I must now relate something of the previous history of this young man Trenfield. He was a native of Bideford, in Devon--my mother's county--and had been a sailor. Some years before, he, with another young man named Thomas May, had been concerned in a mutiny on board a London whale-ship, the Jason, and both men were sentenced to fourteen years' penal servitude, it being believed, though not proven, that either Trenfield or May had killed one of the officers with a blow of the fist. They were, with six of their shipmates, tried at the Old Bailey, and although a Quaker gentleman, a Mr Robert Bent, who had visited them in prison, gave a lawyer fifty guineas to defend them, the judge said that although the death of the officer could not be sheeted home to either of them, there was no doubt of their taking part in the mutiny--with which offence they were charged. After spending three months in one of the convict hulks they were sent out to Sydney in the Breckenbridge transport. But before they sailed they were several times visited by Mr Bent, who told them that he would always bear them in mind, and should endeavour to have their sentences reduced if he heard good word of their future conduct from his agent in Sydney; this Mr Bent was the owner of several of the Government transports, which, after discharging their cargo of convicts, would sail upon a whaling cruise to the South Seas. More than this, he said that he would give them berths on one of his vessels as soon as they regained their freedom, and that he had written to his agent to that effect.

It so happened that this agent, a Mr Thomas Campbell, was a friend of my father's, who also knew Mr Bent, and so when the Breckenbridge arrived at Sydney he succeeded in having Trenfield assigned to him, and Thomas May to a contractor who was building a bridge for the Government over a river in the vicinity of Bar Harbour.

The two young seamen were very much attached to each other, and their cheerful dispositions, good conduct and unceasing industry led to their being granted many privileges. Both my father and my mother had taken a strong liking to Trenfield; and so, too, had Ruth Kenna, a young free female servant of ours. As for we boys, we simply worshipped both Trenfield and May as heroes who had sailed in the far South Seas and harpooned and killed the mighty sperm whale, and had fought with the wild and naked savages of the Pacific Isles.

Ruth Kenna was the daughter of a small farmer in the district, who had been emancipated by the good Governor. He was a widower, and a rough, taciturn man, but passionately devoted to Ruth, who was his only child. He had been transported for having taken part in the disastrous Irish rebellion of '98,' and his young wife had followed him to share his exile. The terrors and hardships of the long voyage out killed her, for she died almost as soon as she landed, without seeing her husband, and leaving her infant child to the kindly care of the officers of the detachment of the regiment which had come out in the same ship. By them the infant girl had been placed in the charge of a respectable female convict, who, at my mother's expense, had kept her till she was ten years of age. Then she came to us as a servant, and had remained ever since.

Very often my father--though he pretended, as became his official position in a Crown Colony, to have a great dislike to Irish Roman Catholics--would allow we boys to go to Patrick Kenna's farm to shoot native bears and opossums, which were very plentiful thereabout, for the land was very thickly timbered with blue gum, tallow-wood and native apple. The house itself stood on the margin of a small tidal creek, whose shallow waters teemed with fish of all descriptions, and in the winter Kenna would catch great numbers of whiting, bream and sea mullet, which he salted and dried and sold to the settlers who lived inland. He lived quite alone, except from Saturday morning till Sunday morning, when Ruth stayed with him and straightened up the rough house. Sometimes Ruth would persuade my mother to let my brother Will and myself stay with them for the night, and dearly did we love going; for her father, though a silent, cold-mannered man to most people, was always different to any one of us Egertons, and never even grumbled when we got into mischief, though he pretended to be very angry. Once, indeed, he had good cause to be--as I shall relate.

One Saturday evening, after we had finished our supper, Patrick Kenna found that he had run out of tobacco, and said that if we were not afraid of being left by ourselves for a few hours he would walk into Bar Harbour and buy some before the store closed, returning before midnight. Of course we did not mind, and in a few minutes Ruth's father set out, accompanied by 'King Billy' and one or two other black-fellows who were in hopes of selling some wild honey for a bottle or two of rum. We watched them disappear into the darkness of the forest, and then, as the night was suitable, my brother Will proposed that we should all go down to the creek and fish for black bream.

'The tide is coming in, Ruth,' he said gleefully, 'and we'll have fine sport. I'll go on first and light a fire on the bank.'

Presently, as Ruth and I were getting ready our lines, he dashed into the house again, panting with excitement.

'Never mind the lines. Oh, I have glorious news! The salmon are coming in, in swarms, and the water is alive with them! Ruth, let us get the net and put it right across the creek as soon as it is slack water. 'Twill be glorious.'

