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Full text of "The secret of the Australian desert"

LTof the 

U5TKALIAN 
DESERT 



ERNEST 
FAVENC 




JAMES DALLY 

OLD AND RARE BOOKS 

99 Walkerville Terrace 

W'lkerville, Sth. Am. 

Telephone 65 7909 




" AT THE SOUND THE OLD MAN ON THE ROCK SMILED 
AND LEANT FORWARD" 



The Secret of the 

Australian Desert 



BY 



ERNEST FAVENC 

Author of " The History of Australian Exploration ", " Tales of the Austral 
Tropics ", &c. &c. 



WITH FOUR ILLUSTRATIONS AND A MAP 



BLACKIE AND SON LIMITED 

LONDON GLASGOW AND BOMBAY 



p/e 

4499 




PREFACE. 

Although the interior of the continent of Australia 
is singularly deficient in the more picturesque elements 
of romance, it was, for nearly two-thirds of a century, 
a most attractive lure to men of adventurous char- 
acter. 

Oxley, Sturt, Mitchell, Kennedy, and Stuart have 
left deathless names on the roll of Australian explorers, 
but the unknown fate of Ludwig Leichhardt has al- 
ways centred most of the romance of story about his 
memory. 

In April, 1848, he left Macpherson's Station, Cogoon 
River, situated in the southern portion of what is 
now the colony of Queensland, with the intention of 
endeavouring to reach Perth, on the west coast, the 
capital of Western Australia, by traversing, if possible, 
the then unknown heart of the continent. 

From that day to this, no clue to the disappearance 
of the whole party has ever been discovered. Several 
expeditions have been fruitlessly despatched in search 
of the missing men; and many false reports as to the 
finding of relics of the party have been brought in at 
various times. Even the rapid advance of settlement, 
the comparatively full knowledge now possessed 



iv PREFACE. 

of the interior, have thrown no light on the subject. 
This, the great mystery of Australian exploration, I 
have taken for the groundwork of my story. 

The view I have adopted of the probable course 
pursued by Leichhardt and his party, is the one that 
commends itself to the majority of experienced bush- 
men. Turned back by the dry country west of the 
Diamantina River, the explorer probably followed that 
river up, and crossed the main watershed on to the 
head of some river running north into the Gulf of 
Carpentaria; in fact, the same track afterwards followed 
by the ill-fated Burke and Wills. Leichhardt could 
then easily reach the route he pursued on his first 
expedition to Port Essington, the only successful one 
he made, and on which his reputation is based. This 
course would then lead him around the foot of the 
Gulf to the Roper River, where he would leave his 
old route, follow the Roper, or a tributary, to its head, 
and strike south-west, into the scantily-watered waste 
of the interior. This view is borne out by the fact 
that trees, marked with what appears to be a letter 
L, have been found on or near this supposititious 
line of travel; and A. C. Gregory, the leader of one 
of the search expeditions, discovered the framework of 
a small hut, seemingly built by white men, on a creek 
he called the Elsie, a tributary of the Roper River. 

Another unexplained riddle I have introduced 
points to the possible early occupation of Australia 



PREFACE. V 

by an ancient and partly civilized race. In 1838, 
Lieutenant, now Sir George Grey, when on an ex- 
pedition in north-west Australia, discovered some 
remarkable paintings in a cave on the Glenelg River, 
evidently not the work of the present inhabitants. 
He describes the principal one as " The figure of a 
man, ten feet six inches in height, clothed from the 
chin downwards in a red garment which reached to 
the wrists and ankles ". The head of this figure was 
encircled by a halo or turban, and on it strange 
characters were inscribed, like a written name. Grey 
says "I was certainly surprised at the moment I 
first saw this gigantic head and upper part of a body 
bending over and staring grimly down on me ". Al- 
though the dress and accessories so plainly prove that 
these paintings were not the work of the Australian 
aborigines, the locality, strange to say, has not been 
again investigated. I have taken the liberty of trans- 
planting these cave paintings from the north-west 
coast to the interior, and also of changing the names 
of some of the members of Leichhardt's party. The 
descriptions of the physical features of the country 
are faithful records from personal experience. 

ERNEST FAVENC. 



CONTENTS. 



Chap. Page 

I. SAND AND SCRUB, 11 

II. A STRANGE ROAD, 19 

III. A MYSTERIOUS PROCESSION, 26 

IV. THE DEVIL'S TRACKS, 34 

V. A LIFELESS SWAMP, 41 

VI. THE BURNING MOUNTAIN AT LAST, .... 46 

VII. CANNIBALS, 55 

VIII. THE FIGHT IN THE CAVE, 68 

IX. AN EXCITING DISCOVERY, 80 

X. THE MISSING EXPEDITION, ....... 87 

XI. STUART'S JOURNAL, 93 

XII. CHARLIE'S ADVENTURE, 102 

XIII. THE TRIP SOUTH, 112 

XIV. IN THE SPINIFEX DESERT, 120 

XV. THE FATE OF COLUMBUS, 128 

XVI. THE SLAUGHTER CHAMBER, 134 

XVII. A HOPELESS SITUATION, 141 



Vlll CONTENTS. 

Chap. Page 

XVIII. THE ANCIENT AUSTRALIANS, 149 

XIX. CHARLIE FALLS SICK, 156 

XX. A FURTHER DISCOVERY, 163 

XXI. THE FINAL DEPARTURE, 171 

XXII. THE GOLD REEF DISCOVERED, 180 

XXIII. A SOLITARY CAMP, 187 

XXIV. MORE DRY CREEKS, 196 

XXV. THE LAST or THE CANNIBALS, 204 

XXVI. A FALSE ALARM 212 

XXVII. HOME AGAIN, 220 



ILLUSTRATIONS 



Page 
"AT THE SOUND THE OLD MAN ON THE ROCK SMILED 

AND LEANT FORWARD" Frontispiece 63 

THEY FIND THE DEVIL'S TRACK ON THE KOCK-PLAIN . 35 

MORTON AND HIS PARTY EXAMINE THE SLAUGHTER- 
CHAMBER 151 

THE LAST OF THE BLOODTHIRSTY WARLATTAS - 206 



Route Map 15 



THE SECRET OP 

THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT 



CHAPTER I 

The Start for the Burning Mountain Sand and Scrub. 

IT is the beginning of November November 
in the Southern hemisphere, not the raw, 
foggy month of the North November in 
Central Australia, where the sun rises hot and 
red in a breathless morn, and sinks at night 
in a heated haze, hovering around the level 
horizon. 

It has been a day to doze in the shade if 
possible, and dream of icebergs. The short 
twilight is rapidly fading into the darkness of 
a moonless night. Scarcely darkness, however, 
for the brilliant constellations of the south and 
the radiant evening star in the west lend their 

rays to light up the scene. Under the verandah 
11 



12 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

of a rough hut mud walls with galvanized iron 
roof, three men are sitting indolently smoking 
the evening pipe that usually follows the last 
meal of the day. It is far up in the north of 
South Australia, in fact almost on the boundary 
line that divides that colony from its dependency, 
known as the Northern Territory. The hut is 
the principal building on a cattle-station, where, 
as on most other outside stations, the improve- 
ments are of a very primitive kind. The three 
occupants of the verandah are the owner of the 
station; a young relation staying with him to 
gain that much-talked-of commodity, "colonial 
experience"; and a friend, a squatter from a 
neighbouring run. 

" Well," says Morton, the owner, a sun-tanned, 
wiry little fellow, addressing his neighbour, 
" what do you say, Brown, to having a look for 
the burning mountain?" 

"Umph!" grunts Brown, who differs consider- 
ably in size, owning as he does some six feet 
two inches of humanity; "isn't this weather hot 
enough for you without looking for burning 
mountains?" 

" We've nothing much to do for two or three 
months, and I've made up my mind to see if 
there's any truth in this yarn the niggers have." 

" I never could make head or tail of it," said 
Brown. 

"Nor I," returned Morton; "but although 



SAND AND SCRUB. 13 

everybody puts it down as a burning mountain, 
I am not of that opinion. I have questioned 
them very patiently, and can only find out that 
there is a big fire always burning in the same 
place, but when I ask about a mountain, they 
say no. None of them have ever been there; 
they have only heard of it from others, and they 
seem almost frightened to speak of it." 

"They use much the same word for rocks, 
stones, and mountains." 

" Yes ; and I think it is rocks that they mean." 

"What has your boy, Billy Button, to say 
about it?" 

"Billy comes from a tribe nearly a hundred 
miles from here. He has heard the yarn, but has 
never seen any blacks who have been there." 

" Let's see. It is supposed to lie rather north 
of west from here. How far have you been in 
that direction, Morton?" 

" Some fifty miles. It's all scrub and sand. The 
niggers, however, get across in some seasons of 
the year, and I think this is the time; there have 
been plenty of thunder-storms that way lately." 

" Well, I'll make one ; a little scorching more 
or less does not matter much up here. You 
ought to have kept some of the camels back the 
last time the team was up here." 

" Didn't think of it. But I fancy horses will 
be handier, we have a thunder-storm nearly every 
day." 



14 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

"And shall have until we start," replied 
Brown, "then you see they will knock off at 
once. How many of us will there be?" 

"The pair of us, and what do you say, 
Charlie? Are you anxious to distinguish your- 
self?" 

" I certainly hope you won't leave me behind," 
returned his young cousin, in an injured tone. 

" All right. Billy Button will make four, and 
that will be enough. To-morrow we'll have all 
the horses in and get ready for a start the next 
day." 

"How long shall we be away?" asked Charlie, 
who bore upon his shoulders the onerous duties of 
storekeeper. 

"Can't say. What do you think, Brown? 
Six weeks? Two months?" 

"We surely ought to find something in that 
time, if it's only the remains of Leichhardt." 

"Make up three months' rations for four, 
Charlie; I hate to run short. Lucky we killed 
the other day, the beef will be just right for 
carrying." 

On an outside cattle-station, where so much 
camping-out has to be constantly done, the pre- 
parations for such a trip do not take long, and 
the morning of the second day found everything 
in readiness. Brown had sent over to his place 
for his own horses, and they started with four- 
teen in all. Two apiece for riding, four packed 




ATTACKED BY 



e> M. 

Downs^ s't-oifo wtflf 
' Vs> 




fiSS*^^ 

J -^ ito 



CARPENTARIA 




SAND AND SCRUB. 15 

with rations, and two with canvas water-bags 
and the necessary blankets, tent, &c. At the 
last moment the blacks about the station tried to 
dissuade Billy from, going by telling him horrible 
tales of the fate surely awaiting him at the 
dreaded burning mountain, but Billy stoutly 
refused to be frightened, and scorned to remain, 
although given the option by Morton. 

The first thirty miles of the journey was over 
familiar country, and they camped that night at 
a small water-hole lately filled by a thunder- 
storm. Beyond them now stretched a waste of 
sand ridges and mulga scrub, into which Morton 
had once penetrated for some twenty miles. 
With full water-bags, and a determination not to 
be beaten back without a struggle, our adven- 
turers commenced the second day's journey with 
light hearts. 

During the whole of the day the sombre scrub 
and heavy sand continued, without break or 
change in their depressing monotony. Scarcely the 
note of a bird or insect broke the silence, as they 
toiled on without much heart for conversation. 
Towards evening a piece of good fortune befell 
them. On a small fiat between two sand ridges 
they crossed a patch of short green grass, the 
result of a recent thunder-storm. No water could 
be found, the hot summer sun having evaporated 
all that had been caught in the shallow clay pans. 
The green grass was, however, a boon to the 



16 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

horses, who did not feel the want of water so 
much on the soft young feed. 

Next morning they were saddled and packed 
up, ready to start by sunrise. About ten o'clock 
they ascended a sand ridge somewhat higher 
than those they had formerly crossed, and from 
its crest they were able to look around on the 
sea of scrub that surrounded them. Not far 
off, in the direction in which they were going, 
Morton drew the attention of his companions to 
a thin column of smoke. 

"Burning mountain already?" queried Brown. 

"Niggers travelling and hunting," replied 
Morton. " The scrub looks thinner there. They 
won't be far from camp at this time in the 
morning; but I expect the water is only a soak- 
hole, of no use to us." 

In less than an hour they were riding over 
patches of still-burning grass, thinly scattered 
through a forest of bloodwood-trees; but neither 
the sharp eyes of Morton or Billy could detect 
a sign of the hunters. After searching for some 
time the boy found the tracks of a blackfellow, 
two gins, 1 and some pickaninnies 2 coming from 
the westward, and these they followed back for 
about a mile to a freshly-abandoned camp. It 
was situated on a fairly open piece of country ^ 
partly covered with coarse drift sand. Not far 
from the camp was a ragged old shell of a gum- 

1 Women. 8 Children. 

(M64) 



SAND AND SCRUB. 17 

tree, covered with tomahawk marks. Billy, who 
had at once gone to this tree, gave a low whistle, 
and the others came up. He pointed to a small 
hole near the butt, and dismounting put his arm 
down and then peered into it. 

"Water long way down," he said. "Gone 
bung, mine think it." By which they understood 
that the supply had dried up. After some search- 
ing about, a long sapling was procured and thrust 
down. The hole was about ten feet deep, and the 
end of the sapling brought up some wet mud. 

" How did the blacks get down for the water, 
Billy?" asked Brown. 

" Pickaninny go down," replied the boy, point- 
ing to a tiny foothold in the side of the hole. 

" Well, boys," said Morton, who had been pok- 
ing the sapling down vigorously and examining 
the point, "I don't see much to be got out of 
this. Evidently there's been one little family 
living on this hole, and now they've been dried 
out. It would take us two hours to open up 
this hole, and then we should probably get 
nothing for our pains." 

" Water gone bung," repeated Billy. 

" What do you say to following this flat? It's 
going partly in our direction, and may lead to 
something." 

No one having anything better to suggest 
they resumed their journey once more, until 
a mid-day halt was made. 

(M64) B 






18 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

"Well, respected leader," remarked Brown, 
after the meal was finished and pipes were lit, 
"I'm afraid our horses will look mighty dicky 
to-morrow morning unless we get them a drink 
to-night." 

Morton glanced lazily at them, where they 
stood grouped under whatever scanty shade they 
could obtain. 

"They are beginning to look tucked up," he 
replied, "but we'll pull up something before 
dark." 

" I sincerely hope so," said Brown as he stood 
up. " Go ahead once more, Captain Cook." 

About four o'clock the open flat which they 
had followed grew narrower, until at last the 
scrub closed in entirely and they found them- 
selves confronted by a thicker growth than any 
they had yet met with. The mulga having 
given place to a species of mallee. 

Morton, who was leading, stopped. 

" We must push through," he said. " It may 
be only a belt, and if we start to follow it round 
we shall be all night in it." 

"Right," replied Brown. "I'll take a turn 
ahead if you like. I prefer being first in a 
scrub." 

Morton laughed and dropped behind, and for 
about an hour very slow progress was made, the 
scrub getting worse and worse. The sun was 
sinking low, and the cheerful prospect of a night 



A STRANGE ROAD. 19 

in the scrub was before them, when, to the relief 
of all, Brown suddenly called out: 
"Hurrah! we're out of itl" 



CHAPTER H. 

A Native Cemetery Billy's Explanation Stopped once 
more by Dense Scrub Discovery of a Strange Eoad. 

AS the party emerged, one after another, from 
the scrub, their eyes were delighted by a 
prospect of open-downs country before them, 
dotted here and there with clumps of gidea-trees. 
But, better than all, there was plainly to be seen, 
scarcely a short mile away, a line of gum-trees, 
creek timber, whilst the presence of water was 
plainly attested by flights of white corellas 
hovering about. 

It was not long before the whole party were 
comfortably encamped beside a good-sized water- 
hole, and the horses luxuriating on succulent 
Mitchell and blue grass. 

Brown, with his pipe as usual under full blast, 
was enjoying the scene, when Billy, who had been 
wandering around the camp, came up and re- 
marked : 

" No sleep here." 

"What's the matter?" asked Brown. 



20 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

Billy pointed to a patch of scrub a short dis- 
tance off, and beckoned to him to follow. 

Brown noticed that the tops of the trees looked 
particularly thick and dense, but it was not until 
he was quite close that he saw the reason. Nearly 
every tree of any size bore a rude scaffolding, 
and on the top of every scaffold lay either a 
bleached skeleton or a dried mummy-like corpse. 
The ground, too, was covered with bones and 
skulls that had fallen through. Brown called 
the others, and they gazed with awe at this 
strange sepulchre. 

" I've often seen the bodies put in trees, but 
aever in such numbers as this. Why, there must 
be hundreds here!" said Morton. 

" I never saw more than two together at the 
outside," returned Brown. "Strange," he went 
on, after a closer inspection; "all the bodies who 
have any dried skin remaining on their foreheads 
have a red smudge there!" 

" No sleep here ; by and by that fellow get up, 
walk about," insisted Billy. 

This remark helped to dispel the gloom caused 
by the sight of so many dead bodies, and Billy 
had to undergo a good deal of chaff. It was 
evident, however, that his fright was genuine, 
although, like most natives, the reason of it could 
not be drawn from him. 

No ghostly visitants came near the camp that 
night, and all slept the sleep of tired men. 



A STRANGE ROAD. 21 

Charlie, waking up before daylight and find- 
ing Billy in the sound stupor common to the 
aborigines at that hour, conceived a wicked idea. 
Brown dabbled a little in sketching, and Charlie, 
after hunting up the colour-box in one of the 
pack-bags, proceeded to paint Billy's forehead red, 
after the manner of the mummies in the tree-tops. 

"Hallo, Billy!" said Morton, when they were 
all about and the quart-pots for breakfast merrily 
boiling. "What's up with your head?" 

Billy grinned, not understanding what was 
meant. 

" Look here," said Brown, taking a hand-glass 
out of the pack and holding it in front of his 
face. Billy looked, and turned as white as it 
was possible for a blackfellow to do. 

" Him bin come up ! " he yelled, starting up and 
pointing to the scrub where the bodies were. 
Then looked apprehensively around, as though 
he expected to see some belated corpse still 
walking about. 

"Tell him you did it, Charlie," said Morton. 
"I'm afraid you've funked him, and if so he'll 
bolt. Never play tricks on a blackfellow." 

Charlie at once complied, and after Billy had 
been induced to wash the paint off and had in- 
spected the colour-box, he was somewhat com- 
forted; but he evidently still thought that the 
subject was not a fit one to joke about. 

Struck by Billy's evident panic, Morton again 



22 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

attempted to extract the reason from him, and 
after some trouble learned that he had heard of 
the men with a red smear on the forehead, who 
were supposed to be in some way connected with 
the burning mountain. That, during the day- 
time, they pretended to be dead, but at night 
got up and walked about. 

" This looks as though we were on the right 
track," said Morton to Brown. 

" Hum ! Nice sort of company you are intro- 
ducing us to. However Death or glory ! Let's 
saddle up and make a start." 

In a short time the friendly water-hole and 
the ghastly scrub beside it were left behind, 
but the patch of open country unfortunately 
proved to be of very limited extent in the direc- 
tion they were going, and in a short time they 
found themselves again entangled in the dense 
scrub, which was now becoming such a formi- 
dable obstacle to their progress. Towards the 
middle of the day, the sanguine Morton began 
to despair of pushing on, even at the slow rate 
at which they were going, and to meditate a 
return to their last night's camp and a fresh 
start in a new direction. At noon they were 
compelled to halt; the desert hedge- wood had 
now made its appearance, and the barrier pre- 
sented by it was almost impenetrable. 

They stopped for a hasty meal, and when it 
was finished, Morton said to Brown: 



A STRANGE ROAD. 23 

"What do you say, old man? Will you go 
north for a bit, and I will go south, and we'll see 
if there is anything like a gap in this confounded 
scrub?" 

" My dear old boy I am entirely at your dis- 
posal. But allow me to suggest that we shall get 
along infinitely better on foot." 

" I think so too. Charlie, you and Billy stop 
here with the horses until we come back." 

It was a good two hours before the cracking 
of branches and muttered bad language, coming 
from the south, announced to Charlie and Billy 
the return of Morton. 

" How did you get on?" was the query. 

"Get on!" returned Morton savagely; "I did 
not get on at all. I don't believe I got half a mile 
from here. It's the worst old-man scrub I was 
ever in in my life; I've barked my hands nicely. 
If old Brown did not get on any better than I 
did, we shall have to go and chop him out with 
an axe." 

Almost as he spoke, Billy held up his hand 
and said: 

" Mitter Brown come up." 

In a few minutes his tall form emerged from 
the thicket. 

" I beg to report, sir," he said to Morton with 
mock solemnity, "that the main road to some- 
where is about three-quarters of a mile to the 
northward." 



24 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

" What on earth do you mean, old man?" 

"Just what I say. After fighting my way 
through some of the most awful scrub I ever 
met with, I came to a fine clear road gas-lamps, 
milestones, and probably bridges and public- 
houses." 

" Well, we'd better go there at once. I won- 
der you came back without patronizing one of 
the pubs." 

" I did not exactly see all that I have stated, 
but I have no doubt whatever of their existence," 
returned Brown. " Joking apart, there really is 
a cleared track out there, but we'll have to cut a 
road to get the horses there." 

" This bangs everything into a dust -heap. 
But it's getting late and we had better shape. 
Charlie, you and Billy go ahead with the 
tomahawks, and we will dodge the horses along 
after you." 

It took time, labour, and patience to make the 
distance indicated by Brown; but about an hour 
before sundown, to the astonishment of three 
of them, they stood upon what was evidently 
a cleared track, about the width of an ordinary 
bridle- track. Morton examined the stumps, and 
pointed out that the work had been done by 
stone tomahawks. Billy looked for tracks, but 
none had been made since the rain from the last 
thunder-storm had fallen. 

"It's running westward. I suppose it's all 



A STKANGE ROAD. 25 

right to follow it, but this sort of thing beats 
my experience. What say you, Brown?" asked 
Morton. 

" Forward, gentlemen, while the light lasts," 
was the reply of that individual. 

Their progress was now easy, for the track 
had been most carefully cleared, and the horses, 
all old stagers, marched along in single file with- 
out any trouble. Darkness, however, fell, and 
the scrub was still on either hand of them 
unchanged. 

"Morton," said Brown, breaking the silence, 
" I've got an idea." 

" Stick to it hard, old man; it's the first I ever 
knew you to possess." 

" Don't try to be too funny. Well, I shouldn't 
be in the least surprised to meet a first-class 
funeral coming along at any moment." 

" You're worse than Billy." 

" Billy was partly right. Those old mummies, 
skeletons, &c., we saw back there, have all been 
carted along this road from wherever we're 
going to. That is the reason it is so carefully 
cleared." 

" Jove ! your right. And we might have come 
along this road all the way if we had kept our 
eyes open, instead of tearing ourselves to pieces 
in the scrub, travelling parallel with it." 

" That view of the question did not occur to 
me, but it's a perfectly feasible one." 



26 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

"Bather a surprise for the mourners if we 
blunder on to them in the dark to-night." 

" Just what we want to avoid. There's some- 
thing ahead no white man has yet heard of, and 
if we can sneak along without our presence being 
suspected, so much the better." 

"What do you propose? We can't budge a 
step off the track just now, and if unluckily 
there happens to be a funeral ceremony on to- 
night, there's bound to be a collision." 

" We must go on until we come to a piece of 
open country, and then pull off and wait for 
daylight." 

" All serene. But our tracks will tell tales." 

" We can't help that, unfortunately." 

The conversation had been carried on without 
halting, and the march now continued in silence, 
until a low whistle from Morton gave the signal 
to pull up. 



CHAPTER III 

A Midnight Halt A Mysterious Procession Sudden 
Dispersion and Flight Open Country once more and 
another Mystery Ahead. 

AS well as could be made out in the gloom 
cast by the scrub, they had reached a small 
break in it, and Morton wheeling off, the others 
followed, and the party dismounted, as the leader 



A. MYSTERIOUS PROCESSION. 27 

judged, some two hundred yards from the track. 
Morton gave his orders in low tones, for the 
atmosphere of awe and mystery affected every- 
body. There was no grass, so the horses were 
simply relieved of their packs and tied to trees; 
then the men stretched themselves on their 
blankets without making a fire, and, save for 
the occasional stamp and snort of a horse, the 
scrub was as silent as before the white men 
roused the echoes. 

Not for long. 

It seemed to Brown that he had scarcely 
closed his eyes when the camp was aroused by 
a distant melancholy cry. No one spoke; all 
were too intently engaged in listening. The 
cry sounded again, louder, nearer, and in a chorus 
of many voices. 

"What bad luck," whispered Morton to his 
friend. " One day sooner or later and we would 
have been right." 

Nearer and nearer came the plaintive wailing, 
and the gleam of firesticks was visible. It was 
a most uncomfortable sensation that our adven- 
turers experienced, lying prone and motionless 
in the gloomy scrub listening to this weird 
procession passing through the desert land. They 
were well armed, and confident against any 
number of aborigines, but the sights they had 
encountered were so much out of the ordinary 
bush routine as to make even such old hands 



28 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

as Brown and Morton feel slightly nervous. 
Charlie was naturally much excited, while Billy 
was " larding the lean earth " with the perspira- 
tion of abject, superstitious fear. 

The party of natives were now opposite to 
them, and not very far away, and by the number 
of firesticks they judged that there must be 
a good many in the company. Every now and 
then the wild wail or chant kept breaking out, 
and the shuffling noise of their bare feet was 
distinctly audible during the silent intervals. 

They had almost passed the hidden watchers, 
when the procession was interrupted by a sudden 
and discordant shout from the leaders. A babble 
of voices followed, the firesticks gathered to- 
gether for a moment, and were then dashed on 
the ground and extinguished. Next came the 
noise of feet flying back along the track; these 
died rapidly away in the distance, and the scrub 
was as silent as before. 

"Saw our tracks!" said Brown with a dis- 
gusted sigh, breaking the spell that held them 
all quiet. 

"How could they see our tracks in the dark?" 
asked Charlie. 

" They could both feel and smell them," re- 
turned Morton. "The ground is caked hard 
from the last thunder-storm, and our horses 
walking one after the other have cut it up soft. 
Of course, with their bare feet they could tell 



A MYSTERIOUS PROCESSION. 29 

the difference at once. The scent, too, would be 
as plain as possible at this time in the morning, 
even to one of us. What's the time, Brown?" 

Brown struck a match. 

"Three. It will be breaking day soon after 
five. Let's wait till then." 

" Why?" demanded Morton. "We might as 
well get along while it's cool. There's the re- 
mains of a moon just rising." 

" Why? Because you think with me that it 
was a funeral party. Now, I should like to 
know what they did with the body; they never 
carried it away with them at that pace." 

"Never thought of that," returned Morton. 
" Yes, we might pick up some information by 
waiting until daylight and seeing what they 
threw away. Make a fire, and we'll have break- 
fast." 

The time soon passed in discussing the strange 
scene just witnessed and the probable result of 
their trip. Morton reminded Brown of the free- 
masons M'Dowall Stuart asserted he met with 
amongst the aborigines in the interior, and 
Charlie, who had not heard the former conversa- 
tion, was enlightened as to the probable meaning 
of what had just passed. 

As soon as daylight was strong enough the 
investigation commenced. Right on the track 
where it had been hastily dropped lay the dead 
body of a man. A tall old man, fastened on to 



30 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

a rude litter of saplings. The forehead was 
smeared with red pigment, and on the dusky 
breast was a triangle inscribed in white. 

Brown gave a low whistle. 

"That's a thing I never saw blacks draw 
before," he said to Morton. 

" Nor I. He's a fine-looking old boy. What 
a long white beard he has got for a nigger!" 

The corpse was fastened to the litter with 
strips of curragong bark; and they were turning 
away after noticing these details, when Brown 
suggested that they had better move it off the 
track. 

"You know," he explained, "we might come 
bustling back here in a bigger hurry than those 
fellows were, and tumble over the old gentleman 
in the dark." 

The litter and its burden were shifted a few 
paces in the scrub, and, full of expectation, the 
party resumed their interrupted journey. 

The break where they had halted was the 
beginning of the outskirts of the scrub; the 
country soon became more open, and as it did so 
the track they were following grew less marked. 
It was still, however, quite plain enough for any 
bushman to follow easily. At noon, to the great 
relief of the horses, they came to a small pool of 
rain-water, and some fairly good grass. Here 
they turned out for a long spell 

"Question is," said Brown, when the usual 



A MYSTERIOUS PROCESSION. 31 

discussion commenced, "Where did those nigs 
camp? No sign of them here. By the way, 
Billy, did you notice any gins' tracks amongst 
them?" 

" No," returned the boy. " Altogether black- 
fellow." 

" Must be more water ahead ; and I hope so, for 
this won't last another week, and we want some- 
thing permanent to fall back on. Now, I'm 
going aloft on the look-out," said Morton. 

Charlie watched him curiously as he slung the 
field-glass over his shoulder, and taking a toma- 
hawk proceeded to an exceptionally tall blood- 
wood-tree near the camp. At the foot he took 
off his boots, and cutting niches in the trunk, as 
a blackfellow does when climbing, he was soon 
up amongst the topmost branches. Ensconcing 
himself firmly, he took a comprehensive sweep 
around with the glasses, and then directed his 
attention to the westward. 

"Below there!" he shouted, after a lengthened 
scrutiny. 

"Hi, hi, sir!" returned Charlie. 

"Brown! Will your long legs bring you up 
here safely?" 

" Well, I'll try." And in a short time Brown 
was up alongside his friend, and a very earnest 
discussion followed, extremely tantalizing to 
Charlie down below. After taking a compass- 
bearing to some distant object they descended; 



32 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

and Charlie, who was already barefooted, im- 
mediately attempted the ascent, slipping igno- 
miniously down after getting up two or three 
steps, to the intense delight of Billy. With the 
black boy's assistance, however, and much sar- 
castic advice from his cousin and Brown, he 
managed to reach the first branches, and thence 
easily gained the perch Morton had occupied on 
the top. 

What did he see when he got there? 

To the westward the forest soon came to an 
abrupt stop, and beyond stretched a great gray 
plain, bounded by something that Charlie could 
not make out, and which had evidently puzzled 
Brown and Morton. It was not water, although 
it looked something like it; it was a broad sheet 
of pale blue, glistening in places under the sun's 
rays, and beyond, above a quivering haze, was a 
dark object like a distant ridge. 

" What name, Billy?" said Charlie to the black 
boy, who had climbed up after him. " Water?" 

"Bal" said Billy decidedly. " Water sit down 
here, close up," he added, pointing to the edge of 
the forest. 

"What name, then?" repeated Charlie. 

" Mine think it mud, where water bin go bung," 
was the blackf ellow's opinion, and with this they 
both descended. 

" Well, Charlie, what do you make of it?" asked 
Morton. 



A MYSTERIOUS PROCESSION. 



33 



" Billy thinks it's mud where the water has 
dried up," returned Charlie, as he had no opinion 
of his own to offer. 

" And Billy's right, I believe. It must be the 
bed of a dry salt lake; but we'll get along to the 
edge of the timber and camp." 

On the margin of the plain they came to some 
fine lagoons, with good grass for the horses, but 
nothing could be seen of the mysterious object 
ahead, excepting from the top of a tree. 

On the banks of the lagoons they found abun- 
dant traces of the natives, and it was evidently 
a main camping-place on their way to and from 
their burial-place. Many of the trees were 
marked with triangles, a sign which considerably 
puzzled the elder travellers. The open country, 
the ample supply of water, and the relief from 
the gloomy surroundings of the scrub had restored 
the cheerful tone of the party, and imparted a 
sense of security to them. 

But neither Brown nor Morton were men to 
neglect due precautions, now that their presence 
was known to the probably hostile inhabitants. 
So a watch was kept all night by the three 
whites in turn, Billy escaping the vigil, as blacks 
are not to be trusted to keep awake. 



(M64) 



34: THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 



CHAPTER IV. 

The Limestone Plain The Devil's Tracks A Strange 
Mark. 



morning found them early on the move, 
the night having passed without any alarm, 
false or real. They still followed the faint track 
leading straight toward the dark ridge they had 
seen beyond the blue expanse. This supposed 
dry lake had been visible from the camp before 
sunrise, but as the sun rose it disappeared, nor 
did they again sight it until nearly eight o'clock. 
At ten they were close to it, and all doubt as to 
its character was set at rest. They pulled up, 
not at the edge of a dry salt lake, but of an 
unbroken sheet of limestone rock. Nothing was 
visible ahead but this stony sea of bluish-gray, 
over which a heated haze was undulating. The 
dark line beyond, resembling a ridge, had van- 
ished, and the wind that blew in their faces 
across the surface of this strange plain, was as 
hot as though it came from the open door of a 
furnace. 

Morton turned and rode along the edge of the 
rock to where the pad came in, for they had 
left the track for the last hundred yards. He 
whistled, and the others joined him. The track 



1 




THE DEVIL'S TRACKS. 35 

still continued right on across the rock, but its 
course was now indicated by other means. On the 
surface of the limestone had been scratched and 
chipped with infinite care, an imitation of human 
footsteps, or rather more than human footsteps, 
for the gigantic tracks were more than twice the 
size of a man's, and a stride to correspond was 
indicated. Side by side, about six feet apart, 
these two awful footsteps disappeared into the 
quivering mirage. 

"I've seen that mark before on the granite 
mounds in Western Australia," said Brown. 
" You notice that there are six toes to it. It's 
supposed to be the footprint of the devil." 

"By Jove, what tedious work it must have 
been cutting those marks!" returned Morton. 
" They're not lazy beggars ahead of us whatever 
else they may be. But what shall we do now?" 

" Go back to the lagoons. It's a rattling good 
camp, and we have heaps of time before us. 
We'll hold a council of war this afternoon and 
decide upon some course of action." 

"Right," answered Morton. "We shall have 
to go slowly and cannily or we shall be getting 
into a tight place." 

They returned to their former camp, and, as 
evening drew on, entered into a discussion as to 
their immediate movements. 

" Brown, you're the longest, speak first," said 
Morton. 



