. He listened attentively. She was sleeping. Happily for her she
had not heard the conversation between the wretches who, like wild
beasts, were contending for her as their prey.

"Hold!" said the voice again.

"It is our pack-horse!" said Jemmy, with a gruff laugh.

"Pack-horse, or what you please," said Jeremiah, his good-natured
sympathy excited by the horrible fate impending over the sister of
Louisa; "I say hold!"

"Hold your jaw," said Roger, "or I'll put a ball through your soft
head."

"You may put a dozen, if you like," said Jeremiah; "but, I say, Mark
Brandon--listen to me."

"You had better hold your tongue," said Brandon.

"But I won't hold my tongue. Listen to me, I say. I have a thousand
pounds in dollars to my credit at Hobart Town. Now listen to me; let
the young lady go free, and those thousand pounds I will divide among
you."

"Go to the devil with your dollars!" said Swindell; "what's the use
of dollars to us here--and now? It's the gal we want, and the gal we
will have. Now, Mark, draw your lot."

"For God's sake don't commit such a horrible outrage on a poor
defenceless girl; such a deed as this would be sure to hang you and
damn you too past all redemption," cried out Jeremiah, excited by the
imminency and the terrible nature of the peril to the poor resistless
girl.

"Gag him," said Brandon, quietly, "his noise may do mischief."

Such practised hands were not long in carrying this recommendation
into effect; and as Jeremiah was bound hand and foot and incapable of
resistance, the brutal Grough had no difficulty in preventing him from
giving them further molestation by his cries.

"Now," said Swindell, "time's going on; it is for you to draw first,
Mark; here are the lots."

Brandon stretched out his hand; but during Jeremiah's generous
expostulation, the sticks had become mixed and turned in his hand, and
Brandon could no longer distinguish the longest of them by the furtive
mark which he had made before he had delivered them to the holder.

"Draw," said Swindell, impatiently; "what are you fiddling about?
draw and have done with it; the longest wins."

Brandon still hesitated, and endeavoured to devise some expedient for
confusing the operator.

"Draw, I say," repeated Swindell; "there's light enough from the moon
to see the sticks, isn't there? There--look at them; and now take your
chance, or let Roger draw first."

"Let me see," said Brandon, "that the sticks are broken right, two
short, and one long; that was to be the way."

"No, no, none of your gammon with me, Mark; I'm as good a man as you
any day of the year, or night either. Why you broke the sticks
yourself! Do you suppose I'm so green as to let you feel which is the
longest before you choose? That would be making a precious fool of me,
wouldn't it, Roger?"

"Now, Mark," said Grough, getting impatient and suspicious as well as
the other; "fair play in the bush, Mark. Don't keep the lady waiting;
let one of us win; and an equal chance for all. Well, if you won't
draw, I will, and if I win, by----I'll have her." So saying, he
stretched out his hand to the stakes.

Brandon, thus urged, and seeing that his companions were not in a
temper to be made fools of, hastily drew a stick.

"Now, Roger," said the holder.

Roger Grough drew.

"Lost, all of you, by----," vociferated Swindell, measuring his own
lot against the other two.

"Jem," said Brandon, in a low deep voice, "you can't have that
girl."

"Why not? I've won her!"

"Give her up," said Brandon, "and I will give up my share to the bag
of dollars at the cave."

"No!--keep your dollars and be----; I'll have the girl."

"She is tired and ill," said Brandon.

"Oh, I'll soon rouse her up!"

It was at this moment that the raised voices of the disputants
awakened Helen from her feverish slumber, and she overheard the rest
of the parley; but exhausted with fatigue, and with her hands bound
behind her, she had neither the spirits nor the strength to attempt to
fly.

"I won't have her touched to-night, at any rate," resumed Brandon;
"it would be cruelty."

"Gammon! Mark; that blarney won't do for me."

"He has won her," said Grough, sturdily, "and he has a right to her:
that's bush law."

"I say again," said Brandon, coolly and firmly, "you shall not
molest that girl tonight."

"And who is to hinder me?"

"I will," said Brandon.

"Nay," said Grough, "we are two to one, Mark, anyhow; and I stand by
Jemmy; there has been a fair draw, and Jemmy has won the gal fairly;
and what he has won he must have; that's the rule of the bush, Mark;
and I'll stand by our rules; and Jemmy shall have her!"

"Wretched fools!" said Brandon, in a voice thick with passion, "what
would you be without me in the bush, or anywhere? and how are you to
save yourselves except by my head? Sit down, I say, and give up. I
have said the word; the girl shall not be touched this night."

"And I have said the word," said the obstinate Swindell, excited by
the double stimulus of lust and liquor; "and if there were ten
thousand Brandons in the way, I will have the girl; I have won her,
and she is mine."

"Once more, I say, leave her alone," said Brandon, taking a step
back.

"We are two to one," repeated Grough, sulkily; "it's you who must
give way, Mark; we are one too many."

"Then thus I make the odds even," said Mark, discharging one of the
barrels of his fowling-piece through the exulting Jemmy's head, and
instantly levelling the other barrel at Roger; "and now, mate," he
said, before the other had time to recover his musket, which was lying
on the ground, "you see you are at my mercy; but you are a man whose
courage and faithfulness I respect: say--is it to be peace or war?"

Chapter IV. A Discovery.

TREVOR and the corporal made good way as long as the daylight lasted:
but when darkness began to encompass them, they were obliged to pause;
and the corporal, whose spirits were not sustained by the same
feelings which animated his officer, ventured to suggest, that trying
to discover a track in the dark was not likely to be successful.

But the ensign reminding him that the young lady's glove pointed out
that their course was the opening between the high hills which loomed
in the distance, encouraged him to proceed, not forgetting to be
liberal in his promises of personal reward,--a motive, however, which
the corporal indignantly repudiated, avering that it was stimulus
sufficient for him to save the poor young lady from the clutches of
"those blackguards," and "to have a slap at the rascals who had run
off with a girl against her will!"

They kept on, therefore, till they reached the entrance of the
opening and began to climb the ascent between the hills.

But Trevor was not long in experiencing the difficulty of going over
unknown ground at night, obstructed at every step by dead timber and
loose stones; and although the moon lent its light, it was not
sufficient to help them much in their difficult way; and when they
came to the entrance of the gorge, which was thickly covered with
trees, even that light was obscured, and they were soon compelled to
come to a stand--still.

"I am inclined to think that the bushrangers must be somewhere
hereabouts," said Trevor, sitting down on the ground, in which he was
followed by his companion, "for they must have had the same difficulty
as we have, in making their way through this pass."

"That is, if they came this way," remarked the corporal, with much
sagacity.

"They must have come this way," replied Trevor, "if it was their
intention to pass this tier of hills, for there is no other opening.
But, as I say, their difficulty must have been the same as our own,
and more--for they had a lady with them, and she could not walk like a
man."

"What shall I do?" asked the corporal, who, although it was too dark
to distinguish objects, himself included, clearly, did not neglect to
make the usual military salute, as he stood before his officer,
waiting for orders.

"That's just what I am at a loss about," replied the ensign, who was
apprised by the sound of the "present," more than by the sight of it,
that his one soldier was standing in the accustomed respectful
attitude. "But, my good fellow, sit down and rest yourself; you must
be tired with this long march. You are used to the bush, I understand;
what do you think is best to be done?"

"I cannot pretend to know so well as your Honour," replied the
corporal, speaking deferentially; "but, in my opinion, the best thing
to be done would be to light a fire, and try to get something to eat."

"I am not at all hungry," said the ensign.

"Of course, if your Honour is not hungry," replied the corporal, "it
would not be proper for me to be so; but a good fire would warm us,
and make us feel more comfortable; not that I feel cold, unless your
Honour feels so too."

"The light of the fire may discover us," observed the ensign.

"Never fear, your Honour; those blackguards will be thinking more of
our discovering them, than of their discovering us. Besides, I will
mount guard while your Honour sits by the fire; and, who knows?--
perhaps the young lady may see the light, and give us a screech, and
then we can be down upon 'em in no time."

"You are a clever fellow, corporal: I could not have a better friend
to second me, I see; for I must allow our attempt is somewhat
venturesome."

"Oh! we shall do very well; only it's awkward to have nothing to eat
in the bush;--though, as to drink, there is water; and that's the best
drink, after all, when you can't get any better.--And now to look for
a bit of punk ....."

"Punk! what's that?"

"Oh! it's a--a sort of big wart, that grows on the trees; and it's
the handiest thing in nature to catch fire; better than rag-tinder,
any day. All that you want is a little fire to set it a-going."

"But it strikes me," observed the ensign, "that if you have the fire
already, you don't want the punk, as you call it, to make it.--By-the-
by, corporal, you are an Irishman, are you not?"

"Not exactly, your Honour.--I am neither English nor Irish, quite;
because I was born, by mistake, on the sea between England and
Ireland; so that the land of my birth was the Irish Channel, your
Honour. But my father and mother were Irishmen, and they always said I
was as good as English; and that no one, let him be English or Irish,
or both, could be so mean as to take advantage of an accident like
that. And I didn't stay long in Ireland neither; for, before I could
walk, I was marched with my father and mother, and the rest of the
regiment, over the sea to America."

"It must be in the air!" said Trevor, musingly to himself.

"Just so; the air, as your Honour says, is very cold; and it's that
makes us chilly.--But you'll have a beautiful fire in a minute," said
the corporal, snapping his flint on a slip of decayed punk, which he
had removed with his nail, and placed in the pan of his firelock.

"Stop," said the ensign, "your piece will go off, and that will give
the alarm."

"Go off! your Honour: how can it go off, when it's not loaded?"

"How is that? I thought your piece was loaded--ready for work."

"Oh! she is always ready for work, your Honour; but there's no use
dirtying her without occasion. I gave her a scour out at the cave
yonder, and made her as bright as a new pin inside. Why! I can load my
firelock before one of those bushranging rascals could get his piece
up to his shoulder."

"How are you off for ammunition?" asked the ensign, a little
anxiously.

"Box full; I emptied two of the men's, who were hit, into my own,
before I came away from the creek.--I hope your Honour is well
provided?"

"I have a large horn full of powder," replied the ensign, "a shotbelt
full of small shot, and a bag of balls to fit the fowling-piece which
the Major lent to me before we went after the brig."

"All right!" said the corporal. "Nothing like ammunition! Why we two,
back to back, if your Honour would permit me to take that liberty,
could stand against all the natives in the island!--And now for some
more wood; there's plenty lying about, luckily.--There, sir, don't you
think that looks cheery? If we could only get something to eat, we
should do very well. A kangaroo steak would be no bad thing; and I'll
be bound there are plenty of them hopping about, if we could only see
'em; and if your Honour would not mind my banging my piece off at a
boomah, that would be worth a cartridge!"

"Better not; it is of importance that we should come upon those
villains by surprise; and we can do very well for one night without
supper. But we are losing time, corporal, we are losing time," said
Trevor fretfully.

"Perhaps your Honour would like to have a sleep? Then your Honour
wouldn't be losing time. I remember, when we were in America, our old
colonel used always to bid us go to sleep when he had nothing else for
us to do; so that at last we got used to taking it anyhow, like our
grub, when we could get it; and when we couldn't we went without. A
long march and night air, as we used to say, are the best things in
the world to make a man sleep sound: not that I would take the liberty
to feel tired or sleepy, unless it was your Honour's pleasure. Our old
colonel used to say in America......"

"There must be no sleep to-night for either of us," interrupted the
ensign abruptly, and starting up, as if stung with some sudden and
painful thought. "God knows what atrocity those ruffians may be
committing at this very moment. Corporal, are you strong enough to
move forward?"

"Always ready to obey orders," replied the corporal, bringing his
firelock to the "present;" "but, if I may be so bold as to ask, which
way is it your Honour's pleasure to go; and how shall we find our way
in the dark?"

The ensign cast his eyes in the direction of the opening. The light
of the fire, which illuminated the spot where he was standing, made
the country in the distance look more gloomy and dark; and he could
not disguise from himself the truth, that to wander about at night
without a certain path to travel on, and a fixed point to go to, was a
vain and fruitless labour.

He had no doubt, from the significant pointing of Helen's glove,
that she had become acquainted with the bushranger's intention to make
their way to the opening at which he had arrived; but whether Mark
Brandon would continue his course through the pass, or turn to the
left towards the sea, or skirt the base of the tier of hills to his
right, and penetrate into the interior in that direction, was a
question which he found it impossible satisfactorily to resolve; and
he was fully alive to the folly and uselessness of exhausting
themselves in a pursuit on a wrong track.

While he was anxiously pondering these thoughts, on the one side
stimulated to action by the horrible thought of Helen being that night
at the mercy of the bushrangers, and, on the other, restrained by the
consideration that to move without some reasonable certainty of moving
in the right direction was a loss of time and a waste of strength, the
corporal had stepped to some little distance from the light, in order
that his view into the distance for some other watchfire, which might
perchance be burning, might not be confused by an illumination under
his eyes.

As he tried to pierce the gloom, he observed a white appearance on
the trunk of a tree, resembling the "mark" which explorers in the bush
make for the purpose of finding their way back, as well as to assist
them to keep in a straight line in their progress forward. Surprised
at seeing such a sign in a part of the country which was generally
supposed to be unexplored by white people, he advanced to the tree,
and then he ascertained that the mark was indeed made by the white
man's axe, but that it was not a mere "blaze;" it was the white
surface of the tree exposed, from the cutting off, intentionally, of a
branch; neither was there a similar "blaze" on the opposite side of
the tree, as is always the case when a tree is "marked" as a post of
direction.

Guessing at once that it was the work of the parties of whom they
were in pursuit, he made his way back without noise to his officer,
and in a few words communicated the fact, taking the opportunity at
the same time to hold the pan of his firelock towards the light of the
fire, to see that it was free, and clearing the touch-hole with his
pricker, lest any atom of punk should have insinuated itself into the
orifice.

Trevor immediately accompanied him to the tree, and was at once
convinced that the branch had been but recently lopped off, and that
it had been done by the bushrangers. He agreed with the corporal, that
this seemed to argue that the bushrangers had made up their encampment
for the night in their immediate vicinity; but in that case they had
surely taken the alarm at the fire, and had no doubt reconnoitred him
and the corporal while they were standing near it.

On examining the ground further, however, they perceived the marks of
the bough having been cut at both ends, and of having been pruned and
fitted for some purpose. On investigating more minutely the part of
the tree from which the bough had been cut, they calculated, from the
thickness of the base of the excised part, that it must have been a
piece of timber some twelve or fifteen feet long; and measuring the
two ends which had been cut off from the top and the bottom of the
bough, they found that it had been shortened to a length of four or
five feet. But they were at a loss to conjecture the purpose for which
such a stake had been fashioned.

However, it seemed quite clear that the axe of the white man had been
at work within a few hours; and there was every reason to conclude
that it was the bushrangers who had been there before them. But
although they made a most diligent search for a considerable distance
round the spot, they were for some time unable to discover any further
trace of the enemy; and it was not until they had proceeded more than
half a mile from the fire that their perseverance was rewarded with
success.

On looking forward in the direction of the opening, Trevor fancied he
saw something gently agitated by the wind, like a piece of ribbon. It
was not far from him; and the moon having now risen high, there was a
dim sort of light spread over the ground, sufficient for
distinguishing the outlines of objects.

He hastened to the spot, and found on a forked branch of dead wood,
projecting across the only path that was available at that point, a
strip of a woman's dress. It seemed to have been torn off by accident,
not design; but, whether by accident or design, it served the purpose
of pointing out to him the direction of the bushrangers.

Taking into consideration that he had now proceeded some distance
through the opening, and regarding the towering hills on either side,
which forbade advance to the right or to the left, he now felt assured
that the bushrangers had determined to get through the pass without
delay; for it was not to be supposed that they would stop in their
flight in the only path that was open for their retreat through the
tier, and thereby render themselves liable to be discovered by a
pursuing enemy. That would be, as they say, "giving away a chance;" an
act of folly which Mark Brandon, by all accounts, was the last man in
the world to be guilty of.

Encouraged, therefore, by this discovery, which showed that they
were on the right scent, the spirits of the corporal were considerably
raised, and those of the ensign proportionably excited; and Trevor
determined to endeavour to make his way through the opening, as on the
other side the rays of the moon would assist them in their progress,
and enable them perhaps to discover some other sign of the retreating
bushrangers, or of their captive; and the corporal leading the way, as
the one most experienced in bush-travelling, and their hopes raised by
the good luck of the discovery which they had already made, they
pushed on as rapidly as the obscurity, the difficulty of the way, and
the ascent which they had still to contend against, would allow.

As Trevor had youth and love to animate him, and the corporal
brought to the task the steady power of endurance possessed by an old
soldier, neither of them would allow an expression of fretfulness or
fatigue to escape him; but they kept on their way resolutely till they
had descended the slope on the opposite side, and reached the level
ground, when the corporal halted:--

"May I make so bold as to speak?"

"Speak on," said the ensign, "what is it?"

"It's this, your Honour. It strikes me that any one going up that
hill which we have left behind us would feel a little bit tired."

"What then?"

"Why then, you see, after being tired at the top of the hill, they
wouldn't stop there, especially if they were making a run of it, but
they would bowl down hill like a spent cannon-ball, easy-like, till
they came to the bottom."

"Good; and what then?"

"Why, when they came to the bottom, do you see, they would find
themselves pretty well knocked up."

"Are you knocked up then, corporal?"

"That's just as your Honour pleases. But to my thinking, those
fellows, as they have the young lady with them, must be knocked up
some time, whether she walks or they carry her....."

"You are right, corporal."

"And then, as they would want some handy hiding-place to pass the
night in, they would naturally look out for some hollow or sheltered
spot..."

"You are quite right, corporal, and I was thinking so myself. And
now we will do this; suppose yourself to be a bushranger...."

"Certainly your Honour, if your Honour wishes it," said the corporal
hesitatingly; "but I had rather not; it doesn't become..."

"We will suppose ourselves to be bushrangers--both of us,"--
continued the ensign..

"If your Honour is pleased to be one--of course your Honour knows
the rules of the service better than I do--it would not be proper for
me to object...."

"Well, then, suppose we were bushrangers, standing here, and looking
out for a place of shelter to hide in for the night;--what spot within
range should we fix on?"

"Are we to have a gal with us," asked the corporal.

Trevor winced at this question, which the corporal asked in all
innocence, and entirely with a view to make himself as much like the
bushrangers as possible, in order that he might be in a better
condition to reply seriatim to the question propounded by his officer.

"Observe that hollow to our right," said the ensign, "thick with
trees...."

"They look like mimosa trees," said the corporal.

"Does it not strike you that it is just the spot for the bushrangers
to choose?"

"I can't say what the bushrangers would do, because I never have been
a bushranger myself," replied the corporal; "but if I had a party
under my command, and wanted a snug place to pass the night in, that's
just the corner I should pitch on."

Trevor looked behind him, up the slope of the hill which he had
descended, and then threw his eyes towards the hollow, and endeavoured
to divine the route which the bushrangers would choose, if they had it
in their minds to make that spot the place of their retreat; and he
thought he could trace, by the light of the moon, a clear path which
it was likely they would take under such circumstances.

He pointed it out to the corporal, and directed him to observe the
bearings as well as he could by the moonlight. Then placing himself in
the stated direction, and desiring the corporal to keep a good look
out for the enemy, while he concentrated his attention on the keeping
of the "line," the two advanced steadily and warily into the hollow.

Trevor kept on till he reached a point which he judged was about the
centre of the mimosa trees, when he espied an object which resembled
neither tree nor shrub, and which he at first supposed was some hut
built by the natives. He whispered his suspicion to the corporal. But
that experienced person, in a similar whisper, informed the ensign
that the natives never formed their break-winds of branches of trees,
but always of slips of bark, which they contrived to strip from any
trees convenient.

"It must be the bushrangers, then," said the ensign.

"That's what I think," returned the corporal, cautiously running down
a cartridge.

"Follow me, silently," said Trevor.

Then, with their weapons in readiness, stepping with the greatest
caution, and prepared for immediate conflict, but desirous of
surprising their enemies, who they knew were resolute men; and lending
their ears to the slightest sound that arose in the stillness of the
night, they advanced silently to the bush-hut which had excited their
suspicion.

The corporal forgot his fatigue and his appetite, in his hope of a
"brush" with the bushrangers; and Trevor felt his heart beat with
excitement so as almost to give audible sound, as he thought of Helen
and her desperate position in the power of relentless ruffians.

Possessed with these characteristic feelings, they made their way, as
they supposed, without giving any alarm, to the back of the hut of
boughs, where Trevor listened for a few moments in breathless
excitement.

Chapter V. The Natives.

The Major, in the mean time, was not a little surprised at Trevor's
continued absence, and at the simultaneous disappearance of the
corporal.

He was desirous of consulting with him, as the commander of the
military, in respect of their future proceedings; and it was in the
most fretful state of suspense, therefore, that he looked out for his
return. But when the evening wore away, without any tidings of the
young officer or his subaltern, the Major's embarrassment was changed
to alarm, and his mind became troubled with all sorts of painful
apprehensions.

This new cause of alarm coming on him in addition to his absorbing
anxiety for the safety of his daughter Helen, whose probable fate in
the hands of remorseless ruffians was too dreadful for the father to
contemplate without the most violent agitation of grief and rage, was
almost too much for him to bear, and totally upset for the time the
usual equanimity which it was his pride and boast under all
circumstances to preserve.

The mind of the Major was the more disturbed at Trevor's absence, as
it was most important that no time should be lost in adopting measures
for the recapture of Helen; and being at a loss to conjecture what had
happened to his future son-in-law, or what had become of the corporal,
he was unable to decide on his plan of action. In this state of
perplexity he remained until the dark had set in; and then it was too
late to move about in the bush without knowing the country, and
without having any fixed point towards which to direct his steps.

But the habits of the old soldier prompting him not to neglect any
means of assisting his friends, or of discovering his enemies, he
despatched scouts in various directions, with orders to proceed warily
and to listen for the sound of voices; he directed them also to ascend
any convenient eminence, and to look out for the appearance of a fire
in the distance.

There was some moonlight, but not enough to be of much service; and
the men being unacquainted with the country, and unaccustomed to the
bush, were not able to penetrate far into the wilds beyond the cave;
and they all returned with the same account, that they could neither
see nor hear anything of their absent friends nor of the bushrangers.
One of them reported, however, that at a particular spot, which he
described as abounding in masses of irregular stones and rocks, he had
heard noises that resembled the barking and whining of a dog.

But this information afforded no assistance, as the Major was aware
that there existed a sort of native dog on the island, of a species
between that of a hyena and a jackall; and neither Trevor nor the
bushrangers, he knew, had a dog with them.

Thus the night passed away very uneasily; for the party at the cave,
seeing that Trevor and the corporal did not return, were led to fear
that they had fallen into the hands of the bushrangers; and such a
circumstance argued that the enemy was in greater force than the party
of Mark Brandon only and his two associates. It was possible,
therefore, that they themselves might be attacked; and the Major sent
a message to his mate on board the brig to keep a sharp look out,
while the party on shore kept watch diligently to guard against
surprise.

The Major, however, knew too well the value of time to allow the
hours of the night to elapse without making arrangements for starting
at the earliest dawn of day in pursuit of his captive daughter.

In this expedition he decided on taking with him the two soldiers
who formed part of the detachment under the command of the ensign, and
who, being aware of the Major's former rank in the army, though now no
longer in the service, readily agreed to obey his orders, and were
scarcely less eager to rescue their officer, who, it was to be feared,
had been taken by the convicts, than the Major was to save his
daughter.

He then summoned his trusty mate to the council; and in the first
place he gave him written instructions, placing him in command of the
vessel in his absence, "which," he said, "might be for some days, or
longer."

He enjoined him to be particularly cautious of the approach of
strangers, whether in boats or on rafts, and to keep the brig as much
as possible in the centre of the bay.

He was at first inclined to send the brig up the Derwent to Hobart
Town, in order to convey Louisa to a place of greater security than
the vessel under the circumstances afforded; but, on further
consideration, he thought, as he was not acquainted with any family at
Hobart Town, that she would be better in the brig under the care of
the trusty mate. Besides, it was desirable that the vessel should
remain where it was, near at hand, not only as a place of retreat on
an emergency, but for the purpose also of furnishing assistance and
supplies, should the occasion demand them.

Neither did the Major neglect, in his arrangements, the captured and
wounded convicts, whom Trevor had left under the charge of the
constable at the creek beyond the hills; but as it would have been
dangerous to leave the brig without the means of communicating with
the shore, he was able to send only one of the boats for the removal
of the wounded to the town.

This boat he despatched at once, as the night was fair; and he wrote
a letter by the conveyance to the authorities at Hobart Town,
communicating the events which had taken place, and stating his fears
that the ensign and the corporal had by some means been entrapped by
Mark Brandon; and that it was his intention to set off at daybreak for
the purpose of rescuing his daughter from the bushrangers who had got
possession of her, and of gaining intelligence of the ensign, who had
disappeared so mysteriously.

Having settled all these matters in a business-like manner, as became
an experienced officer, and having paid personal attention to all the
details necessary for their convenient travel in the bush, the Major
endeavoured to snatch a few minutes of repose; but, although he closed
his eyes, he could not sleep. The image of his daughter in the hands
of merciless ruffians was constantly present to his mind--sometimes,
to his disturbed fancy, extending her hands to him for help in her
extremity; and sometimes, preferring death to dishonour, in the
agonies of a death inflicted by her own heroic hand.

The dawn of the morning, therefore, came to him as a friend, to cheer
him with its light, and to brace him up with its cooling freshness for
the coming fatigues of the day.

He instantly summoned his companions, for in the wilds of the bush
subordinate followers soon come to be viewed in that light, as joint--
sharers in privations and dangers; and all having been prepared over--
night for their departure, and having taken leave of Louisa, as soon
as there was sufficient daylight to enable them to distinguish any
track left by the bushrangers, they plunged into the intricacies of
the pathless bush.

But the outset of his expedition was by no means propitious; and a
less cool and determined character than the Major might have been
daunted in encountering the dangers to which it seemed he was to be
beset in the very beginning of his pursuit.

The unusual circumstance of the appearance of a vessel in that
unfrequented bay had excited the curiosity of a body of natives, who,
unseen, and at a distance, near the sea-shore to the westward, watched
the manoeuvres of the brig and the boats on the water. They were able
to understand that there were two parties engaged, but their object
was beyond the simple understandings of the natives to comprehend.
However, as they had felt the mischievous effects of the interference
of the white people with their hunting-grounds in other parts of the
island, they were fully alive to the evil effects of the strangers
taking possession of this district, and they regarded their
proceedings therefore with the deepest interest.

When they observed that a party from the "big canoe" had landed and
established themselves on the shore at the cave by the margin of the
bay, they began to fear that it was the intention of the white people
to take possession of this part of their country also, and to drive
them towards the barren wastes of the western coast, where the
kangaroo and the opossum were scarce, and where the sweet gum-trees
were seldom to be met with.

It was with much alarm, therefore, that they regarded the overt act
of aggression, as manifested by the Major and his sailors on the
morning after their landing from the brig, when Mark Brandon, in
pursuance of his schemes, had allowed them to go at liberty.

They watched the white people closely; and they observed a small
party, consisting of four men and one woman, depart from the cave and
make their way into the interior. This they regarded as an exploring
expedition for the purpose of surveying the country, and of examining
into the condition of the game, and of the most favourable spots for
building houses.

Now it is to be borne in mind, that the natives of Van Diemen's Land
had been gradually expelled, by the immigration of the white people,
from some of the most fertile spots on the island; that is to say,
where the grass land was favourable to the increase of the kangaroo,
and the peppermint trees to the opossum. These successive usurpations
compelled the tribes of natives who were dispossessed of their
hunting--grounds to fall back on the hunting-grounds of other tribes;
and the disputes to which these collisions gave rise were the cause of
constant fights between the conflicting parties.

The natives, therefore, regarded the white people as most unjust and
cruel oppressors; and there was a mischief attendant on the
encroachments of the Europeans in this country, greater than usually
attends their usurpation of the lands of savage regions.

The native of Van Diemen's Land, the lowest in the scale of human
beings, unlike the rudest of the most ignorant of other savages, had
no fixed place of residence: he neither planted, nor sowed, nor built
a dwelling.

The country being destitute of indigenous fruits or roots on which
man could subsist, his only resource for food were the few wild
animals which the island afforded, and the gum of the trees similar to
those from which the well-known gum-arabic is produced. To these
aliments were added snakes, occasionally locusts, large caterpillars
found in the resinous blue-gum-tree, and a few other delicacies of a
like nature; which, however, were considered rather in the light of a
relish than as a substantial food.

Their principal sustenance, therefore, being wild game, it was
necessary for them to have a wide range of country at their command,
in order to afford them the means of subsistence; and this led to the
division of the country into different districts, in each of which a
particular tribe reigned paramount, jealously resisting the intrusion
of neighbouring tribes; which was in fact doing no more than defending
the circuit of country from which they derived their means of living,
from the invasion of parties who had no right to trespass on them.

It may be said that the necessity of traversing over a large space of
country to procure subsistence, and the remarkable absence of anything
like a permanent dwelling-house, had a reciprocal action on the habits
of the native of Van Diemen's Land. Having no house, he had no home;
and he had no tie to bind him to a particular spot; and having the
habit of roaming over the country for food, he felt the less necessity
for a fixed dwelling-place, and therefore was less solicitous about
erecting one.

Thus he had ever remained, so far as his history can be ascertained,
the only being in the human form without a roof of some sort wherewith
to shelter himself from the inclemencies of the weather.

It is to be observed also, in explanation of the peculiar habits of
those aboriginals, that the country produces no wild seed similar to
any grain, such as wheat, barley, or Indian corn: they had no bulbous
root, nothing like the yam, or the banana, or the bread-fruit. Neither
have they any nutritive fruit in the whole of Australia.

This singular denial of Nature in these countries of the food
necessary for the sustenance of man in the shape of grain, fruit,
herbs, or vegetables, is of a piece with the other singularities of
those primitive regions. There the trees are all evergreens, and shed
not their leaves annually, but their bark; almost all that grows there
is, in some respects, different from all that grows in the rest of the
known globe; and all the animals, and even some of the fishes, possess
an organic peculiarity of formation, in the false belly, or pouch,
which is different from that of the animals in all other countries.

It is to be observed that the natives of Van Diemen's Land are now to
be spoken of in the past tense, for none exist at present in the
colony; the remnants of the surviving tribes having been removed to an
island, which they have to themselves, under the care of the
government; but these records of their customs and habits refer also,
mainly, to all the known existing tribes of the continental island of
Australia still existing, but fast disappearing before the
exterminating approaches of the white people.

The absence of any grain indigenous to the country, deprived the
native of Van Diemen's Land of the opportunity of cultivating the arts
of agriculture even in their rudest form; for there was no material on
which he could exercise his industry, or which could be the means of
developing his ingenuity.

Neither was there any animal which could be domesticated. The
kangaroo is the only animal fit for food, so far as has yet been
discovered, in all Australia; and this creature is peculiarly unfitted
for domestication; and all the arts of the settlers in the various
Australian colonies have failed to do more than to tame it in a
certain degree; and in that semi-domesticated state it seldom lives
long; for such is the fondness of this strange and uncouth animal for
liberty, or such is its necessity, that it soon pines away and dies
when deprived of its free range of forest pasture.

Thus the native of Van Diemen's Land was compelled by necessity to be
what he was, and what he is in other parts of Australia, a mere
wandering savage, without a home, and without those arts,
contrivances, and tendency to intellectual development and progress,
which the possession and the love of home engender.

It is remarkable also, that the native of Van Diemen's Land had not
arrived even at that degree of human progress, which consists of
feeling the necessity of some sort of clothing, for decency's sake, or
even for the purpose of warmth in the cold season of the year, which
in that latitude is sometimes, in the early morning, very severe.

Thus they were mere savages, having only one thought, that of
obtaining the day's subsistence, for they never provided for the
morrow; and of preserving for their own use--that is, each tribe its
own district--the extent of country which formed their hunting-ground.

It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that they regarded the white
people, from the first, with suspicion and distrust, and that having
been already driven from the lands of which they had from time
immemorial retained possession, they were exceedingly jealous of the
intrusion of strangers on the portions which remained to them; and
that they were ready to resist such aggressions by all the means in
their power.

It was with such dispositions that the body of natives already
referred to in this narrative regarded the landing and the proceedings
of the Major and his sailors; and it was from the circumstance of his
companions being divided, first into the party of five, under Mark
Brandon,--then into the party of two, being that of the ensign and the
corporal,--and afterwards into the party of three, consisting of the
Major and the two soldiers,--that they conceived the project of
cutting them off in detail, and of destroying the enemies whom they
supposed had come to deprive them forcibly of their own country.

And the natives of this particular tribe were the more exasperated
and savage in their feelings, as they had been successively driven
from district to district, first by the white people, and then by
their fellows, until they had been forced to content themselves with a
part of the territory abutting on the sea-coast, which from its
sterile character was scarcely sufficient, with their utmost
diligence, to afford them the means of supporting life.

It was a few prying scouts of this tribe of angry and revengeful
natives, the main body consisting of about forty individuals, men,
women, and children, who now watched the motions of the Major and his
two companions, as they departed from the camp, the rest of his
sailors having returned to the brig, which was shortly afterwards
anchored in the middle of the bay.

The Major himself, when he had proceeded about two miles from the
cave, first caught sight of a moving body, entirely black and naked,
which he immediately guessed to be a native. His curiosity to see
these original possessors of the soil of which he had come to take his
share by right of immigration, was so great, that he was rather
pleased at the circumstance than otherwise, as he was well armed and
accompanied by two men used to discipline and to the management of
their weapons; and he had no fear for Louisa's safety, who, being on
board the brig, and under the care of the vigilant mate, he considered
to be in a perfect state of security.

He pointed out the object to his men; but before they could catch
sight of it, the native had disappeared.

The Major expressed his desire to endeavour to come to some parley
with the savage; but he found his men by no means of the same
inclination; and they were full of stories relating to the treacherous
and ferocious character of the natives, of whom, soldiers as they
were, they seemed to be possessed with a sort of superstitious dread.
The Major made light of their representations; but before the end of
his campaign he had abundance of opportunity of arriving at a better
knowledge of the aboriginals whose acquaintance he was so anxious to
cultivate.

The further description, however, of the Major's dealings with the
savages must form the subject of another chapter, as the course of the
narrative demands our attention to the adventures of the lover in
pursuit of the more savage captors of his mistress.




Chapter VI. A Token.

TREVOR stood for some time in a crouching attitude behind the hut of
boughs, his mind tortured by the most horrible fears for the fate of
Helen.

He stood; and he listened; and he held his breath; but he could hear
no sound.

Presently he protruded his head cautiously round the hut; but he
could see nothing.

The clear moonlight shone on a small open space in front of the hut,
but an universal silence prevailed; and the moon seemed to shed her
unimpassioned beams on a cold and silent solitude.

Astonished at this stillness, he touched the corporal on the arm, as
an intimation to follow him; and retiring backwards among the bushy
mimosa trees, he made a circuit to the right, under the concealment of
their shadows, till he came in front of the hut.

Still there was no sign of living thing; but he saw between him and
the hut a dark mass lying on the ground, which excited his attention.

There were no dead trees encumbering the park-like space where he was
standing, and the dark mass looked strange in that place, and
incongruous with its general appearance.--He directed the corporal to
move forward and examine it.

The corporal made the usual salute, and obeyed with military
promptitude; not neglecting to look about him, however, as he advanced
from the protective shade of the trees to the open piece of grass.

But he had no sooner reached the appearance which had excited his
officer's suspicion, than he stopped suddenly, and cocking his musket,
which he directed towards the object, stood in an attitude prepared to
fire or charge.

In this position he continued to advance by short steps nearer and
nearer, until he got close to it, when he disengaged his right arm
from his firelock and beckoned to the ensign to join him.

His officer was quickly at his side; and then he saw that the mass
was a man lying with his face to the ground, and apparently asleep.

The corporal made signs that they should pounce upon the man and bind
him, to which Trevor assented by a nod.

Laying his musket, therefore, softly on the grass, the corporal
sprung at the supposed sleeping man, and seizing his two arms,
wrenched them behind his back, at the same time putting his knee on
his body to keep him down; but the man made no resistance, and gave no
sign of being aroused from his slumbers, and it struck the corporal
that his hands were particularly cold. He turned him over on his back,
and then the aspect of that fixed cold face, and those half-opened
eyes, on which the rays of the moon shed their faint light, revealed
at once that the man was dead.

"He is dead," said the corporal, in a low voice.

"Are you sure?" said the ensign, holding his piece prepared, and
looking around him with an uneasy glance; for he was well aware, that
as they stood exposed in that open space, they were an easy mark for
an enemy lurking behind the trees.

"Dead!"--repeated the corporal;--"there is no doubt of that. I have
seen death too often to mistake it. Now, who is this? One of the
bushrangers?"

"Let us examine the hut," said Trevor; "it is possible that our
enemies are there."

Saying this, and impressed with an idea that he should either find
Helen within it, or some trace of her having occupied it, he proceeded
to the front accompanied by the corporal; and while Trevor, in his
eagerness, pulled down the leafy branches which obstructed his view,
the corporal stood ready to defend his officer from any sudden attack.

But a very brief survey convinced Trevor that the hut was empty. He
nevertheless proceeded to examine it thoroughly; and he presently
discovered the other glove of Helen, and the fellow one to that which
he already had in his possession.

This token he in a moment comprehended was intended to convey to him
that the poor girl, although still in the power of the bushrangers,
had not met with any violent treatment at their hands; although the
dead body of the man on the grass seemed to signify that there had
been a quarrel among them, very likely for the possession of their
victim.

But the finding of the glove was on the whole satisfactory, as it
assured him of the existence of Helen; and he felt within him a strong
conviction that the heroic girl would not be dishonoured and alive.

As he gazed on the token, agitated with these thoughts, he opened the
glove, that he might kiss the inanimate substance which had been in
contact with her hand, when he perceived, he thought, something
unusual within.

Turning the inside to the light of the moon, he saw written in dark
thin red lines the letter "N," and the word "West." He fancied that
the thin red lines were not quite dry.

The corporal, seeing that his officer was agitated with some strong
emotion, asked eagerly:--

"If he had learned any news of the young lady?"

The ensign showing to him the writing on the glove, which was of
leather, and of a light colour.

"That's blood!" said the corporal, at once, and without ceremony.
"And this I presume, sir, is the other glove belonging to the young
lady; and the poor thing has written this with the only ink she could
get--with her own blood--to assist us in our search after her. Well--
she has a spirit has that girl! I'll be bound she would snap off a
firelock like a regular!"

"Her blood!" repeated Trevor, shuddering; "this is her blood! This
is her love-token, addressed to me! My God! what will be the end of
this fearful tragedy! Yes, Helen, I understand it! You will shed your
own blood rather than yield yourself to the commands of those
remorseless villains! If they have no mercy on their own comrades,
they will have none on you, poor girl! But, thank God, I am so far on
their track; and, at any rate, I have only two to contend against, for
their own passions have doubtless slain the third, who lies here food
for the eagles and jackalls! It's a pity, though, that the gallows has
been robbed of its legitimate prey."

The corporal, who had not the slightest idea of Miss Horton and his
officer having been previously acquainted, was utterly at a loss to
imagine the reason for the ensign indulging in this lover-like
rhapsody; but being aware of the exposure of their condition, he
thought himself warranted, as he was almost three times the age of his
officer, to recall his attention to actual circumstances. Performing
the usual salute, therefore, with his hand to his cap, he ventured to
say:--

"Your Honour is a pretty mark for any rascal wanting to have a shot
at you; what shall we do with this dead body?--I suppose your Honour
has no objection to my examining him to see what he has got about
him?"

"Do so; it may give us some information."

Having this permission, the corporal, who had not the slightest
fastidiousness about the body being dead or alive, immediately
proceeded to turn it about and to examine it for effects. Wrapped
round the body he found a stout handkerchief, in which was enclosed a
quantity of dollars.

The corporal was by no means of a greedy disposition--but dollars
were dollars; and some vague ideas of their being legitimate plunder,
for he looked on the dead convict in the light of an enemy killed by
the chances of war, involuntarily took possession of his mind. He
regarded the silver affectionately; weighed some of them in his hand;
and, looking up to the ensign with a dubious air, inquired:--

"What shall I do with these?"

"If you like to take the trouble of carrying them, you may keep them
for yourself."

"Trouble! your Honour; no trouble at all: they are as light as a
feather," said the corporal, tying them with alacrity round his own
waist. "But how did this rascal come by them, I wonder?"--a scruple of
conscience suddenly seizing on the old soldier.

"I have no doubt," replied the ensign, "that they are part of those
stolen from the Major."

"Then they belong to the Major," said the corporal with a
disappointed air; "and in that case they can't be considered fair
plunder; and they are heavy as lead! I don't think they will make me
walk lighter in the bush; and so, with your leave, your Honour,"
continued the corporal, untying the handkerchief from his waist, with
a deep sigh, "I will plant them where somebody may find them again,
and see whether this rogue has anything else that might be useful."

Nothing more was to be found, except about half a pound of tobacco
and a short wooden pipe, which the corporal took possession of without
the slightest hesitation.

"This is a something," he said, when he had concluded his search, and
had offered the tobacco and the pipe to the ensign, who desired him to
keep them;--"but I wish the rascal had carried some prog with him.
Shall I bury this chap, or leave him where he is? He would lie more
comfortable if he had a sod over him; and though no doubt he was a big
rascal, your Honour, he is dead now, and that makes an end of all."

"You are quite right, my good fellow," returned the ensign, who was
as much pleased with his subaltern's right-feeling, as he was amused
occasionally by his absurdities; "but without tools we should have a
difficulty in making a grave for him;--besides, we have other things
to think of. It is clear to me that the bushrangers have made off from
this place; but as it is impossible for them to travel rapidly in the
night, I am inclined to think they cannot be many miles distant; and
we have the clue to their course; it is to the north-west. We must
make out as well as we can which way that is, and try to come up with
them before the morning."

"Will your Honour look at your watch and see what the time is?"

The ensign found that his watch had stopped, from not having been
wound up. He uttered some pettish expressions at his own
forgetfulness.

"Sure it's only counting from the time your Honour's watch stopped,"
said the corporal, "and that will give us the true time exactly."

But Trevor, albeit that he admired the extraordinary confusion of
ideas which had suggested to his subaltern so novel a mode of
ascertaining the hour, had recourse to other means for satisfying his
mind on that important point; and, regarding the aspect of the
heavens, he judged that the night was near its close. But the corporal
formed his opinion from less scientific data.

"The morning can't be far off," he said, "for the cold is always
greatest just before sun-rise, and it nips my fingers just now so that
I can hardly handle my fire-lock; and I fancy I see a difference in
the light yonder."

"Now," said the ensign, "we have rested ourselves long enough. Let us
make another effort, and endeavour to surprise these rascals before
the morning breaks."

"I am ready, your Honour, to go to the end of the island, if it is
your Honour's pleasure. I will just throw these loose boughs over the
body, with your Honour's leave, so that I may feel that I have done as
I would be done by. No knowing whose turn it may be next," he added,
as he cast some branches over the body--"there, my man, that's all we
can do for you, and be thankful for that. You have been a bad one in
your time, I reckon: however, it's all over now; so better luck to you
in another world."

With this valedictory address, the corporal oined his officer, who
was waiting for him at a few paces' distance with a little impatience.
The two then proceeded onwards at a brisk pace.

But Trevor soon found that to make progress in the bush at night,
without any prominent point for direction, was a more difficult task
than he had anticipated. He had made his way through the opening
pretty well, but then he had the two sides of the hills to keep him
right. Now that he was on level ground, amidst trees which prevented
his view, and obliged to turn aside frequently to avoid the
obstructions in the way, he found that to make progress in the right
direction under such circumstances was an impossible task.

Besides, after about an hour's toil, the moon's light failed him, and
they were left in almost complete darkness. Fearing, therefore, that
he might be wandering from the very point which he desired to pursue,
and that their attempt in the dark was only so much labour lost, he
came to a halt, and, wearied out with his night's march, threw himself
on the grass.

The corporal gladly followed his example; and for some time neither
spoke, Trevor being occupied with the most anxious fears for the
safety of Helen, and the corporal being engaged in an abstruse mental
problem as to how the victualling department was to be carried on.

This interesting question, which always occupies so much of a
soldier's thoughts on active service, was the more pressing on the
present occasion, as the corporal, from long habits of observation,
and from certain admo nitions of the inward man, became aware that it
was a practical one the solution of which could by no means be
indefinitely postponed. And indeed Trevor, lover and enthusiast as he
was, began to feel those symptoms of incipient craving for food which
reminded him that, although mental resolution may do much in
supporting fatigue, it is necessary to support the corporeal faculties
by something more solid than such ethereal aliment.

It was with heartfelt sympathy, therefore, that he responded to an
involuntary ejaculation which, in a moment of uncontrollable emotion
at the idea of a beefsteak, escaped from the corporal, who had fallen
into a dozing reverie:--

"By the powers, wouldn't I give one of those dollars for a mouthful?
We must look out for some game.--A cockatoo or a parrot would be
better than nothing," continued the corporal, becoming more excited.

"This sort of travelling," said the ensign, "is no easy matter. I
wish we had a compass with us; we shall get puzzled in the bush, I
fear, without some guide to direct us."

"Your Honour never was out on a bush campaign before?"

"Never: I have always had an inclination to explore the country, but
I fear we are not well provided."

"Ah! it's all very well to explore a country where there are plenty
of farm-houses, and villages with inns and public-houses handy; but
exploring in this country, your Honour, is quite a different thing.
It's all a waste, and there is nothing to be got but what you bring
down with powder and shot; and that's a sad waste of ammunition when
you have natives and savages to provide against. But will your Honour
allow me to ask if it is your intention to seek for these bushrangers
all over the island? It's hard to find a man in the bush when he is
determined to hide himself!"

"I will not stop till I have rescued the young lady," replied Trevor
with determination. "But we must hope that we shall come upon their
track as soon as we have daylight to help us; and four persons cannot
move about even in the bush without leaving some marks of their steps
behind them."

"If we only had one of the natives to help us!" said the corporal.
"It's wonderful to see how those black fellows can track in the bush,
where a white man can see nothing!"

"We must hope that we shall have no occasion for that," replied the
ensign. "I am strongly of opinion that these rascals are not far off.
And see--the daylight is coming. Do you observe the faint glow in the
sky yonder? That is the east; now we have a guide to the north-west.
It was lucky that we stopped where we did. We were going quite out of
our way.--Now to find the track."

"If your Honour would allow me to give my advice," said the corporal,
"it would be to find our way back to the place that we started from; I
mean where the dead man lies by the hut of boughs. There we shall find
the track, if there is any track to be found; and when we are once on
it, we can keep it. But if we go towards the north-west from the spot
where we are, we may travel on all our lives and never come up with
the enemy; for you see, sir, we may be going to the north-west, and
the enemy too, and yet we may never hit on them, because we are
marching side by side all the time."

"In parallel lines," said the ensign: "I understand."

"The best line," continued the corporal, "is to be in the same line
as they are, and then we may stand a chance to come up to them, which
we might never do by the lines that your Honour speaks of."

The ensign thought that his subaltern's advice was good; and as the
light of the morning was now increased sufficiently to enable them to
look about them, he lost no time in regaining the spot from which they
had wandered.

The corporal was not a little delighted, on casting his eyes around
him, to observe on the ground on which the unfortunate Jeremiah had
been temporarily located the night before, a something which his
foraging eye quickly detected to be, as he emphatically pronounced it,
"prog:" and although it was in the form of two humble ship's biscuits,
a supply of which formed part of Jerry's load, it was a prize under
the circumstances of which both he and the ensign eagerly availed
themselves.

To add to their present good fortune, the corporal in a few minutes
was able to make out clearly the point from which the bush-rangers had
started when they left the place; which was in a different direction
from that adopted by Trevor.

Animated by the feeling of certainty of direction, which has such an
astonishing effect on the spirits in the bush,--while the contrary
fear produces an oppression of the mind, and a confusion of ideas,
against which it is most difficult for the strongest mind to
struggle;--and refreshed by the modicum of food which they had found
so opportunely, the corporal led the way, keeping his eye steadily
fixed on the track, which was here and there visible; while the ensign
followed at a short distance in his rear, with his attention directed
to the general aspect of the country, and eagerly listening for the
slightest sound which might betray the vicinity of the enemy.

In this way they proceeded rapidly for some miles without meeting
with anything in their course, until they reached the borders of a
wide and sterile-looking plain, entirely bare of trees, which
stretched out to the base of a high hill beyond.

They looked to the right and to the left, but they could see nothing.

The track, however, evidently pointed to the opposite hill; and the
corporal and his officer, girding up their loins, prepared to traverse
the dreary expanse, well aware that in their passage they would form
conspicuous moving objects to the view of any one on the eminence
beyond; and that, if the bushrangers were not too far advanced to
catch sight of them, they would become aware of pursuers being on
their track.

"It can't be helped," said the corporal: "that cunning rascal, Mark
Brandon, seems to have chosen this way on purpose that he might have
the opportunity of seeing what was behind him. I'll be bound he is on
the hill yonder, watching us all the time. If we were standing on that
height we should be able to see ourselves on this bare place as plain
as can be!"

"Let us make haste then," said Trevor; "that hill cannot be more than
a mile off. We may come up with him yet."

"Distances deceive in the bush," quietly replied the corporal. "But I
will not fail, your Honour, depend on it, now or any time. But that
Mark Brandon is not easily to be outwitted. We must be cautious not to
lose the track. I must ask your Honour to keep at a little distance
behind; for nothing distracts more than two going abreast. If your
Honour will try to keep a straight line to the hill yonder, while I
look for maks, we shall have the better chance between us of keeping
the track, so as not to lose time; and time is everything now."

