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   Chapter 18 No.18

A Final Reckoning By G. A. Henty Characters: 40676

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


Reuben soon checked the speed of his horse. Anxious as he was to arrive as soon as possible, he might, for aught he knew, yet have occasion to try the animal to the utmost; and he therefore reduced the almost racing pace, at which he had started, into an ordinary steady gallop. The horses were fresh and in good condition, and for several miles kept up the pace without flagging. Then they were allowed to ease down into a walk, until they got their wind again; and then started at the pace, half canter, half gallop, which is the usual rate of progression of the colonial horses. They drew rein at last on a slight eminence, from which the Donalds' station, a mile or so distant, could be perceived.

"Thank God," Reuben muttered to himself, "I am back here, at last. There is no occasion for further hurry;" and the horses were allowed to go at an easy walk.

"Man on horseback," Jim suddenly said, touching Reuben's arm.

"Where-where, Jim?"

"Gone from de house, sah, trough dem trees. Dare he go again, he gallop fast."

Reuben had not caught sight of the figure, but he pressed his spurs against the horse's sides.

"I will see who it is, at any rate. Jim, do you ride straight on to the house, and say I shall be there in a few minutes."

As Reuben rode, at a headlong gallop, towards the point where his course would probably intersect that of the horseman, riding in the direction Jim had pointed out, he turned over rapidly, in his mind, the thought whether his anxiety for Kate Ellison was not making a fool of him. Why should he turn from his course, just at the end of a long journey, to start at full speed on the track of this figure, of which Jim had caught only a glance? It might be a stockman, or someone who had ridden over from one of the neighbouring stations to see how Donald was getting on; but even so, he told himself, no harm was done by his assuring himself of that.

It was not the way Mr. Barker would take to his station. Had it been a neighbour who had come over, he would not be likely to leave again, so early. Neither of the constables would be riding away, in defiance of his orders on no account to stir any distance from the house.

Presently he caught a glimpse of the horseman. He was not more than half a mile away now, but the view he obtained was so instantaneous that he could not distinguish any particulars.

"He is riding fast, anyhow," he said. "Faster than a man would travel, on ordinary business. He is either a messenger, sent on urgent business; or it is Thorne."

He slightly altered the direction of his course, for the speed at which the horseman was travelling must take him ahead of him, at the point where Reuben had calculated upon cutting him off. In a short distance he would get a view of him; for the trees ended here, and the plain was open and unbroken, save by low bush.

When the figure came clear of the trees, he was but a quarter of a mile away; and Reuben gave a start, for he recognized at once the uniform of his own corps. It could only be one of the men left at Donald's and, with an exclamation of anger, Reuben pressed his horse to the utmost in pursuit of the man, who was now almost directly ahead, at the same time uttering a loud call.

The man glanced back but, to Reuben's surprise, instead of stopping waved his hand above his head, and pressed forward. Two miles were traversed before Reuben was beside him.

"What do you mean, sir?" he thundered out.

But the man pointed ahead.

"He has carried off Miss Ellison, sir, and has shot Brown dead. I will tell you, afterwards.

"There, do you see, sir, over that brow there?"

At the moment, Reuben saw a figure on horseback rise against the skyline, fully two miles in front.

"Ride steadily, Smithson," he said. "Keep me in view, and I will keep him. We must overtake him in time, for his horse is carrying double. I shall push on, for I am better mounted than you are; and he may try to double, and throw us off his traces. If anything happens to me don't stop for a moment, but hunt that fellow down to the end."

Reuben had been holding his horse somewhat in hand, during the last mile, for he thought there must be some reason for the constable's strange conduct; but he now let him go and, urging him to his full speed, soon left the constable behind. He knew that, for some distance ahead, the country was flat and unbroken; and that the fugitive would have no chance of concealment, whichever way he turned.

Upon reaching the spot where he had seen the bush ranger pass, the wide plain opened before him; and he gave a shout of exultation, as he saw that he had gained considerably. The fugitive, indeed, had evidently not been pressing his horse.

"He thinks he has a long journey before him," Reuben muttered. "I fancy he's mistaken. He thinks he's only got a constable after him, and that he can easily rid himself of him, whenever he comes up to him. No doubt he learned from some of the convicts that everyone is away, and therefore thinks himself safe from all pursuit, when once he has wiped out Smithson. All the better. I shall overtake him all the sooner."

