ABE DURTON'S cabin was not beautiful. People
have been heard to assert that it was ugly, and, even
after the fashion of Harvey's Sluice, have gone the
length of prefixing their adjective with a forcible
expletive which emphasized their criticism. Abe, however,
was a stolid and easy-going man, on whose mind
the remarks of an unappreciative public made but little
impression. He had built the house himself, and
it suited his partner and him, and what more did they
want? Indeed, he was rather touchy upon the subject.
"Though I says it, as raised it," he remarked,
"it'll lay over any shanty in the valley. Holes?
Well, of course there are holes. You wouldn't get
fresh air without holes. There's nothing stuffy about
my house. Rain ? Well, if it does let the rain in,
ain't it an advantage to know it's rainin' without
gettin' up to unbar the door. I wouldn't own a house
that didn't leak some. As to its bein' off the
perpendic'lar, I like a house with a bit of a tilt. Anyways,
it pleases my pard, Boss Morgan, and what's good
enough for him is good enough for you, I suppose."
At which approach to personalities his antagonist
usually sheered off, and left the honors of the field
to the indignant architect.
But whatever difference of opinion might exist as
to the beauty of the establishment, there could be no
question as to its utility. To the tired wayfarer,
plodding along the Buckhurst road in the direction of the
Sluice, the warm glow upon the summit of the hill
was a beacon of hope and of comfort Those very
holes at which the neighbors sneered helped to diffuse
a cheery atmosphere of light around, which, was
doubly acceptable on such a night as the present
There was only one man inside the hut, and that
was the proprietor, Abe Burton himself, or "Bones,"
as he had been christened with the rude heraldry of
the camp. He was sitting in front of the great wood
fire, gazing moodily into its glowing depths, and
occasionally giving a fagot a kick of remonstrance when
it showed any indication of dying into a smoulder.
His fair Saxon face, with its bold, simple eyes and
crisp yellow beard, stood out sharp and clear against
the darkness as the flickering light played over it. It
was a manly, resolute countenance, and yet the physiognomist
might have detected something in the lines
of the mouth which showed a weakness somewhere,
an indecision which contrasted strangely with his
herculean shoulders and massive limbs. Abe's was
one of those trusting, simple natures which are as
easy to lead as they are impossible to drive, and it was
this happy pliability of disposition which made him
at once the butt and favorite of the dwellers in the
Sluice. Badinage in that primitive settlement was
of a somewhat ponderous character, yet no amount of
chaff had ever brought a dark look on Bones's face,
or an unkind thought into his honest heart. It was
only when his aristocratic partner was, as he thought,
being put upon, that an ominous tightness about his
lower lip and an angry light in his blue eyes caused
even the most irrepressible humorist in the colony to
nip his favorite joke in the bud, in order to diverge
into an earnest and all-absorbing dissertation upon
the state of the weather.
"The Boss is late to-night," he muttered, as he rose
from his chair, and stretched himself in a colossal
yawn. "My stars, how it does rain and blow ! Don't
it, Blinky?" Blinky was a demure and meditative
owl, whose comfort and welfare was a chronic subject
of solicitude to his master, and who at present
contemplated him gravely from one of the rafters.
"Pity you can't speak, Blinky," continued Abe, glancing
up at his feathered companion. "There's a powerful
deal of sense in your face. Kinder melancholy
too. Crossed in love, maybe, when you was young.
Talkin' of love," he added, "I've not seen Susan
today ;" and lighting the candle which stood in a black
bottle upon the table, he walked across the room and
peered earnestly at one of the many pictures from
stray illustrated papers which had been cut out by
the occupants and posted up upon the walls.
The particular picture which attracted him was one
which represented a very tawdrily dressed actress
simpering over a bouquet at an imaginary audience.
This sketch had, for some inscrutable reason, made a
deep impression upon the susceptible heart of the
miner. He had invested the young lady with a human
interest by solemnly, and without the slightest
warrant, christening her as Susan Banks, and had
then installed her as his standard of female beauty.
"You see my Susan," he would say, when some
wanderer from Buckhurst, or even from Melbourne,
would describe some fair Circe whom he had left
behind him. "There ain't a girl like my Sue. If ever
you go to the old country again, just you ask to see
her. Susan Banks is her name, and I've got her picture
up at the shanty."
Abe was still gazing at his charmer, when the
rough door was flung open, and a blinding cloud of
sleet and rain came driving into the cabin, almost
obscuring for the moment a young man who sprang in
and proceeded to bar the entrance behind him, an
operation which the force of the wind rendered no
easy matter. He might have passed for the genius
of the storm, with the water dripping from his long
hair and running down his pale, refined face.
"Well," he said, in a slightly peevish voice,
"haven't you got any supper?"
"Waiting and ready," said his companion, cheerily,
pointing to a large pot which bubbled by the side of
the fire. "You seem sort of damp."
"Damp be hanged ! I'm soaked, man, thoroughly
saturated. It's a night that I wouldn't have a dog
out, at least not a dog that I had any respect for.
Hand over that dry coat from the peg."
Jack Morgan, or Boss, as he was usually called,
belonged to a type which was commoner in the mines
during the flush times of the first great rush than
would be supposed. He was a man of good blood,
liberally educated, and a graduate of an English
university. Boss should, in the natural course of
things, have been an energetic curate, or struggling
professional man, had not some latent traits cropped
out in his character, inherited possibly from old
Sir Henry Morgan, who had founded the family
with Spanish pieces of eight gallantly won upon the
high seas. It was this wild strain of blood no doubt
which had caused him to drop from the bedroom
window of the ivy-clad English parsonage, and leave
home and friends behind him to try his luck with
pick and shovel in the Australian fields. In spite
of his effeminate face and dainty manners, the rough
dwellers in Harvey's Sluice had gradually learned
that the little man was possessed of a cool courage
and unflinching resolution, which won respect in a
community where pluck was looked upon as the
highest of human attributes. No one ever knew how
it was that Bones and he had become partners; yet
partners they were, and the large, simple nature of
the stronger man looked with an almost superstitious
reverence upon the clear, decisive mind of his companion.
"That's better," said the Boss, as he dropped into
the vacant chair before the fire and watched Abe
laying out the two metal plates, with the horn-
handled knives and abnormally pronged forks.
"Take your mining boots off, Boss; there's no
use filling the cabin with red clay. Come here
and sit down."
His gigantic partner came meekly over and perched
himself upon the top of a barrel.
"What's up?" he asked.
"Shares are up," said his companion. "That's
what's up. Look here," and he extracted a crumpled
paper from the pocket of the steaming coat. "Here's
the 'Buckhurst Sentinel.' Read this article this
one here about a paying lead in the Connemara mine.
We hold pretty heavily in that concern, my boy.