"Stop," exclaimed the ensign; "stand still: there they are! but we
were going wrong. Look there--to the right. Now, by George! we have
them in sight, and it's a fair run for it."

"Where?" said the corporal, looking round, and handling his fire-
lock.

"There!--to the right. Run your eyes along the ground in the
direction of my fowling-piece."

"I see!" said the corporal; "but ....."

"How many of them do you see? I fancy I can see only two."

"There are only two," said the corporal, with his eyes attentively
fixed on the object;--"but.....I thought so--they are moving now."

"Which way?"

"It matters little to us," replied the corporal, grounding his fire-
lock, "which way they are moving; but I should like to get within
shot; for it is said that their fat is the best thing in the world to
heal wounds."

"Their fat! whose fat?"

"Emu fat, your Honour. Those are two emus that you see yonder. They
deceive one at first, in the distance; but when they begin to move,
their long legs tell what they are. They say a plume of emu's feathers
is worth something in England. I don't know whether they are good
eating; though I have heard, I think, that their flesh is something
like beef. At any rate, broiled emu would be better than nothing just
now."

"We must not think of eating or drinking till we have come up with
the bushrangers. But if you could near one of them, and could knock
him down with the butt end of your musket without losing any time, I
see no objection to that."

"Get near them! your Honour: why, they are the shyest birds in
nature, and it's a hard matter to run them down on horseback. And they
always take to the mountains when they are chased. It's of no use
thinking of them; so now for another march across this plain. There's
one good thing about it--there's no dead timber, and no big loose
stones lying about, that worry one so in many places. We must keep a
sharp look-out, your Honour, when we near the foot of the hill, for it
will be easy for those blackguards, if they are there, to pick us off
as we are coming up. The sooner we are over this plain the better."

"Go on, then," said Trevor, "and put your best leg foremost,
corporal, for something tells me that before long we shall come up
with the rascals."

"If we do come up with them," said the corporal, handling his musket
viciously, "it shall be a bad day for them or for me! They shan't say
that I have had this march for nothing."

After this professional exclamation the corporal kept silence, being
busily engaged in following the track; and the two wayfarers continued
their march over the plain at a pace which showed that,
notwithstanding their previous fatigue and scanty refreshment, neither
their courage nor their strength flagged in their spirited enterprise.




Chapter VII. The Precipice.

THE corporal guessed right when he conjectured that Mark Brandon was
on the look out on the high hill in the distance; but he was far from
divining the ulterior object of the wily bushranger in taking a route
which he had chosen for the purpose of better baffling his pursuers.

When he had committed that decisive act, the night before, and with
his fowling-piece presented at his remaining associate, with his
finger on the trigger of the second barrel, had offered him, in a tone
determined but conciliatory, "peace or war," the fellow-ruffian, taken
by surprise, and without the possibility of effectual resistance,
could do nothing but submit. Mark, however, modulated the tones of his
voice so as to convey his own desire for peace; and as it was in his
power, by a slight motion of his finger, to render it a matter of
indifference which way he was answered, his comrade could not but
consider that he was in some degree beholden to him for the life which
it was in Brandon's power to take without parley on the instant.

Besides, the coarse and brutal Grough, who had nothing but his animal
strength to rely on, was by no means inclined to quarrel with one on
whose wit and contrivance he depended for escape from the colony. It
was with undisguised satisfaction, therefore, that he received this
earnest of his comrade's especial good will towards him in particular;
and he expressed his acquiescence in Brandon's little arrangement in
respect to the defunct Swindell with characteristic disregard as to
there being one more or less in the world, so long as the latter part
of the hypothesis did not regard himself:--

"D----n the fool!" he said, "it was no more than he deserved; what
was the use of quarrelling, when they ought to hang together, and
stand by one another, and as to the gal, he was ready, he said, if
Mark would only say the word, to cut her windpipe, and have done with
her, for she was only an encumbrance in the bush, and that would be
the best way of settling the matter; for he had always remarked, he
emphatically averred, that wherever there was a woman there was sure
to be mischief, and especially where there was only one among three,
which was always certain to give rise to words, even among the best
friends; and so that the shortest way was to get rid of her;" and
saying this, he made a step or two towards the hut, looking at
Brandon, and with the same sort of air as a man would have about to
kill a sheep.

But Mark, with a confidential wink, took him aside, and in a whisper
explained to him that it was important that Helen's life should be
spared, in order that she might be made use of as a hostage to be
played off in their operations against the Major.

He said that fathers sometimes had the most extraordinary affection
for their daughters; and that no doubt, in the present case, the Major
would offer them a large sum to restore the girl; but that his
intention was to insist on his placing a boat at their disposal, well
provided and stored, in which they could make their escape, as the
condition for the restoration of his daughter.

To this project, which struck him as a remarkably clever one, and
altogether worthy of the reputation of Mark, as being up to more
dodges than any government-man in the colony, Grough at once assented,
with enthusiastic expressions of approbation. "But he thought," he
said, and this opinion he expressed aloud, in order that the party
concerned might have the full comfort of its suggestion, "that there
was no use at all in keeping 'that fat little man,' meaning Jeremiah,
any longer, for he only ate their grub, and tired them to look after;
and that a stick with his knife--for it was a pity to waste powder and
shot in the bush--would put an end to that trouble, in a way," as he
expressed it, "comfortable to the gentleman and to themselves."

To this Mark said he had no objection, and that his comrade might
gratify himself in that trifling matter according to his own fancy;
but he recommended him to postpone the pleasure until the gentleman
had done his work, and had carried the stores with which he was laden
to the place of their concealment.

The unhappy Jeremiah, who, although bound and gagged, was not deaf,
and who had the satisfaction of overhearing the amiable conversation
of the two bushrangers concerning himself, expressed his personal
disinclination to the arrangement by deep deprecatory groans, and by
various convulsive rollings and tumblings on the grass, expressive of
the emotions to which he was unable to give vent in speech, and which
the facetious Grough, softened by his conference with Brandon, good-
humouredly checked by a little knock on Jerry's head with the butt-end
of his musket, bidding him "be quiet, and thank his stars that he had
gentlemen to deal with, and not to frighten the kangaroos with his
noises."

But Helen's mind was strangely disturbed with the recent catastrophe,
and by the words uttered by Mark Brandon at the close of the
altercation with the murdered Swindell, which more strongly than ever
confirmed her in the opinion that she possessed a power over the
bushranger, which she might be able to use to the advantage of herself
and her helpless companion in distress.

It seemed clear to her that Brandon, in order to save her from the
violence of the ruffian whom he had slain, had not scrupled to add
murder to his other crimes in her defence, and for her sake! And this
desperate act she considered could not but argue that Brandon's--what
should she call it?--"desire to stand favourably in her opinion" had
led him to sacrifice one of his comrades; thereby reducing his
strength, and lessening his chances of success against the attack of
his pursuers, who she had no doubt were on their track. It was also
breaking faith with his comrades, rendering himself, as she hoped,
suspected by the other, and liable to suffer by the same treachery
which he had practised.

Still it was clearly in her defence that he had exposed himself to
these risks--as she flattered herself; and she beguiled herself with
the hope that, having this clue to the bushranger's motives, and this
hold, as she thought, on his actions, she should be able to turn him
to her own purposes, and persuade him to set her free. She also set
her wits to work to engage him to set free Mr. Silliman, with whose
aid she trusted she could not only offer more effectual resistance to
violence, if violence should be offered, but perhaps even be enabled
to overpower the two bushrangers at some unguarded moment, and so
escape!

Such were the rapid thoughts which passed through her mind, as Mark
approached her, after his brief conference with his unskilled but
sturdy comrade.

Before Mark addressed her, he waited to hear her speak, in order that
he might judge, either by the words that fell from her, or the tone in
which they were uttered, of the mind and temper of the speaker. But in
this expectation he was disappointed. Helen waited for him to begin.

He was obliged, therefore, to say something; and he commenced with
what lawyers call a "fishing" observation:

"This is a rough deed for a lady to witness, Miss Horton."

Helen, having in her mind her own plans, made answer with as much
composure as she could assume:--

"It is a dreadful deed!--But at least I have to thank you for
preventing the insult which that wretch contemplated."

"All right," said Brandon to himself. Then, as if penetrated with the
extent of the risk which he had run for her sake, he continued:

"It was a dreadful deed, Miss Horton, and a desperate one; but there
was no other way of saving you.--Had I been thinking of myself more
than others," he continued, "I should not have given my enemies the
opportunity of adding that which might be construed into the crime of
murder to the other excesses of which necessity has made me guilty.
Might I hope that Miss Horton would bear favourable testimony to my
motives, should this act be at any time brought against me?"

"It is of little use to talk to me of my testimony, while I am a
prisoner in your power, with my hands bound thus," said Helen, making
an impatient movement with her arms.

"I am now able to fulfil my promise, and to release them," said Mark,
cutting the cords with his knife; "and I sincerely wish, Miss Horton,
it was in my power to liberate you entirely, as easily as I now cut
these painful bonds--not less painful for me to witness than for you
to bear."

"But what prevents you?" said Helen, hope glowing in her heart, and
already contemplating flight; "you would be sure of the gratitude of
my father and of myself; and if any intercession with the Government,
on his part, could avail in obtaining your pardon--I am sure it would
be strenuously exercised in return for your protection of me."

She used the word "protection" designedly, with the hope that it
would stir up and aliment the desire which she felt the bushranger
had, to be well thought of by her. But she was overmatched in her
feminine cunning on this point by the masculine duplicity of her
antagonist.

It was Brandon's object to carry her far into the interior, to some
spot where he should be secure from pursuit; and under such
circumstances, he had little doubt that he should be able to master
her to his wishes: but he was well aware that, without her own
consent, it would be impossible to force her much further forward, as
the labour and the delay of carrying her on a litter through the bush
would allow time for any pursuers on his track to come up with them.

It was necessary therefore that she should be deluded into
accompanying them; and with this view he thought he could not do
better than deceive her by the same tale with which he had cajoled the
brute Grough, which indeed was a plausible one enough, and adapted to
the enticing of her to accompany him in his progress onwards without
opposition. For he could not disguise from himself, that with a girl
of Helen's turn of mind, high spirited, as she was, any suspicion of
his own ulterior designs might tempt her to resist on the spot, and to
sacrifice her own life, rather than allow herself to be removed to a
greater distance from the chance of succour.

He told her the same tale, therefore, which he had invented for his
undiscerning comrade, not without some remote and vague idea of
carrying it at some future time into effect, after he had accomplished
his other purposes. And this plan seemed the more sincere to Helen, as
it squared with the known desire of Brandon to escape from the island;
and in the innocence of her mind she was far from having any idea of
the extent of duplicity and villainy of which such a man was capable.

But with a view of testing his sincerity still further, and with the
design to furnish help for her own escape, as well as that of her
companion in misfortune, she proposed to the bushranger to unbind Mr.
Silliman's hands, and to release him from the gag in his mouth.

To this also Brandon assented, as he had already determined to do so
in order to enable Jerry to travel with his load the faster; although
he took care to pretend that it was entirely in deference to Miss
Horton's wishes that he consented to make the concession.

"It is necessary, now," said Mark, "that we should seek for some
place of securer retreat than this, from which we can treat with
safety with your father: and if, as you assure me, there is no doubt
of his complying with my conditions, your captivity will not be long.
And, indeed, I begin to be ashamed that it has taken place at all: but
if Miss Horton will condescend to reflect on the condition of my
wretched bondage in this country, innocent as I am of all crime,
except such as I have committed with her own knowledge,--if it can be
considered a crime for a man unjustly condemned to endeavour to
recover his liberty,--she will allow some excuse, perhaps, for the
offence which I have involuntarily committed against herself, and of
which necessity alone has been the unhappy cause."

"What will happen," asked Helen, "if I determine to remain here?"

"My comrade Grough, I fear, and indeed I have no doubt, would force
you to go forward, by means which you could not resist--unless," he
said, "you would have me add another death to this night's account."

Helen shuddered at this suggestion of further slaughter: besides, she
trusted that she should have more opportunities of escape in motion
than in resting where she was, and especially with a friend devoted to
her interests and liberty in the person of Mr. Silliman; and seeing
that it would be vain to desist, and that her best course was to feign
an indifference as to her being taken further which she did not feel,
she signified her consent, asking only for a few minutes' longer
repose, in order the better to recruit her strength by travel.

This interval she employed in tracing with her blood, by means of a
pin, those words on the glove which was fortunately discovered by
Trevor.

The previous talk of the two men who had borne her for some miles on
the way before they reached the scene of these transactions, had made
her acquainted with the intention of the bushranger to retreat north-
west into the interior, a part of the country with which the settlers
were entirely unacquainted. She would not divest her mind of the
conviction that her friends, when they discovered her abduction, would
take immediate measures to follow to her rescue; and it was this hope
that enabled her to support herself, and to preserve the equilibrium
of her mind, under circumstances so trying and fearful to a young and
delicate girl, on whom harm or insult had never before fallen.

In the mean time Brandon talked with Grough, taking care to instil
into him the vital importance of preventing the girl's escape, and of
the necessity of taking her along with them unharmed, and, as he
endeavoured to make the insensible brute understand, without insult,
in order to insure the compliance of her father with the conditions of
her release; at the same time impressing on him the necessity of his
so comporting himself, without proceeding to actual violence, as to
strike a terror into the girl, in order to urge her forward as fast as
possible, and to intimidate her from attempting to escape.

With all these instructions the obedient Grough expressed his utmost
willingness to comply, being not only congenial with his own tastes
and habits, but necessary for the success of the ultimate design of
Mark, which Grough felicitated himself on seeing through with an
acuteness which almost equalled Mark's own prolific invention in plots
and stratagems.

In good humour, therefore, with himself and the state of their
affairs, he gave Helen to understand that the musket which he carried
was loaded with two balls, which it was his intention, he said,
instantly to discharge through her head if she did not immediately
"stir her stumps" and give no trouble.

Mark Brandon, in the mean time, having released Jeremiah from his
fetters, and having intimated to him, though in more polite terms, his
own determination to the same effect, that humiliated gentleman,
somewhat reanimated by the release of his hands and mouth, reloaded
himself with his burdens with a most pains-taking alacrity, and stood
ready, as submissive as the beast of burden to which Grough compared
him.

As they were about to start, Grough hailed Brandon:

"I say, Mark, where are the dollars which that fool Swindell had with
him? Why, we are almost as big fools as he to go away without 'em."

"No, no!" said Mark, who, as he used to boast, never "gave away a
chance." "If we take his dollars, it will be said that we killed him
to rob him. Now I call this young lady and this worthy gentleman to
witness that he met with his death by his own fault, in attempting a
most atrocious violence; and, in short, that he was killed in self-
defence."

"Well," said Grough, "just as you like. No matter how he was killed,
to my mind: he is dead, sure enough. But I must do you the justice to
say, Mark, that a cleaner shot I never saw! Why he died, as one may
see, all in a hurry, without having time to say, good-by to any one!
More fool he for tempting it!"

With this valedictory epigraph on his deceased companion, the ruffian
gave a hint with the end of his musket to his prisoner to move on; and
the bushranger gently propelling Jerry with a similar intimation, the
party resumed their flight into the bush.

Their progress, at night, was unavoidably slow; and Brandon was
careful not to hurry Helen too fast, as he wished to reserve her
strength until the daylight when it would be more available, and when
he should be able by a survey of the country to choose the course that
seemed best for penetrating into that part of the interior. He did not
care much for the delay; as he knew very well that the advance of a
pursuing enemy, if there was any party on their footsteps, which he
had little fear of, must inevitably be slower than his own, inasmuch
as they would be obliged to walk more leisurely, in order to preserve
the track, should they chance to find it, and to pause also
occasionally to recover it when lost.

After he had proceeded a few miles, therefore, he halted, and waited
for the dawn of day, to continue their flight. In this also he had the
advantage of pursuers; for the faint light which is sufficient to
allow a party to run away, is not enough for those who follow; as it
is necessary for the latter to be able to see, not only the general
face of the country, but the particular marks of the passage of those
whom they are pursuing.

But Mark Brandon was not at all uneasy on that point. He was well
acquainted with the difficulty of tracking travellers in the bush, in
dry weather especially; and he had no suspicion of the clue which the
ready--witted Helen had the ingenuity to devise for directing the
course of her friends in pursuit.

In this the bushranger, with all his subtilty, failed to be a match
for a feeble girl, who, relying on the promptitude of her father and
her lover, was able to bear her present fate with a firmness which
deceived the bushranger, and which he ascribed to a sort of
indifference on her part, which sometimes pleased and sometimes
puzzled him; but which was, in fact, owing to her strong reliance on
her own courage and her own resources, and the speedy succour which
she expected from those who she was sure would sacrifice their lives
if necessary to save her.

As soon, therefore, as the first dawn of day spread sufficient light
over the ground to enable them to pick their steps, the bushranger
announced that it was necessary that they should proceed; and Helen,
trusting that some lucky chance, now that her hands were free, would
enable her to effect her escape, and desirous of blinding her
persecutors by the semblance of a ready aquiescence in their commands,
at once obeyed.

As to poor Jeremiah, he had nothing to do but to comply at once with
the hint of the brutal Grough, who, poking him up with his musket,
signified to him that it was time for him to rise from the grass and
take up his load again. As to any resistance on his part, the horrible
sight of the ruffian's loaded musket, and the vividness of Jerry's
fears, which made him fancy that he could actually see the cartridge
with the ball at the top of it ready to be shot out at the bottom of
the barrel, put any such attempt entirely out of the question!

But as he stole a doleful glance at Helen, whom Brandon sedulously
kept at some distance from him, she gave him a look which seemed to
imply that she was not without hope in the midst of their
difficulties.

In what that hope consisted he did not know; but there was a
something in Helen's eye which indicated resolution and a sort of
triumph, and which so elated him in his misery, that, in the
exuberance of his sudden joy, he gave a sort of caper, much to the
astonishment of Grough, who declared, that as the man was so fresh, he
could carry a little more, and immediately added to Jerry's load his
own knapsack, which, from the fear of overloading their package-horse,
he had hitherto carried on his own shoulders. Thus admonished to
conceal in future any outward exhibition of his feelings, the luckless
Jerry trudged dolorously forward, preceded by Grough and Helen, and
followed by Brandon, who from time to time incited him to move on
faster by well-timed hints of his comrade's unscrupulous ferocity, and
now and then throwing a little encouragement into his words, by
protesting that the term of Jerry's labours was fast approaching, and
that then he would have nothing to do but to enjoy himself and study
the botany of the country.

In this order they made their way through a dense forest, from which
they emerged into an open plain.

Had Brandon been aware that pursuers were so close behind him, he
would not have risked discovery by venturing over a space on which he
would be sure to be seen by any one in his rear. But depending on
having so taken his course as to have baffled his enemies, he went
boldly on, making, as his point, for a high hill on the other side of
the plain, from the summit of which he calculated he should be able to
obtain an extensive view of the country beyond.

In their passage over the flat and monotonous waste, Helen watched
for an opportunity to make some mark, or to leave some trace of their
road, to those who might be in pursuit; but in vain; she saw that she
was so closely followed by Grough, and she felt that Brandon had his
eye so constantly upon her, that she could contrive no expedient
without betraying her purpose, of indicating her route.

But on arriving at the base of the hill, which was thinly covered
with stunted-looking trees, known by the name of the she-oak, she
pretended to stumble with fatigue, and catching hold of a fragile
branch, she broke it off in her fall. Mark Brandon was quickly at her
side, with many expressions of concern at her accident, which she
ascribed to her excessive fatigue, which made her feel faint.

Mark immediately promised that they should rest as soon as they had
proceeded a short distance up the ascent, and resuming his place near
Jerry, left her to the superintendence of his fellow, adhering in this
respect to the system which he had laid down for himself, never to
appear near Helen in a position which implied his personal coercion of
her, and which therefore could not fail to be offensive, and to
disgust her with his presence.

Thus compelled and urged by the unceremonious promptings of the
unpitiable Grough, she continued her weary course, holding the stick
which she had snapped from the tree carelessly in her hand, and
contriving to break off small pieces as she went on, which she dropped
on the ground.

In this way they slowly climbed the hill, until at last they gained
the summit, when, at the command of Brandon, her conductor stopped;
and, to the infinite satisfaction of Jerry, the bushranger announced
that it was his pleasure that they should rest there for some time, in
order that Miss Horton might recover from her fatigue.

In pursuance of this intention, Mark immediately proceeded to cut
down, with an axe which he carried, some of the boughs of the few
trees which were scattered here and there near the top of the hill,
and with which he rapidly and skilfully constructed a temporary hut,
in which he invited Helen to repose herself. He next made a selection
from the provisions carried by Jerry, which he offered for her
refreshment, and which Helen, who was intent on escape, willingly
accepted.

Brandon then began to examine carefully the appearance of the
surrounding country, which his elevated position enabled him to do
with advantage; and he noted especially all conspicuous objects
towards the north-west, observing by the compass, with which he had
taken care to provide himself from the Major's cabin in the brig,
their relative points and bearings, as it was in that direction that
he intended to bend his steps; not only because it was the interior of
the island, but because it was a part of the country untravelled, and
unknown to any but a few of the prisoners of the crown, who imparted
the secret of their information to the select only among their
friends, for the purpose of availing themselves of their knowledge of
its localities on occasions such as the present.

The aspect of the country which the bushranger surveyed was, indeed,
romantic in the extreme. Diversified by low undulating hills and
plains, and interspersed with clumps of trees, the scene resembled an
extensive park; while the height, from which he looked down on it,
concealed its roughness and general character of solitude and
desolation.

But it was not the beauties of nature, or the romance of landscape,
which it was the present business of Brandon to study. His only desire
was to ascertain what tiers of hills lay beyond him, and the openings
which appeared in them for the passage of his party to the districts
on their other side. Having ascertained this point to his
satisfaction, he next turned his attention to the examination of the
difficulties and obstacles which intervened.

He observed, stretching to the north, and losing itself in a
circuitous course to the south-by-west, a narrow glistening line,
which he was aware indicated water, and which he judged must be a
rather considerable river. This river lay between him and the distant
tier of hills, through an opening in which it was his object to
penetrate; but as he could not see how to avoid it, he was obliged to
trust to his own ingenuity to cross it safely, taking care only to
choose as his line of route, a way as far to the northward as
possible, without interfering too much with his direct course; as he
knew that the nearer he went to the river's source, the narrower would
be the stream, and the more easy to be passed over; while towards the
coast, to the south, it would naturally become broader and broader,
till it emptied itself into the sea.

Having completed his survey to his satisfaction, and formed the plan
of his future route distinctly in his mind, he threw himself on the
ground.

The wearied Jeremiah, exhausted with the weight of his afflictions,
and of the heavy load of stores and provisions which he had borne so
far, had sunk into a profound sleep, in which he had been quickly
followed by the other bushranger; but Brandon, notwithstanding that
fatigue and the necessity of constant watchfulness weighed heavily on
him, did not dare to close his eyes.

But finding, after some little time, that the desire of sleep was
beginning to overcome his senses, he suddenly and with an effort
arose, and commenced pacing up and down at some distance, but within
view of Helen's temporary habitation; sometimes taking a view of the
country in the distance, and sometimes scanning the plain over which
he had lately passed. Although he had no fear of being tracked and
followed, not having any suspicion of Helen's significant hints for
the information of her friends, he did not fail to keep a look-out in
his rear, in pursuance of his favourite maxim.

On a sudden, as he threw his glance over the bare plain behind him,
he saw, or thought he saw, some moving objects; but whether they were
emus, or whether they were natives, he could not at that distance
distinguish; but he kept his eyes fixed on them steadily.

Helen also, who was on the alert, had already observed through the
boughs of her hut two specks moving on the plain beneath the hill, and
which her heart at once told her were friends coming to her rescue. In
the eagerness of her joy, she ran out of her hut to the edge of the
hill, which in that direction was nearly perpendicular, and with
clasped hands and strained eyes gazed on the living atoms on the
earth's surface, which by almost inperceptible degrees continued to
advance.

At that moment the bushranger caught the expression of wild joy which
was visible in her looks; and there was a something in her eye which
conveyed to him the idea that there was some secret intelligence,
though by what means he was utterly at a loss to imagine, between his
captive and the living creatures which he now made out to be human
beings, who were following in his track.

Seizing Helen by the arm with his left hand, and pointing to the
suspicious objects with his fowling-piece, which he held extended in
his right, he asked in a tone of strong but restrained passion:--

"Miss Horton, what do you know of those two men whom I see on our
track? Have you betrayed me? Speak, girl! As you value your life, do
you know them?"

As he pronounced these words, he shook Helen with convulsive passion,
as he held her in his powerful grasp tottering on the edge of the
precipice.




Chapter VIII. The Ambush.

THE loud tones of Mark Brandon's voice, as, in a paroxysm of
excitement, he shook Helen over the edge of the precipice, quickly
roused his comrade and the other prisoner from their slumbers.

Grough was the first to wake; and seeing that Brandon, as he
immediately conjectured, was about to cast the girl headlong from the
height--why or wherefore he cared not--he cocked his musket, and, as a
matter of business, presented it at Jerry's head, as that astonished
individual raised it in a state of dreamy confusion from a little
hillock of turf on which it had been blissfully reposing.

Happy had been that sleep! for the wearied Jeremiah had lain
unconscious of bushrangers, or of guns and bullets; and the Fairy
Queen of Dreams, as if to recompense him for the sufferings of his
wakeful state, had transported him in fancy to the peaceful precincts
of Ironmonger Lane, where, it seemed to him, he sat at a luxurious
City Feast, amidst the pomp and circumstances of glorious meat and
drink, and in all the dignity of his own right as a Liveryman of
London!

Joyous was that mock festivity! Rich and rare were the costly dishes,
where real turtle competed with fat venison! Bright and sparkling was
that ideal champagne! and loud were the shouts of the imaginary
hurrahs of three-times-three when the health of the Master was drunk
with all the enthusiasm which wine inspires on such magnificent
occasions!

But this ecstatic state lasted not long.--A change came o'er the
spirit of his dream! Suddenly, it seemed to the sleeping Jerry that
the person of the respected and corpulent Master who presided over the
board dilated to supernatural proportions! his features assumed the
likeness of the dreadful Bushranger! The roll of paper containing the
list of toasts, which he held in his hand, became changed to a
prodigious blunderbuss! an awful voice rang in Jerry's ears, which
sounded terribly like that which never failed to fill him with fearful
emotions; and, roused by the terrible vision, he awoke!

It was indeed the voice of the Bushranger! and as he opened his eyes
he beheld the eternal musket of the inexorable Grough pointed at his
head; and he became aware that the sound which in his sleep seemed to
be the tinkling of the "cheerful glass" was that "click," so
disagreeable to the threatened party, which was caused by the cocking
of his enemy's abominable gun! Unhappy was that waking! In the agony
of his fear Jeremiah gave vent to a dismal groan!

Grough cast his eyes askance at his chief to see if he made any sign
to signify that it was his pleasure that Jeremiah's waking should be
changed for an eternal sleep, or, as he mentally expressed it, "should
have his brains blown out," when Helen, catching sight of this little
by-play, pointed it out to Brandon, and, desirous of saving the life
of her fellow--prisoner, asked, in a tone of scornful reproach:--

"Would you murder a man in cold blood?"

"Hold off!" said Brandon; "no need to take life without a cause: you
can put a ball through his head at any time, if he kicks. Hold off,
mate, I say; but be ready, for there's danger abroad."

The obedient Grough, albeit that he was reluctant to be baulked a
second time, acquiesced; but he bestowed a look on his prisoner
somewhat like that which a byena casts on the prey which he is baffled
at pouncing upon by the bars of his cage, and which made poor Jerry
ache to the very marrow of his bones.

"What's in the wind, Mark?"

"There is mischief brooding: but do you attend to your prisoner, and
make him pack up ready for a start." Then turning to Helen, who,
trembling more with hope than fear, kept her eyes fixed on the specks
moving on the plain below, he said, in a low deep voice:--

"Miss Horton, you know something of yonder men. Nay,--do not deny it;
I see it in your eye:--but I will tell you that there is more danger
to yourself in any attempt at rescue than in your remaining in my
power unknown and undiscovered. They must be better and cleverer men
than I have yet seen who could find Mark Brandon in the bush when he
would be concealed, or who could take him when they found him."

Helen did not answer, but continued to observe with breathless
anxiety the objects whom she felt sure were following in her track:
and as they advanced nearer and nearer it soon became evident that
they were not natives but white men, and that they carried in their
hands what seemed to be fowling-pieces or muskets. The Bushranger no
sooner became convinced of this fact than he called out to Grough to
be ready to march.

"What's the use of running away?" responded Grough, who had now
become aware of the sort of danger announced by Brandon, as the forms
of the two men were visible from the spot where he stood sentinel over
Jerry; "What's the use of running away from it? There are only two,
and we can easily manage them; and then we can go on comfortably."

"No, no," replied Mark; "this place is too much exposed. But I see a
post on the other side of yonder stream, with trees growing down to
the water's edge, where we can deal with them as we please. Now, Miss
Horton, you must move on."

"Where is it," said Helen, endeavouring to gain time, "that you wish
to take me?"

"No matter where," replied Brandon,--"you must move on."

"But this is against our bargain," replied Helen, still trying to
gain time. "You promised that you would release me if my father would
engage to perform the part you mentioned. And now you have an
opportunity to make your terms known to those who are coming."

"You know them, then?" said Brandon, clenching his teeth, and
grasping his weapon with a threatening gesture. "But let them be who
they may, I will communicate with them when and how I please. Miss
Horton, I should be sorry to use violence towards you; but this is not
a position for me to negotiate in.--You must move on."

"Suppose," said Helen, "it should be my father--and--and another
friend?--Let me go to them; and I undertake on my word of honour that
he shall do what you require of him. You may trust to my word of
honour."

"Excuse me, Miss Horton, but your father and your other friend might
not have the same idea of honour as yourself. In the bush it is better
to trust to our loaded muskets than to empty honour. But time goes,
and we must be moving. Miss Horton," he added, seizing her arm, the
hold of which he had relinquished during this brief colloquy, "I say
again, you must go on."

"And what if I will not go on?" said Helen.

"Then," said Brandon, "I fear that my companion there will make short
work of it. Life, Miss Horton, is dear; and no notions of honour will
induce him to prefer yours to his own. His musket is loaded; his
finger is on the trigger; and his will is ready."

This he said so that Grough could hear: and that obliging person,
taking the hint more quickly than his dull nature promised,
immediately advanced, with Jerry, whom he ordered to kneel down on the
grass, threatening him with instant death if he dared to move or
speak; and then deliberately taking aim at Helen, he had the unusual
politeness to inquire, as it was a lady:--

"Now, ma'am, are you ready?"

Helen must have been something more than mortal, if she could have
withstood unmoved this terrible threat, as she saw the ferocious eye
of the miscreant fixed on her with a sort of malicious glee.--She
turned deadly pale, her knees bent under her, and she would have sunk
down on the ground, had not Brandon supported her with his powerful
arm; at the same time that he made a sign to his companion to turn
aside his musket, which Grough did with much unconcern: but as it
seemed to that industrious person that it was a pity that it should
not have some object to point at, he directed it in the interim
towards Jerry, who, although by this time he ought to have been used
to it, had not yet arrived at that state of happy disregard possessed
by the skinned eels in the fable, and evinced his emotions by a most
piteous supplication!

The time occupied in this little manoeuvre, however, was sufficient
to enable Helen to recover her presence of mind. All her efforts were
directed to gain time:--

"You forget," she said, "that the report of your musket would be the
surest way to make known to those who are in pursuit of you who and
where you are."

"By----," said Grough, recovering his musket, and uncocking it, "the
wench is right! Mark, what shall we do?"

Mark could not help admiring the quick wit of the girl, which had
such an instantaneous effect even on the dull intellects of his
comrade; but he perceived that she was studying pretexts to gain time,
so as to allow her friends to come up, and he felt that already too
much time had been wasted.

In a peremptory tone, therefore, he again desired her to proceed,
saying that all resistance was useless, and that, if she wished to
preserve her life, she must move on instantly to the other side of the
hill:--

"Miss Horton," he said, "it is a question of life or death with us.
You see, my comrade is a desperate man: in a moment more he will
discharge the contents of that gun through your heart; and no effort
of mine could prevent him."

Helen cast her eyes down on the plain: the figures were coming nearer
and nearer.

"He durst not!" she said, advancing to the edge of the precipice, and
pointing to the moving objects below; "the smoke and the report would
at once betray you."

"Then die another death!" cried Mark, in a transport of rage, and
again seizing Helen with a powerful grasp: "Look down, foolish girl,
into that depth below your feet! Do you see the rocks on which you
would be dashed to pieces if I were to let go my hold? This hand that
now clutches you once relaxed, and in a few moments more your body
would be a shapeless mass, for the native dogs to feast on! Once more,
I say, beware how you tempt me!"

"Don't let the girl hang over the precipice that way," cried out
Grough, moved for once with an odd sort of compassionate feeling:--
"let her go, and have done with her. No need to torment her, Mark! Let
her she will have time enough to say her prayers before she gets to
the bottom."

"Stop--you brute--you beast--you murdering villain!" screamed out
Jerry; "you'll be hanged, you will--and doubly hanged; and you deserve
it for this brutality."

"Heyday!" said Grough, as he knocked down Jerry, who had essayed to
rise from his knees, with the butt-end of his musket; "here's a
precious jaw! We must have the gag. What! trying to get up again! Then
you must have another tap!"

"Come on with us, Miss," continued Jerry, struggling on the ground
with his enemy; "better come on with us than be murdered. While
there's life, Miss, there's hope; but when one is dead...."

What further aphorism the excited Mr. Silliman might have added, it
is impossible to say, for at this point the exasperated Mr. Grough
dealt him such a blow on the face with his fist, that it put an end
for the time to the further expression of his opinions; and Mark at
the same time withdrawing Helen from her perilous situation, his
expostulations as to that point were rendered unnecessary.

"Bind his hands behind his back," said Mark.

Grough performed that operation with great skill and dexterity.

"Now," resumed Mark, with an inclination of his head towards Helen--
"hers."

Grough did this with equal readiness.

Helen said nothing.

"Will you come with us, or shall Grough drag you?" said Mark to
Helen.

Helen remained silent.

"Take her in hand!" he said to Grough.

"Now, my pretty dear," said that most uninviting person, "I think
you might give me a kiss for all the trouble I have taken about you."

Helen shuddered: her hands were bound behind her back; she could do
nothing. Grough put his rough beard close to her face.

"I will walk," she said.

"There's a beauty: and you can give me the kiss when we stop for the
night. Now, Mark, it's all right; the lady says she will be agreeable.
A little faster, if you please, ma'am. It will be all down-hill
presently. Which is our point, Mark? Had you not better go first?"

"Keep that big tree in the bottom straight before you and in a line
with the hill beyond."

"Ay, ay. Now, my lady, stir your stumps."

Helen stopped.

"If you will release my hands," she said, turning round to Mark
Brandon, "I promise you I will make no more resistance; but if not,
you may kill me if you will: but from this spot I will not move."

Mark hesitated for a moment; and then, without saying a word, untied
the cord which bound her, and put it in his pocket.

Helen immediately moved forward at a quick pace; but as she walked
she contrived to tear strips from her dress, which she let fall on the
ground. But she was not aware that the bushranger, whose quick eye
caughtsight of the manoeuvre, rapidly but carefully picked them up, as
he followed, with not less diligence than that with which she
distributed them.

"Hah, hah!" he said to himself, "this has been the dodge, has it?
But an old bushranger, my beauty, knows a trick worth two of that. I
don't know, though," he muttered to himself, "whether it would not be
best. Her friends are on our track,--that's certain; and this is the
way it has been done. There are only two of them: they can travel
faster than we can, encumbered as we are with a woman. Yes, better get
rid of them; and this clue, which she is taking such pains to give to
her friends, shall be the lure to their destruction. And so there let
them lie. And now for a good place of concealment, where we may return
dodge for dodge."

With these thoughts he urged his comrade to mend his pace; to which
Helen, confident in the success of her stratagem, made no objection,
and they quickly cleared the space between the base of the hill from
which they had descended and a shallow stream which was now before
them.

"What will she do now?" said Mark. "Ah! she has something in her
shoe! and she thinks I do not see her stick that little twig into the
ground on the margin of the water! That Grough is the dullest ass I
ever saw! but the brute has strength, and a sort of courage. Capital!
See how she picks her way daintily over the water, stepping from stone
to stone; and now she has got to the other side, something wrong with
the shoe again! Another twig stuck in! I thought so! Very cleverly
done, my pretty one! But you don't think that you are setting springes
for the decoyed ducks that are coming after you! Keep on, mate," he
said, aloud; "straight ahead! Get into the scrub, and then we will
have a 'corrobbery,' as the natives say."

They now advanced among the thick bushes which fringed the banks of
the rapid and shallow stream, and beyond which was a thick wood. The
mass of bushes was so dense that it was impossible to see far beyond
them, and the covert seemed well adapted for the concealment which was
desirable. But they had not proceeded many yards, when the bushranger
called a halt.

"Lie down there," he said to Jeremiah, in a stern voice; "and look to
it that you neither move nor speak, or you shall have your brains
knocked out without further warning. And do you, Miss Horton, be
pleased to sit down there," pointing to a space between himself and
his comrade. "Mate," he said, "keep your eye on them both, and leave
the rest to me."

Saying this, he examined the primings of his double-barrel fowling--
piece, passed his ramrod down both barrels to make sure their charges
had not become displaced or loosened in the journey, a precaution
which was imitated by his companion; then he cleared away a small part
of the leafy boughs of the bush behind which they were all concealed,
and arranged a convenient fork of the tree on which to rest his
barrels, which he tried, and was satisfied with. Having completed
these preparations, and whispered apart with his companion, who nodded
his head and slapped his thigh with exultation at the cleverness of
Mark's "dodge," he returned to his post, and waited for some time
quietly on the ground, employed, as it seemed, in calculating the
time. After musing for a while, he abruptly approached Miss Horton,
and with much politeness requested a small portion of her dress:--

"As a pattern," he said. "You see, Miss Horton," he added, with a
sneer, "it is already torn, so that a small abstraction more cannot
materially damage its appearance."

Helen, colouring up, made no resistance, as he gently tore off a
small portion, while Grough and Jerry looked on with extreme surprise.
Their surprise was greater, while Helen's heart sank within her, when
they saw him, through the interstices of the bushes, tearing the piece
of stuff into small shreds, which he carefully strewed on the ground
in a direct line from the part of the stream's bank which they had
passed over, towards the bush where Brandon had tried his fowling-
piece on the forked branch.

It then became evident to Helen that her own device had been
penetrated, and its object discovered, and that it now was being made
use of against her to the imminent danger of the friends who were
hastening to her rescue.

The wondering Grough, when he was made acquainted with the object of
this manoeuvre by Brandon, after having given vent to his admiration
by sundry whispered oaths and exclamations, concluded by declaring,
with an awful asseveration, "that it was one of the out-and-outerest
dodges that ever man contrived, and that no one but Mark or the devil
himself could have had the cunning to invent it!

"Why," he added, in Mark's ear, "it's for all the world like strewing
grain for a lot of sparrows to peck at in a farm-yard, so that you
have 'em all in a line, and can nick a score of 'em with one shot."

This gleeful exclamation was unheard by Helen, but she saw too
clearly by the preparations that it was the bushranger's design to
entice her friends on to the other side of the covert behind which he
was ensconced, and then taking deliberate and certain aim to shoot
them both before they had any suspicion of the presence of an enemy.
Her colour went and came, and her heart beat quick as she strove to
summon up her energies and to rally her thoughts so as to hit on some
scheme for defeating this deliberate plot of cowardly and diabolical
assassination.




Chapter IX. The Feet on the Sand.

WHILE the bushranger was making these polite preparations for the
reception of Helen's friends, Trevor and the corporal continued their
course over the lengthened plain, whose wide expanse seemed to the
eager desires of the lover almost interminable.

Even the tough and seasoned corporal felt the wearisomeness of the
way, the more especially as he missed his accustomed rations, without
which the bravest and the sturdiest are apt to find their spirits and
their courage diminish at the time of trial. It was with more than
military promptitude, therefore, that he came to a halt at the
intimation of his officer.

"Are you sure you are on the track?" asked Trevor, making use of the
inquiry as an excuse for a short rest.

"Quite sure, your Honour. If you will stoop down a bit, you will see
that the blades of grass bend forward slightly, which must have been
caused by the tread of feet not long since. And look at this,"
continued the coporal, kneeling down and pointing to a tiny ant-hill;
"some weight has been set upon this, that's certain! and, to my mind,
here's the round mark of the heel of a man's boot as plain as can be!
We are all right, your Honour, so far as the track goes; depend upon
that."

"How many of them are there, do you think?" asked Trevor.

"Impossible to say, sir; but, to my thinking, there can't be many. I
should say, not more than three or four at most. If we could come on a
bare place now, where there is no grass, we should be able to see the
prints of their feet, and then we could tell better; but the young
lady, I guess, would not leave much mark behind her: they generally
tread light, do those young gals. I remember when I was in the
States..."

"Step on," said Trevor, quickly, the image which the corporal had
unconsciously conjured up exciting him with fresh ardour in the
pursuit; "step on, corporal; if we are tired, those who are before us
must be tired also; and it's hard if two men like us cannot run them
down."

The corporal made no reply to this more than the usual salute, by
bringing the edge of his right hand to the peak of his military cap;
and then, throwing his musket over his arm, he marched on with renewed
alacrity.

They arrived at last at the base of the hill. The retreating party
having separated a little at this point, their track had been less
concentrated, and the corporal found himself at fault. He looked about
diligently; but whether it was that the fatigue of his long march, and
the unremitted exercise of his eyes had wearied his sight, or that the
marks were too faint to be perceived, the veteran was puzzled:--

"If your Honour will stay there," he said, "so as to mark the point
which we struck, I will make half circles up the hill till I hit on
the track again."

"Break off a twig from that low tree before you," said Trevor, "and
stick it in the ground on the spot, and then we shall be both at
liberty."

The corporal did as he was ordered, and advanced towards the tree,
which was small and low, and of a gnarled and knotted appearance; but
as he was about to break off a small branch he stopped, and beckoned
to the ensign:--

"Look at that, your Honour; there has been some one here before us. A
branch has been snapped off here not long ago. See, it is a dead
branch, easily broken."

Trevor examined it attentively; and, first, he directed the corporal
to stick into the ground which he had left, another branch, which he
broke off, in order that they might be able to recognise the precise
spot at which they had arrived at the base of the hill. He then
continued his investigations.

It struck him that it was not likely that a retreating party would
willingly encounter the laborious task of climbing that hill, which,
he observed, rose precipitately to a great height at a short distance
up the ascent. "It was easier to go round the hill than to go over
it," he remarked to the corporal, in which opinion that worthy sub
acquiesced, observing, however, "that there was never any calculating
on what Mark Brandon would do; and that perhaps he had gone over the
hill for the very reason that it would appear to his pursuers that it
was unlikely for him to do so."

While he was speaking the ensign had proceeded a few paces up the
ascent, which at the beginning was gentle, and was throwing his eyes
over the grass to discover some indication of footsteps, when he
thought he saw a little piece of stick lying on the ground in a place
at too great a distance from any tree to allow of its having been
dropped from the parent trunk.

He picked it up, and compared it with the broken branch of the tree
which he had quitted, and found that it corresponded in colour and
sort exactly; moreover, it was of the same dead wood which the
remaining portion of the branch exhibited.

Convinced that this branch had been broken off with some design, he
returned to the spot where he had found it, and, pursuing his search,
he soon lighted on another bit of the same wood; and presently he
found another and another, leading on the left in a winding direction
towards the top of the hill. Having thus again found the track of the
fugitives, he sat down for a brief space, in order that he might
resolve on the most judicious course of action.

He considered, that as the bushranger had thought fit to ascend a
steep hill, which there was no necessity for his delaying his flight
by surmounting, it must have been done with some design. What was that
design? It was possible that he and the corporal had been observed all
the time, and that the bushranger with his comrade, one or more, was
waiting for him in ambush, in an advantageous position on the top. In
that case it was advisable to proceed with great caution; at the same
time that the utmost diligence was necessary, in order to overtake
them and prevent violence to Helen.

He mentioned his thoughts to the corporal and asked him his opinion;
upon which that experienced subaltern rested his two hands on the
muzzle of his firelock, from habit, however, leaving the orifice of
the barrel clear, and reposing his chin upon his hands, he set himself
to work to resolve the enigma of the wily bushranger's intentions.

"Sir," said the corporal, after a short pause,--and after having
taken into account the particular shape and bulk of the sugar-loaf
hill, on the inclined base of which his officer was resting; "I think
our best plan will be to go round the foot of the hill and see if the
enemy has made his way over down the other side. If he has not, we
shall know that we have him safe somewhere on the top of it, and then
we can take him in the rear, where he will not expect us; and if he
has passed over it, why then, all we have to do is to follow on. But
it seems to me, your Honour, that if we go blindly after them up this
hill, we shall expose ourselves to their fire, without having a chance
of returning it, as they can lie down on their bellies, as the
sharpshooters did in the States, and pick us off without our being
able to see 'em, or to help ourselves. Depend upon it, that if Mark
has been up this hill, as it seems he has, he has had a reason for it,
and that reason is to take us at a disadvantage, and our business is
to outwit him, by coming upon him before he thinks of it. But if your
Honour likes to try the hill, of course I'm ready;--it's all the same
to me; only I can't help thinking that we ought to see clear before
us, or else in firing at the enemy we might hit the poor young lady,
and that would be a pity, for by all accounts she is an uncommon
pretty one, and a spirited one too, and just the girl for a soldier."

The latter part of the corporal's oration had the strongest effect
upon Trevor, who rightly judged that it was especially important to
guard against such a disaster as that pointed out by the corporal; and
the consideration was of the greater value, as it served to temper his
courage and his ardour with more coolness and circumspection than he
would have otherwise displayed.

He agreed, therefore, to the corporal's proposal, and they began to
skirt round the base of the hill, on the level space beneath, taking
care to inspect the ground with the utmost minuteness, lest their
crafty antagonist should have adopted the plan of doubling on his own
steps, in order to throw his pursuers off the scent.

In this way they continued their survey round the base of the hill to
the left, until they came to a space bare of grass, from which they
were able to note the character of the country beyond, which they
perceived consisted of dense scrub, backed by thick and dark forests.
As they were walking side by side, they both perceived at the same
time the fresh traces of human feet on the sandy soil. They stopped
simultaneously.

"We have come on them at last," said Trevor, "and it was lucky that
we adopted this plan instead of going over the hill direct, for that
way we should have missed them;--but they must have taken off their
shoes, corporal; what is the meaning of this?"

The corporal said nothing, but continued to survey the traces of feet
with much earnestness and with some anxiety.

"By George!" exclaimed Trevor suddenly, "can it be? I say, corporal,
these marks must be the traces of natives' feet!"

"That's sure enough," replied the corporal gravely, and continuing
his scrutiny.

"Do you think they have passed this way recently?"

"I think they have," replied the corporal.

"And many of them?"

"Here are the marks of many feet; and they generally go about in mobs
of thirty or forty."

"You don't seem to like the looks of them, corporal," said Trevor
gaily.

"I don't indeed," replied the corporal seriously. "It's no joke to
meet with the natives in the bush."

"Why, man, suppose there are thirty or forty of them, they are not
all fighting men--half of them must be women."

"No doubt, as your Honour says, half of the men must be women; but
the women can throw spears as well as the men, and they are not a bit
less savage; for when a woman is savage at all, she is always worse
than a man, and she spits and claws like a tiger-cat;--I suppose it's
in their natures to be so--I remember there was Biddy M'Scratchem of
our regiment in the States......"

"But as to these natives, corporal; you have been stationed here
several years, and I am quite new to the place. What sort of weapons
have they besides these spears that you speak of. They have no bows
and arrows?"

"No, your Honour; and it's well for the white people that they
haven't got them; and it shows what wretched ignorant savages they
must be, not to have invented them. For there is plenty of tough wood
like the English yew, fit for bows, and there's the sinews of the
kangaroo ready to their hand to make strings of, and the same wood
that they make their spears of would do for arrows."

"But they can't do much execution with their spears--how long are
they?"

"About ten feet long, or a little more. You can't say they make them,
for they grow all about, and they have only to cut them down and point
them, and then they are fit for use. The native women char the points
in the fire, till they are so hard that they will go through a deal
board; and they can throw them fifty or sixty yards, pretty sure. But
it's the numbers which they throw that worry you. I remember seeing
the body of a stock--keeper that the natives had killed, and it was
pierced all over with little holes from their spears like a sieve, it
was so riddled. Then they have their waddies."

"Those are a sort of clubs?"

"They are not very big; but they are made of some hard sort of wood,
and when they come to close quarters a lot of them will rattle them on
your head till they beat in your skull and smash it to a jelly. It's
the numbers you see, sir,--that is the difficulty; they rush upon a
single man like a swarm of hornets, and he has no chance against such
odds, unless he is lucky enough to get with his back to a tree and has
plenty of ammunition; and then they weary him out at last. And,
besides that, they have got the womera, which they can hurl to a great
distance, and although it doesn't kill, it cripples, and that's almost
as bad in the bush."

"I have heard of the womera," said the Ensign; "and it is remarked as
a most curious accident that the wild and ignorant natives of these
countries have hit on the exact mathematical curve which is most
effective for their purpose in the formation of that singular weapon."

"Indeed, sir! it certainly is a very curious weapon, as you say, and
a most curious sharp clip they can give with it, as a man in our
company can testify, for he had his ankle-bone broken by the brutes;
but the Sydney natives are far more clever in the use of the spear and
the womera than those in Van Diemen's Land. The Sydney blacks throw
the spear with another short stick, with which they are able to cast
it with greater force than by the hand; but I should not like to have
half a dozen spears sticking in my body from the Van Diemen natives,
throw them as they may; not that I mind being hit, but they are nasty
outlandish things to be stuck into one, and the wounds of 'em do no
credit to a man. But I hope we shall not fall in with them after all;
they are ugly things to run against, are those natives, any way."

