― 133 ―

iii: Chapter VIII.


THE Sergeant, as I said, broke in upon us with the fearful news as we sat at wine. For a minute no man spoke, but all sat silent and horror struck. Only the Doctor rose quietly, and slipped out of the room unnoticed.

Desborough spoke first. He rose up with deadly wrath in his face, and swore a fearful oath, an oath so fearful, that he who endorsed every word of it then, will not write it down now. To the effect, “That, he would take neither meat, nor drink, nor pleasure, nor rest, beyond what was necessary to keep body and soul together, before he had purged the land of these treacherous villains!”

Charles Hawker went up to the Sergeant, with a livid face and shaking hands; “Will you tell me again, Robinson, are they all dead?

The Sergeant looked at him compassionately. “Well, sir!” he said; “the boy seemed to think Mrs. and Miss Mayford had escaped. But you mustn't trust what he says, sir.”

  ― 134 ―

“You are deceiving me,” said Charles. “There is something you are hiding from me, I shall go down there this minute, and see.”

“You will do nothing of the kind, sir,” said Mrs. Buckley, coming into the doorway and confronting him; “your place is with Captain Desborough. I am going down to look after Ellen.”

During these few moments, Sam had stood stupified. He stepped up to the Sergeant, and said, —

“Would you tell me which way they went from the Mayfords'?”

“Down the river, sir.”

“Ah!” said Sam; “towards Captain Brentwood's, and Alice at home, and alone! — There may be time yet.”

He ran out of the room and I after him. “His first trouble,” I thought, — “his first trial. How will our boy behave now?”

Let me mention again, that the distance from the Mayfords' to Captain Brentwood's, following the windings of the river on its right bank, was nearly twenty miles. From Major Buckley's to the same point, across the plains, was barely ten; so that there was still a chance that a brave man on a good horse, might reach Captain Brentwood's before the bushrangers, in spite of the start they had got.

Sam's noble horse, Widderin, a horse with a pedigree a hundred years old, stood in the stable. The buying

  ― 135 ―
of that horse had been Sam's only extravagance, for which he had often reproached himself, and now this day, he would see whether he would get his money's worth out of that horse, or no.

I followed him up to the stable, and found him putting the bridle on Widderin's beautiful little head. Neither of us spoke, only when I handed him the saddle, and helped him with the girths, he said, “God bless you.”

I ran out and got down the slip‐rails for him. As he rode by he said, “Good‐bye, uncle Jeff, perhaps you won't see me again;” and I cried out, “Remember your God and your mother, Sam, and don't do anything foolish.”

Then he was gone; and looking across the plains the way he should go, I saw another horseman toiling far away, and recognised Doctor Mulhaus. Good Doctor! he had seen the danger in a moment, and by his ready wit had got a start of every one else by ten minutes.

The Doctor, on his handsome long‐bodied Arabian mare, was making good work of it across the plains, when he heard the rush of horses' feet behind him, and turning, he saw tall Widderin bestridden by Sam, springing over the turf, gaining on him stride after stride. In a few minutes they were alongside of one another.

“Good lad!” cried the Doctor; “On, forwards;

  ― 136 ―
catch her, and away to the woods with her. Bloodhound Desborough will be on their trail in half‐an‐hour. Save her, and we will have noble vengeance.”

Sam only waved his hand in good‐bye, and sped on across the plain like a solitary ship at sea. He steered for a single tree, now becoming dimly visible, at the foot of the Organ hill.

The good horse, with elastic and easy motion, fled on his course like a bird; lifting his feet clearly and rapidly through the grass. The brisk south wind filled his wide nostrils as he turned his graceful neck from side to side, till, finding that work was meant, and not play, he began to hold his head straight before him, and rush steadily forward.

And Sam, poor Sam! all his hopes for life now brought down to this: to depend on the wind and pluck of an unconscious horse. One stumble now, and it were better to lie down on the plain and die. He was in the hands of God, and he felt it. He said one short prayer, but that towards the end was interrupted by the wild current of his thoughts.

Was there any hope? They, the devils, would have been drinking at the Mayfords', and perhaps would go slow; or would they ride fast and wild? After thinking a short time, he feared the latter. They had tasted blood, and knew that the country would be roused on them shortly. On, on, good horse!

