I stooped down, and sought to examine the limb, but with horrid imprecations, the bushranger ordered me off, and swore that no one but a regular physician should attend him.
As we were over a hundred miles from Melbourne, and there was not a doctor, probably, between us and that city, I gave the man up for lost, and so I told the lieutenant, who merely shrugged his shoulders, and declared that there would be one the less to hang, and that it was always bad travelling with wounded men in company.
"Let that man be kept within musket shot," said Murden, pointing to the guilty Bimbo, who was still snivelling, and endeavoring to excite our sympathies.
"And what shall we do with this poor wretch?" Fred asked, gazing with pity at the prostrate form of the robber chief, who, an hour before, was a model of health and strength.
"What can we do?" asked the officer, with a puzzled expression.
"I am no surgeon," replied Fred, "but I will, if the poor wretch is willing, attempt to amputate the limb, and it may be the means of saving his life."
"Save it for a halter, hey?" asked Gulpin, opening his eyes; and for a moment they were lighted up with a fierce fire, that showed the bitter hatred which the man entertained against his captors.
"That is not for me to judge," replied Fred; "I offer to save your life, if possible, and you must depend upon the courts of Melbourne whether it is continued."
The outlaw shook his head, and after wetting his parched lips with water exclaimed,—
"I would rather die as I am; no surgeon's knife shall hack my flesh while living, and I'm too far from the big town to think they will string my bones on wires after death. I shall live; and if the bushrangers in these parts get the alarm, I may defy you yet! See, I grow stronger, and my leg no longer troubles me with a racking pain."
In his desperation, the outlaw struggled to sit upright, and smiled a ghastly smile, at his supposed triumph over death.
"Foolish man," I replied, "the cessation of your pains is a sure harbinger of death. Already has mortification set in, and the best surgeon in the world cannot save you."
"Is it so?" he asked, hoarsely, after a sharp glance at my face to see if he could not read trickery, and an attempt, to deceive him.
"Upon my word as a man, you are dying," I replied.
"Well, death and me has met many times, and why should we fear each other? Let him come; he will not find me unprepared."
"But your peace with God?" I asked, earnestly.
"Look you, young man," the outlaw said, "for ten years I've led a life of crime; I've committed murders, and robbed all who crossed my path, and laughed at the agony of those I have rendered penniless. Do you think that God is willing to pardon sins on such short notice?"
"There is hope for all," I replied.
"You may think so, but I don't believe in that kind of mummery. Go away from me, and let me die in peace."
"But, consider," I urged.
He waved his hand impatiently, as though the conversation wearied him, and he wished to terminate it without farther discussion. I joined Murden, who was standing a short distance from the dying man, calmly smoking his pipe, and apparently indifferent to the remarks which his prisoner made.
"Has he been grumbling?" asked Murden.
"No, he appears to be rejoiced to think that he will cheat the courts of Melbourne of a victim, and declares that if a man is accused of being a bushranger, his death is scaled, whether innocent or guilty."
"There is much truth in what he says," replied the officer, after a moment's thought; "the judges act upon the principle that it is better ten innocent persons should die, than one robber escape. They do not prove a man guilty, but require him to prove that he is innocent; hence the burden of proof rests upon the defendant, and he has no means of establishing, unless possessed of unbounded wealth, the fallacy of such reasoning."
"And the people of Australia call that law?" I asked, indignantly.
"That is law, and very good law, too," replied Murden; "you can hardly wonder at such a state of things, when you take into consideration the lawlessness of the bands swarming over these vast plains, and attacking every party weaker than themselves."
Murden walked towards the hut as though he declined to converse any further on the subject; but just then his eyes fell on Bimbo, who was seated under the shed, within sight of the sentry, and the idea occurred to make search on the premises for the goods which we had overheard him talk about.
"Ho, Bimbo," he said, "show us where the stolen property is kept, and perhaps I may interfere to save your life."
"So help me, God, lieutenant, I don't know what you mean. I never stole a single thing in my life."
"Then how came you to be sent to Australia for ten years?" asked the officer, with a sneer.
"Because I was unjustly suspected, as I am now. A man swore that I broke into a store when he knew I was nowhere near the building."
"It won't do, Bimbo," replied the officer, sending the fellow back to his place. "Remember, I have offered you a fair chance to act as a government witness, but you decline."
I thought the follow had half a mind to confess, but he apparently considered the offer, and resolved to brave it out.
"Bring me a couple of hatchets," Murden said to his men; and when they were brought he led the way to the hut, and began splitting the boards of the floor and removing them; but no signs of a cellar were discovered, and I began to think that the conversation must have reference to some other stock-house, when one of the men uttered an exclamation of surprise, and tearing up a board that was pinned against the wall, we saw a large hole, which, instead of being directly under the floor, extended beyond the sides of the hut, and formed a sort of magazine that could only be discovered by removing, as we had done, all the planks and timbers.
"Jump down, one of you," said Murden, addressing his men.
An exclamation of surprise was uttered by the man that descended.
"Here's a large room," he shouted, "and nearly full of different articles."
"Go and slip a pair of irons on Bimbo," Murden said, turning to Maurice, "and chain him to the cart with the rest of the thieves."
A moment after we could hear the prayers of the fellow as he was led to the cart, and his entreaties to speak with the lieutenant just for a moment.
"He is too late," was all the remark that the officer vouchsafed upon being informed of Bimbo's desire.
We entered the secret cellar, and then had the articles which were found there passed up for an examination. Clothes, powder, and lead, liquors, boxes of pickles, preserved meats, China ginger, and other sweetmeats, and in fact it is hard to remember all the names of the different articles stored in that underground cell. The collection looked as though it had been plundered from various teams on their way to the mines, and such we afterwards found to be the case; as Bimbo confessed that he had acted in the capacity of storekeeper for three or four years, and even before the mines were discovered he was in league with bushrangers, and always gave them information when he knew a party of policemen were on their trail.
There was another piece of information which Bimbo gave us, more pleasing than any thing which he had said. By his directions, one of the men was set at work digging in the cellar, and after throwing up a few shovelfuls of earth, a canvas bag was reached, which proved to be remarkably heavy. The men crowded around, wild with excitement, when Murden loosened the string tied around its mouth, and we all gave a shout when particles of gold dust were discovered, and a louder cheer when the lieutenant emptied into a basin about forty pounds of gold of the first quality.
"This is a prize worth something," Murden said, overjoyed at his good fortune.
"The government will make its expenses on this trip," I remarked, as I calculated the worth of the gold.
"Do you suppose that government will ever see the color of this dust?" asked Murden, with a laugh.
I replied that I expected he would render an account of it to his superior officer.
"And let my superior officer retain the whole of that which we have worked hard for. I know a trick worth two of that. Stand by and let me divide it according to grade, men."
A pair of scales was produced in a twinkling from one of the saddle holsters of the men, and with great dignity the lieutenant weighed out the full amount, and then made a calculation.
"I am going to let these two gentlemen share equally with me. They deserve more, but according to the rules of the service, volunteers must rate with lieutenants."
Fred and I looked at each other in surprise, hardly believing our senses, while the men declared with one accord that it was but right we should receive our share, and that we were an honor to the police force.
"There's twenty-two hundred dollars to be divided among the men, and about two thousand dollars for us three," said Murden, after finishing his calculations.
"And do you expect us to take the money?" Fred asked.
"I certainly do," replied the lieutenant, with the most refreshing coolness.
"But suppose an inquiry should be made by those in authority at Melbourne, regarding the finding of this money? What answer should we return?"
"You can say that you should like to find more on the same terms, and refer inquirers to me for further particulars."
"But shall you say nothing about the discovery when you reach the city?" we asked.
"To be sure I shall. I intend to mention in my report that I found a large quantity of stolen goods, and present a schedule of the same."
"And the gold?" I asked.
"The gold! why, I have lived too long in Australia to think of giving up my lawful prize-money, and if I did I should be dismissed from the police force as not worthy of a command. Follow my example and pocket all that you can get, and say nothing to any one, or you will be laughed at for your weakness."
The argument of the officer was not convincing as far as the honesty of the transaction was concerned; but when I saw the men empty their share of the dust into pouches which they wore around their necks, I confess the desire to do likewise was overpowering, and Fred and myself received our thirds of the gold, valued at two thousand dollars, without farther argument, or, indeed, caring particularly whether we were doing right or wrong.
DYING CONFESSION OF JIM GULPIN, THE ROBBER.
"If you please, sir, Jim Gulpin is dying, I think, and wishes to speak to you," said one of the policemen, with a military salute.
I found Jim breathing with extreme difficulty, and already the moisture of death was on his brow. His eyes were set, and presented the peculiar appearance characteristic of a sudden demise.
A cloud of insects was hovering around the poor fellow's head, and many of them had alighted upon his face, and were sucking his blood as eagerly as though they knew they must improve their time. Gulpin was too weak, or else unconscious of their stings, to make an effort to drive them from their feast; and as for the police, they were too busy in dividing the gold found in the secret cellar to pay any attention to the dying robber.
I sent one of the men for a pail of fresh water from the spring near the house, and the only place where water could be had within a circle of twenty miles, and then with a wet towel I bathed the dying man's face, and wet his parched lips. He appeared revived, and grateful for the attention which I bestowed upon him, and murmured some words, the meaning of which I did not comprehend. I thought his mind wandered, and remained seated by his side, fanning his heated face, and listening to his respiration, which appeared to become more difficult at every breath.
All at once the robber chief roused himself from his lethargic state, and carefully scanned my face with his lack-lustre eyes. I met his gaze without flinching, and perhaps the bushranger read pity in my looks, for he merely uttered a sigh, and I heard him moan.
