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V.

In the confusion of the event, it did not occur to Mr. Anstey to inquire what Davies was doing outside his hut at that hour. Not suspecting the relationship of the young transport to Bess, he did not doubt the truth of her avowal, although he was shocked at it. Leaving to a later and more seemly time the investigation into the circumstances, he bade Davies help a couple of free servants, who had come from their quarters, to carry the injured man to his room, where the wound was roughly bandaged till the military doctor from Oatlands could arrive. Bess, Mr. Anstey locked in her own apartment, first taking the knife from her.




  ― 200 ―

The next morning the wounded man was incapable, in magisterial opinion, of giving a lucid account of the affair. His wound though not vital was a sufficiently ugly one, and weeks would have to elapse before he either could resume duty or be in a fit state to give formal evidence against the prisoner. Sitting as a magistrate, Mr. Anstey formally remanded his once-trusted housekeeper to Oatlands. She would give no explanation of the occurrence, and the family who had so befriended her, and whom she had so faithfully served, saw her taken off to the township by an escort of field police. It was a problem the Ansteys could not solve—how she, so tender and true, should have attempted to murder their overseer, who, attached as he was to them, was, as they well knew, more deeply devoted to her. Good Mrs. Anstey had done all she could to promote the match; and Bess's refusal had perplexed her mightily. And now the entanglement that bound the two was not the sweet intricacy of the lover's knot, but the gruesome ties which link the victim to his murderess.

The night after the outrage the plank in the hut-wall was withdrawn once more, and Davis, aided by Ferris, dropped through the aperture.

“It's as good a thing as ye can do, ye young


  ― 201 ―
whelp, ye! Ye'll get scragged in any case, and I'd rayther ye'd be scragged for bold fightin' in the bush than fer a cur's trick of puttin' the knife in on the sly!” So old Michael whispered.

The lad heard him in silence.

“An',” went on the old man, “won't ye leave a word for the woman who bare ye?”

“Tell her the best thing she ever did for me was the loosening of this plank. She did it for my kisses—I did give her one or two—but I always intended to bolt to Brady through it. And tell her the best thing she can do is to marry Manning if he gets better and she's not hanged. Then when the —— traps are hot on my heels, I'll always have a safe corner. Tell her that—and good-bye.”

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