The lonely shepherd on the plains, sleepily watching

  ― 137 ―
his feeding sheep, looked up as Sam went speeding by, and thought how fine a thing it would be to be dressed like that, and have nothing to do but to ride bloodhorses to death. Mind your sheep, good shepherd; perhaps it were better for you to do that and nothing more all your life, than to carry in your breast for one short hour such a volcano of rage, indignation, and terror, as he does who hurries unheeding through your scattered flock.

Here are a brace of good pistols, and they, with care, shall give account, if need be, of two men. After that, nothing. It were better, so much better, not to live if one were only ten minutes too late. The Doctor would be up soon; not much matter if he were, though, only another life gone.

The Organ hill, a cloud of misty blue when he started, now hung in aërial fluted cliffs above his head. As he raced across the long glacis which lay below the hill, he could see a solitary eagle wheeling round the topmost pinnacles, against the clear blue sky; then the hill was behind him, and before him another stretch of plain, bounded by timber, which marked the course of the river.

Brave Widderin had his ears back now, and was throwing his breath regularly through his nostrils in deep sighs. Good horse, only a little longer; bear thyself bravely this day, and then pleasant pastures for thee till thou shalt go the way of all horses. Many a

  ― 138 ―
time has she patted, with kind words, thy rainbow neck, my horse; help us to save her now.

Alas! good willing brute, he cannot understand; only he knows that his kind master is on his back, and so he will run till he drop. Good Widderin! think of the time when thy sire rushed triumphant through the shouting thousands at Epsom, and all England heard that Arcturus had won the Derby. Think of the time when thy grandam, carrying Sheik Abdullah, bore down in a whirlwind of sand on the toiling affrighted caravan. Ah! thou knowest not of these things, but yet thy speed flags not. We are not far off now, good horse, we shall know all soon.

Now he was in the forest again, and now, as he rode quickly down the steep sandy road among the braken, he heard the hoarse rush of the river in his ears, and knew the end was well‐nigh come.

No drink now, good Widderin! a bucket of Champagne in an hour's time, if thou wilt only stay not now to bend thy neck down to the clear gleaming water; flounder through the ford, and just twenty yards up the bank by the cherry‐tree, we shall catch sight of the house, and know our fate.

Now the house was in sight, and now he cried aloud some wild inarticulate sound of thankfulness and joy. All was as peaceful as ever, and Alice, unconscious, stood white‐robed in the verandah, feeding her birds.

As he rode up he shouted out to her and beckoned.

  ― 139 ―
She came running through the house, and met him breathless at the doorway.

“The bushrangers! Alice, my love,” he said. “We must fly this instant, they are close to us now.”

She had been prepared for this. She knew her duty well, for her father had often told her what to do. No tears! no hysterics! She took Sam's hand without a word, and placing her fairy foot upon his boot, vaulted up into the saddle before him, crying, — “Eleanor, Eleanor!”

Eleanor, the cook, came running out. “Fly!” said Alice. “Get away into the bush. The gang are coming; close by.” She, an old Vandemonian, needed no second warning, and as the two young people rode away, they saw her clearing the paddock rapidly, and making for a dense clump of wattles, which grew just beyond the fence.

“Whither now, Sam?” said Alice, the moment they were started.

“I should feel safer across the river,” he replied; “that little wooded knoll would be a fine hiding‐place, and they will come down this side of the river from Mayford's.”

“From Mayford's! why, have they been there?”

“They have, indeed. Alas! poor Cecil.”

“What has happened to him? nothing serious.”

“Dead! my love, dead.”

  ― 140 ―

“Oh! poor little Cecil,” she cried, “that we were all so fond of. And Mrs. Mayford and Ellen?”

“They have escaped! — they are not to be found. — They have hidden away somewhere.”

They crossed the river, and dismounting, they led the tired horse up the steep slope of turf that surrounded a little castellated tor of bluestone. Here they would hide till the storm was gone by, for from here they could see the windings of the river, and all the broad plain stretched out beneath their feet.

“I do not see them anywhere, Alice,” said Sam presently. “I see no one coming across the plains. They must be either very near us in the hollow of the river‐valley, or else a long way off. I have very little doubt they will come here though, sooner or later.”

“There they are!” said Alice. “Surely there are a large party of horsemen on the plain, but they are seven or eight miles off.”

“Ay, ten,” said Sam. “I am not sure they are horsemen.” Then he said suddenly in a whisper, “Lie down, my love, in God's name! Here they are, close to us!”

There burst on his ear a confused sound of talking and laughing, and out of one of the rocky gullies leading towards the river, came the men they had been flying from, in number about fourteen. They had crossed the river, for some unknown reason, and to the fear‐struck hiders it seemed as though they were making straight towards their lair.