"Pardon me," he hoarsely whispered, extending his hand, "I have been harshly used during my life, and what I am the laws of England have made me. Once I was honest, and free from sin as a child, but an unjust accusation and an unjust conviction made me a bandit. The laws warred against, me, and I turned on them and have vented my spite against not only those who framed the laws, but every body who lived under them."
He paused for a moment, and I again moistened his mouth with the wine and water. It revived him, and he continued, although in a subdued tone,—
"I will tell you why I feel this bitter hatred for my enemies, and then you can judge whether I am entirely in the wrong. Raise my head slightly, for I feel that I am sinking fast."
I propped his back against some spare blankets, and heard the bushranger's story. I thought he told me the truth at the time, and a few subsequent inquiries convinced me that such was the fact.
"I was born in the west of England," Gulpin began, "and although you may doubt my story when I tell you that my family is rich and honored, and the only blot upon the name was when I was accused of crime, yet such is the fact. I am the youngest of three sons. My brothers are in the army, and hold commissions, and are no doubt, by this time, if alive, high in rank and power. My wish was to enter the army also, but my father thought he could not afford to purchase me a commission, and he had exhausted his favor with the ministry in providing for his eldest sons. Accordingly I was sent to a banking house in London, with which my father had correspondence, and was admitted as a clerk.
"I knew that the business was unsuited for one of my restless disposition, and I should have left and sought my fortune in other parts of the world without a parent's sanction, had I not been bound to my place with chains stronger than iron, and with all my firmness I could not break them."
The robber paused for a moment, and while I wiped the moisture from his brow I thought a tear fell upon the cloth. He soon recovered his voice, however, and continued:—
"Owing to the position in which my father moved in society, I was treated by my employers, the eminent bankers, B—— & Brothers, with considerable favor; and was often invited to the house of the senior member of the firm. Mr. B—— was a widower, but had an only child who presided over his palace, situated away from the noise and confusion of London, at the West End.
"Miss Julia B—— was just one year younger than myself; and both of us being motherless was in a measure the reason why we so soon became on intimate terms. I know not how it happened, but I had not seen the lady more than twice before I felt that if I could not possess her, I did not care to live. Her father, who was subject to attacks of the gout, which frequently confined him to the house for weeks, often desired my presence to receive his instructions, and I never left his apartment without trying to see the object of my passion.
"You smile," the robber continued, as he caught my glance at his bearded face, blackened skin, and hard hands. "I was not always as I am now, and once would hardly let the sun touch my cheek, for fear it should mar its whiteness; Many years have passed since then."
The bushranger paused and remained silent for such a length of time that I feared his spirit was passing away; but after a while he rallied, and continued:—
"I will not tell how I contrived, by one pretext and another, to get speech with Julia, and how rejoiced I felt to see that my arrival was hailed with real satisfaction by the fair girl; nor need I tell how we had stolen interviews, and exchanged vows, and swore to be true to each other, until one day we were surprised by Mr. B——, who, pale with rage and indignation, ordered me from the house, and his daughter to her room.
"I left his presence without a word, and for two days I did not go near the banking house; but when I did, I was ordered to the presence of the man who of all others I dreaded most to see.
"For three years I have roamed the plains of Australia, and dared death in a hundred different ways, but I never felt so timid as when I was called before that weak, old man, whom I could have struck senseless with a blow, and crushed as easily as I and my gang have crushed an escort with gold dust under their charge.
"I was received with a lowering brow, and an expression that boded me no good, and I nerved myself for harsh words and reproaches, determined, let him say what he pleased, I would not lose my temper.
"'I need not refer,' Mr. B—— said, 'to the base ingratitude of which you have been guilty in seeking to compromise my daughter's honor and happiness. I do not wish to upbraid you; and to give you an opportunity of showing that I can forgive an indiscretion, I offer you an honorable position in our house at St. Domingo; the junior manager has vacated his situation, and we have concluded to give the berth to you, knowing that a few months will cure you of the foolish passion which you now profess, and that a few years' time will place you at the head of the house, and at your disposal a handsome fortune.'
"'Then there is no hope of my seeing Miss Julia once more?' I faltered.
"'Foolish boy, read that article and see,' the banker said, tossing a copy of the Times towards me.
"I read, and my brain grew wild while I read. I felt the hot blood tingling in every vein, and boiling as though it would burst its bounds, and all the time that the paper was trembling in my hands—they shook as though I was under a fit of ague—I knew that the banker was scrutinizing every gesture with his calm, cold eyes, calculating the effect which it would have upon my love.
"'You do not read,' he said, at length, reaching out his hand to take the paper.
"He spoke the truth, for, although I had glanced over the Times, I did not exactly comprehend the meaning, and I was staring at the banker, with his cold eyes, as though I read in them triumph at my confusion.
"I mechanically handed him the paper, when he adjusted his spectacles with his usual precision, and in a calm voice read;—
"'We understand that the Hon. Fitzroy Summerset Howard, second son of the Earl of Paisley, is soon to be united in marriage with the only child of the rich banker, Mr. B——. A fortune of one hundred thousand pounds is to be her dowry.'
"'That latter clause is the bait that attracted you, no doubt,' the banker said, with a sneer; 'but luckily your project is defeated.'
"'I solemnly swear,' I exclaimed, with sudden energy, 'that I love Miss Julia dearly—better than all the world, and that if you will allow me two years' time to win her, you may keep your fortune, and bestow it upon whom you please."
"'Pshaw!' he said, with an expression of contempt; 'I but waste words with you. In one week my daughter weds, and to benefit you, and rid her of an annoyance, I have offered you a position at St. Domingo; will you accept it or not?'
"'And fall a victim to the yellow fever in a month after my arrival,' I said, with a taunting smile, for I felt the devil rising within me, and I did not care to suppress it.
"'Perhaps,' was the laconic answer; and the cold eyes gleamed like those of a basilisk.
"'Then hear me, and know that I too have firmness. Your daughter and myself have pledged our mutual faith—we have exchanged vows which soar above your money bags, and as long as I possess my reason, my liberty, and health, so long will I endeavor to see the lady, and hold her to her word.'
"I turned to leave the room, but the banker recalled me with a word.
"'Is that your firm resolution?' he asked, with as much unconcern as he could assume.
"'It is,' I answered.
"'Then I must try other means,' he said; and as he spoke, he touched a bell.
"A door leading to the outer office was instantly opened, and a clerk made his appearance.
"'Is the officer still in attendance?' asked Mr. B——.
"'Let him enter.'
"I did not suspect any thing unusual, and was about to pass out of the room, when I found myself in the embrace of a police officer, and before my surprise was over, a pair of handcuffs was slipped over my wrists, and I was a prisoner.
"'What is the meaning of this, sir?' I demanded, indignantly.
"'Be quiet,' the man said; 'it's only for a bit of forgery.'
"'Forgery!' I gasped, astonished beyond belief.
"'Take him away, officer,' the banker said; 'he has confessed every thing to me, and made restitution of a portion of the money, but an example must be made. Forgery is too common, nowadays, to go unpunished.'
"The police officer almost carried me from the room, I was so overpowered by the unexpected, cruel, and unjust accusation; and as I staggered from the banker's presence, I saw the smile which I had remarked more than once upon his features during our interview, change to one of satisfaction, as though he now saw his way clear, regarding his daughter's marriage."
The outlaw paused for a few minutes, closed his eyes, and breathed hard, as though trying to suppress his emotion; but in spite of his firmness, I saw tears trickle flown his haggard cheeks, as though the revival of his ill usage was too much for even his rugged nature to bear. At length, he opened his shirt collar, and exposed a gold cross, of rare workmanship, upon his bosom, and confined around his neck by a gold chain.
"This cross," he said, raising it to his lips, "was presented to me by the only woman I ever loved. I need not tell you that her name was Julia, and that through all the changes which I have passed, I have retained possession of it. See, I press my lips to it, and solemnly swear that I never committed forgery in my life, and that I was innocent of crime until after I was transported. I have but a short time to live, and do you think I would commit perjury upon the brink of the grave? Do you believe me?" he asked, earnestly.
"Most sincerely I do," I answered, for I saw that the dying bushranger was in earnest.
"Then I am satisfied that I can trust you, and will continue my story. I was taken to prison, and confined in a dungeon, as a forger. I asked the amount of money which I stood charged with obtaining, and the turnkey laughed in my face, and told me that I ought to know better than he the sum of my villany.
"By a liberal expenditure of my scanty funds, I was enabled to send a letter to my father, informing him of the circumstances of my arrest, and vowing my innocence. I received a reply, that I had disgraced his name, and that he never desired to see me again.
"I sank under the blow, and for hours I lay senseless; but at length I rallied, when a letter was placed in my hands. It was in the handwriting of Julia, and with eager haste I broke the seal, and scanned its contents. It was but another species of torture, but more pointed than the accusation of crime.
"Her letter was worded coldly, and contained expressions which I little thought she would ever use to me. She believed me guilty of the crime with which I stood charged, considered that I had taken an unfair advantage of her father's kindness, and concluded with a hope, that if I lived to serve out my sentence, I would always remain in exile, and never distress my family with my presence.
"Twice did I read that short, heartless letter, before I fully comprehended its meaning; and when I realized that I was discarded, believed guilty, I sat down, and bowed my head upon my breast, and shed tears of agony. I cared no longer to live, and almost wished that forgery was, as formerly, punished with death.
"During my grief, I was summoned to the court, placed in the prisoners' dock, and heard, for the first time, that. I was charged with forging Mr. B——'s name to a draft for a thousand pounds, and that I had confessed the crime, and made restitution of most of the money which I had obtained, and that on that account I was entitled to mercy, and that the liberal, patriotic banker would have spared me, if he had thought I would have sinned no more.
