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Book Two—The First Black Hand

Chapter I The Mill On Myrtle Creek

AT the junction of Myrtle Creek with the Paterson River stood Morrison's mill, in such a position that the water from the river was made serviceable by means of a mill-race, that turned the great overshot wheel, and set in motion the somewhat primitive machinery that ground the corn of the surrounding district.

The mill was a two-storeyed building. The upper storey, forming the grain and flour store, and the ordinary living rooms of the family, was entered from the hill by two large folding-doors. The lower floor formed the mill proper, and was connected with the floor above by means of a huge trap-door.

The miller, Alexander Morrison, or, as he was more often called, Sandy Morrison, was a native of North Britain, and perhaps one of the best samples that could be found of the pushing, striving, clear, but hard-headed Scotchman. He had been imported into the colony by one of the large employers of labour on account of his farming knowledge and experience; but, after working for this master for a few years, he obtained an order

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from the Governor to select and occupy a piece of land, and then started in business for himself. He pitched upon the Coal River as being one of the most promising districts then rising into notice, and, with the shrewdness for which his countrymen are proverbial, not without an eye to the future. He saw the large extent of agricultural land that the district contained, and the immense advantages that water carriage must always give by enabling growers to take their produce to market, should it ever happen that Australia became a country of note. Following out this idea, he brought into action some of that mechanical genius for which the men of the north have been so much and so justly distinguished, designed a mill, and, without hesitation, the moment he saw the spot, pitched upon the junction of Myrtle Creek with the river on which to erect it, laying it out in such a way as to be convenient for both mill and residence.

His own head had planned, and his own hand had executed, the whole of the work, if we except only so much as had been done, under his direction, by his hired man, Tom Brown, a young fellow of some six-and-twenty years of age whom he had picked up in Sydney, had brought with him to the river, and had kept with him ever since, a period of about three years. Tom had, no doubt, been a seaman, but how he came to leave his ship and remain in Sydney was a mystery that it is, perhaps, better that we should not too closely inquire into. He was the generally-useful man of the establishment, working in the field in all the ordinary farming occupations, and doing odd jobs in the line of every possible trade, of each of which he seemed to have some knowledge; but the task that more particularly suited him was that of keeping a careful watch, so as to be able to execute the

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slightest whim or wish of the miller's pretty daughter, Sophy Morrison.

And here it may be said that on coming to this country Sandy had brought with him a wife and two children, a son and a daughter. His boy died only a few weeks after landing, and his wife, who never recovered the shock that this loss gave her, was laid in the grave beside him just a short time previous to Sandy giving up his situation. Sandy was thus left with an only daughter, Sophy, who, at this time, was between seventeen and eighteen years of age. Constant exercise and occupation had given robust development to a naturally strong constitution, and the fresh country air to which she was exposed had caused her to retain that blooming appearance that is the distinguishing mark of the country-reared girls of the old country. She was rather above the medium height of women, was plump, active, and strong enough to be enduring at hard work. There was nothing at all of the heroine about her, except this—that hers is the only love tale that appears in these pages, and that to that extent she may be regarded as our heroine. With the quick intuitive perception of her sex, she saw Tom's weakness, and, after the manner of women, whether of high or low degree, she worked upon it, and upon poor Tom, too, and kept him pretty constantly going, in his moments of leisure, in her service. But, truth to tell, Sophy ruled the whole household pretty much after her own mind—not even omitting the most difficult in the whole house to manage, the fourth and last occupant of the mill, Shuffling Dick, the man who more especially had charge of the mill and its machinery.

Dick had come to New South Wales in what was then termed the “regular way”—that is, at the expense of the Government and on the direction of a Judge. He

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had served some considerable portion of his time, but a few months ago had obtained a remission of sentence, and was permitted, under the system then in force, to employ himself in his own way, and maintain himself at his own cost. He had been a miller in the old country, and was well acquainted with the most material part of the miller's occupation, that of cutting and dressing the stones by which the grain is ground. When he had obtained his liberty, he had come to Sandy, and proffered his services at a very low rate of remuneration, giving, as his reason, that he had done so much hard work whilst in Government that he wanted a little ease now, and working at his own old occupation would be comparative ease to him. Sandy, finding that during certain months in the year grist came into the mill frequently enough to justify him in incurring this trifling additional expense, accepted the terms, and Dick had now been nine months thus employed.

Like Tom, Dick seemed fully to appreciate the fresh and blooming charms of the miller's daughter, though his devotion was shown in a very different way to that of Tom. Instead of always placing himself at her beck and call, and throwing himself in her way to do her service, he appeared rather to shun than to court her society; and it was only by a looker-on catching the stray glances that he cast upon her when he thought there were none by to observe them, that anything like a glimpse into his real feelings could be obtained. He saw the game that Tom was playing, and saw that it would be played successfully unless he could spoil it. He himself was snubbed and bounced by the tyrannical girl in the most unmerciful manner, yet still he did not despair. With the usual tortuous proclivity of his mind, he sought, not to raise himself, but to lower Tom in the estimation of

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the miller and his daughter. To this end he let slip no opportunity, whether by innuendo or otherwise, to weaken Tom's hold in the favour of the two; whilst he did all he could, by jibe and sarcasm, very carefully concealed, to drive Tom, whose bluff, honest nature was very soon raised up in arms by anything approaching to the offensive into some rupture, or into the commission of some act which would put him in the wrong. Besides this, he had a quiet speculation of his own, and how he succeeded in this, and in the other matter referred to, will be seen in the sequel.

Having thus, after the manner of the ancient dramatists, played the part of Chorus, and made our readers acquainted with the new characters about to be introduced, and the motives, if any, by which they are actuated, we shall now proceed with our tale.

Seven months had elapsed since the occurrence of the incidents narrated in the last book, and the first days of June had arrived. The season was wet and drooping. The equinox had set in with heavy rains that had flooded all the streams and watercourses, and the occasional heavy showers that had since fallen had kept them swollen and angry. The Paterson was running down nearly bank high, and the creek upon which the mill was built surged and roared in its course, and dashed its muddy waters almost against the slabs that formed the sides of the building. Heavy water-laden clouds were flying overhead before the fierce wind, one coming occasionally at long intervals lower than the others, and discharging its watery burden in a smart shower as it passed along.

Sandy had been out and about since daylight, his trusty henchman, Tom, accompanying him. He had been engaged in some of the multifarious occupations that a

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farmer, and especially a farmer in the bush, can always find for himself. At last he came to a gap in the cockatoo fence that enclosed his cultivation ground, that required patching up and mending.

“Eh, lad,” he said to Tom, “there'll be mair timmer wanted here than we ha' gotten. Ye'll need to gae up to the hoose and fetch doon the axe. D'ye ken whar to fin' it?”

“In the old place, I suppose, just inside your room door,” answered Tom.

“Sure, laddie, sure,” responded Sandy, who, being a careful workman, always looked well after his tools, and put them ready to hand, each in its own place. “Noo, then, be smart!”

Tom started off with the greatest alacrity, for he thought there would be a chance of getting a quiet word with Sophy, seeing that Sandy was down at the fence, and that Dick would probably be still between the blankets, as there was then no work doing at the mill. He had only, when he reached the house, to go to the spot where the axe was kept, get it, and take it back with him; but this was not the programme Tom had laid out for himself, as there was a little interlude in the performance at which he hoped to assist. Thus, in pursuance of his plan, he no sooner reached the door than he called gently, “Miss Sophy! Miss Sophy!”

That young lady was, like her father, an early riser, and had been on household cares intent almost from the time when Sandy had left the house. Answering Tom from some recess of the establishment in which she was at the moment employed, she inquired in a brusque tone what it was he wanted.

Rather abashed by the tone more than the words,

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he replied, very modestly and sheepishly, “Sandy has sent me up for the axe.”

“Well, get it, then; and be off back with it as soon as you can; unless, indeed”—and this in the most effective modulation of voice that women know so well how to use—“you wish me to get it and carry it down for you.”

“I don't want that, Miss Sophy!” he put in eagerly; “but I thought you might know where it is.”

“And where should it be,” she replied, “except in its own place, and you know where that is as well as I do.”

“I thought you might have been using it this morning for the fire,” he excused himself by saying.

“You seem to be doing nothing but thinking this morning,” she said; “but, if I'd been in your place, I should have looked first, and then have asked afterwards if I didn't find it. I wonder that amongst all your thoughts that thought didn't strike you.”

“Don't be angry with me, Miss Sophy,” he said. “It was my mistake, and I thought to save time.”

“Instead of that, you've lost it with your thoughts, and kept father waiting for you down below, and that won't improve his temper, I'll warrant!” and she tossed her head in the most contemptuous manner.

Somewhat abashed, Tom stole off to the bedroom to get the axe, very much after the style of a petted dog that has been chidden. On arriving there, much to his perplexity, he could not find the implement he had been sent for. For a wonder it was not in its usual place, and it was only after a few minutes' searching that he at last discovered it in a totally different part of the room, and covered by several bags that had been carelessly thrown upon it. He had thus lost much time, which had been spent most unpleasantly, instead of pleasantly,

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as he had anticipated; and he was all the more annoyed at it from knowing that Sandy, who was by no means the most patient of mortals, was waiting for him, and from hearing the half-jeering remarks that were made by Sophy, reflecting upon his stupidity at not being able to find what was there to his hand.

“You are getting more and more stupid every day,” she said pertly; “but I suppose that's owing to your thoughts. I can't understand what you want to be poking about there for half-an-hour over what I could lay my hand on in an instant.”

Tom had just then got the axe, and, galled at the last remark, instead of trying to deprecate her anger, as he intended to do, he strode away sullenly out of the house, without so much as a word in reply to his tormentor.

But, besides Sophy, there had been another who had seen part of what occurerd, and who had heard all that had been said. He had been previously on the watch, and had been all attention from the very moment when Tom's first words had been uttered. With the trap that connected the upper with the lower floor just raised sufficiently to allow him to see through without attracting observation, Dick had silently watched Tom's whole proceedings. When the other was so long in the bedroom, Dick's countenance showed evident signs of uneasiness, and when Tom came out with the axe, the watcher scanned his face very narrowly. “I wonder if he has done it, and spoiled my chance,” he thought to himself. “If so, it will work for me another way, that's all.” But, reassured by the look of ill-temper that appeared on his mate's features, he added, “No, he has not got it; and now, my flash kiddy, if I don't fix you, say I'm nobody.”

When Sophy went out to watch Tom, Dick took the

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opportunity thus afforded to open the trap, step through quickly and noiselessly, and to let down the door again. All this was done so quietly and easily, without the slightest creak or sound, as to lead to the impression that all the preparations for the venture, whatever it might be, had been previously made in anticipation. Having closed the trap, he concealed himself behind some sacks that stood on the side nearest the miller's bedroom, keeping his eye on the girl, and, finding that she did not return, he was about to slip round and enter the room, when a movement of Sophy warned him that he was too late.

When, according to Dick's idea, she had been long enough occupied to have her mind fixed upon her work, he emerged from his hiding-place. He must have previously satisfied himself that he could not be seen from where Sophy now was, for he walked straight to the room the girl had just left, and the door of which stood open, with a quick but a silent and stealthy step. Entering that room, his eye fell at once upon what he sought, a small hair-covered trunk, on which the initials of the miller were marked in brass-headed nails. Into the lock of this he fitted a key that he drew from his pocket. “Not a bad guess, after only seeing the real screw twice!” he muttered to himself, as the key worked round in the lock and the box stood open. In another instant he had taken out a small, but well-filled canvas bag, withdrew the key from the lock, leaving the box open, and then retired to his former hiding-place.

The girl was standing with her back towards him, holding her work in her hands, and humming, for her voice had sunk to that, the melancholy tune in which her whole thoughts were absorbed. With the light step of an accomplished burglar, Dick, as soon as he found her

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thus engaged, crossed the floor without giving the slightest sound to betray his presence. Raising the trap as noiselessly and as quickly as before, he descended the steps, but, at the very last moment, the trap, in closing, came down rather more sharply than he intended, and with a sound which, though slight, was sufficient to attract Sophy's attention.

“Who's that?” she cried, as she turned and looked sharply round. “Is that you, Dick?”

There was no answer, though Dick stood there motionless at the head of the steps with a scowl on his face, and that terrible knife grasped determinedly in his hand.

“Is that you, Dick?” she repeated, but still without receiving an answer. “No. It couldn't be him. The lazy hound is no doubt still in bed and fast asleep,” she soliloquised. “But what made me fancy that the trap-door closed?” And with the spirit of inquiry that becomes almost an instinct in the resident of the bush, she determined to satisfy herself by actual inspection.

