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so some of the far-out bushmen do not wait for
the law.

When he had seen the dead bullock and ex-
amined the tracks, Tom had loosened his revol-
ver in its holster and had followed. The recent
tracks had led him, as they did Ruby and Tynan,
to where a thick clump of mulga grew upon a
stoney rise. Here he had drawn rein, for the
tracks had turned into this scrub and were not
easy to follow.

Blacks seldom fight in the open. Theirs is the
warfare of the wild cat, the snake, and of all



GOLDEN BUCKLES 93

cowards, creeping from ambush in the dark upon
an unsuspecting foe. But he fights for his life
when he is cornered, and fights to kill.

Jack had been cornered. Beyond that thicket
lay the plains upon which he would have had no
chance against a mounted man. Suddenly he
had let fly his boomerang with deadly precision
at the stockman.

Quick as thought, Tom had wheeled his horse,
but the missile had struck his lower leg as it was
pressed against the saddle-flap in turning, and it
had snapped like a match. He had fallen, and his
frightened horse had galloped off, to turn up at
the Marnoola troughs a week later, rid of both
saddle and bridle. Tom had risen to his knees
in an instant, and had fired into the scrub, but
his assailant, with an almost superstitious fear
of a wounded and armed white man, had made off
through the mulga and away across the plains.
Tom had kept his kneeling position of defence for
an hour, but gradually the pain had worn him
down, and he had lapsed into unconsciousness. In
the cool night he had come to, almost delirious
with thirst. Scarry had gone, perhaps mistaking
unconsciousness for death. No water, no food, no
horse, with a broken leg in the untrodden wilder-
ness ! Before unconsciousness again claimed him,
he had dragged his aching body up into the scrub
where the shade was thickest, so that the next
day's sun should not hasten his death and destroy
the chance of rescue.

His next memory was of Ruby's call.

Tynan stooped over his prostrate friend and
tried to pour some brandy down his throat, but
the injured man's tongue was so swollen with
thirst that most of the draft was spilt. Some
little, however, did trickle down, and Tom opened
his eyes. They were glazed and without intelli-
gence, and soon closed again.



94 GOLDEN BUCKLES

By this time Ruby had come up.

"Water," said Tynan ; then, reahsing their posi-
tion, added, "Hobble the horses, quick."

The g-irl handed Tynan the bag of water, and
soon the packs were off and the horses hobbled.
Then for an hour they bathed the unconscious
man's lips with a moistened rag till at last some
of the precious brandy was forced down his throat.
Again his eyes opened, and he tried to speak. At
first it was like the rattling of dry pebbles in a
can, but after a time, words shaped themselves
slowly and indistinctly. But he was still oblivious
of his surroundings, for his sentences were dis-
jointed and apparently irrelevant.

"That must be Poison Peak," he muttered ; then,
with growing excitement, "and there's that white
gum . . . and there . . . My God ! it's the tobacco
tin! ... I knew I'd find my way right back . . .
some day . . . here's that bit I broke off . . .
ounces to the ton . . . that's the talk . . . ounces
to the ton." He burst into an hysterical laugh
and began all over again, jumbling up the peak
and the tree and the tobacco tin in a hopeless
manner.

At all costs the man must be restored to con-
sciousness before the broken leg was set, for Ty-
nan could not tell what other injuries there were.

Gradually their efforts were rewarded, and rea-
son came back like a dawn. No complications had
arisen; the break was a clean one, but the cir-
cumstances had been sufficiently terrible to re-
duce the tough bushman to delirium.

He was able to answer questions after a time,
and confirmed the story that Ruby had con-
structed from the evidence of the tracks. He
was even able to take a little food and hot tea.

"Can you bear me to handle the leg?" asked
Tynan at length.

"Try me," was the answer. "I'm a damned fool



GOLDEN BUCKLES 95

to crumple up like this. ... By gad, I'm thirsty !
Got any more in that flask?"

