Chapter 137607586

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Chapter NumberXXXII
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article137607586
Full Date1897-11-03
Page Number1
Corrections0
Word Count3539
IllustratedY
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleRiverina Recorder (Balranald, Moulamein, NSW : 1887 - 1944)
Trove TitleThe Gem Finders of Arnheim's Land: An Australian Story
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PART XXXII.

I had come out at tho opposite cud with out seeing anything, and was waiting for .. my companion, when I heard a movement ' -at my left, and turning quiokly, caughtaight , of a man's heel disappearing bcKind a rock. For a moment I thought it must bo the

cmci nuniing a wauaoy, but something in its appearanco told mo it was not so. Running round I made a careful scarch, but could find nothing. When my com panion camo out I told him about what I ? ? had seen, and ho pointed to another portion of tho outcrop to tell me that it could not havo been him whom I saw. I was not at all satisfied, and went amongst tho rocks . , a^ain, but could see nothing. We went' on to the end' of tho hill, nnd it was just about sunset when wo returned to tho outcrop. Wo wore not twenty feet away from it when, to our utter astonishment, a white man, perfectly nude, rushed from tho rocke. and, with the cry of a maniac, sprang head ,Iong over the awful precipice. Tho whole r thing did not occupy two Beconds, and I was aB much startled as my companion at the strange and torrlbti act. Calling to our 1 v ? companions below, we hastened on, and got down to the lower ledge as quickly as we could. The dreadfully mangled remains of the- euioide were lying on the rock, crushed out of all recog nition. Tho face was not so very much ' injured, and it was that of a middle-aged man, with dark complexion, and brown eyes. Tho other features were knooked out of shape. , I opened the clenchcd hands, but - there was nothing held in them to show who or what ho was. As it was getting dark we Went back to the camp, and next morn- , lug returned tq the fatal spot. Alter burying the body, the party asoended to the ontorop above, from whioh the man had ? rushed, and there was not a part of it left. ' unexamined. For more than an hour we went bither and thither in quest of any thing that might throw light on tho mystery, but none could be found, The whole summit of the hill was next searched j and, In short, we ocoupied the whole day without finding the slightest cluo. I felt sure, and do now, that thero was some connection between the body, found in tho .- cavern and thia suicide. What it was will perhaps never be revealed.' ' Tho man must have been insano to not like that. One of the first symptoms of in. sanity is sometimes seen in persons divesting . themselves of their clothes,' interjected ' Rennie. . ' There is no doubt about that,' resumod Whitfield. ' I havo a theory that both tho . .jnen had lost their roason. Perhaps they had been lost in the dreadful interior from some exploring party, and the very solitudo drove them mad. When the first man died It was inevitable that tho survivor would lose hiB senses. They had, probably, a horror of the blacks, thinking thorn all brutal cannibals, and thatfact would, of itself, tend to induce madness* With insufficient food, continual -|rcad of being attacked by the natives, and, perhaps, tortured to death if captured, the all pervading solitudo and tho' sense of utter hopelessness, it would be enough to make tho best balanced mind . totter.' 'How on earth did yon manage to go . through all these horrors for so many years,' said Preston, looking approvingly at Whit field. 'In the first place, when thoy came upon mo I had no mind to realise thorn, and before ? my dormant faculties were awakened I had . been partially trained to my surroundings. ' Forther. I aot a firm. belief in mv own seen.

