The ticket-of-leave's trick, or, Spring Steel, king of the bush

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The ticket-of-leave's trick, or, Spring Steel, king of the bush
Series Title:
Beadle’s Boy’s Library of Sport, Story and Adventure
Joseph E. Badger, Jr.
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New York
M.J. Ivers & Co.
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1 online resource (31 pages)


Subjects / Keywords:
Dime novels -- Periodicals ( lcsh )
Sports stories -- Fiction ( lcsh )
Adventure stories ( lcsh )
Boys ( lcsh )
serial ( sobekcm )

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Source Institution:
University of South Florida
Holding Location:
University of South Florida
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
B35-00009 ( USFLDC DOI )
b35.9 ( USFLDC Handle )
032734238 ( ALEPH )
85363601 ( OCLC )

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Copyright, 1891, by Beadl e & Adams. En'

Stee1, King ot the !lush. The Ticket-of-Leave's Trick; OR, Spring Steel, King of the Bush. BY JOS. E. BADGER, JR.) CHAPTER I. THE-HISTORY OF A NOTED RASCAL. "Tbe night before Caristmas," in tbe year 11!56. Cnristmai eve-but not a picture such as tbos'l magic words naturally bring before our mental vi sion. N o mantle of snow upon the froz9n bre.tst of Mot bar Eartb. No silvery chime of "1eigh Qal)s-no trace of Christmas trees-no p ; ospect of holiday and feasts. Jnstead, a warm, dark nigllt; a forest of trees in fol ;age; a little company of men and boys squatti ng arouoti a camp-fire in the land where takes the place of summer. where Nature performs the and reverses nearl'f all of ourcberished remembrances; in one word-Amtrali a t There are tbree men nod an equal number of boys around t be camp-fire. 0 1e of be me i, a tall, broa1!-sbouldered, huge-beard< d fellow, Tbom'ls D e m:>ser hy name, a "ticket-of-le Dtire puty-are g old-bunters and fa;t friends. Tiley have bad no little experience on the placer diggings of C tlifornia, from whence, fir d by the wonderful tales told of the marvelous dscoveries m1de in Australia, they have j'lurnqed biLher to try their fortunes in tbe new Tobia.s M l rs ball is the name to which tbe old man answe1 tbougb both be end bis friends are b etter accustomed to tile sobriqu e t of "Muiposa tlhroh." His rightful name p:i.rtly accounts for this curious no1n cle nicque, the prefix having been him in California, his 1=rincip1l stamping-ground" being iu and '\round the d:ari pos1 region. Two of tie boys wpre brothers, Ame rfoa.ns, named resr ectfully Frank and Harold Free man. The tber lad was also American born, of I. ish descent, as tbe sligbt burr plainly whenever be SRoke. His name was Mttb ew M rley. The last f the c ompany wa en entire strange r to r est ba ving joiner! th e m that aftern ion; a huge, awkwHrsees one a'ttrac tion which they lockerl-that of being truthful in very particular," said DempstPr, settling him self in aruore c omfort'lble p o sition. "I knew tbe fellow well before he was tran ported and bave snare s around his ankles, thf'ID continued ..ii3 fligb t on foot. For many days he was searched for, but in valu. Not a {r8.'Je of him could be discovered,


and at length it was believed that he had IO!lt himself in tbe busb, ana tbere perished of starvation. "A few months later, tbis belief was shaken, for one after another bold robberies and fiendish murders were committed, and the description of the leading spirit in these atrocities fully coincided with that of Christopher Kemper. And be it was, though now known far and wide as Spring Steel, from bis marvelous strength and activity. "He have Jost all feelings of humanity, 'and brutal murder followed murder with scarcely the interval of a day. -:{le ap peared to shed blood and take life with as little compunction as a buteher displays in slaughtering bis four-footed animals. Tbe whole country grew alarme d, for Spring Steel did not hesitate to enter towns lil,!e Sydney and even Melbourne for the sake o f plunder or of carrying out his schemes of revenge and reprisal. H eavy reward.:' werel offered for his capture, dead or alive, and were increased after each deed of blood until a moderate fortune rested on bfs head. The mounted police were scouring tbe c ountry in every direction, night and day, for a commission awaited the one who should kill or capture Spring Steel. But all their efforts were in vain. The fellow was often driven into a trap from wbich tbere was, seemin11:ly, no fartbly hope of escape, but as often did be slip the meshes, each time adding to his long hst of victims. "What force alone conld not accomplish, was finally wrought by the aid of treachery. Tbe j!'overnor caused it to he proclaimed all over the Continent that whoever should be the means of causing' the arrest of Spring Steel, should not only receive a munificenL reward in money, but all past off e nses would be forgiven him, though tbey consisted of every crime in the decalogue. And this liberal re.vard thus offered, induced a shepherd who bad long be e n a spy and secret ally of the notorious to betray him and serve as guide to the strong force sent out to cnpture Spring Steel. "The expedition was not fairly afoot when tbe whole c ountry was again thrown into a state of intense excitement Sy-tbe sticking -up of a gold escort, bound from Ballarat to Mel bourne. The soldiers acting as guards, seven in number, were shot down -from ambush, and the drivers still more Q.rutally butchered. Then the cart, containing over forty thousand pounds' worth of g o ld, was driven away by the bush ranfl.'ers. But before they left, Spring Steel wrote a few lines upon the back of a copy of the governor's proclamation, and pinned it with a knife to the breast of the sergeant who bad commanded the 11:oldescort. Those words, a hove his namP, otl'e:-ed one thousand pounds reward for the beqd o f the whenever deliv1 ere l to Spring Stee l in p ci;s "Tbe s hr p 'lerd h a d c ned to hetray hh ma'es w as u s g00'1 a s bis woril. tbnug!t la s t exobi o f w h i c h he declar e d be bad been wholly i g nnran+, cau s ed a d elay of I\ few days. But then he sent wortl that tbe bushrangers back again at their old hiding-place, and he i;:uided-a strong force to it. "Tbe surprise was complete. The gang was 8 surrounded before a sbot was fired, and at th!! signal every man mve Spring Steel was shot dead in his track$. Not a weapon bad been aimed at the chief, who was to be taken alive in order to force him to confess where the gold taken from the escort was hidden And though he fought as only a man can fight who knows capture mAans banging, killing two of the po lice outright, besides wounding several others, Spring Steel was finally overpowered and taken pris o n e r. "He only opened his lips once, and that was to curse the treacherous shepherd who had be trayed him; and though the police toasted him before the fire until bis skin cracked, in ordPr to make him confess, they could not wring a word froro his lips. "Tbe n fxt morning they set out with their prisoner for Melbourne; but when they halted for nooning, Spring Steel burst bis bonds, and leaping upon the nearest h o r se, which chanced to be tbe best one o f the Jot, away from the pQlice and finally elu de d tbeir pursuit, though it was plain that more than oneof their bullets bad struck him, from the bloody trail be left behind him. "Two weeks later a llke l eton was found in the bush, which was generally believe& to be the remains of the wounded busbranger, and the man who betrayed b i m received the promis e d reward and an unconditional pardon. H e was a shrewd, long-beaded f e llow anrl douht e

9prlng Steel, ot the Hush. "Spring Steel Is still Jiving, and no man's name lnspi res greater terror in this region tban does bis. story I have told you is literally true, and f you are wise you will pray that you 1 nd be may never meet," concluded the ticket-<>f-leRve-mon, arising and unfolding his blanke i preparatory to turning in for the nie;ht. "I woul :in't ax no easier way o' makir..' a 'pendent fJrtin' then by pickin' this p'iz20 cl'itl;er up an' totin' him back to town fer a pinny-popfy-sbowl" affirmed Kentuck, with a ferooious 1 oil of his whisky-bleared eyes and savago clash of his strong, tobacco-stained teeth. Dempster turned toward the speaker with a sneer, but the words upon his tongue's end were checked by a truly startling sound. Floating through the still night there a prolonged cry of either or pain-as though the ghost c f the murdered sbepberming so soon after the tragic story told by the lips of one who had been an ear, if not an eye, witn?ss to the horrible punishment, and being so near very spot, this feeling was natural enough, though it died almost as soo n as burn. "Hark!" exclaimed Mariposa Marsh, as the prolonged, wailing cry came to their ears on the fa night breeze. "Thar is somebody in trouble out yender I They're cryin' fer help, an' here we stan' doin' notbin', like ign'ant heathen 'st11ad o' white men. Look to your weenons, boys, an' la's make a brPak I" "Better still-take my advice a'.ld stay right where you fe that you air correct, old man: you ort to be better posted ou matters in this outlandish ken try then )Ne, who air strangers to it. But then tbar's a cbaince that you're wrong, an' that some one o' our feller-critters may be out yender in sore nee-lo' tbe help we kin give him. Ef we sot still here 11411' do notbin', we'll al'ays be ba'nted by the idea tbRt some pore devil coa:e by_ bia death wbicb we m ought 'a' saved him ef we hadn't bin 'tarnal cowards. Now that ainu a pleasant thought fer a feller to kerry 'round with him fer the rest o' bis nat'ral life, an' I fer one ain't goin' to run the resk, wben a little scout over yender will settle the matter fer good an' all." "You sba'n't go alone, Marip sa," cried Frank, and Harold and Mat promptly clinched declaration of their young leader, wbili K entuck seemed no less eager than they. "It's a foolhardy action," muttered Dem1 stsr, discontentedly. I feel sure you a1 about to run your heads into a noose; but i.i these goods were my own to risk, I would beat you company, though I died for it!" "It's better you stay here," observed Marl posa Marsh, kindly. "Mebbe it's only a tricl. to draw us all away from the dray, S'> tbey ki.& go through the goods without a fight." "That's just the point I believe tbev are try ing to p1ay," said Dsmpster, uneasily. "By drawing us, or a part of us out yonder, tbt1:; will bave matters all their own way. give it nver, or at least wait until daybreak." This fl.nRl appeal from one whom thev fast learning to like and respect, despite the fact of bis being a ticket-of-leave man, might have been successful bad not the distant

Spring Steel', King ot the Bush. g "We'll run the resk now. Ef lt'e a trap, a few hours ,.on't make much difference to us, but ef it's as I think, a few minutes may make all the difference thar is atween life and d eath to the pore critter out thar," decided -Mariposa Marsh. "Well, good luck go with you! Keep Jour eyes open, and don't put your second foot down until you are sure your first step -is all right. Flor a sixpence I'd go alongwith you, and let the dray take care of itself!'' "That would be foolish,'' quietly Frank. "If the job is too heavy for us five to handle, one more wouldn't make much differ ence. Do you keep on th0 sharp lookout here, under cover, and if those cries for h elp are only Q decoy to lead us astray, and the bushrangers make a raid on the dray, just slip into tbe brush and fire a couple of shots. We will hear that signal, and be with you as quickly as our legs can c arry us, never fear." Mariposa Marsh, in his impatience to solve the mystery of the distant cries for help, bare ly waited for young Freeman to c e ase speaking before he left the road aod plunge d iuto the bushes, heading direct for the spot from whence proceeded the alarm, with a certainty born of bis long experience in the Western wilds. He and tns followers exhibited far more caution than they would have thought of showing only for the earnest warning or the ticket-of leave-man. Despite their arguments to.the contrary, they were all pretty well convinced that there was danger ahead m the shape of cunning, unscrupulous busbrangers, and though they were firmly resolved to see to the end of the mysterious affair, they were equally deter mine

8 Spring Steel, King ol the Bush. bis mind. Adding this to the naturnl anxiety inspired by the terror-stricken speech of Ken tuck, som3 faint idea of the quandary in which Marsh found himselr may be forme<1. Bat K e nr uck appeared to forget all else in his p.takable voice of a wo'llan, the last liager ing doub t s of Mariposa Mal"Sh vanished, aud br'lakiug cover be hastened to the side Ken tuck, wbo bad dropped the fi1sk and was v Linty striYing to recall some one of the prayers of bi3 cbildl:lood, believing death was mevitable. The boys followed tbe example set by M(l.ri posa Marsh, snd Frank's first action wu to cu>. the stout taken from the harne ss of the horses wl:lich had drawn the covered c irriage thither-which bound the and wom-in back to back agaiust the tree-trunk. Tbe woman woulu have fallen to the ground whP.n released but for his supporting arm3, so benumbed bad ber limbs become; but, motberlik&i she had no thoughts for herself, only for the aear one who had been stolen from her "My child, my May! her, for the love of kin I Heaven!'' "We wi!J-we will do all we can to serve you," stammered tho lad, not a little relieved when tb& gray-haired disincumbered him of his hysterical burden. In the mean time, Muiposa M!lrsh and the other boys bad been busied over Kentuck, who was in an extremely bad way, if bis bollo groans and someowhat extravagaat exclamation be tak2n as the criterion. In answer to repeat ed questions !lS to the fatal, poison luden fangs bad buried themselves, he held out bis right hand, which Mariposa Marsh inspected closely with growing anger and suspicion, for not t '1e slightest scratch could be discover. "Ee you've bin playin' bugs onto us, durned ef I don't mop up the hull kentry with your whisky-goaked karkidl{e!" he exclaimed, at length. "You hain't bin bit a-tall, nur I don't b'lieve tbar was a snake inside a mile o' you!" "It'd e;ive a snake the jim-jams jist to look athe 101kes av him!" muttered Mat, sotto 'VOce. "Didn't I p.itt my ban' right onto the pesky, p'izen critter? Dida't I feel jt sock its teeth clean through an' through my plw? Wouldn't I be a blame fool fer to yell out bloody murder when I wasn't bitf Good L'lwdl I kin feel the p'izen jest a b'ilin' through an' through me! I kin feel-" Y J U kin feel my hoof a!playin' the devil's tattoo 'round your latter eend in jest about ten seconds more, ef you don't dry up that 't11.rnal how Jin' l" indignantly interrupted Mariposa Marsh, wholly disgusted. "Str11.nger, wasn't I snake-bitf" demanded Kentuck, a preternaturalsolemaity in his tones and written UPpll his countenance, Was I kickin' up all this darned hullabaloo fer 11oth1n'l H .. v 1 made a double-an'-twisted eejiot o' myselfl" You hev, fer a Sc'ln'alous fact," snorted Miriposa Marsh, disgustedly. Then durned ef I don't hunt tbe hull ken try over onttl I fiad the p "izenest kind of a p'izen sarpint an' bite myself with it. I ain"t goin' to hev all this skeer fer notbia'-l'll gft even on it ef it takes all summer-you hejr m.e f" The ridiculous solemnity with which the man from Kentucky uttered this resolve, more than aught else, tended to appease the anger of Mari pos!I. Marsh, and he heartily joined in the l'lugh with which the youngsters greeted this speech. By this time tbe woman whom Frank had re leased from durance vile, had in a measure re covered her strength, and both she and the gray-haired man, wbo proved to be her hus band, bettan telling the story of their misad venture 10 answer to the questions put them by Mariposa Mirsb; but their very anxiety and eagerness to have all understood lil a moment, proved an impediment, To record tile questions and answers as ut tered, would consume far too much space, when the main facts of the case can be presented so much more concisely. Henry Brady,.tbe gray-haired man, was a large stock-farmer and landl:lolder in, as well as a magistrate of, a district near that in which the city of Melbourne is situated. Hnportant business called him to the city and as he ex pected to be detained for severai week, bis wife and only child, a daughter, named Miiy, bore him company. At this point Mariposa Marsh evinced a strange degree of agitation, so much so that thto magistrate evidently thinking the old man was suddenly taken ill "'Tain't nothin when YI\ git used to it," huskily mut, ered Mariposa Marsh, with a faint, sickly smile that was more painful to look at than if it had been an undisguised of pain. "They ketch me' every oncet 10 a while. Jest wait a bit, au' I'll be all right ag'in." The three boys interchanged a glance of do ibting wonder at this assertion. They had kaown Mariposa Marsh for two years and over, but never before bad they witnessed one of these peculiar attacks which he asserted were SC> common. "The young leddy was named May, you said," resumed Mariposa Marsb1 with poorly assumed carelessness. Or did you say she was a Ii ttle gal r "She is a few months under seventeen," re sponded the judge, wonderingly. "Mav, an' 'most seventeen, aadajedgenamed Brady I" muttered Mariposa Marsh, as it spe;,.k ing to himself; then aloud: "Knowed ber some time, I reckon?" "She is our only cbilci, sir," interposed Mrs. Brady. "Ol course-'twas a foolish question, but in sech a case as this, it don't do no harm to fully onderstan' every p'int as we go along said Mariposa Marsh, hurriedly, but with a repeti tion or his former sickly smile. Quickly the behavior of


