Geoffrey Hamlyn, by Henry Kingsley

Chapter 24

In which Mary Hawker Loses One of Her Oldest Sweethearts.

Sixteen years of peace and plenty had rolled over the heads of James Stockbridge and myself, and we had grown to be rich. Our agent used to rub his hands, and bow, whenever our high mightinesses visited town. There was money in the bank, there was claret in the cellar, there were race-horses in the paddock; in short, we were wealthy prosperous men — James a magistrate.

November set in burning hot, and by the tenth the grass was as dry as stubble; still we hoped for a thunder-storm and a few days’ rain, but none came. December wore wearily on, and by Christmas the smaller creeks, except those which were snow-fed, were reduced to a few muddy pools, and vast quantities of cattle were congregated within easy reach of the river, from other people’s runs, miles away.

Of course, feed began to get very scarce, yet we were hardly so bad off yet as our neighbours, for we had just parted with every beast we could spare, at high prices, to Port Phillip, and were only waiting for the first rains to start after store cattle, which were somewhat hard to get near the new colony.

No rain yet, and we were in the end of January; the fountains of heaven were dried up, but now all round the northern horizon the bush fires burn continually, a pillar of smoke by day, and a pillar of fire by night.

Nearer, night by night, like an enemy creeping up to a beleaguered town. The weather had been very still for some time, and we took precaution to burn great strips of grass all round the paddocks to the north, but, in spite of all our precautions, I knew that, should a strong wind come on from that quarter, nothing short of a miracle would save us.

But as yet the weather was very still, not very bright, but rather cloudy, and a dense haze of smoke was over everything, making the distances look ten times as far as they really were, and rendering the whole landscape as grey and melancholy as you can conceive. There was nothing much to be done, but to sit in the verandah, drinking claret-and-water, and watching and hoping for a thunderstorm.

On the third of February the heat was worse than ever, but no wind; and as the sun went down among the lurid smoke, red as blood, I thought I made out a few brush-shaped white clouds rising in the north.

Jim and I sat there late, not talking much. We knew that if we were to be burnt out our loss would be very heavy; but we thanked God that even were we to lose everything it would not be irreparable, and that we should still be wealthy. Our brood mares and racing stock were our greatest anxiety. We had a good stack of hay, by which we might keep them alive for another month, supposing all the grass was burnt; but if we lost that, our horses would probably die. I said at last —

“Jim, we may make up our minds to have the run swept. The fire is burning up now.”

“Yes, it is brightening,” said he, “but it must be twenty miles off still, and if it comes down with a gentle wind we shall save the paddocks and hay. There is a good deal of grass in the lower paddock. I am glad we had the forethought not to feed it down. Well, fire or no fire, I shall go to bed.”

We went to bed, and, in spite of anxiety, mosquitoes, and heat, I feel asleep. In the grey morning I was awakened, nearly suffocated, by a dull continuous roar. It was the wind in the chimney. The north wind, so long imprisoned, had broke loose, and the boughs were crashing, and the trees were falling, before the majesty of his wrath.

I ran out, and met James in the verandah. “It’s all up,” I said. “Get the women and children into the river, and let the men go up to windward with the sheep-skins. [Note: Sheep-skins, on sticks, used for beating out the fire when in short grass.] I’ll get on horseback, and go out and see how the Morgans get on. That obstinate fellow will wish he had come in now.”

Morgan was a stockman of ours, who lived, with a wife and two children, about eight miles to the northward. We always thought it would have been better for him to move in, but he had put it off, and now the fire had taken us by surprise.

I rode away, dead-up wind. Our station had a few large trees about it, and then all was clear plain and short grass for two miles; after that came scrubby ranges, in an open glade of which the Morgans’ hut stood. I feared, from the density of the smoke, that the fire had reached them already, but I thought it my duty to go and see, for I might meet them fleeing, and help them with the children.

I had seen many bush-fires, but never such a one as this. The wind was blowing a hurricane, and, when I had ridden about two miles into scrub, high enough to brush my horse’s belly, I began to get frightened. Still I persevered, against hope; the heat grew more fearful every moment; but I reflected that I had often ridden up close to a bush-fire, turned when I began to see the flame through the smoke, and cantered away from it easily.