"I was like one in a dream all the time that I was in the court room. I was asked by the judge, in a severe tone of voice, if I wished counsel, and mechanically I answered in the affirmative; and after I had consulted a moment with him, I recollected no more, until I was led from the room, and told that I was transported, for ten years.
"The next day I was sent to Liverpool, in company with house-breakers, thieves, and men accused of all crimes, and from thence I was taken on board of a ship loaded with felons, and bound for Australia. Even after I was safely chained between the decks of the vessel, I did not escape the vengeance of the man whose daughter I had dared to love. A newspaper was thrust into my hand by some person, who directed me to read, and then disappeared. My worst fears were realized—Julia had become the wife of the earl's son on the same day that I was condemned.
"I tore the paper into ten thousand pieces, and then vowed, that as I was with criminals, and classed as such, I would show a felon's spirit. I no longer was meek and dejected. I became a leader, and planned for the capture of the ship, and should have succeeded, had not a treacherous hound betrayed us to punishment.
"But I was not discouraged by my failure, and when I was beaten for my rebellious spirit, I had satisfaction, for one dark night I drove a knife to the captain's heart, and laughed to think I remained undetected.
"You shudder," the robber said, when he saw that I shrank from his side at this avowal. "I grant that the deed was wicked and cruel; but I had been trampled upon as a man, betrayed and condemned, and my feelings underwent such a change that I was no longer human.
"After a long and dreary passage, the ship arrived at Hobson's Bay, and we were landed. My reputation was too bad to be allowed to serve outside of the hulks, and accordingly, day after day, I dragged my chain and ball, attached to my right foot, after me, and performed labor that caused many of my fellow-prisoners to sink by my side and expire, while others would fall to the ground, and be lashed by the whips of our taskmasters into renewed activity.
"One hope alone kept me alive—the expectation of an escape. I planned, and sought to carry them out, but the vigilance of my keepers frustrated my intentions, and it was not until the gold mines were discovered that I found an opportunity. Many of our overseers then left the employ of government, and flocked to the mines. Of course, more men were engaged, but they were too green in the service to understand all of the tricks which prisoners resorted to to blind their eyes.
"One dark night, a convict about my own age, and myself, resolved to make an attempt at escape. Our chains were filed off, and knives placed in our hands by men outside of the prison walls; these we had kept secreted for many weeks, in hope of finding a use for them, and when we heard the rain' dash against the roof, we resolved that the hour had arrived for an attempt for freedom.
"Most of the sentries were under shelter, when we crossed the court yard, with steps like those of a cat, and stood before the astonished turnkey, who kept watch upon the inner gate. Before he had time to raise an alarm, we struck, and he fell without a groan. We hastily tore the clothes from his body, and I dressed myself in them, casting away the prison suit which I wore, and then with the key of the massive gate, I unlocked it, and continued on to the outer lodge, where I knew we should meet with another keeper.
"The latter was busily engaged in writing when we entered, and did not notice but that we were servants of the prison. He never probably knew what killed him, for he fell—"
"Good God!" I exclaimed with horror, "did you assassinate him, also?"
"How could we have escaped unless we did? By the keeper's side was a bell rope, a touch of which would have brought, a dozen soldiers upon us, and then death would have been certain. We had been prisoners too long to scruple at murder when our safety was involved.
"My fellow convict removed the man's clothes, even before the breath had left his body; and while he was dressing himself, I glanced my eye over the letter which the keeper had been writing. I saw, to my astonishment, that it was addressed to Mr. B——, the banker, and that an account of my health, my work, and rebellious disposition, were set forth, and a hope was manifested that I should break down under the severe discipline of the hulks, and that if I did not, other employment would be found in a few weeks, which would surely end my days. A donation of twenty-five pounds was acknowledged, and thanks were returned for the same.
"I ground my teeth with rage, and then added a line in the letter, to let the villain know that I still lived, and hoped to get square with him before I died.
"Time was too precious, however, to waste it there. Every moment was worth an hour to us, for we were liable to be interrupted; and if seen at large the whole city would have been aroused, and capture inevitable.
"The huge key that unlocked the outer gate was hanging on its accustomed peg, and to take possession of it, and emerge into the street, was but a moment's work; and then to give our oppressors all the trouble possible, we locked the gate, and hurled the key into the river, which ran hard by.
"The night was pitch dark, and, as I said before, the rain poured down in torrents, for winter had set in with uncommon severity. The streets were without light, and the gutters were like small rivers; but by the latter we were enabled to find our way. You are aware that Melbourne is partly built on a hill, so by following the course of the water, as it rushed towards the bay, we gained the outskirts of the city, and struck across the broad fields, and toiled on through the long night, and when daylight came, no sign of house or inhabitants was to be seen.
"That day we rested for a few hours, and continued our journey towards night, hardly knowing where we were wandering to, almost famished with hunger, and dead with fatigue.
"I have not breath to tell you all that we suffered while getting towards the bushranging haunts; our days of hunger and wretchedness—our adventures with the natives, and their attempts to kill us—the desperate risks which we ran of being captured and taken back to prison—and last of all, our reaching this hut, which is to be the scene of my death.
"Here is where I first met Bimbo; and as he is already a prisoner, there can be no harm in my telling you that be provided for our wants, kept us in his secret cellar over a week, until we were fully recruited, and able to grasp a musket, and then introduced us to Black Darnley, as possessing spirit enough to belong to even his gang.
"By him we were accepted; but after I had served in the ranks a short time, I raised a band of my own, and have pillaged and murdered to my heart's content."
The robber ceased speaking, and a spasm passed through his frame, that I thought would result fatally; but a drink of wine restored him, and he again spoke, but in a voice not above a whisper.
"I have a commission which I wish you to take care of," the bushranger said, scanning my face to see what effect his words would have upon me; "can I trust you to take charge of it?"
I promised faithfully to fulfil his wishes, no matter what he required of me.
"This cross," he said, touching it to his lips, and uttering a sigh as he did so, that came from the heart, "I promised to send to Julia, only when death overpowered me. Will you take it to her, and say that the wearer has gone to another world, where treachery and crime do not exist, and where I hope to meet her and her father, and then disprove the unjust accusation that was brought against me?"
I promised to obey his wishes, and a look of gratitude stole over his dark face.
"My name," he whispered, "is engraved upon the jewel: do not give it to the world, but know me as Jim Gulpin, the robber. I do not wish to disgrace my father's name, even if I have been unjustly accused by him."
I also promised compliance with this request, and asked if there was any other matter which he wished to confide to me.
"You know where the hut of Darnley stood in the black woods which you visited?" the robber whispered, with a painful effort.
I replied in the affirmative.
"Near the hut I buried all my ill-gotten gains, and there they remain yet; to you I bequeath them, to do as you see fit. There are thousands of pounds' worth of gold dust there, besides jewels of value. After searching the hut, walk in a south—"
The robber's voice failed him; he made painful efforts to recover his breath, and during the struggle his eyes rolled fearfully in their sockets, and his hands clutched the earth convulsively. I feared that he would die without revealing the hiding-place of his hoard, and impressed with this idea, I dashed a pot of cold water in his face, and poured more wine down his throat.
"Thanks," he gasped, "I'm—going—farewell—ten paces—in a south—"
There was a gurgle in the bushranger's throat, a convulsive movement of his limbs, and then all was quiet, and the spirit of the outlaw chief had taken flight to a better world.
A FORCED MARCH TOWARDS MELBOURNE.
I removed the cross from the neck of the dead robber, placed it around my own, and reported his death to Murden.
"Dead, is he?" repeated the officer, carelessly; "did he make any confession?"
"He spoke about an unjust sentence," I replied, "that is all of any importance, excepting a history which he confided to me; it would be uninteresting to you, however."
"Ah, I dare say," answered Murden, languidly; "but to tell you the truth, the man always passed for a person of good birth, even at the hulks; and there was some romance connected with his sentence, but what it was, I have forgotten. Old Pete, however, the same whom Gulpin murdered when he made his escape, used to receive money from some source or other, for keeping them posted concerning his health and habits, but the old fellow was a sly dog, and never divulged secrets."
"If a portion of his story is correct, why not the whole?" I asked myself, as I thought of the hidden treasure, buried somewhere in the vicinity of the last resting place of Darnley.
The more I pondered over the subject, the more firmly I became convinced that Gulpin meant honestly by me, when he said that thousands of dollars' worth of gold dust, taken from people returning from the mines, was deposited in the earth for safe keeping, and perhaps with a hope that some day it might be removed, when its owner was ready to flee the country.
Resolving to consult with Fred, as soon as I could do so without exciting suspicion, I left, the lieutenant and Fred talking together, while I went in search of a proper place to bury the dead bushranger.
I had been employed but a few minutes, when Smith joined me, and in spite of my remonstrance, relieved me of the work which I was performing.
I did not think it necessary to tell him, at that time, of the confession of Gulpin, although I knew very well that his assistance would be necessary when we commenced our search for the gold.
In spite of the intense heat, Smith soon had a grave large enough to admit, the body of the bushranger, and then we returned to the hut, and got Murden to allow three or four of his men to carry the body to the spot.
Fred, Smith, and myself followed the procession, and consigned the body to the earth, without a word being spoken. It was a solemn moment, and as I heard the dirt fall upon the corpse, my thoughts wandered to the proud lady, and the stern father through whose instrumentality the lover and son became a leader of bandits, and died a violent death, while setting at defiance the laws of his country.
Fred and myself lingered behind, and suffered the rest of the party to reach the hut in advance of us; and while we sauntered leisurely along, I confided to him the confession of Gulpin, and asked his opinion regarding the means to be employed to discover the dust.
