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enlarge the circle, hoping the frightened horses
would quieten if they were given more space, but
another series of toots completed the mischief.
With a wild rush which nothing could check, the
horses broke from the yards and dashed for the
open country. In vain did the mounted men try
to turn the lead; brumbies were in the mob, as
one boy learnt to his cost, for, managing to gain
a place ahead of the fugitives, the rider was
overturned by the mad charge, for a galloping
brumby, unlike other horses, will never turn.
The stampede went right across the plains to the
west of Oodnadatta, till the mob was finally
rounded up and held in the scattered mulga of a
dry creek six miles away.

Tynan met the stockman returning from the
creek about an hour later.

"Got them all?" he asked.

"Yes, I've got the blighters. Did you see the
break?"



GOLDEN BUCKLES 43

"Yes, I saw it."

"What did you think of it? Did you ever in
all your born natural see such a thing as that
blasted yard ? Stuck bang up against the line. It'd
be all very well down country with *Mary-had-a-
little-lamb' and *Gee-up-Dobbin' sort of cattle, but
they're as wild as mosquitoes up here. It's touch
and go every time a hoof goes through those
gates. . . . They'll take some stuffing out of us
to-night, or I'm a Chinaman."

"Are you short-handed?" asked Tynan.

"Yes. My mate's tanking up at the pub. Silly
fool ! He's going down on the special. The nigger
that got chucked won't be much good. We'll
manage, though, somehow."

"Could I give you a hand?"

Keen eyes looked into ones equally keen, and
the men liked one another.

"Not used to the job, are you?"

"No, but I can ride."

The stockman shook his head. "Thanks for the
offer," he said, "but it wouldn't do. It's not work
for a new chum. . . . But I tell you what I would
be glad of. If you would give me a hand to tmck
them. . . . Are you staying at the pub?"

"Yes."

"Well, if you've nothing better to do, I'd be glad
if you'd help. I reckon to tail the mob till about
three, then work in slowly and give them a drink,
and yard and truck them straight away. Could
you be at the yards about four ?"

"Yes, I'd hke to."

"Thanks. Care for a drink?"

By evening, when the horses were trucked and
on their way to Adelaide, Tynan had made up his
mind.

"Do you want a man for Marnoola Station?"
he asked his new friend, as they sat and looked
at the moonlit street.



44 GOLDEN BUCKLES

"You bet your life, we do," was the answer.
"Jack Donay, the bloke that's with the horses,
drunk as a lord, he's gone down to enlist. He's
sure to get through; he's as tough as a whip,
though he's as slow as a darned wood-heap. Why
d'you ask? Did you think of taking it on?"

"I'd like to," replied Tynan. "Could I go up
with you?"

The stockman looked at his companion for a
moment before replying.

"You'll find it darned rough, but I'd be glad of
your company. You're not used to the road, I
suppose?"

"No. But I can learn to get used to anything."

His companion thought a while, and as is the
habit with many bushmen, did so aloud. "Reckon
old Bill'd take him on. Even if he doesn't, he
couldn't swear at a few weeks' rations. I've got
Jack's saddle and the pack he used coming down."
Then, to Tynan, "Alright then. What luggage
have you got?"

"I've just got a swag that I can lift quite
easilv "

"Right. We'll call it a do."

"How about provisions?" asked Tynan.

"Oh, leave that to me. I'll see to the rations.
If there's any row, you can square Bill Dookie.
He's manager, you know. ... By the way, what
shall I call you?"

"My name's James Tynan. My friends call me
Jim."

"And mine's Tom Lawson, and you can forget
the Lawson. They'll tell you lots about me up
the track. You can believe what you like. . . .
We'll spend to-morrow in Oodnadatta and get all
the packs ready in the evening for an early start
about daylight next day. . . . Have you got a rug
and a camp-sheet?"

"Yes."



GOLDEN BUCKLES 45

"And a quart-pot?"

"No, I haven't got a quart-pot?"

"You'll want one. That's the lot I think. You
won't want to buy a butcher's knife ; you can use
Jack's."

For a time they sat in silence, listening to the
click of billiard balls and the exclamations of the
players in the room behind, till a couple of men
sauntered out of the hotel and joined them, and
conversation became general.



46 GOLDEN BUCKLES

CHAPTER VIIL

On the Road.