We might sell out to-day and clear something but
I think we'll hold on."
Abe Durton in the meantime was laboriously spelling
out the article in question, following the lines
with his great forefinger, and muttering under his
"Two hundred dollars a foot," he said, looking
up. "Why, pard, we hold a hundred feet each. It
would give us twenty thousand dollars! We might
go home on that."
"Nonsense !" said his companion ; "we've come out
here for something better than a beggarly couple of
thousand pounds. The thing is bound to pay. Sinclair,
the assayer, has been over there, and says there's
a ledge of the richest quartz he ever set eyes on. It
is just a case of getting the machinery to crush it.
By the way, what was to-day's take like?"
Abe extracted a small wooden box from his pocket
and handed it to his comrade. It contained what
appeared to be about a teaspoonful of sand and one
or two little metallic granules not larger than a
pea. Boss Morgan laughed, and returned it to his
"We sha'n't make our fortune at that rate, Bones,"
he remarked; and there was a pause in the
conversation as the two men listened to the wind as
it screamed and whistled past the little cabin.
"Any news from Buckhurst?" asked Abe, rising
and proceeding to extract their supper from the pot.
"Nothing much," said his companion. "Cock-eyed
Joe has been shot by Billy Reid in McFarlane's store."
"Ah !" said Abe, with listless interest.
"Bushrangers have been around and stuck up the
Rochdale station. They say they are coming over here."
The miner whistled as he poured some whiskey into a mug.
"Anything more ?" he asked.
"Nothing of importance, except that the blacks
have been showing a bit down New Sterling way,
and that the assayer has bought a piano and is going
to have his daughter out from Melbourne to live in
ttte new house opposite on the other side of the road.
So you see we are going to have something to look
at, my boy," he added as he sat down and began
attacking the food set before him. "They say she is
a beauty, Bones."
"She won't be a patch on my Sue," returned the
His partner smiled as he glanced round at the
flaring print upon the wall. Suddenly he dropped
his knife and seemed to listen. Amid the wild
uproar of the wind and the rain there was a low,
rumbling sound which was evidently not dependent upon
"Darned if I know."
The two men made for the door and peered out
earnestly into the darkness. Far away along the
Buckhurst road they could see a moving light, and the
dull sound was louder than before.
"It's a buggy coming down," said Abe.
"Where is it going to ?"
"Don't know. Across the ford, I s'pose."
"Why, man, the ford will be six feet deep to-night,
and running like a mill-stream."
The light was nearer now, coming rapidly round
the curve of the road. There was a wild sound of
galloping with the rattle of the wheels.
"Horses have bolted, by thunder!"
"Bad job for the man inside."
There was a rough individuality about the inhabitants
of Harvey's Sluice, in virtue of which every
man bore his misfortunes upon his own shoulders,
and had very little sympathy for those of his
neighbors. The predominant feeling of the two men was
one of pure curiosity as they watched the swinging,
swaying lanterns coming down the winding road.
"If he don't pull 'em up before they reach the
ford he's a goner," remarked Abe Durton, resignedly.
Suddenly there came a lull in the sullen splash of
the rain. It was but for a moment, but in that moment
there came down on the breeze a long cry which
caused the two men to start and stare at each other,
and then to rush frantically down the Bteep incline
toward the road below.
"A woman, by Heaven !" gasped Abe, as he sprang
across the gaping shaft of a mine in the recklessness
of his haste.
Morgan was the lighter and more active man. He
drew away rapidly from his stalwart companion.
Within a minute he was standing panting and bareheaded
in the middle of the soft, muddy road, while his partner
was still toiling down the side of the declivity.
The carriage was close on him now. He could see
in the light of the lamps the rawboned Australian
horse as, terrified by the storm and by its own
clatter, it came tearing down the declivity which led to
the ford. The man who was driving seemed to see
the pale, set face in the pathway in front of him, for
he yelled out some incoherent words of warning, and
made a last desperate attempt to pull up. There
was a shout, an oath, and a jarring crash, and Abe,
hurrying down, saw a wild, infuriated horse rearing
madly in the air with a slim dark figure hanging on
to its bridle. Boss, with the keen power of calculation
which had made him the finest cricketer at Rugby
in his day, had caught the rein immediately below
the bit, and clung to it with silent concentration.
Once he was down with a heavy thud in the roadway
as the horse jerked its head violently forward,
but when, with a snort of exultation, the animal
pressed on, it was only to find that the prostrate
man beneath its forehoofs still maintained his
"Hold it, Bones," he said, as a tall figure hurled
itself into the road and seized the other rein.
"All right, old man, I've got him ;" and the horse,
cowed by the sight of a fresh assailant, quieted down
and stood shivering with terror. "Get up, Boss ; it's
But poor Boss lay groaning in the mud.
"I can't do it, Bones." There was a catch in the
voice as of pain. "There's something wrong, old
chap; but don't make a fuss. It's only a shake;
give me a lift up."
Abe bent tenderly over his prostrate companion.
He could see that he was very white, and breathing
"Cheer up, old Boss!" he murmured. "Halloo! my stars !"
The last two exclamations were shot out of the
honest miner's bosom as if they* were impelled by
some irresistible force, and he took a couple of steps
backward in sheer amazement. There at the other
side of the fallen man, and half shrouded in the
darkness, stood what appeared to Abe's simple soul
to be the most beautiful vision that ever had
appeared upon earth. To eyes accustomed to rest upon
nothing more captivating than the ruddy faces and
rough beards of the miners in the Sluice, it seemed
that that fair, delicate countenance must belong to
a wanderer from some better world. Abe gazed
at it with a wondering reverence, oblivious for
the moment even of his injured friend upon the ground.
"Oh, papa," said the apparition, in great distress,
"he is hurt the gentleman is hurt!" and with a
quick feminine gesture of sympathy, she bent her
lithe figure over Boss Morgan's prostrate form.
"Why, it's Abe Durton and his partner," said the
driver of the buggy, coming forward and disclosing
the grizzly features of Mr. Joshua Sinclair, the
assayer to the mines. "I don't know how to thank
you, boys. The infernal brute got the bit between
his teeth, and I should have had to have thrown
Carrie out and chanced it in another minute. That's
right," he continued, as Morgan staggered to his feet.
"Not much hurt, I hope ?"
"I can get up to the hut now," said the young man,
steadying himself upon his partner's shoulder. "How
are you going to get Miss Sinclair home ?"
"Oh, we can walk !" said that young lady, shaking off
the effects of her fright with all the elasticity of youth.
"We can drive and take the road round the bank so
as to avoid the ford," said her father. "The horse
seems cowed enough now; you need not be afraid of
it, Carrie. I hope we shall see you at the house, both
of you. Neither of us can easily forget this night's work."