Such indeed was the view of the bush ranger, who kept along at a steady canter, troubling himself very little about the solitary constable whom he believed to be in pursuit of him. When, indeed, on glancing round, he saw that his pursuer was within a quarter of a mile of him, he reined in his horse and, turning, calmly awaited his coming.

Reuben at once checked the speed of his horse. He knew that the man was said to be a deadly shot with his pistol, but he was confident in his own skill; for, with constant and assiduous practice, he had attained a marvellous proficiency with his weapon. But he did not care to give his foe the advantage, which a man sitting on a steady seat possesses, over one in the saddle of a galloping horse. He therefore advanced only at a walk.

The bush ranger put down the change in speed to fear, caused by his resolute attitude, and shouted:

"Look here, constable. You had best turn your horse's head, and go home again. You know well enough that one constable is no match for me, so you had best rein up before I put a bullet in your head. If you shoot, you are just as likely to kill the young woman here, as you are me; and you know I don't make any mistake."

Reuben was already conscious of his disadvantage in this respect, for the bush ranger held the girl on the saddle in front of him, so that her body completely covered his. She was enveloped in a shawl, which covered her head as well as her figure. Her captor held her tightly pressed to him with his left arm, while his right was free to use a pistol.

Reuben checked his horse at a distance of some fifty yards, while he thought over the best course to pursue. As he paused, Thorne, for the first time, noticed that it was an officer with whom he had to deal, and not with the constable; who, as he believed, was the only one in the district. He uttered a savage exclamation, for he felt that this materially altered the conditions of the affair.

"Oh, it's you, is it?" he said. "I thought it was only one of your men; but the advice I gave is as good, for you, as for him. I advise you to turn back, before all my mates are down on you."

"Your mates will never be down on anyone again, Tom Thorne," Reuben said sternly. "We have wiped out seven of them, and the other is a prisoner."

"It's a lie!" the bush ranger said, furiously. "They are two hundred miles away, in the bush."

"With your friend Bobitu, eh? Yes, they were, but they are not now, Thorne. They are lying under the ashes of that hut of yours, close to the tree where you buried your treasure; and it's I who am going to have help, not you. My man will be up in a few minutes," and he glanced round at the constable, whom the bush ranger now perceived, for the first time, less than half a mile away.

Reuben's words had the effect they were intended to excite. They filled the bush ranger with fury, and desire for vengeance; while the sight of the approaching constable showed him that, unless he took prompt measures, he would have two adversaries to fight at once.

Without a moment's hesitation, he set spurs to his horse and dashed at Reuben. When within twenty yards, he fired.

Reuben felt a sharp pain, as if a hot iron had been passed across his cheek. Thorne uttered a shout of exultation as he saw him start but, as he kept his seat, again raised his hand to fire. In an instant Reuben discharged his pistol, and the bush ranger's weapon dropped from his hand, for Reuben's bullet passed through his wrist.

Throwing the burden before him headlong to the ground, Thorne drew a pistol with his left hand; and the two shots rung out again, at almost the same instant. Reuben, however, was slightly the quickest, and this saved his life. His bullet passed through the bush ranger's body, while Thorne's pistol was diverted somewhat from its aim, and the bullet struck Reuben's left shoulder, instead of his head. In an instant, he had drawn another pistol.

"Surrender or I fire!" and then seeing, by the change in the bush ranger's face, and by his collapsing figure, that he was badly hit; he waited, still keeping Thorne covered with the muzzle, for the bush ranger had a charge left in the pistol which he still grasped in his left hand.

Twice Thorne tried to raise it, but in vain. Then he reeled in the saddle, the pistol dropped from his hand, and he fell heavily over on to the ground.

Reuben at once leaped from his horse, and ran to raise Kate Ellison; who lay motionless on the ground, as she had been thrown. Removing the shawl wrapped round her head, he found she was insensible. Kneeling beside her, he raised her head to his shoulder and, a minute later, the constable galloped up.

"Badly hurt, captain?" he asked, as he leaped off his horse; for the blood was streaming down Reuben's face, and his left arm hung useless.

"Nothing to speak of, Smithson. See to Miss Ellison, first. There is some water in my flask in the holster. Just bring it here, and sprinkle her face. I hope she is only stunned; but that scoundrel threw her off with such force, that she may well be badly hurt."

