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unknown voice was as wine to him- tray, on the gangway that led from "and I'm delighted to see you, whoever house to kitchen. They pulled up you are; I'm Townshend, of this place short, and in the semi-darkness the of the many o's."
eyes of each sent and accepted mesThe horseman towered above Towns- sages of repentance and reconciliation hend now against the stars.
to the other. She held her tray aside "Owes?" the rider repeated, joyously, and suddenly leaned against him, "sounds like bills and mortgages. 1 standing on tiptoe and holding up her beg your pardon. I'm Brown of the- face. As he kissed her she made the ah-Blacks." He dismounted.
little murmur of contentment that he "Not the dashing white trooper of" knew, but had not heard for many a
“Of the dashed black troop. The day. same."
The three sat till it was very late “But," Townshend stammered, "that and talked of England. Brown, though voice, these bad jokes-Brown of nig- he had been tossed by the luck of rovger-hunting fame I've heard of—isn't ing Britons into a wild career-to comit? My sainted aunt Jemima-Crackey mand savages in making savage raids Brown of_"
at an outpost of the Empire-was as "My aunt, though; this budding changeless in his texture as a well-kept squatter prince ain't old Jep Towns- sword-blade. The wilderness had left hend?"
no mark upon him, as it had upon the Mrs. Townshend came to the door to other two. Until the men were alone find the two men- lost to one another together the talk, inspired by Brown's since their school-days-shaking hands look and voice, was as English as Picand laughing idiotically in
cadilly over the beautiful white cliffs other's face.
of Dover. "Barbara," said Townshend, choking Even after Barbara had left the two in his joy, and laying his hand upon men were boys together for a while. her shoulder, “here's old Crackey Then the talk ran onward to the presBrown; he blackened my right eye, ent; Townshend told his tale of stubGod bless him, fifteen years ago." born fight to make and hold a cattle
"Mr. Crackey Brown is very wel- run, and Brown praised and envied him come all the same," she said; and as a man of grit and purpose, and Townshend hustled him into the lighted planned a gorgeous future for Oon
toona; Brown told strange tales of his He was the very pattern of a soldier, fights against marauding blacks, and clear-eyed, clean-run, as fair as flax, Townshend's blood sang war-songs in tanned and splendidly healthy, with his ears. What was the squatter's life fearless, straight-looking blue eyes. His but stagnation, he asked, with all the scarlet-edged uniform of rough serge, odds against him? of the Native Police, showed up a fig. "I've sunk my last shilling, Crackey; ure lithe as a grayhound's; from his yea, I'm borrowed to the neck. A couple narrow shapely head to his spurred of bad seasons—the bank turns rustyheel, every line and turn proclaimed and-good-night. Exit Jasper T., piothe fighting Englishman.
neer, enter some pot-bellied speculator. The mere sound and sight of him Yours is the better part, Crackey. Acsweetened the homestead instantly. As tion; life going like a cavalry charge!" they bustled about to get him supper "To what, Jep? Bankruptcy, by and a bed, Townshend, with an armful Jingo. No, worse; the likes of me pass of blankets, met his wife, with a loaded on generally to rot in the Civil Service;
or grow a liver as police magistrate." come up here long time,' see? Oh, ho! He rose up and stretched himself, and there's sport ahead; I know it, gad. yawned mightily. "Yah-ha-a-action, zooks, by the twitching of my triggereh? Ouch! Is it well to talk of Eng. finger. In the southwest, you say, land, home and—” he stooped and near about your boundary? That's the sbook Townshend by the shoulder, eastern side, I take it, of the broken "and to see beauty face to face.”
country that rises to the McCausland “Yes," Townshend said, quietly, “t ranges in the west, where they front is well.”
Bindool and Daryindie and Teneriffe, Brown looked away into the dark- and all that lot of stations on the George ness; the troopers' fire glowed now, River watershed? Very well; I've sullenly, a crimson star. The men were hunted 'em all along that country till silent for a space.
they daren't show a nose outside the "To be sure,” Brown said, briskly, ridges. Now, you bet your best cab"yes, it's a rum trade; oh, yes, I've bage-tree hat that some of 'em have had great times occasionally, but now, worked west, and my prophetic soul this seven months, I suppose, I've been urged me along the very day they've overeating myself, and haven't seen turned up on your side. You'll soon the face of a warrigal nigger. It's find their trademark." seven months since I hunted the last Long before daylight Townshend lot in among the western side of the rose. He left a note for his wife, McCausland ranges, and I can't get roused the stockman, to whom he asword of a speared beast ever since. I signed business to keep him all day drifted over here because some day about the homestead; and before the soon these niggers'll leave the ranges- stars were off the sky he and Brown must be getting hungry-and most likely were ahorse and on the road, with six they'll give you a turn this time. If I uniformed black troopers behind them, don't see signs of 'em before long, I Each trooper had a carbine slung at his shall resign my commission and look back and a cartridge-belt round him. for active work, pew-opening, for in- They were full of glee, and gibbered stance."
and played pranks on one another inThe smoke-pillar leapt suddenly into cessantly. Townshend's memory, and he men- "I'm generally supposed," Brown extioned it.