"Just a nobbier. I'm saving it till you're ready
for me to set the leg. . . . Ruby!" he called, "you
cut um . . ." but he broke off in a perplexed
laugh. "Tom, old man, you ask her; you know the
hngo; I don't. I want a couple of good straight
boards for splints. There's a tomahawk in the
packs."

Tom laughed at his friend's discomfiture, and
gave the necessary order. His recuperative
powers were marvellous, and, stimulated by the
last drop of brandy, his leg was well and truly
set at last.

"Why, Jim!" he exclaimed, when the job was
finished, "you're as good as a doctor, any day,"
and he tried to smile, but the pain made it rather
a forced one.

"I only brought a couple of canteens of water,"
said Tynan, after a time. "One of them's empty
and the other's not quite full. Do you know of
any water near?"

"There's a spring more than thirty miles west
over those hills. But I can ride back to the camp
all right if we go slow. What horses did you
bring?"

"I rode Prince, and Ruby rode Stalwart. Marie
earned the pack, and we've got two spares. Ginger
and Mick . . . that is, if the beggars haven't gone
back."

"Horses no go back," broke in Ruby. "Me hob-
ble um short. They sit down alright."

"Ginger's a quiet old thing," said Tom. "I guess
we'd better be moving pretty soon. There's no
water between here and camp. By gad, Jim! I
do feel a helpless fool with this leg."

Probably the injured man forgot that moon-
light ride before his companion. He was used to
taking everything as it came with almost fatalistic



96 GOLDEN BUCKLES

philosophy, his body being trained to endure hard-
ship. He sat stiffly on his horse, and if the pain at
times numbed him to a state bordering on uncon-
sciousness, he never uttered one word of com-
plaint. Tynan gave him an allowance of water
every hour or so, and when he reckoned they had
travelled about twenty miles, he called a halt, and
made his friend a bed of broom-bush, whilst Ruby
rode ahead for more water. The exhausted men
and horses arrived at Toolooroo Springs about the
middle of next morning.



GOLDEN BUCKLES 97

CHAPTER XVIL

^adaitcha.

Bill Dookie was away tailing the cattle, and the
deserted camp appeared very desolate. Tynan
made the sick man as comfortable as possible on
a couch of wheat bags stretched between two
poles, and then, all claims upon him being over
for a time, he began to realise how deadly tired
he was.

He sat down on the ground in the shade of the
wurley, and let his exhausted mind drift where
it would. Lately, when not occupied with some-
thing of absorbing interest, his thoughts had
flowed more and more often in the channels that
led to Ida Hennessy, and he found them lingering
around her now with great longing. Absence had
made him forget much that was artificial in the
city-bred girl, and remember only the traits that
were desirable — how desirable, he had travelled
more than a thousand miles to learn. How ridicu-
lous now seemed his boast that he would force
Ida Hennessy to love him while he watched her
development with impersonal, scientific interest.
Into the pit of love he had digged for her he had
himself fallen.

The murder of Colonel Bathwick also occurred
to his mind, but with no sense of remorse. His
absolute and unimpassioned conviction of the jus-
tice of his deed robbed its memory of any power
to disturb him. His thoughts hovered around the
living, not the dead.

The sound of voices gradually penetrated his
reverie. Two people were talking in the wurley.
It could not be Ruby, for she was still down at



98 GOLDEN BUCKLES

the troughs watering the horses. Perhaps Tom
was dehrious again.

Tynan got up and looked into the wurley.
Scarry was there with Tom!

"Where in the devil !"i)egan Tynan, but the

injured man checked him with a sign.

At the sound of Tynan's voice, Scarry had
flashed round with a startled look, followed by
an appealing one to Tom.

"Scarry say he sorry he no walk all day longa
white fellow and Ruby," Tom explained. "He
very much 'fraid."

"Yah!" assented the nigger, eagerly. "Me
'fraid Kadaitcha."

