Copyright
Conrad Harvey Sayce.

Golden buckles online

. (page 8 of 15)
Online LibraryConrad Harvey SayceGolden buckles → online text (page 8 of 15)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


in five-gallon oil drums. It's supposed to be safer
on the camels that way."

Tynan said, "Yes," but had really paid no at-
tention to Tom's remark, for he was busy insert-
ing the piston at the time, and was having some
difficulty with the rings.

In a couple of hours the engine was reassembled
and connected with the pump.

"Now for some petrol," said Tynan, reaching
for a bottle that was standing near.

A quick turn, an explosion, then another. He
forced the speed lever over, and the engine
picked up faultlessly.

"Gad! she's going," sighed Tom, with great re-
lief, as he watched the water being jerked out of
the pipe into the empty tank. "Jim, old man, I
was more cut up about this than when my leg
was broken. It's a good job you came back when
you did. In another day I'd have had to shift a
mob of thirsty horses forty miles. I'd have lost
no end of mares and foals."

The petrol gave out towards the middle of the



126 GOLDEN BUCKLES

afternoon, and Tynan filled the tank with the new
supply. He cranked up, but nothing happened.
Again; still no result. The engine seemed to be
dead. For half an hour he tried, made the tests,
then gave it up and went to the kitchen for a cup
of tea.

"I'm beaten, Tom," he said. "We'd better get
relays of niggers to draw water in buckets. That's
all we can do. The whip's gone absolutely bung,
too."

"I wish we had a windlass," said Tom.

For a quarter of an hour they sat and smoked.
Tynan went over the parts mentally one by one,
but could find nothing amiss. "She'd have gone
just as well if I'd put water in the petrol tank,"
he said. "There was no mixture. The spark's
alright."

"What d'you mean by no mixture, Jim?" asked
Tom.

His friend explained, and was more than ever
convinced that no petrol vapour had passed into
the cylinder at all.

"Did you say you opened a new tin of petrol ?"
he asked.

"Yes. It came in an oil drum. They put it in
at The Cliff. It's safer."

"But why in the hell did it work so well this
morning?"

"What d'you mean?"

"Why, I mean that the petrol must be at fault.
I don't see any other solution. Though why it
acted this morning beats me."

Suddenly Tom sprang to his feet. "It didn't,"
he exclaimed, excitedly. "You used some of the
old petrol that was in a bottle, didn't you ?"

"Yes, and I drained the other out." Tynan
was also on his feet. The fate of five hundred
horses might depend upon their finding the cause
of the failure of the engine.



GOLDEN BUCKLES 127

. "Are you sure it was the old stuff I used ?"
"Dead sure. I left it in that bottle for clean-
ing the engine. I thought the new petrol sure
to be better."

"Is it all gone?"

"Yes. I emptied the tin right out."
"That's a dashed pity. If we had some, we
could test it."

"I've got half a bottle I used to clean my town
togs last time I came up."

"Let's have it, Tom. Quick as you like."
Tynan put two spoons on the sand in a sheltered
spot, and filled one with the old petrol from Tom's
bottle and the other with what was then in the
engine. He lit a match and held it gradually
closer to the first. When the flame was about an
inch and a half away, the fumes caught fire and
the spirit flamed violently and left a clean spoon.
To the second the flame needed to be held very close
and combustion was comparatively quiet and the
spoon had oil marks on it when the experiment
was over.

"Well ?" asked Tom, hardly understanding what
it was all about.

"The new petrol has a flash-point too low for
our purpose. It is not much better than kerosene.
It was probably put into an oily drum and is no
good to us."

"What had we better do?"

"Test this little drop in the engine to make
absolutely sure, and then send in like mad to
The Cliff for some good petrol."

The test proved that the engine was in good
order, for it ran for a time till it had used up the
half bottle of petrol, but refused to go when the
new spirit was put in.



128 GOLDEN BUCKLES

Scarry was despatched post haste to The Cliff
with a spare riding horse and one carrying a pack,
and was told to bring back two canteens of good
petrol.

All hands were then put on the two wells, with
ropes and buckets to keep the troughs full, while
Tom stood at the gate and admitted the thirsty
horses in batches of about fifty. It was. terribly
slow v/ork, for blacks soon tire, but at all costs
those horses must be watered. By dint of many
brews of tea and pipes of tobacco and the biggest
tuck-out at dinner some of them had ever had,
the work continued till dark.

Fortunately the weather was cool, so that be-
fore the last bucket of the day was drawn up,
all horses that had come in had had a drink and
had gone to the bush again.

