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The Adventures of Louis de Rougemont By Louis de Rougemont Characters: 35528

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


An eventful meeting-Civilisation at last-Rage and despair-A white man's tracks-Yamba's find-Good Samaritans-Bitter disappointment-Bruno as guardian-A heavy burden-A strange invitation-The mysterious monster-"Come, and be our chief"-I discover a half-caste girl-The fate of Leichhardt-"In the valley of the shadow"-A sane white man-Gibson is dying-Vain efforts-Unearthly voices.

When we had been on the march southwards about nine months there came one of the most important incidents in my life, and one which completely changed my plans. One day we came across a party of about eight natives-all young fellows-who were on a punitive expedition; and as they were going in our direction (they overtook us going south), we walked along with them for the sake of their company. The country through which we were passing at that time is a dreary, undulating expanse of spinifex desert, with a few scattered and weird-looking palms, a little scrub, and scarcely any signs of animal life. The further east we went, the better grew the country; but, on the other hand, when we went westward we got farther and farther into the dreary wastes. At the spot I have in my mind ranges loomed to the south-a sight which cheered me considerably, for somehow I thought I should soon strike civilisation.

Had not the blacks we were with taken us to some wells we would have fared very badly indeed in this region, as no water could be found except by digging. I noticed that the blacks looked for a hollow depression marked by a certain kind of palm, and then dug a hole in the gravel and sandy soil with their hands and yam-sticks. They usually came upon water a few feet down, but the distance often varied very considerably.

We were crossing the summit of a little hill, where we had rested for a breathing space, when, without the least warning I suddenly beheld, a few hundred yards away, in the valley beneath, four while men on horseback! I think they had a few spare horses with them, but, of course, all that I saw were the four white men. I afterwards learned that, according to our respective routes, we would have crossed their track, but they would not have crossed ours. They were going west. They wore the regulation dress of the Australian-broad sombrero hats, flannel shirts, and rather dirty white trousers, with long riding-boots. I remember they were moving along at a wretched pace, which showed that their horses were nearly spent. Once again, notwithstanding all previous bitter lessons, my uncontrollable excitement was my undoing. "Civilisation at last!" I screamed to myself, and then, throwing discretion to the winds, I gave the war-whoop of the blacks and rushed madly forward, yelling myself hoarse, and supremely oblivious of the fantastic and savage appearance I must have presented-with my long hair flowing wildly out behind, and my skin practically indistinguishable from that of an ordinary black-fellow. My companions, I afterwards discovered, swept after me as in a furious charge, for they thought I wanted to annihilate the white men at sight. Naturally, the spectacle unnerved the pioneers, and they proceeded to repel the supposed attack by firing a volley into the midst of us. Their horses were terrified, and reared and plunged in a dangerous manner, thereby greatly adding to the excitement of that terrible moment. The roar of the volley and the whizz of the shots brought me to my senses, however, and although I was not hit, I promptly dropped to the ground amidst the long grass, as also did Yamba and the other blacks. Like a flash my idiotic blunder came home to me, and then I was ready to dash out again alone to explain; but Yamba forcibly prevented me from exposing myself to what she considered certain death.

The moment the horsemen saw us all disappear in the long grass they wheeled round, changing their course a little more to the south-they had been going west, so far as I can remember-and their caravan crawled off in a manner that suggested that the horses were pretty well done for. On our part, we at once made for the ranges that lay a little to the south. Here we parted with our friends the blacks, who made off in an east-south-easterly direction.

The dominant feeling within me as I saw the white men ride off was one of uncontrollable rage and mad despair. I was apparently a pariah, with the hand of every white man-when I met one-against me. "Well," I thought, "if civilisation is not prepared to receive me, I will wait until it is." Disappointment after disappointment, coupled with the incessant persuasions of Yamba and my people generally, were gradually reconciling me to savage life; and slowly but relentlessly the thought crept into my mind that I was doomed never to reach civilisation again, and so perhaps it would be better for me to resign myself to the inevitable, and stay where I was. I would turn back, I thought, with intense bitterness and heart-break, and make a home among the tribes in the hills, where we would be safe from the white man and his murderous weapons. And I actually did turn back, accompanied, of course, by Yamba. We did not strike due north again, as it was our intention to find a permanent home somewhere among the ranges, at any rate for the ensuing winter. It was out of the question to camp where we were, because it was much too cold; and besides Yamba had much difficulty in finding roots.