"You keep longa white man. Kadaitcha no
jump up. You no more 'fraid?" asked the stock-
man.

"Ner! Kadaitcha he go long way." Scarry
waved his hand west.

"Alright," .said Tom. "You walk. You get
tucker by-'m-by." The boy walked away very
much relieved.

Tynan turned to his friend for an explanation.

"What's all this damned rot, Tom, about Kada-
itcha ? That blasted nigger left you in the lurch,
and me too."

"He didn't leave me in the lurch," objected the
stockman. "He came back to camp and raised
the alarm."

"Alarm be bio wed! He came back to save his
miserable hide."

"Perhaps. But he saved mine, too."

"Well, why did he leave me?"

"Kadaitcha," answered Tom, and seeing that
the word conveyed no meaning to his friend, he
explained. "You hear that blasted word 'Kada-
itcha' all over the place up here. It's the one
thing you can't knock out of the silly beggars'
heads. You see, Jack was out after me, and got



GOLDEN BUCKLES 99

rne. Scarry belongs to the same tribe, and must
Mther help the other beggar or clear out. He
cleared out. . . . See? Same with you. He saw
you part of the way, but as soon as there was a
chance you might meet Jack, he cleared again.
He couldn't help you against Jack. It all sounds
rot to us, but they stick to it always."

"Yes, but what is Kadaitcha?"

"Oh — that's a kind of avenging spirit — devil,
if you like — who deals out stoush to anyone who
breaks the rule. He's supposed to enter into one
of the niggers, and the poor b.eggar can't rest
till the other chap is avenged."

"A kind of blood-avenger," suggested Tynan.

"Yes, something of that kind. It may seem
childish to you, but it's better not to run up
against it unless you have a bally good reason.
And, after all, these niggers are only children."

"But I don't see why a dashed nigger should
be able to do what he likes," said Tynan, indig-
nantly, with all the assurance of a new-chum.

"Perhaps not. On the telegraph line the blacks
are more civilised. You could hunt Scarry away
and get another boy in his place. But out here
you can't do that. We need the beggars too
much. It's rotten, but it's a fact. Some of them
are beginning to know it, too ; that's the trouble."

"Why not have more whites?" asked Tynan.
"The niggers could then go their own way."

"Ask the syndicate that owns this run. Ask
any station-owner who lives in a swell house in
town and supports his wife and family with
luxury. But there!" Tom's tone was disgusted.
"What's the good of asking them; they've never
been up here. They never bother their heads
about us. All they cafe about is the bank balance
going up and up from the sales of cattle and
horses. What do they care if a chap dies out



100 GOLDEN BUCKLES

here from a nigger's spear, or if he slowly kills
himself on damper and salt beef?"

"What wages does a nigger get ?" asked Ty|ian.

"They don't often get money. It's no good 4o_
them. Their wages are worked out in tucker an(
clothes and tobacco. It'd be worth about a quid
a week. Rations and stuff are pretty expensive
by the time they get up here."

"There's some newspaper talk about giving the
blacks the same wages as the whites for the same
work," suggested the young man. "What d'you
say to that, Tom?"

"It'll be a damned good day for the Territory
when it becomes law."

"How's that?"

"Why, instead of having one or two whites and
the rest niggers, they'll have all whites. No man
would employ a nigger if he could get a white
man at the same price. . . . God! Jim," said the
injured man, drearily, "when you've been thirty
years in the bush, as I've been, you'll know that
niggers are just animals; and lazy, filthy, thiev-
ing animals at that."

He lay back with a weary sigh. "I wish I could
change places now, just for a couple of hours,
with those soft-fingered, sentimental old men and
women who get laws made to pet and coddle the
blacks. It'd be the stone end of the Aboriginals'
Protection Society, or whatever the affair calls
itself."