Spriu.r Steei, -Ring or the Bush. I tbs old man In bis own grea t anxiety, Mr. Brady resumed bis account of the sticki ugup" by bush r a n g e s They bad take n the ron d in the c o v e r e d c ar riage, drawn by a spJ.n or fi n e h orse s, aud uad proceeded thus far on their j Jurney wh e n the y were surprise d by busbrangers who k nocked him, the speake r, sen s el e ss before be sus p1-c te d the presence of danger, then led the horses and carriage by a r oundabout trail, far into the bush. R eaching this littla natural clearing they the conveyance of a large mm of money, b oth gold and notes, which he was in tendmg to deposit in bank, then b ound himsel f 1md wife to t b e tree-trunk in the manne r al already described. The leadP r announce d bis intention o f holding the young girl for ranso m promis in g t o r esto r e her safe ancl s ound on tue r e ce ipt o f fl v e thousand pounds in g ol d c o in, or dust, the money to be d elivere d first, in the manne r whic h be c are fully s e t fort h "But I am afraid to trust him, a d d e d the judge, bitte r tears stainiug his ch ee k s "1 would willin gly p:i.y d ouble the amount iC I could only feel !>Ure that they would k ee p faith; but tbe leader is a treache r o u s vinain, and he will t ake the ranso m and the n refuse to release our darling-I am sure of itl" "I don't see any o the!T way the n f e r you but to set the mounted p o lice on tbar trail," said Mari posa M arsb, sl o wly. "We'll h elp you ove r to the r oad, an' it w on't be l ong 'fore y o u kin git a lift to town-mebbe in the mail-cart. I don' t see what el s e we kin d o." "There were only five m e n in tbe gang, eagerly interposed tbe magistr a te. "Yo u can follow them and our child. I will gladlv pay you the ranso m tbey dema nded. That will be a thousand p ounds apiec e for y ou." "\Ve thre e are only boys, Mr. Bra d y," said Frank, wifh modPst eagerness, "hut I think I can promise for Mat and H arold, as I d o f o r myself, that we will do all w e can toward r e s c u ing your daughter from the busbrang r o." "You can c ount on m e Frank," said H arold, and as promptly added his assurance d e spite the warning shake of Mariposa Marsh's head. "Rescue her-return our darling cllild to our arms, alive and unbarmed-apd I will p a y y o u the money, cbeerfully, gladly!" exclaimed the judge. "The J es3 said on that point the b etter, sir," said Frank as be flushed hotly. "While we are willing to do what we can for you, we do not sell our blood for money." Ruthe r than hev any quarrel 'bout the money, I'm willin' to take the hull pile my own self, an' let the young gen'lemen 'vide up the glory a tween themselves,'' put in K entuek, with a rare magnanimity. "We don't b'long to the police, nnr we don't know nothin' at all 'bout the lay o' the kentry,'' put in M aripoi a Marsh with a sullenn e ss foreign to bis um:i.! nature. "Yo u m ake a gin erous ofi'er, stranger, but I d oi;'t re;)kon we kin take up your q iarrel time." "It is our now, old friend, as fuucll as bis; said Frank, with a light laugh that did not hide tbe underlying earnestness in bis tours. .. We boys are going t) make the a t tem p t and if y o u con sent to g o a ong with us a s c l ii d I d on't think nmc 1 doubt but what "'ecan wake tberiffi ." "No t a p esky bit o' d o u t but w r a t you' ll all get rubbed out muttered Maripo&. M.arsb, dis gusteclly. But e f y ou've got yo r beads sot onto i t I s'pos e I've g o t to go 'l o a f Wbo d i d y o u say was the bo s s of the gan11 I be added, suddenly turning around upon the magitrate, who did not evince his usual readin !SS in replyinf.. He said his name was Spring but be l may have b e e n have o :ly ass u med th a t name f o r the purpcse of ins p i ing greater t e rror.,, EveA the b oys lo o k e d a little more seritius at the mention of t h i s truly ominous 1 a m e but to do them si mpl e jus ti c e they were n me the less r esolve d to se e the advent11re thr >Ugh to the end, eve n sh ould that n P c essitat e 1 lieir pitting their live s against that of the not >rious busb r ange r wh ose blood y life-history b e y bad so rarently listened to. Mariposa M arsh made no co m m ents, but shrewdly l e t the leave n work, k1iowing well were be to press bis oppo siti n n o w, the l a ds, in their n ative pride, w o u l d only b e con firmed the more resolutely in tb dr quixotic determination. "We'll show you an' tbe madam1 back to the trail," be said, qui etly. Y o u cou ldn' t fi n d it for yourselve s in the dark. but would mo s t likPly git lost in t h e bu s b. C n m e !" Tb ere were no objections r a i seato -this v ery sen s ible observation, and in uttP r s lenc e so far a s speech was c oncerne d, the little p rty made their way, through the darkness and tangled undergrowth, t o wh ere the ticke t 1 fle a ve-man was s t ill awake bes ide bis c a mp-fir e It turned o u t to b e a m os t f ortuna 1 e adventure for him, for Henry Brady was not a m a n to do a nvthing by h alves D empster did n o t hesitate a momrnt in d oing the magistra t e 's bidding, but cast r;tf his l oad and. y oking up bi s cattle, prepnred to take the b.1ck trail to Melbourne And it m n y be brie fly mentioned in this connection, that Judge Brady not only p a id for thl' abandoned g no ds, but obtained a full pardon for the ticket-of-leave -man, besid e s giving him a substantial monetary reward for biS services. Wbile D ?mpster was occupied in making his preparations for the r oad, Judge Brady ugain addresse d the b oys and repeated hi s o tl' e1 o{ the ranso m m oney in case they sbonld in resc uing bis daughter May from the busb range rs. "As I said once before, Mr. Brady,'' respond ed Frank, firmly but respectfully, "we will do a ll w e can to restore your

8 Spring Steel, King or the Bush. was not a little taken aback, while tbe glimmer of hope wbicb be bad begun to feel died almost entirely away. He believed that the mention of the notorious busbranger's name had frightened the boys from their first i ntention of a ttemptini;t a rescue -as indeed it would many an older and wiser party-and that they bad secretly resolv..ed to run no further risks. On no other grounds could be account for the refusal of bis truly magnificent bribe; but he was wise enough not to de3troy thee faint hope which might possibly remain by axpressing his belief in words, and re.iterate d his thanks b e fore taking bis departure in the ox-cart driven by the tintucky volun teered to keep tbe first vratcb, declaring that be could not sleep even if be should try, bis nerves were so unFettled after his snake-scare Though Mariposa Marsh had a suspicion tbet Kentuck not quite as courageous as be might have been, fie bad been given no cause to suspect tbe fellow's f:lJelity or honesty, and readily agreed to this proposal. A few minutes later all were soundly sleeping save the senti nel, nor did one of tbe quartette awaken until after the break of day.

Spring Steel. King of the Bush. 9 served Frank Freeman, soberly. "Surely he could not have been in league with the bush rangers1 Yet he came upon \IS so suddenly and strangely." "No, he bain't azot tbe sand in his craw fer sn>;:tbin' like that," said Mariposa with a smff of disgust. "He' s a cowardly dead-beatno wugsi, I don t reckon. He 'eluded ther was more kicks then half-pence ahead o' us on this by-out, an' so he watched his chaince to levant, to save his own hide." This was probably the correct solution, and I the quartette set about breaking their fast be f ore 8tarting out upon the dangerous trail. But they were fated to see more of Kentuck ere the passing of many days. Mariposa Marsh was not a man to bang back and make half-work of anything after he had once taken bold of it \n earnest, and even Frank, who had dreampt of the fair young captive while sleeping, and who was thinking of her far more constantly while waking than he would be wiJling to acksowledge, could find oo cause for complaint on the score of activity. Even while his mouth was crammed with tbe c o ld dry food whicn constituted their break Mariposa Marsh was busily examinin1;1: the "sign" in and around the little glade, makmg a m ental note of any peculiarity observed in tbe v ario us footsteps or aught else that seemed likely to help bim in tbe arduous task of lifting a trai: through the bus h. Tbe old gentleman told a straight story so fur, anyway," he observed, after giving his young allies notice that their work was about to be11in. "Thar was only five o' the pesky varmints, an' ef thPy was all Spring Steel's I reckon we air hefty enough to give a good e'count o' them ef we km only manidge to ketch the fu'st sight." "The y took the horses along," observed Frank Freeman, with a keen glance at the trail. will increase the d ifficulty of overtaking them. "No, lad; youve got the t.hing tail-eend fo' most," returned Mariposa Marsh, with a lo.v chuckle as he passed along. the clearly-definPd trail. Them bos s es bein' in comp'ny makes me feel surer o' s u c cess, fer two reasons. Fu'st, they m!lkes the trail so much plainer that we kin toiler it without any trouble; an' secondly, atwo-legged man kin make his way through the bush an' over tbis broken kentry a beep faster then any fo'l egged bosses kin." But let t'1em take to the high-road or the main trail-' "Which they ain't fools enough to do,' in terrupted the old trailPr, wsitively. "Them hosses-would betray them, an so would the gal. No, they'll ke e p to the bush an' make straight fer the randyvoo wbar they ginerally hangs out, to wait fer the old man to come to time with his ransom money. All we've got to toke keer of is to see that we don't run into 'em, onawares, sence that moughtent be healthy fer P,entlemen about our The youngsters, though self-reliant beyond their age, were not over wi s e in their own estimation, and readily yielded to the greater experience in such matters of Mariposa Marsh. A casual observer would little have suspected upon what a stern errand the party of adven turers were bouod. Though not exactly care less, their demeanor was more like that of persons on a pleasure-trip, or at most, out for a day's sport with the gun among tbe more harmless deniz e ns of the wild wood, rather than upoo a trail which was fated to end in blood shPd aml death. The boys were eagerly observant of the many curious things which they both saw and heard, U otil now they bad had little chance of satisfying their curiosity, which bad been aroused by the many strange tales which they bad beard concerning this land of contradictions; where Christmas came in midsummer, and the F1Jurth of July was often eelebrated by a blind ing snow-storm; where the leaves of the trees turq perpendicularly and cast no shadow when the sun is at its meridian; "here the wild fruits ere Uiiflt to eat-the pears being hard as though carved from wood; the raspberry woolly and insipid; while the cherry bears its stone on the outside-thell!._nd of anomalies, where all their cherished were upset and everything seemed lo be turned "wrong end foremost." They beard the merry end metal like "tinge-ling" of the remarkable "bell-bird, and theu the strange, discordant chorus of the "laup:biag-jackass," but Mariposa Marsh w o uld not allow them to leave the trail in order to the more closely inspect those feathered curi osities. They caught en occasional glimpse of en opossum-the highly-esteemed "pi11:face" of the Australian blacks-and onee sighted a trace of "dingoes" or wild dogs, which at first they mISt c ok for wolves; but their excite ment ran highest when they caught their first fleeting glimpse of a t uge kangaroo as it over leaped a fallen tree like a long-tailed, four legged meteor clad in rusty brown heir. Even Mariposa Marsh caught the though bis interest found birth in bis stomach, which now forcibly reminded bim that the usual dinner hour was dose at band, and called J.mdly for a steak of rcasted kangaroo. That was the Qne great foible c f the veteran. He bad an appetite tb'lt would have bred a famine in any ordinary toerding-house, but es he truthfully said, whenever jested with on this tender point, "be lived by eating." More then once this weakness bed been the rne1rns of 11et him into trouble, but never into a more serious scrape than it was fated to on this occa sion. Tbe boys, by which is meant just now the brothers Frank and Harold FrePman, though Mat Marley was by no means a novice with either rifle or revolver, bad tester! their skill es marksmen upon nearly ell the different of game whicl1 their native land could affurd, and, boy like, were regretting that the existing circurnstencPs would not allow them to improve the present opportunity of adding a kangaroo to their list of victories, when thP stomach of Mariposa Marsh overruled his head, and he ut tered thu most welcome words: "We don't 'pear to hev gained much on the p'iiil0n gal-steelers, an' I reckon they're so fur


10 I Spring Steel, King ot the Bush. &bead tbat tb;\_ound o' burni9' powder wouldn't reach 'em, through this thick bresb an' 'less it WRS sot off in a cannon, wbfob we don't kerry. So keep your eyes peeled, boys. an' ef you git a good cbaince at an'.>tber o' them he-old kangaroosters, j 3st send him a perlite invite to stop to dinner with us t They do say tbem ongainly critters .cain't be beat fer good, solid eatin'!'' NC!tbing further was needed to put tbe lads on the qui vive, and with rifles in readiness for instant use whenever tbe occasion should arise, their eyes roving with eager r es tlessnPsS in every direction, tbey followed the lea d of Mari posa Marsh. But for some time it appeared as though this permission bad been granted too late to do any good. In fact, the kangaroos had almost entirely de' serted that section o f country, frightened away by. tbe influx of gold-diggers, wbo were. in no wise sparing of their powd e r and lead, though not many of their bullets appeared to have a "billet," despite the well-worn adage. It was rarely tbat one of the once numerous animals was encountered so -near the settlements or along the line of travel, and Mariposa Marsh -ran little chance of f easting upon kangaroo steak on that day, at l east. Yet within an hour f rom the time that M a ri posa Marsh gave the boys permission to u se their fir ea rms, a shot was fir ed and the game libarply hit. too, though only by a sna" p-shot. Harold Freemimcaught a momentary glimpse of a dark figure gliclirag through the' undergrowth, and so did M a ripo sa Mars h at nearly the same iastant. Tbe o ld man h'e,ud the sharp click of the lad's rifl e coming to foll cock, and turned toward him with a warning cry, but too late to arrest the shot. T n e figure b9.d vanished amid the bushes b eforn Harold could raise his rifle and cover it; but be was a true snap-shot, with whom in_stinct often serves instead or eye sight, and tbe pellet of lead he sent where be knew the game bad ought to be, found its target. A long-legged body plunged through the bsh. and !av for a m oment in full view, kicking vigorously, and uttering an angry bowl of pain in a voice unmistakflbl v huma n! Instead of a kangaroo. Ha.rolnvince the three boys tbat tbeir lives were in danger, for at that moment the forest before and to either band of them nppearet after the fashion of the pale-faces, nor ofte n come to a hand-tohand encounter. "No sech luck as that!" muttued Marsh with a grim frown as h e n o ticed and correctly iuterprPted the action of his youthful comrades. Ef they would only make a bold rush like decent two-legged critters, so we could knock ovr r a dozen or two, the rest would mighty s con 'elude we was 'bad medicine,' an' wouldn't be long in 'memberin' thlt the y had mighty important bus iness some'rs el se j est about this time o'_day. But they won't do it. They jest sneak aroun' an' sneak aroun' ontel tbey git a good chaince to stick us chuck-full o' tbar p'inted ramrods, 'tbou't givin' us a bit o' chaince fer our white alley-the durned fool__, nigversl" "Unless we can beat them cff before night fall," said .Fra,nk, seriously, "l'm afraid we stand a very famt show of g etting out of this scrape with wbole skins." "No more then does a fat louse when a Dig ger Injun sbets down bis teeth onto it," growled M