"You have no love for the natives, that's clear," said the ensign.

"Nor they for the white people. They always kill us whenever they can
catch us alone, or without arms, and I don't see why we should be
sacrificed to such murdering devils. They don't deserve quarter."

"You forget," said Trevor, "that they have some cause to complain of
us, inasmuch as we have dispossessed them of their hunting-grounds,
and driven them into the interior away from their usual haunts."

"There may be something in that," replied the corporal; "but I don't
see, your Honour, what right any set of men have, let them be black or
white, to prevent others from cultivating the lands which they don't
use themselves. It's like the dog in the manger to my mind."

"But they can't understand that," said Trevor. "They see strangers
arrive from the sea, and, either by fraud or force, get possession of
their country, and they resist it;--besides, hunting-grounds to them
are as valuable as pastures and corn-fields to us."

"I cannot pretend to argue with your Honour," replied the corporal;
"but it seems to me that neither savages nor white people have any
right to take to themselves for their hunting or their pleasures the
land which others of God's creatures require for the raising of their
food. Why, your Honour, it takes hundreds of acres of land in an
uncultivated state, to support a few wild animals, which are not much
worth the having when you catch them; whereas tons on tons weight of
potatoes and corn might be grown on the same land if it was ploughed
and sown as the white people know how to do it. No disrespect to your
Honour, but I never can believe that it is fair for savages to rule
over lands which they don't make use of, and which in their power are
only wasted and lost."

"What you say may be all very true, corporal, but the difficulty is
to persuade the natives of the justice of it."

"Why, your Honour, you are never going to compare the natives of this
country to us white people! Savage and brutal wretches as they are!
black, naked cannibals! who kill every white man they can catch hold
of. Why, your Honour, they can hardly be called humans; they are more
like the animals that eat the grass or devour one another."

"The more reason for civilising and educating them," replied Trevor;
"but this is a vexatious question."

"It's very vexatious to be attacked and eat up by them," said the
corporal, "or to have your body drilled full of holes with their
spears, or your skull smashed in by their waddies; but it is not of
ourselves that I am thinking; it's the poor young lady that I am
fearing about; between the bushrangers and the natives she will stand
a poor chance!"

"True," said Trevor, whom that idea at once rendered not less serious
than the corporal at their sudden discovery of the propinquity of the
natives. "Corporal," he continued in a grave tone, "we must prepare
ourselves for a struggle perhaps; but, at all events, we must lose no
time in trying to discover the tracks of the bushranger; that is,
supposing he has descended the hill."

"I can't help thinking," said the corporal, "that things are very
curious! Here are the natives close to us, perhaps, and watching for
an opportunity to attack us, and we are looking out to attack the
bushrangers, so that we have two parties to guard against; and the
bushranger is expecting to be attacked by us, perhaps, and by the
natives as well, so that he has two parties to fight with too; and it
looks as if we should presently be all fighting ourselves and one
another. By the powers! there will be a pretty confusion if it comes
to that! We shall be obliged to fire two ways at once, and stand back
and front at the same time! I wish the poor young lady was well out of
it, that's all I can say:--bushrangers or natives, I don't know which
is the worst for her!"

"Do you happen to know," asked Trevor, "from your own experience, if
the natives of this country are cannibals?"

"I don't know for certain; all I know is, that they never eat me;
but some of the old hands do say that the natives eat human flesh
sometimes; but whether it is some part of their religion, or that they
do it out of relish, nobody seems to know. However if they have any
inclination for it, it is not to be supposed that they would resist
the temptation of a nice white tender young lady, as Miss Helen Horton
is by all accounts; and, for my part, I don't know which would be
worst for the poor lady--to be eaten up by the natives, or to be...."

"Let us move on," said Trevor, stamping his foot on the ground; "and
whether we have to encounter bushrangers, or natives, or devils
themselves, we must stand by each other, and fight to the last gasp."

"I'm your man for that," said the corporal; "I've been getting rusty
for this many a day for want of a scrimmage; and, dead or alive, I'll
stand by your Honour to my last cartridge; and when that's gone, we'll
try the cold steel on them:--but those black wretches will never let
you get up to them; they haven't the sense to wait for the bayonet,
like Christians."

"I think they show their sense by avoiding it; but hush! stop! What
is that on the ground? By Heaven! it is part of a woman's dress!"

"Here is more of it," said the corporal, proceeding in the direction
of the stream.

"Halt there," said the ensign; "let us examine the country a little;
the business seems to be getting serious."

Trevor found that they had arrived at a spot opposite the point
which they had left, as he judged by the bearings, on the other side
of the hill; and they were now in a line with the route of the
bushranger, which led to a shallow bubbling stream at a little
distance. Confident that they were now on the track, they made their
way without delay to the margin of the water, Trevor and the corporal
having picked up several additional pieces of a woman's dress, which
the former did not doubt had formed part of that worn by Helen.

On their arrival at the stream, Trevor remarked the twig which Helen
had stuck into the ground as a guide to her pursuers, and casting his
eyes to the opposite bank, he observed a similar little stick set up
on the other side. Besides these evident hints, the marks of men's
boots were visible on the moist ground close by the water, and among
the marks Trevor distinguished, with a thrill of hope and fear, the
little foot of Helen!

He marvelled at the want of caution displayed by so acute and wary a
character as Mark Brandon, in leaving behind him such tell-tale
evidences of his route; but he attributed it to the confidence which
he guessed the bushranger had of being safe from discovery; and he
congratulated himself that this imprudent reliance on the part of
Brandon would be one of the means of ensuring his capture, and of
effecting the deliverance of Helen.

When he had crossed to the other side of the stream, the first thing
that met his eye was a shred of the same dress which he had already
observed, and at short intervals, other scraps, in a line pointing to
some thick bushes, beyond which was a dense wood of innumerable trunks
of tall trees.

He pointed out these circumstances to the corporal, remarking that
they had the good fortune to be able, under the cover of the scrub, to
advance without detection. Side by side, therefore, and with their
arms in readiness, they approached the covert, Trevor full of hope and
confidence, and the corporal possessed with the cool determination of
an old soldier.

Little did either of them think that they were offering themselves up
an easy prey to the human tiger that was crouching in his lair!




Chapter X. A Native Village.

IT is necessary now to return to the adventures of the Major, who
had set out in search of his lost daughter on the morning after the
departure of Trevor and the corporal from the cave.

He was well equipped for the bush with all the stores and appliances
which the two soldiers who accompanied him could conveniently carry:
but he had forgotten the bush-traveller's companion, a "compass;"
neither had his worthy mate, little thinking that so important a part
of a ship's furniture could be wanted on shore, thought of reminding
him to provide himself with that indispensable article. As the Major
as well as the two soldiers were totally inexperienced in the bush, it
will presently be seen to what grave inconveniences the want of that
most useful instrument exposed him.

But in the mean time the party strode on confidently, till they
espied the native of whom mention has been already made. The
apparition of the black man caused the Major to make a halt for a few
minutes, to consider of the best course to be pursued under the
circumstances.

Bearing in mind that it was the object of the bushranger to escape
from the island, which he could only effect by prevailing on some
vessel to take him on board, or by seizing on some boat fit for his
purpose, the Major had concluded in his own mind that Brandon would
keep near the sea; and it was in that direction, therefore, that he
had bent his steps; keeping a good look-out, however, and bidding his
soldiers to do the same, for any tracks or signs which might indicate
the course of the fugitives.

The appearance of the native was an unexpected incident, but it did
not deter him from persevering in his original intention of making his
way towards the sea coast.

In coming to this resolution, the Major was little aware of the
difficulties which would beset his path, as the sea coast on that part
of the island, exposed as it is to the whole force of the Southern
Ocean, is rocky and precipitous, and travelling is rendered so
difficult as to be almost impossible near the shore. But there was
another difficulty to contend against of a more formidable nature; and
that was, the hostile tribe of natives, who had fixed on that district
as their present locality, seeking it as a place of refuge from the
attacks of the tribes by which they had been driven from their own
hunting-grounds in the interior.

Of the presence of this tribe the Major soon became sensible, for he
had not proceeded far before he came upon a native encampment, which
was formed in a little grove of Mimosa trees, and near a spring of
water flowing from the crevice of a rock. But although the fires were
still burning, the camp was deserted.

This refusal of the natives to communicate with strangers was a
circumstance, as the Major was aware, from the descriptions which he
had read of them, that indicated danger. He proceeded therefore to
examine these, the most rude of all temporary dwelling-places, with
much curiosity, not unmixed with anxiety. The two soldiers who
accompanied him did not conceal their apprehension, which they stated
respectfully, of an immediate attack, and they kept vigilant watch
therefore while their commander pursued his investigations.

The wretched make-shifts which the Major viewed were mere receptacles
for the creatures to lie down under, for they could not be called
huts, inasmuch as the largest of them was not more than four feet
high. He counted nine of them nearly in a row, and almost close
together. They were formed of bark in huge slices, with their smooth
sides inwards, and fronting the fires which were burning about nine or
ten feet from them. The slices of bark had been peeled in lengths of
four to six feet, and from a foot to eighteen inches wide, and were
set on their edges and rudely fastened together. It was under the
shelter of these breakwinds that the natives crouched themselves at
night, and sometimes in the day, without any covering to their bodies,
or any shelter from the rain, more than the scanty bark walls
afforded. There was no appearance of food or of weapons about the
place; a circumstance which led him to conclude that the possessors of
this native village, if village it could be called, had retired
leisurely, and had taken away with them all their goods and chattels.

He discovered some heads of fishes, however, and some bones of
animals, which were mostly small, and which he conjectured had
belonged to the opossums and bandicoots, on which the natives are glad
to feed when they cannot kill a kangaroo; and indeed of the opossum
they are very fond, as they admire the high flavour of that strongly
seasoned animal, which, as it feeds principally on the leaves of the
peppermint tree, is always ready stuffed for table, although neither
its taste nor its odour is by any means pleasing to strangers.

But the Major was not permitted to continue his scientific
observations unmolested. As he shook one of the planks of bark to
ascertain its solidity and texture, a spear from a neighbouring
thicket, about sixty yards distant, warned him that he was intruding
on the domestic arrangements of the proprietors. The soldiers
immediately pointed their guns in the direction of the aggression, and
made ready to fire. But the Major restrained them mildly but firmly:--

"Stop," he said, "we do not come to kill the poor natives of this
country with our superior weapons. We are intruders here; and it is
not surprising that we have excited their suspicions. Let us endeavour
to leave this place without shedding blood, it is our duty to
endeavour to conciliate the native inhabitants of the country by kind
treatment, and by showing that we are come to do them good, and not
harm. We will retire."

Saying this, he hastily sought for some article about his person
which he might leave behind him as a sign of his amicable intentions;
and fortunately finding that he had two knives, one of which was
provided with a strong hack blade and a saw, he raised it aloft, and
then placing it in a conspicuous place on the top of one of the break-
winds, slowly retired.

When he had got to a little distance he stopped, and by gestures
invited the natives, whom he could not see, but who, he had no doubt,
saw him, to advance; but no one appeared. Another spear, however,
which was projected from the same thicket and which fell short, was a
very significant expression on their part of their desire to decline
the pleasure of his company. He retired therefore to a still further
distance, and then faced about again.

But the natives, who viewed his retreat as an evidence of fear, and
who were emboldened by his seeming desire to avoid their spears, now
issued in a black swarm from behind the bushes and rocks; the men,
with waddies in their hands, heading the advance: some of the women
closely following them with spears, while a few of the same sex
remained further in the rear, one or two carrying infants, while
various little black faces might be seen here and there peeping from
behind the rocks and bushes.

Seeing this general assemblage, the Major made a few steps in advance
towards them, being desirous of cultivating amicable relations with
the natives, not only for general politic reasons, but for the purpose
also of availing himself of their assistance in tracking the
bushrangers and recovering his daughter; but he was assailed with a
universal yell of men, women, and children, which would have appalled
a heart less stout than the old soldier's; and at the same time a
flight of spears came whistling towards him, one or two of which
nearly reached his feet.

He endeavoured by all sorts of signs to make them understand that he
wished to speak with them; but as every advance on his part only
increased their frightful shrieks, and as the men continued to hurl
the spears with which the women assiduously supplied them, and to
brandish their waddies with frantic leapings and contortions at the
strangers, he thought it most prudent to abandon his design for the
present, as it seemed plain that further attempts would only lead to
an exasperation of the savages, which would most likely end in the
bloodshed he was so desirous to avoid.

His two soldiers, although they were both of them brave men and stout
fellows, were by no means disinclined to retire from the scene, and
they were soon out of sight of the savages; but it was some time
before they ceased to hear their yells and screechings, which, as one
of the men remarked, "was more like the howling of wild beasts than
anything human;" and the Major again paused to consider which way to
direct his course in pursuit of his daughter.

It seemed clear to him that the bushranger could not have fled in
that direction. He made a considerable detour, therefore, to avoid
coming into collision with the natives, and again endeavoured to
penetrate the country towards the coast. But he found his path so
obstructed by rocks and ravines that he began to despair at last of
making any profitable progress, the more especially as he had no clue
to the course of the bushrangers; and he determined, therefore, to
return to his cave, and endeavour to find the track of the fugitives,
if track there was, from that starting point. But the Major had now to
learn how easy it was for a stranger to the country to be lost in the
intricate mazes of the bush.

In endeavouring to find his way back, he soon became confused by the
hills, mounds, rocks, and trees, all so much alike, that he found it
impossible to recognise those which he had before passed; and this
difficulty is partly to be accounted for by the circumstance that the
traveller in the bush, in going, views objects on one of their sides,
and in coming back views them on their reverse sides, which are
usually very unlike the appearance which they present on their first
aspect.

So it was with the Major; and his followers, though very good
soldiers at drill or in the field, were quite incompetent to assist
him in finding his way through an unknown country. In this way he
crossed the bushranger's track without being aware of it, for he
neither knew where he was nor which way he was going.

He endeavoured to guide his course by the sun, and frequently thought
he had hit on the right direction; but unforeseen obstacles rose in
his way, and unknown and unexpected objects puzzled and baffled him;
so that at last, bewildered and weary, he sat down under a shady blue
gum tree, utterly at a loss which way to direct his steps.

As they were well supplied with provisions, the two soldiers, at a
hint from their superior, quickly produced their stores; and if the
anxiety of the Major had affected his appetite, it was clear, from the
alarming inroads which his followers made in their stock of
provisions, that they were not restrained in satisfying their bodily
wants by their mental sensibilities.

But towards the close of their refection, they came to a sudden
pause; for as they were pretty well stuffed to their throats, they
found themselves in urgent want of some fluid to clear their passages
for a fresh supply. They intimated their distressing state to their
commander, who, feeling the same want, rose from the grass and
accompanied them in their search for water.

But, as is frequently the case with that important article--whose
value is never estimated properly until the want of it is felt, as in
the present instance--the water which they looked for was not so easy
to be found; and although they descended, at the cost of much time and
labour, into several promising dells and hollows, they could discover
no indication of a spring.

Exhausted with fatigue, and parched with thirst, which the sup of
brandy which they had had recourse to heightened to a painful degree,
the party again sat down among some rocks between two hills which
nearly met, and while the soldiers stretched themselves on the ground
uneasily, the Major, borne down by the fatigue of travelling in the
bush, and by the weight of affliction which preyed upon him at the
uncertain fate of his daughter, rested his head on his arm, and became
plunged in melancholy thought.

In this position they remained for a considerable time, when the
stillness of their solitude was interrupted by a sight which
powerfully excited their curiosity.




Chapter XI. Oionoo.

IT was one of the men who first observed a figure moving up the
ravine in which they were lying; he pointed it out to his comrade, who
touched the Major's foot with a dead branch which lay ready to his
hand, and the three remained without moving, their eyes fixed on the
object.

The Major at once perceived that it was a native, who was advancing
cautiously towards them, and who seemed anxiously looking out on every
side, as if in search of something.

"It is a spy of those black devils, looking out for us," said one of
the soldiers.

"It's a woman, by George," said the other, as the native continued
her advance.

"I wish it had been a man," continued the first, who had levelled his
piece sharp-shooter fashion towards the native; "it goes against one's
feeling to fire at a woman."

"She is tall and straight," remarked the second, "and if it wasn't
for her being black, she wouldn't be amiss."

"She looks like a young girl," said the other, as the native advanced
nearer.

But it seems that the sound of his voice had struck her ear; for she
stopped, listened; snuffed the air like a pointer scenting game;
looked about on all sides; and turning her head half round behind,
remained for a brief space in an attitude of fixed attention.

The Major regarded the native girl with much attention; and the men
seeing that she was alone, were only curious to observe her motions.

She remained for some time fixed and motionless as a statue, her
black body shining like polished ebony. She was entirely naked; there
was no mark of paint or of tattooing visible on her sleek and glossy
skin; and her hair was not woolly, but hung from her head some inches
behind in frizzy curls.

Presently, suspecting, as it seemed, that some danger was nigh, she
resumed her walk, but with more caution even than at first. With a
timid and frightened look, she turned her large eyes, which were
singularly black and bright, towards the spot where the Major and his
men were hidden, and tried to pierce into the space before her, which
the shades of the evening had begun to render obscure, treading
lightly, and lifting up her feet in that peculiar manner
characteristic of the natives, who walk like a high-stepping horse, in
order to clear the dead wood with which their path in the woods is
encumbered.

To judge from the supple movements of her well-formed limbs, the
Major guessed that she was possessed of great agility; but there was a
something in her manner which convinced him that she was not abroad
with any hostile intentions. Indeed, her countenance, when she was
close enough for them to observe it, expressed suspicion and fear,
rather than any other feeling.

As she approached the spot where they lay concealed amidst loose
rocks and stones, she suddenly stopped again, and snuffed the air with
her broad flat nose, and made a step back, as if with the intention of
flying from some unusual danger.--But after a few moments of anxious
scrutiny of the point which she had left, she again advanced a few
steps with a quick motion, as if she thought it better to encounter
the new danger that was before than that which was behind; and again
she stopped and snuffed the air, and seemed surprised and alarmed at
some unexpected discovery.

The Major whispered as low as possible to his men:--

"We must take this woman."

Low as his whisper was, however, it was heard by the quick-eared
native. She gave a frightened look towards the spot where they lay
concealed, and at that moment the two soldiers starting up, the girl
uttered a loud scream of fear, and darted up the steep ascent before
them.

The men followed; but they would have had little chance in pursuing a
native in the bush, had not the girl, in looking back to see if her
pursuers were nigh, stumbled over a loose stone and fallen to the
ground. Paralysed as she was with fear, before she could recover
herself, and uncertain perhaps which way to fly, for it seemed to her
that there was danger on every side, the men seized her by the arms.
She made no struggle, but, doubling herself up, she sat on her hams
and bent down her head in terror, expecting doubtless, that she was to
be put to death.

In this state the Major approached the native with the intention of
calming her fears; but for some time she remained in such an agony of
terror as to be insensible, seemingly, to all that was going on around
her, and her whole body shook and shivered with fear.

The Major directed his men to release her arms. They did so, but the
native showed no sign of being sensible of the restraint having been
withdrawn.

He spoke to her kindly and soothingly; but the girl's teeth continued
to chatter with terror.

He extended his hand and patted her on the shoulder as jockeys do
horses when they desire to calm them; but the native, supposing,
perhaps, that this was done in order to ascertain if she was fat
enough to be eaten, only shuddered the more, and shrunk herself up
from the touch of the strange creatures, the like of whom she had
never beheld before!

The poor Major was puzzled to know how to communicate with her, or
what to do, now he had got her, with the young lady whom he had so
violently taken under his protection. But as he was desirous of making
use of the native to guide him back to his cave, he determined to
persevere in his attempt to bring about a mutual good understanding.

He desired one of his men to give him a bit of "damper," which he
offered to the native, but she would not take it. He then ate a bit
himself, and invited her by signs to do the same. She looked wistfully
at it for a moment; there was hunger in her looks, the Major thought.

He put the bit of damper down on the ground. She raised her head up
timidly, and looked at the two soldiers, and then at the bread. At
last she took it in her hand, and smelt it, tasted it, and ate it up
greedily. The men, as she opened her mouth, could not refrain from an
involuntary exclamation:--

"What grinders!"

Seeing that she liked it, the Major threw her another piece. The
native ate that also.

"Try her with some brandy," said one of the soldiers.

He poured out a small quantity into a metal mug which they had
brought with them, and the Major, after having taken a little sip to
show the lady how the liquor was to be disposed of, handed her the
vessel with his arm outstretched, much in the same manner as a visitor
hands a morsel to a wild animal in a cage in the Zoological Gardens.
She took it, and having smelled at it, let it drop.

"D----her," said one of the soldiers, "the black brute has wasted the
brandy!"

The tone of the soldier's voice as he uttered this exclamation,
excusable perhaps in the bush, where brandy is scarce, seemed to renew
the fright of the native. She looked round her timidly, as if
meditating escape.

"Give me some sugar," said the Major; "we will try her with that."

The man unpacked his parcel in a twinkling, and brought it to the
Major, who, grasping a small handful of it, placed it on a piece of
the bark of a tree, and putting some of it in his mouth, passed the
bark plate to the lady, who took it without hesitation.

She smelled at it as before, and poked it with her finger, which she
carried to her mouth. Seeming satisfied with the taste, she poked her
finger into it again, and then diligently licked it with much apparent
satisfaction. Then, being unable to resist the temptation of its
sweetness, she bore the piece of bark on which the sugar was deposited
to her mouth, and ate it all up in a moment, cleaning the bark with
her tongue of any remaining crumbs as a dog does a plate.

This last mark of attention on the part of her entertainer seemed to
re--assure her considerably; her trembling ceased; and she sat on her
hams more composedly than before. The Major now tried by signs to make
her understand what he wanted.

He pretended to drink, and looked all about as if he was trying to
find water. The native understood him, and pointing in the direction
of the path by which she had come, shook her black poll, and made
signs of being frightened at something from which she had fled. Then
pointing in a direction forwards she nodded her head, and rising from
her sitting position began to move forward.

Had the Major been a younger man, he would not perhaps have minded
the total absence of dress on the lady's person, which, as she stood
on her hind legs, was more conspicuous and striking than it had been
in her sitting posture; but, as he was the father of a family, he
would have preferred that she should have been clothed with some sort
of covering however trifling.

Desirous of remedying the deficiency in some way, he drew his
handkerchief from his pocket, and presented it to the black lady, not
being able to express his meaning by words, nor even by signs, but
hoping that what is called the natural modesty of her sex would prompt
her to make a proper application of the gift. The native girl accepted
the handkerchief readily, and turning round on the strange white man,
whom she rewarded with a smile which exhibited to view her formidable
row of teeth, tied the handkerchief round her head, and continued her
way.

"She knows no better," said the Major to himself; "and, after all,
our civilised habits are only conventional; but certainly if a lady of
any colour was to appear at court in the old country in that state of
primitive simplicity, it would produce no slight sensation."

The further philosophical reflections which he might have made on
this point of etiquette were put a stop to by the native suddenly
pointing to a tiny stream of water which trickled from the side of the
declivity. The Major and his men drank of it eagerly, and the native
drank some also, the sugar having made her thirsty; and when the party
had satisfied themselves with the pure element, which the men remarked
would mix admirably with any sort of spirit, but to which hint the
Major paid no attention, the question was, what was to be done next?

The young lady showed no disposition to escape, and seemed to wait
quietly to know how she was to be disposed of; but as the evening was
advancing, and as it was nearly dark, the excellent Major was somewhat
puzzled to know what to do with his new acquisition during a night
bivouac. If it was possible, he thought it would be best to endeavour
to reach the cave that night, but as he calculated that he must be at
a great distance from it, he despaired of being able to accomplish the
journey, fatigued as he was with his day's march.

He essayed, however, to communicate his desire by signs. He pointed
to the water of the spring, and endeavoured to make her comprehend the
idea of a large quantity of water spread over a wide surface. It
seemed that the native comprehended him, for she stretched out her arm
towards the right and shook her head, exhibiting signs of great fear
from that quarter;--what the cause of her fear was it was impossible
for them to make out;--but they could make her understand nothing
further.

The Major was inclined to regard her as a fugitive from her tribe, or
perhaps a prisoner who had escaped, for he could not otherwise account
for her being alone, and for the expression of alarm which she had
displayed in her demeanour before they had secured her.

His men took the liberty to represent to him, that the natives were a
savage and treacherous race, and that it was very likely that this
young girl had been sent out as a decoy, in order to throw them off
their guard; and they related many instances, which they had heard in
camp, of the cunning of the blacks, and of their insuperable animosity
to the white people.

This view of the case, however, the Major repudiated, for the girl's
countenance, black as it was, had something in it of that softness
which is never entirely absent from the youthful of her sex; and her
manner indicated besides, as it struck him, that she was in want of
protection, and was inclined to accept it even from the white people
rather than again encounter the dangers from which she had recently
escaped.

He pursued his inquiries, therefore, and made another attempt to
communicate with the native by the universal language of signs,
although the coming darkness scarcely allowed him sufficient light for
his operations.

He directed one of the men to scoop out a hollow basin in the course
of the rill, which soon filled the excavation with water. He then took
a piece of the bark of a tree, and stuck a couple of sticks in it to
represent miniature masts, clothing them with pieces of paper to
represent sails. He then, by signs and gestures, contrived to make the
black girl understand that he wanted to go to a great thing like that.

The girl looked at it attentively for some time, gazing alternately
at the mimic ship and at the Major, as if striving to comprehend his
meaning. Suddenly she broke out into a wild laugh, and clasped her
hands, and pointed with her finger in a direction over a high tier of
hills.

The Major made signs to her to go forward in the direction in which
she pointed, but she showed much reluctance to move, for the night was
setting in, and the natives have a great dread of travelling in the
dark, fearing to fall into the power of an evil spirit. The Major was
not aware of the cause of her fear, but it was clear that she was
afraid of something, and he showed to her the guns of himself and the
soldiers to re-assure her; but it was evident, from her manner, that
she did not comprehend the use of such weapons.

He then directed his men to unsheath their bayonets. She retreated at
the sight of these strange instruments, but the Major, taking one of
them in his hand, offered it to her. She took hold of it, but let it
drop immediately, alarmed at its coldness, and at the unusual feel of
metal.

But as, in falling on its point, it stuck in the ground, the
circumstance seemed to strike her with much admiration; and when the
Major picked it up and offered it to her again she took it, and
continued to hold it in her hand, though a little frightened. As it
did not move, however, and as she felt no harm, she touched the point
gently with her finger and was surprised at its sharpness.

The Major then made signs to her to hold the weapon in her hand and
move forward; and the native, after a little hesitation, and seeing
that the white strangers showed no signs of fear in the dark, and
supposing perhaps that the curious cold spear which they had given to
her was a protection against the evil spirit, set out at a tolerably
rapid pace in the direction to which she had pointed as the place
where the great moving thing that resembled the little bark ship lay
in the wide water.

Her new friends followed, keeping a sharp eye on her to guard against
an escape; but of this it afterwards proved the poor girl was not
thinking; and after a brisk walk of about three miles, after passing
over some high hills, the Major suddenly found himself on the margin
of the bay; and, as he presently perceived, not far from the cave
which he desired to reach.

He now became aware that he had been wandering nearly the whole of
the day in a part of the country abounding in high and low hills, and
at a comparatively small distance from the place of his destination,
confused as he had been by the intricacies of the bush. Determining to
profit by this lesson, he led the way at a rapid pace to his old
encampment, having previously relieved the girl from her bayonet for
fear of accidents, and having invited her by signs to accompany him.

The native now, in her turn, followed her conductor with great
willingness; a circumstance which rather surprised the Major, as it
betokened a confidence which he had been given to understand was
altogether contrary to the disposition and the habits of the
aborigines; but the reason was afterwards explained when she had been
taught sufficient words in the English language to enable her to
express her meaning.

The Major now thought that he might do an acceptable service to the
colony and to the government by taming the wild creature which had
thus been placed in his power, and who seemed well contented to abide
with him and to receive his commands.

He determined therefore to make the attempt, not a little pleased to
have the opportunity of studying closely a specimen of the singular
people who inhabited a country unlike any other part of the known
world.

With this view, he made up his mind at once to send her on board the
brig, and to place her under the care of his daughter Louisa, to whom
she might be taught perhaps to perform the part of a female attendant.

He immediately made the signal to the brig which had been agreed on,
by lighting three fires on the beach at particular distances; and the
distant sound of oars on the water soon proclaimed that his signal had
been understood and attended to. The mate was not in the boat, and the
Major immediately despatched it back for clothes of some sort for
their visitor; not liking, although it was night, that his new
acquaintance should make her appearance in her present unsophisticated
condition before his daughter.

The boat returned promptly; and the Major, with much delicacy, showed
the young lady how to put on a pair of sailor's trousers, which he
tied on with a bit of rope yarn round her middle. Over this was placed
a petticoat to give her a proper feminine appearance; and a faded
light blue spencer, which hooked on behind, "put her bows in decent
trim," as a sailor expressed it.

Her head was left bare, and shoes and stockings were dispensed with;
and thus elegantly dressed, the young lady was politely assisted into
the boat by the sailors, where she squatted down on her hams,
preserving an extraordinarily grave countenance all the time, the poor
creature being in truth utterly lost in astonishment as to what had
been done and what was to happen next. Thus freighted, with the
addition of the Major and the two soldiers, the boat was rapidly rowed
to the vessel.

The affectionate Louisa was overjoyed to see her father again; a
delight, however, which was presently damped by the thought of his ill
success in search after her sister Helen, and by his informing her
that it was his intention to recommence his journey at the dawn of
day. With respect to the novel sort of lady's maid which her father
had brought for her, she felt a little repugnance at first to allow
the black girl to remain in close proximity to her person.

But that feeling presently wore off, and she soon ceased to regard
the colour of her skin; while the gentle aspect of the kind-hearted
Louisa and the soft and silvery tones of her voice so won on the
simple heart of the native, who was not long in learning that the
beautiful creature, who she at first supposed had come from the skies,
was of the same sex as herself, that she threw herself on the floor of
the cabin, uttering sounds which were unintelligible; and then raising
her head, laughed, and addressed to Louisa some words which, although
spoken in an unknown and barbarous tongue, were evidently meant for
the expression of her gratitude, and obedience, and devotion.

The personal appearance of the native was so grotesque, that Louisa
could not forbear some little laughter at the incongruous nature of
her habiliments. Her laughter seemed to please the girl. She coiled
herself up at Louisa's feet, and although her wild bright eyes glanced
rapidly at every motion or sound that occurred, she seemed quite
resigned, and pleased with her new position.

Louisa made attempts to talk with her, but that was impossible. She
tried to find out the name of her new acquaintance, but it was some
time before the native could be brought to comprehend what she wanted.
At last, by frequently repeating her own name and pointing to herself,
she made the girl understand her meaning. The native repeated the name
of, "Louisa," with a readiness and correctness which was quite
startling: and then pointing to herself, said, "Oionoo."

"Oionoo," repeated Louisa.

The young native girl, at the sound of her own name thus pronounced,
showed the most extravagant signs of joy. She again threw herself on
the ground before Louisa, and kissed her feet, while great tears ran
from her bright fierce eyes down her black face, and she seemed
convulsed with the most violent emotion.

The Major regarded this scene with extreme surprise, and his
daughter was much affected by it. They could not conjecture the reason
of the violent emotion of the black girl; and they were not aware that
she was in fact the last of her tribe, and had escaped, when she was
encountered by the Major, from those who were about to put her to a
cruel death.

How amply the kindness which was bestowed by the fair and gentle
Louisa on the forlorn native girl was afterwards repaid by services
the most important, will be seen in the sequel of this narration.




Chapter XII. A Fight with the Natives.

IT is impossible to describe in words the intensity of the terror of
Helen, as she sat on the ground a helpless spectator of the deadly
preparations made by the bushranger for the destruction of those whom
she doubted not were her lover and her father!

And if Trevor was foremost in her thoughts in that time of mortal
agony, it was from no lack of filial affection towards her parent, but
it was in accordance with that powerful principle of our nature which
prompts a woman's heart--in its absorbing love for that one being whom
it has selected from all other men in whom to confide her virgin
trust--to consider him as all in all to her--and of all things on
earth the most precious and the dearest!

It was in vain that she racked her brain to find some expedient
either to divert the bushranger from his object, or to frustrate his
design. She thought that she would scream out, in the hope that her
voice might be heard in the stillness of the bush, so that Trevor
might be warned of his danger.--But then she considered, that, if she
made use of such means of giving him notice prematurely, it would only
cause her own instant death without benefiting him.

It occurred to her also that she should have the means of
ascertaining her lover's and her father's near approach from the looks
and gestures of the bushranger, and that it would be best for her to
reserve her caution until they were near enough to profit by it;
then--what might be her own fate--he being safe--signified nothing!

Neither was poor Jeremiah Siliman insensible to the peril which hung
over the friends advancing to their rescue; but the fatigue of his
long march, encumbered as he was with a heavy load, and the frequent
rebuffs and threats which he had experienced from Mark Brandon, and
the blows which he had suffered from the brutal Grough, without his
being able to defend himself or to retaliate, had so broken down his
spirit, that he had become almost like an impassive piece of mechanism
at the will of his captors.

He could not, however, survey unmoved the cool and impenetrable Mark
Brandon with his fowling-piece directed in the line leading from the
side of the stream to the thicket; and his good feeling predominating
over his fears, he ventured to begin a remonstrance with Brandon on
the cruelty of his proceeding:--

"Mr. Mark Brandon," he began, "I have a thousand pounds in dollars
...."

But before he could proceed further he felt the butt-end of Grough's
musket on his head, which stretched him prostrate on the ground.
Grough was about to repeat the hint to be quiet by a second blow,
which would have silenced for ever poor Jerry's tongue, when he was
stopped by a sign from Brandon, who, making a significant gesture, and
pointing towards the line on which their pursuers were expected, said
in a low firm voice:--

"Be ready."

Grough immediately brought his musket to his shoulder, covering
obliquely the point at which Brandon's weapon was directed.

The bushranger cocked his fowling-piece;--Grough did the same.

The sound of those two "clicks," in the awful silence of the bush,
rang in Helen's ears like the tolling bell of her lover's doom!--She
felt that the decisive moment was come!

The bushranger ran his eye down the hollow between the barrels of
his piece--for it was his habit to fire with his left barrel first--
and edged the sight a little to the right of his victim;--it was a
deadly aim.

Helen now tried to scream out:--but excess of terror paralysed her!
She opened her mouth;--but her voice stuck in her throat! She could
utter no sound! The moments were fleeting away! In another her lover
would be slain!.....

"Fire!" said Brandon.

But at the instant when he pronounced the word, a shower of spears
from behind came whistling through the bushes. One of them struck
Brandon's right shoulder, and another stuck in Grough's huge back,
which caused the discharge of both to be ineffectual.

Helen and Jeremiah being on the ground, the spears passed harmlessly
over them; but the report of the guns, and the sudden appearance of
the native spears acting as a sudden shock on Helen, she gave vent to
her pent-up shrieks, which apprised Trevor--who, not heeding the
shots, that missed him, was advancing with the corporal at the
charge--that his mistress was nigh, and in danger!

At the same time a yell arose from the body of natives, who had, as
they thought, surprised the white people at a disadvantage, which,
responding to Helen's shrieks, made the bushes and woods resound with
discordant cries.

Nor did the natives delay in following up their first discharge of
spears by a bodily attack on those whom they considered as the
spoliators of their country. They knew but little of the nature of
fire-arms, but some of them had learned that after the first noise of
the thunder, an interval must elapse before it could be made again.
The white men, Brandon and Grough, therefore, having done their
thunder, the natives in a mob made a rush, with frightful yells, on
their enemies, and Helen and Jerry found themselves in the midst of
the blacks, who fell on the two bushrangers with inconceivable fury.

Brandon, being unable to resist the impetuosity of this first onset,
called out to Grough to come to his side, and retreated on the right
hand side of the thicket, while Trevor and the corporal charged to the
left, where they were encountered by the natives, who had driven away
the other two, and who, flushed with success, immediately attacked the
newcomers with their waddies.

Trevor fired, and shot one and wounded another of the natives with
his double-barrel, but as they did not cease from their attack, the
corporal was obliged to fire before Trevor had time to load again. He
killed one of the savages on the spot, but the natives, heated with
the combat, and confiding in their numbers, and emboldened besides by
the flight of the other two white men, continued to press forward; and
Trevor and the corporal were obliged to retreat, in order to get free
from the crowd which assailed them, and to load their weapons. When
they emerged from the thicket, they beheld on their right the two
bushrangers.

The natives, on their retreat, which was almost simultaneous with
that of Brandon and Grough, set up a shout of triumph, and pursued
them closely. The four white men--two and two, and at the distance of
about a hundred yards from each other--retired in the same direction,
till they reached the stream which they had previously crossed.

But short as was the time which it took them in this quick flight,
the steady and practised corporal was enabled to insert a cartridge
into the barrel of his musket, which he instantly rammed down, and
then faced about.

"Load, sir," he said to the ensign, "as quick as you can." At the
same time he fired at the mob of natives yelling after them, and
checked their advance. Before the ensign had loaded the corporal had
fired again, and had brought down another native.

There was a short pause; and the cries of the natives for a few
moments ceased.

Trevor took advantage of the opportunity, and, raising his voice,
called out to the men on his left:

"If you are Mark Brandon, as I suppose you are, I promise you a free
pardon if you will join us against the natives? Where is the young
lady?"

Brandon, who had retained the most perfect coolness during the sharp
and sudden conflict with the savages who were still in considerable
numbers before him, replied immediately, and with a voice seemingly of
entire unconcern at the danger of his position:--

"What authority have you for promising a pardon; and what assurance
can you give me that I may trust you?"

"My word of honour as a soldier and a gentleman," replied the ensign.
"I will promise you good treatment, and I will use my best endeavours
with the governor for your pardon."

"Is that all?" returned the bushranger, with a sneering laugh;--but
at that moment a threatening movement on the part of the natives
stopped his reply:

"Don't fire on the natives," he said to his comrade--"let the others
do it. See! the soldier has fired."

The fire of the corporal disabled another native, and checked the
rest, among whom there appeared some hesitation.

"If that is all," resumed the bushranger, calling out to Trevor, "I
had rather remain as I am."

"Let us shoot them both," said Grough; "we can deal with the natives
afterwards."

"We can do better than that," replied Brandon:--"besides--never
commit murder if you can help it. It is our being here I think that
keeps the natives off from the soldiers. They don't like to make a
rush on four white men armed with guns. I can see they are wavering at
this moment."

Saying this, he retired with his comrade beyond the stream, and took
his station at the foot of the hill.

The natives, seeing this retreat, gathered courage again; and they
began to assail their two remaining enemies with spears.

"That rascally bushranger," said the corporal, "has got some devilry
in his head; you see he has got behind us, so that we are between two
fires, and his going off makes those black villains more confident. We
must shoot some more of them before they will leave us alone."

"We must make our way through them," replied the ensign. "I heard
the voice of Miss Horton in yonder thicket, and we must rescue her or
die in the attempt."

"Your Honour has only to say the word," said the corporal.

"Come on then," exclaimed Trevor, darting forwards.

The corporal fixed his bayonet and advanced side by side with his
officer against the natives, who were collected together in a dense
body of fifty or sixty, and were jabbering to one another with
excessive vehemence.

"Shall I fire?" asked the corporal.

"Reserve your fire," said the ensign; "perhaps they will retire
without shedding more blood."

But the natives received the charge firmly, and met their enemies
with a shower of spears, which, as the distance was not more than
twenty yards, told dangerously on the two soldiers. The ensign
received one in his left breast, and the corporal had three for his
share. They fired simultaneously.

"I have brought one down," cried the corporal.

"And I another," responded the ensign.

"Stand firm," said the corporal, "they are going to make another
rush."

The natives discharged another shower of spears, which hit both the
ensign and the corporal.

Trevor fired, and in a second afterwards the corporal banged at
them, which checked the savages again.

"Load, sir, quick," said the corporal, "they have not had enough
yet. But you are bleeding fast, sir; those two last spears have done
mischief."

"And you are bleeding too, corporal. We must increase our distance,
so as to get out of the reach of their spears while we can command
them with our long shots; or shall we make another charge at them?"

"They are too many," replied the corporal. "It is as much as we can
do to defend ourselves; and if we get off with our lives we shall do
very well. This mob is one of the most determined that I have heard of
on the island."

"We MUST advance and rescue Miss Horton," exclaimed Trevor.

"I am ready, your Honour," repeated the corporal, "to try a charge
again; but they are too many, sir, to be got over that way; we must
ply them with long shots--and, come what may, the young lady must be
saved from their clutches. The black wretches shan't eat her if I can
help it."

"Fire again," said Trevor, stamping his foot on the turf--"fire."

"There goes down another," said the corporal, as he obeyed his
officer with the most cheerful readiness, and promptly recharged his
musket; "if we keep up a steady fire, your Honour, we must break them
up at last. Only don't be without a shot in one of your barrels. It is
the rush of the savages that is the danger, and we ought always to
have a reserve fire to check it. They don't seem to like it,"
continued the corporal, as he fired away as fast as possible.

"They are off, sir, our bullets are too hard for them."

"Don't fire if they run," said the ensign, in a faint voice.

"Your Honour is bleeding very fast," exclaimed the corporal,
grounding his musket, and regarding his officer with much concern.

"Never mind! see, the natives are retreating; now we will follow up
and charge--but don't fire unless they attack us--now, charge!"

But as Trevor spoke, his voice grew fainter and fainter; he made a
step or two forward--he staggered, and presently fell to the ground.
Loss of blood from the wounds of the natives' spears had exhausted
him; he made an effort to rise, but he sunk down again on the grass,
and fainted.




Chapter XIII. A Bush Supper.

THE corporal was not a man to lose his presence of mind at a faint.
He had seen too much service, and had been in too many fights to be
scared at the sight of a dying man. But he could not refrain from
giving utterance to his indignation at his officer being wounded--and
slain it might be--by "those black rascals," he muttered, "and with
such tools as these," as he contemptuously kicked a spear on one side
with his foot.

"Such murdering wretches," said he, as he shook his musket towards
the spot where the retreating natives had disappeared among the
bushes, "don't deserve quarter. And now I suppose they are going to
make a feast of that poor young lady!--a delicate morsel she will be
for them--the blackguard cannibals!"

It was well that Trevor's condition did not allow him to hear the
last exclamation of the angry corporal, who, promptly fetching some
water in his cap from the adjacent stream, threw it over his officer's
face. Then observing that the blood flowed most from one particular
spot under his right shoulder, he opened Trevor's coat, and applying a
suitable bandage, soon had the satisfaction to see that the flowing of
the blood ceased. He fetched another capful of water from the stream,
and dashed it plentifully over Trevor's face, and wishing mentally
that he had ever so little a drop of brandy, he endeavoured to pour
some water down his throat. Trevor seemed to revive at this, and the
corporal continued his attempts, till at last, to his great joy, he
saw his officer open his eyes.

He urged him to take a good drink. Trevor drank some of the water,
which refreshed him; for he was faint as well from want of food and
drink as from loss of blood. Presently he was able to stand up; and
although weak and tottering, he insisted on proceeding into the
thicket in search of Helen.

The corporal endeavoured to dissuade him from so rash a proceeding,
and offered to go alone; but to this the ensign would not consent,
urging that he was strong enough to pull a trigger, and as his double
barrel had been reloaded by the corporal, they could fire three times
without loading, if there should be occasion for more fighting.

Leaning on the corporal's arm, therefore, he made his way into the
thicket, behind which Brandon had been hidden, and from which had
proceeded the shriek which Trevor did not doubt had been wrung from
Helen in her double fear of the bushrangers and the natives.

But when they arrived at the spot they could see nothing of her, for
whom alone Trevor was at that moment solicitous. There were several
bodies of the natives lying about, and the marks of much trampling on
the grass:--but no living thing was to be seen.

The corporal having cast his eye about for a convenient object,
supported the ensign to the foot of a dense thicket at no great
distance, and requesting him to sit up and lean against the matted
branches, so that he might be protected from a sudden attack from
behind, offered, "with his permission," to make a survey round about
to endeavour to discover some trace of the young lady.

To this the ensign assented; and the corporal immediately proceeded
to make rapid circles around, keeping a sharp eye on every bush which
might conceal an enemy; but without success. He continued his search
for some time, and even penetrated for some distance into the wood
beyond;--but he could see nothing of Miss Horton nor of the natives:
they had disappeared as suddenly as they had come, and he feared that
they had taken the young lady away to make a feast of her; a suspicion
which he communicated freely to Trevor on his return, with many
supplemental embellishments of that horrible surmise.

Trevor could only reply by a faint groan of anguish. He attempted to
rise, but was unable from weakness.

The corporal again made a diligent investigation of every square
yard of ground, as well as the dusk which was now coming on would
allow him, on the spot where the fight had begun. But he could find no
trace of the poor girl, living or dead; nor of the other prisoner--the
gentleman--Mr. Silliman--whose body was no where to be found.

The corporal, having made his report to the ensign, requested his
"further orders;" and receiving his request to do as well as he could
under the circumstances--for Trevor was too weak to walk--he
immediately set himself about making such preparations for passing the
night as the place afforded.

He gathered some of the soft and flowering branches of a Mimosa tree
which stood close by, and made of them a tolerably soft bed; and by
cutting some stout stakes with his clasp knife from a grove of
straight--stemmed shrubs which grew by the margin of the water, he
contrived to prop up other boughs which he gathered, so as to make a
tolerable bush hut for Trevor, and sufficient at that season of the
year to shelter him from the weather.

Having accomplished this to his satisfaction, he began to resolve
the serious question of "how the garrison was to be victualled?"

There was drink enough, for the stream of fresh and sparkling water
at hand ran close by, and the corporal knew very well that so long as
a soldier can get a good drink of clear water, although he might
grumble a little for want of spirits, he could not come to any great
harm; but food was indispensable. While the old soldier was "rummaging
his head," as he expressed it, for remembrances of expedients under a
similar difficulty in his various campaigns, and regretting the non-
existence of villages and farm-houses in those desolate regions, he
beheld to his infinite delight an immense kangaroo hopping leisurely
towards the water on the other side of the stream.

The animal advanced at a slow pace; some times hopping and sometimes
moving on all-fours, as he was enticed to stop on his way by some
patch of sweet grass which particularly tempted him. Now and then the
animal raised himself up to his full height, as he rested on the
inferior joints of his hind legs, with his long tail serving as a part
of his triangular support behind; and then the corporal guessed that
he stood at least six feet high, and his heart leaped within him as he
surveyed the magnificent piece of game, for he had made up his mind
that "on that kangaroo he and his officer should sup that night."

The kangaroo hopped on straight to the water; and putting down his
head, prepared to drink; but suddenly raising it up again, snuffed the
air, and looked fearfully about.

So exquisitely delibrat are the senses of those timid animals, that
the noise made by the corporal in the cocking of his musket, and the
separating of the bushes on the other side of the stream, which was
not more than a dozen yards across, alarmed the creature, and it was
about to take to flight; but at that critical moment the report of the
corporal's musket rang in the air and the poor kangaroo, making a
mighty spring from the ground, fell dead; for the ball had passed
through its small and deer-like head, and life was gone in an instant.

The sound of the corporal's piece put Trevor on the alert, and he
looked anxiously about for the new enemy which the alarm betokened. He
was not a little relieved when he saw his faithful subaltern
staggering under the load of the hind-quarters of a kangaroo on his
shoulders which he held there by the hind-legs, and which seemed as
much as he could carry, while the ponderous tail of the animal hung
down the corporal's back behind, and bumped him as he walked along,
keeping time, as it were, with the corporal's movements.

"There," said the corporal, as he cast his burthen heavily on the
ground; "there's supper for us, at any rate;--and now, to cook it!"

The old campaigner was not long in lighting a fire with the dead
brushwood which lay about; and while the embers were burning clear he
occupied himself in cutting some tender steaks, artistically, from the
loins, the most delicate part of the animal, and which he had taken
care to include in the portion of the carcass which he had brought
with him.

He then looked about for two convenient stakes, two feet and a half
long, with a fork at the end of each, which he laid on the ground
ready for use. He had taken out the kidneys and liver of the animal;
the latter of which he placed to bake in a convenient receptacle of
hot ashes; as the liver of the kangaroo, from its extreme dryness, is
used by the old traveller in the bush as a substitute for bread to eat
with the other part of the flesh.

From the kidneys, which is the only part of the animal on which,
except in very rare cases, any grease is to be found, for the kangaroo
is almost all lean and sinew, the corporal carefully separated all the
fat he could find. Then taking his iron ramrod,--first carefully
ramming down a cartridge, having previously primed, into the barrel of
his musket, he slipped it through the pieces of flesh and fat which he
had cut, after the manner of more ancient heroes--taking a layer of
flesh and a layer of fat alternately.

Matters being thus in progress, and the corporal in a state of
considerable excitement, he scraped away with a stake as much of the
burning wood as he did not want for his cooking, and reserved the
clear glowing embers of the hot charcoal for his kitchen fire. Then
driving in his short stakes, one on each side of the live coals, with
their forked ends uppermost, he laid his ramrod, which performed the
part of a spit, on the upright supports, the two ends resting on the
two forks, with the fire in the middle. This being arranged, he set
himself to turn his ramrod round and round with great assiduity, so
that the pieces of flesh might be equally roasted. He kept his eye
also on the liver, which was baking, as he declared, "beautifully."

A sudden thought, however, striking him, he took the liberty to ask
the ensign if he felt himself strong enough to turn the ramrod while
he manufactured some plates, and procured some water, to which Trevor
cheerfully assented.

The corporal then cast his eyes about, and spying a tree, which
seemed to his mind, about a hundred yards to the left, and not far
from the water, he proceeded to the spot, and cut through the bark
with his knife, though not without much difficulty, and peeled a long
strip, which he broke into two pieces--one for a plate for his
officer, and the other for himself.