Miss Carrie said nothing, but she managed to shoot
a little demure glance of gratitude from under her
long lashes, to have won which honest Abe felt that
he would have cheerfully undertaken to stop a runaway
There was a cheery shout of "Good-night," a crack
of the whip, and the buggy rattled away in the darkness.
"You told me the men were rough and nasty, pa,"
said Miss Carrie Sinclair, after a long silence, when
the two dark shadows had died away in the distance,
and the carriage was speeding along by the turbulent
stream. "I don't think so. I think they are very
nice." And Carrie was unusually quiet for the remainder
of her journey, and seemed more reconciled
to the hardship of leaving her dear friend Amelia
in the far-off boarding-school at Melbourne.
That did not prevent her from writing a full, true,
and particular account of their little adventure to the
same young lady upon that very night.
"They stopped the horse, darling, and one poor
fellow was hurt. And oh, Amy, if you had seen the
other one in a red shirt, with a pistol at his waist!
I wouldn't help thinking of you, dear. He was just
your idea. You remember, a yellow mustache and
great blue eyes. And how he did stare at poor me!
You never see such men in Burke Street, Amy ;" and
so on, for four pages of pretty feminine gossip.
In the meantime poor Boss, badly shaken, had been
helped up the hill by his partner, and regained the
shelter of the shanty. Abe doctored him out of the
rude pharmacopeia of the camp, and bandaged up his
strained arm. Both were men of few words, and
neither made any allusion to what had taken place.
It was noticed, however, by Blinky, that his master
failed to pay his usual nightly orisons before the
shrine of Susan Banks. Whether this sagacious fowl
drew any deductions from this, and from the fact
that Bones sat long and earnestly smoking by the
smouldering fire, I know not. Suffice it that as the
candle died away and the miner rose from his chair,
his feathered friend flew down upon his shoulder,
and was only prevented from giving vent to a sympathetic
hoot by Abe's warning finger and its own strong
inherent sense of propriety.
A casual visitor dropping into the straggling township
of Harvey's Sluice shortly after Miss Carrie
Sinclair's arrival would have noticed a considerable
alteration in the manners and customs of its
inhabitants. Whether it was the refining influence of a
woman's presence, or whether it sprung from an
emulation excited by the brilliant appearance of Abe
Durton, it is hard to say probably from a blending
of the two. Certain it is that that young man had
suddenly developed an affection for cleanliness and
a regard for the conventionalities of civilization which
aroused the astonishment and ridicule of his companions.
That Boss Morgan should pay attention to his personal
appearance had long been set down as a curious and
inexplicable phenomenon, depending upon early education ;
but that loose-limbed, easy-going Bones should flaunt
about in a clean shirt was regarded by every grimy denizen
of the Sluice as a direct and premeditated insult In self-defence,
therefore, there was a general cleaning up after
working hours, and such a run upon the grocery
establishment, that soap went up to an unprecedented
figure, and a fresh consignment had to be ordered
from McFarlane's store in Buckhurst.
"Is this here a free minin' camp, or is it a darned
Sunday-school ?" had been the indignant query of
Long McCoy, a prominent member of the reactionary
party, who had failed to advance with the times, having
been absent during the period of regeneration.
But his remonstrance met with but little sympathy;
and at the end of a couple of days a general turbidity
of the creek announced his surrender, which was confirmed
by his appearance in the Colonial Bar with a shining and
bashful face, and hair which was redolent of bear's grease.
"I felt kinder lonesome," he remarked, apologetically,
"so I thought as I'd have a look what was under
the clay ;" and he viewed himself approvingly in the
cracked mirror which graced the select room of the
Our casual visitor would have noticed a remarkable
change also in the conversation of the community.
Somehow, when a certain dainty little bonnet
with a sweet, girlish figure beneath it was seen in the
distance among the disused shafts and mounds of red
earth which disfigured the sides of the valley, there
was a warning murmur, and a general clearing off of
the cloud of blasphemy, which was, I regret to state,
an habitual characteristic of the working population
of Harvey's Sluice. Such things only need a beginning,
and it was noticeable that long after Miss Sinclair
had vanished from sight there was a decided rise
in the moral barometer of the gulches. Men found
by experience that their stock of adjectives was less
limited than they had been accustomed to suppose,
and that the less forcible were sometimes even more
adapted for conveying their meaning.
Abe had formerly been considered one of the most
experienced valuators of an ore in the settlement. It
had been commonly supposed that he was able to
estimate the amount of gold in a fragment of quartz
with remarkable exactness. This, however, was evidently
a mistake, otherwise he would never have incurred the
useless expense of having so many worthless specimens
assayed as he now did. Mr. Joshua Sinclair found himself
inundated with such a flood of fragments of mica, and
lumps of lock containing decimal percentages of the
precious metals, that he began to form a very low
opinion of the young man's mining capabilities. It
is even asserted that Abe shuffled up to the house
one morning with a hopeful smile, and, after some
fumbling, produced half a brick from the bosom of his
jersey, with the stereotyped remark, "that he thought
he'd struck it at last, and so had dropped in to ask him
to cipher out an estimate." As this anecdote rests, however,
upon the unsupported evidence of Jim Struggles, the humorist
of the camp, there may be some slight inaccuracy of detail.
It is certain that what with professional business in
the morning and social visits at night, the tall figure
of the miner was a familiar object in the little
drawing-room of Azalea Villa, as the new house of the
assayer had been magniloquently named. He seldom
ventured upon a remark in the presence of its female
occupant, but would sit on the extreme edge of
his chair, in a state of speechless admiration while
she rattled off some lively air upon the newly imported
piano. Many were the strange and unexpected
places in which his feet turned up. Miss Carrie had
gradually come to the conclusion that they were entirely
independent of his body, and had ceased to
speculate upon the manner in which she would trip
over them on one side of the table while the blushing
owner was apologizing from the other. There was
only one cloud on honest Bones's mental horizon, and
that was the periodical appearance of Black Tom Ferguson,
of Rochdale Ferry. This clever young scamp
had managed to ingratiate himself with old Joshua,
and was a constant visitor at the villa. There were
evil rumors abroad about Black Tom. He was known
to be a gambler, and shrewdly suspected to be worse.
Harvey's Sluice was not censorious, and yet there
was a general feeling that Ferguson was a man to be
avoided. There was a reckless elan about his bearing,
however, and a sparkle in his conversation, which
had an indescribable charm, and even induced the
Boss, who was particular in such matters, to cultivate
his acquaintance while forming a correct estimate of
his character. Miss Carrie seemed to hail his appearance
as a relief, and chattered away for hours about
books and music and the gayeties of Melbourne. It
was on these occasions that poor simple Bones would
sink into the very lowest depths of despondency, and
either slink away, or sit glaring at his rival with an
earnest malignancy which seemed to cause that gentleman
no small amusement.