Spring Steel, King of the Bush. 11 A wooden spear whistled through the den s e foliage close above their beads followed by anothe r end anbther, until they were forced to crouch low down behind the tree-trunk in order to a v o id being Mariposa Marsh was intmsely at thus b eing made a silent target of, and when the spears began to come from the same side on wl'>icb bbe y were stationed, telling tbem plainer then worrls that tbey w ere completely surrounded by the enemy, bis impatience found vent in both actio ns and words. "This is too duraed much sugar fer a cent!" he growle d, gathering bis long legs up under liim. "I' m goin' to crawl out to the butt o' the tre e, y ender, an' see ef I cain't salivate one o' them p'iz e n imps. Thay'll be cl osin' in on us p,urty soon, an' then it'll be all night with the bull caboodle o' us! Lay lo'w an' keep close kiv ered!" Without waiting to listen to any objection to his in curring more thAn bis own share of the risk, from the lads, Mariposa Marsh hastily w ound a leafy vine around bis bead and shoul d e rs, then crept without making the slightest rustle among the d e nse foliage, along to the butt of the huge fog where he paused and slowly raised his he1.1d above the barrier for the pur-pos e of tekin11: an observation. As fate would bave it, one of the black fellows had taken precisely the same resoluti on, and h11d gaine d the cover of the fall e n tree at a point directly opposite Mariposa Marsh. The native m&de this discovery a single second the earliest, and with a cr:yoof mingled alarm and astonishment et the unexpected ap parition which aros e b efore him, made a swift thrus t at the vine -covered head with his sharppointed speer. Mariposa Mars h also yelled, quite as much taken aback as the native, but bobbed down bis heed in time to save his life, though the spear raised a little furrow through his hair and scalp -enough to madden the veteran and render him utterly reckless. With a grating curse, he thrust forward the muzzle of his rifle1 striking tbe black full in the fac e, end as the trigger was pulled at tbe same time, the weapon exploded, fairly blowing the head of the astounded wretch to atoms! Hyar goes f e r your mea't houses, ye dirty whelps!" yelled Mariposa, leaping over the treetrunk. The wary veteran seem e d all at oncetransformed into a raging desperado, thirsting for blood, and bis sudden onset was quite as m uch a surprise to tbe tbree boys as it could possibly be to their dusky enemies. That glancing spear-wound had aroused a dangero us devil in tbe veteran, and overleaping the fallen .tree, wholly forgetful of the prudence be had so carefully enjo ined upon bis young com rades, a revolve r drawn and cocked in each band, he dared the vengeance of the skulking blacks, loading them with the most opprobrious epi t hets bis vivid imagination c o uld devise or bis nimble tongue enunciate. He was too angry to think of taking any precautions, and for the time he was but little better than a maniac, glaring around him in search of another victim. This utter recklessness proved to be the best safeguard he could have invented. Whether the natives deemed him insane or attacked by a sudden mAdness, can only be surmised, but cer tain it is that they were thrown into confu s i o n by the wholly unexpected onset, end that tbe few spears which the more daring cast, flew wide of their n:ark, and that at a short range where the poorest marksman of all could have repeatedly planted tbe missiles within the breadth of a men's palm. Mariposa Marsh no more minded the whiot ling of the wooden spears t! len if they bad been so many mosquitoes? There was "blood in bis eye," and wherever be caught a glimpse of a black fellow, there bis pistols were turned, and one or more bullets sent with an aim as sure as it was swift. Not content with this the infu1 i ated old man charged upon the enemy as reek lessly as tbougb t e bore a charmed life and -could come to no hurt. This would, almost es suredly have lest him the adv>tntege be bed already gained, if ind eed it had not cos t bim bis life, only for the prompt support afforded by tb. e three boys. Tbey quickly r e covered from their surprise, and believing the peril of their veteran leadej; much greeter than it was in reality, they paustrd only l ong enough to empty their rifles at the glancing figures Mariposa Marsh's reckless assault, then drew their revolvers end hastened to bis assistance with loud shouts of encouragement. The death of several of their number, added to tbe storm of leaden bail which came fro m tbe weapons of the palefec e s, proved too muc h for the stomachs of tbe surviving blacks, who at once took to flight end vanis hed as suddenly as though the earth bed opened beneath their feet and swallowed tbem up. Even more than tbe red men, thse blacks depend upon surprise and strategy, having but a poor stomarb for downright blows when openly confronted by a foemen. In this case it was Me1'iposa Marsh who re quired the curb, rather tbau the bot-blo oded boys, 1md when be was !'ecalled to bis usual good sense 8'lld judgment by the hasty warning Frank cast after him, the veteran paused in his headlong chem with a d eep flush tingi11g his weath'r-beaten face and a somewhat shetp isb look filling his eyes. The opportunity was far too good to let slip, and Frank began a lecture upon the folly of Jetting one's bot blo o d over-ride one's prude nce so utterly. Mariposa Marsh ettsily recognized this as one of bis own sermons, reconstrucJ;ed for the occasion, and though be interrupted the speaker, it was not done in ange r. "I ain't goin' to deny that l desarve it all, an' more on top o' that," be said, with a sbort laugh, "The old Adam got into me, I nckon, when that p'izen critter stuck bis p'inted wocd en ramrod through my topknot. I thought I was done fer, en' it 'peared like I must make the black rascals pay big fer my ske!p. J know I thought tbat much, but what follered was like a p'izen nightmar' ontel your yellin' woke me up." It was the shortest way owt of a nast. v scrape, and es we came out of it right end upbl suppose it was all for the best, But. it will e


Sprin.: Steel, Ring of the Bush. many a day before I forget the scare you gave me. Why, man I I could almost have sworn I saw a dozen spears pass clean through your body!" added Frank, so berly. I don't feel much like a two-legged riddle1 but I was so owdacious mad all over that J couldn't stop to see whether I was killed or not," replied Maripo sa. M a r s h, passing his bands over bis limbs and body as tbough in search of a fatal wound. "No, I don't I'll pass in my checks jest yit. I cain't see as I was bit only the once-wbicb was once t o o many, fer it smarts like blaz0s I "You don't think there was any danger of those spears having be e n pois o n e d, do your' asked Harold, turning a shade pale r. "J didn t like to spe a k about s u c h a trifling scratch, but my cheek f e els as tho ugh it was burning up!" Even Mariposa. Mars h grew sober, and though be affected to lau gh, it was but a sickly at tempt at merriment. CHAPTER V. A BREAK IN TH]j1 TRAIL. '"TwoN'T do no harm to be on the safe side," be s aid, a moment later. "Them dirty imps ain't 11one too good f e r secb or'nery tricks. We'll git back to kive r an' try a little o' this salve which Charley Co oper give me fer snake bites." The little party were all sober enough now, as well they might be, in the face of a dange r more tei:rible far than the one from which they bad so recently escaped. Taking cover to guard against tbe possibility of a renewal of the attack by the demoralize d blacks Mariposa. Marsh pro duced the little box of precious s a lve which a friendly o ffic e r of the mounted police bad pre ss e d upon him a s a sure antidote for the pois o n of snake bi tes and thoroughly ano inted the scratch upon Harold's cheek, afte r which be submitte d to the same operation on himself. Whethe r it was tha t the antidote was all p o werful or that th e spear poirttA! bad not been poi s oned, c ertain it i s that neither of the w ounded adventurers E>ver suf fered any ill eff ects fro m their injurie s iu tbe days to come, save that Mariposa M arsh had to be a little careful in scratching bis head for a week or two! Wbile this anointing pro cess was going on, nothing was se e n or heard of the natives though Mat k ept a keen lookout, and a few minutes later Mariposa Marsh once more led the way along the trail of the bushrange rs Tbe yonngsters ne e d e d no ins t ructions to keep a close and wary lookou t nor did they yearn so eagerly for a sb o t at a stray kangaroo as the y bad a short time before The le s son was'one which they would not b e apt to s o on for ge t. Several hours passed by, and Mariposa Marsh still pick e d up the trail without any e s pecial difficulty, thoue;b the nature of the ground was changing and becoming more sterile and rocky. '! be trail was now winding along the side or quite au extensive range of hills, where, in more places than one, the keen and experien ce d ey e s of the old gold-bunter detected f air prosp ects of valuable quartzmines. Tbis told him that all of tbe gold-bearing land$ bad uot yet been taken up by any menus, but he l!llid nothing of bis discoveries for several reasons. The quartz could not be profitably worked without a regul a r mill, provided with costly muchinery and stamps, and there might pos sibly be found old placer-diggings in the vicinity by searching for them, they had not eve n a pan in which to wash out tbe pay dirt." B e sides, they were bound on other busi ne s s now, and be believed in finishing up one j o b before beginning upon auother. Once or twice be lost all traces of the trail, but by u sing" head-work," he as often regained it by casting ahead, and thus lost but little time. The afternoon was pretty well spent when the trail they were following left the hills and struck across a level tract of ground that was extremely fertile, and bor e indisputable traces of having been recently used as a pasture range for both sheep and cattle. Before long they were convinced tbat, though no stocks wer-, within the range was still occupied, and Mariposa. s stomach, now very hollow, began to trouble him again. "Ef we kin only find whar tbe shepherd lives what 'tends to tbis run, I reckon we kin git somethin' flt fer white men to eat. 'Pears like I've got a cat an' all her kittens a-chasin' a monstrous lively rat 'round about in my stomjacket, from the way it feels." Still Mariposa Marsh did not cease his trailing until at a point where a large flock of sheep had pas sedover the ground since the busb rangers, completely obliterating the sign and putting an end to their labors, for the time be ing, at least. "We couldn't do much more than rekivertbe broken trail ag'in afore dark, even if we could do that much," he said, straightening up and brusbinlf the drops of sweat from his heated brow. 'We've done one day, anyhow, an' I move we try to find whar thls shepherd hangs out, an' git him to sell us a sheep or two fer grub." Eager though the boys were, one and all, to find and rescue May Brady from her ruffianly captors, they uttered not a word of dissent to this s uggestion. They were not "foot-seasoned" after their long stay aboard ship, and were pretty thoroughly jaded by the toil they bad undergone during the last few days beneath a broi iog sun. U oder thes e circumstances the proposed halt and feast were quite as welcome to them as to Mariposa Marsh, and they gladly proceed e d in quest of the sbepherd's hut. This proved to be not far distant, and was soon after discovered, though th\lir cheery bail remained unanswered and the rude edifice wos clearly untenanted. But this as they could read ii v see, was only for the time being, for a. small fire was smoldering before the open door, and there were several ragged, dirty blankets lying upon the low pallet which was plainly occupi e d at night as a bed by the stock-keeper. With true boyish curiosity the lads examined the hut, as ib was the first one of the kind they hart met with, but Mariposa Marsh was far differently and less pleasantly occupied. He bad recovered the lost-trail, and knew that the bushrangers bad departed tro!ll that very


Sprlna: Steel. Klug of the aush. 13 spot lesstban tenhourspreviouslybafter having spent t he latter portion of the nig t there. The boys could scarcely b e lieve this assertion, but the veteran was positive. "Tbe p'iz e n imps ett ooe meal here, an' mebbe two. An yway s thar Jays the fresh bones o' two differen t sized sheep. Tbd hos>es was hitched to t hem bushe s an' by the dro ppin's the. v left behind them, as well as thar buff-marks, I know the y didn't leave this spot ontel the sun was a g ood ways up. I kin s how ye whar each one o' tt: e five p'izen imps rested, an' I kin tell ye that only three o' the Jot smoked tobacco, while the hull kit.-an' boodle cha wed." While speakin g Mariposa Marsh was as good as his word, pointing out each fact as he made allusion to them. "I reckon this poile y e r makes out foor av the lot smoker s!" grinned Mat Marley, indicat ing a little pil e of ashes beside a smooth-worn sp o t of ground clo s e beside the fire. An' that makes six in the gang, 'stead av ownly foive!" "You've g o t a fa'r e y e, youngster," said Marii:io s a M a rsh, with an approving nod. 'Tarn't many boys would 'a' noticed that; but then you jump at the wrong 'clusion. The man tbat s mo k ed out them a s h e s an' polished that bit o' ground with the seat o' bis britches is the one that's goin' to prowide us all with supper!" "You mean the stock-man?" exclaimed Frank Freeman. "'Zactly. :But b'ar one p'int in mind; you mus t Jet m e do all the talkin', an' you must. be keerful to back me up in all I say, or we git into a p izen scrape." "You think that he is in l eague with the busbrangers! "It looks peskily that way, seein' how fri'nd ly they collogued together; but I may be mis too k. A man-that liv e s so much expo sed an' alone as-th e se stock-keepers air obleeg e d to do, cain't a ford to kick up a row or stan' on tb a r every time a busbranger comes aroun', an this fell e r may be the clean stufl', afte r all, though I much misdoubt it. 'fobacco i s t o o skeerce a article in tbesa lonely parts fer ine mi e s to often together, an' I reckon we'll find this shepherd a black birJ, which is why you must keep a padlock onto your tongues ondPrstan "There's somebody watching us!" suddenly said Harold, in a cautious tone, "I jus t caught a glimpse him in the bush over yond e r "Take it cool 'out move so you kin jump in side the sbantr or ond e r irood kiver at a moment's notice,' mutte r e d Mariposa Marsh, be traying no outward signs of uceasiness nor even casting a glance in the direct ion slyly indicated by th e lad. "I don't r e ckon it's anybody but the sheph erd, but it'll do no harm to k e ep on the safe side" With admirably c ounterfeited the bO,YS obeyed; and when satisfied that they could mstantly reach cove r in ca s e of necessity, Mariposa Marsh turned abruptly around and faced the point where the skulker was hidden, claJ?.ping one hand to bis mouth and utteringa shrill, long-drawn coo-ee I His keen eye could detect a faint rustling among the bushes where the fellow was conceal ed, but there was no response to bis call nor any other indication that the stranger intended to discover himself. Mariposa Marsh was not in the humor for wasting any more time, and throwing for" nn1. the muzzle of his rifle, he called out in a cl tar, sharp tone: "Et you're a white man come out an' sh o w your face, but ef you're a four-legged kangaro o ster, stay wbar you be four-seconds longer, au' I'll send a four ounce bullet in thar to ax ye to stop fer No man 10 bis sober senses could have doubt e d the earnestness with which this warning was delivered, and the shepherd evidently consider ed he would be running less risks as a man in the open, than as a kangaroo in the bush, for be promptly e merged from his covert, though there was strong su s picion written upon bis su li e n, bang dog countenance as he slowly advanced toward the but. A s ingle glance at the f e llow s face went far to confirm the su s picions which Maripo s a Marsll had already formed, founded on the sign to be read around the campfire. Villain and rascal was indelibly writte n upon the stranger's face-a c o unte nance that would have convicted the fell o w before almost any nnprejudiced jury of honest men. Mariposa Marsh had already formed his plan of procedure, and lost no time in carrying it out. "You run a p'izen resk, stranger, in actin' so like a wild kangarooste r afore a r,arty whi c h is so mighty nigh starved as we air, be said, with a C'beery l a ugh, extending bis band, which w u s gingerly acc epted by the sh e pherd, theri imme d iately dropped."" Ef you've got a sheep or two to spar', you kin ax your own price an' we won t grumble j0st so tbe crhter is big enough to make u s a squar' meal." "You can have all you want, by paying f o r it," said the fellow, the avaricious light wb k h filled his eyes showing bow plainly Mariposa Marsh bad estimated bis weak spot. "I'll go help you git it," said the veteran, who was in nowi > e inclined to lose si ght of tlie fell o w until he should have sounded him thor ou g hly. "I bed a good, squ ar' mm! sence we l eft M e lbourne, a week ago. Like durned fools, we left the main trail to bunt after a kangarooster, an' of course got lost in the bush. Mougbt 'a' knowed we would, in s ech a p'iz e n kentry, whar everytbin' goes by contrairiest" "You're bound for the diggings, thenf" asked the shepherd, as they entered a small inclo s uro where were several fat shGep, while the blood stains around plainly proved that from thence bad been drawn the provisions consumed by the bushrnng e r s Maripqsa Marsh responded making up bis story as be went along, while the s t ock-man butchered and dressed the animal selected and p&id for. This work was quickly and deftly done, but Mariposa Marsh felt that his self-imposed task was none the less so, for by the time they re


