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The Adventures of George Washington Pratt

Book II. What Befell Him

page 39

Book II. What Befell Him.

Chapter I. In Which Mary Kenway Tells a Part of Her Story.

“I was very young when I lost my my mother,” said Mary Kenway; “quite a child indeed, not six years old.”

“Yes?” said Mr George W. Pratt. “That was cruel hard on you, ma'am. Always is so, when mothers die and leave young children.

“But, sir,” said Mary hesitatingly, and as it were beseechingly, “my mother didn't die; at least not then. She—she went away, sir.”

“Went a—where?” cried George.

“Went away—left us, you know. I don't know where. I didn't know at the time. All I remember is that one night I was awoke after I had gone to bed—long after it seemed to me—by my mother kissing me; and she was crying—she must have been crying, because my face was wet when I awoke. It is all like a dream to me. I was fast asleep, and when I opened my eyes there was dear mother, with her arms round my neck and kissing me, as I told you, sir. She said something—I didn't well understand what—bidding me good bye. ‘Good-bye, darling,’ she said. ‘May God in Heaven bless you!’ And I think I answered, ‘Good-night mamma!’ and went off to sleep again. I was very—very young you know. I couldn't understand it at all. But I never saw her again—never; and next day they told me she had gone away. That is all I know about it, Mr Pratt.”

George looked down scrutinizingly on the young innocent face of Mary Kenway and wondered much. The extremes of artfulness and simplicity approach each other so nearly that it is not always easy to discriminate between them. Yet, in this case, George felt convinced that Mary was unconscious of the possible interpretation which might be attached to the scene so simply described by her.

“I was the only child,” continued Mary, after a pause, “and my only remembrance now of my mother is that of the sweet, loving, sad face bending over me that night. I don't know where she went, or why she left us, but soon after they made me put on a black frock, and told me that she was dead, and the servants called me ‘Poor child!’ and seemed to pity me very much I don't know why now. Sometimes I seem to have read it all in a book—the whole thing is so dim and shadowy.”

“Might I inquire where was your father, ma'am,” said Mr George Pratt.

“I don't think I ever heard of him till some years after mother went away. When that happened I was taken away to a school in Hobart Town—you know I am a Tasmanian born, Mr Pratt. A dismal dull place it was, and the mistress was very stern and staid and solemn. I did so much dislike the place. It was so different from the dear little cottage where I had lived before. Oh, how I missed our garden, with its beautiful flowers and the shrubs where I used to hide, and the fruit trees I used to climb, and page 40 the soft sweet grass where I used to lie and watch the birds.

“At the school there was a great tall fence round a square stiff grass plot, and we were never suffered to move outside except when one of the teachers marched us two-and-two in procession down the street to show off the school. And I could not learn much. I never was good at learning, and that dreadful arithmetic and the awful nouns and verbs vexed my poor little head till I used to go sobbing to my pillow and cry to mamma to come back to me. But she never came back. She couldn't you know, if she was dead.

“The first time I recollect seeing my father was when I had been seven years—a dreadful-time it seems to me —at school. I was sent for one day into the mistress's room, and the governess—a prim, old, judy-faced, kind-hearted creature—took me first up stairs, and made me put on my best clothes, and clean stockings, and she trimmed my hair, and washed my face, and I recollect her putting a blue silk sash of her own round my waist. Then I was taken into the parlor and there was a tall dark gentleman with a great beard, and eyes that seemed to look through and through me. I don't think—I am nearly quite sure that I had never seen him before. So the mistress said to him—‘This is Miss Mary, sir!’; and then it struck me for the first time that I had no other name than Mary. Other girls were called Miss Smith, and Miss Maclean, and Miss Williamson, as it might happen to be, but poor little I was only Miss Mary—always Miss Mary—nothing else.”

“Guess that's a short name for a full-grown girl,” said George. “Did you never get another till you got married?”

“Oh yes; afterwards, you know, sir. The strange gentleman looked at me very hard for a time, without speaking. At last he said, ‘Humph! very like; very like!’ Then he called me to him. ‘Come here, Mary.’ And I was so frightened that I burst out crying; he looked so stern, you know. And I said to the governess, ‘Oh, please let me go away!’ But she took me by the hand kindly. ‘Nonsense, child!’ she said, ‘don't be silly, you little puss! This gentleman is your papa.’ And he took me in his arms and looked into my eyes with a strange sad look as it seemed to me. ‘Yes, Mary, I am your father. Will you live with me, little Mary, and love me?’”

“And was it really your paternal ancestor?” inquired George.

“Yes, indeed, it was, Mr Pratt. I was a little—I mean very timid—at first. He had a stern way with him that I felt, you know—I felt it; I cannot describe it, but I felt it. Yet he was very kind, and I learnt to love him in time. He used to come to see me often after that, and some way I could not help loving him. Only there was always a spice of awe mingled with the love. It is a curious feeling. I can't well explain it, Mr Pratt. But I think you understand me. Some people make you love and fear them, whether you will or no. Tom does. I love him dearly, but I'm a bit afraid of him sometimes; I don't know why. I like you too, Mr Pratt—not in the way I like Tom, you know; but I do like you, and I don't feel afraid of you at all.”

“Thank you ma'am,” said George, “for the compliment, which I duly reciprocate. I don't want you to feel alarmed at my presence. I aint a man-eater, that's a fact; and I don't aim muchly at lady-killing. It's not in my way. But I rather approbate your style, Mary—might I make so bold as to call you Mary, ma'am?”

“Oh yes, sir!” cried Mary, “do, please; it will be so nice. And I'll call you Cousin George, shall I?”

“Certainly, ma'am, if you wish. Cousin is a very respectable denomination. It aint quite so near as sister, but it's a mighty deal sweeter, I reckon.”

Mary looked up into George's face inquiringly. His honest eyes met hers page 41 frankly, yet with a certain gleam of fun that brought a shadowy blush to her face. “You don't think it would be wrong, sir?” she asked in the most artless manner conceivable.

“No,” said George gravely, “I don't ma'am. I have sisters of my own.”

“Then I will call you Cousin George, and you shall call me Mary,” said Mrs Kenway.

Nevertheless, I think they were approaching as near to the limits of Platonic affection as is admissible.

Chapter II. “Mary” and “Cousin George.”

When I was about fourteen,” continued Mary, “my father took me from the school to his house. But I havn't told you who my father was yet, I think.”

“Jest so, Mary,” said George, “that's an unmitigated fact—that is. Suppose he had a name?”

“Yes, indeed he had. He was a retired East Indian officer—a Captain in the Company's service, at least he had been a lieutenant, and took rank as captain when he retired. Captain Fielding, that is his name, for he is still living, you know, and I was Mary Fielding of course. I don't know why they never gave me my full name before. Well, I went to live with him at Avondale—that is the name of our place, Cousin George. A beautiful place on the Derwent river, above Hobart Town. I was very happy then. I had no lessons to learn. I could roam about all day, just as I pleased, and I had a pretty bay pony to ride. That is how I became acquainted with dear Tom, you know. He was in my father's employ—at least he was engaged to teach me riding, and we used to go for such long pleasant rides under the scented gum trees, and through the pleasant wattles down by the river and over the plains. Ah! Cousin George, it was very nice. I enjoyed the free fresh air so much, and Tom was so good and so kind to me, that, do you know, I got to love him dearly.”

“Well, now,” said George, “that's quite natural. You ain't the first as got fond of a fellow over that sort of game. I don't know of nothing better calculated to set young folks a-sweet-hearting than mutual pleasures—specially on horseback. No, I don't ma'am.”

Mary laughed a breezy little laugh. “I don't know how it happened, but I did get very fond of Tom, and I knew he was quite fond of me, because he used to say so. But I never thought of marrying him. I'm not sure I ever should have married him, only for an accident.”

“Yes? How was that precipitated, Mary?”

“Well, I can hardly tell. Somehow I fell one day. Baldy—that was my pony you know—stumbled over a fallen log, and I was thrown. I fell against the log, and was stunned; and when I came to myself, Tom was holding me in his arms, trying to revive me, you know, and—and—well, he kissed me, and told me how he loved me, and I—I can't tell you what more. Before we went home I had promised to marry him. And of course I did.”

“Didn't the old gent protest against the annexation?”

“The Captain, my father, you mean. Oh, yes. He was very angry when he knew it. My father is very hot-tempered, Cousin George. He said Tom wasn't good enough for me. But I was fond of Tom, and I had promised him. So I could not help marrying him when he asked me to keep my promise. How could I? Besides, my father wanted me to marry another man—a man I didn't care for one bit. He had a large estate near ours, but he was twenty years older than me, and I didn't like him. Why should a girl marry a man she doesn't like? I couldn't, you know, and I didn't; and when papa insisted on it I told Tom that he must take me away and make me his wife at once. And of course he did, you know. There was nothing else to be done.”

“Jest so,” said George. “But how page 42 about the paternal. Wasn't he wrathy jest a trifle?”

“I have never seen him since, cousin George.”

“No; how did that happen?”

“Well, you know,” said Mary, “he wrote me a letter saying he disowned me, and threatening to leave his property away from me, and when Tom and I went to the house he refused to see us. Oh, sir,” she continued, with tears starting to her eyes, “he was very, very unkind. I don't like to talk of it. Perhaps he'll change some day, for I am his only child. But anyway I've got Tom.”

George thought in his heart that “Tom” was but a poor exchange for even the roughest and sternest of fathers, but never a word said he of this. Nay, he strove to console her—tried against his convictions to persuade her that her stern parent would by-and-bye relent, and receive the wanderer back into the fold.

“Don't you think it very hard,” said Mary, “to be compelled to choose between one's husband and a father?”

“Yes Mary, ma'am,” answered George. “It is pretty tough lines when it comes to that, I reckon. And I don't want to be hard upon you, but when a young gal runs her head slapdash into love it's ten to one she gets so preciously befoozled that she can't see clear to steer a straight course. Anyway it's even betting she ain't the best judge of what's good for her. Never mind, Mary. You jest keep your heart up, and maybe the old party will come round in time.”

Now, when George began, he had intended to give Mary Kenway a small piece of a moral lecture, but she was so completely overcome—broken-down in fact—that she began sobbing pitifully before he had well got steam up. So he forbore to add to the pressure, and ended by an attempt at consolation. The end of it all was that Mary threw herself down on the grass, handkerchief in hand, to have “a good cry,” and George—always tender-hearted and now quite pitiful—sat down by her side to comfort her. Which, was all very right and proper, no doubt, but very decidedly dangerous.

Chapter III. A Strange Group.

“Ho! ho! ho! What art about Cap'en? Thoul't never get to camp that fashion. Why Cap'en—Cap'en George, thou'rt a rum 'un, thou art, to be cuddlin' a lass when thee should'st be making haste on thy way.”

“Eh, but it's a weary day and a lang road, and a bonnie laisie's a gran' temptation to a puir man in sic an awsome place as this.”

George sprang to his feet and looked round. There was old Pegleg astride Old Jack, and marching by his side was Sandy M-Pherson. They had surprised him unawares. George bit his lips with vexation.

“See here now,” he said, somewhat angrily, if the truth must be told, “see here, now, I don't approbate this kind of talk, not muchly. No sirree. The lady was tired out with the heat and wanted to rest, that's all.”

“Aye, aye, Cap'en, that'll do—that'll do lad, I don't want to vex thee. Lord love thy soul! Pegleg were young once. Here Cap'en, here's Old Jack for thy lady. Why did'st not tell us thou wert going to Camp. Jack'll carry thy missus, won't thou, Jack?”

And in response to this appeal the Third Mate lifted up his voice and brayed lustily.

In truth the old man had thoughtfully enough followed on the track with his faithful quadruped, for the express purpose of expediting Mary Kenway's journey, and Sandy was necessarily going down in accordance with his promise to the Commissioner.

So now behold Mary seated on the donkey and escorted by “Cousin George,” old Pegleg, and the Scotchman. Sooth to say, they made a picturesque group as they wound round the rocky spurs—fern clad, with occasional clumps of birch and manuka, and little rivulets trickling over rusty iron- page 43 tinted boulder:—Mary, with her grey dress and bright tartan shawl, seated on the hairy brown donkey; George, clad in red shirt, tall felt hat, and ponderous knee-boots, striding alongside; Pegleg in blue shirt and yellow claystained moleskins stumping along astern; and Sandy, gorgeously arrayed in a bran new suit of heather tweed, suitable to the dignity of “the Court “wherein he was to figure as a principal witness. I met the party as they came along, and wondered at the scene. Years afterwards I first heard the story as I sat by a camp-fire on the shores of Lake Wanaka.

Thus, then, they made their entry into the embryotic township at the Station, which has since expanded into Queenstown. Of course, Tom was released from durance with as little delay as comported with the majesty of the law; receiving, somewhat ungratefully it must be said, a friendly hint from the bold Sergeant to be “more circumspicious” of his company in the future. “Yes,” growled Tom; “I'll take care to keep out of your company. That's the worst I ever got into.”

“Come now,” quoth the Sergeant, “kape a civil tongue in your head. It's meself that knows you well, faith, little as you think it, and the wife, too —bad luck to the day she ever set eyes on ye!”

Tom Kenway turned very pale, but never a word he answered. He seemed to cower before the Sergeant, and literally slunk away like a whipped hound. George, and George only, had overheard this brief conversation. Said he, as Tom moved off, “You'll find Mrs Kenway waiting for you at the hotel facing the Lake.”

For already there was an hotel (there are no inns in the Colonies), a palatial structure, cunningly constructed of an infinitesimal quantity of timber, and an unlimited proportion of canvas and calico. And it stood very nearly on the site of what is now one of the most comfortable, commodious, and complete hotels in all New Zealand.