Now, we knew that the sea salmon had been seen out at sea a few days before, but it was yet thought to be too soon for their vast droves to enter the rivers and lagoons. But Will was quite right, for when we dragged down the heavy net we found that the water, which half an hour before, though under the light of myriad stars, had been black and silent, was now a living sheet of phosphorescent light, caused by the passage up the creek of countless thousands of agitated fish, driven in by hundreds of porpoises and savage, grey ocean-haunting sharks, whose murderous forms we could see darting to and fro just outside the shallow bar, charging into and devouring the helpless, compact masses of salmon, whose very numbers prevented them from escaping; for serried legion after legion from the sea swam swiftly in to the narrow passage and pressed upon those which were seeking to force their way up to the shallow, muddy waters five miles beyond--where alone lay safety from the tigers of the sea.

Ruth Kenna, as wild with excitement as my brother and myself, took up one pole of the net and sprang into the water, leaving Will and I to pay out on our side. She was a tall, strong girl, but what with the force of the inward current and the mad press of the terrified salmon, she could barely reach the sand-spit on the other shore, though the passage was not fifty feet across. But she managed to struggle ashore and secure her end of the net by jamming the pole between some logs of driftwood which lay upon the sand. Then, with a loud, merry laugh, she bade me run up to the house and bring her a petticoat and bodice, and leaping into the water she swam across again and helped Will to properly secure his end of the net to the bole of a tea tree.

Old as I am now, the memory of that happy, happy night lives with me yet. By the light of a huge fire of logs we sat and watched the net, which, as the tide ebbed, curved outward to the sea, though the salmon without still tried to force a passage into the creek, and the ravening sharks outside the deep water of the bar rushed through and through their close-packed ranks and gorged themselves till they rolled about, with distended bellies, as if they were water-logged baulks of timber.

As we sat by the fire, waiting for the tide to run out, we heard the dogs barking and knew that Patrick Kenna had returned. Presently we heard him walking down towards us, and at the same moment Ruth uttered an exclamation of terror and pointed to the water.

'Oh, look! look! There are a lot of sharks inside, coming down the creek. Quick! let this end of the net go, or they will be caught in it and tear it to pieces!'

Her father was alive to the danger. Springing before us, he cut the end of the line fastened to the tea-tree; but he was too late, for before the net had tailed out to the current four or five sharks had dashed into it and entangled themselves in its meshes, and in ten minutes the net was utterly ruined, for although the sharks could not use their teeth, the great weight of their gorged bodies and their furious struggles soon tore the bight of it to shreds.

Kenna watched the destruction of the net in silence. As he stood in the light of the fire, his dark, rugged face showed no sign of the anger that must have burned within him at our thoughtless conduct.

'Ye might have waited till I was back, Ruth,' he said quietly; 'there's as good a net as was ever made gone to ruin. And sure 'twas a mad thing for ye to do when th' ravening sharks were so plentiful.'

Of course my father and mother were very angry with us, and sent Kenna five pounds to partly pay for the damage done. He sent it back by Ruth, and said that he would be a poor creature to take it, for the mishap was caused by Ruth's folly, and that we boys were in no way to blame.

                    *    *    *    *    *

Almost every alternate evening Tom May would come to our house, and go to Walter Trenfield's quarters, which were in a large airy loft over our stable, and the two young men would dress and sew the skins of the wallabies and 'possums which my brothers had shot. My mother never objected to us staying with them till about ten o'clock, and Ruth, too, often came and made coffee for us all. Both May and Trenfield always behaved well and soberly, and although they had been whale-ship sailors they were always very careful in their language when we were with them. Some time before my mother's angry interview with Mr Sampson she had mentioned, in his hearing, to Major Trenton's wife, that her boys were greatly attached to the two young men, whose stories of their former sea life were very exciting, and so forth, whereupon the clergyman said sourly that both were dangerous villains who should not be trusted, and she would do well to prevent the further intercourse of her children with such rascals.

My mother bowed stiffly to him, and said gently that she thought he was mistaken greatly in their characters; also she was well able to look after her children's morals; but Mrs Trenton, a sharp-tongued old Irishwoman, who hated the parson and loved my mother, spoke out pretty plainly.

'No one but a clergyman would make such a rude speech to a lady, sir. A man who called himself a gentleman would be made to account for his lack of manners.'