Sprina Steel, King of the Bush. turned to the hut, the last suspicion entertained by the shepherd seemed wbollv appeased. But little breath was con"Surued in speech while the party were appeasing tbeir appetiJtes. The brain of Mariposa Marsh, however, was very busy, and be weighed every point of the situatioi: carefully in his mind before deciding upon the course be should pursue. I reckon the busbrangers make a. pretty good thing out o' you, livin' so fur as you do from any sort o' help," be observed, filling and lighting bis pipe, when he could eat no more. Come down on you fer fresh meat pretty often, don't they, eM" "Not now," slowly responded the sbephera, with a keen but covert glance e.t the stolid fa c e of the veteran from beneath bis shaggy eye brows. "They did trouble me some, before the 11:old discoveries gave them a. more profitable field to work, but it has be e n more than a year since they pad me a visit. This ass ertic Mariposa Marsh knew to be a deliberate lie, ? .:id be uo l onger felt any doubts 11.bout the fellow's being a friend if not a secret ally of Spring Steel." "I didn't know," he added quietly. "We crossed a trail back y ender, some miles, w:_bich we kinder reckoned was made by busbrangers. They bed a young gal along with them, an' she was kept tied up, which made it lo o k all the more 'spi c ious. S e ein' the y was passin' so nigh, I didn't know but wh a t they mought 'a' called here fer to git a fresh stock o' grub. But o' course the y didn't, or you'd 'a' see'd 'em." The rascal was plainly growing more and more uneasy with each sentence and shifted on bis seat 8.d though he found it growing uncom fortably warm, but be met the keen gaze of M oriposa Marsh without flinching as that worthy cea s ed speaking. were travelers like yourse lves, most likely, and like you, lost in tbe bush. At any rate, they did not stop h e re, nor did I see any thing _of them," be said, d o ggea1y. Waal," cried Mariposa Marsh with sudde n heat. "J like a liar, but you suit m e too durn ed well! They did stop here, an' you did s e e 'am-bold bard, my c o vey l S tir a inch from tbat seat or raise a flo g er, an'll blow you to kingdom come in a holy minnitl" CHAPTER VI. IN WHICH OUR FRIENDS SEE HOT WORK. MARIPOSA M.1..RSH empbaslz e d this threat by thrusting a cocked revolver full in the face of the &bepberd as that worthy made a sudde n movement, whether to leap upon the man wbo bearded him so boldly, or to attempt an escape, can onlv b e surCJJised. "Drap that knife o' yours, an' b'ar this one thing in minrl onless you're tirerl o' livin' an' want to <'Ommit susanside," arlded the v eteran in a quiet. even t o ne that carrie d c o nviction with 1t. "T 1 0 fu't crook e d fir.ep you t k 'll l e ad you s traight to d eath l l'rl as quick blow y Jur out tn putt my h e el unto tbe heart of a p'izen sarpint tbat was tryin' to bite me from the grass." What have I done to deserYe such treat ment at your handsr' sullenly demanded the .ahepherd, an ugly devil in hill eyes, despite tbe promptness with which be obeyed the stem command to lay down his long, sharp clai:p knife. "It's as much what you hain't done as what you hev," responded Mariposa Marsh in a tan talizing manne!, in no particular hurry, now tbat the game seemed to lay in bis own hands. "Ef you'd 'a' come out :flat-footed an' showed the colors of a hone&t man, as you should 'a' done, tbar would 'a' bin gold in your pocket 'stead of a pistol-muzzle in your face. But you wouldn' t hev it that way. You thro-wed ofl' t .be cbaince that was giv' you, an' now you must p11tt up with the other thing." "Is this old fellow crazy1 demanded the shepherd, turning his face t oward Frank Free man, who sat nearest him on the otbe r side. "If he is, which I begin to believe, wby don't you put a collar 'round his neck and label him dange rous1" Despite the natural anxiety which the y felt a3 to the ultimate result of this s trange scene, neither l\'.rank nor bis younger mates CQUld re frain from laughing at the expression oi intense disgust which came over the weather-beaten countenance of Mariposa Marsh as be listen e d to this insolent speech from the lips of tbe ragged f e llow whom be bad believed so thoroughly cowed. But then his natural sen s e of humor overcame his rage, and be freely j o ined in the laug h. "Thar's more in you then I give you creC:ii fer," be said with a grin; "but 1 r eckon y o u 'il need it all afore you git out o' this s crape. Pay 'tention, nOnt, lack of educati.Qn. But tbere were exceptions, and Mariposa Marsh knew that he had found one now.


I Spring Steel. '.King ot the liusli. 16 His command of language was fair, and be never seemed at a loss for a word, while the manner in which be enunciated them, was proof positive that be bad received a goJd edu cation. After the first f e w moments of surprise and uncertainty consequent upon the unexpected. unmasking of bis visitor s real purpo se, the fel low showed rncb cool nerve in the face of over odds, that Mariposa Marsh began to scent danger. .Despite the positive denial of the shepherd, be felt sure.._ that be beld some secret connection with the busbrangers, under command of Spring Steel, and suspeeted the rascal's coura'ge was partly due to the fact tbat these or other out laws were expected to pay him another visit ere long, perbaps to cbtain fresh provisions. Tbis suspicion was what made tho veteran change bis base so abruptly and leave the cool, pure air of e9ening for the by no means sweet scented interior of the but. Better suff e r a little inconvenience on that score than to run tbe risk of heing shot down from ambush by an un scrupulous enemy in answer to a secret signal_ given by t he hang-dog looking shepherd. 'Twon't do no harm fer you boys to kinder keep a lookout down that-a-way," said Mari posa Marsh, nodding toward the open door. "Don't go out o' easy reach o' the shanty. I kin feel it in my hones that thar's p'iz e n snakes creepin' 'round!" The lads themselves were far from feeling at ease, -and they began to fear tbat Mariposa Marsh bad acted toolbastily in his dealings with the shepherd. Granted that be was an ally of tbe notorious busbl!.,anger,and could tell all about them should be feel so inclined, he would not be likely to quickly foi:getor forgive the treatment be bad received, and would bt pretty apt to embrace the first opportunity to work them evil. "'Twould have been far better bad we kept on without stop:ping, even at the cost of losing a good hot supper," muttered Frank, as soon as he was clear of the but. But the two younger lads bad more faith in the resources of Mariposa Marsh, and deC'lared that matters would come out all right in the end, somehow. Mariposa Marsh signed bis prisone to a seat near the further end of the room, then placed himself in a position from whence he could command the approach to the door, as well as the shepherd, settlirig himself down comfortably witb -philosophical coolness. "Now;you p'izen critter, I'm goin' to talk to you like a Dutch uncle, an' mind ye, too, I mean business, every time! Lyin' won't do ye no good. I know too much o' the st"ry a'ready, an' notbin' 'cept the plain, solid truth kin git ye out o' this." He paused as if expecting a reply, but if so be was disap-pointed. Tbe shepherd sat in stolid silence, and tbe veteran once more took up the thre11d of his discourse. ".Your beautiful mug shows plain enough that you never paid your own passae 09er tbe briny, an' I jedge yotl' air 11ctin' as shepherd here onder a ticket-O' Ieave. Ef I'm right in this guess, you know even better than I do that it wouldn't take many words-say to police c11ptafn Charley Cooper, or, better still, to Heury Brady, the rate-to bev :tour pas canceled an' you sent back to hard labor on tbe chain.' "You have Jio proof-you could only aecc m plisb that by l>lack lying airninst me!" sullenly said lbe convict, but shifting uneasily on bi3 seat, and Maripcsa Marsh kne'(V that bis cun ningly-aimed sbot had bit its mark. "You're yelpin' on the wrong trail, now, n:y covey. Thar's proof enough not to need b e cki it up with the ghost of a lie. Ei you don't be lieve it, j est you listen: The bushranger knowed as Spri111g Steel, igetber with four others o' the same stripe, yesterday made a raid on Jedge Henry Brady, wife au' child, who was bound fer the city o' Melbourne in a kivered kerridge, drawed by two bosses. Tbey tied him up to a tree to giither with bis wif!>, but kerried off bis daughter, sayin' they would bold her pris'ner ontel the j c dge paid them five thousan' pounds in gold, as ransom money. They tuck the two bosses an' the gal, an' stopped here last night. You kill e d two sheep f e r 'em to eac. an' then sot an' smoked out two or three pipes o' tobacco by the fire yender, while they told you all they bed done an' all th&y 'tende.d to do. The gal-pris'ner was kep' 10 the shanty here, but you men-critters slep' outside. In rbe moruin' you cooked the p'izen imps some more grub, an' the n they left. "Now, then, thar's my evidence; how d,p you like it? Tbe shepherd bad been strongly impressed by the words of bis acc user, and stared at him as one might at a wondrous magician, while poh. t by point be stated as facts, what bis keen eye and shrewd wits bad read in the "sign" scat tered about the premises. Naturally enough bo gave Mariposa Marsh credit for more than was justly bis due, but he was not wholly conquel'lld yet, and fell back upon his last defense. "I live here aloue, miles from any hope of assistance. I might be murd<:red and my body rot for months before my fate was discoverPd. What could I do when they threatened my life, but obey: them? I would have been butchered like a wild dog! I knew that they were bushrangers, and that they bad been up to some sort of mischief, they acted as though they anticipated pursuit, though not immediately; and they warned me to keep a still tongue in my bead as 1 valued my life. -'.!'bey swore they would come .back a9d i,nurder me without mercy, if I ever hmted at l:>a'ving seen them pass this way. I may be only a convict, but my life is as dear to me as yours is to you." "Then you're a bigger fool then I tuck ye to be!" uttered Mariposa Marsh, sharply,_ "or you'd make your tongue travel a straighter trail. You cain t pull the wott over my eyes so easy. You are good friends with this Spring Steel,, even ef you ain't workin' in cahoots with him, which I'm tQ bet big odds you be! You kitow whar he is gone, too, an' you've got to tell us right w bar be is, or you'll never live to see the sun rise ag'ml That's said an' swore to-you onderstan'1" 1 The fellow did understand, and clearly ti.


18 Spring Steel. King or the Bush. lieved that Mariposa. Marsh would be as good as his word iu case he was driven to extremities, for he weakened suddenly: "You needn't be so bard on a poor devil who is down on bis luck,'' be said sullenly. "It will be as much as my life is worth to tell on them, if you let a single man of the gang escape you. But if I do tell, what 1tre you willing to give me?" '' Ef you give us c1'a.r directions how an' whar to find the p'izen imps, we'll jest tie you hand an' foot an' sbet you up in the shanty ootel we kin come back to sot ye free or punish ye, jest a.s the information you give may deserve." "You might as well kill me now, and save all that trouble!" retorted the shepherd, with an angry sneer. "You might get lost, or Spring Steel may prove too much for you, as he often has for better men. I will make no such terms a.s those!" I'd be a bigger fool to let you go loose, to run around us an' tell the p izen imps we're comin','' grinned M9.riposa. "Theo there is only wav: I must act as I 7our guide to the rendezvous," slowly ded the convict. "That sounrls m o re like it! We'll make a night walk of i.," said Mariposa Marsh, pretending nbt to notic e the quick, exultant light which momentarily filled the fellow's eyes. "Tbe p iz en critters won't be expectin' to see us so soon our yit in the dark. But afore we start, you kin set to work an' cook up the rest o' that mutton. I ain't partial to s e t tin' out on a cam paign with empty lockers." "Shall I freshen up the fire outside, or cook the meat in here asked the sbepberd in an al most cheerful tone of voice as be pointed to the rude fireplace with which the hut bad been furnished for use during the cold or rainy season. "Io here. The light will be better bid,'' de cided Mariposa. Tbe sun bad set, and the short Australian twilight was upon them. -Tbe shadows were rapid ly de e p e ning, and within a v ery few minutes the night would fairly be upon them. Mush f elt pretty well convinced that. though the stock k ee p e r was meditating treachery, there was no immediate danger. If the fellow bad expected another visit from the busbrangers that evening, bis manner of acting would have been far diff erent. He would have temporized, have played for time with a mo1e conciliating demeanor, strivi11g to detain the party until the bushmen could put i n an ap pearance. Reas oning thus, tbe veteran call e d in his young companion s ; a summo ns which they were in no wise lotb to ob e y. for the usu a l cold night dews were falling heavily. At that S 9 ason of the year, while the days were extremely bot, the nights wer9lmost invaria_ bly cold, ice some times f 1rrning in considerable thickness, and that night bade fair to be unusually cold. The boys gladly sought the shener o f tile hut, and s!leutly wat ched the convict as be roasted and fried portions of t h e meat over the crack ling fire. A stranger looking in upon them as they sat there, would never have suspected the relations that existed between them. They ap quite friendly and 011 the best of terms together; but this was only in outward 110em ing. It would be difficult to decide which one ot the quintette concealed the most uneasiness beneath ttie indifferent mask which they wore in common. for each and every one felb that he was playing wit,b dangerously sbarp-edgerl tools. Mariposa Marsh and t he lads devoutly wished that they bad never seen the hut or met its owner; but the _veteran beli e ved he bad acted for the best, all things considered. Ev en if they had departed without awaiting the arrival of tbe shepherd, that worthy would almost cer tainly have noticed their tracks, and would have jumped to the conclusion that they were made by a part. y in pursuit of the busbrangers, to whom he would have lost no time in conveying the tidings, either by signal or word of mouth. Tbere would be no little danger in taking him along as a guide, but not so much as in leaving him behind, since he would be under their eyfs; and the knowledge that instant death would be the reward of atteJ11llted treachery, might keep him straight. But that journe y was fatbd to be strangely delayed. The shepherd was still busied about his cook Ing, when he suddenly dropped the po.o ot m eat, crouched low down and then leaped swiftly to one side of the hut, grasping bis old, rust-covered musket, cocking and 'di.charging it with a single motion. The first thought of Mariposa Marsh and the boys was that the fellow had r ernlve d upou making bis escape, and with wonderful nnani mity their weapons covered hi s form. But the shot was not fired at the m, nor did the shepherd wish to leave bis hut, just then. "Quick!" he shouted, "close and fasten the door or we're ml d ead men!" There was no necessity for asking en explana. tioo of bis words. That was already given by tbe sbowar of wooden spears wbicb hissed across the room or struck with a thud And hung quivering in the sides of the hut. The bl .cks were upo n them, and only for the unusually quic k SPDSe of haaring wit h which the stockman was blessed, there is little doubt hut what tbe entire party would have been assassinated b e forethay could have raise d a weapon or realize d the ex-extremity of their peril. As it was, the blacks were taken by surprise, and one of their =illed by the sbepherrl as he led their c u tio us advance. Taken thus unawares, the r e aioing natives hurled their spe .. rs in an irregular volley witho u t much attempt al; taking aim. Tbe efforts ot the coo vict were promptly secunded by his capto rs, and tbe door was closed, tbe heavy bar b eing fastened across it before tbe natives could muster up courage to cba. rge and_put their murdei.;ous plans into executlnn. "You saved our lives, sir," said Frank, grasp ing tbe hand of the convict aud pressing it wanulv. "J saved-my own," was the cold res ponse. Had it not been in danger, too, I would not have raised a finger, but would have looked on as those black devils spitted you on their spAars, and then clapped my hands in joyous ap. prove!!"


