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Chapter VII

Containing an Account of Our Experiences at the Oasis.

WHEN sense once more returned and my eyes slowly opened, I beheld the strained, anxious face of Hardwicke bending over me, and heard his voice uttering words of gratitude.

“Thank God! old man,” he said, and I felt his strong hand tighten on mine. Then, seeing my puzzled countenance, he added quickly, “We're safe now, quite safe. Jimmy has discovered a well and we have plenty of water.”

“And you, Dick?”

“As right as ever,” he answered cheerfully. “But it was a close touch with you, old chap. How do you feel now?”

“A little giddy and sore,” I replied. “I'm afraid that I have been a great burden to you, old fellow.”

“Don't talk like that, Archie,” he said; “you see this sort of thing is all so new to you. Wait till you get used to it, and you'll do as well as any of us.”

“And the lake?” I asked.

“We have as yet discovered no signs of it,” he replied, “and at present are too knocked up to even attempt a search. Jimmy and Murphy are now sleeping, poor fellows, tired out with their awful exertions.”

“And you?”

“Oh, I shall sleep presently.”

“How long have I been unconscious?”

“About three hours.”

“And you have watched me?”

“Certainly. There was nothing else for me to do.”

I pressed his hand warmly, and I felt a lump rise in my throat. “God bless you, Dick, God bless you.”




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He pressed my hand in return, but uttered no word. Shortly after, when I rose on my elbow to see what had become of him, I saw him lying fast asleep beside me with the great white moon streaming full upon his upturned face. Poor fellow! he had battled with fatigue until it finally overcame him, and he had literally fallen to the earth.

The next morning found a wonderful improvement in our physical abilities, and we managed to demolish a fairly good breakfast, though little remained now of the immense quantity of provisions with which we had provided ourselves on setting out from Port Augusta. Our horses benefited greatly by having an almost unlimited supply of water at their disposal, but they suffered much from hunger, there being absolutely nothing for them to eat.

As we were all too weak to start at once in search of the great salt lake, we determined to pass the day beside the well, nor tempt fortune further in our crippled condition. Therefore, as soon as we had finished our meal, we proceeded to make ourselves as comfortable as our unfortunate position would admit.

The sun rose like a ball of fire, the angry harbinger of another frightful day, and as we saw neither scrub nor rock which would afford a moment's shelter from its rays, we dug a sort of trench large enough for the four of us, piling up the sand to the north so as to make a wall against which the full force of the sun would strike. This we improved upon later on by raising another mound of sand to the south, and stretching one of our big pack casings across the space between. Though rather a primitive method of baffling the sun's rays, it yet answered its purpose not indifferently, and glad enough were we when the fiery god rose higher and higher in the heavens, growing hotter and hotter as he rose, that we had even taken such primitive precautions.

The day passed slowly away, little talk being indulged in, for none of us had heart or energy enough to supply conversation. Pipe after pipe of tobacco was consumed in


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silence. Each man was filled with his own unpleasant thoughts. I say unpleasant, for though I questioned not the motives that kept my companions silent, I guessed their feelings from my own. Go back we could not. Advance we must! Where? What misery lay before us, we knew not—therefore we should go on. What lay behind?—Death. Therefore we must not go back—it being far better to face the ills we did not know, than fly to those which we most certainly did.

It was a dreadful experience to lie stretched out in that trench, with never a breath of wind to cool us, and a blazing sun above. Yet by degrees the fiery monster ran its course, and we watched it descend the steel-blue sky with feelings of the utmost relief. And when at last its awful power grew feeble, we crawled from our grave-like retreat with the glad feelings of boys let loose from some horrid confinement.

We had scarcely done more than stretch ourselves when Jimmy called our attention to one of the pack-horses. It had refused the water he offered, and all our coaxing to make it drink proved utterly futile. As the evening stole on, the animal grew worse; it snorted and panted frightfully, and was ultimately taken with a severe shivering which in a few minutes left it lifeless.