Thus provided, and with his cap full of water for their drink, he
returned to the fire, and finding the meat cooked, he slid off a
couple of slices, which he presented to the ensign on his bark-plate,
waiting, with much deference, for his officer to finish his meal
before he began his own.

"Eat, my good fellow," said Trevor: "this is neither a time nor place
for ceremony; we are comrades now."

The corporal swung his open hand up to his forehead, but missing the
peak of his military cap, was baulked in the military obeisance which
he intended; perhaps he would have completed his salute by touching
the peak of the cap as it stood on the grass like a jug full of water,
for habit is strong,--but at this moment a gentle air from the north-
west wafted the fragrance of the crisped venison to the corporal's
nose! It was too much! military etiquette is strong, but nature is
stronger still! The corporal's bowels yearned for the meat, and,
without further ceremony, he plumped himself down by the fire; and as
he stuffed himself with the exquisite morsels his appetite did really
seem to grow on what it fed on, and he declared, with moistened eyes
and greasy chops, that never, no--never, had he feasted on such
delicious prog before!

The ensign, albeit that his heart was sorely troubled at the
uncertain fate of Helen, acquiesced by a nod in the eulogium of the
corporal.

"And to think,"--said the corporal, sympathisingly, as he took in
another huge mouthful of the dainty viand,--"to think that, at this
moment perhaps--those black savages are doing just the same as we are
doing with this kangaroo," he continued, speaking with difficulty
through the mass of meat which he was discussing,--"just the same with
that poor young lady!"

Trevor dropped his meat and his bark-plate at this horrid and most
ill--timed suggestion, and made an effort to rise; but he was too
weak, and his wounds had begun to stiffen: he sank down again, and
putting his hands before his face he groaned aloud.

The poor corporal, excessively abashed at the effect of his remark,
which he had intended as amusing conversation wherewith to enliven the
repast, suspended his diligent mastication, and pondered for a few
moments within himself. Not knowing what else to do, he proffered his
capful of water to his officer, who declined it courteously.

Having refreshed himself, and invigorated his appetite by a copious
draught of the pure element, the corporal finished his meal in
silence; and, having eaten up all the meat from the ramrod, which he
carefully wiped and returned to its proper place, he proceeded to
attack the liver, which he devoured leisurely, amusing himself with it
to pass away the time. But, thinking that the ensign showed signs of
drowsiness, he assisted him to his bed of leaves and blossoms, and
covered him with boughs so as to guard him from the night air as well
as possible.

Having attended to this duty, and having so arranged the fire that
it should communicate its warmth to his sleeping officer without
danger of its blaze reaching the temporary habitation, the corporal
dissected from the hind quarter of the game one of the legs, which he
arranged to cook gradually near the fire on three small stones, which
he set under the meat to keep it in a convenient position. This he did
in order to provide refreshment ready for the next morning.

The dirty condition of his firelock after the work of the day now
grieved him sorely; but he did not think it safe to attempt the
cleaning of the inside, as he might want to dispose of its contents on
the sudden against an enemy; and he considered also that the discharge
of his piece, besides disturbing his officer, involved the waste of
another cartridge. He remedied the evil, however, as well as he could
so far as the outside went, and fixed his bayonet as an additional
means of defence against surprise, although he trusted more to the
butt-end of it as a cudgel in an affray, than to its point as a
scientific weapon.

Thus prepared, he mounted guard over his officer's quarters, pacing
up and down regularly, after the manner of sentinels, and resting
occasionally in a standing posture, with his hands reposing on the
muzzle of his firelock. After an hour or two of this watching, the
poor fellow found himself so overpowered by fatigue that he was
obliged from mere exhaustion to sit down on the ground; but he kept
diligent watch on all sides, nevertheless.

He sat gazing at the fire, and listening to catch the slightest
sound; but all was still, and the vast bush seemed buried in universal
repose. The stars above his head, and the moon which gradually rose,
shed their quiet light over the tranquil scene; but there was no stir
of any living thing. The corporal gazed at the sky, and the kangaroo's
leg which was roasting, alternately. He looked at the fire, and
thought of his night bivouacs in former campaigns, and of his old
comrades whom disease or the shot of the enemy had long since sent to
their last homes. At last his eyes began to blink--and wink--at the
fire;--and the light of the moon--and the twinkling of the stars--
faded from his sight;--he thought he was still awake--but even as he
determined not...to give way...to the drowsy...oppression...
which...mastered him...his eyes closed--and the wearied soldier
slept.




Chapter XIV. Conscience.

THE veteran slept soundly;--but there was one who watched; and who on
that night first began to feel, in the remorse of conscience, that
sharp and corroding pain which "murders sleep." The watcher was Mark
Brandon.

Stung to the soul to find himself deprived of the girl--his cherished
scheme destroyed--his chance of making Helen his victim or his hostage
lost--he ground his teeth, and clenched his hands--furious as a wild
beast that has lost its prey--with mortification and rage!

He had been a witness to the fall of Trevor, and to his retirement
into the dense mass of thicket at a short distance from the river,
after the retreat of the natives; but he was unable to tell what had
passed within the scrub afterwards, as the bushes were so thick as to
screen from view all within their recesses. But he had observed the
corporal in his search, as he passed over a clear space between the
scrub and the wood; and he judged from his manner, that he was looking
for traces of the Major's daughter and her companion in misfortune.
From this he had drawn the conclusion, that the girl and Mr. Silliman
had not been found by the soldiers, amongst the bushes where he had
been suddenly parted from them on the first attack of the natives.

Having made this discovery, it struck him that the natives had
carried the white man and woman away as prisoners--to feast upon them
perhaps at their leisure; for he could not bring himself to believe
that they had left the white people unharmed, after their own losses
in dead and wounded.

Prompted by a strong passion for the girl, and urged on besides by
the consideration of her importance as a prize which he might be able
to render useful in his dealings with her father for her ransom, he
determined to follow on the track of the natives, with the hope that
some lucky chance--some panic fear on the part of the natives
perhaps--might again place her in his power.--He communicated his
intention to his associate.

"Ten thousand devils take the girl!" exclaimed Grough; "if it hadn't
been for her, we should not have been in this mess--without prog and
without liquor!--Wherever there's a woman, there's sure to be
mischief!"

"But you would not have the poor girl left to the fury of those
savages?" said Brandon, somewhat offended at his associate's
callousness.

"D----her!" replied that unamiable individual; "let them scarify
her--or eat her--or do what they like with her:--it's all the same to
me!"

Mark felt that he was on a wrong tack; he shifted his helm
dexterously:--"It's not the girl that I was thinking of," said he;
"but it's the gentleman--our packhorse--our bush-donkey, mate."

"D----him too. Let the black fellows roast him too--he's fat
enough!"

"Why, Grough, how is it you don't understand me? it's neither the
one nor the other that I care for; but it's the brandy, man, and the
provisions, and the tobacco."

"And d----him too again," exclaimed Grough; "he has got my dollars!"

"To be sure! Not that they would be of much use to us in the bush;
but it's the brandy and the prog! A sup of brandy, now, is just what
we want to keep up our spirits."

"Come along," said Grough; "let us go after them! That little fat
fellow will be pitching into it most gloriously, now that he has got
it all to himself--that is, if the natives don't pitch into him first.
When you talked of the gal, you see, Mark--why, that wasn't worth
while;--but the liquor! that's quite another thing! So I'm your man,
if there were a thousand natives to fight for it."

Mark took him at his word; and without further delay, they put
themselves on the track of the natives, which they easily found, and
continued their course until the dark prevented further progress. But
after they had remained lying on the grass for a short time, to the
great discomfiture of Grough, who, from having nothing to eat and
nothing to drink, was in an excessively surly humour, Brandon began to
have misgivings as to whether he was on the right scent for the girl.

He considered that it was a most unlikely thing for the natives to
leave any one of their white enemies alive during such a skirmish; and
it was altogether contrary to their practice, so far as he had heard,
to encumber themselves with such prisoners. After all, he thought,
either Helen and Silliman had been killed, or if they had been able to
avoid that fate, they had escaped in another direction; and in that
case, he calculated, they would make right for the cave on the shore
of the Bay, from which they had been taken.

Impressed with this idea, he determined to retrace his steps and
endeavour to overtake them; for, as he guessed, they would not be able
to make rapid progress in the Bush, even if they should be able to
find their way at all through a strange country over which they had
only once passed. He communicated his suspicion to Grough, who at once
acquiesced; and after cursing himself, with sundry energetic oaths,
for being such a fool as to suppose that the natives would trouble
themselves with white people as prisoners, he uplifted his huge
carcass from the ground, and prepared to follow Brandon:--

"To be sure," said he--"more fools we, for thinking anything else!
The natives would smash in their skulls with their waddies--and that
was too good for the like of them! The cave's our mark--and there we
shall find the liquor that we buried, if we find nothing else. My
mouth just now hankers after a glass of rum, as a black fellow after a
roasted piccaninny! Rum for ever!"

As Brandon had been careful, according to the practice of experienced
travellers in the Bush, to take bearings of the principal objects in
his line of march, he had no difficulty, although in the night, in
finding his way back to the sugar-loaf hill from the neighbourhood of
which he had started, and near which the fight with the natives had
taken place. In this course it was necessary for him to pass by the
place where the ensign and the corporal were reposing for the night;
but he had another and a powerful reason for wishing to visit again
the spot where he had left Helen.

Brandon's passion for the girl was most powerful and absorbing:--she
was a girl after his own heart--bold, brave, ready-witted in
difficulty and in danger, and resolute in her determination. She was
handsome withal--lofty in her bearing, tall and commanding in her
figure, and with the air of a heroine of romance. If his lot, he
thought, had been cast in happier circumstances, the companionship of
such a woman might have spurred him on to noble enterprises, and have
saved him from the commission of many a deed of crime! He had even
flattered himself with the idea, that, even as he was--sunk, degraded,
proscribed--a felon, and a murderer--the girl had been inclined to
regard him favourably; and he had indulged in the hope that, possibly,
she might be reconciled to a life in the wilderness with him, by whom
she would have been worshipped as the goddess of his idolatry!

When, therefore, he discovered, as he did in their passage from the
hill across the river, that she had been deceiving him all the time;--
and that, in fact, she, a girl, had outwitted him, the wily
bushranger--it was with mingled feelings of disappointment, of wounded
pride, and of deep mortification and pain, that he became convinced
that Helen regarded him with abhorrence, and had found out some secret
means of directing the pursuit of her friends to her rescue.

Nor did the sight of one of the two whose death he had resolved on,
tend to lessen his resentment; for that one was young, handsome, an
officer, and doubtless had been actuated by more than ordinary zeal in
hazarding himself in the bush with only one companion, in so desperate
a service as the capture of the man the most dreaded in Van Diemen's
Land. That young man, then, his jealousy whispered to him, was the
favourite admirer of the girl; and it was for him, and for his sake,
that she had contrived to give a clue to the path of her retreat.

This thought stung him so sharply, that he stopped in his walk;
started! and stamped his foot with signs of the most violent emotion!
His excitement moved even the insensible Grough to ask him, with as
much concern as he could throw into the brutal tones of his coarse
thick voice:--

"If a black snake had bit him?"

"Worse than that, man!"

"Crush it, then," said Grough, "under your foot; if a cretur has bit
you, and no help for it, have your revenge!"

"I will!" replied Brandon.

They both now moved on more rapidly. As they drew near to the dense
scrub, Brandon enjoined strict silence to his companion, and advanced
with his usual caution.

It was easy to ascertain, by the light of the fire, which the
corporal had kindled close to his officer's sleeping place, the
precise spot where the two soldiers had established their bivouac; and
the thickness of the bushes served as an effectual screen to prevent
either party from seeing the other, until they came almost face to
face. Brandon whispered to his fellow not to make the slightest noise,
and to follow him.

The bushranger then crept stealthily forward till he reached a thick
bush fronting the fire, on the other side of which the corporal was
sitting, with his firelock lying by his side. The bushranger regarded
him attentively and saw that he slept--or seemed to sleep; for, as
Brandon's own habits taught him, it might only be a feint to throw
enemies off their guard. Grough had already put his musket to his
shoulder with a deliberate aim; but Brandon, by a sign, checked him.

By the light of the moon he saw a rough sort of bush-hut at a little
distance from the fire, which fronted its entrance. He guessed that
the wounded officer was there--perhaps not alone? The girl might be
with him! Brandon was seized with a feeling of condensed hatred and
spite, which mastered all other considerations. "The snake," he
muttered to himself, "has bitten me with its poison--and I will have
my revenge!"

Retreating from his position to some little distance, he made a
circuit through the bushes, and got behind the officer's hut. He
observed through the partial openings, here and there, as he went,
that the sleeping soldier retained the same position.

"If it's a sham," he thought to himself, "it is well done!" Grough
made signs to shoot him; but Brandon, by a determined gesture, forbade
it.

They arrived close to the bush-hut. The bushranger peered about, and
presently found a small opening, through which he could see the
occupant's face. It was that of the officer; it was very pale, and had
a youthful and delicate appearance. He was sleeping, and he was alone.

By the light of the fire which shone directly upon him, partially
obscured only by the body of the corporal, Brandon observed in the
young officer's hand, which was placed on his breast, a woman's
glove!--The truth was revealed at once! Here was the lover of the
girl--the favoured lover--with the love-token in his grasp!

Again the same sharp pang shot through the bushranger's frame, and he
felt stung as if by a corporal and substantive dagger stabbed into his
entrails! All the rage of the demon was roused within him! Slowly and
silently he raised his fowling-piece to his shoulder, and covered the
sleeping man's brain with the murderous barrel! His finger was on the
trigger! He was about to give the fatal touch--when the sleeping
officer turned, and said something in his sleep.

It seemed that he was suffering under the painful excitement of some
feverish dream.

Clasping the glove to his heart, he murmured:--

"Helen!"




Chapter XV. Professional Practice.

THE bushranger suspended his touch;--the name of Helen so
pronounced, agitated him in an extraordinary manner. His hand
trembled; his weapon shook; for once he felt that his aim was
uncertain, for his eyes also were blinded with a sort of mist.--The
sleeping man spoke again.--The bushranger listened:--

"Dead!" murmured Trevor; "dead! murdered in cold blood! murdered!
murdered!"

Brandon recovered his piece--meditated for a moment. Some thought
seemed to convulse him; a deep flush came over his face:--he levelled
his piece again:--

Again the sleeping officer murmured--

"Murdered!"

Brandon drew back his piece with a hasty movement, much to the
astonishment of Grough, who was at a loss to understand what these
pantomimic actions signified; and without speaking, turned away and
retreated to some little distance among the bushes. His companion
followed him obediently. When Brandon stopped, Grough took the
opportunity to ask him:--"Why he did not shoot the red-coat as he
slept?"

Brandon made no reply for some time.--At last he said, "It is best
as it is:--let him be left alone."

He then remained plunged for some time in gloomy silence, without
giving any intimation to stir from the spot.

But his companion, who was entirely ignorant of the motives which
led his chief to spare the sleeping man's life, and who was equally
unable to penetrate the feelings of Brandon in respect to the
relations of the officer with the girl, was by no means inclined to
remain inactive, or to delay their journey towards the Major's cave,
where a store of rum had been deposited, in a secret place denominated
in colonial phraseology a "plant." Besides, this was a neglect of
business, to the matter-of-fact marauder, altogether incompatible with
his habits of dealing.

Here were two of their enemies at their mercy, and Mark was losing
the opportunity of taking both their lives at a time when they could
make no resistance, for they were both asleep; and what better chance
could they have of shooting them comfortably through the head without
danger to themselves? To let such a chance slip by, was monstrous!--He
conveyed his opinion, in a gruff whisper, to Brandon:--

"If you don't like to shoot the young 'un," he said, "there can be no
harm in my shooting the old fellow! Besides, we want powder and shot,
and his musket would be no bad grab!"

To this Brandon made no reply!--he was a prey to the most painful and
conflicting sensations. On the one hand, his passion for the girl had
so far touched that part of his better nature which was within him, as
to cause him to recoil from murdering, in cold blood, even her
favoured lover! And on the other hand, he was stimulated by jealousy,
by anger, and by the desire of revenge for the injury which the
Officer had done him in forestalling him in the girl's affections, to
take the life of the hated rival who was in his power. Absorbed by
these thoughts, he either did not hear, or did not allow himself to be
disturbed by his companion's suggestion, but continued plunged in
moody contemplation.

Grough, taking his silence for consent, moved quickly off, determined
that the night should not pass away, as he mentally affirmed, "without
some pleasure;"--so he resolved to shoot the corporal.

On such amiable thoughts intent, he edged away a little to the right,
in order that he might take the poor soldier sideways, which would
obviate the inconvenience of the glare of the fire, and allow him to
take a better aim. He stationed himself, accordingly, in a convenient
position, and, resting on one knee, was about to have a deliberate
shot, when a slight air which caused the embers of the fire to sparkle
more brilliantly, conveyed to his senses the smell of roasted meat!

Now Mr. Grough was, as he expressed it, more than usually "peckish,"
having not only walked very far, but fasted very long; and the
appetizing odour of the kangaroo's leg, which had begun to burn a
little, altogether overcame his animal sensibilities! His bowels
yearned, and the water rose to his mouth! For a moment he forgot his
anticipated gratification of putting a ball through the corporal's
head, in the present and more immediate temptation which irresistibly
assailed him! He even feared to disturb the sleeper, lest his waking
should delay the promised feast.

Taking advantage, therefore, of his early habits, and his ability in
prigging, which even in his youth had conferred on him the title of a
most accomplished thief, he bent his whole soul to the getting
possession of the savoury "grub."

It was astonishing to see with what lightness and softness the legs
which supported that huge body could tread! Nothing but long practice
in stealing and in housebreaking, could have taught the bulky brute to
manage his steps so mincingly! And the feat too was so daring! To
subtract the delicious morsel from under the corporal's very nose!
There was fun in the exploit! What would be the old soldier's thoughts
on waking? How piercing his disappointment! What a glorious "dodge" to
put on him! Positively it was better than putting him to death! The
Thief was in the pursuit of his vocation, and he was happy!

He stretched out his hand for the venison, and clutched the
protruding bone; but it was almost red-hot, and he let it drop again.
The noise, however, seemed to disturb the soldier.--Grough was ready
to shoot him dead if he awoke; but he only gave a loud snort, and
slept on.

On a sudden, a bright idea struck the thief. He spied the corporal's
musket lying by his side, with the bayonet fixed--a supplemental
weapon with which his own piece was unsupplied. It was also a better
one than his own, and in cleaner condition, as he perceived at a
glance. Dexterously removing the soldier's musket, he softly placed
his own in its place, after removing the flint, which he deposited in
his pocket.

The change, however, was not made so silently as to avoid disturbing
the sleeping sentinel. The corporal suddenly opened his eyes, looked
vacantly at the fire, placed his hand on the substituted musket,
nodded his head--and slept again.

Grough waited quietly behind him till his snores announced that the
soldier was fast asleep. He then directed the bayonetted weapon to the
leg of the kangaroo, and carefully inserting its point into the fleshy
part of the thigh, bore it triumphantly aloft, and marched away to
rejoin his comrade.

In a few words he communicated to Brandon the exploit which he had
achieved, and, as he eagerly devoured the venison, offered him the
best portions. But Brandon refused to eat; and after his associate had
satisfied his first hunger, he led the way back towards the cave in
the hope of finding there, or on the way, some trace of the girl whom
he had lost.

In the mean time, the hours of the night wore away; but it was not
before the dawn that the corporal awoke from his weary slumbers.
Surprised at the appearance of the morning light, the old soldier
began to have some vague suspicion, either that the sun had taken it
into its head, in that strange country, to rise in the middle of the
night, or that he--the corporal--had been asleep!

As the one case was hardly less unintelligible than the other--for
to sleep on his post was a breach of a sentinel's duty which it did
not enter the worthy corporal's head that it was possible for him to
be guilty of--he set himself seriously about resolving the enigma.

He remembered shutting his eyes to avoid the uneasy glare of the
fire; but he remembered nothing more. It must be, then, that he had
forgotten to open them again! Well, there was not much harm in that!
That was not like going to sleep! A man, as the corporal argued, might
forget himself occasionally, and be forgiven; but to sleep on his
post--that was unpardonable! The corporal was sure that he had not
done that!

Having come to this satisfactory conclusion--and the more so as it
happened that there was no one at hand to question its correctness--
the corporal opened his eyes wider; and then he remembered the
kangaroo's leg, which he had set to roast previous to his oblivion:
but no leg was there! The corporal opened his eyes wider than ever at
this extraordinary circumstance, and immediately rose to investigate
the affair.

In rising, he mechanically lifted up his firelock; for he followed
the good old rule in a campaign, that "your arms," as he said, "are
always safest in your own hands." "By the powers," he involuntarily
exclaimed, "I could have sworn that I fixed my bayonet last night! and
by all that's holy, it's not in the sheath! And the firelock, too!
what has come to the hussy? And there's no flint in the hammer! There
must be Irish fairies here too! This is not my firelock! By the
powers, it's like the child that was changed at nurse! And I'm changed
too, perhaps, for anything I know! But I haven't been asleep--that
I'll swear to!"

"Corporal," called out the ensign from the bush hut, in a faint tone.

"Here, your Honour," said the corporal, promptly, not a little
relieved to hear the ensign's voice, for he began to think that he
might be changed also. He was about to salute his reclining officer
with a "present;" but a look at his musket put him so out of conceit
with the tool, that he could not bring himself to perform the
evolution with "such a thing." He contented himself, therefore, with
the minor military obeisance of bringing his open hand, as he
expected, to the peak of his cap. But here again he was balked; for
his cap, at that moment, was performing the office of a water-jug on
the grass. The ensign did not observe his confusion, but in weak
accents expressed his desire to move forward without delay in search
of Miss Horton:--

"Lend me your hand," he said, "and I will get up from this bed. I am
afraid, corporal, you have had a weary night of it while I have been
sleeping."

The corporal said nothing, but handling his officer as tenderly as if
he had been a child, he raised him from his Mimosa bed; but Trevor
could not stand.

The corporal shook his head:--

"It will never do, your Honour, to be marching if you can't stand!
Better be still a bit, and see what the sun will do for you when he
comes out warm."

"These spear wounds," said Trevor, "are very stiff and painful.--Do
you know if the natives poison their spears?"

"I never heard so, your Honour; but these are nasty wounds. You see,
sir, the spear doesn't go in smooth and clear like the point of a
though a bayonet wound is ugly enough;--but the ends of them being of
charred wood, and bluntish, they make a greater rend; it's curious,
though, that they don't bleed so much as bayonet wounds; but they are
apt to fester, I have heard say, and become very unpleasant to a
gentleman that isn't used to being wounded. If we could contrive to
make some water hot, and bathe them, it would do them good, and take
some of the smart off. And now I think of it, I know a way that a
Spanish friar contrived to make water hot without a pot to boil it
in:--I'll do it for your Honour in a minute."

So saying, the corporal helped his officer to lie gently down again
on his bush bed; and having recourse to his cap, from which almost all
the water had oozed away during the night, he made haste to the
neighbouring stream to refill it; and when he got there he remembered
the remainder of the kangaroo which he had shot the evening before,
and which he had left the other side of the stream.

He found it just as he had left it, and with no slight joy did he
amputate the other leg; taking care, after the amputation, to throw
the remainder, consisting of the fore-quarters of the animal, over the
branch of an adjacent tree. Thus laden, he returned to the fire; and
first setting some meat to cook on the embers, he busied himself in
preparing a warm embrocation for the ensign.

To effect this, he provided himself with his officer's handkerchief,
and then taking the hot stones, on which he had set the vanished
kangaroo's leg of the night before, he blew the ashes from them and
dropped a couple of them into his capful of water. The stones hissed,
and the water simmered, and presently became hot; and the worthy
fellow then performed the office of a hospital-nurse, and tenderly
fomented his officer's wounds with the warmed water.

The application of this simple remedy afforded Trevor so much relief,
that he expressed his satisfaction, and his admiration also of the
corporal's ingenuity, in the most glowing terms; and the strength of
his officer's grateful expressions gave the corporal courage to relate
his misadventure of the night.

"This is very strange!" repeated the ensign. "Your firelock has
actually been changed without your being aware of it!"

"Not exactly so, your Honour, for I was aware of the change directly
I missed the bayonet, and saw the rusty thing that somebody put in the
place of it. But who can it be, your Honour?--not the natives? They
never would have the gumption to do such a trick as that!"

"It must be the bushranger's work," replied Trevor; "and he has done
it, I have no doubt, to show at once his cleverness and his daring.
But why he spared our lives when we were sleeping--"

"I wasn't sleeping," interrupted the corporal, deprecatingly; "the
fire blinded my eyes so, that I closed them only for a moment; and
when I opened them again, the thing was done!"

"Why he spared our lives," repeated the ensign without taking notice
of the corporal's explanation, "is a mystery to me!"

"Why, your Honour," replied the corporal, "the devil is never so
black as he is painted; and these convicts, bad as they are, are not
so bad as some people say. They don't want to kill, your Honour, for
killing's sake. Let them alone, and they'll leave you alone--except
when they want to rob you, or that, and then, in course, they must
stand the scrimmage as well as they can."

"There is something about this Mark Brandon," resumed Trevor,
meditating, "that is very remarkable."

"He is the most remarkable big rascal," replied the corporal, "in all
the colony! That's what he is. But he was a gentleman once, people
say, and if any one ever had the gift of the gab, they say it is he;
and he is an uncommon favourite, by all accounts, among the women."

"Indeed!" said Trevor, "and he has been a gentleman, has he?--
Corporal, we must lose no time in looking for that poor girl! There
certainly is something extraordinary about that bushranger!--I have
seen him only once--when we were fighting the natives;--but it struck
me that I had seen that face before. It was a countenance that seemed
to have haunted me in my dreams. We must march, corporal, we must
march!"

But poor Trevor was so weak, that when he attempted to rise, he fell
down again on his couch. The corporal pitied his young officer most
sincerely. He "rummaged his head" every way, to contrive some means of
remedying this new difficulty. But as there were neither wild nor tame
horses to be had in those desolate regions, the poor fellow was at his
wit's end to know what to do? For here was his officer wounded and
unable to walk, and there was neither hospital staff nor commissariat
to help them! And as to foraging--what was the use of foraging where
there was no farm, or house, or cottage to forage on?

At last it occurred to him that as his officer was weak, the best
thing was to nourish him; and as he had often heard the succulent
virtues o kangaroo-tail soup extolled as the most nourishing thing in
nature, he determined to try the efficacy of it in the present case.
Fortunately he had secured the enormous tail of the late kangaroo, and
he immediately proceeded to cook it in the best manner that he could;
and as he could not make soup of it in his cap, he essayed that which
appeared to him the next best way of transferring its virtues to the
person of his officer, by broiling it most delicately on the embers.

The result of his experiment in the culinary pharmacopoeia, however,
was not such as to answer his expectations. Trevor had no appetite,
and could not partake of the Australian luxury. He began to be hot and
feverish; and the corporal beheld with alarm the beginning of a
disorder, which, from his experience in wounds, he was aware was the
forerunner of danger.

In spite of all the corporal's assiduities, Trevor's fever increased;
and the poor corporal, almost abandoning all hope, in their distress
and desolation, would sooner have encountered a whole regiment with
bayonets fixed, then such an enemy as fever with no doctor to combat
the insidious foe.--In addition to this, they were in hourly
apprehension of being attacked by the natives.

In this wretched state, while the corporal almost abandoned himself
to despair, the unhappy Trevor, in the intervals of his delirium of
fever, was a prey to the far greater torture of the thought of Helen
in the power of the bushrangers or the natives, while he was lying
helpless on that which it seemed to him was the bed of death!




VOLUME 3.



Chapter I. The Proclamation.

THE Bushranger travelled during the whole of the night with almost
unabated speed towards the Bay, on the margin of which the cave was
situate, where he hoped to learn tidings of Helen. Sturdy as his
companion was, he more than once hinted to Brandon the expediency of a
halt; for notwithstanding the frequent attacks which he made on the
leg of the kangaroo, which he had suspended from his neck like a
guitar so as to be handy to his jaws, he began to sink under the
fatigue of long--protracted exertion.

As to Brandon, he ate nothing, and spoke little; scarcely replying to
the questions and observations of his follower! but drinking copiously
at every brook and spring that he passed by; for that fever of the
soul had already seized him which consumes its victim like living
fire!

Stopping only to allow his companion the rest needful for his further
progress, Brandon pursued his way, hoping every moment that he should
light on some indication of Helen's track, and earnestly wishing that
she might adopt the same expedient in her present flight as she had
practised when she had been forced to travel with himself. But he
could see no trace of her steps; and although he was sometimes tempted
to diverge from the direct course, in the hope that she might have
chosen some tempting but delusive opening between the hills in her
progress homewards, his researches ended only in disappointment, and
uselessly consumed his time and strength.

The delay which these failures caused only added to his gloomy anger,
and augmented his eagerness to arrive at the place of his destination.
At last he reached the vicinity of the Bay; and then some caution
became necessary lest he should fall into the hands of the emissaries
of the Government.

Using great circumspection in his approach to the cave, keeping a
good look-out on all sides, and carefully examining the ground for
foot-marks, he drew near to the spot. As soon as he had a clear view
of the Bay, he looked about for the vessel; but the brig was gone.

He then remained for some hours watching the parts in the vicinity of
the cave; but he could see no sign of danger. Accustomed, however, to
make use of all sorts of stratagems, in order to delude his enemies,
he was distrustful of the quiet and calm which seemed to prevail in a
place where recently all was life and commotion.

In this mood he approached the front of the cave; but still he saw no
sign of its being occupied. But on one side of the entrance, at its
mouth, he saw a piece of paper attached in a recess sheltered from
wet. Grough saw it also; and at the sight they stopped and looked at
each other.

"Let us go on," at last said Brandon, "death is better than this
suspense."

"Come on," responded Grough; "life is not worth having without
liquor. Let us try our plant."

They approached the mouth of the cave, where the paper was affixed;
and both read, at the same time, its significant heading:--

"A PROCLAMATION."

"Let us first search the cave," said Brandon, "we shall have time
enough to read that gammoning paper afterwards." His eye, however, had
rapidly caught part of its contents, and he felt a queer sort of
uneasiness about it.

They searched the cave; but they found no sign of inhabitants.

"There is no one here," said Grough, chuckling.

"So it seems," said Brandon, despondingly.

"What does the paper say?" asked Grough.

"Just what they all say--a bribe for treachery."

"A bribe!" exclaimed Grough. "I suppose you mean a reward. Much good
may it do them--the tyrants! as if one man in the bush would betray
another! But how much is it?"

The qualification which the words "how much is it?" implied of the
nature of Mr. Grough's virtuous resolve not to be tempted by the
proclamation of the Government, grated on Brandon's ears disagreeably.

"You had better read it," he said, "and see."

Grough spelled it out, not without difficulty, commenting on the
manifesto as he went on:--

"'A PROCLAMATION.

"'Whereas one Mark Brandon, a prisoner of the Crown, has made his
escape from Hobart Town, and has committed a piracy on the high seas,
besides being guilty of various other high crimes and misdemeanors...

"(I say, Mark, they lay it on thick.)

"....'Crimes and misdemeanors; and is charged also with having
forcibly abducted a young lady of the name of Helen Horton, lately
arrived in the colony; and is suspected also of the murder of, or of
some other foul dealing with, George Trevor, an ensign in his
Majesty's service,...

"(That's the young chap, I suppose, that the natives speared.--Well,
they are wrong there, at any rate.--But those beaks and constables
will swear through a brick wall to any lie that suits them against a
poor prisoner.)

"...'Majesty's service;--This is to give notice that a reward of five
hundred dollars...

"(Five hundred dollars! I say, Mark, five hundred dollars!)

"...'Five hundred dollars will be given to any one who shall afford
such information as may be the means of apprehending the said Mark
Brandon...

"(Mark, you're worth five hundred dollars! That's something!)

"'The said Mark Brandon; together with a free pardon...

"(A free pardon! I say, Mark, do you see that? A free pardon!--It's a
dead set against you, Mark!--But do they think that any one would be
such a blackguard as to inform against you? They don't know us,
Mark!--Five hundred dollars and a free pardon! As if any body would
trust to their promises! But there is something more!)

"'----A free pardon, and a free passage to England.

"(By----, Mark," exclaimed Grough again, "the Governor lays it on
fat! Five hundred dollars--a free pardon--and a free passage to
England! That's tempting! Isn't it? But I wouldn't trust the
scoundrels! It's only a trap!--Don't you think so, Mark? And as to any
one betraying you!...)"

"Read on," said Mark.

"'And whereas a prisoner of the Crown, named James Swindell, and a
prisoner of the Crown named Roger Grough, are also missing, and are
supposed to have joined the said Mark Brandon in the bush;--This is to
give notice, that a reward of one hundred dollars will be given for
the apprehension of the said James Swindell, and of the said Roger
Grough, or for such information as may lead to their conviction.

"'Signed, &c. &c.

"'LIEUT. GOVERNOR.'

"One hundred dollars for me!" exclaimed Grough, after a slight pause,
as he concluded aloud the perusal of the proclamation. "A hundred
dollars for me! Well--that's kind, isn't it? And another hundred for
hang-dog Jemmy! Well--Jemmy's done for, so there's a hundred dollars
lost for somebody.--But there's no free pardon for taking me;--you're
the great man, Mark.--This is what comes of being a nob!--It would be
worth somebody's while to take you, Mark, eh?--Wouldn't it?"

"Yours, perhaps," replied Brandon, turning suddenly round, and
confronting his associate with an eye and a look which few could stand
under without quailing.--"Yours, perhaps," repeated Brandon:--"but
no;--you would not betray me;--I have no fear of that. First, because
you are not such a rascal as to do it; and secondly, because you would
certainly be hanged, my hearty, for the murder of the old woman and
the child at Sandy Bay before you started.--No, my boy; you and I must
escape or swing together."

"To be sure, Mark; to be sure:--you and I, as you say, must get away
or be strung up together. Not that there was any harm in killing the
old woman--they would never hang a man for that!--and the child would
shriek out! But how shall we get a boat or a vessel? We shan't have
such another chance as we had with that brig in a hurry!"

"We must trust to our luck, man. Leave me to find the way to do it.
But we must not hang about here; there may be spies where we least
think of. We must get away into the interior, where they can't follow
us, or can't find us if they do."

"Wherever you go, Mark, I'm the man to stick to you! And now for the
stuff! Let us see if the plant is all right."

To his infinite satisfaction, Grough found his beloved rum safe and
untouched. He immediately proceeded to disinter it, taking several
hearty pulls at the liquor by the way; and so afraid was he of losing
sight of it again, that he determined to load himself with as much as
he could carry. As most of it was contained in one-gallon stone
bottles, which had been done for convenience' sake on board-ship, and
to guard against the danger of drawing off spirit from the cask by
candle-light in the hold; although the weight was heavy, it was so
divided as to enable the freebooter to dispose of much of it about his
person. He did not neglect to carry away also as large a supply as he
could bear of ship's biscuit, and of tea and sugar. He took care to
provide himself also with a large tin pannikin, and a small tea-
kettle, which was among the stores which the marauders had stowed away
previous to their first departure from the cave.

He also visited the spot where he had buried his share of the dollars
despoiled from the Major; and after a little hesitation, caused by his
desire to have them on the one hand, and the inconvenience of their
weight on the other, he took them out of the hole, and deposited them
in a canvass bag, which he suspended from his shoulders. Thus
freighted, like a huge Dutch trader, had it not been for his vast bulk
and prodigious strength, he would have been unable to stand under the
weight of such a cargo; and, as it was, he found his motions seriously
impeded by his cumbrous load. But his covetousness was stronger than
his laziness.

Mark Brandon, while his companion was thus busily employed, and
gloating over his dollars and his rum, removed his own share of the
money, and quietly made his way to the hollow tree where he had
secretly deposited the gold, which he had previously contrived to
abstract from the participation of his comrades. Having made sure that
Grough was entirely and intensely occupied with his stone bottle, he
threw some handfuls of earth and stones into the hollow trunk, to
disperse any opossums which might have made it their abode; then,
hiding his fowling-piece under a neighbouring rock which shelved
outwards, he nimbly climbed the tree, and dropped down within the
ample cavity.

As soon as his feet touched the bottom, he became aware by the
jingling of the coin, that his treasure was safe. He found it rather
difficult to get out again; but, by applying his two hands to the
sides of the opening above, which he could only just reach, by a
vigorous effort he raised himself up, and descended the trunk.

Satisfied by this inspection, that it was a safe place for a "plant,"
he dropped into it the large bag of dollars which he had removed from
the hole in the ground. This he did in order to hide the money from
his companion, fearing that his avarice might be too powerfully
stimulated by a knowledge of such an amount of dollars at his command,
and which would form so pleasing an addition to a "free pardon" and "a
passage to England."

For he had already begun to be suspicious of the rascal with whom he
was temporarily associated; and he bore in mind the accent and the
manner of his "friend," as he read and dwelt on the tempting offer of
reward promised by the Government for Brandon's capture. He
immediately rejoined him, however, with a countenance entirely
divested of all appearance of distrust; and he took advantage of his
comrade's occupation, to revolve in his mind the expediency of
shooting him through the head on the spot, and of thereby removing all
danger of betrayal from that quarter.

But on further thought, he considered that the brute would be useful
to him, as the lost Mr. Silliman had been, in carrying the load of
spirit and other articles of comfort, with which he was doing him--
Mark Brandon--the favour to load himself. He resolved, therefore, to
abide with him until the fellow had served his purpose; the more
particularly as he would be an useful auxiliary in the event of being
attacked by the natives. He had no doubt, that, after he had decided
upon his place of refuge--and had possession of the girl, perhaps--he
should easily be able to dispose of his thick-headed associate when
expedient; and in the mean time, that he could make use of him;--
reserving to himself the right, however, of instantly dispatching him,
should he discover any strong symptoms of treachery, which, he relied,
the animal was too stupid entirely to conceal.

Having come to this cool determination, he accepted his friend's
offer to partake of about a pint of rum; and grasping his comrade's
hand with an expression of most hearty good-will and confidence, they
both swore over the liquor an eternal attachment--Brandon having
already resolved to slaughter the huge oaf to whom he was vowing
friendship, whenever the fit occasion should arrive; and Grough having
determined in his own mind to deliver up his chum to the gallows, and
claim the reward, on the first convenient opportunity.

These two worthies, having thus transacted the business which they
had to do in that part of the country, and Brandon having made a last
search for Helen, departed lovingly together, with lies on their lips,
and treachery in their hearts, in the direction which Brandon had
planned, towards the Western Coast; for although there was very little
chance of a vessel or a boat nearing that side of the island, he was
not without a hope, which he could not avoid cherishing, of meeting by
some lucky accident with the beautiful girl whom he had lost, and for
whose possession he longed with all the ardour of his sanguine and
impassioned nature.

The social community of the outlaws, however, was presently
interrupted by other alarms, which, while they stimulated the
inclination of Grough to betray his companion, were the means of
aggravating the suspicions of Brandon, who redoubled his precautions
to guard against surprise and treachery.



Chapter II. Suspicion and Distrust Breed Fear and Treachery.

THEY had not proceeded far before they came to a huge blue gum--tree,
on which was fastened, by a wooden pin, another copy of the
proclamation which the Bushranger and his companion had seen at the
entrance of the cave. Grough read it over again, and seemed to dwell
rather meditatively on the reward of "dollars" and "pardon."--Brandon
marked his fellow's look, but said nothing.

The sight of this second handbill, however, made Brandon for the
moment more suspicious of other enemies than of his companion, and he
looked about uneasily:--

"The enemy seems to be on this track," he said; "we must shift a
little more to the coast."

Grough was rather inclined to proceed in a northerly direction
towards the town; but this manoeuvre was gently opposed by Brandon.
They continued their course to the coast, therefore, for about half a
mile, when, fastened on a peppermint tree, they beheld another copy of
the Governor's proclamation. Grough cast his eyes round on all sides
with an odd and doubtful expression: Brandon looked to the primings of
his fowling-piece, and kept to the right of Grough so that his barrel
thrown over his left arm might naturally point towards his companion.

"Proclamations seem to grow in these parts," remarked Grough.

"I don't think this is the best way for us after all," said Brandon.
"They will be looking out for me near the coast."

"And for me too."

"And for you too," repeated Brandon, thoughtfully.

Turning sharp round, he retraced his steps, with Grough by his side.
He thought that his comrade seemed inclined to stick to him more than
ever.--But he was determined to follow out his own plan.

He then made a start in the direction of the north-west, keeping
clear, however, of his previous route when he was accompanied by
Helen, and having it in his mind either to climb the mountainous ridge
to the right of the opening which he had passed before, or to try to
go round it. But after about a quarter of a mile's walk he encountered
another ghost of the hateful proclamation!

"Another!" said Grough.

"They seem to be determined to hem us in with their bribes of dollars
and pardons," said Brandon, eyeing his companion.

"It's a great temptation to a prisoner," observed Grough,
sentimentally;--"and they that did it know it. Not that I would be
such a rascal as to betray a chum! Sooner than turn nose, I'd rather
...I'd .. rather...."

"Rather what?" said Brandon, drily.

"Why you don't suspect me, do you?"

"Not I: you know that your fate is bound up with mine, and that it is
to your interest not to betray me."

"I don't know that," replied Grough, a little doggedly. "It would be
to my interest, perhaps, to get the dollars and the free pardon; but
may I be hanged like a dog, and sink into eternal flames, if I ever
betray a friend!"

"Now then," said Brandon, "you have read the Governor's proclamation;
will you stay behind and give information of me if you like; or will
you go with me and take your chance of our seizing a boat together,
and of escaping from the colony?"

"Which will I do? Do you think I would hesitate for a moment?"
replied Grough, who was puzzled to determine in his own mind which was
the likeliest way of his being able to deliver up his friend to the
authorities and of claiming the reward. "What will I do?" he repeated,
after having revolved the pros and cons in his mind as well as the
short time afforded to him for his decision would enable him, "why,
follow you, Mark, to the world's end, and stick to you, my boy, like a
barnacle!"

This friendly resolve he had come to from the calculation that, if he
left Brandon and sought to give information to the authorities of his
comrade's whereabouts, he might possibly be tried and hanged before
the value of his information could be ascertained; but if, on the
contrary, he accompanied his friend, some opportunity would occur, as
he flattered himself that Brandon was quite unsuspicious of his
intention, to enable him to fall suddenly on him, when he was asleep
perhaps, and bind him; and so deliver him alive to the governor in
camp.

Brandon, on the other hand, had made up his mind, before he asked the
question, to shoot his comrade on the spot if he refused to accompany
him, as he judged it would be dangerous to let him go; but, as he
wanted his services to carry various necessaries into the bush for his
convenience as well as safety, he let the huge oaf hug himself with
the idea that he had the cleverness to deceive one who, by his art and
daring, had acquired for himself, pre-eminently, the title of "The
Bushranger;" and knowing well that nothing more effectually blinds a
treacherous plotter, of Grough's description, than to suffer him to
delude himself with the idea that he is the deceiver, he allowed his
companion to enjoy, undisturbed, his secret satisfaction at being able
"to put such a dodge on Mark."

With this thought, he extended his hand to his comrade, and wringing
it strongly and with much apparent emotion, declared, solemnly that
"he would rather have such a man as he was to stand by him, than a
dozen cowardly and treacherous rascals whom an honest man could place
no reliance on!"

Grough expressed, in his rough way, his utmost satisfaction at this
exhibition of the warmth of his comrade's attachment, and swore a
prodigious oath to signify that he would be true to him to the last.
He walked on by his side, therefore, full of glee, for he considered
the dollars and the free pardon as his own already; while Brandon made
up his mind, definitively, to blow his friend's brains out the moment
they arrived at their place of destination.

In this amiable disposition of mind towards each other the two
proceeded on their way, keeping to the right of their former route,
for Brandon still cherished the hope that he might possibly fall in
with Helen by the way, for it was clear that she had not reached the
cave, and the probability was that she was lost in the bush;--or
possibly she might have been taken away by the natives, though that
was not likely. There was reason to conclude, however, that she had
not been killed in the fight, for in that case, her body would have
been found.--Perplexed and irritated by these conflicting surmises he
determined to visit the scene of the fight again, and search narrowly
for her remains, and, if necessary, communicate with the wounded
officer, if he still remained there.

As to the risk of being taken he did not care much for that, as he
considered that he was more than a match for the two soldiers in the
bush, and that if it came to the worst it would only be making a fight
of it. To this step, however, he would not have been inclined, for his
maxim was "never to give away a chance," had he not been incited by
his burning passion for the girl for whose repossession he would have
incurred almost any danger.

With this resolve he proceeded rapidly on, but his companion was so
loaded with his various assortment of useful and necessary articles
for the bush, that soon after nightfall he expressed his utter
inability to proceed a single step further; and as they found
themselves in the vicinity of a little streamlet, they arranged
themselves for the night. Grough disencumbered himself of his load,
and with an affectionate earnestness, which manifested itself by many
endearing expressions, he embraced a bottle of the rum which formed a
considerable part of the bulk of his provisions. Hastening to extract
the cork, he applied it to his mouth, and indulged in a prodigious
gulp of the liquor.

"You seem to enjoy it," observed Mark.

"If one could only get as much rum every day as a man could drink,"
replied the other, "I wouldn't mind whether I was prisoner or free!
Rum's the stuff for me!"

"And how much have you left for me?"

"How much! why, this bottle holds two quarts.--Drink, Mark--drink.--
There isn't such stuff in the colony! It's downright beautiful! I'll
fill my skin with it this blessed night, and then I shall have the
less to carry tomorrow! This night I'll be jolly drunk if I never am
again! With a pipe of baccy in your mouth, and a bottle of rum by your
side, what does a man want more! Eh, Mark?--Here, man, take the
bottle."

Brandon took the bottle, and then selecting the pannikin, in the
dusk, from the heap of articles on the ground, he fetched in it some
water from the stream, to which he added a small quantity of the
spirit, which he drank leisurely.

Grough observed this moderation with extreme surprise! That any one
should refrain from taking his fill of rum when he had the
opportunity, was a prodigy that surpassed his comprehension! There
must be a reason for it, he thought sagely to himself. Why should Mark
not drink?--Was he afraid of getting drunk?--By----, that was it!--
More fool he! Then he, Grough, could drink Mark's share and his own
too! Capital!

With this he was about to put his beloved bottle to his mouth again;
when, suddenly, a thought struck him--a most awkward thought! Perhaps
Brandon was meditating to do the same thing to him which he was
meditating to do to Brandon? To fall upon him, and secure him, and
deliver him up to the Government for the sake of the reward! That was
the reason why Mark would not drink! He, Mark, wanted him, Grough, to
drink, and get drunk, so as to be able to master him easily!--What a
rascal!--But here was a particularly disagreeable fix!--If he didn't
drink, what was the use of the rum which he had carried all that way?
And if he did, and got drunk, he should be entirely helpless, and at
the mercy of Brandon, to do with him as he pleased!

The shock of this cruel dilemma was most horrid! He held the rum in
his hand which he dared not drink! Life had lost its salt and its
savour! Bushranging had lost its relish!--What was to be done?--The
only thing was to wait till Mark fell asleep, and then to fall on
him.--To this end he resolved to keep his eyes open diligently, though
fatigue and travel had wearied his faculties sorely.

"You don't drink," said Brandon, as Grough placed the bottle on the
ground with his hand still on it, and with a countenance which, even
in the gloom, Mark observed, was ludicrously sorrowful.

"Better not drink it all up at once;--you know we shall want it in
the bush."

"You have changed your mind rather suddenly," replied Brandon, "I
thought you were determined to take your fill this time?"

"Better keep it for times when we shall want it; the best thing to
do now is to go to sleep, so as to be fresh for to-morrow.--I suppose,
Mark, you feel sleepy as I am," said Grough; wishing by this
considerate suggestion to put it into his friend's head to lose no
time about it.

"I am very tired, and very sleepy," replied Mark; "and I feel that I
shall be off in a few minutes."

"So shall I," replied Grough, making an effort to keep his eyes
open.--"We will both of us go to sleep," he continued aloud, and then
saying to himself, "If I do, I'm d----d."

"You will be a clever fellow!" thought Mark on his side, "if you
catch me asleep! Depend on it, my fine fellow, that Mark is always
wide awake!"

"I shall be asleep in a minute, Mark."

"And so shall I."

Presently Mark breathed heavily.

"I wonder if he is shamming!" thought Grough.--"But I am up to that
dodge too!" Accordingly he performed a deep and regular snore.

"That rascal is not asleep," said Brandon to himself; "he is
feigning for some purpose! Does he think to come over me that way! the
thrice long--eared ass! Does he think that Mark Brandon is to be taken
in by his contrivances! Shall I shoot him now? No:--I want him to
carry his load for me, and to assist in beating off the natives, for
it is more than probable that we shall meet with them before long in
this direction, and for his own sake he will not fail me then.
Besides, it will be better to appear to the young officer as two to
two, should it be necessary for me to communicate with him.--No, I
will not shoot him yet.--I will make use of him, and then punish him
for his meditated treachery.--But, positively, I think the brute
sleeps."

Mark spoke to him in a low tone, to which Grough made no he then
approached him cautiously, and satisfied himself that it was no sham;
for in fact, the first copious draft of rum which the creature had
imbibed was sufficient to dispose him, wearied as he was, irresistibly
to sleep.

The Bushranger, now stepping with the utmost caution, withdrew
silently from the spot, and continued his course till he arrived at a
thicket about a quarter of a mile distant from the place where he had
left his companion, and burying himself among the densest of the
bushes, he endeavoured to compose himself to sleep.--But the thought
of his precarious position; the ill-concealed design of his companion;
and the gnawing fury of his disappointment at the loss of the girl on
whom he had set his whole soul, for a long time kept him awake.--But
at last he was able to procure a few minutes of fitful slumber.