But the tanks were still empty. Side by side,
Tom and Jim watched the sun set in a cloudless
sky. The red turned to gold, and it again to
orange, and then to yellow, which stained the
horizon with its pure colour half-way round to
the east.

"Wind to-morrow, Jim," said the stockman.
"Yellow sky."

"I hope you're right," was the answer.

Station breakfast was at 5.30, and in case Tom's
forecast was wrong, all hands were again at the
buckets before six. The water-paddock gates had
been shut at night, and a big mob of horses were
waiting for a drink.

"Full-O!" shouted Tynan when one line of
troughs was full, and at once his friend swung
open the big gate and admitted a few horses.

Tynan was busy urging the boys to keep pace
with the diinking horses, when he heard shouts
from the gate.



•GOLDEN BUCKLES 129

"She's going, Jim! She's going! Oh, my
grandmother, the bally thing's going!"

"What's wrong?" called Tynan, jumping over
the troughs and running to the gate.

"Look! Look! you blind bat!" shouted Tom,
waving his arms in the direction of the mill and
behaving like a maniac.

The other man looked. The sails were begin-
ning to move. Slowly at first, then faster, till, in
a couple of minutes, a stream of water gushed
into the empty tank.

"God! What a beautiful sound!" said Tom.

The blacks continued to haul up water for
another hour, but the wind was steady. The
X.T.X. horses were saved.

Before things at Mamoola were again on a
normal footing, a tragedy occurred on the track
from The Cliff.

Scarry was returning with the petrol, and
camped on the last night in a clump of mulga.
Whether a sharp bough pierced one of the can-
teens, or whether the noz^e came unscrewed,
will never be known, but one of the vessels evi-
dently began to leak. The black boy had pulled
up for the night, hobbled the two saddle-horses,
and had lifted off one of the canteens and put it
under a tree out of the way. As he walked round
to the other side of the pack-horse for the other
canteen, he struck a match to light his pipe. In-
stantly there was a flash and an explosion. By
a miracle the nigger jumped back and was not
touched. But the horse! Petrol drenched it in
flame from head to tail. It bolted wildly through
the scrub, blind, deaf, and maddened with pain,
squealing and dashing itself against trees, rolling
in the sand, rearing, plunging, and bucking in
vain efforts to get rid of its terrible burden.



I30 GOLDEN BUCKLES

It was a very scared black-boy who arrived at
the station next day empty-handed. He had left
the other canteen at the camping-place, for pack-
saddle, gear, and horse had gone up in one roar-
ing, shrieking mass of flame.



GOLDEN BUCKLES 131

CHAPTER XXIV.
A Child is Bom.

In the course of time, two letters arrived from
the Two Continents Meat Syndicate. The first
was in confirmation of the telegram — an indignant
enquiry why the cattle had not been sent. No
notice was taken of the death of the late manager
or Tom's injury, save the remark that the hitch
had occurred at a very unfortunate time, as it
was impossible to find a man to take Dookie's
place. A hope was also expressed that Lawson
would soon be able to attend to his duties.

The second — in answer to Tynan's — was more
mild. His letter was so evidently that of an edu-
cated man, and he had been particular to point
out that the accidents had occurred whilst carry-
ing out the Syndicate's orders with a short-
handed staff. The directors were used to dealing
with men who expressed themselves but poorly,
and they bullied them accordingly, so this letter
came as a great surprise. They expressed regret
that they had evidently misunderstood the serious
nature of the case, mentioned the unsatisfactory
nature of telegraphic communications, and their
satisfaction that such a man as Tynan had taken
the affair in hand. Quite at the end, they asked
that, if possible, a mob of either cattle or horses
should be sent down, and volunteered the infor-
mation that they were already in touch with a
new manager.

Tynan laughed as he handed this letter to his
friend.

"Mild, that," he remarked.

"Oh," said Tom, "if they can't get what they



1^2 GOLDEN BUCKLES

want in one way, they try another. But, in any
case, old man, the end's the same."

"What end?"

"Wealth for the man who doesn't do the work,

and when the chap who does the work is worn

out — the Old Age Pension from the Government."

."Well, how about a mob of horses? Will it

need a muster?"

"Oh, no. About five hundred horses water here,
and we can trap them at the gate."

Accordingly, the gate into the water-paddock
was closed night after night, and opened again
in the mornings to admit the waiting horses.
After they had had a drink, they were driven
up to the yards and drafted, those suitable for
sending to town running into one yard, the foals
into another, and the horses that were to be al-
lowed to go bush again, into a third.

