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Title: Australian Life, Black and White
Author: Rosa Praed
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eBook No.: 0607211.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: September 2006
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Australian Life, Black and White
Rosa Praed

Chapter 1.

FAST steamboats and new mail routes have brought the Australian
colonies into comparatively intimate relations with the mother-land;
and in these days of "globe trotting," when every fifth man one meets
has "gone round the world," it is usual enough to find that the tour
has comprised visits to the Australian capitals and perhaps a little
mild roughing it on some cattle or sheep station within easy distance
of rail or high road.

The inquiring tourist of to-day who wishes to gain personal knowledge
of life at the Antipodes, has a fairly smooth path before him. He is
usually armed with letters of introduction to various magnates in the
colonies he proposes to visit; and, arrived there, is thus made free
of Government House, provided with passes upon the railways, and fted
and lionised in the towns, where he probably spends most of his time
and where he observes with a little surprise that social observances
differ in no marked respect from those in England. In the Bush, life
is still made pleasant to him. Wild horse-hunts, kangaroo battues, and
camping out expeditions, are organised for his amusement; and
performances of mustering, cattle drafting, and such like mysteries of
stock-keeping, rehearsed for his instruction. Or he may go further,
even beyond the bounds of civilisation. He may spend a month or so on
the Diggings, do an overland ride, or experience the hardships of
residence on a northern run, and then go home with a sufficiently
correct idea of Australia as it is. But his impressions are after all,
only those of an outsider, and under any circumstances he can form but
an imperfect picture of Australia as it was--in the early days of
pioneering, when Queensland, then Moreton Bay, was a small penal
settlement, when convicts and bush-rangers abounded, and many a white
man went west or north, and never returned to tell the tale of outrage
and murder by myall1 [*] Blacks.

[* Myall Blacks, the wild aborigines.]

There were no roads then from one colony to another. Only the coast-
line had been explored. It was known that New Holland stretched over
2,500 miles from east to west, and nearly that distance from north to
south; but it could only be conjectured that beyond the inhabited, or
rather habitable, rim, extending inland some two or three hundred
miles, lay a vast Sahara fatal to man and beast.

The squatters of those times were, as might be supposed, a brave,
reckless band. Quick to love and quick to hate, full of pluck and
endurance, dauntless before danger, iron in physique and nerve, and
ready for any difficult or dare-devil feat, their adventures, escapes,
practical jokes, and carouses, would have furnished rich material to
an Australian Lever or Fenimore Cooper.

A party of these young men, mostly cadets of English and Irish
families, some, undergraduates of Oxford and Cambridge, some, sons of
soldiers with no fortune but that which their own energy might make
for them, all resolute and keen after adventure and exploration, left
Sydney and pushed north into the country which is now known as
Queensland. The Government, eager to encourage a free population, gave
extensive grants of land to the pioneers; and hitherto undiscovered
country was thrown open. The first stockman on horseback seemed to the
Blacks a kind of centaur. They took him for a new species of animal,
and he was afterwards known among his companions by the sobriquet of
Yarraman Dick--yarraman being the native word for horse. Beyond a
certain range of mountains there was no law. As in the days of Abraham
and Lot, the first occupants of the land stoutly maintained their
exclusive right to the grass and water, and were engaged in constant
squabbles with the new-comers. Then legislation stepped in, granted
licenses and defined boundaries. A Land Commissioner was appointed who
ruled the district with a rod of iron. Many will remember "King Tom"
and his factotum, familiarly styled "Unbranded Kelly." For, in those
times, all animals which at the age of twelve months, were still
unbranded, became by law the property of the Crown, and were impounded
and sold. Kelly, with a company of policemen and black boys, used to
make raids upon the Stations, and bring in triumph to the Pound all
the unbranded calves he could collect.

A certain buxom dame reigned as housekeeper over the somewhat
grandly conducted establishment of the Commissioner. Report said that
she ruled the Commissioner also. It was she who became the owner of
the confiscated animals. No one dared to bid against her at the Pound,
and the cattle fell to her for a mere trifle.

At first the natives retreated before the whites; and, except that
they every now and then speared a beast in one of the herds, gave
little cause for uneasiness. But, as the number of squatters
increased, each one taking up miles of country and bringing two or
three men in his train, so that shepherds' huts and stockmen's camps
lay far apart, and defenceless in the midst of hostile tribes, the
Blacks' depredations became more frequent and murder was no unusual

The loneliness of the Australian bush can hardly be painted in
words. Here extends mile after mile of primaeval forest where perhaps
foot of white man has never trod--interminable vistas where the
eucalyptus trees rear their lofty trunks, and spread forth their lanky
limbs, from which the red gum oozes and hangs in fantastic pendants
like crimson stalactites; ravines along the sides of which the long
bladed grass grows rankly; level untimbered plains alternating with
undulating tracts of pasture, here and there broken by a stony ridge,
steep gully, or dried-up creek. All wild, vast, and desolate; all the
same monotonous grey colouring, except where the wattle when in
blossom shows patches of feathery gold, or a belt of scrub lies green,
glossy, and impenetrable as Indian jungle.

The solitude seems intensified by the strange sounds of reptiles,
birds, and insects, and by the absence of larger creatures; of which,
in the daytime, the only audible signs are the stampede of a herd of
kangaroo, or the rustle of a wallabi or dingo stirring the grass as it
creeps to its lair. But there are the whirring of locusts, the
demoniac chuckle of the laughing jackass, the screeching of cockatoos
and parrots, the hissing of the frilled lizard, and the buzzing of
innumerable insects hidden under the dense undergrowth. And then, at
night, the melancholy wailing of the curlews, the dismal howling of
dingoes, the discordant croaking of tree-frogs, might well shake the
nerves of a solitary watcher.

Each stockman's hut stood by itself in a clearing, leagues distant
from any other dwelling, and as far as might be from the nearest
scrub, in the thickets of which the Blacks could always find an
unassailable stronghold. The hut was built of logs and slabs, the roof
of bark; the fireplace was a small room with a wide wooden chimney.
Shutters there were, and a door, but locks were unknown, and bolts and
bars were of the most primitive description. The settler depended for
safety upon the keenness of his hearing, the excellence of his
carbine, and the Blacks' superstitious dread of darkness, which makes
them averse to leaving their camp except on moonlight nights, or with
an illumination of burning firesticks.

At the Nie Nie station, one dark night, the unsuspecting hutkeeper,
having as he believed secured himself against assault, was lying
wrapped in his blanket sleeping profoundly. The Blacks crept
stealthily down the chimney and battered in his skull with a nulla-
nulla while he slept.

This murder was followed by others. The squatters of the
neighbourhood assembled and made an ineffectual raid. They found only
deserted camps. The Blacks had fled into a wild precipitous region at
the head of several rivers, where broken gorges, caves, and ravines
afforded them an almost impregnable refuge. Later, some of the
supposed ringleaders were taken by a detachment of mounted police and
solemnly led to Sydney for trial. The formalities of the law were duly
observed; but identification being a difficulty--for the Black clothed
and in a prisoner's dock can seldom be conscientiously sworn to as the
naked, pipeclayed, tattoed savage seen in the heat of encounter--the
crime could not be legally proven, and the case fell through. The
prisoners were released; there was a reaction in their favour; they
were laden with beads, tomahawks, and other acceptable presents, and
returned to their tribe exultant. "My word!" said the dusky criminals,
after this their first peep at civilisation; "Blackfellow nangery
along a gaol. That corbon budgery. Plenty patter, plenty blanket. No
coolla, budgery play about."[*] And they were quite impressed with the
notion that in the event of war between Blacks and Whites "that big
fellow Gubbernor along a Sydney" would hang the White man and let the
Black go free.

Nangery,        stay.
Corbon budgery, very good.
Patter,         food.
Coolla,         angry.
The Blackfellows stayed in gaol. That is a very good place. There
was plenty of food; plenty of blankets; no one was angry; and there
was a good deal of amusement.]

The absurdity of dealing with savages by our code is manifest. Their
law is that any one individual in a tribe may be held responsible for
the misdemeanours of any other member of the same tribe. Thus
punishment inflicted in a somewhat promiscuous fashion would not have
offended against their sense of justice.

The squatters of the north rose up in fury, and swore that their
chums should not be slain and their cattle scattered without vengeance
being taken upon the aggressors. They armed, rode forth and surrounded
the camp, killing some of the natives and taking many prisoners.
Maddened with bloodshed and thirsting for revenge, they built up a
great pile of wood, slaughtered their prisoners--men, women, and
children--and hurling the scarcely lifeless bodies upon the pile, set
it on fire.

The affair was reported at head-quarters. A band of police was sent
up, and seven of the settlers were brought to Sydney, tried for
murder, found guilty, and sentenced to death. Party feeling ran high
in Sydney. Mr. Wentworth, pleading for the accused, and at daggers
drawn with Mr. Plunkett, the Attorney-General, hotly defied the
Government to carry out the sentence. Mr. Plunkett, determined upon
the defeat of his adversary, swore that not only should these men be
hanged, but that any white man who could be proved to have killed a
blackfellow not in self-defence should be held guilty of murder. New
South Wales was then a crown colony, and the Attorney-General,
officially a member of the Council, had great power. The seven men
were executed, and while in office Mr. Plunkett carried out his threat
to the best of his ability. He was detested by the squatters, and the
wish was frequently expressed in language more forcible than becoming,
that the Attorney-General could change places for six months with a
shepherd upon the Myall Creek.

When the Blacks heard that seven white men had been hanged for the
Myall Creek fray, they grew more and more daring. It was their custom
after each outrage to shelter themselves in the broken country before
mentioned, which was called The Falls, only issuing forth to commit
further depredations. The Government became alive to the necessity for
action. A body of mounted police, formed of picked men from the
different regiments then in Sydney, who did special service among the
bush-rangers, was sent to punish and drive the Blacks from their
stronghold. A fine corps it was, under the command of a certain Major
Munn, a dark, handsome, aristocratic-featured man, as popular in
drawing-rooms as he was unpopular among bushrangers, who looked an
imposing figure on his grand grey charger, and stuck at nothing, being
ready to meet the Blacks' treachery with guile, and fearing no foe on
open field. Many were the tales told by camp fires of the exploits of
Major Munn and his followers.

Several natives were enlisted in the band. One, a small black boy, a
good tracker, led the soldiers to the stronghold of the tribe. The
Blacks were caught in a gorge, from which their only outlet was by a
waterfall. The troopers fired down into the camp, and then rushed upon
their prey. Many natives were killed, some in leaping down the
precipice; but few escaped. After the fray the black guide came up to
Major Munn and proudly exhibited his blood-stained sword. "My word!"
cried he, with an impish laugh which showed all his glistening teeth,
"corbon budgery this long fellow knife. Plenty mine been mumkull ole
fellow mammy belonging to me. I been marra cobra along a that ole

[* "My word, this is a very good long knife. I have killed my old mother.
I took off the old woman's head."  ]

The boy was exulting in having cut off his own mother's head.

In this irregular warfare, formalities were usually dispensed with,
but upon occasions they were observed after a somewhat ludicrous
fashion. There is in the breast of every Englishman a rooted aversion
to shooting a human being in cold blood which struggles with the
instinct of the sportsman. One day Major Munn and his party were
riding back to the camp after a long and, so far, fruitless man hunt.
Suddenly the foremost of the band espied a blackfellow, who, hoping to
escape the observation of the dreaded "Marmi" (chief of the police),
had climbed into the fork of a high gum tree.

The sergeant reported to the Major "Blackfellow up a tree, sir."

"Order him down," said the Major.

"I have done so," replied the sergeant. "He won't come, and we
cannot climb the tree."

"Go again," said the Major; "order him down three times in Her
Majesty's name."

"And supposing Her Majesty don't fetch him," said the sergeant.

"Then bring him down," grimly answered Major Munn.

The sergeant advanced with carbine pointed. "I say, you nigger, come
down in the Queen's name.

"Bal mumkull" [do not kill me], shrieked the aboriginal in abject
terror, not understanding one word of English, and realising only that
he was in peril of his life.

Said the sergeant, "I orders you again in the Queen's name to come

Still piteous cries of "Bal, Bal."

"I orders you a third time in the Queen's name to come down,"
repeated the sergeant. "Then, if you ain't a-going to obey Her
Majesty's orders, I must obey mine."

His hand was upon the trigger. A shot, a thud, and the "big game"
fell at his feet.

There is a story of a black trooper, who on his own responsibility
brought his man down. Having omitted the formula, he exclaimed, as the
"game" fell.

"Tsch! Tsch! Altogether mine lose him Queen's name" [I quite forgot
to say "In the Queen's name"]. Then, a happy idea striking his brain--
it being quite immaterial to him whether the incantation, as he
considered it, were addressed to the living or dead--he cried: "Come
down in Queen's name one time." "Come down in Queen's name two time."
"Come down in Queen's name three time." "That budgery now' (that's all
right now).

There is among the Australian Blacks no sentiment of honour, loyalty,
or of the obligations of kindred. They are treacherous and time-
serving, and the native tracker is always the most bloodthirsty in a
fray, and the keenest in hunting down those of his own tribe.

A stratagem, conducted on the principle of "Set a thief to catch a
thief," brought the little campaign to a close. It had lasted for some
time; the tribe had been hunted hither and thither, and the remaining
ringleaders had hidden themselves in broken country extremely
difficult of access.

The native police under white officers had been out for several days
upon a fruitless search, and were about to leave that part of the
district. Towards sundown they came upon a track which led them to the
borders of a scrub. It was now time to camp, and the troopers went
forth in search of a bandicoot for supper. One of them heard in the
distance the sound of a tomahawk, and following its guidance came
unseen upon a wild Black chopping an opossum out of a hollow tree. The
trooper watched him to the camp; then, after consulting with his own
mates, went to their chief.

"Marmi," said he. "You pidney, plenty boy been woolla. Metancoly
myall Black nangry camp. Suppose Marmi you directly blackfellow mel.
No good boots, too much noise."[*]

[* "Marmi, you understand, these boys have been talking over the matter;
there are a great many Myall Blacks at the camp. If you go, they
will see you directly. Your boots make too much noise."]

The boy then suggested that he and his companions should take off
their clothes, steal down to the Myall's camp, and with their rifles
lie there concealed till dawn. "Then," continued he, excitedly,
"murrai early, when Myall first wake up, close up ogle eye that
fellow. Euroka bal get up. He make him fire. Then black boy mel--mel,
shoot along a daloopil, and I believe plenty catch him." [Very early
when the Myall first awakes it is nearly dark. The sun is not risen.
They make their fire. Then we boys see them, and shoot them with our

The plan was adopted. At early morn it was dark and cold, and the
fires had burned out during the night. Though the stars were still
shining there was already a chorus of magpies, the laughing jackasses
were saluting day, and there was the strange twittering and curious
murmur of insect life that may be heard before sunrise in the
Australian bush, and that now covered the stealthy movements of the
watchers as they got their guns ready for action. One by one, the
sleepy Blacks came out of their gunyahs. They scratched themselves and
yabbered unsuspiciously to each other as they blew upon the half-burnt
firesticks. Soon a blaze illuminated the camp, and the shiny forms
stood revealed in the glow, easy targets for the marksmen. Each
covered a Myall and fired. A volley echoed through the scrub. Panic
seized the Blacks; they knew not where to turn, and hardly one

Thus, in that district, the war ended for the time. Had the Blacks
possessed any power of concerted action, they might have exterminated
the whites; and it was a matter of wonder to the settlers that they
did not collect in force and bail up the stations, which would have
been quite at their mercy. This was partly explained by one of the
leaders, a certain Cockatoo Billy, who had contrived to pass through
the war unscathed. He said that after the first fray, the Blacks had
had a "corbon woolla." Some wished to attack the stations; others to
keep altogether clear of the whites, and the prudent prevailed, for,
said Cockatoo Billy, with forcible logic, "White man no like it
blackfellow. Suppose blackfellow go bong, bal more; but suppose
blackfellow altogether mumkull white, plenty more sit down along a
Sydney." Sydney to their ideas representing the habitat of the species
"white man."

Metancoly is the Black's expression for a great number. The Blacks
only count to five. Kimmeroi, one; bulla, two; bulla kimmeroi, three;
bulla bulla, four; bulla bulla kimmeroi, five; after that the term
used is metancoly.

The Blacks have a curious aptitude for concealing themselves. A
mounted white man will fancy himself alone on a moderately timbered
plain, whereas in reality he may be surrounded by Blacks, and as he
lightly canters by a slender gum-tree, the natives gliding quickly
round the trunk, and measuring the line of sight by a hairsbreadth,
may be actually within spear's touch of him.

In Moreton Bay, the depredations of the Blacks were more or less
regulated by the yield of the bunya forests, which clothe the ranges
between two great rivers. In a year when the fruit was abundant, the
natives were always more troublesome and daring, and the worst
atrocities were committed.

The bunya is a handsome tree of the fir species. It grows in the
shape of a pyramid, the lower branches spreading wide upon the ground,
and the others graduating upward to the height of a hundred or more
feet. The leaves are prickly, and of a dark glossy green; and the
cone, yellow when ripe, contains many nuts which are about the size of
a date, resinous but not disagreeable in flavour. When the bunya is in
season, the tribes congregate from within a radius of two or three
hundred miles; and for some time, the district where the nut abounds
is a scene of feasting and corroboreeing, for the Blacks who live
ordinarily upon opossum, snake, iguana, and such wild animals as they
can snare, enjoy the change to a vegetable diet. But after a time they
begin to crave for animal food, and plentiful as is the game, the
large number assembled causes it soon to become scarce.

At this crisis, before the advent of white men, a fight ensued, and
the killed were roasted and devoured; or there was a grand corroboree,
and certain stout young gins or lubras, set apart for the purpose,
were sacrificed. But when beef and mutton became procurable, the herds
naturally suffered, and fierce collision with the whites was a

Cannibalism prevails at the time of the Bunya Feast; but there is
reason to believe that it is connected with some religious observance.

The Blacks are very reticent concerning the secrets of their
religion, of which the Korradgees or medicine men are the chief
repositories. It is sometimes denied that they have any form of
worship, and asserted that their silence is due to the fact that they
have nothing to tell. That they have secret rites is certain; they
also acknowledge the power of a Great Spirit--not the popular Debbil-
Debbil; and believe in a heaven or happy hunting-ground, in which the
black man shall rise up white. A tribal combat is always followed by a
corroboree and a feast upon human flesh, for the fighting man believes
that by eating a portion of the body of a great warrior, he may secure
to himself some share of the prowess and valour of the deceased.

The great mystery of the Blacks is the Bora--a ceremony at which the
young men found worthy receive the rank of warriors and are henceforth
called Kippers.

Previous to the ceremony they pass through a period of probation,
during which their courage and endurance are tested, and they are
obliged to live apart in the bush, and not allowed to see a gin. Only
the initiated are permitted to assist at the Bora, and no women may be
present. The Bora ground is usually in a retired spot, on a slight
elevation, level at the top. A large circle is scooped out surrounded
by a wall of earth in which two openings are left. The youths enter by
one as neophytes, and make their exit by the other as kippers. In the
centre is placed the rough effigy of an emu, made from twigs or
saplings. Europeans are ignorant of the signification of the emblem,
and it is improbable that any white man has ever witnessed the Bora
rite. The grounds are held in reverence by the Blacks; and desecration
of the sacred circle is followed by summary vengeance.

No Black dare divulge the secrets of the Bora. At night, over the
camp fire, when the horses have been hobbled, the pipes lit, and a
pannikin of grog poured out, the blackboy drawn into conversation by
the master for whom he has an unbounded admiration, will sometimes wax
communicative about the customs of his tribe; but any question
concerning the Bora only elicits a shake of the head, and the reply
"Supposs mine pialla you, blackfellow directly mumkull mine." [If I
told you the Blacks would kill me at once.]

Chapter II.

MANY people know the misery of lying awake, compelled by a sort of
grim necessity to piece together incidents that have made childhood a
memorable part of our lives. One or two pictures stand out illuminated
by a sort of lurid brightness. All the rest is misty and shadowy; and
we go on groping after lost clues and tormenting ourselves till we
become exasperated by the very vividness of those early impressions
that are like flashes in the darkness, and cause even later
experiences to seem vague and unreal.

Narcotics and anaesthetics sometimes play odd tricks in stimulating
memory, and unrolling the brain-folds where things of the past lie
hidden; and I commend this fact to the consideration of the Society
for Psychical Research, that an overdose of opium has brought before
my mind's eye scenes and faces of which, in my normal condition, I had
the very faintest recollection, but which, in my abnormal state, I
recognised with great inward satisfaction. I have then been able to
see distinctly the wild country and the rough bush hut where my
earliest years were spent, and which I have vainly puzzled my brain in
trying to recall; and have gone through whole scenes and conversations
that I knew perfectly well had been realities, though I could not by
any possibility have remembered them.

My childhood, albeit that in some respects it was an exceedingly
happy one, has always been a kind of nightmare to me. I feel
occasionally that Nature having allowed me to develop certain
faculties which might have been of service had I remained in my
original condition of barbarism, Fate defrauded her by casting my
lines in pleasant and civilised places. I still walk warily in long
grass lest a death adder should be lying close to my feet. I have not
ceased to dream that I am on an out-station besieged by Blacks; and
during many a night do I fly through the endless forests, and hide in
stony gullies, pursued by my aboriginal as ruthlessly as was ever De
Quincy by his Malay. Conventionality is a burden to me, and society a
penance. The wild cawing of rooks is sweeter to my ears than the song
of the nightingale; and the systems of railways and of English "county
families" are equally unintelligible to my understanding. I am
oppressed sometimes by an insane longing to fire a volley of "Black's
yabber" across a London dinner table, and am obliged to fight against
a strong capacity for wonder and admiration, and a tendency to take it
for granted that my next neighbour in a crowd must feel as keen an
interest in my well--being or misfortunes, as though we had suddenly
met in the wilds of Australia, and knew that there wasn't another
human being within twenty miles of us.

I felt the deepest sympathy with an Australian stranger who occupied
a stall in front of me at the Italian Opera not many nights ago. He
was alone, and I saw that he had a difficulty in containing his
transports of pleasure. An august member of the Chinese Embassy came
in late and took his seat beside the colonist. I observed a gleam of
delight cross my compatriot's face, and knew that he mentally
associated the pigtail with some friendly shepherd or intelligent hut-
keeper--the sort of Chinaman who is a feature in the Bush. I was not
surprised therefore to see him nudge this magnate of the Celestial
Empire in the ribs and whisper audibly, "What do you think of that,
John? It's fine, isn't it? They don't do anything like that in your
country or in mine, eh John?"

A day or two later, I met the same gentleman wandering hopelessly
about in the neighbourhood of Belgrave Square. He accosted me, and
inquired his way. I directed him, and, after thanking me, he added
with true Australian simplicity, "I get quite bushed in these streets.
London is an awful place. It's all the same. I'd give a good deal to
be able to blaze [*] the houses as we do the iron-bark trees. In fact,
I'd rather any day be lost in Never Never country."

[*  5 N.B. To blaze, to mark a track by chopping a piece of bark off
each tree in a line.]

*   *   *   *   *

Naraigin was a station in one of the most unsettled districts--on the
very borders of unexplored country, of which my father took possession
when I was about seven or eight years' old.

My recollections of our life at that time are curiously vivid and
complete, and seem to stand apart from the earlier impressions, which
are a jumble of disconnected, luminous images, with mist between. As
far back as I can think, there have always been trees and wide
pastures, Blacks, rough-bearded white men, who usually carried
revolvers, but who were invariably kind to children, few or no women
and a general notion of bigness and solitude. But the journey to
Naraigin must have been a break--a starting point, as it were, amid
new scenes. Then the Eurogan tragedy, where our neighbours the
Grants--a whole family, mother, daughters, and sons--were outraged and
murdered, was a horror that couldn't fade quickly from the mind; and
the raid upon the Blacks, in which my father was concerned, and which,
long after the excitement was over, formed the favourite topic for a
"yarn," stamped upon my memory incidents and conversations that would
otherwise have been forgotten.

The other day, a bundle of letters and memoranda written at that time
by my father and mother fell into my hands and suggested these
reminiscences. They brought back old days in a literal manner, as a
photograph may recall a once familiar face or landscape, which,
otherwise, is only rendered distinct by intermittent gleams of the
imagination. With the aid of these it needs no effort to picture in my
mind the head station, and our life at Naraigin.

A queer one-storied hut, built of slabs which had shrunk apart, so
that there were wide gaps everywhere, with a sloping roof of bark and
a wide and roughly boarded verandah. Windows there were none, that is
to say in the sense of panes of glass--there were wooden shutters that
could be closed at night. Most of the floors were earthen; I think the
sitting-room was boarded, but am not sure. The rooms were unceiled,
and I have a vivid recollection of uncanny looking white lizards and
bloated tarantulas which abode beneath the rafters. There was a
kitchen behind, connected with the house by a covered passage; and
there were other outbuildings--a meat store, on the roof of which the
bullock hides were stretched to dry, and a wool-shed some little
distance away, which with its many pens, its empty wool bales, and
presses, its odd holes and corners, was the most delightful playing--
ground imaginable. Then there was a garden, fenced in with hurdles,
over which our tame kangaroo took his daily constitutional; but
nothing grew in it except pumpkins and fat-hen. Well for us that they
did flourish, for we lived on pumpkins and mutton for three months,
during which time the drays were delayed by flooded creeks, and the
store was empty of flour, tea, sugar, and all other groceries.

Below the house lay the stockyard, and between the stockyard and the
river the camp. The Blacks were always in the water. The gins dived
for the roots of waterlilies, and then roasted the bulbs in the ashes.
When cooked these bulbs became yellow and powdery, and were as dear to
my semi-civilised palate as they were to the stomachs of my savage
companions the piccaninnies. Gastronomically speaking, I learned much
from the Blacks, particularly from a certain half-caste boy called
Ringo, who was the first object of my youthful affections. I seriously
contemplated an elopement to the scrub with Ringo, but upon going into
the question of the marriage laws of the race, discovered that he
being a Cuppi was bound to wed with a Dongai or undergo the penalty of
excommunication and death. I reflected that, as I was not a Dongai, we
should probably both be knocked on the head with a nulla-nulla, and
then eaten after a corroboree--and thought better of the elopement.
But Ringo taught me to find and appreciate a fat white grub, the
native name of which I forget, though I would fain recommend it to
European and Antipodean epicures. I also made acquaintance under
Ringo's auspices with the flesh of the iguana, and that especial
delicacy, the eggs of the black snake. I learned, too, at the camp to
plait dilly-bags, to chop sugar-bags (otherwise hives of native bees)
out of trees, to make drinking-vessels from gourds, and to play the
jews'-harp. But for none of these accomplishments have I found a field
in England.