This was a terrible blow to us, especially as we thought that on our horses depended our salvation. Three were now gone out of the eight, and we were in deadly terror lest we should likewise lose the others. It was not a cheerful look-out. No wonder gloom reigned universally throughout the little camp that night.

The same evening I reckoned up my note-book, and found that it was the 11th of May, or forty days from the date of our departure. And during that period we could not have travelled above 400 miles. This was slow progress, but it was no use railing at fate, and so I kept my opinions to myself. Though I little knew it then, our progress was destined to be slower before we attained the end of our great journey.




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We all slept well that night, though the next morning I was so far from strong that I was forced to inform Hardwicke of my miserable condition; but added that though I felt unwell, I was yet quite able to push on. He would not hear of it.

“You must stay here at least another day or so,” he said. “Jimmy and I will take a couple of horses, a little grub, and some water, and push on in the direction of this lake, which I am certain must be somewhere hereabouts. Old Morton cannot have lied. He spoke the Gospel truth, I'd swear to it. If we find another well, so much the better; Jimmy shall return and bring you along. But for you to start in your present plight would be little short of madness. Murphy will stay with you——”

“But, Dick,” I said cutting him short.

“My dear Archie,” he answered quite as quickly; “to tell you the plain truth, it is better that you should stay. You might only hamper our searches.”

I felt the truth of this remark, although I did not care for its abruptness, and so said nothing.

Hardwicke was a man of action, and had no sooner made up his mind to do a thing than he began to do it. The horses were quickly ready, and ere the sun had risen out of the great desert, the two adventurers moved slowly away. I watched them for a long time, waving my hat to Dick, who answered by waving his, till I lost sight of them amid some distant sand ridges.

Murphy looked at me and I at him, neither of us speaking. The vast waste seemed to grow more desolate, and when at last the sun rose, like a great dull red lamp, it seemed to flood the dreary plain with a weirder melancholy.

“Bedad, sor,” said Murphy, breaking the ominous silence between us, “but Mister Dick is a moighty fine gintleman. He's got a heart as big as a mountain and as brave as it is big.”

“You are right, Murphy,” I answered; “he is indeed all you say.”

“Only to see him helping you along, sor, the day you


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nearly died for the want of the blessed water. It was a sight that I shall niver forget to the day of my death. Poor man! though he was nearly dead himself, yet no thought had he of letting you go, sor. ‘Jimmy’ he says, and his voice was as dry as a gate that wants oiling, ‘this can't last much longer. Go ahead, it's our only chance.’ And that same black, and the Lord bless him, sor, for taking a leaf out of his master's book, for he's a brave boy, black as he is, rushed ahead; and Mister Dick put his arm about you and struggled on; ah, how he did struggle. May the Holy Mother guard him. The horses followed us at a distance; poor bastes, they were almost entirely killed. I don't believe they could have carried you had Mister Dick and I strength enough to put you on the top of one. Then I don't know how long it was, for I was like one in a drame; the brave black bhoy came back with his bottle full of water, which Mister Dick, shouting, seized and put to your lips, and gave you a good, long drink. And then, may the saints presarve him! before he had tasted a blessed drop himself, what should he do but actually offer the bottle to me. But may I have died on the spot if I'd been mane enough to take it,” and here Murphy, who had accompanied this narrative with sundry strange gesticulations, stopped suddenly.

“God speed them, Tim; they are a brave pair,” I answered.

He replied volubly once more, and evidently wished to talk, but my thoughts were too wretched for expression, and so I paced gloomily up and down within a few yards of the camp, which, even with Hardwicke's companionship, was bad enough, but which now seemed like a tomb.

That day passed without the return of the adventurers, as did also that night; and the next day and night also flew by without bringing their wished-for presence, and I began to grow more than anxious. The sun dawned on the third day, and pursued its course through the steely sky, and yet they came not. What had happened to them? Had they lost their way? or had they, overcome with the fatigue of their journey, sunk dying upon the sand? Might


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they not at that very moment be dead? I scarcely dared to think, for thought occasioned me intense agony. The day flew on, and the stars came out once more. My God! would they never return?

