Blake let it be known among the clans that he was going to fight the case for Peggy, and that there was going to be a lawsuit such as the most veteran campaigners of them all had never even dimly imagined—a lawsuit with the happiness of a beautiful woman and the disposal of a vast fortune at stake. Word was carried from selection to selection, across trackless mountain passes, and over dangerous river crossings, until even Larry, the outermost Donohoe, heard the news in his rocky fastness, miscalled a grazing lease, away in the gullies under the shadows of Black Andrew mountain. By some mysterious means it even reached Briney Doyle, who was camped out near the foothills of Kosciusko, running wild horses into trapyards. This occupation had taken such hold on him that he had become as wild as the horses he pursued, and it was popularly supposed that the other Doyles had to go out with horses to run him in whenever they wanted him.
Peggy brought in the copy of her marriage certificate, an old and faded piece of paper which ran, “This is to certify that I, Thomas Nettleship, duly ordained clergyman of the Church of England, have this day solemnised a marriage between William Grant, Bachelor, and Margaret Donohoe, Spinster.”
The name of Pike’s Hotel and the date were nearly illegible, but there the document was; and though it was not the original certificate, it was pretty clear that Peggy could never have invented it. Its production made a great impression. It certainly went far to convince Blake.
He had cross-examined all the witnesses, had checked their accounts by each other, had followed William Grant’s career at that time, had got on to the history of the bush missionary; and everything fitted in. Martin Doyle—Black Martin’s son Martin—was letter-perfect in his part. Peggy could give the details of the ceremony with unfaltering accuracy fifty times a day if need be, and never contradict herself. So at last he gave up trying to find holes in the case, and determined to go in and win.
On the other side there was trouble in the camp—no witnesses could be found, except Martin Doyle, and he was ready to swear to the wedding. At last it became evident that the only chance of overthrowing Peggy’s case was to find Considine; but the earth seemed to have swallowed him up.
The influence of the Chief of Police was brought to bear, and many a weary mile did the troopers of the Outer Back ride in search of the missing man. One of them followed a Considine about two hundred miles across country, and embodied the story of his wanderings in a villainously written report; brief and uncouth as the narrative was, it was in itself an outline picture of bush life. From shearers’ hut to artesian borers’ camp, from artesian well to the opal-fields, from the opal-fields to a gold-rush, from the gold-rush to a mail-coach stable, he pursued this Considine, only to find that, “The individual was not the same.”
Things looked hopeless for Mary Grant, when help came from an unexpected quarter. A letter written in a rugged, forcible fist, arrived for Charlie Gordon from a young fellow named Redshaw, once a station-hand on Kuryong, who had gone out to the back-country and was rather a celebrity in his way. His father was a pensioner at the old station, and Redshaw junior, who was known as Flash Jack, evidently kept in touch with things at Kuryong. He wrote:—
“I hear from Cannon the trooper that you want to find Keogh. When he left the coach that time, he went back to the station and got his horses, and cleared out, and he is now hiding in Peeves’s buffalo camp at the back of Port Faraway. If I hear any more will let you know.
“J. REDSHAW, alas ‘Flash Jack’”
“What’s all this?” said Pinnock, when Charlie and Carew brought him the letter. “Who is J. Redshaw, and why does he sign ‘alas Flash Jack’?”
“He means alias, don’t you see? Alias Flash Jack. He is a man we used to have on the station, and his father used to work for us—I expect he wants to do us a good turn.”
“It will be a good turn in earnest, if he puts you in the way of finding Considine,” said the lawyer. “You will have to send Hugh up. The old man knows you and Carew, and if he saw you coming he would take to the woods, as the Yankees say. Even when you do get him the case isn’t over, because the jury will side with Peggy. They’ll sympathise with her efforts to prove herself an honest woman. It isn’t marrying too much that will get her into trouble—it’s the other thing. But we have the date and place of her alleged marriage with William Grant; and if this old Considine can prove, by documents, mind you, not by his own simple word—because it’s a hundred to one the jury wouldn’t believe him—I say, if he can prove that she married him on that very day and at that very place, then she’s beaten. No one on earth could swallow the story of her marrying two different people on the same day.”
“Hugh can go,” said Charlie. “He’ll have to do his best this time. It all depends on getting hold of this Considine, eh? Well, Hugh’ll have to get him. If he fails he needn’t show his face amongst us any more.”
Mary Grant was called in and told the great news, and then Pinnock started out to find Hugh. But before the lawyer could see him, Mary met him in the garden.
Hugh did not see that he could be of any use in the case, and wanted to be quit of Kuryong for good. Seeing Mary day after day, he had become more and more miserable as the days went by. He determined at last to go away altogether, and, when once he had made up his mind, only waited for a chance to tell her that he was going. The chance came as she left the office after consulting with Pinnock.
“Miss Grant,” he said, “if you don’t mind, I think I will resign my management of this station. I will make a start for myself or get a job somewhere else. You will easily get someone to take my place.”
She looked at him keenly for a while.
“I didn’t expect this of you,” she said bitterly. “The rats leave the sinking ship. Is that it?”
His face flushed a dull red. “You know better than that,” he said. “I would stop if I could be of any use, but what is there I can do?”
“Why do you want to leave?”
“I want to get away from here—I want to get out of the hills for awhile.”
Mary knew, as well as if he had told her, that what he wanted was to go where he could forget her and see whether absence would break the chain; and triumph lit up her eyes, for it was pleasant even in the midst of her troubles to know that he still cared. Then she came to a swift decision.
“Will you do something for me away from the hills, then?” she said.
“Up north. I want someone to find that man Considine that your brother and Mr Carew met. You know how important it is to me. Will you do it for me?”
Hugh would have jumped at the chance to risk his life for her slightest wish.
“I will go anywhere and do my best to find anyone you want,” he said; “When do you want me to start?”
“See Mr Pinnock and your brother about that. They will tell you all about it; and if you do manage to find this man, why, you can talk about leaving after that if you want to. Will you go for me?”
“Yes. I will go, Miss Grant; and I will never come back till I find this man—if he is alive.”
She laid her hand on his arm.
“I know you will do all you can,” she said, “but in any case, whether you find him or not—come back again!”