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kangaroos: they hop away from you; should you follow, each hop becomes less steady, and needs more of an effort, and finally, he rolls over, helpless, soon to be another of the countless victims of the drought. But the greatest mortality among the rabbits and kangaroos has been around the tanks and dams and water-holes that are now dry. As these dried we fenced in the little water left with wire netting, and put troughs of arsenic or strychnine solution round about, and the poor brutes died in such numbers that the stench was almost unbearable.
To the north lies the cattle-country, -light gray, almost white in parts, washed by miles of water in floodtime, the inland sea of early explorers. For thirty miles it is like this, a dull white plain, broken here and there by sandy hummocks, and, where the water lies longest, covered with a dense straggling forest of lignum bushes. 'They are higher than a man on horseback, so dense that he can hardly force a way through them, and, when the waters are out flooding the maze of channels so that a horse must swim, he needs in order to find his way the combined bushcraft of all the bushmen that ever went to South Africa.
At the far side the river comes in, -a great river for this country, now a string of water-holes. Around the lake and for many miles along the river extends the cattle-country, an area of nearly three thousand square miles, fully stocked last winter with eighteen thousand cattle. In addition to the swamp-country it consists of endless red sandhills or dunes, covered thickly with low shrubs, and of a few great plains stretching away to the horizon treeless and trackless, and forming among their gray wastes such mirages in the summer sun, that even when quite near their borders they seem without end. Heaven help the man who travels them then, or when
the dust-clouds shroud them, if he knows not the way!
Twelve years ago the rabbits reached this district from the south; it is now one huge rabbit-warren. This year they are dying in thousands; yet some will live, for they have cover here and the river, and in a few years will be as numerous as ever. They have made the country a happy huntingground for the dingoes, or wild dogs, who in old days lived beside the river and hunted the game there, kangaroos, emus, wild-fowl, and the rest; and when in a dry time these had migrated perhaps hundreds of miles to where rains had fallen, the dingoes had a hard struggle to live. But now with the rabbits they have penetrated everywhere; and where formerly litters of puppies born far away from water were deserted and perished, both puppies and dam live on the flesh and blood of rabbits, and with three litters a year, and nine or more puppies to a litter, they increase at an evormous rate. Of course they do much less damage to cattle than to sheep; but in the dry season when cows must leave their young while they go for a drink, many calves are killed or driven away by them, till the cows cannot find them. It is curious, this instinct in cattle, and to some extent in sheep,
leaving their young behind them when they are too small and weak to travel a long distance to water. It is almost impossible to drive these calves away from the place where they were left; and since the dingoes have become so numerous, we sometimes see one cow minding three young calves while the other two mothers are away for a drink of water. But for the last three months the calves have been knocked on the head so soon as possible, to give the cows a chance to live.
Before the rabbits came the sandhills were covered with salt-bush and
other edible shrubs; but now there is nothing. For three months the cattle have not been able to find more to eat than they could find in the streets of London. Those that have lived (about three thousand) have borne starvation the longest; they have simply lived on water, or satisfied their craving for food with leaves of trees in which there is absolutely no nourishment. There is no water but what is in the river; all the tanks and dams are dry. A little while ago there was a bellowing of cattle up and down the river, the bellowing of the many bogged and dying; in one water-hole there are three thousand dead, packed tightly together on the top of one another.
The blackfellows have a tale handed down from their forefathers of the time when the river was dry but for one big water-hole, to which were gathered all the natives in the districtto the number of many thousands, for it was once heavily populated-and there they lived or starved on fish. We are wondering if the like will occur again; but stocking the country has made water run off more easily; the surface has hardened and the stockpads form good surface drains, and now a much lighter fall of rain will cause the river to rise.
There is nothing to be done now to help the cattle to live; we can only watch them die. When the backwaters were drying up we had a hard time shifting the beasts on to the frontage. They could only travel at night, the heat during the day being too great and the cattle too weak. One day we were shifting a large mob from an outlying water-hole, a stockman, six blackboys, and myself. Starting in the afternoon, we intended travelling till about midnight, when we should reach a cattle-yard, to camp there for an hour or so, and then on, hoping to reach the river before the heat of the day. Our spare horses,
and a donkey packed with two large leather water-bags, we drove among the cattle, carrying also on our saddles small canvas water-bags, holding two pints or so. Flog, flog, hour after hour, we thought ourselves lucky when we could get a mile an hour out of the poor brutes. About ten my bag had long been empty, and I was terribly thirsty; but rather than stop the cattle to catch the donkey I was holding out as long as I could. Then the stockman came up; he could last no longer he said, so the cattle had to be stopped and the donkey caught; but though all the horses were there, there was no donkey,-the little brute had got into some bushes and strayed.
