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Volume 1

Chapter I. The Arrival.

IT was on a fine spring morning in the month of September that a vessel was seen to thread her way through D'Entrecasteaux' channel, at the mouth of the river Derwent, on the southern side of Van Diemen's Land. The sky was clear and bright, its usual aspect in the early spring in those salubrious regions, and there was scarcely wind sufficient to fill the sails, so that the vessel was able to do little more than make headway against the tide, tantalizing those on board with the sight of the land on either side, while the vessel remained provokingly stationary in mid-stream.

The passengers in the vessel, which was a small brig of not more than a hundred and twenty tons'

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burthen, were a gentleman, with his two daughters. Major Horton had resolved to mend his broken fortunes in a new world, where there was verge and scope enough for enterprise and exertion. It was the hardihood, perhaps, of his previous career as a military man, that had prompted him to dare in his humble bark, with a scanty crew, the dangers of the seas for a distance comprehending the half of the globe, and to approach fearlessly the coasts of a new country, of the points of which no seaman on board possessed any previous knowledge. His daughters were young girls of remarkable beauty, and with all the delicacy of appearance which, it might be supposed, would be impressed on them from a former life of ease and elegance, and from the habit of frequenting the high society in which they were born to move. They both partook of their father's adventurous spirit and of his courage, though their outward exhibition of those soldierly qualities was modified by their respective dispositions.

Helen, the elder of the two, was tall and slight; strikingly handsome; of a mind bold and prompt

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to execute her resolves; full of ardour and enterprise; a fit heroine for a romance; fearless of danger, and confident in her own resources. Louisa, on the contrary, was mild and retiring; possessing almost the ideal perfection of that amiable softness of woman which poets love to fancy, and lovers fondly doat upon with affection the most abiding. Being only in her sixteenth year, and two years younger than her sister, the gentle Louisa had learned to look up to the more energetic Helen for advice and assistance on all matters relating to the difficulties to which their present course exposed them; and the love which the high-spirited Helen bore to the affectionate girl was increased by the feeling of the protection which her more masculine mind afforded to her less intrepid sister.

The only other passenger on board was a personage of a very different grade; and how he had come among them, and with what imaginable object he had set forth to brave an adventurous life in the Australian colonies, had more than once puzzled himself, as well as those with whom he had become accidentally associated. This aspiring

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emigrant rejoiced in the name of Silliman, which singularly accorded with the character of the man, so that the name of Jeremiah Silliman seemed to have become attached to the individual by some mysterious process of elective attraction, exhibiting in his person an illustration of the harmonious principle of nature which ever strives to amalgamate together things congenial.

This young gentleman had first seen the light, or rather the smoke, in Ironmonger Lane in the City; which fortunate circumstance, as he was sometimes inclined to boast, conferred on him by birth the rank and dignity of a citizen of London, invested with various privileges and immunities, and with the inchoate right of exercising regal sway over that imperium in imperio; all of which advantages, however, he had sacrificed in his insatiable thirst of romantic adventures. Having already made frequent dangerous voyages to Putney, Richmond, and Gravesend, and on one occasion as far as Margate, he considered himself a finished sailor; and when he first appeared in a blue jacket and white trousers, and with an exceedingly diminutive round straw hat aboard the

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Nautilus before she set sail from the port of London, he quite imposed on the unsophisticated natures of the young ladies, who flattered themselves that they had the advantage of being accompanied by an accomplished mariner whose skill and daring would form a valuable addition to the small crew which had been engaged to navigate the vessel.

It was true that the mate regarded him with an extraordinary and significant grimace when he appeared on deck at Gravesend in his sailor's rig; but it was not until the vessel had reached the Downs that the false pretensions of the cockney were made manifest by his most urgent vociferations for the “steward.” This little imperfection was overlooked, however, during the voyage, as he had immediately fallen in love with both the sisters, and as his services were found convenient by the ladies, in performing many little offices, which he did with invariable good nature, and with an intelligence, as Helen remarked to her sister, of a lap-dog who had been taught to fetch and carry.

The major, who had in his youth been a member

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of the yacht club, considered himself quite competent to take the general charge of the vessel of which he was the owner, and over which he presided as captain, trusting to the mate, an excellent seaman, for the management of the vessel and for assistance in its navigation. One boy for steward, and another as “the” boy, whose prescribed duty was to be perpetually in motion with an immense swab in his arms to sop up the water which the little vessel was continually taking in, from the proximity of its deck to the surface of the water, and nine sailors, one of whom acted as the carpenter, formed the whole of the crew; but thus slenderly equipped the good little ship had arrived in safety over fifteen thousand miles of the ocean, to the entrance of the channel which led to the promised land.

There was just sufficient wind to fill the sails and enable the vessel to stem the rapid current of the channel. The mate examined the chart; scrutinized the shore; heaved the lead; sounded the bottom; looked over the side, and took a sight at an object on land to ascertain if they made any the least progress. But the vessel seemed

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riveted to the spot, and presented the appearance of active motion without making the slightest advance.

“We shall have to anchor at last,” said he to the major, who, with his daughters and the assiduous Mr. Silliman, were assembled on the deck, surveying the new country of their adoption with eager interest; “there is seldom much wind, Horsman says, in this season in these parts—except when it comes in squalls and gales—and what there is seems to be dying away. We had better hold our ground, and wait for the turn of the tide.”

“We do hold our ground for the present,” observed the major; “how far are we from the shore to the left here?”

“Larboard;—why, I should say about couple of miles, not more.”

“It is my opinion,” said Mr. Silliman, who, on nautical matters, considered himself an authority, in virtue of his sailor's jacket and trousers, and supported in his assumptions by his little round hat, which had grown excessively tarry during the voyage; “it is my opinion that we had better send

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the boat on shore and examine the country; we may perhaps make some discoveries, or meet with some of the natives, or something. How I wish I could see a kangaroo!”

“I can see smoke,” said Helen, who was looking through the ship's glass, obsequiously held by Mr. Silliman, “just under that low hill yonder.”

“Some of the natives, perhaps,” said her father; “there are no settlers, I understand, so low down as this. I see;—I can see a curl of smoke quite plainly; but now it grows less; and now I can see no more of it. It seems to have been extinguished suddenly.”

“We are making lee-way now,” said the mate, “that's certain; the wind has quite gone down, and the sails stick to the masts. Shall we let go the anchor?”

“You know best, Mr. Northland; it is very annoying not to be able to get up before dark; but I suppose there's no danger in these parts; we are quite out of the way of pirates; and the natives don't know the use of boats, the books say.”

“Pirates and natives! major; no fear of them;

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I wish there was nothing else to fear in this channel; you see it is very intricate, full of shoals and headlands; and if it was to come on to blow, it might be an awkward matter, weakly manned as we are.”

Presently the grating of the cable against the davits informed all on board of the resolution that had been formed, and in a brief space the little vessel lay quietly at anchor in the stream.

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Chapter II. The Plot.

THE detention of the vessel, which gave rise to so much mortification on board, excited very different feelings in the minds of a party who were watching their proceedings from the land.

This party consisted of seven men, of whom six were clothed in the government dress of convicts suits of yellow; but the seventh appeared in the ordinary garb of a gentleman, or rather of a merchant or storekeeper; for there were too few idle gentlemen in those times to allow of the latter distinctive appellation. They sat round the remains of a fire which had been hastily kindled and as hastily extinguished, as if in fear that the smoke from the burning wood might betray their resting-place. The cause of their appearance in a

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spot so remote from the dwellings of the colonists may be best collected from the following conversation:—

“I wish we had some grub,” said one of the yellow jackets; “it's poor fun being in the bush without anything to eat; suppose we go aboard that brig and ask for some provisions? we can say we are shipwrecked seamen.”

“And get grabbed and strung up,” interposed another; “as if they would be taken in with that gammon! Haven't we got our canary-bird feathers on us, and won't that let 'em know what we are?”

“Curse on this livery!” said a third; “it doesn't give a man a chance. If one does give the overseer the slip, these confounded rags, that brand a man wherever he goes, betray us. I wish I could go about like a native, without clothes. By-the-by, they say there are lots of natives down this way. What shall we do if we fall in with them? We have not so much as a pistol among us.”

“We must use our clubs; one white man is enough for half a dozen natives, any time.”

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“But their spears, man? Why, they will riddle you through in no time! What can you do against long shots? And then, as to trying to come to close quarters, why, you might as well look for a needle in a hay stack as hunt for a native in the bush.”

“You can't tell the devils from the black stumps of the trees; but, for my part, I don't see what we are to do, now that we have got off, without arms, and without provisions—”

“But we have a boat,” said a strong deep voice, which had not hitherto joined in the conversation.

“And what's the use of that? What's the use of a boat like that to go to sea in? We can't get back to England in a boat. I begin to think we have not got much by our venture?”

“We have liberty,” said the same voice which had checked the complainings of the men; “we have liberty; that's worth all!”

“But what can we do with our liberty, Mark? We can't live on gum and opossums like the natives! And we can't eat the natives, neither; though they say they eat the white people when they can catch 'em; and that's not such a pleasant

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thing to look forward to.—I say, Mark, what's to be the next move? As you're our captain, it is for you to give us a lift out of the mess you have brought us into; and we want it bad enough; for my very inside seems stuck together with that lot of gum that I tucked in just now.”

“I've heard say,” said one of the party, “that the grubs of the blue gum-tree are very good eating. I know the natives eat 'em. They take them up by one end, and let them fall down their throat, as we do oysters. A nice dinner for a gentleman—gum and caterpillars! But I can't stand this! we must do something. I say, Mark, what's to be done?”

The man thus addressed said nothing, but pointed to the little brig riding quietly at anchor in the channel.

“Ah, yes; I see that craft plain enough; but what's the use of it to us, unless they would give us something to eat, and, better than that, something to drink?”

“Suppose we asked them?” said their leader.

“Ah! and get some handcuffs for answer.”

“Suppose we entreated them to give us food?”

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“And suppose they wouldn't?”

“Suppose we took it?” quietly replied their leader.

“Eh!” said several voices at once; “suppose we took it! why, you don't mean by force?”

“Why not?”

“Why! what could seven unarmed men do against an armed vessel?”

“Nothing,” said their leader, “by open force; but, when force cannot be used, we can use stratagem.”

“I tell you what, Mark, you are a clever chap, no doubt of that; and you have a tongue that would almost carny a jailor out of his keys—that's the truth—or you never would have talked us over to make our escape without arms or provisions. But if you will show us how to get some rum out of that vessel yonder, you will deserve to be captain of the island.”

“I will do more than that.”

“More!” cried out all, excited by their leader's air of calm and fixed determination.

“I will get possession of that vessel,” said the leader, in a firm and resolute voice; “and in that

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vessel we will make our escape from this accursed place of shame and punishment.”

“Well, that beats all! And how will you get possession of that tight little brig, captain? Talk 'em over, and persuade them to make us a present of it?”

“May be so; and if you are the man that I take you to be, and have coolness and courage, and will follow my directions implicitly, I will show you how to set about it.”

“What, without arms?”

“Yes, without arms.”

“And without fighting?”


“Mark, you're a regular trump! Don't let us lose any time. Depend upon it that craft is as full of rum as an opossum of peppermint leaves; settlers always think it the best investment they can bring out to pay their men with. Now, captain, what are we to do?”

“You see,” said the man who, by the common consent of his companions and by the force of hi superior intellect, had been unanimously raised to the bad eminence of their leader, “that the brig

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is now lying at anchor, becalmed, with the tide against her, and with little chance of wind till the sea-breeze sets in, in the afternoon. She will not venture to float up with the tide in this dangerous channel; so that she will be there, safe, for some hours. Now, she would, no doubt, be glad of a pilot, and I dare say is now looking out for one.”

“What's the use of that to us?”

“This use: I will be the pilot. Two of you shall go with me—only two, to avoid suspicion; those two will pass for my government men; that will account for their yellow dress. Fortunately, you see, my own dress may serve for a pilot's; and in this way I will get on board the vessel and look about me.”

“And what's to become of us who remain behind?”

“We shall return for you, on the pretence that more hands are wanted to work the vessel. My first visit will have disarmed suspicion of our real object. Besides, I can say that the governor has established a settlement on the other side of the hill, where the look-out is towards the sea, for the purpose of lending assistance to

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strange vessels; and—in short—leave the rest to me.”

The band of desperadoes looked inquiringly at one another; each man tried to read in his fellow's countenance his secret thoughts; for on such occasions distrust, and suspicion, and jealousy, soon sow the seeds of disunion among them. Every man is in fear of the treachery of his neighbour; and, being conscious of his own individual selfishness and knavery, he naturally suspects their existence in others.

“Who are to be the two to go first?” asked one of them, with a doubtful air.

“You may cast lots for that,” said their leader; “but they must be careful to act up to their characters, because it is likely I shall have occasion to call them thieves and rascals, and perhaps worse. You will not mind that, I hope?”

“Not a bit; we're used to it: besides, hard words break no bones. But it's a bold scheme, Mark; if they suspect you, you're done.”

“It is our only chance,” replied Mark; “and fortunate it is for us that luck has thrown this

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opportunity in our way. Did I not tell you that brave men are sure to succeed when they stand by one another?”

“Hurrah!” cried the men, their courage and expectations raised by the animating words of their leader. “We will stand by one another to the death! Now, captain, get on with the work. Here are six rushes; the two that draw the shortest go first; the rest remain.”

The choice fell upon the grumbler of the party and another man who had not taken much part in the conversation, and who was of a meek and quiet look.

“Now, Jemmy,” said the former, “let us see which can make himself look most like a government man.”

“I could not compare with you, Roger, no way,” replied Jem; “your father and mother have given you such a gallows hang-dog look, there would be no mistaking you in the best long-tail's toggery that ever came out of store.”

“Now,” summoned Mark, “if you are ready, come along. And remember your characters.”

“Ay, ay, your honour,” said Jemmy, touching

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his hat with mock humility; “we will do the dodge as if we were convicts in earnest.”

Roger laughed at this sally, and, the two worthies getting into the boat, Mark Brandon took his seat in the stern, and they left the shore.

In the mean time the party on board, when they caught sight of the boat on the smooth surface of the water proceeding heavily towards the brig, indulged in various speculations as to the character and intentions of their approaching visitors.

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Chapter III. Flattery.

IT was still early in the forenoon when the boat containing Mark Brandon and his inferior confederates drew near to the motionless brig, on the deck of which the passengers and crew were assembled to view the first appearance of the occupiers of the new world. Their surmises on its appearance were as various as their characters.

“There are three of them,” said the major; “what can be their object?”

“It's a sweet boat,” said the mate; “it floats on the water like a duck! But those are lubberly fellows in the yellow jackets; they don't seem much used to handle an oar, to my thinking.”

“Gracious! what an odd way to dress in!”

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remarked Louisa; “they must be very fond of yellow.”

“It's the livery, most likely, of the servants of the gentleman who sits in the starn of the boat,” remarked the cockney (he always said starn instead of stern, because he thought the broader sound more nautical). “Perhaps it is the governor coming to visit us?”

“It's a pilot, no doubt,” said the mate; “though he is but a rum-looking one, I see, by his coat-flaps hanging over; but pilots' tails grow on this side of the earth. Well, perhaps he'll bring a wind with him. Stand by, there, and ship the hand-ropes.”

By the aid of these conveniences the supposed pilot swung himself up on board, and, without betraying by a muscle of his countenance his apprehension of the daring risk which he was running, should it happen that any one on board was acquainted with the persons of the true officials, he touched his hat in a respectful manner to the major, who seemed the principal person on board, nodded to the mate, took off his hat to the ladies, to the eldest of whom he presented a sprig

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of wild geranium which he had plucked from a shrub on shore, and, having glanced at the sails and gear with a professional look, he asked the usual question:—

“Where from?”

“London,” replied the major.

“I suppose you're a pilot?” asked the mate.

The pilot nodded an affirmative.

“What sort of berth have we got here? bottom good?”

The pilot shook his head:—

“Ah! very well,” he replied; “if it doesn't come on to blow; but this is a dangerous channel. All well on board?”

“All well,” replied the major. “You see the whole of us,” he added; “our craft is but a small one.”

“You don't seem to be strong-handed,” remarked the pilot, carelessly.

“Only nine men with the mate, and the steward, and the boy, making, with myself, thirteen—Oh! I forgot Mr. Silliman; he makes fourteen; and, with my two daughters, sixteen in all.”

The pilot looked at Mr. Silliman with an

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expression that a close observer might have construed into an opinion, that he did not consider it of much importance whether that young gentleman was included in the number or not; but he examined the crew with more attention. It did not seem to him that there was much fight in them if it came to a struggle; but with the major, he saw in a moment, he had to deal with a man of determination and energy; and the mate, too, he thought, might prove an ugly customer. As for the rest, their air and appearance did not affect him with any particular uneasiness.

“What chance of a wind?” asked the mate, who, sailor-like, was always thinking of the wind or his sweetheart; “what chance of a wind? its dull work sticking here.”

“Do you want wind?” asked the pilot.

“Want wind!” exclaimed the mate, surprised at such an unprofessional observation; “why, what else does any one want aboard ship but wind?—‘The wind that blows, and the ship that goes——’ ”

“ ‘And the lass that loves a sailor,’ ” chimed in the smiling Mr. Silliman, casting a sentimental

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look at both the sisters, which Louisa laughed at, but which Helen returned with a look of scorn that made the unfortunate cockney wish himself back within the sound of Bow Bells. The pilot observed the look, but gave no sign of noticing anything but the masts and sails of the vessel.

“I am afraid,” he said with a serious air, “that you will soon have more wind than you can make use of. Has any one on board been in this part of the world before?”

“Not one of us,” said the major, who began to be uneasy at the threat of a gale of wind from such an authority as the pilot, and in the midst of a channel that was imperfectly known:—“Not a man on board has been in this country before, and we know nothing of the ways of the place.”

So much the better, thought the pilot. “I am sorry for that,” he said aloud; “however, the commandant will allow some of our men to lend you a hand, I dare say. There is no fear of the wind coming on before mid-day. First we shall have a dead calm, just as it is now; and then there will come a burst from the Wellington Mountain that you see peering over those trees

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yonder, that will spin you round like a humming-top.”

“Like a what?” said the mate .…

“The land on the right-hand side there.”

“The right-hand side!” exclaimed the mate, again astonished at the fashion of the sea-lingo in the new world.

“I mean to starboard, mate,” said the supposed pilot, recollecting himself; “but you know, mate, when we speak to ladies, we ought not to make use of our nautical jargon. And I can tell you what, my friend, the man that brought this tiny craft half round the globe safe and sound, as you have done,—and in sailor-like trim, too,—I say that such a man is a credit to the service, and I have no doubt the governor will make a public proclamation of the feat, for the encouragement of all future navigators.”

The honest mate, albeit that the language of the pilot was not of a description with which his rough ears had wont to be regaled among his hardy messmates of the sea, was hugely mollified by this well-timed compliment: and at once attributed the unseamanlike phraseology and

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bearing of the pilot to the transmogrifying qualities of the new country. The pilot then turned to the major:—

“You must have had great experience, sir, and great courage, too, to take on yourself the charge of so small a vessel to this distant place. It is the smallest craft, I think, since the time of Captain Cook, that has visited these seas.”

The major was excessively pleased at this flattering eulogium from so experienced a person.

“And as to these young ladies, they do honour, sir, to their country. Sir, they will be regarded by all Australia as the heroines” (here Helen's eyes flashed, and Louisa shrunk back)—“as the heroines of the new world. But you are short handed, sir, very:—however, this gentleman was as good as an able seaman to you” (Jerry actually thrilled with delight to the very tips of his fingers, and he shook the pilot's hand cordially); “and you must have had a capital crew,” he added, raising his voice, so as to be heard by those who were lingering within earshot to catch any information from the oracle of sailors in an unknown sea; “a capital crew,

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and every man of 'em a seaman—every inch of him, or you would never have succeeded in the exploit of bringing your vessel so far in safety, and with so few hands; every hand must have been worth two, that's certain.”

The official commendation of the pilot was immediately carried forward, and it was received by the crew with no less satisfaction than it had been devoured by their superiors.

“And now,” he continued, after having noted every particular of the vessel into which he could find an excuse for prying, and, after having extravagantly praised the juvenile steward for the admirable order in which he kept the cabins and their appurtenances, wondering how they could contrive to find room for their arms in so confined a space, and the boy having replied that they were all stowed away in the lockers, the pilot took his leave “to make interest with the commandant” to allow some of the best behaved men in the government employ, and who could be trusted, to assist in securing the vessel from the coming storm. It was with great difficulty that he defended himself from the pressing

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offers of Mr. Silliman to accompany him, which he was enabled to parry only by judicious hints of the inconvenience which might arise to the vessel from the absence of so efficient a hand at the present time; but he gave the major reason to understand that as the commandant was stationed at an out-of-the-way place, to which it was difficult to convey supplies, a few bottles of brandy, &c., might be acceptable—a hint which was readily complied with. Thus provided, the pilot returned to the shore, and the parties on board hastened to pass their different opinions on his person and demeanour.

“A very well spoken man,” observed the major; “quite a superior man, indeed, to what one would expect; but perhaps, like the rest of us, he may have been better off in the old country.”

“He has a very fine countenance,” said Helen; “but there was something in his look that did not quite satisfy me; he seemed to me to be playing a part; but for what purpose, I'm sure I cannot imagine.”

“I thought him a very nice man for a pilot,' remarked Louisa; “but this little sprig of geranium

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which he gave to us has no smell; what a deception, for a geranium to be without fragrance! A knavish Van Diemen's Land weed in the disguise of an honest flower.”

“He was a very determined-looking fellow, that,” said the mate, after some reflection, his mind dwelling with considerable satisfaction on the praise which had been artfully instilled into the unsuspecting ears of the honest seaman; “though I can't say he looked much like a sailor; but I suppose they are not so particular in these parts; and it's not to be supposed that a thorough-bred seaman who could do better, would be dodging about here after a stray vessel now and then. It would n't be worth his while. He's not a bad chap, for all that.”

“In my opinion,” said Mr. Jeremiah Silliman, giving his little tarry hat a vigorous slap to set it firmer on his head, which he held considerably higher since the eulogistic observations on his nautical qualifications so judiciously administered by the stranger; “in my opinion that is the most sensible man I ever met with—the present company always excepted:—he knows what a sailor

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is, that man. None of your shore-going, conceited fellows, but a perfect sailor. I knew it directly; I saw through him, though he did wear a long-tailed coat; but I dare say that was because he could n't get a regular jacket—like mine.”

In the mean while, the object of these self-satisfactory encomiums was making the best of his course to the shore, not disdaining to take an oar to make the better way, and in little more than half an hour he had rejoined his fellows.

“What news?” asked his famished confederates.

“Rum, biscuit, beef, and brandy.”

“Hurrah! Mark for ever!”

The provisions were rapidly consumed with the avidity of hungry men; but as they were afraid of making a fire, lest the smoke should betray their whereabouts, they divided the uncooked meat with the remains of the bread into equal portions, of which each man took his share, to provide against an emergency.

But of the “drink” their leader insisted ontheir being sparing for the present, as the prize was too valuable to risk the loss of it for the sake of

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temporary indulgence in liquor which they could revel in on board in the event of their success. This argument prevailed against the strong desire to make the best use of their time in that respect; besides, they were aware of the difficulty of existing for any length of time in the bush, where they would be constantly exposed to danger from the natives on the one hand, and from the parties of soldiers and constables who would be sent in pursuit of them on the other; and that their only hope of ultimate escape from the death to which their flight into the bush condemned them was some such chance as the present. The much-longed-for spirits, therefore, were placed in the custody of their leader, and the men, sober and steady, after having been perfectly instructed in the parts they were to act, rowed in a vigorous and orderly manner to the devoted brig.

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Chapter IV. Danger.

THE appearance of so many yellow jackets, some of them in a condition of considerable dilapidation, and their wearers, for the most part, of most villainous aspect, rather surprised the people on board; but the persuasive pilot lost no time in making the major and his officer understand that their condition was the result of their exposure to the hardships and labours incident to a new location in the bush; where it was necessary to cut out roads, build huts, and clear away timber, without regard to the devastations or habits of roughness which such employments produced in the habiliments or manners of the working portion of the projectors. The present men, he assured them, “had been carefully selected by

  ― 35 ―
the commandant from nearly a hundred and fifty government servants working on their probation, and that seeing the great peril to which the brig was likely to be exposed, he would not allow the men to change their clothes, but had sent them off as they were, thinking the safety of the vessel and the security of those on board (whose skill and courage, he said, had filled the commandant with admiration) of much more importance than the appearance of the party despatched to assist them.”

It would seem as if fortune favoured the conspirators in this subtle plot; for at the moment of their coming on board, a gentle play of wind came down the channel, slightly rippling the surface of the water, thus justifying the cautionary forebodings of the supposed pilot; at the same time that a gathering of light clouds was seen on the lofty summit of Mount Wellington in the distance. The whole of the scanty crew were gathered together in a body, curious to look at the new comers, so that their leader judged it would be too hazardous to attempt a surprise at a time when all the male protectors of the vessel

  ― 36 ―
were on deck, and ready to defend themselves. He waited, therefore, for a more fitting occasion. The opportunity presently presented itself. The mate, after exchanging a word of approval with the major, without waiting for the authority of the pilot, went forward with the crew to weigh the anchor; for the tide was beginning to flow, and with wind enough to give the vessel steerageway, it was desirable that not a moment should be lost in working the ship out of the dangerous channel in which they were confined.

The leader of the band at once seized the opportunity:—

“Here, my lads,” he cried out to his yellow-jackets, “take the capstan-bars in your hands, and work away cheerily; show the boys on board what you can do. These capstan-bars,” he observed significantly, “would form good weapons in case of need.”

His followers took the hint. They possessed themselves of the bars instantly, and looked to their leader. But Mark saw that it was not yet the time; the sailors were all on deck, as well as the major and the steward, who were in the stern

  ― 37 ―
of the vessel, and within reach of the hatchway of the cabin in the lockers of which the arms were deposited. Besides, it was an important object with them to get the vessel speedily under weigh, and to contrive to put out to sea, for he calculated that the authorities at Hobart Town would not be long in ascertaining their escape from the barracks; and the boat, which would soon be missed, would make them aware of the object of the absconders. With these thoughts, he urged his men to put their strength to the work, and in a few minutes the anchor was apeak, and the vessel under sail.

“We shall be able to beat up now,” said the mate, cheerfully, and rubbing his hands; “the wind is getting up, and soon we shall have a stiffish breeze if it holds on.”

“We shall never be able to work up with the wind dead against us,” said the pilot; revolving in his mind some expedient to get the vessel's head put the other way; “you have come in by the wrong passage; you ought to have gone round, and made your way up by Storm Bay.”

“An ominous name,” observed the major, “for an entrance into a new country!”

  ― 38 ―

“You have plenty of sea-room there,” said the pilot; “and if it does blow, you can keep off the land; but in these narrow channels, what with the juttings out of land, and the shoals, and currents running in all sorts of directions where you least expect them, it is difficult to get through them with a fair wind—much less with a wind right in your teeth as this is.”

“Perhaps it would save time to go back,” said the major, “and make the other passage?”

“The tide would be against us,” said the mate.

“But the wind is against you now,” observed the pilot; “and that's worse, if it should come on to blow hard, and there's every appearance of it. You see Mount Wellington has put on his nightcap, and that's always a sign of a gale. But you are too good a seaman,” he added to the mate, “not to know the advantage of having sea-room in a gale of wind. And it would be a sad thing,” he continued, turning to the major, “for this little vessel to be lost after having come safely all the distance from the other side of the globe.”

The major was struck with the apparent candour and justice of these observations, and looked at

  ― 39 ―
his officer inquiringly. But that clear-headed and plain-dealing son of the sea could not be made to understand that the nearest way to a port was to sail away from it. He sturdily resisted the proposition.

“If the worst comes to the worst,” he said, “we can let go the anchor again, and that will hold us on; even though it should blow great guns, which, upon my word, looks likely, for the breeze is freshening up every minute, and I don't like the look of those mares' tails to windward yonder.”

“And how will you get your anchor to hold?” pursued the pilot. “It's all very well there-abouts,” pointing towards the spot from which the vessel was flying at a rapid rate; “but this channel has scarcely any anchorage ground, as every one knows; why, most parts of it are paved with rocks as regular as the Strand in London! You would never get your anchor to bite—much less hold!”

“We might gain time, after all,” said the major to the mate, “by trying the broader passage; this wind would soon take us out of this strait; and we should be at the same distance from

  ― 40 ―
Hobart Town as we are now, in a few hours, with a better chance of beating up. How long does the wind last in this quarter,” he asked the pilot, “when it blows fresh?”

“Three days; always three days; it's as regular as a clock. Every inhabitant of the colony knows it; it's a sort of proverb among the towns-people to say, that a thing will last as long as a three days' spell from Mount Wellington.”

“I think we had better take the pilot's advice,” said the major; “he must know best.”

“I can't gainsay that he ought to know best in these parts, which he understands the ways of, and I don't,” replied the officer; “but I can never agree that the shortest way to a port is to go away from it; and as to this wind—why, it's nothing to what we have gone through before!” But at this moment, as if to belie the honest seaman's judgment, and to aid the iniquitous designs of the conspirators, a furious blast from the north called the attention of all on duty to the care of the vessel; and the pilot, profiting by the opportunity, immediately put her before the squall with her head towards the entrance of the channel. The squall

  ― 41 ―
passed over as quickly as it came, but the pilot still continued his outward course, though not without the expression of considerable dissatisfaction on the part of the mate, whose suspicions of the ignorance of the pilot became strengthened by a course of proceeding so contrary to the worthy officer's experience in the practice of navigation. But as his employer, the owner of the vessel, was an assenting party, he submitted, though with a very ill-grace, giving vent to his displeasure in a succession of grumblings much resembling the sound of the north wind, which was roaring and increasing behind them.

Nor were the crew of the vessel better pleased with the proceedings of the Australian pilot, who, they were not long in detecting, with that almost instinctive knowledge possessed by sailors of their brothers of the ocean, had very small pretensions to the name of a seaman. But as they were only humble subordinates on board, they had nothing to do but to obey, though the pilot saw by their looks that they were not in a humour to submit tamely to any overt aggression. He waited, therefore, patiently, till an opportunity should

  ― 42 ―
occur to put his plan in execution; for it was not until the crew were below, and his own men conveniently disposed about the hatchway of the passengers' cabin, that he could hope to get possession of the ship's arms, and be in a position to command success.

