|Chapter Number||1 & 2|
|Chapter Title||MAGGIE'S SECRET|
|Newspaper Title||The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939)|
|Trove Title||Lost in the Winning|
Lost in the Winning.
RATHER a neat title that, I think. Tell you how I came to think of it. You see I'm a very old bird, I've seen any quantity of vanity and wickedness amongst you men and women ; so, as
I thought it a pity that all this experience should stand a chance of being utterly lost to the world, I determined to publish; and naturally the first thing I wanted was a title. I'd thought of a good many, but could not get one to please me; and it so happened that one morning, after I'd been down the street a short way to interview a dog who generally goes to sleep in the sun outside a butcher's shop at about 10 in the morning (excuse my English getting rather involved at times - l'm only a magpie): - Well, I caught him sound as a top, gave him a satisfactory dig that sent him howling dismally into the shop, and came home with the calm feeling of satisfaction that every magpie feels who has done his duty, when I heard the Bouncer (that's one of our girls) prac- tising. I hopped in at the window, hoping to get a sly peck at her, for she and I don't agree ; and there she was, chirruping away—"l tell them they need not come wooing to me;" which was all gammon, for nobody did come wooing to her, and she would have been the very last to have told them not to, if they had. But I have a habit of rambling, which you must excuse. To return: I was hopping slyly across the room, hoping to get a dig at her ankles (for she's got lovely ankles—to peck, I mean. She's fat—to put it plainly—and she will wear tight boots ; so just above her boots is a splendid place for me to get a good dig at; when I do she feels it, I can assure you). But what a discursive old bird I am. As I said before, I was half-way across the room, when the happy thought struck me that there was a title for my memoirs in the song she was singing—"Maggie's Secret" of course; and in the enthusiasm evoked by this discovery I emitted a loud and triumphant whistle. The Bouncer turned round, and at once floored me with a book that was handy ; for I was not sharp enough to dodge, being en tranced by my late discovery. She had the best of it that time. There are four in the family I live with—two boys and two girls. Jack, he's the eldest; he's about eight-and-twenty. He and I are great friends; he taught me all the nice things I know; he taught me how to swear. Agatha— that's the Bouncer—she's next; we hate each other like poison. She owns to three-and- twenty, and yet — knowing all the family secrets — I know she is only two years younger than Jack; how can you account for that! I've learnt all manner of names to call her when we quarrel—Sylph, Fairy,
Steam-roller, &c. ; but when I'm real angry I just say "Small sixes," and clear out. After Agatha comes my girl—Clara. I've made a will and left her all my little savings, that are planted about Queensland generally. She will probably have a good deal of trouble in finding some of them, for I've even forgotten sorne of my plants myself ; but, bless her, she'll know that I meant well. You see I've known Clara since she was a baby—since I first came to live with them when they had a station up-country ; consequently I feel that I have had a good deal to do with her education—in fact may be said to have superin tended it—and I'm rather proud of her. She's the brightest prettiest girl in Queensland, at least I think so; maybe it's because l am getting old and don't think the others so good-looking as I used to when I was young. James is the next and youngest. Clara is twenty, and he's nine teen. Next to the Bouncer I think I hate him; he's a confirmed young prig already, and when I want to annoy him I call out Jim ! I say, "Jim! Jim! have some beer." James has got a friend—a Mr. Bloomington ; he's very rich, got a share in a station, and a sandy moustache ; lends out money too. You see I know all these things, and a lot more, because people will talk before me ; they think l am only a magpie, or that l am asleep. Catch a magpie asleep! Lord ! I remember Mr. Bloomington well enough, although I was a little bothered at first. It was yean ago, just after I first got married, that I saw him. We had a nest in a big apple tree near a lagoon, and a shepherd used to come there with his sheep in the middle of the day ; many a time I've snapped my bill in his face as he passed our nest. He had a dog called Balley, and Mrs. Mag and I could whistle and call "Balley" as well as possible after a short time. Don't I remember this shepherd and his green eyes and red hair, and did not a vague kind of association, a memory of the bush, come so gently o'er me stealing