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The Adventures of George Washington Pratt

Book 1.—Whom He Befriended

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Book 1.—Whom He Befriended.


So Numerous and so tender have been the inquiries made about the Senior Partner, that I have been induced to prepare this history of his further Adventures, subsequent to his enforced parting with Mr William Enderby; wherein the Reader will learn what befel him and what became of him; who befriended him, and whom he befriended; whither he wandered, and where and how he rested; with other and divers matters, which this Chronicler would fain hope may prove both entertaining and instructive.

V. P.

Chapter I. By the Side of “Roaring Meg.”

It was only a feeble cry—a faint wail as of some creature newly ushered into the world.

Yet it sounded strangely there.—There, in that wild gorge, closely hemmed in by steep mountains, all bleak and bare and brown, where the wind howled fiercely amongst the ragged crags above, and the turbid river surged hoarsely in its rock-bound channel below, and a boisterous torrent came rushing down a deep glen—foaming, roaring, resistless—leaping over and around the mighty boulders which thickly bestrewed its bed. There—in that cheerless solitude, where desolation reigned with undisputed sovereignty—where no human habitation, nor any mark of civilisation, greeted the weary eye—where not even a bird cast its shadow on the earth—where the very lizards stole forth timidly from their stony coverts, to bask and blink in the hot sun, and retreated hurriedly before the unwonted sound of the traveller's footstep.

The cry was repeated. The traveller paused, and gazed around him wonderingly.

“Guess some woolly-eyed old ewe has dropped her lamb somewhere hereabouts,” he said.

The place was a narrow “terrace” or plateau, on the bank of the Kawarau river, strewn with enormous fragments of metamorphic rocks. From amidst these came the cry, and thitherward the traveller directed his steps in search of the stray lamb.

Guided by the sound, he went straight to the spot where it lay—a veritable lamb. For nestling amongst sweet-scented grasses, under the lee of a Titanic boulder, there was a child, carefully wrapped in a warm plaid, and feebly protesting, in the only way known to it, against its seeming desertion.

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The traveller threw down his swag, and considered the matter; and the better to aid the mental digestion of the problem thus presented for his solution, he refreshed himself with a plug of fragrant “honeydew” tobacco.

The position was a difficult one. Here was a child—a tender suckling—an Ishmael — cast out, apparently to perish in the wilderness, by a cruel Hagar; and here also was a stranger—a stalwart bearded man, rough as to exterior, but tender at the core—whose big heart would not suffer him to go on his way and leave the unconscious human waif to its fate. Decidedly the position was difficult.

“Some onnatural hell-cat has left it here, I reckon”—thus did he ruminate—“ not long ago either. The folks as own to it must be ahead, for nobody han't passed down the other way. What on airth am I to do with the darned little thing? There might be a shanty at the creek below; mostly is at such places. Guess I'll travel that way, and explore.”

With a scientific Nicotian shot he projected a blinking lizard off a contiguous block of stone, which feat seemed to afford him a considerable degree of satisfaction. Then he strode down to the creek.

There was something in the very pace that told of the character of the man. There was no unseemly hurry, neither was there any hesitation in it. It was the firm, confident, steadfast tread of a man who goes straight to his object, and may not easily be turned aside therefrom.

The mountain torrent whereto allusion has been made, was the stream named by surveyors the “Kirtle-burn,” but which is best known by the fantastic appellation conferred on it by the miners—“Roaring Meg.” There are three creeks in succession on this line of road—tributaries of the Kawarau river. The first is very small, and in a dry season merely drips from the rocks, and is called “Crying Jenny.” The second, which tumbles down from the mountains impetuously and with great noise, is “Roaring Meg.” The third, being a sluggish stream, has received, by popular assent, the designation of “Gentle Annie.”

In the early days of gold-mining—before the present bridge was erected—Roaring Meg was a very dangerous creek for foot passengers to cross. Nay, it was by no means safe even for travellers on horseback. The boulder-strewn channel was exceedingly steep; the fording place was near to the river, and the water rushed down with incredible violence and swiftness, so that a single false step of man or beast would have been positive destruction. Added to which, the foam and uproar of the boiling waters were eminently calculated to intimidate the nervous and fainthearted.

When the traveller arrived at this creek, his anticipations as to the possible existence of a shanty thereat were not realised, and he was about to retrace his steps in vexation, when, looking up the ravine wherein lay the bed of the stream, he saw a human figure, standing on a boulder in mid-channel, and apparently making signals to him.

Up the creek he went, and presently he stood on the bank opposite the figure.

It was a young woman, apparently about eighteen years old, fresh-colored and passably good-looking. By the motion of her lips he could see that she was speaking, but her words were lost in the din of the rushing water.

It was evident, however, that she was in a position of difficulty and danger. By some means she had got on to the boulder, and now she was unable either to retreat or advance. In fact, she was in what the traveller denominated “a pretty bad fix.”

That which to the woman was an impassable gulf, was but an easy stride to the man. In a moment he was by her side.

“I will carry you over,” he said. “Only take a firm grip.”

She looked into his face, and her womanly instinct told her at once that he was to be entirely trusted. So he took her up in his strong arms, and she page 3 clasped him round the neck, then with a vigorous bound he landed safely on the bank with his burden.

“Thank you! oh, thank you!” she exclaimed, somewhat hysterically. “I was trying to find a way over the creek, and the water made such a noise that it frightened me. I feel quite giddy yet.”

And, indeed, she was in a visible tremor.

“Take your time, ma'am,” said the traveller, looking down pityingly in the girlish face. “There ain't no special hurry that I know of. Reckon that's your babe under the rock yonder.”

“My child! Yes. Oh, let me go to my child!” Gently he conducted her to the stony cradle where lay the infant. The woman seized it eagerly and stilled its cries as only mothers can; the traveller meanwhile standing aloof patiently awaiting the subsidence of maternal emotion. To go away and leave her there never occurred to him. In the true spirit of chivalry, he remained further to succour the distressed, if need there should be.

Presently the woman arose, and taking the child in her arms, prepared to resume her journey.

“Would you kindly help me over the creek?” she asked.

“Certainly, ma'am!” he answered. “That's jest the move I was waiting for. Guess you had best hand over that mite to me.”

And so saying he took the baby into his arms.

It was a pleasant picture to see the bearded man bearing that living bundle, and the young mother following as they went on down to the noisy creek. Safely, though not without some difficulty, he forded the torrent and deposited his charge on the farther bank. Then he returned for the woman.

She was but a feather's weight in his powerful grasp, and he could not forbear cogitating on the strange chance that had brought her and her child thus far into the wilderness. So he said to her—

“You'll excuse me, ma'm; but it strikes me that this ain't quite the correct sort of place for such as you. I don't want to know anything you don't elect to communicate; but I'm mighty curious to know what brought you here and where you're bound to. I am George Washington Pratt, I am; of Iowa, U.S. That is always the brand on my calico, ma'am.”

She gave a sudden start, and her eyes dilated with terror and her face became very pale as she cried—

“Pratt! That's the name of the Yankee who was tried for murder at the Dunstan.”

“And acquitted, ma'am. Could'nt be nohow else, seeing as how the dead man walked into court and gave evidence in my behalf. Fact, ma'am, I assure you.”

“Then you are ‘Yankee Joe.’ Oh! give me the baby.”

And she took it from his arms, wherein it had been again enfolded, as they walked along the track.

A dark shadow—a shadow of annoyance, not of anger—passed over the American's face.

“Why you don't suppose that I'd hurt the little thing?” he said.

But her maternal alarm was not easily set at rest. For herself she feared nought. But all the mother was aroused in her, and she stood there pressing the child to her panting breast, her cheek glowing and blanching by turns, ready to do battle to the death for that dearer life to which she desperately clung.

“No! no! no!” she cried, “go on, sir, or let me go on; I thank you, I do indeed for your kindness, I thank you very much. But do pray go on, and leave us.”

Her dress was that of a laborer's wife, her speech was that of a lady; her face and hands were embrowned by exposure to the sun and the wind; but her fingers were long and taper, and her coarse leather boots could not conceal the beauty of her feet.

Said George W. Pratt, “I feel a little hurt, ma'am, that you should have such page 4 hard thoughts of me. Yes, I do. Will you hear what I have to say, and then, if you please, I'll go on, or I'll go back, if you wish it—whichever way you vote, ma'am. You may bet your life on that.”

And so he briefly told his story. How he had been arrested for the murder of Will Enderby, and how that worthy had made his appearance in the Commissioner's Court whilst the case was under investigation, with sundry other matters pertaining and relating thereto; for further and more definite information whereupon, the “Story of Wild Will Enderby” must be consulted.

His words, no less than his manner, carried conviction with them. “I beg your pardon, sir,” said the mother, “I believe every word you have told me. Indeed, and indeed, I beg your pardon.“—.

Chapter II. A Dilemma.

Confidence begets confidence. “I will tell you who I am,” said the female traveller.

“Let me have the babe first ma'am,” interposed George W. Pratt. “Then I shall feel kind of certain there ain't any notes of interrogation between us.”

The mother smiled—a pretty trustful, dimpled smile, blushing ever so slightly at the reference to her late suspicions. But she placed the child, enfolded in a tartan plaid, in the arms of the scarlet-shirted miner, and gathered up her skirt in the dainty style of other days. Then she began:—

Her name, she said, was Kenway—Mary Kenway. Kenway was her husband's name. They had been living at the Dunstan some weeks. Her husband had been mining there, but had not been very lucky. He was now at Fox's, and had sent for her to come to him, as he could not leave his claim, which was a good one. That was their child. It was born at the Dunstan, and they had named it after the river Clutha—Clutha Kenway. It was a very pretty name, she thought.

Mr George W. Pratt said he thought so too. “But you don't mean to tell me, ma'am, that your husband expected you to make your way all alone from Dunstan to Fox's, with this little midge to carry around too?”

“Oh, no!” she said; “Tom—that's my husband—sent one of his mates down to accompany me, but the silly fellow got drinking at the Junction shanty, so I came away and left him, expecting he would soon overtake me.”

“Yes? Might I ask what kind of picture your husband's mate would represent?”

“He is a young man with sandy hair and very light beard and eyebrows.”

“Was his manly form arrayed in a plaid jumper?”

“He wore a plaid jumper. Have you seen him?”

“Had he a Scotch bonnet on his noble brow?”


“And a red sash round his elegant waist, and splendiferous enamelled boots on his silly understandings. Yes, ma'am, I reckon I jest have seen the gent.”

The woman looked up wonderingly. “Sir—Mr Pratt,” she said, “you are laughing at me. What is the meaning of all this?”

“No, ma'am, I ain't laughing muchly at you. I was only just thinking how careless some folks seem to be of their personal property.”

In truth, he was thinking how little he would like his Ruth to be wandering about as this poor child was doing; although—as with Spencer's Una—her weakness was her strength, and unconsciousness of danger her surest protection.

“Yes, Mrs Kenway,” he resumed, “I did see that young gent as I went along, and when I spotted him he was in about as bad company as any pap-headed youngster could select. Judged he was a fool when I saw the way he was tricked out. I guess you ain't likely to see him any more to-night. So with your leave, ma'am, I'll take his place till you get to Fox's.”

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Then all at once a sense of her position burst upon the woman. Till then she had been sustained by the expectation of being overtaken by the man appointed by her husband to guide her to him. And it seemed that by her own action she had deprived herself of his companionship. She had left him, he had not deserted her. And she was now in the company of an utter stranger—nay! a worse than stranger—for had he not admitted himself to be the “Yankee Joe,” regarding whom such terrible stories had lately been in circulation? What would Tom think of it all? She blushed violently as she mentally asked herself the question. Then, “pale as any lily,” she bethought herself of her own possible danger, of the long way before her, and of the coming night. And Fancy conjured up a thousand horrors, and her poor little soul fluttered as if it would fain escape from its frail tenement.

“Oh, sir!” she panted forth. “I have done wrong. I should not have come on without him. Tom will be so angry with me.”

And her tears began to flow.

“Don't like to see that,” thought George Washington Pratt. “It ain't a good sign, that's a fact. Guess Mister Tom is a sovereign people in his own territory, and not over nice in his ways neither.”

Then aloud. “What do you conclude to do, ma'am?”

“I must return to the Junction. Let me have the baby, sir.” And again, as he witheld it from her—“Oh, please let me have baby!”

“No, ma'am—Mrs Kenway—not if I am aware of it. Not jest now anyway. Guess you had better progress. Likely there'll be a hut or a shanty at the next creek where you can locate yourself for a spell and wait for the jay-bird that your husband thinks fit to protect his dove, though the goney ain't able to keep his own feathers from the darned hawks.”

The resolute will conquered. But the terror of possible consequences remained, and so with tearful eye, and clouded countenance, the young mother went patiently on her way with her self-constituted guide and protector.

“What would Tom say? Oh, dear! oh, dear! what would he say?”

Such was the ever-recurring burden of her thoughts.

Chapter III. What George W. Pratt Saw at the Junction.

In the Colonies, and more especially on the Goldfields, any place where two streams unite, is called indifferently “the Junction.” So, where the dirty green flood of the Kawarau river joins company with and discolors the pellucid waters of the Clutha, the point of land abutting on both rivers was known as the Junction. In those days there was but a single store or shanty, but the favorable position of the locality early attracted attention, and the township of Kawarau sprang into existence. Then the Government took it under its patronage, and regulated the width and prescribed the number of its streets. An official of puritanical proclivities bestowed upon the town the name of Cromwell, and by way of antithesis some waggish surveyor conferred most inappropriate Milesian appellations on the streets.

The only means of transit from the right to the left bank of the Kawarau, whereon the shanty stood and the township now stands, was by means of a packing-case,—literally and positively a common deal packing case, which did duty as a ferry-boat. By the aid of this frail conveyance passengers crossed the river in great numbers. In their baste to be rich they crowded into it, heedless of danger—even clung to its sides to get across. And the river, of great velocity and full of whirlpools, had its occasional victims—the only wonder was that they were so few. Sometimes, rash men—full of life and vigorous—essayed to swim across the treacherous current, and paid the page 6 penalty of their lives for the attempt. For none ever ventured with impunity into the circle of those cold bubbling eddies.

Now as George W. Pratt was crossing the river in this fragile vessel, he espied amongst the spectators who stood looking on from the farther bank, a face not altogether unfamiliar—an evil face, whereon was legibly imprinted the brand of Cain. This face, shining with diabolical glee, suddenly underwent a change; for as the eyes met those of the American, the light faded out of them, giving place to a vacuous side-glance, which again quickly changed to a steady, watchful glaree, such as a wounded tiger might cast on the hunter; and (rendering the comparison more complete), the thin, snarling lips were drawn back, exposing to view a row of very fang-like molars gleaming between the ragged tufts of red hair which grew over the chin and upper lip.

