It Is Never Too Late to Mend
Part 14 out of 17
of the ocean beating musically upon rocky caverns. Thy servant,
inexperienced in oratory, retires abashed at the greatness of his
subject, and the insignificance of his expressions.' So then he cut
Robinson. "A very sensible speech! Well, boys, I'm not greedy; I take
the half of that offer, and give you the rest--bring in the other
No. 2 advanced with reverences and misgivings. Robinson placed the
gold on the table and assigned it to him. A sacred joy illumined him,
and he was about to retire with deep obeisances.
"Where is his speech?" cried the judge ruefuly.
Stevens explained to him that the other had returned thanks. On this
No. 2 smiled assentingly, and advancing delivered the following
"Your slave lay writhing in adversity, despoiled by the unprincipled.
He was a gourd withered by the noonday sun, until your virtues
descended like the dew, and refreshed him with your justice and
"Wherefore hear now the benediction of him whom your clemency has
raised from despair.
"May your shadow increase and cover many lands. May your offspring be
a nation dwelling in palaces with golden roofs and walls of ivory, and
on the terraces may peacocks be as plentiful as sparrows are to the
undeserving. May you live many centuries shining as you now shine; and
at your setting may rivulets of ink dug by the pens of poets flow
through meadows of paper in praise of the virtues that embellish you
here on earth. Sing-tu-Che, a person of small note but devoted to your
service, wishes these frivolous advantages to the Pearl of the West,
on whom be honor."
Chorus of diggers. "My eye!"
Robinson rose with much gravity and delivered himself thus:
"Sing-tu-Che, you are a trump, an orator, and a humbug. All the better
for you. May felicity attend you. Heichster guchster--honi soit qui
mal y pense--donner und blitzen--tempora mutantur--O mia cara and pax
vobiscum. The court is dissolved."
It was, and I regret to add that Judge Robinson's concluding sentences
raised him greatly in the opinion of the miners.
"Captain knows a thing or two."
"If ever we send one to parliament that is the man."
"Halo! you fellows, come here! come here!"
A rush was made toward Jem, who was roaring and gesticulating at Mr.
Levi's table. When they came up they found Jem black and white with
rage, and Mr. Levi seated in calm indifference.
"What is it?" asked Robinson.
"The merchant refuses my gold."
"I refuse no man's gold," objected Levi coolly, "but this stuff is not
"Not gold-dust," cried a miner; and they all looked with wonder at the
Mr. Levi took the dust and poured it out from one hand to the other;
he separated the particles and named them by some mighty instinct.
"Brass--or-molu--gilt platinum to give it weight; this is from
Birmingham, not from Australia, nor nature."
"Such as it is it cost me thirty pounds," cried Jem. "Keep it. I shall
find him. My spade shall never go into the earth again till I'm quits
with this one."
"That is right," roared the men, "bring him to us, and the captain
shall sit in judgment again;" and the men's countenances were gloomy,
for this was a new roguery and struck at the very root of gold
"I'll put it down, Mr. Levi," said Robinson, after the others had gone
to their work; "here is a new dodge, Brummagem planted on us so far
from home. I will pull it down with a tenpenny cord but I'll end it."
Crash! went ten thousand cradles; the mine had breakfasted. I wish I
could give the European reader an idea of the magnitude of this sound
whose cause was so humble. I must draw on nature for a comparison.
Did you ever stand upon a rocky shore at evening when a great storm
has suddenly gone down, leaving the waves about as high as they were
while it raged? Then there is no roaring wind to dull the clamor of
the tremendous sea as it lashes the long re-bellowing shore. Such was
the sound of ten thousand cradles; yet the sound of each one was
insignificant. Hence an observation and a reflection--the latter I
dedicate to the lovers of antiquity--that multiplying sound, magnifies
it in a way science has not yet accounted for; and that, though men
are all dwarfs, Napoleon included, man is a giant.
The works of man are so prodigious they contradict all we see of any
individual's powers; and even so when you had seen and heard one man
rock one cradle, it was all the harder to believe that a few thousand
of them could rival thunder, avalanches, and the angry sea lashing the
long reechoing shore at night. These miserable wooden cradles lost
their real character when combined in one mighty human effort; it
seemed as if giant labor had stretched forth an arm huge as an arm of
the sea and rocked one enormous engine, whose sides where these great
primeval rocks, and its mouth a thundering sea.
Crash! from meal to meal!
The more was Robinson surprised when, full an hour before dinner-time,
this mighty noise all of a sudden became feebler and feebler, and
presently human cries of a strange character made their way to his ear
through the wooden thunder.
"What on earth is up now?" thought he--"an earthquake?"
Presently he saw at about half a mile off a vast crowd of miners
making toward him in tremendous excitement. They came on, swelled
every moment by fresh faces, and cries of vengeance and excitement
were now heard, which the wild and savage aspect of the men rendered
truly terrible. At last he saw and comprehended all at a glance.
There were Jem and two others dragging a man along whose white face
and knocking knees betrayed his guilt and his terror. Robinson knew
him directly; it was Walker, who had been the decoy-duck the night his
tent was robbed.
"Here is the captain! Hurrah! I've got him, captain. This is the
beggar that peppered the hole for me, and now we will pepper him!"
A fierce burst of exultation from the crowd. They thirsted for
revenge. Jem had caught the man at the other end of the camp, and his
offense was known by this time to half the mine.
"Proceed regularly, Jem," said Robinson. "Don't condemn the man
"Oh, no! He shall be tried, and you shall be the judge."
"I consent," said Robinson, somewhat pompously.
Then arose a cry that made him reflect.
"Lynch! Lynch! a seat for Judge Lynch!" and in a moment a
judgment-seat was built with cradles, and he was set on high, with six
strange faces scowling round him for one of his own clique. He
determined to back out of the whole thing.
"No, no!" cried he; "that is impossible. I cannot be a judge in such a
"Why not?" roared several voices.
"Why not? Because I am not a regular beak; because I have not got
authority from the Crown."
There was a howl of derision.
"We give you authority!"
"We order you to be judge!"
"We are King, Lords, and Commons!"
"Do what we bid you, or," added a stranger, "we will hang you and the
prisoner with one rope!"
Grim assent of the surrounding faces; Robinson sat down on the
judgment-seat not a little discomposed.
"Now then," remonstrated one; "what are you waiting for? Name the
"Me!" "Me!" "Me!" "I!" "I!" "I!" and there was a rush for the office.
"Keep cool," replied another. "Lynch law goes quick, but it goes by
rule. Judge, name the jury."
Robinson, a man whose wits seldom deserted him, at once determined to
lead, since he could not resist. He said with dignity: "I shall choose
one juryman from each of the different countries that are working in
this mine, that no nation may seem to be slighted, for this gold
belongs to all the world."
"Hurrah! Well done, judge. Three cheers for Judge Lynch!"
"When I call a country, give me a name, which I will inscribe on my
report of the proceedings. I want a currency lad first."
"Here is one. William Parker."
"Pass over. France."
"Present. Pierre Chanot."
"Here. Hans Muller."
"Here. Jan Van der Stegen."
Spain and Italy were called, but no reply. Asleep, I take it.
"Here. Nathan Tucker."
Here Robinson, casting his eyes round, spied McLaughlan, and, being
minded to dilute the severity of his jury, he cried out, "Scotland.
McLaughlan, you shall represent her."
"McLaughlan," cried several voices, "where are ye? Don't you hear
Judge Lynch speak to you?"
"Come, McLaughlan, come over; you are a respectable man."
Mr. McLaughlan intimated briefly in his native dialect that he was,
and intended to remain so; by way of comment on which he made a bolt
from the judgment-hall, but was rudely seized and dragged before the
"For Heaven's sake, don't be a fool, McLaughlan. No man must refuse to
be a juryman in a trial by lynch. I saw a Quaker stoned to death for
it in California."
"I guess I was thyar," said a voice behind the judge, who shifted
McLaughlan went into the jury-box with a meaning look at Robinson, but
without another audible word.
"Mercy! mercy!" cried Walker.
"You must not interrupt the proceedings," said Judge Lynch.
"Haud your whist, ye gowk. Ye are no fand guilty yet," remonstrated a
The jury being formed, the judge called the plaintiff.
"The man sold me a claim for thirty pound. I gave him the blunt
because I saw the stuff was glittery. Well, I worked it, and I found
it work rather easy, that is a fact."
"Haw! haw! haw!" roared the crowd, but with a horrible laughter, no
placability in it.
"Well, I found lots of dust, and I took it to the merchant, and he
says it is none of it gold. That is my tale."
