|Newspaper Title||The Capricornian (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1875 - 1929)|
|Trove Title||In Days Gone By|
©ales m& Jftctrttts.
1 ^ IX DAYS GONE BY.*
Bt an Old Scttlee.
O-- the third day, which was Christmas Day — I do not believe one of as recollected the fact, I did not for many days after— Blair decided to cross the river where all the banks were bad He selected what he thought was the best place. The water was jast thigh high, enough to be troublesome, the bottom was a ?tiff tenacious day, with hugh boulders in it in places. Blair io dismissing the blacks on the previous evening made them know by signs that he was about to cross the hrer next
day. The intelligence eeemed to afford satisfaction. I had a suspicion at the time, which after events confirmed, that it would have been well had he been more retentive. They had time during the ni^ht to mature their plans. People talk of presenttmenta
and warnings by dreams. Where was Blair's good angel on that good night I often ask myself if we were all ** Fey ' doomed, hasten ing to oar deaths. I recollect well there was more than tbe usual amount of fun and joking among the men on that night. One circum stance only was noted aa at all suspicions, that no women had made their appearance. Tet they could not have been far away, probably not more than a mile, judging from the men's early appearance at our camp in tbe morning, and their remaining until the son had diDDed. The blacks did not frttnw nn nn
the morning of the start, which Blair inter preted as an evidence of good filing on their part. Nor did they join xu on oar tray to the river. We came to the river at about eleven o'clock, Blair said to cross while the cattle We warm, and have tnnch on the other hank, I am not aware by what name this river ia cow known. Some of the fellows called it Fisb River, from the abundance of fish bones to be seen with the blacks — to as it was a River of Death. Where we intended to cross, tbe way down was rough and steep. The dray had to go between two big boulders. We had got down the bank on to the river bed, rested the cattle for a few moments and commenced the passage. The dray was about midway across. The passage bo far being only accomplished by great laboar of both men and beasts, and of conrse much noise, when the near wheel soak to the nave in the clay, while tbe off one stock against a boulder. The cattle had not fair play, and could not ehift the dray one inch. Blair ordered us all into the water, letting his own horse loose with the spare horses. Nine of us were in the water striving might and
mam to loosen the obdurate atooe, and relieve tbe wheel. Blair was standing on tbe far bank giving some direction*. The last he ever gave. When — did you ever hear the yell of those black derUs when they know yon are in their power? Well we heard it then, the rocks rang with it. The river banks on both aides were covered with blacks, the spears rained; actually rained on us. Blair was speared through the heart, he fell on his back into tbe current and was borne away. The others were either speared or dabbed m they atood. The dray was covered with h*»'*rn. who hardly waited to see whether tbe whites were dead before they were chopping away with their stooe axes at the ropes which tied tile tarpaulin down. I was struck by a boomerang in the head, fell into the stream and waa borne away, the savages were too eager for their prey to notice me. I floated down tbe river some distance. I do not think
lfwaa wnoiiy insensible. 1 drifted against » rock, clutched it and crawled oat of the water. I lay atO! as a moose lor some boors. ' But,' said Jaquea, ' I think you said yon were armed ' ? ** Yes arms and ammunition for each maifi, bat they were under tbe tarpaulin securely tied down. Even if we had been armed what would it have availed us. Taken at such a disadvantage and on all sides at once, if there had been any one on the look oat, on sentry on the bank, it might have saved us. The poor blacks ! They were «o quiet and well disposed, there was nothing to be apprehended from them. You see here is the mischief. A man takes a savage or savages into his house aa it were. He shows them all that he possesses, shows them that numerically he and his party are infeiior, and theo expect* the savage, the gentle savage, not to covet or desire ought of his eoods, and to restrain his natural lust to kill and destroy everything which is in bis power. What madness? I was within hearing of the yells and cries as they ransacked tbe loading to their hearts desire. 