"Is he done for, captain?" the man asked, glancing at the prostrate figure of the bush ranger, as he proceeded to obey Reuben's instructions; "because if you ain't certain about it, I had better put a bullet into him. These fellows are very fond of playing 'possum, and then turning the tables upon you."

"There is no fear of that, Smithson. He's hard hit. I hope he's not dead, for I would rather that he were tried for his crimes."

It was some time before Kate Ellison opened her eyes. For a moment she looked vaguely round; then, as her eyes fell upon Reuben's face, she uttered a little cry, and raised herself into a sitting position.

"What is it, Captain Whitney? Are you badly hurt?"

"Thank God you have recovered, Miss Ellison. You began to frighten me horribly. I was afraid you were seriously injured.

"Do not look so alarmed. I can assure you I am not much hurt; only a flesh wound, I fancy, in the cheek, and a broken collarbone."

"And you have saved me again, Captain Whitney?"

"Yes, thank God I have had that good fortune," Reuben said quietly; "and this time for good, for Tom Thorne will never molest you again."

"But can't I do something? Your face is bleeding dreadfully. Please let me bind it up;" and tearing a strip off the bottom of her dress, she proceeded to bandage Reuben's face.

The constable took off the black silk handkerchief which he wore round his neck.

"I think, miss, this will make a sling for his arm; and when that is done the captain will be pretty right.

"Do you think you can ride back, sir?" he asked, when he had fastened the handkerchief, "or will you wait till I ride back to the farm, and fetch help."

"I can ride back well enough," Reuben said, trying to rise to his feet; but he found himself unable to do so.

The ball, after breaking his collarbone, had glanced downwards, and the wound was a more serious one than he had imagined.

"No, I don't think I can ride back, Smithson."

"There is a light cart at the farm," Kate Ellison said. "Please fetch that. I will stop here, with Captain Whitney, till you come back."

"I think that will be the best way, miss," the constable agreed and, mounting, he rode off at once.

It was an hour and a half before he returned, bringing the cart; but before he arrived, Mr. and Mrs. Barker had ridden up on horseback, the former having returned from his visit to the farm, just as the constable rode in. While they had been alone, Reuben had heard from Kate what had taken place.

"I did as you told me, Captain Whitney, and did not go once outside the door. The constables kept a very sharp lookout, and one of them was always on guard by the door; so there really did not seem any possibility of danger.

"This morning, as I was washing up the breakfast things with Mrs. Barker, a shot was suddenly fired outside the door and, before I had time to think what it meant, that man rushed in. He caught me by the wrist, and said:

"'Come along, it's no use your screaming.'

"Mrs. Barker caught up something and rushed at him, but he knocked her down with the butt end of his pistol. Then he caught up her shawl, which was lying on the chair close by, and threw it right over my head; and then caught me up, and carried me out.

"I tried to struggle, but he seemed to hold me as if I were in a vice. I heard Alice scream, and then I must have fainted; for the next thing I knew was that I was being carried along on horseback. I was so muffled up, and he held me so tight, that I felt it was no use to struggle; and I made up my mind to lie quite still, as if I was still insensible, till he put me down; and then-I think I intended to try and seize his pistol, or to get hold of a knife, if there was one and, if I could not kill him, to kill myself.

"There did not seem the least hope of rescue. Mr. Barker was away, and would not be back for hours. I supposed that the constables were shot, and all the men round were away with you; and from the distance you said you were going, I did not think you could be back for days.

"Presently I felt him stop and turn his horse; and then, when he spoke, I knew that he had not killed both the constables, and that one of them had followed him. When you answered, I thought it was your voice, though it seemed impossible; but I could not be sure, because I could not hear plainly through the shawl. Then the pistols were fired, and I suddenly felt myself falling; and I did not know anything more, till I saw you leaning over me.

"But where are all the others, and how is it you are here alone? Of course, you must have turned back before you got to where the bush rangers were."

"No, I am glad to say we succeeded with that part of the work, Miss Ellison, and have wiped out the bush rangers altogether. We have got one of them a prisoner, but all the rest of the gang are killed.

"The distance is not quite so far as we thought it was. It was a thirty miles' march, and two sixties. We attacked them at daybreak, on the third day after leaving."