claimed, “to go alone, unbeknown to Brown rattled off a fire of questions, station-holders, and to carry out the and as Townshend's replies 'came short Queen's regulations on the quiet. But and to his liking, he jumped to his feet with old schoolmates it's otherwise. and softly did a war dance on the clay You shall see the Australian adaptafloor of the veranda.
tion of the verb ' 'to disperse,' if that "Ho!” he called, “I smell blood. Why smoke said true and we strike a hot in thunder didn't you—".
trail." "Not so loud." Townshend stole to By sunrise they were skirting the his wife's room-she lay as if in deep- southwestern ranges, and still all the est slumber-he touched her hair ever country wore its usual aspect of unso lightly with his lips, and returned broken peace. Then, beyond a little to Brown.
scrubby promontory of the hills, a kite “It's the first sign of Blacks we've screamed in the morning stillness, and had on Oontoona,' he said; “I didn't Townshend's horse rattled in his nosknow it meant anything particular." trils.
"Well, it means this: 'Policemen no “Carrion," said Brown, as he sat up and sniffed the air. They cantered for- tentness to pick up the trail. The ward.
white men rode behind. Beyond the foot-hill, where a little The tracks were plain reading in the sandy creek ran out of the ridges, there loose soil of the foot-hills; on the stony were three trodden, bloody patches in rises the troopers went afoot, still fol. the grass; and on each were fresh-torn lowing the line of march by signs infragments of hide, bones with the flesh visible to the whites. By noon they ripped from them, the scattered en- found where the cattle-killers had trails and grinning head of a mutilated camped the night before, on a ridge beast. Round each were broken above a solitary little rocky pool. There spears. In the soft creek sand was a was damning evidence in lumps of crowd of human tracks of all sizes- charred and wasted meat about the prints of broad, naked feet with spread- ashes of the fires, and the column ing toes.
pushed on. The black troopers dismounted and The ground became stonier, and the swarmed about the offal like hounds hills closed in about them; it grew loosed on a trail. Townshend stood choking hot, and though they moved alone, and leaned his forehead against among a wilderness of trees, each tree the horse's neck. He thought of his stood up lank and scant-leaved, barely quiet, well-kept cattle-his pride and flecked with shadow about its foot, only wealth-tearing over the country so that the men toiled in broad sunin a panic; of all his patient work un- shine. The ride became a crawl; the done, and there was murder in his black troopers and the white one never heart.
spoke, never flagged, but tracked, and Brown stayed with the troopers till watched ahead with the nervous, tirethey had made their report to him. less energy of terriers on the scent. Then he came to Townshend with a Townshend was left a stranger to broken spear-butt in his hand. "Got this centredness of purpose, and mis'em," he said, and tapped the notched giving touched him; abstracted, and end of the spear; "here's the Western with nameless doubts upon him of this trade-mark; they haven't seen our mission of slaughter to which he had tracks; think we troopers are away the set his hand, he looked about him and other side of sundown. Settle the busi- ahead at the naked hungry wilderness ness before dark. Will you go or stay? of sterile granite and gray sapless trees I shall let loose"-he jerked his thumb all throbbing to the cruel sun, and a behind him; the troopers were waiting fear and doubting of he knew not what and watching hungrily for the word to possessed him. The unflinching Brown mount-"the dogs. It won't be pretty." and his wardogs had somehow become
Brown's blue eyes were stone-hard, foreign to Townshend. Like a stab in wide and set; in the hands of this man, the throat, a conviction seized him that vengeance would be driven home; but something was amiss with his wife. Townshend felt no touch of pity as he But he kept his place doggedly, abreast looked about him at the wantonness, of the soldierly, unpitying Brown. and abroad, where panic must be At last the horses were left, tied and spreading like a plague
close-hobbled, in what seemed like a herd. "I'll come,” he said, and mount- last little amphitheatre of soil, and the ed. Brown gave the word; the blue- troop went on afoot, carrying nothing shirted troopers spread away into the but their arms and water-bags.
The scrub, bending in their saddles, tacking trail led them into the jaws of a naracross and across with a ferocious in- row gorge, a very chaos of granite bowlders that seemed, as they lay all gray; some were tending scraps of red and quaking in the intolerable meat among the ashes; some were chipglare, as if about to dissolve and run ping patiently at the manufacture of down into a torrent of molten lava. wooden things and crooning softly to Townshend's boots scorched him; the themselves; some sat in idle content; march resolved itself into an eternity round about the tree nearest to each of effort to climb noiselessly upward gunyah were the weapons of that paramong the burning stones, and to gulpty; and hung to the tree were grimy down enough scalding air to save his belongings, among which in every case bursting heart. Then he felt Brown's were rudely hacked lumps of raw meat. hand upon him and looked
up. And among the spaces of the camp a The troop was halted; every head dozen naked, lithe-limbed boys darted was lifted and aslant. Three hun- and played like swallows. As Townsdred
yards onward the barren hend watched, the same ripple and call ridges were cleft-it was the gully-head, of laughter he had heard before broke and beyond the cleft, kites were wheel. from a gunyah at some antic of the ing and crying in the dazzling blue. smallest player. As they looked and listened, a clear hu- As Townshend took in the scene his man sound broke out above the piping hatred melted, he forgot his mission, of the birds; it was a girl's laughter, he looked with a kindly hunger of curiand ended in a high note of pleasure. osity and purely human interest. The • At a sign from Brown, every trooper
soldier in him died; the lust for venunslung his carbine and loaded, and geance faded into mere pity. Where each put a spare cartridge between his was the ruthless enemy that had lurked teeth. Then, in extended line, they beneath that threatening smoke-pencrept on again like cats.
