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THE LIBRARY
OF

THE UNIVERSITY

OF CALIFORNIA

LOS ANGELES



GOLDEN BUCKLES




GOLDEN BUCKLES

By CONRAD H. SAYCE a



MELBOURNE : ALEXANDER McCUBBIN

NUMBER ONE -FIVE -TWO ELIZABETH STREET :: MCMXX






:)



■1 T]l



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TO
EMMELINE SAYCE PIERSON,

MY FRIEND.



TO THE READER.

The following pages were written on a horse
and cattle station in Central Australia.

My study is a wurley made of broom-bush ,
lashed with green-hide to mulga posts and rails.
It is the station "dining-room." Hither come the
lowing of yarded cattle, the squeal of frightened
horses, the thunder of galloping hoofs, the bray-
ing of donkeys, the racket of stock-whips, and the
yabber of excited blacks; and, when tin plates
are pushed back and pipes well alight, it is here
that Bill and Johnny and "old man" Ted tell tales
of "when 1 was a young feller."

My companions are all old bushmen, and their
speech is coloured with picturesque and expres-
sive profanity, which is inseparably part of the
life they lead. In only this respect have I not
been true to my mates. I value the vividness of
their phraseology, but know that, away from
these great plains, it would give offence. But the
men, the scenes, and the life have not been al-
tered, and are told from personal experience.



ACKNOWLEDGMENT.

The author wishes to record his gratitude to
J.H.E.-W., who through 27 years of pioneer station
life in Centralia has preserved the culture and
bearing of a gentleman. But for his kindness, the
following pages might never have been written.



"Where is Australia, singer, do you know?

These sordid farms and joyless factories,
Mephitic mines and lanes of pallid woe ?

Those ugly towns and cities such as these.
With incense sick to all unworthy power,
And all old sin in full malignant flower?
No! to her bourn her children still are failing :

^he is a Temple that we are to build:
For her the ages have been long preparing:

She is a prophecy to be fulfilled!"

BERNAED O'DOWD.



GOLDLN BUCKLL5

PART I.

CHAPTER I.

Ida Hennessy.

Eleven had boomed from the Melbourne Town
Hall clock nearly twenty minutes ago, and the last
of the late church-goers had hurried along the
St. Kilda Road.

Children and old men sat on the lawns and
under the trees of the Domain; nursemaids
chatted with their cavaliers, many of whom were
wearing military uniforms; lovers whispered on
the benches, and a few solitary idlers strolled up
and down, hardly knowing what to do with them-
selves, so used were they to shop and office
routine.

The asphalt tree-lined road had shed its work-
a-day garment of noise, and for once in a while
the songs of little birds were heard all the way
from Government House to Prince's Bridge.

But no birds sang outside the grim pile of the
Barracks. The sentry paced his beat to and fro
through the gates, and though he was a young
man and good looking, he might not even wave to
the nursemaids who kept tantalisingly within
sight on the far pavement.

Suddenly he brought his rifle to the salute as
two riders passed down the St. Kilda Road. One,
to whom the private's salute was directed, bore
the stars and crown of a colonel's rank upon his



T2 GOLDEN BUCKLES

epaulettes, while his lady companion was dressed
in a stylish riding-habit.

Both rode blood horses, which pranced and cur-
vetted at the restraint put upon them, eager to
break into a canter, but the gloved hand of the
girl was equally master of the bridle-rein as the
large sunburnt one of the man, and snatches of
conversation passed between them from time to
time.

Just past the gates of Government House, both
riders instinctively shortened rein, as their
mounts' restlessness increased at the sound of
hoofs approaching behind them. A young man in
civilian dress rode up and passed, turning in his
saddle to respond to the lady's greeting. Short
as was the sight thus gained, the colonel's eye
brightened with appreciation of the superb animal
the stranger rode and of the man's ease in the
saddle, but jealousy quenched all kiiicliness as he
caught the look of pleasure on his companion's
face. In answer to his question as to the rider's
identity, the girl replied:

"That's Doctor Byrne. He always rides on
Sunday morning."

"Do you know him well?"

"Oh, yes. This is the first Sunday we haven't
ridden together for ever so long."

"Indeed!"

"Yes," was the reply, and then, becoming con-
scious of the military man's mood, the girl turned
the conversation, asking:

"Did you notice what a lovely horse he was
riding?"

Conversation was checked for a time by the
sudden determination of both horses to follow the
one ahead, and when the riders finally turned down
Alexandra Avenue, and let the animals have their
way, the mounted doctor was out of sight.