"But it is only the fourth day today, is it not? At least, it seems so to me."

"It is the fourth day, Miss Ellison. When we found that the leader of the gang was not with them, and I learned from the man we had taken prisoner that he had started to ride back here, twenty-four hours before, I was naturally very anxious about you; knowing, as I did, what desperate actions the man was capable of. So we started at once and, after a sharp fight with the blacks, got down in the evening to the water hole, sixty miles on our way back, where we had camped the second night out.

"Of course the horse I had ridden could travel no further, but I pushed on with my black boy, on two of the horses which we had taken from the bush rangers, and which had been led so far. We made another forty miles by midnight, and then halted till daybreak, to give the horses rest; but they were so done up, this morning, that we could not get them much beyond a foot pace. When we came to the first settlement we exchanged them for fresh ones, and galloped on; and, thank God, we are just in time."

The tears were standing in the girl's eyes, and she laid her hand on his, and said quietly:

"Thank you. Then you have ridden a hundred and fifty miles since yesterday morning, besides having two fights; and all because you were uneasy about me?"

"I had, as you see, good reason to be uneasy, Miss Ellison."

At this moment a horse's hoofs were heard approaching, and Jim galloped up. He had, on arriving at the station, been unable to obtain any information as to what had taken place. Mrs. Donald was in a dead faint. Mrs. Barker had, just before he arrived, ridden off to meet her husband; but the dead body of the constable, by the door, and the disappearance of Kate, showed him what had taken place; and he at once started after his master.

His horse, however, was a very inferior one to that ridden by Reuben, and until he met the constable returning, he had been obliged to follow the track of the horses in front; so he did not arrive at the scene of the fray till half an hour after its conclusion. He uttered exclamations of dismay, at seeing his master's condition; for Reuben had been gradually growing faint, and could now scarcely support himself on his elbow.

Jim, however, had taken the precaution to snatch a bottle of spirits from the shelf, before he started; having an eye to his own comforts, as well as to the possibility of its being required. He now knocked off the neck, and poured some into the cup of Reuben's flask, and put it to his lips.

"Thank you, Jim; that is just what I wanted."

"Massa lie down quiet," Jim said. "No good sit up;" and, gathering a large bunch of grass, he placed it under Reuben's head; and Reuben lay quiet, in a half dreamy state, until Mr. and Mrs. Barker rode up.

Kate rose to her feet as they approached; but she was so stiff and bruised, with her fall, that she could scarcely move forward to meet Mrs. Barker; and burst into tears, as her friend threw her arms round her.

"That's right, my poor child," Mrs. Barker said. "A cry will do you good. Thank God, my dear Kate, for your rescue."

"I do indeed, Mrs. Barker. It seems almost a miracle."

"Captain Whitney seems to spring out of the ground, whenever he's wanted. He seems hurt badly. The constable said it was a broken collarbone, but it must be something a good deal worse than that."

"Oh, don't say so, Mrs. Barker, after what he's done for me. If he were to die!"

"There, there, don't tremble so, child. We must hope that it is not so bad as that; but he would hardly be looking so bad as he does, for only a broken collarbone. My husband broke his-one day the horse ran away with him, among some trees-and he was up and about again, in a day or two.

"Is he badly hurt, do you think, John?" she asked her husband, who was kneeling beside Reuben.

"I hope not," the settler said. "He ought not to be like this, only from a wound in the collarbone; but of course it may have glanced down, and done some internal mischief. I am inclined to think that it is extreme exhaustion, as much as anything-the reaction after a tremendous nervous excitement."

"He has ridden a hundred and fifty miles, since yesterday morning," Kate said, "and has had two fights, besides this. Directly he knew that the leader of the bush rangers had escaped, he came on by himself."

"Oh! They caught the bush rangers, did they?" Mr. Barker said, joyfully. "I was afraid, by his getting back here so soon, that they must have missed them somehow, and found they were on the wrong scent.

"And he has ridden all the way back, has he? A very zealous officer, Miss Ellison, a very zealous young officer, indeed."

But Kate was too anxious, and shaken, to mark the significance of Mr. Barker's tone.

"Don't tease her," his wife said, in a low voice. "She is terribly upset and shaken, and can hardly stand.

"Ah! What is that?"

The interruption was caused by a low groan

from the fallen bush ranger.