“Why, who could have left the door open!” she exclaimed, when she found the trap unbolted. “I must tell father of this. Somebody must have been very careless!” And then she suddenly remembered who that somebody must have been, for it came into her mind that it was Tom's usual work every night, before going to bed, to go round the place and see all fastened up safe. As she thought this, she pushed the bolt with her foot and shot it into the hasps. She was repaid for that loyal thought for her lover, albeit she knew not that the action saved her life. Then she recollected that Tom had secured it last night, or had gone with the intention of doing so, because Dick had stopped yarning longer than usual, and it had been at his suggestion that Tom had

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done so, in order to save the miller the trouble of coming out to fasten the trap. She was reminded, too, that Dick, owing to the place being secured, had gone out the front way, and, passing round the house and down the hill side, had let himself into his own domain of the mill floor, where he slept, by the lower door.

She was not satisfied as she remembered this, and her hand was put down to draw the bolt back again, and see if that shuffling wretch had been up to any tricks. She knew not how near he was, though, had she listened, she might have heard his heavy breathing. “No,” she thought, “if that's his move, I'll take care that he doesn't make it again.” And she returned to her occupation, resolving that, though she would say nothing to her father, she would explain all to Tom, in order that he might use additional sharpness in future.

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Chapter II A False Accusation

WHEN Tom got back to the miller after leaving the house, he found him fuming and fretting at having been kept so long waiting in the cold. “Whar' the deil ha' ye been, mon, that ye've been sae lang aboot naething?” he asked as Tom came up.

Tom had been altogether too much ruffled to make any conciliatory reply, or to offer anything in the way of an excuse, so he simply murmured out something that ended with “as quick as I could.”

“As ye've been sae lang daunerin' aboot, ye may e'en finish the wark by yersel',” responded Sandy.

“All right!” said Tom, as he set to work, chopping away at random in all directions.

Sandy gave him an astonished look, for, like his daughter, he noticed something different to usual in the young man. “Gin ye've been as quick as ye can, and dinna hasten mair in future, our contract weell sune be ower.”

Everything went wrong with Tom that morning, and it was only by working away with more than his usual expedition, that he had contrived to complete his job before the signal for breakfast was given. He returned to the house still out of temper with himself and with everyone else, and was accordingly, contrary to his usual custom, silent and morose during the meal.

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Dick had made his appearance some half-hour before breakfast, and with a cunning that usually overdoes itself, knocked for admittance with a great deal of ostentatious display at the door of the trap. Sophy, with mixed feelings pervading her mind, made as much display in the act of drawing back the bolt. Dick gave her one look as he ascended, in order to see if there were in her countenance any traces of suspicion. There was nothing of the kind, but the little innocent deceit she was practising gave her a certain embarrassed look that it puzzled Dick to understand.

Sophy had determined that when Tom arrived she would rate him soundly for his ill-temper towards her, and then scold him quietly about his carelessness in regard to the bolt; but, when he came up, he was evidently in bad humour, and she at once decided upon treating him in precisely the same manner that he chose to treat her.

The meal thus passed over very uncomfortably for all parties except Dick, who, delighted at the evident misunderstanding that prevailed among the others, enjoyed himself amazingly, and was more than usually brilliant and bitter in his sayings, more especially when anything was to be said at the expense of Tom. To use his own expression, he “chaffed to the nines” his unlucky mate, until he had made him still more out of sorts and out of temper than ever.

“Eh, weel,” said Sandy at last. “I dinna ken what's the matter wi' ye a'; there's Tom has na' a word but a grumph for a body; and there's Sophy, that's aye as blythe as a mavis i' the morn, sitting as douce as an auld wife at a Sunday meeting; an' I'm no what I shud be mysel'. Are ye a' fey? Let's a' dune wi' this. And ye, Tom, laddie, get the bay mare and gae doon to Jock

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Tomson's, and pay him the siller that's awing for the grist we boucht o' him. I'll make oot the receipt and count the siller.”

This broke up the breakfast party, and Tom at once rose, lit his pipe, and went in search of the mare, which he knew would not be at any great distance off.

Sandy went into his room, where for a time he busied himself with his books; whilst Dick, who knew that something was coming whereupon it might be desirable for him to have the first word, remained hanging about the fireplace in the most careless manner, to all appearance thinking of nothing but the pipe he was smoking. Sophy, determined to keep up the game of cross-purposes as long as Tom might choose to play it, put on her grandest air of unconcernedness, and occupied herself over removing the remains of the meal.

Suddenly the voice of Sandy was heard. “Ech, dears! What's this?”

“Now it's coming!” thought Dick. “Now for my chance to work it right.”

“Ech! Sophy! Tom! Dick!” calling each in the order in which they ranged themselves in his mind. “Come ben here, a' o' ye! The siller's a' gane. I'm roupet, an' reived, an' robbit in my ain hoose!”

“Why, what's the matter, Sandy?” said Dick, stalking into the room with apparent astonishment, but fully prepared for what was to come.

“The siller's gane! That's the matter, man! Fifty an' five holey dollars in a bag were in this box this blessed morn's morn, for I seed them wi' my ain een, and lockit the box afore I gaed oot. An' noo the're a' gane, clean gane, bag an' a', and the box unlockit.”

“Why, who could have taken them?” and as Dick

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said this he looked at Sophy, as though she might throw some light upon this subject if she wanted.

“I'll fin' it oot!” cried Sandy, “though I bring a' the constables o' the settlement to do it.”

“It seems to me easy enough to trace up,” put in Dick. “Who's been here since you've been out? I haven't seen nobody.” And again he looked at Sophy as though he wished her to say whether she had seen anybody.

“Ech, man, an' that's true for ye,” answered Sandy. “Wha's been here?” And Sandy thought, and so did Sophy, and both hit at the same time upon the same answer—who but Tom? “Yes. I recollect. I sendit Tom up for the axe, and the deil's ain time he took to bring it. Did you see him, Sophy?”

“No,” she answered. “I didn't see him, but I spoke to him.”

“An' was he lang i' the room?” he asked of his daughter.

“No, not particularly long,” she replied.

“But langer than was wanted to get what he sought?” he continued, still questioning.

“That depends upon whether he got it at once,” she suggested.

“But ye ken it's a'ways keepit i' the one spot. An' when he cam' doon to me he never speakit a word aboot not findin' it, but jist tauld me he'd been as quick's he cou'd.”

Dick all this while said nothing. His game was being played for him by Sandy's suspicions, which his suggestion had set off on the track he desired. There was no necessity for his interference, but he now asked—“How could he open the box if you locked it?”

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“Hoo!—hoo, but by getting a key to fit it!” shouted Sandy in wrath.

“And what would he do with the money?” continued Dick. “It will be in his pocket or in the house.”

“He's had meikle time to plant it, for I left him his lane at his wark; and noo I've gien him anither chance to do it.”

“And do you imagine for an instant that Tom could be guilty of taking your money?” Sophy asked indignantly.

“Hooly an' fairly, lassie, it could na' ha' been anybodie else,” replied Sandy. “Dick has not been in the place?” and he looked to Sophy for an answer, and, as his daughter looked at him in return, there flashed upon her mind the remembrance of the moving trap-door, and of the bolt being unfastened.

“I will pledge my life on Tom,” she said; “he would never do such a thing. It's a plan devised by some devil to ruin him.”

“Gae easy, lass, gae easy,” responded Sandy. “Wha else could it hae been? Naebodie else has been near the place.”

“And you know,” put in Dick, “that you unbolted the trap for me when I came in this morning.” It had been an excess of caution that had led him to make this remark. Desiring to clear himself from even the shadow of a suspicion, he had spoken hastily; but no sooner had the words been uttered than he discovered the mistake he had made. He remembered that Sophy had herself bolted the door, which she had found unbolted, and that consequently to her, if she had sense enough to perceive it, this remark was all but tantamount to an admission of guilt.

Dick was not far wrong in this after-thought, for

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almost the same idea passed through the mind of Sophy. She gave Dick one sharp, rapid glance, and in that glance he read, as clearly as possible, the thought of her mind. Whatever she thought, however, she only replied coolly, “Say no more at present. Wait till Tom is here to answer for himself.”

They had not long to wait, for they had hardly broken up the conclave, when Tom, who had caught the mare and brought her up to the house, entered the room in search of a saddle.

“Come ben, man, come ben,” said Sandy, the moment he caught sight of Tom. “I want a wee bit crack wi' ye.” And as Tom entered the room, he continued, “What hae ye dune wi' my siller?”

“What d'ye mean—with your silver?” exclaimed Tom, with astonishment.

“Yes, wi' my siller—my dollars! You reiving, thieving blackguard!” shouted Sandy, “that ever I should live to ca' ye so, when ye were as my ain bairn to me!”

“Patience, father, patience!” said Sophy. “Is this the way to question an innocent man? For innocent he is, you may take my word.”

“I don't understand all this,” put in Tom, more and more surprised.

“Look at him, father! Does that look like guilt?” continued Sophy. “He will soon prove his innocence if you but give him a chance.”

“I'd be ower glad, lassie, to hear him clear himself, but I canna see hoo he's to do it,” responded Sandy, as he shook his head.

“Are you all mad this morning? What on earth is it all?” asked Tom.

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“It's my siller, my dollars, that's been stau'n awa frae me,” answered Sandy.

“And do you suspect me of having taken them?” and Tom's eyes flashed again as he spoke.

“Were na ye in my room this morn?” questioned Sandy.

“To be sure I was,” Tom replied.

“And didna' ye leave me doon yonder, blawing my fingers in the wet to keep them warm, a much langer time than was necessary?” Sandy again questioned.

“Certainly I did, and I was very sorry for it,” Tom answered.

“An' hoo the deil was it ye tauld me ye'd been as quick's ye cou'd?” asked Sandy.

“Well, as it's come to this, I may as well tell you that, in the first place, I spoke to your daughter, and that delayed me a few minutes, and then I couldn't find the axe. It had got chucked out of its usual place, and lay covered over with a lot of sacks.”

“An' why didna' ye tell me a' this when ye cam' doon to me?”

“Somehow I got into a pelter with myself at my stupidity, and that put me out o' sorts with everybody,” Tom responded.

“It's true, dear father, it's true!” put in Sophy. “He did speak to me, and I know that what I said to him irritated him, and perhaps that made him less capable of finding what he was looking for. And it was me that threw the axe down where it could not be found.”

“It's a' vera weel for ye to say, it's a' me, an' it's a' me!” exclaimed Sandy. “May be ye'll say next that. ye ha' the siller.”

“I wish I could say it, for your sake, dear father,”

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added Sophy; “but I don't think it's very far away, if it was only well looked for.”

“An' whaur, in the name o' patience, are we to look for't, tell me that, noo?” asked Sandy.

“Ask Dick, there,” said Sophy; “he may give you some clue.”

“Nae, nae, lassie!” replied her father. “Haud yer tongue, Dick!” as the latter protested his innocence. “I'm no to be turned aff this gait. I ken weel yer kin' feeling towards Tom, an' he is amaist as my ain bairn to me; but richt is richt, though, for your sake, Sophy, gin he'll return the siller, I'll forget and forgie!”

“Return it!” shouted Tom in anger. “Why, I never took it. I've told you honestly how it was I was so long. You know where I've been since. Search me now, and then follow me on the track of where I've been. If the money isn't on me, I must have planted it, and I can't have planted it without leaving a track.”

“Weel, there's sense in that, and if we only had a black——” said the miller.

“No need,” answered Tom. “I'll take you there myself, and show you my track to where I caught the mare, and where I brought her back here. You know yourself where I was at work this morning, and can go and search there.”

“It will be some satisfaction, nae doot; but then, if we dinna fin' the siller——”

“After that, father, if your search should be unsuccessful, as I'm sure it will be, you must turn in another direction,” and she looked boldly at Dick, who returned her gaze with a grim, ominous smile.

“Come awa', then, Dick,” said Sandy; “ye're no a bad haun at tracking fut prents; and you, Tom, gae wi' us, and see that we gie ye fair play.”

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Chapter III A Woman's Vengeance

IN pursuance of their plan of revenge, George Maxwell and his son spent a great deal of time amongst the blacks, and, for their own particular purpose, set themselves to acquire the language of the aborigines, and were soon able to hold conversations with the blacks in their own tongue. This acquisition, as might be expected, very materially aided them in their adventurous life, and obtained for them much information that they would not otherwise have possessed.

Sitting before a good fire, they were both enjoying the luxury of a smoke, for they were taking things very much easier now than they did in their inexperience a few months back.

“I cannot think what Eumerella is up to,” said George, “nor how she intends to manage. I don't see my way clear through the business.”

“Oh, she's a cunning one, she is,” replied Jamie. “Let her alone for working it out her own way. All we've got to do when the time comes is to obey orders.”

“Yes; but I should like to know what it is she's driving at,” George remarked meditatively.

“Haven't you often told me,” responded Jamie, in a most argumentative tone, “that the first duty of a soldier is to obey orders and ask no questions?”