"Have you any witnesses?"
"I don't know. Yes, the nigger; he saw it. Here, Jacky, come and tell
Jacky was thrust forward, but was interrupted by McLaughlan as soon as
he opened his mouth. The Scottish juror declined to receive evidence
but upon oath. The judge allowed the objection.
"Swear him in, then," cried a hundred voices.
"Swear?" inquired Jacky, innocently.
Another brutal roar of laughter followed.
Jacky was offended.
"What for you laugh, you stupid fellows? I not a common black fellow.
I been to Sydney and learn all the white man knows. Jacky will swear,"
"Left your hond," cried McLaughlan. "It is no swearing if you dinna
left your hond."
"Dat so stupid," said Jacky, lifting his hand peevishly. This done, he
delivered his evidence thus: "Damme I saw dis fellow sell dirt to dis
fellow, and damme I saw dis fellow find a good deal gold, and damme I
heard him say dis is a dam good job, and den damme he put down his
spade and go to sell, and directly he come back and say damme I am
"Aweel," said McLaughlan; "we jaast refuse yon lad's evidence, the
A threatening murmur.
"Silence! Hear the defendant."
Walker, trembling like an aspen, owned to having sold the claim, but
denied that the dust was false. "This is what I dug out of it," said
he; and he produced a small pinch of dust.
"Hand it to me," said the judge. "It seems genuine."
"Put it to the test. Call the merchant for a witness," cried another.
A party ran instantly for Levi. He refused to come. They dragged him
with fearful menaces.
"A test, old man; a test of gold!"
The old Jew cast his eyes around, took in the whole scene, and with a
courage few of the younger ones would have shown, defied that wild
"I will give you no test. I wash my hands of your mad passions, and
your mockeries of justice, men of Belial!"
A moment's silence and wonder, a yell of rage, and a dozen knives in
The judge rose hastily, and in a terrible voice that governed the
tumult for an instant said: "Down knives! I hang the first man that
uses one in my court." And during the momentary pause that followed
this he cried out: "He has given me a test. Run and fetch me the
bottle of acid on his table."
"Hurrah! Judge Lynch forever!" was now the cry, and in a minute the
bottle was thrust into the judge's hand.
"Young man," said Isaac solemnly, "do not pour, lest Heaven bring your
soul to as keen a test one day. Who are you that judge your brother?"
Judge Lynch trembled visibly as the reverend man rebuked him thus,
but, fearing Isaac would go farther and pay the forfeit of his
boldness, he said calmly: "Friends, remove the old man from the court,
but use respect. He is an aged man."
Isaac was removed. The judge took the bottle and poured a drop on that
small pinch of dust the man had last given him.
No effect followed.
"I pronounce this to be gold."
"There," put in McLaughlan, "ye see the lad was no deceiving ye; is it
his fault if a' the gowd is no the same?"
"No!" whimpered Walker, eagerly, and the crowd began to whisper and
allow he might be innocent.
The man standing behind the judge said, with a cold sneer: "That is
the stuff he did not sell--now pour on the stuff he sold."
These words brought back the prejudice against the prisoner, and a
hundred voices shouted, "Pour!" while their eyes gleamed with a
Judge Lynch, awestruck by this terrible roar, now felt what it is to
be a judge; he trembled and hesitated.
"Pour!" roared the crowd, still louder and more fiercely.
McLaughlan read the judge's feeling, and whimpered out, "Let it fa',
lad--let it fa'!"
"If he does our knives fall on him and you. Pour!"
Robinson poured. All their fierce eyes were fixed on the experiment.
He meant to pour a drop or two, but the man behind him jogged his arm,
and half the acid in the bottle fell upon Walker's dust.
A quantity of smoke rose from it, and the particles fizzed and bubbled
under the terrible test.
"Trash! a rope--no! dig a hole and bury him--no! fling him off the
rock into the water."
"Silence!" roared Robinson, "I am the judge, and it is for me to
pronounce the verdict."
"Silence! hear Judge Lynch!" Silence was not obtained for five
minutes, during which the court was like a forest of wild beasts
"I condemn him to be exposed all day, with his dust tied round his
neck, and then drummed out of the camp."
This verdict was received first with a yell of derisive laughter, then
with a roar of rage.
"Down with the judge!"
"We are the judges!"
"To the rock with him!"
"Ay, to the rock with him."
With this, an all-overpowering rush was made, and Walker was carried
off up the rock in the middle of five hundred infuriated men.
The poor wretch cried, "Mercy! mercy!"
"Justice! dog," was the roar in reply. The raging crowd went bellowing
up the rock like a wave, and gained a natural platform forty feet
above the great deep pool that lay dark and calm below. At the sight
of it, the poor wretch screamed to wake the dead, but the roars and
yells of vengeance drowned his voice.
"Put his dust in his pocket," cried one, crueler than the rest.
Their thirst of vengeance was too hot to wait for this diabolical
proposal; in a moment four of them had him by the shoulders and heels;
another moment and the man was flung from the rock, uttering a
terrible death-cry in the very air; then down his body fell like lead,
and struck with a tremendous plunge the deep water that splashed up a
moment, then closed and bubbled over it.
From that moment the crowd roared no longer, but buzzed and murmured,
and looked down upon their work half stupidly.
"What is that?"
"It is his head!"
"He is up again!"
"Can he swim?"
"Fling stones on him."
"No! Let him alone, or we'll fling you atop of him."
"He is up, but he can't swim. He is only struggling! he is down
He was down, but only for a moment; then he appeared again choking and
"Justice, thieving dog!" was the appalling answer.
"Save me! save me! Oh, save me! save me!"
"Save yourself! if you are worth it!" was the savage reply.
The drowning, despairing man's head was sinking again, his strength
exhausted by his idle struggles, when suddenly on his left hand he saw
a round piece of rock scarce a yard from him. He made a desperate
effort and got his hand on it. Alas! it was so slimy he could not hold
by it; he fell off it into the water; he struggled up again, tried to
dig his feet into the rock, but, after a convulsive fling of a few
seconds, fell back--the slimy rock mocked his grasp. He came up again
and clung, and cried piteously for help and mercy. There was
none!--but a grim silence and looks of horrible curiosity at his idle
struggles. His crime had struck at the very root of their hearts and
lives. Then this poor, cowardly wretch made up his mind that he must
die. He gave up praying to the pitiless, who could look down and laugh
at his death-agony, and he cried upon the absent only. "My children!
my wife! my poor Jenny!" and with this he shut his eyes, and,
struggling no more, sank quietly down! down! down. First his shoulders
disappeared, then his chin, then his eyes, and then his hair. Who can
fathom human nature? that sad, despairing cry, which was not addressed
to them, knocked at the bosoms that all his prayers to them for pity
had never touched. A hasty, low and uneasy murmur followed it almost
as a report follows a flash.
"His wife and children!" cried several voices with surprise; but there
were two men this cry not only touched, but pierced--the plaintiff and
"The man has got a wife and children," cried Jem in dismay, as he
tried to descend the rock by means of some diminutive steps. "They
never offended me--he is gone down, ---- me if I see the man drowned
like a rat--Hallo!--Splash!"
Jem's foot had slipped, and, as he felt he must go, he jumped right
out, and fell twenty feet into the water.
At this the crowd roared with laughter, and now was the first shade of
good-nature mixed with the guffaw. Jem fell so near Walker that on
coming up he clutched the drowning man's head and dragged him up once
more from death. At the sight of Walker's face above water again, what
did the crowd, think you?
They burst into a loud hurrah! and cheered Jem till the echoes rang
"Hurrah! Bravo! Hurrah!" pealed the fickle crowd.
Now Walker no sooner felt himself clutched than he clutched in return
with the deadly grasp of a drowning man. Jem struggled to get free in
vain. Walker could not hear or see, he was past all that; but he could
cling, and he got Jem round the arms and pinned them. After a few
convulsive efforts Jem gave a loud groan. He then said quietly to the
spectators, "He will drown me in another half minute." But at this
critical moment out came from the other extremity of the pool Judge
Lynch, swimming with a long rope in his hand; one end of this rope he
had made into a bight ere he took the water. He swam behind Walker and
Jem, whipped the noose over their heads and tightened it under their
shoulders. "Haul!" cried he to Ede, who held the other end of the
rope. Ede hauled, and down went the two heads.
A groan of terror and pity from the mob--their feelings were reversed.
"Haul quick, Ede," shouted Robinson, "or you will drown them, man
Ede hauled hand over hand, and a train of bubbles was seen making all
across the pool toward him. And the next moment two dripping heads
came up to hand close together, like cherries on a stalk; and now a
dozen hands were at the rope, and the plaintiff and defendant were
lifted bodily up on to the flat rock, which came nearly to the water's
edge on this side the pool.
