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horses tied to a tree One of the men by me was Upton.
“ Now look here, Mr. Cleon,” said he, "you're pretty cute, but you're not quite cute enough, you
We want those notes and we mean to have them, so out with it at once, and tell us where they are.”
Yes,” broke in the other, “ we've had trouble enough with you already, and if you don't blab at once we'll cut your throat and have done with it.”
“ Give me a few minutes to think where I am," I said ; “I am sore, and bruised, and bothered, and I don't know where I am or what I'm doing.”
“ You're not wanted to know,” said Upton; come, none of your hatching any of your plots, but out with it at once; where have you planted the notes?”
“Give me time to think," I said ; "that fall has stunned me; give me time.”
“Well, now look here,” replied Upton, “ I'll give you five minutes by my watch to make a clean breast of it, and then, if you don't, as sure as you're alive, I'll blow your brains out;” and pointing his revolver threateningly at me he went back to the fire with the others.
I would have had no hesitation in telling them where the notes were, for, having done my best in the interests of the bank, I could not be expected to sacrifice my life for them. But if I do tell them, I thought, where the notes are, may they not murder me after, on the principle of “dead men tell no tales”? And yet if they do murder me and then find out I have told them wrong, the notes for which they have schemed so much would be lost to them for ever. How could I make sure of my life, and outwit ?
But my ideas were rudely broken in on by Upton, who, calling out “Time's up!” came across from the fire, revolver in hand. “Now, mister, out with it; where are the notes?”
“If I tell you,” said I, “ what will you do with me.” “Why we'll let you go,” he replied.
Well, Upton,” I said, “it will do you no good to kill me, for if you do you'll never find the notes where I have hidden them if you look for fifty years. But I'll tell you where they are."
In another moment I would have told him where they really were, but a certain evil sparkle that came into his eyes at my last words made me change my mind.
“You know," said I, “ the top of the hill going down into Thuringowa. Well, just a mile this side of the top of that hill you'll see a hollow charred stump a little off the track on the left hand side going from here. Inside that stump you'll find my blankets and valise, and—”
“That'll do,” said Bill, as they called the third man, “we'll pretty soon find it; and now let's be off at once, it'll be daylight before we know where
Let's settle this chap first and then step it.”
"No, no,” said Upton, “we won't settle him, for he's a slippery customer, and may be fooling us after all. We'll make him fast to this log here if we get the notes all right; and if not, we'll have him to talk to after.”
“That's the ticket, boss!” replied the third
“Hold on till I get something to fasten him down with, and we'll have him snug in two twos.”
And, returning presently with a piece of creeper or vine, the wretches carried me to a log close by, and, laying me along, face downwards, they drew my arms tightly together, and then my legs, and made them fast, with seizings underneath, just where the log was raised off the ground by a protruding branch on its under side. Placing a short piece of stick in my mouth, they secured it behind, and effectually gagged me. Then getting their horses, they had a last look at me and rode away, “Bill” remarking with a hideous laugh as he went, “Look at the fire, boys ; how's it burning up ? We'll have to hurry back, or see if he won't get toasted!”
Until then I had not realised the full horror of my situation, and, to do the scoundrels justice, I do not think they had either. They had bound me“I really believe thoughtlessly—to the very log by the side of which they had lighted their fire, and the upper end of which would soon be in a blaze. I was left embracing the tree about half-way down, where it was perhaps a couple of feet through, and their fire had been lighted by one of the upper branches. The tree was on a slope, the branches lowermost, and the fire was travelling slowly upwards, while I was watching it with bloodshot eyes. I was doomed! Before they could get back the fire would have reached me, and all would be over. The smoke even now sometimes almost stifled me. The heat I could feel travelling up the inside hollow pipe of tae tree, and already warming it ready for the devouring flame. In vain I struggled to break the ties that bound my hands and feet. Useless I knew; that green vine was stronger than the newest rope, and my poor bruised, aching limbs only ached the more. How far had they to go? I could not tell, for I did not know where I was. Somewhere near the hill going down which my horse fell with me I supposed; and if so, they had a long way to go to reach my plant. And even if they got back in time, would they let me go? They must; they could not see me slowly burn and scorch away. There were no men so inhuman as that. But they would not be back in time. The fire was creeping up nearer and nearer; the heat and smoke were stifling me; and this was Christmas Eve-it must be Christmas morning nown that I was to have spent with my wife-my wife ! Should I never see her again ? I would get free -another useless struggle—the gag was choking me, I could not breathe. The fire comes nearer and nearer—it is scorching me-it is burning into my brain-fire everywhere. My wife-Marianchild !