The fourth day was ushered in like the others with a blood-red sun, and like its predecessors sped on and on, and yet it brought them not. What was to be done? I thought of setting out in their tracks, but that would have been both futile and foolish, as neither Murphy nor I had the least knowledge of tracking; we should have lost their trail, and wandered on and on until death ended all. Plunged in a world of horrible thoughts, I threw myself upon the sand, and tried to think, but thought came not. My brain was in a whirl, the confusion of which utterly debarred me from forming a definite plan of action, or following a definite thought.

Suddenly I was aroused from my painful reverie by a wild “hurro,” and the next moment Murphy was shouting over me.

“They've come, they've come!”

I was instantly on my feet, and my eyes fell upon the welcome forms of Dick and Jimmy just emerging from the sand ridges, among which I had lost them four days before. I ran towards them, and soon had Hardwicke's hand in a strong, warm clasp.

“How glad I am to see you, Dick.”

“The feeling is reciprocated, Archie. But I have good news,” he continued, smiling, “the best we have had for many a day.”

“You have found the lake?”

“No; better than that.”

“Better—surely there is nothing good in this place?”

“My boy, our troubles are ended—at least for a time,” he added in an altered voice. And then: “I have discovered what is of more value to us than a thousand lakes. I have found an oasis.”

“An oasis?”

“Yes; plenty of grass for the horses, and plenty of water


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for ourselves.” And he and Jimmy here produced a large bundle of grass each. “You see we did not forget them,” for which I was indeed thankful, as the poor beasts had eaten nothing but dried grass for many days. He continued: “It's a regular flower garden, a garden in the wilderness. So let us away, for I'm sure you must be heartily sick of this dreary spot.”

He was right. I was sick unto death of it and needed no urging to be gone. In a very little time we had everything ready and were soon on our way; this time with a cheerful heart, for we knew there was certain safety ahead. We walked, leading our horses, for they were reduced to such a degree of poorness that they were absolutely unfit to carry us.

I learnt from Dick the particulars of his journey, which he gave in his usual rapid fashion, as we travelled along.

After leaving the camp he and Jimmy had steered in a north-westerly direction till noon without finding water or any sign of life. After a short spell they were away again, but for the remainder of that day saw nothing of what they had come in search. Wearied out and almost broken down in spirit they flung themselves upon the sand that night, and slept a troubled sleep till morning, when with the first gleam of daylight they were away again. Only a little water was left them, and of it they drank, and let their horses drink, but sparingly. They were now beginning to feel the bad effects of the journey. The horses could no longer bear them, so they were forced to dismount and lead the poor animals along. At last they began the ascent of a sand ridge, much larger than any of the others about, to have a last look round before they finally abandoned their expedition and returned to the camp; when Jimmy—who, cat-like—had got some few yards ahead of Hardwicke, no sooner reached the top than he turned to my cousin with a cry of joy, for right before them, not more than three or four miles away, lay a great thick clump of trees. To tell the truth, Dick was rather disappointed at not seeing the lake, but when he remembered that those trees possibly


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shaded water and food, he knew how preferable they were to any salt lake the world might show.

It is almost needless to say they hurried on to the shady haven with increased swiftness, and about two hours before the sun went down, on the second day of their journey, they entered what appeared to them, after the frightful wilderness they had crossed, an earthly paradise. There they found plenty of water and game, as the clump of trees proved to be several miles in extent. They also saw many blacks, but so shy were the aborigines that they could not get near them. They rested all the next day, and on the following morning, long before the sun had risen, they had mounted and were on their way back to the camp, the horses travelling remarkably well after their good day's rest.

Such was the story I listened to, as narrated by Hardwicke, with rapt attention, for the prospect of such a place after what we had gone through sounded like the acme of all earthly bliss.

We camped that night at sunset, Dick saying that about a dozen miles farther would see us at Martesque Springs, for so he had named the oasis, after your very humble servant.

