Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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First published in Chums, Cassell & Co., London, 10 November 1917

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2023
Version Date: 2023-07-19

Produced by Keith Emmett and Roy Glashan

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JEFF BASSETT suddenly stopped paddling and sat quite still, with his eyes fixed on a smudge of blue which rose against the distant sky.

"There's the hill, Nick," he said, and his voice shook a little.

"'Pon my soul, I believe you're right, Jeff?" Nick Orde replied. "There are the two peaks, one higher than the other. Then your old uncle was right after all."

"I never doubted it," said Jeff quietly.

"Then you believe in the gold and all?"

"Of course I do, and you'll find I'm right," said Jeff as quietly as ever. "And now, as it's getting late, we'll camp."

They paddled ashore, pulled up the canoe, and got their blankets and swag out.

"Look!" whispered Jeff suddenly, and pointed.

Nick's eyes widened, his jaw dropped. If he could believe his senses, there was a white man on the far side of the Billalong, the sluggish creek up which they had paddled so many weary miles. White, yet not like any white man he had ever seen. This man was naked except for a skin cloak such as the black fellows wear. In one hand he held a stone waddy, in the other a large bowl of some yellow metal, which gleamed dully in the evening light. His muscular development was enormous, but his face, white as it was, was purely savage, and his beard was huge and shaggy like a lion's mane.

The two young fellows watched, spell-bound, while the apparition came down to the water's edge, and bending forward, dipped his basin to fill it. As he stooped, out of the weeds which grew along the edge of the water, there shot up the hideous head of a ten-foot alligator. The man saw it and sprang back. He was quick, but not quite quick enough. The beak-like jaws closed on his leg and jerked him off his feet. The man raised his waddy and brought it down with fearful force on the head of his scaly enemy. The brute's grip did not relax, and the man, struggling frantically, was being dragged down into the dark depths of the creek when Jeff's rifle spoke. The heavy bullet, striking the alligator just under the leg, tore its way deep into its body. Before the crashing report had ceased echoing up and down the long avenue of the creek, the alligator let go, and rolling over, lay lashing the water into a bloody froth. The wounded man, staggering back, fell in a heap.

"Come on. He'll bleed to death," said Jeff sharply, and sprang into the canoe.

The white savage was already twisting a piece of cord around his leg to stop the bleeding. He looked up at the new-comers with a queer, half-frightened, half-curious expression in his blue-grey eyes.

"What in the world is he?" muttered Nick as he and Jeff stepped ashore.

"Where do you come from?" demanded the man, and in spite of his white skin, both the boys started at hearing him speak English.

"Brisbane," Jeff answered. "But don't talk; let's patch up those wounds of yours."

The man allowed Jeff to put on the bandage. All the time he looked at the rifle with the awe of a savage who has never before seen firearms.

"Is that a gun?" he asked at last.

"Mean to say you've never seen one?" exclaimed Jeff.

"No, but grandad, he's seed 'em," was the answer. "You come along with me to camp."

The two youngsters glanced at one another. They were badly puzzled and very doubtful.

"Suppose we'd better take him back, he can't walk," said Jeff. "Where is your camp?" he asked the man.

"Not far," the savage said briefly, pointing up the creek.

They helped him into the canoe, and had paddled about half a mile up the creek when they heard a sound of voices.

They landed at a place indicated by the savage, where three rough canoes, cut out of solid logs, were drawn up. Then, carrying the wounded man, they made their way up a rough track, and came out into an open space, where about a dozen bark huts stood. Fires were burning in the open and women cooking. A number of children played about, and perhaps a score of men sat at their ease at the doors of the huts. All the latter had great fair beards, like their companion; they were dressed in skins, and they were white men without a doubt.

The arrival of the boys caused a tremendous sensation. The women stood gaping, the children ran, the men sprang up and glared.

"It's all right, mates," said the wounded man. "These fellers are all right. They got a gun."

In a moment Jeff, who was carrying the rifle, was fairly mobbed.

"Hang on to the rifle, Jeff. Don't let them take it away," Nick whispered.

But no one offered to take it. They seemed to be afraid of it.

"Who are you? Where do you come from?" asked a huge man, apparently the chief.

"Brisbane," Jeff told him, but that evidently meant nothing. Jeff pointed to the east.

"A long way over there," he explained.

The chief turned to the wounded man.

"What hurt you, Sam?" he asked.

Sam explained. He made much more of the shooting than of his own injuries. The chief, whose name appeared to be Jim, was deeply impressed. He begged Jeff to shoot something. As luck had it, a great crow was perched on a tree-top close by. It was an easy shot. Jeff took careful aim, fired, and down came the bird with a heavy flop. Jim strode forward and picked up the body. Seeing the hole clean through it, his eyes fairly blazed. He came back through his silent followers.

"Good!" he said, "good! Now we shall kill all the black fellows. There will not be one left, and all the land will be ours."

He turned to the women.

"Grub!" he said. "Bring grub."

Tremblingly the women brought some roasted meat, baked yams, and emu's eggs. They were served on platters of the same yellowish metal as Sam's basin. The latter, by the by, had fallen into the creek and disappeared.

As Jeff took his, its weight startled him.

"Good lor', Jeff, it's gold!" he gasped.

"Gold! Yes, it's gold!" said Big Jim.

Jeff was speechless. He looked round, and realised that the cooking pots, the water jugs, and the head of the chief's club—all were of solid gold. Even though he and Nick had made all this tremendous journey through the unknown wilds of Northern Australia to find the gold promised in his uncle's will, yet never for a moment had he dreamed of such profusion of the precious metal.

By the time they had finished their supper it was dark.

"You sleep in there," said Big Jim, pointing to an empty hut. "To-morrow we start killing black fellows!"

