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CHAPTER XVIII. A CATASTROPHE.




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NEWS had spread that Willis had received an enormous sum of money, and many even thought he had it upon his station. His strange conduct was very much calculated to give some colour to these reports. At one time he used always to be wandering about; but now he never left home, and would not see any person at his house. The majority of the neighbours believed that Willis had treasure concealed in the dwelling, and this impression proved very unfortunate for him, as the sequel will demonstrate.

The tall bullock-driver and his partner had got bullocks and started a team, but the speculation turned out unfortunate. They were wandering about the country like two spirits of evil, open to any adventure, ready to perpetrate any crime. The bullock-driver was well acquainted with Willis's house, and when he heard the rumours of the concealed treasure, the idea started into his mind at once to plunder the hut during the time its inmates were asleep. It is true that with the bullock-driver Willis had formerly been a favourite; but since then he had refused him a favour, and he now threatened him with retaliation. True, when the bullock-driver was in his employment he would not inform on him; he was too confirmed a scoundrel to think of informing, and he was paid for


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his secrecy; but now he was at his wit's end, and his temper had been ruffled by some words that Willis had said to him in one of the violent fits to which that gentleman was so prone. He would not hurt him more than the babe unborn; he would steal in gently and go to the box where he knew the money was deposited, and steal off with it, and what worse off would he be? he would have sheep and cattle in abundance afterwards, and the money only would be gone.

The bullock-driver had long entertained this project, and had been prevented from putting it in execution by various obstacles. At length all was prepared, and the eventful die was to be cast.

At the last moment his courage failed him, and he was compelled to defer it for that night. Willis was known to be a desperate man, and hardy as the ruffian was, he shrank from coming into single combat or the chance of it with him. In this emergency he called in another ruffian to his aid, who, attracted by the rich booty, agreed to join him in the attempt.

It was on a dull wet night that these worthies crossed the plains intent upon carrying out their criminal scheme. The rain fell almost incessantly; the plain in many parts was flooded, and the road was heavy, and in some places almost impassable. The two, for the little man had lost courage and remained in town, pushed forward in dogged silence, looking neither to one side nor the other. The dull day had a perceptible effect even upon their spirits, and a strange feeling stole over each of them. Darkness began to fall. The Bush looked solitary, wild, dreary, melancholy, in the almost sepulchral twilight; the sun went


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down, and the dim glare was superseded by the thick shadows of darkness. They were now within about four miles of the settler's huts, but it required the utmost exertion on the part of the bullock-driver to find them, notwithstanding his knowledge of localities. They were three hours in searching for them, and only came upon the paddock fence by chance, after all.

The bullock-driver now knew his way, and, followed by his companion, crouched down and crept along towards the main hut. Not a creature moved about the place. They came in front of the hut; the blind was drawn, and although a light burned in the room, it was impossible to perceive objects within it. The stillness of night was over everything within, as well as over outward objects.

The worthy pair made a precipitate retreat, and took shelter in an empty hut at some distance, waiting, as the Scripture has very beautifully described it, “like a thief in the night,” to steal unawares upon the devoted place. The rain pelted incessantly throughout the evening; it was such just a night as those who possess a comfortable home would enjoy it, and those who required it, would long the more eagerly to possess it.

Within lay Willis stretched upon the bed; he was no better—his malady was gaining ground. His life was but a continual state of misery. The partial insanity under which he was labouring was tenfold worse than the total wreck of the mental faculties. Then sense is gone, but in his state sensitiveness remained to goad him with a whip of scorpions. Truly


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it is a dreadful punishment which the drunkard often suffers. We have seen several dying from the effects of intoxication, and we can only compare their state of mind to those who are shut out from hope or pardon. Shall we draw this picture of human misery in more indelible characters? It is almost needless. We rnight deepen the sympathy of our readers by the aid of groans and cries, but would it be in good taste? No! The mind would reel; we should be unequal to the task.