Day after day the plant rode north — two
whites, three niggers, and about twenty horses;
first came Tom Lawson and the new chum riding
abreast and setting the pace, behind them five
horses packed and the rest loose with hobbles
jangling at their necks, brought up by Jack,
Scarry and Albert. It took Tynan several days to
distinguish Jack from Scarry, though their fea-
tures were very different; to him, the fact that
they were black obscured all distinguishing
marks. But when he noticed that, of the finery
they had bought in Oodnadatta, Scarry wore a
pale pink hatband, whereas Jack's was white with
blue spots, he felt he had advanced one step in
knowledge. Albert caused him no trouble from
the start, for he wore a waistcoat even on the
hottest days.

It was summer. The sun rose clean eyed and
fierce, and looked down all day without pity on
the cringing earth. Panting beast and bird sought
the shade of withered trees, and tiny reptiles
crawled for sanctuary beneath the stones ; mirage
quivered on the horizon and filled each hollow
with a mockery of limpid water edged with trees ;
while the shadow of a wheeling bird of prey was
upon the tracks of every stumbling beast. The
cruel sun sank slowly to the west, satiated with
the lust of another day, and his reeking jaws drip-
ped blood upon his couch. But when the pomp-
stained curtains were drawn, the tired earth
sighed and little creatures came without fear from
their hiding-places and lived beneath the cool
stars.



GOLDEN BUCKLES 47

To the men journeying north, however, the cool
nights meant nothing else but sleep. In spite of
the unaccustomed hardship, Tynan found that
novelty conquered the weariness of the road, and
his great desire to get further and further away
from his old hfe made the longest day too short.
He was not fleeing from justice, but towards it —
to a court where man is judged as a man, not as
to his ability to clothe himself with shams. He
panted for the open air like one who has been
confined for a long time in a closed room. He
wanted, too, perhaps more than anything else, to
let absence, the isolation from men of his stamp,
and the fatigue of arduous work, test his feelings
for Ida Hennessy, which, breaking suddenly
through the ice of his self-control, had led to
the death of Colonel Bathwick.

Tom Lawson cast many a questioning glance at
his silent companion who sat on his horse so up-
right and yet with so much ease. The mask which
is habitual to professional men gave no indication
of the young man's thoughts, and Tom was too
true a bushman to intrude any question upon the
privacy of another man's life.

All surface water, except that in the largest
water-holes, had dried up long ago, because of
the drought. The track wandered from one of
these oases to another, across country more bar-
ren than Tynan had ever seen; ridges of soft red
sand crowned with tussocks of spinifex-grass ;
plains, bare save for a few wisps of gaunt dry
grass that sparsely covered them like hair on the
head of a corpse ; dry creek beds full of loose white
sand and edged with box-trees that told of water
running below the surface.

When Tynan passed that way again, some
months later, the country was hardly recognis-
able. Grass waved across the plains, hiding the
stones in a caiijet of green; the sand-hills were



48 GOLDEN BUCKLES

gay with shrubs and tender flowers; while, in
gutters where the rain had run, water-melons
were to be found. He understood then why travel-
lers gave such conflicting accounts of Central Aus-
tralia.

From time to time they passed Government
bores, which gave water, often warm and brack-
ish, to travelHng stock: Wire Creek, The Ten
Mile, Hamilton, Blood's Creek, and Charlotte
Waters, which latter bore was reached on the
sixth day and was their first camp in the North-
ern Territory.

Each evening, Tom and his companion rode
ahead and chose a spot for camp. When the plant
came up, packs were pulled off, horses hobbled, a
fire lit, and the quart-pots set in a row to boil.
Tynan soon learnt to make damper and cook it in
the ashes, and also to use his slice as a plate for
his chunk of salt beef. Black tea, damper and
meat, morning, noon, and night ; such is the tucker
carried in the packs all over the Territory. After
tea, the two white men unrolled their swags, lay-
ing the camp sheets so as to avoid the bindey-
eyes and goat-head prickles that abounded, lit
their pipes, and lay down, the blacks doing tne
same a little distance away.

They talked at times, not personal talk, but
Tynan listened to tales of cattle-camps, brumby-
running, musters in flood time, and long overland
journeys in drought; for Tom had come "into the
country" as a lad, and had known it before the
railway was as far north as it was then, in the
days when rations and mails were sometimes
eighteen months on the road. And the young
man, in his turn, told of student exploits in "the
old country," which, although they seemed very
tame to him now, delighted his listener beyond
measure.

One evening Tom was deploring the fact that



GOLDEN BUCKLES 49

he was so uneducated, when Tynan remarked
quietly —

"Why, Tom, you're one of the best educated
men I've met."

"Go on! You're pulling my leg!" denied the
bushman. "Educated! Me! . . . Lord! I can
read a bit and sign me blooming name, and add up
a bill. D'you call that educated?"