Then it struck me that I had never yet seen a bushfire in such a hurricane as this. Then I remembered stories of men riding for their lives, and others of burnt horses and men found in the bush. And, now, I saw a sight which made me turn in good earnest.

I was in lofty timber, and, as I paused, I heard the mighty cracking of fire coming through the wood. At the same instant the blinding smoke burst into a million tongues of flackering flame, and I saw the fire — not where I had ever seen it before — not creeping along among the scrub — but up aloft, a hundred and fifty feet overhead. It had caught the dry bituminous tops of the higher boughs, and was flying along from tree-top to tree-top like lightning. Below, the wind was comparatively moderate, but, up there, it was travelling twenty miles an hour. I saw one tree ignite like gun-cotton, and then my heart grew small, and I turned and fled.

I rode as I never rode before. There were three miles to go ere I cleared the forest, and got among the short grass, where I could save myself — three miles! Ten minutes nearly of intolerable heat, blinding smoke, and mortal terror. Any death but this! Drowning were pleasant, glorious to sink down into the cool sparkling water. But, to be burnt alive! Fool that I was to venture so far! I would give all my money now to be naked and penniless, rolling about in a cool pleasant river.

The maddened, terrified horse, went like the wind, but not like the hurricane — that was too swift for us. The fire had outstripped us over-head, and I could see it dimly through the infernal choking reek, leaping and blazing a hundred yards before me, among the feathery foliage, devouring it, as the south wind devours the thunder clouds. Then I could see nothing. Was I clear of the forest? Thank the Lord, yes — I was riding over grass.

I managed to pull up the horse, and as I did so, a mob of kangaroos blundered by, blinded, almost against me, noticing me no more in their terror than if I had been a stump or a stone. Soon the fire came hissing along through the grass scarcely six inches high, and I walked my horse through it; then I tumbled off on the blackened ground, and felt as if I should die.

I lay there on the hot black ground. My head felt like a block of stone, and my neck was stiff so that I could not move my head. My throat was swelled and dry as a sand-hill, and there was a roaring in my ears like a cataract. I thought of the cool waterfalls among the rocks far away in Devon. I thought of everything that was cold and pleasant, and then came into my head about Dives praying for a drop of water. I tried to get up, but could not, so lay down again with my head upon my arm.

It grew cooler, and the atmosphere was clearer. I got up, and, mounting my horse, turned homeward. Now I began to think about the station. Could it have escaped? Impossible! The fire would fly a hundred yards or more such a day as this even in low plain. No, it must be gone! There was a great roll in the plain between me and home, so that I could see nothing of our place — all around the country was black, without a trace of vegetation. Behind me were the smoking ruins of the forest I had escaped from, where now the burnt-out trees began to thunder down rapidly, and before, to the south, I could see the fire raging miles away.

So the station is burnt, then? No! For as I top the ridge, there it is before me, standing as of old — a bright oasis in the desert of burnt country round. Ay! the very hay-stack is safe! And the paddocks? — all right! — glory be to God!

I got home, and James came running to meet me.

“I was getting terribly frightened, old man,” said he. “I thought you were caught. Lord save us, you look ten years older than you did this morning!”

I tried to answer, but could not speak for drought. He ran and got me a great tumbler of claret-and-water; and, in the evening, having drunk about an imperial gallon of water, and taken afterwards some claret, I felt pretty well revived.

Men were sent out at once to see after the Morgans, and found them perfectly safe, but very much frightened; they had, however, saved their hut, for the fire had passed before the wind had got to its full strength.

So we were delivered from the fire; but still no rain. All day, for the next month, the hot north wind would blow till five o’clock, and then a cool southerly breeze would come up and revive us; but still the heavens were dry, and our cattle died by hundreds.

On the eighteenth of March, we sat in the verandah looking still over the blackened unlovely prospect, but now cheerfully and with hope; for the eastern sky was piled up range beyond range with the scarlet and purple splendour of cloud-land, and, as darkness gathered, we saw the lightning, not twinkling and glimmering harmlessly about the horizon, as it had been all the summer, but falling sheer in violet-coloured rivers behind the dark curtain of rain that hung from the black edge of a teeming thunder-cloud.

We had asked our overseer in that night, being Saturday, to drink with us; he sat very still, and talked but little, as was his wont. I slapped him on the back, and said:—

“Do you remember, Geordie, that muff in Thalaba who chose the wrong cloud? He should have got you or me to choose for him; we wouldn’t have made a mistake, I know. We would have chosen such a one as yon glorious big-bellied fellow. See how grandly he comes growling up!”

