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to his disposition, while Tynan felt that no
grander type of man trod God's earth than the
Australian bushman. But beyond all particular
acts of heroism or endurance, sheer manhood



GOLDEN BUCKLES 223

spoke to sheer manhood with a voice which is
seldom heard in the midst of the conventions of
hie.

Thus Tynan felt that he was breaking through
no manly reserve when he said to his friend on
the evening before they left the spring :

"You know, Tom, Fd like to leave a note here
before we go."

"A note? What d'you mean?"
"Oh, something to tell we've been here, that's
all," he answered casually.

Tom knew what he was thinking, but remarked
lightly :

"I see; so that when the Poison Peak gold field
is world-famous, and you and I are bloated mil-
lionaires, you can hand the note to the Melbourne
Museum as a relic."
"Yes, that's the idea."

"And who's this famous note to be addressed
to? Your sister or somebody else's?"

Tynan kept up the joke. "As I haven't got a
sister, I'm afraid it'll have to be to someone else's,
Tom."

"Not got a sister? Then who was that dainty
little piece I met at the Dukeland's Yards? Her
name was Tynan."
"No it wasn't, Tom."
Well I'm — !" Tom was prevented from giv-
ing an exact description of his feelings by a
sudden thought. What he had hardly noticed at
the time, seemed to him now of special signi-
ficance: the expression on the young lady's face
when she heard that Tynan had a child at
Marnoola.

The young man noticed his friend's perplexity,
and asked :

'Why, what's wrong, Tom?"



224 GOLDEN BUCKLES

"If she wasn't your sister, Jim, Fm afraid I've
been and put your pot on.

"What way d'you mean?"

"Why, that kid at Mamoola. You know, old
man, I wouldn't have told her for the world if I'd
known. Yet it came out with the rest as natural
as possible."

"Yes. I suppose it did."

"Did she turn you down?"

"Yes."

"And now you're going to write a note to her!"
Tom knew very well that his companion thought
that note would be the last writing of a man about
to die. "By all that's holy, Jim ! If a girl I knew
treated me that way, I'd tell her to go to hell. I
would, straight."

"So I did," said Tynan, sadly, "only in different
words."

"I'm awfully sorry I messed things up for you,
Jim. I am indeed."

"But I'm rather glad you told her, Tom. You
see . . . well, I mean ... if a girl turns a
chap down for that, he's better without her . . .
at least, that's what I thought at the time. . . .
But, Tohi, she's never had the ghost of a chance.
She's never got out of the mud where her set
wallows. . . . She may not even have meant
to send me away. I've often thought that, since
I've come out west, especially lately. ... So
you see, I may be the one that's in the wrong
after all. Anyhow I'm going to write a note to
her."

"I see." Tom did not mean that he understood
his friend's attitude, but that he had just arrived
at a solution of what had often puzzled him:
Tynan's sudden return north and the reckless
energy with which he had thrown himself into a
hazardous undertaking.



GOLDEN BUCKLES .225

Tynan wrote the letter that evening by the
light of the camp fire. When it was finished — and
it did not take long, for he had made it up to his
satisfaction long before he broached the question
to Tom — he tore the leaf out of the note-book and
put it in his wallet, addressing the package to Ida
Hennessy in Melbourne. A meat tin jammed in
the fork of a mulga tree served as pillar box, and
Tynan smiled at the irony of the thing, for was it
not a tin wedged in a mulga that marked the spot
which had lured him into the wilderness?

The letter ran as follows : —
"Dear Ida,

"I came into the wilderness to forget you and
have failed. I have failed, too, in the outward
quest, for whereas we found gold, we were
unable to bring it away because of the lack of
water.

"Both failures have taught me many things,
chief of which is that a woman's love is worth
more to a man than his pride. If mine stood
at bay and fought off your love when we last
met, I lost what I see now to be the most pre-
cious thing in all the world.

"If I am wrong, pardon me for thinking you
lOved me; if right, pardon me also for the wrong
I did you, and believe me that I wronged myself
as much more as I value your love more than
my own.

■ In any case believe that the thought of you
has given me strength to struggle out of the
clutches of Death more than once, and that if I
die before reaching help, as seems likely, I can
look upon mv life as not entirely vain, seeing
that in it I met you.