36 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

" Those beggars are located beyond that lime- 
stone rock. Is not that so?" 

"Yes." 

"They may be the most mild and peaceful 
people going, and they may be the most trucu- 
lent ruffians. I incline to the latter opinion." 

"So do I, but I cannot say why exactly. 
They took to their heels quick enough the other 
night." 

"Oh, any niggers will do that on a sudden 
start. However, it's safest to act as though they 
were our enemies." 

"Decidedly." 

" To-morrow we'll go right and left along the 
edge of the rock for a few miles on each side 
of the track, and see if there's any other track 
they use. If there's only the one, why, we know 
where to expect them from." 

To this Morton agreed, but suggested that two 
should follow the track across the rock. 

" No, old man, you're too eager," said Brown. 
" We're too small a party to afford to split up. 
When we go across that rock we must all go, 
and take pot luck." 

" You're right," agreed Morton. " To-morrow 
you and I will go along the edge of the rock. 
Charlie, you and Billy will stop and mind camp 
and examine all the trees about for marks, in 
fact have a good fossick round." 

" When we cross the rock we shall have to go 



THE DEVIL'S TRACKS. 37 

on foot, we can't take the horses across," said 
Brown. 

" Certainly not, and I doubt if we can cross on 
foot in the daytime. We should be baked to 
death with the rock underneath and the sun 
overhead. We should get no shade to rest under 
the whole way across." 

" The horses will be safe enough here while we 
are away. If the niggers use only the one track, 
why, we are bound to meet them." 

Another quiet night was passed, although a 
watch was kept. In the cool morning Brown 
and Morton started across the plain, leaving 
Charlie to scour about the camp. Billy, arrayed 
in a light and airy costume consisting of a saddle- 
strap and a tomahawk, had evidently laid himself 
out for a day's pleasurable sport. 

"This plain seems fairly well grassed," said 
Morton as they rode across. " Wonder how far 
it extends?" 

" We'll find out before we get back. But coun- 
try is not of much value out here just now, no 
matter how good it is." 

" No, worse luck ; you and I know that to our 
cost." 

When they reached the rock they separated, 
Brown going north and Morton south. Follow- 
ing the edge along, without going into all the 
dips and bends, Morton went on until he reckoned 
he had covered some six miles. The limestone 



38 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

rock pursued much the same course to the south- 
ward, but the forest and the continuation of the 
chain of lagoons at its edge bore in towards the 
rock, and it was evident that the two would 
meet in time. 

Morton rode over to the edge of the timbe^ 
and found that the water-course there was still 
well supplied with occasional pools of water. 
He could see no tracks of blacks there, nor were 
there any marks on the rock: all was lifeless 
and lonely, save for the tireless kites. As he 
rode back, however, he caught sight of a bird 
high up in the air steadily flying to the west. 
He recognized it as an eagle -hawk, and was 
astonished to see others following, all flying in 
the same direction. Then the discordant note of 
a crow came to him, and a flock of the black 
creatures flew past, conversing in the peculiar 
guttural croak common to crows when on the 
wing. They, too, were going across the rock to 
the westward. 

"Hang me, if there isn't a rendezvous over 
there somewhere of all the carrion birds in the 
district," said Morton. 

He rode on and found Brown at the meeting- 
place, he having got back sooner. His experience 
had been somewhat similar for the first few 
miles; then the country changed, a low stunted 
forest obtruded from the east, and the ground 
became hard, stony, and barren, save for patches 



THE DEVIL'S TRACKS. 39 

of spinifex. 1 The limestone rock, too, became 
more uneven and broken, and it was evident 
that he had approached the verge of the forma- 
tion they were then traversing; probably, he 
thought, the change would result in a large ex- 
panse of desert, spinifex country. 

" We could get round that way," he remarked, 
" without having to cross this rock." 

" Better stick to the track ; then we know we 
are going straight to wherever these triangle men 
came from," replied Morton. 

"Did you see any niggers' tracks?" 

" Not a sign of any. I don't think I saw or 
heard a living thing of any kind since leaving." 

Morton told him about the flight of hawks 
and crows he had noticed, and as they rode back 
to camp they decided to make an excursion to 
the south before tackling the great rock and the 
mystery beyond. It was as well to know all 
about the country before making their final start; 
and, moreover, if the natives came back and saw 
their tracks going away south it might throw 
them off their guard. 

Charlie and Billy had found nothing about 
the camp beyond a peculiar mark cut on a tree, 
which somewhat differed from the others they 
had seen. They had caught some fish in the 
largest of the lagoons, and Billy had a fine big 
carpet snake roasting in the ashes; for no matter 

1 A wiry, prickly grass, useless as fodder. 



40 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

how well fed a blackfellow is, he always likes to 
revert to his aboriginal delicacies occasionally. 

Charlie took them to inspect the new mark, 
which was on a large flooded box-tree. It had 
been chopped out with a stone tomahawk in the 
rugged bark, and must have taken much time 
and labour. Both men looked at it from all 
points of view without arriving at any con- 
clusion; then, just as they were turning away, 
Morton exclaimed: 

" If I saw that tatooed on a sailor's arm I 
should say that it was meant for an anchor." 

The two others instantly recognized the re- 
semblance, and they all came to the conclusion 
that it was a rude attempt to depict that emblem. 

"Mystery thickens," said Brown. "Are we 
going to reach the much-talked-of inland sea 
and find a race of sailor-men in possession?" 

"Devilish queer," replied Morton; "it seems 
to me the sort of mark an illiterate white man 
who had been a sailor would make on a tree. 
It's chopped out very neatly, much as a sailor 
would do anything of the sort." 

" I suppose we shall find out all about it before 
we get to the end of this trip," returned Brown. 

"Yes, and a good deal more than we now 
dream of, I anticipate." 

" Did you have a good look to the south and 
north when you were up that tree?" asked 
Brown. 



A LIFELESS SWAMP. 41 

"No, I didn't. My attention was at once 
taken up by the strange-looking rock ahead of 
us." 

" So was mine. I think we might go up 
another at sundown; we might see something." 

When the sun nearly touched the horizon they 
ascended the tallest tree in the neighbourhood, 
but nothing was discernible southward. To the 
north, however, a low range was visible a long 
distance away. 

A quiet undisturbed night succeeded, and an 
early start was made the next morning. 



CHAPTER V. 

Hot Springs A Lifeless Swamp More Marks of the 

Natives. 



first six miles being over the country 
_ traversed by Morton was naturally un- 
interesting. Then the plain grew narrower and 
narrower. The chain of lagoons where they had 
camped developed into a large water-course, and 
the flat limestone rock began to alter its character 
and soon merged into a basaltic ridge coming 
from the westward. At mid-day the plain was 
a thing of the past, and they were now travelling 
along a broad water-course, with open forest on 



42 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

one side and a rude line of basalt boulders, piled 
like a wall, on the other. 

At a fair-sized lagoon, thick with water-lilies, 
they turned out for their meal. 

" Funny," remarked Brown, " how these inland 
rivers disappear. This water-course looks big 
enough now, but I bet it runs out to nothing 
before night." 

"Yes; the wet seasons, I suppose, are very 
rare, and when one comes the flood-water is 
absorbed by soakage and evaporation before it 
can cut a continuous channel. You know that 
no rivers enter the sea to the south of us." 

"I know; it's all a wall of cliffs around the 
head of the Great Bight. Was there not some 
yarn once about fresh water being obtained 
there some distance at sea?" 

"I've heard something about it; it was put 
down to the discharge of a subterranean river, 
but I don't think the fact was ever proved." 

"Well, if we find a river of that sort we'll 
make a canoe and send Charlie and Billy down 
it to explore. What do you say, Charlie?" 

" There might be some Jinkarras living down 
there," replied Charlie. 

"Ever see any Jinkarras, Billy?" asked Morton. 

" No. Plenty bin hear 'em," replied Billy. 

" I wonder how this yarn of an underground 
race, the Jinkarras, originated." 

"I can't make out. The noise they hear at 



A LIFELESS SWAMP. 43 

night that they say is made by the Jinkarras is 
made by a bird a kind of quail." 

"Well, we must be off; pack up boys," said 
Brown. 

About four o'clock a dense mass of foliage was 
visible ahead, which, as they drew nearer, proved 
to be huge paper-bark-trees, with long trailing 
branches, like gigantic weeping willows. The 
ground around these ancient giants was soft and 
spongy, and the bed of the creek was soon lost. 
The ground being too soft to allow of the horses 
progressing any further, a camp was made and 
they were hobbled out. 

Leaving Billy to light a fire and mind camp, 
the three whites went on foot through this great 
white forest. The ground grew swampier as they 
proceeded, until at last, when within sight of a 
belt of tall reeds, they could proceed no farther. 
Moreover, the water was getting uncomfortably 
warm. 

"Hot soda springs," said Brown; "this accounts 
for the growth of these trees. There's an easy 
one to climb," pointing to a bending one. " Let's 
go aloft and look ahead." 

The tree was easy of ascent, and the three 
were soon high up amongst the branches. Beyond 
the reeds lay a lakelet of clear water, but, save 
for the deep fringe of rushes, not a plant of any 
sort was visible. No ducks or other aquatic 
birds could be seen. 



44 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

" I guess that water's too warm for anything 
to live in it," said Morton. 

It was a strange scene; the sun was sinking 
low, and anywhere else the place at that time 
would have been busy with feathered life, but 
here all was lifeless. The lakelet, surrounded 
by its border of tall reeds, in which there was 
apparently no break, lay there calm and un- 
ruffled. 

" Let's get back to camp," said Brown. " Looks 
as though we'd got into a dead corner of the 
world." 

Next morning it was determined to follow the 
swamp round to the westward to ascertain its 
extent. In a mile or two they came to where 
the basalt wall apparently ran out in the swamp, 
disappearing in a few scattered boulders. Just 
beyond this they came to a well-beaten track, 
which came round the swamp from the direction 
in which they were going and turned off amongst 
the basalt. Following this track along, in about 
a mile they came on two skeletons lying beside 
it. Some dry bits of skin still adhered here and 
there on the fleshless bones. 

"A nice part of Australia this," remarked 
Brown, as they halted and gazed at the poor 
remains. " If we're not falling foul of a cemetery 
or a funeral, we run against skeletons lying pro- 
miscuously about. Wonder what brought them 
here." 



A LIFELESS SWAMP. 45 

"Not want of water at any rate," replied Morton. 
"Been a fight, perhaps. They don't seem to 
belong to those triangle gentry, at any rate." 

"They must have been lying here months," 
answered Brown; "they're past our help any- 
way. May as well get on." 

Gradually the swamps rounded off to the 
southward, and it was evident that there was 
no continuation that way. The creek they had 
followed from the lagoons had disappeared, as 
Brown had predicted. To the south was nothing 
but a stony, desert forest of stunted trees, the 
ground covered with spinifex. Strange to say, 
however, the track that had partly circled the 
hot swamp had branched off and headed due 
south. There had been some discussion as to 
whether they should follow it or not, but, as it 
was evident that this track and the one marked 
by the devil's footsteps were trending to the 
same centre, it was decided to postpone it until 
they had solved that mystery first. The swamp 
was of such a circumference that it was nearly 
sundown when they got back to the site of their 
last night's camp, having crossed no outflow from 
the swamp anywhere. 

In the morning it was thought better to go 
back to the old camp at the lagoons and follow 
the devil's footsteps, than try to follow the track 
amongst the boulders coming from the south. 

They arrived there early, and immediately made 



46 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

preparations for burying their spare rations, 
ammunition, &c. The next few hours were busy 
ones. Saddles, rations, spare ammunition, &c., 
were all carefully buried, and the whereabouts 
masked by a fire being lit on the top to hide the 
disturbance of the earth. They started as soon 
as this work was finished, each man carrying 
rifle, revolver, ammunition, three days' rations, 
quart-pot, and water-bag a fair load for men 
always accustomed to riding only. Most devoutly 
they all prayed that they would be off the rock 
soon after daylight the next morning. 



CHAPTER VI 

The Night March across the Great Eock Meeting with 
the Natives The Secret of the Burning Mountain. 

WITH all the despatch they made they did 
not reach the edge of the rock before 
twelve; but it mattered little, as the surface was 
only then getting cool, and would have been un- 
bearable any earlier. 

Billy was sent first with bare feet, he being 
trusted to follow the track by feeling when they 
strayed off it, as he would ther cross the rough 
surface made by the sculptured f .otprints, the re- 
mainder of the limestone being almost as smooth 
as marble. 



THE BURNING MOUNTAIN AT LAST. 47 

It was a weird and weary tramp across this 
rock by the light of the stars, with vague dark- 
ness all around them. None of them felt inclined 
to speak, and an intense silence reigned every- 
where. A sickly moon rose just before daylight, 
and its faint beams cast the long shadows of the 
travellers across the gleaming surface of the 
limestone. The thought in the minds of the three 
white men was the same what would daylight 
show them? Billy plodded along mechanically; 
most of the time he was half asleep. 

Daylight came at last, and the black line tkat 
they had seen from the tree-top gradually came 
into view, apparently not far ahead; and each 
felt grateful that he had not to encounter the 
force of the sun on the face of the naked rock. 

When it was broad daylight the dark line 
resolved itself under the glasses into a row of 
basaltic boulders, with some bushes growing in 
their clefts and a bottle-tree here and there on 
their summits. 

"We shall be there before it is hot," said 
Morton thankfully, as he closed the glasses; 
" let's push on." 

They did so, and before the sun had attained 
much power found themselves amongst the 
boulders. The track led straight into a gap, and 
on one side a huge block of stone, supported by 
two others, made a rude cave, under which the 
weary men gladly took shelter after their toilsome 



48 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

tramp. Evidently it was a halting-place for the 
blacks, for the remains of fires were about, and 
a supply of firewood, which came in very handy 
for the tired men to cook their breakfast with. 

A satisfactory meal and a smoke being finished, 
the situation was reviewed. Behind them lay 
the bare expanse of rock just crossed, and before 
them the unknown. Now, too, they would have 
to keep a keen look-out for lurking foes, because 
in amongst these boulders every step was fraught 
with danger, especially as the blacks knew of 
their approach; and it was evident that they 
were trespassing on tabooed ground. The future 
movements of the party were now, as might be 
supposed, a matter of serious consideration, and 
Brown and Morton were in earnest discussion 
when a loud report like a clap of thunder sud- 
denly startled the little company to their feet. 
A low rumbling followed that seemed to shake 
the very rocks. Hurrying outside, nothing was 
seen that could possibly have caused the strange 
noise; the sky was cloudless, the air still and 
sultry. 

Suddenly Billy pointed to the westward. "Fire 
jump up," he said. 

A puff of white smoke, or vapour, was rising, 
seemingly only a short distance from them. 
Silently they watched it ascend and disperse. 

" Blacks here have artillery apparently," said 
Brown. " Salute in honour of our arrival." 



THE BURNING MOUNTAIN AT LAST. 49 

Nothing more following, they returned to the 
cave, leaving Charlie at the entrance on the look- 
out. 

" If these fellows know nothing about the effect 
of firearms," said Morton, "we may be able to 
establish a funk; they may have heard of them 
only from the other tribes." 

" I don't think they have much communication 
with the other tribes by the look of it, but, if 
they live amongst these rocks, what on earth do 
they exist on ? for there's no game here." 

" Well, all we can do is to keep a sharp look- 
out and our powder dry What's up?" 

" Here's the corpse!" cried Charlie, falling back 
from the entrance in amazement. 

Billy gave an awful yell ; the others started to 
their feet as a tall native coolly walked into the 
cave, and squatted down on the ground. It cer- 
tainly was enough to give them all a fright, for the 
visitor, in outward appearance, greatly resembled 
the dead man left in the scrub. A second glance, 
however, showed points of difference, which 
proved him to be a denizen of the earth; he was 
marked with the white triangle on the breast, 
and the red smear on the forehead, but was 
naked and unarmed, whilst his manner showed 
no trace of fear. Recovering themselves some- 
what, Morton lugged Billy forward to see if he 
could converse with the new-comer. This pro- 
ceeding, however, did not suit their visitor, for he 

(M64) D 



50 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

addressed a furious tirade at Mr. Billy Button in 
some unknown tongue, winding up by violently 
spitting at him. 

Billy slunk back scared, and the native, rising, 
took Brown by the arm and led him to the en- 
trance; pointing alternately forward and back- 
wards he made signs for them to turn back, 
and not go on. Brown returned answer by signs 
that they must go on. The blackfellow shook his 
head vigorously, and then held up his hand 
motioning them to listen. Again the loud re- 
port was heard, and a puff of vapour ascended 
as before. 

To the apparent surprise of the native, the 
whites showed no alarm, and Brown taking his 
carbine stepped back, and fired it into the 
air. The black gave a decided start, and trembled 
a little, but stood his ground; then his mind 
seemed to change, and, making a sign to Brown 
to stay, he strode off and disappeared behind the 
surrounding rocks. 

" Is he coming back, do you think?" said Brown. 

"I think so," replied Morton. "He's a fine 
fellow, with plenty of pluck." 

"Then well give him twenty minutes' grace 
but here he comes, and all his sisters and his 
cousins and his aunts." 

Sure enough their former visitor appeared, 
accompanied by some half-dozen others, similarly 
painted and all unarmed. He spoke a few words 



THE BURNING MOUNTAIN AT LAST. 51 

to them, and pointed towards Brown, upon whom 
they gazed curiously. 

" Now then, Brown," said Morton, " you're the 
star; evidently they want an exhibition." 

Brown, who had reloaded his carbine, fired it 
in the air again. The fresh arrivals showed 
more alarm than the first man had, some of them 
squatted hastily down and all started with fear. 

" It appears to me, Brown, that they consider 
you 'brother belonging' to this noise ahead," 
remarked Morton. 

"It looks like it, and we must keep up the 
pleasing fiction, for these fellows 'have us on toast' 
in amongst these rocks. I wonder how many 
more there are round about." 

" Let's see if we can go on now/' said Morton. 

On Brown indicating their wish to proceed, 
the most ready acquiescence was displayed, and 
at a few words from the native who had first 
arrived the others showed by signs their inten- 
tion to carry the strangers' packs. 

Before starting, however, names were inter- 
changed, that being generally found the easiest 
steps towards intimacy. Brown, Morton, and 
Charlie (or Sarley) were soon picked up, and the 
chief, as he appeared to be, introduced himself as 
Columberi, which, of course, was at once turned 
into Columbus by Brown, and the oldest black- 
fellow amongst the others was named Yarlow. 

With Columbus appropriately in the lead, the 



52 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

march commenced, the tracks winding in and 
out among the rocks in a very intricate fashion. 
For nearly five miles they kept on, although in a 
straight line they would not probably have 
traversed more than two, and at last arrived at 
an open space surrounded by bottle-trees, and 
from the number of humpies, 1 built of mud and 
grass, apparently the head-quarters of the tribe. 
Here they halted. About twenty more blacks 
were sitting about, who at first made a show of 
taking to their heels, but a call from Columbus 
brought them back. 

Selecting a shady tree, Brown indicated that 
their swags should be brought up, and this being 
done he remarked: 

" What do you say to a feed, and then getting 
Christopher here to show us the ropes?" 

" Just as well," returned Brown; "we must take 
everything as a matter of course, and show no 
surprise." 

Billy made a fire, and the quarts were put on 
to boil, a proceeding which interested the spec- 
tators greatly. Brown by signs then invited 
Columbus to sit down, and presented him with 
a piece of damper thickly coated with sugar, at 
the same time eating a piece himself to inspire 
confidence. 

The native started to eat in a slow and doubt- 

1 A native hut built of bark or sticks plastered with mud : 
called also a " gunyah " or a " whirlie ". 



THE BURNING MOUNTAIN AT LAST. 53 

ful manner, but after a bite or two finished it off 
with great gusto and indicated a wish for more. 

The quarts now bubbled up, and the blacks 
with one accord emitted a united "ha!" 1 and 
pointed to the westward; evidently the boiling 
water bore some resemblance to something in 
that direction. 

Columbus now described a mark in the dust 
like a half-circle, and pointed in the direction 
they had come. "He means the horse-tracks 
they saw," said Morton, after a pause. He 
nodded vigorously to the old man, who continued 
his pantomime by lying on his back as though 
dead. Morton nodded again and patted the 
ground, pointing backwards to indicate that the 
corpse was still there. 

Columbus then called the other blacks aside, 
and after a long talk half a dozen of them drew 
off and disappeared amongst the surrounding 
boulders. 

"We must follow up this burning mountain 
business," said Brown, as soon as he had eaten his 
dinner; "now old Columbus has disposed of his 
private affairs perhaps he will take us there." 

" Call him back and let's make inquiries; see 
if he'll eat beef." 

The chieftain approaching, Brown offered him 
a piece of salt beef. He examined it curiously, 

1 Wild Australian blacks know nothing of boiling water. They 
make water hot by putting hot stones in it. 



54 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

and then without any demur ate it in the most 
appreciative manner. He then pointed to Charlie, 
and made signs as though cutting with a knife, 
which for a time were quite unintelligible. 

" Blessed if he doesn't mean to ask if you're 
good to eat," said Brown at last. 

He shook his head, and the native appeared 
both surprised and disappointed. On their in- 
dicating their wish to proceed in the direction 
of the strange reports, he rose and led the way. 
The whites only took their carbines, as they felt 
assured that as yet their coming was too novel 
for the blacks to interfere with their belongings. 

They had but a short distance to go. Round- 
ing a rugged wall of basalt they saw stretched 
before them a singular and striking scene. At 
their feet was a large circular shallow depression, 
about a mile in circumference, filled with pools 
of clear water divided one from another by 
narrow ridges of rock. In the centre of this 
depression was a hill of small elevation with a 
flat top ; not a vestige of green weed was to be seen 
about the water, nothing but bare rock. Without 
stopping, their guide led the way along one of the 
narrow strips of basalt intersecting the water. 

" Keep your feet," said Morton, as they followed 
him, " for it strikes me that water's scalding hot." 

Warned by this, the whites carefully continued 
their course to the central hill. Columbus 
mounted it, and then pointed down. They were 



CANNIBALS. 55 

on the edge of a crater. At no great distance 
below was a mass of seething boiling mud. The 
crater had lip-like fractures in various parts, and 
to one of these their guide now directed their 
attention, at the same time motioning to them to 
stand back from the edge. The water in the 
pool at the back of the lip was curiously ruffled; 
presently it assumed the appearance of boiling, 
and, rising suddenly, poured over the edge of the 
crater into the molten mud beneath. A deafening 
report followed, and the rocks on which the party 
crouched trembled again. Then came a rush of 
steam, and all was still once more. By a great 
effort the strangers had preserved their coolness, 
and looked on the display unmoved; then, in 
response to Brown, they discharged their carbines 
simultaneously, an act which nearly made Col- 
umbus topple into the crater. 



CHAPTER VII 

Columbus takes a Fancy to Charlie The Secret of the 
Limestone Cliff A Feast of Cannibals A White Man 
with the Blacks Initiation of Eecruits Charlie makes 
a Proposition. 

BY the language of signs they were given to 
understand that the rocks through which 
they had found their way extended in every 



56 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

direction. Another low elevation a short distance 
away resembling a limestone cliff was noticed, 
but about this their guide, who had now re- 
covered his composure, could, or apparently 
would, not afford them any information. After 
a more lengthened examination of the strange 
surroundings they returned to their camp in the 
open space, which they found deserted by the 
natives. Columbus, however, showed no signs 
of leaving them, and the whites, with due regard 
to strategic purposes, pitched their tent and 
made themselves as comfortable as circumstances 
allowed. 

" The thing that puzzles me," said Brown, 
after all arrangements had been completed, " is 
What do these natives live on? Columbus, 
whom we have feasted on strange dainties, 
shows no desire of leaving us; but the others 
are all away, evidently in search of grub. 
There are no gins visible; perhaps they are 
away hunting, but I doubt it, for within a 
hundred of miles of here there isn't a feed for 
a bandicoot." 

"I don't understand it either," returned Morton, 
" but we'll stop and see it out, anyway. Charlie, 
our friend Columbus has taken quite a fancy to 
you ; he can't keep his eyes off you.' 

Charlie looked very uncomfortable at the 
chaff, and muttered something about a " nigger's 
cheek"; but it was quite evident that the native 



CANNIBALS. 67 

had transferred all his admiration from Brown 
to Charlie. 

Whilst still talking and discussing the situa- 
tion a sound like a distant uproar of voices 
became apparent, and Columbus commenced to 
evince signs of uneasiness. The sound came 
from the direction of the limestone cliffs, and 
grew louder and more distinct as they listened. 
All the party naturally rose to their feet, although 
the native made energetic signs to them to keep 
quiet. After a short time the shouting became 
stationary, and it was evidently not intended as 
an attack upon them, or such loud warning 
would not have been given. 

" Shall we go and see what's up?" said Morton. 

" We'll fix the direction, anyway," returned 
Brown, and they proceeded to clamber up one 
of the high boulders by which they were sur- 
rounded, although Columbus evidently protested 
against the proceeding. 

From the top of the boulder they could make 
out the summit of the limestone cliffs, and ascer- 
tained that the uproar certainly came from there, 
and, moreover, that the shrill cries of gins mingled 
with the many voices. It was well on towards 
sundown, and after a short conference Brown 
and Morton determined to defer further explora- 
tions until the next day, so they returned to 
their camp. 

Columbus, who seemed much relieved by the 



58 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

proceeding, now made signs for Charlie to accom- 
pany him in the direction they had been just 
looking. At the same time he made it plainly 
apparent that Charlie was to come alone. 

" I'll go, Frank," he said to Morton. " Let me 
go and have all the honour and glory." 

Morton and Brown both replied in the nega- 
tive, and Brown intimated to Columbus that 
to-morrow Charlie should go, but now it was 
nearly night and he wanted a sleep. This 
seemed to satisfy the blackfellow, who evidently 
wanted to get away himself, and presently, as 
soon as he thought the attention of the party 
was not directed towards him, he disappeared as 
mysteriously as he had arrived. 

"I have not got to the bottom of this little 
affair yet," said Morton; "but I think we shall 
to-night. What do you say to paying a visit to 
these cliffs as soon as it is pitch dark I have 
the bearing?" 

"The very thing I was going to suggest. 
Charlie, it strikes me that our new friend wants 
to make long pig of you." 

"What's that?" asked Charlie. 

" Well, a favourite dish amongst some natives 
who have an acquired taste for human flesh." 

"Do you think he's a cannibal?" said the boy, 
rather aghast. 

" I should be sorry to slander a stranger, but 
it certainly looks something like it." 



CANNIBALS. 59 

As soon as it was quite dark the party set out 
on their way to the cliffs, which they judged to 
be about a mile distant; it was a difficult matter 
shaping a course by the stars amongst the gloom 
cast by the surrounding boulders, but an occa- 
sional murmur of sound helped them on, and 
after scrambling and twisting about they found 
themselves near the low cliffs. Here Billy was 
told to strip and reconnoitre, and his black figure 
was lost amongst the rocks almost before he 
seemed to have made a step. He was absent 
nearly half an hour; then a subdued whistle 
announced his return, and in a low voice he 
communicated to Morton the result of his in- 
vestigations. 

About four or five hundred yards from 
where they were waiting there was a cave 
in the cliff, and the blacks it appears were in 
there. Billy had gone close to the entrance, but 
could see only a light in the distance, for, accord- 
ing to him, " hole bin go long way ". 

Under Billy's guidance they soon reached the 
cave entrance, and found it to be a kind of 
tunnel evidently leading to a large cave, for a 
red glare of firelight came round an angle, and 
the sound of many chattering voices was audible. 

"Shall we go on?" said Morton in a whisper. 

"No, wait a minute," replied Brown; "it 
strikes me there's another entrance to this place; 
they must have a lot of fire going, but yet the 



60 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

place is not full of smoke. I can smell the fire, 
but that's all. I think there must be an opening 
in the top; let's send Billy up to see." 

The face of the cliff was easily climbed, being 
mostly detached rocks that had fallen down, and 
very soon Billy came back and reported that 
" fire come up alonga top ". 

One after the other the adventurers ascended, 
and found themselves on a rocky plateau full of 
fissures and holes, through some of which a 
bright light was streaming. Approaching this 
portion carefully on their hands and knees, 
they soon found a fissure through which they 
could gaze with safety on one of the strangest 
scenes ever witnessed in Australia. 

The cavern below them was seemingly of some 
size, and was well lighted by a number of fires, 
the smoke from which somewhat annoyed the 
unseen spectators. A far larger number of 
blacks were assembled than had been visible 
before, and many of them were armed and 
painted, being also marked with the red smear 
and white triangle. One large group was com- 
posed of some twenty or thirty young men and 
women; they were huddled together, apparently 
much frightened, and had no marks whatever 
upon their bodies. 

Columbus was soon recognized squatting at 
one of the fires with some of the other old men, 
and, like all but the group of boys and girls, 



CANNIBALS. 61 

busily engaged in eating. Morton felt his arm 
clutched suddenly and tightly, and Brown 
hoarsely whispered in his ear: 

"It is meat they are eating; but what meat?" 

Morton was struck with horror as he listened, 
and the truth flashed across his mind. It was 
a feast of cannibals they were overlooking. 
The armed natives had just returned from a 
foray, and the trembling group in the corner 
were prisoners destined to death. 

An awful feeling of horror came over the 
whole party as they realized their situation and 
possible fate. In a wilderness of savage rocks, 
surrounded by an expanse of desert, almost in 
the hands of some fifty or sixty fierce cannibals 
no wonder the first impulse of each was to 
slip quietly back the way he had come under 
cover of the night, and leave the natives to 
their former obscurity. 

Their natural audacity, however, soon returned. 
At present they were masters of the situation; 
with their breech-loaders they could shoot down 
a score of the natives, helpless in the cavern 
below, if so inclined. But, with all their horror 
of the scene, affairs did not seem to justify 
armed intervention just then. 

Contenting themselves with being spectators 
only, they watched the doings in the cave, at 
times having to stifle a cough brought on by 
a puff of smoke from the burning wood fires. 



62 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

For a time the repast below went on with the 
usual accompaniments of a blacks' camp, but as 
it came to an end it was evident that some 
extraordinary occurrence was going to take 
place. Gradually the old men mustered together 
around Columbus, and the other blacks pro- 
ceeded to combine all the fires into one large one 
near the wall of the cavern. The added blaze 
gave to view a huge figure on the rock; it was 
the semblance of a human form, but the head, 
instead of being represented round, was gro- 
tesquely shaped liked a triangle. At the foot of 
the painting was a rock, and while the rank and 
file of the natives grouped themselves in a circle 
around the fire, Columbus and some others 
retired into the darkness out of sight of the 
watchers. The chant of a corroboree now com- 
menced, and the blacks slowly circled round the 
fire for a short time, suddenly ceasing and break- 
ing into a half ring, with the open part towards 
the grim figure painted on the wall. Then 
Columbus and the others appeared, supporting 
between them a striking and venerable figure 
an old, old man, with snow-white hair and beard, 
bent so double that, as he hobbled along sup- 
porting himself on two short sticks, he appeared 
like some strange animal walking on four legs. 
This decrepit being was carefully helped and 
guided to the stone beneath the figure, and 
seated thereon; then the others squatted on the 



CANNIBALS. 63 

ground, the blacks in the half ring remaining 
quietly standing. 

The old man seated on the block was now 
full in view of the whites above, and the brilliant 
rays of the fire fell directly on him. Brown 
and Morton turned to each other with the same 
smothered exclamations on their lips: 

"By Jove, it's a white man!" 

Almost as dark as the savages around, painted 
like them with a hideous red smear on the fore- 
head and a white triangle on the breast, the ex- 
perienced whites yet felt sure that before them 
they saw one of their own race. Apparently 
the venerable being was either blind or nearly 
so, and he kept turning his face restlessly from 
side to side. From the half circle of blacks then 
arose a shout or chant that sounded like the 
repetition of "Mur! Fee! Mur! Fee!" 

"Hullo! we're amongst countrymen," whis- 
pered Brown; " that sounds awfully like Murphy." 

A terrible noise now commenced like a hundred 
mad gongs let loose. Four blacks came forward, 
beating furiously with clubs on what appeared 
to be sheets of metal. At the sound the old man 
on the rock smiled and leant forward, and, 
stretching forth his trembling hands, appeared 
to say something. 

At this Columbus arose, and, followed by the 
gong-beaters, went over to the throng of trem- 
bling captives. After a short inspection he 



64 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

selected a young gin and pulled her along by 
the hand towards the old man, followed still by 
the gong-beaters. The poor wretch seemed stu- 
pefied with fear, and when in front of the stone 
she sank down, trembling visibly. Columbus 
drew back, and the gong-beaters, dancing madly 
round, made a still more deafening din. Suddenly 
one of them, instead of striking his gong, dealt 
the unfortunate creature a terrible blow on the 
head, the other gong-beaters followed his exam- 
ple, and in an instant the wretched gin lay dead 
on the ground. 

The effect of this scene on the whites above 
was maddening. Charlie had his gun to his 
shoulder, but Morton stopped him in time. 
The gin was killed before interference was 
possible. 

"Come away," said Brown; "let's have a con- 
fab. I'm sick of watching those brutes." 

They scrambled away a short distance, and 
after a pause Brown spoke. 

" We've got our work cut out, there's no doubt 
about that. We must find out all about that 
white man if possible, and we must release those 
poor devils and give these cannibals a lesson." 

"In justice to our friend Columbus," said 
Morton, " let me remark that ' these cannibals ' 
are only following up what they have been taught; 
they have no horror of the thing like we have. 
At the same time, the man who lifts his hand 



CANNIBALS. 65 

or nulla nulla against a woman is unworthy 
fche name of a British sailor, &c. &c." 

"Are you convinced that that is a white man?" 
said Charlie. 

"Yes," replied Brown; "but who he is is 
another question. He appears to be blind, deaf, 
and imbecile. I suppose we must fall back upon 
Leichhardt" 

"He's been a big man when younger, and 
erect," said Morton; " far bigger than Leichhardt 
was. However, we'll suppose it to be one of 
his party he looks old enough." 