I was lying in a cool bedroom opening out on the verandah at Southampton Downs. My wife was sitting by me, while my head was swathed in soft, wet linen. Not for some days after did they finish the story of that fearful night.
It appeared that my wife's mare, “Lady Jane," after I let her go, made her way to her old home, jumping all the fences. Anxious at my nonappearance, my wife had left her bedroom, and was out on the verandah watching, when up came the mare with a whinny and covered with foam. Directly suspecting something wrong, she had raised the alarm, and a party had started off in search. They crossed the creek that had stopped me higher up, and, riding on for Thuringowa, had seen to the right of the track the blazing log. Thinking they might find traces of me, they turned off to it, and then, to their horror, they saw me lying on the log insensible, enveloped in smoke, and the fire almost reaching my head. They cut me loose and took me home.
The notes were safe after all in the ant-hill where I had planted them. All three of the men were subsequently caught. “Upton" turned out to be an escaped Victorian convict named Morris, and was hanged in Armidale Gaol for the murder
of the real Upton when on his way up to join the bank at Windsor. The young fellow had spoken freely to Morris, his fellow-traveller, of his destination and business, and the latter had murdered him off the road below Tamworth, where his body was afterwards found, and stealing his papers had subsequently concocted the scheme. He it was who had tried to enter my bedroom, with the object of getting my safe key, and had abstracted the cartridges from my revolvers. The man with the valueless cheque was a confederate, who was to have made an attack with him upon me in the bank, but some little thing occurred each time to prevent them. The two others were sentenced to penal servitude for life. I myself perfectly recovered, and not long afterwards brought my wife home to England. And so ends my story of a “ Perilous Ride."
NATURAL HISTORY NOTES.
THE GIGANTIC CHESNUT OF THE PACIFIC.
OTHING can be more agreeable to the pedes
trian in the hot season at Rarotonga than to sit
at midday on the primitive stone seat invariably placed at the roots of ancient chesnut-trees. The chesnut (Inocarpus edulis) is known to the natives of the Hervey Group as the u.* If undisturbed by the hand of man it is apt to take entire possession of the best soil. It especially loves the banks of a stream. Laved by the mountain torrents, the roots are often so fantastically gnarled as to be worthy of the study of a painter. The delicate glossy leaves of spring (October) are of a pale green, in striking contrast to the thick dark leaves of the past season lying underneath. In the South Pacific only the banyan, caral, and vit trees are deciduous; so that the islands are clothed with evergreen. The chesnut is speedily covered with a mass of tiny pale-yellow flowers, which continue to make their appearance-though more sparingly -until the end of April. The whole neighbourhood thus becomes redolent with the delicate odour. I As the young leaves mature, the old ones drop silently; so that by the end of the year the foliage is entirely new.
