Page:Melbourne and Mars.djvu/14

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12
MELBOURNE AND MARS.

stockade for punishment. The squatters got over this by getting sworn to as J's.P., so that they could mutually oblige by punishing for each other. The amount of flogging a man should have was generally decided before a man was sent away for the nominal trial to the neighbouring J.P. If a squatter was busy and could not afford to have a hand laid up, the punishment was not of a disabling kind, though it might be severe. It is scarcely necessary to say—remembering the cruelty of that time—that the invariable punishment was the lash.

Mr. Beedham said that both men would probably be punished about nine o'clock the next morning and that he did not know whether or not the King's pardon would over-ride the magistrate's award for a fault committed in the country. He, however, would be inclined to give Jacobs the benefit of the doubt for he had been a willing servant and he had, until that afternoon, had no cause for complaint. Even in that particular case the other man was quite as likely to be to blame as Jacobs was.

Mother was terribly anxious.

It was night. She had twenty mile to go and to be at her journey's end before her husband's appearance in court the next morning. For she wished to present the pardon and claim her husband as a free man before a local sentence of any kind was passed upon him.

As I have previously mentioned she could not ride, Mr. Beedham had nothing lighter in the way of a conveyance than a bullock dray. All the horses were saddle horses used for boundary riding, yarding stock, etc. American buggies were not to be had in the back blocks of N.S.W. in King William's day. After a good deal of talking and planning it was decided that mother and the trooper should start about three o'clock in the morning for McCallum's station, she fitting as best she could upon a horse led at walking-pace. For the distance was more than a day's journey for a bullock team and very rough and wearying walk for a woman who had been travelling for a week in the primitive way of the time.

Mother would not have cared; she would have cheerfully set off at once and walked all night, but where would she have got to? There was only a track through the wilderness, no telegraph wires and no roads; she would have been hopelessly lost before she had walked two miles. In this portion, of the Australian Continent there is a constant sameness in the scenery. Even in flying over it by rail or coach, the same scene keeps repeating itself brown and almost bare plains; dry, dusty, dotted with eucalyptus. Close your eyes for an hour, look out of the carriage window again—the same scene, you have travelled twenty miles and might not have moved.

At eight o'clock the next morning mother and the trooper—the latter managing both, horses presented themselves at the front of a decent sized house supposing themselves to be at the end of their journey. In this they were labouring under a mistake; they had got off the main track and had