Colonel Gerald Bathwick had recently arrived



GOLDEN BUCKLES 13

back in Australia from Europe. At the outbreak
of war, he h,ad been put in charge of one of the
first battaHons to leave the Commonwealth, and,
in the flush of enthusiasm which accompanied the
call to arms, he had had little difficulty in develop-
ing an almost casual acquaintance with Ida Hen-
nessy into an engagement. He had sailed, and the
girl was left, pledged in marriage to a man she
hardly knew, and once the dazzle of military
splendour was gone, who knows what demands
upon her sense of duty were necessary to stifle
regret at the step she had taken?

Mrs. Hennessy was frankly glad.

"You know, Edward," she said to her husband,
"nothing would please me more than to see dear
Ida nicely settled. Her engagement was rather
sudden, but it seems so very suitable. Don't you
think so?"

"Quite so, quite so. Capital fellow. Knows a
good horse when he sees one, but's damnably
weak on the putting green ; damnably weak. Why,
I was telling Major Smithson only last Thurs-
day "

"I'm glad you like him," his wife broke in.
"You know, I was so afraid dear Ida was going to
be wild. But there's nothing like being engaged
young, is there?"

"Jove, no! You're right, Maud; quite right.
Wild, you were saying. She rides a pretty loose
rein now, I think. Gad! they'll be a pair when
they're well mounted. Wild, eh!"

"I didn't mean wild in' that way, Edward. I've
never forgotten what happened on the beach that
awful day, and I never shall."

The incident which had taken such a tenacious
grip of the good lady's memory occurred when
Ida was twelve, and was probably her last bid for
freedom before her admittance to a "very exclu-



14 GOLDEN BUCKLES

sive" private school doomed her to a life of re-
spectability.

The Hennessys had taken a house at Morning-
ton for the summer months, and on this particular
day there was a large garden party on the beach
in front of the house. Afternoon tea had been
served, and the children had gone off on their
ponies with a nurse to bathe. Ida had been
troublesome in the water, and the nurse's rebukes
had only made her worse, till the spirit of revolt
rose beyond control. As the nurse was rubbing
her down and scolding her at the same time, the
child chanced to look in the direction of the garden
party. The well dressed nonentities suddenly
appeared in a new light to her. With a bound,
she knocked the nurse over, and ran towards her
pony. Quickly unhitching the bridle, she sprang
on the animal's bare back and galloped madly
across the sands towards the party, leaving the
horrified nurse shrieking, "Miss Ida' Miss Ida!
You've got nothing on !"

Right through the crowd she galloped, wheeled
and back again, her bare heels kicking the pony's
flanks, and her wet hair streaming I ehind her.

That night, after having sent Ida ^o bed in dis-
grace, her mother crept upstairs and listened at
her daughter's door. Softly opening it, she called,
"Are you awake, Ida?"

No answer.

Tip-toeing to the bedside, she saw her child
wide awake, staring at the window.

"Ida, why didn't you answer me? Why are you
such a naughty girl?"

Still no answer.

"Why ever did you behave like that this after-
noon, Ida? I can't understand it."

"Oh," came a tired voice from the bed, "I just
wondered what God would do; and," she con-



GOLDEN BUCKLES 15

tinued, as if disj^ppointed at the non-success of
an experiment, "and He didn't do anything."

Never again had she tried for herself to see
what God would do. Her training robbed her of
such curiosity, and it needed a very strong
stimulus to make her break the rules which applied
equally to gods and men.



i6 GOLDEN BUCKLES



CHAPTER IL

Doctor Byrne.

Some months after the departure of Colonel
Bathwick, there arrived on the scenes, just the
man who could supply that stimulus. Behind the
spare, athletic figure of James Tynan Byrne, with
his brown hair and keen, cold eyes, the most
casual observer would have suspected an unusual
personality. His father, an Edinburgh-trained
surgeon, had shown the attitude of his mind in
a scene which has become historic in the annals
of his University. Dr. Byrne, senior, was giving
a course of operating theatre demonstrations at
the time when a religious revival mission was oc-
cupying people's thoughts. Everyone was think-
ing of his soul, and the mission bid fair to be a
huge success, when one 'day the doctor looked
up from the operating slab and said quietly,
"Gentlemen, I see no soul here. I must refer the
body to the revivalists.'

His son was also an Edinburgh-trained surgeon,
having gone home to matriculate into his father's
University. Just after completing his course, he
received the following letter from Australia, to-
gether with others confirming the news of his
father's death:

"Dear Jim," it ran, "by the time this reaches
you, the old clock will have run down. My affairs
are in the hands of Messrs. Todd, Son, and
Nephews, who will confirm the news that you are
a rich man."