Brown gave vent to a low whistle. 

" By jingo, supposing that was ' Murphy ' they 
were shouting. I believe there was a man of 
that name in the lost party." 

"We shall find out, I hope, soon. Meantime, 
what next?" 

"I know," said Charlie; "let's go back to 
camp. You promised Columbus I should go 
with him to morrow. Well, I'll go and find out 
all about it." 

Morton put his hand on Charlie's shoulder. 

"It's a real plucky bid, my boy, after what 
we've just seen; but do you think I could let 
you go? Why, you'd be cooked and eaten in no 
time." 

"Hold on!" said Brown; "I'm full of ideas 
just now; let me think this one out; there's 
something in what Charlie says." 

(M64) E 



66 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

" Now, oracle, as soon as you're ready," returned 
Morton. 

"Well, I may be right or wrong, but my 
notion is that Columbus does nob want to eat 
Charlie. Why, they've got enough rations for 
a month. I think that they keep this old man 
as a sort of Fetich, and that Columbus and 
a few of the knowing old fellows see that he 
must soon die. Now they want Charlie to take 
his place." 

Brown paused triumphantly. 

" I verily believe you've hit it," said Morton. 
" You ought always to live here, considering the 
amount of intellect you are developing." 

At this moment a renewed din once more 
pealed up from the cave, and the party crawled 
back to find out the cause. The gong-beaters, 
Columbus, and his privy councillors were pa- 
rading the captives, and the spectators shuddered 
as they looked down upon hideous remains of 
the late feast scattered about the sandy floor of 
the cavern. This time a fine-looking young 
man was selected and marched up to the vener- 
able figure on the stone. The gong-beaters fell 
back, and Columbus and his companions pro- 
ceeded to smear the youth's forehead with red 
pigment, and marked the cabalistic white triangle 
on his breast. He was then led away to a dark 
corner out of sight of the watchers. 

Brown muttered a deep oath. 



CANNIBALS. 67 

" That's what has been puzzling me," he growled 
to Morton, "how they kept their numbers up; 
of course they recruit from the best-looking 
prisoners." 

"See! they are going to select another," 
whispered his friend. "Bet you two figs of 
tobacco they choose that tall fellow with his hair 
tied in a knot." 

"Done! I'll back the nuggety fellow along- 
side him." 

Brown lost, the tall fellow being marched out 
to receive the marks of the cannibalistic brother- 
hood. 

Columbus and the others now assisted the old 
man to hobble away, and the blacks squatted 
down by the fire and relit fresh ones about the 
ground. 

"Get back to camp," said Morton; "the circus 
is over for to-night." 

Scrambling down the cliff, and using every 
precaution, the party soon regained their camp, 
which they found as deserted as they left it. 



68 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 



CHAPTER YIIL 

Charlie as Decoy Death of the old White Man The 
Fight in the Cave The Catastrophe. 

fTURED out with their exertions and the con- 
JL tinned night work the party slept soundly, 
and awoke at dawn to find the camp as calm and 
silent as if no such tragedies as they had wit- 
nessed were ever enacted in the neighbourhood. 

"Terribly sultry, is it not?" said Morton; "I 
suppose it is because these rocks retain the heat 
so." 

" It seems in the air. Look what a haze there 
is. I don't think I ever felt it so hot at this 
time of day. What do you say to a walk to the 
crater after breakfast?" 

Charlie called out just then that the meal was 
ready, and during its progress the plan of action 
for the day was discussed and agreed upon. 

On arriving at the crater they found it in a 
great state of activity, most of the pools were in 
violent commotion, and constantly overflowing 
into the crater, causing a succession of reports. 

Returning to the camp they found that Colum- 
bus and two or three of the old men had arrived, 
all looking as mild and gentle as if they habit- 
ually lived upon milk and water. 

"Look at the old scoundrel," said Morton; 



THE FIGHT IN THE CAVE. 69 

" his mouth is watering to see us roasting on the 
coals/' 

" I think he only wants to get rid of us and to 
induce us to leave Charlie behind. Now let's 
try him," returned Brown. 

Preparations were then apparently made for 
departure, Charlie intimating to Columbus that 
he intended to go with him. The native appeared 
hugely delighted, and when the time for depar- 
ture arrived neither he nor the others could re- 
strain their expressions of joy. With their swags 
on their shoulders Morton, Brown, and Billy 
strode off along the track by which they had 
come, ostentatiously waving their hands to 
Charlie. 

No sooner, however, were they hidden from the 
camp than Morton and Billy slipped aside amongst 
the rocks, whilst Brown plodded steadily on, 
making as much noise as possible. For nearly a 
quarter of a mile he kept his course, and then 
stepped on one side and stood quietly behind 
a boulder. After five minutes' waiting the sound 
of footsteps was heard, and a native came along, 
evidently following the track to make sure that 
the white men left the place, for he was unarmed 
and alone. He was close up before he saw 
Brown, and then with a frightened cry sprang 
away; but he was too late. Brown had hold of 
him, and exerting all his uncommon strength 
threw him heavily down amongst the rocks, 



70 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

where he lay stunned and quiet. Brown waited 
patiently for some time, but nothing could be 
heard; evidently one native only had been sent 
to watch them away. 

Leaving his swag in a secure hiding-place, 
Brown then cautiously directed his course towards 
the limestone cliff, using every precaution to 
escape being seen. He arrived in sight of the 
mouth of the cave after a toilsome journey, and 
after cautiously reconnoitring gave a low whistle. 
There was no answer, but voices could be heard 
approaching, and peering carefully out Brown 
saw Columbus, Charlie, and three other old men 
emerge from among the rocks and enter the 
cave. At the same moment a low whistle sounded 
near him, to which he instantly replied, and in 
a few minutes Morton and Billy came creeping 
silently along and joined him. 

" It's splendid," said Morton. " Columbus took 
Charlie on one side amongst the rocks, then he 
gave a signal and all the blacks came along the 
track and squatted down in the open space where 
we were camped. Columbus and three old men 
then went away with Charlie, whom they care- 
fully kept hidden, and I think those are all we 
have to deal with ; so come along, for I can't bear 
to let that boy stop alone with them long, 
although I think he's safe enough." 

" We'll just rush the four of them, and then 
take our time examining the place and the white 



THE FIGHT IN THE CAVE. 71 

man is that it?" said Brown; "but how we're 
to get away afterwards I can't make out." 

"We must trust to chance and our rifles; I 
think we can manage. But come quick." 

Noiselessly they stole along the narrow entrance 
that led into the inner cave, and cautiously peered 
in to be sure of their ground before making their 
attack; the prisoners were there and the three 
old men, but Columbus and Charlie were absent. 
" Quick!" whispered Brown, and sprang forward 
on to one, while Morton felled the other with a 
nulla nulla 1 he had picked up. The third made 
a bolt for the entrance, uttering a shrill yell as 
he did so, but Billy, whether through sudden 
fright or not, fired his carbine at him and the 
black dropped dead. 

Startled by the yell and report, Columbus 
came rushing from a dark corner of the cave; 
his eyes were flashing, and all the cannibal in his 
nature seemed aroused. 

"Hit this fellow on the head!" roared Brown, 
releasing his struggling prisoner and grappling 
with the new foe. 

Morton dealt the native a stunning blow with 
the waddy, 1 and then turned to assist his com- 
rade. Strong as Brown was, it would have been 
hard work for him to subdue the infuriated Co- 
lumbus without assistance. Between them they 
got him down and bound him with straps. 
1 A native club of hard wood. 



72 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

"Now for Charlie!" cried Morton, turning in 
the direction of the dark corner. "Something 
must have happened to him." 

"I'm all right, old man; come with me." And 
Charlie showed himself at the entrance of another 
and inner cave. 

First stopping to tell Billy to wait and watch 
the prisoners, and shoot them if they attempted 
to escape, the two friends followed their young 
companion, leaving a strange scene behind them 
Billy Button on guard at the entrance of the 
passage, the savages prostrate on the ground, 
and the captives for the cannibal feast, who had 
preserved a frightened apathy throughout, still 
huddled together. 

In a smaller cave than the one they had just 
quitted, lighted like it through fissures from 
above, the three whites found the old man seated 
on the sandy floor, gazing with his half sightless 
eyes at the unaccustomed figures, for thus much 
could he apparently discern. In a hasty whisper 
Charlie confided to them that he had been speak- 
ing to him, and thought he could make him hear. 

" Try again," said Morton eagerly. 

Charlie stooped down and shouted in the old 
man's ear, "Englishman! White man!" 

A faint gleam of intelligence seemed to illu- 
minate the poor creature's face, and he pointed 
eagerly forward with trembling hands. The 
friends followed the direction of his hands, and 



THE FIGHT IN THE CAVE. 73 

saw a heap of objects piled in a dusky corner of 
the cavern, and Brown strode forward to examine 
them. The attention of the other two was con- 
fined to the ancient white man, who seemed 
strangely moved. He tried to rise and speak, but 
could only struggle ineffectually. It was awful 
to watch his convulsed features, and think what 
secrets he carried hidden in his breast, secrets 
that time had forbidden him to reveal. At last 
with panting effort he half rose up, and with a 
quavering hoarse voice cried distinctly: 

"Yes! Englishman! White man!" and with a 
choking gasp fell back dead. 

Awe-struck and startled the whites looked at 
the body of the unfortunate man who had 
dragged out such a long term of existence 
amongst savages. Not a doubt was in their 
minds but that they were gazing on one of the 
survivors of Leichhardt's lost party, whose fate 
had long been such a mystery. Now the very 
shock of their coming seemed to have shaken the 
last sands of life out, and he had died before 
their eyes with the story of the past untold. 

" Look!" said Charlie, stooping gently over the 
body and indicating the swarthy breast. 

There, almost undecipherable by reason of the 
darkened colour of the skin, was the tatooed 
mark of a rude anchor. 

Suddenly their meditations were interrupted 
by a series of frantic yells from the outside cave, 



74 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

and the report of a rifle. Rushing out, the cause 
was instantly explained. Billy's attention had 
wandered to one of the lady captives, and 
Columbus had, unobserved by him, freed himself 
from the hastily- tied straps. The first thing 
Billy knew about it was a blow from a club, 
and the back view of a figure flying up the 
entrance-passage, at whom he hastily and vainly 
fired, as was pretty evident by the fierce shouts 
of Columbus outside, calling his comrades to 
him. 

"Get you're cartridges ready; we must fight 
for all we're worth," cried Brown. 

Almost as he spoke there was a rush of flying 
feet and a roar of voices at the entrance. 

"Fire like blazes!" ordered Morton, setting an 
example, which was followed by the others, until 
the white smoke nearly filled the cavern. Madly 
and fanatically the natives dashed up the narrow 
passage; but with four breech-loaders playing on 
them, the terrible, unknown lightning and deaf- 
ening thunder smiting their foremost down, two 
and three at a time, the attempt was hopeless; 
they fell back, and for a moment or two there 
was silence. 

"Top! Top! Look out!" suddenly screamed 
Billy, and none too soon. 

Clambering up the cliff the blacks were on the 
plateau forming the roof of the cave, and were 
forcing their way down through the many cracks 



THE FIGHT IN THE CAVE. 75 

and fissures. Hastily abandoning their position, 
the whites had scant time to escape into the open 
air over the bodies o those they had shot down. 
Here, to their astonishment, they found them- 
selves unopposed by the cannibals, who had all 
made for the top of the cliff to gain entrance into 
the cave. 

"What's up, Brown?" cried Morton; "you 
look like a ghost ! Are you hit?" 

" No, I don't think so, but I feel queer, and 
you look sick. For Heaven's sake come over to 
the rocks, quick!" 

An awful feeling of nausea and giddiness 
suddenly and strangely attacked them all. Reel- 
ing to the rocks in front of the cavern they 
threw themselves down in what shade they 
could find, utterly regardless of their enemies. 

The air was pulsating with fiery heat, the 
reports from the crater followed each other with 
scarce any interval, and the earth seemed rock- 
ing beneath them. From the mouth of the 
cavern issued a melancholy wail, the death-chant 
over the dead white man. 

By a great effort Morton rallied himself, for it 
suddenly flashed across him what was going to 
happen. 

"Come on!" he shouted, staggering to his feet 
and making to where an overhanging boulder 
afforded some slight shelter. With difficulty the 
others followed him. As they crouched down, 



76 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

completely unmanned, they felt the ground 
tremble violently; then came a terrific report, 
as if the very rocks were rent asunder, and 
the air was filled with blinding steam and scald- 
ing mud. 

Dead silence reigned for nearly ten minutes, 
then Brown gave a deep sigh and raised his 
head. 

"All aboard!" he cried out. "Anybody hurt?" 

One by one they answered, stood up, and 
looked around. 

"Pretty warm while it lasted," said Morton; 
"that's an experience one does not get every 
day. Those fellows in the cavern were best off." 

" Were they ?" cried Brown excitedly. " Great 
Scott! Look there!" 

He pointed to the brow of the cliff, and they 
all saw what had happened. The mouth of the 
cavern had disappeared, and the shape of the 
cliff was changed. The earth-tremor they had 
just experienced had brought down the roof of 
the cave, and their late enemies and their 
wretched captives lay buried beneath countless 
tons of rock. 

The death- wail they had heard had been the 
death- wail of a whole tribe. The cannibals and 
their victims were in one common tomb. 

" And the secret of that white man lies buried 
there too," said Morton, after a long pause. 

" No, I hope not," replied Brown. " I brought 



THE FIGHT IN THE CAVE. 77 

something away from that heap the old man 
pointed to;" and from the bosom of his shirt he 
drew out an old-fashioned leather pocket-book. 

No one was anxious to examine the contents 
just then; they were all in a hurry to get back 
to camp and quench their thirst, and away from 
the scene of their late adventure. No apparent 
change had taken place in the surroundings 
of their camp, and they made a fire and sat 
down to rest and eat. 

" Poor old Columbus!" said Morton. " I cannot 
help feeling sorry for the old ruffian. He was 
a real plucky fellow. Do you remember how 
coolly he walked in to us the morning we got 
here?" 

"Yes, and after all we had no business 
according to their ideas to interfere with their 
little rites and ceremonies. They treated us in 
a friendly fashion." 

" After all, however, things turned up trumps 
for us. We would not have had the ghost of a 
show in a fight amongst these boulders. No, we 
must thank that earth-tremor for being alive 
now." 

After their meal was over and the four some- 
what rested, Morton proposed a stroll to the 
crater to see how it had fared, for not a single 
report had been heard since the one accompany- 
ing the eruption of mud. 

A wondrous change had taken place, they 



78 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

found. The crater, or what they had taken for 
one, had subsided, and over its site now flowed 
an unbroken sheet of water. The mud on the 
boulders and the turbid condition of the water 
were the only signs of the late convulsion of 
nature. 

" And so," said Brown, " the burning mountain, 
such as it was, is gone for good, and we are the 
only white men living who have seen it, who 
will now ever see it." 

" That's so," commenced Morton, when he was 
interrupted by a footstep from behind. They all 
turned hastily. 

Scarred, bleeding, and burnt, a most miserable 
object, there stood Columbus, the only survivor of 
his tribe. He looked abjectly and imploringly at 
the whites apparently it was to their power he 
attributed the disaster that had happened, and 
came forward with a crushed and broken air, 
gazing woefully at the space where the crater 
had been. 

Brown beckoned, and the blackfellow came up 
to them. 

Just then Charlie and Billy called out loudly 
that the water was sinking. It was true: the 
muddy water was rapidly falling, and a whirl- 
pool was forming in the middle, as though some 
cavity in the earth had been opened by the late 
convulsion. Silently they all watched the water 
as it swirled round quicker and quicker, and a 



THE FIGHT IN THE CAVE. 79 

harsh scream went up from it. In less than half 
an hour the hole was empty, save for a misty 
vapour that arose. This cleared away, and the 
bottom of the hole lay bare a chaotic jumble 
of boulders coated with mud, and in the centre a 
dark rift, as though the crater formation had 
sunk down bodily. 

"Anyone feel inclined to go down there?" said 
Morton. 

"Not just at present," replied Brown; "we'll 
let it cool off a bit first." 

The disappearance of the water seemed to put 
the final blow on the shattered Columbus. He 
followed them readily to the camping-ground, 
where they gave him some food, which he ate 
ravenously, although it made the whites shudder 
to see him, when they remembered what his last 
meal had been. 

In spite of what they had gone through, they 
were all too anxious to get out of the gloomy 
desert of barren rocks to defer their departure, 
and at sundown they started back for the lagoons. 
The ex-chief accompanied them, as they thought 
they could make him useful in furthering their 
future discoveries. 

They arrived at their camp early the next day 
tired out, but right glad to get back to more cheer- 
ful surroundings. Their horses were feeding 
quietly about the place, having enjoyed a better 
time of it than their masters, and everything else 



80 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

was just as they had left it. They endeavoured 
to extract from Columbus the story of his escape, 
and after much misunderstanding managed to 
worry out, that when he found the white man 
dead he thought that the other white men had 
killed him, and rushed out after them. As soon 
as he got outside he was struck down and knew 
no more, excepting that all the others must have 
been buried under the fall of rock. 

" How about those fellows who were sent back 
after the corpse?" suddenly said Morton. 

Further questioning elicited from Columbus that 
six men had gone back, and by the signs he used 
it was evident that they had not yet returned. 

"By Jove, I never thought of them!" said 
Brown. "Lucky they did not come along and 
spear our horses while we were away." 



CHAPTER IX. 

Deciphering the Contents of the Pocket-book An Ex- 
citing Discovery Another Survivor of Leichhardt's 
Party, perhaps still living with a Tribe to the West- 
ward Charlie makes another Proposal. 

AS their camp was in every way a good one, 
and they wanted leisure to decide on their 
future movements, they determined to remain 
where they were for a few days. 



AN EXCITING DISCOVERY. 81 

Brown and Morton set themselves to sort out 
the contents of the old pocket-book, and Charlie 
and Billy went fishing and shooting, diversifying 
their sport with attempts at teaching Columbus 
to ride. 

The pocket-book was found to contain many 
pages of faded writing, which would evidently 
take some time to decipher. Some parts were 
still legible enough, others had suffered mutilation 
and damage from water and smoke. Fortunately 
the handwriting appeared to be that of an educa- 
ted man, so that once they got accustomed to it 
they would be able to piece it together with a 
fair amount of ease. 

It took them nearly all day to sort the leaves 
out into the proper sequence of dates, and in 
doing so they gained a rough idea of the con- 
tents. They found that the journal was written 
by one of three survivors of Dr. Leichhardt's 
party, named Stuart. He and two others (Kelly 
and Murphy) had been living for some time 
with a tribe of friendly blacks to the westward. 
Kelly had been killed during a fight with the 
cannibal tribe whose annihilation they had wit- 
nessed. The journal recorded up to the death 
of Kelly and a few weeks beyond, but gave no 
clue to the subsequent life or fate of the sur- 
vivors. One of them, Brown and Morton agreed, 
was the old white man who had died in the cave, 
but they did not believe that he was the writer 

(M64) F 



82 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

of the journal. It was more likely to have been 
written by Stuart, and the fate of this man 
greatly excited their curiosity and sympathy. 
Was he still living with the friendly tribe to the 
westward? 

This question, they felt with sorrow, must be 
answered in the negative. The presence of his 
companion, the old white man, evidently a 
prisoner amongst the cannibals for years, and the 
strangely preserved unfinished journal, pointed 
conclusively to another fight, the probable death 
of Stuart, and the capture of Murphy. 

"But," suggested Morton hopefully, "those 
captives they brought in possibly came from 
this friendly tribe, which proves that they are 
still in existence. Why should not Stuart be 
yet amongst them?" 

"I hope so, but cannot think it likely," said 
Brown. " What sort of a man should you think 
him to be by the rough idea we have of his 
journal?" 

" A good, self-reliant man." 

"Exactly. And I think that if he was still 
alive he would have trained his tribe up to fight 
these cannibals, and probably have wiped them 
out before now and rescued his comrade." 

"I must confess that your reasoning sounds 
conclusive enough, but I won't give up the hope 
of finding him alive." 

" Nor I, although it is hoping against hope." 



AN EXCITING DISCOVERY. 83 

" We must try and find out from Columbus 
whether this last batch of victims came from 
Stuart's tribe; he might know whether he is 
dead or alive." 

That evening Columbus, who had had several 
spills during his riding-lessons, much to Billy's 
delight, was interrogated about the tribe to the 
westward. It came out that there were two 
tribes which the cannibals harassed, one to the 
south and one to the west. To the north Colum- 
bus intimated that there were no natives. The 
last raid had been made on the tribe to the 
westward, who lived by a lake. Further ex- 
amination elicited the fact that Murphy had 
been brought from there a long, long time ago; 
also, that another white man was there who had 
killed a lot of cannibals and frightened them; 
but that was also long ago, and now they had 
been there two or three times and not seen him. 
They learnt also that he went about everywhere, 
for he was with the tribe to the south one time 
when they went there, and had killed some of 
them there. The southern tribe lived near a 
mountain. 

This was the extent of the information which, 
after much puzzling on both sides, was gleaned 
from the cannibal chief. 

It rather complicated matters. Was Stuart to 
the west or south? Which way would they go 
first? On going into the subject again it appeared 



84 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

that the way to the south was the easier; to 
the west, as was evident by Stuart's journal, 
a long stage of dry desert country had to be 
crossed. 

" At any rate," said Morton, " we have a couple 
of days to think it over. We must make a legible 
transcription of that journal, and I propose that 
we make two copies; I will keep one, Charlie 
another, and you, Brown, stick to the original. 
This will ensure us somewhat against accident." 

"Can I go and explore that hole where the 
crater disappeared while you're busy at that?" 
said Charlie. 

"Go by yourself?" asked Morton. 

" No. I'll take Billy and Columbus." 

"And supposing these missing men, the six 
sent to take the corpse to the cemetery, turn up 
while you are in amongst the rocks? What 
chance would you and Billy have, especially if 
Columbus went over to their side?" 

" I'd take care Columbus didn't turn traitor," 
said Charlie viciously. 

"What do you say, Brown?" inquired Morton. 
" Shall we let Charlie go?" 

" How do you propose getting down the hole?" 
asked Brown. 

" We can climb down," returned Charlie. 

"I don't think you'll find either Billy or 
Columbus go far with you," said Morton. " If 
we had any sort of a rope I should not mind, 



AN EXCITING DISCOVERY. 85 

but there's nothing but the tent-line, and that's 
not strong enough." 

" I'll take great care," pleaded Charlie. 

" No doubt you will, but if you make a slip 
and flop down some thirty or forty feet, no 
amount of care will get you back again with 
sound bones." 

Charlie looked unconvinced. 

"We could keep a look-out for the absent 
natives," said Brown. " They are bound to come 
along this track, I suppose." 

"Could not Columbus make some sort of 
a mark to stop them?" 

"I'm afraid not. Blacks can communicate 
in some way you have seen their 'yabber- 
sticks ', I suppose, but I don't think we could 
make Columbus understand what we wanted, 
nor do I suppose he would do it if we could." 

" Strange how they can communicate, though. 
The time Faithful's party were murdered in 
Victoria, the blacks in the settled districts knew 
of it long before the whites did." 

"Well, can I go or not?" demanded Charlie. 

" I'll sleep on it," replied Morton. " I think 
you can take care of yourself, and I can trust 
Billy as far as one can trust a blackfellow. But 
remember, I am responsible for you, and if any- 
thing happened to you I should be to blame." 

With this Charlie had to content himself until 
the next morning. 



86 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

Morton and Brown stopped up late, smoking 
by the fire. 

" Shall you let the boy go?" asked Brown. 

" I think so, but I'm doubtful of those fellows 
behind; they might slip past us in the dark and 
fall foul of Charlie when he was not expecting 
them. If they had fair play Charlie and Billy 
could hold their own, but they might take them 
at a disadvantage in amongst those boulders." 

At this moment a wailing cry in the distance 
made them both start. The cry exactly re- 
sembled the mourning lamentations they had 
heard in the scrub. 

" That settles one part of the question," said 
Brown. " Those fellows are on their way back. 
Kick old Columbus up and get him to answer 
them." 

Morton promptly roused the slumbering chief- 
tain, and when he heard the approaching cry he 
at once answered it. Then he went out to meet 
them. Apparently he soon told them all about 
the catastrophe that had taken place, for pre- 
sently a great cry went up. Columbus soon 
after appeared, leading them into the firelight. 
Six truculent-looking ruffians they were, but it 
was evident that Columbus had impressed them 
with a due respect for the power of the whites, 
to whose anger he attributed the misfortune 
that had befallen their tribe, for they all wore 
a very humble and downcast air. 



THE MISSING EXPEDITION. 87 

Charlie, who had come out of the tent on 
hearing the noise, gave them some food, and they 
made a fire apart and squatted beside it, Colum- 
bus being cautioned against allowing them to 
sneak off during the night. As the blacks were 
unarmed, and they now had all the survivors 
under their direct observation, no watch was 
kept, and the late enemies soon slept soundly 
without any misgivings. 



CHAPTER X. 

Stuart's Journal News of the Missing Expedition- 
Charlie Departs. 

FXT morning Morton told Charlie that, as 
the natives had turned up, he could go and 
explore the site of the crater, but he must be 
back within three days. Columbus was made 
to understand that the six blacks were to remain 
in the camp, otherwise they would share the 
fate of their countrymen. As there was a good 
supply of game, fish, ducks, and pigeons, they 
could easily live without trespassing on the 
rations of the whites. As Charlie was not to 
leave before an hour or so before sundown, he 
had ample time to make his preparations. Mean- 
time the others went seriously to work tran- 



88 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

scribing the journal, which took them the greater 
part of the day. 

The result of their labours was as follows: 

Stuart's Journal. 

"September, 1848. We have been fortunate 
in striking a well- watered river, but " (Here 
there was a portion mutilated.) 

"September 12. Still these aimless journeys 
to the westward, across plains, barren and water- 
less, and which are so loose and cracked that 
every time we make an attempt we lose some 
of our animals. Fortunately, we have this fine 
river running north and south to fall back on. 
The men are very discontented, and the prospect 
ahead is anything but bright. 

"September 16. Two more horses knocked 
up by this obstinate pushing into an impassable 
desert. Klausen and I must remonstrate seri- 
ously to-night. 

" September 18. Thank Heaven, we managed 
to make the Doctor see his folly, and we are 
now on the move north to get on to his old track 
and work round that way. Everything going 
on much smoother. 

"September 20. Country still well watered, 
and travelling easy; expect soon to " (Here 
the journal was undecipherable to the end of the 
page, and the succeeding one was dated more 
than a month ahead.) 



THE MISSING EXPEDITION. 89 

"November 2. We are still on the Doctor's 
first track round the foot of the Gulf; but 
although there is ample feed and water our 
horses are falling away, and do not look as well 
as they did in the dry country. 

"November 3. Had some trouble with the 
natives yesterday when crossing a small river. 
We had to fire twice at them before they ran 
away. Klausen was speared in the arm with 
a barbed spear, which had to be cut out." 

(Here there was another gap where the journal 
had been mutilated.) 

"December 15. We are still camped on the 
river, which the Doctor called ' The Roper ' on 
his first trip. Klausen's arm prevents our mov- 
ing. Inflammation has set in and I am afraid he 
will die. Blacks very troublesome. 

"December 16. Klausen died last night; we 
buried him this morning. We now leave the 
Doctor's old Port-Essington track and follow 
this river up, south and west. 

"December 20. Getting into dry country again, 
and the scrub is becoming very bad. We are 
scarcely able to force a way through on foot " 

(Here, for many pages, the journal was so 
mutilated and discoloured by water that only an 
occasional line was intelligible. These seemed to 
point to the party being constantly baffled by 
scrub and dry country; and also that some of 
them were attacked by scurvy.) 



90 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

"You've been in Queensland, Brown?" said 
Morton when they arrived at this stage in their 
transcription. " How do you follow out this 
journal?" 

"As plain as print. Stuart's journal at least 
the part we have commences on what is now 
known as the Diamantina River, I think. The 
great dry plains he speaks of are to the west- 
ward of that river, and in a dry season would be 
impassable to anyone not knowing the country. 
By following the river up they would easily 
cross the watershed on to the Gulf of Carpentaria 
waters, and so get on to Leichhardt's old track." 

Brown got a map out of the pack and illus- 
trated thereon what he had just said. 

The next coherent portion of the journal would 
seem to have been written after a disaster. 

"April 24th, 1849. There are now only five 
of us left; two Hen tig and the Doctor are 
both sick. The other two must have died on 
the dry stage, as they have not come in here and 
the blacks would not let them go back. I have 
not been able to write my journal for some days, 
and as the Doctor cannot write now, no record 
at all has been kept. We were just packing up 
to leave the rocky water-hole in the scrub where 
we had been camped for some days, when the 
blacks attacked us on all sides. There were so 
many of them, and they had such good cover in 
the scrub, that we fairly had to get away as best 



THE MISSING EXPEDITION. 91 

wo could without water, or all of our packs. 
While we were trying to keep them off a gun 
burst and nearly shattered the Doctor's hand. 
This forced us to hasten our retreat to get him 
safely away, leaving some of our horses and 
mules behind. Immediately on getting out of 
the scrub we found ourselves in open stunted 
forest, covered with prickly grass. We kept to 
the south-west until evening and then camped 
for a while, for the Doctor and Hentig could go 
no further. We had travelled very slowly, and 
when we camped Kelly asked me how far I 
thought we had come. I told him about ten 
miles. He then proposed that we should take 
the freshest horses and go back and try and get 
some water, as even if the blacks were camped 
at the hole they would be asleep at the time we 
got there. I agreed with him, for it seemed 
hopeless to go on through this dry forest without 
water. I suggested, however, that we should 
take all the animals and Murphy, and if possible 
give the blacks a fright. Leaving the two others 
to look after the sick men and keep a fire going, 
we started, and were singularly fortunate. We 
got back soon after midnight and found the 
blacks camped by the water-hole. They were 
asleep, having been feasting on the horses we were 
forced to abandon. Some awoke, however, and 
we immediately rushed into the camp, shouting 
and firing. They fled indiscriminately, leaving 



92 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

most of their weapons behind, and these we 
heaped on the fires. We were lucky enough to 
find two big kegs we had abandoned, and filling 
these and all the canteens we had brought, we 
started back as soon as possible before the natives 
recovered from their scare. We reached camp 
soon after sunrise, and but for the success of 
our raid none of us would be alive now, for that 
dry forest continued without change or break, 
day after day. We hoarded up some of the 
water for the sick men and managed to keep 
them on their horses, but I remember nothing of 
the last day, nor how the other two parted from 
us. Murphy says they went after what they 
insisted was a smoke, but he says it was only 
a whirlwind passing over burnt country. Kelly 
found this water-hole through seeing two white 
parrots coming from this direction early in the 
morning. It is on the edge of the forest, and to 
the west lies a great plain, still covered with the 
same prickly grass. There is a little coarse grass 
for the few beasts we have now left, but the 
water in the hole is thick and muddy and fast 
drying up. 

" April 25th. We have been back to try and 
find the other two men, but without success; we 
must stay here " 

(Another break in the narrative here came in, 
the paper seemingly having been scorched by 
fire.) 



STUART'S JOURNAL. 93 

As it was now getting on for the hour when 
Charlie's departure on his trip was to take place, 
the two men knocked off their work and assisted 
him to get away. Fortunately, having Colum- 
bus with them, they were enabled to lighten the 
packs considerably, as they made him carry his 
share. Morton parted with his young relation 
with some misgiving still he liked his pluck, 
and did not care to baulk him. By the time the 
sun disappeared the three of them were mere 
specks in the distance of the great plain. 

The six natives seemed quite contented to stay 
where they were, but both Morton and Brown 
determined to keep a sharp eye on them. If 
they discovered them trying to make for the 
rock-plain they could easily overtake them on 
horseback before they could cross. However, 
they were there in the morning, and Brown and 
Morton settled down to the continuation of the 
journal. 



CHAPTER XL 

Continuation of Stuart's Journal. 

THE narrative now assumed a more connected 
form, telling of the death of Dr. Leichhardt 
and the rescue of the three survivors by the 
friendly natives; also of the discovery by Stuart 



94 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

of some curious cave paintings, which bore evi- 
dence of being the work of a race superior to 
the present inhabitants of the interior. 

Continuation of Stuart's Journal. 

" Ever since the Doctor injured his hand 

through the musket bursting he has been subject 
to attacks of feverishness and temporary mad- 
ness, and this has greatly added to the hope- 
lessness of our position. I have often asked him 
for some definite statement of his intentions, but 
he seems quite unable to go into any details, and 
I am afraid we are fearfully out in our reckon- 
ing. Hentig still terribly bad with scurvy. 

"May 1, 1849. Since my last entry we have 
buried Hentig, and the Doctor must soon follow. 
If we could only get across this dry country 
ahead of us we might be able to move on, but 
since we are almost without rations and most of 
our horses dead it seems as though we must 
leave our bones here, for there is no turning 
back. Doctor much worse. Kelly says that 
there is only two days' more water left in the 
hole. No sign of rain. Weather getting cooler. 

" May 2. This morning, before the sun got up, 
I climbed the tall tree on the edge of the plain, 
and distinctly saw a faint smoke to the west- 
ward, in the same direction that Kelly thought 
he noticed it when we first came here. To- 
morrow we will start towards it; it is all we 



STUART'S JOURNAL. 95 

can do. How we shall get the Doctor on I can- 
not tell; he is almost helpless, and his mind is 
quite gone. We have four horses and two mules. 
Besides the Doctor, whom I look upon as a dead 
man, there are Kelly, Murphy, and myself 
(Stuart). Hentig is buried under the tree with 
the cross cut on it. Klausen died on the river 
Roper five months ago. I will bury a copy of 
this in a powder-flask in Hentig's grave, as well 
as the Doctor's papers." 

(Here there was an evident gap in the narra- 
tion.) 