The retrograde course of the vessel, however, inspired a general gloom over all on board, except those interested in its execution, and who were anxiously waiting for the signal of their leader to adopt measures more open and decisive. The sisters felt a vague presentiment of evil arising from the disappointment of being obliged to recede from the long-desired haven of their hopes and fears, the encompassing hills of which were in tantalizing sight; nor could the major divest himself of a certain feeling of dissatisfaction with himself for having yielded to the authority of the pilot in opposition to the opinion of his officer.

But the storm, which rapidly increased, seemed to justify the pilot's apprehensions, and the major felt ashamed to suspect the judgment of a man who had so clearly warned him of its coming. The mate, also, was almost shaken in his opinion;

  ― 43 ―
but as the gale increased, he had no thoughts for anything but the safety of the ship, which, urged by the furious north wind, made her way rapidly back to the entrance of the channel, and stood out towards the open sea.

  ― 44 ―

Chapter V. The Pursuit.

IN the mean time the flight of the prisoners had not escaped the vigilance of the authorities at head-quarters; but it was not until the discovery of the abstraction of the boat which had been left unguarded at the further end of Sandy Bay, which lies to the right as you look from Hobart Town towards the sea, that the party made ready for the pursuit of the runaways could be put on the right scent.

Thus guided in their search, the pursuing party, consisting of two constables and a corporal's party of soldiers, embarked in a light boat made of the aromatic white pine, a wood of peculiar lightness, which is obtained chiefly by the labours of the convicts at Macquarie Harbour to the west of the island of Van Diemen, and which is admirably

  ― 45 ―
adapted, from its lightness, elasticity, and toughness, for the construction of whale-boats. They had four sailors from the government armed brig to use the oars, and the whole party was well armed, as well to guard against any attack on the part of the natives, as to be in an efficient state to contend with the bushrangers, should they have been able to supply themselves with arms. It seemed that their business was considered in no ordinary degree of a serious nature, as the wife of one of the constables accompanied him to the jetty where the party was to embark, where she took leave of him with much appearance of affection:—

“You will be making a widow of me, one of these days,” said she, “if you go on these dangerous expeditions; and Mark Brandon is not a man to be taken alive without a scrimmage.”

“Never fear,” said her considerate helpmate; “there's plenty of husbands to be got in Van Diemen's Land; that's some comfort for all of you. I'll be bound before the end of the week you'll have another.”

“A week! you brute! Do you think I don't

  ― 46 ―
know what's decent for a respectable woman to conform to? A year, you mean; that's the regular mourning; or, at the least, six months, as it's not a regular country, and only a colony. To be sure, Kitty Flurriman did marry again one month after her poor man met with his misfortune;—it was a shame to hang such a good-looking man as he was;—but to think that I would do such a thing at the end of a month, or even two months!” … What definite time the lady might have fixed as the ne plus ultra term of widowhood it is impossible to say, as the boat was now out of hearing. The conversation, however, on Mark Brandon was continued in the boat.

“Who is this Mark Brandon?” asked the corporal, who was a sub-officer in the “Buffs,” a battalion of which had recently arrived in the colony.

“Don't you know Mark Brandon?” said the constable with some surprise; “why, he's as well known here as Dick Turpin in the old country. He is the most famous bushranger that ever went out. He was pardoned by the governor only last year, when he was cast for death; but you see,”

  ― 47 ―
said the constable, winking his eye, “there was a lady in the case.”

“Oh, ho! handsome fellow, eh?”

“As clean-made and good-looking a fellow as ever you set eyes on. Here's a description of him in this paper.” The constable read from the list:—

“ ‘Mark Brandon, five feet eleven inches in height; broad-shouldered; waist slim; foot small; brown hair; blue eyes; fair complexion; his hands rather white and delicate.’ Then here's the description of the others: ‘Roger Grough, James Swindell——’ ”

“Never mind them just now,” said the corporal; “tell us about this Mark Brandon: what was he lagged for?”

“Smuggling;—at least so they say; but of course you can never get the truth of what they are sent out for from the prisoners; but I believe it's the truth in his case.”

“That was nothing very bad,” remarked the corporal.

“Bad! no: nobody thinks anything of it here. It's only when a fellow has done anything at

  ― 48 ―
home that's unfair and mean, such as murders and robberies, and such like, that he's looked down on. But as for smuggling! bless your heart, nobody thinks much the worse of a man here for that, nor at home neither, so far as I know. What is it? It's only giving the go-by to the government: Lord love you! what's the harm of that?”

“How was it, then, that they treated this Mark so bad as to drive him to take to the bush? Has he been doing anything wrong here?”

“Why, you see, he was assigned when he came over, to a master up the country; and some of the settlers treat their government men dreadfully severe, and Mark couldn't stand it; and when his master threatened him with his cattle-whip one day, he knocked his master down. He might have got off if he had suffered himself to be taken before the magistrate, for the settlers are not allowed to strike their men. But Mark's blood was up, and he took to the bush—that was more than two year ago—and of course he robbed the settlers' houses of tea, sugar, and ammunition, and things; but he never shed blood; only tied

  ― 49 ―
people neck and heels together, and things of that sort—very wrong of course—but not near so bad as some.”

“Bad enough, to my thinking.”

“Well; he was taken at last, as they all are, sooner or later, and cast for death; but somehow interest was made with the governor—and they do say a certain lady had taken a fancy to him—but that's no business of mine; and so the best was made of his case, how it was, through the tyranny of his master, that he was driven to take to the bush; and how civil and polite he was to the settlers that he robbed, especially the ladies, and so he got off. But they made him work in chains, and that's what galled him, I dare say. He was not the chap to stand that any ways.”

“And what sort of a man is he?” asked the corporal; “a lady's man?”

“When he has a mind to it, they say, he is the most carnying devil that ever came over a woman. But he is a most determined fellow for all that. He will not be taken alive, you may depend upon it; for he must know he has nothing to expect but to scrag for this last break-out.”

  ― 50 ―

“Of course not: then I suppose we may look out for a tussle.” The soldiers at this mechanically handled their firelocks.

“Are the bushrangers armed?”

“We don't know; but it stands to reason that they never would start for the bush this way without arms and ammunition; for it's not like the interior where they might get arms from the settlers; there are no inhabitants down the river but the natives.”

“There goes the signal up!” said the corporal; “some vessel in sight.”

“I see,” said the constable; “we may fall in with her, perhaps, when we get further down the river. But where to look for these fellows? that's the point! We think they made away with the boat last night, just after dark, so that they have a good start; but they can hardly do anything with such a boat at sea, for she was but a small one, and had nothing in her but her oars. If they are after going round the coast, they will take the western side, so as to avoid the track of vessels between this and Sydney; and so we will keep away to the right towards the channel, and keepand a sharp look-out as we go by.”

  ― 51 ―

With this view they hugged the shore on the west, and a breeze soon after springing up, with the assistance of their sail they made rapid progress down the river without seeing anything suspicious in their way. The constable, who had the direction of the party, as the most experienced among them, was inclined to make a stop after they had proceeded some way down the channel; but at this moment, in turning round a projecting point of land, the steersman caught sight of a vessel in the distance, which was standing across the channel, and beating her way up under a stiff breeze on the larboard tack; when suddenly the vessel, which was made out to be a brig, and of small burthen, was seen to change her course, and under a press of sail, make her way down the channel.

This strange manœuvre roused the suspicion of the pursuers of the runaways, and as their boat was light and fast, they determined to endeavour to overtake the brig, not without some misgivings that the cleverness and the daring of the celebrated Mark Brandon had enabled him to get possession of the vessel.

  ― 52 ―

Chapter VI. The Stratagem.

THE gallant brig had nearly reached the entrance of D'Entrecasteaux' channel when the squall from Mount Wellington ceased as suddenly as it rose; and presently the wind was lulled into a calm. The experienced mate, however, was not to be deceived by this suspicious suspension of the blast.

“What are we going to have now?” he said to the leader of the bushrangers, whom, in his capacity of pilot, it was his duty to consult: “I don't like this lull; they are only getting ready a fresh hand to the bellows, I fancy. I suppose the wind shifts on this side of the world much as it does on t'other. I think the bank

  ― 53 ―
right ahead—to the south, yonder—begins to rise.”

“You are quite right,” replied the supposed pilot; “and with such a man as you on board you have no need of a pilot; the vessel is quite safe in your hands: you seem to know the way of the winds in the New World as well as if you had been born among them. A better seaman I never.…”

“Avast there, mate!” said the honest officer; “you give us too much of that; why, you have got the gift of the gab like a sea-lawyer! To be sure this is not the first time I've looked the winds in the face. But we had better try to put her head about; if it comes on to blow from the south, it will be a fair wind for us up the channel.”

“Better get out,” said the pilot, “and have searoom; when it comes on to blow from the southward it always blows great guns; and this is a nasty channel to be sticking in—full of shoals and rocks, and headlands stretching out in every direction.”

“You seem to have taken a great dislike to

  ― 54 ―
the channel,” replied the mate: “for my part I don't see any great harm in it: and Horseman says it's good enough if you mind your soundings; and the chart is clear. What makes you so anxious to get out of it?”

Two or three of the yellow jackets were standing in the fore part of the vessel near the pilot and the mate during their brief colloquy, and it struck the worthy officer that there was an expression in their faces incongruous with their characters; and he thought he observed a glance of intelligence pass between one of them and their leader. A vague suspicion crossed the mate's mind; but as there was nothing definite to give it substance, it passed way for the moment, but afterwards it recurred to him. As he went aft to take the orders of the major, he heard a voice, which it seemed to him proceeded from the same man whose look he had observed, ask in a low tone:—

“Is it time?”

The mate turned round, and gazed inquiringly at the group in the forecastle.

“Is it time?” he repeated; “time for what?”

  ― 55 ―

“He was asking,” replied the pilot, rather hastily, “if it was time to go about: but I see the major has come on deck; we will consult him as to what he would like to do with his vessel.” Saying this, he went aft, following the mate.

The sisters were gazing listlessly at the land from which they were unwillingly receding with the change of tide, and the gallant Mr. Silliman found it impossible to inspire either of them with those feelings of mirthful gaiety with which they were accustomed to receive his assiduities. The major was supporting his youngest daughter by the arm, as the motion of the vessel from the broken sea rendered it difficult for her to stand on deck. Helen, on the contrary, stood erect and alone, with one hand grasping the bulwark, and the other holding the ship's glass, which she condescended to allow Mr. Silliman to support at the other end, to keep it steady. The honour of this position was perfect bliss to that enraptured individual, who made extraordinary exertions to call into exercise the utmost dexterity of his sea legs, so that the view of the beautiful Helen might not be disarranged.

  ― 56 ―

“Do you see anything, Miss Helen?” he ventured to inquire in a tone of extreme insinuation.

“Nothing but the brim of your ugly hat,” replied the lady.

“Bless me! I beg a thousand pardons; it's the rolling of the sea: there again; I hope I did not hurt you: now do you see anything?”

“I see something. Papa, come and look through the glass just as it is now. Stand still,” she said to Mr. Silliman, “and do try to be steady: a pretty sailor not to be able to bear the rolling of the ship! Look, papa, I see something like a swan.”

“A swan! my love: then it must be a black one, for all the swans are black, they say on this side of the earth. A swan! my dear; no it's no swan, but the sail of a boat that you see, I think.—Mr. Northland, what do you make of it?”

“A boat with her square-sail up,” pronounced the mate, with professional precision, after taking a brief earnest look at the object. “She looks like a large whale-boat by her make; but she is too large for that work,—she is coming down with the tide. What do you say to it, pilot?”

  ― 57 ―

There was a visible embarrassment, on the part of the supposed pilot, at this communication. A slight paleness came over his countenance, as if he was struck with some uncontrollable emotion, and then his face flushed with excitement. As he looked round with an attempt to appear unconcerned, he encountered the eye of Helen, which was fixed steadfastly upon him. He quailed for an instant beneath the penetrating gaze of that brilliant eye, and, hastily taking the ship's glass from the mate's hands to cover his confusion, he directed it towards the object; but his hand trembled, and the glass shook visibly.

“Rather a shaky hand,” remarked the mate to the major, in a whisper; “but there's no duty on grog in this part of the world.”

The whisper of the mate seemed to discompose the pilot a little. He took his eye from the glass, and searched the countenances of the bystanders; but seeing nothing in them to alarm, he applied himself again to his scrutiny of the boat.

While he was so employed, Helen made a sign to her father to come near her. They moved

  ― 58 ―
round to the side of the binnacle, leaving the pilot, with his back towards them, looking through the glass.

“Papa,” said Helen, in a whisper, “I have been watching the countenance of that man. He changed colour when the mate spoke of the boat. Depend upon it, there is something about that boat that troubles him.”

“It must be fancy, my love; there can be nothing in the appearance of a boat to disturb the pilot. It is only fancy.”

“Dear papa, it is not fancy. I cannot be mistaken in the countenance of that man; it is one of the most remarkable I ever saw. I watched him; and I am sure that the boat in sight has had some powerful effect on him. He does not look like a man to be moved by a slight cause.”

“Well, my dear girl, the shortest way is to ask him.—Pilot,” said the major, addressing the bushranger, “what do you see in that boat to disturb you?”

“To disturb me!” replied the pilot, regarding the major fixedly. “Why do you suppose that the sight of that boat disturbs me? What do you

  ― 59 ―
suppose the boat has to do with us—I mean, with me?”

“But what do you think of her?” interrupted the mate, who was a little out of patience with the lengthened examination of the pilot. “You have had a pretty long spell at the glass; long enough to make her out, I'm sure. What do you think of her?”

“I will take another look at her,” replied the bushranger, who was anxious to gain time to enable him to devise some scheme to counteract the dangerous approach of the boat, which, he had no doubt, had been despatched after him and his associates by the government authorities; “I can see her plainer now.”

“And what do you make of her?” repeated the mate.

“It's only a boat,” replied the bushranger, continuing to look anxiously through the glass.

“Well, if it's only a boat, there's an end of it,” said the mate. “There's a light air coming from the southward,” he said to the major; “I suppose we may stand up now with the wind in our favour.”

  ― 60 ―

“But the tide is against us,” observed the pilot, “and if it comes on to blow—and I don't like the looks of that bank which you first observed rising yonder—you would find yourself cramped in this narrow channel.”

“I'll never agree to go out of the channel with a fair wind up,” exclaimed the mate. “Why, friend, you are for not going up the channel any way! Before, it was the wind that was against us, and then we were not to go up; and now that we are getting the wind, it is because the tide is against us that we are not to go up! Beg pardon —no offence meant; but, to my thinking, you don't want us to go up the channel at all?”

“The boat is coming nearer,” cried out Mr. Silliman, who, as all the others had done with it, was allowed to use the glass: “I can see it as plain as can be; and they have taken the sail down, and they are pulling with all their might, I can see. They have got the tide in their favour, and they will soon be down on us; we shall hear some news now! Hurrah!”

The bushranger snatched the glass out of the exulting Mr. Silliman's hand with an abruptness

  ― 61 ―
which made that astonished individual open his mouth with surprise. With a firm hand, and with a certain air of determination, he applied the glass to his eye, and directed it to the still distant boat, which, however, propelled by the oars of the pursuing party, and assisted by the tide, was rapidly approaching the brig. Helen had observed the impetuous motion of the pilot, and had watched his varying countenance as he gazed through the glass. Prompted by an irresistible impulse, she gave vent to her vague suspicion of danger, and spoke:—

“Sir,” she said to the pilot, “I am sure there is something about that coming boat which disturbs you. You know something about it, you do—I am sure you do,” she repeated, her eyes kindling, and her cheeks reddening with excitement. “If there is danger, do not deceive us, but tell us in time, that we may be prepared for it. Do not suppose,” she said, taking hold of her sister's hand, “that because we are women we are afraid. We have looked on the dangers of the sea without terror, confident in our skill and our courage; and we can look without fear

  ― 62 ―
on this new danger—for danger there is, I know, by your look and manner at this moment, Speak, I say, and let us know at once what the danger is?”

The spirited words of the heroic girl unfortunately inspired the bushranger with a happy thought. He seized on the suggestion of danger from the boat with the readiness of practised dissimulation. Forming his plan on the instant, he replied without hesitation, and with an expression of feeling and interest in the welfare of the women which disarmed suspicion:—

“Major, I fear your gifted daughter is right. I wished to make my communication when they were gone below; but there is no time to be lost; and these courageous girls shame us with their spirit. But I will do justice to their courage! and say at once there is danger. ……”

“Danger!” said the mate, looking about him: “where from?”

“Danger!” repeated the major, in a voice of mingled surprise and emotion, and clasping his youngest daughter with instinctive tenderness,— “danger from that boat?”

  ― 63 ―

“Yes,” replied the supposed pilot; “and there is no time to lose if we are to defend ourselves. That boat, I have no doubt, contains the party of bushrangers that broke away from camp some days ago: the commandant at the look-out has had notice of them; and their design must be to endeavour to take this vessel. They are well armed; it is supposed there are about a dozen of them: and as the villains are desperate, they will make a determined attack on us. However, I for one am ready to fight for you; and if you will arm your men, my people shall work the vessel while they defend us.”

“Let it be done at once,” said the major. “This is a most unlucky accident! However, it is fortunate that we have you on board to help us.” So saying, he descended to the cabin in all haste to prepare the arms and ammunition.

The bushranger, meantime, went forward, as if for the purpose of giving directions to the party under his control. As he passed his confederates, he said, in a low firm voice, to each of them:—

“Be ready.”

  ― 64 ―

Chapter VII. The Attack.

THE consummate art of the bushranger in proposing that the crew of the vessel should be armed, while his own men undertook the management of the vessel, had its intended effect. There was no suspicion on the part of the major or of his people that the approaching boat was really in pursuit of the absconded prisoners on board the brig; and the activity of the supposed pilot in preparing the means of defence was regarded as corroborating evidence of the danger threatened to the vessel. All was activity on deck; muskets, pistols, and cutlasses were brought up from the cabin, and ammunition was disinterred from the lockers: and the bushranger

  ― 65 ―
took care to provide himself amply with the means of defence or offence, as the case might be.

Still he was well aware that the moment was critical and most perilous. He was now in the worst position: his confederates were defenceless; the sailors of the vessel were armed, and prepared to resist aggression: and the boat, which he had no doubt contained a government party in pursuit, was coming nearer and nearer every minute. But with a coolness and courage worthy of a better object, he bided his time, and waited with patience for the result, which he calculated must take place when his men attempted to work the vessel.

At this time a brisk breeze had sprung up from the south, which gave the advantage to the brig over an attacking boat, as it enabled the vessel to choose her position. The increase of the wind rendered a corresponding arrangement of the sails necessary; but here the ignorance and blundering of the supposed pilot's men was too provoking to be endured by the angry mate:—

“What do you call your fellows?” he broke

  ― 66 ―
out to the pilot: “do you call that chap a sailor? See how he handles a rope! By——! look at that fellow sticking in the shrouds! There's another creeping through lubber's hole! That's right, my man, take care of your precious limbs! Oh! this will never do,” he said to the major; “these men will never work the vessel: such a lubberly set I never set eyes on! There goes the jib! Hold on there, hold on! By——! you'll have the maintopsail-yard down by the run. Pilot, hold your men off. What's the use of such a pack of fools? Keep an eye on the boat, some one, can't you? A pretty set, that don't know the main-sheet from the topsail-halyards; and they can't fight! No, not they! I should like to know what they are fit for?”

“Do you think your men would stand by us?” asked the major, eagerly, of the pilot; “you see we want our own people to work the vessel.”

“Fight!” said the pilot; “they will fight like devils, depend upon it, when the time comes; but of course you can't expect them to be used to arms,” he added carelessly: “however, they

  ― 67 ―
will do their best. Come aft, my men.” They quickly came at the voice of their leader.

“The major says he wants his sailors to work the vessel; and he asks me if you will stand by us to defend the brig from the bushrangers coming on to attack us in the boat yonder?”

The diligent Mr. Silliman, who was examining the boat through the ship's glass, cried out at this moment, “I can see the men in the boat, and I can see the gleam of some muskets: the boat is full of the rascals!”

“Make haste, then,” said the bushranger; “relieve the sailors of their arms; and be ready to use them,” he said, significantly, “when I give the word.”

The exchange of duties between the sailors and the conspirators was the work of a minute only; and the crew of the vessel became immediately busied in trimming the sails and attending to the ship; while the supposed pilot and his gang stood with arms in their hands, ready to pounce on their unsuspecting victims.

The bushranger felt that the time had come when he must strike a decisive blow; but first he

  ― 68 ―
ran rapidly over in his head a scheme to get the major and his chief officer below, in order that the crew, being deprived of their leaders, might be more easily mastered: his object was unexpectedly furthered by the officious Mr. Silliman.

“Major,” said that bustling individual, as he hurriedly loaded his musket with an excessively martial air, “would it not be better for the young ladies to go below? they will only be in our way on deck, and hinder us from fighting.”

“We shall work the better,” put in the pilot, “if we are assured that your daughters, major, are out of the reach of the bullets.”

Louisa, who was very pale, assented to this suggestion without reply; but Helen, who was flushed and excited, remonstrated and resisted. “I can fire a gun,” she said, “as well as any of you; any woman can do that: and where my dear father is there will I be also:” and saying this she seized a musket, and held it in the attitude of a heroine prepared for war.

It required all her father's entreaties and, at last, commands to induce her to descend into the cabin. The major was obliged to lay down his

  ― 69 ―
weapons and accompany her below. The bushranger saw his opportunity, but the troublesome Mr. Silliman came breathless to the entrance of the companion-way, and bawled “Major, major, I can see the red coats of soldiers in the boat!”

“Soldiers!” said the major; “what can that mean? But they are in my line; I'll soon be up and give a look at them.”

“Mr. Northland,” called out the pilot, “the major is asking for you below; something about the dead-lights, I believe.”

“Aye, aye, sir,” said the mate, as he ran aft; “look out, pilot, the boat's upon us;” and by an indescribable process of locomotion, which sailors alone possess, he dived down below, and his head disappeared in a twinkling.

The bushranger immediately made a sign to four of his men who were near him to close the hatchway: it was done in an instant. At the same time he presented his own musket, which he cocked with an audible click, at the man at the wheel. Mr. Silliman observed these extraordinary manœuvres, which altogether exceeded his

  ― 70 ―
nautical experience, with inexpressible astonishment; but before he had time to make up his mind what to do, he was seized by two of the bushrangers, disarmed, and on his resisting, with the courage of desperation, their attempt to bind his hands and feet, was without ceremony pitched into the sea.

“That was wrong,” said Mark Brandon, quietly; “never take life if you can avoid it: but the boat will pick him up; and after all, perhaps, he was of no great value.”

In the mean time, the carpenter, who was a cool and determined fellow, with three of the crew, armed themselves with the capstan-bars, resolved to resist, though unable to make out the reason or object of the sudden attack on them by the pilot and his followers; but the bushranger, rushing forward with four of his fellows, presented their muskets; and the sailors, taken unawares and in amazement at the suddenness and strangeness of the proceeding, and seeing, besides, that resistance was hopeless, quietly surrendered. The rest of the crew were as easily brought under subjection, and, having been bound hand and foot, were

  ― 71 ―
placed singly in convenient places below, and in less than ten minutes the vessel was in the possession of the marauders.

“Now, my men,” cried out Mark Brandon, “a cheer for liberty!” His associates raised a wild hurrah, which conveyed to the inmates in the cabin the information that the vessel was overpowered; but by whom or how was a mystery! The mate put his head out of the stern window, but the bushranger was too well on his guard to permit such an escape; and, meeting the muzzles of two muskets close to his face, the enraged officer was obliged to retreat, though not without venting his discontent in a vigorous volley of nautical abjurations.

Mark Brandon now took the helm, and, making a gesture of defiance with his fist at the still distant boat, he immediately turned the vessel's head back again towards the south; and, under all the sail that she could carry, the captured brig making short tacks stood out to sea.

  ― 72 ―

Chapter VIII. Information.

THE unfortunate Mr. Jeremiah Silliman made more philosophical reflections during his rapid evolution from the deck of the brig to the waters of the sea, than had ever occurred to him in the whole of his previous life. The first dreadful thought that presented itself to him was that he could not swim! but before he could give vent in words to the novel sensations which assailed him he found himself plunged under the waves, and descending beneath them with a velocity proportionate to his specific gravity and the precipitancy of his descent. As he felt himself hurrying down to those abodes, which in the poetical simplicity of his imagination he had been wont to picture as the dwelling-place of sea-nymphs

  ― 73 ―
with green gauze robes and coral necklaces, but which he now contemplated with affright as abounding in enormous crayfishes and voracious ground-sharks, deeply and energetically did he lament that his love of the romantic had led him away from the peaceful haunts of Cheapside and Cornhill to the villainous shores of Botany Bay; and much did he marvel at the disagreeableness of his reception into the bosom of the land of his adoption.

Such and so sad were the curious reflections which were suddenly forced on him by the novelty of his situation; and still he went down and down, as it seemed to him, and deeper and deeper still, till his thoughts became confused, and he felt a cold, fishy sensation, as if he had became partially transformed into the semblance of a scaly inhabitant of the deep; gradually his feelings became blunted; his last thoughts were of the brig from which he had been unceremoniously cast, and the bright eyes from which he was for ever separated,—even in the last moment he could not make up his mind which he preferred —and then the dimness of death came over him;—he

  ― 74 ―
mentally uttered a fragment of a prayer, and all was oblivion!

The party in the boat, however, had not failed to notice the summerset involuntarily performed by the luckless individual in question: and the occurrence, indicating that violence was going on in the brig, confirmed the suspicion to which the unaccountable changes in her course had given rise,—that the bushrangers had got possession of the vessel.

“There's bloody work going on, I'm thinking, on board that craft,” said the constable, who was sitting with his face towards the head of the boat. “I saw one chap pitched overboard plain enough: I wonder which party he belonged to.”

“Give way, my men,” cried the corporal, standing up in the boat, and looking through a glass with which he was provided. “I can see the body, it has come to the surface of the water; it's not above half a mile from us. Give way—stick to your oars—and we shall save him yet, whoever he is!”

The men bent stoutly to their oars, and in a few minutes, the tide being in their favour, they

  ― 75 ―
shot up alongside of the floating body, which they caught just as it was sinking for the last time. The lifeless corpse as it seemed, was quickly hauled into the boat, and a brief consultation was held as to the best means to be adopted for its recovery.

“Nothing better than a bit of salt beef,” suggested an old sailor: “rub it well in; I know it recovered a man off Yarmouth—at home—that had been in the water more than four hours: the salt, you see, rouses him up, if there's any life in him.”

“This is not one of the bushrangers,” pronounced the constable, as they stripped off the clothes from the drowned man in order to give him the benefit of the salt beef recipe prescribed by the old sailor; “this must be one of the people of the vessel; he looks like a sailor by his dress, but his hands are too smooth for that; perhaps he's a passenger.”

“Rub away, my hearties,” urged the sea-doctor; “rub it into him, and if there's any life left, the beef will fetch it out.”

The body of the unconscious Jeremiah was

  ― 76 ―
excoriated accordingly, secundum artem (salsi junki), the boat continuing its pursuit of the vessel nevertheless, as the surmises of the officials were confirmed by the appearance of the body which they had rescued from the water. At last, after a prodigious quantity of rubbing, which reduced the person of the apparently deceased to a substance closely resembling the material which was made use of as a flesh-brush, signs of warmth were observed in the body, and presently a sigh was ejaculated which indicated returning sensibility. The progress of the boat was suspended for a few minutes at this interesting success of the old mariner's surgical operation, and the attention of all was directed to foster the breath of returning life which the stranger now exhibited. The result was speedily favourable;—the man, rescued from death, sat up, and looked around him.

“How do you find yourself, my hearty?” said the corporal; “you have had a narrow escape.”

The stranger stared at him unmeaningly.

“Who are you?” asked the constable, anxious to ascertain the condition of the vessel, and to

  ― 77 ―
learn some tidings of the bushrangers; “what's your name, and who are you?”

But the intellects of the poor man had been too much obfuscated by the salt water, to say nothing of the subsequent scarification to which he had been subjected, to understand where he was, or what had happened to him.

“Can't you tell us who you are?” repeated the constable, impatient to get at some information for his guidance; “what are you?”

“A freeman of London, and a liveryman,” answered Jerry, his mind wandering to former scenes.

“His wits are a wool-gathering,” said the constable.

“It's the water that's swamped 'em,” said the ancient mariner; “salt water grog's poor stuff at any time, 'specially without the rum: and this cove has had too much of it for one bout.”

“What are you, and who do you belong to?” repeated the constable, giving the reviving man a little shake in his impatience.

“The Chandlers' Company,” replied Jerry; “and so did my father before me. I'm a freeman,

  ― 78 ―
I say—and a liveryman; and if I don't shoot the centre arch of Battersea bridge….”

“What company did he say he belonged to?” asked the corporal, “the Chandlers'? He means Captain Chandlers!—Ask him what regiment? And he said something about shooting; I can't make it out at all.”

“It's not that,” said the constable; “but he seems plucking up a bit. How is it now with you, my man? We have saved you from drowning. Who was it that chucked you overboard from the brig yonder? Have the bushrangers got possession of the vessel?”

The word “bushrangers” seemed to strike some responsive chord in the bewildered man's memory.

“Bushrangers!” said he, “bushrangers! Ah, that's it! The bushrangers have got me, and now I'm done for!”

“No, no,” said the corporal; “we are not bushrangers: look at our red coats; we are soldiers going after the bushrangers. Look here, man, bushrangers don't keep their arms bright like ours. Can't you tell the difference between a bushranger and a gentleman in his Majesty's

  ― 79 ―
service? Look at our firelocks; bushrangers can't show such tools as these!”

By degrees, the recovered Jeremiah began to understand what had happened to him, and the character of the party who had saved him from drowning. He was excessively rejoiced at his fortunate escape, and vowed manfully that if he could only come across that insinuating rascal of a pilot, he would serve him out for his ungenteel behaviour. He narrated all the events that had happened; how the chief of the gang had introduced himself on board as a pilot; the plot which he had schemed to get his confederates into the vessel; and the art with which he had contrived to transfer the arms of the sailors to his own followers, under the pretence of leaving the crew of the brig at liberty to manage the vessel in the approaching encounter with the boat which the major was made to believe contained the runaway prisoners who actually were on board all the time.