The camp Blacks were not considered domesticated, and were migratory,
coming and going among the stations, and just staying as long as they
found themselves comfortable. They were only pressed into service when
shepherds were scarce, or "rung" trees (that is, gums which had been
barked and allowed to wither) required felling. But we had several
black boys in regular employment, and these lived in a hut, wore
clothes, and had adopted, as far as possible, the customs of the white
men. These were: Bean-Tree Dick, Freddy, and Tombo. They would not do
menial work, but rode among the cattle, looked for lost sheep, and
brought up the horses. Their moleskins were always white. They wore
Crimean shirts, with coloured handkerchiefs knotted above one shoulder
and under the other, and sang songs in their own language set to
operatic airs. The effect was curious. Whenever I hear "Ah che la
morte," ether at Covent Garden Opera, or on a barrel organ, I always
think of Tombo, with his woolly hair, his beady eyes, and glistening
teeth. He had been in the native police, and had been trained by their
commandant, who was a musician. Tombo was a capital mimic. There lived
with us at Naraigin a sentimental German, Dr. Lanhus by name, who had
a weakness for reciting English poetry with the strongest foreign
accent and most absurd gestures. Never shall I forget Tombo, as he
stood in an attitude by the camp fire, with one hand on his hip and
his head bent sideways, every muscle of his face quivering with
suppressed amusement, while he gave a ludicrous representation of Dr.
Lanhus repeating "The Raven," of which such absurdly pronounced
phrases linger on my ear, as:--

"Sitting on my chmber door...
Quoth the Ra--ven, 'Never moor.'"

Poor Tombo! Later on, he forsook the paths of virtue, rejoined his
tribe, went south, became demoralised in a township, and took to
drink. Years afterwards, in Brisbane, upon the occasion of a great
political ceremony--the laying of a foundation-stone or something of
the sort, at which I, as the daughter of one of the public
functionaries, occupied a prominent position--I felt considerably
embarrassed when Tombo, scantily clad, reeking of tobacco, with a
dirty clay pipe thrust in his woolly locks, advancing from the crowd,
seized my hand, and greeted me with effusion. "Hullo, Rachel! Budgery
you! Tsch, tsch! My word! Baal clothes like it that at Naraigin. You
pidney. Me Tombo. Plenty mine been brother belonging to you. Plenty
mine been show you crack him stock whip. Plenty mine been carry you
over creek," and so on through a list of humiliating reminiscences.

My father and mother are but misty figures in these early
recollections. The former, as he appeared to me then, is always mixed
up in my mind with a striped poucho and a carbine--why the poucho I
know not, for the heat must have rendered such a wrap quite
superfluous. I imagine him with my child's mind as being of
picturesque and buccaneer-like aspect, and associate him with long
cantos from "Childe Harold" and "Mazeppa," which I was in the habit of
reciting to him before I learned to read, though later on, mid
different surroundings, he presents himself as a sufficiently prosaic

There was an odd connection of ideas in my mind between my father of
those days and the figure of a fierce and melancholy Time, standing in
the foreground of a queer seventeenth-century oil-painting--an altar-
piece which hung upon the slab wall, above a settle covered with a red
blanket, in the parlour at Naraigin. My father's love for his pictures
taught me to regard them with a sort of veneration, almost as though
they were living things. These paintings must have puzzled the
stranger who came within our doors, to whom they must have seemed
ludicrously out of keeping with our surroundings. They were mostly of
the Flemish and Italian schools--Madonnas framed in wreaths that might
have been gathered in the gardens of Paradise, so utterly unfamiliar
were they in this arid region, where the great yellow pumpkin
blossoms, the flaunting hibiscus, and the lilies on the surface of the
river were all the flowers we knew. There were also some Dutch
interiors, and Flemish scriptural pieces, which represented the
disciples in flat caps and blue blouses; and there was a Holy Family
after Rubens, where a red-bearded Joseph leaned over a florid-faced
Virgin, who held a fat baby upon her knee. But that large canvas on
which Time figured was the object of my particular respect, the
subject of many speculations and theories. For I had been impressed
with the fact that it was allegorical, and symbolical of the various
stages of the human career. It was a hard task for my child's brain to
reconcile the Salvator-like background, overshadowed by a great Tree
of Knowledge, on which grew such huge and rosy apples as had never
come within my ken, the groups of fantastically-dressed ladies, and
knights in armour on richly-caparisoned horses, the mummers, and
jesters, and the mediaeval pageants exhibited here--with life as it
unfolded itself to me at Naraigin. Time's eyes never wandered. He
looked down upon us with such deep, earnest sadness, that I felt sure
there must be something in our mode of proceedings which troubled him.
I wondered that my father, who often studied the picture, was not more
oppressed by the disapproving gaze. Time held in his hand a scroll
bearing a Latin inscription, which I was told came from the Bible, and
I jumped to the conclusion that it was the commandment "That shalt not
kill," and that he was grieving over its transgression.

My views about murder were from the force of circumstances rather
vague. We seemed to live in its atmosphere at Naraigin. The Blacks
killed the Whites when they found them defenceless, and the Whites
slew the Blacks in a wholesale and promiscuous fashion which offended
against my childish sense of justice. The murder of a China-man, for
whom I had an instinctive aversion--well justified, as I have since
learned--was avenged by the troopers with what seemed to me undue
severity. I could not understand why the innocent should suffer for
the guilty. Indeed, I was sorely perplexed by the distinction, from a
moral point of view, between our clever black boys and Ah Tat, the
aforesaid Celestial, whom I considered infinitely lower in the scale
of creation. There was treachery on both sides, and the Blacks had as
good a right as the Whites to claim retribution for their wrongs. Does
not the history of colonisation tell over and over again the same
story? Justice has hardly been awarded by their historians to the
Australian aboriginals. They are a low type of humanity, and almost
incapable of civilisation, but not so debased as it is usual to
believe. In some respects their quickness and dexterity are quite
remarkable. They are often brave; and in individuals one finds the
sentiment of justice, loyalty, and self-respect. This can hardly be
said, however, of the race collectively. They have a good deal of
native wit, and a keen sense of humour; but they were regarded as
little above the level of brutes, and in some cases were destroyed
like vermin.

Here is an instance. A squatter whose head station was surrounded by
Blacks, whom he suspected to be hostile and from whom he feared an
attack, parleyed with them from his house-door. He told them that it
was Christmas time--a time at which all men, black or white, feasted;
that there were flour, sugar plums, good things in plenty in the
store, and that the white Mary would make for them such a pudding as
they had never even dreamed of--a great pudding, of which all might
eat and be filled. The Blacks listened and were lost. The pudding was
made and distributed. Next morning there was howling in the camp, for
it had been sweetened with sugar and arsenic! That squatter deserves
to have his name handed down to the contempt of posterity. I know many
Australian women, who, in the same extremity, would have defended
themselves to the last, with shot or steel, and would have turned the
pistol or knife to their own bosoms ere they fell into the hands of
the savages; but not one that I know, would have poisoned her enemies
like rats before a blow had been struck.

It was soon after this--and who shall wonder?--that the Donga
district became notorious as one in which the Blacks were dangerous,
and where it was unadvisable to take up country. The Lowes' station on
the coast had been bailed up, and several of the hands massacred.
Farquhar of Bulli Creek had been speared in his verandah, and another
squatter was tomahawked while camping under his bullock-dray. So far,
however, Naraigin had been comparatively peaceful, though a large mob
of Blacks was encamped not far from the head station; they had done no
damage beyond spearing a few head of cattle; and as they disclaimed
any evil intentions, it was not thought prudent to drive them away and
thus provoke their enmity.

This was a great Bunya year, and on the Bunya mountains near us the
tribes were assembled in large numbers. Not long before, the
Government had disbanded one of the troops of native police which had
guarded the district, and a feeling of insecurity was springing up
among the squatters. The women began to practise the use of fire--
arms; the men rode home from their day's work with tightened heart-
strings. Often have I heard my father describe how each day when he
had been out on the run, he used, in cold fear, to mount a hill that
overlooked the head station, and draw free breath again when he saw
that it lay quiet and unharmed.

We had but few neighbours, and they were far apart. Boompa, the
station nearest to us, was owned by a widower, Mr. Jackson by name,
who years before, when money was more plentiful, had made a trip to
Europe, the glory of which still rested upon him. His wife had been an
exceedingly handsome woman, and when in Paris the Jacksons contrived a
presentation to the Emperor, and were invited to a Court ball. Mr.
Jackson was fond of making casual reference to his intimacy at the
Tuileries and his friendship with Napoleon III. In consequence, by a
free translation of his name, he was familiarly styled among us
Monsieur Jacques, and invariably asked upon his arrival at the station
what late news he had received from the Court of France. He considered
the joke rather as a compliment than otherwise, and I think that he
would have been affronted had we addressed him by his proper name. He
was a small wizened man, with a wart at the end of his nose, and had
his mouth drawn up at one side, which gave him a comical expression.
But he was famous for his coolness and daring, and for "blowing," in
Australian parlance, both of his exploits and of his bonnes fortunes.
It was whispered that many a comely lubra had found favour in his
sight; but this is a fact, like others, gleaned from my father's
notes, and not from my own observation. He loved children, and
generally came to Naraigin with his pockets full of sticky toffee
which his hut-keeper, Gritty Macalister, made out of ration sugar. I
blush for my greediness to tell that when I noticed his breeches
bulging out at the sides I used to creep up to his chair and begin
laying siege to his heart by the petition, "Monsieur Jacques, tell me
something about the Emperor." His return from the township, which
happened once in two years, was a jubilee for me; and during the flour
famine he saved all that he had in his store--only a few pounds--to
make a weekly loaf for the "Naraigin brat."

Gritty Macalister was the ugliest woman I ever beheld or dreamed of,
and she was in the habit of remarking devoutly, in her broad Scotch,
"Praise be to the Lord I'm no weel-favoured; and while there's a gin
in the cawmp neither Mister Jackson nor the Blacks will be seekin' an
auld hag like me."

But alas for Gritty! One day Donga Billy, a suspected murderer and
the Don Juan of his tribe, broke into her kitchen and bounced her for
rations. Gritty coolly threw a damper and a piece of salt junk into
his dilly-bag, and proceeded with her ironing. Donga Billy, struck
with admiration, cried out as he departed, "Corbon budgery you, Mary
belonging to mine. Directly bal white man sit down along a Donga.
Altogether Black mumkull that fellow. Altogether cramma Mary like it

["You will make me a very good wife. Soon there will be no white men
upon the Donga. The Blacks will kill them all and steal all the women
for gins."]

No longer was Gritty able to make the boast that she had never been
looked upon with eyes of longing by any man.

It was Monsieur Jacques who brought us the news, told him by one of
his boys, that the Blacks contemplated bailing up Milungera, the Lees'
station, and Eurogan, the Grants' place, and were waiting till it was
full moon to carry their plan into execution.

Naraigin, Eurogan, and Milungera formed an unequal triangle lying
westward. The last named was two days' journey from us, and was the
furthest station in the district. Beyond, the country was unexplored.

The Grants were a large party, consisting of Mrs. Grant, a widow, a
handsome old lady, kind-hearted and hospitable, who had struggled
bravely against adversity, and had brought up her children to fear
none but God; her four daughters, two of whom were grown up, three
sons and a tutor, and besides, several shepherds. They had settled on
the Donga about a year before, and had spent a day or two at Naraigin
on their way to take possession of their new home. Monsieur Jacques,
after hearing the rumour of their danger, went to warn them, and
stayed a night at Naraigin on his return.

I remember well the enthusiastic way in which he described the eldest
Miss Grant. She was a pretty girl, with blue eyes and a fair
complexion, and she and her sister sang Scotch duets without any
instrumental accompaniment. She was engaged to be married to a
squatter who lived farther south. Monsieur Jacques told us with a sigh
that they had written to the clergyman, and that her trousseau was in
the drays, which her brother was bringing up from the township. They
were expected to arrive in a few weeks.

Monsieur Jacques looked so melancholy that my father began to laugh.
"Cheer up, man!" he cried; "you have let an opportunity slip; and you
a lady-killer and a marrying man! I am surprised at you! But it isn't
too late. The rivers may be flooded, and the parson and the trousseau
may not arrive for six months yet. Go over again; fight the Blacks for
her, and try your luck against the other man. You've a chance of
winning, especially if you write to your friend the Emperor and ask
him to send you out a recommendation."

Mr. Jackson treated the matter quite seriously. He admitted that it
was a great pity he had not visited Eurogan sooner, but declared
heroically that he would scorn to take a mean advantage of any man.
"The fact is, my dear Murray," he added, "the cattle hereabouts are
too scattered, you can't inspect them properly. Next year I shall look
over a heifer-paddock in Sydney and take my pick."

N.B.--Heifer-paddock in Australian slang means a ladies' school.

Alas for kindly, conceited Monsieur Jacques! Long before next summer
came, he was lying in a lonely grave with a gum-tree for his

Milungera was a greater distance from us than Eurogan, and had fewer
hands. A passer-by had told us some little time before, that Mr. Lee
was crippled with rheumatic fever, and had also brought a piteous
request from Mrs. Lee that my mother would go and visit her, for "it
was so many months since she had seen a woman." My father and mother
were distressed upon her account, and determined that they would ride
across country, carrying me on horse-back, and, if possible, persuade
Mr. and Mrs. Lee to return with them to Naraigin.

It was a wild journey, and not without danger. We took with us a
little company of black boys, who cleared the way and acted as advance
guard. I can remember still how intense was the heat, and how the
parrots fluttered languidly from bough to bough, while the iguanas, as
we passed them, seemed to have scarcely energy to drag their unwieldy
crocodile-like bodies up the nearest gum-tree. But the locusts kept up
their deafening whirr, and all manner of flies buzzed about us. We
halted at mid-day and boiled our "quart pot tea" by a stony pinch,
down which ran an almost dry watercourse bordered with gidya shrubs
and stunted wattle. At night, our camp was made upon a narrow flat
between two ridges. I can see the scene now. The sky moonless but
gemmed with stars. Orion, upside down, the Scorpion, the Southern
Cross--all the dear familiar constellations--shining clear in the deep
blue above; the camp fire illuminating a shadowy patch covered with
rank grass and dead timber, the tall gums rising majestic in contrast
with the weird-looking tufted grass--trees that reared their brown
spears slantwise like tired sentinels; and for sound the plaintive
night cries of the birds and murmur of insects, mingling with the
clank of the hobbles and the tread of the horses' feet. The boys had
built a gunya of branches and had strewn the ground with grass-
treetops upon which our blankets were spread, and I lay coiled up
within, wide awake and watchful. My father sat plaiting a thong for
his stock-whip, and presently I saw Tombo creep up from his own camp
which had been pitched some yards distant from ours.

"Massa," he said, "mine think it plenty myall Black look out. I
believe police close up. I been see it mandowie."

["Master, I think there are wild Blacks about. I believe the police
are near, for I have seen tracks."]

Almost as he spoke another dark form crept out from among the trees--
a Black, naked save for the girdle round his loins, tattooed and
striped with red and blue paint, with many strings of rush-beads round
his neck and an amulet of bone upon his brawny chest. He was armed
with spear, boomerang, and nulla-nulla, yet held none of his weapons
poised. There was something frank and fearless in his aspect. It was
evident that he did not meditate treachery or midnight murder.

My father looked up and saw the Black. His gun was resting a little
way from where he sat, but he made no movement towards it. The
following dialogue took place.


"Yohi" [Yes], said my father, nodding his head.

"You pidney. Mine Donga Billy. Black fellow been woolla that you
coolla belonging to mine." ["You understand. I am Donga Billy. The
black fellows have told me that you are angry with me."]

"Yohi," repeated my father, imperturbably.

"You been pialla [tell] Black; suppose Donga Billy come humpy
belonging to you, you shoot that fellow. What for?"

My father explained that, Donga Billy being in the habit of making
disturbances upon the stations he frequented, and of inciting the
Blacks to spear cattle, he would have none of him at Naraigin.

"Budgery!" said Donga Billy. "Bal mine gerund. I come Naraigin.
Suppose you coolla, you marra daloopil. I man him spear, nulla-nulla,
boomerang! Which fellow budgery? Which fellow mumkull? Bal mine
gerund." ["Good! I am not frightened. I shall come to Naraigin. If you
are angry, you shall take a pistol. I will have a spear, nulla-nulla,
or boomerang. We shall see which is the best man--which will kill the
other. I am not frightened."]

Having delivered his challenge, Donga Billy straightened himself in
heroic style, and waited to see if it were accepted.

"Yohi," said my father. "I pidney. Yan!" ["Go away."]

"Budgery!" replied Donga Billy, "mine yan;" and he departed.

Chapter III.

BUT it was not destined that the night should be passed in peace.
Towards dawn we were awakened by cries from Tombo. "Massa! Massa!
Murrai make haste. Woolla Captain Payne bal mine Boney. Mine Tombo.
Naraigin boy. Plenty mine been save white man;" then the confused
sound of several voices raised in regret and laughter. My father got
up. Captain Payne, commandant of the native police, advanced and
explained the cause of the disturbance. He was a tall, grim-looking
man, laconic in speech and ready in action. "I'm after Boompa Boney.
'Twas he who speared Farquhar. He's about these parts. I sneaked your
black boys' camp, making sure I'd get him. What in the name of wonder,
Mr. Murray, are you doing here?"

"I'm on my way to Milungera," replied my father. "I hear the Blacks
are threatening an attack; and I want to take the Lees back to
Naraigin, where we are pretty quiet."

"Good!" said the commandant. "But they won't go. Mrs. Lee is as
plucky as the devil, and the best shot in the district. You squatters
will have to arm a corps of your own if this murdering business gets
hotter. There aren't enough of us to do the work. Good-night. Budgery
you Tombo. Hi" (throwing him a fig of tobacco) "plenty mine been hear
of Tombo. Suppose mine been hurt Tombo plenty mine cry. Tombo, I ask
your pardon."

Captain Payne made the black boy a magnificent bow, mounted his horse
and rode away followed by his little troop.

"My word, Massa; close up bal more you been see it Tombo," said the
boy. "Police been think Boney sit down along a my camp. Budgery
Captain Payne! My word! That fellow Marmi [chief] close up like it,
Gubbernor, 'pologise to Tombo like it gentleman!"

Tombo often talked afterwards of this adventure, and was intensely
proud of having had an apology offered to him by Captain Payne.

Eurogan head station was a lonely hut with a verandah in front, and a
kitchen--a smaller humpey--at the back, joined to it by a bark-covered
passage, a garden fenced in with hurdles inclosing both buildings. We
saw as we approached that some attempt at defence had been made. There
were staples to the shutters, and bars by which the doors could be
secured. Mr. Lee, unable to walk, sat in a squatter's chair in the
verandah, with a loaded pistol and musket within reach of his hand.
Mrs. Lee, a young, bright-faced, refined-looking woman, whom Mr. Lee
had married in England and brought out not many years before, moved
about her house and went to and from her kitchen with a double-
barrelled revolver in her belt, laughing and singing all the time, as
cheerful as possible, and making light of difficulty and danger. It
was quite true that she had not seen a white woman for many months;
and her only servant was a Chinese shepherd, the most arrant coward
imaginable, who barricaded himself in his room whenever a Black
appeared on the scene.

Occasionally, she and her husband were left on the station without
any help at all. I remember her laughter over the incongruities of
Australian life. They were not then patent to me, though I recall
distinctly her amused comparison between the hardships of her present
lot and her former peaceful existence in an English country village.
As an illustration, she told us a story of how, not long before, she
and Mr. Lee had been interrupted in the act of "washing up" after
their evening meal--he, with a greasy cloth tied to a stick, cleaning
the frying-pan, she, wiping the plates--by the entrance of a trooper
with two prisoners whom it was requested should be judged forthwith,
and authority given to commit them to gaol. The magistrate therefore
dropped the frying-pan, put on his coat in deference to the dignity of
the occasion, judged the culprits, and returned to his menial
occupation, while Mrs. Lee set to work and cooked a second supper.

A short time ago I called upon Mrs. Lee in her charming house, where
she sat surrounded by the luxuries and prettinesses of modern
civilisation. We talked of the troubled times upon the Donga River,
and of that very visit which I am describing: "Ah!" she said with a
deep sigh, "those were the happy days! They'll never come back again!"

When my father mentioned his errand, he found that Captain Payne's
conclusion had been a correct one. Nothing would induce Mrs. Lee to
leave Eurogan, nor would she allow that their lives were in danger. "I
see," she said, "that you don't know what a good shot I am. Let me
show you. Put up your hat upon the post of one of those hurdles"--she
pointed to the garden fence, which was sufficiently far off to rouse
my father's incredulity--"and I'll send a bullet through its crown."

My father accepted the challenge. She fired; and he saw that she was
as good as her word. She laughed in her cheery way as she reloaded her
revolver. "The Blacks are all afraid of me. They tell each other 'That
fellow white Mary at Eurogan ba'al muskito.'" ["The white woman at
Eurogan never misses."]

We stayed a short time with the Lees and then returned to Naraigin,
taking three days for our homeward journey, and making a dtour in
order to call at another outside station, as we wished to warn the
occupants of danger, and to beg them to "keep an eye upon Eurogan."

The trip was, at all events, memorable to one of our black boys,
"Bean-Tree Dick," who found his fate in the person of a comely gin--
the victim of a misplaced attachment to a Chinaman, by whom she had
been deserted, or more correctly told to "yan."

Mr. Lee, who affected a knowledge of the classics, had christened
her Ariadne. A little half-caste piccaninny trotted by her side. The
child had been called Hebe, in fine irony, for she certainly had no
claims to favour in the sight of gods or men.

Bean-Tree Dick shook his head over the piccaninny. He was a Black of
gentlemanly manners and had imbibed some European prejudices. He had
been a pupil of that musical commander of the native police before
mentioned, and was the tenor of the camp; often have I heard him
trolling forth to the air of "La donna  mobile" such doggerel as
this:--"Wheel-barrow break him.

Walla tumble down; Ba'al Massa give flour.
Black fellow got him none."[*]

[* "The drags are broken. The rain is falling.
The master gives no flour. The black fellows have none."]

Dick's voice and dramatic capacity would have made his fortune on the
operatic stage.

The romance threatened to come to a speedy conclusion; but Ariadne
followed us when we rode away, and, with her piccaninny in her arms,
stuck up the party in the bed of a creek. She groaned and moaned, and
told a piteous story to the effect that the tribe were going to have a
corroboree that very night, and meant to kill and eat the luckless

The Blacks very frequently disposed of half-castes in this manner,
and there was no reason to doubt the gin's tale. My mother was moved
to pity; my father had for some time cherished the notion of catching
a black lubra young, taming, and training her to be a house-servant.
Accordingly, a bargain was struck. Ariadne received a clasp-knife and
a fig of tobacco, on the understanding that from henceforth she waived
all claim to the child; and Hebe was delivered temporarily into the
keeping of Tombo, a large handkerchief tied round her head, and she
was put naked into one of the saddle-bags.

It was arranged that Ariadne should make her own way across country
to Naraigin. She turned back rejoicing, while we crossed the creek and
went on our way.

Arrived that evening at our destination, we found that the native
police had been there, and that a fray had already taken place. It was
a nightmare-like scene. The station hands had been getting in
scrubbers, and the carcases of wild bulls lay in the stockyard not far
from the unburied bodies of dead Blacks. A horrible stench arose from
these corpses, which had lain all day festering in the sun; and we
were glad to shut ourselves into the room assigned to us in a detached
hut. Here Hebe was soused in a tub of warm water, well scrubbed, her
head shaved, and then, wrapped in one of my garments, she was laid to
sleep in her blanket, in a far corner of the large earthen-floored
chamber. We had reason to congratulate ourselves upon our
accommodation as far as space and air were concerned, but there was
little or no furniture except a wide bunk placed against the inner
wall. The room had two windows, or rather holes, several feet square,
without bars or shutters, and covered with a kind of cheese-cloth. In
the middle of the night my father, who had lain down dressed on the
outer edge of the bunk, started up, and seeing a black fellow peering
in at the window, fired at him. He missed his aim, and too weary to
pursue the matter further, fell back and slept. Nor for long, however.
He was awakened by the sound of stealthy footsteps and of uncertain
fumbling about the room. Had the savage obtained an entrance, and was
he feeling for the whereabouts of the bed? My father stepped softly on
to the floor with his pistol levelled, and called out sharply, "Who's
there?" prepared to fire in the direction whence should be hurled the
nulla--nulla he momentarily expected.

But a whining voice cried out, "Massa, ba'al mine find him blanket."
It was poor little Hebe, who, accustomed to sleep with her mother and
the dogs by the camp fire, heaven's blue above her, had risen, and was
forlornly groping round the four walls in which she was cabined.

Not many days later, Ariadne put in an appearance at Naraigin, and
was welcomed by Bean-Tree Dick. My father performed the marriage
ceremony after this fashion. Seeing Dick at Ariadne's camp he went
down. "Dick," said he, "you like Ariadne?"

"I believe corbon budgery that fellow," said Dick, stolidly.

"Ariadne, you like Dick?" continued my father. "You marry that fellow?"

"Yes, massa," obediently replied the fair one; "suppose Dick want me."

"Mine want him," said Dick with alacrity.

"Budgery!" said my father. "Ariadne, I give you to Dick. Dick,
Ariadne gin belonging to you. Now you are married. Bal camp. You two
live along in black boy's humpy."

Ariadne accordingly took up her abode in Dick's quarters, and was an
admirable hut-keeper. Her tender experiences in the dwelling of her
Chinese lover stood her now in good stead. She made excellent curries
out of the salt beef, and her bread was beyond praise. The black boy's
humpy became a model of neatness. One corner was roughly partitioned
off for the accommodation of the happy pair. All the bunks were kept
tidy with coloured blankets, and the fire-arms hung just above them
ready for use at a moment's warning.

The moon was again near her full. A large mob of Blacks had been for
some time settled at Naraigin, and now announced their intention of
shifting camp. They had done us no harm; and though there was a rumour
that Donga Billy was in the neighbourhood, he had not as yet made good
his challenge. I fancy that it was my father's reputation among them
as a "medicine man" which saved Naraigin from being attacked. By
impressive assurances and simple drugs he had cured several of the
natives of small ailments; and they believed that he had only to
pialla [talk to] the debbil-debbil in order to make any or all of them
go bong [dead].

One day Ringo informed me that there was to be a corroboree that
evening across the river, and that if I were willing, he and Tombo
would take me to a spot from which I might look on unseen.

Was I willing? I had listened with bated breath to Ringo's tales of
the corroborees, and for months--years--had yearned after the sight.
The very idea was full of horrible fascination for me. I trembled, and
yet longed; but I dared not ask for permission, which I knew would be
refused. Towards dusk I sneaked surreptitiously out of the hut, and
Tombo and Ringo conveyed me across the river to a little stony
pinnacle, from which we had a good view of the lightly-timbered flat
where the Blacks were congregated.

It was a glorious night: the moon and stars were unveiled by a single
cloud. Beyond the circle, illuminated by great fires of wood,
stretched the wide bush, shadowy and vast. Round this circle, leaving
a space in which the fires burned at regular distances apart, the
Blacks had gathered in rows three or four deep. The naked forms of the
chief warriors, with spears brandished above their heads, pipeclayed
and painted in fantastic patterns, and adorned with beads and
feathers, stood foremost, glowing lurid in the reflection of the
blaze. Behind were the older men, and then the gins, who kept up a
monotonous and discordant chorus to the accompaniment of rude wind
instruments, tum-tums, and a few jews'-harps. Now the chant died with
a wail, now swelled loud in notes of triumph. The chiefs in the midst,
lifting their arms, waving their spears, and uttering harsh cries,
seemed to direct the performance. A party of braves stepped into the
arena, treading softly, looking round, vigilant and cunning,
whispering, stooping through imaginary doorways, and representing what
was clearly a night attack. There was a dash sideways upon a cluster
of unsuspecting sleepers, who, rising drowsily, cried for mercy, and
offered a feeble show of resistance. A pantomimic struggle ensued.
Spears were pointed, nulla-nullas aimlessly hurled. The chant was
broken by infuriated yells. The circle closed in: the old men beat
their boomerangs together in time to the music; the gins swayed to and
fro in a sort of drunken excitement.

