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Title: A Lad of Mettle
Author: Gould, Nat
Language: English
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A LAD OF METTLE


       *       *       *       *       *

NAT GOULD’S SPORTING NOVELS

_Crown 8vo., Picture Boards._

  THE DOUBLE EVENT
  RUNNING IT OFF
  JOCKEY JACK
  HARRY DALE’S JOCKEY
  BANKER AND BROKER
  THROWN AWAY
  STUCK UP
  ONLY A COMMONER
  THE MINERS’ CUP
  THE MAGPIE JACKET
  WHO DID IT?
  HORSE OR BLACKSMITH?
  NOT SO BAD AFTER ALL
  SEEING HIM THROUGH

_Also, uniform with the above_,

  ON AND OFF THE TURF IN AUSTRALIA
  TOWN AND BUSH
  THE DOCTOR’S DOUBLE
  A LAD OF METTLE

       *       *       *       *       *


A LAD OF METTLE

by

NAT GOULD

Author of ‘The Double Event,’ etc.



London
George Routledge and Sons, Limited
Broadway, Ludgate Hill



To MY SONS.



CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                               PAGE

       I. BULLY RAKES TAKEN DOWN           9

      II. IN THE CRICKET-FIELD            19

     III. A CRITICAL MOMENT               28

      IV. LEAVING SCHOOL                  38

       V. A FURIOUS STORM                 46

      VI. THE ‘DISTANT SHORE’             55

     VII. WHAT THE MORNING BROUGHT FORTH  64

    VIII. IN WAL JESSOP’S COTTAGE         74

      IX. UP COUNTRY                      83

       X. A WILD SCENE                    92

      XI. YACKA THE BLACK                101

     XII. IN SEARCH OF ADVENTURES        110

    XIII. BY THE LAGOON                  119

     XIV. ON THE OVERLAND LINE           129

      XV. THROUGH THE RANGES             139

     XVI. AFTER THE FIGHT                148

    XVII. WONDROUS CAVERNS               158

   XVIII. THE WHITE SPIRIT               167

     XIX. THE FORCES OF NATURE           176

      XX. THE RETURN TO YANDA            186

     XXI. AN EXCITING CHASE              195

    XXII. TIME FLIES                     204

   XXIII. AN EVENTFUL NIGHT              214

    XXIV. HOME AGAIN                     223

     XXV. THE SCENE AT LORD’S            232

    XXVI. AN UPHILL GAME                 241

   XXVII. THE CAPTAIN OR HIS GHOST       250

  XXVIII. A STRANGE STORY                259

    XXIX. WARLIKE SPORTS                 269

     XXX. GOOD-BYE TO AUSTRALIA          278

       *       *       *       *       *

A LAD OF METTLE



CHAPTER I. BULLY RAKES TAKEN DOWN.


Lessons were over for the day, and the boys at Redbank School came
running with shouts and whoops of joy into the playing-fields. They
were like young colts freed from restraint for a few hours, and eager
to make the most of their liberty.

Redbank was the home of brilliant cricketers and all-round athletes.
Many a noted cricketer had received his first lessons in the great game
on Redbank cricket ground. The lads were proud of the men who played in
the All England eleven, and who were never slow to acknowledge that to
Redbank they owed what prowess they possessed.

The Redbank lads were born runners, so many an old hand training them
for races vowed. Something in the atmosphere of Redbank seemed to make
the lads athletic. Perhaps the traditions attached to the school had
much to do with this, for lads are very proud, and justly so, of the
feats of scholars who have preceded them.

But Redbank was not merely a training ground for famous athletes.
Redbank scholars had taken high honours at the Universities, and
afterwards distinguished themselves in various walks of life. The
Bishop of Flaxham was proud of the fact that he was ‘grounded’ at
Redbank. He was an eloquent and distinguished man, an ornament to the
Church, and a brilliant writer of readable books.

When the Bishop of Flaxham came to Redbank, and preached in the chapel,
the lads with difficulty restrained themselves from giving him a hearty
cheer at the end of his address. The Bishop knew how to talk to boys,
and never forgot that at one period of his life he had been bored with
wearisome sermons about the world, the flesh, and the devil, which
he did not in the least understand. So he took warning, and told the
lads to run the race set before them much in the same manner as they
would a hundred yards sprint, each striving to win the prize and do the
distance in even time. The Bishop believed that well-trained muscles
and a healthy body were conducive to an active and moral state of mind.
The Redbank lads gloried in the fact that the Bishop of Flaxham had
been one of themselves.

Field-Marshal Lord Kingcraft was a Redbank boy, and his warlike deeds
and bravery were celebrated in song on the fly-leaves of school-books,
and occasionally on the panels of doors and the insides of desks.

  ‘Lord Kingcraft’s won the great V.C.,
   May Redbank do the same for me.’

was discovered carved, evidently with much labour and pains, on the lid
of a desk at which the celebrated Field-Marshal formerly worried his
brains over Euclid and algebra.

This inscription was pointed out to the brave leader of men when he
visited his old school, and he never forgot it. He hoped, from the
bottom of his heart, the lad who carved it would one day win his V.C.

Redbank was represented in the navy and in the diplomatic world, and
one day it was hoped a Redbank lad would become Prime Minister.

So, with all these successful public men constantly before them as an
example, the lads of Redbank felt bound to endeavour to do great deeds,
and win renown for themselves and their school.

The head-master of Redbank was the Rev. Henry Hook, and it was
universally acknowledged that no more suitable man could have been
selected. He ruled his lads with a firm hand, but he was no tyrant or
hard task-master. The boys knew he meant what he said, and that his
word to them could be implicitly relied upon. He had confidence in his
boys, and they returned it.

When Edgar Foster came to Redbank School he was sixteen, small for his
age, but muscular and active. At this time there were between two and
three hundred scholars at Redbank, and naturally out of such a number
there were several lads whose absence would not have been regretted.

Young Edgar Foster soon became popular. For one thing, his father was
a well-known man, who had worthily upheld the honour of Redbank in the
cricket field, and had captained the All England eleven. This was quite
sufficient to give Edgar a standing in the school.

Bullies exist in almost every walk of life, and a few of this
undesirable species were to be found at Redbank. The leader of these
bullies was a lad named Raymond Rakes--‘Bully Rakes’ as he was
generally called. He was a big, hulking fellow, powerful and strong,
but deficient in courage, as bullies generally are.

There was nothing manly about Bully Rakes, and the boys knew it. So
far he had held his own, for he was the biggest boy in the school. Any
new scholar he at once endeavoured to inspire with awe, and generally
succeeded.

Our story commences about a week after Edgar Foster’s arrival at
Redbank. The boys were bounding out of school and soon spread over
the fields in groups; the bulk of them, however, went towards the
cricketing nets.

Edgar Foster had not had any opportunity of showing what he could
do with the bat. He was a lad who did not push himself forward, but
quietly bided his time, knowing full well that when that time came he
would not be found wanting. The boy is father to the man, and it will
be gathered from this story of a lad of mettle that Edgar Foster acted
in this wise during many trying periods of his after-life.

Edgar watched the practice with keen and critical eyes. His father had
taught him how to handle a bat as only a skilful player can.

‘Here, Foster, take a turn,’ said the lad who had just finished
batting. ‘We’ve not had the chance of seeing how you shape yet.’

‘I’m ready,’ said Edgar, pulling off his coat and eagerly holding out a
hand for the bat.

‘It’s my turn,’ said Bully Rakes. ‘Just you drop that bat, or I’ll make
you.’

Edgar Foster looked up at the big fellow standing before him, but he
did not flinch, nor did he drop the bat.

The boys crowded round, anticipating a row, and anxious to see how the
new-comer would shape with Rakes.

‘If it is your turn,’ said Edgar quietly, ‘I will give you the bat. If
it is not your turn, under no circumstances will I drop the bat.’

The tones were firm, there was no flinching, and the lad looked
determined.

Bully Rakes was not accustomed to be addressed in this manner. He eyed
Edgar scornfully, and said:

‘I shall have to teach you manners. I am the best judge of whose turn
it is. Will you drop that bat?’

Edgar turned to the lad who had handed him the bat, and said:

‘Do you bat in turns? Has Rakes any right to bat before me?’

Courage is infectious. Will Brown had never defied Rakes before, but he
felt he must back up his plucky schoolmate.

‘Rakes has no right to bat here at all,’ he replied. ‘He’s been batting
at the other net, and has just finished his turn.’

Edgar Foster made no further remark, but walked coolly to the wicket.

This defiance of his demands gave Bully Rakes a shock. He knew if he
allowed Foster to bat his hold over the boys would be gone. He strode
up to Edgar and said savagely:

‘Give me the bat, or I’ll thrash you!’

‘Had you asked me politely at first, I should probably have handed
you the bat,’ said Edgar. ‘I shall not do so now. As for thrashing
me--well, that has to be decided.’

‘Bravo, Foster!’ shouted several lads.

‘Punch his head, Rakes,’ said one of the bully’s toadies.

‘Give me that bat, or fight me!’ shouted Rakes in a passion.

‘Shame!’ shouted the lads.

Rakes was much taller and more powerfully built than Edgar.

Edgar Foster handed the bat to Will Brown, and said:

‘Come on, I’m ready.’

Bully Rakes had his coat off, and the boys, seeing a fight about to
take place, formed a ring. They would have given much to see Bully
Rakes get a severe thrashing.

Now they were in a fighting attitude the disparity between the lads was
more apparent. Edgar was lightly built, but active, and evidently in
good condition. Bully Rakes was massive, heavy, and ponderous in his
movements. The boys were determined to see fair play, and gave Edgar
every encouragement. As usual, when he had to fight, Bully Rakes rushed
in at close quarters, and tried to overwhelm his smaller opponent by
the force of his onslaught.

Edgar, however, was ready for him. He knew how to box better than most
lads of his age. His father had taught him, impressing upon him that
because he knew how to use his fists he ought not to pick quarrels.

Seeing Bully Rakes rush at him, Edgar sprang nimbly to one side. The
bigger lad stumbled forward and almost fell. Thus foiled at the first
attempt, Rakes lost his temper. He heard the lads jeering at him, and
he determined he would make Edgar suffer for the humiliation.

Recovering himself, Rakes glared at Edgar and then aimed a terrific
blow at his ribs. Quick as lightning shot out Edgar’s left and caught
Rakes on the ear. It was a stinging blow, and the bully did not take
punishment well. Rakes again rushed at Edgar, and, closing with him,
kicked him severely on the shin. It was a despicable act, and several
lads pulled Rakes back, others shouting ‘Coward!’ and ‘Foul play!’

‘Hands off!’ shouted Rakes. ‘You’d better not interfere with me.’

‘Leave him to Foster,’ said Will Brown; ‘he’ll settle him.’

A roar of laughter followed this remark, and made Bully Rakes furious.

‘Stand up and fight fair,’ said Edgar. ‘Who taught you to kick? We’re
not playing football.’

The boys were delighted. Here was young Foster taking it out of Bully
Rakes, and chaffing him unmercifully.

Rakes again commenced the attack, but with more caution. He was not a
match for his young opponent when it came to science. He managed to
land a blow on Edgar’s right eye, but the return he received fairly
between his own eyes staggered him. Edgar followed up his advantage and
soon had the satisfaction of seeing Bully Rakes measure his length on
the grass.

The younger boys danced with delight as the defeat of their enemy
looked assured.

Rakes, however, was not yet beaten. He staggered to his feet and
fought again with some determination. Feeling he had met his match, his
courage, what little he possessed, gave way, and Edgar soon had the
bully at his mercy. Edgar was not disposed to let him off lightly, and
he knocked Rakes about in a manner that both astonished and alarmed him.

‘Have you had enough?’ said Edgar, standing over him after another
knock-down blow. ‘If not, get up, and I’ll repeat the dose.’

‘I’ve done for to-day,’ growled Rakes; ‘but I’ll be even with you for
this, see if I don’t.’

‘Take your defeat like a man,’ said Edgar, ‘and drop bullying in the
future. Where’s the bat?’ he added, turning to Will Brown.

But the boys would not let him bat. They cheered him and shook hands
with him, and Edgar felt he had quickly made a position for himself in
the school.

Bully Rakes slunk away with one or two companions, who had been tempted
by his example to bully on a smaller scale, and were downcast at his
defeat.

‘You’ll get into a row,’ said Will Brown to Edgar. ‘The chief can’t
bear fighting, but when he hears the truth, I fancy he’ll side with
you.’

‘He’ll hear the truth then,’ said Edgar. ‘I shall ask to see him when
we reach school.’

‘I shouldn’t,’ said Will Brown. ‘None of the masters may have noticed
it.’

‘It makes no difference to me whether they have noticed it or
otherwise,’ said Edgar; ‘I shall tell the doctor all about it, if he
will see me. It is the most straightforward way, as I have only been
about a week in the school.’

‘Perhaps you’re right,’ said Will Brown.

‘Sure of it,’ said Edgar.

That evening Dr. Hook received a polite note from Edgar Foster, in
which he asked for an interview. Dr. Hook knew Edgar’s father, and
admired him for his many manly qualities.

‘You wanted to see me, Foster,’ said Dr. Hook, when the lad came into
his study.

Then, catching sight of Edgar’s discoloured eye, he frowned.

Edgar explained what had occurred in the cricket-field. Dr. Hook
listened attentively, noting the boy’s face all the time. His scrutiny
was evidently favourable.

‘I am glad you came to me,’ said the head-master; ‘I strongly object to
fighting, but in this instance I think it may be overlooked. Send Rakes
to me when you go out.’

‘Please, sir,’ said Edgar, and hesitated. ‘I hope you will not punish
Rakes; I gave it him severely this afternoon.’

Dr. Hook smiled as he said:

‘No, I will not punish Rakes; I merely wish to speak to him about his
conduct. You may go.’

‘That lad will get on in the world,’ thought Dr. Hook, when the door
closed behind Edgar. ‘I’m glad he thrashed Rakes; it will do him good.’

Bully Rakes got a very different reception to Edgar Foster, and as
he left the room he vowed he would have his revenge upon Edgar for
‘sneaking’ to the head-master.



CHAPTER II. IN THE CRICKET-FIELD.


The thrashing of Bully Rakes gave Edgar Foster a hold over the
affections of his schoolfellows, and he never lost it. In twelve months
he became captain of the eleven, and led them to victory on many
occasions. Edgar worked hard, both at lessons and play. He found it
much easier to study when his body was in good order, and his athletic
exercises helped to make his school tasks the easier. He could not be
called a brilliant scholar by any means, but he was endowed with an
amount of perseverance that generally pulled him through.

‘It’s got to be done, and I’ll do it,’ Edgar thought to himself when
pondering over a difficult task, and he generally succeeded.

The Redbank lads took a defeat from their great opponents, the eleven
of Fairfield College, with a very bad grace. Not that they allowed
their successful opponents to see their chagrin, they were too manly
for that, but they felt the defeat keenly.

Edgar Foster determined to win the return match if possible. He had
taken great care to select his eleven, and felt confident of success.
He was the more eager to win because his father was coming to Redbank
to watch the game. Dr. Hook too was anxious his boys should regain
their lost laurels, and he encouraged Edgar by his kindly advice.

It so happened that Raymond Rakes, despite his many bad qualities, was
a very fair cricketer. He had not been chosen to play in the first
match against Fairfield, and he put his being left out of the team down
to Edgar’s animosity.

Edgar Foster, however, was not actuated by any such motive. He thought
Rakes hardly good enough, and therefore did not select him. Since this
match Rakes had shown such good form that Edgar decided to include him
in the eleven for the return match.

Bully Rakes was much surprised when Edgar asked him to play. He said he
would think over the matter, and complained about not being chosen in
the first match.

‘You had not shown good enough form then,’ said Edgar; ‘you have come
on wonderfully since, and therefore I ask you to play. It is for the
honour of the school we are playing this time, so you ought to have no
hesitation.’

‘Then I’ll play,’ said Rakes, in his usual surly manner.

‘And I hope you will make a good score,’ said Edgar.

As the captain of the Redbank eleven walked away, Rakes looked after
him with no friendly eyes. He had never forgotten the humiliating
defeat he sustained when Edgar first came to the school. No opportunity
had yet occurred of paying off the grudge he owed Edgar on that account.

‘He’s set his heart on winning this match,’ muttered Rakes to himself;
‘he’d have left me out again if he could. I’ve a good mind to spoil his
plans. What does it matter whether we win or lose the match? I don’t
care much which way it goes, and I’d like to see Foster taken down a
peg or two. I’ll wait and see how our side shapes. I may be able to
carry out a plan of my own.’

Had Edgar Foster doubted Rakes, he would not have asked him to play;
but he could not understand any lad throwing away a chance of victory
merely to spite the captain of the team. Such conduct Edgar would not
have suspected even in Raymond Rakes.

‘So you’ve asked Rakes to play?’ said Will Brown, who had become a
stanch friend of Edgar’s ever since the fight with Bully Rakes.

‘Yes,’ said Edgar. ‘He’s not a bad bat at all; he’s a fair field, and
will do to put on for a change bowler. We must win the match. I’m
awfully anxious about it. My father will be here, and there’s sure
to be a big crowd of people. We have a good team, and I’m pretty
confident this time.’

‘All the same, I should not have played Rakes,’ said Will Brown.

‘Why?’ asked Edgar.

‘Because I don’t trust him. He’s never forgiven you for licking him,
and if he gets half a chance he’ll throw us over in the match, just to
spite you,’ said Will.

Edgar looked at his schoolmate in surprise. He could not believe in any
lad doing such a thing.

‘He’ll never do that,’ said Edgar. ‘Even if it is as you say, and he
still bears me a grudge, he would never be such a cad as to throw the
school over in order to annoy me.’

‘I hope he won’t, for your sake,’ said Will; ‘but all the same, I have
my doubts.’

Will Brown’s words made Edgar feel uneasy for a time, but he soon
forgot them. It was universally agreed that a better eleven could not
have been chosen to meet Fairfield College. Masters were not to play;
it was to be purely a boys’ match.

Early and late Edgar was at the cricket nets watching the practice
and debating how he should send his team in to bat. For such a young
lad, he had keen powers of observation, and he made a pretty accurate
calculation as to the pluck and nerve of each boy. Edgar’s father
arrived the day before the match, and saw the final practice.

‘You have a real good team,’ he said to his son, ‘and ought to win.
Remember, a good deal depends upon the captain.’

‘I’m not likely to forget that,’ said Edgar. ‘You have often told me a
good captain wins many a game at cricket.’

Robert Foster was proud of his son, and naturally felt anxious to see
him successful.

‘How’s my lad doing?’ he had said to the head-master.

‘Well--very well,’ said Dr. Hook. ‘He is not a brilliant scholar, but
he will get on in the world. He is like his father in one respect.
He is about the best cricketer and all-round athlete we have in the
school.’

Robert Foster’s eyes brightened, and he said:

‘I’m glad of that. I’m not a rich man, and my lad will have to fight
his own battles. He has a great inclination to go abroad, and I don’t
know that it will not be a good thing for him. His sister will be able
to keep me from feeling lonely.’

Dr. Hook looked at Robert Foster with his kindly eyes, and replied:

‘Travel expands the mind. If a lad has plenty of ballast, he will take
no harm in any part of the world. Your son is a lad of mettle, and you
need have no fear about his future. If I am a judge of character, I
should say Edgar Foster is a lad who will surmount difficulties and
dangers, and he is bound to be a leader of men.’

Robert Foster was proud of the way in which the head-master spoke
of his son. How little do thoughtless schoolboys know the pleasure
a father feels in hearing praise bestowed upon his child, or of the
pang he feels when the son he loves strays from the right path.
Robert Foster loved his son devotedly, although he made very little
demonstration of his affection, and Edgar thoroughly understood and
appreciated the manly qualities of his father.

The eventful day arrived, and a glorious day it was. The sun shone
brightly, and there was a slight cool breeze. Redbank cricket ground
was charmingly situated. The pavilion was small, but there were several
large trees growing at the back which afforded ample shade. The ground
was level and well-kept, and the pitch had much care bestowed upon it.
It was a great day at Redbank when this return match with Fairfield
College was to be played. Flushed with the triumph of their previous
victory, the Fairfield lads were eager for the fray, and had invited
many friends to come and witness their further triumph. The captain
of the Fairfield eleven, Harold Simpson, was almost as popular at
Fairfield as Edgar Foster was at Redbank. The two captains had a mutual
liking for each other, although each one was determined to beat the
other in the great game they were about to play.

Edgar Foster lost the toss, and, as the ground was in such good order,
Harold Simpson elected to send his men in first.

‘They are a strong batting team,’ said Edgar to his father. ‘It will
take us some time to get rid of them.’

‘It is a one-day match, so you must do your level best to get them out
quickly,’ said his father.

As the boys filed on to the field they were cheered by their comrades
and the Redbank supporters, who had mustered in strong force.

Edgar Foster came in for a special share of applause, and he felt his
pulses tingle and his heart beat high with hope as he bounded over the
springy turf towards the wickets.

The two Fairfield batsmen were wildly cheered by their mates, and
Harold Simpson decided on this occasion to go in first.

Will Brown and Sayers junior were put on to bowl.

An anxious moment is that during which the first ball in a match is
delivered. The bowler goes back from the wicket, measuring his men; for
a second or two he hesitates and looks round, then he glances at the
batsman, sees all is ready, and prepares for the delivery. As he takes
his run to the wicket the spectators hold their breath. Will this first
ball be fatal? A sigh of relief goes round as the batsman plays it well
forward.

Harold Simpson failed to score in Brown’s first over. Sayers junior
then took the ball, and his first delivery made the bails fly, much to
the delight of the Redbank boys, who shouted and cheered vociferously.

Edgar Foster felt they had commenced well, and was anxious for the
good-fortune to continue. The Fairfield boys were determined bats, and
a long stand took place before the second batsman was got rid of.

Harold Simpson still kept his wicket up, and runs came freely. At the
fall of the fifth wicket Fairfield had put a hundred runs on, of which
the captain had made forty.

Edgar Foster went on to bowl. He was not such a good bowler as Rakes,
who thought he ought to have been tried before, and looked sullen.

In his first over Harold Simpson skied a ball to Raymond Rakes. It
was an easy catch, but Rakes missed it, and so clumsily that the boys
jeered at him.

Will Brown, who had been watching him, thought:

‘He dropped that on purpose, because Edgar bowled it.’

Nothing daunted at this stroke of bad luck, Edgar sent another similar
ball down. Harold Simpson hesitated for a moment as to what he should
do with it; then he struck out, and, strange to say, the ball went to
Rakes again.

It was not such an easy catch as the former one, but, still, there
ought to have been very little difficulty in a good fielder securing
it. Rakes fumbled it badly, and again missed the catch.

Edgar Foster could not help thinking of what Will Brown had said to
him. He was very much annoyed, and at the conclusion of his over said
to Rakes:

‘Those were two easy catches to miss; they may cost us the match.’

‘They were not as easy as they looked,’ said Rakes. ‘You don’t suppose
I dropped them on purpose, do you?’

‘I should be very sorry to think that,’ said Edgar; ‘but be more
careful next time.’

At last Will Brown secured Harold Simpson’s wicket, and the others
followed rapidly, the innings closing for a hundred and thirty-four, a
good score in a one-day school match.

‘What do you think of it, Edgar?’ asked his father. ‘Shall you be able
to wipe that off?’

‘I think so,’ replied Edgar. ‘We should have had a much easier task had
Rakes held those two catches off my bowling.’

‘He made an awful mess of them,’ said Robert Foster. ‘How he dropped
the first puzzles me; he had it fairly in his hands.’

‘Look here, Edgar!’ said Will Brown. ‘It’s no use mincing matters. I’m
sure Rakes missed those catches purposely. When are you going to send
him in?’

‘About seventh,’ said Edgar.

‘Put him in last,’ said Will.

‘That would only make matters worse,’ said Edgar; ‘he would know I
doubted him, and act accordingly. He shall go in sixth wicket down. It
will give him a chance of making up for missing those catches.’

‘As you wish,’ said Will. ‘Mind, if you are in with him, he does not
run you out.’

‘No fear of that,’ said Edgar, laughing.

And he crossed over to speak to Raymond Rakes.

‘You go in sixth wicket down,’ he said.

‘All right,’ replied Rakes, ‘that will suit me.’

‘We’ve not been very good friends,’ said Edgar, ‘but you know it is not
my fault. We want to win this match, and it may be that your batting
will turn the scale in our favour at a critical point of the game. I
shall rely upon you to do your best for the honour of the school. You
missed two very easy catches; try and make up for it by playing your
best when you go in to bat.’

‘I always do,’ said Rakes sulkily, and walked away.

Edgar Foster felt rather sorry he had included Raymond Rakes in the
Redbank eleven.



CHAPTER III. A CRITICAL MOMENT.


As Edgar Foster walked to the wickets he felt much depended upon him.
He was going in first, taking first over, and if he failed to play with
confidence it would set a bad example to the remainder of the team. It
was, however, at such moments as these that Edgar Foster’s courage and
spirit did not fail him.

As he took his position at the wicket he looked round him with a
confident air to see how the field was placed. He saw Harold Simpson
had so placed his men that not a chance would be thrown away, provided
the bowlers were in good form. After a few moments’ delay Edgar handled
his bat confidently, and prepared to receive the first ball of the over.

A lad named Winter was bowling, and Edgar knew he was a promising
youngster. The first ball pitched short and then shot forward at a
tremendous pace. It was a ball that might have deceived any batsman,
and Edgar had only just time to change his mind and block it. The
escape was narrow, and the boys saw it, but they knew the ball was well
played, and cheered.

‘Thought it had him,’ said Robert Foster to one of the Redbank masters.

‘It would have been a stroke of bad luck for us if he had gone out,’
was the reply.

Off the next ball Edgar scored a couple, and the fourth ball of the
over he skied on to the pavilion.

‘That first ball put him on his mettle,’ thought his father.

Strange to say, in the next over Edgar’s partner was dismissed first
ball in a similar manner to that in which the Fairfield batsman was out.

Will Brown was next in, and he and Edgar made things lively. They
fairly collared the bowling, and gave the Fairfield team plenty of
leather-hunting. Fours came freely, and Harold Simpson began to look
rather downcast. However, when Will Brown was bowled with the score at
eighty, the Fairfield captain brightened up again. He knew how often a
collapse followed a long stand, and how ‘glorious’ was the uncertainty
of cricket.

Will Brown’s partnership with Edgar had put the Redbank boys into an
excellent humour, and they were prepared to cheer every hit. What they
were not prepared for happened. This was the collapse of the next four
batsmen. Three of them were bowled in one over, and the fourth had his
bails sent flying when he had scored two. Eighty for two wickets, and
eighty-two for six wickets altered the game completely.

It was now the turn of the Fairfield boys to give vent to their
delight. The prospect of defeat had not been pleasant, but this
sudden change mended the fortunes of their side, and they were wild
with the sudden revulsion of feeling. They chaffed the Redbank lads
unmercifully, until at one time there was danger of a fistic war.

This was, however, happily averted by the appearance of Raymond
Rakes, who was cheered as he went to the wickets. Although Rakes
was unpopular, the boys knew he was a fair bat, and they wished to
encourage him to make a stand with Edgar Foster.

As Rakes came to the wickets Edgar went forward to meet him.

‘Play steady,’ said Edgar; ‘I feel I am well set. If you play carefully
for a few overs you will soon master the bowling. Remember how much
depends upon you. We shall have to win the match between us.’

‘I’ll see what I can do,’ said Rakes. ‘It’s precious bad luck four of
our best bats going out like this.’

‘Don’t think of that,’ said Edgar. ‘Try and make up for it by piling up
a good score.’

Raymond Rakes followed Edgar’s advice, and soon found he had very
little difficulty in playing the bowling. He knew how anxious Edgar
was, not only to win the match, but to make fifty because his father
was present.

‘I’m well set,’ thought Rakes. ‘I’d like to get him out. It would cut
him up terribly to be run out. Even if he got out we have a chance. I
can make a fair score, and our tail-end is not a bad one.’

Still harbouring such thoughts as these Raymond Rakes batted steadily,
and Edgar was immensely pleased to see him scoring freely, and the
Redbank boys were cheering every stroke. They watched the scoring-board
intently, and grew more and more excited with every run. Suddenly there
was a loud cry of dismay from the boys. Some shouted ‘Run, Rakes!’
others ‘Go back, Foster!’

Edgar Foster hit a ball forward, and called to Rakes to run. Had Rakes
come at once it would have been an easy but smart run. Rakes started
late, and then when Edgar Foster was three parts of the way down the
pitch shouted to him to go back, and ran back himself. This left Edgar
in a most unenviable position. The ball was smartly fielded, and as
Edgar ran back he saw it flash past him straight for the wicket-keeper.

‘I’m done,’ thought Edgar, but he ran on as fast as possible.

It was a critical moment. The wicket-keeper in some unaccountable way
fumbled the ball, and only knocked the bails off as Edgar reached the
crease.

‘How’s that?’ came from wicket-keeper, bowler, and fielders in a
general chorus.

They were anxious to see Edgar out, for he had given them a lot of
trouble, and seemed likely to give more.

‘Not out!’ promptly came the decision of the umpire, and a roar
of applause echoed over the field as the Redbank lads danced with
delight, and flung their caps high into the air because their captain
had another chance given him. Edgar knew the decision of the umpire
was correct, and he thanked his lucky star that the wicket-keeper had
fumbled the ball. When he thought of Raymond Rakes he felt inclined to
give him a bit of his mind, but he determined to treat the matter as a
pure accident until the close of the game. As for Raymond Rakes he was
savage at the non-success of his plan. He had deliberately tried to run
Edgar out. It was a dirty trick, and he knew it, but he was bitterly
disappointed that it had not been successful.

‘Hang the fellow! he seems to have all the luck,’ thought Raymond. ‘I
wonder if he suspects anything?’

The idea of Edgar Foster suspecting he had acted in such a manner
made Rakes feel uneasy, for he had not forgotten the punishment Edgar
gave him when he first came to the school. He did not bat with such
confidence, and Edgar put this down to its proper cause. Runs came
freely again, for Edgar felt the result of the match depended almost
entirely upon himself. When his score reached fifty the cheering broke
out again, and made Rakes turn green with envy.

‘He shall have a new bat for that,’ said Robert Foster. ‘By Jove! he
deserves it. He’s batting splendidly. I’m glad that big hulking fellow
did not run him out.’

Before the score reached a hundred Rakes was caught. He was not very
warmly greeted as he returned to the pavilion. The boys knew how
matters stood between him and Edgar, and they had a shrewd suspicion
Bully Rakes had tried to get Edgar run out.

Rakes flung his bat down in a corner of the dressing-room and took off
his pads.

‘You didn’t manage to run him out,’ said Will Brown.

‘Who wanted to run him out?’ said Rakes angrily; ‘I didn’t. It was his
own fault. There was no run, and I didn’t want to get out through his
foolishness.’

‘You’d better tell him that when the match is over,’ said Will Brown.
‘He’ll probably want an explanation. If he believes you, well and
good; if not--oh my, won’t you just catch it!’

Bully Rakes took up a pad and hurled it at his tormentor.

‘Get out of this, you little beast!’ he said. ‘You know I can’t touch
you here, or you’d not be so cheeky.’

‘Mind and keep clear of Edgar’s left if it comes to war,’ said Will
Brown. ‘I fancy you know he’s a good fist at the end of his left arm.’

Bully Rakes jumped to his feet and made towards the speaker; but Will
Brown was too quick for him, and shot out at the side door.

Meanwhile the game was at a critical stage. Edgar Foster was playing
at his best. He did not give a chance, nor did he throw away an
opportunity of stealing a run. He knew that every run was of vast
importance. A run lost might mean the match lost. Sayers junior was in
with him, and blocked steadily while his captain made the runs. The
fielders were on the alert, and were smart and active, and many a run
was saved. Harold Simpson was a good general, and handled his men well.

‘It does one good to watch a game like this,’ said Robert Foster to
Dr. Hook. ‘I have seldom seen lads field better, and Edgar is batting
really well. Who is the little chap keeping his end up so well?’

‘Sayers junior,’ said Dr. Hook. ‘He’s helping your son famously.’

‘Playing a most unselfish game,’ said Robert Foster. ‘That is how
matches are won. A selfish player at any game is a big handicap on his
side.’

A burst of cheering from lusty throats stopped the conversation. It
was caused by Edgar Foster hitting a ball over the pavilion--a mighty
stroke for a lad.

‘Well hit!’ ‘Bravo, Foster!’ ‘Three cheers for our skipper!’ And the
Redbank lads shouted until they were hoarse.

The match was, however, not yet won. Sayers junior played a ball on to
his wicket when ten runs remained to be got to tie and eleven to win.

‘I am afraid we shall lose,’ said Dr. Hook, as the ninth man was clean
bowled and the last of the team went in.

‘Can he bat at all?’ asked Robert Foster anxiously.

‘He is uncertain, but at times he shapes well,’ said one of the masters.

‘Then I hope it is his day for shaping well,’ said Edgar’s father.

‘Block them, Bull,’ said Edgar, as the lad came to the wicket.

‘I’ll do my level best,’ said Bull, ‘and I don’t feel a bit nervous.’

‘That’s right,’ said Edgar. ‘Then, between us we must win the match.’

Fortunately Edgar was batting, and he hit the first ball sent him after
Bull came in for a single. It was fielded smartly, thrown in swiftly,
the wicket-keeper could not quite reach it, and there was another run
for an overthrow. This gave Edgar another chance before the over was
finished, and he promptly took advantage of it, hitting the next ball
round to leg for three. The excitement was intense. Would Bull be
able to keep his wicket up during this over? The Redbank boys vowed
they would make Bull a presentation if he managed to do so. It was a
surprise to them when Bull fluked a ball past point, and another run
followed. Edgar determined to finish the game if possible, and a couple
of runs were got by a somewhat lucky stroke. This left three runs to
win, and the boys of both schools were in a fever of excitement.

‘If Edgar can only manage to hit a three,’ said Will Brown, ‘then we
shall be all right. He’s done wonders, considering everything.’

The next ball Edgar could do nothing with. It puzzled him, and nearly
got past his bat.

Then came a comparatively easy ball, and Edgar lifted it over the
ropes, amidst a perfect hurricane of cheers. This hit won the match,
and the Redbank boys rushed wildly over the ground and, surrounding
Edgar, bore him shoulder-high to the pavilion. It was a scene seldom
witnessed even on this famous school-ground, and as Edgar’s father
looked on he felt the moisture well up into his eyes, and his heart
beat with pride. He knew what this moment of triumph would mean to his
son, and he gloried in it. He made his way to the dressing-room, and as
he came the boys stood on one side and cheered him again and again.
They were proud of the father and proud of the son, and were not slow
to show it.

‘Splendidly done, my lad!’ said Robert Foster, as he placed his
hand on Edgar’s shoulder. ‘It was a plucky, uphill fight, and your
schoolfellows are enthusiastic about it. I never saw you play a
steadier or better game.’

‘It was hard work,’ said Edgar, ‘but I did not feel a bit nervous. We
have won, but it was a narrow shave. I think it ought to have been an
easier victory had Rakes done his best.’

‘Then, you think Rakes behaved badly? I should give a boy like that a
wide berth.’

‘We are not friends,’ said Edgar, ‘but I bear him no animosity.’

The Redbank boys could do nothing but talk over their victory, and
Edgar Foster found they gave most of the credit to himself.

Edgar gave Rakes to understand he believed he had tried to run him out.

‘I may be wrong, but that is my opinion,’ said Edgar.

‘Your opinion is worth nothing to me,’ said Rakes, ‘so you may keep it
to yourself.’

‘That may be,’ replied Edgar; ‘but the honour of the school ought to be
worth something to you. I shall not ask you to play again during the
time I am captain of the eleven.’



CHAPTER IV. LEAVING SCHOOL.


The time arrived, all too soon, when Edgar Foster was to leave Redbank.
Unlike many lads, he was not eager to have done with lessons, and take
his place in the busy world. During his stay at Redbank he had made
many friends, Will Brown being an especial favourite with him. Dr. Hook
was proud of his scholar, for Edgar had done as well at work as at play.

When the holiday time came round, Edgar Foster bade farewell to Redbank
with feelings of regret. As he looked back at the school he was leaving
he thought of the many happy hours he had spent within its walls. He
had gone through trial and struggle, such as every lad must encounter,
but they only made victory taste the sweeter.

‘I shall feel quite lonely next term,’ said Will Brown, who was going
home with Edgar to spend a few days. ‘It’s lucky for some of us Rakes
is leaving, or he would have made it uncomfortably hot. I shall never
forget the thrashing you gave him. It did me good to see you punish
him;’ and Will Brown chuckled with delight at the mere thought.

‘If I never have a harder battle to fight than that,’ said Edgar, ‘I
shall be lucky.’

‘What are you going to do?’ asked Will Brown.

‘With my father’s permission I shall go to Australia,’ said Edgar. ‘You
know how fond I have always been of reading and learning about our
great colonies. I think it is a splendid thing to start life in a new
country, where you are not bound down by a lot of old-world prejudices.’

‘And what shall you do in Australia?’ asked Will Brown.

‘I hardly know, but you may be sure I shall not remain idle very long.
There ought to be plenty for an active young fellow like me to do out
there.’

‘They are great cricketers, the Australians,’ said Brown. ‘You’re sure
to get into one of the best elevens, and that will help you along.’

‘And give me a chance of a trip home perhaps,’ said Edgar. ‘I should
hardly like playing against England.’

‘I expect you will become such an enthusiastic colonist that you will
be only too eager to assist in lowering the flag of old England on the
cricket-field.’

‘We shall see,’ replied Edgar. ‘Of one thing you may be quite sure: I
shall look upon Australia as my home if I have to earn my living there.’

Robert Foster was heartily glad to welcome his son’s schoolmate at Elm
Lodge. He was a believer in schoolboy friendships when judiciously made.

Elm Lodge was not a large place, but it was old-fashioned and
picturesque, and overlooked the Thames near Twickenham. Robert Foster,
in addition to being a great cricketer, was a skilful oarsman, and
many a Thames waterman had found it a hard task to row with him. He was
also an enthusiastic fisherman, and knew the favourite haunts of the
famous Thames trout, and where many a good jack was to be found. There
was a boathouse at Elm Lodge, and Edgar always anticipated a good time
on the great river.

Doris Foster was a bright, merry girl of seventeen, a perfect picture
of ruddy health, her cheeks untouched by any artificial beautifier.
Nature was her lady’s-maid, and Doris Foster would not have changed
her for the most skilful of tire-women. It was a difficult matter
to keep Doris Foster indoors, no matter how bad the weather might
be. She revelled in sunshine, but she loved the keen, sharp, frosty
air of winter, and the sound of the frozen snow crunching beneath
her tiny feet. She knew the names of the wild-flowers, and was well
acquainted with their haunts, and also their habits. She was not a
clever girl, but she was thoroughly domesticated, a far more desirable
accomplishment. Her father and brother were her best friends, and she
made but few new acquaintances. Doris Foster was a true-born English
girl, not a forced artificial production such as may be encountered
by the score in the Row, or the fashionable thoroughfares of the West
End. She had not learned to talk slang, and to consider it correct to
endeavour to make people think, ‘What a pity she is not a man!’

With the enthusiasm of a schoolboy, Will Brown adored Doris Foster.
There was no maudlin, sentimental love nonsense about his adoration. It
was the pure affection and liking a healthy youth feels for a healthy
girl.

‘Excuse the expression, Edgar,’ he said one day, ‘but your sister is a
brick.’

The schoolboy ‘brick’ is synonymous for everything that is good. When
one lad calls another a ‘brick’ there’s a ring about the word that is
unmistakable. So, when Will Brown called his sister a brick, Edgar
Foster heartily endorsed the sentiment.

‘I’d like to know,’ said Will, ‘if there is anything she cannot do?’

‘Several things,’ said Edgar.

They were sitting in a boat close to the garden hedge, and passing
their time pleasantly enough.

‘Enumerate some of them,’ said Will Brown incredulously.

‘She cannot smoke,’ said Edgar solemnly; ‘nor can she make a speech.
She would be a ghastly failure as a woman politician, or a leader of
fashion. I am afraid she could not write a book, and drag all her
female friends through a moral pillory in it. Oh, there are heaps of
things Doris cannot do!’

‘And a jolly good thing, too!’ said Will Brown. ‘I hate stuck-up
girls--they’re worse than spoony girls. Now, your sister--well, a
fellow can make a chum of her, and all that, don’t you know.’