Spring Steel, King of the l'7 Even :Mariposa Marsh could not entirely repress a shudder of aversion at the cold malig nancy with which these words were enun ciated, while thE> boys felt much as they bad they sud

18 Steel, Kine ot the Bu.L. "I'll lead you out of this without a hair of our beads being scorched I" cried the shepherd, hastily loading bis musket. And we'll read those cured blacks a lesson they won't easilx_ forget! Rady, now. and follow me!" As-be spoke, be tore aside the rude pallet, re vealing a trap door let into a frame. Raising this, be stepped down into a dark tunnel which extended under the wall against wbicb the fire bad been kindled, and signed to the marveling veteran and bis young allies to follow in his tracks. Io silence they obeyed, befog obliged to creep on their hands and knees for some twenty yards, then el'.D.6rging from tbe tunnel through another door, wbicb bad been carefully strewn over with dirt and leaves. The black fiends are all gathered before the but, expect ing us to open tbe door when tbe beat grows unbearable. We can crawl around under cover, give them one volley, then charge and clean them out before they can recover from their surprise," wbispere:i the convict. As there would be no safety for any of them until the natives were thoroughly whipped, this was the wisest course to pursue, and Mari poa Marsh at once consented. The natives were buddied in a clump under cover of a few bushes, but the light of the blaz iog building revealed them clearly enough, and the five guns were emptied into their midst. Tben, with loud cries, the whites charged, using their revolvers briskly. The surprise w:is complete, and thoue;h a few of the surviving blacks showed brief flgb t, fl ve minutes later the last living bad taken to bis heels in hasty flight. Mariposa Marsh cast a hasty glance around them, then a fierce oath parted bis lips. "I might 'a' knowed it! The p'izen imp hes given us the slip, after all I" Neither Mariposa Marsh nor any one of the three boys bad received any injury during the brief flurry which preceded the flight of the terrified blacks, but the same glance which told the veteran bis young friends all light, showed hiru that the shepherd bad vanished as though the earth had opened to swallow him up forever. "Kiver, boys!" cried Mariposa Marsh, re membering the venomous hatred betrayed by the stock -k eeper, both in words and looks. "Take to kiver or the p'izen V!lrmint 'll be tryio' to pick us off one by one from out the darkness beyantl" ___ CHAPTER Vll. WALKING INTO THE SNARE. No further warning was needed, for the boys well knew that the hang-dog convict was none too good to commit mcb a deed, and this abrupt disa.ppearance looked very suspicious With one accord they sought tbe nearest shelter wbioh suited their individual tastes, in tending to lie there, protected from tbe glow and beat of the furiously '"burning but, until they could devise some method of escap\ug the double danger which threatened thew. But then came a sharp, wondering cry from Harold as he started quickly back from the bush he bad chosen, drawing a revolver as be did so. "What is it1 Snake or two-legged critter!" hurriedly uttered Mariposa Marsh, arising from bis covert, forgetful of the danger he migbG thus be lacurring. A man-it looks like the shepherd-dead, I reckon!" In an instant Mariposa Marsh and the two boys were beside liliJ'old, peering down into the shadow cast by the bush under wbicb lay the object wbiob bad s o startled the youngster. A single glance showed the cat-e.ved v eteran that it was indeed the convict, lying like one dead, end bold of the rude, sheepskin garments, be dq1gged the bodl forth, turning it over so that the full glow o the blazing but fell upon tbe blood -s tained face. A bJ"ief ex amination convinced the old man that the shepherd was yet living, though apparently knocked senseless by a blow from some bard object. Such indeed was the case. The convict bad not the slightest intention of deserting from bis captors, or of shirking his share of the ffght. He bad emptied bis heavily loaded musket into the closely crowded ranks of the enemy, then been foremost in tbe cbarize which followed that deadly volley. But before be bad time to deal bis bated enemies another blow, be was knocked senseless by a wadny burled by one of the blacks. Tbe weapon struck bim on the temple, but happened to be a glancing stroke, or his earthly rnce would have ended then and there. Mariposa brushed the blood and matted hair aside, and quickly satisfied himself that there were no bones fractured, then raised the limp body in bis arms and bore it over to the little spring, saying with a grim grin: "No use wastin' good wbii;ky on the p'izen critter when cold water 'll do jest as well." A liberal application of cold water S!>OD effected a cure in the convict's case, and with a groan and a few muttered words, be recovered bis consciousness. 'Twas a cluss graze you bed, old feller," said Mariposa Marsh with a grim smile, but I don't reckon you was born to die of a lick from a black nigger's club." "They're gone, then1 We whipped tbem1" unsteadily. "All's gone that o o uld travel onto tbar own l egs," was the significant response. "A few on 'em was too tired to run. They layout yender, painted red, in spots l" "You have been doctcrine;me-why do that? Better have let me die I" muttered the shepbud, with averted eyes. "Cold water's the only med'cine I wasted, an l' don't begrudge that nor the time I spent. You bain't showed us whar that p'izen Spring Steel an' bis gang bangs out, yit, or mebbe I mougbt 'a' )9t you shift for yourself." "Your bark is worse than your bite, old man," said tbe convict, and there was a soft ness in bis tones that bad not marked them be fore. "I have a. little of the feelings of n man rPmaining, though you may not b e lieve it. You trusted to my word, and put weapons in my bands, which I !Ilight have used ag_ainst you encl your friends. Then you cared for here, when I was belples!. I will not forget it. I will show you that I am not wholly a cur.


/ Spring Steel, King or the Bush. 19 Let me know wbat I can do to serve you, and I will do it at tbe cost of my life." When the convict this earnest speech, Mariposa Marsh listened to him with a cynical suspici o n, hut before he ended, he was c0m pletely disarmed. If the convict was not sincere in bis utterances, then be was a most fin jsbed actor. "Thar's only one way you kin sarve ua as I knows on," replie d Mariposa Marsh, in a more cordial, tone. "We want to find Spring Steel, an' you're the only one as knows the road." I will lead you the re, if you still insist upo n it; but I warn you that we will be running great risks. He will never be captured alive.'' "EE the resk is great, is the pay-or will be fer you. That young gal is the only cbild o' Henry Brady, a magistrate who bas big 'flu ence with the governor. Why, be give bis promise to git a ticket-o'-leave-ma n a free pardiu' jist fer giviu' him an' his wife a lift on : a dray to Melbourr.el You kin j edge from that 'what he'd be willin' to do fer a man who holped : rescue his ouly child from those p'iz e n imps." "I'll do all I can, though I don't much care -fl:bout a pardon for myse lf. I'm all alone in tbe world, without, a living friend or relative. But never mind that. When shall we start?" "How long will it take us to git tharl Kin we make the riffle afore daylight comesl" "No; not in the dark," was We promptre sponse. "The distance is not so great-only a dozen miles, at the outside-but tbe .. trail fa not an e asy one to find or keep without :the aid of daylight. Still, I ll do my best, if ;YOU prefer st out now." Marsh called in the three boys to '8Sk their opinions before giving his decision. :Neitber of them were parliculal'ly l desirous of a tramp through the night, after what t;bey had already experienced, and said as JnUCb, "I don't know as I blame ye none,'' observed the veteran. "We've did a beap o' bard trampin', whipped the black fellows twice, an' then bin burned out o' bouse-an'-home to top of!' witb. I reckon we've aimed a few hours' sleep an' rest." "There's a place a little way back yonder where we can rest until day without much danger of being disturbed, even if the black fellows should ta.Ire it in to their beads to return'; whir h is not at all likely. But tbe light of this fire ma v sttra<'t other an'd even moredaNgerous Over therd we cannot easily be found, and the bole in the hill is s uch that one man can bold the entrance while the others slel'p." "Lead the way, tb_en,'' said Mariposa Marsh, .arising. "The sooner we git tbar the more time hev fer rest an' snoozin'. I feel li1rn I could s l eep a week at a sti:etcb !" l\.,short walk C'lrr1ed them to the :;ff, w'b; c b provrd to be a smell but dry den or ; undrnea tll a huge reek in the hillside, 11Vbich lie d et n 'very distaLt day b cf'n the rl't11reat .of snme "il d animal "s the scent evi But our friends wf're not in a criica I mood, and thankfully occupied their r.ew quar ters, Tbe sb ei:>lierd voluct. eered to stand watch, but Mariposa Marsh decided otherwise. Tbough be now believed that the convict bad concluded to act with them in good faith, he was too wary a leader to throw unnecessary temptation in the man's way. Without betraying any resentment, the stock keeper curled himself up in the further extremity oJ. the den, and soon fell asleep. The watch was'divided between the other four, and thus the remainder of tbe niv,lit was spent, without any arlventures or unpleasant interruptions whatever. Mariposa Marsh evinced no particular hurry in taking his departure, but bad tbe stockman butcher another sheep and cook a portion of it at the still glowing ruins of the but, wbile be made a careful r econnoissance to see if the light of the burning building bad been the means of drawing tbitber any human but failed to make any such discovery. "Thar's no 'tic'lar need o' bein' in a burr J ,'' be explained to the somewhat puzzled boys as he gnawed away at a juicy mutton-chop. "I kin take my sheer o' tough fightin' when thar's no wey o' gittin' llround it, but from all a'counts that Spring Steel is a bad man, an' ef we give bim a cha i nce he'd j est as like as not shorten tbe number o' our mess, which wouldn't be pleasant to noue o' ns." "But we can't expect to rescue Miss Brady without a fight,'' said Frank, shortly. "I ain't so sure 'bout that. 'l' bar's sech a thing a; sarcumwention, as mebbe ycu've hearn tell; an' that's our game j est now, We'll find wbar the p'izen imps hang out, an' study out tbe best way o' git .tin' inside tbar lines; then we'll lay low ontel dark c o mes to kiverour movements, crawl up an' stea l away the young J eddy. Ef the p'izen imps foller us, then we'll lend 'em all the lead they kin swaller." The lads plainly saw that this .was the best plan that off e red, under the circumstances, and made no more objecti ovs. As the provisions prepared for their journey the evening before bad been destroyed in the burning but, Mariposa Marsh bad the shepherd cook another supply, which be divided out un til each one in tbe little party was provided with rations for several hearty meals. Not until then did he bid tbe s.tock-keeper set forward a long tbe trail. "Thar's one thing yon don't want to fergit, mate," be added, impressively. "We want you to show us the place whar Spring Steel anrl his p'izen imps bang out, but 'Y,e'll choose our own time fer a introducement "I will take you to a point from wbence you can see, yet remain unseen, as l ong as you care to stop un de r cover.'' The fellow made a good guide, never at a loss _,.,. for a mome'Dt. He was Silfnt, only speaking when first addressed, end then wasting no more breath than was strictly necessary. A great change bad come over him, and our friends felt th t it was a change decidedly for tbe better. There was nothing of. particular moment to mark their progress. Tbey saw nothing of hu man life, and an occa i o nal bird fluttering through the sbadows, 01 a snake gliding across thei r p9th, were th1l only i n cidents that occurred to hrPak the dull monotony of their morning t.ramp. Tbeyproceeded Jeirnrely, for Mariposa Marsh did not expect to eff ect the liberation of


20 SpriD&' Steel. Kiq ol the Bush. the young lady before the shades of night n the badly party. Mariposa. Marob w a s still ins e nsible from the efl' ects of tha t terrible b!ow, whil e neither of the three bo ys w ere in a. fit con d itio!l t o make auy efl'ectu'll e Thus, without a single shot being fired, or a blow struck by themse lves, 0r friends were all f1ur overpowere d and their arms fir m l y bound behind the m by the p-irty which the y bad c onfidently c o u n t e d on wors ting! Spring S eel tho notorious busbran ger, and ni ; gang of outlawe d d es p oradoesl T h e cunning convict had led them into a d ceily His r e p entance bad all been H o h a d lied to them about the location of Spring S te el's retreat. He bad secretly give n the signal to to tb\l man p osted on the lookout, and pretended to vi sit the i11 order to gain a word with


\ Spring Steel, ltin1r ot the Bush. 21 nim unseen. He told the outlaw where they were intending to bait, andbade bitl' bring up the busbrangers as speedily as possible. Then he played bis part when the keen-eared veteran caught the nmse unavoidably made by the ene my as they stole forward. A imprecation hissed through Mari Jl9Sa Marsh s clinched teeth as he awoke to con sciousness, only to find himself firmly bound, and realized bow be bad been betrayed. He ex erted every muscle to burst bis bonds, but in vain. "YoU"- gathered around, and the shepherd finally spoke up: "There's only one thing to be done. They must be forever-Silenced, or I can be of no more servfoe to you. If suffered to go free, the whole pdice force would be put on our track. Give them to roe, and I will agree that they shall never rise up in witness against us!" Nor was Kentuck any the less eager for their death. He bau joined them for the purpose of insuring the finding of the judge and his wife, thus hastening the ransom demanded. Spring Steel listened to their arguments with a dark scowl, then bluntly told them that their lives rested in bis hands; he would dispose of them as he saw fit. Tbis decision was not born ol mercy, but Spring Steel was half drunk, and when in liquor be was stubborn as any mule. Perhaps these very e fforts were the means of saving the prisoners' lives! "I don't say I won't kill you, fer three o' you four are sentenced to &' tion for wbioh he was best dtted, and be did""


