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- The Bushman - 40/51 -
fearful manner. Thinking it worse to return than to push through, we struggled on, in momentary danger of sinking for ever, and after great exertions got upon solid ground again. When dismounted, to rest the horse, who panted and trembled with the efforts he had made, I called for Tip till the woods rang again, but all in vain. At last I saw a single kangaroo, a fresh one of immense size, break cover, with Tip about forty yards in his rear. In the ardour of the chase, all prudential considerations were given to the winds; and cheering on the gallant hound, I followed the game more determinedly than ever. And what a race that villain kangaroo led us! -- through thickets where my hunting-shirt was torn into strips, my arms and legs covered with bruises, and my face lacerated with boughs that were not to be avoided. The villain doubled like a hare, and led us in such various directions, that I fancied we must have turned upon our steps and gone past the spot where I had parted from my friends. Unless a man be very well accustomed to the bush, he is certain to lose himself in a few minutes. One clump of trees is so like another -- the thick swamps, the open plains, all bear such a general resemblance to one another, that you feel quite confounded whilst trying to recollect whether you have really seen them before, and can form some tolerable guess as to your position. The kangaroo was now approaching the foot of the long, even, uninteresting range of the Darling Hills; his pace was slow, he made his leaps with difficulty, and would soon have been caught, had not poor Tip been equally dead beat.
It was evident the old dog could scarcely drag himself along, but still he refused to give in. My horse, exhausted with floundering in the swamp, was completely knocked up; and for some time I had only been able to push him along at a jog-trot. Still I was no more willing to give up the chase than old Tip. It seemed to have become a point of honour that I should not desert the hound; and moreover, feeling myself completely lost, I did not like to part from my companion; and, above all, it would never do to let the kangaroo escape after all the trouble he had given us. So we all three continued to work along as best we could.
At last my poor horse happened to set his foot in an empty water-hole, and too weak to recover himself, came down on his shoulder and side with great violence. I threw myself off as he fell, but could not save my foot from being crushed beneath the saddle, and so both horse and man lay extended on the ground. I could just see the hound and kangaroo still struggling onward, and almost close together. The horse made no attempt to rise, and I tried in vain to extricate my foot; at length I managed to flog him up, and then raised myself with difficulty. I had not suffered much damage, though bruised, and in some pain, but my poor horse had sprained his shoulder, and was completely hors de combat. On looking about for the chase, I fancied I could perceive the dog lying on a little rising ground, a few hundred yards distant; and leaving the horse, I hopped after the game. On arriving at the spot, I found the kangaroo and the dog lying side by side, both alive, but completely exhausted; the one unable to do any injury, and the other to get away. Securing the dog with my handkerchief, I sat down, waiting till he should be able to walk. In a few minutes the kangaroo lifted up his head, and looked about him; the dog sat up, panting as though his heart would burst, and took no notice of the other. The kangaroo, scrambling to its feet, hopped away a few yards, and then stood still again. "Go along, old fellow!" said I, "you have done us abundance of mischief, but it would be criminal to kill you when I cannot carry home even your tail -- so farewell!" Off he jumped, and was soon lost to view, leaving us alone -- three miserable cripples, far from any shelter, and (so far as I was concerned) not knowing at all how to rejoin our friends. Tip being now able to limp on three legs, and myself upon one, we returned to the unhappy steed, who remained where I had left him, hanging down his head, and looking the image of woe.
In vain I tried to determine the direction I ought to take; trees and swamps were on all sides of me, and I could not decide whether my friends were now on my right-hand or my left. I remembered that our place of rendezvous appeared to be nearly opposite an opening in the hills, some six or eight miles distant; but there were openings in the hills on each side of me, and which was the one to be sought I could not determine. I therefore resolved to retrace the foot-marks of my horse, if possible; and set out leading the animal, having Tip limping at my side, and every now and then looking up as though he felt for the ill plight in which we all appeared. It soon became evident that the horse must be left behind; and therefore removing his saddle and bridle, I placed them at the foot of a tree, and gave him his liberty.*
[footnote] *Six months afterwards he was caught among the horses of a settler on the Serpentine, perfectly sound and in excellent condition.
After going some distance, I came within view of an extensive swamp, which I fancied formed part of that I had so much difficulty in crossing. Turning to the right, I followed its course for some time, hoping to get round it, but it seemed to extend towards the hills, cutting off all farther progress. The sun was now about to set, and getting desperate, I plunged into the thicket, and tried to push through the swamp. There was no water, but the immense quantities of bind-weed, and other thickly-growing plants, quite defied every attempt, and I was obliged to turn back again. Tip and myself had now to retrace our steps. It was getting dusk, and the state of affairs looked uncomfortable. Again we tried in vain to cross the swamp, which soon afterwards receded farther from the hills, and left a broad plain before us, which we traversed in the course of half an hour.