His fears, however, haunted him in his dreams; and he awoke with the
sensation of being suddenly grasped by a powerful hand on his It was
only his neck-handkerchief which, in the uneasy position in which he
lay, had become tightened round his neck.

He found it impossible, however, to sleep again. He made his way
back, therefore, to his companion, whom he found still snoring. He sat
by his side for more than two hours, cold and cheerless, for he feared
to light a fire lest some enemy on the look-out should discover him by
its light. At last the dawn of day came; and then, thinking that his
companion had slept long enough, and being anxious to get towards the
sugar-loaf hill, he awoke him, by putting his hand to his shoulder.

"Hands off!" cried Grough. "D----n me! you shan't take me alive!
What! Mark! is it you? By----! I thought it was some of the constables
that had got hold of me! By----! and haven't you been asleep!"

"I could not sleep; so I have been watching for both of us."

"You haven't been asleep! and I have!" said Grough, rubbing his eyes,
and endeavouring to reconcile the fact of Mark's forbearance with his
own previous suspicions; "well, there is something in this I can't
make out!"

"What can't you make out?"

"What can't I make out?" replied Grough, a little confused; "I can't
make out why it is that you don't sleep after you have been awake I
don't know how many nights!"

"It is well," replied Mark, quietly, "that one of us can keep awake;
for if we were both to fall asleep together, we might be surprised and
taken before we knew where we were--as you might have been last
night."

Grough was considerably puzzled, and could not make out at all the
reason why Mark had not seized on him when he was asleep and
defenceless, as he certainly would have done to Mark. "Mark is up to
some game," he thought; "but what is it?"--The uncertainty of Mark's
object troubled the worthy Mr. Grough exceedingly; but disguising his
thoughts as well as he could, he proceeded to load himself with his
goods and chattels, taking, on this occasion, only a very moderate sip
of rum, in which he was joined by Mark; and postponing his breakfast
until he should have the opportunity of bringing down a kangaroo,
which he did not doubt of being able to effect shortly, as the fresh
marks of their passage were visible in the grassy gorge which they
were traversing.

Leaving them to pursue their way, and to meditate on their mutually--
resolved treachery towards each other, exemplifying the life of fear
and distrust which criminals who take to the bush, sooner or later,
invariably suffer, the course of this narrative turns to the fate of
Helen and her fellow-captive.




Chapter III. Helen a Prisoner with the Natives.

AT the time when the natives attacked the two bushrangers near the
Sugar-loaf hill, Helen and the unfortunate Mr. Silliman had been made
to lie down on the ground by Brandon while he stood concealed behind
the thicket towards which he had enticed his pursuers for the purpose
of shooting them securely as they advanced.

It was from the accident of their recumbent position that the spears
of the natives passed over their heads; and it was owing to the same
circumstance, perhaps, that the savages, seeing them down, forbore to
wreak their fury on them.

As the crowd of males pressed forward, driving back the white
people, the females followed, not less cruel than the first, perhaps,
in their treatment of their enemies, but who, on this occasion, were
struck with the appearance of Helen, whom they were not long in
discovering to be of the same sex as themselves.

At the same time they beheld the prostrate form of Jeremiah, and
were surprised to observe that he had his hands tied behind his back;
and they immediately guessed that so palpable an act of coercion had
been committed by his enemies. But seeing that he was secured from
doing any injury, and that he was entirely at their mercy, with the
caprice not inconsistent with their wild natures and with their sex
they postponed putting him to death, with the intention of keeping him
for the performance of certain ceremonies which, time out of mind, had
been in usage with the original inhabitants of the country.

After poking at him, therefore, with their spears for a little
while, to see, perhaps, how he would comfort himself under the
infliction of that preliminary trial, they signified their desire that
he should stand up, which he did accordingly, endeavouring by all the
signs and gestures which he could think of to excite the compassion of
these black furies.

At the same time, others of the women assisted Helen to rise from
the ground, when they immediately proceeded to examine her dress with
great curiosity, and showed a strong disposition to possess themselves
of it, a proceeding which, if they had persisted in it, would rapidly
have reduced the poor girl to the same primitive condition in that
respect as themselves; but as the fight raged hotly, and as the guns
of the white men continued to send forth their thunder, they were too
much alarmed and hurried in their movements to carry their design into
execution.

Presently, also, the number of killed and wounded of their countrymen
became so numerous, some of the balls fired by Trevor and the corporal
hitting one or two of the native women whom they wounded slightly,
that the alarm of the females was too great to allow them to remain so
close to the scene of action. They retired, therefore, to a little
distance in the rear, compelling Helen to accompany them, and driving
Jeremiah before them with the points of their spears, one or two of
the younger girls not being able to restrain their laughter,
notwithstanding the seriousness of the fight which was going on, at
the curious grimaces exhibited by that unfortunate gentleman as he
made little convulsive leaps in accordance with the application of the
stimulating spears administered behind. Helen, however, did not lose
her presence of mind, even in this urgent time of peril.

At first she succumbed to the natural terror of finding herself in
the hands of savages excited to fury by the fierceness of the fight;
but when she saw that the native women refrained from putting her to
an immediate death, she gathered courage, and was inspired with the
hope of being able to save herself, as Trevor and a supporter were at
hand combating for her rescue.--No sooner, therefore, had their new
captors stopped at the entrance of the forest, than she began to think
of escaping.--She communicated her intention to her companion:--

"Mr. Silliman, now is the time to make an attempt to join our
friends; try to get your hands free; these are only women who are
around us. Come towards me and I will untie your arms."

Jeremiah was still loaded with the variety of articles which the
uncommiserating Grough had packed upon him, and which prevented him
from exercising much activity in his motions; but he endeavoured to
comply with Helen's intimation by sidling towards her with a shuffling
step which the natives regarded with astonishment, not being able to
make out whether it was the performance of a sort of war dance, or a
natural mode of progression habitual with the white people. They
suffered him, therefore, to place himself before Helen; but they no
sooner perceived the object for which the white man's movement had
been effected, than they interfered promptly with spears and waddies,
and while some thumped Jerry as well as they could get at him through
his manifold encumbrances, others threatened Helen with the points of
their spears.

"Wait," said Helen, "till I can find an opportunity to release you;
then cast aside your load, and snatch some of their own weapons from
the women, and let us fight for our lives."

"I will fight for you, miss," replied Jeremiah, "till I die! But what
can we do against such a herd of black wretches? Those spears are
uncommon sharp, although they are made only of wood; they are indeed!
I have felt them!"

"Never fear the wounds that a wooden spear can make," replied Helen;
"we must fight for our lives, and try to join those who have come to
rescue us."

"You see, miss, I can do nothing with my hands bound behind me this
way; and that ugly rascal has tied them so strong and so tight, that
it is impossible for me to loose them myself.--But never mind me,
miss; try to save yourself. They would not hurt you perhaps. Suppose
you ran off and kept round to the left, so as to avoid the natives and
join your friends. Anything is better for you than to be killed and
eaten by these savages, for they are all cannibals, I can tell by the
looks of them! One old woman," pointing with his head to a venerable
lady of terrific aspect, who had been eyeing Jerry in a very
affectionate manner, "has been looking at me in a very odd way! We
shall both of us be eaten, miss, if the savages get the better, that's
certain."

While Jerry was speaking, two or three of the natives with faltering
steps, were seen coming over the narrow space of plain between the
scrub and the wood, and at the sight of their wounded countrymen, the
women set up a wail of sorrow, and looked fiercely at their white
prisoners, whom they were about to put to death. But the old woman,
whom Jerry had already remarked as regarding him with longing eyes,
which he construed into an excessive desire to eat him, interposed, as
it seemed with authority, and prevented them. She said something to
her companions, and pointed to the spot where the sound of the guns
and the shouts of the fighting natives were heard; and the rest of the
women submitted with deference to her command.

She had greater difficulty in holding back the bleeding natives from
taking their revenge on the white people in their power; and, although
they were bleeding and faint from their wounds, they exhibited a
ferocious determination, which made Helen turn pale and Jeremiah cry
out with fright.

But the old woman stood before the prisoners and, with arms upraised,
vociferated with an energy and a volubility which betokened that she
was an adept in the management of that most fearful of all weapons--a
woman's tongue! Besides, it appeared that she had some pretensions to
be obeyed, for the women listened to her with deference, and made no
attempt to support the assault of the wounded males.

Whether their wounds, therefore, by producing faintness and weakness,
made the men less firm to their resolves, or that they were fairly
mastered and borne back by the eloquence of the old woman, they
desisted, for the present at least, from their determination and laid
themselves down on the ground; while some of the native women, to whom
they were attached by particular nearness of kin or other ties,
endeavoured to stop the bleeding of their wounds by such simple means
as their little knowledge suggested.

But now the firing, which had been very sharp, ceased, and the whole
body of natives fled through the covert towards the wood, bearing with
them some of their wounded companions. It was fortunate for Helen, at
this moment of their exasperation after defeat, that she had been
taken possession of by the females at the head of whom was the old
woman who extended her protection also to the white man; but it was
not less fortunate for Jeremiah that he had his hands still tied
behind him; for, in that condition, he presented no provocation to the
men, who, seeing that he was incapable of defending himself or of
acting on the offensive towards themselves, hesitated to use their
waddies on his skull--which was, besides, protected by the load of
goods which surmounted his head and shoulders. Without delaying to
make inquiries, however, as to how the white man and woman got there,
or why their lives had been spared by those who had them at their
disposal, the black man, who acted as the chief of the party, gave the
signal for immediate retreat.

Upon this, without noise, the whole of the sable troop made their way
rapidly through the forest, the men supporting such of the wounded as
they could hastily convey with them, and the women leading the van,
with Helen and Jerry in the midst, whom they forced forward
notwithstanding their resistance and the urgent appeals which Helen
despairingly made to be left behind. Seeing the difficulty with which
the white man walked with his hands tied behind him one of the women
released him from his bonds.

Thus was Helen exposed to a new peril, the more to be dreaded as it
was uncertain, and that she could expect no mercy from those who had
so severely suffered from the thunder of the white people in the
disastrous fight. Poor Jerry already considered himself as roasted and
eaten; and the wretched Helen doubted whether instant death would not
be the mildest fate to which she could be condemned. In this way they
travelled without stopping for the remainder of the day.

When the darkness of the night came on, although the moon afforded
light enough to travel for those who were acquainted with the country,
the natives stopped. This halt Helen thought a fortunate circumstance,
and she determined to take advantage of the opportunity and endeavour
to escape.




Chapter IV. A Native Bivouac.

THE natives had divided before reaching their resting place for the
night, into two bodies; one of them proceeding towards the north, and
the other body, by whom Helen and Jeremiah were detained, continuing
their course in a westerly direction. The latter party consisted of
about twenty males and nearly the same number of females, but there
were no children, which made Helen conjecture that they had not yet
arrived at their place of ultimate destination.

The spot which they had fixed on for their encampment was a deep
dell, shut in by high hills on either side, partially covered with
wood. There was a spring of water near the bottom, at which the
natives drank copiously, and Helen and her fellow-prisoner, following
their example, did the same, their captors not seeming to take much
heed how they disposed of themselves. This apparent neglect seemed to
favour Helen's project to escape.

The men now busied themselves in erecting their breakwinds from the
bark of the trees which were at hand; but they made them, as Helen
remarked, of very scanty dimensions, and they were insecurely put
together. The women set themselves about collecting dry wood for
fires, of which they made eight or nine heaps opposite the breakwinds.
Their next labour was to kindle a fire, for the two lighted sticks,
always carried cross-ways by one of the party, had been extinguished
in the confusion consequent on the fight, and it was necessary to
raise a flame in the manner practised by the natives on such
occasions.

Two or three of the party searched for a piece of dry wood suited to
their purpose, which one of them soon found. This was placed on the
ground and held firmly, while one or two more stood round ready to
aliment the flame, when kindled, with dry leaves and bark, scraped
into very thin shavings.

In the mean time, another native had prepared a pointed piece of wood
about eighteen inches long, and a inch or an inch and a half in
diameter. This piece of wood he took care to select from a dead
branch, choosing, in preference, a piece of the stringy bark tree.

A hole was now indented in the first piece of wood with a hard stone,
and the end of the second piece, previously pointed with a stone axe,
inserted in it. One of the natives now took the piece of pointed wood
between his hands, and with a rapid motion turned the point inserted
in the cavity of the other piece of wood backwards and forwards as if
he was trying to bore a hole. This manoeuvre he continued for nearly a
minute, and when his hands began to get weary, another native relieved
him, and then the second was relieved by a third, and so on, never
allowing the friction of the two pieces of wood to cool down, till at
last they elicited fire.

As soon as this took place, the dry leaves and bark shavings were
pressed around the point of contact, the natives assisting the nascent
conflagration with their breath, lying down on their bellies to blow
the fire into flame.

By this ingenious process, in the course of about half an hour they
procured a light, with which they ignited the dry heaps of wood
previously collected, and in a few minutes the dell was illuminated
with the light of their numerous fires.

While this was going forward, Helen thought that, the whole of the
party being so busily occupied, now was the time to escape. She
communicated her intention in a few words to her companion, and
directed him to ascend the steep hill on one side, while she did the
same on the other, and to join her at the entrance of the glen, about
half a mile distant.

Jeremiah readily acquiesced, although he had little hope of escaping
from so many enemies; and they immediately began to carry their plan
into effect.

Helen sauntered leisurely up the hill on her side, while Jeremiah did
the same on his, looking about them in the dusk as if they were
examining objects here and there from curiosity. In this way Jerry had
nearly reached the appointed opening, when on turning a bushy mimosa
tree he beheld to his horror two great eyes which, from the contrast
with the black face, seemed to him preternaturally white, staring at
him from the other side.

He had sufficient presence of mind not to call out, but he
endeavoured to catch sight of Helen, which he presently did; and he
observed at the same time that a dark form followed her, which was
visible to him as he surveyed her progress sideways, but which to her,
doubtless, had been concealed. He guessed at once that he had been
dogged by a native, as he saw Helen was followed; but as it was
incumbent on him to endeavour to join her at all events, he stepped on
boldly, taking no notice of the spy by whom he had himself been
watched.

"Courage," said Helen, in a low voice, as soon as she became
conscious of his approach, "we may yet be saved!"

"You are followed by one of the natives," replied Jerry, in the same
low tone, "and so am I. We are discovered."

"Could you not catch hold of the one behind you and secure him?" said
Helen with desperation.

"It would be folly, miss; the two would only set up a howl which
would bring down the whole gang on us. Better go back as we came."

"We cannot help it," said Helen, after a short pause; "but it is hard
to surrender ourselves again to the mercy of the savages: but, as it
must be so, our best course is to go quietly back again......"

"It would be better to go back together," interposed Jerry; "it will
seem more natural--as if we had been looking for each other."

"Perhaps so;--and it may remove any suspicion that they may have of
our meditating an escape, so that we shall have the better chance
another time. Come, we must return."

They returned therefore, together, the two natives following them
closely, but without making any attempt at concealing themselves, as
they had done previously. Jeremiah, wishing to take a survey of them,
perceived by the light of the moon that one of them was a man, and
that the other was the same old woman who had interfered in his behalf
before. As he had no idea of her having any other design on him than
to eat him, the present evidence of her inclination in keeping him so
pertinaciously in view, aggravated his painful anticipations.

During their departure, the natives had succeeded in catching some
opossums, generally to be found in great abundance scampering about
the trees on moonlight nights, and which were now scorching on the
various fires. The women also contributed their store of gum, which
they had been diligent in collecting during the march, and which they
had gathered from the acacia trees as they passed, bit by bit; each
woman sticking the whole of her fragments together as she proceeded,
so as to make a round mass as big as a cricket-ball which she placed
in a little net about as large as a small landing-net, made from the
flexible fibres of the stringy-bark tree, and which she carried
suspended round her neck.

Of these balls of gum, some big and some little, they produced nearly
twenty, most of which they threw on the fires to simmer. The old lady
who had taken Jerry under her particular protection, brought part of a
singed opossum and a small ball of hot gum to the prisoners, as they
sat, side by side, on the grass. Helen received the edibles with signs
of thanks; but the opossum had a disagreeable smell, and the gum was
boiling hot, so that the delicacies remained untouched.

Jerry now reminded Helen that he had a store of provisions more
congenial to their tastes in the knapsack of the bushranger, besides a
variety of articles which might be useful in propitiating the natives.
They discussed for some time the propriety of opening their wares, not
a little surprised that the savages had not already laid violent hands
on them; but there was a reason for that as they discovered
afterwards.

It was agreed, however, that they should make use of the biscuit and
the tea and sugar, of which Jerry was the bearer; and he began to
unfasten the knapsack for that purpose. But he no sooner manifested
his intention "to break bulk," as the nautical term is, than the same
old woman came briskly up to them, for they were sitting by
themselves--in the centre of the black groups indeed, but unmolested
by their masters. The old woman seemed at first inclined to forbid the
opening of the knapsack, but curiosity most likely prevailing, she
suffered the white man to proceed.

Jerry therefore produced from the reservoir some biscuit and some
tea, and white loaf-sugar. The old woman gazed at these articles very
earnestly, but did not offer to touch them.

He then unpacked from his stores two pannikins, and a small tin tea--
kettle. These articles also the old lady regarded with much
admiration, and she waited to see their uses.

Jerry made signs to her to signify that he wanted the kettle filled
with water. This the woman readily comprehended, and she called out in
a loud voice to the women who were grouped together at a fire behind
those where the men were assembled. At the sound of her voice a tall
female native immediately came forth, and stood before her.

The old woman said something to her in a tone of command, which the
other promptly obeyed; for taking up the kettle, she proceeded to the
spring and filled it with water, with which she returned, lifting up
her legs on high, and with a very grave aspect.

This command, and the ready obedience which followed it, made Helen
and Jeremiah surmise, that the old lady was some person possessing
authority; but what the nature of her rank or power was, they could
not understand.

Jerry now poured some of the water from the tea-kettle on to the
ground, an act which the old woman beheld with much surprise, as she
could not comprehend the reason of his wasting water, which had been
fetched at the cost of some trouble; and when Jerry put into the
remaining water half a handful of tea, and placed the tea-kettle on
the fire, the old woman's surprise increased; for she expected, of
course, that the strange thing, for of metal she had no idea, would be
burnt. But when the kettle boiled, and steam issued from the spout,
the native could not restrain her astonishment, and she uttered a
sound difficult to express in writing, but nearly resembling the
neighing of a horse. This exclamation quickly brought around her the
whole body of the natives, both men and women, who gazed at the
phenomenon of the boiling water, with the most lively expressions of
wonder.

Jerry now offered the canvass-bag containing the white sugar to
Helen, together with a pannikin. Helen selected a small lump, which
she put in her pannikin, and Jerry poured on it some of the boiling
tea from the kettle. As the water was ejected from the spout, the
crowd shouted with admiration, but they did not fail to observe that
it was changed in colour, a circumstance which seemed to give rise to
much comment among them. One of the men who was standing close to
them, seized the bag of sugar which he was about to dispose of in some
way, when the old woman snatched it away from him, giving him at the
same time a sound rating, in which she seemed to be a great
proficient, for the man hung down his head and slunk back behind the
others. She then restored the bag to Jerry.

Jerry wondered who this important old lady could be, who seemed to
exercise so powerful a control over the tribe; and as he judged it was
of importance to propitiate so dignified a personage, although she was
as little encumbered with robes of royalty or any other robes as the
rest of the black community, he took from the bag a tolerably big lump
of sugar, and presented it to her with much ceremony.

The old lady hesitated for a moment or two before she took it; but
when she had it in her hand she viewed it with much indifference,
mistaking it for a piece of chalk, of which there is plenty to be
found in some parts of the island. In order to satisfy herself on this
point, she called to her one of the men, who stooped down, and on
whose back she attempted to make a white mark with the stuff. But as
the sugar was hard and serrated, and as the old woman's hand was
vigorous, instead of producing the pigmental effect which she
expected, it only excoriated the black man's back, who uttered a loud
roar from the smart, which was greeted with the general merriment of
his brethren.

The old lady smelled at the white stuff, but that gave her no
information. She then handed it to the native who stood near her, and
he smelled it, and handed it to the next, who passed it on to the
others, and so they all smelled it, but no one of them could make
anything of it; and the white stuff was returned to Jerry.

Jerry then took another little bit, which he put into his mouth and
ate, making signs to the old woman to do the same, but she shook her
head, and declined to make the experiment.

While this examination of the lump of sugar was going on, Helen had
been sipping her tea from the pannikin, and soaking her biscuit in the
hot liquid, in which refection she was accompanied by Jeremiah. As
soon as he had finished his pannikin of drink, Jerry put into it the
piece of sugar which had been submitted to the examination of the
natives, and poured on it some of the boiling tea from the kettle. He
then handed it to the old woman.

The old woman took it; but as she took hold of it by the rim and not
by the handle, she burnt her fingers, and let it fall to the ground,
the hot liquid scalding the legs of several besides her own, as it was
scattered about.

Jerry, however, poured her out another cup; but as she would not
take hold of it a second time, he placed it on the ground close by her
side. She popped her finger into it, but soon took it out again,
uttering a cry of pain!

Then all the natives would put their fingers into it to try the
experiment, those who tried it first urging on the others to try it
also, and taunting the backward ones, especially the women, for their
timidity; much in the same way as children who have experienced an
electric shock, endeavour to persuade others to feel the same
sensation.

When the mirth which the hot tea had given rise to had subsided, the
natives turned their attention to the biscuit which the white people
were eating; and Jerry offered some of it to the native who was
nearest to him.

The native took it, and as usual, first smelled it, and passed it
round to the others, by all of whom it was smelled in turn; but not
one of them would taste it. They exhibited a strong desire, however,
to examine the contents of Jerry's knapsack; but this was
authoritatively refused by the old lady, who rose from her sitting
posture, and spoke some words to the assembled crowd, pointing to the
west, which had an immediate effect upon them; and they forthwith
retired to their separate fires crouching behind their breakwinds.

Helen and Jerry also, on their parts, seeing that there was no
present harm intended to them, and that the fate of themselves and
their valuables were postponed for some reason which they could not
divine, were inclined to rest; and Helen endeavoured to make the old
woman understand that she was desirous of retiring to the sleeping
place of the women which she observed was arranged by a fire apart,
and at some distance from the fires of the men.

The old lady at last understood her signs, and prepared to conduct
her to the female department of the encampment; but first, she called
out to the men, and one of them having appeared, she said something to
him, the meaning of which was evident from his behaviour; for the
native at once established himself in the immediate vicinity of
Jeremiah, and lying down on his belly, watched him as an intelligent
dog does an article of property that he has been set to guard.

The looks of the black fellow were by no means agreeable to Mr.
Silliman, but fatigue soon weighed him down so heavily that he forgot
natives and bushrangers and all, and slept on the bare earth as if on
a bed of down. Helen also courted sleep for the sake of the strength
which it would restore to her, and in a short time the whole of the
party with the exception of the two who kept watch over the captives,
were fast asleep. For many hours the two prisoners slept profoundly,
nor thought, nor dreamed of the new adventures which the morrow was to
bring forth.




Chapter V. The Passage of the River.

AT the first dawn of day the natives were on the stir, and as they
had no toilet duties to perform, and no portmanteaus or carpet bags to
pack, they were ready to start as soon as they had got on their legs;
an absence of ceremony which gave them a decided advantage in
travelling. Before they set out, however, Helen made another attempt
to leave them, and she beckoned to Mr. Silliman to accompany her; but
they had no sooner made a few steps towards the entrance of the glen,
than they found themselves followed by the same old woman and the same
man who had watched them the night before.

Abandoning an attempt, therefore, which it was plainly useless to
persevere in, Helen thought that she might be able to purchase their
release by voluntarily presenting the natives with the stores and
articles carried by her companion; but on their attempting to unpack
the goods, they were immediately checked by the old woman, who gave
them to understand that the articles were not to be touched at that
time; an intimation with which they were obliged to comply.

Sorrowfully, therefore, and, as Jerry complained, without any
breakfast but dry biscuit and cold water, they accompanied the natives
on their journey, which Helen conjectured was homewards, as the
movements of the natives were in one determined direction, and as they
seemed to have no other thought than to reach the place of their
destination.

In this way, and without stopping, they travelled the whole of the
day, in a slow and sauntering manner; the women employed in collecting
gum, and the men occasionally ascending a tree to capture an opossum,
the presence of which animal, as Helen remarked, they were able to
detect by its scent, their organs of smelling being remarkably acute,
and, in that respect, bearing a strong resemblance to those of the
inferior animal creation.

They saw plenty of kangaroos in their route, but the natives did not
exert themselves to chase them; but they caught many kangaroo-rats and
bandicoots. The old woman presented one of the latter to Helen, who
was surprised to find the furry coat of the creature, which was about
as large as a small badger, come off as she handled it, as if there
was no power of cohesion between the hair and the skin.

The old woman endeavoured to make her understand that it was very
good to eat, and Helen expressed her thanks in the best way she could;
but she was by no means in the humour to study objects of natural
history, and her uneasiness increased at every step which she made
further in the interior, as it augmented the difficulties of her
escape. She was at a loss also to imagine what it was that the natives
intended to do with her. They offered her no violence, and all the
restraint that they put on her was to prevent her from quitting them.
But whether she was reserved to be put to death in some solemn manner,
or in accordance with some religious ceremony, she could only
conjecture; and such a conjecture was by no means calculated to
enliven the tediousness of the way.

As for poor Jeremiah, he had made up his mind, with a sort of
desperate resignation, as to what his fate would be, and he could not
refrain from expressing his lamentations in the most disconsolate
terms to the more strong-minded Helen. He had read in some book of
travels that it was the practice with all savages either to eat the
enemies whom they had taken in battle on the spot, or to offer them up
to their gods as victims of sacrifice; and as he could not possibly
conceive what other use they could make of him, he had no doubt that
such was the honour reserved for his especial glorification.

Helen endeavoured to restore the courage of her fellow-captive, by
remarking that there was no appearance of any religious ceremony being
in use among the tribe of natives with whom they were travelling; that
they did not pay any sort of worship to any being, visible or
invisible; nor did she observe any one of them with any appearance of
being a minister of religion.

But her arguments failed to convince Jerry; he was sure, he said,
that it was intended that he should be sacrificed; and as to the gum
which they were so officious in offering to him, it was only to fatten
him up for the grand occasion; and the old woman looked, as he
averred, as if she could eat him at any time, without salt or pepper.

"But before they shall do that," added Jerry, valorously, "I will
have a fight for it!--But my greatest trouble is about you, miss; I
don't suppose they will eat you; for they must see that you are not
one to fight them--and a woman they say, is respected, even by
savages. At any rate I will fight for you, miss, if I only had a
weapon--a gun or a pistol--till I died!--I would, indeed! and I
wouldn't mind death, unpleasant as it is under any circumstances, if I
could only save your life!"

Helen thanked the kind-hearted Jeremiah for his generous intentions,
and in this interchange of sentiments which, after all, had a certain
charm for Jerry, for he had never been in such close communion with
the beautiful Miss Horton before, they beguiled their journey; passing
over a variegated country of hill and dale, till they arrived at the
bank of a broad and rapid river a few miles from the dell which they
had left, and which was the same which the bushranger had discovered
from the top of the sugar-loaf hill.

The natives did not seem at all embarrassed at this obstacle; but an
immense deal of jabbering took place in making preparations for
passing it. It was about twenty yards broad, flowing in a southerly
direction in a plain of luxuriant but coarse grass, bearing the marks
of being periodically flooded. The women, on this occasion, sat down
on the turf by the margin of the water, taking no part in the work--
which was performed exclusively by the men; but they endeavoured to
forward the undertaking, it seemed, by much gratuitous advice, all
talking together with considerable vehemence and great gesticulation.

The men, meanwhile, set about constructing two bark canoes, but as
they had only a stone axe to work with, the incision of the bark in
the first instance was an operation of much difficulty, as the bark of
nearly all the trees in Van Diemen's land is very thick and tough.
Jerry, observing the operose nature of their work, and thinking that
this was a favourable opportunity for being useful, made his way to
them, and requesting them by signs to stand back, drew out an axe,
which was one of the articles of which he was the bearer, but which
had been concealed under his coat. He soon made manifest the
superiority of the white man's tool; but his interference was
interrupted by the eternal old woman, who made signs to him to
discontinue his assistance, as, for some reason which he could not
comprehend, his axe was forbidden to be made use of.

This restriction puzzled Jeremiah exceedingly. But the men were not
so submissive to the mysterious authority of the aged female as
before. One of them took the axe from Jerry's hand, very
unceremoniously, and examined it attentively, admiring the sharp edge,
and wondering at the hardness of the metal. He passed it round to his
fellows, who, although they saw plainly enough that it was an
instrument made to cut with, could not make out of what stuff it was
made, as they were entirely unacquainted with the use of iron.

An immense quantity of talk ensued, and one who seemed to have some
previous knowledge of the instrument, harangued the others at great
length, as it seemed, in explanation of the white man's axe. The
native who had taken it from Jerry, and who seemed to exercise the
chief authority over the tribe next to the old woman, then proceeded
to use it, which he did with great dexterity; and as the keen edge
penetrated into the bark and effected at one stroke an incision which
it took many repeated blows of the rude stone instrument of the
natives to perform, the black fellows set up a shout of admiration and
capered round the tree in excessive delight.

The necessary planks of bark, by means of this effective auxiliary,
were quickly separated from two trees fit for the purpose, and the two
ends of each being tied up so as to fashion the pieces of bark into
the shape of two canoes, they were pushed into the water. But a bright
thought now seized Jerry, who, seeing the success of his first essay
at pleasing the natives, was prompted to a fresh display of his
ingenuity.

He was furnished with more than a hundred yards of whale line, which
the forethought of the bushranger had provided, and which was now
found particularly useful, so that Jerry in his glee remarked to Helen
"that the burthen which had so long plagued him would turn out after
all the best load he had ever carried; and," as he philosophically
observed, "that there was no knowing what was best for us in this
world, for that which seemed most burthensome often turned out most
useful in the end."

Jeremiah now assumed an air and attitude of authority, in which he
was supported by his ally, the old woman, who seemed curious to know
what were his intentions. He made signs to the natives to remove to
the edge of the river several pieces of dead timber, which he fastened
together with a part of his cord so as form a tolerably large and
secure raft, capable of bearing a dozen persons, and which, by the
united strength of the whole party, was launched into the water and
held fast. He then divided his whale line into two lengths, and tied
one of the cords to one end of the raft and one to the other. The
natives regarded all these preparations in silence, but with great
attention.

He then, by signs, directed a "black fellow" to take hold of the end
of one of the lines and transport himself with it in a bark canoe to
the other side of the stream.--He had some difficulty in making him
understand what he wanted him to do; but at last the native
comprehended his meaning, and he and another, having provided
themselves with a long pole each, by way of an oar or punt-stick,
stepped lightly into the fragile boat, and one sitting at either end
of it, they quickly pushed themselves over to the other side.

When both of the men were in the canoe, Helen observed that it was
nearly under water, so that it was impossible for more than two to be
conveyed in the same boat at a time, and the slightest motion seemed
to endanger its being overturned; but the two natives balanced
themselves and managed their extempore craft with wonderful dexterity,
and showed no signs of fear at such a ticklish mode of water-carriage.

In the mean time, Jerry intimated, by signs, that two more natives
were to cross over, which they did. He then got on the raft with
Helen, first putting the end of the other rope into the hand of
another native on the bank, in order that the raft might be hauled
back for the conveyance of more passengers.

He endeavoured to prevail on some of the women to accompany them, but
they all hung back and refused to try the experiment;--they could not
make out why the cords were tied to the wood on the water.

The men on the other side now readily comprehended that their part
was to pull the raft over the stream, which they did easily, the
rapidity of the current assisting them; and Jerry and Helen were
safely landed on the other side. A wild scream of admiration sprung
from the assembled blacks as they beheld the success of this
manoeuvre; and those on the side which the raft had left, now seeing
the reason of the two cords, quickly pulled the raft back, and by this
means the whole party passed over quickly, and without accident.

Jeremiah, vastly pleased with his exploit, and trusting that, if the
natives found his services useful, they would refrain from devouring
him, or, at any rate, that they would postpone that ceremony for some
time which would give him the chance of escaping, now untied the cords
from the raft, and as they were wet and uncomfortable for him to
carry, he parted them off into coils, which he placed round a young
native's neck, who permitted him to do so without resistance, and on
the contrary, seemed rather pleased to be selected for the honourable
distinction.

Helen now conceived hopes, from the pacific treatment which they had
already received from the natives, and from their present demeanour,
that she should be able to induce them to conduct her to some
settlement; but she perceived that there was some particular reason
for their taking her with them; and she guessed that there was some
native of higher authority before whom she was to appear, and on whose
decision her fate rested. In the mean time, she resolved to bear her
present lot with all the fortitude that she could bring to her aid;
and she determined to avail herself of the opportunity to observe the
manners and customs of her new associates closely, as well for her
general information, as to enable her to take advantage of any good
trait in their dispositions, or of their inclination to possess
themselves of the mechanical tools of the white people, for the
purpose of effecting her release. And she flattered herself, that she
should be able to find the means of communicating to them the promise
of a great reward of axes, nails, and various useful articles on the
condition of being restored to her friends.

Mr. Silliman being of the same opinion, and being considerably elated
at his own readiness of invention, and great cleverness and ingenuity
in respect to the construction of the raft, they became less
depressed. They were inclined almost to be cheerful at the prospect of
the speedy liberation which they promised themselves, and the
remainder of their journey was performed with less anxiety than at
first.

They had to cross two more small streams before they stopped; one of
them they passed by means of a natural bridge formed of a tree which
had fallen conveniently across the water; the other they waded
through. Jerry could not avoid remarking on the inconvenience of
having clothes on in the latter case; and in this respect, he said, he
was bound to concede the superiority to the natives; wondering at the
same time, "if their masters would oblige him and Miss Horton to adopt
the national custom in that respect, which he observed would be very
chilly to one not used to it."

Helen had her own misgivings on that point, but she said nothing, as
indeed it was an awkward subject to converse on; but it is due to Mr.
Silliman to record that he practised the most gentlemanly reserve
towards his companion in captivity, being actuated as much by his own
kindness of heart, as by habitual respect for Miss Horton; so that the
poor girl was saved from much that was disagreeable by the unobtrusive
assiduousness of his attentions.

They had now proceeded about twenty miles, and the sun had for more
than two hours declined in its course. It was very hot, and Helen was
much fatigued; Jerry, too, was tired with his journey. The old woman
observed they walked with difficulty, and raising her voice, she
caused the whole party to halt, and the natives assembled around her.

She spoke to them a few words, and by her pointing to the north-west,
Helen guessed that she was giving some directions in respect to that
quarter. And her anticipation was presently confirmed; for after a
little consultation among themselves, nearly all the natives continued
their march, leaving behind them only the old woman, who had taken
special charge of the captives, and another young girl, with three of
the men, among whom was the one bearing round his neck the coils of
whale line placed there by Jeremiah.

This arrangement having been effected, the old lady intimated to her
prisoners, that they might rest where they were, which happened to be
in a pleasant clump of cedar trees on a platform of sandy land, raised
about six or eight feet above a grassy plain, on the edge of which
they were reposing. Under their feet, and at the bottom of the bank
which was extended like a wall for some distance right and left, ran a
shallow brook of water not more than two or three inches in depth.
Towards the west there was a ridge of continuous hills of considerable
height, and at a distance on their left were to be seen the craggy
summits of lofty mountains.

Helen endeavoured to ascertain how much further they had to go; but
although it appeared that the old woman understood the meaning of the
signs which she made, Helen could not understand what the black lady
said in reply, although the native, in order to make herself more
intelligible, repeated her words several times, and pronounced with
great earnestness the syllables "Walloo-wombee." But what this
"walloo--wombee" was, whether it was the name of a place or of a
person, neither Helen nor Jeremiah could make out. It seemed, however,
that on this "walloo-wombee!" depended in some manner their future
destiny.

As they could not help themselves, however, they determined to make
the best of circumstances, and Jerry set the natives to cut down
boughs and to place them so as to form a tolerable bush-hut for Helen,
and another for himself at a little distance. His tea-kettle also was
again put in requisition, and Helen was able to enjoy that which is
considered in the bush as the greatest luxury. One of the native men
caught a kangaroo rat, which he gave to the prisoners, and Jerry after
dissecting it with his knife, roasted it at the fire which had been
kindled, and tasted it. Finding it to resemble very much a wild
rabbit, though much tougher and more sinewy and fibrous, he encouraged
Helen to partake of it, which she did, after a little reluctance, with
much satisfaction.

The night was now passed with less of discomfort than Helen had
experienced since her life in the bush; and the next morning they were
invited, as soon as daylight appeared, to continue their journey. The
weather still continued fine and without rain, which was unusual at
this season of the year, it being September, and the early part of
spring, during which the periodical rains take place. They journeyed
on that day about a dozen miles more, most of the country being flat,
and only one or two high hills occurring during the whole of this
route. In the afternoon, they came to a part of the country abounding
in rocks and ravines, wild and barren, and seemingly unfitted for the
habitation of anything but wild beasts.

They toiled through half a mile of this rugged district, when, on
surmounting a low green hill, they suddenly found themselves within
sight of the sea, while to their right stretched a sheltered dell of
the most picturesque description, and which they observed was
sheltered from the sea, which they judged was not more than a mile
distant, by a high ridge forming a natural barrier to the vale within.

Having been allowed to enjoy the pleasure of this view for some
minutes, their conductor urged them forward, giving them to understand
by signs that they had arrived at the end of their journey. Both Helen
and Jeremiah were now seized with much anxiety and fear; for the
moment had arrived when their fate--for good or ill--was to be
decided.




Chapter VI. A Native Chief.

DESCENDING a gentle declivity for about two hundred yards, they were
led by the old lady who acted as mistress of the ceremonies, into the
bosom of the valley, which was bordered by dense forests of the
stringy-bark tree, whose tall and leafless stems had a naked and
gloomy appearance. In the centre of the valley ran a small rivulet on
the borders of which on either side, Helen perceived groups of
natives.

As she approached nearer, she observed that one of them was sitting
on the log of a tree apart from the others who were standing or lying
about near the fires which were burning in all directions. Presently,
she was able to distinguish that the native on the log was an old man;
apparently very old; and it struck her immediately, although she could
not tell why, that the other natives demeaned themselves with a sort
of deference to the aged black man; although there was no sign of
royalty or chieftainship about him, and the only robe of royalty he
wore was, like the other natives, the garb of nature.

Helen remembered to have read something of the "natural dignity of
man," and of "beauty when unadorned being adorned the most," &c. She
was decidedly of opinion, however, that the natural dignity of man
would have been assisted on the present occasion by that article of
dress which, among ladies of white complexions, can never be more than
distantly alluded to; and the same remark was applicable to the
countrymen or subjects of his black Majesty. As to the female part of
his court, Helen could not but wish that their beauties had been
adorned by some sort of covering of ever so little dimensions.

But the old lady who was conducting her and her companion to the
presence of the great man did not seem to be at all aware that
anything was wanting to the impressive nature of the reception. There
was the sky and the sun above, and the earth and its waters beneath,
and kangaroos, and opossums, and gum for food; and what was there to
want more?--The old lady, after all, was somewhat of a philosopher;
but she carried out her philosophical notions of the fewness of the
natural wants rather to the extreme! Poor Helen felt the present
practical illustration of it most painfully. But there was no retreat!
She was in the power of the natives, and she was constrained to abide
by their will.

Mr. Silliman suffered also exceedingly, but it was from a different
cause; not that he was unfeeling or indifferent to the extreme
awkwardness of Miss Horton and himself being the only persons dressed
at this sable party;--his thoughts ran on being "dressed" in another
way; for he feared that this might be the chief or conjuror, for the
especial gratification of whose appetite he had been reserved. It was
with a shudder, therefore, of natural apprehension that he observed,
whatever else of strength or beauty that important personage had lost,
that the old gentleman had preserved his grinders, which were
decidedly carnivorous!--His mouth, also, was of most formidable
dimensions:--

The great man opened it deliberately, and said something to the old
woman.

The old woman replied sententiously; and then pointing to the old man
she said to his compulsory visitors:--

"Walloo-wombee!"

"What does she mean?" asked Jerry, of Helen.

"She means, doubtless, that the name of that old man is the word she
has pronounced;--and as he seems to be the chief of the tribe, it will
be prudent for us to please him."

"He is a most particularly ugly old rascal," replied Jerry. "Did you
ever see such grinders!"

"Hush!" said Helen; "he is going to speak again."

The natives, men, women, and children, now gathered round, and looked
on in silence.

In reply to some questions put from the log, the old lady, it seemed,
explained to the "chief" the difference of the sexes of Helen and
Jeremiah, for she pointed to Helen and then to a woman of her own
tribe, and then to Jerry and to a male native. The old gentleman
expressed a lively curiosity at this, and beckoned to Helen to come
near to him. Taking hold of part of her dress with his black paw, he
examined it with much wonder: he had never seen anything resembling it
before. He directed the white woman, by signs, to take it off. His
mistress of the ceremonies was about to render her aid unasked in this
interresting operation, the issue of which was evidently waited for by
the assembled natives with much interest.

Poor Helen was much embarrassed. She had a particular objection to
being stripped, especially in the presence of such a numerous
assemblage; but she feared also to offend the chief. In this dilemma,
gently resisting the old lady's officious readiness to act as lady's
maid, she pointed to Jerry; wishing to direct attention to his attire;
and hoping that some lucky accident would prevent the necessity of her
parting with her own. As soon as her desire was understood, it was at
once assented to by the chief, who was wondering what the bundles
borne by the white man contained. Jerry therefore was invited by very
significant gestures to unpack himself. Helen, rejoicing at this
diversion, assisted him with alacrity.

The first thing that attracted the chief's attention was the axe of
which he had received information from the natives who had preceded
the prisoners, and which he forthwith tried, but with a very feeble
hand, on the log which served him for his throne of audience. It might
be difficult to say whether he entertained the same opinion of a
throne as a great contemporary who expressed a memorable opinion on
that subject, but, at any rate, he treated it with as little ceremony.

Being satisfied with the qualities of the tool, he quietly dropped it
on the ground behind him, as a perquisite to be appropriated to
himself. He then pointed to the tea-kettle, the shape of which filled
him with much curiosity. He turned it over and over, wondering perhaps
of what sort of bark or wood it was made, and enquired the use of it?

The old lady, who acted as interpreter, immediately entered into an
animated description of the boiling of the water; but as he could not
comprehend the matter that way, he directed that the white people
should proceed to explain its uses by practical illustration.

Jerry made some tea in it accordingly, and sweetened it with the
white sugar, a substance which the old gentleman examined with
particular curiosity. Observing that the white man put a bit of it
into his mouth, the chief did the same, and seemed exceedingly
gratified at its sweet taste; which was not altogether new to him,
however, as the juice which exudes and crystallizes on a certain tree
in Van Diemen's Land, similar to the sweet maple, abundant in many
parts of the United States of America, has a sweet taste, though
sickly to a stranger, of which the natives are very fond.

Approving of the sugar as he had done of the axe, he intimated that
the whole of it should be shown to him, which he seized on as a royal
prize, and deposited it on the ground behind the throne.--The tea-
kettle he paid little regard to.

Animated by the discoveries he had already made, of the white man's
treasures, he expressed his desire, by very intelligible signs, that
Jerry should proceed with his revelations.

Accordingly that obsequious individual produced a stone bottle of
rum, which the old gentleman smelt at, and put away with evident
dislike.

A tinder-box was then displayed, which puzzled the great man
exceedingly; but when Jerry struck sparks with the flint and steel,
and ignited the tinder, the admiration of all present was violent in
the extreme! It was immediately taken possession of by his Majesty for
the use of the State.--Three pannikins also, which formed part of
Jerry's stores, were placed in the royal treasury.

They now came to Grough's knapsack, which Jerry, hitherto, had not
had the opportunity of opening, and which that most unamiable person
had added to his prisoner's load, with so little humanity, on the
morning of the late Mr. Swindell's sudden decease.

The weightiest part of its contents was a huge bottle of brandy,
which the chief rejected with the same antipathy as he had put aside
the rum. Jerry next pulled out a handkerchief containing dollars,
which the natives did not understand the value of; they were given to
the children to play with.

Jerry then fished out of the knapsack a woollen bag secured by a
string. He opened it, and, to his extreme delight, found a small pair
of pocket pistols, with a flask full of powder, a couple of dozen
balls, with spare flints and apparatus complete. It had formed part of
the Major's personals, and had been secured by Mr. Grough for himself,
at the time of the general plunder.

Helen was so rejoiced at the sight of the familiar weapons that she
could not refrain from a loud exclamation of gladness! for she felt
that she now had, at her command, the means of defending herself from
outrage, and perhaps of intimidating the savages.

The pistols were of exquisite make; and their quality was proved by
their having preserved their primings so long a time, for to Helen's
still greater satisfaction, they were loaded.--As a soldier's
daughter, and a girl of spirit as she was, she was neither
unacquainted with the use of such weapons, nor timid in availing
herself of their protection. She took possession of them, therefore,
as her legitimate right, and suspended the bag to her girdle,
explaining in a few words to Mr. Silliman the part which she intended
to act.

The old chief and the other natives observed her proceedings with
much interest, and the old woman put out her hand to take the pistols
from her for the purpose of presenting them to the chief. But Helen
shook her head and pointed to the sky.

All the natives looked up at the sky; but as they saw nothing more
than they had seen every day, they all looked down again and directed
their eyes to the curious things in the hands of the white woman. The
old lady again made an attempt to possess herself of the pistols, but
Helen pushed back her hands. The chief, who it seemed was not exempt
from the general infirmity of royalty, now became impatient, and said
some words in an angry tone, which excited his savage subjects, and
his female prime minister advanced again.

But Helen, determined not to relinquish her protectors, thought that,
by an exhibition of the power of the tiny fire-arms, she might succeed
in overawing the natives so as to cause them to desist from their
hostile intentions of wresting them from her by force. She again made
a sign, therefore, for the natives to look up to the sky, wishing them
to understand that the things which she held in her hand had some
connection with the mysterious powers of the heavens; and while they
were thus earnestly engaged, she discharged one of the pistols in the
air, which, from its propinquity to their ears, produced an astounding
report!

The effect of this unexpected "thunder" on the old chief was sudden
and striking. Most of the other natives had heard the sound of the
white man's thunder, and had witnessed its deadly effects; but the
chief, from his extreme distance from any settlement, and from his
great age, which had incapacitated him for some years past from
joining his tribe in their customary migrations, never having
experienced such a shock on his auditory nerves before, fell back with
affright, and tumbled head over heels from his log, to the infinite
consternation of the spectators!

They all rushed towards him, which afforded to Helen the opportunity
to recharge her weapon, which was expedited by the attentive Mr.
Silliman.

The old man was lifted from the ground, and, happily for the
prisoners, it was ascertained that he was more frightened than hurt,
or the consequences might have been fatal to the thunder-makers on the
spot. As it was, they were taken hold of by some of the natives, who
bound Jerry with his own whale-line, and placed him on the ground
apart near a huge fire, which he had much the same satisfaction in
contemplating as it might be supposed, a sirloin of beef would have if
endowed with animation in the same position waiting to be roasted.
Poor Jerry thought, to be sure, that his last hour was come! and
whether the whole world was ultimately to be consumed by fire or not,
that certainly he, as a fractional portion of living matter, was
destined individually to experience that most disagreeable mode of
corporeal annihilation!

But the effect on the chief, when he had sufficiently recovered his
faculties to comprehend the cause of his sudden summerset from his
log, was most impressive and profound; and he was seized with the idea
that the white people had really come from the sky, and that they had
the power to wield the thunder and lightning which often visited them
from above!

He regarded Helen especially as a superior being, from the wonderful
whiteness of her skin, and from the absence of all fear, which he did
not fail to remark was one of her characteristic qualities.

As to Jerry, whose dress, the chief remarked, was different from that
of Helen, he conjectured that he was some inferior inhabitant of the
same sky, fulfilling the office of attendant or slave to her, the
superior one; but who, still, was to be regarded with the respect due
to a creature attached to the person of one to whom he was inclined to
pay superstitious veneration.

It is likely that this fortunate reverence of the old chief saved
both their lives. Jerry was ordered to be unbound; while Helen was
treated with extraordinary respect, being invited to sit on the log
occupied by his Majesty, and the whole of her goods borne by her slave
were directed to be restored to her. But somehow, as Jerry remarked,
they were subjected, with a curious similitude to more civilized
courts, to so many deductions in the shape of perquisites by the way,
that but little of the restituted property reached its legitimate
destination.

Mr. Silliman, however, with much tact, took advantage of these
favourable dispositions, and set the natives to work to build for
Helen a commodious hut formed of stakes and the boughs of trees,
contenting himself with one of an inferior description at a little
distance; a distinction which confirmed the natives in their idea of
his subordinate capacity. He observed, however, that he and Helen were
closely and constantly watched so that escape seemed impossible; and
to fight their way out from the boundaries of their confinement was an
undertaking too rash to be attempted.

But not the slightest violence was offered to either of them; and
excepting that they were not allowed to leave the valley, no restraint
was placed on their motions. On the contrary, the old chief was
particularly pleased to have the white woman constantly by his side;
and as he became familiarized to the presence of "the inhabitant of
the sky," important state resolves took the place of his first fears
of her preternatural powers.

But it is proper in this place, as the western tribe of natives
occupies an important position in this narrative, to describe the
person of their chief, not only for the sake of historical accuracy,
but for the gratification also of the curious in such matters.