as I watched Mr. Bloomington come in to our drawing-room and sit awkwardly down on the edge of a chair? But I could not fix the identity a first, and I sat under the table wondering how it was that he seemed so familiar to me, when suddenly there came a happy thought, and I fluttered out into the middle of the room and called out with a shrill whistle, "Go round them, Balley, for another twelve monthsI" Mr. Bloomington jumped clean out of his chair and looked all around as if he was looking for his flock. The Bouncer, who was setting her cap at him, called me "a horrid bird," and said I ought to be shot; and I went back under the table and laughed to myself. I know him now ; he comes sneaking about after Clara; it's no good the Bouncer thinking he comes wooing of her, because he doesn't. Just as though Clara would have anything to say to such a cad, even if he had tons of money! Now there's one fellow I've got an eye on, he's a friend of Jack's, and I wouldn't mind his marrying Clara, because I'd go and live with them, and superintend the education of the children until I got too old, and then I'd die calmly at an advanced age surrounded by sorrow ing friends, whom I'd peck at faintly as a last mark of remembrance. But I fear this pleasant dream will never be realised. Jack's friend, although be seems to like my little girl very much, and to enjoy her society, always has an absent look in his eyes as though he was think- ing of somebody else. His thoughts were with his heart, And that was far away. He name is Nevil, David Nevil, and he has a station somewhere, but I don't know much of geography; they don't teach the geography of Queensland, you know. But I like him, and I like Jack, for they both somehow always remind me of my old bush home, when I was an inno- cent young magpie, and had not seen all the wickedness that I have now. Nevil is away at present, but I heard Jack say he expected him back soon. My people used to have a station, but when Jaok was about twenty the mortgagees foreclosed, and the old gentleman, Jack's father, he died, and they all came to live in Brisbane, and Jack got a Government billet; and ever since then he has reminded me of a wild bird in a cage. I didn't like town life myself at first; too many boys knocking about the streets for a magpie to have a quiet walk and plan mischief ; boys will throw stones. However, I've settled down to it now, and I find many little compen- sations : cats, for instance, are a great source of solace and consolation ; the silly things sleep so sound they don't know what is coming until I present my little bill—that dog down at the butcher's has been balm to my wounded spirit many a time. Still I have a tender feeling towards my old birthplace, and when Jack comes in he always seems to bring with him an air of association that carries me back amongst the gum trees and pasture lands of my youth. Certainly I never had half the opportunities of studying human nature up there that I have down here, and I do enjoy myself sometimes, there's no mistake about it. There's only one thing I miss : I never get a chance of going out to any balls or things of that sort, for to an ob- servant bird like me there must be plenty of fun to be got out of gatherings of that description. What I do enjoy above all things is to get quietly ensconced in the drawing-room and listen to the women talking of an afternoon ; and then to roost in Jack's private den of an evening, and hear the men yarning. But, speaking from an outside standpoint altogether ; speaking as a bird ; I must say that the amount of envy, hatred, and malice displayed by you unfeathered animals is enough to make a respectable magpie shudder. I don't except one of you, not even Jack and Clara, and they're the beet specimens I know. No, you are all alike, and when I come to think of the way you swagger, and call your selves lords of creation—why, I could moult all my feathers with disgust; I could, 'pon my metempsychosis I could. I wish I had not got into this habit of rambling, but what is a bird to do when such a violently irritating subject as mankind comes before one. I was going to tell you how the mortgagees foreclosed, in spite of poor Jack working double tides, from daylight till dark ; and how a drought settled everything at last; and then we came here. Good gracious that's about seven years ago now ; and Mrs. Danten—that's Jack's mother-—she's got very deaf since then, and only