"Shoot him dead, sah," Jim, who was supporting his master's head, exclaimed. "Don't let dat fellow come 'live no longer."

"I can't do that, Jim," Mr. Barker said, moving towards the fallen man. "The man is a thorough scoundrel, a murderer, and a robber; but he is harmless now. One cannot wish he should recover, even for his own sake; for there is enough against him to hang him, ten times over. However, we must do what we can for the poor wretch."

So saying, he mixed some brandy with a little water in the cup, and poured it between the bush ranger's lips.

"Is it mortal?" Mrs. Barker asked, as he rejoined her.

"I think so," he said. "I fancy he is shot through the lungs.

"You must really sit down, Miss Ellison. You look as white as a ghost, and we cannot have you on our hands, just now. We have got them pretty full, as they are.

"Ah! Here comes the cart."

The constable had put a quantity of straw in the bottom of the light cart, and Barker and Jim raised Reuben, and laid him in it.

"We must take the other, too," Mr. Barker said. "The man is alive, and we can't leave him here."

"Yes," Kate said; "he must go, too. He did Reuben a great wrong, years ago. I hope he will confess it, before he dies."

Mr. Barker glanced at his wife, as Kate used the young officer's Christian name; but she was not thinking of Captain Whitney of the police, but of the boy Reuben, who had been accused of poisoning her father's dog, and of committing a burglary from his house.

"You had better get up in front, with the constable, Miss Ellison," the settler said, when the two wounded men had been placed in the cart. "You certainly are not fit to ride.

"Or, look here, the constable shall take my horse, and I will drive; and then I can look after you, and you can use me for a prop, if you feel weak; but before we start, I must insist on your taking a sip of brandy and water.

"It is no use your saying no," he persisted, as the girl shook her head. "We shall have you fainting before you get home, if you don't."

Kate did as she was ordered. Mr. Barker then helped her up to her seat. As she got up, her eyes fell upon Reuben's face.

"Oh, Mr. Barker!" she said. "He looks dead. You are not deceiving me, are you?"

"Bless me, no!" the settler said, cheerfully. "My opinion is that he's dead asleep. The loss of blood, the sudden reaction after the long excitement, and the exhaustion of his ride have completely overcome him; and my opinion is that he is sound asleep.

"Jim, do you lead your master's horse, while the constable takes the other; and then you two had better ride on, and help Mrs. Donald get things ready. Get a bed up at once, for Captain Whitney; and get some clean straw in the outhouse, with one of the rugs over it, for the other."

So saying, he touched the horse with the whip, and the cart moved slowly on, with Mrs. Barker riding beside it. She would have gone on ahead, to have assisted in the preparations; but she expected, momentarily, to see Kate faint, and thought it better to remain with her, in case her assistance should be required.

The journey occupied some time, for Mr. Barker picked the way carefully, so as not to jolt the cart. Mrs. Barker endeavoured to keep Kate's attention fixed, by asking her questions as to what she had heard about the expedition, wondering when it would return, and whether any of the settlers were hurt. When they got within half a mile of home, she said:

"I think, dear, you are looking a little better now. I will ride on. Fortunately there is the beef tea we made, last night, for Mr. Donald. I will get it made hot, and I will get a cup of strong tea ready for you. That will do wonders."

When the cart arrived Mrs. Donald ran out and, as Kate descended, clasped her in a long embrace.

"Come straight in here, my dear," Mrs. Barker said. "I have got a basin of cold water, and a cup of strong tea, and the two together will do marvels. We will attend to your wounded hero."

Reuben remained perfectly quiet and inert, as he was lifted out and carried into the house, where a bed had been made up for him in a room on the ground floor.

"Just lay him down. Throw a blanket over him, and let him lie perfectly quiet."

"Do you think he is really asleep?" Mrs. Barker asked, as she looked at the quiet face.

"I do, really," her husband replied. "Put your ear close to his mouth. He is breathing as quietly as a child.

"And," he added, placing his fingers on Reuben's wrist, "his pulse is a little fast, but regular and quiet. Twenty-four hours of sleep will set him up again, unless I am greatly mistaken. I don't expect that his wound will turn out anything very serious.

"Let me think. Was it not this afternoon that Ruskin said he would be back again?"

"Yes, either yesterday or today."

"That is lucky. He will be surprised at finding two new patients on his hands, now.