“By George!” said the constable, “that is Mark Brandon all over! That man would circumvent the very devil himself! It's impossible to be up

  ― 80 ―
to all his dodges! But what's to be done now? The wind's getting up, and that's all in favour of the rascals on board the brig. How many did you say there were with Mark?”

“Six others,” replied Jerry. “And now I recollect we all thought them most desperate-looking ruffians: but that Mark Brandon, as you call him, is quite a genteel person; there doesn't seem to be much harm in him.”

“Didn't he chuck you overboard?” asked the corporal.

“No; it was two other chaps. Mark, as you call him, was standing by the man at the wheel with a cocked musket presented at his head.”

“Just like him!” said one of the sailors; “that's their way. Somehow, all the bushrangers take to the same ways. When they attack a man they make him throw his arms above his head, and then they stick the muzzle of a fowling-piece, or a musket, if they have one—but they don't like muskets, they are so heavy to carry about— close to his ear; and then what can a man do? No pleasant thing, I can assure you; I have felt it myself.”

  ― 81 ―

“But what's to be done,” repeated the constable; “are we to attempt to attack the bushrangers in the brig with this boat? Let us see;— how many are we? Four at the oar—two of us constables, and the corporal with his two men— that's nine; and with the new comer, ten against seven: we can do it easily, corporal.”

“If we could only get at them fairly, we could do it,” replied the corporal; “but the odds would be against us with a vessel under sail: they could fire on us from the protection of the sides of the vessel; and four of our party at least would have to use their oars. There ought to have been more of us.”

“There are more of the bushrangers,” replied the constable, “than were reckoned on in camp to have made their escape; it was supposed that only Mark and two others had gone off: but half a dozen, with Mark Brandon at the head of them, is a formidable party—and all well-armed too!”

“There will be the major's party on board, as this gentleman says, to help us; and, as the major has seen service, he would know how to second us if it came to a brush.”

  ― 82 ―

“Lord bless you!” replied the constable, “you don't suppose the bushrangers will be troubled with the crew of the vessel; bless your heart! they'll get rid of'em in no time.”

“What, murder them in cold blood!”

“Ay, any way: why their rule is, never to give away a chance: depend upon it there's not one of the crew left alive at this moment.”

“What! nor the old major neither!” exclaimed the corporal, his professional sympathies excited for the fate of an officer; “will they kill the major, think you?”

“Have killed him,” said the constable; “they have killed him, I'll be bound. You're new in the colony, corporal, and don't know the ways of these fellows: they make short work of it when it serves their plan to do so. Do you think they would keep a witness alive to hang them?”

“But the young ladies!” interposed Jeremiah; “the poor major's daughters! They would never kill them! They couldn't be such brutes as to kill two young girls!”

“Are they pretty?—though that would not

  ― 83 ―
matter much with bushrangers: — but are they pretty?”

“Both,” replied Jeremiah, “very beautiful; the elder one — that's Helen — she's about eighteen; she is very handsome: and Louisa — she's about sixteen; she's very beautiful: I don't know which is the handsomest of the two; but Helen is the spirited one.”

“Then Mark will take her, and the rest will cast lots for the other; so they will be saved — likely. The spirited gal would be just Mark's taste.”

“Better be both dead than suffer that fate,” said the kind-hearted Jeremiah. “I'm sure Louisa would die, and Helen would kill herself, at the thoughts of it! But I say, corporal, you will never let those rascals murder and go on that way without making an effort to save them! I'm sure those ill-looking sneaking ruffians would never fight if it came hand to hand.”

“That's the difficulty,” said the corporal: “if it was hand to hand we could manage them, because we could fire three times to their once; besides our being steady and used to handle our arms.”

  ― 84 ―

“There will be no fight hand to hand, or any way,” said the constable, as a violent blast from the southward nearly overset the boat, “if it comes on to blow, as it looks likely, I think our best plan is to get under shelter in some creak somewhere, for I think we are going to have a regular hurricane from the south by the look of those clouds rising up yonder like blocks of black wool.”

The attention of all in the boat was now peremptorily directed to their own safety, as the wind rose and the storm increased to fury. The same squall was observed to assail the brig, now dimly seen through the murky atmosphere. In a short time the sky was enveloped in darkness, as the gathering winds prepared from the thick curtains of the clouds to expend their rage on the agitated waters.

  ― 85 ―

Chapter IX. The Summons.

MARK BRANDON, by one of the most daring stratagems in the annals of piracy, had got possession of a vessel admirably adapted for his purpose, and the crew, bound hand and foot, were stowed away here and there in convenient places; but still he felt he was not quite secure; the major and the mate were unbound; and, although confined in the cabin, and unable by themselves to cope with seven desperate men, it was possible for them to be dangerous; and the bushranger had too much experience in the power and resources of even a single man not to be alive to the possibility of the escape, and the successful resistance of two determined spirits—the one having at stake his pride and reputation as the

  ― 86 ―
chief officer of a ship, and the other urged by the still more powerful feeling of a parent struggling for the preservation of the life and honour of his daughters. Filled with these thoughts, but attending anxiously at the same time to the course of the vessel, he turned over in his mind a scheme to entice the officer on deck, and to neutralise the hostility of the major. The increasing storm favoured his project.

In the mean time the parties in the cabin were a prey to the most agonising anticipations.

“This takes one all aback!” said the mate, quite confounded by the unexpected aggression of the pilot and his followers. “Many a rum go have I been witness to; but this beats all! Who are these fellows? I never liked the look of that soft jawing pilot and his men, as they called him. And all the arms are on deck. This is what I call being thorough done!”

“I am afraid,” said the major, “that the case is too clear; in short, we have been deceived all along; and this sham pilot is some desperate man with his gang endeavouring to escape from the island.”

  ― 87 ―

“By George,” said the mate, slapping the table with an energy which at any other time he would have considered an unpardonable breach of good manners in the state cabin, and in the presence of ladies, too; “that's it; and that accounts for the rascals shying the up-passage, and trying to get out of the channel with every tide, and with every wind that blew! That's it! we're hard up! and we shall have all to walk the plank, every one of us; I know what that game is in the West Indies! But it's hard for you, Miss Helen, and for you, Miss Louisa: it dosen't matter for the like of me; it all goes in the day's work, as sailors say: but for you—” and here the worthy mate gave the table a tremendous thump with his fist in the excess of his emotion. The sound was echoed from the outside of the cabin window from the nozzle of a musket.

“What's that?” cried out Louisa alarmed.

“That's a summons, Miss,” said the mate.

“Better not to frighten you, but I suppose they want us to walk the plank; not you, perhaps,” he added, “nor your sister; but me and your

  ― 88 ―
papa. Major,” he said, turning to their father, “you don't mean to give in without a struggle?”

“What can we do?” said the major; “we are unarmed: better make terms for the girls.”

“Better drown them at once,” said the honest seaman, having before his eyes the scenes of horror which he had seen and known in the seas prolific of piracy in the West Indies; no use mincing the matter. If they were sisters of mine, I know what I would do.”

Helen calmly rose at these words: she first kissed her father, and then her sister, and then extending her hand to the mate, she shook it warmly. Without speaking, her gestures sufficiently intimating her intention, she sought in the steward's locker for a large table-knife: she selected one with a point, tried its sharpness, deliberately with her finger, and placed it in her girdle; she then resumed her place by the side of her father.

Louisa observed her proceedings with trembling interest. When the high-minded Helen took her hand in her's she shuddered convulsively, and placing the other hand before her eyes, as if to

  ― 89 ―
shut out at once the peril with which she was threatened, and the aspect of the Lucretian death meditated by her sister, she threw herself into the arms of her father. The major embraced her with despairing tenderness; the tears ran down his manly cheeks; and he lifted up his head to heaven as if he would pierce through the obdurate deck in his mental appeal for succour. But the action of the heroic Helen suggested other thoughts to the mind of the hardy mate:—

“Major,” he said, “Miss Helen shames us men. There are weapons still,” pointing to the knife appended to Helen's side; “and they may stand us in good stead at a pinch. Let us do our best to defend the cabin from an attack from without, and trust to chance for the rest. How the vessel pitches, poor thing! Those fellows don't know how to handle her—and the wind blows stronger and stronger every minute. That top-gallant mast will be sprung as sure as fate, if they don't look alive! But what does it matter what becomes of the masts, or the sails, or the gear, or any thing? we shan't live long to see the ruin that's coming on this prime little brig that I've

  ― 90 ―
brought over from the other side of the globe, safe and sound! Well, it will be all the same a hundred years hence! They are knocking at the window again, as if they were determined to have an answer this time.”

A voice was at this moment heard:—

“Below there!”

“Ay, ay,” said the mate, answering with professional promptitude. “What the devil do you want with us?” he added, raising his voice; “can't you let us be quiet?”

“The captain wants to speak with the major.”

“And who the devil's the captain?”

“Mark Brandon.”

“And who is Mark Brandon? One of the rascally convicts, I suppose, escaped from gaol?”

“He will soon let you know who he is if you give us any of your sauce. Look out of your stern windows at the sea beneath you; plenty of ground sharks at the bottom;—do you understand that?”

“Major,” said another voice from the top of the companion-ladder, which they instantly recognised as Mark Brandon's, “the ship is in

  ― 91 ―
danger, and you and your daughters will be lost if something is not done for the management of the vessel.”

“Ah, ha!” cried the mate, “it is come to that, is it?”

“If we let you free will you pledge your word of honour not to make any attempt against us? You are a soldier and a gentleman; and I know if you pledge your honour you will keep your word.”

“Do it,” whispered the mate, “if you do make a promise with such rascals, you need not keep it.”

“And my daughters,” asked the major, “what do you say of them?”

“If you can trust to my word,” replied Mark Brandon, “they shall remain in this cabin, and be respected. Our only object is to leave the colony, and regain our liberty: that done, we have no desire to do violence to any one. But you must decide quickly.”

“Don't let him come in, papa,” said Louisa.

“Trust him,” said Helen; “we are in his power; and if there is a spark of generosity in the man it can be kindled into goodness only by confidence: trust him.”

  ― 92 ―

The major hesitated; the danger was imminent: on the one side was certain death in case of unavailing resistance; on the other, the possibility of good treatment if the leader of the bushrangers were not thwarted in his object. Besides, there was hope in procrastination:— “Perhaps after all,” he said to the mate, “the only object of these men is to effect their escape; and it is quite clear that they cannot navigate the vessel by themselves. We must bend to circumstances. Pacifying measures are always the best for the weaker party. Will you promise to do no violence to the mate?” he asked of the bushranger.

“I promise not to take his life,” replied Mark Brandon through the door.

“Shall we trust him,” said the major to his officer, “or shall we sell our lives dearly?”

“I don't see how we are to help ourselves,” replied the mate; “and it will be something to save the vessel, for with the wind that is raging outside, these fellows will never be able to keep her off the land.”

“What is the alternative if we refuse?” asked the major, still hesitating.

  ― 93 ―

“Death!” replied the bushranger: “it is our lives or yours; we do not want to take yours, nor to harm you unnecessarily; but if it must be one or the other, you cannot expect us to sacrifice our own. My object is to save the vessel.”

“He's right in that, at any rate,” said the mate; “that's the first thing to be looked to; for if the vessel goes down we all go down with her—that's certain. Take him at his word, major; we can do no better: ‘and needs must,’ as the saying is, ‘when the Devil drives.’ ”

“I promise,” said the major.

“I cannot pay you a higher compliment than to trust to your honour, major,” said Mark Brandon, undoing the barricading of the door, at the entrance of which he appeared with two of his men with their muskets cocked and levelled at the parties within. Louisa screamed, and Helen put her hand on her weapon. “Now, sir, if you please, you may come out.”

His daughters clung to him instinctively, but Helen presently loosened her grasp; Louisa, however, would not relax her hold, but begged and prayed him, with the wildest grief, to remain to

  ― 94 ―
protect them. The mate, anxious to get on deck to take a survey of matters on board, passed up the ladder, and was instantly seized by four of the conspirators, who in a moment bound him hand and foot, and placed him by the wheel.

“If your father prefers remaining below,” said Mark Brandon, courteously, to Helen, “he is quite at liberty to do so; at the same time he may come on deck when he pleases: but as the waves are high, and as we have shipped several seas already, I think it will be more agreeable to you to close the hatchway;” and so saying he closed the door, and turned his attention to the prostrate mate, who, with a storm of oaths outrivalling in ferocity even the fierceness of the increasing storm, was cursing the bushranger and his gang:—

“You precious infernal rascal!—this was your promise, was it? I thought you said you would do me no harm?”

“And I have done you no harm,” replied the bushranger. “I promised not to take your life, and I will keep my promise. But I did not promise not to bind you, to keep you from doing

  ― 95 ―
harm to yourself and to others. And now, my friend, what do you say? will you help us to save the vessel, or shall it be a short prayer and a long plunge to see what the sharks will say to you?”

“Do what you like, you rascally, lying, lubberly sneak—do what you like; I'll do nothing for you with my hands bound this way. You and your villainous gang may go to the bottom, and your souls to — that is, if your friend there will take you in; but two of a trade, they say, never agree — so there must be some place made on purpose to hold such a rascal as you! I only wish I had my hands free, and a marline spike in one of them—you should not be grinning at me in that cool way.”

“Well, my friend,” replied Mark, “there's no time to lose; you must make up your mind at once. Roger and Dick,” he said to two of his men, “put your muskets to his head.” The men obeyed promptly.

“What do you say now?”

“I won't;—while my hands are bound I'll do nothing.”

  ― 96 ―

“Cock your muskets,” said their leader to his men.

There are few things more disagreeable than the click of the lock of a musket, when the muzzle of it is placed close to your head by a hostile party; but the mate was firm.

“Are you ready?” said Mark.

“Yes,” said the men, with their fingers on the triggers.

“What do you say now? in one moment you will have the contents of those pieces through your brains.”

“Fire away,” said the mate.

“Stay,” said Mark Brandon.

Knowing well the habitual horror which sailors have of drowning and of sharks, and their superstitious dread of remaining unburied after death, he thought he would try another method.

“The shortest way,” he said, “will be to throw him overboard. Take him up and heave him over the taffrail, and then there will be an end. Now, my men—one, two, three. — Have you nothing to say to stop them,” he said to the mate, who, with hands and legs tied and bound tightly

  ― 97 ―
together, was utterly incapable of the slightest resistance — “have you nothing to say to stop them?”

At this moment a tremendous sea struck the little bark, and the main-top-mast, with a crash, came rattling down, encumbering the deck with its ruins. The mate and his executioners were nearly washed overboard; but high above the din and the roar of the elements the mate's voice was now heard:—

“Unbind me,” he cried out, “and I promise to save the ship. You will all be lost, and this tight little brig, that I have brought so far, will go down with you all.”

“You will promise, then, not to make any attempt to regain the vessel,” said Mark Brandon, preserving his coolness in the midst of the confusion around him.

“I will promise anything,” said the mate, “only let me save the vessel. There's another sea coming! Starboard the helm, or it will be upon us.”

A monstrous sea burst over them, doing fresh damage, and adding to the confusion and danger.

  ― 98 ―
Mark Brandon, seeing that the case was desperate, and trusting to the instinct of the seaman to abandon all other thoughts than that of saving the vessel, at once cut the cords which tied him, and the mate, starting to his legs, immediately rushed to the wheel and assumed the command of the vessel.

  ― 99 ―

Chapter X. The Storm.

THE storm raged; and the shattered ship, pitching and reeling under the influence of the roaring wind and raging sea, was driven with desperate speed towards a projecting promontory on the western side of the channel. The voice of the sturdy mate was heard above the shrieking of the tempest, but in vain; the terrified followers of the bushranger, unused to wage war with the elements, were utterly useless in the extremity. It was in vain that their leader exerted himself with almost preternatural energy, and endeavoured to rouse the exertions of his men: they were not sailors; and they had neither the bravery to dare, nor the skill to execute, the feats of seamanship which

  ― 100 ―
were necessary to give them a chance of escaping the perils of the storm.

“We shall never save the ship with these fellows,” said the mate to the bushranger, the urgency of the danger drawing into momentary fellowship two minds, though belonging to different characters, of kindred courage; “if you don't let my own blue jackets free, the ship is a lost ship.”

“Can I trust them?” said the bushranger, balancing the two perils in his mind, and at a loss to decide to which to give the preference.

“Trust them! You may trust them to save the ship—at least to do their best for it;—every sailor will do that: as to the rest, that is another matter, and you must look out for yourself; that's fair and above-board, at any rate, Mr. —— Pilot!”

Mark Brandon was not a man to give way under difficulty: with a firm mind he rapidly compared the two dangers, and, with the decision of a bold one, he determined on giving liberty to the crew. Without hesitation, he directed his men to unbatten the fore hatchway, and to release from the hold the sailors who were confined there.

  ― 101 ―
This was a matter by no means of easy execution; but at the expense of shipping much water it was effected, and the liberated sailors gladly jumped on deck. The bushranger directed his men to retain their arms, and endeavour to keep them from the wet to guard against a surprise; but the seamen, cheered by the voice of their officer, and in a moment conscious of the extreme danger of the vessel, thought only of their duties, and of saving themselves from shipwreck, leaving the bushrangers to keep guard as they could or as they pleased, and paying no other attention to them than to tell them to get out of their way.

It is not to be supposed that the noise of the raging wind, and the confusion caused by the fallen mast, had passed unnoticed by the parties in the cabin. The major wished to go on deck; but Louisa clung to him with so tenacious a grasp, and the uncertainty of the nature of his reception by the bushrangers was so great, that the father yielded to the entreaties of his youngest daughter, and remained below. But when he heard and recognised the familiar voices of his own sailors battling with the thunder of the storm, he ventured

  ― 102 ―
to raise his head above the companion ladder.

A washing of the waves drove him quickly back, at the same time that it deluged the cabin. By taking advantage of a lull, he again essayed to emerge from his place of security, and to his amazement beheld his vessel apparently in the possession of his own people, and his officer at the wheel, issuing his commands as usual, for the management of the ship. He quickly joined him, though it was with difficulty he was enabled to make good his footing.

“What chance is there,” he asked, “of saving the vessel?”

“Very little; you see we are a mere wreck; there's scarcely a rag of sail left: we are driving before the wind on that point of land that you may see yonder through the haze. Our only chance is getting a soft berth to bump on; but that chance is very small, for most of this coast seems rocky. It won't be long, however, before we shall know our fate. These rascally lubbers of bushrangers have done for the poor brig. Serve 'em right, for pretending to know how to

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take care of a vessel they knew nothing about. More fools they for binding with fetters those who might have saved them: and now they see what they've got by it.”

“Had I not better prepare the girls for what is to happen?” said the major, his mind borne down for the moment by the extent of his disaster; his gallant vessel lost, his property presently to be scattered to the waves, and his children's lives and his own in imminent peril!

“I hardly know what is best to be done,” replied the sturdy seaman, almost subdued by the danger of the ship, and the thought of the women: “but better let 'em stay below till the shock comes; they couldn't hold on here.”

“Could the boat be of any use?” asked the major, in a sort of despair.

“It was washed overboard a quarter of an hour ago. But look at the raging sea around us! Do you think a boat could live in such a sea as that? If our own vessel—poor thing!—wasn't as good a sea-boat as ever swam, it never would live in such a whirlpool as it's in now! I wonder what has become of the boat that we saw coming, before the

  ― 104 ―
wind caught us:—gone to the bottom, I fear, long ago!”

“And the people in that boat, perhaps, were our deliverers,” said the major. “Good God! that land seems fearfully close! Is there no way to save ourselves?”

“Look out for a soft place,” replied the mate, with a grim smile, for he knew full well that the death-struggle of the gallant little ship was at hand. “The sea refuses to keep us, so we must needs trust to the land; though I must say it doesn't look very smiling at us.”

As he spoke, the impetuous winds seemed to gather up their strength for a final effort to hurl the devoted ship on the expectant rocks; but at this moment the watchful mate, as cool in the moment of danger as if the vessel was within view of the windmill at Gravesend, caught sight of a break in the cliff, forming a little creek or armlet of the sea: with a vigorous hand he directed the ship's course to the opening, and in another minute, by an instantaneous and seemingly miraculous change, the shattered brig, with a sudden turn, found itself floating on the smooth

  ― 105 ―
surface of a little bay sheltered from the wind and the waves. The vessel glided slowly towards a grassy bank, and, gently touching it, remained stationary.

For a brief space every man on board held his breath with joy and surprise at an escape from the horrors of shipwreck which struck them as something supernatural! But presently the consciousness of the unsafe position of either party called into fresh activity the energies of both to guard against the aggression of each other; and, before the major had time to congratulate his daughters on the extraordinary preservation of the brig, the bushranger summoned his men to his side, and assumed an offensive attitude, while the seamen, hastily clutching at any materials within their reach which might serve for weapons, gathered together in a body, and stood in defiance of the threatening muskets of their opponents, and, with the stern determination of revenge depicted on their worn and hardy countenances, turned their eyes to their officer for directions in the new emergency.

At this moment a column of thick smoke, as if

  ― 106 ―
from damp wood newly fired, was observed to rise from the other side of a low hill bare of trees. Mark Brandon seemed struck with a sudden thought at this indication of other parties being near at hand. In his own mind he feared that the fire had been kindled by the people in the boat, who, he felt sure, were in pursuit of himself and his companions. Aware that if his conjecture was right the reports of fire-arms would quickly bring his enemies upon him, he stood before his men, and repressing their preparation to fire by a gesture of his arm, he directed his voice to the major, who was standing on one side, restrained by his promise from taking part in the threatened conflict, and filled with hope that the result would be favourable, even against the superior weapons of the bushrangers, to the injured party.

“Major,” said Mark Brandon, in the clear, cool, and articulate voice for which he was so remarkable, “I see that you can keep your promise like a soldier and a man of honour; and you shall see that I will keep mine. Do you see that smoke yonder? That smoke proceeds from the body of

  ― 107 ―
natives on the coast—the most numerous and the most savage of all the mobs on the island! If we weaken our force by fighting with each other we shall become an easy prey to them.”

“Gammon!” said the mate.

“I do not wish to be devoured by those wretches,” replied the bushranger, without being in the slightest degree moved by the contemptuous expression of the mate: “nor do I suppose the major there would like to see his daughters torn limb from limb, and chucked on that fire that the black devils have kindled yonder, and eaten before his face.”

“Gammon!” repeated the mate.

“That would be a fate,” continued Mark, “too dreadful to contemplate. And therefore, I say, let us forget for a while our own quarrel, and join together to resist the attack of the natives.”

“But we are not sure that they are natives,” replied the major.

“Suppose it is the party that we saw in the boat coming after us,” said the mate—“the party that you persuaded us were bushrangers or pirates, or whatever you may like to call them;

  ― 108 ―
then, you know, there would be no danger from them. I propose that two of us—that is, one from each side, should go and find out; and in the mean time we will agree to a truce till our messengers come back.”

“Agreed!” said Mark. “I will go for one on my side, and you for one on the other.”

“I can't help thinking,” said the mate to the major, in a whisper, “that he is hatching some mischief or other; but he will find me wide awake.”

While the mate communicated this suspicion to his commander, Mark Brandon gave some directions to his followers; and then the bushranger and the officer set out together, each keeping a wary watch on the other to prevent surprise or treachery.

  ― 109 ―

Chapter XI. The Bushranger's Generous Confidence in the Mate.

MARK BRANDON had a very disagreeable suspicion that the smoke which had been observed on the other side of the hill, proceeded from the party in pursuit, who had taken advantage of one of the little creeks or inlets with which that part of the coast abounded, to shelter themselves from the storm.

The fire was not likely to have been kindled by natives; for, so far as their haunts were known, they were not in the habit of making that part of the island the place of their temporary habitation, as from its exposure to the cold and boisterous winds of the south, and from the greater part of its surface being scrub and rock, kangaroos were

  ― 110 ―
scarce, and opossums by no means plentiful; neither was the gum which forms so large a part of the food of the natives, to be found there in sufficient quantities to make it an eligible place of encampment, as the mimosa, from which it is obtained, does not thrive in bleak and exposed situations.

The chance in his favour of its being the natives who had lighted that fire, Mark Brandon felt was so small, that nothing but his own eager desire that it might be so, could prompt him to cherish the hope. On the other hand, if it was the party in pursuit who had landed, then indeed his position was most critical and dangerous. There was the vessel lying in a basin from which it was impossible to extricate it against a contrary wind; the present storm, which still raged, might last, perhaps, for some days; and the sailors who composed the crew were at liberty, and prepared to resist any new aggression to the death.

It was true that his own men were in possession of all the fire-arms, which gave them a decided superiority; but still the struggle would be a doubtful one; and the reports of the muskets

  ― 111 ―
during the contest, would be sure to give information to those in pursuit of him and his followers, should it turn out as he feared, that the smoke which had been observed, proceeded from a fire made by the party in the boat; and it was not to be supposed that they would neglect to keep a good look-out in the direction where the vessel might be expected to be visible.

The bushranger revolved all these thoughts in his mind, and in vain sought for a way out of his difficulty: for once, his ingenuity was at fault; he could devise no plan of escape; he found himself in a “dead fix.” But still, while there was life there was hope; and he thought that if he could get rid of the sturdy mate who strode by his side, and who, he observed, kept a close watch on him, he might have a better chance of succeeding in any ulterior operations.

The bushranger carried a double-barrel fowling-piece, strong in the stock, and the mate had in his hand a drawn ship's-cutlas. Mark measured the distance with his eye which separated the buttend of his piece from the back of the mate's head; he calculated that he might swing the fowling-piece

  ― 112 ―
round by a quick and vigorous movement, and, without noise, rid himself of his inconvenient companion by a single blow. With his accustomed caution, his hands mechanically following out the thought which had suggested itself, he thought it right to remove the risk of the piece discharging itself from the shock. He stopped, therefore, for a moment on the precipitous hill which they were descending, and opening the pans of the locks, shook out the primings and let down the hammers.

“What do you do that for?” asked the mate, surprised at the proceeding; “is that the way to be ready for the natives? Why, they may be on us before you have time to prime again.”

“This is rather an awkward place to scramble down,” replied Mark, with an air of polite concern, and pointing to the gulf below them; “you see, if I was to chance to have a tumble, my piece might go off and lodge its lead where it was not intended to go—in my body, or, perhaps, in yours, friend.”

“Humph!” said the mate, ejaculating a sea-grunt, which at the same time served as a vent to his own feelings, and conveyed to his companion

  ― 113 ―
the intimation that he was not to be gammoned by Mark's blarney about his excessive care for the mate's valuable person;—“he means something now, by that move,” he said to himself; “but whatever it is he's up to he'll find me wide awake.”

Shall I shoot him, thought Brandon:—no; the report of the piece would be heard by both parties —by the vessel's people, and by the soldiers; it must be done some other way; but he keeps out of my reach, as if he suspected the trick:—I must try another game.

By this time they had descended into a deep and narrow gulley: looking up, they saw before them a sharp and abrupt hill to climb, interspersed here and there with low shrubs and irregular masses of pointed rocks and stones. The bushranger guessed at once the sort of country they had lighted on, which was a succession of abrupt stony hills like the huge waves of a sea suddenly petrified into solidity: an exceedingly difficult country to make progress in, either on horseback or on foot, for while the actual distance gained in a straight line, as the bird flies, is very

  ― 114 ―
small, the length of ground gone over is very great, and very fatiguing from the continual up and down movement, and from the annoying obstructions of the cutting fragments of sharp rock and loose stones met with at every step.

As they mounted the hill, therefore, it is not to be wondered at that the worthy seaman found the process of making way on shore, with his own legs, a much more laborious operation than making way on the water with sails and oars; and although he took advantage of his nautical experience, and made short tacks to the right and to the left of the hill, as he would have done against a contrary wind at sea, the work soon became too hard for him.

“I say, mate,” he said to the bushranger, “this is going dead against a wind with a vengeance! now it's rattling down stream and then it's up against tide, and whichever way it is it doesn't seem the better for my legs!—I tell you what it is, I must come to an anchor, and that's the long and the short of it:” and saying this, he plumped himself down on the softest stone he could find convenient, and proceeded to swab himself with much diligence.

  ― 115 ―

“Luck's with me, after all,” thought Mark, as he received this gladsome communication from the sailor, and saw him in an attitude of utter exhaustion from his exertions in the unusual exercise of walking on land; “luck's with me after all! and now is the time to disarm my very clever and very cautious friend of all suspicion by a false confidence, and then he is mine to do what I please with—at least so far as one point goes:—

“Friend,” he said to the mate, “I see I was wrong to propose that you should go with me; I ought to have remembered that you were more used to make your way up the shrouds of a ship than the sides of such hills as these;—but I am used to them. However, we will not lose our object; I must see how many natives there are yonder; come now; we have had a bout I allow; but we are comrades in this venture: if I could trust to your honour not to take advantage of my confidence, I would try to have a look at the black rascals alone—but you must be ready to stand by me.”

“I'll stand by you, if that's all,” said the mate;

  ― 116 ―
“but what do you want me to do with your ‘confidence’ and your ‘blarney?’ ”

“There,” said the bushranger, placing his fowling-piece in the hands of the astonished mate; “there's no blarney in that; now, if you could be dishonourable, and treacherous, and a rascal—which I know you cannot—you have me at your mercy.”

“What the devil do you mean by this?” said the honest seaman, completely overpowered by an act which placed the bushranger, seemingly, completely in his power.

“What I mean is this; we are now all bound up together; unless we stand by one another we shall never be able to resist the attack of two or three hundred natives, for they have learned the way of shooting with lighted arrows, and they never show any mercy to white people:—and the food they are fondest of above everything is human flesh.”

“The black villains!”

“And I don't suppose you have any particular desire to form one of the principal dishes at their supper to-night?”

  ― 117 ―

“That would be no joke!”

“Now I will tell you what to do; for I shall rely on your courage and coolness, which I am sure I can do as surely as on your honour—for my own life as well as your own and the lives of the major and his daughters depend on our activity.”

“Well, what do you want me to do?”

“You must remain here without moving, and especially without making the least noise till I return.”

“And how long shall you be away?”