The dance commenced. More logs were thrown upon the bonfires, which
blazed up fierce and high. The black forms threading the flames, and
bending to and fro in a kind of rhythmic motion; the outstretched arms
and maddened faces with glistening teeth and distended eyeballs,
seemed to my fancy to belong to devils rather than to men. The scene
realised one's wildest visions of a saturnalia.

Four or five rude effigies of women, made of saplings and clothed in
red blankets, were brought forward. Screams of demoniacal laughter
echoed among the gum--trees. A series of hideous gestures was gone
through. The figures were mocked with yells of derision: they were
thrown down, stamped upon, set up again, and at last dragged to the
central pyre. The dance went on again, wilder than ever. But I felt
faint and sick. I was convinced that a human sacrifice was about to be
offered. I turned and fled towards the river. Tombo and Ringo
followed, and led me back to the house. I crept into my bed and lay
shuddering. I did not dare to go for comfort to my parents, who,
believing me asleep, were in the verandah watching the red
illumination. Alas! had I described to them the horrible travesty I
had witnessed, it is just possible that the Eurogan tragedy might have
been averted.

Late one evening we heard that the Grants' station had been attacked
two nights before, and the whole household massacred with the
exception of one son, a lad of seventeen. A Naraigin "boy" brought the
news. He had been an unwilling witness of the murder, and afraid to
remain with his tribe, had fled back to his old haunts, and now,
panting and trembling, told his gruesome tale.

It was related so circumstantially that there could be no doubt as
to its truth; but before the black boy had ended, confirmation came,
and the tidings of another disaster.

While we sat listening, still transfixed with the thrill of horror
that to this day I remember so well, Gaythorne, Monsieur Jacques'
overseer, rode up, dismounted, and hitched his horse to the verandah-
post. He too was excited and panic-stricken, and for a minute could
hardly speak.

"Mr. Murray, I see that you have heard what has happened," he began.
"God have mercy upon the souls of the dead--there's another added to
them! Duncan Grant rode to Boompa yesterday. He'd come straight from
looking at the bodies of his mother and his four sisters--these things
can't be spoken of--and he had vowed that he would neither eat nor
sleep till he had tracked those---niggers. We caught 'em on Dead
Finish Flat. They hadn't hurried, believing that all were settled at
Eurogan. There were five of us. The sun was close-up down, and we
hadn't a fair chance to run straight. Most of 'em got away, and I
believe they've doubled back to the Boompa scrub. Six dead bodies are
lying on the Flat, and one of them is Mr. Jackson speared through the

That was the end of poor Monsieur Jacques.

The story of the Grants' murder must be told in few words. The
details are too sickening.

No special danger was thought of by the family, who had spent a happy
evening together. The drays under charge of the eldest brother were
expected shortly, and the day before a letter had been received by
Miss Grant from her fianc fixing the date for their marriage. They
had sat talking over future plans till a late hour; and then, after
taking what they considered all necessary precautions in securing
doors and windows, had gone peacefully to bed.

The head station at Eurogan was the usual bush hut of slabs and bark,
with three main rooms--parlour, store, and sleeping chamber, occupied
by Mrs. Grant and her daughters, a verandah and a skillion room
opening off it. Duncan Grant and the youngest son had their bunks in
the store, and the tutor and an elder brother slept in the verandah
room. Two shepherds whose time was up, had come in that day to be
settled with, and were at the men's hut some distance off.

The dogs which might have given an alarm were quieted by a black man
employed about the place to fetch up wood and water, and who was in
league with the Myalls.

Thus, the Myalls made an entrance unheard, and went first to the room
in which young Grant and the tutor were sleeping. Grant, disturbed by
the noise, got up, and opening the door to see what was the matter,
was confronted by Boney--that same Boney of whom Captain Payne had
been in search. There was a loaded revolver upon the table within
reach, but unfortunately the youth had either forgotten it, or had not
presence of mind to take it up. He asked what the Blacks wanted, and
Boney replied, "Altogether mumkull; altogether marra white Maries."
["To kill every one; and to take away the white women."]

Behind Boney there were a hundred or more armed warriors. Young Grant
went out to them and pleaded for his own life and for the lives of his
kindred. He offered them everything on the station. He would be their
brother, their servant henceforth. He implored that at least they
would not marra the white Maries.

While he poured out his entreaties, a Black stepped behind him and
silenced his voice for ever by striking him behind the ears with a
waddy. The tutor shared the same fate.

The two boys in the store, Duncan and his little brother, slept
heavily. Duncan was aroused by the younger one's cries, and tried in
vain to defend him. The boy's skull was battered in, and Duncan was
stunned by a blow from a nulla-nulla. He fell through the space
between the bunk and the wall, and lay all night on the ground--it is
to be hoped in a state of unconsciousness.

"Then," continued the Naraigin Black, "black fellow been yan along a
Mary's room. Corbon ole missus talk. 'Boney, what for you mumkull?
Plenty you been brother belonging to me. Plenty I been give you flour,
sugar, blanket. Boney, bal mumkull! Bal marra white Mary, piccaninny
belonging to me'...I believe Boney bal want to mumkull ole missus,"
went on the narrator, "but black fellow plenty woolla, and that been
altogether mumkull... ."

All night the Blacks held high and horrible revelry. When "Piggi jump
up," [the sun rose] they saw the two shepherds, who had heard nothing,
and were walking towards the water-cask with their coolimans.[*] They
also were murdered, and the looting of the station went on. "When
Piggi good way up," the boy concluded, "altogether black fellow yan."

[* 7 Cooliman; a vessel for carrying water, made out of the bark which
covers an excrescence peculiar to a kind of gum-tree. Several coolimans
usually hang from the verandah of the men's hut, with a piece of soap
on the rafter, and are used for washing in.]

Then Duncan Grant crept out from his hiding-place, and beheld the
work of that terrible night. He vowed the vow which has been recorded,
and rode straight to Boompa.

My father and Gaythorne sat up almost till dawn talking over the
Eurogan massacre and Mr. Jackson's melancholy fate. Though the former
occurrence roused in their minds an intense feeling of horror, I think
the latter one affected them both most deeply. Monsieur Jacques had
been a good master, and, in spite of his eccentricities, beloved by
all who knew him. He had also been a frequent visitor at Naraigin, and
many were the tender and pathetically-comic associations which, in our
memories, gathered round his image.

Gaythorne had been travelling with cattle, and had much to tell of
all that was taking place in the district. It was his conviction that
there was a deep-laid plan among the natives to exterminate all the
Whites on the Donga; and that not even the boys employed upon the
stations could be relied upon. The treachery of the domesticated Black
at Eurogan, and several other incidents that he narrated, seemed to
confirm his impression. He stoutly maintained that vengeance should be
taken not upon guilty individuals, but upon the whole race; and that
all the males should be slaughtered. Till then, he declared, there
would be neither peace nor safety.

Duncan Grant, not resting in his work or remaining to bury the body
of poor Monsieur Jacques, had ridden straight after the Dead Finish
fray to seek the aid of Captain Payne and his band. The troopers were
scouring the heads of the Donga, and were conducting their operations
as secretly as they could. Duncan conjectured that the Blacks,
ignorant of the "Marmi's" whereabouts, would make for that broken
country, which was one of their favourite places of refuge.

"It's my belief," said Gaythorne, "that he's wrong. They'll double
back through the Boompa scrub; and if we look sharp we shall catch
them in the Wild Man's Gorge, biding their time to attack our station.
They'll be in no hurry for a night or two, for they are bound to have
a corroboree before taking any decisive step. They've threatened
Boompa; and they know we are short of hands. Then setting aside the
loot, there's Gritty Macalister; and Donga Billy has been boasting
that he is going to have her for his gin."

My father thought of Captain Payne's advice that the squatters should
arm a corps of their own. It was agreed that Gaythorne and he should
start at daybreak on the best horses in the paddock, should go first
to Eurogan and bury the dead, and then, riding in opposite directions
along the river, should consult with the other squatters, collect arms
and ammunition, and bring back as many recruits as they could to hold
a council of war at Naraigin on the next evening but one.

The news of the Grants' murder had spread like wild-fire through the
district; and more than one squatter was already bound for Eurogan on
the same melancholy errand as my father. They found the corpses lying
side by side as they had been left by their murderers; and thus they
were buried on a little knoll shadowed by gum--trees, close to the
head station.

My father and Gaythorne returned to Naraigin after their work was
done; and that same afternoon many men rode through the sliprails and
turned out their horses--men grim and determined-looking, well armed,
and with their blankets before them.

They all camped that night in the verandah; and preparations were
made for an early start in the morning. It was decided that
Gaythorne's advice should be taken, and the Blacks tracked along
Boompa scrub. Our boys, Bean-Tree Dick and Tombo, were brought to the
council of war. My father told them that the Blacks were no longer his
brothers, and that the Whites intended to punish their race for the
evil deeds they had committed, by shooting every Myall Black except
women and children.

Some of the party were for destroying all, and Tombo vehemently urged
this course. "Suppose you no kill piccaninnies," he said; "that fellow
by and by, jump up kipper and mumkull you. Suppose you shoot black
Maries, bal more piccaninnies."

Several applauded this reasoning; but my father held firm to the
traditions of English warfare.

They set off at early dawn, a stalwart and picturesque little army,
each with carbine slung, and bowie-knife and revolver at his belt,
with his roll of red blankets strapped to his saddle-bow, and his
puggaree floating in the breeze. The three black boys, alert and keen-
eyed, well armed also, were in advance. We watched them from the
Naraigin verandah ride down the hill, and disappear among the
thickening gums and she-oaks that bordered the river.

Late in the afternoon Tombo passed back the word "mandowie" [tracks].
The riders went warily, and ere long saw from a distance the smoke of
camp fires. The Blacks were encamped on a small plain surrounded by
scrub. They had not travelled far, for they were encumbered with
plunder, and drunk with success.

The pursuers left their horses and crawled through the scrub to
within a few paces of the game. It was now seen that the mob had
divided with the loot, and that this was not the party which had been
attacked on the Dead Finish Flat.

Believing themselves secure in the shelter of the scrub, the Blacks
were eating, smoking, and having high games with each other. Some were
going through the same horrible performance which I had witnessed at
the corroboree. One, a disbanded trooper, again with his tribe, had a
gun, and was in the act of bringing down a crow from a tree near.
Gaythorne "covered" him and fired. Each of the squatters selected his
man, and the carnage was great. Spears and nulla-nullas were launched
at random into the scrub, but did the white men no injury. Several of
the Blacks escaped into the bush, but many were slain. The brief
twilight became night; all was then silent in the camp, and pursuit
was hopeless. The squatters rode on for a time in the direction of
Boompa, where they hoped to surprise another mob. At ten o'clock they
camped. All, save one, slept profoundly, wrapped in their blankets,
under the open sky; and the watcher, my father, stepping unheard over
the prostrate bodies, thought how easy it would be for the Blacks to
surprise the sleepers and man their arms.

The head station at Boompa was badly situated. Not far from the huts
the river ran through a narrow valley, edged on either side by
precipitous rocks, along which a horseman might ride for miles without
being able to reach the river-bed. Between this fastness and the
dwelling-house there was a large Blacks' camp. The natives evidently
calculated upon being able to hold the entrance to the valley, and to
retire into it after having committed their depredations.

At sight of the camp, the squatters divided. One party cut off the
Blacks from retreat to the river, and opened fire; the other rode
round to the hut, which was barred and barricaded, and within which
Gritty Macalister sat grim and desperate awaiting her fate. When the
relieving army appeared she threw open a door behind, and admitted
Gaythorne and some of the neighbours; but even as she did so a mob of
Blacks which had fled from the camp battered down her barricades and
rushed in for shelter. They were met by the guns of the white men.
Shrieks and groans echoed through the hut, and blood flowed freely
upon the earthen floor of Gritty's kitchen.

"Tak your wull on them; tak your wull on them, gentlemen," she cried
out. "Never mind an auld woman; and for the Lord's sake put an end to
Donga Billy."

It was my father who earned Gritty's eternal gratitude by delivering
her from terror of her would-be abductor. Donga Billy was one of the
few Blacks who turned and faced their opponents in open fight. This
was perhaps the first, and was the last, opportunity which he had in
his life of fairly pitting native courage and native weapons against
the resources of the white man. My father remembered his challenge,
and singled him out for combat. He stood forth bravely, and fought
like a man. My father's horse was speared, and he himself had a nasty
wound from a boomerang; but the daloopil gained the day, and Donga
Billy was gathered to his fathers.

The account of one skirmish much resembles that of another. Captain
Payne and his troopers, with Duncan Grant and the elder brother who
had arrived four days after the outrage to find his home desolate,
appeared shortly upon the scene, and were joined by the band of
squatters. They rode to and fro from one station to another, stalking
the camps and slaying every wild Black who came within pistol shot.

This irregular warfare lasted for several months. By that time almost
all the fighting Blacks had fallen, and those who remained thought
only of pushing northward.

Thus the murders of the Grants and of Monsieur Jacques were amply
avenged, and after a time the land was at peace.

Two years later my father sold Naraigin, and we travelled south.
Moreton Bay, ashamed of its old convict associations, named itself
Queensland, and amid a flourish of trumpets Sir George Bowen, the
first Governor, landed at Brisbane. Then began the political life of
the colony, and there was a change in the affairs of men. Many of
those very squatters who had camped in Naraigin verandah and started
forth on that raid against the Blacks became members of the Council
and Assembly, and, figuratively speaking, exchanged their swords for
reaping-hooks. In an Australian Hansard of a few months ago I saw that
the Democratic leader of the Opposition--a soft-goods man late of
Manchester--had, in a powerful and deeply--affecting speech, held up
George Gaythorne, Premier, to the execration of his virtuous
countrymen as a murderer against whom the blood of innocent Blacks
cried out for vengeance.

Chapter IV.

I OFTEN imagine myself back again in the verandah at Bungroopim. I
can so easily fancy that it is spring time, and that I am sitting
there enjoying the cool evening breeze which comes rustling through
the garden trees, bringing the scent of orange blossoms and
heliotrope. The verandah arches are twined with bougainvillea and
young grapevines; and I look across the race-course where the Blacks
have been clearing the dead gum-trees, to the winding line of creek,
the darker bank of scrub, and beyond, to the mountains.

The Blacks have not done their work yet, for there are a few skeleton
trunks remaining; but they have gone away to gamble their earnings. On
the other side of the creek you may see them surrounded by their dogs
and piccaninnies, playing with a greasy, dirty pack of cards by the
camp fires. They have left their traces on the plain, however, in the
shape of old gunyahs and piled-up heaps of dry timber.

An hour ago the scene was a glaring and busy one. The sun beat
fiercely down upon a party of fencers engaged in patching up the
garden palisade, and all round there were stir and traffic; but now
the sun has dipped behind a distant peak, and, it perchance being
Saturday, the men have gone home earlier than usual to their huts.
Nature seems very gentle, and the station wonderfully peaceful. The
hills look so close, and the world so far away. Roop's Crag, which is
indeed but a mile or two distant, stands out grave and majestic
against a clear sky. Now it is suffused with a faint pink glow; in a
few moments it will have changed from rose to purple, and all the far-
off peaks will be glorious. I hear the cracking of a black boy's stock
whip, and the milkers lowing as they are driven to the yard, and the
sheep's bells are tinkling. And here is Peter the Kanaka, with his
soft kind eyes, his ebony face and tow-coloured hair, which has been
artificially lightened by lime-wash. "Missee Rachel, me want em
rations," he says; and I leave my hammock and go out with him to the
store. Or perhaps Peter is in a state of virtuous indignation against
an intrusive selector whom he had found a little while ago feeding his
sheep in the Bungroopim paddock. "Missee, I tell him 'You spose my
master grow grass for your sheep? Round up dog now. Go 'long--quick--
cut stick!" Peter might certainly have convinced a philanthropical
denunciator of the so-called slave traffic, that the kidnapped and
oppressed Polynesian is quite capable of defending, not only himself,
but his master also.

We had several islanders at Bungroopim. No one asked, except in the
Legislative Chambers, whether or not they had been forcibly abducted
from their homes. They seemed happy and comfortable; and one or two
begged that they might remain after the three years which constituted
their term of slavery had expired. They were employed about the head
station, never learning to ride, but fetching wood and water, and
doing such domestic work as the soul of the Australian aboriginal
abhors. I had an affection for each, but Peter was nearest my heart.
Every Sunday he used to come to me for a button-hole bouquet. He was
particular about the fit of his clothes, and one day brought for my
acceptance a photograph of himself done by an itinerant artist, and
proudly pointed to a watch and chain which had been lent him for the

Of his own accord Peter made a little garden round his hut. He dug up
the hard soil, and assiduously watered and manured the plot. Great was
his delight at being able to supply the house with water-melons. He
was fond of animals, and once snared a young dingo, which it was his
ambition to bring up as a sheep dog. Needless to say that hereditary
propensities frustrated his purpose. The dingo devoured the lambs.
Another time he caught a snake alive in a waterhole. He put it in a
bottle, and determined that his pet should lack nothing which could
make it comfortable, filled the bottle with water, and corked it up
tightly. He was greatly disappointed because the reptile died.

On the subject of snakes one might wander indefinitely; but I cannot
help making pictures as they rise in my mind...

Scorching sun, and the mountains and forest shrouded in a haze of
smoke; the wind burning; a dull yellowish glare upon the huts and
gardens; the grass brown; the ground gaping in deep fissures; the
creek nearly dry; animals with parched tongues lolling out, dying
beside the empty lagoon; the only flowers in bloom, yellow gladioli,
pomegranate blossoms, bold brass-coloured bignonias and crimson
hibiscus, throwing off heat, and offending eye and soul by their hot
coarse colouring.

The heat intensifies. The smoke is stifling. Far off there are red
patches where the flames have climbed some dead gum-tree. The fire
licks up the withered herbage; it advances swiftly. There is a panic.
The men are out on the run--and the blady grass grows high near the
paddock, and the fences are precious! Women, islanders, Blacks--we all
rush forth, across the race-course, along the creek, and then with
green boughs, cut hastily from the young saplings, we beat upon the
hungry flames, running from one fiery curve to another, leaving a
black and smoking trail, till grimy, perspiring, gasping for breath,
we desist--for we have conquered. Oh for a thunderstorm! But it comes

At night the haze is lurid. Another greater bush fire is stealing to
the fore, from the back of the hills. Roop's Crag is outlined against
a glowing sky, which suggests that the moon has made a mistake and is
rising here instead of behind the Woorara Mountains. Along these,
great flaming scorpions are racing each other towards the inaccessible
precipices; while below are innumerable points of light as though a
mighty city had risen up suddenly by enchantment...

Or it is a summer evening after a storm, and the earth is eloquent
with the voices of many insects. The curlews are wailing in the scrub,
and the swamp pheasant makes his gurgling noise by the lagoon. There
is a delicious sense of moisture and refreshment in the atmosphere.
The verbena throws off fragrance, and the datura at the end of the
house is almost oppressively odorous. I am lying in the hammock. Near
my feet is a slab wall, where the stag-horn ferns shoot out their
antlers, and from the top of which the frogs flop heavily upon the
boards. No one minds frogs in Australia; they are cool, and they are
harmless, and chase away terrors of snakes and centipedes. Close to my
head a ghostly-looking pillar of rinka-sporum, which is a mass of
white bloom. There is no moon, but the brilliance of the starlight
causes every outline to stand forth clear against the horizon. One
star is passing from behind Roop's Crag. I think it is a pointer of
the Southern Cross, for the Cross itself lies over the mountain; and
nearer me, in central heavens, Orion's belt turned upside down. I
always wondered what it looked like in England. Someone is singing
within;...a plaintive English ballad, in which there is an allusion to
Charles's Wain and a winter's eve. The words suggest the unknown--the
far-away. Fog, snow--Charles's Wain obscured! What have they to do
with this voluptuous southern night, in which the soul cries for
something of which it has never experienced the full taste--music,
poetry, religion, something subtle yet comprehensive, something
glorious yet melancholy--something, the soul knows not what, it is
only conscious that it longs and cries.

*   *   *   *   *

It was several years after the Naraigin adventures; my father had
bought Bungroopim, and we were settled upon the Ubi.

This district is one of the most picturesque in Australia. Several
rivers have their rise among the mountains, which here divide New
South Wales from Queensland, and branching off in different directions
flow in ever-widening streams to the Pacific. The country at their
heads is wild and broken into steep ridges, gorges, and barren
plateaux, where are huge grey boulders scattered haphazard, as though
a company of Titans had been playing at pitch and toss; while on all
side curious upheavals and indentations speak of a before-time
volcanic convulsion.

The mountains are of no great elevation, but are rugged and grim, and
fantastic of outline. Here and there a needle-like peak stands up
sharply among rocky or eucalyptus-grown humps, and cloven hills and
overhanging crags seem, at a distance, to take the most grotesque
shapes. A grand, wild view is to be had at every turn, and from the
shoulders of the range one may look over, as it were, a blue sea,
broken by precipitous islets, its land billows stretching to the
horizon. The Ubi is remarkable for a greater variety of colouring than
the more level districts, in which the eye is wearied by the
monotonous grey-blue of the eucalyptus. Here, gum-trees alternate with
belts of scrub. The foliage in these is bright green, the flowers and
berries manyhued, and there are flame-trees, showing in spring vivid
patches of crimson. Cedars, in spring also, violet-plumed, and glossy-
leaved; brilliant--blossomed chestnuts line the creek, while
occasionally a clump of weather-beaten firs may be found clinging to
the barren hill-sides.

The Ubi district has been occupied since the earliest days of
Australia, and was at this time comparatively civilised. There were
Blacks and there were Bunya feasts, for the tree flourished in these
parts, but the Blacks committed no serious depredations, and were,
like the Bunya, a picturesque feature, in keeping with the scenery.
The head stations were more imposing than those upon the Donga. They
were built of sawn wood with stone chimneys, and often lined with
cedar. Indeed, many of the squatters prided themselves upon the
luxurious manner in which their establishments were conducted. At one
station, not very far from us, there was a billiard table. At another,
sherry and port were handed round at dinner, and there were gates
instead of sliprails to the paddocks. One or two boasted of bachelor's
quarters, where passers-by were entertained, and the owners thus
enabled to maintain a reputation for exclusiveness, and to get
themselves into bad odour with their neighbours. In populous districts
the institution is recognised and necessary; but on the Ubi, where
roads were bad and the number of travellers not overwhelming, a
station with a bachelor's quarters was avoided, and its owner called
"stuck up."

It will be noted that in Australia there are varying degrees of
civilisation. Nowhere, however, does it embrace connoisseurship in the
matter of claret. In the bush most people drink tea. It appears at
every meal, and does not seem to impair the digestive organs of those
who imbibe it freely. Brandy lives in the cellaret; rum is plentiful
in the store. The one is brought out for visitors; the latter is
served to the working men. But choice wine is, as Mr. Trollope has
explained, a luxury only compatible with cattle in thousands and sheep
in tens of thousands.

Hospitality of a hearty, rough and ready description abounds. People
in Australia take life very easily. Nothing matters much to a squatter
except pleuro, the scab, and a change of ministry, which would
probably affect the tenure of his run. One person is almost, if not
quite, as good as another, and affectation of superior refinement is
resented and ridiculed.

A traveller rides up to a station, and hangs his horse's bridle to
the nearest fence. The dogs begin to bark, and the Blacks--if there
are any about--set up a hullabaloo. Some one comes out, generally the
master or mistress. The stranger, if he is a gentleman, or wishes to
be thought one, gives his name, and is immediately received, so to
speak, into the bosom of the family. He is asked to "spell" his horse
for a day, and should he prove agreeable, pressed to stay longer. If
he does not give his name--whether he be or be not a gentleman--he is
sent to the kitchen or to the huts. This is the simple law of
hospitality in the bush.

We had no "quarters" at Bungroopim; and as our station was on the
boundary line between two colonies, and passers-by were fairly
frequent, many curious persons found their way within our doors. My
father and brothers spent most days upon the run. My mother had died
very soon after we left Naraigin, and I lived in a somewhat isolated
and independent fashion. Thus it very often happened that I
entertained these stray guests alone. Odd types of humanity they were!
I have often regretted not having made better use of my opportunities
for studying human nature at Bungroopim, and that I did not then
realise the value of notes.

All sorts and conditions of men went by. Upon one occasion, a pale-
faced, interesting-looking gentleman rode up, and asked if he might
rest his horse for an hour. Of course I invited him to luncheon; and
we sat for a long time in the verandah afterwards, talking of books,
music, and English life, with which he seemed well acquainted, and
about which my curiosity was rampant. It was a shock to my nerves when
the next day the Superintendent of Police and two troopers halted at
the station. They were in pursuit of Gentleman Jones, an escaped
criminal, and shortly afterwards brought back my entertaining guest in

Another time, a lean, dark, odd-looking German doctor, with a
suspicious gleam in his black eyes, came searching for a petroleum
spring, which he declared that he had once discovered in one of the
Bungroopim gorges, and had never been able to find again. He trembled
with excitement when he spoke of his quest, which seemed to him as
full of mystery and fascination as that in Poe's story of the gold-

"Mein Gott, Mees!" he exclaimed, rising with one hand upon his heart,
while with the other he received from me his cup of tea. "Dat sprung--
it is my fate--my El Dorado. I shall what you call strike ile. I shall
be rich. Dat is de vill of Gott. But oh, mein Gott! in dis
mountainious country, de sun is not de sun; and de stars--dey are
ignes fatui."

Then he burst into tears and left the table. He looked so wild that I
was relieved when he asked me to sell him a bottle of brandy out of
the store, and departed upon his bony nag, which was even leaner than
himself. But the sprung, the "mountainious country," or the brandy, or
all together, were too much for him. He came back in a state of
delirium tremens, having drowned his horse and lost his blankets. We
were glad to be rid of him at the cost of a new horse and saddle and

Again, the sojourner was perhaps a cattle drover. There are two kinds
of drover, the rough, frank, ready-handed colonial, whose mental
horizon is in ordinary life bounded by the stockyard fence, while the
wildest flight of imagination never lands him beyond Sydney or
Melbourne; and the English gentleman who has come down in the world,
through drink or misfortune, and who shuns head stations, the society
of ladies, and anything that calls back old associations.

Of the former class, Duncan Campbell was a good specimen. He was long
and scraggy, with arms and legs like the sails of a windmill, and a
high Roman nose which he had a trick of polishing with his thumb and
forefinger till it shone again. He always dressed in a Crimean shirt
and riding breeches, and wore--at dinner only--an alpaca coat hastily
donned and quickly doffed when the time came for tobacco and grog in
the verandah. His voice blended oddly the native drawl and an
hereditary Scotch accent.

He often came our way with "stores"--otherwise breeding cattle.
Sometimes he yarded his beasts and stayed the night; more often only
looked in unceremoniously to buy rations, or to shoe his horses at the
forge. Then, having accepted at my hands the customary "nobbler," he
would sit down for half-an-hour, talking after this wise, of what his
head was full--overlanding.

"You see, Miss Murray, I'm awful short handed. No, you don't catch me
tackling a mob like that again with only two men besides myself and
three black boys. They had a stampede the other day just under the
Crag. My word! that was a job; I lost every hoof, had to track 'em
down Dead Man's Gorge, and then found eight head missing. You see it
is such a place for 'possums and wallabis; and 'possums do play old
Harry with the beasts." And then he sighed and stroked his nose.