The miner made no secret to his partner of the
admiration which he entertained for Miss Sinclair.
If he was silent in her company, he was voluble
enough when she was the subject of discourse. Loiterers
upon the Buckhurst road might have heard a
stentorian voice upon the hillside bellowing forth
a vocabulary of female charms. He submitted his
difficulties to the superior intelligence of the Boss.
"That loafer from Rochdale," he said, "he seems
to reel it off kinder nat'ral, while for the life of me
I can't say a word. Tell me, Boss, what would you
say to a girl like that?"
"Why, talk about what would interest her," said his companion.
"Ah, that's where it lies !"
"Talk about the customs of the place and the
country," said the Boss, pulling meditatively at his pipe.
"Tell her stories of what you have seen in the mines,
and that sort of thing."
"Eh ? You'd do that, would you ?" responded his
comrade more hopefully. "If that's the hang of it,
I am right. I'll go up now and tell her about Chicago
Bill, an' how he put them two bullets in the man
from the bend the night of the dance."
Boss Morgan laughed.
"That's hardly the thing," he said. "You'd
frighten her if you told her that. Tell her something
lighter, you know; something to amuse her, something funny."
"Funny?" said the anxious lover, with less confidence
in his voice. "How you and me made Mat
Houlahan drunk and put him in the pulpit of the
Baptist church, and he wouldn't let the preacher in
in the morning. How would that do, eh ?"
"For Heaven's sake, don't say anything of the
sort," said his mentor, in great consternation. "She'd
never speak to either of us again. No ; what I mean
is that you should tell about the habits of the miners.
how men live and work and die there. If she is a
sensible girl that ought to interest her."
"How they live at the mines ? Pard, you are good
to me. How they live ? There's the thing I can talk
of as glib as Black Tom or any man. I'll try it on
her when I see her."
"By the way," said his partner, listlessly, "just
keep an eye on that man Ferguson. His hands arn't
very clean, you know, and he's not scrupulous when
he is aiming for anything. You remember how Dick
Williams, of English Town, was found dead in the
bush. Of course it was rangers that did it. They
do say, however, that Black Tom owed him a
deal more money than he could ever have paid.
There's been one or two queer things about him.
Keep your eye on him, Abe. Watch what he does."
"I will," said his companion.
And he did. He watched him that very night
Watched him stride out of the house of the assayer
with anger and baffled pride on every feature of his
handsome, swarthy face. Watched him clear the
garden paling at a bound, pass in long, rapid strides
down the side of the valley, gesticulating wildly with
his hand, and vanish into the bushland beyond. All
this Abe Durton watched, and with a thoughtful look
upon his face he relighted his pipe and strolled slowly
backward to the hut upon the hill.
March was drawing to a close in Harvey's Sluice,
and the glare and heat of the antipodean summer had
toned down into the rich, mellow hues of autumn. It
was never a lovely place to look upon. There was
something hopelessly prosaic in the two bare, rugged
ridges, seamed and scarred by the hand of man, with
iron arms of windlasses, and broken buckets projecting
everywhere through the endless little hillocks of
red earth. Down the middle ran the deeply rutted
road from Buckhurst, winding along and crossing the
sluggish tide of Harper's Creek by a crumbling
wooden bridge. Beyond the bridge lay the cluster of
little huts, with the Colonial Bar and the grocery
towering in all the dignity of whitewash among the
humble dwellings around. The assayer's veranda-
lined house lay above the gulches on the side of
the slope nearly opposite the dilapidated specimen
of architecture of which our friend Abe was so
There was one other building which might have
come under the category of what an inhabitant of the
Sluice would have described as a "public edifice,"
with a comprehensive wave of his pipe which conjured
up images of an endless vista of colonnades and
minarets. This was the Baptist chapel, a modest
little shingle-roofed erection on the bend of the river
about a mile above the settlement. It was from this
that the town looked at its best, when the harsh outlines
and crude colors were somewhat softened by distance.
On that particular morning the stream looked
pretty as it meandered down the valley; pretty, too,
was the long, rising upland behind, with its luxuriant
green covering, and prettiest of all was Miss Carrie
Sinclair, as she laid down the basket of ferns which
she was carrying, and stopped upon the summit of
the rising ground.
Something seemed to be amiss with that young
lady. There was a look of anxiety upon her face
which contrasted strangely with her usual appearance
of piquant insouciance. Some recent trouble
had left its traces upon her. Perhaps it was to walk
it off that she had rambled down the valley ; certain
it is that she inhaled the fresh breezes of the woodlands
as if their resinous fragrance bore with them
some antidote for human sorrow.
She stood for some time gazing at the view before
her. She could see her father's house, like a white
dot upon the hill-side, though strangely enough it
was a blue reek of smoke upon the opposite slope
which seemed to attract the greater part of her
attention. She lingered there, watching it with a wistful
look in her hazel eyes. Then the loneliness of
her situation seemed to strike her, and she felt one
of those spasmodic fits of unreasoning terror to which
the bravest women are subject. Tales of natives and
of bushrangers, their daring and their cruelty, flashed
across her. She glanced at the great, mysterious
stretch of silent bushland beside her, and stooped to
pick up her basket with the intention of hurrying
along the road in the direction of the gulches. She
started round, and hardly suppressed a scream as a
long, red-flanneled arm shot out from behind her and
withdrew the basket from her very grasp.
The figure which met her eyes would to some have
seemed little calculated to allay her fears. The high
boots, the rough shirt, and the broad girdle with its
weapons of death were, however, too familiar to
Miss Carrie to be objects of terror ; and when above
them all she saw a pair of tender blue eyes looking
down upon her, and a half-abashed smile lurking
under a thick yellow mustache, she knew that for
the remainder of that walk ranger and black would
be equally powerless to harm her.
"Oh, Mr. Durton," she said, "how you did startle me!"
"I'm sorry, miss," said Abe, in great trepidation
at having caused his idol one moment's uneasiness.
"You see," he continued, with simple cunning, "the
weather bein' fine and my partner gone prospectin',
I thought I'd walk up to Hagley's Hill and round
back by the bend, and there I sees you accidentallike
and promiscuous a-standin' on a hillock." This
astounding falsehood was reeled off by the miner
with great fluency and an artificial sincerity which
at once stamped it as a fabrication. Bones had concocted
and rehearsed it while tracking the little footsteps in
the clay, and looked upon it as the very
depth of human guile. Miss Carrie did not venture
upon a remark, but there was a gleam of amusement
in her eyes which puzzled her lover.
