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CHAPTER VIII.

THE VAN DIEMEN'S LAND JOCKEY—SWOPPING—THE CHASE RENEWED—RETRIBUTIVE JUSTICE—THE NATIVES—NEW DANGERS.

“YOU needn't knock the door in with your hammering,” called out a voice, which I recognized as that of the landlord of the Emu—“can't you wait till people put a bit of clothes on? Who are you? and what do you want at this time of night?”

“Who am I, and what do I want! Well, that's a good one! Don't you know Charley Chaffem?”

“The Sandy Bay Jockey! By George! here's a spree! Why, what has brought you to this side of the island?—and snow on the ground too.”

“Why, a horse has brought me; that is, two


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horses; one that I'm on, and one that I'm off; and there's a riddle for you, Master Jemmy.”

“And where have you come from?”

“I only left the Coal River this morning. What do you think? Some busy gentleman has walked off with my bay horse! He didn't come home last night for his corn, and I knew there was something wrong, but I could do nothing till daylight, and then I tracked him right across the country, with two other blackguards with him, for there were three horses in all, and afterwards a fourth—so there's a lot of them in for it—till the dark came, and then I cut across to the high road. But don't stand talking there; open the door, and be alive; I want to come in and get a snack of something.”

As I guessed that this visit from the owner of the stolen horse would render some explanation necessary, I thought it best to meet the difficulty at once, so I got up and dressed myself. By the time that I had entered the public room, which was next to my bedroom, the inquisitive Charley Chaffem had visited the stable, which I expected, where he had examined the magistrate's horse


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and mine, which were comfortably reposing themselves on luxurious beds of straw.

“He can't be far off,” said he to the landlord, alluding to the thief, in continuation of some comments in which he had been pleased to indulge in the stable, “for here are two of the blackguards safely housed with you. I know them by the shoeing of their horses; they're Nick Naylor's shoes, of Frog-street, in Camp. You may always swear to his shoes when they're new. I tracked them all the way, and I could pick 'em out among a hundred. A pretty pass the country is come to, when people take to stealing of horses! but I'll make the rascals swing for it, if there's law to be had in the colony.”

“A very pleasing compliment,” thought I, “to me and my friend. My good Sir,” I said, “I am the owner of one of those horses, and my friend is the owner of the other. I could not help overhearing what you said as you entered the room, but I assure you you are mistaken, as I could easily explain to you if I was at liberty to do so.”

“Hear him!” cried out our acquaintance of


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the night before, who had risen from his wooden sofa with the habitual readiness of a seaman—“hear him! he was a sailor last night, and now he's jawing away like a sea-lawyer! I say, my friend," said he to me, "no go! eh? grabbed! rather unlucky; but sailors shouldn't meddle with horses; always come to a mischief when they try to show off like the long-tails.”

“The devil's in it,” thought I, “I shall be in another mess if I don't take care!”

“The long and the short of it is,” said I aloud, “I know no more where your horse is than you do, except that I have been following it all day as well as yourself.”

“The long and the short of it is,” said the angry jockey, “that you must answer for this before a magistrate, and then, I think, my hearty, it won't be long before they make short work of you,” giving a significant chuck under his left ear.

“Why, what's all this about?” said the magistrate, who now entered the room, with a silk handkerchief round his head, and a blanket by way of dressing-gown. “What! Charley Chaffem! what brings you here?”


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“Hurrah!” cried Charley; “here's the Clyde magistrate. Now, my beauty, you're hooked, and no mistake! You needn't laugh—you'll laugh on the wrong side of your mouth presently. I charge this fellow with stealing my horse,” pointing to me viciously; “and I give him into custody.”

“What, my friend Thornley! why, what have you got in your head, Charley? Oh!—I see—I see—it was your horse that the rascals stole last night—or I suppose I must call it the night before last, for it's two o'clock in the morning now. We have had a rare hunt after him all day.”

“Indeed!” said the jockey, puzzled to understand the meaning of what he heard—“then what t'other chap—I beg his pardon, Mr. Thornley—said was true, and you and he have been in pursuit all day of the rascal who made off with my horse? Well! that beats every thing! But you might as well have run after the wind as after Roderick! if the rascal knew how to ride him. I think the magistrate knows there's not a faster horse nor sounder bottom in the colony!”

“The riddle's out!" said my friend; "I


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wondered we could not overtake the runaways; we have been hunting the Sandy Bay racer all day! But with your assistance, Charley, I think we may do it now. Do you know this part of the country?”

“Every inch—all over the country, wherever cattle have strayed, or wild horses run. I'll be bound I know every pass and every ford in the country wherever the foot of white man has been, and more too, for the matter of that. But what's to be done, Sir? Of course, now we are with you, it's all right; and if you're taking the matter in hand, we shall be sure to get well out of it.”

