Chapter 160171179

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Chapter NumberX
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article160171179
Full Date1886-11-13
Page Number44
Corrections0
Word Count1907
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleAdelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)
Trove TitleA Life's Punishment
article text

THE NOVELIST.

A LIFE'S PUNISHMENT.

By E. Davenport Cleland.

CHA.PIER X.

The period occupied in making prepara tions for the trip was, to me, one of great interest. 1 had read the diaries of explorers, and during the time I had lived in the colony had listened to numberless stories of the adventures and hardships met with by men who had braved the perils of the unknown regions of the interior. It was a sabject which had at all times a certain fascination for me. Perils and dangers read of or lis tened to in the security and comfort of a good house and comfortable armchair have more pleasantness and less discomfort than the actual realities. You feel for the men in their troubles and dangers, but you can escape them yourself by simply closing your book or your ears as the case may require. I always liked the stories told to me in com parison to the pages of a diary. It was very probable that the narrators did not keep to the actual facts, and also that these were more or less highly coloured according to the vividness of the storytellers' imagination. Put I could allow for that, or believe it, as I pleased. Put the diarists were often terrible in their minute dry-as-dust details. The writers appear to have followed the plan of noting every trifling thing which might befall the party from day to day. The loss of a tinpot was as carefully chronicled as the growing scarcity of the water in the kegs; and an attack by mosquitos with its conse quent sufferings would be shoulder to shoulder with an exciting fight with the blacks, and it was occasionally a source of wonderment to me how Borne of the ex plorers were able to describe the features of a country, seeing that they made a practice of travelling at night in order to avoid the heat of the day.

The man who would undertake to condense most of these journals, and in that way make them readable, would deserve well at the hands of his countrymen.

Thus, as far as the theory of exploration was concerned, I was an experienced person. But theory was now to give place to practice —if they fitted so much the better. At an early period ot the preparations Walter and I evoked some withering expressions of scorn from McPherson by various suggestions we offered as to what would be necessary to take. Partly from our recollections of books of travel, and partly from oar inner conscious ness, we made out a list of tools, clothes,

food, &c. Other people had taken similar j

things, and we thought they wonld be nsefnl on this occasion. But our errors were pointed oct to us in such a way that we never forgot the lesson, and ever afterwards allowed McPherson to suggest and we obeyed.

We were to take two men with ub, making the party up to five in number. Mo sooner was it known about the station that the expedition had been decided upon than McPherson was overwhelmed with applica tions from all sorts of men wishing to go. There was no lack of volnnteerB—the diffi culty lay in choosing the beet men from the crowd. Besides the love of adventure

natural to every Englishman, whether he be |

a native of Great Britain or Australia—there was the inducement of double wages, and when adventures and double money went hand in hand the desire of every man to make one of the party was explained. McPherson made no selection from amongst them until nearly a week had elapsed, and the con sequence was that every man was jealous and mistrusted his mate, and the amount of intriguing done was enormous.

Uardicge, myself, and even Walter were solicited to try and use our influence with McPherson. But we knew better than to bother him. The eole control of the business and the selection of the men had been placed in his hands, and not even tiardinge cared to try and influence his choice.

It was a relief to every one when at last the

two men were chosen. And now all jealousies j and heartburnings were at an end, or at any rate carefully hidden and kept out of sight. In appearance they were men of medium height, light build, sallow complexioned, hair of a neutral tint and lank aad straight in texture. The amount of hair upon their face8 was hardly noticeable. Judging by outward appearance they were not the men I should have cbosen; but aB events after wards proved McPherson could not have made a" better choice. Their fellows paid them many little attentions, in the way of giving thein fancy pipes, knives, and other little odds aEd ends useful and ornamental.