The chesnut of the Pacific is a very beautiful tree. Next to the cocoa-nut palm, it is lord of the landscape. Rising ten or twelve feet without a branch, it often attains the height of sixty feet. The leaves alternate, are oblong, and sometimes are fourteen inches in length. The fruit hangs singly or in clusters of twos and threes from slender twigs, and occasionally from the trunk
itself.* It is flat, irregularly shaped, and contains but one seed. When young and hot out of the oven, it is palatable and nutritious; but as the season advances it becomes hard and almost tasteless. A chesnut lying before me-pod included -is five inches by four, weighing eleven ounces. But to get at the seed a hatchet is required. A few days ago a pupil of mine chopped off the top of a finger in this process. The fibrous pod, from one-third to half an inch in thickness, must be removed ere the kernel is cooked in the native oven. This seeming drawback enables the natives to store up the ripe nuts in pits, well-lined with leaves, against the season of scarcity. About three hundred nuts are required for one pit. They keep good until chesnuts are in season again. As the ripe nuts are very hard and difficult of digestion, it is customary to grate them, mix the pulp with cocoa-nat, and bake the whole as a pudding. In this way an excellent dish is furnished with little trouble. A man who has two or three pits of chesnuts, as many of mai, or sour bread-fruit paste, with a number of old cocoa-nuts, is well provided for against the season of scarcity (i.l., the so-called winter of the tropics). In a word, the chesnut is one of the main supports of human life in the volcanic islands of the Pacific. It comes in season just before the bread-fruit; and now at the end of August—long after the bread-fruit has disappeared-there are still ripe nuts on the trees. Underneath, the ground is covered with them. In colour the ripe nut is of a rich yellowish red.
The trunk of a fine chesnut-tree in my neighbourhood measures thirty-six feet in circumference. The natural inference would be a diameter of twelve feet. Such, however, is not the case. Tihe
* The ifi of Samoa, and the mape of the Tahitian Group. + Spondins dulces.
Captain Turpie, of the Mission bark, assures me that often, when four or five miles out at sea off the islands of this group at sunset, he has been delighted at the fragrance wasted by the land breeze. This would be from the blossoms of the chesnut, pandanus, orange, and citron trees.
* A famous event ; anciently supposed to be a special mark of Divine favour.
and lines it with feathers. White says it has a 'sweet, plaintive note,' which is but half the truth. It has a long, tender, delicious warble, not wanting in strength and volume, but eminently pure and sweet—the song of the chaffinch refined and idealised. The song is, perhaps, in the minor key, feminine and not masculine, but it touches the heart,
• That strain again; it had a dying fall.'
heart of the tree is only two feet in diameter; whilst in every direction are slender shafts or buttresses—from one to two inches in thickness-projecting gracefully at the bottom some four or five feet from the trunk. There are few more interesting objects than a chesnut throwing aloft its mighty branches covered with the densest foliage, the vast weight supported only by a slender trunk running out into a number of plank-like shafts. In the recesses thus formed children love to play at hide and seek. Some of these buttresses yield a musical sound when struck; so that in heathen times it was usual to beat them instead of gongs, in order to collect the population in the cool of the afternoon in the open air to rehearse their parts in the semi-dramatic performances of those days.
The sap of the Inocarpus edulis is blood-red. Its timber is soft and used only for burning coral lime.
Proprietorship in this useful tree varies. In some islands the owner of the soil claims the fruit, but usually it is free to all, being rarely planted. Thus happily we need no poor laws.
Old men delight to tell of those who in the cruel days of idolatry escaped from their cannibal foes by hiding in this tree. Sometimes it was the thick fóliage that concealed them; at other times it was the hollow formed by the branching out of giant limbs at one point. In other stories collectors of ripe nuts, oblivious of danger, were surrounded and speared from beneath ; men and nuts cooked in the same oven to furnish a meal for the murderers.
The gigantic chesnut of the Pacific attains to a great age. When greatly decayed, it renews its vigour by sending down into the soil roots from the perfect branches. In time a new trunk is thus formed inside the decayed one. Chesnuts are still bearing fruit on Mangaia which were planted by Amu, a chief who ruled that island four centuries ago. When very old the buttresses disappear, and so its distinctive appearance is lost. The axe and natural decay of the more exposed parts may account for this.
The leaf of the chesnut from time immemorial furnished the extempore kite of native boys, large kites of native cloth being used by men alone.
WILLIAM WYATT GILL, B.A. Rarotonga, South Pacific.
The song of the willow warbler has a dying fall; no other bird-song is so touching in this respect. It mounts up round and full, then runs down the scale, and expires upon the air in a gentle mur
I heard the bird everywhere, yet many country people of whom I inquired did not know the bird, or confounded it with some other. It is too fine a song for the ordinary English ear; there is not noise enough in it. The white-throat is much more famous; it has a louder, coarser voice; it sings with great emphasis and assurance, and is a much better John Bull than the little willow warbler."