"Augh! augh! augh! augh!" gasped Jem.
Walker said nothing. He lay white and motionless, water trickling from
his mouth, nose and ears.
Robinson swam quietly ashore. The rocks thundered with cheers over his
The next moment, "the many-headed beast" remembered that all this was
a waste of time, and bolted underground like a rabbit, and dug and
pecked for the bare life with but one thought left, and that was GOLD.
"How are you, Jem?"
"Oh, captain, oh!" gasped poor Jem, "I am choked--I am dead--I am
poisoned--why, I'm full of water; bring this other beggar to my tent,
and we will take a nanny-goat together."
So Jem was taken off hanging his head, and deadly sick, supported by
two friends, and Walker was carried to the same tent, and stripped and
rubbed and rolled up in a blanket; and lots of brandy poured down him
and Jem, to counteract the poison they had swallowed.
Robinson went to Mr. Levi, to see if he would lend him a suit, while
he got his own dried. The old Jew received my lord judge with a low,
ironical bow, and sent Nathan to borrow the suit from another
Israelite. He then lectured my lord Lynch.
"Learn from this, young man, how easy it is to set a stone rolling
down hill, how hard to stop it half-way down. Law must always be above
the mob, or it cannot be law. If it fall into their hands it goes down
to their own level and becomes revenge, passion, cruelty, anything
but--law. The madmen! they have lost two thousand ounces of gold--to
themselves and to the world, while they have been wasting their time
and risking their souls over a pound of brass, and aspiring to play
the judge and the executioner, and playing nothing but the brute and
the fool--as in the days of old."
Mr. Levi concluded by intimating that there was very little common
sense left upon earth, and that little it would be lost time to search
for among the Gentiles. Finally his discourse galled Judge Lynch, who
thereupon resolved to turn the laugh against him.
"Mr. Levi," said he, "I see you know a thing or two. Will you be so
good as to answer me a question?"
"If it come within my knowledge," replied the senior, with grave
"Which weighs the heaviest, sir, a pound of gold or a pound of
feathers?" and he winked at Nathan, but looked in Isaac's face as
demure as a Quakeress.
"A pound of feathers," replied Isaac.
Robinson looked half puzzled, half satirical.
"A childish question," said Isaac sternly. "What boy knows not that
feathers are weighed by Avoirdupois, and gold by Troy weight, and
consequently that a pound of feathers weighs sixteen ounces, and a
pound of gold but twelve?"
"Well, that is a new answer," cried Robinson. "Good-by, sir, you are
too hard for me;" and he made off to his own tent. It was a day of
The moment he was out of hearing, Isaac laughed. The only time he had
done it during six years. And what a laugh! How, sublimely devoid of
merriment! a sudden loud cackle of three distinct cachinni not
declining into a chuckle, as we do, but ending sharp in abrupt and
"I discomfited the young man, Nathan--I mightily discomfited him. Ha!
ha! ho! Nathan, did you as I bade you?"
"Yes, master, I found the man, and I sent Samuel, who went hastily to
him and cried out, 'Mr. Meadows is in the camp and wishes to speak to
you.' Master, he started up in wonder, and his whole face changed;
without doubt he is the man you suspected."
"Yes," said Isaac, reflecting deeply. "The man is Peter Crawley; and
what does he here? Some deep villainy lies at the bottom of this; but
I will fathom it, ay, and thwart it, I swear by the God of Abraham.
Let me think awhile in my tent. Sit you at the receipt of gold."
The old man sat upon a divan in his tent, and pondered on all that had
happened in the mine; above all, on the repeated attacks that had been
made on that one tent.
He remembered, too, that George had said sorrowfully to him more than
once: "No letters for me, Mr. Levi, no letter again this month!" The
shrewd old man tied these two threads together directly.
"All these things are one," said Isaac Levi.
Thus pondering, and patiently following out his threads, the old man
paced a mile down the camp to the post-office, for he had heard the
postman's horn, and he expected important letters from England, from
his friend and agent at Farnborough, Old Cohen.
There were letters from England, but none in old Cohen's hand. He put
them in his bosom with a disappointed look, and paced slowly, and
deeply pondering, back toward his tent. He was about half way, when,
much to his surprise, a stone fell close to him. He took, however, no
notice, did not even accelerate his pace or look round; but the next
moment a lump of clay struck him on the arm. He turned round,
quivering with rage at the insult, and then he saw a whole band of
diggers behind him, who the moment he turned his face began to hoot
and pelt him.
"Who got poor Walker drowned? Ah! ah! ah!"
"Who refused to give evidence before Judge Lynch?" cried another, "Ah!
There were clearly two parties in the mob.
"Down with the Jew--the blood-sucker. We do all the work, and he gets
all the profit. Ah! ah! ah!"
And a lump of clay struck that reverend head and almost stunned the
poor old man. He sunk upon his knees, and in a moment his coat was
torn to shreds, but with unexpected activity he wriggled himself free
and drew a dagger long, bright, and sharp as a needle. His assailants
recoiled a moment. The next a voice was heard from behind, "Get on
both sides of him at once!"
Isaac looked and saw Peter Crawley. Then the old man trembled for his
life, and cried, "Help! help!" and they hemmed him in and knocked his
dagger out of his hand, and hustled and pommeled him, and would have
torn him in pieces, but he slipped down, and two of them got in front
and dragged him along the ground.
"To Walker's pool," cried brutus, putting himself at the head of those
All of a sudden Isaac, though half insensible, heard a roar of rage
that seemed to come from a lion--a whiz, a blow like a
thunder-clap--saw one of his assassins driven into the air and falling
like a dead clod three yards off, found himself dropped and a man
striding over him. It was George Fielding, who stood a single moment
snorting and blowing out his cheeks with rage, then went slap at the
mob as a lion goes at sheep; seized one of the small ruffians by the
knees, and, by a tremendous effect of strength and rage, actually used
him as a flail, and struck brutus with the man's head, and knocked
that ruffian down stunned, and his nose leveled with his cheeks. The
mob recoiled a moment from this one hero. George knew it could be but
for a moment, so he had no sooner felled brutus, and hurled the
other's carcass in their faces, than he pounced on Isaac, whipped him
on his back and ran off with him.
He had got thirty yards with him ere the staggered mob could realize
The mob recovered their surprise, and with a yell like a pack of
hounds bursting covert dashed after the pair. The young Hercules made
a wonderful effort, but no mortal man could run very fast so weighted.
In spite of his start they caught him in about a hundred yards. He
heard them close upon him--put the Jew down--and whispered hastily,
"Run to your tent," and instantly wheeled round and flung himself at
thirty men. He struck two blows and disabled a couple; the rest came
upon him like one battering-ram and bore him to the ground; but even
as he went down he caught the nearest assailant by the throat and they
rolled over one another, the rest kicking savagely at George's head
and loins. The poor fellow defended his head with one arm and his
assailant's body for a little while, but he received some terrible
kicks on the back and legs.
"Give it him on the head!"
"Kick his life out!"
"Settle his hash!"
They were so fiercely intent on finishing George that they did not
observe a danger that menaced themselves.
As a round shot cuts a lane through a column of infantry, so clean
came two files of special constables with their short staves severing
the mob in two--crick, crack, crick, crick, crick, crick, crack,
crack. In three seconds ten heads were broken, with a sound just like
glass bottles, under the short, deadly truncheon, and there lay half a
dozen ruffians writhing on the ground and beating the Devil's tattoo
with their heels.
"Charge back!" cried the head-policeman as soon as he had cut clean
But at the very word the cowardly crew fled on all sides yelling. The
police followed in different directions a little way, and through this
error three of the felled got up and ran staggering off. When the
head-policeman saw that he cried out:
"Back, and secure prisoners."
They caught three who were too stupefied to run, and rescued brutus
from George, who had got him by the throat and was hammering the
ground with his head.
"Let go, George," cried Policeman Robinson, in some anxiety, "you are
killing the man."
"Oh, I don't want to kill him neither," said George.
And he slowly withdrew his grasp, and left off hammering with the
rascal's head, but looked at him as if he would have preferred to have
gone on a little longer. They captured the three others.
"Now secure them," cried Ede. "Out with your wipes."
"There is no need of wipes," said Robinson.
He then, with a slight blush, and rather avoiding George's eye, put
his hand in his pockets and produced four beautiful sets of handcuffs,
bran new, polished to the fine. With a magical turn of the hand he
handcuffed the three men, still avoiding George's eye. Unnecessary.