When Pratt had achieved the ascent of the river-bank leading up to the platean whereon stood the shanty, he looked around for the owner of this unpleasant countenance. But he was not anywhere visible.

“Guess the skunk has retired from public inspection,” quoth Mr Pratt.

With the word he walked across to the shanty, and at the door, as he had anticipated, he was confronted by the man of the evil countenance, who was no other, indeed, than the redoubtable “Ginger.”

The American smiled, the ruffian scowled. After this interchange of facial compliments they spoke.

“Fine day, Mister,” said the American. “Bound for Fox's?”

“No, it ain't;” growled Ginger. “It's a beastly dirty day. So you can stow that gammon. And as to where we're bound, what the odds is that to you?”

(“Oho!” thought Mr George W. Pratt, “we're 'bound, are ‘we?’ Then the whole mob is here. Wonder what devil's work they're after now!”)

“Well, Sir,” he said, “I don't see with your eyes, I give thanks; and of course you can't see with mine. No, Sirree! Guess there ain't over-much reciprocity betwixt you and me anyway.”

In the shanty there was an inner room or space, curtained off from the “store,” as the main apartment was termed. From this direction there suddenly came a great sound of angry voices, a very tempest of oaths and grim ejaculations. Ginger looked towards the partition uneasily, and Mr George W. Pratt, noticing the gesture, made a step in that direction. Ginger threw himself in the road.

“Keep out,” he roared, and the vicious glare in his eyes became intensified.—“Keep out of this, curse you! You shan't come in here, you blamed Yankee hound!”

George surveyed the fellow curiously, with a half smile on his sedate countenance “Yes,” he said, “I'm a ‘Yankee hound,’ no doubt. Jest the sort of animal to learn such miserable varmints as you good manners. Git out!”

And he seized the carrotty ruffian in such fashion as to render his arms powerless, and so carried him in most deliberate manner to the outer door. Then he cast him forth as you might throw out a bag of rubbish.

“Ginger” rolled over in the dust, and picked himself up, and belched forth loud-resounding oaths and threatenings of dire import. The crowd, sympathetically exultant at the strong man's victory, laughed and jeered at the victim. The victor made a long shot at a tent-peg, missed the mark, tried again, and hit it. Then he returned to the shanty.

This time he went straight to the inner apartment. The shanty-keeper interposed: “You can't go in there, mate,” he said. “That room is private.”

Never a word answered George W. Pratt. But with his right arm he kept the shanty-keeper at bay, and with his left he parted the curtains sufficiently to enable him to command a view of the interior.

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Around a rudely-constructed table three men were seated—two on empty brandy cases, and the third on a small keg. In their hands were some greasy cards, wherewith they were playing the exhilirating and lucrative game of “poker.” Before them stood a half-emptied bottle of brandy, and some glasses; and a heap of coins and banknotes attested the severity of the game.

Pratt saw at a glance how matters stood. It was the old, ever-new story of the hawks and the pigeon. In the squinting, bullet-headed, beardless man with greasy locks who faced the doorway, he recognised “Flash Jimmy.” The back of the fellow who sat opposite to him was the back of the quondam artist in tripe. The “pigeon” was a gaily attired young man of the lucky-digger species, with a fluffy moustache and weak sandy hair, and weak eyes, and weak aspect generally. The Highland bonnet on his head was cocked jauntily on one side, and an ugly misshapen nugget ring glistened on his finger. A cigar of ill flavor was stuck in his mouth, and a glass of poisonous spirits, miscalled “brandy,” stood by his side. Evidently he was being plucked to some purpose, and knew it not.

“It's all my infernal bad luck!” he cried, as he threw down the cards, after having again been successfully swindled by the confederates, one of whom, with greedy band raked in the stakes.

George W. Pratt dropped the curtain and walked away.

“It ain't no business of mine,” he said to the shanty keeper. “But it's a darned wrong thing to allow in your caboose, Mister. Where did that young fellow come from?”

“Oh! he's all right. He's been to Fox's, and got a sight of gold. A fifty or two ain't nothing to that chap, I can tell you.”

And this was the guide injudiciously selected by Mr Tom Kenway as a convoy for his young wife! Truly, as Mr George W. Pratt put it, “Some folk are mighty careless of valuable personal property.”

Chapter IV. From Gentle Annie.

The Traveller who visits Wakatipu now finds the road sufficiently weary and savagely monotonous. For it traverses a low-lying country bordering the Kawarau river, which is twice crossed on punts, so that one is some times on the east, sometimes on the west bank, but ever in a narrow gorge, once the bed of the stream which now rushes through an iron-bound channel eighty—a hundred—two hundred feet below.

So much has been conceded to the exigent demands of commerce, that drays and waggons and coaches may pass along the way. But in the early day of “Fox's rush” there were no roads. People of much wisdom, learned in engineering, and skilful, declared with many words of weight and technical phrases of import, that it was not possible to make a road in such a terrible country, and whoso dared to dispute their diction was regarded as irreverent and presumptuous. Patiently the miners clambered over the hills—they would be regarded as mountains in any other part of the world—carrying provisions on their backs, or at best pressing the patient mule or the much-enduring pack-horse into their service. The first track led up the valley of the Cardrona and over the Crown Range; but as this involved an ascent of more than four thousand feet, there was naturally a desire to find a somewhat easier path, and so what was known as the “Gentle Annie” track came into use and fashion.

By this latter route, then, on a fine breezy morning in the month of November, went our travelling friends George W. Pratt and Mary Kenway. For Tom's mate had not appeared upon the scene; and in her dilemma, Mary chose, wisely enough, to go on to her husband. Only she did not know where to find him that was the difficulty. He was at the Arrow, somewhere. But she was a brave, trusting little woman. She had not lived long page 8 enough to be otherwise; the bitter experience that comes of long conflict with the world—its hollowness and frivolities—had not yet defiled her spirit nor silicified her heart.

There was a woman at the shanty where our travellers stopped for the night. Not a handsome woman assuredly—not even a prepossessing woman, for the matter of that; but, nevertheless—a woman. Her grizzled and unkempt locks were confined in a pudding-bag sort of network in ludicrous parody of the then prevailing fashion. Her attire was tawdry. Her unmanageable skirts, of brobdignadian proportions, swayed stiffly and ungracefully to and fro as she bustled about the little tent. Her face, seamed with a hundred wrinkles, and scarred with one notable cicatrice—memento of a long-past combat—was further disfigured by the total absence of one eye, lost in God knows what hour of man's brutality. Judging from the appearance of its lonely partner, the loss had not been greatly detrimental to her personal appearance. Her face was wrinkled and grimy. Her hands were large and red and dirty; her speech was coarse and strident; her manners were decidedly unpleasant. But, notwithstanding all,——she was a woman, of the same sex as our mothers.

And, so being a woman, George W. Pratt treated her with respect, and Mary Kenway found comfort in her, where otherwise none would have been. For this poor, good, unbeautified soul tended her and her babe with all motherliness—the more so perchance for that she had no babes of her own. And when morning came, and Mary prepared to resume her weary march—acting on Pratt's advice to start in the cool of the morning—she found a comfortable breakfast awaiting her, set forth by her ungraceful, tender-hearted, disfigured sister-woman.

When the tiresome ascent of the Gentle Annie hill had been accomplished, and the travellers stood upon the brow, the whole expanse of the Wakatipu country lay before them like a vast panoramic picture. No effort of pen or pencil could do justice to that scene. Pardon me, therefore, oh reader! if I fail to present to your mind's eye an adequate representation thereof.

Immediately below, a broad basin-like plain hemmed in by mountains of lofty altitude, and diversified by isolated stone-encrusted hills, dispersed in pleasing irregularity. Rivers glistening in the sunshine showed here and there like ribbons of silver, winding between dark grey bands of primitive rock. Underneath the lordly Double Cone—rising eight thousand feet aloft—the Kawarau pursued its snake-like course. At right angles to it, the Arrow and the Shotover partially presented their glistening floods to the dazzled gaze. Amidst a cluster of rugged mound-like elevations shone forth the blue surface of Lake Hayes—a miniature aquarian beauty, nestling cosily and unruffled in the bosom of a sheltered nook, which clasps the gleaming waters in a soft embrace as if reluctant to part with the gentle flood; and the flood dreamily basking in the warm sunlight—evinces no haste to quit its pleasant resting-place. Beyond, an arm of the great lake—of Wakatipu—calm, solemn, grand, appeared above the terraced bank of the Shotover, girdled by Alpine heights, which rising tier above tier, penetrated the clouds which floated midway around them, bathing their lofty summits in the blue ether. Right ahead, in bold majestic outline towered the broad bosom and pyramidal peak of Mount Larkins, clothed in its vesture of virgin snow. Beside it loomed a huge mountain, to which some surveyor, gifted with prophetic instinct, gave the name of Mount Aurum — an aggregation of metallic lodes—auriferous quartz predominating, which will some day be heard of on 'Change and in marts “where merchants most do congregate.” Below these the sombre crests of Ben More and Ben Lomond, and a countless legion of mountains, any one of which would be accounted a giant in page 9 Europe, but the magnitude of which is not apparent to the eye amidst their loftier surroundings. On the southern margin of the Lake appeared the fantastic pinnacles of Mount Cecil and Walter Peak, resplendent in the early sunshine, and glowing with a soft roseate hue, whilst fleecy white clouds, slow rising from the plain, hovered around the dusky crags, throwing their summits into bold bright relief, enchanced by the shadows which rippled and surged over their cold grey bases. Beyond, Mount Nicholas reared its stately head aloft, bounding the horizon. Everywhere glittering snow — patches of snow, broad fields of snow—relieved the dull brown outlines of the mountains, so that this sublime prospect showed like the huge waves of a vast ocean foam-crested, suddenly arrested by the Creator's fiat, and transformed into billows of eternal stone.

Such was the scene whereupon our travellers gazed. Nowhere did there appear any trace of life — of human or animal existence. A silence as of very death prevailed. Neither upon the hill sides nor on the plains were sheep or cattle seen to browse, though thousands roamed around. Man's insignificant presence was utterly unfelt in that tremendous immensity. All was as Nature had left it a cycle of ages since, long ere the foot of the adventurous Maori even had invaded the primeval solitude. Yet within brief distance a host of men were wrestling with the rocks and rivers for the golden stores, garnered in their secret repositories—wrestling for the old, old gold—the much coveted gold, that had so long lain buried at the far end of the earth, till, in the fulness of Time, the children of the Present had traversed the ocean, coming even from the uttermost parts of the world to reap the rich harvest of the Past, and thereby, all unwitting of their destiny, assisting to lay the foundation of Future Empire.

All is changed now. On the fertile plains where once dingy tussock-grass struggled for supremacy with rank tufts of spear-grass and dense clumps of Tumatukuru bushes, the plough has done its work, and done it well, and roan has made the desert to blossom as the rose. Corn fields and meadows, hedge-rows and forest trees, smiling homesteads and trim gardens abounding with fruit and flowers, have replaced the dreariness that was of old. And the hills are stocked with countless flocks of sheep and herds of cattle—the acquired wealth of the industrious settlers who have there set up their tents in peace and plenty, such as no amount of toil could ever have secured for them in the far away land of their birth.

Chapter V. Mr Thomas Kenway.

A Deep dark gorge lying in the cold shadow of tilted rocks—the bed of the swift but shallow Arrow stream:— numberless cradles rocking with deafening din to a golden lullaby:—men thick as bees in a hive, passing to and fro, toiling with pick and shovel, winding up windlasses freighted with golden earth:—a few canvas tents and huts of a hybrid description compounded of calico, old sacks, gin cases, and any odds and ends capable of being pressed into service for the purposes of shelter: stores of unambitious design and mixed character, wherein gin and pickles, sardines and calicoes, picks and potted bloaters, blankets and tea, tobacco and treacle, shovels and sugar, were blent together in admired confusion: this was Fox's rush and the inevitable township which had already sprung up on its borders.

By luck or accident it chanced that Mary found her husband without much difficulty. For as, still accompanied by the American, she progressed up the one “street,” as a narrow avenue between the stores was commonly called, she spied him far away amongst the crowd of delvers and diggers.

She would have flown to him, by love's own wings impelled, but the river stayed her advance.

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“There he is!” she cried. “Look, Mr Pratt, he is there by the side of that shaft, with a brown felt hat and scarlet jumper on. Do you think you could bring him to me?”

“Guess I could, ma'am; and what is more, I guess I will. Stop here and hold this slippery little nit, and I'll travel around till I collide with your owner.”

So the little woman sat down on the bank, but making signals with her handkerchief to the man. The man evidently saw her, and knew her, but never a step moved he. Her heart sank within her. “Tom is angry with me,” she murmured; “Tom is angry—I know he is.”

Soon George W. Pratt approached him.

“Do you own to the name of Thomas Kenway?” he asked.

“Yes!”—The answer was surlily given, and the look which accompanied it was a full commentary thereon.

“I've brought your wife to you, sir,” said Pratt. “There she is, sir—that lady sitting on the bank with a premature angel in her lap.”

“So I see.” He added nothing to that curt reply, nor did he make any manifestation indicative of proceeding wifewards.

He was a short, well-built young fellow—lithe, agile, and tolerably good-looking, as the phrase is ordinarily applied; indeed there was a certain style of beauty about him, and his forehead and eyes and the upper portion of his face were of the order most admired by women generally. Yet in his young handsome face there was an indefinable expression which more than counteracted the effect of these physical qualities, and evoked an uneasy feeling in the beholder's mind. The lines of the mouth were harsh, and the cruel thin lips told of hardness and coldness of heart, and so gave the lie to the laughing eyes.

George W. Pratt noted all these things, and came to a conclusion accordingly.

“Won't you go forth to the lady?” he inquired.

“No, I shall not go forth, as you call it. Why is she here with you? Where is Dick Simmons, who went down for her? Who are you, and what right have you to interfere between us?”

“Well, now, that's a mighty big heap of questions all to once. I ain't a printed book. No, sirree! and I didn't take over kindly to catechisms in the days of my infant joyousness. Rather calculate I hived a considerable swarm of prejudice against them sort of things then. And now I'm a full-blown man I han't got over it yet. I don't know no Dick Simmons, and if he's the boy I take him to be, I don' require to. As to the rest, I found your babe a-crying in the wilderness, and your wife stranded in the Roaring Meg, and I jest helped them along the road. That's all, sir.”