The description here given of the song of the willow warbler is very full, and accurate, and appreciative, but Mr. Burroughs is mistaken in thinking that this delightful songster is quite unknown to fame. It has some very warm admirers in the British Islands, and for the last thirty or forty years the present writer has been making known its note and name to every one irith whom he has walked and talked in country lanes and woodland places in spring or autumn. For the song of the willow warbler is not only unceasing and ubiquitous in May, but it is heard again in August and up to the time of the autumn migration.
In “Lyrics, Sylvan and Sacred,” published in 1878, there is a rondeau, entitled “The Willow Warbler,” in which several points of the American's genial description of its song have been anticipated. It has been often quoted, but may be here given as proving that the sweet cadences of this favourite songster are not unappreciated by English
Sweet, soft, and low, in wood and lane, The Willow Warbler weaves its chain
Of melody-a plaintive song
That seems to breathe of ancient wrong And dimly-recollected pain.
THE WILLOW WARBLER.
Its melting cadences retain
Sweet, soft, and low.
In “Longman's Magazine" for May of this year there was an interesting paper by Mr. John Burroughs, entitled "An American's Impressions of some British Song Birds.” After speaking with praise of the chaffinch, the thrush, and the blackbird, he goes on to say: “The most melodious strain I heard, and the only one that exhibited to the full the best qualities of the American songsters, proceeded from a bird quite unknown to fame, in the British Islands at least. I refer to the willow warbler, or willow wren, as it is also called (Sylvia Trochilus), a little brown bird that builds a dome-shaped nest upon the ground,
Thus after Life's most happy strain
Recurring oft and lingering long,
And hard the gayest scenes among ; Of lost joys hinting not in vain
Sweet, soft, and low.
But I am happy to quote the beautiful words of another writer, the Rev. T. A. Holland, of Poyning's Rectory, Suffolk, author of "Dryburgh Abbey
It will be seen that Mr. Holland, in his admirable description of the willow warbler's song
" Which rises, falls, and faints, then dies away”.
and other Poems." The following sonnet ap
. peared some years ago :
Whose is that airy laugh, that liquid song,
Poured from the highest willow's highest spray,
Which rises, falls, and faints, then dies away,
Poised on a leaf, within the shimmering ray,
Behold, of form minute, an agile fay :
As through still darkling groves its cadence thrills,
To rouse warm-cushioned, wing-enfolded bills ;
does not associate the idea of melancholy with its silvery cadence; but I think the general verdict of its admirers would agree with Gilbert White's opinion that the prevailing note is “plaintive.” At all events I hope enough has been said to wipe away the reproach that the willow warbler is quite unknown and unappreciated in England, and perhaps to lead some readers of this paper to make the acquaintance of this melodious.songster.
WO geese, when about to start southwards on
by a frog to take him with them. On the geese expressing their willingness to do so if a means of conveyance could be devised, the frog produced a stalk of strong grass, and made the two geese take it one by each end, while he clung to it by his mouth in the middle. In this manner the three were making their journey successfully when they were noticed from below by some men, who loudly expressed their admiration of the device, and wondered who had been clever enough to discover it. The vainglorious frog, opening his mouth to say
“ It was I," lost his hold, fell to the earth, and was dashed to pieces.
Moral. Do not let pride induce you to speak when safety requires you to be silent.
A traveller noticed a parrot clearing the water with his wing, and asking what it meant, the parrot replied: “I clear the water to avoid drinking flies and thus destroying life.” The parrot flew off, and a little farther on the same traveller saw the same bird perched on a wall saying his prayers. Taking a liking for such a pious bird, the traveller went up to where he was, and found him busily feasting on worms !
On the same journey the traveller entered an abode, and found the master of the house feasting a priest whom he had invited to perform services. On the ground, in front of the priest, was a piece of gold. The priest slyly stuck a piece of wax on his praying sceptre, and thus, unnoticed, picked up the gold and put it into the bosom of his coat. As the priest left the house he happened to see a