Several days later, as we were plodding steadily along, away from the ranges that I have spoken of as lying to the south, Yamba, whose eyes were usually everywhere, suddenly gave a cry and stood still, pointing to some peculiar and unmistakable footprints in the sandy ground. These, she confidently assured me, were those of a white man who had lost his reason, and was wandering aimlessly about that fearful country. It was, of course, easy for her to know the white man's tracks when she saw them, but I was curious how she could be certain that the wanderer had lost his reason. She pointed out to me that, in the first place, the tracks had been made by some one wearing boots, and as the footprints straggled about in a most erratic manner, it was clearly evident that the wearer could not be sane.

Even at this time, be it remembered, I was burning with rage against the whites, and so I decided to follow the tracks and find the individual who was responsible for them. But do not be under any misapprehension. My intentions were not philanthropic, but revengeful. I had become a black-fellow myself now, and was consumed with a black-fellow's murderous passion. At one time I thought I would follow the whole party, and kill them in the darkness with my stiletto when opportunity offered.

The new tracks we had come upon told me plainly that the party had separated, and were therefore now in my power. I say these things because I do not want any one to suppose I followed up the tracks of the lost man with the intention of rendering him any assistance. For nearly two days Yamba and I followed the tracks, which went in curious circles always trending to the left. At length we began to come upon various articles that had apparently been thrown away by the straggler. First of all, we found part of a letter that was addressed to some one (I think) in Adelaide; but of this I would not be absolutely certain. What I do remember was that the envelope bore the postmark of Ti Tree Gully, S.A.

The writer of that letter was evidently a woman, who, so far as I can remember, wrote congratulating her correspondent upon the fact that he was joining an expedition which was about to traverse the entire continent. I fancy she said she was glad of this for his own sake, for it would no doubt mean much to him. She wished him all kinds of glory and prosperity, and wound up by assuring him that none would be better pleased on his return than she.

The country through which these tracks led us was for the most part a mere dry, sandy waste, covered with the formidable spinifex or porcupine grass. Yamba walked in front peering at the tracks.

Presently she gave a little cry, and when she turned to me I saw that she had in her hand the sombrero hat of an Australian pioneer. A little farther on we found a shirt, and then a pair of trousers. We next came upon a belt and a pair of dilapidated boots.

At length, on reaching the crest of a sandy hillock, we suddenly beheld the form of a naked white man lying face downwards in the sand below us. As you may suppose, we simply swooped down upon him; but on reaching him my first impression was that he was dead! His face was slightly turned to the right, his arms outstretched, and his fingers dug convulsively in the sand. I am amused now when I remember how great was our emotion on approaching this unfortunate. My first thought in turning the man over on to his back, and ascertaining that at last he breathed, was one of great joy and thankfulness.

"Thank God," I said to myself, "I have at last found a white companion-one who will put me in touch once more with the great world outside." The burning rage that consumed me (you know my object in following the tracks) died away in pity as I thought of the terrible privations and sufferings this poor fellow must have undergone before being reduced to this state. My desire for revenge was forgotten, and my only thought now was to nurse back to health the unconscious man.

First of all I moistened his mouth with the water which Yamba always carried with her in a skin bag, and then I rubbed him vigorously, hoping to restore animation. I soon exhausted the contents of the bag, however, and immediately Yamba volunteered to go off and replenish it. She was absent an hour or more, I think, during which time I persisted in my massage treatment-although so far I saw no signs of returning consciousness on the part of my patient.