' rity, and the honor of the natives, and abovo - all,! had do overwhelming desire togetback to civilization to bo probably hanged', he concluded grimly. As tills conversation was in progress, tlio . . steamer was passing Capo Londonderry, her ? course being altered to the south. Nothing ? ? further was saitl that night, but, next -. - afternoon, Whitfield resumed his narra tive. ' 'I was not all satisfied at being ltnablo -v' to find any cluo to tho indentity of the two .y white men who had met their deaths in the ' range, and for tho next fow months busied : ? myself ,;,in searching the spots where i' ' ? . different natives told me they had seen the 'White man. In no instance could I find ' trace; and at last gave up tho quest in ? despair, and, for two years or tnoro, 1 lived ? on a level with the blacks. Thoro was . an occasional brush with other tribes; v 'or,, perhaps, a chase after some impulsive -young darkie who was too bold in his native '! mode of wooing, but, altogether, life was . .: . very monotonous. Time passed, and at last I became involved in a sorious quarrel with the chief of the tribe, and I knew it would . be discreet on my part to leave tho place as toon as I could. The disputo occurred over ft very foolish matter you will say. Most of the inland tribes have a very absurd notion that grey hair is caused by eiting forbidden - food. When this change in the color of tho ' - v hair appears in a youth between 15 and SO, it is regarded as a positive crime. ' I found that the ohief of tho Lagoon tribe ? had decided to olub a youth because of the '. . . change in the color of ,his hair interfered. The youth had a good many friends, and ? my counsel prevailed, but I lost tho friend ship.. of. the chief, arid ho even became terribly hostile. When I realised this, I '. 1 . 1 i ' i T- ? iv ? A. -II ii.. £ ? .1 t. - ? 1.1

?torn ;oera to get au cue ioou 110 couiu ? quietly, and a couple of days afterwards tho - two of us stole out of the camp to wander ' ' again. ' We plimbed over the range in tho ? moonlight, and at daybreak reached the .'.v little apring which you know so well. We fillod o'ur water bags thero, and tlion struck - ' into the aorub in a north-westerly direction. For a week' we pressed on, keeping tho ; sun as onr guide, and a rough time we had of It. After fonr weeks' wanderings we came In ' light of the ranges from which the river .... runs, which you ascended. For several ? , month's we took up our quarters [near the source of the river, and made ourselves as Oomfoituble as was possible. On two occa^

sions we had a narrow escape from hostile blacks, and theso wore the first attacks wo had to defend ourselves against siuce Bera and I had aot out together from the crater cemotory of. tho Peron chiefs. On the first Occasion Bera was wounded in the arm by a spear, and, fearing a second attack, I looked out for a stronghold. This I soon found near tho summit of tho rango, and almost at. tho Bourcoof tho river. A small cliff overlooked tho stream, and by Bwiinming a short distanco ? a lodge on the rock could be reached:' Into this placo wo took food and weapons and determined to sell o'ur Hvis dearly if wo could hot ward of! an attack successfully. We wero not an hour too soon in leaving our gunyah camp, for {oca to tho number of fifteen swooped down upon it shortly afterwards. When, they found we had gono they atartod to track us, and soon our retreat was discoverod. For tunately for us the position wo had takon was an oztromely strong ono, or I would not be horo to-day to toll you tho narrative. - Getting on tho opposite bank of the river, a fusillade of spoars was oponed on us, but thoy splintered harmlessly agaiust tho cliff. VVo did not care much for tho day attack, but|,knew that great caro would bo neccB sary at uight — or rather just before day break, to prevent surprise. Wo kept a