I suggested that bush cattle ought to be acquainted with the habits
of opossums.

"Ah! but you see, Miss Murray, a 'possum will jump down from a gum-
tree on the back of one of them, and all the rest, when they see him
start will cut off without knowing what is the matter. My word! the
way a mob does get up clear when they're frightened is a caution... My
word! I had a good camp last night--a first--rate corner--a fence on
two sides and a gully with fine steep banks on another--you know.
Wouldn't I like to come across a camp like that every night... Got
many snakes here, Miss Murray? We've been living on 'em for the last
week. Couldn't get any meat, you know. Every station we stopped at was
just out of meat--going to kill to-morrow or next day--so we had to
find carpet snakes. There were plenty in the scrubs and along the
creeks. We've eaten ten of 'em in the last five days. I'll be glad,
though, to buy a little meat, Miss Murray, if you've got any."

Then, still discoursing upon his cattle, he would follow me to the
meat store; if, as was usually the case, the overseer and my brothers
were out, and gallantly plunging his arms into the brine would bring
forth what he wanted, and proceed to weigh it. He would cast his eye
round the unsavoury place, with its stillyards, its wooden blocks,
heaps of coarse salt and pools of brine, would make a technical remark
or two upon the "green hides" stretched along the slab walls, and
opine sagely that we didn't go in for killing pleuro beasts like so
and so. Then fumbling in his leathern pouch he would produce from a
chaos of pipes, tobacco, clasp knives, and bits of string, the price
of his purchase, enter the transaction into the day-book to save me
trouble, and finally ride back to his beasties.

I remember well the first time another drover, very unlike Duncan
Campbell, called in--a man not to the manner born; the son of a late
magnate of one of the colonies: we saw with self-reproach that he
winced under our thoughless comment upon his name.

He was tall and melancholy-looking, with refined features, large dark
eyes, a silky beard, and consumptive stoop. He wore a very old grey
coat with half the buttons off, dragged over the chest in a suggestive
manner as if to hide deficiencies. He came in to ask for letters which
might be awaiting him. Jennie Marsden, a friend then staying with me,
heard his sweet voice and was attracted by its mournful timbre. We
came out--a group of merry girls, led him to the drawing-room, and
seconded my father's invitation to luncheon. He looked at Jennie, and
his eyes wandered wistfully round the room as though he liked it. It
was a pretty room, with French windows opening on to the verandah
where the grapes were ripening along a trellis, and the floor was a
mosaic of shadows and sheen; the unvarnished cedar walls hung with
paintings--dear old Time still gazing reprovingly upon more harmonious
surroundings than those at Naraigin--a piano open; big squatter's
chairs; flowers everywhere; books and magazines, photographs and nick-
nacks, the surviving relics of an oriental tea service; kangaroo skins
and opossum rugs spread upon the white boards.

He said that he could not stay. He was not fit to go among ladies.
But for his letters he would not have come in.

Nevertheless, his eyes looked longingly, and there were old memories
in them. We begged him to remain, assured him that bush ways were our
ways and that no one thought about clothes at Bungroopim. So he dined
with us, gladdened my father's heart by assuring him of the
authenticity of a doubtful Teniers, gazed furtively at Jennie Marsden
as though she were a being to be worshipped from afar, and ate his
roast chicken, arti-chokes, and custard pudding, with a relish which
suggested that he also had been living upon carpet snakes.

After dinner, I played to him, and Jennie sang. He begged for the
adagio movement in the sonata pathtique over again, and there were
tears in his eyes when Jennie had finished a little song of her own
composition which she had set to the weird air of one of Chopin's
mazurkas. He went away at bed-time to camp with his cattle and his
black boys. I saw him again several times: once, in a London drawing-
room after he had come into his kingdom in England. "Ah!" he said, "I
have never forgotten that evening at Bungroopim--the music, the odds
and ends that women put about, the sight of yellow-covered Cornhill
and dear old Blackwood on the table. It all took me backwards and
forwards in the strangest way. I felt as though I had been let into
Paradise for an hour and then sent out again to the dirty blankets,
the camp fire, quart pot tea, and the stockmen and their rough

We very often saw our neighbour Captain Claypole, an ex-dragoon, who
was more bushman than bushman. He had a knack of seizing upon the
dramatic points of a situation, dressed for his part, and lived up to
his background. He had bought a wild, picturesque station on the other
side of Roop's Crag, and spent a great deal of time in shooting wild
ducks and in exploring the country round him. He was very popular, had
a keen sense of humour, and told a story better than any one I know.
He was equally at home in the men's huts and in the Darings' drawing-
room. The Darings were on the Woorara and considered themselves much
more refined, cleverer, and altogether superior to their neighbours on
the Ubi. Captain Claypole always brought with him a flavour of English
culture. He talked about books and art, about the London world and the
great actors and singers with a freshness and enthusiasm which
imparted a new element into our lives. He awakened in me a thousand
aspirations; he helped to educate my taste, taught me to love good
music, and faintly aroused in me that faculty which, in a greater or
less degree, belongs to all imaginative temperaments, of getting
outside one's own actual life, and regarding it as a part of a drama
in which there is endless variety of pathos and comedy. A poet said to
me the other night, "All artists have two souls--two beings--that
which lives, that which observes." I think Captain Claypole first gave
me a glimmering of that fact.

There came, too, another neighbour, a young lordling, a free
selector on the river, the introducer of polo into the district, and
of prize pigs and art pottery as features of bush life. He was
variously addressed as "Your Lordship, Lord Barty, and Mr. Lord
Barty," professed to be a thorough-going radical and utilitarian, but
was in reality as deeply imbued with caste prejudices as any stripling
aristocrat could be.

Again, our visitor might be the piano-tuner on his piebald mare, the
retailer of Ubi gossip, or perhaps an ex-groom, who, trading upon our
confiding reliance upon the unwritten code, sent in his name, won
Robina Daring's favour by judicious admiration of her riding, incited
us to dance by his admirable whistling accompaninent to the "Mabel,"
and went about afterwards boasting that he had waltzed with the
exclusive and strong-minded belle of the Woorara. This was his revenge
for having been treated with indignity at the Darings' station. Or mad
Pat Connor--properly the honourable--an unworthy representative of a
long line of ancestors, or a butcher of amorous tendencies, in quest
of fat cattle--guest to be consulted and placed at his ease--who would
be silent behind a huge album, and cast admiring glances at Robina
Daring, or at my pretty sympathetic friend Jennie Marsden.

These two must have a line of description. Robina was the eldest
daughter of a squatter on the Woorara. She was handsome, clever, and
"bucolic." She knew all about the different breeds on her own river
and ours, could expatiate upon the points of a prize bull, and was
learned in the matter of horse-flesh. She could sit the worst buck-
jumper, and do her day's work on the run like any stockman. She had
broken her collar-bone and three of her ribs. She despised weakness--
or said so. "Weak--minded women are muffs," was her favourite axiom;
but she was not above fondness for dress and admiration, and flirted
after a magnificent fashion, which brooked nothing short of absolute
subservience on the part of her adorers. Like Lord Barty, she too had
her caste prejudices, and being the scion of an old Woorara family,
which dated back three generations, and was in the "first set" when it
migrated to Sydney, she held up her head accordingly. But for all this
she had a winning frankness, and a womanly capacity for affection,
which endeared her to us all.

Jennie Marsden was a sweet little creature with big shy eyes, and
dark curling hair. She had a keen sense of the ludicrous, and a fund
of dry humour of which no one ever suspected her. She was very
romantic, and wrote stories and sentimental verses for our Bungroopim
Magazine. We composed jointly, and courted the muse as we lay among
the pumpkins and Indian corn in the cultivation paddock, or while we
sat on a log that bridged the river, with the bottle-brush flowers of
the ti trees touching our shoulders, and bringing a dangerous swarm of
bees about her own ears, with the she-oaks moaning softly above our
heads, and our bare feet dabbling in the noisily running water.

The Ubi was not more than a creek here; but what a lovely, mutinous,
brawling, sad, merry, musical, changeable creek it was! Its channel
was perpetually altering, and fresh islets formed every year. In some
places it was deep enough to drown a horse and rider. There were
strange pools over-hung with arums, deadly and fathomless, with a
suspicious rippling in the centre; and the Blacks told mysterious
tales of treacherous whirlpools, and the never-to-be-seen but much-
dreaded Bunyip. The river banks were bordered with mulgam bushes, from
which, in November, we gathered the wild raspberries, and mingling
them with gee-bongs and scrub berries, set forth a dessert which we
thought worthy of Titania and her fairies.

At the crossing, where we loved best to sit, the stream ran fast and
clear over a pebbly bed, strewn with rock crystals that had been
washed down by floods from the mountains; and here, its gentle
purling, dreamy and spiritual, sounded like a chorus of unearthly
voices, idealising the scene, and blending harmoniously with the wild
sounds of the Australian bush. In the gum-trees behind, the parrots
chattered and the crows cawed, telling each other that a pair of mad,
unfeathered bipeds were concocting plots against their peace.
Cockatoos took up the story and spread it far and wide, the echo
growing fainter and fainter across the paddock; while from the scrub
the pigeons gave in their tender "too whee, too whee." As we sat on
the log in mid-stream, we could shut both our hands and crush the
perfumed leaves of an aromatic gum; or we might lean back against an
uplifted branch, and let imagination float upward to the wonderful and
endless blue. And then, while we were quite silent, a gay kingfisher
would dart before us, and rising again circle round our heads, or a
satin bird would perch boldly on the log near us, or a magpie trill
forth his song from the ti tree. There was an old mossy stump in the
middle of the pool, and sometimes a water-snake might be seen gliding
among the lily leaves that lay on the surface. Above the green line of
scrub lay the crest of Roop's Crag, heavy, rock-bound, strongly
resembling the Tte du Chien. Whenever I visit Monaco, it seems to me
that I am gazing on the countenance of a dear familiar friend.
Perhaps, but rarely, a horseman, some traveller from over the border,
or one of our bachelor neighbours from Kandoonbah would ride down the
bank to the crossing, start at sight of the two figures perched on the
log, and, if not already acquainted with us, give a good day, and
enter into conversation as his horse stooped to drink. Could he buy
rations? or was there an old paper at the house that he might take
away with him to read at the camp? He was probably a gentleman, though
his moleskins might be dirty, and his grey "jumper" and old felt hat
the worse for wear. Then, maybe, whistling the refrain of a song which
the breeze bore softly back, he would mount the bank and canter
towards the sliprails.

Jennie had an undeveloped talent for acting, and inoculated me with
her taste. We wrote our plays in the corn hut. The wooden bin which
held the shelled grain was our table; the great heap of soft husks
which had enveloped the cobs furnished us with a delicious couch. When
our plays were written we rehearsed them on the race--course to an
audience of gum-trees, and afterwards performed them in a queer little
verandah room lined with pictures from the Illustrated News, and
opening into an arbour that was completely closed in by the wide-
spreading vines of the Isabella grape. This was our stage, and here
Jennie and I ranted to the great edification of various stockmen,
fencers, and black boys, who swelled the company of spectators.

As none of my brothers shared our proclivities, the pieces had to be
arranged for two performers only. Jennie took the ladies' parts, I the
male ones. Our stage properties were neither varied nor extensive. A
corked moustache sufficiently designated the ardent lover; and a wig
and a long beard of the grey-green moss which hangs from the apple
gum, metamorphosed him into the irate custodian of the lovely heroine.
Our plots were of the wildest, sometimes built upon an historical
foundation--the oddest jumble of anachronisms and improbabilities, and
apt to be sensational, philosophical, sentimental, or melodramatic,
according to the course of reading we were at the time pursuing. In
this matter we were omnivorous, and I am bound to confess that our
mental diet was of the most indigestible description. We devoured
everything in the shape of fact or fiction upon which we could lay
hands; and I can only hope that we assimilated more of good than of

There were a great many books at Bungroopim--books of all kinds, from
Paley's Evidences and Thomas  Kempis, to Swedenborg, Rnan, and
Harriet Martineau's translation of Comte; from Ossian's poems to
London Lyrics; from Pamela and Evelina to Miss Broughton's novels;
and, in magazines, from the Tatler to Temple Bar. No one could accuse
us of deadness to literature, though to the march of public affairs we
were absolutely indifferent, and the overthrow of a British Cabinet,
or the fall of a European dynasty, was to us of far less importance
than the dnoment of a serial story, upon which from month to month
we had been speculating.

At fourteen, the age at which I was emancipated from the schoolroom,
and, so to speak, turned loose into this varied pasture, I had
naturally the most confused notions of the outer world--the world
beyond the gum-trees and the Ubi Mountains--beyond the Australian
shores and the Pacific. Nevertheless, it seemed very real to me, more
real perhaps than that in which I lived. It was a wonderful and
romantic world--far more beautiful then in fancy than now in fact. To
Jennie and me, Europe was a brilliant paradise. There, were gathered
together the associations of the past, the glories of the present. It
was the land of poetry, history, and drama, in direct contrast to our
own big, humdrum, wooded desert, which was without a past and without
romantic associations.

Here, the mountains were the only monuments, and there were no
traditions, no histories, save such as the legend of Wooraljee the
mighty chief whom Wooldanah, the Great Spirit, had turned into a rock
at the mouth of the Ubi, and whom the natives pelted with stones when
they wanted "walla to come up," that is to say, when they desired
rain; of the fights of the tribes; or hard money-grubbing tales of
fortunes that had been amassed, and gold-mines discovered. Here, all
the men were too busy in tending cattle and sheep, in buying and
selling, in fetching wood and water, to give any thought to art or
poetry--with indeed one exception--that of Mr. Kerruel, my brothers'
tutor. Mr. Kerruel was of French extraction, and strongly resembled
the portraits of beautiful brilliant Edgar Allan Poe. He had the same
expansive brow, and the same conformation of mouth and chin. His fiery
impassioned verses seemed modelled upon those of his prototype, but
unlike him Mr. Kerruel was quiet, taciturn, and only happy when away
from the haunts of men, wandering among the mountains with his
Xenophon or Homer.

But, there in Europe, troubadours had sung, and prophets had
preached. There, monarchs had reigned--kings of men and queens of
hearts. There, empires had grown and decayed away, and dead ages had
heaped up trophies. Our imaginations took no account of commonplace
millions, but peopled that land with godlike beings whom we knew
through their works.

Sometimes we wrote to some particular author, giving childish
expression to the delight and admiration with which his or her books
had inspired us. I wonder that none took any notice of the feeble cry
from the wilds. Occasionally I meet in mundane intercourse one of
those great ones to whom Jennie and I penned a reverential epistle. It
is strange to touch the angel's wings and to find the down rubbed
off--a hackneyed experience; yet have not even the most hackneyed
experiences pathos and strangeness when they come into the circle of
our own lives?

We had our magazine at Bungroopim, suggested of course by the famous
Bront periodical of which Mrs. Gaskell tells. I think that we were
all conscious of our defects in the matter of solid education, and had
a laudable wish that they should be remedied. We each tried to
contribute every month, an essay upon some eminent person or subject
necessitating serious study. We did not always succeed, and it must be
owned that fiction and poetry were in the ascendant. My brothers, busy
all day upon the run, were not energetic contributors, and the burden
of the Bungroopim Monthly was chiefly sustained by Jennie Marsden,
myself, and any girl friend of scribbling tendencies who might happen
to be with us. Other interests had usurped its place before Mr.
Kerruel came to us, or his genius might have raised it to a higher
level. At any rate, it afforded us a good deal of harmless amusement,
and gave us occupation during the long winter evenings, when we were
wont to gather round the huge wooden fireplace--so many eager spirits
full of activity, which in some fashion or other must have found vent.

On the first of the month, after dinner, the magazine was produced,
and each went through the penance of reading aloud his or her own

Often our party was reinforced by Captain Claypole, or one of our
bachelor neighbours; and there were always two or three new chums on
the station, legitimate butts for practical joking and laboured
witticisms. One young man, Van Helmont by name, was a sure draw upon
all occasions, for he was very conceited, very self-confident, and
excessively stupid. He was small and ugly, with ferret-like eyes and a
skin covered with pimples, and a wonderful mop of red hair which
always stood on end. He was rough, uncouth, and ill-educated, but
believed himself irresistible. As he was constantly falling in love,
the rebuffs he encountered were numerous; yet notwithstanding, he was
never abashed. His arrival at Bungroopim was heralded by the following
letter, written to one of my brothers, whose acquaintance he had made
when droving cattle in the north. It is perfectly genuine, and is
worthy of preservation if only as exemplifying the free-and-easy
manner in which hospitality is dispensed, and taken for granted, in


"I have a scheme in my cobra which I am going to unfold to you,
strictly in confidence at present.

"The scheme is for me to come down to the Ubi and see if I can get a

"I have lately come into about 200l., so I think that I am quite
justified in taking to myself a wife; but I am not altogether
satisfied with the young ladies of the north. I have heard that there
are lots of nice girls on the Ubi, and think some of them might be
glad of a husband. What is your opinion on the matter?

"Then I want to ask if you think that Mr. Murray would let me come
and make Bungroopim my head quarters for five or six months, with
liberty to come and go at my pleasure, though I should be willing to
do something for my grub if required. Also, do you think that in the
event of my coming you could let me have the use of a couple of horses
for a time, as I want to be as economical as I can? And if so, could
they be sent to the township to meet me on my arrival? And also, in
case you know any young lady in particular who might be persuaded to
cast in her lot with mine, I will just give you an idea of the sort of
girl I want.

"Any age from twenty to twenty-six would do. She must be used to the
bush, and able to wash and cook for herself if necessary; all the
better if she has no relations, and one with a little money preferred.
And she must be of the same religion as myself, though that would not
be of great consequence, as I mean to settle on the Ubi, and from all
I hear, you are not much troubled with parsons there.

"Please write by return of post, and

"Believe me, yours truly.


My father treated the matter in a good-natured spirit; and Mr. Van
Helmont was made welcome. But he got so unmercifully chaffed about his
matrimonial intentions in the pages of the Bungroopim Monthly and in
other quarters, that for some time he scarcely dared to hint at his
projects. He did his best, however, to carry them out, and did not
leave us till he had been rejected by almost every young lady on the
Ubi and on the Woorara.

Chapter V.

VAN HELMONT was certainly justified in his remark that we were not
much troubled with parsons on the Ubi. For four years we lived in a
state of spiritual darkness, and the itinerant preacher--described by
one of our black boys who had come from a more religious district as
"that fellow white man; plenty woolla; been wear him shirt outside of
trousers" (an allusion to the surplice)--was a being practically
unknown to us. It was therefore quite an unprecedented event when my
brother Jim, on a stock-riding beat, met one of these gentlemen in
straits about crossing the range, and uncertain as to the direction of
the Woorara, whither he was bent. Jim undertook to pilot him on his
way, but led him down a steep crossing and into a quicksand instead,
whereby the clerical buggy was broken and the horse partially
engulfed. Jim came hurrying back to Bungroopim for Peter the Kanaka
and the cart mare, and finally brought back the clergyman, who
contentedly acquiesced in the arrangement, remarking that it was an
indication there were no souls fit to receive salvation "over there;"
which, as Jim remarked, was rough upon "over there."

In the evening the Bibles and prayer-books were mustered, the
stockmen, servants, and Kanakas called in, and we all listened to an
extemporaneous discourse, which Jim averred was an insult to our souls
and to our understandings. The preacher was of the fire-and-brimstone
sort, and evidently regarded salvation as a marketable commodity of
which the Church had the monopoly.

There had been a young lady of his acquaintance who moved in the
'ighest circles and was endowed with the most elegant traits of mind
and body. Van Helmont pricked up his ears at the mention of this
fascinating individual; but his countenance fell again--she was named
Mary Hann. Mary Hann had been repeatedly warned by her spiritual
pastors and masters of the terrible penalties which would follow the
course of worldliness and vanity which she pursued. But Mary Hann
declined to give up dancing, dress, and dissipation, and the 'ighest
circles still held their own. She was seized with typhus fever; and
after he had harrowed and convulsed us by a graphic description of her
physical sufferings, the narrator brought us to her death--bed.

Having become unconscious, Mary Hann gave vent to the most
'artrending groans. "Mary Hann!" said her faithful adviser "what mean
those hunearthly--these hagonising 'owls?" Feeling this to be a
telling point, the preacher reiterated his question in tragic tones,
fixing the round-eyed Kanakas with a stern and indignant gaze.

Of course Mary Hann was being treated to a preliminary glimpse of the
Inferno to which she had danced herself. At last her biographer
allowed her to go down to an eternity of torment where, as he phrased
it with more regard to sound than sense, "weeping weeps for h'aye, and
wailing wails for h'ever;" and then the benediction was pronounced.

No wonder that the squatter and his belongings looked upon bush
clergymen as a nuisance! After this visitation we were left for some
time in peace; and the next occasion upon which I came into contact
with a member of the ecclesiastical fraternity was not at Bungroopim
but at Targinie, Captain Claypole's station across the border.

The Woorara was more blessed than the Ubi, or perhaps the bishop of
our sister colony was happier in his choice of shepherds than our own
episcopal head. The dean of that diocese, who every three or four
years made the tour of the district, and married or christened as
occasion required, was of a different type to the biographer of Mary
Hann. He was cultivated, energetic, practical, very popular among the
settlers, and a good representative--alas! a rare one--of the
Kingsleyan school of muscular Christianity.

That impromptu visit to Targinie, when we made acquaintance with the
dean, was rather an amusing episode in our monotonous life. Captain
Claypole, who loved nothing better than a camping-out picnic, had long
been planning an excursion to Cape Clangour, at the mouth of the
Woorara, and to a little cedar-cutting settlement at the promontory's
neck. So, one morning in autumn, it being slack time at Bungroopim,
four of us, Jennie Marsden, Mr. Kerruel, the poet tutor, Jim, and
myself, determined to ride over to Targinie to see if the scheme could
not be carried out.

The ride across the range was most picturesque, the track stony and
difficult, winding up steep hills, skirting precipices, and descending
broken gullies, but at every turn offering a delicious peep into some
ferny ravine, or the view of a mountain pass, or bold stretch of
landscape. Roop's Crag on one side, the Woorara Mountains on the
other, one peak in especial perfectly inaccessible, and--as we paused
upon the highest part of the range--towering before us, scarred and
rock--bound, with a forest of white gums standing forth in strong
relief against the dull grey wall.

Jim, who was a youth of aspirations, had been lamenting to Mr.
Kerruel the want of those grand sights and inspiring influences for
which his soul yearned.

"Now," he exclaimed, "if I were to go to Europe, and could just get a
squint at some of the pictures and the statues, and the old castles,
and the Alps--just think o snowy mountains, Mr. Kerruel, and look at
that!--why, I bet that if I could have a trip home, I'd do something

The tutor reined in his horse, and gazed before him, and then,
rebukingly at the young colonial--

"Jim," said he, "that's the finest thing of its kind I've ever seen.
That's worth coming all the way from England to look at."

Jim stared, and contemplated the ravine below, the sombre forest,
the ghostly, white trees, the stern mountain.

"That!" cried he. "Why, what's that, Mr. Kerruel? It's only a bit
of scrub and a few gums. And, my word! a rare place to find nuggets!"[*]

[* Unbranded calves.]

We met a pair of policemen at the Targinie crossing.

"You haven't come across a queer-looking cove on foot about the
border?" said the chief. "He is a horse-stealer, and a real dangerous
character. I've been telling the Captain up there to arrest him if he
turns up at Targinie. It's pretty clear that he has followed Graeme's
Creek, thinking it the river, and he's bound to come back, for he
can't get out of that country."

We had not seen anything of the dangerous character; and the
policemen went on their way. Captain Claypole ran down to the
sliprails to meet us, and asked the same question, his handsome eyes
bright with excitement.

He presented a most comical appearance; a white apron tied round his
waist, his felt hat fastened under his chin, a large brush in one
hand, his clothes spattered, and his whiskers plastered. He told us
that he was whitewashing his dairy, and on the look-out for the horse-

"I shall bail him up with my whitewash-brush," said he. "I've sent
the boys to track him. Go up the yard, Jim and Kerruel; turn out your
horses and carry in the ladies' swag. You could not have come at a
better time. The Dean will be here to--night--carrying the Gospel to
the cedar-cutters at Cape Clangour. He wants me to pilot him, and so
we can make our long-talked-of expedition in good company. The missus
is making pies. You'll see her in the kitchen. Tell her we shall want
a few more."

There we found Mrs. Claypole--a Juno manipulating a rolling-pin. She
was the most refined, cultivated, and dignified of women. We were a
little in awe of her because she was so very European. How she
contrived to adapt herself to the rough Australian life she led
remains still a mystery to me; but she always said that she was very

We went back to Captain Claypole, who was still energetically
whitewashing, with one eye upon the crossing. Presently, old King
Combo, with the knowing look peculiar to his race, and his finger on
his lips, came up from thence.

"S-s-s!" he whispered.

"You been see white man without yarraman?" asked Captain Claypole.
"Baal budgery that fellow."

"Yohi," replied Combo; "he come up along a humpey." And almost at the
words the individual in question appeared upon the scene.

Captain Claypole approached him, brandishing the whitewash-brush; and
a few questions established the fact of his identity with the
"dangerous character." The unfortunate creature, however, looked so
lean, woe-begone, and utterly harmless, that moved between pity and
laughter we implored aside that he might be allowed to go in peace.

"I must do my duty as a magistrate," said Captain Claypole, sternly.
"My good man, I'm extremely sorry, but I have reason to know that you
have stolen a horse. I must therefore arrest you. You had better give
in quietly."

Here the brush was raised with a menacing gesture in such odd
contrast with the whitewash-bespattered garments, that Jennie and I
laughed unfeelingly.

"You look hungry," said Captain Claypole. "Oh, you have had no grub
for two days! Then come along. I'm going to give you a good tuck-in;
but I shall guard you carefully all the time, mind."

He marched off with his prisoner, and both remained for some time
shut up in the dining-room; but by and by, after the police had
returned, and had triumphantly borne away the criminal handcuffed, our
host came in with the Dean, who had now arrived, and to whom he was
narrating the occurrence in his dramatic fashion.

"I took him into the dining-room, and, by Jove! I could not help
knocking the top off a bottle of Bass for him." (Captain Claypole had
never become sufficiently colonial to relish tea at every meal; he
spent a fortune in bottled ale, which, at great further cost and
difficulty, he carted over the range.) "Mr. Dean, you should have seen
that man's face when I asked him whether he preferred it to rum. My
heart warmed to him. 'He has been a British workman,' said I to
myself. Poor devil! how he did tuck in! I thought at first that it
might be unwise to trust him with a knife; but he did not look the
audacious ruffian Macnab had made him out, and I took care he should
see that I had put copper caps on my revolver. So I went on with my
English letters, and presently he asked if there were a mail going out
soon, and would I give him a bit of paper and an envelope, as he
wished to write to his wife. I got him what he wanted, and he sat
looking at the paper for ever so long, and at last laid his head down
upon his arms and blubbered like a child. I had not got any secure
place to lock the poor beggar up in, and was seriously considering
whether I should place him under your surveillance, Rachel Murray, and
leave a fast horse ready saddled in the yard, when Macnab came back
and saved me from imperilling my magisterial reputation. But, by Jove!
the fellow didn't look like a low colonial horse-stealer. The moral
sensibilities of a man who prefers Bass's ale to rum can't be
completely blunted."