22 Spring Steel, King or the Bush. .. until be got into trouble in Melbourne. After +:bat the police made tbe city too bot for him, and be wa,s compelled to abandon the streets for "frpsh fields and pastures new." In other words. to seek an asylum with bis employer, Spring Steel, until the worst of the storm should blow over. These two came together, and over a bottle of liquor soon arrived at a perfect understanding, the main point of which was the aeatb of Mariposa Marsh. They were not con to leave bis fate io the bands of their chief. Though the death-grip of Spring Steel had be come proverbial, their evil conscience made them fear that the busbranger would prove false to his reputation in this one instance. "Senee be hes tuck to drinkio' so hardly, no body kin put any dependence onto him," mut tered Kentuck, after a cautious glance around him. .:_He may take a fool notion into his noddle at any minit to sot 'em all frPe. Then what! The old critte r ain't no fool. Fu'st thing he'll blow on us all. He ll hev us all marked down an' spotted, 'sp e cially _you an' me. He'll guide the mounted police, an' never stop ontel he's hunted the bull kit an' caboodle down I" "If he is given the chance to do so, then we deserve our fate," as cotiously res ponded the shepherd. "If you will do ycur part as well as I do mine, then not one of the four will Jive to see the light of another day." I'll l}o anythin' 'cept butt my bead eg'inst a Spring Steel. He's a heap bad medicine isl" "He will praise us instead o'f condemning," added the stock keep0r with a low, cunning laugh. "Listen, and bear well in mind what I tell you." Tbe two plotters drew still closer together, fearful lest any other should overbear their words. "Tbe night w.ill be dark, from the looks of the clouds; but if not, still we can manage it. I will pay the prisoners a visit, pretending I am a secret friend-" "A'ter what bas happened? A'ter your l ad ln' of 'em into a trap, an' then tryin' yow level best to gilr 'em killed?" "They will not know me, even should the moon shine out clearly. B e f ore kindly gave me a passage across the briny, I was an actor, and one whose name was known where ever the drama found a foothold. I can alter my voice, my features, my person, so m}"' own mother would fail to recogni11e me. Mnch less taleut 'ill suffice with these fello1vs. They will be too anxious to esctLpe from the peril that threatens them in the morning, to be fastidious or critical to-night. They will not recognize me, be sure of tbat. They will think me sqme soft-hearted member of the p:ang who is afrairl of blood-letting, and if you do your duty well, tbey will not live lo:::ig enough to find out their mistitke." "You mean fer me to lay In ambRsh with some o' the boys1" "Something of the sort, but not just that. We would have to trust too manv with our secret, in that way, and one of -them might let the truth leak out. We will wait until the boys are allil:sleep, and your turn comes to mount gaard over the prisoners. If that d009 not fall tc. you by lot, then you must play sleep lessness and volunteer to relieve the man on watch. Y nu must not keep too close to tbe cap tives, but allow me room to creep up to tbem and set the old man free, bidding him release bis mates. Then you must pretend to fall asl e ep, but keep an eye on them, so that the moment they fairly start to flee, you can give the alarm and rouse the camp. "Then it. will be eur own fault if any of the four be alive. They will be unarmed, save a knife which I will have to leave the old mrn, so h1> "an set the others free. We can them down before the boys are fairly awake." ''But ef the clouds don't cl'ar away I'll bev to stay so cluss by that they will be afeard to stir, or else they may slip away an' I never know it in time." I have thought of that, too," said the con vict, with a self-satisfied chuckle. "You must give us plenty of elbow room, whether cloudy or bright. If I will yon a signal when the right moment for action come8." Some funber conversation followed, but as the cunning and fiendish plot has been made s(1fficiently clear for the full comprehension of the reader, there is no necessity for giving additional details here. The hapless prisoners had not the sus picion of t!Je dangerous plotting going on against their lives, though that knowledge C)Uld hardly have irnbittered their thoughts, since all snve Mariposa Marsh bad resigued every Yet the lads made no idle lamentation. Now, as ever, they were pure grit,'' and though they believed their fates were sealed beyond a II probability of chance, they were resolved that none of their captors should taunt them with showing craven fear. As the time wore on and the evening drew near, Frank Freeman, tired of pondering upon their unpleasant predicament, began to look around bjm Cl)riously and wonder where the young lady could be, for whom they had dared so rn uch in vain. Until now he had forgotten all about her, and consequently had felt no wonder at not seeing or bearing anything of her. This was natural enough, for life is very sweet to the youth ful, and, after all, she was a total stranger to him. Despite bis prone position, F:ank quicl:ly dis covered a small but of brush and bark, that was hidden from casual observation amid the shad ows cast by the trees and bushes which su r rounded the rude structure, and be felt no doubt that May Brady was kept a prisoner therein. nor w&s be mistaken. Spring Steel, fully appreciating the monetar.v value of bis fair prize, bad taken bis position close to tho but, resolved even in drunk;,nness to lessen the tempi!ltion to his rough followers by showing them that an entrance could only be effected in bis teeth. Nor was this precaution u'lmecessuy. There were some among the husbrangers whom only the certainty of death at t!le bands of their chief had kept from assaulting the fair captive. They feared neither God nor the devil,


Spring Steel, Ring ot the Bush. 18 but they did fear man, !n the guise o Spring Steel, and fortunate it was for the poor girl that such was t be case. Tbough Mariposa Marsh had firmly resolved to eff ect his Pscape that night, be made no ef forts that end while the light of day lasted, for a goo d and sufficient r e ason. He had closf'lly observed his captors, and being e. fair judge of human nature, be had read them aright in one respect at least. He saw that they were not stmtPd in the matter of pro visions and felt sure that they would not neg-lect feeding their prey. In doing this, they would in all probability release their hands from b o nds, and tbev would be almo s t sure to notice tbe fact if he should succeed in loosening tblim before that time; or even if they fhould overlook ; tbis, his labor would be w asted by the thongs being tied afresh after the meal. Succeeding events proved how closely be had reasoned. Being in no wise stinted themselves, the bus h rangers evidently felt that they could afford to be g e nerous in a small way and seemed resolvad that the doomed prisoners should have at least one more square meal, releasing their bands and pressing palatable if rudely-cooked viands upon them, until eYen Mariposa Marsh was forced to cry a truce, though not until his prow ess in that line had excited the wonder of the outlaws, who puzzled to understand where bis s towage-room lay. Nor had the boys lost their appetites, though; as Mariposa Marsh.. through motives of prudAnce had not yet inform e d them of the hopes he en tertained, they l>elie ved that death was steadily drawing nearer th em. They ate heartily, de spite tbe jests of the enemy, which were more p ointe d than witty. Tben, as the shadows of night grew deeper and the busbrangers fre'sbened up their fires, feelini? safe against discovery in that secluded spot, Mariposa cautiously told his young mates of bis desperate resolve to escape, and .advise d them to try their best to loosen the bonds which confined their bands. Tbe chances were that one among the four would succeed, through some defect in the thongs or carelessness on fbe fart of those who had tied them, A hint was al that was need e d and the spirit-of the lads rose at the simple words. They would not fail if patient p e rse verance ro11ld insure success. Meanwhile the two outlaws, Kentuck and the convict shepherd, were also in high spirits, everything w orking favorably for their treachero us plans. Kentuck was appointed one of the guards without any finesse on his part to a.waken suspicion in the future, and turn of duty would bring him on guari:! just before mid night, the most favorable time of alL A few of the hushrangers lay down early and went to sleep, wearied with the idleness of the day just ended, but the majority were not yet satiated with the strong liquors which very sel dom fell to their lot in sucb uostinted measure, and carried on their drltuken orgies until late in the night. though they did not entirely forget their cant.Jon even when deepest In their cups, oud drank with a bridle on their tongues. 'spring Steel, though be bad drank enough liqu or, almost, t? float a jolly-boat, was still awake and not more than" half-seas-over." He was station e d before the brush hut in which May Brady was confined, ready to defend her or punish a follower if the c.ccas ; on demanded, &nd it to bis drunken vigila nce that the rioting bushrangers paid deference by main taining an outward sembl11.nce of order. Meantime th8 prisoners irnprovi ng every minute, but without th& most encouragi11g suc cess. Their bonds had been applied by skill ful Jiands, and were of tough, un:y ieldiag J It was not many before racb one of the three boys were secretly but firmly con vince d that their utmost efforts were in vain, and that the whole night would not be long enough for them to effect an escape unaided. Still, each one persisted even agBinst hope, keeping this belief to themselves for fear its utterance would discourage the others. were a little more enconr a g ing with Marlposa Marsh, thnnks to his greate r conning and dexterity. His b<>nds were of the same matNials, aind had been quite as firmly knotted es any of the rest; but while the thongs were being applied, he bowed bia wrists slightly out ward in such a manner that while the cords were drawn tiJ:(btly, the moment he relaxed his stiffened muscfes, he found bis hands had a little play. Unfortunately bis hands were very much lar ger than bis wrists, and he soon found that be was but little better off than before. He could slip neither hand through, nor could his utmost exertion of strength blirst the thongs. For hours be worked in vain, then, in despera tion, be essayerl a feat that was doubly danger ous, tor be ran the risk of being observed by the outlaws, es well as of dislocating ene or both of his arms With a fortitude and dogged disregard of pain that would have done credit to an Indian war rior at the stake, he raised bis bound bands inch lty inch, supporting them agaillilt the tree-trunk at his back until, with a sudden desperate effort that caused the cold drops of bitter agol)y to start out upoll' hli forehead, he brought both arma over bis bead and bSe&pe hi!J tightly compressed lips, Mariposa Mttrsh l;ielleved that terrible effort bad hopele>;!dy crippled b!m. But matters were not w bad, and before long ht' bad bis hands to bis mouth, doggedly chewing away at the stubborn thongs that alone1 as he fondly believed, lay betweel\ him and liberty. All else appeared unusually favorable far tbefr escape. The skv was shrouded in 11. mass of dense clouds. The fires kindled by the busbrangers were

Spring Steel. King of the Bush. scarcely cRst a glance toward the sheltered spot where the prisoners were reclining. Thus matters sto o d when, with a long-drawn sigh, Mariposa suoceE>de d in gnawing through tbe thongs, llnd stretche d oJt bis arms as though to shake hands with freedom I Then, with a fierce thrill of mingled despair and rage, be whipped bis hands behind him, re clining as before against the trunk of the tree. He bad caught a glimpse of a shadowy figure approaching, and believe stern grasp on the throat of the dead man, he said: "It was his life or ourn I A rattlesnake don't turn into a barmle$s dove all at once! He tried to disguise bis voice, but I knowed him-an' I reckon he won't lead no more fool into a trap-cuss him from tor. to toe!" 'You don't mean that it is-was-" trembled Frank. I do-it's that shepherd that led us into the trap, an' then tried all he knowed how fer to git that Spring Steel to wipe us out!"


Spring Steel. King the Bush. Mariposa. Marsh spoke true. The man be bad slain was none other than the treacherous con vict stock-keeper, who bad fallen into the pit be was digging for others. His boasted skill es an actor bad availed him naught Against the un relenting hatred felt by Maripo$J1. Marsh, who recognized him. the moment be spoke, despite bis cba.nge of voice end uncuutb language. Instinctively the cunning veteran divwed the nature of the snare which was being set for bim, and knowing that half-measures could avail him little here he took the shortest, mt1tbod of cutting the Gordian knot. Of all the busbrangers in camp now, only one but what was fast wrapped in slumber-end he was the faithless, noel.ding guard yonder, Kentuck, wbo was impatiently waiting for tbe signal from bis fellow conspirator which should tell him all was in readiness for the finish ing blow He could not be.Ip stealing occasional glances toward the spot where the four captives were stationed, but be learned nothing of what. was transpiring froi these The night was too dark for even bis eyes of hatred to overcome those tw.,nty and more yards of gloom. ...,_., Mariposa Mars h satisfied himself that r the faint sounds which accompanied bis momentary struggle with the convict bad not been beard by tbe nodding guard, then silently pu s hed tbe bleeding, gbnstly burden from his lap, drawing tbe long, keen bladed knife from the quiveripg sheath of flesh. A sigh of relief parted his lips as the cords around his ankles gave way before the touch of the weapon, and be indulged himself in a momentitry !;_tretcb of bis legs that f elt almost like a foretaste of freedom and paradise. But time wes by far too precious for idle consump tion, and Mariposa Marsh quickly ruoved nearer buys, applying the keen edge f)f bis knife to their bonds, bidding them lose no time in restoring the circulation of blood through their limbs, but not to attempt rising until they full control of their legs. :You ain t a-goiu' to run away an' not tbry to git back any av our weapons, be ye?" muttered Mat Marley, who bad deeply mourned the loss of bis cherish e d rifle and revolve rs. "And the young lady," adi:led Fra.nk Free man. "We must take her along with us, if we succeed in escaping." "It's all we kin do to 'tend to ourselves an' we'll be monstrous lucky ef we git cl'ar o' tbese p"izen critters with life in our karkidges," muttered Mariposa Marsh, impatiently. "Jest like all boys, you ain't satisfied onless you kin do or bev jest a little mare than is a possi bilit !" 1? the youngsters were not satisfied, they bad discretion enough to postpone any further discussion until a rr.ore favorable moment shou! d present itself, and Ma1dposa Marsh was perfectl_v willing tbat such should be the case. He was all eagerness to be away from the spot where almost certain death awaited them, and when bis young mates told him that they were in fit condition for the work that lay before them, be immediately led tbe way, eri.eping into the bushes, aToiding every noise that might arouse the suspicious of the somno-l

Spring Steel, King of the Bush. like a lion at bay, glarin!I! around upon the enemy with deadly hatred flashing from his eyes A ruthless, bloodthirsty, conscienceless d es perado though be was, there was something far from ignoble in the appeuance of Spring Stee l at that moment, as the police closed in ar. 1und him; and the four fugitives who still crouch e d low in tbe bmh, c o uld not from feeling a vague pity and admiration for the fellow. One instant thus-then, with a bowling roar that would not have disgraced a wounded lion, Spring St.eel upon his enemies, followed by the two bushrangers who bad survived that murderons volley. Tbe giant wrested a carbine from the fore most po\icemm and struck two blow3 with th e heavy butt before tbe l e arler of tbe force brought bim to his knees with a strong, swift saber cut that would have clov a n the bead e in ar:iund the outlaws, breathless interest in the tragedy held them until all was over-until Soring Steel went down b e fore the enemy-and then it w&s too htte to escape by flight, even had they felt so inclined, which they did not. Wby sbou!ri tb e.vl They were friends of law and order, and surely they had nothing to fear from the po!ice. At command of the sergeant the police quickly fres h e n ed up the fl.res until the entire encampment was brilliantly lighted up, revealing every detail of the bloo .1y scene. Only two.of the bushrangers besides Spring Steel were alive and all were wounded. T!1ree of tbe policemen had been slain outright. two of them with their skulls shattered like eggshells, t .he r esult of the brace of bl o ws dalt by 8pring S lee!. Tbe sergeant sumied up bis lo s ses at a glance, but seemPd little if any ull'ecte I by the death of bis men, an llce mecbanically raised their carbines. "We're fri'm1s an' honest critters who was jest 'scapin' from lhP p'izen husfirangersl" "Mvance, and honest critt.ers," said the rgeant, with a sn110r in bis voica that s'ung Mariposa Marsh like a slap from a bunch ol nettle. But be knew that there was no use in kicking against the pricks. Tbey were in the power of this mau and wbolly at his mercy. His men w ere but breathing machines subject to his will knowing only bow to carry out the orders be gave them. So Maripos a Marsh choked down his resent ment for tbe time being, and advanced to wbere the officer was standing, leaning upon his still bloody saber. "Who and what are you!" be demanded, sharply, incisiv e ly. "Wbite m e n an' born," tersely replied Frank, stung to tL:e quick liy his overbearing m'\'nner. Insolence will not serve you here, young fell qw, and y o u bad better save ynur breath against a time of n eed, which, unl ess your looks belie themselv es, will not be long d elayed," coolly retoned tbe sergeant, and, as in duty bound, the m e n l a ughed hearLily at their leader's wit. Marsh made n quick sign that chec ked tbe hot words springing to tbA lips of the angered lad, the n turned toward the sneer ing,sergeant, saying, in even, measured tones: "We four w1>re on our way to the diggings wben we were fortunat e enough to he of service to Judge l!tln-ry Brady and his wife, who bad heen robbe d anfi bound to a tree by Spring Steel and bis of busbrangPrs, who als0 bore olf Miss May Brad.v, for the purpose of exactiog a heavy ransom for her. Tbe jurlii;e believ ed they were playing him false, I nte nd ing to retain the young lady after securin!!; monev, and us to follow on the trail and to rescue his d a u ghter, while be haste n ed to M elbourne to set tba police on the cent. We agreed to do wbatr we coulrl, but we .re b etrayed by a stock-keeper whom we secured as guide, and were taken prisoners by the busbrangers, wbo swore we should die in the morning. B t1t we managed to our bonds aml were ou the point of escaping when you mllde your attack." "Wby did you not make your appearance b efo re, then? Why bide in the bushes until you wfjre routed out by my men!" we were unarmed, and would thus be exposing ourselves to. a double danger. The bu;b:angers would know we were enemies, and vou would thinlc we were. But as soon as the fight w119 over-in wbiC'h we could pl dinly see that Y"U needed none of our h e lp, e ven bad we bl!f'n in co'ldition to afford any such-we forward." "A very probable story, and admirably toJd," sneered the sergeant. "But we find y ou in very questi onable compa1iy, and you c annot blam:> us for regarding you with a c ertain degree of suspicion. You will pl ease consider y ourselves as U'lrle r arrest, until WA can in tb e trub of your statement." M1riposa Marsh bowed stiffly, l">ut had bis life alone b een at stake, the pompo1n s ergeant of pclice would, beyond a d oubt, have r e ceived a genuine surprise. Tbe veteran, however, choked driwn his passion, lest the three boye should suffer also.