"J.T.B."
Before consigning it to the meat tin, he wrote
a request on the package that if found it should

u



226 GOLDEN BUCKLES

be forwarded to the address within. There was
no chance of anyone passing that way for many
years, but Tynan felt easier in his mind when he
had accompHshed his task. Probably his confes-
sion had the same efficacy as prayer, which at once
blesses the petitioner in that it sets him to work
to answer his own request.



GOLDEN BUCKLES 22y



CHAPTER XXXIX.
A Narrow Escape.

It was early ^afternoon. The unclouded sun
shone down upon a vast stoney plain, but for all
its strength, there was that in the air which pro-
claimed the season winter. Mirage filled every
hollow; a bush on the horizon was magnified by
the heat into a tree; the tinv desert creatures
kept in the shade of stones and burrows in the
sand; but the frost of the previous night would
not wholly relinquish its grip.

Two men shuffled over the western horizon, mak-
ing for a plateau that bulged in the east. They
walked with the doggedness of instinct more than
with the incentive of conscious volition, and every
movement told of extreme fatigue and thirst.
Neither of them wore a shirt, and in lieu of trou-
sers, a few strips of ragged cloth impeded each
stumbling step. One, the slighter of the two, lean-
ed heavily on a stick, while over the naked shoul-
der of the other hung an empty water-bag and a
flour bag, while a pannikin mocked his thirst each
time it jangled at his belt.

"Three miles," said the one with the pannikin,
pointing to a line of trees at the base of the
plateau, but his voice was so weak and choked
that his companion could not have understood.
Even if he did, he made no sign, but staggered on.
Any change of motion, any thought to break that
thin thread of resolve to go forward, would have
been fatal.

Those who desire to paint a picture of Young



228 GOLDEN BUCKLES

Australia will choose just such a subject: the
indomitable spirit of man staggering towards the
future, dragging Death a captive at his heels.

The sun rolled on an hour, and the dust which
followed the shuffling figures was nearer now by
two miles to the line of trees. The older man was
now supporting his fellow, and over those tracks
in the dust, dingoes would howl that night, for
they were stained with blood.

What mocking irony is it that calls a bed of
sand a creek? They stumbled down the low
banks and into the loose white sand, where a thin
line of dead mulga trees proclaimed that rain falls
sometimes on the table-land.

But now! The men's feet sunk to the ankles.
Tynan stumbled and fell, rose and stumbled again.
He lay with arms stretched out, panting, having
hardly strength enough to keep his gaping mouth
from the sand.

Tom stood for awhile, leaning heavily against
a dead tree. He dared not sit. Into his weaken-
ing brain one thought had come, and he clung to
it as the last hope of life.

He remembered the bullock which had been killed
during the cattle muster, and his pursuit of the
culprit. Also that when Jack had escaped he had
gone west, not east. He must have subsequently
doubled back on his tracks, as was proved by the
disaster at the yards, but- — and this was the ques-
tion that occupied Tom's tottering mind — -where
had Jack got water? Not from the Toolooroo
Springs, for the Mamoola men were there ; unless
indeed he crept in at night. No, the bushman
would not admit that possibility, lest it weaken
the last thread of strength by which he hung to
life.

So he looked down at the bare blistered



GOLDEN BUCKLES 229

shoulders of his companion and said: "So long,
Jim. You've been a good mate and have played
the game. But we're done. If I return I'll bring
water. ... So long, old man."

The voice was feeble, and the words muffled by
a swollen tongue, and the man gasping there in
the sand could not have heard. But the thought
penetrated to the brain standing on the border-
land of the unknown country, and Tynan held up
his hand. Tom took it and nearly fell, but recover-
ing, stumbled off through the drifted sand. He
was too weak to mount the opposite bank, so he
climbed it on hands and knees, and continued so
across the table-land, with the empty water-bag
strapped to his naked back, and the pannikin
rattling against the stones.

Banjo found him — coming backl Now walk-
ing, now crawling, with a bag of water clasped to
his breast.

Banjo had not "slipped them up." He had not
understood Tom's directions, being probably too
elated at the prospect of owning a watch to pay
strict attention. The first two water-holes were
dry, and he had gone on, according to his inter-
pretation of the instructions, to the well near
Mark's grave. Here he had filled the canteen, and
had returned to find the camp abandoned. So,
with a full supply of water, and the tucker and
gear which had been left behind, he had tracked
the two perishing white men.