“Can we make any progress at night, Charley? What do you think?”

“No use in life, Sir, to try to follow tracks in the night; better go at it fresh in the morning.”

“That is my opinion. It is now half-past two; when will there be light enough to follow the track?”

“Not before six o'clock, after breakfast,” said the landlord; “but it's hardly worth while for you to go to bed again. Shall I get some supper for you all round?There's capital brandy, and


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rum, and bottled stout—so that you may pass an hour pleasantly before you start.”

“Do so,” said the magistrate; “and we can talk over the matter leisurely. It will take us half an hour to trot to the point of the track from which we broke off, so that we must start at five, to be ready to take advantage of the first light.”

Upon this, we formed a social party round the table, and discussed the likelihood of the fugitives crossing the Macquarie River by the bridge, or by a ford, which was passable, about twelve miles up the stream.

“Bless your heart,” said the jockey, “that horse—Roderick—that's his name, Sir (to me), Roderick would as easy swim the Macquarie as walk from here to that stable—his rider may go with him anywhere and over anything in nature!”

“I have reasons to think that they would not attempt to swim the Macquarie,” said the magistrate, “so that we must make for the ford, if we don't find the trace of him towards the bridge. But I think he can't escape us now, with you, Charley, to help us.”


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“You know him, then?” said the jockey.

“We think we do, but we are not sure; but there is reason to believe that his object is to get over the country to Launceston as quickly as possible.”

“Then his mark is to go by the Jupiter,” said the sailor; “she is to sail to-morrow morning, my skipper writes me, and that's why I'm wanted back in such a hurry. I say, master,” said he to the jockey, “as you are so knowing about horses, couldn't you do something to my brute? for I'm blessed if I can make anything of him; he steers so wild, I defy the best hand that ever held a tiller to keep him on a wind—one tack or t'other—and when you let him go free, he stands with his head between his legs, and backs all sail, so that he gets starn-way; how I'm to get to Launceston on him is more than I can tell!”

“I'll tell you how to manage him,” said the jockey; “I know him well; he's a Sydney horse, and near twenty years old, and as cunning as a fox. He was bred out of a mare that McCarthy reared at Parramatta; Captain Firebrace brought him over to Hobart-Town, and


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then Parker bought him, and Weston had him afterwards, and Bullfield kept him as a stock-horse, but nobody could make anything of him, and Bullfield swopped him with Spring for thirty ewes heavy with lamb; and he thought he had done Spring nicely; but the biter was bit, for the ewes were all old uns, and past their time, and the devil a lamb did they ever have again, for they hadn't got a tooth in the heads of 'em all; and then Spring exchanged him for a pair of working-bullocks, and of course they ran into the bush next day, for they were young ones, only put into the yoke for the swop, and it's supposed they are somewhere beyond the lakes towards the Western Coast; and how many hands old Slyboots has been in since then is more than I can say, but I'll tell you how to be up with him.”

The recipe for a vicious horse was for that time lost to posterity, for the rapid clattering of hoofs suddenly called off the attention of the jockey, and in half a minute after two horsemen rode up to the door of the inn, whom we immediately recognized as the ingenious Sanders and the phlegmatic Scroggs.


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“Hah! Sanders, my buck!” said the jockey, “are you come to join us? And Scroggs!—why, what brings you so far from home, old boy?”

“We are on a secret expedition,” said Sanders, with as much dignity as he could assume on a sudden, with a very red face and a very blue nose. “And I see I am come to the right place,” taking off his hat to the magistrate, and entering the house. “I have been lucky enough, Sir,” he added, “to get horses, as you see, and right good ones they are.”

“So they are,” chimed in the jockey; “that roan is as good a horse as ever put one leg before the other. Mr. Fallowfield, of the Green Ponds, gave sixty guineas for him, and cheap too. That white horse, that Scroggs was on, has been a racer in his time; and I've seen a hundred and twenty guineas, dollars down, given for him within these eight years; he is getting aged now. Young Oakley gave two pair of working-bullocks and a cow heavy with calf for him—and that's as good as forty pound—the autumn before last; and he's worth all the money, for there's half a dozen years' work in him yet. I'll go and look after them for you. Better give 'em a mash of siftings,


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for horses are apt to feed greedy at first, and corn does 'em no good, if they arn't cool when they eat it.”

“You must make haste with your preparations," said the magistrate, "for it is past three o'clock, and at five we must start.”

“It's pushing the horses rather too hard,” said the jockey, “but what's the use of them if they can't help you at a pinch? Ah! if I only had Roderick under me, I should like to see the heels of the horse that I couldn't pass in no time!”

