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Lynch Sleeps—Isabel Acts.


They buried Nellie in the new churchyard.

Two graves now caught the eye of travellers on the high road, and for some time after it was still only two, none other being added.

On the very day that they bore her to this last home, Lynch, having used his strength to the utmost, was obliged to pause from sheer fatigue. He was now many a long mile from Bengala, and approaching the neighbourhood where he had before been—near Mr. Fitz's place, in fact. He had stopped and robbed one traveller; driven to the desperation of a famished man, and set as he was on meeting his enemy face to face, he was anxious to prolong his miserable life for that purpose. Overcome and utterly weary he found a tolerably sheltered spot and laid down for a noontide nap. Strange dreams came to him there, in which his mother and early days, as well as Nellie, were mingled and confused. It might be the oppression of nightmare, or was it the sense of something abhorrent and antagonistic which caused him to turn and mutter, and finally to wake with a start?

Quick as thought his hand had sought and found his gun, for there, in front of him, standing only a few feet from him, was one he little expected to see.

‘Gentleman Bill! What's in the wind now?’

The individual addressed turned with a significant gesture, and in a moment the words, ‘Give yourself up!’ were uttered; while a mounted policeman advanced, and Lynch saw himself surrounded by at least

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half-a-dozen men. He was against an iron-bark tree. Hardly more grim and dark was it than the man who stood thus at bay. He seemed not to heed the man nearest him. His dark, hollow eyes were searching for some object, which, to judge from the sudden flash of light which suddenly gleamed, he found.

There was a sound of footsteps—a voice—a few sharp clicks—and then the reports of at least three guns—all in a moment. ‘Gentleman Bill’ leapt like a cat on Lynch and caught his arms, but it was too late. Too late did he cry, ‘Don't fire! remember the reward!’

The policeman, naturally timid and nervous, seeing Lynch's determined attitude of resistance, and hearing his gun's report, took aim, and by chance (for his hands shook so that it was a matter of mere chance) the ball struck Lynch. He fell instantly.

Then there was a medley of voices.

‘What the deuce did you fire for, Tim? Save the fool! Wasn't six agin one, enough to take the chap in a whole skin?’

‘He was desperate—I knows what that is! A desperate man will kill or maim a round dozen afore he gives in. I fired when I see him aim at the Squire there,’ answered the accused, as he stooped over his victim to ascertain the extent of the mischief.

‘By Jove, a pretty shot that! Ay, and say so, right through the chest! Poor chap! Well, its best; better nor a halter, to my mind.’

Lynch opened his eyes, and tried to speak, but only a gurgling sound came. ‘Give him a drop of something! Here, Mr. Kinder, have ye your flask handy?’

The man so addressed turned from his occupation of assisting the other wounded man, (which was Mr. Fitz, who had joined the chase con amore,) and handed his flask for Lynch.

The brandy revived him, and he glared wildly to where Mr. Fitz now sat, having recovered from his swoon.

‘Didn't I do for him, after all? Well! and well, 'twas so ordained! 'tis all over now. Ay, Nellie I told ye I'd not be long,’ with a gasp between each word.

‘Wont you confess now?’ urged the constable. ‘Here's one as can put it down and take ‘Affy David’ 'twas your dying speech and confession. 'Twould come handsome and be interesting, and for the public good, for there's a deal of stir 'bout how 'twas brought about, you see. Charlie Brand lies in jail at this present on suspicion, and the gent over the sea, what had hard words, he's not altogether whitewashed. Now, if you done it, now is your time; confess the murder! And do it handsome, like a plucky chap as you be.’

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‘What murder?’ Lynch muttered, and opening his dim eyes again for a moment.

‘Lang's! Didn't you give him his finish, or who was it?’ This question was repeated more than once, and at last, making a great effort, Lynch said,

‘I know nought about it! I didn't so much as see the man. No! no! Providence kept him out of my reach. Let me alone! a drop of water,—and let me alone!’ The water refreshed him, and again he spoke—'Bill! ah—but 'tis a mean, dirty trick of yours! You can't be friend or foe. So it's you that have coyed her away, and now betrayed me, and all for—for money—dirty—rascal—Jew.’