In the creek, his camel had shied at the pros-
trate figure of a man. Tynan was still alive.
After doing all that lay in his power, he had gone
on in pursuit of Tom, and had found him, tem-
porarily mad on all points save the one that had
sustained him to endure such hardship for his
friend's sake.

Jack's water-hole was not a large one, and it



230 GOLDEN BUCKLES

contained not more than a couple of days' water;
but it saved two lives. It was remembered by
Banjo because it was here he became the proud
possessor of a watch.



GOLDEN BUCKLES 331



PART V.



CHAPTER XL.
A Definition of Love.

With the coming of the bridle, the first breath
of Spring had blown over the winter-bound heart
of Ida Hennessy, and in the strength-giving glad-
ness of that breath, she had taken her first step
towards freedom. But, as is often the case in
nature. Winter had again clouded the sky and
hardened the ground. But its frigid rule was
nearly over. The seeds which had trembled for joy
at the voice of Spring, just hid again and waited
patiently.

Sorrow is often a surer self-revealer than hap-
piness, and in the weeks which followed Dr.
Byrne's departure from Gum Glen, sorrow held a
mirror before Ida's shrinking gaze. The founda-
tions of her life were subjected to the most search-
ing tests; most of them were found to be rotten,
and the edifice of her life came toppling about her.
Constantly before her mind's eye was the spare
sun-browned figure of a man who in every line
and movement emphasised the fervour of his
words. She began to realise that he was not
pleading for himself, nor for the northern men
•whom he so much admired, but for her, for a
girl who he saw was being strangled by hypocri-
cies. She compared him with the men of her set,
with Philip Dennis and other idlers about town.
She thought also of the girls she knew, and con-



232 GOLDEN BUCKLES

trasted them with the real girl whom Byrne had
in his mind when he made the appeal. Was it
made in vain ? No. One thing at least had been
achieved; she saw how false were the standards
by which she had judged life hitherto.

More definitions have been given of love than
of any other emotion, and each is true in so far
as it is the experience of one who has loved.
Therefore when it is said that love for Dr. Byrne
grew in the mind of Ida Hennessy, it is well to
define what is meant.

When first she met the young doctor, in the
days when her betrothed was fighting in France,
she had singled him out from her other men ac-
quaintances because he was the only one of them
that could be singled out. In her set the un-
pardonable sin is non-conformity to type; any
originality, any individuality, any insistence upon
the right of private judgment and action is con-
sidered "bad form." Some are exempt; men
either of great wealth or of brilliant attainments.
These can do and be what they like: it is called
"eccentricity," and, let him attempt to explain it
who may, in their cases it is rather admired than
decried.

Dr. Byrne came in with introductions which set
all financial and social considerations at rest, and a
record for brilliant medical research. Fashionable
women naturally sought his acquaintance. He was
a man of individuality, and stood out above the
idlers with whom he mixed in theatres and draw-
ing-rooms, and it was with a glow of pleasure that
Ida Hennessy saw she had claimed his attention.

Girls amongst whom Ida Hennessy had been
brought up are esteemed in inverse ratio to their
attainments. To be able to do things, even to
think them, is a mark of inferiority. Ignorant—
and if possible ornamental — idleness is the ffoal



GOLDEN BUCKLES 233

aimed at, but by a strange chance, what is de-
cried in themselves, is admired in men. Conse-
quently there was much to be admired in Dr.
Byrne. That was the second stage of love.

The third was one of unrest. Sooner or later
we seek to emulate what we admire, if we have
strength to admire it intensely. The doctor was
no purveyor of polite nothings, and conversation
with him during the times they rode abroad to-
gether, made her want to follow the working of
his mind, if only that he might be encouraged to
open it more fully. Her education had turned
her out a "finished gentlewoman," and her
teachers were assured that she would think and
say and do the right thing on the right occasion,
because she had learnt from them what was the
right thing for every possible occasion. But,
listening to Byrne, she found hers«lf coming to
conclusions that were at variance with her train-
ing, and found herself even questioning the
premises upon which so much of her superficiality
was based.

The keen mind of the young man was conscious
of what he was doing. As remorselessly as he
would have acted if Ida's mind had been a living
organism upon his operating table, he cut away
layer after layer of tissue in order to expose
the beating heart. The experiment was a fasci-
nating one, but dangerous to both parties. With
the eyes of a surgeon he pierced the diseased
moral tissues that were choking her life, and saw
with the eyes of a man, that a woman was there
— and he desired her for his own.