‘Comprehensive, certainly,’ laughed Edgar. ‘What does “all that, don’t
you know” mean?’

Will Brown waved his hand towards the flowing river, and was at a loss
for an answer.

Splash!

‘What’s that?’ said Will, as he shook the water off his boating-jacket.

‘That is Miss “All that, don’t you know,”’ laughed Edgar.

‘Where is she?’ said Will, jumping up, and narrowly missing overturning
the boat.

‘In safety, on the other side of the hedge,’ said Edgar loudly. ‘She
dare not come nearer, for fear of the consequences.’

Splash!

‘We had better get out of this,’ said Will.

A merry peal of laughter sounded from the other side of the hedge.

‘You lazy boys! I thought I would rouse you. Pull the boat round to the
steps, and take me for a row immediately.’

‘We decline to be ordered about,’ said Edgar. ‘Ask politely, and your
request may be granted.’

‘Will Mr. William Brown and Mr. Edgar Foster, of Redbank School--ahem!
College--have the goodness to row to the steps of Elm Lodge, where they
will find Miss Doris Foster at home?’

‘That’s much better,’ said Edgar. ‘Our compliments to Miss Doris
Foster, and we hasten to comply with her request.’

‘Pull, Edgar, you lazy beggar!’ said Will, ‘for Elm Lodge, home, and
beauty.’

Doris Foster looked charming in her light summer dress and large river
hat, as she stood on the steps leading from the lawn to the water.

‘Your ladyship has showered many favours upon us of late,’ said Will
Brown, as he gave her his hand and she stepped into the boat; ‘in fact,
we are in danger of being overwhelmed with them.’

‘Doris, you ought not to throw stones,’ said Edgar, with an attempt to
be serious.

‘I did not throw stones,’ said Doris.

‘You hear her?’ said Edgar to Will. ‘She did not throw stones! I blush
for my sister.’

‘They were two half-bricks,’ said Doris. ‘Didn’t they splash!’ And she
laughed merrily.

‘There’s prevarication!’ said Edgar. ‘A brick in this instance is to
all intents and purposes a stone.’

‘A brick is a brick,’ said Doris; ‘therefore it cannot be a stone.’

‘A brick is not a brick when it is only half a brick,’ said Edgar.

‘If you don’t stop it,’ said Will Brown, ‘I’ll----Look out!’ he shouted.

There was a bend in the river, and they did not see the small launch
until it was nearly on to them. The swirl she made in the water caused
their boat to dance up and down in the swell.

‘All your fault,’ said Edgar to his sister. ‘But, thank goodness! it
has put an end to your argument.’

They had a pleasant row, and came back glowing with health, and very
hungry. Luncheon proved most acceptable, and was thoroughly enjoyed by
these young people with good appetites and no thoughts of indigestion.

Doris Foster missed Will Brown when he left Elm Lodge, for she had come
to regard him as a sincere friend. She had, however, other things to
occupy her mind now, for Edgar was to sail for Australia in a couple
of months. She dreaded the parting with her brother, not only on her
own account, but because she knew how much her father would miss him.
She was half inclined to be angry with Edgar because he had chosen to
go abroad. At the same time, she admired the spirit of adventure that
tempted him away from a comparatively easy life in England. She knew if
she had been a man she would have followed her brother’s example.

Robert Foster made the most of the time his son was to remain at home.

‘I shall be sorry to part with you,’ he said to Edgar; ‘but you are
young, and I am not old. So I hope, ere many years have gone, we may
meet again. I believe it will do you good to go abroad. One thing you
must bear in mind: come home again if you do not like it.’

Edgar Foster was fond of the sea, and, as his father knew the owner of
one of the principal lines of sailing ships trading to Australia, he
had decided to make the voyage in the _Distant Shore_, a large vessel
holding a quick record.

‘You are quite sure you prefer to go out in a sailing vessel?’ said
Robert Foster. ‘It will be a tedious voyage.’

‘I am sure the time will pass quickly,’ said Edgar. ‘I love the sea.
Those big steamers are too much like hotels, and I cannot bear hotel
life.’

‘Please yourself, my boy. The _Distant Shore_ is a fine vessel, and
Captain Manton a good seaman. He’ll look after you well, I feel sure.’

The weeks rolled all too quickly by, and the time drew near when the
_Distant Shore_ was to sail for Sydney.

Edgar Foster paid a visit to Redbank, and was heartily welcomed by his
old schoolmates, who wished him a prosperous voyage and success in the
new country. Dr. Hook was very kind to him, and gave him some good
advice.

As Edgar shook hands with him, Dr. Hook said:

‘An old friend of mine once gave me what I consider good advice. He
said: “Don’t fret, keep your temper, and mind your own business.” If
you carry out his precepts, I think you will do well.’

Edgar did not feel in very good spirits when his last night at home
arrived. As he looked around the cosy room, he wondered how many years
it would be before he saw it again, and the dear ones he must leave
behind. He said to himself he must work hard and earn a good name, and
then he would come home and be received with open arms.

His father was kinder than ever on this their evening of parting, and
Doris did all in her power to make things bright and cheerful. Edgar
never ceased to remember this particular night, and it came vividly
before him on many occasions when far away.

Robert Foster and his daughter saw Edgar sail in the _Distant Shore_,
and waved him a tearful farewell.

As Edgar stood looking at them he felt lonely, and when they gradually
receded from his sight he heaved a sigh, and felt a choking sensation
in his throat.

When Robert Foster and Doris reached Elm Lodge again he kissed her
fondly, and said in a broken voice:

‘God knows when we shall see him again, Doris. You are all I have left
now; you must not leave your father.’

‘Edgar will return some day,’ she said quietly. ‘I will take his place
until then. When he comes back you will forget all the sorrow of
parting.’



CHAPTER V. A FURIOUS STORM.


Hundreds of people hurrying to business in Sydney at an early hour in
the morning cast anxious eyes at the dull leaden sky, across which
heavy clouds rolled, hanging over the harbour and the city. They also
gazed in wonderment, and with feelings not devoid of awe, upon a mass
of peculiar white clouds banked up in an exactly opposite direction to
the harbour. These clouds were of a fleecy whiteness, balloon-shaped,
and clung together until they were heaped almost mountains high.

There was a peculiar stillness about the atmosphere--the calm that
usually precedes a storm. All day long the clouds hung suspended
overhead, and towards the middle of the afternoon it grew much darker.
People residing at harbour suburbs hurried home as fast as possible,
and were glad when they were ferried safely across the water.

The Watson’s Bay ferry-boat was throwing off from the landing-stage as
a well-built man in a pilot’s coat jumped on board.

‘Nearly missed it, Wal,’ said the skipper of the _Fairy_. ‘The next
boat will have a rough passage, I reckon.’

‘Yes; it’s been brewing all day,’ replied Walter Jessop. ‘We shall have
a terrible night, I fear. It will be dangerous near the coast to-night.
Luckily, there’s no vessel been sighted anywhere handy.’

The speaker was evidently a seaman. He had an honest, open face,
weather-beaten and tanned with exposure, and his hands were hard and
big and used to hard work.

Pilot Jessop was well known in Sydney. In years gone by he had done
good service as a pilot, and he still followed his calling, but
fortune had favoured him in the shape of a windfall from a rich
relation, and he only took on work when he felt inclined.

Walter Jessop knew the coast of Australia as well as any man, and he
had sailed up most of the harbours and rivers between Adelaide and
Normanton. Such a man was not likely to make many mistakes about the
weather, and he knew what these lowering clouds that had been hanging
about all day meant.

The _Fairy_ was one of the smallest ferry boats on the harbour, and at
this time Watson’s Bay was not such an important place as it is now.
Pilot Jessop, however, found it handy to live at Watson’s Bay, as it
was under the great shadows of South Head, beyond which lay the open
sea. Many a ship had he piloted to a safe anchorage in the harbour.

When the landing-stage was reached, he bade the skipper of the _Fairy_
good-night, and walked to his home, which nestled in a sheltered
position high up above the harbour.

A bright little woman, clad in a homely dress, gave him a hearty
welcome. Mrs. Jessop was just the wife for such a man, and they had
only one regret: they had no child to lavish their affection upon.

‘We’re in for a storm,’ said Wal Jessop, as he was generally called. ‘I
hope there’s no vessel making for the harbour; they’d better keep away
from our coast to-night.’

‘I’m right glad you have no occasion to go to sea on such nights,’ said
his wife. ‘It would make an old woman of me before my time if you were
out in these storms.’

‘I weathered a good many storms before I met you,’ said Wal Jessop,
‘but I don’t feel much inclined for it again when I come to such
comfortable quarters as these.’

A low murmuring sound could be heard, a door banged, and the windows
creaked ominously.

‘It’s coming,’ said Jessop. ‘Make everything snug, my lass; there’ll be
a perfect hurricane before morning.’

As Wal Jessop sat at the well-laden tea-table, he suddenly put down his
knife and fork, and drew a paper from his coat-pocket.

‘I’d quite forgotten,’ he said. ‘I hope they’re not making for Sydney
in such a gale as this will be.’

‘What ship do you mean?’ asked his wife.

‘The _Distant Shore_ is due here early next week. It’s Saturday, and
the agents expect her on Monday at the latest. I hope Captain Manton
has not made an extra quick passage. She’s a clipping sailer, is the
_Distant Shore_, and he’s a bit venturesome--likes to make a rapid run.
I shouldn’t wonder if she’s not far away to-night.’

‘I hope not,’ said Mrs. Jessop.

Captain Manton often paid a visit to the Jessops when in Sydney, and
the pilot and his wife were very fond of his company.

As the evening wore on the storm raged in all its fury. Every hour
seemed to add to the velocity of the gale. A great roar like distant
thunder could be heard in the cottage as the waves dashed against the
mighty rocks of South Head, and then rushed back, baffled and angry.

‘It’s beginning to rain,’ said Wal Jessop; ‘I’ll just see if the pony’s
all right before it comes on faster.’

‘Be quick in again,’ said his wife, ‘or you’ll be drenched.’

A fierce gust came in as he opened the door and quickly shut it again.

‘It doesn’t rain after all,’ he said, as he looked up at the dark
clouds through which the moon occasionally shone in fitful gleams.

As if to convince him he had made a mistake, and that his first surmise
was correct, a shower of heavy drops fell upon him. He stood still and
thought for a moment; then he touched the wet on his coat and tasted
it. It was salt, and he knew the waves outside were running high and
dashing showers of salt spray over the top of the rocks, and the wind
carried it across the village.

‘Such a sea is worth having a look at,’ he thought. ‘I’ll have a walk
up to the cliffs before I turn in.’

He told his wife it was the spray from the waves being dashed on the
rocks, and she knew it must be terrible out at sea.

Walter Jessop could not rest. He felt uneasy, and had an undefinable
feeling that some dire catastrophe was about to take place. He sat down
and tried to read the evening paper, but nothing in it interested
him. His pipe continually went out because he was so deep in thought
he failed to draw sufficiently to keep it alight. His wife watched
him with anxious eyes. She had seen him like this before when he had
been affected by a presentiment of evil. He got up from his chair and
restlessly paced about the room.

‘Have a glass of something,’ said his wife. ‘It’s getting on for
bedtime.’

‘Don’t mind if I do,’ he said. ‘I’ll tell you what it is, lass: I fear
there’ll be something awful happen before the night’s over.’

‘It’s the storm makes you feel like that,’ said his wife. ‘This will do
you good.’ And she handed him a glass of toddy.

Wal Jessop drank it with evident relish. Then he looked at his watch,
and said:

‘Ten o’clock. I’ll just go up on the cliffs, and have a look out to
sea; I’ll never rest if I don’t.’

‘If you say you’ll go I know you mean it,’ said his wife; ‘but do be
careful. You might get blown over the rocks.’

‘There’s a moon,’ he said; ‘and I’m more likely to be blown away from
the rocks than over them. I’ll not be gone long. You go to bed.’

He put on a thick coat and slouch hat, kissed his wife, and then went
out into the stormy night.

‘If he fancies I’m going to bed until he comes home he’s mistaken,’
said Mrs. Jessop to herself. ‘Oh, these sailors! A furious gale seems
to tempt them outside when other folk are only too anxious to hide
their heads under the bedclothes.’

Wal Jessop felt the full force of the wind as he made his way up a
narrow path towards the top of the cliff. He battled with it, and
seemed to take a fierce delight in overcoming it. A terrific gust
nearly swept him off his feet, and he muttered:

‘Nearly had me that time, but I’ll beat the winds as I have done
before. There’s some satisfaction in fighting a gale like this, but I’d
sooner be doing it here than out at sea yonder.’

At last he reached the roadway, which he crossed, and then climbed up
again towards the top of the rocks. As he made his way slowly the salt
spray dashed into his face, and wetted him all over. He could hear the
waves thundering against the rocks, and every roar was followed by a
dense shower of spray. When he reached the top of the rocks the moon
came out from behind a cloud, and shed a pale light on the scene.

Wal Jessop looked out to sea, and saw nothing but a black mass of
tumultuous water and fierce waves chasing each other in mad sport. Then
he looked down below and saw masses of foam tossed about and flung
high into the air. He saw the great waves roll across the jutting
rock, then dash furiously against the solid mass opposed to them, and
cast up spray like a waterspout. This battle between the waves and the
rocks had been going on for centuries, and would, he knew, continue
for centuries more. The waves, constantly baffled and defeated, had
to retreat, but they returned again and again to the charge, bringing
up reinforcements from their mighty reserves, until at last the rocks
seemed to give way inch by inch, and their jagged, worn fronts bore
unmistakable testimony to the fierceness of the onslaught.

Pilot Jessop could not tear himself away from this scene of tumult and
fierce war. He stood alone upon the rocks, the spray drenching him,
and the wind whistling and whining in his ears. He knew there was a
warm bed awaiting him at home, and yet he could not leave the spot. He
peered out to sea, and saw an empty space. The moon was again hidden,
and all was black and desolate. Suddenly he started, and gave vent to
an exclamation. He thought he saw a tiny light sparkle far away out
in the gloom. He looked again and again, but could see nothing. Could
his eyes have deceived him? What could he have mistaken for a light
so far out at sea? There it was again. He could not mistake it this
time. There were two lights like stars; now he saw three. A cold, dull
feeling came over him, and froze the blood in his veins; his heart beat
loudly, and he put his hands to his head to think.

Was it a ship out at sea and heading for the harbour on such a night as
this? Surely no captain would be so mad and foolish as to risk passing
through that narrow strait between the Heads in such a gale! He looked
again and again, and the more he looked the more he was convinced it
was a vessel being driven on to the rocks. He knew if it was a ship she
would be dashed into a thousand pieces and not a soul on board could be
saved. Hoping against hope, he looked again. The light had gone, and he
breathed more freely. His eyesight must have deceived him.

He felt a tug at his sleeve, and turning quickly round, faced his wife.

‘I could bear it no longer,’ she said; ‘you have been out over three
hours. The suspense was terrible. I thought you were blown over the
rocks. Come home, Wal, you are wet through.’

‘Three hours!’ he exclaimed, then, knowing how he had been compelled to
struggle to reach the rocks, he took his wife in his arms, strained her
to his breast, kissed her fondly, and said:

‘You are a brave little woman, and I’m a brute for causing you anxiety.
We will go home at once. This is no fit place for you.’

‘Wal, Wal!’ she cried as she stared over his shoulder with wide,
terror-stricken eyes; ‘look, there’s a light; two lights, three! It’s a
ship! Lord have mercy on ’em!’

‘Good God, she’s seen it! Then my eyes have not deceived me. That’s
what I’ve been watching this hour,’ he said.

They looked together out across the furious ocean, and saw the lights
plainly now.

Mary Jessop hid her face on her husband’s shoulder and sobbed aloud.
She knew not a single man, woman, or child on the ill-fated vessel
could expect to live when the ship was shattered to pieces. As she
stood there in the rocks with the wind roaring around her, safe in her
husband’s strong arms, she offered up a prayer to the God who rules the
seas to save the ship from destruction.

As for Pilot Jessop, he seemed for the moment incapable of action. He
quickly recovered, and said in a hollow voice:

‘Suppose it’s the _Distant Shore_?’

His wife shuddered and said:

‘Can nothing be done to save her?’

‘No, Mary; she’s beyond control. No captain would be here on such
a night if he had control of his ship. She’s helpless, and we are
helpless; but we can rouse the folk and do all we can. Come.’

They went down the rocky path and hurried to the village, where,
despite the gale, the people were sleeping soundly.

They roused two or three men, and telling them to pass the word on,
they fought their way back to the top of the cliffs.



CHAPTER VI. THE ‘DISTANT SHORE.’


The _Distant Shore_ made a quick voyage towards Australia, and her
captain felt sure of beating the sailing record by two or three days.
Captain Manton had taken a great liking to Edgar Foster, who spent many
a pleasant hour in his cabin with him. On this voyage Captain Manton
was accompanied by his wife and child, a bright little girl about three
years of age. The child was very fond of Edgar, and he played with the
little one on deck for hours at a stretch.

‘I never remember a more favourable voyage,’ said the captain to Edgar
one morning; ‘we ought to be in Sydney harbour in the course of two or
three days. Looks as though we are going to finish with a squall,’ he
added, pointing to the restless clouds overhead.

‘I am quite anxious to weather a storm before we get to our journey’s
end,’ said Edgar, smiling, ‘or I shall fancy I have not been to sea.’

‘Your wish is likely to be gratified,’ he said; ‘but the _Distant
Shore_ is a good ship, and it will be an uncommon bad storm she cannot
sail through safely.’

‘With a good ship and a clever captain we have not much to fear,’ said
Edgar. ‘Here’s little Eva coming for her morning romp. I should have
been quite lonely on board without her.’

Edgar held out his arms, and the child ran into them. He lifted her
above his head, where she laughed with delight, and looked at her
father with merry eyes.

‘Pass her on to me,’ said Captain Manton; and Edgar tossed her into her
father’s arms.

‘Back again,’ she cried, and she was tossed to Edgar again.

The captain watched them for a few moments as they played on the deck,
and then cast an anxious look at the sky. He knew they were in for a
storm, probably a bad one.

During the night Edgar heard the vessel creak and groan, and her
timbers strain in a most unusual manner. The sailors were hard at work
on deck, and he knew the storm must have burst upon them. He turned
over in his berth, and felt thankful the _Distant Shore_ was such a
safe vessel, and her captain a trustworthy seaman.

Edgar had some difficulty in reaching the deck next morning. Not a
single passenger was in the saloon as he staggered through, holding on
first to one thing, and then another.

‘You had better keep below, sir,’ said one of the stewards; ‘you’ll
stand a good chance of being blown overboard if you venture on deck. We
are finishing up with a real bad storm.’

‘That’s just what I want to see,’ said Edgar.

‘You can’t get out that way,’ said the man; ‘the hatches are down. Come
this way, and I will show you how to get on deck.’

Edgar followed the man to the fore-part of the ship, and was well
knocked about during the journey.

‘Go up there, and you’ll be able to see what it’s like before you go on
deck,’ said the steward.

‘Just as well to look before I leap, I suppose,’ said Edgar.

‘I don’t think you’ll want to leap on deck when you have had a look
out,’ was the reply.

Edgar climbed up the steep steps, holding on with all his might. When
he reached the top he saw there was a thick glass with bars across it.
He could see well enough through the glass, and the sight almost took
away his breath.

A huge wave towered high above the ship, and Edgar thought if it came
over the deck the vessel must surely go down. The _Distant Shore_ gave
a mad plunge, and he nearly lost his foothold. The ship seemed to dive
down into the depths of the sea, and then, coming up again, shook
herself all over. On second thoughts Edgar decided to remain where he
was, or rather down below in the saloon. Captain Manton entered a few
minutes after Edgar succeeded in finding his way back.

‘Well, my lad, you’ve got a storm at last,’ said the captain; ‘I hope
you are satisfied. My wife and Eva are in their cabin, and I don’t
think they are quite so pleased as you are about the weather. It will
get worse before it mends.’

‘Worse?’ said Edgar. ‘Why, it’s blowing a regular hurricane, and the
sea is running as high as the ship.’

‘How did you find that out?’ said Captain Manton. ‘I gave orders no one
was to be allowed on deck.’

Edgar explained, and the captain was satisfied.

‘So you did not like the look of things?’ he asked.

‘No,’ said Edgar. ‘I think I am safer here, although I confess I feel a
little queer.’

Captain Manton smiled as he replied:

‘Sea-sickness will soon cure you of a longing for storms. I’d advise
you to turn in before you have to be carried to your berth.’

‘Oh, it’s not so bad as that,’ said Edgar. ‘It will pass off.’

‘No doubt,’ said the captain with a meaning smile.

All that day the storm raged, and the _Distant Shore_ battled with
it. As night came on, Captain Manton became anxious. He knew they
were nearing the coast of New South Wales, and the wind was driving
them straight in that direction. He tried in vain to alter the ship’s
course, but he could not keep out to sea; some uncontrollable current
appeared to drive the vessel along. As the night wore on there were no
signs of the storm abating; in fact, the gale was worse than ever.

A terrible crash made everyone on board quake. A huge sea dashed over
the ship, sweeping her deck well-nigh clear. The boats were smashed to
atoms; two sailors were washed overboard, and Captain Manton was dashed
against his cabin and almost stunned. Before the _Distant Shore_ could
right herself another merciless sea swept over her, and at the same
moment the rudder chain snapped, and the vessel swung helplessly round.

Captain Manton at once realized the danger they were in. By the fitful
light of the moon he saw the terrible havoc the waves had made on deck.
Then he saw something that made his heart quail; it was the flashing of
the light from South Head lighthouse. Well might a brave man tremble at
the thought of being dashed to pieces on those great rocks. His ship
was no longer under control, and he could do nothing to save her from
being driven to destruction. Had the steering gear held firm he might
have tried to dash through the Heads into the harbour. That would have
been a mere chance; but even this, small as it was, had gone. Despair
seized upon him, and held him in chains; but he burst the bonds at the
thought of the lives of those on board. They were still some distance
from the Heads; the light flashed out many miles to sea. He must
prepare them as quietly as possible to await their fate.

Leaving the mate in charge of the vessel, he went below. He made for
Edgar’s cabin and entered without knocking.

Edgar was wide awake and dressed, and he knew there must be something
wrong when he saw the captain.

‘What is it?’ said Edgar. ‘Any danger?’ and he tumbled out of his berth.

‘You are a brave lad,’ said Captain Manton, ‘and I have come to you
first. There is no time to lose. We are in deadly peril. I have no
control over the ship, and we are being blown straight for the rocks.’

‘What can I do?’ said Edgar.

He was pale, but perfectly calm.

‘Very little,’ said Captain Manton; ‘but you can set a good example. A
panic will only make matters worse. If the passengers are kept under
control, it may be possible to save some of them. Will you call them up
in the saloon cabin? Tell them to dress, and try and calm them. I will
tell my wife and take her and Eva up with me. You will find them in my
cabin. If it comes to the worst, do what you can for them. I must stick
to the ship. I’ll save her if I can, but I see no chance at present.
Good-bye!’

He held out his hand and Edgar gripped it hard. They looked firmly into
each other’s eyes. They were not afraid of facing death. Edgar seemed
to have grown older, and Captain Manton saw the look of determination
on his face and thought to himself:

‘This lad will not fail me. He will give his life to save those I love.’

‘Good-bye,’ said Edgar, and without another word he went to rouse his
fellow-passengers.

So well did he accomplish his difficult task that, although the peril
they were in was understood, there was no panic. Happily there were
very few women and children on board, and the men behaved well.

It was an awful sight, Edgar thought: the saloon filled with people
hastening to their death, awaiting the summons from the captain, ‘All
hands on deck,’ which meant they were to sell their lives as dearly as
possible. The very suddenness of the danger appeared to have taken all
sense of fear away. Not a word was spoken; the sobbing of children,
and the half-smothered, heart-rending groan of some poor mother, could
alone be heard.

A great rush of wind, followed by a loud shout, aroused them:

‘All hands on deck!’

Edgar led the way, and then stood by while the women and children were
helped up the stairs. The men followed. Edgar was the last to leave the
saloon. Once on deck he saw what their danger was, and from whence it
came. The lighthouse stood high up on the rocks, flashing across the
sea, and they were so near now that the rays lighted up the faces of
those in deadly peril on the doomed ship. Edgar forced his way towards
the captain’s cabin, and found Mrs. Manton and Eva crouching down,
overcome with fear. He spoke a few words of encouragement, and little
Eva looked up into his face with wistful eyes.

Then Edgar looked round the ship as the light flashed on it again. He
saw pale, blanched faces all round him, men clinging in desperation to
ropes and bars, and women holding their children fast, themselves held
by strong men’s disengaged arms. It was an awful sight, but Edgar felt
no fear for himself as he looked at it. He thought of the grand voyage
they had gone through, and how near they were to their destination.
The good ship was struggling on, and after going these thousands of
miles was to be dashed to pieces at the very entrance to the harbour
of safety. His mind wandered to those at home, and he seemed to see his
father and sister sitting in the dear old room at Elm Lodge, as on that
last night in the home he loved so well. Their voices seemed to ring in
his ears, giving him hope and encouragement. He smiled faintly as he
imagined he could hear his father say:

‘You’re in a tight fix, my lad, but never despair; be brave and fight
to the end.’

A loud cry of despair echoed through the night. It was wafted to the
watchers on the rocks, who stood there helpless, unable to lend a hand
to save the men and women going to sure destruction. Again it rose
above the roar of the sea, and Edgar shuddered as he heard it.

Well might the doomed ones cry aloud. To the right of them, not many
yards away, yawned a large opening between the gigantic rocky Heads.
Through that opening lay safety and rest, and yet no power on earth
could drive the _Distant Shore_ through it. Facing them was another
gap, but there was no opening there; the solid rock rose straight out
of the sea. On came the _Distant Shore_ through the boiling, seething
mass of waters.

Captain Manton stood at his post. Once he cast his eyes in the
direction of his cabin, and a satisfied smile played over his face as
he saw Edgar there.

‘My life for theirs, O God!’ he cried.

He was not a man given to many prayers, but he believed his cry would
be heard.

Edgar looked ahead. He saw the vessel heaved high upon the waves; he
saw the merciless rock in front. There was not a moment to spare. He
rushed into the cabin.

‘Give me Eva,’ he said. ‘You will have a better chance alone.’

The mother pressed her child to her heart and smothered her with kisses.

Edgar snatched the child away and sprang out of the cabin. At the same
moment there was a terrific crash, a rending and splitting of timbers,
cries and groans, shrieks for help, and strange, unearthly sounds.

Edgar, with the child firmly clasped in his arms, was hurled against
the side of the vessel. He felt it give way, and as he glanced round he
saw the ship shattered into a thousand pieces, and great timbers hurled
high into the air. Then he felt the water rush over him, he was lifted
off his feet and flung into the furious waves, with little Eva still
clasped firm in his arms.



CHAPTER VII. WHAT THE MORNING BROUGHT FORTH.


And what of the watchers on South Head? Wal Jessop’s summons had been
obeyed, and a small knot of men, and one or two women, stood looking
out to sea at the doomed ship.

‘What is she, Wal?’ said one man. ‘Do you know her name?’

‘Not for certain; but I’m afraid it’s the _Distant Shore_,’ replied
Jessop.

‘Captain Manton? I hope not,’ was the reply.

‘She’s helpless,’ said Jessop. ‘There’s no control over that ship. It’s
awful! Here we are, and cannot lend a helping hand. No boat could live
in such a sea; no man could swim near those rocks.’

They saw the ship lifted upon the top of the waves, and then sink out
of sight again. The large vessel was no more to the merciless sea than
a mere cork.

‘It will not be many minutes now,’ said Jessop to his wife; and she
shuddered, and stepped back from the cliffs. ‘Go home, Mary,’ he said;
‘this is no place for you.’

‘I’ll face it now I’m here,’ she said; ‘the crash will be awful. Can
nothing be done to save them?’

‘Nothing,’ he replied. ‘We must wait and see what the morning brings
forth; the sea may have gone down by then. There’s very little hope
that anyone will be saved.’

They crowded dangerously near the edge of the cliffs, and strained
their eyes in the direction of the ship.

Suddenly the vessel shot upright under them, deep down below. She was
heaved forward with tremendous force on the waves, and then came the
crash, which seemed to shake the rock upon which they stood. It was an
awful sound, this rending of timbers, the grinding and splitting to
pieces of a fine ship, with her living freight, within a few yards of
the harbour.

Cries came up from this abyss and made strong men tremble and weep.
Cries for help, and they could not help, although there was not a man
amongst them but would have risked his life cheerfully had he thought
there was the slightest hope of saving those on board.

They heard the ship grinding on the rocks, they heard groans and
shrieks, and in a few moments there came an awful stillness. Even the
waves seemed awed by this terrible disaster, and there was a lull in
the storm. The wind dropped quickly and moaned dismally.

Wal Jessop lay flat down, and, while a man held his legs, peered into
the depths below, but he could see nothing but the white foam from the
waves. There was not a trace of the vessel, so far as he could make out.

‘We must wait till morning, but it’s weary work,’ he said. ‘Would to
God we could do something to help them! They’re beyond help now, I’m
afraid. Poor Manton!’

‘Then, you feel sure it’s the _Distant Shore_?’

‘I have a presentiment it is. She’s due shortly, and Manton always
liked to make a quick passage. If it is the _Distant Shore_, it will be
the last trip he will ever make,’ said Jessop.

‘What shall we do as soon as it’s light?’

Wal Jessop was always the man addressed; the others recognised him as
the guiding hand in this trouble.

‘We must have ropes ready,’ he said. ‘I’m going down the rocks as soon
as it’s light.’

‘No, no,’ said his wife; ‘you must not, Wal. It will mean death to you,
and then to me. If the rope broke you would be dashed to pieces. Wait
until you can row round through the Heads.’

‘Nay, my lass,’ he said kindly; ‘even if the gale drops, the sea will
be too rough for any boat to reach the rocks below. I must go down.
There’ll be no danger, with a stout rope and sturdy arms to hold me.
Think of it, lass--I might save a life. It’s worth the risk, if only
for the chance.’

She knew it would be useless to try and dissuade him; but she
determined to remain and watch.

It was weary work waiting for the light to come. Ropes had been
procured, and a heavy crowbar driven firmly down.

‘No danger of them breaking,’ said Wal Jessop as he handled the ropes.
‘You must keep the rope well away from the rock as you lower me down;
if it frays on a jagged sharp edge it might break.’

At last daylight began to appear, and in these climes there is not long
to wait before it is quite light.

As the men looked over the cliffs they could see no sign of any living
creature. Spars and timbers had been dashed upon the rocks, and
remained there, but they were the only signs of the wreck.

‘If timber can lodge there,’ said Jessop, ‘maybe some poor fellow has
managed to be cast up out of reach of the waves. Make ready quickly; we
must lose no time.’

The men set to work with a will. The stoutest rope was not long enough
to reach to the foot of the rocks, and another long one had to be
fastened on. The end was made fast to the iron bar, bags were put along
the edge of the cliff to prevent the rope fraying, and, when Wal Jessop
had inspected everything, and found all right, he tied the rope round
his waist, and stood ready to make the descent. It was a perilous task,
for the wind was still high and the face of the rocks dangerous, having
so many sharp projections against which he might be knocked as he was
lowered down.

He kissed his wife, and bade her think only of the duty he had to
perform; and if there was a spice of danger in it, why, so much the
better, and the more credit to a man for undertaking it.

‘You ought to be proud I’m going to do it,’ he said; ‘there’s not a
man here who does not envy me the job, and would like to take it on
himself.’

‘That’s so,’ said one of the men. ‘It’s because we have such respect
for your husband that we’re letting him have first turn. If he wants to
go down a second time, I reckon there’ll be a dispute about it.’

Wal Jessop crawled to the edge of the rocks, and then, taking a firm
hold of the rope, slipped quickly over. Two men held the rope near
the edge, the others were behind, and one man stood watching Jessop,
giving the signal when to stop and when to lower.

The wind was blowing strong from the sea, and it took Wal Jessop all
his time to keep himself clear of the rocks. He dared not push off with
his feet because the wind swung him back violently. He was bruised and
scratched, and his clothes were torn, when he reached a rock above the
level of the waves, and signalled to stop lowering.

‘He’s down,’ said the man giving orders to the others, ‘and in a safe
place, too.’

Mary Jessop felt thankful for this, but she would not be at rest until
her husband reached the top again.

Wal Jessop unfastened the rope and left it dangling. He then sat down
and looked around him. Those above could merely see a small figure
contemplating the scene. On all sides there was ample evidence of a
wreck, but it seemed to Wal Jessop the vessel had been shattered to
atoms.

‘Not much chance of anyone being saved,’ he thought sadly. ‘How could
they be dashed against these rocks and live?’

He scrambled along from rock to rock and found very little. A hat
or a coat he came across, lodged high up on some projection. There
was plenty of timber and odds and ends, but not a sign of any living
soul. He searched in one direction, towards the Heads, for about an
hour, and then began to make his way in the opposite direction. It was
hard work, for the sea was still rough and the wind high, and it was
difficult for him to obtain a firm foothold on the slippery slabs and
slanting rocks.

He was about to give up his search, when he caught sight of something
white lying on a high level piece of rock some distance away.

‘Wonder what that is?’ he thought. ‘A white jacket, or something of the
sort, I expect. Anyhow, now I am here, I may as well go and see.’

He scrambled along, and as he neared the object that had attracted his
attention, his heart began to beat fast. The white garment he fancied
covered a human form. Could it be possible? Had some poor fellow been
cast up by the sea on to a ledge of safety? He hurried on, in the hope
that after all he might be able to save a human life. What a feeling of
exultation comes over a man when he snatches a fellow-creature from the
jaws of death! Wal Jessop had saved men’s lives before this time, but
he was anxious to save someone from this fearful wreck if possible.

As he struggled on over the uneven rocks, he saw that the ledge upon
which the white object lay was out of the reach of the waves. His
practised eyes saw at a glance that, if a man had been cast up on to
this ledge, he would not be washed back by the receding waves. He
reached the foot of the rock, and found it a difficult matter to get
up the side. He walked round and found a better foothold on the other
side. It was not long before he reached the top, and there he saw a
sight that brought tears to his eyes.

Stretched on the rock lay a youth, calm and still--so still that Wal
Jessop thought him dead. It was a comely face he looked upon, a face he
knew would be fair, indeed, if life still remained to bring back light
to the closed eyes. Clasped in the left arm of the youth was a child,
and she also lay insensible.

Wal Jessop looked down upon them with great sorrow in his heart.

‘A brave lad this,’ he thought. ‘He must have fought hard to save that
little lass--a brave lad, indeed, to risk his life for a little child.’

He stooped over them. He had a flask of brandy in his coat-pocket.
He placed his hand on the youth’s heart and felt there was a slight
pulsation. He could not resist a loud cry of joy.

‘He’s alive yet!’ he shouted. Then he felt the child’s heart. Yes, it
still beat faintly.

‘Both alive!’ he cried. ‘Thank God, they may be saved!’

He forced some brandy into the youth’s mouth, and a few drops he gave
to the child. Then he pulled off his coat, wrapped the little girl in
it, and began to rub the youth’s limbs and body to try and restore
animation.

‘Not a case of half-drowned,’ he said. ‘They’ve been thrown up on to
this ledge and stunned. They must have been insensible for some hours.
He’s got a nasty cut at the back of his head, and the little one has a
big bruise on her temple.’

After rubbing the youth’s hand for some time Wal Jessop saw signs of
returning life. The sight gladdened him, and he redoubled his efforts.
Presently he heard a faint sigh, the youth’s eyes opened, and he gazed
wildly about him as though thinking of and looking for something. In a
few minutes he gasped:

‘The child! Little Eva--where----’

‘Safe, my lad. She’s here,’ said Wal Jessop.

A satisfied smile passed over the youth’s face, and he sank again into
insensibility.

‘A brave lad,’ muttered Wal Jessop again. ‘Thinks of naught but the
saving of that little one.’

A faint cry made him turn his head, and he saw a movement under his
coat.

‘The warmth has brought her round,’ he thought. ‘I’ll attend to her
first. He won’t come round again yet awhile.’

He took up the girl and she opened her eyes wide.

‘Where is I?’ she lisped. ‘Where’s my daddy and my mammy? Where’s Eddy?
Who is you?’ Then, as she caught sight of the sea and the rocks, she
began to cry.

‘I’ll take care of you, my lamb,’ said Wal Jessop. ‘Eddy’s
asleep--look.’

The girl looked at him and said quickly:

‘No wake him. Eddy very tired. He carried me long way.’

‘Then, I’ll take you home and come back for him,’ said Wal. ‘Give me a
kiss, little one.’

She put up her face and he kissed her tenderly. Then he took her up
in his arms and carried her as gently as possible over the rocks back
towards the rope. Tired and worn out, the child was soon fast asleep.

‘That’s well,’ said Wal Jessop as he hurried on; ‘she’ll not be
frightened as we are hauled up. There’ll be something for Mary to do
here. We’ve no young one of our own. Perhaps we are to have this one
from the sea. We’ll see about it when the lad can tell us all.’

When Wal Jessop reached the rope he gave a loud hallo, and held up the
sleeping child. He could hear the ringing cheers from those on the top.

Having made the rope fast and tied the child firmly round the waist, he
gave the signal to haul up, and soon reached the top without any mishap.

‘Here, lass, there’s a present for you,’ said Wal, as he laid the
sleeping child in his wife’s arms.

Mary Jessop kissed it fondly, and could find no words to express her
feelings.

‘There’s a lad down yonder,’ said Wal Jessop. ‘I must go back for him.
You take the child home, Mary. I’ll not be long. There’s no danger.
It’s a safe trip. I’ve been once, and I know the way. Now, lads, lower
me down again, and we’ll soon have the young fellow up here. He’s a
fine-looking chap, and I’m glad I’m the one to rescue him. Lower away,
boys!’



CHAPTER VIII. IN WAL JESSOP’S COTTAGE.


When Wal Jessop reached Edgar Foster--for it was our hero who had been
so miraculously saved from sudden death--he found him sitting with his
back to the rock, and gazing out to sea with wistful eyes. Edgar smiled
faintly as he approached, and held out his hand, which Wal Jessop
seized in a hearty clasp. Edgar began to talk, but Wal Jessop told him
not to excite himself, and to leave anything he had to say until they
were safe and sound on the top of the rocks.

‘The little one is safe,’ said Wal. ‘It was easy enough to take her up,
but it will be more difficult with you, and I shall want you to help me
all you can.’

‘I’ll do my best,’ said Edgar, ‘but I feel very weak. What an awful
night it was!’ And he shuddered as he spoke.

‘You’ll be able to tell me about it later on,’ said Wal Jessop. ‘Try
and walk a bit; put your arm round my neck, and lean on me heavily.’

Edgar managed to stand on his feet, but he felt so weak he almost fell
down again. However, he succeeded in dragging along, with Wal Jessop’s
assistance, as far as the dangling rope. Edgar saw how long it was, and
said:

‘Will it bear us both? You ought not to run any risk.’

It’s strong enough to hold an elephant,’ said Wal; ‘and there’s plenty
of good sturdy fellows on top to haul us up.’

Without further delay he proceeded to make preparations for the ascent.
He tied the rope firmly under Edgar’s arms, then made a loop lower down
in which he could fix his feet. When Wal had put his feet in the loop,
Edgar put his feet on the top of Wal Jessop’s, and, facing each other,
they were ready to be hauled up. Wal Jessop also had his arms round
Edgar, in case the rope was not sufficient support for him.

‘Do you feel firmly fixed?’ said Wal.

‘Yes,’ replied Edgar; ‘but it will be a stiffish pull for those on the
top.’

‘Never you fear!’ said Wal. ‘They’ll manage it. It’s what they have
been at all their lives, hauling in ropes either on board or ashore.’

He gave the signal, and they commenced slowly to ascend.

It was with a hearty cheer the men hauled them out of danger, and when
Wal Jessop and Edgar stood on the top of the rock the good fellows
capered with delight like so many schoolboys. They surrounded Edgar,
and were so boisterous in their expressions of goodwill towards him,
that Wal Jessop felt he ought to interpose, or else the excitement
would be too much for the lad.

‘Hold hard, boys!’ he shouted, forcing them back. ‘This is my prize,
and I’m going to carry him off home. A rest will do him good, and we
shall hear all about his escape later on.’