' Spring-Steel, King of the Bush. During this conversation, though none of the parties cQncerned were aware of tt1e fal!t, Spring, Stee l bad recovered hi s consriousne;;;s, and eagerly drank in every word that WHS uttered, with what emotions will soon be made clear. Despite bis evident prejudice against our friends, which was as strong as it was unaecount able even to himself, the sergeant bad b ee n strongly impressed with the trutb of the ex planation given by Mariposa Marsh, knowing as he did that May Brady bad really been captured by the busbrangers and was even now in the libtle brush but, a policeman stationed before the entrance. But be was res olved to convince himself beyond a doubt, before he released the four strangers. For this purpose he turned his attentio n toward Spring Steel, who was now counferfeiting unco nsciousness. believing he could not have overheard tbe statemenrs of M a riposa M a rsh. If he should corroborate them, then there could be no further doubt; After a sufficient length of time, Spring Steel consented to be restored to consciousness, and stared around him w ith a vacant expression in his eyes until they rested upon Mariposa Marsh and his young companions, when his blood stained face became transfigured with intense hatred, not all feigned. "You know those persons, then?" d emanded the sergeant: "Who and what are they!" "A week ago, I'd 'a' swore that better mates never lived, but now-ef I could see 'em die the de tb o' dogs, I'd make the m!ln rich fer life that killed 'em I" "Mates of whoml". eagerly asl!'.ed the 'prejurl iced officer "Or mine, in course. They've b'longed to my gang fer the_past two years an' longer." Mariposa Marsh b ega n an indignant denial, but the sergeant made a signal, and almos t be fore they could realize the fact, Mariposa and the lads were all four handcuffed. H you dare to utter a single word before, I address you first, I wm order my men to you, in addition," s ternly cried the p o lice offi cer, frowning. "You have been given an opportunitj'-of t elling your story, and now we will hear the other side." If looks had the power to deal death, then th1> sergeant would have rlropped lifele ss in bis tracks: but-Mariposa Mush held bis tongue. No need of making a bad matter worse. "If you are mates of his-if you have lied to' me, and I find in reality that you belong to this gang of will string you up to that limb overhead, hke an egg-suckingcur!"sternly added the efficer, then turning to the wounded outlaw: "Jf mates of yours why so bitter against them!" Because they went back on me an' the rest o' the gang. I'll tell ye bow it was, an' ef I speak tba shadde1 of a lie, may-" and Spring Steel added a volley of imprecations so hitter and hlaspbemous as to startle even toe serg;2ant. '' Yoq know all ahout my 'stickin '-up that gold-escort an' gittin' away with over forty_ thousan' pounds wu'th o' dust an' nuggets? W e i you fellers hqnted me so close an' bard thnt I could never uo good of it, a1.1' so left it in tbe ground wbar we bid it at t!Je time. You know, too, tb'lt all the boys who was with me in that little job, got rubbed out afterwards at one time an' another. "I k ep' the-secr e t to my own self ontel 'bout a month aito; then I got drunk, an' r be ole man yender coaxed it out o' m e Still, I wasn't sorry, fer I trusted him like I did my own self, an' never thought h e 'd go hac'k onto me. "I left bim an' the boys abind wbcn I went on that litt le trip wbicb wound up with our 'stkkin -up' old Brady. We was gone nearly a week, all told, an' was to randyvoo here, which we did. But while I was gone, them fellers the four on 'em-tuck an' kerried away a 11 that gold an; bid it som'ers e lse. Tbey tried to kiver up tbar tracll:s, but I found out who it was did 1he work, though I couldn't find nothin' of the new So I come back an' tuck them p:is'ners meanin' to tortur' 'em ontel they let out the scret, but yon come an' give me this clip on the head, which I reckon win turn out m_y last 8ickness." ) An unprejudiced listener could hardly have avoided noticing several glaring discrepancies in this preposte rous story, but the sergeant had decided Mari posa M arsh guilty beforehand, and was only too glad of Ml excuse for exercising bis authority. "You are willing t6 liWear to the truth of. this st tement of yours !" be demanded. "Yes" wtis the prompt response. "An' ef any o' the other boys is a ive, they will tell you the same thing." ,, At this broad hint, tl;Je two capti>e bush rangers spoke up and confirmed the m onstrous lies their chief bad u.ttered, clinching their evi dence with no stinted amount or oaths. Mariposa Marsh commenced an indignant protest. but at a sign from the petty tyrant, be was down encl l!'agged, as were Frank, Mat and Harold, struggling vainly against the heavy odds. Then the sergeant spoke: "I gave :vou fair warning that I would you out of band, if I found you had been lying to me, snd now I inean to be as good as my word. You are convicted of being a busbra!lgei,and double traitor. "J0b nson, thl"Ow a rope over that limb yonder, and string the old man up. _We will keep the others for a time, to learn where they have bind e n the gold _they stole. Lively, there!" This last injunction was superfluous, for the rope was b e in?; rapidly acljusted, and jbe noose fitted around the throat of Marip0sa Marsh, even as be spoke. Then, at a motion of his hand, the veteran was slowly hauled from the ground into mid-air! CHAPTER X. AN OPPORTUNE ARRIVAL. BuT tbe veteran's life-work was not yet done. A wild nearly naked fig ure l e aped thi:qugh th& lin e of bushes and stood revealed m the rliddy firelight; a frowsy-head ed, dirty, greasy Australian black._ who uttei;ed a shrill peculiar cry, then dove back under cover as abruptly as be h a d made his appearance, before the astonished policemen could do more than make 'an irresolute show of using their


98 _,. Spring Steel, K!ng or the Bush. "Make fast. that rope to a bush and let the old rascal hang, then prepare-" The sentence was left unfinished, for the sergeant received a fresh and still more unpleasant shock than that given him by the appearance of the black fellow. A white man in the unirorm of a captain of mounted police stepped through the bushes, and in a sharp, peremptory tone, ordered the amateur hangmen to lower '1leir victim. "Slack up on that rope! The man that dares to hesitate a moment, I'll shoot down without mercy!" The sergeant turned sharply, but the fierce curse died away and remained unuttered upon his lips as he recogmzed the uniform of a superior in rank. The hanl{men obeyed with a promptness boru of subordination, letting the rope slip through their hands, and Mariposa Marsh fell to the ground, where he lal' limp and motionless, like one from whose body the last spark of life baa fied. The keen eye of tht> new-comer noted this fact, and his anger flashed forth hotly as he turned upon the silent, crestfallen, but sullen sergeant, crying fiercely: 1f' yonder man is dead-murdered by you, cow ardly hound I I'll tear the uniform from your back and have my men kick you all the way from here to Melbourne I" You dare not-I have only done my duty-" Sil e nce! hand me your sword, and consider yourself under arrest until I can fully investigate your conduct in this truly disgraceful affair." The sergeant gripped his sword hilt and cast a glance around him, but he saw that auy attempt at open resistance would be worse than folly. He could hOP"l for no support from his command in the face of a superior officer, and over a score men were filing into the fire lighted space after their cap tain. At a Nord from the latter, these meu would fairly riddle him with bullets. "You hav' the advantage now," he said, In a voice that trembl<>d With mingled rage and mortifi cation, but I will call you to account for the terms you have used just now at the earliest possible opportunity." "Il you have murdered that yonder, the only satisfaction you'll get will be a taste of the same noose I Not a word more, or I'll clap you into irons!', Turning bis back upon the disgraced sergeant, the captain bade gome of his men release the three lads, while he himself hastened to the sidA of Ma1iposa Marsh, tearing the noose from around his neck and cutting the gag" frC'm bet1veen bis jaws. Tbe captain's anxiety, however was of brief du ration, for Mariposa Marsh smiled faintly in token of recognition. "Jest in time, old fr'indl I reckon I wasn't born to be bung, but it come so p izen nt-ar it that thar wasn't no fun in it I Ef you 'II jest on loosen these bracelets!" No soone.said than done: and when th A thongs were cut from around his ankles. Mariposa Marsh rose to his feet, but little the worse for wear, save In a. chafed throat. '!'he captain drew him aside, guardedly whis pering: "You haven't been doing anything since we parted to give that fellow a legal right to serve you a' he has done? Not.. that ii mo.kes anv particular differ ence, because I can manage to blulr my wav through, anrhow; but it's hf'St to know justwhere\vestand." Nutbin' wus then to be tuck captyve by Spring Steel an' his gang," promptly replied the veteran, casting a venomous toward the disgraced sergeant. "We was Jest gittin' cl'ar o' them, when hat ugly cuss come up an' tuck us fer part o' tbe outfit." All that is here rt>eorded occurred with wonderful rapidity, one surprise following swiftly on another's bee!$ and t Wa$ only now that Judge Ilenry Brady, who had been left .. few rods behind when Charles Cooper, captain of mounted police, made his Impetuous entrance upon the scenP came forward with eagerness, his tear-dimmed e; seeking vainly for some tract'. of his idolized child. A terrible fear assailed him, and an agonized cry burst from bis lips. Through the night alarm; through the brief but bloody fight that ended in the all but extermination of the gang of bushrangers; through tbe hasty trial and condemnation of Mariposa Marsh, followed by his hangini\" and almost miraculous rescue from a shameful death; through the altercation which fol lowed, until she beard and recognized the voice of her parent as be uttered that appealing cry, May I Brady bad remained cowering m tbe little hut, trembling with fear. But at fhat sound she forgot fear, forgot everything else and pushing aside the policeman who was st1>tioned beforn tbe entrance, she flew across the Intervening space, and with a gladl sobbitll'( cry of thanksgiving, was lnfolded In her rather's arms. 'Jhe boys had 1ut been released from their bonds, and were eye-witnesses of tht> joyous meeting. All were affected, though in different degrees; and one scene-never 'viii During those few moments Cooper found time to explain to Ma1iposo. Marsh how it was be came so opportunely there. "As luck would have it, I met Judge Brady just before he entered the city. and so the job of rt-cov Pring his daughter was placed in my hands. I start ed at once, for the old gentleman gave me a pretty clear description of you and the lads. yonder, and I expected no less than that you would be gettin1< in.J;o trouble, if you were really foolhardy enough to tack.le Spring Steel and his outfit. "I enlistffi a black fellow as guide and trailer, and went into camp not more than two mil e s fiom tl is spot. Heard the sounds of firing, and ma I passert my word," he said, with a low, chuckJing "Bu mind; I'm command .:.J'[k!(llcer here. and 'JI not let you run too much "J don't reckon you've itnv 'c'.1.Sion to fret, mate. The old man kin most gen'aJly take keer o' himselr when it ain't more then a dozen onto one. You ty at once; ut :you must promise to hold in until after we havG stra1!?htenPCl. out matters n little." "What I've got won't snile in keepin' bottled up fer a few hours," M1riposa, bearing the cap tain compan.v to where the disgraced sergeant was moodily standing. Mor1

Spring Steei, King of the Du.h. "If I deserved arrest ten minutes ago, I deserve it ttuite as much now. I prefer waiting for my reinstatement until my case is deliberated upou by my, as well as your, superiors. 1 give you formal notice that I shall aply for an investigation of my conduct be fore tht> proper officials at the earliest possible m oment.' "My near sir." said Mariposa Marsh, speaking in a soft and polished tone tbat contrasted forcibly with his rude, uncouth exterior, "let me beg of you to recoosider your decision. if only for an hour or two. After that, you can return to arrest again, if you feel so inclined." "How do. my affairs concern you f" roughly growled the man. "That is easily explained1 added Mariposa Marsh, In the same smootll tone. 'All hour ago. you callea me a dog-an egg-sucking cur-and even went so far as to bang me, simfle because I told you tile truth. I swore then that if ever got cle a r, I'd call you to ac count for it, ancl tJ1at is txactl.v what 1 mean to do now. l f you are too cowardly to accept of your re instate ment, because you fear my punishing you, I also will be put under arrest, so I can meet you on equal grounds-for I mean to lick you like thunder an' gunst" The sergeant stared for a moment at the speaker, the n turned aside in silent disdain, half inclined to believe the old fellow either drunk or crnzy. "Do n't press him too far, old man ,, sait.l Cooper, laying a restraining band upon Mariposa Marsh's shonlrlcr, that worthy made a m otion toward following Jl!orl\"an. "1 don't like the il't>.a of com mitt ing suicide. Morgan is a dead-s'1ot, a neat hand with the sword, and the finest two-handed boxer I ever snw." "I don't know as T kee r about killin' the fell e r ef I kin read him a lemo n without goin' quite so fur; but he acted like a dog to mP, an' 1'111 bound to git even. Ef he's os good with his fists as you say, I'll make him fi,;:ht that way." Captain Cooper made no reply, for just then one of his men rewrted that Spring Steel was apparent ly in a very bad way, and the surgeon believed l:e was at the point o f deat.h. The strong concern wit.h which Cooper r e ceived this report wns no enigma to Mariposa Marsh, who had not yet forgd ten the story of the gold-escort robbPrv. He knew thar, though the Government l aid claim to nil trPaswe trove or that SOI'', but very little of the weal t h accumulated by the industri1u s UllShrangers, and llDP::trtbcd by the mounted police, ei!her white or black, ever entered its coffers. A mem her of the police would run the risk o f being brancl e d as a cliS!l'race to the force sho kl he be simple-or h onest-e noug-b to include in his report the edd th'1S earnerl. That was c! was really in a bd wav a great deal mor.e so than he had anyideao( himself, though with a vague ho?e of bettermg I-is situationl he was play ing the pat t of a dying man. Il hac availed him thus fRr, t'rnt the surgeon had released his' hands from the iron s The tabcr-cut upon his h ead was tbe only mate rial hjury Spring Steel had reCf'ived, but that was far rr>nre serious than at first imagined, a boarst>, taunting laugh betraying his savage e.' struck against a root, and he was hurled h eadlong again.t the trunk of a tree with tremendous violence, the shock shattering his fractured kull likea.n empty gourd I Spring Steel was dead before any one could reach the spot where his body Jay! CHAPTER X SPRING STEEL 's GOLDEN S E CRET. WHAT Captain Cooper srucl when be recovered his feet and realized that the golden secret was forever lost to him, will hardly do to record in t h esc pages. Still, it was not long before the customary degrPe of order s!'tlled over the encampment; all of the party were t o o thoroughly accustomed to tragic scenes for the death of the noto rious bushraager to Jeni; clisturb their mental equilibrium. Mariposa Marsh was strangely site11t and preoccu pied during the l' Pmainder Of the night, wl1iJe the three boys were corresponclin"ly j o lly, the ffect of a natural r eaction, and fraternized "ith the grim of the peace. otherwise policem e n, so ef fectually that their corner of the encampment was in an uproar mos t of the time. Frank Freeman in particular was in high spiri's. Jt asl