Ida merely felt how clever, how strong, how
manly he was; how superlatively finer than any
man she had ever met. The flutterings which
might afterwards turn out to be reciprocal desire,
were too much hidden for her to be aware of their
presence.



234 GOLDEN BUCKLES

That was before Colonel Bathwick returned to
Australia to claim her as his bride.

Tragedy numbed the wound which Dr. Byrne had
made, but the cut flesh could never heal again;
it was not healthy. Many times he had made
her feel, not only the pulses of his own virile
mind, but the feeble struggles of her own. The
murder of Colonel Bathwick, though it shocked
her at the time, impressed itself so clearly, that
she found her mind returning to it again and
again, as to an event from which all others are
dated — before and after. Not that she fully un-
derstood the sacrifice he had made or the living
death he had saved her from; but she came to
know that he had made a sacrifice, and that it
was for her sake.

She found the triflings which previously she had
called pleasures, more and more distasteful. She
had eaten mental food and now yearned for it,
and knew of only one who could give it to her.
Everything that appeared to her worth while
began to be coupled with him in her mind. She
began to wonder what he would think of this and
that. In short, she wanted him. The rose had
grown to be a bud just waiting for the sun.

Then the bridle came, and Dukelands Park, and
Tom, and . . . and.

Only love could have prompted Ida to take that
trip to the horse-yards. It was a very eager,
very timid girl who sat there in the crowd. And
she received a cruel blow just when she was most
sensitive. Ida returned to Melbourne feeling that
she had asked for bread and had been given a
stone.

Old standards can only be lowered one by one,
for everybody must march under some banner or
other. The standard by which Ida condemned
the young man for being a father of a child and



GOLDEN BUCKLES 235

at the same time sending tokens of love to her,
had not yet been lowered.

With the abandonment of despair, she threw
herself into many of the trivialities she had fore-
sworn. Friends welcomed her effusively, taking
her return as a justification of their own worth-
lessness, and a condemnation of the better way of
life which they had seen her struggling after.

Then Dr. Byrne himself had come, without any
excuse, pleading not for himself but for her.
While his voice was vibrating with all the in-
tensity of his nature, her standards had been
torn to ribbons. She had been so overcome that
he had gone before she realised it. Like a suc-
cessful operation, her womanhood had been laid
bare; fold after fold of false morality had been
cut away, till the last had gone, and there, ex-
hausted and bleeding, was the woman whom he
loved.

Dr. Byrne did not know how skilful he had been.
He had drained the cup of failure to the dregs
in the very hour triumph, and, intoxicated with
the drug, he had gone out to live a life of forget-
fulness.

And she ? One after another her standards had
gone, till now she acknowledged but one. The
man she loved; he was her standard.



236 GOLDEN BUCKLES

CHAPTER XLL

Love to the Rescue.

"Women are all very well in their way," Tom
had said in the days when Tynan first met him,
"but the bush is no place for them."

Fortunately for the world, the words "home"
and "woman" are still synonymous, and it was the
impossibility of making a home in the bush that
had led Tom to express himself in this way.
Whatever the difficulties may be — and most of
them could be overcome by wise administration —
it is a fact that the handful of white women who
live between Oodnadatta and Pine Creek, look for-
ward eagerly to the day when they will be able to
"go down," as to something so desirable, that the
thought of it sustains them through years of
hardship.

It was into this country that Ida Hennessy came
in search of the man she loved. Only those who
know the circumstances can appreciate the hero-
ism that stimulated the delicately nurtured girl
to face such a trip, for the North was to her what
it unfortunately is to most Australians, a totally
unknown land, over which the imaginations of a
popular novelist or two have roamed in search of
the extraordinary.

She told those whom she asked for advice that
she was on her way to Marnoola Station. She
feared the humiliation that would come if they
asked her any questions, but soon found that she
had no cause to be alarmed on that score. Never
by look or word did the few bushmen she met on
the road add to her discomfort. They simply



GOLDEN BUCKLES 237

aided her to the limit of their powers and then
stood aside. That she was evidently rich mat-
tered nothing; that she was a woman, everything
No one knew, and no one inquired, her business,
content to let her hide behind the simple announce-
ment: "I'm going to Maraoola Station." The
Australian bushman is a gentleman.