But in reply for the information thus vouchsafed, Tom scowled angrily on his informant, and with a muttered oath went in the opposite direction.

“Well!” said George, “you're a sweet youth, you are. Guess you'd be a bad bargain at five dollars, boots and all. Say, mister, where did you know that young fellow before this?”

But the bold Sergeant was not at all inclined to make a confidante of our friend Mr George W. Pratt. He had his reasons, had the Sergeant, for regarding that person as “a suspect,” as the police termed a doubtful character. “Sure, now,” said he, “I'm thinking ye've no cause to be asking that. Thim as consorts with bad charackters is no better thimselves.”

George's eye twinkled with suppressed fun. But he restrained himself. “That's smart,” he observed with a critical air—” mighty smart, I must say, though it ain't over and above polite, that's a fact. Now do you know I was about to give you a small assortment of information that might be useful, but one good turn deserves another, and if you don't feel disposed to reciprocate, I ain't on. What say, mister?”

“To the divil wid your information,” cried the Sergeant indignantly, and he walked away scornfully.

George was baffled for the time, but not beaten. He, too, walked away, but it was in the direction of the Commissioner's abode. Just as he reached the door Pegleg came up. “Now, Cap'en, lad,” said that worthy, “when art goin' back? There's nought here but swilling and drinking—drinking and swilling. I'm giddy looking on at it, Cap'en—giddy looking on. (Dash my wig, if I don't think thou'rt nigh on drunk, Pegleg.)”

“So I observe,” said George, “the smell of the liquor seems to have got into your timber leg. See here, Pegleg. You go and saddle up Old Jack, and get away home, and I'll follow on bye-and-bye.”

“Ho! ho! ho!” shouted Pegleg.

page 44

“Why, Cap'en George—why, do'st think I'd go off and leave thee here? No, no, lad; thou'lt want the old man to look after thee. Keep thee out of harm, lad—keep thee out of harm. There's nought like old heads, Cap'en, for that.”

“Well, now, go down and get Old Jack. Guess you'd better, I tell you.”

“No, Cap'en, no,” roared Pegleg again. “I'll not leave thee. It ben't safe to leave thee. Thoul't be getting into mischief, I know thou wilt.”

George was about to reply more peremptorily when the Commissioner made his appearance on the scene.

“Bless my soul,” he exclaimed; “what's all this about? I can't have all this noise here. Who is this drunken fellow? Here, Sergeant, take them away.”

The Sergeant came to the rescue with as much haste as was compatible with the dignity of his office. His hand clutched the offender's shoulder — “Come away with ye,” he cried. But Pegleg was indignant, and began to remonstrate in a tone and after a fashion which made the Commissioner stop his ears. A lodging in the lockup seemed inevitable; but George took the Commissioner aside, and by dint of persuasion and entreaty he succeeded in getting Pegleg released, on the faith of his promise that he would take him away from the township immediately. Brief as was this scene, it attracted a small crowd, amongst whom George recognized Long Tom and his friend ot the greasy locks.

Ten minutes afterwards George was seen leading the donkey (on whose back was the refractory Pegleg) through the winding street of tents and stores, and so they passed, not unobserved, out of the place and up the Gorge which led to their location. Having got the old man safely past the grogshops and a mile or two on the way home, George gave the bridle into his hands, and, bidding him make haste back, he returned to the township.

Chapter IV. Three Scenes.

Scene First.

In a low booth at the rear of the town ship sat two men, with a brandy bottle by their side, whence they took frequent draughts, without recourse to the intervention of drinking utensils, or the admixture of water. One was a young man whose features would have been handsome but for the intense malignity which overcast his brow and shone forth from his eyes. The other was older, and the expression of his face was that of diabolical cunning. Other men were in the booth, but these two sat apart in a corner, conversing in stealthy monotones, regardless of the loud noise, the reckless laughter, and the ostentatious blasphemy which was freely indulged in around them.

“Did you see this, yourself?” asked the younger man.

“No,” answered Long Tom, for he it was. “How could I when I warn't there?”

“Then I won't believe it,” said Tom Kenway. “I won't believe it,” he repeated energetically. “Mary has always been a good wife to me. By—— she's a lady born and bred.”

“That sort's often the worst,” urged the tempter. “I'll tell you all I know about it. When they came in I twigged old Pegleg with your wife, and that Yankee fellow—curse him. So when Pratt went up to the camp, I got into conversation with the old 'un; and made friends with him, and he told me all about it.”

“It's all lies, now I know it is. Mind what you're about, for I'll kill you if you deceive me, I will.”

“Oh, well, if you don't want to know the truth, it ain't no odds to me. Drink up the brandy, I don't mean to say no more about it.”

“Yes, tell me what the old villain said about my wife. I'll keep my temper, never fear.”

“Well, let's have a nip first.” And they applied themselves in turn to the bottle.

page 45

“Now then,” said the unhappy young man, “go on. What did he tell you?”

“He said as how when he came up they were lying in the fern, and your Yankee friend was kissing of her like mad, and — sit down, you fool, and don't make a row.”

For Tom Kenway had risen to his feet, giving forth meantime a cry of wrathful anguish, which attracted to them the attention of the crowd.

“What's up? What's the matter?” “asked two or three in a breath.

“Oh, nothing particular,” said Long Tom, pushing his companion back into his seat. “The young 'un's got a bad headache, I think. Come out into the fresh air,” he continued addressing his victim. “It's too hot in here.”

Kenway submitted to his guidance, and the pair emerged into the open space. “This ain't no way to be going on. Keep your temper,” said Long Tom. “I'll show you how to be revenged on the hound.”

“But is it true? Tell me that. Upon your oath is it true?”

“True as gospel, I tell you. But be quiet with you, or I don't help you. I don't want to swing for it.”

“I'll do anything to have my revenge. I never thought it would come to this,” he cried. Then in his passion he betrayed a truth to his comrade. “Look here,” he said, “I never cared much for her, never. Her ways ain't my ways, and my ways ain't hers. But I run away with her, thinking the old Captain would make it up when we were man and wife. He's got lots of money—plenty of it, and I thought I'd be a made gentleman. But I've never had a penny from the old brute, and I never expect to. He's gone and adopted a niece, and he won't speak to Mary nor answer her letters. Curse her, how I hate her now. She's been a trouble to me, that's all, nothing else, with her baby ways. I'm sick of her. I'll never see her again. Her mother was bad before her, and she's the same. Let her be.”

His tormentor watched him with demoniacal satisfaction gleaming from his bloodshot eyes. But not thus did he intend that the matter should terminate. He had his own revenge to wreak on George W. Pratt, and here was a fitting instrument for its accomplishment.

“Aye,” he said, “let her be—that's best. Then she can go to her lover, you know, and you can go where you like.”

“Never!” cried poor Tom Kenway. “I'll kill them both first. I'll strangle her, and shoot him dead for it.”

“And get strung up for your pains? I can put you on a better lay than that. Will you listen?”

“Yes, yes, anything. What is it?”

“Sit down then, and be quiet, or I don't say another word.”

They sat down—the weak victim and the wily torturer—side by side, and the latter unfolded a plan, a devilish plan, for taking vengeance on poor innocent Mary and honest George Pratt. Then with dry lips, and fiery hearts consumed by unholy passions, they again repaired to the booth to swallow more brain-destroying poison. There Tom Kenway was plied with draught after draught of the burning liquor, till he was no longer master of his reason. He was ready for any deed of violence or villainy.

Scene Second.

Pegleg had not gone above a mile on the road after George had left him when he was overtaken by a man whose face seemed familiar to him, but whom in his bemuddled condition he failed to recognise. The new-comer entered into conversation directly. “Hullo mate! where bound?” he asked.

Pegleg regarded him with a leer of drunken gravity. “Home surely,” he answered. “Let me see, I know thee and I don't know thee. What's thy name, lad? Eh! what's thy name?”

“Jones” was the reply, “Don't you knew Jones that lives next tent to yourself?”

“No, lad; I do not know thee,” said the old man positively. “Thour't strange to me, but some way I seem page 46 thy voice ben't new to me. What's that in thy hand, lad? Eh, why—why, lad, it do look like a knife. What dost carry a knife in thy hand for?”

“Only to get a stick with,” replied the false Jones; and with the word be cut a branch of the prickly Tumatukuri.

“Ho! ho!” laughed Pegleg, “That be a main small stick. Thoul't not travel far —”

Before he could finish the sentence Old Jack gave a vigorous bound, lifting his heels high up in the air, and sent his rider clean over his head. Then wildly careering he galloped off at full speed with the thorny branch fast under his tail, where it had been dexterously applied by the new comer.

“Thou be'st a bad 'un, thou be'st,” roared Pegleg as he picked himself up. And without more ado he closed with his treacherous companion. The struggle was short, though fierce. The strength of the old man prevailed, and he quickly had his antagonist face downward on the ground. Then he sat upon him.

“Ho! ho! I know thee now, thou villain. Thou'rt Ginger, thou art. Thou wicked thief, I'll pay thee out. Do'st think to play tricks on an old man?”

And with every sentence he raised his wooden leg, and inflicted a blow on his prostrate foe. Suddenly Ginger collected his strength, and taking the old man by surprise, threw him off. Before the latter could recover himself, Ginger was on him. With his knife he severed the straps of his opponent's wooden leg, which he threw far away into the gully below. “There,” he cried triumphantly, “l've a precious good mind to send you after it, and I would if you weren't such an old 'un. Now I don't want to harm you more than I can help. 'Twouldn't be so well though for either of your mates if I caught 'em. But home you don't go to-night, if I can help it. So stop there, old cockalorum, till somebody comes to fetch your leg for you.”

And with many mocking words, he returned on the track.

Now the spot where this incident occurred was a short cut over a spun which was infrequently used, for although it saved nearly a mile in distance, it was rougher than the winding road which led up the glen.

So that, except by the merest chance, it was improbable any one would pass by for at least some hours.

Scene Three.

“Oh, sir! Mr Pratt, I fear Tom has, gone home. Why did not some one tell him I was here?”

Thus Mary. To whom George, unwilling to wound by telling her that her husband knew right well where she was, and anxious to detain her in momentary expectation of his arrival, replied—

“Guess he's got among some old friends. Don't be in haste, ma'am. He'll come along in good time, no doubt.”

“But it's getting so late, you know, sir. And there's poor baby too. I've been away from her all day. Oh, Cousin George, do you think you could find him?”

Before he could answer, the door was thrown violently open, and Tom Kenway stood in the entrace. Flushed with wrath and brandy he stood there and surveyed the pair. Mary flew towards him. “Oh, Tom, dear Tom!” she cried, “I am so glad you've come.”

Thus with no word of reproach on her lip—no angry feeling in her bosom—the gentie woman met her lord and master. He repulsed her, inarticulate with the fury of his new-born jealousy.

“Go!” he cried at last, “Go; you are no longer my wife. I have heard of your doings. I see it is all true; go to your fellow. I disown you; I leave you for ever.”

“See here,” interposed George, “you don't know what you are saying or doing. Your wife—”

Tom glared at him with maniacal passion, and thrust his clinging wife from him with such violence that she fell page 47 heavily on the floor. Then with a fierce and awful malediction he rushed from the place, and hurried down the crowded street.

George tenderly lifted the poor woman, and seated her in a chair. But his efforts at consolation were in vain. She could not understand what ailed “dear Tom.” How should she, pure in heart, comprehend the impure thought that filled her husband's mind. In vain George assured her that it was “only the drink.” That when he got over it he would be sorry, with many other commonplaces, feeble enough, God knows, and all unavailing to ease the wretchedness that bowed her down. So he became silent at last, and let her weep on uninterruptedly.

Presently the flow of grief subsided; she rose to her feet and wrapped her plaid round her. “My child,” she cried; “let me go back to my child. I have her left at least—come.”

And so in silence, broken only by stifled sobs, the mother went forth, with George, striding solemnly and in great perplexity, by her side.

Chapter V. Child or Husband?

The bold Sergeant was by no means “bouncing” when he intimated to Mr Thomas Kenway that he was acquainted with that worthy's antecedents. And the information which he refused to George W. Pratt he cheerfully tendered to the Commissioner. That information I am about to disclose to the reader with the sole reservation that—like all other scandals—it is to be regarded as strictly confidential, and not to be imparted to a third person, on any pretence whatsoever.

The bad, bitter blood of convictism ran in Tom Kenway's veins. His father had been transported for horse-stealing, and his mother for a watch robbery. From such an union, what could be expected? Tom inherited the vices and the propensities of both parents. He broke in Captain Fielding's horses, and he stole Captain Fielding's daughter. Little cared he for the latter, save as a means for the acquisition of the property which would, he thought, naturally devolve upon her as the Captain's sole heiress. But he erred in his estimate of the man with whom he had to deal. Captain Fielding—a stern, proud, man, jealous of his honor and morbidly sensitive of the very shadow of reproach—had in years gone by driven from his house the wife whom he adored, because of an unworthy and baseless rumor affecting her fair fame; and the poor maligned woman had died of a broken heart shortly afterwards. One would have thought that such a lesson would have sufficed to teach him caution. Yet when he had so far conquered his pride as to take his daughter—her daughter—to his home, he left the the girl free to follow her own inclinations, without stint or constraint. Thus it happened that, unchecked by parental authority, and unguided by parental advice—with no mother to watch over her—Mary fell an easy prey to the arts of the smooth-tongued and evil-hearted groom.

We know the result. Discarded by her father, whose doubly-wounded pride steeled his heart against her tender solicitations, Mary went forth from her home a pauper, yet still full of love and trust in the man who had so sordidly betrayed her. To her, he was all the world. She saw no faults, recognized no evil in him. And he, ever believing that sooner or later the old soldier would relent, had maintained at least the pretence of affection, though often the true temper of the fellow would break through the thin coating of complaisance wherewith he cloaked his naturally wicked disposition.