George's sense of humor was very faint, and so was his sweetheart's--a
Perhaps I may as well explain here how Robinson came so opportunely to
the rescue. The fact is, that a week ago he had ordered a lot of
constables' staves and four sets of handcuffs. The staves were nicely
painted, lettered "Captain Robinson's Police, A, B, C," etc. They had
just come home, and Robinson was showing them to Ede and his gang,
when a hullabaloo was heard, and Levi was seen full half a mile off
being hunted. Such an opportunity of trying the new staves was not to
be neglected. Ede and his men jumped out of their claim and ran with
Robinson to the rescue. But they would have been too late if George,
who had just come into the camp at that very part, had not made his
noble and desperate assault and retreat, which baffled the assailants
for two precious minutes.
Robinson. "What shall we do with them now we have got them?"
George. "Give them a kick apiece on their behinds, and let them
Robinson. "Not if I know it."
Ede. "I say blackguard 'em."
Robinson. "No, that would be letting ourselves down to their level.
No, we will expose them as we did my old pal here before."
Ede. "Why that is what I mean. Ticket them--put a black card on them
with their offense wrote out large."
No sooner said than done. All four were tied to posts in the sun, and
black-carded, or, as some spell it, placarded, thus:
Attacked and abused an old man.
>N. B.--Not hanged this time because they
got a licking then and there.
"Let us go and see after Mr. Levi, George."
"Well, Tom, I had rather not."
"Why not? he ought to be very much obliged to you."
"That is it, Tom. The old man is of rather a grateful turn of
mind--and it is ten to one if he doesn't go and begin praising me to
my face--and then that makes me--I don't know which way to look. Wait
till he has cooled upon it a bit."
"You are a rum one. Well, George, I have got one proposal you won't
say no to. First, I must tell you there is really a river of quartz in
"Didn't I tell you?"
"Yes, and I didn't believe it. But I have spoken to Jacky about it,
and he has seen it; it is on the other side of the bush. I am ready to
start for it to-morrow, for there is little good to be done here now
the weather has broken."
George assented with joy; but, when Robinson suggested that Jacky
would be very useful to pilot them through the bush, his countenance
"Don't think of it," said he. "I know he is here, Tom, and I shan't go
after him. But don't let him come near me, the nasty little, creeping,
murdering varmint. Poor Abner will never get over his tomahawk--not if
he lives fifty years."
In short, it was agreed they should go alone at peep of day.
"I have talked it over with Jem already, and he will take charge of
our tent till we come back."
"So be it."
"We must take some provisions with us, George."
"I'll go and get some cold meat and bread, Tom."
"Do. I'm going to the tent."
Robinson, it is to be observed, had not been in his tent since George
and he left it and took their gold out of it just before sunrise. As
he now carried their joint wealth about his person, his anxiety was
Now at the door of the tent he was intercepted by Jem, very red in the
face, partly with brandy, partly with rage. Walker, whose life he had
saved, whom he had taken to his own tent, and whom Robinson had seen
lying asleep in the best blanket, this Walker had absconded with his
boots and half a pound of tobacco.
"Well, but you knew he was a rogue. Why did you leave him alone in
"I only left him for a minute to go a few steps with you if you
remember, and you said yourself he was asleep. Well, the moment our
backs were turned he must have got up and done the trick."
"I don't, like it," said Robinson.
"No more don't I," said Jem.
"If he was not asleep, be must have heard me say I was going to cross
the bush with my mate to-morrow at daybreak."
"Well! and what if he did?"
"He is like enough to have gone and told the whole gang."
"And what if he has?"
Robinson was about to explain to Jem. that he now carried all the
joint gold in his pocket, but he forbore. "It is too great a stake for
me to trust anybody unless I am forced," thought he. So he only said:
"Well, it is best to be prudent. I shall change the hour for
"You are a cunning one, captain, but I really think you are
"Jem," said the other gravely, "there is a mystery in this mine. There
is a black gang in it, and that Walker is one of them. I think they
have sworn to have my gold or my life, and they shan't have either if
I can help it. I shall start two hours before the sun."
He was quite right; Walker had been shamming sleep, and full four
hours ago he had told his confederates as a matter of course all that
he had heard in the enemy's camp.
Walker, a timid villain, was unprepared for the burst of savage
exultation from brutus and Black Will that followed this intelligence.
These two, by an instinct quick as lightning, saw the means of
gratifying at one blow their cupidity and hate. Crawley had already
told them he had seen Robinson come out of Levi's tent after a long
stay, and their other spies had told them his own tent had been left
unguarded for hours. They put these things together and conjectured at
once that the men had now their swag about them in one form or other.
"When do they go?"
"To-morrow at break of day," he said.
"The bush is very thick!"
"And dark, too!"
"It is just the place for a job."
"Will two of you be enough?"
"Plenty, the way we shall work."
"The men are strong and armed."
"Their strength will be no use to them, and they shan't get time to
use their arms."
"For Heaven's sake, shed no blood unnecessarily," said Crawley,
beginning to tremble at the pool of crime to whose brink he had led
"Do you think they will give up their swag while they are alive?"
asked brutus, scornfully.
"Then I wash my hands of it all," cried the little self-deceiving
caitiff; and he affected to have nothing to do with it.
Walker was then thanked for his information, and he thought this was a
good opportunity for complaining of his wrongs and demanding redress.
This fellow was a thorough egotist, saw everything from his own point
of view only.
Jem had dragged him before Judge Robinson; Robinson had played the
beak and found him guilty; Levi had furnished the test on which he had
been convicted. All these had therefore cruelly injured and nearly
Himself was not the cause. He had not set all these stones rolling by
forging upon nature and robbing Jem of thirty pounds. No! he could not
see that, nor did he thank Jem one bit for jumping in and saving his
life at risk of his own. "Why did he ever get him thrown in, the
brute? If he was not quite drowned he was nearly, and Jem the cause."
His confederates soothed him with promises of vengeance on all their
three his enemies, and soon after catching sight of one of them, Levi,
they kept their word; they roused up some of the other diggers against
Isaac on the plea that he had refused to give evidence against Walker,
and so they launched a mob and trusted to mob nature for the rest. The
recoil of this superfluous villainy was, as often happens, a blow to
the head scheme.
brutus, who was wanted at peep of day for the dark scheme already
hinted at, got terribly battered by George Fielding, and placarded,
and, what was worse, chained to a post, by Robinson and Ede. It became
necessary to sound his body and spirit.
One of the gang was sent by Crawley to inquire whether he felt strong
enough to go with Black Will on that difficult and dangerous work
to-morrow. The question put in a passing whisper was answered in a
"I am as strong as a lion for revenge. Tell them I would not miss
to-morrow's work for all the gold in Australia."
The lowering face spoke loud enough if the mouth whispered.
The message was brought back to Black Will and Crawley.
"What energy!" said Crawley, admiringly.
"Ay!" said Black Will, "that is your sort; give me a pal with his skin
smarting and his bones aching for the sort of job that wood shall see
to-morrow. Have they marked him?" he inquired, with a strange
"I am afraid they have; his nose is smashed frightful."
"I am glad of it; now we are brothers and will have blood for blood."
"Your expressions are dreadfully terse," said Crawley, trying to
smile, but looking scared instead; "but I don't understand your
remark; you were not in the late unsuccessful attack on Mr. Levi, and
you escaped most providentially in the night business--the men have
not marked you, my good friend."
"Haven't they?" yelled the man, with a tremendous oath--"haven't they?
LOOK HERE!" A glance was enough. Crawley turned wan and shuddered from
head to foot.
WE left Robinson and Jem talking at the entrance to the tent.
"Come in," said Robinson. "You will take care of this tent while we
Jem promised faithfully.
He then asked Robinson to explain to him the dodge of the gut-lines.
Robinson showed him, and how the bells were rung at his head by the
Jem complimented him highly.
Robinson smiled, but the next moment sighed. "They will be too clever
for us some of these dark nights--see how nearly they have nicked us
again and again!"
"Don't be down on your luck, captain!"
"Jem, what frightens me is the villains getting off so; there they are
to try again, and next time the luck will be theirs--it can't be
always ours--why should it? Jem, there was a man in my tent last
"There is no denying that, captain."
"Well, Jem, I can't get it off my heart that I was to kill that man,
or he me. Everything was on my side. I had my gut-lines, and I had a
revolver and a cutlass--and I took up the cutlass like a fool; if I
had taken up the revolver the man would be dead. I took up the wrong,
and that man will be my death. The cards never forgive! I had the odd
trick, and didn't take it--I shall lose the game."
