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away. Tynan rose more slowly this time, and as
he did so the horse rushed at him with open
mouth, and the young man only just saved him-
self by climbing th& fence.

In spite of his sudden danger and the terrible
contest he had been through, perhaps because of
these things, Tynan's mind was singularly clear
and alert. The riderless horse careered round and
round the yard, bucking and rearing, and lashing
out with its heels at the rails, roaring all the time
with anger and pain. The young doctor's trained
ear caught that note of pain and wondered what
was the cause.

Prince was detemiined to get rid of that
accursed saddle at all costs. Suddenly it lay down
and began to roll, and finally broke the tackling
and stood up quivering and free.

Tynan leapt down from the rails, and, disregard-
ing the warning shout of the two white men,
walked up to the horse.

He looked at the saddle. It was smashed beyond
repair. Then at the horse. A deep recent sore
showed just where the waist of a riding saddle



76 GOLDEN BUCKLES

rests on the back. He looked again at the broken
saddle for an explanation, and saw, lying- on the
sand of the yard, a sharp stone. It had been put
underneath the saddle cloth when the horse was
saddled up!

He picked up the stone and flung it out of the
yard. Prince was standing with heaving sweat-
foamed flanks. Tynan went up to him, speaking
quietly and rubbing his hand over the trembling
shoulders and back. He set the bridle straight
after a few minutes, led the horse half way round
the yard, then jumped on him, bareback. The
animal made no objection, and the new chum rode
past the spectators and out on the flat amidst a
silence of astonishment.

Returning, he met the manager.

"Good! Jim," he said. "Makings of rider"; and
he held out his hand.

But Tynan pretended not to see the overture of
friendship and busied himself with the broken
saddle.

"I'm afraid it's smashed to pieces," he said.
"Waist and gusset both cracked."

The manager dropped his hand.

A quarter of an hour later, as Tynan and Tom
were walking down from the yards, the latter
turned and said,

"Didn't you see Bill's hand, Jim?"

"Of course I did. But he had no right to treat
a horse like that."

"You did a risky thing, mate. Yet I think
you've won. Anyhow, he'll never try to bully you
again. He always gets a man's fighting weight
early, does Bill."



GOLDEN BUCKLES 'j'j

CHAPTER XIJL

On the Run.

Tom was right. Bill Dookie had keen eyes for
a man, and he saw one in the new station hand, and
consequently treated him with respect. Had
Tynan taken the proffered hand, it might have
been different, for Bill was too much a lover of
horses to excuse his own action in putting a stone
under Prince's saddle, and he would have secretly
despised Jim for not being man enough to show
his displeasure. Moreover the new man had the
makings of a rider, and horsemanship is the sine
qua non of the bush.

All hands were busy preparing for a muster
during the next few days. The few unbroken
colts which had been drafted into the workers'
yard were put in the crush, handled, saddled, and
ridden by the black boys under the manager's
supervision. Tynan and his friend Tom damped
a couple of bullock-hides and cut them up for
hobbles. This was new work for Jim, but when
he had got over the initial distaste of working
with greasy hide, his well-trained surgeon's
fingers soon mastered the intricacies of the rose
and crown knot, and he was able to beat his com-
panion at his own game. When the hobbles had
been well greased, stretched, and hung up to
mature, the two men turned their attention to the
pack saddles and bags, and found repairs enough
to keep them very busy.

Sitting underneath a rough brush verandah in
front of the men's quarters, engaged in patching,
stuffing, and rivetting, the two men — so different
in birth and breeding — were drawn close together.
Tom guessed that Tynan was escaping from a



78 GOLDEN BUCKLES

"past," for what other reason would send a man,
so able to hold his own in the more congenial
circles of his upbringing, to that God-forsaken
comer of the vast continent ? But what Tom sur-
mised he kept strictly to himself, and accepted his
mate for what he then was, a man with a lithe
active body, plenty of pluck, and clean straight
thoughts.

For his part, Tynan found the life to be a great
relaxation. It was true that the inexcusable
roughness of board and lodging was not to his
taste, but youth and health and a determination to
go through with his self-imposed sentence made it
bearable. His bushman friend's acceptance of him
as a man was a great delight to him, and the frank
comradeship which was robbed of all secondary
motives. Cities breed caution and unremitting
suspicion, which, when it becomes habitual,
hardens itself into that thrice-accursed system
known as business. When streets and shops and
houses in set rows are left behind, much of this
disappears also, and here in the bush, the true
brotherhood of man was a daily unconscious prac-
tice, not needing the multitude of words with
which city-dwellers too often disguise its great
simplicity.