The Dean was burly and unclerical in appearance, with a clean-shaven,
humorous face, and eyes that looked in opposite directions. He was
extremely jovial, except when in the pulpit (metaphorically speaking);
and then an alarming gravity settled upon his blunt features, and his
squint became almost aggressive.

When dinner was over, he held an im promptu service in the dining-
room, after which we adjourned to the verandah, discussed the Cape
Clangour expedition, and sang Christy Minstrel melodies, the Dean
joining in "Ten Little Niggers" with great gusto.

Our concert was interrupted by discordant yells from the Black's
camp, and King Combo and Ubi-Boney, the veterans of the tribe, who had
quarrelled over the possession of an elderly gin, rushed towards us--
Combo behind, flourishing the boomerang with which he had been
belabouring his foe, Boney in advance, blood spirting from shoulder-
wounds and running down his naked sides, while he shrieked piteously
for protection.

Captain Claypole separated the combatants, and Boney threw himself
upon the verandah and began to kick up his legs behind, a sign that
the Black considers death imminent. The Dean bound up his wounds, and
Captain Claypole administered doses of rum, which had a magical effect
in quieting him. Combo, who had been sitting sulkily apart muttering
threats of vengeance, as soon as the rum was produced, flung himself
down, howled, and kicked up his legs also. No one took any notice of
his proceedings, and he called out in aggrieved tones, "I say,
Claypole, what for you no come and give me rum, mine close up bong
too, I believe."

The Dean settled the dispute. King Combo magnanimously resigned his
pretensions in consideration of receiving a nobbler and two figs of
tobacco; and the black gin led Boney back to the camp, not altogether
satisfied that he had the best of the bargain.

We started the next morning, and followed down the Woorara to the
little settlement of Thylungera. It was built in a clearing surrounded
by scrub--a cluster of bark and slab huts sloping down to the river,
which here was broad and shallow, and encumbered by the great logs
that in flood-time floated down to the port. The men--small farmers
and cedar-cutters--were a rude independent set. They worked hard all
day, and slept heavily at night. They had no books, and never saw an
English newspaper. Of the world they had no knowledge. Rank was a
world not in their vocabulary; the prestige of noble birth
incomprehensible to them. Lord Barty once rode that way. They were
told that he was the son of a peer, and asked Mr. Kerruel what that
meant. Yet it was curious to see how in a dim way they recognised and
admired the tutor's genius. He was not perfectly happy in these
expeditions. With his little white hands and white cuffs, and nervous
shrinking from exertion, he was unfitted for the sport and rough play
at cutting trees which delighted the Dean and Captain Claypole. The
latter threw himself with dramatic ardour into the situation; but Mr.
Kerruel preferred to wander alone in the scrub reading Greek or
scribbling poetry. I heard one of the men say once, with many
expletives, as he watched the Dean, Captain Claypole, and Jim hewing
saplings, in order to partition off an unused hut for our
accommodation, and then let his eyes rest upon Mr. Kerruel, who sat
in an inspired mood a little way apart under a quantong-tree: "Well,
for squatters and parsons--mind you, I says for a--squatter and a--
parson, you be's the hardest-working coves I ever set eyes on; but
it's them big foreheaded, white-handed chaps that's worth a price.
They're a deal better nor us."

We stayed two days at Thylungera. The men eyed the Dean with
suspicion at first, and the women stared at us as if we had come down
from the stars; but as soon as they saw that we could fend for
ourselves and knew how to make a damper, they began to look upon us as
not so far removed from their comprehension, took us into their huts,
and placed all they had at our disposal.

The Dean inquired if it would be agreeable to the community were he
to hold a service. The men looked doubtfully at each other, and one, a
red-faced, shock--headed fellow, stepped forward and replied not too
graciously, "Well, yes; if it pleased the parson. They weren't much
used to long-coated gentlemen; hadn't seen one for ten years. Didn't
know if there was a prayer-book among 'em; and on the whole, well, he
didn't fancy that church was much in their line, and he thought they'd
rather not--if it was all equal."

The Dean asked if there were no ceremonies they wished performed:
christenings, marryings, or--he was going to say burials, but paused
and added: "You don't look as though the death-rate were high

The man laughed. "There aren't no corpses waiting for the prayers to
be said over 'em," he answered. "When any of us go off the hooks we
bury each other. Most of us are spliced all reg'lar, and most of us
has got kids; and nearly all running about. There don't seem to be
much use in fixing a name on to a young un that answers to its call

Then one of the women came forward. The two held a little
consultation, and presently it was given out that there was a baby on
the settlement which did not answer to its name, being only two months
old; that the mother had a weakness in favour of christenings, and
that the father thought this would be a suitable occasion for a spree.
But there was no rum at Thylungera, and a spree without a rum plum--
pudding would be an impossibility, therefore the Dean must defer the
ceremony till all things were ready; and a man was started for the
township, forty miles distant, to buy the plums and the rum. The
latter he imbibed freely on the road, evidently having reasoned to
himself that the labourer was worthy of his hire, and arrived the next
afternoon very red in the face and much muddled in his faculties.

The neighbours congregated in the rough hut of unplaned slabs,
through the chinks of which the sun entered, shedding fantastic gleams
upon the mud floor. The Dean put on his surplice and took up his
position at the head of the rude table, a pie dish serving as the
font. I was asked to be one of the sponsors. The father held the baby,
the other godfather--he who had gone for the rum--ranged himself
beside me, while the mother tended the pudding by the great open fire-

The Dean's face assumed its professional expression, and his squint
became appalling. One eye was fixed hard upon the rum-fetcher, who
shuffled and looked confused. "Hath this child been already baptised?"
asked the Dean severely.

"Baptised!" echoed the godfather, scratching his head, for he did not
understand the word, or follow the drift of the question, "I'm damned
if I know, but I'll ask Bet."

Whereupon Bet turned from the pudding and parenthetically abused the
rum--fetcher for being a fool. The Dean called her to order and the
ceremony then proceeded to every one's satisfaction. The Dean improved
the occasion by an extemporaneous discourse, adapted particularly to
the practical needs and spiritual difficulties of the little
community, with a spice of dry humour here and there, that fetched the
men considerably. It was an admirable sermon, and made us wish that
we, froward sheep, on the Ubi, were ministered unto by such a shepherd
as the Dean. At its conclusion the women begged him to stay longer and
preach again; and the shock-headed cedar-cutter, who had been
spokesman in the first instance, said he wished he'd knowed sooner
that there would have been such a deal of sense in the parson's gab.
We all helped to eat the rum plum-pudding; and then broke up camp and
started for Cape Clangour, parting company with the Dean, who was
going inland next day to visit another station.

The cedar--cutters had cleared a track through the scrub. It skirted
the river; and we rode in single file, making a halt every now and
then to gather chucky-chuckies--as the blacks name that most delicious
of native berries--which drooped temptingly at the river's side, or to
stretch vainly after a parasite lily growing high above our heads, or
to inhale the fragrance of wild jasmine, or to exclaim at the glory of
blossom and greenery that every turn exhibited.

The vegetation here was beautiful and luxuriant. The bright orange of
the chestnut's flowers contrasted brilliantly with its glossy leaves;
the orchids looked like curious and many-hued insects, and the sombre
creepers twined in serpent-like withes round the trunks of dead trees
from which stag-horn ferns extended their antlets, while arums lifted
their cowled heads, and spreading tree-ferns gave a tropical
appearance to the rocky dells in which they grew.

Then, where the Woorara joined the sea, there came a long stretch of
dry, hard sand, over which we cantered, the waves crawling up and
breaking at our horses' feet; and at dusk we crossed the neck of the
cape over undulating hills, lightly wooded, to a lovely green hollow
closed in by palms. Here we camped for the night; but almost before
dawn we were on horseback again, for to see the sun rise from Cape
Clangour was the end and aim of our expedition.

Seen from afar, the lone old promontory lay stretched upon Ocean's
bosom, enshrouded in mist as by a veil of dusky hair. Wind-swept,
scarred, and barren, save for a few clumps of weird-looking breadfruit
trees with their spiky roots that clung defiantly to the soil, Cape
Clangour seemed indeed, the "utmost of the land."

We dismounted and stood upon the bluff headland. The Pacific was
spread before us, meeting the horizon line. Its billows heaved and
swelled in a never-ending moan. They crashed against the rocks below
us, and sobbed more gently upon the curving beach that seemed like a
line of silver, and was lost beneath the sombre pine-forests and grey
cliffs of a distant range. Far to the right rose a grim and warning
peak not touched yet by the sun's rays, which, like love-light from
the eyes of a beautiful woman, were softly illumining the face of the

For some time none of us spoke. We all moved apart as though each
soul of us longed for full air and space in which to make it bound
outward to the Infinite. A great rock sheltered me. I leaned against
its embracing hollow; my feet were firmly planted, and I felt alone in
the universe. There are moment when aspiration takes such force that
physical consciousness becomes deadened, and existence merged in
yearning towards the spiritual. We know in such rare moments that
there is a spiritual world, so vivid and real, that, in comparison,
the material world is but as illusion.

It is when I am in some wild solitary place, little trodden by foot
of man, when the winds buffet and fan me, when the sun kisses me, when
the wide sky is above and around me, the ocean before me, when no
barrier intervenes between sea and heaven, and the warm magnetism of
the earth vivifies my frame--it is then that I feel borne in upon me
that God is in nature, and that through sympathy with nature we come
closest to Him. Then all the old myths appeal to me with deep and
solemn meaning. Something in my being tingles and throbs. I yearn
after purity, after beauty, after might and vastness, with a fervency
that is prayer in its highest sense, for it is tinged by no personal
desire, or even by the consciousness of voluntary devotion.

I wish that it were possible to express in words the vague ecstasy
which has often seized me when I have been wandering alone in the
Bush--an ecstasy due to no other agency than the influence of nature
untainted by civilisation. This state--feeling I cannot call it--is
rare with me now. The vivid recollection of that morning at Cape
Clangour, recalls other hours of the purest happiness. Exaltation
blending with delicious melancholy--for those who have analysed
emotion, especially the kind experienced under these influences, will
know surely, that joy is never so intense as when it is touched with

*   *   *   *   *

After the Cape Clangour expedition, Jim and Mr. Kerruel went back to
Bungroopim, and Jennie and I stayed on for several weeks at Targinie.

It appeared that dangerous characters were at this time plentiful
along the borders. A little while before the word had been passed down
the district that an escaped bushranger named Leeson was wandering
about these parts; and Captain Claypole went everywhere with a loaded
revolver, and tingled with excitement whenever he espied a stranger
approaching the station.

The description of Leeson was meagre, and an ordinary-sized muscular-
looking man would have answered to it very fairly. Thus, any harmless
traveller crossing the river to Targinie was liable to be detained
according to Captain Claypole's discretion.

It was quite usual to see him rush into the parlour with his eyes
alight and his voice trembling with eagerness as he exclaimed, "By
Jove, I've caught Leeson! I must take him;" and then to learn that the
"criminal" proved, upon inquiry, to be a perfectly respectable drover,
or perhaps a squatter, not personally known to Captain Claypole. Upon
one occasion he locked up two men who had roused his suspicions by
their anxiety to cross the creeks during a flood, and who were too
indignant to give a satisfactory account of themselves. Fortunately
the mail man was able to identify them as belonging to the Ubi, and
Captain Claypole released his prisoners, making what amends he could
for his incivility.

He was so crestfallen after this episode that for a week or so we
heard nothing more about Leeson; and finding himself suddenly short-
handed, he turned his energies to the construction of a slab fence,
which was necessary for the working of the station.

We used to go down to the paddock, and sit on a log while we watched
him split the heavy slabs, and, with the languid assistance of Boney,
ram in the posts. This he would do to the air of the anvil chorus or
the March from Lohengrin, and would occasionally break off to deliver
a dissertation upon modern music. He was beginning to get rather tired
of this hard labour, when, one afternoon, two strangers walked up and
asked for work. They said they were good splitters, and that they had
a mate behind, who was first-rate at fencing, and a carpenter into the

Their looks did not recommend them, and Mrs. Claypole whispered to
her husband that here were the bushrangers at last.

"Too small for Leeson," said he, eyeing them critically; "but you
are right: they look like bad hats. However, I am not game for much
more of this, and I'll engage the men, and chance it."

The next day their mate arrived, Patsy Crabbe by name. He was a
powerful, well--built fellow, with a springy step, and a way of
meeting one's eyes with a bold blank stare that nothing could
discomfit, unless it were Mrs. Claypole's steady Junoesque gaze. He
was heard to express great admiration for Mrs. Claypole, and executed
admirably some carpentering that she wished done in preparation for a
new "married-couple."

They were badly off for servants just then at Targinie. The new "man
and wife" had not come up, and the girl in the kitchen was so little
desirable that Captain Claypole was glad to give her three months'
wages, and send her off under the escort of a passing couple called
Bain who were travelling southwards, with, as they incautiously
announced, a cheque for 80l. in their swag.

They stayed a day or two to rest their horses. The night before they
started, the two fencers and Patsy Crabbe decamped, and there
disappeared also Captain Claypole's favourite horse and his best pair
of corduroy breeches.

There was nothing to be done except bear the loss of the pantaloons
with resignation. Captain Claypole lamented them far more piteously
than he lamented his horse. Patsy Crabbe probably knew the country
thoroughly, and would take care to evade pursuit.

The very morning after the Bains had gone on their way, Mills--
stockman from the Macalisters' station, a little higher up the
Woorara--came to Targinie in great wrath and perturbation. He had with
him Macnab, the policeman, and two black trackers. Mills was what is
called in Australia the regular flash sort, a capital rider, full of
pluck, but utterly without respect for God or man. He had narrowly
escaped transportation, and was ready to help any criminal who came in
his way. His one redeeming quality was devotion to his master. He
would cheat every one except Angus Macalister; and for him he would
have stolen a horse or committed a murder, if necessary.

Mills rode up to the verandah where Captain Claypole was smoking,
and we, within, heard the colloquy:--

"Good day, captain. So Patsy Crabbe has stolen a horse of yours!"

"Ay, and my best pants too," returned the captain.

"I've got a piece of news for you, captain. Where was your nous that
you didn't twig what sort of fencer you had hired? You are too
innocent, captain, to be a magistrate out here. Your place is among
the virtuous swells in England. Why, Patsy Crabbe was an escaped
prisoner out of the Queensland gaol. He passed my hut in his prison
togs on his way to Targinie."

"And you helped him out of them," retorted Captain Claypole. Mills
did not deny the impeachment. "Anyhow, I'm just going to assist him
into 'em again; for he has been and robbed Mr. Macalister, and he
might have been sure I wouldn't stand that. So look sharp, captain;
make out a warrant, and let's be after him as quick as Gipsy Girl can
go: that is, if Mrs. Claypole will let us have her 'oss. She is the
best on the river. Good for the Ubi Cup, and I wouldn't mind riding
her at Bungroopim Races."

"Have a glass of grog, Mills?"

"Thank ye, sir, I'm always good for a nobbler. Now look here,
Claypole, I'll tell you what Patsy's plan was. Never you mind how I
know it. That girl of yours was a deal too thick with him. She was a
bad lot, and those Bains were flats to let on about the cheque. He
took your horse because he'd heard her breeding--the wonder to me is
that he took her instead of Gipsy Girl, which he must have known could
beat yours hollow. Well, he was going to ride to Warwick and buy a
revolver--he won't do that now, because he has got old Macalister's
gun--then he meant to cut straight across to Dugandine Scrub, wait
there for the Bains, stick them up, nab the cheque, tie them both up
in the scrub, while he cashed the cheque in Ipswich, and then make off
with the girl. He meant to ride his own horse till it dropped, and
then save himself on yours."

It was an extraordinarily daring scheme, involving nearly 200 miles
of hard riding across the mountains, and but for Mills would doubtless
have been successfully carried out.

The first evening Patsy came across Mr. Macalister--a queer,
harmless, old fellow, with the best heart in the world. Patsy made up
to him and they joined camp, the old man dividing his food and
blankets. In early morning Patsy rode off, first relieving Mr.
Macalister of his gun, his watch, and sundry other possessions, then,
to use Mills's expression, cheeking the old man freely, who went home
and told the tale. Mills, infuriated at an insult to one of his
beloved Macalisters, rode straight to Targinie for a warrant, picking
up Macnab and the black boys on the way. Gipsy Girl was saddled,
Captain Claypole joined the band, and they all left hot for pursuit.
The boys tracked Patsy over the border till his traces were lost in
the rocky country at the head of the Ubi. But they came upon them
later, and stalked the quarry to his very camping-ground. Patsy had
dismounted, and was holding the bridles of his horses.

Mills rode full tilt to him with his pistol cocked, and held it
within two yards of Patsy's face. "It's all over with you," said he.
"Give yourself up, or you are a dead man. We've got a warrant."

"What for?" asked Patsy, with his stolid stare.

"Oh, you know well enough. How could you go and rob and cheek a poor
old man that shared his tucker with you? And if that isn't Claypole's
'oss whose is it? Why didn't you take Gipsy Girl while you were about

"Couldn't steal a lady's horse," said Patsy; "must draw the line
somewhere." Patsy gave up, and they took him down to Ipswich, a
business of three days or more. Captain Claypole described the
journey. "It was a funny party--the magistrate, the policeman, the
witness and the prisoner, all messing together, and as jolly as could
be with each other. Patsy told capital stories, and, by George! what
good songs he sang!--all about bushranging. We used to sit over the
camp fire till all hours. When I began to feel sleepy I would look
across at Macnab, 'Time for bed, Macnab!' and Patsy would hold out his
wrists for the handcuffs as a matter of course. Macnab told me that
underneath his outer trousers Patsy wore a pair of corduroy breeches,
with brass buttons; so one night I said to him: 'When you are
undressed, if you're going to undress, I wish you'd leave out those
pants, will you?'

"'Wh--at!' said Patsy, with his open mouth and blank look.

"'It isn't of much consequence, but they happen to be my best pair,
and I'd like to have 'em again, and get 'em washed, that's all.' I
suppose my mouth twitched, and gradually I could see the corners of
his lips go down, and he burst into a fit of laughing."

Patsy Crabbe turned out to be Leeson and Captain Claypole always took
to himself the credit of having captured him. He got five years for
robbing Mr. Macalister, and three for the horse. He received his
sentence very quietly, but afterwards sprang upon the policemen, had
two down, and very nearly escaped. He sent a message from the gaol to
the effect that when he got free he'd pay out the Macalisters, and
he'd track Mills till he could shoot him; but as for that cove
Claypole, he needn't be afraid, for he had behaved like a gentleman.

Chapter VI.

MRS. CLAYPOLE was quite a heroine in her unpretending way, and bore
the domestic trials which are common to Bush life with great
fortitude. I used to watch her admiringly, as she went through the
most menial occupations with a grace and dignity which nothing could
disturb. Occasionally, as she stood cooking at her kitchen table
before the open window, a stray passer-by would approach and address
her in the free and easy fashion which prevails among a certain class
of bushmen. It was amusing to observe how he would retire, awed by her
grand gaze and calm reply. She was always gracious and gentle, but I
can quite understand why she was not popular among the Bush ladies.

She did not, like her husband, take life from the dramatic point of
view. She was nervously strung, yet I have known her face with the
greatest serenity the possibility of serious illness (all her children
were born at Targinie without any aid from experienced nurse or
doctor), and endure hardships that would have appalled many a less
delicate woman, not accustomed to the refinements and luxuries among
which she had been brought up.

Targinie was servantless for some time after the Leeson incident. The
drays were detained by floods, and with them the married couple who
had been engaged for the house. On the run they were shorthanded also,
for even the stockmen left, attracted by some new diggings on the
Woorara; and the Blacks moved their camp lower down the river. We were
obliged to help ourselves. Captain Claypole milked the cows, salted
the beef, fetched wood and water, and kept the station going. Mrs.
Claypole managed the cooking, and Jennie and I did the housework;
while a free selector's wife down the Ubi, moved to pity by the
postman's account of our forlorn condition, sent over her daughter of
fourteen, whom Captain Claypole dubbed "the unbroken filly," to hold
the babies, and render such assistance as lay within her capabilities.

This child of nature was a great source of amusement to us. She had
never been off her father's selection, and in her eyes Targinie was a
sort of Buckingham Palace; if indeed she had ever heard of Buckingham
Palace, which is improbable. But she had been reared thriftily, and
though her clothes were few and rough, she understood the virtue of
cleanliness. Our underlinen awakened her wonder and aspiration. She
was given to soliloquising when alone at her work, and on several
occasions was heard to exclaim, heaving a deep sigh, "My word! I wish
I could lay holt on a set of shimmies." She used to go about in a
holland blouse and pinafore and a pair of heavy laced boots, above
which there showed five or six inches of red leg. The boots were a
great trial to her at first. She "didn't wear no boots when she was a
shepherding the sheep at home," and was sorely inclined to rebel
against the shackles of conventionality. She was a confiding little
maid, with an inquiring turn of mind, and loved to get into
conversation with her superiors, for whom she had no slavish respect.
The mysteries of civilisation filled her with awe, and called forth
her constant ejaculation of "Guid save us!" but in matters of which
she had some experience, such as cleaning up, setting bread, &c., she
had strong opinions of her own; and what "mother and Jane" did on
these occasions was undoubtedly the only right thing to do. Her faith
in them was fixed.

I was in the parlour when she first entered it. Poor little unbroken
filly! she did not know how to contain her admiration. "My word, Miss
Rachel! has you got a room like this? I never seed plates hanging up
afore. And look at them naked boys! What a lot of pictures she has
got! Is that her? (pointing to a photograph of Mrs. Claypole). Oh, I
know! I never seed her before now, but I hearn Jane tell of her, and
how she came up to help nurse her. Was that took in Ipswich? I never
was took; Jane and Freddy has been took though. They was little
things; and Jane has got her hand on father's shoulder, like this"--
putting her hand on mine to illustrate the position.

It was hard to suppress the unbroken filly. She would wander in
promiscuously at any of the open doors, and watch us at our
occupations, standing in silence for a minute or two while Mrs.
Claypole worked the sewing-machine. Then she would nod her head
admiringly and click her tongue against her teeth, and remark, "Well,
them machines is handy things, to be sure." Spying a photograph of
Mrs. Claypole which the latter had just given me, she launched forth:
"Have you got her too? I seed her in the parlour. I'd like to have one
of them; and Guid save us! what a host of flowers yer've got. The
Captain, he promised me some flower-seeds when I was going away. Don't
yer let him forget now, will yer?" Crossing over to Mrs. Claypole, she
went on: "What do yer think? Ryan never knowed yer. You know Ryan,
don't yer? Him as came over from Macalister's yesterday, and that come
into the kitchen when you was there. 'Well,' he says to me, 'who's
that?' imitating a stage whisper; 'is that Miss Rachel Murray?' 'Miss
Rachel!' says I (in a voice of withering scorn). 'Don't yer know Mrs.
Claypole?' 'Law!' says he, 'is that Mrs. Claypole?' And then he towd
me to tell yer that Jane says she don't mind if she do come down and
try her hand at the cooking when mother wants me back."

The drays arrived, however, before Jane was called upon to carry out
her proposal; and the unbroken filly returned to the selection with
her mental horizon considerably enlarged by her peep at civilisation.

Soon after this, Jim came to take us home that we might make
preparations for the Ubi races, which this year were to be held at
Bungroopim. Jim had been for some time assiduously clearing the
racecourse, and we were only waiting till the completion of our new
kitchen to send out invitations.

We had chosen April as the most convenient month, for it is then
neither too hot nor too cold to live out of doors day and night, and
thunderstorms are less to be feared. But now in March the weather was
unusually sultry and oppressive. Day after day, leaden clouds gathered
on the horizon and dispersed at even, always holding in reserve the
wrath which we knew must ere long descend with intensified force. As
we crossed the range from Targinie, it became evident that this very
day we must run a race with the tempest that was rising slowly but
surely behind the Woorara mountains.

Scarcely a leaf stirred. Beasts and birds were silent; but on the
stagnant pools there was the life of myriads of insects.

The sweat dripped from our horses' flanks and their limbs dragged
heavily. The mountains looked dead and grey; the sky was grey also.
Thunder muttered sullenly, and pallid gleams played upon the bank of
clouds behind us. We spurred on in a fast trot, up and down the broken
ridges, where rocks and fallen trees impeded our progress, and across
stony gullies till we reached the more level country that stretched
along the banks of the Ubi. It was a wild ride. At four o'clock the
storm was close upon us, and there was still an extent of several
miles to be covered. We fancied that we could hear the rush of hail in
our rear. Then there was a murmuring in the leaves and the grass;
animals called to each other, and there sounded the strange cries of
affrighted reptiles. A wind rose keen and fresh--that wind which is
the sure precursor of a bad storm. But it came like the breath of life
to our nostrils, and after the intense heat and brooding stillness,
had a most exhilarating effect upon our minds and bodies. We galloped
in single file along the narrow track, the blackboy in advance with
the packhorse struggling after him, and the pint pots strapped to his
saddle rattling against each other. A turn in the creek showed us
another flying figure ahead--that of a man, well mounted, his white
shirt inflated by the wind, and his puggaree streaming straight. He,
too, was enjoying this break-neck race, for the look he turned back
upon us was full of pleasurable excitement. He tightened rein and we
exchanged a few breathless words.

"Storm close up," said Jim; "are you for Bungroopim?"

"Yes. Ansdell from Tarooma. Price sent me over."

"All right! come along. My sister,"--and there was an ineffectual
attempt at a bow, and a lifting of the hat--"make for the crossing,
and avoid the hole to the right."

Now we flew over a little plain, the dead leaves and twigs caught up
and swirling round us, the thunder crashing in volleys, and streaks of
forked lightning rending the sky; while through all sounded the tree
frog's dismal croak, and the weird peal of the laughing jackass.

Mr. Ansdell and I were side by side; we glanced at each other and he
jerked out an odd remark:

"Isn't this like the ride in Berlioz' Faust?"

"I wish that I'd ever heard it," I shrieked in return, as we dashed
through the sliprails.

The first hailstones were falling when we gained the head station. We
flung ourselves from our horses and rushed across the yard to the new
kitchen, which offered the nearest refuge. Only just in time. One
stone struck me with such force that my arm was bruised, and others,
bigger than a pigeon's egg, clattered upon the zinc roof of the "lean
to," under which Jim had hurriedly housed the horses.

The din was terrific, and the ice-balls fell thicker and larger. We
had good reason to congratulate ourselves, for had we been still out
of doors, it would have been hardly possible to escape serious injury.
As it was, we were obliged to run from nook to nook in the empty
building, as though we were playing puss in the corner, in order to
shelter ourselves from the hail and broken glass that came flying in,
and to keep clear of the rain which poured through the ceiling in

We were blinded for an instant by a vivid flash, and simultaneously a
tremendous boom shook the earth and rocked the wooden building upon
its foundations. Involuntarily we stretched forth hands and cried in
terror, "The lightning has struck the house!"

There was a sudden lull in the roar, and the hail ceased. The storm
had passed over us, and was rushing swiftly onward. We went into the
verandah, and from thence looked out upon a scene of desolation. The
house stood uninjured, but a giant eucalyptus which had shaded the
water-cask had been struck by a thunderbolt, and was literally torn
into shreds--branches, leaves, and splinters strewing the ground for
many yards. The meat store and carpenters' sheds were stripped of
bark; shrubs and plants lay level with the earth; between the house
and stockyard, five large trees lying in a row, showed the narrow
track which the storm had taken, while still further, its course could
be traced like the clearing of a telegraph avenue. Lumps of ice lay
piled in deep drifts against walls and fences; we gathered it up into
buckets and carried it at once to the larder to cool the beer and
butter; for, of all luxuries, ice is the one most ardently longed for
in the Bush.

