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CHAPTER IV. A NIGHT IN THE AUSTRALIAN BUSH.




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UPON one of those sultry afternoons which occur so often during summer, a horseman was wending his way across the —— Plains. The day had been oppressive; a hot wind had blazed fiercely during the forenoon; whilst towards evening the wind died away, but the heat still increased. Everything around was parched and withered, the dust on the roads was pulverised, the scorched ground seemed actually to pant for rain. As night approached, the sky changed, and the clouds which were gathering in the east warned the experienced Bushman that a thunder-storm was brewing. In the west, however, the sky was unstained, and the traveller's face being towards the setting sun, he was too intently engaged in admiring its gorgeous splendour to heed the danger in his rear. He was apparently about twenty-three; but a close observer of mankind might have traced in the lines of his dark countenance marks of sorrow—the sorrow which communion with a vain and selfish world brings; or, shall we designate it by the term of warm feelings turned into gall?

The vast plains which the young man was traversing lie adjacent to the town of B———, which is indeed on one side of the range. They extend thirty miles from east to west, and twenty miles from north


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to south; but the view towards the north is bounded by Mount M———, the towering summit of which stands in solitary magnificence, as a bold relief to the monotonous plains. Lofty ranges may be seen far away in the south; no other object is visible but the wide stony range, the solitude perhaps occasionally partially interrupted by a stunted shrub or tree, just well calculated to make the desolation of the landscape more complete. Far as the eye can wander, it rests on the silent, boundless plains; neither house nor living thing is visible, not even a bird: the traveller might be buried in the bosom of an African desert, There is, however, a grandeur present in the scene— a magnificence derived from its vast proportions: compared with it, the scenery of Britain is tame; its tiny parks and its petty forests, its mimic mountains and brawling rivulets, are all insignificant. In an Australian scene you have Nature in her grandest aspect and most gigantic proportions; you gaze around, and the heart thrills, because you feel you are nothing when alone with your Maker.

To return, however, to the traveller. It was already late in the afternoon, and as he had been detained crossing a punt, he pressed his horse to its utmost speed. In two hours or less it would be dark, and he had many miles to ride across the dreary plain. He looked frequently in the rear, and observed the thick drapery of dark clouds rising and beginning to stretch across the horizon towards the west. Soon after, the wind changed, and began to moan, and cross the plain in fitful gusts, the certain indications of a thunder-storm in Australia. The horseman was not


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indifferent to these symptoms, and he urged his jaded steed; the animal, thoroughly ragged, only answered the spur by a shuffling attempt to run away. So long as he had maintained the old cart-track, dignified with the name of the road, the nag had kept gallantly along; he had, however, diverged into the wide plain, and then the beast, to the no little chagrin of the traveller, gave pretty plain indications of its intentions not to proceed very much further unless it were allowed to select its pace. After one or two vain essays, the horseman shrugged his shoulders, and giving the attempt over, was soon buried in deep thought.

We must put our readers out of pain, and acknowledge— that we are following the adventures of Arabin. Two years had passed since we took leave of him in Britain; in that short time he had entered upon a new sphere. He had emigrated to the Australian Colonies and settled in the adjoining town. When he arrived, although he did not possess much money, he would not deliver the few letters of introduction which he had brought with him. He was shy, because he was perfectly aware that he was poor; and he despised those who, superior, perhaps, in wealth, were very inferior in mind. He scorned their patronage, and positively determined to depend, in the struggle to get forward, on his own exertions. He had been more than twelve months settled in Australia, and, like most nervous men, had been unsuccessful; he had no quality to recommend him—he was timid and independent. If sent for professionally, he would perform his duty anxiously and faithfully; but then he would not wait and hear