At five o'clock we set off, the jockey leading the way. The sailor thought it best to make a start at the same time, but as his destination was the high road, which he called “keeping in the stream,” we did not wait for him to accomplish the difficult feat of getting aboard his "craft," and we left him, therefore, with one foot in the stirrup and the other hopping on the ground in chase of his cranky steed, which performed an unceasing gyration in resistance to the attempt to mount him. The last words that we heard of the enraged sailor were “D'—that is, bless—no, I won't be balked this time—I say, damn him!”

“You followed 'em to the valley between the


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two banks of mimosas, by a sugar-loaf hill, didn't you say?” said the jockey, after we had gone about four miles. “Then this must be near the spot where you turned off. Let us walk leisurely, if you please, Sir; no need to go over more ground than necessary. About here, was it? You are right; here are your tracks; see! There's the track of Mr. Thornley's horse—he throws out the right fore-leg as he trots, a leetle more than the left; and there's the track of Roderick! Look at his stride! any one may tell that stride from a hundred; and there's the print of the jackass-shoe that I was obliged to put on him, poor fellow, for I had no other at hand; but I little thought anybody could be such a brute as to make him gallop in it. You see he don't like it, for he just favours that leg the least bit in the world. No one else would observe it, but I know his ways. Now, gentlemen, if you are of a mind to push on, I'll engage to keep on Roderick's track. Pretty country this for a pack of hounds! What a glorious run you may give a horse on Salt-pan Plains! There's nothing to stop you one way for twenty miles!”

The track now led us over Blackman's Bridge.


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“Oh, ho!” said the jockey,“I see the rascal shies the water; he prefers the bridge; now, I think, we shall have him.”

But, contrary to our expectation, the track led us some miles to the left, to a ruined hut, where it seemed the fugitives had passed the night; for there were marks of a fire having been kindled the night before, and the hearth still retained some heat.

“Stole away!” said Chaffem; “but the form is still warm, and puss can't be far off. The rascal has got the start, though, and Roderick is not the horse to lose his ground.”

We left the hut, and followed the track in the direction of Ross Bridge, on the Macquarie River; but here it seemed the fugitives had misgivings of the prudence of proceeding on the highway, for within half a mile of the bridge they crossed the road, and made a circuit to the right.

“They don't like to chance the bridge,” said the constable. “Now, if their point is Launceston, they must either swim the river or make for the ford." There is one higher up the stream, but it's a long round; do you know it, Charley?”


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“Know it! ay, and many's the time I've crossed it; and Roderick knows it, too; but they'll never go all that way round; they'll take to the water, you'll see, when we come to the bend.”

But in this the jockey was mistaken, for we passed the bend, and the tracks continued to a spot about half a mile from the ford, near which there was a clump of mimosas standing apart on the plain, and at a short distance from a forest of thickly-growing trees. At this place they had evidently made a halt; for the ground was trampled down within a small circumscribed space, as if they had been hiding there for a time. We did not wait to examine it further, but pushed on in the direction of the ford. But here a sight met our eyes, that explained the cause of the halt and the hiding of the fugitives. The quick-eyed Sanders was the first to detect the traces of numerous naked feet.

“Pull up!” he cried out—“pull up for a minute. Look, Sir, the natives have been prowling about here. Look to the right there. Don't press the marks—let us see how many of the black fellows have been together.”


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We drew up on the margin of the tracks of the natives, which were in the direction of the ford, and it seemed as if there had been about twenty of them, to judge from the confused prints of their naked feet.

“I'll bet a guinea,” Said Sanders, “this is what made 'em hide up for awhile among those mimosas. They saw the natives between them and the ford, and they feared to face them.”

“Keep on,” said the magistrate, “their tracks lead to the ford and I think I see some object on the bank of the river.”

He was right; a few minutes' trot brought us to the ford, and by the side of the stream was lying a man in a fustian dress, whose countenance I thought I remembered. On examining him more closely, I recognized the face of the man in the yellow jacket whom I had met on the jetty in Hobart-Town, and who was one of those who attacked and overpowered me in the red-house. In two words I told this to the magistrate.

The poor wretch was still alive, but his appearance told the tale of his miserable fate. His skull was pounded in by the waddies of the


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natives, and his body was pierced in many places by their thin and pointed spears.

“If we could only get him to speak now,” said the constable, “he might give us some useful information. Scroggs, where's your bottle?”

Upon this, the provident Scroggs produced a pint bottle of rum—a sovereign remedy, in his opinion, for all disorders.

“What's the use of giving him rum if he's dead?” remonstrated Scroggs; “it's only wasting it that way.”