"I will go and have a look at that poor wretch in the shed. Give me a cupful of beef tea. I will pour a spoonful or two between his lips. You had better go and look after Kate. You will not be needed here, at present.

"If your master wakes, Jim, let us know directly," he said to the black, who had seated himself on the ground by the side of Reuben's bed.

"I can't call the poor fellow away from his master," he added to his wife, as he closed the door behind them; "but I am really anxious to know what has taken place, out in the bush; and whether many of our fellows have been killed. If, as Kate said, she heard the captain tell the bush ranger that all his band had been killed, except one who is a prisoner, it has indeed been a most successful expedition; and we colonists can hardly be sufficiently grateful, to Whitney, for having rid us of these pests. What with that, and the thrashing the blacks have had, we shall be able to sleep quietly for months; which is more than we have done for a long time."

Kate came out of the room, with Mrs. Donald, a minute later. The basin of cold water and the tea had had the effect Mrs. Barker predicted. A little colour had returned into her cheeks, and she looked altogether more like herself.

"How is he?" Mrs. Donald asked.

"In my opinion, he's doing capitally, Mrs. Donald. His pulse is quiet and even, and he's breathing as quietly as a child; and I believe he is simply in a state of exhaustion, from which he is not likely to wake till tomorrow morning; and I predict that, in a few days, he will be up and about. Indeed, if that bullet hasn't misbehaved itself, I see no reason why he shouldn't be up tomorrow."

"That is indeed a relief, to us both," Mrs. Donald said, while Kate could only clasp her hands in silent thankfulness.

"And now, how is your husband? I hope he is none the worse, for all this exertion."

"He was terribly agitated, at first," Mrs. Donald said. "I fainted, you know, and he got out of bed to help me up; and it was as much as I could do, when I recovered, to get him to lie down; for he wanted to mount and ride after Kate, although, of course, he is as weak as a child, and even with my help he could scarcely get into bed again.

"Fortunately Mrs. Barker ran in, before she started on horseback to fetch you, to say that the constable was off in pursuit, and that quieted him. Then I think he was occupied in trying to cheer me, for as soon as he was in bed I broke down and cried; till the constable came back to say that Captain Whitney had overtaken, and shot, the bush ranger."

Three hours later, to the great relief of all, the surgeon arrived. He was first taken in to look at Reuben, having been told all the circumstances of the case; and he confirmed Mr. Barker's opinion that he was really in a deep sleep.

"I would not wake him, on any account," he said. "It is a great effort of nature, and he will, I hope, awake quite himself. Of course, I can't say anything about the wound, till he does.

"Now for his antagonist."

The bush ranger was still unconscious, though occasionally broken words came from his lips. The surgeon examined his wound.

"He is shot through the lungs," he said, "and is bleeding internally. I do not think that there is the shadow of a chance for him, and no one can wish it otherwise. It will only save the colony the expense of his trial.

"And now for my original patient."

He was some time in Mr. Donald's room and, when he came out, proceeded at once to mix him a soothing draught, from the case of medicines he carried behind the saddle.

"We must get him off to sleep, if we can," he said; "or we shall have him in a high state of fever, before morning. A man in his state can't go through such excitement as he has done, without paying the penalty.

"And now, I suppose, I have done," he said with a smile, as Mrs. Donald left the room with the medicine.

"Yes, I think so," Mrs. Barker said. "If you had come an hour earlier, I should have put this young lady under your charge; but I think that the assurance of my husband, that Captain Whitney was doing well, has been a better medicine than you could give her."

"No wonder she is shaken," Mr. Ruskin remarked.

"Mrs. Barker tells me you had a heavy fall, too, Miss Ellison."

"Yes," she replied. "I was stunned for a time but, beyond being stiff and bruised, I am none the worse for it."

"Look here, Miss Ellison," the doctor said, after putting his fingers on her wrist, "I suppose you will want to be about, tomorrow, when our brave army returns. Now, there is nothing you can do here. Mrs. Donald can nurse her husband. The other two require no nursing. Mrs. Barker, I am sure, will take charge of the house; and therefore, seriously, I would ask you to take this draught I am about to mix for you, and to go upstairs and go to bed, and sleep till morning."

"I could not sleep," Kate protested.

