'Now, Mrs. Trevenna, where's your letter? You'd better turn in with the wife when I'm gone and you've made yourself a cup of tea. There's bread and meat in the safe.'
'How far is it to where Dayrell is? Fifty odd--nearly sixty miles. I can do it in seven hours--perhaps less. I'll be there soon after daylight, so as he can start at once.'
'That will do. Get your pen and a sheet of paper and write down what I tell you. Are you ready? Begin like this--
'This is from Mrs. Trevenna--Kate Lawless that was; every word is God's truth. Lawrence Trevenna and Coke have murdered Lance Trevanion and hid his body in a shaft near the Tin Pot Reef. I tracked them down, and to-day can show the place. Trevenna went to Omeo and passed himself off as Lance to the young lady that came out from England to marry him. He's off to Melbourne, where they are to be married and start for England, he taking Lance's name, money, and wife. Ride like hell if you want to block the villain's game. Only left here a few days. That's all.'
'By Jove,' quoth the trooper, folding up the paper and putting it carefully in his pocket, 'that's something like a letter! I knew he was an infernal scoundrel, but I didn't think he was quite so bad as that. I do pity you, Mrs. Trevenna; but there's no time, is there? So I'll say good-bye to my old woman and clear. You chum in with her till to-morrow. I'll go back with you, and we'll see further about that shaft.'
Three minutes afterwards the trooper's horse-hoofs clattered along the stony track. Kate sat long over the fire, from time to time mechanically addressing herself to the simple meal which she had made ready. Then she arose, and slowly, with uncertain steps, betook herself to the goodwife's inner chamber.
Thus, and by such means, was Lawrence Trevenna tracked--followed up--run to earth. From what trivial neglect and want of caution in 'blinding his trail' had the sleuthhounds of the law been loosed upon his flying steps; and from what apparently savoured of the merest chance had the avenger of blood been enabled to seize him in the hour of his triumph.
Had but the ceremony been completed, had but the ship which sailed for Callao on the next day taken 'Mr. and Mrs. Johnson' among her passengers, what woe, limitless and irrevocable, would have been wrought! In that day no ocean telegraph was available to intercept the criminal, to ensure his arrest ere his foot touched the alien shore. Had but the trooper at White Rock been 'absent on duty,' had Dayrell been from home when he arrived at Warrandorf, the precious, indispensable time would have been lost--that day--that night during which a desperate trooper, careless of life and limb, rode on relays of horses to Melbourne, and, haggard, sleepless, travel-worn, but cool and resolute as ever, arrived before the fatal vow was sworn.
Little remains to be told. The once brave, stalwart, gladsome presentment of him who was Lance Trevanion was recovered from the shaft and identified beyond dispute. For his murder, as well as for that of the gold-buyer Gray, Trevenna, Coke, and a confederate named Fogarty were tried. All difficulties of legal proof and identification were removed by the consistent conduct of Mr. Caleb Coke. True to his unvarying principles, he turned Queen's evidence. His life was spared.
Trevenna and Fogarty were hanged. Unaffected by the curses of his comrades in crime and the execrations of the crowd, Coke retired to Mount Gibbo, and there lived out to extreme old age an unblest and solitary life. His secrets died with him, and were only told _sub sigillo confessionis_.
He retained possession of the hut under Mount Gibbo to the last. But the wandering bush tramp turned aside with a curse when he marked the sinister elder standing at his door, or sitting on the rude bank surrounded by his dogs. It was popularly asserted that he abstained from the use of ardent spirits, being fearful of betraying the crimes with the memory of which his soul was laden. But the stock-riders averred that more than once, when passing the lonely hut after midnight, they had heard shouts and curses, mingled with screams and laughter even more dreadful. These were popularly believed to proceed from the Enemy of Mankind, or some one of his lieutenants engaged in spending the evening with his sworn liegeman, Caleb Coke.