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“Yes, yes; but we are not soldiers now; we haven't taken the bounty,” answered George

“Haven't we?” cried Jamie triumphantly, as if he had now completely vanquished his father. “Then I would like to know what she has done for us, and whether that wasn't as fair bounty as we could take. Look here! d'ye think we would have got hold of them three black dogs only for her? D'ye think we would even have got away from them and the whole tribe without leaving a sign of our trail only for her? Didn't she work it all? My word, she's a clever one! As clever as the—no—not quite as clever as the Marshal, but not so very far off, neither. Is she, Marshal?”

“We shall know more to-morrow,” said George, “for we are now close upon the spot she appointed to meet me at; and just before sundown I saw from the top of the range the glimmering reflection of the camp fires of her tribe. I shall go up to Bald Rock to-morrow, and shall leave camp so as to reach there just after daylight. She is to be there to-morrow or the next morning, to explain all, and give us our final instructions.”

“She says,” put in Jamie, “that she's going to give it 'em this time—give it 'em so as they won't be a tribe no more. If she says it, she'll do it.”

“Did she tell you that?” inquired George.

“She did,” replied the boy; “and if she says it, she'll do it, and no mistake. I know her well, and she knows me, too, and she knows I'm just the chap to help her knock over them black bandicoots, as she calls 'em.”

George looked at his son for a few seconds in a wild, unsteady manner, and with a fiery gleam in his eye; but it soon died out, and then he shook his head. He made no further remark, however, although Jamie went on to tell that it was then that the gin, excited by the

  ― 105 ―
slaughter of her own hereditary foes, had given way to a feeling of exultation, during which she had declared that in a few days more the tribe would receive such a wound from her hands as should all but annihilate it.

The boy continued to talk on, though George took no notice, but rolled himself in his blanket, and was soon asleep. Jamie, however, was quite satisfied at having Blucher for an audience. At last Jamie himself got tired of talking, and then he also rolled himself in his blanket and composed himself to sleep, though he did not do this until he had called Blucher to him, and shared with him the warm covering.

It wanted some time to daylight when George roused himself for the work before him. Both he and Jamie had risen occasionally during the night to put the fire together and to add fresh fuel to it. George once more did this, warmed himself over the blaze, rolled up his blanket and travelling store, and placed them in a sheltered spot under the bark covering, to be left behind under Jamie's charge. Then, shouldering his gun, without saying a word to his son—who just opened his eyes, looked at his father, and then composed himself once more to sleep—he took his way up the spur on which they had camped, until he reached the heavier-timbered ground of the main range. Through this he proceeded cautiously in the darkness, until, coming to some more open ground that allowed of his doing it, he passed over to the other fall of the ridge, and was soon at the spot appointed for the meeting. He set himself down to wait, but he had not been more than a quarter of an hour thus resting, when a low, soft coo-ee warned him that some person was approaching who expected to meet another at this spot. In another minute the black figure of Eumerella was seen forcing its way through the deep undergrowth.

  ― 106 ―

“My white friend is true to his word,” she said.

“Yes,” answered George; “and now you had better tell me at once what it is that is to be done, and what part I am to take in it.”

“It is this,” she exclaimed, and her eyes lighted up with wild excitement. “The blow that I have been so long preparing is now at last about to fall upon these miserable bandicoots. I have been whispering into the ears of Opara, and, listening to my words, he and the tribe are about to attack and plunder the mill where the white man grinds the white powder he eats.”

“You have planned this?” cried George in astonishment.

“Yes. I told it to Opara, and he found it good,” and she grinned maliciously.

“You cannot expect me to assist in such a devil's work as this against my own countrymen,” he urged.

“You must assist,” she answered, “not to plunder, but to save the white man.”

“And then what's your great plan?”

“Can my white friend not see?” she said. “I lead the tribe into a trap, in which the white man must fix them.”

“Ah! I begin to see more clearly.”

“My white friend is getting duller than he used to be,” she replied. “Listen. I have told Opara of all that I have seen at the whitefellow's grinding-house. Our tribe has been almost starving this bad weather, and our women and children are dying from cold and hunger. Food and blankets are to be had at the grinding-house, and all the stories I have told have rung in the ears of Opara, and he and the fighting chiefs have resolved to undertake the work.”

“And Macomo?” asked George.

  ― 107 ―

“Luckily for me and my plans, he and Atare, with three of the leading chiefs, are away, or I should never have had this chance. Opara is to lead in the attack, and, fearful that Macomo will return, and take the undertaking into his own hands, and so derive all the honour of it, he is urging on as rapidly as possible to the spot.”

“Opara is to lead the attack?” said George, inquiringly.

“Yes—what attack there will be. But the inhabitants will have nothing to fear, provided they will take proper precautions against surprise, for I myself will deal with the whole tribe, even if the white man does not fire a single shot.”

“You!” exclaimed George in astonishment. “How can you alone do this?”

“I have it all here—here!” she cried, as she struck her forehead. “The vengeance that has been brooding here for moons and moons without result has, at last, found a way of satisfying itself.”

“And what, in the name of all that's good, do you mean to do?” he asked.

“That will be my secret,” she replied.

“But how,” urged George, “can you expect me to help you if I do not know the way in which it is to be done?”

“All I ask you to do is, to go to the white man of the mill, and to tell him all that is about to occur, so that he may take the precautions necessary for his safety. Stay with him, if you will, and help him to defend himself by shooting as many of these wretched bandicoots as possible.”

“Am I, then, to go off and warn them at once?”

“No,” she answered, “that would spoil all; for, if Opara saw that preparations were made to receive him,

  ― 108 ―
he would at once give up the enterprise. To-morrow night we shall camp on the creek seven miles from the mill. The next day we shall reach the mill-flat just before dark. The women and piccaninnies will be there to lull suspicion, and our fires will be far from the house. The attack will not be made before daylight, unless the house can be surprised. Some of the best warriors are to be concealed in the lower part of the mill, and it is against surprise from these the white man will have to guard.”

“I see what you want,” George suggested; “you do not want them to know for certain that the mill will be attacked until after dark.”

“No, and not until as late as possible then.” She mused for a moment, and then resumed—“If you do not go up to the mill until after dark, be careful how you approach, for a close watch will be set round the place, and you will have much trouble in doing what I wish But I will be on the look-out for you, and give you assistance should you require it.”

“But may I not give them,” George continued, determined to have his directions in such a way that there should be no mistaking, “just as much warning as will lead them to prepare what is necessary in the way of arms and ammunition?”

“Provided you give them no idea,” Eumerella answered, “that an attack has been settled upon.”

“I can do it,” said George. “I can do it in such a way as not to let them know more than you want. But, you see, if they get no word, the chances are that they will be found at night altogether unprepared to meet an attack, and then your revenge will lose half its force.”

“Good! My white friend is wise. Let him say just

  ― 109 ―
as much as he thinks necessary, and no more. And now, as I remember the directions of my white friend, let him not forget mine!” And, so saying, she turned upon her heel, and left the spot by the narrow path by which she had reached it.

George sat down and pondered for a while upon what he had just heard; but, after putting together her words and carefully weighing and comparing them, he could make out nothing that would give him a clue to her plan. So, shaking his head, he rose to his feet, shouldered his gun, and took the way to the camp, resolved to consult with Jamie upon all that he had heard.

The distance was as nothing in returning, for he had now the daylight to guide him amongst the fallen timber, which, buried in the high grass, had prevented his making quicker progress in the darkness. He found Jamie just concluding his breakfast, and as there was a quart of water at the fire boiling ready for use, he made his tea and at once sat down, with an appetite by no means injured by his morning's exercise, to his frugal repast.

We return now to the miller, who was about to start off to follow down Tom's track in search of the plant, if any, and who had come to a stop on seeing a strange arrival. Dick was the first to recognise the new-comer whilst yet at a distance.

“Why, hang me if it isn't Cranky George,” for by that name was George generally known. “What on earth brings him here?”

“Puir man, puir man!” ejaculated Sandy. “He's had enough to make him cranky, when he lost his wife and weans a' at one blow. I dinna ken but I shude gae daft mysel' were I to lose my ain bonnie lassie in that way.”

  ― 110 ―

“Good morning, Sandy! Good morning, Tom!” said George, as he came up and took first one and then the other by the hand; whilst he merely nodded his head coldly to Dick, without addressing a word to him. Then, as he gazed round upon them, and noticed their serious faces, he added, “Why, what are you all looking so glum about? Has anyone been bringing you bad news?”

“Bad eneuch, George, bad eneuch!” cried Sandy. “I've been robbit i' my ain hoose.”

“Robbed!” cried George with astonishment, and he turned and looked Dick full in the face with those wild fiery eyes.

“No! you needn't look at me, Mr. Sergeant as you was,” fiercely retorted Dick, who well understood that look. “Though I am a ticket man, there's no down on me, and, cranky as you are, I won't stand none of your nonsense, I can tell you. Look on the other side of you.”

“What! Tom?” exclaimed George, more astonished than ever.

“Yes,” said the miller dolefully; “ye'd hardly believe it, but sae it is.”

“I'll not believe it!” cried George. “No, not if you found the money on him.”

“Thank you, George,” exclaimed Tom, as he seized the other's hand and shook it warmly. “That's like you, old boy; true as steel always. I've told Sandy here all about what they suspect me for, and that I'm as innocent as a lamb about his money.”

“I'll take my oath of it!” said George energetically. “If there's money taken, it isn't here, but there, you must look for it!” and he pointed from Tom to Dick.

“It's the things that ha' ta'en place this morn that's made me suspec' Tom, tho' gudeness knows I'd as lieve

  ― 111 ―
suspec' by ain bairn as Tom.” And Sandy then proceeded to narrate to George all the events of the morning.

George pondered for a time, ever casting quick, searching glances into Dick's countenance. At last he said—“Let the matter rest for the present. If your money is lost, and is not forthcoming before night, I have one with me who'll find it if it were buried fifty fathom in the earth. I shall not be back before evening, but I promise you that the matter shall then be searched out, and the guilty, whoever he may be, brought to light. But, let me ask you, have you examined your daughter? She was up and about, according to your account, and she must have seen something.”

“Deil a thing!” responded Sandy. “She didna' e'en see Tom, but only spak to him.”

“I will have a few minutes' talk with her; perhaps by my questions I may learn more from her than you have yet. And now to drop this matter, and to talk of something more serious. Are you well armed here?”

“I've gotten a fowling-piece,” said the miller, “an' two auld tower muskets that hae na' been used these months syne.”

“And powder and ball?” continued George.

“There may be a bit powther i' th' hoose, but I dinna' think ye'll fin' a ball if ye'd search't frae top tae bottom,” answered Sandy. “But what are ye speerin for?”

“And can you thus remain unarmed with these prowling devils of blacks about you, hanging round and threatening at any moment to come upon you?” George asked sternly. “Can you, with precious lives depending upon your protection, leave them at the mercy of the first band of black fiends that take it into their heads to fall upon and plunder you? Have I not suffered? Am

  ― 112 ―
I not a sufficient warning of what these Satan's imps can do, and of what they may make a man to suffer?”

“Dinna excite yersel', Geordie, man!” replied the miller soothingly, as he noticed the wild glare of the other's eye. “There is na' meikle fear o' they black deevils comin' here, or gin they do the place is strong eneuch wi' us inside to keep them oot till help comes.”

“And what if you are taken by surprise?” George added. “I had my strong arm and my practised hand to defend my home, and now where is it? What did the one or the other serve me? I had powder and lead, and a steady eye to direct them, but they were impotent to save. One shot would have scattered the whole lot, but I was not there to fire it.”

“It seems to me,” Dick put in, “that this is a reason why we don't want your powder and ball—if they don't do no good when you've got them.”

“I was the only man to fire a musket, whilst you are three, and, knowing you to be armed, these fiends will scarcely venture an attack; but, if you neglect precaution, you will leave your house bare and defenceless as I did, but to suffer greater horror than I did, by seeing your home invaded before your eyes, and your child murdered before your very sight.”

“Eich, Geordie, what's a' this? What's been an' pit a' this in yer head? Are the blacks aboot? Is there danger?” were the questions rapidly put by Sandy.

“I know nothing,” returned George, “except that it is wilful wickedness in you, who have a dear one looking to you for protection, to remain unarmed and defenceless in the case of attack. If you have no thought for yourself, have some for that blooming girl that calls you father. Neglect no precaution, for with these cunning,

  ― 113 ―
watchful fiends around you, the moment of danger will come when least expected.”

Eventually Sandy was persuaded to send Tom off to the nearest settlement for the loan of arms and ammunition, but before he went, Tom took the opportunity of having a few words with Sophy, with the result that she agreed to meet him on his return at a favourite rendezvous near the mill. Tom's trouble seemed to have suddenly opened a way to Sophy's heart, for she sent him on his way with a parting kiss that made him make light of the dastardly accusations of Dick.