"I think the man was honest," Fred said, after a pause, "when he made the confession; in fact, the gang must have gold dust buried somewhere, for it is notorious that two escorts have been plundered by bushrangers within three months. The robbers have not been able to go into town to squander their money; they buy nothing, because they take every thing by force, and therefore it is very evident to me that the treasure which they have stolen must be in the ground; but the question is, to find the spot."
I repeated the last words the robber had uttered,—
"Ten paces in a south—"
"He may have meant south-east, south-west, or even south; there are a dozen points of the compass governed by south, and the only way we can solve the mystery is to visit the spot, and trust to our tact in finding earth recently disturbed. If there is money within the radius of ten paces from that hut, we'll find it, unless some one gets there before us."
"And Smith," I asked, "we shall want his services."
"Of course, and a better man we could not have to accompany us. His team will not only carry all the tools that we shall need to work with, but provisions sufficient to last us a month, if we think it will pay to spend that length of time in the search. We must have Smith as a companion, by all means."
"Let us promise him a share, if successful, and if we fail, nothing," I said; "he is too stout a friend to be offended, and his knowledge of the country can be turned to a profitable account."
"We must hurry Murden," Fred remarked, "and get him to use more expedition, or we shall not reach the city for a week. Time is precious to us, until we find the buried treasure."
"But, remember," I whispered, as Murden came out of the hut to meet us, "do not lisp a word of this to him."
"You appear earnest, gentlemen," said Murden, as he joined us; "pray, what perplexes your minds now?"
"We were conversing on the subject of making a forced march to Melbourne," Fred replied, gravely.
"And why need that trouble you?" the officer inquired.
"It does not trouble us much, but we were discussing the probability of losing our prisoners before reaching the city, in case the various bands of bushrangers in this part of the country should concentrate their forces, and make a sudden onslaught. We do not number many fighting men, for remember that Haskill's skull is cracked, and he can do nothing but hold it with both hands and groan. The man is threatened with a brain fever, and should be in a hospital, instead of on the plains."
Murden cast his eye over his men, who were cooking their suppers, it being near sundown, and was apparently debating in his mind the force of our words. He knew that we were no cowards, for we had given him proof of our fighting qualities; and not understanding the secret motive which actuated us in pressing for a speedy march to Melbourne, began to think that there might possibly be reason in what we said.
"I hardly think the robbers would dare to attack us," Murden said, at length; "the scamps know that my bullies can fight when roused."
"But you do not look at things in their true light," Fred said. "Your present expedition is the first one that has ever been able to cope with the lawless scoundrels: and you can readily comprehend how the bushrangers will feel when they know that two of their most formidable bands have been broken up, and by only a dozen men. In Melbourne, one dauntless escaped convict is considered more than a match for four policemen, because the former fights with a halter around his neck, and unless he conquers, death is certain. Be assured that the gangs in the vicinity understand the advantage of having a terrible name, and that before we reach the city they will seek to retrieve it. I should not be surprised if even now our trail was followed, and runners sent, from one haunt to another, for the purpose of arousing the devils to fall upon us, and take vengeance."
"If I thought so," muttered the lieutenant, glancing along the trail which we had made on the broad plain, as though he already saw squads of enemies in the distance.
"We cannot, of course, be certain that we are followed, but I think that it is better to be over-cautious than neglectful. One hundred pounds on each prisoner delivered to the government, is a sum of money that should not be thrown rashly away."
"By St. George!" cried the Englishman, with warmth, "that last argument decides me. I don't fear a battle with bushrangers, but I should dislike to lose my prize-money. Hurry through your suppers, men, and bring up the animals. In fifteen minutes we start, and there will be no rest until we reach Boomerang River."
"Come and share my supper—there's not much of a variety, but what there is you are welcome to," Murden said, turning to us, after he had given his order.
"You did well," whispered Fred, as we followed the officer to the hut; "don't let him grow cold."
"We've said enough for once; let him allude to the subject the next time, or he will suspect," Fred rejoined, in the same low tone; and without renewing the conversation, we sat down upon the floor of the hut, and ate our beefsteak, broiled upon coals, and drank our strong coffee, with a peculiar relish.
There was no allusion to the dead robber we had just buried, and, in fact, Murden already appeared to have forgotten that there ever existed such a person. But if his memory was so defective, mine was not, and I could hear the last words of the bushranger ringing in my ears, as he gasped for breath, and exclaimed, "Ten paces in the south—"
The gold cross, too, which I had taken from the dead man's neck, seemed to sear my bosom, and parch the skin, so heated did I fancy it grew when my thoughts wandered to the dying man and his buried treasure.
"What are we to do with these goods, which make such a display?" I asked of Murden, glancing around at the miscellaneous collection which surrounded us.
"Return all but the wine and provisions to the hole from whence they came, and let government send after them," answered Murden.
"And the wine?" I asked.
"We'll take it with us, and drink it on our way to the city. We shall, by that means, prevent some other party from being led into temptation."
Many hands made light work of returning the goods to the secret cell, as there was not much formality in stowing them, and then the floor boards were replaced, and we were ready to start on our long journey.
"Are we all ready?" asked our commander.
"All ready, sir," was the answer, and a loud crack of Smith's whip, as he touched up one of the leading oxen, which appeared too eager to start before the word was given, made us think of the time when we first left Melbourne under his guidance.
"Then forward we go!" cried Murden; and we had got some paces from the hut, when a shrill voice exclaimed,—"O, don't leave me—go to thunder—who cares for bushrangers? Bimbo—Bimbo—where's Bimbo?" "I had forgotten the parrot; what shall we do with him?" asked Murden, ordering a halt.
"Let me stop and look after him until you come back again," cried the innocent Bimbo, raising his dirty face from the team, and gazing at us with an air of simplicity charming to behold.
"Silence, you miserable traitor!" shouted the exasperated officer, "or I shall be tempted to beat you with my whip."
"I don't see what this cove has done, that he should be snatched up and lugged off this way. P'aps Mr. Sherman, who owns this stock-house, won't scold when he comes to hear of it. He won't say nothing, and swear to think that his cattle is all running wild, 'cos nobody takes care of 'um."
"Lend me your whip, Smith," Murden said, as the fellow raised his voice in a sort of howl, at the thought of being carried away from the hut which had sheltered and screened his rascalities for so many years.
Smith handed the short-handled instrument of torture to the officer, who waved it over his head with a scientific flourish, like one accustomed to its use, and in another instant Bimbo would have had something to cry for, but the cunning rogue ducked his head just in time to escape punishment. The long lash passed over his body, and cracked like the report of a pistol; and while the officer was drawing back his arm for another attempt, the impudent, dirty face of the rogue was raised, and a leer of contemptuous pity expressed upon it.
Neither Fred nor myself could prevent laughing at the fellow's coolness, and our mirth extended to Murden, who began to be aware that he was making a ridiculous exhibition of his temper, and tossed the stockman's whip to the owner, exclaiming,—
"I was foolish to allow the fellow to provoke me, and am glad that I did not touch him with the lash; although if he had not been as quick as lightning, I'd have taken a good piece of his hide."
"But what are we to do with the parrot? Remember we are losing time," I said.
"Yes, what's to be done with me—where's Bimbo?" shrieked the bird.
"Put the cage into the cart—he will excite curiosity when we reach Melbourne, and perhaps bring a round sum."
The order was obeyed, and with shrill screams of delight the bird and his cage were stowed among the prisoners, and long after dark we could hear the talkative parrot ask the bushrangers how they felt, and when they were going to die? Questions of great significance to them at the time. After a while he dozed off to sleep, but during the night awoke about once every half hour, and with a shout of,—
"Where's Bimbo—darn Bimbo—lazy Bimbo!" and then would drop off to sleep again.
At about nine o'clock we reached "Boomerang stream," the same place where we had witnessed the natives of Australia gorge themselves with kangaroo meat until stuffed to repletion. The place was alive with oxen and stockmen, and carts filled with stores on their way to the mines. Many of the drivers had just arrived, having been on the road from Melbourne all night, and were turning their cattle loose, intending to pass the day by the side of the stream, for the purpose of recruiting, and avoiding the heat of the noonday sun.
We forded the river, the waters of which were not more than twelve inches deep, and with many flourishes of his immense whip, Smith drew up his cattle directly under the shade of a friendly tree growing near the bank.
Before the cattle were turned loose, we were surrounded by anxious inquirers desirous of asking a dozen questions regarding the safety of the country, and what the men whom we had ironed had been guilty of.
Murden, who was both cross and hungry by his night's ride, attempted to satisfy their curiosity by replying; but he might just as well have attempted to dam a river with a sieve; and the few words which he spoke were almost lost in the confusion.
"We shall never get any breakfast or rest at this rate," he whispered to Fred and me, "so lend us a hand to clear the ground, and then I'll keep them at a distance, or break their necks."
We mounted our horses, and telling the stockmen, miners, adventurers like ourselves, speculators, and two or three fat old fellows, who were visiting their cattle-raising districts to see how their stock thrived, that we feared some of them were in league with bushrangers, and that we would have no one that did not belong to our force inside of the lines at present, drove them back until we had cleared a sufficient space for our convenience, and then the men stretched a rope from two posts, and inside of that barrier no one dared to venture without permission.
"Hullo, you feller with the blue flannel shirt," cried one of the rough-looking outsiders, addressing Fred, "did you do any thing towards grabbing them ere chaps?" alluding to our prisoners.
"Them ere two fellers is hextry policemen, I suppose," cried a newly arrived cockney, with great staring eyes, watching our movements as eagerly as though we were wild animals confined for his especial amusement.
"I wonder if the stealings are good in that department?" asked another.
"Do you hear, Murden?" Fred inquired, with a laugh, and a thought how appropriate the question was under the circumstances.