"No, ye shan't," cried Jem, hastily. "What if the man got clear for
the moment, we will hunt him out for you. You give me his
"I couldn't," said Robinson, despondingly. "It was so dark! Here is
his pistol, but that is no use. If I had but a clew, ay, ever so
slight, I'd follow it up; but no, there is none. Hallo, what is the
matter! What is it? what on earth is the man looking at like that?"
"What was you asking for?" stammered Jem. "Wasn't it a clew?"
Robinson got up and came to Jem, who was standing with dilated eyes
looking at the ground in the very corner of the tent. He followed the
direction of Jem's eyes, and was instantly transfixed with curiosity
and rising horror.
"Take it up, Jem," he gasped.
"No, you take it up! it was you who--"
"No--yes! there is George's voice. I wouldn't let him see such a thing
for the world. Oh, God! here is another."
"Yes, in the long grass! and there is George's voice."
"Come out, Jem. Not a word to George for the world. I want to talk to
you. If it hasn't turned me sick! I should make a poor hangman. But it
was in self-defense, thank Heaven for that!"
"Where are you going in such a hurry, Tom?" said George.
"Oh, only a little way with Jem."
"Don't be long, it is getting late."
"Jem, this is an ugly job!"
"An ugly job, no! ---- him, I wish it was his head. Give them me,
"What, will you take charge of them?"
"That I will, captain, and what is more I'll find your enemy out by
them, and--when you come back he shall be in custody--waiting your
orders. Give them me."
"Yes, take them. Oh, but I am glad to be rid of them. What a ghastly
look they have."
"I don't care for their looks. I am right glad to see them--they are a
clew and no mistake. Keep dark to-night. Don't tell this to Ede--he is
a good fellow but chatters too much--let me work it out. I'll find the
late owner double quick," said Jem, with a somewhat brutal laugh.
"Your orders about the prisoners, captain?" cried Ede, coming up.
Turn them all loose--but one."
"And what shall I do with him?"
"Hum! Put a post up in your own tent."
"Tie him to it in his handcuffs. Give him food enough."
"And when shall we loose him?"
"At noon, to-morrow."
"It shall be done! but you must come and show me which of the four it
Robinson went with Ede and his men.
"Turn this one loose," said he; it was done on the instant.
"And" (laying his finger on brutus) "keep this one prisoner in your
tent, handcuffed and chained, till noon to-morrow."
At the touch, brutus trembled with hate; at the order, his countenance
fell like Cain's.
Full two hours before sunrise the patrol called Robinson by his own
order, and the friends made for the bush, with a day's provision and
their blankets, their picks, and their revolvers. When they arrived at
the edge of the bush, Robinson halted and looked round to see if they
were followed. The night was pretty clear; no one was in sight. The
men struck rapidly into the bush, which at this part had been cut and
cleared in places, lying as it did so near a mine.
"What, are we to run, Tom?"
"Yes! I want to get to the river of quartz as soon as possible," was
the dry answer.
"With all my heart."
After running about half a mile, George pulled up, and they walked.
"What do you keep looking behind for, Tom?"
"You fidget me, Tom!"
"Can't help it. I shall be like that till daylight. They have shaken
my nerves among them."
"Don't give way to such nonsense. What are you afraid of?"
"I am not afraid of anything. Come, George, another run."
"Oh, as you like. This beats all."
This run brought them to the end of the broad road, and they found two
smaller paths; after some hesitation, Robinson took the left-hand one,
and it landed them in such a terribly thick scrub they could hardly
move. They forced their way through it, getting some frightful
scratches, but after struggling with it for a good half hour, began to
fear it was impenetrable and interminable, when the sun rising showed
them a clear space some yards ahead. They burst through the remainder
of the scrub, and came out upon an old clearing full a mile long and a
quarter of a mile broad. They gave a hurrah at the sight of it, but
when they came to walk on it the ground was clay and so sticky with a
late shower that they were like flies moving upon varnish, and at last
were fain to take off their shoes and stockings and run over it on the
tips of their toes. At the end of this opening they came to a place
like the "Seven Dials"--no end of little paths into the wood, and none
very promising. After a natural hesitation, they took the one that
seemed to be most on their line of march, and followed it briskly till
it brought them plump upon a brook, and there it ended. Robinson
"Confound the bush," cried he. "You were wrong not to let me bring
Jacky. What is to be done?"
"I hate going back. I would rather go thirty miles ahead than one
back. I've got an idea; off shoes and paddle up the stream; perhaps we
shall find a path that comes to it from the other side."
They paddled up the stream a long way, and at last, sure enough, they
found a path that came down to the stream from the opposite side. They
now took a hasty breakfast, washing it down with water from the brook,
then dived into the wood.
The sun, was high in heaven, yet still they had not got out of the
"I can't make it out, George; there is nothing to steer by, and these
paths twist and turn so. I don't think we shall do any good till
night. When I see the Southern Cross in the sky I shall be able to
steer northeast. That is our line."
"Don't give in," said George; "I think it looks clearer ahead. I
believe we are at the end of it."
"No such luck, I am afraid," was the despondent reply.
For all that, in a few yards more they came upon an open place.
They could not help cheering. "At last!" cried they. But this triumph
gave way to doubts.
"I am afraid we are not clear yet," said Robinson. "See, there is wood
again on the other side. Why, it is that sticky clay again. Why,
George, it is the clearing we crossed before breakfast."
"You are talking nonsense, Tom," cried George, angrily.
"No, I am not," said the other, sadly. "Come across. We shall soon
know by our footsteps in the clay."
Sure enough, half way across they found a track of footsteps. George
was staggered. "It is the place, I really think," said he. "But, Tom,
when you talk of the footsteps, look here? You and I never made all
these tracks. This is the track of a party."
Robinson examined the ground.
"Tracks of three men; two barefoot, one in nailed boots."
"Well, is that us?"
"Look at the clearing, George, you have got eyes. It is the same."
"So 'tis, but I can't make out the three tracks."
Robinson groaned. "I can. This third track has come since we went by."
"No doubt of that, Tom. Well?"
"Well, don't you see?"
"You and I are being hunted."
George looked blank a moment. "Can't we be followed without being
"No; others might, but not me. We are being hunted," said Robinson,
sternly. "George, I am sick of this, let us end it. Let us show these
fellows they are hunting lions and not sheep. Is your revolver
"Then come on!" And he set off to run, following the old tracks.
George ran by his side, his eyes flashing with excitement. They came
to the brook. Robinson showed. George that their pursuer had taken
some steps down the stream. "No matter," said he, "don't lose time,
George, go right up the bank to our path. He will have puzzled it out,
you may take your oath."
Sure enough they found another set of footsteps added to their own.
Robinson. paused before entering the wood. He put fresh caps on his
revolver. "Now, George," said he, in a low voice, "we couldn't sleep
in this wood without having our throats cut, but before night I'll be
out of danger or in my grave, for life is not worth having in the
midst of enemies. Hush! hus-s-sh! You must not speak to me but in a
"No!" whispered George.
"Nor rustle against the boughs."
"No, I won't," whispered George. "But make me sensible, Tom. Tell me
what all this caution is to lead to. What are you doing?"
"I AM HUNTING THE HUNTER!" hissed. Robinson, with concentrated fury.
And he glided rapidly down the trodden path, his revolver cocked, his
ears pricked, his eye on fire, and his teeth clinched.
George followed, silent and cautious, his revolver ready cocked in his
hand. As they glided thus, following their own footsteps, and hunting
their hunter with gloomy brows, and nerves quivering, and hearts
darkening with anger and bitterness, sudden a gloom fell upon the
wood--it darkened and darkened. Meantime a breeze chill as ice
disturbed its tepid and close air, forerunner of a great wind which
was soon heard, first moaning in the distance, then howling and
rushing up, and sweeping over the tall trees and rocking them like so
many bulrushes. A great storm was coming.
THIS very afternoon Mr. Levi came to inquire for George Fielding.
Unable to find him, he asked of several diggers where the young man
was; he could get no information till Jem saw him, and came and told
Now when he heard they were gone, and not expected back for some days,
Isaac gave quite a start, and showed a degree of regret and vexation
that Jem was puzzled to account for.
On reflection he begged Jem to come to his tent; there he sat down and
wrote a letter.
"Young man," said he, "I do entreat you to give this to George
Fielding the moment he returns to the camp. Why did he go without
coming to see me? my old heart is full of misgivings."
"You needn't have any, sir," said Jem, surprised at the depth of
feeling in the old Jew's face and voice. "He shall have the letter,
you may depend."