‘What ship was it?’ asked one of the men.

‘The _Distant Shore_,’ said Edgar sadly.

‘And the skipper?’

‘Lost--all lost, I am afraid, but myself and the little one,’ said
Edgar.

Good-natured Wal Jessop, wishing to prevent more painful questions,
hurried Edgar Foster away from the scene as quickly as he could walk.

‘Where are we going to?’ asked Edgar.

‘My cottage,’ said Wal. ‘The wife has taken the young one, and has
probably put her in bed ere this.’

‘You are very kind to us,’ said Edgar.

‘I shouldn’t be much of a man if I didn’t do all I could for you,’ said
Wal. ‘I’ll bet you’d have done as much for me.’

‘I should have done my best,’ said Edgar.

‘I know it, lad, and therefore there is all the more pleasure in
helping you. Mind the path here, it’s a bit rough and steep,’ said Wal.

When they reached Wal Jessop’s cottage, Edgar felt exhausted, and sank
helplessly into the easy-chair Mrs. Jessop placed ready for him. Tears
stood in her eyes as she looked at Edgar’s youthful face, and thought
of those who would mourn him as lost until they learned the truth.

‘Poor lad!’ she said in a whisper to Wal. ‘He’s worn out, and no
wonder. You must get him into bed, and I’ll make something hot for him.’

‘He’ll be best there,’ said Wal. ‘Here goes!’

He lifted Edgar out of the chair, and carried him into a small bedroom.
He helped him off with his clothes, such as they were, all ragged and
torn, and wrapped him in the blankets. Mrs. Jessop brought him a bowl
of beef-tea and bread, and after Edgar had done justice to it, he fell
into a sound sleep.

‘Wonder who he is?’ said Mrs. Jessop. ‘He’s a fine lad.’

‘And a brave one,’ said Wal. ‘He’ll sleep a good many hours, I guess.
I’ll go up to Sydney by the boat, and give what information I can about
the wreck. I’ll hurry back as quickly as possible. If he asks for me,
tell him I shall not be long away. Where’s the child?’

Mrs. Jessop, with her finger on her lips to ensure silence, noiselessly
opened their bedroom door.

Fast asleep in his own bed Wal Jessop saw the child he had rescued from
a cruel death. How calm and peaceful she lay; not a thought of trouble
haunted her as she slept! One tiny hand peeped out from the coverlet,
and Wal Jessop could not resist covering it with his large hand. The
little one returned the pressure, but did not awake.

‘I wish she belonged to us,’ he said to his wife.

‘So do I,’ was her reply. ‘Who knows but what she may do, if she has
lost her father and mother?’

‘We shall find out all about them when I return,’ he said. ‘Rest is
what they want now, poor things. I’ll bring some clothes back for him.
You can get the little one some when you go out. It will be a bit of
fresh shopping for you,’ he added with a smile that brought the colour
into his wife’s cheeks.

When Wal Jessop reached Sydney, he found everyone in a state of
excitement about the wreck, so many different accounts having been
given by irresponsible persons. But he did not stay to gratify mere
idle curiosity. He went direct to the offices of the Marine Board, and
gave all the evidence he could about the wreck of the _Distant Shore_.
His story was listened to with rapt attention, for Wal Jessop was a man
who could be depended upon in all he did or said.

At the conclusion of his story, Captain Fife, President of the Board,
complimented him upon his bravery, and asked him to bring the youth he
had rescued to the offices of the Board as soon as he was in a proper
state to give his version of the disaster.

‘By the way, what sort of a lad is he, Jessop?’ asked Captain Fife.

‘If looks go for anything, he’s one of the right sort,’ said Wal; ‘and
that he’s brave goes without saying, after what I have told you.’

‘Then, I dare say I can find him something to do,’ said Captain Fife;
‘that is, I mean, if he has no friends out here to help him.’

‘I’m sure it is very kind of you,’ said Wal. ‘I don’t know who or what
he is, at present; but he’s been brought up a cut above me, I guess.’

‘That may be,’ said Captain Fife, smiling; ‘but if he turns out as good
a man as Wal Jessop, his father will have reason to be proud of him.’

Wal Jessop’s honest face shone with pleasure at this remark, and he
said:

‘If I can be of any use to him, he’s welcome to all I know about
Australia.’

‘And that is more than most of us,’ said Captain Fife. ‘He is in good
hands, at any rate. Bring him here as soon as you can.’

Wal Jessop made the best of his way home. He avoided the busy shipping
quarters, but was waylaid by several of his acquaintances, who knew he
could tell them more about the wreck than anyone. The pressmen were
also on his track, and, in order to quiet them, Wal Jessop gave them a
short account of what had occurred.

‘It’s not all I know,’ he said at the conclusion of his remarks; ‘but
it is quite enough for you chaps with vivid imaginations to work upon.
I reckon, when I read the accounts, they’ll be equal to anything that
could have been strung together on the spot. Some of you have fathered
stirring yarns on to me before now. Give me a rest this time, and I’ll
forgive you.’

‘We can’t let you off so easily, Wal,’ said one pressman. ‘If I don’t
get your photo for my paper I shall have to find another shop to work
in.’

‘You’ll get no photo from me,’ said Wal. ‘I’m not a particularly
good-looking man, but I draw the line at those outrages in your paper,
Billy.’

When Wal Jessop arrived home, he found Edgar had just awoke out of a
refreshing sleep, for which he felt much better.

‘I have brought you some new clothes,’ said Wal; ‘your garments were
rather knocked about with rough usage. How do you feel now, my lad?’

‘Excepting the pain in my head, I am all right,’ said Edgar. ‘It is
very good of you to purchase me clothes. I have lost all I had on board
the ship. I put a draft in my coat-pocket, but I had to get rid of my
coat to save our lives. I must let my father know I am saved, as he
will be anxious about me when he hears of the wreck.’

‘I’ll send a cablegram,’ said Wal. ‘We can manage to advance you cash
enough,’ he added, smiling. ‘Now put on your clothes and come and have
a chat with the lassie.’

‘She’s a dear little child,’ said Edgar, ‘and the captain’s daughter.’

‘Poor Manton!’ said Wal; ‘I fancied as much. She’s got the look of her
father about her.’

When Edgar appeared in the cosy room, he saw Eva quietly sitting on
Mrs. Jessop’s knees. The child cried out, and slipping down, toddled
towards him, holding out both hands.

Edgar clasped her in his arms and kissed her fondly.

‘Poor little Eva,’ he said. ‘I promised to save you if I could, and,
now I have done so, I will look after you.’

Eva commenced to prattle in her childish way, and asked for her mother.

‘She’s gone a long way off,’ said Edgar. ‘You will stay with me, won’t
you, dear?’

‘Yes. Stay till mamma comes back,’ said Eva. ‘Where’s daddy?’

‘Gone with mamma,’ said Edgar. ‘He said you must be a good girl.’

‘Always good girl with Eddy,’ she said, snuggling up against him.

This was more than Mrs. Jessop’s motherly heart could stand, and she
beat a hasty retreat.

‘Me go too,’ said Eva; and Edgar let her patter after Mrs. Jessop.

‘Now,’ said Wal Jessop, ‘we may as well introduce ourselves. I’m Pilot
Walter Jessop, and am as well known along this coast as a good many
sailors.’

‘Edgar Foster is my name,’ said Edgar, who proceeded to relate how
it came about he was on board the _Distant Shore_. He also told Wal
Jessop about his school-days and life at home. Wal Jessop was a man who
inspired confidence, and Edgar felt it would be good for him to make a
friend of the man who had rescued him from a watery grave.

‘We had a splendid passage,’ said Edgar, ‘until we were somewhere off
the coast of Tasmania, I believe. It was then the storm commenced to
brew, and Captain Manton became anxious. We could not have had a
better skipper, and no blame can be attached to him for the loss of the
ship. It was a pure accident. The rudder chains snapped at a critical
moment, and the ship was not under control. It was a terrible time, and
I shall never forget it. Captain Manton asked me to do what I could
to save his wife and child, as he had to try and look after the ship
and those on board. The last I saw of him he was standing as cool and
collected as though sailing calmly into port. What the agony of his
mind must have been I fail to imagine. When the crash came I snatched
Eva from Mrs. Manton’s arms, and directly afterwards I was hurled
against the side of the vessel, and the support almost immediately gave
way. I was pitched into the seething waves, with the child in my arms.
For a moment I was stunned, but when the dazed feeling passed I caught
hold of a floating spar, which I managed to grasp with one hand and to
hold Eva with my other arm. The child was insensible from the shock,
and luckily for us she did not know what happened.

‘After a few minutes I scrambled on the spar, which was tossed up and
down by the waves in a fearful manner. I expected every moment would
be my last, and that we should be dashed to pieces on the rocks. How
we escaped is really marvellous, and God must have been very near us
at that time. One huge wave lifted the spar on to the rocks, and as I
felt it roll backwards I slipped off and clung to a jagged edge of
rock. Another wave came rushing over us, and must have rolled me higher
up the rocks, for I remember nothing more until I saw you bending over
me. I can hardly realize I am saved, and can still hear the roar of the
waves, and seem to feel the water dashing over me.’

‘When you see the place where you were cast up by the sea,’ said Wal,
‘you will wonder still more that you were not dashed to pieces. I see
you are tired now. In the morning we can talk over what is best to be
done.’



CHAPTER IX. UP COUNTRY.


Edgar Foster accompanied Wal Jessop to Sydney, in order to give
evidence before the Marine Board as to the cause of the disaster to
the _Distant Shore_. He found he was the cynosure of all eyes on the
ferry-boat, for the morning papers had given a glowing account of his
bravery in saving Eva.

Wal Jessop felt proud of the fine lad by his side, who had so quickly
recovered from his exertions, and seemed to have almost forgotten the
horrors of the wreck in looking at the beautiful scene he now saw for
the first time.

As the ferry-boat left the landing-stage at Watson’s Bay, Wal Jessop
pointed out the narrow passage through the Heads, and Edgar saw with
wondering eyes how near the ill-fated ship had been to the harbour of
refuge.

‘If we could only have been driven through that passage instead of on
to the rocks,’ said Edgar, ‘we might all have been alive now.’

‘It was a terrible thing to go down so near home,’ said Wal Jessop.
‘This is one of the best and safest harbours in the world.’

‘I have heard a good deal about it,’ said Edgar, smiling, ‘but I am not
surprised at the enthusiastic way in which people praise its beauties.
All I have heard or read gave me a very faint idea of the reality,
which is far beyond any expectation I had formed.’

‘I’m glad to hear that,’ replied Wal Jessop. ‘People at times are apt
to consider we “blow” too much about our harbour.’

‘Too much praise cannot be bestowed upon a scene like this,’ said Edgar.

When they arrived at Circular Quay, Wal Jessop took his companion
to the Marine Board offices, where he left him, and went to send a
cablegram to Edgar’s father.

Edgar gave his account of the wreck in a manner that at once won the
respect of Captain Fife and the members of the Board. He modestly put
his own courageous conduct in the background, and spoke of Captain
Manton in such a manner that it left no doubt upon the minds of his
hearers that everything had been done that was possible to save the
ship. Edgar’s description of the wreck and the bravery of Wal Jessop
was given in a simple, straightforward style.

Captain Fife watched Edgar narrowly, and came to the conclusion he was
a lad to be trusted, and also a lad who had received a good education.
After the Board meeting he took Edgar into his private office, and
asked him what he intended to do.

‘I hardly know at present,’ replied Edgar, ‘but I have no doubt I shall
be able to obtain some kind of work until I can look round.’

‘Your name seems familiar to me,’ said Captain Fife.

‘Probably,’ said Edgar, smiling, ‘if you are a lover of cricket.’

Captain Fife jumped up from his chair, and said in astonishment:

‘Surely you are not the son of Robert Foster, who captained the last
English eleven against our team at Lord’s?’

‘I am,’ said Edgar, ‘and proud of it.’

‘And well you may be, my lad,’ said Captain Fife. ‘The son of such a
sterling, manly cricketer as Robert Foster will not lack friends in
Australia. I suppose it is needless to ask if you play?’

‘I am very fond of the game,’ said Edgar, ‘and was captain of my school
when I left.’

‘We must give you a trial here,’ said Captain Fife, ‘but in the
meantime I must try and find you something to do.’ He thought for a
few moments, and then said: ‘How would you like to go up country for
a time? I have an interest in a station in the West, and I think you
would enjoy the life. It is very quiet, but the change would in itself
be a novelty to you.’

‘I should like it immensely,’ said Edgar; ‘I do not care much for a
town life.’

‘I believe you lost everything in the wreck?’ said Captain Fife.

‘Yes,’ replied Edgar. ‘Wal Jessop has sent a cablegram to my father,
stating I am safe, and also that I lost all, so I have no doubt he will
send me out a draft by an early mail to cover expenses. I do not wish
to draw upon my father continually, and I came out here to earn my
living if possible.’

‘Glad to hear it,’ said Captain Fife. ‘We have too many young fellows
out here who live upon money sent them from home. It is a mistaken
kindness, as it causes them to rely upon others instead of themselves,
and self-reliance a man must have to get on in this world.’

Edgar was much impressed with what Captain Fife said, and knew it was
sound advice he gave.

‘My father always taught me to hold my own,’ said Edgar, ‘and to do
what is right. Of course I got into scrapes sometimes at school, but
I never shirked the consequences. I fought a lad called Bully Rakes,
and beat him, the first week I was at Redbank. I was in the right, and
therefore I felt confident of success, although he was a much stronger
lad.’

‘So you can box as well as play cricket,’ said Captain Fife, smiling;
‘you’ll get on all right here, I can see. Can you ride well?’

‘Fairly well,’ said Edgar. ‘I followed the hounds during the holidays
when I had an opportunity. I should like to have a chance in the
cricket-field here.’

‘So you shall,’ said Captain Fife. ‘I will take care your going up
country does not injure your prospects in that line. We have a very
good team on the station, and you will have plenty of practice to keep
your hand in. Some of our best men have been drawn from up country.’

It was decided that Edgar, after a week’s stay in Sydney with Wal
Jessop, should go up to Yanda, and try how the life suited him.

‘I will advance you enough money to keep you going,’ said Captain Fife,
‘and you can repay me when you have “knocked up a cheque,” as we say
here.’

Edgar left Captain Fife’s office feeling he had been most fortunate.
His heart was heavy when he thought of the _Distant Shore_ and those on
board who had lost their lives. He could hardly realize, as he walked
the streets of Sydney, how near he had been to death, and that only a
day or two ago. He met Wal Jessop, and told him what Captain Fife had
done.

‘He’s a good sort,’ said Wal--‘a regular out-and-outer. You’ll have
a real good time at Yanda. It’s different to many stations, for the
hands up there all pull together, and, my eye! don’t they turn out some
good sports. Why, Tom Trundle, one of the best fast bowlers we ever had
in the New South Wales team, came from Yanda. How he learned to bowl
up there, blest if I know! but that he had learned he quickly proved
when he tried his hand on the Association Ground. I’ll never forget
that match,’ went on Wal, warming to his work, as this was one of his
favourite topics. ‘Tommy was picked to play for the country against the
town, and the way he made some of the crack players’ stumps fly was a
caution. Frank Rarey was a good bat--about our best--but the country
chap sent Frank’s middle stump turning summersaults in the air like a
clown in a circus. It was as good as a pipe of ‘bacca after a day’s
hard graft to see the expression on Frank’s face when he saw that stump
fly. He looked at Tom, and he looked at the shattered wicket. Then he
walked into the dressing-room and meditated. When the innings was ended
Frank went up to Tom and said:

‘“You’re a wonder, Trundle. You’ll have to play for the colony next
time.”

‘Sure enough he did,’ added Wal; ‘and bless me if he didn’t come off
first pop. He took seven of the Victorian wickets in the very next
match we had against that colony.’

‘Something like a triumph,’ said Edgar, who listened to Wal’s recital
with all the ardour of a schoolboy. ‘I only hope I may come off as well
as he did when I have the luck to play for the colony.’

‘Did Captain Fife say anything about it?’ asked Wal. ‘He’s a rare one
for cricket, and, in fact, all sorts of sport.’

‘He said if I went up country it would not prejudice my chance in the
cricket-field,’ said Edgar.

‘Nor will it,’ said Wal. ‘It will be far better for you to go up
country than remain hanging about town.’

‘I shall have to leave Eva behind until some of Captain Manton’s
friends have been communicated with. My father will probably see to
that when he learns the news. I must write him a long letter by the
next mail, and tell him all about the wreck and how bravely Pilot
Jessop acted.’

‘Ay,’ said Wal, with a smile, ‘and if I were you I’d just send him a
few papers in order to let him see how well his son behaved. That would
only be fair. As for the little lass, she’s welcome to stop with us as
long as she’s allowed. It will be a sore trial to my wife to part with
her. You see, we have no bairn of our own,’ added Wal, with a wistful
sigh.

‘She could not be in better hands,’ said Edgar. ‘I suppose,’ he asked,
as a sudden idea occurred to him, ‘there is no possible chance of
anyone being saved from the wreck? I mean, do you think it possible
anyone could have drifted out to sea on a portion of the wreck and been
picked up by a passing boat?’

‘That’s not possible, I think,’ said Wal. ‘No boat left the harbour
next day, and the storm was so bad, I hardly think anyone could have
lived through it out at sea.’

‘It was just a thought occurred to me,’ said Edgar. ‘I know every
search has been made, but one clings to hope, even after all hope has
gone.’

Wal Jessop took Edgar round Sydney, and showed him several sights.
The more Edgar saw of the city, the more he marvelled at its wondrous
growth. He had been taught much at school about the colonies, but
he had no idea such vast cities as Sydney lay on the other side of
the world. Young though he was, he saw at once how greatly such
possessions as Australia must enhance the power and importance of
the mother-country. He saw how widespread the influence and example
of England was, and every name and building tended to revive some
association with the old country.

As he sat in the Botanical Gardens with Wal Jessop, looking over the
lovely expanse of harbour before them, and the hills and bays of the
opposite shore, he said:

‘It is only a lad’s opinion, but I think we are not taught sufficient
about our country’s great possessions abroad when we are at school.’

‘Perhaps not,’ said Wal; ‘but on this side of the world our youngsters
are taught more about old England than Australia.’

‘That should not be,’ said Edgar. ‘Every child ought to have a
thorough knowledge of his own country, and, from what little I know of
it, the history of Australia must be vastly interesting.’

‘It is,’ said Wal, ‘and I have managed to scrape together a good deal
about it. The early settlers here had no easy time, but they did
well, and laid the foundation of a promising colony upon a lot of bad
material. You would hardly think to look at it now that Sydney, a
century ago, was a convict settlement of only a few huts, and inhabited
by desperate criminals, many of whom were more like fiends than human
beings.’

‘There are not many traces of those days left?’ said Edgar
questioningly.

‘No,’ said Wal, ‘and it is far better they should be obliterated. Now,
in Tasmania you see more of it. You would find Port Arthur a curious
old place. It gave me the horrors the first time I saw it.’

They chatted on for some time. Wal Jessop was a good talker, and
interested a lad of Edgar’s age. Edgar Foster was a manly boy, not a
boy developed into a man before his time by a forcing process, as too
often is the case in this age of rapid progress.

On reaching home again, Wal Jessop explained to his wife how Edgar had
been received by Captain Fife.

‘You’ll not object to keep the little lass here,’ said Wal, ‘while
Edgar goes up country for a few months?’

‘I should like to keep her for my own,’ said Mrs. Jessop. ‘She is a
dear child, and will be a joy to our home.’

‘She is a lovable little thing,’ said Edgar, ‘and I am sure will give
you no trouble. I do not know whether Captain Manton had any relations
in England, but I imagine he had. In any case, we shall hear something
before very long. I know I shall leave her in safe hands.’

‘That you may rest assured of,’ said Mrs. Jessop; ‘and I hope you will
have a good time up country. Captain Fife has evidently taken a fancy
to you, and he’s a man worth knowing.’

‘That he is, Mary,’ said her husband; ‘and many’s the good turn he’s
done me.’

‘Which you thoroughly deserved,’ said Edgar, with a smile.



CHAPTER X. A WILD SCENE.


Yanda Station was situated in a wild country, and when Edgar Foster
arrived there he thought he had never seen such a dreary spot.
Accustomed to the green fields of old England and her charming rural
landscapes, Edgar found the barren plains and scraggy trees monotonous.
Instead of miles upon miles of green, undulating pasture-land, he saw
brown, hard-baked ground, the stunted grass growing in patches, and
looking parched and dry for want of water.

Although the first glimpse of Yanda disenchanted Edgar of the ideas he
had formed of ‘up-country’ scenes, the reception he met with from the
station hands reconciled him to the prospect before him. Captain Fife
had written to Benjamin Brody, the manager at Yanda, informing him who
Edgar Foster was, and how he had behaved at the wreck of the _Distant
Shore_. He also stated that Edgar was the son of the famous cricketer,
Robert Foster. This was quite sufficient to ensure Edgar a hearty
reception, and his arrival was quite an event on the station.

Ben Brody was a born colonial, a man accustomed to take the rough with
the smooth of life and weld them into an even existence. Brody’s temper
was none of the best, but he kept it under control. He was a sober man
in the accepted sense of the word; that is, he never took more liquor
than he could conveniently carry. There was no better rider at Yanda
than Ben Brody, and the toughest buck-jumper generally found he had met
his match when Brody got on to his back.

Fearless and determined, he was the very man to manage the
somewhat mixed lot of hands on Yanda Station. They had some ‘queer
customers’--Brody’s expression--on Yanda. It was a wild country, and
far out of the beaten track. The wonder to most people who took the
trouble to think about such an outlandish place as Yanda was how it was
kept going, for they would never have been so rash as to argue that
Yanda paid its way.

But Yanda, thanks to good management, did pay its way, and Captain Fife
and others were perfectly satisfied with their investment. Yanda was
bought cheap at a time when station property in the far West was going
begging, and the installation of Ben Brody as manager had resulted in
its turning out a good bargain. Brody was a great believer in sheep,
but he had not much faith in cattle on Yanda. The hands firmly believed
that Ben Brody had been reared from a very early age upon lean mutton,
and that the taste for any other kind of meat was foreign to him.

Ben Brody had a horror of fat sheep. He preferred sheep “all wool,”
because wool was worth considerably more than flesh. The slaughtering
of a bullock at Yanda was the signal for much joy on the part of the
hands. When Ben Brody received the news that Edgar Foster would arrive
on a certain day at Yanda, he resolved to duly celebrate the event,
just to give the ‘new chum’ a better idea of the country.

‘What’s come over Brody?’ asked Will Henton. ‘He’s actually ordered the
slaughtering of a bullock. I am overwhelmed with joy.’

Will Henton was a young fellow who discovered town life too fast for
him, so had found his way to Yanda, and turned out a useful man.

‘There’s a new hand coming,’ said Harry Noke. ‘Brody’s told me about
him. He’s the young fellow who rescued that little lass at the wreck of
the _Distant Shore_, and he’s a son of Robert Foster the cricketer.’

‘No!’ said Will Henton. ‘You can’t mean it. What a slice of luck! He’s
sure to play cricket well, and we’re short of a man or two.’

‘You know the reason of the slaughter now,’ said Harry. ‘I must confess
beef will be a change from Brody’s everlasting mutton.’

‘We must give young Foster a good reception,’ said Will.

‘He deserves it,’ said Harry, ‘and he’ll be able to spin us some yarns
about the wreck.’

‘Plucky young beggar,’ said Will. ‘I’m open to bet you a trifle he can
box.’

‘You’re mad on boxing,’ said Harry. ‘It would be a blessing if some
disguised fighting-man came here to knock the conceit out of you.’

The hands at Yanda talked the matter of Edgar’s arrival over, and
agreed to make things pleasant for him; occasionally they made matters
rather rough for a new hand, until he paid a substantial footing.

So it came about that there was much feasting and rejoicing when Edgar
arrived, and he thought them a set of jolly good fellows.

‘The hospitality makes up for the barrenness of the land,’ thought
Edgar.

There were a good many blackfellows about Yanda, and they were as keen
on the scent of fresh-killed meat as a hound after a fox. Towards
night, when the feasting was over, and Ben Brody, Edgar, and several
of the hands were sitting on the wide veranda running round the
homestead, dusky forms were seen advancing across the open plain.

‘Have you black men about here?’ asked Edgar in some surprise.

‘Thousands of ’em,’ said Brody, without moving a muscle of his face.

Edgar looked at him, smiling, and said:

‘They must be pretty tame if there are thousands of them. I suppose
when you first arrived here you brought an army to conquer the country.’

‘We’ll say hundreds,’ said Brody; ‘I must have been thinking of sheep.’

‘Mutton again!’ whispered Will to Harry Noke. ‘He lives on mutton,
consequently he thinks of sheep.’

‘How many hundred blacks have you on Yanda?’ said Edgar, who had been
somewhat prepared for Ben Brody’s exaggerations by Wal Jessop.

‘Well, really, I couldn’t say for certain,’ replied Brody; ‘I’ve not
had ’em mustered lately. When we’ve a bit of spare time I’ll have ’em
counted for you.’

‘Thanks,’ said Edgar; ‘it is always interesting to ascertain what
likelihood there is of the original inhabitants of a country becoming
extinct.’

A roar of laughter greeted Edgar’s reply, and Will Henton said:

‘The young un’s a bit too much for you, Brody. You had better not spin
him any of those well-seasoned aboriginal yarns of yours, for I fancy
they won’t wash.’

‘You swallowed some of them, anyway,’ said Ben Brody.

‘Merely to oblige you,’ said Will.

Ben Brody glared at him, and then said:

‘Meat is bad for you, Will; I must in future restrict you to a mutton
diet.’

‘What are these fellows coming for?’ asked Edgar, as about thirty
blacks, including a few females, advanced to within a dozen yards or so
of the veranda.

‘They are on the war-path,’ said Will Henton. ‘The slaughtering of a
bullock at Yanda is an event of such magnitude that even the natives of
the country assemble to give thanks on the occasion.’

‘Never mind his chaff,’ said Ben Brody to Edgar; ‘you will have plenty
of it if you remain here very long. Would you care to see these fellows
dance, hold a “corroboree” as they call it?’

‘Yes,’ said Edgar, ‘I should very much like to see it.’

‘Then you shall. They have not given us anything in that line lately,’
said Brody.

He called a big, powerful-looking black, and spoke to him, and made
signs.

‘I’ve promised them a good square meal if they give us a dance,’ said
Brody.

Edgar thought it a wild scene as he looked at the dusky forms in the
moonlight. As far as he could see the endless plain stretched out
before him. The white, gaunt trees were ghostly and weird, and the hum
of many insects was in the air.

In a few minutes Edgar heard a low, crooning sound, which gradually
swelled into a hoarse roar, and then, with a loud shout from their
leader, the black fellows commenced to dance. They stamped upon the
hard ground with bare feet until the sound became like the tramp of
soldiers. Having worked themselves up to a proper pitch of excitement,
the wild fellows threw their limbs about in the most extraordinary
fashion. Some of them leaped high into the air, and the women sat and
clapped their hands and beat them on the ground.

The black men whirled their arms, and waved heavy sticks over their
heads. Their faces became most repulsive. Most of them had thick, curly
black hair, which hung down in shaggy locks. Their noses were big,
coarse, and wide, and their cheek-bones high, while their mouths were
of great size, and their lips thick.

As Edgar watched them dancing in this strange fashion in the moonlight
he thought it was the wildest scene he had ever looked upon.

‘Do they never get tired?’ he asked, as the dance continued, and the
efforts of the blacks did not relax.

‘They have great powers of endurance,’ said Ben Brody. ‘You see the
big fellow there, to the right? I’ve known him go ninety miles between
sunset and sunrise without so much as a halt. They are treacherous
fellows, some of them, but Yacka is a cut above the others. He’s a
strange fellow. He hails from South Australia, and the blacks around
here seem afraid of him. Strange to say, he speaks English well, and is
far better looking than the others. My own impression is that there’s a
bit of white blood in his veins, although his skin is black. Eh, Yacka,
come here!’ he shouted.

The black, who was standing alone looking at the dancers, who were now
slowing down, stepped quickly on to the veranda without an effort.

‘This is Yacka,’ said Brody to Edgar, and then turning to the black, he
said: ‘A new hand, only arrived to-day. You’ll be able to show him a
thing or two about Yanda, I reckon.’

Yacka nodded and, holding out his hand towards Edgar, said:

‘He says true. I know much about this country. Much about other country
far off. Ah, you shake my hand! Good fellow! Yacka your friend.’

Edgar had taken the black’s proffered hand, giving it a hearty shake;
this he did without a moment’s hesitation.

‘You’ve made friends with Yacka,’ said Brody; ‘that is the way he tests
a man. I’ve known fellows come here and refuse to shake hands with
Yacka. Not a blessed black in the whole tribe would help the man who
declined Yacka’s hand. I dare say it’s quite as clean as a good many
white men’s hands.’

‘I like the look of him,’ said Edgar, ‘and how well he talks! Have you
ever tried to make him work as a hand on the station?’

‘Bless you, he wouldn’t demean himself to work like these fellows, and
if he did they’d buck against it,’ said Brody.

‘Quite right, too,’ said Harry Noke; ‘we don’t want a lot of infernal
blacks doing station work; they are good for nothing but thieving and
every sort of iniquity.’

‘Perhaps white men have driven them to it,’ said Edgar; ‘I dare say
they managed very well before Australia was discovered by Captain Cook.’

‘You cannot make these black fellows understand what civilization
means,’ said Brody.

‘Rum,’ grunted a quiet-looking man, who had scarcely spoken during the
evening.

‘When Jim Lee offers a remark, which you may have observed is seldom,’
said Brody, ‘it is generally to the point. Undoubtedly rum and
civilization go hand in hand where the blacks are concerned. Apart from
rum, however, the beggars are too infernally stupid to learn anything.’

‘Yacka seems fairly intelligent,’ said Edgar.

‘I make an exception of Yacka,’ said Ben. ‘He’s sharp enough, and the
way he carves emu eggs and boomerangs is a caution. The ideas that chap
can put on an emu egg beat creation. But he’s a thorough wild man,
although he does talk English well, and has ideas above his fellows.
You could no more get Yacka to conform to our idea of civilized
behaviour than you could train a monkey to keep out of mischief. Yacka
is full of mischief, but it’s a humorous sort of mischief, and does not
do much harm.’

‘Yacka’s the only useful black we have around here,’ said Will Henton.
‘He’s a splendid fag in the cricket field, and when he’s extra good we
let him handle a bat. He shapes well, too, and I’m inclined to think
Yacka might be developed into a decent cricketer. He rides well, and
that’s more than the other fellows do; and when he’s handled my gun
I’ve seen him make some fair shots. The rummy part of the business is
that Yacka won’t be civilized, as Ben says, and you can’t get him to
leave the camp.’

Edgar Foster thought a good deal about Yacka that night, and resolved
to try and make friends with him, and learn something of his past life,
which he felt sure would be interesting.



CHAPTER XI. YACKA THE BLACK.


Edgar Foster, after six months’ experience on Yanda Station, liked the
life very much. He was popular with the hands, and Ben Brody had taken
to him in a manner that caused men to marvel. It was seldom Brody made
a chum of anyone, but he had done so of Edgar, who was young enough to
be his son.

It was an intense relief to Edgar when he received letters from his
father and sister. They were letters such as might have been expected
from them, and the way in which they referred to the terrible loss
of the _Distant Shore_ brought tears into Edgar’s eyes. His father
enclosed him a draft, and said he was proud of his son, and knew he had
risked his life to save Captain Manton’s child. Inquiries had been made
in every direction, but no relations had been found to claim little
Eva. Captain Manton had not saved much money, and what he had was in
the hands of the shipping company to which the _Distant Shore_ belonged.

Robert Foster wrote that he had consulted the chairman of the company,
and it had been arranged that if no relation claimed Eva she was to
remain in charge of Wal Jessop and his wife, and a sum of money would
be paid annually to them. In concluding his letter Robert Foster gave
his son good advice, telling him to go on as he had commenced, and to
brave dangers if by doing so he could help others.

Doris Foster wrote Edgar a loving letter, in which she gave him the
news that Will Brown had sailed for Australia, and also that she had
heard Raymond Rakes had turned out badly, and been sent to sea:

‘Will has promised to try and make a small fortune in Australia,’ she
wrote, ‘and when he has done so he is to return to England and ask me
a certain question which I leave you to guess. Please do not tell him,
if you see him, that under any circumstances the answer will be “Yes.”
It might make him lazy if he knew the capture was certain. You are a
dear, noble, brave brother, and we are very proud of you. I am posting
you a _Graphic_. You will see therein a portrait of a certain young
fellow who is styled “The _Distant Shore_ Hero,” which is no more than
he deserves. Give little Eva a lot of kisses from me. I long to see the
child you saved so splendidly. I am sure Wal Jessop must be a grand
man, and his wife a dear, good woman. Please do not marry a black lady,
and come home as civilized as when you left.’

Edgar read these letters again and again until Ben Brody said:

‘You are a lucky beggar to have such interesting letters. Those I get
are never worth reading twice. They’re mostly about sheep, and the
price of wool, and you cannot knock much romance out of those articles.’

Before he had been at Yanda a month, Edgar had shown them how he could
bat, and also use his fists; and, much to Will Henton’s surprise, he
had found his match with the gloves on.

‘You’re a hard hitter,’ he said to Edgar; ‘no wonder you made Bully
Rakes sing small.’

Edgar related many tales about his schooldays, and worked the hands up
to a pitch of enthusiasm over the celebrated match with Fairfield.

‘Blest if I don’t feel as though I’d seen it!’ said Ben Brody.

‘Good yarn!’ exclaimed Jim Lee, the silent one.

‘What a brute that Rakes must be,’ said Will Henton. ‘Fancy a fellow
going against his own side. You say he’s gone to sea? I hope he won’t
come over here; we want none of his sort.’

‘I’d like to meet Will Brown,’ said Ben Brody. ‘Suppose you ask him to
come up here and try his luck? He’ll not make a fortune very quick, but
it will keep him out of mischief.’

‘I’ll write to his ship in Sydney when she arrives, and ask him,’ said
Edgar; ‘I think it would just suit him.’

‘We can always find room for an extra hand or two on Yanda,’ said
Brody, with a wink, ‘provided they’re the right sort.’

‘You’ll find Will all right,’ said Edgar.

‘If he comes up to your standard he’ll do,’ replied Brody.

There was not much variety in the life at Yanda, but it was new to
Edgar, and he found much to interest him. He had the usual experience
with a buck-jumper, and felt the peculiar sensation of being hurled
into the air, with no certainty as to where he would come down. This is
how Edgar described his first throw from a buck-jumper to his father:

‘You suddenly feel his back arch, and it nearly cuts you in two.
Then you discover he has all four legs off the ground at the same
time. Finally you are shot into space, much in the same way as you
would go if a gigantic catapult propelled you. The sensation is not
pleasant, and the knowledge that all your mates are enjoying the
undignified manner in which you are unseated adds to the general
discomfiture. However, I am a fair rough-rider now, although there’s
one horse--“Brody’s buck-jumper,” he’s called--I cannot tackle, and no
other man on the place with the exception of Brody himself. There’s a
history attached to this animal which you may hear some day. Brody once
got him into a horse-box, I believe, and the passengers on the train
sent a deputation to the guard at the first stopping-place to have
the horse removed. Someone suggested the animal ought to be shot, but
Brody’s wrath was so great when he heard this that no further mention
was made of it. Anyhow, Brody’s buck-jumper had his own way, as he
always has, for the remainder of the journey.’

Yacka the black had taken to Edgar Foster from the moment he took his
hand, and during the six months that had passed he was constantly about
the homestead asking what he could do for him.

‘Bless me if I don’t think you’ll civilize Yacka in time!’ said Brody.
‘I never knew him come round here so much before. It’s all that
handshake did it.’

‘He’s a good fellow, although he is black,’ said Edgar. ‘I’m very fond
of Yacka, but I cannot quite make him out. He seems to have something
on his mind. I hope he has done nothing very dreadful.’

‘You never know what these black fellows are up to,’ said Brody; ‘but I
do not think Yacka is deceitful. Revengeful they all are, and if anyone
harmed Yacka or others belonging to him, I believe he would make it
particularly warm for him.’

Yacka followed Edgar about with dog-like devotion, and never tired of
doing odd jobs for him. Edgar watched the black carve wonderful scenes
on emu eggs, and it was extraordinary the faithfulness with which he
depicted birds and beasts on these brittle shells.

After taking particular care to carve one egg, Yacka, with a look of
fear in his eyes, handed it to Edgar.

‘Why, it’s a cave surrounded by rocks and shrubs,’ said Edgar. ‘Where
did you see it? There is nothing at all like that about here.’

‘No,’ said Yacka, ‘long way off. Tramp, tramp, for miles. Lonely desert
where no white man ever been--wonderful place. Like to see it?’

The black spoke eagerly, and Edgar saw there was something he had left
hidden, which he did not care for him to know.

‘It would be no good going such a long journey, Yacka,’ he replied,
‘because there are no people, and what is to be found when we get
there? We might starve on the way, or die from want of water.’

‘Plenty water,’ said Yacka. ‘I know the track; no one else knows it.
There!’ he exclaimed, as he smashed the emu egg he had been at so much
trouble to carve, ‘no one find it now, not even you.’

‘I should remember the place if I saw it,’ said Edgar. ‘You carve so
well, and I am sure what you carved on that egg is true to Nature.’

‘Come with Yacka, and I will show you much,’ said the black. ‘Make you
rich--richer than Master Fife, richer than your Queen; but you must go
alone with Yacka.’

The black spoke earnestly, and his eyes glistened.

‘I don’t see much chance of making a fortune or finding riches in a
desert,’ said Edgar. ‘Where is this wonderful cave that contains so
much wealth?’

‘Many miles,’ said Yacka; ‘over Great Desert in Northern Territory. It
is not all sand. No white man has been there; but Yacka has, and knows
there is grass and water, and food, plenty food.’

‘Are you certain no white man has ever been there?’ asked Edgar.

Yacka hesitated a few moments, and then said:

‘No white _man_.’

‘And no white woman?’ laughed Edgar, who noticed the stress Yacka laid
on man.

Yacka sprang to his feet, and waved his arms about wildly.

‘Come and see!’ he cried. ‘Come to the White Spirit’s Cave! I am the
son of Enooma!’

The last word he said in a soft, liquid tone, far different from his
usual rather harsh mode of speech; and he lingered over the name with
evident fondness.

Edgar became interested, and the spirit of adventure began to stir
within him.

‘Who is Enooma?’ he asked, endeavouring to speak the word as Yacka
pronounced it.

‘The White Spirit of the Great Desert,’ said Yacka, in a solemn voice.
‘She rests in the cave in the land I came from. She is beautiful and
white as clouds; and I am black as the thunder-makers--and her son.’

‘How can that be?’ asked Edgar. ‘Yacka must be mistaken; he cannot be
the son of Enooma the White Spirit. How can I trust him if he deceives
me?’

The black looked round, and, seeing no one about, said:

‘Yacka speaks true, else how would he know the cave where no white man
has been?’

‘Suppose I promise to go with you to the cave,’ said Edgar, ‘how would
it be possible for us to go alone?’

‘We have guns,’ said Yacka, relapsing into ordinary speech, ‘and there
is much to shoot where I go. We follow tracks through big white man’s
country, and cross rivers. I came from there, and can return. Yacka
knows a track once he has followed it.’

‘Give me time to think it over,’ said Edgar. ‘I trust you, Yacka, but
I have others to think about. I have a good sister, and a kind father,
in far-away England, and there will be dangers to encounter on our
journey.’

‘Yes,’ assented Yacka, ‘dangers, but we shall not die. The White
Spirit will watch over us when she knows we are coming towards her.
Enooma rests and waits for us. Speak no words to them,’ he added, and
pointed towards the homestead.

‘All you have told me I promise to hold sacred,’ said Edgar.

‘It is good,’ said Yacka, and calmly commenced to carve a snake on one
of the boomerangs, which he picked up from the ground where he had
thrown them.

Edgar Foster felt he was about to embark upon strange adventures. He
knew Yacka was no ordinary black, and Ben Brody had said he believed
Yacka had white blood in his veins. Who could this White Spirit Enooma
be, whom Yacka called his mother? Could it be possible a white woman
had penetrated to the unknown parts of the Northern Territory? If so,
how had she reached there? and how could it be that Yacka the black was
her son? Probably it was some superstition Yacka had inherited from his
tribe.