When Yamba returned with the water, I tried to make the prostrate man swallow some of it, and I even smeared him with the blood of an opossum which my thoughtful helpmate had brought back with her. But for a long time all my efforts were in vain, and then, dragging him to the foot of a grass-tree, I propped him up slightly against it, wetted his shirt with water and wound it round his throat. Meanwhile Yamba threw water on him and rubbed him vigorously.

At last he uttered a sound-half groan, half sigh (it thrilled me through and through); and I noticed that he was able to swallow a few drops of water. The gloom of night was now descending on that strange wilderness of sand and spinifex, so we prepared to stay there with our helpless charge until morning. Yamba and I took it in turns to watch over him and keep his mouth moistened. By morning he had so far revived that he opened his eyes and looked at me. How eagerly had I anticipated that look, and how bitter was my disappointment when I found that it was a mere vacant stare in which was no kind of recognition! Ever hopeful, however, I attributed the vacant look to the terrible nature of his sufferings. I was burning to ply him with all manner of questions as to who he was, where he had come from, and what news he had of the outside world; but I restrained myself by a great effort, and merely persevered in my endeavours to restore him to complete animation. When the morning was pretty well advanced the man was able to sit up; and in the course of a few days he was even able to accompany us to a water-hole, where we encamped, and stayed until he had practically recovered-or, at any rate, was able to get about.

But, you may be asking, all this time, did the man himself say nothing? Indeed, he said much, and I hung upon every syllable that fell from his lips, but, to my indescribable chagrin, it was a mere voluble jargon of statements, which simply baffled and puzzled me and caused me pain. Our charge would stare at us stolidly, and then remark, in a vulgar Cockney voice, that he was quite sure we were going the wrong way. By this time, I should mention, we had re-clothed him in his trousers and shirt, for he had obviously suffered terribly from the burning sun.

Many days passed away before I would admit to myself that this unhappy creature was a hopeless imbecile. I was never absent from his side day or night, hoping and waiting for the first sane remark. Soon, however, the bitter truth was borne in upon us that, instead of having found salvation and comfort in the society of a white man, we were merely saddled with a ghastly encumbrance, and were far worse off than before.

We now set off in the direction of our old tracks, but were not able to travel very fast on account of the still feeble condition of the white stranger. Poor creature! I pitied him from the bottom of my heart. It seemed so terrible for a man to lapse into a state of imbecility after having survived the dreadful hardships and adventures that had befallen him. I tried over and over again to elicit sensible replies to my questions as to where he came from; but he simply gibbered and babbled like a happy baby. I coaxed; I threatened; I persuaded; but it was all in vain. I soon found he was a regular millstone round my neck-particularly when we were on the "walk-about." He would suddenly take it into his head to sit down for hours at a stretch, and nothing would induce him to move until he did so of his own accord.

Curiously enough, Bruno became very greatly attached to him, and was his constant companion. Of this I was extremely glad, because it relieved me of much anxiety. You will understand what I mean when I tell you that, in spite of all our endeavours, our mysterious companion would go off by himself away from our track; and at such times were it not for Bruno-whom he would follow anywhere-we would often have had much trouble in bringing him back again. Or he might have been speared before a strange tribe could have discovered his "sacred" (idiotic) condition.

At length we reached a large lagoon, on the shores of which we stayed for about two years. This lagoon formed part of a big river at flood-time, but the connecting stretches of water had long since dried up for many miles both above and below it. The question may be asked, Why did I settle down here? The answer is, that our white companion had become simply an intolerable burden. He suffered from the most exhausting attacks of dysentery, and was quite helpless. It was, of course, my intention to have continued my march northward to my old home in the Cambridge Gulf district, because by this time I had quite made up my mind that, by living there quietly, I stood a better chance of escape to civilisation by means of some vessel than I did by attempting to traverse the entire continent. This latter idea was now rendered impossible, on account of the poor, helpless creature I had with me. Indeed, so great an anxiety was he to me and Yamba, that we decided we could go nowhere, either north or south, until he had become more robust in health. Needless to say, I never intrusted him with a weapon.

I had found a sheath-knife belonging to him, but I afterwards gave it away to a friendly chief, who was immensely proud of it.