In three or four days all the horses watering
at Marnoola had been through the yards, and a
mob of one hundred and fifty were being tailed
by Scarry and Albert preparatory to the journey
down to Oodnadatta.

Working horses were also mustered, and a few
colts broken-in, before everything was ready for
the road. The pack gear had been brought from
the Springs, and new water-bags and green-hide
hobbles made, and, finally, one night at tea, Tom
announced that he would start away at daylight
next day.

"I'll wire to the ofiice from The Cliffs. That'll
give them plenty of time."

Breakfast was over before dawn next day, the
hobbled workers brought in and watered, and the
town mob started in charge of Tom and two
blacks, Scarry and Albert. It was a very short-
handed plant, but nothing else could be done.

The third boy, Big Dick, waited until the mid-



GOLDEN BUCKLES 133

die of the morning, and then followed with the
packs and spare horses.

Tynkn watched the plant of twenty horses dis-
appear over the sand-hill, then turned back to the
station. He was alone with Ruby, the native cook,
and an old warragal who chopped wood and did
odd jobs.

Those who, in city comfort, write the biogra-
phies of great men, often remark that greatness
is developed in solitude, and in support of their
statement instance that many of those who have
given to the world something of enduring worth
have spent some part of their lives away from
their fellows, and say that it is to these years of
formative solitude that their greatness is attri-
butable. That may be so.

The time of self-enforced banishment was often
very wearisome to Tynan. He had never con-
sented to the false standards of city life, and in
the company of bushmen, who judged their fel-
lows on the basis of manhood, he had be^n im-
mediately at home. As he told Tom, he needed
to learn the very A B C of bush language, but
he had always had the voice to speak it, the voice
of sincerity.

But he was very lonely. Tom and he were pals,
but there were many notes in his nature which
found no echo in that of the simple-hearted stock-
man; and now even Tom had gone away. So he
threw himself more strenuously into the task of
teaching Ruby. It was a charge laid on him by
a dying man. He had no illusions as to the ulti-
mate destination of the girl: the black's camp;
but he continued her education to keep his mind
from brooding upon many things, chief of which
was a girl in Melbourne.

At first he had been actuated by a hope that
if once Ruby could read and write, she might ob-
tain a situation down country away from her



134 GOLDEN BUCKLES

people, and manage to make good there, but even
before Tom left for Oodnadatta, he had given up
that hope.

Ruby was going to have a child.

Tom had been gone from Marnoola for several
weeks, when he put the horses on camp one night
near Red Creek, and strolled up to the store in
the morning.

The settlement consisted of a galvanised iron
store with an old stone barn attached, and a house
a few yards away, where lived Bob Nugent and
his wife. These, with the inevitable wood pile
and yards, were set at one corner of a vast stoney
plain across which ran the overland telegraph line
from Adelaide to Port Darwin. No traveller ever
passed north or south without calling there, and
beside drapery, grocery, and liquor, it was possible
to luxuriate in a meal cooked by Bob Nugent's
wife, and to hear all the scandal of Oodnadatta
and the Territory.

Tom telephoned his wire to the Syndicate, tell-
ing when the horses would arrive at Oodnadatta,
and when he had transacted a few items of busi-
ness, he leaned against the counter and drank
beer. Tom was a man of great self-control.
Periodically he drew his cheque and went on the
spree, deliberately, and entertained no regrets
when he had spent his money in the way he had
planned. But no man could make him drink to
excess at other times. So, for the sake of com-
pany, he drank beer.

He gave the news of Marnoola and such as he
had picked up on the road, and in return heard
of the doings in Oodnadatta and the south.

Presently Bob Nugent said: "I bet you two
drinks I've got later news of Marnoola than you
have."

"Done," said Tom. "What is it?"

"Tynan's lubra's got a kid."



GOLDEN BUCKLES 135

"Ruby?"

"Yes, that's the name."

"Holy sailor!" exclaimed Tom, in amazement.

"Didn't you know it was coming?" asked Bob.

"Never a word. Jim's a close un alright. But
how did you hear?"

"Oh, the Afghan — old Abul Mohammed, you
know — took the loading out to Mamoola. It's a
wonder you didn't pass him."

"I came round by Tunarla Soak. It's better
feed there than on the straight road. So old Abul
brought the news. Eh?"

"Yes. He told Dick at The Cliff, and he tele-
phoned it to me."

"Well, I'm damned! It's my shout, anyway.
We'll drink to the health of Mr. and Mrs. Tynan
and family."



136 GOLDEN BUCKLES



PART IIL



CHAPTER XXV.
Dukeland's Sale Yards.