One Saturday afternoon, as Walter Trenfield and Ruth were driving the cows down to the creek to drink, and Will and I were idling about on the seaward hill, we saw Patrick Kenna ride up to the house, dismount and knock. He only remained indoors a few minutes, and presently we saw him galloping towards Trenfield and Ruth, with whom he stayed talking for even a still shorter time; then, without taking any notice of us--which was most unusual for him--he put spurs to his horse and rode straight for the scrub, towards his home.

'There is something the matter,' said Will. 'See, there is Walter running up to the house again. Come, let us see what it is.'

We ran home, and entering by the garden gate saw that Walter was talking to my mother on the back verandah. She seemed very troubled and almost on the verge of crying, and we soon heard the news, which was bad enough. Thomas May had been given a hundred lashes and had taken to the bush.

It appeared that May, whom we had not seen for one or two weeks, had been working under an overseer named Cross, at a place about ten miles from the town. (This man Cross was of a notoriously savage disposition, and had himself been a convict in Van Diemen's Land, but had received a pardon for having shot and killed a bushranger there.)

May, with the rest of his gang, was felling timber, when a heavy chip flew from the tallow-wood tree upon which he was working, and struck the overseer in the face. Cross at once flew into a violent passion, and with much foul language accused poor May of having thrown the chip at him. This the young fellow warmly denied, whereupon Cross, taking his pistol out of his belt, struck the sailor on the mouth with the butt. In an instant May returned the blow by knocking the overseer down, and was then seized by two of his fellow-convicts. He was ironed and taken into town, and on the following morning was brought before Mr Sampson and another magistrate. It was no use of his pleading provocation, he received his flogging within a few hours. Towards daylight he crept out of his hut, broke into his master's storeroom, and took a musket, powder and ball, and as much food as he could carry, telling a fellow-prisoner that he would perish in the bush rather than be taken alive.

On the fifth night after his escape, and whilst the constables were scouring the country in search of him, he came to Patrick Kenna's house. The night was very dark and the rain descending in torrents; so, there being no fear of intruders, Kenna barred his door and made the poor fellow comfortable by giving him a change of clothes, a good meal and some tobacco to smoke. Tom inquired very eagerly after Walter, and sent him a long message, and then told Kenna some startling news.

Two days after he had absconded, and when he was quite thirty miles distant from Bar Harbour, he saw smoke arising from a dense scrub. Creeping along on his hands and knees he saw two men--escaped convicts like himself--engaged in skinning a wallaby. He at once made himself known to them and was welcomed. After a meal from the wallaby, the two men asked him if he would join them in a plan they had of getting away from the country; he was just the man, they said, being a sailor, who could bring the attempt to a successful issue. Then they told him that, many weeks previously, they had found a whale-boat lying capsized on the beach some miles away, and that she was perfectly sound. By great labour they had succeeded in dragging her up into the margin of the scrub on the beach, where they had turned her over and covered her carefully with dead branches. A further search along the beach had resulted in their finding an oar and one of the line tubs,{*} but that was all.

* English whale-ship boats generally used two line tub's-- American only one. No doubt this boat was lost from an English whaler, the Britannia, then on the coast.

Of course poor Tom May was greatly taken with this, and said that he would join them, and that he thought Walter Trenfield would come as well. He went with the men to look at the boat, and found her just as they had said--almost new and quite watertight. He agreed to return to within a safe distance of Bar Harbour, and, through Patrick Kenna, let Trenfield know of the discovery of the boat and get him to help them to fit her out properly. Oars and a mast they could easily make, had they the tools, and a sail could also be obtained through either Ruth or her father, who could get them enough coarse calico for the purpose.

Kenna promised to help, although he told Tom he should try to dissuade Walter from joining in the enterprise. Just before daylight May bid Kenna good-bye, as he was anxious to return to the other two convicts and tell them that they had friends who would help them. Before he left, however, he arranged with Kenna that the latter should bring the required articles one by one--especially two breakers of water--to the foot of Little Nobby's and hide them in the scrub at the spot agreed upon. Then, when all was ready and a dark night favoured, May and the other two men were to launch the boat and make their way with all speed down the coast to Little Nobby's--nearly twenty miles distant from where the boat was hidden--take on board the water and provisions and put to sea; it being May's intention, whether Trenfield joined him or not, to make to the northward for Timor in the East Indies. Then, with a warm hand-grasp, they parted; and never again was Thomas May seen alive.