Levi thanked him.
He then said to Nathan: "Strike the tents, collect our party, and let
us be gone."
"What! going to leave us, sir?"
"Yes! young man, this very hour."
"Well now, I am sorry for that, and so will the captain be, and his
pal that you think so much of."
"We shall not be long parted," said the old man, in his sweet musical
Eastern accent, "not very long, if you are faithful to your trust and
give the good young man my letter. May good angels hover round him,
may the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob guard him!"
"Amen!" said rough Jem; for the reverend face glowed with piety, and
the voice was the voice of prayer.
Suddenly an unpleasant reflection occurred to Jem.
"Well, but if you go, who is to buy our gold-dust?"
"The Christian merchants," said Isaac, with an indifferent air.
"But they are such Jews," cried Jem, inadvertently. "I mean--I
mean----" And rough as he was, he looked as if he could have bitten
his tongue off.
"I know what you mean," said Isaac, sadly. He added: "Such as they
are, they are all you have now. The old Jew was hunted and hooted and
insulted in this place yesterday; here then he trades no more; those
who set no value on him can of course supply his place."
"The blackguards," cried Jem, "the ruffians, I wish I had seen them.
Come, Mr. Levi, that was not the mine; that was only the riffraff; you
might forgive us that."
"I never forgive," was the calm reply.
A TREMENDOUS snow-storm fell upon the mine and drove Jem into his
tent, where he was soon after joined by Jacky, a circumstance in
itself sufficient to prove the violence of the storm, for Jacky
loathed indoors, it choked him a good deal.
The more was Jem surprised when he heard a lamentable howl coming
nearer and nearer, and a woman burst into his tent, a mere pillar of
snow, for she was covered with a thousand flakes each as big as a
"Ochone! ochone! ochone!" cried Mary McDogherty, and, on being asked
what was the matter, she sat down and rocked herself and moaned and
cried, "Ochone--och, captain, avick, what will I do for you? an' who
will I find to save you? an' oh, it is the warm heart and the kind
heart ye had to poor Molly McDogherty that ud give her life to save
yours this day."
"The captain," cried Jem, in great alarm. "What is wrong with the
"He is lying could and stiff in the dark, bloody wood. Och, the
murthering villains! och, what will I do at all! och, captain, avick,
warm was your heart to the poor Irish boys, but it is could now.
"Woman," cried Jem, in great agitation, "leave off blubbering and tell
me what is the matter."
Thus blandly interrogated, Mary told him a story (often interrupted
with tears and sighs) of what had been heard and seen yester eve by
one of the Irish boys--a story that turned him cold, for it left on
him the same impression it had left on the warmhearted Irishwoman,
that at this moment his good friend was lying dead in the bush hard
He rose and loaded Robinson's double-barreled gun; he loaded it with
bullets, and, as he rammed them fiercely down, he said angrily: "Leave
off crying and wringing your hands; what on earth is the use of that?
here goes to save him or to revenge him."
"An' och, James, take the wild Ingine wid ye; they know them bloody,
murthering woods better than our boys, glory be to God for taching
them that same."
"Of course I shall take him. You hear, Jacky, will you show me how to
find the poor dear captain and his mate if they are in life?"
"If they are alive, Jacky will find them a good deal soon--if they are
dead, still Jacky will find them."
The Irishwoman's sorrow burst out afresh at these words. The savage
then admitted the probability of that she dreaded.
"And their enemies--the cowardly villains--what will you do to them?"
asked Jem, black with rage.
Jacky's answer made Mary scream with affright, and startled even Jem's
iron nerves for a moment. At the very first word of the Irishwoman's
story, the savage had seated himself on the ground with his back
turned to the others, and, unnoticed by them, had rapidly painted his
face with the war-paint of his tribe. Words cannot describe the
ghastly terrors, the fiendish ferocity these traditional lines and
colors gave his countenance. This creature, that looked so like a
fiend, came erect into the middle of the tent with a single bound, as
if that moment vomited forth by hell, and yet with a grander carriage
and princelier presence than he had worn in time of peace; and even as
he bounded he crossed his tomahawk and narrow wooden shield, to
signify that his answer was no vulgar asseveration, but a vow of
"KALINGALUNGA WILL KILL THEM, AND DRINK THEIR BLOOD."
Kalingalunga glided from the tent. Jem followed him. The snow fell in
flakes as large as a lady's hand, and the air was dark; Jem could not
see where the hunter was taking him, but he strode after him and
trusted to his sagacity.
Five hours' hard walking, and then the snow left off. The air became
clear, and to Jem's surprise the bush, instead of being on his right
hand, was now on his left; and there on its skirts, about a mile off,
was the native camp. They had hardly come in sight of it when it was
seen to break from quietude into extraordinary bustle.
"What is up?" asked Jem.
The hunter smiled, and pointed to his own face:
"Kalingalunga painted war."
"What eyes the beggars must have," said Jem.
The next minute a score of black figures came tearing up in such
excitement that their long rows of white teeth and the whites of their
eyes flashed like Budelights in their black heads.
Kalingalunga soon calmed them down by letting them know that he was
painted for a private, not a national feud. He gave them no further
information. I suspect he was too keen a sportsman to put others on
the scent of his game. He went all through the camp, and ascertained
from the stragglers that no men answering the description of George
and Robinson had passed out of the wood.
"They are in the wood," said he
He then ordered a great fire--bade Jem dry his clothes and eat; he
collected two of his wives and committed Jem to their care, and glided
like a panther into the wood.
What with the great heat succeeding to the great cold, and the great
supper the gins gave him, Jem fell fast asleep. It was near daylight
when a hand was laid on his shoulder, and there was Kalingalunga.
"Not a track on the snow."
"No? then let us hope they are not in the wood."
The hunter hung his head.
"Me tink they are in the wood," said he, gravely.
Jem groaned, "Then they are lying under the soil of it or in some dark
Kalingalunga reflected. He replied to this effect:
"That there were no more traces of an assassin than of victims,
consequently that it was impossible to know anything, and that it was
a good deal too stupid to speak a good deal knowing nothing."
All this time Jem's fear and rage and impatience contrasted greatly
with the philosophic phlegm of the Pict, who looked so fierce and took
it all so cool, ending with an announcement that now Kalingalunga
would sleep a good deal.
The chief was soon asleep, but not till he had ordered his gins to
wake him the moment the snow should be melted. This occurred at noon,
and, after snatching a hasty meal, he put a tomahawk into Jem's hands
and darted into the bush.
All the savage's coldness disappeared now he was at work. He took Jem
right across the wood from southeast to northwest. Nothing stopped
him. When the scrub was thick above but hollow below he threw himself
on his belly and wriggled along like a snake. When it was all thick,
he hacked into it with fury and forced a path. When it was
impenetrable he went round it, and by some wonderful instinct got into
the same line again. Thus they cut clean across the wood but found no
Then the savage, being out in the open, trotted easily down the
woodside to the southwest point; here he entered and took a line
straight as an arrow to the northeast.
It was about five in the afternoon. Kalingalunga was bleeding all over
with scratches, and Jem was torn to pieces and done up. He was just
about to tell the other that he must give in, when Kalingalunga
suddenly stopped, and pointed to the ground:
"A white man's shoe."
"How many are there?"
"I doubt it is a bad job, Jacky," said he.
"Follow--not too close," was the low reply.
And the panther became a serpent, so smooth and undulating were the
motions with which he glided upon the track he had now discovered.
Jem, well aware that he could not move noiselessly like the savage,
obeyed him and crept after at some distance.
The savage had followed the man's footsteps about half a mile, and the
white man the savage, when suddenly both were diverted from their
purpose. Kalingalunga stood still and beckoned Jem. Jem ran to him,
and found him standing snuffing the air with his great broad nostrils,
like a stag.
"What is it?"
"White fellow burn wambiloa wood."
"How d'ye know? how d'ye know?"
"Wambiloa wood smell a good way off when him burn."
"And how do you know it is a white man?"
"Black fellow never burn wambiloa wood; not good to burn that. Keep it
The chief now cut off a few of his long hairs and held them up to
ascertain the exact direction of the wind. This done, he barked a tree
to mark the spot to which he had followed the trail, and striking out
into quite a different direction he hunted by scent.