Tom Kenway threw down his shovel with a suppressed growl, and then, somewhat sulkily and very sheepishly, went over to the bank, where Mary was awaiting his coming.

“Don't be angry with me, dear Tom!” she cried; and she threw her arms around his neck and kissed him—visibly and audibly—in the presence of all the assembled miners. “Don't be angry with me. Dick stopped at the Junction shanty, and this gentleman was good enough to assist me at that dreadful creek.”

He did not return her caresses. He disengaged himself from her loving embrace, and thrust her not over-tenderly away from him.

“There, there; that will do. All the fellows are looking at us, Mary. Come away till I show you the hut I am getting ready for you. You can tell me all about it presently.”

And with brief adieux, intermingled with many thanks from Mary Kenway, they walked away up the Bush Creek, leaving George Washington Pratt alone and lonely in the road. As he gazed after them, he noticed that as they went the woman seemed to cling to the man, and that there was no responsive action on the other side. Nor did he offer to relieve her of the page 11 toil of carrying the baby, but, strong and stalwart, strode at her side with his hands in his pockets, and suffered his child-wife to bear the burden unaided.

“Guess she's a fond little fool, and he's a darned mean cuss. That's so, I bet.”

And scattering a Nicotian shower all around, he proceeded to select a location.

Chapter VI. The Third Mate.

Very little difficulty had Mr George W. Pratt in obtaining fresh partners. His physique and general appearance were powerful letters of recommendation; and more than one party would have been glad to have added him to their number. But George had peculiar views of his own in the matter, and after refusing some very good offers he at last came to terms with two miners, whom he fell in with as they came up the river on their way to the diggings.

The younger of these was a likely young fellow, with an earnest expression of countenance and a look of fixed purposeness, which first attracted George's attention. So after his customary fashion he got into conversation with him.

The encounter happened thus. On the shore of Lake Hayes, standing amidst a thick bed of manuka scrub, there was a shepherd's hut, where the miners were supplied with mutton. Thitherward bound, on prandial thoughts intent, was George, when he met the young fellow all alone coming over a terrace.

“Good morning, stranger!” said Pratt. “Where might you be bound for, sir?”

“Well, mate,” said the other, “I am trying to find Fox's rush; it don't seem easy to do it. I have been round by the Lake there and across among the rocks, and I am precious tired, I can tell you. Maybe you can put me on the right track.

“Yes, sir! I can do that without any serious demand on my stock of information. Have you got any mates, sir?”

“Bless'd if I know whether I haven't lost my mate. I left him at the Crossing about three hours ago; but where he is now, or how I'm to find him, or whereabouts the Crossing is, is more than I know.”

“Take it easy, sir,” said George, “I ain't over much troubled with private business on the present occasion. So I don't mind if I go on a small piece jest to set you right.”

“By jingo! you're a brick, mate!” cried the stranger. Whereupon George, very unreasonably, allowed himself to be somewhat vexed.

“Darned strange people, you Britishers,” he said, “A man can't do another the smallest service, but he's a brick, or a trump, or something worse. Tell you, sir, it makes me feel riled to see so much grease poured down a man's back on account of his doing something which he'd be a darned miserable skunk if he didn't do. I ain't on for much of that myself. No, sir. A little of it goes a long way with this child.”

“Well, you needn't cut up so rough about it,” said the stranger,” I didn't mean any harm.”

“Right, sir, only don't do it any more, if you please. My name is Pratt, sir, not Brick—George Washington Pratt. How do you sign your letters on general occasions, sir?”

By which ingenious mode of questioning he elicited three things:—First, that the stranger's name was James Darley; secondly, that he had graduated as a miner on the Victorian gold-fields, and lastly that his mate had a wooden leg, for which reason he was best known to his friends by the nickname of “Pegleg.”

“You see,” said Jim Darley, “we were mates at Bendigo, and a better mate or a kinder I never had. Well, one day a flood came down and washed us out of the claim, filling up the shafts and drives with mullock and slush. page 12 When we were able to get to it again we baled it out, and then there was a doubt about going down, as the ground was very rotten, and we could hear stuff falling from the roof of the drives, so that we knew it wasn't over-safe to venture down. First one didn't like to go, and then another, till we came to a standfast. There were four of us in all, and we weren't too well off at that time, any of us. We had been sinking duffer after duffer, and our credit at the store was getting shaky. And we knew there was some good stuff in the drive if we could manage to get at it. So poor Dick—that's Pegleg—he says, says he, ‘I'll chance it; stand by to lower the bucket, and be about so as to haul up smart if anything goes wrong below.”

“Well, he went down and cleared out the drive, and the first bucket of stuff he sent up there were five ounces of gold in it—more than we had got for months. The dirt and gravel were falling about his ears, and he called to me to look sharp and send down the bucket quick, for he was afraid it would cave in. I begged him to come up, but he said, ‘No, somebody must do it.’ So he went to work at it, and he was just hitching on the bucket, when one side of the shaft gave way and covered him up to the middle. The boys around came up then, and gave us a hand to remove the earth, and we had just got him pretty well clear when the drive came in with a crash, and some of the stuff caught him by the legs and he was in a worse fix than ever. I thought it was all up with him; but we would not give it up, and after about an hour's hard work, we got Dick out at last. He was in a dead faint when he was brought up, and his leg was broke right short off like a carrot. The other two only said he was a fool to risk his life—that was all the thanks he got from them. They took their share of the gold, and hooked it off. But I couldn't leave poor Dick like that. I tended him as well as I could till he could get about a bit. Then he got his peg-leg on; and one day he says to me, “it's no use thy sticking to a poor cripple like I be now. I shall never be much good again,” said he, “so do thou take what gold there is, and get another mate. There's plenty of folk will be glad to have thou for a mate,” he says. But I couldn't do that. “Dick, old fellow,” I said, “we'll never part any more. Mates we've been in fair weather and foul alike, and mates I mean us to be, come good luck or bad, so long as I can knock out tucker enough for the pair of us. And that's how it's been ever since.”

Mr George W. Pratt said nothing while Jim was narrating his little story; but when he had finished George spoke. And this is what he said—

“Give me your hand, Mister. When I see a right-down, first-class, A1 sort of man, I like to shake hands with that man. It makes me feel good. It does so.”

“Come now,” cried Jim, “don't be pouring grease down my back. I don't like it any more than yourself.”

“Guess you had me there, stranger. I ain't the only one that finds preaching easier than practice. Well, sir, I should like to see your pardner, Mr Pegleg, very much. Think you said you had only one?”

“Well,” said Jim, hesitatingly, “I have and I havn't. We've got a kind of mate, Old Jack we call him, but he ain't a bit of trouble to us,—not he.”

“Is this ancient gent—Old Jack—with you now?”

“Oh, yes; he and Pegleg are down at the crossing. Anyway, that's where I left them. You'll see them presently. My word, ain't they a pair?—That's all.”

Something seemed to amuse Jim mightily, for he chuckled loud and long at his own conceit.

Presently they came to the Crossing—of the Arrow river that is. Cosily coiled up in the shade of a lichen-stained rock sat Mr Pegleg awaiting the return of his comrade, and puffing tiny wreaths of blue smoke from a page 13 well-seasoned old cutty pipe, by way of diversion.

“Ha, Jim?” he cried in a hoarse bass voice—a sort of vocal growl—“Ha, Jim! thou young dog! Where hast thee been, lad? I thought thee wast going to sheer off at last, and give old Pegleg the go-by.”

Then he added, sotto voce, “What a thundering lie you're telling, you old sinner!”—This flattering remark was addressed to himself, and was not at all intended for the ears of the auditors. It was a habit which he had acquired, and one often productive of most ludicrous results.

Of course, from long association, Jim thoroughly understood his mate's humor. “And so I will some day,” he answered. “I had a mind to to-day, but I thought I'd just give you another chance.”

“Ho! ho! ho!” (and the laugh was as the barking of a mastiff with a cold in his head) “Hadst a mind—hadst lad? Ho! ho! That's news to Old Dick. But who hast thou got with thee, Jim? (Some blessed fool, I'll warrant, by the cut of his jib).”

George W. Pratt pricked up his ears at this polite reference to himself. “Say, old cock,” he cried, “your conversation may be very improving, but I'm darned if it's genteel. No, sir.”

“Don't mind him,” whispered Jim, “it's only a way he's got of talking to himself.”

“Oh! its only a way the old party has got, is it? Well, it ain't a nice way, that's a fact. People that ain't so peaceable as this child might feel their dander rise considerable at such ways. However, we won't discuss that point jest now. I thought, perhaps, he was joking, and naturally felt wrathy at his foolishness. Seems the ancient gent was in earnest, which alters the case, and makes things pleasant and homely-like.”

Then Jim explained to his mate how he had gone astray on the “terraces” and missed the track, and how George had been at the trouble to set him right and show him the road. Whereupon Pegleg stumped up to the American and proffered his great brown hairy hand for George's reception.

“Thank ye, mate, for looking after my little Jim. (Little Jim stood five feet ten in his boots.) He's a sad dog, always getting into scrapes, but I take care of him. Ho! ho! I take care of the lad. Pegleg couldn't do without his lad.”

“Come, lad,” he continued, addressing Jim, “its eight bells by the sun. Rouse out the tucker, lad, and let us eat before we jog on. Thou'lt stop and join us too (this to George). What has thou got in thy wallet, Jim?”

“Salmon and soft tack,” shouted Jim.

“What!” cried Pegleg. “Why, thou extravagant young dog. Why, salmon—fresh salmon—five shillings a tin, I'll be bound. And soft tack! Ho! ho! ho! Thou'lt ruin us, lad. (Not while Pegleg can stir his stumps.) Well, out with't, and swing the billy for tea.”

The simple repast was quickly prepared, and the three, squatting on the grass, did ample justice to the viands. George wondered somewhat that no reference was made to the third mate—Old Jack, as Jim had called him, but the meal was dispatched, and he had not put in an appearance, nor had the others once spoken of him.

At last curiosity outgrew his powers of reticence—

“Is your other mate anywhere about, sir?” he asked.

If he had made the most sublime joke—uttered the most excellent jest, it would not have caused more surprising effects than did this apparently simple question.

Jim nearly choked with the tea which he was drinking just then, and only recovered from a coughing fit to roll over on the grass and laugh vehemently and continuously.

“Ho! ho! ho!” roared old Pegleg. “This is some of thy mischief, Jim, I'll be bound. Thou rascal, thou hast been telling fibs, hast thou? Mate, the lad hath tibbed to thee! He calls Old Jack, our Third Mate—the dog! Ho! ho! page 14 ho! Thoul't be the death of me some day, lad. I know thou wilt. Ho! ho! ho!”

“Well, sir,” said George, “seems there's a joke knocking around somewhere. What's it all about? Can't you let me have a share in the laugh, or do you require it all for your own consumption?”

“Ho! ho! ho! Jim, you villain, stop laughing or I'll heave the billy at thy head. Would'st like to see our Third Mate, friend? Ho! ho! Hold on, now, and I'll show him to thee.”

He put his finger to his mouth, and gave a loud, prolonged whistle, shrill as the whistling of wind amongst a ship's rigging. And in a few minutes, from behind a projecting cliff, there came trotting along—a donkey!—a brown, hairy, long-eared donkey.

This was the Third Mate!

Chapter VII. George is Promoted.

A Clever and intelligent beast was Old Jack. At the word of command he would kneel down and rise again, stand on his hind legs and beg, put out his hoof to be shaken—in short, perform a scene of tricks all more or less well and deftly.

“You see,” Jim explained, “when Dick here has got to travel he finds his peg-leg rather awkward, so we got him this animal to ride upon.”

“Fibs, Jim; all fibs, thou knowest they be, rogue. Why, thou got'st Old Jack to save thy lazy bones, and carry the swag. (I hope this long-legged stranger don't believe me.) Come, lad, confess now. Was't not to save thy back thou spent'st the money in this ugly old brute. (Ah, Old Jack; there's two of us, Jack.)”

“That's the way he always goes on, the hoary vagabond,” said Jim. “But we understand one another, all of us—don't we, old Dot-and-carry-one?”

“I presume you include Mr Jack in the Co.,” speculated George W. Pratt. “Guess he's a feature—a circumstance, I should say. Gentlemen of his persuasion are rather scarce in these parts.”

“Ho! ho!” laughed Pegleg. “Thou'rt a cure? surely Hey, Jim, lad, be'nt he a cure? Wilt join in, mate, and make a fourth in the mess. What dost thou say, Jim? Shan't he pull along with us? Hey, my friend, is't a bargain?”

“Well, I don't mind if I do join you for a spell,” said George. “I rather conceit your style, Mr Pegleg, and Jim here is a clipper all round—not forgetting your Third Mate, who is one of the most honest and respectable persons I have seen for some time.”

Whereupon they all shook hands upon it, and the Third Mate, as if perfectly understanding the proceedings, expressed his concurrence and satisfac-faction by braying lustily. Which operation being ended, he walked up to George, and after some cautious snuffing, he rubbed his head against his new comrade's hand, inviting the fondling to which he had been accustomed from his older associates.

And thus was the compact sealed.

Then they held a council of war to plan the operations for the coming campaign, whereat the younger man suggested that George should be leader, and Pegleg ratified the proposition with a prodigious—“Ho! ho! ho! the very thing, by gum! Call him Cap'en Jim. Hey lad? shan't we call him cap'en? There's a sight of mining cap'ens in Cornwall.”

So it happened that after this fashion was George promoted to the rank of captain, with all the rights and privileges appertaining thereto.

Chapter VIII. Waiting for the Boat.

The Sudden inrush of many thousand miners into the hitherto unexplored regions of Wakatipu was attended with many inconveniences. Mutton there was plenty, a little beef also, but stores of all kinds were difficult to obtain. Flour, especially, was very scarce, and, consequently, very page 15 dear—from three to four shillings a pound in fact. Even at this rate the main dependence of the population was on supplies brought by water from the foot of the great Lake of Wakatipu to a small bay adjacent to the goldfields—the bay where Queenstown now stands.

So much of explanation is necessary to enable the reader to understand the narrative.

As every day brought tidings of new discoveries, the feverish restlessness of the gold-seekers heightened, until no inducement was sufficient to prevent men from quitting good claims in search of better elsewhere. The more remote, the greater the attraction. George and his mates did not escape the infection. Not content to work on in tried and proved ground, they resolved to prospect for themselves, and set forth accordingly.

