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"Them's the kind of coveys I likes," responded the soldier. "He shan't feel the touch of the irons, and shall fare like a grenadier. But you won't forget the other fifty."
I a.s.sured the man that the money should be forthcoming; and just then the shrill notes of a trumpet were heard outside, followed by the roll of a drum.
"You must leave instantly," cried Captain Fitz, hurriedly. "The prisoners are about to be led out."
We rushed towards Fred, gave him a hearty shake of our hands, whispered a few words of encouragement, and then were compelled to leave the building.
"Pa.s.s this way, gentlemen," the captain said; "I'll escort you through the lines, as you might find some difficulty in answering the sentry's challenges."
We followed the kind-hearted officer, and were soon outside the lines, when we thanked him for his kindness.
"Some other time we will talk of the matter," he answered. "I must now hasten back to my command; but one word before we part. Don't think that all British officers resemble Colonel Kellum. Now, I will thank you for the overcoats, or my brother officers will scold worse than a dragoon.
Adieu. We shall meet in Melbourne."
He disappeared in the darkness, and we walked silently to the store, where we found Smith, who was so overcome by the arrest of Fred that he had drank six or seven gla.s.ses of whiskey, and announced his intention of continuing to imbibe until he was lost to all reason. A few words of comfort, however, and an announcement that we should leave for Melbourne in the morning, and require him to look after the store until our return, sobered him, and he vowed not to touch another gla.s.s of spirits until Fred was released.
Mr. Brown promised to accompany me, and before morning we packed up our clothes, and at daylight we were on our way in the stage, rolling along at the rate of ten miles an hour; and in two days after leaving the mines we were in Melbourne, and closeted with Murden, who proved himself our friend in adversity, as he was in prosperity.
"I will do all that I can," he said, after listening to our story. "The commissioner has so magnified matters that the governor and council really think a most formidable insurrection has occurred, and that he has displayed great power in putting it down. To make the affair as complicated as possible, the governor seems to think that the Americans were at the head of the conspiracy, and have urged the English on to action. I, of course, know better, and will endeavor to have him put right on the subject."
Murden appointed an interview in the afternoon, and then left us to lay our case before a few of the most influential members of the council, while we visited old acquaintances, and explained to Smith's wife, who was living in a very pleasant house in the city, the reason why her husband would not return for a week or two. The lady was heartily glad to see me, and at her request Mr. Brown and myself took up our quarters in her house during our stay in the city.
In the afternoon we called on Murden, and found that he had accomplished his object. The governor, on his representations, had ordered a discharge to be immediately made out, and sealed by the broad seal of the colony, and intimated that a most thorough investigation should be inst.i.tuted regarding the conduct of both the commissioner and Colonel Kellum at Ballarat.
"And now to conclude a long story," said Murden, "here is a discharge which states that your friend was unjustly arrested, and that he be released from custody, no matter under whose jurisdiction he may be, forthwith. His excellency also bade me state that he should be pleased to see you before your departure from the city, and requests Mr.
Inspector Brown to repair to Ballarat and report for duty."
"Ah, Murden," Mr. Brown exclaimed, "I am indebted to you for this re-appointment."
"I thought that I might as well kill two birds with one stone, as the saying is, and faith I've done it. But I see that both of you are impatient to leave my pleasant company, which is ungrateful; but I overlook it with Christian meekness. You can't go though until you have dined with me, and then called to thank his excellency."
The proposition was accepted, and after dining with the lieutenant we visited the palace, and were most heartily greeted by the governor and his council, and at their request we explained our views at considerable length in relation to the affairs of Ballarat and the mining tax, and the means by which future troubles could be avoided. We were listened to with attention, and I sincerely believe that what we uttered that day did considerable towards inducing the government to abolish all excepting a mere nominal tax, and to once more restore order in the mines.
After leaving the palace we engaged seats in the stage, and that night were rolling towards Ballarat, with the expectation of meeting the military not more than thirty miles from Melbourne, and we were correct in our supposition, for just at daylight the driver stopped, and pointed out the company just striking their tents and getting ready for their morning march. We induced the driver to await our return, and to the extreme surprise of Captain Fitz we presented ourselves, and requested the release of Fred, and after a brief examination of the doc.u.ment the captain complied with our demand.
Our meeting with Fred was of a joyous description, but we had but little time to waste in explanations. The driver was impatient, and the soldiers ready to march. I had but time to reward the sergeant for his kindness, and to a.s.sure Fred's fellow-prisoners that I would use all the exertion that I could to obtain their pardons, when the rolling drum gave the signal for moving, and in a few minutes the military were lost to view in a cloud of dust.
But I must here draw my long narrative to a close, not because we did not afterwards meet with adventures worthy to be recounted, but because a lengthy absence from the country precludes the idea of further continuing the series of sketches, which I am glad to find have found favor in the eyes of the public.
For the satisfaction of the reader, I will state that for three years we remained in Australia, and then when we left that country it was with a solid conviction that we had been repaid for our toil and trouble, our sufferings and pleasures.
Before I bid farewell to my readers, I will state that the miners who were arrested and marched to Melbourne were all discharged, and that after the mining tax was reduced, all further trouble ceased.
In many instances, in the course of the narrative, I have used fict.i.tious names; but the reader will pardon me when I state that most of those introduced are still alive, and employed by the Australian government, and it would hardly be right to expose their good or bad actions to the world. With these few words I am happy to inform the reader that my sketches are, for the present, brought to an end, but I hope at some future time to resume them, and publish a second series of "Adventures in Australia."