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up the north bank. The keeper was sitting on a stone, quietly smoking, with no trace of anger on his face, and before him, on a bit of smooth thymy turf, lay a salmon such as many a man has dreamt about, but few, indeed, seen with mortal eyes. Then for the first time that day the poor crafter forgot his troubles: for half a minute his only feeling was one of intense pride at such a


Well-he's safe now." Rory said at length

*4 "replied Archie, still gaging at him,

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"It was your inteemate acquaintance with the stanes which saved me, indeed," once more agreed the crofter.

"There's no anither man in the whole wide world could have steered you down yon places as I did!”

"There is certainly not one in many thousand score would have taken such a vast o' trouble about it."

“I gafed him—an' I told you the road to take him-an' saved him many a time—”

-You did & that an' more, Mr Martip. It's much obliged" “I docht I made the varra fly the that rose Lim:"

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more he had a reprieve, and he wondered how it was he did not feel happier. During the exciting fight he had many a time pictured to himself the little house from which he would be banished at Whitsunday, its rough meadow in front, and the peat-stacks, and the sunny untidy bit of garden, half filled with currant bushes and ribes and southernwood, over which the bees came in the gloaming, slow flying after their afternoon labour on the moor. Now he thought only of the battle he had won, which was not to bring him in any honour now, or happy reminiscences afterwards.

"'Deed, I'll never have the chance of doing the like of yon again!" muttered the poor crofter to himself.


Note. The writer would like to add that he knows who the chief guardian of the Awe was at the period of this sketch. The real keeper was a very different man from the entirely imaginary one here depicted, and it is only by a kind of poetical-or prose-licence that the latter is pushed into a position which he never occupied in the flesh.-G. W. H.


DEEP in the Australian Alps is the little town of Omeo. The hills around are scored with workedout and long-forsaken gold mines; here and there the thud of the pick may still be heard issuing from some deep shaft; but most of the claims are deserted, and the men who worked them swept away towards other adventures, or lying quiet and ambitionless under the Gippsland sod.

Far up the mountain, where the sarsaparilla hangs from the gumtrees its ragged flame of blue, is a deserted mine; great heaps of yellow mullock line the shaft's mouth; above, the windlass rots out its broken existence; and farther in the shadow an uneven mound, a broad crack, a post with a piece of tin and the name "Battista " scrawled upon it, mark a grave.

One of the early rushes had brought Battista to Australia, and drifted him to the little mining camp among the Gippsland hills. The men had laughed at his highpointed hat with its flapping curves, and at his blue-and-gold image of the Madonna; but Battista had wandered under the gum trees, and paid scant heed to them. Sometimes he had stooped to pick up a piece of quartz and rub it absently on his sleeve; and when the evening came he had taken up his shepherd's pipe and sounded once more the airs he had played in far-off Abruzzi.

At dawn, as Battista stood and watched the sun flame up in the east, and fall in a broad yellow stream upon the Madonna's image, the thought came to him that there where the ray fell he would

dig for gold, and the idea comforted him it seemed as if the Blessed Virgin herself had deigned to point out a way of escape from this strange and homeless land. Many days he worked: the yellow mullock-heaps rose higher beside the rapidly deepening shaft, when a long-limbed brown-faced American "jumped" his claim. Battista had neglected to procure a licence.

At first he could not understand what had happened: afterwards, when he realised, he took his broad keen-edged knife, and laying it at the Madonna's feet, begged her to bless it, and having crossed himself, turned away and went down the mountain-side till he reached the camp. He touched the American on the arm and pointed to his knife; the man from the States laughed lightly; then they drew aside and fought together, and Battista's foot slipped so that his enemy escaped him; but that evening the American sold the mine to Termater Bill the storekeeper for three long drinks and a new swag, going away to try his luck elsewhere. As for Battista, he returned once more to his claim at the foot of the ragged-breasted gum-trees, and here it was that Termater Bill found him.

"I've jest cum," he said, sitting down on a great heap of mullock, "to talk over that blanky claim. I reckon meself there is gold in it."

But Battista answered that, gold or no gold, the mine was his, and he would kill any one who tried to take it from him.

Termater Bill was silent for a while, and spat meditatively down

the narrow shaft. At last he observed in an undertone

"The boys says that jumpt-up busted blue doll o' yers brings luck."

Battista did not understand the allusion to the Madonna, and made no reply.

Again there was a long silence: at last Termater Bill rose and stretched himself. "Spose," he exclaimed, "I was ter give yer a fifteen years' lease, wi' a half share in the profits, twud be a blanky sight better than a poke in the eye with a burnt stick." But Battista went on digging, and paid no heed to him, till after a while the storekeeper went away.

Time passed by: the great mullock heaps grew higher, but Battista did not find gold. Sometimes Termater Bill strolled up and asked him if he had "struck that blanky lead yet?" Then Battista shook his head, but added that he knew the gold was there, the Blessed Madonna had said so. Termater Bill spat down the long shaft and exclaimed, "That ther jumpt-up busted blue doll gits me quite."

