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panion, tUat he hastened to add :

"You see. Miss, that's nothing up there."

"Of course not," replied Ida, to hide the agony
of her mind. It was as if she had gone forward
into a strange country beaconed by a great light,
and it had suddenly gone out and left her in the
dark.

A few minutes later they parted, and the simple-
hearted bushman did not know that he had been
one of the actors in a tragedy.

"Had a good trip, Tom?"

Tynan asked the question as the two friends sat
in the Mamoola kitchen, drinking tea. Tom had
just come up with the plant from Oodnadatta, and
his clothes were travel-stained.

"Not too bad," was the answer. "But a chap
can't see much of Adelaide in a couple of days."

"Why didn't you stay longer?"

"The drover's ticket makes you return by the
next train. Besides, you were here on your own."

"Oh. I was alright," said Tynan.

"Tell you what, though," continued Tom. "I
saw your sister in town. Guess where I met her."

"My sister?" Tynan's amazement was genuine,
though his companion thought it feigned.

"Yes. A little lady as pretty as paint. Very
'anxious to hear about you."

Tynan grasped the situation, and his heart beat
fast with hope. "Oh, yes, of course. But how in
the world did you come to meet my sister? I
thought she was in Melbourne."



GOLDEN BUCKLES 143

"So she was till she heard of the sale of Mar-
poola horses. Then she came over."

"You met her at the sale yards ?"

"Yes, at Dukelands."

"By gad! I am surprised. What did she say?"

"Oh, I don't know. Lots of things. That you
hadn't written lately, for one. You see, we had
tea together," Tom winked, "so I've mostly for-
gotten all she said. I'm rather out of practice
with pretty young ladies. Say, Jim, old man.
She's a thoroughbred, she is.''

"But what more did she say?" urged Tynan.
"Surely you can remember."

"How do I know what she said? She asked a
lot of questions and I answered them ; that's what
we talked about. Oh, I remember. I was to thank
you for a bridle. Was that the thing you were
making here ?"

"Yes, that was it. Do you remember any of the
questions she asked?"

"Oh, you know the ones. About your health
and how you were getting on and if you weren't
coming down to see them soon."

"Did she ask that?"

"My oath, she did ! And not once either. I told
her you were well and getting on first rate, and
about the muster and Dookie's death and my leg
and . . . Oh, every bally thing I could think
of; about the engine and Ruby and the whole lot.
I never knew I had so much wind till I sat down
and began answering her questions."

Tynan was silent for a time and then asked,
"Did she send any message?'"

"Yes, even before I started in and painted you
red, white, and blue, she said she wanted you to
write more often, and that she was looking for-
ward to seeing you soon very much; I was to be
sure and say, 'Very much.* "



144 GOLDEN BUCKLES

"I see. And when you left?"

"What d'you mean? We just said good-bye.
What else d'you suppose we did? I don't know
where she went, but I know I went straight in
and ordered a nobbier. You see, I'm handier with
cattle than with her kind, yet somehow it wasn't
bad."

The conversation drifted off on the price which
the horses sold for and other matters, till Tom
said,

"Larcher Brothers sent me up to the Syndicate
offices; they wanted to see me. I met the new
manager there, a chap with a face like a meat axe
— Angus Macfarlane. He reckons to be in Oodna-
datta the train after next."

How's he coming up ?"

"He wants the big buggy and a couple of packs
to be sent in for him."

"Good," said Tynan. "I'll take them down, and
I reckon I'll go on to Melbourne to see my sister."



GOLDEN BUCKLES 145

CHAPTER XXVL
Face to Face.

Tynan stood waiting in the drawing room of
Gum Glen, the Hennessy's country house.

True to his purpose, he had taken the buggy and
plant of horses down to Oodnadatta, had handed
them over to the new manager, and had caught
the fortnightly train down to Adelaide. His jour-
ney from there to Melbourne was in strong con-
trast to the one he had taken over the same line
ten months before. Then he was paying the price
of his self-sacrifice; now he was on the way to
reap the reward.

It was entirely in keeping with the character of
the man that he was not afraid to visit Melbourne.
He retained his moustache and beard, but they
were not intended for a disguise, though they cer-
tainly altered his appearance beyond general re-
cognition; there was something about the natural
life he had been living that made it seem super-
fluous to shave. Simplicity is often audacious, and
Tynan's view of the murder was so impersonal
and straightforward that it gave him an almost
foolhardy courage, as if he hoped thereby to im-
pose his own conviction on other people. As a
matter of fact he hardly gave the matter a
thought, for he was intent upon the more vital
issue of his visit.

