naturally caused a start. There was a / which then met their eyes was in itself a bright, steady little light moving slowly in sufficient reward for their determination the direction pointed out, just about the and perseverance. Apparently limitless size of the glowing end of lighted bark, downs, clothed with the richest grasses which natives invariably carry by night. and herbs, rolled away before them. A Were there blacks about? All knew that range of noble, curiously-shaped peaks some natives have the habit of tracking and hills stretched away on their right, up their foes at night by the aid of fire-while every few miles they crossed runsticks.

ning brooks of clear water. They had Another now joined the first, and the indeed discovered a land, the existence doubt of the travellers was fast merging of which would prove not only a mine of into certainty, when one of the lights wealth to themselves, but also to the slowly rose in the air and floated up-colony at large. Mounting a high hill wards, followed at a little distance by the near their camp, they gazed with enrapother. Now they sank, and again they tured eyes on the far-stretching plains rose, chasing each other through the melting away in the distance, until they silent night

wandering fires in the were lost in the hazy sky-line, crossed by

blackness of darkness.'

belts of timber and intersected by streams, All breathe more freely. The black boy little knolls crowned with clumps of scrub burst into a laugh. “My word, me been varying prettily the undulating downs and think black fellow come up. What for swelling, timbered ridges. How their pireply walk about, gammon you and me souls bounded! Oh the glory of being like it that?” * But the alarms were not the first white men to tread what might yet over. Scarcely half an hour had be the future home of thousands of their elapsed, and the tired bushmen were race! It was a moment worth living for. thinking of turning in, when one of the All was theirs. From the blue mountainparty uttering rapidly the warning, “ Look peaks here, where the thin, grey, spiral out!” seized his carbine, and dropped on signal-smoke of the wild man curled away his knees behind a large tree close to aloft to the far horizon, ay, and for hunwhich he had been lying. The effect dreds of miles beyond, (for who could was magical. In less than a minute each predict its limits all was theirs. one had done the same, each grasping a Setting to work briskly now, they surweapon. Nothing now could be seen of veyed roughly the features of the land, the little group which, a moment before, and daily became more aware of the imwere quietly lying and chatting together. portance of their discovery. They apThe small spot, illumined by the light of peared to have struck the rich country at the fire, was now empty. Dead silence its junction with a poorer tract — what reigned, amid which could be heard foot- seemed also the index of a vast extent of steps stealthily approaching. Click, country of a similar character. Several click, click, click, went the hammers of large runs had been measured off in the as many carbines. An instant more, and usual manner, when, as they were proa fitful glean from the fire has thrown a ceeding one day to commence on fresh dim uncertain light on an approaching ground, they were astonished to come black figure, discovering its legs, breast, upon the tracks of shod horses. There and eyes, with a white mark on the fore- were a large number, evidently being ridhead, after the manner of the aboriginals; den and driven, and going in the direction and in the same moment, Stone, who is they had come from. All stopped aghast. nearest, shouts, “Hold on, boys! don't It was without doubt an exploring party. shoot. It's the old mare's black foal!" On that soft virgin soil no horse's foot and so it was. The creature, whose ma- had ever before trodden down the succuternal parent was grazing in the vicinity, lent grasses. A shower of rain which had (attracted by the fire) approached had fallen here rendered it difficult to decautiously, sniffing curiously as it ad. termine the precise age of the tracks; vanced ; and the start it had occasioned but ten days had already elapsed since now caused many a hearty laugh from the then, and it was possible that a fortnight much-relieved little band, each detailing or three weeks had passed since they his own personal feelings during the crisis. were made. It was not to be supposed

About a week's hard work enabled them that their own tracks could have remained to pierce the dense scrub, and the sight unnoticed, and already their rivals might

be straining their horses in the endeavor Why do the fireflies travel about, deceiving you and to reach the settlements, and forward

their applications for the country.


me thus?