Ida Hennessy received the bridle.

Grief was probably the most genuine emotion
she had ever experienced ; not her sentiments re-
garding the tragic death of Colonel Bathwick, for
these were on a par with her regard for him:
mere reflections of those about h6r. His death
affected her no deeper than a concern to fail in
none of the outward signs of mourning, and, while
the sudden light of publicity startled her a little
at first, she was more than compensated by hav-
ing her photograph in the society papers, and by
being referred to in them as "pretty Miss Hen-
nessy, the charming daughter of . . ."

But grief at the loss of the man who had gone
away came as slowly and unconsciously as the
unfolding of a flower. It was as gentle as mist,
but it wrapped her round and penetrated to those
inner recesses where the seed of love lay covered
over by the parched ground of convention. And
the little seed quickened and began to send out
roots.

This went on for months without influencing
her mind. That organ — so unnecessary to one
of her upbringing — was wholly absorbed in
fashionable war charities, gossip, dress, and or-
thodox gush about Art, with a big "A," for the



GOLDEN BUCKLES 137

Hennessy's treated Art as they did God — with
patronage. So spring came to her heart before
she was aware of it; and that which made her
aware was the bridle.

The parcel containing it had been brought up
on a breakfast tray to her bedroom, together with
other mail. It had claimed her attention first,
and the strands of dark leather lay coiled on the
white bedclothes long* after the toast and coffee
had grown cold. She did not know that it was
Tynan's own work. Her life was so surrounded
with veneer that she failed to recognise the touch
of a man's hand. But the buckles! There was
no doubt about the sender of these.

What she did not know at the time, she had
made it her business to learn since: that her
friend had saved her from a life that is worse
than death, and as she picked up the golden
buckles and looked at the old crest, such a rush
of love came up from her heart that it broke
down all barriers. She covered the bridle with
kisses.

It was vain to search the wrapper for a note;
none was there. She looked at the post mark:
Charlotte Waters. It was only a name to her,
but it made her glad to know that her lover was
still in Australia.

Then her eye caught the lettering on the fore-
head-band — X.T.X. She remembered it was the
brand of his horse, the one she had so often rid-
den, and its presence on the bridle told her that
he too was thinking of those rides. It was some
time before it came back to her that Dr. Byrne
had said that his horse came from the Northern
Territory, and had pointed to the X.T.X. to con-
fiiTn his statement. Perhaps all Territory horses
were thus marked.

Gradually she reasoned it out. There was a
station in the Territory from which Jim's horse



138 GOLDEN BUCKLES

had come, and by some strange coincidence he
was now on that station. She knew at last why
he had taken this indirect way of telhng her his
whereabouts. Their last meeting made any clear
message impossible, and this hint — capable of be-
ing understood by her alone — left her open to act
or not, as she thought fit.

That afternoon she paid a visit to her saddler,
and whilst choosing one or two things, casually
asked him about brands. There was one on a
horse she had seen of which she would like to
know the origin. It really didn't matter, but she
just thought' that, as she was calling . . .

The saddler told her that her best plan would
be to go to a stock and station agent — Dalgety
and do., for instance — and find out what station
used the brand she had in mind. But couldn't he
be of service to her?

She thanked him. "Oh, no. It really isn't worth
bothering about." The secret was too precious
to entrust to another.

Trifling as was the act, when Ida Hennessy
came out of Dalgety' s office with the name and
address of the X.T.X. Station on a slip of paper
in her little gold purse, a big step had been taken
towards her liberation. She was accustomed to
having everything done for her, and considered
"helpless" and "ladylike" to be synonymous terms.
Taking her affairs into her own hands was, there-
fore, a signal of revolt.

In a few days, an answer came to a letter she
had written to Adelaide.

"Messrs. Larcher Brothers acknowledge the
favour of the receipt of Miss Hennessy's en-
quiry," it ran. "They beg to state that they are
the agents for the Two Continents Meat Syndi-
cate, one of whose stations is Marnoola, in the
Northern Territory. A sale of Marnoola horses
is to take place at Dukeland's Yards on Tuesday



GOXDEN BUCKLES 139

next, the 18th inst., when they will be pleased
to see her and any of her friends."