Abe was in good spirits this morning. It may
have been the sunshine, or it may have been the rapid
rise of shares in the Connemara, which lightened his
heart. I am inclined to think, however, that it was
referable to neither of these causes. Simple as he
was, the scene which he had witnessed the night before
could only lead to one conclusion. He pictured himself
walking as wildly down the valley under similar
circumstances, and his heart was touched with pity
for his rival. He felt very certain that the ill-omened
face of Mr. Thomas Ferguson of Rochdale Ferry
would never more be seen within the walls of Azalea
Villa. Then why did she refuse him ? He was handsome,
he was fairly rich. Could it ? no, it couldn't ;
of course it couldn't; how could it! The idea was
ridiculous so very ridiculous that it had fermented
in the young man's brain all night, and that he could
do nothing but ponder over it in the morning, and
cherish it in his perturbed bosom.
They passed down the red pathway together, and
along by the river's bank. Abe had relapsed into his
normal condition of taciturnity. He had made one
gallant effort to hold forth upon the subject of ferns,
stimulated by the basket which he held in his hand,
but the theme was not a thrilling one, and after a
spasmodic flicker he had abandoned the attempt.
While coming along he had been full of racy anecdotes
and humorous observations. He had rehearsed
innumerable remarks which were to be poured into
Miss Sinclair's appreciative ear. But now his brain
seemed of a sudden to have become a vacuum, and
utterly devoid of any idea save an insane and
overpowering impulse to comment upon the heat of the
sun. No astronomer who ever reckoned a parallax
was so entirely absorbed in the condition of the
celestial bodies as honest Bones while he trudged
along by the slow-flowing Australian river.
Suddenly his conversation with his partner came
back into his mind. What was it Boss had said
upon the subject? "Tell her how they live at the
mines." He revolved it in his brain. It seemed a
curious thing to talk about; but Boss had said it,
and Boss was always right. He would take the
plunge; so, with a premonitory hem, he blurted out:
"They live mostly on bacon and beans in the valley."
He could not see what effect this communication
had upon his companion. He was too tall to be able
to peer under the little straw bonnet. She did not
answer. He would try again.
"Mutton on Sundays," he said.
Even this failed to arouse any enthusiasm. In
fact, she seemed to be laughing. Boss was evidently
wrong. The young man was in despair. The sight
of a ruined hut beside the pathway conjured up a
fresh idea. He grasped at it as a drowning man at
"Cockney Jack built that," he remarked. "Lived
there till he died."
"What did he die of ?" asked his companion.
"Three star brandy," said Abe, decisively. "I used
to come over of a night when he was bad and sit by
him. Poor chap ! he had a wife and two children in
Putney. He'd rave, and call me Polly, by the hour.
He was cleaned out, hadn't a red cent; but the boys
collected rough gold enough to see him through. He's
buried there in that shaft ; that was his claim, so we
just dropped him down it an' filled it up. Put down
his pick too, an' a spade an' a bucket, so's he'd feel
kinder perky and at home."
Miss Carrie seemed more interested now.
"Do they often die like that ?" she asked.
"Well, brandy kills many; but there's more gets
dropped shot, you know."
"I don't mean that. Do many men die alone
and miserable down there, with no one to care for
them ?" and she pointed to the cluster of houses beneath
them. "Is there any one dying now? It is awful to think of."
"There's none as I knows on likely to throw up
"I wish you wouldn't use so much slang, Mr.
Durton," said Carrie, looking up at him reprovingly
out of her violet eyes. It was strange what an air
of proprietorship this young lady was gradually assuming
toward her gigantic companion. "You know it isn't polite.
You should get a dictionary and learn the proper woi'ds."
"Ah, that's it!" said Bones, apologetically. "It's
gettin' your hand on the proper one. When you've
not got a steam drill, you've got to put up with a pick."
"Yes ; but it's easy if you really try. You could
say that a man was 'dying,' or 'moribund,' if you like."
"That's it," said the miner, enthusiastically.
" 'Moribund !' That's a word. Why, you could
lay over Boss Morgan in the matter of words.
'Moribund!' There's some sound about that."
"It's not the sound you must think of, but whether
it will express your meaning. Seriously, Mr. Durton,
if any one should be ill in the camp you must
let me know. I can nurse, and I might be of use.
You will, won't you ?"
Abe readily acquiesced, and relapsed into silence
as he pondered over the possibility of inoculating
himself with some long and tedious disease. There
was a mad dog reported from Buckhurst. Perhaps
something might be done with that
"And now I must say good-morning," said Carrie,
as they came to the spot where a crooked pathway
branched off from the track and wound up to Azalea
Villa. "Thank you ever so much for escorting me."
In vain Abe pleaded for the additional hundred
yards, and adduced the overflowing weight of the
diminutive basket as a cogent reason. The young lady
was inexorable. She had taken him too far out of
his way already. She was ashamed of herself; she
wouldn't hear of it.
So poor Bones departed in a mixture of many opposite
feelings. He had interested her. She had
spoken kindly to him. But then she had sent him
away before there was any necessity; she couldn't
care much about him if she would do that. I think
he might have felt a little more cheerful, however,
had he seen Miss Carrie Sinclair as she watched his
retiring figure from the garden-gate with a loving
look upon her saucy face, and a mischievous smile
at his bent head and desponding appearance.
The Colonial Bar was the favorite haunt of the
inhabitants of Harvey's Sluice in their hours of
relaxation. There had been a fierce competition
between it and the rival establishment termed the
Grocery, which, in spite of its innocent appellation,
aspired also to dispense spirituous refreshments. The
importation of chairs into the latter had led to the
appearance of a settee in the former. Spittoons appeared
in the Grocery against a picture in the Bar,
and, as the frequenters expressed it, the honors were
even. When, however, the Grocery led a window-
curtain, and its opponent returned a snuggery and
a mirror, the game was declared to be in favor of
the latter, and Harvey's Sluice showed its sense of
the spirit of the proprietor by withdrawing their
custom from his opponent.
Though every man was at liberty to swagger into
the Bar itself, and bask in the shimmer of its many-
colored bottles, there was a general feeling that the
snuggery, or special apartment, should be reserved
for the use of the more prominent citizens. It was
in this room that committees met, that opulent companies
were conceived and born, and that inquests
were generally held. The latter, I regret to state,
was, in 1861, a pretty frequent ceremony at the
Sluice, and the findings of the coroner were sometimes
characterized by a fine, breezy originality.
Witness when Bully Burke, a notorious desperado,
was shot down by a quiet young medical man, and
a sympathetic jury brought in that "the deceased had
met his death in an ill-advised attempt to stop a
pistol-ball while in motion," a verdict which was
looked upon as a triumph of jurisprudence in the
camp, as simultaneously exonerating the culprit and
adhering to the rigid and undeniable truth.
On this particular evening there was an assemblage
of notabilities in the snuggery, though no such
pathological ceremony had called them together.
