COUSIN LUCY'S STORY.
[From the Adelaide Observer.]
"Is this real bear's skin, Lucy?" said I, as I flung my tired limbs into an easy-chair, covered with a rug of soft thick fur. We had been hard at work mustering cattle, and
I, who had not been long out from England, and was fresh to so much saddle work, had been envying the apparent unstiffness of my cousin's husband, who seemed as smart after riding all day as when we started, whilst my limbs felt akin to those of an unfortunate wretch who had been stretched on the rack; and I warmly welcomed the comfortable seat which called forth the question, "Is this real bear's skin, Lucy?" "Yes, the genuine article, Ned." "How did you come by it ?' and I looked at Charley Hunter, my cousin's husband, formerly Lance-corporal in Her Majesty's force of Mounted Troopers in Sydney, but at the time of my narrative stockholder and sheepfanrmer in the South-Eastern country of South Australia. Charley smiled, as he gave answer, "I didn't get it, it isn't mine; it belongs to Lucy; won at much peril to her fair fame and good name." "That sounds as if there was a story about it," said I. "Do tell it, my good cousin, if it is not a dread secret ; I am just in the humour to hear a tale." "Shall I tell him, Charley, and sink for ever in his good opinion ?" said Lucy. "Tell him, Lucy, to be sure, and if he thinks the less of you after the recital, I'll keep him galloping after cattle till he cries for quarter and retracts his sentiments," and he threw himself laughing into a rocking
chair opposite me. It was a cold evening, and the fire blazed away brightly, and my cousin stood on the hearthrug between us looking at it. A good looking face she had, with a certain air of promptness about it. "Well" she said, "it is twelve years ago now, so it will dd no harm, and we are not in New South Wales. Twelve years; why that makes me 30 years old, Charley. Oh, you needn't stare, Ned, you belong to a younger branch of the family, and were a very little fellow twelve years back. All attention now. I am going to begin to tell you how I imperilled my salvation by lying, raised suspicions in Mr. Hunter's heart, and rendered myself liable to imprisonment by infringing Crown laws." She sat herself down on the hearthrug, leant her arm on Charley's knee, and com- menced. Twelve years ago next month there was a murder committed in the suburbs of Sydney that excited at the time a great deal of attention and a diversity of feeling. Briefly, the case was this. There was a young fellow, whom I shall call Harry Miles, a carpenter by trade.- He was, as all evi- dence proved, industrious and honest, generous, but hot-tempered. There was an only sister who lived with him, and who used to assist the housekeeping by going out to needlework. They were devotedly attached to each other, and, although the children of an old Sydney lag, were much liked and respected by their neighbours. Mary Miles was a very pretty, gentle girl.
At one of the houses where she worked the eldest son, who was handsome, idle, and dissolute— mind, Ned, I don't mean to say the three always go together, but they did in the case of Fred Martin— paid her great attention ; would see her home of an even- ing, or loiter about in her workroom, and won poor Mary's heart almost before she was aware. But he won only to destroy. Mary was too pure and good a girl to yield as easily as he wished, but that only made him more determined. He was her first love, and she knew nothing of his evil habits. He was above her in station, and she almost worshipped him I believe. Women are such fools (she added, energetically); "and [she thought him in capable of wrong-doing. He told her his father had promised to set him up in busi- ness shortly, and then he would marry her. Beguiled by love and fair words poor Mary fell. Harry knew nothing of all this, for Martin had cautioned the girl to tell no one of their attachment, lest coming to his father's ears he should stop their marriage, as Fred was not of age. The villain was a coward, and afraid of Mary's brother. Time passed. Harry saw his sister look pale and sad, and thought she worked too close at her needle, so would not let her go out any more, but only keep house for him. When the truth could no longer be hid from him, perhaps if you think of your own sisters, you can imagine the mingled rage and anguish of Harry Miles ; his darling, his all in all. He knew well enough the scoundrel would never marry her, and if in his passion he clenched his fist, and swore to be his death, who shall blame him? Not I; for I should have done the same. It was some time before Harry could learn who it was; for Mary, though almost broken-hearted with shame and sorrow, still loved Fred Martin, and feared her brother's wrath against him, and when she did tell she clung about her brother's neck, and made him promise to do him no hurt, and I daresay Harry Miles would have kept his promise but for the villain's own evil tongue. He was coming home late one evening from a job of work, with his saw