Late one afternoon, then, behold the party en route for some hoped-for Eldo-rado—George and Jim, the one red-shirted, the other blue-shirted—a little in advance, and old Pegleg and the Third Mate bringing up the rear.

Their course led them along a flat so thickly covered with “spear-grass” that Old Jack recoiled therefrom in dismay, landing Pegleg on the broad of his back amongst the unfriendly plants. The old man roared with pain. “Ha, Jack!” he exclaimed, “Old Jack, thou lubberly old beast. Why hast thou played me such a cursed trick? (Lord forgive me for swearing!) By gum! I've mind to unbuckle my timber leg and thrash thee within an inch of thy jackass life. Here Jim, lad, thou wicked rascal, why dost laugh at me, thou two-year-old puppy? Bear a hand to lift me out of this mess, lad.”

“Give me good words, then, you old sinner, or no hand of mine do you get.”

“Good lad! sweet lad! pleasant lad! What wilt? Oh, Lord, thou infernal young cheat-the-gallows, stop thy grinning and help me up, or I'll be the death of thee, Jim.”

Pegleg, still growling, was dragged from his position and again seated on the donkey; and, to prevent further disasters, Jim led the animal by a halter. In this trim they reached the Shotover—a wide, shallow river, full of shifting shoals and sandbanks, which rendered it perilous to ford. It was getting dark, too, which increased the peril. However, they plunged boldly in, and were making fair way across when Old Jack suddenly disappeared—all but his prolonged ears—in a treacherous quicksand.

The two young men quickly got out Pegleg, and carried him through the remainder of the river to the shore, trusting to the sagacity of the quadruped for its own safety. But when they turned to look for the poor animal no trace of him could they see.

“Well,” said Jim, “I don't let Old Jack get drowned if I can help it.” And he plunged into the stream.

“Jest so!” answered George. “I'm on for another in that line, you bet.” And he followed Jim.

“Ho, lads,” cried Pegleg, “why trust yourselves to that confounded river? Hey! let him alone. The brute ben't worth the trouble. The wilful dogs! By gum! I'd go in myself to save poor Old Jack, good Old Jack, if 'twern't for this blessed stump—ha!”

But although they carefully searched around the spot where Jack had been left behind, there was no sign of him anywhere to be found. The darkness was fast increasing; the water was icy cold; a keen, cold wind was coming down from the frozen mountain-tops. They abandoned the search in despair, and prepared to resume their journey in a melancholy frame of mind, induced by the misfortune which had befallen the Third Mate.

Their progress thereafter was necessarily slow, and by the time they reached the Lake night had fallen. Still they determined to press on to the “Station,” as the site of what is now Queenstown was then termed, from the circumstance of its being the residence of the runholder.

page 16

It was not pleasant scrambling amongst stunted bush and stray rocks and boulders, along a bank sloping to the water, and intersected by numerous small gullies, the existence of which was only revealed when the traveller plumped down into one of them. I say it was not pleasant, especially to Pegleg, but they went on nevertheless. A distant bush fire somewhat lighted up the scene, casting a lurid glow on the snow-covered peaks, and reflecting itself in the blue waters—giving to the whole scene a weird and wild appearance. But regarded from a utilitarian point of view, this light was valuable, for it enabled our friends to escape many of the dangers which beset their path.

Chapter IX. A Modern Orpheus.

The order of march was as follows: George led the way, and Jim brought up the rear, while Pegleg stumped along in the centre for greater safety. They had proceeded thus for about half-an-hour, when a singular misadventure occurred. They had arrived at a spot where the bush, nurtured by the waters of a small creek that welled out from the mountain, attained to the dignity of trees, in the shade of which the narrow track was quite undistinguishable. Suddenly George disappeared from view, and the next moment Pegleg also vanished from sight, to the great amazement of Jim Darley, who, confounded at the event, came to a dead halt. It was as if the earth had opened and swallowed them up.

“Hullo, mates,” he cried, “where on earth have you got to?”

There arose from beneath his feet a confused discord of crackling branches and rattling stones, intermixed with human voices—with groans, and growls, and stifled laughter.

Then he heard George say (and the words came with a dull, smothered sound to his ear)—

“Guess you'd better not come down, Jim. Theer ain't no room to spare jest here. We're rather mixed already, and if you come we'll be crowded out, I reckon!”

“Aye! aye, mate!” growled the old man, “hold on and keep aloft, lad, till we find out the bearings of this plaguey hole. Ho! ho! Cap'en, what dost make o't? Ho! ho! Thou be'st a bad pilot surely to run us into such a Bedlamite pit as this be.”

“Well,” quoth George, “I guess this here place ain't laid down on no chart. However, Sir, if you'll kindly have done sitting on my chest and take your timber prop-stick out of my left-hand trouser's pocket, I'll try to navigate you out of this.”

In truth, George had fallen down the precipitous bank of the creek, which thickly matted masses of overhanging creepers, native convolvulus, and bush lawyers had concealed from observation. Pegleg, following too hastily, had shared his fate, but being last, he had found a softer resting place on George's prostrate body.

When the old man attempted to rise however it was found that his injuries were greater than had been supposed. For he had broken his leg! True, it was the wooden member that had been sacrificed in the fall; but none the less was he thereby incapacitated from pursuing the journey.

George and Jim Darley helped him out of the creek, and set him on the bank.

“Ha, lads,” he said; “this be a baddish job, this be. Old Dick'll be of no more use now. Jim, lad, go thy ways, and let the old hulk be. (What will the young dog do without his Pegleg to take care of him?) Why, Cap'en, thou must see to the lad. Go with the Cap'en, lad. He'll look after thee, won't thou, Cap'en?”

“I'll see you hanged first,” cried Jim. “Why, you selfish old beast, you want to get rid of me, do you? I shouldn't wonder if you broke your leg on purpose, you deceitful villain.”

“No, Mr Pegleg,” echoed George, “we don't mean to let you off in that way. No, sirree! You can bet an ounce to a red on that?”

page 17

(“Good lads! Brave lads! Blame their hearts! the dogs'll make old Pegleg pipe his eye.”) Thus to himself, then aloud:—

“Come, now! no nonsense, lads! Pegleg won't have it. Dash my buttons if I do have it. I ben't going to be bothered with thee, Jim, any more. I be tired of thee and thy ways. Get along with thee, and leave me, thou saucy whelp.”

“Well, mister, if it ain't too great a liberty, I'd like to know what line of business you propose operating in, if we dissolve pardnership?”

“Ho! ho! ho! That be a good 'un, that be. I said thou wast a cure. Didn't I say the Cap'en was a cure, Jim? Ho! ho! What line o' business?”—

And he roared out the words of the old song

“The bullets and the gout have so knocked his hull about.
That he'll never more be fit for sea.”

To everybody's surprice there came an answer to the hoarse chant. An answer—not an echo merely. Nor was the answer in a human voice. For from over their heads, loud, and long, and clear, came the resonant bray of a jackass!

“By gum!” shouted Pegleg, “that be Old Jack. I'd swear to his voice among ten thousand asses. Stand by, lads, till I whistle for the wicked old brute.”

He uttered the well-known signal, and again from the heights above came a bray responsive. Then the hoof beats of the animal were heard, as it cautiously picked its way down the steep face of the mountain. Presently it appear on a ridge near at hand. There it stood snuffing the air, as if reconnoitring the party. Another whistle brought it to its master's side; and 'twas hard to say which was most delighted at the rencounter—the man or the brute.

“Ha, Jack!” cried the man, throwing his arms round the animal's neck. “Jack, my pet! Hast followed thy master all the way from you river? Why, what a black-a-vised sinner was Pegleg to quit thee. Good old Jack! Thou shalt not get away again, I warrant thee.”

And the brute replied to his master's caresses by rubbing his nose against the old man's breast, and braying loud-voiced satisfaction.

Chapter X. Queenstown.

Eleven Hundred feet above the ocean level is the great Lake Wakatipu—sixty miles in length and from two to five miles in width. In form it is somewhat like the letter Z— the upper and lower arms stretching from south to north, and the central arm from east to west. All around, are lefty mountains rising from five to eight thousand feet above its waters, with many small bays in their sombre recesses. Below, its waters are in some parts of unknown depth, for the skill of man has not yet availed to plumb the dark pools that lie under the rocky precipices familiarly known as “The Devil's Staircase” and the “Sluice-Box.” Official reports tell of twelve hundred feet of line having there been paid out without reaching the bottom. Five considerable rivers and numberless creeks pour their flood into this capacious reservoir, yet only one river, of comparatively small capacity, emerges therefrom. Where the balance of its water finds exit is an undeveloped mystery. Many ages ago a larger and a broader channel carried away the mighty flood at an elevation of two hundred and fifty feet, above the present lake-level. Ages before that, they passed through a yet more capacious outlet, now four hundred and fifty feet overhead. Who shall dare to say how many cycles of time have been completed duning the period interventing between the date of the existence of the old levels and that of their puny modern substitute?

In a small bay, shaped like a horse-shoe, lying at the base of Ben Lomond, and protected by a peninsular projec page 18 tion from the violent southerly winds—a bay where, the clear blue waters ripple over the white shingle beach with an indolent, musical motion—is the picturesque settlement of Queenstown. Man has seized upon this spot, and shops and warehouses, filled with the products of every clime, and of all industries; hotels worthy of the name, and banks profuse in architectural adornment, now line the borders of the lake. On the slopes and terraces at the rear are scattered many trim villas and garden-surrounded cottages, suggestive of ease and comfort. Steamers are moored to the jetty, and white-sailed boats skim like swallows to and fro. Bells ring to prayers, and songs of praise resound from sacred fanes. Nor are other evidences of modern civilization wanting. For there too are the court-house and the gaol—the hall of justice, and the receptacle of crime.

Such is Queenstown now. Let us take a backward glance, and view it as it was.

Fourteen years ago—no more—two young men pushed through a very forest of bush till they stood upon the margin of those then unknown waters. I say “unknown,” because, although the southern arm of the lake had been visited, the existence of the westerly and northern arms was as yet unsuspected. On the maps of the day this district was indicated by a blank space only. They made a rude kind of raft, and with much toil navigated that mysterious inland sea. They viewed the land, and behold it was good. So they settled there in that remote solitude, the one on the Von River, the other on the bay where Queenstown now stands. They brought flocks and herds from afar, and set themselves manfully to subdue the wilderness. So far were they from the ordinary track of agricultural settlement that it seemed as if a century must elapse ere they would be driven from their holdings.

But in the case of one of these adventurers (and I use the phrase in its true, honest sense) it was not so to be. Scarcely was he seated in his new abode when from afar off came the sound of the gold discoveries. Nearer and yet nearer the wave approached; and one day a Maori employed about the station entered the squatter's presence bearing in his hand—gold. Yes—real, veritable gold—bright, yellow, pure. He had found it by chance — this Maori—in the sands of the Arrow river, and had brought it triumphantly to his master in expectancy of reward and approval.

But the discovery brought no pleasure to the squatter. He knew that the advent of the miners would ensure the destruction of his pastoral prospects. His hopes of a successful career, of increasing flock, multiplying wealth, faded like an unsubstantial dream, and his heart sank within him. For a while—a brief interval—he might keep the discovery secret, but, sooner or later, it would assuredly be divulged; and then farewell to all his fondly cherished visions of the future.

And so indeed it fell out. Soon prospectors came around the Lake, searching for the all-alluring metal. At first they were unsuccessful. But the squatter made known to one or two friends the locality where the Maori had picked up the golden specimens; the smoke of their fire revealed to others their whereabouts, and thus was the dreaded event precipitated. The auriferous fame of “Fox's,” as it was termed, induced men to traverse the country in search thereof; and one fine day a score of miners suddenly appeared on the terrace above the first workings at the Arrow Gorge, and announced with lusty cheers that thenceforth concealment was impossible.

Then the miners poured in from all parts of the Province, from the farthest corners of the Colony, from the older goldfields of Victoria and New South Wales: everywhere men felt their pulses quicken as the tale went round of wondrous “finds,” and they hastened to share in the golden spoils.

For a little while the homestead of page 19 the squatter, being out of the route to any of the workings, remained unmolested, in its pristine loneliness, so that when George W. Pratt and his mates first visited the place, there was as yet no sign of the township which now occupies its site. A hut of limited dimensions, with walls of clay and grass-thatched roof—the private residence of the squatter; an out-house, constructed of similar materials, for the use of the station hands;—a wool-shed built of timber, and a boat-shed, were then the only edifices.

It was night when George and his mates arrived. On the shores of the lake some fifty or sixty miners had en camped, each party with a fire burning brightly in front of its location. These men were waiting for a flour-boat which was hourly expected to arrive. Every man represented five or six others—his mates—by whom he had been dispatched to the station to purchase a portion of the staff of life. Long and patiently they had waited there—all the previous day and through the night, and still they waited on.

About four o'clock some one more wakeful or more vigilant than the others aroused the watchers with a loud cry, “The boat is coming!” Instantly every man sprang to his feet. The plash of oars was heard in the water.—the cheerful rattle of oars, in the rowlocks kept tune. On came the flour-laden bark,—she neared the shore; her keel grated on the beach,—the anxiously looked-for cargo had arrived at last.

Then, early as it was, the squatter and his men came forth, and the process of weighing out the flour commenced. To every man of a party a certain proportion — no more — was allotted, till all was served out. Then those who remained behind unserved were called forward, and their names and the number of their mates carefully recorded as being entitled to priority in the distribution of the next boatload. George and party being late of arrival came into this latter category, whereby they were compelled to remain another day at the Station. From which circumstance arose other events which mightily influenced the fortunes of Mr George W. Pratt.

It was painful to note the avidity wherewith some of the men devoured the flour. Many of them had no sooner secured the coveted food than they converted some of it into “skilligalee” (i.e. flour and water thinly mixed), and so swallowed it without cooking. “Why, I havn't had a bite of anything but tough mutton for a month,” said one of them, “and I can't stop to make damper, for I must be away over the ranges to my mates, who are just as badly off.”

Chapter XI. A New Leg and an Old Hand.

There was a “handy man” about the Station, a man who could muster cattle on the ranges, shear a sheep in the shed, pull an oar in the boat, build a hut, make an axe-handle, cook, sew, wash—in fact, do anything that any other man could do in any department of labor. There are plenty of such fellows to be found in the Colonies, and it is to be remarked that they are generally men of to erably good—sometimes of superior education.

This “handy man” came very seasonably to the relief of Pegleg. In a trice he took the old man's measure, and fitted him with a new leg—roughly hewn and ungainly of outline, it is true, but strong and durable.