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the characters of half the town torn to shreds—he could not sit an evening and make himself agreeable, and therefore did not get on: indeed he was regarded as a self-conceited person, and made himself very disagreeable. He had very little to do. There were two other surgeons in the town: one was a dapper personage, who would bow and scrape for half an hour, and who knew more scandal than any other man in the place; he was ever riding about, touching his well-brushed hat to everybody, and a ready companion for either a lady or a gentleman: of course they employed this surgeon. He was not popular with the lower orders; their favourite was the other surgeon: he was a rough, vulgar man, and rather addicted to dissipated and rakish courses; he might be observed at night in a tap, dressed in a faded shooting-jacket, smoking an old black pipe, and keeping the inmates laughing almost constantly, for he possessed a great deal of humour; the lower orders would have no other attendant when he could be had. The practice was pretty fairly divided between these two, and Arabin therefore came in for the poorest share. But he cared little about it, for he had hitherto managed to earn a precarious existence, and did not envy his professional brethren for having been more successful than him-self, because he was perfectly aware of the reasons. He was careless too in matters of account, and seldom would accept money from the wretched, although there are few poor in Australia. For his kindness he received little recompense: indeed his brethren laughed at him for attending the poor as regularly as the rich, and not charging them.




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Arabin had been sent for, about a week before, to visit a young settler or grazier: he had attended, was requested to repeat the visit within the week, and was now on his way to perform his professional duties. The visit was not likely to be pleasant, as the settler had been labouting under mental derangement. He had now arrived at a deep ravine which intercepted his progress. The banks being steep and rocky, he could not perform the passage without some danger, and therefore retraced his way along the banks until he reached the cart-track. A road wended down the bank by many a fold, and another zigzag path enabled him at last to reach the open plains beyond. The first thing he did, after he had emerged from the dangerous ravine, was to take a survey of the wide plain. A conical hill was just visible, far, far away, across the plain: this was the desired land-mark, and taking a course parallel with it, and keeping the frowning masses of Mount M——— to the right, he recommenced his journey across the wide, dreary level. It would have been a bold act for an experienced Bushman to cross the plain with night approaching—and such a night! Dr. Arabin was insensible to the danger, and, not accustomed to calculate distances on extensive ranges, he supposed the conical mount to be little more than eight miles from where he then was; the real distance was about twenty miles, and on a fine evening he could hardly have reached it by the light of day, and would even then, most probably, have gone astray in the darkness.

It was far from agreeable on the plain, when the air became cold and the evening to fall. He once


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more endeavoured to push forward, but his horse was tired and would not increase its pace. The threatening clouds which now canopied the heavens, and the sudden gusts of wind which from time to time crossed the plains, at length brought conviction to the mind of the traveller. He was frightened at the thoughts of a night on the plain, and made a last desperate endeavour to cross the dreary intervening waste and reach the land-mark already noticed by daylight. Twenty miles is a long journey to ride across stony ridges; before he had passed half the distance it was almost dark, the rain began to fall slowly, it increased, it rained in torrents, and the lightning played with awful sublimity; then came the slow muffled thunder, distant at first, each successive peal sounded nearer,—it was crossing the plain, and would pass directly overhead. It approached; Arabin was brave, but the lurid blue flames of the electric fluid as it whirled past like a thought, and the deafening peal of the thunder, almost daunted him. He hesitated—should he attempt to cross the plain?—a shiver ran through his frame,—he decided that he would proceed, but now he could not find any land-mark to indicate the direction. He therefore determined, as the forlorn hope, to make the best of his way back to the road, and endearour to get under cover in some hut until morning.

Dr. Arabin was not exactly afraid,—perhaps startled would be the proper expression; he repented of his temerity in attempting to traverse the plains so late in the day, and stared wildly at the fast-flashing lightning. To those in Europe who glance at these


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pages, the terror of Arabin must appear childish; but perhaps, having never been more than a few miles from the abodes of men, they have but an imperfect conception of the utter desolation of the boundless plains of Australia. The solitude is too awful for a creature formed for social intercourse to bear; his littleness and his feebleness become apparent. Then, when the Maker of all speaks in His thunders, it is time to reflect upon former courses. To the reflecting mind He speaks as powerfully in the majesty of nature,—the calm blue sky, the murmuring or brawling stream, the luxuriant vegetation of the mimosa and casuarina, the silent heave of the perpetual ocean. In courts and cities the denizens may forget Him—here they scarcely can.