"I reckon I'm one of the least educated men
north of the Charlotte," continued Tynan, ignor-
ing the other's question.

"What in the hell d'you mean, Jim?"

"Why, this. What's the use of Latin, Greek,
and Algebra up here, Tom? I've got those, but
beyond the fact that I can ride a quiet horse, I
know nothing useful. In almost all the occasions
you've mentioned — camps, musters, floods, and
droughts — when you've won through by sheer
knowledge, sheer education, I should have
perished. Not from lack of pluck, mind you, but
from downright ignorance. . . . I'm out to learn,
Tom, old man; to be educated in the alphabet of
real life."

They lay quietly, at other times, and looked at
the stars, listening to the faint clink, clink of
hobbles and the lilt of a neck-bell as the horses
fed near by ; or to the coroboree-chant of the three
black boys, which sounded like the very loneliness
made vocal.

Each morning, at the first faint signs of day,
Tom rolled out of his blankets.

"Daylight!" he shouted to the boys, and, if
there was any reluctance on their part, he fol-
lowed it up with, "Quickfella, you there !"

Last night's fire was blazing again in a few
minutes, and the pots were in a row beside it,
while the boys went off with their bridles to round
up the horses, tracking them unfalteringly in the
grey light. Breakfast was quickly disposed of,



50 GOLDEN BUCKLES

and the horses packed and saddled, and then, when
Tom had given a keen glance to every harnessed
animal, with an occasional query as to hobbles,
the tightness of a girth, or whether the canteens
had been filled that morning at the water-hole, the
two white men mounted and rode away, followed
by the plant.

Tynan woke one night at the touch of a cold,
smooth body on his leg. His camp sheet had come
unwrapped at the foot, and something had crawled
in. He lay still as a corpse, and felt it gliding
further and further up his leg. It was a snake,
and to have moved would have courted hideous
death. He did not want to die. The problem
of his life would not be solved that way, and it
was worth living if only to see the tangled skein
unwind.

Very cautiously he called to his sleeping com-
panion.

'Tom!"

No answer.

"Tom !" louder still.

"Tom! For God's sake wake up!" as loud as
he dare.

"What's wrong, Jim?"

"There's a snake in my bed."

The bushman was instantly wide awake.

"Don't frighten it, Tom," whispered Tynan.
"It's crawling up my leg. Its head is about op-
posite my hip on your side."

"Right, old man. Don't stir, whatever you do.
Which side does your swag open ?"

"Your side."

"Right. You leave it to me."

Tom got up quietly, grasped a stick, and called
to the sleeping boys.

"Jack! Scarry! Albert!"

The urgency of his voice was unmistakable, and
three heads bobbed up in the grey light.



GOLDEN BUCKLES 51

"Bring um up stick, three fella. Bring um up
longa me!"

The boys obeyed, and the four men, armed with
sticks, stood round Tynan as he lay, hardly daring
to breathe.

"What for?" asked Jack; but Tom cut him
short.

"You no yabber," he said, sharply; then added,
in explanation : "Flurry snake sit down longa white
fella," pointing to where he reckoned the rep-
tile's head was. "Me chuck um camp sheet, quick-
fella. You kill um, kill um, kill um. See?" He
made demonstrations with his stick.

The trio grunted ui^derstanding.

"Are you right, Jim . . . I'll count three and
then fling the blankets off. You leap for your life.
. . . Ready?"

"Right," came the answer, and Tynan knew how
slender was the thread that bound him to life.

"One!"

The slippery coils were nestling down beside his
thigh.

"Two!"

Without the flicker of a muscle, he gathered
himself for the greatest effort of his life.

"Three!"

The blankets were flung aside. Tynan leaped.
.Fierce yells of excitement broke the tense silence
as the sticks fell again and again upon the writh-
ing form that sought refuge in vain within the
folds of the blankets.

It_was a snake about six feet long, black and
very deadly.

"Did he get you ?" Tom was at his companion's
side with an anxious face.

"No, Tom. I'm alright. . . . Thanks to you,"
he answered, holding out his hand.

The bushman took it. "To me be damned !" he
exclaimed. "My word, Jim, you've got pluck."



52 GOLDEN BUCKLES

And praise from such a man as Tom did more
to restore the new chum's shaken nerves than any
tonic could have done.

**Just look at those dirty niggers," said Tom,
to change the subject, for a bushman hates any
show of feeling.

The boys had taken the snake and thrown it
on the ashes of the fire. In a few minutes, be-
fore even the skin was properly charred, they
pulled it out again and began devouring the
savoury morsel with grunts of satisfaction.