"Curse the fellow's impudence," muttered the lieutenant; "but I'll learn him a lesson that he'll remember for a few days," he continued; and then turning to Maurice who was unsaddling his horse, he said,—
"Take a man with you and arrest that blackguard. I suspect him to be a bushranger in disguise."
The policeman abandoned his horse on the instant, grasped his carbine, spoke a word to a companion, and before the inquisitive genius, who wished to know whether the stealings in the police force were good, had a chance to think of his unfortunate remark, he was in custody, and threatened with instant death if he even made a movement towards resistance. He was hustled before the commander of the corps, and with an indignant look and blustering voice, wanted to know for what he was seized.
"You think that I don't know you," said Murden, in a tone of pretended sternness, "but you are mistaken. You are Sam Firefly, the leader of a gang of bushrangers. I knew you the instant that I got sight of your face."
"So help me God, I'm not—I don't know the gentleman you speak of. I'm a stranger here—I only arrived in Australia week before last;—for God's sake let me go, and I won't do any thing but what you wish me to;" and the fellow wrung his hands, and looked the very picture of woe and fright.
"I think I'd better order you to be shot, for if I should let you off, and find that you are Sam after all, I should always regret it," the lieutenant said, with mock gravity.
"Don't shoot me; please don't—I never hurt anyone in my life. I'm only in the country to make my fortune, and when I get it I'll leave. I swear that I will."
"On those conditions, then, I will let you go—but remember, I shall have an eye on you hereafter."
The fellow expressed his thanks in a confused manner, and darted from the enclosure, and during the remainder of our stay at the stream we did not hear an impudent remark concerning our blue flannel shirts or the perquisites of Australian policemen. The heterogeneous maps were suddenly struck with Murden's display of authority, backed as it was by about a dozen men, well armed and ready to do his bidding without a question or murmur.
Fires were lighted and kettles soon boiling, and the smell of burning meat, as it crackled on the coals, made not only the hound but the weary guard look with eager eyes for the call to breakfast.
TRIUMPHAL ENTRY INTO MELBOURNE.
In spite of the intense heat and dust which greeted our arrival at "Boomerang stream," we managed to sleep for a few hours, and then, after a bath in the river, felt somewhat refreshed, and were anxious to proceed on our journey. The sun was too high, however, and the plains too heated to induce Murden to consent, so Fred and myself went on an excursion through the various camps near us, and after much hard work we were fortunate enough to get hold of a Boston paper, and then selecting the most secluded spot that we could find, and the freest from dust, we read to each other all the items of interest, and then commenced on the advertisements, which latter we finished just as Michael called us to supper.
Each party camped on the bank of the stream, had a fire burning, and the never-failing dish of coffee preparing for their evening meal. Parties of men were searching for their cattle, and driving them in, preparatory to a start; and a scene of confusion, it appeared to me, seemed inevitable; but to my surprise the oxen walked slowly towards the carts to which they belonged, and submitted to having yokes placed wound their necks, without that resistance which I had anticipated.
The sun had hardly disappeared before the first cart started on its long journey for Ballarat. Another and another followed, and in a short time we were the sole occupants of the camping ground.
In a few minutes after we had wished success to the last party that crossed the stream our horses were saddled, and once more we resumed our journey for Melbourne.
Nothing of general interest occupied our attention until we were within a few miles of the city, when Murden sent one of his men forward to announce his arrival to the captain of police, and to confide to him the success which had attended his enterprise.
Maurice, the person sent, must have imparted the news to a dozen friends, and they, probably, in turn told it to every one they met, for just as we came in sight of the city, we were surprised to witness a vast concourse of people on the road.
Some were on foot, and some on horseback, and every description of vehicle in Melbourne appeared to have been pressed into speedy service, and loaded down with men and women, anxious to get a glimpse of the ferocious bushrangers, whose names had long been such a terror to all having business beyond the limits of the city.
"We are in for it," said Murden, pointing towards the fast approaching crowd. "Close up on each side of the cart, men, and let no one speak to, or insult our prisoners!"
Before the crowd reached us, Smith deserted the side of his oxen for a moment, and laid his hand upon my horse's bridle, saying,—
"You remember where you and Mr. Fred slept the first night you landed in Melbourne?"
"To be sure I do," I replied; "in your house."
"And remember," he said, "I want you both to take up your quarters there again. You will promise me this?"
"I think that we had better go to some hotel," I replied, fearing that we should cause him trouble and expense.
"Don't think of such a thing; you will squander all of your money, and receive no equivalent for it. Go to my house, and we'll live like princes at a quarter the expense. Or, if you feel that you are too good for the company of a felon—"
"Hold there, Smith," I said; "have we ever given you occasion to speak thus?"
"No; but you will be petted and praised, and I fear that perhaps so much attention will turn your hearts against me."
"Do not fear that," I rejoined, pressing his hand, which he returned, until I thought my fingers were in a vice; "we found in you a friend, and as such we shall continue to regard you until we leave the island."
"Then you will make my house your home?" Smith inquired.
"If you still insist, I answer that we had rather keep together, and be under your roof, than to be lodged in the proudest hotel in Melbourne."
Smith's broad, red face was actually radiant with happiness, as he fell back to his place; and as he had no other way of testifying his happiness, he began cracking his long heavy whip, which started the cattle into a trot, and shook up the bushrangers and the parrot so roughly, that the latter yelled out,—
"Hullo! what's the row? Where's Bimbo? Stop, will ye?" questions which were not answered, for just then our attention was attracted by a body of mounted men, dressed in the same kind of uniform as our companions, only their clothes did not look so soiled, and their arms were radiant with recent polishing.
At their head rode a fine-looking, stout, red-faced man, who weighed about two hundred pounds, and was a good specimen of a hale, hearty Englishman.
"Hullo, Murden," he said; "what have you been doing to thus set the city on fire? Is the news true, that you have had several engagements with Darnley and Gulpin's gangs, and came out best?"
"Yes, sir," replied the lieutenant, touching his cap with an air of respect; "I am happy to report that both Darnley and Gulpin are dead, and that their gangs are either killed or prisoners."
"Why, you have done yourself and the police force great credit, Murden, and I must talk with the lieutenant-governor about settling a pension on you. But how is this—do you let your prisoners go at large?" and the speaker pointed to Fred and myself with his riding whip.
"Your pardon, captain," replied Murden, "but those two gentlemen are Americans, and volunteers of my force, and without their aid I should have come back as wise as I went."
"Where did you pick them up?" I heard the police captain ask, in a half whisper, as he rode beside the lieutenant.
"Hush, sir," we understood Murden to reply; "they are easy to take offence, and are different from the majority of people who visit Australia in search of gold."
"Americans, did you say?" the captain repeated; and as he glanced at us from the corner of his eye, I heard him mutter, "They are not dressed exactly in dinner costume, but there's a plucky look about the fellows that I like, after all."
"I'm sure you'll like them, sir, after you've seen something of their Yankee shrewdness," replied Murden; "if we could only get them to accept of commissions in the police service, I'd pledge my pay for a year that we'd free this part of the country of bushrangers in less than six months."
"But won't they join?" inquired the captain, turning completely round in his saddle, where he was riding in advance of us, to get a look at our faces.
"I am afraid not," replied Murden; "they have got their American ideas of independence, and are as firm set in their notions as our countrymen."
"I'll have them yet," returned the captain. "I'll have them dressed up and presented to Latrobe; he is an old courtier, and can wheedle the devil with his tongue. When we reach the city, see that they are clothed in decent suits, and are provided for."
Fred, who was riding by my side, overheard the conversation as well as myself. We looked at each other and smiled, and thought how little the captain knew of the American character, if he thought, we intended to depend upon the bounty of himself or the lieutenant for clothing while we possessed a dollar with which we could purchase for ourselves.
While the officers were conversing, the sergeants had formed their men in such a manner that the crowd, which began to press eagerly forward, was completely excluded from the cart, and could only get a sight at the prisoners through a broken rank, or by peeping between the horses' legs.
Our entire into Melbourne was a perfect triumph; and to this day, I am uncertain which excited the most curiosity—the chained bushrangers, confined in the body of the cart, or Fred and myself, with our short beards and unshaven faces, ragged clothes, and deadly array of rifles, revolvers, and bowie knives.
The escort of policemen cleared the crowd, who stopped to gaze and ask questions, and as the former advanced with their heavy horses and drawn sabres, the latter receded to the right and left, leaving a space for the procession to pass.
Down through Collins Street we went, every window on the thoroughfare filled with eager faces anxious to get a sight of the novel procession, and I don't know how many times Fred and I were pointed at by women, who appeared to possess as much curiosity to see murderers as the sterner sex, and called us bushrangers and villains; and once we were hooted at by an excitable old lady, who did not for a long time discover her mistake; and Smith afterwards told us in confidence, that he heard her muttering, that if we were not bushrangers, our countenances belied us shamefully, and she would not like to trust herself with us, after dark.
"Where do you intend to confine the prisoners, sir?" asked Murden of his captain.
"At the barracks; as I consider them safer than the jail at the present time," replied the captain of police.
"Why safer now than at any other time, sir?" inquired the lieutenant.
"Because, I do not know how many of the faces which I see around me may belong to men who have an interest in the escape of the bushrangers. Since you have been gone some strange things have come to light, and I am induced to believe that men living here under our protection, and trusted with our secrets, have been in league with the robbers of the plains for months. How have the bushrangers always known when an expedition was to be started for their extermination, and so faced it, or kept out of the way, according to the numbers we sent, unless word was carried by people who had our confidence? Be assured, Murden, that as patriotic and great as we may think ourselves, there are those in our midst, and, I believe, high in power, who do not scruple to accept of bribes, even if the gold which is offered is stained with blood."