Then we walked in sad procession round the premises to see what
damage had been done. It was a melancholy inspection. Pet animals had
been killed, provisions spoilt, windows broken, shingles loosened,
rooms flooded, and bedding soaked. In the garden all was havoc. The
ground was carpeted with leaves; the orange-trees stripped naked, and
their fine promise of fruit come to nought. Our sorrow was too deep
for words. Jim ran to the yards to satisfy himself as to the safety of
two imported bulls; Mr. Kerruel to his own quarters, of which he
undertook the responsibility; and Jennie and I stood ruefully
contemplating the wreck, while our stranger-guest watched us in mute

At last he ventured to suggest that it was late in the afternoon, and
that he had better light fires, mop the floors, and dry the bedding,
or we should catch our deaths of cold that night.

We laughed; for it was a more practical view of the situation than
could have been expected from a new chum. Mr. Ansdell declared that he
had a true Englishman's horror of damp, and that the reckless
indifference of Australian housekeepers in the matter of airing sheets
was a source of keen anxiety to him. He went to the woodshed to pick
up such dry logs as might be found under the rest, and came back with
his arms full of sticks, and a centipede calmly crawling up his shirt-
sleeve. He knocked off the reptile very coolly, killed it, and
proceeded to light the fire; but before the logs were ablaze, the sun
shone forth again, and the mountains glowed beneath his waning rays.
We all set to work with a will. Stretchers were dragged out and placed
on end in the verandah, blankets hung up, and floors swabbed. In the
course of these operations we made friends with Mr. Ansdell, of whom
as yet we knew but very little. He told us that he was staying with
Mr. Price, of Tarooma; that he had not been long in Australia; that he
was going to buy a cattle-station; that it had been proposed he should
settle in the Donga district; and that he had come over to ask my
father's advice as to the advisability of purchasing Eurogan, the
scene of the Grant murder, that tragedy which still darkened the
memory of my childhood.

I told him the story of the raid against the Blacks; and by the time
our floors were dry he had made himself acquainted with my short
biography. Nightfall came, the moon was at her full, and the star
which they called mine rose above Roop's Crag. We sat out in the
verandah and watched the distant mountains, their crests now lightly
touched with vapour, and now showing clear against the sky. The night
was full of sweetness and tranquil joy. The battered flowers and
crushed leaves gave forth a rich perfume, and one datura bell left
alone on its shrub, gleamed pale in the moonlight, and its heavy
fragrance seemed purified by the storm. Grey old Roop's Crag turned
towards us his rocky front, like the face of a tried companion, always
unchangable through many changing moods, and rejoicing at our joy. The
mountains we have known and loved in childhood become, in after life,
friends from whom no changes or misconceptions can sever us. In the
thought of them there is no mingling of bitterness. They are
associated with the pure enthusiasms of youth, of which the memory
lingers with us, like the memory of a mother's kisses; and in times of
deep trouble and desolation our hearts, lonely and aching, turn to the
old, true hills, with a strange sense of anchorage and relief.

The father was away in town, and Jim pressed Mr. Ansdell to stay till
his return. He seemed to have no particular plans, and promised very
readily to help us in organising some charades and tableaux with which
Jennie and I wished to vary the course of entertainments during the
race week. We foresaw difficulties in the matter of scenic
arrangements, but our own imaginations being naturally vivid, we hoped
that the faculty might be more or less developed in our spectators,
and that thus their minds' eyes might behold what we intended to
represent, especially if, as Mr. Ansdell suggested, some one were
posted at one side of the curtain to announce as occasion required.

"This is a chamber in the marble palace of a Roman emperor."

"This is the courtyard of a mediaeval ruin."

"This is a white sheet, but you will please imagine it a grand
mythological landscape," and so forth.

I liked Mr. Ansdell very much, but Jennie did not think him romantic
or tragic enough to be really interesting. She had not enjoyed such
good opportunities for studying his character, as were afforded me. It
generally happened that we rode together, for Jennie preferred the
conversation of Mr. Kerruel or of Jim. Now Jim, though rather
colonial in his ways, was very manly and good looking. He was
ambitious and full of great aspirations. He had grand political views
and believed in the future of Australia. He laughed at us for what he
called our Anglomania, and always declared that it was nobler to help
in creating a new civilisation, than to hang on to the skirts of an
old one. Jim and Jennie used to discuss this question during our
rides, or on the verandah after dinner, while Mr. Ansdell and I talked
about Europe, about books, music, poetry, and even about religion and
philosophy. Mr. Ansdell often said that I was very enthusiastic; but
then he would add that enthusiasm was the rarest and most beautiful
thing in the world, and would bid me try and keep it as my most
precious possession; and so I was never afraid to tell him anything
that was in my mind.

But apart from abstract things, Jennie and I had a little scheme
which after a time I confided to Mr. Ansdell. It concerned Robina
Daring, who was coming to stay at Bungroopim for the Races. We were
very fond of Robina, but something hard in her nature grated upon our
sensibilities, and it was a favourite theory with us, that could she
only love some one with her whole heart, she would become gentle and
womanly, instead of being strongminded and unsympathetic. We knew,
however, that she disdained the squatters on the Woorara and the Ubi,
though she did not mind breaking their hearts, and that she also was
infected with the Anglomania, and would never marry any one but a
travelled and cultivated Englishman.

We had only twice seen Mr. Price, the new owner of Tarooma, but we
had already made up our minds that he, of all persons, was calculated
to captivate Robina Daring. He was clever, handsome, refined. He had
seen a great deal of the world, and was moreover a splendid rider, an
accomplishment which would count for a great deal with Robina. His
manner gave the impression that in his heart he barely tolerated
Australia and the Australians, but was too well-bred to show his
contempt for them openly. We did not quite like this attitude;
however, as he seemed justified in considering himself superior to his
surroundings, we did not take umbrage at it, but trusted that Robina
would effect a change in his way of thinking.

Mr. Ansdell shook his head when we told him of our plan. "It won't
do," he said, "Price has had a great emotion. He is in the stage of
reaction and makes a merit of being indifferent to young ladies. There
must be a rival in the field to spur his jaded interest. You had
better give that part to me."

Thus it was agreed. Robina, escorted by Combo, king of the Woorara,
arrived a little before the other people we had asked, and Mr. Ansdell
proceeded at once to make himself agreeable to her. With the exception
of a week's visit to Tarooma he had been with us all this time,
therefore we were now on very intimate terms. His attentions to Robina
became a joke between us. Sometimes he would ask us in an aside
whether he were playing his part properly. And Jennie would retort,
"So perfectly, that we think it has ceased to be a part." But I don't
think that Jennie ever quite understood Mr. Ansdell.

Robina, excited by the prospect of the Races, was looking
particularly well. She was tall, moved gracefully, and always seemed
at her ease. She had cold, clear, grey eyes, with pencilled brows and
long dark lashes, and her smile was the sweetest I have ever seen.
After having said something startling or flippant, she would look up
and smile, and thus disarm criticism. Her moods were very fitful. At
one time she was feverishly gay; at another, almost sad. Her manner
had gained her the reputation of being very clever; but as a matter of
fact she never said anything noticeably original. It was just her way
of putting things.

Out on the verandah in the evening, when in the humour, she would
sometimes keep us all amused for hours, though it would have been
difficult to say at what. Upon those occasions I have observed Mr.
Kerruel, always very quiet in general company, sit and watch her with
a bewildered expression upon his dreamy face; and I have heard him ask
afterwards, "Is it true that Miss Daring is considered to have talent?
It seems to me that she talks more nonsense than any young lady I have
ever met."

I saw that Mr. Ansdell was interested in her, and she also attracted
Lord Barty--who drove over in a high American buggy with four horses
and brand new harness. He brought with him a tennis set--lawn-tennis
was at that time practically unknown in the colony; it was only played
at Government House and to us was mysteriously connected with the
English aristocracy. He brought also a cask of Allsopp's ale, and two
cases of champagne in which to drink to the winner of the Ubi cup.
This extravagance indicated that Lord Barty had recently received a
remittance from England. He told us with delight that "The Gully" was
now a freehold, that he was going to make his fortune by breeding
Angora goats and prize dogs, that he had a grand-piano and an
icemaking machine on the way out, and that he intended to dam the
creek, lay on water to the garden, and build a tiled bath-room. He
took our breath away; but Lord Barty was always announcing Utopian
schemes which never came to anything, and we felt sure that before
long he would be reduced to driving one horse, to drinking tea, and to
lecturing upon the philosophy of economy and abstinence.

Those who were to take part in the theatricals, or help in the
preparations, came straggling up through the sliprails by twos and
threes the day but one before that appointed for the general rush of
visitors. The Claypoles rode over in company with Sam Bantling and his
sister from the Woorara. Sam was a large, red-faced, red--headed,
corpulent youth, with a fine but quite uncultivated tenor voice, and a
deeply-rooted conviction that he had all the powers of a tragedian.
Some of Sam Bantling's Shakespearian impersonations were decidedly
original, if as a whole, his repertoire lacked variety. Hamlet or
Falstaff, King Lear or Benedick, Touchstone or Othello, all were
fiercely, monotonously tragic. Sam was always tragic, whether riding
or walking, singing or dancing, cracking a stockwhip, tracking up a
heifer, or blowing a bush-fire with his hat; but his round flaming
face, his fiery hair, uncouth figure, colonial drawl, and
eccentricities of pronunciation--for he had a soul above rules--were
so excessively comic in contrast, that Sam Bantling's Hamlet was one
of the features of the district, and he was much sought after in

Maria Bantling was phlegmatic, stolid, and utterly unimaginative. But
Maria had a face modelled upon the antique type; fine hair that
reached below her waist, and fleshy, firmly-curved lips. Therefore
Maria was destined to enact the British druidess in our grand tableau
from the Bridal of Triermain, and Europa in a mythological
representation of the four quarters of the globe.

Old Macalister--he whom Leeson had relieved of his watch and
carbine--followed, with his nephew Angus, in the Claypoles' wake. Poor
old Macalister was very shaky; his nervous system was out of order.
This was particularly noticeable when Jim had neglected to put out the
grog, and old Mac had to pass an hour or two without a nip. His head
would sink upon his breast, and at intervals he would murmur
dejectedly, "A'm a puir old body; A'm not what I wass." But when his
system was reinvigorated by a glass of whisky he would brighten up a
little, and would tell us pointless anecdotes of the time when "A wass
Sergeant-at-Arms in the Legislative Assembly, and the Meenistry and
the Speaker put all their dependence on me for presairving the dignity
and honour of the colony," and of the various refractory members he
had taken into custody. They seemed to have been an unruly set from
his account. His stories were interrupted by many guffaws, for he
always got wildly excited when reverting to this brilliant period of
his career, and his laughter was like the tinkle of a cracked bullock-
bell. He also told us with great pride that Angus's sister had lately
married a Mr. Campbell, cousin to my friend Duncan, the drover, a free
selector who claimed kinship with the Duke of Argyll; and one evening,
when Lord Barty had ventured to dispute with Angus concerning the
breeding of a particular bull known on the Woorara, Mr. Macalister
interposed with dignity, "I'll no be taking a mean advantage of you,
Mr. Lord, but ye'll perhaps concede that there's respect due to the
opeenion of a connection of her Majesty."

Angus was a shy, raw-boned youth, who knew a great deal about the
manners and customs of cattle, but very little about those of ladies.
He took up his quarters by the creek, where tents had been erected for
the accommodation of our bachelor guests. Here a contingent of Bushmen
had already established themselves. They had come from a distance, for
the sake of the racing only, and did not trouble us much with their
company. As each was supposed to bring his own blankets, and any other
little luxuries he might require, and as there was a capital bathing-
hole in the creek, we did not concern ourselves about that department.

We got a good deal of amusement out of our preparations, which were
mostly crowded into the two days before the Races. Tarpaulins had been
borrowed from the stations near, and a levy had been made upon the
crockery of our neighbours. Part of the garden had been inclosed for a
dining-room, and the back verandah was curtained off into a number of
small bed-rooms. It is wonderful how many people an Australian house
will hold upon an emergency, and also how easy it is to entertain an
unlimited number when deficiencies are turned into a joke, or
accounted for by the statement that one of the drays was capsized in a
creek on the way up. That dray must indeed have been heavily loaded,
if there were any truth in our unblushing assertions as to the
delicacies it contained.

Each person took his or her share of work, Captain Claypole assuming
the office of Administrator of the Government, and allotting their
various duties to his subordinates. Mrs. Claypole was appointed to the
kitchen, and two or three of the most impracticable of the Bushmen
were told off to beat eggs and stir custards under her supervision.
Angus Macalister, and others of the brigade from the creek, were sent
to shoot wild ducks. Patty Leadbitter--a pretty harum-scarum little
creature, who sang pert songs from Pinafore and The Pirates of
Penzance, and played practical jokes upon any one who would allow her
the chance--was given two blackboys, a gin to scrub, and three of her
adorers, and commissioned to decorate the new kitchen and prepare the
floor for dancing. Jim took charge of the racing department; Mr.
Kerruel was set to the manufacture of Chinese lanterns; and the rest
of us were placed under the direction of our stage-manager, Lord
Barty, and bidden to make ready for our tableaux, which were to be the
feature of the first evening. These, however, presented serious
difficulties. Bungroopim had not been built with a view to theatrical
performances. The drawing-room was small, and hopelessly unadaptable
to our purposes, with a blank wall at one end and a fireplace at the
other. As a matter of fact, there seemed no possibility of arranging a
stage, and never would have been, had not Mr. Ansdell conceived the
brilliant notion of taking out half-a-dozen of the slabs which divided
the drawing-room from Jim's bedroom.

No sooner suggested than accomplished, though doubts were expressed
as to whether the wall-plate might not give way, or the canvas ceiling
fall down. However, nothing more alarming took place than the
discovery of a whip-snake coiled upon the wooden sleeper, just above
the spot where Miss Bantling was to stand in a condition of "minstrel
ecstasy;" and it was covertly regretted that the reptile had not been
allowed to remain, in the hope that, by its means, some sort of
expression might have been called into Maria's impassive countenance.
There is one advantage in Australian houses--they can be pulled to
pieces almost as easily as a tower made of children's bricks. The
wall-paper and canvas-lining were slit and rolled up; the aperture was
framed with green boughs and a crimson creeper from the scrub, which
had a very pretty effect; a blanket did duty for a drop-scene, and
more blankets and boughs formed a sylvan background, which, if not
appropriate, was at least picturesque.

We had got through the charade and the grand scene from Hamlet--in
which Mr. Macalister insisted upon taking the part of the Ghost--and
were rehearsing the Bridal of Triermain tableau, when Sir Roland de
Vaux himself, in the person of Mr. Price, walked in. Lord Barty was
passionately adjuring Miss Bantling to look ecstatic. She was leaning
upon a harp that had been made by our station carpenter; it was
covered with yellow tissue paper and had twine strings. Robina,
Jennie, and I were kneeling to an imaginary De Vaux, profering
"sceptre, robe, and crown, liegedom and seigneurie." The real Sir
Roland motioning us to remain in position stepped forward and placed
himself in attitude. He looked very handsome, although a little
conceited. His eyes were dark and fiery, and he had that nameless air
of ease and distinction which, in Australia at least, seems the
attribute of a certain type of Englishman. We had half started from
our knees, and our obedience to his mute gesture, notwithstanding the
comicality of the reception, showed that the man had considerable
power of influencing people.

Sam Bantling read aloud the scene with much gusto, though he
pronounced the i long in "Triermain," and "De Vaux" as though it were
"walks" with a v. But we asked Mr. Kerruel, whom Sam respected as a
poet and a man of letters, to correct his little mistakes privately.

"The 'minstrel ecstasy,' Miss Bantling!" cried Lord Barty, in
despair; "you forget that you are an inspired British druidess."

"How can I feel ecstatic when I'm not ecstatic and never was such a
thing in my life?" rejoined Maria in an injured tone; "and how can I
imagine that I am a druidess when I know that I'm nothing of the

"Throw the head back," directed Lord Barty. "So.--Now! The eye
glowing with fervour and enthusiasm--the gaze directed upward--Oh,
come! that is not it, you know."

"Nae, nae," interrupted old Mac; "that isna eet."

"Think of something," continued Lord Barty, persuasively; "something
fine, like being in love, or poetry, or ghosts; something that'll
shake you up and make you squirmy."

"I'm thinking all I can," said Maria, sweetly, "about snakes."

There was a general laugh, and we relaxed somewhat. I had noticed a
swift and enigmatic glance start from Mr. Price's eyes towards Robina.
I now looked at her, and wondered what impression they were making
upon each other. Neither of them were smiling. There was not the ghost
of merriment upon Robina's face. It was very pale, her gaze was fixed
and far-away, and her lips were pressed tightly together as though she
feared they might tremble. I had never seen Robina look quite like
that, and it struck me at once that this was not the first time she
and Mr. Price had met, though in speaking of him she had never claimed
him as an acquaintance.

This impression was confirmed when a few moments later, after we had
all risen, they shook hands with one another quite naturally.

"I had no idea you knew Mr. Price," exclaimed Jennie.

"Yes," answered Robina in a hard, cold voice. "We met a long time
ago when I was an unsophisticated barbarian, and Mr. Price full of
Matthew Arnold--all sweetness and light. I am a barbarian still, but I
am not unsophisticated. I didn't think Mr. Price would remember me. I
daresay he has forgotten Matthew Arnold by this time."

"No, Miss Daring," he replied, "I haven't forgotten Matthew Arnold; I
never forget anything. But sweetness and light are a little out of
date in England. It has been discovered that the age is complex, and
that the faculty to be cultivated is a sense of psychological harmony.
We must suit our sentiments and emotions to our surroundings--one set
for green fields and babbling brooks, another for the mephitic
atmosphere of cities--and so on."

"Another set for barbarians and gum trees. In fact you keep your
emotions ready bottled fit for use, and when you return to the Bush
you take up that particular phial labelled, 'The mixture as before.'
Now Lord Barty, to business again!"

Robina turned abruptly away, giving Mr. Price no time for rejoinder,
and avoiding his look, which was full of inquiry and interest. He drew
aside and watched the next tableau in an absent manner, starting as
though he had been awakened from a deep reverie, when called upon to
take his part from a scene in The Rape of the Lock, in which Miss
Daring was Belinda.

By seven o'clock that evening, everything was in readiness, and most
of our guests--over a hundred in number--had arrived. It was a pretty
sight to see them streaming down from the sliprails, the girls showing
at their best on horseback, and making their steeds prance and curvet
as with tightened rein they cantered across the paddock; the bushmen
in spotless moleskins, and with bridles polished and bits gleaming;
the black boys, picturesque in their bright-coloured shirts, all eyes
and teeth which glistened in contrast with their black faces, cutting
capers and shouting to the tribe which had assembled outside the
fence; and then the long string of racers and packhorses, while every
now and then a heavily freighted buggy would dash up, whip cracking
and harness jingling. As shadows lengthened, the mountains became
many-hued, melting from rose to violet. The plain lay bathed in mellow
light, and the Indian corn in the cultivation paddock was a sheet of
gold. Sunset etherealised every feature in the scene--the homely wood-
heap, the queer tumbledown sheds, the bark-roofed dairy, and sapling
fence covered with pumpkin vines and prickly pears. Bungroopim had
never looked more attractive; the garden spick and span as Peter the
Kanaka could make it; the bougainvillea and bignonia flaunting their
brilliant blossoms, and the waxen stephanotis in bloom twining the
verandah posts.

We, the house party, all collected in the verandah of the new
kitchen, where Patty Leadbitter dispensed tea to the ladies as they
arrived, and the contingent under her orders still twined native
creepers and rubbed the floor with wax-candles. Robina and Mr. Ansdell
apart were gathering stephanotis and talking earnestly, and Mr. Price
languidly made himself agreeable to Jennie. The father and Jim stood
on the wooden steps and had a cheery greeting for each new comer as he
dismounted and flung his bundle of blankets against the railings. The
red and blue heap rose higher and higher till there were no more to be
added; and then there was a rush of bachelors down to the camp. Every
one turned out his own horse and hung his saddle and bridle on the
wooden palings which surrounded the dairy. The blacks ran to and fro
carrying packs and jabbering to each other. Some of the gins ranged
themselves in a semicircle, and shouted in chorus "Budgery white
Mary," as they admiringly contemplated the group of twenty or thirty
girls who crowded round my father, while he gallantly snipped off
sprays of stephanotis and presented some to each fair guest for her
adornment. Then in a spirit of mischief, he turned to St. Helena, the
oldest, ugliest, and most enthusiastic of the gins, and demanded which
white Mary was the handsomest.

But a Black will always give a diplomatic reply; and old St. Helena
held Mrs. Malaprop's opinion concerning comparisons, and would not
commit herself. She leered ecstatically at Robina, whose tall graceful
figure was her most striking point, and lifting her lean arm made the
sound that in a Black is expressive of admiration. "Tsch! Tsch!
budgery long fellow white Mary, h! budgery!" Then glancing at Jennie
she exclaimed, "Tsch! Tsch! budgery mel!" (beautiful eyes), and now
towards Maria Bantling, whose hair yet hung  la Druidess. "Tsch! my
word! budgery grass! all corbon budgery. Everybody budgery!"

The bell clanged, and St. Helena ran whooping down to the camp, made
happy by the present of a fig of tobacco.

Chapter VII.

THE tableaux gave satisfaction, though I believe several of our Bush
neighbours, who had never in their lives heard of anything of the
kind, were sorely puzzled as to the drift of the whole proceeding. Mr.
Ansdell repeated privately to me a remark which one Free Selector was
heard making to another, to the effect that he had always understood
Rachel Murray was short of a sheet of a bark--the Australian
equivalent of "a tile loose"--but he hadn't known before that madness
was a catching complaint, and for his part he thought we had better be
taken to Woogaroo Asylum before it spread any further down the river.

Sam Bantling delivered his oration as Hamlet in a costume of his own
devising, it being composed chiefly of a pair of checked
knickerbockers borrowed from Captain Claypole, a jockey's jacket, and
a Glengarry cap with a plume of cock's feathers; while old Mac,
wrapped in a sheet and rather tottery about the limbs, presented a
remarkable appearance as the Ghost. There was a good deal of amusement
over the Bridal of Triermain tableau and Miss Bantling's "minstrel
ecstasy;" and in the scene from The Rape of the Lock, Robina looked
very lovely in her old-fashioned dress, which she wore during the
remainder of the evening. The charade, however, was rather spiritless.
We all seemed to be at cross purposes. Robina appeared to like talking
behind the scenes--or rather behind the blankets--to Mr. Ansdell,
better than co-quetting on the stage with Mr. Price. She went through
her part in a listless, rather scornful fashion, though occasionally
there was in her manner a kind of covert satire and bitterness which
puzzled me exceedingly, while though her face was set and her voice
metallic, her eyes gleamed with a fire that suggested the conflict of
hidden passions. Mr. Price, on the contrary, was gentle, a little sad
and most assiduous to please. I had never seen him to better
advantage, for he had quite thrown off his air of superiority.

Robina was the centre of attraction that evening. Lord Barty, Mr.
Ansdell, and Mr. Price were her devoted slaves during the performance,
and afterwards she was surrounded by admirers with whom she flirted
impartially. It was a lovely moonlight night, and the garden and
backyard were illuminated with Chinese lanterns; while up near the
stockyard, the Blacks had made a huge bonfire, and were shouting and
dancing round it, their dusky, half-naked forms looking very weird in
the fitful gleams shed by the burning logs. The racing-men had
appropriated the new kitchen, for there was a good deal to arrange
about stakes, entrances, &c., for the next day; so that our party was
rather divided, the more polished of the gentlemen remaining in the
drawing-room where there was music and some languid dancing, the
roughest betaking themselves to the camp or the huts. There the
postman, stockmen, and stray loafers had congregated and were having a
good time smoking, drinking, telling stories and singing comic songs,
of which long-drawn notes floated up occasionally on the breeze from
the plain, interspersed with hoarse laughter.

Late in the evening I saw Mr. Price approach Robina, and wait
patiently till she had dismissed her partner. "Will you not give me
one turn?" he asked pleadingly.

"No," she answered almost with rudeness, "I am tired. I do not mean
to dance any more."

"Will you waltz with me to-morrow evening? It will be like old times,
and I should be glad to think they might come back again."

"Why do you say that?"

"Because I don't think we have either of us had much better times
since then." Robina laughed in an unpleasant way. "My emotions don't
flow in cycles like yours. The 'mixture as before' wouldn't suit me at
all now. Oh, yes, I have had much better times 'since then,' if that
means since my giddy head was turned by the wild excitement of a
Brisbane season. I have spent a winter or two in Melbourne. I have
been very much admired. I am improved--don't you think so? I know my
own value, and that is the first thing a woman ought to learn."

"What do you think now of the success of your scheme?" asked Mr.
Ansdell a few moments later.

He had followed me to my particular nook in the verandah, whither I
had gone to search for a book of waltzes which had been asked for.
Jennie and I had fitted up this corner and held it sacred to our muse.
It was closed in and divided from the rest of the verandah by a
trellis thickly covered with Chinese jasmine, so dense that it looked
like a wall, and was a dangerous trap for the unwary, as sounds could
be heard equally from either side.

"I'm afraid it won't do at all," I answered. "I don't think he
interests her."

"Or perhaps he has interested her too much. Price likes to make women
feel his power. He ought to be labelled dangerous. That is a
contemptible weakness in a man; yet he is not a bad fellow in his way.
He has grand impulses, but no steadiness of purpose or feeling; and he
has the peculiarity of only caring very much for a thing which is
beyond his reach."

"Do you know a great deal about Mr. Price?" I asked.

"Not a great deal; but I know that he was once almost in love with
Miss Daring."

"Were they engaged?"

"Oh, no, Price went off suddenly to England, and the critical
question was never asked."

"And you never said anything when I told you of my match-making

"I had no right to bring a lady's feelings under discussion. And I
wanted to see how your innocent scheme would prosper."

"Well, there is an end of it now."

"I am not so sure of that. It's a curious situation. I should like to
work it out, granting my supposition to be correct. Let us imagine
that some years ago a man of Price's type would have loved a certain
woman if only she had been a little more difficult to win. Suppose
that having won her affections, he withdrew, and that she, humiliated
to the heart's core, becomes hardened and disdainful. Thus changed,
they meet again, and he, following the instinct of his nature, falls
genuinely in love with her. How will her impulses guide her conduct?
Will she finally repulse him, or will she yield to the old
fascination? You see it is a nice study of human nature. All sorts of
complex motives would be brought into play. Everything depends upon
the strength and purity of the woman's love. It might have quite died
out. It might be smouldering ready to blaze afresh, bright as ever.
Can love, real love, be killed in that way, or would it leap up and
crush all that was ignoble? Tell me what you think."

"I don't know. I'm afraid that I haven't thought much about such

"No?" he said questioningly. "You have lived in your own world--you
have had your Bush and your mountains and your enthusiasms about
abstract things, and your books and homely character studies, and you
haven't wanted exciting romance. But sooner or later, you must be
brought face to face with the greatest reality of life."