But when night fell and grotesque things moved in and out among the shadows, and the spirit of desolation crept through the bush, then had come into Battista's heart a great weariness of waiting, and he had flung himself down before the image of the Madonna and wept.

And the little blue-and-gold figure had stared out into the gathering darkness with its blank meaningless smile as vacant and as indifferent as before.

It happened that in one of these moments Termater Bill had come to the hut, and Battista, realising that another person was present, sprang to his feet.

"Ther's gold in that claim," he cried fiercely.

Termater Bill spat on the ground and said, "Thet's so."

"I tell you there is gold in that claim," Battista re-echoed with rising anger.

And Termater Bill spat on the ground once more and repeated, "Thet's so"; then had turned and gone down the mountain towards the camp. "If it warn't for that busted blue doll," he repeated to himself "the jumpt-up busted thing."

The next day he came again and sat down on an old hide bucket in front of Battista's hut. "I've bin fixin' things up a bit in my mind," he said; "I reckon last nite I was a bit ski-wift. Now 'spose," he continued, taking off his hat and placing it before him on the ground, "that thar 'at is the Brown Snake Mine; wall, us knows their main lead runs purty slick to the nor'east; say yer put in a drive by that tarnation bit o' grass bush," and he spat neatly into the centre of the spot indicated, "wots ter prevent yer dropping on gold?"

Battista's lips relaxed into a smile. Termater Bill rubbed the sleeve of his shirt across his rough red face, glancing as he did so at his companion.

"Luck is a thundering quare consarn," he exclaimed, after a pause; "I niver bottomed it meself: if yer don't git it, it gits yer, an' I reckon the darned thing is the smartest wi' the gloves."

He took his pipe out of his mouth and pressed his horny thumb down on the red-hot ashes.

"I wudn't lay too much on that jumpt-up blue doll, if I was yer," he said.

Battista smiled. "Yer don't understand," he answered.

And Termater Bill spat on the ground. "Eh, thet's so," he said, "thet's so."

There was a pause.

"But," began Termater Bill. 'Well," said the Italian.

"Tis the tarnation grin on the thing that gits me," the storekeeper burst out, "jest as if her was kinder larfin' at yer: her ain't no mug that busted doll, I'll lay to that."


tista's grave beside his claim, crowd of idle diggers and dogs looked on. One man, an old fossicker, who was recovering from an attack of the jimjams (delirium tremens), and whose ideas were still rather hazy, expressed a desire to fight the corpse.

"Git up," he said, "an' I will wrastle wi' yer; git up, yer blanked-out son o' a working bullock, an' I will fight yer for a

Battista frowned. "Yer don't note." understand," he reiterated.

Again Termater Bill spat on the ground. "Eh, thet's so," he said, "thet's so."

A few weeks later a big bushfire swept across the hills, and the storekeeper had enough to do without troubling himself about the mine; but when a sudden change of wind sent the fire raging and tearing through the Fainting Ranges and away in the direction of Mount Hopeless, he retraced his steps over the blackened ground till he reached Battista's hut. It was empty close by the hide rope dangled from the windlass; the woods were silent except for the crashing of some half-charred tree as it toppled over and fell with a great splutter of cinders and wide swirling clouds of soft grey ashes; and stretched face downwards, near the shaft's mouth, the Italian lay dead. Termater Bill turned the body over.

"Pegged out," he said softly, "the blanky cuss has pegged out." Then he turned to the door of the hut and stopped short. "No," he exclaimed, "I reckon I won't: I reckon I cudn't stumick thet God's cuss o' a grin jest yet."

That afternoon they dug Bat

But the dead man lay still and paid no heed to him.

Termater Bill said he reckoned company wud 'low him to say a few words.


The company 'lowed him.

Some of the men sat down on the mullock-heaps and began to fill their pipes; others stood about; and one, a jackeroo,1 took off his hat and then rather sheepishly put it on again.

Termater Bill cleared his throat and spat into the open grave. "" Life," he said, was a jumpt-up quare thing: there was they who bottomed payable dirt 2 fust go off, an' thar wa' they who didn't.” He was silent for a moment, and rubbed his face with his sleeve. "But," he continued, "maybe out thar," and he pointed vaguely towards a patch of sunset sky,

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across the Divide, they finds colour." 3 He ceased speaking, and the men puffed away at their pipes in silence: at last some one suggested that it was time for the corpse to "turn in."

They lowered the dead man into the grave, there was no coffin. His arms had stiffened spreadeagle fashion, and he lay sideways against the walls of the grave and

1 Jackeroo, a lately arrived colonist.

2 Bottom payable dirt, find sufficient gold to pay working expenses.
3 Find colour, find gold.

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