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face of his visitor, and saw anger give place to
cunning.

"You're bluffing, Byrne, that's what you're
doing. You can't put off my marriage as easily
as that."

His companion did not answer, but quietly
tapped the memorandum card. The Colonel tried
again.

"Why, dash it all, man. I'm years older than
you. I've known chaps absolutely — "

"Don't go into details," broke in the doctor.
"It's not necessary."

" and yet they've been fixed up and got

married."

"The more's the pity," remarked the young
man.

There was silence for a few minutes, then
Colonel Bathwick altered his tactics.

"Assuming you're right, how long would it be
before I could marry? According to your idea,
I mean."

"Six months or a year. It's dif!icult to be
exact."

His visitor laughed. "And in the meantime
you'd step in and carry off the blushing bride,
eh?"



GOLDEN BUCKLES 27

Doctor Byrne's patience showed signs of giving
way. "We'll confine ourselves strictly to the
point," he said sharply, "which is that you must
not marry in your present condition."

"Must ! Must ! I tell you, young man, it's a long
time since anyone's dared to say 'must' to me."

"I'll put it stronger if you like. You shall not
marry."

"How in the devil will you prevent it?"

The doctor's finger tapped the card.

"You'd give me away, eh?"

"I'd save an innocent girl from being given
away, if that's what you mean."

Colonel Bath wick laughed again, a fierce animal
laugh..

"Why, you are a young 'un, and no mistake.
They'd see through you in a jiffey. They know
you're after the girl. ... I could get a clean
doctor's bill in half-an-hour if I wanted to."

"I'm sorry to say that I beUeve you could."

Dr. Byrne walked to the window and looked out,
but he did not see the area wall opposite, nor the
little strip of sky above the tall building. He was
occupied with thoughts which he doubted his
ability to hide from his visitor. At last he
turned.

"I know you could get a clean bill," he said
quietly. "It would be be a false one, and would
neither cure you nor safeguard your wife. . . .
But I happen even now to be experimenting with
an antidote that will counteract the poison in three
days if you follow my instruction:. '

"Now you're talking sense," exclaimed the
patient, unable to restrain a sigh of relief.

"Do you agree to carry out the prescription?"

"Of course I do. What d'you think I came here



28 GOLDEN BUCKLES

for? Why in the devil couldn't you come to the
point straight away? Three days, you said?"

"Yes. In three days there will be no cause to
fear for your wife's safety."

"You put it in a deuced unpleasant way, but
I'm obliged to you. When does the treatment
start. To-day's Tuesday, you know."

"I'll make up the antidote and let you have it
with full instructions before noon to-morrow.
Good-bye."

"Thank you. Good-bye"; and with a formal
hand-shake the men parted.



GOLDEN BUCKLES 29

t
CHAPTER V.

A Lady's Boudoir.

Dr. Byrne did not leave his laboratory that
night. During the few minutes in which he had
looked out of the window before telling Colonel
Bathwick of his discovery, he had decided he
must leave Melbourne till after the day of Ida
Hennessy's wedding. So he quietly brought some
of his experiments to a stage where he could leave
them without losing the result of past work, and
made up his notes to date. He indulged in no
heroics; yet beneath that studious non-committal
face was a mind made up to the supremest sacrifice
of which it was capable. When the grey morning
light was paling the electric bulbs, he collected
those books in which were the results of his
researches, destroyed one or two others, and set
his laboratory to rights, among other things re-
labelling several bottles. A few days later, when
strangers broke into his sanctum, they found that
some of these labels were wrong. Had the young
man's clear mind failed under the strain ? Perhaps
so.

When everything was put away in its place,
Dr. Byrne turned his attention to the Colonel's
prescription. From a filing cabinet, he took out
the memorandum card referring to «his recent
patient, and a plain one on which he wrote the
names and quantities of the drugs he prescribed.
Finally he mixed the medicine and bottled it.
Those strangers who noticed the mis-labelling,
noticed also that the doctor had occasion to use
one of the wrongly named bottles. Had they been
familiar with the methodical habits of the young
man, they would also have remarked that, contrary



30 GOLDEN BUCKLES

to his wont, he left on the dispensing table, not only
the balances, bottles, and test-tubes which he used
for mixing Colonel Bathwick's medicine, but the
two memorandum cards as well. He did this
purposely.

Still in pursuance of his determination to leave
Melbourne, Dr. Byrne went to his rooms, and after
breakfast, packed a travelling bag. Later in the
morning he paid a visit to his solicitors, with
whom he arranged some money matters and left
his manuscript books for safe keeping.