After such brief interval as sufficed for her recovery from the shock her feelings had sustained, Estelle Chaloner naturally decided to return to England. The recurring horror with which she recalled her providential escape from a fate too dreadful to conceive needed the anodyne of complete change of surroundings, of which a long voyage only could supply the requisite conditions. She therefore, to the unaffected grief of Mr. and Mrs. Vernon, caused her passage to be taken in the good ship _Candia_, in which the luxurious nature of her cabin fittings, duly provided by Mr. Vernon, caused much wonder and admiration among the other passengers. Mr. Charles Stirling, who had been so considerate as to delay his voyage, 'went home' by the same boat. It did not surprise her Australian friends to hear that he made such use of the exceptional opportunities enjoyed by a fellow-passenger, that Miss Chaloner consented to merge her future existence in that of Mr. Charles Stirling.
This arrangement was completed at St. George's, Hanover Square, after the shortest interval allowed for the trousseau of a young lady of position. Mrs. Vernon's remark was something to the effect, that though she had striven to be true to her plighted faith, she really believed that Estelle liked Charlie Stirling better all the time.
Number Six, Growlers', was worked out in due course, but not before Jack Polwarth found himself one of the richest men 'on Ballarat,' as he would have phrased it. This was what the world calls the height of good fortune. But there was an even rarer possession which John Polwarth and his good wife had been gifted with, even before the advent of the gold so plentifully showered upon them. This was such a proportion of sense and shrewdness as sudden wealth and its destructive flatteries had no power to assail.
In accordance with Mrs. Polwarth's aspiration, Tottie had been sent to one of the best ladies' schools in Melbourne. Here she had received careful instruction, and enjoyed the privilege of association with girls of the higher colonial families. Acknowledged to be 'sweetly pretty' in her maiden prime, as well as amiable, popular, and an undoubted heiress, no difficulties were placed in the way of her invitation to vice-regal entertainments. Her father's mansion in St. Kilda was noted for its princely yet unostentatious hospitality. Small wonder then that Tottie--beautiful, cultured, a lady in mind and manner, such as her mother had fondly hoped to behold her, and withal credited with 'pots of money'--should marry a distinguished globe-trotter, a man of rank and ancient birth, be presented to her gracious Majesty on her arrival in England, and gain golden opinions in every sense of the word.
The after-life of Tessie Lawless was that of the woman who, partly from a natural tendency to self-sacrifice, partly from despair and hopeless sorrow, remained in the hospital to which she had devoted her life. Her course henceforth was the onward path of duty. During an epidemic of fever several of the nurses fell victims to their labours. A modest inscription in the Melbourne cemetery bears testimony to the anxious care and continued watchfulness of Nurse Esther Lawless, the best loved and most deeply respected of all the hospital attendants.
Charles Stirling returned to Australia, but only to settle his affairs, and so that he might take up his abode in England 'for good.' His wife, naturally, could never be induced to return to Australia, even for a short sojourn. In spite of occasional twinges of regret which assail him when the continued absence of the northern sun tends to lower his spirits and suggest the 'golden summer eves' of his native land, Charlie Stirling finds the old country very fairly habitable. His wife's fortune, added to his own, provides an extremely comfortable, not to say luxurious existence, as well as an assured provision for the olive branches. The Honourable Mrs. Delamere (_nee_ Polwarth) and her husband--who will be a peer some day--are frequent and welcome guests.
Mrs. Stirling takes great pride in introducing her beautiful Australian friend, whose fairy godmother, while endowing her with fortune and fashion, added the rarer gifts of unselfish kindliness.
The estate and revenues of Wychwood went to the younger son--a devolution which afforded to all the country people unfeigned satisfaction, as removing the curse under which they devoutly believed the family to exist.