Many changes had occurred of late which merited
discussion, and it was in this chamber, gorgeous in
all the effete luxury of the mirror and settee, that
Harvey's Sluice was wont to exchange ideas. The
recent cleansing of the population was still causing
some ferment in men's minds. Then there was Miss
Sinclair and her movements to be commented on,
and the paying lead in the Connemara, and the recent
rumors of bushrangers. It was no wonder that
the leading men in the township had come together
in the Colonial Bar.
The rangers were the present subject of discussion.
For some few days rumors of their presence had been
flying about, and an uneasy feeling had pervaded the
colony. Physical fear was a thing little known in
Harvey's Sluice. The miners would have turned out
to hunt down the desperadoes with as much zest as if
they had been so many kangaroos. It was the presence
of a large quantity of gold in the town which
caused anxiety. It was felt that the fruits of their
labor must be secured at any cost. Messages had
been sent over to Buckhurst for as many troopers
as could be spared, and in the meantime the main
street of the Sluice was paraded at night by volunteer sentinels.
A fresh impetus had been given to the panic by
the report brought in to-day by Jim Struggles. Jim
was of an ambitious and aspiring turn of mind, and
after gazing in silent disgust at his last week's clean-
up, he had metaphorically shaken the clay of Harvey's
Sluice from his feet and had started off into
the woods with the intention of prospecting round
until he could hit upon some likely piece of ground
for himself. Jim's story was that he was sitting
upon a fallen trunk eating his midday damper and
rusty bacon, when his trained ear had caught the
clink of horses' hoofs. He had hardly time to take
the precaution of rolling off the tree and crouching
down behind it, before a troop of men came riding
down through the bush, and passed within a stone's-
throw of him.
"There was Bill Smeaton and Murphy Duff," said
Struggles, naming two notorious ruffians ; "and there
was three more that I couldn't rightly see. And they
took the trail to the right, and looked like business
all over, with their guns in their hands."
Jim was submitted to a searching cross-examination
that evening; but nothing could shake his testimony
or throw a further light upon what he had
seen. He told the story several times and at long
intervals; and though there might be a pleasing
variety in the minor incidents, the main facts were
always identically the same. The matter began to
There were a few, however, who were loudly sceptical
as to the existence of the rangers, and the most
prominent of these was a young man who was perched
on a barrel in the centre of the room, and was evidently
one of the leading spirits in the community.
We have already seen that dark, curling hair, lack-
lustre eye, and thin, cruel lips in the person of Black
Tom Ferguson, the rejected suitor of Miss Sinclair.
He was easily distinguishable from the rest of the
party by a tweed coat, and other symptoms of effeminacy
in his dress, which might have brought him
into disrepute had he not, like Abe Burton's partner,
early established the reputation of being a quietly
desperate man. On the present occasion he seemed
somewhat under the influence of liquor, a rare occurrence
with him, and probably to be ascribed to his
recent disappointment. He was almost fierce in his
denunciation of Jim Struggles and his story.
"It's always the same," he said; "if a man meets
a few travelers in the bush, he's bound to come back
raving about rangers. If they'd seen Struggles there,
they would have gone off with a long yarn about a
ranger crouching behind a tree. As to recognizing
people riding fast among tree-trunks, it is an impossibility."
Struggles, however, stoutly maintained his original
assertion, and all the sarcasms and arguments of his
opponent were thrown away upon his stolid complacency.
It was noticed that Ferguson seemed unaccountably
put out about the whole matter. Something seemed to be
on his mind, too ; for occasionally he would spring off
his perch and pace up and down the room with an abstracted
and very forbidding look upon his swarthy face. It was a relief
to every one when, suddenly catching up his hat and wishing the
company a curt "Good-night," he walked off through
the bar, and into the street beyond.
"Seem kinder put out," remarked Long McCoy.
"He can't be afeared of the rangers, surely," said
Joe Shamus, another man of consequence, and principal
shareholder of the El Dorado.
"No, he's not the man to be afraid," answered another.
"There's something queer about him the last
day or two. He's been long trips in the woods with-
out any tools. They do say that the assayer's daughter
has chucked him over."
"Quite right, too. A darned sight too good for
him," remarked several voices.
"It's odds but he has another try," said Shamus.
"He's a hard man to beat when he's set his mind
on a thing."
"Abe Durton's the horse to win," remarked Houlahan,
a little bearded Irishman. "It's sivin to four
I'd be willin' to lay on him."
"And you'd be afther losing your money, avick,"
said a young man, with a laugh. "She'll want more
brains than ever Bones had in his skull, you bet."
"Who's seen Bones to-day?" asked McCoy.
"I've seen him," said the young miner. "He came
round all through the camp asking for a dictionary
wanted to write a letter likely."
"I saw him readin' it," said Shamus. "He came
over to me and told me he'd struck something good
at the first show. Showed me a word about as long
as your arm 'abdicate,' or something."
"It's a rich man he is now, I suppose," said the
"Well, he's about made his pile. He holds a hundred
feet of the Connemara, and the shares go up every hour.
If he'd sell out he'd be about fit to go home."
"Guess he wants to take somebody home with
him," said another. "Old Joshua wouldn't object,
seein' that the money is there."
I think it has been already recorded in this narrative
that Jim Struggles, the wandering prospector,
had gained the reputation of being the wit of the
camp. It was not only in airy badinage, but in the
conception and execution of more pretentious practical
pleasantries that Jim had earned his reputation.
His* adventure in the morning had caused a certain
stagnation in his usual flow of humor; but the company
and his potations were gradually restoring him
to a more cheerful state of mind. He had been
brooding in silence over some idea since the departure
of Ferguson, and he now proceeded to evolve it to
his expectant companions.
"Say, boys," he began, "what day is this ?"
"Friday, ain't it?"
"No, not that. What day of the month ?"
"Darned if I know!"
"Well, I'll tell you now. It's the first o' April.
I've got a calendar in the hut as says so."
"What if it is ?" said several voices.
"Well, don't you see, it's All Fools' Day. Couldn't
we fix up some little joke on some one, eh ? Couldn't
we get a laugh out of it? Now, there's old Bones,
for instance; he'll never smell a rat. Couldn't we
send him off somewhere and watch him go, maybe?
We'd have something to chaff him on for a month
to come, eh ?"
There was a general murmur of assent. A joke,
however poor, was always welcome to the Sluicers.
The broader the point, the more thoroughly was it
appreciated. There was no morbid delicacy of feeling
in the gulches.
"Where shall we send him ?" was the query.
Jim Struggles was buried in thought for a moment.
Then an unhallowed inspiration seemed to come over
him, and he laughed uproariously, rubbing his hands
between his knees in the excess of his delight.
"Well, what is it ?" asked the eager audience.