On the following morning Kenna contrived to see Walter and tell him that his former shipmate was safe, and what was afoot. Of course Walter was overjoyed to learn that he (Tom) had such a means of escape offering, and at once announced his intention of falling in with the enterprise; but Patrick Kenna spoke very strongly against his doing so, and Ruth, too, came to her father's aid. It was, they said, foolish of him to link himself with these desperate men, every one of whom had a price upon his head, whereas he, Walter, stood in good chance of receiving his pardon at any moment. Why should he sacrifice himself and break Ruth's heart for the sake of his friend?

So, finally, overcome by their arguments, he yielded, saying, however, that he felt he was acting a coward's part, and begged of Kenna to arrange a farewell meeting between Tom and himself. This, wisely enough, Kenna refused to do, but said he would do anything else to make their separation easier. So Trenfield wrote his old comrade a letter of farewell, and, taking a canvas bag, he filled it with all sorts of articles likely to be useful on a long boat voyage. Kenna took the bag, together with material for a sail, away with him at night and placed it in the spot agreed upon with May. He had already given Tom a tomahawk and an adze with which to make some oars and a mast.

On the fourth night after his visit to Kenna's house, Tom May again came through the bush, and went to Little Nobby's, for when Ruth's father went to the hiding-place in the morning with a breaker of water and a large bundle of dried fish, he found that the bag and the sail-cloth were gone, and on a small piece of white driftwood which lay on the ground these words were written in charcoal:--

'Sunday, Midnight?'

By this Kenna knew that the three men meant to come for the provisions and water at the time mentioned. It was then Friday, and he had much to do to get all in readiness; for Little Nobby's was quite six miles distant from his house, and he could only make his journeys to and fro with great secrecy, for the constables were still searching the coastal region for May. But, aided by Billy, the aboriginal, he managed to have everything in readiness early on Sunday night. He afterwards told my mother that besides the two breakers of water, each holding ten gallons, he had provided four gallons of rum, a hundredweight each of salted meat and dried fish, tobacco and pipes, fishing tackle, two muskets, and plenty of powder and bullets. The place selected for the landing of the boat was an excellent one; for on one side of Little Nobby's was a little, narrow bay running in between high clifis of black trap rock, which broke the force of the ocean swell entirely. Then, too, the place was very lonely and seldom visited, for the main road lay nearly two miles back beyond the clifis.

Whether my mother actually knew of all that was going on I do not know; but I do know that about this time she seemed paler than ever, and we frequently saw her and Ruth talking earnestly together; and Ruth and Walter, too, were always whispering to each other.

Sunday came, and as my mother, since her quarrel with the Reverend Mr Sampson over the flogging of old Callaghan, did not now go to church, we all, except my father, who was still on friendly terms with the clergyman, remained at home, my mother herself conducting a short service in the dining-room, at which all the servants, free and bond, attended. In the afternoon Major Trenton, Captain Crozier and some other soldier officers rode up, as was customary with them on Sundays, and Ruth and Denham brought them brandy and water on the front verandah, where they awaited my mother and sisters.

'Harry, you young rascal,' said Major Trenton, presently to my eldest brother, 'what did you do with Mr Moore's picture of the parson, eh?'

'It was stolen from me, sir,' he answered, laughing, 'about three or four months ago.'

'Indeed,' said the major; 'then the thief has principles, and will doubtless send it back to you, for he has made a score of copies of it, and they are all over the district. Why, the rascal, whoever he is, nailed one to the door of the Commissariat Store not long ago, and the first person to see it was Mr Sampson himself. He is mightily wroth about it, I can tell ye, and somehow suspects that the picture came from someone in this house, and told your father that these copies were given about by your man Trenfield. So just ye give a hint to the fellow, and tell him that if the parson gets a chance to tickle his back, faith he'll do it.'

'I am sure, sir, that Walter did not take the picture,' said my brother. 'It was nailed up over my bed and one day I missed it. I thought that my mother had destroyed or taken it away. But she had not, and I cannot account for its disappearance.'

Now this was hardly true, for, from something they had heard from Ruth, both Harry and my sister Frances thought that Thomas May had taken away the caricature, intending to replace it.

'Well, never mind, my lad,' said Major Trenton, laughing, ''tis a monstrous fine joke, anyway, and, faith, I sent one of the copies to the Governor himself. 'Twill amuse him hugely.'

Presently my mother and my two sisters joined the group on the verandah, and as they were all talking and laughing together, Ruth Kenna came to my mother and said that her father had just come with a basket of fresh fish and would like to see her for a minute. I, being the youngest boy of the family, and over-fond--so my brothers said--of hanging on to mammy's apron-strings, as well as being anxious to see the fish, followed her out on to the back verandah, where black-browed, dark-faced Patrick Kenna awaited her.