  ― 141 ―

He had got Widderin's head in his breast, blindfolding him with his coat, for should he neigh now, they were undone, indeed! As the bushrangers approached, the horse began to get uneasy, and paw the ground, putting Sam in such an agony of terror that the sweat rolled down his face. In the midst of this he felt a hand on his arm, and Alice's voice, which he scarcely recognised, said, in a fierce whisper, —

“Give me one of your pistols, sir!”

“Leave that to me!” he replied in the same tone.

“As you please,” she said; “but I must not fall alive into their hands. Never look your mother in the face again if I do.”

He gave one more glance round, and saw that the enemy would come within a hundred yards of their hiding‐place. Then he held the horse faster than ever, and shut his eyes.

Was it a minute only, or an hour, till they heard the sound of the voices dying away in the roar of the river? and, opening their eyes once more, looked into one another's faces.

Faces, they thought, that they had never seen before, — so each told the other afterwards, — so wild, so haggard, and so strange! And now that they were safe and free again — free to arise and leave their dreadful rock prison, and wander away where they would, they could scarcely believe that the danger was past.

They came out silently from among the crags, and

  ― 142 ―
took up another station, where they could see all that went on. They saw the miscreants swarming about the house, and heard a pistol‐shot — only one.

“Who can they be firing at?” said Alice, in a subdued tone. They were both so utterly appalled by their late danger, that they spoke in whispers, though the enemy were a quarter of a mile off.

“Mere mischief, I should fancy,” said Sam; “there is no one there. Oh! Alice, my love, can you realize that we are safe?”

“Hardly yet, Sam! But who could those men be we saw at such a distance on the plain? Could they have been cattle? I am seldom deceived, you know; I can see an immense distance.”

“Why,” said Sam, “I had forgotten them! They must be our friends, on these fellows' tracks. Desborough would not be long starting, I know.”

“I hope my father,” said Alice, “will hear nothing till he sees me. Poor father! what a state he will be in. See, there is a horseman close to us. It is the Doctor!”

They saw Dr. Mulhaus ride up to one of the heights overlooking the river, and reconnoitre. Seeing the men in the house, he began riding down towards them.

“He will be lost!” said Alice. “He thinks we are there. Call, Sam, at all risks.”

Sam did so, and they saw the Doctor turn. Alice showed herself for a moment, and then he turned back,

  ― 143 ―
and rode the way he had come. In a few minutes he joined them from the rear, and, taking Alice in his arms, kissed her heartily.

“So, our jewel is safe, then — praise be to God! Thanks due also to a brave man and a good horse. This is the last station those devils will ruin, for our friends are barely four miles off. I saw them just now.”

“I wish, I only wish,” said Sam, “that they may delay long enough to be caught. I would give a good deal for that.”

There was but little chance of that, though; their measures were too well taken. Almost as Sam spoke, the three listeners heard a shrill whistle, and immediately the enemy began mounting. Some of them were evidently drunk, and could hardly get on their horses, but were assisted by the others. But very shortly they were all clear off, heading to the northwest.

“Now we may go down, and see what destruction has been done,” said Alice. “Who would have thought to see such times as these!”

“Stay a little,” said the Doctor, “and let us watch these gentlemen's motions. Where can they be going nor'‐west — straight on to the mountains?”

“I am of opinion,” said Sam, “that they are going to lie up in one of the gullies this evening. They are full of drink and madness, and they don't know what they are about. If they get into the main system of

  ― 144 ―
gullies, we shall have them like rats in a trap, for they can never get out by the lower end. Do you see, Doctor, a little patch of white road among the trees over there? That leads to the Limestone Gates, as we call it. If they pass those walls upwards, they are confined as in a pound. Watch the white road, and we shall see.”

The piece of road alluded to was about two miles off, and winding round a steep hill among trees. Only one turn in it was visible, and over this, as they watched, they saw a dark spot pass, followed by a crowd of others.

“There they go,” said Sam. “The madmen are safe now. See, there comes Desborough, and all of them; let us go down.”

They turned to go, and saw Jim coming towards them, by the route that Sam had come, all bespattered with clay, limping and leading his new grey horse, dead lame.

He threw up his hat when he saw them, and gave a feeble hurrah! but even then a twinge of pain shot across his face, and, when he was close, they saw he was badly hurt.