City dwellers are apt to think that their streets
and buildings must appear huge and awe-inspiring
to any man from the country, whereas the reverse
is usually the case. Everything seemed dwarfed
to Tynan as he drove into the city from Spencer



146 GOLDEN BUCKLES

Street Station ; the streets were short and narrow,
and the buildings not half as high as he had once
thought them.

The crowds certainly did strike him as larger
than he had ever known before, and the stolid dis-
regard of one man for another came as rather an
unpleasant shock. His standard of comparison had
changed. For ten months his vision had been
bounded only by the horizon or a distant range
of hills, and in such surroundings every man is
of necessity neighbour to every other.

He had been informed that the Hennessys were
out of town, and had followed them to a little place
in the heart of Gippsland, where, amongst deep
tree-fern gullies and gum-clad mountain slopes,
fashionable Melbourne is wont to recover from the
too strenuous labour of killing time.

And now he stood by the open window and
waited.

To one accustomed for the past months to limit-
less miles of plain and sand-hill with here and
there a scraggy mulga, to a sky of such fierce blue
that it seemed to be the domed roof of a furnace,
to the mocking mirage, dust storm, dry creek
beds, and to all the myriad pests that poison the
hours with their ceaseless worrying, the view
from the window \vas like a cool drink on a hot
day.

From a garden of well-tended disarray, a pad-
dock where cows and horses fed, sloped down to a
little torrent that glinted in the sunlight, before it
hid away in a tangle of bramble and fern, like the
coyly smiling lips of a girl hiding in a mass of hair.
A steep mountain side rose beyond the creek,
clothed nearly to the summit with tall straight
gums, and crowned with a cairn of stones. Higher
peaks still shut in the valley to the left, while to
the right, the crags fell away to gentler and



GOLDEN BUCKLES 147

gentler slopes, till a view was obtained of a wide
river-watered valley.

The landscape was in strong contrast with Mar-
noola. Coils of smoke rose here and there on the
hill-sides, not from the hearth of some rail-
splitter or pioneer tiller of the soil, but of those
who, in houses of elaborate simplicity, bring into
the bush the make-believe of the town.

Somehow it did not please Tynan. He would
have found wild sincerity akin to his niood, but to
see Nature, tamed as it were to eat out of the
hands of hypocrites, made him long for the free
wastes where man and stark nature look fearlessly
into one another's eyes, and where pretence is the
herald of death.

He turned to the room, and the lavishness of its
display annoyed him. No money had been saved,
but no taste had been spent, for the Hennessys,
who possessed so much of the former, had none of
the latter; a not infrequent combination. The
kitchen at Marnoola came to his mind, and in spite
of all, heat, flies, dirt, the lubra cook, the rough
service, and the well nigh intolerably coarse food,
he would gladly have been there just then if only
he could have met Ida Hennessy. He felt that
those crude conditions were true, whereas every
detail of the room he was in was false. If only
he could have met her in the open air and on horse-
back.

Strange thoughts for a man about to meet the
girl he loved and who loved him ! Much longing is
apt to make the object almost undesirable when
nearly attained. Who has not ardently looked
forward to an event, and then, on the morning of
its fulfilment, wished it could not be? The ex-
treme of attraction borders on repulsion, just as it
is impossible to indicate the line of demarcation
between hatred and love. Tynan had dwelt for



148 GOLDEN BUCKLES

many months in an emotional desert, and his long-
ing for the oasis was so intense that he began to
be critical of the trees surrounding it.

A clatter of hoofs roused him. A girl was riding
down the gravel path, ^nd it needed no second
glance to assure him who it was. He watched
her dismount and hand the reins to the groom.
With that attention to trifles which often charac-
terises times of deep emotion, he noticed that she
was not using the golden buckles. Never mind;
to-morrow they would be riding out together.

He had given no name, and with his moustache
and beard there was no chance that anyone at
Gum Glen would know him. He heard the maid
announce that a gentleman was waiting for Miss
Hennessy, then footsteps coming towards the
door. He had never felt so agitated in all his life.
He tried in vain to recall his habit of self-mastery ;
deep waters were already rushing over the barrier.
The door-handle turned. Tynan faced away from
the window so that he was in shadow, and watched
the girl he loved enter the room.

She did not recognise him.

