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Fugitive Anne - Part I




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Chapter I - The Closed Cabin

IT was between nine and ten in the morning on board the Eastern and Australasian passenger boat Leichardt, which was steaming in a southerly direction over a calm, tropical sea between the Great Barrier Reef and the north-eastern shores of Australia. The boat was expected to arrive at Cooktown during the night, having last stopped at the newly-established station on Thursday Island.

This puts time back a little over twenty years.

The passengers' cabins on board the Leichardt opened for the most part off the saloon. Here, several people were assembled, for excitement had been aroused by the fact that the door of Mrs Bedo's cabin was locked, and that she had not been seen since the previous day.

Mrs Bedo was the only first-class lady passenger on the Leichardt.

Three men stood close to her cabin door. These were Captain Cass, the captain of the Leichardt; the ship's doctor, and Mr Elias Bedo, the lady's husband. Just behind these three, leaning on the back of a chair which was fixed to the cabin table, stood another man


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evidently interested in the matter, but as evidently, having no official claim to such interest. This man was a big Dane, tall, muscular, and determined-looking, with a short fair beard and moustache, high cheek-bones, and extremely clear, brilliant, blue eyes. Eric Hansen was his name, and he was also a first-class passenger. Further, he was a scientist, bound on a mission of exploration in regard to Australian fauna, on which he had been dispatched by a learned society in his own country.

At the other side of the table, opposite the Dane, and apparently interested too, in the affair of Mrs Bedo's locked door, stood an Australian black boy in European dress—that is, in a steward's dress of white linen, with a napkin in his hand; for it had happened that Kombo, Mr and Mrs Bedo's aboriginal servant, had, with the permission of his master and mistress, taken the place of a Chinese boy, temporarily disabled by a malarial fever. These people were at the upper end of the saloon, near which was Mrs Bedo's cabin. At the lower end, the remaining passengers, with the purser and another steward, had congregated. The passengers were few; a Javanese shipping agent, a Catholic priest, a person connected with telegraphs, and two or three bushmen on their way back from Singapore or Europe, as the case might be. These were all waiting, with gaping mouths and open eyes, for the tragedy which they imagined would be disclosed. For it was openly suspected on board, that Mrs Bedo disliked and feared her husband.

Mr Bedo had been knocking violently at the cabin door, but no answer was returned. He was a coarse, powerful person, with an ill-featured face, a sinewy throat, and great, brawny hands. He had started in life as a bullock-driver and was now a rich man, having struck gold in the early days of Charters Towers Diggings—before, indeed, Charters Towers had become officially established.

“Something must have happened,” said the doctor.


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“Hadn't we better—?” and he waited, looking at the Captain.

“There's nothing for it but to break open the door,” said Captain Cass.

“Try it, Mr Bedo.”

Elias Bedo put his huge shoulders against the wooden panelling, and as the Captain moved aside, the big Dane stepped forward, and laid his shoulders—smaller, but even more powerful than Bedo's—also against the white door. There was a crash; the door fell inward, and Bedo entered, the Captain following.

The Dane had drawn back again, and the doctor, about to follow, paused, seeing that Captain Cass pushed back the door, and drew the curtain within, across the opening.

Every word, however, uttered within the cabin could be heard by those immediately outside.

A coarse oath broke from Mr Bedo's lips.

“—She's gone.”

“What do you mean?” said the Captain, in the sharp tone of alarm which heralds calamity.

“Can't you see?” cried the husband, in a voice more infuriated than despair-stricken. “I've always told you that those window-ports are dangerous. It would be nothing for a thin man, let alone a girl, to creep through that one. Damn her! I was a fool to let her have a cabin to herself. She has gone overboard, and swum ashore.”

“That's impossible,” said the Captain, curtly.

“How is it impossible?” said the husband. “Anne Marley was a northern girl, born and bred on the sea-coast. She knows every sort of water dodge, and can swim like a fish.”

“That may be,” replied the Captain, “but Mrs Bedo has been three years in England, and must be out of practice in swimming. And why—?” The Captain paused dramatically, and straightly eyed Elias Bedo. “Why, Mr Bedo, should your wife risk her life in swimming ashore? Was it because she wanted to get away from you?




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Elias Bedo scowled for a moment, and did not speak.

“Well,” he said presently, “I suppose that most of the chaps on board have noticed that my wife is a bit cracky—a shingle loose, as we say in the Bush.” He looked shiftily at the Captain, who made no reply. For he, as well as others on board, had remarked Mrs Bedo's silent, solitary ways, and had thought her a little eccentric, though everyone had attributed what was odd and unsociable in her manner to her obvious unhappiness. Mr Bedo went on, “I don't mean that her being queer, as you may say, is anything to her discredit. Women get like that sometimes, and it passes. I've had doctors' advice, and that's what I was told. It made no difference to me, except that I've known I must look after her. And that's why I say that I was a damned fool to let her have a cabin to herself. It was your doing, Cass; she got round you, and if harm has come to her, you'll have to answer for it.” He turned furiously to the Captain, who met his angry gaze with unabashed eyes, making a little jerky movement of his chin.

“Very well,” said the Captain, “I'm quite ready to answer for my share in the business, which is simple enough. When I have one lady passenger, and more cabins than are wanted, I naturally give the lady her choice. Mrs Bedo asked for a cabin on the cool side of the ship, and I gave it her. It was the only amends I could make for letting that rascally Chinaman cheat me at Singapore, so that we were put on short commons with the ice. But abusing me, Mr Bedo, won't help you to find your wife. She's on this ship, or she isn't; and if she is, there's no need for you to suppose she isn't.”

Silence followed, except for the noise of pulled out drawers, and the metallic sound of curtains being drawn along brass rods, which proclaimed to those outside, that Mr Bedo was searching the cabin lest his wife should lie concealed in berth or locker. After a few moments, the Captain was heard again.

“There's another thing you've got to think of.


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Suppose that Mrs Bedo does swim like a fish, and is up to every water dodge, as you tell me—I'm not gain-saying it, for I know what a coast-bred girl can do—how is that going to help her against the sharks? And even if she did the distance safely, there are the Blacks. Mrs Bedo is a northern girl, and must have heard something of what the Blacks are, up on this coast.”

“Cannibals,” put in the doctor, who, unable to restrain himself, had drawn the outer curtain and pushed in the door. He stood on the threshold, and through the rift in the curtain, the Dane's face could be seen with an expression upon it of horror and perplexity; while beyond, showed the black boy, with a look upon his countenance half terror, half satisfaction, which to Eric Hansen, turning suddenly, and thus coming within view of Kombo, was incomprehensible.

“Come,” said the Captain, “it's nonsense to take it for granted that Mrs Bedo must have thrown herself overboard, because she isn't in her cabin. I'll talk to the stewardess, and have the ship searched immediately.”

He went out into the saloon, followed by the doctor, leaving Elias Bedo within the cabin, and the Dane on its threshold, between the parted folds of the curtain that screened the doorway. The stewardess, who had come up from her own quarters, was standing beside Kombo, the black boy; and to her the Captain addressed himself.

Her answers to his questions were clear enough. Mrs Bedo had gone into her cabin the afternoon before, complaining of a headache, and requesting that she should not be disturbed. The stewardess had nothing to do with taking in her dinner, but she had brought the early morning tea to the cabin door. Finding it locked, she had gone away, expecting to be summoned by-and-by. Mrs Bedo, however, had not rung her bell, and had not taken her bath as usual that morning. The stewardess went on to say that she had again gone to the cabin door, but still finding it locked, supposed that Mrs


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Bedo had had a bad night and was sleeping late. Mrs Bedo had often had bad nights, and several times had desired that she should not be awakened till she rang.

Kombo was questioned as to when he had last seen his mistress, and hesitated a moment, but answered explicitly.

“Mine been take dinner last night to Missa Anne, but that fellow no want to eat, and I believe Missa Anne cobbon sick like-it cobra.”

Kombo made a melodramatic gesture, pressing both hands upon his woolly head. In speaking of his mistress, Kombo, who had known her from a child, never said Mrs Bedo, but always Missa Anne, “Missa” being, in the Australian blacks' vocabulary, the feminine of Massa as a prefix to the Christian name.

“And where did Mrs Bedo take breakfast?” the Captain went on.

“Mine no see Missa Anne at breakfast,” said Kombo. “Mine wait—give Massa breakfast, but Missa Anne no come. Mine tell Massa, Missa Anne plenty sleepy, and no like me to make her jump up.”

Captain Cass left the saloon, giving orders that every part of the vessel should be searched, though, as the stewardess remarked, there wasn't much sense in that, for it was not likely that Mrs Bedo would hide herself in the hold. The general opinion inclined to suicide, and there was much excited whispering amongst the passengers, who now followed the Captain on deck, leaving the saloon almost empty. Elias Bedo remained, still examining his wife's cabin, and Eric Hansen, the Dane, watched him from the doorway.




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Chapter II - Cannibals or Sharks?

THE cabin was fairly large, considering the size of the steamer. It had two berths—the top one having been occupied by Mrs Bedo for the sake of coolness—and a cushioned bunk with drawers beneath, set under the square porthole. In these smooth seas the heavy dead-lights had been fastened back, leaving an aperture through which might be seen the glassy sea, the Australian shore, and maybe a coral island, with clumps of feathery palms, uprising from the blue. This window was, as Mr Bedo had said, wide enough for a thin man, and certainly a slim woman, to slip through into the sea.

Could it be possible that a girl of scarcely twenty—a bride of four months—had been driven to so desperate a strait as to choose death, or take the chance of life among sharks and cannibals, in order to escape from a loathed bondage? He—Eric Hansen—knew what the Captain and passengers only suspected, that Anne Bedo detested the man she had married. And was it wonderful? The greater marvel seemed that she had married him at all.

Eric Hansen gave a shudder as he watched the exbullock driver turn over certain dainty properties his wife had left in the locker and on the shelves and hooks; pretty garments and feminine odds and ends, and finally a soft leather desk with folding cover, that lay at one end of the bunk. An involuntary exclamation escaped Hansen's lips. Mr Bedo turned and confronted the Dane, but he was too agitated to speak.

“Can I be of any service?” asked Hansen, commanding


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himself with an effort. Bedo took no notice of the offer. His eye had been caught by a large square sheet of paper written upon and half folded, that lay upon the open blotting-pad of the desk, from which the leather cover had fallen back. It seemed as though the pen had dropped upon the paper, for there was a blot of ink after the last word. The pen, Hansen noticed, stuck up endways between the red cushion of the bunk and the vessel's side. No doubt, in shaking the garments, which hung on a row of pegs above the bunk, Mr Bedo had displaced the writing-case and caused it to close.

He took up the sheet of paper and held it before him, staring in a stupefied manner at the words traced upon it in a decided and legible hand. He stood with his face to the window, and Hansen, moved by some strange impulse, stepped across the doorway, and read Anne Bedo's unfinished letter over her husband's shoulder.

It was dated in the ordinary way from the S.S. Leichardt, near Cooktown, on the previous day, but had evidently been written during the night. The letter began:—

“My own Mother,

“The moon is shining through my cabin window, a full moon nearly, with just a little kink in the round, that makes me think of your dear, thin cheeks. I seem to see your loving eyes looking out of the moon and asking me things; sad things, dearie, that we mustn't think about. But oh! I long to lay my poor head on your breast and to feel your arms round me, and to look up into your sweet eyes which I saved. Ah! thank God for that!

“Mother, I know the sort of things you'd want me to tell you, and what your first question would be. Well, I'll answer it. Yes, I'm happy, dear, and I'm not sorry about anything. It's ‘altogether būjeri’ with me, as the Blacks used to say when they had got their flour and tobacco, and were quite contented with things. I've got my flour and tobacco, having earned it by a job that's just a little more complicated than grubbing


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out stumps on a clearing; and I'm quite content, so you needn't fret about little Missa Anne any more. I'd do the same job over again if I was put to it, for the same end. So never let that thought trouble you, dearie. Besides, you won't miss me so dreadfully now that Etta is grown up, for she is so much more sensible and practical than ever I could be. I couldn't do anything but sing, and not well enough to make any money by it. But never mind, I was able to buy you back your eyes, and for that to the last day of my life, I shall praise God, and thank Him with all my heart.

“Yes, I'm happy, dearest. Don't worry about your little Anne.

“Oh! It's good to be back in the old country; and the whiff of the gum-trees makes a woman of me once more. No, not all the musical academies of London and Paris could change me from what I am, a Bush girl to the bones of me. No, not even if that wonderful fairy story were to come true, and I were really Anne, Baroness Marley, in the peerage of England, as said that funny old burrower in Church registers. Have you ever seen him again, and has he found the missing link in the pedigree? But, of course, it's all nonsense. Mr Bedo told me he had seen into the matter himself. He said that the man confessed his evidence had broken down, and that he only wanted to get money out of poor you and me, who hadn't any to give him.

“Dear, in a few days now, we shall be off the old bay—do you remember? The shining moon reminds me of those hot nights when we used to get up and bathe—Etta and I—with the waves rolling in over us, silver-tipped. And how angry you used to be in the morning, and how frightened because of the sharks! You always said, you know, that I had a charmed life. The moon seems to be beckoning to me now. It's streaming over a little bay so like our own old bay, and I can fancy that I hear the roll of surf on the sand. No, I'm silly; it's the water against the steamer's side. We're not so far off from land, however. Since rounding


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Cape Flattery, we've kept close in shore. Now, I've been standing up and looking out of my window. I can hardly bear to stay in the cabin; it's like a prison —so hot, and there seem to come living fumes into it, Chinese and Lascar smells, you know! from all parts of the steamer. They poison what little air there is. Out there, where the moon shines, all looks cool and pure and free, and there's just a ripple on the water; and the moonbeams shake and stretch out arms as if they were calling me. Why shouldn't I take a dip?.…”

And here the blot had fallen, and the writing ended.

Mr Bedo, absorbed in the letter, appeared quite unaware of the man standing behind him. He turned the sheet over, staring at the blank side for a moment or two; then going back, he read the writing again. When he had finished, he crushed the paper in his hand, and made a movement as though he were about to throw it out of the window, but Hansen put out his hand and stopped him.

“You mustn't do that,” said the Dane, quietly. “This should be given into the Captain's charge, in case”—he hesitated, then said straightly,—“in case there should be need for an inquiry.”

Bedo swore again. “What business is it of yours?” he cried.

“None,” replied Hansen, “beyond the fact that if an inquiry became necessary, which I hope most earnestly may not be, I should be examined as a witness, and should have to give evidence as to the contents of that letter.”

“The letter is a private one, written to her mother,” said Bedo. “It had best be destroyed; there is nothing in it to throw any light upon the matter.”

“I cannot agree with you,” said Hansen, quietly; “nor do I think would Mrs Bedo's mother.”

“You prying skunk!” exclaimed Bedo. “Do you dare to own that you have been so ungentlemanly as to read over my shoulder what my wife wrote in confidence to her mother?”




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“Certainly, I own it,” said Hansen. “I will admit also that it was an ungentlemanly action. Yet I'd maintain that it was justified by circumstances. But for my having committed it, you would have destroyed important evidence.”

“Do you understand,” said Bedo, trying to speak calmly, but shaking either with anger or fear, “that you are forcing me to make public a family scandal, which it is best for all parties should be concealed? My wife was mad, and her words here prove it. All that nonsense about the moon shows clearly that she must have thrown herself overboard in a fit of insanity. She required careful watching, and I ought not to have allowed her to be alone. That is the truth, though for her sake as well as for my own, I did not want all the world to know it.”

“I think I heard you a few minutes ago hinting what you are pleased to call the truth, pretty broadly to the Captain,” said Hansen, drily. “If there's any family secret, you yourself have already revealed it. But nothing would make me believe that Mrs Bedo is mad—unhappy, yes, but not mad.”

“And who are you to judge whether my wife was unhappy or mad?”

Hansen shook himself impatiently.

“Good Heavens! Mr Bedo, why should we stand arguing here? Do you care so little about your wife's fate, that you don't even want to know whether they are searching the vessel?”

Hansen was leaning over the bunk, his face against the window. Now, giving a glance outward, he was attracted by something he saw, and uttered a violent exclamation. He put out his hand, and drew in from where it had been entangled in a rope used for the fixing of a wind-sail, a lock of brown hair, which it was easy to recognise as Mrs Bedo's. He held it up, carefully examining the ends. Mr Bedo, much agitated, seized it from him, dropping at the same time the paper that he had crunched in his hand. Hansen stooped and picked it up.




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“That is my wife's hair,” said Bedo. “Something must have caught it when she was jumping over, and dragged it out of her head.”

“No,” answered Hansen, “I see that it is a strand which has been cut; not dragged out. Mr Bedo, this convinces me that your wife did not throw herself into the sea upon an hysterical impulse, but that her escape was planned. No doubt she cut off her hair, thinking it would hinder her in swimming.”

The Captain had come in while the Dane was speaking.

“The Lord pity her then,” he said, solemnly. “There's been smoke of Blacks' fires along the coast, and yesterday, some of the devils were sighted on the rocks, hurling their spears. But it seems impossible that she could have got to shore; and to say truth, I'd far rather that sharks had eaten her than that she should be in the power of those fiends. Mr Bedo, I'm afraid we must make up our minds to the worst. The first officer is still with the men searching, but we've found no trace, and anyhow, it isn't likely we should. I came to tell you that I must fasten up this cabin. Have you found anything which could give us a clue?”

Eric Hansen told him of the letter; and Mr Bedo, who seemed too stupefied for argument, allowed it to be given into the Captain's hands. The hair, too, was again examined. Clearly, it had been cut off, but was not, Captain Cass said, in sufficient quantity to be any proof of intention, as regards the disappearance. Who could say that Mrs Bedo had not cut off one of her abundant locks for some purpose of her own, and then thrown it away. Perhaps she had done so by accident, some days back. For the wind-sail had been taken down at Thursday Island, and not fixed again.




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Chapter III - Elias Bedo's Wife

ALL had been done that could be done on board the Leichardt in order to make certain of Anne Bedo's fate. People felt that the search was perfunctory, yet it was faithfully, if unavailingly, carried through; Kombo, the black servant of the lost woman, being foremost in the quest.

Mr Bedo, after his first sullen stupefaction, roused himself to a fury of anxiety, and stormed at Captain Cass and all the ship's officers, because the Captain refused to man and send off a boat for the exploration of the coast behind them. It was useless, the Captain declared, and would be contrary to his duty to his employers and the Government, whose mail contract he was bound to consider before everything else. Mr Bedo swore in vain, and at last was left to solitary indulgence of his grief.

There was less commiseration with him in his loss than might have seemed natural, for the man—drunken, brutal, and always quarrelsome—had been endured rather than liked, and all the sympathy of passengers and crew went out to the unfortunate woman, who, it was believed, had done away with herself rather than submit to her husband's ill-treatment.

The men admired her beauty in spite of her silence and reserve, which they had at first called “stuckupness,” not to be expected from little Anne Marley, whose mother had had to give up her station to pay the Bank's loan — little Anne, who had gone to Europe to make a name as a singer, and had woefully


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failed, and been obliged to marry rough Elias Bedo for the sake of a home. They had none of them believed in her voice, till one Sunday, when the Captain held service, she had poured out her glorious contralto in a hymn. Afterwards, they gave her no peace till every evening she sang to Eric Hansen's accompaniment on the old cracked piano in the saloon. Then, by the magic of her voice, she had carried each man back to scenes on shore—to opera-nights in Sydney and Melbourne, as she had sung airs from Verdi and Rossini and Bellini, and even from Gluck's “Orpheus”; then to nigger-minstrel entertainments, which the sailors loved best of all, when she had given them “ 'Way down upon the Swannee River,” and “Hard Times come again no more,” and “John Brown,” and the rest of those quaint plantation melodies.

By-and-by, Elias Bedo betook himself to his cabin in company of a bottle of brandy; and when the steamer reached Cooktown that night, he was incapable of even speaking to the Police Magistrate. This official spent some time of the two or three hours during which the Leichardt discharged and took up lading, in consultation over the affair. It was midnight when the Leichardt entered the estuary of the Endeavour River, and passed into the shadow of Grassy Hill, which overlooks Cooktown harbour. The sky had clouded over; a drizzle threatened, and the moon was quite obscured. Only a few kerosene lamps illuminated the darkness of the sheds, and of that part of the wharf where cargo was being unloaded. A few steerage passengers, mainly Orientals, disembarked at this port, and here, Kombo, the black boy, left Mr Bedo's service, having at Thursday Island announced his intention of seeking his tribe in order to see what had become of his father and mother, and, as he put it, “all that fellow brudder and sister belonging to me.”

Eric Hansen, on deck, saw him staggering along the plank with an enormous swag on his back, and a young Lascar hanging on behind him, but soon lost sight of


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the two behind the low sheds which lined the quay. Hansen was sorry that the black boy had gone, and wondered that he should care to go back to the Bush; but Kombo, though he was well tamed, having been taken young from his tribe, and though he had had three years' experience of domestic service with his mistress in England, gave an example of that savage leaven which somehow or other must assert itself in the Australian native. So Hansen knew that once Kombo had got past the hills behind Cooktown, he would cast off the garments of civilisation and relapse into his original condition of barbarism. The explorer had offered, if he would wait, to give him a place in his own pioneering expedition which was to start from a little further south; but Kombo, with “Mine very sorry, Massa, but mine like to stop one two moon before I go again long-a white man,” had shaken his head and refused the offer. Hansen was disappointed, for he intended to study the northern natives as well as the northern fauna of Australia, and had been getting what information he could out of Kombo, whose tribe was one dwelling inland of Cooktown. It was in his talks with the black boy that he had come into more intimate companionship with Mrs Bedo — curiously intimate, considering a certain half savage, half timid reticence which she showed to almost all on board. She rarely spoke at meals except a word or two to the Captain, beside whom she sat. When the weather was fine and comparatively cool, she would spend much time in her cabin; but in the afternoons, she would usually sit on deck, and there, Kombo would bring her tea, and sometimes stay to have a little conversation with his mistress. Then it would seem to Hansen that she was like some wild, shy creature, brought in from her native forests, and permitted to hold occasional converse with a domesticated inhabitant of her own land. For it was only, he felt, as her face lighted up in talk with Kombo, that he saw the girl as she really was—as she might have been, freed from the galling


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yoke of an uncongenial marriage. On one of these occasions, when Kombo lingered after bringing her tea, Hansen, walking past, was struck by the animation with which she spoke to her black servant in his own language. The conversation, after the first minute or two, had not seemed to be of a private nature, and presently Hansen drew near, and begged for a translation of some of the words, over which Mrs Bedo was now laughing with unrestrained pleasure. It appeared that they related to certain adventures among the Blacks, which she and Kombo were recalling, in which the girl had played the part of some native deity.

Hansen then unfolded to her his own projects, and his desire to become more intimately acquainted with the language and customs of the Australian Aborigines.

He now learned that Mrs Bedo had been a Bush girl herself, and had lived a little lower down on this very coast till, when she was seventeen, the Bank had, as she expressed it, “come down upon the station,” fore-closing a mortgage, and had turned them out. Her mother, who was in bad health and in danger of losing her sight, had gladly accepted the offer of a free passage from the Rockhampton branch of the Eastern and Australasian Steamship Company, and had, with her two daughters, gone to live in England. In those seventeen years of girlhood, Anne Bedo said she had learned the dialect of two native tribes, and now, she told him, was practising the language to see if she had forgotten it.

Hansen, as his mind went back to the occurrence, remembered with what a start she had answered his first question, and how eagerly she had asked him if he understood what she had been saying. He remembered, too, how sadly and earnestly she had been talking some little time before he had ventured to interrupt her, and he wondered whether she had been confiding her sorrows to this sympathetic black friend.

That episode took place after he had been on the boat about a week—he had joined it at Singapore—so that he had really known her for a very short time.


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Yet it seemed to him that those two or three weeks might have been years, so great was the interest with which she had inspired him. He felt that he understood her—her girlish innocence, her quenched gaiety, so ready to break out when the burden of her husband's presence was lifted—her misery, and her proud reserve— as he had never understood any other woman; and more than once it had occurred to him that were she free and he less wedded to natural science and a roving life, he would have chosen her beyond all other women he knew for his wife. But she was married, and he, even had she been free, was one not given to romantic dreams. So he had put away the vague fancy—not because of the wrong of it—for, indeed, he sometimes thought that the man who delivered her from so coarse a creature as Elias Bedo, would be doing an action worthy of commendation—but rather because he was the trusted servant of a scientific society, and had planned for himself an interesting two years' work, in which there was no place for sentiment concerning a woman.

He had found out her misery the day after joining the steamer, not through any confidence of hers, but by the accident that his cabin adjoined that one occupied by Mr Bedo and his wife. This was before Mrs Bedo, a few days after the landing of some other passengers at Singapore, had ventured to petition the Captain for a cabin to herself. Partitions on a steamer are thin, and ventilators admit sound as well as air. Hansen had heard Bedo swear at his wife, and reproach her for what he was pleased to term her imbecile obstinacy, in terms opprobious and embarrassing to the involuntary listener. He had heard also Mrs Bedo's sobs and pathetic remonstrances to the man she had so unwisely married. Hansen had the impulse to rush in and denounce the persecutor, but thought better of it; and after the second occurrence, went to the Captain and frankly stated his reason for desiring a change of quarters. Then he found that Mrs Bedo had been before him; and as the only desirable cabin had been


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allotted to her, Hansen withdrew his claim and remained where he was, suffering no further disquietude except from Bedo's drunken snores.

He thought of Anne Bedo all through that dreary day, during which the boat steamed down along the coast towards Cooktown. The notes of a song she had sung the last time he had heard her sing, haunted him through the hours—Che faro senza Eurydice—the most heart-thrilling wail of bereavement which ever musician penned or songstress breathed. He, too, felt almost as Orpheus might have felt in seeing his love lifeless, her soul dragged down to the pit. His own Eurydice, it seemed, had been torn from him by the cruel teeth of the monsters of the deep. He sat on deck, trying to read, and so occupy his thoughts, which, in spite of himself, would stray among visions of horror, and all the while, his eyes, unconsciously lifting, gazed out on the blue seas dotted with coral islands, or inland to the treacherous Australian coast. Where was she? He shuddered as he asked himself the question, recalling Captain Cass's words. Oh! that she had died without lengthened agony. Better, in truth, a shark for the slayer, than that she should become a prisoner among the Blacks.

A strange hush had fallen upon the vessel since Tragedy had brushed it with her wings. All that day the sailors went silently about their work; the meals were gravely served; none of the passengers seemed inclined to talk. During the long hours between the event of the morning, and the entrance into the mouth of the Endeavour River, which is the harbour of Cooktown, and, indeed, during many perplexed hours later, Eric Hansen brooded mournfully over his brief acquaintanceship with Anne Bedo.




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Chapter IV - Black Boy and Lascar

A BLACK boy and a young Lascar were trudging along a rough track in the Bush, some distance from the coast,—a track that could hardly be called a road; it had been made by the wool-drays coming in from a far-off Western station. The traffic was at all times small, and now the way seemed lonely and quite deserted, for the shearing season had barely begun, therefore the ruts and bog-holes made by the last bullock team which had trodden it, had already become grass-grown.

Both black-boy and Lascar were dressed according to their kind, the latter more fully than is customary among Indians and Malays in Australia, though his garments were wholly inappropriate to foot travelling in the Bush, and were torn in many places, stained with mud, and draggled and limp from the heavy dews. His small, lithe form was pretty well covered by a voluminous sarong, and only a small portion of brown ankle showed between it and his boots, while the upper part of the body was clothed by a sort of tunic in cotton, beneath the outer muslin drapery, which even hung over his arms. He wore a muslin turban twisted round his head, set far forward, and with loose ends, that, from a side view, almost hid his face. He trudged wearily, with a blue blanket strapped upon his shoulders, which seemed scarcely large enough for its weight. Indeed, he was so small and slender as to look hardly more than a child.

The black-boy, larger and more muscular than the ordinary native, seemed to have been a station hand employed by white men. Round the open collar of his


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Crimean shirt was a red handkerchief, neatly folded sailor-wise, above which his neck showed brawny and black. His trousers were of good material and cut, though they hung loosely, and were turned up in a big roll overlapping the tops of the boots. They had evidently been made for a gentleman, and indeed, any one acquainted with the wardrobe of Mr Elias Bedo might have recognised the garments as having been once his property. They were held up by a strap, from which hung several pouches, a knife, a tomahawk, and sundry articles of miscellaneous use. Round his Jim Crow hat a puggaree was twisted, and he bore on his back a very large swag.

The two had just struck the main road, having made their way across country, through scrub and over creeks, to a point whence a small digging township might be reached without difficulty. The direct dray road to this township branched off some distance back, but, from the present point, the diggings lay as at the apex of a triangle, and a miner's rude track led to it through the Bush. Presently, on the crest of a ridge in front of them, the black boy's quick eyes discerned two or three men on foot, also humping their swags. He knew that they were probably diggers, and this was the signal for him to call to his companion, who lagged a little, and to strike sideways into the Bush. They soon got behind another low ridge, and walked on in the direction they wished to go, but out of sight of the track. By-and-by, the black boy stopped, looked up at the sun, and peered around. Then he laid down his pack, while he made certain observations usual with the Australian native when he is not quite sure of his whereabouts. Presently, he gave a click of satisfaction with his tongue and teeth, and re-shouldered his swag, beckoning to the Lascar.

“That all right. Mine soon find—im old sheep-station, I b'lieve. Come along now; we go look for water-hole.”

The Lascar, who had sunk down upon a log, and was


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idly plucking and smelling some gum-leaves from a young shoot which sprouted near, rose, and again followed the native guide.

“That all right,” the black repeated. “Mine think-it we sit down along-a shepherd's humpey very soon now.”

The Lascar nodded and smiled, and trudged on again with a springier step than before.

They went silently through a stretch of gum-forest, wild and utterly dreary. The great uncouth trees rose above them, stretching overhead a latticework of stems, vertical rather than horizontal, and giving little shade. The limbs of the iron-barks were rough and knotted, with perhaps a stalactite of gum, red as blood, dropping here and there from some wound or abrasion on their surface, and were hung with long withes of green-grey moss that gave them a strange look of hoary antiquity. The arms of the white gums were smooth and ghostly white. They had but little foliage, and flapped shreds of pale papery bark that fell from them like tattered garments. Among the gums, there might be seen an occasional wattle, long past blossom, or a weird-looking grass-tree with its jaggled tuft of grey-green blades, thin and unleaflike, and its dark spear as long as the rest of its body. All was dull green-grey, arid and shadeless, from the thin leaves of the gum-trees to the tussocks of coarse grass and prickly spinnifex. These often hurt the bare ankles of the young Lascar, and he would give a little cry, instantly stifled, and then would tramp bravely on.

The Bush sounds only seemed to intensify the loneliness. It was getting towards mid-day, and most of the birds were silent. Those that were awake, had discordant notes, and were mostly of the parrot kind. They chattered shrilly, their harsh cries rising above the tinny whizz of myriads of new-fledged locusts, whose cast-off husks made odd shining blobs on the trunks of the trees. Now and then, the black boy ahead would call to his mate, and point to where a herd of


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kangaroos were disappearing in ungainly bounds through the tangled gum vistas. Sometimes an iguana would scuttle through the undergrowth, or the boy would stop and tremble for a moment at the treacherous rustle of a startled snake.

About dinner-time, the appearance of the country changed, and the stony ridges, covered chiefly with mournful brigalow scrub, gave place to a less timbered plain. The sun poured on them as they traversed it, and more than once the Lascar took a pull at his waterbag. But far in the distance their goal could be discerned. This was a dim belt of denser vegetation; and as they came closer, they saw a fringe of almost tropical greenery—great scrub-trees, and river-palms, and luxuriant creepers.

Here was the deserted sheep-station of which the black boy had spoken. It stood on the borders of a plain, close to a water-hole, which could be seen in a clearing that had been made in a patch of scrub. The grass upon the old sheep-yard was bright-green; there were still some straggling pumpkin plants, and a rosella shrub almost choked with weeds. Broken hurdles lay around, and close to the clearing was a dilapidated hut. The travellers made their way through vines and weeds, and entered the hut by an aperture, where the slab door hung back on broken hinges. Inside was a plank table, nailed to two stumps set in the earthen floor. Another plank, also supported by two lower stumps, served as a bench on one side of the table, and a slab bunk was set opposite against the wall. The Lascar sat down on the bunk, heaving a weary sigh of satisfaction at having found rest at last. Then he took off his pack, unrolled the blankets, and spread them on the bunk, making a bed on which he stretched himself. The black boy undid his swag too—it was much larger and heavier—and seated himself on the table, grinning benevolently at his companion.

“Būjeri you, Missa Anne!”—the Blacks' commendatory formula. “Ba'al mine think-it you able


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to walk that long way. You very fine boy, Missa Anne.” And Kombo gave a peal of laughter as he eyed the transformed woman.

Anne laughed too. In their keen sense of humour, she and Kombo were at one. It is the redeeming quality of even the most demoralised township black. She tore off the bespattered turban which had covered her head, and showed a short crop of soft hair—dark, but not dark enough to accord with her pretended nationality. Never did Singalese or Malay possess locks so fine and feathery. There did not now seem much of the Lascar in the little brown face, oval of shape, with its delicate aquiline nose, its small, pointed chin, and pretty, finely-curved lips. The eyes were dark-brown, very velvety, with curly lashes and straight, pencilled brows. Only in the hue of her skin, was the girl a Lascar; and how Anne Bedo had contrived, during the hours of her last night on the steamer, to stain herself the colour of a half-caste, was a mystery only known to herself and to Kombo, who had got the materials from a black medicine man in Thursday Island.

The girl's white teeth shone, as she laughed, between her red lips. Her weariness seemed to have gone; at this moment she only thought of the liberty bought, it seemed to her, so easily. For Anne Marley, in her Bush girlhood, had loved adventure, had been familiar with the Blacks and their ways, had known Kombo since her tenth year, and now alone with him in the wilds, felt no fear.

She got up from the bunk and looked down at her soiled muslin draperies—so unsuited to the life she had been leading during the last few days—and at the tattered sarong, between the rents of which a woman's longcloth under-petticoat could be seen. She put out her slender feet, cased in laced boots, which had been originally made for them, and therefore had not galled the poor little stockingless extremities. She contemplated ruefully the scratches on her ankles, over


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which the blood had dried and caked with the dust of the Bush, and gave a very feminine shudder.

“Kombo, I'm dreadfully dirty. I want to bathe. Find me a place in the water-hole where I can have a swim.”

Kombo shook his head. “Mine think-it alligator sit down there, Missa Anne.”

The girl shuddered again.

“Well, let us have something to eat first. We'll see what the place is like when we go to get water for the billy. Now let us find some sticks and make a fire. Quick—Murra, make haste, Kombo. Poor fellow me plenty hungry. Give me the ration bags. Go cut me a sheet of bark, and I'll make a damper on it.”

Kombo unstrapped his swag, which turned out to be two separate bundles, each rolled in a blanket, and both together enclosed in another blanket. From the dirtiest of the two—that which presumably held his own property—he produced some ration bags containing flour, tea, and sugar. These he set on the table, and then unfastened a blackened billy, and two pint pots which hung at his waist.

Anne laid hands on the other bundle, and carrying it to the bunk, undid it, gloating, like the girl she was, over certain feminine appurtenances, to which for several days she had been a stranger. Certainly, she had combed her short hair and washed her face, but that was the only sort of toilet she had made. Their one idea had been to push on, in order that as much ground as possible might lie between them and the possibility of re-capture. So they had slept but for an hour or two at a time, for the first day and night, and had only breathed freely since yesterday. A bundle of pocket-handkerchiefs, a change of linen, a grey riding-skirt and jacket, with a crushable cap, a few toilet requisites, pencils and paper, needles and cottons, and some other necessaries, made up all the baggage which Anne Bedo had brought away from the steamer. It had not been easy to take more, and even now she


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dreaded lest her husband should discover that the garments were missing, and so guess that she had planned her escape. Round her neck, beneath her tunic, she wore a locket containing the portraits of her mother and sister, and also a little bag in which was all her worldly wealth in the way of money.

Kombo went out to find sticks, and make a fire in the bark lean-to which the shepherd had used for a kitchen. Anne lingered in the hut. She had taken a little note-book out of her pack, in which were a few entries—the date of their departure from England, an address or two, and the list of her boxes on the steamer. The last entry had been a memorandum concerning prices of cattle which her husband had desired her to make on Thursday Island. The sight of it brought home to her the reality of her present situation. She turned the page, and, with the pencil attached to the book, scribbled sentences one after the other, with no regard to composition, as a mere vent for the wild joy that possessed her in the thought that she was safe from Elias Bedo, and free henceforward to live her own life.

“Anne Marley, escaped from bondage, rejoices in her liberty.”

“Better death in the wild woods than life in chains.”

“Anne Marley hails Nature, the emancipator.”

“How sweet is the taste of freedom! How intoxicating the joy of deliverance!”

And so on, till the page was covered. Anne looked at her scribblings with the naughty pleasure of a child which has amused itself out of school hours by scrawling over a clean copy-book. It was a very silly ebullition of feeling, which she had cause to regret later.