"Get to hell out of this!" shouted Tom, as he
drove them back to their swags. "If you must be
pigs, grunt in your own sty."

"Him plurry good," mumbled Jack, as he
chewed vigorously at his portion of the reptile,
which hung out of each corner of his mouth.
"Plurry good."

"There's no accounting for taste," said Tynan,
arranging his blankets again. But, try as he
would, there was no more sleep for him that night.



GOLDEN BUCKLES 53



CHAPTER IX.

Jack.

Another incident which occurred on the road
must be recorded, because of its far-reaching re-
sults.

At dawn one morning, Tom told Jack to be
careful to fill the canteens before starting. This
was always done in case of emergency, but on the
day in question it was particularly important, as
they would probably not strike water till the mid-
dle of the next day.

When the packs were pulled off at noon, Tom
found, to his amazement, that the canteens were
almost empty.

- He went up to Jack in a rage and demanded an
explanation.

"What for you no fill um canteen longa water
hole, same as me yabber?" he asked.

The black boy had evidently forgotten, but for
some reason oi- another he resented Tom's tone,
and replied:

"Plurry white fella! What for he no fill um
canteen ?"

Tom's fist shot out like a flash, and the man
fell. As he rose, he groped for a stick, but the
stockman's whip whistled through the air and cut
his arm from shoulder to wrist, and the nigger
sank ba'ck, whining.

There v/as just enough water in the canteens
for four quart-pots, so the delinquent went
thirsty, which was no light punishment after six
hours in the sun and with a prospect of many
more before the next drink. Jack was made to
ride ahead of the whites all that afternoon, and



54 GOLDEN BUCKLES

they travelled on far into the night till they
reached water.

Lawson said casually to his companion as they
turned in that night :

"Got a revolver, Jim?"

"No. I didn't know one was necessary."

"It is sometimes. . . . Good-night."

Exhausted by the long day, Tynan soon fell
asleep, and so did Tom; but the latter, with the
habit bom of years of bush life, woke to com-
plete consciousness some hours afterwards at the
sound of a breaking twig.

The moon was an hour off setting, and by her
light he saw Jack, stripped of all his clothing,
crawling forward towards the two white men.

Lawson did not move, for his revolver was at his
belt, and he had taken the precaution of wearing
it that night. Nearer and nearer came the figure,
and, as the man turned his head to look for the
axe, Tom slipped his hand out from the blankets
and lay there with cocked revolver, apparently
asleep. The blackfellow grasped the axe, and
again began crawling forward. When about three
yards away, he knelt up and rested the axe-head
on the ground, preparatory to his last spring.

A shot rang out ! There was a yell of pain, and
the axe dropped from the man's broken wrist.

Tynan leapt to his feet almost at the same time
as Lawson, and both saw the howling nigger dis-
appearing in the scrub.

"I don't think he'll come back," remarked Tom.
"I've smashed his wrist, anyhow."

"Why didn't you kill him, Tom ? He would have
killed you if you hadn't spotted him."

"You mayn't kill these vermin," he answered.
"It's called murder. But if one of them does for
a white man, he only gets about a year in a
Government camp down country, petted by the
ladies and missionaries, and fed on the best of



GOLDEN BUCKLES 55

tucker. He's brought up here again when his
time's up, with a new blanket and tomahawk, to
murdeij- another of us if he wants to."

"Does that sort of thing often happen?" asked
Tynan.

"They're pretty out of hand now-a-days. The
whites put the fear of God into them in the early
days, and things were better. But since they've
been protected, and taught by missionaries and
all that rubbish, they're getting very cheeky.
. . . Here, you two-fella. Scarry, Albert," he
called out, as he saw the other two black boys
standing undecided what to do. "You no walk
longa Jack. Him silly fella."

"Yah, Him silly fella alright," came back the
relieved answer, as the boys saw that the stock-
man was not angry with them.

The two white men took alternate watches for
the rest of the night, but Jack had disappeared.

When they had been several weeks on the road, ^
they were riding towards a low range of hills one
afternoon.

"See that toe of high country?" asked Tom,
pointing to where the hills sloped away to the
plains. "We'll round that about dinner-time to-
morrow. From that on we'll be in Mamoola
country."

"I see," answered Tynan. "Has the range any
particular name ?"

"Not that I know of, but those two little peaks
that stand up are called 'Blood' and 'Water'."

" 'Blood' and 'Watfer' ?" echoed Tynan.

"Yes. Some call them 'The Brothers,' but
mostly 'Blood' and 'Water.' "

"However did they come to be called such
names ?"