On coming out of the legal offices, he looked
towards the Town Hall; it was nearly half-past
ten. Indecision was a weakness which the young
man despised, but now he found himself a prey
to it. Twice he opened his bag to see if the medi-
cine bottle was there, and twice compared his
watch with the Town Hall clock. He was ready
to leave Melbourne; everything was in order; he
could easily kill time at the Club till 4.30, when
the Adelaide Express left Spencer Street. Why
not run down to the Barracks, leave the medicine,
and cut adrift? Or why not send a Club mes-
senger with the medicine? Still he hesitated.
Finally he jumped on a Toorak tram and was
taken past the Barracks and round the curve into
Domain Road. He would say good-bye to Miss
Hennessy before he went away.

Ida received him in her own little sitting-room.
Byrne had been there before, but now that he was
going away, it seemed to him as if nothing could
be more sweet and dainty than that room. But
when Ida herself appeared, dressed in a pretty
neglige, he knew that the owner was more charm-
ing than anything she could possibly possess.

"Why, Jim !" she exclaimed. "Whatever brings
you here so early?"

"Early!" he replied. "Why, it's nearly eleven."

"I don't believe you," she laughed. "See, I've



GOLDEN BUCKLES 31

only just got out of bed. . . . But anyhow,
won't you sit down?"

As he looked at her, the young man knew that
she must have risen an hour ago, for in no less
time could the elaborate simplicity of her fragrant
dishabille be achieved. He knew also how charm-
ing such little untruths can be, if the lips which
utter them be as desirable as hers. What he had
to say seemed like crushing a frail flower.

"I'd rather stand," he said, in reply to her invi-
tation. "I've come to say good-bye."

"To say good-bye ! You're not going away, Jim,
are you?"

"Yes."

"Where?"

"I don't know. A good long way, I think."

"And you won't be at my wedding?"

"Not at your wedding with Colonel Bathwick."

There was a minute or two's silence, broken by
Ida's entreaty.

"Jim, I do want you to stay. Won't you — for
my sake?"

Byrne saw the girl was frightened, and drew
his own conclusions — correct ones.

"Ida," he said earnestly, "I'll stay if you ask
me, but not to see you marry Colonel Bathwick."

"Why?"

Dr. Byrne sat down. Somehow he felt he could
keep himself under control more easily if he had
the support of a chair, and he had decided that
emotion must play no part in this interview.

"Ida," he began, "we've been friends now for a
couple of years, but it's not only as your friend
that I will explain why I don't want you to marry
Colonel Bathwick. Will you listen?"

"Yes, of course."

"Well, let's get rid of the sentimental side first.
Interpret love in whatever way you like, you don't
love that man. In our profession we learn to



32 GOLDEN BUCKLES

diagnose mental states as correctly as physical
ones ; in fact the latter are often the direct result
of the former, so I know I am right when I say
you are marrying Colonel Bathwick merely from
a sense of duty."

"Duty?" broke in the girl. "Oh, Jim! how can
you say such a horrid thing?"

Byrne held up his hand to check her, "Yes,
duty. You were only a girl of 19 when war broke
out, and were carried away by the sentiment of
the hour. You would have become engaged to
almost any decent military man then, and have
lived to rue it as you do now. Why, you know
absolutely nothing about Colonel Bathwick.

. . . I leave you to imagine what a marriage
founded on a mistaken sense of duty will lead to."

"Doctor Byrne!" exclaimed Miss Hennessy in-
dignantly, "please don't continue if that's the sort
of thing you're going to say. I'm marrying a man
whom I have a great admiration for."

"But your admiration will fall like a house of
cards, Ida. You simply admire his uniform and
what it stands for. You know nothing about him
as a man."

"What in the world do you mean? Surely I
know him much better than you do."

"No, Ida, you don't. I know all about him that
I care to know, and that has shown me clearly
that you shouldn't marry him."

"Jim! Jim!" exclaimed the girl in evident dis-
tress. "I thought we were friends. Whatever
makes you want to hurt me by saying such ter-
rible things? Why shouldn't I marry the man
I — I — so much admire?"

Byrne smiled as a man might smile who is on
the rack, and who knows that his control is proof
against any torture.

"I'm awfully glad you stammered at that word,
Ida," he said. "I want very much to be your friend,



GOLDCN BUCKLES 33

especially now, and that's why I've come to see
you. . . . Now, will you let me talk to you
like a doctor for a minute or two without inter-
rupting? . . . It's not easy, I assure you."