“Ho! ho!” shouted old Pegleg, as he tried the new member, “thour't a knowing chap, surely. Why, lads, I be a made man again. I'll not leave thee now, Jim; do thou be sure o' that. Old Jack and his master be worth any two in the land.”

Next day towards evening another boat-load of flour came in, and having secared their supplies they packed up their swags and proceeded up the Gorge in the direction of the Shotover.

As they passed along, some men came over the low hill that overlooks the bay. The donkey—an animal page 20 rarely seen in New Zealand—attracted their attention.

“I'm blowed,” said one them, “if there ain't a real live moke.”

“And a man with a wooden leg,” said another. “What a rum start!”

“Rum enough,” said the third. “Don't you know the cove in the red shirt? That's Yankee Joe.”

It was the redoubtable Ginger who spoke last. The others were his old associates.

On what slender threads our weal or woe often depends. Had George and his mates started two minutes earlier, how much future trouble would they not have escaped?

Chapter XII. The Home of the Gold.

“Well, this be a terrible hole, surely! It maketh I shiver to look around. Stones and rocks, rocks and stones; one a-top of t'other till they do seem ready to tumble down and bury us. It be a main wicked place. Ben't it a main wicked place, Jim? Why, Cap'en—Cap'en George—what dost thou make on't, Cap'en?”

“Well, sir,” quoth Mr Pratt, “it ain't the smoothest place in all creation that's an undeniable fact. When Nature had done making the rest of the world, calculate she had a pile of loose materials that didn't fit in nowhere. So she jest put it down here anyway, all of a heap like. Maybe the old lady conceited to sort it all some day, so as to build up a new continent; there's quite enough stuff if it was only rolled out a bit leveller. Reckon she's been too busy to attend to it, and dropped it out of mind. One of these fine days she'll wake up, and then she'll shake the darned old place all to pieces, and fix it up afresh with a new and elegant assortment of spring goods.”

“Ho! ho! ho!” roared old Pegleg. What a cure thou be'st, Cap'en! When doth it seem to thee the old dame will begin? Eh, lad? For I do believe it won't be in our time. Ho! ho!”

And he laughed loud and long.

They were standing at the junction of two small creeks, in a narrow ravine, where the piled-up mountains shut out the horizon and limited the view skywards to a narrow strip of blue ether, rendered more brilliant by contrast with the dun-colored rocks, the brown herbage, and the sombre-hued patches of bush, which luxuriated in the deep, dark gullies. The mountains slanting steeply downwards—slide below slide—in confused masses, bore testimony to the violence of the convulsions which in ages past had rent their stubborn ribs asunder, throwing down their lofty crests, and shaking their bases to the centre. Here and there a perpendicular wall of rock, smooth and bare, revealed the track ground down by the mighty glaciers of pre-historic days. High over head the “terraces” indicated the successive levels of the ancient river, whereof the puny rivulet that brattled noisily through the ravine was the insignificant modern representative. Far above all, vast patches of sunless gloom alternated with snow-clad cones glittering in the bright sunlight with eye-dazzling radiance.

Near at hand, a silvery stream leaped forth into mid-air, robing itself in prismatic hues as it fell—a liquid rainbow—from ledge to ledge, till it gained the bottom of the ravine, and there mingled with its earth-born sister. Fostered by the cool moisture, long coarse grasses and flowering veronicas, and ferns of many kinds fringed the margin of the creek, and dwarf manukas and tea tree scrub gently waved their feathery branches in the morning breeze. A midst the overhanging crags a few stunted birches* and scraggy fuschia bushes, found scanty sustenance; and the glossy leaves of a native laurel (the “broadleaf” of the colonists) shone forth from its guarled and twisted trunk.

When the old man bellowed forth his stentorian laugh, the startled echoes page 21 caught the unwonted sound, and from the reverberating rocks came back a hoarse “Ho! ho!” Again and again it was repeated, till from a far distant gorge a faint “Ho! ho!” smote mockingly on the ear. Pegleg stared aghast, and the Third Mate, luxuriously rolling on the sandy beach of the creek, ceased his gambols, and with ears upstanding, listened amazed to the reiterated laughter.

“Well, I'm blessed,” cried Jim Darley, “if the place ain't haunted. What are we here for at all, I want to know?”

“Gold, I guess,” answered George, laconically.

“Why, you don't expect to get any gold here, do you?” And Jim looked round him with an air of disgust, as if he considered himself a deluded and injured man.

“Gold!” chimed in Pegleg—“why gold—what gold? No, Capen, do thou take Old Dick's word for 't, there ben't no gold hereabouts. I've seen a sight o' diggins in one place and t'other, lad; but I never see any gold in such a den as this be. Good Lord! what a cursed den it be surely. (I do hope the Cap'en beu't a silly.) Let us ha' done gipseying, lad. Here Jack — good old Jack—come here thou wilful brute, wilt thou? Jim, lad, do thou pack up the traps and let us flee away out o' this. It do make old Pegleg shiver and shake like a leaf.”

George listened quietly to the old man's tirade, and merely replenished his plug. A curious smile beamed on his face as he watched the pair making hasty preparations for departure.

“Go-a-head pardners,” he said at last. “If you're such darned fools as to let an echo frighten you away, I ain't, that's all. I rather conclude to prowl around here for a spell and make my pile.”

Something in his manner arrested the attention of the two men.

“Do you really think there's a show of gold here?” asked Jim.

“No, sir; I do not,” was the emphatic reply. “I don't ‘think there's a show, at all. I know there's a considerable heap.”

“Aye, lad!” cried Pegleg. “Says't thou so? Why, where be the sign o't? I don't see no sign o't. (It do seem as how the lad's cranky.)”

“Well, now,” said George, “do you know that's very curious. See here, now, Mister Pegleg, you're a high-toned old gent, and as a cook you ain't got your equal on these here diggings; but I'm teetotally darned if you know a cent about gold-finding, and Jim there ain't no better. When you see other men getting gold, you can count in with the best of the crowd. But gold-getting is one thing, and gold-finding is another. Guess I picked up my knowledge down to California, where folks don't allow their brains to lie idle muchly—them as have got any brains. Now I've been putting my brains and my eyes to work, and I jest tell you that if you conclude to part company and quit this location, you'll lose the smartest chance of making a pile that ever you had since you were foaled.”

“Why, Cap'en, lad, thou says't fair enough. What shall us do, Jim? Shall us hold on for a spell, and try the ground, or shall us go? (Dash my buttons! maybe Cap'en's right.) Speak up, old Pegleg 'll do as thou dost, Jim — just as thou dost.”

“Suppose we prospect about for a day?” proposed Jim, somewhat sheepishly, and with the air of a man “convinced against his will.”

“So be it, lad. Why a day's nought—a day—why it be neither here nor there. Thou'st gotten thine own way, Cap'en, this time.”

“Right you are, gent,” said George. “Resoluted accordingly, that Pegleg and Co. do remain. You'd have played a remarkably foolish game if you hadn't, I tell you. Why, pardners, you are set right down in the Home of the Gold!”

Chapter XIII. Pegleg Gets a Lesson in Acoustics.

Then Mr George W. Pratt condescended to explain.

page 22

“See here,” he said. “Do you see that white streak running down the mountain over there?”

Yes; they did see it.

“Now, then—right about face! Do you see that other white streak—not quite so regular, but its there all the same, on the opposite side of the gulch?”

Yes; they saw that also.

“Well, that's quartz, that is. Nothing less, you bet! That's jest the real old mother of all the gold in these creeks. The tops of them reefs have mouldered off, or been shook off, or blown off maybe. Anyhow, they have been shunted off somehow; and the gold that used to be up there in the caps of the reefs has got carried down by the floods and buried in the gullies and flats below. Now boys, where the bottom was level most of the gold has been swept a long way down, but where there was a bar across the gully the gold lodged. And it ain't been excavated yet; for no white man ever tried it, and the all-fired niggers that you call Maoris hadn't the savey to know the value of gold.”

“By gum! Cap'en George is right,” growled Pegleg. “Why dash my old wig if you and I ben't fools Jim. Eh lad! ben't us fools? Why don't thou speak, Jim, lad? Lord love thee, there be a sight of fools in the world. Us be in fine company lad—fine company. Ho! ho! ho!”

Again the echoes tossed the rough laugh from crag to crag, so terrifying the Third Mate that he threw up his heels and fairly gallopped away to the summit of an adjacent spur, where he brayed lustily. Being out of the echo range no answering bray replied, but this, instead of re-assuring his master, caused yet greater consternation.

“Surely,” he said, mopping the perspiration from his forehead, “There be devils here mocking I. Why don't they mock old Jack. Eh lad? Tell us that Cap'en. (Good Lord! have mercy on us! as it were in the beginning, is now, and shall be evermore, give thanks, Amen!)”

“Well!” said George, “If this ain't a circumstance. This is the consequence of being raised in a superstitious old country like England. Guess they've got their eyes opened too wide for that sort of article in the free and enlightened States of America. Why this here ain't half an echo. There's one in the Rocky Mountains that repeats every word for a whole year, and makes it travel along the chain, so that if you speak at the southern end on the first of January, you can hear it on the north side on the thirty-first of December. Yes, sirree!”

But it was evident that the old man was not to be satisfied by raillery. So in order to assure him that he was not the special object of invisible derision, George induced him to mount the hill to Old Jack's side, and to laugh his “Ho! ho!” there, when, of course, the echoes were silent. But it required no little persuasion to accomplish this feal.

“Eh, lad!” he said, as he descended the hill, “I hou'rt makin' fun of old Pegleg. Maybe thou don't believe in ghosts and such-like. Thou know'st a good deal, Cap'en, but thou don't know everything. Ho! — (Lord forgive me.) I'll tell thee some'at by'n-bye, Cap'en.”

“No, sir,” said George, “I don't conceit that there's any sense in ghosts. We don't allow no ghosts in America. Some of our high old Southern folks claim to keep a family ghost for domestic use, but they ain't allowed by the Constitution.”

Then he utilized the old man's fears, thus—

“There's jest one thing I might mention to you, sir. Don't you laugh so all-fired loud, because if you do you'll bring a whole heap of fellows on to our location. They're always prowling around to look for prospectors, and one of your sweet-souled laughs might fetch them any day.”

“Aye! aye! Cap'en, I'll beware, be thou sure o' that. Old Pegleg 'll clap a stopper on his jaw-tackle (as long as he bides in this devilish hole.)”

“Jest so,” said George approvingly, “keep the pressure on, old boy. And page 23 now gents, if you please, we'll proceed to labor.!”

Chapter XIV. Two Strange Stories.

Before the day was over they had found a “bar,” such as satisfied George's critical discernment. They then went to work to turn the creek above the bar, and by nightfall the water was running in their new channel. Not till the last rays of the sun were reflected from behind the mountains was the turning of the water attempted, the object of the prospectors being to allow the first water, discolored by contact with the fresh earth, to pass away in the night, so that no telltale traces of their operations should be visible in the morning. For they well knew that muddy water would be regarded as a sure indication of mining up the stream, and so would afford a clue to their location.

That night as they were sitting round the camp fire (which by the way was never lit in the daytime, save to boil the billy for breakfast, lest the smoke should betray them), George said to Pegleg—

“I think, Mister, you promised to tell me something about ghosts. Suppose you were to begin now before we turn in.”

“No, no, Cap'en, don't thee ask me now. I ben't quite easy in my mind about they echoes, as thou calls them; I've heard a many echoes in my time, but I never heard one that spoke back more than once. Dash my buttons if I can make it out yet.”

“Why you stupid old donkey,” said Jim, who was beginning to pluck up his courage, “Don't you remember the echo between the rock just below Hartley's Beach at the Dunstan?”

It was a most unfortunate illustration.

“What, lad—why, Jim, lad—be'st thou going to turn upon me too? Thou know'st that one only answered back once. Now, this one, he do answer back, and answer back, no end.”

“Never mind, old hoss, tell us your story.”

Thus George.

“No, Cap'en, I won't. I don't like telling o't in the dark till I do know more about this place. (Home of the gold? Home of old Nick, I do believe. Maybe he made it. They do say a man's got the devil's luck whenever he gets money.) No, not now, Cap'en George. No offence to thee, but—some other time.”

“I'll tell you a story,” said Jim Darley. And forthwith he began.

“When I was a little kid I knew a man named Billy Pitt, a tailor by trade, and a very good workman when he were real sober. But he used to fuddle awful. Never a wake, or a fair, or a dance, or a club-meeting came off but Billy were there. For he used to play the fiddle, and that made the folks ask him to everything. He was a little hump-backed fellow, and when he had his fiddle under his arm, wrapped up in a big baize bag, you couldn't tell whether Billy carried the fiddle, or the fiddle carried Billy.

“One cold winter night when the snow were lying deepish, Billy went over to Farmer Welch's to a hop there was there on account of one of the daughters getting married, and they kept it up all night pretty well. There was lots of beer and cider going, and Billy took his whack of it, you may depend. Farmer wanted to keep the little beggar there all night, seeing as how he was well sprung. But Billy wouldn't have it, because of Binegar Fair being next day, and he wanted to be there. So off he set in the middle of the night, and he got on all right till he got to a meadow where he could make a short cut, and save about a mile of road. But when he got inside the paddock he couldn't find the stile at the other side. He kept floundering about through the snow till he got chilled-like, and every time he got to the end of the paddock he comes butt up against a thorn hedge. He could see the houses of the village, but get out he couldn't. So he begins to holla out— page 24 ‘Man a' lost! Man a' lost!’ and the people heard him call. But when they listened they could only hear the owls in the old church tower saying, ‘Who? who?’—and then they went in again. Billy heard it too, and he says, says he—‘Billy Pitt o' Wurmister.’ Then folks came out again, and the owls cried—‘Who?’ So they didn't come out any more. And Billy, he maundered about till he got stiff with the cold, and he sat down at last with his fiddle, and went off sound asleep. And when the morning come, Billy was found half-froze, sitting on the steps of the stile; for he was that drunk he couldn't see it.”

“Did he die,” asked George.

“Not quite. Pretty near though. It took a precious long time to bring him round. And he got the rheumatics that bad in his right arm, he never could play the fiddle again so long as ever he lived.”

“Do you know,” said George, “that puts me in mind of a circumstance that happened to a personal friend of mine, who was strongly addicted to spiritual investigations. He was mighty fond of skating, he was; and when he began he never knew exactly where to stop. He got worse and worse by degrees, till he lost all control over his emotions; and sometimes he used to fire up and go skating—skating away for days and a night. At last he had to employ a man to put the brake on when it got too dangerous to be safe. However, one time the help got on a spin, and didn't come up to time; and my friend, he started off to skim the frozen river, and he got such way upon him, that he skated clean down a most tremendous cataract, and went on, cutting figures of eight and numerous other devices, till he skated right out to sea.”