and hammer in hand, and doubtless brooding upon the misery that had fallen upon his once happy home, when as he was passing a public-house three or four young men came out, all more or less the worse for liquor, and amongst the worst Fred Martin, who nearly tumbled up against Harry, but started back as he recognised the pale face and gleaming eyes, and trying to brave it out, said, with a drunken laugh, "Hallo ! here's the fellow whose sister thinks she ought to be my wife, when I'm a gentleman, and she's a beggarly lag's brat." "You cursed villain,' shouted the brother, springing upon him and, dealing three or four blows in quick succession on his head and face with the hammer, felled him to the ground. There was interference to prevent further harm. That night Fred Martin died from his injuries, and next morning Harry Miles was arrested for murder. There's the story of the crime, Ned. ' Yes,' said I, 'but I don't see what you or the bearskin has to do with it.' ' Oh ! my share is coming ; that is only the introductory chapter.' She poked the fire into a bright blaze, and resumed — I daresay, child though you were at that time, you knew you had an orphan cousin, Lucy, who lived with Uncle John in New South Wales, and a pleasant home it was. Uncle and aunt were more like a father and mother to me ; and their only child, Cousin Hetty, was as a sister. Uncle's place was a large cattle station, about 100 miles from Sydney, out in the bush. Our nearest neigh- bour was 20 miles off at least. I make a mistake. About a mile from our house was a Government Reserve, with a Police Station on it, for the protection of the out district from runaway convicts and bushrangers. Lance-corporal Hunter had charge of this station, with two troopers under his command. As time often hung rather lazily on their hands, they frequently wiled it away at our place, and some two months before the time I speak of, Charley Hunter and I had made the mutual discovery that we cared more for each other than for anything else. My Uncle and Aunt were fond of him, and con- sented to our engagement with pleasure, only stipulating that I should attain the discreet age of nineteen before we were married. There was a year to wait, but we were very happy and content. Well, we, of course, in common with all the rest of the country, learned through the newspapers of
the murder of Fred Martin and the arrest of Harry Miles, and, in time, read the evidence adduced at the trial and the editorial comments thereon. Opinions differed, and there was some little discussion —one side lamenting the immorality of the young men of the better classes, and urgently recommending the prisoner to mercy on account of the great provocation he had received ; the other sighing over the constant cropping up of the convict element, speakmg of the girl as the worst of her sex, and of the brother as little better than a savage brute. Our family circle used to debate the relative merits of the case, and differed almost as much as the Press. Of course, all the facts that I detailed to you about the Miles's did not come before the public. I learned them some time afterwards ; but judging from what came out at the trial, and from an inward feeling that generally prompts me to take the weakest side, I used to defend Harry — not that my friends were harsh in their judgment — but they looked with pitying horror upon the breaker of the sixth commandment, and felt that he deserved full punishment — whilst I — talk of 'cropping up'— (and my cousin took the poker and vigorously stirred the fire) knew that if I bad been in Harry Miles's place ' the convict element would have cropped up' pretty strongly in me. I remember when the result of the trial reached us. I shocked my good aunt. It seemed that at the last minute a good many respectable people came forward and gave
evidence of Harry's previous good character, which produced some impression on the Judge. The verdict, of course, was 'Guilty;' but the sentence, instead of hanging, was imprisonment for life. As Charley read it out to us I jumped up and exclaimed, 'Imprisonment for life; would sooner be hung a dozen times. ' : ' Lucy, Lucy,' said aunt, ' how can you be so wicked. The poor sinful creature will now have time to repent." "Aunt, the papers say he is only about 23. Can you fancy being imprisoned all your life long ? Poor fellow, I hope he will die soon.' "Ain't you jealous, Mr. Hunter?" said Hetty, ' ' I think Lucy is falling in love with this man.' 'No, Lucy isn't,' I replied, 'but I feel for him ; and yon don't blame me, do you, Charley !' "And what did he say?" I exclaimed, in terrupting my cousin. 