“We shall see: I will get as near to the natives as I can on my hands and knees, and try to find out what they are doing. If they are going away, we have only to lie close and wait for their departure. But if they are waiting for the wreck of the vessel, I must find out their numbers, and then we must prepare for the worst.”

“Well—let them come; I don't much mind them; only let me be on board the brig, and then we will astonish them, perhaps, with something they don't expect.”

“But if they discover me, I shall have to make a run of it; and in that case I must depend on

  ― 118 ―
finding you here, and then we must fight our way back to the ship as well as we can.”

“Well, I'm your man as far as the fighting goes; but as to making a run of it, that's out of my line.”

“Then, I trust I may depend on you,” added the bushranger; “that you will neither move nor make the least noise to betray yourself till I return.”

“Never fear,” replied the mate; “I never betrayed any man yet, and never will; you have placed confidence in me, by giving me your gun: let you be bushranger or what not, you are safe with me as long as the bargain lasts—as long as the bargain lasts, mind, no longer.”

“Good,” replied the bushranger; “and now I go on my errand;” and mounting the hill with a vigorous step he passed over the top and presently disappeared from view.

“And now,” thought Mark Brandon, as he sat down on the brow of the hill behind a low shrub, and examined the charge and priming of the pistols which he carried,—“what's to be done next? I have secured the mate: if he had

  ― 119 ―
insisted on going on instead of being so well inclined to sit still, it would have been impossible to prevent him from discovering that instead of the smoke proceeding from a party of natives eager to devour us, it has been lighted, as I strongly suspect, by the very party sent to assist the vessel, and to capture me and my companions! But, luckily, he is knocked up; I thought his sea legs would never carry him far over these hills.—Now my game is clear before me; I must keep the major and his people close, and especially this troublesome fellow of a mate, by making them believe that the natives are coming down on them every minute;—that will keep them quiet.—Shall I get rid of the whole lot? I might do it perhaps; but there would be too much murder in it; and besides, I fear I could never get the vessel out of that basin and through the narrow opening, which is not much wider than to allow it to pass through, without the assistance of the mate and his sailors; my fellows could never do it. And that vessel is my only chance of escape from wretchedness and bondage! —To be sure I might take to the bush, for we

  ― 120 ―
have plenty of arms, and we might contrive to make a plant of provisions and necessaries. But what is the use of wandering about in the bush? Of all lives that is the most wretched! To be exposed to betrayal from one another every day and every hour, waking or sleeping!—No—that existence is not worth having.—Or to be alone— exposed to all the horrors of the terrible solitude of the bush, with every man's hand against you, without friend or companion.—No—that is a life of melancholy madness! The brig—the brig's the thing! At all hazards, and cost what lives it may, she must be secured! But first I must assure myself to a certainty from what source that suspicious smoke proceeds.”

With such thoughts half muttered, and taking advantage of all the inequalities of the ground which would enable him to see without being seen, the bushranger proceeded rapidly, but warily, on his stealthy way.

  ― 121 ―

Chapter XII. Mr. Silliman Dances “The Polka” with a Kangaroo.

SNAKELIKE and with tortuous windings, keeping a sharp look-out in his hazardous course, and stopping from time to time to catch any sound that might betray his proximity to his enemies, the bushranger edged his way to the top of a sheltered height, from which he could command a view of the valley below.

At a glance, he found his suspicions confirmed; he distinguished the red coats of the soldiers, and the peculiar dress and air of the constables. He counted nine; and in one of them he had no difficulty in recognising the hated person of one of the most active and intelligent officers of the colony, well known for his activity and courage,

  ― 122 ―
and one usually selected by the government authorities for the pursuit of runaway convicts in the bush. Mark knew him well, for on more than one occasion he had come into personal collision with him: and he ground his teeth, and clutched the shrub by which he was holding, as he looked down at his old enemy, who, like a pertinacious bloodhound, was on his track.

The party sat listlessly about the fire, and seemed, as he thought, to be waiting for information to be brought by some scout, for they frequently looked in the direction of the south; but the storm which still raged violently, although it had ceased to rain, was a sufficient reason why they should remain under shelter for a time; and the bushranger judged that as they would be too prudent to divide their strength, they would remain where they were till the lulling of the waters should allow them to put to sea in their boat. He descended from his post of observation and set out on his return to the spot where he had left the mate.

He saw at once that the game to be played was to delay any outbreak on board till the pursuing

  ― 123 ―
party, missing the vessel, and supposing it to have escaped to sea, should return home and report their failure; but this was a difficult task to accomplish. The fears of the major for the safety of his daughters, and the determination of the mate and of the incensed sailors to resist further violence, were fairly aroused; and he felt that anything to be done could be effected only by the most consummate address and stratagem.

The first thing, however, was to make the major and his crew believe that the natives were likely to be on them in force, and so to induce them, for the sake of the common safety, to act together, and to postpone their hostile intentions of retaliation till a safe opportunity. In this scheme accident favoured the bushranger in a way that he least expected.

The romantic Mr. Silliman found his spirit considerably damped by the supplemental wetting which he got in the boat before it was sheltered from the broken seas, at the entrance of the channel, but it was with a tolerably heroic air that he stepped on shore, and placed his foot on the land of his adoption. The novelty of his sensations

  ― 124 ―
excited him to deliver his sentiments to the company on the occasion, and he was about to hail the land of Van Diemen in a short and neat speech, and had lifted up his leg, in his enthusiasm, to assist his arm in an appropriate flourish, when he was hailed by the constable:—

“Hold hard, sir!—don't put your foot down yet: keep still; and keep your leg up; hold it up a little longer.—There! it's going quietly away now.”

“What is it?” exclaimed the alarmed Jeremiah, with his arms outstretched, and with one foot in the air, in an attitude which, however becoming it might be in assisting a sudden burst of oratory, was both embarrassing and ludicrous when continued beyond its appropriate purpose;—what is it? what's the matter?”

“Only a black snake,” said the constable, quietly; “I thought it would have been at you, for you are standing right in the way of its path, and a bite from a black snake is an ugly affair, I can tell you.”

“A man of ours was bit by one of those ugly reptiles,” said the corporal, “up at Sidney, in the

  ― 125 ―
bush there; and in a few hours his body was as black as your hat, and so gone that you could scarce distinguish his features. They're nasty creatures those black snakes! the diamond ones they say are as bad, but at any rate they are not so bad-looking. Take care, sir, where you sit,” he added to Mr. Silliman, who was about to seat himself on a low piece of stone convenient for the purpose; “those stones are sometimes full of scorpions.”

“Scorpions!” cried out Jerry, who had an unspeakable horror of that mysterious reptile which he had never seen except in a bottle of spirits, and of whose powers and venomous disposition he had the greatest dread: “are there scorpions in this country?”

“Lots! You can hardly sit down in the bush without getting into the midst of them. Just pull up that stone and you'll soon see if you have lighted on a family.”

With the assistance of a stake which was near him, Jerry presently upheaved the block of stone on which he had unwaringly seated himself, and, to his infinite dismay, beheld some scores of those

  ― 126 ―
lively indigenes of the country, who, considerably isturbed by the unceremonious uplifting of their habitation, scudded to and fro with their abominable tails curled over their backs, and eyeing their enemy, as Jerry thought, most viciously.

“Upon my word, this is a nice party to come among, and a pleasant reception do I have in this new country! I think I had better move farther off.”

“They are nasty disagreeable things those scorpions,” said the constable, “in the bush especially; and it's wonderful what quantities there are of them in this country; but they are seldom large, at least those that I have seen; I never saw one bigger than a good-sized bluebottle, and I never heard of their doing any body any harm, except stinging them a little. They're not near so bad as the tarantula spiders; those creatures really are ugly beasts, and venomous too.”

“How big are they?” asked Jerry, by no means gratified at this enumeration of the inhabitants of the Paradise which he had promised to himself: “anything like the spiders at home?”

“Lord love you! Spiders at home! why, the

  ― 127 ―
spiders at home are nothing to the spiders here; the tarantula is something like a spider! There,” said the constable, spreading out the fingers of his brawny hand on a bit of ground bare of grass— “There, suppose a greenish body as big as a chestnut, with hairy legs reaching out as far as my fingers—that's a tarantula spider!”

“How very disgusting! And pray what do the creatures live on?”

“Oh! all sorts of insects;—they do say that they will sometimes catch small birds: but I can't say I ever saw them do it. You generally find them living two together like man and wife, under a stone, where they make themselves a chamber; and they grow monstrous big sometimes. I have often seen them on the blue gum trees, so I suppose they find food on them to their liking. It's a remarkable fact,” continued the constable, who was fond of showing his knowledge of colonial customs and productions, “that the tarantula spider will always drop on your face if it has the opportunity; I have often thought why it was, but I never could make out the reason; may be the white man's face resembles some surface where

  ― 128 ―
they catch their food; some think that it's the motion of the eyelashes that attracts them; but whatever it may be, they do it, that's all I know. I declare—if there isn't one of them just above your head, on that dead branch, just agoing to make a drop on you!”

As he spoke one of the spiders so described and vituperized, as if in retaliation of the abuse which had been so copiously lavished on its species, and invited perhaps by the temptation of the broad round cheeks of Mr. Silliman, who was lying on his back in a position of luxurious repose, dropped slap on his face, and embracing it with its long hairy legs presented an admirable specimen for the cabinet of a naturalist. But the thoughts of the terrified Jeremiah were by no means inclined to take that scientific direction. On the contrary, he roared out most lustily, as he hastily brushed the creature from his face, and regained his legs with almost unexampled activity.

In truth, the afflicted Jerry was almost at his wits' end with his succession of misadventures; he had been chucked into the sea; rubbed into life again by the medium of salt-junk; assailed by

  ― 129 ―
snakes; infested with scorpions; and now was pitched on by an ugly tarantula for his feeding-ground!

“What's coming next?” he cried out, “I can neither sit, nor stand, nor lie, but something attacks me! I shall be driven out of the island!”

“I have observed that before,” said the constable; “those spiders have a fancy to drop on the face; I suppose it resembles something they are used to feed on.”

“Much obliged to you,” said Jerry, as he pinned a pointed stick through the bloated body of the spider, whose size and ugly appearance fully answered the description of the constable; “but I'll thank you not to make a meal of any part of my precious features. I'll put an end to your fun at any rate,” he continued, smashing his enemy up with the stick; “and now,” he ejaculated disconsolately, “what to do I don't know! for stand or sit where I will, it seems I am sure to put my foot in some mess or other. “Would there be any harm,” he asked, “in taking a look over that hill yonder? Any natives about here?”

“Oh! there are no natives on this side of the

  ― 130 ―
island,” said the constable; “they like to be where there are plenty of trees for the opossums and grass for the kangaroos. You can take a spell over the hill if you like; go straight on and keep us in sight;—there's no fear of the natives so far down as this, they seldom come to the coast at this end; but don't go far away, or you may lose yourself; a stranger soon loses himself in the bush in this country.”

“Who will go with me?” asked Jerry; but the men were exhausted with pulling at the oar, and no one was inclined to accompany him; the adventurous Jerry therefore was obliged to go alone. “I shall know my way back,” he said, “by the smoke of our fire;” and so saying, he ascended the hill to get a view of the country, and was disappointed to find that he could see nothing but another hill before him.

He descended, however, to the bottom, and found himself in a deep gulley or cleft between the hills. He had already received considerable alarm from a horrible-looking animal poking his nose out at him from a thicket: the animal was quite black, of the size of a little pig, rough and of

  ― 131 ―
ferocious aspect, popularly known in the colony by the name of a “devil,” that being the most appropriate appellation which could be hit on in a hurry to convey the combined idea of its savageness and ugliness.

In trying to avoid it, Jerry stumbled over a wombat, a creature about as big as a badger, and considered good eating by the natives. The cry of terror which he uttered scared them both away, but he began to repent him of his adventurous expedition.

Winding his way to the right, he came to an open space of green grass clear of brush and stones, and to his inexpressible delight beheld a living specimen of the animal whose likeness he had often gazed on in books with wonder and admiration,—a real, live kangaroo!

It happened that on this occasion he had fallen in with a male of the largest species, known popularly in the colony as a “Boomah.” The animal stood nearly six feet high on his haunches, and was feeding with much relish on the young sweet grass. As it hopped leisurely and lazily to a fresh place, Jerry had the opportunity of admiring

  ― 132 ―
the length and thickness of its immense tail which protruded in a straight line from behind, forming a triangle with its two legs, and affording a firm support to its body as it sat upright.

Struck with the size and beauty of the creature, the enterprising Jerry was seized with an irresistible desire to appropriate the magnificent piece of venison to himself; and having read that the kangaroo is a timorous beast, he thought he should have no difficulty in becoming master of its person, if he could only get close enough to the animal to give it a knock on the head. Had he been near enough to observe the principal claw on the kangaroo's hind legs, about five inches long, as hard as an iron spike and tolerably sharp at the point, he might have paused in his valorous design; but as this weapon of offence and defence was unknown to him, he had no idea that there could be any danger in a personal encounter with a kangaroo.

Armed with a stout stick, therefore, he advanced, slowly and cautiously, endeavouring to reach the animal from behind in order not to give it the

  ― 133 ―
alarm, and calculating that one smart blow on the head would stun the creature, so as to render it an easy prey. In this way he approached within ten yards of the boomah, when suddenly raising its head from the grass the creature turned round and sat up on its haunches, gazing on Jerry as it seemed with not less curiosity than Jerry gazed on the kangaroo.

Whether it was that it mistook the adventurous cockney for one of its own species, or that it was desirous on its own part to investigate the new specimen in natural history which Jerry's person presented, the creature was apparently desirous to make acquaintance with the strange animal, and making a little hop it alighted close to its new friend.

Astonished at this unexpected familiarity, and catching sight of the middle claws of his hind legs as the kangaroo made his fraternal approach, Jerry made a corresponding hop backwards.

Confirmed in his opinion of relationship by the dexterity with which Jerry executed this movement, the boomah wagged his great tail and made another advance, which was met with a similar

  ― 134 ―
movement backwards on the part of Jerry, and in this way they performed a circle round the green sward, much to the amusement, it is to be presumed, of the kangaroo, but by no means satisfactorily to Jerry.

Far from being gratified with the performance of this “Kangaroo” Polka, he was, on the contrary, very angry to find himself chasséed in so peremptory a manner. Watching his opportunity, therefore, he raised his stick and dealt his partner a blow on the head which made the kangaroo shake it with visible dissatisfaction; but incensed it seemed to meet with so ungracious a return for his acts of courtesy, the huge boomah made a bound to Jerry, and embracing him with his fore paws was about to apply his terrible claw in the way in which those animals rip up in a moment the strongest dogs, when Jerry set up so fearful a cry, that the creature, after making a few hops with him in his paws, let him go with affright; and Jerry, rejoiced to be released from the formidable hug of his new friend, without looking behind him, and expecting every moment to feel the kangaroo's great toe at his back, rushed down

  ― 135 ―
the hill and tumbled over head and heels to the bottom.

Opening his mouth to give vent to a great breath, and his eyes to look about him, he suddenly found the barrel of a horse-pistol thrust into the former, and with the latter he beheld, to his horror and amazement, the features of the bushranger! who, not less surprised to behold the man who had been tossed overboard, but more practised in concealing his emotions, intimated to Mr.Silliman in a calm, distinct voice, whose tones were suitable to the politest and most agreeable announcement:—

“If you move or make the least noise, I'll blow your brains out!”

  ― 136 ―

Chapter XIII. An Extempore Native.

WHATEVER inclination the unfortunate Jerry might have had to indulge in exclamation or remonstrance was effectually checked by the proximity of the horse-pistol; nor could he fail to observe that it was on the full-cock, and that the finger of the bushranger was on the trigger!

If the reflections which he hastily made during his transit from the deck of the brig were grave, those that he made on the present occasion were of a cast still more serious, inasmuch as the danger was greater and more imminent; for he felt that the slightest movement or shock, either on his own part or on that of his enemy, would cause the contents of the pistol to be discharged into the innermost recesses of his brain.

  ― 137 ―

He took especial care, therefore, to keep perfectly still, with his eyes wide open and fixed in extended horror on the bushranger, but mentally vowing, with all his might, that if ever it should be his infinite good fortune again to get within sound of the bells in Cheapside, he would take most particular care to keep within hearing of them for ever afterwards!

“Hold up your arms,” said the bushranger, after he had contemplated for a brief space the excessive terror of his victim.

Jerry held up his arms.

“If I take the pistol from your mouth will you promise to be quiet?”

Jerry made the best sign he could to signify his entire concurrence with that proposition.

“Be still then,” said the bushranger, “while I empty your pockets.”

The operation was completed to the bushranger's satisfaction, but nothing appeared to cause particular observation.

“Now,” said Mark, who had suddenly conceived what he thought a novel and bright idea, “strip!”

  ― 138 ―

“Strip!” said Jerry; “what, take my clothes off?”

“All,” said the bushranger.

“I shall be so cold,” Jerry ventured to remonstrate.

“Strip!” repeated the bushranger, re-cocking the pistol.

Jerry looked behind him, and before him, and around him; but there was no help nigh; he was entirely in the bushranger's power.—He took off his blue jacket; and then his waistcoat; and then he paused.

“Breeches next,” said Mark, with a fierce air.

“What are you going to do with me?” said Jerry, in a lamentable tone; for he began to apprehend that the bushranger had a design to turn him naked into the bush, and visions of snakes, and scorpions, and tarantula spiders rose before him!

“Off with them!”

“I shall be bit to death,” said Jerry.

“Quick,” said the bushranger, presenting the pistol.

  ― 139 ―

“Well, you needn't be in such a hurry; there —I suppose that will do now.”

“Stockings and shoes off.”

“But my feet will be cut to pieces on these horrid rocks; and I shall catch cold. Gracious heaven! was ever man so treated before? There —I hope that's all,” said poor Jerry, as his shirt fluttered in the breeze.

“For the present; now pack up your clothes in a bundle.”

Jerry did as he was bid.

“Now march on to that little pool of water that you see yonder.”

What, in the name of all that's extraordinary, is the man going to do with me? thought Jerry, as he marched on before with his bundle, with the bushranger behind, his eternal pistol touching his back occasionally, as if to remind him to be on his good behaviour. They found, as the bushranger expected, a particular sort of black mud, which he considered would be well suited to his purpose; on his way he had picked up several pieces of soft red ochre, which he placed to soak at the edge of the pool.

  ― 140 ―

What's the meaning of all this? thought Jerry; is the bushranger a madman after all?

“You see that nice black mud,” said Mark.

“Yes, I see it,” said Jerry.

“Now let me see how soon you can make a native of yourself; you will smear yourself all over with that paint; and be quick about it; for I am rather in a hurry, and if I can't finish the business this way,” he added, “I shall be obliged to finish it in another,” tapping the barrel of his pistol with his finger.

“This is downright brutality to make me dirty myself all over in that way! Heavens! what a figure I am making myself!”

“You mistake,” said the bushranger, sarcastically, and with a Mephistophelian smile; “unencumbered and undisguised with artificial vestments you have now recovered the natural dignity of man; and, by plastering your body all over with that mud, you will defend it from the attacks of numerous insects which would otherwise annoy you. Stay, I will just finish you up a bit, and then I think you will do.”

Saying this, he hastily made him a wig of long

  ― 141 ―
grass, which he stuck on his head, and availing himself of the red ochre, which was now in the condition of a convenient pigment, he flourished two round red patches on either cheek, and made sundry daubs with it on Jerry's chest and legs.

“And now,” he said, “you look really like a child of nature, and the natives themselves would take you for a brother; there is only one other little thing to do; excuse me, but it must be done, because, you are aware, we never give away a chance;—yes—I must gag you, I must indeed; but I won't hurt you, if you will be quiet. There, that will do nicely, and now you may come along and finish the next part of your performance.”

The bushranger looked about, and presently, spying what he wanted, he cut from the other side of the pool three long slender sticks resembling the spears of the natives, which he placed in Jerry's hands, and desired him to shake them menacingly when he gave directions, threatening him with instant death if he disobeyed his injunctions in the slightest point. In this way he led him by a convenient route, carefully avoiding the

  ― 142 ―
place where he had left the mate, to a spot in view of the vessel, where he desired him to remain, for the greater security, binding his hands together; and then he sought the mate with all expedition, and led him back to the vessel.

“Well,” said the mate, “what have you seen? any natives?”

“Three hundred at the very least; the most ferocious mob I ever set eyes on! They are aware, I am sure, that the vessel has been driven into the bay yonder, and that we are few in number, for the women are preparing their weapons, and the men are dancing their war-dance; we shall have them down upon us before night. We must lose no time in regaining the brig and putting her in a state of defence.”

“The devil! Then we must make a fight of it. What's that?” said the seaman, after they had proceeded some distance, when he turned round to see what was in his wake; “what's that?” pointing to the spot where the bushranger had left Jerry, who had now become visible.

“That's one of their scouts; they have sent him on, I have no doubt, to watch us; but I'll be

  ― 143 ―
bound they are placed all round us, only their bodies being black, you can't distinguish them from the charred stumps of the trees.”

“Are those spears that he has got in his hands, shaking that way?”

“Yes; spears curiously tipped with sharp pieces of flint; they can hurl them to a great distance, and when the natives are in numbers they become formidable weapons, to say nothing of their waddies and their womeras.”

“Waddies! What are they?”

“They are short thick clubs about four feet long, made of hard wood, with which they batter in your skull by repeated blows; but the womera is the worst weapon.”

“What's a womera?”

“It's a semi-circular piece of hard wood shaped in the form of an elongated crescent, with a sharp edge inside; the natives have the knack of throwing it with a peculiar sleight of hand difficult to be described, and they can bring down with it an emu or a kangaroo, or a man in their fights; and the curiosity of the weapon is, that if it misses the object at which it is cast, its revolving motion

  ― 144 ―
in the air causes it to return to the same spot nearly from whence it was thrown. I have stood by a Sydney native who was hurled it at an angle of about forty-five degrees almost out of sight, and I have had to jump aside pretty quickly to avoid being struck with it on its return to the spot it was thrown from.”

“Very curious, indeed! but here's the vessel, thank Heaven! And now we will put her in fighting trim. If we must have a bout with these natives, we'll teach 'em a thing or two before we have done with 'em.”

Expectation was eager on board to hear the information of the explorers, but the sight of the supposed native had so taken possession of the mate's mind, and he was so full of his plans for the coming fight, that he relieved the bushranger of all trouble to coin more lies to deceive the major and the rest of the crew as to the hostile intentions of the savages. And the ship's glass having been directed to the spot in the distance where Jerry had been judiciously posted by Mark Brandon to serve as a conspicuous object to corroborate his story of the natives, they beheld

  ― 145 ―
that much-abused individual in all the glory of black mud and red ochre, performing the part of a native to the bushranger's admiration, and brandishing his spears and stamping about in the cold with a vigour and a ferocity of manner calculated to inspire awe in the beholders!

But there was one thing which Mark, astute as he was, had overlooked in his proceedings. He had forgotten that in the same way that the person of Jerry disguised as a native was visible to those on board, so was the brig visible to Jerry. Indeed, no sooner did Jerry catch sight of the vessel in the bay than he almost jumped out of his skin in the excess of his delight, and in his endeavour to give intimation to those on board of his own identity; but as he did not know how near the dreaded bushranger might be to him, he was afraid for a long time to move from his position. But he endeavoured to make up for that self-denial by the most frantic antics and gestures, which served only to confirm those on board the vessel, who were watching him through the ship's glass, in their opinion of the ferocious

  ― 146 ―
and cannibalistic intentions of him and his blood-thirsty companions.

Mark Brandon, however, was presently struck with the fault which he had committed in making known to Jerry the fact of the safety and of the position of the vessel. He announced, therefore, to those on board, who were industriously putting the brig in a state of defence, that he would go on shore again and endeavour to ascertain further information of the movements of the natives, an offer which was highly applauded by the mate, and cordially approved by the major, who were almost led to forget the bushranger's duplicity and violence in his laudable anxiety to preserve the women from the threatened attack. Besides, the honest mate's heart had been quite won by the bushranger's confidence in placing his gun in his hands:—

“Let by-gones be by-gones,” he said; “after all, it was natural for the man to wish to escape from the country where he was a convict and a slave; and if he is ready now to stand by us, and fight against the natives like an honest man, why his help is as good as another's.”

  ― 147 ―

It was not without some anxiety, however, that Mark proceeded in the direction of the spot where he had left his prisoner; and when he arrived there he found his fears confirmed, for nothing was left of Jerry and his accoutrements but two of the spears, and the cord with which the bushranger had bound him.

  ― 148 ―

Chapter XIV. A Surprise.

JERRY'S first impulse was to rush down to the vessel, and take his chance of the reception he might meet with, as anything was better than to be stuck up on a height, and made to perform a pantomime in which he was the chief and only performer; but the fear of encountering the bushranger and his associates, with a lively remembrance of the very unceremonious manner in which he had been pitched overboard on a former occasion, added to his modest disinclination to appear before the young ladies in a character as novel as it was unbecoming, decided him against that course, and he determined, bound as he was, to endeavour to find his way back to his companions in the boat.

  ― 149 ―

By dint of great exertion, and of convulsions of wriggling, he contrived to extricate his arms from their confinement, and was about to resume his clothes, which lay in a bundle at his feet; but catching sight of the bushranger at that moment in the hollow, who was hastening to rectify the blunder which he had made in allowing his prisoner to get sight of the vessel, he snatched up his bundle, and, with a celerity which would have done credit to a real native, he darted off in the direction o the hill, which he had marked as overtopping the spot where the soldiers and constables, with the boat, had taken shelter.

Mark had no sooner ascertained the flight of his prisoner than he guessed his course, and felt all the danger which would result from the information which he would give of the safety of the vessel, and of its position in the bay. Without hesitating a moment, he followed in the direction which he judged Jerry would take: and as he was more used to keep a straight line among the undulating hills than the pursued, it was not long before he caught sight of Jerry, with his shirt tails streaming in the wind, making vigorous attempts to surmount

  ― 150 ―
the hill which overhung the inlet where the boat of his companions lay sheltered.

The bushranger was strongly tempted to put an end to the embarrassment in a summary manner. He put his piece to his shoulder, and covered the unfortunate Jerry with a deadly aim; but at this moment the form of another person uprose over the crest of the hill, who, although visible to the bushranger, was unseen by Jerry.

The man came over the top of the hill in the direction in which Jerry was advancing; when, to his amazement, beholding the figure of what he supposed to be a native in a state of active aggression rushing on him with a spear in his hand, he hastily fired off his musket, and, immediately turning tail, made the best of his way back, followed by Jerry, who, out of breath and unable to articulate connected words, screeched and screamed unearthly sounds, which only made the terrified man scramble on the faster.

In this way they dashed into the constable's temporary encampment; when Jerry, overjoyed and exhausted, threw himself on the ground, where he was immediately seized and held fast.

  ― 151 ―

The soldiers, meanwhile, held their muskets ready to repel what they conjectured to be an attack from the natives, although the mode of its commencement seemed contrary to all the rules of war, native or foreign. But by this time Jerry had been raised up: joining his hands together, and looking up towards the sky, he uttered a pious ejaculation:—

“Thank God!”

“Why, man, what has happened to you?” said the constable, who, notwithstanding the black mud and red ochre, had no difficulty in recognising the podgy person of the corpulent Mr. Silliman; “what on earth has induced you to disguise yourself this fashion?”

“It wasn't me,” sighed out Jerry, “it was the bushranger!”

“The bushranger!—What, Mark Brandon?”

“The very same! He's here, and there, and everywhere!—I was trying to catch a kangaroo, when somehow the plaguy beast caught hold of me, and I tumbled down the hill, and when I got to the bottom, who should there be waiting for me but that confounded bushranger, and the moment

  ― 152 ―
I opened my mouth to speak, he clapped a pistol in it, and there I was hard and fast.”

“How is this?” said the corporal; “Mark Brandon was on board the vessel, and now you say he is on shore—are you quite sure it is the same man?”

“Sure!—There can be no mistake about that; whoever has been in his clutches once will be sure to know him again!—He set me on the top of a height, and there I saw the brig safe and sound in a little bay, surrounded by hills just like a basin.”

“The brig near us!” exclaimed the constable in surprise; “well, that's a bit of luck I didn't expect. We must look about us, corporal, and be alive;—we shall have work to do before night now.”

“Yes,” continued Jerry, “there was the brig; and with the glass they could have seen me, if they had looked that way; and that rascal, Mark, made me jump and caper about like a native—but what for, I'm sure, I don't know; I only know it was extremely disagreeable.”

“I have it,” said the constable, after a few moments'

  ― 153 ―
reflection. “Mark never does anything without a reason. Depend upon it that, by some means or other, Mark has discovered that we are here; and his object has been to keep the crew close, and to persuade them that the natives will attack them; and he made this little gentleman paint himself up for that very purpose, and placed him in view of the vessel to make those on board believe that the natives really were near them.—Now, corporal, we have no time to lose; we must get on board that vessel somehow, before a change of wind will allow it to leave the bay and put to sea. What is your sentry making motions at, and pointing up channel as if he saw something? Go, and see,” he said to the other constable. “It can't be the bushrangers coming down on us; look to your arms, my men—let us be ready. Corporal, you had better take the command when it comes to fighting: I am used to the bush, and to the ways of the bushrangers; but, when it comes to the scratch, I am under your orders, you know.—Every man to his trade, say I.”

The constable's messenger quickly returned with the tidings that another boat was coming down

  ― 154 ―
the channel along the coast, and would presently be near the entrance of the creek.

He had scarcely delivered his message, when a large boat shot round and entered the inlet, containing a serjeant's guard, under the command of an ensign, who had been despatched by the government authorities, in consequence of the suspicious movements of the brig, which had been telegraphed to head-quarters. They brought the information, also, that a large body of convicts, supposed to be thirty in number, had escaped in the same direction as Mark Brandon; and it was feared that if they were able to join him they would become, under his leadership, a formidable body, and requiring the additional aid which was sent to the constable's assistance.

The ensign, on whom now devolved the command of the party, proceeded to make the necessary inquiries for his guidance, in which Mr. Silliman became an important person, as he alone had been a witness of the acts of the bushrangers. The ensign proceeded to interrogate him with military precision:—

“How many of the bushrangers are there?”

  ― 155 ―

“Six,” replied Mr. Silliman, “besides Mark Brandon; but he is as good as a dozen himself.”