“Was he drowned?” asked Jim with lips agape.

“No, sir! he skated on to the frozen ocean and up Baffin's Bay; and the last that was heard of him was that he was doubling the North Cape at the rate of nineteen knots an hour, with full steam on, whistling Yankee Doodle, and cutting the double-shuffle round the aurora borealis.”

“That be blowed for a yarn!” said Jim.

“Cap'en, I said thou'st a cure. Surely that ben't true. Why, Cap'en—Cap'en George — make it twenty knots while thou'rt about it, lad. (A lie—a lie—I'm sure o't.)”

“Gents,” said George with much dignity, “see here—there ought to be some sort of reciprocity in these concerns. Jim told a story of a drunken owl, and I didn't contradict him. I gave you a long slide, and I claim to have it entered up as O. K. Nineteen knots was the time entered in the log of the steamer that went after him. Do you think I'd falsify history for the sake of one knot?”

Chapter XV. Discovered.

Early next morning George took a tin dish and went down to the claim. In half-an-hour he returned with half-an-ounce of gold-coarse, heavy gold—shining in the bottom of the dish.

“There, pardners,” he said, “guess that'll make up for the foolish yarns I reeled off last night. Can't think what put such darned stuff in my head. Think them hooting owls of yours, Jim, must have been flapping about my ears.”

The old man and Jim were in raptures at the excellent “prospect.” In truth Mr George Washington Pratt was one of those men who abound on every goldfield—men who have not been artificially schooled and dragooned into the possession of a smattering of scientific knowledge, but who are no mean geologists, nevertheless. They have studied in the school of Nature only; and therein they have gained much practical knowledge which, engrafted on native intelligence, has rendered them adepts.

The “prospect,” as I have intimated, was a good one. The gold lay in the page 25 fine sand of the creek bed, within a few inches from the surface, and when they penetrated to the bed rock, the diagonal slate bars were found to be a series of rich “pockets” (as the crevices are termed) wherein the yellow metal was thickly packed.

“Hurra for home and beauty!” cried George. “If there's much of this, New Zealand will be minus one distinguished foreigner very shortly.”

And before his “mind's eye” there uprose a picture of Ruth, whom be had left in Missouri awaiting his return with the money that should satisfy the old “Squire,” her father, of George's ability to support a wife. 'Twas a pleasant vision, and he went about his work, with a cheerful smile upon his face, and in a resolute manner which acted as a stimulant on the others. Truly there is no such incentive to labor as a fixed definite purpose.

So many people were exploring the wild solitudes of that mountainous wilderness, that it was highly improbable they would long remain undiscovered. Under George's advice they wrought manfully to excavate the wash-dirt and pile it up, deferring the washing process to the future. Thus they were enabled to strip more ground than they would have done otherwise. Besides which, they avoided defiling the creek water, which, as already explained, would have have discovered their whereabouts.

Little did they know that there were those on their trail, who, for reasons of their own, would proclaim their discovery to the world—that is, to the little world of miners who were pouring into the district. From the moment that Ginger and his mates caught sight of George at the station they persistently strove to hunt him down. For these men feared, hated, and believed in the American. Personally they feared and hated him; superstitiously they believed in his “luck,” as they termed it. Your true ignoramus never gives his neighbor credit for achieving anything by superior knowledge or intelligence. It is always “luck.” As though a man's “luck” were not the result of foresight and wisdom; and his want of “luck” did not result from the absence of those qualities.

For some time the pursuers were baffled. George's party had easily been tracked to the main gully, and for some distance up the donkey's hoof-prints had furnished a clue to their progress. But there were so many branch gullies that it was some days ere the particular ravine where George and his mates were at work was explored. It is doubtful whether the latter would have been discovered so soon as they were, but for the unfortunate echo.

High up on the mountain side were the three pursuers, anxiously straining eyes and ears for any sign or sound that might betray the location of the prospectors. It was noontide, and intense silence prevailed. Suddenly there arose a din as of asses braying. Not one, nor two, but seemingly an entire herd of them. For the Third Mate had lifted up his voice, and the rocks replied like a gigantic chorus.

“My word!” shouted Ginger, better versed in the mysteries of echoes than Pegleg, “that's the moke we saw with Yankee Joe. Let us down to the creek. They ain't far away now.”

And guided by the sound, they easily found their way to the prospector's claim.

It was with a troubled mind that George recognised the three men First, ‘Ginger’ came by with a diabolical smirk on his evil countenance; then ‘Flash Jimmy,’ with his greasy curls and oleaginous visage, strolled up; and lastly, ‘Tripes,’ sulky and scowling joined the other two.

“There's no more peace for us,” said George to his mates, “there's three [gap — reason: unclear] the darndest villains in the country [gap — reason: unclear] guess we'll have to work all day an[gap — reason: unclear] watch all night.—Well, Mister, (h[gap — reason: unclear] continued to Ginger) I don't own up [gap — reason: unclear] being specially rejoiced to see you[gap — reason: unclear] Might I make free to inquire your i[gap — reason: unclear] tentions? Because, you see, if yo[gap — reason: unclear] mean fight I'm your Moses, and if yo[gap — reason: unclear] page 26 mean peace, you'll have to keep a respectful distance off. Say—how do you conclude to eventuate?”

Flash Jimmy replied—“You needn't be so blessed huffy, mate. I suppose there's room for all of us, and we've got as much right here as you.”

“I don't give into that,” said George, “we have prospected the place, and we mean to have our full rights—not a cent less, you bet. So we'll just mark off the ground, and if you come within our pegs, you'll likely get some cold medicine which will reduce the size of your claim by one and carry nought. There ain't no Commissioner here jest now, but we know the law, and we mean to have it followed out. Yes, sirree!”

They were three to three. But one was a cripple—old Pegleg. So by way of enforcing his argument, Mr George W. Pratt carelessly drew his revolver.

“See that grey place in the rock yonder?”

He levelled his weapon and pulled the trigger. A small scale fell from the rock, as the bullet struck the indicated spot. He returned the weapon to his pouch.

“Now, boys,” he said, “let us understand each other fairly. Keep clear of our location, and don't meddle with us, or as sure as my name is George Washington Pratt, I'll drill a few small holes in your skins. Jim, you just go up the creek, and when I call, put down a peg for our boundary. We can't stop to measure.”

Jim did as instructed. “That's our line, boys,” said George. “Don't come this side of it night or day, if you place any value on your personal comfort.”

Then the three declared that they wouldn't be bullied, and a tempest of angry ejaculations defiled the atmoshere. The quarrel ended characteristically. Gringer said something too gross for George's patience. Whereupon George grappled with him, much as a mastiff might seize a snapping cur, and pitched him into the creek. Jim fired up and engaged in a pitched battle with Tripes, and Pegleg coming unawares behind Flash Jimmy dealt him such a violent kick, as sent him howling out of the old man's reach. Finally the trio retreated beyond the indicated line, and left our friends in possession of the battle field.

But the mischief had been done. Thenceforth, as George well knew from past experience, there was no security for them. But little did he dream of what the result was to be.

Chapter XVI. Pegleg's Story.

Ere another week had elapsed the once solitary gully teemed with human life. For the news of the discovery became bruited abroad, and from all parts came crowds of miners. The three vagabonds kept carefully aloof during the day-time, but George and Jim kept watch alternately during the night. Nothing came of it, however, and it seemed as though their unwelcome neighbors had given up all idea of molestation.

Said George to Pegleg one night:—“You han't told us that story yet, Pegleg. Suppose you were to do it now. What say?”

“Why, lad, I don't mind if I do. There's a many folk about now, and I do believe thou'rt right about that dash'd echo, though such a thing old Pegleg never heard afore in all his born days. Jim, thou comical young monkey, wherefore dost thee grin? There's a sight more in such like doings than thou know'st on.”

“Never mind old Timber-toes. Go on and spin us a yarn.”

“Why, lads, I've seen a sight o' things in my time. When I were a kid, the old man made I work in the farm. Then I got to think the sea were better than the land. I were wrong though—I were wrong, lads. Better to plough the harvest furrow than the sea. However, nought'd do but I must to sea, and the old man wouldn't hear o't. He never could abide the notion. So one day I packed up two or three page 27 things in my handkerchief, and off I goes to Bristol. There were heaps of ships, and I'd heard that boys were wanted. I went aboard one after t'other, though, and got well scouted for my pains. All up and down the quay and along the Welsh back I went, till at long and at last I got engaged as cabin boy in a Africa ship going to the Gold Coast. She were a main trim boat, all full of gold and pictures and big looking-glasses in the cabin. They used to put they things in to daze the niggers with, when they went to get gold dust, and oil, and ivory and all them sort o' things.

“I made two voyages in that ship—the ‘Harry Hill’ they called her, only 'twere wrote in some outlandish language—‘A-r-i-e-l,’ which do seem to I a queerish way o' spelling a Christian name.

“What I be going to tell thee happened on the second voyage. There were a great big black nigger from the West Indies—Jacob, we called him—shipped as a seaman, and he were a terror, he were. He bullied the men, and were very impudent and cross-wayed to the mate and Cap'en. One day he gave Cap'en some sort o' crooked answer, and Cap'en he up wi's fist and knocked un down like a bullock. Jacob, he jumped up, and says he, ‘Cap'en,’ he says, ‘I'll be quits wi' thee for that;’ and he showed his big white teeth and grinned savage-like, so that all my blood run cold.

“I used to sleep in the cuddy so as to be handy-like if Cap'en wanted anything in the night time. Sometimes he'd call me up in the middle o' the night; so I got used to it and used to waken up on the least noise. The night after Cap'en had the row wi' the nigger, I roused up in a main hurry thinking I heard Cap'en call. But when I went to his cabin he said ‘No!’ he hadn't called, and cursed I for a young fool. Why I hadn't abed again mor 'n half an hour when I heard un again. ‘Dick! Dick!’ I could ha' swear'd to't. ‘Aye! aye, Sir!’ says I, and away I goes to Cap'en's cabin again.

He says again as he didn't call, and I must ha' dream'd it. Next night the same thing happened, and Cap'en he punched my head for a stupid young fool and kicked I out o' cabin.

“Why lads then, when third night come I were called again. I made no count o't, I began to seem like it were ghosts, so I put my head under the blankets and tried to go to sleep. I couldn't do it. The same sort o' voice called again close to my berth ‘Dick! Dick!’ I got that frightened I couldn't stop there, so I got up and went on deck.

“'Twere a fine night, lads. We were pretty far south, and there were only a three-knot breeze blowing. The waters were alive wi' fire, and the big star they call Venus made quite a track o' light in the sea. All at once I heard a yell like nothing I ever listened to afore or since. Just the one scream—such an awful sound I hope never to hear again. Then there were a dash in the water as of some'at falling overboard. The mate he got out the boat and put the sails aback, and they rowed round and round but nought could they see. So the mate he went down to report to Cap'en. Lord ha' mercy on us! there were no Cap'en to be found. His bunk were empty, and the big stern window were open and there were just one spot of wet blood on the blankets. Nothing else whatever.

“Be sure we were in a main funk, lads. We searched the ship high and low, and ne'er a sign of anybody a-coming about could we find. The mate he suspected the nigger, but he were found in his bunk, sound asleep, and the watch reported that he hadn't been seen out o' fok'sle all night. Every like, and all things seemed to go contrary from that out.

“I told mate and the men what I had heard, and they seemed to think I knowed, more o't than I told. And Jacob—the nigger—he were very hard on me. He said I had a hand in it; and they talked o' putting me in irons. But mate said, ‘No, let un be; and page 28 he'd see all right when we got home.’ Jacob tried hard to pump me; but I knew nought more than I says, and couldn't tell no more. But that didn't satisfy the nigger. He swore he'd have it out o' me. I got so frightened one way and t'other I could do nought at last but cry, and wish I were safe home again.

“Same night I had a terrible dream. Seemed like as if Jacob were standing over me wi' a big knife in his hand, going to stick me. I tried to wake myself and couldn't do it. And I heard the same voice I had heard before crying out for me—‘Dick! Dick!’ I tried hard to get up; but no, I were as like I'd been glued down to the bunk. I know I must have struggled, for by'nbye, I felt a sharp pain in my left arm, and I woke up sudden, and there was that cursed nigger standing over me with something—a knife, I know now 'twere—upraised to strike me again. Then there were a noise and a crash, and cries, and Lord knows what, for I swithered away in a faint, and when I come to I found my arm bandaged, and I were lying in a different bunk.

“Seems that Jacob, he killed Cap'en and shoved him out o' the stern-port. He fancied I knew o't and were keeping it backlike till we got home again. Whereby he wanted to get rid o' me as he had got o' Cap'en afore, only mate watched for un, and caught the black scoundrel after he had wounded me once in the arm, which saved my life by reason of it lying across my chest.”

“What did they do to the nigger?” asked Jim.

“Why, Jim—what, Jim—see now how sin do find a man out. The varmint jumped overboard while we were on the coast, thinking to swim ashore; and a shark nipped him afore our very eyes. He went down with a fearful yell, and the blue water were colored red, and that's all I know about it, for, lad, he never did come up no more. But that cry o' ‘Dick!—Dick!’—haunted me. I heard it every night while I were in that ship. Blow high—blow low — sometimes in hold—sometimes in cabin—from topmast and fok'sle—up in the air, and down in the sea itself, I were always hearing the same cry o' ‘Dick! Dick!’ till I got afear'd to move after dark. And when and ever I got home to Bristol, I up foot and made tracks and quit the seagoing from that out. I couldn' stand it, lad—No—I couldn' stand it.”

“See here, Mister,” said sceptical George, “don't you rather guess that what you first heard was that bloodthirsty darkey trying to find whether you were awake?”

“Maybe so, Cap'en. Why, aye, may be so. But thou knows if a boy getteth a fright o' that sort, it sticketh to him through all his days. I don't say nay to thee; but it do seem it were a warning, mate, only I hadn't the savey to use it properly.”

“Yes? Well, now, do you know, I should have supposed that them as were able to send a warning were able to make it understandable. No, sir, I don't fall into your view. There's a hitch in it somewhere. It don't work smooth, that's a fact. Darned stupid thing to wake a boy up and not explain what he's wanted for.

Chapter XVII. The Prisoner of the People.

One Sunday morning, “cool and calm and bright,” when all nature seemed at rest, George was aroused from his slumbers by a confused noise as of many voices. Without disturbing his mates he went to the door of the tent and looked forth.