I thought, the lieutenant's cheeks blanched a shade paler than their wont, and I imagined, considering he had a few hundred pounds' worth of gold dust in his pockets, which formerly belonged to some honest man, that he would get confused, and confess to the secret hoard which we had discovered; but to my surprise he did no such thing, and returned an answer that elicited my unbounded admiration, it was so cool.
"We must ferret out the parties," he said, in reply to his superior, "and make an example, and that will strike terror to the hearts of those disposed to accept bribes, hereafter."
"We will talk of this another time," replied the captain; "I feel now so rejoiced to think that we have secured a number of bushrangers, that I can hardly talk on any other subject. It was only last night Latrobe sent for me, and wanted to know why I had done nothing towards rendering a passage to the mines safe? The old fool! Why don't he send a company of his idle soldiers to scour the country, if he thinks it is so very easy to find those devils incarnate—the bushrangers?"
"Perhaps he keeps them in Melbourne because he has fears of his own safety," replied the lieutenant, laughing.
"Perhaps so; but I'd rather trust to my police force than all the soldiers in Australia. I suppose your two American friends will share in the reward which has been offered?"
"I hope so, for right well do they deserve it," replied Murden, heartily.
The multitude moved to and fro, and struggled to get glimpses of the bushrangers in the cart, and a number of times the police were obliged to strike those who pressed too near with the flat of their sabres, as a slight rebuke for their curiosity; but with all the struggling I heard no angry words pass, and for so large a crowd, it was the best natured one I ever saw.
We drew up before a substantial-looking building, with an open square in front, where a company of soldiers were parading.
A large gate was opened for our admission, and as soon as our party had entered, it was shut and bolted, and the crowd excluded, although many crawled upon the walls and sat there patiently, until the bushrangers were placed under lock and key, in a strong dungeon, where hardly a ray of light penetrated. A guard was stationed before the door with orders to allow no one to converse with those inside, and then, for the first time for many days, I and my friend found ourselves at liberty.
"Come," whispered Smith, "place your arms in the cart and we will go home. There is nothing further for us to do."
"Hullo," we heard Murden shout, "where are you going to?"
We waited for a moment, until he, in company with the captain, came within speaking distance, and then we replied,—
"We are going where we can get shelter and something to eat."
"Take them to the station, Murden, and let them stop there for the night, and see that they have something to eat. To-morrow we will see what we can do for them."
"We are able to take care of ourselves, sir," replied Fred, haughtily, "and do not need the charities of a station house. When we do we will let you know."
I saw the face of the captain turn a deep purple, as we continued our walk, and I was not surprised to hear him thunder out,—
"Stop, sir; I wish to speak further with you."
"Any communication that you may have to make, we shall be pleased to listen to, sir," I answered.
For the space of a minute the captain surveyed us from head to foot, as though hardly knowing whether to be pleased or offended at our dignity; but at length he exclaimed,—
"Who, in the devil's name, are you?"
"We are happy to say that we are Americans," rejoined Fred, straightening his muscular form, and looking as proud of the title as a senator just elected to congress.
"Blast it, that is not what I mean. Are you born gentlemen?" pettishly exclaimed the captain.
"No one can be born gentle, but every man an be a gentleman if he but studies the courtesies of life," remarked Fred.
"And have you so studied?" asked the captain, with a smile.
"All Americans study," replied Fred, "though perhaps no two are alike. We try to be civil and attentive to all, and those qualities will pass for good breeding all the world over."
"By heavens, you are right," cried the captain, with genuine English bluffness, "and I should have known better than to have thought you would have accepted of a bed at the station house. Come with me, and make my house your home. I assure you both a welcome."
"You will excuse us, but we made an engagement before we entered the city to stop at Smith's house, and we told him to rely upon our word."
"And do you prefer his company to mine?" asked the captain, with astonishment.
"We are better acquainted with him," Fred said, evasively.
"But the man has been convicted as a felon and is only at liberty now on parole."
"He has atoned for his fault, and has shown himself a brave man," I replied.
"But with one word I can order him to prison again, and make him serve out his sentence."
"You would not think of doing such an unkind act, I know," rejoined Fred, with a smile.
"I don't know but I shall have to for no other reason than to get his company away," said the captain, smiling; "you will pardon me if I misjudged you both on account of your dress; we have many strangers landing at our port, and if they disguise themselves in the clothing of workmen, they must not feel slighted if they are taken for such."
"We are but workmen," I replied, "and to prove it, I will commence now. You have it in your power to help confer a benefit, and I mean to work until I get your consent to the scheme."
"Pray, what is it, sir? Any thing in my power I will do willingly."
"We wish the pardon of Smith, and your lieutenant will tell you that he richly deserves it for the gallantry and mercy which he has shown."
"Your request is one fraught with difficulty, but I will see the lieutenant-governor, Mr. Latrobe, and lay the subject before him. Perhaps you would like to speak to the gentleman himself on the matter."
"Perhaps it would be better if we did," replied Fred, with no expression of astonishment on his face at the proposal.
"Then I will get you an audience to-morrow afternoon, and mind, don't be afraid to speak to the governor when you see him."
"Have no fear on that point," I replied, with a smile.
"Then good-by until to-morrow; I'll send Murden for you when the governor is ready."
The captain so far forgot his aristocracy that he actually extended his hand at parting, and shook our fists with a right good will.
We joined Smith, who was standing a short distance from us, and had listened to every word that had been uttered with a face of scarlet, but as we turned away, I heard the captain remark,—
"Those are singular young fellows, and somehow I begin to like them."
"Well, Smith," I said, as he drove his team from the yard, "we are to have a hearing to-morrow, and perhaps in the evening may be able to celebrate your liberation."
"It will hardly be of use to me," he replied, bitterly. "Let a man do ever so well, the charge of once having been a convict will be repeated in his ears until he is no longer able to hear it. God knows I have repented of my crime, and only ask an opportunity to commence a new life; and I heard the very man who should have shielded me, say, 'he's only a convict,' and wonders that you dare trust your lives with me."
"He don't know you, Smith," replied Fred, consolingly. "Wait until he hears of your bravery, and knows what you have done, and then you'll see how quickly he will shake you by the hand, and congratulate you."
"Do you think so?" asked Smith, musing over Fred's words.
"I know it will be so; but be you ever so exalted or humble, Smith, there's no man on the island we would sooner call friend."
"Then let them call me convict—if I but possess the esteem of two honest men, who know me thoroughly, hard epithets will fall harmless."
Not another word was spoken during our walk through the streets of the city to the suburbs, where stood the rough board house of Smith, exactly as we had left it a month before. A dozen or twenty buildings had been thrown together in the vicinity during our absence, and were occupied by respectable looking people, who were engaged in business in Melbourne.
A number of fresh, rosy-faced women, true models of English wives, came to their doors as we stopped, and apparently wondered who we were.
We unlocked the door, and found every thing undisturbed; and while Smith drove off his team for the purpose of taking his oxen to pasture, I started a fire in the old stove, and Fred went after water, and to get the materials of a good supper together, which, by long fasting, we keenly felt the need of.
By the time we had eaten our meal it was past sunset, when, recollecting the business which was laid out for the morrow, we pressed Smith into service, and started towards Collins Street for the purpose of buying clothing suitable to wear when ushered into the presence of the lieutenant-governor, who, we were given to understand, did not relish flannel shirts and heavy boots, even if they did cover valued colonists.
By good luck we found a man who kept an assortment of really excellent ready-made clothing, and after chatting with the fellow until he had reduced his prices one half, we purchased two complete suits.
Pleased with our purchases, we carried them to the house, drank one bowl of good punch, which Smith made as a sort of night-cap, as he termed it, and then lighting our pipes, turned in, and after a brief review of the events of the day, sank into a deep sleep.
LARGE FIRE IN MELBOURNE.—ENGLISH MACHINES AT FAULT.
I know not what the others were dreaming about, but I imagined myself standing by a pile of brush and branches, on which was placed the dead bodies of Black Darnley and his gang, and I thought that I had just applied a match to the dry wood, and that the flames were soaring heavenward, filling the sky with a luminous, blood-red color, and that the corpses, as the fire licked their bodies, began shouting, in derisive tones, for more fuel, when a hand was laid upon my shoulder, and my dreams vanished in an instant. I sprang to my feet, and even then but half awake, I reached for my revolver, and tried to recollect where I was, and how I came there. The room, was as light as day, and through the single window streamed the glare of such a fire as I had seen in my dream.
I could hear the roaring of the flames, and a shouting of voices afar off; and an old cracked bell, upon a church a short distance off, was laboring hard to start into life the sleepers of the city.
"The city is on fire!" cried Smith, giving me another shake to awaken me into consciousness; "all Collins Street appears to be in a bright blaze."
"Wake Fred, and we will go and lend what assistance we can," I replied, thoroughly aroused.
While Smith proceeded to do so, I stepped to the door, and surveyed the scene, which was grand in the extreme; and I felt my blood course through my veins wildly, as old recollections of volunteer service were brought back, when gentlemen of the utmost respectability petitioned for admittance to our organization.
That fire was like the blast of a trumpet, and all the old feelings, which had lain dormant for many years, were revived, and I wished that I had an engine and a brave company, to rush to the rescue. While I stood surveying the flames, I was joined by Fred, an old fireman like myself, but cooler, and not so impulsive.
"Do you see!" I exclaimed; "half of the city appears to be in flames, and I do not hear the working of an engine. Let us hasten, and render what assistance is possible."
"Where are your engine houses?" asked Fred, turning to Smith, who appeared to be remarkably cool and unconcerned.
"That's more than I can tell, and I don't believe that even the captain of police can find one, try he ever so hard," replied Smith.
"Do you mean that there are no regularly organized companies here, to take charge of engines?" I asked.