In making for the shores of the big lagoon we had to traverse some extremely difficult country. In the first place, we encountered a series of very broken ridges, which in parts proved so hard to travel over that I almost gave up in despair. At times there was nothing for it but to carry on my back the poor, feeble creature who, I felt, was now intrusted to my charge and keeping. I remember that native chiefs frequently suggested that I should leave him, but I never listened to this advice for a moment. Perhaps I was not altogether disinterested, because already my demented companion was looked upon as a kind of minor deity by the natives. I may here remark that I only knew two idiots during the whole of my sojourn. One of these had fallen from a tree through a branch breaking, and he was actually maintained at the expense of the tribe, revered by all, if not actually worshipped.

But the journey I was just describing was a fearful trial. Sometimes we had to traverse a wilderness of rocks which stood straight up and projected at sharp angles, presenting at a distance the appearance of a series of stony terraces which were all but impassable. For a long time our charge wore both shirt and trousers, but eventually we had to discard the latter-or perhaps it would be more correct to say, that the garment was literally torn to shreds by the spinifex. At one time I had it in my mind to make him go naked like myself, but on consideration I thought it advisable to allow him to retain his shirt, at any rate for a time, as his skin was not so inured to the burning sun as my own.

We had to provide him with food, which he accepted, of course, without gratitude. Then Yamba had always to build him a shelter wherever we camped, so that far from being an invaluable assistance and a companion he was a burden-so great that, in moments of depression, I regretted not having left him to die. As it was, he would often have gone to his death in the great deserts were it not for the ever-vigilant Bruno. Still, I always thought that some day I would be able to take the man back to civilisation, and there find out who he was and whence he had come. And I hoped that people would think I had been kind to him. At first I thought the unfortunate man was suffering from sunstroke, and that in course of time he would regain his reason. I knew I could do very little towards his recovery except by feeding him well. Fortunately the natives never called upon him to demonstrate before them the extraordinary powers which I attributed to him. Indeed his stra

nge gestures, antics, and babblings were sufficient in themselves to convince the blacks that he was a creature to be reverenced. The remarkable thing about him was that he never seemed to take notice of any one, whether it were myself, Yamba, or a native chief. As a rule, his glance would "go past me," so to speak, and he was for ever wandering aimlessly about, chattering and gesticulating.

We placed no restrictions upon him, and supplied all his wants, giving him Bruno as a guide and protector. I must say that Yamba did not like the stranger, but for my sake she was wonderfully patient with him.

It was whilst living on the shores of this lagoon that I received a very extraordinary commission from a neighbouring tribe. Not long after my arrival I heard a curious legend, to the effect that away on the other side of the lagoon there was an "evil spirit" infesting the waters, which terrified the women when they went down to fill their skins. Well, naturally enough, the fame of the white man and his doings soon got abroad in that country, and I was one day invited by the tribe in question to go and rid them of the evil spirit. Accordingly, accompanied by Yamba, and leaving Bruno to look after our helpless companion, we set off in response to the invitation, and in a few days reached the camp of the blacks who had sent for me. The lagoon was here surrounded by a finely-wooded country, slightly mountainous. Perhaps I ought to have stated that I had already gleaned from the mail-men, or runners, who had been sent with the message, that the waters of the lagoon in the vicinity of the camp had long been disturbed by some huge fish or monster, whose vagaries were a constant source of terror. The dreaded creature would come quite close inshore, and then endeavour to "spear" the women with what was described as a long weapon carried in its mouth. This, then, was the evil spirit of the lagoon, and I confess it puzzled me greatly. I thought it probable that it was merely a large fish which had descended in a rain-cloud among countless millions of others of smaller species. I looked upon the commission, however, as a good opportunity for displaying my powers and impressing the natives in that country-I always had the utmost confidence in myself. Before setting out I had spent some little time in completing my preparations for the capture of the strange monster.