"I'll promise not to interrupt," she said.

"Well, this is what I want to say. Colonel
Bathwick came to see me professionally yesterday
afternoon. Doctors ai'e sometimes mistaken, but
it was impossible to be so in this case. He is not
nearly as well as he looks. In fact, he is very ill.
If you marry one another you will be sure to catch
the illness from him. I told him all about it, and
he quite understands, but he wouldn't listen to
the idea of putting off his marriage."

" But couldn't you cure him ? You're so clever,
you know. I'm sure you could if you really tried."

"It would take a long time, Ida. More than a
year, perhaps. And he says he won't wait."

"Of course he won't."

"But, Ida, I'm thinking of you."

If there had ever been the slightest chance of
Ida consenting to postpone her marriage, that
sentence banished it.

"You want me to disappoint Gerald just simply
to save myself?" she exclaimed indignantly. "If
you were really my friend, you wouldn't insult me
by suggesting such a thing. When I think of all
he's been through, I feel as though I would do
anything to make him happy. And" — her indig-
nation found vent in tears — "and I don't think it's
at all kind of you to tell me all these horrid
things."

Doctor Byrne rose from his chair and reached
for his hand-bag.

"I'm awfully sorry if I've hurt you, Ida," he
said. "Some day you'll know I really did try to
be your friend. . . . Now please don't cry.

. . . Aren't you going to say good-bye to
me?"



34 GOLDEN BUCKLES

She raised her tearful eyes and saw that he was
standing ready to go.

"Jim! Jim!" she -cried in a broken voice. "I
don't want you to go. You musn't leave me. I
want you at . . . when . . . when . . .
Fm married." The last words came with a jerk.
"Oh, Jim ! You will, won't you. Promise me you
will."

She stretched out her arms to the man she could
so easily have loved. He took one of her hands in
both of his, and hesitated. Then he said, quietly,
"Alright, Ida. I promise." But the wedding
which he was thinking of was not the one with
Colonel Bathwick.

Dr. Byrne's mind was now fully made up. His
reputation as a scientific man, his career, perhaps
even his life, weighed as nothing against his de-
termination to save Ida Hennessy from her own
misguided sense of duty. He decided to murder
Colonel Bathwick. It is an ugly word, yet the
young man was a prey to no disturbing emotion
as he walked quietly to the Barracks and handed
in the fatal dose. He was convinced that the deed
was just, and this conviction robbed it of any
repugnance, and entirely freed his mind from any
chance of future remorse.

The die was cast. He lunched at his Club for
the last time, settled a few outstanding accounts,
and then caught the interstate express for
Adelaide.



GOLDEN BUCKLES 35
PART II.



CHAPTER VL

Oodnadatta.

Some days later, a group of passengers stood
on platform 11 of the Adelaide Railway Station
and watched the North train back in. At that
early hour, there were not many women in the
crowd, and the few exceptions bore the weather
marks of a hotter sun and a sterner life than that
of the southern city. Some of the men were
evidently bound for the suburbs, others would
alight at one or other of the inside farming
stations, whilst a small group, who bundled their
luggage into compartments near together, were
returning to the Far North.

No peculiarity of dress or manner marked them
out, and if their conversation was principally
about horses and cattle, and was strongly flavored
with profanity, it was not apparent to the passer-
by. An Australian bushman might bring a mob
of cattle from north-west Queensland, through
perils by drought or flood, starvation, accident,
the ill-will of natives, or the countless dangers
that ambush "the road" ; he might daily face and
conquer death, yet when his cattle are trucked
and he himself "off to town" with them, he is in
no way different in appearance from his feUow
passengers. Of such dogged, unassuming, prac-
tical stock the Australian Nation is being made.

"Excuse me, could I put my swag up there ?"

The question was asked by a young man as he
entered one of the compartments of the men from
the North, and hoisted his bundle into the rack.



36 GOLDEN BUCKLES

"Right you are, mate, plenty of room," was the
answer. The newcomer sat down.

It was Dr. Byrne, or, as the label that hung
over the rack above his head declared, James
Tynan, passenger to Oodnadatta. He had
attempted no disguise save that given by clothes
more suitable for his destination than those in
which he left Melbourne, and instead of a travel-
ling bag, his belongings were rolled in a couple of
grey blankets and a chemical-duck camp sheet
fastened with swag straps.

