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See?"

"Yah. Me know."

"There a couple of geldings watering at the
station that belong to me, Jim. Tom knows them.
Send them down with the next town mob and buy
Ruby something with the money; clothes and
boots and that sort of thing. . . .

"So long, Jim ... so long, Ruby. Me plenty
walk. You stay longa this fella. Me go big fella
corroboree."

And a few minutes afterwards he was gone.



GOLDEN BUCKLES 109

CHAPTER XX.
A Stockman's Burial.

A miistering-camp in Central Australia, forty
miles from the nearest settlement, an injured
man, a new chum, a quarter-caste girl of fifteen,
two blacks, and a corpse ; it was upon such a pre-
dicament that the sun rose next day.

Tynan awoke late. The re-action had set in,
and after Bill Dookie's death he had fallen asleep
as though he would never wake again. Tom had
not disturbed him at daylight, but had given
orders to the boys to hunt up the hobbled horses,
and to Ruby to light the fire and put on the quart-
pots. By the time the young man was ready for
breakfast, another misfortune had been added to
the rest. The horses were nowhere to be found.

Albert had come across a bunch of hobbles
hanging in a mulga, and had learnt from the
tracks that the blackfellow who startled the cattle
in the yards had first unhobbled the working
horses. Probably they were by now well on their
way to Marnoola. Jack had planned his revenge
well and cunningly.

"It's just as I told you, Jim," said Tom, when
the news was being discussed. "Give me a wild
nigger and I'll make something of him. But these
beggars that have been spoilt up there at the
Mission Station are the cause of most of the mis-
chief done in this country. No warragal would
have the sense to keep at us like this. He would
just have one go and clear out. I wouldn't be at
all surprised if we don't hear from Mr. Jack again
some day."

"Well, there's one thing to be done first of all,"



no GOLDEN BUCKLES

said Tynan, pointing to the shrouded figure in
the wurley, "and I'll start right in at it now."

The Marnoola plant always included an old
shovel for raking the ashes round a damper, and
Jim set out with this to select a spot for Bill
Dookie's grave. He found a sheltered piece of
ground under a sandhill, and set the boys to work,
while he went back to attend to some necessary
cooking. He knew that, with the horses away,
their position was pretty serious, for it would
take several days for a boy to walk to the station
and return, and a cattle-camp in the middle of
summer was no place for a man with a broken
leg. The meat supply was running short, and he
had to throw away some of the few remaining
pieces because they had gone bad. But his mind
just then did not seem capable of solving any
future problems; he just mixed up a damper with
flour and baking powder and water, and boiled the
last of the salt meat to satisfy present needs.

By the time the grave was dug it was noon,
and such a noon as dwellers in inside country
can hardly imagine. Pitiless heat, with a dust-
filled north wind which was not strong enough to
blow away the clouds of flies that did not give
the men one moment's peace from before dawn
till long after sunset.

Bill's camp-sheet was spread out on the ground
with his blanket and pillow — a sugar sack stuffed
with horsehair. Then the dead man was lifted on.
Blacks and whites were knit together with a
strong bond during these sad offices, and though
the boys had many a grudge against the late
manager, all these were forgotten in the presence
of death.

The dead man was fully dressed, with his leg-
gings and boots and even spurs, and his pouch
with tobacco and pipe and matches was left on
his belt. The blanket was folded over him, and



GOLDEN BUCKLES in

finally the camp-sheet, which was turned over at
the ends and fastened with three swag straps.
A bundle lay on the sand at last, containing all
that was mortal of a man who for forty years
had faced death in the bush, laying the founda-
tions of the great Australian nation that is yet
to be.

The corpse was carried to the grave and slowly
lowered with stirrup leathers, girths, and sur-
cingles buckled together. When these were pulled
up, Tynan stood bareheaded for a moment. No
muttered words spoilt the simple act of re-
verence, and suddenly the continuity of all life
came to the man as clearly as it had done on that
first night at the Springs, since which so much
had happened.

"Good luck. Bill, old man," he said, with a
smile. "I'll follow your tracks some day."

Then the grave was covered in.



112 GOLDEN BUCKLES

CHAPTER XXL
Poison Peak.

That evening, when the heat of the day was
moderating, Tynan shot a bullock, skinned it, and
brought as much of the meat as they could use
up to the camp. As he was lying at the entrance
of his wurley about an hour later, Tom said to
him:

"Jim, old man, you're being broken in rather
suddenly."