when I shriek very loud she says, "Maggie, Maggie! you naughty bird." Now a strange adventure happened to me the other night I was fast asleep—that is to say as fast as I ever go, for I always keep one eye tolerably wide open—when the noise of footsteps aroused me. I was asleep in the dining room— our usual sitting-room, you know, but we call it the dining-room. It must have been about half past 12, when I heard the footsteps approaching, and by the time I was wide awake, and ready for any emergency, the door opened ; somebody struck a match, and— Oh! it was only the Bouncer. I knew what she came after at once—that girl pretends she has no appetite (that's good!), so she comes down here always, after the others have gone to bed, and takes away something from the supper table in order to have an early breakfast in her room in the morning. Well, I watched her out of the corner of one eye while she cut a couple of sandwiches and amused herself with some bread and jam; when suddenly we were both startled by the sound of the front door opening, and voices in conversa- tion becoming audible; and it also becoming equally certain that they—whoever they were— were coming to the dining-room. The poor Bouncer! She had on a loose dressing-gown, which showed off the abundancy of her figure to perfection; her hair was nowhere, and she had slippers on. Flight was out of the question. Her only chance lay in concealment. As the steps approached the door she hastily blow out the bedroom candle that had lighted her own foot steps; —came darkness! I heard a scramble; the door opened; and the new comers entered. "Wait till I get a light, old man," said a voice I recognised as belonging to James. Then came the crackling sound caused by striking a match; and the dawning light displayed the manly forms of James, our youngest, and his friend Mr. Bloomington; also making it equally evident that Mr. Bloomington was drunk. With that preternatural acuteness that distinguishes our race I saw that it was an uncommon occurrence with him, and that poor James had him on his shoulders like a second old man of the sea, and did not know how to get rid of him, or what the deuce to do with him. Subsequently I found that it was Bloomington's having expressed an ardent longing to break a lamp and fight a police man that had caused James to bring him into the house. I settled myself down for real thorough-paced enjoyment, ruffled my breast- feathers up, laid my bill carefully down amongst them, and to all outward appearance was sound asleep. "Sit down and have some supper," said James; "then l'll walk home with you." "Get a cab," suggested Mr. Bloomington, looking vacantly at the candle. "Too late new; there are none on the stand." "Not shtand!" said Mr. Bloomington furiously. "You say I can't shtand!" "Not at all I said there were no cabs now. Sit down, and have some supper." "Thatsh all right; but don't think that I'm going to be 'sulted by man owes me money." "Who wants to insult you?" said poor James; "can't you sit down?" for all this time Mr. Bloomington had been holding on by the mantel- shelf, and staring vacantly at the Bounoer's slippers that I could see sticking out from under- neath the sofa. "Member of Parliament too!" he exclaimed, subsiding into a chair. "Fanshy! Member of Parliament told he couldn't shtand. Didn't I shtand when I was elected, eh?" "Yes, it's a mistake on your part," persisted James. How I inwardly congratulated the free and in- dependent on their choice, as I listened to this. "Nice girl that sister of yours," said the legislator. "Hush I old man; don't speak so loud; re- member, everybody's in bed." "Can't help it; everybody shouldn't go to bed so early." "Have some cold meat!" "Sha'n't! I say she's a fine girl." "Have some pickles?" "No; damn your pickles ; what I want to know is this : what do you let that fellow Nevil come fooling round here for? You mark this," said Bloomington, whose speech was getting clearer : "I could hang him to-morrow!" "Hang him?" returned James, looking rather startled and perplexed. "Yes, hang him. Fellow murdered my partner, I believe ; just got news in, haven't got any proofs. Never mind, won't say any more now ; said too much already. Good-night." "I'll see you out," said James, with an air of relief. "That's all right; good-night, old fellow; no occasion; all right now." The door closed on the pair ; and the next sound I heard was caused by the energetic movements of the Bouncer as she struggled from underneath the sofa. She opened the door ; peered out carefully for a few seconds ; then fled upstairs like the dear graceful little fawn she is, leaving her sandwiches behind her; I dragged the meat out of them the first thing in the morning. I had a horrible nightmare that night; I dreamt that I was going to be hanged, and the butcher's dog dressed up as a clergyman was administering the last rites of religion to me ; I was very frightened, when, just as the bolt was going to be drawn, and I began to feel rather funny about the throat, I suddenly remembered that I could fly, and the idea made me laugh so that I awoke.