The next morning we were away at the first glimpse of day, and though we found progress trying in the extreme, we managed to drag ourselves and our horses into the clump of trees two or three hours before the sun went down. It was like entering a different world. How sweet and cool and beautiful it seemed. I shall never forget the feeling of gratitude that came over me as I stepped beneath the shade of the long red gum-trees, and inhaled their pleasant odour, or the joy with which I beheld the great pool of clear water which Dick had christened the Martesque Springs.

We pitched our camp upon a green, grassy plot of land that ran down to the very edge of it. It was a strange and wonderful thing to see so much verdure. I could scarcely believe that it was real, for I had almost forgotten what fresh grass was like. The horses, however, fell to devouring it with avidity, and I was glad that they at last had found


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something fit to eat. To the left of our camp were piles of huge boulders precipitously walling in the water, but to the right it traced its way through a small gully, till it lost itself in the sand, a quarter of a mile off. Its width from the foot of our camp to the opposite side could not have been less than fifty feet; this, coupled with its great length, made it a magnificent reservoir. Numerous birds whirled over our heads, and just before the sun sank we saw several kangaroos come down to the water's edge to drink. We also caught sight of some natives, but though we called and beckoned to them, they heeded us not. Getting what water they required, they, on the slightest sign of our approach, hastily fled. However, we molested them not, and consequently felt no danger from their presence, though, had we known how treacherous the villains were going to prove, we should not have sat down to our evening meal with such light hearts.

That night was passed in comparative luxury, for with the exception of a few mosquitoes, attracted no doubt by the water, we slept without annoyance—an exceedingly rare thing. In the morning we were awake betimes, and while Murphy and Jimmy began to build our hut (for we had determined to remain here at least a week or ten days to recruit our strength and that of our horses), Dick and I shouldered our guns, and set off to find some game with which to stock our larder. As the area over which we were to shoot was thickly wooded, we had not proceeded more than a hundred yards before I saw Dick's gun go up. There was a flash, and the next thing I beheld was a small kangaroo hopping rapidly away. Another shot, however, toppled it over.

“An excellent breakfast,” said he, as he took out his knife and severed the jugular vein of the struggling animal. Then he coo-eed aloud. The cry was immediately answered from our camp, and the next moment Jimmy came bounding into view, and to him was given the custody of the animal, with instructions to cook certain portions of it for breakfast.




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The sun was now beginning to rise, and with it the birds awoke and filled the air with their strange music. We had plenty of shooting here, and in half-an-hour had a dozen brace of beaccoos (slate-coloured parrots), and several brace of bronze-winged pigeons, which we saw flying to and from the water in hundreds.

“No fear of starving here,” said Dick. “Ah, what a country this would be if it only had more water.”

We proceeded as far as what might be called the outer edge of the oasis, and being by this time rather peckish, we determined to return to the camp. We saw several blacks on this journey; but beckon as we might, they would neither come near us nor allow us to come near them. They were as entirely destitute of clothing as the babe new-born, a fact not much to be wondered at, considering the excessive heat of the weather. We threw a couple of brace of parrots on the ground, and then walked some distance away, still watching them. Presently we saw one of their number stealthily advance, as though doing a very clever thing, hurriedly pick up the birds, and then retire in double-quick time, without even so much as a friendly sign.

“The gratitude of man,” growled Hardwicke.

We again walked on, and emerged into an open space, which ran, much like the spot upon which we had pitched our camp, down to the water's edge. Presently Dick, who was some few yards before me, stood suddenly still, and pointed to a large gum-tree which reared itself in our path.

“Look!”

And in another moment he had thrown down his birds and was standing against the tree, eagerly scanning some figures which had been traced upon it, but which time had somewhat effaced. I also advanced closer and with ease deciphered them.

They were as follows:

  L.—1849.

“What does this mean, Dick?”




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“Why, that the last explorer, Leichhardt, must have been on this very spot in the year 1849. It was the custom of explorers to initial trees, and this must have been Leichhardt's work, or some one attached to his party. Poor fellow! I wonder if he got farther than this. He was last heard of in '48, and he then hoped to accomplish his darling project, as he called it, which was to cross from east to west Australia. After once plunging into the interior he was never heard of again. Poor devil!”