vigilxnt watch throughout the night, and almost fancied our fears were groundless, when I noticcd a ripplo in the water. I had collected a quantity of dried grass and leaves in tho cavern, and kopt a few glowing embers ready for an omorgcncy. Hastily igniting a mass of the grass, I flung it out on to the ledge of rock where it blazed up, throwing a bright light around. As he did so half-a-dozen natives were re vcalcd almost under tho rock with spears carried in their mouths. Quick aa thought I drove my spear through the back of the man next mo, and Bera also pierced another. Then we dropped back into tho cavern as a flight of Bpeara from tho warriors ou the opposite bank swept against the stone. Dis mayed by tho suddenness of the attack, and tho death of t!wo of their number, the aboriginals in tho water made for the bank, and the approach of daylight securcd us for that occasion. ' For three days we were thus besieged, and it seemed as if we wore to bo starved into surrender, and We dccided to risk flight. The natives keop very poor watches at night, and we took advan tage of this fact. Shortly aftor mid night we noiselessly let ourselves into the river, and quiotly' as' water-rats made our way down the stream. No one seemed to bo on the look-out, for when we had waded and swam nearly half a mile we got out and made along the bank. At daylight we had put several miles oetWeen ourselves and our enemies, but 1 did not feel secure. The attack had taught me the lesson that it was not wise to depend altogether on the friendliness of tho natives, aud I resolved to seek out some natural fortification where two' or threo resolute men Oould defend themselvcB against a hundred. All that day . we travelled until wo reached what you call Haunted Peak. Next day we agreed to examine the strange-looking hill, aB wo could not reaoh it that night. We began next morning examining the secret passages and caverns,- and looking for any traces which might denote human occu pation. There was not any sign to show that anyone had been in the placo since the last sculptor of that forgotten raco had left it, and that was an important point for us. Hero was a place I thought where we could be secure, for I was convinced that tho superstitious blacks would not long remain in such an nncanny spot. For a week we pursued our search, and discovered most of the places whioh I showed you. In tho river close by there was hbundant fish, whilst gamo was also plentiful, and we : coucludcd that wo could not do better than mako the peak our head quartors. So far we had not yet explored the . summit, and tho circular opening leading into the ampi thcatro gave us reason to believo it would be interesting to do so. Wo wero so busy with our subterranean researches that we scarcely went outside, and, therefore, did not meet tho blacks that lived in the locality. The hostile, tribo whioh had attacked us We naturally thought had their headquartors somewhere about, though wo afterwards found such was not tho case. It was on the eighth day aftor our arrival at the, Peak that we omorgod from the entrance, and lookod round for tho summit. The morning was,, vory warm, and we nuturally looked for tho easiest' road to the top. . We soon found that thoro were not many paths to choose from. , After noarly going the cirouit of the hill we came to tho narrow , pass by whioh you asoended, and we began our olimb. It waB not a very

ploasant one on suoh a day, for tho sun was streaming down direotly into the narrow passage, aud' tho rookB wore burning hot. I was almost tempted to turn back and, wait for a more. favorable day, but I kept on. Wo had' just come to a turn where we could see an open space a few yards ahoad,',' wlien a fearful cry Bmote our ears. It was] apparently but a short distance away, and tho Bound reverberatod round tho rooky : peaks in an extraordinary manner. In such: a solitary placo you can imagine how start-; ling the cry was to us, but, impulsively, I; ran out of the pass into the opening, when', an appalling sight confronted me. ? ' An enormous boa had a young: aboriginal in ; its crushing embrace, whilst a 1 second native stood a few yards away petrified with , fpar. This was a spectacle I had not calculated on; and, for a moment, I too stood as if paralysed, I at once saw that the 'young lellow in the python's folds was past human aid, but mentally decided that the! monster serpent would not make a meal of him. , Tho second aboriginal, op seeing us. partly recovcrod himself, though his fright was pitiable to behold. - Calling on Bera to help me, I ran as closo oa it.was safe to the: serpent, and, seizing a lar.e stono, hurled it. with all my force uguinst it. The snake .wasj partly colledaround a narrow rock, and it was.aguinst this position of its hody that I' flung the stone. ' Seoing my purpose, the' other black, whom I may toll you was no other than Goonool, came to my aid, and Bera did the same. As you know, the plateau is strewn with small boulders, and we,bogana hot bombard mont of tho monster, I knew If we' could only break its back wo would gain tho viotory, but such was its size and toughness, that we did not seem able to accomplish this. The serpent still hung to itsproy, but at lost, a more than usually sovere blow caused it to relax its folds. Ip a remark ably short space of time it was free to attack us, and then began a desperate and

singular struggle'. ' Tho monster turned on I us with fury, and it was only by the 0x0101*6 of tho greatest aotivity that we escaped it, I had a couplo of spears with mo, hut, though I hurled both of them they missed their intended mark, Thero was a ledgo of rock about fifteen feet above tho plateau where tho s^rango contost was being carried on, and, seizod with an idoa, I quiokly climbed on to it. Thoro woro some largo rock b on it, thrco hundred-weight or more, but I lifted them without an olTort, and when I saw a clmuco, dashed them down on tho boa. I know if ono struck thero would be an end to tho fight, tnd at last I was fortunate in making a well-dircetod blow. The serpent would not go far away from the dead native, even to ohaso its foes, and I took advantago of this. A huge stone,