The very afternoon I arrived I went down to the shores of the lagoon with all the natives, and had not long to wait before I beheld what was apparently a huge fish careering wildly and erratically hither and thither in the water. On seeing it the natives appeared tremendously excited, and they danced and yelled, hoping thereby to drive the creature away. My first move was in the nature of an experiment-merely with the object of getting a better view of the monster. I endeavoured to angle for it with a hook made out of a large piece of sharpened bone. I then produced large nets made out of strips of green hide and stringy-bark rope. Placing these on the shores of the lagoon, I directed Yamba to build a little bark canoe just big enough to hold her and me.

At length we embarked and paddled out a few hundred yards, when we threw the net overboard. It had previously been weighted, and now floated so that it promptly expanded to its utmost capacity. No sooner had we done this than the invisible monster charged down upon us, making a tremendous commotion in the water. Neither Yamba nor I waited for the coming impact, but threw ourselves overboard just as the creature's white sawlike weapon showed itself close to the surface only a few yards away. We heard a crash, and then, looking backward as we swam, saw that the long snout of the fish had actually pierced both sides of the canoe, whilst his body was evidently entangled in the meshes of the net. So desperate had been the charge that our little craft was now actually a serious encumbrance to the monster. It struggled madly to free itself, leaping almost clear of the water and lashing the placid lagoon into a perfect ma?lstrom.

Several times the canoe was lifted high out of the water; and then the fish would try to drag it underneath, but was prevented by its great buoyancy. In the meantime Yamba and I swam safely ashore, and watched the struggles of the "evil spirit" from the shore, among a crowd of frantic natives.

We waited until the efforts of the fish grew feebler, and then put off in another bark canoe (the celerity with which Yamba made one was something amazing), when I easily despatched the now weakened creature with my tomahawk. I might here mention that this was actually the first time that these inland savages had seen a canoe or boat of any description, so that naturally the two I launched occasioned endless amazement.

Afterwards, by the way, I tried to describe to them what the sea was like, but had to give it up, because it only confused them, and was quite beyond their comprehension. When we dragged the monster ashore, with its elongated snout still embedded in the little canoe, I saw at a glance that the long-dreaded evil spirit of the lagoon was a huge sawfish, fully fourteen feet long, its formidable saw alone measuring nearly five feet. This interesting weapon I claimed as a trophy, and when I got back to where Bruno and his human charge were, I exhibited it to crowds of admiring blacks, who had long heard of the evil spirit. The great fish itself was cooked and eaten at one of the biggest corroborees I had ever seen. The blacks had no theory of their own (save the superstitious one), as to how it got into the lagoon; and the only supposition I can offer is, that it must have been brought thither, when very small and young, either by a rain-cloud or at some unusually big flood time.

So delighted were the blacks at the service I had done them, that they paid me the greatest compliment in their power by offering me a chieftainship, and inviting me to stay with them for ever. I refused the flattering offer, however, as I was quite bent on getting back to Cambridge Gulf.

On returning to my friends on the other side of the lagoon I learned for the first time that there was a half-caste girl living among them; and subsequent inquiries went to prove that her father was a white man who had penetrated into these regions and lived for some little time at least among the blacks-much as I myself was doing. My interest in the matter was first of all roused by the accidental discovery of a cairn five feet or six feet high, made of loose flat stones. My experience was such by this time that I saw at a glance this cairn was not the work of a native. Drawings and figures, and a variety of curious characters, were faintly discernible on some of the stones, but were not distinct enough to be legible.

On one, however, I distinctly traced the initials "L. L.," which had withstood the ravages of time because the stone containing them was in a protected place.

Naturally the existence of this structure set me inquiring among the older natives as to whether they ever remembered seeing a white man before; and then I learned that perhaps twenty years previously a man like myself had made his appearance in those regions, and had died a few months afterwards, before the wife who, according to custom, was allotted to him had given birth to the half-caste baby girl, who was now a woman before me. They never knew the white stranger's name, nor where he had come from. The girl, by the way, was by no means good-looking, and her skin was decidedly more black than white; I could tell by her hand, however, that she was a half-caste.