One mystery was unravelled, in the closer search made after his succession among the Squire's papers. In a secret receptacle was discovered a collection of letters which proved incontestably that Lawrence Trevenna was his natural son, born two years before his marriage to the mother of Lance Trevanion. The girl's father was a disreputable horse-and-turf-tout and betting man in a small way in a distant county; the girl herself the worthy offspring of such a father--handsome, bold, unprincipled. The Squire discovered that a deliberate plot had been laid for him. Hence his previous inexplicable hatred to all and every form of horse-racing and the gambling therewith concomitant. Attempts at blackmail were referred to as having been resisted by legal advice, but finally compromised by the payment of a comparatively large sum--only a part of which had helped to provide passage-money and outfit for Lawrence Trevenna. Some fragmentary addenda to the faded writing and curiously worded letters told of deep and bitter regret--even of repentance. But the sin had been sinned. The guilt lightly incurred in the riot of youthful passion had grown dark and menacing of aspect with the slow gathering years. And 'the vengeance due of all our wrongs' had haltingly, but with sleuth-hound deadliness, tracked down his happiness and shortened the wrongdoer's life. But for the fatal resemblance, the mysterious heritage of unbridled passion bequeathed to the Ishmaelite offspring, the heir of his ancient house had doubtless escaped injustice, imprisonment, and death. And now, 'Conrad, Lara, Ezzelia are gone.' A youthful scion--fair, blue-eyed, mirthful--makes merry in the old halls of his race. But of the wandering heir--he who defiantly quitted home, and friends, and native land in search of gold; who vowed to conquer fortune with the aid of the strong arm and tameless heart; to return successful, rich, honoured of all men; to claim his bride in his own ancient hall--of him the oaks in the Druids' Grove of Wychwood murmur to the midnight stars, 'Nevermore.'
POPULAR NOVELS BY THE SAME AUTHOR.
_ROBBERY UNDER ARMS._
A STORY OF LIFE AND ADVENTURE IN THE BUSH AND IN THE GOLD-FIELDS OF AUSTRALIA.
_GUARDIAN_--"A singularly spirited and stirring tale of Australian life, chiefly in the remoter settlements....
Altogether it is a capital story, full of wild adventure and startling incidents, and told with a genuine simplicity and quiet appearance of truth, as if the writer were really drawing upon his memory rather than his imagination."
_SPECTATOR_--"We have nothing but praise for this story. Of adventure of the most stirring kind there is, as we have said, abundance. But there is more than this. The characters are drawn with great skill. Every one of the gang of bushrangers is strongly individualised. A book of no common literary force."
_THE MINER'S RIGHT._
A TALE OF THE AUSTRALIAN GOLD-FIELDS.
_ATHENaeUM_--"The picture is unquestionably interesting, thanks to the very detail and fidelity which tend to qualify its attractiveness for those who like excitement and incident before anything else."
_WORLD_--"Full of good passages, passages abounding in vivacity, in the colour and play of life."
_THE SQUATTER'S DREAM._
_SATURDAY REVIEW_--"It is not often that stories of colonial life are so interesting as Mr. Boldrewood's _Squatter's Dream_.
There is enough story in the book to give connected interest to the various incidents, and these are all told with considerable spirit, and at times picturesqueness."
_FIELD_--"The details are filled in by a hand evidently well conversant with his subject, and everything is _ben trovato_, if not actually true. A perusal of these cheerfully-written pages will probably give a better idea of realities of Australian life than could be obtained from many more pretentious works."
_A SYDNEY-SIDE SAXON._
_GLASGOW HERALD_--"The interest never flags, and altogether _A Sydney-Side Saxon_ is a really refreshing book."
_ANTI-JACOBIN_--"Thoroughly well worth reading.... A clever book, admirably written.... Brisk in incident, truthful and lifelike in character.... Beyond and above all it has that stimulating hygienic quality, that cheerful, unconscious healthfulness, which makes a story like _Robinson Crusoe_ or _The Vicar of Wakefield_ so unspeakably refreshing after a course of even good contemporary fiction."
_A COLONIAL REFORMER._
_GLASGOW HERALD_--"One of the most interesting books about Australia we have ever read."
_SATURDAY REVIEW_--"Mr. Boldrewood can tell what he knows with great point and vigour, and there is no better reading than the adventurous parts of his books."