Rudely had the veil been torn asunder—“What does he mean? What can he mean? Oh! tell me, Cousin George, what is it all about?”

“Well ma'am,” said George very gravely, “I won't lie. He's not in his right mind jest now. Some darned skunk has been fly-blistering his head with nonsense about me. Yes, Mrs page 48 Kenway, that's so. And when I get you safe home I don't think it would be according to Cocker for you and I to be together muchly.”

The revelation came on Mary with the force of a thunderbolt. She stopped—pale, trembling, terrified. “Is it so?” she gasped—“Oh, sir, I have been wrong. But I meant no harm. Go away from me, I beg you! Why have you brought this dreadful thing upon me. You should have known better, Mr Pratt. Go—go away. You have ruined me.”

And covering her face with her hands, she burst into a very passion of tears.

What could George do? He was fairly nonplussed. He had only shown her the ordinary civility which is due from all men to all women. Yet here he was fairly involved in a dispute between man and wife, in which both parties apparently held him to be blameworthy. 'Twas not the first time that a generous man has found himself in a similar dilemma, but it was George's first experience of the sort, and he suffered accordingly.

“Well ma'am,” he said after a while, “when you've done crying I'll take your orders. It ain't the right thing to let you travel by yourself; but if you prefer it I don't say No.”

Mary removed her hands from her eyes whence the tears were still streaming. “Mr Pratt,” she said, “I have offended you. Pray forgive me, sir. But, please go back and let me find my way alone. I am not afraid, I assure you, and I know the road well; I must go to my darling Clutha. But Tom—Oh! where is he? I think I ought to go to him. He will forgive me when I tell him all. My child—my husband. Oh! what am I to do? Tell me, Mr Pratt—don't you think I should go to him?”

Then before he could reply she continued—“But my child?—How will she do without me? What shall I do—Oh, sir, what shall I do for the best?”

Thus torn hitherward and thitherward by conflicting emotions—divided between love for her husband and maternal affection for her child, poor Mary stood irresolute and undecided.

Then the strong will of the man came to her aid. “Mrs Kenway,” said George “in such a matter as this, I calculate your husband claims to be first. The youngster will work through one night, no doubt. See here, ma'am, I'll jest go on by myself and see the little woman is being properly tended. You go back and hunt up Mister Tom, and take him away from the infernal Philistines that have got hold of him. Yes, that's best, ma'am.”

The wife conquered the mother. With hurried, faltering steps, and tearful eyes, Mary turned back to seek and reclaim her husband. And George went on his way musing on the strange chance which had placed him in such a predicament, and inwardly resolving to steer clear of all wives and babies that might thereafter come in his way, and especially to have “no more truck,” as he termed it, with the Kenway family.

Chapter VI. Snared.

How he kept his resolution may be judged from the sequel.

The track pursued by George after Mary left him led for some distance by the side of the Shotover River. It was not the best nor the easiest path, for it wound over and around steep precipices beneath which the turbid stream held its sullen course, winding like a huge serpent between walls of sombre rock. In some places the path descended to the very brink; at others it led upwards to dizzy heights, whence the traveller looked down hundreds of feet from a mere shelf worn by human feet in the hanging cliffs. It required a sure foot and a steady head to traverse this road, but it saved a long detour; and George went steadily on, assisting his steps when needful by holding on to any bush or plant, or even to a stout tuft of wild grass.

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“Presently ho turned off from the river and entered a dark ravine, which in fact was the month of the little creek wherein his party were located. As he did so he heard a faint “Coo-ee!” but whether the sound came from behind or ahead he was unable to decide. So he paid no regard to the signal; and as it was getting much too dark to waste time unnecessarily, he continued to press forward. In a few seconds the cry was repeated, and this time George responded in bush fashion with another “Coo-ee!” Then there was borne on the breeze two distinct signals, the one from before, the other from behind him; or were the echoes deluding him? To test the matter he sent forth a vigorous shout, and awaited the result.

About half a mile beyond the spot where this occurred the bye-path which George was following joined the main track which ran along the side of the ranges at a higher elevation. From this track apparently—certainly from above and ahead—came the reply, and George therefore pushed on somewhat more expeditiously to learn, if possible, the cause of the cry.—” Some poor fellow in trouble, I guess,” he said. “Broke his leg maybe over these darned stones, or got his horse down perhaps.”

But to his astonishment and perplexity, he had barely gone a dozen yards when faint and low, yet clear and distinct, another “Coo-ee!” ascended from the river which he had just quitted. And whilst pondering on the matter yet a third call came from far up the glen.

George came to a dead halt. “Seems like as if there was a heap of folk in trouble about here” (thus he communed with himself). “It ain't an echo this time, that's certain. Well I don't very well see how I can go three ways all to once. So I guess I'll jest keep on right ahead.”

As he near the point where the two tracks joined he perceived above him dimly a human form advancing towards him. Still, from the distance beyond, and from the river below, came at intervals the calls. But to these George paid no heed whatsoever. It occurred to him that the matter was so much mixed that any attempt to disentangle it would be a waste of time. So he preferred to progress onwards.

“Are you George Pratt?” asked the stranger when he came within hail.

The voice was quite unknown to George, and so were the features of the inquirer.

“Well, sir, that's the name I was taught to answer to in my days of youth and innocence; and I ain't got no cause to suppose that anybody took advantage of my simplicity in the matter. Why do you ask, sir?”

The stranger evidently did not understand George's humor. “Oh, hang it!” he said, “I don't want none of your chaff. Are you George Pratt or are you not?”

“Yes, sirree!” replied George sententiously. “What might you want with me?”

“Want?” cried the man in an aggrieved tone. “Why I've been waiting here for you this half-hour to get you to go back to the township.”

“Have, you, sir? Well now do you know I am amazingly sorry you should have taken so much trouble on my account. Very kind and sociable of you to stop out here in the damp night-air a-waiting for my company. But it ain't to be done. No sirree.”

“What? Do you mean for to say you won't go?”

“Yes, sir, that is my present intention. Nothing else, you bet!”

“Why she told me —. Blame my stupid head! I forgot to say as how it were a woman. Mrs Clearway—Carway—I think is the name as sent me after yon. Stop, why here's a bit of a note she bid me give you.”

And the stranger fumbled inside the lining of his hat for the document, which when produced was so stained with grease as to be almost illegible in the waning light. By the aid of a vesta match, however, George managed page 50 to decipher the contents, which ran thus:—

“Dear Mr Pratt,—I hope you will forgive me for this liberty. I am in great trouble, and only you can help me. Do please be so kind as to come to me at the township. The bearer who brings this will tell you where to find me. Please come at once.—Yours truely,

Mary K.


George read and re-read this singular epistle. It was in a woman's hand doubtlessly, neatly and, excepting the slip in the word “truly,” faultlessly written. He had never seen any of Mary Kenway's writing, but he never suspected its authenticity for a moment. Wherefore should he do so? What woman could have any motive for perpetrating a hoax on George W. Pratt? Nevertheless some indefinable instinct seemed to whisper of danger, and he hesitated greatly to accede to the request contained in the note.

“Who gave you this, Mister?” he asked.

“A woman—the woman I told you of. I don't know anything about it. I live up the gully about a mile above old Pegleg and his mates, and if I didn't meet yon at the junction I was to leave the note at the tent. I've got another for the woman as have got Mrs Carraway's baby.”

Just at that moment a loud, long “Coo-ee” came from below, to which the stranger responded, and again a third voice took up the cry from above. George looked at his new acquaintance curiously.

“Might I be so bold as to ask what this here cooeying is all about?” he inquired.

The man grinned. “Why,” said he, “that's my mate down below there; he took one track and I the other, so as not to miss you.”

“Yes? And the other party overhead? who do you reckon that is?”

“I don't know nothing about that,” said he.

As, indeed, he did not, for the third voice was none other than that of poor old Pegleg, whom we left stranded on the range, and who was employing his time in busily shouting for aid. But of course George knew nothing of that.

“Well,” said George, “I don't know rightly what to make of all this, sir. Can you tell me what is the matter with the lady who gave you this note?”

“No, I don't know nothing about it more than I've told you. She said I was to give it to George Pratt, or leave it at his tent—Pegleg's tent that is—and to say she was to be found at the same place she was at in the morning. So now you know just as much as I do, and I'm going on, for it's getting late, and I advise you to do the same. Good night!”

And without waiting for further questioning he walked away up the gully at a smart pace.

George felt but little disposed to return to the township. However, his good nature prevailed. Calling after the stranger to request that he would look in at the tent and inform Jim and Pegleg of his movements, he treated himself to a fresh plug of honeydew, and once more turned back on the road.

It was too dark to attempt the dangerous river-track, so he took the more circuitous but safer road round the gully. As he strode along misgivings troubled him, and once or twice he came to a dead halt, half-disposed to retrace his steps. This unusual indecision surprised even himself—“It ain't my usual style,” he said. “As a general rule I know what I'm about, but darned if I think I do jest now.”

As it ofttimes happens with strong, masculine-minded men (and I use the phrase advisedly, as indicating the antithesis of male effeminacy) this very hesitancy only caused him to brace up his moral nerves more vigorously. In other words, it strengthened his persistence. He had started to do a certain thing, and, right or wrong, nothing should now deter him from going through with it. So casting aside as unworthy of him all doubts, he went page 51 bravely on to meet his fate—be that fate whatsoever it might.

It came at last—as fate at all times will. I know I am writing that which to many minds is rank heresy. But I have so often seen brave, sensible men, and some foolish ones, rush on to certain doom, that I cannot, sceptical as I am in many things, resist acknowledging that

There's a Divinity that shapes our ends, Rough-hew them as we will.

And lest I be misunderstood, let me say how that when men talk of Fate, their inner and perhaps unacknowledged consciousness means Providence. Words, after all, are but feeble vehicles for thought.

When George W. Pratt inquired for Mary at the Hotel, he was accosted by a man, who, overhearing his question, came forward and introduced himself as the bearer of a message for him.

A sullen, low-browed, unattractive individual was this man — whose furtive glances betrayed a mind ill at ease with its possessor. “It's all right, mate,” he said, “she sent me here to meet you. Blessed if I ain't tired waiting. I'll take you to her. But I suppose you'll shout drinks first.”

“See here,” said George, “I don't drink, and I don't ‘shout,’ us you call it. It you know where Mrs Kenway is, jest you indicate the location, and I'll kindly dispense with any more of your respected company.”

The fellow muttered an oath by way of venting his disappointment in regard to the anticipated liquor, and then with a surly—“Come on, then,” he went out into the street.

And George followed. Followed down the main street, and along the margin of Lake Wakatipn, where the gently heaving waters reflected the stars of Heaven, and the wavelets plashed softly on the beach. At the far end of the town a few scattered huts occupied the narrow space between the ‘Terrace’ at the foot of Ben Lomond, and the Lake, and it was in this direction that his silent guide conducted George. Again some mysterious—mysterious because inexplicable—feeling of danger seemed to thrill him. And he loosened the trusty revolver which then as always was suspended from his waistbelt.

At the door of one of these huts there stood a female figure, and by the faint light of a candle which glimmered in the interior George plainly discerned that she was clad in a plaid, such as Mary ordinarily wore. To this hut the guide directed his steps.

“There she is!” he said.

George advanced to speak to her, “Mary—Mrs Kenway —.”

Before he could utter another word, he was smitten by a blow, whence, and by whom delivered, he could never tell. The pistol dropped from his grasp, and he fell to the earth insensible.

Chapter VII. The Rescue of Pegleg.

We Left old Dick—Pegleg, that is—in a dreadful quandary, bereft of his leg, and helpless, on the road side. Let us see what happened to him.

When placed in the unpleasant predicament related, his first impulse was to vent his wrath in imprecations; his second, to bewail his melancholy fate; his third, to roll himself into a soft place amidst the luxuriant fern, and yield to the somnolent influences begotten of the unaceustomed potations wherein he had been indulging.

“Thou dash'd villain!” (thus he apostrophised his late antagonist as he settled down for a soothing nap) “thou'st never ha' got best o' me, if't warn't for drink. Ah, drink—false friend it be, sure by. Here be I in this bad fix through drink—Pegleg, I tell thee what, thou'rt a fool—a dashed fool—to let drink best thee. Well, well, what can't be cured, must be endured. Here I be, and here I'll bide, till mayhap somebody cometh by. Our Jim—ah! good lad, Jim. He'll know some'at's up when—when he see'th—see'th Old Jack.”

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And so, muttering interjectional fragments of speech, the old man coiled himself up in the lap of Nature, and soon became oblivious of his troubles.

When he awoke the curtain of night was rapidly desceding. And now Pegleg began to get alarmed. He had heard—who has not—of lives lost by exposure in those elevated regions; and it is as true now as ever that

The tree of deepest root is found Least willing still to quit the ground, &c.

I dare say you all know the moral. In his alarm he began to revolve the propriety and possibility of trying to reach home on his one leg. But his very first effort in that line caused him to abandon the idea; for on making a forward movement his foot slipped on a treacherous root, and he came to the ground with a force of percussion which caused him to uplift his voice in a stentorian howl of anguish.”

“Hah!” he yelled, as he tenderly clasped the injured part—“Hah! hah! Oh! Lord have mercy upon us, as it be now ever were and shall evermore become give thanks amen!”

The final “amen” dropped from his lips in a semi-whisper, for faintly as from a great distance he fancied that he heard a “Coo-ee!” He was not long left in doubt. Again the reply floated upwards to him, and then Pegleg replied with all the force of his vigorous lungs. Then there arose a chorus—a very Babel of “Coo-ees.” Coo-ee! to right of him; Coo-ee! to left of him—all round the gully it volleyed and thundered. In fact, it was the scene already described as occurring in the case of George W. Pratt.

