― 103 ―

Chapter VII. Trevor Seeks Helen.

IN the mean time Trevor lay ill of the fever, occasioned by the irritation of his wounds. The excellent corporal attended on him with the most zealous assiduity. He fetched him the freshest water from the river, and broiled for him the tenderest morsels of kangaroo flesh. Gladly would he have made for him some of that delicious and nourishing soup, which, of “all the tails on the face of the earth,” as he declared, that of the kangaroo alone could furnish with such luxurious relish.

But poor Trevor could eat nothing; and for three days water was his only drink. Nothing

  ― 104 ―
but the strength of his constitution, and the extraordinary salubrity of the climate, could have carried him through such an illness. And to this was added the still more depressing influence of his anguish of mind at the contemplation of Helen's fate, whom he sometimes pictured as lost and wandering in the bush, and at others in the power of the savages of whose relentless cruelty he had heard so many horrible relations.

The corporal sat by his bush-hut, employed for the most part in endeavouring to clean the rusty firelock left with him so mysteriously in exchange for his own, and furbishing it up with charcoal ashes, so as to give it a regimental appearance. Nothing, perhaps, but the necessity of being armed in his solitude, could have reconciled him to its use at all; and he lamented occasionally the absence of his own firelock in most dolorous terms, as a lover grieving for his mistress, which, at any other time, would have afforded the ensign considerable amusement.

At the end of three days, however, his officer

  ― 105 ―
showed signs of amendment; and Trevor no sooner felt the prostration of the fever abating, than he expressed his desire to proceed in search of Miss Horton. But this the corporal strenuously opposed; and Trevor's weakness was so great that he could not disguise from himself that such a course would be rash and useless. Besides, he considered that, for Helen's sake, it would be more judicious to give information to the Major at the cave, or to the people on board the brig, of the fight with the natives, and the probability of her having been carried away with them; as the corporal, after the most diligent daily search, had been unable to discover any trace of her remains, or of those of Mr. Silliman. He flattered himself also with the hope that possibly Helen had escaped, and had found her way back to the bay.

Actuated by these considerations, he became anxious to reach the cave as soon as possible; and, although he could hardly walk, he determined to begin his journey back. In this determination the corporal entirely acquiesced, “for

  ― 106 ―
he could not be worse off,” as he remarked, than where he was, and “every step back was a step forwards,” bringing them nearer to their friends.

Fortunately, although it was the beginning of the rainy season, the weather held up, and the nights were not cold; and as Trevor was now able to take food, and as there was no lack of kangaroos, he got on better than he expected; but it took him four days to perform the journey in his present state, which he had rapidly traversed in little more than one shortly before. But on reaching the cave, to his excessive mortification, and not less to the disappointment of the corporal, they could not see the brig; and, from the appearance of the cave, it seemed clear that it had been deserted!

The proclamation appended to the rock apprised them, however, that the authorities were active in pursuit of the Bushranger, and Trevor could only hope that, by some lucky chance, in pursuing the absconded prisoners, they would meet with Helen; an opinion, however, in which the corporal did not agree, as he

  ― 107 ―
said, “that in the bush one man might search for another all his life, and never find him, unless he knew where he was;” an assurance which was by no means calculated to raise Trevor's spirits; but as the corporal was not in love, the dreary prospect of such a failure did not strike him so forcibly as it did his officer.

The question now was, what was to be done? The cave afforded shelter, the forests firewood, and the kangaroos supplied food;—but what was the use of remaining there; that would not help Helen. The corporal counselled their immediate return to camp; and observed that they could not miss the way, as they had only to keep within sight of the river Derwent on their right hand, and they would be sure to reach the town.

The road, however, could not fail to be difficult to a sick man. However, as the corporal professionally remarked, “as there was no help for it, all they had to do was to put their best foot foremost, and lose no time about it.”

Trevor was still very weak, but inspired by

  ― 108 ―
the ardour of youth, and by his desire to give the earliest possible intelligence of Helen's danger, he at once decided to set out for Hobart town. The journey was long and difficult; and it took him six days to perform the distance of forty miles, from the southern part of the coast where the bay was situate to the nearest station on his way to the town. He arrived there in a state so exhausted that it was necessary to procure a bullock-cart to convey him to his quarters, where at last he obtained the medical assistance which he so much needed.