Our preparations went forward rapidly, but it astonished me to see what an infinite number of things had to be thought of and

seen to. We were to take packhorsea j and therefore had to select only those things which possessed the greatest usefulness with the least bulk. The horses had to be carefully selected, for upon their strength and staying power the safety and success of the party would mainly depend. There waB a large number to choose from—young and old, good, bad, and in different—and the investigation of _ their

characters and constitutions was carried on by Hardinge, McPherson, and the two men with an amount of gravity and deliberation, equalled only by a Council of the Great Powers. Most of the horses had been bred on the run, and their pedigrees were fairly remembered; but on several occasions Har dinge and McPherson would consider a horse suitable until it was remembered that some ancestor had been morally or physically tainted, and though the descendaut looked sound and good-tempered he was generally discarded, so as to be on the safe Bide. Bat at last the requisite number were secured, and the next step was to sen how the pack-saddles and riding saddles fitted them. It was also considered necessary to put on the complete loads some dayB before atarting so as to be sure that nothing had been forgotten or any strap or buckle overlooked. One horse appeared to dislike this trial, for when about half the paok was put up he became frightened, snapped the rope which held him to a post, and galloped down the paddock, buck-jumping and kicking up his heels. The pack had not of course been fastened, and now as he galloped, rattled and flapped about the horse's rite. The bags contained the billycans and pannicaus and cooking things, and the rattling of them together terrified him to the verge of madness. How he kicked, and bucked, and reared, and threw himself down, and at last as he plunged across the creek, which was now dry, he fell over a log, turning a complete somersault, and landed on his back between two stamps. We had followed after him as quickly as we could, picking up on the way various items of the outfit. When we reached the creek the horse was lying quite still, in deed he could not well do otherwise. It was some time before we could release him, he was so wedged in. The packeaddle and other trappings were taken off bit by bit. All the tin thingB were broken or flattened out, and the horse himsc-lf was now useless for the

journey. It would be a long time before he would recover from the effects of the fright.

At last we were all ready to start, and the morning of our departure came. It had been determined that we should get away by 8 o'clock ; but despite all our precautions and good intentions many little things had been lorgotten and bad to be attended to at the last moment. We were more than an honr behind the proposed time of starting. The occasion was made an excuse by the men for a holiday. Exploring parties aid not go away every day, and they wished to see the depar ture of their friends and the "Boss." All this made an unusual stir and excitement on the station, and some of the animals even recognized it as being something extra ordinary.

The behaviour of McFherson's collie, Boy, I showed that he at any rate felt nneasy on

the subject. On every occasion, connected with sheep mustering or other work on the station, he had followed his master. But now and then when MaPherson had gone on a visit to town or elsewhere Boy had been kept on the chain. And now his instinct warned him that all this bustle was not con nected with sheep mustering, and that unless he could manage to escape his master's notice he would be chained up. Bit McPherson bad not forgotten him. He looked round for him just as we were ready to Btart, but the old dog was not to be seen. McPherson whistled and called to no pur pote. At last he espied Boy. The dog had gone away down to the gate of the home paddock, and could now be seen lying down and evidently awaiting us.

"Look at the old schemer," exclaimed McPherson, half amused, half touched by the devotion shown by his dog, " look where be has planted himself! He thinks that I shall not trouble to send him home from there. Here, Boy!" And so, seeing that he was dis covered and that the tone of his master's voice was imperative, Boy came towards ub. What a picture of silent melancholy he looked! His pace was a slow, heavy, weary trot; his tail, generally carried in a jaunty manner,now hung limp and nerveleBS between his legs, and he carried his head low. His worst fearB had been confirmed, and no human actor could have surpassed this dumb show of grief. As Boy came closer to McPherson his pace became slower, his atti tude more crouching, and at last, with his body almost sweeping the ground, he laid his head on his master's feet. McPherson bent down and patted the dog and talked to him bb only a man who really loves his dog would talk, treating him more as a human being than a brute. He told Boy that he could not come with him, and the dog appeared to understand. Gradually he _ raised himself up and standing upon his hind legs, placed hiB fore paws as much rouod McPher son's body as possible and looked up into his face with eyes whose mute love and eloquence were more soul-stirring than words. But he was only a dog, and we had no time to waste by indulging in sentiment of any kind. Boy walked soberly to his kennel and was chained up, McPherson giving him a final pat, and receiving a grateful lick on the hand in return. Then came hand-shakings and last words from Hardinge, the girls and every one else. Mary waB not present, being still confined to the house. The men mounted their horses, and led off those carrying the packs, and then with a final waving of hands and a cheer from those we were leaving, we cantered away. Boy set up a despairing whine, and from the gate we could see him standing at the full length of his chain gazing longingly

after us.