At dinner, a week after Tynan's arrival at
Mamoola, the manager turned to Tom and asked,

"How are packs, Tom ?"

"Four of them are fit for the road," was the
answer. "Two others want new boards. They
weren't sent up with the last loading."

"Four packs quite enough. Got hobbles done ?"

"Yes, twenty-five pairs. That ought to be
enough. By the way, we're nearly out of hobble
chains."

"Ugh! . . Order next loading. . . Got couple
water bags ... at house. . . Two you brought



GOLDEN BUCKLES 79

. . . Oodnadatta. Plenty. . . . How about can-
teens ? Want take leather. . . Galvanized too."

"I'll test them after dinner," said Tom.

"Ugh! . . How about riding saddles? One
Prince broke .... bit short." Turning to
Tynan, "Got good sliding seat. That suit you ?"

"Sliding seat?" queried Tynan.

"Yes, No knee-pads."

"Oh, I know what you mean ; I've always heard
them called hunting saddles. . . Yes, one of
those would suit me very well. I never used knee
pads till the trip up."

"How you feeling?"

"First rate, thanks."

"Ugh! Start morning. . . Toolooroo Springs.
Muster west country first. Parakelia still bit
green there. Cattle scattered to blazes. All
hands."

"How about the mills?" asked Tom.

"Kitty and Big Dick," grunted the manager.
"She knows . . turn mills off and on. . . If
wind drops . . . use donkeys in whip. . , She
knows."

"A bit risky, isn't it. Bill ? There's close on five
hundred horses watering at these two wells," said
Tom.

"What else?" asked the manager. "Station's
short-handed . . bosses in town want cattle
. . . mob . . . made up somehow. . . . Must have
three whites, . . two mustering, one tailing. . .
Niggers alone no good. . . . Proved it."

Mamoola station was astir early next morning,
and, after breakfast, the tucker bags were stocked
with a supply of meat, flour, tea, sugar, and
tobacco; swags were rolled, quart-pots, canteens,
water-bags, and all the gear of a muster-camp
packed in the quick secure method which at once
distinguishes the bushman from the man from
inside.



8o GOLDEN BUCKLES

Tynan rode ahead with the manager and Ruby,
for the girl was her father's constant companion,
and the plant of twenty horses, packed and loose,
followed, driven by Tom and the two black boys.
A good wind was turning the mills as the men
watered their horses, and Bill gave final instruc-
tions to Big Dick, an old black fellow, what to do
in case the tanks became empty and the wind
failed.

They struck due west across spinifex-crowned
sandhill after sandhill, divided by flats where
scanty mulga grew, and dry buck-bush rolled in
the wind, and where a belated parakelia flower
bloomed here and there between occasional tufts
of dry grass.

Dinner camp was made under a tall desert oak
whose foliage drooped like matted hair and whose
bark was wrinkled as if with great age. Packs
were pulled off and the horses hobbled for the
night on a small plain sparsely covered with dry
grass. The quart pots were boiling in front of
the fire before dawn next day, and the journey
was resumed just as the sun spilt its red splendour
over the horizon.

A small clay-pan of water gave the horses a
drink late that afternoon, but Dookie did not camp
beside it, but pushed on into the night, travelling
in the cool till the moon set, for he knew there was
no chance of finding water before reaching Too-
looroo Springs.

On the afternoon of the second day, Bill called
his companion's attention to the cattle-tracks
which were converging more and more on the one
they were following.

"Sure sign water," he remarked gruffly. "Find
fresh tracks meeting . . . follow. . . strike
water. . . No need perish ... fresh tracks
about."

A few little birds began to flit about the bushes,



GOLDEN BUCKLES 8i

and a couple of flocks of crows, one from the north
and another from the east, converged on the hne.

"That's another sign, I suppose," said Tynan,
pointing to the birds.

"Ugh ! Not sure at all . . . Crows after dead
beast . . likely. . . . Little birds . . .
herbage . . water miles away. . . Good sign
sometimes."

For the next hour they rode across several dry
salt lakes where the distance was filled with mir-
age in which the surrounding sandhills were re-
flected in perfect illusion. The glistening treacher-
ous surface of caked salt was broken here and
there by the light tracks of dingoes, but the cattle
had all kept to the well-worn pads which the
mustering plant was following.

Presently Dookie turned sharply south out of
the bed of a lake, and struck across a high stoney
hill covered with mulga. From this vantage-point,
the view on all sides was dark with scattered
scrub, whilst the tops of a few bare sand-hills
broke the monotony with vivid terra-cotta red.
But the track led down again almost at once, and
Dookie pointed with his stock-whip to what in the
distance looked like a thicket of young trees.