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

It was a great blow to the plucky little | not think it possible, should they have company. The direction they came from started, that you can overtake them; still puzzled them most. When refusing to something may occur on the road to delay proceed further during the former expedi- them; and we must neglect no opportution, the thought of an easier and more nity. I won't promise," continued be, expeditious track into the unseen coun- “ that I can get down from the Bêche-detry must have occurred to their leader. mer station, for their boats may be absent, Doubtless he had found it on the other or the men may be away on the ‘ketch' side, and probably was as much surprised which they belong to. All I will say is, to see their tracks as they were to find that if there, for old acquaintance sake his. Had they met, they might have and a good cheque, they may be induced made a compromise; but, under existing to go.' circumstances, each party's thought must After some deliberation this plan was be how to turn matters to their respective adopted; and a couple of hours later saw advantages. But what was to be done? Stone commence his journey. It was by Hastily returning to camp, a special coun- no means an easy task which he had set cil was held. Everything depended on before himself, and it was fraught with getting down before the others. It was hazard to both him and his boy. He had true that their rivals had had no time to the knowledge that a Bêche-de-mer fishmake such a survey of the country as ing-station existed somewhere near the they had done, but to their experienced mouth of a large river, the estuary of leader nothing was easier than to take the which he had observed a considerable bearings of the most remarkable points time before, during a short cruise which from some unmistakable spot, and define be had made along the coast: but no one vaguely the boundaries of runs by com- knew the country inland; and so many pass, which would answer his purpose rivers took their rise on the coast-range, almost as well. Their hopes of reward that it was quite possible he might follow hinged upon getting their applications down the wrong one to the seacoast, and into the office, and marked with the day then get entangled in a labyrinth of saltand hour of their receipt, before the water inlets, mangroves, and vine scrubs. others could arrive. How was this to be He had only taken one fortnight's rations; effected? A stern-chase is proverbially but this he intended to spin out by puta long one, and the members of the other ting himself and his faithful attendant expedition were quite as alive to the ne- on balf-rations, in case the worst should cessity for haste as they themselves were. happen. It was maddening to think that they He must succeed. He shut his eyes should be deprived of what they had un- resolutely to the dangers which a welldergone so much to secure.

equipped party might escape, but which They could not remain to look for other were magnified a hundred times in his country. The ration supplies would not case; and equally cheerful and deteradmit of a protracted stay; besides which, mined was his companion. Each leading many different parties were out; and a spare horse, they pushed on until darkwithout information as to the routes taken ness compelled them to stop. Guided by these, they might only incur a similar partly by compass, and partly by that mischance.

curious and infallible instinct which some At last Stone broke silence. “I think,” men possess in so very remarkable a dehe said, " I know a way to manage that gree, they made their way at considerable is, if they have not got too much the start speed until they arrived at the high coastof us."

range. In doing so, some country was “What's your idea ?” eagerly asked passed over which, with an explorer's eye, the other two.

the white man mentally resolved should • Well," he returned, “down on the be examined on a future occasion; at seacoast, straight down from here, there present, time did not permit. is a Béche-de-mer fishing-station. I know From the range, the sight of the hazy the men ell; they have two or three sea, at a distance of seventy or eighty fast-sailing whale-boats. What I propose miles, cheered them; and Stone fancied is to push down there, and offer a fifty- that he recognized the towering peak of pound note, or a hundred, if need be, for an island near their destination. a passage to Rockhampton, and chance After descending the coast side of the finding a steamer from there. It is our range, the grass became longer, reaching, safest plan. I will go with the black boy. indeed, sometimes over their heads on You two can start down overland. I do borseback. It was armed with a barbed