'Why,' said Lucy, looking up to meet her husband's loving smile, 'he had then, as he has now, a great faith in me, and he said 'So.' Well, the affair died out, as all these things do, except to the actors in them, and six months had passed, when we were startled by the news that Harry Miles and two others had broken out of prison and escaped into the bush, and the outdis- trict police officers received instructions to be on the alert and scour the country. There had been several cases of prison breaking before, and it was supposed it would go hard with these men if taken, for one had seriously wounded his gaoler before he got off. It was winter time. There was a birthday party at our nearest neighbour's, who, as I said before, lived 20 miles off. We were all invited to spend three or four days there, and were in great glee, as we did not do much visiting. However, the day before we were to go I was taken ill with cold and feverishness. Aunt or Hetty wanted to stay with me, but I would not hear of their foregoing the pleasure on my account ; I was not so ill as all that; only it was not advisable to be out in the cold wet weather. They knew I was not like Hetty, afraid to be left by myself; besides, there were the two servant girls, and one of the men always slept in the kitchen when uncle was from home. So they went, giving me many cautions to keep warm and quiet The evening after they had gone was cold and gusty. I was sitting by the parlour fire, enjoying a favourite book; the two girls had got leave from me to go and see the wife of one of the hands, whose hut was about half a mile off, and Macbeth, the stockman, was escorting them. I told them not to stay too late, for, being unwell, I should want to go to bed early. It was about 8 o'clock, and I was deep in my book, when I heard a tapping at the kitchen door. Surely they are not back already, thought I, and I did not expect them till 10 at the least. I went into the kitchen, unbolted the
door, and opened it. Outside stood a tall ragged man, with a haggard white face and gleaming eyes. For a minute we stood looking at each other. I was conscious of turning pale and wondering who he was, when he spoke in a shaky voice from cold and weakness— 'Would you give a poor fellow who hasn't had a morsel for nearly three days a bit of something to eat, Miss, and say nothing about it?" A lightning thought flashed into my brain, and I exclaimed, 'You are Harry Miles.' The look in his face confirmed my words, and I added hurriedly, 'Don't you know you are within a mile of a Police Station?' 'I don't care ; they shall never take me alive,' and he staggered past me into the kitchen, seized a carving knife that lay upon the dresser, then sunk into a chair. He was evidently worn out with exposure and want of food. I closed the door, locked it, and stood re- garding the man for a few minutes with a vague wonderment of what was to be done. His exhausted condition suggested the first thing. I fetched some wine and gave him, and he soon revived; then I placed some victuals before him, and as 1 watched him eat I wondered whether when he had finished he would go away, and be hunted down perhaps at our very door ; for almost every minute I expected Mr. Hunter would come to see how I was, and the servants would be home. I don't know if it was because I was not well, but I seemed to be a horridly long time defining what I was to do, and I had only partially decided when I said, 'Where are the two men who escaped with you!' ' I don't know. We each went different ways to lessen the chance of being taken.' 'Was it you gave the gaoler that blow, from which he has since died ?' 'No.' 'What did you escape for!' He left off eating, and looked at me steadily, as he answered — 'You are young, and perhaps can imagine what it would be to pass the remainder of your life in prison, but you could never picture what the daily, hourly
companionship of the vilest and most degraded of human beings, steeped in the most debasing of crimes, would be. I could not bear it, and the knowledge that in time, by use, I should come to think nothing of it, I call God to witness— and he raised his arms above his head — I would rather they had hung me a hundred times, and I will die before I go back there; oh, my poor Mary!" and he ended with a stifled sob. I knew better then what I was going to do. Hark, a horse's feet sounded outside. I knew Charley was come. He started to his feet. "Will you betray me!' "Not for my life ; come with me." "I took up what he was eating, and led the way into my own room, as the most private place. ' Keep still,' I whispered, ' and wait ; I don't know yet how to help you.' A knock at the front door, and I admitted Charley. 'My dear Lucy, how ill you look,' was his greeting. I was conscious of being pale and trembling with excitement, but was too anxious to feel ill. "I am so sorry,' continued he, 'I was coming to stay an hour or two with you, but I cannot spare hardly a minute. A man has just brought in word from Green's Water- hole that a person answering the description of one of the escaped convicts has been seen in the neighbourhood.' My heart gave a bound. 'So I and the lads have to be off. I think, too, from the description that it is Harry Miles, and I wish it was one of the others; for, Lucy dear, your sympathy for that poor devil has made me pity him. Confound the duty, I say, that compels me to turn out and hunt him down. I almost hope we may not catch him.' 'I hope not, Charley.' I knew now what I was going to do, and also what I must learn. 'Green's Waterhole is 10 miles off, isn't it!' 'Yes, dear.' 'And where was he seen?' 'About three miles east of it, by a shep- herd, whose hut he had also been into and taken food. I expect he is outlying in the scrub about there.' ' You are all going, I suppose ?" ' Yes, so I have brought you the key as usual, and now I must be off, or I shan't catch the others. Don't come to the door in the cold ; I'll let myself out,' and bidding me good-by, he went.