Perhaps something in Lynch's look, or his words, or perhaps an old feeling of acquaintanceship, touched the small speck of heart which remained to Bill, for he shuffled and looked uneasy under this speech, nor could he apparently bear to meet the glare of those strange eyes.

‘All in the way of life and business, Jack,’ he said, in his low, smooth voice. ‘A poor devil would be a heathen downright to refuse a matter of twenty pound which was offered to find yourself alive! They'd have caught you first or last, so look at it bravely, chum, and save your breath and strength for your last bit of a journey. Any wishes you may have, I will punctually attend to. Speak your mind, Jack.’

‘I've none! Thank God, I leave none behind me in this bad place! Good-bye, Bill! All's over atween us, and we'll be meeting no more, I suspect. It wouldn't be heaven to me to have such creeping blackguards as you there.’

He was apparently sinking fast; they whispered to each other that it would soon be over. One man wished to alter his position for the better; Lynch groaned, but it relieved him, and after a time he began to murmur to himself, words unintelligible to them, for in this awful hour he was transported through his failing mind to his boyhood's home, and he was speaking with his mother. A soft, and almost sweet expression altered his face, and caused the rough bystanders to say in a whisper, ‘they say 'tis the angels awhispering in the ear, when dying folks look like that.’

‘Call in Nellie, mother! If you're weary, she will sing like a lark to you. Love her for my sake, mother! Down by the water meadow I went for Lenten Rosen;note you shall have some, and Nellie must have the rest to wear when she goes to the King's courts, in heaven, you told me about. You and I will follow her there, mother!’

‘Again! Is it you calling, mother? Don'tee look so angry! I didn't mean it—I was angered!’

‘Hark! hark!’ and he lifted a finger, and gazed into the space above

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with eyes which were fast becoming filmy. 'Aint she singing beautiful?’ Then with a change of voice—'Stripes and hard words—no ticket! No matter. Coming!’ he said louder, 'coming—help! help me, I'm so—so weary—sleepy—sleep—sleep—!’

And so his voice died away to the faintest whisper; then all was still and silent, and the rude men standing round listened eagerly. So, in the wild bush, with the deep intense blue sky above him—the hunted, miserable convict drew his last breath!

Before any one spoke, a bird began a sweet but monotonous song high over head, and Gentleman Bill looked quickly up, with a queer expression. Nor did he join in the conversation which followed on the doubts, and the pros and cons as to Lynch's guilt, for they had not yet heard of Nellie's testimony.

They carried Mr. Fitz home, and summoned a medical man to dress his wound and broken limb, while they bore Lynch's body to the nearest settlement for an inquest. His memory was spared the brand of murder, and Charles was released from jail, by the authorities receiving the girl's statement of the manner of Mr. Lang's death added to other circumstances.

They buried Jack Lynch in a plot of ground near the ‘lock-up,’ there being no consecrated place. The convicts and ticket-of-leave men about, joined in setting up a stone slab with his name engraved by one among them, and the date. Long afterwards it was found that some one had planted a scarlet geranium there, and that a rude, but not ill-imagined figure of a bird had been carved on the stone; while there were some who averred that on certain nights a real bird, different from anything known in Australia, is seen perched on the tomb, which, after remaining some time there, spreads its wings and mounts upwards like a lark, singing sweetly, till both sound and sight are lost in distance. But sweet as the song is said to be, no one will willingly visit the place to hear it. They take trouble to this day, to make a long and difficult circuit rather than pass near the spot, and if you ask about it, there is a look of awe and hesitation, and it is difficult to get them to say anything. ‘Well, of course, there's no saying!’ one, sorely pressed, at last owned—'it may be all nonsense, but they do say as 'tis haunted by a female in shape of a bird, and folks do tell, as how there has been heard piteous sobs and moans—lamenting like, and then comes the bird, and all's quiet; but 'tis queer and strange, and no one knows the rights of it, you see!’ Such, with a little variation, is the answer given to all inquiries.