On the strength of our supposed affinity, she was offered to me as a wife, and I accepted her, more as a help for Yamba than anything else; she was called Luigi. Yamba, by the way, was anxious that I should possess at least half-a-dozen wives, partly because this circumstance would be more in keeping with my rank; but I did not fall in with the idea. I had quite enough to do already to maintain my authority among the tribe at large, and did not care to have to rule in addition half-a-dozen women in my own establishment. This tribe always lingers in my memory, on account of the half-caste girl, whom I now believe to have been the daughter of Ludwig Leichhardt, the lost Australian explorer. Mr. Giles says: "Ludwig Leichhardt was a surgeon and botanist, who successfully conducted an expedition from Moreton Bay to Port Essington, on the northern coast. A military and penal settlement had been established at Port Essington by the Government of New South Wales, to which colony the whole territory then belonged. At this settlement-the only point of relief after eighteen months' travel-Leichhardt and his exhausted party arrived.

"Of Leichhardt's sad fate, in the interior of Australia, no certain tidings have ever been heard. I, who have wandered into and returned alive from the curious regions he attempted and died to explore, have unfortunately never come across a single record, nor any remains or traces of the party."

Leichhardt started on his last sad venture with a party of eight, including one or two native black-boys. They had with them about twenty head of bullocks broken in to carry pack loads. "My first and second expeditions," says Giles, "were conducted entirely with horses, but in all subsequent journeys I was accompanied by camels." His object, like that of Leichhardt, was to force his way across the thousand miles of country that lay untrodden and unknown between the Australian telegraph line and the settlements upon the Swan River. And Giles remarks that the exploration of 1000 miles in Australia is equal to at least 10,000 miles on any other part of the earth's surface-always excepting the Poles.

I continued residing on the shores of the lagoon in the hope that my patient would eventually get better, when I proposed continuing my journey north. I was still quite unable to understand his babblings, although he was for ever mentioning the names of persons and places unknown to me; and he constantly spoke about some exploring party. He never asked me questions, nor did he get into serious trouble with the natives, being privileged. He never developed any dangerous vices, but was simply childlike and imbecile.

Gradually I had noticed that, instead of becoming stronger, he was fading away. He was constantly troubled with a most distressing complaint, and in addition to this he would be seized with fits of depression, when he would remain in his hut for days at a time without venturing out. I always knew what was the matter with him when he was not to be seen. Sometimes I would go in to try and cheer him up, but usually it was a hopeless effort on my part.

Of course he had a wife given him, and this young person seemed to consider him quite an ordinary specimen of the white man. Indeed, she was vastly flattered, rather than otherwise, by the attentions lavished upon her husband by her people. One reason for this treatment was that she was considered a privileged person to be related in any way to one whom the natives regarded as almost a demi-god. She looked after him too, and kept his hut as clean as possible. One morning something happened. The girl came running for me to go to her hut, and there lay the mysterious stranger apparently stretched out for dead. I soon realised that he was in a fit of some kind.

I now approach the momentous time when this unfortunate man recovered his senses. When he regained consciousness after the fit Yamba and I were with him, and so was his wife. I had not seen him for some days, and was much shocked at the change that had taken place. He was ghastly pale and very much emaciated. I knew that death was at hand. Just as he regained consciousness-I can see the picture now; yes, we were all around his fragrant couch of eucalyptus leaves, waiting for him to open his eyes-he gazed at me in a way that thrilled me strangely, and I knew I was looking at a sane white man. His first questions were "Where am I? Who are you?" Eager and trembling I knelt down beside him and told him the long and strange story of how I had found him, and how he had now been living with me nearly two years. I pointed out to him our faithful Bruno, who had often taken him for long walks and brought him back safely, and who had so frequently driven away from him deadly snakes, and warned him when it was time to turn back. I told him he was in the centre of Australia; and then I told in brief my own extraordinary story. I sent Yamba to our shelter for the letter I had found in his tracks, and read it aloud to him. He never told me who the writer of it was. He listened to all I had to tell him with an expression of amazement, which soon gave place to one of weariness-the weariness of utter weakness. He asked me to carry him outside into the sun, and I did so, afterwards squatting down beside him and opening up another conversation. He then told me his name was Gibson, and that he had been a member of the Giles Expedition of 1874. From that moment I never left him night or day. He told me much about that expedition which I can never reveal, for I do not know whether he was lying or raving. Poor, vulgar, Cockney Gibson! He seemed to know full well that he was dying, and the thought seemed to please him rather than otherwise. He appeared to me to be too tired, too weary to live-that was the predominant symptom.