Edgar pondered over the story of riches Yacka had related. Gold was dug
out of the earth in most unlikely places. Barren wastes had been found
to teem with the precious metal. The possibilities of the country Edgar
felt were not yet known, and in a new and unexplored part of the vast
land he was now in what might not happen? He knew he could trust Yacka,
but he would have preferred to take a mate with him. Will Brown would
be just the one, and if he could persuade Yacka to take Will along
with them it would be glorious. He thought over the excuses he could
make to Captain Fife and Ben Brody for leaving Yanda. If he stated he
was prompted by a love of adventure they would believe him, and it
would be the truth. There would be no difficulty in getting away, and
no time for returning need be named.

Eagerly Edgar awaited the arrival of Will Brown in order to give Yacka
a chance of making friends with him.



CHAPTER XII. IN SEARCH OF ADVENTURES.


In due course Will Brown arrived at Yanda, and he was only too glad
to have the opportunity of meeting his chum, Edgar Foster, in the new
country to which he had come. As for Edgar, it was with unbounded
delight he welcomed Will Brown. They had much to talk about, and it was
a source of much joy to Edgar that he could listen to one who had so
recently seen those dear to him in the home he loved so well, on the
banks of the Thames.

When Edgar made known to Ben Brody his intention of leaving Yanda for a
time in search of adventures, the manager evinced no surprise.

‘I didn’t expect you would be here long,’ he said. ‘Young ‘uns like to
roam, and I don’t blame you. I’ve had enough wandering about to last
me a lifetime, and I’m settled for good here, so long as they will have
me. I shall be sorry to lose you, and I wish you had chosen to remain.
You have picked a good guide in Yacka. What that black chap knows is
beyond credit. He’s never said where he came from, but if I’m a judge
it is somewhere in the region of the MacDonnell Ranges. There are some
powerful savage tribes over there, and I’d advise you to steer clear of
them, that is, if you get so far; but you are a precious long way from
there, you bet.’

‘I do not know where we are going,’ said Edgar; ‘but Yacka has made
great promises, and if he fulfils them there will be something to talk
about when we return.’

Yacka, with some show of reluctance, agreed to Will Brown accompanying
them. He yielded when Edgar said he would not go without Will, for the
black was determined Edgar should undertake the journey.

The night before their departure they had a great ‘send off,’ all hands
coming into the homestead for the occasion.

The general opinion seemed to be that Edgar and Will were about to
follow Yacka purely for the sake of adventure, and the good fellows
thought all the better of them for their pluck and spirit.

Ben Brody had given each of them a good horse, and they had the pick of
the best guns on the station. Will Henton gave them a revolver each,
expressing the hope that they would clear the country of a few blacks.

‘I hope we shall not have to use them for any such purpose,’ said
Edgar; ‘but if it comes to a fight we shall be all there.’

‘You are going on a fool’s errand,’ said Harry Noke; ‘much better
remain where you are. I would not trust Yacka, or any other
blackfellow. It’s like enough he’ll lead you into danger out of pure
devilment.’

‘You are wrong,’ said Jim Lee; ‘Yacka’s square.’

‘Jim’s right,’ said Brody. ‘You’re riled, Harry, because you have not
pluck enough to go with them. As it is the last night, we must have
Yacka in and give him a drink.’

Ben Brody went into the veranda and gave a peculiar whistle, which
sounded shrilly on the still night air. In a few minutes Yacka appeared.

‘That’s fetched him,’ said Will Henton; ‘Brody’s a wonder at all sorts
of signals. I believe he’s a different call for every man on the place.’

‘Have a drink, Yacka,’ said Ben Brody. ‘What’s it to be, rum or beer?’

Yacka smacked his lips, and said, ‘Beer.’

‘That’s better,’ said Jim Lee; ‘rum’s a curse.’

Yacka drank the beer with evident relish.

‘Like a square meal?’ said Brody.

The black nodded, and Brody helped him plentifully to the remains of
the feast.

‘Where are you going to take these youngsters?’ said Ben Brody.

‘Long way,’ replied Yacka. ‘Bring them safe back.’

‘I hope so,’ said Brody. ‘Going in search of the lost tribes?’

Yacka grinned, showing his gleaming teeth.

‘All tribes lost since the white men came,’ he replied.

‘Guess you’re about right there,’ said Brody. ‘Black and white cannot
live side by side; one of them’s bound to go, and it’s the black. Now,
if they were all like you, Yacka, we could get on well together. Bless
me if I don’t believe you are half a white man!’

A peculiar look came into Yacka’s eyes.

‘Think so?’ he said. ‘Black skin, white man’s heart.’

‘Bravo!’ shouted Brody. ‘You shall have another glass for that. Fill
up, lads! Here’s to our mates, and a safe journey along with Yacka!’

All hands were becoming hilarious, and began to sing ‘For they are
jolly good fellows.’

When the noise subsided, Brody said:

Do you want a horse, Yacka?’

The black shook his head, and slapped his legs.

‘Yes, I know,’ said Brody; ‘your legs will carry you quite as far as
any of our station nags. You’ll accept a gun, eh?’

The black sprang to his feet, and said:

‘A gun for my own! Very good, Master Brody; I like a gun.’

‘Then you shall have one,’ said Ben. ‘I know you can shoot.’

Yacka went through a performance of shooting an imaginary object in
such a realistic manner that everybody laughed.

It was a merry night, and all slept soundly. In the morning Edgar and
Will made a start from Yanda with Yacka, who was on foot, and the black
looked the picture of a trained athlete.

Yacka had discarded his ordinary loin-cloth, and wore instead a
peculiar arrangement in which he could stow away a variety of articles.
He declined to wear any other clothing, and his body shone in the
sunlight, and the muscles stood out on his arms, chest, and lower
limbs. His curly hair was sufficient protection to his head from the
burning sun, and it was in much better condition than the shaggy
locks of the blacks who were looking on. Yacka had evidently told the
blacks he was leaving Yanda, and they looked as disconsolate as their
expressionless faces would permit.

As for Edgar and Will Brown, they were in high spirits, and, mounted on
two very fair horses, thoroughly equipped for a journey, they looked a
fine pair of young fellows.

‘You’ll strike a station about sundown, I reckon,’ said Ben Brody.
‘They’ll be glad to see you if you say where you hail from, although
it makes very little difference about that round here. Take care of
yourselves, my lads, and I hope Yacka will bring you back to Yanda
soon.’

After hearty handshakes all round, the trio set off amidst cheers and
the loud, peculiar cries of the blacks. Ben Brody watched them for a
long time, and waved his hat in response to the salutes of Edgar and
Will.

‘Lads of mettle, both of ’em,’ said Brody. ‘Such a wild-goose chase
as they are on would just have suited me in my young days. Good luck
go with you, my lads! You’ll always have a warm corner in Ben Brody’s
heart.’

As the homestead they had left behind became fainter and fainter in
the distance, Edgar and Will turned round in their saddles and waved a
parting salute to Ben Brody, whose figure was just discernible on the
veranda.

As the morning wore on, the heat became intense, and in the afternoon
it was so hot they decided to camp under the shade of some trees.
Towards evening they went on again, and that night slept in the open,
with their saddles for pillows and the bare ground for a bed. Had it
not been for the constant singing and stinging of the mosquitoes, they
would have had a pleasant night, as the air was soft and warm, and they
needed no covering.

Yacka stretched himself out near them, and slept like a dog--half awake
and ready to spring to his feet at the slightest sound. At daybreak
they made a slight meal, and then proceeded on their journey. Yacka
went ahead, and at such a pace that the horses often had to break into
a canter to keep up with him. They arrived at Bardo Station that night,
and met with a hospitable reception.

Charles Brunt, the manager, was rather amused at the idea of a couple
of lads going in search of adventure, with a blackfellow as guide and
companion. He knew Yacka, and was of the same opinion as Ben Brody,
that the black had white blood in his veins.

‘This is a hospitable land, anyhow,’ said Edgar, when they had been
away from Yanda for about a fortnight, and had managed, through Yacka’s
guidance, to fall in with comfortable quarters almost every night.

As they went on, however, Edgar saw they were gradually getting into
a wilder country, and farther away from the beaten track. Yacka said,
when questioned, he was taking a short cut, and that he knew the way.

‘Where are you steering for?’ asked Edgar.

‘South Australian border,’ said Yacka. ‘Then we work up to the
MacDonnell Ranges, past Alice Springs. You’ll see wild country then,
when we get through the ranges.’

‘How long will it take us to reach the ranges?’ asked Will.

‘Long time yet,’ said Yacka. ‘Many miles’ tramp a day. Horses will
knock up, but not Yacka, then you have to walk it.’

‘A pleasant prospect,’ said Edgar. ‘We may have to tramp hundreds of
miles. However, we are in for it, and we may as well see all Yacka has
to show us. I shall be sorely cut up if he has deceived us.’

‘Do you think he would do so?’ asked Will.

‘Not intentionally,’ replied Edgar; ‘but what may appear wonderful to
him may be commonplace to us.’

Having got out of the beaten track, they had to rely upon their guns
for food. They had an ample supply of ammunition, preferring to load up
their horses in this way to carrying provisions. Edgar was a good shot,
and seldom missed his mark.

‘We must be careful and not miss,’ he said, ‘for every shot is of
importance.’

One afternoon they had an exciting chase after kangaroos, and Edgar and
Will thought it excellent sport. Yacka followed the hunt, and when he
suddenly vanished, Edgar in a few minutes saw him ahead, waiting for
the kangaroos to pass.

‘By Jove! how Yacka can run!’ said Edgar. ‘Look where he is now. He’ll
get a kangaroo sure enough, without firing a shot.’

They reined in their horses, and watched him. When the kangaroos
found the chase was not so hot, they slackened their speed, and leapt
along at a steadier pace. Yacka was concealed behind a huge tree,
and as a large kangaroo went past he slipped quickly round and dealt
it a terrific blow with a heavy knobstick he carried in his hand.
The kangaroo fell down stunned, and with a whoop Edgar and Will rode
forward, in case any of the herd should make an attack on Yacka. When
they pulled up, they found Yacka had cut the animal’s throat, and was
contemplating it with satisfaction.

Will, having dismounted, picked up the stick Yacka had struck the
kangaroo with. It was smooth, hard wood, with a notched handle, and
gradually swelling larger until, at the end, there was a sharp, smooth
knob, which was so heavy it might have been weighted with iron.

‘A formidable weapon,’ he said, holding it out to Edgar.

‘That is a nulla-nulla,’ said Yacka. ‘Crack a man’s skull easily.’

‘What is it weighted with?’ asked Edgar.

‘Nothing,’ said Yacka. ‘Very hard, heavy wood, all smoothed down with
sharp stone and rubbed with coarse sand. Never break it. Hard as iron.’

‘Are they used in your tribal wars?’ asked Will.

Yacka nodded and said:

‘Terrible blows from them. Split a man’s head right open. See!’ He took
the weapon from Edgar, and with one blow shattered the dead kangaroo’s
skull. It split in two, and Yacka scooped out the brains. He then cut
off the tail, and said, ‘Have good soup to-night. This fellow make
better soup than ox-tail.’

They shook their heads sceptically; the tail did not look very inviting
then.

Yacka selected a spot to camp in near a small spring of water. He
then proceeded to make a fire, collecting sundry dry pieces of wood
and a kind of moss for the purpose. He filled the large ‘billy’ can
he carried during the day slung across his back with sundry other
articles, and, having skinned the kangaroo’s tail, cut it up into small
pieces, and put it in the can.

How he managed to make it so tasty Edgar could not imagine, but it was
delicious, and they voted Yacka was right when he said it was better
than ox-tail.

‘Yacka’s a capital cook,’ said Will, ‘and the beauty of him is that he
wants so little to cook with.’

‘He’d rather surprise some of the modern cooks,’ said Edgar. ‘They
appear to contrive to do away with the genuine flavour of everything
they cook, and Yacka makes a point of retaining that flavour.’

How they did enjoy this wild life! and, so far, their powers of
endurance had not been severely tested.



CHAPTER XIII. BY THE LAGOON.


They had been more than a month away from Yanda, and Edgar began to
wonder where their march would lead them. Yacka did not vouchsafe much
information, but kept steadily on his way at a pace that astonished
them. Mile after mile was traversed, and their guide showed no sign of
weariness or flagging.

One beautiful moonlight night they camped by the shore of a large
lagoon, which reminded them of a small lake in their own country. It
was a magnificent sight, this sheet of still water glistening in the
moonlight, the trees which overhung it reflecting weird shadows on the
surface.

‘I had no idea there were such lakes as these,’ said Edgar. ‘There must
be a lot of good shooting about here.’

‘Plenty of ducks and herons,’ said Yacka. ‘I will get you some ducks
without firing a shot.’

They were interested in watching Yacka catch wild ducks. The black
crept cautiously into the water, and then sat down amongst a lot of
cover, which hid his head from view. Presently they heard a call such
as the wild duck makes.

‘That’s Yacka,’ said Edgar. ‘He can imitate the cries of all kinds of
birds and animals. Look! there’s a flock of wild ducks coming over.’

The birds flew right into the lagoon, and settled down on the water
not far from Yacka. In a few minutes there was a flutter in the water,
and the flock rose quickly and flew rapidly away, leaving three of
their number struggling entangled in a fine-meshed net Yacka had thrown
dexterously over them. Yacka stood up, and, seizing the ducks one by
one, quickly killed them, and brought them to the shore where Edgar and
Will were sitting.

‘Cleverly done,’ said Edgar. ‘If we run short of ammunition there is
little fear of starving when Yacka can effect such captures.’

The ducks were spitted and roasted, Yacka as usual acting as cook, and
they were thoroughly enjoyed. Wild bees seemed plentiful, and Yacka
went in search of honey, which he soon found in the hollow of a tree.

So pleasant was it by the lagoon that they rested there for several
days, enjoying bathing in the lukewarm water, and finding plenty of
birds to supply their daily wants. Yacka captured a native bear, a
curious little fellow with a woolly skin, and a sharp, inquiring face.
When tucked up he looked for all the world like a big ball. Huge
lizards were occasionally seen gliding about, and the shrill cries of
parrots were heard overhead. At night the peculiar cry of the laughing
jackass was heard. A flock of black swan passed by, but did not settle
on the lagoon. They also saw pigeons, wild geese, plover, and quail,
and a couple of pelicans.

So interesting was the wild life of this lagoon that Edgar was loath
to move on into less hospitable country, but he saw signs that Yacka
was becoming impatient, so decided to resume their march. They left the
camp by the lagoon with much regret, and cast many a wistful glance
behind.

‘It will be a long time before we strike such a good camping-ground
again,’ said Edgar.

‘Wait until you reach Yacka’s country,’ said the black; ‘find plenty
sport there. My tribe help you hunt and fish in big lakes and rivers.’

‘To which tribe do you belong?’ asked Edgar.

‘MacDonnell Ranges,’ said Yacka; ‘but we have gone miles and miles
further north to the land of Enooma, the White Spirit, across sandy
desert. My tribe very old and warlike. Their country goes far into the
Northern Territory.’

‘So your tribe is known as the MacDonnell Ranges blacks,’ said Edgar;
‘but you have a native name, I expect. What is it?’

‘The Enooma,’ said Yacka. ‘We are the favoured tribe of the great White
Spirit.’

‘And you are the son of Enooma,’ said Edgar. ‘Then we are safe with
you.’

‘No one will harm the friends of the son of Enooma,’ said Yacka.

‘Why did you leave your own country?’ asked Edgar.

‘To wander far and learn much. It was the wish of Enooma, and she must
be obeyed. I have been in big cities--Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and
Brisbane, and have learned many things and seen much evil,’ said Yacka.

‘And how did you get on to Yanda Station?’ said Edgar.

‘From Queensland. I went to Adelaide first, and then walked to the
other big cities. From Brisbane I went on until I came to Yanda, and
there I camped.’

Yacka went on ahead, and Edgar said to Will:

‘It will be worth all our travels if we can clear up this mystery
about Yacka’s birth. He must have been taught by white people, or he
would not speak as he does. It is getting more and more interesting.
Who would have thought when we were at Redbank we should in so short a
time be tramping over the wilds of Australia with only a black for our
companion?’

‘I wonder what they are up to at Redbank now?’ said Will.

‘The usual routine work,’ replied Edgar. ‘We had some jolly times
there.’

‘I wish I could make a fortune!’ said Will suddenly.

Edgar laughed as he replied:

‘It does not look much like it at present, but there is no telling what
may happen. Yacka says he can make me rich, and if so you will have a
share in the plunder. Why do you wish to make a fortune? You were not
always such a mercenary fellow.’

‘Because I love your sister, and I want to be in a position some day to
ask her to be my wife. Now do you understand?’

‘Yes,’ said Edgar, ‘and I wish you luck. Doris is a lovable girl, and I
know you will try and make her happy. It is a long time to look ahead,
but there is nothing like having an object in life to make a man
successful.’

‘You know my object,’ said Will. ‘What is yours?’

‘To earn a good name, and to make my father proud of his son,’ said
Edgar.

‘Then you will certainly succeed,’ said Will, ‘even if you have not
done so already.’

Edgar laughed as he said:

‘I have not done much at present to earn a name for myself. If ever I
become a rich man, I will try and do good with my money. I have always
found there is a lot of pleasure in helping other people.’

‘You always manage to get on with people,’ said Will. ‘You have even
made a staunch friend of Yacka. How did you manage it?’

‘By treating him more like a human being than a dog,’ said Edgar. ‘Of
course, Yacka is not like most of the natives. They are a dull, stupid
lot, what I have seen of them so far, and it would be almost impossible
to teach them anything. I believe Yacka could be taught just the same
as a white man.’

One night, as they were camping under the shade of some bushes, Edgar
was awakened by something cool touching his face. He put out his hand
and felt a cold, smooth substance, which he at once knew must be a
snake. He sprang to his feet, clutching the snake and flinging it from
him. The noise roused Will, and Yacka was quickly on the alert. It was
too dark to see anything, but Yacka shifted their camping-ground. In
the morning Yacka came across a venomous yellow snake, which he killed
and brought to Edgar.

‘Yellow snake,’ he said; ‘dangerous! Deadly poison! Almost as bad as a
death adder! Yacka skin him,’ which he at once proceeded to do.

Edgar congratulated himself upon a lucky escape, for had the snake
bitten him there would have been but little chance of his continuing
the journey. For breakfast Yacka was busily engaged in roasting strips
of flesh, but neither Edgar nor Will could think what animal he had
killed to provide their meal.

‘What have you got there?’ asked Will. ‘I hope you’re not toasting that
snake.’

Yacka shook his head and said:

‘You try it first, then I will tell you what it is. Very good indeed!’
and he smacked his lips.

They enjoyed the tasty morsels, and Yacka informed them it was the
flesh of a species of iguana, one of the lizard tribe.

Will shuddered as he said:

‘I confess it tasted all right, but I do not think I should have eaten
it had I known what it was.’

They were about to resume their journey, when they heard someone
‘cooeying’ loudly, and the sound proclaimed the person was some
distance away.

Yacka had carefully avoided meeting wanderers in the country they had
come through, and when he heard the ‘cooey’ he held up his hand, and
they stopped.

‘Let us see who it is,’ said Edgar. ‘It will be a change to meet a
stranger.’

‘All right,’ said Yacka; ‘I know where that comes from. We are near the
telegraph route. Send news from Adelaide right across the country to
Port Darwin. It is men, perhaps, looking after the line.’

‘Bravo!’ said Will. ‘We shall at least be able to hear some fresh news.’

They proceeded in the direction of the sound, and in the course of a
quarter of an hour came upon a camp, where four white men were sitting
down smoking and chatting.

‘Hallo! what have we got here?’ said one of the men, as he saw Yacka
advancing in front of Edgar and Will.

‘Glad to see you,’ said Edgar, stepping forward. ‘We have not had any
company but our own for such a long time that we are thankful to have
fallen in with you.’

‘You’re welcome,’ said the man. ‘Where do you hail from?’

‘We have come from Yanda station, in the west of New South Wales.’

The man stared at them in amazement.

‘What, just as you are? You two youngsters, with this blackfellow!’

‘Yes,’ said Will. ‘My friend was going alone with Yacka, but as I
wanted to be in it if there were any adventures, they decided to take
me along with them.’

‘Well, upon my word,’ said the man, ‘you’re a couple of good plucked
’uns! Do you know where you are?’

‘I have not the faintest idea,’ said Edgar, ‘but Yacka has.’

‘You seem to have a good deal of confidence in this blackfellow,’ said
the man, eyeing Yacka closely.

‘We have,’ said Edgar. ‘He’s a fine fellow.’

‘That’s more than I can say for some of his kind,’ said the man. ‘It
was only the other week one of our fellows was murdered beyond the
Ranges by some of these blacks.’

‘Revenge!’ said Yacka quietly. ‘How many of the black men had he
killed?’

‘Blest if the fellow can’t speak English as well as I can!’ said the
man in astonishment. ‘Maybe it was revenge, but we don’t allow black
men to kill white men without making an example of them.’ Turning to
Edgar he said: ‘I like the look of you, young fellow, and your mate. My
name’s Walter Hepburn, and I’m in the Government service, and stationed
at Alice Springs, where the telegraph office is. We’ve been repairing
on the line, and are on our way back to the Springs. If you care to
come on with us, I have no doubt we can show you some fun.’

‘How far are we from Alice Springs?’ asked Edgar.

‘A couple of days will take us there.’

‘Then we shall be very pleased to go with you, and thank you heartily
for your invitation. My name is Edgar Foster.’

‘What! the young fellow who saved the skipper’s baby from the wreck of
the _Distant Shore_?’ exclaimed Walter Hepburn.

‘Yes,’ said Edgar sadly; ‘we were the only two saved.’

‘Give me your hand, lad,’ said Walter Hepburn; ‘I’m proud to shake it.
Here, lads, give three cheers for Edgar Foster!’

The men gave three ringing cheers, that echoed far and wide.

It made Edgar’s heart beat fast to hear them in this wild country.

Good deeds make themselves known and felt the wide world over, and
their influence can make men better even in a wilderness.

Yacka was pleased at the reception given to Edgar, and his black face
was all smiling.

‘That blackfellow’s uncommon fond of you, I reckon?’ said Walter
Hepburn.

‘He is,’ said Edgar. ‘Yacka planned this expedition for us, and we are
in search of adventures, and want to see the country.’

That night Edgar and Will enjoyed a hearty supper with their newly-made
acquaintances; and Edgar had to relate how he was rescued, and how he
saved Eva from the wreck of the _Distant Shore_.

When Edgar mentioned to Walter Hepburn that they were going far beyond
the Ranges with Yacka, he looked serious.

‘If you’ll take my advice, you will make for Adelaide from Alice
Springs. It is over a thousand miles from there to Adelaide. If you
go on north, to Port Darwin, that is over nine hundred miles. Where
does Yacka, as you call him, want to take you on the other side of the
Ranges?’

‘That is his secret,’ said Edgar, ‘and I cannot tell you what he has
told me. Before we started from Yanda I meant to go through with this
business, and I’ll do it if I live.’

‘I admire your pluck,’ said Walter Hepburn; ‘but what is the use of
risking your life when there is no object to be gained?’



CHAPTER XIV. ON THE OVERLAND LINE.


A couple of days after their meeting with the telegraph repairers
the party arrived at Alice Springs--the most interesting of all the
stations on the overland telegraph line. Alice Springs stands high
above the sea-level, and there is magnificent and interesting scenery
in the district, the valley in which it lies being of exceptional
beauty.

As Edgar looked at the scene mapped out before him, he could not help
expressing astonishment at what he saw. Alice Springs he had imagined
as a bare, desolate spot, and here he saw the great MacDonnell Ranges
lying to the north, the source of rivers, creeks, and springs, the
valley stretching far away to east and west. The River Todd, running
close by, lends a picturesque charm to the scene.

There were numerous people about when the party arrived, as Alice
Springs is the repeating station on the line, and consequently a
considerable number of officers were employed. The buildings were not
particularly enchanting, but they were useful and commodious. Several
trees were scattered about, affording a comfortable shade, and the hot
winds had not scorched up all vegetation.

The officers employed at Alice Springs Station were a genial, jovial
lot of fellows; and when Edgar and Will had been duly introduced by
Walter Hepburn, they were at once made at home. After travelling
so many miles, and living on the produce of their guns and Yacka’s
ingenuity, it was a treat for them once more to come across
civilization. They were feasted and made much of, and the inevitable
race-meeting was got up in their honour.

Edgar noticed there were a good many men about besides the officers
employed on the station, and he did not like the look of some of them.
They had a hang-dog expression on their faces, and a lazy, loafing way
of idling about that spoke ill for the manner in which they managed to
knock out a living.

‘You have some queer customers about here,’ said Edgar to Walter
Hepburn.

‘You mean those fellows over yonder,’ he replied.

‘I guess you’re about right--they are queer customers. They are
out-and-out “spielers,” and you generally find them loafing about in
the interior wherever there is a new settlement. They are always in
fairly strong force around here, and when we have races they are only
too ready to make wagers which they have no intention of paying. Some
of our fellows are foolish enough to bet with them, and out of sheer
despair at getting up a game of cards, I have known them play with
these men. Needless to say, our fellows never win. These “spielers”
know too much for them. In my opinion, they are worse than the blacks,
and a greater danger to settlers. Horse-stealing and swindling they are
always ready for; but they are cowards when fairly tackled, and soon
seek fresh fields when a place becomes too hot to hold them.’

‘Strange how such men can find occupation here,’ said Edgar.

‘Well, you see, it’s this way,’ said Walter Hepburn. ‘Settlers in a
new country, where white men are scarce, and blacks are dangerous and
hostile, are only too glad to give a white man a welcome. No questions
are asked as to who or what the white man may be, but they take it for
granted his company must be an improvement on their black, quarrelsome
neighbours. I’ve known blackguards like those you see over yonder stay
at a place for a week, and then clear out with the best horses and
anything else they could conveniently take away.’

‘I saw a couple of them eyeing our horses over a short time back,’ said
Will Brown, who came up and heard the conversation. ‘Yacka says we had
better leave our horses behind when we go beyond the Ranges, and call
for them as we return; that is, if they will care to have them here.’

‘You can leave them with pleasure if you wish,’ said Walter Hepburn,
‘and I’ll promise to look after them for you as well as I can. You will
certainly not have much use for horses if you are going west after you
cross the ranges. It is, so far as we know, very little else but desert
between here and West Australia. As I told you before, I am afraid
you are undertaking a great risk, and all to very little purpose. You
may as well remain here a week or two, and then return south towards
Adelaide. You’ll have had enough of it when you reach there, without
going farther north.’

‘I’ll consult Yacka, and hear what he has to say,’ said Edgar, and
walked towards the black, leaving Will with Walter Hepburn.

Edgar explained what Hepburn had said, and Yacka replied:

‘I will go with you to Adelaide, if you wish; but you will be sorry
for it. We have come so far, let us go on. These men know nothing of
Enooma’s country. They have been lost in the desert and never found the
green land. Come with me, and I will show you much. Yacka has said he
will make you rich. Come and see if the son of Enooma speaks true.’

‘You say we had better leave our horses here until we return,’ said
Edgar. ‘How far have we to go beyond the ranges?’

‘Long way,’ said Yacka, ‘but fine country. We soon leave the sand
behind, and then you will see much better place than Yanda.’

‘I will go with you,’ said Edgar, and Yacka was pleased. ‘We will leave
here in a few days.’

During the time they remained at Alice Springs there was plenty of
amusement. Local races, and a cricket match filled in the time, and
Edgar managed to impress it upon them that he could handle a bat.

Yacka amused himself in various ways. He kept aloof from everyone,
and sat looking on at the various games in a contemplative style that
amused Edgar.

The numerous ‘spielers’ about the place found time hang heavily on
their hands, and two or three of them thought to pass a few hours away
by teasing Yacka, and trying to work him into a frenzy. These vile
wretches were adepts in the art of ill-using and insulting not only
blacks, but white men, when they got the chance, and when there was but
little danger connected with it.

Yacka was quietly carving a stick, when three of these vagabonds came
up to him. One jerked the stick out of his hand and flung it away,
another upset the log upon which he was sitting, and the third kicked
him in the ribs as he lay on the floor.

Then these three white men with black hearts got a surprise from the
black man with a white heart. Yacka sprang to his feet with a yell. He
seized the nearest man round the waist, lifted him off his feet, and
flung him over his shoulder, as easily as only a practised wrestler
could. The man fell with a heavy thud upon the ground and lay there.
Yacka bounded upon the next man before he had recovered from his
surprise, and would have treated him in a similar way. The noise,
however, attracted the attention of the ‘spielers’ mates, who came
running up, and Yacka was surrounded by enemies.

The black’s eyes fairly blazed as he looked round at the cowardly crew
hemming him in on every side. He could not see a loophole of escape, so
he determined to fight for liberty. Yacka knew well enough if these men
got him down he would probably be kicked to death.

A blow on the back of his head warned him his persecutors meant
business. Yacka could see no weapon handy, so he used his fists, and
struck out right and left with tremendous effect. Three of the crew
measured their full length on the ground in almost as many seconds.
Yacka’s blows fell fast, but he could not guard himself at the rear as
well as in the front. Blows fell upon his head and made him dizzy, and
he knew he could not hold out much longer.

‘There’s a row going on outside,’ said Walter Hepburn, as he got up
from the table where they had just been refreshing themselves, and went
to the door.

‘Hang me if it is not that black chap of yours! The “spielers” are on
to him. Come along, quick, or they’ll do for him!’

Edgar and Will jumped up, and the three ran towards the scene of the
encounter.

They were only just in time. One of the gang of cowards attacking Yacka
struck him a severe blow on the head with a heavy stick, and the black
fell on to his knees. No sooner was he down than a brutal assault was
made upon him. Edgar outstripped his companions and was first on the
scene. He said nothing, but he began to knock the ‘spielers’ about in a
manner that left no doubt as to his hitting powers.

Will Brown and Walter Hepburn were not slow to follow his example, and
although they were opposed to more than double their own number, the
trio quickly drove the ‘spielers’ away, some of them much the worse for
the encounter.

Edgar knelt down beside Yacka, who was lying on the ground half stunned.

‘The brutes!’ said Edgar. ‘They have mauled him badly. How do you feel,
Yacka? Any bones broken?’

The black smiled feebly and said:

‘No bones broken, Master Edgar, but I have got a bad head. I could
have beaten the first three, but more came up and they got at me from
behind.’ Seeing Hepburn, he added significantly: ‘That is what causes
revenge, and the killing of white men.’

‘I’m not surprised,’ said Will. ‘You cannot expect a blackfellow to
stand such brutal conduct as this.’

‘No,’ said Hepburn, ‘but the worst of it is the innocent suffer for the
guilty. These brutes get off scot-free, and some poor settler meets
with his death.’

‘Yacka has never killed a man what you call a settler,’ said the black.

‘No one supposes you have,’ said Edgar. ‘Can you walk?’

Yacka managed to stand on his feet, but his head swam, and he felt
dizzy.

‘Bring him into my shanty,’ said Hepburn. ‘I can’t stand even a
blackfellow being knocked about in this style.’

The ‘spielers’ were hanging about as they led Yacka into Hepburn’s
house. As he entered the door the black turned and shook his fist at
them, and a cruel look came into his eyes.

Hepburn saw it and whispered to Edgar:

‘I would not give much for one of those fellows’ chances of salvation
if Yacka got him alone.’

Had it been a white man the ‘spielers’ had set upon, they would have
been hustled out of the place quickly enough, but a blackfellow more
or less did not seem to matter with the bulk of the men. The majority
of them would have knocked a ‘spieler’ down with the greatest of
satisfaction, but even in such a case as the assault upon Yacka they
were inclined to regard the black as the aggressor. This feeling
naturally aroused Edgar’s indignation. He had not lived amongst
savage blacks as most of these men had, and gone with his life in his
hands every time he went a few miles up country. The blacks in many
cases undoubtedly attacked peaceful settlers and murdered them in a
treacherous manner. This naturally aroused a feeling of intense hatred
against the original inhabitants of the country, and all blackfellows
were treated alike. When the settlers treated the blacks kindly it was
regarded by them as a sign of weakness, and an encouragement to attack
them. Arguments such as these Hepburn used to convince Edgar the white
men had good reason for hating the black.

‘The Finke blacks,’ said Hepburn, ‘are a peaceable lot; but when you
get into the Musgrave and MacDonnell Ranges, and farther north, it
is necessary to be well armed if you wish to come back again. I have
been there and know, and that is the main reason I have endeavoured to
persuade you not to go with Yacka.’

‘It would be cowardly on our part to desert Yacka now,’ said Edgar,
‘nor have we any inclination to do so. I would sooner trust a whole
tribe of blacks than the brutal fellows who attacked him.’

Hepburn saw it was useless to argue more, so he said good-naturedly:

‘If you are bent upon proceeding, you must let me supply you with more
ammunition. You will want it, I am afraid, unless Yacka is well-known
to the northern tribes.’

‘You’re a brick!’ said Will enthusiastically, ‘and I for one will
accept your gift.’

‘It’s a good while since I heard that expression,’ said Hepburn. ‘It
reminds me of my school-days.’

‘Where were you put in training?’ asked Edgar with a smile.

‘At a grand old school, which I dare say you have heard of,’ said
Hepburn. ‘I was educated at Redbank.’

Edgar and Will gave a whoop that startled Hepburn, and before he could
realize what had happened, he felt both his arms being worked up and
down in a rapid style that took his breath away.

‘Hold on, lads!’ he gasped; ‘you’ll have my arms off. What the deuce is
the matter with you?’

‘This is the most extraordinary thing I ever heard of,’ said Edgar.

‘I see nothing very extraordinary in my having been educated at
Redbank,’ said Hepburn, ‘except the fact that I might have done the
school more credit, considering the training I received.’

‘We are Redbank boys,’ said Edgar.

It was Hepburn’s turn now, and the pumping process recommenced. They
almost danced for joy, and Yacka, who was lying on the camp-bed,
thought they had gone suddenly mad.

‘Bless my soul! it is remarkable after all,’ said Hepburn. ‘To think we
Redbank fellows should all meet in this outlandish spot! The world is
very small.’

What a night they made of it, and they were still talking over the
glories of Redbank when the morning light made the lamp grow dim.



CHAPTER XV. THROUGH THE RANGES.


Edgar Foster learned that Walter Hepburn had gone to Redbank a term
or two after his father left the school. Hepburn was therefore well
acquainted with the prowess of Edgar’s father in the cricket-field. It
seemed very strange that they should all meet at Alice Springs, and it
was a date to be noted as a red-letter day when the discovery was made.
Had Walter Hepburn been free to leave his post, he would, after finding
out they were Redbank boys, have joined them in their travels farther
north. School ties bind men fast together, especially when such a good
feeling existed as always did amongst Redbank lads.

The time came for parting, and when Yacka was sufficiently recovered
they left the station amidst general regret, and a universally
expressed wish to see them safe back again.

Yacka was quite himself as soon as all traces of civilization were
left behind. Once in the ranges he revelled in the mountain air, and
appeared familiar with every pathway. In one place they had a difficult
task to perform. Yacka led them up to a gigantic cleft in the rocks,
which towered high above them on either side. Between these high, rocky
walls flowed a river, and up it Yacka said they must swim.

‘It will save a big climb over the rocks,’ he said, ‘and I can take
your clothes on my head.’

There was nothing for it but to strip, and Edgar and Will were not
averse to a good swim.

Yacka tied their clothes in a bundle, and placing the guns on the top,
put them all on his head, far out of the reach of the water. He had
tied the bundle under his chin with a strap, and it was marvellous to
watch how he swam up the river with such a load on his head.

Edgar and Will plunged in after him, and found the water very cold; but
the exertion of swimming kept the circulation of their blood up.

‘By Jove! it was a cold bath,’ said Will, as he stood drying himself in
the sun. ‘It must be the rocks make it like iced-water.’

‘Very refreshing on a hot day,’ said Edgar. ‘They would give a trifle
to have such a cool bathing-place at Yanda.’

As they proceeded they came across a number of watercourses and hills
and valleys. They climbed to the top of high rocks, and descended again
into level lands. At sundown they were tired out, and could hardly
eat the supper Yacka prepared for them. No sooner had they finished
their meal than they were sound asleep. But Yacka did not sleep; he
stood looking down at them with his big eyes, and seemed to be in deep
thought. The moonlight showed his black form standing over the two
sleepers, and his attitude was one of dejection.

‘How white they are,’ he muttered, ‘and Yacka so black! but they are
not as white as Enooma, and Yacka is her son.’

He sat down, and commenced to reason in his own way as to why he should
be black, and the two sleepers white. He could find no satisfactory
solution to the problem. Yacka knew naught of the white man’s God, but
he had a wonderful amount of superstition in his nature, and a firm
belief that the White Spirit watched over him. Yacka had no fear of
death; he would have laughed at such a thought, and yet he did not
understand what death really meant. Had the blackfellow been able to
express what he really thought about death, it would have been to the
effect that it was merely the White Spirit’s way of rewarding him for
his work here by carrying him off to a country where he would be happy
for ever. Yacka slept but little that night, but he was awake early,
and ready to start again.

The ranges were passed, and they were now in more open country. On the
lowlands were numerous bushes, mulga on the hills, and gum and tea tree
in the creeks. Plains of salt-bush could be seen, but on to the west
they descried grass-land.

For several days they tramped on, living on the simplest fare, and yet
feeling strong and well, and fit for almost any exertion.

‘Where are all the blacks we heard so much about?’ said Edgar. ‘We have
met none yet.’

‘We shall be in the Enooma country by sunset to-morrow,’ said Yacka;
‘then you will see men of my tribe.’

Yacka spoke truly. The next night they came across a blacks’ camp. To
Edgar’s surprise there were between two and three hundred of them. As
they approached Yacka made a peculiar sound like the shrill cry of a
parrot, only with quite a different note, which roused the blacks, and
several rushed forward to meet them.

When they saw Yacka the effect was astonishing. At first they looked at
him in amazement, then an old man cried aloud, ‘Yacka! Yacka! Enooma!
Enooma!’ and the whole of the blacks, surrounding him, knelt before him.

There was a proud look on Yacka’s face as he motioned them to rise.
Then he spoke rapidly in the native tongue, and pointed to Edgar and
Will.

The blacks gave vent to warlike cries, and, shaking their wooden
spears high in the air, drove them into the ground with terrific force.

‘That means they will kill any man who does you harm,’ said Yacka. ‘You
are safe here, and the whole tribe will protect you.’

They moved towards the camp, and at their approach the blacks stood up
and awaited their coming with eager and excited looks.

Yacka was known to them, and was evidently an important man with the
tribe. Edgar fancied they regarded him with something akin to fear, and
said to Will:

‘We were right to trust Yacka, for these blacks stand in awe of him,
and we shall be safe with them.’

‘They are a savage-looking lot,’ said Will, ‘and I should not care
to have come amongst them alone. If these are the men who molest the
settlers, I am not surprised at the white men hating them.’

The blacks were tall, powerful men, of a far different stamp to those
in the west of New South Wales. Yacka was small beside some of them,
and many were six feet high and over. They were all armed with native
weapons, and were well prepared for any encounter. As they were in
such strong force, Edgar came to the conclusion they must be on the
war-path, and questioned Yacka.

‘They are always armed,’ said Yacka. ‘The Curracoo tribe are their
deadly enemies, and when they meet they fight.’

‘I never heard of that tribe,’ said Edgar.

‘The Enooma and the Curracoo are not known except in this part of
Australia,’ said Yacka. ‘They are tribes of the MacDonnell and Musgrave
blacks. They fight savagely. The Curracoo wish to seize the white
spirit of the Enooma, and think to capture her; but they know nothing
of our country, nor of the caves we are going to.’

The blacks regarded Edgar and Will with much curiosity, and from the
manner in which many of them pointed at their own bodies and then at
Edgar’s, he thought they could not have seen many white men. It was a
strange sensation for the two friends to lie awake in the midst of a
camp of over two hundred savage blacks, and wonder what was about to
happen.

Early in the morning they were aroused by loud warlike cries, and Yacka
hurried up to them and said:

‘Follow me; the Curracoo are at hand, and there will be a fight.’

‘And if the Enooma are beaten, what will become of us?’ said Will.

‘The Enooma will win,’ said Yacka. ‘If beaten, Yacka can save you.’