"See here, boys. There's Miss Sinclair. You was
saying as Abe's gone on her. She don't fancy him
much, you think. Suppose we write him a note
send it him to-night, you know."
"Well, what then ?" said McCoy.
"Well, pretend the note is from her, d'ye see ? Put
her name at the bottom. Let on as she wants him to
come up an' meet her in the garden at twelve. He's
bound to go. He'll think she wants to go off with
him. It'll be the biggest thing played this year."
There was a roar of laughter. The idea conjured
up of honest Bones mooning about in the garden, and
of old Joshua coming out to remonstrate with a
double-barreled shotgun, was irresistibly comic. The
plan was approved of unanimously.
"Here's pencil and here's paper," said the humorist.
"Who's goin' to write the letter?"
"Write it yourself, Jim," said Shamus.
"Well, what shall I say?"
"Say what you think right."
"I don't know how she'd put it," said Jim, scratching
his head in great perplexity. "However, Bones
will never know the differ. How will this do ? 'Dear
old man. Come to the garden at twelve to-night, else
I'll never speak to you again,' eh ?"
"No, that's not the style," said the young miner.
"Mind, she's a lass of eddication. She'd put it
kinder flowery and soft."
"Well, write it yourself," said Jim, sulkily, handing
him over the pencil.
"This is the sort of thing," said the miner, moistening
the point of it in his mouth. " 'When the moon
is in the sky ' "
"There it is. That's bully," from the company.
" 'And the stars a-shinin' bright, meet, oh, meet
me, Adolphus, by the garden-gate at twelve.' '
"His name ain't Adolphus," objected a critic.
"That's how the poetry comes in," said the miner.
"It's kinder fanciful, d'ye see? Sounds a darned
sight better than Abe. Trust him for guessing who
she means. I'll sign it 'Carrie.' There!"
This epistle was gravely passed round the room
from hand to hand, and reverentially gazed upon as
being a remarkable production of the human brain.
It was then folded up and committed to the care of
a small boy, who was solemnly charged under dire
threats to deliver it at the shanty, and to make off
before any awkward questions were asked him. It
was only after he had disappeared in the darkness
that some slight compunction visited one or two of
"Ain't it playing it rather low on the girl ?" said Shamus.
"And rough on old Bones ?" suggested another.
However, these objections were overruled by the
majority and disappeared entirely upon the appearance
of a second jorum of whiskey. The matter had
almost been forgotten by the time that Abe had received
his note, and was spelling it out with a palpitating
heart under the light of his solitary candle.
That night has long been remembered in Harvey's
Sluice. A fitful breeze was sweeping down from the
distant mountains, moaning and sighing among the
deserted claims. Dark clouds were hurrying across
the moon, one moment throwing a shadow over the
landscape, and the next allowing the silvery radiance
to shine down, cold and clear, upon the little valley,
and bathe in a weird, mysterious light the great
stretch of bushland on either side of it. A great
loneliness seemed to rest on the face of Nature. Men
remarked afterward on the strange, eerie atmosphere
which hung over the little town.
It was in the darkness that Abe Durton sallied out
from his little shanty. His partner, Boss Morgan,
was still absent in the bush, so that beyond the ever-
watchful Blinky there was no living being to observe
his movements. A feeling of mild surprise filled his
simple soul that his angel's delicate fingers could have
formed those great, straggling hieroglyphics; however,
there was the name at the foot, and that was
enough for him. She wanted him, no matter for
what, and with a heart as pure and as heroic as any
knight-errant, this rough miner went forth at the
summons of his love.
He groped his way up the steep winding track
wfyich led to Azalea Villa. There was a little clump
of small trees and shrubs about fifty yards from the
entrance of the garden. Abe stopped for a moment
when he had reached them, in order to collect himself.
It was hardly twelve yet, so that he had a few
minutes to spare. He stood under their dark canopy,
peering at the white house vaguely outlined in front
of him. A plain enough little dwelling-place to any
prosaic mortal, but girt with reverence and awe in
the eyes of the lover.
The miner paused under the shade of the trees, and
then moved on to the garden-gate. There was no one
there. He was evidently rather early. The moon
was shining brightly now, and the country round was
as clear as day. Abe looked past the little villa at the
road which ran like a white winding streak over the
brow of the hill. A watcher behind could have seen
his square, athletic figure standing out sharp and
clear. Then he gave a start as if he had been shot,
and staggered up against the little gate beside him.
He had seen something which caused even his sunburned
face to become a shade paler as he thought of
the girl so near him. Just at the bend of the road,
not two hundred yards away, he saw a dark, moving
mass coming round the curve and lost in the shadow
of the hill. It was but for a moment; yet in that
moment the quick perception of the practiced wood-
man had realized the whole situation. It was a band
of horsemen bound for the villa, and what horsemen
would ride so by night save the terror of the wood-
lands the dreaded rangers of the bush ?
It is true that on ordinary occasions Abe was as
sluggish in his intellect as he was heavy in his
movements. In the hour of danger, however, he was as
remarkable for cool deliberation as for prompt and
decisive action. As he advanced up the garden he
rapidly reckoned up the chances against him. There
were half a dozen of the assailants at the most moderate
computation, all desperate and fearless men.
The question was whether he could keep them at bay
for a short time and prevent their forcing a passage
into the house. We have already mentioned that sentinels
had been placed in the main street of the town.
Abe reckoned that help would be at hand within ten
minutes of the firing of the first shot.
Were he inside the house he could confidently
reckon on holding his own for a longer period than
that. Before he could rouse the sleepers and gain
admission, however, the rangers would be upon him.
He must content himself with doing his utmost. At
any rate, he would show Carrie that if he could not
talk to her he could at least die for her. The thought
gave him quite a glow of pleasure, as he crept under
the shadow of the house. He cocked his revolver.
Experience had taught him the advantage of the first shot
The road along which the rangers were coming
ended at a wooden gate opening into the upper part
of the assayer's little garden. This gate had a high
acacia hedge on either side of it, and opened into a
short walk also lined by impassable thorny walls.
Abe knew the place well. One resolute man might,
he thought, hold the passage for a few minutes until
the assailants broke through elsewhere and took him
in the rear. At any rate, it was his best chance. He
passed the front door, but forbore to give any alarm.
Sinclair was an elderly man, and would be of little
assistance in such a desperate struggle as was before
him, and the appearance of lights in the house would
warn the rangers of the resistance awaiting them.
Oh, for his partner, the Boss, for Chicago Bill, for
any one of twenty gallant men who would have come
at his call and stood by him in such a quarrel ! He
turned into the narrow pathway. There was the well-
remembered wooden gate, and there, perched upon the
gate, languidly swinging his legs backward and forward,
and peering down the road in front of him, was
Mr. John Morgan, the very man for whom Abe had
been longing from the bottom of his heart.