As the train steamed out of Adelaide Station
and ran quickly through the suburbs and out into
the country, he sat back and read a newspaper
account of the death of Colonel Bathwick and the
events arising from it.

Out of the mass of journalistic jargon, these
facts emerged: Death was proved to be due to a
certain poison, and an analysis of the contents of
the bottle of medicine bearing Dr. Byrne's signa-
ture, showed that they contained that poison.
From the death chamber to the laboratory was
only a step, and at once what the newspaper chose
to call "the mystery" was explained ; the prescrip-
tion, the balances, and test-tubes which still con-
tained traces of the deadly drug, and finally the
mis-named bottles, all clearly showed that the
young scientist had made a fatal blunder. Instead
of a health-giving antidote. Colonel Bathwick had
received from his doctor a death-dealing poison.

Tynan smiled when he noticed that no mention
was made of the terrible disease from which the
patient was suffering. It was clear that powerful
influences had been at work to suppress that part
of the story. Powerful influences indeed! for,
lest the real reason for the. so-called "accident"
should be used in defence, the whole matter had
been kept out of the Courts.

"The name of Byrne," so ran a letter from a



GOLDEN BUCKLES 37

prominent doctor, "a name, honorably famous in
Australian scientific circles, has been struck off
the medical rolls, and it is with deep regret that
the faculty closes its doors upon one so gifted and
giving promise of such a brilliant future, yet one
who has been guilty of such criminal neghgence."

In another column he read: "Touching reference
was made by the Archbishop in his sermon to the
fact of the deceased's approaching marriage.
Truly In the midst of life we are in death !' This
paper adds its sympathy to that already ex-
pressed. . . ."

Tynan crumpled the paper in exasperation and
looked out of the window. "Touching reference,"
he thought. "I wonder if the old buffer would
have been so touching if he had known that the
scoundrel was killed to prevent him committing a
dastardly crime."

At that moment the train rushed past a group
of workmen, who shouted to the passengers.
"Paper! Paper!"

"Here goes," said the young man aloud, as he
tossed the newspaper on the line, adding to him-
self: "That's the last of James Tynan Byrne,
M.D."

At Terowie they changed to the narrow gauge
line and sped on through less and less populated
country to Quom, where Tynan was glad of a good
meal and a comfortable bed.

Next day all signs of settlement were left behind
save the iron buildings at the sidings, with perhaps
a grog shanty not far away. Even these signs of
civilisation became gradually fewer and further
apart; the train throbbed across hundreds of
miles of unfenced country flanked by the gaunt
slopes of Flinders Range to the east and the hills
around Lake Torrens to the west, to Hergott
Springs, where the traveller first feels the romance
of the Far North, for Hergott Springs is the



38 GOLDEN BUCKLES

terminus of the great overland tracks to Queens-
land and up the east side of the salt lake, Eyre.

At the end of the third day from Adelaide, as
the sun was setting in unveiled pomp, the engine's
warning whistle roused the few remaining pas-
sengers, and Tynan, looking out of the carriage
window, saw the scattered lights of Oodnadatta.

An unmade street on each side of the railway
and telegraph office, an hotel, three stores, a
school, and perhaps a score of houses; such is
Oodnadatta, the metropolis of the Far North. Yet
through that telegraph office throbs the news of
the Eastern Hemisphere, that rough hotel some-
times entertains men owning thousands of square
miles of country on which run cattle almost with-
out number, and from that little school young
men who are to be the sires of the coming nation
go out to the far back places of Central Australia.

In back-country townships, while the presence
of a stranger is at once noted and becomes a sub-
ject of conversation in surroundings where such
subjects are rare, the object of interest is never
made to feel awkward, so that, as Tynan sat on
the bench outside the Transcontinental Hotel the
morning after his arrival, he was apparently ac-
cepted as part of the place.

He watched a string of camels file into the
station yard, kneel, and with many groans of pro-
test receive their load. Later in the day he saw
them stagger to their feet again and disdainfully
file away in charge of a white man and a black-
fellow. It was His Majesty's Great North Mail.
A woman drove in with a 4-horse buggy followed
by a cavalcade of loose horses shepherded by two
blacks. He learnt, to his surprise, that she had
been three weeks on the road ; what was to Tynan
an adventure, was accepted by the woman with
more unconcern than accompanies many a city
lady's shopping. In the afternoon he saw a string



GOLDEN BUCKLES 39

of thirty camels tied nose to crupper, each carry-
ing two little bags of wolfram from a field 600
miles north. He was fascinated by it all : the sense
of vast distances conquered, of hardihood becom-
ing routine, of an outlook unbounded by any
horizon ; these, and also the lounging men in white
suits who seemed possessed of unlimited leisure,
the blacks who lived in camps outside the town-
ship boundary, the tall dignified Afghans who did
most of the camel carting, the spirit of prosperous
goodwill which pervaded everything, and espe-
cially the yellow sun-drenched plains which sur-
rounded the township on every side and stretched
away to the northern horizon which beckoned to
him so alluringly.