I introduced Yamba to him, and we did everything we possibly could to cheer him, but he gradually sank lower and lower. I would say, "Cheer up, Gibson. Why, when you are able to walk we will make tracks straightway for civilisation. I am sure you know the way, for now you are as right as I am." But nothing interested the dying man. Shortly before the end his eyes assumed a strained look, and I could see he was rapidly going. The thought of his approaching end was to me a relief; it would be untrue if I were to say otherwise. For weeks past I had seen that the man could not live, and considering that every day brought its battle for life, you will readily understand that this poor helpless creature was a terrible burden to me. He had such a tender skin that at all times I was obliged to keep him clothed. For some little time his old shirt and trousers did duty, but at length I was compelled to make him a suit of skins. Of course, we had no soap with which to wash his garments, but we used to clean them after a fashion by dumping them down into a kind of greasy mud and then trampling on them, afterwards rinsing them out in water. Moreover, his feet were so tender that I always had to keep him shod with skin sandals.

His deathbed was a dramatic scene-especially under the circumstances. Poor Gibson! To think that he should have escaped death after those fearful waterless days and nights in the desert, to live for two years with a white protector, and yet then die of a wasting and distressing disease!

He spent the whole day in the open air, for he was very much better when in the sun. At night I carried him back into his hut, and laid him in the hammock which I had long ago slung for him. Yamba knew he was dying even before I did, but she could do nothing.

We tried the effect of the curious herb called "pitchori," but it did not revive him. "Pitchori," by the way, is a kind of leaf which the natives chew in moments of depression; it has an exhilarating effect upon them.

On the last day I once more made up a bed of eucalyptus leaves and rugs on the floor of Gibson's hut. Surrounding him at the last were his wife-a very good and faithful girl-Yamba, myself, and Bruno-who, by the way, knew perfectly well that his friend was dying. He kept licking poor Gibson's hand and chest, and then finding no response would nestle up close to him for half-an-hour at a time. Then the affectionate creature would retire outside and set up a series of low, melancholy howls, only to run in again with hope renewed.

Poor Gibson! The women-folk were particularly attached to him because he never went out with the men, or with me, on my various excursions, but remained behind in their charge. Sometimes, however, he would follow at our heels as faithfully and instinctively as Bruno himself. For the past two years Bruno and Gibson had been inseparable, sleeping together at night, and never parting for a moment the whole day long. Indeed, I am sure Bruno became more attached to Gibson than he was to me. And so Gibson did not, as I at one time feared he would, pass away into the Great Beyond, carrying with him the secret of his identity. Looking at him as he lay back among the eucalyptus leaves, pale and emaciated, I knew the end was now very near.

I knelt beside him holding his hand, and at length, with a great effort, he turned towards me and said feebly, "Can you hear anything?" I listened intently, and at last was compelled to reply that I did not. "Well," he said, "I hear some one talking. I think the voices of my friends are calling me." I fancied that the poor fellow was wandering in his mind again, but still his eyes did not seem to have that vacant gaze I had previously noticed in them. He was looking steadily at me, and seemed to divine my thoughts, for he smiled sadly and said, "No, I know what I am saying. I can hear them singing, and they are calling me away. They have come for me at last!" His thin face brightened up with a slow, sad smile, which soon faded away, and then, giving my hand a slight pressure, he whispered almost in my ear, as I bent over him, "Good-bye, comrade, I'm off. You will come too, some day." A slight shiver, and Gibson passed peacefully away.

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