My foot seemed to get better with exercise, but night had now set in, and it was useless to attempt making farther progress, when we could not distinguish an object thirty feet in advance. I now found myself stumbling up a rising ground covered with trees; and here I lay down, with Tip at my side, to wait as patiently as possible for morning. The dog, I imagine, had found some water in the swamp, as he did not now seem to be suffering from thirst as I was myself. He was soon asleep, and I envied him, for hours elapsed before I could find repose. The land-wind, sweeping down from the hill-side, moaned through the trees; the rising moon shed her sickly and distorting light upon the bushes around; and bruised and stiff, hungry, thirsty, and uncomfortable, I felt by no means delighted with my quarters. A fire would have been agreeable, but there were no means of procuring one. Sleep at last befriended me, and I did not wake until the sun began to shed his first rays upon the tops of the trees.
On rising I found myself exceedingly stiff, and by no means in good condition for walking, but there was no choice; and when Tip had got upon his legs, and given himself a good stretch and yawn, and licked my hand, as much as to say he had no intention of leaving me in the lurch, we started on our doubtful journey. In vain I tried to encourage the dog to lead the way; he would not stir from my side. Only once he darted after a kangaroo-rat, and caught it before it had gone twenty yards. This afforded a breakfast which I envied him. I now pushed on towards the coast, but was continually intercepted by thick swamps impossible to penetrate, and turned from the right direction. I looked about for water, and found some at length in a muddy hole. It was most refreshing, and revived my spirits, which had begun to flag considerably.
Mid-day was long past, and I was still rambling over plains of coarse grass, penetrating into woods, and struggling through swamps; worn almost to death with fatigue and hunger, and the pain of my ankle, now greatly swollen, I sat down at last at the foot of a mahogany-tree in order to gain a little rest.
I knew that the hills were behind me, and the sea must be somewhere before me, but as to my precise locality, and the distance of the nearest settler's house, I was quite at a loss. In vain I tried to satisfy myself as to whether I was much to the south of the bivouac. I was growing dizzy with hunger and weariness, and no longer felt any wonder at the confusion of mind which seizes upon those who are lost in the wilderness. During the day, I had repeatedly cooeyed as loudly as I could, in the faint hope of attracting the attention of my friends; but no voice responded.
It was now nearly five o'clock in the evening, and I had the prospect before me of spending another night in solitude, and felt some misgivings as to whether it would not be the last of my existence.
I tried to struggle on a little farther, as it was possible that I might be close to some farm on the Serpentine; but it was difficult to move along. Tip seemed to be getting tired of this slow progress; he grew fidgety, and I fancied he had formed the base resolution of leaving me to myself. Suddenly he started off upon our traces, and I was alone without a friend.
In a few minutes I heard behind me a distant shout, and immediately afterwards a loud cooey met my ear. Oh how thankfully I heard it, and answered it as loudly as I could! And then, having returned grateful acknowledgments to the Almighty for this seasonable relief, I began to walk towards the sounds, which were repeated from minute to minute. Not long afterwards I perceived a party of natives, followed by men on horseback, emerging from the trees. The latter galloped towards me, waving their hats, and shouting with friendly joy. It is due to Tip to state that he reached me first, and gave his congratulations with warm sincerity.
My friends had started at day-break with the natives, who had tracked my footsteps without once losing the trail. They had found the horse grazing near the place where I had left him, but he was too lame to be removed; the natives had fully accounted for every trace; they perceived that the dog and kangaroo had lain side by side, and that the latter had recovered first, and got away. They found and brought with them the saddle and bridle, and followed my steps to the swamp, through which they saw I had not been able to penetrate. And so they tracked me during the whole of the day, whilst I was only going farther and farther from my friends. I had wandered much more to the south than I expected; and now, mounting a horse, we all rode to a house on the Serpentine, where we were hospitably entertained, and where I continued until able to return to Perth.
THE COMET. -- VITAL STATISTICS. -- METEOROLOGY.
One evening in March, 1844, whilst standing at my gate enjoying the pleasant balmy air and the conversation of a friend, our attention was attracted to a luminous appearance in the sky immediately above the horizon. We fancied that a large ship must be on fire not a great distance from the coast.
The next evening, happening to leave the house at an early hour, my eye was immediately caught by a grant novelty in the heavens. A magnificent comet extended itself over an entire fifth of the firmament. Its tail reached to the belt of Orion, whilst its nucleus, a ball of fire resembling a star of the fourth magnitude,
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