“That's seven. Now, how many are the crew and passengers on board the brig?”

“There are nine sailors,” replied Mr. Silliman, “and the mate, and me—no, I'm here—that's ten men; and the steward and the boy—that's twelve; and the major and his two daughters—that's fifteen in all. If I was there it would be sixteen.”

“The major!—major who?”

“Oh! I forgot—Major Horton and his two daughters.”

“Major Horton!”

“Yes, Major Horton.”

“And his two daughters, did you say?”

“Yes. Helen is the elder one, and Louisa the other.”

“Helen Horton!” exclaimed the ensign, not able to restrain his surprise; “how very extraordinary!—And pray,” said he, in a tone in which might be observed a little vexation, “have you come in the same vessel with them the whole way from England?”

“To be sure I did. I gave the major a hundred

  ― 156 ―
guineas for my passage, and paid the money down before I left the river; and the only thing I bargained for was, that there should be lots of bottled porter;—the cigars I found myself.”

“Major Horton—with Helen and Louisa!” repeated the ensign; “what a singular circumstance! Those rascals have not ill-treated them?” he asked, suddenly turning to Mr. Silliman; “if they have insulted them by word or look I will show them no mercy, so far as depends on me.”

“Oh! Mr. Brandon is quite the gentleman,” replied Jerry: “He just chucks you into the sea, or knocks you down with the butt-end of a musket, or makes a native of you, but it's all done in the politest way in the world! It's impossible to complain of him! and I wish I had him, with his neck just under my two thumbs; if I didn't give him such a squeeze as he would remember all the days of his life, my name's not Jeremiah Silliman, that's all!”

Mr. Trevor, who held a commission in the regiment a division of which had lately arrived in Van Diemen's Land, was a young man about two-and-twenty years of age, who had entered the

  ― 157 ―
army from an enthusiastic predilection for a military life. He had eagerly embraced the opportunity of going out to Australia, as he considered that those new and unexplored regions presented a new field of adventure, untrodden by the foot of the vulgar traveller, and likely to furnish scenes of romantic adventure, in which his spirit of enterprise might find opportunity for exercise. He had met Helen Horton about two years before at a foreign watering-place, where he had been captivated by her beauty, and had been powerfully struck with a character of mind which, in its courage and independence, was similar to his own. Circumstances had separated them at the time; but the impression which Helen had made on him was too powerful to be forgotten, and he had taken much pains to trace out the place of her abode, in England and abroad, but without success.

To meet with her again, after his vain search for her in Europe, struck him as the most romantic coincidence in his life; and it added not a little to his zeal in recovering the vessel, and in capturing the marauders, to think that he should at the same time do a most important service to one whom he

  ― 158 ―
now regarded as reserved, by a propitious destiny, to enable him to show to the world a gallantry and courage, for the exercise of which he had never yet found an appropriate occasion. Full of ardour, therefore, for the enterprise, and bearing in mind the possibility of the thirty additional prisoners having joined Mark Brandon's party, he lost no time in consulting with the constable, who was an experienced hand in the bush, as to the best means of regaining possession of the vessel.

The shades of evening were now fast drawing in, but as the nature of the business was pressing, and as it was possible for the brig, by a sudden turn of wind, to be carried out of the bay by the bush-rangers who were supposed to have possession of her, he decided on making an immediate attempt to recover her, and at any rate to establish his party in a position commanding the outlet of the bay.

As the wind and sea were too rough and high to allow of their making progress in the boats, it was resolved that a sufficient guard should be left for their protection, and that the ensign, with the soldiers under his command, with the addition of the

  ― 159 ―
constables as guides and assistants, should proceed at once to a convenient spot in the vicinity of the bay, and then to act according to circumstances.

They moved on accordingly, guided by Jerry and one of the constables; but as the darkness increased, and as the country was difficult, interspersed with loose rocks, and intersected continually with deep ravines embarrassing to cross, and as they were obliged to be cautious to avoid a disgraceful surprise, their progress was necessarily slow.

In the mean time Mark Brandon had not been idle. He had viewed, from a convenient ambush, the whole proceedings of the pursuing party—the arrival of the reinforcement, and the arrangements which he partly saw and partly guessed for the advance of the military. But as night was approaching, he judged that no attempt would be made in the dark to recover possession of the brig; and he calculated, therefore, that he had eight hours before him to form his own plans, and make his own preparations.

But at this point his ingenuity was for a time at a loss. He had fully succeeded in impressing on

  ― 160 ―
the fears of the crew, that an attack from the natives was to be apprehended—a delusion in which he had been materially assisted by the admirable acting, unconscious though that individual was of his pantomimic talents, of the excited Jerry; but the time was now come when some other scheme must be contrived, either to put off the threatened attack of the soldiers, or to repel it successfully when made. Any attempt to persuade the major and the mate that it was an attack of bushrangers he felt would be idle, as, at the first appearance of the rescuing body, and especially of the red coats of the soldiers, they would be aware that it was a party sent to their succour, and they would be prepared to assist in their own liberation. Could he contrive to get the mate and the major again in his power with the crew, and then, by keeping the vessel in the middle of the bay, which was of an oval shape, and about two miles across in its broadest part, fight it out with the parties on shore, and trust to chance for the favourable opportunity of a change of wind to run the vessel out to sea?

That was a bold thought; but it was the best plan if it could be done. But how to do it, with

  ― 161 ―
the major and his chief officer on their guard, and the crew ready to resist? Still it was his only chance of escape from the colony, and a life in the bush was both hazardous and unprofitable. Such an opportunity might never occur again; the vessel was small and handy; he had possession of her; she was ready for sea, for under the directions of the mate her deck had been already disencumbered of the main-top-mast which had been shattered in the gale, and the vessel had been put in as good trim as circumstances allowed. If he could once get to sea he could repair damages, he considered, at his leisure; and as to any boats which might be sent in pursuit, he had no fear of being able either to distance them, or to beat them off.

He determined, therefore, on the bold plan; and he immediately bent his thoughts to effect its execution before daylight and the knowledge of the proximity of their friends should give the major and his party the advantage. As he revolved these thoughts he arrived at the edge of the bank to which the vessel was moored, and stepping on board, hastily gave directions for moving the vessel into the centre of the bay.

  ― 162 ―

“I have been watching the natives,” he said, “and they are preparing for a night attack; our best plan therefore is to remove the vessel out of the reach of their spears and arrows.”

“I have no great fear of their spears and arrows, said the mate; “there are enough of us, I think, to stand any attack that the natives can make on us; but there's no harm in moving the brig to the middle of the bay, if you can keep her there. You see there are little eddies and currents of wind flying all round us under these hills, and there's no knowing where a puff may come from; and it's getting darkish, and we don't know what rock or shoal we may light on in this outlandish place.—But do as you please, there's no harm in being safe at any rate. I only wish the wind would change, and then we might get out of this trap; though it has proved a lucky trap for us for the matter of that: I thought it was all over with the poor brig just before she shot into that opening yonder! But let us thank God for our luck, and keep our eyes open for what's to come next. Your friends there don't look very sociable,” he continued, pointing to the six bushrangers, who,

  ― 163 ―
with their muskets in their hands, stood ranged in a line on the larboard side of the quarter-deck, while the sailors unarmed were congregated together in the fore-part of the vessel: “is this to be the game all night?”

“Sorry to hurt your feelings,” said Mark Brandon, “but you know it's a truce at present; but my people feel more easy in their minds that way; no offence meant, however.”

“Well,” replied the mate; “but that's not the way to make other people feel easy in their minds, to have loaded muskets cocked at them that fashion all night; it's not very polite to the ladies—Mister—Mister pilot!”

“Perhaps the ladies might prefer to go on shore,” replied Mark.

“But who are to protect them from the natives?”

“Take your own crew to protect them, if you will, while I take care of the ship.”

“But our sailors have no arms.”

“Let them take arms,” said Mark; “you see, Mr. Northland, I am inclined to trust you, though you will not trust me.”

“Eh!” exclaimed the mate, a sudden, and, as

  ― 164 ―
he flattered himself, a brilliant thought occurring to him, “and you say you will let us take arms on shore with us?”

“To be sure I will, to protect the ladies.”

The mate immediately dived down to the major, who was in the cabin with his daughters, and proposed to him to accept the bushranger's offer.

“But that would be abandoning the vessel to the bushrangers,” suggested the major.

“No matter,” said the mate; “they cannot get the vessel through the narrow entrance of the bay without our help; those fellows could never do it, so that we should have them at our mercy; besides, what can we do on board? They have possession of the arms, and if it came to a struggle, although we might make a fight of it, we could scarcely expect to get the better of them. But with arms in our hands, although outside of the vessel, we might do something; besides, we should fight together and without being embarrassed with the fear of the women being hurt. Only let us get arms in our hands, and trust to fortune for the rest.”

“But the natives?”

  ― 165 ―

“We must do as well as we can with them; besides, I can't help having a suspicion that there is some sham about this threatened attack of the natives. I never read nor heard of such a large body of natives collecting together, and this is the first I have heard of their bows and arrows.”

“But we saw one of their scouts on the height,” said the major, “shaking his spears at us; he was a most ferocious-looking monster, though it struck me he was shorter and fatter than the natives are represented to be in the books which I have read about them.”

“It's a great point,” said the mate, “to get ourselves out of the immediate power of this man and his fellows. It is not easy to fathom his plans, but it seems to me we can't be worse off than we are, and with arms in our hands we may be better. What do the young ladies say to it?”

Helen and Louisa, who were lying exhausted on their couches, rose up at this appeal, and added their entreaties that their father would take advantage of the bushranger's offer and take them on shore. It was not without some difficulty, however, that the major could bring himself to

  ― 166 ―
leave the vessel which contained nearly the whole of his property:—

“Why,” he remonstrated with the mate, “I should have thought you the last man in the world to quit the ship, and abandon it to the bushrangers!”

“Will you fight it out now then,” said the mate, “and take our chance of the result?”

“We are unarmed,” replied the major; “we can have no chance against men with fire-arms, fighting too with halters round their necks.”

“That's just it,” replied the mate; “we are unarmed, and what can we do? That Mark Brandon can drive us all below when he pleases, and put to sea if his men can work the vessel, and what are we the better for that? Better have our liberty on shore, than be bound hand and foot here, to be heaved overboard whenever it may suit him to do so. If it came to that, I would rather trust to the natives than to rascally convicts.”

“Agreed then,” said the major; “we will go on shore, and trust to chance for the rest.”

The mate lost no time in communicating the

  ― 167 ―
major's acceptance of the offer to Mark Brandon, who, on his side, seemed quite ready to perform his part of the treaty with good faith and sincerity. But first he desired to have an interview with Major Horton.

  ― 168 ―

Chapter XV. A New “Dodge.”

“MAJOR,” said the bushranger, assuming, with immeasurable impudence, the tone of the injured party, “I am sorry to find from your officer that you do not trust me!”

The major was exceedingly embarrassed; he was summoned into the presence of the man who had fraudulently taken possession of his brig, and monopolised all the arms for his own followers, having committed violence on his mate and on the crew, and he found himself suddenly called on to exculpate himself from a charge of want of confidence in the very man, who with consummate duplicity had succeeded in committing an act of piracy on his own vessel! The scene would have

  ― 169 ―
been ludicrous from the absurdity of the accusation, if the appearance of the six bushrangers with muskets cocked and presented had not given too serious an aspect to the affair to allow him to deal with it lightly.

“You do not trust me,” repeated Mark Brandon, with an air of outraged virtue which was highly melo-dramatic; “but as I have said before, I will trust you, if you will pledge your word of honour not to take advantage of my confidence by turning your arms against me.”

“What is it you propose?” demanded the astonished major.

“Your officer,” continued Mark Brandon, “has expressed his suspicion that I may take advantage of your defenceless condition during the night, and endeavour to confine your crew below as they were before.”

“Well,” said the major.

“Now to prove to you that I have no such design, but on the contrary that I am desirous to act together to resist the attack of the natives, I am ready to allow you all to go on shore immediately.”

  ― 170 ―

“But the arms?” said the mate.

“Just so; and not only will I do that, but I will allow your men to take arms and ammunition for their defence should they be attacked; when you can either return on board, or we will land and assist you as may be thought best.”

“That sounds all fair enough,” said the mate, shaking his head, and trying to penetrate into the secret object of the bushranger, if there was one:—“that sounds all fair enough. What do you say to it, major?”

“I have no objection to pledge myself not to make use of our arms against you for twenty-four hours,” replied the major; “that is, presuming that you will allow us at the same time to supply ourselves with provisions, and that you will let us take such necessaries on shore as we require.”

“And you, major, and you, Mr. Northland,” said the bushranger, “now pledge your word of honour for yourselves and your crew, that for twenty-four hours you will not use your arms against us?”

“We do,” said the major and the mate; “and

  ― 171 ―
so do we,” echoed the sailors, who had gathered aft to witness the conference.

“It is agreed then,” said Mark Brandon, rejoiced at the success of his scheme. “And now the first thing is to get the ladies on shore.”

“We will just land a couple of men first,” said the mate, “to see that the coast is clear; we don't want to be eaten up by the natives.”

Two of the sailors, accordingly, after having first received arms and ammunition according to compact, stepped on shore; and the rest of the sailors being employed to convey to the land various articles of comfort from the principal cabin, together with provisions, with wine and spirits, the party was quickly transferred from the deck of the vessel to the greensward by its side. Mark then adjusted the sails so as to propel the brig into the centre of the bay, where, by proper manœuvres, he kept it nearly stationary, praying heartily for a change of wind, which would enable him to take the vessel through the narrow entrance of the basin into the open sea.

In the mean time the party on shore prepared for their night bivouac. It was more than dusk,

  ― 172 ―
and they could not see far beyond the immediate spot which they occupied, but the major, not forgetful of his military habits, soon pitched upon a place where they were secured by a high rock in their rear, and having in front loose masses of stone which would serve as obstructions to an advancing enemy, and afford a shelter to the assailed party, behind which they might defend themselves with advantage.

They thought it prudent not to light a fire, as it might attract the observation of the savages; but the major having fortified the spaces in his front with logs and branches of trees, and disposed of his daughters behind a projecting mass of rock, sent out a scout to gain intelligence of the enemy. After a short absence the scout returned with the information, that to the left of the major's post, there was the reflection of a fire, which was burning brightly.

This was a piece of news too serious to be neglected; and the major commissioned the mate therefore to proceed with great caution to examine into the state of affairs, and to report the numbers and the apparent intentions of the natives.

  ― 173 ―
This the worthy officer proceeded to do; advancing slowly and stealthily towards the fire, and surprised not to observe any appearance of the natives of whom Mark Brandon had discoursed so largely. As he got nearer to the light he crawled on his hands and knees, expecting every moment to light upon a native, and admiring the cunning with which they had contrived to conceal themselves from observation.

It happened that Mr. Silliman had volunteered, in the excess of his enthusiasm, to keep watch at that point, and although the ensign in command was too prudent to trust the safety of his men to an inexperienced person, he permitted him to occupy a position in advance of his own sentries to give notice of any distant alarm.

It was while the romantic Jerry, unconscious of danger, was looking up to the stars of the southern firmament, and was comparing their light with the gas-lamps of Cheapside, that he felt his leg suddenly grasped in the rough embrace of the worthy mate, who was silently groping his way round the rock near which Jerry was standing. The first thought of the affrighted Jerry was that he was

  ― 174 ―
seized by some ferocious animal indigenous to the country; by some immense boa-constrictor perhaps, or by the native hyæna, of whose fierceness and voracity he had read frightful accounts in books of travels.

Too much terrified to cry out, he stood for some seconds paralysed! while the mate, on his side, finding that he had got hold of a man's naked leg, did not doubt that he had clutched a native, and waited, it must be confessed, not without some anxiety, for the yell which he expected would bring to the spot a crowd of black fellows to the assistance of their brother.

Jerry, however, had strength of mind and strength of finger left to give a desperate pull at the trigger of his musket, which, in virtue of his quality as sentry, had been entrusted to him by the constable. The noise of the report amazed the mate, who, with a seaman's pertinacity, however, did not relinquish his grip of Jerry's leg, albeit that it overturned all his calculations to find fire-arms in the possession of a native.

The major's quick ear caught the well-known sound immediately, and he redoubled his diligence

  ― 175 ―
to secure his fortifications from a sudden attack. The ensign and his soldiers stood to their arms: while the faint echo of the musket-sound conveyed to the watchful bushranger the fatal intimation that some discovery had taken place on shore which could bode only ill to him, from the junction of the parties now united for his destruction, and which required the exercise of all his cunning and unequalled daring to guard against and to repel.

  ― 176 ―

Chapter XVI. Mr. Silliman Insists That He Was Not Drowned.

THE mate, astonished to find a native, as he supposed, in the possession of fire-arms, was a little at a loss for a few seconds to know how to act; for there seemed to be as much danger in retreating as in remaining where he was. But as the report of the musket was not followed as he expected by a yell from the other savages, and as the ensign's party was too far off for their movements to be heard, the sturdy seaman quickly recovered his presence of mind, and with professional audacity conceived the design of carrying in the native as a prisoner to the major's encampment.

He still kept a firm grip of Jerry's leg; and that astounded individual, persuaded that his limb was

  ― 177 ―
clutched either by a real native or by some ferocious animal of the woods, was too terrified for some time to give vent to his fright by vocal exclamations. Nor did his enemy give him time; for the mate starting on his legs, suddenly clasped him in his arms, and before Jerry could cry out, threw his prisoner on the ground, and ramming his handkerchief into his mouth in a moment with a bit of lanyard which, sailor-like, he always carried about him, he tied Jerry's elbows together, and so had him hard and fast.

Poor Jerry finding himself trussed up after this fashion, with his face to the earth and his antagonist's knee in his back keeping him down, immediately concluded from the celerity and dexterity of the operation, that by some horrid mischance he had again fallen into the clutches of the dreadful bushranger, and he gave vent to his anguish in a doleful groan!

But the mate, who had possessed himself of the musket and bayonet of the captured sentinel, immediately endeavoured to make the native sensible that any noise would be promptly punished; and “unshipping” the bayonet, as he mentally expressed

  ― 178 ―
it, that it might form a handier instrument for his purpose, he applied it gently but decidedly to the fleshy part of his prisoner's person, which caused the party afflicted to perform an undulatory contortion of his body, wriggling it snakelike, and digging his toes into the ground with a quick and convulsive motion, strongly expressive of his dislike to the operation,

Several attempts at crying out were repressed in the same way; but the mate could not help being exceedingly surprised to find a native of Van Diemen's Land clothed like an European; which was altogether at variance with all that he had heard on the subject. But his astonishment was increased when Jerry, not being able any longer to bear the arguments à posteriori repeatedly applied by the mate to keep his prisoner quiet, with a convulsive effort contrived to disengage the handkerchief from his mouth, and in the extremity of his despair roared out “Murder!”

Sailors are proverbially superstitious. The voice was the voice of Mr. Silliman, whom the bushrangers had chucked into the sea, and whom the mate had supposed long since to have become food

  ― 179 ―
for the Australian fishes! Utterly unable to account for the resurrection of the drowned Jeremiah at such a time and in such a place, the amazed mate—his faculties wearied and confused with the events of the day, and the strangeness of an unknown country, and the darkness, helping, as he afterwards explained, “to flabbergast him entirely”—was struck with the notion that he was the sport of the Evil One!—or else that it was with the spirit of the murdered passenger that he was now contending!

For a moment the courage of the hardy seaman was at fault. As to bushrangers, or natives, or anything living, howsoever dangerous, he snapped his fingers at them; but to have to do with an unreal thing! the ghost of one who had met with a violent death! that was more than his nautical philosophy could bear; and he meditated a hasty retreat, when his prisoner, who had recovered his breath, set up a second shout:

“Murder! help! Here are the bushrangers on us! Help! murder!”

It was certainly the voice of the deceased Jerry! But the sincerity of his terror as exhibited in the

  ― 180 ―
energy of his cries, and the plump substantiality of his person so indicative of a real living body, struck the worthy mate, and dispelled the superstitious feeling of ghostly apparitions or supernatural agency. Wishing to test still farther the fact of the body under his knee being that of a real living man, he applied the bayonet in a manner calculated to elicit that fact by some further demonstration.

“Don't,” beseeched Jerry; “pray, sir, don't; good bushranger! Mr. Mark Brandon! I'll do what you please; but don't—don't keep sticking that ugly bayonet into me every instant. …”

“Why!” exclaimed the mate, “who the devil are you?”

“Mr. Northland! By George, it's all right after all! What! don't you know me? Don't you know Mr. Silliman, the passenger on board your ship?”

“But that Mr. Silliman was drowned,” returned the mate, still keeping his knee stuck into Jerry's back, as a precautionary and preventive measure against sudden retaliation; “I saw him go down myself.”

  ― 181 ―

“I know I went down,” replied Jerry; “but I came up again:—I wasn't drowned. The boat that we thought was full of bushrangers, contained a party of soldiers and constables, who were in pursuit of Mark Brandon and his gang, and they saved me.”

“And where are they?” asked the mate. But before Jeremiah had time to answer the question, the mate uttered a peremptory “Hush! I hear footsteps approaching.”

“Who comes there?” said a voice, which Jerry recognised as that of the ensign; “Mr. Silliman, is that you?”

“Ay, ay,” said Mr. Silliman, getting on his legs, to which the mate assisted him; “it's me, and more than me. Here's the mate of the brig, Mr. Northland. He caught hold of my leg in the dark, and I fired off my musket.”

“Are you sure it is the mate of the brig?”

“Sure! Haven't I made all the voyage with him? and do you think I don't know his voice as well as I do my own?”

“Where are the bushrangers?” inquired the ensign.

  ― 182 ―

“On board the brig,” replied the mate. “They offered to let us go on shore with arms to protect us from the natives; and as they had us completely in their power, the major thought it best to agree to it. When I gripped Mr. Silliman's leg, I thought I had got hold of a native.”

“There are no natives in this part of the island,” said the constable; “what put that in your head?”

“Why, Mark Brandon declared there was a mob of at least three hundred natives preparing to attack us! And I saw one myself, a most ferocious-looking rascal, brandishing his spears at us from the top of the hill …”

“That was me!” said Jerry. “It was that confounded bushranger who made me paint myself like a native with his filthy black mud, and stuck me at the top of the hill to frighten you.”

“By Jupiter,” exclaimed the mate, “I see it all now! And that confounded bushranger, with his jaw, has been persuading us all the time that you were a party of natives; for we saw the smoke of your fire over the hills. That we could ever be such fools as to be so bamboozled!”

“Don't be ashamed,” said the constable, availing

  ― 183 ―
himself of the freedom of the bush to put in his say; “Mark Brandon has bamboozled as good heads as yours; but now we must see if we can't bamboozle him.”

“Come on to the fire,” said the ensign, “and then you can explain more of this matter to us. There is something in it that I can't altogether comprehend. This Mark Brandon seems to have the art of the devil himself to deceive you all in the way that he has done.”

The mate, during this colloquy, had freed his prisoner from the cord, and at the invitation of the ensign, he moved on with Jerry to the spot where the fire was blazing brightly. They were duly challenged by the sentries as they approached; and having reached the light, it was with considerable curiosity that the mate surveyed the well-known podgy person of his fellow-passenger of the brig; not without some vague lingerings of doubt, however, as to whether he could be the real Silliman after all, so strongly was his mind impressed with the remembrance of having seen him going down to the bottom of the sea in D'Entrecasteaux's channel. He was glad, however, to sit down by the

  ― 184 ―
side of the fire with the ensign, while Mr. Silliman endeavoured to rest himself on his knees.

The ensign, observing that he continued in that unnatural and inconvenient posture, asked him, goodnaturedly, why he did not sit down? But Jerry shook his head, and rubbing himself behind with a most lugubrious expression of countenance, intimated that the mate's vivacious hints with the bayonet had incapacitated him from enjoying that luxury for some time to come.

The mate having explained the meaning of Jerry's pantomimic action, the bystanders, as is usual on such occasions, set up a hearty and simultaneous laugh, which was rendered the merrier by the comical seriousness preserved by the smarting Jerry, who did not laugh at all; and, as he observed, “couldn't see what there was to laugh at. How would they like it themselves?”

Their merriment quickly gave way, however, to the more serious consideration of the steps to be pursued for the recovery of the brig. The major's daughters were safe; that was a great point; and George Trevor's heart beat quick as he thought that the Helen, whom he had sought over a large

  ― 185 ―
part of Europe in vain, was even now within a short distance from him, and that in a brief space he should have the happiness of beholding her again!

In his romantic enthusiasm he was almost angry that circumstances had disappointed him of the opportunity of showing his courage by rescuing her from the power of the bushrangers! But that idea soon gave way to more sober thoughts. Her father, by the mate's account, would be ruined by the loss of the brig, in which had been embarked nearly the whole of his property; besides, it was his duty to leave no means untried of capturing the runaway convicts, who were in arms against the government, and whose escape it was important to prevent, lest it should operate as an encouragement to similar attempts.

He turned his attention, therefore, firmly to the business of retaking the brig, without allowing the thought of Helen, whom he burned to see again, to distract him from his duty; but, as he considered that the major's military experience would be valuable in deciding on the proceedings to be adopted, he determined on joining him without delay.

  ― 186 ―

Desiring his party to follow in Indian file, and requesting the mate to act as guide, they proceeded as rapidly as the darkness and the inequality of the ground would permit to the spot where the major, with his daughters and the crew of the vessel, held their entrenched encampment.

  ― 187 ―

Chapter XVII. Love in the Bush.

IN the mean time the major, with the vigilance of an old soldier, had kept a good look-out. On the departure of the mate he had pushed forward a couple of scouts to give notice of anything indicating danger.

It was not long before one of them came back with the intelligence that footsteps were heard approaching. The major went to the outside of his fortifications a little in advance, and placing his ear to the ground was enabled to distinguish plainly the sound of the tread of many men. Giving instant directions to the crew to be on their guard, and retiring his two scouts within the breast-work, the sturdy sailors stood with their

  ― 188 ―
arms ready and prepared to repel the attack of the natives, which they now were convinced was on the point of taking place.

The major was by no means at ease in respect to the result of the conflict; for he was aware of the power of numbers, and the advantage which a night attack, under such circumstances, gave to the attacking party. He hastily spoke a few words to re-assure his daughters' confidence, with some brief instructions as to the course they were to pursue in the case of his being overpowered by numbers.

Helen, and especially Louisa, could not help feeling the alarm natural to their sex at the prospect of an encounter with savages, not only on their own account, but for their father's sake, who was not a man, as they well knew, to be backward where fighting was going on, or to shrink from danger when his presence and example were needed to encourage others.

But, with the strong-minded Helen, the tremors which the first alarm had excited, quickly subsided, and, arming herself with a ship's cutlass, she planted herself before the entrance of the

  ― 189 ―
rock to guard from harm her less courageous sister.

“Shall I fire, sir?” asked one of the sailors, who held in his brawny arms a huge blunderbuss, the threatening aspect of which was alone sufficient to scare away a whole mob of natives, had there been light to distinguish the capaciousness of its expanding muzzle:—“I can hear them coming on, and my blunderbuss covers them nicely; shall I let fly?”

“No, no,” said the major, “never fire, man, till you have hailed your enemy; always give fair play; don't fire.”

“Avast, there!” cried out the mate, who heard the word “fire,” and was by no means desirous of receiving such a compliment from his friends. “Avast! we are friends, all of us. Here is Mr. Silliman come to life again, and a party of soldiers come to join us; and now, by Jupiter, we'll have the old brig again; and I'll take the liberty to tell Master Mark Brandon a bit of my mind. And, with your leave, major, we'll make up a fire, for we are strong enough now to defy the bushrangers, even if they were to come on shore,

  ― 190 ―
which they won't do, for it's not their game; they will be trying to get the vessel through the opening and out to sea; but we 'll put a stopper on that, or my name's not Jack Northland.”

“Major Horton,” said Ensign Trevor, introducing himself by name, “I think I cannot do better than put myself under your orders; your knowledge and experience in these matters are far superior to mine.”

This deferential offer Mr. Trevor made by no means with the desire of propitiating the major, but entirely from the impulse of his natural modesty, so becoming in youth. But the major replied with military decision, in terms not less courteous:

“By no means, Mr. Trevor; you are on duty, and I am retired from the service. But I shall be happy to give you the benefit of my advice if you should think it worth having. But, your name! I had the honour to be acquainted abroad with a gentleman of the name of Trevor; is it possible that I can have the pleasure of meeting him again in this most extraordinary manner? And now, that the fire begins to burn up, I can see by the

  ― 191 ―
light that I am not mistaken. Helen, my dear, you may come forward; Louisa, my love, there is no danger. I have a surprise for you both; here is an old acquaintance. Mr. Trevor, my dears, whom you knew in Germany, is in command of the party that has joined us. Strange meeting this, Mr. Trevor! My poor little girl, you see, has not recovered from her alarm at the thoughts of the natives. Where is Helen, my love? She is generally foremost when there's danger; not that there's any danger now, and especially from you, Mr. Trevor. I see that the expectation of a brush has excited you a little. Oh! here comes Helen! My dear, why do you walk so slowly? Are you ill? Is anything the matter with your sister, Louisa? I am afraid, Mr. Trevor, that her spirits are too much for her! She is quite a heroine, sir; an Amazon! I believe to defend her poor father and her sister she would fight like a lioness! Helen, my dear, look up; this is Mr. Trevor; don't you remember Mr. Trevor? Surely you can't forget the long walks we used to take with him at Vienna! There—there—don't be making formal court'sies in the bush! This is not

  ― 192 ―
a place for ceremony, nor a time, neither. You are heated and flushed, my dear, with the excitement of our preparations for the natives. Well, upon my word, I never saw so much bowing and courtseying before! Mr. Trevor, I admire the deference due to the ladies as much as any man, but there's no need to be so very formal among gum-trees and opossums.”

“I am happy to see Mr. Trevor,” at last said Helen, in a low voice, which faltered slightly, and with an air of dignity which might have become a queen on her throne receiving an ambassador.

“Circumstances,” began Mr. Trevor, ….

“Major,” said the mate, coming forward from the rock, by which another fire had been kindled, “we want your assistance here about the provisions: our men say they ought to have some grog.”

“Excuse me,” said the major, “for a moment; I must attend to my fellows. Sailors, you know, Mr. Trevor, are an unruly race wherever rum and brandy are in question.”