l heard him gallop away, and for once was glad. My friends always gave me credit for great promptness in executing anything I had decided upon. I was now about to establish my right to their good opinion. Charley had expressed a hope that he might not catch Harry Miles. I was going to do my best to make that hope a surety. I had lost all sense of illness. If any one had asked me, I should have said I never felt better in my life. I went into my room. "You heard what was said just now ?" 'Yes, Miss.' ' What are you going to do?" ' I don't know,' he said bitterly. ' ' Do you know what I am going to do ?' 'No.' 'Harry Miles, if it is in the power of one woman to save you, I'm going to do it. Will you trust me ?' He said 'Yes.' I took him into the parlour, sat him by the fire, and made him some hot coffee, and left him to warm. There was nearly an hour, I reckoned, before the servants came home. I then went to the store ; we always had on hand a lot of slop goods, for the convenience of our hands, and selected a pair of trousers, shirt, coat, boots, hat, and pair of blankets. These things I knew would not be missed for two or three months, and then I should not care. I put up some victuals, some brandy in a little bottle, and packing them in the blankets made a neat swag. I sent Harry into my room to have a good wash and change his clothes, whilst I cleared away the evi- dences of his meal. When he came out he looked quite another man, and I felt would not be recognised by those who
had seen him at Green's Waterhole. t burned his old garments except his boots in the parlour fire, and made a most awful smell. Then, as we could not make my next move till the servants were home and in bed, we sat by the fire and waited. It was then he told me all the particulars of his own anf his sister's history. There are some people who when they speak you seem intuitively to know they are telling the truth, the same as there are some that you know are uttering falsehoods, though you may not be able to tax them with it. When Harry Miles, in a sad, choking voice, told me, unasked, his history, I knew he was speaking the truth. His great sorrow now was Mary. He did not know what had become of her. She had been to see him once in prison before his sentence, and then he heard from a neighbour that she was ill with brain fever, and had been taken to hospital. Uncle had promised to take us to Sydney to make purchases for my wedding, so I said when I was there I would find his sister out. Of his grateful tears, of all the bless- ings he called, down upon me, I had better not speak, or you will think me awfully egotistical. I was about to detail my plan of escape to him when the girls came home. I sent him into my room, and let them in. I told them I was going to bed, and that they had better do the same. I had pur- posely let the kitchen fire out that they might have no inducement to sit up after me. so they followed my supposed example, and I soon had the satisfaction of hearing that they were all sound asleep. Then I proceeded to carry my project into execution. I was in a strange state of excite- ment, and should, I believe, have thoroughly enjoyed the whole affair if anything less than the life and death of the man before me had depended upon the issue. I locked my room door on the inside, and then opening the window, we cautiously got out, taking the swag and Harry's old boots. I forgot to tell you that I had put on my riding-habit, and taken £20 out of £30 that uncle had given me the week before. I pioneered the way across to the Police Station. Mr. Hunter had been breaking in a high-spirited horse for me. I had ridden him once, and my saddle had been left at Charley's place. I was also sure of getting a spare horse there without any trouble, as they always fed them in the yard of a night This was my plan, which I detailed to Harry as we went along. I was a capital bush- woman, and knew the country well for sixty miles round ; often and often had I been out with Uncle after cattle and horses. I should escort my charge as far as I could allow myself just time to get back by daybreak.
He was to take his horse on for another day, and so put a still greater distance between himself and his pursuers. I had provided him with victuals enough, and would give him directions to avoid any stations the first day, then he was to plant his saddle, turn the horse loose, put his trust in Providence, and find his way across to what was then called Port Pliillip. Many an escaped convict had gone through greater difficulties than that with less means than he would have. Once at Port Phillip he was to try and get to America; safe there, he was to write and let me know. I promised to befriend his sister, whom I was determined to find if alive— always if I never heard of him ; if otherwise, until such time as I could safely send her to his care. We found the horses in the yard still feeding. I got into the house — you remember Charley gave me the key brought out my saddle, and found an old one that I knew of in the shed for him. It would perhaps be nearly a fortnight before they came back to miss it, and they might not then, as it was seldom used except now and then to mount a black. At the risk of being thought vain, I must say that I proved much the best hand at saddling the horses and strapping the swag on. It was close upon 12 when we started, and there were last six hours before I must be safe home again. 'Follow me,' I said, 'your horse will keep up to mine if you give him a taste of the whip now and then till he gets warm. I need not tell you that it is a ride for life.' Away we went, steadily at first, and then broke into a long swinging canter. I don't think we spoke half a dozen words in those three hours. Once or twice I wondered what Charley and my Aunt and Uncle would think if they knew that the girl they had left ill at home was tearing through the wild bush that cold winter's morning with an escaped convict. When we reached our parting point, where by-the-by we hid his old boots, I gave him his directions, and forced my £20 upon him. He did not want to take it, but I made him. Then, we said good-bye. Poor fellow, he could hardly speak ; but he wrung my hands, and I felt his hot tears fall on them as he prayed God to bless me. My parting injunction was not to spare his home. I went back, turned my horse loose, put my saddle away, and walked the mile home unobserved. I remember as I came through the garden in front of the house hearing MacBeth chopping wood at the back, and