"That's a yard, he said, "mulga spars against
rails. . . . Not much of a place . . does well
enough . . . mustering cattle."

The mulga yard was on a patch of hard ground
above the level of yet another salt-pan. A couple
of hundred yards away, Tynan saw a line of black
troughs, and investigation showed that they were
filled from a short bore pipe.

"There used to be three mud springs before Bill
put down that pipe," explained Tom, "but they
weren't much good for cattle. The whole flat was
bog, and stock couldn't get near the water. We
sunk about 10 feet of piping and tapped the



82 GOLDEN BUCKLES

supply. There's only just that bit of soft ground
at the overflow now."

Between the yards and the troughs was a rough
bough wurley, and the packs were quickly stacked
in it, and the tucker bags hung from the roof out
of the way of ants by day and dingoes by night.
The manager was an old bushman, and when out
on the run never left his pack-bags unprotected
at night. A hundred times there might be no
need for this precaution, but, as he expressed it,
"Habit . . no weight. . . Good thing. Proved
it," and it was well worth while for the sake of
the hundred and iirst time. A man's life in the
bush depends on the safety of his packs.



GOLDEN BUCKLES 83

CHAPTER XIV.

Tailing.

In spite of the long tiring day under the cruel
sun, with the added discomfort of thirst, and the
constant harassing of flies, Tynan could not sleep
for some hours after the others had turned in. He
lay on his camp-sheet staring up at the night-blue
sky crossed by the blur of The Milky Way, with
the Southern Cross slowly marking out the hours
of revolution round the pole. The clink of hobbles
and the occasional lilt of a bell came from the hill-
side as the horses moved about amongst the scanty
grass, whilst the solitude seemed at times to
become vocal in the high-pitched wail of wild-dogs
far away. Cattle bellowed at the troughs, and the
sound of running water was a ceaseless accompani-
ment to his thoughts.

West of that lonely mustering camp lay country
known only toi;he few men who occasionally rode
over it in search of cattle, and beyond their tracks
was a thousand miles of No-man's Land, marked
perhaps here and there by the bleached bones of a
venturesome prospector.

The soft majesty of the night, and a sense of
vast and primitive simplicity, seemed to reduce
life to its Least Common Multiple. The flower
which the young man had vainly sought in the
cultivated gardens of the mind was here blooming
wild; wisdom, which is the unconscious goal of
all learning, was vocal in the breeze that sighed
over the heat-tired earth ; the door of which every
religion professes to hold the key was here flung
wide, and creeds died out like the camp fire which
was slowly crumbling to grey ashes.

For a brief hour the young doctor saw the vision



84 GOLDEN BUCKLES

that comes once and again to most men : the abso-
kite unity of all creation, the inexorable law that
guides it, and his own portion therein. Yet sud-
denly, at the apex of this consciousness, came
thoughts of Ida Hennessy. So sharply incessant
was his sudden need of her, that he involuntarily
cried out and started up. At once there was a
patter of running feet, and a marauding dingo dis-
appeared into the scrub.

"Anything wrong?" asked Tom, turning over
in his blanket.

"No," rephed Tynan; "but I think a wild dog
was after our meat."

"That all ?" grunted the sleepy stockman.

The vision had passed. Tynan lay down with a
weary sigh. His former mental self-sufficiency
was slipping from him little by little, and, whereas
at one time he had prided himself on the emotional
experiment he was trying on Ida Hennessy, he
realized now that his interest in the result was not
merely scientific. Some day he might call these
feelings "love," but though he did not do so that
night, he knew that the whole creation was empty
for him if it did not hold that one girl. His drowsy,
waking thoughts merged into dreams, in which all
her guessed perfections had burst into glorious
bloom. Who can say what thoughts of future
bliss were his, for the strong man is weak at the
glance of a woman, the wise a fool, and the
meanest. wretch a king?

Tynan was left alone in camp next day with
instructions to have damper and meat cooked by
dusk. The manager went one way with Ruby,
and Tom went another, each taking one of the
boys.