The tent had been pitched on a spur which commanded a view of the gully for some distance on either hand. About a quarter of a mile further up there was a small “flat,” which offered a favorable site for a township. And there consequently the storekeepers had located themselves. Be sure there were not a few shanty-keepers among them, for the liquor trade on new rushes requires but little capital and page 29 less intelligence, while the profits are in inverse ratio.

Congregated on this flat there was a considerable crowd on that Sunday morning. They appeared to form a ring, and George's first impression was that the “noble science of self-defence” was about to be practically and brutally illustrated. But presently he noted a figure solitary and motionless standing in the centre, and around him some four others revolving. A babble of many tongues surged upon the air, as the crowd swayed to and fro apparently in wild excitement. But never a foot stirred the central figure—not for an instant did the four cease to continue their regular circumambulation.

“What is the matter?” asked Jim Darley, as he emerged from the tent.

“Darned if I know rightly,” answered George. “Looks very much like a case of Judge Lynch. Say, pardner; jest you mount guard over the camp, while I step down and obtain the latest information.”

And he strode down the hill towards the mob.

As he neared the noisy throng a female form with hair wildly streaming and disordered garments, came flying from the mob and, seizing George's hand, threw herself on her knees before him, crying—

“Save him! Save him, Mr Pratt. For Heaven's sake don't let them murder him!”

“Jehoshaphat!” exclaimed George. “Mary Kenway, what are you doing here, ma'am?”

He lifted her up with all tenderness, and, gazing steadfastly in her tearful eyes, repeated the question.

“It's Tom?” she cried, “my Tom. They are going to hang him. Don't stop here. Go to them at once. They'll listen to you, I know they will. Come!”

And she strove to urge him onward; but George was too self-possessed to be hurried.

“See here, Mrs Kenway,” he said, “If I'm to do anything in this matter, I must do it my own way. That's so. It ain't no use being flurried. You jest go right away to my tent, or else sit down here till I've inquired into the rights of the case. I don't make no promises till I know what your Tom has been at.”

But Mary was too much excited to take matters as coolly as George proposed. With a cry as of a stricken animal, she burst from him, and flew back to the crowd. Through the struggling ranks she forced her way, and reaching her husband's side, she threw her arms around his neck in a passion of tears, declaring that she would not be parted from him.

“They shall kill us both, Tom,” she cried. “I'll never quit you.”

The angry crowd became still, and their hearts were melted by the woman's devotion.

“Let him go!” shouted some sympathetic soul; and a responsive murmur spread through the multitude.

But the charm was quickly and rudely dissolved. The man thrust from him the woman—forcibly he thrust her from him, with, shameful oaths and opprobrious epithets.

“What's the good of this nonsense?” he asked. “I know they'll hang me Let them do it at once.”

Mary, thus repulsed, sank crying to the earth; and the people—who for her sake were ready to have released their prisoner, but now fresh angered, because of his treatment of her who tried to save him—became dangerously violent.

George W. Pratt pressed through the seething mass. “Morning, gents,” he said. “What the little game?”

Then to Mary—“Keep your heart up, ma'am; I'll stand by you.”

It was briefly explained to him that Mr Tom Kenway had robbed a miner of a bag of gold. Now every miner is of necessity a peace officer. For, living in remote and sequestered localities where there are no constituted authorities close at hand, he is compelled to protect himself, and to unite with his neighbors in a mutual bond of defence and safety. As a rule, there is page 30 about one constable to a district equal in extent to an English county. Yet crime is very rare on the Goldfields, and so imbued are the miners with the spirit of order that they will walk twenty or thirty miles, climb mountains, and ford rivers, to give information of any matter of which it appears to be desirable that the police should have cognizance. There is good in this, for it tends to develop and foster that self-reliant spirit which is so marked a characteristic of the gold-miners of New Zealand.

Now, Master Tom Kenway had been drinking at the shanty, where the robbery had occurred, and had gone thence to another groggery. And when the loss was discovered, lo! there was the empty bag in Tom's pocket. Whereupon he was seized by the indignant spectators and detained in custody pending the arrival of the police, who had been communicated with, and into whose hands it was the intention of his captors to deliver him. The capture had been effected at three o'clock in the morning. It was now eight, but there was no sign of the police, and the crowd, already impatient, became savagely so when they witnessed the fellow's brutal treatment of his wife.

“Hang him up! String him up!” they cried.

“No,” said the miners in charge of him. “We've got him, and we mean to keep him till the police come.”

Then a single voice—a hoarse muddy voice—called out, “There's no police. Hang him!”

George looked in the direction of the voice, and his eyes encountered the truculent visage of “Flash Jemmy.” When that worthy felt George's glance upon him he slunk behind the crowd abashed. George walked over to Tom Kenway.

“Say, mate, are you innocent or guilty?” Thus George.

“Innocent, by —!” And he named a name never to be uttered “without that reverence which is due from the creature to the Creator.”

“Needn't swear,” said George. “What you say ain't a bit more believable for that. Reckon if a man's able to tell a lie, he's mostly equal to swearing one, as a general thing. On your word, as a man—(though you ain't much of that, neither)—did you steal that gold?”

Tom Kenway glared at him angrily. “Mind your own business. I don't want any of your preaching humbug.”

And he turned sulkily away.

“Well, Tom,” George quietly observed, “I guess I will mind my own business, for it ain't very reputeable to be mixed up in your affairs, that's a fact.”

He walked over to where Mary was standing, anxiously awaiting the issue of the conference. “Mary—Mrs Kenway”—he said, “this ain't no sort of place for you. Go away to your tent, and leave it to me.”

“No, no!” she cried, “I can't go—I can't leave him. What will they do to him? Oh, sir, I beseech you save him from those cruel men.”

“Now see here,” said George, firmly, “you must go away. If you don't, I will, ma'am.”

“Why do you want me to go away?” she answered quickly. “Is it because you know they will kill him, and you wish to spare me the sight? Is that it?”

“No, ma'am,” said George, “it ain't that; but it ain't fit for you to stay here, nohow.”

“Fit!” she echoed. “What place so fit for a wife as her husband's side when he is in danger? I will not leave. Let me pass. I will stay by dear Tom to the last.”

“Yes? That's very good of you, Mrs Kenway. You're a plucky little woman, ma'am, and I esteem you. You're a true wife, you are, and I guess a good mother, too. Might I inquire how the baby progresses?”

She parted the hair on her forehead with a gesture of apprehension, and the maternal instinct—dormant in the contemplation of her husband's danger—awoke within her breast. “My child!” she said. “Poor baby, I had forgotten page 31 her. Ah yes, let me go to my child. I will come back again, Tom,” she cried more loudly.

And Tom, hearing all — caring nothing—commended her to perdition.

Chapter XVIII. The Judge and the Sergeant.

The disappearance of Mary from the scene was the signal for a renewal of the uproar. Some there were who demanded Tom's release, but they were few in number and proportionately loud-voiced and defiant. Others called for instant punishment on the offender. The great majority sided with Tom's captors, desiring that he should be given over to the police. And they shouted and scolded, and raved and gesticulated, as only an excited mob can. And still the prisoner stood in the midst, and his four guards, armed with pick-handles, patrolled between him and the people in a steady, resolute way, which compelled order, and secured the accused man from violence.

Suddenly, whence or by whom none could tell, a pistol was discharged amongst the crowd. A moment of confusion ensued, of which Tom Kenway took instant advantage. With a nervous bound he sprang away, and before his captors had recovered from their surprise he was fifty yards off. Then with a tremendous shout—a thousand-man power cry of rage—the entire crowd pursued him.

It was a race for life or death; for Tom expected nothing less than a stont rope and a short shrift in the event of his being caught. He was lithe of limb, and sound of lung, and active withal; and many a footrace had he won in his time. But then his powers had been exerted in friendly contest; how heavy was the stake for which he now ran!

Down the gully he went at a marvellous pace, leaping obstacles of all kinds—water-holes and rocks, and claims and cradles; and ever at his heels followed the infuriated mob, yelling, cursing, clamoring—all “giving tongue” like a pack of hounds in chase. But in all that crowd none ran so fleetly as the hunted man. He strained every muscle in his sinewy frame to compass his escape. The cries of his pursuers stimulated him to renewed efforts, and hope sprang up in his bosom as he found the space between himself and them gradually increasing.

The course he was taking led him past the foot of the spur whereon stood the tent of our friends. Jim Darley and Pegleg were sitting outside, taking their breakfast in the cheerful sunlight. They heard the report of the pistol, and saw Tom burst away from his captors. The excitement of the chase infected even them.

“Why, Jim lad,” roared Pegleg, “how he do run. He be a main strong runner, surely. Ben't he a fine runner, Jim?”

“Aye;” said Jim, “and he'll get away, too—bless'd if he won't. Wonder what he's done!”

On came the hunter and the hunters. With clenched hands, set teeth, and staring eye-balls,—panting with the violence of his efforts, Tom flew down the ravine with deer-like rapidity, and still on his trail swept the angry crowd, bent on re-capturing their victim. As he came up to the spur, Jim threw down the pannikin from which he had been drinking and dashed down the declivity at an acute angle, so as to intercept the fugitive at a farther point. He calculated his distance well. As Tom came up to the point, Jim bore down upon him, and with a blow of his muscular fist knocked him into the creek.

And the crowd, coming up hastily, fell over Jim and over each other, and for a minute there was a promiscuous mass of people all struggling to extricate themselves from the common press.

Presently Tom emerged on to the bank, closely guarded by two determined-looking men who hurried him onward in the direction of a steep cliff, from the crevices whereof sprang a stunted, but sturdy birch-tree. The page 32 people readily divined their purpose, and the loud outcries were replaced by an ominous under-current of sound. Not a word was spoken by the leaders; but in awful silence one of them scaled the cliff, and made fast a rope to the pendant tree. The other end dangled loosely over the prisoner's head. Instinctively he closed his eyes, and a tremor pervaded his frame, and the perspiration stood in large beads on his forehead, and trickled down his blanched and livid face.

Not a word was spoken; but from afar came a shriek as of a woman in agony, and all knew that that anguished cry was the cry of Tom's wretched wife.

“Now, then,” said one of the leaders. “We cannot wait any longer. If your mates hadn't fired upon us we'd have kept you for the police. But it don't seem as if they mean coming, and we won't stand to be shot down. Say your prayers, mate, for in five minutes you'll be a dead man.”

Whether they would really have proceeded to this last extremity we shall never know. I doubt it. For I do not know of a single case having ever occurred in Victoria, New South Wales, or New Zealand, where the penalty of death has been inflicted by the miners; although Judge Lynch has sometimes—not frequently — inflicted minor punishments.

But before a hand was laid on the prisoner, George W. Pratt stepped up to his guards.

“Boys,” he said, “this sort of thing won't work nohow. Fair play is bonny play all the world over. If this poor devil has done anything, punish him as much as you choose, gents, but let him be tried first. See now, I've witnessed many a Lynching down to California, but I never yet saw a man hung without a fair trial. So—by your leave, boys—I propose that a Judge and a jury of seven be elected to try this man.

A dozen voices seconded the proposal, which, as the newspapers say, was “carried by acclamation.” Then the jurors were elected by a show of hands, and finally George himself was voted to the judicial chair. All this occupied much time, and so aided the object which George had in view, which was simply to keep the crowd amused till the proper authorities should arrive. Unknown to the others he had dispatched Pegleg on the donkey to hurry up the police. And he now availed himself of every pretence which would enable him to gain time.

At length the preliminary proceedings being completed, George assumed his seat as Judge on a convenient slate boulder, and on either side sat the jury, three to the right and four to the left. The prisoner stood in front, his hand and feet manacled with ropes for the better prevention of a second escape. The prosecutor, a tall Scotchman, stood a little nearer to the impromptu tribunal, so as to be heard equally by the Court and the prisoner. And the admiring audience formed a semicircle around, which, as the Judge faced the range, gave to the whole scene an amphitheatrical appearance.

And, first, George administered to the jurymen, singly, the obligation of their office thus:—

“You promise on your honor as a man that you will patiently, carefully, and fully inquire into all the circumstances of this case, and a verdict return according to the evidence laid before you without fear, malice, or affection.”

To which each juryman replied “I promise.”

Then, with much dignity, George called upon the prosecutor to state the case. He was gaining time famously.

But this was more than the said prosecutor was prepared to do. He had been drinking with Tom and others at the shanty, and had had a bag of gold, about ten ounces, stolen from him there, and that was all he knew about it.

“Do you charge this man with the theft?” demanded George.

“Weel, I'm no vera sure in my mind o't,” quoth the Scotchman, with characteristic caution. “Maybe aye, maybe no. I wadna care to swear till't.”

page 33

“Gents,” said George to the jury, “it appears there is no charge against the man.” Then, noting the murmurs of dissatisfaction which arose from the British public, he added—“However, it's only the square thing to go on with the case, and hear all the evidence, so that if the man is guilty, he may be punished; and, if innocent, he may be honorably acquitted.”

A cheer followed this speeech. Then, turning to the prisoner, he said—

“Thomas Kenway, you are charged with having stolen a bag of gold from Sandy M'Pherson; how do you plead?”

“I don't plead at all; I won't plead. You have no right to try me. It's murder—murder, I tell you.”

“The Court will enter up a plea of Not Guilty,” said George, very calmly. Then calling Jim, who was standing by, he told him in a whisper to go to the top of the terrace, and see if Pegleg was coming.

“Now,” said George to M'Pherson, “I must administer to you the customary obligation.”

This created another diversion. Sandy wouldn't take any obligation; he “misdoubted if it was richt to dae sae.” George was gaining time excellently well. At last it was agreed that Sandy's evidence should be taken without the obligation. By this time it was ten o'clock.

“Weel,” commenced Sandy, “I was doon at yon place they ca' Lang Tam's on the Sabbath e'en, jist haeing a wee drap whiskey, ye ken, and a crack witwa three bodies there aboot a wheen things, an' I foregathered wi' this laddie there, an' the ane stoup brought on the t'ither, till about twal o'clock I minded to be ganging, because o' its being close on the Sabbath morn; an' when I clappit my hand in my pock-poke I fand naethin' in till't ava. I had a bag o' gold an' twa pund notes, forbye some siller, when I went intil Lang Tam's, an' it was a' gane.”

“Would you know the bag again,” asked George. “Is this it?” dangling the bag which had been discovered in Tom's possession.