“He's not dead,” said Sanders, “though it won't be long first, seemingly. Let us try to make him speak; he may be able to tell us of the other one. It's Bill Simmons, one of the biggest rascals in the whole colony, but that's no matter now. Give us the bottle.”

He raised up the expiring wretch, and Sanders poured down his throat a portion of the rum, while the magistrate dashed some cold water from the river over his head and face. For a considerable time, the man gave no other signs of life than a faint breathing, and it was not until after the lapse of two hours, which seemed to us two ages, that he was able to articulate.


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“We are losing time sadly,” exclaimed the impatient jockey, “and what has become of poor Roderick all this time? Entangled, perhaps, with the reins, and his head kept down, and drowned in the river! That's dreadful!”

“Hush!” said the magistrate, “the man is going to speak.”

“They have got the child,” murmured out the dying man.

“Who have got the child?”

“The natives—they—attacked—me in—the ford.”

“And your companion, where is he?”

“I saw him swimming in the river—but—in his haste—he abandoned —the child —to save himself—and the natives took the child—the Gypsey—the Gypsey—the Gypsey's child!”

“Did the natives kill the child?” asked I, full of anxious horror at the probable fate of the poor girl.

“They—have—killed—me.—Their waddies—my head—spears—child..... carried-off.....”

“How long ago is it,” asked the magistrate, “since they attacked you?”

“I don't know—it—was—just—at—daybreak.


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I—didn't—like to pass the bridge—so—I made for the ford—and the natives—attacked us—and they have taken the—child..... ”

“What's o'clock?” asked Sanders.

“Half-past ten,” said I.

“Then the natives have got the start of us by about four hours and a half,” resumed the constable; “and if they have taken to the hills, it will be a difficult job to follow them on horse-back.”

“We can easily track them in the snow,” observed the magistrate.

“While the snow lasts” replied the constable; “but, by the look of Ben Lomond, we shall have a change of weather, and there's a northerly wind this morning, and that, with the sun, will soon melt this snow. Following the natives in the bush is no easy matter. A white man might as well try to track a bird as a native in the bush!”

“I shall go after them,” said the magistrate; “what do you say, Thornley—shall we leave this little girl to the mercy of the savages?”

“I'm ready to go with you,” said I, “but let us go prepared; this is a bad time of the


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year for bushing it. Is there no place near here, Sanders, where we could borrow some kangaroo-rugs, and get a supply of provisions?”

“I have it!” said Sanders; “Mark's sheep-run is not more than two miles from the ford, and if he will let one of his shepherds, Black Tom, go with us—he's a Sydney native—we'll set a black fellow to hunt black fellows, and come over them that way.”

“Come on, then,” said the magistrate, “and lose no time. I will go with you to remove any objection. Stay! the dying man is going to speak again. I think he understood what we were saying. What is it, my man?” he added, in a soothing tone to the dying man; “what have you got to say?”

“Mus——quee——to!” said the man, with his last breath.

“Musquito!” said Sanders, “then there's no time to be lost; that's the cruellest savage that ever tormented a colony; he kills for killing sake, without reason.”

“I have had a taste of him,” said the magistrate.

“And so have I” said I.


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“There's no time to be lost, if we are to save the child.”

The magistrate, guided by Sanders, immediately galloped off; and in less time than we expected, they returned at a brisk pace, laden with kangaroo-rugs, and various necessaries for a bush expedition, and followed by Tom, a fine tall native of the continental island of Australia, dressed with much neatness, in a cloth jacket and trowsers of good texture; the civilized natives soon catching the colonial predilection for cloth of a superior quality.

“And what's to become of me?” said the disconsolate jockey; “and what has become of Roderick? I say, friend, didn't you say your rascally companion crossed the ford? He's as dead as a door nail! There's no getting any more out of him; and serve him right for making off with poor Roderick! I never knew a horsestealer to come to a good end! But I'll be after him! Good day, gentlemen; I wish you luck. Take care of your horses, and let them take their time up those terrible hills. I'll go after Roderick!”

And so saying, the jockey plunged his horse


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into the stream, and we turned our attention to the object of our expedition.

“Will not the native, being on foot, retard us?” inquired I; “he can never keep up with our horses.”

“Never fear,” said Sanders; “if our horses can keep up with him we shall do very well. Now, Tom, my boy, are you ready?”

Tom nodded his head.

“Which way are you going to take us?” Tom looked at the tracks, among which the prints of tiny feet were plainly discernible, and pointed to the hills.

“Now,” said the magistrate, “for another adventure. I never had a hunt after natives before. Not the best of weather for lying out at nights:—but it would never do to leave that little girl to be butchered by Musquito!”

We moved on at a good pace, Tom, with his long legs, keeping our horses just beyond a quick walk, and we were soon buried in the deep recesses of the woods.

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