1 con Id also bear the low moans of the poor cattle, which the wretches were killing with their unfortunate owners axes. I lay still in my hiding place, until night came oo. I was cold and hungry I bad stroog hopes that some of the borves had escaped, recrossed the river and gone back towards their home. I hoped also that the savages might not stay at the place of the massacre. It was only a hope then. I know now that they never remain for the night where they have spilled human blood. I wish they would sometimes, we might get at them the better. The night was not a very clear one. Some atara were shining out, I knew *' Orion,' what wat I to do? l had no food, I was eighty or one hundred miles away from help, the cattle coming behind were about that distance off. Tbe party were to wait for orders before they pushed on. Oh ! if I bad ooly a horse. There was I thought little use in hesitation. I may as well die of starvation in tbe bash as at tbe hand* of those brates, aod for ought I knew be eaten by then?. I crawled up the bank and listened. I could hear no souoda, I would make foe the camp at the lagoons, keeping a abarp look out. IS 1 could not see my way I could fed the wheel tracks. I started in the direction I judged likely to cut the dray tnck After I cleared the trees in the immediate neighbourhood of the river there was an open space, I stopped
aod looked snd listened, nothing was moving; but away on the left I saw the reflection of fire against the sky, a good distance away it teemerf. You may be sure I had no wish to go in tfmi direction. The ground I was walking on was rather rough, tbe grass grew jd tussocks or clamps. When I thought I had gone far enough I sought for the dray track, several times ansaccessfolly ; with a sinking at tbe heart m I rose. At last I had it. Tbe exercise bad stirred my blood. I felt a degree lesa forlorn, and pushed on for the camp. Alter what seemed to me a weary time I saw the white heap of ashes of our camp fire. I was in doubt whether to Btay there or oot. at all events X could rest for a little. I raked among the ashes, some live coals remained, but make a fire ! Not to be thought of in my situation. I lay down by tbe warm coals. While there I was startled by tbe noise of some animal eating. I confess I was frightened, and shivered and shook like one in the ague. The sound continued seemingly not far away. I couid not see the animal. Ooe of the horses ? To be sure, what a fool I was ? It was a borse eatioe and ravenouslv too. How I loncM far
light enough to see what horse it was. If it was Mr. Blair a I looked upon myself as eaved. I moved to where the tarpanlin shelter for the m«n had been, and searched round cautiously, starting at my own movements. My foot struck against some object, I stopped and felt it, imagine my joy when I found it was a large piece of damper, very probably thrown away because it waa too stale. I thanked God and took courage- There was a chance of tbe blacks returning to this camp. I thought I would risk it. I was certain I could catch 'Trooper' if it Bhould chance to be him which I bad heard eating. I sat there brood ing over the bloody event of the day before, until the first grey streak of dawn. I tucked
«— j ????»— j uuu ui uwujici iiisiue uiy ouirb iruot. I set oat to find the horse. I coold Dot find it dose to the camp, I wu afraid to wander tu tor fear of losing the wheel tracts, afraid to linger too long lest mine enemies might be ?tirring. Taking a stick which had been used to etir the fire for a staff, I went along tbe tiack. I bad gone about a mile, when at some distance ia front I saw a horse feeding slowly along tbe track. I wondered why be had not travelled faster, though much pleased that be had not. I found ont the reason when I caught op to him, I knew if I went suddenly towards him I should startle him. I mastered breath enough for a whistle, a very tremulous one, I am afraid, called the borse by name, walked slowly up to him. How my heart amped ? When I pat my hand on his maue t was 'Trooper.' The saddle was under his belly, tbe reins entangled round his fore legs. The old hone smelt me all over, and gave a bw whinny. To DUt the bridle riffht nnlrirth
the saddle and place it properly on did not take many seconds. Once in the saddle I felt safe. I turned round and shook my fist in tbe direction of the blacks camp. Then urging the horse to a fast walk, I pushed along. Trooper did not want much urging, he was just as anxioiiB as I was to get along. I rode till noon, stopped at a little pond on the side of he track, hobbled '? Trooper ' with a stirrnp leather, ate a morsel of the bread, which stale as it was seemed to me delicious. If I had been a smoker then I should have finished up with a puff. I had no means of procuring fire, matches were unknown in those days, every ooe carried a small tinder box and flint but I wished for a sleep. I was so feverish I could not rest. I washed my body, which refreshed me wonderfully. When I thought 'Trooper' had fed about an hour I saddled op again and made about forty miles that day. had no trouble to seek (or tbe track, the
cwne »«pt cne cracK ol nis own accord. On the fourth day I arrived at the cattle camp and delivered my tidings. Suspicion attached to me from tbe fact that I was riding Blair's horse, but one of tbe stockmen having reported to Mr. Blair's irother that he had seen the tracks of four faorsei making towards borne. He was sent after them ; they proved to be oar spare horses. Doubtless Jim's bad been speared. Two started back to the scene of the massacre. My tidings were verified. Nothing remained of the dray or loading but the parts wbicb tbe I spent my first Christmas in Australia. (To 6e contiiwet)