" If you'll excuse me a moment, I'll change my
costume," she said, glancing at her top boots and
riding-habit. "I won't be long."

"Please don't ; it reminds me of past pleasures."
said the man, making no attempt to disguise his .
voice.

The girl started back against the partly open
door so that it shut noisily.

"You!" she cried.

"Yes, Ida ; me." He made a step or two towards
her.

"What made you come?"

"Because you asked for me. Ida, aren't you

. . . ?" His voice was perplexed.



GOLDEN BUCKLES 149

"I, ask for youf" she broke in. "I've not written
a line to you since . . . since you went away."
Her voice was harsh with restrained emotion,

"You asked for me at the Dukelands Yards.
You know you did, Ida. So I came."

"What do you want?"

"YOU!"

So far the dialogue had been conducted without
any show of feeling. Both were in the condition
of a man having received a violent blow : too dazed
to make any outward demonstration. From what
Tom had told him, Dr. Byrne had expected at least
a welcome. He had come prepared to open the
flood-gates of his heart to this girl and overwhelm
her with love. This chilly reception was a shock
to him. Ida Hennessy, on her part, was taken
completely off her guard. Her lover had not an-
nounced his coming, and at his sudden advent,
her love for him had struggled violently to break
through the hatred under which she had buried it.
She had still to learn that hatred is often little
more than a disguise for love. But at the word
"You" she seemed to gain posr..ssion of herself,
and strode out from the door as if to challenge his
statement.

"Me ! You surely do not want me !"

"I do. I came over a thousand miles for that
pui'pose."

"And did you leave your mistress well?"

"My mistress ?"

"Yes, your mistress. Or perhaps you have
already made her your wife. And does the child
take after you or her?"

The man picked up an ivory paper-knife from a
little table, and, holding it in both hands, seemed
to study it thoughtfully for some time. At last



150 GOLDEN BUCKLES

he looked up, and the tension of his mind showed
in Hnes upon his face. Suddenly the paper-knife
snapped. He dropped the pieces on the table with
a sig-h of resignation and looked up again.

"I see," he said simply.

"I'm glad you do. Now perhaps you will ga,
after having added insult to injury."

"Injury!" He caught up the word triumphantly.
"So you admit injury?"

"When "1 visited the Dukelands Yards, I con-
sidered you still a g-entleman. I did not know this
then. Now — ." She flicked a blot of mud on her
polished riding boots. "Won't you go before I call
someone ?"

"Yes," said the doctor, quietly. "I'll go. But I
want to say this first: You have dared to pass
judgment. I do not plead. I merely condemn the
outlook that makes such judgment possible. Along
with me, you judge the men who are laying the
foundations of a nation. What men are more to
be admired than those upon whose tracks civilisa-
tion will follow with healthy men and women and
happy homes? But these pioneers are rough,
with the vices as well as the virtues of full-blooded
men, yet I count it an honor to call any one of
them 'friend.'

"Many of them live incredibly lonely lives. I
know one who has not seen a white womaii for
fifteen years, and another who was tied to an out-
lying station with absolutely no white companions
for twelve. Because these men have endured
hunger and thirst, have fought bare-handed with
Nature, and have given up all which you and I
mean by the word 'civilisation,' must they also
give up the love of woman and child ? Your con-
demnation is as superficial as the life you lead.

"You thought, perhaps, that I'd deny your ac-



GOLDEN BUCKLES 151

cusation or kneel to you and plead excuses as
though I were ashamed of being a man. No, no,,
indeed ! Before such pettiness as you have shown
my knees are stiff, for I have lately breathed the
same clean air as men. I'm going north. I'm
going back to be with men."

Ida Hennessy did not take her gaze from the
floor. This man who had scorned to plead for him-
self, had taken up the cudgels for his friends, and
she did not feel at all secure upon her pedestal. He
was speaking again.

"Before I go, I'll say one thing more. What you
and your set understand by love, I don't know.
Neither do I care. But as I mean the word, I
loved you, and perhaps I love you still. But you —
you have sold the woman in you for a sterile
respectability. Now, may I go?"

Ida Hennessy did not move from the door.
Presently, without raising her eyes, she said in a
low voice, "Perhaps . . . you love me still.
Did you say that, Jim?"

The young doctor's face lit with joy and passion
for a moment. Then he looked round the room
and at the broken paper-knife, and his eyes
became hard.