He led them to a small hill not far distant from the camp, and bade
them remain until his return.

‘You can see the fight,’ he said, ‘and there is no danger.’

‘This is a lively situation,’ said Edgar. ‘With all due respect to
Yacka, if his tribe is defeated, the Curracoo will make short work of
us.’

‘There they are!’ said Will, pointing excitedly to a dark mass moving
across the open country.

‘It seems to me there are some hundreds of them,’ said Edgar; ‘far more
than the Enooma. This is a poor look-out, Will. We must be prepared to
fight for our lives.’

As they stood on the rising ground they had a splendid view of the
plain below, and were soon absorbed in the scene before them. The two
bodies of blacks were approaching nearer and nearer, and neither tribe
shirked an encounter. They could see Yacka standing some distance
apart, and evidently directing the movements of the Enooma.

‘Yacka has learned something in the big cities,’ said Edgar; ‘look
where he has sent about fifty men round that clump of trees, where they
are hidden from the enemy. They intend to make an attack on the rear
that will prove successful.’

Suddenly, and without a moment’s warning, the whole scene changed. On
the plain, that a moment before had contained two bodies of blacks
advancing towards each other, there was now a confused mass of figures,
uttering terrible cries and fighting like furies. The sound of blows
could be heard above the din, and the grass was dotted with the forms
of fallen blacks. They were at too close quarters for spears, and
were using heavy nulla-nullas, and warding off the blows with wooden
shields.

They saw Yacka quietly surveying the scene, and wondered why he did not
join in.

‘He is waiting for a favourable opportunity,’ said Edgar. ‘Those men
behind the trees have not moved yet.’

The cries of the fighting blacks became more and more wild and furious.
They looked like fiends dancing about in a frenzy, and dealing blows
on every hand. One huge fellow, a chief of the Enooma, did terrible
execution with an enormous weapon which he whirled about like a
battle-axe, and Edgar and Will watched him with a fascination that
deadened all sense of their own danger if the tribe suffered defeat.

‘Look at him!’ said Edgar. ‘He’s mowing them down like grass. No one
can stand in his way. His wrist play is splendid--it reminds me of club
exercise at school.’

‘It’s a trifle more exciting than that,’ said Will. ‘What strength
the fellow has! He could fell an ox with one of those terrible blows.
Nothing can stop him.’

As though to give the lie to his words, a black, nearly as big as the
Enooma chief, barred his way, and a desperate combat took place. Both
men had wooden shields with which they dexterously warded off the
blows. They were evenly matched, although the Enooma black was a shade
taller than his opponent. Both were mad with rage and thirst for blood,
and it was a duel to the death.

‘He’s down!’ shouted Edgar, as the Enooma chief slipped; but it was
only a feint, as the black, dodging a blow aimed at his head by his
opponent, suddenly raised himself. The Curracoo overbalanced himself
with the force of the blow, and fell forward. As he stumbled along, the
Enooma, raising his huge club on high, brought it down with tremendous
force on the back of the Curracoo’s head. Where they stood they could
hear the blow, and Edgar shuddered as he saw the black’s head split
open, and he fell dead on the ground.

Seeing their champion killed, the Curracoo wavered; and, seizing this
favourable opportunity, Yacka, uttering a loud war-yell, sprang forward
and called upon the men in ambush to follow him. In a few minutes the
Enooma blacks were furiously attacking the Curracoos in the rear.
Unaccustomed to these tactics, the Curracoos were terrified, and at
once tried to run away from the danger. This, however, was impossible;
they were hemmed in on all sides, and by merciless foes who knew not
the meaning of the word ‘quarter.’ It was a fearful sight to see these
blacks felled to the ground by the heavy blows rained upon them on all
sides. The Enooma were bent upon slaughter, and killed their enemies
without mercy. The plain had every appearance of a battle-field, and in
some places half a dozen blacks were piled in a heap, dead.

At a signal from Yacka the Enooma ceased fighting, and, surrounding the
blacks still left alive, held them prisoners. These men were disarmed
and marched off towards the camp. A few of the Curracoos could be seen
flying from the scene of the battle which had proved so fatal to them,
but comparatively few of them escaped.

Yacka came to Edgar and Will, and they saw he was almost covered with
blood, and his club was dripping dark-red drops. The black’s eyes shone
with the light of battle and thirst for blood. All the savage nature of
this strange being was roused, and the cruelty in him was uppermost. He
shook the blood-stained club over his head, and said:

‘Victory to the Enooma. There has been a terrible slaughter. Come and
see. Yacka will show you how the Enooma strike their enemies.’

Edgar and Will descended from the hill where they had witnessed the
fight, and followed Yacka on to the field of battle.



CHAPTER XVI. AFTER THE FIGHT.


It was indeed a terrible sight the two friends gazed upon. On the
ground where the fight had furiously raged lay scores of dead blacks in
all attitudes, just as they had fallen. It made them shudder to look
at the scene. The terrific nature of the blows dealt was apparent, for
most of the dead had their skulls fractured, and their features were
ghastly and distorted. Their weapons lay near them, and Edgar picked
up the club which the powerful black who fought the Enooma chief had
used. It was a great weight, and fully three feet long, and capable of
dealing a fearful blow, even in a weak man’s hands. The end was covered
with blood and hair, showing that the Curracoo had killed many enemies
before he was slain.

‘You will bury these men?’ asked Edgar.

‘The Enooma must have burial,’ said Yacka; ‘the Curracoo are not fit to
be hidden away;’ and he struck a fallen black, who still showed signs
of life, over the head with his club.

‘That was a cowardly thing to do,’ said Edgar.

‘They are not fit to live,’ said Yacka, and went on.

‘What a brute he is, after all!’ said Will, in a low voice. ‘He is no
better than the others.’

‘He is a savage at heart,’ said Edgar, ‘and we must make allowances for
him.’

‘If he kills defenceless men like that,’ said Will, ‘I would not give
much for our lives if he felt disposed to turn upon us.’

‘He will not do that,’ said Edgar. ‘We are his friends, these men his
enemies. Had the Curracoo won, they would have treated the Enooma in
the same way. This savage warfare is the same the world over, I expect.
It is a horrible sight.’

‘Over a hundred killed,’ said Yacka, with a savage smile; ‘and we have
many prisoners.’

‘Shall you kill the prisoners?’ asked Edgar.

‘Yes; and leave them as a warning to the tribe.’

‘How will they be put to death?’ asked Edgar, who had read of the
tortures inflicted by savages in Africa and elsewhere.

‘That will be decided,’ said Yacka. ‘The Enooma know how to kill their
enemies.’

After a gruesome tramp over the battle-field, they returned to the
camp. The victorious Enooma were already commencing to celebrate their
triumph.

Edgar saw a group of prisoners, about forty or fifty in number, bound
with thongs made of some kind of reed or long grass. They all looked
terror-stricken, and evidently knew what was in store for them.

‘Poor wretches!’ said Will. ‘It would be a kindness to shoot them.’

‘We must not interfere,’ said Edgar. ‘It would be risking our lives to
do so. Even Yacka would not stand that.’

‘You saw a dance at Yanda,’ said Yacka. ‘You will see a genuine war
dance soon.’

Towards night the big men of the tribe assembled round Yacka, and all
squatted on the ground.

‘They are deciding the fate of the prisoners,’ said Will. ‘I hope it
will not be very awful.’

The consultation did not last long, and Yacka came towards them. He
seemed pleased at the prospect before him, and laughed harshly.

‘It is good,’ he said. ‘All die a dog’s death.’

‘Will they be hanged?’ asked Will.

‘Some,’ said Yacka. ‘Wait and see.’

There were many trees near the camp, and they had big white branches a
good height from the ground. Ten of the Curracoos were brought forward
and thrown down under the trees. They were then raised feet first, and
bound with their heads downwards round the trunks of the trees. Others
were drawn up, feet foremost, over the branches, and left hanging with
their heads touching the feet of the others.

Edgar protested to Yacka, but he took no notice. The black was looking
at the fearful scene with savage delight. There was no mercy to be got
out of Yacka, so Edgar did not speak to him again.

Other blacks were brought to these trees, cast down on their faces, and
spears were driven through their backs, pinning them to the ground in
such a manner that they could not get free. Their cries were fearful,
and made the place seem like a hell upon earth. Some of the cruelties
were too fearful to relate, and yet Yacka watched it all with fiendish
glee. When the last prisoner had been tortured and left to die a
lingering death, Yacka was satisfied.

‘We cannot trust you after what we have seen,’ said Edgar. ‘We shall go
back. Guide us to Alice Springs; if not, we must risk it, and go alone.’

Yacka was dumfounded. He could not understand the reason of their
distrust in him. He had acted according to the customs of his tribe,
and knew, had the Curracoo won, the Enooma would have been treated in
a similar way. It was the fortune of war. The Enooma had gained the
victory; why should the white men mistrust him because the tribe had
taken their just revenge?

‘Yacka is your friend,’ said the black. ‘You have come to no harm. We
make war in our own way. You kill many men with big guns. I have seen
them fired. They kill many at one shot. It is more terrible than our
wars.’

‘We do not torture prisoners,’ said Edgar. ‘You are no better than
these savages.’

‘I am the son of Enooma,’ said Yacka; ‘therefore I am the head of them.
The head guides the body. I am the chief, the king, and I am above them
all.’

‘You are as cruel as they are,’ said Edgar. ‘If you are the King of the
Enooma, why did you not kill these men at once, not torture them?’

‘It is the will of Enooma,’ said Yacka, ‘and she must be obeyed.’

‘The White Spirit would never allow men to be tortured,’ said Edgar.
‘There is no White Spirit over the Enooma; it is a black spirit, and
full of evil.’

‘You saved Yacka’s life,’ said the black, ‘and he is grateful. If my
tribe know you call Enooma a black spirit, Yacka could not save you.
Follow me. It is not far. Yacka will lead you back when you have looked
upon the White Spirit, and seen the gold and beautiful stones.’

The agonized groans of the tortured blacks sounded terrible, and Edgar
said:

‘Kill these men, and we will go with you.’

Yacka hesitated, and Edgar, noticing it, said:

‘I took your hand in friendship; now it is stained in blood. Kill these
men, and I will forgive you, and the White Spirit will be glad.’

‘It shall be,’ said Yacka, and moved away towards the camp.

How he prevailed upon the tribe he did not say, but the tortured men
were killed, and their groans ceased, much to Edgar’s relief.

After this experience, there was no telling what might happen if
another encounter took place with a hostile tribe, and the Enooma were
defeated. Yacka, however, had no intention of proceeding alone, and
Edgar and Will found the tribe was to accompany them. Marching many
miles a day in the company of a tribe of warlike blacks was a novel
experience. Edgar had many opportunities of noting how they lived and
their habits. He soon learned that the Enooma were excellent marksmen,
and could throw a spear with as great accuracy as he could shoot. They
used their boomerangs dexterously.

Yacka was an adept at throwing this peculiar weapon, which is almost
in the shape of a half crescent, and is made of very hard wood, smooth
and shaved down to a sharp edge on the inside curve. Yacka could throw
his boomerang high into the air, until it appeared a mere speck, and it
came down in a series of curves until it fell at his feet. No matter
how far he threw the boomerang, it invariably returned to him.

The first time Edgar attempted throwing a boomerang he was rather
astonished. Instead of going high into the air, it gave a few curves,
then flew rapidly backwards, and Edgar had to duck his head quickly to
avoid a blow.

‘It is not so easy as it looks,’ he said to Will. ‘Have a try?’

Will took the weapon and tried, with no better result; in fact, he came
off worse than Edgar, for he got a severe blow on the shin. The blacks
were amused at the white men’s clumsy attempts to throw the boomerang,
and their grins of satisfaction exasperated Edgar.

‘They imagine we can do nothing in this line,’ he said to Will. ‘We
must undeceive them, or they will have a very poor opinion of us. We
have not many shots to spare; but it may be as well to show them how
deadly a gun is.’

Edgar explained to Yacka that it was not fair the blacks should have it
all their own way.

‘Throw your boomerang, and I’ll engage to hit it in the air,’ said
Edgar.

Yacka did not care to risk his own boomerang, which was carved in a
fantastic manner, so he took another, and, after telling the blacks
what Edgar was about to do, he flung it into the air.

As it came circling down Edgar fired and hit it, but it did not split
with the shot; the marks, however, were plainly visible, and the blacks
were not only terrified at the noise, but amazed at the result. It was
Will’s turn next, and he elected to try his luck with the revolver.

Yacka fastened one of the blacks’ loin-cloths to a tree, doubling it
into a small space. These cloths were made of thick skin, probably
kangaroo, and when doubled it offered strong resistance to a bullet.

Will fired at twenty paces. The bullet passed through the skin and
flattened against the tree. On seeing this, the blacks regarded the
revolver with much interest, but would not handle it.

The Enooma blacks were athletic fellows, and could run, jump, and
wrestle in a manner that surprised Edgar, who knew a good deal about
such sports.

In his Redbank days Edgar had run his hundred yards in even time, and
he was in splendid condition now.

One of the Enooma, called Ouwana, they noticed was a fine runner, and
Will suggested Edgar should try his speed against him.

Yacka, as usual, arranged matters.

Ouwana was a tall, lithe-limbed black, about twenty years old, and with
a less repulsive cast of countenance than many of his tribe. He was
quite willing to run Edgar, and Will measured out the distance as near
as he could stride it.

Yacka acted as starter, the signal being a loud clap of the hands, and
Will was judge. The blacks grew quite excited over the race.

Yacka’s hands met with a crack like a pistol, and, trained as he had
been to start smartly, Edgar gained a slight advantage. He ran his
best, but before he had gone fifty yards it was a hopeless case, as
Ouwana passed him like a flash, and simply won hands down.

Edgar was amazed, not so much at being beaten, as by the easy way in
which it was done.

‘He’s a champion,’ said Edgar.

‘He would be good enough to win one of those big handicaps we saw
advertised in the Sydney paper before we left Yanda. How much was the
prize money?’

‘About six hundred pounds, I think,’ said Will; ‘I wish we had Ouwana
there.’

‘So do I,’ said Edgar; ‘it would be rare fun to see the black fellow
“down” the cracks.’

The days passed quickly, and Edgar and Will had no thought of time.
They did not even know what month it was, and were dead out of their
reckoning as regards the days of the week.

What surprised them most was the fertile nature of the country. They
had passed across a vast sandy plain, and taken some days to do it,
but ever since they left it behind they had been tramping over what
Edgar knew would not only be excellent sheep country, but would also
carry cattle. Grass was plentiful--not brown, dry grass, but green and
juicy--proving there had either been recent rain, or there was plenty
of moisture in the earth.

It was not a flat, dull, and uninteresting country, for there were
hills and valleys, and trees and shrubs, and beautiful wild flowers and
blossoming trees were found in many places. Wild berries and fruits
they found, and running streams of water, which seemed to find their
source in the many caves with which the mountains were honeycombed. In
some of these streams, which at times were sufficiently large to be
called rivers, crocodiles were found, both large and small. The larger
crocodile was voracious, and it was not safe to bathe when any of them
showed their ugly heads, but the smaller species was harmless, and
never ventured to attack them.

The Enooma blacks were fond of the water, and often risked their lives
bathing and swimming where crocodiles were to be seen.

Ouwana was especially venturesome, and often speared a crocodile in the
water.

Yacka said he had seen Ouwana fight a crocodile, with a shortened spear
like a dagger, for the mere excitement of the sport.

Edgar managed to further earn the goodwill of the blacks by saving
Ouwana’s life.

The black dived into the stream, and was swimming in the centre, when a
huge crocodile appeared close beside him. The hideous creature opened
its monster jaws, showing great ugly teeth, and in another moment
would have ended Ouwana’s career. Edgar luckily had his gun with him,
and, taking a steady aim with the barrel used for ball, fired. The
crocodile sank like a stone.

Ouwana was unaware of his danger, and at first thought Edgar had fired
at him. This roused all the ferociousness in the black’s nature, and it
would have gone hard with Edgar had Yacka not come up and explained.

When Ouwana found out what Edgar had done he showed his repentance for
doubting him, and his thankfulness for his delivery from a fearful
death, by kneeling down and putting both arms round Edgar’s legs. He
then looked up into his face with such sorrowful eyes that Edgar patted
his woolly head, much as he would have done that of a big dog.



CHAPTER XVII. WONDROUS CAVERNS.


‘Look!’ said Yacka, pointing to a range of hills in the distance.
‘There you will find the cave of the White Spirit, and your journey
will be ended.’

Gazing in the direction the black indicated, they saw hill upon hill
towering one above the other like a number of huge pyramids. It was a
strange sight in this wild country, where it was doubtful if ever a
white man had set foot before.

They were all eagerness to continue the journey, but Yacka said this
could not be. Certain forms and ceremonies were to be gone through
before he could venture with them into the hills and caves where
Enooma, the White Spirit, lay at rest. Only the head of the tribe was
permitted to enter the cave, and so superstitious were the blacks upon
this point, that they believed it meant certain death to anyone of
their number who disobeyed. Consequently Yacka would have no difficulty
in showing Edgar and Will what the cave contained, as he alone could
enter.

Yacka had stated to the tribe that the white men were come to see
Enooma, who was of the same race, and therefore they must be permitted
to enter the cave.

At the foot of the nearest hill--it could almost be called a
mountain--they halted, and the blacks commenced a wild, weird chant
which sounded like the wail of lost spirits. They prostrated themselves
upon the ground, and made signs with their spears.

Yacka stepped on ahead, and beckoned to Edgar and Will to follow, which
they did without hesitation. The other blacks came on at a respectful
distance, and seemed afraid that something was about to happen. In the
side of the hill they were approaching, Edgar saw a large cleft in the
rock wide enough to admit half a dozen people to pass in abreast. These
hills were all solid rock, not merely mounds of earth, and were bare
in many places, while in fissures grew trees, and wild creepers hung
down in great profusion. Orchids were growing of exceptional beauty,
and Edgar, as he looked at them, thought of the price they would bring
in the old country. As they entered the cleft in the rock the blacks
remained behind, and squatted down on the ground.

‘They guard the entrance,’ said Yacka. ‘When no one is here this
opening in the rock closes up, and no one can find the cave of Enooma.’

Edgar wondered how Yacka knew the cleft closed up if no one was there
to see such a strange thing happen.

‘How can you tell that,’ he said, ‘if you have never seen it?’

‘Rest and listen,’ said Yacka: ‘You never believe I speak truth because
I am black. Once the Enooma were defeated by the Curracoo, and fled
before them to these hills. They were so hard-pressed that they had
to rush through the cleft in the rock, and when the last of the tribe
passed in the cleft closed and shut the Curracoo out. This is true, for
men of the tribe have told me, and they do not lie to the chief.’

Edgar believed this to be another superstition of the blacks, but he
could not resist looking behind him towards the cleft they had entered
by. With a loud cry he sprang to his feet, for behind them there was a
solid rock, and he could see nothing of the blacks they had left. Will
looked, and turned pale as he saw they were shut in.

‘How is this?’ said Edgar. ‘What has happened?’

‘Enooma has closed her gate,’ said Yacka. ‘She knows of the approach of
her son and the white men, and she wishes to be undisturbed.’

Edgar walked back to where he imagined the cleft in the rock by which
they entered had been, but he could see nothing but a solid mass in
front of him. He felt the rock and it was hard and firm, and must have
been there for ages. How had this strange thing happened? Yacka must
have suddenly turned as they walked along, and the opening become
hidden, but as they entered the black appeared to have gone straight on.

‘I give it up,’ said Edgar. ‘We seem to be blocked in here, and shall
have to trust to Yacka to get us out. It makes a fellow feel queer when
such strange things happen, but I have no doubt there is an explanation
of it if we can find it out.’

The place they were now standing in was a narrow defile between rocks
towering up perpendicularly to a considerable height. These rocks were
bare and smooth, and not a plant or fern could be seen growing on the
sides. Before them was the mouth of a cave, and inside seemed dark as
pitch. Yacka walked to the mouth of the cave, and they followed him.
When they became accustomed to the gloom, they saw a faint glimmer
of light, about the size of a bull’s-eye lantern glass, in the far
distance. So far as Edgar could make out, the sides of the cave were
rocks, but smoothed in a similar way to those on either side of the
defile they had left. The floor of the cave was hard and even, in some
places so smooth that it became slippery and dangerous. Yacka did not
speak, but kept moving slowly forward, and they could see the dim
outline of his figure.

‘It must have been the action of water for ages that has made the floor
so smooth,’ said Edgar. ‘How cold it is after the heat we have had!
Reminds me of a petrifying cave. I believe if we remained here long
enough we should be turned into stone.’

‘I have no desire to be turned into a petrified mummy at present,’ said
Will laughing; ‘but you’re right about the cold--I am chilled to the
bone.’

‘How much more of this is there, Yacka?’ said Edgar, speaking loud
enough for the black, who was some way in front, to hear him.

The sound of his voice echoed through the passage, and gradually died
away in the distance.

‘Wait,’ said Yacka. ‘Be careful here.’

They had need of the warning, for they were now treading upon something
soft and slimy, and the sensation was not pleasant. They slipped about
and made but little progress, and were glad when the ground felt hard
and dry again.

The round ball of light at the end was gradually widening, and they
could now see more plainly the nature of the passage they were
traversing. Looking up to the roof Edgar saw thousands of glittering
stars, which flashed and twinkled even with the faint light from the
opening.

‘Look, Will,’ he said; ‘how lovely this roof would be if there was more
light! They might be diamonds, they sparkle so.’

‘Wish they were,’ replied Will. ‘A few diamonds would help a fellow
along--you know in what direction I mean.’

‘Yacka has promised to make us rich. I wonder if he will let us take
what we like if there is anything to take?’

It was a mass of various-coloured stalactites on the roof that had
attracted Edgar’s attention, and as they got more light in the passage
they were seen in all their beauty. The sides were also covered with
curiously-twisted and gnarled designs. As they neared the opening they
saw the sun was shining brightly, and that they were about to enter an
open space. They were not, however, prepared for the sight that burst
upon their astonished gaze as they stepped out of the darkness into the
full light of the sun. Yacka watched them with a delighted expression
in his eyes, and had evidently anticipated the surprise he was about to
give them.

They were so charmed with the scene that they sat down and looked upon
it without saying a word. The spot they were in was like a large basin
hollowed out of the solid rocks. The sides sloped down gradually, and
were hollowed out at the base. Had there been tiers of seats round, it
would have resembled in shape a vast amphitheatre. There was, however,
something far more picturesque than bare seats round this wonderful
circle. The whole of the basin was covered with a kind of green moss,
which looked like velvet as the sun shone upon it.

This velvet bed was studded with a profusion of flowers of all colours,
shapes, and sizes. Brilliant orchids selected the most shady nooks to
fix their abode in. Huge white convolvulus spread over projections and
clumps; lilies of great height filled in spaces where water lodged, and
gently trickled down into a pool in the hollow of the basin. Great nest
ferns surrounded the water, their fronds, over six feet long, spreading
out like large fans. The miniata had its large carmine blossoms showing
to perfection, the colour being dazzling. Pandanus and screw palms also
grew amongst the giant ferns and lilies. Floating on the water in the
basin were gigantic water-lilies.

So scooped out was this basin, that there was an ample shade for the
numerous ferns and lilies that do not flourish with the full light of
the sun upon them. Surrounded by such lovely flowers and ferns, and
with a cool pool of water to make everything refreshing, it is small
wonder, after their recent experiences, that Edgar and Will fancied
themselves in an enchanted spot. How it all came here no one could
fathom. Nature fixes upon strange spots in which to work at her best.
All they knew and cared about was that in an unexplored part of
Australia they had come upon such a wonderful scene.

Yacka assured them this was a mere nothing when compared with the cave
of Enooma.

The place they were now in he described as the bathing-place of Enooma,
and said the waters from the caves did not run into this place.

‘You can drink this water,’ said Yacka, ‘but not that in the caves. It
is bitter, and will turn the tongue hard, and you will have no taste.’

It always struck Edgar as curious that, no matter where they happened
to be, Yacka could invariably procure them a good meal. Even in this
spot, where it did not seem likely they would be able to find much to
relieve their hunger, Yacka got berries and roots, some water from the
pool, and made quite a pleasant, and what proved to be a strengthening,
drink. He also gave them a root which he said would appease hunger for
a time whenever tasted.

Yacka would not allow them to linger here, but walked round the basin.

Edgar saw no outlet except the one by which they had entered. At the
far side Yacka pulled aside the dense masses of ferns, and they saw an
opening large enough to admit of a man crawling through. Yacka went
first, and they followed on their hands and knees.

This passage was about fifty yards in length, and at the other end
was an open cave, which was lighted by a hole in the roof, naturally
formed. Gliding down the walls were glistening drops of water, and
the floor was very uneven, and covered with masses of rock that must
at some remote period have become detached from the roof. Some of the
tracery on the walls Edgar looked at with wonder. It was of a rich
cream colour, and almost like the texture of a cashmere shawl.

All sorts of shapes and figures could be seen caused by the action of
the water, which must have taken thousands of years to perform its
work, and would take thousands more years to complete it. Hanging from
the roof were large pendants like icicles, and the water ran slowly
down them and dripped off at the end. The hollow underneath caused by
these drips showed the extreme age of the cave.

Leaning against the side of the cave Edgar saw close to him what at
first looked like a bunch of grapes; but when he observed it closely he
found it was a peculiar formation in the rock.

‘That is one of the secrets,’ said Yacka. ‘It is a guide to the inner
cave we must enter. Watch.’

Yacka pushed the bunch of grapes, and a large slab of rock moved slowly
round, and through the opening they saw another large cave beyond.

‘Enter and wait,’ said Yacka.

‘Are you coming?’ said Edgar.

‘I will fetch you,’ said Yacka; ‘but I must enter the White Spirit’s
cave before you, or harm may befall.’

‘I don’t half like it,’ said Edgar. ‘We are not afraid, but you had
better go on with us.’

Yacka said: ‘You must remain alone.’

‘All right,’ said Edgar, sitting down on a projection from the rock;
‘but make haste back.’

Yacka went away, and when they looked round they found the rock had
swung back into its place, and they were imprisoned in the cave.



CHAPTER XVIII. THE WHITE SPIRIT.


It was not a pleasant sensation to find themselves alone, shut up in a
cave, only a faint glimmer of light being visible, and from which there
appeared to be no means of escape. There was a peculiar clammy dampness
about the atmosphere, and a strange vault-like smell. It might have
been an old tomb, so weird was everything surrounding them.

‘The stone must have swung back into its place,’ said Edgar. ‘Yacka
will open it when he returns.’

‘All the same, I don’t like it,’ said Will. ‘Suppose he could not move
the stone again. If anything happened to him, we have very little
chance of getting out.’

‘There is no occasion for alarm at present,’ said Edgar. ‘I trust
Yacka, and he will soon return. To pass away the time we may as well
examine the cave. It is evidently only one of many. The whole of these
rocks and hills are honeycombed.’

They stepped cautiously, and felt the sides of the cave, finding them
smooth and even.

‘Here is another of these peculiar formations like a bunch of grapes,’
said Edgar. ‘Perhaps there is another stone that swings round. We can
try at any rate.’

He pushed the hard knob, as he had seen Yacka do, and cried out
excitedly:

‘It moves, Will; come and help me! Push hard! I can feel it giving way.’

Slowly the huge stone moved, and there was an opening wide enough for
them to pass through.

Edgar went through first, but came back quickly when Will called out
the opening was closing up again and the stone swinging back into its
place. Edgar had just time to step back into the cave when the stone
swung to.

‘That is the way the other must have closed up,’ said Edgar. ‘It made
no noise. Let us have another try, the cave on the other side is much
larger than this.’

‘If we get through,’ said Will, ‘the stone will swing back, and we
shall be worse off than before. Yacka will not be able to find us when
he returns.’

‘He will follow us,’ said Edgar. ‘He must know of this cave and the way
to enter it.’

‘If you mean going on, I will follow you,’ said Will.

They moved the stone again, and this time they both stepped quickly
through before it swung back.

The cave they entered was, as Edgar said, much larger than the one they
had just left. It was lighted by the same dim light, but they could not
see from whence it came.

‘Here is another knob,’ said Will. ‘They must have been made by the
blacks. Perhaps we are on the way to the cave of Enooma. I wonder what
Yacka will think if we reach it before him.’

‘He will think we have been guided there by the White Spirit,’ said
Edgar, ‘and will regard us with superstitious awe. It would be a good
thing if we could come across the cave he spoke of without his help.’

The stone turned in a similar way to the others, but this time they
found themselves in a long passage, like an old mining tunnel in a rock.

They walked cautiously along, but there was more light here than in
the cave they had left. Edgar kicked a loose stone and it rolled some
distance in front and then vanished, and they heard a splash. The stone
had fallen into a deep hole, and as they peered down they saw the water
rolling slowly along at a considerable depth.

‘It must be an underground river,’ said Edgar. ‘We have had a narrow
escape.’

They shuddered to think what would have befallen them had they not
been warned by the stone. Round one side of the opening was a narrow
pathway, and along this they passed safely to the opposite side,
looking well ahead in case there should be more of these death traps.

The passage wound through the rock in a tortuous manner, and after they
had gone a considerable distance, they sat down to rest and wonder
where it would lead them. Will wished they had remained in the cave and
waited for Yacka’s return, and Edgar began to think he had ventured
upon a foolhardy journey.

‘We are in for it now,’ he said, ‘and shall have to go on, for we
cannot find our way back, and even if we did, we could not push the
stones round from this side. It looks very much like the workings of
an old mine, but there can have been no mining done here, because the
blacks know nothing of such work. What’s that?’

They listened intently and heard a faint sound in the distance like
someone in pain and wailing aloud.

‘Come along,’ said Edgar, ‘there is someone ahead of us.’

They walked on as fast as they were able, and presently came to the end
of the passage. Here they found another stone blocking the exit, but it
had been partly pushed aside as though someone had just entered, and it
had not swung back into its place. Edgar passed through, and as he did
so held up his hand to caution Will not to make a noise.

It was a strange, weird sight they saw. They had entered another
large cave, but it was of a totally different formation to those they
had seen. At the far end of the cave was a beautiful crystal wall
nearly thirty feet high. The stalagmites were short and thick, and the
stalactitic formations extremely long, many being over a hundred feet
in length. Massive deposits could be seen on all sides heaped up in the
most curious manner. Many of them were of a wondrous salmon colour,
others were deep red, and brown, and several glittered with a dull
blood-red glow.

They were awed by this grand, majestic freak of Nature. To the left
was another passage, full of magnificent columns of stalactites and
stalagmites, all pure white and diamond-like in brilliance; they seemed
to be coated with sparkling and lustrous gems. These columns rose from
floor to roof like huge pillars in some vast cathedral. They were of
different formations, but all about the same height. All the colours
of the rainbow sparkled in the various pillars, and the effect was
dazzling.

Passing down this magnificent column passage, untouched by the art of
man, and marvelling at its strange beauty, they came to a beautiful
shawl-like formation of the purest white, which hung suspended from the
roof between two massive pillars until it reached within a yard of the
floor. This curtain was of the most delicate pattern, the tracery being
very fine, in some places almost as fine as a spider’s web. There were
designs on it of flowers and leaves unlike any they had ever seen in
reality. It was evident this curtain shut off some chamber beyond from
the passage of columns they had just passed through.

Edgar was about to speak, when they again heard the wail that had
before startled them.

This time it sounded nearer, on the other side of the curtain, and
Edgar stooped down in order to pass underneath. Will followed him, and
both clutched their revolvers.

They were now in a richly-stocked chamber of large size, the colours
on the rock and the roof being of a dazzling white, like alabaster. In
a recess at the end was a white recumbent figure, resting on a huge
salmon-coloured slab, from which hung down like drapery a yellow-tinted
curtain of stone, with red-veined tracery running through it in all
manner of intricate shapes and ways.

Before this stone figure, resting upon its hard bed, knelt the black
figure of Yacka, standing out with extraordinary distinctness from his
white surroundings. Yacka prostrated himself before the white figure,
and from time to time gave a low, yet piercing, wailing cry.

They stood looking upon the strange scene in silence, and neither felt
inclined to break it.

Yacka suddenly seemed to be aware that someone was present, for he rose
to his feet and, turning round, faced them.

He did not seem at all surprised to see them, and beckoned to them to
advance.

When they reached the stone upon which Yacka stood, the black said:

‘Kneel, kneel. This is the White Spirit of the Enooma. This is Enooma,
and this is her cave. She dwells here. She has lived here from the
beginning, and Yacka is her son. Kneel before the White Spirit.’

To humour him they knelt. There was something solemn about the
proceedings--something it was difficult to understand. As they knelt,
Yacka wailed again, and the peculiar cry echoed through the white,
vaulted chamber.

‘I knew you would come,’ said Yacka. ‘Enooma told me you would find
your way. She whispered to me that you were of her race, and her
people.’ The black’s voice had a sad tone in it. ‘She has found her
white sons, and the poor black must know her no more; Yacka is no
longer the only son of Enooma. He has brought you to her, and she
claims you as her own. You are of her race and her people. Rise and
look upon the face of Enooma, the White Spirit, and say did Yacka speak
false when he brought you here.’

Edgar and Will rose to their feet, and, standing on a large slab which
Yacka pointed out to them, they looked down upon the figure before them.

To Edgar it looked like the figure of a very beautiful woman carved in
alabaster. She lay on her back, with her hands hidden beneath the folds
of a fine piece of stone lacework. The lower part of the figure had a
similar covering, so that the actual part of a woman visible to them
was the face only. But the lace covering of the body was of such fine
work that the figure could almost be seen underneath.

The face of Enooma wore a calm and peaceful expression, such as is
invariably found upon the carved monuments of the dead, and bearing but
little sign of the mind that worked within before death.

‘Can this be the image of a being that once lived here?’ said Edgar to
Will.

Yacka stood some distance away, and could not hear them.

‘Impossible,’ said Will. ‘No white woman has ever been here.’

‘It may not have been a white woman,’ said Edgar. ‘Carved as this is,
one could not tell whether the original was black or white. It is an
alabaster figure, or looks like it.’ He touched the figure on the face
with his hand, and drew it back suddenly. ‘It feels quite hot,’ he said.

‘Probably so intensely cold that you imagined for the moment it burned
you,’ said Will.

Edgar touched the face again, but, strange to say, could not keep his
hand upon it.

‘You try,’ he said; and Will put his hand out.

Yacka saw the motion, and called out:

‘Touch her not! Only one must touch her.’

Will smiled as he said:

‘I will do her no harm, Yacka.’

‘At your own risk,’ said the black, ‘touch her, but do not blame me; I
warned you.’

Will put out his hand again, and then a strange thing happened. Before
he touched the face his feet slipped, and he fell off the slab with
such force that, his head coming into violent contact with the stone,
he was stunned.

Edgar jumped down and held up his head, and in a few moments Will
recovered his senses.

‘I warned you,’ said Yacka.

‘It was a pure accident,’ said Will.

Edgar made no remark, but he thought it a strange coincidence.

A peculiar rumbling sound was heard, and Yacka listened intently. In
a moment there was a terrific crash. The rock upon which they stood
shook, and the sides of the cave seemed to rock.

The slab upon which rested the White Spirit of Enooma rocked to and
fro, and the figure seemed to move.

Crash followed crash, and roar upon roar. The forces of Nature seemed
to have suddenly burst loose, and a general upheaval was taking place.
So violent became the oscillation, that they were compelled to lie down
on the floor of the cave.

‘It is Enooma’s welcome to her own people,’ said Yacka, who was not in
the least afraid.

‘It is an earthquake,’ said Edgar in an awestruck voice.

‘What is an earthquake?’ said Yacka.

Edgar made no reply. He could not. For the first time he felt a strange
fear creep over him. With a trembling hand he pointed to the white
figure of Enooma.

They looked with wondering eyes, and on Yacka’s face was an expression
of absolute terror. The slab on which Enooma rested cracked and split,
and the white figure disappeared from view.

With a terrible cry of rage Yacka sprang to his feet, and looked down
the opening into which the White Spirit of Enooma had disappeared.



CHAPTER XIX. THE FORCES OF NATURE.


As Yacka stood on the height above them, his black figure seemed to
grow and expand until he looked a giant in stature. His rage was
terrible, and his whole frame shook with wrath. Shock followed quickly
upon shock, but Yacka maintained his foothold, despite the violent
concussions that rocked the cave.

A huge piece of rock crashed down at Edgar’s feet, the broken portions
flying in all directions. They at once looked round for some place to
hide in, and some protection from the falling stones. Crawling along
on their hands and knees, they crept under a portion of the slab upon
which the white figure had rested, and which had fallen upon two large
rocks that upheld it. Under this they had a safe shelter, providing the
ground held firm. Above the roar and din of falling rocks they could
now hear the peals of thunder, which sounded like salvos of artillery.
A crack in the roof of the cavern admitted the lightning, which darted
in and out incessantly.

From where they were hidden they could see Yacka, who still stood a
solitary black figure amidst this chaos. The black was lost to all
sense of danger, even to the nature of the surroundings. One thought
alone absorbed him--the sudden vanishing of the white figure of Enooma.
He peered into the depths below him, but could see nothing; he waved
his hands wildly, and uttered loud cries.

Watching him intently, Edgar and Will were afraid every moment he would
jump into the fissure, or be hurled into it by a sudden shock. After
a few moments’ pause in this battle of the forces of Nature, another
shock was felt. They heard the same dull, rumbling sound, and felt the
vibration of the earth beneath them. The movement increased in force,
until they were rocked to and fro, and had to cling to the edge of the
slab for support. Another rush of fallen rocks and stones took place,
and after a terrific and prolonged peal of thunder a dead silence
reigned. After the deafening noise the sudden silence could almost be
felt; the change was marvellous.

‘It is all over,’ said Edgar. ‘Thank God, we are alive!’

They crept out of their hiding-place and looked for Yacka, but he was
nowhere to be seen. Hastily they scrambled on to the fallen slabs, and
looked down into the dark hole where the figure of Enooma had fallen.

‘Yacka, Yacka!’ shouted Edgar.

There was no answer, except a loud echo of his voice. Again Edgar
shouted, and this time there was a faint response.

‘He has fallen down,’ said Will. ‘How are we to reach him? He may be
fatally injured.’

They looked round for some means of descending in safety, and after
peering down the hole for some time Edgar said:

‘There is a light at the bottom, and now I can see better; the rocks
seem to be piled up in heaps. We may be able to descend by slipping
from one to the other. It is our only chance, and we must try it.’

They prepared for their perilous descent; they had no rope, and nothing
out of which a support of any kind could be made.

Edgar knelt down, and Will caught hold of one hand as he glided over
the edge.

‘All right,’ said Edgar, ‘I have a foothold here.’

Will followed, and the same operation was repeated, and Edgar again
found a firm footing lower down. He stood still, and helped Will to
follow him. It was slow work, but by degrees they neared the bottom.

Edgar looked down from the ledge upon which he was standing, and saw
Yacka lying near the foot of the rock.

‘Are you badly hurt?’ he called out.

‘Not much hurt,’ replied Yacka. ‘My leg pains, but is not broken.’

‘It is a big drop from here,’ said Edgar, ‘but it does not look a
dangerous place to fall on. I’ll chance it.’

He let himself down to his full length, and then dropped.

‘It is quite safe,’ he shouted to Will.

Will followed, and they found they were on a bed of moss and ferns that
had flourished in the darkness, and had been kept green by the dampness.

Yacka was not much hurt. He had slipped, and fallen a considerable
distance, and his descent had been checked by a projection in the rock.
From this he had gradually descended, much in the same way as Will and
Edgar.

‘Where are we?’ said Edgar. ‘This cavern must have been in its present
state a long time.’

‘It has,’ said Yacka. ‘This is the place I was to show you. The White
Spirit of Enooma guarded the entrance. The place where she rested
formed the opening. She fell down here, and is gone; Enooma will be
seen no more. When her treasure is gone there will be no need for her
to guard it. Her task is ended, and she will watch no more.’

‘If the figure fell on the moss and ferns it would not be much
injured,’ said Edgar; ‘we will search for Enooma while you rest here.’

‘It is not good for Yacka to remain; he will search with you,’ said the
black.

‘She must be near here,’ said Will. ‘See, there is the opening down
which she fell.’

They searched in every direction, but could find no trace of the
figure. Edgar felt they were treading on some soft substance like sand,
and, stooping down, felt it with his hands. It was like powder, quite
white and fine.