"I wish to God I had been broken in a year ago,"
was the dismal answer. "I'd be some good by
now. I told you I was an uneducated chap, Tom."

"Be damned!" was the indignant answer. "If
anyone ought to curse at himself, it's not you.
Look at me — no good at all."

"Oh, you'll be alright in a short time," said
Tynan, his self-condemnation disappearing at the
chance of cheering his friend.

"And even if I could get about," continued the
injured man, "I couldn't do anything more than
you're doing."

For several minutes they were silent. So closely
had the rough' bushman and the cultured scientist
come to understand one another since first they
met, that they could enjoy one another's company
in silence. Presently Tom said :

"You're being damned good to me, Jim; damned
good!"

Tynan laughed. It is embarrassing for one
man to say such a thing to another, particularly
in the bush, where such expressions are rare.

"Oh, I'll send in a bill for professional services,
you bet," he answered with a smile.



GOLDEN BUCKLES 113

"I'll pay alright," answered his friend, quickly.
"At least I know where the money is."

"Gold, mind you, Tom," laughed the other.
"None of your bally cheques for me."

"Yes, gold!" was the answer. "Gold!" He
repeated the word as if it were food from which
he drew nourishment.

In a flash, Tynan's mind reverted to the jumble
of delirious words he had listened to when he had
first found Tom with a broken leg, and, not think-
ing what he was saying, he quoted, "Poison Peak
... a white gum . . . tobacco tin."

Tom stopped him with a shout. "Good God,
Jim! You know the place, too? How in the
devil . . .?" He was very excited, and Tynan
put a restraining hand on his arm.

"No, old man. I don't know the place. I was
only joking. I'm sorry."

"But Poison Peak and the tobacco tin?"

"You were delirious when I found you with the
broken leg, and j'^ou talked about some peak or
other and a white gum and a tin. That's all."

"What did I say, Jim?"

"Oh, nothing but what I've told you. I had
forgotten all about it till just now."

The sick man was silent for a few minutes, and
then said quietly:

"That's what I meant by paying your bill, Jim."

"Tom, old man, don't be a fool. I was only
joking about the bill. You know I was."

"Yes, I know. But I'm not joking about the
gold."

"What do you mean?"

"Mean, man ! Mean ! I mean I've seen with my
own eyes enough gold to ... to make everyone
in Adelaide drunk for years. With my own eyes.
Do you believe that?"

"Of course I do," answered his friend, more to
calm the excited man than from conviction. "But



114 GOLDEN BUCKLES

look here, Tom, I'll clear right out and camp on
the sand-hill unless you drop that excitement.
You can tell me about the gold some other time,
can't you?"

"No, I can't. I want to tell you now. I'll be
as quiet as you like if you'll promise to listen.
You must listen, man ; you must !"

"Alright, I'll listen. But, mind you, Tom, if
you get excited, I'll clear."

"You'll be a blasted fool if you do," commented
the stockman in an undertone, and forthwith be-
gan:

"It was four years ago — the year that Bill
Dookie came here as manager. I had been about
three years on Marnoola at the time, but had
never been far west. Things were pretty slack
here before the Syndicate took it over. Immedi-
ately Bill came, he wanted a docking muster of
all the cattle, and I went west with two niggers.
When we were at this place, some wild blacks
came in, and they told me there was water under
that range of hills about ten miles on from where
you picked me up. Do you remember the hills I
mean ?"

"Yes, low, barren-looking hills — I remember."

"Well, I understood the blacks to say there was
water on this side, so I started out, for a water-
hole might mean cattle, and I knew a lot of X.T.X.
cattle had gone to blazes west of the springs.

"I took plenty of flour and tea and sugar in
the packs, and enough water for two or three
days. Luckily it was winter, and there were
patches of green feed about, so I reckoned the
horses could stand two dry days.

"I got to the hills on the afternoon of the
second day, but didn't strike any water. There
were plenty of cattle tracks about, but it was
parakelia country, and, you know, the beggars
can go for weeks without a drink if that stuff



GOLDEN BUCKLES 115

is at all green. When I couldn't find the water-
hole, I thought perhaps the niggers had meant
there was water on the other side of the hills,
so I pushed on till dark and camped, as I reckoned,
about sixty miles from here. That night I was
debating whether to turn back. I had a little
water left in the canteens for myself and the nig-
gers, but I guessed I would perish some, of the
horses if I wasn't careful. .1 had short-hobbled
the poor, thirsty beggars on a bit of green feed,
but they just licked it and nosed round for water.