Here followed details of successful dealing in
shares. Then the letter went on :

"I have known of this for years, but did not
wish to hamper your training, as nothing clogs



GOLDEN BUCKLES 17

the wheels of ambition like wealth. Luckily, you
will never have to doctor up the imaginary ail-
ments of fussy old men and women, as I have
done, for a fee. Every branch of medical and
surgical research is open to you, and you have
the means to enter which you will.

"It is usual in such cases to write 'God bless
you,' and to- drop a tear to show that the writer
doesn't believe He will. Instead of that, I hand
on what has been the finding of my life : the only
God is the mind of man; it is capable of being
omnipotent and omniscient, and is apprehended
by study, not by faith.

"So, now that you have all the theology neces-
sary to salvation, I will say good-bye.

"Your affectionate father,

"Donald Tynan Byrne."

With his father's wealth, James also inherited
his almost cynically analytical mind, which, how-
ever, was saved from utter coldness, by a tempera-
ment gained from his mother, who died so young
that the doctor did not remember her. She was
Irish, a lover of horses, of music, painting, and
literature, and the man who had dissected a body
to find a soul, gave the lie to his own materialism
by the tender passion with which he loved his
wife. With a capacity for deep emotion which
he kept severely under control, young Doctor
Byrne came into the circle in which Ida Hennessy
moved as an impersonal spectator of life.

In the small hours of the morning following a
dance at which Dr. Byrne, at that tmie almost a
stranger, had markedly preferred the company of
Ida to that of any other, two girls discussed him
as they prepared for sleep.

"My dear," said one, as she coiled up her hair
for the night, "did you notice Ida Hejmessy? She



i8 GOLDEN BUCKLES

had three dances, one after the other, with that
man in civiHan dress."

"Don't you know who that was? That's Doc-
tor Byrne."

"Never heard of him. But his being a doctor
does make a difference."

"Yes, dear, of course it does;" and instinctively
each girl drew her gown closer with a delighted
little shiver. Few things please a girl of this
sort more than the presence of a doctor or a sol-
dier.

"It makes you feel so delightfully naughty."
Soldiers and doctors! Just as in ancient Rome
it was the women who kept open the Arena, so
to-day war would be robbed of all its romance but
for the adulation of women. As a sex they are
bloodthirtsy, and failing soldiers, they dance with
doctors.

"Well, even if he is a doctor, I don't see why
she should keep him all to herself. She's engaged,
too. Why, I wasn't even introduced."

In spite of the condemnation of her friends, Ida
continued to see more and more of Doctor Byrne,
and on the ground of a mutual love of horses, a
firm friendship sprang up between them, which
was in danger of becoming something more in-
timate, when news came of the death of Colonel
Bathwick.

Why the young man with the keen eyes had
singled out Ida Hennessy, it would be impossible to
say. The reason lay as deeply hidden as their
two natures. Perhaps her dark hair and eyes,
and the sight of her riding along Alexander
Avenue one Sunday morning, may have reminded
him of a photograph of his mother; perhaps not.
Anyhow, when his eyes appraised her, he was
conscious of little inward stirrings that had never
come under his microscope or dissecting knife, and
which were so desirable that he yielded to them;



GOLDEN BUCKLES 19

and that was the reason for the three successive
dances which Ida's friend so bitterly complained
of. And Ida? Byrne's presence troubled her.
He had broken the calm, the matter-of-course
habits of her mind. Happenings that had
hitherto been accepted without question now ap-
pealed to her: dawn, the song of birds, the colour
and perfume of flowers, and once, when she found
a sparrow with a broken wing, she cried over it,
and would have appealed to her doctor friend for
help, had it not died too soon.

Whether or not she would have ultimately ex-
changed the betrothal ring of the dead soldier for
one which Byrne might give her, will never be
known, for while he was quietly waiting till the
tight, self-centred bud of Ida's life should open
into the beautiful flower that he knew was only
waiting for the sun — his sun, as he hoped — news
came that Colonel Bathwick was not dead, but a
prisoner in Germany ; and, later, that an exchange
had been made, and that he was on his way back
to Australia.

So the young doctor's ring was not placed on
her finger, and she settled back into the path
which others called her duty, and thought herself
happy because they told her so. A breath of
spring had come before its time; winter claimed
her again.



20 GOLDEN BUCKLES

CHAPTER III.

Golden Buckles.