‘The figure must have crumbled away,’ said Edgar. ‘Look at this
powder’; and he handed some to Will.

Yacka looked at it curiously, and said:

‘Enooma has gone; the White Spirit has left her cave, and has shown no
sign.’

‘This is a sign,’ said Edgar. ‘Your white lady has crumbled to dust.
The figure must have been one of Nature’s freaks, and having become
decayed and rotten with age, has been ground to powder by the fall.’

‘I should like to know how the figure came where we found it,’ said
Will.

‘It was placed there by the Enooma years and years ago,’ said Yacka.
‘It was a pure block of white stone then, and no figure on it. The
White Spirit formed the figure, and Yacka is the son of Enooma.’

‘Was Enooma, your mother, a white woman?’ said Edgar.

‘I knew no mother,’ said Yacka. ‘She left me before I could speak. The
tribe knew she was white, and her spirit lived in these caves. Now the
spirit is gone, and the Enooma will seek a new country. It is good; we
have lived here too long. We shall go north, and be near the sea; that
will give strength to the Enooma, and make them strong big men.’

‘How are we to get out of this place,’ said Will.

‘Easy way out,’ said Yacka; ‘but hard way in.’

Edgar thought this strange, but waited to see what Yacka meant.

‘Come,’ said Yacka, limping along. ‘I will show you the riches of
Enooma.’

He led them along a dark passage into another cave, and here the light
streamed in from a cleft in the rock. Gold glittered in heaps on the
floor. There were nuggets of gold almost solid, and some as large as a
goose egg. They were scattered about in reckless profusion. There were
diamonds of small size, uncut, and great rubies of pigeon-blood colour.
It was a cave of riches, and Edgar and Will feasted their eyes on it in
amazement. They held the rubies in their hands, and gloated over their
wondrous colour. They handled the gold and felt its weight, and were
bewildered with the nature of the discovery.

‘How did all this come here?’ said Edgar. ‘To whom does it belong?’

‘It is mine,’ said Yacka. ‘I am the son of Enooma, and the tribe
collected it. None of them know its value. They do not wish for gold
or stones. All they wish for is to live a savage life, and to have a
country of their own. They cannot be taught what such things as these
mean. Yacka has been in great cities and knows. He has seen the white
man kill for love of gold; he has seen the women of the white men sell
themselves for these,’ and he held up some rubies and diamonds. ‘It is
better for the Enooma to remain as they are. Gold would make them fight
amongst themselves, now they fight their enemies.’

‘You may be right,’ said Edgar. ‘All the same, I should like a few
samples of your wealth, Yacka.’

‘Take what you will,’ said Yacka. ‘It is far to carry it. Do not take
too much, or you will not reach Yanda again. Water is more precious
than gold sometimes.’

‘May we return and take away more?’ asked Will.

‘If you can find the place,’ said the black; ‘but Yacka will show you
no more.’

‘Then I am afraid we shall not have much chance,’ said Will. ‘It is a
pity all this wealth should be wasted.’

‘Others may find it, and take their share,’ said Yacka. ‘It is not good
for one man to have too much.’

‘We can carry enough away with us,’ said Edgar, ‘to give us a start in
life, anyhow. Perhaps Yacka is right. It is not good for a man to have
too much. Will you help us, Yacka?’

‘To carry gold for you?’ said the black.

‘Yes,’ said Edgar.

‘I will carry some, and stones for you, but I will not use any,’ Yacka
said.

‘You’re a strange being,’ said Edgar; ‘but the black man lives not as
the white man.’

‘No,’ said Yacka; ‘he does not slay his friend for gold.’

Edgar dropped the subject. Whatever the cruel, cowardly conduct of the
blacks might be, he knew enough about the pursuit of wealth to refrain
from arguing with Yacka.

‘The tribe will be waiting for us,’ said Yacka. ‘We must return.’

‘Perhaps the earthquake has frightened them away,’ said Will.

‘They would not feel it so much as we did, being underground,’ said
Edgar.

‘It was no earthquake,’ said Yacka. ‘It was the White Spirit welcoming
you.’

‘A strange welcome,’ said Edgar.

‘Had it been an earthquake you would have been killed,’ said Yacka.
‘I have seen what an earthquake does. It swallows up mountains and
trees, and heaves up other mountains in their place. All the plains of
Australia were formed by earthquakes, and the mountains were thrown up
to make that part smooth.’

‘How long will it take us to return to the tribe?’ said Edgar.

‘Not long,’ replied Yacka. ‘We will go now. We can return for the gold.’

‘We had better take some now,’ said practical Will.

Edgar was nothing loath, and they filled what pockets they had left in
their torn clothes with gold, rubies, and diamonds.

Yacka watched them and said:

‘I will return for more. You need not come again.’

‘You mean you do not wish us to return,’ said Edgar.

‘That is it,’ said Yacka. ‘I will return alone.’

To this they agreed, acknowledging that Yacka had the right to do as he
pleased, as it was undoubtedly his find. They were not long in getting
out of this strange labyrinth of caves and passages, and Edgar wondered
why they had not come in this way. Before they reached the exit Yacka
said they must be blindfolded. To this at first they protested, but as
Yacka was firm, and they were in his power, they consented.

Yacka led Will by the hand, Edgar holding Will’s other hand. They
tramped in this way for a considerable time, and then Yacka removed the
covering from their eyes.

They were on the grassy plain once more, but the whole scene had been
changed by the wondrous forces of Nature. Huge masses of rock were
strewn about, and trees were felled and torn up by the roots. Where
they had entered the mountains there was no other means of passing
through. The blacks had retreated before the terrible storm, and were
encamped a long way off. They could just see the camp fires in the
distance. Several dead blacks lay around, evidently killed by falling
rocks, but Yacka took very little notice of them. Death ended all for
these men, and, being dead, Yacka thought no more of them.

When Edgar looked round to see where they had come out of the caves,
there was no opening anywhere. Yacka smiled as he said:

‘You will never find the entrance. It is known only to me, and once I
lost it and never found it again.’

‘Then that is the reason we went in the other way,’ said Edgar.

‘Yes,’ said Yacka. ‘Now I have the way out, I can find the way in
again.’

They marched towards the camp, and the Enooma rushed to meet them,
uttering loud cries of delight. They had never expected to see them
return alive after such a terrific earthquake. These blacks were
strange people. Terrified as they had recently been, they had in a
very few hours forgotten their experiences. The sudden changes in
this climate had made them familiar with the working of the forces of
Nature, which are truly marvellous.

In the stillness of the night, as Edgar and Will sat side by side, they
returned thanks for their merciful escape. It was an experience they
would never forget, and now that it was over both felt untold gold
would not tempt them to brave it again.



CHAPTER XX. THE RETURN TO YANDA.


Before they were awake next morning Yacka, true to his promise, went to
the cave and returned with some of the finest rubies and purest lumps
of gold. He roused Edgar and Will, and showed them what he had done.

‘It is as much as we can carry,’ he said, and they agreed with him.

The gold was heavy, and they had a long tramp before them.

Without further delay they collected their treasure, and made it secure
in a strong skin loin-cloth, which was fastened by dried strips of
leather, so that none of the stones could fall out.

‘This is like putting all our eggs in one basket,’ said Edgar. ‘I think
we had better carry the best of the rubies about us.’

This was done, and the bag again fastened securely.

The Enooma accompanied them, and left them about a couple of days’
journey from the ranges.

At this point Edgar and Will bade them farewell, and Yacka promised to
return and travel with them further north. The black had explained to
them all that had taken place in the caves, and they did not care to
remain longer in that district.

Yacka led them safely through the MacDonnell Ranges, and they reached
Alice Springs, where they had a hearty welcome.

‘We never expected to see you alive again,’ said Walter Hepburn. ‘You
have been away close upon six months, and we thought you were gone for
good. I hope you are satisfied with your experiences.’

‘We are,’ said Edgar. ‘We have seen many strange and wonderful sights.’

‘You must tell me about your adventures to-night,’ said Hepburn. ‘I
have kept your horses safe, and they will be ready for the journey.’

It was a relief to Edgar and Will to obtain fresh clothes, for those
they wore were almost in rags.

The night of their arrival they related to Walter Hepburn all that had
befallen them, and he was amazed. He could hardly credit the account
Edgar gave of the wealth found in the cave of Enooma; but when he saw
the precious stones and gold spread out before him, he was completely
overwhelmed.

‘This is pure gold,’ he said, as he handled a large lump of the
precious metal. ‘And these rubies are exceedingly rich in colour, and
worth a heap of money. We have found rubies in the creeks here, but
nothing to be compared to these. Of course, you will return with a
properly equipped expedition, and carry the bulk of it away?’

‘I am afraid that will be out of the question,’ said Edgar. ‘Yacka will
not guide us there again, and I am sure we could not find the place.’

‘Yacka must be forced to act as guide,’ said Hepburn. ‘Such a treasure
as you have discovered cannot be allowed to remain buried.’

‘I shall not be the one to use force against Yacka,’ said Edgar. ‘The
black has acted honestly by us, and we must do the same by him.’

‘If you fellows do not have another try to find the place I shall,’
said Hepburn.

Edgar laughed as he said:

‘You are welcome to do so. For my part I have had enough of it, and am
glad to have got back again with a whole skin.’

‘You must be careful not to let anyone know about here what you have
with you. There are some desperate characters, and a mere hint as to
the wealth you have, and your lives would not be safe,’ said Hepburn.

‘We have told no one but yourself,’ said Edgar; ‘and we know we can
trust you. You are an old Redbank boy.’

After some persuasion Walter Hepburn agreed to accept a couple of fine
rubies and a heavy nugget in return for the keep of the horses, and as
a remembrance of their visit. As well as he was able Edgar described
the country they had traversed and the appearance of the place where
the caves were.

‘Even if you reach there safely,’ said Edgar, ‘you will not be able to
find the entrance. We could see nothing of it, and even Yacka lost the
run of it once.’

‘It is worth the risk,’ said Hepburn. ‘I wish I had gone with you. I am
used to these wilds, and once I had been over the ground I am sure I
could find my way back.’

They did not remain long at Alice Springs, as they were eager to return
to Yanda and learn how their friends had got on during their absence.

The return journey passed in much the same way as their ride to Alice
Springs from Yanda.

They had a plentiful supply of ammunition, which Walter Hepburn had
given them, and consequently were not afraid to shoot when in need of
provisions.

Edgar noticed Yacka was restless, and did not seem at his ease during
their journey, and he questioned him as to the reason.

‘I have a fear we are being followed,’ said Yacka. ‘I have seen no one,
but still I fear it. Did anyone know you had gold and stones at Alice
Springs?’

‘Only Walter Hepburn,’ said Edgar. ‘We were careful not to tell anyone
else.’

‘You showed him the stones?’ asked Yacka.

‘Yes,’ said Edgar; ‘we spread them out on the table in his house, but
no one else was there.’

‘But there are windows,’ said Yacka, ‘and someone may have looked in.
It was foolish.’

‘I think you are wrong about anyone following us,’ said Will. ‘They
would have attacked us before now.’

Yacka explained that he had not slept at night since they left the
Springs. He had watched and waited and heard strange sounds. He felt
sure they were being followed, but at some distance.

‘You must have a sleep to-night, anyhow,’ said Edgar, ‘or you will
knock up. We can keep watch in turns.’

Yacka assented, for he felt much in need of sleep.

They camped on a level patch of ground, where there was not much
surrounding shelter, and where they felt secure against any surprise.

Worn out from want of sleep, Yacka stretched himself on the ground, and
quickly fell into a deep slumber.

‘He’s dead tired,’ said Edgar. ‘I have never seen him drop off into
such a sound sleep. He generally has an eye open, and his ears catch
every sound.’

‘Are you going to take first watch?’ said Will.

‘If you like,’ said Edgar. ‘I will rouse you when I become drowsy.’

Will soon followed Yacka into the land of dreams, and Edgar, leaning
his back against the trunk of a tree, watched them. The treasure was
close to him, and the sight of it brought back to him the scenes
they had witnessed. From these experiences his thoughts wandered to
Wal Jessop and Eva, and he wondered how they had gone on during his
absence. He was anxious to see them again, and when he reached Yanda
meant to take a trip to Sydney as early as possible.

Then he thought of home, and his father and sister, and hoped to have
letters from them at Yanda. They would be anxious to hear how his
exploit had turned out, and what a glowing account he would give them!
Lost in these pleasant reflections, he did not hear the stealthy tread
of two men behind the tree.

These men kept well in the shadow of the trunk of the tree against
which Edgar sat, all unconscious of their approach. They were
desperate-looking fellows, dressed in bush fashion, and had evidently
ridden after Edgar and his companions from Alice Springs. Cautiously
they approached, avoiding the loose twigs on the ground, and halting
to listen intently at every few yards. Each man had a revolver in his
hand, and a knife in his belt.

The taller of the two motioned to the knife at his side, and pointed
to Edgar. The other nodded, and drew out his formidable blade. He then
crept, knife in hand, towards Edgar, and his companion made towards
Will.

Edgar, who began to feel drowsy, rose to his feet and leaned on his
shoulder against the tree, his back still to the man stealing up, knife
in hand. Edgar little knew the peril he was in, and dreaded nothing.

Nearer and nearer drew the man with his murderous weapon. He was now
close to the tree, and had his knife uplifted ready to strike.

Suddenly a laughing jackass, perched in the branches above Edgar’s
head, gave his mocking laugh. The sound startled him, and he turned
round; as he did so he saw the man, and the knife he had in his
uplifted hand flashed in the faint moonlight.

He shouted, ‘Yacka! Yacka! Will! Will!’ and sprang backwards.

The man rushed upon him just as Will opened his eyes in a half-drowsy
way, and dimly realized that a man was pointing his revolver at him.

‘Move, and I fire!’ said the man to Yacka, as he saw the black spring
to his feet.

Yacka dared not move; he knew it would be instant death to Will.

Meanwhile Edgar grappled with his assailant, and a desperate struggle
was going on.

The man covering Will called out to his mate and Edgar:

‘Drop struggling, or I fire!’

Edgar glanced at him, and saw the danger Will was in.

‘Hands off!’ he said, and the man ceased to struggle with him.

Unfortunately, neither Edgar or Will had their revolvers handy, and
their guns were against the trunk of the tree--the revolvers being
luckily hidden from sight in the long rank grass.

‘We want that bag,’ said the tall man, still covering Will. ‘Let my
mate get the bag and your guns, and then you can go.’

In a moment it flashed across Edgar that if the men took the bag and
the guns there would still be the revolvers, and that gave them a
chance before the thieves reached their horses. He was not, however,
too eager, and said:

‘You are a cowardly pair to rob us like this.’

‘You are three to one,’ said the man with a grin. ‘Nothing very
cowardly about that. Will you “ante up” the “boodle”?’

‘How do we know you will not fire on us? We shall be unarmed,’ said
Edgar.

‘We want the plunder, not your lives,’ said the man. ‘Come, be quick.
We have no time to waste.’

The man was evidently impatient, and Edgar thought: ‘Perhaps they are
afraid of someone following them from the Springs.’ Aloud he said:

‘We agree. Take the bag and our guns and go.’

The man who had attacked Edgar picked up the bag and the two guns. It
was an anxious moment for Edgar. The revolvers were lying near the
tree, and the man might kick them as he went along. With a sigh of
relief, Edgar saw the man had not discovered them. Yacka was on the
alert, but saw no chance of making a move without injuring Will, and
Edgar was in the same fix. The tall man ‘bailed’ them up until his
companion returned with their horses.

Having fixed the bag firmly in front of the saddle the man mounted,
placing the guns also in front of him. He then led the other horse up
to the man covering Will, and levelled his revolver at him while his
mate mounted.

Yacka stood at the other side of the horses, and for a brief moment the
man covering Will could not see him, and the taller man was mounting
with his back to Yacka. In an instant Yacka bounded between the man
with the revolver and Will, and jerked the horse’s bridle, which caused
the animal to suddenly back. The man fired, but the movement of the
horse spoilt his aim and the shot did no harm.

Seeing how matters stood, Edgar ran for the revolvers, and reached them
before the thieves could realize what had happened.

A desperate fight now took place. The mounted men, whose horses plunged
at the sound of firing, aimed at Will and Edgar, and the former felt a
sharp pain in his left arm.

Yacka still hung on to the horse’s bridle, and the man on it fired
point-blank at him, the bullet grazing his head.

Edgar approached this man, and when close to him fired. The shot told,
and the man’s right arm fell to his side, his revolver dropping on to
the ground.

‘Winged!’ shouted Edgar. ‘Hold on, Yacka!’

But Yacka had let go of the horse and pulled the man out of the saddle.
The horse, finding itself free, galloped off, with the bag still fast
to the front of the saddle.

The other man, seeing how matters were going, and knowing the loose
horse had the bag still fast to the saddle, turned tail and galloped
after it.

‘The horses--the horses! Quick, Will!’ said Edgar. ‘We must be after
them.’

Will brought up the horses, and they were quickly in the saddle.

‘You keep guard over this fellow, Yacka,’ said Edgar. ‘Don’t let him
go.’

For answer Yacka smiled savagely, and gripped the man by the throat so
hard that his eyes started from his head.

‘He’s in safe hands,’ said Edgar. ‘Come along, Will, or we shall lose
our treasure after all.’

They rode away after the other man and the runaway horse as fast as
their nags could carry them.



CHAPTER XXI. AN EXCITING CHASE.


It proved an exciting chase they had commenced. The thief knew he
need expect no mercy if caught, and rode desperately. He knew the
country better than Edgar and Will, which gave him a decided advantage;
moreover, he had a good horse, probably stolen, and knew how to ride.

‘He is gaining on us,’ said Edgar. ‘I am afraid we shall lose him.
There is no chance of hitting either man or horse from this distance.’

Mile after mile was traversed, and still the chase went on. The
riderless horse stuck close to his companion, but when he began to flag
the man took hold of the bridle and urged him on. Edgar took no heed
where they were going, nor did Will. They were too excited to take much
notice of the country they passed through. At last the fugitive turned
his horse to the left, and plunged into a much more difficult country
to travel. The undergrowth became denser and tangled, and it was with
difficulty the horses could be forced to go through it. It was not long
before they lost sight of the man they were in pursuit of.

‘Where can he have got to?’ said Will. ‘He would never hide here with
two of us after him.’

‘We must ride on,’ replied Edgar. ‘It is easy to miss a man and come
across his track again in a very short time.’

They rode on at a slow pace, and presently came to a narrow opening
in the scrub. Here they halted and found recent tracks of horses, so
they determined to follow in this direction. The tracks led them in a
roundabout way, and presently they came to the conclusion the man had
doubled back.

‘He must be heading for our camp again,’ said Edgar. ‘Strange he should
do this unless he fancies we are put off the scent, and he is riding
back to rescue his mate.’

‘If that is his game,’ said Will, ‘we must follow him hard. He might
shoot Yacka before we arrive.’

It was, however, difficult for them to find their way. They were not
experienced bushmen, and had failed to notice certain signs by which
they would know they were on the right track. They saw no signs of
the man, nor could they now observe in which direction the horses had
gone. To ride on and trust to chance was their only hope. It was quite
light now, and this aided them. As time passed they became anxious,
and wondered what would become of Yacka if they did not arrive on the
scene in time, for they had not the least doubt now that their man was
heading for the camp to rescue his mate.

‘This chase he has led us has been a blind,’ said Edgar. ‘If we had
taken ordinary precautions we ought to have found out he was doubling
back.’

‘Only a bushman would have found that out,’ said Will. ‘I do not see
how we can blame ourselves.’

‘We have had enough experience the last few months to have found that
out,’ said Edgar. ‘By Jove! there he is, I believe.’

There was a horseman in front of them, but they could not see the
second horse. They rode on faster now, but did not gain much ground. A
rise in the land hid the man from view, and soon after he disappeared
they heard a shot. This made them ride all the faster, and they
quickly reached the top of the rise, and had a good view of the plain
beyond.

‘He fired that shot to warn his mate,’ said Will. ‘We cannot be far
from the camp now.’

‘I’ll fire,’ said Edgar; ‘and if Yacka hears the two shots he will
probably divine we are in pursuit.’

He fired a shot from his revolver as they rode on.

‘There’s the place we camped at,’ said Edgar, pointing to two or three
tall trees: ‘but I see nothing of Yacka or the other men.’

They rode up to the place, and found the camp deserted. There was blood
upon the ground and signs of a struggle, but they imagined this must
have been caused by Yacka dragging the wounded man along. Edgar called
out ‘Yacka!’ and gave a loud ‘cooee,’ and after waiting a few moments
they heard a faint response. They rode in the direction of the sound,
and, rounding a clump of trees on a mound, came upon a strange sight.

Stretched on the ground was one of the robbers, the man they supposed
they had left with Yacka. This man had been strangled, and was dead.
Near him sat Yacka with a strange expression on his face. When the
black saw them he gave a faint moan, and pressed his hand to his side.

‘Good God! he’s shot!’ said Edgar, dismounting and running to the
black. He found blood streaming from a deep wound in his side evidently
inflicted with a knife. ‘How did this happen?’ asked Edgar, as he
endeavoured to stanch the flow of blood with a neckerchief he had
rapidly pulled off.

Yacka pointed to the dead man, and Will, who had come up, exclaimed:

‘This is not the fellow we left with Yacka. It is the man we have been
chasing all this time.’

‘Where is the other man?’ asked Edgar, who could hardly believe his
eyes.

‘I killed him,’ said Yacka faintly.

‘Where is he?’ asked Will.

Yacka pointed to some bushes, and Will went across and found the body
of the man they had left with Yacka. This man had also been strangled.

They managed to stop the flow of blood from the deep wound in Yacka’s
side, but it was some hours before he had sufficiently recovered
strength to relate what had happened.

When Yacka heard the shot fired, he at once thought the man’s mate had
doubled back to rescue him, and had given Edgar and Will the slip. He
knew how easily it could be done by an old hand, and his surmise was
confirmed by the expression on the man’s face when he heard the shot.
In a moment Yacka had made up his mind how to act. He had no gun, for
he found that all three had been taken, instead of only those belonging
to Edgar and Will. He seized his prisoner by the throat, and strangled
him. Then he propped the dead man up with his back to a tree, and tied
him to it with one of the tethering ropes. He hid himself behind the
tree and waited, and in a short time the other robber came on to the
scene. When this man saw his mate bound to the tree, he dismounted and
came towards him, evidently thinking Yacka had made him fast, that he
had fallen asleep, and Yacka had gone away.

Yacka awaited his coming, crouching down behind the tree. No sooner did
the man see his mate was dead than he realized that a trap had been set
for him, and ran back to the horses. Yacka was quickly after him, and
before the man could reach the horses had caught him up. Finding Yacka
at such close quarters, the man drew his knife instead of his revolver,
no doubt thinking it would be more effective. A desperate struggle
ensued, which Yacka described graphically.

‘We rolled over and over,’ said Yacka. ‘I had no knife, and he was a
powerful man. I caught him by the throat, and he lost the grip of his
knife. I clung to him with both hands, and he managed to get his knife
and stuck it in my side. I did not let go my hold. I became fainter and
fainter, but clung to his throat. Then I fell across him, and when I
came to my senses again, which could not have been long, he was dead.
It was their lives or mine, and they were not fit to live.’

As they listened to Yacka’s story of this terrible struggle and awful
end of the thieves, they wondered if many men would have had the
courage to act as he had done.

‘The horses will not have gone far,’ said Yacka. ‘They were dead
tired, I could see, when the man dismounted.’

While Will attended to Yacka, Edgar went in search of the two stray
horses, and found them about a couple of miles away, quietly cropping
the scanty herbage. He secured them without trouble, and was glad to
see their precious treasure was safe, and also their guns.

They had to remain in this spot for a week before Yacka was fit to be
removed, and during that time they buried the bodies of the robbers as
well as they were able with the primitive means at hand.

Their progress was slow, because Yacka could not ride far, and had to
be helped off one of the horses at different times to rest. It was
lucky for them they had the two captured horses in addition to their
own. Yacka guided them, and seemed to take a delight in hiding from
them how far they were from Yanda.

‘Surely we must be somewhere near Yanda by this time,’ said Edgar. ‘I
almost fancy I can recognise the country.’

‘You ought to,’ said Yacka, ‘for we are on Yanda Station now, and we
shall reach the homestead to-night.’

They could not suppress their feelings, and gave a loud hurrah.

Yacka had spoken correctly, for towards sundown the familiar homestead
came in sight.

Yacka wished them to gallop on and leave him, but this they declined to
do, saying he had done so much for them, it was only making a small
return to remain with him.

As they neared the homestead they noticed several figures moving about,
evidently in an excited way, on the veranda.

‘There’s Ben Brody!’ said Edgar eagerly. ‘He has recognised us. What a
time we shall have to-night!’

Ben Brody was standing leaning against the door-post when he saw
something moving across the plain in front of him. He went inside for
his glasses, and, after looking through them for several minutes, he
gave a loud shout.

It was such an unusual thing for Ben Brody to shout, except when
issuing orders, or expressing his feelings to some unfortunate
new-chum, that the hands about the place fancied the homestead must
have caught fire. Several of them rushed round to the front, and found
Ben Brody executing a kind of war-dance on the veranda.

‘What’s up now?’ asked Will Henton. ‘Something stinging you?’

‘No, you fool,’ roared Brody. ‘Do you think I’m as tender as you? It’s
them lads coming back!’

‘Not Foster and Brown?’ asked Will.

‘That’s just it, you bet,’ said Brody.

Off ran Will Henton, and in a few moments Harry Noke, Jim Lee, and two
or three more came round.

‘Give me the glasses,’ said Noke.

‘No need for that,’ said Jim Lee. ‘I can spot ’em from here.’

‘We must go and meet them,’ said Will Henton.

‘Right you are,’ said Brody. ‘Boys, we’ll have a terrible night of it.’

They mounted their horses, and in less time than it takes to write it
down were galloping towards the home-comers.

The scene was one to be remembered. They sprang from their horses,
and pulled Edgar and Will out of their saddles, and shook them by the
hands, cheered and hallooed until the plain rang with their hearty
shouts. Yacka stood quietly looking on, and when they had almost wrung
Edgar’s and Will’s hands off they tackled him.

‘Don’t handle Yacka as roughly as you have handled us,’ laughed Edgar;
‘he’s got a bad wound.’

Then came a string of questions as to how Yacka received his wound, and
who had given it him. Such a rain of questions was showered at them
that at last Ben Brody said:

‘Give them breathing-time, lads. We shall hear all about their
adventures later on. We’re right glad to see you back again safe and
sound.’

A general chorus of assent followed this remark.

‘Expect you have not come back loaded with wealth?’ said Will Henton.

‘Wait and see,’ said Edgar. ‘I rather fancy we have a surprise in store
for you.’

‘Have you had a good time?’ said Ben Brody.

‘It has been a wonderful time, and we have seen many strange things,
and gone through a good deal of hard work. I’m heartily glad to see
Yanda again, but I would not have missed our experiences for the world.’

‘Same here,’ said Will Brown, ‘but I never wish to go through such a
time again.’

Yacka rode quietly behind, a lonely black figure, the pain in his face
showing how he still suffered. He was glad to see this hearty welcome,
but it made him feel lonely. He had no friends such as these men at
Yanda were. He was a wanderer, an outcast, a black, a despised native
of the country these white men had taken from his people. But Yacka
was, through all this, white enough at heart to know it was all for
the best. His people could never become like these people, and the
country in the hands of blacks, he knew, would still have been wild and
desolate.



CHAPTER XXII. TIME FLIES.


The hands at Yanda marvelled greatly at the tale Edgar told of their
adventures, and they marvelled still more when the treasure they
brought with them was shown.

‘And to think that black fellow knew all about it, and kept the secret
so long,’ said Ben Brody. ‘I can hardly believe it is true. You must
have travelled thousands of miles. All I can say is you deserve what
you have got.’

After staying a few weeks at Yanda, where he received letters from
home, and from Wal Jessop, Edgar decided to go to Sydney and see Eva
again. Will Brown remained at Yanda, in order to gain more experience
of station life.

When Edgar arrived in Sydney, he at once went to Watson’s Bay. Wal
Jessop did not know Edgar had left Yanda. Eva had constantly inquired
for Edgar during his absence, and been comforted by the assurance he
would return to her.

Edgar walked up the steep path to the cottage, intending to give
the inmates a surprise, but Eva, who was looking out of the window,
recognised him, and gave a joyful cry that brought Mrs. Jessop to her.
Together they rushed out to greet Edgar, and he soon had little Eva
crowing delightedly in his arms, Mrs. Jessop looking on, her motherly
face beaming with satisfaction.

‘How you have grown, Eva!’ said Edgar, holding her up in his arms to
have a better look at her. ‘You have had a good home, and Mrs. Jessop
has taken great care of you.’

Eva began to prattle in her pretty childish way, and asked Edgar
numerous questions, some of which he found a difficulty in answering.

When Wal Jessop returned home and found Edgar installed in the cottage
he was delighted. He had been longing to see him again, and to hear
all about his adventures. These Edgar had to relate over and over
again, and little Eva, too, was interested in hearing about Yacka and
the blacks, and the White Spirit in the wonderful cave. When she saw
the precious stones and gold Edgar brought with him, she clapped her
hands with joy, and wanted to play with all the pretty things.

‘You’ll not be short of money for a time with such rubies as these to
sell,’ said Wal Jessop, as he took some of the stones in his hand.
‘They are the finest I ever saw. You’ll get more for them in London
than you will here.’

‘I shall keep the bulk of them,’ said Edgar; ‘but we must dispose of
some of them, Wal, in order to keep things going.’

‘Captain Fife will be able to do that for you,’ said Wal. ‘He knows the
best market for such things. What a wonderful chap that black must be!
There are not many like him here.’

‘You will see him before long,’ said Edgar. ‘He has promised to come to
Sydney when his wound has quite healed.’

‘A knife-thrust like that will take some time to get well,’ said Wal.
‘I wonder if he will ever take you back again to find more of the
treasure?’

‘I shall not go,’ said Edgar; ‘but I have no doubt there will be search
made for it, even if Yacka declines to lead the way.’

The evening of Edgar’s arrival at the cottage he had a walk on the
cliffs with Wal Jessop, and again looked down upon the terrible rocks
where the _Distant Shore_ was dashed to pieces, and himself and Eva
were so miraculously saved. As he looked into the depths below, the
scene came vividly to mind again, and he could not resist grasping Wal
Jessop by the hand, while the tears stood in his eyes.

Wal Jessop knew what he meant better than if he had spoken, and
returned the pressure of his hand. They walked back to the cottage, and
once more talked over the scenes of that awful night.

When Edgar saw Captain Fife that gentleman received him cordially, and
promised to dispose of some of the rubies to the best advantage.

‘They are wonderfully good stones,’ said Captain Fife, ‘and there will
be no difficulty in obtaining a stiff price for them. By the way,
what are you going to do with yourself now? Are you returning to the
station, or would you prefer to remain in Sydney?’

‘If I can obtain a suitable billet,’ said Edgar, ‘I should like to
remain here.’

Captain Fife had been on the look-out for a private secretary for some
time, and he offered Edgar the post, which he willingly accepted,
thinking himself fortunate, as indeed he was, to gain such a position.

Time flies quickly, and when Edgar Foster had been private secretary to
Captain Fife for over two years, he had become quite at home in Sydney,
and was recognised as one of the best of good fellows. Edgar was fond
of sports of all kinds, and he liked fun as well as any young fellow
of his age, but he shunned the fast sets in the city, and one of his
constant companions was Wal Jessop. Two or three times a week he went
to Wal’s cottage to see Eva, who was rapidly growing into a very pretty
girl. He heard regularly from home, and also had news from Yanda--for
Will Brown was still there. Yacka had tried Sydney life, but quickly
tired of it, and returned to the West.

Two or three expeditions had been fitted out to try and find the Cave
of Enooma, as it was called, for the adventures of Edgar Foster and
Will Brown had been related in the _Sydney Mail_, and naturally there
was a desire to obtain the wealth stated to be there. These expeditions
had, however, been failures, and nothing came of them. Yacka refused
to lead anyone into the Enooma country, and Edgar and Will, when
approached upon the subject, expressed their inability to do so. When
the second expedition failed in its object, people said the discovery
was a myth, but others knew better, and Edgar only smiled when he heard
disparaging remarks made.

Although Edgar stuck well to his work during the time he had been with
Captain Fife, he found ample opportunity to indulge in his favourite
pastime, cricket, and, much to his delight, had been selected captain
of the South Sydney team. In this capacity he not only proved himself
a good all-round cricketer, but a splendid leader, and no one, it was
generally acknowledged, placed his men to more advantage in the field.
He was selected to play for New South Wales against Victoria, but, like
many a good cricketer before him, he failed at his first attempt. There
was, however, no doubt about his ability, and he now stood an excellent
chance of being selected as one of the next Australian eleven. This is
the height of every cricketer’s ambition in the colonies, and Edgar
felt anxious as to whether his performances during the season would
warrant the selection committee including him in the team. So far he
had done fairly well. There remained one inter-Colonial match to play
against South Australia, and Edgar knew upon this match would depend
the final decision as to his being a member of the Australian eleven.

He had practised steadily, and felt confident, and was encouraged
by Wal Jessop and Captain Fife. Will Brown wrote from Yanda, saying
they were coming down in force to see him play, and Ben Brody added
a postscript to the effect that the honour of the Yanda boys was in
Edgar’s hands.

When the eventful day arrived Edgar’s feelings can be imagined. The
match took place on the Association ground at Sydney, and the South
Australians placed a formidable team on the field. Several men on
either side were on their best mettle and playing for a place in the
Australian eleven.

Ben Brody appeared on the ground resplendent in a new cabbage-tree
hat, which he had bought in honour of the occasion. He was as anxious
as anyone to see Edgar successful. Will Brown vowed if Edgar Foster
went home with the team, he should go by the same boat. Will Henton,
Harry Noke, and Jim Lee all came up from Yanda for the match, and
consequently there was a family party on the ground. In Wal Jessop Ben
Brody found a man after his own heart, and they got on well together.

Edgar felt encouraged by their presence to do his best, and something
seemed to tell him he would succeed.

The New South Wales captain won the toss and elected to bat. This gave
Edgar a chance to sit and chat with his friends. He hardly knew how
popular he had become in Sydney, owing to his numerous adventures and
his sterling character, until he saw the number of people who were only
too proud to recognise him.

‘You must be a favourite with the ladies,’ said Ben Brody. ‘All the
pretty girls are smiling at you. Lucky dog!’

It was true Edgar knew several nice girls, but he had not yet found one
he preferred to any of the others. He thought there was time enough for
that in another five or six years.

The home team commenced badly, and lost two wickets for thirty runs. At
the fall of the fourth wicket Edgar Foster went in, and his appearance
on the ground, from the pavilion, was the signal for a loud outburst
of applause. As he walked to the crease Edgar vowed he would do his
utmost to merit this reception. He was cool and collected, and had
seldom felt so confident. He commenced well by making a couple of
boundary hits in his first over. His partner, Frank Highdale, was well
set, and the pair looked like making a big stand.

Edgar roused the spectators by hitting a ball into the pavilion, and
Highdale had completely mastered the bowling. Runs came rapidly, and
the South Australian captain seemed puzzled to know how to effect a
separation.

Although Highdale had been batting some time before Edgar came in, the
latter was first to reach the coveted fifty. When this number of runs
appeared to Edgar’s name on the scoring-board, Ben Brody, to use his
own expression, ‘broke loose.’ He cheered in the most frantic manner,
and waved his huge hat in delight.

The New South Wales eleven were at the wickets all day, and when stumps
were drawn Edgar Foster was ‘not out, one hundred and nine’! He was
congratulated on all sides, and Captain Fife said, as he shook hands
with him:

‘Your place in the team is assured. I shall cable to your father as
soon as the selection is made. He will be mighty proud of his son.’

On the renewal of the match next day, Edgar added another fifty to his
score, and was clean bowled, after making one hundred and fifty-nine, a
magnificent innings.

The match ended in a win for the home colony by two hundred runs. In
the second innings Edgar Foster placed fifty-six to his credit; he also
bowled well during the match, and came out with a very good average.

Consequently, it was no surprise when he found his name amongst the
favoured thirteen cricketers picked to make up the Australian team. He
received a cablegram from his father congratulating him, and this gave
him more pleasure than anything else.

As usual, there was some grumbling about the composition of the team,
but no one had anything to say about Edgar Foster’s inclusion.

‘We are to go home in the _Cuzco_,’ said Edgar to Will Brown; ‘so you
had better book your passage.’

‘You bet!’ said Will; ‘and who do you think is going home for a trip
with us?’

‘Don’t know,’ said Edgar. ‘I wish we could take Yacka. He would create
a sensation there.’

‘Yacka is far happier camping out at Yanda,’ said Will. ‘Ben Brody is
going home with us. He says he has never had a holiday since he was a
lad, over forty years ago, and he thinks it is about time he took one
now.’

‘I am glad,’ said Edgar. ‘Ben Brody is a real good sort; he’s a rough
diamond, but I like him better than if he were polished.’

The hands on Yanda were in high glee about Ben leaving them for a
time. They fancied the mutton diet would be knocked off, but Ben said
he should leave strict injunctions behind about that.

The time passed quickly, and the morning the _Cuzco_ was to leave
Circular Quay a large crowd of people assembled to see the New
South Wales members of the team leave for London. There was so much
hand-shaking, and so many parting good-byes, that Edgar felt sure some
of them would be left behind.

Wal Jessop and his wife brought Eva down to see Edgar off, and the
child did not like to see him leave her in the big steamer.

‘I will come back for you, Eva,’ said Edgar; ‘I promise you I will come
back. Be a good girl while I am away, and I will bring you back the
best doll I can find in London.’

‘With brown hair, and blue eyes?’ said Eva.

‘Yes,’ said Edgar. ‘It shall have bonny blue eyes, and bright brown
hair like yours, Eva.’

He took her in his arms, and kissed her over and over again, and then
handed her to Mrs. Jessop. Just as the gangway was about to be raised
they saw a tall figure flying up it with long strides. It was Ben Brody.

‘You nearly missed us,’ said Edgar, laughing. ‘Where have you been? I
thought I saw you on board some time back.’

‘So I was,’ said Ben, gasping for breath; ‘but I left my ‘bacca behind
in a box at the hotel, and I’d sooner have gone back to Yanda than
been on board without my usual brand.’

The _Cuzco_ had now cast off, and as she left the wharf Edgar singled
out Eva, hoisted high on Wal Jessop’s shoulder, and waved her a hearty
farewell.



CHAPTER XXIII. AN EVENTFUL NIGHT.


An Australian team bound for England always has a good time on board
the steamer, and the eleven of which Edgar was a member was no
exception to the rule. At Melbourne and Adelaide they were joined by
the members of the team hailing from Victoria and South Australia.

On arriving at Colombo they went ashore to play a match against a team
selected from the leading local cricketers. Being out of practice
they did not play up to their usual form, and the Colombo team nearly
defeated them, and were much elated in consequence.

At this time the mail steamers did not pass through the Suez Canal at
night-time, and the _Cuzco_ anchored off Ismailia. A run ashore to pass
away the time was only natural, and Edgar, accompanied by Will Brown
and other members of the team, made up a party. This night ashore at
Ismailia was destined to effect a change in Edgar’s future life.

The population of Ismailia is a mixture of different nationalities,
some of them being of a rather desperate and fierce nature. An Egyptian
wedding-party passed through one of the streets; it was a curious sight
to unaccustomed eyes. The men, swathed in long white garments, with
turbans on their heads, and sandals on their feet, carried long poles,
at the ends of which lanterns were fixed. Their brown arms and faces
shone in the reflected light, and offered a strong contrast to the
colour of their garments. Fierce eyes gleamed from under dark, bushy
eyebrows, and as the men marched, uttering a wild chant in peculiar
tones, the effect was somewhat weird. The bridegroom, who was being
escorted to his bride, was a tall, powerful young fellow, of a better
caste than his friends.

All went well until the procession approached the bride’s house, when
a party of young fellows from the _Cuzco_, who had been revelling not
wisely but too well, barred the road. It was a foolhardy thing to do.
To stop such a procession was exceedingly dangerous, and could only be
construed as an insult by the natives, who are not slow to avenge any
slight put upon them.