“God save you, my dear sister,” he said; “I have been in such a state of mind; God forgive me, I have been cursing the day I was born. Sam, I started about three minutes after you, and had very nearly succeeded in overhauling the Doctor, about two miles from here, when this brute put his foot in a crab hole,

  ― 145 ―
and came down, rolling on my leg. I was so bruised I couldn't mount again, and so I have walked. I see you are all right though, and that is enough for me. Oh my sister — my darling Alice! Think what we have escaped!”

So they went towards the house. And when Major Buckley caught sight of Alice, riding between Doctor Mulhaus and Sam, he gave such a stentorian cheer that the retreating bushrangers must have heard it.

“Well ridden, gentlemen,” he said. “And who won the race? Was it Widderin, or the Arabian, or the nondescript Sydney importation?”

“The Sydney importation, sir, would have beaten the Arabian, barring accident,” said Jim. “But, seriously speaking, I should have been far too late to be of any service.”

“And I,” said the Doctor, “also. Sam won the race, and has got the prize. Now, let us look forward, and not backward.”

They communicated to Desborough all particulars, and told him of the way they had seen the bushrangers go. Every one was struck with the change in him. No merry stories now. The laughing Irishman was gone, and a stern gloomy man, more like an Englishman, stood in his place. I heard after, that he deeply blamed himself for what had occurred (though no one else thought of doing so), and thought he had not taken full precautions. On the present occasion, he said, —

“Well, gentlemen, night is closing in. Major

  ― 146 ―
Buckley, I think you will agree with me that we should act more effectually if we waited till daylight, and refresh both horses and men. More particularly as the enemy in their drunken madness have hampered themselves in the mountains. Major, Doctor Mulhaus, and Mr. Halbert, you are military men — what do you say?”

They agreed that there was no doubt. It would be much the best plan.

“I would sooner he'd have gone to‐night and got it over,” said Charles Hawker, taking Sam's arm. “Oh! Sam, Sam! Think of poor Cecil! Think of poor Ellen, when she hears what has happened. She must know by now!”

“Poor Charley,” said Sam, “I am so sorry for you. Lie down, and get to sleep; the sun is going down.”

He lay down as he was bid, somewhere out of the way. He was crushed and stunned. He hardly seemed to know at present what he was doing. After a time, Sam went in and found him sleeping uneasily.

But Alice was in sad tribulation at the mischief done. All her pretty little womanly ornaments overturned and broken, her piano battered to pieces, and, worst of all, her poor kangaroo shot dead, lying in the verandah. “Oh!” said she to Major Buckley, “you must think me very wicked to think of such things at a time like this, but I cannot help it. There is something so shocking to me in such a sudden bouleversement of old

  ― 147 ―
order. Yet, if it shocks me to see my piano broken, how terrible must a visitation like the Mayfords' be. These are not the times for moralizing, however. I must see about entertaining the garrison.”

Eleanor, the cook, had come back from her lair, quite unconcerned. She informed the company, in a nonchalant sort of way, that this was the third adventure of the kind she had been engaged in, and, although they seemed to make a great fuss about it; on the other side (Van Diemen's Land), it was considered a mere necessary nuisance; and so proceeded to prepare such supper as she could. In the same off‐hand way she remarked to Sam, when he went into the kitchen to get a light for his pipe, that, if it was true that Mike Howe had crossed and was among them, they had better look out for squalls; for that he was a devil, and no mistake.

Desborough determined to set a watch out on the road towards the mouth of the gully, where they were supposed to be. “We shall have them in the morning,” said he. “Let every one get to sleep who can sleep, for I expect every one to follow me to morrow.”

Charles Hawker had laid down in an inner room, and was sleeping uneasily, when he was awakened by some one, and, looking up, saw Major Buckley, with a light in his hand, bending over him. He started up.

“What is the matter, sir?” he asked. “Why do you look at me so strangely? Is there any new misfortune?”

  ― 148 ―

“Charles,” said the Major, “you have no older friend than me.”

“I know it, sir. What do you want me to do?”

“I want you to stay at home to‐morrow.”

“Anything but that, sir. They will call me a coward.”

“No one shall do so. I swear that he who calls you a coward shall feel the weight of my arm.”

“Why am I not to go with them? Why am I to be separated from the others?”

“You must not ask,” said the Major; “perhaps you will know some day, but not yet. All I say to you is, go home to your mother to‐morrow, and stay there. Should you fire a shot, or strike a blow against those men we are going to hunt down, you may do a deed which would separate you from the rest of mankind, and leave you to drag on a miserable guilty life. Do you promise?”