Presently the responses became limited. One cry, and one only, answered to his call. That cry came from far up the valley. In truth, as I hate mystery, I may as well say at once that it proceeded from Jim Darley, who was out in search of his mate, of whose misadventure he had only become suspicious late in the day.

For the Third Mate did not, as Pegleg had supposed he would have done, go straight back to the tent. That sagacious animal pranced and kicked until he had rid himself of the obnoxious appendage wherewith he had been so maliciously supplied by Ginger, and then with a triumphant switching of his tail and a loud-voiced bray of satisfaction, he philosophically addressed himself to the consumption of the succulent grasses which flourished on the slopes of the range. And so much time was occupied in testing the relative merits of these, and the ranker growth by the creek-side, that the sun was well down in the West before he presented himself with well-filled paunch and guileless, hairy visage at the tent.

Of course when Jim saw the Third Male return with an empty saddle (for no amount of rubbing and rolling had sufficed to get rid of that equipage) he knew that something must have happened; so without loss of time, he set forth to seek his male, and soon the echoes reverberated with his frequent calls.

Now, leaving him on his way for a few minutes, we must again return to Pegleg. Whilst that worthy was in dulging in the hope of speedy rescue, a strange thing happened to him. He had taken from his pocket his pipe, and, striking a match, was about to inhale the pleasant fumes of the weed of Virginia, when a rustling sound in the bushes attracted his attention.

“Be that thou, Jim, lad?” he cried. “Be that thou? Ho! ho! thou'st been a main long time coming—a desperate time, Jim. Why, Jim—why, lad, I've been here a matter of four or five hours surely.”

Then neither perceiving any one, nor hearing the sound of footsteps, he continued—

“Come lad! don't be playing any of thy tricks on old Pegleg. Don't thee lad, now.—Ho! ho! that be a brave lad, and thou too, Cap'en—good lads—good lads both “—For he now discerned two men approaching him.

But the supposed “good lads” uttered a suppressed malediction, and page 53 rushing violenly upon him; threw him from his sitting posture, and quickly passed a woollen muffler over his head to stifle his cries. The old man fought like a tiger, and once and again he got his mouth free from restraint, and then his powerful voice went ringing through the still night air—“Help! Help!”

It came quickly Jim Darling heard the cries and rapidly made his way to the scene of the struggle. Ginger and his mate, for they were the aggressors, were yet struggling with their prostrate victim, when Jim leaped in amongst them. He stayed not to ask questions, but with all the force of his strong young arms he plied the stout manuka cudgel where with he was armed. Once —twice it descended, and at each stroke a man fell prone upon the earth.

“Ho! ho! ho! lad!” shouted the delighted Pegleg, “just in time, lad. That thon be just in time. The dashed vagabonds, they were getting better o'me when thou came up. Let 'em be, Jim—don't mind such scum as they. Help I to tent, lad, wilt. They'll get right bye-and-bye and-bye lad, never fear.”

And even as he spoke one of the fallen sprang to his feet and took to flight—away down the gorge.

“Aye, aye—run, thou devil, run; Jack Ketch'll have thee some day, sure-ly. Ho! ho! ho! Now, Jim, take me pick-a-back. That be the only way, for they have robbed me of my peg-leg, the dashed villains.”

So Jim took the old man on his back, and with many a pause, for he was not a light weight, contrived to carry him in safety to the tent.

Chapter VIII. In Jeopardy.

A sense of suffocation—of confinement in a close dense atmosphere—a bewildering feeling, as of one aroused from a fearful dream greeted George when he returned to consciousness. He tried to move, but his limbs were fettered, and he could not. He made an effort to speak aloud, and he found that speech was impossible. He strove to see what was around him, and all was dark and blank. Gagged and muffled and bound—the only remaining sense that he could utilise was that of bearing. He listened intently. Close by him, as he lay stretched full length on his back he could hear the lapping of waters as against the side of his prison, and—what was that? Yes; he could distinguish the sound of oars in the rowlocks—steadily, steadily pulling away. Where was he? In whose hands? He could only conjecture, and conjecture served him but little!

Rush!—swish!—The water gurgled by, and George lay in his floating prison wondering. What was to be the issue? He guessed, and guessed rightly, that he was in a boat on the Lake, but whither his captors were taking him, or for what purpose, was more than he could divine. So he stoically resigned himself to his fate, and waited for any further indications of coming events.

A whispering breeze floated overhead, melodiously he thought, as he lay and listened to it. Faint and melodious at first, and the waters rippled tunefully past the boat. Stronger and more loudly it blew, and the whisper became a howl and the ripple became a singing wave, and the boat no longer rocked peacefully on the water, but rose and fell spasmodically as the waves lifted her up and dashed her down again. The rowers evidently were contending against the element. Still they spake no word. But more and more increased the elemental strife, and at length, wearied out, as it would seem, by the struggle, the oars were drawn suddenly in.

“Stash this,” cried one of the unseen rowers, “I've had enough of it.”

“A little farther,” whispered a hoarse voice in reply. “It's only a quarter of a mile to the Cove, and then we shall have him safe. Hark!”

A low sullen growl as of distant thunder rumbled afar off.

“Pull! for God's sake, pull, ye divils! If we don't put him ashore in ten minutes we'll never get back to-night.”

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“What's all the row about?” said one—and George recognised the accents of his old enemy-Long Tom, alias Tripes. “Blowed if we ain't all a pack of fools. I say shove the beggar overboard at once. That's best. Dead men tell no tales.”

“No, no,” it was Tom Kenway's voice this time. “I can't agree to that. You promised me there should be no bloodshed—no murder. I won't have it said of me that ever I killed a man in cold blood. It's murder—that's what it is.”

“Whisht, ye fools! How do ye know the man isn't listening?

And simultaneously the covering was removed from George's face, and a lighted lamp was passed before his eyes. He feigned insensibility. It was his best course. His life hung upon a thread. A motion even of an eye-lash would have been dangerous.

“All right” (such was the final verdict of the examiner). “Now, boys, pull for your lives and let's get rid of this troublesome cargo before the storm comes on.”

Not another word was uttered. Loudly overhead pealed the loud thunder—ever, as it seemed, approaching nearer and more near. Blue gleams of light penetrated even the thick covering under which George was concealed; and the rowers bent to their oars till suddenly, as it seemed to him, the water became still and tranquil, and he could hear the mellow sound of a rivulet making soft music amid crags and over sandy beaches. Then the oars were drawn in, the keel of the boat grated on the shore, and George felt himself lifted out. Again he was examined, and still he gave no evidence of consciousness. In truth George was beginning to feel amused. At that moment he was as intent as anyone in solving the interesting problem in which he was playing so conspicuous a part. So he determined to see it out.

Two of the ruffians hoisted his apparently insensible form on their shoulders, and, proceeded by another, who carried a bush lantern, they went for some distance up the face of a broken range.

“This here's the place,” said the leader, and the voice was the voice of Tripes—“This here's the place, shove him in.”

If George could have striven he would have done so at this juncture. But he was far too tightly bound for that. So he waited to see what would come next.

Not long had he to wait. With a “One,” “Two,” “Three!” they swung him away. Down he went with a momentum begotten of the force wherewith he was thrown—crashing through bushes, and over rocks—down—down—rolling over and over again, till dizzy and exhausted, he fell into a shallow pool of water.

The canvass in which he had been enveloped had been taken off him before he was hurled into the pit or chasm—he knew not which. And as he lay on his back he saw shining overhead, through a dense maze of foliage, one bright star. And, almost without will, he blessed it. He could never tell why—he was not sufficiently imaginative to conjecture—but as in the dark hour of doubt, distress, and despair, that star shone upon him, he felt his courage rekindled, and his determination renewed.

Chapter IX. Retribution.

There are scoundrels—and scoundrels. Few are they whose consciences are thoroughly steeled—hardened against the “still small voice,” which persistently demands of them an account of their brother. But some there be whose strong will enables them to smother the ever-recurring sensation of remorse for crime. Blood be-dabbled murderers have over and over again told a shuddering world that the first crime brought in its train intolerable anguish, which only a second crime could obliterate; and modern criminal records, from Lynch, the Sydney tomahawker, to Palmer, the English poisoner, page 55 and Sullivan, the New Zealand fiend, show that the first fatal step inevitably leads to more, till the offender becomes case-hardened, and impervious to mercy for his victims, or regret for his misdeeds.

There are others—half-hearted villains—who, having yielded to the impulse of passion, suffer the pangs of most intense reaction; and would, were it possible, undo the evil deeds which have placed them for ever in the category of criminals. Such was Tom Ken way. His revenge accomplished, he repented him of the act. It is not easy to explain the self-deluding sophistry of guilt. As has been told, he had opposed the proposition of his evil-souled comrades to throw our friend George into the Lake; yet he had un-reluctantly—nay, gladly—assisted to place him in a position where death, by a slow lingering process, must be his fate, unless—which was very improbable—he was discovered and rescued. So far as Tom knew, there were not any miners or other residents within miles of the spot where George had been cast forth to perish.

Men hate a villain; a coward they contemn. A depraved mob will cheer the felon who steps upon the scaffold to meet his doom with hardihood; and the same mob will hoot and execrate the wretch who in the last awful moment betrays any sign or token of human weakness. Thus, Kenway's refusal to participate in the immediate murder of Pratt, had considerably lessened him in the estimation of his ruffianly companions; and when, on returning from the scene of their dastardly exploit, he began to exhibit symptoms of repentance, they expressed their contempt in no measured terms.

“Why, you miserable hound,” cried Long Tom, alias Tripes, “you brought us into the mess to serve you, because the fellow was spooney on your wife, and now you funk it. Perhaps you'll go and split on us to the traps when you get back. Blow me if I havn't half a mind to settle your hash for you.

'Taint safe to be in the same boat with such a cur as you,”

“No, no,” pleaded Ken way, “I won't blow on you. Upon my soul I won't do that. But I don't half like it. I wanted to serve him out, but not to kill him.—Oh, my God! what a flash!”

A blinding flash.—Vivid, dazzling, close at hand, streamed forth the jagged lightning, illuming the dark waters. A second—it seemed no more—and a terrible crash of thunder pealed overhead, and re-echoed from a thousand mountain peaks, rolling and volleying from crag to crag, till it died away in a hoarse sullen growl in far-off ravines, Then, in its train, there suddenly came down the lake a furious gust of wind, roaring as in very wrath, and driving before it the piled-up waters, in huge rollers crested with seething spray, showing white and ghostly in the fitful starlight, which served only to enhance the intense blackness of the looning thunder-clouds. And the boat rocked to and fro, rising and dipping violently as the gale rapidly drew near. On it came—louder and more loud howled the tem pest—and another startling flash, closely succeeded by a thunder-clap, so near and loud that it deafened the listeners, revealed a huge wave—a watery mountain—coming down behind. Kenway, now thoroughly scared, cast aside his oar, and throwing himself down in the boat, appealed to Heaven for mercy. To his craven mind it seemed that Divine retribution was about to avenge his guilt. And who shall say that it was not so? But his hardier comrades scorned his poltroonery.

“In shore!” shouted Long Tom, “Pick up your oar and pull, or I'll smash you.”

But it was too late. The wave struck the boat, tossed her high aloft on its foaming summit, then pitched her down into a deep watery gulf. The dense wrack overhead veiled the last star from sight; and the boat spun round broadside on to the waves, and the angry flood rushed over her, and page 56 buried her beneath the tumbling waters.

Ten minutes later, and the tempest had passed by. Far away to the south-ward the lightning still flashed amongst the mountains, and the boom of the thunder reverberated in the distance. A deluge of rain succeeded the electric storm, and the water, though still heaving fretfully, was comparatively placid. A boat, keel upwards, was drifting down the Lake, and beneath pale stars shining in an unclouded sky, a man was lying exhausted and motionless on the rocky shore. It was Tom Kenway.

The others were never seen again. In the hour of their cruel triumph they had been destroyed. Long afterwards a fleshless skeleton was found on a sandy beach far down the Lake near the Lochy River at Halfway Bay. The back part of the skull was gone, but round the waist there still remained a narrow leather belt, and on the right foot there was a sock. Those who had known Long Tom professed to be able to identify these as having been worn by him on the day he disappeared. Of the third man no trace was ever discovered.

Chapter X. In the Glen.

Mr George W. Pratt was truly in a critical plight. When he surveyed the position, he found himself lying in the bed of a small creek, which flowed through a deep wooded glen, the sides of which rose steeply to a height of a hundred feet or more. Just beyond where he lay was a narrow gorge, where in the streamlet formed a deep pool as it forced its way between perpendicular walls of rock, gloomy and forbidding in appearance, and so overhung with trees as to shut out from view the cheerful sky. Even sunlight could not have penetrated the dark abyss. The low gurgling of the water, as it eddyed under the grim rocks, and rippled over shallow bars, was undisturbed by the blast that howled over-head in fitful gusts. But George could see the tossing branches overhead as their waved to and fro bending responsive to the gale. And through the traceried foliage gleamed the rays of the one bright star, so that he found strange consolation in the fact that he had fallen where he was, rather than into the cavernous gorge below.

He reviewed the situation philosophically. “Guess, I'm trapped” (thus he argued the point with himself.) “Comes of trusting women. You've been a darned fool, G. W., fix it up how you please; and now you've got to make the best of it. What on earth am I to do next?”

With a mighty effort he rolled himself bodily over towards the bank. But the experiment proved well nigh fatal, for the water covered his face and almost suffocated him. There was nothing for it, however, save to repeat the attempt. He knew that a night spent in that chill stream would ensure his destruction. So again, and once again, allowing himself intervals for breathing space, he forced himself over till at length he found to his great satisfaction that he was clear of the stream, and lying high and dry on a strip of shingle. Here, then, he resolved to await the return of daylight.