.. Sprmg Ste e 1 King ot the tJush. tblng definite concerning the secret store of Spring' SteeT before that worthy met bis death. It was a fortune lost, and he could find time to think of notbelse. 'l did think that i t was barel.r possible that be m.<:ht have some clew al>0ut hun-s<>me nflte or m0moraudum of the biding -place-but I s earched bun so c losely that a 6.ea couldn't have escapd my Pye, and found nothing to pay mA for my trouble. No doubt the secret is lost, and some day; maybe vear s from now, i t will be stumbled on by some bcky rascal who-" Whe n t .he captai n spoke about a note or memo randum, H arold Freeman rose and strolled over to where tnii chief of t -he bush rangers lay when he phnned bi s desperate stroke for -liberty. H ere h e stooped, his cat-like eyes showing him almost imme d iatel v what he \Vas looking for, and returning, he cut sho r t Capt.ain Cooper's r eftections, hy droppiug a dirty, crumpled bit of paper into his hand. "P->ssib l y that is the thiug you were so anxious to find captain he said iu explanation, as all were turned inquiringly upon him. I noticed Spring Steel throw something away, jusj after the doctor unfastened bis bands, but as I dicln it see anythingfall, I beliP.vecl I was mistaken, until you spoke as you did, just n ew. Cooper unfolded the paper and smoothed it out with fingers that trembled d espite his utmost efforts at self -control; but thPn a shade of disappoin ment the eager light fro!l'l his eyes, as he s1tw ?Othing but an appare.ntly aimless, mel tning!ess Jumble of letters and marks. He wouldn't try to hide it, though, unless it m e ant something, and was of impo rtac e." be S'\id, more hope full,y "It's some sort of a secrer. cipher, or cryptograpb, I reckon. Jf we only had t.!Je key I I t may be a clew to the gold I" The oapt.-iin passed the p1.per around, but n()t one of the party could make head nor tail of its con tents. "There's a man o n my force, though not here to night. th t can almost anythin' in the way of secre t writirnr; 1'11 show it to him. The pare r may be worth-a pFincely to us, after all t" "You're wilcome to my sheer!" laughed Mat, but Captain shook his heac l soberly. No: if anythinl? comes of it, we will all share and sh re n like. You mnst giv<.'I over your trin to BaJ:arat and go to Melbourne with mP. The more i!< ::>bout it, the more confident I fe l that we have h ere the clew to the graat treasure hidqen b y Spring Steel I" Neither Marip os-i Marsh nor the boy s wern 0as ily won ove1 to th i s view of th e T he 11rRt wrs t n o experienced, the others t oo young to b e easily in fected with t h e ti-ensure-hunting mania; but Cooper arrrned w "th them earnest.Iv. ''If i t proves a or i f Bowen ca.n't solve t h e ciph e r, it will only be a f<>w days lost, an'l I promi0e to be:ir you company to the mines afterward," be said. This ple dge turne d t::ie scale, and t"Gc four turers agreed to bear him company back t o l\Ie lbour".le. "Even if the pape r should prove a fraud, we baven,t clone sucl1 n bad wo:rl:," Cooper, "Ta.kin'? all t otiefhc r t!J:r0 are ov e r two thousand pounds ifl reward'1 f o r S::>rin'! Stee1 a nd the other bus hrani:r e rs are Y!Ort h otJe hu:1drcc.l pounds each, cleacl or aliv e J'esi'l e s. tbe judge will come down handsomel y All in all, yon have mais eyes prutruding-11,e picture of terrible emotion-like one suddenl y con fronted by a ghost. May shrunk back, terrified, she scarcely knew a t what, whil e the father, no less puzzl ed, mecban ica.lly Rtepped before her, as though to defend here from some p e ril. This a c ti o n seemed t o recall 111ari posa M::trsh to i.;,. senses, and with a sickly smile he lowered his e.l'e.i and turned awa:-9, mut tcring some incohereut ab'>ut b e ln'? subjPct to fits It was w ell fo1 him, perhaps, that Ser.-eant Morgan tee n kn ocked completely out of time by those two f earful blows, for mos t asscired l y the veteran wns in np condithn to r e ueiy the fight a t tha t moment. A child could ha"<"e masr r ccl him ac; he sunk down u nd e r n. bur-b, k C mblin...,. in every limb, cold sweat beclewiug his f orehe ad, bis C'yes fixed hu::,crily upon the maide n fro under the s'1a 'low of his hat, his breath coming f.cst and chok ingly. Surely the r e was some deep mystery hidden be ne:itb r:n this? During the hours which they hc.d pas s:i: I togethe r i:J. J a drc t cld hi; n.11 about the littl e part_v which had v clunt ered to go i!l R earc h of h e r ancl unwittmgly awake:i e d a strong curiosity in h e r bosom to see and' k:iow m o m of Frau!< the jud:-:e had more pm ticuhry i'Tipress e d wi t'l his heatina-, nn'l n"turall y h a d f'ivcn a undue rr.::>minence t Q hi:rt in rfa narrative Thi$ curio3ity awakened, of course it mu$t besatis tleda'1d proposed to go and thank the youne gc' in pe-rson. Althou1;h this did not exactl y please. t h o pro u

Sprine Steel, K ing of the Bush ............ The judge. aided by Captain Cooper, managed to 1 mt. 1utl.uce May to the three boys, whom, wcmanllke she immediate Iv proceeded to mak" delicinusly uncomforable by overwhe ming them wih thanks and pretty which flow so freel y from fair lips. Aud equally a a matter of c mrso, the lads were awk;vard and couldn't think of the rii:ht thing io say in answering her. looor Frankl tr he doubted before, he could do so n o longer. He was over head and ears-yes, a thnusand fathoms deep-in love. Morgan was abls to mount his horse when the time came for t i .em tp set out on tbeir re t u r n to Meloonrne, but he looked far more tit for tbe h ospital. As Mat Marley graphically expressed iL, his face looke d as though he had been caught tick li ng a mule's hind l e g. The wounded bushrangers werP led away, bound upon the bacl< of a horse, to finish their career in than a month, by dancing on nothing, at tbe end of a rope apiece. Nothingw orthy of particular record occ u JTed durin!I' the journey back to Melbourne, save that C.lptam Cooper. taking good care that none of the police should overhear his words, dwe\t frequently tbe suff)Osed clew to the go'den treasure of Sprin2' Steel, until negot his four friends nearly as much interested in the matter as he was himself. When the city was r eache d, Mariposa Marsh had more than one long inte rview with Judge Henry B r .idy and whem hA came from the last one his face wore au expression of purer joy and mor<> perfect content than any of bis young friends had ever beheld there before. Still they felt rather dlicate al>out questi min;: him, knowmg that in good time they woulJ be told all there was for tbem 10 learn regarding the mystery which they felt sure c onnected the v eteran and May B acty. And their tmst was rewarded in due time though a consi ,lerable time a n d many adventures of thtilling interest were fated t o i n tervene. Anrl the golden treasure of Spring Stee11 Was it ever discovered? Could Bowen solv e the cryptogram which Captain Coope r so tenderl y cherished! To answer tbese questions satisfactorily would require a volume in itse lf, and lack of space forbids en,ering upon the task at present. The story we out to tell is ended. "Th!\t.aer or no the broken thread will again be t..ken up remains to be seen. THE END. BEADLE AND ADAMS' Dime Hand-Books. BEADLE'S Dnm HANn-BooKs roa YoUNG PEOPLE cover a wide range o! subjects, and are ;ispecially adaptea to tlleir end Young People's Series. Ladies' Letter-Writer. I Book o! Games. Gents' Letter-Writer Fortune-Teller. Book of Etiquette. Lovers' Casket. Book of Verses. I Ball-room Companion Book o f Dreams. Book of Beauty. SJ!J'"" The above boolcs are sold by new!ldea l era e ,,.erywhere, or will be sent, post-paid, to any ad drfls s, o n receipt of price. ten cents each. B u ol.It 6t'l> ADA.XS, 98 William st. N. 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LAT ES'l AND BEST. HANDSOME TRI-COLORED COVERS. e Library e 32 Issued Every Wednesday. blly One and You Will Buy the Rest! buncts Cro1n rhe Nen \ ork Eveuing Sun. T\\10 u1;;iuA1tUA.Ul.I: lll:nOES. In only one aense ot the word can It he regarded R1.. a aovel st:.uemP11t wheu thP tuc r le here recorded that llcerK. t.ure haR R"he11 uuuay llero .. R to I.he world, 1rncl perhaps more than one will hitve to thl11k a mo1r1t>11t ovt-r &hie rt>rnark t1efore the Bllhlle dellcary of Its wit 1trlkee horne. But It la uiost esse.11t1al1y a hair dime novel Rtateme11t wilt be uewe to 111a11. v when It le added that lltera from dlu1ly distant dayR when Achu11 eu a mere child dow11 to the present day, would show & tew heroes that In the eyes ot hoyhood would be en judaed worthy of comparison with ttle two greatest roee knowu to AmPrlcan literature, or, to vromptly re Teal them, Deadwood Dick and Deadwood Dick, Jr. The modern heroes or ftcrlon for young America, bo are now H.8 co1111tle11S aa the aanda or the aea, and of born the Deadwood Dicks are much the most Important lt IR but natural that their ahould hear away the vahn or popularity, aud aucb aa be left far behind lu the race. b oan Ue eusl ly helleved, thereto.-, that the two Dicks 1!!9 IO ftrmly engrafted on the tree or popular literature and young mefl, that their position JR aR1ured and that tbey stand today head aud shoulders above all rivals 111 rhe e.res of the public tor whlob tbeJ hJH 'A lh'ed, awt tor which one of the m has died. American lm.\ hornl, and t t1at IR a trPrneuctous factor In th .. l1t.11d, 110, k non R Dt"nllwood Dick, Jr. a w:oo<1 t1eal betf e r thA.11 11 knows lts calt>chts111, 1::rn<1 1ulllt1111s of youna minds n ... rhrllllng lr1cltt e11ts or his career In hi WHl'fttre ttgal111n crime aud ht11 never-endlnti solving or tuq1P11 .. trahle mysteries. l\1tl1H111M .. r 1o11\ A follow hie Rfealthy footareps us he track hie vlclo11:o1 vlcUnis 10 their a11d the1, when \"ICtlnaR nr .. 1t111r11111lhly 111uto11e, the millions wait hu11grllt1 tor rhe 11Pxt which 011 every Wednesday appeal-. with tht! <0err1t.l11r . v of the Wednesday ltaelt, and a new ae ot delightful thrllls go thrilling away from Malue to Call forntH. There are rhe volumes each so crowded with thrtlla anEADWOOD DICR LIBHARY. l Deadwood Dick, the l'hoce ot the Road I The Double Daggers; o r Deadwood Di ck's Defiance 8 The BulTl\lo Demon: or. The Border Vultures BulTalo Ben, Prince or the Pistol I Wild Ivan, the Boy Claud e Duval thP Detective f The Phantom Min e r ; or, Deadwood Dick's Bonanza 8 Old Avalanche, the Great Annihilator; or, Wild Edna, the Girl Brigand 9 Bob Woolf, the Border Ruffian Omah" Oil, the Masked Terror; or, Deadwood Dick In Dan1?er (; Jim Bludsoe, Jr., the Boy Phenix; or, Through to Deatt Ill Deadwoor Chier Ill Deadwood Dick i Leadville; or. A l:ltraui: e Stroke tor Liberty lllt Deadwood Dick a Detective Ii Dick Ill Bonanza B ill the Man-Tracker; or, 'rh .. ::atl wo.1d Dick Dead woorl: or, The Picked Party 86 N .. w Yor k Ne I. rh"" 1 o Qirl Dett>ctivt\ 87 Nohh" Nick of Nevadtt:' or, Th.,Scampsotthe8ierr81' 88 \\y i d Frank. thP Buck$kin Bravo 39 D"adwood Dick' s Doom; or, Calamity Jane's Lu&-Adventnre 40 DPa<1wood Dick's Dream; or, The Rlvnls or the Road41 Deadwood Dick's Ward; or, The Black Hills Jezebel 42 The Arab DetPctive; or, Snoozer, the Boy Sharp 48 The Ventriloquist Detective. A Romance o t Rogue!! 44 Detec tive Josh Grim; or, The Young Gladiator' Game 45 The Frontier Detective; or, Sierra Sam's Scheme 46 The Jimtown Sport: or, Gypsy Jack in Colorado 47 The Miner 8port; or, Sugar-Coated Sam's Claim 48 Dick Drew. the Miner's Son: or, Apollo Bill, th& Rnart-Agl'nt 49 Sierra Sam. the Detective !'iO Double; or, The Three Female Detect ives 61 Slerrn Sam's Sentence; or, Little Luck at Roug)J Rnnch The Girl Sport: o r, Jumho Joe's Dinufse 53 Denver I oil' De\'iC<': or, The Detective Queen 54 Dt>n Vf"r Dol I u .. tecti \'8 55 Denver Dnll's Partner; or, Bil!: lluckskln the Spor\ 116 l>enver Doll's l\1in<'; or, Little Bill's Big Loss 57 Deadwood Dick Trapped 58 B"'k Hawk, Dett'ctive; or, The Messeng-er Boy'S Fortune 59 Dendwo"d Dick'R DiRl(UIRP; o r Wild Walt. the Sport. 60 D11mh Dick's P"rd: or. Eliza Jane, the Gold Miner 61 Deadwoorl Dic k'i.; 62 Spoller Fritz: nr, ::ltqre-Detectlve's Decoy 63 The DetPC't lVP Ro11d-Age11t; or, The Miners or Sassafra. 0ity 64 C o l o r ,.do Charlie's Detective Dnsh; or. The< King M. J. IVERS & CO., Pnbllsht'rS (JameR Snllivan, Proprietor), 879 Pearl Street. NF.\V YOltl\.