''Tis a fine dark night coming on, ma'am,' he said in a low voice. 'The wind is north-east and 'twill hould well till daylight. Then 'twill come away from the south-east, sure enough. They should be there long before midnight and out of sight of land before the dawn.'

'Yes, yes, Patrick,' said my mother, hurriedly. 'I shall pray to-night to God for those in peril on the sea; and to forgive us for any wrong we may have done in this matter.'

'No harm can iver come to any wan in this house,' said the man, earnestly, raising her hand to his lips, 'for the blessin' av God an' the Holy Virgin is upon it.'

My mother pressed his hand. 'Good-bye, Patrick. I do hope all may go well;' and with this she went away.

Kenna raised his hat and turned to go, when Walter Trenfield came to the foot of the verandah steps and stopped him.

'Let me come with you,' he said, 'and bid Tom good-bye.'

'No,' answered Kenna, roughly, 'neither you nor I nor any wan else must go near Nobby's to-night; matthers are goin' well enough, an' no folly of yours shall bring desthruction upon them. As it is, the constables suspect me, and are now watching my house.'

Then, mounting his horse again, he rode leisurely away over the brow of the hill towards the scrub, through which his road lay.

Both Walter and Ruth knew that unless the night was very clear there was no chance of even the lookout man on the pilot station seeing a small boat passing along to the southward; but nevertheless they went up to the pilot station about ten o'clock, when they thought that Tom May and his companions would be passing Bar Harbour on their way to Little Nobby's. They stayed on the headland for nearly an hour, talking to Tom King and the look-out man, and then came home, feeling satisfied that if the three men had succeeded in launching the boat safely, they had passed Bar Harbour about eleven o'clock and would reach Nobby's at or before midnight.

Soon after breakfast next morning, Patrick Kenna, under pretence of speaking to my mother about a strayed heifer of ours, came into the kitchen, and told Ruth that all was well; he had been to Little Nobby's at daylight and found that everything was gone and the boat was nowhere to be discerned.

For quite another two or three weeks after this the constables pursued their search after Thomas May, much to the amusement of Ruth and Patrick Kenna, especially as the latter, with 'King Billy' and another aboriginal, were officially employed by my father at ten shillings per diem to discover the absconder--Billy, who seemed to be most anxious to get the reward of five pounds, leading the constables all over the country and eating more than three men's rations daily. At last the chase was abandoned, and my father wrote officially to Sydney and said that 'Thomas May, No. 3614, Breckenbridge,' was supposed to have either died of starvation in the bush or have been killed by the natives. My mother, of course, thought she knew better.

And so the matter was forgotten by everyone but us who had known and cared for the good-natured, high-spirited and warm-hearted young sailor; and as the months went by, Walter Trenfield and my mother both looked forward to receiving a letter from Tom May, telling them that he and his companions had reached some port in the Dutch East Indies in safety. For not only was the boat well found, but they had plenty of provisions, and Tom May was a thorough seaman; and besides that, my mother had often told us the story of the convict William Bryant, who had escaped from Sydney Harbour in Governor Phillip's time, and in an open boat, with four other men and his wife and two infant children, succeeded in reaching Timor, after a voyage of three thousand miles.{*}

* Publisher's Note.--The strange but true story of the Bryants is told in a volume entitled A First Fleet Family. (Louis Becke and Walter Jeffery. London: T. Fisher Unwin. 1896.)

But no letter came until two long years had passed.

Ruth Kenna, at the time of my story, though not yet seventeen years of age, was a tall, powerful girl, and was known as the best horsewoman in all the country around. She was a happy, good-natured sort of a wench, with a heart filled with sunshine and love and truth and honesty; though Mr Sampson once told my father that she was a 'dangerous Papist,' and the child of a convicted rebel, and as such should have no place in a Protestant family. This so angered my mother that she wrote the clergyman a very sharp letter and said she would take it as a favour if he would not interfere with her servants. This was a great thing for her to do; and my father said 'twas most indiscreet. But mother only smiled and said that although she was sorry Ruth was a Papist, she (Ruth) was a good, honest girl, and that her father was a good, honest man, and that if Mr Sampson was wise he would not come near Ruth, who, being a free woman, had said she would throw him down the garden well. At this time Ruth was looking forward to the day of her marriage with Trenfield, who, through my father's influence with the Governor, was expecting to be pardoned.

But now I am forging ahead too fast, and must go back to where we boys and Walter Trenfield were lying on the grassy bluff overlooking Little Nobby's awaiting the return of my brother Harry.