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Chapter V - The Shepherd's Hut

THE crackling of burning sticks recalled Anne to the fact that she was hungry, and going outside she saw a heap of dry gum-twigs making a blaze, which the sun robbed of its redness. Kombo was fanning the fire with his hat, and there would soon be a bed of ashes ready for the damper. Now, Kombo attacked a young gum-tree with his tomahawk, and in a minute or two had cut a sheet of fresh bark, on which Anne heaped flour from one of the ration bags. Water was needed for the mixing, and, searching the hut, she found a battered zinc pail under the bunk, which she gave Kombo to carry, and taking herself the billy and pint-pots, they proceeded down the clearing to the water-hole. This was not so easy a matter; for though the big trees had been cut, and lay tilted against others in the scrub on either side, lawyer palms had grown round them and hung their prickly canes over the path where ferns and undergrowth spread also, making progress difficult. How strange it seemed to Anne to be again treading warily for fear of snakes! This little bit of scrub was a delight, for it was more luxuriant than those she knew further south, and had tropical plants unfamiliar to her. She espied a tall tree on which grew a purple fruit like a plum, and Kombo climbed up to gather it, telling her, when he presented it to her, that it was very good. The water-hole they found was one of a series connected by the dry bed of a creek which had not for some time been flooded. It was dark and slimy looking, with muddy banks and rotting vegetation. A dead log lay half in and half


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out of the pool, and round it, grew a bed of poisonous-looking plants with large fleshy leaves like those of the arum. At the other end, also half in the water, lay a brown object which Anne thought at first was another log, but suddenly it moved, turned over, showing the pale underside of a hideous jaw, and she perceived that it was a crocodile. Kombo pointed to it.

“Mine tell Missa Anne that Yāmin sit down like-it water-hole,” he said, using the native term for the Saurian. The muddy bank, the slime of weeds, and dread of alligators, made it not pleasant to dip up water from the hole. Kombo poked about among the palms and ferns on the bank, and presently found a wide, shallow trough which had, no doubt, been dug out by the shepherd who had once lived at this sheep-station. From this they filled the bucket and billy, and here, Anne decided, that she would take her bath when the meal was over.

A scanty repast it would have been of new-made damper and tea, had not Kombo, plunging further into the scrub, discovered the mound of a scrub turkey, and brought back from it four of the bird's large eggs, one of which is almost sufficient for a meal. Two were laid on the ashes and baked. One had in it a young chicken that Kombo ate with gusto; the other was fresh, and Anne thought she had never tasted anything so delicious. When they had finished, Kombo put out the fire, covering it with dead leaves lest there should be Blacks near, whose attention might be attracted by the flame. This, however, was hardly likely. The deserted sheep-station was near the little digging township, as Kombo knew, for he had travelled past it with cattle on their way to a station called Kooloola. It was hoped that he might procure at this township a couple of horses, or even one that could be ridden, also provisions to last them through their journey. He knew the way to the diggings, and calculated upon getting there and back before nightfall. Now came


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a difficulty which had not been solved in Anne's talks with the black boy on the road. Should she accompany Kombo to the township, or would it be best that she should remain hidden in the hut? Anne, who was leader of the expedition, decided without deep pondering that she would remain. She was afraid to trust herself among white men, whose sharp eyes would perhaps pierce her disguise, and who would possibly carry news of her south, that might reach her husband. Strange as it may seem, she was not greatly affrighted at being left alone in the wilderness. She knew that there were no wild beasts in the bush that could possibly harm her, and crocodiles could not crawl up through the scrub to the hut to attack her. The most serious question in her mind was whether she might rely on Kombo. His fidelity she had proved, and could not doubt, but were he persuaded to drink at the grog shanty, there was no knowing when he might return.

Kombo, however, swore that no blandishments should entice him into the bar, or that were he compelled as a matter of business to enter it, no grog should pass his lips. Anne was obliged to be content with his promise. Never yet had she known him break his word when it had been given to her. In relation to other persons, Kombo's sense of honour was by no means binding, but between him and his young mistress there had always been the strangest affinity. It had been a puzzle to Anne herself; it was a puzzle also to the bushmen who knew of it, and who had no experience of so deep an attachment between black boy and white woman.

Anne untied the little bag she wore beneath her tunic, and taking out of it three five-pound notes, bade the boy use them to the best advantage. She had quickly thought the matter out, and now gave Kombo his instructions. He was first to buy food at the chief store in the township, and there to ask where he could best get a couple of horses. He was not to pay more


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than five pounds apiece for them, and if he could not find two for sale at that price, he was to get one; and also some sort of saddle, if it were possible to pick one up cheap. Supposing, as the chances were, that he could not get the horses that day, he was to come back, and go in again on the morrow, but he was not to say where he had left his mate. His story, if he were questioned, must be that he and his mate—a half-caste boy—were engaged to help muster at Kooloola, Mrs Duncan's station, some hundred miles further north, and that as time pressed, they did not want to do the journey on foot. The notes, he might say, were his wages which had accumulated from his last employer.

Kombo, like all Australian black boys, revelled in playing a part. He proceeded to set forth his views.

“Mine think-it Missa Anne make very good black boy,” he said. “I go along and buy shirt and trouser long-a store, same as black boy. My word! Missa Anne bujeri boy!” and Kombo went off in peals of laughter. “But mine think-it no good for ole Missa Duncan to see Missa Anne like-it black boy,” he continued, and meditated for a moment. “Never mind, mine make-im all right. We stop close-up lagoon, outside fence at Kooloola, and Missa Anne put on white Mary's skirt. Then ole Missa Duncan no make-it noise first time. By-'m-by, Missa Anne tell ole Missus what for that fellow make-im black. That no matter. Very soon, Missa Anne come altogether white again.”

Anne laughed too. She had forgotten she was brown. Her first idea had been that she would put on her grey riding-suit as soon as the black boy had departed. Second thoughts now showed her the prudence of Kombo's suggestion. She knew the Blacks' language well enough to find no difficulty in passing as a half-caste boy; and should they meet diggers or stock-men by the way, she would certainly be thus less likely to arouse suspicion. Besides, she could more easily ride in man's dress, for it was not likely that Kombo would be able to buy a side-saddle at the diggings. That in


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itself would cause remark. Often in the bush, she had ridden on men's saddles, and even bare-back, and had therefore no qualms on that account. So they settled that a Crimean shirt and trousers of the smallest size procurable, were, in the first instance, with rations, to be got out of the fifteen pounds. As to horses and saddles, it was doubtful whether the money would run to all these requirements. She had another five-pound note, but this she had resolved to keep in case of emergency; and it was a relief to her when Kombo proudly brought forth two other notes, describing how he had made Mr Bedo pay him at Thursday Island, and how he had there cashed his master's cheque. Kombo said he would buy his own horse out of his own money, and hinted darkly that if horses were not for sale at the diggings, he might be able to steal one.

Soon the black boy had disappeared among the gum-trees along the belt of scrub. He had only to follow the river bed to arrive in due time at the township; and, alone and unburdened, he could go much faster than when the heavy pack had impeded him, and Anne had been dragging more slowly behind.

Anne was alone. This she did not mind in the least; indeed, there was joy in the thought. She had always as a child loved wandering by herself in the bush. Once she had got lost, and had been out all night, finding her way back the next day according to the methods of the Blacks. She knew exactly how to trace down a gully, or follow a river from its heads, and how to steer herself by the lay of the country, and by the sun and stars. Many a time, too, had she chopped a 'possum out of a log, and unearthed a bandicoot from its hole at the foot of a tree. She wished now that she could find a bandicoot, or if she dared use her little revolver, to shoot some bird by the water-hole.

She had kept her possession of a revolver a secret, and had not shown it to Kombo. It was a tiny pistol which she concealed beneath her sarong—a toy that her husband had given her. He knew what a good shot she


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was, and she had asked for the pretty little weapon lying on the counter in its open case, which she had noticed when Mr Bedo was buying a gun to take out to Australia.

She had had scruples about carrying off this present of his, but some instinct had told her that it would be well for her to possess it; well also, that she should not make Kombo aware of her possession of it. Brave and lighthearted as she was, Anne Bedo knew well enough to what dangers a woman might be exposed in the Bush. So she had hidden the pistol and cartridges belonging to it about her person, before that early dawn, when Kombo had fetched her from her cabin to the locker in the stewards' quarters where he had hidden her, and where the search party had never dreamed of looking. Anne had then thought vaguely, that were they to discover her, she would shoot herself rather than go back to her husband.

Thinking over that eventful night and day, she wondered whether it had been found out that she had left the cabin door locked on the outside, and whether they had missed the revolver case, which she had thrown into the sea. She thought, too, of the letter she had left behind, speculating as to the impression it had made on her husband, and those who had read it. When she had begun to write, her intention was merely to finish it and give it to Kombo for the post. But in writing the last paragraph, she had suddenly reflected that by wording it in a particular way and leaving the letter unfinished, it might lead to the conclusion that she had, in a fit of mental aberration, thrown herself into the sea.

Anne put the revolver and cartridges away again, and went down the clearing to the dug-out pool in which she had thought of bathing. She peered carefully round to make sure that there was no horrible Ymain lying in wait for her. The only crocodiles with which she had as yet been acquainted were the “bimbies,” as the Blacks called them, which are a smaller kind, and comparatively


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harmless; but even those had filled her with terror, though she had eaten their eggs in the Blacks' camp. She seemed safe, however, from spectators, either human or animal, except, maybe, a stray wallabi or a ‘possum in a hollow log; and the birds which, now that that mid-day had past, were beginning to find voice. The strange “miawing” note of the cat-bird, the shrill call of the bower-bird, the plaintive coo of the scrub pigeon fell upon her ear, and another note that she had never heard—a very nightingale-roulade—which, under her breath, she tried to give back again. In old days, she had known how to reproduce the note of every Bush bird, and the temptation was too keen to be resisted. After one or two attempts she got the cry right, for the bird answered her back. Her courage rose; the rich voice swelled louder and fuller. The birds who at first had piped in response, held affrighted silence: they fancied that a strange, invisible songster had risen among them.

The girl laughed in almost elfish merriment. It seemed to her that, after long and weary banishment, she had once more found her home in her native forests, and felt herself akin even with the wild things which inhabited them. In truth, as she had herself said, Anne was a Bush girl to the very bones of her, and now was no more afraid in her own wild woods, than might have been Daphne before Apollo pursued her.

A very nymph she appeared as her garments fell, revealing her small form in all the grace of its early womanhood. She had not taken so much pains in staining herself where her clothes covered her, and below her breasts, to her knees, the colour of her skin was merely pale olive. Her face, shoulders, arms, and ankles were much darker, and she was almost afraid to wash them lest the dye should be removed. But Kombo had been right in his assurance of its efficacy. She might have been just a little fairer when she came out of the pool, but that was all.

As she dressed, the roaring of an alligator frightened


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her, and she went quickly back to the hut. Now that the excitement and strain of her flight were relaxed, she felt extremely weary, and her eyelids drooped heavily, for she had not slept much for many nights past. She spread her blankets on the slabs of the bunk, and, making a pillow for her head with her grey skirt, fell into a deep sleep which lasted for hours.




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Chapter VI - Kombo the Cavalier

ANNE'S scheme of escape had been carefully thought out during the night-watches on board the Leichardt, after she had told Kombo of her determination to leave her husband. She had not come lightly to this determination; and it is but justice to her to say that, much as she feared and hated the man she had married, she would have remained in servitude had she not become aware that every law, human as well as moral, justified her in freeing herself. Therefore she had appealed to the only friend she had, capable of helping her—the black boy. And in truth Kombo was made of heroic stuff, and would not have been undeserving of honour in the ancient days of chivalry. He had heard Elias Bedo swear brutally at his beloved mistress, had seen him strike her in a fit of drunken fury, and there had then come a look upon his face which convinced Anne that here was her Heaven-sent helper. It is usual to say that the Australian native is incapable of devotion, and does not know the meaning of faithfulness. Treacherous as a race they may seem, but there have been devoted Blacks who have served white masters to the death. “Jackey,” of the explorer Kennedy's expedition, is one notable example. Kombo in his, as yet, humbler fashion, was another. Certain it is, that from the time when he had been privileged to hold Anne Marley's bridle at a bad crossing, to weigh the meat for her, scrupulous to the fraction of an ounce, when she was giving out rations, to pilot her on her Bush rides and keep the coast for her when she and Etta were bathing, Kombo had always been Anne's devoted slave.


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The girl's voice had in the first instance captivated him. All Australian blacks, and especially those of the northern tribes, have an extraordinary love of melody. Their own musical scale is limited, and their Corobberee songs mere monotonous repetitions and compositions of half a dozen notes. But their whole temperament is peculiarly susceptible to harmonic influences, and their passions can be soothed or excited to an almost ungovernable degree by a war song, or one of the ugals with which they exorcise evil spirits. In Kombo's imagination—and the Blacks are wildly imaginative— Anne Marley's beautiful contralto stamped her as a being above all other humans, white or black. He had heard the songs of stockmen and diggers by the camp fire and had been moved thereby, but none of these affected him as did the songs which Anne sang. He used to tell her that her voice was as that of Baiamè, the Great Spirit, whose word had made the world, and as the voice of those wonderful white birds that, according to legend, had flown into the sky singing praises to Baiamè, and had been turned into the Pleiades—those stars which the Blacks believe are the keepers of rains. It was Kombo's fixed belief that Anne was one of these, sent back to earth again, in order that, by her singing, she might move the heart of Baiamè when the fountains of heaven were locked. Once there had been a time of great drought when the cattle had died, bogged in dried-up water-holes, and the sheep had made food for carrion dogs, and when the Blacks had come into the head station and stolen from tanks and reservoirs some of the scanty supply of water. Then Kombo came to Anne and besought her to sing within the Blacks' sacred circle. Assuredly, he declared, in answer to such entreaty, Baiamè would send down rain upon his thirsty people. Anne listened, for she loved the wild superstitions of the Blacks, and was but a child, to whom the earth and inhabitants thereof, and the gods above the earth, were all as one grand fairy tale. She had learned to shudder at the Kinikihar—ghosts of the dead who wander on


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moonlight nights in the Bush, and she feared mightily Yo-wi, the legendary monster who brings fever and ague, and Ya-wi, the mythological snake, and Buba, the giant kangeroo, traditional father of all kangeroos. So she went obediently with Kombo one moonlight night to the sacred circle that the Blacks had made, in which they had kindled bonfires to keep Debil-debil away, and round which the whole tribe had congregated. There were the warriors in the war-paint of great ceremonials and tribal fights, the elders wealed according to their tale of years, and adorned with frontlet, and necklace, and tuft of cockatoo feathers. There, too, the women crouched on the ground round the circle, crooning and beating time with boomerangs and nulla-nullas. So, in the midst of them, Anne lifted her voice and sang the grandest devotional song she knew—an Ave which their store-keeper, a musician and an Irish Catholic, had taught her. And great Baiamè heard and was merciful, for the next day the heavens were darkened, and rain fell upon the thirsty land.

After that, the fame of her went abroad among the Moongar tribe, and further, even to the far north. The Blacks named her Yuro-Kateena, or Cloud-Daughter, and from this time revered her as a Karraji-Wiràwi, which, being interpretated, is Medicine-Woman.

In those days, Kombo had shown his reverential devotion by bringing her cockatoo crests, the plumage of lyre birds and rare parrots' feathers, and such spoil of the Bush. Later, when disaster came, and the Bank manager wanted to keep him on as stock-rider after the station had been taken from Anne Marley's mother, Kombo had refused to be servant to the enemy of his goddess.

There had been a great woolla, a palaver amongst the Blacks, and much lamentation when their Cloud-Daughter, who they now believed brought them luck in hunting and protected them from evil, was departing from amongst them. It was the chief of the Moongar tribe who bade Kombo go with the Karraji-Wiràwi, and


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bring her back from over the Great Water that she might once more petition Baiamè on their behalf. So Kombo made his request to the mistress, and Anne pleaded till, somewhat against her better judgment, Mrs Marley consented. A free passage was granted to the black boy also, and Kombo accompanied the mother and daughters to England, where, if truth must be told, he had been more worry than profit. Mrs Marley felt thankful when he asked to be allowed to go back to Australia with Anne and her husband.

Kombo was one of the best specimens of the northern tribesmen, so much higher in the scale of creation than their southern brethren. He was a man, every inch of him; his natural gifts were remarkable, and in sagacity and quickness he was the superior of most white men. He could not be taught to read or write, and all attempts to instil into him the principles of orthodox theology had been a failure; but he could read every chapter of Nature's book that related to the story of his own country; he could mimic any man or animal with whom he made acquaintance; he was a keen judge of character, and he could hold his own among the worst sharpers who ever haunted a shearing shed. With the most guileless manner and appearance, he could plan and carry through a complete campaign of deception, and he loved nothing better than having in the way of work “to make fool of white man.” He had once gone on the drink, but ever since, had been afraid of a grog shanty, not from any exalted morality, but because he knew that he had been given doctored grog, which, as he phrased it, had made him “close-up go bong,” otherwise, very sick.

In his own domestic relations, Kombo's conduct left something to be desired. He was much given to wooing and then incontinently dismissing his gins, “because that fellow no good,” and, according to white law, he might have been frequently had up for bigamy. When residing in the stockmen's huts on the Marley's station, he had been quite contented to live “like-it


  ― 44 ―
white man” for a certain time, but about every three years the savage fever seized him, and then Kombo went off to the northern haunts of the Moongarrs, where he committed every aboriginal atrocity, short of assaulting white men. He was even suspected of having eaten warriors of a hostile tribe, though kindred in speech, called the Maianbars, who had fallen beneath his spear. It was because of this habit of Kombo's that he had never been allowed the possession of a gun, which would certainly have given him an unfair advantage over his enemies. He was now again due for a burst of barbarism, and it was when he had announced his intention of joining his dusky brethren somewhere in the neighbourhood of Kooloola station, that Anne had conceived the idea of making him her escort thither. Mrs Duncan, who owned Kooloola, was her father's sister. Some five years before, Mr Duncan had pegged out boundaries beyond even the extreme limits of civilisation, at the base of Cape York Peninsula, and though he had been considered fool-hardy, and even blameworthy, for taking his wife and children among dangerous Blacks, he had died a natural death, and had so flourished on his new station that Mrs Duncan had not felt inclined to give up the place. It was under Mrs Duncan's protection that Anne Bedo had desired to place herself, till opportunity occurred for her to start on a new scheme of life under another name than her own. Beyond taking present refuge, however, at Kooloola, Anne had not considered the future. Here, at least, she would be for a time safe.

Three days were passed in the shepherd's hut before Kombo found two horses and a couple of old saddles. Anne had an idea that one of these was stolen property, but asked no questions, and received back gladly what was left of the fifteen pounds. Kombo had bought for himself an ancient rifle and some ammunition, so that they fared sumptuously on game that he shot and which he broiled on the ashes, or baked, black-fashion, on


  ― 45 ―
red-hot stones in a hole in the ground. On the fourth day, Anne donned her black boy's costume of Crimean shirt and moleskin trousers, both absurdly large for her, and a felt hat, the whole a little inappropriate perhaps to the Karraji-Wiràwi part she meant to play, and on which her power of dominating Kombo's aboriginal impulses mainly depended. But she had only to sing a few bars of an Ave or a Gloria, and to point to the pale clusters of the Pleiades, indicating the stars as her sisters, for the subservience of Kombo to become abject. So, fearing nothing, and commending herself alike to the Catholic Saints and to the heathen gods of the Bush, Anne mounted her sorry steed, and the two—black boy and white woman—set off on their hundred and fifty miles ride to Kooloola. They put up at no stations on the way, not even accepting the hospitality of shepherd or stockman, but camped each night in the bush, hobbling their horses and cooking their own food, Anne sleeping under a gunya of boughs which Kombo made for her.

It was a strange, wild journey. Kombo had heard rumours of raiding blacks and of tribes at war with each other and with whites. Once, they met a band of native police with Captain Cunningham, the chief officer, at the head, which was on its way to the outside districts to disperse the Blacks, as the leader put it. This meant nothing more serious than the firing of a few shots, the wounding of an old man or two, or maybe a gin, and the breaking up for the moment of the camps. Anne, in her black boy's dress, astride upon what the Captain was pleased to term “an old crock, only fit to draw my grandmother's corpse,” trembled, and tried to hide her face, making pretexts for getting off the track, while the Captain parleyed with Kombo. She had known Captain Cunningham well in early days and feared lest he should recognise her. She fancied that he eyed her suspiciously, and did not like his questioning of Kombo, as to where the black boy had picked up his mate. “Ba'al mine think-it that brother belonging to you. What name that fellow?” said the Captain.




  ― 46 ―

Kombo invented a name on the spur of the moment; and then Captain Cunningham, who had also known Kombo in Mrs Marley's time, enquired about his mistress, and whether the rumour was true that Mrs Bedo had thrown herself overboard off Cooktown. Just then Anne pretended to spy a kangeroo, and putting spurs into the “old crock” darted through the gum-trees. “Billy—Billy!” cried Captain Cunningham, calling her by the name of Kombo's impromptu baptism. “Come here. Mine want to talk to you, Billy.”

But Anne would not hear; and Kombo, with a whoop and a black's halloa, spurred along his steed in pursuit of her, leaving the Captain to go on his own way with his troopers. They did not see him again, but the incident frightened Anne. Captain Cunningham had known her ever since she was a child. Often had she sat on his knee, and one of his amusements had been to make her “talk black,” and mimic her native friends. She was terrified lest he should discover Anne Marley in Billy, the black boy. Then all would be lost. She was sufficiently well acquainted with Captain Cunningham's views on matrimony and things in general, to be quite sure that he would take her in charge and escort her back to her husband. Each day after that, she rode in dread of again coming across the native police—in dread, too, of Blacks, for the presence of the troopers implied danger in that respect. Of the Blacks, however, Anne was far less frightened. They therefore forsook the track, riding in a course some distance away but parallel with it, and thus avoiding the chance of even meeting a wool-carrier with his team, or a party of diggers, or a lonely fossicker.

The journey lasted longer than it would have done had they been riding better horses, or had they kept to the dray-track. They had many adventures and endured much discomfort—at least Anne endured it; to Kombo, loose again in the bush, discomfort was a joy. It was the end of the rainy season, and the heat


  ― 47 ―
was steamy. For two days it poured, and the creeks came down in flood. Once the water bailed them up for a couple of nights; and twice obliged them to swim, clinging to their horses' manes, for the beasts were too weak to carry their weight against the force of the current. Kombo's gun was then disabled and his ammunition wetted, while Anne had some trouble in saving her own concealed revolver and cartridges from the wet. She contrived to tie them on the top of her head beneath her hat, and so kept them above the flood. When the rain ceased, they had to wind along the bank of a river through the tropical scrub, which is common up north, for some distance inland from the coast. In this they suffered greatly from mosquitoes and ticks. But they fared sumptuously on scrub turkeys' eggs, and ground game that Kombo trapped, as well as on the white larvæ which they found among the roots of trees, and which is a delicacy for both blacks and whites. Leaner days followed while they rode over the barren ridges they next struck. These were low detached spurs of the great range; and here, one of the horses went lame, thus retarding their progress. Camping on a ridge at night, a terrific storm arose, the most awful Anne had ever seen. While the rain came down in torrents, Kombo, with his head buried in the ground, called piteously on Debil-debil to depart; and Anne, wet through, hungry and frightened, wept like a lost child with her hands over her face. The lightning struck and rebounded upon the iron-stone of the ridge, making wonderful and awesome coruscations, and a tree within a yard or two of their camp was shivered to fragments. Their horses bolted during the storm, and this again delayed them, though the nags were found later not far off, stowed away in the bed of a gulley.




  ― 48 ―

Chapter VII - Birds of Prey

IT would take too long to tell of their escapes, which, after all, are common enough with bushmen who have attacked the base of that north Australian peninsula, though they were sufficiently alarming, even to a Bush girl accustomed to out-country life. There are women, however, to whom adventure is as the breath of life, and little Anne Marley, for all her feminine sentiment and romantic notions, was one of such. Often, in after life, she looked back upon the Bush journey with Kombo as one of the happiest times she had known; and, perhaps, compared with later adventures, it seemed tame and safe. By-and-by, they came upon beautiful pastoral country, the land which had enticed Duncan, the pioneer, from civilisation—rolling downs, slightly wooded, swelling below the basalt mountains and volcanic country westward. There, the peaks, strange-shaped and rock-ribbed, rose some three thousand feet out of dark-green jungle, barring part of the horizon. A little further, the mountains became higher, and multiplied in forms still more fantastic, where, in the far distance, the range turned inward towards a country wholly unexplored, and completely guarded against the inroads of squatters by impassable gullies and impenetrable scrub.

Anne had heard of the wonders and terrors of those mountain scrubs from explorers who had climbed part of the eastern side of the range, but had never penetrated its fastnesses, or gone into the mysterious region beyond. The Blacks had legends of some great and awful Debil-debil, more fearsome than any ordinary Debil-debil of the south, which inhabitated these tracts of the interior.


  ― 49 ―
Anne knew of the great sandy waste in the centre of Australia which had once been sea; where the rivers lost themselves in the sand, and whence scarcely any traveller returned. But between that sandy desert and the river-shed at the base of Cape York Peninsula, rumour spoke of a tract of country, closed in by scrub, where volcanoes had once raged, and where, according to the Blacks, were small lakes, supposed by them to be fathomless. The Maianbar and Moongarr tribes dwelt near its borders, and it was through stray Blacks who had found their way south, or had been brought by the native police from the outskirts of their own more inaccessible haunts, that these reports came. Otherwise, the region was unexplored. If the ill-fated Burke or Kennedy ever reached it, they did not return to tell the tale. There were all kinds of traditions about this unknown country. Anne had heard one prevalent among the Moongarrs, of a leviathan turtle that had lived in a lake which dried up, leaving the turtle without water. The story went that the turtle had turned into stone, and was now a mountain possessed of magic properties. Then there was another legend of a gigantic crocodile, dwelling upon the top of a high hill, out of whose mouth came fire and smoke; a monster which would still spit flame and ashes, and overwhelm any intrusive stranger venturing into its dominions. It was Kombo who had told Anne the story; he had learned it among the Moongarrs. Kombo believed devoutly in the crocodile “Debil-debil Yāmin,” and the turtle also—Mirrein, he called it. When Anne laughed, he was very much offended, giving her to understand that this was too serious a subject for profane jest. “Ba'al mine gammon,” said he; “plenty black fellow afraid of that fellow Debil-debil Yāmin.”

Anne asked him if he had ever seen that Yāmin. Kombo shook his head. “Ba'al brother belonging to me go long-a Deep Tank, close-up Crocodile Mountain,” said he. “Maianbar black, sit down there. Long-ago Maianbar black, brother belonging to Moongarr, talk altogether same. Then many moon back, two fellow


  ― 50 ―
tribe fight—oh! plenty fight“—and Kombo's eyes and gestures expressed oceans of gore—“Maianbar blacks been eat Moongarrs. Afterwards, not friends any more. Maianbars one side of mountains: Moongarrs stop this side. But I believe two fellow tribe brother again by-'m-by,” added Kombo cheerfully, for his own part quite ready to ignore the blood-feud.

Anne gazed out to a portentous-looking bank of clouds on the north-west horizon, and fancied that they were mountains, and that two of them were shaped like the turtle and the crocodile of Kombo's story. She wondered what was the real foundation of the legend, though it was not difficult to guess that it originated in a volcanic eruption. She knew that extinct craters had been found by many explorers, and she remembered, too, the explorer Hann's account of his find of fossil remains in North Australia, the wonderful antediluvian animals scientists had discovered to have existed in this oldest continent of the world—the gigantic iguana, the Australian diprotodons, the monstrous kangaroos, the enormous horned turtle.

Nearing the lower hills which bounded the great downs they had been traversing, Kombo told Anne that now they were “close-up Kooloola,” and that if she wanted to put on her “White Mary's” dress they would camp by a lagoon that he knew, not far from the home paddock, where she could undo her swag, and make herself “altogether like-it half-caste woman.”

“Ole Missus Duncan think plenty sun make-'im face black belonging to you,” remarked Kombo; and consolingly added, “Mine been tell Missa Anne that all right. That come altogether white by-'m-by.”

The lagoon lay between two low, full-bosomed hills, a peaceful tarn, on the surface of which floated the beautiful blue and white water-lily of Australia, and a few blossoms of a lovely pink colour, a rarer kind. Anne wanted Kombo to have a swim, and gather some of these for the old Missus while she changed her dress, but Kombo shook his head.




  ― 51 ―

“Mine think-it bunyip sit down there,” said he in a more portentous tone than that in which he had warned her against the alligators. “That water-hole go down long way in the ground. Mine think-it water come out other side,” he went on. “Ole Massa Duncan, he try once to measure with plenty thread, but that no good. I believe bunyip catch hold of thread. Ole Massa no find-'im bottom.”

Thousands of black duck, teal, and other water-fowl, with their young broods, floated on the lagoon, and now, alarmed by the voices of strangers, uttered strange cries, and rose, a mass of fluttering wings hovering over the water. At one end of the lagoon was a thick belt of casuarina and flooded gums, the white scaly stems of these last, uplifted like an army of ghosts. Anne retired with her swag into the shadow of these trees, while Kombo lighted a fire in a hollow log and set the billy to boil. Close to the bank, he warily waded to pluck some roots of water-lilies, which he laid among the ashes, and roasted like yams.

Presently Anne re-appeared—a trim little figure in her grey riding-habit, with the soft cap upon her short hair, and a veil, which she had brought away in her pack, tied round it, hiding the brownness of her face. Kombo gave a “Tschk! Tschk!” the black's expressive note of admiration, as she came up, tripping a little over her now unaccustomed skirt.

“Būjeri, Missa Anne!” said he; “Ba'al ole Missus see that fellow no look like-it White Mary.”

But Anne wondered whether her aunt would recognise her. She had not met Mrs Duncan since she was a child.

The girl and the black boy were hungry, and feasted with a light heart. They ate the yellow powdery roots of the water-lilies, which were very palatable, and a change from their ordinary diet of game and damper. The quart-pot tea was drunk, and then they remounted. Anne had some difficulty in sitting side-ways on a man's saddle, but Kombo and she between them strapped


  ― 52 ―
a little hump, cut from a gum-branch, above the saddle-flap, and thus contrived a sort of pommel. About three miles further, they came upon a cattle-camp, which showed that they must be near the station. Before long, the paddock fence appeared, and they halted to put down the sliprails. Some way off, they could see the homestead perched on the side of a hill, just above a long narrow lagoon. Banking the head-station, the hill behind sloped gradually towards a thick scrub which spread upwards over the summits of a broken range, and downwards, in a kind of semi-circle, round the upper end of the lagoon.

Anne, with her Bush knowledge re-sharpened, wondered why her uncle Duncan had chosen so dangerous a site for his homestead, in a country infested with Blacks, to whom the scrub would furnish a very effectual cover for attack. She supposed he must have had some good reason connected with the working of the station; for she knew that, though called fool-hardy, there was never a more thorough bushman than her uncle Duncan. She knew also that he had held theories concerning the treatment of the Blacks, opposed to those of most bushmen. He had always paid them liberally for work they did for him, and, appealing to what he considered their better nature, had constituted himself their protector. The thought flashed through Anne's mind just then—for she was a hard-headed little creature, and, in spite of her friendliness to the natives, knew they were like children whom it wasn't wise to spoil—that it wasn't over safe to be a pro-Black in an unsettled district.

A track, broad enough for the water-cart that supplied itself at the lagoon, wound round the gentler ascent of the hill, past the stockyard, with its heavy railed fence and massive corner-posts, to the back of the cluster of bark-roofed buildings constituting the head-station. They could just see these, partly hidden by a knoll that abutted from the plateau on which the homestead was placed.




  ― 53 ―

Kombo put up the sliprails, but just as he was about to re-mount his horse, something attracted his attention, and he walked on a little way, carefully looking at the grass and saplings which bordered the track. Then he stood still for a minute or two, gazing keenly from the homestead in the direction of the scrub behind it.

Anne called to him to take his horse which she was holding. He turned sharply.

“Kolle mal! Kolle mal!” he muttered, giving the aboriginal words of warning, and went on a short distance continuing his observations. Presently he came back to the girl.

“Missa Anne,” he said, “you see, smoke long-a scrub? You see, ba'al no smoke long-a white man's chimbley! What for no fire? What for no smoke? Missa Anne, mine think it wild black sit down long-a scrub. Mine no want-im Missa Anne go first time long-a humpey. I b'lieve Kombo mel-mel—Kombo, look out—Missa Anne stop here—then suppose all right, I come back and tell Missa Anne.”

Anne quailed at the scent of disaster, for the black boy looked strangely troubled.

“What do you mean, Kombo? Don't you think old Missus Duncan sit down long-a humpey?”

“Mine no think-it, Missa Anne. Suppose ole Missus long-a humpey, that fellow make-it fire-smoke. I very much afraid of wild black. You no been see long-a cattle camp, one bullock have spear hanging down long-a leg? I b'lieve wild black camp close-up, and this morning he been spear bullock. I no believe ole Missus long-a humpey. I b'lieve that fellow plenty frightened and run away.”

“No, no, Kombo. Ole Missus never frightened of Blacks.”

“I believe so, Missa Anne. One fellow, black-policeman long-a Captain Cunningham, been tell me Maianbar black come down and make corroboree closeup Kooloola, Maianbar black want-im flour, sugar, ration.… Ba'al mine think-it, that fellow look out


  ― 54 ―
talgōro (human flesh).” Kombo appeared doubtfully sanguine. “He no like old white. Maianbar black like best young black fellow.”

Anne turned very pale, and reeled slightly in her saddle. A more horrible possibility dawned upon her than that ole Missus should have run away.

“Oh! Kombo—don't!” she faltered.

“No fear, Missa Anne. He very bad black, Maianbar black;” and Kombo made a devout grimace. “Ole Missus know all about that, and make altogether white man yan (run away). You see—what for no firesmoke? Mine think-it Missa Anne better stop down long-a hut close-up water-hole. I go look out.” Kombo pointed to a bark hut on the bank of the lagoon at the end furthest from them. A fringe of trees and swamp oak spread past the gum-trees, along the side of the lagoon inside the fence they had just passed through, and Kombo's quick intelligence had already grasped the advantage of placing themselves under cover. He suggested that they should get off and lead their horses round along the edge of the water-hole, under shelter of the trees, and then see if the hut was empty, or tenanted by the stockman. He might well be there, for it was near sundown, and work should be over on the run. If he was at home, they might assure themselves that all was well at the station. If the place was deserted, Anne might wait in it, with the horses tethered near, while he, Kombo, crept up the side of the hill near the scrub, and reconnoitred at the back of the house. Anne did not quite care for the plan, and would have preferred to ride straight up to the homestead, but Kombo impressed her by the earnestness of his manner, and she had confidence in the boy's instinct. Besides, a feeling of great uneasiness and desolation, such as she had not yet known during their wanderings in the Bush, had crept over her in the last minute or two. Though she had reached her goal, she could not help, after Kombo's suggestion of the Maianbars' weakness for talgōro, feeling terribly anxious.




  ― 55 ―

Just then, a flight of hawks wheeled down from the homestead hill, close over her head, fierce, red-eyed birds of prey, whose very presence filled her with an unreasoning sense of ill-omen. She resisted Kombo no longer, but got off her horse, and, leading it by the bridle, followed the black boy among the belt of trees to the stockman's dwelling. The door of the hut stood open. Inside, the blue blankets lay in disorder on the bunk, as though a sleeper had hastily arisen. Outside, the fire under the bark lean-to had been laid, but had not been kindled. Two or three fresh bits of wood lay upon the half-burned foundation logs, and there seemed something oddly forlorn in the heap of last night's ashes beneath them, and in the empty black pot tilted on the ground close by. Outside the door, on a bit of stump, the stockman's coolaman—the bushman's wooden washing basin—was set, with the hard square of yellow soap within it. Though in the shade, it was quite dry, and had evidently been unused that day. Nobody was in or near the hut, and Anne seated herself on the slab bench beside the rough table, while Kombo hung the horses to a tree, and then, skirting the upper end of the lagoon and the border of scrub beyond it, began to climb the hill so as to get a side view of the homestead.

Anne waited a long time in the hut—it seemed to her hours, though it was scarcely forty minutes. The setting sun shed a glow on the trees and the bare bit of ground outside, and upon the distant peaks of the range which she could see through the hut door. The mosquitoes, coming with the approaching twilight, had begun to swarm, and the hut was close and ill-smelling. Outside, every now and then, she saw a hawk circling low to the ground. One came after the other, and she wondered what carrion feast had caused the foul birds to congregate. No doubt, she thought, it was the speared carcase of a bullock which the Blacks had killed, and, unable to carry away, had left to rot. She had forced herself to dismiss any more


  ― 56 ―
appalling conjectures. Anything else seemed impossible.

The evening birds were beginning to call. She could hear the gurgling note of a swamp pheasant, and every now and then the raucous mirth of a laughing jackass pealed from a neighbouring tree. The Bush sounds which she so loved seemed now only to intensify the nervous strain, which was becoming unbearable. She wondered why she should suffer so, for the first time, now that she was within sight of her aunt's house, and almost under her aunt's protection. For, of course, her aunt was there. She had not felt so lonely and frightened in the shepherd's hut by that crocodile-infested water-hole. It struck her; were there any crocodiles in this lagoon? And then she began to feel thirsty, and searched the hut for water. There was none to be found, and she took a pannikin and went restlessly out towards the fringe of ti-trees which hid the little lake from her view. The sun had now sunk, and a red afterglow illuminated the plain, striking the slab fence of the paddock, and causing scales of ti-tree bark to shine like silver.

Anne walked a little way. All around her, were creepy sounds of animal life, but there was no sign of Kombo. Now she thought that she heard the thunder of hoofs—a rush of cattle, perhaps—on the plain. A hawk rose from among the trees ahead of her close by the bank of the lagoon; another flew up, and another. She pushed back the branches, moving uncertainly, for she was vaguely conscious of some wakening horror, She struck through an odorous thicket of river jasmine, lemon gum, and the fragrance of ti-tree blossoms, and now stopped dead short, and uttered a piercing scream.