Chaptrr II. And the mem night there fell a shower of rain, For which their mouths gaped, like the cracks of earth When dried to summer dust; till taught by pain, Men really know not what good water's worth." FIERCE unrelenting heat, pervading everywhere like an evil spirit, by day and by night : heat that cast a quivering haze across the interminable Western plain. Blood-red sunsets at even ; and at times a dull mutter of thunder that sounded like the mocking laughter of a devil, enjoying the prospect from a still more torrid climate. The scanty foliage of the stunted trees growing by the side of the watercourse seems dried almost to brittleness beneath the cruel rays that smite it day after day: beneath the breath of the parching wind that comes in sullen puffs across the cracked and gaping plain.
At night, no dew steals down to comfort the blackened earth ; the carbines and revolvers that are left in the open air, by the party of whites camped at that lagoon, are unspecked by rust. All night the solemn stars look down, bright, pure, and hard; and fade at daylight, leaving the thin air scarce cooler for their vigil. All day long the towering whirlwinds follow one another in monotonous succession, save that when they cross a dusty plain they loom up white ; and when their course is over the fire scorched downs they are black. On the bank of a long lagoon, forming the bed of one of the principal rivers of the interior, a party of white men are encamped. The horses visible in the distance ; the knots of cattle camped here and there, wherever there is a bit of precious shelter from the sun ; the drays, the tents, and the rough erections of boughs for shade purposes speak for themselves : a party who have pushed out to take up new country. The two pioneer squatters themselves are—like everybody else in the camp—lying smoking under one of the bough erections, and swearing at the pestering flies that swarm in myriads. One is a middle-aged man of forty, with gray hair, beard, and moustache, and a face that ever wears a somewhat tired look. His com- paniou is some ten years younger, with a square Saxon cast of features, and rather reckless look about the eyes. " Says the old Obadiah to the young Obadiah" : " Davy, when do you intend to start?" "To-morrow night will be time enough, I think," returns his companion. "Yes ; but it won't be safe to try that short cut. It's doubtful—to say the least of it—if there's any water left there now." "I don't think there is any occasion to do so. We must be well ahead of all the other mobs." "Yes—that was a lucky fluke of yours ; but, with all due regard to the sagacity of Mr. David Nevil, I recommend your not trying that game very often." "I like that," said Nevil. "Why, you were worse than I was. Didn't you want to send all the men back—to come round by the river, while we chanced it by ourselves?" "Oh, that was only brag. I'm too old a soldier not to know my men. I knew there wasn't a man but what would volunteer for the short cut, and the fun." "Well, we're here all right, and only lost ten head over it; so all's well that ends well. But I wonder how far Kellet's cattle were ahead of us when we turned off." "Opinions seemed to differ ; but, from the look of the tracks, I should say about three days." "And we have been here a fortnight; so, if they had dry stages and had to push, they might be coming up the river now." "Yes. It would be as well to lodge the de- clarations as soon as possible; so when you are going back to do so give any cattle you meet a wide berth. Master Kellet's a smart youth, and seeing you going back he might send the cattle on, on spec, and follow you up to get in before you." "Yes; better to go back the way we came. With three good horses I can manage it, even if one hole is dry." "Mr. Blount!" called out one of the men who was standing up gazing curiously down the river. "There's somebody coming—a man on horse back." Everybody got up from his siesta ; they had fancied themselves sole lords of the solitude. The new arrival rode leisurely up, looking carelessly at the horses as he passed them. Arrived at the camp he dismounted with the usual "Good day," and said laughingly to Nevil ss he held out his hand: "Well! you fellows didn't expect to see me here, I presume?" "Scarcely," returned Nevil. "You've made good tracks. Where are the cattle!" "About ten miles down the river." Feeling an intense desire to put their visitor in the neighboring lagoon, and keep him there until he had gone exploring in another world, Nevil and Blount, under the false influence of our semi-civilisation, had his horse turned out, a meal underway for him, and the shadiest place given up for him to assume the recumbent atti- tude that everybody adopts in bush life. "Where's Kellet?" said Blount, when the three were ensconced under the boughs. "Started in last night to make the depositions about the couutry and lodge the applications." Nevil made no sign. Said Blount carelessly: "Went back