It seemed strange that I, who had heard so much of the lost explorer Leichhardt during my stay in Melbourne, should be one of the first to find any tangible trace of him. Expeditions had been sent out with the fate of Leichhardt as their special object—notably the one under that intrepid explorer, Forrest—but all without avail. The fate of the “lost explorer” was destined to be shrouded in mystery.

Dick took out his long knife and began to carve upon the tree, just under what we had no doubt was Leichhardt's work, and soon he had shaped the figures:—

  H.—1878.

We left the spot with much the same feeling that one leaves the grave of an old friend. It is true the “lost explorer” was no friend in the strict meaning of the word, but there is that fellow-feeling in misfortune which makes the whole world kin.

On returning to the camp we found a savoury breakfast awaiting us, to which we did full justice. The hut had not advanced very rapidily, owing to the sudden indisposition of my man Murphy. Poor fellow! he was but the ghost of his former self, the privations through which he had gone rendering him almost too weak to stand. It was indeed a lucky thing for him that we had reached so comfortable a camping ground, for a little more excessive fatigue would have irrevocably sealed his fate.

After breakfast my cousin and I took our short axes and soon had a goodly quantity of timber felled, and with it and


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the branches of the trees, we quickly had a fairly decent hut constructed. Very primitive it was to be sure, but we considered it equal to our requirements in so strangely dry a country. During this time Jimmy was preparing the birds for our larder, and as we beheld them spread out we anticipated some very fine eating. Our flour had gone, a cask of it being left behind with the scientific instruments on the memorable occasion of the fire, but we had yet one large box of rough ships' biscuits, and while there is a shot in the locker the good adventurer ought never to despair.

“And what about that lake?” I said, as we sat smoking in the shade after dinner.

“We have evidently missed it,” answered my cousin.

“But what does it matter? We have kept the north-westerly route and we are bound to strike the Great White City in the mountains. We can't very well miss mountains in a desert, you know.”

“I don't know so much about that,” I answered. “As we have missed the salt lake, so might we miss the mountains, which may not be mountains at all, but merely hills. Therefore, Richard (I invariably called him Richard when I was extra serious), we must first find the lake. To speak freely, I do not care to push farther inland without first knowing that we are on the proper track.”

“You are right,” he replied. “If there is no lake, there is likely to be no White City.”

“Now tell me honestly, Dick,” I said. “You surely don't imagine for one moment that there is such a thing as a Great White City in these regions, do you?”

“To tell you the truth, Archie, that question is too much for me. That city is the cause of the only uneasiness I feel. Remember, this is an unknown country, and Heaven only knows what great secrets are shut up within it. Morton was a steady-going, sensible old fellow, and I am perfectly convinced that he would not lie to me. We shall see by-and-by. In the meantime we must find this lake.”

“You mean we must try.”




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“Certainly. If we don't go to the lake, you may be sure the lake won't come to us.”

“And suppose we fail?”

“The devil take it, Archie; if you go on like that, you'll knock all the go out of me. It's no use worrying now. We are here for better or for worse. Let us make the best of it.”

It is no use crying over spilt milk, however much we may deplore the incident. I knew, or I thought I knew what the privations of such a journey would be before I undertook it, and I had no right now to show that I was heartily sick of the whole business. Therefore, I was determined that I would not be a millstone round my cousin's neck. If I failed to catch the glory of his wonderful enthusiasm, so much the worse for me. I must not dull his spirit like my own. Yet look at our position as I might I could see no escape from it except by death. I also think the history of Leichhardt and his untoward fate added not a little to the general gloom of my spirits. There was something ghostly in the knowledge that he had trodden that very spot so many years before, and that the sole relic of him was the half-obliterated carving on the tree.

“It is evident,” said Hardwicke to me, later on, “that we have not the ghost of an idea in which direction this lake lies, so we may have to explore all the points of the compass before we find it. Therefore, we must catch one of those niggers and learn its whereabouts from him.”