"Well, it was before I came into the North,"
answered Tom. "I was just a lad on Blanch water
at the time. Two brothers, called Dan and Archie



56 GOLDEN BUCKLES

McLeod, were trying to make across country to
the Bartonga gold field. The field was all in the
boom those days, and I reckon more men pegged
out on the way up than ever got there. These
two were some of them that died. No one knows
how it happened, but their luck was clean out, for
a mustering party passed that way with water
and tucker the very next day. Dan fell down
an old well. I'll show it you to-morrow. He must
have been too weak to pull up water. Archie was
found at the foot of that first peak. Poor beggar,
he had tried to drink his own blood. So they
named the peaks after them — 'Blood' and 'Water.'
You see, it was the best they could do for them."

Tynan saw the .staging of the old well next day.
It was one of the boundary-marks of Marnoola.

Tom was right about Jack; the blackfellow did
not return.

"He's a bad nigger, anyway," said the bushman.
"Old Bill Dookie followed him for nine days with
a cocked rifle on his saddle. He'd have got him
sure, if the beggar hadn't made into the ranges
where a horse can't travel."

"Would he have shot him? I thought you said
it was punishable as murder for a white to kill a
black."

"So it is. But cattle-killing is just plain cattle-
killing. Out West here we're amongst wild blacks,
and a damned long way from the telegraph line,
and further still from a police station. . . . He'd
have plugged him alright. Who'd give evidence?
None of us, you bet your life."

By the old well at the foot of the Blood and
Water peaks, the travellers had turned west, and
now the country was far looser than any Tynan
had yet seen, and the stages between waters were
longer. At each water-hole was a stock-yard, and
every vestige of grass had been eaten around it
for miles. Tracks of cattle and horses leading in



GOLDEN BUCKLES 57

and out showed that many hundred head of stock
were watering at each of the holes.

But ten to twenty miles away from the yards
there was an abundance of dry grass, and Tynan
soon rid his mind of what Tom called "the green
pastures and still waters" idea, and realised that,
in the Territory, stock may have to travel twenty
miles from water to find feed. Tom pointed out
the parakelia to him, a little plant with watery
leaves and a purple flower, growing in the dryest
soil, and on which cattle can live for months with-
out a drink. But the parakelia was drying up
and the full number of Marnoola stock was on the
waters.

At last the names of landmarks were reckoned
in miles from Marnoola Station: Thirty Mile
Creek, Eighteen Mile Hill, Fifteen Mile Creek,
Three Mile Claypan; till, one afternoon, Tynan
saw the first length of fencing he had seen for
several weeks — the Marnoola horse -paddock,
where the working horses fed.

All day the horses had walked at top speed,
and showed an inclination to break into a canter
as the paddock gate was reached and passed
through. A sandhill hid the station buildings,
but a great lowing of cattle came from the yards
where a group of men were working.

"Good-day, Tom!" shouted a gruff, jerky voice
from the hubbub. "Leave packs to niggers . . .
give us hand. Got twenty more 'fore dark. . . .
Who's the bloke? Bring him, too."

Without waiting for an answer, the speaker
stooped over another prostrate calf, and as the
two white men rode on to a hitching rail in front
of the harness shed, Tynan heard the same voice
shouting, "Brand-o !"

"That's Bill Dookie," said Tom, as he dis-
mounted.



58 GOLDEN BUCKLES



CHAPTER X.

Impressions.

From the sand-hill near the gate, the station
looked like a collection of brush wurleys, with
here and there an iron roof. To the north was a
two-roomed building made of slabs and pug, and
roofed with iron. Tom called it "Government
House," and explained that the manager lived
there with his lubra mistress and child. The
men's quarters and buggj^-shed were in a row, and
both walls and roof were made of broom-bush
lashed to mulga posts and rails with strands of
green-hide. Facing these was another row of
rough sheds, consisting of kitchen, store, meat-
house, and harness-room.

Nothing was here but the barest necessities of
life ; not the slightest inducement for men to stay
for any other reason than a wage. In his first
sight of Mamoola Station, Tynan sensed one of
the curses of the Northern Territory : it is a place
where life is kept at the efficiency point for mak-
ing money and nothing else. That men live as
bushmen all their lives under such primitive con-
ditions is not a commendation, but a tragedy;
they often become unfitted for any other life, and
die where they have struggled to live.

The future will give more honour than the pre-
sent to the memory of the pioneers of Central
Australia: men who lived and died at privation
noint with no encouragement thd,n that given by
their own stout hearts. They dreamt of homes
and the voices of women and children, on the spots


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