[ocr errors]



seed nearly half an inch in length. These now and then as the white cockatoos iew grass-seeds, being ripe, adhered in such among their branches, or rose in a vast profusion to their persons that they felt cloud of spotless purity but unearthly like immense porcupines ; and the seeds, noise. working into the Aesh in a thousand direc- The river's bed is full of large sandtions, also caused acute pain and irrita- banks, upon which alligators may be seen tion. The great size of the seed enabled lying motionless with widely distended them to extract them more easily than the jaws. Native “companions,” and brilsmaller and infinitely more troublesome liantly plumaged cranes and herons stalk kinds which grew inland; but neverthe- about in the shallow water. Pelicans less the annoyance was extreme. The with huge beaks sail about majestically, borses also suffered much in forcing their surrounded by smaller fry of all sorts. way through the long, wiry grass, which, New descriptions of water-fowl are met cutting their fetlock-joints, caused each with here and there. A little distance step to be made in pain.

further on they come to a camp of flying. The tarantula spiders – heavy, fat- foxes. The huge trees on both sides of bodied, horrid creatures, almost as large the river are actually black with them. as small birds, with legs fully two inches The great bats hang by their hooked long - spread their webs everywhere be, wings to every available branch and twig, tween the trees; and, in their haste and squealing and quarrelling. The smell is preoccupation of mind, the travellers fre- dreadful. The camp extends for at least quently ran into the snare, their heads three miles. There must be millions upon getting covered with the strong, sticky millions of them. Wild figs grow plentistructure, like a veil. The disgust was fully, as also do the beautiful plum-trees enhanced by feeling the hateful architect covered with fruit, and flowering vines run swiftly across their faces as he made twine themselves gracefully round their his escape. Millions of flies and insects stems. Sometimes groups of natives are of all kinds were sheltered and protected seen fishing in the river. They must be by the long grass. The common fly cov- numerous about here. The trees bear ered their persons, seemingly enjoying the frequent marks of their stone tomathe pleasure of travelling horseback. hawks, and little beaten paths lead down Little groups of them buzzed in front of to the water's edge. They have hitherto, the travellers' eyes, alighting on the cor- as far as the travellers are aware, evaded ners of them, and renewing their attacks, being seen by them. They each watch when driven away, with a pertinacity only half through the night. The black boy is to be overcome by death. The well- invaluable from his cool courage; and on known blight-fly intimated his unwelcome one occasion, when Stone's excited fancy presence by stinging the black boy in the led him to believe that he actually heard eye, the lids of which instantly swelled to the rustling of the grass as the savages the size of a hen's egg, and remained so stole up, he remarked with a grin, alludfor the next two or three days, causing in- ing to the clouds of mosquitoes and the tense irritation. Tiny sand-flies swarmed naked skins of the aborigines, “Supposin myriads about the horses' ears, or sat ing black fellow come, you hear him like in patches over their bodies, goading them it that,” slapping his own shoulder at the to distraction; and at night the mosqui- same time, in the act of killing a mosquito, toes united in one continual hum of joy which, from their numbers, he probably as they pursued their philanthropical'in- did. vestigations.

They have now to cross the river, and Pushing along, they came at last to the succeed, after being nearly swallowed up banks of a broad river, which, from its in the treacherous quicksands of which it size, Stone felt assured must be the one is full. Now they approach the sea, and which debouched into the ocean near the the cycas-palms so common on the coast. spot he was desirous of attaining. The range disappear. The iron-bark and top banks were nearly one hundred feet gum-trees are mixed with stunted ti-trees, above the level of the water. About half- grass-trees, and curious, weird-looking way between the water and the highest pandanus-trees. Impenetrable vine-scrubs banks a broad terrace ran, forming a sec- line the river-banks at intervals. ond band. Along the water's edge, noble Hurrah! a salt-water creek. The travti-trees, whose drooping branches swept ellers rejoice; they feel they are apthe stream, formed a fringe, the dark proaching their destination, but still their green of their thick foliage being relieved troubles are not over. The salt-water