At her very feet, the head towards her, the legs caught in a tangle of vine, lay the body of a man clad only in a shirt, with the top of the head battered in, the eyes staring, the mouth wide open, a swarm of flies upon the blue lips; while, as she stood, her shoes were


  ― 57 ―
almost wetted by a little stream of coagulating blood. Beneath her outstretched arms, a loathsome carrion bird spread its wings, and fluttered out over the lagoon. The girl gave another shriek, and fled back through the thicket. She understood now. God of mercy! That this thing should be! Had the Blacks massacred every white man and woman on Kooloola station?




  ― 58 ―

Chapter VIII - “Altogether Bong”

KOMBO stood at the door of the hut. He had been crouching at the back of it, even as she went forth to the lagoon, not knowing how he should tell his gruesome tale. He leaned against the lintel, his limbs shaking as though he too had not recovered from the shock of some terrible discovery.

His face seemed ghastly under the outer pigment of black, and his lips were bloodless; but in his eyes there lurked an unholy light, and Anne realised, with a fresh shudder, that the savage beast in him, contending with acquired prejudices of civilisation, was for a moment unleashed, and might have to be fought and conquered.

The girl's indomitable spirit gazed out from her own eyes, and quelled the savage. He gibbered helplessly, uttering unintelligible sounds and laughing with the Black's peculiar note in his guttural merriment. Then he quailed before her gaze, making a gesture of pleading and dismay.

“Kombo!” Anne said, aware that now she held the hereditary tendencies in check, and that he was once more her slave. “Kombo, do you know what has happened? Do you know that he's dead—the man out there? Do you know that the Blacks have killed him?”

Kombo laughed again—a hopeless, helpless laugh, in which, nevertheless, there was a faint triumphant cadence, telling of the race hatred between black and white, subdued in him, but not wholly eradicated.

“Yo-ai!” (yes) he said. “Mine think-it all white man bong long-a station. Plenty dead white fellow—ole Missus; two fellow daughter belonging that one.


  ― 59 ―
Young Massa—one fellow Chinaman cook—all lie long-a floor where black fellow been. kill altogether white man. I been tell Missa Anne no smoke—no fire; all white fellow bong—altogether bong, altogether dead.”

“Kombo, do you mean that they are all dead—all?” The girl spoke in a whisper, her eyes distended, her teeth chattering. “Kombo, you say all white fellow bong long-a station? You no tell lie?”

“Mine no tell lie, Missa Anne. I believe black fellow come last night kill everybody, take-im store, find-im grog, mumkull altogether with spear and nulla-nulla—ole Missus, young fellow white Mary belonging to her; young Massa Jim—Chinaman long-a kitchen—altogether bong. I creep up close-up humpey. I see long-a verandah ole Missus—I believe black fellow kill that one first with waddy. Inside, I see two young Missee—I believe black fellow take-im that fellow—no kill altogether quick like it ole Missus. Then I go outside long-a store. Young Massa he have-im spear like it back, and Chinaman he lie dead little way off. Mine no see young Massa Tom. Mine think-it that fellow run away and look out—find Captain Cunningham and black police.”

Kombo's keen wit had worked out the situation in all its chances and probabilities. He knew that of the Duncan boys there should be two at home, and one was missing. He knew, too, that the black troopers under Captain Cunningham, from whom he had heard their destination, should be encamped a short distance eastward.

At this moment, in confirmation of his intuitive reasoning, the distant thud of hoofs which Anne had heard, deepened into nearer thunder, and suddenly ceased. Kombo darted to the fence, Anne following, and both looked along it, to where now they saw a band of troopers halt for a few seconds, to let the rails down, then pass through in single file and gallop up the slope towards the head station. Each one had his rifle ready,


  ― 60 ―
and it was evident the little army was bent on no peaceful errand. No other white man was with the band. Clearly, if it were Tom Duncan who had roused the police, he had been too exhausted to return with them. Maybe he was wounded, and had only dragged himself to Cunningham's camp to die.

Anne and Kombo faced each other—black man and white woman, realising to the full, and without need of words, the danger of the position. On one side were the Blacks, glutted with gore and spoil, their fury satiated, and no doubt prepared for flight into the fastnesses where men on horseback might not seek them. On the other, were the Whites, and in their company the certainty of recognition. Were Anne and Kombo to ride up now to the homestead, it would be almost impossible to deceive Captain Cunningham. Publicity must be given to all details of the tragedy, and the report of the native police would surely mean that Elias Bedo would obtain positive information of his wife's existence and whereabouts.

Better to fall into the hands of the Blacks, Anne thought, than into those of Elias Bedo.

But there was a middle course. It might be possible to hide until pursuit of the plunderers was fairly started, and the southern route clear. Then she and Kombo might either return the way they had come, or wait in the Bush and go northward by the coast to Somerset where there would be a chance of catching some vessel bound for Java. That had been the plan in Anne's mind, when she had decided upon seeking temporary refuge with her aunt. The middle course had also occurred to Kombo as the safest. There was no need between them for preliminary discussion. He seemed to read her mind as she read his. Kombo scratched his head, and thought silently for a minute or two. Then he went back to the horses, unfastened their bridles from the gum-bough to which he had strapped them, re-adjusted Anne's saddle and the pack that had slipped down, then delivered himself of his opinion.




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“Missa Anne, mine think-it no good to go long-a station until black police go away. By-'m-by that fellow hunt after wild black in the scrub, but mine think-it very soon, white man from other station come long-a Kooloola. You know! That fellow wear-im shirt outside of trouser and, my word! cobbon woolla—plenty talk and say prayer.” Thus Kombo graphically sketched the surpliced Bush parson of his experience. “I believe that white man go look-out Massa Bedo. … Tshck! Tshck!” with the indescribable ejaculation of the native. “White man tell Massa Bedo. ‘You run—murra, make haste—wife belonging to you sit down long-a Kooloola. Massa Bedo—he think Missa Anne dead.’ When white man tell him Missa Anne no dead, he very glad. He ride quick, and pialla (appeal to) Captain Cunningham to bring black trooper. Altogether come—catch Missa Anne and by-'m-by put Kombo in goal. Naia-yo! Naia-yo! That very bad for Missa Anne. That very bad for Kombo.”

“Yes: that very bad,” said poor Anne. “You must help me, Kombo, to keep out of Captain Cunningham's way. What can we do?”

Kombo ruminated for a minute or two. “Mine cobbon stupid fellow, Kombo. Massa Bedo, he plenty saucy. He got-im money; he make black trooper servant belonging to him. Mine think-it no good to go back long-a Cooktown. Best way to hide close-up Kooloola and look out till black trooper go away.”

“But where can we hide?” asked Anne. “Captain Cunningham very good bushman, Kombo. No can hide from black trooper.”

“Ole Massa Duncan no like black trooper,” said Kombo. “I believe ba'al that fellow know bush long-a Kooloola. Missa Anne, you see!” The boy pointed to a knoll, two or three miles distant, which rose sharply above the scrub. “Big fellow cave sit down over there. Brother belonging to me show me place long time ago, when I bring cattle for Massa Duncan. That cobbon big cave; that very dark cave, very good place to hide.


  ― 62 ―
By-'m-by black police take pho-pho, and go shoot wild black. Kombo look out; find saddle, catch horse—būjeri horse, Kooloola brand. Missa Anne and Kombo make quick track. White man no see; police no can find.”

Kombo's comprehensive plan was the best in the circumstances, but Anne hesitated.

“Suppose wild black sit down long-a cave?” she suggested, weakly.

Kombo shook his head.

“Mine no think-it Maianbar black stop close-up station,” said he. “That fellow frightened, and run away long-a mountain. You come long-a me, Missa Anne; lie down inside cave; make fire and cook supper. Niai kandu… Mine plenty hungry.”

Kombo was a philosopher. No matter what the tragedy around him, the danger and the difficulty, he never failed, at the close of the day, to make this announcement. Anne did not feel hungry. Nevertheless, she listened compassionately when Kombo said “Niai kandu.”

“Mine show you short cut long-a cave. Mine take-im swag. Mine let go yarraman (horses) and mine plantim saddle. By-'m-by, when black trooper and white fellow altogether yan, mine run up yarraman in paddock—much better yarraman. You see? You think-it that būjeri?”

Anne nodded acquiescence. She could not speak; something seemed to have come up suddenly in her throat and choked her. Her eyes stared vacantly into the bush. She saw before her the dead bodies of her aunt and cousins, and the tragedy re-clothed itself with new horrors. Silently she helped Kombo to unsaddle the horses. When free, the beasts started off with a whinny, and went to drink at the lagoon. She took the two swags in her right arm, while with her other hand she held up the skirt of her riding-habit, regretting bitterly that she had not kept on her black boy's costume. Then she staggered after Kombo, who was


  ― 63 ―
laden with the saddles and bridles and his own gun, and was making straight for the scrub. The two skulked behind trees and shrubs till they had reached the shelter of the thicket, afraid that the native police might espy them, but soon they were hidden in the dimness of dense vegetation, and pressed inward as fast as their burdens would allow. After walking for a quarter of an hour, Kombo laid the saddles and bridles in a hollow at the foot of a tree where the earth had slipped, leaving the roots bare, and collected mould and twigs, scraping them backward with his foot, after the manner of a scrub turkey building its mound. Then he gathered other twigs, and before long, the saddles and bridles he had planted were covered safe from the chance of a marauder. The boy then made a discreet blaze on the tree with his tomahawk, so that they should neither of them, on returning for their property, miss its hiding-place. While he worked, Anne gathered her habit round her waist, binding it by a strap that she took from the pack, so that with kilted skirt, progress through the jungle might become a little less difficult. It was still sufficiently arduous, though Kombo went first to move, here a spiked log, or to cut away there, the withes of a hanging creeper. He steered straight for the rocky knoll he had pointed out, in which the caves were situated, though it was no longer visible, and even the stars by which he might have guided himself were hidden by the roof of interlacing branches. But a black boy's instinct of locality is a compass which rarely fails him. Moreover, Kombo was near the hunting-ground of his own tribe, the Moongarrs; and though it was years since, as a naked piccaninny, he had wandered through this region, he had returned to it with Duncan the squatter, and remembered the features of the land.

Night fell. It was much darker in the scrub than it would have been in the open, and the eeriness of it all thrilled Anne's nerves, which vibrated like strings stretched to breaking point. She walked close on Kombo's heels, sometimes stepping deep in mire, sometimes


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stumbling over stones, sometimes slipping down the side of a gully; her ankles bleeding, her hands torn among the prickly shrubs and tangle of vines.

As they got further into the heart of the scrub, the gullies became steeper, and the great boulders that encumbered them more numerous. Hugh volcanic stones were lying pell-mell, monoliths standing on end, and rocking-stones poised, and trembling at a touch. It was as though, in the beginning of things, fire demons had played here at pitch and toss. After a time, through a rift in the trees, they could see the evening star. The vegetation had become scantier, rocks taking the place of trees, and now they found themselves on a space, clear, but for the stones which strewed it, and with a basalt cliff rising close over it. The base of the cliff was curtained by creepers, and low scrub trees grew out of fissures in its face. Here, a part of the sky was visible—cloudless, of an intense blue, gemmed with stars; the Southern Cross apparently touching the summit of the crag. Anne—ragged, scratched, and sore from the stings of insects and of scrub nettles—sank exhausted upon a stone, a most pitiful figure; while Kombo, marking the position of the stars, took his bearings, and gave guttural clicks of satisfaction at finding how little deviation he had made.

“Close-up cave, Missa Anne,” he called, encouragingly. “Very quick, plenty supper, plenty sleep. Come on.”

Anne rose; and they moved northward round the knoll, pushing through the scrub where it encroached on the rock, and at last halting before a dark blot on the cliff's surface—a half-circle, in the centre of which was a great bare boulder. Creepers hung round the opening, which, to a casual eye, would not easily be discoverable. Kombo peered about on every side, anxiously searching for any signs of Blacks' fires, but he saw none. Now he bade Anne follow him, and stepped warily inside the cave.

“All right,” he called out; and the vaulted roof of the


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cave caught his voice and sent it back in a reverberating echo, so uncanny that Anne started at the sound. She pressed in close upon him, and, after a little groping on Kombo's part, both stood in a deep embrasure near the mouth of the cave, which was here dimly illuminated by the starlight outside. The light was just sufficient for Anne to trace the outline of a long, wriggling thing, which, at the sound of footsteps and voices, stirred from its lair. Kombo darted forward. “Make light quick, Missa Anne,” he whispered hoarsely. “Mine think-it that snake”; and as Anne struck a match which she had in readiness, she saw by its feeble flare that Kombo had brought the butt end of his old gun down upon the neck of a great brown serpent, which, pinioned and powerless to use its poison fang, struck out wildly with its tail, its body half coiled round the body of Kombo's gun. She drew back shuddering.

“Give me waddy, Missa Anne,” cried Kombo, stretching back his hand, as with the whole weight of him he leaned on the gun. She handed him a stout stick which he had cut for her as they went through the scrub, and a few well-directed blows made the snake's coils droop flaccidly, its back broken, while Kombo battered in its head. Anne struck match after match, exploring the hollow in which she stood lest other reptile or beast should there have made its nest. But all was safe; the floor was smooth and clean, the walls bare stone, and she leaned against a projection, too frightened to move. The cave seemed to stretch into unfathomable blackness, but was now silent as the grave. How thankful she was that Kombo had bought these boxes of lucifers at the township store, and that they had managed to keep them dry when crossing flooded creeks, by tying them up in the bladder of an animal they had shot. She knew that she ought not to be reckless with her matches, but to remain alone in the darkness of the cave was more than her nerves would bear. Kombo had dragged the snake outside, but presently returned, gloating over the supper he would make from


  ― 66 ―
it. He brought in a bundle of sticks and dry leaves, and before many minutes a fire was kindled. Then he took a fire-stick and searched the cave, making another fire in a further recess. Here he took Anne's swag and spread her blanket, keeping his own belongings by the fire at the entrance. He called Anne to come up to her camp—so he named the further fire—and the girl gladly obeyed.

Never had distressed damsel more chivalrous servitor, as Anne had found good reason to assure herself during these wanderings. Each night she had softly sung a prayer, and Kombo, reverently listening, had made the Black's obeisance to Baiamè, the masonic sign taught young men when initiated into the Bora mysteries. Anne knew of those rites, which aboriginal tradition held that Baiamè himself had established when, in long past ages, he had descended as a great white man upon earth. When she had sung, Kombo would retire, and Anne would lay herself to sleep—the first night or two of their journey with her revolver clutched in her right hand close by her side, beneath the blanket. But after a little time she realised the magic power of her incantation, and the depth of Kombo's loyalty to his gods, and to the woman who he believed was their representative. She knew most surely that she had nothing to fear from Kombo himself, and also that his outpost camp was a protection against intruders, upon which she might safely rely. It gave her no anxiety to know that both her honour and her life were at Kombo's mercy, for she realised that they could only be assaulted across the boy's dead body. In her trustful gratitude to Kombo, Anne almost cried sometimes when she thought of the treachery which pioneering Whites had dealt to his race. She was certain that those savages they had ill-used would have been faithful, had they been taught by their conquerors the meaning of fidelity. When she thought of the dispossessed tribe dying out down south, killed by the very vices they had learned from Englishmen, her heart burned with indignation. Setting aside superstition,


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Kombo loved her and was true to her because she had been kind to him, had never scoffed at his traditions, nor had tried to force on him a religion which experience told him had, on the part of its professors, led to outrage upon the women of his race, and cruelty to its men. Kombo once told Anne of a certain squatter in the back blocks, who, when a camp of Blacks pitched their gunyas beside his water-hole, had called up the chief and palavered with him, telling him that the Whites wanted to make a feast for the Blacks, as it was Christmas Day, and that “a pudding like-it white man's Christmas pudding” should be made for them by the white cook, and given to the chief if he would take it down to the camp. The chief came, the pudding was given to him, and the next day nearly all the tribe was dead, for the pudding had been poisoned. Was it any wonder, she thought, that afterwards white men were speared from behind gum-trees, and that there were murders on the lonely stations?

Anne remembered this story now, and found in it a plea for black murderers. Then the realisation of the tragedy so near, came home to her, and she wept bitterly. Her kind old aunt, her young cousins; why had they, who had never wronged either Black or White, been chosen as expiatory victims for the wrongs civilisation had committed? She could scarcely believe, even now, in the truth of that grim story which Kombo had told her. She could not have credited it at all but for the horrible sight she herself had seen by the lagoon. Her brain was dazed, her senses numbed, the future was a blank. All her plans had been destroyed; she could think of nothing now, but that for the moment, her weary body had found a refuge in which she might lay herself down to sleep. Kombo came up presently with a billy full of water he had found in a hole among the rocks, and with the ration bags of tea and sugar. They had a segment of damper, baked the previous night, and this she ate greedily, not waiting for the billy to boil in order to wash it down with quart-pot tea.




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Kombo chuckled benevolently at the sight of her hunger, and produced a bleeding lump of the snake's body which he laid on the embers to roast. It seemed to him that he had provided a delicious repast, to the merits of which his mistress had hitherto been insensible, but which now, in her need for food, she would surely recognise. He had never yet been able to persuade Anne to eat the blacks' favourite delicacy, snake; the easiest food procurable in the Bush. But even now Anne shuddered at sight of the dainty morsel, and bade him take it to his own fire.

“Mine got plenty more, Missa Anne,” said Kombo. “That very good, altogether būjeri,” and he smacked his lips in anticipatory relish, but Anne still refused the delicacy.

“Mine find-im bandicoot to-morrow,” said Kombo, grieved that she should fare so ill, and took the bit of snake to his own camp, where he cooked and devoured it, while Anne ate her damper and drank her tea. Then she softly sang her little hymn, and bruised, tired, and sore, she stretched herself as she was, on her blankets, and slept long into the morning.




  ― 69 ―

Chapter IX - The Cave of Refuge

LIFE in the cave, but for mosquitoes and absence of light and air, was not absolutely disagreeable. The rest from physical exertion was a relief to tired Anne, whose limbs ached from riding a rough horse, and on a man's saddle for so many days. They were stiff, too, after the march through the scrub, and bruised from her falls among the stones. Yet after the first twenty-four hours, her nerves began to recover their balance; for the wild life of the woods, the scent of the scrub, the sough of the wind among the trees, the calls of the birds and other native sounds breaking the solitude, were as medicine to her spirit. In spite of grievous thoughts that afflicted her, it was indescribable pleasure to feel herself once more Nature's child in the nursery of her earliest years. With the adaptability of youth, she set herself to make their rock abode as habitable as circumstances permitted. There was no knowing how long she might have to dwell in it, for Kombo and she had decided that they would not venture into the open until the coast was clear both of Blacks and Whites. The native police, they concluded, would have raised the district in quest of the murderers, and might at any time, in company of neighbouring squatters, turn up again at the station; but Anne hoped that her cousin Tom Duncan, if he were still alive, would return to Kooloola, and she determined, on the most convenient opportunity, to throw herself upon his protection.

They had not heard any sound of shots, and no search parties had come near their retreat. Kombo, taking


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off part of his garments of civilisation with the gladness of a savage restored to barbarism, and clad only in his dark-grey flannel shirt, crept cautiously through the scrub, and reconnoitred as best he could. He dared not go out of shelter; but from a little eminence overlooking the station, he had seen that a small detachment of troopers was quartered at the homestead, though doubtless the strength of the force had gone in pursuit of the Blacks. It was reinforced, Kombo had reason to believe—from the horse-tracks he had descried round the upper end of the water-hole, and on the edge of the scrub where he had ventured forth—by some white men from the stations eastward, who had hastened to Kooloola on receiving news of the murders.

There was no smoke of camp-fires in the scrub, as far as Kombo's eyes could reach; and it seemed clear, as he had told Anne, that the tribesmen must have fled towards the mountains, where the troopers would have much ado to catch them. They would not go, he said, as far as the fire-spitting crocodile. Into the dominions of that monster no Black would dare penetrate, and from them no White would issue alive—so declared Kombo, and Anne wondered anew if there were hidden volcanoes in that closed region, the existence of which was unknown to explorers. Short of that fearsome locality, Kombo informed her there were plenty of scrubs and rocky places on the side of the range, and where the natives would be perfectly secure from molestation. He also assured her, shamefacedly, that it would not be his own tribe, the Moongars, that had committed the evil deed. Their hunting-grounds, he explained, were further south, this being their extreme limit. He again suggested that the marauders belonged to one or other of a more warlike and much dreaded race, either the Maianbars or the Poolongools, both of which spoke the Moongar dialect, and inhabited the ranges further west.

Anne tried to forget her sorrow in making the cave comfortable, Kombo keeping his camp near the mouth


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of it, while she remained in the interior. There were grass-trees out upon the stony plateau upon which they had emerged from the scrub, and she made the black boy cut some of the green tufts of these, and spread them upon the floor of the cavern. On a heap of the long blades, she laid her blankets, making an odorous couch; the trunk of the tree they burned at the entrance of the cave, and so managed to keep off the mosquitoes, which would not fly through the smoke. Kombo collected, too, a number of dry branches to serve as fuel for several days; and finding a convenient basin in the cave, they fetched water in their billies and pint-pots, making many journeys to and from a spring Kombo had found, and filled the basin, so that they might have a supply at hand in case of siege.

Anne dared not herself go far outside the cave; but Kombo foraged for native berries and roots; for the larvæ which, when roasted, make a dish for an epicure; for scrub turkeys' eggs, and for opossum and bandicoot, so that on the whole, they fared sumptuously. Kombo sometimes wished openly that he had a gin to get food for him, and once tentatively suggested that they should join the Blacks, who, he said, would pilot them up the coast to Port Somerset. He assured Anne that she need not dread ill-treatment at the hands of his brethren so long as she was under his protection.

“Ba'al mine like-it altogether Maianbar and Poolongool black,” said he; “but all the same, long time ago that brother belonging to Moongar. Suppose mine say, Missa Anne, been bring down rain for black fellow; Missa Anne, Cloud-Daughter belonging to Mormodelik (the Pleiades); Missa Anne plenty good to black fellow? Then Maianbar black very kind—būjeri look out after Missa Anne. Black fellow no make Missa Anne carry spear, waddy, dilly-bag, like-it gin. Mine tell black fellow Missa Anne like-it Karaji (Medicine man). Mine say, Missa Anne pialla (talk to) debil-debil till that fellow go away. Mine say, Missa Anne make it rain, make it thunder, make-im black fellow very sick


  ― 72 ―
—you see! Black fellow frightened of Missa Anne; give her gunya, bring her nice fellow tucker—make it altogether būjeri for Missa Anne. I b'lieve Missa Anne be like-it queen long-a black fellow.”

But these gracious promises did not tempt Anne. Indeed, they alarmed her, as showing the trend of Kombo's desires. She thought of the horrors at Kooloola, and even began to be a little afraid of Kombo, who, she saw plainly, was longing to rejoin his tribe; and though she trusted him as regarded her own safety, she could not be sure that he would not yield to the impulse of savagery, which, it was evident, had seized him since the casting of civilisation. She could only beg him to wait until the commotion had blown over, pointing out that, in such case, they would both be in danger of being shot by the black troopers; whereas, if they remained in the cave, by-and-by her cousin Tom would be settled at Kooloola and would plenteously reward Kombo, and maybe cease from hostilities with the tribes because of the black boy's care of her.

Three days passed, and Anne was getting accustomed to being a cave dweller. She mended the rents in her grey habit, combed her hair, and took a bath, stealing to the spring for that purpose. She saw in the pool's mirror that she was less brown than when she had bathed in the water-hole near the digging township, and was half glad, half fearful. She was woman enough, however, not to desire that Kombo should get her materials for re-dyeing the skin that had once been fair.

Things were so quiet, that after the first day or two, Kombo reconnoitred more freely and was out longer at a time; while Anne also, chafing against her enforced imprisonment, took courage and went out into the scrub above which the crag rose. She now discovered that this was not an isolated peak, but the half of a cloven hump, and that it was rounded more gently on the other side, and covered with the same dense scrub which stretched westward among the hills at the back of Kooloola head station.




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Seeing the configuration of the country, and realising the shelter which so vast a jungle must give to dangerous Blacks, Anne marvelled again at her uncle's want of bushman-like sagacity in selecting this site for his homestead. She did not know that the scrub, lightly wired, formed an easily-made boundary for an extensive home-paddock, which it would have cost a good deal of money to fence, and that Angus Duncan's Scotch thrift had on that account prompted the choice.

The wild berries were now, as the summer waned, dropping off the trees from ripeness. They were very tempting to the little troglodyte, and a search after an especially luscious plum led Anne one day much further than she had intended. She lost her way, and was some time in striking the precipitous face of the hump; then, being quite out of her bearings, she skirted it in the wrong direction, getting further and further from her own temporary dwelling-place. Seeing a dark opening in the face of the cliff, and mistaking it for the entrance to their cave, she ran towards it, to find that it differed somewhat from the opening she knew, for it had not the grey boulder which there guarded the cave's mouth. She was venturesome enough to wish to explore this new cavern, but was held back by the dread of encountering such another snake as the one Kombo had killed on taking possession of their own refuge. Then she fancied that she heard a Black's cry—the sort of cry Kombo gave when they were separated in the Bush, to let her know his whereabouts, and which he had taught her to imitate. She uttered it now, imagining that Kombo had found the cave before her; but immediately afterwards, a confused sound of Blacks' jabbering fell upon her ear, and at the same time she saw a little cloud of blue smoke blown outward from the opening in the cliff, which showed her that there must be a fire within.

Was it Kombo who had made the fire, or were there other Blacks near? A sudden doubt came into Anne's mind and caused her to retreat hastily into the shadow


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of a boulder of rock, cowering against it till she should become certain who were her neighbours.

If, in truth, there were blacks near, it was not possible that Kombo should be unaware of them. Certain small circumstances, suspicious in themselves, which she had not at the time thought much of, now came back to her. The black boy had been out an unusually long while the day before, and she had noticed on his face, when they were afterwards in the cave together, an expression which had puzzled her, a suggestion of mystery, glee, and yet of awed timidity in his manner of dealing with her. At the same time, there had been in his demeanour something of repressed savagery, and he had talked to her in his own language entirely, not in the pidgin English—aboriginese—customary among Europeans and half-civilised blacks. Anne understood to a great extent the language of his tribe, but had preferred to encourage him in learning English, an effort which, so far as grammar went, had not been wholly successful. She remembered, too, that he had brought with him a bit of half-cooked kangaroo tail, and knowing that they had no kangaroo meat in their camp, she questioned as to where he had got it, and why he had not fetched more of the flesh home to the cave, but received only evasive replies.

While these thoughts were passing uneasily through Anne's mind, she was startled by the whizz of a boomerang which flew by the rock, and returned towards the thrower. At the same moment there was a rustle in the brushwood by the cliff, and two naked Blacks advanced round the boulder upon her.

The girl kept her self-possession, though the Blacks were fully armed, each holding a nulla-nulla pointed, and a spear poised. She reared herself against the rock, and looking straight at the warriors, said fearlessly in their own tongue:

“Minti into yuggari Mai-al?” which means, “What is it that you would do to a stranger?”

The men fell back and jabbered to each other,


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astonished at the sight of this brown woman who yet was not as themselves, but who addressed them bravely in their own language. Now, out of the cave a crowd of natives swarmed—young and old, men, women, and piccaninies. There must have been nearly a hundred hidden in the recesses of the mountain.

“Wunti Murnian?” they cried. “Wunti Karabi?” (Where are the police? Where are the white men?) And they waved their arms at her threateningly.

The girl felt for her revolver beneath the flap of her jacket where she usually carried it, then recollected with dismay that she had not taken it that day from the hole beside her bed in the cave, where she kept it hidden. Only the belt with cartridges in it was about her waist. Then she reflected that perhaps it was as well that she had not the temptation of using her revolver. These Blacks, if they were those who had raided the station and murdered its inhabitants, would know the use of fire-arms, and would not regard them as something supernatural, wherein she felt lay her chief hope of alarming the Aborigines. Perhaps one of these very nulla-nullas had battered in the skull of her aunt. She shuddered at the thought. What chance had she among such blood-thirsty devils? Oh! where was Kombo, who might have protected her?

And yet her words seemed to have awed them, for the nearest of the warriors made no further demonstration. And now it occurred to her that she possessed possibly a surer means of self-defence than even her revolver. She lifted both her arms, stretching forth her hands in a gesture so commanding, that the attention of the blacks was arrested, and they all gazed wonderingly at her, and ceased from manacing. She stepped back on to a ledge of rock that protruded from the boulder, and, letting her arms fall at her sides, sent out the full strength of her voice in the Ave Maria of Gounod, that devotional chant, which had once before so impressed Kombo's tribe; only, that for the name Maria, she substituted Baiame, the title of the Blacks' Great Creator. The


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natives shrank for a minute or two in amazement, and made a circle a little distance from her, as they do in a corroboree when the medicine women dance and sing. Suddenly, a warrior stepped forward. He lifted his spear and, springing to this side and that, began to dance the wild semi-religious dance which preludes the native religious rite of the Bora, to which, however, no women are ever admitted. Anne sang on, and one warrior after another followed the example of the first dancer. The sublime strains of the chant echoed among the forest trees and the great boulders, and were thrown back from the face of the basalt cliff. The girl's soul was in the invocation. She was singing for the glory of God, and the preservation of the life He had given her. “Ave Baiamè!” Was ever stranger prayer or praise raised to the Lord of Hosts in His wilderness?

She ceased. The warriors continued their dance, but presently stopped too; and now the whole congregation gazed at her as she stood on the raised ledge, her head level with the point of the boulder; her grey habit the colour of the rock itself, falling in straight folds round her; her brown face upraised, with its delicate aquiline nose, its little square chin, and its shining eyes all aglow; her lips tremulous with excitement. The Blacks, spell-bound, regarded her with the wonder and admiration they would have given to a divinity. And, in truth, she seemed like some goddess of their own race, suddenly descended incarnate among them. They waited in awe-stricken silence.

“Nulla Yuggari berren,” she said simply. (I have now finished.) Shouts arose, and she could distinguish the words, “Pialla naia nanti.” (Tell your name.)

She answered in their dialect—that of Kombo's tribe, the Moongarrs—the words coming to her as if by inspiration, “What would you have of me? I, who am sister of the Mormodelik—the Pleiades—have come to give you blessing.”

She pointed skywards. They understood, and with


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one voice the old men, the young warriors, and the women acclaimed her:

“Mormodelik! Mormodelik! The Spirit of the Pleiades!”

At that moment, from the summit of the precipice above them, another voice shouted, and a spear, hurled down with unerring aim, struck the ground a few paces from the outskirts of the mob.

The voice was Kombo's.




  ― 78 ―

Chapter X - The Sister of the Pleiades

“MISSA ANNE! Missa Anne!” the black boy cried. “Ba'al you jerron (don't be afraid). Plenty mine lookout long-a you.”

As Kombo spoke, he swung himself down the face of the cliff with marvellous dexterity, clutching at the saplings and shrubs which protruded from the crevices, and balancing himself wherever a projecting rock gave him a chance of foothold. The Blacks watched his descent, greeting him with friendly yells, and making way for him when he flung himself to earth. He rushed through the little throng to the boulder against which Anne stood.

“Wūnda Mormodelik!” he too cried, pointing to the grey figure, and making before it a quaint imitation of the white man's deferential bow.

“Wūnda Mormodelik! Yuro Kateena! Spirit of the Pleiades! Cloud-Daughter!” And then Kombo harangued the tribe briefly but forcibly; and Anne, following his discourse, made out that the Karràji-Wiràwi (the Medicine Woman)—meaning herself—was known to all the tribes below Mount Coongoon, the mountain near Cooktown; for had they not heard her sing songs which the Great Spirit had taught her, and did they not know that Baiamè the Creator had taken a star from the sky and made it into a woman; and that he had sent the woman to his children, the Blacks, to bring them rain and food, and to make them victorious against their enemies? Then Kombo proceeded to tell how Yuro Kateena had sung to Baiamè in the great thirsty time; and how Baiamè had given rain to the earth, and had made the rivers run again, and the wallabis rejoice and


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the fish glad; and so had he provided food in plenty for the tribes to eat. He told how, when Yuro Kateen sang for a tribe, so that its warriors might fight and conquer, and grow mighty men of battle on the slain flesh of their enemies, great Baiamè listened to Yuro Kateena's prayer, and the tribe flourished even as she had asked. And so all had gone well with the Blacks while Yuro Kateena remained among them and sang. But there had come a day when the white man drove Yuro Kateena from among them, and Cloud-Daughter could sing no more. Eeoogh! Eeoogh! Yucca! Yucca! Alas! Alas! Cloud-Daughter had gone across the big water, had left her children, the Blacks; and Baiamè had been angry with the Blacks because they had not kept his beloved. Then Kombo told that after a great Woolla (Council) of the tribe, he had gone from his people and followed Cloud-Daughter over the great sea to the land where only white people dwelt, serving a queen who knew not Baiamè. There Kombo had seen that Yuro Kateena was not happy with the white people, and that she longed to be again among her brothers the Blacks; and he had brought her home by sea and by land, so that now she was here to sing once more to Baiamè, and thus call down blessing upon the people. Kombo paused dramatically, and again bowed before Cloud-Daughter. The Blacks set up a great shout, and the warriors made a line, advancing to tender allegiance to the Medicine Woman, the beloved of Baiamè. But Kombo had more to say. He had not lived among Whites for nothing. He knew how to bargain, and could turn his astuteness to account even among his kindred Blacks.

So he dilated upon the advantage to the tribe of having a great Medicine Woman among them. He pointed out that if Cloud-Daughter were to remain, she must be treated as the divinity of a once-time star demanded. There must be no burden laid upon Yuro Kateena. Were she tired in marching through the scrub, young warriors must cut a great sheet of bark,


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and carry her thereon upon their shoulders. Her gunya must be made in the best fashion and held sacred, none entering therein without her permission. The King himself must do Cloud-Daughter honour.

Whereupon an old man, much wealed upon the chest and shoulders, which is a sign of age and dignity, stepped forward and spoke. He said that Multuggerah, King of the Maianbars, was verily King, and all others were his servants. Even Būli—he who spake—oldest chief in the Maianbars, had no will but that of Multuggerah. Multuggerah had not followed the wind of the south, in whose footsteps had trodden Būli, but had remained in the great camp beside Maianbar, which Kombo interpreted to Anne as the Deep Tank near to Kubba Ulala, the Mountains of the Dead. For the King Multuggerah, the old man went on, not even his chief Būli might answer. But Būli the Whirlwind—for he it was who made the warriors and their gins to run fast through the scrub, who laid low the brigalow trees, and carved spears therefrom, who with his weapons of war swept like a tempest over the herds of white men, and killed the white men in the camps they had made, therefore was he named the Whirlwind—he, Whirlwind, would swear now before the sister of the Pleiades, Cloud-Daughter, that he and his warriors, old men, and gins, would obey the word of Cloud-Daughter till, after many days marching through the scrubs, they should reach Maianbar the Deep Tank. Then when Yuroka-Gora, the North Wind, brother of Yuro Kateena, should sweep his children the clouds from off the sky, they should behold, higher than the hills, Kubba Ulala the Mountains of the Dead. So then also when they came to the camp of Multuggerah, he—Būli the Whirlwind—would deliver Cloud-Daughter, unharmed, to the King; and Multuggerah should say whether he would hear or no the song of Yuro Kateena, sister of the Mormodelik, the beloved of Baiamè.

Having thus with much dignity delivered himself, the Chief retired, first prostrating himself before the


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messenger of Baiamè; and Cloud-Daughter, some guardian power compelling her, sang in recitative in the native tongue:

“It is well, oh! Būli, Whirlwind, and chief of the family which bows before Multuggerah the King. Cloud-Daughter will cause the wallabi to fall beneath the Maianbar's spears, and the roots and the fruit to yield themselves abundantly for Būli and his warriors who shall lead Cloud-Daughter to Multuggerah the King.”

But Kombo continued, warily making his stipulations for the safety and honour and well-being of his mistress.

The finest opossum robe should be laid at the feet of Cloud-Daughter, and the first portion of game, and first gatherings of roots and vegetables and berries from the high trees. To all, the word of Cloud-Daughter should be as the word of Multuggerah the King, till the King should himself behold and acknowledge the wisdom and power of Cloud-Daughter. And in return for the honour bestowed upon her, to Yūro Kateena, the Maianbars should be as her own people, and each night would she petition Baiamè for them, that the Murnian (troopers) should not find their camp, that the wallabi should fall plentifully beneath the warriors' spears, that the caves and hollow logs should yield bandicoot, and the earth roots in abundance, and the high trees bear many thousand berries. For all these good things would Cloud-Daughter entreat Baiamè. Therefore every night at the mouth of her gunya, so long as the tribe did her honour, would Cloud-Daughter sing her song aloud, so that all the warriors might hear her commune with the Great Father Baiamè. Therefore, likewise would she hold converse with the gods made by Baiamè over whom the Great Spirit had made her queen—with Munuàla, God of the Waters; with Kurru-Kurru, his wife, Dropper of Dew and Gatherer of Mists; with Woong-goo-gin, mother of the earth's produce; and with Billibira, God of Fire, most cruel


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and most mighty enemy of gods and men. All these, at the will of Baiamè, even the dread Billibira, were subject to the song of Cloud-Daughter.

