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V.

Maconochie, with the taste of ashes in his mouth, left the farm, but instantly despatched an overseer with an escort of a sergeant and four men, and had Reynell locked in a cell, pending his despatch to Phillip Island, where it was his intention to send him. As the escort passed into Pine-lane—a pine-framed avenue leading from the Settlement to Long-ridge—Bill Felix met them as he was on his way to the hut. As he stood aside and saluted the overseer, he glanced inquiringly at the prisoner. Reynell read the glance, and in the Ring language assured Felix to be under no alarm. “If Felix could not execute the order of doom before the twenty-eighth day (a fortnight had still to elapse), he, the condemned, would perform the ‘cross-road trick.”’ Which was— suicide. The Ring should be obeyed; the idol should not be disappointed of its victim.

A week passed. Under the supervision of two soldiers—one for day and the other for night duty— Reynell was lodged in the solitary hut on Phillip


  ― 118 ―
Island. And Bill Felix, appointed executioner, knew that his own—or Reynell's—time was drawing near. Peake, Osborne, and “Barrington”—none had spoken to him of the imminent event; to have done so would have violated a regulation of the Society; and yet he knew it was an hourly question with them as to the manner in which he would perform the doom. He smiled to himself at the way he would obey the Ring while disappointing it.

Several more days passed. Maconochie himself was on the alert with his telescope at seven o'clock in the morning and five in the afternoon when the sentry on Phillip Island would fire off his musket and thus give the “all's well” signal. Although the distance between Norfolk and Phillip was but two miles and a furlong, the surf fringing either island made the boat-passage dangerous, and as the Commandant did not feel justified in despatching a boat to the rock save on every third day, he had arranged the gun-fire signal. The report could not be heard, but with a spy-glass the flash could be seen. Flag signals from Phillip's had been discontinued since they had been worked by convicts to destroy a boat's crew.

For seven days the report-speaking musket was fired morning and evening, and Maconochie felt


  ― 119 ―
hopeful. He had got it into his head, in spite of what he had learnt, that if the month would pass without the violent death of either Reynell or some other prominent villain being reported, the doom would pass also. And to-morrow would end his suspense. He would send a boat over in the morning.

But on the morrow he himself missed the observation of the musket-fire. He was busy investigating the cause of death of William Felix, No.39-204 per Coromandel, shot dead by the sentry at the outer gaol-tower.

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