the way you came, I suppose?" "No," returned the other; "we saw your tracks where you came in on the river four miles down, so he went back along them. You fellows must have cut off a hundred miles or more, as the last time we heard of you you were four days' stage behind us ; and how long have you been here now?" "A fortnight; and I am very much afraid Kellet will find no water the way he has gone. We only just got through, and the heat has been frightful since then." "He has got good horses, and might get through even if the water has dried up." "Never, at this time of the year. It is over a hundred and forty miles from here to the O'Hara, and some very rotten country to go over." "Look here, Black," said Nevil, after a pause; "I suppose you are going to apply for all the country about here? We may as well be open with one another." "Yes—for eighty miles frontage on both sides of the river. This will be half-way." "Well, we don't want any of the country below us, but if we can get it we intend to apply for fifty or sixty miles up the river ; and there we shall clash. Now we've got more men and more cattle than you have ; it's impossible for you to fulfil the conditions, and we've got. enough men here to watch you and prove that you don't. I'm afraid Kellet will come to grief and I'll start after him at once with water ; but if I don't see anything of him I shall apply for the country we want, without interfering with anything below this camp. So can't we work together?" "There's something in what you say; but as we have the best of it at present I think it's all to your advantage." "But how are you going to stock the country, man?" said Blount. " You only had four hun- dred and fifty head of cattle when you were on
the O'Hara, and you've not made any more since." "How is all the Western country being stocked? The Government do not want to scrutinise matters too closely so long as they get the rent. It would be impossible to carry out the strict letter of the Act." "Public attention has not been called to it yet, my dear fellow ; but you know well enough that if you apply for all the country you speak of, as stocked, we shall be in a position to prove otherwise. Not only that, but Kellet has only got twenty-four hours start, and it's not at all unlikely that Nevil will get in before him. We have over eighteen hundred head of cattle here on the ground; so we are not afraid of anything you can do." " Can't do anything in the matter. Personally perhaps I agree with you that it would be better not to clash; but Kellet has gone, and It's too late now." "Not at aIl. Give me a letter to him, saying you are willing that he should withdraw the ap- plications for the country that we want. Surely to goodness you've got room enough down the river, without interfering with us up here." "Yea, but for some reason or other Kellet wanted this country more than all the rest as soon as he found you were here." "When was that?" "Yesterday. We saw some of your cattle ; so then we went out back and picked up your old tracks coming in ; he started about an hour before sundown." "He took water with him?" "Yes, a couple of bags." "Well, I suppose it's every man for himself, then." "I can do nothing by myself," returned Black ; "although for my own part I would consent, but I know Kellet would not agree." "So be it, then, and the sooner I start the "better ; it's 4 o'clock now." "I intend to go with you as far as the O'Hara," said Blount. "No occasion, my dear fellow, it's only un- necessary risk." "I mean to go," returned the other ; "so just say no more." Nevil knew opposition was useless when his companion spoke like that, so wisely held his tongue. In less than half-an-hour the little party was ready ; two hones packed and two spare, in addition to their riding horses, making up the tale. "If all went well, Blount meant to be back in five or six days; so there were not many direc- tions to leave with the men. Bidding Black good-bye, they started, as the shadows grew long, and the sun began to lose a little of its power. Very little, for even when at its lowest, it was fierce enough in all conscience. Before them stretched the great monotonous plains of the far West; a clump of bushes here and there, magnified in appearance into the size of trees by the heated medium through which they loomed. A country where time and distance seemed of another world; nothing but what Lytton calls "the dull flat waste of wearisome eternity." All through the hot summer night they rode ; there could be little conversation, as one had to ride ahead, leading the way, the other following driving the horses. At about midnight they passed the hut waterhole they had seen before reaching the river, when coming out with the cattle a fort- night before. There was still a little muddy water in it; but the horses, not then being thirsty, declined to touch it. Striking matches, they examined by their aid the soft mud round the edge of the hole, but could see no sign