It was a good idea, and we quickly set about devising some plan whereby we might get one of the blacks into our camp. But though we coaxed the sullen brutes as men have never coaxed before; though we offered them birds and well-cooked bits of kangaroo, they remained with exasperating persistence on their side of the water. Jimmy advised Hardwicke to shoot a couple of them—that is, wound them—but Dick wisely refrained from such a course, and notified to the dusky king from the Murrumbidgee, that he expected him to get one of the fellows in our power.




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This hint was quite enough for the royal Jimmy. He immediately darted behind the hut, and a moment or two after we heard him crying, “Mind the clothes, paddy-man,” and on turning round we beheld him stripped stark naked. He waved his hand to us, and with a broad grin upon his ugly face, rushed off amid the bushes.

We laughed loudly, and cracked several jokes at his expense, which, being ended, we lit our pipes and sat down to watch the unfolding of events.

We had not been seated more than a quarter of an hour before we heard a great shouting and rushing of feet on the other side of the water, and presently there emerged to view, on the opposite bank, two naked struggling figures. They had hold of each other by the hair, and were belabouring the respective parts of one another with terrible effect. The blood streamed from their faces in such quantities as to make them scarcely recognisable at first; but my cousin, who had been watching them intently, suddenly cried out, “It's Jimmy”—and started off with a rush to gain the other side. But before he had gone many yards there was a terrific splash and yell, and both combatants fell from a height of eight or ten feet into the water. Being excellent swimmers their fall affected them but little, and Jimmy, who seemed instantly at home, at once appeared most eager to resume the fray. Not so his opponent. He saw his chance and immediately grasped it. Before Jimmy, who had struck out towards him, could get at all close, the black disappeared beneath the water with the rapidity of a fish.

King Jimmy stood treading water and vainly staring about him for the appearance of his adversary. That individual, after remaining under for a great length of time, at last made his appearance, puffing and gasping like a porpoise. He was fully thirty feet away from our dusky friend, who, thinking he was going to escape, shouted, “Stop him, Mass'r Dick! stop him, Mass'r Archie!”

The bewildered black fellow redoubled his efforts, but like a madman came towards our side of the pool. Presently


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he felt the bottom and sprawled rapidly landwards. He rushed straight into the arms of Hardwicke, whom he did not see, but who, once he got his hands on him, held him as in a vice. The fellow struggled and roared like a very demon, but it was of no avail. Dick's legs were round him in a moment, and while he was yet wondering what had got hold of him, he was on the broad of his back.

By this time I had arrived upon the scene of action, and in a very little while we had our prisoner securely bound. Jimmy next emerged from the water, and we had no little difficulty in restraining that worthy from dancing a corroboree upon his adversary's head. Our royal companion was extremely annoyed at being so worsted, and he made use of many words in his own language which I am sure were very unseemly in a king, not to say indelicate.

We placed our captive on his feet, and mostly dragged him towards the camp, for he was too sullen and obstinate to go without force. When there, we offered him various meats, all of which he at first refused, but when Jimmy passed them under his nose, the fragrant smell ascended his nostrils, and he made such a sudden grab at the stuff with his open mouth that had the redoubtable James not been particularly smart a portion of his finger would for a surety have disappeared with a portion of the meat.

“Yah, you dam savage,” cried our royal friend with indignation; and he caught the unhappy captive a ringing smack on the nose, which made that individual blink curiously.

Hardwicke saw this action, and suddenly applied his foot to a certain portion of his henchman's exterior, which made that worthy jump, while at the same time he threatened that should he ever do the like again he would knock his (Jimmy's) head off. The kingly dignity was wounded, and the ex-monarch retired crestfallen. He, however, shortly reappeared, and Dick, calling him to us, told him to speak to the prisoner, and try and find out if there was a big salt lake in that part of the country.

At first the captive preserved a sullen silence to the


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questions of his interrogator, notwithstanding all the delicate compliments showered upon him.

“Do you think he understands you?” asked my cousin.