Tynan walked round the yard in the morning,
and saw that it did not need repairing, and made
the wurley a little more sun-proof. He mixed up a
damper in the afternoon, and was scooping a hole



GOLDEN BUCKLES 85

for it in the hot ashes, when his attention was
taken by something moving in the scrub on the
other side of the flat. There are so few animals
in the bush that the sHghtest movement at once
catches the eye, and the young man was sure he
had not been mistaken. He went on with his
cooking, however, strongly conscious that some-
one was w^atching him. The dough rose under a
light sprinkling of ashes, and Tynan was just about
to heap on some more, when four blackfellows
came out of the scrub, walked in single file to the
spring, stooped to drink, and then walked back
again in their own tracks ana disappeared. They
were absolutely naked, and wore their hair
bunched at the bac^k with grass and fat, and each
was carrying a boomerang and two spears. They
walked as if entirely unconscious of the white
man's presence, and though they did not seem to
hurry, they crossed the distance from cover to
cover in an incredibly short time. Tynan felt that
no detail of the camp had escaped their notice,
and after they were lost to sight, he again had
that uncomfortable sense of being watched.

A few crows had come round during the day,
and, seeing one perched on a post about a hundred
yards away, Tynan took a rifle from the wurley
and shot it. At once he knew that those four
pairs of eyes had ceased to watch him. He was
right. The savages had fled at the report.

Towards sunset a cloud of dust appeared behind
a sandhill south of the camp, with presently the
sound of lowing cattle. Bill and Tom had met,
and a mob of about a hundred cattle came slowly
towards the troughs. Some calves broke back at
the yards, and the horsemanship of the quarter-
caste girl was again equal to the best.

On subsequent days Tynan and Ruby tailed the
mustered cattle, releasing them from the yard in
the morning, and shepherding them all day to pre-



86 GOLDEN BUCKLES

vent their breaking away to the bush, and in the
evening, watering and yarding them again with
the Kttle mobs that the stockmen brought in.

On the fourth day, Bill and the nigger came in
late with a few cattle, but Tom did not turn up.

"How much water did he take?" asked the
manager.

"Just a water-bag."

"Might strike water -. . west," suggested Bill.
"Can't tell. . . Tom going . . far as grass
goes.. . . Hills out there .... perhaps rock-
hole . . likely. . . . Good man . . Tom . .
good bushman."

Nothing could be done that night but build a big
fire on a high sand-hill near, and keep it burning
all through the hours of darkness.



GOLDEN BUCKLES 87

CHAPTER XV.

The New Chum to the Rescue.

The night was just tingeing with grey in the
east, and the camp was beginning to stir next
morning, when Scarry rode into camp.

"Where's Tom?" asked the manager.

"Him sit down," answered the black-boy. "Him
no more walk longa camp."

"What name you yabber?" demanded Bill in
amazement. "Tom no more walk longa camp?"

"Yah. Him sit down alright."

"Which way him sit down?"

The boy pointed west. "Longa stones," he re-
plied.

"How long him sit down?"

Scarry pointed to the rising sun, and then to
the western horizon.

"Since sunset?" asked Bill.

"Yah."

"What for him no walk longa you?"

"Him no more walk longa me. Him break um
leg."

"Then why in the hell didn't you say so at first ?"
exclaimed the manager, then turning to Tynan,
who had just put on the quart pots for breakfast,
he explained: "Tom . . under that range . . .
broken leg. Don't know how . . can't find out
from Scarry. . . Nigger's head no good . . .
too hard."

The boy in question was busy drinking pannikin
after pannikin of water, apparently quite uncon-
cerned that a white man was lying wounded thirty
miles away.

"May I go out and see what I can do?" asked
Tynan,



88 GOLDEN BUCKLES

The manager looked enquiringly at the speaker,
and, in order that he might be allowed to go to the
help of his friend, the former doctor lifted one
corner of the veil that covered his past. "I've had
some experience with broken limbs and that sort
of thing," he added.

"Have you?" A keen glance passed between
them. "You're the man. . . . Know more about
cattle . . me . . always did. Take Ruby . . .
good tracker. Better'n blackfella. . . Take
pack-horse, tucker, canteen." Then, the urgency
of his request rendering his words more connected,
he added, "For the Lord's sake, don't waste time.
Late with mob already."

It was on the tip of Tynan's tongue to reply
that Tom's safety was of more importance than all
the cattle on Marnoola, but he checked himself
and ate his breakfast of damper, meat, and tea
hurriedly.

A quarter of an hour later, Tynan rode out of
camp, with Ruby in the lead, followed by Scarry
with a pack horse and a couple of spares. They
emerged from the scrub towards noon, on a wide
plain dotted with thickets of mulga, and obtained
a clear view of the barren hills near which Tom
was said to be lying.