of Kellet's track. Not knowing of the waterhole, he would have probably missed it in the dark. The starlight was sufficient to enable them to follow the deep trails the cattle had made coming across the loose open soil of the downs ; and by daylight they were a good forty miles from camp. As the light got strong they saw Kellet's track following one of the pads ; and by 10 they were in sight of a creek wherein they had got the best supply of water they had found on their way out. Both looked anxiously to- wards the few trees that indicated the position of the waterhole. Not a bird was visible. Hoping against hope, they rode up to the dry brown polygonum bushes, but they had no occasion to look ; the loose horses had trotted ahead, and, running down the bank, went across, and up the other side without stopping. The bottom was as hard and dry as a metalled road. "This was the best waterhole we saw," said Blount meaningly. "Yes ; there will be no water left in any of the others," returned his companion. "Do you think we are half way to the O'Hara?" asked Blount, after a pause. " No, nothing near it; but we must go on. Remember Kellet; we might pull him up in time." " Yes, we must push too ; but even then I'm afraid we shall be late." " We'll give the horses a mouthful from the bags and a couple or three hours' spell, then push on without stopping. We shall have to walk to-morrow, whether or no—the horses won't stand in any longer ; but we must make them take us as far as they can, or it will be all up with this firm." "Probably so," returned Blount. "I don't think we'll make much progress when our horses are done ; but we must do the best we can to make ourselves comfortable. I expect poor Kellet's badly off just now." At about 3 they started on again, and before dark came to another small creek where they had got water on their outward journey. This, like the other, was quite dry. Here they found a pack-saddle, blankets, and clothes, evidently thrown away by Kellet to ease his horse, which was probably getting done up. "The beginning of the end," said Blount "We'll never find the poor fellow alive; this was left here this morning." Nevil was about to reply, when suddenly he broke off and ran forward shouting. The spare horses were rounded up a short distance away, and the horse that had the water-pack on was lying down rolling. When he got on his legs at the hasty assault they made on him they found that the stitching of one bag had burst and all the water squeezed out, and more than half the contents of the other bag was spilt. They had barely four quarts left, and were both thirsty,
for they had refrained from drinking during the afternoon. Nevil laughed in sheer recklessness. "By Jove, we'll learn the grand secret this time, old man." "We must ride all night now. But how about Kellet? We might pass him in the dark." "How far do you think he would get from here? His horses must have been nearly done when he threw that saddle away." "Fifteen or twenty miles at the outside. We shall do no more to-night, for the hot wind to day has played Hades with our horses." "Well, let's be off, and keep our ears and eyes skinned." Before starting on again they each took a mouthful of water, and extracting a pistol bullet from its copper sheathing put it in their mouths to chew aa they went along. They went but slowly, for their horses were suffering greatly. The stars looked down on them in an aggravatingly cool calm way; a crescent moon sank in a dull haze away to the westward, and once or twice there was a feeble flash of lightning in the same direction. All around, utter calm and profound stillness. Shortly before 11 Nevil stopped and asked Blount if he heard anything. His companion replied in the negative ; and they both remained motionless—listening—for some seconds. "I'm certain I heard a sound on ahead ; there could be no living thing out here now!" "No, it's all downs country without a tree for miles ahead yet; an owl is the only night bird we might hear away from water, and they stick to timber." "Supposing we go on about a mile and then camp ; I'm positive I was not deceived." "What did it sound like?" "A kind of harsh cry, scarcely like a human voice." "Give a good coee before we start again." Nevil disturbed the stillness with a prolonged shout, but no answer came back from the dark- ness. Once—as they listened patiently—they thought they heard a sound in the far distance ; but they could not feel certain. "It's death to stop," said Blount, "but we must not go past the poor fellow if he's still alive." After going on another mile they agreed to await daylight ; so pulling off the saddles they threw themselves on the ground to see what the day would bring forth. The horses stood sulk- ing where they were let go ; kicking and biting viciously at each other. The sky had now be- come overcast with a dull haze, and ever and anon there was still the glimmer of lightning in the west. "If we could make a fire, it would draw