Meanwhile, George advised Sophy to keep a strict watch on the ex-convict's movements, for he was quite convinced that Dick had secreted the money somewhere about the mill.

  ― 114 ―

Chapter IV The Miller's Daughter

THE remainder of the day was passed over without incident in the mill. Dick made himself as agreeable as he could, so much so as to fill Sandy with astonishment, and to give him a considerably enhanced opinion of his man. And Sophy? Yes, even she seemed to be overcome by his unwonted amiability, and smiled and talked to him, just as if she had given up every thought of suspicion of him. “Just like them gals,” growled Dick to himself.

Outside, however, there was an occurrence that filled Sandy and Dick with surprise, and, taken in connection with George's warning in the morning, with some uneasiness. Late in the afternoon, a tribe of blacks arrived, and took up their station on the flat that intervened between the mill and the river. The river ran upon one side of it, and the creek upon another, and both the streams were running down swollen and angry, and threatening every moment to submerge it. Yet, strange to say, the blacks seemed to be considering whether they should make this their camping-ground.

“Why, the puir doited things, they must be clane gane wud to camp there. It'll a' be under water afore the morn's morn, every bit o't, and there's a gude piece covered the noo!” cried Sandy, as he remarked what was going on.

  ― 115 ―

It now became evident that a large portion of the tribe were of the same opinion as the miller, and began to move away to the higher ground, some three or four hundred yards off.

And now night began to fall. Tom had not returned, although now looked for with some anxiety, as well by Dick as by Sandy. Sophy, however, knew that he would not come back until after he had met and spoken to her; and the time had now almost come at which he had appointed her to meet him. When at last the darkness had set in, without saying a word to her father, she stepped out of the house and made her way to the place of assignation. The night was pitchy dark. Heavy clouds were rolling over the sky in one vast mass, and threatening every moment to pour down their contents in torrents of rain. The moon was completely obscured, and had it not been for the camp fires of the blacks upon the ridge above, that served as a beacon light to guide her, she would scarcely have been able to find her way, even that short distance, along the beaten track that led there from the house. At last she reached the spot, but Tom had not yet arrived. Disappointed and vexed for the moment, she made two or three steps towards returning to the house. But other and better thoughts soon intervened. Tom had something to say to her, and she had much to say to Tom, and all this was of far too much importance to be interfered with by a petty feeling of ill-temper. So she turned back, sheltered herself as well as she could under the rough logs of the cockatoo fence, and set herself to wait.

She had not been here more than about ten minutes, though to her, in that drear darkness, it seemed more than half an hour, when a casual break in the clouds let out a stray ray or two from the moon. For a few brief

  ― 116 ―
moments there was a faint and sickly half-light thrown upon the bush, and by that light, in the direction whence she expected her lover to arrive, she caught sight of an advancing figure. It could be no other than Tom, and she went forth from her shelter to meet him.

“Tom! Tom! is it you?” she called in a low tone.

There was no reply. She stood for a few seconds holding her breath, and her heart almost ceasing to beat with the intensity and fixity of her attention. All at once she heard the sound of a footstep behind her. She turned instantly in that direction. What appeared to be a tall dark form stood before her at a short distance, and the next moment she received a blow on the head, uttered one shriek of terror rather than of pain, and then fell senseless. Some half-dozen blacks now sprang upon her, raised her from the ground, and without a word beyond what was necessary for instructions by the one who appeared to be the leader amongst them, they carried her away, passing along the lower line of the fence, and going in the direction of the camp on the hill side.

They could scarcely have got round the fence, when Tom came crashing through the low scrubby undergrowth of the bush. “Sophy! Sophy!” he cried. “What is the matter? Where are you?” There was no answer. Could he have been deceived? No. He was sure it was her voice. Most likely she had come to the place of appointment, and something had frightened her and she had run home. Yes, that must be it. Well, it had not been his fault that he had been so late. He had had farther to go than he thought; though he should never be able to excuse himself to the poor girl after getting her such a fright, when she had come out on a night like this to meet him. “I don't know how I shall be able to look her in the face,” he thought, as he took up along

  ― 117 ―
the path that led to the mill. Just then his eye caught the gleam of the camp fires of the blacks, which he saw now for the first time. “Hillo! What's this?” he thought. He paused to consider. He was not very quick-witted, and did not come to a conclusion very rapidly. He was carrying on his shoulder two fowling-pieces which, with powder and shot, he had obtained during the day. As he rested these upon the ground to take a survey of the fires, he blamed them in his thoughts for causing all his difficulty; then from the guns his mind went back to George, who was so anxious they should have them; and from George to those he so much hated—the blacks. “Ah! Yes, that is it! They are blacks camping there; those are their fires. George suspected they were coming here, and so gave us that warning. And that scream! Have they molested Sophy, or has she only been frightened by them?” Thus he thought, and as the dread of danger to Sophy came across his mind, he threw the guns over his shoulder, rushed on up the track, and in a few seconds dashed in at the door, which, though closed, was unfastened.

“Sophy, Sophy! Where, oh where is she?” he cried, as, with a pale cheek, he stood before the miller.

“Sophy?” answered Sandy. “She's ben in her ain room, I jalouse.”

“Have you seen her?” Tom continued.

“I've no' seen her the last ten minutes,” replied Sandy.

“Has she not just come in?” and Tom's voice trembled as he spoke.

“Come in? She's no been oot,” said Sandy.

“Oh, be sure, be sure!” exclaimed Tom. “Sophy! Where are you? Answer me, Sophy!” he called out, as he rushed to her room to seek her.

  ― 118 ―

The alarm, that was so unmistakably painted upon Tom's countenance, had by this time communicated itself to that of the miller. “What's a' this ca'ing and crying aboot, mon?” said he, in a voice that was meant to be angry, to cover the uneasiness he felt. “What for d'ye come frichtening us oot o' our wits, as though ye were daft? What d'ye mean ava'?”

“It means that not ten minutes ago,” responded Tom, “I heard Sophy's voice give a scream of alarm.”

“Is that a'? Ye jist fancied it. There's a black camp ayont there.”

“I know it. I saw their fires” continued Tom. “I heard her voice on the flat, and I thought that perhaps some of the black dogs might have interfered with her. I ran up as fast as I could to see if they had, and now Sophy's not to be found.”

“No' to be found? Ye dinna ken what ye're talking aboot! She's aboot somewhere. Dinna fricht me, mon; ye ken she's here aboot!” And he, now seriously alarmed for his daughter, rushed off to her room, and, with Dick and Tom, searched, not only that, but every other room in the place, but without finding her.

“There's no time to be lost,” now cried Tom. “We must at once go to the camp of the blacks and get her from them, or at all events die with her.” And then he brought forward the two guns he had procured. “It's well I followed George's advice, in spite of all that was said against me,” and, as Dick was about to speak, he continued, “But there, that's enough about that. I don't bear malice, and if I wanted to, I couldn't at such a time as this. Dick, you'll stand by us, won't you? For I know you're no coward.”

“To be sure I will! To the last,” said Dick.

“Here, then, take this gun, and here's powder and

  ― 119 ―
shot! And you, Sandy, fetch your fowling-piece; and then, whatever men can do, we'll do; and we'll either get her back or die for her!” Tom exclaimed.

“We're in the han's o' Providence!” piously ejaculated the miller. “But, oh, my puir bairn! my bonnie lassie! It's ower hard to bear, to know her in the power o' they ruthless savages!”

“Hurry! Hurry!” cried Tom. “She sha'n't be long so if you'll only be quick.”

And they armed themselves, and were almost ready to start forth, when a light tap was struck upon the door outside.

“Come in, whoe'er ye are,” said the miller. “The door's open, ye ken.”

“No, no,” answered a voice outside in a low tone. “We must not be seen to enter. And you, if you value your lives, fasten the door securely. Go round and open the window of the girl's room as quietly as you can, and allow no ray of light to enter the room and show what you've done.”

“And who are you that's making all this ceremony?” asked Tom.

“It's me—George,” replied the same subdued voice. “The mill is surrounded by blacks, and every minute you keep me here makes my life of less value. So be quick, if you do not want to see me speared on your doorstep!”

Without stopping to inquire further, Tom ran round to Sophy's room and obeyed the instructions given. George immediately came through, then the dog Blucher was passed in, and last of all Jamie entered, getting in at the opening very deliberately, and stopping occasionally to look back, as if he rather preferred to be outside amongst his enemies. George immediately shut and secured the windows, and then, with much noise, went

  ― 120 ―
to the door and shot to the bolts of that also. Then he turned towards the three men, and for the first time perceived that they were armed.

“So, then, it seems you've found it out,” he said; “and there was all the less need for me to come and tell you.”

“Oh, Geordie, Geordie, we had nae thocht o' oursels,” cried the miller; “but it's my lassie, my ain only bairn! She's gane, stow'n awa' by thae reiving blacks!”

“Sophy gone, and in the hands of the blacks!” shouted George, in the height of astonishment.

“We fear so, George,” said Tom; whilst Sandy wrung his hands in agony of mind.

“Gone!” George again exclaimed, as though uncertain that he had heard rightly. Then, suddenly turning upon Dick, he seized him by the throat, whilst his eyes blazed with passion. “You hang-dog villain! Do you know anything of this?”

“No, no!” said Tom, coming to Dick's rescue, and trying to unloosen George's grip. “He could have known nothing about it.” And then he explained more fully than he had done before how Sophy had that morning made an appointment to meet him, and how, from the spot where she was to have found him, he had heard a cry of distress in, as he thought, her voice.

“And now to rescue her!” cried Tom.

“Rescue her!” and George gave a grim smile. “Why, you couldn't go fifty yards from the door before there would be a dozen spears through each of you.”

“What!” they all exclaimed simultaneously.

“Yes,” continued George. “The mill is surrounded by these black devils, and it was only by the greatest care and caution, and with some assistance that I had from a friend, that I managed to pass through their line; and

  ― 121 ―
when me and Jamie are put to the pinch, I don't know how you would fare.”

“But,” put in Tom, “I had only just come in ten minutes before you, and I saw no sign of a living soul.”

“You must have come up by a path that had been left for a time unguarded—no doubt, from the absence of those who captured Sophy. Had you been ten minutes later, you would never have been able to reach the house.”

“What are we to do, then?” asked Tom. “Sit down here, and leave Sophy in the hands of these devils?”

“You must wait patiently till morning, and secure the house as well as you can,” replied George calmly. “It will be attacked at daylight, and much will depend upon the result of that attack. Show no signs of fear or suspicion, and the chances are that nothing will be attempted till morning. You heard the noise I purposely made in fastening the door?”

“Yes,” said they.

“Well, they've heard it too, and it will give them a hint that no good is to be got in that direction, and will keep them from you till daylight. These devils have no stomach for fighting in the dark, though, had I been a few minutes later, and you had left your door unfastened, it's very likely you would have been rushed and tomahawked, and my advice would have been useless.”

“But my bairn! My puir Sophy! My ain dear dautie!” put in Sandy.

“Have no fear for her. I will watch over her!” replied George.

“You!” cried Tom in astonishment. “Will you venture out again?”

“I have a mission to perform, and can receive no hurt till it is done!” George answered solemnly. “Have

  ― 122 ―
no fear for me. If Sophy is uninjured when I get outside, depend upon it she will remain so. Jamie and the dog I will leave with you, and they will do you good service. Has the lower part of the mill been secured?”

“There is nothing there to secure,” replied Dick, “except the one room, and they won't find anything there but my bedding.”

“Then, if that is the case, there are no doubt a dozen of these black devils safely lodged below by this time. So, secure the trap doors as well as you can, and keep a sharp eye in that direction to prevent surprise. Jamie will keep watch at this window, looking out towards the creek, for that will be the quarter I shall be in. He will report any signals I may make for your guidance, for he understands them, and I will keep a sharp look-out. The main rush, however, will be in the front, and so prepare for it. Don't sleep a wink, for these imps of Satan are capable of taking up their perch on the roof, and dropping down upon you at daylight between the sheets of bark.”

“And Sophy!” exclaimed Tom and the miller in one voice, when he had concluded.

“If she is safe now, she shall remain so; I pledge you the word of a soldier on it. Do you keep good watch here, and trust me to mount guard over her. There! Now I'll go forth and give her some hope, poor girl, for I dare say she's sad enough now.” So saying, and after innumerable messages on the one side and directions on the other, George went to the window by which he had entered, and, waiting for an opportunity when the moon was covered by a darker cloud than ordinary, he opened the shutter, and dropped out gently and noiselessly.

  ― 123 ―

Chapter V The Attack

ONCE or twice during this early part of the evening, Blucher showed visible signs of uneasiness; but after a time he seemed to be more satisfied, for he curled himself up before the fire and composed himself to sleep. When the dog lay down, Jamie called the others to him, and, pointing to the animal, said in a whisper, “There, you see the Marshal? Well, that's the way he has of saying that there isn't anything more to be done to-night. So now, if you three like to lay down and have a sleep, I'll keep watch; and then one of you can give me a spell by'n-bye. We'll be ready, then, for these niggers in the morning.”

