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THE SENTINELS ON THE WATCH.
The Sentinels in the Trees.—The end of Bill the Convict. The
Bush-rangers deceived.-A strange New Animal.- A Bloody Conflict. - The Mountain-pass. --The Fruit of the Acacia.
The Travellers in Custody. --The Court of Justice. EVERY moment increased the anxiety of the young sentinels, who were scarcely able to speak for agitation. At last Hugh said,
“Isn't it a capital chance for us, Arthur, that the great drove of cattle are before the keen-eyed rangers ? They will trample down our trail effectually."
This was certainly an advantage to the fugitives, , especially as they remarked the cattle followed the exact track they had made. They were now able to distinguish the powerful figure of Black Peter, who was accompanied by the three strange bushrangers whom Jack had met with him, and followed by about fifty of the natives whom they had seen with Bill the convict. These men were painted white, as if for battle, and were armed with spears and boomerangs; but Bill was not with them,—a circumstance that gave great satisfaction to Arthur, for the sake of poor David.
The whole body drew up beneath the very trees in which the young men were hidden; and whilst the cattle plunged into the river with great enjoyment, Peter was examining the trail which led to the water, and had been purposely made to mislead them. He then pointed out to his companions the broken reeds on the opposite bank, and after pouring out a volley of curses, he said, —
“They've crossed here, and not very long sin', that's
THE FATE OF BILL.
clear. We're close at their heels, and we mustn't bide long dawdling here ; and, Jem, see ye keep that brandy out of t’ way of them black and white bugaboos, or we’se bave 'em, when their blood's up, knocking out our brains, and we haven't a gun left to learn 'em manners with. Let me lay hold on my gun again, and to first job I'll put it to will be to shoot every soul of them sneaking, preaching thieves but tgirl, and I'll set her up as a bushranger's jin. She's mine by right, sure enough, now that I've put an end to t' palavering of that sneaking fool Bill.”
“But, Peter, man," was the answer of one of the men, “I fancy them black fellows didn't half like yer putting a knife into their leader; and down t' country folks would call it a murder.”
“ It saved Government a good rope,” said Peter, “ for that was his due. He was a bigger rogue than me, and that's saying a deal.”
The fearful oaths that these abandoned men mingled with their conversation perfectly appalled the listening boys, and they felt great relief when they rose ; and each drinking a cup of brandy, Peter said,
“Now come on, and let's get our work done. Them fools will be forced to slacken their pace soon, for the beasts will never hold out over yon scrub; and when we've got our guns and horses, and made an end of the lot of thieves, we'll push on and see if we can't do a stroke of business among any new squatters.”
Then the man made a speech to his black troop, in their own language, which seemed to give them pleasure, for they danced and clashed their spears, and started up to continue their route. Thankfully the watchers saw the wretches cross the river, and fall into the snare of continuing over the scrub; but they did
THE DECEIVED RANGERS.
not venture to descend for half an hour, when they had lost sight of the rangers, and concluded they must be separated by a distance which rendered them safe. " What rascals! exclaimed Gerald.
“ It I had not one of the guns, Arthur; I don't think I could have helped shooting Black Peter, when he boasted that he had murdered Bill. I think I had a right.”
“No, you hadn't, Gerald," said Hugh. “ It would not have been English justice. The worst criminal has a right to a trial by jury. What do you say, Arthur?”
“ We should have some trouble in summoning a jury here, Hugh," answered Arthur; “nevertheless, I should not have liked to take on myself the office of executioner. Besides, you must remember, such an act would have brought destruction on ourselves, and on all who depend on us. God will bring the villain to justice.”
The boys made their way through the thick wood till they reached the little glade where their anxious friends were watching for them.
"All right!" cried Gerald ; need not call over the roll. Now you must all be content to form the rearguard of the bush-rangers, I suppose, Arthur, there is no need to hurry; we are not particularly desirous to overtake the rogues."
"But, my dear boys !" exclaimed Mr. Mayburn : “ Arthur, do you speak. Is it safe to venture from this quiet retreat yet? Consider, these lawless men might, at any moment, turn round ; and it seems they would not scruple to commit murder.”
“ Was Bill with 'em, sir ?" asked David, looking very much ashamed.
With much kindness and consideration, Arthur gently broke to the poor lad the melancholy fate of his vile brother; and David shed many tears for the unhappy convict.
“I were auld enough to have known better, sir," said he ; “ he couldn't have gettin me into bad ways, if I'd thought on my prayers and turned again' him; and if I'd held out, things mightn't have turned out so bad wi' him. Them that lets themselves be 'ticed to do bad deeds, is worse nor them that 'tices 'em. God forgive me for niver speaking out like a man to
poor Bill !”
Margaret spoke kindly to the sorrowful man, showing him the fearful warning sent in this sad catastrophe, and beseeching him never to forget it; but to pray continually that he might he kept strictly in the right path.
Wilkins was much shocked at the violent death of the convict ; but, nevertheless, he whispered to Jenny, “ He's well ta'en out of t way ; for he were a bigger scoundrel nor Peter hisself, for all his grand rigmarole talk."
As the lame horse was unfit for work yet, it was led after the rest ; and Arthur, who chose to walk, selected David for his companion, and took the opportunity, while he consoled him under his heavy affliction, to direct his softened heart to good and holy aspirations They continued their journey along the right bank of the rivulet ; the country being more fertile, and the grassy plains more favourable for the horses than among the brushwood.
For three days they proceeded undisturbed, and with revived hopes. Then the scenery became still more beautiful ; the ground was covered with lofty trees, on
which already the young buds were forming. These trees were tenanted by thousands of lovely birds ; and their cheerful notes enlivened the solitude. In the distance before them rose a pile of scattered rocky mountains, which, as they drew nearer, they saw were covered with brushwood, and might have formed a barrier to their path, but they seemed to be pierced by innumerable narrow winding gorges.
“ We must proceed with great caution and watchfulness here,” said Arthur; " for it is not improbable that
may have fallen unhappily upon the track of our enemies, and we must have gained ground on them, now that we are all mounted again. We must be careful to avoid an encounter among these perplexing mountains."
“We have two guns,” said Gerald, “and we should have no difficulty in keeping one of these narrow passes against the whole undisciplined gang; then we could have our bowmen hid in the brushwood above, to shower down destruction on the foe. It is a grand spot for a skirmish !”
“God forbid that we should be called on to make this lovely solitude a field of blood !” said Mr. Mayburn. “How dare proud and disobedient man profane the sanctity of Nature, and desecrate her grand and marvellous works. Does not the contemplation of these mighty mountains, spreading as far as the eye can reach, broken into fantastic forms, and apparently inaccessible and impassable, startle and humiliate the presuming pride of fallen man?
" • There is a voiceless eloquence in earth
Telling of him who gave her wonders birth.'”
Keep in the rear, papa," said Arthur; “we must