Still the rain fell in torrents; the attending obscurity rendered objects invisible at a very limited distance. Dr. Arabin could not regain the road; he lost confidence, and wavered in his course. At last he came to a dead stop; he was bewildered, and reflected on the course he should adopt. Oh, heavens ! what an awful shock! a thunderbolt struck a stone within a few yards of where he was (within two paces of his horse's legs) and shattered it to atoms; the animal reared and fell heavily with its rider on the ground, and at the same moment the thunder broke overhead with a crash so horrible that he almost thought nature laboured under a convulsion. He shook from head to foot, and put his hands to his head almost instinctively to deaden the sound; the earth shook palpably— it was awful. A moment, and it was over; he arose from his watery pillow, for the whole plains were


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flooded by this time; his face was wild and fearfully pale,—it was more fitted for the charnel-house than the living earth. Shall we confess that he cried? We may add, that he was proud of his manifold acquirements and of his knowledge. How soon can conscience tell home! Arabin knew that he had not placed his strength where alone men can rely. At length the impression had partially vanished, and he looked after his horse; the poor animal was in nearly as bad a plight as his master. Arabin laid hold of the bridle, but for some moments he could not prevail upon the animal to move. At last he proceeded, disconsolately leading the trembling horse by the bridle. He looked now anxiously for the pathway; for a long time he made but little progress. He recollected that as he rode along the plains, the wind blew on his left cheek; had he taken advantage of this, he might have pioneered his way across the whole plain. He was now too much bewildered to take advantage of any favourable circumstance. There was, however, good cause; for even a person acquainted with the country might be in the vicinity of a station without knowing it, and pass within a few hundred yards of a hut, or even a dozen huts, unless dogs happened to be about, and be ignorant of their vicinity.

But night was at hand, and what was he to do? If he could not reach the pathway, he had no prospect but a wet couch on the plains. It was now intensely cold, which is nearly always the case after a thunder-storm. The poor traveller looked in a disconsolate mood on the weary waste of waters which now lay about; the darkness began to shroud the dreary prospect.


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He mounted his horse with difficulty, for his limbs had become torpid, and once more endeavoured to pass along the plains. The animal received every admonition of the heel with total indifference—move it would not, and at length he was glad to allow it to crawl along splashing and slipping at nearly every step. The lightning at times illumined the wide plain from end to end, yet he could not perceive his exact position; the thunder was grand as it pealed overhead, but it was moving away to the east, yet it was so loud as to make the traveller shudder.

“It is a terrible night!” exclaimed Arabin aloud; “would to Heaven I could obtain the shelter of some friendly roof! I wish to be cheered by the presence of one human being, for solitude in such a place as this, and in such a night, is horrible. Many human beings have, I dare say, been lost in the wide forest ranges in such storms, or have perished from hunger and cold; many a brave Stockman, or even Bushman, has had to lie in the forest. I pity all who are abroad to-night!”

It rained incessantly—not a drizzling rain, but a steady fall: the pelt, pelt of the drops, as they rebounded from the water, sounded like sea-music. He thought he perceived a range of forest in the east (as, although he had gone round about several times, he still considered that he knew his position); a swarthy shadow dimly perceived in that quarter indicated that shelter might be found. He hastened thitherward; perhaps a station might be nigh, which, if upon the borders of a creek, was far from unlikely; at any rate, the shelter of the forest was not to be despised. It was now night; the darkness veiled every object in


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impenetrable gloom. He dismounted, and led his horse by the bridle; he reached the much-coveted shelter, and penetrated among the trees. He could not discover indications of the proximity of any habitation; at times he found his progress opposed by the dense brushwood and the closeness of the trees, then again wandering among clumps of trees with the open plain between. He searched in vain for a creek; he listened attentively for the sound of human voices, or the barking of dogs. No other sound could be distinguished but the apparently eternal pelt, pelt of rain among the branches of the trees. At length he relinquished the attempt, and fastening his horse to a tree, seated himself beneath a gigantic gum-tree; in this forlorn situation he ruminated on things past and present, in no enviable frame of mind.

He had never been abroad in a night so dismal. The forest afforded no shelter from the cold; and, wet, tired, and hungry, he stretched himself on the soaked grass, shivering in every limb. He thought of the comforts which the meanest hut in the country afforded, and the very comparison caused him to smile in derision. Then he was naturally of a delicate constitution, and the inclemency of the weather preyed upon his mind. He thought of his cigar-case, and inserted his benumbed hands into every pocket to procure a cheroot; but, to his no little disappointment, he discovered that he had lost everything in scrambling about in the Bush. He lay for some time on the ground, and, as it waxed later, became frightened, and would start to his legs and move about. He was often misled by faint flickerings of light at a great distance:


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these phosphoric lights occasionally presented the appearance of a huge fire. Arabin would frequently mount, and proceed in the direction where they appeared; but, thrice disappointed, he determined to relinquish the chase after meteors, as their transitory appearance proved them to be. More dispirited than before, he stretched himself again on the wet ground in all the agony of desperation.