“Him understood plenty, Mass'r Dick; only him savage brute.” And then he went for the prisoner again with a perfect volley of the choicest epithets. “So help my bob, Mass'r Dick,” said he, turning to us after expending his torrent of abuse in vain; “suppose him no speak, I cut him dam ears clean off.”

The constant repetition of the word “dam,” in King Jimmy's conversation, was not used with any idea of profanity. He had learnt the three great accomplishments of the white man—smoking, drinking, and swearing—and those accomplishments, in his eagerness to become an adept at, he overdid. He used his oaths indiscriminately, which, though it made them amusing, gave them no disgusting value. The bush school is a rough one to learn a language in, and the English that first fell upon his ears had an oath after every second word. Thus, his constant repetition of the distinguishing adjective above-mentioned, was not so much with an idea of profanity, as it was to show how cleverly he spoke the white man's language.

But to continue.

“Tell him,” said Dick, “that if he doesn't speak, I'll blow his brains out,” and he waved his revolver before the eyes of the aborigine who, however, gazed with consummate indifference upon him and his pistol. Then, from my cousin, his eyes sought the remains of a broiled duck, upon which they fastened as though riveted with steel.

“Try him with that bird, Jimmy. Will that make him speak, I wonder?”

“The very thing, Mass'r Dick,” replied that worthy. “Black fellow all belly,” and he held the bird within an inch of the prisoner's mouth while he addressed him in language plain and strong, of which the following is a fair equivalent.

“Listen to me, you son of a dingo—you lizard—you


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snake—you bloodsucker—listen to me!” and he tore off a leg of the duck and rammed it into the capacious mouth of the captive, who made no objection to such unceremonious treatment.

“Listen to me,” continued King Jimmy, working or seeming to work himself into a furious passion. “These are the mighty chiefs of the white men who dwell on the borders of the great sea—you son of a pig, you filthy savage. They have journeyed many miles to find the great lake, the waters of which are bitter to the taste, so bitter, that even a dog like thee, dare not drink of them. Speak then the truth, and answer, for the great white chiefs play with fire, and the fire slays——” Here he motioned to Dick to discharge his revolver, which action made the captive's eyes open wide. “And if you answer not the truth, you shall die like a wombat in his hole, you filthy beast, you bloodsucking savage,” &c., &c.

It was thus indelicately Jimmy railed at our prisoner, stuffing him continually with duck, till by dint of threats and cajolings he elicited the information that there was a sheet of water to the south-west, about one day's journey.

We were naturally delighted at such good news, Dick in particular cutting a caper and swearing that he knew Morton did not lie to him, and that we should find the Golden Lake after all.

“You see,” he said, “we have borne too much to the north. Unless I am greatly mistaken, we are right at the very head of the great lake, and consequently some miles farther on our journey than we anticipated. Morton said nothing of this oasis, which proves that he must have passed to the south of it. He found water to the north of the salt lakes. A well, no doubt, fed by this very pool. We should find several of them to-morrow; for to-morrow, Archie, we must do this day's journey and see the lakes for ourselves—not that I for a moment doubt their existence, but it will be so much more satisfactory to behold them with our own eyes.”

Later on we loosened the hands of our prisoner, though


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not before we had bound him securely to a tree, for we had determined to take him with us as a guide on the morrow. We then gave him a couple of pigeons, which he demolished with evident relish. Jimmy warned him that if he led us not direct to the waters, or the dried salt beds, or whatever they were, that we would tie him down to an ant-bed, and do many other things equally atrocious. But I am afraid he paid little or no attention to these diabolical threats, for so low in the scale of humanity are these people that they seem to value life not one jot.

That night my man Murphy was taken with violent shiverings. Poor fellow! he now began to look a truly sorrowful object, having lost flesh in the most unprecedented fashion. Quinine was the only safe medicine we carried, but it failed to effect him in any way for the better. I was at a loss what to do, when Dick suggested that cure for all ailments—brandy. I got it and gave him the last drop we possessed. It seemed to do him a great deal of good, for very shortly afterwards he fell asleep.

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