So saying, he withdrew.

His daughter, Louisa, feeling, with the instinct

  ― 193 ―
of her sex, that George Trevor and her sister would prefer that their conference should take place without the presence of a third person, had the complaisance to accompany him; and the ensign and Helen were left alone together.

The spot on which the two found themselves in this most strange and unexpected meeting was one of the most romantic of that beautiful island, abounding, as it does, in varied and romantic scenery. It was a spot worthy of the pencil of Salvator Rosa. Nothing could exceed the gloomy grandeur of the scene, and the lights and shadows cast by the fires around added to the solemn beauty of the picture.

Scattered about were huge masses of rock, interspersed with dwarfy shrubs, among which appeared one or two umbrageous peppermint trees of enormous height, whose leaves presented towards the fire the vivid tints of their bright green, while the masses of boughs behind were involved in impenetrable shade. In the background, about a hundred yards from the fire, near which George Trevor and Helen were standing, arose a lofty mass of brown and rugged rock,

  ― 194 ―
disclosing in its front a natural cave of gigantic proportions, the entrance of which was now revealed by the light of the fire which had been kindled by the sailors, and who, with their muskets in their hands, were grouped around it in picturesque disorder. To the left, the bay, on which the moon now shed a feeble light, might be faintly traced to the base of the hills in the distance; and on its tranquil bosom the masts of the devoted brig were indistinctly visible. Still further, and to the left of the great rock, the open sea appeared, its undulating surface still crested with foam which glistened in the white beams of the rising moon beyond.

As George Trevor and Helen were standing on the side of the fire farthest from the rock, their persons could be but imperfectly seen by those in the vicinity of the sailors' fire, and the sentry in advance was removed from sight and hearing by the obstruction of the temporary fortification of timber and branches which had been thrown up for the protection of the major's party. Thus secured from the observation of eyes or ears, the two had full opportunity to make their mutual

  ― 195 ―
explanations; but it was some time before the ensign could muster up courage to break silence, as Helen stood, with her arms slightly folded, in an attitude of freezing rigidity.

“Miss Horton may think, perhaps,” he began, “that she has reason to complain—”

“Sir,” said Helen, “I make no complaints.”

“I mean,” resumed the gentleman, “that my seeming neglect—after what had passed—I mean, the declaration which I made—”

“Mr. Trevor,” interrupted Helen, “I require no apology for the neglect that you speak of, and it is superfluous for you, therefore, to offer it. This meeting, in these wilds, is not of my seeking—nor of yours, doubtless,” she added, with some degree of bitterness; “but such as it is, sir, we must be to each other as if former meetings had never been. I require from you, sir, nothing but respect—and forgetfulness of all the rest. Permit me, sir, to join my father.”

“Stay, Miss Horton! Helen! for God's sake do not go away with such an erroneous notion of my feelings! When I quitted you at Vienna, I was called away by the sudden and

  ― 196 ―
dangerous illness of my nearest and dearest relation ….”

“And the lady, sir, who accompanied you? Was she a near and dear relation too?”

“That lady was the betrothed of one of my dearest friends. It was to serve them both that I accompanied her to a village not five miles off, where her future husband awaited her. It was for the purpose of giving a false scent to those who might pursue her, that I consented to act the part I did, and which I have felt since might have given rise to the most fatal misconstruction. The lady is long since married to my friend; and as I am sure that you will not doubt my sacred word of honour, I hope I may trust that you will believe in the truth of what I tell you, which I now sacredly affirm. I addressed a letter to you at Vienna. .”

“I never received it!!”

“… to which I received no reply; but as the letter was not returned, I conceived, perhaps, an erroneous opinion of you from the slight, as I felt it, of your silence; and feared. … but I will not dwell on that point. In short, I do not hesitate to avow, that I searched for you

  ― 197 ―
through a great part of Germany, and afterwards in England; but, as you are aware, without success. My travels in pursuit of you occupied me for an entire year ….”

“Can this be true?” said Helen, her voice faltering with emotion.

“You cannot doubt my truth, Helen. At last, wearied with a vain search, and suspecting, from your not having replied to my letter, that—that—I am ashamed even now to breathe such a suspicion—in short—that you were trifling with my affections ….”

“Oh—no!—it was not that!” said Helen, her eyes suffused with tears.

“And wishing to fly from the misery of remembrances too bitter to be borne …”

Helen sobbed! …

“I determined to try if a total change of scene and new occupations would have the effect of making me forget one whom I had loved so tenderly—and who had treated me, as I thought, so capriciously—but whom I was determined to forget!”

“George—George—you have done me wrong

  ― 198 ―
I never was capricious. I thought you had wronged me;—and it was the thought of that neglect that reconciled me to exile—to this distant part of the world—where I might bury my grief and disappointment far away from the eyes of all observers. And I, too, have tried to forget—but I could not. No! a woman cannot forget! How often have I wished that she could!”

“Then—at this spot—” exclaimed George Trevor—“I repeat the declaration of my love; and by this token,” unbuttoning his vest and displaying a locket, in which his mistress had formerly enclosed a lock of her beautiful hair, “I claim the promise which I received …”

“George, you have it before you ask it. There is something so strange and so romantic in this singular meeting on the other side of the globe, after so long a separation, that I think it is fated that we are to belong to each other! You know,” she added, smiling, “it is said that marriages are made in heaven! There is my hand; I need not tell you that which you have made me so often tell you before: but be sure that where my hand is given, there my heart is also.”

  ― 199 ―

The happy ensign bent down in reverence, and kissed devoutly the proffered hand that was extended towards him in sign of reconciliation; and he was about to repeat the homage, when the voice of the major suddenly interrupted his devotions.

“Hulloa! hulloa!” said the major; “what is the meaning of all this? Kissing of hands in the bush! Why, Mr. Ensign, you make your military approaches with promptitude, at any rate! We want you to join a council of war with me, and the mate, and the constable; as we are the four dignitaries it seems, on whom the fate of the bushrangers depends. Well, upon my word, sir, you do me very great honour! You tuck my daughter under your arm as if she belonged to you! That's the military fashion of modern days, I suppose?”

“You forget, major, that our acquaintance is of old date: it was begun at Vienna.”

“Eh! what? acquaintance! Mr. Trevor, what do you mean?”

“I mean, major, that the acquaintance and the addresses which your daughter permitted in

  ― 200 ―
Germany, she allows me to renew in Van Diemen's Land.”

“Addresses! and, renew! Upon my word, you make quick work of it, you young fellows. This, I suppose, is a new edition of an old story! Love in the Bush! And you say that all this nonsense began at Vienna! Well, I think, Helen, you might have made me a confidant in the affair. You know I never would cross you in such a matter; but a father is something, after all! One likes to be consulted, at any rate!”

“My dear papa,” said Helen, in her most winning tones, “it was our intention to ask your permission—”

“What! after you had fallen in love you intended to ask my permission to do it! Ah! that's always the way!”

“My dear papa!” interrupted Helen, in great confusion, “pray don't talk so! I assure you it was our intention—but—you forget we were more than a year in Germany with Mr. Trevor.”


“A whole year!”

“Well—what of that?”

  ― 201 ―

“Miss Horton means to say,” said the soldier, gallantly coming to the rescue, “that it was impossible for me to be in her society for a whole year—short as the time was—without becoming penetrated with a sense of her many excellent qualities ….”

“Ah! you're both in the same tale, that's clear enough: the one keeps the other in countenance.”

“Dear papa, if I had thought that you disapproved …..”

“Of course! If you had thought that I disapproved! Oh! then you would both have fallen out of love again, I dare say! But let me tell you, although you thought yourselves so clever, that your old father saw plainly enough what was going on; and if he had disapproved, he would not have allowed Mr. Trevor to improve his opportunities as he did: your father was too old a soldier for that ….”

“Oh! my dear papa!”

“Oh! my dear sir!”

“Well, let me see — some explanations are necessary, Mr. Trevor.”

  ― 202 ―

“Oh, papa! George has explained everything.”

“But not to me, miss. Mr. Trevor, you can do that when we have more leisure. Our first business is to get possession of the brig, and to capture these rascally convicts. Now, Mr. Ensign, you will have the opportunity of showing what mettle you are made of. Mark Brandon is a desperate fellow, and he will not be taken without blood-shed, depend upon it.”

“Oh, heavens! Papa, what does it matter about the brig now? we are all safe out of it, and I cannot bear to think that any lives should be sacrificed in attempting to get it back again.”

“We are all safe out of it,” replied her father, “but all my property is safe in it; and we must endeavour to get it again. Besides, it is the duty of Mr. Trevor to leave no means untried to take the runaway convicts. He is in the king's service now, and is not his own master.”

Their further conversation was interrupted by the mate, who, at the suggestion of the constable, took the liberty to break in on the conference of the higher powers, to warn the major that it was near midnight; and that if the boats which had

  ― 203 ―
been left at the creek were to be brought round, no time was to be lost in effecting that desirable object, in order to intercept the brig, should a change of wind enable the convicts to attempt to force their way out through the narrow entrance of the bay.

The constable was summoned to add his advice to the council; and it was resolved, that all the crew of the brig, with the two constables, should make the best of their way to the place where the boats were left, and under the direction of the mate, lose no time in bringing them round into the bay, where the military under the command of the ensign would meet them. A corporal's guard was to be left at the rock for the protection of the women; and as the corporal was a veteran whose looks inspired confidence, this arrangement was agreed to by Helen and Louisa with tolerable resignation, although Helen ventured to throw out a hint that she should like to be a spectatress of the fight; and Louisa insisted a little on the propriety of her father remaining to protect them. But, soldiers' daughters as they were, they would have been ashamed

  ― 204 ―
to urge the absence of their father or their lover from the dangers to which others exposed themselves.

The resolutions relating to the boats were put promptly in course of execution, by the departure of those appointed for that service; and the ensign, after having posted sentinels to prevent surprise, desired the rest of his men to lie down with their arms at hand, and to take such rest as they could snatch from the fleeting hours of the early morning. For himself, he determined to remain on the watch.

The major, with his daughters, returned within the cave, and soon the whole party, with the exception of sentinels and their officer, were buried in profound sleep.

  ― 205 ―

Chapter XVIII. Mr. Silliman's Studies in Natural History.

THE report of the musket discharged by Mr. Jeremiah Silliman in the excess of his fright from the sudden clutch of the iron fingers of the mate, the faint echo of which was wafted in the silence of the night over the waters of the bay where the brig was temporarily moored, was not unmarked by the watchful desperado who had possession of the vessel.

The bushranger felt that the sound boded no good to him! It must have been heard, he feared, by some prying scout from the party in the boat; and the junction of the parties of the major and of the constable was thus certain; but although that was an

  ― 206 ―
anticipation, in point of time, of a mutual discovery which could not fail to take place, it was not an event which he had left out of his calculations. But he had hoped that the junction would have been deferred until a late hour in the morning; and, in the mean time, he trusted to his good fortune, that, at the dawn of day, a change of wind might take place, which would enable him to make his way through the narrow passage which formed the entrance of the bay; but now it was likely that he should have the two parties to contend against instead of one, and it was possible that the boats might be made use of to intercept his passage.

However, he reckoned that he should be able, from the vantage ground of the higher deck of the brig, to beat off the boats; and he trusted that the fire of the shore party would not be sufficient to clear his decks and prevent the manœuvring of the vessel before the wind would take him out to sea and place him beyond the danger of further pursuit.

He busied himself, therefore, during the night, with putting the vessel into the best state of

  ― 207 ―
defence against boarding of which she was capable and the materials at hand afforded; and, taking care that each sail was ready to be set to the wind, and that every rope was in order, he scanned the sky with eager gaze, and waited anxiously for the change of wind which the experience of his smuggler's life told him was preparing.

In this way the night was passed by the respective parties; the sailors attached to the pursuing body, with the crew of the brig working vigorously at their oars to bring the boat round to the entrance of the bay before the change of wind,—which, with nautical foresight of the weather, they were aware, from the appearance of the clouds, was likely to take place in a few hours,—should come; the convicts in the brig, with the wakefulness of the fear which accompanies crime, afraid to trust themselves to sleep lest they should be surprised they knew not when nor how, remaining in anxious watchfulness; and the united party on shore seeking in a brief repose for the renewed strength which would be wanted on the morrow.

Their peaceful slumbers, however, were suddenly broken at the earliest dawn of day by loud

  ― 208 ―
cries for help from the vicinity of the encampment.

The luckless Mr. Silliman was unable to close his eyes that night, partly from his excessive joy at being restored to the presence of his divinities, Helen and Louisa, and partly from the inconvenience of the flesh-wounds which had been inflicted by the mate, when that active officer mistook him for a native. It was with extreme apprehension of the fatal consequences that he reflected, that bayonet-wounds were, of all others, the most dangerous and the most difficult to heal, from the triangular form of the weapon which prevented the orifices from closing and healing, as the surgeons term it, “with the first intention.”

Full of these thoughts, and sorely grieved with the smart, he cast about, being as he was apt to boast, of a reflecting turn of mind, for some means of relief. Fortunately, as he thought, it occurred to him that the natives of some island in the South Seas, the name of which he had forgotten, made use of chewed leaves to apply to the wounds made by their spears and tomahawks. Much pleased with himself at this ready recollection

  ― 209 ―
of his reading from books of useful knowledge, he resolved to lose no time in turning it to account on the present occasion. He looked about, therefore, for a tree or shrub of an aspect sufficiently inviting for his experiment.

Seeing a noble tree at no great distance from the fire, he threaded his way cautiously to its base, and then he had the satisfaction of learning the cause of a particular sort of squealing and scratching which he had heard during the night, and for which he had been unable to account. Looking up to a projecting bough over his head, he saw that it was almost covered with some furry little animals resembling cats or squirrels, and which his knowledge of natural history enabled him at once to recognise as opossums. There was sufficient moonlight to allow him to see that the creatures devoured the leaves of the tree with much apparent relish.

This was another fact in natural history which he considered was of infinite advantage to him on the present occasion; for he had learned from descriptions of foreign countries, that travellers might safely venture to eat of that which they

  ― 210 ―
observed animals, and especially the birds, to feed on. He was by no means inclined to carry that theory into practice in respect to thistles, but, fortified by this demonstration of the taste of the opossums, he plucked some of the leaves of the luxuriant tree, which was one of those known by the name of “peppermint trees,” which abound in Australia, and whose odours perfume the air very pleasingly at a distance. Collecting a handful of these leaves, he forthwith set to at chewing them.

If the opossums were as curious in studying objects of natural history as their spectator, doubtless they would have admired the extraordinary contortion of countenance exhibited by the venturesome Jerry, as he became aware of the horrible nastiness of his first experience in practical botany. But the smart of the tattoeing of the bayonet at that moment becoming sharper, and acting as it were as a counter-irritation to the filth in his mouth, he recovered his surgical courage; and calling to mind that, by some curious ordinations of Providence, almost all medicines are valuable and curative in the inverse ratio of

  ― 211 ―
the pleasingness of their gustation, he resolutely chewed on; and having reduced the leaves to a proper state of pulp, he applied it in the form of a poultice to the part affected, and reclining himself in a convenient posture, endeavoured to compose himself to sleep.

But alas! little was he aware of the potent effects of the leaves of the fragrant peppermint tree! The acrid juices of the leaves acting on parts already vulnerised, had the same effect as cayenne pepper on an excoriation!

Wild and energetic was the dance now performed by the burning Jerry under the branches of the deceitful tree! His dance of the polka with the kangaroo was not to be compared with it! In vain he hastily divested himself of his torment, and threw it in his rage at the opossums chattering above his head! The smart grew sharper and sharper! and still the opossums, as it seemed, chattered and grinned at him from the bough, and hung by their tails, and turned over head and heels as if in scorn and mockery of the intruder on their retreats.

Stung with indignation at their taunts, and

  ― 212 ―
furious with the pain, the angry Jerry determined to take signal revenge on the little wretches, and he looked about for the means of climbing the tree, that he might secure some of the animals as offerings to his mistresses, opossum skins, as he had heard, being useful to make up into tippets and coverings for footstools. Presently spying out some inequalities on the bark of the tree, he climbed from knob to knob, till he reached the base of the branch on which he had watched his prey, which now, however, had retreated into the interior of the decayed trunk.

Nothing doubting that he should easily make prizes of some of those Australian curiosities, and balancing himself as well as he could, over the interior of the cavity, he dived his arm down boldly, expecting to reach the heads or tails of some of them. In this attempt he was, unhappily for himself, too successful; for the attacked opossums, as if with one consent, instantly seized upon his arm with teeth and claws.

The astonished Jerry, terrified at these unexpected assaults, and losing his presence of mind and his balance at the same time, fell into the hole

  ― 213 ―
among the opossums, when the enraged animals, looking at this fresh aggression as an overt act of hostility, fastened upon him with the most vehement squeaks, which were exceeded, however, by the violent shrieks of Jerry for assistance!

The horrid noise of the combined squealings and scufflings of the opossums, and the excited lamentations of Jeremiah, quickly roused up every one from his sleeping place; and the soldiers starting from the ground, seized their ready arms, and stood prepared to repel the enemy, who they supposed was close upon them.

“Now, major,” said the ensign, as the former emerged from the interior of the cave, “we shall have a brush! those impudent rascals are upon us!”

“Give me a sword,” said the major, seizing a ship's cutlass. “Now Trevor, I consider that you are in command! Where is the enemy?”

“Murder!” shrieked a stifled voice from the interior of the tree, about a hundred yards from the fires; “Murder! help!”

  ― 214 ―

“That's Mr. Silliman's voice,” said the major, “surely; but where is he?”


“It is Mr. Silliman's voice,” said both the girls, who, unable to restrain their curiosity, had come to the cave's mouth. “It's impossible to mistake it!”—


“It comes from that tree,” said the ensign.

“Corporal, take two file to that decayed tree yonder, with the thick wide-spreading branches, and see what's the matter.”

The corporal, making his military salute, immediately obeyed, and took his way rapidly but warily to the point.

At this moment, the head of the unfortunate Jerry appeared for an instant above the cavity, and as all eyes were directed to the spot, it was visible to the whole party. The head cast an imploring look at its friends, and then with another vociferous shout of—murder! instantaneously disappeared!

“Some wild beast must have got hold of him,” said the ensign. “This is a false alarm, it seems,

  ― 215 ―
excepting so far as it concerns that poor gentleman! It is the same person, is it not, whom your mate punctured last night to keep him quiet?”

“It is the same—poor fellow!—he was nearly drowned, too, yesterday.”

“Indeed! He seems to be unlucky. But I see the corporal has extricated him from his trap. What has happened, sir? What made you cry out so loudly?”

“Oh! the little devils! They have got claws like cats, and teeth like rats! Look at me!” said Jerry, displaying his hands and face, which were scratched and bitten in a hundred places. “In trying to catch an opossum, I fell into the hollow of the tree, and a whole host of the brutes fastened on me with all their teeth and claws! and all smelling like essence of peppermint! ….”

A general burst of laughter saluted the mortified Jerry at this pathetic account of his reception by the opossum family—so prone are people in general to treat with ridicule such comical disasters as do not harm themselves; but the general attention was suddenly turned from the spectacle

  ― 216 ―
of Jerry's damaged person, by the information of a sentinel posted on an adjacent eminence, which commanded a view of the bay, that “the brig was in motion!”

  ― 217 ―

Chapter XIX. Preparations for the Fight.

THE sentry's announcement of the brig being in motion at once turned the attention of all parties from Mr. Silliman's disaster to the business of the day. The few light clouds which were floating over their heads had already made them aware that the wind had changed, and that unless the boats arrived in time, there was little hope of their being able to prevent the escape of the brig from the bay.

The cheering light of dawn now enabled the major and his daughters to take a better survey of the spot which had formed their first resting-place on the shores of their adopted country; and although the southern and western coasts are

  ― 218 ―
remarkable for their general rugged and barren appearance, the sheltered nook in which they found themselves presented some of the most pleasing features of the country: and the more so from its contrast with the bare hills and sterile character of the country beyond.

The girls felt the influence of the scene; and had it not been for the expedition of danger on which their father and Mr. Trevor were intent, they would have keenly enjoyed the change from the boisterous storm at sea of the preceding day to the present tranquil scenery of their encampment.

The morning was clear and bright. The cold southern gale, which had driven the shattered brig into the land-locked bay, had been succeeded by a gentle air from the warm north; and the rising sun gave promise of one of those genial spring days in September, which delight so much with their enlivening freshness in Van Diemen's Land.

The melodious note of the native magpie was heard welcoming the dawn, A flock of white cockatoos from a neighbouring gum tree surveyed the

  ― 219 ―
strangers with curious eyes, as they elevated their yellow crests and chattered among themselves, without betraying the slightest alarm at the presence of their enemy—Man. Mr. Silliman wanted to have a shot at them; but the sisters prayed him to desist, and with some reluctance he obeyed; for with the true instinct of a Cockney, he wanted to fire at everything he saw, without caring much what it was that he killed, so long, as he expressed it, he “brought 'em down.”

A kangaroo rat would now and then hop across the grass, and scurry away when Jerry tried to catch it by the tail; and the shy bandicoot would timidly poke its nose out of a bush to see what was going forward.

On the withered branch of a distant tree sat a pelican, gravely watching the waters of the bay, on which a group of black swans were disporting, unconscious of danger.

A pair of black cockatoos, in a thicket hard by, were busy building their nest. Numerous Rosina parrots, with their bright green plumage, and pink heads and throats, flew hither and thither;

  ― 220 ―
and Mr. Silliman horrified the gentle Louisa by informing her that, according to the information of his vulgar friend, the constable, they made excellent pies!

A pair of eagles, soaring in circlets close above their heads, gave indication that the nest of those kings of the air was somewhere near, as with discordant screechings they strove to scare away the intruders from their haunts; while the singular cry of the little bird, not inappropriately called by the colonists “the laughing jackass,” and which particularly attracted Mr. Silliman's attention, added variety to the sounds of the awakened bush.

These novel sights and sounds were little heeded, however, by Mr. Trevor and the major, who had other matters of more pressing import to attend to.

The one had to consider the best means of regaining possession of the vessel, in which nearly the whole of his property was embarked, and the loss of which would leave him almost a beggar in a strange land, where the worst of all conditions is that of a poor gentleman unskilled in

  ― 221 ―
mechanical employments and without capital; and the other was impressed with the serious responsibility that attached to him, as the official commander of the party, if, in spite of him, the convicts should succeed in effecting their escape with the brig from the island; and, in defiance of the measures taken by the colonial government, set the dangerous example of a successful piratical expedition for the imitation of the other convicts, too many of whom would be ready and eager to make similar attempts at plunder and escape.

He had plenty of force to cope with a much larger body of bushrangers than those on board the brig; but without the boats his men were useless, and many accidents might prevent the arrival of the boats in time; and in such case it was impossible to prevent the escape of the brig to the open sea, where pursuit would be difficult, and perhaps impossible. Under such circumstances, all he could do was to take the best means in his power to intercept the brig at the entrance of the bay, with a faint hope that by a lucky shot some important rope might be cut in two,

  ― 222 ―
which would lead to a confusion on board, of which he might be able to take advantage.

Having refreshed his men, therefore, and seen that nothing was deficient in their equipments, he marched them to a platform on a rock which commanded the passage.

As it was of importance to have as heavy a fire as possible directed against the sails and rigging of the vessel, he did not think it consistent with his duty to leave a single man behind; but as Mr. Silliman could hardly be considered in a condition fit for active service, he left him in charge of the cave, which was turned into a temporary fortress for the protection of Helen and Louisa, and, with the aid of some dead timber, scientifically disposed, it was deemed that the safety of the ladies was secured against any sudden attack of the natives, should any be lurking in the vicinity; an event, however, which was regarded as quite beyond all possibility.

Mr. Silliman therefore remained on guard, to his infinite satisfaction; and, stifling his feelings in respect to the ills which remained behind, the warlike Jerry placed his hand upon his chest,

  ― 223 ―
and assured the major that before any harm should happen to Miss Helen or to Miss Louisa, the savages should eat him, musket and all! Shouldering his weapon with martial energy, he gave the departing body a military salute by holding up his firelock in a style which was a very good imitation of that military courtesy as performed by the soldiers, and which, to judge from the smiling sign of approbation of their officer, and the grins of the men, seemed to afford to those professionals not less amusement than satisfaction. The scene, however, presently grew more serious.

The sails of the brig meanwhile became gently distended with the favourable breeze which had sprung up from the north with the rising sun; and it was observed by the major that a sort of screen had been erected aft on the starboard side of the vessel to protect the man at the wheel from the fire of a hostile party on shore. Saving this indication of the presence of a steersman, there was no sign of a living soul on board; the sails seemed to act without the direction of human agency, and the gallant brig glided slowly through

  ― 224 ―
the tranquil water as if by the power of its own volition.

“That bushranger,” said the major to the commander of the party, “neglects nothing; my principal hope was shooting down the man at the helm and taking our chance of the vessel being swayed against the wall of rock on either side; and now there is no hope of that, for so far as I can make out, he has raised an effectual bulwark between us and the wheel. Musket balls will be of no use against that mass of canvass and stuff that he has built up so ingeniously. What is become of the boats?”

“They are here,” said the ensign, as he pointed to the head of one of them which at that moment came in sight from behind the projecting cliff, and which was quickly followed by the second, the largest of the two; “and they are just in time, for in another half-hour the brig would have been out at sea! Now, major, what do you advise to be done?”

“We must try to board them at once, and without giving them time to prepare themselves; although I fear that crafty freebooter has not

  ― 225 ―
left anything undone for his defence; but we must try at any rate. Let the brig come up close enough to allow the fire of half of your men to take effect from the shore, which will clear their decks, and give the opportunity to the boats to get alongside without loss. That shall be my duty in the large boat, while my mate commands the other. Do you back me up with your party from the top of the rock, and keep up as brisk a fire as you can, and try to keep the rascals on board below till we get alongside.”

The boats were not long in coming within hail, and the plan of the major was immediately acted on; with the difference only, that Trevor insisted on going in one of them, as it was the service of danger leaving his sergeant in command of the remaining military on shore, with directions to support the movements of the boats by keeping up a sharp fire at all who appeared on the deck of the vessel.

In the mean time the brig advanced slowly on towards the entrance of the bay, where the boats were lying to intercept her.

The vigilant bushranger, however, who surveyed

  ― 226 ―
the preparations made for his reception with a cool and deliberate eye, was well aware that if he persisted in attempting to force his way out through the enemies who were assembled to greet him, the chances would be prodigiously against his success.

He had only six followers, making, with himself, seven in number; whereas the party in the boats could not be less, as he calculated, than twenty persons or more, many of whom, he could see, were soldiers; and besides, there was a party of a dozen soldiers at least on the top of the rock at the entrance, in a position to sweep his deck with their fire. Under these circumstances, it was clear that while his enemies remained together he was by far the weaker party. His game therefore was to entice the boats from the entrance of the passage, and if possible to divide them.

He was inclined at first to run the gauntlet and take his chance; but his usual habit of cool and cautious policy prevailed; and he judged it best to endeavour to gain time and wait for the breeze to freshen, which it seemed likely to do, and which would give him a better chance of

  ― 227 ―
baffling the boats and of shooting through the narrow entrance of the bay.

With this intent, he kept the vessel steadily on her course, the sails requiring no trimming, as the wind was nearly fair; but when he had advanced within a quarter of a mile of the boats he suddenly changed her course, and directed the head of the vessel towards the opposite side of the bay.

“Now for it!” called out the mate; “we have him now. Give way, boys!”

“Stop!” said the constable, standing up and addressing his commander, who was in the other boat; “don't be in too great a hurry; depend upon it, Mark Brandon has not made that movement for nothing: he has some design in it, I'll swear. You see, sir, so long as we stay here we are sure of him, for he can't pass us—he sees that—but if we go after him, we may not catch him, perhaps, and we shall leave the passage open.”

“You are right,” said the officer, who was by no means offended at the interference of the constable, who was an experienced hand, and bush expeditions always allowing liberty of speech and

  ― 228 ―
of advice to those qualified to give it; “but suppose the other runaway convicts that we have had notice of should come up and join the party on board the brig? They might be too strong for us then; or at any rate it would cost the loss of more life in the capturing of them.”

“That's true,” said the constable; “but all I say is this, that Mark Brandon has not made that move for nothing; he is up to some dodge, depend upon it.”

“I am inclined to think,” said the major; “that our surest plan is to wait for him here: if we leave our position we leave the passage free, and he might slip through before we could come up with him.”

“No, no, major,” said the mate, whose head was too clear not to see at once the best course to be pursued in a case requiring nautical skill and judgment; “it will never do to stick here: it's all very well so long as there is but little wind, because we can be on him before he can help himself; but if it was to come on to blow a stiffish breeze, d'ye see, he might bang through us, and run down one of the boats, perhaps, before

  ― 229 ―
we could be aboard of him. My advice is to go slap at him. Lord! we are enough to eat him; and with two boats he can't get away from us. There he goes about again: you see what he's after; he's manœuvring for the wind to get up, and then he'll pass us with a wet foresail, and leave us to grin at him!”

The harangue of the mate was received with a general hurrah by the sailors, who had their own wrongs to avenge, and the soldiers showed by the restless handling of their firelocks that they were not less pleased at the prospect of getting at the possessors of the brig; although the habit of military discipline prevented any outward expression of their inclination.

“Why,” continued the mate, “we can take them with one boat, and the other can remain here, to catch 'em, if they get away from us. If the major will say the word, I'll be bound to have the rascals under the hatches, with our own men, without troubling the soldiers.”

“I think that is a good plan, Mr. Trevor,” said the major; “sailors are best for boarding. But we will alter Mr. Northland's plan a little, this

  ― 230 ―
way. I will go with him and the blue-jackets in chase of the vessel; while you, with your own boat, can keep steadily on in a straight line, so as to intercept her either way, and then we shall be able to close with her fore and aft.”

This plan was instantly adopted, and an interchange of the men in the boats having been effected, the major, in command of the blue-jackets, having his trusty mate as his lieutenant, immediately started in pursuit.

These arrangements were not unobserved by those on board the brig. The dimensions of the bay being about five miles from the entrance, and three broad, it seemed impossible for the brig to escape one or the other of the boats, although the wind was most favourable for her manœuvres, as it blew directly from the north towards the open sea, and gave the advantage to the vessel to make tacks on her quickest point of sailing from one side of the bay to the other.