But man proposes and a higher power disposes. The storm came on and the clouds blotted out the star, and the lightning flashed amidst the trees, and the thunder bellowed overhead, and the pitiless rain came down with tropical violence. What sound was that which made itself heard in the intervals of the elemental din? Faintly at first, then more loudly he heard it. He heard it, and at once he recognised the extent of the new danger which threatened him. The narrow channel of the creek was flooded. His ear, rendered painfully acute by the jeopardy wherein he was placed, distinguished the on-coming rush of water and the grating of boulders rolling over the rocky bed. Already the water reached him as he lay. Rapidly it rose around him, and the steep banks page 57 rendered further removal impossible. In vain he strove, with all the strength of a desperate man, to burst asunder the bonds which imprisoned his limbs. The flood came down, impetuous and strong, surging high up against the imprisoning rocks, and spreading force-fully over the open reaches. It lifted the helpless man like a dry log, and bore him onwards to the gorge, tossing him to and fro, as in mockery, as it hurried him onwards to his doom. With fearful velocity he shot under the frowning rocks, and went down into the depths of the pool, and rose again to the surface. Battered and bruised, blinded and half-suffocated with the cruel waters, he was dashed against a reef of rock, and the flood poured over him and floated him to safety.

Yes, to safety. How it happened he could not tell, but in that awful struggle for life—if struggle it may be termed—the cords slipped from his arms, and, benumbed though these were, he was yet able to hold on to the reef till the flood had passed by, and the creek had again fallen to its normal condition. To remove the gag from his mouth, and cut asunder the bonds from his feet was easy enough now that his arms were free. And when the tempest died away in the distance and the stars again shone forth, George crept back to the shinglè beach, weary and enfeebled but safe and unharmed.

He knew not where he was. It was a part of the country which had not yet been much explored by the miners. So he resolved to seek for some more secure and sheltered spot, and try to sleep away the remaining hours of the night. For this purpose he had already climbed a few steps up the bank, when he heard above him that which made him pause, and conceal himself in the gloom of the cliffs.

A sound of footsteps—of parted branches, and rolling gravel as of one cautiously descending the steep declivity. Was it his enemies returning to finish their half-completed work? Anyway he thought it well to pause and see what would come of it.

Down came a man, slowly, swinging himself from branch to branch for security. Down to the water's edge he went. Then he struck a match, and by the glimmer George saw that it was Tom Ken way. As in search of something, he moved along the brink of the stream. He lit another match—more matches—and peered anxiously adown the dismal gorge and up the rocky channel. “Gone!” he said, at last—“drowned in the flood, no doubt. I wish I had no hand in it; but curse him! it served him right. His ghost won't trouble me.”

As he spoke these words he was standing on the shingle beach, within a few yards of the spot where George lay concealed. Suddenly from out the gloom his intended victim stepped forth. The feeble, flickering light of the match just served to disclose his features—wan, ghastly, and death-like from the effect of his recent disaster. At the sound of his footstep, Kenway turned, and turning, cast one horrified glance at the seeming apparition. Then, with a yell of abject terror, the terrified scoundrel darted away. In his fright, he ran down the stream, and before Pratt could interfere, he had plunged into the dark pool, and was struggling for dear life in its depths.

In vain George called to him to stay. Fear—cowardly, craven fear—held full possession of him. In his blind terror he forced his way through the pool, and continued his flight down the bed of the creek, clambering over rocks, plunging through water, some times shallow, sometimes knee-deep, often breast-high. And George's well-meant efforts to arrest his flight only increased his headlong speed.

Was he afraid of punishment from the man whom he had so wickedly betrayed? or was superstitious terror the spur that urged him on—ever on to his doom?

Whatever the incentive, certain it is that he stayed not in his course, till he reached the month of the creek. There, where it entered the Lake, his course was arrested by One mightier than he. page 58 At the junction, as is not uncommon with such streams in New Zealand, there was a quicksand—a treacherous, yielding, fast-holding quicksand. Into this he rushed and the sands drew him in and down—ever down. In vain he wrestled with the danger—every struggle served but to accelerate his destruction. Deeper, and yet more deep he sank in the quagmire. It reached to his waist —to his breast;—the surging waters of the Lake dashed over his head. One loud, long cry of agony—one last despairing glance at the peaceful sky—now serene in starlit beauty, and all was over with Tom Kenway.

George Pratt, making his way landward to the Lake, heard that cry and hurried onwards, intent on rescuing from destruction the man who had sought to rob him of life. But when he reached the beach, there remained not any trace of his presence. The cruel man had died a cruel death, and Mary Kenway was a widow.

Chapter XI. Jim Darley Has a Dream.

“I don't half like it,” said Jim Darley, as sitting by the camp-fire he listened to the recital of Pegleg's grievances—” I don't half like the look of it. There's some mischief afloat, depend on it. I've a mind to go down to the Lake, and try to find out where the Captain is.”

“Don't thee, lad,” responded Pegleg. “Don't thee, now, there's a good lad, Cap'en do know what he be about, I warrant. He warn't born near woods to be frighted wi' owls, thee be sure o' that. Why, Jim—Jim, lad, what'll I do without thee, and my timber leg gone too. No, no; thou'lt stay wi' Pegleg till mornin'.”

Jim did not answer immediately. Truly it was a long way to go, and the road was bad, and the night was not promising fairly. Dark clouds rolling up from the North hung like a funereal pall over the snow-crested peaks, and the intense stillness of the atmosphere boded ill for the wayfarer amidst those wild ranges, where violent storms are ever preluded by unnatural quiet. Then there was the old man to be considered Could he be left alone in his present dilapidated condition? No; on second thoughts he would wait till the morning.

“Very well, Dick,” he said, “I stop; but I must be oft at day light, for I ain't easy in my mind about it. So I'll just tether Old Jack. He'll take me in quicker than I can walk. And I'll bring you back a new prop-stick, daddy, if I can't find the old one,”

“Good lad—good lad! Aye; that be right. Tether Old Jack, and bide wi' old Pegleg till morning.”

I have told of the storm that ensued on that night. It scarcely brushed with its edge the gully, but rolled along the lofty mountain range, the peaks of which rose aloft to the westward. Nevertheless the lightning was vivid, and the heavy thunder roused the slumbering echoes of the glen. Jim lay awake on his rude pallet, listening to the elemental din, unable to divert his thoughts from George. But exhausted nature will have its revenge. As the storm ceased he sank into a profound but troubled sleep. Constantly the image of his mate came before his mental vision. By some occult sympathy he knew that George was in peril; but the fleeting visions of dreamland evaded the grasp of memory when he started from his uneasy slumbers. Once he thought he heard a footstep outside, and went forth to look around—nought was visible; and he returned to his bunk.

Presently he dreamed a dream more connected than the vague phantasies which had previously troubled his brain. George was standing on the brink of a precipice, the abyss beneath which appeared a vast black sea of vapor, through which waves of fire darted upwards menacingly. By his side there was a woman, whose face he could not discern, but she seemed to hold George's hand in his, and to beckon downwards into the gulf. And George, apparently yielding to her influence, page 59 leant forward, and the woman floated over the bank and sought to draw him after her. Then George resisted, but her weight overpowered him. Gradually he yielded to the influence. The edge crumbled under him. Already he was sliding down into that fiery abyss, when two other forms swept past him, and disappeared beneath, and from the gulf there came up wailing cries of “Help! help!” and Jim awoke in a state of profuse perspiration.

He sprang out of his bed in much agitation. The stars were still shining, but a faint streak of golden red in the east showed that day was breaking. The cry for help seemed yet to vibrate on his sense of hearing. But everything was still and calm, and the only sound audible was the tinkling of the little creek, as it danced merrily past the pebbles, or fell with softened cadence over the bars that crossed its appointed channel.

“I needn't wake the old man,” he thought. “He will be sure to know where I have gone. But I'll light the fire, and make a billy of tea for him, as he can't get about.”

So he raked up the ashes, and piled on wood, and made some tea, and drank some himself, completing his frugal repast with damper and cold mutton. Then he went out to look for the Third Mate.

To look for him! Yes, “only that and nothing more.” The Third Mate had disappeared. There was the tether rope lying on the ground; but old Jack was gone. He searched long and anxiously; but Jack was gone. There was no doubt of it.

“It must have been old Jack's braying that I heard in my sleep,” cried Jim Darley. “Confound the beast! I shall have to go on Shank's pony now.”

When Pegleg awoke, he found himself alone. By his side was the billy full of steaming tea, and the fresh damper and the cold mutton, with all needful adjuncts for the morning meal.

“Ho! ho!” roared the old man, “He be gone off surely. First goes Cap'en, then Jim. All about a dashed woman too, I do think. Well, well I Jim be a good lad to get breakfast ready for I before he went.”

Chapter XII. Bearding the Lion.

Let us follow Jim Darley for a while. When about half-way to the Lake, he saw a woman coming towards him; and, by some indefinable process of thought, he felt that it was the woman whom he had seen in his dream. When they met, she averted her head and tried to pass. But the track was narrow, and Jim recognized her, It was Mary Kenway.

“Don't stop me,” she said, as Jim barred the way.

“But I must,” said Jim. “You are Mrs Kenway. Can you tell me what has become of George Pratt—my mate. I am going to seek for him.”

She turned to him with a sharp sudden movement, and then Jim saw why she had wished to avoid him. Her face was fearfully bruised, and one eye was blackened and swollen.

Mary burst into tears.—“Oh, sir,” she cried; “if you are a friend of Mr Pratt's go at once to the police. I fear he has been murdered—murdered!—and—God help me! I have been the cause of it. Go to them—tell them that he was knocked down—beaten—taken away in a boat—last night—at the township—mercy—mercy! what shall I do? My Tom was in it.”

She fairly broke down, and began to sob hysterically. Jim tried in his rough way to pacify her, and by degrees he extracted from her a somewhat coherent account of what had happened.

Briefly told, her story was this.

Under the pretence of George's presence being necessary to prevent the re-apprehension of Tom Ken way by the Police, she had been induced to write the letter which had caused the former to return to the township. It was in- page 60 deed herself whom George had seen at the door of the tent, and she had witnessed the cowardly assault upon him and his subsequent treatment. She had remonstrated, and her punishment had resulted. The brutal husband, for whose unworthy sake she had forfeited her only parent's affection, had turned upon her, and smitten and calumniated her;—had added unmanly insult to un-manly violence, and finally had left her, breathing hot, sulphurous-vows of future vengeance. In fear and trembling she had waited through the weary hours of night, and so soon as the first faint light of dawn had come, she had escaped from the hut, and was now flying to her only remaining solace, her child.

She extracted from Jim Darley a reluctantly given promise that he would not mention her husband's name when giving information to the police. For still, in her true woman's heart, love prevailed. She could not all at once stamp out affection for her girlhood's lover, though the events of the night had done much—very much—to weaken his hold upon her heart. She would fain have saved George, but she hesitated to sacrifice her husband. Thus torn by contending emotions, and suffering in both mind and body, she failed to make Jim comprehend that she was quite blameless in the matter; so that when he left her to pursue his course, he set her down in his mind as a light-o'-love, and his honest soul unjustly conceived indignation against her, as the destroyer of his friend and comrade.

Breathing undeserved anathemas on all the sex, Jim hurried on to the township. He might have taken the matter with more coolness. When he arrived at the camp, the bold sergeant was indulging in his matutinal repast, in the preparation of which, moreover, for want of any aid, he was himself engaged. With coat off and shirt sleeves turned up to the elbow, that worthy officer of the State was deep in the mysteries of mutton chops; and a wrathful man was he when thus impertinently intruded upon.

“How dare ye come in here, disturbing me privatcy without me consent? Look at the toime, sir! Shure, thim's not office hours.”

Jim pleaded the emergency of the case. “I wouldn't have troubled you. I'm very sorry,” he said, “only seems to me there ain't no time to lose.”

“Oh, indade! Is that your opinion now? Is it you that come here to teach me my duty? Ye'll just walk out, young man, till I've had my breakfast, and then if ye're civil, maybe—it's mesilf that 'll talk wid yez.”

But Jim was too full of his mission to be disposed of thus summarily.

“Look here,” he said, resolutely. “If you don't listen to me, I'll go in at once to the Commissioner. There's been too much time lost already.”

Jim overstepped the mark. The threat was too much. The cup of the Sergeant's indignation boiled over. But he was single-handed, so he cloaked his excited feelings. He smiled a smile—a treacherous smile—and in his blandest accents spoke he thus—

“Upon me conscience thin, ye're right. Come this way, young man.”

And, leaving the mutton-chops to their fate, he preceded Jim Darley to a rustic cottage fashioned of logs. The walls were of logs roughly dove-tailed together; the floor was of logs, and the ceiling was also of logs, all similarly jointed. Into this place Jim unsuspectingly followed. Then the bold Sergeant stepped outside quickly, closed the door, bolted it, double-locked it, and Jim found himself imprisoned.

The bold Sergeant went back, resumed his cooking, and breakfasted sumptuously. And Jim Dariey made his throat very hoarse, and his hands very sore, by calling aloud in vain, and thumping fruitlessly against the door of his prison.

Bye-and-bye he heard a smart sharp voice call out—” Sergeant! Sergeant! what is all that horrible noise about?”

And the bold Sergeant made answer thus:—

“Shure it's a lunatic, Sir, just page 61 brought in; and very obsthroporous he is, Sir.”

Whereupon Mr Commissioner retired, grumbling, to his quarters.

Then Jim heard the Sergeant speaking to him. “Now, young man, I ad-vise ye to be quiet and aisy. And when I've precluded me appetite I'll let ye out.”

