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IV.

Briscoe suffered a good deal after leaving Sydney, his ocean-going had been very limited, mere coastal runs on one or two occasions, and hardly calculated to test his swivels and balances. He found that he was a poor sailor, and left the vessel at Geraldton with inward rejoicings. Arrived at Cue, he soon got on to wages under his friend Ferry, and wrote cheerfully home to his wife.

Rose kept him regularly posted. A bright star gleamed through his window eastward. He called it “Home,” and, oft as he lay in his bed, he fell asleep while watching it. By day another star gleamed ever before him when he closed his eyes. It was the white star of Hope.

Hope is the day dream of our lives,
And we are dreamers,
Daily the present into future slips,
To glide away in past, forgotten hours,
Hope is the sunlight, aye, the very sun,
And at his setting all our spirit fails.
And gloomy night succeeds, till o'er her sha dowy brow
The rosy morn of his command appears.

And, indeed, Briscoe was ever listening to the voice that whispered in his working hours: “Better times ahead. You'll strike it rich some day.”

He wondered and wondered.




  ― 244 ―

He would soon be able to strike out across the arid country. He had saved enough for the purchase of a camel equipment, and looked out towards the world of dry-blowers, eager as a stalwart hunter for the chase.

At last the time came. A letter was posted home. His wife was to write to Naneen, and, if necessary, the letters would be forwarded on to him. “He was going to have a hunt round for a while. He would be all right. He would write as often as he could; but she must not worry if letters were slow in coming. … He might be out a bit from post-office reach… He was grand; never felt better. She would find £6 enclosed. She should ask Billy Goddard to draw some wood, to see her through the winter, and send the mare to Leuwin's till spring. She was to kiss “little father and Fan a thousand times for him, and keep her pecker up.”

I shall not tell the tale of his wanderings after that day, but leave the reader to drop in some evening after 10, and learn, over a pipe, of his doings at Naneen, Garden Gully, Abbots, Peak Hill, and even out at Horseshoe. It is too long a story to tell here, with its tolls, privations, and dangers. Many a brave fellow has sunk into oblivion in the North-west enterprise—gone as a drop of moisture into the absorbing desert sands. But I will tell that he won through all, and made a strike at Peak Hill, in the famous valley flat, where, in the white pipe-clayish looking stuff, rich reefs outcropped and crossed the flat like the rungs of a ladder.

Jim Briscoe's day-star gleamed brightly indeed. He, or rather, they, were rich. Two crushings had yielded handsomely, and, with the money netted from the sale of the mine, he was shaping homewards to the star of his dreams—to Rosie and Little Father and Fannie, and poor old unlucky brother Dan, and his father, and his widowed sister, with £3000. How he gloried in the thought of helping to brighten all their lives on reaching home! The vessel was cutting her time out well. He would land in Sydney on the twenty-second of December. Then a day to look round and get a swag for Santa Claus, and home on Christmas Eve! What a surprise, too. He hadn't breathed a word to Rose of his great luck, beyond stating that he had a good show, and that some were making fortunes. He had kept her “in the dark,” wishing to bear the glorious news in person. He had not been definite, therefore, in advising her about his return. He would just pop in like a Christmas-box for her, he thought.

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