which I flung down, struck the reptile fair on the back, aud almost crushed the part to a jelly. When I descended, we pulled tho dead body away, and the thon threo of us getting on to tho ledge again, rolled pieces of rock and boulders on to the monster uutilit was completely crushed. When we went down we took up tho body again and with great difficulty bore it to the bottom of the peak. Bera made himself understood to Goonool, for that ho said was his name, aud he conveyed to us that the dead man was his brother and that tliey were the sole remnant of a small tribo near the head of tho ranges, which had been ex terminated in a recent raid. He seemed u good fellow, and it was easy to read in his eyes how grateful he was for the timely help afforded by ub, VVo asked him if he-would stay with us, and ho joyfully consented. It seems that the object of himself and his brother in seeking the Peak was identical with riiy own. They looked to it for a hiding place, and when the boa soized the brothers they wore searching for a retreat. As we could not leave the body outside without remain ing with it, we took it into the great ohainber. Whether it was the sight of - the bones which suggested the ides, of making it a burial placo or not ' I do not know ; but noxt morning I thought lf might be douo, aud the body was placed there. Removing some of tho dohris, we found tho floor was a soft sandstone, .and we managed to scoop a shallow grave in it. Wrapping tho body in some old Lskins, we buried it. in the excavation, and thon piled up the great bones as you saw. There were now three of us, and I found that Goonool was not only reliable, but also vory helpful. For several months we devoted our attentipn to making tho strong hold sooure, and we succeeded, Tho first requisite, I knew, would he to g't a food supply, and this we did. In addition to a large number of mangrove nuts, seods and berries whioh we gathered, we also netted and speared a number of fiBh. Tho work of securing tho entrance was : also begun. With infinite labor we out out the square entrance where the small aper ture existed, and thon I shaped a piece of granite to. fix it. ' You did it well,' PrcBtou interjeetod. ' Yes, considering the tools I had to work with it was a success, but then you know we had unlimited time, and wero in no hurry over it. It was fully a year before wo had everything pranged to our satisfaction, and then wo began to mako short expeditions. Once we camo as far as tho shore of the gulf, but I was vory nearly devoured by a crocodile on my way baok, and I did not repeat tlio journoy. Wo also went some thirty -miles duo south, and it was there wo found tho gold whioh you now have on board. The' whole country there is auriferous. I came on a small reef, from, which the gold could be pioked out in pieces ; as large as. a pea. ..Thoro .waB an outcrop of this reef for more than two hundred yards, : and all tho way the Splendid samples could he seen. When I tell you that tho thr^e of

us picked out all two gold you hare in the cabin in threo days, you will understand what it iB like. ' It cannot be far from tho coait either I should say,' usked Ronnie. ' Not more than it couplo oi hundred miles,' answered Whitfield. Some timo after this we went : to the lagoon, below which .tlie Luciuda was anchored, to fish, and for the first time, Baw tho tribe which gave you so much trouble. ' If I had not kept them at arm's length and than scared them away with tho carronades, I wonder where wo all would be now,' said Dixon, ' You did right,' continued Whitfield. ' You saw what the end of the Berniornas, and this schooner nearly shared' the same fato. Jn another half hour tho firo would have obtained such a hold that wo would havo been powerless to put it out. That tribo is ono of the most troublesome in tho wholo of tho north-west territory.' ' We taught them a pretty sovero lesson, interjected tho captain. 'Yes, and they wanted It. I know of many terrible aots of cruelty they have com mitted since I came to the Peak. Of courso I was not able to prevent thom, and, indeed, on the last occasion when I tried I nearly lost my life,' 'That was the timo when you and your friend made the attempt to get me, and when you took the diary,' Whit field said, turning to tho captain. ' Ah, how was that?' asked the latter. 'It ocourred this way. You are no doubt awaro that each tribe has or olaimii to have a oertain area of country peculiarly its own. If another tribe .wishes to cross that territory and, acts courteously a messenger is sent to ask permission from the tribe claiming jurisdiction. This is seldom or never refused,, and the more Important per sonage that can bo selected as ambassador the greater honor is conferred on the visited tribe. -