"I have been too ill to write for many days, how 
long I don't know, for we have all of us lost 
count. I am only just beginning to remember our 
journey across that horrible desert. We started 
in the direction I had seen smoke, after using up 
every drop of water for the animals at the camp 
where Hentig is buried. We took it in turns to 
hold the Doctor on his horse, but he got very bad 
a few hours after we started, and when the sun 
grew hot he begged us to lift him off the horse 
for a little while. We had all the canteens full, 
and Kelly had made a bag of calico and rubbed 
it outside with goat's fat, and it held water 
tolerably welL So we gave the Doctor plenty to 
drink, but he got no better, and about noon he 
died. He talked a good deal to himself in Ger- 
man, but had lost all knowledge of us or where 
he was, and a good thing too. We could not 



96 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

stop to bury him, for we had to push on, so we 
left him there on the big plain, where I think 
no living thing ever comes or ever will come 
since we were there. It was the second day out 
when we got on to that prickly grass plain with 
deep red sand, and then our horses began to give 
up, and we had to walk and try and drive all 
the beasts; but they were so thirsty they would 
not keep together, so we stopped and talked 
about what was best to be done. Kelly and I 
agreed that it was best to unpack all the animals, 
and, taking all the water and as much food as 
we could carry, to march on, and perhaps if wt 
soon came to water we could come back for the 
beasts. Murphy did not think so; he thought 
we could drive them on on foot when it got 
dark, but we persuaded him that we were right, 
and started. We walked on long after it got 
dark, and then we lay down and slept on the 
sandy plain amongst the prickly grass, for since 
leaving the camp we have never passed a tree. 
In the night Kelly called me and pointed to 
a light in the west, which was evidently the 
reflection of a large fire. Next morning we met 
it, for a wind had sprung up in the morning. It 
was well for us that it was almost barren country 
where we met the flames, otherwise we would 
have been burnt. As it was we were nearly stifled 
with heat and smoke. Afterwards, all that day 
and night, we watched the glare of it behind us 



STUART'S JOURNAL. 97 

blazing amongst the dry prickly grass we had 
passed through, carried on by the strong wind 
that now blew, and we knew that our animals, 
saddles, and the Doctor's body would be burnt 
up, and no one would ever see more of them; so 
it was with sorrowful hearts we walked on. 
That day I saw some trees on ahead, and we 
turned " 

(Here the journal had been effaced, apparently 
by water, but nothing of importance appeared 
lost.) 

" Murphy was the weakest, but we stood by 
him, although the burnt country was very dis- 
tressing. Kelly got a little light-headed towards 
morning, and I began to feel the same. I don't 
remember much more; it all seems a dream of 
stumbling along and helping each other, some- 
times talking to the phantoms we all fancied we 
saw walking with us ; and then I came partly to 
my senses under a rough shade of boughs, and 
before me was this great lake, and I knew by 
the smell of the place and almost without looking 
around that I was in a camp of the natives. 
Kelly and Murphy were alive, and better than I 
was. They remembered something about the 
natives helping us to the water, for we had 
passed it, and were going right away " 

(Another gap.) 

" June. I have put down June, for I think it 
must be that time of the year, as near as I can 

(M64) G 



98 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

make it. Neither Kelly nor Murphy can read or 
write, so while I was ill they did not keep the 
dates. The natives are quite friendly, and Kelly, 
who was born in the bush of the southern portion 
of the colony, has attained great influence over 
them, as he is very active, and can use nearly all 
their weapons. I have been round the lake; it 
is nearly sixty miles round, but very shallow, 
except at the end where our camp is. The 
natives tell me it dries up some seasons, with the 
exception of the deep hole here. They have 
canoes made out of shells of trees, and can man- 
age them very well, standing upright and poling 
or sculling with a spear. They know nothing of 
any other blacks, excepting a tribe to the east- 
ward, of whom they seem greatly frightened. 
They are a very simple people, and live well, as 
there is plenty of fish in the lake and wild fowl. 
Kelly and Murphy have quite settled down to 
the life, but how different it is for me! When 
I think of my own people, and how I am doomed 
to live and die amongst savages, I nearly go mad; 
for unless other white men find their way here 
I must die here; and who would cross that 
horrible sand plain ? If the Doctor had but lived 
we might have found some way of escape, but 
he and our horses and saddles are all burnt up. 
What is the good of keeping this record? No 
one will ever read it. I will become a savage 
like those around me, and forget what I was. 
"July. I must write or I shall forget my 



STUART'S JOURNAL. 99 

language, and that I must keep while life lasts. 
A strange thing happened to-day. The old man 
Powlbarri came to me and made me understand 
that he wanted me to go with him, he had some- 
thing to show me. I followed him to the ridge 
where the great sandstone rocks are, and he led 
through a gap between two of them so narrow 
that we could scarcely squeeze along. In a short 
time we stood in a spacious cave that penetrated 
seemingly into the depths of the ridge. There 
was a bar of limestone in the side and a few 
stalactites, but not many, and light was admitted 
dimly through cracks and crevices overhead. But 
when my eyes were more accustomed to the light 
I started with affright, for partly overhead and 
partly confronting me was a strange gigantic 
shape with outstretched hand. I recoiled for an 
instant, and then saw how I had been deceived; 
it was a rock painting on the sloping roof of the 
cave. It bore no resemblance to the ordinary 
crude tracings of the natives. I looked at it 
narrowly, and tried to get out of the old man 
who did it. He gave me to understand that it 
had been always there as well as I could com- 
prehend him, longer than the blacks knew of. 
The figure was of heroic size, with straight 
symmetrical features, the head surrounded by 
a halo or turban, and the body attired in a rough 
semblance of a robe. The whole figure was of 
grave aspect, and much reminded me of the 
drawings I had seen of Egyptian gods. The old 



100 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

man beckoned to me to withdraw, and I was not 
sorry to do so, for I wanted time to think, and 
intended to come back with Kelly and Murphy 
and explore the place thoroughly. We passed 
out of the cave, and had just squeezed through 
the gap when our ears were greeted with a shrill 
discordant yell of terror from the camp. With 
an answering shout my companion with extra- 
ordinary agility bounded from my side, and I 
ran after him. There was little doubt what had 
happened; the dreaded tribe from the east had 
surprised and attacked the camp. When I arrived 
on the scene the fight was just assuming extensive 
proportions. At first the boys, gins, and old 
men had been easily overpowered, some killed 
and some captured; but a hunting-party came 
up, amongst whom were my two companions, who 
now went naked, and were nearly as dark as the 
natives. Kelly, who would have made a brave 
and dashing soldier if fate had so willed, plunged 
at once into the thick of the fray, followed by 
Murphy, who was slower in his movements. 
There appearance disconcerted the enemy, who 
were horribly distinguished by a red smear on 
the forehead and a white triangle on the breast. 
They rallied, however, but Kelly's onset, so dif- 
ferent from the ordinary method of native war- 
fare, had evidently staggered them. I was about 
to join our side when I remembered that nearly 
the only part of our equipment saved was my 
double - barrelled pistol and ammunition bag. 



STUART'S JOURNAL. 101 

This I had never used, reserving it for our own 
protection, and I ran to my whirlie and came 
back with it loaded. A tall blackfellow was 
engaged with Kelly, and rushing up I fired at 
and shot him. There was an instantaneous lull 
of surprise, and at the discharge of the other bar- 
rel the attackers straightway fled, and even our 
own side seemed inclined to follow their example. 
Alas, our victory was dearly bought ! Kelly was 
speared through the chest, mortally I saw at 
once; and so it turned out, for the poor boy died 
with his head on my knee in a few minutes. 
We buried him that evening, and never did I 
feel more sorry than for my bright young com- 
panion, who, although uneducated, had many 
noble qualities, and " 

(Here there was a large portion of the journal 
quite undecipherable; the few words distin- 
guishable seem to point to a visit to the cave 
with Murphy.) 

"The strange mystery of the cave paintings 
still puzzles me. The additional smaller drawings 
we discovered are most singular, and certainly 
point to other authorship than that of the 
natives. In many places there are signs like a 
written language, and the peculiar portrayal of 
dress indicates an Asiatic origin." 

(Another gap.) 

"I miss Kelly still. Murphy is dull and in- 
tractable; he has sunk to the level of his savage 
companions. God, have pity on me, for I 



102 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

shall never never see my countrymen again! 
Surrounded by deserts, impassable to me on 
foot, I must drag out my life here, hoping for 
the succour that will come too late to save me." 

(Here the narrative broke off, although several 
more blank leaves in the pocket-book were 
available.) 



CHAPTER XII. 

Charlie's Adventure. 

WELL," said Brown, "which is it to be? 
South or west?" 

"According to Columbus, Stuart was down 
with the southern tribe the last time they saw 
him, which is apparently many years ago." 

" And he says that the road to the southern 
tribe is the easier to travel. I think we ought 
to go there first." 

"Then tackle the western lot. We must 
thoroughly examine those caves he speaks of." 

"Yes, the horses are in fine hard condition 
now; we will make a start as soon as Charlie 
comes back." 

" We ought to go round by Hentig's grave and 
recover those papers." 

" We have got our work cut out. Lucky we 
brought a good supply of rations." 

The six niggers appeared to have settled down 



CHARLIE'S ADVENTURE. 103 

contentedly to await the return of Columbus. 
They were not at all intelligent, and both men 
failed in getting any further information from 
them. 

" What's to become of these beggars when we 
leave?" said Brown. "We must take Columbus 
with us to show us the best road." 

" There's plenty of game here, and up and 
down the water-course they will be able to earn 
an honest living," returned Morton. "There's 
not enough of them to resort to their cannibal 
practices again." 

" I sha'n't be sorry when Charlie comes back; I 
am tired of doing nothing." 

The time appointed for Charlie's return drew 
near without any sign of the three men. Mor- 
ton watched the plain all day, finding it impos- 
sible to conceal his anxiety, and blaming himself 
for having allowed the boy to go. 

At last, not long before sundown, a solitary 
figure was seen approaching. Morton eagerly 
snatched up the glasses. 

" Columbus. And alone," said he, putting the 
glasses down with a sigh. 

The two friends waited anxiously for the 
approach of the native. Instinctively they felt 
that some disaster must have happened. 

As soon as Columbus was within hearing he 
commenced howling dismally, and the six others 
answered him, lamenting in a loud voice. This 
was kept up at intervals until Columbus reached 



104 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

the camp. Without waiting to be questioned, 
he held up two fingers and pointed down to the 
ground. Charlie and Billy were evidently in 
trouble somewhere underground. Brown indi- 
cated that they would go out there, which was 
evidently what Columbus wanted. 

" We must take all the surcingles," said Brown; 
"they will bear Charlie's weight, I think, and 
will make a good long rope buckled together." 

"Columbus has been evidently sent back to 
bring assistance; and the old beggar has trav- 
elled too, by the look of him. What do you say 
to taking two of the others with us?" 

" I suppose they will not sack the camp while 
we are away?" returned Brown. 

"No, they are not civilized enough for that. 
Now let us make all the haste we can." 

Columbus was instructed to tell two of the 
blacks to accompany them, and to explain to 
these men what had happened. This he did in 
several rapid sentences, and in a few minutes they 
were ready for the road. Their equipment was 
but light, as they only took their revolvers, 
candles, the surcingles, and a little food and 
some brandy, a small supply of which they 
had with them; this with their water-bags would 
be all they required, they reckoned. They 
pushed on with scarcely a rest all night, and 
found the advantage of having the natives with 
them, for they could not have found their way 
amongst the boulders in the dark. 



CHARLIE'S ADVENTURE. 105 

About an hour before daylight they stood 
once more on the edge of the hole in which 
the crater had sunk. There was a decided 
bad odour arising from it, distinctly noticeable 
at that time. 

Morton leaned over the edge and shouted 
"Below there!" as loud as he could. There was 
silence for a second or two, and then " Below 
there!" came thundering back. 

" Echo," said Brown. 

Morton tried again with the same result. 

Brown fired his pistol, but the thunder of the 
echoes was the only answer. 

"They must be poisoned with foul air," said 
Morton, in tones of the deepest sorrow. 

" Must we wait until daylight ? " asked Brown. 

"I am afraid so. We might come to grief 
ourselves, and then it would be all up indeed. 
However, I think I can get down to the edge of 
the fissure without much danger, if you and the 
two blacks can hang on to the surcingles." 

The preparations were soon completed, and 
Morton carefully made his way down the slop- 
ing sides of the hole and amongst the mud-en- 
crusted boulders, by the help of the surcingles, 
which Brown and the two natives held above. It 
was slow work, for the candle he had gave out 
only a feeble light, but at last he found himself 
at the edge of the rift at the bottom. He stood 
listening for some time; presently, with an 
up-blast of cold air that nearly extinguished his 



106 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

candle, came a strange wail as though some giant 
was sighing, far underground. 

" Hear anything up there, Brown?" he shouted. 

" Not a sound. Are you on level ground, can 
we slack off?" 

" Yes, slack off. But do you think you could 
trust the two blacks to hold it while you come 
down ? I will come back and show you a light." 

" I'll chance it at any rate," returned Brown, 
and presently he stood beside his friend. 

Morton told him of the strange sound he had 
heard, and both stood by the edge of the hole 
and listened. Once more the blast of cold air 
came and with it the melancholy and mysterious 
noise. 

" That's no human or animal noise," said 
Brown; "it seems more like water or air escap- 
ing." 

" The atmosphere does not seem so bad now," 
said Morton. "I suppose it was the contrast 
with the pure air above." 

" It was getting light to the eastward when I 
came down just now," returned Brown; "we had 
better wait for full daylight half an hour can- 
not make much difference." 

"It might make all the difference," replied 
Morton; "however, I suppose there is no help 
for it." 

At that moment there was a sudden cry from 
above. 

"Wonder what's up?" said Morton, scrambling 



CHARLIE'S ADVENTURE. 107 

back. "Hang it all!" he exclaimed as he laid 
hold of the surcingles and they came tumbling 
down, showing that the blacks above had let go 
of them. 

Presently they were heard jabbering at the 
edge of the hole, and Morton shouted to them 
and threw a coil of the surcingles up. Ap- 
parently they understood what was wanted, 
for the line tautened once more and Morton 
scrambled up, and then assisted Brown. The 
dawn was rapidly breaking, and the blacks, 
pointing to the candle Morton still held in his 
hand and then towards the memorable cliffs, 
chattered volubly. 

" They must mean that they saw a light in 
that direction," said Brown, " It's too light for 
us to see now." 

"Shall we go over there or investigate this 
hole?" 

"They must have seen something by the start 
they got; perhaps we had better go there first." 

Accompanied by the two natives, who led the 
way by a path known to them, they made for 
the shattered cliff which they had hoped never 
to see again. As they approached it an awful 
odour, evidently stealing through the cracks from 
the bodies rotting beneath the collapsed roof, 
made itself disagreeably evident. The blacks 
kept on talking to one another, as though dis- 
cussing what they now saw for the first time. 
Arrived at the place, the white men mounted on 



108 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

the piled-up debris, and both together shouted 
with the full strength of their lungs. To their 
delight a distinct answer was heard from beneath 
their feet, evidently no echo. 

" It's Charlie's voice!" cried Morton delightedly. 
" Where are you ? " he yelled. 

" Here ! " came the voice, right under their feet. 

"In the old cave?" asked Morton. 

"No, but close to it; there's a vile smell here." 

"How did you get there?" 

" Came underground. Do you think you can 
get us out here, or must we go back again to the 
crater?" 

" The blacks saw your light, so there must be 
a big gap somewhere. Have a good look round, 
it's sunrise now." 

There was a silence for a while, then Charlie's 
voice sounded a little further off. 

" There's a big crack here, but too narrow for 
us to get through." 

The men above went in the direction of the 
sound, and soon found the fissure. 

" It would take dynamite to shift this one," said 
Brown, putting his hand on the huge boulder 
that formed one side of the rift. 

Morton knelt down on the flat rock that 
formed the opposite side and put his hand into 
the crevice. 

"Hurrah!" he shouted, "this is only a slab; 
the four of us can shift this, I think." 

So it proved. The four, with one unanimous 



CHARLIE'S ADVENTURE. 109 

pull, managed to partly upraise the limestone 
slab, and Morton adroitly kicked a big stone 
underneath which kept it in position. Charlie 
was now able to crawl out, followed by Billy. 

"Here, take a swig of this before you say 
anything," said Morton, mixing some brandy and 
water in his pannikin. 

Charlie took some and handed the remainder 
to Billy, who looked particularly scared. 

"How long have you been cruising about in 
the bowels of the earth?" asked Brown. 

" Since the night before last, or early yesterday 
morning. I did not go down the deep hole when 
I first came here, because I had promised to be 
careful. I went down the first one, and then 
got some dead leaves from the old bottle-tree 
camp, lit them, and threw them down. By the 
light we could see that there were no sides to 
the hole it seemed as though it had been 
punched in the roof of a tunnel. However, we 
found a place at last where some boulders 
were piled up, and I thought that, with Billy's 
help, I could get down on to them. I did so, 
and found that I could get from there on to 
the floor of the place without any trouble. I 
came back for Billy, and he was being helped 
down by Columbus, when suddenly there came 
a most awful sound, half a shriek and half a sigh, 
which so frightened Billy that he must have 
let go, for he came tumbling on top of me, and 
the two of us dislodged the boulder, which was 



110 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

not very firm to start with. Fortunately we 
were neither of us hurt, but Columbus must have 
thought we were killed, for he cleared out " 

" And came straight back to us, luckily," inter- 
rupted Morton. 

"When I found that he was gone," went on 
Charlie, " I thought we could get back again by 
piling rocks up to stand upon ; but there were no 
small ones, they were all too big for us to shift. 
We waited there, and shouted, and called, and 
every now and again we heard that sigh '* 

" We heard it as well," said Morton. 

"Billy shook with fright every time, and 
nearly made me as bad as himself. At last 
I made up my mind to explore the passage we 
were in; but I had a great job with Billy, for the 
passage led in the direction the sound came from, 
and Billy conjured up all manner of horrors. 
Luckily I had the packet of candles with me 
when I came down, so we had plenty of light." 

" Was the air bad?" asked Morton. 

"There was a funny damp smell, but the 
candles burnt well, and we felt no bad effects. 
The passage was smooth enough underfoot but 
not very high, so that we had to stoop; but 
we came to occasional places where we could 
straighten our backs. The noise kept getting 
louder, until at last Billy with his terror got to 
be such a nuisance, that when we got to where 
there was enough space I put my candle down 
and gave him a good punching." 



CHARLIE'S ADVENTURE. Ill 

Here Brown and Morton burst out laughing. 
The idea of Charlie, down in the blackness of 
a subterranean passage, thumping Billy to keep 
his own courage up, was too original. 

"Presently we came to where the passage 
branched, and along one came the noise, now 
a regular bellow. Nothing could induce Billy to 
go along that one; he threw himself on the 
ground and let me kick him, but he wouldn't 
budge." 

"Were you very anxious to go yourself, 
Charlie?" asked Brown. 

"I had to keep up appearances," returned 
Charlie modestly. " We started along the other 
passage, and presently it began to ascend, and 
was littered and partly blocked with boulders; 
finally, after much trouble and squeezing, we 
got up to where you found us. It was dark 
when we got there, but I knew by the fresh 
air coming in that there were some cracks some- 
where leading to the upper world, and I guessed 
by the smell that we must be in the neighbour- 
hood of the old cave. We went back a bit and 
lay down to sleep, and when I woke up we 
came here again so as to be ready to try and get 
out at the first dawn." 

"Thank goodness it's all over," said Morton; 
" for I've had a rare fright, and Brown and I 
have been travelling all night. However, we 
won't go back without investigating the mystery 
of the noise." 



112 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

There was still some water lying about in the 
rock holes around the crater, so when they re- 
turned they set to work and got breakfast ready. 

Charlie thought with them that the strange 
noise was made by an escape of water or air, 
both from the regularity of the sound and its 
peculiar nature. 



CHAPTER XIII 

Investigation of the Mysterious Noise The Trip South 
Natives Exterminated Stuart's Initials Found. 

AS soon as the meal was finished, Morton, 
Brown, and Charlie descended the hole, 
but Billy declined the invitation extended to 
him. By the aid of the surcingles they climbed 
down into the passage already traversed by 
Charlie and Billy, and which appeared to have 
been an underground water-course at the time 
when the boiling springs were at work. 

At last they arrived at the branch passage 
from whence came the mysterious noise, and 
along this they proceeded cautiously. Suddenly 
across their path extended a black chasm, bring- 
ing them to a stand-still. Testing the ground 
carefully, they crawled to the edge and looked 
over. The darkness was intense, but on holding 
the candle out, a tiny spark was reflected down 
below, as though from the surface of a sheet of 



THE TRIP SOUTH. 113 

water. Suddenly this disappeared, and the loud 
sigh, or, as Charlie had called it, "a regular 
bellow ", came up from the pit. This died down, 
and they heard a repeated swishing noise, like 
water splashing against rocks. Morton inverted 
his candle so as to get the wick well alight, and 
then dropped it down the hole. They watched 
it falling for some time ere it struck the water 
with a distinctly audible hiss. 

"By Jove! it's a long way down there. I 
don't think we need stop here any longer unless 
Charlie wants to go down." 

"No, thanks," said Charlie, "my curiosity is 
quite satisfied." 

They retreated as cautiously as they had 
advanced, followed by the melancholy roar from 
below. 

"It's the water that makes that noise," said 
Brown. " The water down there is evidently 
still in a disturbed state, and is regularly set in 
motion, and rushes up some sort of a blow-hole." 

"Do you think it has any connection with 
that hot swamp and lake down south?" 

"Without any doubt; perhaps we shall find 
that lake all burst up when we go down there." 

They retraced their steps, and, by the aid of 
the surcingles held by the blacks above, emerged 
once more into the open air. They rested most of 
the day, and started back to what they now 
considered their main camp as soon as the 
evening grew cool. 

(M 64) H 



114 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

Columbus and the other four blacks were 
there, and everything as they had left it. 

" That was a smart trick," said Brown. 

"What was?" 

" In our hurry to start after Charlie, we left 
the journal and the copies we had made lying 
loose in the tent. If the grass had taken fire, 
or the niggers looted the camp, we should have 
lost all our work." 

Morton whistled. 

They rested one day, and then made an early 
start for the south. They had rigged up a make- 
shift saddle for Columbus, and, as they travelled 
slowly, he was able to get along fairly well. 
They reached the swamp about the same time 
as before, and at first noticed no change in it. 
On penetrating it, however, they found that it 
was not so boggy as formerly, and on mounting 
the tree they had already climbed, they saw that 
the water in the lake had fallen considerably, and 
the fringe of reeds was drooping. 

" Do you think all these fine trees will die if 
the water dries up?" said Charlie. 

" They may. But as their roots go down to a 
great depth, I should think they would hold on a 
good many years yet." 

Next morning Columbus indicated the track 
they had come upon before, and they soon had 
left the swamp behind them. The country was 
exceedingly monotonous, there being no break 
in the forest until about four in the afternoon; 



THE TRIP SOUTH. 115 

then they suddenly came to a creek, and the 
country began to improve, and better grass was 
apparent. At the first water they came to they 
camped for the night. Columbus intimated to 
them that the creek they were on and the one 
where they had been camped were the same, and 
as the characteristics were similar, they con- 
cluded that he was right, and that the creek had 
re-formed again. Columbus also informed them 
that they would now follow the creek, and that 
there was plenty of water all the way. On 
inquiry, he said that they would reach the 
mountain in two days. 

On the evening of the second day they got into 
broken country, although it was still well grassed, 
and the creek had largely increased in size. 
From the crest of one ridge they passed over, 
Columbus pointed to the mountain now visible 
in the distance. 

Next day the country was much rougher, and 
the creek ran through a succession of gorges. 
The mountain was the highest point of the 
broken country, and the creek swept round the 
base of it. 

Morton called Brown's attention to the fact 
that all the native camps they passed were of 
old date, and that no fresh tracks were visible. 
At last they reached an extent of open country 
lying at the foot of the mountain, which rose 
aloft in a peak. On the bank of the creek were 
some ruined humpies> built of mud and sticks, 



116 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

after the manner of the Cooper's Creek natives. 
In the creek was a long water-hole, apparently 
of great depth. Human bones and skeletons 
were strewn about the camp. Evidently a 
wholesale massacre had taken place some years 
back. 

" Those cannibals must have wiped the whole 
tribe out the last time they were here," said 
Brown. 

"If they have served the tribe to the west- 
ward the same way, they would have had to live 
on one another shortly." 

After unpacking and hobbling the horses, 
they made a thorough investigation of the place 
to see if any trace of Stuart still existed, but 
they saw nothing to lead them to suppose that a 
white man had ever been there. 

Columbus, on being appealed to, pointed to 
the hill, which was scarcely a quarter of a mile 
away. On going over to it they found what 
appeared to be a crude kind of barricade built of 
stones, a work that none of the party had ever 
before seen done by natives. This was the only 
indication they found that evening. The next 
morning early they ascended the hill, and from 
the top had an extended view all around. They 
were evidently on the highest point in that part 
of the continent. To the south and east it 
appeared to be one vast ocean of scrub, without 
a break to the horizon. They could trace the 
course of the creek for some short distance, then 



THE TRIP SOUTH. 117 

it apparently died out and was once more lost. 
Westward the scrub was broken into belts and 
patches, until it merged into a wide gray plain, to 
which they could see no end but the sky-line. 
Northward was the broken country they had 
passed over. The mountain was of granite for- 
mation, and on a smooth boulder they found 
some initials plainly chipped on the surface: 
"C. N. S. 1861". 

" Stuart was here, then, right enough. I won- 
der whether he went on from here." 

" He never got into the settled districts at any 
rate, or we should have heard of it." 

Columbus, who had accompanied them, shook 
his head when asked about the country to the 
south and east. He made a gesture like a man 
falling down dead, by which they understood 
that it was impassable, so that the probability 
was that Stuart had perished in his attempt to 
make into civilization. 

Brown struck a match and lit his pipe. 

" We have come to the end of our tether in 
this direction," he said. 

" I wonder how the lake bears from here," 
replied Morton. " I suppose the cannibals have 
a track from the great rock out to it, but if 
Stuart got down here on foot we ought to be 
able to find our way across on horseback." 

Columbus, on being questioned as to the direc- 
tion of the lake, pointed north, the way they had 
come. 



118 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

" That's a way the niggers have," said Brown. 
" They always point to the last place they started 
from; they have no idea of direction. When 
we got back to the old camp he would point 
some other way." 

Columbus professed entire ignorance as to any 
means of reaching the lake, except by going 
back the way they came and starting on the 
road he knew. Morton and Brown, however, 
decided on trying to go straight across from 
where they wera 

They devoted one day to a trip down the 
creek, which they found was entirely lost in 
sandy, scrubby country. No further sign of 
Stuart's presence was found anywhere, nor could 
anything be discovered to lead one to suppose 
that any of the natives had survived the mas- 
sacre, although Columbus had evidently expected 
to find some still living. 

Calculating the supposed situation of the lake 
as due west from the rock, they reckoned it 
would be north-west from where they then were. 
If that course did not bring them to the lake 
they would probably come across some indication 
which would lead them to it. 

The first part of their journey was through 
the belts of scrub they had seen from the hill- 
top. It was principally hedgewood, and greatly 
delayed their progress, and it was late when 
they at last emerged upon the edge of the 
plain. The grass was fairly good, but there was 



THE TRIP SOUTH. 119 

no water for the horses, and from what they had 
seen there did not seem much prospect of getting 
any early the next day. In fact, it was past 
noon before they had crossed the plain and 
gained the timber on the other side of it. This 
was open forest, and in a clear space, some mile 
or two on, they came to a dry lagoon. In the 
shallow bed was an old native well, and on 
clearing this out and deepening it, a very fair 
supply of water came in. Watering their now 
thirsty horses took some time, as all the water 
had to be drawn from the well, a billyful at a 
time, and poured into a trough extemporized from 
a waterproof sheet. The supply, however, came 
in strongly, showing there was a good permanent 
soakage. There was fine feed about the lagoon, 
and everybody felt satisfied with the prospect 
ahead. 

Columbus seemingly knew nothing of the 
country they were then on, so that the cannibals 
had evidently stuck to one particular track when 
on their periodical man-hunting expeditions. 



120 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 



CHAPTER XIV. 

In the Spinifex Desert Arrival at the Lake The 
Remnant of a Tribe. 

THE next morning when they started the forest 
country still continued for many miles, until 
they at length came to another broad plain, and a 
couple of hours before sundown sighted some tim- 
ber nearly on their course. This proved to be a 
double line of gutta-percha-trees, with a broad 
flat between them. The trees grew on low banks 
of sand, on which were countless quantities of 
tiny shells; the whole had the appearance of a 
shallow water-course, but the bed was covered 
with blue-bush. The two lines of trees stretched 
on like a limitless avenue, and as it followed much 
the same course as that they were travelling, 
they proceeded along it. They passed one or 
two empty holes, with a ring of polygonum bushes, 
dry and withered, around the top of the bank. 
It grew late, and as everything still bore a 
parched appearance Morton pulled up for a con- 
sultation. 

While discussing the best thing to do, a flight 
of galar and corrella parrots passed overhead, 
flying in the direction they were going, and 
evidently making for their nightly drink. This 
put new life into everybody, and they pushed on 



IN THE SPINIFEX DESERT. 121 

once more. At dusk they were rewarded by 
coming to a somewhat deeper hole than those 
they had passed. There was, however, only 
sufficient water for their wants in the bottom, 
and it was fast drying up, and could not be 
depended on for their return journey. 

Next morning they still kept on along the 
avenue of gutta-percha-trees, and Morton began 
to hope that it would turn out to be one of the 
water-courses supplying the lake. In this, how- 
ever, he was disappointed, for the trees grew 
fewer in number and further apart, until they 
passed the last one, and before them stretched 
once more a boundless plain. 

The country now suddenly changed for the 
worse; the ground was sandy and covered with 
the detestable spinifex, and both Morton and 
Brown felt rather doubtful as to going on, for 
there was no knowing how far this desert might 
extend. 

However, they made up their minds to pro- 
ceed, as there was really nothing else to do. 
Then commenced one of the weariest rides they 
had yet experienced during the trip. It was even 
worse than the scrub. The prickly needles of 
the spinifex irritated the shins of the horses, so 
that it was with great trouble the pack-horses 
were urged along. Hour after hour went on, 
and still there was no change in the unbroken 
horizon that bounded them. 

" I should fancy those old cannibals found it 



122 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

mighty rough on their shins if they had to cross 
a belt of desert like this," said Brown. 

"I expect they kept it burnt down on the 
track they used to patronize," replied his friend. 

" Fancy what the feelings of poor hopeless 
Stuart and his companions must have been when 
toiling through this waste." 

" Yes. If we find it bad, what must starving 
men on foot have found it?" 

That night fell on them still in the desert. 
They had an ample supply of water for them- 
selves in the canvas bags, but their horses had 
to go both hungry and thirsty. 

"Things begin to look rather queer," said 
Morton, as they prepared to start. 

" Yes, it's a case if we don't get out of this by 
to-night." 

They had hardly mounted, when Billy and 
Columbus gave a mutual exclamation, and pointed 
to the westward of their track. A curious look- 
ing dark mass was travelling swiftly along just 
above the horizon. Suddenly it dipped down 
and disappeared. 

"Hurrah!" shouted Brown. "Flock pigeons 
going in for their morning drink. That must be 
the lake." 

Much elated, they pressed eagerly on in the 
new direction, the horses seeming to understand 
what was ahead as well as their masters. The 
spinifex now began to grow scantier, and patches 
of grass appeared in its place; the earth changed 



IN THE SPINIFEX DESERT. 123 

from red sand to good chocolate soil, and before 
them stretched a very large expanse of downs, 
well grassed with Mitchell grass and other good 
grasses. 

Suddenly and unexpectedly they crossed the 
crest of an imperceptible rise, and before them 
lay the goal of their hopes. Unanimously they 
halted and gazed at the locality where the man, 
whose journal they had read, had passed many 
weary years of exile. 

No fairer scene could have been found any- 
where in the interior of Australia. A blue 
expanse of water, apparently -some miles in 
length, lay outstretched before them. The low 
sloping banks were verdant with grass, kept 
green by the soakage from the lake. Great 
gnarled coolibah-trees of immense girth grew 
round the water's edge, and the gently rising 
downs on either side were studded with clumps 
of the beautiful weeping myall arid shady 
bauhinia trees. At the end of the lake nearest 
to them was a small hill crowned with great 
gray boulders of granite. 

"After all, there must be something in the 
influence of surroundings," said Morton. "The 
natives living here, are, or were, according to 
Stuart, a gentle and friendly tribe, whilst those 
living amongst the barren rocks alongside of that 
boiling spring were about the biggest devils I 
ever met." 

"How about Columbus?" asked Charlie. "If 



124 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

there are any natives left, won't they try and 
kill him?" 

" No doubt they will make it pretty sultry for 
him, but he seems quite cheerful over it. He 
has put the onus of the whole thing on our 
shoulders. He must take his chance." 

They rode on in suppressed excitement, hoping 
against hope that Stuart might still be there. 

"What's that ahead?" suddenly cried Morton. 

The object when approached turned out to be 
the bald, dried, half -decomposed body of a black- 
fellow. 

" This is some of your men's doings, my friend," 
said Brown, glancing at Columbus, who grinned 
complacently. 

The sides of the lake were firm and hard, and 
the thirsty horses ran eagerly in and commenced 
drinking greedily. Overhead the white correllas 
and pink and gray galars chattered noisily amongst 
the boughs, on the opposite side a group of objects 
like native gu ny ahs were visible. When the horses 
finished drinking, they rode round the edge of the 
lake to them. 

Not a sound was heard, and nothing was seen 
to move as they approached the spot, nor was 
any smoke visible. Gorged carrion crows and 
hawks arose as they drew near, and flapped 
unwillingly away; the crows protesting loudly 
at being disturbed, after the manner of their 
kind. Two or three eagle-hawks gazed fiercely 
down from the branches of neighbouring trees. 



