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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesChinkie's Flat - Chapter 13. On The Scent
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Chinkie's Flat - Chapter 13. On The Scent Post by :gravesl22 Category :Long Stories Author :Louis Becke Date :May 2012 Read :3332

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Chinkie's Flat - Chapter 13. On The Scent

CHAPTER XIII. ON THE SCENT

Through the blackness of the night and the pouring rain Grainger and Scott made their way down the right bank of the creek to where, a mile or a mile and a half away, was a thick scrub of sandalwood trees, in which they imagined the terrified horses had taken refuge. The rushing, foaming waters guided them on their way, though every now and then they had to make a detour round the heads of some gullies, which were bank high with backwater from the swollen creek. As soon as there was a lull in the storm they again _Coo-eed_, but received no answer from Jacky. Grainger, who had the most implicit faith in the judgment of his blackboy, now began to fear that the horses, instead of making for the scrub, had gone towards the mountains, where it would perhaps be most difficult to get them. However, there was nothing to be done but to first examine the scrub, and then to see what had become of Jacky. Both he and Scott had brought their bridles with them, and the blackboy, they knew, had his as well, and they were hoping that at any moment they might meet him driving the horses back to the camp.

By the time the scrub was reached the storm had begun to break somewhat, for although rain still fell heavily, the wind was losing its violence; and presently, to their satisfaction, they heard Jacky's voice shouting somewhere near them.

"Where are you?" called out Scott.

"Here, on cattle camp, in middle of scrub. I been catch old Euchre and two more horse, but can't find other pack-horse and bay filly and roan colt. I 'fraid they been go 'way back up mountain."

They found him engaged in tying up the foreleg of Scott's horse with strips of his shirt. The animal, when racing along in the dark, had fallen and out itself badly from knee to hoof. Grainger examined the injury, and saw that, although the poor creature was very lame, it could easily be led to the camp. But the loss of the remaining horses was a serious matter, and after a brief discussion it was resolved to first make a thorough search along the creek for another mile before giving up any hopes of finding them in the vicinity of the scrub. Then, if no traces could be found, they were to return to the camp for their saddles, and Jacky and Grainger would endeavour to pick up their tracks as soon as daylight broke.

An hour was spent fruitlessly, and they turned back and made for the camp, Scott and Grainger riding barebacked, and Jacky going ahead on foot, leading the lame horse. Presently they came to a deep, rocky gully, which they crossed, and were carefully ascending the steep bank when Scott's horse tripped over a loose stone and fell heavily, with his rider underneath.

Jacky and Grainger at once went to his assistance and got the horse away, but Scott lay perfectly motionless, and when spoken to did not answer. Grainger, like all good bushmen, had kept his matches dry, and, striking a light, he saw that the big digger had not only received some injury to his head, but, worse still had broken his leg; the bone had snapped completely across half-way down from the knee.

For quite ten minutes the poor fellow remained unconscious, then, when he came to his senses, his first question was about the horse. Was he hurt?

"No, Dick; but your leg is broken."

The language that flowed from Mr. Scott's bearded lips cannot possibly be set down, but he resigned himself cheerfully to Grainger and Jacky when they put the broken limb into rough splints made of bark and twigs to keep it in position until they could do something better on their arrival at the camp.

Refusing to be carried, Scott dragged himself up the bank, and then allowed them to lift him on Euchre's back, Grainger riding and Jacky walking beside him.

By the time they reached the camp it was broad daylight, and an alarmed look came into Grainger's eyes when there was no response to his loud _Coo-ee! thrice repeated.

Suddenly Jacky, whose dark eyes were rolling unnaturally as he glanced all around him, let go the horse he was leading, sprang forward, and entered the tent. He reappeared in a moment.

"What is wrong, Jacky? Where is she?"

"Gone," was the quick reply. "Myall blackfellow been here and take her away!"

"Good God!" said Grainger hoarsely, feeling for the moment utterly unnerved as he watched the black-boy walk quickly round and round the tent, examining the grass.

"Plenty blackfellow been here," he said, "but only one fellow been go inside tent. I think it, he catch him up missie when she sleep------"

An oath broke from Scott's lips. "Let me down, boss, let me down! It's all my fault. Quick! put me inside the tent and let me be. You and Jacky has two good horses, and Jacky is the best tracker this side o' the country."

"I'll see to your leg first, Dick," cried Grainger, as he and Jacky lifted him off Euchre and helped him into the tent.

"By jingo, you won't, boss!" was the energetic reply. "What does it matter about my leg? Let me be. I'll pull along all right, even if you are away for a day, or two days, or a week. For God's sake, boss, don't fool about me! Think of _her_. Saddle up, saddle up, and bring her back! They can't be far away. Jacky, I'll give you fifty pounds if you get her. Boss, take plenty o' cartridges an' some tucker. I'll be as right as rain here. But hurry, hurry, boss! If they get her into the mountains we'll never see any more of her but her gnawed bones," and the big man struck his clenched fist passionately upon the ground.

But Grainger, although almost maddened with fear as to Sheila's fate, would not leave the man helpless, and whilst Jacky was saddling the horses, he put provisions and water, and matches and tobacco, near the poor, excited digger. Then, with the blackboy's aid, he quickly and effectively set the broken leg with proper splints, seized round with broad strips of ti-tree bark. "There, Dick, that's all I can do for you now." "You're losing time over me, boss. Hurry, hurry! and get the young lady back for God's sake."

Five minutes later Jacky had picked up the tracks of Sandy and Daylight and their allies, and he and Grainger, with hearts beating high with hope, were following them up swiftly and surely.

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