Well, there was nothing to do but go on, and make the best of it we could. We arrived at the yards in good time, and when the cattle were safe within the rails, so exhausted were we that we lay down on the sand, each man where he stood, and slept. For an hour and a half we lay there in merciful oblivion, and then on again, one boy being sent to pick up the tracks of the donkey. Day-light came, and soon one boy disappeared; in a short time there were only the stockman and myself left; and then he went. I rode to the top of a high sandhill and caught a glimpse of them on the plain below going as fast as their horses could lay legs to the ground towards the river. What on earth was I to do? If I let the cattle go they would nearly all perish, or give us very hard work to get them together again; and yet a man could not tamely die. My tongue was dry and seemed of enormous size; I had visions of all the most alluring drinks I knew. Though always a moderate drinker, I felt that, if I got in alive, I could never stop drinking while nature held out. However, I tried to endure it yet a little longer and flogged into the cattle once again. Stubborn brutes, they knew as well as
I did how helpless I was alone! I flogged one; he moved a few yards, stopped and looked at me flogging his neighbor,-and so on all round the mob. And then, just as I was giving the job up, I heard the hoof-strokes of the truant donkey. One mouthful,-inexpressibly exquisite, though lukewarm and tasting of mud and dead cattlechased away my drunken imaginings; in a little while the stockman and boys came galloping back with full waterbags, and eventually we reached our destination.
We do not always have so rough a time as this, of course; but what with bad water, hard living, and hard working, it is rough enough at all times. We know what thirst is, and we can form a very accurate idea of the hardships suffered marching over the South African veldt under a summer sun, and of what the men are like who have done so and are doing so
It were well if these were the worst of men's experiences in this country. Early in the summer one of the stockmen was riding to the head-station; about fifteen miles out he came across a man lying beneath a tree, his saddle and pack-horses tied up beside him. The stockman rode over to give the usual greeting, and found him so done in, as the phrase is, for water that he could scarcely speak. Fortunately there were five quarts or so of water in his bag, and the stranger was soon to all appearances as well as ever. He explained that he had been directed from a neighboring station by a road, marked plainly enough on the mapa broad line of scarlet ink signifying a road a mile wide over which stock could travel-and plain enough to a good bushman, but in a time like that a most hazardous route for the ordinary traveller. The whole traffic along it during three years had been three mobs of cattle,-no vehicles of any
kind. The waters were far apart, and if a man missed one, the chances were he would not reach the next. This man was actually within four miles of the river, down which the main road ran, and which he intended following south. So he was left with water and the direction of the river was shown him; he had also the broad cattle-pads to guide him. The stockman's road lay north, eventually joining the river further on, and as it was late, and indeed having not the slightest fear of a man failing to find the river from there, he came direct to the station. A fortnight later a party of us, who had gone out to muster cattle, found this man under the same tree, dead, he and his two horses. He had stripped himself of his clothing; his fingernails were torn in his efforts to tear up the roots of the tree, his mouth biting at the earth in the madness of the last agony. His horses had given him a short respite; their necks had been cut and the futile blood drained off. We buried the poor fellow as best we could, and then set off to trace his footsteps, to see how near he had come to water. He had come within two hundred yards of it, and then he had gradually veered round back to his starting-point. He actually must have seen the tops of the high river-timber, and if he had only laid his reins on his horse's neck, he would have been taken to safety, for no bush animal could fail to smell the water at that distance or know it was there. But no, he must have lost his head,-the strongest do so under the fear of thirst -have deliberately pulled his horses round till his evil chance brought him to his former camping-place.
If this were the only one, or even the only one of a summer! But the subject is too ghastly to write about. Here we have three thousand square miles of country, half a dozen white men and twenty black. Now and then
in the course of our work we come across these poor fellows; this summer we have found two men dead and two men out of their wits with thirst. I wonder what the yearly tally for all the country is? They are mostly scamps who come here, who have made civilization too unpleasant for them, or have found the public-houses there too close together; some are maddened by the poison of a wayside tavern and wander off into the bush, -the publican has their cheques, so what does he care?-and in two hours or less the summer sun does its work. Some try to travel too long a stage and fail; some fall ill on the road; while in the early days many a good man, searching for grazing country and determined to be the first, risked too much and paid the penalty with his life, a lonely death and a hard one.