Poor Sandy was thinking too much of the precarious position in which his daughter was placed to allow him to entertain the least idea of sleep, and Tom was in much about the same predicament. These two, on consulting over the matter, proposed to watch through the night, whilst Jamie and Dick slept; it being understood that when the two sentries felt disposed for sleep, they should awake the sleepers. Jamie consented to this arrangement at once, although he stipulated that the watchers should pay every attention to the movements of the Marshal, and that he should be roused up the very instant the dog made a move. He then lay down, and in a few minutes was asleep, whilst Dick was not long in following his example.

  ― 124 ―

In this way the night passed over, but just previous to the dawn of day a heavier storm than usual passed over. The rain came pouring down in torrents, accompanied by vivid flashes of lightning and heavy thunder. So great was the riot of the elements, that the sleepers were instantly aroused, and listened with something approaching to awe to the angry turmoil without. Mingled with the bellowing of the storm came the fierce roaring of the river, which had broken over its banks, covered the flat upon which last night the blacks had thought to make their camp, and was lashing against the outer slabs that enclosed the lower floor. The ripple of the water could be plainly heard amongst the timbers of the machinery, whilst the creek above came pouring down the rocky bed, and added by its furious dash to the general tumult. Blucher sprang up with the rest, as if to give the signal that the time for action had now come. Only for an instant he stood undecided whether to go to the front or the back, and, then running off to the large front doors, he put his nose to the bottom of them, sniffed vigorously there, scratched at the boards to try to make himself a way out, and then showed his teeth in order to evince his desire to use them upon something outside.

Suddenly there came a thundering blow upon the door that shook it to its centre. Several blacks had brought down a large log, which they were using as a battering-ram; but the door was composed of stout slabs, adzed down to something like smoothness, and bolted together through cross pieces of similar hard and enduring materials—materials sufficiently hard to have resisted for a time the battering of the ordinary artillery of those days. Blow after blow fell rapidly upon the door, almost before the besieged knew what was coming. On hearing

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these blows upon the front door, the blacks below, as though it had been a signal, thundered upon the trap-door, and tried their utmost to force it open. Luckily every precaution had been taken in this direction.

“Don't stand looking!” shouted Jamie, “but give 'em pepper through the window.”

Tom's salt-water experience had been of service in this respect, for he had secured pieces of rope fastened to the shutter bolts through staples driven into the window posts. The rope, being knotted, allowed the shutter to be opened only a sufficient width to fire through, and then to be closed again immediately. Jamie withdrew the bolt, pushed the shutter open as far as it would go, and fired into the midst of the blacks who held the log. One fell, and the others in their fright dropped the log. Sandy now took Jamie's place whilst the other reloaded, fired, and hit another black; and, as they still stood irresolute, the window on the other side of the door was opened, and two shots in quick succession brought down as many blacks, whilst the rest, completely disconcerted, fell back with wild yells and in the greatest confusion.

Tom then placed Dick at the window whence they had fired, and ran into the store, upon the trap-door of which the blacks were working vigorously with their tomahawks, although with their light axes they could make but little impression upon the hard wood. At the same time they had this advantage, that Tom could find but one or two places through which he could put the muzzle of his gun, whilst from no spot could he reach those who were crowding on the steps and hammering at the trap-door. At a loss how to proceed, he had only to wait until the blacks themselves had cut an orifice, through which he could deliver his fire.

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After the retreat from the front of the house, Jamie had gone to the post which his father had directed him to occupy, and he arrived there not a minute too soon to prevent evil consequences. When he opened the window to look out, he found that three blacks had climbed up from the lower storey, and were passing along the sleeper into which the upper row of slabs had been let. One of these was close to the window when it was opened, and, startled by the suddenness of the boy's movements, he slipped, just as his hand was about to clutch the sill, and fell; but before he reached the ground he received the contents of Jamie's gun, and, with a shriek of pain, fell into the stream below.

The blacks had all disappeared from the front of the house, and they had no doubt withdrawn to consider some other plan of attack, now that they had found the doors too strong to be forced. The shouts of triumph from those below, however, showed that they knew the advantage of their position, and that they believed the trap-door was yielding before their blows. Finding that all their united exertions would be required to meet the danger that threatened in this direction, Tom at once called the miller and Dick to his assistance. These, confiding the look-out in front to Jamie, ran at once to the rescue. A hasty consultation took place, and then Dick, seizing an axe, began cutting openings in the floor, through which they occasionally fired. Sandy also brought every possible description of timber he could find long enough to reach across the opening, and threw it on to the trap-door, in order to embarrass them if the door were forced. At last a hole was cut through the door itself, partly by the blacks and partly by Dick, and then the three, stationing themselves round it, fired down

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repeatedly, one after the other, and soon made the stairway too hot for the black besiegers.

Time and again the battle waxed and waned, principally around the trap-door. The guns of the defenders accounted for no small number of the rascally blacks, and Jamie's tally kept ever increasing, until it reached the number of eight. “Not a bad score for a morning's work before breakfast,” he exclaimed, as he turned to load again.

There was for a moment a temporary lull in the attack. The blacks were evidently preparing for a last and desperate rush at the trap. They had matured their plans, and the signal had just been given, and had been responded to by the most horrible yells; when, above all their wild cries, above the fierce bellowings of the storm, there came a deep booming report that made the air vibrate, and caused even the solidly-built mill to tremble. All, whites and blacks, held their breath for a while in awe of that fearful unknown sound—so loud, so terrible, so threatening, that all stood aghast. In the next instant it was explained, for, with a terrible roar, the vast volume of water, that had been kept back by the dam above, came down in one mighty wave upon them. The race, the mill wheel, everything that could be moved, were torn up and borne away like straws before the irresistible violence of that immense body of water. The under part of the mill was swept clean out, leaving not a trace of the black-skins, who, a moment before, had all but carried the broken trap-door. The whole thing, however, was almost instantaneous. That vast wall of water had come down on them and departed even whilst they drew their breath; and, almost before they knew what had occurred, they had to thank a benign Providence that had watched over them, and held up their dwelling against so terrible a force.

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Chapter VI Eumerella's Vengeance

WHEN George left the mill, just before the attack, he at once made his way to a spot where he had arranged to meet Eumerella, and from her he learned that it was Opara who had captured Sophy, whom he intended to make his gin. The girl further explained that she would be able to protect the miller's daughter in the mean time, and ultimately enable her to escape.

Pressed by George as to how she intended to circumvent Opara, she declined to give him any information, further than to say, “Eumerella has all prepared, and when the fight begins, her white friend will see that the young girl of Port Stephens knows how to carry out with her hand whatever her head has planned.”

With the first streak of daylight, Eumerella made her way to the mill dam. Once there, she descended into the bed of the creek, and carefully examined the various supports by which the dam was held in position, and enabled to hold good against the great weight of water that it kept back. There was an immense body of water pouring over the dam, as the creek itself was heavily flooded, and it was in itself a task of no small difficulty and danger to pass, sometimes under, sometimes through, the cascade that poured down from the height above. She now produced a small tomahawk, and went vigorously to work to cut down or remove the greater part of the

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sloping stakes which formed stays or supports to the heavy mass of blended stones and earth that composed the dam. Every here and there one was left, but the earth was so loosened round the foot of it as to make it give way readily upon the slightest increase of pressure upon it. The roar of the waters drowned the sound of the strokes of her tomahawk, and she worked long and hard, in danger of being swept away at any moment, for, had she made the least mistake by removing stays essential to the construction, she must have been overwhelmed in the ruin that would have followed. She knew all this. She had come prepared for it, and held her life as nothing in the balance against her great revenge.

Hardly had she completed her task, when that mighty storm, that fearful conflict of the elements, that had ushered in the morning, burst over the spot. Then came the hurry of the attack and the noise of conflict. With an outward appearance of calm, but with an inward excitement for the success of her plot, she watched the various phases of the strife, and was almost in despair when the attack upon the front was so nearly successful. Then came the shout of triumph from below, and the rush of those above to participate in the triumph of their fellows, and then she knew that the time for her revenge had now come. The dam already surged and quivered under the weight of the accumulated waters; one blow, and it would fall. Mounting to a jutting rock that over-hung the creek, she cast down upon one of the few main supports still left a huge log that she had provided for the occasion, and had long since placed in readiness to give the final stroke to the work of destruction. Guided by her too willing hand, the heavy weight struck fair upon the point intended, and the support gave way and fell. In an instant the water burst its bonds, and, with

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an angry roar, leapt forth upon its course of devastation. Before she could look round upon what she had done, every vestige of the dam had been swept clean away, and the whole body of water had rushed down in a solid wall upon the horde of yelling savages whom she had doomed to destruction. This, then, had been her plan, and this had been the reason why she had striven so hard to form the camp upon the flat below. Had not the flooded river rendered it impossible to camp upon the flat, neither woman nor child would have escaped from that terrible wave to have told the tale of the tribe's annihilation.

Only by an effort had she escaped, and now, perched upon an eminence, she watched the descending flood that she had set loose, and, as it struck the mill, and everything disappeared before it, she uttered a fierce yell of exultation, which, loud as it was, was drowned by the terrific roar of the rushing water.

There was another, however, who had seen the devastating effects of the inundation caused by the breaking down of the mill dam. Throughout the whole of the conflict, George had been engaged in keeping his eyes on Opara, whom he regarded as his special prey, dreading lest, in the heat of conflict, this chief might fall by some other hand than his. He was determined, however, not to be robbed of his prey, if any effort of his could prevent it: and as he saw the black figures of the natives borne away upon the rushing torrent, he dashed down the bank of the creek to a thick group of saplings that were growing upon the water's edge. Here he had left a small boat belonging to the mill, that he had brought over the previous evening and concealed in this thicket. He at once cast off the fastenings and jumped in, and the next instant he was whirled into the fast-running current. Hastily scanning the faces of the struggling

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blacks he passed by one after the other, until he had almost begun to despair of success. At last, with a cry that was almost joyful, he guided his boat towards one swimmer, who in his strength had managed to get out of the main force of the current, and who was at once recognised by George as his mortal foe. There was a gleam of baffled rage in the face of Opara, who, assured that his last hour had come, gave once glance of scornful defiance, and then lay passive in the water, resigned to the death-stroke which he made sure he was about to receive.

“Has Opara lived too long, that he allows himself to float down the water to the dark land?” asked George.

Opara made no reply, although he turned up his eyes inquiringly as though to ask whether his foe were taunting him.

“Opara has but to get into the canoe of the white, and he is saved,” George continued.

Still the black made no reply; but George held out his disengaged hand, and it was seized by Opara, who, after some struggling, and by the assistance of George, was enabled to get into the boat, while George managed to pull the boat under the lee of a thick growth of timber, that broke the force of the stream. Here he landed, and, pulling the boat up, directed Opara to land also. The black, who had by this time recovered from his exhaustion, did as he was bid, and stepped ashore without aid. And now, as the two confronted each other, George looked upon his enemy long and steadily.

“Did Opara think that his last hour had come?” asked George, as he caught a scowling look from the savage.

“Opara is not afraid to die!” the other answered proudly. “Let the white man do his worst; Opara is ready.”

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George smiled grimly. “The time has not yet come,” he said. “When the day and hour arrive, Opara will know it only by the blow he receives. Does Opara remember what the white man told him on the Sassafras Range?”

Opara's lip curled contemptuously.

“Did not the white man say that he would watch, and that no injury should come to Opara? Opara was in amongst the fire of the white man's guns, and no shot hit him. He was carried away by the fierce waters, and yet now he is safe. Neither Opara, nor Macomo, nor Atare shall die in any other way than by the hand of the white whom they have made childless.”

Opara seemed somewhat impressed by this, but still made no answer.

“Did not the white man say that he would preserve them from death until the day and hour came when he would take their lives and fulfil his oath. Had not the white man sworn that oath, he would have left the body of Opara to be carried down on the stream, as the bodies of the bravest of his tribe have been by this time. You know me now, and you know that I am ever on the watch. Now go; you are free to depart, but beware of the time when next we meet.”

“Why should Opara depart, or why has the white man saved him? Opara has failed, and all the bravest of his tribe have perished. He has led them into danger, and has not shared their fate. He will be a scorn to his tribe, and the gins will jeer. Opara can never again meet the men of his tribe who remain.”

“Opara must live till his time comes,” replied George. “Let him join his tribe without loss of time, and repair the injury he has done to it and others. And

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if he would do well, let him send back the white girl of the mill to her friends.”

