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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesAdventures In Australia - Chapter 6
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Adventures In Australia - Chapter 6 Post by :trebor95 Category :Long Stories Author :William H. G. Kingston Date :May 2012 Read :3305

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Adventures In Australia - Chapter 6

CHAPTER SIX

When I got back to my friends we held a consultation as to our best mode of proceeding. It was agreed that we would wait until the bushrangers separated, which they were sure to do in the morning, and then rush on those in the camp while the others were away. The dog would prove the chief obstacle, and it was settled that I was to shoot him while Hector and Guy should dash into their camp. Two of the men would in all probability remain, while the others went to look after the horses, leaving their arms behind them. The dominie was to remain with the horses in case any of the fellows escaping might gallop off with them.

We waited until about a couple of hours to dawn, when we crept forward, led by the black. We dared not approach as close as we could have wished, on account of their watch-dog, who would be certain to give the alarm. Our plans being arranged, the dominie and I lay down, and, wearied with what we had lately gone through, slept for the greater part of the night.

It was still dusk when, having crept up to the robbers' camp, we saw one of them get up and throw some sticks on the fire. He then aroused his companions, and two of them, the big bushranger and one I took to be Vinson, went off, as we concluded, to bring in the horses, happily leaving their guns behind them.

Now was our opportunity. At a signal from Hector, we rose to our feet, and holding our guns ready to fire, rushed towards the two men, who were engaged in cooking their breakfast. The bull-dog, with a fierce bark, sprang towards us. As he did so, the black with his spear nearly fixed the brute to the ground, which saved me from having to fire, and thus alarming the other two. One of the men attempted to take up his gun, but it was beyond his reach; he, however, seized from the fire a thick stick, with which he made a blow at my head; but at that instant my brave Carlo sprang at his throat with a force which brought him to the ground. Hector and Guy were in the meantime struggling with the other man, whom they succeeded in securing. Having lashed his arms behind him, they were at liberty to come to my assistance, and soon firmly bound the fellow Carlo had overthrown, for I had not struck a blow. On examining the countenances of the men we discovered that they were both strangers. The big bushranger and Vinson, who were, we had little doubt, the other two we had seen, had gone off probably to catch the horses. Having left their arms behind them they were in our power, but it was a great question whether we could manage to capture them. They would probably be back in a few minutes, and we had at once to decide how to act.

"I have a bright idea," exclaimed Guy; "I tell you what we will do. We'll gag these two fellows to prevent them from crying out, and drag them behind those bushes close to the camp. You, Maurice, and the black, being also concealed, must threaten to shoot them if they attempt to make any noise. Hector and I will then take their places at the fire, and pretend to be cooking the breakfast. As there will not be much light for some time, the other men when they return will not at first discover us, and we shall be able to point our rifles and order them to give in before they are aware of the trap we have laid. To make things more certain, we'll put on our prisoners' cabbage straw hats and red shirts, so that the chances are that they will get close up before they find out their mistake."

Hector and I highly approving of Guy's suggestion, we immediately set about putting it into execution. The black, who, being a remarkably intelligent fellow, fully understood our object, seemed highly delighted, grinning from ear to ear, as he assisted us.

We quickly gagged our prisoners, and then, dragging them behind the bushes, took off their shirts and hats, which, as they were far from clean, I was secretly glad I had not got to wear. Guy and Hector put them on, and then examining the fire-arms to ascertain if they were properly loaded, drew them close to the fire, before which they sat down. While one turned the spits on which they had put some meat to roast, the other employed himself in chopping up sticks and placing them on the fire. So exactly did they act the parts in which we had found our present prisoners engaged, that I felt sure the other men would not suspect the trap laid for them until they were close up to the camp. It was to be hoped that both would come at the same time, for if not, though we might seize one, the other would probably be warned, and make his escape. There was a risk, of course, that they would come across the dominie and the horses, and if so, would guess that we had discovered their camp, and would at all events be on their guard. Guy had, however, especially charged the dominie that should the bushrangers by any accident discover him, he was to keep them at a distance by threatening to fire if they approached.

While my brother and Hector were bending over the fire as I have described, I kept peering through the bushes, keeping one eye on our two prisoners, though I felt sure that the black would watch them carefully as he squatted down by their side with a sharp knife in his hand. It was a nervous time, but we had not long to wait before we heard the dull sound of galloping feet, and several horses came in sight, followed by the big bushranger mounted on a powerful steed. I could nowhere see Vinson, so that he at all events would have a chance of escaping. The horses came rushing on, and as they got near the fire separated, some on one side, some on the other. With an oath the big man shouted out--

"Why don't you stop them, you fellows?" The two figures bending over the fire did not appear to hear him, until, throwing himself from his horse, he approached them; when, snatching up their rifles, they suddenly turned round and presented the barrels at his head.

"Hands up, or we fire!" cried Guy and Hector in the same breath.