IN THE SPINIFEX DESERT. 125 

A pestilential smell hung heavy in the air, an 
odour soon accounted for, for around the ravished 
camp lay at least a score of corpses, all in the 
same stage of decay as the one they had first 
passed on the plain. These appeared to be 
mostly old men and women, although here and 
there the smaller bodies of children could be seen 
amongst their slaughtered parents. Brown and 
the others drew a long breath as they gazed on 
this scene of murder. 

" What a blessing it is," he said, " to know that 
all those wretches who did this are crushed into 
jelly underneath tons of rock." 

"Yes," replied Morton in a low voice; "and for 
two pins I could find it in my heart to send that 
hoary old sinner there to keep them company." 

This sentiment was a common one, and Col- 
umbus received some very savage glances, even 
Billy looking at him, and handling his carbine as 
though anxious to use it on the blackfellow. The 
old cannibal, however, was quite unconscious of 
the feeling he had aroused, and smiled sweetly as 
though he was showing them a highly interesting 
little exhibition. 

"They must have killed and captured the 
whole tribe," said Morton at last. " No hope of 
finding Stuart now." 

" I am afraid not. We had better look out a 
camp as far to windward of these poor wretches 
as possible," returned Brown. 

Just then Billy whistled, and when his master 



126 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

looked towards him, he indicated by a motion 
of his head the direction of the hill with the 
granite boulders on it. 

A thin column of smoke was stealing up from 
the back of it. 

Morton whispered hastily to Charlie to take 
Billy and ride round the foot of the hill to the 
back of it, leaving the loose horses feeding about 
on the green grass at the edge of the water. 

He and Brown rode straight over the crest of 
the hill, and underneath them saw the mockery 
of a camp. A wretched remnant, who had 
escaped massacre, they found huddled together 
near some rocks. Two old men, about half a 
dozen gins and children, and one young fellow, 
badly wounded. Too startled and frightened to 
attempt flight, they gathered timorously together. 
Their fear seemed augmented when Charlie and 
the black boy came up. 

Brown dismounted and walked up to them. At 
once a cry of surprise and pleasure broke from 
the old men. They commenced jumping about, 
shouting and laughing uproariously. Instantly 
it flashed across the minds of the whites that they 
were mistaken for a reincarnation or resurrection 
of their countrymen who had formerly lived here. 
Morton and Charlie left their horses and joined 
Brown, when the conference was abruptly inter- 
rupted by the appearance of a riderless horse. 
A difference of opinion had arisen between 
Columbus and his steed when the others left 



IN THE SPINIFEX DESERT. 127 

him alone, which resulted in the discomfiture 
of the native, who now followed limping after 
his horse. 

The old men recognized their enemy at once. 
They stamped, raved, and spat at him; and one, 
picking up a spear, drove at him with such vigour, 
that only a nimble jump saved Columbus from 
being transfixed. For his part he returned their 
vituperation with interest, and the gins joining 
in, a perfect tempest of words ensued. Seeing 
that nothing could be done until they were alone, 
Morton told Charlie to go and round up the pack 
and spare horses, and, with Billy and Columbus, 
to take them some distance up the lake and camp 
on the bank, where he and Brown would join 
them. 

Once their enemy was out of sight the blacks 
quietened down, and one of them commenced a 
voluble speech to Brown, addressing him as 
" Tuartee", from which it was evident that their 
first surmise was correct. After some trouble 
they made the natives understand that they 
were not going away, but were going to make a 
camp at the lake. They promised to return 
shortly, and rode away to join Charlie and Billy. 

Everybody enjoyed a good swim in the lagoon, 
and ate a hearty meal afterwards. Brown and 
Morton then strolled back to interview the 
blacks. 



128 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 



CHAPTER XV. 

The Fate of Columbus Investigation of the Cave 
Stuart's Grave and Kecovery of the Conclusion of 
his Journal. 



approach to the camp was greeted with 
_L cries of " Tuartee", and they endeavoured 
to make the old men comprehend that they 
wanted to be shown the cave. Apparently, 
however, the blacks, if they did understand, 
thought that their guidance was quite unneces- 
sary to a returned spirit, who ought to know all 
about it. They imitated the gestures made by 
the whites, and pointed with infinite politeness 
the same way that they did, but that was all 
that could be got out of them. 

As they were both tired after their long and 
dreary ride, they determined to start on an 
independent search the next morning, and after 
giving the blacks some trifling presents they 
returned to camp. That evening they enjoyed 
a meal of fine fish caught in the lake. It was 
plain that some days must be spent in the neigh- 
bourhood, in order to thoroughly investigate 
the caves, and find out if possible the fate of 
Stuart. 

" Well, we are here," said Brown, as he made 
his bed down that night, " but I'm hanged if I 



THE FATE OF COLUMBUS. 129 

know exactly how we are going to get back 
again." 

" No, we shall have to make a mighty long 
dry stage, for that last hole we were at will be 
dry by to-morrow." 

"I think Stuart must have got across some 
other way." 

They were soon all sound asleep; as no danger 
was to be apprehended from the poor wretches 
at the camp at the hill, no watch was kept. 
Towards morning Morton felt himself gently 
shaken by the shoulder; looking up he saw 
Charlie bending over him. 

" I'm sure there's somebody prowling around 
the camp," he whispered. " I felt that funny feel- 
ing one feels, you know, of the presence of some- 
thing not right about the place. I was woke up 
by a sound like a blow, or a stick breaking." 

Morton sat up, looked around, and listened. 
All appeared peaceful and quite enough. The 
fires had burned down, and the light of the stars 
alone illumined the scene. The sheet of water 
alongside was unruffled, and reflected like a 
mirror the thickly-studded sky overhead. Not 
a sound could be heard, not even the cry of 
a night-bird or water-fowl. For some moments 
they both remained silent, listening, then Morton 
said in an undertone: 

"Must have been fancy, Charlie. There can 
be nobody here but those poor wretches over the 
hill." 

(MM) I 



130 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

"No, it was not fancy," answered Charlie. 
"I am sure there was somebody moving about. 
You know I would not have roused you had I 
not been certain. Listen!" 

Loud cries suddenly arose in chorus from the 
camp of the natives. 

Brown started up. 

"The devil!" he said, after listening. "That 
old Columbus at his cannibal tricks again. See 
if he is there, Charlie." 

Billy and Columbus had made a separate fire, 
round which they were sleeping, coiled after the 
manner of blackfellows. Billy, aroused by the 
outcries which rung out clearly and distinctly in 
the still night air, now struggled to his feet, half 
asleep. 

"Here's Columbus," said Charlie, giving the 
prostrate chieftain a good kick. " Wake up, old 
man!" he cried. 

Columbus never stirred. 

" There's something up," said Charlie, drawing 
back with a shudder. 

Morton struck a match, as did Brown. 

There was indeed something up. One glimpse 
was sufficient. Columbus lay dead, his skull 
shattered with a two-handed club which had 
been left beside his body. The shouts of the 
blacks were tokens of rejoicing at the return of 
his executioners with their work accomplished. 

The whites gazed at the dead man in silence, 
and each felt slightly cold at the thought of the 



THE FATE OF COLUMBUS. 131 

ease with which the whole camp might have 
been disposed of. 

"Retribution!" said Morton at last. "He 
deserved his fate, but I can't help feeling sorry 
for the old villain. Billy, my boy, supposing 
that fellow had made a trifling mistake and 
tapped you on the skull in the dark." 

Billy shook his head as though to make sure 
it was quite sound. 

"No good this one country," he replied; "mine 
think it go back alonga station." 

"Billy, your remarks, as usual, are to the 
point, and chock-full of sound sense," remarked 
Brown. " But we shall all feel better when the 
sun jumps up. Let's make the fire burn and 
have breakfast. It's not far off daybreak." 

By the time the meal was finished the first 
rays of the sun were just visible. Charlie and 
Billy were sent after the horses, with instructions 
to remove the camp to one of the clumps of 
timber some short distance back from the lake, 
and then to take Columbus' body to where the 
victims of his tribe were lying there they could 
moulder in company. Morton and Brown started 
in their search for the cave, taking the camp of 
the natives on their way. The killing of Colum- 
bus was only a just act of tribal vengeance. 
They did not intend, therefore, to let it interfere 
with their friendly intercourse with these natives, 
from whom so much valuable information might 
be obtained. 



132 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

The blacks evinced no fear when they came to 
the camp, and greeted them in the most friendly 
manner. Not wasting any time in fruitless 
attempts at intercourse, the two men set out on 
their search. They were fortunate at the outset. 
They selected the two most imposing boulders, 
which seemed to answer best to the description 
in the journal, and on nearer approach a well- 
worn pad proved that they were on the right 
track. Squeezing through the narrow aperture 
described by Stuart, they found themselves in 
the cavern confronting the gigantic figure painted 
on the roof and side. Prepared as they were for 
the startling appearance of this form, they could 
not repress a certain feeling of awe as they gazed 
at it, and recognized at once that it was not the 
work of any Australian aborigines then existing 
on the continent. 

A movement behind made Morton hastily turn 
round. One of the old men had silently followed 
them, and was standing a few paces away. 
Seeing Brown look curiously around after the 
first survey of the figure he advanced, and 
beckoning to him, led him to the side of the 
cavern where the light from a crevice above fell 
strong on a certain place. There, on the rock, 
had been carved with care this inscription 

"CHARLES NEIL STUART 

CAME HERE, 1849. 

DIED " 



THE FATE OF COLUMBUS. 133 

Then followed a date, scratched with a feeble 
hand, which they made out to be " 1870". 

With uncovered heads the two friends gazed 
sorrowfully and reverently at the resting-place 
of their unfortunate countryman. Although 
they had never really anticipated finding him 
alive, a feeling of sincere regret was uppermost 
at discovering their worst forebodings realized. 
They would have given much to have been in 
time to bring succour to the poor lonely man by 
the side of whose grave they knew they were 
standing. 

The native again advanced, and putting his 
hand into a crevice in the rock drew forth 
a package, done up in the dried skins of some 
small marsupials, and furthermore protected by 
a casing of bark. This he gravely handed to 
Brown, who took it from him, but refrained from 
opening it at once. After a short scrutiny 
around, resulting in no further discoveries, they 
left the cave. Resting on the first convenient 
rock, they proceeded to inspect the precious par- 
cel. The contents consisted of an old-fashioned 
double-barrelled pistol, a powder flask, a bullet- 
mould much dented and battered, and a roll of 
loose leaves of paper covered with faded writing. 
Together they pored over these leaves, which 
contained the conclusion of the castaway's life. 
They were in much better order than the con- 
tents of the pocket-book originally discovered, 
not having been subjected to such rough usage, 



134 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

and the narrative ran on without a break. The 
contents explained the presence of Murphy 
amongst the cannibals, the loss of the pocket- 
book, &c., and recorded Stuart's futile attempt 
to escape to the south, his meeting with the now 
exterminated tribe who lived at the foot of the 
mountain, and his return after repeated failures 
to penetrate the scrub and sand which cut him 
off from the settled districts. A gold discovery 
was also recorded. 

They went back to their new camp, meaning 
to spend the rest of the day in copying out the 
journal, so as to insure its safety as much as 
possible. Morton dictated the narrative to Brown 
and Charlie, who made separate copies. Thus 
ran the story. 



CHAPTER XVI 

The Continuation of Stuart's Journal The Slaughter 
Chamber. 

I AM now alone, and I know not whether my 
comrade is living or dead. It was a year 
after Kelly's death by my reckoning, which I 
have kept by notches on a rock in the cave 
that I went with three natives to a scrub about 
ten miles from here to get a peculiar kind of 
wood I was looking for to make bows of. For 
now that I had made up my mind I would never 



THE SLAUGHTER CHAMBER. 135 

be rescued, I thought I would try to teach the 
natives the use of the bow and arrow, and we 
would lead them against this tribe whom they 
dreaded so and who killed Kelly, and perhaps 
obtain peace. There was no wood suitable near 
the camp, but from the description given by the 
blacks I thought I could obtain what I wanted 
in the scrub indicated by them. There was water 
there, and we stopped two days, cutting and 
dressing the saplings so as to make them lighter 
to carry in, for as we only had stone tomahawks 
it took a long time. On the evening of the second 
day we heard a gin wailing and crying in the 
distance, coming towards us. The blacks stopped 
their work and ran to meet her, crying out in 
the same tone. I knew something was wrong 
and followed them. It was sad news, awful 
news! The Warlattas, as the hostile tribe was 
called, had attacked the camp at night, had killed 
and wounded many, and carried off a number of 
prisoners amongst them Murphy, who was a 
heavy sleeper and had no chance to defend him- 
self. I knew that these Warlattas were cannibals, 
and that the prisoners they took away were pro- 
bably eaten. 

" We got back to camp in the middle of the 
night, and the next morning I tried to get the 
men who were left to follow me after the canni- 
bals, but they were all so cowed they wouldn't, 
although I showed them the pistol and fired it 
off. I tried to track the enemy by myself, and 



136 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

if I could I would have followed them, but I lost 
the tracks and nearly died of thirst. The War- 
lattas had taken nearly all the few things we 
had saved, including my pocket-book; these few 
sheets I am writing on were picked up about 
the camp. 

" 1853. That is my reckoning. All this time 
I have written nothing, as I wanted to husband 
my paper, and I had little heart after Murphy 
was taken away. I made the blacks build a 
place with stones a sort of barricade to sleep in 
at night, and it was lucky I did, for the War- 
lattas came again; but, thanks to the barricade 
and my pistol, we beat them off without losing 
a man, and now the natives have great confidence, 
and I think will beat them again. 

" I often tried to get them to follow me to where 
these people lived, as I thought Murphy might 
be alive and I could rescue him, but they seemed 
to be horribly frightened at the thought and 
refused always. On examining the bodies of 
those that had fallen, I found them all marked 
the same way with some sort of pigment, a red 
smear on the forehead and a white triangle on 
the breast. This, and something in their appear- 
ance, led me to consider if there was not some 
connection between the figures in the cave and 
this strange people. Thinking long over this, I 
explored the cave thoroughly, both it and any in 
the neighbourhood, and finally it led me to the 
strange discovery that has caused me to write my 



THE SLAUGHTER CHAMBER. 137 

journal once more, in the faint hope that some 
day it will be found and read by civilized man. 

"Searching around the cave containing the 
painted figure, I found an aperture which appa- 
rently ran for some distance. It was on the 
ground, the rock coming to within about two feet 
of the sandy floor, and on stooping down it seemed 
to me that I could feel a current of fresh air 
passing through. On inquiry I found that none 
of the blacks had been into the opening, as they 
had a superstitious dislike scarcely, however, 
amounting to dread of the cave. The aperture 
was too low to easily admit me, so I got a slim 
young fellow to explore it. He soon crawled 
back, saying there was another big cave beyond, 
but too dark to see anything. I got some more 
boys up and set them to scoop the sand away 
until the opening was big enough for me to pass 
in. We took fire and bark and wood with us, 
and when we emerged in the gloomy cavern 
beyond we immediately kindled a fire. As the 
blaze arose and illuminated the recesses of the 
cave a shriek of terror burst from my juvenile 
companions, a wild cry of " Warlatta! Warlatta!" 
and in an instant they disappeared like a bevy 
of black rats underneath the rock where we had 
entered. I looked around in surprise, but soon 
divined the cause; on the opposite side appeared, 
drawn in white on the wall, a large triangle, the 
sign ever associated in their minds with murder 
and rapine. 



138 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

" Heaping more wood on the fire, I advanced 
and examined the surroundings. Underneath 
the triangle was a huge block of yellowish- 
white sandstone, but its purity was marred by a 
horrible reddish stain which marked one of its 
sloping sides. Its purpose flashed on me at once 
in some old time it had been used as a sacrificial 
stone. The fire now blazed up merrily, and I had 
ample light for my researches. The smoke dis- 
appeared through crevices in the roof, and the 
ventilation seemed excellent. Marks of old fires 
were visible all over the floor, which was of white 
sandstone with the same reddish stains visible in 
places. Searching more minutely I found in one 
corner a knife or dagger, made of steel (since then 
I have found it to be tempered so skilfully that 
the edge can scarcely be turned by the hardest 
rock). The handle, if it ever had one, had dis- 
appeared through age. In addition, there was a 
broken ring of the same metal, seemingly part of 
a chain, and on the walls were characters in red, 
but of no written language that I could remem- 
ber. This was all that I saw on my first visit. 

"Voices at the opening told me that the natives 
had recovered from their fright, and were in 
search of me. I called to them, and emboldened 
by my voice and the firelight some of them crept 
in and joined me. I found out that they had no 
knowledge of this chamber, and in hopes of find- 
ing another I set them hunting round for any 
more openings that might exist, but none could 



THE SLAUGHTER CHAMBER. 139 

be discovered. Whilst so engaged one of them 
brushed against the stone altar, and immediately 
it commenced rocking, whilst a squeaking, pierc- 
ing scream, like a human being in intense agony, 
thrilled us all with horror. The blacks threw 
themselves on the ground, and it was a few 
moments before I could summon up courage to 
approach the stone and examine it. The rocking 
was gradually ceasing, and the shrieks grew 
fainter as the motion ceased. The stone I found 
to be most beautifully poised, so that the slightest 
touch started the oscillation. As to the machinery 
that produced the screaming noise, that I could 
not investigate without capsizing the stone, which 
evidently weighed some tons. For a moment I 
shut my eyes, and seemed to see once more the 
hideous drama that must have been many times 
enacted in this chamber of death the savage 
priests, the manacled victim, the streaming blood, 
the trembling captives, and the harsh shrieking 
of the rocking stone adding its awful voice to 
the groans of the dying man and fading away 
into silence with his last cries. What horrible 
ingenuity had devised such added terrors to the 
scene ? By degrees I got the blacks out of their 
fright, but it was amusing to see the celerity 
with which they disappeared as soon as I gave 
the signal. 

" 1862. I have made a great effort to escape, 
but am forced to come back here to die. The 
blacks had told me on two occasions that rather 



140 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

to the west of south there was water within 
reach of a long day's journey; but as this was 
only leading me further into this uninhabited 
wilderness, I had never had the curiosity to go 
there. It now struck me that from there I could 
possibly get round the end of the great sandy 
desert, and perhaps find an easy road back to the 
settlement, which must have pushed out towards 
me since I have been buried here. I had suc- 
ceeded in teaching the blacks the use of the bow 
and arrow, and to build tolerably safe huts to 
sleep in. The Warlattas had attacked us twice 
since the first time we defeated them, and on 
both occasions had suffered great loss, whilst we 
had not a man wounded. For years now they 
have not dared to come, and I think the bows and 
arrows have frightened them. Moreover, my 
natives have no longer the terror of them they 
had formerly, and feel confident in repulsing 
them. Under these circumstances I felt that I 
could venture to leave them, for I did not like 
the idea of their becoming once more a prey to 
this horrible Warlatta tribe. One of the old 
men who had been to the water before, and a fine 
young fellow named Onkimyong, accompanied 
me. I fully explained to the blacks what to do 
if the Warlattas turned up again, and promised 
them soon to return ; for if I succeeded in getting 
away, I meant to come back with a party to 
thoroughly examine the caves and root out the 
Warlattas for good. Strange, the blacks have no 



A HOPELESS SITUATION. 141 

repugnance to going anywhere west or due 
south, but to the eastward they will not go. 

Our journey during the first day was over 
treeless country well grassed, although at times 
we came across patches of the prickly grass, 
proving that we were not very far from the edge 
of the sandy desert. We did not reach the 
water that night, but as we had brought a 
couple of coolamen 1 full, we did not trouble to 
press on. Next morning we arrived there early 
in the morning and found it a long narrow lagoon, 
the water being of a milky colour. Around 
this lagoon were many camping -places of the 
natives. I asked the old man if he knew this 
tribe, and I found that he had met some mem- 
bers of it once; they were friendly, not like the 
Warlattas." 



CHAPTER XVII. 

Continuation of Stuart's Journal A Hopeless Situation. 

WE stayed at the lagoon all day, and in the 
evening, fortunately, a party of the na- 
tives came in. They were timid at first, but the 
old man and Onkimyong could make themselves 
understood, and they gradually gained confidence. 
They had never seen a white man before, al- 

1 Vessels chopped out of the soft wood of the coral-tree by the 
natives; and used for carrying water in the dry country. 



142 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

though I am now pretty well burnt black by the 
sun. My two natives showed off their bow-and- 
arrow shooting with great pride. They told the 
others how the Warlattas, who seemed to have 
turned their attention to the new-comers also, 
had been beaten off and killed. 

" These natives explained that they lived on a 
creek to the south-east, and when I heard that 
I made sure that I should at last escape. When 
the old man found out where they came from 
and that I intended to accompany them, he 
would not go any further, and nothing could 
induce him to alter his intention of going back. 
Onkimyong, however, who was very fond of me, 
and being young had not so much superstition, 
said that he would stay with me and go wher- 
ever I went. 

"The blacks were on a hunting expedition, 
and had come to the lagoon on purpose to fish; 
so we remained there a few days and the old 
man returned to the lake. 

" When we started we went to the south-east, 
and the country rapidly changed its character, 
becoming scrubby and barren. That night 
we camped at a salt lake, obtaining some 
water, slightly brackish for drinking, from a 
native well dug some distance back. Next day 
our course was through wretchedly poor and 
barren country. When we rested for a time I 
noticed an outcrop of quartz; my position in the 
party had ostensibly been that of geologist, 



A HOPELESS SITUATION. 143 

and I went over to examine it, for before we left 
there had been some vague rumours that gold 
had been discovered in the southern part of the 
colony. I broke up some of the stone with a 
large one, and found that it was auriferous. 
This discovery did not elate me in any way. If 
I had found a mountain of gold, of what value 
would it be to me? 

"Continuing our journey we reached water 
again that night, apparently a small soakage 
spring. The blacks told Onkimyong that we 
should camp at a small creek the following night 
with some brackish water in it, and that the 
next night there was water in a clay pan, and 
the following night we should reach their main 
camp. This proved to be the case, and we 
found their home to be on the bank of a fine 
creek, running round the foot of a tall hill. I 
now looked upon my escape as secure, for surely 
this large creek, well defined and supplied with 
water, must run down south to settled country, 
and I could follow it easily. Alas! I was 
doomed to disappointment! 

"The Warlattas had not been seen for some 
time, and, unluckily for them, they selected the 
second night after our arrival for an attack. 

" It was brilliant moonlight, and the blacks 
were holding a corroboree in our honour, when 
one of the gins shrieked out that the Warlattas 
were on them. The fire-sticks were visible com- 
ing on swiftly, and they had evidently reckoned 



144 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

on taking the camp by surprise. I had been 
very careful of my ammunition, but I thought 
I could spare one charge. I called to Onkimyong, 
and told him to tell the blacks not to be 
frightened; then, as the Warlattas approached, 
shouting and yelling, I fired straight at them. 
The effect was instantaneous the onslaught 
stopped at once. It must have completely sur- 
prised them to find themselves suddenly con- 
fronted by me in this new place. Before they 
could recover from their surprise Onkimyong 
and I were at work with our bows and arrows. 
This completed the rout, and they turned and 
ran; Onkimyong shouted to the natives and 
rushed in pursuit, followed by some who had 
recovered from their terror. I did not go with 
them, but I think they did good execution. 

"There was great rejoicing over this defeat 
of their enemies, and I felt very glad that the 
attack should have been made when it was. 
Seemingly, since we had beaten them off at the 
lake they had devoted all their attention to this 
poor tribe. The next day I ascended the moun- 
tain, and from the top saw that in the direction 
I wanted to go there was nothing but a vast 
scrub. The creek, too, seemed to disappear soon 
after passing the mountain; and this I soon 
found out was the case. It ran completely out 
in a sandy waste of scrub. The blacks asserted 
that it never re-formed, and that there was no 
water either to the south or east, and that 



A HOPELESS SITUATION. 145 

nothing lived there but snakes. I tried over 
and over again but always had to return, half 
dead with thirst and fatigue. One old man 
said that he had heard of a big rock down south 
where there was a hole with water in it. But 
this I imagine was only a tradition, as from the 
top of the hill I could discover no sign of it, and 
wherever I penetrated I found always the same 
arid and barren scrub and sand. Being thus 
disappointed in my efforts south and east, I 
thought that I might follow the creek up and 
come to some available strip of country. Judging 
by its direction the creek, if it headed far enough 
away, must be east of the prickly grass desert. 

"As the Warlattas always came down the 
creek I could not induce one of the natives to 
accompany me. Even Onkimyong was afraid to 
face it. With little care about my fate I there- 
fore started alone. I followed the creek for a 
long distance, finding it well watered, and that 
a beaten track ran beside it. This turned off, 
and on following the creek further I found that 
it ran out; I therefore returned and followed 
the track. In course of time this led me to a 
swamp of great tea -trees which it skirted. 
After following this swamp half-way round the 
track left it and went amongst some rocks. 
They were basaltic, and in a short time they 
closed in in a perfect wall and I lost all trace of 
the track I had been following. Again and 
again I tried to find it, but the rough basalt cut 

(M64) K 



146 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

my feet to pieces and the track could not be 
followed over the rocks. I had to rest for a 
time to get my feet well, and fortunately there 
was plenty of game about the creek, which 
apparently re-formed on the northern side of 
the swamp. I now determined to follow this 
creek up again, and did so, until at last it died 
out in a desert forest. At one place I saw 
a number of trees marked, apparently by the 
Warlattas. I made several excursions east of 
the creek, but I was always confronted by 
a dense and impenetrable scrub." 

"Poor fellow!" said Brown at this point. 
" Fancy his being so near his companion Murphy 
and yet to miss him." 

"I can well understand his inability to get 
along through those basalt rocks, but I don't 
understand how he did not see the Warlattas' 
track at the lagoon of the marked trees." 

" If you remember," replied Brown, " the track 
was not very plain close to the lagoon." 

" I had at last to give up in despair " (went on 
the journal), "and make my way as best I could 
back to the mountain. How long I was away 
I cannot say, for I lost count. It seemed to me 
weeks, but I think it was about a fortnight. 

"I was now thoroughly convinced of the 
hopelessness of my situation, and determined to 
return to the lake and finish my weary life 
amongst the tribe there, devoting my time to 
teaching them what I could. 



A HOPELESS SITUATION. 147 

"Onkimyong was delighted to see me back. 
I rested for some time, as I had two or three 
things to do before leaving. One was to show 
the natives how to build a stone barricade, and 
the other was to inscribe my initials in some 
place where it was bound to be seen by any 
whites who might hereafter come. I selected 
a place at the foot of the hill for the barricade, 
and set the blacks to work, under the super- 
intendence of Onkimyong. From its position 
and altitude I concluded that any whites coming 
to the place would naturally ascend the hill to 
obtain a good survey of the surrounding country ; 
I therefore inscribed my initials and the date of 
the year on a rock on the summit, doing the 
work with the aid of the knife I had found in 
the cave. I lingered on for some time longer in 
the hope that the Warlattas would make another 
attempt, and this they did the night before we 
were going to leave. 

" Fortunately their approach was discovered 
in ample time, and I had my men all concealed 
behind the barricade. The Warlattas approached 
very cautiously, not with the confidence of their 
first attempt. We allowed them to come pretty 
close, and then commenced to play on them with 
our arrows. As soon as I saw them waver and 
halt, I gave a signal agreed upon, and the 
natives swarmed out and attacked them with 
their clubs and spears. 

"There seemed to be no hesitation this time, 



148 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

with one accord the Warlattas fled. The pur- 
suers did much more execution than the first 
time, as they had a better start. I hope now the 
Warlattas have received another check. 

" Onkimyong and I started back the next day, 
we followed our tracks back again, as I felt 
curious about the gold-bearing reef. When we 
came to it I examined it thoroughly, and I then 
found that it was, what seemed to me, of fabu- 
lous richness. I laughed aloud. Here was I with 
a fortune at my feet, and it was of no more 
value to me than worthless flints. It was the 
very mockery of riches! 

" In time we arrived at the lake, and met with 
a great welcome, as they had given us up as lost. 
I had been in fear that the Warlattas, finding I 
was away, might have attempted another assault, 
but they had not put in an appearance. 

"I have now quite relinquished any hope I 
had left of finding my way back by my own 
exertions, and can only pray that some other 
exploring party with better fortune may come 
here before I die." 



THE ANCIENT AUSTRALIANS. 149 



CHAPTER XVIII 

Conclusion of Stuart's Journal Examination of the 
Slaughter Chamber The Ancient Australians. 

I HAVE made no other discoveries since my 
return, and all the efforts I have spent in try- 
ing to decipher the inscriptions have been in vain. 
I can only conjecture that these relics are of 
great antiquity, and that the belief and some of 
the rites, notably cannibalism, survive amongst 
the Warlattas, who are mixed and degenerate 
descendants of the ancient race. I have very 
little paper left, and that scrap I must keep for 
any necessity that arises. If anybody finds this 
let him take a copy of the inscriptions, for there 
may be some men in the world who can decipher 
their meaning. 

" 1865. I have devoted myself to bettering 
the condition of this tribe, whom I may say I 
have adopted. I have taught them to build 
better huts, and clothe themselves partly in 
skins. The Warlattas' inroads have been abso- 
lutely stopped. They have learnt to cultivate 
yams here, and some of the young men under- 
stand written signs. One thing I could not in- 
duce them to do with all my influence, that is, for 
a party of them to go east with me and find out 
the track by which the Warlattas cross the 



150 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

sandy desert. Some superstitious feeling I can- 
not overcome will not allow them to do this. 

" I might have done much more, but latterly I 
have been nearly crippled with rheumatism. I 
have instructed the natives to bury me in the 
cave under an inscription I have cut my name 
and the date of my arrival. When I feel my- 
self near my end, unless I die by accident, I will 
try and inscribe the last date on the stone, it 
will stand for my death year. If my companions 
had lived, we might have worked our way back 
to the settlements, but alone it was hopeless to 
attempt it. I know my end must be near, nor 
am I sorry, for I have outlived all hopes of 
succour. I thank God that though I have lived 
so long amongst these savages, I have not sunk 
down to be one of them in their habits, but 
rather have taught them better things. To 
the white man that finds this I leave the greeting 
and the blessing I would have given him in life." 

"What would I not have given to have got 
here in time to rescue him ! " said Brown. " He 
was a man worth saving." 

Next morning they took some more presents 
to the natives at the hill, and the old men went 
round with them and showed them the roofless 
stone huts, the dismantled barricade, and the 
remains of other improvements now all in ruins. 
The death of Stuart seemed to have been a 
signal for a return to their old habits of life, his 




M&4 
MORTON AND 



HIS I'ARTY EXAMINE THE SLAUGHTER CHAMBER 



THE ANCIENT AUSTRALIANS. 151 

stay amongst them not having been long enough 
to make a lasting impression. 

Even the bows and arrows had disappeared; 
and it was evident that the Warlattas had 
resumed warlike operations with a success 
resulting in the almost complete extermination 
of the tribe. Morton endeavoured to explain to 
them that their enemies were dead, but it was 
doubtful whether the old men comprehended 
him. An immediate incursion into the inner 
cave was determined on, and, provided with 
candles, the party soon found themselves at the 
opening. The sand had worked in and some- 
what blocked up the space, but this was soon 
sufficiently removed to enable them to wriggle 
underneath like snakes. Half a dozen candles 
served to brilliantly light up the inner chamber, 
and there, with startling distinctness, shone out 
the white triangle over the sacrificial stone. 
Brown started the stone rocking, and immedi- 
ately the shrill, half-human screams echoed 
through the cave, much to Billy's discomfiture. 
No examination could detect the trick that 
caused the sound, nor could the presence of the 
stone be accounted for except as a most singular 
freak of nature. 

"I have it," said Morton at last; "the stone 
was part of the rock and has been cut away 
underneath. It must have been an awful job, 
but that is how it was done," 

"And about the squeaking machinery?" 




152 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

"That's more than we can find out without 
shifting the stone, and that's a job I am not on 
for unless we stop here a month or two and chip 
it in pieces." 

"A charge of dynamite would shift it; and 
next time I go exploring I'll carry some," replied 
Brown. 

" What do you think the thing was made for?" 
inquired Charlie. 

"Well, I've just had an inspiration," said 
Brown. "You know amongst some nations it 
is a matter of religious belief almost that you 
must make your enemy howl when you have 
got him down. Now, perhaps some of the poor 
devils who were cut up on this stone declined to 
sing out, or fainted, or for some reason did not 
furnish amusement enough the stone was set 
rocking to fill out the programme. What do you 
think?" 

" I think it most likely, and is an instance of 
devilish cruelty on a level with their other pro- 
ceedings." 

" I suppose poor Stuart searched this place so 
thoroughly that we need not expect to find any- 
thing fresh," said Charlie. " But we may as well 
have a look. Billy, you have got sharp eyes, 
just use them." 

While these two were investigating the walls 
and floor, Morton and Brown took a careful copy 
of the hieroglyphics and a sketch of the cave, 
showing the position of the sacrificial stone and 



THE ANCIENT AUSTRALIANS. 153 

triangle. By the time they had finished they 
were ready for their mid-day meal, and returned 
to camp for it. 

"There's no doubt," remarked Morton, "that 
what we have just seen are relics of an ancient 
people, but what I can't understand is, why, if 
they were civilized enough to wear dresses, and 
to have a developed religious belief savage as 
it was " (" No worse than the Carthagenians," 
interjected Brown), "to know how to obtain iron 
and temper it, that they did not build permanent 
buildings, the ruins of which would remain?" 

" Mud, my dear fellow, mud," replied Brown. 
"Remember the nations who have disappeared 
off the face of America, and can only be traced 
by their pottery and burial mounds. Why, the 
gorgeous cities of ancient Mexico were built of 
mud bricks, which go back to their mother earth, 
once the domiciles they form are abandoned." 

" But their smelting- works for manufacturing 
iron?" 

" There you have me. But we must try and 
find that knife; perhaps they buried it with 
Stuart." 

" Billy got something from one of the old men, 
but I don't know what it was," said Charlie. 

"Billy! What old man bin give it?" asked 
Morton. 