But this game the bushranger was aware could not last long, if both the boats did their duty, and his only chance of escape was to delude them into pursuing him to the bottom of the bay, from

  ― 231 ―
which the fair wind would enable him easily to emerge; and then, as he calculated, if the breeze would only freshen a bit, he should be able to distance the boats, and get out to sea. As to the party lying in ambush for him on the rock at the entrance, he cared very little for their opposition, as the worst that their musket balls could do would be to riddle his sails here and there; and if the wind kept up, he should soon be out of their reach.

But when he saw the systematic plan adopted by his enemies, he began to fear that for once he had met with his match, and that his fate, so far as the brig was concerned, was sealed. With these thoughts he turned his attention to the possibility of making his escape to the shore; but before he did that, he was resolved to try every possible means of getting the brig out of the bay, either by stratagem or force. An unexpected accession of strength seemed to favour most opportunely the latter plan.

The second body of convicts who had taken to the bush as the ensign had informed the constable when he first joined that party, and whose escape

  ― 232 ―
had caused the authorities at Hobart Town to despatch the auxiliary detachment of soldiers under an officer's command, had made their way to the southern part of the island, whither, the report was, Mark Brandon had led his followers.

They had formed part of a road gang stationed about six miles from Hobart Town, on the road beyond Sandy Bay, and were most of them characters of the worst description, having been returned from settlers' service up the country to government employ, on account of bad conduct and insubordination.

It was the monotonous work, the restricted indulgences, and the severe discipline to which they were subjected when working on the roads, that had prompted them to the desperate expedient of taking to the bush, to which they had been stimulated also by the report that was abroad of a brig having been telegraphed which had not come up the river, and which led them to surmise that its capture was the object of Brandon's flight, a man who was well known to all the prisoners as one whose cunning in difficulties and

  ― 233 ―
daring in danger was sufficient for the successful execution of almost any enterprise howsoever difficult.

By dint of forced marches, which nothing but the desire of liberty could have enabled them to sustain, the runaways had contrived to make their way to the southern part of the coast, and to reach the hill which overlooked the bay—and which was the same on which Mr. Silliman had performed the part of a native with such dramatic effect—by daylight, on the morning when the boats commenced their active hostilities against the brig.

For some time they were doubtful how matters stood, and which was the party of Mark Brandon—that in the boats, or in the brig; and they watched the proceedings of both parties with intense interest from their covert behind the crest of the hill. But when the brig neared that side of the bay where they were concealed, and the rising sun glancing on the polished firelocks revealed the presence of the military, they had no doubt of the presence of enemies in that quarter; the more especially as the ensign standing up in the

  ― 234 ―
boat betrayed in a moment by his dress and demeanour his soldierly character.

They could see only four or five figures on board the brig, which confirmed them in their belief that it was in the possession of Mark Brandon, who was reported to have taken to the bush with half a dozen followers. Fired with the prospect of escape which this state of things afforded to the runaway convicts, and seeing the disproportion of strength between the attacking party in the boats and the small number which they concluded to be on board the brig, they saw at once that if they could add their additional numbers to Mark Brandon's force they might be able to beat off the boats, and fight their way successfully to the open sea. A consultation was immediately held between them.

They found that all their party were in an efficient state, notwithstanding the fatigue of their forced march through the bush, which nothing but the fear of pursuit and the desperation of their condition could have enabled them to perform. They had among them one musket and five fowling-pieces, which they had contrived to

  ― 235 ―
purloin previous to their escape from camp, with a dozen axes. They had no doubt of finding more arms on board: once there, they felt sure of the result. But how to apprise Mark Brandon of the arrival of friends—that was the point?

It was proposed that one of them should endeavour to swim on board; but that experiment was rejected as too hazardous. Another suggested that a signal should be made to the brig from the shore; but that course it was feared was as likely to attract the observation of the boats as of the vessel, and then their project would be defeated: besides, how was Mark to know from whom the signal proceeded—from friends or foes?

The attempt of communicating with the brig might have been altogether baffled if one rogue more ingenious than the rest, who had been a long time in the colony, and was well acquainted with bush expedients, had not thought of making a bark canoe after the manner of the natives, which would enable one of them to get afloat and reach the vessel. This idea was unanimously approved, and half a dozen immediately repaired to a cluster of stringy-bark trees, which were

  ― 236 ―
observed about a quarter of a mile off, in a hollow, sheltered from the cold and boisterous south winds.

One of them being mounted on the shoulders of the rest, cut the bark horizontally all round, while the same operation was performed below; then slitting the bark in a vertical direction from top to bottom of each cut, they peeled the bark from the tree, which came off in a single piece, about ten feet long. Gathering up the two ends, they tied them firmly with such materials as they had about them, at either end, so as to prevent the admission of water, and the machine then presented the appearance of a long and narrow canoe, in which two men could sit easily, but which, from its shape and frail manufacture, was liable to overturn, or to split at the slightest impediment.

The man who had suggested the expedient volunteered to make his way on board, and “whether he was drowned or whether he was shot,” he said, “made little odds, for he was tired of his life of slavery, and he would as lieve die as live any longer in such a wretched state.”

  ― 237 ―

Two branches were cut down and shaped as well as the hurry and circumstances permitted, to serve as paddles, and the man putting the canoe on his shoulder and taking the paddles under his arm, went stealthily down to the edge of the water. Having launched his canoe, and crept into it carefully without his shoes, to prevent its upsetting, he balanced himself in a sitting posture in the centre, and by the aid of his paddles propelled his light bark over the water in the direction of the brig.

  ― 238 ―

Chapter XX. The Bushranger's New Stratagem.

THE canoe lay so low in the water, and the two boats were so intent on the movements of the brig, and the brig of them, that it entirely escaped the notice of both parties; but as it was directly in the course of the vessel, the man on the look-out forward presently sung out to the bushranger, who was aft attending to the steering of the vessel, that “there was a canoe right ahead with a man in it.”

Brandon had scarcely time to put the helm hard up before the brig was close upon the frail machine, and at the same moment the man in the canoe recognising a fellow-prisoner on board, called to him by name. His comrade without

  ― 239 ―
hesitation threw a rope to him, which its occupant instantly securing round his body, he was pulled out of his canoe and dragged for a few moments astern as the vessel continued her course.

When he was hauled up on board he quickly explained to Brandon that there were eight-and-twenty of them ashore, some with fire-arms, and all with weapons of some sort or other ready to join them, and to take their chance on board the brig.

Mark, who was as quick as a bandicoot and as cunning as a platyplus in perceiving and avoiding danger, was not less ready to take advantage of all opportunities in his own favour without regard to the interests or safety of those whom he made use of for his purposes. Despairing of making his way out by force, but seeing at once the advantage of making a diversion so as to draw off one of the boats from the pursuit of the vessel, he pretended to hail the news of such an accession of strength with delight, and proposed that the messenger should without delay assemble all his comrades on the beach, from which the brig would manage to take them off by means of ropes and

  ― 240 ―
other contrivances, which he would invent by the time they were ready to avail themselves of them.

To this effect he kept on his course towards the land till he had arrived within less than a quarter of a mile of the beach, and then urging the messenger to do his best in swimming on shore, he dropped him into the water, and turning the vessel's head round on the other tack, shot over to the further side of the bay.

The hoisting of the man on board from the canoe which had been just visible on the surface of the water, but which had turned over with the jerk of his being pulled out of it, and was no longer to be seen, was not unobserved by the vigilant mate, who was standing up in the boat, and who was at a loss to comprehend the meaning of it; and which was rendered more puzzling by the vessel running the needless risk, as it appeared to him, of keeping so close in-shore.

He kept his eye on the spot, and, shortly, he saw a something which he presently made out to be a man emerge from the water, and make his way rapidly up the slope of the bare hill. Struck with this circumstance, he bade the men lay on

  ― 241 ―
their oars a moment while he pointed out the object to the major.

“What can be the meaning of that?” said the major: “that's a man making his way up that hill as plain as can be; but whether it is a native or not, is more than I can tell.”

“Whatever it is,” said the mate, “I saw him come out of the water in that direction, and he must have come out of the brig; where else could he come from?”

“There he goes,” said the constable: “now he has disappeared over the top of the hill. What the deuce is the meaning of this? Some new dodge of Mark's. Depend upon it, whatever Mark does he has a reason for it; but what his game is in sending that chap over the hill beats my guessing.”

“Can it be to see what we have done with the girls at our fortress?” asked the major of the mate, with some anxiety—natural under the circumstances. “There is only that poor fellow Silliman to protect them.”

“No fear of harm there,” said the constable; “if the young ladies' sentinel only keeps himself

  ― 242 ―
close, and shows the muzzle of his musket through the barricade at the cave's mouth, no single man will venture to attack him; but after all, the man's leaving the vessel in that way means something. Mark is as full of tricks as a hunted fox: but what this new move is, is more than I can tell."

"Never mind," exclaimed the mate; “don't lose time in guessing; our business is to get possession of the brig, and have her we must; for you see we are regularly chasing her into a corner, and we must bring her to close quarters at last, and then we will at her, and hurrah for the first in! Now, my men, give way.”

"Stay,” said the constable; “keep the boat steady a moment longer. I see a body of men coming over the hill; there are twenty or thirty of them. What's the game now?”

“I see them,” said the mate; “and look! the brig has gone about to meet them. Hulloa! we shall have a spree by-and-by! If those chaps are Mark Brandon's friends, and they get aboard the brig, we shall have more work to do than we reckoned on. And here comes the soldiers' boat,

  ― 243 ―
pulling with all their might: hold hard, my sons: the soldier officer, I suppose, wants to speak to us.”

“Have you observed that body of men?” said the ensign eagerly to the major as his boat came up alongside. “From all appearances they are friends of those on board, and I have no doubt that they are the other body of prisoners escaped from camp. If they join those who are on board they may prove too strong for us: I have counted nearly thirty of them.”

“Bless your heart!” said the mate, “they will make no difference; it's only a little more fighting, and it's all in the day's work! Why, such fellows as those can do nothing when it comes to downright hard knocks. We can take 'em easy. Hulloa! what's that lubberly bushranger doing with the brig, knocking her about that way! Going about again—what's that for? Is n't he going to take the other fellows on board? No: he's about again. Major, we are only losing time; we had better make way and join him in the bottom of the bay; we must have him then.”

  ― 244 ―

“Those fellows on shore,” said the major, “may be making their way to our fortress. Don't you think your party on the rock would be well employed in making head against them before they do mischief?”

The ensign eagerly caught at the suggestion. There was no knowing what outrage a band of desperate miscreants might commit on defenceless women. Their only protection at present was Mr. Silliman; and the party of soldiers on the rock was at least half a mile from the fortress,—a long distance, as he had already learned, in the pathless bush.

“I will make my way back to the rock,” he said, “and direct the sergeant to march his men against this new body of marauders. If it be done promptly, it may have the effect of preventing their junction with their friends on board the brig.”

“Do so,” said the major: “we will lay on our oars till you come back; and then as the brig cannot escape us now, we will attack her in concert, and bring this affair to a conclusion. The sight of the two boats together may perhaps frighten the

  ― 245 ―
rascals, and cause them to surrender without bloodshed.”

“Not he,” said the constable, as the ensign's boat left them. “If you think Mark Brandon will let himself be taken without fighting, you are mistaken, I can tell you that. Mark will have a tussle for it, depend upon it; but I think we have him at last. I don't know, though; he has so many schemes in his head—has that man—that you never know when you have got him and when you haven't. After all I should not be surprised if he was to slip through our fingers—sure as we are of him.”

“Never fear,” said the mate, rubbing his hands impatiently, “I only wish I was as sure of the command of an East Indiaman as I am of grabbing that rascal. I wouldn't give up my chance for … See! the fellows on the beach are going back; and now the brig goes about again. Ha! they see it; and now they are coming down to the beach again. What is all that backing and filling for? Is the brig going to take them on board or not?”

“That's more than any of us can tell,” said the

  ― 246 ―
constable; “nobody knows Mark's plans but himself: but depend on it, whatever he does, is done with a reason. He is watching us now, and knows what we are about as well as we do ourselves, I'll be bound. He has seen the ensign's boat join us, and go away again towards the rock where the other party of soldiers is, and I'll swear that he knows at this minute what it's for. But why he waits for the soldiers to attack his fellow-prisoners on the beach is more than I can tell. You might as well try to fathom the middle of the sea as Mark's deepness.”

“Our friend Trevor has reached the rock,” said the major; “I see the men saluting. Now he is giving his orders; now they move on. That's right, double quick time my men. Now—I lose sight of them;—I see; they are going to take the rascals behind, and hem them in between themselves and the sea. Only twelve file, though. However, they are soldiers, and the others are ragamuffins; so there's force enough; and they can fire three times for the others' once. Here comes Trevor, again. Now, my boys, we shall wait no longer; the brig can't escape us. We

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will board her while the red coats engage her attention in another way. Hard case this, Northland, to be obliged to take our own vessel again by force of arms.”

“Force of arms!” said the mate disdainfully, and with a contemptuous motion of his hand towards the brig; “force of a fiddlestick! Those fellows will never stand us; we have only to show ourselves on board. And suppose they do fight?—all the better. I'm blest,” said he, with a jovial grin at his brother blue-jackets, “if we arn't all of us getting rusty for want of a scrimmage! Hurrah! here's the red-coats! Now, major, I suppose we may be moving?”

The breeze from the north in the mean time had freshened considerably, and it threatened to blow hard, so that the advantage on the side of the brig was considerably increased, and she made her way so rapidly through the water as to give hope to the Bushranger that he should be able to baffle his enemies by her speed of sailing. The boats however neared him every minute, and he made up his mind to make a dash through them with the fair wind which he had in his favour—

  ― 248 ―
when one of those changes occurred, so frequent at that season of the year. The wind suddenly lulled; the boats set up a cheer, and pulled vigorously to their mark. They were within half a mile of the brig when a blast of air from the high hills on the other side of the bay suddenly filled her sails, and she again shot through the water.

At this time the party of convicts on shore had caught sight of the soldiers coming down upon them over the bare hills, and they hastily retreated, keeping within reach however of the margin of the bay, in the hope of being taken on board the brig.

But the wind now began to blow from all quarters of the heavens, and it was impossible for the brig's crew to lend their assistance to those on shore, even had they been willing; and as Brandon had accomplished his object in making use of them for the purpose of the diversion which he desired, and had succeeded in drawing away the party of soldiers which had been stationed on the rock at the entrance of the passage, he would have had no objection to receive

  ― 249 ―
them on board had the opportunity been afforded to him. But it was too late; it was as much as he could do to attend to the sails and steering of the brig, feebly assisted as he was by his companions, unused as they were to manœuvring a vessel.

In the mean time the retreat of the convicts on shore had drawn the sergeant's party round the bay to the further side, and a few shots were faintly heard, indicating that the fray was becoming serious in that quarter.

The elements also seemed to be mustering up their strength, and a squall from the south-east twisting round the brig, drove her furiously, and before those on board could trim the sails or avoid the danger, to the bottom of the bay. There was a low sandy shoal stretching from the shore far into the water, towards which the brig was propelled rapidly. There was no help for it. The bushranger saw that all exertion was vain; all hope of escaping by the brig was lost.

Making up his mind on the instant, with the rapid decision for which he was so remarkable, and which in an honest course of life might have

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raised him to high fortune and distinction, he summoned up all his energy to bear the bitter disappointment with fortitude. He knew that if he allowed his mind to be depressed by the failure, his ideas would become clouded and his invention blunted, so as to lessen his chance of escape from the imminent danger which now hung over him.

In a very few minutes he had formed in his head a new scheme, by which he calculated he might make terms for himself in case of extremity; and in any event, he considered he could take to the bush, and wait for another chance, though he did not disguise from himself that taking to the bush was a desperate expedient, and to be had recourse to only in case of the failure of all other means of safety. He had no sooner made up his mind as to the best thing to be done under the circumstances than he set about its execution.

He immediately collected in the cabin, which at the moment was the place most easily got at, all the combustibles that he could readily heap together, which, with the assistance of his companions,

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was quickly done, and he then disposed it so as to be readily fired, taking care that the materials were so placed as to make as large a blaze as possible. The sight of the brig on fire he calculated would cause his pursuers to occupy themselves in the first place with extinguishing the flames, without busying themselves about him, which would give him time to execute his ulterior project.

He had scarcely made this arrangement, and prepared himself and his companions for leaving the vessel, when the brig struck violently on the shoal, and swinging round, while the mainmast went by the board with the shock, presented her broadside to the sands.

Mark Brandon instantly set fire to the lumber in the cabin, and then descending the ship's side, with his confederates, they made their way to the top of a low hill in the immediate vicinity of the shore.

In pursuance of the plan which he had formed, and knowing well that numbers are an inconvenience in the bush, unless so great as to defy attack, which in the present case was out of the

  ― 252 ―
question, he immediately selected two men on whom he thought he could entirely depend, and who had not the ability to outwit him, but on whose dogged courage he could rely; and at the same time he directed the remaining four to lose no time in joining the party who kept up a running fight with the sergeant's party of soldiers.

“Our only chance, my mates,” he said, “is to keep together; but we must try to draw off the attention of the soldiers in the boats, and lead them in a different direction. Tell our friends to keep up the fight and retreat towards the north, while I will, with Jim and Roger, entice the boat party to the westward. And, do you see that high hill yonder, quite in the distance—may be a dozen miles off, or more? Well; rally round that hill, and before night I will meet you there, and then we can consult together as to the best course to be taken. See! the soldiers have turned our party of friends somehow, and they are retreating inland. The sergeant's party will not follow them far; it's only for every man to make the best use of his legs, and get at once into the

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bush. Now, my men, start, and do the business cleverly, and leave me to do mine.”

The four subordinate ruffians, unable or unwilling to dispute the direction of a leader, whom they had become accustomed to obey as much from the superiority of his force of mind as by their voluntary adoption of him as their chief, lost no time in following Mark Brandon's directions, and in a brief space they had joined their new companions, and given them the word.

But the soldiers in pursuit had pushed them too closely to allow them to put Mark's advice in execution, and, by a quick military movement, they contrived to place the convicts between their fire and the water; and the fugitives thus turned, were driven in the direction of the burning brig, towards which the boats were rapidly hastening.

“It will do,” said Mark, as he cautiously peered over the top of the hill and observed the progress of affairs below; “it will do; and now for my work. Roger, tread like a native: there must be no noise. Jemmy, my man, wind yourself after me like a snake; sharp's the word; but there must be no sound—not a word spoken; and

  ― 254 ―
mind, the report of a musket would ruin all my plan.”

So saying, he proceeded by a circuitous route, and at as rapid a pace as possible, to the back part of the rock which had formed the site of the major's temporary encampment the preceding night, and the exact locality of which he had marked from the light of the bivouac fires which had been made on the occasion of the junction of the ensign's party of soldiers with the ship's crew of the brig. The bushranger went on with confidence; and conscious of his powers in plots and stratagems, with a sort of joyous prescience that his artful and diabolical plan would be successful.

It is necessary, however, to return to the scene of the advancing boats and the devoted vessel, from the stern windows of which volumes of smoke and flame now broke out with appalling fury.

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Chapter XXI. The Skirmish.

IT is impossible to describe the mingled rage and sorrow of the mate, when he beheld the gallant little brig, which he had brought safely fifteen thousand miles over the sea from the other side of the globe, with its mainmast lying shattered on the deck, and its stern-ports evolving clouds of smoke and flames,—the wicked work of the ignorance or the malice of the pirates.

All the epithets of execration which nautical or other phraseology could furnish, were lavished on the rascally bushranger and his villainous crew. Regarding, as the affectionate seaman did, his ship as his mistress, and personifying it, as sailors love to do, as a thing of life, he felt the ravages

  ― 256 ―
inflicted on her beautiful frame as much almost as wounds on his own body.

Nor was the major less exasperated at the sight of his burning vessel, on board of which was nearly the whole of his fortune, and which now seemed consigned irremediably to the flames. He forgot the bushrangers and everything else, in the all-absorbing desire to save his property, without which life would be to him a weary exile indeed in the colony of Van Diemen's Land.

The ensign, also, was quite alive to the ruin which threatened to overwhelm his anticipated father-in-law, and he urged his rowers to put out their utmost strength, in order to reach the vessel before the progress of the flames should render all assistance hopeless.

But of the three, the mate was the most energetic in his action, as he was most eloquent in his exclamations:—

“ Give way, boys,” he said, as he stood up, and endeavoured by the motion of his own body to add impetus to the movement of the boat; “give way, as you would save your souls! Oh, the infernal rascal! To set fire to her! What harm

  ― 257 ―
had the poor little brig done him, I should like to know? The dirty, sneaking, cowardly, shore-going, long-tailed blackguard!—There goes the sergeant after the other fellows! Pepper them well, my lads; stick it into 'em; they're all alike! There comes more smoke from the stern portholes! It's only smoke, perhaps, after all! No: it's flame too! Give way—bend to it; stretch to it; that's the stroke; hurrah! now she goes! Shouldn't I like to put out that fire with the lubberly carcasses of the villains! Hanging's too good for them,—the murdering, fire-raising thieves! Hurrah! my boys, we are just on her. Hold hard; jump ashore; no ceremony; follow me.”

So saying, the mate, seizing a rope which was hanging from the bowsprit, quickly slung himself on deck, and was followed with cordial promptitude by the crew of the brig, and with not less alacrity by the sailors belonging to the government boats. As in all cases of difficulty and danger, where the most skilful and courageous are instinctively looked up to for advice, he at once assumed the direction of those on board.

  ― 258 ―

“Major, make half a dozen fellows clear away the mast. Carpenter, come along with me. Get the buckets, and pass them aft down the companion-ladder. Boy, get the swabs and soak 'em well; and quick! be alive! I'll try to find my way down below, if it's a thing that's possible.”

Thrice did the sturdy mate endeavour to force his way through the smoke and flames: and thrice was he repulsed by the heat and vapour. But at last he was able to reach the cabin door, and he contrived to throw in a few buckets of water: he was relieved by the carpenter, who in his turn was compelled to retreat; and in this way the crew, taking it by turns, were able to withstand for a brief space the stifling effects of the smoke, and to deluge the cabin with water.

In the mean time the sergeant's party had driven the convicts close to the brig, and the ensign, seizing the opportunity, added his own force to that of the assailants, and hemmed in the prisoners on the beach, in a hollow crescent, close to where the brig was burning.

“Surrender yourselves!” he called out; “you have no chance of escape; you see we are too

  ― 259 ―
strong for you. Surrender yourselves, and trust to the governor's mercy.”

There was a pause for a moment on either side. The convicts looked at one another, and looked at the soldiers. There were only nineteen against them; and their own party, by the accession of the four from the brig, was raised to thirty-two. It was nearly two to one in their favour; and the four muskets of their new comrades were an important addition of strength. But their habitual dread of the military, and the smart of the wounds which one or two of them had already received, made them waver in their determination. At last one of them acting as spokesman, came a step forward, and asked, “If, on surrender, their lives would be spared?”

“I have no authority to promise that,” replied the officer; “but as my desire is to prevent the shedding of blood, I will promise to make the most favourable representation of your submission to the governor; but your surrender must be unconditional.”

“What's the use,” said one of the convicts to his fellows, “of having our lives spared, as you

  ― 260 ―
call it? If they are spared, we shall be sent to Macquarrie Harbour, and that's worse than death. If we can't get our liberty, let us die where we are. We are two to one, and it's hard if we can't beat those soldiers: they are only men like ourselves; and when it comes to close quarters, one man is as good as another. I'm for fighting it out, and taking our chance.”

“If we can only make our way to the hill, which you can see from the top of the ridge there,” said one of the men from the brig, “we shall meet with Mark Brandon and two more, and then we may be able to have a try at the vessel again, and get clear off—who knows? There may be luck for us, as well as another.”

“I wish Mark Brandon was with us,” exclaimed several; “we want a leader; there's nothing to be done without a leader.”

“If Mark was with us he would soon hatch a scheme to outwit that young officer, there. Let us take our chance, and try to join him; we can but surrender at last.”

“Hurrah, then! let us make a rush, and break through the soldiers;—if we can get into the

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bush, we shall be more of a match for 'em. Now, then, altogether!”

With a loud hurrah the prisoners fired a volley, and rushing forward, made their way through the soldiers, killing one, and wounding two more. But they had received a deadly discharge from the few whose position in front enabled them to take aim with effect; the soldiers at the sides of the short crescent being prevented from firing, from the consideration that if they did, their balls were likely to take effect on their comrades opposite.

Three of the prisoners fell on the beach; but the main body effected their retreat over the brow of a low hill, hotly pursued by the soldiers, who were exasperated at the death of one of their comrades. Their escape, however, did not avail them long; for as the country was nearly bare of trees in that direction, they were exposed to the practised aim of the military.

Three more prisoners were the sufferers by this running fire, both parties hastening forward at their best speed. But the prisoners, who were weary and footsore with their long and hurried journey from the camp, were outstripped on this

  ― 262 ―
occasion by the soldiers; and had not the latter been delayed in their pursuit by their occasional halts to reload, and by the habit of military precision which caused them to keep together, they would soon have overtaken the runaways, and have brought the matter to a sharp conclusion. As it was, the prisoners might have succeeded in effecting their escape had not an unexpected obstacle stopped their further progress. This was the inlet of the sea, branching out of D'Entrecasteaux's channel.

The ensign, at the instigation of the constable, had edged away to the left, by which manœuvre he forced the prisoners to continue their flight more towards the right, whither they were gradually propelled, till they were stopped by the broad part of the inlet in which the constable's boat had taken shelter, and in which recess the ensign's boat had afterwards joined the first pursuers.

The prisoners saw the trap into which they had been driven too late; they found themselves enclosed in the angle formed by the channel on the one side, and the inlet on the other; the soldiers'

  ― 263 ―
line, which now advanced in order, forming the base of the triangle. Without giving them time to recover themselves, the officer instantly summoned them a second time to surrender, and seeing that they turned round in an attitude of offence, he at once gave the word to fire.

Three volleys from the military disabled fourteen of the runaways, and their numbers being now reduced to twelve, Trevor gave the word to charge, when the prisoners, bewildered and panic-struck, allowed themselves to be taken without resistance.

Being disarmed, and bound with their hands behind them, they were carefully secured on the spot; and as the number of wounded was too large to be transported to the bay, the officer despatched half a dozen of his men back to the boats at the bay with orders for the larger one of the two to be immediately brought round by the government sailors, in order that the captured runaways might be transported with as little delay as possible to Hobart Town, where the wounded could receive the necessary medical assistance, and the whole be dealt with according to law.

  ― 264 ―

On questioning the prisoners, he learnt from some of them who were now willing enough to make terms for themselves by any disclosures they could offer, that Mark Brandon was to meet them at the foot of the hill, which they pointed out in the distance; and that the soldiers would be sure to find him there if they did their office warily, as Mark would have no suspicion of their having been set after him.

This prompt betrayal of their associates by the sneaks who trembled for their own skins, while it inspired the disgust with which it could not fail to strike an honest man's heart, abated considerably the commiseration which the ensign, as a brave soldier, could not avoid feeling for the sufferings which he was compelled to inflict in the execution of his duty.

“The dirty scoundrels!” said the constable, “they would betray their own father, most of them, for a glass of rum! And this you see,” he said to the ensign, “is what enables us to keep them down; they can never trust one another; every rascal knows that his fellow-rascal would sell him if he had the opportunity. Do you

  ― 265 ―
know,” he continued, “I have my doubts about Mark having intended to join them again. If he wanted to join them, why didn't he do so at once, and while there was a chance of their being able to resist us successfully? That Mark Brandon is up to some dodge, depend on it: no doubt he set the ship on fire that we might busy ourselves about putting it out without going after him; and—that hill? let me see: that lies to the north, and if Mark takes to the bush his game would be to go to the westward. By George, it looks very like it!”

“Looks very like what?” asked the ensign.

“Why, you see, dealing with Mark is like playing at all-fours, or cribbage,—or drafts, more like: it's all a matter of circumventing; but I'm up to his game; I've been after him before.”

“And what is his game, as you call it, now?”

“Look!” said the constable; “here's the north, and there's the west. Now, if Mark wanted to draw you and your men away from himself, what could he do better than tell these poor devils that he would meet them at that hill yonder, and so egg 'em on to fight their way there, and you after

  ― 266 ―
them, and that would leave the coast clear for himself?”

“But there was the major's party to watch him,” said the ensign, a flush coming over his face, as if struck with some sudden thought.

“He had provided against that by setting the ship on fire; and sailors would never leave their ship, he knew very well, at such a time, to go after all the bushrangers that ever went out.”

“You think then that this Mark Brandon, if he took to the bush, would go westward?” said the ensign, with much interest.

“To be sure he would! Why, he never would run into the lion's mouth by going on the road back to camp; and he can't go eastward, because there's the broad channel between him and that side of the island. No; he has started off to the west, depend upon it, and he is going to try his chance in the bush, and that's why he has allowed only two of his six men to be with him, because he knows that in the bush the great point is to avoid being tracked;—besides, it's easier to feed three than seven.”

  ― 267 ―

“If he has gone westward,” said the ensign, meditatingly .....

“No doubt of it.”

“The place where the major left his daughters is on the west side of the bay?”

“To be sure it is.”

“Do you think he would visit it?”

“I don't know,” said the constable; “it would be running a risk: to be sure there's only that poor Mr. Silliman there. What have they got with them? any money, or watches, or trinkets? any thing valuable that is easy to be carried?”

“I rather think the major said he had secured one or two bags of dollars; but there are the young ladies—of more consequence than money.”

“I don't know: women are all very well in their way, but they are dreadful troublesome in the bush. I don't think Mark would be bothered with them. He likes a pretty gal, though, if all stories be true, and ….”

“Could you engage to take charge of these prisoners,” said the ensign, suddenly, “if I left you?”

  ― 268 ―

“Ay, ay: leave your sergeant here with his party, and I'll engage to take care of them. We have 'em now as safe as bricks. You are going after Mark, then?”

“I think that unless we take him we shall effect but half our object. I will give instructions to the sergeant, and leave you in charge. The corporal and his two men will go with me.”

“Take care,” said the constable, as the ensign hastily took his departure, “that you don't lose your way going back: a man's easily lost in the bush, especially a new hand.”