Sandy inspected it long and carefully, turning it upside down and inside out. “It's muckle like it,” said he at last—“it's vera muckle like it, but I'll no be sure o't. Ye ken there's mony sic-like bags, an' I'd no like to be positeeve aboot it.”

“Well, sir,” said George, “you give your evidence fair and square. If you can't speak to the bag, have you any other cause for supposing prisoner to be the thief? Mightn't some other man have annexed it, do you think?”

But before Sandy could answer, a long whistle from Jim Darley drew everybody's attention to the terrace above. There appeared three riders—I cannot say horsemen, for one of them bestrode an ass. Of course that was old Pegleg and the Third Mate. Of the other two one, wore blue and buttons, the other was in ordinary private costume. A loud cry arose, “The Police!” George and the jurors kept their seats and their gravity. The two horsemen rode up.

“Don't take the law into your own hands, gentlemen,” cried the foremost.

“Show me the prisoner,” demanded the second—” I arrest you in the Queen's name” he continued when Tom was pointed out to him. Then, observing George, he exclaimed—“Upon my conscience, thin I've a mind to arrest you too for contimpt and breach of the peace.”

“Hey, what,” said the other, “Why, bless my heart—so it is—Good morning, Mr Pratt. What? Poaching on my preserves!”

It was our old friend the Commissioner, and his ally was no other than the bold Sergeant.

Chapter XIX. The Long Arm of the Law.

The appearance of the two officials was as unexpected as it was opportune. In fact they had only arrived at the Station on the previous day. The Commissioner had been sent over from his own district to report on the new gold-field, and he had selected for his a[gap — reason: unclear]le page 34 the Sergeant, who, despite his eccentricities of speech, was a most able and energetic officer.

“Don't take the law into your own hands,” repeated the Commissioner. “You must not suppose that because you are here, in this remote wilderness the law cannot reach you. The law has long arms—very long arms—and if this man had been harmed, I would have marched the offenders down to Dunedin. What is the meaning of that rope?”

The leaders in the late scene slunk away abashed. But George replied—

“Well, Mr Commissioner, that rope was hoisted up there jest where you see it, to hang your prisoner with if he had been found guilty by the boys; that's all sir.”

“That's all, indeed?” cried the Commissioner, “Why you—you—Mr Pratt—Do you know it would have been murder—murder, sir?”

George aimed a straight shot at the rope, stowed his plug in a corner, and answered:—

“Perhaps so; guess killing is always pretty much like murder. I don't see it makes much difference in the sum total of the account, whether it's done inside a stone fence or out in the free air. Best not go to argue about that. You've got your prisoner, sir. If you had aroused yourself a little earlier, I reckon you'd have saved this child a mighty deal of worry. He'd have been as dead as a Queen's speech if I hadn't knocked around to get him a fair trial.”

“Where is the prosecutor?” inquired the Commissioner.

There was no response; Sandy M'Pherson had disappeared in the throng.

“Guess he's sloped,” said George. “Can't allow that. Jest you wait here till I resume acquaintance with him.”

Sandy was quickly found, for the mob still thirsted for vengeance. But Sandy was resolute not to prosecute.

“I'se no for ganging doon till the Camp,” he said. “It winna fetch back the gold, and I'd may be lose mair in the daein' o't than a' its worth. Eh, mon! but it's a sair loss! Ten braw ounces a' gane. Neist time I gae intil a shanty I'll be mair carefu' wha I forgather wi'. But I'se no gang till the Camp.”

“See here, said George, “there's no cause for you to go to the Camp; but if you don't give in your name to the Commissioner he won't take that poor devil away, and I won't answer for his life if he stops here.”

“An' wha cares for sic a ne'er-do-weel as yon? Hangin's too gude for the fallow.”

George looked at him. “Well,” he said, “you are a caution—you are. Think of his wife and babe.”

“Imph—imph!—Its gey hard, nae doot, for the wife and wean. But I canna be fashed.”

“Sandy,” said George, “I reckon I know where your gold is to be found.”

“Aye?” speered Sandy.

“Yes sirree, and I rather guess I can get it back for you if you do as I wish. Go up to Mr Commissioner and give in your name at once, sir, or, by Jehoshaphat! I don't illuminate your dismal understanding one cent.”

“Weel, weel! I'll dae onything that's richt, ye ken; an' as ye say it wad be a fearsome thing for the puir wifie to see her husband strangled afore her vera een. I'm a mercifu' man mysel' an' a member o' the kirk, and it wad ill become me to be the cause o' ony man's death. Sae I'll jist tak your advice, and speak till the Commissioner. I'se no ashamed o' my name.”

So Sandy gave his name to the Commissioner and received his instructions to be in attendance at the Camp on the following morning.

Mary Kenway had been held in check by a matronly neighbor during this interval; but when she saw her husband being led away captive by the Sergeant, she broke away, and once more appeared on the scene.

“Where are you taking him?” she cried. “What are you going to do with him?”

“Dear, dear!” said the Commissioner, page 35 “this will never do. Take away that woman, some of you.”

“Be aisy, my dear,” whispered the Sergeant. “He'll be better wid ourselves than in the hands of the raging populous.”

But Mary would not be so comforted. She declared that she would go with Tom—that nothing should part them. 'Twas pitiful to see her distress. Yet more pitiful was it to witness the cold unresponsive brutality wherewith Tom ignored the woman's devotion.

“Come away Mrs Kenway, ma'am,” said Pratt. “If you wish to go down to the Camp we'll jest hoist you on to the back of our Third Mate, babe and all, and I'll see you safe there, you can bet on that, ma'am”

And thus with much persuasion and some gentle force was Mary restrained from following her husband.

Chapter XX. An Old Acquaintance with a New Name.

As the Commissioner moved away, the crowd began to disperse. But in front of George's tent there remained a small group intently scanning the miners as they passed up the gully. These were George and his mates, Sandy M'Pherson, and the whole of the late jurymen.

“Now, Mister Sandy,” said Pratt, “jest you try to point out the men who were in Long Tom's shanty when you dropped that pile of yours.”

Presently there came by two men, diverse in appearance but alike evil of countenance. The one was dark, with greasy locks—obliquitous of vision, and grimy: it was Flash Jimmy. The other was conspicuous by his shaggy red hair and fiery visage: it was Ginger. The Scotchman indicated these as having been in his company on Saturday night.

“Jest so,” said George. “I guessed how it would eventuate. Well, Mister, I reckon them darned loafers have got your gold. Now, boys, I don't want any noise made about this. The only way to fix the varmints is to keep low and trap them before they take a scare.”

An hour afterwards, when all was quiet, Mr George W. Pratt sauntered down by himself to Long Tom's. There was quite a crowd in the shanty, and amongst them were the seven jurymen, who, in accordance with a pre-concerted arrangement, had dropped in one at a time so as to avoid giving any alarm. Neither Ginger nor Flash Jimmy was visible; but there was Tripes busily dispensing fiery spirits to the thirsty multitude.

“Morning, boys,” said George. “Jest looked in to see the gent that keeps this shanty.”

“There he is,” said one of the jurymen, pointing to Tripes; “that's Long Tom.”

“Oh, that's Long Tom! Well, now, that's mighty curious. When I met him last he owned to another name.”

“What business is that of yours?” growled the ruffian tapster. “Can't a man call himself any name he likes? That's what I say.”

“Certainly, sir,” said George. “This is a free country, I guess. I'll trouble you for some liquor, sir, if you please.”

With visible reluctance, Tripes, or Long Tom, as we must now call him, filled up a glass and handed it to George, who, looking him steadily in the face, poured the contents on the ground.

“What is the meaning of that?” shouted Long Tom in a rage.

“Jest notice to quit, that's all,” said George. “If you ain't out of this in quick time, every drop of stuff there is in this darned cuss of a place shall be poured out like that, you bet.”

There was a commotion amongst the inmates of the shanty, and the seven jurymen ranged themselves by the side of George.

“Now, boys,” said George, “I've got a word or two to say to you all. There's been a robbery in this here place, and it's a disgrace to the gully if we don't find out the thieve. This morning I and these gents were elected page 36 by the people to try a man—that's Tom Kenway—for it. We believe that man was innocent, and that the empty bag was planted in his pocket by them that robbed Sandy of his gold. Now that man Long Tom, as you call him, is a notorious vagabond, and a confederate of two of the infernalist scoundrels in these parts. That's so, gents. And they've got the gold between them. Now we mean to have it back anyhow. Will you stand by us and see the square thing done?”

“It's a lie—an infernal lie,” roared Long Tom. I know nothing about it. Tom Kenway took the man's gold, and this cursed Yankee wants to screen him, because he's sweet on his wife.”

George strode over to the infuriated shanty-keeper, warded off the blow made at him, and seized him by the throat.—” You black-souled villain,” he cried “if you don't unsay them words, I'll squeeze your lying tongue out of your dirty mouth.”

And indeed Long Tom was getting black in the face before George released him—trembling with fright and pain. “I didn't mean any harm,” he said. 'Twas as ample an apology as the fellow was capable of offering.

Then sheltering himself behind a table, he cried, “Will you let an honest man be bullied like this? I haven't got the gold.”

But the appeal was not responded to.

“See here, boys,” said George, “I mean to give this skunk a chance. He can't get away to let on to the others, for I've taken care to have them shepherded, you bet. All I want him to do is to write three lines to his mates telling them to give up the plunder.”

“I won't write anything. I'll see you——”

“No you won't. Guess I know what you were about to observe. But it can't be done at the price. Jest take this pencil and write, as I tell you.”

Long Tom refused. He would not write—he could not write. George put the question to his jurymen—“Say, gents, do you concur that he's to write what I direct?”

Yes; they concurred.

“Do you also concur that if he don't do so we burn this shanty down, spill the liquor, and absorb his carcase in the dam?”

They concurred in that also; and the bystanders stood neutral and admiring. Not a friend had Long Tom' in that crowd.

“Very well, then,” said George, “that being resoluted accordingly, I'll proceed to business.”

He lit a match. “Now, if you don't write as I tell you before this match burns out, I'll fire the tent with it—to begin.”

The ruffian nature held out to the last second. George had already stooped to fulfil his threat, when Long Tom cried, “I'll give in. What am I to write?”

And at George's dictation he scrawled the following:—

“We are found out. Give up the gold, or we are dead men.—‘Tripes.’”

While this was passing in the shanty, other events were occurring outside. Ginger had noticed George's movements, and wondering at such an unusual occurrence as the American's visit to a groggery, had stepped out of his tent to go down there also. But he found himself encountered by Jim Darling and Pegleg.

“You can't go that way,” said Jim.

“Why not?” asked Ginger. “I'll go if I like.”

“No, you wont,” said Jim. “I've got my orders. You're to stay here till the Cap'en comes.”

“Aye, aye, lad,” chimed in Pegleg, “thou'rt in the right o't, Jim. The Cap'en he's got some'at to do down to shanty;—some'at to do—han't he, lad?”

Then Jim explained to Mr Ginger that the miners—a number of whom were standing about—were all on duty as sentries to prevent any communication till the mysterious “some'at” had been satisfactorily settled. And in fact Ginger found that himself and his mate page 37 were prisoners in their own tent. So he retired to his den discomfited and rather uneasy in his mind.

Soon George W. Pratt made his appearance, attended by his faithful jurymen, and made straight for Ginger's tent, where he discovered that worthy and Flash Jimmy in close conclave together. To them he presented the scrap of paper bearing Long Tom's autograph. “Now then,” he said, “you've jest got two minutes to hand over that gold. You see your mate has confessed, so it ain't no use to deny it, and we ain't got no time to spare about it. So wake snakes and be smart.”

'Twere needless to describe the scene that ensued. The protests of the thieves were drowned by the yells of the miners, who now began to reassemble.

In less than three minutes the gold was given up, and the villanous trio were in full retreat down the gully, having been allowed ten minutes' law by Judge Lynch. At the expiration of that brief period the tent and the shanty were fired, for in this matter George was unable to stay the angry populace. And thus was justice briefly and expeditiously executed.

Chapter XXI. Tom's Wife.

Then there was a general gush of sympathy with Tom Kenway and Tom Kenway's wife. For the popular instinct is ever honest, and faithfully responsive to the best impulses of our common nature. The people surrounded her tent, and glorified her by way of making amends for their previous mistake. They frightened her in fact by their noisy and tumultuous enthusiasm. But through it all, with glad tears in her eyes, she clung to George as her friend, and the mob echoed her feelings by chairing that gentleman. They carried him shoulder high to his own tent, and set him on a rock, and demanded from him a speech. Then, Mr George W. Pratt, being moved thereunto by the excitement of the moment, spake thus:—

“Fellow citizens and brother miners I—I ain't muchly in the way of orating, but I'll just speak a piece if you won't make such a darned row. I ain't very powerful in the wind, that's a fact, owing to having got clogged up with too much molasses and huckleberry jam when I was a lovely infant in my mother's arms. Now, gents, there's jest one piece of advice I want to give you. You were nigh hanging an innocent man this morning; and I believe many have been hustled out of the world for jest as little cause before. It strikes me no man should take from any other man what he can't give back again if he finds he's made a mistake. And that's life. That's the gift of God, that is, and nobody but He that gave it has a right to take it away. That's my opinion. So, gents, next time you catch a thief, don't be in an all-fired hurry to string him up, for fear you might be wrong. Now you'll all go home happy, because you weren't let to do what you wanted this morning. How would you feel if Tom Kenway were a-swinging from that tree yonder? Not very good, I reckon. Well, boys, that lets me out. Guess I've used up all the dictionary I know about.”

Then the crowd gave three cheers for George—three cheers for Mary Kenway—three groans for Long Tom and his mates; and having thus exhausted its superfluous energy, it went quietly home to supper.

Next day George went down to interview the Commissioner. And Mary Kenway, in her anxiety for Tom, would insist on going also.

“Don't understand it ma'am,” said George. “You seem almighty fond of that young man, as no doubt you should be, being his wife. No offence, but he does take it wonderful cool—that's so.”

“Poor Tom!” said Mary, “he loves the very ground under my feet; but it's his way not to show it.”

“Yes? Well some folk's ways are peculiar. Tom Kenway's are.”

page 38

“Ah!” cried Mary, still pleading for her husband, “you don't know Tom as I do. Would you like me to tell you my story, Mr Pratt? I think I may. I don't think Tom would object?”

“Well, Mrs Kenway, ma'am, I'm the least curious man in the world; but I would be pleased to hear your little story, I know.”

So as they walked, Mary Kenway related the story of her life—poor little life—so few years spent—so much to tell.

(End of Book I.)

* So called by the colonists. The tree is really a species of beech;—Faegus Cunninghamii.