Būli, the Whirlwind, bowed his head before the words of Kombo, and said affirmatively, “Yoai Pika,” in the manner of the Blacks. But he set before Cloud-Daughter that the gatherings of the forest might be few, and the spearing of wallabi difficult, for the Murnian—the black troopers—were pressing upon the tribe for what they had done at Kooloola; and it had been needful to hide in haste in the caves, because their camp-fires had betrayed them, and there had not been time for them to escape afar—“yan wàra wàra.”

Then Kombo related how on that very day he had tracked the Murnian and had found mandowie (foot-prints) going eastward. Therefore he knew that the troopers had ridden, as far as they could, into the scrub, and finding nothing, were gone eastward, believing that the Blacks had fled towards the swamp near the coast. He had been returning in haste to tell of what he had seen when he beheld Cloud-Daughter, and heard the voice of the goddess calling upon her Father Baiamè to hold the spears of his children that they were about to hurl against her. Now, he said, must the Blacks hasten where the north-west wind would lead them—the wind Yūro Ballima, brother, too, of the Cloud-Daughter. “Nalla yan!” (Haste, haste!) he cried. “Let them go quick through the scrub into the places where no white man on a horse might enter; then would they be free from the fear of the Murnian, and might travel as they would, to the camp of Multuggerah the King.”

So the Blacks decided the matter. The sacred circle was broken. Būli issued his commands. The gins hastened back to the cave to collect their dilly-bags, their piccaninnies, and a supply of food; also to let loose the tame dingoes which had been imprisoned in a corner of the cave, lest their barking should call attention to the camp. The old men followed the


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gins; and the warriors, at the order of Būli, defiled before Anne, making a double line, through which she passed with Kombo to the mouth of the cave. As she stood waiting for what should come, and realising with dismay that, though a divinity, she was a prisoner, about twelve of the braves closed in round her, and by order of Būli, constituted themselves a guard of honour, appointed, as she understood, to be responsible for her safety till Multuggerah the King should make known his ordinance as to her keeping. As she heard this command, Anne's courage sank for the first time; and forgetting that she was a goddess, she appealed pitifully to Kombo to save her from the Blacks, and to keep her in the cave they had left till she could give herself up to her cousin. “Mine think-it that fellow Tom dead like it ole Missus,” was Kombo's reply. “Mine no see Massa Tom long-a police. Mine think-it that fellow no come any more long-a Kooloola.”

It was, alas! most likely that Kombo was right. Anne recognised the justice of his argument. If Tom Duncan had been alive, he would certainly be with the troopers, helping them in their work of vengeance. It was no doubt due to the fact that Tom was dead or disabled that their hiding-place had not been discovered. For was it otherwise probable that Tom should be unaware of caves so close to the head-station? That the troopers had not found them was hardly to be wondered at. Of course it would be supposed that the Blacks had fled westward. No one would suspect that they had concealed themselves so near the scene of their misdeeds. Kombo made a feint of not understanding Anne's English, as she went on alternately pleading and commanding. He turned away and spoke to the guard in so low a voice that Anne could not hear what he said. The girl grew desperate, and addressed the tribe in their own dialect, bidding them leave her behind, for that it was not her will, nor the will of the great Baiamè that she should be taken to Multuggerah. She even disclaimed her


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divinity. She had been made brown, she said, in order that she might escape from her enemies among the white men. In reality, she was the daughter of a white man and a white woman, not Yuro Kateena descended to earth from among the Mormodelik, the Pleiades.

At her words the Blacks scowled and murmured among themselves much disquietude. Several spears were raised threateningly. Then Kombo, moved by a sudden inspiration, cried, “Unda burgin duriga maial Billibira.” “Billibira, the God of Fire, has driven the stranger mad in the scrub.”

Scrub madness was not unknown among the Blacks, and they feared greatly Billibira, the fire-smiting god. The men of the guard had been standing at ease, each with his shield of wood lowered against the right leg, the left leg bent, the left foot resting in the hollow of the right thigh, and the weight of the body supported by the spear held upright, its point in the ground. Now they were at attention again.

Among the Blacks an insane person is sacred; and at the words of Kombo, threatening gestures changed to those of commiseration. Kombo, pursuing his advantage, spoke eagerly to Anne in broken English. Would she sacrifice both their lives?—for the Blacks would most assuredly kill and eat them both, unless she sustained her position as the beloved of Baiamè, and the sister of the Mormodelik, in which birthright Kombo, indeed, to do him justice, believed implicitly as a certain occult mystery. Had she not proved that the gift and the withholding of rain was in her power? She was Yuro Kateena; and were she not Yuro Kateena sent down from the sky as the child of a white man and a white woman, born in the Blacks' country, and destined to be the Blacks' saviour, then he, Kombo, could regard her no more as a divinity. She would be to him merely an ordinary white woman—one of those who were the enemies of his race. Besides, he argued ingeniously, how could she remain in the cave and not be discovered,


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supposing that the Maianbar tribe permitted her to do so? And now that Massa Tom was no longer at Kooloola, would not her husband most certainly hear that she was alive and come to claim her?

Kombo's reasoning was not to be gainsaid; and with the terror of Elias Bedo before her eyes, Anne silently submitted. Then Kombo cried “Undara Bunman,” to the relief of the Blacks, who understood from the words that the madness of Cloud-Daughter was now cured.

Kombo subtly set forth in broken English that, once established among the Maianbars as the divinity Kombo himself took her to be, Anne might so rule the people that they would do her bidding even to the sending her from them at the will of the Great Baiamè. So might he and she by-and-by strike north in safety and make for the port of Somerset, according to their original intention. He explained also, that though the language of the Maianbars, and the Moongars, his own tribe, was alike, and that though the Maianbars had undoubtedly heard from the Moongars of the physical existence of Cloud-Daughter, which had been bruited among Blacks ever since that memorable bringing down of rain a few years back, there were many points of difference in the tribal customs, and he would not have the same influence with this race as he might have had with his own. He also told her that the Maianbars and the Pooloongools had the reputation of being the most bloodthirsty warriors and the fiercest among the northern tribes; also that they were cannibals to a greater extent than his own tribe, the Moongars. The Maianbars, said Kombo, lived in a place “burrin burrin (many) moons journey,” to which none of the coast blacks had ever yet penetrated, through the scrub and over the mountains.

In the midst of Kombo's explanation, a little wailing, but most tender cry, sounded from the cave's mouth, interrupting his eloquence and causing him to turn sharply round, for Kombo was a gentleman never insensible


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to the claims of womanhood, even though it might be black womanhood, and for three years he had been mateless. The secret of Kombo's mysterious glee was now explained. A girl stepped forward and pathetically stretched forth her arms to the lover who she feared might be leaving her. She was a comely creature, scarcely matured, with long straight hair, a skin like brown velvet, and dark soft eyes. A smile broke over Kombo's face.

“Kunman Kurridu nungundung inta,” he cried, which Anne knew meant, “Darling, I love you.” He turned to Anne with the dignity of a man who has incurred family responsibilities.

“Mine no want-im stop behind,” he said. “Mine want-im go long-a Maianbar camp. Ba'al mine been have-im wife plenty long time. Now mine got-im gin belonging to me. Name Unda. Come,”—and he beckoned with loving hand,—“Taiyanàni Unda!”

Unda crept between the legs of the guard at the call of her spouse, and Kombo presented his bride.

“Unda servant belonging to Cloud-Daughter,” he said. Anne bowed to fate in the shape of Unda, and from that day became the goddess of the Maianbar tribe.




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Chapter XI - The Magic of Cloud-Daughter

TO ANNE MARLEY—for now she refused to think of herself by her married name—suddenly turned into a goddess, life became a piece of play-acting, in which she dared not give way to natural impulses, lest she should forget that she was an incarnation of one of the Pleiades—Wunda Mormodelik. The rôle of divinity she found, as her experience lengthened, had, with certain compensations, serious drawbacks. The worst of these drawbacks was from the beginning very apparent, when she saw that she was to be denied liberty of action and right of solitude.

Her guard marched her into a furthermost recess of the cave, which was now a scene of indescribable confusion as the tribe prepared for departure. The place reeked with the vile effluvia of animals, unclean humanity, and decaying meat, while the noise was so great that hardly one definite sound could be distinguished amid the babel of voices. Piccaninnies squalled, burning themselves with the scattered fire-sticks as they crawled along the floor, camp dogs wailed drearily (the tame dingo never barks), spears and boomerangs clashed while the men collected their weapons— the only part of the packing performed by lords of black creation—and gins squabbled over pieces of half-cooked flesh which they raked out of the ashes, and stuffed into their dilly-bags; while every now and then, when a gin seemed to slack work, her husband hurled a nulla-nulla at her head. From one corner of the cave, close to the recess in which the poor goddess was imprisoned, there came shouts of ribald laughter


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among a group of black men there engaged in some operations, the nature of which, in the dimness of the cavern, Anne could not at first determine. But now one of the Blacks threw a branch of dead gum-leaves on his fire. It flamed up, and Anne saw by its light that the men were holding up some garments of white women, and with unbecoming gestures were trying on skirts and bodices that had no doubt belonged to those murdered at Kooloola. Anne turned sick and faint, soul and body recoiling with deadly horror from the companionship in which she found herself. How could she endure to live, even for a day, among these brutes who had killed her aunt and cousins? Alas! a terrible foreboding told her that not for a day only, but perhaps for months, she might be doomed to share their food and shelter. A frenzied longing seized her to escape into the scrub and trust herself to the tender mercies of whites. She begged that she might be allowed to go out into the open air. But old Būli the chief had, with a black's cunning, read her face, and was of no mind to let Wunda Mormobelik, who was to deliver them from their enemies, slip through his fingers. He shook his head, and made a sign to the body-guard, which, with spears uplifted, closed round the troubled divinity, while their eyes gleamed through the flickering light of the cave with, it seemed to Anne, a horrible ferocity. She called for Kombo, but Būli told her he had gone to the other cave to fetch the blankets and rations. Anne thought of her revolver, for which she knew Kombo would not search, since he was unaware of its existence. Had that revolver been now in her hands, Būli and the guards would have fallen dead at her feet. It had several chambers, and she could load quickly. But she was helpless. Since force was not at her command, she tried guile instead, and requested that they would let her go herself to collect her possessions. She tried to work on the cupidity of Būli by promises of tea, sugar, and other delicacies, but to no avail. Then she appealed to his superstitious respect for her magic powers—alas, also to


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no purpose. Būli was obdurate. Though she was a goddess, and though Būli and the braves had sworn to obey her as they would Multuggerah the King, Anne discovered that she was to have no power in mundane matters; and even her supposed jurisdiction over the forces of nature was limited, by reason of Kombo's unlucky announcement that she had gone mad in the scrub. In reply to her angry questioning, Būli told her that because Billibira had stricken her with madness, though now she was recovered, it would not be safe for her to move in that place without a circle of warriors around her to do battle with the fire-god, and that on no account could she be permitted to enter the cave in which the mighty Billibira had robbed her of reason. Anne laughed hysterically. It was useless to declare that Billibira was made subject to her by Baiamè. Būli thought it better to be on the safe side, at all events, till they had got through the Kooloola scrub and out of reach of the troopers. The girl was now too hopeless and too exhausted to plead any more. Būli would not leave her side, and the guards made an impenetrable wall around her. Even Kombo had deserted her, she thought bitterly, and was no doubt enjoying himself with his new wife.

She did not see the black boy again till towards evening, when she was marched back out of the cave, still with her body-guard pressing close round her, to breathe at last again the pure air of heaven. The tribe had gone before, and the procession was now formed, so that all might round the hump and mount in order, piercing the scrub at the back of the precipice. A band of warriors went ahead; Būli with his old men strode just in advance of her; and behind, marched the rest of the men, and the gins who carried on their backs great baskets of plaited cane and dilly-bags filled with spoil and provisions. Here, Anne caught sight of Kombo, with Unda by his side, her own swag and his, which had been brought from the cave, divided between the two; for Kombo was yet too lover-like a husband to load his


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gin as if she were a beast of burden, in the manner of other husbands of his race.

The company of Blacks mounted very quietly to the summit of the crag, and then descended again in a north-west direction through the dense scrub towards the lower mountains of the dividing range, which were at least four days' march from Kooloola. There were other hills to the eastward clothed with scrub, and also having caves, and it was to scour these hills that the native police had now gone. From the top of the knoll the surrounding country could be seen, and far away in the hollow, the head-station, out of the chimneys of which smoke arose, showing that the place was not deserted. The stars were shining in heaven, and the moon getting to her full, sent down occasional gleams upon the marching band, through rifts in the foliage overhead. There was a blacks' track through the scrub, which the army followed; but after some hours this became lost in the thickets of lawyer palm which often barred progress, and through which those ahead had sometimes to chop a path.

In spite of the dense vegetation, which hindered any free current of air, the night was cooler than usual, and the march less wearying than it would have been by day. The damp soil and rotting leaves of the scrub sent out a heady smell, which mingled with the scent of flowers and the aromatic exhalations of many of the trees. Towards morning, though it was long before dawn, the scrub awoke. After nightfall, in the early part of the march, they had heard the mournful note of the jungle hen, the miawling of the cat-bird, the coo of pigeons, and cries of many other birds unfamiliar to Anne. Sometimes she amused herself by repeating the note, to the surprise of her companions, who could not account for a sound so close to them. But as fatigue crept over her, she lost zest for any such pranks.

By sunrise they were several miles away from Kooloola, and in such a precipitous part of the scrub that it was not likely any white man would disturb


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them. But there were the black trackers to be dreaded—the men who, with carbines cocked, would creep through the vines and lawyer palms, and surprise a sleeping camp. So the band made but a short halt by a running stream, and then marched again. Only the terror of trackers, and Kombo's exhortations, could have forced the Blacks to exertions so unwonted. Kombo, as one versed in the ways of Whites, was respected among them, and Kombo had his own reasons for desiring that there should be a considerable distance between Captain Cunningham and himself.

His councils had weight, emanating, as he took care to state, from Cloud-Daughter, whose magic had enabled her to see afar the fire-spitting pho-phos of the Whites, which would bring destruction upon the camp. Billibira, he explained, was the enemy of Cloud-Daughter; and were the fire-spitting pho-phos of the Whites to prevail, the Fire-god would carry away Cloud-Daughter, and she would become once more a star inaccessible in high heaven. Then there would be no more an intercessor between Baiamè and his children.

Kombo's reasoning had weight with Būli and his braves; and so all night, and the best part of the following day, the unfortunate goddess was obliged to tramp on between her guards; and, though they made the way fairly easy for her, pushing back the palms and vines with their spears, before morning Cloud-Daughter was almost fainting from exhaustion. By-and-by they got into clearer country, where there was a break in the scrub. Here Būli, who, in the rapidity of the march, had been trying to act up to his name of Whirlwind, stopped, and bade the men cut a big sheet of bark which was to serve as a litter for Yuro Kateena. Kombo had reminded him of his obligations, but in the scrub, such a mode of travelling would have been impossible. There were some lightly timbered ridges to cross, and beyond the nearer spurs of the range, scrub land again. On the other side of these


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near ranges, they might consider themselves safe from pursuit. So Anne journeyed for the rest of the day in comparative comfort, lying in her litter on the best opossum rug in the camp, which Būli had consecrated to her use, and borne on the shoulders of four braves. These, however, grumbled sorely at the task imposed upon them, and, but for the exhortations of old Būli and Kombo, would have left their divinity to come along as best she could. That night, the Blacks camped just within the further scrub, and the next day took a welcome rest after their toilsome march. A gunya was built of branches and palm-leaves for Cloud-Daughter in the centre of the camp, and here, upon her 'possum rug, Anne slept in comparative peace.

The next day, the gins hunted in the scrub and brought in a small animal called yopolo, which they found among the leaves, insects' larvae, and fruit that, when baked on red-hot stones, somewhat resembled peas, but were red in colour. The gunya which Kombo and Unda occupied was next that of Anne, and Kombo kept her fire alight and cooked her food, claiming a portion for Unda as well as for himself. The surveillance of the guard was now somewhat relaxed, and she was permitted to bathe in a stream which ran down a gully below the camp, Kombo and Unda keeping watch. On the whole, she was better provided than when in the cave, and but for the uncertainty of her future, and the long distance from civilisation which was lengthening with every mile, she might have reconciled herself to her situation. The girl's buoyant spirits rose in these surroundings, which had upon her an effect at once soothing and intensely exhilarating. Here, amid perils and deprivations, she was happier than she had ever been in England, where the endless bricks and mortar had seemed to her a wall reaching to the sky, in which her prisoned soul fluttered with maimed pinions, where her body languished, and her will became inert and morbid. Here, Nature reclaimed her child.

Anne's heart bounded, her spirit uprose on freed


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wings, and her voice, she fancied, had never been so strong and so pure as when at night and morning she sang her hymn to Baiamè. Sometimes, she thought, that if she ever again went into the haunts of men, she would not sing that song in its orthodox form, but keep it always an invocation to the Blacks' god, an “Ave Baiamè.”

When the camp was broken, they mounted the range by walking up the bed of a watercourse, where, though boulders and pitfalls abounded, there were no thorny vines, nor impassable hedges of lawyer palm. On the summit of the hill they camped again for several days, and there fell in with a strange tribe known as the Poolongools, which surprised the camp of the Maianbars and tried to steal some of the youngest gins. In the dead of night, a spear was thrown into the gunya of Cloud-Daughter, just missing her as she lay upon her 'possum rug; but at her call Kombo awoke, and gave the alarm by hitting about with the butt of his old gun, which, though useless for want of ammunition, he preserved as a potent club. There was wild excitement in the camp. The warriors sprang out and met their assailants. Spears flew, boomerangs whizzed, the heavy wooden swords kept for duels to the death, struck out from behind great painted shields. Two young warriors of the enemy were killed, while one of the Maianbars was wounded, and a gin carried away. At one moment, the tide of victory seemed turning in favour of the hostile tribe, and rout and disaster threatened the men of Maianbar. Then old Būli hastened to the gunya of Cloud-Daughter—in the scurry and confusion of battle he had forgotten that their goddess might save them— and called upon the spirit of the Mormodelik to cry out to Great Father Baiame, and bring down water from Mununduala, the Keeper of Rains, which should sweep away and drown their enemies.

It was a critical moment for the perplexed divinity. Anne looked up to the sky, and saw that it was overcast, and that a pale glimmer of lightning shone low among


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the trees. Perchance, she thought, Nature and coincidence would come to her aid; and so, at the entreaty of Būli and of the gins who wailed while the warriors fought, she lifted her voice and gave out the first song that occurred to her—one peculiarly appropriate to the occasion, “God save the Queen.” At the sound of these heroic strains, the war-whoops of the Maianbars were changed to acclamations, and fear seized the hostile tribe. The spears ceased whirring, the swords fell. There was a shriek of “Debil-debil”; and while

Send her victorious
Happy and glorious

echoed among the rocks and the forest trees, the enemy fled helter-skelter, never pausing till the gully was crossed and the opposite scrub gained. Thunder growled now, making a deep toned accompaniment to Anne's voice; and presently a wind arose and rain fell—proof never to be denied of Cloud-Daughter's sovereignty over the minor gods of heaven. Next day there was horrible revelry. The bodies of the slain had been dragged to a clear space just outside the circle of the camp, and there a great fire was kindled. Dear to the native is the flesh of his fallen foe, both for its toothsomeness to the palate of the aboriginal, who prefers black meat to that of white man or Chinaman, and also for the prowess in battle which it is believed to produce in the one who eats. There was a shout of “Talgōro! Talgōro!”—which is human flesh—and all the gunyas poured out their occupants. The whole tribe and the dogs collected round the fire, and there was a great feast. Even Kombo ate of the dainty morsels to which his stomach had long been a stranger; and some would have been taken to the gunya of Cloud-Daughter, had not Kombo cunningly represented that the Sister of the Pleiades was forbidden to eat flesh of man. All day Anne cowered in her gunya, sick with horror; but when it grew dusk, she stole out unperceived by the revellers, and climbed down into the bed of the gully. Here she sat, among the boulders


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which strewed it, out of sight, smell, and hearing of the cannibal orgie. In her misery, she wondered whether the time would ever come when she should fail in bringing down rain or in frightening away the tribesmen's enemies; and whether they would then denounce her as a false goddess, and roast and eat her as they were eating the dead warriors of the Pooloongools.




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Chapter XII - Domestic Difficulties

FOR the present, however, Cloud-Daughter seemed in no danger of denunciation as a false goddess. The old men and braves of this wandering band of the Maianbar tribe lauded her greatly for the manner in which she had routed the Pooloongools. They were grateful for the feast of human flesh, which they attributed to her magic, and were quite ready to believe that Yuro Kateena held an exalted place below the great Baiamè in the council of native gods. And, moreover, the rain she had called down from heaven caused edible fungi to spring up in the scrub, swelled the fruit on the trees, and made succulent the roots, which the gins prepared into a paste that was to serve as food in a time of scarcity. Now, meat was abundant; for the rain also brought game from exposed places to take shelter in hollow logs, caves, and rocky nooks—wallabis, the marsupial tiger, and snakes which the Blacks love; so that each night when they camped in the bed of the watercourse, or in some clear spot on the fringe of the scrub, whole animals were roasted in their fur, and the half-cooked flesh, left unconsumed, was gathered up by the gins and carried in their dilly-bags for sustenance during the day's march.

For a day after the cannibal feast the Maianbars gorged and, lethargic after the orgie, rested, wrapped in their 'possum rugs beside the camp-fires. They did not resume the march for still another day, and, during the halt, even Cloud-Daughter's guard of honour relaxed vigilance so much, that it would have been easy for her to escape had she been within reach of civilisation. As


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it was, she wandered helpless and hopeless in the scrub till night fell, and it became necessary to go back to the camp, for which she now felt the most horrible repugnance. But so buoyant was the girl's nature that the very wandering distracted her thoughts; and a young opossum, which she caught in a dead tree and determined to tame, helped her still further to shut out from her mind the horrors of the previous evening, and to efface her miserable previsions of a similar fate for herself. Had the victims been white men, her imagination could not have been so easily lulled, but she knew that Blacks much prefer the flesh of their own kind to that of white people; and she hoped, too, that if she could retain their faith she might not only be safe herself, but might gradually bring them to believe that Baiamè disapproved of cannibalism, and had sent her, his daughter, to make known his will. Anne's courage and enthusiasm rose at this thought, and every voice in the scrub seemed to speak to her of the mission she now almost believed that she had been sent to fulfil. What of through her, these Blacks could be civilised, taught to cease from their wanderings and their fightings with other tribes, taught to till the ground, and build huts of wood instead of gunyas of leaves; taught to be clean, wholesome, and righteous in their dealings, to look upon the Whites as their regenerators, and not as their enemies? But here Anne paused and sighed, for how could this be till the Whites also were regenerated? And of that she knew there was sore need.

The next day the Maianbars roused themselves and hunted, bringing in a goodly supply of game; and upon the following morning, they started once more upon the ascent of the range. The hills spread eastward in a series of low spurs with ravines between, till the backbone of the range was reached—a series of sharp peaks connected by narrow necks, which, viewed from the coast side, appeared to touch the sky. Anne knew that beyond the Dividing Range, as it was called—the Australian Cordilleras, which form the watershed of the


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whole continent—the country at this point was mostly unexplored.

They mounted at first by the gulley, down which flowed a broken stream, swelling later on, Kombo had told Anne, into the river which watered Kooloola station. On each side of the little stream was a stony bed clear of vegetation, though much encumbered by great stones. Sometimes the way was barred by waterfalls—especially just now after the rain, which they perceived had been heavier on the higher hills. Then it became necessary to make a détour through the scrub, and this was a labour of pain and difficulty, for here the growth of thorny palm was thicker than in the hills behind Kooloola. It would have been impossible for a horseman to pierce this jungle, and the black trackers were not likely to venture so far on foot. Therefore old Būli, no longer anxious to keep up his reputation as the Whirlwind, moderated the speed of his flying squadron, and the march was now conducted in a more leisurely fashion during the first week of their progress.

In her girlish days Anne had always been fascinated by the loneliness and weirdness of the scrubs, and had been wont to defy rules, and spend long hours in those which surrounded her mother's station. But never had she been in a scrub so vast and wonderful as this one—a wilderness probably till now, untrodden by the feet of civilised humanity. The solitude of it, which might have driven many a white woman in such a situation to madness, stimulated her romantic fancy, and drew her fears away from the dangers which surrounded her, and the uncertainty of her future. She was like a child traversing a fairy forest, and each day brought her new amusements and interests. At first, the silence of the scrub oppressed her in an almost supernatural manner, for except at early morn and evening, scarcely a bird calls or creature stirs. Then as she became more at home in it, and her ear was attuned to its whisperings, even in the silence, she could hear faint noises, stealthy rustlings of reptiles and insects among the dead leaves


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and decaying wood, soft flutterings of butterflies, so large and brilliant in colour that they might easily be mistaken for flowers, throaty gurglings of animals hidden in the trunks of trees; strange murmurings—she knew not whether of bird or grasshopper—sometimes making loud echoes among the greenery, or the wild alarm cry of the mound builders disturbed in their work. Many a scrub turkey's nest did they find, and the eggs of these birds, roasted in the ashes, were the most palatable food offered by the Blacks to their divinity. Occasionally, they would come upon the footmarks of a cassowary; and once a man of her guard brought Anne a young bird whose eaglet eyes looked at her in such wild pleading, that she let the creature loose as soon as it was possible to do so unseen.

As a general rule, she was rarely left alone. During the march, some or all of her bodyguard of braves surrounded her, and on this account she was somewhat debarred from mixing freely with the tribe. Moreover, the gins were taught to regard her as a superhuman being, and they brought always to her gunyah the best of the fruit they gathered, and of the roots which they dug up with their pointed sticks. They held her in too great awe to attempt any more friendly intercourse. Even Unda, the wife of Kombo, was afraid of her, though she and her spouse always occupied a gunya adjoining that of Cloud-Daughter; and it was she who gave the peculiar cry which summoned the tribe within hearing of their goddess' invocation to Baiamè, sent up night and morning for the prosperity of his children.

Poor Unda was but a child herself, and, as the honeymoon waned, ceased to enchain the facile affections of Kombo, who very shortly began to follow the example of native husbands, and to chastise his wife with a nulla-nulla. When Anne remonstrated with him on behalf of the weeping Unda, Kombo sulkily replied, “Mine plenty tired of Unda. That fellow stupid—no like-it white woman.” Anne was silent, for she saw that already savagery was palling upon Kombo, and she felt


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glad, for therein lay her only hope of escape. But this seemed to be getting more and more impossible, for they went each day further into the wilderness, further from the haunts of white men, and the chance of rescue. The last vestiges of civilisation were disappearing. All the rations stolen from Kooloola were consumed; there was no flour to make damper, nor tea, nor sugar; though, as a substitute for the last, the Blacks cut down sugar-bags—the wild bees' hives—from the trees; and, as they always presented the best of the comb to their goddess, Anne was able to make a pleasant drink of water from the stream mixed with honey. So she partly satisfied the natural craving for saccharine matter; but salt, for which she also craved, was in no way procurable; and gradually she learned to eat and relish the birds and beasts, and even the tree-pythons without it, when they were cooked in native fashion between aromatic leaves upon red-hot stones, in a hole in the ground covered over with earth. There is no better oven than this, and the bandicoots and yopolo baked in their skins in such manner are excellent as sucking boar and fat young chicken.

So Anne did not find life wholly without charm in this desolation of scrub and mountain. Her own gunya she was able to keep clean; her food, cooked by Kombo, and eaten off plates of leaves or fresh bark, was nourishing and appetising. Her position in the tribe brought her respectful treatment, and the duties of priestess to Baiamè were by no means arduous. Winter was drawing in; and, as they mounted to the higher slopes, the clammy heat of the scrub became less trying in the day-time; and the nights were often so cold and chilly that she was glad to keep a large fire burning in front of her gunya, and to wrap herself closely in her opossum cloak. Days and days passed in this slow ascent of the range, short marches alternating with stretches spent in camp, while the men hunted, and the women gathered roots from which they extracted the poison, by steeping them in a running


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stream and grinding them between stones, then drying them in the sun, till an innocuous powder was produced, which they made into cakes. Anne now began to occupy herself during these days of rest, and in the long winter evenings Unda taught her to sew the skins of opossums together, and to weave a sort of grass-cloth out of the fibre of a certain creeper and the strands of a kind of grass that grew beside the water-courses. From this grass-cloth she made herself a petticoat, for very soon there would be little left of her grey habit, though she mended it sedulously with the needles and cottons she had saved, and which she kept for that purpose. Unda had shown her how to make needles out of the small bones of birds, and thread from the sinews of wallabis and opossums. The feathers of the birds that Kombo snared, she kept, and sewed on to a foundation of grass-netting into the shape of a tippet. She was vain enough to admire herself in this tippet, which, being composed chiefly of brilliant feathers of parrots and the soft grey and white plumage of pigeons, was picturesque and becoming. Anne was a true woman in her small vanities. It amused her to deck herself with necklaces of berries, and head-dresses of parrots and cockatoo's feathers. When she bathed in some quiet pool amid the rocks, she would look at her reflection in the water and feel very glad that the brown dye was wearing off her skin; she felt pleased, too, in beholding the brightness of her eyes and the delicacy of her features. At these times, she was sorry that there was no white person to admire her, and then her thoughts would stray guiltily back to conversations with Eric Hansen on the deck of the Leichardt. She would recall glances at her from his eyes, which her own had intercepted; and she would wonder whereabouts in the Bush he was exploring—whether he ever thought of her and regretted the tragic termination of their friendship; and whether, by any strange vagary of fate, they would ever be brought together again.




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Of Elias Bedo she never thought, except with shuddering relief that she was free. In comparison with that hated bondage her present nomadic existence seemed almost happy. There must have been a strain of gipsy blood somewhere in the Marley pedigree. Anne loved the long days in the open, and the nights beside her camp-fire. She loved the good smell of earth and leaves, the wonderful tropical flowers, the strange plants and ferns—all natural beauties that surrounded her. She loved the sounds of the scrub, the weird cry of the brush hen, the shrieks of giant cuckoos, the occasional roar of the cassowary, the tinkle of the bell-birds, and the soft coo of Torres Straits pigeons.

By-and-by they left the water-course, and pierced into the heart of the scrub, dallying for game, and walking slowly for many days, till, on the opposite side of an immense ravine, they found themselves in more open country, on a raised plateau under the shadow of the highest hills. Then with much toil they climbed to a neck between two peaks on the very summit of the range; and here Būli halted, and made a camp by the side of a river that had its rise in these mountains and flowed down the west side of the range to water the country beyond. Anne now discovered that Būli was in no haste to report himself to Multuggerah the King. She suspected that he did not wish to resign the glory of his chieftainship over the band with which he had raided Kooloola. North of the river, naked crags rose precipitously, and the very neck itself which joined them ended in a fall of rock several hundred feet deep. Below this, lower spurs rolled downward, something like those they had already crossed, but less timbered and less steep. At the edge of the cliff was a high wall of rock, making a shelter for the camp. Game here was plentiful, and a sort of trout abounded in the river.




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Chapter XIII - Mirrein the Tortoise

ONE day, Anne waded across the little river and climbed up the side of the south crag, whence could be had a magnificent view of the country to south and west. On the west, another range of mountains bounded the horizon, and here, afar off, was the Crocodile Mountain, a long narrow ridge with a great rock rearing itself like the uplifted head of a crocodile. The rock was of peculiar appearance, and had a curious funnel-shaped opening in its side representing the jaws, whence, according to native tradition, fire had spouted. Probably it was the crater of a volcano, apparently now extinct. All the country indeed, seemed volcanic. Beyond the upheaving spurs of the Dividing Range, as they spread down westward, stretched a space of comparatively level country, though at a considerable elevation. Out of it rose cones resembling those around the Puy de Dôme in Auvergne, testifying like them to the presence long back of volcanic fires. At the upper end of the plain, in the shadow of three or four of the cones, lay a small blue lake, probably also of volcanic origin. This was called Maianbar, the “Deep Tank,” for it was declared by the Blacks to be bottomless. Through the plain, appearing at intervals among the cones, flowed the river—a narrow stream that emptied itself into the lake. Beyond and below the lake the cones became less numerous, and the land stretching south from here was level and barren. It seemed indeed to be sandy desert. Anne likened this desert tract, in imagination, to a waterless inland sea, bounded on all sides by mountains. South and west it extended, to the base of a further


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great range higher, Anne fancied, than the one on which she stood, but invisible from the coast belt nearer Kooloola. Anne had always been told that beyond the Dividing Range, the central desert of Australia began and spread south-westward into the immense and uninhabitable wilderness below the Gulf Carpentaria. But here was a small Switzerland; a sea of mountains, some covered with tropical verdure; others, bare granite peaks and humps, barring the horizon as far as eye could reach. At right angles with the famous Crocodile Mountain, equally far inland, was another even more curious in appearance,—an enormous dome of naked rock rising above the scrub, which clothed its lower slope with a short black fissure in its near side, evidently a deep ravine; and at one end of the huge mound of rock, a large slanting crag of smooth granite rounded at the top, the whole giving a suggestion of some gigantic couchant beast or reptile. Anne did not wonder that the Blacks held these two extraordinary mountains in superstitious awe. Each might indeed have been the fossilized shape of some huge primæval monster. The day was peculiarly clear, and she could see distant outlines with an unusual distinctness. She asked Kombo, who had accompanied her in her climb, what the natives called this domed mountain. The black boy at first pretended to misunderstand her, and tried to change the conversation, but Anne insisted, calling his attention first to the deep chasm at the foot of the rock, dimly visible, notwithstanding the great distance from which they were viewing it. She showed him the rounded rock at the end which overlooked an enormous and impassable ravine, and made her think of the massive turret of some Cyclopean citadel. Then with bated breath, glancing round as though he were uttering something sacrilegious, and there were a lurking devil that might carry the matter, Kombo told her that it was Kubba Mirrein, otherwise, the mountain of the Tortoise, brother, as he put it, to Kelan Yamina, the old man Crocodile. Kubba Mirrein, he said, was even more


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feared than Kelan Yamina; the Crocodile spat fire, but the Tortoise had a mouth from which a poisonous breath issued, that killed man or beast upon which it fell. The mouth, he explained, was beneath the Tortoise's head in its stomach, and was full of bones, the remains of animals and human beings that had ventured into it. The mouth was at the end of the great chasm they could now see beneath the rocky head, and it was called by the Blacks, Gunīda Ulàla, the Place of Death, since none who went towards it ever returned.

Anne asked how, if the breath killed all who approached, it had been seen that the mouth was full of bones. But Kombo gave a puzzled shake of his head.

“Ba'al mine know, Missa Anne. That what Karraji —Medicine Man—tell Maianbar blacks. Medicine Man say that many thousand moon ago, one big Karraji make friends with Mirrein debil-debil. He go look inside Mirrein and come back again. That murrin-murrin moon—long time since Medicine Man go and come back. No more Karraji go long-a Mirrein debil.”

Then as Anne questioned fearlessly, assuring the black boy that the magic of Cloud-Daughter, sister of the Mormodelik, was greater than any magic of Yamina and Mirrein, Kombo gained boldness and waxed garrulous, telling Anne all that he had heard about the race which dwelt under the shadow of the Tortoise. It was not a black race, Kombo declared, nor yet a white race. It was a race of men who were red as the setting sun, and of women tall and beautiful, with eyes like stars and flowing red-gold hair. This Kombo set forth, relapsing into his own language, since his command of English was not equal to the tax put upon it. Anne listened, nodding, and interrupting him occasionally with a question. He sometimes used phrases she did not understand, but on the whole she followed the gist of his story. Then it struck her as strange that she did not always understand his speech, for she had been long enough with the Maianbar tribe to speak their language with ease. Later, she realised that he had


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been quoting the words of one long dead, who had no doubt incorporated with the vocabulary of his tribe, words in the tongue of a strange people.

The men of this race, said Kombo, according to the description handed down by oral tradition from the old Medicine Man to succeeding Medicine Men, were very large, of peculiar customs, and wiser and more powerful in their magic than any of the wizards of the Blacks. Kombo himself had never seen a red man, nor had his father or grandfather, in the days when Moongars and Maianbars were friends, nor any other of the tribe within historic memory. It was that great Karraji among the Maianbars, who, many thousand moons ago, had gone into the land of the Tortoise, and had brought back to his fellows, accounts of the Red Men, and of the Kubba Mirrein. Also of the Tohi Mirrein, which is the spirit of the Tortoise. For, inside the Tortoise Mount, related the Medicine Man, there dwelt another and smaller tortoise, though that too was greater than any known beast, or fish or reptile; and this tortoise was the Tohi—or soul—of the great Tortoise, and it was its breath that proved manai-manai (poison) to all men not of red race. The red men breathed on by the Tortoise, he said, grew strong and brave and beautiful, for the Tortoise never devoured its own, but only the sons of strangers. It was said, too, among the tribe, that long ago the Maianbars had been richer and greater and wiser than now. They had built houses after the manner of the red men, and altars to the great Tortoise, and for a time had been successful in all their wars, and had subdued all the people round. That was why only the Maianbar tribe occupied this district. Not even the Poolongools or his own tribe, the Moongars, nearer the coast, had been mightier than they, Būli had told him. Still might be seen near the great Tank remains of the houses which Maianbars had built under the instruction of the first wizard, while he was friendly with the Red Men. For the old Karraji had brought back knowledge from the land of the Tortoise, and for many moons after his


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death, the tribe had remembered it, and acted according to the laws he had given them. But after a time, the Karraji had died, and the Maianbars had ill-used some of the red men, and from that day the breath of the Tortoise had gone forth against them, and none that entered the Place of Death, Gunīda Ulàla, had come back to their wives and their kindred. So, too, when generations had passed, the wisdom of the Tortoise had been forgotten by the tribe; though even still, the Medicine Men of the Maianbars were held to be wiser than any other Medicine Men, and the King Multuggerah was greater than any other chief among the Blacks. But Multuggerah the King was not powerful as had been kings before him, nor were the Medicine Men who dwelt by the Deep Tank learned in magic, as had been that ancient Karraji, who was taught by the Red Men the wisdom of Mirrein the Tortoise. When Kombo had finished his tale, he bade Anne never speak of what he had told her, for it was accounted a sin in the tribe so much as to mention the name of Mirrein the Tortoise, or to hint at the existence of the Red Men.