And he lay for long hours listening to the rain; at length it ceased almost as suddenly as it had come; but yet the dark chillness of the atmosphere was almost worse than the rain. Sometimes he thought he heard something moving close to where he lay, or creeping along by stealth: once he was almost sensible of a clammy hand stretched out towards his face; then again he fancied that, something breathed close to where he lay.

The reader who amuses himself by criticising this adventure, and who lolls in luxurious ease in an arm-chair with elastic seats, or, what is more likely, on air-cushions or on a downy couch, may consider the timidity of Arabin to have been effeminate. Alas! they know little of the awful desolation which the plains of Australia present. Some of them may have read a description of the gorge of Cordilleras in the Andes. Lieutenant Charles Brand, in his work on Peru, published in 1828, describes a scene amongst the mighty and all-but-impassable valleys of these mountains. One passage I will transcribe: “As we sat shivering in the casucha, the mountains, from being so close to us, appeared a wall of snow, their tops joining, as it were, in one mass, with the clouds of snow lying around us. In vain did


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I look for a dark spot to rest my painful eyes upon, tracing the mountains all round from the base to the summits, pondering again over heaven and earth;— all —all appeared a world of snow picturing desolation itself, the miserable casucha alone standing in the middle of it.” We can fancy the desolation here pictured as complete; the desolation of a wide plain in Australia upon such a night is no less perfect—it is “a waste of waters picturing desolation.” The poor, unfortunate traveller, who happens to be overtaken by night and a thunderstorm, has no chance but to sleep under the canopy of heaven, exposed to the severest weather; saturated with the rain-water, which soaks through the strongest garments in a few minutes. His only guide is the wind; if an experienced person knew exactly the direction, he might make a station by keeping the wind blowing upon the same part of the face. This is a useful hint.

Arabin at length closed his eyes —

“He slept in calmest seeming—for his breath
Was hush'd so deep.”

The visions which chased one another across his too-active mind were tenfold more oppressive than even his waking phantasies. Every one must be conscious of the vividness with which dreams are pictured forth when a traveller is overtaken by sleep in a coach or sitting on the ground. Many hideous and vapoury figures flitted before him, acting strange characters as if in mockery of man and human happiness. For a short time these visions disappeared. Again he found himself at home preparing for a long journey; his panting horse stood at the door; he mounted and was


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spurring swift as the winds across the very ranges of plains upon which his dormant body was stretched. He even descried the place where he longed to be—“a green spot of the past,” where one whose memory he yet cherished was wont to dwell; often had he longed to revisit it, and now his wishes seemed about to be gratified. Then by some strange fatality he became impotent—some strong but invisible power had dried up the veins and muscles in his legs, and they shook under him as if sense and animation were alike gone. The heavens once more grew dark; the streams of light illuminated the plains, and the wild thunder trembled overhead. He still mentally urged his horse on; he could see the windows of the house, he reflected upon the happy faces which would there welcome him, and his heart warmed once more; the next moment every object was shrouded in total darkness, and he gnashed his teeth in mental agony.

Once more he enjoyed a short respite: then visions of other years crossed before his mind in quick succession; he appeared then conscious that he was but dreaming, and laboured hard to shake off some incubus from his chest and start up. He thought he was sensible; but, alas! he slumbered on.

A female figure of commanding presence, clothed in black, with her face concealed from his view by a black veil, stood nigh. He was strangely agitated, and gazed upon her for a moment; at last he spoke, and asked her—“Who art thou?”

“The spirit of the absent,” she answered.

What thoughts crowded through his brain! what pictures were vividly before him of olden times! —pictures


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which had long been erased even from his memory. “The absent!” what a term! does not the heart chill even in sleep at its utterance?

For some minutes he was silent, then he spake again—

“Can you inform me of C——— ?”

“No, she is beyond my reach.”

“How?”

“Ask again.”

“Her mother, then,—can you inform me of her?”