"Yes, I said it, and it's true. But, by thunder!
if you think I'm a man with whom you can flirt,
whom you can spurn and then call by one slight
movement of your dainty finger, you're wrong.
There are many poodles in your set; lead one of
those, but don't think I'll feed out of your hand."

He looked down at her. Her bent shoulders
were quivering. One step and he could take her in
his arms. But, coupled with his love for her, wr.s
a burning indignation at the attitude she had
adopted. He had yet to fling his pride upon love's
altar.



152 GOLDEN BUCKLES

"May I go?" he asked again, though this time
his voice was all broken up with the strain he was
undergoing, and as she still did not answer, he
quietly opened the door and weiit out.

Ida heard the scrunch, scrunch of his feet on
the gravel, and ran to the window. Would he turn
his head? No, he was gazing north, to the great
free lands where men are men. He did not look
back.



GOLDEN BUCKLES 153

CHAPTER XXVIL
Another Visitor.

Ida Hennessy remained at the window long after
her visitor had disappeared round a bend in the
road. There was little in her appearance to indi-
cate what was going on in her mind. Perhaps her
hands gripped the riding-crop more tightly than
usual, and perhaps once or twice it bent slightly.
That was all. She seemed lost in contemplation
of the hillside of trees opposite.

Her mind was recalling with minute exactness
what had passed in that room during the last half
hour. Her lover had thought his appeal was fall-
ing on thoughtless ears, but had he known it, he
was writing his words upon a surface which would
retain them unblurred forever. So vividly had he
pictured the scenes of his recent life, so thrilling
had been his appeal for her to judge a bushman
by a bushman's standard, that in spite of the fact
that both scenes and standard were alien to her,
she felt that perhaps for the first time in her life
she had touched reality — the things that are at
the foundation of life, not the highly polished
veneer that was usually presented to her.

Irresistibly, that part of her to which Dr.
Byrne had appealed in the old days — that part
which the Colonel had failed to touch — was drawn
out in sympathy to those who in loneliness are
laymg the foundations of a great southern nation.
She was humbled also. Her own insignificance,
in comparison with these men, made her former
judgment of them appear presumptuous.

Sympathy is immediately reciprocal, and it



154 GOLDEN BUCKLES

acted on this girl like warmth on a chrysalis. She
felt wings opening within her, joyous wings, and
she laughed softly to herself as she knew they
would one day carry her to the man she loved.
Love had surmounted "the last barricade — pride,
and now hoisted its victorious flag over the citadel
of her being.

Then she turned from the window and saw the
broken paper-knife, and her lover's pain came back
to her with a rush. She took up one of the broken
pieces and covered it with kisses and tears.

She was not left long undisturbed. The gate
clicked, and a man's steps were heard on the gravel
drive. Slipping the broken piece of ivory inside
her habit, she ran to the window. He saw her and
waved. It was Philip Dennis. Her lover's sudden
appearance had driven the visit of this other man
completely out of her thoughts.

She opened the French window and waved back.
"Where are the others ?" she called. "Didn't you
meet them ?" They greeted one another with evi-
dent friendship.

"No. Did they go down to meet me?"

"Yes, and now they'll think you haven't come."

"I must have missed them," he replied. "I
admit I had eyes for only one person, and when
she wasn't there, I took a short cut."

"So it seems. Just look at your boots? You
must have come across the creek."

"Through the creek you mean," he answered
ruefully. "I slipped on that log and went right
in."

"Serves you right, you foolish boy," laughed
Ida. "That's what comes of being impatient.
Where's your bag?" she asked, looking down at
his muddy boots. "I'm not at all sure if father's
slippers will fit you; you've got such enormous
feet."



GOLDEN BUCKLES 155

"I left my bag at the station with James. But
don't bother about me. Tell me how you are."

"You can see for yourself," she answered. "I've
just come in from a ride."

"Then you must have passed that Johnny who
was standing on the platform as the train came
in."

"What was he like?"

"Oh, rather a good-looking chap, but awfully
brown. Looked as if he didn't belong round here.
Deuce of an expression he had though — hard as
nails."

Ida knew well to whom her visitor referred, and
laughed to hide her true feelings. "Good descrip-
tion, Phil.," she said, "good description. If you're
not careful you'll be a genius and disgrace us all."

"As long as I don't disgrace you, Ida, I don't
care," he replied with warmth.

"You'll certainly do so if I keep you standing
out here with wet boots. Come inside. I suppose
you want to wash. You know where everything
is. I'll send a pair of father's slippers and socks
into you. Now I must go and change, too."