These words must not be uttered lest evil befall the tribe of Maianbar from the magic of Kelan Yamina the Crocodile, and of Mirrein the Tortoise.




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Chapter XIV - The Signal of Relief

ONE night, many weeks later, when the tribe, after a long loiter in the mountains, had ascended the range and were within a day or two's march from the Deep Tank, Anne was standing at the opening of her gunya, having bidden Unda give the signal for the assembling of the Maianbars to join in the invocation to Baiamè.

Unda's shrill call was caught up ere it died away and smothered by the report of a gun, which, though a good way off, could be distinctly heard. “Pho-pho! Murnian! Murnian!—the gun of the police,” shouted Kombo, jumping excitedly from his ‘possum skin on which he had been squatted before his camp-fire. A great commotion arose in the camp; the warriors rushed to and fro gathering up their weapons, while cries came from every side, “Wunti? Yumbū-yumbū. Nalla yan. (Where is it? Quick! Quick! Let us go.) Then old Būli came out of his gunya, and went up to Cloud-Daughter, saluting her in blacks’ fashion. A weird figure he looked with his apron of opossum yarn, his many strings of berries, and the raised weals upon his naked body, which denoted his age and chieftain-ship, but a figure not without dignity.

“Wurra-wurra!” (Look! Look!), he cried, lifting his arm towards the blue sky overhead, in which a young moon shone brightly, and all the constellations showed with clearness in the deep blue. He was pointing to the pale cluster of the Pleiades.

“Look! Mormodelik!” he cried, and spoke to the excited braves, stilling their alarm. “That was no pho-pho of white man,” said he, “for it was impossible that


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horsemen and black trackers should have followed by the way they had come. It was Tulumi Mirrein, the Thunder of the Tortoise; Manai-manai Mirrein, the poison of the Tortoise, which had been breathed from Gunida Ulala, the Place of Death. But there was no cause to be afraid,” he went on, for the gins began to howl and the warriors to gesticulate. “Had they not Cloud-Daughter, the Sister of the Pleiades, among them? Had not Cloud-Daughter delivered them from the Poolongools? Had not the magic of Cloud-Daughter brought rain upon the earth and given game into their hands? For surely, no evil had befallen them since Cloud-Daughter had besought Baiamè, night and morning, that he would protect his children. See, the thunder had already ceased; the poison of the Tortoise put forth power in vain, while Cloud-Daughter lifted her voice to heaven.” And now he bade Anne sing the prayer to Baiamè, so that the camp might sleep in peace.

Then Anne lifted up her voice, which seemed to have swelled in strength and volume during her sojourn in the woods; and “Ave Baiamè” rang through the forest, and reached faintly the astonished ears of a white man who was encamped beyond a projecting spur of rock not a mile distant. Būli crept back to his gunya, and ate composedly of the wallabi which was roasting on his camp-fire. The warriors and the gins followed his example, and, except for the excited murmur of their voices, the camp was quiet.

Great was the faith of Būli. After his manner, the old chief was a fatalist, and believed that most surely, while Cloud-Daughter dwelt with the people of Maianbar, no power of earth or heaven should prevail against them.

Anne sang on. She let her voice out at its full compass, and her nerves thrilled with wild excitement. Then a sudden fear struck her, and changed her joy to terror. What if it were Elias Bedo who had fired that gun? She stopped singing, and called in a low tone to


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Kombo. The black boy was bending over the camp fire in front of his gunya. He had just taken a bandicoot from the hole in the earth in which it had been baking, and was tearing its limbs asunder, reserving the choicest portions for his mistress and himself, while he threw to Unda the least savoury morsels. The honeymoon was long past, and Kombo's chivalry, as far as Unda was concerned, had died a natural death. Now he treated his gin with undisguised contempt. When Anne spoke, he brought a thigh of the bandicoot to the door of her gunya, and laid it on a fresh bit of bark which served her as a plate.

“That būjeri, Missa Anne,” he said, “mine think-it Yuro Kateena plenty hungry.”

“Kombo,” the girl whispered, “you been hear him gun? You believe white man sit down close-up camp?”

“Ba'al mine think-it, Missa Anne. Mine no believe white man come long-a this place. Too much scrub; too much stones. But I believe that noise altogether like-it pho-pho,” he added, doubtfully.

“I believe too,” said Anne. “And suppose black fellow come long-a this place, what for no white man?”

Kombo could not answer this argument. “That very like-it gun, Missa Anne,” he said. “Ba'al mine believe it Mirrein thunder. Cobbon stupid that fellow Būli. He not been hear white man shoot—never all his life. He been tell me that plenty dark long-a Kooloola when black fellow kill altogether white Mary. Black fellow jump up quick—give ole Missus no time to shoot.”

Anne shuddered. During these weeks of journeying, she had been forcing herself to forget the Kooloola tragedy. Now the thought of a white rescuer near, and the faint hope of escape, brought back to her the horrors of her first days in the cave, and also the danger and the helplessness of her present position. If only she could be sure that there was indeed a white man's camp beyond that projecting knoll, and that it was not the camp of Elias Bedo!

“Kombo,” she said, “I am going round the hill to


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look if there are any white man's fires. Suppose Būli say to you, ‘Where Cloud-Daughter?’ you tell Būli Mormodelik call me.”

Anne frequently employed this subterfuge to ensure for herself an hour of privacy. She allowed it to be understood that her sisters, the Pleiades, or even Baiamè himself gave her counsel from heaven, to which no black man might listen. Būli, less vigilant now that they were, as he believed, beyond the reach of the native police, made no objection to her solitary withdrawal upon occasions into the bush.

“All right, Missa Anne; suppose Būli look out, I tell him Mormodelik pialla (talk to) Yuro Kateena, all about Tulumi Mirrein.”

For a minute or two, Kombo devoured his bandicoot, ruminating the while, and then spoke again.

“Missa Anne, suppose white man sit down close-up camp, mine think-it Kombo no tell black fellow. I believe Missa Anne and this fellow Kombo go long-a white man. Mine plenty tired of black fellow; mine plenty tired of Unda. Mine want-im go back long-a Missa Anne to Cooktown. Then find-im steamer, and take Missa Anne home long-a ole Missus over the big water.”

Anne realised with gladness that Kombo's bout of savagery was at an end, as far as his inclinations were concerned. The black boy continued, still tearing the piece of bandicoot with his white teeth while he talked:

“Missa Anne, Būli tell me we close-up now to Deep Tank where King Multuggerah sit down. Mine been think-it—suppose Multuggerah no believe that Missa Anne come down from sky, no want-im Missa Anne sing to Baiamè. Plenty water sit down long-a Deep Tank. Black fellow no ask for rain. Then I believe Multuggerah angry, and that fellow King, he kill Kombo and Cloud-Daughter, and make it one big dinner.”

Anne remembered the cannibal orgie, and shuddered again. The same dread had been in her mind also.




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“Mine been think-it like that too, Kombo,” she said. Then she reflected that even were it Elias Bedo who had fired off the gun—supposing that a white man was near and that it was a gun—if she were to throw herself upon her husband's protection, she need not fear being killed and eaten, and as long as Kombo remained with her, there was always the chance of getting away again.

“Mine wait until black fellow go to sleep,” said Kombo, “then mine come long-a Missa Anne, and we go look out white man. Plenty soon I believe black fellow go to sleep.”

This agreed upon, Anne forced herself to eat a piece of the bandicoot for the sustaining of her strength in preparation for what might come. She knew that the probabilities were against their finding a white man's camp so far from civilisation, and that the sound they had heard was perhaps not the report of firearms, but had possibly come from an isolated thunder-cloud, or was the noise of some giant gum-tree, dead at the core, and falling from its own top-heaviness. She weighed these chances in her mind, and came to the conclusion that the sound had been too like that of a gun for them to dismiss it as a mere illusion of the forest.

When she had made a small meal, she went back into her gunya and wrapped her 'possum robe close round her, putting on a cap that she had made out of the skin of a grey duck which peaked over her face, and which, being all of a colour with the 'possum fur, made her look like a shadow of the grey gum-trunks as she glided out of the camp. The dogs knew her too well to bark, and many of the Blacks had their backs to her, while the others were too well occupied with their supper to notice her as she passed. Soon she was out of sight, and was skirting the rocky knoll beneath which Būli had fixed his camp. Beyond, rose an undulating ridge covered closely with acacias and gums, and also with a sort of scrubby undergrowth. Here she need not fear being detected; and even if the Blacks came after


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her, it would be easy to say that she was communing with her sister deities. She sat down on a stone and waited, her eyes fixed on the point of the knoll, waiting till Kombo should come to her. All the time, her ear was strained for any sound that might betoken a friend's presence, and her eyes peered into the dense bush, seeking the glimmer of a camp-fire. But all was darkness, and silence reigned save for the night sounds of the bush.

By-and-by, she saw Kombo stealthily creeping among the undergrowth near her. He gave a low “Kai!” and muttered the Blacks' adjuration to be cautious. “Kolle-Mal,” he whispered, as he beckoned her to follow him up the ridge. She trod in his footsteps, carefully making her way over the stones which encumbered the ridge, and through the thick bushes and creepers growing among them. After a time they had climbed to the highest point, and could look down and up the gully and across to the other side.

The gully was not steep, nor was it difficult of passage. They threaded it upward, walking along its comparatively smooth bed, and skirting the little pools of water which lay here and there among the stones. Its course was somewhat tortuous, and as they rounded a curve, Kombo suddenly stopped short, and Anne's heart leaped to her mouth, for there, some distance off, glimmered a camp-fire.

It had been made evidently with a view to safety, in a semi-circular hollow at the gully's head. The spot was banked by cliffs, and was quite invisible except from the hill above, or from the particular bend in the bed of the watercourse to which they had crept. For this reason, both Kombo and Anne guessed that it must be the camp-fire of a white man. Blacks would not have been so careful in choosing a position. Their doubts were presently set at rest by the sharp report of a revolver, fired at a little distance above them.

Kombo crept into the shadow of a big rock, afraid of the pho-pho, but Anne sought no shelter. She


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stood fearlessly in front of the rock and gazed into the darkness near her, and towards the faint illumination beyond. It was a bright starlight night, and the moon, in its third quarter, was shining above the gully. Anne fancied she saw a dark shape move, and then become stationary between her point of vision and the fire-glow in the distance. She felt sure that the shape was that of a man, and the indistinctness of its outline made her suspect that it was a clothed man. She strove vainly to assure herself that the figure was not her husband's form, but found it impossible to be quite certain whether even it were that of White or Black. Kombo settled the doubt. He had crawled round the boulder to Anne's feet, and whispered excitedly, “Missa Anne! That all right. I believe that fellow white man.”

A Black's “I believe,” is tantamount to certainty. Anne thrilled to the finger-tips at once with joy and terror. She bent to the black boy.

“Kombo,” she said very low, “you no think that fellow white man Mr Bedo?”

“No, Missa Anne,” Kombo replied confidently; “I no think-it that Massa Bedo. I certain sure that no Massa Bedo.”

Black man and white woman waited for what should happen. The shadowy form remained still, seeming almost like some tall slim rock in the gully bed. Then the man, whoever he might be, made a movement as though about to return to the camp. Kombo whispered in even greater excitement. “Missa Anne, that fellow go away. By-and-by white man go to sleep. Then suppose we wait and creep close-up camp, I believe that fellow white man jump up quick; think-it strange black fellow, and shoot Kombo. Missa Anne, suppose you sing big song—white man hear and no shoot. Black fellow over there, think-it Debil-debil, make a noise, and run away altogether. Suppose Būli hear—no matter. Būli think-it Missa Anne talk to Mormodelik.”

Kombo's quick intelligence had grasped all points of the situation. Anne's song would proclaim their whereabouts


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and arrest the attention of a white man—if there were one—while it would terrify any strange blacks, who would be too frightened to search for the cause of the sound. And, at the same time, were Būli to hear it at the camp they had left, though this was improbable, he would know it was the voice of Cloud-Daughter, and would only suppose that she was pleading with Baiamè on behalf of the tribe. Therefore he would not trouble himself to investigate the matter.

“Sing, Missa Anne,” said Kombo. “Make-im noise. Plenty make haste. I believe white man go to sleep now long-a gunya.”

Anne hesitated. The shape which stood out against the fire-glow turned. There was a side view of him visible for an instant. The black boy's keen eyes discerned the profile more clearly than did those of Anne. Kombo started up. “Missa Anne! Missa Anne!” he cried. “I believe that Massa Hansen. You know—Massa Hansen long-a steamer. He been ask me show him road up north. Mine think-it he find other Black, and come plenty quick long-a scrub. Oh, bûjeri, Massa Hansen! All right now. Sing! sing! Missa Anne.”

Then Anne, a great weight lifted from her soul, and a new joy filling it, sang softly and clearly, her voice echoing through the loneliness of that northern forest, the last song she had sung on board the Leichardt, a song Eric Hansen had loved—the immortal plaint of Gluck's Orpheus—“Che faro senza Eurydice.”

The man in front of the camp turned again. He paused, and then strode rapidly forward, clearing a fall of rock which banked the small plateau on which his camp was made, and shaking the stones in the bed of the gully upon which he stepped, in his eager passage towards the woman he loved—scarce knowing indeed that he loved her, but with heart leaping at the mere suggestion that she was alive. Anne sang on, her eyes lifted skyward, as was her wont in the invocation to Baiamè. She did not hear the footsteps of the


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Dane; she would not let herself hope even that it was he; she dared not send her heart out to him as she might have done had she been free, had he ever owned in words that he loved her. And yet a woman's instinct told her that it was Eric, and that free or bound his heart was hers.

Suddenly she heard her name,—“Anne,”—uttered in that deep, tenderly masterful voice which she remembered so well. “Anne”! he repeated. He did not call her as he had always done hitherto—“Mrs. Bedo.” She ceased singing, and a great sob shook her body. She tried to speak, but could not: she could only sob and laugh hysterically. She could not even ask his name, and assure herself of his identity.

He came close to her, and took her hand in his, “Anne”! he repeated. “Thank God, I have found you.”

She laughed still, though trying to control her hysterical shaking. Her wet eyes met his, which, in the pale moonlight, she could see fixed upon her with a look that is never in the eyes of a man unless he gazes into the face of death, or into the face of his love, at a moment as tragic as might be that of death itself.

And now, the pent wave of emotion swept over Anne, and bent her as the wind beats an ear of corn on a stormy day. She sank back against the rock behind which Kombo had cowered at sound of the pho-pho, and fainted dead away




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Chapter XV - “That Massa Hansen!”

WHEN Anne became conscious again she was lying in a gunya on a bed of leaves and grass, over which a waterproof was laid. Her head rested against a tilted saddle with a folded overcoat for a pillow, and her own 'possum rug was drawn up to her knees.

Water trickled from her forehead, and she began to shiver, for in that high region the nights were cold. She wore over her grass fibre petticoat an upper garment, also of plant fibre, upon which she had sewed parrots' feathers, taking pardonable pleasure in arranging the colours to suit her complexion. But this gave insufficient warmth, and she put out her hand to pull up her blanket of skins.

Another hand arrested hers, and drew up the 'possum rug instead. Then the same hand softly wiped the water from her forehead with a silk pocket-handkerchief. In her dazed state she was hardly sensible of the fact that a civilised being was tending her, but was filled with delight at the touch of this fine material to which she had for so long been a stranger. She fingered the corner of the handkerchief caressingly.

“Why, it's silk,” she cried.

“Yes, it's silk,” said a voice that she recognised and which sent the blood to her face. “Lucky that I've still got one of them fit for you to use.” The girl turned upon her elbow and looked up at the man who was kneeling beside her. She saw a face bronzed to copper-colour, and very thin, the naturally high cheek-bones now standing out prominently under the skin. She saw, through an untrimmed fair moustache, a mouth that


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trembled, and bright blue eyes which gazed at her with tender fierceness. It was Eric Hansen, but unkempt, and changed from the handsome, close-shorn, and trimly clad man she had known on the Leichardt. She turned away from him, and her hand instinctively moved about her neck where the fur tippet had been disarranged, and her skin, now almost fair again, showed through her ragged under garment.

“It's all right,” he said, in a matter of fact way. “I hope you're not very wet. I had to douse you, for I thought you were never coming to again.” Anne took the silk handkerchief from him, and spread it upon her chest, stroking it softly.

“You can't think how nice it feels,” she said, simply. “I have no pocket-handkerchiefs of my own, nor any clothes either. My swag was swept away when we were swimming a river, and I lost everything except the things I had on. They went to shreds very soon, and I was obliged to make myself some clothes of grass and feathers to cover myself with. I'm nothing but a savage now.”

“I think your dress is beautiful,” he said. “Yes, you're like a savage princess. It's all wonderful. I can't believe it's true that I've found you at last.”

“You were looking for me?” she exclaimed, eagerly.

“Yes; I had got on your tracks. I was combining my search for you and for the marsupial tiger.”

“Oh!” She was a little abashed. He had given a shaky laugh when bracketing her with the marsupial tiger. “Have you found it?” she asked, laughing shakily too.

“The marsupial tiger? No, but I've found you. I'm beforehand with the others.”

“The others!” she repeated in a tone of blank dismay. “Who?”

“Your husband,” he answered, shortly. “He is in tow with Captain Cunningham—whereabouts I don't know.”

The girl gave a passionate movement, flinging off the


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'possum rug and half rising from the couch. Then she realised how weak she had suddenly grown. He put his arm round her, supporting her for an instant, then laid her back against the saddle.

“Let me go,” she cried. “I will go back to my tribe, and ask them to hide me from him.”

“Your tribe!” he repeated, gently ironic. “So you're counting yourself a black gin already! And have you become a cannibal too? No, no,” he added, seeing the tears drop from her eyes on to her cheeks; “I understand. I know why you ran away, and you needn't think I'm going to give you up to Elias Bedo. I couldn't if I wanted to, for I haven't the least idea where he is. Look here,” he went on, “I've got a lot to tell you, but I won't do it now. I'm going to make you some hot tea, for you're shaking all over after the ducking and the fright I gave you.”

He went to the opening of the gunya, just turning back his head as he told her to keep still, and she saw him take up some ration bags, and occupy himself with the fire that was burning outside, and with the billy that hung over it from a bent stick.

The mists slowly cleared from Anne's dazed brain, which had been roused only to a momentary activity by the mention of her husband, and the dread possibility of his reclaiming her. A sense of relief and rest came to her. She recollected now all that had happened before she fainted, and knew that she must have been carried from the gully to Hansen's camp. It was as though a miracle had been worked for her deliverance, and she could think of nothing but that deliverance, now that Hansen had assured her of his protection against Elias Bedo. It did not seem to matter that she was still in the far Australian bush, that she and Hansen were perhaps the only white people within hundreds of miles. She was safe; he would take care of her; and by-and-by she would tell him everything—all her misery and despair, and why she had felt that there was nothing for her but to run away and pretend to them all that she


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was dead. But how had they found out that she was alive? Who had betrayed her? She asked the question, but did not trouble now to speculate upon the answer. Hansen would explain it all. In the meantime, she was in a white man's camp. There was no more need to play the part of Cloud-Daughter, Sister of the Pleiades. She need not now be afraid lest Multuggerah the King should roast and eat her. It was as though she had awakened to find herself in heaven. She caressed the silk handkerchief, which was to her, for the moment, a symbol of salvation. Then, as she did so, a new dread assailed her. After all, it was but an hour or two since the report of Hansen's gun had startled the Maianbars. Their camp was hardly a mile distant. They would soon discover her flight, and would track her up the gully. She rose again on her couch of grass, and called anxiously “Mr. Hansen.” He had gone to the other side of the fire, and was just then out of her sight. She called again, “Mr. Hansen!”

He stood in the opening of the gunya, a pint-pot in each hand and from one to the other he was pouring a foaming brown liquid.

“It will soon be cool enough for you to drink,” he said. “Be patient for a minute or two.”

“Oh! it isn't that. But do you know—have you thought? The Maianbars are camped on the other side of the ridge. They are the fiercest of all the northern Blacks—it was they who killed my aunt and cousins at Kooloola. There are nearly a hundred fighting men, and they'll be mad at the loss of me. They think, you know, that I am a sort of goddess who can bring down rain and help them against their enemies.” She gave another little shaky laugh.

“Yes, I know. I've heard about Yuro Kateena—Cloud-Daughter—from my Moongarr Blacks. You're afraid they'll attack the camp, but there's no need for alarm. I've sent out a scout, and I and my gun are a match even for Maianbars. Besides that, you can fire a revolver?”




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“Yes, of course. I had a revolver, but I lost it in the cave.”

“The cave! Oh, yes, I know about that too. Well, you'll tell me all your adventures by-and-by, when you are rested and feel inclined to talk. They must be the makings of a wonderful tale.” He had been speaking all through in a matter-of-fact manner, with a certain brusqueness, which was affected, partly, to hide his real feelings. Now he could restrain them no longer. “Merciful heaven!” he exclaimed, and his voice deepened and thrilled. “I give thanks, indeed, for your preservation. Oh! if you knew—if you knew! Day and night I have thought of you in the hands of those demons. And that you should be safe! Oh! thank God!”

“I do thank Him,” Anne answered, softly.

Neither spoke for a few moments. Hansen stopped pouring the tea from one pannikin to another, and stooping, held one of them to her lips.

“Drink it,” he said, huskily, “and don't shake any more, my poor little woman. I've got you now, and I mean to keep you safe till I can put you on board a home-bound boat. You can trust me. That's all I want to say. Only just tell me this—you do trust me?”

“Absolutely,” she replied. Then she took the pannikin from his hand, and drank the tea in slow gulps. “Oh! how good it is! How good it is!” she cried.

“Now,” he said, “I want you to sleep, for we've got to break up camp and clear out of this by day-break. I shouldn't care much if the Maianbars did attack us. It wouldn't be the first brush I've had with the natives, and I've inspired them with a wholesome respect for my gun. But it's as well that we should put a day's march between us and them, and I've pretty well exhausted the ground hereabouts. I've made one or two splendid finds, and the blacks have been telling me of some queer beasts in the range opposite.


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Only the worst of it is that they are in such deadly funk of a monster who, they say, lives in the mountains over there, that I can't persuade them to come with me. Now I won't stop and chatter. Try and get some sleep. First let me take my gun. And don't let yourself feel frightened, for I shall be outside wrapped in my blanket, and you've only got to call and I shall be awake in a moment.”

Anne asked after Kombo.

“He's out there having a jabber with the other Blacks, who turn out to be of his own tribe—the Moongarrs,” said Hansen. “His chief anxiety seems to be to escape from his wife and from a certain old gentleman called Būli. You may be quite sure that he'll be ready to start in the morning. I've told him to wake us up if I should happen to oversleep myself.”

With this, Hansen departed, first ministering as best he could to Anne's wants, and tucking her opossum robe round her, close to her chin, with the kindness of a woman.

But for a long time the girl did not sleep. Not far from her bed stood a lamp made from a sardine tin filled with fat, and having for a wick a strip of moleskin trouser. How the sight of that fat lamp in the old sardine tin reminded her of camping-out nights at the back-blocks cattle station near her girlhood's home! Its flame cast flickering shadows in the small space of the gunya. Hut it might have been called, rather than gunya, though it was constructed of gum-boughs and palm leaves. But four upright saplings made a loftier framework than is usual in the Blacks' hurriedly built gunyas. Across the side of it, above her bed, Anne saw stretched out the skin of an animal which she recognised as the tree kangeroo, and on the opposite side was another skin of some beast she did not know. Beneath it, were a pile of saddle-bags, one of which gaped, showing a heap of small wooden boxes, square and shallow, such as are used by naturalists for the keeping of specimen insects. These, she afterwards


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found, were filled with butterflies and beetles, which the Dane had already collected. Over all, hung the faint scent of chemicals used to preserve the specimens. Here and there were various masculine properties; and on a stump which served for a table, was a manuscript book in which the explorer had evidently been posting his diary, for it was open, and the pen lay across the page. But in spite of the primitiveness of the dwelling, it was curiously orderly, and Anne found a strange pleasure in noting the small contrivances which the Dane had made for his convenience and comfort.




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Chapter XVI - The Manœuvring of the Moongarrs

THE Maianbar Blacks were famed in that region as men of war, and the Moongarr Blacks who led Hansen's party were even more anxious than the white people and Kombo to get as quickly as possible out of their reach. The guides adopted a cunning ruse to deceive the enemy. While it was yet night, Anne was awakened by the voice of Hansen, who stood over her with a pannikin of tea which he made her drink. He then told her to follow him, explaining that for this move, the cover of darkness was necessary, and that they would return before long to break up camp and breakfast.

They now passed down the gully by twos, or in single file, and, rounding the projecting spur, made a feint of crossing to the flat country beyond. A long narrow water-hole—more swamp than water-hole—lay beneath this part of the range. The Whites stopped at the edge of this swamp, while the black scouts and Kombo marched a little way in the direction of one of the volcanic cones, hiding their tracks in a bog, then returning on their steps, and re-wading the water-hole.

Anne had waited shivering, as this manœuvre was performed. Far off in the distance, through the trunks of the gum-trees, the embers of the Maianbar's fires could be seen like feeble glow-worms, but it was evident that the camp was still wrapped in sleep. Old Būli, as Anne knew, had grown careless, believing himself safe from any enemy. No watch was kept at night, and the warriors, heavy after the plenty of game in which they had been indulging of late, were never in haste to rise.




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The wanderers now re-ascended the gully, obliterating their tracks by boughs which the scouts dragged behind them, and treading as well as they could in the dim light upon their former footsteps. There was only a pale streak in the east when they reached their camp again.

Here a hasty meal was eaten, of damper and cold bandicoot, and Hansen collected his possessions, and took down the skins from the sides of the gunya, packing them carefully and strapping the saddle bags. He called up the Blacks to receive their burdens, distributing a small portion of tobacco among them to secure their goodwill, for he intended to make a long march that day. Some of the Moongarr men had brought their wives, and these took the greater part of the load. There were six men, not including Kombo, and four gins; also three or four dogs—a half-breed of the station bound and the wild dingo. Hansen told Anne that these had been selected with great care, as they were his best assistants in the pursuit of valuable animals. Kombo shouldered Anne's opossum rug—she had no other baggage—and, after demolishing the gunyas and scattering the fires, so as to leave as little trace as possible of the recent occupation of the camp, the convoy started while yet a few stars were faintly shining.

They climbed the cliffs at the head of the camp, taking every care they could to hide their tracks—not so difficult a matter, for the rocks were bare, and, but for the inequalities on the surface and natural niches, the precipice would not have been easy of ascent. It took them nearly an hour to do the climb; but even then the sun had not risen above the hills to their left, as skirting the range they struck a southerly course towards a dim half circle of mountains which bounded the lower part of that curious cone-strewn extent of level land.

The Blacks all went before, and Anne walked beside Hansen in the rear, he carrying his gun, and, besides


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the knives and pouches at his belt, a big soft leather wallet slung over one shoulder, into which he put his specimens, and where he carried ammonia and other chemicals, also his note-books. A curious picture they presented as they walked side by side where the rocks and trees permitted, or one after the other, where it was impossible to move except in single file—he bronzed, unshorn, a straggling fair beard covering the lower part of his face, his Crimean shirt a little open at the neck, gaiters to the knee over his moleskin breeches, and boots long since worn out, held together by stripes of opossum hide; his gun in one hand and a stout stick in the other, while a soft felt hat, stained and shapeless, covered his head. He had but a change of shirts and socks, and was in almost as sorry a plight as Anne herself, since feminine ingenuity had not come to his aid in the matter of raiment. Anne had no boots either. A pair of opossum-skin moccasins, roughly put together by Kombo and Unda, covered her bare feet, less dark in colour than when she had first dyed them, but still a little browner than Eric Hansen's neck and face. She, too, had contrived a sort of gaiter made from the hide of wallabis, which protected her legs beneath her skirt of woven fibre, and such tattered under-garments as still remained to her from her original wardrobe.

The tippet of fibre and parrots' feathers came below her waist, and from it her brown arms protruded, only slenderly covered with strips of grass netting. Upon her head was the cap she had made of grey duck's skin, and below it her brown hair showed in short roughened curls. She had a dilly-bag slung round her neck, in which she had brought such small properties as she had been able to carry away from her gunya in the Maianbar camp—a pair of scissors, a reel of cotton, and a few needles—her dearest possessions. She wore always round her neck the large locket with her mother's and sister's photographs, which was regarded by the Blacks as a sort of talisman, and into which she


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had contrived to fold the last of her five-pound notes. She, too, held in one hand a stout stick, which she used to assist her in climbing, and at her belt hung one of Hansen's revolvers. After heading the gulley, they came upon a low round spur cut out by a precipice, which seemed to fall sheer into the plain below. Yet to call this upland tract between the ranges a plain, was almost a figure of speech, for it undulated here-abouts in land billows, to where the desert tract stretched mistily south-westward, tossing up on its surface, as far almost as the eye could reach, those curious volcanic cones. The spur they were traversing was lightly wooded with gum and acacia, and low green trees which Anne did not know—indeed, there was much of the vegetation of this northern country with which she was quite unfamiliar—so that progress was delightfully easy compared with that they had made through the scrub. The thick jungle which clothes the lower slopes of the Australian Cordilleras they had now left behind, and with it, the more tropical appearance of the vegetation, as well as the intense heat. On the higher level at which they were proceeding, the climate was almost temperate, being chilly at night, though still extremely hot in the daytime, and the fruits they gathered were different, and if less luscious, Anne fancied, more sustaining. On the edge of the precipice they found a species of wild raspberry, and further, a low shrub bearing fruit which was red in colour and strongly resembled the strawberry guava, also a gourd-like creeper on which was a kind of melon that was aromatic in flavour, and seemed to Anne a cross between a custard apple and a rock-melon.

Hansen took careful note of the botanical family of these plants, which he told Anne he had not before seen. About breakfast time they found themselves in a garden-like cup sloping down to the precipice, and here they lingered a little while, the gins digging for edible roots with their sharp sticks and filling their baskets, while the black men spied for ground game


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After leaving this cup, the country they traversed became smoother; and as they walked along the side of the range, a splendid view was to be had of the cone-dotted plain, and of the distant mountains bordering it afar, which, as the sun rose above the hills behind them, turned from purple to rose and gold beneath the orb's kiss. Through a cleft in the far-off range they could see clearly both the Crocodile Mountain and the Tortoise Hump. Hansen gave Anne his powerful field-glasses, which showed plainly a long deep ravine stretching from the Crocodile's upreared jaws to the naked hump that so oddly resembled the shell of a turtle. This hump shone a luminous grey, terminating at one end in the rounded monolith which the Blacks called the Tortoise's head, and below which—a small triangular blot—was the fateful mouth.

Anne told Hansen all that she had heard from Kombo concerning Gunīda Ulàla, the Place of Death, and what the black boy had told her of the old Karraji—the Medicine Man of the Maianbars, who was said to have explored the mysteries of the Tortoise, and to have brought back to his tribe the wisdom of the Red Race. Hansen was deeply interested. He, too, had heard legends of the Tortoise Mountain, and of the existence of a mysterious race of red men who were Tortoise worshippers. The stories of the Moongarrs had set him speculating upon the possibility of a prehistoric race dwelling in the unexplored heart of Australia; and the description of the Tortoise brought to his mind certain altars in the shape of a turtle which he had seen in the buried cities of Central America, overgrown by forest trees, and dating back to an immemorial antiquity.

He told Anne the tale of five years which he had spent in the Yucatan forests, exploring the remains of this ancient civilisation, which pre-dated that of the Children of the Sun, conquered by Cortes. He told her of the hieroglyphic monuments he had unearthed, on which the snake and the tortoise figured so conspicuously—told


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her how he had compared them with certain Egyptian hieroglyphs and had found points of similarity suggesting a connection, improbable though it appeared, between the two countries. He told her of the old tradition of the lost Atlantis; of the legend related in Plato's Critias and Timœus, of Donelly's book tracing all civilisations to that centre; of his own meeting with Le Plongeon in Mexico at the dead Palenque, to whom he had handed the tracings he had made, and who had himself arrived at the same theories, and had begun the deciphering of the hieroglyphics on a scheme derived from a comparison with the writings of ancient Egypt. He, Hansen, had regretfully left the great scientist engaged on that work which has, since those days, been prosecuted with results so magnificent, and had obeyed the call which took him back to Denmark and started him on his present expedition. What if his Australian exploration should lead to discoveries more astounding than even those of Le Plongeon! What if in the supposed desert interior of this vast continent, which differs from all other continents in the peculiarity of its fauna and vegetation, he were to find traces of a civilisation going back even further than that of which the Aztec empire was a remnant?

He now ardently desired to cross the upland sea of cones and land waves, and penetrate into that mysterious region over which, according to the Blacks' traditions, the Crocodile and the Tortoise kept guard, and where he might perhaps come upon the traces of an extinct race—maybe the same which had built those Cyclopean ruins discovered in Easter Island, the origin of which is shrouded in an unknown past. Moreover, apart from this visionary object, he hoped to enrich science with specimens of mammals not yet classed in natural history, and which might prove a link between the fossilised remains of prehistoric animals and those now living only in this part of the globe. He unfolded these ideas to Anne as they walked on, and again getting


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a view of the mountain, they stopped to look through the glasses more closely at the curious triangular gap in the rock side, which, as the sun illuminated it, had a shiny blue appearance as though the interior of the chasm were lined with lapis lazuli.




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Chapter XVII - The Promised Land

“GUNĪDA ULÀLA! The Place of Death!” Hansen repeated, thoughtfully. It is not possible that the Blacks could have given the place such a name unless it were a grave—possibly the scene of a great battle that once took place between the natives and this strange tribe the old Medicine Man discovered. Or, perhaps, he went on, there may be some natural property of the rock, some mephitic exhalation from the interior of the moutain, which accounts for the tradition and for the Blacks' dread of the spot, as fatal to man and beast.

“Kombo spoke of the poisonous breath of the Tortoise,” said Anne; and she related how the Maianbar camp had been thrown into consternation by the thunder of the Tortoise—the noise of that breath which killed.

“That explains everything,” said Hansen. “Probably there is an opening from which some deadly vapour issues. All this country is volcanic. One sees it from the formation of the land, and the Blacks' story of the fire-spitting crocodile confirms the notion that there are craters not long extinct. I have been wondering whether over there we may come across a volcano that is still active. Then, too, the exhalation would affect the sides of the cavern, and give it that look of being lined with blue marble. Oh, Anne! Oh, Yuro Kateena!” he exclaimed, “can't you bring some of your magic to bear upon my men and assure them that the white goddess will protect them from the breath of the Tortoise? I am simply longing to explore


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that extraordinary mountain, and discover the red men who inhabit it—or, at any rate, their graves, if they have ceased to exist.”

“Well,” said Anne, “why not try? I am not afraid of the Red Men, nor of the poisonous breath either, and perhaps the Moongarrs will believe that I have magic enough for them to go without fear of the breath. Oh! I should like to put that wild stretch of country and the Place of Death between me and my—” She had spoken excitedly, but now paused. “Between me and my pursuers,” she said, quietly.

Hansen guessed, however, that she had been thinking of her husband; and this reminded him that she was not, or ought not to be to him, Anne, or Yuro Kateena, but Mrs. Bedo, and that she might have resented his familiarity.

“Tell me,” he said, abruptly, “what name am I to give you? I can't call you Mrs. Bedo, as I used, and I am sure that you cannot wish that I should do so.”

“Thank you,” she said. “No, I could not wish you to call me Mrs. Bedo. I cannot think what madness possessed me when I accepted that name. I think you must understand, though we have neither of us said anything about the matter. Now that I have left my husband, I forswear his name for ever.”

“So be it. I am glad. Yes, I think I understand sufficient for all practical purposes—for you to feel safe with me. By-and-by, perhaps, you will give me your confidence, when you have proved to yourself that I am worthy of it.”

Anne's heart was too full for words. She turned her face to him, and her lips trembled, while her eyes shone with a light no one had ever before seen in them; then she moved a step apart from him, and gazed out towards the mountain.

“I am going to prove myself worthy,” he said, and again there was a short silence. Then Hansen said gaily, “Well, is it to be Yuro Kateena? I see that even Kombo—to say nothing of the Maianbars—believes


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implicitly in your goddess-ship, and I am quite ready to bow down defore your divinity. So, shall it be Yuro Kateena?”

“I'd rather you called me Anne,” she said.

“That's good of you. It shall be Anne; and believe me, Anne shall be as sacred to me as ever was Yure Kateena to the Maianbar blacks. You trust me, Anne?”

“I told you last night that I trust you absolutely.”

He slipped his gun from his right hand to the left, which also held his staff, and taking her right hand bent his lips to it in a most courtly gesture.

“In token of my fealty,” he said.