His Majesty "Walloo-wombee" had been originally very tall, and as
straight as a stringybark tree, but now was much bent with the weight
of years. What his physiognomy originally had been, it would have been
difficult to conjecture; but his visage at the period to which this
narrative refers, resembled that of a very old baboon. His body was
thin and bony; his arms long and wiry; his legs like spindles with
long narrow feet, having projecting excrescences like the claws of a
Boomah "kangaroo." His head, looking at it in front seemed small from
the lowness and narrowness of his retreating forehead; but seen
sideways, it looked large and of an oblong shape from the projecting
bump behind. In this characteristic it resembled the skulls of all the
natives, which are remarkably thick; a quality which enables them to
bear the thumps of their waddies, in their frequent combats, with a
disregard to feeling which surprises an European. The whole framework
of the old man, though now attenuated and feeble, exhibited the
remains of extraordinary strength and agility; and it was to those
qualities, most likely, as is usual among savages, that he owed his
elevation as chief of the tribe.

It must not be omitted, that on the occasion of the white people's
reception, his grisly hair was profusely powdered with the dust of
redochre, and that his body was smeared over, in rough devices, with
the same material mixed with resinous gum to help its adhesion.

It would appear from this, that even in the most simple and the
rudest state, there is an innate propensity in the animal man, to
improve his personal appearance by the aid of art; for, doubtless, the
care which had obviously been bestowed on the adonisation of the
chief, was supposed to add a finish to the natural dignity of his
person, calculated to strike an awe in the beholder.

Such was the high personage on whose nod--or on whose waddie--the
fate of Helen now depended.

The old lady, who was the daughter of this engaging individual,
looked almost as aged as her parent, though she was in truth, twenty
years younger; and excepting her sex, and that her ugliness was
infinitely more revolting in a woman than in a man, there was little
difference between them. But as the hearts of the softer sex are
proverbially more susceptible of the tender passion, than those of the
male kind, it was she who first felt a flame for one of the prisoners.

The black Gorgon loved him as Desdemona loved Othello--that is, vice-
versarily considered; but it must be confessed, that she had at first
in her contemplation a different sort of passion--for she loved him
because he was so fat! and as a familiar saying expresses it--although
in the present case it had too literal an application--she loved him
as if she could eat him!--a mode of exemplifying her partiality, which
she had originally cherished with all the ardour of native
ingenuousness!

But, as she could eat him--as she considered--at any time, her
thoughts were gradually turned in another direction; and such is the
force of mighty love! she, the daughter of a chief, resolved to raise
him to the rank of her husband!

She had already, had three. Two had been killed in battle; the other
she had killed herself. She would willingly have tried a fourth; but
no one of the tribe could be cajoled into accepting that distinguished
but dangerous place; for she was strong and tough exceedingly! and was
as expert as any one of the males in throwing the spear and in
handling the waddie; a dexterity which she had acquired by much
experience, and by the constant exercise of that primitive argument on
the skull of her deceased husband. These unattractive traits in her
character, added to her indomitable fierceness on all occasions when
her will was thwarted, caused her to have more fearers than admirers
among the gentlemen of her acquaintance.

The advent of Jeremiah, therefore, was really a godsend for the old
lady;--it seemed that he had dropped from the sky for her on
purpose,--andit was not long before she contrived by various endearing
attentions to make the object of her attachment sensible of her
preference. But Jerry was as inexorable as a tiger!

Filled with despair, the daughter of the royal chief communicated her
sorrow to her venerable papa, who having, himself, similar designs
towards the white woman, was well-disposed to forward her
inclinations.

The unhappy Helen, on her side, viewed the increasing partiality of
the old savage with unspeakable horror, as it threatened a fate worse
than death itself; so fatal, sometimes, to their objects are royal
predilections!




Chapter VII. Trevor Seeks Helen.

IN the mean time Trevor lay ill of the fever, occasioned by the
irritation of his wounds. The excellent corporal attended on him with
the most zealous assiduity. He fetched him the freshest water from the
river, and broiled for him the tenderest morsels of kangaroo flesh.
Gladly would he have made for him some of that delicious and
nourishing soup, which, of "all the tails on the face of the earth,"
as he declared, that of the kangaroo alone could furnish with such
luxurious relish.

But poor Trevor could eat nothing; and for three days water was his
only drink. Nothing but the strength of his constitution, and the
extraordinary salubrity of the climate, could have carried him through
such an illness. And to this was added the still more depressing
influence of his anguish of mind at the contemplation of Helen's fate,
whom he sometimes pictured as lost and wandering in the bush, and at
others in the power of the savages of whose relentless cruelty he had
heard so many horrible relations.

The corporal sat by his bush-hut, employed for the most part in
endeavouring to clean the rusty firelock left with him so mysteriously
in exchange for his own, and furbishing it up with charcoal ashes, so
as to give it a regimental appearance. Nothing, perhaps, but the
necessity of being armed in his solitude, could have reconciled him to
its use at all; and he lamented occasionally the absence of his own
firelock in most dolorous terms, as a lover grieving for his mistress,
which, at any other time, would have afforded the ensign considerable
amusement.

At the end of three days, however, his officer showed signs of
amendment; and Trevor no sooner felt the prostration of the fever
abating, than he expressed his desire to proceed in search of Miss
Horton. But this the corporal strenuously opposed; and Trevor's
weakness was so great that he could not disguise from himself that
such a course would be rash and useless. Besides, he considered that,
for Helen's sake, it would be more judicious to give information to
the Major at the cave, or to the people on board the brig, of the
fight with the natives, and the probability of her having been carried
away with them; as the corporal, after the most diligent daily search,
had been unable to discover any trace of her remains, or of those of
Mr. Silliman. He flattered himself also with the hope that possibly
Helen had escaped, and had found her way back to the bay.

Actuated by these considerations, he became anxious to reach the cave
as soon as possible; and, although he could hardly walk, he determined
to begin his journey back. In this determination the corporal entirely
acquiesced, "for he could not be worse off," as he remarked, than
where he was, and "every step back was a step forwards," bringing them
nearer to their friends.

Fortunately, although it was the beginning of the rainy season, the
weather held up, and the nights were not cold; and as Trevor was now
able to take food, and as there was no lack of kangaroos, he got on
better than he expected; but it took him four days to perform the
journey in his present state, which he had rapidly traversed in little
more than one shortly before. But on reaching the cave, to his
excessive mortification, and not less to the disappointment of the
corporal, they could not see the brig; and, from the appearance of the
cave, it seemed clear that it had been deserted!

The proclamation appended to the rock apprised them, however, that
the authorities were active in pursuit of the Bushranger, and Trevor
could only hope that, by some lucky chance, in pursuing the absconded
prisoners, they would meet with Helen; an opinion, however, in which
the corporal did not agree, as he said, "that in the bush one man
might search for another all his life, and never find him, unless he
knew where he was;" an assurance which was by no means calculated to
raise Trevor's spirits; but as the corporal was not in love, the
dreary prospect of such a failure did not strike him so forcibly as it
did his officer.

The question now was, what was to be done? The cave afforded shelter,
the forests firewood, and the kangaroos supplied food;--but what was
the use of remaining there; that would not help Helen. The corporal
counselled their immediate return to camp; and observed that they
could not miss the way, as they had only to keep within sight of the
river Derwent on their right hand, and they would be sure to reach the
town.

The road, however, could not fail to be difficult to a sick man.
However, as the corporal professionally remarked, "as there was no
help for it, all they had to do was to put their best foot foremost,
and lose no time about it."

Trevor was still very weak, but inspired by the ardour of youth, and
by his desire to give the earliest possible intelligence of Helen's
danger, he at once decided to set out for Hobart town. The journey was
long and difficult; and it took him six days to perform the distance
of forty miles, from the southern part of the coast where the bay was
situate to the nearest station on his way to the town. He arrived
there in a state so exhausted that it was necessary to procure a
bullock-cart to convey him to his quarters, where at last he obtained
the medical assistance which he so much needed.

The corporal reported himself to the commanding officer, and related
succinctly the occurrences which it was expedient to make known,
passing lightly over the event of the loss of his firelock, a
circumstance on which the worthy corporal did not think it necessary
to expatiate. He indulged himself, however, liberally in relating to
his comrades that which he called his "scrimmage" with the natives.

Trevor, on his part, lost no time in making inquiries of the brig,
and of the Major and his daughters. He ascertained that the brig was
anchored in the river near the jetty; that Louisa was under the care
of a family in the town, attended by a native girl, who had inspired
much interest with the inhabitants; and that the Major had started
with a party in search of Helen, who was supposed to be in the power
of the Bushranger, and whose fate had excited the most lively
commiseration.

His report of the probability of her having been carried away by the
natives gave rise to fresh excitement, although it was generally
deemed certain--an opinion which was industriously pressed upon
Trevor--that she had been put to death by the savages, as they were
never known to spare a white man or woman in their power.

Some few, however, had the consideration to say that, as Helen was a
woman, the case was different; and that the natives might not think it
necessary to take her life, and that perhaps she might be admitted
into their tribe, and become the wife of one of the black fellows.
This latter suggestion, it may easily be supposed, by no means calmed
Trevor's apprehensions.

He asked for leave to go in search of her, a request which was
readily granted; but here the medical attendant interposed, and
positively forbade any attempt at travelling in his present state; and
his commanding officer thought it his duty to exercise his authority
to prevent him from exposing himself to the hardships of the bush,
under circumstances which could not avail the young lady, and would
certainly be fatal to the adventurer. Trevor, therefore, was compelled
to bear his disappointment, and to nourish his grief in silence.

In his returning convalescence he was constantly in the society of
Louisa, with whom it was a melancholy pleasure for him to converse
about her sister; and to whom he could, without reserve, express his
bitter wretchedness at her loss, aggravated as it was by his own
inability to undertake the task of discovering her, if she was still
alive.

He related to her over and over again all the circumstances of his
fight with the natives, and the scream which he had heard from the
thicket, and which he was certain, he said, had proceeded from Helen.
And every day he discussed with her the likelihood of her having been
carried off as a prisoner by the natives, or the possibility of her
being even then a wanderer in the bush! Louisa listened to all these
surmises with many tears.

The young female native who had so willingly accompanied her father,
as Louisa informed Trevor, was often present at these conversations;
and although she could not understand the cause of their trouble, she
showed by her manner that she commiserated their distress, much in the
same way as an attached dog looks up into the face of its master when
he sees him troubled, and wags its tail and shows an inclination to
sympathise with his affliction if he could only understand what the
matter was, and how he could assist him. Such was the affectionate
expression visible in the face of Oionoo.

It is to be observed, that Miss Oionoo was now decently clothed, her
hair being profusely adorned with red ribbons, a colour for which she
manifested a particular predilection. It was with great difficulty,
however, that she was persuaded to suffer herself to be encumbered
with any description of apparel; and she displayed so decided a
partiality for the sailor's blue trousers, as allowing her more
freedom of motion than petticoats, that she was permitted to retain
them, as well from a desire to indulge her, as from considerations of
propriety; as she was fond of tumbling about occasionally after a
fashion that rendered nugatory the protection of female attire.

Nothing, however, could prevent her, at times, from throwing off the
whole of her clothes, in order to disport herself at liberty in the
garden attached to the house; in which she recreated herself in
climbing up the fruit-trees, and in various gambols, which, however
interesting they might be to a philosophical observer, from their
charming aboriginal simplicity, were by no means consistent with
civilized notions of female decorum.

By degrees she picked up a few words, and was able to express her
wants, though of course very imperfectly, in English. She imitated the
sounds of what she heard with great facility, but she could not so
easily be made to understand their meaning.

Trevor, partly from good-feeling, and partly to beguile the time,
would often amuse himself with endeavouring to teach the poor creature
to talk their language; and he endeavoured to learn from her something
about her countrymen, for he was exceedingly anxious to know if they
would take a white woman to wife.

He observed that the native, in her endeavours to make herself
understood, frequently pointed to the west; but it was a long time
before he could understand what she meant by that action. The
importance of it, however, to him and to her who was most dear to him,
will be seen in the course of this eventful history.




Chapter VIII. The Bushranger Seeks Helen.

ANXIOUS as Trevor was to hear tidings of Helen, and pained and
mortified as he was to be prevented by illness from joining the
expedition for her recovery, Mark Brandon was not less eager to find
the girl on whom he had fixed his wild and lawless lust.

Maddened by her loss, he cursed the ill-luck which had separated her
from him at the moment when he had assured, as he thought, the
destruction of her friends who were advancing to her rescue, and had
secured her for himself. He determined to follow her up at all
hazards, for his absorbing passion so blinded him to all consequences,
that he lost sight of his usual habits of caution, and was ready to
risk life and liberty to regain possession of her.

But, if she had been carried off by the natives, as he expected, he
should have need, he was aware, of the assistance of his brawny
comrade in the enterprise; he was obliged, therefore, to bear the
companionship of the treacherous rascal till his object was
accomplished. In this mood he had journeyed on with him towards the
scene of their encounter with the natives.

This time, however, he had forbore from going near the spot where
Trevor was lying, and where the corporal, whom he and Grough had seen
at a distance, was watching. He might easily have shot them both; but
as that would have been a murder without an object, which was contrary
to his "system," he passed on his way, intending to move round the
point and look for the tracks of the natives in their retreat.

He thought, at the time, that he observed his companion eye the
soldier in a way that indicated a desire to communicate with him; but
whether it was that Grough thought the attempt too hazardous, and that
he was likely to be shot by the corporal on the one side if he
approached him, and by Brandon on the other, if he left him, he had
gone on without speaking. Mark, however, guessed his thoughts, and as
he said to himself, "made a note of it."

The tracks which the Bushranger searched for were soon found, for the
natives had been in too large a body not to leave a trail behind them,
easy to be recognised by one so experienced in the bush.

The track led to the north-west which was precisely the part into
which the bushranger desired to penetrate. He looked out for some sign
of Helen having been with them, hoping that she would have recourse to
the same device to give information of her track as she had done
before. In this he was disappointed, but after a few miles travelling
he spied the mark of a little shoe. His heart leaped within him. It
could be no other than the girl's foot, for the natives never wore
shoes. He proceeded on his way with increased energy.

Grough had not observed the circumstance of the little foot, and
Brandon did not think it necessary to tell him; besides, the former
was too much occupied with his plans for seizing his friend and
delivering him up for the reward to do more than mark the route which
they were pursuing, in order that he might find his way back. To
assure himself of this facility he began to notch a tree as a sign-
post; but Brandon checked him.

Grough seemed at first inclined to rebel; but he suddenly assumed a
demeanour of entire acquiescence in Brandon's better judgment. The
Bushranger was not deceived by the transparent duplicity of his
fellow; but he made a "notch" in his memory of that circumstance too.

The pair went on side by side in seeming good fellowship; and they
kept on the track till they came to the point where the body of
natives separated, one tribe with Helen having gone one way, and the
auxiliary tribe another. This was embarrassing. The Bushranger stopped
to deliberate.

Some suspicion seemed now to cross the mind of the obtuse Grough.
What was Brandon's object in following the tracks of the natives? Had
he become acquainted with any tribe in his former sojourn in the bush?
What did he want with them? Grough was puzzled.

Brandon continued his search after some trace of Helen, but he could
find none. After some thought, he followed the track to the right,
leading to the north. Grough longed to ask the reason of his taking
one track in preference to another, or of his following the track of
the natives at all; but conscious of his own meditated treachery he
feared to put any question which might lead Brandon to doubt his
confidence; Brandon, from the very absence of the question, drew the
conclusion that his companion was hatching some trick against him; for
if his intentions had been good he would have spoken without
hesitation. He congratulated himself that the brute thought he was
outwitting him.

They continued their way, each mistrusting the other. By day the one
watched the other; at night neither would sleep lest the other should
surprise him. At last, on reaching the top of a low hill, they
suddenly discovered some natives on the plain beneath. At the same
time they were themselves discovered, and the natives feeling
confidence in the depth of their fastnesses, greeted them with a loud
yell of defiance.

Spears were thrown, but Brandon did not heed them; he was intent on
discovering some sign of Helen. The plain was open, and if she had
been there, he could not have failed to perceive her; but he could see
nothing of her. It was clear that he was on the wrong scent; he
stamped his foot with rage.

Grough observed the action with surprise; but he made no remark, for
there was a something in Brandon's look that was dangerous; and the
spirit of the less intellectual ruffian quailed before the mental
ascendancy of his superior. But, as the natives advanced, it was
necessary to check them.

Brandon had a double-barrel fowling-piece; Grough a musket.

"Fire!" cried out Brandon.

Grough hesitated; he did not like to leave himself without the
protection of a charge; for he feared Brandon as much as he did the
natives. But as the savages advanced closer, and their spears came
thick, Brandon was obliged to fire in self-defence, and, urged by the
imminence of the danger, Grough fired also. The natives retreated
immediately. Brandon's second barrel was undischarged, and Grough's
barrel was empty.

"I'm done!" thought Grough.

But, to his extreme surprise, Brandon desired him to load again
immediately.

"He doesn't suspect me after all," thought Grough.

It was what Brandon intended him to think.

"We must retrace our steps," said Brandon.

Grough joyfully assented.

Brandon seemed irritable and moody, and was lost in thought.

They went on till they returned to the spot where the two tracks
separated.

"This is our way," said Brandon, pointing to the track.

Grough demurred:--

"What's your game, Mark?" he said; "what's the use of following the
natives? We shall only get riddled with their spears some time, or
have our skulls smashed in with their waddies! No use in running into
danger. The natives won't help us to leave the island. Better go back
towards camp and try to seize a boat or something."

"And be seized ourselves," replied Brandon. He reflected for a
moment. Suddenly he said to Grough:--

"The natives have got the girl with them."

"The devil they have! How do you know that?"

"I know it; that's enough. We must get her again."

"What's the use of the girl when you have got her? One girl is as
good as another. Let us catch a native."

"You forget," said Brandon; "we want this girl as a hostage."

"As a what?"

"As a hostage--fool! As a pledge--to make terms with her father."

"Oh! that's another thing. But if the natives have got her, perhaps
they want her for a pledge--or a hostage, as you call it--too, and
they won't give her up."

"We must fight for it. If you don't like to stand by me, say so."

"Oh! I'll stand by you, Mark, my boy; never fear that. But I don't
like the job, that's all I can say."

"Say nothing, then; and come on."

This course did not at all accord with Grough's private plans; but
being an animal of one idea, he kept his mind steadily fixed on it,
and that was to betray Mark and get the reward. He kept on with him,
therefore, trusting that the opportunity of mastering him would come
at last.

They continued their way till dark; but as neither dared to sleep,
from fear of the other, Brandon thought it would be a waste of time to
stop. He had marked the "lie" of the country, and the direction of the
track which pointed to an opening between some low hills. He thought
he could not miss it, and he determined to travel all night, hoping to
come up with the natives. But in this he made a mistake which he would
not have committed in a calmer state of mind; for he knew very well
that to attempt to track footsteps in the bush at night is always
useless labour. But the irritation of his mind urged him on.

When the daylight came he found that he was wrong. He was not on the
track; and he could form no idea whether he had strayed to the right
of it or to the left. His judgment, perhaps from want of rest, had
become impaired, and his mental faculties enfeebled. He wandered about
for many days, scarcely taking food, and with little sleep. He always
removed to a distance from Grough and hid himself at night. He had
become peevish and irritable; and Grough grumbled openly. Still the
two kept together, for Brandon wanted Grough to make use of him, and
Grough stuck close to Brandon to betray him. At last, however, they
found the track again, and Brandon's spirits revived.

They followed it up until they came to the bank of the river over
which Helen and Mr. Silliman had passed in the raft.

But the river, always rapid, was now swollen into a boiling torrent,
and it seemed impossible to cross it at that place. The traces,
however, of the natives who had been there many days before, were
distinctly visible; and the trees at a little distance bore the marks
of having been cut by a steel axe. But the river was for the present
impassable. Brandon threw himself down on the grass furious from
disappointment.

But Grough was glad at the hinderance; and sat down at a little
distance. Both remained in silence; and both were worn out with the
fatigue of constant travelling, and from the want of refreshing sleep.

Brandon revolved in his mind all sorts of schemes for passing the
river. He would have risked the danger of swimming across; but he
could not dare to be without his fowling-piece. He thought of a bark-
canoe after the fashion of the natives; but a glance at the roaring
torrent convinced him that the attempt that way would be hopeless.

While he was thus engaged in cursing his ill-luck, Grough was
employed in thinking of his own schemes. He was heartily sick of his
present life in the bush; there was no fun in it at all! Rather than
keep out any longer in such a miserable way he would almost prefer, he
thought, to deliver himself up and take his chance. But as he thought,
fatigue overcame him, and he fell asleep.

Brandon observed that his companion had been unable to keep his eyes
open; it seemed that he was fast and not likely to wake for some time;
he was himself weary to exhaustion, and his eyelids were weighed down
with an irresistible desire to slumber. He thought there could be no
danger in getting a few winks--only for a few minutes. In fact, sleep
he must--and he slept.

It was the first time in his life, as he afterwards remarked, that he
had "given away a chance;" and dearly did he pay for it. But his
thoughts were so intensely fixed on the prize in his thoughts, and on
the difficulties in his path, that he forgot the danger that was near
him.

The immediate cause, however, of the fate which presently befell the
Bushranger, was so remarkable, that to some, and not superstitious
minds, it might have seemed the result of something more than chance;
and that the reptile which appeared to play its part so opportunely
was not an accidental agent in the tragedy of that eventful day.




Chapter IX. The Snake in the Grass.

THE brutal and treacherous comrade of the Bushranger slept uneasily,
and he was disturbed with fearful dreams.

He dreamed that he was standing on the brink of a terrible precipice;
above was a black cloud, thick, dark, and impenetrable; below was a
depth, so deep that the eye could not scan the profundity of its
abyss! Presently it seemed to him that the black cloud descended, and
enveloped him in its shroud; then a mighty wind arose, and whirled him
from the precipice, and he fell down--down--down,--while a terrible
sensation of suspended breath caused him agony unspeakable! Suddenly
he found himself at the bottom of the abyss, and strange creatures, of
monstrous shapes, writhed around and over him! He struggled to rise,
but his limbs had lost all power of motion, though his senses did not
depart from him; and he felt the cold skin of some slimy reptile
crawling over his face. So horrid was the sensation that his mental
agony caused him to awake; and then he became aware that part of his
dream had been suggested by a reality.

One of the large black snakes common on the island was trailing
itself over his face, and he instantly was seized with the fear that
the creature had bitten him, and that he should die one of the most
dreaded of all deaths, and at which wayfarers in the bush are most
terrified. But the creature pursued its way, dragging along its
loathsome body, and was lost in the long tufted grass by the side of
the water.

The trembling wretch who had received this visitation, disturbed by
his terrible dream, and hardly knowing whether he was alive or dead,
sat up, shaking with fear, and bathed in a cold sweat, which chilled
and benumbed him. Casting his eyes about, he beheld Brandon stretched
on the grass and apparently sound asleep. The treacherous object of
his subservient attendance now arose to his mind, and the paralysing
effect of the recent incident being shaken off by the sight of Brandon
at his mercy, he chuckled at the opportunity, and determined to take
advantage of it. But the animal had sense enough to consider that,
possibly, this seeming sleep of Mark's might be a stratagem to delude
him into a betrayal of his own intentions; and Mark, who was "up to
every dodge," was not to be dealt with hastily. He had his fowling-
piece embraced with his arm, and that was not to be trifled with. But
then if he was asleep, what was so easy as to shoot him as he slept?

But that did not serve the traitor's purpose; his game was to take
him alive. What was he to do with the dead body? Besides, if he did
shoot him, would that entitle him to the reward? The proclamation said
"deliver up;"--that meant "deliver up alive." And who would believe
that he had shot the Bushranger? It might be said that somebody else
had shot him, and then he--Grough--would get nothing by the job, and
would be hanged for his pains! That would be a regular mull! No; he
must take him alive.

But could he be sure that he slept? He did not move; but Mark was
such a deep dog! Grough got up softly; carefully examined his flint
and the priming of his musket; looked at the sleeper; fidgetted;
doubted; hesitated; looked round on all sides as if to gather counsel
and courage from the distant woods; when, as he cast his eye over the
plain, he beheld, at the distance of about a mile, emerging from a
thick forest of gum trees, three figures, who, he presently
distinguished, had muskets in their hands.

He concluded at once that they were either constables or soldiers in
pursuit of Brandon and himself. The decisive moment was now come; and
he determined at once to give himself up; to give information of
Brandon; and to claim the reward. Skulking away, therefore, swiftly
and silently from the bank of the river, he advanced to meet them.

The strangers, on their parts, as soon as Grough arose from the
grass, caught sight of him; and not knowing his intentions,
immediately retreated back into the forest, trusting that they
themselves might not have been seen, and hoping to surprise the man
whoever he was, and who, they conjectured, was most likely to be the
Bushranger himself, so that they might take him before he had time to
make any resistance.

Grough soon cleared the ground between the river and the forest, and
when he came to the entrance of it, where the strangers had retired
behind the trunks of the trees, he stopped, and calling out, but not
too loudly, said, that if they were a party in pursuit of Mark
Brandon, he could lead them to the spot where he might be taken;
adding, that he claimed the reward for his apprehension promised by
the Governor's proclamation.

The soldiers, for such they were, hearing this, immediately came
forward, and commanded him to lay down his arms. Grough obeyed, and
laid his musket on the grass.

So great, however, was the popular dread of the Bushranger, that the
soldiers held themselves prepared to resist any aggression, and looked
about them cautiously, apprehending some trick. They desired the
informer to retire, which he did, repeating that his object was to
deliver up Brandon to the authorities--for the reward.

"Where is the Bushranger?" demanded the leader of the party, a wary
old constable who had formerly been a convict, and who was, as he
expressed it, "up to every move of the coves."

"That's my affair," replied Grough; "mind, I say, I am ready to
deliver up Mark Brandon, and I claim the reward,--five hundred
dollars--a free pardon, and a passage to England."

"And who the devil are you?" asked one of the men.

"Stay," said the constable, "let us look at the description of the
bushrangers."

He took a paper from his pocket, and read:--

"James Swindell, an escaped convict, five feet five inches high, red
hair, marked with the small-pox...you're not him..."

"He's a stiff 'un," said Grough.

"Who killed him?"

"Mark; he shot him."

"Another chalk against Mark; but he has enough to answer for, let
alone that. What's next?"

"Mark Brandon...five feet ten inches in height, slim make, black
hair, black eyes, straight nose,....you're not him. Let us see the
next:--"

"Roger Grough...six feet one inch high, light hair, light blue eyes,
short nose, very broad across the shoulders, thick in the lips...That
looks like you, my man."

"I am Roger Grough," replied the accused; "and mind I surrender
myself and claim the reward."

"But you have not earned it yet, my hearty."

"But I'm ready; and mind I give the information."

"Very good, Mr. Grough. And first we will take the liberty to put
these bracelets on your fists--in the Governor's name, you know--all
regular. And now, where's our man?"

"There," said Grough, pointing with his manacled hands towards the
river.

"Where? we don't see him. Better have no nonsense with us."

"The Bushranger," repeated Grough, "is there--by the side of the
water, asleep on the grass."

"Oh, ho! And so you took the opportunity to put the dodge on him!"

"It's the reward," replied the traitor, a little--but a very little--
confused at the scorn visible on the soldiers' countenances at this
act of treachery; but wishing to do something to signalise himself in
their eyes, and thinking that it would enhance the value of his
services to enable them to take the redoubtable Mark Brandon alive, he
added:--

"But I have another dodge besides that; you shall take him if you
like without his being able to resist."

"How is that?"

"I will steal his fowling-piece from him while he is asleep, and you
may fall on him and bind him; and then you will have him as safe as
bricks."

The constable and the soldiers consulted together. It was a
particular part of their instructions to take the Bushranger alive if
possible, as it was known to the Government that it was in his power
to make important revelations. They did not like to refuse Grough's
offer; but they distrusted the rascal.

"You will betray us," they said, "as you have offered to betray him."

"And lose the reward!" replied Grough; "no, not such a fool as that!
Besides I've had a dream!"

He related it. The constable and the soldiers laughed at it.

As it was clear that it was the rascal's interest to keep faith with
them on whose report depended his reward, they agreed to let him try
his luck.

"We can but have a slap at him if it comes to the worst," observed
the leader of the party.

"You must release my hands then," said Grough.

The constable demurred at this at first; but after searching him and
taking from him everything but the clothes he stood upright in, he
nlocked his handcuffs.

"A tidy lot of dollars you have there," observed one of the soldiers.

"These are my savings," replied Grough.

"Your grandmother's, that is;--however, that's the Governor's
business."

"You will stand by me to back me up," said the traitor: "Mark's a
desperate man."

"Aye--aye; we will back you up; and back you down, too, if you
flinch. Now, my prince of noses--march--and be alive."

Grough obeyed, the constable and the soldiers following him in a row
over the plain. When they drew near the sleeping man they stopped.

"There he is," said Grough, in a whisper, The soldiers looked forward
eagerly, and handled their firelocks.

"I've a dodge in my head," said Grough.

"Be quick then--a man can't sleep for ever in broad daylight."

"He has not slept for the last fortnight," said Grough in a low
voice; "no wonder he sleeps sound."

"No matter, lad," replied the constable, "he will soon take his last
snooze, and then he may sleep till doomsday."

Brandon turned in his sleep; the soldiers presented their muskets at
him simultaneously; but it seemed that he still slept.

Grough now made his way noiselessly to the river, and steeped his
handkerchief in its waters. He then crept stealthily up to the
sleeping man. He seemed to take a professional pride in what he was
about. He had been a dexterous housebreaker at home, and his present
deed was a pleasant exercise of his vocation.

He stood over the sleeper for a few moments; the soldiers watched him
in breathless silence, covering the two with their firelocks. Brandon
slept the sleep of the weary; nature had been exhausted within him,
and his senses once overpowered by the resistless influence of sleep
were fast locked up in oblivion.

Grough sneaked up to him from behind, like a snake through the grass,
and with a delicacy of touch which seemed wonderful in one of his
Herculean bulk gently lifted up the steel of one of the locks of his
fowling piece, and squeezed some water on the priming. Brandon stirred
slightly but did not wake. The traitor then performed the same
manoeuvre with the other; and as Brandon still slept, he saturated the
two pans with water. He tried to remove the flints, but they were
fixed too firmly.

The soldiers nodded approvingly. Grough felt all the delight of a
workman showing off his superiority in his craft. Mark was now
defenceless, and Grough beckoned the soldiers to advance. But as he
retired, in the exultation of his success, he neglected to finish it
with the same nicety of tact, and as he withdrew his hand, he let fall
the wet handkerchief on Brandon's face.

Awakened by the shock of the cold water, Mark instantly started up,
and seeing the soldiers with their muskets levelled at him, he snapped
the triggers of both his barrels at his enemies--but the barrels were
dumb! Looking at the locks and seeing the useless condition of his
weapon, he saw in a moment that he was betrayed, and he dashed it on
the grass with rage. Determined, however, to sell his life dearly, he
endeavoured to disengage his axe from his side; but Grough threw his
powerful body heavily upon him, and clasping him closely bore him to
the ground; and the soldiers lending their aid, the Bushranger was
secured without bloodshed, and the traitor triumphed! But his triumph
did not last long.

The soldiers instantly placed handcuffs on the Bushranger, and then
they considered that they had him hard and fast. Mark submitted to
this ceremony in silence. He made no reproach to his comrade;
dissembling his thoughts he bent his whole soul to the taking of a
sure revenge. There was a general pause for a few moments; after
which, the soldiers intimated to Grough that, notwithstanding the
service he had performed, he must consider himself their prisoner; and
without further parley they placed handcuffs on him also.

Brandon looked at the handcuffs on his partner's wrists, and looked
at the river, and smiled complacently. He had formed his scheme. Then
he spoke:--

"You have betrayed me; but I will not reproach you; the reward was
too great a temptation."

"Lord love your heart," said Grough, "its all in the way of
business! If I had not done it, Mark, somebody else would; better for
a friend to get the reward than a stranger."

"True," said Mark.

The soldiers said nothing; they had their duty to do, and they would
not insult their captive. They rather pitied Mark, and they looked on
his comrade with the disgust with which all generous minds regard a
traitor.

Brandon and Grough were standing a little apart; the former took the
opportunity to wink to the latter.

"What is it?" said Grough, coming nearer, but keeping out of Mark's
reach.

"The sovereigns," whispered Brandon.

"What sovereigns?"

"The sovereigns from the brig; a thousand of them; I planted them.
You may as well have them too."

"Hah," whispered Grough, his avarice excited by the gold; "Mark
you're a trump! where are they?"

"Come a little this way," said Mark. He advanced to the edge of the
river. The foaming waters hardly allowed Grough to hear what Brandon
said; he advanced nearer to him.

"There are a thousand of them," repeated Brandon.

"Where are they?" eagerly asked the greedy Grough, bending his head
towards his betrayed comrade.

"Come nearer," said Brandon.

"Where are the yellow boys?"

"In Hell!" suddenly exclaimed the Bush-ranger, darting his body
against the huge frame of the burly traitor, and precipitating him
into the raging tide; "Go," he said, raising his voice, "and seek them
there!"

"Help!" cried the wretch, struggling with his manacled hands in the
furious torrent; "help! my hands are fastened! help!"

The soldiers ran to the water's edge, and while the constable
remained by the side of Mark, they followed down by the bank of the
river, with a vague idea of rescuing him. But whether it was that
their hearts were not in the work, and that they thought it served the
rascal right, or that the furious waters too suddenly overwhelmed
their prey, they could do nothing to save him. But the agonised
shrieks of the dying wretch broke fearfully the solemn silence of the
wilderness; and when his last convulsive cry rose in the air, even the
stout hearts of the soldiers shuddered for a moment at the sharp echo
of the adjacent woods!

They waited for a short time to see if his body would appear; but as
no sign of it was visible, they turned their attention to their chief
prisoner, Brandon; and one marching before, and one behind, with the
constable at his side, they took their way back through the bush to
Hobart Town.

Thus guarded, and handcuffed besides, it seemed impossible that their
prisoner could escape. But even so secured, the crafty Bush-ranger did
not despair.




Chapter X. Another "Dodge."

THE constable who had charge of Brandon did not think it at all
beneath his dignity to talk familiarly with his prisoner as he walked
beside him. Indeed, it is questionable if those officers, many of whom
had been themselves transported for various crimes, considered it as a
personal degradation for a man to be in custody. It was a
"misfortune;" he had tried his luck; he had thrown his chance, and had
lost--that was all: and now he was going to be hanged; that was merely
consequential; and they were so accustomed to see people hanged that
they had ceased to regard it as anything more than a little episode in
their career, which did not much matter either way. It was in the
natural and regular order of events that the result should be so; and
it was as idle for the hanged to complain of it as it was useless for
the hangers to pity them.

The functionary, therefore, who in this instance happened to be on
the right side of the hedge, opened the conversation in a cheerful
way, not supposing that his prisoner could harbour any malice against
him for conveying him to gaol in order to be executed in the regular
way:--

"Clever dodge, that, Mark, wasn't it, of that blackguard!--Glad you
pitched him into the water:--too good for him, though:--but he didn't
deserve to be hanged in a gentleman's company.--Old chum of yours?"

"I scarcely ever spoke to him," replied Mark, who was aware of the
importance of seeming resigned to his fate, and of the expediency of
adopting the free and easy style with his new friends; "he was a
course, rough brute--no particular harm in him; but it would never
have done to have let him get off scot free after betraying a comrade
that way!"

"Certainly not; that is, of course it was wrong to do it; but it
served him right--the dirty dog!--only its murder; but of course
you're booked without that, so one more or less is no odds; and
there's one less rascal in the world, at any rate--and that's
something.--Had fine weather since you were out?"

"Remarkably so, lately; but life in the bush is weary work any way.
For my part, I began to be heartily sick of it before you took me."

"I dare say; I never tried it; but it must be a wretched life to be
hunted about like a wild animal, and never to be able to rest night or
day!--Met with any natives?"

"Yes; we had a tussle with some of them I got hit with a spear in
this shoulder; but they can do nothing against our fire-arms."

"The Governor wants to civilise them, as he says; but, Lord! that
will never do. Of course they will take all the blankets, and bread,
and tea, and sugar that you give them; but what's the use of it? You
can never make anything but savages of them; and the end will be that
they will all be shot down, one after another, till there are none
left. The Major that you took the brig from brought one of the native
girls into camp the other day; and a fine fuss they are making with
her! By-the-by, Mark, what is become of the Major's daughter that you
marched off with? I say--that was a bold lark! How did the young lady
like the bush, eh? Hope you wasn't rough with her?"

"Is the Major in camp now?" asked the Bushranger, who had a
disinclination to talk about the girl, and who wished to parry the
question.

"He had left before we came out. He is seeking for his daughter; but
it's not easy to find people in the bush, Mark, as you know; lucky hit
we made in lighting on you, wasn't it?"

"Perhaps it was; for the sooner an end comes to this sort of life the
better."

"You're right, Mark. I never knew a man that took to the bush that
wasn't tired of it at last, and that didn't say that hanging was a
relief to him. For you see when a man takes to the bush, what with
lying out at nights, and all sorts of hardships--with every man's hand
against him--now in fear of the natives, and then in fear of the
soldiers; and worst of all with the chance of being betrayed by his
comrade as you have been; why, you see, he is always dying by inches,
as one may say. But when his fate is once settled his mind is easy,
and it's only a jump and a kick, and then all's over!--and he gets
rest at last. I heard the parson say to the sheriff, just before the
last three were turned off, that they all felt very comfortable!"

Mark's ideas did not exactly coincide with those of the constable in
respect to the comfort of being hanged, but he did not care to contest
the point at that moment; but he thought that he might venture to try
how far his custodian was cajoleable. Holding up his hands, he said in
a peevish tone:--

"These things fret me a good deal."

"Darbies worry you? Sorry for that; but they are always complained
of;--it's unpleasant to have the hands confined, I know."

"What's the use of them," said Mark, in a careless way. "You are
three to one--and I am without arms."

"It saves trouble, Mark; I would oblige you if I could, with all my
heart: but you know, it's regular, and it wouldn't do to take 'em
off--especially with you, Mark."

"What! are you afraid of me?" said the Bushranger tauntingly; "three
to one, and afraid of an unarmed man!"

"Suppose we are? it's paying you a compliment. It's not every day in
the week that we meet with such an out-and-out file as you! Excuse me,
Mark; but duty's duty."

"Surely! but your first duty is to yourself; that's common sense all
over the world," said Mark.

"What do you mean by that?"

"A hundred golden sovereigns are not to be earned easily!"

"What is that to me?"

"It may be a hundred pounds to you, if you like?"

"No go, Mark; duty's duty."

"I've got a plant," said Mark; "perhaps two hundred of the yellow
boys could be found there at a pinch."

"Where?"

"In a secret place."

"But where is the secret place," asked the constable:--"Excuse me for
asking."

"Excuse me," replied Brandon, "but if I was to tell you, don't you
see that the place would no longer be secret."

"It doesn't concern me; duty is duty.--Did you say that the two
hundred pounds are all in gold?"

"All sovereigns; and they may be yours if you like."

"Can't, Mark--can't indeed; but if loosening them a little, just to
ease you, out of humanity as the saying is, why, I don't care if I go
as far as that. But money first, you know, Mark; business is business
as the saying is; and there's nothing like the ready."

"What sort of fellows are the soldiers who are with you?" asked
Brandon.

"Stupid as hounds; no use trying them. It's the Major this, and the
Major that, all the way along; they have no idea but just obeying
orders; they would slap at me as soon as you if they thought I was
playing them false."

"You agree then; two hundred and the darbies off."

"I thought you said three hundred?"

"No: two hundred."

"I couldn't--I couldn't indeed; I have my duty to do, and if I was to
lose my situation...."

"Come," said Brandon, who did not like to lose the opportunity of
taking the constable in the mind: "I will deal on the square with you.
The truth is there are three hundred sovereigns, and in one word they
shall be yours."

"I mustn't take the darbies off, that would be against duty; but I
will loosen them for you if they are too tight, and hurt you;--I may
do that. But it's all very well, Mark, to talk of three hundred
sovereigns! Where are they? That's the question!"

"Loosen the cuffs, and I promise you to leave them at a certain spot
by a certain day, where you can take them."

"Don't doubt your word, Mark; every one says that you are a perfect
gentleman and, except murder and robbery and that, which I allow a
gentleman is sometimes forced to do, that you never harmed a soul, and
always were a man of your word. But duty's duty; and, as you say,
Mark, the first duty of a man is to himself; and so the long and the
short of it is--no offence to you--but it must be money down."

"Agreed: you have no objection to go round by the Bay to the Sound?"

"The Bay! where the brig was that you got possession of so cleverly?"

"The same."

"What's that for?"

"Because the money lies that way."

The constable objected that it was a long way round, and that such a
departure from their direct way to camp would excite suspicion, and
the two soldiers, he thought, might turn rusty. But Brandon invented
an excuse, which was sufficient to blind them as to the real object.
He pretended to give information of the Major's daughter who, he said,
had been confined by him in a cave near the southern coast of the
island.

As the soldiers had received orders to look out for Miss Horton in
their search for the Bushranger, they readily assented to the proposal
for her release; and the more cheerfully, as they were aware that Mr.
Trevor, who was one of their officers, was exceedingly anxious to
recover the young lady.

They diverged from the straight course accordingly, keeping to the
right, passing round the Sugar Loaf Hill, and by the gorge, through
the tier of hills, till they reached the border of the Bay.

The constable was exceedingly assiduous in endéavouring to worm out
from his prisoner where the treasure was "planted;" and it was not
difficult for Brandon to penetrate that the official rogue would have
no more scruple in betraying him than his late associate. He saw,
therefore, that it was necessary for him to contrive some counterplot
to out--manoeuvre his pretended ally. Manacled, however, as he was,
the difficulties against which he would have to contend, he was aware,
were almost insurmountable. However, he trusted to the fertility of
his invention, and to his promptitude, to take advantage of all
circumstances in his favour to recover his liberty.




Chapter XI. The Bushranger's Trap.

THE evening had drawn to a close; darkness was coming on, and they
prepared to settle themselves for the night. For this the cave formed
a convenient resting-place, and they took possession of it
accordingly.

The civil power and the military kept watch by turns; the soldiers
took the first two watches, the constable the last. The Bushranger lay
handcuffed within; the constable reclined at the entrance. The time
was now come when, in accordance with their plan, the Bushranger was
to be allowed to effect his escape in return for the bribe of three
hundred sovereigns.

When the two soldiers were sound asleep, the constable made a sign to
the Bushranger, who, stepping lightly over the bodies of the sleeping
men, came to the outside, and crept softly away, followed closely by
the constable with his loaded musket. When they had got to a little
distance the Bushranger stopped.

"Where is it?" said the constable.

"You must take off my handcuffs before you can get it."

"Let me see the money first."

They had now arrived at the foot of the tree in which Brandon had
deposited the Major's money. He hesitated for a moment; but he wisely
considered that if he was hanged the money would be a dead loss;
whereas, it would be well bestowed, or that portion of it, at least,
which he had bargained to give, in saving his neck from the halter. He
made up his mind accordingly; not without weighing beforehand,
however, the dilemma in which the constable would be placed when he
became informed of the secret.

"The gold," said the Bushranger, "is within the hollow trunk of this
tree."

"How is it to be got at?"

"Take off my handcuffs, and I will get it."

"It won't do, Mark; I'm too old a hand to be taken in that way."

"Then go down the hollow and get it yourself."

The constable did not like the looks of it. It was night; and if he
lost sight of Mark, he might make off and elude all pursuit; on the
other hand, if he once took off the handcuffs? Mark was a powerful and
a desperate man! That was too great a risk. What was he to do then?
There was no time to be lost. An idea struck him: now that he was
possessed of the secret, he might laugh at Mark!

"I will have no more to do with it," he said; "duty is duty, and I've
changed my mind."

Mark had already foreseen that he might attempt to back out of the
agreement that way, and so keep his prisoner, and secure the money
another time. He was prepared, therefore, with an answer, which he
made quietly and coolly:--

"If you shirk from our bargain, I will tell the soldiers where the
treasure is, and they shall secure it; so that, you will be pleased to
observe, you will not touch a single piece of the gold that way;
besides, I may think it my duty to mention this little irregularity of
your's to those you would not like to be made acquainted with it. Take
your choice."

"You shall go down," said the constable, desperately, "and get them.
I will help you up the tree, and let you down into the hollow, and
when you are there I can unlock your cuffs and you can hand me up the
money."

"Do it quickly, then," said Brandon.

The constable helped him up the tree. When he was at the bottom he
kicked his foot against the bag of sovereigns: the jingle of the coin
excited the constable's cupidity to the highest pitch.

"Hand 'em up, Mark! Look sharp!"

"I can't with my handcuffs on." He kicked his foot against the gold
again; the sovereigns returned a rich mellow sound. The constable
considered that he had his prisoner safe within the tree, like a rat
in a trap. There could be no danger in loosening the handcuffs.
Extending his arms down the hollow while the Bushranger held his
wrists up, he unlocked them.

"Now, where's the money?"

"I will give it to you when I am out. The yellow boys are all safe in
my pocket, but the weight is no joke. Lend me your hand to raise
myself up."

"The money first, Mark; that will lighten you."

"Well then," said Mark, "take it; put your hands down, and catch hold
of the bag."

The constable stretched down his hands; the Bushranger seized them
with an iron grasp, and, with a sudden wrench, he dragged the
constable head-foremost into the hollow, and, before he had time to
struggle or cry out, making use of him as a step to raise himself from
the bottom, he sprung up to the top, and let himself drop outside. The
constable had placed his gun against the tree when he ascended; the
bushranger found it under his hand as he reached the ground; he
clutched it fiercely, and, without losing a moment, darted off into
the recesses of the bush.

The unhappy constable, caught in his own trap, remained with his head
downwards in a most unpleasant position within the empty trunk; but
leaving him there to get out as he best may, our history follows the
adventures of the ingenious bushranger.

Brandon now found himself once more at liberty, and never before did
liberty appear to him so sweet! He had escaped an almost certain and
ignominious death; he had regained his treasure; and he had arms for
his defence. Bounding along through the woods in his joy, full of life
and hope, and rejoicing in his strength and cunning, he hastened on
his way to place himself beyond discovery, before the daylight came to
assist his enemies in their pursuit.

His first thought was to make for the seacoast, as being a part of
the country never traversed, and where he might remain undiscovered
for a long time, as it abounded in rocks and ravines and defiles in
which a fugitive could easily conceal himself. But he had not advanced
many miles before he came on some fires, which he presently perceived
were those of natives. On further examination, he ascertained that
there were nearly a dozen huts or breakwinds, so disposed as to
betoken that one of the native tribes had made it their temporary
dwelling-place.

Being well acquainted with the wonderful sagacity of the blacks in
tracking the faintest footstep in the bush, and guessing that his
enemies would endeavour to avail themselves of such assistance in
their pursuit of him, he felt that it was perilous to lurk in the
vicinity of such dangerous neighbours; and he determined to stick to
his original plan of gaining the remote and unfrequented district of
the north-west part of the island, until the hotness of the pursuit
should be abated, and himself partially forgotten.

To this course he was in some measure determined by his desire to
discover the girl whom he had lost at the fight of the Sugar-Loaf
Hill; and as he had learned that she had not reached the town, he had
no doubt that the natives had carried her off, and that the footmark
which he had observed amidst their tracks was hers. He proceeded,
therefore, in that direction, and rapidly traversed the country, with
which he was now well acquainted, taking care to keep a good look-out,
and to avoid passing over clear ground as much as possible, where his
figure might be marked by an observer.

The weight of the gold and the dollars, however, embarrassed him
greatly, and he found that it would be impossible for him to keep up
his pace with such an inconvenient load. He buried them therefore, in
a secure place, the bearings of which he noted, reserving only fifty
of the sovereigns, which he disposed about his person in separate
pockets.

He was troubled, however, at one deficiency which rendered his fire--
arms for the present useless--he had no ammunition. The constable who,
according to custom, had searched his pockets for concealed weapons,
had taken everything from him, powder and bullets, and even his clasp-
knife, which now would have been invaluable to him in the bush. He
would willingly have exchanged, at that moment, half his treasure for
powder and ball, knife and compass, and such other necessaries as are
wanted in the wilderness.

But there was no help for it; and cherishing the single charge which
he had in his musket, which, fortunately, was loaded, and guarding the
priming from all accident, he kept on his way.

He travelled for two days, in constant fear of the natives by day,
and almost afraid to sleep at night from the fear of being surprised.
At last he found that his present state of insecurity was too wearing
to be endured, and he made up his mind to visit the nearest stock-hut
that he could find, and endeavour to obtain a supply of powder and
ball. He had plenty of money, and he had no doubt of being able to
bribe one of the prisoners of the crown to procure for him what he
wanted, as they were always ready to assist one another in that way,
and especially when anything was to be got by it.

With this intention he endeavoured to guess his route to a certain
part of the Big River, where he knew there was a stock-hut, and where
it was likely that the stock-keepers would be provided with arms, and,
of course, with powder, as they were liable in that out-station to be
attacked by the natives. But he had not travelled more than a dozen
miles, when, on gaining the summit of a low bare hill, he perceived
three men on the plain below, who, he immediately perceived, were
soldiers, and who, he had no doubt, were in pursuit of him.

He now felt forcibly the danger to which he was exposed. The
Government, he had no doubt, had adopted the plan of sending out many
small parties of two and three to spread themselves over the country,
so as to keep him perpetually harassed, and to wear him out with
continual fear and exhaustion. To attempt to approach the settlements,
therefore, under such circumstances, was to run into the lion's mouth;
but, as ammunition was absolutely indispensable, for without it he was
liable at any hour to be massacred by the natives, he conceived a
project as novel as it was daring. He resolved to steal one of the
soldiers' cartouche--boxes. He manoeuvred accordingly.

He saw at once that the top of the hill where he was lying was
directly in the soldiers' course; and he felt sure that they would
ascend it for the convenience of looking about them. He instantly ran
along the side of the rise till he gained a thick covert where it was
easy to conceal himself, and which commanded a view of the opposite
side of the hill to that on which the soldiers were advancing.