Notwithstanding this warning the bushranger's right hand instantly moved towards the butt of the pistol in his belt, his left still holding the rein; he, however, quickly changed his mind, for he well knew, should he attempt to draw his weapon, before he could present it a couple of balls might be crashing through his brain. Another oath escaped his lips.

"Caught at last," he cried out, as if he was going to yield, but the next instant with a bound he was in his saddle, leaning forward at the same time, so that the horse's neck might protect his head. Guy fired.

The bullet only grazed the fellow's shoulder. I was taking aim at the fugitive, when another person appeared, driving before him the remainder of the horses. Forgetting for a moment that the bushranger's guns lay beside my brother and Hector, but recollecting that the big fellow had a brace of pistols in his belt, I was afraid of firing lest I should miss; and that he, coming back, would turn the tables on us. The next instant Hector and Guy had each picked up a gun. The big bushranger had, however, already got to a considerable distance, and although both fired, he continued his course, apparently uninjured.

While they were reloading, the fourth man, whom I took to be Vinson, had disappeared. We all three immediately rushed out to stop the horses, and succeeded in catching our own and two others. Our own saddles were in the robber's camp, so all we had to do was to put them on ready for a start. We then placed our prisoners on the backs of the other two, securing their legs under the horses' bellies, and fastening long leathern thongs to the bridles. We then, carrying off the ammunition, and two of the guns as trophies, smashed up the others, and threw the saddles and the few articles of baggage we found, on the fire, retaining, however, one or two things which were likely to prove acceptable to our black guide, who was highly delighted with his share of the plunder. Hoping to receive a further reward, he undertook to accompany us to Bracewell's, and to lead our prisoners' horses. We thought it prudent, however, not to trust him too much, though we accepted his offer, provided he could keep up to us.

We were anxious as soon as possible to hand our prisoners over to the police, lest their two comrades, still at large, with others of the gang they might fall in with, should attempt their rescue; but we felt pretty secure, as they would know that, so long as we were on the watch, they were not likely to succeed. Should we, however, be kept out another night, they would compel us to be very vigilant, while we should have to guard both ourselves and the horses.

Although the two bushrangers had escaped, we had succeeded in breaking up the gang, and without guns and ammunition they would have great difficulty in supporting themselves; while the two we had made prisoners would probably, on their trial, be ready to give such information as might assist in the capture of others.

Leading on our prisoners, we now set out to return to where we had left the dominie.

We had, I should have said, hurriedly eaten some of the provisions Guy and Hector had cooked, and we took the remainder so that no time need be lost in proceeding to Bracewell's.

On reaching the spot, what was our dismay to see neither the dominie nor the horses. We shouted to him, but no reply came.

"What can have become of him?" exclaimed Guy. "Those fellows must have fallen in with him, and compelled him to accompany them."

"I do not think that is possible," I remarked, "for they went off in a different direction. Still his disappearance is very mysterious. We must try to learn what the black thinks about the matter."

We inquired of our guide, by signs and such words as he understood.

He examined the ground on every side and then started off at a run in a southerly direction, and on closer examination we discovered traces of the horses.

After waiting some time, as the black did not return, Guy proposed that Hector should stay by the prisoners and the two animals we had recovered, while he and I went in search of our missing friend.

Hector undertook to do as proposed.

"I'll hobble all four of them," he observed, "and there'll be no risk of their getting away."

Not wishing to lose more time we started. After going on for some time we got separated, and I found to my right a deep gully, with steep cliff-like banks, mostly covered with trees of a character which showed that there was generally an abundance of water; indeed, I observed several small pools, joined by a trickling rivulet three or four feet only in width.

As I went along, I shouted out our friend's name. At last I heard the tramp of horses, and looking about, I caught sight through the trees of our two animals with their saddles on their backs, the black following, driving them before him.

I was thankful to find that they had been recovered, though much grieved not to see the dominie, for I naturally feared that some serious accident had happened to him. I now once more returned, intending to rejoin Hector, when I heard a faint shout. It came from the direction of the gully. My hopes revived of finding the dominie. After going on some way, I again heard the shout followed by a cooey which I was sure, however, was not uttered by him. It was the voice either of Guy or Hector.

I cooeyed in return. Soon afterwards another reached my ears, coming from the same direction. At last I gained the summit of a cliff, when, looking down, I saw Guy bending over the prostrate form of a man.

I soon joined my brother, and found that the fallen person was the dominie. Guy was employed in chafing his hands, and trying to restore him to consciousness.

"Can he have been attacked by bushrangers, and thrown here?" I asked.

"I don't think that," answered Guy, pointing up to the cliff. "See, he must have fallen over, and striking his head on the ground, have become insensible. Go and get some water from yonder pool in your hat, and I think that if we bathe his head, he will come to."

I did as Guy desired me, and in a short time we had the satisfaction of seeing our companion revive.

"Have you got the horses?" were the first words he spoke.

"All right!" I answered, "and we have captured two bushrangers into the bargain."

The news seemed to have a good effect, and now that he had come to himself, he quickly, with our assistance, was able to get up the cliff, when we helped him along.