Like a child's, her mind was open to every new
impression, and as, in her case, "perfect love had
cast out all fear," many minor discomforts went
unheeded because of their novelty. Her familiar-
ity with horses was a great advantage, but sleep-
ing on the ground under the stars, cooking food
at an open fire, and doing without the thousand
and one things which are only noticed when miss-
ed ; these were all strange. But she was stimulated
beyond her natural powers of endurance by love.
At one time she had thought love to be just a
pleasant recreation, something to be taken up and
put down according to one's mood; but now she
found it was the source of all her strength, and
without it she knew she would be like one of those
stars that have no sun — desolate, and condemned
for ever to despair.

Thus it came to pass that Ida Hennessy was
sitting one evening under the pepper-tree outside
the Maraoola Government House. The west was
flaming with color. The royal sun had hastened
all day across the desert of the sky to the palace
where his queen awaited him upon a couch, cur-
tained with splendour. Majestic banners of
cloud announced in symbols of gold and crimson
that the king had come, and all the pomp of
heaven was there to do him honor. The voices of
the stars arose and "all the sons of God shouted
for joy." Too pure for mortal ears, this heavenly
clamour appeared as color, staining the i^h- fvom
deepest crimson to keenest golden grey, and then
was lost in the blue of the darkening sky.



238 GOLDEN BUCKLES

Softer came the music and more slow, as the
curtains were drawn around the kingly couch ; the
pageant faded like the sigh of one who falls asleep
within her lover's arms; till only one tiny lamp
announced where slept the royal pair.

Ida watched the sky with eyes which love had
anointed, and it is only such eyes that ever really
see beauty, for "beauty is in the eye of the be-
holder." She put her hand down and caressed
the head of a little child which lay in the sand at
her feet. It was Ruby's child, a boy with a dusky
skin and fair hair.

She had been at the station for nearly a week.
Her strength, already sorely taxed by the journey,
had given way at the blow of disappointment
which struck her when she found that Tynan was
not at Marnoola. Although she had given his name
as her own, pretending to be his sister, Angus
Macfarlane had guessed at once what had brought
such a dainty little lady north. The rugged Scot
had been kindness itself to her in her trouble.
He had vacated Government House in favor of his
guest, with Ruby to wait on her, and had taken
up his abode in the men's quarters.

But true love has remarkable powers of re-
cuperation, and a few days' rest and the delicate
consideration of Macfarlane had restored her
again to hope. She had not decided what her
next move would be, but her womanly instinct
assured her that her journey had not been in vain.

All the glowing colors of the west had been dis-
tilled to a band of pure primrose light, when a
camel stood out against the sky, as it came over
the sandhill which overlooked the station from the
west. A black-boy was riding it, sitting sideways
on a pack saddle. They came to the water pad-
dock, and, after both man and beast had taken a
drink at the troughs, Ida lost sight of them as the
buildings and stock-yards hid them from view.



GOLDEN BUCKLES 239

A quarter of an hour later, when she was pre-
paring to go indoors, the manager came to the
gate. He was evidently the bearer of news.

"May I come in, Miss Tynan?" he asked.

"Please do, Mr. Macfarlane. What a lovely
evening. Would you sooner sit outside or in?"

"Well, Miss, I mustn't stay. I just came up to
tell you that a nigger rode in a few minutes ago
from the west.

"Yes, I saw him. Did he say . . ?"

Macfarlane looked at the eager delicate face,
and wished he knew suitable words with which
to break the news. But he was no diplomat, and
blurted out:

"He came from Toolooroo Springs, about forty
miles from here. Your brother and his mate are
there, alive and well."

"My brother there! Oh, Mr. Macfarlane, how
glad, how very glad I am! Alive and well!
You're sure he said 'alive and well'?"

"Well, you see. Miss, it's certain he's alive, for
they sent in for rations. And if a man's alive in
this country we take it for granted that he's well."

"Yes, yes, of course. Oh, how happy I am!
Did the black-boy say anything else?"

"No. You see, they can't say much. But by
the look of things, I should gather that the party's
had a pretty rough trip. Anyhow, they've run
out of tucker."

"What can we do?"

The question sui'prised the manager. He had
expected hysterics, or, at any rate, a rush of
feminine emotion, and had been prepared to beat
a hasty retreat. But, instead, the girl had the
perfect self-possession to suggest that she could
do something. A second source of surprise was


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