"There are no engines nor companies, to my knowledge," Smith answered, after a moment's thought.
"Then how do you arrest conflagrations like the present?" I asked.
"Well, we send for the police," he answered, with a laugh.
"Pshaw!" I replied, impatiently, "this is no time for joking. Your city is burning down, and I do not hear the first effort to extinguish the flames."
"But I do. Hark! do you not hear that trumpet?"
We all listened, and loud above the roaring of the flames, which were filling the sky with showers of sparks, and dark, pall-like clouds of smoke, we heard the shrill tones of a trumpet.
"What is the meaning of that blast?" I asked.
"It means that the soldiers are marching to the scene of the conflagration," rejoined Smith, promptly.
"Ah, then they are to lend their aid in suppressing the flames?"
"They merely go for the purpose of seeing the building burn," replied Smith, laconically.
"Explain yourself," I cried, impatiently.
"I will. They are marched to the fire simply for the purpose of being drawn up in a line, and keeping people, who are disposed to work, away from the flames."
I looked at Smith's face, to see if he was not joking; but no, he was perfectly serious, and I began to have doubts about the ability of the Australians to subdue a conflagration under such difficulties.
"Then nothing is done by the thousands of people standing idly by, witnessing the destruction of property?" I asked.
"Well, sometimes I've known water-carts to bring water from the river, and then a few adventurous fellows will offer to throw it on to the fire. But the carts are not always to be depended upon."
"Let us go and see what we can do, Fred," I exclaimed, after the above explanation; and although Smith told us we had better remain in the house, for we should get no thanks or credit for our readiness to assist, yet we did not heed his advice, and when he saw that we were determined to go, he grumblingly offered to accompany us.
I locked the hound in the house, much against the animal's will, and then we started for the scene of the conflagration. On our way, we met and overtook hundreds of people bound on the same errand as ourselves; but to our surprise, they manifested no show of excitement, and appeared to regard the fire as a matter of course.
We hurried through the streets until we reached the thoroughfare in which the conflagration was raging. A long line of soldiers was drawn up to prevent people from approaching within twenty or thirty rods of the fire, and within the circle which they formed, were mounted policemen with drawn sabres.
There appeared to be no effort made to extinguish the fire; the soldiers, instead of being employed to carry water, or save goods, or in blowing up buildings to arrest the flames, leaned on their guns, and looked as though they didn't care if the whole city was consumed, as long as they got enough to eat and drink. The mounted police did not seem employed to any better purpose, and the most that I observed them do was to chase after a poor devil who squeezed through the lines in some way, and appeared anxious to save his property, or what there was left of it.
"Thank God!" exclaimed a stout man at my side, "the fire is confined to the stores of Jews. I think I'll go back to bed again."
That remark made me begin to comprehend the reason of the apathy which prevailed. The Jews were not entitled to sympathy on account of their religion. They paid their taxes, and were as much entitled to protection as Episcopalians, or men of other religious principles; but the stigma of being a Jew followed them even to Australia, where people were none too moral, and if they had not sold their Saviour it was because no one wished to buy, thinking the investment a bad one.
I longed to get to work, and once or twice I asked an officer standing near me to let us pass, and assist in extinguishing the flames. The young fop looked at me with the utmost astonishment for a moment, and then, thinking that I was an escaped lunatic, recommenced sucking the hilt of his sword with renewed energy, and without returning any answer to my petition.
"Don't mind him, poor fellow," said Fred, with a laugh at my want of success in eliciting an answer from the office: "don't you see that he is hungry, and misses the comfort which his Mother has been in the habit of yielding."
The sword hilt was withdrawn from the young fellow's mouth in an instant, and his face flushed as red as his scarlet uniform. He felt the more annoyed, because half a dozen fellows, just from the mines, all of whom were standing near, and had heard the conversation, set up a shout of laughter. Even the soldiers smiled when their officer's back was turned.
If the young fellow intended to make a reply, he was prevented, for just then the rolling of a drum attracted his attention, and there was a murmur through the crowd that the lieutenant-governor was coming to see what could be done towards suppressing the conflagration.
The soldiers presented arms, as half a dozen plainly-dressed gentlemen walked towards the end of the line where Fred, Smith, and myself were stationed. They did not stop until within a few feet of us, and from the attention which was bestowed upon one man, I had no difficulty in deciding which was the governor.
"God bless me!" exclaimed the gentleman I supposed to be the governor, a rather small man, with gray hair, and, I judged, about sixty years of age; "God bless me!" he repeated, wringing his hands as though washing them, and gazing upon the fire, "what a dreadful conflagration."
"The fire is making great headway, your excellency," said one of the gentlemen in the governor's suite.
"God bless me, so it is," replied the governor. "How careless of the Jews to let their stores get on fire. They give me a great deal of trouble."
"But shall we not do something towards suppressing the flames?" asked the first speaker, with an impatient gesture.
"God bless me, what can I do?" cried the governor, peevishly.
"There are two small engines in the city—they might be brought here and worked to advantage," urged the aide-de-camp, for such I judged him to be.
"Yes, yes, I know; but, God bless me, they won't suck."
I saw the governor's suite vainly endeavoring to suppress their smiles, and for a moment, such was their mirth, no further conversation ensued.
At length the aid said,—
"That difficulty can be overcome, your excellency, by pressing the water carts into service, and letting them bring water from the river for the engines to use. Much property can be saved, also, by dismissing the soldiers to the barracks with their arms, and then letting them return, and pass water in buckets. I assure your excellency that the police force is amply sufficient to keep order without the troops."
"God bless me, I believe that you are right," cried the governor, "but I don't like to set the soldiers at such work. They spoil their uniforms, and then the government has to supply them with new clothing, and I am blamed for it."
"Then let the engines be brought here, and I pledge you my word that I will find men enough in the crowd to work them without the soldiers' assistance!" exclaimed the aid, energetically.
"God bless me, if you think they are of any use, bring them here; but I don't know a person in Melbourne who understands working them."
His excellency's remark appeared to stagger the aide-de-camp, for by the light of the flames I saw him bite his lips with vexation, and glance over the crowd, as though wishing that he could find somebody who would come to his rescue.
Fred and myself could no longer keep silent. We thought, that we saw an opening for our talent that should not be lost, so giving the nearest soldier a slight push one side, and narrowly escaping a thrust from a bayonet in return, we suddenly stood before the astonished group.
"We have come to ask permission to take charge of your engines," Fred said, before the aide-de-camp could find breath to order us into custody, and the soldiers appeared disposed to make prisoners of us before the word was given.
"God bless me, what is the meaning of this?" cried the governor, putting his eye-glass up, and surveying us from head to foot, as though we were animals of the rara avis species.
"Stand back, soldiers," cried the aide-de-camp, in a tone of command, when he saw that the men were disposed to force us amongst the crowd again, "return to your ranks, and leave me to deal with these men."
"Now, my men, what do you wish?" asked the aid; and we knew by the tones of his voice that he possessed the spirit of a man, and would know how to appreciate the services which we were disposed to render.
"We accidentally overheard a remark from the governor, that there was no one in Melbourne who understood the working of your fire-engines, so we have come to volunteer our services," Fred said, boldly.
"God bless me, but this is most extraordinary," said the governor, turning to his suite for confirmation of his words.
"Have either of you ever been accustomed to the working of an engine?" asked the aid.
"We have both belonged to a volunteer fire department," I said, "and if the machines are not entirely out of repair, we think that we can work them to advantage."
"I was not aware that there was a volunteer system in England," said the aid, whom we now understood was Colonel Hensen. He spoke in a slightly sarcastic manner, as though he had caught us in a falsehood and was determined to fathom our motives.
"We were not speaking of England, sir," I said, with some little asperity.
"Pray, what country do you allude to, then, if I may ask?" the colonel inquired.
"We meant our country, sir; we are not Englishmen, but Americans."
I saw the frown vanish from the brow of Colonel Hensen, and a look of good nature passed over his face; but before he had an opportunity to speak, the governor had his eye-glass up, and exclaimed,—
"God bless me, you don't mean to say that because you are Americans you can extinguish this fire? Pray, what part of the United States do you come from, that you possess such assurance?"
"We were both born within the shadow of Bunker Hill, your excellency, and that famous spot overlooks Boston, a city of some importance in America."
I heard a good-natured laugh at Fred's speech, although I was fearful that those present would not relish joking at their ancestors' expense. But I was mistaken; even the withered features of Mr. Latrobe relaxed their expression of distrust, and he cried, "God bless me," and wrung his hands for a minute or two before he spoke.
"If these young men think they can do any good with the engines, why, God bless me, I don't know but they had better take charge of them," the governor said, after a brief survey of the fire, and seeing what headway it was making.
"I will answer for these two young men, your excellency," said a deep voice, whose tones we recognized; and looking up, I found that our old acquaintance, the captain of police, had approached us, unseen, and overheard a part, of the discussion.
"Ha, captain," cried the governor, "you don't mean to say that you know these two persons? God bless me, how singular."
"Not very extraordinary, sir, when I tell you that these are the Americans whom I asked your excellency to receive to-day, and whose petition I hope you will grant," replied the captain.
"God bless me, it isn't possible that these are the two Americans who have been killing and making prisoners of those bushranging villains? Why, they have hardly grown to be men!"
The governor seemed to forget the fire, for he surveyed us through his eye-glass, and whispered to members of his suite, and said that he hoped "God would bless him;" and I am sure I hope that the Almighty will, for Mr. Latrobe has asked for it often enough.
Fred and myself were the centre of observation, and perhaps our modesty was a little touched, for we heard the captain whisper to Colonel Hensen, something like the following:—
"Murden tells me they are perfect dare-devils, and care no more for a gang of bushrangers than for a troop of kangaroos. I am going to coax them to enter the service."