the girls were stirring in the kitchen as I got in at my window. I put away my riding dress, unlocked my door, and went to bed with a strange sensation of having no head, in two or three hours' time I was delirious. I suppose the excitement of my escapade, added to my previous illness, had been rather too much for me. I was ill for three or four weeks. They told me I was always talking of convicts and urging them to escape, which was kindly attributed to Charley's informa- tion about Harry Miles the night I was taken ill. The troopers came home in a fortnight, after an eminently unsuccessful search. The horse Harry had ridden was found when wanted some little time after in a mob of ours, about 10 miles from home. As soon as I could bear the journey we went to Sydney to give me a change, and also to make purchases for my approaching wedding. When we were comfortably settled there and I was able, I found a means of getting a day out by myself, and went in search of Mary Miles. After a good bit of trouble I hunted up a woman who could tell me about her, and I learned that she had been seriously ill ; her baby was born dead, and her own life despaired of. She had not very long been out of the Hospital, and was working under a feigned name at a dress- maker's in the town. Just the very thing. We wanted some one to take back with us to assist in the sewing. I told my Aunt I had heard of a young person, and the next day I engaged her. I did not tell her that I knew she was not Miss Smith, and by that name she came to us, and we took her home. She had gentle quiet ways, and a worn sad face. We soon got to like her, I especially. I suppose there was an unknown sympathy between us, for she grew to love me more than she did Aunt or Hetty. One day I told her all, and how I had promised her brother to take care of her. You may judge how she loved me then, and what friends we were. Well, Charley and I were married, and Mary came to live with me as a kind of servant. About two years from the time of Harry's escape had passed and I heard nothing of him. Mary believed he was dead — I was more hopeful. One day my husband came home from post and said, ' I've a letter for you, Lucy, from America. I did not know you had- friends there. They
is addressed in your maiden name.' 'From America!' and I took it hastily, and was conscious of an excited flush coming into my face, as I exclaimed, 'I believe it's from him,' and ran out of the room. That was an unlucky speech. For nearly three months Charley believed 'him' to have been an old sweetheart of mine. He was too proud to ask, and I couldn't tell him just then. It was from Harry Miles. He was safe in New York. Mail transit was not so speedy then as now, and my letter had been long on the road. But no matter ; he was safe, and earning fair wages at his trade, and Mary wept nor joy and thanks in my arms. In a few weeks' time I surprised Charley by wanting to pay a visit to Sydney, and as he had no legitimate objections to offer, we went. When there I told him Miss Smith had friends in America, to whom she wished to go. So we got her an outfit and put her on board a Yankee trader. I had written a long letter to Harry and sent him a present. Mary parted from me with many tears, but she longed to be with her brother, and he pined for her. When we were sitting by the fire that night, as we are now, I said to Charley, 'Do you know to whom we bid good-bye on board the 'Winthrop this afternoon?' He looked at me as if he thought I was a little crazy, and made grave answer, 'Mary Smith, as far as I am aware.' 'It was Mary Miles,' said I, 'and she has gone to join her brother in New York.' Then I showed him the letter, and told him all ; and, I regret to say, so lax were this police officer's ideas of duty, that he praised and caressed me till I felt doubly proud of my success. Soon after he left the
force, averring that he could not conscien- tiouslv remain in it when his wife had such a weakness for convicts. However, I think his love of cattle farming had more to do with it, and we came to South Australia to join his brother. I am near the end now, Ned. I had several letters from the Miles'. With what I sent them they went farming in the wilds, and did well. About four years, ago Harry sent me that handsome rug you are sitting on. I can't say that as a rule I am fond of convicts, but I have never regretted assisting that one to escape. Now I have finished and I hope, Ned, I haven't fallen below zero in your estimation. , And I must say I warmly assured her she had not ' Were the other convicts taken?' I enquired. 'Yes, and both hung; which, would, doubtless, have been Harry's fate also but for my fortunate illness that evening.' It is some few years since my cousin told the above adventure, so I don't think that either harm or blame will attach to any one from my relating it now. Nilkerioo Ellie L.