Billy grinned, and produced from the inside 
of his shirt the knife mentioned in the journal. 
It was a curious-looking blade about a foot long, 



154 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

broad and somewhat curved. Even after the 
work Stuart had done with it in carving on the 
rocks, it was as sharp as an ordinary knife. 

"That's a Malay weapon," said Brown, after 
examination. " Whoever our ancient Australians 
were they came from the north. I suppose we 
must wait until we get the writing deciphered, 
if there is a man clever enough to do it." 

Looking closer, they found that the blade had 
the mysterious triangle engraved on it. This con- 
stantly recurring symbol led to much speculation 
as to whether they were not an offshoot of Free- 
masons, who in some remote time had wandered 
into central Australia; but as Charlie ingenuously 
reminded them that these fellows had not built 
anything, the theory had to be discarded. 

" What's to be done next?" said Morton. " I'm 
for going to find Hentig's grave, if possible, and 
recovering the papers buried there." 

"Yes, and then go back round by the way 
Stuart went to the mountain tribe and track up 
the gold reef." 

" Not a bad idea, anyhow. I think it will be 
the safest way to go home." 

That afternoon, Billy, with the aid of one of the 
old men, found a canoe not far below the surface, 
and brought it up and bailed it out. Then it 
transpired that on the last onslaught of the 
Warlattas they had sunk all the canoes. The 
one recovered was a large one, fitted up with 
outriggers, and leaked but very little. Charlie 



THE ANCIENT AUSTRALIANS. 155 

soon improvised a mast by lashing two spears 
together, and with a blanket for a sail announced 
himself ready to face the dangers of the deep. 
Morton agreed to join him in his voyage of dis- 
covery round the lake the next morning, but 
Brown preferred to stay and continue the investi- 
gation of the cave drawings. 

Next morning there was a gentle breeze blow- 
ing, and Morton and Charlie were soon afloat 
and off. Brown wandered over the hill, telling 
Billy to try and make the blacks understand the 
catastrophe of the burning mountain. 

Several lesser caves attracted his attention, 
but only one seemed to promise any result. To 
this one he devoted himself, and after some 
trouble found some inscriptions resembling the 
former one in character, but differing in the 
arrangement of the letters. In this case they 
were placed perpendicularly in two parallel lines. 

After copying the inscription, Brown stood in 
thought for some time, mechanically thrusting a 
yam stick he held in his hand into the sandy 
floor of the cave. The soil over the bed rock in 
this cave was apparently only a few inches in 
depth, but suddenly he was roused from his 
reverie by the yam stick going down more than 
a foot without meeting with any opposition. 
Sounding hastily, he soon found that a trench 
extended at right angles to the rock, immediately 
under the inscription. Going outside he shouted 
loudly, and Billy and some of the blacks came 



156 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

running up. He set them to work to clear all 
the sand away from the trench and its neighbour- 
hood with their hands, and it was soon visible 
artificially cut in the rock. It was about three 
feet long and a foot broad, so the work of clear- 
ing it out did not promise to take long. 

With so many hands going, the depth of three 
feet was soon reached without anything being 
discovered; then the fingers of the workers came 
in contact with something hard, and very soon a 
sheet of metal was disclosed, cut exactly to fit 
the hole. Brown at once recognized it as re- 
sembling the gongs used at the burning moun- 
tain. Greatly excited, in spite of his usual 
assumption of calmness, Brown inserted the 
point of the yam stick under the metal and 
prised it up. 



CHAPTER XIX. 

The Grave of one of the Unknown Kace Morton's 
Departure Charlie falls Sick. 

THE shadow cast by the sides of the hole was 
too dark for Brown to see at once what 
sort of treasure he had unearthed, but a nearer 
inspection did not afford him any more satis- 
faction. Apparently there was nothing beneath 
the sheet of metal but a deposit of damp, mouldy 
earth, emitting a pungent smell of a most re- 



CHARLIE FALLS SICK. 157 

pulsive nature. Brown drew back somewhat 
sickened, and told the natives to clean out the 
trench while he went out for a breath of fresh 
air. 

In a few minutes he returned. The heap of 
mould alongside the now empty hole told him 
that the work was finished. The blacks were on 
their knees, eagerly examining some objects they 
had found amongst the contents of the trench. 
Billy handed them to Brown. The first was 
a chain of small steel links and most beautiful 
workmanship, bearing as a pendant a tiny tri- 
angle formed of the same metal. A metal plate 
nearly a foot square, covered with hieroglyphics 
similar to those inscribed on the walls of the 
cave, was the next thing he examined, and then 
came a dagger resembling the one already dis- 
covered. This, however, had a handle, or what 
appeared to be one, made of finely -twisted gold 
threads wound tightly round the haft. This was 
all. Brown puzzled over these relics for some 
time, and then strolled to the crest of the ridge 
to see how the voyagers were getting on. 
Apparently they had experienced what is known 
as a soldier's wind, for the canoe was coming 
back with a flowing sail. Brown and Billy 
walked down to the shore of the lake to meet 
them. The trip had been uninteresting; the 
lake was exceedingly shallow everywhere with 
the exception of the end where they were. 
There it was deep and permanent. Brown told 



158 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

them of the discovery he had made, and they 
revisited the cave together. 

" It's my opinion," said Morton after lengthy 
examination, " that it is a grave, and this mould 
all that there is left of a body probably 
burnt before being put in the grave. The neck- 
let, plate, and dagger are the ornaments and 
weapon worn by the man at the time of his 
death. He must have been some great priest." 

" The same conclusion that I have been work- 
ing round to," replied Brown. "That plate is 
a priestly breastplate, like those we read of in 
the Old Testament." 

The question of visiting Hentig's grave was 
one that was now discussed. It was settled 
at last that Morton and Billy would make 
the trip, leaving Brown and Charlie to con- 
tinue the investigation of the caves, and also 
to come out with relief in case Morton was 
overdue. By careful computation they thought 
they could pretty well guess the course pursued 
by the three white men from the last water to 
the lake. With two horses packed with water 
they reckoned they could get out and back 
without much trouble, even if there was no 
water at the marked tree. 

Morton and Billy therefore started early the 
next morning, for although the night would 
have been cooler to cross the spinifex desert, 
they might have missed some important indica- 
tions in the dark. Four days was the utmost 



CHARLIE FALLS SICK. 159 

limit Morton allowed himself; Brown was then 
to start on his tracks, as something would have 
probably happened to the horses. 

Left at the lake, Brown and Charlie devoted 
themselves to a searching examination of the 
locality. Several trees marked with an anchor, 
similar to the one at the lagoon camp, were 
discovered, evidently the work of Murphy, who 
had seemingly appropriated the symbol. A 
mark resembling a rude K was seen once or 
twice, and they took it to stand for Kelly's 
handiwork. 

They sounded the caves all over but without 
any more success, and at last concluded that they 
had found all there was to be found. 

The sun was high the morning of the third 
day when Brown returned from his swim in the 
lagoon, and, to his surprise, found Charlie still 
sleeping, with a hot flush on his face. Brown 
aroused him, and the boy sat up and looked 
vacantly around, recovered himself after a bit, 
and proceeded to get up. He refused to eat 
anything, but drank a good deal of tea. Brown 
watched him anxiously. 

" What's the matter, old boy?" he asked. 

" I don't feel up to the mark. I had a 
wretched nightmare last night; it kept me 
awake afterwards until nearly daylight, so that 
I overslept myself." 

" I feel off colour too," replied Brown. " Last 
night I could have quarrelled with my own 



160 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

shadow. I hope we didn't release any evil 
spirit from that grave." 

" Don't say that," replied Charlie, " for that is 
just what I dreamt. Strange that you should 
think the same." 

"Tell me about it, sonney," said Brown. 
" We'll soon fix up any intrusive old ghost." 

Charlie, as he could see, was upset by some- 
thing, and Brown felt uneasy, as the thought of 
sickness overtaking one of their party became 
patent to him. 

" I dreamt," commenced Charlie, " that I was 
on the edge of this lake. I was alone, and very 
frightened with a quite unnatural terror. I 
thought you had both gone away and left me. 
I tried to cry out but could not, and turned 
round, for I felt some fearful thing was approach- 
ing me from behind. True enough, the great 
figure from the cave was there, looking at me 
with terrible eyes. On its breast was the plate 
we found in the grave, and I could read the 
characters written on it." 

Charlie paused. 

"What was the writing?" asked Brown, in- 
terested by the boy's earnestness. 

" I can shut my eyes and see it now. It ran 
'The Spirit of Evil is everywhere. Worship 
then the Spirit of Evil only, and do his behests! 
As I looked and read the figure smiled mock- 
ingly at me, and I woke up in a cold perspiration, 
and could not sleep again." 



CHARLIE FALLS SICK. 161 

" Charlie, my boy," said Brown, " we will 
discuss your dream by and by. Meantime, I am 
going to mix you a dose of quinine and brandy; 
you've got a touch of malarial fever coming on. 
Now I'll fix up a bough-shade for you; it will 
be cooler than the tent, and you must keep quiet 
all day." 

Brown soon had a good shade of boughs 
erected, and making up as comfortable a b<;d as 
he could for the sick lad, he stopped with him 
all day. Charlie was very feverish, but towards 
sundown he fell into an uneasy sleep, and Brown 
went for a stroll up and down and smoked 
his pipe. " This is a lively look-out," he mused. 
"I hope those devilish old rites don't mean 
to claim another victim. Dreamt we both went 
away and left him!" Brown's eyes grew moist 
as he thought of the possibility of the words 
coming true in one sense, and Charlie being left 
in a solitary grave by the side of the lake. " If 
Morton does not turn up to time what a fix I 
shall be in, for I can't go and look for him." 

Charlie passed a restless night, and towards 
the middle of the ensuing day he became deliri- 
ous. This was the margin of Morton's return, 
but the sun set, and Brown strained his eyes in 
vain across the plain. 

Charlie's delirium was at its height that night. 
Always he raved of the great figure in the cave 
standing over and threatening him. 

The fifth day passed and still no sign of 

(M64) L 



162 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

Morton, and Brown was nearly distracted at the 
thought that his friend was in some difficulty, 
expecting him to come to his relief, and he could 
not leave the sick boy for an hour. He passed 
the night once more by Charlie's side, trying to 
soothe him and listening to his incoherent mut- 
terings. It was about three o'clock in the morning 
when Charlie, who had been quiet for some time, 
dropped off to sleep. The silence that ensued 
was broken by a sound more grateful to Brown 
than anything else he could possibly have heard 
the distant sound of a horse-bell. There was no 
doubt about it, the horses were coming rapidly 
across the plain, and evidently being driven, the 
bell having been loosened as is generally done 
when travelling with pack-horses at night. On 
they came at a sharp trot, for they were no doubt 
thirsty and knew where they were coming to. 
Brown listened till they ran down the opposite 
bank and commenced drinking, then he knew by 
the voices that Morton and Billy were both 
there, and called across to them. 

" That you, Brown ? " came back in reply. 

"Yes; I could not go out as I promised." 

" Glad you didn't, as it happened. But what's 
up?" 

" I'll tell you as soon as you come round, but 
come quietly." 

Brown walked a little distance to meet them, 
and they unpacked the horses where they met 
so as not to disturb Charlie, who was still sleeping. 



A FURTHER DISCOVERY. 163 

Brown told Morton in a low voice, and they 
went into the tent together. Charlie was mut- 
tering in his sleep, and it was still of the figure 
on the wall. They went out and sat by the fire, 
where they could hear the slightest sound, and 
Morton told Brown all that had passed since he 
left. 



CHAPTER XX. 

Morton's Trip to Hentig's Grave A further Discovery. 

WHEN we left the lake that morning," began 
Morton, " we passed, of course, over a few 
miles of good downs country before we came to 
the edge of the desert, then we had nothing to 
do but keep straight on the course we had 
selected until night, when we had to camp in 
the spinifex. Next evening we came straight to 
the water-hole. It was a splendid fluke, and I 
never expected such luck. There was a good 
supply of water in the hole and fair grass, so we 
were not badly off. I found the tree where 
Hentig was buried, although the cross that Stuart 
cut had nearly grown out. The powder-flask, 
however, had been only buried a short distance 
in the ground, and as the bush rats had dug it 
up it had rusted and rotted almost to pieces. 
We found some of the contents, but the writing 
is almost if not quite illegible, as the paper has 



164 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

been soaked into pulp two or three times. As 
far as I can make out, though, it was written by 
Leichhardt himself, and as such will be valuable. 
Now I come to what detained me. Billy, whom 
I told to look on all the trees about the water- 
hole for marks, found a couple of initials on 
three of the trees. Of course the sides of the 
bark had grown together, and could only be 
traced like a crack in the bark. I made these 
initials out to be L. F. If you remember, Stuart 
mentions that the two men who were lost never 
reached this water, but one of them must have 
got in to it after Stuart left. I say one of them, 
because the same initials were repeated. I lay 
awake for a long time reasoning the thing out. 
When Stuart and the others left there was no 
water in the hole, they used up the last of it; 
therefore, this man must have come back after 
rain had fallen, probably some months after, for 
he could not have stayed about cutting his 
initials on trees without water. He must cer- 
tainly have found other water. Where was it? 
If I could find it I might get further informa- 
tion. 

" In the morning I sent Billy back along our 
tracks with a note in a cleft stick, which he was 
to stick up right on our tracks. In the note I 
told you to come on, as there was plenty of water 
in the hole. Billy had instructions to ride till 
noonday, then stick the stick in with a handker- 
chief tied to it, and come back again. All this 



A FURTHER DISCOVERY. 165 

he did, meanwhile I went fossicking about. The 
hole was on the edge of the plain, the same as 
the lagoons we were camped on so long. I went 
north first, and presently was able to find a kind 
of water-course skirting the forest. Once or 
twice I came to holes that should hold water for 
some time, but they were all dry. At last I was 
rewarded. I came to a fair-sized lagoon, with 
ducks and other waterfowl on its surface. There 
was no sign of the place ever having been much 
frequented by natives, at least I only saw some 
very old camps at first. At the end of the hole 
opposite to me was an old shell of a gum-tree, 
one of these desert gums that grow to a very old 
age and become quite hollow. As I looked at 
this I saw something move, and then, looking 
more intently, I could see some blue smoke steal- 
ing up. Naturally I made for the place as soon 
as possible, wondering if I was going to find a 
living white man. When I reached the spot I 
found a small fire burning, and in the tree an 
ancient old gin was squatting. She was almost 
blind, and could just make out that something 
was moving about, for she snarled and struck 
out feebly but viciously with a yam stick. Oh, 
she was a cheerful old lady! 

" I was puzzling my brains how she lived, for 
she seemed too feeble to move and was too blind 
to see anything distinctly; for all that there 
were plenty of feathers around the camp, al- 
though she could never have caught the birds. 



166 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

Presently the old dame, still growling to herself, 
crawled out on her hands and knees to the fire, 
to which she seemingly guided herself by the 
sense of smell. Here she squatted down, and I 
hung my horse up and went to look at her lair 
in the tree. There was an iron tomahawk 
shipped on to a black's handle, a single-barrelled 
percussion shot-gun, and all sorts of little odds 
and ends. Evidently this survivor must have 
found a lot of things abandoned at the old camp 
at Hentig's grave. Just then my horse shook 
himself, making the saddle rattle and jingle. 
On hearing this the old gin set up the most 
awful screaming you ever heard. When she 
quietened down someone called out to her 
from a short distance away, and looking in 
the direction, I saw a light -coloured nigger 
limping towards us. He stopped and had a 
good look at me before approaching; I held up 
both my hands as a sign of amity, and he came 
on pretty fearlessly. I then saw that he was a 
half-caste and a cripple. One leg had been 
broken in childhood and he had grown up with 
it shorter than the other, and much distorted. 
That he was a descendent of the missing white 
man I had no doubt, but the old gin appeared 
too old to be his mother. He came up to me, and 
when I spoke to him seemed greatly pleased, 
and pointing to himself said "Lee-lee" two or 
three times, indicating that that was his name. 
I gave him my name in return, which he soon 



A FURTHER DISCOVERY. 167 

picked up. He then led me to the tree, and taking 
the gun out put it to his shoulder and cried out 
in imitation of a report, showing that he had 
often seen it used. I pointed to the feathers, 
and he showed me two or three light boomerangs 
and a fishing-net. I tried to find out if he knew 
anything of the lake, but he seemed quite ignor- 
ant of its existence. I imitated death to find 
out what had become of his father, and he led 
me to a place where he indicated he was buried, 
but I could see no sign of a grave. He knew 
two or three words of English, water, gun, tree, 
and bird; and I think he must at one time have 
known much more, but had probably lost them 
since his father's death, who, I think, must have 
been a man of the same intellectual calibre as 
Murphy, and quite uneducated. He explained 
by signs that his leg had been broken by a 
branch breaking when he was climbing a tree as 
a little fellow. Suddenly it struck me that there 
might be more in the family, and after some 
trouble he led me to believe that there were, but 
bhey had gone away with the tribe to the north. 
He limped heavily to show me that he had been 
left behind because he could not travel fast 
enough, and I concluded that the old gin who 
had been left was no relation of his, but had 
stayed behind from infirmity. Lee-lee seemed 
very active and clever, considering the disadvan- 
tage he laboured under, and I made up my mind 
to bring him in to the lake. He, however, did 



168 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

not seem anxious to go at first, but I showed him 
the empty gun, of which he was very proud, and 
made him understand that if he came with me I 
would make it alive again, which he seemed to 
approve of highly. Fortunately there were some 
boxes of caps amongst his belongings, as ours are 
all breech-loaders. He knew the hole where 
I was camped, and intimated that he would come 
down in the morning. All this took some time, 
and it was late at night when I got back to camp, 
where I found Billy blubbering under the im- 
pression that I was not coming back again. 
Lee-lee duly turned up the next morning, and 
Billy tried to talk to him, but did not make 
much of a fist at it. He said that he thought 
some of the words were the same as those used 
by the lake natives. Lee-lee knew nothing of 
the Warlattas ; and, if you remember, the defunct 
Columbus told us that there were no natives to 
the north. I gave him sugar, which he highly 
appreciated, then we saddled up and went up to 
his lagoon, which I reckoned to be nearly fifteen 
miles away, so that he must have started pretty 
early in the night to come to us. I fixed him up 
on one of the pack saddles, and he got on very 
well considering. 

" The forest bears to the westward, and I in- 
tended to start straight to the lake from Lee- 
lee's lagoon. The difficulty was about the old 
gin. If left behind she would starve, and I did 
not see how we were to get her across the desert. 



A FURTHER DISCOVERY. 169 

I explained the dilemma to Lee-lee, who seemed 
to understand. Suddenly a bright idea struck 
him. He picked up his nulla-nulla and indicated 
that the easiest way to settle the question was 
by knocking her on the head. He appeared 
rather surprised at my objecting somewhat 
angrily to this simple and easy method, and I 
am not sure that Billy did not agree with him. 

" I thought that as your ideas have been so 
brilliant lately, that we might devise some 
means of getting the old gin safely across the 
desert, and making these fellows and Lee-lee 
friends, so that, if we make up our minds to take 
him back with us, the old woman would not 
starve, for there is plenty of food about here. 
I gave Lee-lee to understand that I would be 
back in three days; but, of course, that is knocked 
on the head, we must get Charlie well first. 
Now, old man, you've had no sleep for two 
nights. I will sit by Charlie, and you can have 
a snooze until daylight. Watching is far more 
tiring than riding." 

As Brown really felt somewhat tired out, he 
adopted the suggestion and retired to his blan- 
kets. 

Charlie was no better in the morning, and 
Morton felt quite cast down at the sad fate now 
looming, only too plainly, before his young rela- 
tive, for whom he entertained a great liking. 
About mid-day Brown suddenly arose as though 
filled with a new idea. He went off in the 



170 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

direction of the hill where the blacks were 
camped, and Morton did not see him for nearly 
two hours, then he said he had only been over to 
see how the niggers were getting on, and was 
silent and abstracted until darkness fell, when he 
persuaded Morton to go and rest while he kept 
watch by the invalid. 

Morton, who had been riding and watching all 
the night before, slept late. When he awoke he 
saw Brown standing by the fire smoking. 

"How is he?" he asked, as he took his towel 
to go for a swim in the lake. 

" Better, I think; he has been sleeping quietly 
all night without talking. When he wakes up 
he will be sensible, I think." 

" That's good news," returned Morton. " I shall 
be glad to see the boy up again. What a blessing 
it was that this thing happened in a good camp 
with plenty of game of all sorts ! We must feed 
Charlie up well now." 

Brown puffed on, looking steadily in the fire. 

"I suppose you will think me no end of a 
fool for what I have done," he went on at last. 
"But I have not been able to help associating 
Charlie's illness with my opening that grave and 
taking out that devilish old plate. I have had 
that same dream that Charlie had, and could 
plainly see the plate and the inscription on it 
about the Spirit of Evil. I believe if I had not 
done what I have done not one of us would have 
got back alive." 



THE FINAL DEPARTURE. 171 

"What was that?" asked Morton. 

"Took it back to the grave yesterday and 
filled the whole thing up, and now Charlie is 
going to get better. What's the verdict?" 

" Well, I was going to call you a thundering 
old idiot, but in view of the circumstances I 
won't. It must have been a tribe of devil 
worshippers who originally squatted down here." 

" That's a weight off my mind. I thought you 
would have cut up rusty, for there's no doubt of 
the value of that relic. But we have copies of 
all the inscriptions." 

Charlie awoke conscious, and soon began to 
mend so quickly, that in a few days they were 
talking of going back to bring Lee-lee in. 



CHAPTER XXI. 

Lee-lee brought to the Lake Charlie's Recovery Final 
Departure from the Lake. 

THE question of getting the infirm old gin 
across the desert was a somewhat puzzling 
one. 

Charlie, who was fast gaining strength, pro- 
posed making Billy and some of the other blacks 
carry her by turns on a litter of boughs. Brown 
reminded him that Stuart had found it impossible 
to get the natives to go to the eastward, so he did 



172 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

not imagine that they would have any better 
success. 

" We must tie her on to a horse, somehow," said 
Morton at last. And that was all the conclusion 
they could arrive at. 

Charlie was not yet strong enough to stand a 
long ride, but he felt sufficiently restored to stay 
behind with only Billy for a companion. So 
Brown and Morton went back, Charlie having 
promised to start Billy to meet them with fresh 
horses on a day appointed. 

Lee-lee was anxiously looking out for them, 
but seemed greatly astonished at seeing two 
white men. Brown's height, too, appeared to 
excite his admiration, as it did that of all the 
blacks they met. 

Morton had brought some powder and shot, 
procured by opening some of their cartridges, as 
he thought that if he made the gun alive again 
Lee-lee would come without any difficulty. 

" How strange," said Brown, " that these three 
white men should have lived so long separated 
from each other and yet within reach." 

"I don't know that," replied Morton. "It's 
rather hard for a man on foot to get about in 
this country. Remember we have fresh horses, 
and know where the water is." 

Morton inspected the gun. 

" I suppose it won't burst," he remarked. 

There was a rude ramrod in it, and with a 
piece of his handkerchief torn off he proceeded 



THE FINAL DEPARTURE. 173 

to wipe it out. Then he loaded it, Lee-lee watch- 
ing with great excitement; the old gin, uncon- 
scious of their presence, squatting over the half 
dead fire. 

A crow flew, cawing, overhead and settled on 
a neighbouring tree. Lee-lee pointed eagerly at 
the bird. Morton raised the gun and fired. 

The crow fell down with an angry caw, and 
the old gin gave a wild scream and tumbled 
forward on to the fire. 

Lee-lee limped after the bird, and the two 
white men hauled the gin off the fire, which 
fortunately was nearly out, and dusted the ashes 
off her. 

"You couldn't possibly have hit her?" said 
Brown. 

" Not unless this old blunderbuss shoots round 
corners. It's the sudden fright." 

They put the old creature in the shade, and 
then the two friends started for a stroll round 
the lagoon. 

When they returned Lee-lee pointed to the old 
gin as though highly amused at something. She 
had solved all the difficulties of transport across 
the desert. She was dead! 

" That start I gave her firing off the gun did 
it," said Morton, sorrowfully; " but she could not 
have lived much longer." 

They indicated to Lee-lee that they would help 
him bury the old gin; then they saddled up and 
rode to Hentig's camp, as Brown wanted to see 



174 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

the place, and Morton to recover the pieces of the 
old powder-flask, which he had neglected to secure 
on his first visit. With a tomahawk they re-cut 
the cross on the tree where the remains of Hentig 
rested. 

They got back to Lee-lee's lagoon soon after 
dark, and devoted an hour or two to packing up 
all the curious collection of stuff that had so long 
been hoarded up. 

Next morning they made a very early start, 
as, the half-caste being quite new to riding, they 
had to go slow. They camped in the desert that 
night, and about the middle of the next day met 
Billy coming along the tracks with fresh horses 
for them. He reported Charlie as being nearly 
well and everything being safe at the camp. 
Late in the afternoon, just after they caught 
sight of the lake, they heard an outcry behind. 
Looking around they saw Lee-lee limping back, 
and Billy, who was laughing loudly, pursuing 
him. It turned out that Lee-lee got a sudden 
fright at seeing the great sheet of water for the 
first time, and tumbled off his horse and tried to 
run back. He seemed reassured after a while, 
and went on quietly for the rest of the way. 
Charlie was up and looking nearly as well as 
ever, and had a fine meal of fish and ducks 
waiting for them. Lee-lee seemed surprised at 
the appearance of still a third white man, but 
took everything else, including his supper, as 
a matter of course. 



THE FINAL DEPARTURE. 175 

Next morning they went over to the black's 
camp accompanied by Lee-lee. The young 
fellow who had been wounded was getting 
rapidly well, Morton or Brown having attended 
to him and dressed his wound every day. It 
was soon evident that there was little or no 
language in common between the two tribes, 
with the exception of a few words used nearly 
everywhere in the interior. They had lived and 
died year after year unconscious of each other's 
existence. 

"We have accounted now for all of Leich- 
hardt's party but one, and he, I think, must have 
died when the two were separated from the 
main party," said Morton. 

"He could scarcely have got back to where 
they were attacked by the blacks in the scrub," 
replied Brown, " and if he had stuck to his com- 
panion they would have found the water together. 
No, he must have perished at the time." 

"Now, how about Lee-lee?" 

" I think we will stop here for a bit and let 
Charlie get quite strong and Lee-lee broken into 
riding a bit, then we will take him back to the 
station. What do you think?" 

"I think it is a good idea; we go round by 
the way Stuart went and try and pick up his 
gold reef." 

" Yes. We must find out whether one of these 
old men knows anything about the hole; they 
ought to." 



176 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

" Let's go over and make inquiries this after- 
noon." 

This they did, and found out that one of the 
old men knew of the hole, and had been there 
once when a young man. He made no objection 
to going with them, corroborating in this respect 
Stuart's journal. 

They asked after Onkimyong, but, perhaps on 
account of their faulty pronunciation, did not 
at first make themselves understood. At last 
one of the old fellows recognized the name, and 
pronounced it after his own fashion. The 
natives immediately pointed to where the bodies 
lay in the old camp, and they understood that 
Stuart's faithful companion had met his fate at 
the hands of the fierce Warlattas, whom he had 
so often helped to defeat. Both the men had 
cherished the hope that he might be one of the 
survivors, as they would then have taken him 
with them to show them the exact road Stuart 
travelled in his vain attempt to get away. 

From the old men they tried to obtain a de- 
scription of Stuart's personal appearance, but 
beyond that he was tall like Brown and had 
a gray beard, they could not get much informa- 
tion. 

They employed their spare time in rigging up 
a makeshift saddle for Lee-lee to ride on; mean- 
time he took his riding-lessons on one of theirs, 
and got on famously. He was very proud of 
being allowed to fire off his gun two or three 



THE FINAL DEPARTURE. 177 

times a day, and once succeeded in hitting a bird. 
The time now drew near for their departure. 
They could do nothing for the natives, but as 
their enemies were dead, and they lived in a land 
of plenty, there was no reason why the tribe 
should not grow up again if they were allowed 
to remain long enough unmolested. 

The natives remained apathetically watching 
the whites when they departed. Probably they 
thought that as they came back once, according 
to their belief, they would come back again. 

The stage to the first water was not a long 
stage on horseback, so the old man kept up with 
them easily. He knew nothing beyond the 
lagoon, however, so he was of no further use to 
them, and they felt confident that they could 
follow up Stuart's track from his journal. Next 
morning they gave him a spare tomakawk they 
had with them and allowed him to depart. 
Brown, whom he still considered as " Tuartee ", 
having to promise that he would return. 

Lee-lee had got on very well with his first 
day's journey, and they anticipated having no 
trouble. He was quick and ready in the use of 
his hands, and, moreover, he and Billy were begin- 
ning to understand each other, so they hoped 
soon to get his history in full. As they had 
dry country ahead of them, scantily watered, 
they spelled a couple of days at the white lagoon 
as they christened it, on account of the milky 
appearance of the water. 

(M64) M 



178 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

The first day's journey was through the weari- 
some desert scrub described by Stuart. They 
calculated what a long day's march on foot 
would be, but when they had covered that 
distance there was no sign of the salt lake. 

" These salt lakes have no tributaries running 
into them," said Brown; "they are just depres- 
sions, with the surrounding country sloping into 
the basin. We might be within a quarter of a 
mile of it and miss it." 

" We must find this one at anyrate, if we have 
to go back and camp for a week at that lagoon," 
replied Morton. 

"Well, it's still two or three hours off sun- 
down, and we have plenty of water for to-night. 
Suppose you go north and I go south. Charlie 
and the boys stop here and keep a fire going 
with plenty of smoke, so that we can get the 
straight bearing to the camp if either of us drops 
on it" 

" Agreed. North is your lucky cardinal point, 
so I will take the south." 

They started in different directions, while 
Charlie and Billy took the packs off the horses, 
and tied them up to trees with their saddles still 
on, for there was no feed. 

Morton went on south for nearly an hour 
without meeting with any change. He went 
east and west for short distances as he returned, 
but was unsuccessful in coming upon any clue to 
the situation of the salt lake. 



THE FINAL DEPARTURE. 179 

Brown was equally unfortunate, until, just as 
he was on the point of turning back, the un- 
mistakable smell of burning scrub- wood struck 
on his nostrils. 

"It can't be from the camp," he thought; 
" what little wind there is comes from the north." 

He pushed on, and in a few minutes came to 
an open area, and before him lay the salt lake. 

There was a broad belt of mud surrounding 
a centre of clear water, on which a varied lot of 
wild fowl, including black swans and wild geese, 
were swimming. On the slope descending to the 
edge of the mud there was good short grass 
growing, and at no distance away he saw the up- 
piled earth indicating a native well. He rode 
over to it, and dismounting found a fair supply 
of water in it. It was slightly brackish, but 
would do well enough for their horses, being 
what is generally known as " good stock water ". 

He next looked all round the lake for the fire 
which he had smelt, and presently detected the 
smoke a short way off, stealing out of the edge 
of the scrub. 

" Perhaps it's those six Warlattas," he thought, 
" and they might be saucy seeing me alone." 

He unslung his rifle from his saddle, and ad- 
vanced with the bridle of his horse on his arm. 



180 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 



CHAPTER XXII. 

Another Eemnant An Exodus Search for the Gold Eeef 
and its Discovery. 

AS he neared the spot he saw two or three 
dark figures spring up, as though they then 
first noticed him. Fearful that they would run 
away, he called to them and held up one hand. 
Presently an old man came to the edge of the 
scrub. He peered at Brown from under his 
hand, for the afternoon sun was in his eyes; then 
he burst into a shout of "Tuartee! Tuartee!" so 
like the blacks at the lake that Brown thought 
some of them must have followed him. This, of 
course, he knew to be almost impossible, and as 
they were evidently of a friendly disposition, he 
walked boldly up. There were only five blacks 
in all, the old man and four youths. The young 
fellows hung back, but the old man laughed 
and stroked Brown affectionately, murmuring 
"Tuartee" all the while. There was no doubt 
that this was another wretched remnant of the 
tribe formerly camped at the mountain, who 
had escaped alive from the murderous attacks of 
the Warlattas. Stuart would have lived affec- 
tionately in the remembrance of those who were 
old enough to remember him as their deliverer 
on two occasions from their enemies. 

It was getting late, however, and Brown told 



THE GOLD REEF DISCOVERED. 181 

them he would come back after the sun went 
down, and left them, and rode hastily to camp. 
It did not take long to replace the packs on the 
horses, and by dusk they were all at the lake. 
The horses drank the water freely, and were soon 
enjoying the young grass. The number of the 
blacks had been augmented by two gins, who 
had been digging roots on the other side of the 
lake when Brown first appeared. 

" I've another brilliant idea," said Brown, when 
they had finished their meal. 

" Let's have it," replied Morton. 

"These poor beggars have evidently sought 
refuge in this howling wilderness from the War- 
lattas. As things go, I should not think it 
was a very choice place of residence they look 
miserable enough." 

" I know what you are going to propose," in- 
terrupted Morton. "Get them on to the lake 
and let them mate up with the others." 

" Exactly. I think it feasible enough ; we shall 
have to make this our headquarters while we 
hunt up that reef. We are not pressed for time 
nor rations, thanks to the game at the lake." 

"And we sha'n't find that reef in a day, either," 
returned Morton. "We'll sleep on the idea." 

Next morning Morton proposed an amendment. 
Before the blacks left (if they could induce them 
to do so), they should get the old man to guide 
them to the soakage spring where Stuart camped 
the night after he found the reef. This would 



182 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

probably be on the usual route travelled by the 
blacks, and would considerably contract the area 
of their search. While this was going on, Billy, 
who had learnt a little of the lake language, 
would explain to the natives the advantage of 
the change. 

" We seem to be constituting ourselves a kind 
of special providence for this part of the world," 
said Morton, as he finished. 

" We have plenty of time to go to the spring 
to-day, if we can make the old fellow understand 
what we want." 