“Mr. Hansen!” cried the girl.

“No,” he interrupted. “If you are Anne, I am Eric.”

“Eric, then. Oh, Eric, in all this topsy-turvy world, were ever two people in such a strange position as you and I? We have need to trust each other. From to-day, I am going to look upon you as my brother. I had one once, but he died when I was eleven years old. I shall feel as though you were that brother come to life again.”

“As you will, Anne. I prefer to look upon you as a goddess, but it comes to the same thing. Now the question is, what am I to do with you? Were you really serious when you said that you'd like to go with me and try to find the country of the red men?”

Anne blushed and hesitated.

“I did not mean—” she began; then said with some dignity, “I trust you to act by me as seems to you best. I think you understand that the one thing in the world which I should most hate, would be to be given back to my husband. If you did that, it would not be to much purpose, for I should escape from him again, and my last state would probably be more desperate than my first. But I did not mean, when I came to your camp last night, to thrust a burden upon you which would upset all your plans, and cause you trouble and


  ― 134 ―
inconvenience. If you feel like that, don't worry about me, but let me turn east with Kombo, and we two will wander on, as we did before, until we get to the coast. We should not be worse off, anyhow, than if we were still with the Maianbars—better off, in fact, for now we have got our liberty, and as it was, we ran a considerable risk of being eaten by Multuggerah the King.”

“And if I were to do as you say, you would run an even greater risk of being eaten by the Poolongools, the most bloodthirsty cannibals—so my men tell me—of all the northern tribes. No,” Hansen said, decidedly; “I have been thinking things out, and it must be one of two courses. Either we all turn back, and I take you to Cooktown and put you in charge of the Police Magistrate there, leaving you to settle matters with your husband as best you can; and really, I don't know why you should be in such terror of him. He can't force you to live with him if you don't choose, and there's your mother in England for you to go back to.”

“You don't understand,” cried Anne. “For my mother's own sake, I could not go back to her.”

“No, I don't understand,” he rejoined. “Then what do you mean to do? You didn't suppose that you and Kombo were to spend your lives among the Blacks?”

“I meant to stay with my aunt at Kooloola till I could find employment of some kind, or till I could make for Thursday Island and get taken in a steamer to Singapore or Java. I have my voice, you know. I thought that I should be able to get an engagement to sing in public.”

“In Java or Singapore or some part of the Malay Peninsula! You, an unprotected and penniless woman—for I don't suppose you have got much money.”

“I have got five pounds,” said Anne.

“My dear,” said Hansen, gravely, “rather than this, you had better turn beach-comber, and that is about the lowest profession I have ever known.”

“Well, as far as my poor aunt is concerned, my plan is ended,” said Anne, mournfully. “You know that they were all murdered by the Blacks—my aunt and


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cousins—all except, perhaps, Tom. I wonder if you can tell me whether Tom is alive or dead?”

“He is dead,” said Hansen. “He just managed to get to the camp of the native police, and died an hour afterwards.”

“Then I have no one left in the world whom I can ask to help me,” said Anne, sadly. She did not weep at the news of this fresh disaster. She had become too accustomed to tragedies for this last one to move her.

“My child! My child!” said Hansen, “I'm not much of a woman's man, and a poor sort of chap at anything but ferreting out unclassified beasts; but such as I am, I'm your servant and your protector till you can find a better one. I'm not much at protesting either,” added the Dane, and an odd little spasm went over his features as he looked at her; “but I can tell you—and you've got to believe me, for it's true—I never felt so badly in my life about anything since my poor old mother died, as I did when we knocked in the door of your cabin on the Leichardt, and found it empty. Now I am not going to say a word more than that if I can help it—about what the finding of you last night meant to me—not a word if I can help it, while you and I are wandering through the bush like two savages. You are my goddess, remember, though you don't want me to call you Yuro Kateena, and as soon as we make a camp, I'll build you a temple all to yourself as the Maianbars did. If ever I come across a Maianbar, Anne, I'll give him a bigger present of tobacco than a black fellow ever had, for the sake of the respect his tribe paid you.”

Anne laughed and so did Hansen, but the voices of both quavered.

“You haven't asked me about the alternative course I spoke of,” he said. “It is for both of us the best after all, I think. You see you're not keen on making straight for civilisation, and a settlement with your husband, and I'm not keen on giving up my trip before I've discovered the red men, and what's more immediately practical, a new marsupíal—a sort of land platypus,


  ― 136 ―
I've heard of from the Blacks, a creature that isn't amphibious like the ordinary kind, but yet has webbed feet, while it lays eggs, suckles its young, and carries its babies in a pouch. Now, what I want to do is to catch that beast, skin him and christen him—something Hanseniensis—carry him home to the Museum in Copenhagen, and become famous for ever. Well, why shouldn't we go on together round these mountains and get to the range on the other side, have a peep into some of the old craters—avoiding the Maianbar Tank and Multuggerah the King—then, presuming of course that I have got a good specimen of my Platypus-Kangaroo, make for the Tortoise Mountain and have a look, from a careful distance, at Gunīda Ulàla, the Place of Death, and explore for the red men? It's a large programme, but I think we'll have a try for it.”

“Very well,” said Anne, her spirits rising at the prospect, and her eyes dancing with glee. “I wish that I had been a man,” she exclaimed. “I think that I should have made as good an explorer as you, Mr. Hansen. I've always longed so for adventure and discovery.”

“We are well mated,” replied Hansen. “I see that you are as eager about the Red Men and the Tortoise, to say nothing of the Platypus-Kangaroo, as I myself. Oh! Anne, what a plucky woman you are, and what a comrade I have found!”

“But you mustn't expect too much of me,” said Anne. “I have been terribly frightened sometimes, and if you knew what I felt outside that cave near Kooloola, when the blacks surrounded me, and held up their spears as I sang “Ave Baiamè,” you wouldn't call me plucky. But tell me—you said that you knew about the cave?”

“Yes; you were traced there, and your revolver found. Then the trackers followed into the scrub, but had to give it up. The Maianbars were too cunning for them, and started Captain Cunningham on a blind chase.”

“But how was it possible that I was traced to Kooloola?


  ― 137 ―
I thought that once I had got away undiscovered from the Leichardt you must all certainly believe I had drowned myself.”

“So we did; and it was not till some time afterwards that we were shown some incriminating evidence you had left on your travels, and which proved to us that you were alive.”

She questioned eagerly; and Hansen pulled out of an inner pocket a piece of soft paper—the page of a note-book, in which was wrapped a lock of her hair. The page of the note-book was blank, but she recognised it as one from the little book she had carried on board the steamer, and taken away with her. Hansen fingered the bit of hair tenderly, as though it had been in reality a relic of the dead.

“People don't usually cut off their hair as a preparation for committing suicide,” he said. “The magistrate and the captain, and most other people, supposed that you had thrown yourself into the sea, but this set me thinking on another track. It puzzled your husband also, I fancy, as soon as he became sober. Several things of yours, too, were missing, and it wasn't reasonable to conclude that you'd want a change of clothes in heaven. Well, Mr. Bedo and I landed at Townsville, and I made for the station that was to be my headquarters in the intervals of my trips. But after a little while I came to the conclusion that I'd go back to Cooktown and start exploring from there. So I took the next coast boat north, and to my surprise found Mr. Bedo at the hotel. He was in a state of intense excitement, for news had just come of the Kooloola murders, and he thought you were murdered too.”

“But he had no reason to think I was up there,” said Anne. “It was impossible that I could have been recognised on my way. I did not even go to the diggings where Kombo bought our horses and things. I camped by myself in a deserted hut by a water-hole full of alligators.”

“Yes, I know all about that. They say, you know,


  ― 138 ―
murderers always leave some stupid little trace which leads to their committal. Well, you were engaged in a sort of murder, and you did exactly the same thing. You left the note-book from which I tore this sheet, behind you in the hut, and it gave incontestable proof that you were alive. Do you remember writing in it: ‘Anne Marley escaped from bondage, rejoices in her liberty,’ and some other remarks of the same kind, with a date beneath them?”

“Yes. How I could have been so foolish I cannot imagine. It was a babyish thing to do. Then I must have forgotten all about the book, for I did not find out that I had lost it till we had left the place several days.”

“You dropped it in the hut, between the bunk and the wall. A Chinaman found it there; one of the Chinamen who had been on the Leichardt. He was going with a mate from Cooktown to the diggings, and camped in that place. He brought it back to Cooktown and made some money out of it. Now, if you had not betrayed yourself by that womanish piece of carelessness, neither Elias Bedo nor I would have known you were alive. And that's why I cherish this morsel of paper, and why I bless you with all my heart for having shown yourself no wiser than most women.”

Anne was overwhelmed with confusion and shame; and whereas she had not wept at the news of her cousin Tom's death, she wept now over the tale of her own stupidity. This also was like a woman, and Hansen told her so. He tried to console her.

“Much cleverer people than you, my child, have been caught by the police through having made just such a blunder,” he said, “but the mischief is done and can't now be mended. Mr. Bedo is on your track, and Captain Cunningham is helping him. They both started from Kooloola about the same time as myself They must have taken a different direction, for I have not seen nor heard anything of them since.”

Anne paled. “Then they may be near. They may have followed you to this place!”




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Hansen shook his head. “I doubt it. I don't fancy that Mr. Bedo and Captain Cunningham would care to force their way on foot through the prickles of a scrub of lawyer palm. The prickles funked even me, and I gave up, and turned south-west till I got into desert country. I crossed that, and got over the range through a sandy gap, till it became a case of scrub again, and leaving the horses. My impression is, that Bedo and Cunningham tried rounding the scrub to the north. Of course, it's possible that they have reached the open country, for your husband's determination to find you seemed equal to any danger.”

Anne was silent; she appeared to be weighing the situation. Just then, they came to a bit of difficult walking over boulders and through clumps of scrub. They made their mid-day camp shortly afterwards, and then the Blacks turned sulky, and needed persuasion and more tobacco to continue the march. It was only Kombo's vivid description of the war-strength of the Maianbars which induced them to quicken their paces. By-and-by, the party came upon a track made by beasts going to water, and found a tiny lagoon embosomed among the swelling slopes. After this, the path became easier, rising and falling over lightly wooded spurs of the higher hills, as they marched along the side of the Dividing Range, not daring to ascend into the open till a much greater distance separated them from the land of the Maianbars. They could now see that the Deep Tank, which they had fancied close to the opposite range, was in reality much nearer this one, for the further mountains receded like the shores of a vast bay, showing more clearly a flat extent of country which they believed to be desert.

Anne abruptly resumed the conversation.

“I cannot understand why my husband should go through so much to find me. It cannot be because he cares for me. He told me himself before I left the Leichardt that my moodiness had completely destroyed any affection he had ever had for me. Why then does he want me back again?”




  ― 140 ―

“I believe that I can explain that to you,” replied Hansen. “Mr. Bedo himself let out his reason to me, when we were at Cooktown, after he had been drinking rather much champagne. He was greatly excited by some news the mail had just brought him. Do you not guess the explanation of your husband's anxiety on your behalf?”

“No,” she answered; “I have no idea of it.”

“Yet the letter you left unfinished in your cabin before you disappeared, rather suggested that you understood. You spoke in that of the possibility of your being a peeress in your own right.”

“Oh, that!” Anne laughed. “I wrote it as a joke. The whole thing had been proved a mistake. Mr. Bedo told me so. But you shall know the story. While we were in England, an old man who had been busying himself in hunting up pedigrees came to my mother with a long story about our own. It appeared that a barony and a great fortune had lapsed, or was going to lapse, to the Crown for want of a proper heir. This old man said he believed he could prove our descent and heirship if we would give him money for the search after some missing link in the evidence. Of course we had no money to give him, and no documents to prove anything ourselves. In fact, there are several reasons for supposing it all a fairy-tale. Mr. Bedo saw the old man—that was before our marriage—and then again afterwards, just as we were sailing,—and he told me he was sure the whole thing was a fraud.”

“Mr. Bedo was deceiving you for his own purposes, judging from what he himself said to me,” replied Hansen, gravely. “Possibly he did not wish to raise expectations in your mind before your position was fully established. Anyhow, he gave me to understand in Cooktown that there was no doubt about your being Baroness Marley, and that a large fortune as well as the title—both of which would otherwise go to your sister—depended upon his finding you. That is why I believe he will leave no stone unturned to do so.”




  ― 141 ―

Again Anne appeared to be pondering the matter, her face showing pain and perplexity. At last she said:

“If it is true that I am a rich woman, will the money be mine absolutely?”

“I cannot tell you,” answered Hansen,” for I am ignorant of the conditions in such a case as yours. Ordinarily speaking, I believe that, according to English law, and unless there is a settlement to the contrary, a wife's money is her husband's.”

“Then,” said Anne decidedly, “my mind is quite made up. I would much rather be dead, and that the money and everything else should belong to my sister Etta. Then my mother would be independent of Mr. Bedo.”

“But you are not dead,” objected Hansen.

“It doesn't matter. I should have been eaten by the Maianbars long before now, but for their superstition about Cloud-Daughter. I'd like everybody to believe that I had been killed and eaten.”

“I'm not sure if it's practicable,” said Hansen, dryly. “Murder will out, you know. But Anne, never mind about that for a moment. Tell me, if I may know, was it for your mother's sake that you married Mr Bedo?”

Anne looked at him with a surprised expression in her brown eyes.

“I thought you would have known that,” she said. “Why else should I have married him? Not for my own. I'd rather have died first. It was for mother that I did it, and I'm glad I did; and though I said that I must have been mad, if it had to be done over again, there would be nothing else possible for me. You see it was this way. I had failed in my trial as a singer. We were in debt. Mother was almost blind, and we had no money to pay for the operation that afterwards saved her sight. Do you understand? Mr Bedo asked me to marry him, and I consented on the condition that mother should be provided for, and the operation tried.”

“Yes; I guessed as much before. There's one thing I ought to confess to you—which is, that I played the


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sneak and read the letter you left in your cabin, over Mr Bedo's shoulder, and I'm not at all ashamed of having done so in the circumstances, though eavesdropping and reading other people's letters isn't a habit of mine. It would have been destroyed otherwise, and a valuable clue would have been lost. Do you forgive me?”

“There is nothing to forgive,” said Anne. “I thank you for having cared so much about my fate.”

“Your marriage was a cruel sacrifice,” said Hansen, “a wicked sacrifice, one for which heaven will require atonement.”

“I did it of my own free will,” replied Anne. “No one coerced me. Having done it, I had to take its consequences. Perhaps I was wrong in having run away from them; and yet, I can't think that any law of God or man obliges a woman to live with a husband she hates, and who has been brutally unkind to her, as well as other worse things. Yet I knew what I was about, and if he hadn't sworn at me and beaten me, perhaps I should have acted differently.”

Hansen gave a stifled sound of indignation, but he said nothing. Anne went on.

“You are thinking that I am a wicked, heartless woman, and I often think so myself. I know that if I were to ask a clergyman what my duty is, he would tell me to go back to my husband. Perhaps my own mother would say so. Everybody seems to think that because a poor girl takes a vow at the altar to love, honour, and obey, and to be faithful until death, she must carry it through, no matter that she is suffering a living martyrdom; no matter, too, whether the other one in the contract be true to his oath also. Suppose that you cannot love or honour, must you obey? Is it not enough to be faithful in the one sense? …. And then what about his share of the bargain? Has he loved and cherished me? Has he even been faithful to me? No. Can you wonder, then, that I felt myself absolved from my oath?”

“My poor girl!” said Hansen, hoarsely. “Was it


  ― 143 ―
as bad as that? Then you were absolved—you are absolved.”

“That is what I felt. And from the day that I found out that, I determined I would leave him at the first opportunity. Mother was all right; the money was secured to her, and she could see again. So I made up my mind that when we got to Australia I would run away and hide myself among the stockmen and the Blacks—I knew that they would be kind to me—and manage somehow till I could make a living for myself. I didn't look forward very far, and even to that I couldn't make up my mind quite till he beat me again, just before we got to Thursday Island. Could you blame me afterwards?”

Again Hansen gave that smothered exclamation. He dared not trust himself to speak.

“Even Kombo—that ignorant black boy—saw how impossible it was that I could ever live with Mr. Bedo. He would have killed my husband, I think, if he had seen him ill-use me again. So you see that even for Mr. Bedo's sake it was better I should go.”

“Yes,” repeated Hansen, “it was better you should go; but I'm thinking of you, not of Mr. Bedo.”

“We made the plan, Kombo and I,” Anne continued, “just before the steamer got to Thursday Island, and it was then that I decided to go up to Kooloola to Aunt Duncan. But I needn't tell you anything more about that. You know how everything happened, and how well I should have succeeded if it hadn't been for my abominable stupidity and carelessness in writing as I did in my note-book and leaving it in the shepherd's hut. Yet, even still, if you'll only be true to me and never say how you found me, or rather how I found you, they'll think I was killed and eaten by the blacks, and Etta will get the money and be Baroness Marley in my stead—that is, if there's really anything in the story, for I can't quite believe there is. Mr Hansen—Eric, will you promise not to betray me?”

“I don't know how to answer you,” Hansen said


  ― 144 ―
after a pause. “I couldn't give an unconditional promise of that sort, for what you would call betrayal might be my duty, and I should have to do that at any cost. Do you think,” he went on, his voice deepening as it did when he was moved, “do you think, Anne, that I could give you up to Elias Bedo, if I were not convinced by every human argument that I ought to do so? And whatever happened, I'd stand by you and advise you, if you'd let me, so that you might free yourself legally and honourably, and still enjoy your own. Only in that case, I suppose I shouldn't be the person to help you. But you have your mother, and surely she would so advise you.”

Anne's face fell. “You don't know my mother. Publicity of that sort would kill her. But never mind.” There was a pause. “Then you won't help me?” she said, with the dejected air of a child rebuffed.

“Help you?” he cried. “Haven't I just said that nothing but sheer compelling force would make me give you back to your husband? You told me not long ago that you would trust me. Won't you go on trusting me? I'm not a man who jumps at once to a conclusion. I must think this matter out. In the meantime, I'll look after you as though you were my own sister. After all, why should we worry about that just now? If your husband follows and finds you, he finds you, and we'll make our fight. If he doesn't, there's plenty of time to consider the situation before we get back to civilisation. The point is—are we going back or not? You know now who you are, and what you may be losing. If you really are Baroness Marley and a rich woman, it seems to me—knowing nothing of English law—that you've got the whip hand, and that matters might be arranged somehow to your satisfaction. I'm just taking a common-sense view of the position. But if you go on with me, you're risking a great deal, and there's no knowing whether we shall ever return. Of course, I'm supposing that we explore yonder mountains. I'm resolved to find out all that there is to


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be found out about them and the mysterious Red Race, if not now, then later. But it does seem a pity to turn back when with great danger and difficulty we've got in sight of the place.”

“Oh, yes, yes,” cried Anne. “You must not turn back.”

“It's only a question of time,” replied Hansen. “I shall come back by-and-by; and, if you wish it, I'll gladly take you to the coast now. Perhaps, after all, it would be better for my own sake that I should go back, and then make a fresh expedition on different lines to explore the Tortoise Mountain, which appears to be quite unknown to all previous explorers. So Anne, do not let the thought of my disappointment weigh with you, should you decide on the civilisation scheme. I really believe it would be far wiser for me—speaking from the explorer's point of view—to start anew with a better equipment.”

“And if I decide on the scheme of barbarism or rather of exploration,” she said, “what then?”

“Then,” he answered, fervently, “I will even more gladly take you with me into all unknown dangers, and I will guard you with my life against possibility of harm.”

He waited for her reply with an anxiousness he could not hide.

“I have decided,” she said, presently. “I decided before, when you spoke of the alternatives. I will go with you thankfully, and will be as little hindrance to you as is possible. Perhaps my reputation as a goddess may be of greater service than you imagine,” she added, shyly. “I can at least bring it to bear on the Blacks, to prevent them from jibbing at the fire-spitting crocodile, and the poisonous turtle.

And so it was settled.




  ― 146 ―

Chapter XVIII - Comrades in Adventure

AFTER that long day's march, which must have covered twenty miles, the wanderers came to more broken country and progress was necessarily slower. They had again got into the heart of the range, having been obliged to head precipitous gullies, and for many days were out of sight of the cone-strewn upland. Twice, being as they believed beyond reach of their enemies, Hansen made a temporary camp, and rested for a day or two, employing the interval in searching for unknown beasts. He succeeded in finding one hitherto undescribed by naturalists, but the mythical platypus-kangaroo seemed, figuratively speaking, a will o' the wisp, never to be caught, but always luring him on. Then for a week, the party was flood-bound on the banks of a roaring torrent swelled by heavy rains in the mountains, though of the rains they had but a drizzle. The bad weather kept them inside their gunyas, however, for several days, and in that time Anne came to know the Dane even better than while they had been marching. For now they had long spells of talk by the camp-fire, and the tale of adventure being exhausted, Hansen had to draw upon the stores of his own mind for her amusement. These were varied and interesting, and Anne came to the conclusion that to be a savage in company of Eric Hansen was a liberal education.

He was very good to her, thinking no trouble too great which might ensure her some little comfort; and after her experiences with the Maianbars, this sojourn in the white man's camp was to Anne a taste of Paradise. When they got down from the higher spurs east, into


  ― 147 ―
view of the western range, the opposite mountains appeared to have receded, and to be many miles distant, while the Deep Tank of the Maianbars was now completely out of sight. From their southerly position they looked towards the edge of the cone-dotted upland, which terminated some way off in a natural wall like a cliff on the sea-shore. Below it, stretching to their feet, was indeed a sea, but of sand, not water. Northward and westward, as far as the dividing cliff and the distant range, there was now nothing to be seen but desert.

They had the intention of skirting the southern mountains and of so rounding the desert, but in this plan they were frustrated by impassable ravines and peaks of naked rock rising sheer from the plain below. Besides, as long as they remained in the hills they were sure of water, but if they were to start crossing the desert plain, they might have to encounter all the horrors of thirst as well as of extreme heat. As long as they kept to the highlands the air was comparatively fresh, while the nights were often cold enough to make a fire agreeable. There was nothing for it, therefore, but to strike upward to the wooded ranges where all was scrub again, though less dense than it had been in the earlier part of Anne's wanderings. Nevertheless, it was sufficiently thick to make walking tiresome and difficult. Yet the scrub had its own interest, for it abounded in botanical wonders, and Hansen collected some curious “leaf-butterflies,” specimens of the muskbug, the smoke-ejecting beetle, and other Australian insects. In the days of rest, Anne employed herself in the manufacture of fibre garments, while Hansen provided both with new moccasins of skin.

Now they walked in a south-westerly direction as near as they could to this great basin enclosed on all sides by mountains, and which had no doubt been a small inland sea. But crags and precipices soon made the route impracticable, and they saw that it would be necessary to descend. From the face of a steep crag above the


  ― 148 ―
eminence on which they made these observations, a stream sprouted in several places, and, gathering into one volume of water, swept down a gully to the left, and lost itself in the sand of the desert below. Hansen told Anne that this was a very common feature of rivers in the West Australian desert, and that they should doubtless find the stream again, re-emerging among the mountains to which they were bent, or possibly flowing still through some subterranean passage which it had hollowed for itself in the heart of the hills.

To follow this gully appeared the easiest mode of reaching the level, and they climbed down with some difficulty along its bed, crawling part of the way upon a ledge of rock overhanging the stream, and for the rest, picking their steps among water-worn boulders. There was a deep pool dammed by rocks some feet above the plain, and from the bottom of this natural trough the river flowed on unseen beneath the sand.

The travellers now found themselves on the brink of that dried-up sea closed in by naked rock as far as they could see, except where above the dividing cliff northward, they had a faint and very distant view of those volcanic cones among which lay the Deep Tank of the Maianbars. There was no sign of an oasis, nor of any other stream rolling down from the higher hills to hide itself in the sand. All along, fringing the desert, the grey cliff rose unbroken. For several days the party camped in this place, and here, the Blacks mutinied and refused to go further.

For some time, there had been dissatisfaction in the camp. The tobacco had given out and game was scarce in these barren regions, so that for food all were dependent on Hansen's rifle and Anne's revolver. The gins and men grumbled loudly at their burdens, which increased as more specimens were added to the pack. Then a favourite dog had been bitten by a snake and died, while two other dogs had eaten of a poisonous fungus in the scrub, or had got their death in some unexplainable fashion, all of which things aggravated


  ― 149 ―
the blacks' discontent, and convinced the Moongarrs, who were extremely superstitious, that Debil-debil was hanging round. Not even the magic of Cloud-Daughter was held to be a safeguard against the evil spirit, and to no effect did Anne raise her voice in the awe-inspiring Ave Baiamè. The confidence of the Blacks had been shaken, for whether or not she could produce rain did not greatly matter, since she had not of late brought them wallabis—except of the shy rock kind which is difficult to spear—or serpents of which they had found abundance in the tree ferns of the scrub, and which had reconciled them greatly to the march. The aboriginal stomach craved morbidly for a feast, and as one of the Moongarrs was known as being especially clever in procuring Talgoro—human flesh—it behoved the two white people to take care that no Black ever walked behind them. Indeed, Kombo had given dark hints of a plot to slay Hansen from the rear with a nulla-nulla, and to carry back Yuro Kateena to the Moongarrs' land.

One night a bird sang weirdly over the pool into which the stream discharged itself before becoming lost in the desert, and the Blacks, crying out that it was the voice of Debil-debil, made a wild stampede, and removed their camp from the haunted spot. Possibly, for geographical reasons, as their natural hunting-grounds were further south, the Moongarr, had not the same definite terror of the thunder of the Tortoise as the Maianbars. Their legends were more misty, and their ideas of the mysterious red race inhabiting the opposite range vaguer than those of the Maianbars. It was rather the usual native awe of Debil-debil that held them back. The Debil-debil superstition seemed, however, potent enough. All the next day the Moongarrs were very sulky, and towards evening declared their intention of re-mounting the bed of the stream in search of fish or game. They took all their belongings with them, and even Kombo accompanied them. To start so late in the day was in itself suspicious; and neither


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Anne nor Hansen were surprised when the next day passed and none of the escort had returned.

Those two nights, the man and woman camped in a sort of cave beneath the projecting cliff. They could not have made gunyas—had that been necessary—for here were no trees nor ferns with which to roof any extemporised hut. The heat was great, being reflected back from the sandy sea on the grey precipices above them, and, but for the good supply of water, they would have suffered much discomfort. Now it was that Anne proved her fitness as the companion of a brave man. An ordinary woman might have wept at the desertion of her black comrade, which was in fact a sharp blow to the girl; an ordinary woman might well have shrunk from the traversing of that hideous strip of desert which lay before them, and from the unknown experiences which awaited them in the opposite mountains—the strange Crocodile with its yawning jaws of stone, and the still more mysterious Tortoise.

Then, too, an ordinary woman might have been over-come with conventional scruples at finding herself thus committed to the solitary company of a man who she guessed loved her, whom she scarcely dared confess to herself that she was beginning to love, and whom, moreover, while her husband lived, she could not marry.

But none of these considerations deeply affected Anne, the last one least of all. Since it had been decided that she was to take part in his expedition, Hansen had sedulously guarded his lips and had striven to establish a merely friendly comradeship between himself and the girl in his charge, so that but for the unacknowledged consciousness at the back of both their minds, they might in truth have been brother and sister. As for the difficulties and dangers of their enterprise and the desertion of Kombo, this was not the hour in which to bewail them.

Anne had heroism sufficient to make the best of the situation, resolving not to add to Hansen's perplexities. She laughed, and made light of their troubles, and


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would not listen when he again suggested that they could still turn back.

Firing here was not plentiful, and the two diverted their thoughts from unpleasant subjects in gathering up driftwood that had been washed down by the stream, and heaping it in stacks, Anne singing the while, as was her way when Hansen showed depression. The Blacks had taken away most of the provisions, and Hansen went up with his gun and fishing line in the hope of shooting some game, and of catching fish in the pool. Anne did not go with him, but remained beneath the cliff, putting into such order as she could the baggage, which had been piled pell-mell by the Moongarrs against the rocks. It was a problem what they should do with the specimens, chemicals, and ammunition, now that the bearers had left them. She put the question to Hansen when he came back with some fish he had caught, and a rock kangaroo that he had luckily shot on its way to water. He decided that they would bury the specimens, and all else that they could not carry, in the sand. By measuring a certain distance to right and left of the pool, they would, he said, find the spot easily on their return, as the gully would form a landmark. Water was what they would most need; also ammunition, of which they must take as large a supply as possible, as well as such food as they could carry. This he set himself to prepare for transport, slitting the fish they did not eat, and drying them in the sun, as well as portions of the wallabi. He settled that they would camp in this place for a day or two longer, in order to get provisions together and to recruit themselves near the water for their journey across the sand. Thus, too, they would give Kombo a chance of finding them, should he think better of his ill-deed. Of the other Moongarrs, Hansen had little hope, but neither he nor Anne could believe that Kombo could seriously desert them after the perils he had already shared with his mistress.

It was soon proved that they were right. Kombo's


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better nature had triumphed over his superstition, or some more potent fear had driven him back to the protection of the white man's gun. The third night after his departure, Anne and Hansen were awakened by a stealthy native call, and then a cry of woe, which sounded from the bed of the stream a little higher than the pool into which the water emptied itself and disappeared. Both started up, Hansen with his gun in his hand, and Anne having her revolver ready. At first, they hardly recognised the voice, which was drowned by the rush of the river, but presently knew it as that of Kombo.

“Eeoogh! Eeoogh! Poor fellow me! Missa Anne! Missa Anne! Massa Hansen! Kombo plenty close-up bong (dead). This fellow altogether sick—no got him arm! Poor fellow Kombo! Eeoogh! Eeoogh!”

Hansen mounted in the direction of the call, and in a few minutes Kombo, half led, half carried, presented himself before his mistress. He was a pitiable object. His old flannel shirt—all that remained to him of his wardrobe, which he had discarded during his residence with the Maianbars, resuming it after the example of Hansen's men—was torn to shreds and caked with blood, while one arm hung helpless from a flesh wound near the shoulder. The boy was in an exhausted and almost starving condition, and before he could speak, fed greedily on a piece of cooked wallabi, drinking long draughts of cold tea which had been made from the last pinch left in the ration bag. Afterwards, Hansen examined and bathed his hurt, binding it with the silk handkerchief he had given to Anne—another last remnant of civilisation. He saw that the wound was a small matter, its chief importance being the fact that it had been caused by shot from a gun. The black boy told his tale.

“Ba'al mine want to run away,” he pleaded, evidently deeply ashamed of himself. “Mine plenty frightened long-a Debil-debil, and Moongarr black fellow, he


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say, ‘Suppose you no come, Kombo, then black fellow kill you.’ Mine no want to run away from Missa Anne. I been think-it me go little way long-a Moongarrs, then wait till sun fall down, and by-and-by come back when black fellow not looking. But that no good. All the time, Moongarr black stop close long-side of Kombo. No chance to run away. My word! Black fellow walk quick! I believe Moongarr black very much frightened too of gun belonging to white man. So all night Black make light with fire-stick and climb up mountain, then sleep a little while and climb up again. One black fellow find-im hole where mountain split like-it melon when that fellow plenty ripe. Black fellow altogether creep long-a hole a long way, and get down close-up scrub on other side. Then mine been see horses with hobbles—mine go little way and mine been see black trooper—then mine been see—” Kombo paused dramatically—“Mine been see—Massa Bedo.” Kombo's pantomimic gesture was expressive of utmost dismay. Anne gave a little cry.

“Are you sure—are you sure, Kombo, that it was Mr Bedo?”

“Mine plenty sure, Missa Anne,” replied the black boy. “Mine see Massa Bedo. I b'lieve that fellow long time long-a bush. He look like-it wild man. I believe certain sure that Mr Bedo. He no been see me. Mine climb up big tree while Moongarr black make camp and look out snake in scrub. Suppose like-it this—” And Kombo made a sort of diagram with his hand, pointing to a boulder near him, and then to a lower ledge half way down it, and to imaginary scrub in the distance. “Here you see, big fellow rock.” He went on: “You see, Kombo up on tree close-up top; Massa Bedo down bottom of rock—good way, but that close enough for gun to find Kombo. Mine been frightened,—suppose Massa Bedo see me, and so mine been crawl down tree. Then one big fellow branch break, and Massa Bedo he look up, and I believe he think Kombo one fellow wallabi. He put up pho-pho


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Ow!—he fire off gun, and one little baby bullet hit Kombo. My word! that plenty hurt—altogether blood run down, but ba'al mine make a noise. Mine frightened. Mine think, suppose Massa Bedo fire again! Mine stoop down and run along like-it snake, quick up the mountain, over other side. Then mine stop little while, because plenty blood come. But mine no like to stop long time. My word! Kombo plenty make haste—run—run. Then mine find-im hole, and crawl like-it first time long way. Ba'al mine stop for eating, but by-'m-by mine lie down. Eeoogh! this poor fellow altogether sick. Mine believe Debil-debli marra (take) Kombo, make that fellow go bong. Then mine think, suppose Kombo go bong, Massa Bedo climb up, look out blood, and see poor fellow Kombo—then soon Massa Bedo find Missa Anne. He very saucy—Massa Bedo; he no go back. He got-im horse too. But ba'al mine understand how horse come along through scrub. I believe black trooper bring him other way. My word! I been very sorry because no can steal horse belonging to Massa Bedo. When mine think like-it that, mine get up and walk—all night, all day—all the time mine very sick. Poor fellow Kombo! Nothing to eat! By-'m-by, I find-im river. I got-im spear and catch-im fish and eat-im. Afterwards ba'al mine sick. Now can run. I want to tell Missa Anne and Massa Hansen, you look out—Massa Bedo, he close-up. Suppose he give Moongarr blacks ration, they show-im road. Missa Anne, you no want-im catch you. Then, you make haste—up stick and yan. Nalla yan, Massa Hansen, before sun jump up.”

Thus Kombo delivered himself, and the manner of his delivery was even more graphic than his words. The tears came into Anne's eyes, as she realised how the brave boy had dragged himself along in his maimed state, conquering the tendencies of his race, for when a Black is wounded he gives himself up for lost, and thinks only of getting among his tribe to die. Kombo had left his tribe to save her, and for her sake he had even


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ventured back to the regions of Debil-debil. While he spoke, his teeth chattered with intense fear. It had cost Kombo a good deal to descend the haunted stream alone. Mercifully, the wild bird had not again piped its mournful cry, or superstition might have driven him back. The girl put out her hand, and stroked the black boy's dirty paw.

“Oh! Kombo,” she said, “you altogether brother belonging to me. Būjeri you, Kombo! Good boy, Kombo!”

Hansen also was moved. “Būjeri you, Kombo!” he repeated. “Mine brother too belonging to you. And you very clever boy, Kombo. We must up stick and yan before the sun rises. I don't think Mr Bedo will catch us just yet. Now see, I will put medicine on this sick place, and Yuro Kateena will pialla (pray to) Mormodelik, so when the stars go away, Kombo will jump up altogether well. But first tell me—how many men were with Mr Bedo?”

“I been see only two black fellow,” said Kombo.

“Not Captain Cunningham?” asked Anne, anxiously.

“No,” replied Kombo; “I only see one gunya belonging to white man. No sign of Captain Cunningham. I believe Massa Bedo all by himself with two black trooper.”

“So far well,” said Hansen. “Now Kombo, you go to sleep, and remember, you'll be all right when you wake up.”

The black boy rolled himself over, and almost before Hansen moved away, was fast asleep.

“Anne,” said the Dane, turning to the girl who was sitting with a very disconsolate air on the rock which had served Kombo as an illustration of Mr Bedo's position, “I'm not going to let you be down-hearted, and I don't intend that Elias Bedo shall find you. You've been the pluckiest comrade man ever had, and you must be brave a bit longer. Shall you be ready to start at daybreak?”

“I am ready to start now,” she said.

Hansen looked at his watch, which he had kept in


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working order, and then at the sky. “It wants three or four hours yet, and in the meantime we must fill our water-bags and stow the ammunition about our waists. I don't want to leave a cartridge behind—as well as the food we are going to take. Kombo won't be up to much weight just at first, but I can manage a good load. You've got your belt filled with cartridges for the revolvers?”

She pointed to it—a bandolier she had manufactured herself out of skin and plant fibre that she wore slung over one shoulder.

“All we have, are there,” she answered, “and I have packed my dilly-bag with food.”

“That's right. Lucky we buried the rest of the stuff this afternoon. My specimens are the only things that trouble me, but I think they are pretty safe in this dry sand. Now I'm going to give you a bit of advice. Just before you start take off that cartridge belt for five minutes, and lie down in your clothes in the shallow part of the stream, letting the water soak into the pores of your skin. You won't catch cold, and you'll find it a preventive against thirst, so that we sha'n't need to tackle our water-bags so soon. I shall do the same.”

“How far do you suppose it is to the mountains?” she asked.

“I should fancy about thirty miles—nothing of a walk. But we have to face the heat and the chance of barren rocks at the end. And we must be provided with grub, and against there being no water beyond this stream we are leaving. It really is no great undertaking, the crossing of the strip of desert, and we shall keep under the shadow of the cliff. The heat will be the worst part of it, and I shall be glad when we get to the uplands again. Then think of what we may discover. It's worth while braving the Red Men and the magic of the Crocodile for that.”