Jem expected to come on the burning wambiloa very soon, but he
underrated either the savage's keen scent or the acrid odor of the
sacred wood--perhaps both. They had gone half a mile at least before
his companion thought it necessary to show any caution. At last he
stopped short, and then Jem smelled a smell as if "cinnamon and
ginger, nutmegs and cloves," were all blazing in one bonfire. With
some difficulty he was prevailed on to stand still and let the subtle
native creep on, nor would he consent to be inactive until the other
solemnly vowed to come back for him and give him his full share of the
fighting. Then Kalingalunga went gliding like a shadow and flitted
from tree to tree.
Woe be to the enemy the subtle, noiseless, pitiless, remorseless
savage surprises; he has not put on his war-paint in sport or for
A MAN was hunting Robinson and George Fielding, and they were hunting
him. Both parties inflamed with rage and bitterness; both master of
the other's fate, they thought.
A change of wind brought a fall of snow, and the fall of snow baffled
both parties in five minutes. Down came the Australian flakes large as
a woman's hand (I am not romancing), and effaced the tracks of the
pursuing and pursued and pursuers. So tremendous was the fall that the
two friends thought of nothing but shelter. They drew their blankets
over their heads and ran hither and thither looking for a friendly
tree. At last they found an old tree with a prodigious stem that
parted about ten feet up into two forks. With some effort they got up
into this cleft, and then they were on a natural platform. Robinson
always carried nails in his pocket, and he contrived to nail the two
blankets to the forks so as to make a screen. Then they took out their
provisions and fortified themselves with a hearty supper.
As they were eating it they were suddenly startled by an explosion so
tremendous that their tree seemed to have been struck by lightning.
Out went Robinson, with his mouth full, on to a snowdrift four feet
high. He looked up and saw the cause of the fracas. A large bough of a
neighboring tree had parted from the trunk with the enormous weight of
the snow. Robinson climbed back to George and told him. Supper
recommenced, but all over the wood at intervals they now heard huge
forks and boughs parting from their parent stems with a report like a
thirty-two-pounder ringing and echoing through the wood. Others so
distant that they were like crackers.
These sounds were very appalling in the ghostly wood. The men
instinctively drew closer to each other; but they were no chickens;
use soon hardened them even to this. They settled it that the forks
they were sitting on would not give way, because there were no leaves
on them to hold a great burden of snow; and soon they yielded to
nature and fell fast asleep in spite of all the dangers that hemmed
At his regular hour, just before sunrise, Robinson awoke and peeped
from below the blanket. He shook George.
"Getup directly, George. We are wasting time when time is gold."
"What is it?"
"'What is it?' There is a pilot in the sky that will take us out of
this cursed trap, if the day does not come and spoil all."
George's eye followed Robinson's finger, and in the center of the dark
vault of heaven this glittered.
[Southern Cross constellation]
"I KNOW it, Tom. When I was sailing to this country we came to a part
where the north star went down and down to the water's edge, and this
was all we got in exchange for it."
"George," said Tom, rather sternly, "how do you know they don't hear
us, and here we are surrounded by enemies, and would you run down our
only friend? That silver star will save our lives if they are to be
saved at all. Come on; and, George, if you were to take your revolver
and blow out my brains, it is no more than I deserve for sleeping away
the precious hours of night, when I ought to have been steering out of
this cursed timber-net by that blessed star."
With these words Robinson dived into the wood, steering due east by
the Southern Cross. It was like going through a frozen river. The
scrub was loaded with snow, which it discharged in masses on the
travelers at every step.
"Keep your revolver dry in your hat and your lucifers, too," cried
Robinson. "We shall have to use them both, ten to one. As to our
skins, that is hopeless."
Then the men found how hard it is to take a line and keep it in the
Australian bush. When the Southern Cross was lost in a cloud, though
but for a minute, they were sure to go all wrong, as they found upon
its reappearance; and sometimes the scrub was impenetrable and they
were forced to go round it and walk four hundred yards, advancing
eastward but twenty or thirty.
Thus they battled on till the sun rose.
"Now we shall be all in the dark again," said poor Robinson, "here
comes a fog."
"Stop, Tom," said George; "oughtn't we to make this good before we go
"What do you mean?"
"We have come right by the star so far, have we not?"
"Then let us bark fifty of these trees for a mark. I have seen that
varmint Jacky do that."
"A capital idea, George; out with our knives--here goes."
"No breakfast to-day, Tom."
"No, George, nor dinner, either, till we are out of the wood."
These two poor fellows walked and ran and crept and struggled all day,
sometimes hoping, sometimes desponding. At last, at five o'clock in
the afternoon, their bellies gnawed with hunger, their clothes torn to
rags, their skin bleeding, they came out upon some trees with the bark
stripped. They gave one another a look that words can hardly paint.
They were the trees they had barked twelve hours ago!
The men stood silent--neither cared to tell the other all he felt--for
now there crept over these two stout bosoms a terrible chill, the
sense of a danger new to them in experience, but not new in report.
They had heard of settlers and others who had been lost in the fatal
labyrinth of the Australian bush, and now they saw how easily it might
"We may as well sit down here and rest; we shall do no good till
night. What, are you in pain, George?"
"Yes, Tom, a little."
"Something gnaws my stomach like an adder."
"Oh, that is the soldier's gripes," said Tom, with a ghastly attempt
at a jest. "Poor George!" said he, kindly, "I dare say you never knew
what it was to go twenty-four hours without food before."
"Never in my life, Tom."
"Well, I have, and I'll tell you the only thing to do--when you can't
fill the breadbasket, shut it. Go to sleep till the Southern Cross
comes out again."
"What, sleep in our dripping clothes?"
"No, we will make a roaring fire with these strips of bark; they are
dry as tinder by now."
A pyre four feet high was raised, the strips being laid from north to
south and east to west alternately, and they dried their blankets and
warmed their smoking bodies.
"George, I have got two cigars; they must last us two days."
"Oh, I'm no great smoker--keep them for your own comfort."
Robinson wore a sad smile.
"We can't afford to smoke them; this is to chew; it is not food,
George, but it keeps the stomach from eating itself. We must do the
best for our lives we can for Susan's sake."
"Give it me, Tom; I'll chew it, and thank you kindly. You are a wise
companion in adversity, Tom; it is a great grief to me that I have
brought you into this trouble, looking for what I know you think is a
mare's nest, as the saying is."
"Don't talk so, George. True pals like you and me never reproach one
another. They stand and fall together like men. The fire is warm,
George--that is one comfort."
"The fire is well enough, but there's nothing down at it. I'd give a
hundred pounds for a mutton chop."
The friends sat like sacrifices by the fire, and chewed their cigars
in silence, with foreboding hearts. After a while, as the heat laid
hold of him, George began to dose. Robinson felt inclined to do the
same, but the sense that perhaps a human enemy might be near caused
him to fight against sleep in this exposed locality; so, whenever his
head bobbed down, he lifted it sharply and forced his eyes open. It
was on one of these occasions that, looking up, he saw, set as it were
in a frame of leaves, a hideous countenance glaring at him; it was
painted in circular lines, red, blue and white.
"Get up, George," roared Robinson; "they are upon us!"
And both men were on their feet, revolvers pointed. The leaves parted,
and out came this diabolical face which they had never seen before,
but with it a figure they seemed to know, and a harsh cackle they
instantly recognized, and it sounded like music to them.
"Oh, my dear Jacky," cried George, "who'd have thought it was you!
Well, you are a godsend! Good afternoon. Oh, Jacky!--how d'ye do?"
"Jacky not Jacky now, cos um a good deal angry, and paint war.
Kalingalunga berywelltanku" (he always took these four words for one).
"Now I go fetch white fellow;" and he disappeared.
"Who is he going to fetch? is it the one that was following us?"
"No doubt. Then, Tom, it was not an enemy, after all!"
Jacky came back with Jem, who, at sight of them alive and well, burst
into extravagances. He waved his hat round his head several times and
then flung it into a tree; then danced a _pas seul_ consisting of
steps not one of them known at the opera house, and chanted a song of
triumph the words of which were, Ri tol de riddy iddydol, and the
ditty naught; finally he shook hands with both.
"Never say die!"
"Well, that is hearty! and how thoughtful of him to come after us, and
above all to bring Jacky!"
"That it was," replied George. "Jem," said he, with feeling, "I don't
know but what you have saved two men's lives."
"If I don't it shan't be my fault, farmer."
George. "Oh, Jacky, I am so hungry! I have been twenty-four hours
Kalingalunga. "You stupid fellow to go widout food, always a good deal
food in bush."
George. "Is there? then for Heaven's sake go and get us some of it."