As he calculated, the soldiers ascended the hill and surveyed the
country on all sides; their orders were to search in the direction of
the west; but in an uninhabited country, where all the country is
waste, they had not much hope of falling in with the two bush-rangers,
who were supposed to be out, according to Trevor's information; and if
they had not been stimulated by the reward they would not have taken
any extraordinary trouble in a task which to them seemed almost
hopeless.

But in general the military liked to be invested with a roving
commission in the bush, as it relieved them from the tedium of
barrack--drill, and allowed them to be masters, so far, of their own
time and motions. Besides, they were always sure to be welcomed
cordially by the settlers, and to be regaled with the best that could
be set before them. But the duty of penetrating into an unsettled part
of the interior was a different affair. There, nothing was to be met
with but natives; and there was nothing to cheer or direct them in
their wanderings.

In the present case they beheld a wild and uncultivated country,
presenting an appearance of the most romantic beauty. Green hill and
green dale, for it was the spring-time of the year, the only season in
which the dusky brown aspect of an Australian landscape is divested of
its usual autumnal tint, met the eye on every side. Stately trees,
mingling their fresh green leaves with their brown and yellow winter
foliage interspersed with pink, and but sparingly scattered over a
magnificent plain, gave to the scenery a magnificent park-like air,
which induced the spectator to expect that there must be some princely
mansion near to correspond with the vastness of the unenclosed lands
around; while the want of farm-houses or cottages, and the feeling of
the absence of any inhabitant of these fertile spots, inspired a
sensation of regret that such valuable domains should remain
uncultivated and useless, and almost unknown, while there were so many
able and willing hands in England whose labour would soon turn the
melancholy waste of the wilderness into smiling corn-fields, and
thriving villages.

The soldiers, however, to whom this scene was presented at that
time, had their thoughts otherwise employed. Their only object was to
discover the parties of whom they were in search. Seeing that they
were in a good position to observe any moving thing for some distance
round, they made a halt, and reposed themselves. Their leader looked
at the compass which he carried, and consulted with his comrades.
After about two hours' rest, they moved on.

The bushranger kept them in sight, and followed them. It was now
towards the close of the day, and he guessed that the soldiers would
seek for a convenient spot to rest for the night, near some spring or
stream of water.

There was a small rivulet at the bottom of a hill about two miles
distant, and it was there that they cast off their knapsacks, and set
about making themselves comfortable for the night. They lighted a
fire, for they had no care for being discovered, or fear of being
mastered, and, producing some provisions, began their supper.

The bushranger kept them in view, and observed all their
proceedings; but as it was necessary for the dark to set in before he
could put his design in execution, he waited patiently for the night.

Had the soldiers been aware of who was watching them so sedulously,
they would not, perhaps, have eaten their supper so heartily, nor
joked so merrily. But, soldier-like, they cared only for the present,
and thought nothing of the morrow.




Chapter XII. The False Fire.

WHILE his pursuers were enjoying their carouse of cold mutton and
damper which they took from their knapsacks and of fresh water which
they drank from the rivulet, the Bushranger went on with his subtle
stratagem. Knowing well that soon after dark, or, at all events, at
some time during the night, the soldiers would look out for the fire
of any wanderer in the bush, he contrived his plan accordingly.

About half a mile from the spot where the soldiers had established
themselves for the night, he prepared some dry brush-wood on which he
heaped one or two large logs of dead timber, so as to furnish the
materials for a prompt and considerable fire.

But here a difficulty occurred. He had no means of setting light to
it! He had only one charge of powder, and if he burnt his priming for
the purpose of igniting any dry material, it would involve the
discharge of his musket; and not only would the report prematurely
alarm his enemies but would leave him without the defence of his shot.
But as the case was desperate he was obliged to risk something.

Carefully removing the priming he screwed it up in a little piece of
paper which he placed in his waistcoat pocket. Then covering the
touch--hole and the pan securely with another piece of paper twice
folded he placed on it a piece of dry punk which he had previously
gathered from a tree, and snapped his flint over it.

The sparks falling on the punk instantly ignited it without causing
the discharge of his piece; and by this means, by carefully blowing on
the tinder which he surrounded with dead leaves, he quickly raised a
flame and set light to his fire. When he saw that it was fairly
alight, having returned his priming to its proper place in the pan of
the lock, he proceeded as quickly as he could, consistently with
preserving silence in his movements, to a point where he could observe
the proceedings of the soldiers.

They remained lying on the ground for some time by their fire, but at
last what the Bushranger foresaw came to pass. One of them got up, and
looking to his firelock to see that it was in good order, left the
other two, with the intention as the Bushranger did not doubt, and as
was the custom in such expeditions, to look out for any fire which the
runaway in the bush sometimes incautiously lights.--Mark dogged him;
and when the escort got to the top of the low hill which, was between
the two fires, he observed that he stopped, peered about curiously,
and advancing slowly with his musket ready, approached nearer to the
strange fire to make his observation.

The scout was well on his guard as to what was before him, but he
forgot that it was possible there might be danger also behind him.--
The Bushranger followed him closely.

The soldier was a brave fellow and had no fear about him; he was
alone; in a strange part of the country; if it were the bushrangers
who had lighted the fire it was two to one, and Mark Brandon was well
known to be skilful and resolute; but he did not like to return to his
comrades with the bare news of a fire; he wanted to know more--whether
it was a fire made by the natives or whom? With this view he descended
the slope of the hill.

The hill was dotted with stunted trees and brush-wood, and the
soldier took care to avail himself of their shelter to cover his
advance which he did most adroitly; the Bushranger quite admired his
address, at the same time that he took advantage of the same cover to
conceal his own motions in the rear. When the soldier got within
musket shot of the strange fire he halted, and was surprised to see no
one near it.

He concluded, at once, that this was the bushrangers' fire; and that
they had sighted the fire of his own party and had decamped without
beat of drum.

He applauded his own sagacity in detecting this fact, although he was
exceedingly disappointed that no bushranger was near. Unhappily for
him there was one nearer than he supposed; for while he was in the act
of turning to acquaint his comrades with the amount of his discovery,
he found his firelock suddenly twisted out of his hands, and himself
saluted the instant after with a stunning blow on the head, which laid
him senseless on the grass.

The Bushranger threw himself on the body to stifle any cry of the
prostrate man, but it was unnecessary;--the soldier lay without sense
or motion; and Mark without losing a moment's time, transferred the
contents of his cartouche box to his own pockets; caring nothing for
the box itself, which he knew was an encumbrance, and securing only
the cartridges. But, elated with this exploit, he thought that he
might be able to do better still.

He had no doubt that the soldiers' comrades, surprised, and perhaps
alarmed at their scout's continued absence, would leave their fire to
seek him; and he waited for their coming in order to put in execution
the next part of his scheme. But after lying in ambush half an hour
and seeing no sign of them, he thought he would quicken their motions
by another device.

He went back to the top of the hill and discharged his own musket.
This he had no doubt would soon bring them upon him; and hastening
down the slope to where the soldier was lying, he discharged the
soldier's firelock a little while after. Then taking a little circuit,
he hastened to the spot which the two soldiers had left on hearing, as
they supposed, the report of their comrade's musket, who they guessed
was engaged with an enemy and wanted their immediate assistance.

In their haste they left their knapsacks behind them as unnecessary
encumbrances in a rapid movement, and which the Bushranger quickly
emptied of their contents, taking with him what he thought worth while
to carry away, which he deposited in one of the knapsacks; and so
provided, and rejoicing in the success of his plot, he made the best
of his way off, directing his course as well as he could judge by
night, towards the western coast.

He travelled all night; and it was not until he had placed, as he
reckoned, at least twenty miles between him and the soldiers, that he
drew up. He feasted well upon the provisions which he had taken from
the knapsacks; wrapped his precious cartridges, of which he counted
twenty-nine, more carefully in separate parcels so as to preserve them
from being chafed, and prepared to pursue his way.

He felt a sense of loneliness, however, greater than he had ever
experienced before; and the country seemed more dreary and melancholy
than usual. But this he attributed to the great fatigue and mental
anxiety to which he had been constantly exposed; but he longed for
some companion with whom he might interchange a few words. He dreaded
a life of solitariness in the bush. He began seriously to consider
whether he could join the natives and become head of a tribe, so as to
have some companions or subjects at least.

But he recoiled from that sort of association; besides, he feared
their treachery. One thing, however, he was resolved on; to endeavour
to find the girl whom the natives had carried away. And perhaps, she
might entertain favourable feelings towards the man who should deliver
her from their clutches--feelings of gratitude--of something more
perhaps? Women were always grateful to their preservers! at any rate
he was resolved to seek for her at any risk, and to attempt her
deliverance at all hazards.

This resolution served to reanimate him. There was an object in
view; something to hope for; something to live for--even in the bush.
He continued his way more cheerfully.

He travelled fast and firmly all that day but he began to be puzzled
as to the right direction. His flight by night had led him astray
considerably. He began to doubt if he had actually made any real
progress, for the country in the evening seemed to have the same
character as it had in the morning. His mind began to be a little
confused; besides, he was faint and hungry, for he had eaten very
little that day. He thought he might safely kill a kangaroo.

This he had no difficulty in doing as there were plenty about. He
kindled a fire and made a hearty meal. But thinking, that, possibly
some one of the parties in pursuit of him might have observed the
smoke, he removed to the distance of about a mile from the spot, and
finding a convenient place for his purpose, he made the best shelter
he could of boughs and leaves and settled himself for the night. He
had grave misgivings of having lost the "lie" of the country; but he
determined to watch carefully the point at which the sun rose when the
day broke, so as to start fair in the morning.

He passed the night very uncomfortably, for rain had come on, and the
boughs under which he lay were not close enough to protect him from
the wet. However, the lock of his musket had been kept dry, and his
cartridges were all right, so he did not much care for the rest. But
soon after daylight appeared, as he was standing before the thicket
from which he had emerged, he was startled by the apparition of a huge
kangaroo bounding past him, closely followed by two dogs!

He had hardly secreted himself behind the bushes, before a horseman
galloped past, whom, at a glance, he recognised as Major Horton! The
Bushranger saw that there was danger abroad, and he began to look
about him for the most favourable line of retreat. But before he could
make up his mind, for he feared that his pursuers were close and round
about him, the dogs killed the game in his sight, not above a hundred
yards from the place of his concealment.

The Major immediately alighted, and throwing his horse's rein over
the branch of a tree close by, advanced towards the dead kangaroo,
while the dogs sat up panting by its side, waiting for the share of
the game which it is usual for the sportsman to give them for their
encouragement.

The Bushranger kept close to his covert, hardly venturing to hope
that he should be undiscovered, and resolved to sell his life as
dearly as possible. In the mean time, the dogs having been regaled
with the slight snack, which on such occasions is moderated so as to
whet their appetites without incapacitating them by a full meal for
further running, began to hunt about again in circles, and one of them
smelling at the thicket in which the Bushranger was concealed, made "a
point," and set up a peculiar whine indicative of his having made some
unusual discovery.




Chapter XIII. The Bushranger "A Penitent."

THE Bushranger cursed the hound in his heart, and would willingly
have strangled him if he could have got him within his reach; but the
sagacious dog was too wary to be caught, and presently it began to
bark. This excited the other who began to bark also; and the Major's
attention being attracted to the bush, he took a pair of pistols from
the holsters of his saddle and advanced towards it.

It was a dangerous moment for the Major, and the Bushranger was aware
of his advantage; he might have shot him easily.--But from some
invincible repugnance to shoot the father of the girl whose recovery
was the sole object of his thoughts, he could not bring his mind to
resolve to pull the trigger. At the same time another means of escape
occurred to him which he forthwith put in practice. He suddenly left
his hiding-place, and the Major to his extreme astonishment beheld the
Bushranger standing before him! Before he had time to fire, if he had
been so disposed, Mark came forward, and in a firm voice, said:--

"Major, I surrender myself your prisoner; you are a gentleman and a
man of honour and will not insult a prostrate enemy!"

The Major was a brave man, but he could not help being a little
flurried for the moment, at the unexpected appearance of the
formidable Mark Brandon, who instead of resisting, as it seemed he
might have done, voluntarily surrendered himself!--But quickly
recovering his presence of mind, he commanded him--

"To lay down his arms."

"Major," said Brandon, "you must be aware that it was in my power as
you advanced towards this thicket, to shoot you down without danger to
myself; but honestly, I will tell you that my hand refused to commit a
murder on the father of the girl whom I now bitterly regret having
taken from your protection.--Sir--you see before you a sorrowful and a
repentant man!"

The Major was deceived by this address. It certainly had been in the
Bushranger's power to take his life, and he had not done it. This
argued sincerity. Besides, the sight of the Bushranger and the thought
of his daughter troubled him. Brandon stood before him in an attitude
of deep humiliation.

"What has happened to my daughter, and where is she?" asked the Major
in a voice which betrayed the agitation which such questions excited.

"She is at hand," replied the Bushranger meekly, and with his eyes
cast on the ground.

"And, villain!" said the Major, as he reluctantly asked the fearful
question; "have you respected her?"

"As God is my witness she is as pure as when....."

"Say no more, say no more," said the Major; "lead me to her."

"You would wish, doubtless, to see her alone?"

"Certainly, certainly. I have two constables and three soldiers with
me; but I have outridden them."

"Are they all on foot?" asked the Bushranger, in a humble tone.

"What matters it to you how they are? The constables are mounted as
well as myself. But lead me, I say, at once to my daughter. My party
will be up presently, and then they can take charge of you."

"As you please, sir; I am weary of this wretched life, and I do not
care how soon it is ended!"

"We will talk of that by-and-bye. First take me to my daughter; and
your present repentance and atonement shall be duly considered in the
proper quarter."

"I place myself in your hands, sir; if you will now mount, I will
take you to your daughter, who is not more than half a mile from
hence. Allow me to place your pistols for you in the holsters."

A shade of suspicion crossed the Major's mind for the first time at
this excessively polite offer, for the talk about his daughter had
thrown him off his guard; but before he could bring his thoughts
coolly to bear on the extraordinary conduct of the man, the Bushranger
had reached his horse, as if with the intention of leading it to the
Major. The Bushranger loosened the horse's bridle from the tree,
looked back at the Major, and touched his hat respectfully. Then he
coolly tightened the horse's girths; and in a moment, gathering up the
reins, he sprung into the saddle, and kissing his hand to the major,
who was so astonished at the utter audacity of the stratagem, that he
had not presence of mind to discharge his pistols at him, was off like
the wind!

He was only just in time; for the constables now coming in sight,
galloped up, and the Major explaining in half-a-dozen words what had
taken place, they struck their spurs into their horses' flanks and
started in pursuit. The Bushranger looking back saw the new and
dangerous enemies that were behind him, and he, on his side, put his
horse to his speed, and the race became hot and strong between the
pursued and his pursuers.

The Major's horse was a good one; the Bushranger was a capital rider;
he had his musket loaded in his hand; plenty of cartridges in his
pockets; he knew the trick of bush-riding well--what gullies to shy,
what hills to avoid, and how to take advantage of the ground. He
pressed on his horse gallantly. He had the start by more than half a
mile. The chances were in his favour. He felt confident in his seat;
and the excitement of the ride raised his spirits and called up his
courage.

The constables, too, were well mounted; the Major had taken care of
that before he left camp. Their prize was in view; the reward was
almost within their grasp; and their minds being undistracted by the
thought of the course they should take, their whole energies were bent
to follow on, and they did not lose an inch of ground. They, too, felt
the excitement of the chase; they had often hunted wild cattle, but
they never had hunted a bushranger before!

On went the Bushranger; leaping over dead trees; crashing through
bushes; and continually bending his body parallel with his horse's
back to avoid the many overhanging branches which interrupted his
course; and sometimes, stretching out his right arm, by the strength
of his powerful bones and muscles, and aided by the momentum of his
speed, wrenching off huge limbs of trees before him. On followed his
pursuers, encouraging each other, and trusting that some accident,
some trip, some obstacle, would turn the chances in their favour.

But the Bushranger bestrode his horse as if the two formed one
creature; he cheered him with his voice, held him lightly but firmly
in hand, and husbanded his strength by every possible art of
horsemanship. The noble animal seemed to be conscious of the task
required of him. He gathered up his strength, and with eyes of fire
and nostrils dilated, he breasted the way as if rejoicing in his
power, carrying his rider over the perilous leaps which the Bushranger
put him at to abridge the way, without flinching or hesitation.

For twelve miles he went on with unabated speed till he came to a
plain about two miles in breadth. Here his pursuers, having a clear
view before them, fired at him with their pistols, but missed him. The
Bushranger heard the report of their shots behind him; and watching
his opportunity when his pursuers were close together, he turned round
in his saddle and fired in his turn. His shot took effect, slighting
grazing the left side of one of the constables; but it did not check
him; and the noise of the fire--arms stimulating the horses to renewed
speed, they kept on their rapid course with unabated spirit.

Brandon now had to thread a difficult forest of close tracks of
trees, often so close together that there was not sufficient room even
for a man's body to pass. Here, as he was obliged to seek for
openings, his pursuers gained on him a little; but at the end of three
miles he again saw the daylight of the open country beyond, and he
urged his horse on without relaxation.

His course now lay through a beautiful country of undulating hill and
dale, not more thickly interspersed with majestic trees than was
consistent with its park-like scenery. As he left this track behind
him, after a course of more than five miles, he became aware that the
country descended, and he anticipated that he was approaching some
low-lying locality where it was likely that he should meet with some
lagoon or marshy ground which would be fatal to him. But so long as
the ground felt firm under his horse's feet he determined to proceed;
and if ill-luck should befall him in the shape of some body of water
or boggy soil, at the worst he could take his chance of doubling on
his pursuers at the last moment. But his mind misgave him that a
difficulty was at hand.

That which he dreaded appeared shortly to his view. From the fringe
of shrubs which crossed the end of the plain over which he was flying,
he guessed that some river was in front; but he could not judge of the
nature of its banks, or of its breadth or depth. Feeling that he had a
good horse under him, he resolved to swim it, hoping that those behind
would not like to run the risk of riding through a rapid river, if it
should turn out to be so; and as his pursuers' weapons had already
been discharged, trusting that he should be able to get across before
they had presence of mind and time to load again.

Even while he rapidly revolved these thoughts he came on the object
of his apprehension; his pursuers also were aware of it, and they set
up a shout of exultation at having brought the Bushranger to bay--a
shout which served to spur him on to more desperate enterprise.

With one glance he comprehended the extent of the danger which he
had to deal with. The river was broad and deep, and having been
swollen by recent rains in the mountains from which it took its
course, it foamed and raged tempestuously along, with a fury which was
sufficient to appal the stoutest heart, and which scarcely any one but
a criminal flying for his life would have dared to encounter.

Again the shouts of his enemies rung in his ear! They struck him
like the cries of fiends winging their way to his destruction! Without
a moment's hesitation he struck his spurs into his horse; and in
another instant the horse and his rider were engulphed and struggling
in the boiling stream.

His pursuers now set up another shout, but the Bushranger could hear
no sound but the water rushing about his ears. The constables dashed
on to the brink of the river; but, appalled at the danger of braving
such a torrent, they drew up and stood aghast at the terrific scene!
The Bushranger, meanwhile, was hurried down by the current at a
fearful rate, his horse's head only now and then appearing above the
water; and it was evident that the poor animal, conscious of its
peril, and maddened by the rushing of the waters, was making frantic
efforts to disembarass itself of its rider.

But Brandon, firm and cool even in that moment of extreme peril,
kept his seat firmly, and endeavoured to turn his horse's head towards
the opposite bank. In this he succeeded; but as the tide continued to
sweep him down, he could find no landing-place, and his horse's
strength was fast failing him.

The constables, meanwhile, followed him down the bank, and recharged
their pistols. The Bushranger caught sight of them ramming down their
cartridges, but he did not despair even then, for he knew that a shot
fired from horseback, at a moving object, seldom hits the mark. But
his horse now began to plunge wildly in the water. He knew that this
was the last death-struggle of the gallant animal, but he could at
that time think only of himself; and the desire of life increasing
with the danger of losing it, he looked out eagerly for some means of
extricating himself from the river.

Fortunately, as he thought, just as his horse was sinking under him,
he came to a tree with branches overhanging the torrent. He grasped
hold of one of them, and disengaged his feet from the stirrups; but in
accomplishing this he was obliged to let go his musket, which sunk to
the bottom of the water. It was not without the greatest difficulty,
and by an exertion of strength which despair only could have lent to
him, that he was able to swing himself up so as to bestride the
branch. The interlaced boughs impeding his efforts to make his way
through to the shore, he found it necessary to relinquish his
knapsack, which remained suspended on a branch over the water. He then
clambered along till he reached the trunk of the tree; and, holding on
by a bough, was in the act of letting himself drop on the grass, when,
the constables firing together, and the distance being not more than
twenty yards across, one of the balls took effect, and the Bushranger
felt himself struck under the shoulder on his right side.

Not heeding the wound for the moment, he made the best of his way
through the scrub which lined that side of the river, and continued
his course for several miles over difficult ground till he came to a
precipitous and rocky hill. He climbed up it, and finding a recess
behind a fragment of rock where he could be hid, he threw himself down
exhausted and faint, and endeavoured to rally his spirits to decide on
the course which he should pursue in his present extremity.




Chapter XIV. A New "Drop."

THE Bushranger had scarcely concealed himself in his retreat before
fresh fears assailed him. His wound bled fast, and his pursuers might
track him by his own blood!

It was true, that the swollen state of the river would, in all
probability, prevent them from crossing at that point. But he
calculated that by ascending the bank of the river towards its source
it was likely that they would find a ford; and then, being mounted, it
would not be long before they would be down on him again.

Wounded and faint; without arms, and without the means of 'procuring'
food; too weak to travel, and beset by enemies, what was he to do? He
was wet through, but under ordinary circumstances he would not have
cared for that. The salubrity of the climate was such that he had been
accustomed to wade through water and let his clothes dry on him
without feeling any inconvenience.--But now he was troubled by his
wound, which pained him when it began to stiffen. The bleeding,
however, had stopped, and the ball had not lodged, but had passed
through him;--that was lucky.--He might escape yet.

But as his present place of retreat was unsafe, he determined to
penetrate further to the westward. It was not without difficulty that
he was able to drag himself along; and after he had proceeded two or
three miles he was obliged to stop from exhaustion.

He remained on the ground for many hours; but although his body was
at rest, his mind was at work. He pondered on his position;--it was a
bad one! Look on which side he would the prospect was most gloomy. He
was without arms, and embarrassed by a painful wound; but the pain was
nothing; it was the hinderance to exertion which affected him. And his
right arm was useless; his wound had rendered it powerless. He was
utterly defenceless.

It then occurred to him that to persist in his course westward was
folly; for weak and wounded as he was, if he fell in with the natives
he could make no defence; he could not even wield a club. He had a
strange reluctance to abandon that part of the country where, he
suspected, the natives detained the girl--the daughter of Major
Horton; that is, if they had not killed her!

The idea of that shocking catastrophe which his fancy conjured up,
affected him powerfully! He got up from the ground restlessly. The
shades of evening were beginning to fall, and it was necessary for him
to look out for some place to pass the night in. He walked on, but the
idea of the girl--murdered by the natives--did not quit him. On the
contrary it came upon him stronger and stronger.

His heart beat at the contemplation of such a terrible death for the
poor girl! To be murdered as the natives would do--have done in their
savage way of torment! It was horrible! Who but a savage could be so
brutal! In thinking thus, some thoughts on murder in general, arose
involuntarily.

These thoughts gave him a painful sensation; sudden, sharp, and
novel. He tried to cheek them; but they would not be put aside; it
seemed as if some second-self within him reproached him with his own
crimes! The image of more than one victim of his violence arose in his
memory! He walked on to drive the frightful spectres away; but they
pursued him faster and faster! His heart sunk within him. He looked
round as if he expected to to see some of the victims whom he had
destroyed arise in bodily presence to scourge him with their
vengeance! A weakness seized him; his head grew giddy; his mind
depressed by suffering, and his body faint with fatigue, both failed
him; he sunk on the ground overpowered by his own thoughts, and
oppressed with the remorse of his accusing conscience which rose
against him.

When he recovered from the profound depression into which the memory
of his misdeeds had cast him, he found that it was night. He crept
into a convenient bush that was close at hand, and tried to sleep. For
a long time that solace was denied him; but at last he closed his
eyes.

Fortunately, it rained little that night, so that he was not much
disturbed by the wet. When he awoke it was daylight. He felt
refreshed, and had strength to look about him. He saw no signs of his
enemies, and he began to feel a little more confident. He left his
bush-bed and came out into the clear space.

The morning air was fresh and reviving. Restored by his sleep, he
began to recover his spirits, which his late mishap and loss of blood
had damped; and his strength of mind and coolness of judgment
returned. He felt an inclination to look at his case on its best side.
There were still some chances in his favour, and he resolved to take
advantage of them.

He had fifty sovereigns in his pockets, and he had nine hundred and
fifty more "planted" in a safe place, besides the dollars. He was a
rich man! With money one can do anything! His best plan, he concluded,
was to endeavour to reach some stock-hut, and bribe some stock-keeper
to procure for him arms and ammunition. That was the first thing to be
provided. Then he might pick up one or two fellows who would be
willing to put themselves under his guidance, and with them he might
be able to recover the girl; for Helen was always upper-most in his
thoughts. He knew that he should have to run great risks in passing
through the bush alone and unarmed; but he trusted to his own
resources. "Never say die," he muttered to himself, "while there's a
chance left."

The rising sun served to guide him in the direction which he was to
take, and with a stake which he broke under his feet from a branch of
a tree which he found on the ground, and which served as a staff, in
his left hand, he pushed forward with confidence, keeping a sharp look
out as well for his pursuers as for natives. Either would be
dangerous--most likely fatal. It was not long before he encountered
both.

He had not gone more than a mile from his sleeping-place when, on a
sudden, he caught sight of a black figure whisking round a tree; it
was as if one of the black stumps had become animated, and had been
seized with a strange desire of locomotion. But the Bushranger knew
well what the vision of that black shape meant. The natives were near
him! Now was to come the struggle!

Hopeless as it seemed, and with one arm disabled, this extraordinary
man did not even then lose courage. He found that he was able to grasp
his staff in his right hand; and he thought that, if driven to
despair, the energy of his will might enable him to use it. But the
natives, as cunning as he in their way, did not give him the chance.

As soon as they perceived that the white man was alone, they began to
throw their spears at him from different points. As long as they
continued to cast them from a distance he was able to avoid them,
either by stepping nimbly aside, or by warding them off with his
staff. But, as the natives drew nearer and nearer, the spears came too
fast and too thick to allow him to defend himself, and three of them
found their way through his clothes, and stuck in his body; but he
pulled them out again.

The natives now advanced closer, threatening him with their waddies.
The Bushranger was standing at the foot of a blue gum-tree, with wide
spreading branches. Not knowing what else to do at the moment, he made
a desperate effort to climb the tree, and succeeded; and he was
presently hidden within the mass of its thick and leafy branches.

But to his extreme surprise he had no sooner secured himself in his
place of refuge, than the natives setting up a loud howl scampered
off, leaving him alone in his hiding-place. The meaning of this was
presently explained by the appearance of the two constables who came
up at a hard gallop, and stopped at the foot of the tree in which he
was concealed.

The natives, the moment they saw the white men on horses, of which
they are very much afraid, believing that the horse bites and fights
with his mouth and legs; and naturally supposing that the riders had
come to the assistance of their countryman, fled into the recesses of
the bush. The constables were glad of it, as they did not want to have
an affray with them at that time. Their object was Mark Brandon; and
it was in the course of their ride down the back of the river which
they had crossed the evening before about twelve miles up, that they
thus accidentally delivered the Bushranger from the certain death
which awaited him from the natives.

But they were by no means aware of the service which they had
unwittingly done him. They drew up under the tree and getting off
their horses held a consultation which was overheard by the listener
above their heads.

The Bushranger heard them discuss the probabilites of finding him,
and speak of the certainty of his being hanged when taken. This was
disagreeable enough; but after the fortunate manner in which he had
escaped from the natives he did not despair. But when he learned that
the Government, determined to put an end to his career, had sent out
more than a dozen parties of three or four men each, he felt that
nothing but good luck of too extraordinary a nature to be hoped for,
could enable him to escape such a combination of enemies. It seemed,
however, that Fortune was again inclined, for a time at least, to
grant him her fickle favours.

One of the constables mounted and left his companion in order to take
a survey of the country down the river. The one who staid behind
having fastened his horse's bridle to a shrub opposite to him, sat
down under the tree.

He had taken his pistols from the holsters of his saddle in order to
examine them. He found that the priming had worked itself out of one
of the pans; he cleared out some dirt from under the steel which had
prevented it from shutting close; reprimed it, and placed it by his
side on the grass.

The Bushranger watched this operation with much interest. The
necessity for the possessing himself of fire-arms was pressing; the
constable was alone; the opportunity was inviting. The Bushranger
conceived a bold stroke; there was no time to be lost if it was to be
done at all; creeping silently from his retreat, he hung for an
instant suspended by the branch over the constable's head and then
dropped on him all at once with his legs over his shoulders.

The constable not knowing what had fallen down on him, whether a
native or some wild animal of the woods, shouted out ten thousand
murders! The Bushranger gave him no time to recover himself; seizing
the pistol, he ran to the horse intending to make use of it to escape.
But the constable who was a bold man and knew that his companion could
not be far off, continued to shout, running off at the same time and
dodging among the trees.

His fellow heard his cries and came gallopping back to his
assistance. Mark had not time to mount, for the horse was restive, and
the weakness of his right arm prevented him from assisting himself
effectively. He was obliged to let go the horse, therefore, and as
there was some dense scrub at a little distance, he hoped to hide
himself in its coverts, and make his way through passes where horsemen
could not follow.

But his pursuers were too quick for him; and before he could cross a
narrow open space which lay between him and the scrub beyond, they
were upon his heels. The constable who had been so strangely
surprised, being the one most exasperated, was the foremost. It was an
unlucky post of honour for him; for the Bushranger standing on the
verge of the scrub, took deadly aim at him with his left hand as he
came up, and discharging the pistol which the constable had so
carefully reprimed, shot him dead on the spot. The ball went through
his heart; the horseman fell instantly.

His companion fired at Brandon and missed; and while he stopped for a
few minutes to disentangle his comrade's foot from the stirrup, as he
lay on the ground with his horse standing snorting beside him, the
Bushranger took advantage of the intricate nature of the ground, and
diving in and out among the scrub, escaped.




Chapter XV. The Eagle.

THE race of the desperate marauder, however, was now almost run. His
late exertions had caused his gunshot wound to bleed afresh; and the
holes which the spears of the natives had made in his flesh were
acutely painful. It seemed, however, that destiny had rescued him from
the perils which he had escaped in order to reserve him for a more
dreadful and signal doom; and if the many crimes which he had
committed could be atoned for by any earthly torture, that which he
suffered in the wilds of the bush might be considered a sufficient
punishment.

He dragged his weary limbs onwards towards the north, hoping to reach
some part of the river, which he presently came in view of, by some
ford, or by means of some natural bridge in some narrow part of its
course. He met neither with soldiers nor natives on his way, and
wretched and exhausted as he was, he congratulated himself on their
avoidance.

He was faint from hunger; he gathered some native manna from a tree
resembling the ash, but larger and higher in its growth, and rougher
in its bark than the English ash, which refreshed him a little: but it
afforded no nourishment, and he felt the absolute necessity of
obtaining some sort of food. He could find no eatable gum in the part
where he was, or that would have helped him a little. He was almost
tempted to eat some of the large caterpillars or grubs which are
abundant on the red gum-tree, but he could not bring himself to put
them into his mouth. The gum of the tree being resinous and
exceedingly nauseous, none but natives can bear the taste of them.

But while he was looking at the grubs he saw a kangaroo-rat hopping
over the grass. He threw a stick at it, and brought it down. He was
afraid of making a fire lest the smoke should betray him; cutting open
the creature, therefore, he sucked its blood, and tried to eat some of
its raw flesh. But such a meal was unsatisfactory and disgusting.

He examined all his cartridges over again; but they had all been
spoiled by the wet when he had swum his horse over the river the day
before. As they were useless, and their weight encumbered him, he
threw them away all but two. He had preserved the pistol with which he
had killed the constable, but without powder it was useless. However,
the flint and steel would enable him to light a fire if he could dare
to do it.

He was surprised not to find himself pursued; but the rocky and
difficult country on the western side of the river, over which he was
passing, was almost impracticable for horses. He continued his way,
therefore, unmolested; but full of torture both of body and mind, for
with the diminution of his corporeal strength, his mental faculties
became enfeebled and clouded.

He travelled in this miserable manner the whole of the day, making
but little progress, and hardly able to walk, but still urged onwards
by his desire to place the greatest possible distance between himself
and those who, he felt sure, were in search of him. In this way he
contrived to reach the base of a high and precipitous rock which had
been visible for some distance before he arrived at it, and which
over-hung the river, which at that part was broad and rapid.

He thought if he could ascend the height, he should be able to find
some recess wherein he could lie, and find the repose which he so much
needed. Some remains of his wonted resolute will came to his aid, and
he climbed up the rock; but he could find no cave or shelter on his
way. The top of the rock consisted of a narrow platform, about six
feet square. In the middle were the remains of the nest of some large
bird, which he guessed to be an eagle. As it was calculated to make a
convenient pillow, he pushed it towards one end, and laying his head
on it, rested.

The wind was high that night, and it was very cold; but he remained
on his rock. He thought that it was a place of security, and he felt a
disinclination to move. He tried to sleep, but could not.

The next morning the sun rose bright, and the sky was clear. He
tried to get up. He was able to sit upright, but he found himself so
weak that to descend the rock was an impossible task. He had been very
cold in the night; but now he felt parched and fevered. The sun shone
hot upon him; but instead of reviving his benumbed limbs by its
warming beams, its heat only blistered him. He longed for some
shelter, but there was none. The rays of the sun were scorching on the
bare rock; and soon his brain seemed to be on fire! The weary hours
seemed as if they would never pass away! The inexorable sun seemed
fixed in the heavens! In his delirium, he almost believed that the
huge ball of fire stood still to increase his torments. He crawled to
the edge of the rock to throw himself down into the cool waters
beneath; for his agony was insupportable.

But first he thought he would leave a memento of his death to those
who might find his body; and he was penetrated with a strange desire
that the money which he had buried in the bush should not be lost. It
was a strange fancy; but arising, perhaps, from the habits of his mind
during a long series of years. He determined to record the manner of
his death and the spot where the treasure was concealed.

He had the means ready at hand in a large pocket-book, which had
formed part of the booty taken from the brig, and of which the
constable who had taken him to the cave had not thought it worth while
to deprive him, as nothing was written in it. The long pencil which
had belonged to it had dropped out. He cast his eyes about for
something to make a mark with; and he spied, sticking up by the side
of the platform, a feather from an eagle's wing. It seemed not to have
been long dropped. He thought this a lucky circumstance.

He fashioned the quill with the clasp-knife which he had taken from
the soldier's knapsack into a pen. He was about to make some soldiers'
ink out of one of the cartridges which had been wetted by the water,
and which he had preserved. But another thought struck him: his
principal wound bled at intervals; he moistened his pen from the
eagle's wing with his own blood--and wrote.

The occupation distracted him from present pain and anticipations of
the evil that was to come. He had a grim pleasure in writing with his
own blood. He took it into his head to put down an account of the many
murders which he had committed, and his various other crimes. It was a
terrible list. He had a sort of satisfaction in showing a pre-eminence
in his line; the world, he was resolved, should have something to
remember him for! He continued to write his history; pausing only at
intervals when a faintness seized him, till he was interrupted in his
occupation by a shadowing of the sun, which he attributed to a passing
cloud.

He looked up in thankfulness to bless the friendly shade--when he
beheld one of the largest of the great eagles of Australia poising on
its wings at no great distance above his head, and in the attitude of
pouncing upon him. The eagle, as it bent down its head with its hooked
beak, shot fire from its eyes on the intruder in its haunt, and its
long sharp claws retracted and extended ominously, as if eager to fix
themselves on the devoted carcass of their destined prey.




Chapter XVI. Tracking in the Bush.

VAGUE reports in the mean time reached the town of the capture of
Mark Brandon, and of his escape; and all sorts of rumours were in
circulation respecting Helen and the natives. How they arose, or
whence they came, no one could tell; and the mystery which seemed to
hang over Helen's fate and the Bushranger's proceedings, only
increased the general curiosity and anxiety.

Trevor suffered, day by day, and hour by hour, the tortures of a
painful suspense, which at last became intolerable; and, in spite of
the remonstrances of his medical attendant, the ensign's
representations to his commanding officer were so urgent, and his
distress of mind was so severe, that a reluctant consent was given to
his departure, and he lost no time in making his preparations.

The same corporal who had been his companion before was allowed to
accompany him with three other soldiers, so that the party was
sufficient to defend themselves against all ordinary attacks of the
natives, and were more than a match for the two bushrangers, should
they fall in with them.

Having completed his equipment, and provided necessaries for a
lengthened journey in the bush, which were placed on a led horse, part
of whose load consisted of a small bed-tent; and having taken
particular care, this time, to be furnished with a couple of axes, and
with two pocket compasses to provide against the accident of
separation, not forgeting two well-trained kangaroo dogs, Trevor
visited Louisa to take leave of her, and to encourage her with hopes
of good tidings not only of her sister but of her father.

The native girl was present at this interview; and as Trevor talked
energetically, and frequently pointed to the west as the side of the
island towards which he was about to direct his steps, he observed
that Oionoo was much excited. Struck with the circumstance, he
remembered that, some days before, she had been very earnest in
pointing in that direction, and that she had talked very fast and with
much gesticulation, about something which they could not understand,
but which, it was evident, she was desirous to tell them.

She had already learned to repeat a few English words, for which all
the natives have a remarkable aptitude, being as excellent mimics of
sounds as monkeys are of actions, although there have been as few
examples of the former attaining much proficiency in the meaning of
English as of the latter shaving themselves correctly. Trevor tried to
make her understand that he was going into the woods a long way off in
search of Louisa's sister.

Louisa said she thought Oionoo understood him.

Trevor was all ready for starting, and his party was at the door; but
an idea occurred to him which he thought he might turn to account. He
tried the girl again:--

"One," he said, pointing to Louisa; "two!" intending that she should
understand there was another Louisa, "two! gone! lost!"

The native knew what "one, two" meant, for being excessively fond of
sugar, she had learned to say "two" when she wanted another lump; and
they thought she comprehended what he meant by "two" Louisas; but he
could not get on further.

"Describe to her the fight with the natives," suggested Louisa.

Trevor did so. He acted over again the fight at the Sugar-loaf hill,
and imitated the throwing of spears; and then endeavouring to look as
savage and as much like a native as possible, which made the girl
laugh, he described, in action, the carrying away of Helen, as he
supposed had been the case, pretending to perform that operation on
Louisa; and he finished his "ballet in action" by going through the
mock process of making a fire and eating Louisa, which made the black
girl at first laugh louder than ever, and then suddenly look grave.

"Stop a little," said Louisa, "Oionoo is thinking; I am sure she
understands us. See, she is going to speak!"

Oionoo said something in a serious tone of voice; but as her auditors
could not make out what she meant, they could only shake their heads
and make other signs expressive of their not being able to understand
her.

Oionoo immediately led Louisa into the garden, through the window,
which was open, and taking off her shoes, ran a little way on the soft
walk, leaving the impression of her naked foot on the ground. She then
came back, put on her shoes again, and ran on as before, leaving the
marks of her shoes near the imprints of her naked feet. Trevor and
Louisa watched these proceedings with much interest.

Oionoo now returned and commenced looking about as if to discover the
signs of some one who had gone before. She acted her part admirably.
Suddenly she pretended to see, for the first time, the mark of a naked
foot--and she looked sorry: then she seemed to catch sight of the mark
of the shoe and seemed glad. Pointing to herself, and pointing to the
marks, she gave Louisa to understand that she--Oionoo--could find the
other Louisa in the bush.

"I understand her," said Trevor; "these natives do not seem to be
deficient in intelligence after all. She means, that the mark of a
white woman's shoe is easy to be distinguished from the naked foot of
the native; and that she could track it."

He pointed to the west and explained to her by signs that she should
go with him, and track the footsteps of the other Louisa. Oionoo
nodded her head.

"I will take her with me," said Trevor; "I have often heard of the
extraordinary sagacity of the natives in tracking through the bush.
She understands what we want, and she can serve as our guide. She
seems to have no objection to go with me. Come," he said to the black
girl, "come."

Oionoo followed him readily to the door, and stood outside quietly,
while Trevor took an affectionate leave of Louisa; but when she found
that the party was moving off without her white friend and protectress
she ran back again, and taking hold of Louisa's dress, squatted down
at her foot, and refused to stir.

Louisa made earnest signs to her to accompany Trevor; Oionoo made
signs equally earnest that Louisa should come too. The difficulty was
embarrassing. No signs of entreaty would make her stir without Louisa.
There was a gunny-bag full of brown sugar in an adjoining store-room.
Louisa caused it to be brought out, and made her understand that all
that quantity of sweet stuff should be hers, if she would serve as
Trevor's guide in the bush. But she looked on the reward with
indifference, and kept tight hold of Louisa's gown.

"We must have her," said Trevor; "she may be the means of recovering
your sister. Try to make her understand that it is your command that
she should go."

Louisa now put on an angry countenance; she stamped her foot; looked
on the black girl with an air of authority; and by signs intimated to
her that it was her order that she should go. But Oionoo leaving hold
of Louisa's gown, crept into a corner of the room, and putting her
hands over her face, cried lamentably.

"Poor thing," said Louisa, "she will not leave me; but as you think
that by her assistance she may recover Helen, I will try another way,
and if that fails, why I will put myself under your care, Mr. Trevor,
and for such a sacred object, I will remember that I am a soldier's
daughter and accompany you myself!"

The emotion which the tender girl felt in speaking this determination
brought tears into her eyes. Oionoo regarded her earnestly; she crept
from her corner; came near to Louisa; took hold of her dress again,
and looked up sorrowfully and wistfully in her face.

Louisa shook her head, and made a motion to push the native girl from
her.

The poor black girl fixed her large black eyes on Louisa with the
most pitiable expression of countenance; it was the first time that
her white friend--her guardian and protectress, had looked down on her
with an eye of displeasure! The poor girl felt it bitterly, her tears
flowed fast, and she bowed down her head in sorrow.

Louisa was much grieved, but Trevor encouraged her to proceed:--

"Make her understand," he said, "that it grieves you and makes you
cry because she will not be my guide to find your sister."

As soon as Oionoo comprehended this, her whole manner changed in a
moment. She stood erect, and her manner was firm and decided. She was
about to leave the room to join the party on the instant; but Louisa
detained her for a moment. She pointed to Trevor, and clasped her
hands together, to intimate that the girl should not leave him. The
girl seemed impatient at this, and again turned to go; Louisa kissed
her and embraced the native affectionately. It was then that the
floodgates of the poor black girl's tears were opened afresh, and she
wept and talked passionately, embracing and kissing Louisa's feet with
the most extravagant expression of attachment and affection. Trevor
could not refrain from giving utterance to the thought which the
native girl's sensibility excited:--

"Sterne, was right," he said; "these black people have souls after
all."

At the sound of his voice, Oionoo arose, and with a calm and resolved
expression of countenance followed Trevor out of the town.

They kept along the high road until they came to New Norfolk, about
twenty miles from Hobart Town, where they stopped for the night. The
next day they turned off to the westward, Trevor having previously
ascertained that his shortest course to the Sugar-loaf Hill, which was
his first point, was by that route.

As soon as the native found herself fairly in the bush and out of
sight of human habitation she kicked off her shoes, which the corporal
considerately placed in one of the packages carried by the sumpter-
horse. She would have cast off her sailor's trousers, and spencer
also, in order to be more free and easy in her journey; but to that
absence of ceremony the old corporal was the first to object, saying,
that, "although she was black she was a woman, and that it was the
duty of a soldier to pay respect to the fair sex, whether black or
white, let alone a poor ignorant native who had trusted herself to
their protection."

In this way, as the party was strong and well provided, and as their
hearts were in their work, they soon left hill after hill behind them.
They crossed various small streams by wading, and pressed on till they
reached the Shannon River which they were obliged to trace upwards for
some distance towards its source at the Great Lake, before they could
find a practicable ford. Then turning to their left, Trevor
endeavoured to find his way to the Sugar-loaf Hill; but he had over-
rated his ability of finding his way in the bush; and notwithstanding
his compass he found himself lost in a wild part of the country where
they were encompassed within a mighty cluster of undulating and
continuous hills.

In this difficulty he had recourse to the native, who had hitherto
acted a passive part. He had a strong desire to reach the spot where
the fight with the natives took place, for his own satisfaction; and
he judged that if he continued his course so as to cross that line of
route, the native would not fail to distinguish the tracks which had
been made in that direction.

He made her understand, therefore, that the time was come when she
was wanted to discover the tracks of the little shoe.

Oionoo readily comprehended him; and she began diligently to search
with her eyes right and left, but without stopping. Trevor remarked
that she preserved a straight line in the direction which he had
pointed out to her, as if prompted by a sort of instinct, and that she
passed over all sorts of obstacles without hesitation. In this way
they continued their journey for many miles, without any intimation
being given by the native of the tracks they were in search of, nor of
any other sign of white people or of natives.

This want of success filled Trevor with much uneasiness; he began to
suspect that, by some delusion of direction which is so frequent with
bush-travellers, they were altogether wrong in the course they were
pursuing; or that Oionoo did not possess the talent of tracking which
was generally considered as one of the most notable characteristics of
the natives. But his doubts were presently put an end to by an
exclamation from the black girl.

She stopped, and pointed to some trace on the ground which she
regarded with extreme astonishment.

Trevor looked narrowly at the place, but he could see nothing; the
rest of the party also examined the spot, but they could detect no
mark or footstep.

Oionoo, however, persisted in pointing at the place. She examined the
shoes of all the party, and seemed to compare them with the trace
which her eyes detected;--but this, it was evident, was unsatisfactory
to her. At last she looked at the horse which carried their
provisions, and not without some hesitation and fear, speaking to him
in a deprecating tone, she examined his foot, which one of the men
held up for her.

Satisfied with this view she clapped her hands, and pointed to the
trace which the white people could not see, and to the horse's foot,
to signify that there was a track of that foot. She then began to
survey the ground here and there to discover another mark of the same
sort, which she presently did, and soon after another and another,
pointing in a direction different from that which Trevor had been
pursuing.

As it was known that Major Horton, who had gone into the bush in
search of his daughter, was provided with horses, Trevor judged that
these were their tracks; and he thought it might be useful to
endeavour to overtake the Major, and communicate with him respecting
their common object. He made signs to Oionoo, therefore, to follow up
the track, which she did with great alacrity, seeming much pleased to
be employed; and it was not long before she discovered the track of
white men's shoes, which she intimated to Trevor by signs which were
easy to be understood.

In this way they continued their march for some time, but without
coming up with the party which had preceded them; but the marks of the
horse's hoofs were so plain on such parts of the ground now and then,
as were clear of grass, and seemed so fresh, that Trevor considered
they must have been very recently made, and that if they pushed on
vigorously, they could not fail to overtake the Major. Urging his men
forward, therefore, and encouraging them with kind words--not
unaccompanied with promises of reward for diligence--he followed
Oionoo, who strode along at a prodigious rate, and seemed to rejoice
like a wild animal in her return to her native wilderness.




Chapter XVII. The Natives at Home.

WHILE these preparations were being made for the recovery of Helen
from the natives, who it was conjectured had carried her away with
them;--although many contended that she had certainly been murdered by
the savages long before this time,--the poor girl remained in
captivity with the tribe which inhabited the extreme verge of the
western coast of the island.

No personal violence had hitherto been offered to her; but the
intentions of the black chief were most decidedly expressed with
respect to her being included among the number of his wives, while a
similar honour, as was most significantly expressed by the old woman,
was destined on her part for Mr. Silliman. That fascinating person was
determined to have another husband, and as she could not get a black
one, was content to have a white one.

Being the daughter of the old chief, and exercising, in his name, the
patriarchal influence which he enjoyed, and which, from habit, his
tribe continued to pay to him, although he had lost the physical
strength which had raised him to that eminence, she had no difficulty
in obtaining the consent of the fraternity to admit the white man into
the tribe; and, in accordance with her directions, preparations were
made for performing on him the ceremonies customary on such occasions.

These ceremonies were not many, nor very important; but the solemnity
with which the priest or conjuror of the tribe entered on the
inauguration of the new member, and the mystery in which the
preparations were enveloped was by no means calculated to remove the
dread with which the unfortunate Jeremiah was inspired at being made
the victim of their barbarous rites.

If it had not been for his reluctance to leave Helen unprotected
amongst the savages, he would have endeavoured to effect his escape
alone into the bush, and encounter all the wild animals, snakes, and
bushrangers, on the island, rather than face the terrible old woman
for whom he was to be duly qualified as a husband. Helen was so
absorbed in the contemplation of her own wretched fate, that she could
scarcely bestow any commiseration on that of her companion in
misfortune. Compared with her threatened union with the old black
fellow, Jerry's matrimonial alliance with the lady seemed nothing!

In the mean time, the conjuror painted himself, in a mystic manner,
with red ochre and chalk, and summoned Jerry to the ordeal.

It is to be observed that the natives of Van Diemen's Land differ
from the natives of the large continental island, forming, pre-
eminently, the Australian portion of the globe, in language, and in
some customs.

The continental natives build better huts in the winter season;
clothe themselves partially with the skin of the kangaroo; make use of
better weapons; and are subjected, wild and savage as they are, to
certain forms and religious ceremonies unknown to the aboriginals of
Van Diemen's Land. But, in some points, the practices are similar, and
it was to these that Mr. Silliman was now summoned to submit himself.