Will it ever rain? We almost give up hope. Each recounts the droughts he has experienced or the droughts of which he has heard,-wonderful tales, half true, half romance-how once in the north they were thirty-three months without sufficient rain to lay the dust, and though it is only two years since we had rain to do much good to the country, the thought of another year's drought haunts me day and night. Paddy, the king of the blackfellows, makes frequent and unsuccessful attempts to "make rain" by the use of mysterious rites connected with hiding a stone in a water-hole, which, notwithstanding their frequent or, rather, usual failure, he has the utmost faith in. "Rain come up by'n by," he assures me; "mine been mak'em." One year he was most successful. It was very dry, a suffocating evening, when we were sitting outside the homestead. Paddy had come for some orders for the following day's work, and we asked his opinion of the weather. "You think rain come up soon?" "Yes, mine think it," was his
invariable answer. And then one of us promised him a bullock if he would make rain before morning. He went away looking as if the bullock were his already. There was not a cloud in the sky, but as we went to bed we noticed a little black cloud on the horizon, and behold, we had two inches of rain before morning! Well, Paddy had his bullock, and they all ate till every scrap of offal was finished, and afterwards slept for a week.
From droughts we change to floods, to break the monotony; we count up the years since the last great flood, twelve years now, and foretell the king of them all when this drought breaks. We delight in every detail, recalling the fun we had when horses were strong and colts fresh; how Jim the blackboy's colt started bucking, when we had some cattle rounded up to muster the cows and calves for branding, and getting out of control, bucked blindly into the mob, cannoned off a bullock and went head over heels over a cow; how another boy, whose colt had blundered on to his nose and knees, made sure he was coming down, and took his feet out of the stirrups to get clear of him, when the colt, by an extraordinary effort, got on to his legs again, set to work bucking worse than ever, tossing his rider like a shuttle-cock from head to tail and back again, till at last he flew over his horse's head,-and landed on his feet, not a whit the worse! What laughter there is when we remember the look on his face as he clung to the last to his horse's back, anticipating his fall. In our spare time we tried their paces on the race-course and taught them to jump, and had uproarious fun at the local races. They are worth recalling, those times of plenty, the floods out everywhere, a great portion of the run under water, the cattle standing knee deep eating the long luscious grasses. The hot summer sun shines down; one
can almost see the grass growing, so warm and moist it is. And soon the mosquitoes are up in myriads, they and the sand-flies and buzzing March flies. The sand-flies come out in the day time,-little things one can scarcely see, that burrow into the flesh and itch indescribably, so that no man can work on foot without a fire burning to keep them off; and those stinging, buzzing March flies,should you, when driving cattle, tie a stone at the end of your stock-whip and crack it so that the stone whizzes over their backs, they lift their tails high as with one accord to swish away that pestilent insect. At nights the finest nets cannot keep out the mosquitoes; and the insects torment not only us human beings, but the cattle and horses too. The sand-flies are the worst. The horses get together and walk round and round, ploughing up dense clouds of dust with their hoofs the whole day through, and if a fire of dung is lit in the yard, when the horses are brought in of a morning, they will stay there while the fire lasts, standing over it so that the heat scorches the hair off their legs and flanks. The flies too, are in clouds, Macmillan's Magazine.
bred seemingly of sand and water, so that it is scarce safe to open one's mouth. We grumble and growl of course, but what would not we give now to be devoured of insects!
And away on the stony downs the strong-stalked Mitchell grass stands like wheat up to the horses' knees, stretching for miles, green and densely waving. Soon it yellows and ripens, till looking across it on a misty dour day at the purple hills in the distance, we can recall parts of the homeland that some of us love so well.
That is our springtime, when everything comes to life with a rush,-the wild flowers bloom, the trees put forth their leaves, the birds mate and fill the air with singing. Ducks, and many kinds of water-fowl with the queerest combinations of little bodies and long legs, and great cranes, and native companions are gathered in their thousands from the uttermost waters of the continent; and out away from the river and lagoons the jolly magpies whistle away, where before the rain there were none,-sweet sounds, sweet sights, sweet scents everywhere!
THE DECIPHERMENT OF THE HITTITE INSCRIPTIONS.
It is twenty-three years ago that I made a discovery which threw a new light on the art and archæology of Asia Minor and the relations of Syria to the world of the West. At Boghaz Keni and Eyuk in Cappadocia rocksculptures and palace ruins had been found in a peculiar style of art, which closely resembled that of a figure of an armed warrior carved on the cliffs of the mountain pass of Karabel, a few miles eastward of Smyrna. This
armed warrior had been known to Herodotus, who saw in the figure a monument of the Egyptian conqueror Sesostris. In this, however, the "father of history" was mistaken; there was nothing Egyptian about it, and it pointed to Cappadocian conquest rather than to invasion from the shores of Egypt.
Far away from the neighborhood of Smyrna, at Ivriz, in the mountain range which forms the northern bor