A sudden glow of exultation spread over the face of Opara, as he remembered for the first time since his meeting with George that he held the miller's daughter captive. Through her he would be enabled to revenge himself upon the whites who had so greatly injured his tribe, and through her also he might strike another blow at the white man before him, who evidently took an interest in her. All this passed rapidly through his mind, and in a moment his despondency had departed, and the reverses of the morning were forgotten in the hope of revenge that was now held out to him. His whole manner changed, and he, who the moment before had been resigned to meet his death-stroke, was now in his turn threatening and vengeful. Raising his hand defiantly in the air, he exclaimed—“Good! Opara will go. It is the turn of the white this time; but before long it will be the turn of the black. Let the white man also take heed of our next meeting.” So saying, he turned off from the water, and dashed away up the slope of the ridge, halting at the top to again face his foe and shake his hand vengefully towards him. Thereupon George made his way towards the mill with speedy steps, and by as short a cut through the bush as he could find.

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Chapter VII The Rescue

MAXWELL reached the mill in as brief a time as the distance permitted, but only to find it deserted. He was not disappointed at this, for it was no more than he expected. His first proceeding was to satisfy himself as to the direction that the mill people had taken, and to do this he followed their track for some distance from the house. In doing this, he learnt that Jamie and the dog had accompanied the others, and this discovery gave him no small amount of satisfaction, as he rather trusted to the recognised experience of his son, and the known instinct of Blucher, than to the hot-headed haste of Sandy and his two men. Assured upon this point, he returned to the house, drew together the embers of the fire, and put down a quart of water to boil. Helping himself to bread and meat from the pantry, he made himself a pot of tea, and then, sitting down, took a hearty breakfast. This over, he took another and a more careful survey of the tracks, so as to assure himself of the point at which the party were aiming, and then, going down to the creek, he managed to find a crossing-place. Here he procured his gun, ammunition, blankets, &c., which he had left behind when he had sprung into the boat. He now took up the creek, crossed it considerably above the spot where he had last done so, and started upon the track which now lay clear and open before him.

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After witnessing the successful issue of her scheme of vengeance, Eumerella made her way to the camp of the gins, who had been ordered to move about four miles further inland, and there await the return of the warriors. She found Sophy in the charge of two old harridans, who guarded her so jealously that it was only by strategy she succeeded in getting a word with her. She infused fresh hope in the white girl's breast by telling her of the destruction of the tribe and of the safety of those at the mill, and assured Sophy of her willingness to assist in her escape whenever the opportunity presented itself.

Meanwhile, Opara and the survivors of the mill catastrophe, knowing that the whites would soon be on their tracks, made all possible haste to strike across the ranges, carefully blinding their trails as they went. But, in so doing, they forget that Jamie and his dog were experts at black-tracking, and knew every turn and trick in the aboriginal game. Consequently it was not long before the mill party were in hot pursuit, guided chiefly by the unerring instinct of Blucher, whose sense of smell came to the rescue when the blinded trail baffled even the keen eyesight of his youthful master.

After a considerable time they came to a point where the trail divided, and they were at a loss which track to follow. Eventually it was decided that Sandy, Tom, and Dick should reconnoitre the path to the left, while Jamie and his canine mate should try that to the right, with what results we shall see further on.

Finding the mill deserted, George had pressed with all speed upon the tracks of the blacks, and just before sundown he came in sight of those whom he had so unweariedly followed. He had now, however, to proceed with greater caution, the more especially when he remarked

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that the men were all absent, and that the women only were preparing to camp. Surmising that the men were abroad hunting for their evening meal, he took every possible precaution to prevent discovery by his quick-sighted foes. Concealing himself in a cluster of bushes, he looked about cautiously, and then advanced to some other spot favourable for concealment. In this way he was gradually approaching the camp, his object being to get near enough to give Eumerella some signal of his presence. He had reached a small lot of scrub that he considered to be suitable to screen him, and was in the act of rising to give the cry that should warn his black ally of his presence, when he was startled by a sound behind him. Turning quickly round, he beheld Opara and another black close upon him. He leapt to his feet, but, before he could take any steps to defend himself, he was struck down by the heavy ironbark waddy of Opara, and fell senseless.

There was a brief consultation between the savages as to the expediency of at once putting their captive to death. They knew not that Jamie had come up whilst they were discussing this question, and that the first demonstration of violence would have signed the death-warrant of him who made it. But Opara was swayed, not by mercy, but because he thought that he might induce George, by the prospect of giving him his liberty, to use his influence with the white girl. He thereupon announced to his follower that the life of the prisoner was to be spared, and that he was to be taken down to the camp. With very little ceremony, they laid hold of the senseless body of George, and dragged it forward to the camp fires, where, throwing it down, they pointed it out with a grunt of savage satisfaction to the unfortunate Sophy.

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The poor girl at once recognised her attached friend in the mangled heap that was thus heedlessly treated, and, at once rushing up to the body, threw herself upon it, and in wild terms bemoaned her hard fate that brought death and destruction to all who sought to succour her. Eumerella likewise approached the body, but it was only to heap upon it the most opprobrious epithets. She denounced the whites generally, and George more particularly, as the destroyers of the blacks of all tribes, and concluded by declaring that so great an enemy of the tribe should have no place near the camp fires of the present party, and the body of George was accordingly dragged beyond the line of light thrown by the fire. There he was left, and Sophy would have remained with him, had she been permitted to do so. This, however, Opara would not allow; and Eumerella, in a few hasty whispered words, warned her to leave George, who was only stunned, to his own resources, since by stopping at his side she would only be directing more attention to him. “For his sake and for your own sake,” said Eumerella, “we must take as little notice of him as possible.”

“But he is dead,” cried Sophy in despair, “and he can never do either you or your tribe any more harm.”

“Dead! No!” answered the other. “Such a blow as that does not kill. He will not be long before he revives, and then, if we can throw the men off their guard, he can contrive for himself. Besides, he is not alone. His son is sure to be with him, and Eumerella knows how ready the boy is when work is to be done.”

So saying, she brought Sophy back to the camp, scolding loudly at her sympathy with the white enemy of the tribe, and launching indiscriminate abuse upon all white-skins.

  ― 140 ―

Everything was quiet in the camp, and sleep had to all appearance fallen upon all but a solitary watcher who sat motionless before his handful of fire, when George, who had hitherto lain as passive as if he were dead, cautiously raised himself and looked round. Consciousness had come upon him some time before, but he had remained quiescent until the silence of the camp assured him that he was no longer in danger of being watched. Carefully he looked round, and marked the position of the camp, and more especially the fire of the watchful sentry, whose whole attitude of attention showed that he was the only one from whom discovery was to be dreaded. He was still making his observations, when he felt something rub up against him, and the next instant the dog Blucher came fondling upon him in his usual noiseless manner. Having relieved his feelings by these endearments, he almost instantly retreated. Satisfied now that Jamie was not far off, George was enabled to take all his proceedings with far more confidence than he would otherwise have been able to do. His head still spun from the effects of the blow, and he lay back once more to recover himself and to ruminate upon what had best be done. With Jamie by his side there would be no difficulty now in rescuing Sophy, provided he could communicate with the boy without alarming the guards. As he lay thus, he saw the sentry rise and go out on his exploration of the track, and then marked him as he returned and came near enough to see in the darkness that the prisoner was still lying in the same spot. George now understood the whole proceeding; so, lying motion-less until the sentry again rose and went out on his beat, he sprang to his feet, took off his coat and hat, and, laying them down in such a way as, in the uncertain light, to deceive the watcher, he stole away quietly and cautiously

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in the direction previously taken by the dog,—a direction directly opposite to that in which the sentry had gone. He had not moved away more than twenty yards, when a faint chirruping, like that of the bush cricket, attracted his attention, and, going towards the spot whence the sound proceeded, the dog came out to meet him, and a few yards further on he encountered his son.

Jamie seized his father's hand and wrung it strongly, but no words passed between them. They were too near the camp, and they almost held their breath as they saw the sentry come into the circle of light thrown by his own fire, and thence proceed towards where the prisoner was supposed to be lying. George's thoughtfulness, however, had prevented discovery, for the sentry returned without suspicion and seated himself by the fire.

Having retreated beyond earshot, and considered the position of affairs, our two adventurers determined to make an immediate attempt to rescue Sophy Morrison. They accordingly stole noiselessly on towards the blacks' camp, and, when within a short distance, George gave a signal, by imitating the cry of one of the many night birds of the bush, that warned Eumerella that he was free, and that he was about to attempt a deed of daring. The black girl at once knew what this meant. Having a full confidence in George's resources, she knew that he would not long remain in the power of his captors, and, with Sophy, had kept constant watch, though pretending to sleep, as she leant over the fire. When the cry was heard, she rose and stirred together the expiring embers before her, so as to make a blaze for a minute or so. By this George was enabled, in the first place to know at once the spot he had to go to, and in the next, to perceive the exact positions of the women and Opara. Having done this, she again assumed her former position,

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complaining rather loudly at the noisy vermin of the bush that disturbed her. At the same time she grasped Sophy by the wrist, and with a significant gesture motioned towards the place whence the sound had come. Without precisely understanding her meaning, Sophy gathered from the conduct of her black friend that something in which she was concerned was afoot, and this had the effect of keeping her on the alert, although her own feelings at her disagreeable position prevented the possibility of sleep.

Allowing sufficient time to pass over to permit of the blacks getting again into sound sleep after the temporary disturbance of their rest by Eumerella, George stole onwards noiselessly and almost imperceptibly, now advancing on his hands and knees under shelter of a bush, now crawling along prone on the ground, until at last he reached the side of Sophy, who was sitting by the fire, her head supported by her hands, and these again resting on her knees, in anxious expectation of something, but what she knew not. With a motion that impressed upon her the necessity for silence, he took the shawl in which she was enveloped off her shoulders, and put it upon his own; then, pointing out the direction she was to go, he waved his hand as bidding her depart. When she rose, he took her place by the fire, and she had sense enough to retreat in the same way that he had advanced, by keeping in the line of the shadow made by his body. Covering his head with the shawl as the girl had done, he sat silent and motionless, listening with intent anxiety to her somewhat laboured and noisy progress, and his eye fixed upon the sleeping savage near him. She had got some distance, when in the darkness she tripped over some of the dead timber that cumbered the ground, and fell. Her fall and the crash of the breaking timber made

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so much noise that Opara was at once awakened, and started to his feet. Sophy, however, had the good sense when she fell to lie perfectly quiet and motionless. Opara looked round, first to the spot where he had last seen his captive, and was reassured in that respect by the shawl-clad figure that sat there precisely as he had seen it on going to sleep; then he looked towards the sentry, and perceived him standing out from his camp fire, endeavouring to pierce through the darkness for an explanation of the noise he had heard. Satisfied in this quarter also, Opara exchanged a few words with the sentry, and the two expressed a mutual opinion that the noise had been caused by a dead bough falling from a tree. Opara again lay down, enveloped himself in his opossum rug, and in a few minutes was once more asleep. George sat quiet until the sentry had taken his distant turn, when, rising suddenly, with a few light steps he stood by the side of his sleeping foe. Then, bending down, with a firm grip he seized him by the throat, and in a harsh whisper exclaimed—“One word above your breath, and I'll strangle you as you lie!”

Opara opened his eyes, only to meet those of his deadly enemy bent down upon him in a way that there was no need of words to explain. The pressure on his throat, however, prevented his calling out; and he could only scowl back upon his foe as fiercely as his impeded respiration would permit.

“Listen, Opara,” George hissed into the ear of the prostrate savage. “This morning I saved your life, and to-night you struck me down, but spared my life. We are therefore quits, and owe each other nothing on this day's score. But, to show how powerless you are in my hands, see how I take you by the throat in your own camp and in the midst of your warriors. The white gin

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your captive is away and safe, for it was I whom you saw seated at your camp fire. Your tribe, by my assistance, has been all but destroyed, and your time has nearly come. When the sun has risen fourteen times, you will have to pay with your life for the injury you did to me and mine twelve moons ago. Farewell till then. Attempt to follow me, and, though your life will be spared till the proper time comes, the lives of your comrades will be taken one after the other until you are left alone, to return without a warrior with you, utterly disgraced, to your tribe.” All the time he spoke, he had kept just sufficient pressure on the throat of the black to prevent him from calling out; and now, having concluded, he gave an additional squeeze to the other's windpipe, and then, relinquishing his hold, dashed away through the bush. It was some seconds before Opara could collect the senses that had been scattered by this semi-strangulation, but then he started staggering to his feet, and burning with rage at his discomfiture. One glance was sufficient to satisfy him that George had spoken the truth, and that Sophy was gone, and then, in the mad impulse of passion, he called loudly to his comrades to rise and arm themselves, and started off in the direction which he supposed George had taken. But the sound of the white's retreating footsteps was already lost in the distance, and before he had gone many yards, the uselessness of following the fugitive became manifest. So, sitting down by the fire, he passed the night in brooding over the ignominy he had suffered at the hands of the white, and in thinking over the best means of taking vengeance on his foe.