non? Here, in the hollow of his hand, Townshend lagged in a fury of com- and he saw-what? punction. The only sound of the eneniy A brawny savage sat cross-legged had come to him as a girl's laugh; yet
and happy at the nearest gunyah; a Brown, as he turned to beckon the woman slept beside him, and against squatter into line, had the light of her sat a small picaninny, who gazed battle and a savage triumph in his sea- out solemnly at the players. In a flash, blue eyes. Townshend crept forward,
Townshend seemed to see with the and swore to himself no trigger should man's eyes. He was full-fed; here was be drawn here.
food for the moment and for the morNo watch had been set. The blacks row, killed in fair hunt-what did he had passed the rocky crown, whence
know of the white man that had they must have seen their danger, and
brought the cattle there, and was a were cosily camped on a little patch of trespasser? Here was his wife, curled soil below. From between two tall in sleep beside him; he could see his boulders Townshend could the big boy lusty at play; the smell of the whole company as if he looked from a wood-smoke was sweet; doubtless the gallery over a floor beneath. There police with their rifles were far away; must have been thirty little smoulder- the world was very well; he would ing fires or white ash-heaps. Each fire doze awhile-he put out a hand and apparently denoted a family party; by stroked the picaninny's shoulder. each was a little gunyah of boughs, and
Then Townshend remembered his erin each gunyah were the elders of the rand, and came out of his dreaming party. Many were coiled up in sleep, with eyes of horror. Brown caught the and many of the sleepers' heads were
look and read it for the nervousness of
a man at his first killing; he sent back the man's hair-the other arm was a flinty smile. Townshend crept to him curled about the picaninny sitting by and whispered—“Brown! for God Al- her shoulder. mighty's sake—is this your fighting?- At the first volley Brown had run they're helpless, man!"
with the troopers; Townshend saw the “So are your cattle, old chap. Steady's revolver-muzzle smoking in his hand. the word. I know your feelings-you'll He watched without moving till all but be all right when you think it over. the picaninny lay still. The dropping Stand by."
shots and the shouts of the troopers "You shall not”—Townshend jumped gradually ceased, and Townshend was to his feet-"I'll".
left in silence, except for a tiny wailIt was the signal to fire.
ing from the picaninny, who plucked The echoes of the hills bellowed in at his mother's fingers and beat softly return to a volley from the rifles, and on her body. then wailed an answer to the yell that Townshend drew near the child unbroke up from the camp.
heard; the rocks and trees swam before The blacks ran for life, empty-hand- him; he put out a foot to save himself ed, in sheer brute terror, without a from falling; the picaninny heard him sound, leaping from stone to stone. The and ceased his crying, and looked troopers followed, reloading as they round. ran.
The two gazed at one another in a But one old man, as he leapt to his long moment of silence; then the child feet, seemed to turn giddy; he clutched stood up and held two tiny hands, forward blindly with his hands, then orange-colored on the palms, above his fell across a heap of ashes and embers, head, in token of unarmed surrender. and lay still; he sent up a white cloud Townshend sat down before him and as he fell. One of the boys was hit in sobbed as men sob—dry-eyed. full career at play; he crawled a pace The two were still facing one another or two, dragging a shattered leg, then when Brown came in sight, unheard by lay down in the open, and a crimson either. He was filling his pipe and stain spread round him.
called out heartily, "Feel sick, old Of the nearest group that Towns- chap? Lots do, first go off. Be all hend had been watching, the man fell
when you get a-hallo! now what forward quietly on his face and hardly blasted nigger shot this gin?" moved, the gin started up to run with Brown had noticed the picaninny's the rest, but turned, and Townshend dead mother, and had not observed could see the look in her eyes as she Townshend's silence and his aged and put one hand to her side and stretched narrowed face. The picaninny cowered the other towards the picaninny. The down and clung about the neck of the child ran to her; she sank down and dead woman as Brown came towards knelt by him; he clambered up her him. shoulders and sat astride her neck,
Then the officer made a tour of the clasping his hands about her forehead, deserted camp, examined the bodies as ready to be lifted up and carried off. he filled and lighted his pipe, and called But the mother did not rise; still she out to Townshend cheerful remarks sank till the picaninny was left stand- on what he noticed, and broken acing. The woman crawled by inches counts of the pursuit of the blacks till she could touch the dead man's down the gorge. To follow and "dishead. At last she lay outstretched; perse" niggers, all in open day, was, he the fingers of one hand were twisted in exulted, a "record." Townshend an