About half-way along the Avenue, the riders
were compelled to draw rein, for some people
were crossing the road from the Botanic Gardens.
Ida's breath was coming in short gasps, her
cheeks were flushed, and 'her smile of pleasure
after the gallop made her look so charming that
her fiance's cold brain glowed for a moment at
the thought that such a glorious girl was his.
But, chancing to look ahead, he caught sight of
Dr. Byrne returning along the tan, and at once
all sentiment was focussed in a desire to flaunt
his possession before this man, who, as he had
heard, would have forestalled him had he not re-
turned when he did.

"I'd like to meet your friend," he i^^aid, turning
to the girl.

"Certainly," she answered, and, a.^ the young
doctor came level and was about to pass, she hailed
him.

He pulled in his horse beside the other two,
and sat there, turning in the saddle with his hand
on the animal's rump.

"I want to introduce you to Colonel Bathwick.
Gerald, this is my friend, Dr. Byrne "

The men shook hands, and if to either or both
of them it was like the preliminary to a duel,
there was no sign of it on their faces. Casual
questions were asked and answered, and in re-
sponse to Miss Hennessy's appeal, "Won't you
ride a little way with us, Dr. Byrne?" the young
man turned his mount, and the three riders pro-
ceeded at a walking pace towards Anderson's



GOLDEN BUCKLES 2T

Bridge, and up the hill to the right till they came
to the white gates on to Domain Road,

"Colonel Bathwick is taking lunch with us. If
you have no prior engagement, perhaps you would
join us," suggested Miss Hennessy to the doctor.

"Thank you. No engagement couH be prior to
your invitation. I should like to come very much."

The answer was given with more warmth than
the jealous Colonel liked, and as thoy walked on
up Domain Road, he turned the conversation to
the subject of horses.

"That's a fine animal you have there, doctor,"
he remarked.

"Yes," was the reply, and the owner patted the
glossy bay neck.

"What is he?"

"He's one of Zubeir's foals; the Arab stallion
that Sir James Beaucout sold a few years ago,
you remember."

"Yes, I remember. But how did you manage to
get hold of it? I understand that Sir James Beau-
cout's stock is very difficult to obtam."

For answer. Dr. Byrne leant over and pointed
to the brand on the near-side shoulder: "X.T.X."
"He's a Territory horse," he said. "I bought him
in the Dukeland Park sale yards a couple of years
ago. By his size I should say that his mother
was one of those stock mares for which the back
stations are famous."

"You're a lucky man," commented the colonel.
"Isn't he, Ida?"

"Yes, indeed. And he's lovely to ride," replied
the girl, enthusiastically, "Dr. Byrne and. I often
used to exchange mounts, didn't we, Jim?"

Bathwick looked round suddenly at the girl as
she referred to her friend as "Jim." He raised
his eyebrows in astonishment, and his fiancee
answered, to explain her blushing confusion: "I



22 GOLDEN BUCKLES

beg your pardon, Gerald, but Dr. Byrne and I

know one another so well."

"So I see," he answered, and the light laugh
which accompanied the remark was not wholly
pleasant.

"You've got harness worthy of the horse," said
the military man, breaking the awkward silence
that ensued. "What's that engraving on the
buckles ?"

He indicated the cheek-strap buckles which
were made of gold with the bottom bar wide
enough to bear a coat-of-arms.

"Oh," laughed the young man, "that's a picture
my great, great, great and few more used to wear
on his shield. You know," he added, "we're all
either robbers or descended from them." Then,
quite suddenly, his voice became serious, and he
said gravely, "It's an Irish coat uf -arms. My
mother was Irish. She used to ride with those
buckles on her bridle."

Talking thus, they reached the house and
handed their horses to a groom. Dr. Byrne
seemed more at home than was the Colonel, but
the latter noticed with satisfaction that his own
reception was that of a returned member of the
family, whereas the parents' demeanour towards
the younger man was never more intimate . than
that accorded to a friend.

After lunch. Dr. Byrne pleaded an engagement,
and went out to the stables. Colonel Bathwick
followed, and for a few minutes the two men were
together.

All the time that his tongue had been uttering
the pleasing nothings that make up meal-time
talk, the keen brain of the scientist had been ana-
lysing the soldier and his lady-love's attitude to-
wards him, and he had come to the conclusion
that Ida Hennessy was giving up what might have
developed into love, solely from a mistaken sense



GOLDEN BUCKLES 23

of duty. The two were to be married in a week,
and Dr. Byrne knew he had not even a fighting
chance of winning the girl's hand. Man-hke, 'he
had not reahsed how much he cared for the girl
till all chance of possessing her had gone, yet he
bowed to the inevitable, and his words had no
lurking barb as he turned to his companion and
said:

**I suppose you're a bit fed up with public con-
gratulations on your safe arrival back in Aus-
tralia. Iwant to add a personal one on the .event
of your marriage. My friendship with Miss Hen-
nessy enables me to know that you are a fortu-
nate man. No doubt she is equally to be congratu-
lated."