"Very well, then, lie quiet without sleeping; and if, in the evening, you find you are restless, you can come down for an hour or two; but I really must insist on your lying down for a bit.

"Now, Mrs. Barker, will you take this medicine up, and put this young lady to bed."

"I hope she will get off to sleep," Mrs. Barker said, when she came downstairs again.

"I have no doubt whatever about it," Mr. Ruskin replied. "I have given her a very strong sleeping draught, far stronger than I should think of giving, at any other time; but after the tension that the poor girl must have gone through, it would need a strong dose to take effect. I think you will hear nothing more of her, till the morning."

Indeed, it was not until the sun was well up, the next morning, that Kate Ellison woke. She could hardly believe that she had slept all night; but the eastern sun, coming in through her window, showed her that she had done so. She still felt bruised and shaken all over, but was otherwise herself again. She dressed hastily, and went downstairs.

"That's right, my dear," Mrs. Barker, who was already busy in the kitchen, said. "You look bonny, and like yourself."

"How are my brother and Captain Whitney?" Kate asked.

"I don't think Mr. Donald is awake, yet," Mrs. Barker replied; "but Captain Whitney has just gone out to the shed, with my husband and the surgeon."

"Gone out to the shed!" Kate repeated, in astonishment.

"Yes, my dear. That poor wretch out there is going fast. He recovered consciousness about two hours ago. The constable was sitting up with him. He asked for water, and then lay for some time, quite quiet.

"Then he said, 'Am I dreaming, or was it Reuben Whitney I fought with?'

"'Yes, it was Captain Reuben Whitney, our inspector,' the constable replied.

"For a time he lay quiet again, and then said: 'I want to see him.'

"The constable told him he was asleep, and couldn't be woke.

"'Is he badly wounded?' the man asked. 'I know I hit him.'

"'Not very badly, I hope,' the constable answered.

"'When he wakes ask him to come to me,' the man said. 'I know I am dying, but I want to see him first. If he can't come, let somebody else come.'

"The constable came in and roused the doctor, who went out and saw him, and said he might live three or four hours yet.

"Soon afterwards, just as the sun rose, Jim came out, to say that his master was awake. Mr. Ruskin went in to him and examined his wound, and probed the course of the bullet. It had lodged down just at the bottom of the shoulder bone. I am glad to say he was able to get it out. When he had done, he told his patient what the bush ranger had said; and Captain Whitney insisted upon going out to him."

"It won't do him any harm, will it?" Kate asked anxiously.

"No, my dear, or Mr. Ruskin would not have let him go. I saw him as he went out, and shook hands with him and, except that nasty bandage over his face, he looked quite himself again. As I told you, a broken collarbone is a mere nothing and, now we know where the bullet went and have got it out, there is no occasion for the slightest anxiety.

"Here they come again, so you can judge for yourself."

A very few words passed between Reuben and Kate; for Mrs. Barker, who saw how nervous the girl was, at once began to ask him questions about what the bush ranger had said.

"He has made a confession, Mrs. Barker, which your husband has written down, and Mr. Ruskin and Smithson have signed. It is about a very old story, in which I was concerned when a boy; but it is a great gratification for me to have it cleared up, at last. I was accused of poisoning a dog, belonging to Miss Ellison's father; and was tried for a burglary, committed on the premises, and was acquitted, thanks only to Miss Ellison's influence, exerted on my behalf-

"I fear," he said with a slight smile, "somewhat illegally.

"However, the imputation would have rested on me all my life, if it had not been for Thorne's confession. I thought that he did the first affair. I knew that he was concerned in the second, although I could not prove it; but he has now made a full confession, saying that he himself poisoned the dog, and confirming the story I told at the trial."

"Oh, I am glad!" Kate exclaimed. "You know, Captain Whitney, that I was sure of your innocence; but I know how you must have longed for it to be proved to the world.

"What will you do, Mr. Barker, to make it public?"

"I shall send a copy of the confession, properly attested, to the magistrates of Lewes; and another copy to the paper which, Captain Whitney tells me, is published there weekly.

"It is curious," he went on, "that the sight of Whitney should have recalled those past recollections; while, so far as I could see, everything that has happened afterwards, his career of crime and the blood that he has shed, seem altogether forgotten."

"I suppose there is no hope for him?" Kate asked, in a low voice.