There was short time for explanations. A few hurried
words announced that the Boss, returning from
his little tour, had come across the rangers riding on
their mission of darkness, and overhearing their
destination, had managed, by hard running and knowledge
of the country, to arrive before them. "No time
to alarm any one," he explained, still panting from
his exertions; "must stop them ourselves not come
for swag come for your girl. Only over our bodies,
Bones;" and with these few broken words the
strangely assorted friends shook hands and looked
lovingly into each other's eyes, while the tramp of
the horses came down to them on the fragrant breeze of the woods.
There were six rangers in alL One who appeared
to be leader rode in front, while the others followed in
a body. They flung themselves off their Lorses wten
they were opposite the house, and after a few muttered
words from their captain, tethered the animals
to a small tree, and walked confidently to the gate.
Boss Morgan and Abe were crouching down under
the shadow of the hedge, at the extreme end of the
narrow passage. They were invisible to the rangers,
who evidently reckoned on meeting little resistance in
this isolated house. A& the first man came forward
and half turned to give some order to his comrades,
both the friends recognized the stern profile and heavy
mustache of Black Ferguson, the rejected suitor of
Miss Carrie Sinclair. Honest Abe made a mental
vow that he at least should never reach the door alive.
The ruffian stepped up to the gate and put his hand
upon the latch. He started as a stentorian "Stand
back !" came thundering out from among the bushes.
In war, as in love, the miner was a man of few words.
"There's no road this way," explained another
voice, with an infinite sadness and gentleness about
it which was characteristic of its owner when the
devil was rampant in his souL The ranger recognised
it. He remembered the soft, languid address
which he had listened to in the billiard-room of the
Buckhurst Arms, and which had wound up by the
mild orator putting his back against the door, drawing
a derringer, and asking to see the sharper who
would dare to force a passage. "It's that infernal
fool Durton," he said, "and his white-faced friend."
Both were well-known names in the country round.
But the rangers were reckless and desperate men.
They drew up to the gate in a body.
"Clear out of that!" said their leader, in a grim
whisper ; "you can't save the girl. Go off with whole
skins while you have the chance."
The partners laughed.
"Then, curse you, come on !"
The gate was flung open and the party fired a straggling
volley, and made a fierce rush toward the graveled walk.
The revolvers cracked merrily in the silence of the
night from the bushes at the other end. It was hard
to aim with precision in the darkness. The second
man sprung convulsively into the air, and fell upon
his face with his arms extended, writhing horribly in
the moonlight. The third was grazed in the leg and
stopped. The others stopped out of sympathy. After
all, the girl was not for them, and their heart was
hardly in the work. Their captain rushed madly on,
like a valiant blackguard as he was, but was met by a
crashing blow from the butt of Abe Burton's pistol,
delivered with a fierce energy which sent him reeling
back among his comrades with the blood streaming
from his shattered jaw, and his capacity for cursing
cut short at the very moment when he needed to draw
upon it most.
"Don't go yet," said the voice in the darkness.
However, they had no intention of going yet A
few minutes must elapse, they knew, before Harvey's
Sluice could be upon them. There was still time to
force the door if they could succeed in mastering the
defenders. What Abe had feared came to pass. Black
Ferguson knew the ground as well as he did. He ran
rapidly along the hedge, and the five crashed through
it where there was some appearance of a gap. The
two friends glanced at each other. Their flank was
turned. They stood up like men who knew their fate
and did not fear to meet it.
There was a wild medley of dark figures in the
moonlight, and a ringing cheer from well-known
voices. The humorists of Harvey's Sluice had found
something even more practical than the joke which
they had come to witness. The partners saw the faces
of friends beside them Shamus, Struggles, McCoy.
There was a desperate rally, a sweeping, fiery rush,
a cloud of smoke, with pistol-shots and fierce oaths
ringing out of it, and when it lifted, a single dark
shadow, flying for dear life to the shelter of the broken
hedge, was the only ranger upon his feet within the
little garden. But there was no sound of triumph
among the victors; a strange hush had come over
them, and a murmur ts of grief for there, lying
across the threshold which he had fought so gallantly
to defend, lay poor Abe, the loyal and simple-hearted,
breathing heavily, with a bullet through his lungs.
He was carried inside with all the rough tenderness
of the mines. There were men there, I think, who
would have borne his hurt to have had the love of that
white, girlish figure which bent over the blood-stained
bed and whispered so softly and so tenderly in his
ear. Her voice seemed to rouse him. He opened his
dreamy blue eyes and looked about him. They rested on her face.
"Played out," he murmured; "pardon, Carrie,
morib " and with a faint smile he sunk back upon the pillow.
However, Abe failed for once to be as good as his
word. His hardy constitution asserted itself, and he
shook off what might in a weaker man have proved a
deadly wound. Whether it was the balmy air of the
woodlands which came sweeping over a thousand
miles of forest into the sick man's room, or whether
it was the little nurse who tended him so gently,
certain it is that within two months we heard that
he had realized his shares in the Connemara, and gone
from Harvey's Sluice and the little shanty upon the hill forever.
I had the advantage, a short time afterward, of
seeing an extract from the letter of a young lady
named Amelia, to whom we have made a casual
allusion in the course of our narrative. We have
already broken the privacy of one feminine epistle,
so we shall have fewer scruples in glancing at another.
"l was bridemaid," she remarks, "and Carrie looked
charming" (underlined) "in the veil and orange-
blossoms. Such a man he is! twice as big as your
Jack, and he was so funny, and blushed, and dropped
the prayer-book. And when they asked the question
you could have heard him roar *I do!' at the other
end of George Street. His best man was a darling"
(twice underlined). "So quiet, and handsome, and
nice. Too gentle to take care of himself among those
rough men, I am sure." I think it quite possible that
in the fulness of time Miss Amelia managed to take
upon herself the care of our old friend, Mr. Jack
Morgan, commonly known as the Boss.
A tree is still pointed out at the bend as Ferguson's
gum-tree. There is no need to enter into unsavory
details. Justice is short and sharp in primitive
colonies, and the dwellers in Harvey's Sluice
were a serious and practical race.
It is still the custom for a select party to meet on
a Saturday evening in the snuggery of the Colonial
Bar. On such occasions, if there be a stranger or
guest to be entertained, the same solemn ceremony is
always observed. Glasses are charged in silence,
there is a tapping of the same upon the table, and
then, with a deprecating cough, Jim Struggles comes
forward and tells the tale of the April joke, and of
what came of it. There is generally conceded to be
something very artistic in the way in which he breaks
off suddenly at the close of his narrative, by waving
his bumper in the air with "An' here's to Mr. and
Mrs. Bones. God bless 'em!" a sentiment in which
the stranger, if he be a prudent man, will most cordially acquiesce.