In a short time we joined Hector, who had caught the horses driven up to him by the black.

We immediately mounted, and Hector taking charge of one prisoner, and Guy of the other, I attended to the dominie. We expected that our black guide would have kept up with the horses, but when he found the rate at which we went, he appeared to have had enough of our society, and, suddenly bolting off into the bush, disappeared.

"It is the way of those black fellows," observed Hector. "He has obtained more than he expected, and has no fancy to be shot by the bushrangers, should we encounter them; probably, also, he wants to join his gins, who, I dare say, are not far off, though they have kept out of our sight."

We rode on, when the ground was level breaking into a gallop. The dominie now and then groaned, but when I offered to pull up, he always answered--

"Go on, go on; perhaps those villains will be watching for us; I don't want to be stuck up again or shot."

When I observed that they had only pistols, he answered--

"Ah, well! pistols will kill as well as rifles, and we don't know at what moment they may pounce out from this thick scrub."

As I thought it possible that they might make an attempt to surprise us, I was not sorry to follow the dominie's wishes.

We made such good way that I hoped we should reach Bracewell's before sundown. Late in the day, I began to recognise spots we had passed while staying with him, although so great is the sameness of the country, that I could not feel very certain that such was the case, until I heard Guy, who was ahead, sing out--

"Here we are! I see the top of Bracewell's hut."

We gave a cooey to let those at the station know of our approach, and in another moment old Bob came hurrying out to meet us.

"Thankful you've come, gentlemen," he exclaimed; "though Mr Bracewell's round the corner, he'll be glad of your society. He's in terribly low spirits at having only me to look after him. But, whom have you there? Picked up a couple of pirates on the road?"

We soon explained who our captives were. Old Bob shook his fist at them.

"You rascals! You're caught at last, are you? You'll be having your legs in chains before long I hope, and not be keeping honest folk in fear of their lives."

"We must see where we can stow these fellows until we can send for the police," said Guy.

"We'll stow them safe enough," said old Bob, "and, provided we keep their arms lashed behind their backs, and their legs in limbo, they'll not escape from where I'll put them."

The captive bushrangers cast angry glances at the speaker, but as their mouths were still gagged, they could not express their feelings by words.

Before we went in to see Bracewell, we had hauled them off their horses, and under Bob's directions, dragged them into a hut, which had only one door and one window. He then brought a couple of stout ropes, with which we secured them to the posts which supported the roof, one on either side of the hut, so that they could not reach each other. We next drew the gags from their mouths, expecting that they would make the first use of their tongues by abusing us, but they appeared to be too dull and brutal even to do that. After closing the door and window, we left them to their own devices.

"I'll take care that they don't get out during the night. If they try that dodge, I'll send a bullet through their heads," muttered old Bob.

Bracewell, who had been asleep when we arrived, awoke as we entered, delighted to see us, and insisted on getting up to do the honours of his hut. Old Bob in the meantime was cooking supper, and a very satisfactory one he managed to produce.

Our coming, as we expected, did our friend a great deal of good, and we hoped that the medicine which the dominie brought would still further restore him.

Old Bob insisted that a guard should be kept on the prisoners, and he offered to stand watch for four hours, provided we three took the remainder of the night between us. To this we could not object, though when he aroused me, I confess that I got up very unwillingly.

I was thankful, however, that his advice was followed. While standing before the door, I heard one of the fellows announce to his comrade that he had got one of his arms free, and that in another minute he would set him at liberty. Had they succeeded in doing this, they would have had no difficulty in working their way out of the hut.

I at once opened the door, and walked up to the fellow with a pistol in my hand. I found that he had really managed to get an arm free, though the moment he saw me he placed it behind him.

I shouted to old Bob, who quickly came to my assistance, and we soon had the fellow more securely fastened than before. We then examined the other. Though he had evidently been trying his best to get out his arms, he had not succeeded. As may be supposed, we did not allow them an opportunity of attempting the same trick again, and when I called up Guy, I charged him to keep a watch on the two fellows, a lantern being placed in the middle of the hut to throw its light upon them.

At day-break Hector rode off to execute the commissions for his father, and at the same time to summon the police.

As our prisoners required our constant attention, we were very thankful when a dozen black troopers came clattering up to the station under the command of an English officer, to whom we handed over the bushrangers, and gave a full description of how they had been caught, and of their two companions who had escaped.

We had, as we expected, to go and give evidence; but, fortunately, as their trial came on at once, we were not long delayed.

By the time we were wanted, Bracewell, thanks to the dominie's medical skill, had almost entirely recovered. He was able to identify the two men as among the party who had attacked him, we also having found in their possession some of his property which they had taken. The other two were still at large, but the police entertained no doubt that they should catch them before long.

We all returned to Bracewell's, and I was glad to find that he had accepted an invitation from Mr Strong, to pay him a visit, which he was able to do as he had engaged a trustworthy man to assist old Bob in taking care of the station. We therefore prepared to set out immediately.

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