"He is dying now," Mr. Barker said. "Ruskin is with him. He was fast becoming unconscious when we left him, and Ruskin said that the end was at hand."

A quarter of an hour later the surgeon came in, with the news that all was over.

"Now, Captain Whitney, you must come into your room, and let me bandage up your shoulder properly. I hadn't half time to do it, before."

"But you won't want me to lie in bed, or any nonsense of that sort?" Reuben asked.

"I would, if I thought you would obey my orders; but as I see no chance of that, I shall not trouble to give them. Seriously, I do not think there is any necessity for it, providing always that you will keep yourself very quiet. I shall bandage your arm across your chest, so there can be no movement of the shoulder; and when that is done, I think you will be all right."

There was only one more question which Reuben had to ask, with regard to the event of the preceding day-why it was that Smithson did not go to his comrade's assistance. He then learned that Thorne rode quietly up to the back of the house and dismounted, then went to the stable, where Smithson was asleep-having been on guard during the night-and pushed a piece of wood under the latch of the door, so that it could not be raised. Having thus securely fastened Smithson in, he had gone to the front of the house, and had apparently shot down the constable there before the latter was aware of his presence.

Smithson, awakened by the shot, tried in vain to get out; and was only released by Mrs. Barker, when she recovered from the effect of the stunning blow which the bush ranger had struck her. He had then mounted at once, and followed in pursuit.

In the afternoon the party returned from the bush, having experienced no further molestation from the natives. Nothing occurred to interfere with the progress of Reuben's wound and, in the course of a fortnight, he was again able to resume his duties.

The complete destruction of the gang of bush rangers, and the energy with which they had been pursued into the very heart of the bush country, made a vast sensation in the colony; and Reuben gained great credit, and instant promotion for his conduct.

A month after the return of the party from the bush, Mr. Donald was about again and, as the danger was now past, he abandoned his idea of selling his property. The course which events took can be judged by the following conversation, between Mrs. Donald and her sister, three months later.

"Well, Kate, after all he has done for us, of course I have nothing to say against it; and I don't suppose you would mind, if I had. Still, I do think you might have done better."

"I could not have done better," Kate said hotly, "not if I had had the pick of the whole colony."

"Well, not in one way, my dear; for you know that, personally, I like him almost as well as you do. Still, I do think it is a little unfortunate that we ever knew him before."

"And I think it's extremely fortunate," Kate said stoutly. "If it hadn't been that he had known us before, and cared for me-he says worshipped, but that's nonsense-ever since I was a child, he would never have made that terrible ride, and I-"

"Oh, don't talk about it, Kate; it's too dreadful even to think of now.

"Well, my dear, no doubt it's all for the best," Alice said philosophically. "At any rate, you are quite happy, and he is a noble fellow. But I hope, for your sake, that he won't stay in the police. It would be dreadful for you when he was riding about, hunting after bush rangers and blacks; for you know, my dear, there are plenty of others left in the colony."

"I told him so yesterday," Kate said shyly. "I said, of course, that I didn't want to influence him."

Alice broke into a laugh.

"You little goose, as if what you say doesn't influence him."

Three weeks later, Reuben received a letter from Mr. Hudson.

"My dear Whitney, I am glad to hear, from you, that you are engaged to be married; and the circumstances which you tell me of make it a most interesting affair. If I were you, I should cut the constabulary. I enclose a paper from Wilson, giving you three weeks' leave. Come down to Sydney at once, and talk it over with me. You know I regard you as my son, and I am going to have a voice in the matter."

Reuben went down to Sydney and, after ascertaining his views, Mr. Hudson went into town and forthwith arranged for the purchase, for him, of a partnership in the chief engineering firm in the town. When he told Captain Wilson what he had done, the latter declared that he had robbed the colony of its best police officer. Reuben protested against the generosity of the old settler, but the latter declared he would have no nonsense on the subject.

"I am one of the richest men in the colony," he said, "and it's hard if I can't spend my money as I choose."

There is little more to tell. Reuben became one of the leading citizens of Sydney and, twenty years afterwards, sold his business and returned to England, and bought an estate not far from Lewes, where he is still living with his wife and family. He was accompanied from Australia by his mother; who, in spite of her strong objections to the sea, went out to live with him, two years after his marriage.

The only point upon which Reuben Whitney and his wife have never been able to come to an absolute agreement is as to which owes most to the other.

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