"I hope if ever that happens," I answered a little unsteadily, "that
I may not be made the victim of any psychological experiments; but
that I may be taught my lesson by a true single-hearted man."

"I hope so too," he replied gravely; "I hope so with my whole heart."

Just then, Sam Bantling's rigorous tenor burst forth filling the air.
"Is it a dream? then waking would be pain. Oh! do not wake me. Let me
dream again,"  sang he after an impassioned style of his own.

A voice sounded from the other side of the partition. It was that of
Robina; and it had changed: its tone was sweeter than before, but I
did not catch the words.

Then Mr. Price spoke. "Let us go into the garden, anywhere, to escape
from that noise. When I hear such singing I am reminded of the
Frenchman who, apparently without motive, murdered one of his friends.
When asked his reason all he replied was, 'Pourquoi donc etait-il
musicien?' I should like to murder Sam Bantling."

Robina and I occupied a tiny verandah room. It was not larger than a
ship's cabin, and there was barely space to move between the beds.
Jennie was to have been my companion; but Robina had an odd kind of
exclusiveness, and declined to share a room with any one but me.
Neither of us seemed that night very much inclined for sleep. We
chattered for some time about all that had been happening, criticising
everybody, as girls do after parties, and discussing dress and such
like trivialities. Then Robina became more serious. She inveighed
against the conventional shackles by which women were bound, and the
sentimental cant that governed their lives! They were taught
duplicity! They were taught to rule by wile and artifice! It was a sin
against the traditions of her sex for a woman to have the courage of
her feelings and opinions! The whole system was false and degrading!
There was no equality between the sexes! A wife must be either slave
or governor! In the latter case she must despise her husband! In fact
she must either despise or be despised! For her part Robina preferred
the first alternative. She was seriously considering whether she would
go out with her brother to the Never-never country, take up a new run,
fight the Blacks and dress up in man's clothes; or whether she would
marry Lord Barty, or some other highborn fool, carry him off to
England, and see what was to be got out of civilisation.

In the midst of this reckless tirade, Robina stopped and burst out
laughing. I asked what amused her.

"Oh, nothing; only life is such a jumble of the sublime and the
ridiculous. There came into my mind at that moment a scene out of an
opera I saw in Melbourne--Aida, I think. The most glorious death-scene
you can imagine; two lovers shut up in a dungeon beneath an Egyptian
temple and doomed to perish. She sings in French, 'Cannot your
colossal strength remove this stone?' He gives a little tap, and then
another. 'Non, non,' he shrieks, in a frenzied manner; and they both
tap as though they were knocking with a croquet mallet. Then they
calmly resign themselves, and expire, after a magnificent duet which
requires an enormous amount of physical exertion. Life is like that
scene in a way. I'm rather mixed, I know, but still I see the
application of the metaphor. We tap feebly at some big moral obstacle
that may be nothing more than lath and brown paper, making a
tremendous fuss all the time, and in reality never putting forth our
strength. Then after a great deal of theatrical rhodomontade, we give
it up as a bad job, and allow ourselves to be overcome by
circumstances, another person's will, anything that happens to get the
better of our judgment."

"Are you afraid of some one or some thing getting the better of you,

"No," she answered excitedly; "haven't I always prided myself upon
being cool and strongminded, and upon never letting myself be governed
by feeling or womanish shrinkings? Why, Rachel child, I've done some
plucky things, as you know. Don't you remember when I got a cropper
down by the Bean-Tree crossing, and dragged myself home with a broken
leg; and you all wondered. I've never really given in about anything,
no matter how hard I was hit."

"Don't you think, Robina," I ventured to say, "that there are some
things it might be nobler to give in about?"

"What sort of things, Rachel?"

"If I loved any one, and there had been a sort of battle between us,
and I was ashamed to let him know he had conquered me, I'd own to it;
against my judgment and pride, I'd be true to my feeling."

"No, Rachel," said she, with a strange kind of smile; "if the man you
loved had made you despise him, you wouldn't trust your feeling, you
would be guided by your judgment."

I did not know what to reply; Robina sat for some time in silence on
the foot of the bed, combing out her long hair. At last she said, "I
suppose you thought it odd that I didn't tell you I had known Mr.
Price four years ago? I am going to make a clean breast of everything.
I think it will be a good thing for me. I've made up my mind; and it
will be like burning the ships, don't you know."

I went and sat down on the bed beside her. I was full of sympathy,
for I felt sure that she was suffering. But my movement seemed to vex
her, for she got up abruptly. "Good gracious!" she exclaimed; "I'm not
going to be sentimental if I can help it. It isn't much of a romance
after all."

She walked rapidly to and fro in the little space, then halted, and
leaning her elbows on the dressing-table, while every now and then she
gazed abstractedly at her own face in the looking-glass, began her
story. She told it in a very jerky, disconnected fashion, with long
pauses which impressed her words upon my memory, and I listened and
waited, not daring to hurry or interrupt her. It had a great effect
upon my imagination, and I write her own words as nearly as I can
recollect them.

"It was when I was first in Brisbane--the year I came out. I went
down a raw Bush girl to stay with Agnes Stirling, and go to some
Government House balls. You can't think what a new chum I was at it
all. I had no more idea of flirting than a baby. When people told me I
was pretty, I thought they were making fun of me. I was just as fresh
and simple as a sprig of mountain wattle--that was what he used to
call me. I loved riding, and I loved dancing; and I believed in
everybody. I believed intensely in Mr. Price."

Robina stopped, and looked steadily at herself in the glass. Her eyes
seemed to grow larger with unshed tears, and there was a falter in her
voice when she went on--

"I don't believe, Rachel, there is anything in the world so
beautiful or so sweet as a very young girl's love. If I were a man, I
couldn't deliberately set myself to win an innocent girl's heart. I
should be afraid. I should feel that I was not worthy. It would seem
to me that I was letting loose an angel, seeing it soar forth full of
faith and hope and trust, all white as snow, knowing that it must
return with broken wings and smirched plumage, to reproach me for its
lost purity. I couldn't take the responsibility. I wonder any man dare
face it... "She heaved a deep sigh. "Oh, it's very sad; it's very sad!
One thinks of the saying, 'Offences must needs come, but woe to him by
whom the offence cometh.' ..." She laughed again. "I needn't envy
Captain Claypole his faculty for seeing himself from the dramatic
point of view. I can become truly pathetic over the wrongs of that
unfortunate Bush girl. She has quite a distinct individuality. I think
that I shall write a story about her; and I'll give it to you, Rachel,
for the Bungroopim Magazine. You know when once poets and novelists
are able to turn their own sorrows into copy, it's a sure sign that
they have ceased to suffer.

"Mr. Price was always at the Stirlings. He went with us to our
balls, danced with me a great deal and with no one else, rode with us,
and devoted himself to us generally. He was quite a noticeable person
in Queensland society--English, you know, and a little blas and sad,
as if he had a history--in short, a sort of Sir Lancelot. There was in
his manner a touch of world weariness and cynicism, and a something at
once protective and appealing that was just the thing to stir a
romantic child's imagination. He used to draw me out, and make me tell
him all that I thought, and then gradually he got into a way of
talking about himself in a half--melancholy strain which touched me
inexpressibly. He was trying an experiment on me and on himself.
There's something very curious about his frank egotism. He's a moral
vivisectionist. He would cut out a woman's heart, figuratively
speaking, for the sake of giving himself a fresh interest in life; and
if the study proved less absorbing than he had hoped, he would lay it
aside, and tell her of his disappointment, and explain his motives
with the utmost candour. But he would look surprised if she questioned
his right to injure her. He has periodical phases of being unhappy,
worn out, and in need of a fresh stimulus. Then, he reinvigorates his
emotional system by trying an experiment in love-making, just as we
might try a patent medicine. Of course it's doubtful in either case
what the effect will be, or how long it will last.

"I am sure that he did his best to feel an absorbing interest in me,
and almost persuaded himself that he had succeeded. But I can quite
see that then, as an experiment, I may have been a little monotonous;
I wasn't sufficiently complex. I took everything for granted. I did
not analyse my feelings. I hardly knew how much I cared for him, or in
what way. You can't analyse love. It grows unconsciously to yourself
till it becomes your very being. You seem to live by turns in sunlight
and moonlight with a tender invisible presence always beside you, and
you don't know what causes the dreamy sense of happiness that comes
over you, so that to live is poetry, and to think is music--you don't
want to know; it would break the spell.

"One evening we were alone in the Stirling's verandah--oh, I remember
it so well! I thought of it to-night, when we were standing under the
datura tree, and it was like the echo of a bitter pain. It seemed
terrible that so much that was strong and beautiful should have been
taken out of one, and nothing left but bitterness. That's the worst of
this kind of misery. You can't dwell upon past joy, even when it was
the most intense joy, because the recollection of it has been
poisoned, and there's only the taste of gall remaining... Well! the
sickly scent brought everything most vividly before me this evening. A
datura climbed against that verandah and some red poinsettia-leaves
growing near, contrasted strangely with the great white bells. He
began to talk of his objectless life, and said in his queer candid way
that he knew he had a great many faults, and that instability was one
of them. He said that he was an odd mixture of impulsiveness and
coolness; he got carried to a certain point, then something within him
always made him stop and dissect his own feelings. He often wished
that he could go beyond that point; but it was no use wishing, and
certainly the power of analysing himself gave zest to a situation. It
seemed cold-blooded perhaps, but in reality it was only a question of
temperament, and he was fortunate in knowing his own nature; at all
events he was honest. He was certain that the only straight road
through life was to be true to one's own nature--and so on. Then he
told me that he intended going to England in the spring, and asked me
if I had ever thought much of England, and if I should like to live
there; and without waiting for me to reply, he added that he was very
sorry to leave Australia. Do you know the dreary aching that creeps
into one at the bare suggestion of some terrible possibility? It came
upon me like a shock that I had rather die than lose him. I think that
I cried out. I don't know what I did. And then my one longing was to
get away from him and hide my face. But when I moved, he made me look
at him, and he put his arms round me--and kissed me--and then I did
not care about any thing, or feel afraid any more--I was so happy."

Robina's voice had faltered once or twice; and now she broke down
altogether, and laid her head upon the high dressing-table; and a sob,
which she tried hard to suppress, shook her all over. Presently she
went on:--

"It was the first time in my life that any one had made love to me in
that way. It seemed to me like a leap into another world. I had all
the most romantic and innocent notions that a girl can have about the
sacredness of a caress, and I've tried to keep them. I've never let
any one kiss me like that since, and I"--Robina stopped suddenly; her
tone changed. "Never mind, you understand what I mean;...I don't know
what he said to me. I have often tried to recall it, and I cannot. It
was all very sweet and dreamy and indefinite; and in a minute or two
Agnes called to me, and there was the sound of an arrival, and my
father's voice in the drawing--room. He had come down unexpectedly.
There was something wrong with his eyes, and he was going to see an
oculist in Sydney, and wanted to take me with him. He had arranged
that we should start by a steamer that was leaving early next morning;
and there was no time to be lost in making preparations. Mr. Price
said good-night and went away. I had no opportunity of speaking to him
alone, and I felt too dazed to make one. All he said was, 'You will
let me know how your father goes on, and if I can be of any use to you
here.' I packed up and made ready that night. It was uncertain how
long we were to be away, but I promised Agnes Stirling that if we
returned by Brisbane, I would finish my visit to her on the way home.

"I thought that Mr. Price would be at the wharf to see us off, but he
was not there. I felt sure, however, that he would write to me in
Sydney. Yet no letter came, nor did he follow me as I had half hoped,
for a few weeks later Agnes told me that he had gone away from
Brisbane. Oh, what slow agony it is, waiting for a letter that never
comes! Night after night to lie down in hope; morning after morning to
wake and watch with every pulse throbbing--and for nothing! Yet always
trusting, always fighting against the gnawing sense of injury that
will creep up close and eat one's heart. I read in a book the other
day that to love is to give some one the power of torturing you. It's
quite true; and there's the mockery of the whole thing--that there
should be such an affinity between two human beings, and yet that one,
who is all the world to you, should be able to hurt you more cruelly
than your bitterest enemy! You get to know the difference between
active and slow pain. There are as many phases in mental sufferings as
in physical. The most terrible time is at first, when you are quite
bewildered and don't know what to think, where to turn, or how to deal
with this new disease that has taken possession of you. That is how I
felt in Sydney. We had to stay there nearly two months, for Papa's
eyes did not get well as soon as he hoped. I wrote once to Mr. Price
and told him that we were detained, and why, and directed the letter
to his address in Brisbane. I never got any answer; and even still I
grow hot when I think of what I wrote. But I couldn't help writing. It
was the cry of my heart: it was just wrung from me.

"At last we were able to leave Sydney. It was late one evening when
we steamed into the bay at the mouth of the Brisbane river. A member
of the Queensland Government was on board, and he had been very
anxious that we should arrive in time to catch the Torres Straits'
boat which was lying outside the bar. He wanted to say good-bye to one
of his colleagues who was a passenger in her to Singapore. There was
to be a grand semi-political banquet on board the Chang-foo, to which
the minister invited us, offering to take us back with him in the
Government steam--tug. At dark we were hailed, and we pulled over to
the Chang-foo, which looked very inviting with rockets going off on
deck, and a cheery assemblage of people--many of whom we knew. The
Stirlings were there; but it was not till we were all seated at table,
that I saw, a little lower down on the opposite side, Mr. Price.

"O Rachel! that banquet is still a night-mare to me; the long
speeches, the dreary chaffing of the ministers, the slow movements of
the Chinese waiters, the interminable number of the dishes--and all
the time I was wondering--longing--dreading to meet his eyes, and
counting every moment till release should come.

"Then, as I was going up the companion-ladder, knowing that he was
following me, I heard some one at the foot say: 'You will have fine
weather for your voyage, Price. How shall you go on from Singapore--by
the Messageries or the P and O?'

"'The Messageries, I think,' he answered. 'My people will be on the
Riviera this winter, and will probably meet me at Marseilles.'

"I managed to get on to the deck, and hid myself as well as I could
near the helm, till the queer feeling of faintness that came over me
had passed off a little. The girls who were trooping up from the
saloon routed me out of my nook, and plied me with questions about
Sydney. It seemed such maddening mockery, but happily it did not last
long. The tug was getting up her steam, and the great screw of the
mail boat began to revolve. I knew that in a very short time we should
have left the Chang--foo, and she would be on her way to Singapore. It
was like waiting for the end of the world--like watching the life-
blood ebb away. Presently he came to me. We looked straight into each
other's faces, but I could not speak. There were people passing to and
fro, and he took my hand and led me high up to the stern, where we
were alone, and it was quite dark, except for the lantern at the
wheel; we could hear the water splashing below us.

"'I am leaving Australia,' he said; 'I have made up my mind that it
is best for me to go to England. I don't know whether I shall ever
come back again.'

"I could not answer him. I felt so giddy and stupid.

"'I am restless,' he said, 'my partners and the people in Australia
who have been good enough to be interested in me, ought to feel glad
that I am going. I'm an unsatisfactory person to deal with. I know it;
it is my fault or my misfortune, and I own it; my one merit is
candour. I want too much out of life, I am discontented, and I should
make anybody I lived with discontented too.'

"At last I said, 'I have come back just in time to bid you good-

"'No,' he answered, 'you have come too late.'

"And then I cried out, 'Why too late? It is never too late when
people can be face to face with each other.'

"'It is always too late or too soon with me,' he said. 'I wish that
it were not so. I wish that I were different. I am either over-
impulsive or over-calculating, and I get shipwrecked on one or the
other extreme. I know that you are sorry for me, Miss Daring. I've
often told you the faults in my character. You have always been full
of sympathy and kindness. I shall value the remembrance of your
friendship. If you had left Sydney a day later you would have received
a letter from me. I got yours, and I am glad to be able to thank you
for it; it was very sweet and good--like yourself. I'm glad to see you
once more.'

"That was all. He had sufficient nice feeling to make no allusion to
that evening. He spared me the worst humiliation. We shook hands with
each other when the time came, and I wished him a pleasant voyage. I
think my voice must have sounded strangely; but I kept from breaking
down or saying anything frantic. In fact I didn't feel much just then,
I was only cold and numb and dazed.

"There was a great deal of confusion on board; speeches and cheering,
and parting bumpers of champagne drunk. Then we were put into the tug,
and I watched the Chang-foo glide slowly away between the lightships
till there was nothing but the faint red trail of her smoke, while we
steamed back to Leichardt's Town.

"It was a queer trip home. Our little steamer throbbing and groaning
up the broad river; white houses and banana-plantations and grey
fields of pine-apples stretching along the sides; here and there a
mud-bank with a skeleton-like beacon or white buoy, and the cold
starlight making everything look most ghost-like and melancholy. There
was dancing on the deck, and the band played waltzes--the Soldaten
Lieder and the Faust. I never hear them without fancying myself back
on that river, and feeling the chill. Somebody put a great-coat round
me, and the Minister for Works who had asked us to the Chang-foo
patted me on the shoulder rather unsteadily, saying, "That's right!
she's a nice little girl and wants keeping warm." People made a great
noise. Several of the gentlemen, particularly the leading senators,
had drunk too many toasts, and there was an undignified ministerial
chorus, in which the members of the Government stood in a row, and
sang to a hymn tune--'There is a land of pure delight,'  I forget the
next line--'Where roasted pigs run singing out, "Come eat me if you

"There! that's the beginning and middle of my story, Rachel. I
promise you that you shall hear the end in good time."

"What will the end be, Robina?"

"Ah! I can't tell you. It will not be that they lived happily ever
afterwards. I think that I could make him care for me now if I were to
try; I saw it in his face and manner to-night. He is very
impressionable, and I puzzled him a little. I'm not mean enough to try
for the sake of revenge, and I couldn't hurt him as he has hurt me; he
is not capable of suffering so. And I don't want to hurt him. In spite
of the hardness and bitterness and badness of it, there's something
tender and beautiful in a real feeling of that sort, which will keep
welling up. It's like a child that has brought grief and disgrace, but
is not to be put away from its mother's heart. I'm sorry for him to-
night, because I know that he is sorry--he must be sorry when he
thinks of that poor little Bush girl and the letter she wrote. I'd
like to make it easier for him, and lift the burden of his regret."

"O Robina!" I cried, "if you feel like this, you will forgive him and
trust him again."

Robina smiled in a strange, pathetic way. She moved from the
dressing-table, and began thoughtfully to twist up her hair, looking
at me all the time; then she shook her head slowly.

"The Bush girl might, but she's dead; she died in the little steamer
that went back from the Chang-foo that night. If I had wanted that, I
wouldn't have told you my story. I've told you--perhaps because I
wished to make sure that I didn't want it. Rachel," she added,
abruptly, "do you hear the dingoes? They're wondering what's up with
all the quiet Bungroopim hands. And just listen to them at the camp--
hard at it still! Well, we don't want to look like two sheets of
stringy bark to-morrow. Goodnight! I shall need all my pluck, for I am
going to ride Folorn Hope myself for the Ubi cup."

She would not talk any more, or let me say another word, and we both
lay down, but I am almost sure that Robina cried for some time before
she went to sleep; and I kept awake wondering if other Englishmen were
as heartless as Mr. Price.

Chapter VIII.

JENNIE awoke me in the morning by thrusting under my nose a most
lovely breast-knot of heliotrope and stephanotis, which, she said, Mr.
Ansdell had arranged for me. He sent one to Robina also. Both the
bouquets were fixed with wires in a manner that is not usual in
Australia. Robina said that it savoured of English fastidiousness, and
was a delicate reminder to us that we fell short of the European
standard, and she brought forth her worst Australian slang by way of
asserting her independence.

All the ladies appeared in their habits, and while we were
breakfasting in the tent the blackboys caught and saddled our horses,
every now and then poking in a woolly head, and inquiring "which
fellow, white Mary," owned this or that bit, saddle-cloth, or crupper?

There was a perfect Babel within the tent, and the long table was
quite full. The British druidess at one end dispensed tea from a
monstrous tin tea-pot that might have served at a Gargantuan feast;
while Jennie at the other presided over a coffee--pot of equally large
dimensions, which necessitated the attendance of Jim and half--a-dozen
strong-armed cavaliers. But, as a rule, the Bushmen kept their
gallantry in reserve till the evening; and just now were hacking
busily at cold rounds and gigantic loaves, talking all the time about
horses and cattle. They all looked sleek and fresh after a morning
swim in the creek. Several had already donned their jockey-suits, and
two or three had forgotten their coats altogether, and so kept in the

By half-past ten we were all in our saddles and cantering down the
paddock to the race-course. The plain looked very gay with flags
floating here and there from the dead gum-trees, and strings of
horsemen careering across it in all directions. The river, with the
dark line of scrub beyond, bounded it on one side, and at the other
some steep little hills rose abruptly, forming a sort of amphitheatre.
One knoll jutted out on to the flat, and here, under a spreading
applegum, seats had been placed and a bowery luncheon-shed erected.

From the crest of the ridge might be had our show-view of the dear
old Crag and the Woorara range. Some of us cantered up there and
carved our initials on a monumental tree, which recorded in almost
illegible hieroglyphics the great events which had taken place in our
time at Bungroopim--the big flood, the Bush fire, the father's return
for the electorate of Ubi, the visit of his Excellency the Governor to
the district, a huge kangaroo battue, the birthday of Jim's prize
bull, and many other striking incidents.

We started an old man kangaroo on the ridge. The dogs gave chase, and
Robina Daring heading the field, we galloped down the incline on the
other side and over an iron bark flat, startling the wallabis and
bandicoots, and making them scuttle away to their hollow logs. There
was a roll over mid a cloud of dust and twigs. The big grey thing
bounded on again, followed more languidly by the yelping hounds, while
we, reminded by the starting-bell that the day's sport was beginning,
turned back and reached the racecourse in time to see the postman's
bay filly fly past the winning post.

Young Macalister won the next race, and Sam Bantling and Lord Barty
came in a dead heat for the third, the latter heavily handicapped as
his horse had won the last Ubi cup. Lord Barty was light and lithe,
and rode with judgment, so that when not interested in the race
himself, he was usually riding for some one else. In spite of Robina's
manly declaration that she would be her own jockey, it was Lord Barty
who won the cup for her on Forlorn Hope. A curious little scene took
place in the saddling paddock when the horses were led out. Robina,
ready to mount, was strenuously resisting Lord Barty's pleading and
our urgent entreaties that she would let him take her place. Forlorn
Hope was a lean long-legged chestnut, a vicious beast and given to
bolting; Robina liked to display her courage and, though he had caused
her one or two serious accidents, she clung obstinately to Forlorn
Hope. She said his temper suited her own. Upon this occasion Captain
Claypole provoked her ire by telling her that the horse was not safe,
and that he should be sorry to risk his own neck by riding him for the
first time in a Bush steeplechase. There had been a good deal of
consultation among the gentlemen on the subject. All were nervous on
Robina's account, but all had as yet failed to dissuade her.

At the last moment Mr. Price stepped up and rapidly spoke a few words
to her in a low tone. Robina turned pale and looked at him with a
shade of defiance while he continued more insistently. Involuntarily,
I had moved a few paces back, and could not hear the colloquy. It was
short and decisive. Mr. Price was speaking with great earnestness;
Robina's face softened, her eyes had a far-off look, and from his shot
a gleam of triumph. She turned away and motioned Lord Barty to her
side. "Very well!" I heard her say, "since you appeal to my honour;
but I thought women were privileged to have no honour. That is the
prerogative of man."

"Caught in your own trap, Miss Daring," said Captain Claypole; "you
disdain the privileges of your sex."

Robina laughed unsteadily. I felt sure that her wakeful night had
shaken her nerve.

"Lord Barty," said she, "you may risk your neck if you choose. I'm
obliged to give in, not because I am in a funk, but because Mr. Price
has taken advantage of a promise I made him long ago, and I don't
think I have ever broken my word."

Lord Barty mounted delightedly. She gave him a few directions, and
then walked back to the knoll, resolutely avoiding Mr. Price. I never
heard what her promise had been. She did not again allude to the

I never liked Lord Barty so much as when he cantered past on Forlorn
Hope, his round English face set with such grim determination, that we
were sure he had set himself no easy task. "He's a plucky little
fellow!" said Robina to me with her odd laugh. "I think that I could
manage him; I am not sure that it wouldn't suit me better to marry
Lord Barty, than to take up country in the Never-Never Land."

It happened just as had been expected. At the first hurdle Forlorn
Hope bolted straight in among the gum-trees, and I shuddered to think
of what might have happened had Robina been on his back. I distrusted
the strength of her wrists on that morning, and the timber was thick
in the middle of the flat. The Blacks had left tall stumps and loose
spiky branches dangerous to a lady's habit. But Lord Barty could ride
like a Bushman if he could do nothing else in Australian fashion.
Perhaps sympathy with Robina had inspired him in the management of her
horse. At any rate Forlorn Hope found his master, and was put back at
the hurdle. He was a splendid jumper, and before the first round, had
caught up his competitors. In the second they were distanced, and
notwithstanding the mishap at the beginning, Lord Barty won the race
easily. Had Mrs. Claypole's mare, Gipsy Girl, been running, the stake
might have been better contested; but at the last moment she was
disqualified on account of her age. Lord Barty was, however, very
triumphant, and seemed to think he had earned the right to monopolise
Robina during the rest of the day.

The other races were run, but of course, that for the Ubi cup was the
event of the programme, and was recorded in the annals of the
district, alas! with a commentary of more melancholy import than we
then dreamed.

The Bungroopim purse, the consolation stakes, and the blackboy's
race, were less exciting, but we lingered till the end--loitering
under the shadow of the ridge, or riding slowly along through the
long-bladed grass by the side of the creek, while low down on the
banks the mulgam and the maidenhair grew thick, and the yellow flowers
of a cactus-like plant gave forth their aromatic perfume.

Lord Barty's champagne flowed freely in the tent that evening. The
health of every winner was drunk, and finally the Ubi cup was filled
and handed round after the fashion of the loving cup at a Mansion
House dinner, and everybody looked towards Robina Daring, and wished
long life and many successes on the turf to Forlorn Hope.

After that we all adjourned to the new kitchen whither the piano had
been carried, and the professional tuner of the district, who had a
knack of turning up promiscuously at race-meetings, broke forth into a
strain so seductive, that the most savage of the Bushmen was wooed

The approach of Sam Bantling, tragically intent upon securing a
partner, was the signal for a general pairing off--Lord Barty and
Robina, Jennie and Jim, Captain Claypole and the British druidess, and
the rest in due order, concluding with Mr. Ansdell and myself. The
Bushmen who could not get partners danced with each other; but after a
little while voted this dull work, and as the number of ladies was
limited and the suggestion that a few lubras should be got up from the
camp energetically vetoed, they drew off into the garden and amused
themselves there.

Robina danced, smiled, and was more than usually merry. There was a
bright flush upon her cheeks, and she seemed determined not to be
still for an instant. She was a charming vision in her white dress,
with the stephanotis wreathing her head; but in her eyes there was a
look which contradicted the laughter upon her lips. I observed that
Mr. Price stood rather moodily apart and watched her. I don't think
that he danced with any one till Mrs. Claypole claimed him as her
partner in the Swedish country dance, which Captain Claypole was
trying to introduce upon the Ubi. We all stood in two rows, ladies on
one side, and gentlemen on the other. It was pretty to see the lissome
figures of Robina and Jennie threading the couples. These two girls
entered with great spirit into the performance. If they had not been
so graceful, one would have said that they romped. That certainly did
the others, young and old. Only one matron trod the floor with
dignity; and it might have been a court minuet when the turn came to
Mrs. Claypole and Mr. Macalister. Her stateliness awed the old man
into an almost preternatural solemnity. They bowed and curtsied, took
each other's hands by the finger-tips, and glided down the boards with
magnificent composure, old Mac dressed in the official costume of the
sergeant-at-arms, which he still cherished, and donned at any
important function; she in a black satin train and antique lace, and
with an old-fashioned diamond cross gleaming upon her Juno-like neck.