And if, during that day, he thought of Ida
Hennessy, it was as a scientist might think of the
action of a stimulant on an organism. Sentiment
had played its part; he wanted the controlling
effect of action.



40 GOLDEN BUCKLES



CHAPTER VIL

Tom Lawson.

Towards evening, a man rode down the main
street from the north, dismounted at the hotel
verandah, and went inside for a drink. The horse,
a dark bay, was a typical stock-horse, bigly made,
short in the back and well coupled, deep-chested,
and with strong- shapely legs. As Tynan was idly
admiring it, he suddenly started with amazement.
On the near-side shoulder was the brand X.T.X.
With a strange feeling of friendship, he went up
and laid his hand on the animal's wither and
stroked the shoulder to make sure of the brand.
As he did so the owner came out and looked at
him in surprise.

"I beg your pardon," said Tynan, smiling, "but
I could hardly believe my eyes."

"Why! WTiat's wrong with the horse?"

"It's not the horse, it's the brand," answered
Tynan. "A friend of mine in town had a horse
with that brand on. I used to ride him, so the
brand's familiar."

"Oh," answered the stockman, in a tone which
implied that he didn't see much in a brand to cause
surprise. "You'll see a couple of hundred of them
to-morrow morning. I've got a mob at the Angle
Pole now, all X.T.X." Saying which, he mounted,
and with a "Good-day," rode off.

On inquiry, Tynan augmented the stranger's
scanty information, and found that soon after
daylight, the horses would water at the troughs
behind the town and be yarded, and would be
trucked and sent away before six the same day.

Next morning Tynan was at the troughs early,
and, knowing something of the ways of horses, he



GOLDEN BUCKLES 41

stood behind the storage tank so as not. to frighten
the animals as they came in. Presently a vague
tint of brown came into the bright sky between
two clumps of mulga on the northern horizon, so
faint that if he had not been watching, Tynan
would never have noticed it. It gTew higher and
broader and more dense, till presently the trees in
the distance were blotted out. Then, far carried
on the keen air, came a faint report — a pistol or
a whip; then more reports, and, like an organ
accompaniment, the low rumble of hoofs. Indis-
tinct forms broke now and again from the front
of the moving cloud of dust, and on the outskirts,
other fomis rushed hither and thither, and it was
from them there came the staccato music of the
whips. The horses were coming!

Suddenly from the distant dust and noise, a
horseman galloped towards the troughs, wheeled
his horse round them to see that everything was
right, and drew rein. For a couple of minutes
he watched the ears of his drinking horse
as they moved each time the animal swallowed,
then the man looked up and caught sight of
Tynan.

"Good-day," he said. "You here? Come to see
the horses? Keep well behind that tank; they're
as scared as scalded cats."

And he was off, taking up a position away from
the troughs, ready for any emergency.

The horses were evidently used to troughs, for
they came straight in, cut up into lots of about
fifty, which were all the troughs could accommo-
date at one time. Tynan noticed that out of the
whole mob there were not more than ten of the
type^he had ridden in Melbourne, and not one of
these showed the same breeding. They were nug-
getty, medium-siz^d geldings for the most part,
with slightly feathered legs and showing distinct



42 GOLDEN BUCKLES

signs of Clydesdale blood. Just the type, as he
found out later, for the military market.

But though he was disappointed at not seeing
more roadsters, his heart went out to them all.
They were horses, and the X.T.X. brand formed a
link of association. As they walked away, he
envied even the blackfellows who rode so easily
behind the mob.

Tynan watched them shepherded towards the
yards till the leaders were within the wing. These
yards, used for probably the wildest cattle in the
Commonwealth, are built right against the main
line, and the young man was soon to see the
folly of this. With nervous haste, ready to fly
at a moment's notice, the mob was working in,
when there came a toot! toot! from the shunting-
yard, followed by a rush of wheels and the 'crash
of trucks one into another.

The stockman and boys wheeled like a flash to


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