The corporal reported himself to the commanding officer, and related succinctly the occurrences which it was expedient to make known, passing lightly over the event of the loss of his firelock, a circumstance on which the worthy corporal did not think it necessary to expatiate. He indulged himself, however, liberally in relating to his comrades that which he called his “scrimmage” with the natives.

Trevor, on his part, lost no time in making inquiries of the brig, and of the Major and his

  ― 109 ―
daughters. He ascertained that the brig was anchored in the river near the jetty; that Louisa was under the care of a family in the town, attended by a native girl, who had inspired much interest with the inhabitants; and that the Major had started with a party in search of Helen, who was supposed to be in the power of the Bushranger, and whose fate had excited the most lively commiseration.

His report of the probability of her having been carried away by the natives gave rise to fresh excitement, although it was generally deemed certain—an opinion which was industriously pressed upon Trevor—that she had been put to death by the savages, as they were never known to spare a white man or woman in their power.

Some few, however, had the consideration to say that, as Helen was a woman, the case was different; and that the natives might not think it necessary to take her life, and that perhaps she might be admitted into their tribe, and become the wife of one of the black fellows.

  ― 110 ―
This latter suggestion, it may easily be supposed, by no means calmed Trevor's apprehensions.

He asked for leave to go in search of her, a request which was readily granted; but here the medical attendant interposed, and positively forbade any attempt at travelling in his present state; and his commanding officer thought it his duty to exercise his authority to prevent him from exposing himself to the hardships of the bush, under circumstances which could not avail the young lady, and would certainly be fatal to the adventurer. Trevor, therefore, was compelled to bear his disappointment, and to nourish his grief in silence.

In his returning convalescence he was constantly in the society of Louisa, with whom it was a melancholy pleasure for him to converse about her sister; and to whom he could, without reserve, express his bitter wretchedness at her loss, aggravated as it was by his own inability to undertake the task of discovering her, if she was still alive.

He related to her over and over again all the

  ― 111 ―
circumstances of his fight with the natives, and the scream which he had heard from the thicket, and which he was certain, he said, had proceeded from Helen. And every day he discussed with her the likelihood of her having been carried off as a prisoner by the natives, or the possibility of her being even then a wanderer in the bush! Louisa listened to all these surmises with many tears.

The young female native who had so willingly accompanied her father, as Louisa informed Trevor, was often present at these conversations; and although she could not understand the cause of their trouble, she showed by her manner that she commiserated their distress, much in the same way as an attached dog looks up into the face of its master when he sees him troubled, and wags its tail and shows an inclination to sympathise with his affliction if he could only understand what the matter was, and how he could assist him. Such was the affectionate expression visible in the face of Oionoo.

  ― 112 ―

It is to be observed, that Miss Oionoo was now decently clothed, her hair being profusely adorned with red ribbons, a colour for which she manifested a particular predilection. It was with great difficulty, however, that she was persuaded to suffer herself to be encumbered with any description of apparel; and she displayed so decided a partiality for the sailor's blue trousers, as allowing her more freedom of motion than petticoats, that she was permitted to retain them, as well from a desire to indulge her, as from considerations of propriety; as she was fond of tumbling about occasionally after a fashion that rendered nugatory the protection of female attire.

Nothing, however, could prevent her, at times, from throwing off the whole of her clothes, in order to disport herself at liberty in the garden attached to the house; in which she recreated herself in climbing up the fruit-trees, and in various gambols, which, however interesting they might be to a philosophical observer, from their charming aboriginal simplicity,

  ― 113 ―
were by no means consistent with civilized notions of female decorum.

By degrees she picked up a few words, and was able to express her wants, though of course very imperfectly, in English. She imitated the sounds of what she heard with great facility, but she could not so easily be made to understand their meaning.

Trevor, partly from good-feeling, and partly to beguile the time, would often amuse himself with endeavouring to teach the poor creature to talk their language; and he endeavoured to learn from her something about her countrymen, for he was exceedingly anxious to know if they would take a white woman to wife.

He observed that the native, in her endeavours to make herself understood, frequently pointed to the west; but it was a long time before he could understand what she meant by that action. The importance of it, however, to him and to her who was most dear to him, will be seen in the course of this eventful history.