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Chapter VIII The Traitor

SANDY and his companions, having lost all sign of the trail of those they pursued, returned to the spot where Jamie had turned off from the broad track. Here they found that the boy had here and there marked a tree, in order to guide them upon the path they had to follow. They had, however, gone farther than he had done, and at the same time they had not travelled so rapidly, so that they had not gone more than half the distance from the rocky gully to the camping-ground of the blacks before night surprised them, and they were compelled to camp. During the night, a scheme of treachery, that had been begotten during the day in the mind of Dick, was brought to full maturity, though as yet he saw not how the initiative step was to be taken. For this he had to trust to some lucky chance, and, as always happens to the rogue, the chance was soon offered him.

At daylight the next morning they again started on Jamie's track, but they had not gone more than a couple of miles, before Dick, who was the only one of the three who had any pretension to bush-craft, heard the sound of voices, and knew the voices to be those of blacks. Warning the others to keep silent and out of view, he advanced alone to reconnoitre. He had barely got beyond sight and hearing of his friends, than he came in view of Opara and his party. Dick concealed himself until the

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blacks had got within easy speaking distance, and then suddenly showing himself, and addressing them in their own language, he declared himself as a friend of the blacks and an enemy of the white men who were pursuing them. It was some time before he could induce them to believe that such was the case, but ultimately, after some parleying, the rogues seemed to recognise each other, and he and Opara entered into conversation.

“The white man says he is a friend of the blacks,” observed Opara. “How is it that we see him armed and in company with those who seek our lives?”

Dick smiled as he answered, “I came with them to overthrow their arrangements, and even now I will, if the black wishes it, deliver my companions into his hand.”

“Are those with him his enemies?” asked Opara.

“I hate them!” growled Dick; “but if I give you these, you must in return give me the white girl!”

Opara was rather posed at this. He expressed his regret that this could not be done, as the girl had been rescued last night out of his hands. He then narrated, of course in his own way, the escape of Sophy; and Dick almost foamed with rage as he heard, and in his heart cursed the ill watch that the blacks had kept, and the carelessness that had allowed the girl to get free. Putting as good a face on matters as he could, he said, “Then we must take another course. The two whites with me must be made prisoners, but must not be injured—yet. They must be kept as a bait to lure the girl into your power, and I think I can manage it.”

“And when in my power, she is to be given up to the white?” put in Opara.

Dick nodded acquiescence.

Opara seemed to muse, but after a time assented to the terms proposed. The two worthies in a very short

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period concocted a plan by which to arrive at the end they proposed. This settled, Dick returned to his companions to report progress, the blacks remaining until they received a signal to advance.

When Dick returned, he told his companions that he had come across a black named Opara, who belonged to a different tribe from those they were pursuing, but who knew the whereabouts of the band who had captured Sophy. Upon the pre-arranged signal being given, Opara emerged from his hiding-place, and, after much palaver and many promises of rum and tobacco, he agreed to pilot Sandy and the others to the camp of the marauders.

Taking over the ranges, Opara led the whites into a thick scrubby country. At one particular spot Opara halted about the middle of the day to rest and eat. Whilst they were taking some refreshment, two blacks suddenly threw themselves upon Tom, and the same number grappled with Sandy, and the whites, taken at a disadvantage, were soon overcome. Dick had withdrawn himself to a distance prior to the attack being made; for, traitor as he was, he did not desire that his companions should be witnesses of his treachery. The prisoners were soon bound, and were thus left under the guardianship of two of the men, whilst Opara and another went to consult with Dick.

“Are they secured?” asked Dick.

“The white man would make a great chief,” replied Opara. “If he would join himself with the black men of the bush, his enemies would all fall down before him.”

“It may come to that, perhaps,” said Dick, “before very long; but at present I've a different game to play. What you have to do now is to keep them safe, and then, as soon as they are a bit reasonable, you must bring them

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up nearer to the mill. Be near at hand, to take advantage of anything that turns up.”

“The white man is a very great chief, and his orders shall be obeyed. Opara is ready to seize upon the white girl and keep her for the great chief.”

“Let us get her first,” said Dick, “and we will settle ownership afterwards. Neither of us, to judge from your looks, are likely to quarrel about so paltry a thing as a girl.” So saying, he left them; but Dick would not have gone away so contented or so hopeful for his scheme of villainy, had he seen the look of mingled malice and revenge that appeared on the face of Opara as he raised his hand with a threatening gesture against his departing ally.

As Dick returned towards the mill, he weighed in his own mind the advantages that might be drawn to himself from this venture. Sandy and Tom disposed of, he might very well take possession of the mill. He could easily give it out that he had been directed to take charge until their return from searching after Sophy. But then Sophy—yes, that would interfere with his plan concerning her! Well, let the black keep her; she would never turn up then to denounce him. And George—he certainly knew too much, and might be dangerous; he must be handed over to the tender mercies of the blacks, who would be more than his match, now that they had fire-arms. Then—yes, then all would be made safe, and every evidence against him would be removed. This plan was much more feasible, and much more calculated to benefit him, than if he were to take Sophy for himself, and knock the black on the head, as he intended to do after that worthy had performed the same friendly office for Tom and the miller. Sophy might be troublesome,

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and it would be best to rid himself of her altogether by giving her up to the savages.

And Opara—what plan did he propose? He intended to use Dick in so far as he could be made useful to further his purpose of revenge upon the whites, and then he should share the same fate that he had plotted for the rest. He would dally no longer with the girl, but once in his power she should die.

And thus these two partners in crime schemed against each other, as well as against their proposed victims.

  ― 150 ―

Chapter IX Retribution

JAMIE, having left his father and Sophie at the mill, started off at a rapid pace to cut the trail of Sandy and his companions. Making a shrewd guess from the position in which he had left them the preceding day that they would camp somewhere on the track upon which he had left them, he made for a point beyond that, in as straight a line as the features of the country would permit. He had gone about ten miles, when Blucher, who was scouting ahead as usual, suddenly stopped and pointed, thereby giving warning of the close proximity of the enemy, and, on coming up to him, Jamie perceived Opara and his three black followers, leading amongst them the miller and Tom, bound and captives. Some distance behind them the gins of the blacks straggled on, and last of all, lagging considerably in the rear of the others, came Eumerella. As she came in a line with the spot where the boy lay concealed, he gave a low signal, such as had been previously agreed upon between them to indicate his presence. Taken by surprise, the girl gave a start as she recognised the cry of her white friend, but, instantly recovering herself, she did not so much as turn her head towards the spot where she knew he was. She slackened her pace, however, and gradually dropped behind the others even more than she had done, whilst she edged off by degrees towards the scrub in which her

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ally had found cover. At last the rest of the party crossed a rise some distance ahead of her and were then out of sight. No sooner did she perceive this than she dived deeper into the scrub, and then halted till Jamie should join her. No great time was lost before he was by her side, and at once sought from her an explanation of the strange sight he had just seen. In as few words as possible she told him all that it was necessary for him to know, hurrying him on with her at the same time, so as not to fall too far behind the party. She made him acquainted with the treachery of Dick, with the foolish confidence of Sandy and Tom, and with the departure of Dick on his traitorous mission of endeavouring to allure Sophy into the toils of the savage. She concluded by pressing upon him the necessity of taking instant steps to release his friends, if he would save their lives.

“It'll be a ticklish job,” said Jamie; “but I'll try what can be done. But, I say, don't you think you could manage to give them a notion of what I'm doing?”

“Eumerella will do what she can, but she must be careful not to be too forward, and bring down suspicion upon herself. Opara has already looked doubtfully upon her.”

“I should have liked you to be handy, so as to cut their binders, and give them a chance when I have my go in; but I suppose I can't expect that, under the circumstances,” he continued.

“All will depend on the chances Eumerella may have. She can promise nothing, but she will do her best.”

“Well, then, here's my knife,” he added; “use it to cut their bindings if you get the chance; and, if you don't, why, don't risk getting yourself into a row.”

She took the knife, and promised to make use of it

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if she got the opportunity, and hurried off to join her friends.

When Eumerella joined her party, she contrived, but with great caution, to give Sandy and Tom the information that something was about to be attempted on their behalf, and that they were expected to hold themselves in readiness to second any effort that might be made. Knowing that it would be useless to sever the bonds of the prisoners at that time, when Opara at any moment might take it into his head to examine the fastenings, she managed, unseen by the others, to slip into Tom's hand the open knife she had received from Jamie, cautioning him at the same time not to use it until the proper time. Tom had wit enough to perceive that time would be an object to whoever was about to rescue them; so, to gain this, he, and Sandy at his suggestion, complained of being weary, and walked at a slower pace, to the great annoyance of Opara and his followers, who did all in their power, even to using violence, to make them push on faster.

They at last reached a small creek that ran through a springy flat about sixty or eighty yards wide. The stream had cut out for itself a deep course through the rich alluvial soil of the flat, and was running down very heavily with the flood waters from the hills and gullies around. The flat itself was so boggy and wet as more to resemble a swamp or morass than anything else, and it was covered by a thick growth of long, tufty grass, whilst its edges were lined by clumps of low, close, scrubby undergrowth. In picking a road across the wet and spongy ground, the party necessarily straggled more than it had previously done; and, on reaching the muddy banks of the stream, they spread out even more than before, as each one searched about for a convenient crossing-place.

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One of the blacks found a narrow spot, and sprang across, but he had no sooner set his foot upon the opposite bank, than a shot was fired from a clump of bushes on the farther side of the clear ground, and he fell pierced with a bullet, to rise no more. Taken completely by surprise, the blacks stood for an instant undecided. They saw the puff of white smoke that curled up from the bushes whence the shot had been fired, but beyond that they could see nothing. They knew not what enemy they had to encounter, or what number of foes they had to meet. Opara was the first to recover himself, but he had barely time to speak a few words of encouragement to his two remaining followers, when there was again that report from the bush, again that small cloud of smoke, and then another of his warriors fell by the deadly bullet of their unseen foe.

The instant the first shot was fired, Tom had cut loose the bonds by which Sandy was confined, and the miller soon did the same kind office for his man. When the second black fell, Tom knew it was time to make a push for it; so, telling Sandy to follow his example, he rushed upon Opara before the black was aware of the attack, and tumbled him over in true English style with a flash hit between the eyes. As the black was falling, Tom seized the gun he had been carrying previously with so much pride, and tore it out of his grasp. Sandy also ran up and took possession of the gun that had been held by the man who had first fallen, and, clubbing it, rushed upon the last remaining black. The savage stood his ground to await the attack, but Tom, seeing this, ran up to aid his master. The black, not fancying the odds against him, would not face the two whites, but at once took to his heels. It was evident that he would have distanced his pursuers, but he had not gone far before

  ― 154 ―
a shot was a third time fired from the clump of bushes, and the fugitive sprang into the air with a shriek, and fell dead upon the wet and boggy ground.

Their enemies now disposed of, Jamie showed himself from behind the bush, and came forward loading his gun. “We've done that well, anyhow!” he cried.

“Yes,” replied Tom; “but we had better make sure of this one,” and as he spoke he clubbed his musket and advanced upon Opara, with the intention of dashing out his brains.

“No, no!” said Jamie, running up and checking Tom. “He is not to be knocked over. That's the General's orders.”

“Why, he's the leader, and the worst of the whole lot!” cried Tom, in astonishment at this sudden leniency of Jamie.

“No matter. It's the General's orders, and we must obey. Why, if you were to knock him over, the General would never forgive you.”

“And for what?” asked Tom.

“Ask the General,” responded Jamie tersely. “Look here! That's the fellow that gave me this cut here,” and he showed his wounded head. “And don't you think that if he was to get a pill he wouldn't have been the first to take it just now? I've had him covered beautiful more than twenty times, and it's a'most made me wild, I can tell you, to let my gun down from the shoulder without pulling the trigger.”

“Mightn't he still prove dangerous?” added Tom.

“No; I think we've pretty well drawed the teeth of the black snake. Besides,” Jamie remarked, “you've given him a pretty tidy facer, and he don't seem at all to fancy it. But you mustn't do any more; and then,

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it's no great odds, neither, for he ain't got very much longer to run.”

“Ech, Jamie, lad, remember yon's the scheming villain that beguiled us to our destruction,” now put in Sandy, “an' it wud be a tempting o' Providence to let him gae scot free. D'ye ken, it's my belief he's murdered puir Dick.”

“Poor Dick, indeed!” sneered Jamie. “Poor Dick knows precious well how to take care of himself, I can tell you. Why, it's him you've to thank for all this. It's him that sold you.”

Both Sandy and Tom expressed surprise at this, and wished to know how Jamie had gained this information. Jamie, however, replied, “I'll tell you as we go along. We mustn't stop yarning here, and poor Sophy breaking her heart about the pair of you. And all because poor Dick, as you call him, has by this time carried her the news of your being taken by the blacks, with some little eloquent additions of his own.” And he moved off as he spoke.