“She is mourning for the dead,” said the figure, in a cold unnatural tone.

He started from his position, but fell heavily on the ground again: he was now wide awake,—he was positive that he had heard truth even in his slumber— that one he doted upon was gone, that the beautiful of life had departed. Could he bring his mind to think that her fine spirit had been hovering near him, he could have reconciled himself to the loss; there was a strange joy in the reflection that her spirit mingled with his, and watched him in his midnight agonies.

The night was dark, although one or two stars twinkled overhead; the rain had long ceased to fall, the dampness had even disappeared. Nature had flung off the load which oppressed life; the arrowy lightnings and dark thunders had passed, the atmosphere had been purified, human nature was invigorated, and life would be a pleasure.

Australia is frequently visited in the summer season with hot winds, which are succeeded by violent thunder-storms. For two or three days before,


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the sky will glow as if on fire; at other times it presents a slaty or glazed appearance, of a mixed dingy hue, between dull copper and half-hot iron. Never, however, has the country been visited by earthquakes, like other lands subject to intense droughts; we ascribe this to the level country and the absence of mountainous districts of a stony and cavernous formation. There are in Australia lofty mountains, but they are scattered over the wide country. In no district, so far as I am aware, has stone, slate, or marble been met with to any extent; although coal, copper, and lead ore are found in great profusion.

Arabin was not disposed to sleep; indeed, he preferred to wander about, especially as his limbs were benumbed with the cold. He arose with great difficulty, for the rheumatism already gnawed his body, and having unfastened his horse from the tree, he once more resumed his wanderings in a most wretched condition. He might have wandered on through the trees for several miles, when his ears were welcomed by the sound of dogs barking at no great distance. Never did the softest music fall more sweetly upon the sense; he mounted, and, regardless of every obstacle, galloped towards the spot. He might have travelled a mile, when the horse came to a dead stop, and upon dismounting he found he had reached the banks of a deep river or ravine; the bank was rocky and precipitous, and unfortunately took a sharp turn at this very spot. He could hardly distinguish objects, but he clearly perceived that he must return by the way he had arrived or cross at this particular


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bend of the stream. He ruminated for some moments upon the particular course which it would be most prudent for him to adopt, when, to his no little gratification, the nocturnal watchman began to howl once more. The sound appeared quite near, and, pretty well acquainted with Bush customs, he placed his hands to his mouth to form a natural trumpet, and uttered a loud “cooie.”

“Cooie,” answered a voice at no distance.

“I am a stranger,” said Arabin, “who have lost my way.”

No answer was returned; he remained for about a quarter of an hour expecting that some person would come to his assistance; nothing, however, moved,— the very dogs were quiet. He was startled once by a wild dog which ran against his legs in the darkness, but which scoured away with a terrible howl when it found the vicinity of man.

He cooied again.

“Cooie!” said the voice.

“Can you render me any assistance?” shouted he.

No answer was returned; he tried again.

“What do you want?” exclaimed a voice.

“I want assistance,” replied he.

“Then come along here,” replied the invisible.

“I am afraid of the river,” replied he.

“There is no river, it is only a ravine,” replied the voice.

Dr. Arabin was determined to reach the place, and, no longer afraid of the water, he spurred his horse down a frightful descent. When he had reached the


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bottom of the ravine, he could perceive the flicker of a light at some distance amongst the trees. He shouted again to the hut, to ask if it was safe to come on.

“Come straight to the hut,” shouted the voice.

Thus advised, he spurred his horse; but the animal would not move from the spot. He tried hard to push him on, but it had no effect. At last he fastened him to a tree, and proceeded towards the spot; but he had not gone five paces, when he plunged over head into water. He had been rushing through the thick brushwood which bordered the river, and had not observed the water. The first intimation he had of it came too late to save him; he would have perished but for the assistance of the branch of a mimosa, which he seized, and kept himself above water. Still he expected every moment that it would break off, and looked upon himself as lost. He gradually assumed more courage, and at last raised himself to the bank, and went on his knees to thank his Maker for having rescued him from, his perilous situation.

“Where are you now?” once more shouted the voice.

“I have just escaped from the river,” replied Dr. Arabin, almost involuntarily.

“Then what are you doing in the river?” shouted the voice.

“You told me to come on, that it was all a flat,” replied he.