Suddenly a pair of eagles rose ahead of
them, and almost immediately Ruby's sharp eyes
caught sight of a dead bullock on the plain. It
had evidently not been there more than a couple of
days, for not much of it had been eaten, although
dingo tracks were all round the carcass.

"Black fella bin kill um," said Ruby.

"How ever d'you know that?" asked her com-
panion in amazement.

The girl pointed to some tracks. "Tom bin
follow um up," she continued.

"You mean that Tom saw this and went after
the blackfellow who did it?" asked Tynan.



GOLDEN BUCKLES 89

"Yah," she assented, as though it was too
obvious to admit of doubt.

The young man looked back. He and the girl
had out-stripped the plant by several miles, and he
saw three horses — one packed and two spares —
just coming over a rise, but no mounted man was
following them. With the h^bit of old workers,
the horses had followed the tracks of the leaders,
not needing to be driven.

"Where's Scarry?" asked Tynan.

"Me can't know um," answered Ruby in per-
plexity, and, digging her heels into the horse's
flank, she cantered to the top of a small hill and
back again to the dead bullock.

"Scarry no come up," she said. "Me think him
'fraid.'** She pointed to the carcass and then to
the tracks of bare feet. "Him Jack's tracks," she
remarked.

This deduction seemed almost impossible to the
new chum, and he exclaimed, "D'you mean to say
you know who made those tracks. Who is Jack,
anyway ?"

"Blackfella go longa Oodnadatta. Him no come
back," she explained, and Tynan remembered that
the nigger to whom Tom had dealt out such sum-
mary justice on the way up to Mamoola, was
named Jack.

One thing, however, was apparent and needed
no bushcraft to decide. Scarry was not following,
so there was nothing to do but go on without
him.

"Scarry can go to the devil!" he exclaimed,
angrily. "We must find Tom quick."

For nearly another hour they followed the
tracks of bare feet with those of two horses run-
ning beside them, till Ruby suddenly pulled up and
pointed to some confused marks in the sand just
where a clump of thick mulga grew on a stoney
rise north of the track. The marks meant nothing



90 GOLDEN BUCKLES

at all to Tynan, but his companion read them
clearly.

"Tom fall off um horse," she said.

"What! Fall off his horse! Did it trip?" •

The girl dismounted and examined the area of
pressed sand.

"Me no think it," she answered. "Tom, he lay
down long" time."

Very willingly did the university-trained man
acknowledge the leadership of this child of the
bush. She hitched her horse and walked in a
big circle round the tracks.

"Scarry, him 'fraid alright. Him ride back
longa camp quick-fella," she announced. "Jack,
him no come up. Him walk long way," she waved
her hand to indicate that he had gone away and
had not molested the fallen man.

Suddenly a streak of excitement flashed across
her expressionless face. "Look!" she cried.
"Old man Tom walk longa scrub ;" and she pointed
to where a displaced stone or two told her that a
man had dragged his body along.

Following this discovery, Tynan heard, for the
first time, the real Australian Coo-ee. Many a
time in inside country he had heard whites send
out the shrill cry, but he had never thought it
possible that the human voice could penetrate
so far.

"Car-r-r-weh !" The call was not loud, yet Ty-
nan knew that it was almost as clear at two miles
as it was at two yards, whereas on that still after-
noon the clear notes could probably be heard still
further.

"Car-r-r-weh I"

Silence. Then an answering shout came from
the scrub, as if a man was waking from sleep or
from the numbness of pain. It was not a hundred
yards away.



GOLDEN BUCKLES 91

In his excitement, Tynan forgot all about the
horses. There in the wilderness was a white man
needing help, and he spurred frantically towards
the sound. But his companion, combining the
bloods of two races, was wiser. She rounded up
the straying horses before she followed.



92 GOLDEN BUCKLES



CHAPTER XVL

Bush Surgery.

Ruby had correctly interpreted the tracks.
Tom and the black boy had come across the tracks
of a small mob of cattle about the middle of the
previous afternoon. These had led them to the
freshly-killed bullock.

Cattle-killing in the bush is the crime of crimes.
Many thousands of pounds of public money are
spent yearly in sending the police on fruitless
errands after such delinquents. It may take
weeks or months before the news reaches the
police camp, and the blacks are away in their
desert fastnesses long before the slow arm of the
law is stretched out. Even if a cattle-killing nig-
ger is captured, his trial is delayed by a long jour-
ney to the court, and the sentence is often such
as to encourage rather than check wrong-doers:
a few months of well-fed idleness, to be finally
released with a new blanket and tomahawk. Like
children, the tracks understand reward and
punishment only when it directly follows the act,


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