"This is a rum go," observed Nick when the two were left alone.

"The queerest ever," replied Jeff. "Uncle George was right about the gold, but he never mentioned these folk."

"I suppose they weren't here then. Who on earth are they, Jeff?"

"Must be descendants of some ship's crew wrecked on the north coast ages ago," replied Jeff. "They are of white ancestry anyhow. English, too, I'm sure."

"But pretty near as savage as black fellows now. And they want us to kill black fellows for them. What are we going to do?"

"I'm not going to do their fighting for them, anyhow. We'll see if they're open to a trade. One gun for all the gold we can carry in the canoe. Now I'm going to sleep, Nick."

THE huge form of the chief blocking the doorway of the hut was the first thing Jeff's eyes rested on as he awoke.

"You sleep like a tree bear," remarked Big Jim, with good-humoured contempt. "Grub's ready. Then we go kill them black fellers."

"What, do you want to kill them for?" asked Jeff.

Big Jim stared.

"You must be a fool. They kill you quick if you don't kill them."

"They've never tried to kill me. I've no quarrel with them," said Jeff.

"'Quarrel'?—what's that?" asked the chief, frowning. He and his people understood only the very simplest words, and Jeff had a job to explain.

The explanation did not please Jim.

"You do as I tell you," he said sourly, and handled his waddy significantly.

"We're due for trouble, Jeff," said Nick as the two went outside for a wash. They performed their ablutions in a basin of beaten gold, worth, perhaps, a thousand pounds, and ate boiled fish off platters of the same amazing material.

After breakfast, Jeff went up to Big Jim.

"See here," he said, "I can't shoot black fellows if they don't try to kill me first. But I tell you what I'll do. I'll give you a gun for some of this gold of yours."

"I can't shoot like you," growled Jim.

"You'll soon learn," Jeff answered.

"You teach me?"

"Yes, I'll teach you."

"All right," Jim said. "You can have all the gold you want. There's plenty over there in the big rock."

Then Jeff explained that he must go down the creek and fetch the other gun.

Jim insisted on going with him. Jeff realised that the chief did not trust him.

THE morning was spent in target practice, but Big Jim made a horrid hash of the shooting. He grew more and more sulky. At dinner-time, Jeff and Nick went to see Sam, who was lying in one of the huts. He seemed to be mending fast, but he was not happy.

"You fellers look out," he said bluntly. "Big Jim, he's angry with you. You better do what he says or maybe he'll kill you."

"We'll have to sneak off, Jeff," said Nick, as they went back to their own quarters.

"If they give us a chance," replied Jeff grimly. "At present every mother's son of them is watching us."

"We've got our rifles," Nick reminded him.

"Hush!" whispered Jeff, "here's Jim."

Big Jim sauntered across.

"You give me them guns," he demanded.

Jeff snatched up his rifle.

"No," he said boldly. "They're our own. I'll shoot you if you try that game!"

"Look out, Jeff!" whispered Nick, "the others are all round us."

It was true, and Jeff's heart sank. He might kill Big Jim and one or two more, but numbers must tell. Jim stood quite still. His pale blue eyes glittered with an ugly light. Jeff held the rifle pointed full at his head. He would not shoot till forced to do so.

CRASH! Something struck the roof of the hut with a heavy thud. There was a yell of pain from one of the men outside. Jim wheeled round.

"Black fellows!" he roared, and as spoke a hurtling spear whizzed past his head.

At the same moment a mob of black fellows swept into the clearing.

Shouting to his men, Big Jim rushed straight at the foe. The whole of his followers charged together, and the crash of blows and shrieks and yells filled the hot air.

Jeff saw the white men go down. Jim and his followers were terribly outnumbered.

"Shoot. Nick!" he cried. "Let 'em have it!"

The two repeating rifles began to crack, and at almost every shot one of the hideous, woolly-haired black savages dropped. Panic seized them. Clearly firearms were new to them. They turned and ran, and after them rushed Big Jim and his followers, their great gold-headed clubs rising and falling, and exacting a terrible vengeance for those of their number who had been killed.

Inside two minutes the last had disappeared into the thick bush.

"Now's our chance, Nick," said Jeff sharply. "Get down to the canoe. With any luck we'll be well away before any of them are back."

"Jove, then, we won't go empty-handed," exclaimed Nick as he snatched up the gold basin. "Take those plates, Jeff. They'll never miss them. They must have tons of gold."

No doubt he was right. Gold was of far less value than iron in this strange place. Laden with all the pots and plates they could carry, the pair staggered down to the landing, and flinging their cargoes aboard, prepared to follow them into the canoe.

"For goodness' sake, hurry up," cried Nick impatiently. "They may be back any minute. What on earth are you doing?"

"Making sure they won't be after us," replied Jeff serenely, as he flung a bundle of paddles into the canoe.

Then, as both their paddles struck the water together, the canoe shot away.

EXCEPT for short spells, they never stopped until it was too dark to see, and then they landed and made a dark camp up a little creek which joined the main one. No one molested them, and there was no sign of Big Jim and his strange tribe.

In the morning they loaded up and started again. Jeff chuckled softly as he piled the gold bowls and plates into the canoe.

"All of four thousand pounds' worth here, Nick," he said. "Uncle George's legacy is worth having, isn't it?"

"I'm going to spend my share in going back for more," announced Nick. "Jeff, if this pans out, we two will be the richest men in the world."


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
Go to Home Page
This work is out of copyright in countries with a copyright
period of 70 years or less, after the year of the author's death.
If it is under copyright in your country of residence,
do not download or redistribute this file.
Original content added by RGL (e.g., introductions, notes,
RGL covers) is proprietary and protected by copyright.