"Look here, old man," said Tynan, "I'm awfully
sorry I started you on that subject. You want
to rest and not talk to a fool like me." The
young man suddenly felt how ignorant he was of
the conditions that had seared the heart of his
friend.

"Yes, I suppose I ought to rest," agreed Tom,
"though how that mob of cattle are to be taken
to Mamoola and then on to Oodnadatta, I don't



GOLDEN BUCKLES loi

know. . . . How long before I could take a mob
of cattle on the road, Mr. Doctor?"

"Cattle be damned!" exclaimed Tynan, indig-
nantly. "I'm not the Syndicate. . . . I'm your
pal," he added, quietly.

The injured stockman made no response to his
friend's remark. Men of his character have deep
emotions, but very seldom show them. Tom was
particularly appreciative of his companion's over-
tures, for his mind had not been degraded by his
rough life.

As he sank back, his mind must have wan-
dered to his fanciful idea of changing place with
one of the wealthy members of the Aboriginals'
Protection Society, for he smiled and asked, "How
would a long, cool swig of beer go, Jim ?"



102 GOLDEN BUCKLES

CHAPTER XVIIL

A Stockman's Last Stand.

Dookie came in with the cattle, and yarded them
about sundown. The casual way in which he
treated Tom's injury contrasted unfavorably in
Tynan's mind with the concern he showed over
the disposal of the cattle, their transference to
Marnoola, and subsequently to Oodnadatta.

"Close on three hundred," he grunted. "Wild
as hares . . . difficult shift them ... lot o'
damned calves, too . . . Cutting and branding
. . . hell of a job. . . . Short-handed. . . . Truck-
ing two hundred. . . . Can't leave station. Im-
possible . . . me . . . Tom! How about young
Jones ? . . . Offer good price."

"Sid. Jones, you mean ?" replied Tom. "I heard
in Oodnadatta that- he'd left Myoon and gone
down to enlist."

"Then who in the devil . . .?" exclaimed the
manager, irritably.

"I don't reckon there's a spare man on any sta-
tion between Charlotte Waters and the Tennant,"
said Tom. "The war's drained the back-country
dry."

"How in the hell can I manage? Blasted nig-
ger's put me . . . devil of a hole."

"I say, Bill!" Tynan had been trying to re-
strain himself, but now blurted out: "I say, Bill,
let the cattle go to blazes. Tom's sick."

"Sick!" exclaimed Bill, in anger. "Sick! Who
isn't sick?" He looked into the keen face of the
young man, and his anger died. He knew that
high words were useless here.

"Jim!" he said, more earnestly than Tynan had
ever heard him speak. "Tom sick ... so am I



GOLDEN BUCKLES 103

. . . You'll be sick . . . stay here long . . .
damned sick. Everybody. Sick!" The word fas-
cinated him and expressed the result of all the
years of his strenuous life, and he went over it
aloud, as if to himself, in jerky words and phrases.
"Lord! . . . how sick . . . years and years . . .
forty years. . . . Drought . . . flood . . . hungry
lots o' times . . .Close up perish. ... Oh hell!
Lot of idlers . . . don't know my name. . . .
What have I got?"

He stood up. "Got these togs . . . this chunk
. . . damper." He threw it into the fire. But his
eyes lit on Ruby, who was squatting on her
haunches drawing blackfellow diagrams in the
sand. His expression softened as he muttered
quietly : "Got that girl. So help me God ! I have."

Night came with its cool comfort, and the flies
gradually ceased to worry the sweat-damp faces
of the men. The yarded cattle bellowed cease-
lessly, and the sound of water again made itself
heard. The sky was nowhere darker than the
blue of wood ashes, for the moon shed a silvery
radiance over everything. A saddled horse, ready
for any emergency, crunched his bit some little
distance from where the manager was sleeping
on the ground with Ruby beside him. Tynan had
unrolled his swag at the entrance of the wurley,
so that he might be near if his sleeping friend
needed him.