So Jim made a virtue of necessity, as many a better and a wiser man has done, and will continue to do till the lion lies down with the lamb, and he that is smitten turns the other cheek to the smiter. And the bold Sergeant concluded his culinary operations, and the Commissioner trimmed his beard in peace; and each sat down to breakfast with a conscience void of offence. Nevertheless, an innocent man mean-while fretted in prison.

But all things must have an end. Consequently the hour of Jim's release came round in due course. “Now then, what is it ye're afther?” demanded the Sergeant, as he opened the door of the log-hut, and let in a flood of dazzling sunshine. “Come out of that, can't ye, and tell me what's your little game.”

No, I won't,” was Jim's dogged reply. “I heard you tell the Commissioner that I was a lunatic. That's a lie, and you know it. Go and fetch him here. I don't move—no, not an inch, till he comes.”

And Jim fully meant to stick to his word. But the Sergeant was an adept in the art of blarney, and easily persuaded the “young man” to relinquish his intention. Then Jim told his story. But what did it all amount to? Only that George was missing and that there was a woman mixed up in the mystery—which, said the Sergeant, was “moighty suspicious.”

“I tell ye it's all nonsense,” quoth the Sergeant; “your mate's on the spree—that's all! Just go round the township and hunt him up; and don't get into throuble yourself. D'ye mind me now?”

So Jim went forth disconsolately to search for his missing friend. He saw many curious things during his wanderings in that infant township:—strings of pack-horses loading up for distant diggings—vast piles of merchandise heaped within canvas walls—banking establishments in calico tents, buying bags of gold—cats tied to doorposts, bearing tickets intimating that one of those valuable animals could be purchased for the insignificant sum of three pounds, lawful coin of the realm;*—and many other sights such as only new rushes could evolve. But of George W. Pratt no trace found he, till he went to the hotel. Then for the first time he obtained a faint clue. George had been there inquiring for Mrs Kenway, said the ugly and, over dressed barmaid, who alone had noted the circumstance. And he had gone away with a man, she added. ‘What like was the man?—She could not tell “Was too busy. Shouldn't have taken any notice, only the Yankee asked for that woman. What would Jim take—brandy or square gin? There was nothing else.’

Just so; there was “nothing else;” and Jim went out again, and wandered up and down, seeking everywhere for George, and of course seeking in vain. In his rambles, however, he fell foul o[gap — reason: unclear] Ginger, and relieved his over-wrought feelings by picking a quarrel with that scarlet-headed youth.

“You multiple-doomed scoundrel,” cried Jim, “You stuck up my old mate, didn't you? A man with only one foot, and old enough to be your father; and then you took away his timber leg, you miserable cur. Stand up if you're a man, and take your punishment fair.”

But that was about the very las[gap — reason: unclear] thing that Ginger wanted. So Jin[gap — reason: unclear] threw down the gage by dashing [gap — reason: unclear] glass of grog in his face. Then h[gap — reason: unclear] dragged him outside, and hammere[gap — reason: unclear] him to his heart's content till forced t[gap — reason: unclear] give over from very weariness.

He felt better after this exploit, bu[gap — reason: unclear] before finally concluding the perform- page 62 ance, he said to the whipped hound—[gap — reason: unclear] Just you tell me what you and your [gap — reason: unclear]nredeemed mates have done with George Pratt, or I'll have you up before the Commissioner for what you did [gap — reason: unclear] old Pegleg.”

And the crestfallen bully dolefully [gap — reason: unclear]himpered out, “Let me alone for any [gap — reason: unclear]ake, and I'll tell you all I know. Don't [gap — reason: unclear] it me again—don't, I tell you—I'll tell [gap — reason: unclear]ou the sanguineous truth. So help [gap — reason: unclear]e I will. They took him up the [gap — reason: unclear]ake in a boat. Up the Lake, I say; [gap — reason: unclear] don't know where to, if I was to [gap — reason: unclear]ie this blessed minute.”

“Die!” cried Jim, giving him a [gap — reason: unclear]arting kick, “You'll never die till [gap — reason: unclear]ack Ketch puts a collar round your [gap — reason: unclear]ash'd neck.”

And in this matter Jim prophesied [gap — reason: unclear]ery truly.

Chapter XIII. Maori Jack.

[gap — reason: unclear]ay broke serene and calm. The [gap — reason: unclear]ark blue waters of the Lake, their [gap — reason: unclear]rface unruffled by the faintest zephyr, [gap — reason: unclear]y like a vast mirror between the [gap — reason: unclear]fty mountains, which reflected therein [gap — reason: unclear]eir bold outlines and snowy peaks, [gap — reason: unclear] that the unpractised eye could scarce [gap — reason: unclear]scern the line of demarcation between [gap — reason: unclear]nd and water. The rising sun already [gap — reason: unclear]lded the crests of the loftier mountains, and soft white mists floating [gap — reason: unclear]vingly round the crags caught rosy [gap — reason: unclear]nts from his rays.

But to George's vision there was [gap — reason: unclear]mething much more interesting than [gap — reason: unclear]ake or mountain, or up-rising sun [gap — reason: unclear]en. Far up the glen which had been [gap — reason: unclear]e scene of the night's events, he [gap — reason: unclear]ted a tiny wreath of smoke curling [gap — reason: unclear]wards amidst the trees, and this [gap — reason: unclear]dication of the neighborhood of an was especially grateful to him just [gap — reason: unclear]en. So he strode away in the direction of the guiding “pillar of smoke.” [gap — reason: unclear]s he travelled along the banks of the [gap — reason: unclear]tle stream he remarked that the vine through which it flowed grew [gap — reason: unclear]eper till at last it wound; amongst [gap — reason: unclear]alls of rock, five hundred feet or [gap — reason: unclear]ore beneath the surrounding country.

Presently he found himself in a small clearing whereon stood a substantial hut, from the chimney of which the smoke proceeded. The door was open, and from the interior proceed savory odours and sibilant sounds suggestive of mutton chops. George did not wait for invitation, but entered forthwith, Moving amidst the blinding smoke wherewith the hut was filled, he perceived a dusky figure—tall, well formed, and dressed in ordinary bush costume—superintending the cooking operations. At the sound of the intruder's footsteps he turned, and then George saw that he was what he mentally termed “a colored man,” but of what nationality he could not determine. He noted the thin lips, straight hair, and dusky tint of the oval face. A negro he could not be; perhaps a Kanaka, as the natives of the Sandwich Islands are termed, or a Maori. Yet he was very unlike the Maoris whom George had seen around Dunedin, Lighter of complexion, more muscular of form, with a more intelligent countenance.

It was Himoni Witi—better known as Maori Jack—the original discoverer of gold in the Arrow, upon whose hut George had intruded. Jack was then acting as stockman, but his longing was to return to the North Island. For he was a Thames native, and his heart was with his countrymen who were then fighting in the Waikato.

George easily made him comprehend that he was hungry, and Jack piled up his plate with smoking chops, and brought forth the inevitable damper, and filled a pannikin with steaming hot tea for his refection. With natural politeness he refrained from making any inquiries till his guest had concluded the meal. Then he plied him right and left with questions, which George imperfectly understood and replied to very much at random.

“My golly l” quoth Jack, taking hold of George's wet clothes, “what for you too much dis-a-ways?”

“Fell into the creek,” said George, “Lost my way over night.”

page 63

Then Jack began plucking at them and by signs and very much broken English made George to understand that he was to divest himself of his clothing, and lie down in one of the bunks, whilst it was being dried before the huge log-fire—a proceeding to which George offered no opposition, when its purport was made plain to him. Truth to tell he was beginning to feel uncomfortably moist, for the heat was extracting volumes of steam from his outward belongings.

Behold him then snugly ensconced in bed, with the tall Maori sitting by the fire, his dusky figure enveloped in wreaths of wood smoke and steam from the rapidly drying garments, a pipe in his mouth, silent, impassive.

Suddenly he turned to George and said, “You been get gold, eh?”

George replied in the affirmative.

“You get um gold down—” He finished the sentence by a pantomimic gesture, indicating the deep glen.

“No,” said George. “Shouldn't think of any such darned foolishness,” he added, half to himself.

But Jack heard and understood him; he could generally understand any English phrase spoken, though he could not always render himself intelligible in English. His bright eyes narrowly scanned the speaker's face, and an expression of strange intelligence overspread his features. Quickly they relapsed into their customary stolidity. For a minute or two he was quite silent. Then he spoke again. This time he muttered something in his native tongue, gazing intently into the fire the while. Presently his thoughts shaped themselves in the language of the [gap — reason: unclear]anger. Divested of lingual excrescences, his discourse ran somewhat thus:

“The pakeha is very wise; but he knows nothing. He comes here to get gold, and he walks over it, but he cannot see it. It is under his feet, but he has no eyes. You tell me,” he continued, turning to George, “where you got mates?”

Then George tried to explain what had happened to him, but failed to make his dusky acquaintance under-stand anything of his story. It must be remembered that he knew nothing of the fate of the two men in the boat But the destruction of Tom Ken way in the quicksand he had partly witnessed, and this he tried, by pantomime and speech, to impress upon his hearer. Slowly Jack seemed to grasp at the notion.

“My golly!” cried Jack, “that bad place. Take in man, take in bullock, take in horse. Swallow all up.”

He smoked again in silence, and George had just fallen into a doze when his strange friend aroused him.

“I show you plenty gold, you give me some?” he asked.

“Certainly I would. Go your halves anyway, my sable friend.”

The Maori shook his head. “Long time ago,” he said, “I brought the gold to pakeha. I found it in the Arrow river lying in the sands. He said, ‘No good!’ Then he tell his pakeha friends. I got nothing. Kawana (governor) ought to pay me for it. I show you gold, you ask Kawana let me go away to Auckland, to my own people?”

“Well, I don't know what's to hinder you. Can't you go if you like?”

“No; Kawana say no.”

“Well, that's because they are fighting up there, I suppose. Do you want to fight the pakeha too?”

“My golly, yes! I go back, I fight for my land. What for pakeha take Maori land?”

“Well, I ain't got much influence at Court jest now,” said George, “so I can't promise very high about it. But if you can show me good gold I'll divide fair with you. Darned rum thing to go mates with a savage, though,” he muttered to himself.

But nothing was further from the Maori's thoughts. He preferred his half-wild stockman's life to the steady toil of the miner. “You give me five pounds I show you gold.”

Now George could hardly do this in his present condition, so he endeavored page 64 to temporize with him. But all was in vain. The Maori turned a deaf ear and all his promises and persuasions, and sat over the fire smoking incessantly and brooding probably on his own wrongs and the wrongs of his tribe and people. And George, lulled by the genial warmth, and feeling very weary, sank into profound repose.

Chapter XIV. A New Partnership.

When he awoke the noon-day sun was streaming in at the open doorway. He sprang out of the bunk and looked around. The Maori was gone, but his garments, dry and warm, were lying on a stool near at hand. So he endued himself therein, and refreshed himself with a fragrant plug. Then he stepped to the door with the intention of departing. But when at threshold he encountered Jack. “See!” he cried, and extending his hands he disclosed a quantity of small pieces of gold.

The prospector's enthusiasm was at once aroused. “Why where the mischief have you got this?”

“You come with me,” said the Maori; “I show you.” Down the steep bank he swung himself, followed by George, and then the latter first learned the cause of the sudden flood overnight. A pile of fallen rock and trees had formed a natural dam bank, and the violent rush of water during the thunderstorm had burst the frail barrier. Just above this place the receding waters had laid bare a sandy beach. To this the Maori bent his steps, and scooping aside the surface with his tawny hands, he disclosed the bright yellow gold sparkling amidst the cold grey sands. The very rocks lying with their laminated folds edgeways to the streams were glittering with particles of gold. Here indeed was treasure for the having.

“See here, Mister,” said George; “let you and I work this claim. It's a fortune, man.”

Jack turned away contemptuously.

“No,” he said; “you work and pay me. I mind bullock and sheep.”

“Well,” said George, “this is a strange move. This colored person don't care to work, it seems, except after his own fashion. Very well, Jack, let's cover it up till I fetch my mates, and I'll give you your share, fair and square, every ounce of it, my boy.”

But this was not what Jack wanted. “No,” he said, shaking his head with a great show of dissatisfaction. “No mates. You get gold, I get you bullock and sheep; mates no good.”

From which speech, after some further explanation, George rightly inferred that Jack's idea of the division of labor was that he—George—was to do the work of getting the gold, and Jack was to cook for him, a lazy luxurious occupation which exactly tallied with the Maori's ideas. To this, however, George demurred, and after much talk, it was agreed that he should go for one mate and for the necessary tools. Then they returned to the hut.

There they found a new comer—a shepherd who had come from the station at the township, and was brimming over with a wonderful story, of dreadful deeds done the night before. After listening some time, George found out that he was the hero of this story, although the events were so overlaid with imaginary circumstances that it was difficult to recognize the fact. Nothing said he or Jack of the gold, but simply mentioning that he had lost his way, he inquired of the shepherd the route to the gully wherein his tent was pitched.

“Oh, for the matter of that,” said the shepherd, “you had best go up to the township. I don't suppose you'd care to go over the mountain.”

“I aint sure about that,” said George. “What kind of road is it?”

“Pretty rough, mate, I tell you. Plenty of snow, my word! However, if you ain't in a hurry, I'm going part of the way myself as soon as I've had a feed. It's a precious sight nearer than the road by the station. Why, the creek below comes out of the same page 65 hill as the other one, only not on the same side. It's only to go just over the saddle, and you'll be there.”

So George agreed to go with the shepherd.

Before he started, the Maori took him aside. “You come back here?” he asked.

“You'd better believe it, my colored friend,” said George; and so they parted.

Chapter XV. Keel Upwards.