Phillip Dennis was in every way a suitable
acquaintance for Ida Hennessy. His grandfather
would certainly not have been considered so, for
he was one of those rugged personalities that
hewed a way across a trackless continent.
Towards the end of his life, he had been engaged
carting stores from Port Augusta to Alice Springs,
living a rougher life than is probably possible in
any other part of the world. Philip's father would
also have been regarded with suspicion by the
Hennessys. He followed the occupation of his sire,
became the owner of several horse teams, dealt in
cattle, and finally settled down on one of the
largest cattle-stations in South Australia. He left
a fortune to his son, a youth who, beside his



15(5 GOLDEN BUCKLES

wealth, inherited none of his ancestor's quahties
except a superb physique. Philip Dennis was a
wealthy idler; a very desirable acquaintance for
Ida Hennessy.

Thus it came about that papa and mamma were
away when young Dennis turned up at Gum Glen.

"Well, well, we were all young once," said the
father, as an original contribution to the subject
under discussion.

"Yes, indeed," panted his stout partner. "How
nice it would be to get dear Ida settled after that
horrid affair in September."

As though the elements were on the side of the
parental match-makers, the cool day died to a
warm scent-laden evening. The sound of the little
torrent and the ever present voices of the trees,
came through the open French window. Ida had
been playing to the accompaniment of Philip's
rather fine tenor voice. His was by no means the
face of an idler. The strength that had made his
fathers what they were, had modelled his head.
It was full large and would have appeared almost
rugged if the hair had not been so perfectly
groomed. Here was an opportunity for great
things; but the will was lacking. Lips and jaw
were not in accord with the rest of the face, and
the eyes, although they were of the same steely
blue as those of his father, lacked courage. In fact
Philip Dennis had not, for years, faced any more
serious problem than the matching of a tie or the
ordering of a meal.

There are many such in Australia : grandsons of
pioneers — who are themselves mere triflers with
life.

At the conclusion of a song which Mrs. Hennessy
had especially asked for, Denis looked round and
saw that both parents had left the room. He and
the girl were alone.



GOLDEN BUCKLES iS7

"Are we to take it as silent criticism of our
music?" asked Ida, when her companion had
drawn attention to the absence of the old peopk-

"I don't mind what it is so long as it leaves me
alone with you," he answered.

"Now that's not complimentary to father and
mother. You drive them away with your singing,
and then say you don't care," she said, laughing.

"You know what I mean, Ida. You know I love
to be alone with you."

" That's nice of you." She glanced at her ex-
pensively simple evening gown. "Is it because you
like my frock ?"

"I said nothing about the frock. Ida, you know
well enough why I like being alone with you."

"How am I to know?"

"Shall I tell you ?" His voice was eager, and he
stepped towards her. Knowing full well what he
wanted to say, and unwilling that he should say it,
she tried to turn it off lightly.

"That all depends. You don't notice my frock.
Perhaps you like being with me for some uncom.-
plimentary reason. To study my eyes, for in-
stance. Am I cross-eyed. Philip?"

"No, indeed," he laughed. "Your eyes are the
sweetest in the world.'*

"And my frock?"

"It couldn't be anything but perfect because you
are wearing it."

She laughed, thinking she had turned him from
his purpose. "What a testimonial ! What a testi-
monial! I'll take a position as mannikin right
away. Everything's perfect if only I wear it !"

But he would not be put off. "I mean that your
own perfection makes everything else not worth
looking at. Ida, I've never met a girl like you."

"I don't expect you have. Even poor weak
women are not all the same.'*



158 GOLDEN BUCKLES

"I mean I've never met anyone I like better than
you."

"It's nice of you to say so."

"Ida, it's the truth. I want you to marry me."
His face lost its weak lines for a moment, and wore
the masterful expression of his fathers.

"How serious you are," said Ida, timidly. "You
almost make me afraid."

"I was never more serious in my life. Ida, will
you marry me?"

"Why, Phil., of course not. We've been such
good friends, and now you've spoilt it all with this
nonsense." She rose from the music stool, and,
without knowing it, stood with her back to the
door as she had done when listening to Dr. Byrne.

"Nonsense ? Ida, you know it's not nonsense. I
know lots of girls, but none of them come up to
you. Really they don't. I reckon we could have
a ripping time together. We'd go about just where
you liked, and you could have as much riding and


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