his attention, but there's not a twig within miles of here." "Here are some letters, set fire to them, they'll blaze up for a minute ; he'll see it a long way off." The letters were unfolded, and ignited one by one; little did the writers of them think of the use that they would be put to. The momentary blaze showed the men each other's anxious face, but that was all; the flame flickered out, and it was once more dark and silent. The two friends lay back on their blankets, musing—waiting. Presently Nevil fell into an uneasy sleep and a tormenting dream. He thought he was standing on a balcony over- looking a fresh fair garden; fountains were sending up their sparkling jets of sweet water, and children were laughing merrily as they played about the walks. Vainly he sought for a means to descend. Maddened at last with the fierce thirst that consumed him, he was about to jump down at all risks when he was seized by the shoulder and held back. Struggling to free himself he awoke. Blount was shaking him by the shoulder. There had been a great change while he slept. The lightning was now strong and incessant; to the westward was a dark bank, and cool puffs of wind came every now and then from that quarter. One strange feature was that the flashes of lightning thiew a red tinge over everything ; unlike the vivid brightness that is its general characteristic, this was lurid and sullen. There was scarcely any thunder ; just at long intervals a heavy rumble that seemed to shake the earth could be heard. Both sat up, gazing anxiously to windward ; tortured though they were with thirst they could not but be impressed with the strange grandeur of the storm, so different from anything they had ever witnessed before. There were no dense black clouds riven by jagged streaks of light, no crashes of deafening thunder. The sky was more murky than black ; the lightning like the gleam of red fire suddenly cast over the scenes in a theatre ; and the leaping light only showed the lonely men the desolate plain around—limit- less—boundless! Presently a deep moaning sigh came sweeping to them from the West: a sudden gust, and then a cloud of dust enveloped them. The sand storm of the desert was upon them. Drawing their blankets over their heads, to shield themselves from the driving grit, they re- mained motionless till the blast had passed ; then one after another they arose again. Then came one vivid flash of lightning, no longer red, but fiercely white and blinding; one mighty peal of thunder, and the blackness of darkness once more. "My God, we'll get some after all," said Blount hoarsely, for their lips were dry and their throats burning. Following up the sand came a black cloud rushing towards them, and even as he spoke a few great cold drops fell on their upturned faces. Eagerly spreading out the pieces of waterproof sheeting they had with them, they watched with renewed hope. They had not long to wait; after the first few drops there came a sudden pause, broken by an angry dash of blessed rain. For about ten minutes the saving torrent poured down, then ceased, and the fading lightning and low growling thunder died away in the east. The rescued travellers had caught a good supply of water in their waterproof, enough at anyrate to give two of their horsea a good drink ; but fortunately they had camped near a small treeless watercourse, that struggled for a brief and shallow existence across the flat country ; the clayey bottom of this had caught a little of the passing shower, and before daylight the horses had found and availed themselves of it. Looking anxiously ahead the next morning, Blount and Nevil rode on. They had not left their camp a mile behind them when Blount,
who was in front, pointed to a dark object risible on the plain—a dead horse! When they got up to it they found it had the saddle and bridle still on, and had died where it had been left by its doomed rider. "We shall soon find him now; that storm last night may have saved him," said Nevil. "We must have passed the other horse during the night; let us see if there are any papers or letters in the saddle pouch." They dismounted, and, finding some packets and documents in the pouch, Nevil unbuckled it from thte saddle, and put it on his own ; then they started once more. A little to the left of their course, and about three miles from the dead hone, a few straggling trees indicated the position of a small water course; there they found the man they sought to save. He might hare been asleep, from his attitude; but they both knew it was death. He had staggered on to the timber in a last desperate hope : had thrown himself, in despair, at the foot of one of the wretched coolibah trees; death—the pitiful friend—had found him there, and hushed him into a good and calm sleep. The storm that had passed over had beaten on the dead white face, had drenched the tangled hair ; had left, as if in very mockery, a pool of water almost touching the blackened lips. [TO BE CONTINUED.]