“Now, corporal,” said Trevor, “we must put our best legs foremost; our work is not half done yet. Are you in good marching order?”

The corporal answered for himself and his men gladly, preferring much the roving and exciting life of such expeditions to the dull monotony of barracks and daily drill; and full instructions having been left with the constable and the sergeant in anticipation of all accidents, Trevor set out on his way, his mind filled with the most lively apprehensions of alarm for the fate of

  ― 269 ―
Ellen and her sister, should the bushranger take it into his head, for any purpose of plunder or violence, to visit the place of their retreat.

  ― 270 ―

Chapter XXII. Mr. Silliman Makes a Declaration.

THE sisters in the cave suffered the deepest anxiety during the events which have been related; but as their father and Mr. Trevor had exacted from them the promise that they would not on any account quit the protection of their covert, but wait with patience the issue of the conflict, they were precluded from attempting to ascertain what was going forward in the bay; and their ignorance of the posture of affairs between the bushrangers and their own friends added to the painfulness of their apprehensions.

“Could not you climb that tree,” asked Louisa of Mr. Silliman, who was assiduously keeping guard at the entrance behind the bulwark of dead

  ― 271 ―
timber, which had been erected for their defence, “and see what they are doing?”

“I've had enough of climbing,” replied their sentinel, with a rueful countenance, at the remembrance of his reception by the opossums; “but to oblige you I would do it with pleasure, only, as I have been left here by the officer, as a sort of sentry, you see, Miss, I am doing military duty, as it were, and a soldier must not quit his post.”

“I thought you prided yourself more on being a sailor,” said Louisa, with that sweet smile which the sex are always ready to exhibit when they want anything to be done for them; “and sailors are always such good climbers.”

“I could climb,” replied Jeremiah, with enthusiasm, “anything for you, Miss Louisa, if it was the biggest tree on all the island! But …”

“Mr. Silliman is right,” said Helen; “he must not leave his post; as soldier's daughters, we know that; but this state of uncertainty is really very painful. I will try to explore the inside of the cave.”

“Don't be so foolish, Helen,” said her sister; “it

  ― 272 ―
is too dark for you to see where you are going; and perhaps there may be savage animals, or snakes, or something.”

“I will take care of myself; I cannot bear standing still, doing nothing; perhaps this place has an outlet at the back.”

Jeremiah and Louisa were left alone.

Jerry's heart had been excessively touched by the amiable manner in which the major's youngest daughter had recently been pleased to address him; and her preferring to remain with him to accompanying her sister on her exploring expedition seemed to him a favourable sign. His heart beat with great bumps, and he experienced, as he afterwards described it, a feeling of alloverishness, which convinced him that it was to Louisa, and not to Helen, that his heart was entirely devoted; a fact which he had doubted before, never having been able to make up his mind as to which of the lovely sisters he preferred. But his present symptoms decided him as to his predilection. Oppressed, however, with the pleasing sensation, he heaved a prodigious sigh!

“What's that?” said Louisa, ready to take

  ― 273 ―
alarm at the slightest sound, and coming closer to Jeremiah. Jeremiah's heart beat quicker than ever! As he characteristically explained the emotion, “it went up and down just like the steam-engine in the Margate packet!”

“It's me!” said Jerry, pumping up another sigh, and looking at the young lady with eyes squeezed into the extremest point of tenderness.

“You, Mr. Silliman? Heavens! what's the matter?”

“Ah! Miss Louisa!”

“Are you in pain?” asked Louisa; for she was a kind and gentle girl, and she spoke with the sweetest commiseration.

“Ah, Miss Louisa! the wounds which you have inflicted on ….”

“You mean the opossums?” said Louisa.

“No, Miss; it is not the opossums. Sharp as their bites and scratches were, the wounds that I feel are sharper still!”

“Good gracious! Mr. Silliman, what do you mean?”

“Do you not feel,” said Jerry, “the genial influence of this beautiful morning? The bright

  ― 274 ―
rays of the sun, and the notes of that melodious bird, which the ensign said was the native magpie, although for the life of me I can't make out how that can be—but I suppose it is so .....”

“I hear nothing at present,” replied Louisa, “but the curious cry of the bird that Mr. Trevor calls the laughing jackass.”

“Think only of the agreeables,” resumed Jerry. “I have been thinking how happy two people might live together, in a beautiful cave like this—loving one another! and listening to the birds, and gazing at the cockatoos as they fly about; eating the wild fruits of the earth, and drinking the water from the spring …. all love!” …

“What! without any bottled porter, Mr. Silliman?”

“All love, Miss, and a little bottled porter! This is a beautiful country—Isn't it?”

“You have not had a very beautiful reception in it,” observed Louisa, looking round for her sister, and rather desirous to avoid a declaration, which, with the instinctive prescience of her sex, she felt was on the point of exploding; “it was hard to make your first acquaintance with the

  ― 275 ―
land, by being thrown into the sea by those wicked bushrangers!”

“It was hard, that! but it was for the best; for my being chucked into the sea was the means of making known to the constables and soldiers that the bushrangers had got possession of the brig.”

“Was not the coming to life again, after being drowned almost as you were, a very curious sensation?”

“Not so curious as the sensation I now feel, Miss Louisa, nor nearly so delightful! I ….”

“Dear me! I should have thought it was rather a painful one! And did you not say,” she continued, wishing to force the conversation from the point that Mr. Silliman was obviously seeking, “that you were bitten by a great tarantula spider as big as a cheeseplate?”

“It might have bitten me, perhaps, but I killed the nasty thing; — but do you not think that two ….”

“And the scorpions! Didn't they sting you?”

“No; I escaped them; but I was very near

  ― 276 ―
sitting down on a whole nest of the little wretches. I was going to say, Miss Louisa ….”

“How horrible it must have been when you found yourself again in the hands of that dreadful man!—Mark Brandon, isn't he called? and when the kangaroo had hold of you—gracious! were you not frightened?”

“A man, Miss Louisa, is not easily frightened,” said Jeremiah, assuming an heroic air. “I was not aware that kangaroos have such long sharp claws, or I should have killed the plaguy beast at once.”

“And when the bushranger put his pistol into your mouth—heavens! what a mercy it was that it did n't go off! Were you not frightened then?”

“I was astonished, Miss, but not frightened. A man to whom lovely woman looks up as her protector,” said Jerry, putting his hand to his heart, “must have courage. How could I ask you to depend on me, if ….”

“But how did you feel when Mr. Northland caught hold of your leg? The mate said that you did n't cry out, but stood as firm as—I forget what ….”

  ― 277 ―

“No, Miss Louisa, it does not become a man to cry out in danger like a woman: of course a woman cries out naturally when she is in a fright, because that is all she can do; but I fired off my musket, as was my duty, to give the alarm. But, dear Miss Louisa, this is not what I want to talk to you about. If you could see into my heart ..”

“Oh I have no doubt I should see a great many curious things! but I want you to tell me about the opossums ….”

“You would see in it your image,” continued the impassioned Jerry; “and your beautiful face engraved. …”

“Dear me! that would be comparing it to a wooden one! But I wonder what is become of Helen?”

“She is not wanted at this moment, She is very pretty; but you, dear Miss Louisa,” said Jerry, growing dangerously energetic, “are prettier still! You are indeed! And I always thought so—all the way out—though I never told you so! I never did, because I feared I should offend you ….”

“Where can Helen be?—Helen!”

  ― 278 ―

“Don't call her, dear Miss Louisa; let me tell you how I ….”

“Really, Mr. Silliman, I'm quite frightened that Helen does not come. I must go and see after her, while you keep watch here. Stay; look there! Is not that smoke rising, a long way off, over those low rocks?”

“What is the matter?” asked her sister, returning hastily from the interior of the cave.

“The smoke, Helen! Do you see the smoke? there ….”

“I do; and, listen! Was not that the sound of muskets firing?” said Helen, excited.

“The sound of firing?” said Louisa, trembling.

“Yes, the sound of firing. There, again! I am sure it is; but it is a long way off: it comes from a point to the right of the smoke.”

“O Heavens!” exclaimed Louisa, “then they are fighting at this very moment, and dear papa perhaps is killed!”

“I hope George will not be rash!” unconsciously uttered Helen.

“It must be the boats attacking the brig,” said Mr. Silliman.

  ― 279 ―

“What can the smoke mean?” said Helen, anxiously.

“I know that something dreadful is happening,” said the timid Louisa, bursting into tears, and sinking on to the log of a tree, which had been placed in the cave for their accommodation.

“Go,” said Helen, to Mr. Silliman, “and try to see what is going on.”

“But Miss Helen,” he remonstrated, “remember that I promised not to leave my post.”

“Then I will go myself,” said Helen. “Do n't be frightened, Louisa; Mr. Silliman shall remain with you, and I will go to the edge of the bay, and try to find out what is going on. There can be no doubt of our party getting the better; but, perhaps..... But the shortest way is to go and see.” So saying, notwithstanding the remonstrances of Jerry, who was sorely perplexed between his notions of gallantry, which prompted him to accompany Helen, and his sense of duty, and his inclination also to remain with Louisa, the spirited girl issued forth from the cave with a ship's cutlass in her hand, and was presently lost to their sight behind the rocks and bushes.

  ― 280 ―

“The smoke grows thicker, but the firing is more faint,” observed Jerry.

“I hope nothing will happen to Helen!”

“There is no danger, Miss; the bushrangers are far away, to judge from the sounds; and they say there is no fear of meeting with natives in this part of the island.”

“But natives perhaps might come?”

“I wish your sister had not gone,” said Jerry; “but she will soon be back.”

There was a pause in the conversation for some time. Louisa was anxious and nervous, and Jerry was endeavouring to contrive some means of renewing the declaration which the return of Helen had interrupted.

“I wish you would have the kindness to stand up on these pieces of wood, and try if you can see Helen,” said Louisa.

Jerry mounted on the wood.

“I can't see anything of her,” he said.

“Don't you think she has been gone longer than was necessary?”

“She has been gone a little longer than I expected,” replied Jerry, doubtingly.

  ― 281 ―

“Had you not better go and see after her?” said Louisa, anxiously.

“And leave you alone, Miss Louisa?”

“If you wish to oblige me,” said Louisa, hesitating and crimsoning slightly, “you will do what I wish.”

“I will go directly,” said Jerry, dismounting from the pile of timber. “But I don't like to leave you alone.”

“It will be only for a minute; just go to the other side of that rock and look about you.”

“I will run there and back, then, as fast as I can,” said Jerry. “Take this pistol; you are not afraid to fire off a pistol? See, it's quite a little thing, compared to my musket; and if you hear any sound to alarm you, let it off. Not that it will be necessary, for I shall not be away more than a minute or two, and you will scarcely lose sight of me all the time. Now I'll run as quick as I can; and when I come back, perhaps you will allow me to ….”

“Run—and run quick,” said Louisa.

  ― 282 ―

Jerry girded up his loins, and ran enthusiastically.

Louisa remained at the entrance of the cave behind the woodwork for some time listening attentively, and straining her eyes to discover her sister or Mr. Silliman coming back; but to her surprise the latter did not return as she expected. She held her breath and listened, but she could hear nothing; and neither her sister nor Jerry came. She had her right arm extended, holding the pistol as far from her as possible, and in no inconsiderable fear lest it should go off with a terrible shock, of its own head.

In this posture she remained for many minutes, which seemed to be as many hours, waiting, and listening, and trembling with apprehension. She cast her eyes back into the interior of the cave; but on that side all was dark, and the obscurity of its uncertain recesses chilled and frightened her. She began to experience the fear which is apt to overtake the timid, and especially those of the gentler sex, when they find themselves alone and exposed to unknown danger. She tried to fire off the pistol; but in her state of alarm, not

  ― 283 ―
understanding how to set the lock, she pulled at the trigger with her soft and feeble finger in vain; and every now and then she endeavoured with anxious eyes to penetrate the depths of the cavern, whose darkness filled her with vague fears of some native, or something, on the point of emerging from its recesses!

At last, her fear altogether mastering her, and feeling it less terrible to seek for her sister in the bush than remain where she was, with the courage of desperation she clambered over the fortification of logs, and with her pistol in her hand, which she feared alike to hold or to relinquish, she rushed towards the bay, in the direction taken by Helen.

She looked around her, but she saw nothing. She listened, but she could hear nothing. There was a high ridge of rocks between her and the bay: remembering that it had been planned that a party of soldiers should be stationed to the right, she ran forward in that direction. She wandered for some minutes, lost, and confused, and frightened at meeting with no one, when on a sudden a sight met her eyes which stopped the

  ― 284 ―
current of her blood, and froze her heart within her!

She could not scream; she could not move! She sank down behind some rocks, and with eyes glazed with terror, stared through a cleft at the appalling scene before her!

  ― 285 ―

Chapter XXIII. The Captives.

THE scene before her eyes was of a description to strike with terror a far stouter heart than that of the gentle Louisa.

At a little distance, on a loose piece of rock, sat her sister Helen, with her hands tied behind her; over her mouth had been tied a silk handkerchief, which, however, had slipped down, so that she was able to breathe freely. By her side stood a most repulsive looking man, with a musket which he held pointed towards her in a threatening manner; and he seemed ready at the slightest cry or motion to discharge its contents through her head. Even in that time of mortal peril the heroic girl, though deadly pale, seemed calm and collected;

  ― 286 ―
and although her beautiful head and neck, fixed and motionless, resembled rather a piece of marble statuary than the living flesh of a human being, there was a flashing light from her eye which revealed the stirring thoughts that agitated her within.

Not far from her sister, and exhibiting the very personification of surprise and fear, was the wretched Jeremiah, prostrate, on his knees, gagged, with his hands bound behind him, and turning his eyes sideways, with an expression which, had it not been for the horrible reality of the danger, would have been ludicrously doleful, towards a man who stood guard over him with a musket, the muzzle of which touched his ear, and who, with his finger on the trigger, seemed momentarily inclined to relieve himself from the fatiguing restraint of such a posture by a gentle touch which would free him in a moment from the trouble of guarding his prisoner.

“Mark is a long time away,” said the man who was guarding Helen, to the other; “we are losing time.”

“He is settling the young one,” said his

  ― 287 ―
companion; “I thought I heard a squeak just now.”

“That's the shortest way,” replied the first; “but she was a nice gal.” Here he exchanged a peculiar wink with the other, nodding his head and setting his eye at Helen, a signal which she could not avoid perceiving, and which the other responded to by a peculiar grin.

Mark in the mean time had gone to the cave for the purpose of getting possession of the money which the Major had taken from the vessel, and which the bushranger wisely judged might stand him in good stead at some future time. Jeremiah, in the excess of his terror, and stimulated by the propinquity of a loaded musket to his head to tell all he knew, had let out the secret that there was a large sum of money deposited in the cave, consisting of sovereigns and dollars, but as their concealment had been effected before he had joined the party, he had been unable to state more than the money was deposited somewhere.

Mark had no doubt of being able to terrify the youngest daughter into confessing where the treasure was concealed; but to his surprise he found

  ― 288 ―
the cave vacant; and after a hasty search for the money, which he was unable to find, he made up his mind at once that his only chance was to get the secret out of Helen: and as time pressed, and as the absence of Louisa was an alarming incident, he hastily returned to the spot where Helen and Jeremiah were held in durance by his companions.

The appearance of Mark Brandon redoubled the terror of Louisa, who now gave herself up for lost, expecting every moment that the searching eyes of the ever-watchful bushranger would spy her out amongst the rocks, and that she would be suddenly dragged from her retreat to share the fate of her sister! But, fortunately for her, Mark passed in such a direction that she was hidden from his view as she lay crouched down in her hiding-place, and she saw him proceed straight to Helen.

Making a sign to his companions, which it seemed they well understood, he took the place of the man who had been mounting guard over Helen, and who, in obedience to some brief directions which Mark gave him, stepped to the margin

  ― 289 ―
of the bay, with his face towards the north, on the look-out for enemies from that quarter, in which might be seen the smoke of the burning vessel.

Mark Brandon, with his fowling-piece carelessly thrown over his arm, with admirable coolness commenced his operations.

He was burning with impatience; but he felt that his object was not to be attained by violence. He resolved, therefore, to put in practice all the arts of his deceptive tongue, for which he was so famous among his fellows, and which had often helped him out of difficulties when all other resources failed him. But he took care not to let his impatience be visible.

In this position the parties remained for some little time; and Louisa, seeing that her sister was in the power of the dreaded bushranger, strained her ears to catch the words which presently he began to speak in a quiet but earnest tone to Helen.

From his attitude, which was in the highest degree respectful, and from the tone of his deep clear voice, which, though earnest and determined, was mild and low, it might have been

  ― 290 ―
supposed that he was soliciting some favour from a young lady of his acquaintance which he had a right to demand, but which he nevertheless requested with a polite deference to her sex rather than insisted on as a matter of right which he had the power to enforce; but the appearance of his companion with his cocked musket close to Mr. Silliman's ear, and the fowling-piece which Mark held in his hand, was an overt demonstration of possible violence which contrasted strangely with the bland manner of his address.

“Miss Horton,” he began, “I am quite ashamed to say anything that could imply a doubt of a lady's word; but you must excuse me if I cannot understand how the spot where your father has deposited the dollars that Mr. Silliman there speaks of can be unknown to you! Your frank and immediate communication of the fact, permit me to say, will save much trouble to all parties—and to yourself, perhaps, some inconvenience.”

Helen made no reply.

“It is quite useless,” pursued the bushranger, “to pretend ignorance of this matter; besides, if I were willing to forego this prize myself, my companions

  ― 291 ―
would not agree to it: so that you see, Miss Horton, your best course is an immediate avowal of the truth. That man,” he continued, “who has his musket at your friend's head, is one of the most audacious persons you can possibly conceive, and there is no saying what lengths he might go to in his passion, for it would be impossible for me to control him. Jem Swindell,” he added, raising his voice and addressing his associate, whom it would be difficult to say that he very much calumniated, “take your finger from the trigger of your musket; it might go off at a start, and that would be a pity, for we don't want to inconvenience the gentleman more than we can help; besides, the report might give an alarm, which is best avoided. Mind how you let the hammer down in putting it on half-cock, for it might slip, and then the poor gentleman would receive the contents of your barrel through his head, which is far from my wish: but keep it in the same position, Jemmy, that you may be ready.”

It is impossible to describe the agony of poor Jeremiah as his sentry, at the intimation of Mark

  ― 292 ―
Brandon, whom he inwardly thanked in his heart for the considerate suggestion, made the little arrangement with the lock of his musket which removed the immediate apprehension of having his brains blown out by any sudden impulse or accidental agitation of the finger of the inexorable Jemmy, who, despite the pleasing familiarity with which Mark spoke to him, was one of the most ferocious-looking rascals that ever took to the bush.

But as Helen's eyes were naturally and involuntarily turned to the position and danger of her harmless acquaintance, she could not but be aware of the peril to which he was exposed, and, by reflection, of the immediate danger in which she herself was, and how entirely they all were at the mercy of the desperate men who had them in their power. The thoughts which agitated her mind were visible on her countenance.

Mark observed the change which appeared in her features, and he congratulated himself that his little contrivance to impress on her unostentatiously but forcibly the desperate condition of her affairs had succeeded. He pursued his arguments, therefore,

  ― 293 ―
briskly, without giving time for her agitation to subside:—

“You may believe me, Miss Horton,” he resumed, “when I say that I should be most sorry to see you placed in the position of your friend there; but what can I do? You see my companions are two to one against me, and the money they will have, even if they proceed to the last extremities; and if a man in my situation might presume to offer his respectful deferences to a young lady of personal attractions and accomplishments such as you possess, I would entreat you to believe that your life is what I would endeavour to preserve, even at the sacrifice of my own. But as I said before, they are two to one, and all that I can do is to endeavour to prevail on you to reveal the place where the money is deposited, without obliging my comrades—who I confess are rather rough in their manners—to use the most dreadful means to compel you.”

The artful words of the bushranger, whom the constable had not inaptly described as “the most carnying devil that ever got over a woman,” began to have an effect on Helen; and she could not

  ― 294 ―
suppose that the man who addressed her with a demeanour so respectful, and with such a propriety of language, could be the unprincipled ruffian that he really was.

Besides, his mode of proceeding was altogether unlike what she had pictured to herself under such circumstances, and what she had feared at his hands. Instead of the boisterous threats and the instant violence which she had anticipated, she was met with the most bland expressions and the most earnest desire apparently to save her from personal insult. Seeing, however, that Mark Brandon was in this complacent humour, she thought that she might turn it to account.

Her principal anxiety at the moment was for her sister. Knowing Louisa's gentle and timid nature, she feared that in her terror she would reveal and submit to all rather than encounter the dreadful death which would be threatened by the bushrangers. The point for her, therefore, was to gain time, in the hope that her father or Trevor would send assistance. But she little thought of the consummate art and duplicity of the mind with which she had to contend.

  ― 295 ―

Mark Brandon, on the other hand, was quite as much alive as she was to the importance of time; but as he had ulterior designs, which she could not penetrate, it was only in pursuance of his plan that he now endeavoured to arrive at his object, that of getting possession of the money, by the mildest means: and he had his reasons for treating her with a deference and attention approaching almost to gallantry—his loaded fowling-piece always excepted—which, had Helen been aware of, would have made her shudder, and would have put her effectually on her guard against his insinuating expressions.

It is to be observed, also, that Mark Brandon had had the address to make his companions secure Helen's person and bind her hands, so that he avoided coming into personal collision with her in a way which, he was aware, could not fail to be extremely disagreeable to a young and delicate girl, and which was sure to make her regard her aggressors with aversion and horror. According to his own expression, he did only “the genteel part of the business,” leaving to minor and subordinate hands to execute the practical parts of the

  ― 296 ―
ruffianism; and, as has been before remarked, having certain ulterior views, not only as to the money, but also with respect to Helen, which he did not allow for the present to be apparent, he was anxious that she should not conceive any irreconcilable hatred towards himself; but, on the contrary, that she should regard him as an unfortunate and perhaps ill-used man, who was the victim of necessity, and who was desirous to alleviate the hardships of her fate by all the means in his power.

Such were the relative positions of these two parties: the one, with the ardour and hope of youth and innocence, fancied that her own purity was a sufficient shield against the refined duplicity and the consummate villainy of the other—on whom it may be said the spirit of a Mephistopheles had been infused to aid him in his iniquitous designs.

Helen wished to gain time, and with that view she endeavoured to prolong the conversation:—

“I thank you,” she said, after some little reflection, “for the good intentions which you express towards me; but if you are sincere,

  ― 297 ―
why do you allow my hands to remain bound behind my back, which,” she added, “hurts me?”

“It is a severity that I could not have brought myself to practice,” replied Mark: “but as it is done, if I was to attempt to remove the cord it would excite the suspicions of my companions; besides, under the circumstances, I assure you it is best for yourself that your hands should be confined, for if you were entirely at liberty, your high spirit, which I so much admire, might prompt you to make attempts at escape which could not possibly succeed, but which would stimulate one of those men to commit a violence on you which I should deplore as much as yourself. You must consider the confinement of your hands, therefore, as a protection against yourself and your own courage; although, if it was not for the presence of my companions, I assure you I would release them on the instant; and, indeed, to see you in such a position gives me more pain than I can possibly express. But you will permit me to observe to you that you have it in your own power to put an end to it by informing me of the place where the money is concealed.”

  ― 298 ―

While Mark was making this little speech, in which he endeavoured to convince his victim that her hands were bound behind her back, and that she was reduced to her present state of helplessness entirely for her own good, Helen was revolving in her mind the remarkable circumstance that he made no mention of her sister Louisa, who knew as well as herself where the money was deposited.

It struck her that, perhaps, Louisa, alarmed by the lengthened absence of herself and of Mr. Silliman, had ventured from the cave in search of them, and so had escaped being molested by the bushranger. The possibility of this immediately inspired her with hope. Her sister, she considered, when she failed in finding them, would endeavour to join her father. In that case not only would Louisa be saved, but the news of their being missing would certainly cause her father to despatch some of the soldiers to look for them, and by that means they might be delivered from the power of the bushrangers.

These thoughts urged her the more strongly to endeavour to gain time: and as Mark Brandon

  ― 299 ―
seemed inclined to treat her with respect, she bent her whole soul to the invention of expedients for prolonging the conversation. Her anxiety for her sister furnished her with a ready subject.

“I am waiting for your answer,” said Mark Brandon.

“How was it,” said Helen, “that my sister did not tell you where the money was concealed?”

“Your sister,” he replied, with the slightest possible hesitation and embarrassment, which Helen, however, did not fail to observe, “said that she was not acquainted with the spot.”

“That could not be,” replied Helen, “because she assisted to place it there.”

“Where?” said Mark.

“What have you done with my sister?” said Helen, anxiously and imploringly. “I will tell you nothing till you let me see my sister.”

“She is in the cave,” replied Mark; “you can see her there if you will. But time passes, Miss Horton, and it is necessary that you should understand that I cannot continue this conversation any longer. We must have the money, or else you will find yourself in the hands of my companions,

  ― 300 ―
who, I fear, would not treat you with the respect which I observe. It is very painful to me to be obliged to insist thus peremptorily; but for your own sake I entreat you to tell me at once where is the money?”

“I will tell you nothing,” said Helen, firmly, “before I know what is become of my sister.”

“In one word, then, Miss Horton, I will tell you the exact truth.—I did not see your sister in the cave: doubtless she had fled into some part of its interior which I had not time to explore. So far as I am concerned, therefore, your sister is quite safe. You may easily be satisfied that what I tell you is true, by reflecting for a moment, that had I seen your sister I could not have failed to persuade her to tell me what I wanted to know; that is, without using any violence towards her, which is as far from my wish with her as it is in regard to yourself. But again, I say, Miss Horton, that my comrades will not longer be trifled with in this matter. If it only concerned myself, I would not care; but those two others who are engaged with me would not have the patience which I have had. Be so good as

  ― 301 ―
to say, then, whether you have made up your mind to be taken possession of by Mr. James Swindell, yonder, or whether you will be reasonable, and let me know at once that which they will make you tell at last. Jemmy, my man,” he continued, raising his voice a little, “I know what you look at me for, but I can't help it; the young lady will not let us have the money. Yes—I know what you mean; you mean to say that she wants a little of your persuasion.”

“What shall we do with this chap?” said Jemmy, with a ferocious grin, cocking his musket again, and putting his finger on the trigger; “settle him at once; or suppose we stow him away with a stone round his neck at the bottom of the bay, yonder? He wouldn't get out again easily, I fancy. Now, Mark, we have had enough of this. If you have finished your jaw with the gal, let me take a turn; I warrant I'll bring her to her senses in no time. Fair play, you know, Mark, among friends: you must n't mind her squeaking out a bit.”

“Stay,” said Helen to Mark Brandon. “Promise me that no harm shall be done to us—to

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Louisa,—nor to me,—nor to Mr. Silliman, and I will tell you.”

“You may rely upon my word,” said Mark. “If harm was intended, it would have been done already. All that my men want is the money; and, considering their condition, you must allow that their desire is excusable. Now—tell me—speak!”

Helen paused for a short time. She perceived that now, more than ever, time was everything. She felt assured that Louisa had escaped; and in that case it was most likely that she would fly in the direction of the soldiers. Under such circumstances she thought that a subterfuge on her part was allowable; and for the sake of gaining time, which to them was life and liberty, and perhaps to her even more than life, she told Mark Brandon to look in a recess on his left hand as he entered the cave, and there he would find two bags—the small one of gold, and the other, large and very heavy, of dollars.

Without losing a moment, Mark summoned the man on the look-out, who bore a most murderous aspect, to resume his position by the side of

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Helen, and having whispered a few words in his ear, the obedient myrmidon presented his musket at her head—an action which he followed up, as soon as Mark was out of hearing, by a most diabolical threat, which made her wish for the return of his less ferocious principal, who was, however, notwithstanding his polished address, by far the greater villain of the two.

Mark's absence was not long. Although he was much disappointed, and inwardly was savage at not finding the treasure where he expected, his extraordinary mastery over his passions when it was to his interest to conceal them enabled him to preserve towards Helen a demeanour which, although expressive of his discontent, was not indicative of revengeful or hostile feelings towards herself. According to his plan, to which he firmly adhered, he left the threatening and violent part of the proceedings to his subordinates.

“It is of no use,” he said, addressing his companions, “to wait any longer; the money is not to be found. You must determine for yourselves what to do. But the money is there, sure enough, if we could only find it.”

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“But,” said the man who had the custody of Helen, and swearing a terrible oath, “have it we will, or else” . . . .

“Of course,” said the bushranger, “you will use no violence.”

“I tell you what it is, Mark,” said the man; “all this gammon is very well between you and the gals, but it won't do for us. The long and the short of it is, we must draw lots for her; that's fair bush play. Jemmy, put your ball through that chap's head, and have done with it. I'm tired of this. What do you say, Jemmy?”

“And so am I too,” said Jemmy. “Come, Mark, let us know what your game is. We may settle this chap, I suppose, without more ado. But as to the gal, I'm of Roger Grough's mind—let us draw lots for her; and as to the other young one, why the two that lose can draw lots for her afterwards.”

“Stay,” cried out Brandon, as Jemmy was coolly going to put his threat in regard to the unfortunate Jerry in execution, “let us give them another chance. Now, Miss Horton, you see how things are; I can't keep my companions from

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having their will. It is for you to say what shall be done: but you must decide at once, for I can't interfere any further. Where is the money?”

“I will go with you to the cave,” said Helen, who had prolonged the result to the last possible moment, and who now saw that any attempt at further evasion was useless; “I will go with you to the cave, and show you where the money is lodged. Only promise me,” she said, hesitatingly, “that you will not use any violence.”

“I promise,” said Mark.

“And I will go with you,” said Grough, “to see fair play. No offence meant, Mark, my boy; but the cave, and the opportunity? All on a level in the bush, you know, Mark, and fair play's the word; no gammon with us: better draw lots before you go.”

“No, no,” said Mark, who had his own reasons for wishing to be alone when he made prize of the gold and silver; “there's no time for that nonsense. Do you keep a good look-out, Roger, towards the smoking vessel; we may have the soldiers down on us before we are aware, and then we shall have to run for it. Let us only

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get the money; we can have the other at any time.”

So saying, he proceeded with Helen, still with her hands bound behind her, in the direction of the cave.