The first of these was more disagreeable than dangerous. As it was
impossible for the natives to communicate with their neophyte by
speech, they were obliged to leave the discovery of the object of
their ceremonies to his unassisted ingenuity. Jerry conjectured
rightly when he supposed that the first act of initiation was to
prepare his mind, by solitude and reflection, for a due estimation of
the importance of the ceremonies which were to come.

But it was his ignorance of what those ceremonies would be, that
puzzled and frightened poor Jerry; however, there was no retreat. He
had been made to understand that there was no alternative between
entire submission and being roasted alive at an enormous log-fire
which had been kindled for the occasion. With a most rueful expression
of countenance, therefore, he quitted Helen, and the women of the
tribe, as it was an essential part of the ceremony that no female eye
should witness the mysterious rite of male initiation, and accompanied
the black fellows to a place at a little distance from the encampment.

The priest, if it can be permitted to apply such a name to such a
person, and who differed in nothing from his fellows so far as Jerry
could observe, except his being the fattest and the sleekest of the
lot, first stripped Jerry with great gravity, and placed his clothes
aside; he then proceeded to mark the white man's body with a piece of
red ochre, in various curious devices, symbolical, no doubt, of his
state of probation.

This being done, and Jerry, in buff, being transformed into a sort
of illuminated edition of a white man, the priest led him into a place
in the bush apart, which had been previously consecrated in some way
known only to the priest himself, where he was left alone to silence
and meditation. Jerry peeped out and saw the black fellows about
thirty yards off, in a circle, watching the sacred spot.

In this way they passed the night, no one stirring; and as Jerry was
too cold to sleep, he had ample leisure for reflection on the
mutability of human affairs in this world, and on the hope of a world
to come. He had a strong suspicion of the great wood fire which he had
passed on his way to his present resting-place, and he had an
indefinable dread that the world to come was to be opened to him that
way; a conjecture which increased still more his general
disinclination to depart from this; and the ceremony of the next day
was by no means calculated to lesson his apprehensions.

Shortly after the dawn, the priest visited him, and examined him
attentively. As Jerry did not know what to say, he very wisely held
his tongue; and as it happened this was the very thing which was
expected of him. The priest rewarded his tractability with a grim
smile, and hastily leaving him, returned with a piece of roasted
kangaroo's flesh, which Jerry devoured with much appetite. This also,
seemed to please the priest, who pinched his loins and shoulders much
in the same way as a butcher feels a sheep to see if he is fat enough
to be killed: a ceremony which Jerry considered was of a dubious
character; especially as the priest grinned with his teeth
approvingly, an expression of satisfaction, which caused poor Jerry to
conceive very disagreeable anticipations of the cannibalistic
propensities of the black rascal. The priest then left him.

In about half an hour the priest returned, carrying with him the
materials for the new member's next probation.

With a dexterity which surprised Jeremiah, the old gentleman
proceeded to dress him up in the guise of a kangaroo. He placed on his
head and over his body the skin of that animal with its fur on as
natural as life; he wrapped the skin round him, and secured it with
strings made of the strips of the stringy bark tree.

The tail of the animal stuffed with grass projected behind, and the
priest was pleased to teach Jerry to wag it with the hand in an easy
and graceful manner, intimating to him at the same time, that he would
presently be called on to hop in imitation of the creature which he
represented.

Jerry thought there was no great harm in that, provided they did not
carry on the allegory too far, and kill and eat him to make the
resemblance more complete. He began hopping therefore, with much
pains, about the small space in which he was enclosed, and his
performance seemed to the priest so excellent, and Jeremiah in his new
dress was such an admirable likeness of a kangaroo, that the master of
the ceremonies hastened to give notice to his companions that the
sport was ready to begin.

Jerry sat on his haunches, his ears pricked up, and his kangaroo head
erect in anxious expectation. Presently he saw the natives in a body,
advancing on tip-toe to the place where he was ensconced, and acting
the part of looking about for a kangaroo. They examined the ground,
smelled to it, snuffed the air, and tried to penetrate with their eyes
into the bushes where Jerry lay; but all in the utmost silence.

Presently one pretended on a sudden to discover the kangaroo; he
communicated the information by signs to his fellows, who now advanced
with quick steps to the bush, brandishing their spears and waddies in
a threatening manner. Jerry did not like the looks of them; he began
to doubt whether they were in jest or earnest, they acted their parts
so well. While he was deliberating a spear passed a little way over
his head. This was too bad! and Jerry making a desperate spring,
cleared one side of the bush fence, and appeared in the open space
beyond.

A loud shout from the natives proclaimed their admiration of the
feat; and they followed him with joyful cries, throwing their spears
at him occasionally, which hit him with hard bumps, but their ends
being blunted they did him no farther injury. The frequency of their
occurrence, however, so alarmed Jerry, that without more hesitation,
breaking out into a brisk run, he endeavoured to avoid the repetition
of such native compliments.

And now the chase grew fast and furious; Jerry bounded along, his
tail thumping the ground in the most natural manner imaginable, and
the natives following after shouting, screaming, yelling, and
performing all sorts of antics as they pursued him round and round the
encampment. Helen's curiosity was roused by the general excitement,
and as this was a part of the ceremony which females were allowed to
look upon, for the reason perhaps that it could not easily be
prevented, the whole collection of gins old and young assembled to
witness the performance, greeting Jerry as he passed them in his
circular career with vociferous screams of delight and laughter.

Even Helen, as Jerry passed her at full speed, with his enormous tail
wagging behind him, in spite of the anxious thoughts which oppressed
her with regard to her own fate, could not forbear from smiling at the
ludicrous figure which Mr. Silliman cut in his extraordinary costume!
He had only time, as he shot by her, to ejaculate "Oh, miss!" when he
was lost among the bushes, and Helen, to avoid the mob of savages who
were in pursuit, retired behind the women.

As the natives adroitly hemmed in Jerry during the chase, within a
certain circle, and as he soon became fatigued with the exertion, he
was glad to take refuge again in the retreat from which he had set
out, where his tormentors left him unmolested; and, shortly
afterwards, the priest visited him, and said something to him with a
severe countenance and in an angry tone, which Jerry could not fail to
interpret as a reproof for some breach of etiquette which he had
unwittingly committed.

And, in truth, poor Jerry had offended against the practice of that
august ceremonial in a way which gave rise to sinister observations
among the savages. Instead of hopping like a kangaroo during the last
ceremony, he had used his legs like a man, an offence which went far
to vitiate the whole proceeding, and which exposed them to the
ridicule of the women who had assembled to admire that popular part of
the entertainment.

From what followed, however, it would seem that, at the intercession
with the priest of the daughter of the chief, Jerry's misbehaviour was
overlooked, on the condition that next day he would abide firmly by
the further test which he was to be exposed to.

Jerry passed that night as he had done the first, with the exception
that the kangaroo-skin served to keep him a little warmer; and as the
air was mild and continued remarkably dry for that season of the year,
he contrived to get a little sleep. This time the priest brought him a
grilled opossum, which, although it stunk abominably of the peppermint
tree, Jerry was compelled to eat to satisfy his hunger.

He judged from this change of food that he should be obliged to climb
trees like an opossum; but he was mistaken. His next ordeal was of a
very different nature; it was called in the native language "the trial
of spears."

On the morning of this concluding ceremony, the priest stripped the
half-adopted brother of his kangaroo appurtenances, and having touched
him up under the eyes and on the forehead with some masterly strokes
of red ochre, he led him forth into a large clear space, where all the
men of the tribe were assembled to take part in the exhibition. The
old chief, from his infirmities, was merely a spectator of the trial.

Ten spears were now given to Jeremiah, and he was placed about sixty
yards from a particular spot in front of the natives, who all had
spears in their hands. Jerry observed that those given to him were
sharp, and he concluded that the spears in the hands of the black
fellows were sharp also. This circumstance troubled him not a little;
and when he found himself standing alone, with all the savages
congregated opposite, he began to fear that a principal part of the
ceremony was to make a cock--shy of him for the others to cast their
spears at! Nor was he far mistaken in that conjecture.

Jerry being thus posted, and the priest in a loud voice having made
an exhortation to his flock, which from the significant gestures used
Jerry conceived was an urgent admonition on his part to the others to
take good aim and stick their spears into the mark, the sport began.

First one native came up to the appointed distance, and threw his
spear at Jerry; it went wide of the mark.

Then another came on and tried his skill.

If Jerry had not turned this second spear aside with the bundle of
similar weapons which he held in his hand it would have inflicted an
ugly wound. Jerry's dexterity in defence elicited a warm shout of
approbation from the savages; but whether the expression of it was in
favour of the marksman or of the target, seemed to Jerry doubtful.

One by one each of the natives discharged his spear; and it was an
evidence of the general harmless nature of the ceremony, though as
savage in its practice as the wild people who invented it, but on this
occasion the object of their practice escaped unhurt.

It was now Jerry's turn to try his skill; and the priest having
harangued him singly in a strain similar to his first speech to the
natives, resumed his place by the side of the chief.

A native now advanced with a spear in his hand and took his place on
the spot from which each had cast a spear.

Jerry considered this as an invitation to have a shot at him, but in
his inexperience he threw his spear sideways, and his clumsiness was
received with a shout of derisive laughter by the others.

Another native succeeded, and Jerry threw a second spear at him. This
was better. He now tried his luck at a third, and this time the spear
nearly reached its mark. The fourth seeing the very narrow escape of
the last, held his own spear in an attitude of defence to ward off the
coming missile.

But this cast was a decided failure, and it was owing perhaps to the
contempt with which the natives regarded their new brother's want of
skill, that the tenth man disdaining to avail himself of his spear of
defence which he threw on the ground, was hit by Jerry's last spear
which entered the native's right arm.

Nothing could have been more fortunate for Jerry than the success of
this last exploit, as it established him on the spot in the good
opinion of his sable brethren; and far from exhibiting any ill-will at
the event, they treated him with extraordinary respect, and escorted
him in a body to the daughter of their chief, to whom they presented
him as one worthy of her distinguished preference.

Jerry was now in the high road to preferment; but thinking that he
might turn the favourable opinion of the natives towards him to good
account, and judging that they would now have confidence in him and be
less strict in watching his motions, he intimated to them by signs
that it was necessary for him and the white woman to perform certain
ceremonies of their own in private. He pointed to the sun which was
declining, and endeavoured to make them understand that the rites
which he was about to perform were in deference to that luminary.

The old woman seemed inclined at first to dispense with more
formalities, but the priest, who was curious to know what the white
man would do, pronounced an authoritative opinion, as Jerry
conjectured from his manner, in favour of their new brother's
proposal; and Jerry, taking advantage of the opportunity, lost no time
in putting the design which he had conceived into execution.

Accordingly he dressed himself again in his clothes, and taking the
old black woman by the hand to disarm suspicion, and with the priest
on his other side, followed by the chief and the rest of the male
tribe, he advanced to the quarter of the women, where Helen was,
sitting on the ground.

Taking a hint from the priest's proceedings, he harangued Helen in a
loud voice, pointing to the sun, and marching round her in a circle.
His speech which, of course, was not understood by the natives, was to
inform her of the plan which he had formed for their escape that
night, and to explain to her the part which she was to act. He took
care frequently to point to the sun during this manoeuvre, the better
to impress on the spectators the reality and sincerity of the white
man's ceremony.

Telling Helen to rise, he instructed her to walk before him, and
intimating to the men by signs that they were not to follow, he
directed her to proceed to a certain spot, in an easterly direction,
where a clump of fern trees would serve effectually to screen her from
observation.

Accompanied by the chief and the priest, they marched solemnly to the
appointed spot; and, having placed her within the recess, Jerry drew a
line around her with a bough of a geranium which he plucked as he
proceeded: and then having placed four similar boughs in the ground,
at the four corners of her retreat, he retired with the conjuror and
the priest in the same solemn manner as before!

The sun now began to sink below the horizon, and Jerry returned to
the spot in the bush in which he had been placed by the priest during
the ceremony of his own initiation; and making his two companions
understand that he desired to be left alone, they retired.

The ingenious Jerry, whose wits were sharpened by danger and
necessity, now pretended to busy himself with various mysterious
preparations in order to deceive the conjuror or any other inquisitive
savage who might be observing him. He then laid himself down on his
back as if to watch the stars as, one after another, they rose to view
in the heavens; but listening to the slightest noise of what was going
on at the native fires.

In this state he waited, in a state of most anxious suspense, until
the natives should be buried in sleep, which would afford him the
opportunity of carrying his bold resolution of escape into effect.




Chapter XVIII. The Escape.

FIRST one, and then another native coiled himself up under his
breakwind for the night. Jerry waited till the general silence gave
evidence of the whole tribe being fast asleep. The night was cloudy; a
favourable accident for his enterprise, as the natives have a
superstitious fear of the dark.

Jerry stole noiselessly from his covert, and looked cautiously
about; all seemed safe; he could not distinguish any one on the watch.
The fires before the natives' low bark-huts were burning brightly at a
little distance; the rest of the bush was involved in deep obscurity--
rendered more gloomy by the contrast of the light of the burning logs.
He knew the ground well; and endeavouring to prevent the slightest
rustling of the bushes, or the least sound from the cracking of the
dry sticks in his path, he bent his way to the spot where Helen had
been placed apart in preparation for her marriage with the black
chief.

He threaded his way successfully through the thickets; he heard no
one stirring; his plan seemed to prosper; and for once Fortune seemed
to favour him. He reached Helen's resting-place without hinderance or
accident. She was ready at his touch; and without speaking they set
out together.

Helen could not disguise from herself the extreme hazard of the step
they were taking, nor the perils to which they would be exposed in the
bush; but death in any shape was preferable to a marriage with the old
black fellow. She had many times endeavoured to communicate to the
woman, that, if they would take her back to the town of the white
people, a great reward of axes and nails would be given to the tribe;
but they either could not or would not understand her. Their present
desperate flight, therefore, was her only alternative.

Neither was Mr. Silliman less determined to brave all rather than
encounter the endearments of that hideous old woman! to say nothing of
his being dieted occasionally on half-broiled opossum, and gum-tree
caterpillars! Besides, there was a spice of romance in him, after all;
he was good-natured, and did not want courage, although he was without
the habit of exercising it in action; and to be knight-errant to "Miss
Helen" was a high privilege, and a stimulant to heroic deeds. He felt
proud of himself as Helen followed him in silence through the forest.

They were not without some plan, however, in their flight. They had
previously agreed that the point to which they should direct their
steps, in the event of their being able to elude the vigilance of the
savages, should be a high hill, on the top of which a tall and
remarkable tree presented the singular appearance of a ship in full
sail. Besides, they knew that the breadth of the island was but small,
and that by keeping towards the east they must at last come to some
district inhabited by settlers. The obscurity was so great, however,
that they could hardly make their way through the forest. It was a
painful journey, but hope supported them; and the fear of the fate
from which they had escaped, was greater than the fear of the dangers
which they encountered.

As soon as they had got to such a distance from the natives' fires
that they thought they might talk in safety, Mr. Silliman endeavoured
to support Helen's courage by representing that they could not have
more than seventy or eighty miles to travel at the most--for the
island was only an hundred and fifty miles wide--before they came
either to the high-road leading from Hobart Town to Launceston, or to
some settler's farm, or stock-keeper's hut. He assured her, also, that
there were no wild beasts on the island, except a sort of hyena, which
had never been known to attack a white person.

What Helen most feared was snakes; and she often shuddered as she
trod on some soft substance bearing a resemblance to the feeling of
their moist cold skins. Her shoes had been worn out some time since;
but she had contrived for herself a pair of mocassins, made of
kangaroo-skin, which she found much more easy for bush-travelling than
shoes. Jerry had accommodated himself in a similar manner; and a light
wind having dispersed the clouds overhead so as to allow the stars to
lend their light for their guidance, they were able to proceed at a
pretty good pace. As they increased their distance their spirits began
to revive.

Helen had retained possession of the small pocket-pistols found in
the knapsack, together with the powder-horn, and a little bag
containing about a dozen bullets. She had never allowed them to quit
her person, and with these weapons they resolved to defend themselves
to the last; but they were too small to be efficient except at close
quarters. Besides these means of defence, Jerry had the axe, which on
the day of the ceremonial he had been allowed to appropriate to
himself. Thus provided, they considered they could make a tolerable
resistance,--for a time, at least;--and, at all events, they had made
up their minds that it was better to die fighting in the bush, or any
way, than be at the mercy of the natives.

With this resolve, they continued their way through the wilderness
the whole of the night, until they were both compelled to stop from
exhaustion. But even as they stopped, the rising sun began to gild the
snow-white tops of some high mountains, which they observed behind
them to the north-west; and presently the light of day appeared to
cheer them. They saw no signs of the natives, and they flattered
themselves that they had not been missed. In this hope, however, they
were mistaken.

They reckoned that they had proceeded at least twenty miles during
the night; but it was afterwards known that they had not gone mere
than ten, so deceptive is travelling in the bush, especially when
forests have to be traversed. Trusting to this calculation, Mr.
Silliman thought that Helen might safely repose herself for some
hours, for her fatigue during the night had been very great. But after
resting a short time, she declared her readiness to proceed.

Before they set out, however, they carefully examined their pistols;
Helen had one, and Mr. Silliman the other. They would be but a poor
defence, he felt, against the natives, if the whole tribe should
pursue them with hostile intentions; but for his own part, he resolved
to sell his life dearly, and defend Miss Horton with his axe to the
last; and it was not long before his courage was put to the test.

They were now traversing wide plains, not inconveniently covered
with trees. This sort of country continued for about eight miles in
the direction which they were travelling. Thick scrub and an
exceedingly dense wood then intervened between that point and nearly
the water's edge of a broad and rapid river, which was the same
crossed by them on the raft, and the one which the Bushranger had swam
over when he lost the Major's horse, and received his wound.

But of these circumstances they were ignorant; they directed their
course by the sun, without knowing anything of the part of the country
over which they were passing, and which had never been explored by the
colonists. The events of this day, however, were destined to give that
district a memorable celebrity.

They had already reached the entrance of the scrub which approached
the wood bordering on the river, when Helen, casting her eyes back to
take the bearings of some remarkable objects, to assist them in
preserving a straight line--a practice abroad, when she was in
Germany, which had been taught her by her father--fancied she saw a
moving object behind them. As they had seen many kangaroos in their
way, she disregarded it at first; but the object continuing to
advance, she pointed it out to her companion, and they were not long
in perceiving that it was a native; and in a minute or two more they
could distinguish that it was the old woman from whose affectionate
home Mr. Silliman had ungallantly eloped the night before.

He was by no means, however, in the humour to comment jocosely on
that circumstance, as the matter was too serious; for her appearance
betokened the propinquity of others of the tribe. It was evident that
she was on their track; to hide themselves, therefore, was hopeless.
The best plan was to push forward, and try to discover some cave the
entrance of which they might be able to defend with their tiny fire-
arms against the attack of the savages. With this intent they kept on
their course to the thick forest of trees beyond the scrub.

The weather had been remarkably dry for some weeks, and that day was
fine, but the sun was very hot. Mr. Silliman had been congratulating
Miss Horton on the former circumstance, and had been expressing his
regret at the latter; but the sight of the old woman put a sudden stop
to all such complimentary expressions. She perceived them, they were
sure; for as they plunged into the thickets, they saw her raise up her
arms in a threatening manner, and Helen observed that she held in her
hand the firesticks, usually carried by the natives in all their
excursions.

They saw no one with her, though they could not hope that she was
unaccompanied; and they were aware that she walked much faster than
they did. But without waiting to discuss the amount of the danger,
they pressed forward, and reserved their breath to accelerate their
pace; they would willingly have made it a run, but they were too tired
for that exertion. In the mean time, the old woman continued to gain
on them. As they reached the entrance of the wood she overtook them,
and they were obliged to stand at bay.

Planting herself in their path, she stood before them, and commenced
a vehement harangue, supported by the most energetic gesticulations;
and although they could not understand a word that she said, they
guessed that she was exhorting them to return, and was threatening
them with the vengeance of herself and of her tribe, if they refused.
She frequently pointed to the country behind them, which they
construed into the information that all the savages were on their way
to overtake their prisoners, and that they would presently be upon
them.

Seeing that her intended husband paid no regard to her remonstrances,
she was about to return on her steps, to urge her black companions to
hasten forward to recapture them; but as this by no means "suited his
book," as Jerry said to Miss Horton, he proposed that they should
seize the woman, and if necessary put her to death. Helen hoped that
would not be necessary, not only because she had a strong
disinclination to take the life of a native, but because the death of
the woman would serve still further to exasperate her countrymen. But
it was necessary to do something decisive to stop her.

Mr. Silliman beckoned to her to come back to them, as she turned
round to threaten them once more. The old woman stopped; but with the
instinct of savages, she saw a something in his eye that was
unfavourable to her; and she hesitated. He advanced towards her; she
retreated; and was about to run off, when to alarm her, he fired off
his pistol, and she fell immediately to the ground; but it was only
from fright.

Without losing a moment he rushed on her, calling out to Miss Horton
at the same time to come and assist him; and before the woman could
recover herself, he tied her hands tightly together. At this
treatment, however, her terrors as to what more was to be done to her
becoming excessive, the old woman set up a shriek so horrid and so
shrill, that both Helen and himself feared that it could be heard by
the other natives a dozen miles off, and Mr. Silliman was obliged to
have recourse to the expedient of stuffing her mouth with some of the
long coarse grass, which was abundant under their feet. He considered
it prudent, also, to tie her legs together, so as to give them time to
get some distance ahead, before she could give information of them.

Helen remarked that the fire-sticks which she had let fall had
inflamed some dry twigs which stood near, at the foot of a decayed
tree whose charred appearance gave evidence of its having already
suffered from fire; and she feared that it might serve as a guide to
the natives in their pursuit.

But Mr. Silliman observed that it did not matter, as the presence of
the old woman proved that the natives would have no difficulty in
tracking them. To remove her fears, however, in respect to the fire
attracting attention, he attempted to put it out; but the unusual
dryness of the season had rendered the materials so inflammable that
the fire had begun to burn fiercely, and had already ignited the
charred trunk of the tree under which it had been kindled.

Not wishing to lose time, and as the extinguishing of the tree which
was on fire was beyond their power, they abandoned the attempt; and
leaving the old woman on the ground securely fastened, they hastened
on through the wood. But the trees were so close together, and the
dead timber which covered the ground was so thickly strewed in their
way, that their progress was necessarily slow. However, they toiled
diligently through, rejoicing that they had managed so well to escape
the danger threatened by the old woman; but a new peril now beset
them, from an enemy more savage and devouring than the natives
themselves, and one with which mortal strength had little chance in
coping.

From the increasing light, and the crackling of burning timber in
their rear, they became sensible that the forest was on fire; and from
the strong smell of smoke which now assailed them, they knew that such
wind as there was, blew directly from the fire towards themselves.

They had no idea, however, at the moment, that a fire in the woods of
Van Diemen's Land was so fierce and so rapid in its progress; but they
were soon to learn, by bitter experience, another, and the most
dreadful of all the perils of the bush.




Chapter XIX. The Burning Forest.

HELEN'S courage at the appalling sight of the blazing wood, now began
to fail her at last. She had escaped from the bushrangers, and from
the natives; but from her present peril she saw no escape!

The dead timber with which the surface of the ground was covered,
afforded ready materials for the extension of the fire which spread
rapidly on the right and on the left; while the flames, leaping from
bush to bush, and from branch to branch, licking the tall stems with
their fiery tongues, threatened to form a blazing canopy of fire over
their heads.

She endeavoured to console herself and her companion with the
consideration that the flames which bore such danger to themselves,
would serve as a fiery screen to keep off the natives who they did not
doubt were in pursuit of them. But all fear of the natives was
presently swallowed up by the urgency of the peril which immediately
assailed them; for the fire, they clearly saw, outran their most
strenuous efforts to fly from it; and it was so close on them, that it
was evident to both, that to attempt to get out of the range of the
flames by a side-movement, would be only a waste of time, and a folly
to think of;--their only chance of escape, if chance there was, was by
flying directly before it.

But they soon began to feel the effect of the heat produced by so
great a body of fire, giving them a foretaste of one of the most
dreadful of deaths; and the smoke began to encircle them within its
thick dark folds, so that sometimes it was only from the sound of the
crackling wood behind them, that they were able to keep in the right
direction.

To add to their fears they found themselves beset by numerous black
and diamond-spotted snakes, which, driven from their retreats by the
advancing fire, wound their way rapidly onwards, but happily too
intent on saving themselves to molest those who were flying from the
same danger. Nor was this the worst; for the flames, suddenly finding
materials more inflammable to feed on, spread themselves on both sides
of the struggling fugitives with extraordinary rapidity, threatening
to enclose them and thus cut off all possibility of escape.

But still they kept on their course; jumping over logs of dead
timber; scrambling through the underwood; and exerting every nerve to
hasten their flight from the terrible enemy roaring behind them. The
wood was so thick, and the smoke so obscured the atmosphere, that they
could see nothing before them but the straight and branchless trunks
of the tall stringy-bark trees; and when the fire increased in its
circular direction around them, they lost their guide and mark by
which they had hitherto directed their course.

Blinded by the smoke; their senses scared by the fire; and their
judgment lost, from the imminency of the peril which surrounded them,
they hesitated in their flight;--not knowing which way to direct their
steps, and meeting with flames on all sides,--they stood still, and
awaited their doom in silence.

Helen sunk on her knees, and prayed aloud and fervently! Her fellow--
sufferer stood aghast at the frightful sight of the blazing forest,
and gazed at the flames which were coming thick upon them in trembling
and speechless helplessness! There was no longer any hope; and both
were so exhausted by their previous exertions, that they had not
strength to stir.

"This is a dreadful death to die," said Helen to her companion; "but
there is no hope! And at least it is better to die thus than by the
torments of the savages. The fire blazes fiercer in that direction
than ever!"

"It is all over with us, miss!" said poor Jeremiah. "I could not move
an inch farther if the fire was burning my legs."

"We must say farewell to each other, my good friend," continued
Helen; "but at least I can thank you for having been the means of
releasing me from the savages; and if I had lived, depend upon it you
should have found me grateful."

"You are very good to say so, miss; and if we had not been burned as
we are to be, if you would have put in a good word for me with your
sister, Miss Louisa;--but it is too late now! To be burned to death in
this way! It is very dreadful! There's a blaze! Miss: we must try to
get away a little further from those flames! Your dress will catch
fire in a moment!"

"Try and save yourself, my good friend," said Helen. "I cannot move a
step further, I am so exhausted. Save yourself, and tell Louisa that
my last words were--"

She was interrupted by a blaze of light from the inflammation of some
dead bushes, so close that the flames almost scorched her. The effect
was so powerful on Jeremiah that he started up, and although, the
moment before, it seemed that no peril and no pain could force him to
move, he suddenly found himself excited in an extraordinary manner.

"It is too hot to bear," he cried out: "Miss Horton, get up and try
to move a little farther off."

"Impossible!" replied Helen; "I am utterly exhausted, and I cannot
move. But, save yourself, my good friend, and leave me to die where I
am. The smoke will soon stifle me before the fire comes!"

"But the fire is come, miss," replied Jeremiah; "and if your dress
catches, how are we to put it out?"

"Save yourself," repeated Helen; "but tell my dear father--and I
should like you to say to Mr. Trevor--from me--say that I was
encompassed by flames when I sent the message--say--that I was dying--
my good friend--you will particularly remember to say that I was
dying----"

"I have heard the Bushranger say, 'never say die while there's a
chance left!' and here is a chance left, Miss Horton: I feel myself
strong again. I can carry you a little way; and I will do it. I will
never leave you to be burned to death while I save myself! Give me
your hand, miss, and get up."

Helen raised herself up; but she would not be carried. Jeremiah had
scarcely assisted her a few yards when the wind rose and blew over
them a shower of sparks from the burning charcoal, and it seemed, for
a few seconds, that they were in the very midst of the fire, and about
to be consumed. But the same wind cleared also the space before them
from the thick clouds of smoke which impeded their view. It was only
for a moment; but that moment of time served to reveal to them that
they were approaching the verge of the forest, for the broad glare of
day appeared beyond, forming a contrast by its white light with the
red flames of the burning trees.

The hope which had been extinguished in Helen's heart now revived!
She felt herself animated with new energy; but it required the utmost
stretch of exertion on the part of both to keep ahead of the flames.
Every instant of time was precious, for they saw the fire sweeping
round with rapid strides to the point whither they were urging
themselves forward; and just as they reached the spot they found their
passage barred in that direction by a solid wall of fire!




Chapter XX. The Modern Prometheus.

"WE can escape yet," said Helen, "See! the ground is free to the
left. There is smoke, but no fire."

They made their way through the smoke, and found themselves treading
on loose stones interspersed among the bushes, and presently they came
on large masses of rock. The flames were raging to their left, and
spreading onwards. They could see nothing before them, the smoke was
so thick; but as they continued their course, they found themselves
ascending a rocky mound. Judging, that if they could get on the summit
of some high rock, they should be secure from the flames at least,
although the smoke would embarrass them, they encouraged each other to
proceed.

The wind now rose again, and increased till it almost became a
hurricane. The two toiled up the mound which now had assumed the
appearance of solid rock, and the wind, which increased the power of
the flames, but which dissipated the smoke, enabled them to see their
way before them.

They were now within a few feet of the top.

"Courage, miss," said Jerry, as he assisted her up a nearly
perpendicular declivity; "we shall be at the top soon, and then we
shall have a flat surface to rest on.

"What is that strange noise?" asked Helen.

They listened; and they heard a noise like the flapping of wings.

"It must be some great bird!" said Jeremiah.

A shrill and discordant shriek now assailed their ears, of a sound so
strange and fearful that had they not been hanging as it were on the
verge of a precipice, which made it more dangerous to go back than to
move forward, they would have recoiled from a cry of such evil omen.
But even as they heard it, they had, by a powerful effort, gained the
summit of the rock, and then to their amazement, and not less to their
terror, they beheld a powerful eagle, of the vulture species, with its
talons firmly fixed in the body and garments of a man, who was lying
prostrate on the rock and who was writhing under the creature's
monstrous beak and claws!

At the sight of the strangers the gigantic monarch of the mountains
flapped its huge wings, and shrieked with its hoarse throat, as it
struggled to disengage its claws, which had become entangled in the
clothes of the man, who moaned piteously, but who seemed to be
deprived of all power of motion. And still the great eagle screamed
and struggled, and Helen and her companion looked on with horror, for
in spite of the change which had taken place in the features of the
man, who even before death had become the vulture's prey, one eye
having been already digged out as a dainty which that voracious bird
most delights to revel in--they distinguished the countenance of THE
BUSHRANGER!

"It is Mark Brandon!" exclaimed Jeremiah. "This death is more
dreadful than to be burnt alive!"

"It is that terrible man," repeated Helen, with her hands clasped in
terror at the awful sight. "Such a death as this is horrible indeed!"

The quivering wretch seemed to be still sensible; for at the sound of
Helen's voice, he uttered a painful groan, and his lips moved as if he
wished to speak. But the eagle, angry and alarmed at the presence of
strangers, who had come perhaps to dispute his right to his prey, now
redoubled its efforts to release its claws. It beat its wings with
convulsive struggles; but the weight of the body was too great for it
to lift into the air. Their power however, was sufficient to enable
the creature to drag the body to the edge of the rock on the contrary
side to that where Helen and Jeremiah stood, and which rose to a
perpendicular height of nearly a hundred feet from its base, at which
a mass of decayed wood and dry shrubs was fiercely burning.

The dying wretch now seemed sensible of his coming fate; for with the
instinct which prompts all creatures to cling to life, he clutched
feebly at the edge of the precipice as he toppled over into the
burning abyss The eagle uttering discordant cries at being deprived of
its prey, soared aloft towards the clouds; and Helen and her
companion--impelled by an irresistible impulse--looking down from the
height, beheld a shower of burning sparks uprising from the raging
fire, as the still-living body of the murderer crashed into the flames
below!

They shuddered and drew back. Neither spoke; but they regarded each
other in silence--filled with awe and wonder!

After a while, Jerry began to congratulate Helen on their almost
miraculous escape, when casting his eyes down he saw a pocket-book
which after some little hesitation he picked up, and which Helen
immediately recognised as having belonged to her father.

She opened it; and there, written in his blood she saw short snatches
of the Bushranger's former life. Curiosity excited her to read one.
She read aloud:--

"The eagle is come again"...

"Stop!" interrupted Jeremiah; "what is that on the right-hand side--
by the side of the water?"

"Heavens!" exclaimed Helen, "it is a native!"

"And there is another," said Jerry; "and another! And by St. George
and the Dragon, there is the old woman! I should know her among a
thousand! They have tracked us! And--look! they see us! It is the
whole tribe after us! Oh, miss! miss! here's a job! Was ever there
anything like it! Out of one mess into another! What's to be done
now?"

Helen looked around her. On each side was a precipice; before them
was the river which flowed bubbling and sparkling in its rapid course;
and on the other side were the natives, who having caught sight of
their prisoners on the top of the rock, uttered savage cries of
vengeance and came tumultuously on. Jeremiah now really gave himself
up for lost; but Helen did not lose courage:--

"We have two pistols," she said; "they are but small, but they will
be something; and we have powder and bullets."

"We will fight for it," said Jerry. "I remember the Bushranger," and
shuddering as he spoke, "used to say, 'never say die while there's a
chance:'"--

"They cannot attack us from behind," observed Helen, casting her eyes
round and regarding the precipices which surrounded them; "The savages
must come on in front."

"That's not much comfort," replied poor Jerry, whom the rapid
succession of dangers had rendered frightfully calm; "but as it is all
we have got, we must make the most of it. If it comes to the worst I
should prefer going down into the water here in preference to the fire
on this side. But it's not much odds perhaps. Now miss, do you stand
behind me, so that when the natives throw their spears they may hit me
first; and at any rate we will have a fight for our lives."

But Helen, disdaining to avoid her share of the danger, took her
place on the left-hand side of her kind-hearted protector, and thus
posted, they awaited the onset of the savages, who with loud screams
and yells were swarming up the rock.




Chapter XXI. The Rock of Despair.

THE natives came on screeching like devils, and maddened to fury by
the sight of their victims standing at bay. They were headed by the
old woman and the conjuror, who held waddies in their hands, which
they brandished with frightful contortions. The doom of Helen and
Jerry now seemed sealed, for they could not hope to resist so many
enemies.

"Had we not better try fair means first?" suggested Helen; who,
overcome by the weakness natural to her sex at the sight of the
approaching conflict, was desirous of avoiding a scene of blood and
slaughter.

"It would be of no use," replied Jeremiah; "I see that horrible old
woman at the head of the gang, and she looks like a fury from the
regions below. If she catches me she will eat me--I feel sure of it."

The savages advanced nearer and nearer. They began to throw their
spears.

"Pray, Miss Helen," said Jerry, "do lie down flat on the rock, so
that the spears may not hit you. I should fight better if I wasn't
afraid of your being hurt; I should indeed. There! that old rascal,
the conjuror, is aiming at you with a spear! It's coming! See, it has
lodged in your dress! Pray, miss, keep out of the way, and give me the
other pistol and let me fight. Or--stay; do you load while I fire;
that's the way! Now I'll give them a shot!"

He fired among them, and they were so close that he could not avoid
hitting some one. The wounded native screamed out; but the rest,
impelled by a thirst of blood and vengeance, disregarding their
fellow's hurt, rushed up the rock as rapidly as its steepness would
allow, and in a few seconds more they would have gained the top of the
platform, where their bodily strength would have overpowered the two
occupants in a moment, when Helen called out:--

"There is a loose piece of rock hanging over the edge where we got
up. Stamp on it with your foot; perhaps its fall will frighten the
savages away."

Jerry never before had reason to be so well satisfied with the fact
of his own obesity; albeit that his plumpness had been considerably
reduced by his late forced travels, and his meagre diet among the
natives. Taking advantage of Helen's suggestion, he immediately began
to jump most vigorously on the fragment of rock projecting over the
slope on which the savages were clustered.

Thanks to his weight and to the agitation of the mass which his jumps
produced, the huge lump became more and more loosened from its bed,
and presently it fell among the assailants with a prodigious crash of
dust and splinters.

"They have got it now," said Jerry; "the savage wretches! That has
tumbled more than one of them over."

"They are going," cried out Helen, advancing to the edge from which
the piece of rock had been detached; "they are going," she said,
clasping her hands, "and we shall be saved!"

"But they are coming again," said Jerry; "nothing seems to harm that
old woman. There she is, brandishing her waddie at us! How she would
enjoy smashing in our skulls! They are on us again! we must give them
another shot."

Jerry fired again; but whether it was that the report of the little
pistol was not loud enough to strike terror into the savages, or that
they had begun to disregard the puny-looking weapon, the assailants
pressed forward again with loud and furious cries. Jeremiah asked
Helen for the other pistol which he had given to her to load; but on
looking for the powder-horn which she had laid on the rock, it was not
to be seen. By some accident, either she or Jerry had kicked it, as
they supposed, from the platform, and their only means of defence was
gone!

"It's all over now, miss, that's certain!" said Jeremiah; "but I can
throw the pistols at their heads as they come up, and have a fight
with my fists when it comes to the last. And there's the water below
as a last resource. But what is that? Miss Horton! look down there.
There is a man on horseback! and another! and some on foot! See!
Scream out! Screech! Scream! If you are a girl, I say scream! Girls
can scream loud enough sometimes when they're not wanted. Keep it up.
Scream, while I fight the savages with my fists!"

Helen screamed loudly; but her voice at such a height would have been
of little avail, had she not waved her handkerchief from the top of
the rock. That unusual object in such a place was not long in
attracting the notice of those below on the other side of the river.
She saw one horseman immediately dismount. The figure of a man
instantly sprung on the horse; even at that distance her heart told
her who that figure was!

The horseman without losing a moment instantly dashed into the water,
and hastily made his way across.

"Are they coming?" said Jerry; "the savages will be on us in another
minute. They are jabbering about how they shall do it!"

Helen lost sight of the horseman at the base of the rock, but she saw
the other two take their measures more coolly, though without losing a
moment of time. Holding hands and forming a line, the persons on foot
made their way through the water, which at that point was shallow but
exceedingly rapid, preceded by one of the horsemen and followed by the
other. They were immediately hidden from her sight.

"They have crossed the river," exclaimed Helen.

"Heaven be thanked!" said Jeremiah; "but I fear they will be too
late; the savages are coming up in a body."

Helen turned her head, and beheld some of the savage faces of the
natives peering over the ledge of the platform.

"Make haste! make haste!" she screamed out to her advancing friends;
but her feeble voice was useless amidst the din of the savages' yells
as they came almost within grasp of their prey!

"Oh!" exclaimed Helen, bursting into tears with the excitement of
mingled hope and fear, "they will be too late!"

"There goes one fellow," said Jerry, as concentrating all his
strength in one vigorous blow, he gave an old savage a tremendous
punch in the face with his fist.

"I hear a shot fired!" cried out Helen. "It is to tell us that they
are at hand!"

There seemed to be some irresolution among the savages at this
moment, and they looked behind them.

"There goes another shot; they are coming nearer fast!" said Jerry,--
"the savages look puzzled! There go more shots.--Stand out of the way,
miss, or you may be hit! By George! they are driving the savages upon
us!--Fall down, miss.--fall down--flat on the rock, and cling to it
with your hands and feet! The savages will be up and on us in another
moment!"

Even while he spoke, five of the natives had gained the level space
of the platform, which was scarcely large enough to hold them. Jerry
seized one of them by the middle, and hurled him down the precipice
into the river. But at the same instant another powerful native
clasped Helen round the body, and tried to carry her off.

"Hold on, miss!" cried out Jerry; "hold on with your nails! I see our
friends coming up! Hold on--a moment longer! For the love of Heaven!
hold on!"

"Helen!" cried out a voice which the poor girl knew well. "Helen;
where are you, Helen?"

"Here?" screamed Jerry, who was struggling with the natives, and
fighting with his fists against their waddies, with which they were
beating him. "Here--she is; a native has got hold of her, and in
another moment they will both be off the rock into the fire!"

Helen held out her hand to Trevor:--the native, with a savage grasp,
held her by the other arm. Trevor drew a pistol from his belt, and
fired! The ball crashed through his brain, and the savage with a
spring fell over the precipice. Jerry, choosing the least of two
dangers, rolled himself up into a ball, and let himself tumble down
the slope, where he was presently stopped by his friends; while
Trevor, at the same moment, pulled Helen from the platform, and fell
with her into the supporting hands of his soldiers, who had followed
him up quickly, and who were close behind him.

The three natives who were left by themselves on the platform, after
hesitating for a few moments, leaped from the rock, and rushing down
the slope with the agility of mountain goats, broke their way through
the white people, and as Trevor called out loudly to his party not to
fire on them, escaped.

He then bore Helen from the rock, and in a few minutes she found
herself in the arms of her father.



Chapter XXII. Conclusion.

MUTUAL explanations followed. Trevor explained that Oionoo had
followed the track in the bush until they came up with the party of
the Major, whom he found in great perplexity, shortly after the
Bushranger had gone off with his horse. That, impressed with the
conviction that Helen was in the vicinity of the spot where Brandon
had suddenly appeared, her father had spent some days, with himself,
in searching for her in all the places round about; and that, on
diverging to a considerable distance on their left, Oionoo had
discovered the track of her foot, and had led them to the bank of the
river where it seemed she had crossed some time before, with the
natives. This supposition was confirmed by Helen.

Trevor further explained that, as they found the river too rapid and
too deep to be crossed at that point, they had been led by Oionoo up
the stream till they came to a fording-place, which Oionoo knew of,
and which was nearly opposite the high rock on which the keen eyes of
the native girl first discovered the form of Helen.

Jeremiah, on his part, related the manner of the Bushranger's death,
making several grave and moral reflections on the awful end of the
murderer, and pointing out to the Major's attention the sketches of
his life which Brandon had written with his blood.

The constable desired to identify the body, and with that intent,
made his way over the smouldering embers, to the spot described by Mr.
Silliman; but nothing was to be seen but a black mass scarcely bearing
a resemblance to the human form. However, as both Helen and Mr.
Silliman were well acquainted with his person, and had witnessed his
dreadful death, there was no doubt that the scourge of Van Diemen's
Land was no more.

The object of the expedition of the several parties being now
fulfilled, they had nothing to do but to make the best of their way
towards the settlements. They recrossed the river, therefore, without
delay; and Helen by the way, gave ample explanations of all that had
occurred since the Bushranger had taken her away from the cave; and
she particularly extolled Mr. Silliman's kindness and bravery to the
skies.

Trevor scrutinised the little man with much curiosity as Helen
sounded his praises, and she thought that he looked graver than there
was any occasion for. Perhaps a feeling of envy at Mr. Silliman having
had the good fortune to render Helen services so important, might have
increased to jealousy at his long freedom of intercourse with Miss
Horton, had not Jeremiah, in the excess of his joy, seeing how matters
stood between the ensign and Helen, made a confidant of the young
soldier; who, soon becoming master of Jerry's character, and being
amused at his mixture of simplicity and good feeling, readily promised
his good offices in respect to the sister.

He afterwards owned to Helen, that he felt considerable relief at
being made acquainted with the little man's love for Louisa; "as there
was no knowing," he said, "what impression the genuine kindness of
heart and courage of such a good-natured fellow might have had even on
such a heroine as Helen."

Helen might have been inclined to resent this insinuation at any
other time; but the impression of the recent dangers through which she
had passed was too strong to allow her to take any other notice of the
impertinence than by a haughty frown, which was presently succeeded,
however, by a gracious smile.

As their party was too strong to have any fears of the natives, they
pushed forward cheerily, Helen being accommodated with one of the
horses on which they contrived to make a substitute for a side-saddle
by the bell tent, which formed a retreat for at her night. Every body
was pleased; the constable and the soldiers to know that the objects
of their expedition were accomplished; Trevor to find Helen; Mr.
Silliman to find himself safe and sound; and the Major was rejoiced to
recover not only his daughter, but from the note of the "plant" found
in the Bushranger's memorandums of his murders, &c., his thousand
pounds in gold, and most of his dollars besides; forming altogether a
serious sum of money to a new colonist, and which he thought of
sufficient importance to induce him to go out of his way to secure it.

As they were well supplied with necessaries, and had with them two
kangaroo dogs which assured to them abundance of game, they made their
journey as much of a tour of pleasure as possible; and the provident
Major took advantage of the opportunity to survey the country with a
view to cattle runs and sheep walks--so important to the owner of
flocks and herds.

He found the money in the spot described; and not only that, but the
dollars carried away by the Bushranger who had been shot by Brandon,
to which spot they were led by Oionoo, who discovered the tracks. All
this very much added to the good humour of the Major and his family,
which was increased by a further discovery of various articles of
property and of valuables which had been "planted" near the cave by
the Bushrangers.

They then journeyed on to Hobart Town, passing over the ground
previously travelled by the ensign with the corporal, and reached
"camp," as the capital was then generally denominated, without
accident.

There was a grand rejoicing in the town on the arrival of the Major
with his lost daughter; and Helen became so much an object of
attraction, that Trevor, with a view to prevent further accidents,
proposed to her father that he should forthwith take her under his own
care; an arrangement to which the Major assented cordially, but to
which Helen demurred as removing her from her father and her sister.

This difficulty however was promptly removed by the ensign, who
declared, that his object in entering the army was merely to distract
his mind from the memory of Helen whom he had supposed he had lost,
and who announced his determination to resign his commission; and as
he had few relations in England to whom he felt attached, to settle in
the colony as a landowner and proprietor of sheep and cattle in
general, and of Miss Horton in particular.

Helen and Louisa, in a private conversation with their father,
earnestly entreated him to quit a colony where such excesses could be
committed, and return to England.

But the Major represented to them, that the small property which he
had left was scarcely sufficient to provide them with the common
necessaries of life at home, whereas it was enough to establish them
in comfort and affluence in the colony: "besides," he said, "according
to the doctrine of chances, the extraordinary events which have
happened to us once, will not happen again. And, after all, scenes of
violence take place at home--in Ireland for instance--hardly less
fearful than those which we have happily escaped from here."

The Major was right. They had no reason afterwards to repent the
determination, which they unanimously adopted, of persevering in the
original intention of the Major to become colonists; and they often
amused themselves by the fireside in talking over the perils which had
beset them on their first arrival; and when the natives in the course
of years were entirely rooted out from the island, Mr. Silliman at
last lost all fear of being revisited by the abominable old woman
whose "ugly mug," as he expressed it, for a long time after, haunted
him in his dreams.

The affectionate Oionoo remained with them in the capacity of a
domestic, although she could never be thoroughly convinced of the
propriety, at all times, of submitting herself to the white woman's
custom of stays and petticoats; and would insist occasionally on
divesting herself of the embarrassment of her apparel in order to
climb up some stately gum-tree after an opossum, the presence of which
savoury animal she was enabled to detect by her sense of smell with
marvellous sagacity.

The corporal obtained his discharge from his regiment, and resided
with his officer, who offered to settle him on some land; but the
veteran said that he was too old to begin life again that way, and he
preferred taking a part in the superintendence of his master's
flocks:--

"He had come to a time of life," he said, "when the best way to get
forward was to stand still."

The mate of the brig which the Major disposed of advantageously,
followed his avocations on the sea, notwithstanding the liberal offers
of his late employer to assist him in settling on the island.

"It was all very well for the long-tails," such was the observation
of the worthy sailor, "to dig up the land; but his profession was to
plough up the sea; and he never should be able to bring himself to
bear such a sawneying life," he said, "as to stand with his hands in
his pockets looking at sheeps' tails growing behind them. The sea for
him! There he was born--that was his home--and there, when it pleased
God, he would die."

As Helen never ceased to magnify the importance of her family's
obligations to Mr. Silliman, dwelling strongly not only on his
courage, but on the fact of his having offered to the bushrangers the
thousand pounds in dollars, which were lodged to his credit in Hobart
Town; as well as on his punctilious respect towards herself, under
very awkward circumstances, and as on his general goodness of heart
and sincerity of affection, which goes so far with the gentle sex, the
amiable Louisa was inclined, in process of time, to listen favourably
to his suit; and the union being approved of by her father, and most
heartily by her brother-in-law and her sister, the marriage took place
about two years after her sister's union with Trevor; by which time
Jeremiah had not only ample time and opportunity to prove still
further the force and constancy of his devotion, but had contrived
with great diligence and industry, to build a good house, and
establish a well-stocked farm, about half a mile from the Major's
mansion.

The alliance between the houses of Horton and Silliman was celebrated
with extraordinary pomp, and with festivities of unusual splendour;
not less than twelve bullock-carts, of four bullocks each, arriving
nearly all together. The quantity of "geeing," and the cracking of
whips was tremendous! But owing to the excellent regulations adopted
by the bridegroom, the drivers being directed by public placard, to
set down with their bullocks' heads towards the Blue Gum Tree, and to
take up with their tails towards the stockyard, no accident occurred;
although, owing to excessive fatigue or other causes, it was
necessary, on their return to their homes, to assist some of the male
portion of the guests into their respective vehicles.

At the termination of an entertainment, which consisted of almost a
whole hetacomb of sheep and cattle, and at which port wine and claret
was drunk from the cask fresh and fresh, due honours having been paid
to Mr. and Mrs. Trevor, and the obligations due to them from the
general community, for their presentation of two little colonists to
increase the population of the island, having been properly
acknowledged, with many hearty encouragements to persevere in those
praiseworthy contributions, the Major proposed the health of his
second son-in-law.

He expatiated much on Mr. Silliman's goodness of heart, and bestowed
warm praises on his courage amidst the difficulties and dangers in
which he had assisted in rescuing his eldest daughter!

The great store-room rang with acclamations at this eulogium, and the
gentle Louisa's eyes filled with pleasing tears.

Jerry acknowledged the honour in a neat speech, which elicited a
prodigious rattling of glasses, and the warmest enthusiasm of the
company at every sentence, especially when he announced that another
hogshead of claret was then broached, and proposed as a concluding
toast:--

"Success to the Colony of Van Diemen's Land!"



THE END



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