Edgar and those with him saw the danger, and shouted to the
obstructionists to move out of the way. It was, however, too late,
and the warning would probably not have been heeded in any case.
Seeing how matters stood, the Egyptians grew furious. Knives flashed
in the light, and a rush was made at the foolish young fellows, who so
recklessly hindered the procession.

‘Come on,’ shouted Edgar, ‘or there will be murder done!’

He rushed forward, followed by his companions, but they found it
impossible to render much assistance, owing to the confusion. Edgar
became separated from the others, and was drawing back from the crowd,
when he heard a cry for help, followed by a woman’s shriek.

Rushing in the direction of the sound, he saw a girl of about eighteen
struggling in the grasp of a powerful Egyptian. He recognised her
as Miss Muriel Wylde, a passenger on the _Cuzco_, with whom he had
had pleasant chats on deck. In a moment Edgar had the ruffian by the
throat, and forced him to loose his hold. No sooner, however, was the
girl free, than another man seized her and attempted to carry her off.
She struggled violently, and shouted again for help. Edgar had his work
cut out with the man he first tackled. He was unarmed, and had to rely
upon his fists. The furious Egyptian rushed upon him with an uplifted
knife in his hand. Edgar did not flinch, but caught the fellow by the
wrist, and the knife flew from his grasp. Then, with his left fist, he
dealt the man a savage blow between the eyes that well-nigh stunned him.

Turning to see what had become of Miss Wylde, Edgar saw that she
had fainted, and her captor was hurrying away with her. Edgar gave
chase, and quickly came up with him. The Egyptian dropped his burden,
and turned on Edgar, aiming a terrific blow at him with his knife.
Edgar sprang backwards, and the man over-reached himself. Before he
recovered, Edgar had him on the ground, and stunned him by knocking his
head on the hard road.

He then sprang to his feet, and went to the assistance of Miss Wylde,
who had luckily been thrown on the soft sand by the side of the road,
and found she had recovered from her faint.

‘Can you walk?’ said Edgar; ‘are you much hurt?’

She was trembling and alarmed, and could hardly answer him.

‘We must make our way to the quay,’ he said, ‘and get a boat back to
the ship as quickly as possible. These fellows are frantic at being
interfered with, and are in a dangerous state. Lean on me, and try and
walk.’

She put her hand on his shoulder, and Edgar supported her by placing
his arm round her waist.

They had not gone many yards before Edgar heard loud shouting behind
them. It was evident some of the Egyptians were coming that way, and
they must be avoided if possible. A few paces straight ahead Edgar saw
a high wall, and what looked like a doorway. He lifted his companion
off her feet, and ran as fast as he could towards the archway.

On reaching it he knocked loudly. The door was opened by an old native
woman, who peered curiously into his face.

Without saying a word Edgar stepped inside, and closed the door behind
him.

‘What do you here?’ asked the old woman, in broken English. ‘Are you
from the ship?’

‘Yes,’ said Edgar, not knowing what else to say, or what excuse to give
for his conduct.

The old woman’s eyes gleamed, and her wrinkled, parchment-like skin
seemed to crumple up and almost crack. Her mouth expanded in what she
no doubt meant for a smile, but Edgar thought it a diabolical grin, and
Muriel Wylde shrank back.

‘Money--gold!’ said the woman hoarsely, her skinny hands extended like
a couple of claws. ‘Gold, and you shall hear your fortune. The oldest
Egyptian in Ismailia can speak truth.’

Edgar felt relieved; had the old woman guessed they were fugitives she
might not have been so friendly. He looked at his companion, and said:

‘We shall be glad to hear our fortunes from you, mother. That is what
we came for,’ and he took a sovereign out of his pocket.

The old Egyptian’s eyes fastened upon it, and her hand was stretched
out.

‘Give me your hand,’ she said to Miss Wylde.

The girl put out her open hand reluctantly, and the Egyptian gazed at
it so attentively that she appeared to have forgotten the coin.

‘You have been in trouble, and he has saved you,’ croaked the woman.

The girl started, and the Egyptian smiled at this corroborative
evidence. She had hazarded a guess at the situation, and hit the mark.

She then proceeded to give an account of what would follow this
adventure, and caused Muriel Wylde to blush, and wish she was safely on
board again.

Edgar’s future was soon told, in the usual strain. He was the hero of
the story, and would be rewarded in due time by the hand of the lady he
had rescued.

Edgar gave the fortune-teller the sovereign, and asked her to direct
them to the quay. She cautiously opened the door, and peered out into
the darkness, listening attentively. She beckoned them to step out, and
then pointed in the direction in which they should go.

They walked for some distance, and then reached the part of the town
where the cafés were still open, and men and women were drinking
coffee, seated round tables under the verandas and trees.

They sat down at one of the tables and rested, refreshing themselves
with some excellent coffee.

‘We must hurry back to the ship,’ said Edgar. ‘Your party may have
returned, and if so your mother will be very anxious.’

She was eager to go, and they rose from the table. As they walked away
a tall Egyptian followed them. It was one of the men Edgar had knocked
down. They were not out of danger yet.

A long avenue led down to the quay, where the boats were generally
waiting to sail or row passengers back to the ship.

The Egyptian followed them, keeping within the shadow of the trees, his
bare feet making no sound.

Muriel Wylde was still weak from the effect of the shock she had
received, and Edgar had to support her. He seemed nothing loath to do
so, and his companion felt a sense of pleasurable security with his
strong arm round her waist.

On reaching the quay Edgar called out to a boatman, who came slowly
towards them in his tiny craft.

He explained that he wanted to be taken to the _Cuzco_, and the boatman
agreed.

Edgar handed his companion down into the boat, and as she stepped on to
the seat she looked up and gave a cry of alarm. Behind Edgar stood the
tall Egyptian, who had crept stealthily up, and was about to stab Edgar
in the back. At her cry Edgar looked round, and, seeing no other way of
escape, he sprang into the water. The Egyptian sprang after him, and
grasped Edgar by the arm. A terrible struggle then took place, and in
the water the Egyptian proved the more powerful.

The man in the boat made no movement until Muriel Wylde seized a round
pole, and tried to hit Edgar’s assailant on the head. The boatman then
took the part of his countryman, and attempted to seize the pole and
wrench it out of Muriel’s hands. The girl, however, was now thoroughly
roused. Edgar had rescued her, and she must do the same for him, for he
was in deadly peril. The Egyptian dragged Edgar down and got his head
under the water, with the evident intention of drowning him.

A struggle commenced in the boat, but by a lucky stroke Muriel managed
to hit the boatman in the chest, and he fell overboard. The Egyptian
was not far from the boat, and Muriel, raising the pole, brought it
down heavily on his head, causing him to loose his hold of Edgar.

Half suffocated, Edgar came to the surface, and struck out feebly for
the boat.

Muriel leaned over the side and grasped him by the arm. Pulling with
all her strength, she managed to give him sufficient assistance to help
him to scramble into the boat.

The two Egyptians in the water were on either side of the boat, and
were trying to upset it, and Muriel kept them from clambering in by
hitting at them with the pole.

Edgar was well-nigh exhausted, but he managed to set the sail, and, as
the breeze was blowing from the shore, the boat soon made headway and
left the Egyptians behind. Finding pursuit hopeless, they swam ashore,
and stood there gesticulating furiously.

Muriel, turning round to look at Edgar, saw he was unconscious. She
was accustomed to sailing-boats, and, having placed her jacket under
Edgar’s head, she steered with one hand and guided the sail with the
other. The boat sped along in the direction of the _Cuzco_, whose
lights were seen shining in the distance.

Muriel Wylde sat watching Edgar, and when she thought over their
night’s adventures, she was thankful they had escaped with life. Edgar
was a handsome young fellow, and Muriel Wylde felt her heart beat fast
as she looked at him. They had been good friends on board during the
voyage, and Edgar’s mates had chaffed him about ‘pretty Miss Wylde.’
Her mother had noticed her daughter’s partiality for Edgar’s society,
and did not discourage it, as she had taken a fancy to the young fellow.

Before they reached the steamer, Muriel Wylde left the stern of the
boat for a moment to attend to Edgar. As she bent over him, he opened
his eyes and looked into her face, which was very near to his own.
Their eyes met, and they suddenly felt that something had been revealed
to each of them.

Edgar took Muriel Wylde’s hands, and drew her towards him. She did not
resist, and when he kissed her she was not surprised or startled. It
seemed a fitting climax to the dangers they had passed through.

So lost were they in each other, although neither spoke, they did not
notice they were close to the _Cuzco_. A loud ‘Ahoy!’ from the deck
roused them, and in a few minutes they were alongside the steamer, and
friendly hands were assisting them up the gangway.



CHAPTER XXIV. HOME AGAIN.


Their adventures at Ismailia formed the subject of conversation for
several days between Edgar and Muriel Wylde. With her mother’s consent,
Muriel accepted Edgar’s offer of marriage, and when the engagement
became known on board they were regarded with romantic interest by the
passengers. The remainder of the voyage proved uneventful. Muriel Wylde
and her mother left the steamer at Naples, and proceeded overland to
London, but Edgar remained on board with the team.

On arriving at Tilbury, the eleven received a hearty welcome from a
large number of influential cricketers and lovers of the game. To
Edgar, all this was as nothing to the joy he felt at meeting his father
and Doris again.

Elm Lodge looked much the same as when he went away, and the old home
was so peaceful that Edgar began to wonder how he had ever made up his
mind to leave it. He had much to relate to his father and sister, and,
needless to say, Will Brown entertained Doris in a manner agreeable to
that young lady.

The wreck of the _Distant Shore_ was described again, and Robert Foster
noticed with pride how modestly Edgar spoke of the part he took in
saving Eva.

‘Poor Manton!’ said Robert Foster. ‘I am sorry he was drowned, for a
better seaman could not be found. I should like to meet Wal Jessop,
and we must try and have little Eva over here, for we cannot spare you
again, Edgar, now we have got you at home.’

‘It would be splendid if Wal could be induced to bring Eva and his wife
home,’ said Edgar. ‘I must write and ask him. You have to meet Ben
Brody, who came over with us, and I am sure you will be amused at him.
He is a character, and a rough-and-ready customer, but a genuine good
fellow.’

When Edgar spoke of his engagement to Muriel Wylde, his father was
pleased he had found a girl after his own heart, for his son’s
happiness always held a foremost place with him.

‘And what about the Australian eleven?’ said Robert Foster. ‘Are they
a strong team? It is rather too bad of you to play against the old
country. It places me in an awkward position. Of course, I am patriotic
enough to wish to see England victorious, and yet I shall be highly
delighted to see you pile up a big score.’

‘I shall do my best,’ said Edgar; ‘and every member of the team will
try hard to win the matches. I think we stand an excellent chance, and
you will have to put your best eleven in the field to beat us in the
test matches.’

‘Your men generally play well, and with constant practice they know
each other’s play thoroughly, but we have some splendid cricketers now,
and they will take a lot of beating,’ said his father.

‘All the more credit to us, then, if we win,’ said Edgar.

The members of an Australian eleven have plenty of hard work to go
through when in England, and Edgar could not remain idle at home.
He went to Mitcham to practise on the famous common, and his father
accompanied him to see how the men shaped. To two or three of the older
members of the team, who had been in England before, Robert Foster was
well known, and his appearance with Edgar was hailed with delight.

William Murch, the captain of the Australians, shook hands heartily
with Robert Foster, and said with a smile:

‘We have had you against us on many occasions, but I think we can cry
quits now we have your son on our side.’

‘How does Edgar shape?’ asked Robert Foster.

‘I consider him one of our best bats, and expect great things of him.
He has a happy knack of making a big score when it is most wanted. He
is a smart fielder and a good change bowler. In fact, I cannot pay him
a higher compliment than to say he is as good a man as his father,’
said Murch.

Edgar was now at the nets, and making the balls fly about merrily.

‘He does not seem very stiff after the voyage,’ said Robert Foster.
‘His wrist play is good, but his style could be improved a bit. I must
give him a wrinkle or two.’

‘That will be going over to the enemy’s camp,’ said Murch, with a
laugh; ‘but we shall be glad of such a valuable coach.’

‘By Jove! so it will,’ said Robert Foster. ‘But I cannot resist the
temptation, all the same. We cricketers, I am glad to say, are always
ready to help each other, and I have had many a good wrinkle given me
by Australians.’

‘Ah! it is a game that stands ahead of all other games,’ said Murch
enthusiastically. ‘It is a genuine sport, and a manly sport. It not
only gives pleasure to the players, but to thousands of people in all
parts of the world. Lovers of cricket, no matter where you go, are
always willing to help each other.’

‘You are right,’ said Robert Foster. ‘Cricket will never take a back
seat to any other game.’

‘Look out!’ said Murch, as he dodged a ball hit by Edgar. ‘Your son is
evidently bent upon letting us know he is at the nets.’

When he had finished his turn with the bat Edgar joined his father and
Murch.

‘How do you think I shape?’ said Edgar.

‘Very well,’ replied his father, ‘but your style is rather faulty. I
think I can give you a hint as to what I mean when we reach home.’

‘Now then, Will, it’s your turn,’ said Edgar, and Will Murch went to
the nets with his bat under his arm.

‘You have seen him play before?’ said Edgar.

‘Many times,’ said his father. ‘He is a splendid bat, and I should
think he will make a good captain. Is he popular with the team?’

‘Very,’ said Edgar. ‘I believe every one of us thinks he is the best
man that could have been selected.’

‘That is the proper feeling to start with,’ said Robert Foster. ‘If you
have no confidence in your captain, defeat is almost certain.’

When Robert Foster had seen the Australians at practice on several
occasions, he came to the conclusion it was the strongest team that had
yet come to England.

‘The test matches will be a treat,’ he said. ‘If honours are divided in
the first two matches, what tremendous excitement there will be over
the final!’

‘Which I hope we shall win,’ said Edgar.

Doris Foster was quite as interested as her father in the probable
result of the tour. Although Will Brown had not returned from Australia
with enough wealth to warrant him in setting up an establishment of his
own, Doris thought she would not be risking much in accepting him as
her lover. With Robert Foster’s sanction they became engaged, and the
family circle at Elm Lodge increased.

Ben Brody came to Elm Lodge, and soon made himself at home. Robert
Foster discovered that men of Brody’s stamp are to be trusted, and
although he might have been out of place amidst the sham and humbug of
a society drawing-room, Ben Brody was in his element at Elm Lodge.

His quaint remarks caused roars of laughter, and he drew some amusing
pictures of station life in which Edgar and Will Brown were conspicuous
figures.

‘I’ll tell you what it is,’ he said to Edgar one day as they sat on the
lawn enjoying the fragrant weed, ‘this beats Yanda hollow. What a trump
your dad is! Talk about colonial hospitality, it is a mere trifle to
the way in which I have been treated here. I have lived on the fat of
the land, while those poor beggars at Yanda have been stifling their
ill-feelings with the usual mutton. Then there’s your sister--but she
ought to have a whole vocabulary to herself and not be mixed up with
such matters. Will Brown’s a lucky fellow, and so for the matter of
that are you. Girls like Miss Muriel Wylde are not found every day. I
wonder if you will ever return to Australia.’

‘That remains to be seen,’ said Edgar. ‘After the tour will be time
enough to think about that.’

The opening match of the tour was played at Sheffield Park against Lord
Sheffield’s eleven. Ever ready to assist in promoting honest manly
games, H.R.H. the Prince of Wales honoured them with his presence.
Will Murch was introduced to his Royal Highness, and was naturally much
elated. The match resulted in a win for the Australians, but Edgar did
not ‘come off’ on this occasion.

As the weeks rolled by and the tour progressed, it was easy to see the
Australian eleven was a fine team. So far they had only been twice
beaten--once by an M.C.C. eleven, and in the first match against
England.

Their second struggle with the cracks of the home team had resulted
in a win for the Australians. Edgar played well in these matches, but
had done nothing particularly wonderful. Against several of the county
elevens he had made good scores. He astonished W. G. at Gloucester by
the way he knocked the champion’s bowling about, and the hero of a
hundred fights warmly congratulated him on his performance.

‘I always thought W. G. was a jealous man,’ said Edgar.

‘Not a bit of it,’ said Robert Foster. ‘He’s one of the first to
recognise merit in a cricketer. I’ll tell you what he is jealous about.’

‘And that is?’ asked Edgar.

‘The honour of the game, and the honour of his side when he captains a
team,’ said Robert Foster.

The final test match was to be played at Lord’s, and the greatest
interest was manifested in the result. Throughout England enthusiastic
cricketers waxed eloquent over the forthcoming struggle. In Australia
every item of news was eagerly read and discussed. It might safely be
said that millions of people anxiously awaited the result of this great
match. The picking of the England eleven was a difficult task, but at
last it was done, and Robert Foster could not find a fault with the
team.

‘They ought to beat you, Edgar,’ he said. ‘It is the best team that
could have been selected. Grace has had a large finger in that pie, and
no fault can be found with it. I cannot pick out a weak spot.’

‘They have not won yet,’ said Edgar; ‘and all our men are in splendid
trim. Murch is sanguine, and he’s not given to over-estimate our
chances. Lord’s has been our unlucky ground, but that is no reason why
we should not prove successful.’

‘What a sight it will be!’ said Robert Foster. ‘I hope you will pile up
a big score.’

‘So do I,’ replied Edgar. ‘This is my chance, and I shall do my best.’

The great match was to commence on Monday, and on the Sunday quite a
party of cricketers assembled at Elm Lodge. Will Murch, Bannman, Black,
Royle of the Australians, and two of the English team enjoyed Robert
Foster’s hospitality and listened to the yarns spun by Ben Brody.

Muriel Wylde and her mother were in London for the match, and came to
spend the day at Elm Lodge. Muriel and Doris were great friends, and
found much to talk about. It was an eventful Sunday, this day before
the great match, which formed almost the sole topic of conversation.
Many were the surmises as to who would make the big scores, and which
bowler would secure the best average.

‘We count upon you this time,’ said Murch to Edgar. ‘It is your turn to
knock up a big score against England.’

‘I mean to try,’ said Edgar, ‘and I feel very fit.’

‘Muriel will be terribly disappointed if you make less than a hundred,’
said Doris.

‘That is rather a large order,’ laughed Edgar, ‘but I must do my best
to execute it.’

Late hours were not kept that night. Robert Foster packed them off in
good time.

‘You shall have a night of it when the match is over,’ he said to
Will Murch. ‘Win or lose, you must come here to celebrate the event.
Remember I am equally interested in both sides.’

As Edgar bade Muriel good-night, she said:

‘I am quite anxious about you, Edgar. I feel sure you will succeed.
I shall be terribly excited during the first over, but when you are
firmly set and making a score, it will be glorious.’



CHAPTER XXV. THE SCENE AT LORD’S.


An enormous crowd assembled on the famous cricket-ground at Lord’s to
witness the final battle between England and Australia. The record
attendance was registered for the opening day of a match, and it was
with difficulty that the crowd could be kept within bounds. It reminded
old race-goers of a Derby Day to see so many vehicles driving in the
direction of the ground. Although the sky was dull and threatening,
this did not damp the ardour of the spectators. The members’ pavilion
was thronged, and also the reserved stands and enclosure. A dense mass
of people filled every available standing and sitting place in the
cheaper portion of the ground. No sooner were the doors opened than a
rush commenced for the best seats, which were secured by those who had
been patiently waiting from an early hour in the morning.

Outside the high walls it was more like a fair than anything else.
Itinerant vendors of a variety of eatables did a good trade, and
evaded the attentions of the police with remarkable skill. No sooner
did the man in blue move a coster on than he ‘bobbed up serenely’ in a
different place. Portraits of the cricketers were hawked about, though
the celebrities depicted would have had some difficulty in recognising
their own faces. The excitement over the match was tremendous. The
bus-drivers discussed the chances of success with the passengers
nearest to them, and many of the cabmen wore the English colours on
their whips. Morning editions of the evening papers met with a ready
sale, and every scrap of news anent the great match was pounced upon
with avidity.

Before noon a few drops of rain fell, and with the gathering clouds
the faces of the people became sombre, and their looks gloomy. A heavy
shower would make a good deal of difference, and none knew it better
than the members of the teams.

Robert Foster stood inside the pavilion, with his son and Will Murch,
anxiously scanning the clouds for a sign of a break. They had not long
to wait. The blue sky became visible, and the sun chased the dulness
away and shed its brilliant rays on the scene.

And what a sight it was as they looked from the pavilion over the
ground! A dense mass of people lined the enclosure, and even pressed
over the boundary line in some parts of the ground. To the left of the
pavilion the enclosure was gay with the costumes of the ladies, and
they seemed as eager for the game to commence as any of the male sex.

Doris Foster accompanied Muriel Wylde and her mother, and they were
escorted by Will Brown and Ben Brody, who felt slightly uncomfortable
in a hard hat and a pair of gloves--not to mention a new suit, made by
a fashionable tailor. They occupied seats in the first enclosure, and
had an excellent view of the ground.

The mere mention of Lord’s conjures up wonderful feats in the cricket
field, and recalls memories of men who played on its green sward. A
glance round the pavilion shows the members have not been unmindful of
their doughty champions of the game. It gives the history of cricket,
its rise and progress, in a pictorial form, to look at the various
prints, paintings, and engravings hanging on the walls. The ‘tall hat’
period is well represented, and young cricketers may well be forgiven
for smiling at the costumes of the men who made the game what it is.
The smile, however, was not at the men--there was nothing but praise
for them. Old stagers waxed eloquent over the doings of the cricketers
of their younger days. They vowed there were as good men then as now,
although they had to confess the game had improved--and consequently
the players also.

A gray-headed veteran came up to Robert Foster and said:

‘We had big crowds in our day, but nothing like this,’ and he waved his
hand in a comprehensive sweep round the circle of faces.

Edgar was introduced to the veteran, who said:

‘I remember the first time I saw your father play. He was about your
age then, and he _was_ a bat. I’ll never forget it. It was on this very
ground--Surrey against Middlesex. He won the match, my boy. I’d sooner
you were for us than against us to-day, if you can play as well as your
father did then.’

‘I recollect that match,’ said Robert; ‘but you give me too much credit
when you say I won it for the team.’

‘Not a bit of it,’ replied the veteran. ‘Ask any man who saw it, and
I’ll guarantee he tells the same story. Is it not recorded in the
annals of cricket?’

‘We’ve lost the toss,’ said Edgar. ‘The usual luck at Lord’s.’

‘I expect they will bat,’ said Robert Foster.

‘I doubt it,’ said Edgar. ‘The ground is a bit tricky and in favour of
the bowlers. Grace has gone to have a good look at the wicket. He knows
there are no chances to be thrown away.’

The tall figure of the English captain, with his black, bushy beard,
stood out boldly against the background of people. It was in the days
when Grace was at his best, and Dr. E. M. was another of the valiant
brothers who took the field; Shaw and Morley, the famous Notts bowlers,
were in their prime, and Daft had not yet retired from the field--when
such grand men as A. P. Lucas, A. G. Steel, A. Lyttelton and Lord
Harris were seen at nearly every big match. It was an anxious moment
for everyone as Grace consulted with two of his team as to whether they
should bat.

At last the decision came. The Englishmen were to bat, and a mighty
cheer went up from the crowd.

‘The pitch is all right, or Grace would not have gone in,’ said Robert
Foster.

‘Perhaps he thinks it will wear all right for their innings, and leave
us with the ground cut up,’ said Murch.

People settled down in their places, and made themselves as comfortable
as possible. As the Australians filed on the ground, headed by Murch,
cheer after cheer was given them--for the ‘Kangaroo boys’ had become
very popular.

The commencement of a great match is always fraught with intense
excitement. How will the game go? Will there be a stand for the first
wicket?

The brothers Grace, W. G. and E. M., came out to face the bowling, and
again the cheers broke out from all parts of the ground. Two good men
and good bats were going to open the game for the honour of Old England
against the attack of her young country’s sons.

The English captain went through the preliminaries usual with him.
He calmly surveyed the field, noting with keen eyes how each man was
placed. He took his block, and then patted the ground in a fatherly way
with his bat, as though requesting the pitch to behave well to him.
Then he put his bat under his arm and leisurely fastened his glove.
Having put himself to rights, he was ready for the attack.

The battle had commenced, and it soon became lively. Both men were in
form, and the Australians had plenty of leather-hunting. Boundary hits
did not come quite so quickly as might have been expected, as the ball
seemed to fall rather dead, and did not roll far. When an adjournment
for luncheon was made, both Graces were still in, and the crowd was
jubilant.

Murch was not at all depressed. He never gave in, or had the faintest
intention of doing so.

‘After luncheon will do it,’ he said. ‘There will be a separation then.’

He was right, for in the first over E. M. Grace had his stumps upset.

It was, however, uphill work fighting against such a powerful batting
team. Man after man came in and piled up a score, and the captain was
not got rid of until he had placed one hundred and fifty-two to his
credit. He had played a grand innings, and fully maintained his great
reputation.

The Englishmen were not disposed of until they had piled up the large
score of four hundred and two.

‘What do you think of it now?’ asked Robert Foster of Edgar.

‘It is a big score, but we may equal it,’ he replied.

‘I admire your pluck, but I hardly think you will do that,’ was the
remark of a friend of Mr. Foster’s.

They did not do it. The Australians made an unfortunate start, for
Murch, their great bat and popular captain, was caught before he had
scored.

Edgar made a fair show, and put on thirty runs before he was bowled;
but none of the team made a good stand, and the innings closed, for
a hundred and fifty runs--two hundred and fifty-two behind their
opponents. This was a terribly black outlook for the Australians, and
everyone was disappointed at their display.

Muriel Wylde felt vexed, and she knew Edgar would be much cut up about
it. He came to see her, and tried to put the best face he could on the
matter.

‘We must avoid a one innings defeat, anyhow,’ he said; ‘I cannot make
it out at all. It is sheer bad luck, for the wicket was good. I think
when Murch got out for a duck it made our fellows feel a bit nervous.’

‘You played well enough,’ said Brody.

‘That you did,’ said Will Brown; ‘but I’m afraid you are in for an
awful dressing.’

‘No telling what may happen in cricket,’ said Edgar. ‘I have seen an
even worse match than this pulled out of the fire.’

‘Then you have not lost hope?’ said Muriel.

‘By no means,’ said Edgar. ‘I have a presentiment we shall make a big
score, and prove what we really can do.’

Robert Foster was proud of the display of the home eleven, but he could
not help feeling a pang of regret that the Australians had not made a
better show.

Will Murch was determined to have his revenge for the catch that
disposed of him, and said he felt like making a big score. He got his
men together, and talked the matter over.

‘I’ll go in first again,’ he said, ‘with Bannman, and we must make a
stand somehow. If we can make a big score the other side may be got out
without getting the requisite runs, or they may not have time to get
them, and we shall make a draw of it.’

Edgar Foster was to go in at the fall of the first wicket, and Murch
was very anxious every man should do his level best.

‘They will be very down in the mouth about it at home,’ he said. ‘We
can all imagine how they felt when they saw the poor stand we made;
we’ll try and change the tune for them. Remember, lads, that every run
tells. Run carefully, but run well, and then it is surprising how a
few singles tot up and swell the total. Bat carefully until you are
set, and when you feel safe don’t spare them. They have given us some
leather-hunting, let us return the compliment.’

The cheery words of their captain put heart into the team, and it was
with considerable confidence they saw Murch and Bannman walk to the
wickets to commence the second innings.

Edgar went over to his father to watch the start, and his heart beat
fast as he saw Murch prepare to take the first over.

‘This is better, much better,’ said Robert Foster, as Murch hit a
couple of fours in his first over. ‘We can afford to be generous, and
wish you all to do well this innings.’

Bannman played a cautious game, and left the bulk of the run-getting to
his captain. After half an hour’s play there was a change of bowling.
Will Murch treated the new-comer with scant ceremony.

To Edgar’s great delight the Australian captain hit the bowling all
over the field. His powerful drives and clean cuts elicited well
deserved applause, which was freely bestowed.

‘If you go on at this rate,’ said Robert Foster, ‘it will put a very
different complexion on the game. Your men always did play a good
uphill fight.’

‘And will do so to-day,’ said Edgar. ‘By Jove! that was a narrow shave.’

Bannman made a miss-hit, and the ball went near to the fielder at
point, but he just failed to hold it, although he touched it.

When the second day’s play ended, Murch and Bannman were not out, and
the score stood at one hundred and thirty, of which number Will Murch
had made eighty-four.



CHAPTER XXVI. AN UPHILL GAME.


The brilliant stand made by the Australian captain and Bannman caused
intense excitement, and the attendance on the final day of the match
was enormous. Hundreds of people who anticipated a tame finish, and a
one-sided affair, changed their opinions upon reading the score in the
morning papers. Contrary to expectation, the third day’s play promised
to be the most interesting of all.

When Murch and Bannman commenced again, every stroke was followed
with interest. Runs came freely, and Bannman was not disposed of
until he had made seventy. Then Edgar Foster joined his captain, and
the reception he received on going to the wicket proved his father’s
prowess in the field was not forgotten. Foster, in days gone by, was a
name to conjure by, and people remembered Robert Foster’s feats with
the bat.

Muriel Wylde felt anxious, and whispered to Doris Foster:

‘I do hope Edgar will make a score.’

‘He will try to do so, because he knows it will give you pleasure,’
said Doris.

Murch spoke to Edgar when he went in to bat, and gave him a hint or two
as to the bowling. Edgar played the last ball of the over, and then
Murch scored a couple in the next over.

The bowling was splendid. Both Shaw and Morley were doing their level
best. Edgar found Alf Shaw could deceive a batsman, and put in a swift
ball when least expected. He scored a single off the last ball, and
then faced Morley. Edgar was partial to swift bowling, as Morley soon
discovered, and the over proved productive.

‘I’m getting well set,’ thought Edgar. ‘I believe I’m in for a good
score.’

The runs came freely, and it was not until he had made a hundred and
sixty runs that Murch was caught.

He had done splendidly, and his return to the pavilion was a triumph.
Royle joined Edgar and played steadily.

Grace took the ball and faced Edgar. The English captain knew Edgar
was a free hitter, and placed his men far out. Then he tried to tempt
him to send a catch. Edgar narrowly escaped being caught at the second
ball of the over, and this made him careful. The last ball, however,
was one he could not resist hitting. He drove it straight as a dart,
and it landed over the boundary. It was a tremendous hit, and caused an
outburst of cheering.

The next exciting moment came when E. M. Grace made a magnificent catch
at long-on from a very high hit by Royle. He caught the ball with one
hand, having had to run for it, and, much to Royle’s surprise, held it.

Donnell came next, and then there was some big hitting. Both batsmen
knocked the bowling about terribly. When Edgar had scored fifty there
was a hearty cheer, and he appeared likely to make as big a score as
his captain. The Australians were playing a splendid uphill game,
and keeping up their reputation as ‘men who never know when they are
beaten.’

At the fall of the seventh wicket the two hundred and fifty-two runs
had been wiped off, and they were over fifty to the good.

The game now became most exciting, as the Englishmen knew if they did
not quickly dispose of the Australians the game would end in a draw.
Each man worked hard, and the fielding and bowling was splendid.

Still Edgar Foster kept on increasing his score, and passed his
century, to the great delight of his father and his friends.

Connor was now in, and his hits were marvellous. The giant--he was
about six feet four--lifted the balls all over the ground, and safely
out of the reach of the fielders.

When the last wicket fell Edgar Foster was a hundred and fifty, not
out, and the score was five hundred and two runs, or two hundred and
fifty ahead of the Englishmen.

Such a grand uphill game it was generally acknowledged had never been
played before. Edgar Foster was overwhelmed with congratulations, and
Muriel Wylde showed her delight on her face.

‘It was splendid, Edgar,’ she said. ‘I believe you would have made two
hundred or more.’

‘I felt like it,’ said Edgar. ‘I knew you were watching me, and that
put me on my mettle.’

It seemed well nigh a hopeless task for the Englishmen to get two
hundred and fifty runs in the short time at their disposal. However,
they lost no time in making a start to try to do so.

Strange to say, they did not bat in anything like the form shown in
their first innings. Three wickets fell for under fifty runs, W. G.
Grace being unluckily run out.

The Australians fielded with wonderful skill. Hardly a ball got past
them, and many boundary hits were saved.

Seven wickets fell for a hundred runs, and now it was the turn of the
Australians to endeavour to get their opponents out before the call of
time.

The Englishmen had reckoned with certainty upon a draw, but they now
had to fight hard to avert defeat, and even a draw would not be in
their favour.

‘It is a most extraordinary game,’ said Robert Foster. ‘The glorious
uncertainty of cricket again. You never can tell how it will go until
a match is over, no matter how favourable it may look for a particular
side.’

He had joined the ladies, and they were all watching the game with
interest, taking keen note of every good stroke and every brilliant
piece of fielding.

Will Brown looked at his watch.

‘They have only half-an-hour left,’ he said. ‘I should not wonder if
they were got out in that time.’

The thousands of spectators also wondered how the game would end.

Ten minutes before time Morley joined Shaw at the wickets. They were
not good bats--anything but that, and the crowd knew it. Morley hit
out recklessly and made a couple of fours, and Shaw played steadily.
The Australians did all in their power to separate them, but, as luck
would have it, they failed to do so. The game ended in a draw, which
practically amounted to a victory for the Australians, as the English
eleven required over seventy runs to win.

The result of this match was the subject of conversation for some days,
and the grand struggle made by the Australians was commented upon on
all sides.

At Elm Lodge the event was duly celebrated, and, as Robert Foster
promised, the party made a night of it.

When the tour of the Australians was finished they left for home, but
Edgar Foster did not return with them. At his father’s request he
remained at home.

‘What will Eva think when she finds that I have not returned?’ said
Edgar. ‘I promised her I would go back.’

‘We must try and get her over here,’ said his father. ‘I shall feel
lonely when you and Doris have left me, and Eva will be nice company
for me.’

‘She is a dear little thing,’ said Edgar, ‘and you will love her as
much as though she were your own child.’

‘Do you think every soul on board the _Distant Shore_, with the
exception of Eva and yourself, was drowned?’ said Robert Foster.

‘There can hardly be any doubt about it,’ said Edgar. ‘Why do you ask?’

‘Because I have received a rather mysterious letter,’ said Robert
Foster; ‘it bears the Sydney postmark, and contains news that may
interest you. I will show it you.’

Robert Foster unlocked his desk, and put his hand in one of the
pigeon-holes. He looked through the letters, but could not find the one
for which he searched.

‘Strange,’ he said, ‘I am sure I put it there.’

‘You may have dropped it, or torn it up by mistake,’ said Edgar.
‘Perhaps you remember the contents?’

‘The bulk of them,’ said his father. ‘The letter stated that the writer
had been on a cruise to the South Sea Islands, where he met a man who
had been saved from a wreck. He believes, from hints the man, who
was very reticent, let fall, that he was saved from the wreck of the
_Distant Shore_. When he returned to Sydney he met with Wal Jessop,
who was much interested in what he was told about this man. Wal Jessop
described Captain Manton, and my correspondent says he firmly believes
from this description it is Captain Manton who was saved and is now in
the South Seas. He did not tell Wal Jessop this, because the man seemed
to have a great desire to be left alone, and had no wish to let people
know he had been saved from the wreck of the _Distant Shore_. It is a
most extraordinary story, and I wish I had the letter. I must have torn
it up by mistake. It was careless of me to do so.’

Edgar was amazed at what his father said, and replied:

‘I can hardly credit this story. How any man could live if washed out
to sea on such a night I do not know. If it is Captain Manton, surely
he would have made some sign before this. It cannot possibly be Eva’s
father, for I saw him standing on the deck as the ship struck, and from
the look on his face, and the way he waved farewell to me, I knew he
meant to go down with her.’

‘He may have been washed out to sea, and found a spar or something
to support him. I have a peculiar feeling that this man who was
saved from the wreck is Manton. I have had strange dreams about him
since I received the letter, and I am not a dreamer as a rule, or a
superstitious man. I knew Manton well; he was a proud man, and very
sensitive. If he be the man so strangely saved, I think it is precisely
what he would do--to hide himself away in some lonely spot, in order to
make people think him dead.’

‘But surely he would come forward and tell the story of the wreck,’
said Edgar. ‘No blame attaches to him; he did his utmost to save the
ship, and went down with her when he found he could not do so. Then
there is Eva. He would want to see his child again; surely he would
hear that she had been saved.’

‘He may not have heard. In such a lonely spot one hears very little
news from the outer world.’

‘Do you really place any faith in your mysterious correspondent’s
letter?’

‘I do, Edgar, and for this reason: I feel no man would have written
such a letter had he not been convinced of the truth of its contents.’

‘But why should he write to you?’ asked Edgar.

‘Wal Jessop probably told him how you saved Eva from the wreck, and it
would occur to him that you might wish to know what he thought he had
discovered. He no doubt wrote to me, thinking I would tell you if I
thought it well to do so,’ said Robert Foster.

‘It may be as you surmise,’ said Edgar. ‘I shall never be easy in my
mind until I have seen the man who wrote the letter, and heard all he
has to tell.’

‘That would mean another trip to Australia,’ said his father with a
smile. ‘What would Muriel say to that?’

‘I do not think she would object to my going, for we are not to be
married, as you know, until she is twenty-one. Her mother will not
consent to part with her before that time. In any case I should not
have the journey for nothing, because I could bring Eva back with me.’

‘So you could,’ said Robert Foster. ‘We should be put down as a couple
of foolish fellows if anyone knew what you went to Sydney for.’

‘I shall tell no one, with the exception of Muriel,’ said Edgar. ‘She
will not think it foolish.’

‘I ought to tell you more,’ said Robert Foster. ‘There was a sketch in
the letter, and it bore a strange resemblance to Manton. I cannot make
out where the letter has got to.’

‘Was it a sketch made on the spot, or drawn from memory?’

‘Drawn in Sydney, I believe the writer said.’

‘Then it may have been drawn from Wal Jessop’s description,’ said Edgar.

‘Possibly, but I hardly think so. It seemed to me to be a sketch just
as the man who drew it remembered to have seen him. I did not tell you
of this before, because I thought it might upset you during the tour.’

‘I should have thought a good deal about it, no doubt,’ said Edgar;
‘and perhaps it was as well you did not tell me.’

Edgar pondered over what his father told him, and the more he thought
over it, the more impossible it seemed to him that anyone, least of all
Captain Manton, should have been saved from the wreck of the _Distant
Shore_.

The spirit of adventure, however, was still strong within him, and this
letter his father had received would serve as an excuse, if a poor
one, to revisit Australia. He communicated his intention to Muriel,
and when she heard the reason for his setting out again she did not
consider it so improbable as Edgar himself did.

So it was arranged that Edgar should again voyage to the Colonies, and
Ben Brody was glad of a comrade to return with him. Will Brown, having
obtained a situation in a large shipping office, decided to remain in
England, and Doris Foster was consoled by the thought that if Edgar
left again, she would still have a companion of her own age to whom she
was much attached.



CHAPTER XXVII. THE CAPTAIN OR HIS GHOST.


In due course Edgar Foster arrived in Sydney again. He thought it
better to take Wal Jessop into his confidence, and related to him the
real reason of his return to Australia.

Wal Jessop remembered the circumstances, and said he did not think
Edgar would easily find the man.

‘He spoke of sailing for America,’ said Wal; ‘and as I have seen
nothing of him for some time, I think he must have gone away.’

‘I mean to have a cruise in the South Seas, at any rate,’ said Edgar.
‘I have never been there, and it will be interesting. I am sure to
hear something about this man from the natives and traders.’

Wal Jessop thought for a few moments, and then said:

‘I have a schooner that would suit your purpose, and I should not mind
making a voyage with you. It would be better than going alone, and I
have been in the South Seas several times.’

‘That would be splendid!’ said Edgar, overjoyed at the prospect of
having Wal Jessop with him.

Wal Jessop communicated his intention of accompanying Edgar to his
wife, and although she did not care for him to leave her again to go on
a cruise, she raised no objections when she heard what object they had
in view.

‘How strange it will be if you find Captain Manton there!’ she said.
‘Even if such a thing happened I am afraid he would not return with
you.’

‘We shall persuade him to do so,’ said Wal, ‘if we find him; but
that is more than we hope for. Still, more extraordinary things than
this have happened over shipwrecks, and truth is often stranger than
fiction.’

Wal Jessop’s schooner did not take much fitting out for the voyage, for
both he and Edgar were used to roughing it. A couple of good men were
engaged to go with them, upon whom Wal Jessop knew he could rely.