Tom yarded the horses in good time at Oodna-
datta, and trucked them in sevens and eights the
same afternoon. In spite of the efforts of his
many friends in that hospitable township, he was
quite sober when he boarded the train as drover
in charge, but he had evidently imparted a start-
ling piece of news to some of them. As the crowd
turned away, some of the men remarked, "Fancy
that young chap having a kid"; and one young
lady was heard to remark to another, "Such a
nice young man, too. But, there, they all go that
way in the North,"

The Tuesday of the horse sale dawned bright
and cool, with just enough wind to ensure that
the day would maintain throughout some of the
freshness of the morning. The yards at Duke-
land's are alwaj^s well worth a visit, but just be-
fore a sale they are doubly so. The seats rise
tier above tier round the amphitheatre of the
selling yard; to the left, the lane with its double
row of numbered pens for receiving the horses
of different buyers, to the right, another lane lead-
ing to the great receiving yard which, on this par-
ticular morning, contained 150 X.T.X. horses. In
front was the rostrum of the auctioneer, from
which every spot in the yards v/as visible, and
especially the little lurkmg-places where buyer
tried to hide from buyer.

When the auction opened at noon, the seats
were pretty well filled, and amongst the one or
two ladies who were there, one might have been
noticed who did not seem at home in her surround-
ings.

It was Ida Hennessy.'

Every detail of the journey that finished at the
Dukeland's Yards had been an adventure to a girl
brought up as she had been. Many of the faces



I40 GOLDEN BUCKLES

around her showed signs of perilous trips across
the wilderness, but her train journey had been
equally hazardous to her. Love is a great stimu-
lus, and under its influence nothing is impossible.

At twelve sharp the auctioneer mounted the
lostrum with Tom and two clerks.

After a few preliminary remarks about the his-
tory of the famous X.T.X. horses and of the
especial excellence of this picked mob, the proceed-
ings began.

Singly for the most part, but at times in well-
matched pairs, the horses were driven into the
ring, where a man, standing beside the big centre
post, kept them moving with a whip.

Brisk bidding was the order of the day, for
several Indians were buying for the Government,
and the horses were of the stamp they required,
with short and well rounded barrels, and sturdy
legs ; an active but strong horse, perhaps heavy for
the saddle, but ideal for gunnery and quick farm
work. Once or twice £30 was reached, but the
prices usually ranged pretty evenly between £15
and £20, one or two being as low as £8.

Ida screwed up her courage at the end of the
sale, and walked over to the auctioneer. He was
standing with a group of other men who made
way for her as she came up.

"Larcher Brothers kindly invited me to see the
horses," she explained.

"Did they?" was the reply. "We are always
delighted to see ladies here. Are you interested
in horses?'

"Oh yes, I'm very fond of them," she said.
"But my real reason is that I know the X.T.X.
brand so well."

"Indeed?"

"Yes, my brother is on Mamoola."

"I see."



GOLDEN BUCKLES 141

"And I wondered if you would be so kind as to
introduce me to the man who brought the horses
down. He could tell me about my brother."

"Certainly. Certainly. Here, Tom !" beckoning
the stockman forward, "this lady's brother is on
Marnoola. She wants a word with you. This is
Mr. Lawson, madam; he came down with the
horses."

"Thank you so much," she said, to the auction-
eer, then turning to the embarassed bushman, she
smiled and held out her hand. "How do you do,
Mr. Lawson? It's too bad for me to bother you
V/hen you want to get away. But I do so want to
hear about my brother who is on Marnoola
station."

"Jim, you mean ? Jim Tynan ? Him that came
up last September?"

"Yes, that's right. I'm his sister, Miss Tynan."

Ida was amazed at her own audacity, but once
she had decided on her course of action, forces
that hitherto had been latent, came into operation
and carried her on almost in spite of herself.

"Oh, Jim's alright," said Tom lamely.

"That's nice. I'm so glad to hear it," she re-
plied, to encourage the man to go into details.

"Why, did you think he wasn't alright?"

"Oh, no. He gives the very best reports in his
letters," she said, lying cheerfully. "But you
know how much better it is to hear from someone
who has just seen him. That's why I came to you.
You don't mind, do you ?"

"No, Miss Tynan, I don't mind. Him and me
are cobbers — friends that is — up there.'*

'That is nice. I'm so glad you are my brother's
friend," and, though Tom had no idea how he came
there, he eventually found himself sitting at a
little table in the refreshment shed, and taking
tea with this charming young lady. He told her



142 GOLDEN BUCKLES

all about the muster, his accident, and the mana-
ger's death, the trouble with the engine, about
Jim's kindness to Ruby, and finally, quite simply,
about the child.

This last piece of news so affected his com-


1 2 3 4 5 6 8 10 11 12 13 14 15

Online LibraryConrad Harvey SayceGolden buckles → online text (page 8 of 15)