This they did after some trouble, but it was 
evident the native did not enjoy the idea of going 
in that direction. However, as the two whites 
started with him he finally consented. When 
about what they considered half-way, Morton 
and Brown parted, Brown going on with the 
blackfellow, and Morton intending to devote a 
few hours to searching around and then return- 
ing to the salt lake. He found no indications, 
however, to reward his trouble. 

Brown turned up early the next day, the old 
fellow having travelled sturdily. He had found 
the spring well supplied with fresh water, but 
had vainly tried to get anything out of his guide 
of a heap of white stones anywhere in the neigh- 
bourhood of the track they followed. However, 
Brown thought by the formation of the country 
about the spring that they could trace the line 
back. 



THE GOLD REEF DISCOVERED. 183 

" How have you got on with these fellows with 
regard to an exodus. This old fellow knows all 
about the lake, but I don't think he has been 
there." 

" Oh, Billy has turned out a splendid orator. 
He has been gesticulating to them, and fired their 
imaginations with his descriptions of thousands 
of wild ducks and millions of fish," said Charlie. 

" Now, who is to go back and introduce them 
to their future companions?" 

"I'm all right now," returned Charlie; "Billy 
and I will shepherd them across." 

" It's a good road all the way, I think you will 
manage it," replied Morton. "How about Lee- 
lee?" 

" We must take him with us when we go out 
reef -hunting. He might run away if left by 
himself here," said Brown. 

" He is a pretty cute fellow and will help us, 
if we make him understand what we are looking 
for. Our camp and horses will be safe enough 
all day; for, one way and another, the district is 
getting pretty well depopulated." 

The arrangements were so decided on, and the 
next morning, under convoy of Charlie and 
Billy, the survivors of the mountain tribe de- 
parted for the promised land flowing with birds 
and fish. After their custom the gins were 
loaded up with what little camp furniture they 
possessed, while the lordly male strode along 
with nothing but a boomerang and a small throw- 



184 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

ing-stick, without which no self-respecting black- 
fellow would be seen. 

Charlie, however, equalized matters by putting 
what he could on one of the pack-horses, and 
giving the gins a chance. 

Morton, Brown, and Lee-lee set out in the 
opposite direction. The first day they exhaus- 
tively searched for some distance on either side 
of the track taken by Brown and the old man, 
but reached half-way to the spring without find- 
out anything, and returned to the salt lake. 
Next day Brown proposed that they should go 
straight to the spring and work back. This 
they did, taking a pack-horse with rations, and 
leaving a note for Charlie in a conspicuous place, 
lest they should be detained and he should come 
back before they did. 

The spring was at the foot of a small hillock 
strewn with granite boulders. They turned out 
the horses and started on foot to try and follow 
the line of country whereon rock was visible on 
the surface. They managed with great care to 
keep to it until it was time to return. Next 
morning they took their horses and rode out to 
where they had left off. In the middle of the 
day they turned out for a spell, having been 
encouraged by finding occasional belts of quartz 
and slate crossing the granite formation. 

As they were smoking after their meal, Lee- 
lee, who was sauntering about, came back, and 
pointing on ahead, indicated that a heap of white 



THE GOLD REEF DISCOVERED. 185 

stones was there. Both men got up, and in a 
few steps saw an outblow of quartz about a 
hundred yards away. Hastening to it, they were 
soon busy breaking stones and investigating. 

They soon found that they had struck Stuart's 
reef, or an outcrop on the same line. The stone 
appeared to the finders fabulously rich, some of 
it being powdered throughout with gold. 

" Well, I suppose there's a fortune or two there," 
said Brown when their inspection was over. 
" But it's in a deuce of an outlandish place." 

"Wonder how far we are across the border 
into Western Australia?" 

"A good way, I expect; but we will keep the 
reckoning very carefully as we go back." 

"We have got all we want now; we will pick 
out the best of the specimens and take them 
with us." 

"Yes; and go straight back to the salt lake 
and wait for Charlie." 

Picking out the richest and smallest specimens, 
they packed them on the pack-horse and struck 
in for the salt lake on a compass line. This gave 
them the bearing from the salt pan, and was all 
they wanted to find the place again. 

Charlie did not return for a couple more days, 
but as they had instructed him to take things 
easy, they did not feel anxious. 

He had taken his convoy safely to the lake, 
and duly introduced the survivors of the two 
tribes. Billy and he waited a day to make sure 



186 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

that amicable relations were properly established 
and had then returned, everything being peaceful 
and satisfactory. 

Another start was now made for the spring, 
Brown, Billy, and Lee-lee going straight there 
with the pack-horses, and Morton taking Charlie 
round by the reef to show him the rich find. 

From the top of the hillock at the back of the 
spring the country looked scrubby, waste, and 
desolate; but the outlook was not extensive, and 
they could see nothing of the mountain they 
were making for. It behoved them, then, to be 
very careful, for the country ahead was evidently 
very dry, and the direction to the creek with the 
brackish water in it, of the vaguest. 

They had a good many things at stake, the 
safety of Stuart's journal containing the solu- 
tion of the Leichhardt mystery, and the know- 
ledge of the gold reef. They did not, then, wish 
to meet with any disaster on their homeward 
way. 

" This is not an exciting sort of road," said 
Brown, as they turned from fruitlessly scanning 
the ocean of dull gray tree-tops, " but I think it 
is a little superior to that abominable desert." 

"Yes, well patronize this track if ever we 
come back here; and I suppose we shall come 
some day to sink on that reef, and see if it 
goes down." 

" If that is the only big show, the gold will be 
pretty dear before we get it home; but if there 



A SOLITARY CAMP. 187 

is plenty more about, you will soon see a road 
out here and a township too." 

" Go on. A railway, and those gas-lamps and 
bridges you reported seeing in the scrub." 

"Why not? Both you and I have seen those 
things spring up like magic in Australia, before 
now." 

" Well, I hope our luck will stick to us to-mor- 
row and see us on to that creek." 



CHAPTER XXIII. 

The Dry Creek Brown has a Solitary Camp A 
Mysterious Light. 

IT is unfortunate," said Morton the next morn- 
ing when they were preparing to start, 
"that Stuart did not give a description of the 
creek, or of the water where they camped the 
next night." 

"Yes, it's rather a game of blindman's-buff, 
for they may have gone north or south of the 
direct line." 

"How far do you make it to the mountain 
direct?" asked Brown. 

A rough chart, compiled every night by dead 
reckoning, had been kept since they started, 
and Morton had been working it up the night 
before. 



188 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

"Over one hundred miles; and if it is scrub 
all the way, with sand underfoot, equal to one 
hundred and fifty." 

" No good, then, our striking straight for the 
mountain and trusting to chance for finding 
water on the way?" 

"Too risky altogether. We must find this 
brackish creek somehow." 

"We can't get back the way we came to the 
lake, for the last water we camped at must be 
bone dry by this time." 

" How about going round by Hentig's grave if 
we are beaten back utterly?" 

" Yes, as a last resource, we might try that. 
Lee-lee could not help us, for I don't think he 
ever stirred far from that lagoon where you 
found him." 

" Let us trust to our lucky star and get on 
anyhow," returned Morton as he swung himself 
into his saddle, and they were soon filing slowly 
through the scrub. 

The scrub consisted of mulga and a dense 
undergrowth of lance wood, so that the progress 
made was very slow. Moreover, it was a diffi- 
cult thing to keep a straight course amongst so 
many obstacles. With the exception that the 
scrub was sometimes denser than usual they 
experienced no change, until about two o'clock, 
when they emerged into a small open space, and 
Charlie exclaimed that they had come to a grave- 
yard. 



A SOLITARY CAMP. 189 

The clearing they had entered was a white 
clay flat, sparsely grown over with spinif ex, and 
covered with ant-hills about three feet in height, 
bearing a startling resemblance to the headstones 
of graves. 

The party halted, partly to discuss their move- 
ments, and partly to have something to eat. 
Morton, who finished first, mounted his horse 
and rode in a southerly direction, telling the 
others he would be back directly. 

" The scrub is thinner to the south-east," he 
said when he came back, " and beyond I can see 
another flat like this. I vote we shift our 
course for a few miles. This change of country 
may mean that the creek is somewhere about 
here." 

Brown agreed to this, and Morton went ahead. 

Passing through a belt of scrub they came to 
another flat like the one they had left, but 
somewhat larger. From this they passed through 
thinner belts of scrub until the flat became con- 
tinuous, still, however, covered with the ant- 
hills. 

Presently Morton pointed ahead, and a line of 
creek gums of no great height was now visible. 
The creek was bordered by a sandy flat with 
some coarse grass on it. The water-course was 
shallow, crossed here and there by bars of sand- 
stone rock; but it was as dry as though water 
had never been in it for years. It ran easterly. 

" This is a lively look-out," said Morton. " Shall 



190 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

we follow this creek down, or camp here and one 
go up and one go down the creek?" 

" If we find nothing wet we must retreat to 
the spring to-morrow morning." 

" We must; but if we all go on down the creek 
and find nothing wet, as you express it, we shall 
be too far to retreat." 

""Does not this creek come from much the 
same direction we came from?" asked Charlie. 

" If it keeps the same course as it runs here, 
it does," replied Morton. 

"We are just as likely to find water up as 
down," went on Charlie ; " but if we follow it up 
we shall be getting nearer to the spring instead 
of away from it, and if we don't find water can 
easily cut across to it." 

"And have much better travelling -ground 
along this flat," said Brown. " Charlie, my boy, 
we shall make a first-class bushmen of you 
before we get home. Al, copper-fastened at 
Lloyds." 

Charlie's suggestion was unanimously accepted, 
and the party turned up the creek, making for 
the westward again. Morton elected to follow 
the bed of the creek, whilst the others kept as 
straight a course as they could along the flat. 

The creek still continued dry, and no birds of 
any kind were visible a bad sign. Like most 
creeks running through the level interior it gave 
indications every now and then of running out 
altogether. At last, however, it grew narrower 



A SOLITARY CAMP. 191 

and deeper, and Morton saw a group of gum- 
trees ahead, somewhat taller than those lining 
the banks. There was a small bar of rocks 
across the channel, and when he rode over this 
he saw a pool of water before him fringed with 
green reeds. The water looked strangely clear 
as he rode down to it; his horse put his head 
down to drink, but lifted it at once with a dis- 
satisfied snort. 

"I guess what's up," thought Morton, dis- 
mounting. He stooped and lifted some water to 
his lips with his scooped hand. 

"Bah!" It was salter than brine. 

Remounting, he rode up the bank and called 
to the others, who were visible slightly ahead. 
They waited when they saw him riding towards 
them. 

" I think we had better ride straight for the 
spring," he said ; " there's water down there, but 
it's salter than the Pacific Ocean." 

" We have good travelling along here," replied 
Brown. " I think we ought to keep on here as 
far as we can and then strike off for the spring. 
It doesn't much matter about water now, for the 
spring can't be many miles off." 

"You follow the creek, then, for a bit; you 
seem luckier than I am. It does not much 
matter about the water, as you say, but I should 
like to know whether there was any fresh water 
in it as well as salt." 

Brown went off to the creek and they once 



192 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

more started, until Morton calculated that a short 
three miles through the scrub which was running 
parallel to them would bring them to the spring. 
He shouted to Brown and fired his revolver, and 
when Brown joined them they turned off and 
reached the spring at dusk. 

" Back for the first time," said Morton, as they 
unpacked at their old camp. "I wonder how 
many times we shall have to return here." 

" Lucky we have such a good camp to stand 
by us," answered Brown. " We can always get 
from here to the lake." 

The next thing to consider was their move- 
ments for the morrow. Morton suggested that 
perhaps the clay formation altered the conditions 
of the creek, and below, the water, if not fresh, 
was at least only brackish. 

"I doubt it," said Brown; "these clay forma- 
tions generally carry salt." 

" One of us had better take Billy and a couple 
of horses packed with water. Let Billy go about 
twenty miles, then, whoever goes on, give his 
horse a couple of bags of water and hang the 
others up on the branch of a tree against his 
return." 

"That's the only safe way," replied Brown. 
" Who is to go, you or I?" 

" You're the lucky one." 

"No. You found Lee-lee; let's toss up." 

" That's all right, but where's the coin?" 

"Rather good," laughed Brown. "Men with 



A SOLITARY CAMP. 193 

a rich reef in their possession and can't raise a 
copper to toss with." 

" We must shake in the hat," replied Morton. 

He tore up a leaf of his note-book, made a 
mark on one scrap, doubled them up and shook 
them together in his hat. 

Brown drew the marked paper, and chose to 

g- 

" Don't run away with my share of the reef 

while I am away," he said as he got on his horse 
early the next morning, and, followed by Billy 
driving the two horses, was soon lost to sight in 
the scrub. 

" We may as well go out and amuse ourselves 
at the reef," said Morton ; " we can do nothing 
until he comes back." 

They saddled up, and spent the best part of 
the day in knocking stones out and breaking 
them, returning in the evening with a few extra 
rich specimens to add to those they already 
had. 

"If we show these specimens when we get 
home, won't somebody suspect, and follow our 
tracks back?" said Charlie. 

" If we are fools enough to show them," replied 
his cousin; "but we'll take all sorts of good care 
that we don't, until we are ready to come out 
ourselves, and have pretty well located the place. 
If Brown does not turn up before morning, we 
will go out again to-morrow and see if we can 
trace the reef any further." 

(M64) K 



194 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

Billy turned up with the two horses just at 
dusk. He had accompanied Brown some miles 
beyond where they turned back, but there had 
been no change in the creek as far as he went. 

Brown, meanwhile, kept on down the creek 
after parting with the blackboy. It continued 
enlarging, and contracting again, in the eccentric 
manner of an inland water-course, but there was 
no sign of water, fresh or salt. 

The silence, lif elessness, and the gloomy neigh- 
bourhood of the scrub on one side of him natur- 
ally affected his spirits, and when night fell the 
sense of loneliness was increased. As it was 
useless going on in the dark, he determined to 
give his horse a few hours' rest and then go 
back. 

" The moon rises at twelve o'clock," he thought; 
" if I start then, I shall get back to the water- 
bags by daylight." 

He short-hobbled his horse, sat down at the 
foot of a tree with his saddle at his back, and lit 
his pipe. The great stillness of the desert sur- 
rounded and oppressed him with the intensity of 
its silence. Not a leaf rustled, not a night bird 
could be heard; the jingle of his horse's hobble- 
chain, and his munching as he cropped the grass, 
was a welcome sound in that dreary waste. No 
one knows what a companion a horse is until 
he has passed a few solitary nights in the unin- 
habited bush of the interior. Gradually Brown 
felt sleep stealing over him. 



A SOLITARY CAMP. 195 

" I can afford to doze," he thought. " I'm pretty 
uncomfortable, so I sha'n't sleep long." 

His head fell back on his saddle, and he was 
soon fast asleep. He awoke suddenly, feeling 
stiff and unrefreshed. Springing to his feet, he 
listened for the sound of his horse; but every- 
thing was still. 

" What a fool I was to go to sleep!" he thought. 
"I expect my old prad has made back up the 
creek, and I shall have to stump it to the camp. 
Wonder what the time is." 

He took his watch out of his pouch, and, the 
starlight not being strong enough, struck a 
match. Instantly he was agreeably startled by 
a loud snort of surprise close to him, and his 
horse, who had been lying down asleep, got on 
his legs and shook himself. Brown felt so 
relieved that he went over and patted and 
stroked him. 

" I thought you had left me in the lurch, old 
fellow," he said, as he slipped the bridle over his 
head, for it was nearly midnight, and he thought 
he might as well make a start. As he stood up 
after stooping to take the hobbles off, his atten- 
tion was attracted by a brightness in the eastern 
sky. "Moon rising," he thought, and led his 
horse to the tree where his saddle was. 

He saddled his horse and was about to mount, 
when he noticed that the sky was no brighter, 
and the glow was reddish in colour. 

" Moon's rather long-winded," he muttered, and 



196 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

stood there watching for its appearance; but it 
obstinately refused to appear. 



CHAPTER XXIV. 

Fire to the East Brown returns to the Spring More 
Dry Creeks Discovered. 

T)ROWN stood patiently waiting for some 
J3 minutes, and then the truth struck him. It 
was not the moon rising; it was a bush fire, a long 
distance away. 

"Deuced queer," he thought, as he took out 
his compass, struck a match, and took the bear- 
ing of the glow. " It's too far for me to do any- 
thing, even if I felt so inclined, which I don't. 
Hullo! what's this?" 

A bright light suddenly gleamed through the 
trees a little to the south of the other. This, 
however, was the moon in reality, and Brown 
turned his willing horse's head towards home, 
marvelling much at what he had seen. 

" Fires travel any distance in this unoccupied 
country," he thought, " and that one may have 
come a hundred miles or more." 

He reached the water- bags at sunrise, and gave 
his horse their contents, then, having strapped 
them on to his saddle, rode on and arrived at 
the camp at the spring about noon. 



MORE DRY GREEKS. 197 

Morton could only account for the fire in the 
same way that Brown did; that it must have 
travelled a long distance, and that its presence 
did not denote the existence of water. On his 
part Morton was able to inform him that they 
had found another outcrop of the reef that morn- 
ing, nearly a quarter of a mile to the south, 
and it appeared as rich as the one they had dis- 
covered first. 

The waste ahead, however, still sternly con- 
fronted them. 

"I wonder whether there is another creek 
further south that this one runs into," said Mor- 
ton; "or there may be one it joins to the north." 

" Very likely ; this creek that has been hum- 
bugging us does not look to me like a main one, 
It nearly lost itself several times yesterday, and 
when I camped it looked very sick." 

"We can easily settle the question in a day; 
to-morrow one go north and one south, as be- 
fore." 

"May I go this time?" said Charlie. 

" You go north, and I'll go and crack stones at 
the new reef," returned Brown. 

So it was settled, and they spent a lazy after- 
noon. 

In the morning the two started in opposite 
directions, and Brown went off to inspect the 
new find. 

Charlie, having been strictly cautioned to trust 
to his compass only, went due north, and for ten 



198 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

or twelve miles was surrounded by scrub. Then 
he emerged in a strip of open country, and to his 
great joy saw creek timber ahead. This water- 
course was quite different to the one they had 
been on it was more like a chain of shallow 
lagoons, but all were dry and parched. Charlie 
followed it for some distance, but there was no 
sign of moisture, and, elated at having something 
to report, he made his way back to the spring. 
Strange to say, when Morton came in he too had 
found a similar creek to the south, but also water- 
less. Brown worked out the courses on a bit of 
paper. 

" It strikes me," he said, " that these two creeks, 
if they run on as they were running where you 
struck them, must junction in with the creek I 
was on, not many miles below where I camped." 

" Supposing we split up," said Morton. " Say 
you and Charlie, with half the spare horses, follow 
down the creek he found, and I and the boys will 
follow down the one I found, with the rest of the 
horses. We shall meet at the junction, if your 
theory is correct. The party who gets there first 
to wait for the others." 

" But supposing there is no water in either of 
the creeks?" 

" We can get back here." 

" If your creek junctions in above ours, or vice 
versa, how is the party who arrives at the lower 
junction to know that the other party is waiting 
at the upper one?" 



MORE DRY CREEKS. 199 

"Hum!" said Morton; "that rather capsizes 
the notion. But I think we can fix it by running 
the creek up and down a bit." 

" Well, I'm willing," returned Brown. " I don't 
think we are such duffers as to miss each other 
if we get anywhere within a few miles." 

In the morning the plan mooted was carried 
out, and they left the spring, as they hoped, for 
good that journey. The creek Brown and Charlie 
followed proved to be very serpentine in its 
course. When they stopped for a mid-day spell 
Brown worked out the dead reckoning, and came 
to the conclusion that although they had come 
over fifteen miles in distance, they had not made 
more than ten in a direct course. Still the creek, 
on an average, was bearing in towards the other 
one, and they reckoned they must strike it late 
in the afternoon. 

As they went on the flat grew wider and the 
empty water-holes further apart, but everything 
bore the look of a prolonged drought. At four 
o'clock they sighted the other creek ahead, but 
there were no signs of the others. 

"Wonder how your cousin got on?" Brown 
said to Charlie. "Hurrah! there he is!" he re- 
turned, as a horseman came into sight riding 
down the bank of the old creek. 

Morton pulled up when he caught sight of 
them, and waited. 

"Any water?" he asked when they came up. 

"Not a drop. I don't think there has been 



200 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

any in it since the time of Noah's flood. How 
did you get on?" 

" There was no water in the creek we followed, 
but there is a decent hole where it junctions with 
this one, about two miles up from here." 

"Salt?" 

"No, quite drinkable a slight sweet taste 
about it." 

" I expect there's more water in it than when 
Stuart was here: these holes get salter as they 
dry up. Do you think it is the hole he was at?" 

" I think it must be," returned Morton, as they 
turned and rode up the creek. "We ought to 
be able to get through to the mountain now, even 
if we don't come across that clay-pan." 

" That's good news, at any rate. Did you see 
anything of that fire?" 

" There appears to be a heavy bank of smoke 
to the eastward, but we must try and find a tree 
this evening to have a look-out from." 

The camp was a fairly good one, although the 
grass was somewhat dry. After some searching 
Brown and Morton found a gum-tree which they 
could climb, but it was not of a sufficient height 
to afford them a good view of the surrounding 
country. They made out, however, that an ex- 
tensive bush fire was raging to the eastward, and 
when it fell dark the glow was plainly visible. 
Brown said it was not as bright as when he saw 
it, as though the fire was now working away 
from them. 



MORE DRY CREEKS. 201 

The following day they started on a straight 
course for the mountain on the creek, and rode 
the whole day through a barren region of scrub. 
That night the horses had to be tied up to trees, 
for there was neither grass nor water for them. 
However, they felt sure of arriving at the creek 
the next day. 

"We ought to be getting to that big plain 
pretty soon," said Morton in the morning, as 
they were making an early start. " That is, if 
our reckoning is anyway near the mark." 

They had scarcely been travelling an hour, 
when they suddenly rode from the scrub on to 
the plain, and before them in the distance, with 
a black haze of smoke as a background, was the 
mountain they were making for. The fire was 
seemingly beyond the mountain, as the plain, 
although covered with dry grass which would 
have burnt freely enough, had not been burnt. 

Once out of the scrub they travelled more 
rapidly, and in the afternoon once more camped 
at the base of the mountain. All the eastern 
side of the creek was burnt bare, and when they 
ascended the hill they could see that the fire had 
ravaged most of the spinifex scrub and burnt up 
the country to the north. The outlook was even 
drearier than before, for the heat and flames 
had scorched the leaves of the low trees, and 
nothing but an expanse of dead foliage was 
beneath them. 

Fortunately there was good feed for their 



202 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

horses on the bank of the creek and the islands 
in its bed, and as the last two days had been 
rather severe on them, they decided to rest for 
a few days and inspect the surrounding country, 
although it held out little inducement. How- 
ever, they preferred stopping at where they 
were to going back to their old camp at the 
lagoons, where probably all the grass was burnt. 
The first thing to do was to jot down the whole 
of their course since leaving the lagoons and 
correct it, which they were now able to do, as 
they had arrived back at a known point. They 
found that the dead reckoning had been very 
well kept, and that their work closed in a satis- 
factory manner. 

An excursion down the creek on the following 
day convinced them that it ran out and was 
hopelessly lost in the sandy scrub that stretched 
south and east. Next morning Morton was up 
early at break of day, and climbing up the hill to 
reach the summit before sunrise, which is the 
best time to see long distances. To the east the 
fire was still burning in the distance, but was 
evidently now in a dying state. Morton had his 
glasses with him, and commenced to carefully 
scan the country. At last his attention became 
fixed on one particular spot to the south. He 
took a compass-bearing and descended the hill. 
The others were up, and about to commence 
breakfast. 

" I've spotted that rock hill," said Morton. 



MORE DRY CREEKS. 203 

"What! The one Stuart says the old black- 
fellow told him about?" 

" I think so. You can't pick it out with the 
naked eye, but with the glasses I can make it 
out quite distinctly. A brown naked cone rising 
out of the scrub." 

" How far away is it?" 

" Not more than fifteen miles, I should say. I 
wonder that none of the niggers were able to 
take Stuart to it." 

"Do you intend going?" 

" We may as well. I should like to know all 
about the place before we go home." 

" Well, I'm with you, old man." 

Next morning they started on Morton's com- 
pass-bearing. The distance was about what he 
judged, and they made a very fair course. 

The rock, surrounded by a small area of open 
country, rose in a round-topped peak to an 
altitude of about one hundred and fifty feet. 
The granite sides were smooth and naked, and 
the two white men, after hanging their horses to 
a small cork-tree, climbed to the summit. Brown, 
who had been in Western Australia before, had 
seen these granite formations peculiar to that 
colony, but to Morton they were a new pheno- 
menon. From the top they had a good clear 
view all round. Scrub, east and south, still 
stretched before them. Presently they both at 
the same time noticed a clear space west of 
south, in which there was a sparkle like a reflec- 



204 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

tion from the sun. Morton turned the glasses 
on it. 

" Salt lake," he said, after a pause. 

Brown took the glasses and looked. 

" Yes, another salt lake, there's no doubt. We'll 
take the bearings and apparent distance; it's just 
as well to have all these things down." 

"Not worth while going over to it," said 
Morton. 

They descended the hill and rode round it to 
see if there were any of the holes on the base of 
the mound, such as are often found. In this case 
there were two or three, but all small and dry. 

" I don't see any good in going into that scrub 
to the east," said Morton as they rode home; 
" we'll make a start the day after to-morrow." 

Brown agreed with him, and they reached 
camp in good time. 



CHAPTER XXV. 

The Attack by the Surriving Warlattas Death of Lee-lee 
The Last of the Cannibals. 

NEXT morning was a lazy one. About eleven 
o'clock Morton, who was talking to Brown 
under the shade of a tree, proposed that they 
should kill a few hours by a ride up the creek, 
and called to Billy to bring up a couple of 



THE LAST OF THE CANNIBALS. 205 

horses. Charlie, who was in the tent, sung out 
in reply that he had gone hunting with Lee-lee, 
as their clothes were lying on the ground, for a 
blackfellow always likes to strip whenever he 
gets a chance. 

"I will go and get the horses, they are just 
down the creek," said Charlie, when he heard 
what his cousin wanted. 

He picked up two bridles and went off down 
the creek. 

Brown and Morton put their saddles down in 
readiness. 

The horses were not far, and Charlie soon came 
back leading two. He had almost reached the 
camp when a shrill yell of terror made them all 
start. 

Out from the forest came Billy, racing and 
shouting, and behind him limped Lee-lee. There 
was no need to ask what it meant; behind them, 
in close pursuit, came other dark forms with up- 
raised spears. 

"Those Warlattas!" yelled Brown, as he and 
Morton sprang for their rifles. Charlie was 
transfixed with surprise. Two of the cannibals, 
with their spears up, were now close to the 
fugitives, the others pressing on so eagerly that 
they did not see the white men. It all seemed 
to Charlie to pass like a flash. The spears flew, 
and the rifles cracked so closely one after the 
other that it sounded almost like one report. 
Down went Billy and Lee-lee, and the two War- 



206 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

lattas behind them pitched forward headlong on 
the ground. Startled by the firearms the others 
halted, turned and fled. But the breech-loaders 
spoke once more, and one Warlatta fell with a 
broken leg, and the other dropped in a heap and 
lay quiet, with a conical bullet between his shoul- 
ders. 

" Quick ! not one must get away," said Morton, 
and he and Brown snatched the bridles from 
Charlie's hand, and jumping on bare-backed, 
galloped like avenging furies after the two re- 
treating survivors. "Look after Billy!" yelled 
Morton to Charlie, as he urged his excited horse 
along. 

The blacks fled into the forest, but the cover 
came too late for them, with two of the best 
riders in central Australia thirsting for their 
blood. Charlie, as he went down to Billy, saw 
his cousin race up to one man and they disap- 
peared between the trees, but the report of a 
revolver immediately after told its tale. Next 
minute came two more pistol-shots from the 
direction Brown had gone. 

Billy had sat up by the time Charlie reached 
him; he had been speared in the leg, but poor 
Lee-lee was dead. The spear of the Warlatta 
had pierced his heart. 

Morton's and Brown's voices were now heard 
coming back. They pulled ujp at the wounded 
savage, and Morton slipped from his horse. 
Charlie turned his head away, for he guessed 



I 




THE LAST OF THE BLOODTHIRSTY \\ARIATTAS 



THE LAST OF THE CANNIBALS. 207 

what was going to happen. No quarter for the 
cannibals. He heard the revolver ring out, and 
knew that Lee-lee was avenged. 

His cousin came up, leading his horse and 
putting his revolver back in his pouch. Both 
men were flushed, and their eyes still blazed 
with the fierce light of conflict. 

"Poor Lee-lee!" said Brown, as they stood 
beside his body. "We seem to have been his 
evil genius." 

" We've been the evil genius of the Warlattas, 
thank goodness," said Morton grimly. " They're 
all wiped out now, however." 

The tragedy affected them all strongly. The 
unfortunate half-caste meeting his death in such 
an unexpected manner, when all seemed safe and 
at peace, was sad. 

Billy, however, demanded their attention. 
Fortunately the spear was not a barbed one, 
and had only gone into the fleshy part of his 
thigh. It was soon extracted, the wound bound 
up, and he was made as comfortable as possible. 

Billy explained that he and Lee-lee were on 
their way home when they saw the Warlattas, 
who had evidently been stalking them for some 
time. Had Billy been armed with firearms he 
might have frightened them away; but as he 
had nothing but a tomahawk, he thought discre- 
tion the better part of valour and ran for it, 
forgetting in his excitement that Lee-lee was 
lame and could not keep up with him. 



208 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

They buried the last poor relic of Leichhardt's 
doomed party at the foot of the mountain, but 
the bodies of the Warlattas were left to the 
crows and hawks. 

" Perhaps it is all for the best, sad as it seems," 
said Morton. " Those six devils could not keep 
their lust for murder under, and but for this 
row we might not have run across them. Then 
they would have gone to the lake again and 
finished their villainous work." 

"I wonder where they got their weapons 
from." 

" There must have been some left in the bottle 
tree camp in the basalt. We did not look about 
much, if you remember." 

" Well, that's the end of it all, I suppose." 

" Unless somebody comes across Lee -lee's 
brothers or sisters amongst the tribe to the 
north." 

The party perforce had now to remain where 
they were until Billy was able to ride again, and 
a dull time it was. A trip to the hot swamp 
showed them that, during their absence at the 
lake, the water had subsided and the swamp 
become so dry that the fire had ravaged it, 
burning the ragged, inflammable bark of the 
trees, and licking up the reeds surrounding the 
lakelet, which was now but a surface of cracked 
mud. 

"There is one question that always worries 
me," said Brown, as they came to the spot where 



THE LAST OF THE CANNIBALS. 209 

the Warlatta track led into the basalt rocks. 
" Do you think that Murphy was compelled to 
join in their cannibal feasts?" 

" I have thought of it too/' replied Morton, 
" and have come to the conclusion that he was 
not. At least, while he retained his reason. 
When we saw him, you know, he was nearly 
blind, and his mental faculties almost gone. My 
reason for this is the anchor we found cut on 
the tree at the lagoons; I daresay there were 
more, and there were numberless marks of the 
others. There was an ample game supply up 
and down that creek, and I believe he spent 
most of his time there hunting, until he became 
too infirm to leave the cave." 

"I am glad you think that, as I am of the 
same belief. I think any white man, no matter 
how slow his intellect, would prefer death." 

"Still, cases have been known where men 
have been maddened by starvation in an open 
boat at sea; but in this case he would not have 
been desperate with hunger. No, I think, and 
am glad to think, that he had no part in their 
evil doings or rites until he was irresponsible 
for his actions." 

" They would not have allowed him to go with 
them on their raids for fear of his escaping. 
Evidently they regarded him as a sort of fetish." 

They dismounted and hung their horses to 
a tree, and went a short distance amongst the 
rocks. As they advanced all signs of a track 



210 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

disappeared, for the place became one jumbled 
mass of huge boulders piled on top of one 
another, rough as a rasp underfoot, and bak- 
ing hot from the vertical sun. What with the 
natural heat of the day and the radiation from 
the rocks, they were soon glad to turn back to 
where they had left their horses. 

" No wonder poor Stuart, barefooted and alone, 
could not make his way any distance," remarked 
Morton. 

" I wonder what would have happened had he 
met the Warlattas?" 

"He had established a good funk amongst 
them, and so he might have routed them. But if 
they had killed him, I swear a good many would 
have lost the number of their mess first." 

" It always makes me feel sad when I think of 
such a man being forced by fate to spend his life 
amongst savages." 

Billy's wound, like the flesh of most black- 
fellows, was rapidly healing, but he was not yet 
able to ride. The shadow cast on their spirits 
by the murder of poor Lee-lee, rendered them all 
anxious to be on the move and leave the ill- 
omened camp behind them. The weather had 
been continuously fine ever since they left. 
That night, however, a black thunder-storm 
gathered up, and towards evening the heavens 
were overcast and the sky was one constant 
blaze of lightning, and a continuous mutter of 
thunder sounded from all points. Every pre- 



THE LAST OF THE CANNIBALS. 211 

paration had been made, and they watched with 
interest the mustering of the storm spirits. 

"I believe it's going to be one of those dry 
dust-storms after all," said Brown. 

To the east every blaze of light now showed 
a low black cloud approaching. 

"It's the wind coming," said Morton, "bringing 
all the ashes from the burnt country; we shall 
be smothered with dust and charcoal." 

Even as he spoke there came a blinding glare 
of white light, accompanied by a crash of thunder 
that seemed to shake the hill to its foundation. 
A rush of cold wind, bearing dust and ashes on 
its wings, swept the camp and nearly carried 
away the tent. Then the rain fell in one heavy 
downpour. For nearly an hour the deluge kept 
up, the continuous flashes making it as bright as 
day, the constant roar and rattle of the thunder 
never ceasing. Then the tumult died away in 
the west, the stars peeped out, and the tropical 
storm was over. Next morning the sky was 
clear and the air fresh and pleasant. 