Kalingalunga. "No need go, food here." He stepped up to the very tree
against which George was standing, showed him an excrescence on the
bark, made two clean cuts with his tomahawk, pulled out a huge white
worm and offered it George. George turned from it in disgust; the wild
chief grinned superior and ate it himself, and smacked his lips with
Meantime his quick eye had caught sight of something else. "A good
deal dinner in dis tree," said he, and he made the white men observe
some slight scratches on the bark. "Possum claws go up tree." Then he
showed them that there were no marks with the claw reversed, a clear
proof the animal had not come down. "Possum in tree."
The white men looked up into the bare tree with a mixture of wonder
and incredulity. Jacky cut steps with his tomahawk and went up the
main stem, which was short, and then up a fork, one out of about
twelve; among all these he jumped about like a monkey till he found
one that was hollow at the top.
"Throw Kalingalunga a stone, den he find possum a good deal quick."
They could not find a stone for their lives, so, being hungry,
Robinson threw a small nugget of gold he had in his pocket. Jacky
caught it, placed it at the top of the hollow fork and let it drop.
Listening keenly, his fine ear heard the nugget go down the fork,
striking the wood first one side then another, and then at a certain
part sound no more. Down he slips to that silent part, makes a deep
cut with his tomahawk just above the spot, thrusts in his hand and
pulls out a large opossum, yelling and scratching and emitting a
delicious scent in an agony of fear. The tomahawk soon silenced him,
and the carcass fell among the applauding whites. Now it was
Robinson's turn. He carved the raw animal for greater expedition, and
George helped him to wrap each limb and carcass in a thin covering of
clay. Thus prepared, it was thrust into the great pile of burning
"Look yonder, do! look at that Jem! Why, Jem, what are you up to,
patroling like a sentinel out there?"
"Never you heed Jem," was the dry reply; "you mind the roast, captain,
and I'll mind--my business;" and Jem continued to parade up and down
with his gun cocked and his eye piercing the wood.
To Robinson's repeated and uneasy inquiries what meant this pantomime,
Jem persisted in returning no answer but this: "You want your dinner,
captain; eat your dinner, and then I'll hoffer a hobservation;
meantime, as these woods are queer places, a little hextra caution is
The pie dishes were now drawn out of the ashes and broken, and the
meat baked with all its juices was greedily devoured. "It tastes like
a rabbit stuffed with peppermint," said George, "and uncommon nice it
is. Now I am another man."
"So am I; Jacky forever!"
"Now, Jem, I have dined. Your story, if you please. Why are you here?
for you are a good fellow, but you haven't got gumption enough to say
to yourself, 'These two will get lost in the bush, I'll take Jacky and
pull them out.'"
"You are right, captain, that wasn't the way at all; and, since your
belly is full and your courage up, you will be able to enjoy my story
better than you could afore."
"Yes, so let us have it;" and Robinson leaned back luxuriously, being
filled and warmed.
"First and foremost," commenced this artful narrator, "there is a chap
prowling in this wood at the present time with a double-barreled gun
to blow out your brains, captain."
"The devil," cried Robinson, starting to his feet.
"And yours, farmer."
"How do you know?" asked George, without moving.
"That is what I am going to tell you. That Mary McDogherty came crying
to my tent all through the snow. 'What is up?' says I; says she,
'Murder is up.' Then she told me her cousin, an Irish boy, was at
Bevan's store and he heard some queer talk, and he looked through a
chink in the wall and saw two rascals putting their heads together,
and he soon made out they were driving a bargain to rob you two. One
was to do it, the other was a-egging him on. 'I must have fifty pounds
first,' says this one. 'Why?' says the other. 'Because he has been and
locked my pal up that was to be in it with me.'"
"Ah!" cried Robinson. "Go on, Jem--there is a clew anyway."
"I have got a thicker one behind. Says the other, 'Agreed! when will
you have it?' 'Why, now,' says t'other. Then this one gave him a note.
Pat couldn't see that it was a fifty, but no doubt it was, but he saw
the man take it and put it in a little tin box and shove it in his
"That note was the price of blood," said Robinson. "Oh, the
black-hearted villains. Tell me who they were, that is all; tell me
but who they were!"
"The boy didn't know."
"There! it is always so. The fools! they never know."
"Stop a bit, captain, there is a clew (your own word)."
"Ay, and what is the clew?"
"As soon as ever the note was safe in his bosom he says: 'I sold you,
blind mate; I'd have given fifty sooner than not done this job. Look
here!' says he, 'I have sworn to have a life for each of these;' and,
captain," said Jem, suddenly lowering his voice, "with that it seems
he held up his right hand."
"Well, yes! yes! eh!"
"And there were two fingers a-missing on it!"
"Now those two fingers are the ones you chopped off with your cutlass
the night when the tent was attacked."
"Why, Tom, what is this? you never told me of this," cried George.
"And which are in my pocket."
"In your pocket?" said George, drawing away from him.
"Ay, farmer! wrapped up in silver paper, and they shall never leave my
pocket till I have fitted them on the man, and seen him hung or shot
with them two pickers and stealers tied round his bloodthirsty,
mercenairy, aass-aassinating neck, say that I said it."
George. "Jacky, show us the way out of this wood."
Kalingalunga bowed assent, but he expressed a wish to take with him
some of the ashes of the wambiloa. George helped him.
Robinson drew Jem aside. "You shouldn't have mentioned that before
George; you have disgusted him properly."
"Oh, hang him! he needn't be so squeamish; why, I've had 'em salt--"
"There, there! drop it, Jem, do!"
"Captain! are you going to let them take us out of the wood before we
have hunted it for that scoundrel?"
"Yes, I am. Look here, Jem, we are four, and he is one, but a
double-barreled gun is an awkward enemy in a dark wood. No, Jem, we
will outwit him to the last. We will clear the wood and get back to
the camp. He doesn't know we have got a clew to him. He will come back
without fear, and we will nail him with the fifty-pound note upon him.
And then--Jack Ketch."
The whole party was now on the move, led by Kalingalunga, bearing the
"What on earth is he going to do with them?"
The chief heard this query, and looking back said gravely, "He take
them to 'Milmeridien';" and the party followed Jacky, who twisted and
zigzagged about the bush till, at last, he brought them to a fairy
spot, whose existence in that rugged wood none of them had dreamed
possible. It was a long, open glade, meandering like a river between
two deep, irregular fringes of the drooping acacia, and another lovely
tree which I only know by its uncouth, unmelodious, scientiuncular
name--the eucalyptus. This tree, as well as the drooping acacia,
leaned over the ground with long leaves like disheveled hair.
Kalingalunga paused at the brink and said to his companions in a low,
awestruck voice, "Milmeridien."
The glade was full of graves, some of them fresh, glittering with
bright red earth under the cool, green acacias, others richly veiled
with golden moss more or less according to their age; and in the
recesses of the grove peeped smoother traces of mortality, mossy
mounds a thousand years old, and others far more ancient still, now
mere excrescences of green, known to be graves only by the light of
that immense gradation of times and dates and epochs.
The floor of the open glade was laid out as a vast parterre--each
grave a little flower-bed, round, square, oval, or rhomboid; and all
round each bed flowed in fine and graceful curves little paths too
narrow for a human foot. Primeval tradition had placed them there that
spirits might have free passage to visit all the mighty dead. For here
reposed no vulgar corpses. Here, their heads near the surface, but
their feet deep in earth, sat the great hunters and warriors of every
age of the race of Kalingalunga, once a great nation, though now a
failing tribe. They sat there this many a day, their weapons in their
hands, ready to start up whenever the great signal should come, and
hunt once more, but without fatigue, in woods boundless as the sea,
and with bodily frames no longer mortal, to knock and be knocked on
the head, _ad infinitum._
Simple and benign creed!
A cry of delight burst from the white men, and they were going to
spread themselves over the garden of the dead.
The savage checked them with horror.
"Nobody walk there while him alive," said he. "Now you follow me and
not speak any words at all, or Kalingalunga will leave you in the
The savage paused, that even the echo of his remonstrance might die
well away before he traversed the garden. He then bowed his head down
upon his breast in a set manner, and so remained quiet a few seconds.
In that same attitude he started and walked slowly by the verge of the
glade, keeping carefully clear of the graves, and never raising his
head. About half way he stopped and reverently scattered the ashes of
the wambiloa upon three graves that lay near the edge, then
forward--silent, downcast, reverential.
"Mors omnibus est communis!" The white men, even down to Jem,
understood and sympathized with Kalingalunga. In this garden of the
dead of all ages they felt their common humanity, and followed their
black brother silent and awestruck. Melted, too, by the sweet and
sacred sorrow of this calm scene; for here Death seemed to relax his
frown, and the dead but to rest from trouble and toil, mourned by
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