It is decreed by the law that one man shall not beat another with impunity. Nevertheless Ginger accepted his thrashing without seeking the interference of the law. 'Twas not a part of his scoundrel creed to resort to legal tribunals, save upon compulsion. So Jim Darley was suffered to return homewards unmolested.

Unmolested, but weary and disconsolate, yet not quite hopeless. The bold Sergeant, aroused by Jim's persistence to the conviction that there had been foul play, rose to the occasion, and accompanied by a constable he set forth on a voyage of discovery up the Lake. But before they had proceeded far they met first an oar and then a boat wherein our friend had been spirited ofl. Keel upwards it came drifting down towards them, and the boatman at once recognised it as that which had been hired by Long Tom on the previous night. So with this dumb witness in tow the Sergeant returned to the Camp, and in all good faith reported to the Commissioner that the party, George and all, had been lost in the storm. And then Jim departed, angry and sick at heart.

“The dashed wretches! If they had gone and drownded themselves I wouldn't have cared. But I'm real sorry for that Yankee.” Such was Jim's monody.

In an angry mood he neared his tent, when he heard such a confused Babel of sounds as caused him to run onwards at full speed, anticipatory of more mischief and harm to follow. In breathless haste he darted in, and there he beheld a strange sight.

Pegleg was sitting on an inverted bucket in the centre of the tent with a baby in his arms, which, however, he was trying to put from him. And kneeling on the ground, and crying very heartily, was Mary Kenway. On Jim's entrance, however, she started up and seized him impulsively by the hand.

“Oh, sir!” she cried; and Jim saw that her poor, bruised face was wet with tears. “Oh, sir! have you found him—Cousin George—Mr Pratt, I mean? Tell me you have, and I don't care what becomes of myself.”

“Don't thee hearken to her, Jim,” shouted Pegleg; “she come to tend on I; but I won't ha' none o' her tendin'. Not I. She ben't no good—she ben't. She have a-got Cap'en into trouble, and now she do want to get out on't. Shame on thee, woman. Why, woman—why—dost thee ax for Cap'en afore thy own husband? Cousin George, too! I'd ‘Cousin George’ thee if I had my say.”

But Mary still clung to Jim, and besought him for news of George. Although in his heart he shared in the suspicions of his old comrade, the honest fellow pitied the woman, and was loth to tell her the worst. So he merely said, “They took him up the Lake, and he ai'nt come back, and your husband is with them.”

Her shrewd womanly instinct divined that something remained untold. “Has Tom returned?” she asked.

“No, none of them.”

“You know more, I see you do,” she said. “Something has happened, I am sure of it. I read it in your face. In the name of Heaven tell me all.”

“Aye, aye, lad!” said Pegleg. “If more there be to be told, out wi' it. Don't thee hide nought—don't thee, now, there's a good lad, Jim.”

And so between them Jim's secret was wrested from him. “We found the boat bottom upwards,” he said. ‘They're all gone, I fear—your husband—George all!”

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Chapter XVI. The Earnslaw.

Pretty?—No, sirree!—Pretty ain't no word for it. It's splendid, sir—glorious! Jest that See here,—I aint a babe—I aint. I've viewed a few splendiferous things in my life, you bet! But this here kind of licks anything in the universal world, ever I set my eagle-glance upon. Yes, sir!”

And, in truth, if superlatives are justifiable in any case, they were so then and there, as, standing on a bold ridge, George and the Shepherd surveyed the scene before them.

Overhead, the transparent ether, with fleecy clouds floating indolently, upborne by softest zephyrs. Below, the translucent Lake— “deeply, darkly, beautifully blue,” as Byron hath it— calm and still, save for a dreamy undulating motion—basking in the rays of the noontide sun, and ever and anon flashing back the warm beams that wantoned over its gently heaving bosom. Around, a sublime spectacle of lofty mountains, and ravines so deep that they showed like dark shadows in the picture. Islands, crowned with graceful trees, dotted the surface of the Lake, and the forest-clothed spurs of Mount Boupland ran down to the water's edge, whilst, above the dense vegetation, towered the snow-clad ridges of the mountain. Rivers glittered in the dazzling sunlight, as they hurried on their course to the Wakatipu:—The Von and the Greenstone dashing over rock and scaur; the many-mouthed Dart gliding, in fifty channels, amidst shining sand-banks; the Rees coyly emerging from the shade of cool banks to gleam brightly for a brief space, and again hide bashfully in its retreat:—all these, and many un-named streams of lesser note diversified the view. Over all, at the northern extremity of the Lake, arose the crowning glory of the scene—majestic Earn-slaw—the grandest mountain of New Zealand—solitary, snow-crested, cloud-capped. On either side a valley, wide stretching, ran down from the base—or Earnslaw “brooks no rival near his throne.” Directly in front, Mount Alfred, an isolated pyramidal cone more than 4,000 feet in height, but dwarfed into utter insignificance in that vast presence. Between these, Lake Diamond, a gem-like sheet of water, laving the feet of the mighty monarch.

“No,” said George again, “it ain't at all pretty.” And George was right.

“Well, mate, pretty or not, we had best be making tracks. We've a longish way to go yet, and I don't want to be out at night among the snow,” said the Shepherd.

“No, sir. Rather not. That wouldn't be quite according to my notions neither. Very romantic, and all that sort of thing, no doubt; but I ain't an Alpine youth, and don't ambition muchly to leave George Washington Pratt in a snowdrift. So heave a-head, pardner. Excelsior!”

“No,” said the Shepherd, “that isn't the name. It's Earnslaw; though some calls it Mt. Macintosh, because Mac—that's one of our stockmen—first discovered it.”

“And a pretty tall man he must have been to discover such a mighty heap of rocks as that. But Excelsior ain't the name of any mountain, my esteemed friend.”

“What is it then? A brand—X. L. C. It.? I don't think there's any cattle branded like that hereabouts.”

The American smiled all over. “By Jehoshaphat!” he cried. “You are perfectly correct there. Anyway I haven't come across many of them in this country.”

Then he explained to his wondering companion the pith of Longfellow's quaint little poem, wherewith as a true American it behoved him to be familiar. And so, with jest and tale, the time sped on. Their path wound upwards along a “leading spur” of the great range, and as they ascended, the grass grew coarse and scant in huge waving tussocks till they reached the snow-line, when the character of the vegetation again changed to a soft, short growth, which formed a bright page 67 green sward of toothsome grasses, such as the mountain sheep delight in. Heavy patches of snow lay in the un-sunned hollows, and, occasionally, deep wreaths had to be crossed on the track. As they travelled still onward and upward, these increased in number and extent till they attained the summit, when all traces of the ground disappeared, and they forced their way over a heavy patch of trackless snow, through the thinly-crusted surface of which they sometimes sank to their knees. Deeper and yet deeper it became, but they went on, now in silence, broken only by their labored breathing till at last the Shepherd, who was leading, slid into a heavy drift, and nearly disappeared therein.

George helped him out and got him back to the track. Then he said to him quite calmly—” I say, friend, do you feel quite sure you're on the right course?”

The Shepherd gazed around with an air of bewilderment. Said he, “I have been over this range scores of times before now, and never missed the track yet. But I'm blessed if I don't think we've taken the wrong spur.”

Chapter XVII. “The Wrong Spur.”

Do you know the meaning of that phrase, reader? It means that from the top of the mountain there is always one, and only one, long spur, which will conduct the traveller in safety to the valley beneath. The spurs radiate from the centre like fingers from the back of the hand, and so closely resemble each other that none but practised eyes can distinguish them apart; and even the accustomed wayfarer must exercise great caution and vigilance when he commences the descent, lest he unwittingly takes the “wrong spur,” which, if followed too far, inevitably leads to danger and sometimes to death.

George had not been sufficiently long in the country to understand the full import of the phrase. To him it seemed merely a question of time; they had got on the wrong track, and they could easily get on the right one. The look of pale horror that overspread the Shepherd's countenance mystified him. “Why, what on earth is the matter with you?” he asked. “You havn't got hurt, have you, pardner?”

“Hurt?” groaned the Shepherd. “No, I aint much hurt, only lost, that's all.” Then, desirous to relieve his own shoulders from the burden of blame, he added—“And it's all your blessed fault, through your spinning of them confounded yarns as made me take the wrong spur.”

“Well, now,” said George, “that ain't kind of you, that's a fact, seeing that I was trying to amuse you. You needn't have listened to my yarns if you didn't like to. And it's a matter of established history that I ain't had breath enough to spin half a yarn since we commenced the down-track.”

The Shepherd replied only by an impatient gesture, and shading his eyes with his hand, eagerly scanned the surrounding country.

“Do you see that long spur out there—not the next, nor the next to that—the third from here? That's our spur, I do believe.”

“Well,” said George, “then let us go back to the top and start afresh, unless we can get across country to it.”

The Shepherd regarded him with unmitigated contempt.

“Oh, Lord! hear him,” he exclaimed. “Get across country, is it? “Why, mate, there's snow fifty or a hundred feet deep in them gullies, for as smooth as they look. Come away back. There's nothing else for it now.”

Wearily they wended their way back to the summit. Thence they looked forth over a white ocean, whereof the mountain tops seemed like huge billows. The sun was already setting behind the Earnslaw in a flood of fiery splendour, and his parting rays gilded the wild scene with unearthly Instre. But the travellers recognized only the page 68 dangers whereof sunset was the assured prelude. To add to their dismay (and George only now first comprehended the situation), a dense mist was rolling up from the valleys, and had already shrouded the lower peaks in its chill white folds. The Shepherd was in despair. “If that fog overtakes us in the mountain,” he cried, “we are dead men.”

For these mists bear two horrors on their darkling wings. They are so dense that when enveloped in them one cannot see more than a few paces ahead; and their breath is icily cold, piercing to the very marrow, and paralyzing the frail spark of electricity which imparts vitality to the human frame. Even in broad daylight men have lost their way, and have perished in these terrible mists, which come on suddenly, swiftly, and without warning. At night the peril is increased a thousand-fold.

But George was one of those men whose powers increase in emergencies. For a minute he calmly contemplated the scene. His active mind quickly reviewed all the probabilities, and his decision was formed.

“See here, mate,” he said, “I ain't going down into that darned fog, not if I know it; and I ain't going to perch up here till I get froze up neither. So I vote we go back towards the hut.”

“We shall never get there,” said the man, “I could'nt find the way in the dark, and that fog will be up to us before we can say Jack Robinson.”

“Perhaps so, but if we keep the spur we shall come to open country where there ain't no snow, and if we don't find any timber we can burn the tussocks. Tussocks don't burn bad where there ain't nothing better to be got, sir.”

Partly by persuasion, and partly by sheer compulsion, George succeeded in arousing the dormant energies of his companion, and they both set off at good speed down the face of the mountain-literally fleeing from death. The active exercise warmed and excited them, so that in a few minutes George was jesting and the Shepherd was laughing at their misadventure.

But the cruel mist swooped upon them, and wrapped them in its before they had proceeded far. Then they were compelled to move more slowly, and a nameless dread possessed them, as the darkness became intense, and the very earth was lost to view. In silence they plodded over the crisp snow, which crunched and crackled dismally under their lagging footsteps. At last the Shepherd halted—

“I can go no farther,” he said.

“Let me be”—and he threw himself down on the snow.

Poor fellow, he was fairly exhausted with fatigue, and overpowered with drowsiness — that most insidious foe whose embrace in those elevated regions is the sure precursor of sleep's twin-brother—death.

“Let me be!” he repeated, as George tried to arouse him. “It's no use. I can't move another step; and—and we've lost the track again. I know.”

Chapter XVIII. “Similia Similibus Curantter.”

I've been in many a bad fix in my time,” thought George, “but never in one so bad as this.” And then he thought of Ruth — his well-beloved Ruth, waiting for his coming in her far-off home, and he softly murmured her name.

“Poor Ruth!—I'll make another effort for her sake. Guess I can't leave this man to perish here.”

But the Shepherd refused to move—I had written “resolutely,” but in fact all resolution had deserted him. George felt the numbing influence of the icy atmosphere creeping over himself.

“There ain't no time to lose,” he said.

He tried to lift the fallen man, and the effort braced his own muscles, and so did him good service. He might as well have attempted to lift a rock—so powerless and inert was the body. George hesituted a moment; then he drew forth the knife which be carried page 69 in miner fashion suspended from his belt; and with the sharp point he pricked the drowsy Shepherd. The effect was instantaneous. As he felt the keen blade he started into a sitting posture, and regarded George with a wild glare.—” “Do you mean to murder me?” he cried.—“You double-dyed villain! Are you going to kill me?”

For answer George made a feint of stabbing him. With a furious yell the Shepherd scrambled to his feet, and fell upon him. He was effectually aroused now. All unwittingly Mr George W. Pratt had applied the original principle of homeopathy—for he had driven away one fear by the application of another.

George was the stronger, and the struggle was brief. The Shepherd once more consented to proceed. “See,” said George, “here is a tussock-head—the snow is getting thinner-we shall soon be out of it.”

And, in fact, before they had proceeded a hundred yards they found the bare earth beneath their feet.

“But we are lost, I tell you, for all that; for this ain't the spur that leads to the hut.”

“Never mind, sir,” replied George, gaily, “we've got clear of that darned winding sheet up above, and so long as we keep going down, we can't go far wrong. I know enough for that.”

And with that all conversation ceased, and they plodded onwards as best they could, but ever keeping on the downward track. Presently they were brought to a standstill, for the ground sloped abruptly from beneath their feet, and they rightly judged that their were on the brink of a precipice.

“Hist!” cried the Shepherd, “I hear water!” And his sharpened senses had informed him correctly. From the invisible depths there came up through the fog a faint and muffled sound as of the tinkling of water.

“Where there is water there is wood—scrub of some sort, if no big timber. Come on, mate; let's climb down somehow.”