"I roused the boys before daylight, and sent
them after the horses. In about a quarter of an
hour one nigger brought them all back except two,
and after a couple of hours the other one returned
alone from the north-west.

" Two-fella horses break um hobbles,' he told
me.

"'Which way walk?' I asked.

"*Dat way!' He pointed north-west. 'Me see
plenty tracks dat way. Me think um water.'

" 'Water !' I exclaimed.

" 'Yah !' he answered. 'Big mob cattle all day
walk dat way!*

"Well, I tried it. It was worth the risk. I
don't know how the horses did it, but we fol-
lowed the tracks of those two horses for more
than ten miles. We got down on a plain again,
and then into some sandhills. At last the poor,
knocked-out beggars we were riding began to get
excited, and I noticed several big pads leading
into the main one. Sure enough, we found water,
and the other two horses were there, too. It was
a spring at the comer of a salt lake, something
like the springs here, only the lake was bigger.

"I gave the horses two whole days' spell, then
started mustering round, for close on four hundred
cattle must have been coming in to water there.



ii6 GOLDEN BUCKLES

I couldn't handle that mob with only two boys,
but I wanted to get an idea of how many were
there, so that I could come back with more
tucker and a bigger party. I also pushed out
west to a high peak I saw in the distance.

"God! Jim, I've always been a fool for new
country. It was that wanting-to-know-what-was-
ovei:-there sort of spirit which first sent me up
north here. I had no earthly reason for going
there, for all cattle tracks stopped twenty miles
west of that water, but I reached that peak,
though I reckon it was close on eighty miles away.
I found water there, too ; good, permanent water."

He paused for a moment, and then went on :

"I found gold there, too, Jim. When I was a
young chap, I did a bit of prospecting, so when I
found alluvial traces in the bed of a little mulga
creek there, I followed it up. There's a white
gum where the creek turns a bit, and I wedged a
tobacco tin in the fork of an old mulga just by
the reef.

"I think I must have gone mad for a bit, but as
true as I'm sitting here, Jim, I saw gold sticking
out on each side of a little rift just opposite that
tobacco tin. It must be like a jeweller's shop
window inside that rock."

"Did you bring away any samples?"

"No. I didn"t want to do anything that would
make the station chaps suspicious. I had cut
things a bit fine already, and when two of my
horses were poisoned, I just looked at that peak
and all around it so hard that I could never forget
it, and cleared right out. I named the place
Poison Peak after the two horses.

"I got back to the salt lake alright and mus-
tered about two hundred head of cattle. I reckoned
I could handle that lot. But I was wrong. I only
yarded fifty-three at this yard here ;. the others



GOLDEN BUCKLES 117

went to blazes. You see, I had seventy dry miles
to travel, and I daren't take more than two and a
half days. The cattle were alright for tucker;
there was parakelia all the way. But I've never
handled a wilder mob in all my life. I lost another
horse — clean knocked out with galloping- and no
water — and a fourth was so done when she got in,
that she died next day."

"Did you go west again ?"

"Never till three days ago."

"Why in the hell didn't you?"

"Well, Bill was wild at my losing those four
horses. We were short of workers at the time,
and he needed all he could get for mustering the
rest of the run. The cattle I brought in were the
very devil to yard, and precious little good when
yarded — wild as blessed brumbies. So he decided
to leave that outside country till some other time."

"But why didn't vou go out there yourself?
Surely . . "

"How? On foot?" broke in Tom.

"No. With horses or camels and rations for six
months. Good heavens, man — "

Tom laughed a little bitterly. "A man gets
a quid a week up here, Jim, or thirty bob, if he's
lucky. When he does manage to scrape a cheque
together, there's only one way of spending it, only
one blessed way : and that's in forgetting all about
how it was earned."

"You mean in a spree?"

"Yes. And that's where I am, Jim, and always
shall be."

"But why didn't you tell a chap that had money,
and go shares?"

"Because I'd never get my whack, Jim," was the
immediate answer, which displayed a suspicion of
business methods which Tom shared with most
of his fellow bushmen. "They'd fool me right and



ii8 GOLDEN BUCKLES

left. No, I found that gold, and no one but me's
going" to get it. God! Jim, the inside of that
rock must be like a jeweller's window/' he
repeated.

"But you've told me, Tom."

"Yes. But I know you're straight. Perhaps
some day we'll go out west together."