Towards midnight the two ruffians advanced towards the building, prepared to carry out their scheme. As had been anticipated by the leader, the window was unfastened, and he endeavoured to raise it without noise. This was rather difficult, because it was but of limited proportions, and because it was stiff, having extended in the frame. At length it was accomplished, and the window being raised, the bullock-driver entered cautiously into the parlour. The noise disturbed Willis, who was not asleep, and he struck a light. and rushed out without a moment's delay. The only weapon he had in his hand, either of offence or defence, was a leanguil or waddie, a deadly kind of weapon used by the blacks. He saw and recognised the bullock-driver on the instant, and aimed a blow at his head, which would have settled his accounts for ever, had he not evaded it by springing to one side: before he could steady himself, the bullock-driver drew a pistol with a bayonet attached from his pocket; the bayonet sprang open by a touch of the finger, and in a moment it was buried in the heart of the unfortunate settler.




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He did not die unrevenged: for the black servant so often mentioned had been sleeping in the back room, and, for the mutual safety of himself and his master, he had stolen his gun, which was loaded. Hearing the noise, he had unlocked the door, and seeing the danger, he took aim at the bullock-driver's head and fired. At first the ruffian did not fall; and the black man was looking about for some other weapon. The fellow then moved slowly back, and fell with a shock on the floor. His companion did not wait to see the result, but fled as if the avenger of blood was behind him.

This was the end of an unfortunate man, who had every advantage in respect to birth and education. Instead of having his remains interred in some noble vault, with a magnificent mausoleum in some public place to his memory, he rests in the wilderness. He died unhonoured, and, unless by one family, unlamented.

We cannot end this chapter without pointing a moral to young men who intend expatriating themselves to the Colonies or British Possessions abroad. The vast Colonies of Britain present an exhaustless field for capital and skill. It is towards them that Britain must took for future support. They are her offspring, and they will protect her, and extend her commerce, and literally renew her youth. The super-abundant population of Britain cannot remain at home starving—they must go to the Colonies: ultimately, therefore, these new countries will in almost everything resemble the provincial parts of the United Kingdom.

The Australian Colonies present an almost unlimited


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field for Iabourers, or young men of education, with some capital, who are willing to work at first. At times there may be a superabundance of labour, but the resources of these new Colonies soon absorb it. Government, therefore, should lose no time in making arrangements to colonise upon a general system. Misery stares them in the face; thousands are starving in the streets; confidence is totally lost. Colonisation only can save the country—they must go out.

Now the young adventurer may draw a moral from these pages.

A Colonist must land with a determination to pursue an even, steady course; he must resolve that no temptation shall ever wean him from habits of industry. His aim must be to get a fair start. For two or three years he may have to toil hard, and fare indifferently; but if at the end of that time he can get a fair start, he may think himself fortunate. The life which Colonists in the old-established districts lead resembles that of farmers in Britain. But perhaps the emigrant may not find it convenient to settle in the established districts; if his means are limited, he would be nobody among the old rich Colonists. The new districts often present a better field; he may settle there, and grow up to wealth in a ratio with the advance of the country. Then in time the district becomes thickly populated, and, like his neighbours, he will become wealthy and independent.

He may then enjoy all the comforts, and many of the luxuries of life, including even good and reputable society. Thus, in the lapse of years, the settlers are independent, the country is full, and new districts or


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Colonies have to be opened up—Colonisation thus extends itself in every direction.

The evil is here:—Many young men are sent out totally inexperienced, who have a small sum to invest, and yet do not know how to invest it properly. They waste their time in looking about and sojourning in the towns. They must be looked upon as great men just at once; they .spend their money in the towns, and do nothing, or embark in some foolish undertaking. They acquire habits of intoxication, and too frequently sink to the level of the dregs of even Colonial society. Now how easily might they procure information! Let them ride into the country, and mix with the practical and working Colonists. There is not a remote chance of their being misled by them. It is true, one might have sheep, cattle, or land to sell; but it would be impossible for all to be so situated, and the inquirer would only need to receive cautiously statements from parties who seem to be interested, especially who are sellers of any kind of Colonial property.

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