“What!” they both exclaimed. “Is Sophy safe?”

“Yes, as safe and sound as you are,” he answered. “Me and the General took her home this morning, and they sent me back to bring you home again, and she'll be fretting her heart out at your absence. So come, hurry on, and I'll tell you all as we go along, if you'll only move quicker.”

The thought of poor Sophy anxiously awaiting them gave them renewed vigour, and they pressed on with hurried steps, Jamie detailing, as they went on, such of the circumstances that had taken place as had not come under their knowledge. Thus it happened that soon after nightfall Sophy and Sandy were clasped in each

  ― 156 ―
other's arms, and a general feeling of thankfulness pervaded the mill.

When the whites had retired, Opara, making a violent effort, rose to his feet, and though for a time he staggered like a drunken man, he started off for the spot where he had to meet his companion in villainy, making no reply to Eumerella's remarks, and seemingly unconscious of her presence.

Hurrying along at a speed that soon left Eumerella far behind, Opara reached the spot just as the last rays of the setting sun were gilding the tree-tops of the ranges with golden light. Here he found Dick comfortably seated at the foot of a tree awaiting his arrival. The news that his companion brought was in no way calculated to soothe the irritation under which he already laboured. Dick told him that there was no chance of inducing the girl to come within his reach, that, as far as this was concerned, their project must be abandoned, and some other plan must be hit upon if they wished to gain their ends. Opara, in answer to this, gave only a stifled guttural grunt that might mean anything, and Dick concluded, “You needn't keep your white prisoners any longer. If I were you, I should make short work of them, and at once, too!”

Opara, with this the last hope of vengeance taken from him, stood before the other fairly quivering with a rage, that, by a wonderful effort of self-command, he managed to conceal. When he spoke, however, his voice was hoarse and trembled slightly. “The white man is very cunning. He gave the whites into the hands of their enemies to make them the victims of his own evil thoughts, and not because he is a friend to the blacks. Does the white man know that his foes have escaped?”

  ― 157 ―

“Escaped! What do you mean?” roared Dick.

“The two whites who were placed in the hands of Opara have been set free, and three of Opara's best warriors are lying dead upon the spot where the whites were rescued,” said Opara.

“Come, come! None of your gammon with me,” Dick went on. “You would never have allowed them to be taken out of your hands in that way, and, besides, there's no one that can do it, for I left George at the mill.”

“Opara says again that they are gone,” asserted the black.

“Then, you black thief, you've sold me!” yelled Dick, seizing the other by the throat.

Opara gave a twist like an eel, and in an instant he was out of Dick's grasp; then, with an ominous smile, more threatening than the fiercest frown would be, he said—“Sold you, and what for? No; Opara is too eager to shed the blood of the whites to let any one escape him. They have taken away our hunting-grounds, destroyed our forests, driven off the animals that provided us with food. They have slaughtered our warriors in the bush, or made them as helpless gins with their burning water in the settlements. They have debauched our women, and made our children a useless mongrel breed unworthy to tread in the footsteps of their fathers! Should Opara spare them, then? No! He never spared a white but once, and never will he spare one again; so let the cunning white beware; Opara will not bear the hand of a white upon his throat.”

“Well, well, I was perhaps too quick-tempered, old man; so don't get in a scot over it! But come now, what is to be done?”

  ― 158 ―

“The white is very cunning,” said Opara. “Can he suggest no plan?”

“They have no idea,” Dick went on, “of the part I have taken in this little play, so I think it will be best for me to return and see how the land lays. It won't be difficult when we discover this to pitch upon something that will secure our ends. Are there any of your tribe still handy, or have they all cut and run?”

“Opara is now the only one of his tribe,” replied the savage, “on the hunting-grounds of his enemies; but he is himself quite sufficient for all that his cunning tells him to do.”

“And what does your cunning suggest to you in this fix?” asked Dick.

“It tells him to let the white man return to the mill, and wait patiently for the plan that his comrade shall propose. The white man shall be the head and Opara shall be the hand, so long as it is white blood that has to be shed.”

“So be it, then. I shall come back again to-morrow night, and by that time I shall have hit upon something.” So saying he turned from the black to retrace his steps to the mill; but he had barely moved when he received a heavy stunning blow on the back of the head from the ironbark waddy of Opara. He staggered, and would have fallen but for a violent effort he made to restrain himself and to collect his scattered senses. Mustering all his strength, he closed and grappled with Opara, and then, that exertion made, his nerves, which had answered to the sudden demand upon them only for an instant, gave way. His grasp relaxed, his senses reeled, and Opara, with a savage laugh, held him out with one hand, whilst with the other he struck him a second blow, and felled the traitor to the earth. Blow succeeded blow,

  ― 159 ―
until there was neither life nor motion in the mangled carcase. Hastily possessing himself of everything upon Dick's person that he thought worth removing, Opara, now for the first time remembering his gin, called to Eumerella, who had come only in time to see the final scene of the tragedy. Making a bundle of the articles he had selected, he handed it to the girl to carry. Then, addressing her, he said, “This is the first of the accursed race that Opara has sacrificed to the vows he this evening made. From this time forth, every white that comes across Opara's path shall perish by his hand!”

The family at the mill did not retire that night until a full explanation had been given of all that had occurred to its different members since they had been separated. Dick's villainy in connection with the dollars was fully manifested by Sophy's discovery of his plant; whilst Jamie, who had already narrated to Sandy and Tom the part that Dick had taken in their capture, again related these events, as he had heard them from Eumerella, for the information of his father and Sophy.

On the following morning, finding that Dick had not returned, George and Jamie, accompanied by the dog, went to the well-known camping-ground to reconnoitre. They soon ascertained that further search for Dick would be unnecessary, for they found his mutilated body lying stiff and cold upon the grass. Jamie was sent back to the mill with intelligence of the discovery, and there arrangements were at once made by which, without loss of time, the body was interred, almost upon the spot where the murder had been committed.

Having thus seen everything set upon a straight-forward footing at the mill, George began to make his preparations for once more taking to the bush to watch

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the trail of the black. Sandy and Tom pressed him very hard to wait for another week, if only to be present at the wedding which he had been so instrumental in bringing about; for it need hardly be said that, after all that had occurred, Sandy had willingly given his consent to the marriage of his daughter and Tom. On being much urged by Sophy to delay his departure, he answered—“No, I cannot. I wish you all well, and, were my time at my own disposal, I would willingly stop and see consummated the happiness you have so well deserved. But I have a solemn duty to perform that cannot be delayed. The time left me is now but short, and neither marryings nor givings in marriage must keep me. That duty once performed, we may perhaps meet each other again. Perhaps, however, we may not, for it is just as things may chance to turn, and there's no knowing the direction in which my task of duty may take me.”

Thus, then, with the expression of hearty good wishes on both sides, they parted, and George, with Jamie and the Marshal, dived into the forest in search of the track of Opara, leaving the miller and his daughter, with her promised husband, to make such preparations as they needed for the approaching nuptials.

As George had truly augured, it was many a long month before they all met again.

  ― 161 ―

Chapter X The First Black Hand

AFTER Opara had clubbed the traitor Dick to death, he and Eumerella at once started to put as many miles as possible between them and the mill, fearing lest the whites might seek to avenge the death. Feeling himself discredited in the eyes of his own tribe by reason of his successive failures, and unwilling to undergo the ordeal of spears if he returned, he took counsel with Eumerella, whose strength of character had frequently impressed him. She, seeing an opportunity of luring him into the toils, proposed that he should offer his services to the men of her own tribe, at the same time assuring him that the warriors of Port Stephens would receive him gladly for her sake, and probably, in time, make him a great chief. So pleasing a prospect did she picture, that he at length decided to accompany her, and they forthwith set out on their journey towards the Port Stephens country.

Before leaving their last camping-place, Eumerella succeeded in leaving such signs as indicated to her white confederates the route they had taken, well knowing that George was ever on Opara's trail, and that the anniversary of the murder of his family was now close at hand.

Twelve days after the events at the mill, George and Jamie struck the hot trail, and, finding the message left by Eumerella, made all haste to overtake the fugitives.

  ― 162 ―

Eumerella knew, from signals that were from time to time given during the course of the day, that her white allies were at no great distance, and, when she camped with Opara in the evening, she took an opportunity, before finally settling down for the night, to communicate with Jamie, who stole for the purpose as near to her camp as he dared venture, without alarming the suspicious chieftain. From her he learnt the route that she intended to pursue on the morrow, and more especially the points at which she purposed to cross the many creeks that now intervened so frequently on the path.

On the following morning they again pursued their way along the margin of a brush much heavier than any they had yet encountered, and Eumerella pointed out to the chief the smoke on the distant sand-hills, which she said arose from the camp fires of her brethren. Before long, however, they came upon a creek or inlet from the lake much broader than usual, and Eumerella, who had already magnified the dangers of the salt water by telling of the sharks and stinger-rays and other fish invented for the occasion, led the way into the heavy timber for the purpose of reaching a crossing-place, the only one, she said, within a considerable distance of the route they had to take.

This crossing-place was a spot where two trees had fallen upon opposite sides of the creek, and, by interlocking their branches in the centre, had formed a natural bridge over the stream, which was here about fifty yards wide. There was a kind of rough track through the heavy timber, the underwood having been partially broken down, showing that it had been often used, and that the crossing place was well known. A few hundred yards brought him to the bridge, and he at once saw that the track led across it. Mounting on to the

  ― 163 ―

  ― 165 ―
huge prostrate butt, which as it lay was somewhere about eight feet high, he proceeded to cross, and had already reached the centre of the stream, where the boughs of the two trees interlaced with each other, when he was brought to a halt by the appearance of George, who, starting from the bush on the other side, leaped upon the log, and, with his gun presented, confronted his foe. Without an instant's hesitation, Opara turned to seek safety by retreating on the road by which he had advanced; but Jamie, covering the black with his gun, had cut off all chance of escape in that direction. Opara cast a hasty look before and behind him, determined to trust to the tender mercies of the monsters Eumerella had spoken of, rather than to those of the grey-beard; but the many heavy boughs were so mingled together that a leap through them into the water was an impossibility. He saw that if the shot was to come he could not avoid it, for it would be a work of time to make his way through those twisted and interwoven limbs down to the water. And so he turned and faced his enemy with a kind of sullen, though savage, resignation.

“And now,” said George, “I have you at bay, and your time has come. Don't look down at the water, for the first move you make in that direction will be the signal for sending a bullet through you. I have you. I promised, and I shall keep my promise. You shall die, and I'll take care that your fellows in crime shall know how and where you have fallen—that your blood was shed by the man that you and they injured, and that your body went to feed the fishes of the salt waters.”

Opara stopped to hear no more. He had been measuring the distance in front of him as George was speaking, and with a powerful spring he made a tremendous leap to clear the enormous limbs of the two trees

  ― 166 ―
that stretched out for many feet before him. How far he might have succeeded, had he been left alone, could not be guessed, for the instant he took his spring, and whilst his body was still in the air, George fired. The bullet was truly aimed, and the black, pierced through the breast, fell into the midst of the branches, upon one of which that stood upright, and was partially broken by his weight, he was staked and held. No sooner had he fallen, than Jamie ran along the trunk of the tree on which he was standing, and then, scrambling out amongst the boughs in the middle of which Opara had fallen, he reached the place where the black was staked on the bough, mortally wounded, but still sensible. The boy had left his gun behind him, and carried only his tomahawk. Seizing the right arm of the black, he drew it over one of the larger boughs within reach, and, with a smart blow of the tomahawk, severed the hand at the wrist.

Eumerella also advanced along the log until she stood opposite the dying black. As his eyes met hers, she laughed savagely. “Yes,” she cried, “look at me. Look at your evil spirit. I swore to be revenged upon you and your cursed race of bandicoots, and I have kept my oath. And now, oh blind warrior, carry with you into the dark land the knowledge that it was I who threw down the mill dam and swept away your fighting men—it was I who gave information to the whites by which the white gin was taken from you—it was I who planned the rescue of your two white prisoners—it was I who cajoled you into being a traitor to your tribe, only to lead you here to meet your death! Know that it is to the young gin of Port Stephens that you owe your ruin and your death!”

Opara, with a groan of mingled anguish and rage, made a convulsive effort to free himself and reach the

  ― 167 ―
girl. His powerful contortions broke off the already partially-separated bough that had held him, and his body, no longer retained, dropped between the larger limbs of the trees and fell into the water. It sank at once, and was not seen to rise. A few bubbles struggling to the surface showed where he had gone down, but Opara was seen no more, nor was his name ever again mentioned in his tribe after the information of his death had been conveyed to it as George had promised.

The next morning, had a casual traveller passed by accident near that lonely grave at the deserted station, he would have been surprised to find nailed to the rude cross that formed its headpiece, a black right hand yet dripping blood, and showing that it had but recently been severed from the living body to which it had belonged.