But my impressions of that evening are confused and dreamy--two or
three scenes and persons standing out vividly in my imagination, the
rest all shadowy. I was weary in body, and my mind was full of
troubled and joyous thoughts curiously blended. The day had been
momentous to several of us. It was not only that the curtain had been
lifted from that sad little drama of which Robina was the central and
pathetic figure; Jennie and I had in our turn become heroines, and
were living our own stories. We had dreamed very sweetly, and had
woven many romances, sitting upon our log in mid-stream, with the ti-
tree waving its blossoms above our heads, and the parrots and
cockatoos telling their love-tales in the gum-trees round us; and all
the time Jennie's hero--kind, homely Jim--was waiting his opportunity,
and mine also was waiting, to gallop across this very river, in our
mad race, when the hailstorm pursued us from the Woorara mountains. I
had never thought that Jennie, with all her poetic fancies and her
aspirations, would be satisfied with Jim; but sisters are not good
judges of their brothers' powers of attraction: and I remembered that
at first Mr. Ansdell had fallen short of her ideal. So I congratulated
her warmly when she told me that she had accepted Jim, but did not
just then confide the secret of my own happiness. I knew now that Mr.
Ansdell cared for me, and was quite content that my enthusiasm should
expend itself upon definite as well as abstract objects; but it was a
little bewildering at first, and not ripe for discussion. That was why
the dancers that evening, seemed like the moving, grotesque figures on
a magic-lantern slide--all except Robina and one or two others; and
the little scraps of conversation which reached me while the
promenaders passed to and fro in the verandahs were unreal as
fantastic echoes from dreamland.

Now, Lord Barty and Robina, he bending earnestly towards her--

"I prefer to wait for my master, or to emancipate myself altogether
in the Never--Never country," she was saying.

"That's a Jane Eyre-ish idea--no, you're not heartless. Robina, I'll
prove..." And then the British Druidess announcing stolidly, "Pleuro
is very bad our way. I don't believe much in inoculation--do you?"

"My word, yes!" The tone of cheerful conviction was Angus
Macalister's. "You wouldn't say that, Miss Bantling, if you had gone
through our last muster at Bingewogarie. Any amount of beasts without
tails; but we didn't lose a hundred head from pleuro."

And now a stout Hibernian lady from a sheep-station down the river--

"Forty miles yesterday afternoon, captain! Sure, and we think nothing
of it. Nora--that's me sister--led the pack. If I hadn't told her that
we must have some dacent clothes she'd have danced in her habit. Sure,
and she's never happy but on the back of a horse."

"Oh, this won't do--this won't do at all!" exclaimed Mr. Ansdell.
"Let us go across to the other house, and hide ourselves in your
corner of the verandah. No one will disturb us there." We went; but by
and by Lord Barty, shouting "Ansdell! Ansdell! where are you?" pounced
upon us. Robina was still upon his arm. Now, she dismissed him. The
race-committee was settling up, as the judge, who was also manager of
the great meat-preserving establishment, was combining business with
pleasure, and had to take delivery of a mob of cattle upon the morrow.
They wanted Mr. Ansdell immediately to decide a mooted question
concerning the age of one of his horses which had been a winner that
day. The two gentlemen left us. Robina sank wearily into a squatter's
chair. Her eyes followed Lord Barty's stripling figure as it
disappeared under the covered passage which led to the kitchen, and
which was decorated with Mr. Kerruel's paper lanterns. "I like him,"
said she. "Now, I wonder how I should pass muster in England! He's a
good little boy. He deserves--to be married or left alone?"

"Left alone," I replied emphatically.

"Oh no, Rachel!" answered she. "I can't leave any one alone. It isn't
my nature to. Oh, how tired I am! I am just kept up by the excitement
of scenes. I am bent upon being melodramatic to-night."

"Then here's your opportunity," said I, grimly. "Look!"

We both watched Mr. Price emerge from the lantern-lit passage and
make straight for our retreat. He must have watched Robina go in, and
probably imagined that she was there alone. There was no light except
that thrown by the lanterns outside--not sufficient to enable him to
distinguish me, for I was dressed in black. Robina's white gown stood
out grey against the dark background. Except where an archway gave
entrance to the arbour, it was closed in on three sides by a thickly-
covered trellis; the slab wall of the house formed the other side. It
had once been a shillion-room, and was irregular in shape, a great
wooden chimney abutting into it. Beside the chimney was a recess
screened still more effectually by a high stand of calladiums. As Mr.
Price's step sounded on the gravel, Robina seized me by the hand and
forced me back into the angle.

"Stay here," she said; "you shall hear what he has to say."

I expostulated: "No, no, Robina, it would not be honourable."

"Nonsense! Don't you understand that I look upon you as a safeguard?
I can't make a fool of myself if I know that you are there listening
to every word I am saying. Hush! Now stir or speak at your peril!"

She moved forward, leaving me planted against the wall. I could see
the outline of her head and shoulders as she placed herself upon a
bench near the opening. Mr. Price entered and seated himself also,
with a deliberate air, as though he had a definite purpose.

"I saw that Lord Barty had left you. May I stay here for a little
while? I have got something to say to you."

"Say on," answered she, laconically.

"Robina, why are you so hard to me?"

She seemed thrown off her guard. "I hard!" she repeated, with the
tremor in her tone; "I hard to you!"

"Yes, you are hard to me. You won't give me credit for any sincerity.
You say biting things to me. You will not allow me an opportunity of
showing you that I am not so despicable as you suppose--that I am
capable of genuine feeling. Tell me honestly. Are you going to accept
Lord Barty?"

"Perhaps. I have not made up my mind. Don't you think it would be a
good thing for me? You used to say that I ought to marry an

"No," he answered fiercely, stooping towards her. "How should I think
it a good thing when I want to marry you myself?"

"Ah!" she gave a long sigh. "Is that true? But you did not wish it
four years ago. You could not make up your mind."

He drew back as though he winced at her words. "You understood the
position," he exclaimed. "I always felt so. You knew even then that my
worst self was struggling against my better nature."

"Ah!" she repeated. "You should not tell me this if you wish me to
think the best of you. I might sympathise with you if you were a
woman. Such a struggle might be natural in a woman; it is weakness in
a man."

"And the one thing you can't pardon is weakness. Do you never allow
any grace to yourself?"

"Certainly, I have needed it," she replied gravely.

"Well," he said, after a little pause, "you observe that I still make
the most of my one redeeming virtue--candour. Will you in your turn be
frank? Will you admit that you loved me then?"

Robina did not answer at once. At length she said, "Yes, I will admit
that I loved you then."

"And now?" She was silent.

He got up and stood before her; he spoke very earnestly--

"I am not going to be weak, since you despise weakness. It would be
weak to try and explain or excuse my indecision--my unmanliness--my
utter folly. You are great enough to forgive all that has to be
forgiven--if you care for me still, and I hope that I am not such a
poor creature as to be unworthy of your trust--if you will trust me. I
love you with my whole heart and soul. I found it out I fancy upon
that wretched night when the sea was widening between us. I have had
four years during which I have tried hard to think differently; and I
haven't succeeded. It's once for all with me now."

Robina sat still silent.

"Don't you believe in my sincerity?" he asked. "Tell me."

"I think that you are almost always sincere--at the time," she
answered slowly; "but your moods vary."

"Is your doubt of me the only drawback?" he said. "If you were
certain that my feeling for you is as strong and sustained as I wish
you to think it, would you give me a chance then?"

"There are a great many drawbacks," she said. "But there is no use in
talking about them."

"Very well." He folded his arms and stood back, looking at her.
"There may be a hundred. It does not matter as long as you love me. I
can wait, I am not afraid. You will believe in me in time. I shall
wait till you are married--to Lord Barty, or some one else; and then,
I shall give you up. Not before."

Robina rose. I could see her head bent, and her eyes drooped as if
she dared not let her gaze meet his, when, in the half light, the
gleam of love must shine forth and betray her. She seemed struggling
within herself; and uncertain what to say, or how to act. I thought
for a minute that she was going to yield. I wished fervently that she
could be rid of the embarrassing consciousness which I knew that my
presence must cause. I felt that had there been no listening ear, her
heart might have spoken.

She began a sentence wildly, "Why did you--?" then stopped. "I can't,
I can't," she said feebly. "I am sorry that you should be unhappy, but
there's no use in digging up what is dead. It was too late when the
Chang-foo steamed out of the Bay. It was all over. You had carried
your experiment too far. My love was killed that night."

"Robina," he said passionately, "it would come to life again if you
would let it. Don't trample it down. That's all I ask. Don't go and
engage yourself rashly to Lord Barty. Don't thrust me from you. Don't
harden yourself against me. You're not a woman to change. True love
doesn't change or wither up. I would stake everything that there's a
root alive in your heart still."

Robina moved back a little as though she were bracing herself
together, and spoke more determinedly. "You are wrong. Do you imagine
that I'd ever have owned I loved you once, if I could feel for you in
that way now? It's all too late. It was too late when we parted on
board the Chang-foo."

"Oh, no!" he interrupted, smiling. "That was too soon."

"For you perhaps--not for me. At any rate, it is ended. Don't let us
talk of it any more. We have just got to take things as they are now,
and not to hark back upon what might have been. I'm changed in every
way from the girl you knew then. I should not be happy as your wife. I
don't know whether I shall marry Lord Barty or not--most probably not;
but if I were to do so, I think he would suit me better than you. I
should know at least what I was undertaking, and how to get my own
way. He would not be always wanting to adjust himself to his
background; whereas unless I were to chain you to one place, I could
never be sure of you."

"Try me," he said, with most beseeching tenderness. "Give me a chance
of proving to you that my love is worth having."

Robina laughed very sadly, and quoted--"For Stephanie sprained last
night her wrist, Ankle or something. 'Pooh,' cry you? At any rate she
danced all say Vilely; her vogue has had its day."

"The gods have willed it otherwise. Goodbye. I am going to finish my
dances now." She paused in the doorway and looked back. "Good-bye,"
she repeated. "Don't be sorry." There was a world of yearning in her
voice. A little more, I fancied, and the barriers might be broken
down. But she steeled herself again. "It seems my turn now to hurt
you," she said. "But you hurt me a great deal more that night. And
just to think that this should happen between you and me--now! How
strange it is! What a mockery! It is utterly sad. The saddest and
strangest part of the whole thing is feeling that all that pain was
suffered to no end--but this--What was the good of it?"

"You would know the good," he said brokenly, after a pause, "if you
would let me try and atone for that pain."

But she did not hear these words. She was gone. He gave a queer kind
of groan, and sat down in the seat from which she had risen a few
minutes before. He leaned back, his handsome profile turned upwards. I
wondered how long he would stay there, and trembled lest he should
discover that I was so near him. My heart ached for him, though at the
same time I despised him for his selfishness and vacillation. I had an
almost uncontrollable impulse to rush out and tell him that Robina
loved him. I never quite knew afterwards whether I was glad or sorry
that I had not done so. Presently there were steps upon the gravel;
and I shuddered in agony lest they should be those of Mr. Ansdell in
pursuit of me. Mr. Price got up. I heard him repeat softly to himself
a line or two of the poem Robina had quoted: "Schumann's our music-
maker now; Has his march-movement, youth, and mouth, Ingres's the
modern man that paints... . Heine for songs; for kisses, how?"

It was evidently a favourite with both of them. Then, to my intense
relief, he left the arbour; and I was able to make my escape. Robina
did not return to the new kitchen. I saw her no more that evening till
the dance was over and I had gone to our little room. She was in bed
with her face to the wall, so that I could not tell whether or not she
were asleep. In the morning when I awoke late, she was already dressed
in her riding habit, and sitting at the foot of her bed. Her elbows
rested upon her knees, her palms supported her chin, and her eyes were
wide open, forlorn and brooding, while her finery lay strewn on the
floor, half in, and half out, of the gaping saddle-bags.

She laughed at the bewildered look with which I confronted her.

"Marius among the ruins of Carthage, Rachel! Here have I been sitting
for the last half hour surrounded by my tattered illusions, and
thinking what a fool I have been to waste my substance upon a shadow."

"What does it mean, Robina? You are not packing up to go away?"

"Yes, I am, Rachel. There's no safety for me except in flight, and
I'm off this morning with the Claypoles and the Macalisters, and the
rest of the Woorara mob. Don't look so flabbergasted. I'm certain that
you don't want me at present; and I'll ride over again in a week or
two and carry my congratulations with me. You'd better not have them
now; they'll bring you bad luck."

I remonstrated and entreated, but without avail. Robina only shook
her head and smiled in her tragi-comic way.

"It's no use, Rachel. Twenty bullocks yoked together wouldn't keep me
a day longer on the Ubi. The fact is, that though as a rule I'm not
particularly superstitious, I believe in presentiments. A queer
uncanny feeling has come over me that something tremendous is going to
happen to me. I'm excited and frightened and creepy, all at the same
time. Well, I can't imagine anything more dreadful than another scene
like that I went through last night, so I'm going to 'up waddy and
yan,' as the Blacks say. Combo has had his orders to fetch up the
horses, and his Majesty will escort me safe on from Targinie."

Robina set vigorously to work over her saddle-bags, cramming in last,
with vicious energy, the ball dress she had worn the evening before.
By breakfast-time she had finished her packing and had informed the
Father and Jim of her determination. Both were disappointed, for
Robina was a favourite at Bungroopim; but, as Jim phrased it, "you
might as well attempt to head a Targinie bull when he was making
straight for a brigalow scrub, as try to turn the mind of Robina

Our party had already begun to disperse, the meat-preserver and one
or two more having departed at daybreak. The Woorara set were equipped
for a start, and several of the gentlemen appeared booted and spurred,
Mr. Price among them.

He came in late, and listened to the reproaches which had hailed
Robina's announcement without a word. Afterwards, as we were standing
in the verandah watching the horses being saddled, he approached her,
and said in a low voice: "You are shortening your visit on my account.
You don't suppose I'm cad enough to let you do that? If I had been a
little earlier I should have anticipated you. I'm going home this

Robina was caressing Forlorn Hope over the railings. She gave some
instructions to Combo about shortening his curb-chain, before
answering Mr. Price. Then she said composedly, "Very well. Our ways
lie together as far as the foot of the Crag."

"You are not going to ride that brute?" he exclaimed.

"Most certainly. I came over on him, why shouldn't I ride him back?"

"Because I beg you not to expose yourself to the chance of an

"That is no reason."

"It was a reason yesterday."

"You mistake me," she replied. "I was foolish enough a long time ago
to make you a silly promise; you called upon me to keep it yesterday.
I did so, that is all."

"The horse is not safe," continued Mr. Price. "He would have thrown a
worse rider than Lord Barty. He has a vicious temper. He is a bolter."

"He can't bolt with me up the range," said Robina. "And besides, he
is always like a lamb on a journey. It is only when we're after
scrubbers or racing, or hunting kangaroo, that we lose our heads a
little. We understand each other--don't we, old fellow?"

And she kissed the white spot on the chestnut's forehead, and put her
fingers in her ears when Lord Barty and Captain Clay-pole seriously
recommended her to have the side-saddle removed. Though the latter
added aside to Mr. Price, "It's all right. The animal is safe enough
when he is not excited. There's a great difference between jogging
home on a bad-tempered colt thirty miles across the range, and letting
a girl ride him in a race with a set of roughs round the worst and the
most dangerous course on the Ubi."

My father was a little offended at Captain Claypole's abuse of our
flat, to clear which had required the labour of so many lazy Blacks,
and the free distribution of so much grog and tobacco; and Lord Barty
made a tactful diversion by proposing that we should all have our
horses saddled, and should speed the parting guests by accompanying
them three or four miles down the river. It was a happy suggestion. We
felt limp after our gaieties. The house was in confusion; and we were
glad of an excuse to be out of doors; consequently, a large party of
us rode forth through the slip-rails. The morning was quite glorious:
the sky a deep blue, and a soft, exhilarating breeze sweeping down
from the mountains and sighing through the she--oak trees. The parrots
and cockatoos were very noisy, and almost drowned with their chatter
the sweet notes of the magpies and the liquid call of the bower satin
birds. Every bird and insect seemed joyful; and in the air there was a
touch of freshness unlike the languor of spring. Down by the creek the
white cedar-trees were laden with berries, the native cherries and
chuckie-chuckies had ripened in the scrub, and the parasites on the
dead gum-trees showed bulbous fruits. Our way lay through flat
country, between the river and brigalow jungle, where the grass had a
tinge of brown; high ant-beds rose amid sparse herbage, and a few
gaunt grass trees mingled with the warra-warra or red gum. Every mile
was bringing us nearer to Roop's Crag, and to the point where the road
branched off towards the Woorara. The blackboy and King Combo rode
ahead with their packhorses; and the rest of us followed in twos, till
the Three-mile Camp was reached, and there stretched before us a round
plain covered with long-bladed grass and almost untimbered. Here we
came abreast of each other, a merry party, to outward appearance at
least; and indeed upon such a morning, it would have been difficult to
cherish gloomy forebodings. Even Robina seemed to have partly shaken
them off. As we drew up in line at the border of the flat she said to
me, in a tone half sad, half bantering:

"I have almost made up my mind to the Never-never country, Rachel, in
preference to Lord Barty. But I shall miss our mountains when I get to
those big treeless plains. After all there is a great deal of pleasure
to be got from beautiful scenery; and I'm glad that the best part of
my life has been spent in a district like this. I am the richer for a
great many bright and beautiful days. Taking it altogether, ups and
downs, good times and bad, my girlhood has been a very happy one. I
won't let myself imagine that the sunshine has been taken out of my
youth. There's brightness and joy ahead for me."

As she spoke, she shook the reins upon her horse's neck, for several
of the party had set themselves to canter across the flat, and were
making erratic curves to avoid the many paddy-melon holes which the
blady grass half concealed. Patty Leadbitter, humming an air from The
Pirates of Penzance, ploughed forward on a fiery, short--winded cob,
and Mrs. Claypole's Gipsy Girl chafed at her restraining curb. We were
all excited by the keen air and the sunshine. We wanted the stimulus
of a stretching gallop. There was a smile of almost childlike glee on
Robina's face as in several long strides Forlorn Hope distanced his
companions. He held his own more and more in advance, now clearing a
fallen log or treacherous hole, swerving neither to right nor to left,
and always lancing on, but with such graceful ease that we never
questioned whether or not Robina held him in perfect command.

Though we were cantering fast, the space perceptibly widened between
ourselves and that flying figure, which seemed to fly on ever more
rapidly. "The brute has bolted again," I heard Lord Barty say; and he
and Mr. Price spurred their horses. As well attempt to head the wind.
Not even Gipsy Girl could touch Forlorn Hope in speed. Robina was
sitting well back, firmly poised on the saddle, her hands lowered to
the pommel. I could not see her face, but I knew that even if her
strength failed her, she would not lose her presence of mind. And
there was time for the pace to flag. The plain was wide, and the
timbered ridge some distance off.

One huge iron-bark gum stood up in the middle of the flat. It was in
a line with the horse and rider. The chestnut was speeding madly
towards it. Now, the tree was only a yard or two distant. We saw a
frantic effort, a wild strain at the bridle; but we never heard a cry.
Then we saw Robina throw the reins loose and fling herself back. An
instant of agonised dread--I closed my eyes, and Robina's beautiful
face, with its last smile, seemed to flash before me. But still there
was no cry--only a dull horrible sound borne by the wind across the

Lord Barty and Mr. Price were the first to reach the spot. It was
they who tried to raise Robina's mangled form. She was breathing yet,
but as they moved her she died. Her head and chest had been beaten in;
her thigh was crushed, and the skin had been torn from her poor hands.
The ground was wet with her blood. Not many of us looked on Robina
then. Those who went near cannot speak of the scene. They turn faint
at the recollection of what they saw. Mrs. Claypole, very white but
composed, as she is in all terrors, rode forward, authoritatively
bidding us stay where we were. She and her husband covered over the
dead girl. Then they two, with Lord Barty and Mr. Price, kept watch
till my father came with the cart, and bore back to Bungroopim all
that remained of Robina.

I cannot bear to dwell upon the details of Robina's sudden death. I
like best to think of the smile upon her face as she rode to her doom,
and of her last words, "There's brightness and joy ahead for me." I
like to fancy that life is a dream into which only clouded and
imperfect images fall from the divine world of Ideas, which is the one
true reality. I like to believe that, with her glorious awakening,
Robina has gained knowledge of an eternal affinity between the spirits
of men and women, of which the faulty and unsatisfying love of their
earthly natures is no more than a distorted reflection.

Chapter IX.

ROBINA DARING'S mournful fate cast a great gloom over the districts
of Ubi and Woorara. No one ever liked to make allusion to the
Bungroopim Races, and indeed it was a long time before another meeting
took place on the river. We at Bungroopim found it most difficult to
shake off the sad impression. For months, none of us could pass over
the Three-mile Camp. If possible, we avoided that track by the river,
and in riding to Targinie or Tarooma, chose a longer and rougher road
on the other side of the scrub. Later on, when the horror had worn off
a little, it became the custom with us to walk up to Robina's grave on
Sunday afternoons. Sitting there, we would watch the sunset over the
mountains; and at such times our talk would always become sweeter and
sadder. We buried her on the ridge-side, a little beyond our
monumental tree, in a quiet dell embosomed by gentle hills. A mountain
wattle grew above her tombstone, and in spring shed its golden
blossoms upon the mound. It was I who, remembering her words, had
chosen this spot beneath its shade. My father made a little garden
within the inclosure, and at every season of the year, there were
flowers blooming. In summer, the rich-hued tropical bignonias and
allamandas; when March returned, an arch of waxen stephanotis; in
winter, violets and snowy camellias; and with October came feathery
deutzia, great--hearted roses, the wild clematis, and white muntein
from the scrub.

Mr. Price rode over in spring, six months after Robina had been laid
there. He walked with me to the graveyard, and gathered a spray of the
wattle which was then in bloom. "This is like her," he said, "strong
and sweet. If she had lived, she would have shed much fragrance on the
world." He turned away, and walked on by himself alone. I did not
follow him for several minutes. When I rejoined him, he began to talk
cheerfully, and did not again allude to Robina.

That was the last time I saw him. He was on his way south then; and
when he returned to the Ubi, I had married and gone to our northern
station. He too married, within a year of Robina's death, a pretty
Tasmanian girl, whom he took for a wedding trip to England.

It had been settled that Jim and Jennie were to live at the Twelve-
mile Selection, which my father had taken up on the other side of
Roop's Crag. This was to be a fattening station to Bungroopim, and the
Land Act required that there should be a homestead upon it. Jim built
a pretty cottage of cedar with a wide verandah and stone chimneys, in
the bend of the creek, which here widened out into a succession of
little water-holes, and was fringed with Moreton Bay chestnuts and
Geebong trees. The dear old Crag rose close upon the opposite bank. On
this side, near the summit, there was a cleft in the precipice, which
was broken into the form of a rampart, and a great boulder resembling
a turret stood apart, giving a fortress-like appearance to the
mountain; while dense scrub grew up to the bald rocks that formed, as
it were, a gigantic staircase. Jennie said she liked this view of the
Crag best; but seen from Wangaroo, as they called the selection, he
never seemed to me the friend I love still to watch in imagination
from the Bungroopim verandah.

Jim's house was finished by the end of the summer; and when the
melancholy anniversary of the races came round, we all migrated
thither, and spent that three days in hemming chintz and muslin, in
covering tables and ottomans, and in making the little home cosy;
while Jim put up shelves and manufactured armchairs out of old barrels
(try this plan, reader, if you are ever on a poorly-furnished
Australian station); and the Father planted out our favourite shrubs
and creepers from the Bungroopim garden.

During this year Mr. Ansdell's preparations were also in progress. He
had bought a station up north--not the scene of the Grant tragedy--had
mustered and taken delivery, and added to and improved the house; and
by May my new home was in readiness. There was no reason, therefore,
why there should not be a double wedding; and thus it was arranged.

The Dean came over and married us, although, properly speaking, he
had no business to be officiating out of his own colony. He was making
a tour on the Woorara that month, and in kindly recollection of our
trip together to Thylungera, crossed the border at our urgent request,
and performed the ceremony in the drawing-room at Bungroopim.

Our party was a small one. Beyond our own people, only the Claypoles,
Patty Leadbitter and Maria Bantling our bridesmaids, Sam, the
Macalisters, Mr. Kerruel, and one or two near neighbours.

Though it was May, early winter with us, the day was like one in
October, and the westeria had put forth its second bloom. The windows
stood wide open; honey--suckle and jessamine turned round the verandah
posts; and great Marchal Niel roses hung down like clots of butter
from the back eaves, while the sun, glinting in through the creepers,
made a mosaic of shadow and sheen upon the white boards. Our pretty
cedar-lined parlour was a bower to-day. Patty Leadbitter, who was
famous for her taste in decoration, had placed flowers everywhere. In
front of the fireplace stood a pyramid of maidenhair fern, snowy
azaleas, camellias, and magnificent Gloire de Dijon roses; bunches of
violets lurked in corners; the piano was a mass of narcissus and
mignonette; magnolias gave their rich perfume, and there was a
wonderful spray of eight beautiful cloth-of-gold roses on one stem,
drooping over the mantelpiece. She had wreathed some of the paintings
with ferns and berries and lavender statice from the scrub, and Old
Time, of Naraigin memory, looked benignantly down upon us from a frame
of camellias and crimson geranium.

At the upper end of the room stood the Dean in his white surplice,
with one eye fixed warningly on Jim and his bride, and the other
roving unsteadily in our direction.

Jim observed afterwards that a squint was convenient upon the
occasion of a double wedding, for both the married couples might
fairly consider that they had received an equal amount of attention!
But if the Dean looked severe when he pronounced the blessing, he made
up for it by his smiles and joviality at breakfast, and the number of
clerical jokes he launched at the bridegrooms and brides.

Then, it being a true Bush wedding, we set forth on horseback with
the blackboys and packs in front of us, and a further advance guard of
King Combo and Boney, the reconciled rivals, who flourished tomahawks
to "mak'em road budgery."

Jim and Jennie were bound straight for their new home, and we were
going to spend our honeymoon at Tarooma which--Mr. Price being still
absent--had been placed at our disposal. The whole party escorted us
to where the tracks diverge and the Wangaroo Creek runs into the Ubi,
at this point deepening into a pool, surrounded by ferns and arums and
overshadowed by ti-trees. A little below the junction, is the Flag
Stone Crossing, and here we parted company, Jennie and Jim followed
the creek towards Wangaroo, and we two riding eastward along the river
bank. Our escort watched us over the crossing, remaining in a line on
the other side; the Dean and my father a little in advance; next, Mrs.
Claypole and her husband, and then the pretty girls and stalwart Bush
youths. A peal of cheers rang out through the gum trees; and the
cattle, which had been quietly browsing by the water's edge, lifted
their heads with a startled cry and made a wild rush up a gulley near.
Then at last there floated across the Delta in call and reply, two
long farewell Coo-es, which died away in the vast silence of the


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