[ocr errors]

creeks are numerous. They are slimy with his head erect on the top of a crested gulfs of oozing mud when the tide is out, wave; or the fin of a shark is seen as it and alligators lurk in their sluggish depths cruises after its prey; or a little bark when in, and crossed they must be. canoe darts from one island to another, Mangrove-swamps must be got round. and is lost to view among its verdure. The white man is to be pitied who gets But what pen can describe the glorious lost in one of them. They are the home beauty of evening, when the setting sun, of alligators, poisonous reptiles, leeches, amid a blaze of gold and purple, dipped frogs, etc., etc., -a bottomless pit of beneath the waters of the Pacific, gilding stinking deep slime, swarming with sand- far and wide the glowing sea and the dark fies, mosquitoes, centipedes, and scor- mountain-tops? or the tropical beauty of pions. Now they ride down to the beach, the night, its stillness broken only by the passing by a platform erected on four tall roar of the fire-flashing breakers as they forks, on which lie exposed to the wind boomed on the sunken coral ledges, or and sun the dried remains of some dark rolled in waves of light towards that unwarrior, and they eagerly gaze for a sign known shore? They had a capital run; of the presence of white men.

and as they approached the entrance of Some distance down the coast Stone the Fitzroy, the black smoke of a steamer joyfully recognized his island, and they making her way down from the "fleets pushed along the sandy beach until even- is seen above the trees. This is indeed ing, when, to their great relief and de- a piece of luck. It is the Australian light, they found themselves at the fish- Steam Navigation Company's steamer ing-station which it had been their object the "Boomerang,” bound south. Another to reach.

half-hour, and it would have been too late The hardy sailors were no less sur. for another week. She stops ; and as the prised than glad to welcome their old whale-boat runs alongside and lowers her acquaintance at their out-of-the-way home, sail

, Stone, who is standing in the sternand readily agreed to take Stone down in sheets, recognizes many a familiar face a whale-boat, and allow the boy to remain and voice among the throng who lean at their camp with the horses until he over her side looking down on them. could be sent for. They were engaged in His own rough appearance for a time smoking a large haul of "tit” fish which protects his identity. His hair and beard they had made on a neighboring reef. have grown long, the wide brim of his Their ketch was beached high and dry soft felt hat has lost its stiffening, and near the camp; and, on the whole, they hangs limply on his shoulders; his shirt had very comfortable quarters.

and trousers have become of no particuThat evening the boat was got ready to lar hue, and bear the mark of many a start, and long before day broke she had thorny struggle; while his revolver, carleft the hospitable camp far behind her, bine, and red blanket impart a picturand was running free before a favoring esqueness not uncommon in these parts. breeze, with Stone sound asleep (the first Bidding a hearty good-bye to his friends time in security for many months), in need, and handing them a handsome wrapped in a spare sail. A good rest re- cheque, he climbed up the ladder. The freshed him greatly, and the invigorating little whale-boat filled her sail and stood sea-breeze, together with his successful away for Rockhampton, where her crew trip, emboldened him to hope for a will yet be in time to get a skinful of favorable termination to his enterprise. grog before night. The whale-boat cut along merrily, never Once on board, he is surrounded by shipping a sea. Oh the mercy of the friends. Naturally he is asked whence open ocean breeze, and the companion- he comes; and he has barely given a ship of his

own people after his late suf- vague account of his journey, when he ferings ! The sapphire sea, out of which is informed of the wonderful discovery rose innumerable little fairy islands, some which has been made by his rivals, whose clothed with dark cedars and pines to the party was about arriving when the steamer water's edge, others mere spots of emerald left. His hopes, so bright a while ago, sward, washed a silver beach-line. Pierc- sink. He asks why none of them are on ing the clear waters, the eye could dis- board, and is informed that the mail-man cern forests of branching coral, through to the few stations on the other side of which the fish darted in shoals, or fed Rockhampton has brought in the news, motionless on their marine pasture. Now having out-travelled the explorers, and then a sea-snake is passed, coiled Hebreathes once more. No doubt their applications are with the mail the