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Chapter XIX - The Tortoise-Altar

THE Crocodile and the Tortoise—as the lowering sun shone upon them—had the appearance of gigantic primæval monsters. The yellow orb hung over that grey hump which so curiously resembled a turtle's shell, and specially illuminated the slanting monolith in which to the north, it terminated. So natural did this monolithic head appear, protruding, as it were, from beneath the upper crust of the mountain, that it was difficult to believe Nature had not been assisted by man. That, however, in this remote region, could hardly be thought possible. Below the monolith, and carrying out the Blacks' tradition of a mouth in the reptile's stomach, the mysterious blue lips of Gunīda Ulala were partially visible. Yet it seemed that the opening into the valley where the wanderers stood, might even more appropriately have been named the Place of Death. Never was scene of wilder desolation. At this point, the range of mountains turned inward, and thus formed the gorge which led up to the Tortoise. Gaunt peaks rose at the south end of the gorge, straight from a grey level of loose stones and ashen soil patched with stunted bushes. At the north side, abutting from the ridge, the Crocodile reared its ungainly shape like some petrified antediluvian monster appointed to guard the valley. It had to the eye of a spectator, standing close to the crag, a less distinct likeness to the form of a gigantic saurian than when viewed from a distance, under softening atmospheric conditions. It was, in fact, a long precipitous ridge forming part of the range, the end of which, rearing abruptly like an uplifted snout, was a tall trough


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of rock, with a jagged rift in its side, that gave an appearance of gaping jaws. The surface of the rock was black and scaly from the action of internal fires, and there could be no manner of doubt that this natural trough had once been the crater of a volcano—whether or not now extinct who could tell? There was at least no present suggestion of activity. The course of the lava flood which had issued from it was clearly indicated, and in one part, seemed to have been broken as by a rush of raging water which had flung it back against the rock, from which it now curled and hung in mighty petrified shreds, like black foam on a giant wave.

The very earth itself had been riven in the struggle, for there was a deep chasm, partly filled in the course of centuries, by soil and scanty vegetation; while beyond, across the valley's mouth, lay huge boulders most fantastic in shape—fragments of a mountain torn in that cataclysmal convulsion—and heaps of grey-black stones which might have been vomited in prehistoric times from the crater-jaw.

Opposite the Crocodile, to the south, at the foot of a great basalt ridge, which did not seem to have been so severely dealt with by the elemental forces, there lay a belt of verdure, where possibly, a stream had once flowed. Closing in the head of the valley, and partly hidden by the tortuous lines of the projecting hills, the grey stone carapace of the Tortoise Mountain lay against the horizon.

This was the scene which met the wanderers' eyes, as, worn out with a two days' march across the desert, where inhospitable grey cliffs had walled them in like the sides of an immense natural basin, baked by the fierce sun, and parched with thirst, they came within reach of their goal.

Hansen hurried as best he might over the uneven surface of a comparatively level stretch of the valley towards the ribbon of scrub. Alas! he found no shimmer of water within its depths. But the sight of the green was hopeful, and calling to Kombo to come


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on, he helped Anne to climb the boulders till they dropped from a low fall of rock down upon smooth ground in the shadow of great trees.

The vegetation of this scrub was unlike that of the scrub they had already traversed, for here was no dense undergrowth nor any thickets of the prickly lawyer palm.

There were shrubs unknown to them, bearing flowers of different hues, and large, trunked trees, very lofty but bare to a considerable height, where they spread out in horizontal branches. The stems of these trees were white, while they tapered inward at the bottom, and just below the branches, in something the shape of an enormous bottle. There was no doubt that they were a species of bottle-trees, only very much larger than those further south. With his knife Hansen at once made four incisions in one of them, and taking out the wedge of soft wood found that a few drops of colourless liquid trickled down the stem. He collected what he could of the liquid, and made Anne moisten her lips with the few spoonfuls in the pannikin. She wanted him to do the same, but he shook his head. “There's sure to be water here,” he said; and just then, Kombo, who had been scraping the soil with his sharp club, called out that he had found it. The two men made a deepish hole, and before long, they had a bucketful of clear water. Now they relieved themselves of the baggage they had been carrying. It was reduced to ammunition, for all else had been cast aside. Kombo cut some branches of acacia which grew among the bottle trees, and soon rigged up a shelter for Anne. He spread a blanket on the floor; the opossum rug had been abandoned long ago, both on account of its weight, and because the heat made such a covering, even at night, unnecessary.

The girl threw herself down, with a piece of log for a pillow, and sank almost immediately into a sleep of utter exhaustion. When she awoke, Hansen was beside her, holding in his hand some fruit,—a flat long purple


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plum and a cluster of large red flowers like lilies, which she could but dimly see in the dusk of the gunya. In spite of his own fatigue, there was a look of repressed excitement upon his face, but he said nothing, bidding her eat the plums and stay her appetite till the junglehen he had shot was cooked.

It was now dark, the twilight having abruptly deepened into night, and only the flames of Kombo's fire lighted up the little smooth space among the bottle-trees where they had made their camp. All were too weary for anything but to eat and sleep; too weary also, to feel fear either on the score of Elias Bedo, who they believed was pursuing them, or on that of the mysterious Red Men. They never thought of blacks. For many days there had been no sign of native fires, and it was certain that the Maianbars' superstitious dread of the Tortoise and Crocodile would keep them from venturing into the neighbourhood of these mountains. Only Kombo was uneasy. He would not now, as was his wont, camp over his own fire a little way apart, but crawled close to Anne's gunya, between it and the place where Hansen slept, his gun beside him; and more than once in the night the girl, was awakened by the black boy's whispering voice.

“Missa Anne, you no think-it that Tulumi Mirrein? (the thunder of the Tortoise). You no think-it Kelan Yamina—the old man Crocodile—spit fire on Kombo?” At which Anne would reason with him, declaring that since the magic of Cloud-Daughter had so far preserved him from harm, he might trust it against the breath of the Tortoise and the fire of the Crocodile. But even she was sometimes startled by strange noises and peculiar night cries, whether of the wind among the tall trees or the voices of bird or reptile, she could not tell. The whole place seemed to her strained senses haunted and uncanny, and she was, later, interested in discovering that the history of that wild valley might well justify ghostly alarms. The heat had been terrible for the time of the year, intensified no doubt by the glare of


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the desert and the reflection of the sun upon the sides of the great sandy basin they had crossed; but it was very hot and steamy even in this mountain gorge, and they became anxious to ascend into cooler regions. For some time the next day they traversed the scrub in fruitless quest of a pool of water, but they found none, and there was no sign of the buried river emerging from beneath the desert sands. They climbed up the northern ridges—which, though inaccessible crags towered above them, were on the lower slopes, not difficult to mount—in the hope that here, as in those of the range they had formerly skirted, they might find a mountain tarn.

But here again progress was slow, for again they found volcanic boulders and banks of loose grey stones upon which, at every moment, their feet slipped. As they proceeded, the vegetation which had clothed the lower spurs at the opening of the gap became scantier, till it ceased or showed grey and withered, as though burned by the heat of the ground on which they trod. There was a sulphurous stench in an intersecting ravine they had to cross, and here and there, smoke issued from the side of the hill; while once, Kombo, treading incautiously, fell through the crust of an earth bubble, and was with difficulty pulled out. The boy uttered piercing shrieks of “Debil-debil,” and when he came out was scorched and in places badly burned. This did not add to his happiness, and he went whimpering to the rear, afraid to retreat, afraid to go on; and repeating to himself, in mangled fashion, the Lord's Prayer, which had been taught him during his civilised years, but which he had given up for the employment of his native exorcisms.

“It's like a place I know in Japan that they call the Great Hell,” said Hansen. “Keep close to me, Anne, and tread exactly in my footsteps.” Thus they went in safety over that part of the Pass, and climbing again, seemed to leave the sulphurous track behind them.

All this time they had been steadily mounting.


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Though suffering great inconvenience from the heat, they were not tormented with thirst, for they had filled their water-bags at the little wells they had dug in the scrub below. But after a while it got cooler, and by-and-by they found themselves in pleasant pastures, ascending and descending land billows that were green with long grass and shrubby vegetation, above which rose, here and there, the feathery crest of a clump of palms. At last, in a hollow between two of these undulations, they found a tiny blue water-hole which seemed of an incalculable depth, and round the sides of which grew lilies with pale blue and white cups.

“The lotus!” exclaimed Hansen. “The sacred lotus of India, Japan, and Egypt. This is very interesting. I have never seen it growing in Australia.”

There were other surprises in store. They camped that night by the little lagoon, and supped sumptuously on Torres-Straits pigeons that Hansen had shot, and on fresh-water fish caught in the pool. The presence of this particular river fish in so small a lagoon puzzled Hansen, and he concluded that there must be an underground stream making a continuous current in the lagoon.

Next day they mounted higher, with still the Tortoise Mountain before them. But it was partly hidden by the projecting spurs of the range which seemed to meet in front of it, so tortuous were the curves of the valley. The rock head of the Tortoise, which at intervals rose above the curving hills, appeared more natural than ever. They could discern some resemblance to the flabby folds of skin that hang about a real tortoise's neck. It was a marvel of nature, if it were indeed entirely due to nature. That seemed almost incredible, but there was no other explanation of the wonder. From this point of the valley they could not see the blue triangular mouth of Gunida Ulàla, for the lower part of the mountain was wholly obscured by a great rocky spur some distance in front


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of them. There was a still lower spur intervening between the wanderers and the further hill; and as they approached this nearer rise, they saw that what they had taken for a rocky serrated formation on its summit, was in reality a series of monoliths placed in a definite circle with irregular spaces in the circle where great columns were missing. These ruins had certainly been made by no convulsion of the earth, and as certainly, by the hand of man. Such of the monoliths as remained upright, surrounded an oval space, in the centre of which stood a large round stone supported upon another, and with a slight depression in the centre, suggesting an altar of Cyclopean size.

Till now they had come upon no sign of humanity; and even this circle of stones, giving somewhat the idea of Stonehenge, seemed a relic of some race of Titans rather than of human beings like themselves.

Kombo, when he beheld the monoliths standing out against the sky, cried aloud that “Debil-debil sat down there,” and hid himself behind a bank of shrubs where he again assiduously repeated what he could remember of the Lord's Prayer. The air was very still; no wind stirred the tree-tops on the mountain side; neither human being nor animal gave sign of its presence, nor was there any sound presaging supernatural occurrences or giving countenance to the Maianbar's terror of the Tortoise's ominous thunder. Had there been, Kombo would undoubtedly have fled back to the desert and to the Maianbars themselves to avoid the greater evil. As it was, he waited, and by-and-by, taking heart of grace, cautiously followed his mistress. Anne ran up the grassy slope after Hansen, who turned, waving his hand to her to remain till he should have reconnoitred this strange spot. But she was not to be holden. Before many minutes she stood by his side, in front of the desolate altar which reached high above their shoulders.

“They must have been big people who worshipped here,” Hansen said, thoughtfully. “This seems to me


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higher than any of the Tortoise altars I have seen in the buried cities of Mexico.”

Hansen's eyes were agleam with the delight of scientific discovery, which is greater even than the joy of finding gold. He knew that he had found here in the unexplored heart of Australia—that continent which was declared to have no previous inhabitants but the degraded aboriginals found there on the first explorers' landing—ruins which proclaimed the fact of a civilisation, linked with, and perhaps as great as, the prehistoric civilisation of Central America, traces of man's occupation in remote ages, which might, indeed, change modern scientific conceptions of the former history of the globe.

“Anne,” he said, solemnly, “I am now confirmed in an idea which came over me the night we camped in the valley, though I said nothing to you till I had further proof of my theory. I am convinced that this was once a populous region, which has been destoyed, probably long ages back, by an eruption of the Crocodile Mountain. I believe that we shall find the remains of a race similar to that which built the old cities of Palenque and Copan. I know the shape of that altar—a tortoise altar,—though I have never seen it enclosed by a druidic circle.”

“A tortoise altar!” repeated Anne, with a puzzled expression on her face. “Do you mean that there were ever any people who worshipped tortoises?”

Hansen did not answer the question for a minute or two. He was too deeply engaged in tracing the lines of some much-worn hieroglyphics which covered the pedestal of the altar.

“Oh! If I had but the drawings I made in Yucatan, to compare with this!” he exclaimed. “But who could have dreamed of such a discovery? It certainly confirms Brasseur de Bourbourg's theory, that there was once a vast continent with a great civilisation, extending from Chili and Peru to Australia. Remains have been discovered in the islands of Polynesia, but


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till now none in Australia. Who knows that they may not be buried beneath the sands of the great Central desert, or the lava of extinct volcanoes? Anne, you do not realise what a stupendous find this is.”

“No,” she answered, “but you will explain it to me.”

“Yes, as far as I am able. I worked up the subject as well as I could before going to Mexico; and when I got there, the question of that ancient Mayan civilisation interested me so intensely, that I tried to pierce into the forbidden heart of Yucatan, where white men dare not go. You know the legend of a mysterious city, where, it is supposed, is a remnant of the lost Atlanteans? I learned as much as I could of the old Mayan language from Landa's Grammar, and the dialects of the Quichés—which is a corruption of the Mayan—so as to be able to talk to the natives and collect their traditions.”

“Did you find the mysterious city?” she asked.

He laughed. “No; I don't think any white traveller is likely to do that. I meant to have a try at it, however, only I was laid down with fever at the start, and when I got well I was recalled home.”

“And you never went back?”

“No. It is only a year ago. I came out here instead.”

They were walking round the circle, and there were pauses in the talk, for every now and then, Hansen would stop and spend some minutes in examining the monoliths. There appeared no trace of inscriptions on the great stones, some of which were upright, others fallen. The vegetation on the summit and sides of the mound was scanty, indicating no depth of soil except in a line sloping perpendicularly where there was a band of verdure. He prodded the ground with his staff.

“It is as I suspected,” he said. “There is masonry under the grass, and I am very much mistaken if here are not steps like those leading to the great temple platform on a hill I've been to in Hawaii. So there


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must have been mound builders and pyramid builders in this new world, as they are pleased to call it; though it is my opinion that Australia is about the oldest portion of the known earth.”

He was greatly excited. Anne caught the reflection of his enthusiasm.

“Let us stay here and dig for what we may find,” she cried.

He held out his staff derisively. “With this, and the butt end of my gun! No; we will push on at once to the Tortoise Mountain. I shall be surprised if something astonishing does not meet us there. Very likely this temple, or whatever it was, guarded the approach to the sacred hill. If this people had anything to do with the ancient Mayans, which seems probable, I can understand why they chose this as the site of a city. No doubt they utilised the shape of the mountain in their rites.” They had come back now to the great altar. Hansen raised himself and peered over its sides.

“There's a hollow in the stone,” he said. “It may be, Anne, that we are standing by the very spot where human victims were laid for sacrifice.”

“To a tortoise!” she exclaimed, shuddering. “You have not told me if it's really true that any people ever worshipped tortoises.”

“Why, yes,” he answered. “All the old religions had a beast or a reptile as the emblem of a cult. There's the winged serpent of Yucatan, the hooded cobra of India, the elephant, the bull, the cat—ever so many besides. The tortoise was a very sacred symbol among the Chinese. Its upper shell was supposed to be the are of heaven; its under one the bottom of the earth, and its body floated on the waters. Therefore, you see, it typified creation.”

“I see,” she assented, doubtfully; “but I think the idea is rather silly.”

“All symbolism seems silly till you get a clue to its inner meaning. They spoke to the people in parables


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in those days when men were undeveloped animals and only the priests knew anything. But I'm not going to worry you with ancient symbolism till we have had our lunch. You shall hear as much as I can tell you—which is little enough—by-and-by, when we are not hungry. Now I'm going to desecrate one of these old stones by making a fire against it, and cooking the birds. Where is Kombo?” and he gave a cooēē.

The black boy came diffidently from behind the bank of shrubs, and sidled up the hill. He was still very frightened; but as neither the Crocodile nor the Tortoise had so far shown signs of animosity, he began to feel more comfortable, and reflected that the Lord's Prayer had proved efficacious.

“By-'m-by, Missa Anne, you tell me again that fellow ‘Our Father,”’ he said, confidentially, to his mistress. “I plenty forget. Mine think-it that frighten Debil-debil.”

Soon, a couple of pigeons were roasted, and some of the roots like yams. Hansen deplored the apparent scarcity of game.

“We shall have to get into the mountains,” he said, “or we shall be starved out. Now,” he added, when the meal was finished, “now for the mysteries of the Tortoise.”




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Chapter XX - The Place of Death

THE wanderers were at length camped under the very shadow of the Tortoise. The rock head, protruding northward, was slightly slanting in poise. The small face with its round eyes depressed in the skull, its sunken nostrils and slit of a mouth, so strangely resembling that of a senile old man, was now clearly visible, and certainly gave small confirmation of the theory that this effigy of Nature was Nature's own freak. Nature had supplied the monolith, and perhaps the rude outline of a head, but undoubtedly man's hand had fashioned this into its present similitude of the Chelonian species.

Since the discovery of the ruined temple and prehistoric altar, Hansen had become prepared for signs of a bygone civilisation. No marvel of workmanship, on however titanic a scale, would now have struck him with amazement. The greater wonder was the utter depopulation of this extraordinary region. Not a trace had they as yet found of living human occupation; the spot seemed to be shunned even by beasts and birds; for the further that the explorers proceeded, the more intense was its solitude and silence. It appeared as though the cataclysm which, long ages back, had rent the mountains and doubtless destroyed cities and inhabitants, had also scared away, during many succeeding centuries, the animals that had once browsed on peaceful hillsides and the birds that had nested among rocks and forest trees.

As Hansen and his companions skirted the spur nearest the great mountain, there opened before them


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a scene of even wilder desolation than that at the valley's mouth. A chasm torn in the range met them with yawning jaws, and forced them to descend along its borders to a point where the gap was partly filled by a tongue of earth and rock, grown with straggling shrubs, or more correctly, dwarfed trees of immemorial antiquity—a landslip arrested in its fall and forming, in course of ages, a natural bridge. Beyond this cleft, the spur rounding northward gave a fairly level shelf beneath the overhanging precipice, making a sufficiently convenient camping-ground. From this spur, with its bectling cliff, the ground fell away southward, taking the shape of buttresses to a semi-circular range of high hills, These curved inward to the north beyond the streaked and jagged rock carapace of the Tortoise Mountain, and joined the base of the great monolith, in semblance of a tortoise's head, which dominated the whole scene. Within the curve of the hills, there seemed to be a huge depression as of a deep round basin—possibly a lake, and probably, dry like the desert they had crossed—enclosed all round by precipitous heights.

It was dusk when the camp had been fixed, and the sunset behind the Tortoise's back had left an afterglow of lurid splendour. Presently, a full moon rose almost before the short twilight had ended, and cast long pale rays and patches of black shadow over the valley and on the mountain side. As Hansen and Anne gazed at the mysterious shape of the Tortoise, they were struck by a curious phenomenon. Directly below the huge head with its cavernous eye-sockets, its protruding underlip, and the long narrow slit forming the reptile's mouth, there was a deep hollow, triangular in shape and pallidly luminous. The light in the hollow was stationary, never changing its area, but increasing in brilliance and then fading like phosphorescent gleams upon a tropical sea. As the moon rose in the heavens, this intermittent effulgence waned, brightening again when the orb was veiled by passing clouds.




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Hansen wondered whether the effect could be due to a massing of glow-worms on one spot, but decided that this was not possible; then he asked himself if it could be caused by the moon's reflection upon some rock-bound pool. This too, however, seemed unlikely, as they would certainly, from higher levels, have noticed any such mountain tarn. Kombo, returning from an effectual search for food, put an end to their speculations, as he too espied the glimmering patch of light.

“Gunīda Ulàla! Gunīda Ulàla!” he shouted in deadly terror, and fled to the refuge of the camp-fire. There presently, they found him shaking in a fresh access of superstitious dread.

“Missa Anne! Massa Hansen!” cried the black boy. “Ba'al you stop long-a this place. Debil-debil sit down here. That altogether like-it what old Medicine Man tell Maianbar black fellow. Mine very much afraid that Debil-debil catch Massa, suppose he go too close-up mouth belonging to Tortoise. I been tell you before, poison come out of that fellow mouth belonging to Tortoise. That make bong—altogether dead—white man, black man, kangaroo, 'possum, snake—altogether everything. You see, ba'al you been find-im bandicoot; ba'al you been shoot-im bird; ba'al you been see-im black fellow. I believe Debil-debil been frighten that fellow. Ole Medicine Man been tell the truth. Ba'al can live close-up Gunīda Ulàla. Ah! Yucca—Yucca! Eeoogh! Eeoogh! Plenty this poor fellow Black frightened long-a Debil-debil.”

Then Kombo wailed the Blacks' wail, which is a fearsome and unpleasant expression of emotion. Again, not all Cloud-Daughter's assurances of her potency against Debil-debil would quiet his wailing. By-and-by, it subsided by reason of sheer physical inability to make more noise, for Kombo had fasted long and was weary; and, moreover, he was overcome with holy fear and deadly uncertainty as to whether he should petition the Christian deity, or his own native gods. Voice failed him, and he could only whisper


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entreaties that Hansen would turn back even at risk of being eaten by the Maianbars, in preference to facing annihilation from the fire of the Crocodile and the breath of the Tortoise. But presently he lost power to entreat even in a whisper, and, yielding to a more compelling force than terror, his eyes drooped; he rolled himself in his blankets, and forgot his woes in sleep.

The other two were exhausted also, though they had better staying power than the black boy. It was as Kombo pointed out. For the last twenty-four hours no game had fallen to Hansen's gun, and Kombo had looked in vain for yopolo, grubs, or snakes. They had fared poorly on berries—a scanty supply—roots, and the remains of their last supper of fish. A sorry meal was now set forth of roasted bulbs, and before long, Anne and Hansen, like the black boy, were slumbering peacefully in the shelter of a rock.

Food, and not archæological remains, was next day the chief object of their explorations. Before starting, however, they tried to locate Gunīda Ulàla, and made out to their satisfaction that it was a certain blue-looking cleft beneath the Tortoise's head, which they had marked through the field-glasses from the mountain behind. They could not see how far it extended, for the opening was partially hidden by a projecting ridge of basalt that shelved outward, and seemed almost to roof in the upper end of the gap. It was from this opening, in shape an irregular triangle, that they imagined the phosphorescent light had emanated. Only a small streak of the inner walls of the gap was visible through Hansen's field-glasses, and this had the smooth polished look of lapis lazuli. They had noticed that peculiarity even more clearly from the greater distance of the eastern range, which seemed strange, considering how close they now were. But then they had viewed it from a much greater height, and with no near intervening projections. Hansen again remarked to Anne that this blue appearance was probably caused by the action of volcanic fires. Yet this hardly accounted for the


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faint effulgence they had seen, and for its waning and increasing as the moon's light swelled and was dimmed, nor for the total disappearance of the phenomenon by day. Hansen promised himself considerable scientific interest in its investigation. This, however, was not the time for scientific investigation. Man's most primitive instinct was clamouring, and for this day they could be nothing but hunters of game. All the morning, they traversed the semi-circle of the range, following its undulations of ridge and gully. But the spurs barring the valley northward; were desolate and barren, except for a few berries and some bushes of the Blacks' narcotic plant called pituri, which Kombo gathered with glee.

They were now almost directly under the great rock, shaped like a tortoise's head, which reared itself at the back of a basalt ridge that they had begun to ascend. The ridge dipped, and beyond, the land rose again in wooded slopes to the base of the grey bulging body of the mountain that gave so curious a suggestion of a tortoise's shell. Suddenly a low “G—r—rr——! Yumbu—Yumbu!” from Kombo called Hansen to attention, and he beheld, poised on a crag some distance above, an animal of the goat species, but with striped markings, larger than a chamois; and, as far as he was aware, unknown to Australian naturalists. This fact, apart from the desire for a meat dinner, fired him with determination to shoot it. He raised his gun, but as he did so, the beast sped along the summit of the ridge and was lost to sight. The goat had bounded downward towards the rift, which ended to the left in that triangular blue patch where had shone the phosphorescent illumination of the previous evening. Hansen darted swiftly and stealthily through the bushes, mounting with alertness, and keeping the gap to his left. For a second the goat showed, outlined on the edge of a cliff, then bounded forward, and disappeared down the face of the ravine.

The hunter pursued his quarry, swerving to the side


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of the gully and then disappearing also, as he swung himself by means of saplings and undergrowth to a lower level. Anne, who had become an almost more adroit climber than her companion, followed him closely. Hansen had very little hope of bagging the goat, but thought that he might get another glimpse of it, and at least try a second shot.

The two, striking diagonally upward, found themselves—Anne several yards below Hansen—on the brink of a shelving precipice, comparatively easy of descent to a practised mountaineer. Beneath, lay a narrow gorge wide at the base, ending in a cavern that resembled an open mouth, over which curled shining lips of stone. These lips, of which the outside was basalt, seemed to be lined interiorly with something like lapis lazuli—a polished blue marble, streaked and flecked in dark and light lines and splotches. The floor of this cavern was, at the entrance, almost entirely white. It rose in a sort of crest, graduating and spreading inwards and outwards, like the foamy summit of a wave as it breaks on the sea-shore. All down the gorge, the white accumulation spread out in splashes like a drift of chalk or gypsum. For the moment, neither Anne nor Hansen realised the true nature of the accumulation, for the goat had reappeared on a shelf of rock overhanging the bottom of the gorge at the height of about fifty feet. The animal steadied itself for a moment on the brink, but Hansen's second shot struck wide of the mark. The goat leaped after the concussion, gained a lower footing, made some zig-zag steps along the ledge, then dropped into the very mouth of the cavern and was lost to view. Though it had bounded as if unscathed, Hansen could hardly believe that he had again missed his aim, for craning forward he saw the goat touch the white ridge at the opening of the cavern with forefeet extended, and springing towards the interior of the mouth, quiver; and then, as though overwhelmed by a galvanic shock, fall on the blue floor of the cave. He waited for it to give signs of life, but there were none.


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There it lay, with, as far as he could tell, no trace of a gun-shot wound to account for its apparent lifelessness.

Hansen threw himself down upon the abutting shelf from which the goat had sprung, aiding his descent by the projecting ledges of rocks, and the shrubs at which he was able to catch. He ran along the shelf for some few paces, following the course of the animal. He would have tried to scale the fifty foot precipice between where he stood and the blue mouth of the cavern on which lay the body of the goat, had he not been arrested by a cry from Anne and a warning screech uttered simultaneously by Kombo. Then, as he gazed more intelligently and closely into the bed of the gorge and the interior of the cavern, a slow horror seized him.

“Stop!” called Anne imperatively; “you must not go any farther. Don't you see that the place is full of bones?”

And Kombo cried the native warning, “Kollè mal! Massa, look out! Kvangin! Kvangin! (Evil Spirit). That place, Gunīda Ulàla, where Debil-debil sit down and make altogether bong. You see! Bones belonging to white man, black man, kangaroo, bandicoot; altogether everything that come long-a mouth. Suppose Massa go there, Debil-debil make him bong like-it all the rest. Come back, Massa Hansen. Ba'al mine want-im Massa go bong.”

Now Hansen perceived that part of the gorge and the blue mouth were indeed a charnel-house—a valley of dry bones such as that of the prophet's vision, only that here there was no spirit to stir them into life. The white heaps and patches were not gypsum or chalk as he had at first imagined, but bones of animals, birds, reptiles, possibly of humans, all destroyed no doubt by the poisonous breath of the Tortoise, in which particular the tradition of the Maianbar men was justified. The mouth of the Tortoise was indeed Gunīda Ulàla, the Place of Death. From that surf-like crest at the cavern's opening, the wind playing amid the putrid


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remains of rotting carcases, had scattered bones and dust along, till where, as the gorge widened, the white specks gradually ceased. Hansen realised that there must indeed be something deadly—a gaseous exhalation possibly—in the cave itself, which had destroyed the goat as it had destroyed all other life coming within its influence. From the height at which he stood, there was no perceptible effluvium, nor did he even feel giddy nor in any way oppressed. This puzzled him, since vapour ascends, and the death of the goat testified to the cave's noxious qualities. Was it possible that death was caused by contact with the shining blue surface of the marble interior, which, as he looked into the furthest recess of the cleft, seemed to emit a pale glimmer? The outer wall gave out, he fancied, a somewhat dull sheen. Over all, lay a sinister suggestion which he had never before come across in his experience of mountain regions in other parts of the globe. Could it in fact be possible that this strange blue marble was in itself a deathstone?

There were no means at hand of solving the question. The goat lay many feet below, and he had no cord to make a lasso by which he could have drawn it up without incurring risk to himself. How he wished that they had brought across the desert one of those long withes of creepers called by the Blacks kàmin, and which, serving as a rope, enable them to climb the straight stems of palms and other scrub trees. The chamois made no movement, and there seemed little doubt that it was dead. He gazed regretfully at the carcase. The species, as far as he knew, was unclassified in Australian zoology, and he would have given much to secure it. He thought that he might perhaps find a withe of creeping palm in the scrub, at the foot of the Tortoise Rock, by means of which he might draw up the animal. With this thought in his mind, he went reluctantly back again to where Anne was standing, pale but excited. It was as much want of food, as mental perturbation that caused her to


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tremble. She went forward, and impulsively put her hands in his for a moment, as she exclaimed:

“Oh! I am so thankful you are safe. If you had gone down! Oh! if it had killed you!” She shuddered.

“I'm all right, dear comrade,” he answered. You may trust me not to run any risks—for your sake.”

She withdrew her hands, but with his words, comfort had stolen into her heart.

“I was not thinking of myself,” she stammered. “But it is true—what should I do—oh! what should I do if anything happened to you? Eric,” she went on more steadily, “Kombo is right. There is no doubt that we have stumbled on Gunīda Ulàla—the Place of Death. That old Maianbar Medicine Man knew what he was talking about. There's always some foundation for these Blacks' legends. Oh! Eric, let us get away from here as quickly as possible. We can climb this ridge higher up; and Kombo says he has seen a thick bit of scrub close under the Tortoise's Head, where he thinks there's water, and where we may find a scrub turkey's nest, or perhaps a kangaroo rat. Come, let us go.”

“I'd like first to have a try at the goat,” said Hansen. “If we could fish it up we should get a good dinner at least, and the skin of a new specimen into the bargain.”

“Oh! no, no!” she pleaded. “Leave the thing where it lies. How do we know that it is not poisoned by the breath of the Tortoise, as Kombo would say? I couldn't eat it, if you did pull it up out of that horrible cave. Besides, if we climb higher up the hills, we shall most likely come across other goats. It seems fairly easy going as far as the Shell—I can't help calling that rocky hump the Shell, it is so exactly like a turtle's back. Eric, there must be some meaning in it all. Look at the head, how it seems to poke forward—and the queer little eyes, and the nose! Oh! it's uncanny; but I'm sure it must some time or


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other have been carved by men—civilised men, not savages.”

“Yes, I'm sure of that too,” he answered. “The whole place fills me with a longing to explore. I believe, Anne, that we have come upon the home of the Red Men, and that we are on the verge of tremendous discoveries. Don't tremble, my child, you must not be afraid.”

“I don't feel afraid of the Red Men,” she answered, “but I can't stay any longer in the Place of Death Oh! Nalla yan, Nalla yan—which is what Kombo has been imploring for the last ten minutes.”

She was still trembling. He had never in their wanderings seen Anne so unnerved. Kombo too was shaking, and his face showed livid under its black skin. The boy was kneeling, and again gabbling faltering repetitions of the Lord's Prayer, in feeble hope of thus exorcising the demon. He had got as far as “Gib us dis day,” but broke off, his practical mind seizing a hitherto unconsidered point.

“Mine no understand, Missa Anne. Ba'al mine think-it Big Massa long-a hebben have flour like-it white man. Ba'al mine believe that fellow God make-im damper.” At which Anne laughed in spite of herself. But Kombo was in no mood for levity, and gravely went on with his devotions. He stumbled hopelessly over the forgiveness of his trespasses, again appealing to Anne in frantic perplexity.

“Ba'al mine know that fellow treppass, Missa Anne. Mine been lose him altogether. Būjeri you pialla that big Massa long-a hebben. Big Massa listen to Missa Anne—ba'al he listen to Kombo.”

So at the boy's petition, Anne knelt on the rock beside Kombo and very reverently made her own and his supplication in the simple and sublime words of the Master who first spoke them in Galilee. And Kombo was soothed, and rose at her bidding to follow her, thankful to escape from the Place of Death. Hansen took Anne's hand in his, and they mounted together like


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two children, hastening over the rocks and through the stunted herbage, but scarcely speaking till they had gained the patch of scrub below the rock carapace and the towering monolith, which, now that they looked up at it, scarred as it was and worn by time and weather, seemed less defined in outline than it had appeared from a greater distance. The scrub was moist and comparatively cool. There were bottle-trees in it, and native plums and scrub vegetation, also palms; while in places, the ground was carpeted with a low-growing plant, bearing bright red blossoms—the same that Hansen had gathered at the entrance of the valley. They found a little stream trickling between banks of fern; it had its source in a fissure in the basalt wall that rose overhead to the height of about a hundred feet and then rounded backward, forming the Tortoise hump of almost naked rock. The wall was jagged at its upper edge, much as might be in miniature the striated margin of an ancient turtle shell. It was seamed with clefts and burrowed with holes, while here and there at the base, there were projections of the cliff forming natural buttresses. Between these rock buttresses lay cave-like shelters, strewn with boulders that had fallen from the face of the cliff, and with rain-worn niches and ledges. Anne seated herself on a ledge, her back to the mountain, too wearied even to help Hansen in collecting sticks for the fire he now set himself to light. When he had done this, he took a billy to fill it at the stream, while Kombo marched forth, carrying his pointed stick, in search of a mound-builder's nest, or a layer of big ants' eggs beneath the bark of a decayed tree. He had hopes, too, of finding among the orchids and parasitic ferns, that native delicacy, the pouched mouse ; and Anne watched him take up here and there a handful of earth or rotting vegetation and smell it, then start off with a reassuring “Y—ck! Y—ck!” having ascertained that there was a chance of his quest being successful. She felt that it would indeed be pleasant to eat a full meal again, for one might have fancied that a upas blight lay


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upon these mountain fastnesses. Except for the goat, many hours had passed since they had seen a sign of animal life. There was no rustle of birds' wings, nor stealthy sound of reptile, nor any of the soft cries and gurglings common in the scrub.

After blowing up the fire, and setting the billy to boil, Hansen shouldered his gun ; and bidding Anne not to be afraid, as he would not go beyond sound of her voice should she call, crept along the side of the precipice in the direction of the Tortoise's head. He hoped that he might sight a rock wallabi, which would furnish them with meat.

He had not gone far when he came upon a tunnel in the mountain which struck him as not entirely natural. It was a hole some six feet high by about a yard broad, that seemed, when he peered into it, to descend into the interior of the hump, and in which, as he explored it from the opening, he seemed to discern the outline of rude steps. Greatly excited, he stepped a few paces within the aperture, having leaned his gun outside against the rock. As he moved on, he found that the hole got higher and that he could stand in it upright, though presently it narrowed so that he could not square his elbows. His fancy had not deceived him ; there were certainly rude steps leading downward several feet, and beyond, he felt, rather than saw—for a faint current of air met his face—that a long tunnel stretched into impenetrable blackness. The sides of the passage were, as far as he could grope with his hands, of smooth rock, and he could tell that it went for some distance, by the reverberation of his voice when he raised it in a Coo-ēē, though the Coo-ēē gave back a broken echo, showing that there were obstructions in the way.

He went a little further along the tunnel, which was clear of débris ; this strengthening his belief that it was used for some practical purpose. At last, however, he was stopped by a mass of rock. Groping with his hands along the rough surface of the rock, he found an opening again on either side leading into further


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blackness. He sought vainly for matches. But he had already recollected leaving the box with his pouch beside Anne, when he had taken off his belt to lighten himself before starting out with his gun. Though his nerves tingled with excitement at the discovery he had made, and he longed to continue his explorations even in darkness, he knew that this would be unwise, for he was already out of reach of Anne's voice, should she call. Should evil befall him, she would be left alone with the black boy, and without a clue to his whereabouts, though he reflected that they must soon learn the direction he had taken from the position of his gun and the sight of the hole. But this passage, too, he thought, might lead to a place of death. Were he to proceed, it might be at the risk of being overcome with some poisonous exhalation such as had killed the goat, and which he would not for the world that Anne, in her search for him, should brave. Reluctantly, therefore, he retraced his steps.

Anne was in the camp where he had left her, but she had stretched herself upon the rocks in an attitude of utter weariness, and he saw that she had fallen asleep. He gazed tenderly at the strangely-clad figure, so small and girlish in its garments of fibre and feathers, and at the little pinched face, wan and marked by privation and fatigue. His heart swelled in a gush of emotion. Faithful comrade! Could ever stalwart man have been sturdier, braver, or truer mate? How cheerfully she had tramped on by his side; how uncomplainingly she had borne hardships, how dauntlessly she had faced terrors that would have subdued any spirit less finely tempered and indomitable! The moisture rose to Hansen's eyes as he looked at her. Had he had any right to bring her into this fearsome region? Ought he not to have taken her back to the coast, and there, washing his hands of the responsibility of her fate, have delivered her over to her lawful protector? He might then have returned unencumbered to pursue his journey, no doubt to his own greater advantage, and to that of the learned


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Society that employed him. Yet how sorely lacking in zest and savour would his explorations have been without this dear companion, who must now, if ever they returned to civilisation, share the honours of a discovery which would convulse the scientific world. And had she not refused to go back? Had she not implored him not to leave her in the clutches of Elias Bedo? No; his duty was clear; at any cost, he would serve and save her in so far as lay in his power. He would fight for her against her enemy, even though that enemy were her own husband. It should not be his fault if she were given over again into slavery. But how did he know that Elias Bedo was not even now close upon their track with a little army of troopers behind him? Well, if this were so, it behoved him—Hansen—to find as soon as might be a place of safety, and was it not possible that he had half an hour ago stumbled upon such a refuge? Thinking, however, over the position, it had sometimes seemed surprising that Elias Bedo should care to encounter danger in pursuit of a wife who had clearly shown that she hated him; for it was certain that he intended to get her back if that were possible, or he would not have come so far in search of her. On Anne's showing, he could not be deeply attached to his wife, so there must be some stronger motive actuating him than baulked love or desire for revenge. Then there came again into Hansen's mind the story he had heard of Anne's supposed lineage and inheritance of an ancient barony and of great wealth, and it struck him that here was motive to a man of the stamp of Elias Bedo. He had hardly considered whether the story was a true one—there had been so much else to occupy his mind. Now, studying Anne's high-bred face, and thinking of the courage which had sustained her, and of the grit and resource she had displayed, he could well believe that she came of some grand old race, and that there ran in her veins the blood of heroes. “Bon sang ne peut mentir,” he repeated to himself, and inwardly recited some other saws of like meaning as he


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replenished the fire, refilled the billy which had boiled away, and raked a glowing bed of ashes ready for the cooking of whatsoever food Kombo might bring.