With the word, the Shepherd swung himself over the cliff, and holding on to the brink, sought to find foothold below. But everywhere the smooth face of the rock repelled him. For a little while he struggled, and then—weakened by previous toil—his grasp relaxed, and, with a great cry of terror, he fell.

George peered over the bank, but the fog was far too dense to permit of his discerning the fate of his comrade. There was a dull sound, as of a body coming in contact with the earth, and then an avalanche of rocks seemed to roll thundering into the abyss. He waited till the noise died away, and then he shouted aloud.

An answer quickly came. A peal of laughter, so close to his ears as he lay on the ground, cautiously overhanging the cliff, that George actually retreated in amazement. “What in thunder is this?” he cried. “Are you there, pardner?”

“Aye, aye, sir,” responded the Shepherd. “All right; no bones broken, only a little bruised, that's all.”

In truth, he had fallen on a small terrace, a mere shelf in the mountain side, the level of which was not more than twelve feet below the bank. In his fall he had dislodged some loose rocks which had gone bounding down into the valley. In a few minutes George had achieved a similar feat, and they now stood side by side on a narrow plateau, which they found on exploration terminated everywhere in steep declivities. A few green tumatukauru bushes struggled for existence in the crevices of the rock, but they were worthless for firewood. To proceed farther in the darkness was impossible. But they were now sheltered from the chill blast; so, making the best of it, they huddled together under the lee of the precipice, and ventured to indulge in sleep.

What dreams they dreamed—what visions of the night passed before them —this writer cannot tell. But just before dawn, George aroused the Shepherd, much to the discomfort of the latter.

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“What's up? — what's the row?” inquired the drowsy swain.

“Say, there ain't any wild beasts in this here wilderness, are there, pardner?”

“Wild beasts!” echoed the Shepherd in a tone of extreme disgust. “My carminative word! I should think not. Yes—there's rats. Have any of 'em been biting your rubicund toes, mate?”

“Not exactly, Mister. None of them varmints have prospected to that preposterous extent. But, I was awoke jest now; but the queerest, darndest noise ever I heard in the whole course of my life. Guess I know what the growl of a ‘grizzly’ is,—and I've been introduced to the snarl of a ‘painter’ before now; but I don't know of nothing like that noise. It warn't a roar, nor a screech, it warn't a tune on a fog-horn quite; but it seemed to be made up of all three, with the yell of a wild-cat thrown in for variety.”

“Lord'sake!” cried the Shepherd, now quite awake. “Why it must be a moa!”

“Yes?—are there any of them critters about these parts? Thought they had gone dead right out.”

“Aye,” said the Shepherd. “That's what the zoological folks tell us. Blamed fools! What do they know about it? I believe there's plenty of moas in these here mountains yet.”

“Did you ever see one?” asked George.

“No, I can't say as ever I did exactly see one; but the boss there, down at the Station, knows a man who had a mate lost up the Dart for three days; and he always said that he had often seen their footprints in the sand on the river bank, though he never got sight of 'em. And only a month since the miners at the Arrow saw one on the range overhead, just about dark.”

“Carious, if correct,” commented George. “What was it like?”

“Like? Oh, like a moa to be sure, fifty feet high, with a neck like a chain-cable, and a beak like the fluke of an anchor, and eyes like— Oh Lord I what's that?”

And on the breeze upborne there came a repetition of the strange sounds which had disturbed the repose of Mr George Washington Pratt.

Chapter XIX. The Lonesome Lake.

At the sun's approach the heavy mists gathered themselves together, and rolled upwards to wards the mountain, peaks, which they encircled awhile with wavy wreaths ere floating aloft to mingle with the clouds. For a time George and his companion were en shrouded. A sea of vapour spread around them, concealing from view the surrounding scenery.

And once again from, the depths below there came that strange sound which had disturbed their slumbers. Then George smiled a subtle smile. Said he “Guess I know what critter that is now.”

“That's more than I do, then,” cried the Shepherd. “I never heard such a queer sound in all my born days. Why, it's like a cow with a sore throat.”

“But it ain't though. I reckon that, that voice is more familiar than you suspect, if we could hear it a little more plainly.”

“Why, what do you make it out to be?”

“Well, sir, if I ain't out in my judgment, it's an animal something like a calf, but more like a horse—bigger than a prairie dog, and not quite so big as a buffalo, His ears are long, and his tail is longer; and what's more, it is generally found to hang down behind when he ain't switching the flies with it. He has got four legs—two in front and two astern—”

“Oh! come now,” interrupted the Shepherd, “stash that, mate, will ye? Don't be putting any of your sulphurous nonsense on to me.”

“Well, friend,” said George, “you needn't cut up rusty about it. I was only trying to describe the critter in appropriate language. That's all, sir.”

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And he applied himself industriously to the extraction and ejection of tobacco juice, whilst the Shepherd smoked his pipe in sulky silence.

And now the mists became less dense, and the light began to penetrate the fleecy curtains that veiled the earth. Then suddenly the conquering sun shone full upon the terraced shelf where the wanderers had taken refuge, and the scattered vapours hastily retreating revealed a scene of wild beauty.

Down, far down below, appeared a tiny lake—a veritable mountain tarn—deep-set among the everlasting hills. For the most part precipitous rocks ran sheer down into this lake, but on one side its steel-blue waters laved the sandy beaches which lay between the projecting bluffs. The spot wherein George and the Shepherd were located, and wherefrom they now looked forth upon the scene, was on the face of a bold, rocky spur, which protruded, wedge-like, into the lake, at its upper end, so that its waters appeared on either hand no less than before them. Deep gorges—wherein, hidden from view by luxuriant shrubs, small streams ran down from their far-away, snowy cradles, to mingle with the flood—isolated this spur from the surrounding ranges, as effectually as if it had been an island, whilst above them towered a lofty peak, whose crystal mantle, glistening in the sunlight, seemed to forbid all hope of egress in that direction.

“Say, friend, do you know where we are?”—Thus, George, to the Shepherd.

“Yes,” replied that worthy, “I know the place well enough, and how the mischief we got here is a puzzler. Why, we're a matter of four miles off the track, which is behind that big hill. However, we can get to your creek this way; only its a bad road to travel, and nobody knows what may happen on the way.”

“Yes?—what do you conclude would likely to happen?”

“Well, you see this place—the Lonesome Lake, they call it—han't got a very good name. They do say that there's some wild natives hereabouts. Seems there was a tribe once that were drove into the bush by some of the others, and never came out again. Signs of their fires have been seen a many times, but they never show out. They got such a fright that they are afeard to come abroad now.”

“Then they ain't very dangerous, I should say—not specially, sir, if they are such miserable skunks as you. say.”

“Well, mate,” said the Shepherd, “if you're game to try it, I'm agreeable. So let's see about getting down to the foot of this cliff, which isn't quite so easy as winking.”

“Right you are, sir. Move a-head. I'm getting famished rather; and no wonder, when I haven't had nothing but a plug for meat, drink, and blankets since yesterday.”

It was not a very easy task—that same getting down. First they had to climb to the top of the spur, and then, to seek for an accessible bank whereby to descend into the valley. There was nothing for it, however, but to stick to it, and this they did, till by dint of creeping, rolling, and sliding, they arrived safely at the bottom of the glen.

Then began their downward journey, over a country broken and rough enough in sooth, compelling them to climb the range to avoid the numerous obstructions which everywhere presented themselves.

Just as they arrived at the foot of the Lonesome Lake, they heard a repetition of the terrible cries of the night. It seemed to come from the valley below them, and on turning the corner of a bluff, they saw before them the cause of the disturbance.

It was quietly browsing on a grassy slope, all unconscious of the neighborhood of man. The Shepherd turned to George with a comical expression of countenance.

“Why,” said he, “I'm blessed if it ain't a moke.”

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“Jest so,” George quietly replied, “Didn't I picture the animal rightly, sir?”

“And if I ain't astray in my reckoning,” he continued, “that picturesque and venerable beast is an ancient acquaintance of mine. In fact he's my Third Mate. In which case, I guess, we ain't a mighty long distance from the habitation of my pardners.”

Chapter XX. One and All.

It was indeed Old Jack. He had been freed from, his tether by some of the rowdy gang who had wrought such evil on George and his mates, and driven up the creek, where was now found, and where the grasses were so well assimilated to his asinine palate that he felt no inclination to return immediately. George whistled to him after the fashion in which Pegleg was accustomed to call him, and the sagacious beast pricked up his ears, and came gallopping up the range. But when George would fain have caught him, he snuffed suspiciously. It was not his master, and he knew it. So, disdaining to submit to the thraldom of any meaner hand, he snorted his disappointment and turned tail—threw up his heels with a kick of defiance, and trotted off again down the gully.

They drove Old Jack before them as they went along. “Guess he'll show us the road home, anyway,” said George. “The perverse old sinner that he is.”

And following the windings of the creek they came at last to its junction with a larger stream. Then George knew where he was. He had reached the gully wherein his tent was pitched.

It was still early morning when he sighted it. Jim was at work in the creek, and Pegleg was bending over a pot standing on the fire, whence arose savoury odours, delicious to the olfactory senses of the hungry travellers. The sound of approaching footsteps roused the old man, and caused him to look up.

“Lord save us!” he exclaimed as he caught sight of George. “Here be Cap'en's ghost, surely. Jim, lad—good lad—Jim!—I say, here be Cap'en's ghost.”

“Not muchly of a ghost, Mister Pegleg,” said George, “as I'll soon convince, you if you'll give us some tucker. Now, old boy, look alive and be smart, for I'm as famished as a wild-cat, and the hind-leg of a horse won't be more than about half enough to replenish the magazine.”

Jim came running up in haste. “Well Captain George,” he cried, “I never thought to see you alive again. Where have you been, and what has happened to you all this time? Do tell us.”

“Aye, aye, lad; tell us all about it, Cap'en,” chimed in Pegleg.

“Not a cent till I've had a feed. So take off the billy, and let us have whatever there is to be had.”

Breakfast, be sure, was quickly despatched, and then George related his adventures to his wondering audience. But nothing said he of the gold till the Shepherd had taken his departure. Then he disclosed the discovery that had been imparted to him by the Maori.

“And now, pardners,” he said. “I vote that as our ground here is nigh wrought out, we make tracks for yonder gully before anybody else happens on it. What say?”

Jim assented cheerfully, and Pegleg, after sagely weighing the pros and cons, proposed to accompany them. But George would not hear of this.

“Not you,” he said. “Best stop here a day or two till we get our ground secured, so as to put all curious inquirers off the scent. Then you can put the tent and traps on Old Jack and go quietly into the township till you hear from your's truly. You shall have your share, old man, jest the same as if you were with us, never fear,”

“Who's afeard?” quoth Pegleg. “Afeard of thee and Jim?—Ho! ho! ho! That's be a fine joke. No, no, old Pegleg ben't afeard, lad—ben't afeard. And thou be'st a sensible lad, page 73 Cap'en, so I'll do whatsomever thee and Jim here thinks best. What dost thee say, Jim?”

Jim agreed with George, and so it was arranged, that at nightfall the two should start on their journey to the new claim, the bearings of which George had noted as accurately as circumstances would permit.

As one and another passed by and recognized George, the news of his return soon spread, and quite a crowd assembled round the tent to hear the oft-told tale. And Mary Kenway, hearing that he was really to be seen in the flesh at his former abode, came hurrying down the glen to greet him.

“Oh, George, sir,” she exclaimed in a great passion of tears. “Thank God, you are alive. I thought they had murdered you. Will you ever forgive me, sir? Indeed, and indeed, I did not know what wickedness was intended, when they got me to write that letter. Oh! sir, do say that you forgive me.”

“Let her alone, Cap'en George,” growled old Pegleg. “I tell thee she ben't no good. Don't thee have naught to say unto her.”

But George took her kindly by the hand, and assured, her that he quite acquitted her of complicity in the plot which had so nearly proved fatal to himself. “There ain't nothing to forgive,” he said simply; “and I won't have the poor woman run down. No, sir; not even by you, Pegleg. She's been badly used and made a tool of, and she don't know all she's got to suffer yet. So, don't be bitter against her, old man.”

Then he told Mary, as gently as such a story could be told, how he had seen Tom Kenway perish in the quicksand; and when the tide of grief was at its height, and she could only sob, and rock herself passionately to and fro in the utter abandonment of misery, he quietly led her into the tent and, closing the folds upon her, strode away silently down the gully.

In a few minutes he returned, bearing in his arms Mary's child. Without a word he placed it in her lap, and the bereaved woman found a solace for her grief in the caresses of maternal love.

“Poor Clutha,” she said, “thou hast no father now.”

“She shall never want one whilst I live, by ——!” said George.

'Twas the first oath George had uttered for many a year, and he blushed as the word fell from his lips.

* * * *

That night as the shades of evening fell, George W. Pratt and Jim Darley stood fully equipped for the journey by the log-fire. “Well, lads,” said Pegleg, “so thou be going to leave the old man. Well, well. All for best—all for best, no doubt. But dash'd if I do half like it. No—no, I don't, there now.”

“Keep up your pecker, old fellow,” said Jim. “You'll soon hear from us, luck or no luck.”

“Aye, aye, lad. That be all very right; but dash my wig if I do like being left all alone.”

“Well, Jim,” said George, “there ain't much time to spend now, so I guess we'll make a start. See here, Pegleg, give us a name for the new claim.”

“Name? Why—why, what name wouldst have? Call it Cap'en's Gully! Or, no—seeing we be one and all concerned, give 'un Cousin Jacky's name—One and All, lad; that be it—One and All.”

And thus endeth the Second Book of the Adventures of George Washington Pratt.

(End of Book II.)

* Fact! The author speaks from ocula[gap — reason: unclear] knowledge.