Fate was not entirely against "~1;he new chum
and his helpless companion, for on the third day
after the manager's death, two working horses
came to water at the springs in daylight. They
were old camp horses, and had not made back to
Marnoola, though for the first two days they had
not come to the troughs till after sunset.

This solved the question of moving Tom, and
Tynan at once sent the two black-boys to the
station on foot for fresh horses, while the three
others packed up also and started on the home-
ward track.



GOLDEN BUCKLES 119

CHAPTER XXIL

Golden Buckles.

- Those who have paid flying visits to back-
-country cattle stations, give very different accounts
of them. Some say that the life is an idle one, and
they wonder why station hands do not die of
ennui; others express the opinion that stockmen
lead a most strenuous existence in very primitive
surroundings. Both cannot be right.

At times on a station, a whole week may go by
when there is little else to do but water the stock,
grease the tackling and hobbles, and do odd jobs.
A chance visitor at such times decides that the
hardship of station life has been very much
exaggerated. Following such a lull may come a
month when, from dawn till dark, every white man
and nigger on the place is working at top speed.
Stations farthest from the track are more subject
to these variations than those near the railway,
for the latter can send down four or five mobs of
stock in the year, and thus keep the station
machinery in constant motion, whereas the former
must concentrate on one big town mob each year,
and it may be as long as three months on the
road.

Between these extremes came Marnoola, the
station with the X.T.X. brand.

Immediately on his arrival back at the station,
Tynan despatched a warragal nigger from the
black's camp, to The Cliff telephone station, a
hundred miles away, with two telegrams. One
was to the Syndicate directors in Adelaide, and
the other to Kate's Well, the nearest police camp.
At Tom's request he put his name to both tele-



I20 GOLDEN BUCKLES

grams for, as the former expressed it, "I've got
no education to answer all their flaming ques-
tions."

The nigger waited at The Cliff for the ansv/ers.
The one from the town was characteristic. "Still
waiting for the cattle. Wire when likely to reach
Oodnadatta, Impossible replace manager imme-
diately. Carry on as usual."

The one from Kate's Well was equally unsatis-
factory: "Macintosh gone east on case. Will
attend your message later."

Tom was very much better by the time these
messages were received. Tynan and he had taken
up their quarters at Government. House with
Ruby, and, lying in the shade of two pepper-trees,
the injured stockman bade fair to make a quick
recovery. He did not take to the life of idleness
kindly, however.

"There's absolutely nothing for you to do," said
Tynan, in ansv/er to one of his protests. "The
mills are working good-0. You stay where you
are."

"But I'm pointing on you, Jim," he objected.
Tynan was wearing overalls, and had just come
up from greasing the mills, and from a long morn-
ing mending some troughs which the horses had
broken.

"You're not," was the answer. "But you'd be a
big nuisance if you used that leg before I give you
leave."

"Well then, I'm pointing on the Syndicate."

"My son," said Tynan, with a gravity that was
not wholly mockery, "if you were supported in
affluence for the rest of your life — cool beer and
all that — you would not be pointing on the Syndi-
cate, Look at this telegram. 'Still waiting for
cattle.' Indeed! And they know Bill Dookie's
dead, and you're knocked up."

"What do we count?" asked Tom bitterly, "Who



GOLDEN BUCKLES 121

is Bill Dookie ? Not half as important as a mob of
cattle."

"But surely ..."

"Jim, Jim, old man. Don't tear your sRirt! If
you stay in this country you'll see that a man's
life is only studied if it'll increase the price of
cattle in the auction yards."

Tynan wanted to change the subject and turned
to the other telegram.

"Our luck's right out," he said. "When do you
reckon Macintosh will come along?"

"Ask me another. If he catches any nigger
out east he'll have to take him up to Port Darwin.
If Ransome, the trooper, comes out here, he can't
possibly start awav till Mac gets back."

"And by that time . . ."

"Jack will have gone to blazes."

Tynan made no immediate answer to the two
telegrams, but, by the six-weekly mail, he wrote
a full description of the cattle-killing, of the attack
on Tom Lawson, and of Dookie's death, to Kate's
Well, and added, in his letter to the Syndicate,
a statement of the utter impossibility of carrying
out a muster till Tom's leg was properly mended.

Meanwhile the routine life of the station went
on and summer cooled to autumn.