They set sail early one morning, and were soon outside the heads,
going along at a fair rate of speed in their small craft.

‘She sails well,’ said Edgar.

‘Many a craft twice her size does not skim over the sea so fast,’ said
Wal.

Edgar thoroughly enjoyed being on board the schooner. It was vastly
different from the life on an ocean liner. They had on board a stock of
goods to trade with the natives, and hoped to make the trip profitable.
The wind and weather being in their favour, they sailed merrily along,
and there was every prospect of their making a fast trip.

Wal Jessop suggested going to Fiji first of all.

‘It’s a jolly place,’ he said, ‘and will not be out of our way, and we
are not tied for time.’

‘It is a good thing your wife cannot hear you,’ said Edgar, laughing.
‘I fancy I heard you say we should return as quickly as possible.’

‘So we shall,’ said Wal; ‘but we made no stipulation as to the course
we should take.’

They made sail for Levuka, the former capital of Fiji, Suva being the
present capital. Levuka is situated on a narrow strip of beach, from
which the backbone of Ovalau rises precipitately to a height of 2,500
feet, and falls in a similar manner on the other side.

Levuka, Edgar found, consisted of one main street about a mile in
length, which runs along the beach from old Government House to the
native village at the other end. The ground ascends rapidly on leaving
the beach, and the hills around are dotted with pretty villas. The
stores and hotels face the water, and here Edgar and Wal took in a
fresh stock of provisions for the schooner.

After leaving Levuka, they sailed along the coast and saw a number of
small native towns dotted about at varying intervals, usually among a
little grove of cocoa-nuts or bananas.

They landed near one of these native villages and obtained a supply
of yams and sweet potatoes, also bananas in any quantity. The village
was surrounded by filth and garbage of all sorts, and among this
highly-scented mess a number of scraggy pigs, thin hens, and young
children were rummaging. The stagnant water lying about attracted
swarms of mosquitoes and flies.

Edgar entered one of the houses and was almost choked with the smoke,
and was glad to get a breath of fresh air. The earthen floor of the
house he could just discern was covered with dry grass over which were
spread a few mats. The men seemed a lazy lot of fellows, passing the
bulk of their time in smoking. They went inland for several miles, but
found the country hilly and uninteresting.

They saw numerous inland villages nestling in the valley or perched on
the top of a hill. After leaving Fiji they sailed for the New Hebrides,
rather an inhospitable country, so Edgar understood. Wal Jessop had,
however, been to Tana before, and meant to steer for that place.

‘What sort of a place is Tana?’ asked Edgar as they sat idly in the
schooner with the blue sky shining brilliantly overhead, and the blue
water of the ocean all around them.

‘It is a volcanic island,’ said Wal. ‘There are several of them in the
group, and on many of them the natives speak different languages. It is
a circular island, with a high mountain in the centre which we ought to
see before long. The mountain is constantly in eruption, and answers
the purpose of a lighthouse. It is covered with vegetation almost to
the top.’

‘I hope we shall not have an earthquake during our stay on the island.
I have experienced one already, during our exploration in the cave of
Enooma, and I should not care for the experience to be repeated,’ said
Edgar.

Next morning the island of Tana came in sight, and Edgar marvelled
at its beauty as seen from the schooner. In the centre of the island
rose the high mountain, as Wal Jessop had described it, and smoke
and fire were issuing from the top. They were not long in reaching a
landing-place, and on the beach they saw a number of native canoes,
some about fifteen feet long, and others from twenty-five to nearly
fifty feet in length.

When the natives saw the schooner let go her anchor, two canoes put off
and were quickly paddled alongside. The natives in them were rather
under the middle stature and the colour of old copper. Their faces
were painted a reddish colour, and looked oily and sticky. Their hair
was frizzy and of a light-brown colour, and was twisted and curled into
numerous tails, which were thrown back from the forehead and hung down
the back. It looked for all the world like a wig made of whipcord,
Edgar thought.

‘These fellows are Tanese,’ said Wal. ‘I must try and make them
understand a few questions.’

He spoke to one of the natives, who was taller than his companions, and
asked him to come on board the schooner. Without the least hesitation
the man did so. As he stood on deck, Edgar saw that he was a well-made,
athletic young fellow. The septum of his nose was pierced, and through
it was inserted a reed horizontally, but not so as to project beyond
either nostril. He had tortoiseshell earrings in his ears, about half
a dozen hanging down on each side, and the weight had enlarged the
aperture until a child’s hand might have been passed through. He was
not tattooed, but on his breast a rude device of a fish had been either
cut or burnt in, and on the upper part of his arms was a leaf done in a
similar way. He had no clothes on except a matting bag round the loins.
He had armlets on, and also three large whale’s teeth on three strings
hanging horizontally on his breast.

‘He’s a chief,’ said Wal. ‘I can tell that by those teeth he has on his
breast.’

‘He is a formidable-looking savage,’ said Edgar. ‘I should not care to
have a hit with that club he carries.’

Wal Jessop motioned the chief to sit down, which he did, and was
presented with a necklace of bright-coloured beads which delighted him
immensely.

The other natives in the canoes were looking at the schooner with eager
eyes, evidently with the expectation of getting a few presents.

The chief, whose name was Meri, spoke a few words of English, and
as Wal Jessop knew a little of the Tana language, they managed to
understand each other.

Although Edgar could not make out what they were talking about, he knew
Wal Jessop was questioning him as to the white men who visited the
island.

‘Psan Aremama,’ said Meri.

‘There is a white man on the island,’ said Wal to Edgar. ‘We must go
ashore and try and meet him. Meri knows where he is to be found, but he
avoids the coast.’

‘Strange a white man should be here,’ said Edgar. ‘It may be the very
man we are in search of.’

‘If it turns out to be Manton, it will be stranger still,’ said Wal.

Meri agreed to take them ashore in his canoe, and to make room for them
ordered two of the men to jump out and swim back to land.

Wal Jessop asked if there were sharks about, for he saw the natives
were frightened, but dared not disobey the chief.

Meri laughed, showing his even teeth, and hinted that it would be good
sport to see a shark or two hunt the natives.

‘Pleasant sort of man to work for,’ said Edgar, when Wal had explained.

The canoe shot away from the side of the schooner. Wal and Edgar had
their rifles with them and also a number of beads, trinkets, and pieces
of bright-coloured cloths, with which to propitiate the natives.

As they neared the shore one of the natives who was swimming dived, and
before he came to the surface the water was dyed with blood.

‘Laumasan! [good],’ chuckled Meri.

The native came to the surface, and they saw he had dived and stabbed a
shark that had been in pursuit.

‘That was cleverly done,’ said Wal.

‘They must have some pluck,’ said Edgar.

‘Good fighters, many of them,’ said Wal. ‘We must try and get them to
give us an exhibition of spear-throwing and stone-slinging. It will
interest you.’

They got out of the canoes and waded through the surf to the beach.
Here a number of natives, men and women, were gathered. The women were
fairly well covered with long girdles reaching below the knee. These
girdles were made of rolled dried fibre of the banana stalk, which was
soft to touch and very like hemp. They also wore a few ornaments, and
their hair was shorter than the men’s, standing erect in a forest of
little curls about an inch long.

The chief conducted them to his hut, which was rudely constructed, but
large enough to hold half a dozen persons comfortably. This hut was
built amongst the trees, and there were huts of a smaller size for
about eight or ten families.

The chief gave them to understand that they must join them at the
marum, or place of public meeting.

This meeting was held under a banyan tree in a large clear space. All
the men assembled here at sundown for their evening meal.

A bowl of kava was prepared by chewing the root and ejecting the
contents of the mouth into a bowl, which was filled up with water,
then mixed and strained. In addition to the kava, there were raw yams
served, and cooked food consisting of figs and fowls. The women had
their meal apart from the men.

Meri repeated a short prayer before the meal, wishing them success in
their crops and in the battles in which they were often engaged.

Edgar, having seen the kava prepared, did not relish tasting it, but at
a sign from Wal Jessop, he took the bowl and sipped a little.

‘They would have been greatly offended had you refused it,’ Wal
explained.

After the meal, which, with the exception of the kava, Edgar relished,
the men made speeches and danced, flourishing their clubs. It amused
Edgar to watch the children, of whom the men seemed very fond. The
copper-skinned little ones imitated their elders with precocious
dexterity.

It was a curious sight to see these natives holding a marum under the
huge banyan tree, and as the shades of night quickly fell their figures
loomed in the light with a peculiarly weird effect as they danced and
chanted their monotonous song.

Meri sat between Wal Jessop and Edgar, and as the dance proceeded, he
caught them one by each arm and nodded across the opening. Edgar and
Wal looked in the direction Meri indicated, and saw a strange figure
standing looking at the scene.

Edgar sprang to his feet and shouted:

‘The captain or his ghost!’

‘The very image of him,’ said Wal.

The stranger had, however, noted their movements, and, suddenly
turning, darted back into the shadow of the trees.



CHAPTER XXVIII. A STRANGE STORY.


Wal Jessop hastily explained to Meri that it was their intention to
go in pursuit of the white man, and the chief said he would accompany
them. The meeting came to an end, the savages dispersing to their
various huts.

Meri, beckoning to Wal and Edgar to follow him, led the way across the
marum into the forest beyond. They were soon in richly-wooded country,
and found progress difficult. Edgar constantly stumbled over some
tangled, twisted root that lay hidden in his path; thorns, growing on
some of the bushes, pricked him and tore his clothes, and Wal Jessop
was in no better plight. Meri, however, did not appear to mind the
thorns, but walked on at a rapid pace.

They continued their tramp for some time, but saw nothing of the white
man who had so quickly and mysteriously disappeared.

When they halted to rest Wal Jessop questioned Meri, and learned that
the white man had been on the island for some time. He came in a
trading vessel, and was left behind, either wilfully or through his
own desire. The natives regarded him with superstition, and thought
him scarcely human. Meri himself was evidently a believer in the white
man’s powers over the natives for good or evil.

On resuming their search they came upon a pathway evidently cut in the
bush, and along this Meri led them.

He halted at the entrance to a small clearing, and here they saw a
strange sight.

Standing straight up from the ground were several large trunks of
trees, that had been hollowed out and rudely carved in the shape of
hideous heads at the top. They appeared to be idols, and Meri regarded
them with a look of awe.

‘This is a Sing-Sing ground,’ said Wal; ‘I have heard of them before,
but never seen one. This is where their gods live, and it is regarded
as a sacred grove. If the white man is here it easily accounts for the
fear with which he is regarded. No native would remain here alone; in
fact, they dare not venture except upon special occasions. I’ll ask
Meri about it.’

Wal questioned the chief, who said he could enter the sacred grove as
chief of his tribe, and they walked into the clearing. Raising his club
Meri struck one of the hollow trunks a blow, and it echoed through the
forest with a sound like a drum.

Edgar looked into the hollow of each tree, but saw nothing. Presently a
tall figure glided into the grove, and stood still regarding them.

They were at once convinced it was the unfortunate captain of the
_Distant Shore_ standing before them, but he showed no sign that he
recognised them.

He was strangely altered from the fine, stalwart seaman they had known
as Captain Manton of the _Distant Shore_. His figure was gaunt and
thin, and his arms and hands were mere skin and bone. His hair was
white, his beard of the same hue, and his eyes looked vacantly from
under his bushy eyebrows. He wore an old coat, which reached to his
knees, and his legs and feet were bare. As he advanced slowly towards
them Meri fell back, but Edgar and Wal stood their ground.

‘Begone!’ said this ghost-like figure of Captain Manton. ‘This is
no place for you. Begone, and leave me in peace! I harm no one. I am
quite alone--alone in a world of my own, peopled with the ghosts of the
drowned!’

Edgar stepped forward, and, looking him straight in the eyes, said:

‘Do you not know me, Captain Manton? I am Edgar Foster. I was saved
from the wreck with your daughter Eva.’

At the mention of Eva’s name a momentary light of intelligence came
into the man’s eyes, but it quickly died away, and left them dull and
vacant.

‘Poor fellow!’ said Edgar sorrowfully; ‘his brain has given way under
the strain. He must have suffered severely.’

‘Do you think he is mad?’ asked Wal.

‘Not a dangerous form of madness,’ replied Edgar; ‘but I have no doubt
he is not in his right mind. We must humour him, and question him. He
has a strange story to relate, if he can be persuaded to tell it, and
if he remembers all he has gone through.’

Edgar took the unfortunate man by the hand, and persuaded him to sit
down.

Meri looked on, his curiosity evidently being excited.

Edgar tried as gently and simply as possible to lead the wandering mind
of the captain back to the wreck of the _Distant Shore_, and found, to
his delight, that he succeeded in rousing his dormant memory.

Captain Manton began to talk in a strange, monotonous way. He was
evidently recapitulating what had happened to him after the wreck of
the _Distant Shore_, and he seemed almost unconscious of anyone being
present.

From time to time during the course of the strange tale he related
Edgar refreshed his weak memory.

‘If we can lead him on to tell us everything,’ said Edgar, ‘he may
recognise us in the end.’

‘I hope so,’ said Wal; ‘it is terrible to see him like this, but it may
be caused through not having any white men to converse with.’

Captain Manton--for, indeed, it was that unfortunate seaman--commenced
by telling them, in a somewhat incoherent way, that he was on a big
ship when it went on to the rocks and crashed to pieces.

‘It was the captain’s fault,’ he said; ‘he ought to have made for a
harbour; he is responsible for all our deaths.’

‘You were saved,’ said Edgar. ‘You are not dead, and you ought to be
thankful. It was not the captain’s fault, for he was a brave man, and
a good seaman. I knew him well, and he was incapable of a cowardly
action.’

‘I knew him once,’ said Captain Manton, ‘but it must have been a very
long time ago. He’s dead now, and you say I am alive. Strange how
little I remember of Manton, for I must have known him well.’

‘You did,’ said Edgar. ‘Have you forgotten? Can you not remember that
you are Captain Manton, and that I saved your daughter Eva?’

‘Eva,’ said Manton, with a deep sigh, ‘I know the name very well--Eva;
yes, I once knew little Eva.’

He spoke in such pathetic tones that both Edgar and Wal Jessop were
affected.

Suddenly Manton began to talk rapidly.

‘I remember now,’ he said; ‘the captain went down with the ship. I was
tossed about on the rocks--washed on and then off again. A huge wave
rolled me back into the sea, and I clutched a broken spar. The captain
clutched that spar, too, but I pushed him off--ah, ah! I pushed him
off because there was only room for one; but he came up again and sat
beside me, and I had not strength to push him off again. He did not try
to push me off. Out to sea we were taken, and then I recollect nothing
until I awoke on board a small craft, and the captain was not there. He
must have fallen off the spar, and been drowned. I was starved on the
boat, for they had very little to eat. When they landed on some island,
they went away and left me. The natives were kind to me and gave me
food. I have lived here many years. I do no one any harm, and I want
to stay here. You will not take me away?’ he said suddenly, turning to
Edgar and Wal, with an imploring look in his eyes.

Edgar evaded the question, and said:

‘I will tell you what happened on the night the _Distant Shore_ was
wrecked, and how Wal Jessop here saved me and your daughter Eva.’

‘My daughter Eva!’ said Manton, with a soft smile--‘my daughter Eva!’

He lingered fondly over the name, and Edgar said to Wal:

‘I believe if I relate all that took place he will remember. His
sufferings have caused loss of memory, that is all.’

‘I hope so,’ said Wal; ‘it is pitiable to find him like this.’

Edgar then told him as briefly as possible all that took place at the
wreck of the _Distant Shore_. As he described how Wal Jessop found
himself and Eva on the rocks, and at great risk got them to the top
of the cliffs, Manton’s eyes brightened, and he listened with intense
interest.

‘Eva is now a beautiful little girl,’ said Edgar, ‘and she has been
expecting to see you. We have always told her you would come back to
her, and I am sure you will do so. You remember me now, do you not?’
said Edgar; ‘and also your good friend in Sydney, Wal Jessop?’

‘Ay, you’ll remember me, skipper,’ said Wal, in a hearty voice; ‘I’ve
towed you safely into port many a time. Come, give me a grip of your
hand, and say you know me.’

Manton looked, first at Edgar, and then at Wal Jessop. He was wrestling
with the memories of the past that had so long been absent from him.
Gradually they saw his memory was recovering its power. The mind was
only clouded, and brighter days would chase the gloom away.

‘My God! can it be true?’ said Manton, as he gazed at them. ‘Am I
dreaming, or am I mad? Can this be Edgar Foster, and my old mate, Wal
Jessop? Where am I, and how did I come here?’

He was wrestling with his memory, and gradually drawing it back to
life. With the return of reason he failed to comprehend what had
happened to him, and why he was on this wild island in the New Hebrides.

‘True, true, true!’ he murmured; ‘they are indeed my friends!

He grasped their hands, and his frame shook with the intense emotion he
felt. He was in a very weak state, and the reaction was too much for
him. The change from darkness to light overpowered him, and he sank
back in a dead faint.

Meri, when he saw Manton fall back, to all appearance dead, sprang
forward and brandished his club in a savage manner. He thought Edgar
and Wal must have practised some witchcraft upon this white man, who
had been so long amongst them.

Wal Jessop, leaving Manton in Edgar’s care, explained, as well as he
could, what had happened. Meri looked displeased when Wal said they
would take Manton away with them, and said evil would fall upon their
tribe if they allowed him to go.

It was some time before Manton recovered, and when he did so he was
too weak to walk. Wal Jessop persuaded Meri to return with him to the
village, and obtain help to carry Manton to the beach.

Edgar remained with the captain, and did all in his power to cheer him.
He knew it would be some time before they returned, and Manton was not
in a fit state to be left alone. With the return of his memory he had
become nervous and excited. For the first time since that fatal night
when the _Distant Shore_ was wrecked, he began to remember clearly what
had taken place.

Edgar saw what it was preyed upon his mind, and said:

‘Everyone will be glad to hear you have been saved in such a strange
and marvellous way. You will be heartily welcomed in Sydney when we
return; and think of little Eva waiting and watching for you.’

‘The ship was lost,’ said Manton in a hollow voice, ‘and I am
responsible. Did all on board perish with the exception of three?’

‘Yes,’ said Edgar; ‘but you were not to blame. Everyone praised your
conduct, for I told them how you stood by your ship, and went down with
her. Nothing could have saved her. You did all that man could do.’

‘And my poor wife?’ he moaned.

Edgar was silent. He knew words would avail nothing.

‘How did you find me?’ asked Manton.

Edgar related how his father received a letter, and his own
determination to set out in quest of him in order to ascertain the
truth.

‘And you did this for my sake?’ said Manton.

‘I must not take too much credit for that,’ said Edgar. ‘A love of
adventure prompted me, and, although I hardly credited your being
alive, yet I knew it was not impossible.’

‘And where am I, and how long have I been here?’ asked Manton
wonderingly.

‘You are on the island of Tana, in the New Hebrides,’ said Edgar. ‘You
were no doubt picked up by a schooner on its way to the South Seas from
Sydney.’

‘It is all very strange,’ said Manton. ‘I must have been near to death
when I was rescued from the sea.’

‘Your sufferings were so great that your mind became deranged,’ said
Edgar. ‘With complete rest, and amongst your friends, you will speedily
recover.’

Manton shook his head despondingly. He was in a melancholy mood, and
his mind was not quite balanced. As Edgar looked at him his heart was
full of pity for him, and he fervently hoped it would not be many weeks
before Captain Manton was fully recovered both in mind and body.



CHAPTER XXIX. WARLIKE SPORTS.


When Meri and Wal Jessop reached the village the chief explained to
his followers how the white men had recognised their friend, and the
natives were excited at such an unlooked-for occurrence. A stretcher
was quickly made of long poles and matting, and, accompanied by four
stalwart natives, Wal Jessop and Meri returned to the Sing-Sing ground
where they had left Edgar and Captain Manton. They carefully carried
Manton to the village, and Wal Jessop went out to the schooner to
obtain drugs from the medicine chest.

In the course of a few days Captain Manton was much better, and eager
to be gone from the island. The chief and the natives, however,
seemed loath to part with him, and Edgar thought there might be some
trouble in getting him away. To make matters easier they presented
Meri and most of the natives--men, women, and children--with gifts of
beads, cloth, and small ornaments. It amused them to watch the women
adorning their persons with bright red and yellow cloths, and they were
particularly delighted some with the strings of bright-coloured beads.

Edgar noticed the natives, even when going to walk in the plantations,
were armed, and Meri said they were always at war with one or more of
the neighbouring tribes. Even the women and children were armed, and
it was surprising with what accuracy of aim the smallest lads could
shoot their arrows. These natives were all fond of sports, and spent
the greater part of their time practising with the various weapons they
used.

Meri, at Edgar’s request, ordered some native sports to take place;
and the men, nothing loath, prepared for them in a very short time.
Wal Jessop promised the most successful should have prizes given them,
selected from the stock of trade goods on board the schooner.

Spear-throwing was first undertaken, and the natives aimed with
wonderful skill, far better than the Enooma blacks. They hurled their
spears with terrific force, and often buried them six inches deep in
the trunk of a tree the wood of which was almost as hard as iron.
Smooth stones were piled up on the beach, and the natives, using
slings, whirled them out to sea for such a long distance that the
splash made when they fell could hardly be seen. Club-swinging they
were clever at, and an attack with clubs, warded off by wooden shields,
made Edgar fearful for the result, so furious and excited did the
combatants become.

The boys and girls, all naked, ran races on the clear white sand, and
swam out to sea in the most daring manner. One lad, a son of the chief,
shot his arrow through Meri’s fingers as he spread the back of his hand
out wide against a tree. The girls were quite as active as the boys,
and ran as fast, and swam as well. These youngsters had very little
fear in them, and even a shark near the shore did not frighten them,
for the lads would swim out with spears in their hands and attack the
monsters.

The canoe-races caused much excitement, and the chief, Meri, paddled
dexterously--in fact, he was superior to the others in most of the
sports.

Edgar was much interested in watching the natives build a canoe. A
tree was felled, and the branches cut off. Then, for a common fishing
canoe, the log was hollowed out about fifteen feet long, and a rough
canoe was soon formed. The better-built canoes were made of separate
planks raised from the keel, and laid on in pieces from twenty-five to
fifty feet long. Gum of the bread-fruit tree was used instead of pitch,
and smeared over to make them water-tight. The inside and outside were
smoothed, and when finished the canoe looked a creditable craft.

Although Edgar enjoyed the experiences he was going through at Tana, he
was anxious to get away now Captain Manton had been discovered; but the
chief always made some excuse for detaining them, and Wal Jessop said
it would be safer to obtain his permission to leave. Captain Manton was
also in a hurry to depart, and once more get to sea. Wal Jessop gave
Meri to understand that it was necessary for them to leave, and the
chief said he would consider the matter.

A meeting was held under the banyan tree in the marum, and the three
friends looked on, much interested in the proceedings.

Wal Jessop gathered that there was considerable opposition to Captain
Manton’s departure, and that the chief did not care to resist the will
of the natives. When the meeting was over, Meri said his people were
not willing that Captain Manton should go with Edgar and Wal.

To this Wal Jessop made no reply, but after consulting Edgar and
Captain Manton, it was arranged they should make a bolt for it at
night, seize one of the canoes, and row back to the schooner.

Wal Jessop went to the schooner to give instructions for all to be
ready for sailing immediately they were on board.

Towards evening, when the natives were returning from the plantation,
there was a great row amongst them. They came forward shouting,
dancing, and gesticulating, and in their midst was a poor wretched
native, almost ready to drop with fright. Meri’s men had kidnapped this
man, who belonged to another tribe, and he knew, poor wretch! the fate
in store for him.

‘What will they do with that poor beggar?’ said Edgar.

‘Eat him probably,’ said Wal Jessop with a shudder. ‘The natives here
are cannibals.’

‘Horrible!’ said Edgar. ‘Can we do nothing to prevent it?’

‘I am afraid not,’ said Wal. ‘I will remonstrate with the chief, but it
will be all to no purpose. All we can do is to take advantage of their
absence when the poor wretch is killed, and make for the schooner.’

‘Speak to Meri,’ said Edgar. ‘We ought to stop it if we can.’

Wal Jessop went to the chief, who acknowledged it was the custom to
kill and eat prisoners of another tribe. Wal then tried to buy the
wretch off, but the chief was firm. He could not interfere with the
custom of the tribe.

That night a large fire was lighted in the marum, and they could see
the flames flashing in the darkness.

They shuddered as they thought of what was about to take place; but as
they were powerless to interfere they determined to steal away to the
schooner.

Cautiously they went down to the beach and secured a canoe. Captain
Manton sat in the bow, where there was a seat for the chief, and Wal
and Edgar paddled.

Before they were half-way to the schooner the natives saw them, and,
uttering loud cries, ran down to the beach. A large canoe was quickly
launched, Meri took his place in the bow, and the pursuit commenced.

‘They will overhaul us before we reach the schooner,’ said Wal. ‘Our
only plan is to frighten them. We have our rifles. You must send a
bullet or two in their direction, Edgar. Do not harm anyone if you can
help it, but strike the canoe somewhere near the chief. It will give
him a shock, and may hinder the pursuit.’

The natives were fast nearing them, their canoe skimming along the
water with wonderful swiftness. Meri stood up in the bow, spear in
hand, and signalled them to stop. His dark figure was plainly seen in
the moonlight which covered the sea with a soft, silvery glow.

Edgar put down his paddle and took up his rifle, which he levelled at
the chief.

Meri saw him, but did not flinch. He turned to his men and urged them
on.

Edgar took aim and fired at the bow of the canoe. It was a lucky shot,
for just as he fired the bow of the canoe rose slightly, and the bullet
splintered the wood under Meri’s feet.

This caused the chief to spring backwards, and in so doing he stumbled
and fell into the water. The natives at once ceased rowing, and
assisted him to get into the canoe.

Edgar, as soon as he had fired the shot, put down the rifle and grasped
the paddle. They gained on the canoe again, and reached the schooner
before the natives. Captain Manton was assisted into the schooner, and
Edgar and Wal quickly followed, taking good care to throw their rifles
to the men on deck.

Everything was ready for sailing immediately, but before the schooner
could get under way the canoe, full of natives, was alongside.

Meri was about to spring on the schooner when Edgar levelled his rifle
at him, and Wal Jessop shouted:

‘Get back, or we shall fire. We want to leave peaceably. Go back to
your island. You have had many presents from us.’

The chief said they wanted their white man back, and meant to have him.

‘Then you must look out for a row,’ said Wal.

The schooner was now under sail, and although there was but little
breeze, she made headway. Seeing the schooner gliding away, the chief
gave some order to his men, who stood up and hurled their spears at
those on deck.

‘Lie flat down,’ shouted Wal, who saw their intention; and they all
fell on the deck. The spears whistled harmlessly over them, one or two
striking the mast.

‘Give me the gun; I’ll give them a dose of shot for that,’ said Edgar.

Wal Jessop handed him a gun, and Edgar fired it at the canoe. The shot
told, and one or two of the natives were hit, but not severely. This
had the desired effect, and, seeing pursuit was both hopeless and
dangerous, the chief ordered them to paddle back to the island.

The travellers were all glad to get safely away from Tana, and decided
to sail direct to Sydney, as there was an ample supply of food on
board. Captain Manton seemed to recover every day at sea, and both
Edgar and Wal Jessop did all in their power to cheer him and make him
forget what he had suffered.

The voyage back to Sydney was uneventful, and the little schooner
entered the Heads sooner than was expected, and cast anchor in Watson’s
Bay.

Captain Manton, as they neared the Heads, had looked long at the fatal
rocks where the _Distant Shore_ went to pieces, and the tears stood in
his eyes as he thought of that awful night.

When they were in the smooth waters of the harbour, and snugly at
anchor in Watson’s Bay, his spirits revived at the prospect of meeting
his daughter again.

He wondered if she would know him, for he was much altered, and she was
a little child when last he saw her on that fatal night.

‘I am sure she will recognise you,’ said Edgar; ‘you look much more
like your old self now. When we found you at Tana you were a different
man.’

They landed at the jetty, and walked up to Wal Jessop’s cottage.

‘We shall give them a surprise,’ said Edgar.

‘A pleasant one,’ said Wal.

Captain Manton’s heart beat fast as he walked up the familiar road, and
hastened to meet the daughter he had thought he would never see again.

‘Perhaps it will be better for me to go on first,’ said Wal, ‘and
prepare her. The sudden joy may be too much for Eva.’

They agreed, and Wal walked on. He reached the cottage door, and
knocked. His wife opened it, and gave a cry of joy as she saw him.
After a hearty embrace, she said anxiously:

‘Where is Edgar? Is he well?’

‘Never better,’ said Wal. ‘Where’s Eva?’

Eva heard them talking, and came running into the room. She rushed into
Wal’s outstretched arms, and he kissed her tenderly.

‘Edgar has come back,’ said Wal, ‘and someone else--someone you love
best in all the world.’

‘Daddy?’ said Eva excitedly.

‘Yes,’ said Wal, looking from her to his wife; ‘daddy has come back.’

He heard footsteps outside, and said:

‘And here he is, with Edgar.’

Captain Manton came into the room. Eva looked at him for a few moments,
evidently in doubt.

‘Eva, my child, my little one, don’t you know me? Come to my arms, my
pet; come to daddy again.’

‘It is my daddy!’ said Eva, with a joyful cry, as she flew to
him. ‘Eddy said he would come back. I shall never let him go away
again--never, never, never!’



CHAPTER XXX. GOOD-BYE TO AUSTRALIA.


How Captain Manton came to Sydney, and how he received a welcome of
the heartiest description on all sides, is well known throughout the
colony. His marvellous escape and subsequent adventures, and the
strange discovery of him at Tana by Edgar Foster and Wal Jessop, have
been related over and over again. His examination by the Marine Board
was thoroughly satisfactory, and Captain Fife said no man could have
done more than Captain Manton to save his ship.

The tall, commanding form of Captain Manton, and the pretty child
accompanying him wherever he went, soon became familiar figures in the
parks of Sydney. The big, stalwart seaman was wrapped up in his child,
and his intense love for her was shown in every word and action.

They sat together for hours on the grassy slopes of the Botanical
Gardens overlooking the harbour, and watched the big steamers pass to
and fro, and the sailing vessels towed out from their snug berths to
face the perils of an ocean voyage to some far-distant land. Those were
halcyon days for little Eva Manton, and she often thought of them in
after years, when the business of life had commenced for her in real
earnest.

Leaving Captain Manton to rejoice in his new-found happiness, Edgar
Foster took a trip out West to Yanda, in order to bid good-bye to his
friends before finally departing for England.

They were all very pleased to see him at Yanda, and Ben Brody could
not refrain from relating wonderful and improbable yarns about his
experiences with Edgar in London.

‘It’s grown into a mighty big place,’ said Ben. ‘You fellows have no
idea what London is like. Bless me if the people are not thicker on the
pavements than sheep in a catching pen!’

‘What’s the mutton like over there?’ asked Jim Lee solemnly.

‘Nearly as juicy as it is here,’ said Ben, with a wink, and a smack of
the lips that betokened fond remembrances of sundry succulent London
chops.

Yacka made quite a scene when he discovered that Edgar had returned. He
summoned all the blacks in the neighbourhood, and a great corroboree
took place in his honour.

To Edgar’s inquiries Yacka said he had resolved never to return to
the country of the Enooma, or to the cave of the White Spirit, now no
longer there.

Yacka was contented to live and die at Yanda, where Ben Brody and the
hands were kind to him, and where he could idle away most of his time,
and spend a savage life such as the blackfellow loves.

‘Would you not like to become civilized,’ asked Edgar, ‘and cultivate
the ways of the white man?’

‘No,’ said Yacka; ‘to be civilized means rum and ruin. Yacka loves his
freedom, and wants no civilization.’

It was in vain Edgar endeavoured to induce Yacka to leave Yanda, and
go to Sydney with him. The black was firm in his resolve never to quit
Yanda again, and many years after Edgar learned that Yacka died at the
station, and was much regretted, not only by the blacks, but also by
the hands.

Before Edgar left Sydney he was entertained by the cricketers of the
city at a banquet, and the speeches made on that memorable occasion
were treasured by him. They were not mere after-dinner displays, but
real, genuine words spoken from the heart, and Edgar accepted them as
such.

Edgar made many attempts to induce Captain Manton to return to England
with him.

The captain, however, was firm in his determination not to leave Sydney.

‘I want to end my days here in peace,’ he said to Edgar; ‘I have only
Eva to live for, and I feel we shall be happy here with our good
friends the Jessops. You will tell your father how much I thank him for
all his kindness to me and mine.’

‘I am sorry you have decided to remain here,’ said Edgar; ‘we should
all be so pleased to welcome you home.’

‘I feel I must remain, my lad,’ said Captain Manton. ‘I want to be near
the place where I lost my wife and my ship, and all the poor souls who
went down with her. God knows I did my best to save them, but it was
not to be. I feel it to be my duty to stay here--a duty I owe to the
dead who lie buried fathoms deep off this spot. At Watson’s Bay I hope
to end my days, and I am thankful Eva has been restored to me to keep
me from being lonely in my declining years.’

Wal Jessop became more reconciled to parting with Edgar Foster when
he heard that Captain Manton had decided to remain and take a small
cottage at Watson’s Bay.

‘I should have been lost without one of you,’ he said, ‘and I don’t
know what the wife would have done without Eva. She loves that bairn as
much as if she were her own.’

The day that Edgar sailed for home Captain Manton and Eva stood on
the cliffs at Watson’s Bay, and watched the great steamer pass slowly
through the Heads. They waved their handkerchiefs, and Captain Manton,
looking through his glasses, spied Edgar leaning over the rails of the
upper-deck also waving a farewell.

As he saw those two figures on the cliffs, Edgar Foster felt a sadness
creep over him at the thought that he might never see them again. He
watched them as the steamer ploughed its way south, until they were
mere specks against the sky-line.

As for Captain Manton and Eva, they stood there until the steamer had
disappeared, and only a faint line of smoke denoted where she had sunk
below the horizon. Then the captain took Eva by the hand, and led her
gently down the rough, steep, pathway to Wal Jessop’s cottage. He did
not feel lonely, for he had his child to comfort him, and he knew the
remainder of his life would be quiet, uneventful, and peaceful. He had
determined to devote his life to his child, and to try and teach her
how to be a brave, good woman.

Mrs. Jessop had been a mother to Eva, and she felt it would be hard to
part with her.

‘Try and persuade Captain Manton to stay with us,’ she said to Wal. ‘We
have room for him, and then I shall not lose Eva.’

Wal Jessop broached the subject to Captain Manton, who was easily
persuaded to fall in with Mrs. Jessop’s wishes.

‘It will be better for Eva,’ he said, ‘for your wife has taken her
mother’s place. I shall not want much attention. We old sailors are
accustomed to looking after ourselves and taking things easily, eh,
Wal?’

‘I guess we are,’ replied Wal; ‘I’m right glad you have decided to stay
with us, skipper. I believe the wife would have broken her heart if you
had taken Eva away from her.’

So Captain Manton and Eva remained at Wal Jessop’s cottage, and a happy
united family they were.

Leaving Captain Manton and the Jessops, we must now return to Edgar
Foster, who, after a safe passage home, was once more at his father’s
house at Elm Lodge.

He related how Captain Manton was found, and excited interest by
displaying a number of curiosities he had secured in the South Seas.

‘I wish Manton had come home with you,’ said his father; ‘I wanted to
see him again.’

‘After all, I think he decided rightly to remain in Sydney,’ said
Edgar. ‘Eva was much attached to Mrs. Jessop, and Wal will be a good
companion for the captain.’

Naturally, Edgar had not been home long before he paid a visit to the
Wyldes, and he found Muriel looking more charming than ever. After
several years of travel, Edgar felt it was high time he settled down
and devoted himself to business seriously. He knew his father was
moderately well off, but he was determined to get his own living, and
not rely upon him. He did not know that Mrs. Wylde was a wealthy woman,
or he would perhaps have felt some diffidence in proposing to Muriel.

Will Brown and Doris Foster were married soon after Edgar’s return, and
resided in a comfortable house at Putney.

When Edgar had been at home some time, the secretary of the M----
Cricket Club died, and Robert Foster thought it would be a good place
for his son. The salary was excellent, and the work such as Edgar
liked, and knew a good deal about.

At a meeting of the club Edgar’s name came up, and the committee
decided in his favour, at the same time suggesting that he should play
when required. This suited Edgar’s plans admirably, and it was somewhat
of a novelty to see the secretary of such a club taking a prominent
position in the cricket-field.

Feeling his position secure, and having now an ample income for his
wants, Edgar asked Muriel Wylde to marry him at an early date, and she
consented. The wedding took place at Twickenham Church, and never had
the sun shone on a prettier bride, or a more manly-looking bridegroom.

Prosperity dogged Edgar’s footsteps, for he invested a considerable sum
in mines in West Australia, and being well advised, his speculation
proved successful. As the years rolled on he became a devoted husband
and father, and he taught his sons to be honest and manly, and to earn
for themselves a good name as lads of mettle.

In the cricket-field Edgar constantly distinguished himself, and many a
century was recorded to his credit. Through his management the club of
which he was secretary advanced by leaps and bounds, until financially
it stood far above the average run of clubs, and in the cricket-field
had twice held the honours at the close of the season.

News from Sydney came frequently, and kept Edgar in touch with the
world over the water, for which he had a great affection.

       *       *       *       *       *

Many years after Edgar Foster left Sydney for the last time an old
man and a lovely girl were sitting on the cliffs at Watson’s Bay.
Below them the vast expanse of sea lay calm and still. Hardly a ripple
stirred the placid surface of the water, as it gently lapped over the
smooth worn slabs of rock at the base of the cliffs. A faint breeze
fanned the faces of the old man and the beautiful girl, and waved his
white beard gently, and caressingly lingered amidst her silken hair. It
was easy to see they were father and daughter, for she resembled him
very much.

They both looked out to sea, and watched the boats sailing slowly in
the calm water. Scores of yachts and small boats had ventured outside
the Heads on this calm day.

It was Sunday, and there were many people from Sydney enjoying the cool
breeze on the cliffs. Several of them looked at the gray-bearded man
and his lovely daughter, and there was respect in their glances, for
they knew the history of this inseparable pair.

Eva Manton had developed into a lovely girl. The promise of childhood
had been fulfilled in womanhood--for woman she was, although her father
always called her ‘my little girl.’

Captain Manton was ageing rapidly, but still looked to have many years
of life before him. With sturdy Wal Jessop and his wife he passed life
comfortably, and lived for his daughter, who amply repaid the affection
he bestowed upon her.

Eva Manton had her admirers as other girls have, but she kept them at
arm’s length. She meant to be her father’s companion while he lived,
and thought it no sacrifice upon her part to remain with him.

Now she could understand all about that terrible wreck, and how Wal
Jessop’s sturdy arms had rescued Edgar Foster and herself from the
rocks below where they stood.

She often sat there looking down into the depths, and thought how Edgar
Foster had at the risk of his own life saved hers. Then she would think
of the peril her father had passed through, and of his wonderful rescue
and discovery on the island by Wal Jessop and Edgar. She felt it was
good to be alive after such trials and sufferings, and she was thankful
for her existence.

‘A letter from Edgar,’ said Wal Jessop one morning as they all sat in
the cottage.

This was an important event, and one always eagerly looked forward to.
Edgar’s letters gave them all pleasure, they were so bright and cheery,
and full of good news and good wishes.

Wal Jessop read it, and, as usual, had to repeat the operation.

‘That’s what I call a manly letter,’ said Captain Manton.

‘He was always a straight goer,’ said Wal Jessop. ‘As a lad he was a
manly youngster.’

‘He was brave,’ said Eva, ‘and full of courage. He risked his life for
mine.’

‘And for that I am ever grateful,’ said her father.

‘I wish him well,’ said Wal, ‘for he deserves to be happy. I always
thought him a lad of mettle.’



BILLING AND SONS, PRINTERS, GUILDFORD.



       *       *       *       *       *



Transcriber’s note:

This book was published in 1897.

Some cricketers in the book have the same names as well-known
cricketers of the time period.

The original hard copy version of this book has advertisements at
the end, some of which are now illegible due to wear, and these
advertisements are not included in this version.

Punctuation has been made consistent.

Variations in spelling and hyphenation were retained as they appear in
the original publication, except that obvious typographical errors have
been corrected.

The following change was made:

p. 187: MacDonald changed to MacDonnell (the MacDonnell Ranges)





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