“I will promise,” said Charles; “but I wonder——”

“Never mind wondering. Good night.”

The troopers lay in the hall, and in the middle of the night there was a sound of a horse outside, and he who was nearest the door got up and went out.

“Who is there?” said the voice of Captain Brentwood.

“Jackson, sir.”

“My house has been stuck up, has it not?”

“Yes, sir.”

  ― 149 ―

“And my daughter?”

“Safe, sir. Young Mr. Buckley rode over and caught her up out of it ten minutes before they got here.”

“Long life to him, and glory to God. Who is here?”

The trooper enumerated them.

“And what has become of the gang?” asked the Captain.

“Gone into the limestone gully, sir. Safe for tomorrow.”

“Ah, well, I shall come in and lie in the hall. Don't make a noise. What is that?”

They both started. Some one of the many sleepers, with that strange hoarse voice peculiar to those who talk in their dreams, said, with singular energy and distinctness, —

“I will go, sir; they will call me coward.”

“That's young Mr. Hawker, sir,” said the trooper. “His sweetheart's brother, Mr. Mayford, was killed by them yesterday. The head of this very gang, sir, that villain Touan — his name is Hawker. An odd coincidence, sir.”

“Very odd,” said the Captain. “At the same time, Jackson, if I were you, I wouldn't talk about it. There are many things one had best not talk about, Jackson. Pull out the corner of that blanket, will you? So we shall have some fun to‐morrow, up in the pass, I'm thinking.”

  ― 150 ―

“They'll fight, sir,” said the trooper. “If we can bail them up, they'll fight, believe me. Better so; I think we shall save the hangman some trouble. Good night, sir.”

So Captain Brentwood lay down beside the trooper, and slept the sleep of the just among his broken chairs and tables. The others slept too, sound and quiet, as though there were no fight on the morrow.

But ere the moon grew pale they were woke by Desborough, tramping about with clicking spurs among the sleepers, and giving orders in a loud noise. At the first movement, while the rest were yawning and stretching themselves, and thinking that battle was not altogether so desirable a thing on a cold morning as it was overnight, Major Buckley was by Charles Hawker's bedside, and, reminding him of his promise, got him out unperceived, helped him to saddle his horse, and started him off to his mother with a note.

The lad, overawed by the major's serious manner, went without debate, putting the note in his pocket. I have seen that note; Sam showed it to me the next day, and so I can give you the contents. It was from Major Buckley to Mary Hawker, and ran thus: —

“I have sent your boy to you, dear old friend, bearing this. You will have heard by now what has happened, and you will give me credit for preventing what might come to be a terrible catastrophe. The boy is utterly

  ― 151 ―
unconscious that his own father is the man whose life is sought this day above all others. He is at the head of this gang, Mary. My own son saw him yesterday. My hand shall not be raised against him; but further than that I will not interfere. Your troubles have come now to the final and most terrible pass; and all the advice I have to give you is to pray, and pray continually, till this awful storm is gone by. Remember, that come what may, you have two friends entirely devoted to you — my wife and myself.”

Hurriedly written, scrawled rather, as this note was, it showed me again plainer than ever what a noble clear‐hearted man he was who had written it. But this is not to the purpose. Charles Hawker departed, carrying this, before the others were stirring, and held his way through the forest‐road towards his mother's station.

This same two days' business was the best stroke of work that the Devil did in that part of the country for many years. With his usual sagacity he had busied himself in drawing the threads of mischief so parallel, that it seemed they must end in one and only one lamentable issue; namely, that Charles Hawker and his father should meet pistol in hand, as deadly enemies. But at this last period of the game, our good honest Major completely check‐mated him, by sending Charles Hawker home to his mother. In this terrible pass,

  ― 152 ―
after this unexpected move of the Major's; he (the Devil, no other) began casting about for a scoundrel, by whose assistance he might turn the Major's flank. But no great rogue being forthcoming he had to look round for the next best substitute, a great fool, — and one of these he found immediately, riding exactly the way he wished. Him he subpœnaed immediately, and found to do his work better even than a good rogue would have done. We shall see how poor Charles Hawker, pricking along through the forest, getting every moment further from danger and mischief, met a man charging along the road, full speed, who instantly pulled up and spoke to him.