From Macmillan's Magazine. vessel carries. Should be present his AN ESCAPE FOR LIFE FROM A FIJIAN own before the delivery of the steam

CYCLONE. er's letters, the victory will yet be his. A

Savu Savu BAY, The Fiji Isles, friend supplied him with the necessary

15th December, 1879. outfit ; and when the old “ Boomerang" MY DEAR FATHER AND MOTHER, makes fast to the Australian Steam Navi- I arrived here only yesterday morning gation Company's wharf on the Brisbane from Levuka, and very, very glad I am to River he hurries off to the Crown Lands get safe home at last, for we were shipOffice, which is fortunately open, and, wrecked on the way, and had to swim for presenting the papers which he has had our lives; it was a terrible time. I suftime to make out on board, has the satis- fered all the awful horrors of a death by faction of learning that no other applica- drowning, but my life has been preserved, tions for country have arrived from that I may truly say, in a wonderful manner. quarter.

I don't know how to write about it; I am He has gained the day. Hurrah ! so full of thankfulness that you have been Nothing like push. Back to the steamer. spared what I know would have been a Champagne all round. He tells his story. great sorrow to you all; just simply Hurrah for the north! More champagne. rejoice that I am still to the fore, a good Away up to “ Braysher's ” now. What a deal battered about, but safe and sound, huge town Brisbane looks after the wild, and as well in health as ever, thank God solitary bush! It is a kind of London. for that. But I had better begin at the One can never tire of walking, up and beginning, and give an account of the down Queen Street watching one's fellow-whole affair. I left Levuka last Tuesday creatures, and staring at the shops. The morning, the 9th, at daylight, in a cutter sight of so many human beings causes a of nine tons, the owner and captain in wild excitement, heightened at night when charge, his name H—, a man of few the lamps blaze and glitter. It is not words, a quiet, honest, trustworthy fellow, altogether to be wondered at that the for whom I have a great liking, thoroughly “ bushman” should commit excess after up to his work. As crew we had a halfhis silent life of rigorous self-denial and caste and two strong Fijians, only one privation.

other passenger besides myself. This How strange is the feeling of walking man, A- was formerly captain in up-stairs and viewing one's figure in a some merchant service, a very rough pier-glass! How glorious is the return diamond, but at bottom a very good to a land of plenty - a land of fresh vege- fellow; he came to Fiji about ten years tables and properly cooked food ! One ago, and is now a grey-haired old fellow, looks upon the black-coated waiter with a with a wife and large family of children. kind of respectful awe, and feels quite H is in partnership with C- -, in thankful when he quietly pockets his tip Savu Savu Bay, brother to the one you without upbraiding one with an attempt know. They bought this cutter a few to purchase his sympathies. The dark, months ago, and have been running her bronzed face and the rough hands, mark regularly ever since. one out to the storekeepers and other We left Levuka, as I have said, at dayleeches as proper prey; but never mind; light last Tuesday, with a very light what's the odds ?" It is not every day breeze. We made very little way that one sees a town.

day, and anchored for the night close to Every bushman has experienced these an island. Next morning at daylight we feelings on his return to civilization after started again; what little breeze there was a long absence, and so also did Stone, his was in our favor, but by evening it had delight being much increased by his tri- died away, and left us out in the open sea. umph. He had, however, a stronger All that night we kept bobbing on. As attraction at Betyammo, whither he has soon, however, as day dawned, we saw at tened as soon as possible.

once we were in for something hot — at The following mail took back the wel all events a very heavy squall was coming come intimation to his companions, one on — so we took in all our extra sails, and of whom returned to the Bêche-de-mer reefed close down, not a bit too soon. A station and brought home overland the terrific storm of wind and rain struck us, horses and boy, whose arrival was hailed sending the cutter almost over on to her with much rejoicing by his tribe, and beam ends; we feared our two small sails with no less cordiality than sincerity by would be blown clean away, but being new his master.

and strong they held, to our great relief.

« VorigeDoorgaan »