There was no answer returned, and Dr. Arabin


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stood wet and ashamed for a few moments. He, however, was determined to find out what sort of a person could have so coolly advised him to jump into the river, and therefore began to explore the river-side for some means whereby he might cross over.

Chance enabled him to discover the secret. The dog which had first indicated the presence of civilisation came across and began smelling at his heels. On examining the place where he came over, Arabin discovered a tree laid down, and upon a closer inspection he thought he might venture to cross; he crawled along on his hands and knees, and at length reached the opposite side, and was within a few paces of the hut. At the door stood a person half undressed, who had not a very inviting aspect; his face was nearly covered with red hair, which seemed to defy soap and steel; his eye was bloodshot and sinister. Notwithstanding his extreme vulgarity, there was an affectation of smartness which proved he belonged to the unfortunate order who are sent into the country to expiate former crimes by a certain period of bondage. A grim smile played about the features of this enchanting individual. Arabin, however, entered the hut, which from its mean appearance was evidently the residence of those engaged in tending some flocks of sheep, or what is termed “an out-station.” The floor was a sheet of water. The only other person in this miserable hut lay upon a bed formed of a few pieces of wood laid upon two supporters at the ends. The person who had been standing outside re-entered, and having lighted a pipe,


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placed himself upon a bed of a similar character in another corner. Neither of these two worthies of the woods took the least notice of the wet and weary traveller who stood before the fire not a little disheartened at the cold reception he was receiving.

At last he extracted from them the information that the station belonged to a person whose name he had never heard—a Mr. Butler; that he was five miles from the place which he was to have visited. He asked if it was far to the home-station of his master.

“Not very far,” replied the shepherd.

“Will the gentleman have retired?” inquired Dr. Arabin.

“Let me see—will the cove have gone to bed, Jim?”

“Yes, I think it is certain he has gone to bed.”

He reflected for a few moments—he could not stop well in this comfortless abode; he would be certain of being politely received at the home-station when he told his misfortunes. At last, he offered the person who had given him the information a guinea if he would take him to the residence of the master. At this offer the person jumped up, and proceeded to envelop his body in a large thick coat. A cat of enormous size which had been lying on the bed also began to prepare for a journey. “You ain't a-coming with me,” said the fellow, “so go back.” The cat, however, began to mew and dance about, and at last he was softened by these marks of affection, and Tom was allowed passively to follow, his owner merely declaring “that he


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would pelt or quilt him on the first convenient opportunity.”

The sky once more threatened a tempest. The shepherd informed the traveller that it would be impossible to get the horse over, and that he must allow him to remain there until morning. He promised to see to him the first thing, and as he was in the bend of the river, there was little danger of his straying.

The rain again fell heavily, and the darkness was terrific: the road was broken, and the two fell into quagmires, and frequently tumbled against stones and stumps of trees. The shepherd hurt his knee against a fragment of rock, and this accident elicited a volley of the most violent imprecations—he raved and swore, until Dr. Arabin became terrified lest he might do him some bodily injury during the heat of his passion. In a few minutes after he became quiet, as the sharp pangs abated in violence, and he led the way in dogged silence.

Dr. Arabin already repented for many reasons that he had left the shelter of the hut. The darkness made it impossible for the man to find the way; he had to crawl along the extreme edge of the river-bank. There was no contemptible danger in following this course, as either of them by a false step might be precipitated many hundred yards into the river. It now rained in torrents; the heavens seemed to have opened; they could only find one another by speaking (cooing). At length, after overcoming many obstacles, the travellers arrived at a fence; they entered


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the paddock; it was, however, so dark, that although the house stood within a few hundred yards of where they stood, they could not see it.

“We must make a noise and have the dogs on us, or we shall have to sleep in the open air, perhaps,” said the guide. “We have got sticks to keep them off.”

They began to speak aloud, and in a few minutes two curs were upon them, yelping most outrageously. Still they could not make out the house, and were stumbling about at some distance, when a voice exclaimed —“Who's there?”

“Is that you, Long Bob?” replied the guide; “where are you?”

“In my bed. What brings you here? Have the sheep been rushed?”

“No; open!”