"Thanks. Thanks. It's good of you. I hope
your friendship with Ida will not be discontinued,
and that it will be extended to me. ... By the
way," he continued, after the pause that suc-
ceeded his words; "By the way, may I talk shop
for a moment or two? I should so much like to
see you professionally some time next week.
Could it be arranged?"

"Oh yes, I think so. I'm mostly doing research
work, and could more or less suit you as regards
time."

"One day is as good as another to me," the
Colonel assured him, "and almost any time. The
afternoon preferably."

"Right. I'll ring you up. The St. Kilda Road
Barracks, I suppose?"

"Yes. If I'm not in, leave a message."

Meanwhile, the groom had led the horse out
and had saddled up. Byrne ran his fingers under
the girth, and after a few caresses and kind words,
mounted lightly.

"I'll ring you up to-morrow," he said, as he
turned out of the yard. "Good-bye."



24 GOLDEN BUCKLES

CHAPTER IV./

A Doctor's Consulting Room.

James Tynan Byrne, M.D., was not a regular
medical practitioner. After passing first in his
year at Edinburgh, he had studied lor a time in
Germany, but returned to Australia at the out-
break of war, narrowly escaping internment.
Since then he had given himself almost exclu-
sively to research, and was usually to be found
in his laboratory at the top of Collins Street, in-
vestigating the action of poisons on the human
system, and their various antidotes. In the short
time since his return, he had established a name
as an authority on his subject, and only very
occasionally treated a private patient.

On Monday, as arranged, he had telephoned to
the Barracks, making an appointment with
Colonel Bathwick for 3 o'clock next day, and now,
on the Tuesday afternoon preceding the marriage
of Ida Hennessy on the Saturday, he was waiting
in his sitting room for the bridegroom-elect.

A motor car drew up at the kerb outside, the
bell rang, and in a few minutes his visitor was
entering the room.

"It's awfully good of you to see me. Dr. Byrne,"
he began, taking the proffered chair. "It was not
till after I made the appointment that I learnt you
are not a regular practitioner. Perhaps you
would rather not be bothered with my case."

"On the contrary," smiled the young man, "I
shall be delighted to offer you any advice I can.
Where and what is the trouble?"

For a quarter of an hour the conversation
became more and more intimately personal. A
doctor's consulting room is as truly a confessional



GOLDEN BUCKLES 25

as places more usually known by that name, and
if the military commander had any idea that he
could obtain from the young scientist the advice
he needed without an exposure of incidents in his
private life which he would rather have left
hidden, he was completely disillusioned. Conse-
quently Colonel Bathwick wore rather a sheepish
expression when he was left alone for a few
minutes, while the specialist went into the labora-
tory for a few tests.

When Dr. Byrne returned, his face was pro-
fessionally non-committal.

"You are to be married next Saturday, I under-
stand?" he remarked.

"Yes, Saturday, the fifth."

**H'm!"

This irritated the Colonel. "I- — I don't under-
stand," he blurted. "What has my marriage to
do with the subject in hand?"

"A great deal."

"What in the devil d*you mean ?"

"I mean," said the doctor, tapping a small
memorandum card which he held in his hand, "I
mean — or rather the result of my tests means,
that you ought not to be man'ied on Saturday."

"Oughtn't — to be married!" The Colonel rose
to his feet. He was scared, but^he tried to hide
it from his companion's clear, grey eyes. "Look
here, doctor! A joke's a joke. But don't take
this one too far. It's rather a serious matter to
treat lightly."

"I know it is. A very serious matter. That's
why I say that you ought not to be married on
Saturday."

"Rubbish!" retorted the Colonel. "I know
what's wrong with me as well as you do. Known
it for years. I've always taken my pleasure



26 GOLDEN BUCKLES

where I found it, as any other sensible man would
do. What I came for was physic, not platitudes."

"You came to me for advice, and I've given
it to the best of my ability," returned the doctor
calmly.

"Medical advice, man ! Medical advice was what
I came for. It's not part of a doctor's job to tell
a man he ought or ought not to marry."

"On the contrary, I consider it one of his most
important duties."

Doctor Byrne looked straight into the flushed


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