Anne was still sleeping when the black boy reappeared, his eyes gleaming, his dilly-bag full of spoils. Hansen checked his triumphant shout, “Yai! Yai! Mungàlū mogra” (I have brought fish), motioning him to make no noise, but to lay down quietly the fruit of his foraging expedition. Whereat Kombo emptied his dilly, and the white man's hungry mouth watered at the sight of three released crawfish slithering among the stones. Kombo related that he had come upon a pool in the little river dammed by rocks in which mud crabs abounded. He declared that they might camp here for weeks, and not starve. Evidently the poisoned breath of the Tortoise did not affect its brother crustaceans. Besides the crabs, Kombo had found two pouched mice, and a handle of beetles' larvæ, as well as some edible roots. Truly, this was fare not to be flouted by gods, let alone starving humans, although they had to it neither salt nor seasoning, nor any beverage but spring water with which to wash it down.




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Chapter XXI - Ave Baiamè!

WHEN Anne awoke, the crawfish were boiled, and appetisingly torn asunder; the larvæ spluttered on the ashes; the pouched mice gave forth a savoury odour, and some roots, resembling parsnips, smoked on a plate of fresh cut bark. Outside, from Kombo's fire, which he had made on the other side of the buttress, came grunts and ejaculations in the aboriginal tongue, expressive of intense delectation. Kombo had been, as he would have put it, “nai-al kandū,”—extremely hungry. Nevertheless, his first care had been to dry, as expeditiously as possible, some shoots of the pituri he had gathered—the Blacks' opium. He did this in front of the fire, though, properly speaking, the process should have been longer, and carried out by the heat of the sun or in warm sand. But Kombo yearned for the drug which he knew would plunge him into a state of beatitude, and make him forget his fears. In their wanderings he had often searched for it, and had been bitterly disappointed at not finding the plant, which only grows in certain districts, and is so prized by the natives, that a man carrying it, though he belongs to a hostile tribe, is treated as a sacred messenger. Now Kombo realised that even if he should fall into the clutches of King Multuggerah, his possession of the pituri, and his knowledge of where the plant might be found, would give him an unassailable position in the Maianbar camp.

As soon as he had satisfied his first pangs of hunger, he carefully prepared the ashes of a certain wood he had found in the scrub, and having mixed them with the


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pituri—thus freeing its alkaloid properties—he chewed the mixture into a paste, when it was ready for use, and might be kept for any length of time. But Kombo had the full intention of making an expedition later, on his own account, and securing a quantity of the invaluable drug.

Presently Anne opened her eyes, and raised herself, staring about her bewilderedly. During sleep, her features had been contracted as if she were in pain and puzzlement. She was puzzled still, but the look of pain faded.

“Where am I? Oh! I have been dreaming. Eric, I have had such a horrible dream. I thought the Blacks were all round me again, as they were outside the cave at Kooloola, and one of them threatened me with his nulla-nulla. And he seemed to turn from a black man into a red man, and then to change again, and I saw that he was my husband.”

“You are safe from your husband, at any rate,” said Hansen; and yet as he spoke, doubt came over him. Might not Anne's dream be prophetic?

Why should not Elias Bedo, as well as they, have crossed the strip of desert?

“Eat, little comrade, eat!” he said. “That was the nightmare of exhaustion. Here is a beautiful meal, and you need it badly. So do I, for that matter; and as for Kombo, he is enjoying himself finely. After we have fed, I have got something to tell you.”

“Nothing bad?” she exclaimed. “You said I was safe.”

“No, nothing bad, but something highly interesting. I feel just now like Columbus when he sighted America, the discoverer, not of a new continent, but of a lost civilisation. But eat, little woman.” And he set her the example by breaking a craw-fish's claw with a stone and handing it to her; then attacking one himself in like fashion.

Anne cried out in surprise and joy.

“Where did you get them? I thought it was carpet


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snake, and was wondering if I was hungry enough to manage snake. Oh! how good this is! It reminds me of old times when Etta and Kombo and I used to fish in muddy holes in the paddock for lobsters, and boil them for tea. I remember we used to think the fresh-water lobsters which we caught ourselves, much better than the crabs that the Blacks used to bring us from the sea-shore. I don't know which was the best fun—fishing for lobsters in the paddock, or knocking oysters off the rocks on the beach, and cooking them over a sea-weed fire. If we only had some quart-pot tea!” she sighed. “I wonder when we shall taste tea again?”

Nevertheless, they ate with gusto. The craws, as Anne called them, were delicious. The beetles' larvæ when roasted was not unlike slices of omelet, but had a woody, aromatic flavour; the roots made a good substitute for bread. It was a long time since they had fared so sumptuously. When they were filled, Hansen told his tale of the tunnel he had found, and of his suspicions that it had been, if it were not now, put to human uses. He wanted Anne to go with him at once and explore the passage, and was a little vexed that she seemed somewhat unconcerned. But his heart melted at the signs of weariness on her face when she declared herself too tired to move again that afternoon, and begged that, for a few hours at least, they might rest and enjoy themselves. She suggested that they should build gunyas against the wall of rock, and make a comfortable camp for the night. On the morrow, she said, they would talk about exploring the passage; she hadn't the nerve for it now, and she echoed his thought—how did they know that it might not be another death trap, like the blue mouth of Gunīda Ulàla, where the striped goat had perished? She had not yet got over her fright, and wanted to forget for the present that they were in a land of mystery. Hansen had to confess that he, too, was tired, and they decided to defer the expedition. It did not matter, he thought, since now he felt assured that they had at last reached


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the kingdom of the Red Men. He took out his pipe, and filled it with the few pinches of tobacco remaining in his pouch, which he had been saving, having jestingly declared some time back, that he would smoke his last pipe under shadow of the Tortoise. They were truly under its shadow here, for the sun was declining westward, and neared the bulging top of the rock carapace. A pleasant langour of repletion stole over Hansen, and for some time both were silent, while he puffed lazily, leaning back against the rock in luxurious anticipation of the wonders before them. Kombo, on the other side of the buttress, was silent too, for in the joy of a full stomach, and under the influence of pituri, he slept blissfully beside his camp fire, and dreamed not of Debil-debil nor of mythical monsters. All nature seemed hushed. There was no sound but the trickle of the brook, and a very faint murmuring in the leaves of the palms and scrub trees. At this altitude it was not disagreeably hot.

The picture was a pretty one. The fire, which had burned down, sent up dreamy curls of smoke. Hansen savoured every puff of his pipe as he, too, blew cloudy rings into the quiet air. His back was set against an angle of the buttress, and he looked with lazy admiration at Anne, who had throned herself upon a ledge a little above him, her feet upon a rock, her face turned towards the scrub, as she softly hummed snatches of song. She had thrown off her cap; and her brown hair, thick and curly, grown by this time to the base of her throat, framed her face, which had now regained its original fairness. Her delicately cut features, her sensitive mouth, and large clear brown eyes, seemed, in her wanderings and hardships, to have acquired a spirituality of expression not so noticeable hitherto. She began to sing, more loudly and continuously, bits of old ballads, such as Hansen liked to hear of nights by the camp-fire.

“That's jolly, Anne,” he said. “I quite agree with you. We'll rest and be thankful for to-night, and


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start with new spirit to-morrow. Sing on, little friend. It does me good to listen to you. Let us have something soothing and triumphant too, for this day should be memorable to both of us. If we have not actually entered the undiscovered country, at least we are upon the verge of it.”

Anne gave a little shiver.

“Are you not afraid, Eric?”

“Of what, my comrade?”

“Are you not afraid of what you may find in this undiscovered country of yours—more places of death—savages—horrors? I have the sense of something strange and deadly. I seem to feel it in the air.”

He bent forward, and, putting out his hand with impulsive affection, took hers, and held it close for a moment. He would have carried it to his lips, but checked himself. Never was Red Cross Knight more chivalrous in the treatment of captive maiden, than was Hansen in his manner to his comrade. Her eyes met his in a quick glance, and were averted scrubward.

“I don't want to be a kill-joy,” she said, “but I cannot help the feeling I have had ever since we came among these mountains.”

“And what is that?” he asked.

“It's what I told you—a sense of foreboding and danger. You know what the old Maianbar Medicine Man said of these red people. He made the Blacks dread them so that they will not come near the place. How do we know that the Red Men may not be in ambush at this moment, waiting to murder us?”

“I don't think that's likely,” he answered. “Of course, little woman, nothing is more natural than that you should feel as you do. It would be strange if you weren't nervous, brave as you are; but because you're frightened, it doesn't follow that there are any live red men, or that they will murder us if there are. I will tell you the conclusion I have arrived at, for my brain has not been idle this last day or two, and everything we have seen, or rather have not seen, makes me sure


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it is a right one. The desolation of the country; the mass of bones—animals' bones—at the mouth of the blue cavern; the forgotten temple; the old lava streams and the formation of the rocks—all confirm my theory. It appears to me certain that in prehistoric times, as far at least as Australia is concerned, this part of the world was peopled by a highly civilised race which, improbable as it may seem to you, had some connection with the old civilisation of Central America and Peru.”

She started and turned. “How could that be? The two places are an ocean apart.”

“Yes, but that ocean, or a great portion of it, may once have been land. We all know that the configuration of the globe has changed more than once—is always changing. It is beginning to be realised that the world is much older than even the Egyptologists have maintained, and many scientists have believed. The general opinion is, that a vast continent once spread in the South Pacific, of which the innumerable islands that dot the ocean from Australia to near Chili are the highest remaining points. And even supposing there were no land passage,” he went on, waxing warm in the interest of his theme, “we know that those ancient Americans were navigators, for it has been shown by the excavations in the buried cities of Yucatan that they knew the world was round. Therefore they must have understood the compass. In the oldest of the Peruvian sacred books, too, there is mention of a people who came in ships from the great sea and the islands in the east.”

Anne gave a sympathetic exclamation. She did not understand much of what Hansen was talking about, but felt sure that he was wonderfully clever, and was quite disposed to accept without question any theory he might advance.

“Go on. Do tell me more,” she said.

“It's a big subject,” he answered, “and, naturally, nobody knows much about the matter. But it's proved by the ruins that have been found on the Pacific


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Islands, that they were once the seat of a great civilisation. Pyramids, towers, mounds that show sites of great cities, the stone-lined canals in Strong Island and Lele—these are well-known to South Sea navigators, but they have never been scientifically explored. I have often thought, Anne, what a rich virgin field lies there—what untold treasure may be buried in the Ladrones, the Marquesas, the Gilbert groups, and many others of the South Sea Islands.”

“Have you seen these places?” she asked.

“No, but I know a seaman who has been over the ruins of the temple at Metallanine, and who has seen the ancient harbour and canals and the great watergates that still remain below what was once a citadel. Well! A nation must be pretty civilised to build canals and water-gates.”

“But it may not have been so long ago as you think,” said Anne.

“Who can say? Certainly, there was a great Malayan empire holding sway in these seas, which is within the historic period, and it has left its traces in the Islands. But the ruins I speak of are not Malayan; they are like no ruins in the world but those of Central America. The similarity between the shape of the Pyramids in the South Seas and those of ancient Mexico would go some way to prove a common origin. I myself have had some proof of the connection in the signs upon that old altar we found on the hill. I am much mistaken if I have not seen the same hieroglyphics on the monuments at Uxmal and Chichen-Itza. But I'm always boring you, dear little comrade, with archæological lectures.”

“No, no,” she cried; “I'm very stupid and ignorant, but I love to hear you talk.”

“Well, anyhow, you see my point—though please let me protest that there never was a more intelligent or delightful listener to a chap who's a shingle loose, as you Australians say, on old ruins and dead civilisations. I believe that in ages beyond the record of man,


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Australia may have been colonised by some of the Mayan race, and that we have now come upon the traces of that civilisation. I have told you that the tortoise was a sacred emblem of antiquity among the Chinese, the Mexicans, and the East Indians. Here is one of the places where it was worshipped.”

Anne's eyes were full of wonder and interest.

“And the worshippers,” she said. “Why have we not found them?”

“Because—as the lava drift and the volcanic evidences make clear—there has been some convulsion of nature which has destroyed the vestiges of former inhabitants. It must have been a cataclysm in which fire and water took part, for undoubtedly the desert between the ranges was once an inland sea. I have an idea that the sides of these hills, and perhaps part of the valley, were the site of a populous city. The valley may have been an inlet of the lake, which again may have had communication with the sea. Who knows, Anne, but that ships once plied along a great water-way flowing through that very desert pass in the mountains by which I crossed the first range? I am certain that its sandy bed was upheaved, for there are fossil shells in it. Very likely, too, the scrub which we found impenetrable, covers dead towns and monuments of a people that no longer exist.”

“It all sounds very romantic and astonishing, and I like to hear you talk,” repeated Anne. “You make everything seem quite possible. And do you think that the red men, which the Maianbar's old Karraji talked about, are the remains of that people, or do you think they are all dead and gone?”

“I cannot tell. The remnant of them may have migrated further west into the unexplored centre of Australia, or their dwellings may be hidden by the very mountain against which we are leaning. There don't seem any left on this side of the Tortoise. That old temple has long been deserted, and there isn't a sign of human habitations along the sides of the hills. But


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according to the Medicine Man's traditions—which bring us to comparatively recent time—there was a flourishing community of Red Men living about the Tortoise Mountain within memory of the Maianbar tribe. Perhaps there may have been another later eruption—the legends of the fire-spitting Crocodile rather suggest it—which annihilated the rest of the colony.”

“How strange it seems,” she said, thoughtfully, “that God should allow a race to be born, and become so great, only to die and leave no trace!”

“That's one of the problems of the world's history, Anne—how the different nations which have inhabited the globe have each sunk to nothingness after rising from barbarism, waxing mighty, and then falling into decadence. The life of the nation is but as the life of the man; it has its infancy, its manhood, and its dwindling old age. Who knows! To-morrow we may find the secret of the Red Men's fate unravelled at the other end of the tunnel I discovered. I have a presentiment that wonders await us there. To-day, however, let us eat, sleep, and be thankful to the destiny which has brought us so far in safety. Sing me a song of thanksgiving, little comrade.”

“Shall it be the Ave Baiamè?” she asked. “That seems most appropriate to the occasion.”

He nodded. The girl rose, from an instinct of reverence as well as from force of habit, for she had always stood at the door of her gunya in the camp of the Maianbars, when, morn and eve, she had invoked the Blacks' deity. Now, with head upraised, the eyes agaze into a world of their own beyond the topmost branches of the forest trees, whose leaves and twigs swayed gently against the blue, Anne lifted her beautiful voice in the song of praise and pleading, at this moment so truly echoed by her own heart, and by the heart of the man who listened. Her music drowned that which Nature made, in the murmuring of brook and branches beyond their rock retreat. Closed in on either side by the projections of the mountains, the two would scarcely


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have been visible to an intruder, except in an approach from the front. Even so, the man was almost hidden in an angle of boulder and precipice, while the girl, though raised on the ledge above him, and so, more open to view, was entirely abstracted in her song and in her thoughts of gratitude for their safe passing of the perils that had threatened them. Had there been any auditors besides Hansen and Kombo—the latter of whom, screened by a thick buttress of rock, lay steeped in happy visions of his Elysian hunting grounds—she would have been quite unconscious of their proximity.




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Chapter XXII - The Red Men

NEVERTHELESS, Anne had an audience, and one that increased by driblets. While she and Hansen had been talking about the traces of an ancient civilisation still existent in the Pacific Ocean, two men of strange appearance had crept stealthily, and almost on all-fours, from the mountain's side to the ridge of rock screening their camp. Presently two heads reared themselves over the natural rampart. Strange looking heads they were, surmounted by flat caps of undyed wool or linen, in each of which stood up a tuft of feathers; the faces of a curious type—long, with high cheek-bones; the foreheads high, slightly retreating, and having a compressed appearance; the features thin, but powerfully moulded; the eyes of hazel or blue, almond-shaped and extremely piercing, beneath strongly curved brows; the hair wiry, straight, and of a dark chestnut colour; the skin reddish-brown.

Before Anne's song was quite finished, about ten of these people had assembled, and others were moving quietly but swiftly from the direction of the monolith shaped like a tortoise's head. The foremost of these, a fine-looking man, whose short cloak—worn over a jerkin of tanned leather, and crest of parrots' feathers—seemed to indicate him as a person of more importance than the rest, stood breast high against the rock rampart, and gazed with intense wonder and curiosity at the white stranger. He, as well as the others, held poised a sort of javelin of flint set in a long haft of wood; but none of them seemed to have any murderous intention, or they had forgotten it if they had, so rapt were they in


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the girl's music, so spell-bound by the picture she made. Never had they seen a white woman, nor one so small, and yet beautiful.

Anne stood, so far as they could see, alone on the platform of rock, her head erect, her eyes shining with emotion and enthusiasm, her arms slightly outstretched, the awe-inspiring chant pouring from her lips with unusual power and sweetness. Though the words were in a tongue unknown to them, the Red Men, peculiarly susceptible to devotional rhythm, recognised the song as an invocation to some deity. They had no notion of the meaning of what she sang. They could not account for her presence. To them it seemed of the nature of a miracle, and they were unable to decide among themselves what this surprising visitation might portend. But they had vague fancies of a supernatural fulfilment of prophecy, and for this reason the head hunter had hurriedly sent back a scout to summon one of their party—an authority on such matters—who was lagging behind them.

Meanwhile, the men waited, making no movement that might attract Anne's attention; and when for a few moments, silence followed the Ave Baiamè, they stooped, hiding their heads and whispering to each other of a strange coincidence that had struck them. For it happened that the morrow was the yearly anniversary of a Festival at which the prophecy, they now remembered, was always publicly chanted to the people.

Now, at Hansen's gesture of approval and murmured request, Anne again lifted her voice. This time she sang ‘Home, Sweet Home.’ As the last words died on her lips, she turned her head, and a cry of wonder and alarm escaped her. At her cry, Hansen bounded to his feet, and turned in the direction of her startled gaze. There, in the open end of the semi-circular recess, he beheld an unexpected sight.

An assemblage of some twenty persons was drawn up in rank. Heading it, stood two striking figures, evidently men of sacerdotal dignity, one of them


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younger than the other. They had the same large-boned, narrow-browed, and powerful cast of face as the hunters who had first appeared, but were of more majestic carriage and aspect, with grave, compelling eyes, the elder having a long white beard and white hair. Both were crowned with a three-cornered white cap, in shape somewhat resembling a bishop's mitre. They wore mantles almost touching the ground, of a yellowish stuff, looking like linen, and with a raised yellow border which was seen later to be made of the feathers of cockatoos' crests. The mantle fell away from an under vestment reaching to the knees, below which were short leggings, and shoes of roughly tanned leather. The mantle of each was fastened at the breast with a clasp in the form of a tortoise, made of gold and ornamented with opals. Behind them, ranged the circle of warriors or hunters—it was difficult to tell which. These all carried the short spears set in hafts apparently of gold, but were otherwise unarmed. They wore jerkins of some coarse material, which might have been of hemp or undressed flax, the hems fringed with fur or feathers, and leather leggings reaching to above the knee. They seemed to have no bloodthirsty inclinations, though each man held his spear levelled. On the faces of all lay a curious expression of fatality, of stony acquiescence in limitations decreed by destiny—not so much of melancholy, as of unconscious resignation. Hansen observed this, and though he had his gun in readiness, he made no sign of hostile demonstration. He gave a courteous inclination as the two priests or elders advanced, but they took small notice of him. Their piercing eyes were fixed full on Anne, and it was to her they tendered what Hansen interpreted as an act of homage. The priests first, then each man following them, extended the right arm, and drawing in the left, placed it across the breast, touching the right shoulder. The Elders bent their heads, the hunters prostrated themselves. Then the Elders spoke some words in a strange language, which yet to Hansen had


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familiar inflexions. The address was rhythmic, rising and falling in sing-song cadence, with a sort of refrain that sounded like an invocation. This the warriors took up and repeated, with fresh prostrations at each stanza. A word, of which he knew the meaning, struck upon Hansen's ear, and explained the familiarity of certain vocables. The word was a revelation, and set all his faculties on the alert. He had been unconsciously prepared for the revelation, yet this confirmation of his previously formed theory was so startling that he was almost overwhelmed by it. For the priests spoke a corrupt dialect of the ancient Mayan tongue, which is still in use among the Quichés and other tribes of Central America, and which Hansen had studied from the Indians and from the grammar composed by a Spanish bishop of Mexico immediately after the Conquest. The priests called themselves “Hu Aca Tehua” —Sacred guardians of the Aca people. They addressed Anne as “Zuhua Kak,”—Virgin of the Flame. They hailed her as “Ix Naaca Katuna”—She who should be for ever exalted; as “Zaac Naa”—White Mother; as “Chaac Zuhaa”—Daughter of Fire and Flood; as Priestess, and Servant of the Tortoise God.

Hansen's knowledge of the old Mayan tongue gave him a fairly correct interpretation of this address. He mentally construed the phrases, allowing for perversion of the original, in which the derivatives were retained but the terminations slightly altered. Doubtless, he reflected, there was corruption of the old vernacular in its Quiché rendering from which his knowledge was mainly gained, and it was possible that the Red Men's version might be the more academic of the two. In his mind was no manner of doubt. Here, they had come across a colony of the ancient Mayan race, whose centre of civilisation had in ages past been the peninsula of Yucatan—that civilisation whose origin has been lost in the mists of time, but to whose magnificence, abundant testimony remains in the sculptured façades and the earth-grown temples of Uxmal, Kabah and Palenque—a


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civilisation that pre-dated the Aztec empire and the dynasty of the Sun, of which Montezuma and the ill-fated Atahualpha were the last representatives.

To fall upon these traces of dead-time glory, here in Australia, the oldest and also the newest of the world's continents, was at once an astounding and yet a comprehensible experience. In the wilds of Australia, as in no other corner of the globe, could that colony have settled itself, flourished and dwindled into decay, unknown to nations that had by turns inhabited the earth. That it should be reserved for him—an obscure explorer—to make this stupendous discovery, was a fact that almost robbed Hansen of his power of coherent reasoning. Yet in the medley of thoughts that rushed through his brain, he had a whimsical realisation of the irony of fate which had compelled poor Anne, from her flight into the Bush up till now, to play the part of divinity.

The Elders stood in a reverential attitude; the huntsmen continued to prostrate themselves, all waiting for a sign. Anne gazed bewilderedly from the strange faces, with their piercing eyes fixed upon her, to Hansen, who, master of himself again, lowered his gun, saluted her respectfully, and said in grave, measured tones, the sound of which to uncomprehending ears gave an effect of deferential petitioning.

“These men are well inclined. They take you for a goddess. I understand something of their language. It is as I supposed: they are an off-shoot of the ancient Mexicans—the Mayans of whom we were talking—settled here heaven knows how long back. Play the part of Cloud-Daughter. Make appropriate gestures, but do not speak, except to me. I shall do my best to interpret. Where I can't, I shall make a shot, and trust to luck. I've been in tighter places than this before now. Only trust me, Anne, and feel assured that there is no cause for alarm. Any show of fear might be fatal. Just keep calm, my comrade. Sing your replies to any question that they may seem to put to


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you, in recitative, or as you choose. It doesn't matter, since they will suppose your language that of the stars. This will impress them more than anything, and I will translate in the way that seems wisest. Trust me,” he repeated, his voice ringing with passionate sincerity. “You know that they'll have to kill me before they harm you. But there's no danger of that.”

The girl, falling into the spirit of his instructions, waved her hand to him, thus seeming to signify gracious approval of his words. She stood up straight, giving no sign of alarm, and unblenchingly regarded the Elders, who once more made a reverential obeisance.

At that moment, Kombo, awakening from his sleep, and utterly scared at the sight of the Red Men, burst through the circle of the Elders and hunters and flung himself upon the rock where his mistress stood.

“Yuro Kateena!” he cried. “Yuro Kateena! Pialla Mormodelik,” and he pointed to the sky. The presence of the Red Men revived in his mind traditions of his tribe, and Kombo in thought flew for protection to his native gods.

The gesture and the cry appealed to the Red Men as a new proof of the stranger's divinity.

“Yuro Kateena!—Kateena—Mormodelik!” the chief Elder repeated. His brows knit, and a puzzled expression crossed his face. Then a light seemed to break upon him; it was evident that he dimly understood the meaning of the words, though they had long been unfamiliar to him. This was not surprising, on the theory that there had once been intercourse between the Maianbars and the Red Race; and no doubt some of the aboriginal words, especially those applying to the nature deities, had been handed down from the far back Medicine Man, who had first penetrated the fastnesses of the Tortoise worshippers.

The chief Elder spoke to his colleague some words in Mayan, which Hansen knew as signifying “Child of the Stars!” Again the Elders hailed Anne as “Chaac Zuhua!”—Daughter of Flame and Flood; and, extending


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their hands, showed by their gestures that they wished to lead her with them into the interior of the mountain. They had taken but little notice of Hansen, whom it was clear that they imagined to be merely an attendant of the goddess; but now he interposed commandingly, stretching out a protecting arm over the girl, while he summoned all his resources in regard to the Mayan tongue. Considerably to his own astonishment, words came to him glibly, as though some unseen influence prompted them.

“Not so, oh, men of a once mighty nation, now fallen and abased,” he said, daringly. “It is for Her who is exalted, to command, for me to interpret, and for such as thee to obey. She who rose from the Shadow Land beneath, to be throned among the stars, and hath now descended to earth from the heaven that is above, knows not the speech of men, but the language of the gods only, which I, their servant, have also learned. Therefore, oh! Hu Aca Tehua,—which I interpret as guardians of the Aca people,—whatsoever petition it may be your desire to tender, I will expound it, and return the answer.”

Hansen, whose speech had halted slightly at the start, gained increasing confidence as he saw the impression he produced. The Elders frowned in angry amazement at first; then, as they listened, their wrathful wonder gave place to awe.

“Thy words are bold in the utterance, and strange and somewhat unpleasing as coming from one not of our race,” replied the foremost of the two, haughtily. “First, we would know who has instructed thee in the language of our people, of which this black slave and those of his kind in the forest around, are wholly ignorant; and secondly, who has given thee authority to be an interpreter between us and the messenger of our gods? It may go ill with thee, if thou art vaunting thyself unduly.”

“Truly it is ye, not I, who shall suffer the ill, if ye flout the chosen of your Great Ones,” answered Hansen,


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with assumed bravado. “According to thy ignorance will I answer thee, oh Guardian of the Aca! The world is big and old, venerable friend,” he went on, with a courage and assurance that further impressed the Elders. “Generations of men have come and gone, and the graves of dead cities have given up their records to new-born nations, while this last handful of a perished people has been rotting away among the gum-trees. As for my authority, are not our presence among you and my speech in the Mayan tongue proofs that the Mayan gods have not forsaken ye? More, I cannot say, save that I am but the Interpreter. Here”—and he pointed to Anne—“Here is the messenger, come to redeem the ancient promise, that a priestess and deliverer should be sent among you.”

Hansen made his shot at a venture, knowing that in all religious mythologies that have ever been, there occurs a prophecy of the re-incarnating or coming again of a divinity. In this case, he hit the mark closer than he had expected. The Elders consulted each other with their eyes, and softly uttered some sing-song words, the meaning of which Hansen did not grasp. Then there came from the mouth of the hunters a sort of answering chant, a few lines only, which rose and fell in barbaric cadence, wild and solemn, and quite unlike any music Anne or Hansen had ever heard. The girl realised from the gestures of the Red Men that she herself was the object of the chant, and in obedience to Hansen's signal gave an antistrophe in a few bars of recitative from an Italian opera. The Red Men acclaimed again, though they did not understand what she sang, and the chief Elder put his clasped hands to his forehead impressively.

“We are ready to believe, Stranger, and to do homage to the gods' messenger, for it is true as thou sayest—we have an ancient prophecy declaring that a priestess shall walk dry-shod where the sea once flowed, and coming into our City of Refuge, shall do service in the Temple of Aak, and bring prosperity to his children.


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Though,” added the Elder, doubtfully, “there is in the prophecy something of the nature of a warning, which it is possible may apply to thee.”

“And what is that warning, good friend?” asked Hansen.

“That, thou mayest perhaps learn later. It is not clear enough to be of moment,” said the Elder. “Prove to us now thy knowledge of our gods.”

“Of what god shall I speak to thee?” said Hansen. “Shall it be of the Nine Lords of the Night, who hold the gates of the senses, while man is wrapped in sleep? Shall it be of Viracocha Zazil, Lord of the Dawn? Or of Tohil and Huracan, Ruler of the Winds, and Wielder of Thunderbolts? Or shall it be of the Grim Lords who are named in your sacred tongue, Priests, Lord of the One Death, and Lord of the Seven Deaths, to whom the Day and the Night are one, and to whom the elements are subject? Shall it be of Xibal, Sovereign of Ximohazan, the Valley of Oblivion, where there are neither tracks nor trails, in which the body of man crumbles away and is forgotten, but whence the soul of him returns in new shape to do the will of Those who are most mighty? Say, then, Hu Aca Tehua, holy guardians of your people, have I proved to you my knowledge of your gods? Do you receive me as interpreting the will of Viracocha the Doer—Lord of Dawn; as servant of Aak, who is Intercessor of the Sun, and Supporter of earth and heaven? Say, Priests, are my words in accordance or not with your ancient faith?”

“Thou speakest well, Stranger, and Interpreter as thou hast called thyself. Verily, it would seem that thou too art a messenger from the great gods, for thou tellest glibly the sacred names, which none in these mountains, save the remnant of that once great people of Aak, have spoken since the Day of Humiliation and Terror—that day when our nation was given over to the wrath of Kàn, the Great Serpent—four-footed, which sent out fire and ashes from his mouth, darkening the


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face of our Lord the Sun. Then did the deeps burst their boundaries, and rose and fell and were swallowed for ever into the bowels of the earth. Then was our city of old time, and all that dwelt therein, destroyed by the power of that same four-footed Serpent, whose vengeance drove Aak—our Lord and Prince—in the beginning, from his home beyond the far seas. We see, too, that thou art instructed in the doctrine that I, Naquah the Elder, Kaboc my colleague, and the five other Elders, also the Priestess and people, have learned from the writings of Those who went before. For thou dost speak of Viracocha, Builder of Forms, Minister of the Supreme One, Lord of the Lesser Light, to whom be praise. And true it is that this mortal body of man must descend into the Valley of Eternal Oblivion, into the realms of Xibal; and most certain, likewise, that it shall not for ever die, but, like the grain of corn put under the earth, shall arise and live again and bear fruit. Nevertheless, I, Naquah, have not seen nor heard of the spirit of any man that we have held converse with, returning after death, reclothed in body, to be known by his former kindred. Surely, me-seems, such a spirit would have come back to dwell with its own people; yet with us this has not been, and our hearts have grown faint in waiting for our Deliverer. Once, were we many and mighty, but now are our numbers few, and as the tale of suns goes by, fewer still do they become. In old time the wives bare children in plenty, but now are they often barren, and from generation to generation it has been handed down to us that our strength has continued to decrease. Well, it may be that the gods have seen our diminishment and the curse that lies upon us, and have sent this maiden, according to the promise of old, to lead the Children of Aak into a new land over which the great Serpent may not cast his breath, nor extend his claws, so thus shall our nation once more build cities and multiply and prosper. But of the fulfilment of that promise we can have no certainty, until the Supreme


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One gives the Sign, through His Minister and Doer, Viracocha, to convey His Word to Aak the Intercessor, and to be a command to the Aca people.

“Then shall it be seen if the Brightness of Him Whose Name is unutterable, Whose vesture is the Sun, shall strike into the Holy Place, proclaiming that of a truth the Priestess, who was fore-ordained, hath been chosen from on High, and standeth in the flesh for Aak to accept as his servant, and the Aca to obey as their queen.”

The Elder paused for a moment, and gazed earnestly into the face of Anne. Clear it was that he was deeply impressed, yet not wholly satisfied. “Myself, I know not,” he said; “and concerning the will of the gods, my heart quakes within me, for this maiden is small, and though not ill-favoured, she hath but a child's stature, and may not find grace in the sight of Aak, being unlike the maidens of the Aca who attend the Zuhua Zak—Chief Virgin of the Flame—whose emblem is the Eye of Viracocha, and whose song is well-pleasing to Aak.”

To the best of his ability, Hansen translated the speech of the Elder, assuring Anne that she had nothing to fear, though it was with some trepidation that he inquired in what the duties of a priestess of Aak consisted. Horrible visions of the Aztec rites presented themselves to his imagination; and he had made up his mind that were there any question of human sacrifice, they would all at once make a bolt for it, reflecting that his gun and Anne's revolver, with Kombo's quick wits to aid them, might be a match against the long-robed priests and the score of lightly armed warriors. But Naquah's reply to his question, which was delivered in flowery language and at considerable length, made him feel more easy. He understood sufficient of it to assure himself that this Mayan off-shoot practised no bloody rites, and that the only propitiatory offerings required by Aak, were green herbage and spring water. He gleaned, also, that the god's chief delight was in


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the music made by the high priestess and the other Virgins of the Flame, whose office it was to tend the sacred fire kindled by “Our Lord the Sun” once a year, and to purify the water which seemed to have a significant part in the religious observances of the people. Aak the Intercessor, and Viracocha of the Dawn, secondary deities to our Lord the Sun, were apparently peaceful divinities, taking pleasure in the fruits of the earth, and demanding not hearts nor entrails of human or animal victims.

This Hansen explained to Anne, satisfying at the same time Kombo's ejaculatory queries, for the black boy clung close to his mistress's skirt, and the aboriginal wails of “Yucca! Yucca! Eeoogh! Eeoogh!” (woe! woe! alas! alas!) sounded unceasingly. But the friendly demeanour of the Red Men gradually soothed Kombo's excited nerves, especially as he found that the strangers called down no consuming fire, and that the Thunder of the Tortoise had been but a figment of the Medicine Man's imagination. Presently, it was proposed by Naquah that the messengers of the gods should be conducted to the abode of the people of Aca, there to be given in charge of the Elders, and the High Priestess of the Flame. So once again poor Anne resigned herself to the part destiny allotted her, taking comfort in the thought that the service of Aak and the companionship of the Red Men seemed at least to offer less alarming possibilities than her residence among the Maianbars, with old Būli as her conductor to the Deep Tank, and the chance when she arrived there of being eaten by Multuggerrah the King. She saw, too, that Hansen was all alert with curiosity and interest, and that he could hardly restrain his impatience to see the dwelling-place of the Aca, though he maintained an attitude of dignified courtesy during the long speeches of Naquah, and the offering of gifts by the hunters, who, in token of homage, laid at the strangers' feet the supply of food they had brought with them, doubtless intended as light refreshment during a fishing expedition,


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for they carried, as well as their short spears, what seemed to be barbed tackle and fishing-nets. The food was mostly fruits of various kinds, some of which were quite unknown to Anne, and thin cakes made of maize. Kombo's mouth watered at sight of these, and they were appetizing to the two white people, though dignity forbade them to eat. No scruples, however, restrained Kombo, who, after cautiously examining one of the maize cakes and testing it between his teeth, ate with avidity.

“I believe that būjeri fellow Red Man,” he observed. “Mine think-it old Medicine Man tell plenty lies to frighten black fellow. I believe all gammon long-a Kelan Yamina and Mirrein Debil-debil. Ba'al Debil-debil got-im flour; ba'al Debil-debil make-im damper. My word! This būjeri damper! I believe that fellow Red Man very kind to Missa Anne. Mine no think-it Massa Bedo come look out for Missa Anne inside Tortoise Mountain; he no find-im road. But suppose that fellow come, then mine plenty talk to Red Men and altogether fight Massa Bedo and make him go bong. You no hear, Missa Anne? Būjeri damper! I believe Red Men plenty brother belonging to you.”

Having come to this satisfactory conclusion, Kombo, being a philosopher, set his mind at ease and took stock of his surroundings, while he walked behind Anne and Hansen, munching his corn-cake with great gusto. He tried to talk to the hunters, but soon discovered that they understood neither Blacks' language nor the aboriginal pidgin English, and that they considered him quite unworthy of attention. But his keen eyes noted every stick and stone and feature of the mountain as they walked along towards the tunnel, the two Elders preceding their captives, and the hunters, as advance and rear-guard, closing the procession.

In this order, but in single file, they entered the Heart of Aak.

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