More and more often did Tynan's thoughts
turn to the girl in Melbourne. His months in the
bush had simplified him a great deal. To face
untouched nature is to subject oneself to a refin-
ing process which it is impossible to resist. No
pretence can long exist under such circumstances :
vices stand out in vivid colors, and heroism and
comradeship become as rugged as the weather-
tanned faces of the men who practise them. In
Melbourne, the young doctor had worn many of
the shams from which he thought himself
free, but in his case they were largely intellectual.



122 GOLDEN BUCKLES

But these were slipping away, and he now acknow-
ledged that he loved Ida Hennessy. Had it been
j^pssible to estimate the pride of young Dr. Byrne
— and it was perhaps his strongest trait — some
idea of his love for this girl could be gained, for
he overcame it sufficiently to give her a chance
of finding out where he was.

Before his hurried departure, he had taken
from his bridle the buckles bearing his mother's
crest, and they were amongst his few possessions
at Mamoola. How vividly did they recall the
pleasant rides with the lady of his choice, and
he knew that, even if she had ceased to have any
regard for him, she could not fail to recognise
the buckles.

So he made a bridle and used the golden buckles,
and sent it down by mail to Ida Hennessy. He
put all the skill he could command into the work,
and though he was not vised to the needles and
the awl, he allowed no false stitch or crooked line.
He stitched with fine copper wire across the fore-
head band the station's brand, X.T.X.

"That ought to be hint enough," he thought.
"If she wants to, she can easily find out what

station has the X.T.X. brand. Otherwise "

He did not finish the thought.

Tynan did not forget Bill Dookie's last charge
to him. Every evening he devoted a couple of
hours to teaching Ruby. Also, during the day,
the two friends talked as much as possible to the
girl, not in the pidgin-English used with black-
fellows, but in simple sentences about everyday
affairs.

His self-imposed task was by no means easy,
for her black parentage was an almost impass-
able barrier, behind which her small intelligence
seemed to hide. The names of concrete things
were readily learnt, being merely an association
of sound with shape; the days of the week fol-



GOLDEN BUCKLES 123

lowed, and questions and answers about what she
had done and seen. But any abstract considera^
tion left her with a vacant expression, and she
often lapsed back into the native, "Me can't, know
um," beyond which it seemed hopeless to try to
go.

When at last Tynan had taught her the four
compass points, and she could tell from which
direction the wind came, and whether the Dulana
gate into the horse paddock was north or south
of the station, he felt as if he had passed one
milestone on the long road of her education.



124 GOLDEN BUCKLES

, CHAPTER XXIIL
Bad Petrol.

Routine did not remain uninterrupted. As
long as there was sufficient wind and nothing
went wrong with the mills, the tanks could be
filled each day, and the hundreds of horses that
came in to the Marnoola troughs could be
watered. But once let the wind drop for a few
hours, and the stock were entirely dependent on
the little petrol engine. Tynan was used to deli-
cate machinery kept scrupulously clean, and the
sight of this engine out in the open at the head
of the well, with only a piece of canvas to pro-
tect it, was not comforting; but Tom laughingly
assured him that the more the sand blew into
the bearings, the more the engine seemed to like
it, and that it had never given the station any
trouble whatever.

But when Tynan returned one day from a trip
to The Cliff for mail, Tom met him with a very
long face. The mills had been still for two days,
the tanks were nearly empty, and there were
over two hundred horses waiting for a drink, and
— to crown it all — "that blasted engine's jibbed."

Tynan had broken camp that morning at four,
and had ridden hard, but the urgent need gave
him new strength. He quickly confirmed his
companion's report. A windless sky, tanks gap-
ing wide and deep, and an engine that had "jib-
bed." He made a few tests, and found that every-
thing seemed in good order.

"She seems alright, Tom," he said. "I'll give
her another try."

In vain. He turned on the petrol and worked



GOLDEN BUCKLES 125

the handle till he was red in the face. Nothing
happened ; not the faintest explosion.

"I'll take her to pieces and clean her," he said;
and, with leggings and spurs still on, he proceeded
to his task. When Tom saw the parts of the en-
gine strewn on a clean piece of canvas, he be-
came alarmed, for he regarded machinery with
a kind of superstition.

"Will you be able to put her together again,
Jim?" he asked.

"Oh, that'll be easy enough," said Tynan. "But
the bally thing doesn't seem dirty. These valves
certainly don't require grinding."

He had drained the petrol tank, and was using
the spirit for his work, when Tom remarked:
"That's the new petrol you're using. I opened a
fresh tin a couple of days ago. They sent it up


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