A very sufficient guide Harold proved himself, and they came, not to any poetical robber’s cavern, but within sight of a set of shanties, looking like any ordinary station of a low character. There a sudden volley of shot from an ambush poured upon them, happily without any serious wounds, and a hand-to-hand battle began, for the robbers having thus taken the initiative, it was hardly needful to display the search warrant with which the party had come armed. And to the amazement of all, the gang was headed by a man who seemed the very counterpart of Harold, not, perhaps, quite so tall, but with much the same complexion and outline, though he was somewhat older, and had the wild, fierce, ruffianly aspect of a bushranger. This man was taking deliberate aim at the magistrate who acted as head of the party, when Harold flung down his own loaded rifle, sprang upon him, and there was the most tremendous wrestling match that Dermot said he could have imagined. Three times Harold’s antagonist touched the earth, three times he sprang from it again with redoubled vigour, until, at last, Harold clasped his arms round him, lifted him in the air, and dashed him to the ground, where he lay senseless. And then, to the general amusement, Harold seemed astonished at his state as he lay prone, observing, “I did not want to hurt him;” and presently told Dermot, “I believe he is old Mrs. Sam Alison’s son.”
And so it proved. He was the Henry or Harry Alison of whose deeds the Stympsons had heard. The gang was, after all, not very extensive; two had been shot in the fray, one was wounded, and one surrendered. Alison, though not dead, was perfectly helpless, and was carried down the rocky valley on an extemporary litter, Harold taking his usual share of the labour. The sheep and cattle on whom were recognised the marks of the Alisons of Boola Boola, and of sundry of their neighbours, were collected, to be driven down and reclaimed by their owners, and the victory was complete.
CHAPTER XII. THE GOLDEN FRUIT.
While all this was passing on the other side the world, Eustace fulfilled his wish for a season in London, was presented by Lord Erymanth, went to a court ball, showed his horses in the Park, lived at a club, and went to Ascot and Epsom. He fulfilled Harold’s boast that he might be trusted not to get into mischief, for he really had no taste for vice, and when left to himself had the suspicious dislike to spending money which is so often found where the intellect is below the average. Vanity and self-consequence were the poor fellow’s leading foibles, and he did not find that they were gratified when among his equals and superiors in station. Sensible men could not make him a companion, and the more dangerous stamp of men, when they could not fleece him, turned him into ridicule, so that he came home discontented.