" I'm hanged if I can stop in camp any longer," 
said Morton. "Billy, if you don't get that 
'mundoee' of yours well soon, we'll go away 
and leave you here." 

Billy looked rather askance at the threat, 
until he realized that Morton was joking. 

Brown, who had been surgeon, said: "I think 
we can rig up a sling or cradle for his leg soon, 
so that he will be able to travel short stages." 



212 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

"I'm glad to hear it. That thunder-storm 
must have put water into the rock-holes at the 
granite rock. What do you say to a ride there 
and then on to the salt lake we saw at a dis- 
tance?" 

"Right; it will kill time. But we'll start 
to-morrow; let the ground dry up a bit. We'll 
experimentalize on a cradle for Billy's leg to- 
day." 



CHAPTER XXVI 

Visit to the Southern Salt Lake The Future of the 
Interior A False Alarm Departure. 

fTHHE cradle promised to be a success; so the 
_L next morning, taking some rations in case 
they had to camp out, Brown and Morton left 
for the rock. The ground was still somewhat 
soft, but not enough to impede their travelling, 
and they reached the granite rock early. As 
they had the bearing of the salt lake they did 
not climb the rock again, but rode round the 
base to see if the holes were full. They were all 
brim-full, the sloping rock above acting like the 
roof of a house in catching and shedding the 
rainfall. They then struck out for the salt lake, 
which they reached about one o'clock, passing 
through sandy country all the way. The lake 
was much larger than the one they had camped 



A FALSE ALARM. 213 

at to the north, but the surrounding country was 
barren and grassless. Few signs of the former 
presence of the natives were visible, and no in- 
dication of a well having been dug. Evidently 
the soil was so impregnated with salt that not 
even brackish water could be obtained. 

"What a real desert!" said Brown, gazing 
round on the dreary scene. 

" Yes, it's about as hopeless a looking picture 
as one could find anywhere, at present. And yet, 
if the artesian water is found to extend through- 
out the interior, it will change the whole face of 
the Australian earth in time. This spinifex 
would not grow here, but that the climate is so 
arid that nothing else will grow, and this beastly 
stuff can thrive without any rain at all. No, 
burn this scrub off, or clear it somehow, and, 
with a good supply of artesian water, there are 
a hundred and one payable products one could 
grow here." 

"You're an optimist, and an enthusiast at 
that." 

" I am as regards the future of Australia. I 
believe the end of the coming century will see it 
settled from east to west throughout." 

"If one could fill up all the dry creeks and 
lagoons we have passed with your artesian water, 
we might modify the severity of the climate." 

" Yes. Now, let's have a ride round this inland 
sea in miniature." 

"It smells like the sea, at anyrate; I bet that 



214 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

water in there is concentrated brine. How about 
all this saline country?" 

" It has been proved successfully that the date- 
palm will thrive on the shores of these salt lakes, 
so they need not be quite barren." 

Nothing of any interest was to be seen, and 
they retraced their steps to the granite rock, 
where they watered their horses. As there were 
still a couple of hours of daylight, they started 
back for their camp. 

" Fancy if we had left the camp like this, for- 
getting all about those six Warlattas hanging 
about. What a massacre they would have had!" 
said Brown, as they rode on. 

"Yes, it makes me shudder to think of our 
carelessness; for we ought to have remembered 
there was danger to be expected from them." 

When it fell dark they found themselves still 
some three miles from home, and the darkness 
somewhat retarded them in the scrub. Suddenly, 
when nearing the mountain, a rifle-shot was heard 
ahead, followed soon after by a different report, 
like that of a shot-gun. 

"Good God! what can be up?" exclaimed 
Morton. 

Both men fired their revolvers as a signal that 
they were near, and pushed on as hastily as they 
could. As soon as the open country was reached 
they galloped straight for the camp. Everything 
appeared peaceful enough, and Charlie seemed 
surprised at their hasty approach. 



A FALSE ALARM. 



215 



"What were you firing at?" asked Morton, 
rather crossly, for no man likes to be flurried by 
a false alarm. 

" Well, I don't know exactly," replied Charlie. 
" I had given you up for to-night, and was sitting 
out here with Billy, when he called out that there 
was something moving on the rocks over there. 
I looked, and could indistinctly make out some 
dark figure moving about, so I challenged; getting 
no answer, I fired my rifle in the air. Whatever 
it was they started away, but in a few minutes 
came back again, so I fired the shot-gun at them 
and they departed. Billy called out they were 
'Jinkarras!' and covered his head with the 
blanket, and I expect he has it there now." 

"What were they like?" asked Brown. 

"It was too dark to see, but they were cer- 
tainly not natives, unless we have run across a 
race of dwarfs." 

Billy, on being induced to take his head from 
underneath the blanket, asserted stoutly that 
they were Jinkarras they had seen; that he 
ought to know, as when he was a child he had 
been carried off by one in the night. 

" How did you get back, Billy?" asked Morton. 

Billy commenced a long rambling yarn about 
waking up to find himself being carried along by 
a short, hairy man with red eyes; but his tale 
ended somewhat lamely, for his next remem- 
brance was of finding himself in the familiar 
family camp, with his mother administering 



216 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

severe slaps with the small end of a nulla-nulla. 
Still he persisted in his statement that there were 
Jinkarras, and that they lived underground. 

" I shouldn't wonder," suddenly exclaimed 
Brown, "if this legend of the Jinkarras, which 
is common all over the central portion of Aus- 
tralia, was not a surviving tradition, much dis- 
torted, of our dear old friends the devil wor- 
shippers." 

" Not at all unlikely. We will run this particu- 
lar brand of Jinkarra to earth in the morning," 
answered Morton. 

Charlie was out before breakfast to inspect 
the ground where he had seen the figures in the 
night; but beyond a few good-sized boulders, 
which he was certain he had not fired at, he failed 
to discover any marks of a nocturnal visit. 

Morton went out after breakfast, and imme- 
diately saw what had caused the alarm. He 
called Charlie over and pointed the tracks out to 
him. 

" This is a regular pad for the rock -wallabies," 
he said. " Only it has been covered up by the 
burnt ashes of the grass. They were coming in 
last night to feed on the young grass on the 
bank of the creek, just springing after the rain. 
I suppose some of them hopped on to these 
boulders." 

This explanation failed to satisfy Billy, who 
was still convinced that the Jinkarras were 
about, and was now anxious to get away. 



A FALSE ALARM. 217 

They devoted themselves to finishing the sling 
for his leg, and made him take a short ride two 
or three times, to get accustomed to it and find 
out if it hurt him. 

It was with feelings of great thankfulness 
that they at last got ready to make a final 
start and leave the place which had grown so 
wearisome to them. For the sake of making 
it easy for Billy, they intended to take two 
days on the journey to the lagoons, so they 
camped the first night on the creek above what 
had been the hot swamp. 

The next night they reached the familiar camp 
at the lagoons, and now felt that they were fin- 
ally on the homeward track. They had made a 
rude pair of crutches for the black boy, and he 
was now able to limp about on, what he called, 
his "waddy-mundoees". 

As a ma.tter of satisfaction they spelled a day, 
for although the grass had all been burnt by 
the fire, there was still good feed on the banks 
of the lagoons. This day was devoted to thor- 
oughly examining the trees up and down the 
creek, and they were able to partly confirm their 
conjectures about Murphy, by finding the anchor 
marked on several more trees. 

The thunder-storm had filled the small hole 
they stopped at when they first sighted the 
plain and the great limestone rock, so they 
made a short stage there to give Billy every 
chance. From what they remembered of the 



218 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

nature of the country, there was not likely to 
be any water retained along the scrub track. 

They were all on the look-out during the next 
morning for the spot where they first encoun- 
tered the Warlattas. When they reached it 
they found that the corpse was gone, the six 
men despatched having seemingly done their 
duty and taken it on to the burying-place. 

"I suppose/' said Brown, "that it was only 
men of importance amongst them that they took 
the trouble to carry all this way. What did 
they do with the others?" 

" I forgot all about it," exclaimed Charlie. 

They both looked at him in surprise. 

" When I was down that hole, the first one, not 
the tunnel affair, I saw some bones and skulls 
amongst the boulders. I think it was that 
which frightened Billy so. I could only see a few, 
but there might have been thousands, for every- 
thing was smothered with mud and our candles 
did not give much light." 

"At that rate, the rank and file were thrown 
into the boiling spring when they pegged out," 
said Morton. 

"Seemingly so," answered his friend. "But 
we must push on, we have a good step ahead 
of us." 

The horses went merrily along the cleared 
track, and as Billy showed no signs of fatigue 
they made capital progress. As they anticipated, 
the cleared track led them straight on to the 



A FALSE ALARM. 219 

open patch of downs country where the cemetery 
was. A great surprise awaited them. The fire 
had swept up from the south, and the whole 
country was black. More than that, the fierce 
flames had attacked the dry boughs forming 
the scaffolds whereon the dead bodies had been 
bestowed, and now, all that was to be seen were 
half-charred bones lying here and there. 

" It seems that Fate meant to destroy all traces 
of the Warlattas in one act," said Morton, as they 
sat on their horses and gazed at all that was left 
of the cemetery of the cannibals. 

"How was it this never happened before?" 
remarked Brown. 

" I don't understand. They must have kept it 
burnt down short every year, and neglected it for 
some reason. However, I'm not sorry, for if this 
country extends any distance south I shall take 
it up." 

"Well, let's get to camp before it's dark. There 
will be enough grass unburnt about the water- 
hole for our horses to-night." 

This proved to be the case, and the cheery 
camp-fire was soon blazing brightly and every- 
body chatting in good spirits. 

" If you think seriously of taking up this bit 
of country, we might as well explore it to-mor- 
row now we are here. The horses will be better 
for the rest, for remember, as far as we know, 
there is not a drop of water between here and 
the station a good hundred miles," said Brown. 



220 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

"That thunder-storm has been along here by 
the look of it. It should have put some water 
in some of those clay-pans we passed." 

" Thunder-storms are mighty uncertain things 
to trust to. They generally fall, as a rule, just 
where they are no good to any one. We must 
travel, when we start, as though it was dry the 
whole way, although I think with you that we 
shall find water." 

" As it now stands," said Morton, drawing his 
blanket over his shoulders, "the only real evidence 
we have to show that the Warlattas ever existed, 
is this cleared road in the scrub." 

"And the wound in Billy's leg," murmured 
Charlie, drowsily. 



CHAPTER XXVIL 

Home Again. 

trip next morning was a promising one. 
JL The creek kept a continued and well- 
watered course for about fifteen miles, running 
through well-grassed downs country all the way. 
The place was burnt black with the fire, but that 
did not hide the value of the country. Gradually 
the scrub, which they had lost sight of for some 
time, closed in on both sides, and it was evident 
that the creek would soon run out, once it entered 
the scrub. They were back in camp in time to 



HOME AGAIN. 221 

take a short ride up the creek, and ascertain 
that there was nothing worth troubling about 
in that direction. Brown fossicked out the 
remains of the brandy when they had finished 
their meal. 

" Now, then," he said, when they had all put 
some in their pannikins, " we must christen the 
new run. What's it to be? You speak first, 
Charlie." 

" Warlatta Downs." 

"Good!" said Morton; "we can't better that. 
Here's good luck to Warlatta Downs." 

" Now for the gold reef," said Brown. 

There was silence whilst each thought of a 
suitable name. 

"Suppose we call it after Stuart, who was 
really the first finder of it." 

"The Stuart Eeef, then, and here's to his 
memory. 

They drank the toast in silence. 

"That reminds me," remarked Brown, "that 
portion of the diary relating the finding of the 
gold reef must be carefully eliminated from the 
original journal and our copies." 

"We'll set about it now, to make sure. We 
can restore it at any time when needful; mean- 
time we don't want anybody to jump our claim." 

They soon had the work finished, and the 
part taken out was carefully put away. 

"One more night and home," said Charlie 
delightedly the next morning as they mounted. 



222 THE SECRET OF THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT. 

"I never thought so much of the old station 
before." 

The belt of scrub had still to be passed which 
had proved such a terror on their outward 
way. Sorely did they miss the well-cleared 
track of the Warlattas. Luckily the thunder- 
storm had extended most of the way, and they 
reached home by easy stages. 

" We have not lost a single horse in spite of 
all the dry and desert country we have negoti- 
ated," said Morton, as they rode over the familiar 
ground some miles away from the station. 

"No; that's something to boast of. Those 
long spells we had at different places were the 
salvation of our nags," replied Brown. 

Their return that night caused great excite- 
ment on the station. The men had been getting 
impatient and anxious, and were thinking of 
starting on their tracks to see if they had come 
to grief. 

Every Australian bushman knows the story of 
Leichhardt, and when the men heard that the 
mystery of his fate and of those who accom- 
panied him had been at last solved, they felt 
that a reflected glory was shed on all connected 
with the station. 

Billy had a great reception from his country- 
men camped about the station. He exhibited 
his wound, and let it be generally understood 
that he had wiped out the Warlatta tribe single- 
handed, although they were all giants over seven 



HOME AGAIN. 223 

feet high. Fortunately he knew nothing of the 
gold reef, so was not able to dilate on that; but 
the story of the lake and the caves there lost 
nothing by telling, but he quite forgot to men- 
tion his fright in the underground tunnel. 

The news of their successful trip and interest- 
ing discoveries was soon flashed along the over- 
land telegraph-line. It was enthusiastically re- 
ceived by some and scornfully doubted by others, 
as is usual in these cases. Brown regretted that 
they had not had a camera, and brought a few 
pictures back with them ; but as the authenticity 
of the documents have been since universally 
admitted, the scoffers are confounded. 

As yet they are awaiting their time before 
returning to open up the reef, which they antici- 
pate will be found to be joined by a line of 
auriferous country with the rich gold discoveries 
lately made in Western Australia. 



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" Those who know something about India will be the first to thank Mr. Henty for 
giving them this instructive volume to place in the hands of their children." 

Academy. 

Condemned as a Nihilist* A Story of Escape 

bt from Siberia. New 
Edition, y. 6d. 

" His narrative is more interesting than many of the tales with which the public is 
familiar of escape from Siberia." Natio Hal Observer. 

-Under Wellington's Command: 

sular War. New Edition. -$s. 6d. 

" An admirable exposition of Mr. Henty's masterly method of combining instruction 
with amusement. " World. 

-The Young Carthaginian: 

Edition. 3-y. 6d. 

" From first to last nothing stays the interest of the narrative. 11 Saturday Review. 



Rv Fndand's A^d- or> The Freeing of the Nether ' 
-r>y r,ngid lands (I585 _ I604)> with 4 



Maps. New Edition, y bd. 

" Boys know and love Mr. Henty's books of adventure, and will welcome hi* tale 
of the freeing of the Netherlands." Attiencmm. 
(3) 



BLACKIE'S STORY BOOKS FOR BOYS 



G. A. HENTY 

The Lion of the North: * T , a ' e oi Gusta ! us 

Adolphus. New 

Edition, y. 6d. 

"A clever and instructive piece of history. As boys may be trusted to read it con- 
scientiously, they can hardly fail to be profited as well as pleased." Times. 

-The Lion of St. Mark: Jaie of Venice. N 

Edition, y. 6d. 

11 Every boy should read The Lion, of St. Mark." Saturday Review. 

-Both Sides the Border: . Ta . le of Ho ' s P ur f" d 

Glendower. New Edi- 
tion. $s. 6d. 

" Mr. Henty retains the reader's interest throughout the story, which he tells 
clearly and vigorously." Daily Telegraph. 



Captain Bayley's Heir: 

tion. 3-y. 6d 

"Told with that vigour which is peculiar to Mr. Henty." Academy. 

By Pike and Dyke : * Ta . le f ' h , e Ris ' <**? 

J J Dutch Republic. New Edi- 

tion. y. 6d. 

" Told with a vividness and skill worthy of Mr. Henty at his best." Academy. 

A Chapter of Adventures : r> , T1 7 ugh "'! 

r Bombardment of 

Alexandria, New Edition. 3^, 6d. 

" Their chapter of adventures is so brisk and entertaining we could have wished it 
longer than it is." Saturday Review. 



-For the Temnlr A Tale of the Fal1 of Jerusalem. 
^P 1 New Edition, y, 6d. 

" Many an 'old boy', as well as the younger ones, will delight in this narrative of 
that awful page of history." Church Times. 

- Through the Fray : * St f the Lldite Riots - 

o / New Edition. 



_ r. 6d. 

sod books Mr. Henty has 
(4) 



'This is one of the bst of the many good books Mr. Henty has produced.'' 

Record. 



STORIES BY G. A. HENTY 



G. A. HENTY 

The Young Colonists: Tal < of th 

o Boer Wars. New hai- 

tion. 2 s - &d. 

" It is vigorously written." Standard. 

-In Freedom's CaUSe: ASto,yofWallaceandBruce. 

New hdition. $s. 6a. 

" His tale is full of stirring action and will commend itself to boys." Athenaum. 



-When London Burned: . ry Re3tora ' ion 



"A handsome volume, and boys will rejoice to possess it. . . ." Record. 

-The Treasure of the Incas: ^ 

With a Map. 5^. 

" The interest never flags for one moment, and the story is told with vigour." 

World. 

-With Roberts to Pretoria: **%* 

a Map. 6s. 

" In this story of the South African war Mr. Henty proves once more his incon- 
testable pre-eminence as a writer for boys." Standard. 

- Bonnie Prince Charlie : u e e f F 6 ntenoy and 

"A historical romance of the best quality." A cademy. 

-Through Russian Snows: 

" Very graphically told." St. James's Gazette. 

-The Tiger of Mysore: 

"A thrilling tale." Athenceum. 

-Wulf the Saxon: Story of the Norma "" Conquest 

" We may safely say that a boy may learn from it more genuine history than he will 
from many a tedious tome." Spectator. 
(5) 



BLACKI&S STORY BOOKS FOR BOYS 

G. A. HENTY 

With Kitchener in the Soudan : 

and Omdurman. With 3 Maps. 6s. 

" Characterized by those familiar traits which endear Mr. Henty to successive gene- 
rations of schoolboys." Pall Mall Gazette. 



-At the Point of the Bayonet: * * the 

/ MahrattaWar. 

With 2 Maps. 6s. 

" A brisk, dashing narrative." Bookman. 

-Through Three Campaigns: 

and Ashanti. With 3 Maps. 6s. 

" Every true boy will enjoy this story of plucky adventure." Educational News. 

-St. George for England: p r e s of ressyand 

" A story of very great interest for boys. " Pall Mall Gazette. 

-With the British Legion: AstoiyoftheCariiit 

o Wars. 6s. 

" It is a rattling story told with verve and spirit. "Pall Mall Gazette. 

-True to the Old Flag: ^ Ta ' e I ^ the , Ameri T 

o War of Independence. 6s. 

" Mr. Henty undoubtedly possesses the secret of writing eminently successful his- 
torical tales." Academy. 

At Aboukir and Acre. 5*. 

" For intrinsic interest and appropriateness, At Aboukir and Acre should rank 
high." Spectator. 



-Redskin and Cow- Boy: A e ^* Western 

"A strong interest of open-air life and movement pervades the whole book." Scotsman. 

-With Duller in Natal: ^ A ap Born 6 , Leaden with 

"Just the sort of book to inspire an enterprising boy." Army and Navy Gazette, 



STORIES BY G. A. HENTY 



G. A. HENTY 

By Conduct and Courage: 

" As it is the last it is good to be able to say that it shows no falling off in the 
veteran's vigour of style or in his happy choice of a subject." Globe. 

-With the Allies to Pekin: 

With a Map. 6s. 

"The author's object being to interest and amuse, it must be admitted that he has 
succeeded. "Guardian. 

By Sheer Pluck: ATaleoftheAshantiWar. 5^. 

" Written with a simple directness, force, and purity of style worthy of Defoe." 

Christian Leader. 

-With Tee in Virginia A Story of the American 
in virgn civjl War With 6 

Maps. 6s. 

" The story is a capital one and full of variety." Times. 

To Herat- and Cahnl- A Story of the First Af han 

War. With Map. 5> r. 

"We can heartily commend it to boys, old and young." Spectator. 

-A Knight of the White Cross: 

of Rhodes. 6^. 

" Quite up to the level of Mr. Henty's former historical tales." Saturday Review. 

-In the Heart of the Rockies: ^ n r t y ur e f 

in Colorado. 5.?. 

" Mr. Henty is seen here at his best as an artist in lightning fiction." Academy. 



-The Bravest of the Brave: . 

" Lads will read this book with pleasure and profit." Daily Telegraph. 

-A Roving Commission: ^J^V 

" May be confidently recommended to schoolboy readers." Guardian. 

-For Name and Fame: To Cibul with Roberts ' 

" The book teems with spirited scenes and stirring adventures." School Guardian* 
(7) 



BLACKIE'S STORY BOOKS FOR BOYS 



G. A. HENTY 

In the Reign of Terror : e Advent es of a 

o Westminster Boy. $s. 

"May fairly be said to beat Mr. Henty's record." Saturday Review. 

Rrif-r^n A Story of the Roman Invasion of 
Britain. 6s. 

"One of the most spirited and well-imagined stories Mr. Henty has written." 

Saturday Review. 

No Surrender ! A Tale of the Rising in La 

"A vivid tale of manly struggle against oppression." World. 

-The Dash for Khartoum : Ta ! e . of * e Nile 

Expedition. 6s. 

" It is literally true that the narrative never flags a moment." Academy. 

-With Wolfe in Canada: -, The winning of 

a Continent. 6s. 

"A moving tale of military exploit and thrilling adventure." Daily News. 



-Out with Garibaldi: *fg f / he Liberation 

" It is a stirring tale." Graphic. 

-Held Fast for England: **-* siege 

"There is no cessation of exciting incident throughout the story." Atkenaum. 

-Won by the Sword: * ^of the Thirty Years- 

" As fascinating as ever came from Mr. Henty's pen." Westminster Gazette. 

Flanders 



-In the Irish Brigade: 



"A stirring book of military adventure." Scotsman. 

A Tale of the White Hoods of Paris. 



-At Agincourt: 



Cannot fail to commend itself to boys of all ages." Manchester Courier. 

(8) 



Biackie & Son's 

Story Books for Boys 

LARGE CROWN 8vo, CLOTH EXTRA. ILLUSTRATED 



Capt. F. S. BRERETON 



The Hero of Panama: A. of 

by W. RAINEY, R.I. Olivine edges, 6s. 

Under the Chinese Dragon : 

by CHARLES M. SHELDON, Olivine edges, 5^ 

Tom Stapleton, the Boy Scout: 

by LIEUT.-GENERAL SIR R. S. S. BADEN-POWELL, and illustrated 
with coloured frontispiece and in black-and-white by GORDON 
BROWNE, R.I. y. 6d. 

"A rousing piece of story-telling." Westminster Gazette. 



The Great Aeroplane: if I 6 of 



"The story is a bracing one." Outlook. 

Indian and Scout: ^^J ^ Gold Rush to 

" A dashing narrative of the best quality." British Weekly. 

A HerO Of Sedan: A Xale^f the Franco-Prussian 

"The exciting events of the book are developed in a manly spirit and healthy 
tone." Academy. 



John Bargreave's Gold : 

" The book is full of breathless happenings." Daily Graphic. 

How Canada was Won: u e c f lfe and 

" Will make the strongest appeal to the juvenile fancy* Outlook. 

(9) 



BLACKIE'S STORY BOOKS FOR BurS 



Capt. F. S. BRERETON 

inciQ 

Ranch Life 



Roughriders of the Pampas: A Tale of 



-With Wolseley to Kumasi: 



in South America. 5-y. 

"The interest is unflagging throughout the well-written tale." World. 

of the 
Ashanti 
War. 6s. 

" Boys will want nothing better." Daily Graphic. 

- Tones of the 64th : A J a l e of the Battles of Assa >' e 

J and Laswaree. 5.$-. 

"The story is full of dash and spirit." Birmingham Post. 

Ro^e r the Bold A Tale of the Con ^ uest of Mexic - 

"The tale forms lively reading, the fighting being especially good." AtJien&um, 

-With Roberts to Candahar: ATa1e A /' he 

Third Afghan 
War. 5J. 

" A very tried author, who improves with each book he writes, is Captain F. S. 
Brereton.' Academy. 

-A Soldier Of Japan: A Tale^of the Russo-Japanese 

"The pages bristle with hairbreadth escapes and gallantry. "Graphic. 

-Foes of the Red Cockade: 

tion. dr. 

" A stirring picture of a fearful time." World. 

-With the Dyaks of Borneo: e e r f' Head 

" Young readers must be hard to please if With the Dyaks does not suit them." 

Spectator. 

-A Hero of Lucknow: A Tale of the Indian Mutiny - 

" Full of action and picturesque adventure." British Weekly. 

-AJCnight of St. John: A e 

" Would enthral any boy reader." JF<7r/</. 
(10) 



BLACKIE'S STORY BOOKS FOR BOYS 

Capt. F. S. BRERETON 
In the Grip of the Mullah : 

"A more spirited tale could not be wished for. ' British Weekly. 

-With Rifle and Bayonet : %%* ^~ 

-A Gallant Grenadier: 

-One of the Fighting Scouts. 

The Dragon of Pekin. New Edition. 31.6*1. 

- With Shield and Assegai, y. M. 

SIR HARRY JOHNSTON, G.C.M.G., K.C.B. 

Pioneers in West Africa. th f. co ! oui ? d 

illustrations by the 

author, and maps and other illustrations in black-and-white. 
Demy 8vo, cloth extra, 6s. 

-Pioneers in Canada. JtwSSUSJS 

and other illustrations in black-and-white. Demy 8vo, cloth extra, 
6s. 

These two volumes are the first of a series, the object of which is to 
provide reading of "real adventures" of those pioneers who have helped 
to lay the foundations of the British Empire. The story is truthfully told 
in a picture of splendid colouring, and with great accuracy. 

ALEXANDER MACDONALD 
Through the Heart of Tibet: $ 

6s, 

"A rattling story.* British Weekly. 

The White Trail A Story of the Early Days ot 

_ i ne vv nice i ran Klondike. 6s. 

" Should satisfy any boy's mental appetite." Outlook. 

Pearl A Story of Adventure in lne 

reari 



Southern Seabt 6 ,. 

' { This is the kind of story a boy will want to read at a sitting. ' Sctwolmaster 



BLACKIE'S STORY BOOKS FOR BOYS 



ALEXANDER MACDONALD 

The Invisible Island: 5 u s e l e n r s y la n f d the J 

' ' A well-told story. " World. 

-The Quest of the Black Opals: 

in the Heart of Australia. 5^. 

"An admirable tale." Westminster Gazette. 

-The Lost Explorers: e ^* * Trackless 

" As vivid a narrative as any boy could wish to read." Daily Graphic, 

HARRY COLLINGWOOD 

A Middy of the Kine: A Romance of the Old British 
J D Navy. Illustrated by K. S. 

HODGSON. Olivine edges, $s. 

-The Adventures of Dick Maitland : 

A Tale of Unknown Africa. Illustrated by ALEC BALL. Olivine 
edges, $s. 6d. 

-A Middy of the Slave Squadron : ^^ 

"An up-to-date sea story." Truth. 

Overdue : or, The Strange Story of a Missing Ship. 3^. 6</. 

" A story of thrilling interest" British Weekly. 

-The Cruise of the Thetis: ATaieoftheCuban 

Insurrection. $s. 

11 A good, stirring book." Times. 

STAFF SURGEON T. T. JEANS, R.N. 

On Foreign Service or ' The Santa Cruz Revolution - 

Clgll OC Illustrated by W. RAINEY, R.I. 

" It is a rousing good yarn." Athenceum. 

Ianf- 

in the Chusan Archi 



-Ford of H.M.S. Vigilant: * Tale of Adventure 



pelago. 5.9. 

"A distinctly good story." Naval and Military Record. 



BLACKIE'S STORY BOOKS FOR BOYS 

STAFF SURGEON T. T. JEANS, R.N. 
Mr. Midshipman Glover, R.N.: fj^ } 

Navy of To-day. 5-r. 

" Full of exciting adventures and gallant fighting." Truth. 

HERBERT STRANG 
The Adventures of Harry Rochester: 

A Story of the Days of Marlborough and Eugene. 6s. 

" One of the best stories of a military and historical type we have seen for many 
a day." Athenceum, 



- Boys of the Light Brigade : 

sular War. 6s. 

Professor Oman (Cbichele Professor of Modern History at Oxford, and author of 
A History of the Peninsular War) writes : " I can't tell you what a pleasure and 
rarity it is to the specialist to find a tale on the history of his own period in which 
the details are all right . . . accept thanks from a historian for having got historical 
accuracy combined with your fine romantic adventures ". 

Brown of Moukden : 



The book will hold boy readers spellbound." Church Times. 

and the Great 



-Tom Burnaby: 

"A delightful story of African adventure." Spectator. 

KOUO I A Story of the Russo-Japanese War. $s. 

" For vibrant actuality there is nothing to come up to Mr. Strang's Kobo." 

Academy. 

ROBERT M. MACDONALD 

n-M Ti 1 T-* TT A Tale of the De- 

The Rival Treasure Hunters: batable Frontier 

of British Guiana. 6s. 

" A story which every schoolboy would probably describe as ' simply ripping '." 

Daily Graphic. 

The Orest White Chief- A Story of Adven " 
-me Lrreat vvnite ^.nicr. ture in Unknown 

New Guinea. 6s. 

"A rattling story told with spirit and vigour." British Weekly. 

d3) 



BLACKIE'S STORY BOOKS FOR BOYS 

DAVID KER 

Under the Flag of France : duGuesdin . 

" Full of vigour and movement" British Weekly. 

Among the Dark Mountains: n r> 

3J. 6d. 

"A glorious tale of adventure." Educational News. 

ERNEST GLANVILLE 

The Diamond Seekers: A story of Adventure 

in South Africa. 6s. 

" We have seldom seen a better story for boys." Guardian. 

-In Search Of the Okapi : A Story of Adventure in 

Central Africa. 6s. 

"An admirable story." Daily Chronicle. 

MEREDITH FLETCHER 

Every Inch a Briton : A school story. 3*. 6<i. 

"Mr. Meredith Fletcher has scored a success." Manchester Guardian. 

Jefferson Junior : A school story, y. 6d. 

"A comical yarn." Yorkshire Daily Observer. 

FREDERICK P. GIBBON 

The Disputed V.C. A Tale of the Indian Mutiny. 3*. 

"A good, stirring tale, well told." Graphic. 

G. MANVILLE FENN 
The Boys at Menhardoc : 

"The story is well worth reading." British Weekly. 



Rlin Vin T anfl Among ^ e Blackfellows in New Guinea. 

" One of the best tales of adventure produced by any living writer." 

Daily Chroniclt. 

(14) 



BLACKI&S STORY BOOKS FOR BOYS 

G. MANVILLE FENN 

In the King's Name. y.6d. 

"This is, we think, the best of all Mr. Fenn's productions." Daily News. 

_ j)ick Q' t- }} Fens A Romance of the Great East 

Swamp. 3-r. 6d. 

"We conscientiously believe that boys will find it capital reading." Time*. 

Dr. GORDON STABLES, R.N. 

The Naval Cadet: A Story of Adventure on Land 

and Sea. 3^. 6a. 

" An interesting travellers' tale, with plenty of fun and incident in it." Spectator. 

-For Life and Liberty: - War 

" The story is lively and spirited." Times. 

-To Greenland and the Pole : 

" One of the best books Dr. Stables has ever written." Truth. 

FRED SMITH 

The World of Animal Life. 

With eight full-page coloured Illustrations and numerc'.::; black-and- 
white Illustrations. Crown 4to, iiX inches by 9^ inches. Hand- 
some cloth cover. Gilt top, 5-r. 

"An admirable volume." Birmingham Gazette. 



A. J. CHURCH 



of the World A Tale of the Fal1 of Car ' 

thage and Corinth. 3^.6^. 

"As a boys' book, Lords of the World deserves a hearty welcome." Spectator. 

G. I. WHITHAM 

Trie Nample^ Prinre ATaleofPlantagenetDays. 

QCe Illustrated by CHARLES M. 
SHELDON, is. 6d. 

-The Red Knight A Tale of the Days of King 
- i lie ivcu ivmgiiL . EdwardIIL n lustrate d. 2 s.6d. 

" It holds the imagination from beginning to end." British Wttkly. 
(is) 



^BLACKIE'S STORY BOOKS FOR BOYS 

ESCOTT LYNN 
When Lion-Heart was King : o 

and Merry Sherwood. 3^. 6d. 

"A lively \.a\e." Birmingham Post. 

WILLIAM BECK 

Hawkwood the Brave : * . Tale of 

Italy. $s. 6. 

" A good story for boys." Literary World. 

DOROTHEA MOORE 

God's Balm : A Story of the Fen Country. 3*. 6d. 

"An excellent tale, most dainty in execution and fortunate in subject." Globe. 

-The Luck of Ledge Point: A L ale of ' 8 5- 

o 2s. 6d. 

" We thoroughly recommend it as a gift book. "Schoolmaster. 

WALTER C. RHOADES 

For the Sake of His Chum: Sch ' 

Story. $s.6d. 

" There is a breeziness about the book which is sure to commend it." Athenaum. 

-Two Scapegraces: A school story. y .6<i. 

"A school story of high merit." Liverpool Mercury. 

PAUL DANBY 

The Red Army Book. with ."* '" ustr * tio " s 

/ in colour and in black- 

and-white. 6s. 

" Every boy would glory in the keeping and reading of such a prize." Daily Telegraph. 

]. CUTHBERT HADDEN 

The Nelson Navy Book. J 



and-white. 6^. 

" A stirring, heartening tale, bold and bracing as the sea itself." Standard. 

PERCY F. WESTERMAN 

The Quest of the Golden Hope : 

tury Story of Adventure. Illustrated by FRANK WILES. 2s. 6d. 

(16) 



PR 

4699 

F19S4. 



Favenc, Ernest 



f r 

tralian desert 



Of the 



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SLIPS FROM THIS POCKET 



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