Suddenly there was a yell from the yards ! Then
the sound of a bucket being beaten with a stick.
The bellowing of the cattle instantly rose to a
wild crescendo of fear. Cries of pain mingled with
the sound of hoofs thundering on soft sand, as
the frightened beasts goaded one another in
terror.

Bill Dookie was out of his blankets in an in-
stant, and ran to the tree where his horse had
been hitched. The animal was not there ! Some-



I04 GOLDEN BUCKLES

one must have let it go since dark. He paused
for a moment. Then the sound of splintering tim-
ber increased the pandemonium, and he ran for-
ward recklessly. Down went one side of the mulga
yard and three hundred frenzied cattle rushed
over it.

The yelling and beating of the bucket still
went on.

Like one possessed, the old stockman ran to
stem the tide. Rage blinded him to the useless-
ness of his task. He was just in time to gain
the lead of the charging beasts, and stood there
shouting and cracking his whip, insolent in the
face of such terrible danger. He might just as
well have tried to check a tornado. The leading
cattle could not turn, for the maddened crowd
behind forced them on. Bill's eyes blazed with
frenzy, and volleys of shouted oaths came from
his lips. A man against three hundred charging
cattle! It was splendid! Bill Dookie's last stand
had a truly epic grandeur.

A leading bull saw him, and lowered its head.
The manager's whip whistled through the air and
flicked the animal's eye with fiendish skill,
whereat the man broke into a wild laugh. The
bull screamed shrilly with pain, and its broad curl-
decked forehead caught the man and tossed him
high in the air back amongst the mob. Bill's
limp and battered body rose above the gleaming
horns again and again before it lay quietly on
the trampled sand.

All was over in less than three minutes. Then
followed silence, on which, as on a sheet of white
paper, the little creatures of night etched the tales
of their lives in a pattern of tiny sound. The
gentle splash of water was as if the moonlight
had found speech, and the peaceful splendour of
the night seemed all the greater by contrast with
the foregoing strife.



GOLDEN BUCKLES 105

*

CHAPTER XIX.
A Stockman's Death.

Tynan had also rushed to the yards, but, in the
confusion, he had not seen Bill Dookie. As he
was standing looking- at the wreck of broken rails,
he was startled by hearing a girl's cry. Running
towards the sound, he saw Ruby stooping over
the body of her father.

Bill Dookie was not dead. Tynan could only
guess the internal injuries, but he soon found
them to be such as to make it impossible for the
man to linger more than a few hours. The white
man and the girl brought their unconscious com-
rade back to camp very gently, and laid him beside
Tom Lawson in the wurley.

There was little that could be done. Now that
the young doctor's skill was most needed, it was
practically useless. The most illiterate could
have done all that he did equally well, and it was
merely to make a liberal use of fresh water.

The cause of the disastrous cattle rush was
easily decided. On the side of the yards from
which the yelling had come, were native tracks,
which the black boys and Ruby readily identified
as Jack's. He had evidently been with white men
long enough to know how best to wreak his re-
venge, and had succeeded this time beyond his
wildest hopes.

Dawn heralded a cloudless day. The hours of
heat passed slowly by as if reluctant to give even
the satisfaction of their passing. Never had Ty-
nan experienced such utter weariness. He had
not slept for two nights and had eaten little, and
had scarcely energy to combat the flies that filled



io6 GOLDEN BUCKLES

the wurliey and buzzed round the dying man. It
was only the condition of his two helpless com-
panions that kept him from collapsing altogether.
He fell asleep in the afternoon from sheer ex-
haustion, and when he awoke, the westering sun
was shining in his eyes through the branches of
the shelter.

Bill Dookie's condition was unaltered. The old
bushman was making as valiant a stand against
death as he had against the charging cattle.