This was the consummate fool, sent of the Devil, whom I have mentioned above. We have seen him before. He was the longest, brownest, stupidest of the Hawbuck family. The one who could spit further than any of his brothers.

“Well, Charley,” he said, “is this all true about the bushrangers?”

Charles said it was. And they were bailed up in the limestone gully, and all the party were away after them.

“Where are you going then?” asked the unfortunate young idiot.

“Home to my mother,” blurted out poor Charles.

“Well!” said the other, speaking unconsciously exactly the words which the enemy of mankind

  ― 153 ―
desired. “Well, I couldn't have believed that. If a chap had said that of you in my hearing, I'd have fought him if he'd been as big as a house. I never thought that of you, Charley.”

Charles cursed aloud. “What have I done to be talked to like this? Major Buckley has no right to send me away like this, to be branded as coward through the country side. Ten times over better to be shot than have such words as these said to me. I shall go back with you.”

“That's the talk,” said the poor fool. “I thought I wasn't wrong in you, Charley.” And so Charles galloped back with him.

We, in the meantime, had started from the station, ere day was well broke. Foremost of the company rode Desborough, calm and serene, and on either side of him Captain Brentwood and Major Buckley. Then came the Doctor, Sam, Jim, Halbert, and myself; behind us again, five troopers and the Sergeant. Each man of us all was armed with a sword; and every man in that company, as it happened, knew the use of that weapon well. The troopers carried carbines, and all of us carried pistols.

The glare in the east changing from pearly green to golden yellow, gave notice of the coming sun. One snow peak, Tambo, I think, began to catch the light, and blaze like another morning star. The day had begun in earnest, and, as we entered the mouth of the

  ― 154 ―
glen to which we were bound, slanting gleams of light were already piercing the misty gloom, and lighting up the loftier crags.

A deep, rock‐walled glen it was, open and level, though, in the centre, ran a tangled waving line of evergreen shrubs, marking the course of a pretty bright creek, which, half hidden by luxuriant vegetation, ran beside the faint track leading to one of Captain Brentwood's mountain huts. Along this track we could plainly see the hoof marks of the men we were after.

It was one of the most beautiful gullies I had ever seen, and I turned to say so to some one who rode beside me. Conceive my horror at finding it was Charles Hawker. I turned to him fiercely, and said, —

“Get back, Charles. Go home. You don't know what you are doing, lad.”

He defied me. And I was speaking roughly to him again, when there came a puff of smoke from among the rocks overhead, and down I went, head over heels. A bullet had grazed my thigh, and killed my horse, who. throwing me on my head, rendered me hors de combat. So that during the fight which followed, I was sitting on a rock, very sick and very stupid, a mile from the scene of action.

My catastrophe caused only a temporary stoppage; and, during the confusion, Charles Hawker was unnoticed. The man who had fired at me (why at me I cannot divine), was evidently a solitary guard perched

  ― 155 ―
among the rocks. The others held on for about a quarter of an hour, till the valley narrowed up again, just leaving room for the walk between the brawling creek and the tall limestone cliff. But after this it opened out into a broader amphitheatre, walled on all sides by inaccessible rock, save in two places. Sam, from whom I get this account of affairs, had just time to notice this when he saw Captain Brentwood draw a pistol and fire it, and, at the same instant, a man dashed out of some scrub on the other side of the creek, and galloped away up the valley.

“They have had the precaution to set two watches for us, which I hardly expected,” said Captain Desborough. “They will fight us now, they can't help it, thank God. They have had a short turn and a merry one, but they are dead men, and they know it. The Devil is but a poor paymaster, Buckley. After all this hide and seek work, they have only got two days' liberty.”

The troopers now went to the front with Halbert and the other military men, while Sam, Jim, and Charles, the last all unperceived by the Major in his excitement, rode in the rear.

“We are going to have a regular battle,” said Jim. “They are bailed up, and must fight; some of us will go home feet foremost to‐day.”

So they rode on through the open forest, till they began to see one or two horsemen through the tree

  ― 156 ―
stems, reconnoitering. The ground began to rise towards a lofty cliff that towered before them, and all could see that the end was coming. Then they caught sight of the whole gang, scattered about among the low shrubs, and a few shots were fired on both sides before the bushrangers turned and retreated towards the wall of rock, now plainly visible through the timber. Our party continued to advance steadily in open order.

Then under the beetling crags, where the fern‐trees began to feather up among the fallen boulders, the bushrangers turned like hunted wolves, and stood at bay.