All this time the two had been groping about for the hut in the direction indicated by the voice of Long Bob. At length, the head of Dr. Arabin gave a sharp tap against a wall, and both were sensible that they were in the rear of a small hut. The next moment the door was opened, and the two travellers entered. Bob having scraped amongst the embers, managed to light a fire, and demanded of the hut-keeper, for such his guide was, “what cove it was he brought on such a night?”

The other replied, that he was a gentleman who had lost his way, and that he had been under the necessity of bringing him to the cove's hut. “Is he gone to bed?”




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“He has been in bed two hours,” replied Bob, “and I dare not call him up, as missus would be terrified for Bushrangers.”

“Well, never mind,” replied Arabin; “I can sit by the fire.”

The others here interchanged a few words, in a low tone. Bob informed Dr. Arabin that he could have his bed, as he was wet, and he would sit up. The weary traveller was but too happy to accept the offer; he gave his guide the promised reward, and requested him once more to look after his horse. Arabin next divested himself of his wet clothes, and took refuge from all his woes in Long Bob's bed.

The fire was lighted with about half the fuss which an English servant would make; both placed themselves before it upon logs. Tobacco was produced and pipes filled, and afterwards they sat comfortably enjoying themselves with every symptom of satisfaction, but in almost total silence. Both glanced occasionally at the bed; and at length its inmate, anticipating either amusement or information from the conversation of two such originals, pretended to be fast asleep.

The guide winked to his companion, rose as if to go, and said aloud—“Shall I bring the horse here in the morning, sir?” Receiving no reply, he remarked to his companion, that the cove was asleep.—“I may tell the truth now.”

“Go on,” said the other.

“Well, you sees, the spoony left his horse the other side—as he thinks, because he does not know


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of the great bend. So he comes into my hut and offers me this here money to take him to the station; so I bringed him all the way round, and not straight across, because I must earn my money, you know!”

“That is coming up! the cove might have come up to the other side of the puddock.”

“Yes; but look you, the hanimal, he is not a-goin to have the 'oss at furst—we must plant him, you know!” whispered the faithful guide.

“But,” replied Bob, “suppose our cove finds it out, he will give us pepper.”

“He find it out! he is as hinnocent as a child! We can find the horse down the river to-morrow night; and when a reward is offered, the next station people can hand him out, and we will divide the spile: it's only taking money from our enemies, you knows. Have you any lush? I want a ball considerable, after this lark.”

“I have,” replied Bob; “for the last time the cove got a keg of rum out with the dray, I took out half a gallon and filled it up with water. Let me see—the cove in the bed is asleep.”

He arose, unlocked his box, and produced a case-bottle; a cracked tea-cup was by, and the worthy couple helped themselves to a liberal portion of the spirit it contained. The owner replaced his treasure, not without some appearance of trepidation and very frequent glances both towards the bed and the door, which caused a smile to wrinkle the mouth of the attentive guide, who exclaimed—




  ― 52 ―
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“I suppose the cove seldom looks into your box ?”

“I almost forgot the key this blessed day, and the cove or missus might have looked into the box and found the rum.”

“But, I say, what book is that ? Is it the cove's?”

“Yes,” replied Bob; “and there is such a regular fine story in it about an Irishman.”

The two began to spell through the story, which was contained in a volume of “Chambers's Edinburgh Journal.” The hero was Paddy O'Reardon, or some such name, who did many excellent things in a trip which he made to France. Neither of the characters could read,—the tale was so exactly to their taste, that they spelled it through, waiting occasionally to enjoy fits of inward mirth.

“I say, Bob,” said the guide, “who wrote that? Was it Shakspeare?”

“Poh!” replied his companion. “Do you think Shakespeare could write anything like that? Walter Scott wrote it in the ‘Edinburgh Journal’ to be sure!”

“He was a clever cove,” remarked the other, sagaciously.“But I declare I must be off.”

The two exchanged glances, and began to whisper. Dr. Arabin thought he heard mention of the horse, and below the huts.

After the door had closed on his companion, the trusty guide, Bob, sat with his face on his knees, most likely cogitating over some sage axiom; he next


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stretched his legs to their full length, and rested him-self on the box which contained the precious balls. In ten minutes he was asleep.

Dr. Arabin passed the greater part of the morning in restless endeavours after repose; towards daybreak he fell into a sound slumber, and dreamed of the guide and his other adventures of the previous night.

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