Night fell, and Tynan and the three natives
made a range of fires around the camp. In spite
of the heat, he felt he could not pass another night
in darkness, for the moon was now late in rising.
Tom's revolver was loaded, and so was his own
and the manager's, and he saw that the magazine
of the rifle was full. After a meal — if such it
could be called — of stale damper, salt beef, and
tea, he settled down to his vigil.

Dookie's breathing became more and more
laboured ; he was still unconscious. The night was
disturbed with the sound of cattle tramping
around the troughs and lowing at the ring of
fires. A dingo gave tongue near the ruined yard
as it scented human blood on the sand, and a
chorus of wails answered it from the distance.
It seemed to Tynan as if the desolation was
eagerly waiting for the passing of a soul ; another
conquest for grim Nature over the invader.

Presently these accustomed sounds penetrated
the dark mind of the dying man, and his eyes
opened.

"Hi! Scarry, Jack. Yard them cattle!" He
tried to shout the order, but his voice was weak,
and ended in a groan as pain racked him through
and through.

Tynan was at his side instantly ; and Ruby, who
had not left him since the previous night, was
there also.



GOLDEN BUCKLES 107

"Alright, Bill," Jim said, soothingly. "I'll see
to the cattle. You lie still."

"Why in the hell . . . can't get up?" he asked,
weakly. "What's up? ... Oh, Lord!"

"You're just a bit bruised, Bill," answered Ty-
nan. "You had a fall, you know. You'll be bet-
ter in the morning if you lie still."

"Blasted cattle . . . not in yard," he objected,
hearing them wallowing in the mud of the over-
flow. "Who in the devil . . . them fires?"

He was silent for a time, and the firelight shone
on his closed eyes and marred face. Then he
looked up again, and Tynan saw that a brief period
of intelligence had come back to the dying man.

"Jim," he said, quietly, in a tone quite different
from usual. The rough and almost angry manner
had left him. It gave Tynan the same pleasant
shock of surprise as when a man, who is just go-
ing for a swim in the sea, takes off ragged, dirty
clothes and reveals a clean, well-knit figure. "Jim,
I'm passing in me alley. I remember now. The
cattle broke from the yards and I went mad.
What frightened them, Jim? Did you find out?"

"Jack," answered Tynan.

"I see." There was no bitterness in his tone.
"He got home on Tom, too. How is old Tom?"

"Asleep."

"So you're alone, Jim? ... I told them down
below it was too hot to muster cattle, but they
said they must have them, as the market was
high. . . . Don't bother about them now, Jim."

Tynan did not smile. The man was faithful to
the last.

"Right-oh, Bill !" he answered. "I won't bother."

"I'm passing in me alley," he repeated. "You
know well enough I am. . . I've lived up here for
over forty years, and I've seen lots of men die.
There's a big mob of us gone bush; gone to join
the brumbies. The parsons say they'll muster



To8 GOLDEN BUCKLES

us all some day, and yard and draft us, and put
on a brand for heaven or hell. They'd say I was
a dead cert for hell, because . . . because I'm a
bushman and a bit of a rough cuss, I suppose.
But I don't know. . . . Some of those beggars on
the salvation racket have been paid by cattle I've
sent down, so I guess I'll be alright somehow.

"Jim, I've tried to ride straight. Maybe I've
sometimes come a buster, but I've never let go
the reins.

"You rang true metal in the yards that day,
and ... I like you, Jim.

"No one will want to know I'm dead . . . ex-
cept the bosses of the Syndicate, and they don't
know my name. . . . I've nothing to leave to any-
one but a saddle and bridle and whip. You can
have those, Jim. And . . .

"Jim, I've got one thing I care for more than
anything else. You're new to this country, and
perhaps you think it queer a white man should
take a lubra. But I don't like leaving Ruby."

He called the girl in a voice that was little
louder than a whisper. His sight was failing, or
he would have seen that she was close beside him.

"Ruby," he said, putting his hand, with an
effort, on Tynan's arm, "this white fella alien same
father longa you. Him alien same old man Bill.


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