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THE RETURN OF JACK.

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Master!

Arthur had become very uneasy lest he should have been arrested and punished for this disobedience of orders, when, with a face full of news, he rushed back into the hut, exclaiming, "Jack is brought back ! there are three or four more of those ugly convicts; and, oh, Arthur, there is Black Peter amongst them !”

This was really melancholy news, and Mr. Mayburn in deep distress looked appealingly to Arthur.

Margaret must be taken away,” he said ; “I cannot have her to remain among these reprobates. Then there is Wilkins, poor fellow! That wicked wretch has ever persecuted and hated him; he is not safe

with us; we must care for him, and send him away. s Martino But ought we not all to depart? I feel that I am

unable to judge the matter calmly ; decide for us, my son.

I shall be better able to do that, papa,” answered it seed Arthur," when I learn what extraordinary circum

stance has induced Jack to return. It is quite impossible that he can have executed his mission; and I cannot imagine that these robbers have relinquished

their desire for the ransom-money. I am very anxious la Testler to see him."

The sounds of riot and discord were now heard

through the hamlet; the prisoners concluded that more till present brandy had been brought in, and it was producing its

usual delusive and fatal effects among men and women. encourage The intoxication proceeded to madness ; horrid oaths ing Desk and blasphemy were the only words to be distinguished ; sl first uttered by the white man, erroneously named a

à Christian, and then eagerly imitated by his heathen

brother. In the midst of the confusion, Jack stole in | sound unnoticed by the savages to his anxious friends. He

was pale with fatigue, disappointment, and alarm; for

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386

THE EFFECTS OF THE BRANDY.

he saw that the frenzy of the intoxicated wretches might at any moment lead them to murder.

“Mr. Arthur,” said he hurriedly, “I have got hold of a gun and a few charges, and David will follow me here with another, as soon as the fellows drink themselves into stupor ; then we must make off without delay, or we are lost. Black Peter has determined to have his own way, and you know what his way is; and depend on it, if he had not been led off with the brandy, he would have been here to bully and threaten before now.”

“Alas! alas !” said Mr. Mayburn, “how did it happen, my good lad, that you fell into the hands of that abandoned man?”

“We met him on our way, sir,” answered Jack, “ mounted on a handsome horse that he'd stolen from somebody's station ; he was dressed like a gentleman, and three more fellows, all bushrangers, I'll be bound, were along with him, well mounted too. They were carrying kegs of liquor and bales of tobacco to barter for the stolen cattle, which they mean to drive down the country to sell. Peter knew me as soon as he set eyes on me, and hailed me to know what had become of my comrades. Then the sulky black fellow that rode with me took on bim to tell, in his lingo, what we were after.

It would have made your blood run cold, master, to hear how that brute Peter cursed Bill; he said he was nought but a poor, pitiful, longtongued fool, to swap such a prize for a hundred pounds; and he swore he would have ten times as much for the bargain, and have it for himself too. "I've got shot of my cowardly troop, ye see,' he said to my guide ; "they didn't suit me; they ran away at the sight of blood. I'll see now if I can't put that

PETER OPPOSED TO BILL.

387

set-up fellow, Bill, down a peg, and manage your folks a bit better, blacky.' Then he went back to his white colleagues, and said, 'You might make a penny of these two runaways; there's money on their heads; what say ye to carrying them off ?'

“ I cannot tell how they settled their treacherous plan ; but they had arms, they forced us to turn back with them; and Bill looked so cowed when he saw Black Peter, that I make no doubt the craftier rogue of the two will be master by to-morrow; and there will be a poor chance for us, if we do not overreach him to-night. Well, Davy, how are they getting on?” he added, as the simple fellow entered cautiously.

They'll not be lang fit for wark," answered he. “Some's down now, and Bill and Peter had come to fighting; but them new chaps, as comed with you, parted 'em ; and I seed 'em wink at Peter, and they said as how it could be settled to-morrow. But it would hardly be safe to stop for that; and if ye're ready and willing, I'se get ye off cannily afther it's dark.”

"We are willing and ready, David," said Arthur, " and most thankful to have you for our guide. I will engage that Mr. Deverell will pardon and protect you, if we are fortunate enough to reach Daisy Grange ; but how my father and sister are to accomplish the journey, I cannot think.”

“ It's all pat, sir ; see to me for that,” answered David. “ Not a chap amang 'em was fit to hobble ť horses but me, I had it all, my own way, and I brought our two, and their four, all round to ť' back of this here wood, and tied 'em up ready saddled. Afore midnight, light on me to be there, and all fettled and ready. I'se get Baldabella to warn ye at treet

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ESCAPE FROM THE HUT.

minute, and then ye can make yer way out backwards, and she'll bring ye through t wood, and we'se get a good start afore day-leet. They've no more horses fit for ť saddle, if they were fit themselves ; but it will be a fair bit afore they sleep off their drunken fit."

The yells and screams of the mad drunkards grew louder and more discordant, and the trembling women clung fearfully to each other in the back apartment of the hut, where they had already cut an opening large enough to allow them to escape ; but they were anxious to defer the attempt till Davy thought the moment favourable. At length they heard the oaths and curses muttered in fainter tones; and, one after another, the voices died away. Gladly the anxious captives marked the deep silence that succeeded, which was finally broken by David whispering through the opening behind the hut,

“Come along ; be sharp, and tread soft. There's a lot of chaps lying afore t' hut : ye cannot come out

Mind

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dinnot waken 'em. Here's Baldabella ; she'll trail ye through t'bush, and I'll on afore, and make ready."

Trembling and breathless, one after another they followed Baldabella, forcing their way through the thick underwood, scarcely conscious of bruises, scratches, and rent garments, till, by the faint light of the moon through a gathering mist, they saw David holding the harnessed horses outside the tangled wood.

Manage as ye like,” said he ; “there's twelve on us, reckoning t'babby, but some on ye is leet weights."

Baldabella refused to mount, and, giving her child to Wilkins, she walked on; and so light and swift was her pace, that she kept up well with the doubly-laden horses, though they proceeded as speedily as they could

that way.

DISTRESS FOR WATER.

389

over the grassy plains. For six hours they continued to travel due south, silently and uninterruptedly; then the morning light cheered their spirits, they realized the fact of their freedom, and they rejoiced as they rested on a rich plain while the horses fed, and lifted up their voices in praise and thanksgiving that they were once more free in a savage land ; and even poor David, with tears of penitence, united humbly with

them in prayer.

All the party needed the refreshment they knew not where to seek, when Baldabella produced a netted bag of cakes and nuts, with which they were obliged to content themselves; and hoping that they might meet with water before they were again compelled to rest, they set forward with gratitude and cheerfulness. But they were somewhat disheartened as they proceeded; for though herbage and trees were plentiful, water was rarely to be met with. Hollows in the earth, which contained a muddy remnant of the wellfilled pools of the rainy season, were their sole dependence-a scanty and unpleasant supply. They had long ago lost sight of the river, from which they had designedly diverged in order to mislead their pursuers, leaving it on their left hand. Fig-trees were common on the plains, but no longer bearing fruit; still, they continued to be frequented by the cockatoos and pigeons, and having made bows and arrows, they procured as many as they wished for food.

On the fourth day, Baldabella, who was before them, summoned them by the welcome cry, rai !-water! water !” and they saw a narrow full streamlet, rushing to the south-east, probably to swell some large river; a consideration very tempting to the travellers, who could not venture on the direct track

66 Yarrai! yar

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