I don't think that by morning there would have been a single Jewish house or Christian store left in Collins Street if we had not again reminded the governor that the fire was raging more fiercely than ever, and that if the flames were to be checked it was high time to commence work.
"Our American friends are right," said Colonel Hensen, "and if your excellency is disposed to comply with their request no time is to be lost."
"God bless me, then let them go to work without delay. I give them full power to take as many men as they please to work the engines, and if they succeed in quenching the flames they shall be well rewarded."
"We ask for no reward, sir," I said, "but we do ask for one hundred of these soldiers. Let them be despatched after the machines without delay."
The governor hesitated for a moment, and then gave Colonel Hensen directions to comply with my request.
Two companies deposited their arms in a building near by, and were detailed for the duty, while an officer was sent to hunt up the water carts, and get them filled at the river, so that the engines could have something to work upon.
We set Smith at work hunting up buckets, and then accepted volunteers, who formed a long line, and passed the pails back and forth with great rapidity.
A dozen reckless miners, just from the diggings, clambered to the tops of the houses nearest to the fire, and dashed the water on the roof and sides, and by this means held the flames in check until other lines were formed. In half an hour nearly fifteen hundred buckets were at work, and thrice that number of volunteers were lending their aid.
Fred and myself were every where, encouraging and giving directions; the police, seconded our efforts, and saw that our orders were carried into effect, and they did so the more readily because we recognized all of our old companions of bush-hunting memory, and they quickly imparted our history to the rest of the force.
By the time our lines were in good working order we heard the rumbling of the engines, and with hearty cheers the soldiers dashed into the hollow square, the crowd opening to the right and left to admit them. With perfect firemen's enthusiasm they ran the machines close to the flames, unlimbered the huge tongues which obstructed half the street, and were nearly as large as the engines themselves, and then, with a recollection of their discipline, touched their fatigue caps, and asked what was to be the next move.
We looked at our unpromising machines and found that they were of English make, and capable of throwing a stream about as large as garden engines. They were covered with dust and dirt, and had not been worked for a twelvemonth; but nothing discouraged, we washed some of the thickest of the cobwebs away, examined the screws, filled the dry and cracked boxes with water, adjusted the hose, and then applied the brakes. A low, wheezing sound was heard, which resembled the breathing of a person troubled with asthma, but no water was ejected.
The soldiers laughed, and ridiculed the machines, and the crowd outside of the square getting wind of our failure, shouted in derision at the "governor's pets," as they were called.
"I say, old fellows," cried a voice, "I've got a syringe in my trunk at home that you can use. It will be of more service than those machines."
"Grease 'em," shouted another.
"Play away, No. 2," yelled a loafer.
"Hold on, No. 1," shouted a fourth; and as No. 1 had been compelled to hold on for the want of water, which leaked from the boxes almost as fast as put in, the joke told hugely.
"You can do nothing with them," said Colonel Hensen, joining us, and noticing the condition of the machines. "I think that you had better send them back to the houses, and depend upon the buckets. The fire has not gained headway for fifteen minutes."
"We are not easily discouraged, sir," replied Fred, and together we proceeded to examine the boxes of the engines attentively.
We found a screw, which regulated the flow of water, nearly off, and the plug in the bottom of the box out. The latter explained the leakage at once, and by the time we had regulated matters the water carts arrived, and once more we filled the boxes and started the brakes. After wheezing and sputtering a moment, a slight stream appeared at the nozzle of the hose. It was greeted with yells of laughter, not only from those who were passing water in buckets, but even the soldiers joined in the cries. The crowd took up the yells, and in a few minutes it seemed as though Bedlam had broken loose.
Not discouraged by the ridicule heaped upon us and the engines, we kept the boxes full and the soldiers at work on the brakes. The result was as we had anticipated. The stream grew larger and larger as the wood and leather began to swell, and in a few minutes after the brakes were applied the second time a noble stream was playing on the flames, and the root's and sides of houses in danger of burning.
Crowds are always fickle, and easily swerved by success or failure. In this instance we had no reason to complain of want of applause, for cheer after cheer was raised in honor of our perseverance, and Colonel Hensen was despatched by the governor to thank us on the spot for our labor.
Leaving the hose to be directed by an intelligent sergeant of one of the companies, we next turned our attention to the second engine, and succeeded in repairing that also; and although at times we were obliged to await the arrival of the water carts to keep the boxes filled, having no hose for draughting, we managed to keep up two decently sized streams, and with the assistance of the buckets, prevented the fire from spreading to other buildings.
All night long did we work, sometimes up to our knees in mud, encouraging and directing—running greater risks of being crushed under falling buildings than I should like to enjoy again—resisting the appeals of Jews, who offered large amounts of money if we would only direct the men to save their houses and stores, and getting well abused when we refused to comply—treating all alike, working for the greatest good, until daylight appeared and the fire was subdued, and Melbourne was saved from destruction.
I looked around for the lieutenant-governor. He had wrung his hands three hours before, and asked "God to bless him," and declared that he was tired and must retire to bed, and to bed he had gone; and the only member of his staff on the ground was Colonel Hensen.
"You have worked hard enough, gentlemen," said the officer, shaking our hands with a friendly grip. "Go to your home, and leave the rest to me and my men."
"We do not feel near as tired as those gallant fellows," Fred said, pointing to the soldiers who still manned the brakes of the engines.
"I intend to have them relieved immediately, and allow them all day to get rested," answered the officer.
"Then we will return home, for our presence is no longer needed here," I replied.
"Before you go let me thank you in the name of the lieutenant-governor. Through your instrumentality thousands of pounds' worth of property has been saved; and our merchants owe you a debt of gratitude which I hope they will repay before you leave the city."
"We hope thanks will be the only coin offered," cried Fred, quickly, "for we would not have you think that we have labored through the night for hire. If we have been instrumental in doing your city a service we are glad of it, because it may be the means of obtaining a better reputation for Americans than they have hitherto enjoyed in Australia."
"I shall ever look upon Americans with respect from this time forward," the colonel said, warmly. Once more he shook our hands, and then we called Smith and edged our way through the crowd to the rude house, where I found the hound had broken half a dozen panes of glass in his desperate attempts to escape and join me.
Tired and almost exhausted with our night's work, we quickly threw ourselves upon our hard beds, and slept soundly, nor did we awaken until the loud baying of the hound aroused us.
PARDON OF SMITH AND THE OLD STOCKMAN.—GRAND DINNER AT THE GOVERNOR'S.
"Hullo," I heard somebody shout; "is this the way you receive your friends? Call off the dog, or he'll eat me for his dinner."
I started up and spoke to the hound, and then saw, to my surprise, that our visitor was no other than the captain of police.
"Excuse me for disturbing you," he said, taking a seat, and looking around the room with a quiet smile upon his broad face. "I know that you have had a hard night's work, and need rest; and I should not have presumed to awaken you, had I not feared that you would forget the audience which his excellency has granted on this afternoon."
"At what time, may I ask?" I inquired, trying to look as though I was awake—in which I did not fully succeed, I am afraid, for the captain said, kindly,—
"There, there, go to bed again, and let the audience be postponed until to-morrow. Latrobe will readily understand why you are not present, and if he does not, I will get Colonel Hensen to explain the reason. By the way, speaking of the colonel, he has grown to be a sworn friend to both of you, and as he has the governor's ear in all matters, I think it will be well to speak to him in a candid manner, and enlist his aid."
We bowed, without speaking at the advice, and the captain continued,—
"Then I will ask the governor to postpone your interview until to-morrow, if you desire it."
"By no means," exclaimed Fred, the last words thoroughly arousing him. "We have not had much rest for a number of nights, but we are not so tired that we cannot keep an appointment. We shall be ready at the time you state."
"Then in two hours' time I will send Murden for you. By the way," the captain continued, in a careless tone, "if there is any thing I can help you to, command me."
We knew that the captain alluded to our clothes, but we merely shook our heads and declared that we had a full supply. He looked incredulous, but was too polite to contradict, and was about to depart, when he suddenly said,—
"By the way, I don't suppose you have seen the morning papers? Here are the Argus and Herald. You may like to look over them, as they contain an account of the fire, and mention the gallant conduct of two American gentlemen who were present."
The captain laid down the papers, and was off without a word of explanation. We felt that keen curiosity characteristic of Americans when they know that their names are in print, and hardly had the sound of the hoofs of the captain's horse died away before we spread open the sheets, and after hunting over a column of matter which related to losses, with the names of individuals, we came across the following, headed,—
"INCIDENTS.—During the fire this morning, two young men, whose names are unknown, but whom we hope to discover before our next issue, made their way to his excellency the governor, and volunteered to take the whole charge of the fire, and put the two hitherto almost useless engines in working order. After some hesitation on the part of his excellency, consent was given, and two companies of a regiment allotted to man the brakes. Under the direction of the young men the machines were brought into action, and were the means of saving property to a large amount. We also hear it stated that the same parties organized the lines of buckets, although we do not vouch for the truth of the statement."
"P.S.—Since writing the above, we learn that the young men are Americans, and are the same who appeared in the procession yesterday afternoon. They have been engaged by the police force for the last three weeks in hunting bushrangers. We shall give the public the most reliable information to be obtained concerning them, and shall issue an extra containing a history of their lives and adventures, illustrated with correct likenesses."
"I wonder how the editor expects to get a history of our lives, and a correct likeness?" laughed Fred, laying down the Argus and taking up the Herald.
The latter paper was more disposed to glorify the governor and his government than ourselves, and as Mr. Latrobe was not in great favor with the citizens of Melbourne and the miners at the time, an attempt was made to create some capital for him. The article read as follows:—