“It’s just come,” said he, “without the praying for. When the fire came owre the hill the other day, I just put up a bit prayer to the Lord, that He’d spare the haystack, and He spared it. (I didna stop working, ye ken; I worked the harder; if ye dinna mean to work, ye should na pray.) But I never prayed for rain — I didna, ye see, like to ask the Lord to upset all his gran’ laws of electricity and evaporation, just because it would suit us. I thocht He’d likely ken better than mysel. Hech, sirs, but that chiel’s riding hard!”

A horseman appeared making for the station at full speed; when he was quite close, Jim called out, “By Jove, it is Doctor Mulhaus!” and we ran out into the yard to meet him.

Before any one had time to speak, he shouted out: “My dear boys, I’m so glad I am in time: we are going to see one of the grandest electrical disturbances it has ever been my lot to witness. I reined up just now to look, and I calculated that the southern point of explosion alone is discharging nine times in the minute. How is your barometer?”

“Haven’t looked, Doctor.”

“Careless fellow,” he replied, “you don’t deserve to have one.”

“Never mind, sir, we have got you safe and snug out of the thunderstorm. It is going to be very heavy I think. I only hope we will have plenty of rain.”

“Not much doubt of it,” said he. “Now, come into the verandah and let us watch the storm.”

We went and sat there; the highest peaks of the great cloud alps, lately brilliant red, were now cold silver grey, harshly defined against a faint crimson background, and we began to hear the thunder rolling and muttering. All else was deadly still and heavy.

“Mark the lightning!” said the Doctor; “that which is before the rain-wall is white, and that behind violetcoloured. Here comes the thundergust.”

A fierce blast of wind came hurrying on, carrying a cloud of dust and leaves before it. It shook the four corners of the house and passed away. And now it was a fearful sight to see the rain-spouts pouring from the black edge of the lower cloud as from a pitcher, nearly overhead, and lit up by a continuous blaze of lightning: another blast of wind, now a few drops, and in ten minutes you could barely distinguish the thunder above the rattle of the rain on the shingles.

It warred and banged around us for an hour, so that we could hardly hear one another speak. At length the Doctor bawled —

“We shall have a crack closer than any yet, you’ll see; we always have one particular one; — our atmosphere is not restored to its balance yet — there!”

The curtains were drawn, and yet, for an instant, the room was as bright as day. Simultaneously there came a crack and an explosion, so loud and terrifying, that, used as I was to such an event, I involuntarily jumped up from my seat.

“Are you all right here?” said the Doctor; and, running out into the kitchen, shouted, “Any one hurt?”

The kitchen girl said that the lightning had run all down her back like cold water, and the housekeeper averred that she thought the thunder had taken the roof of the house off. So we soon perceived that nothing was the matter, and sat down again to our discourse, and our supper. “Well,” began I, “here’s the rain come at last. In a fortnight there will be good grass again. We ought to start and get some store cattle.”

“But where?” replied James. “We shall have to go a long way for them; everyone will be wanting the same thing now. We must push a long way north, and make a depot somewhere westward. Then we can pick them up by sixes and sevens at a time. When shall we go?”

“The sooner the better.”

“I think I will come with you,” said the Doctor. “I have not been a journey for some time.”

“Your conversation, sir,” I said, “will shorten the journey by one-half”— which was sincerely said.

Away we went northward, with the mountains on our left, leaving snow-streaked Kosciusko nearly behind us, till a great pass, through the granite walls, opened to the westward, up which we turned, Mount Murray towering up the south. Soon we were on the Murrumbidgee, sweeping from side to side of his mountain valley in broad curves, sometimes rushing hoarse, swollen by the late rains, under belts of high timber, and sometimes dividing broad meadows of rich grass, growing green once more under the invigorating hand of autumn. All nature had awakened from her deep summer sleep, the air was brisk and nimble, and seldom did three happier men ride on their way than James, the Doctor, and I.

Good Doctor! How he beguiled the way with his learning! — in ecstasies all the time, enjoying everything, animate or inanimate, as you or I would enjoy a new play or a new opera. How I envied him! He was like a man always reading a new and pleasant book. At first the stockmen rode behind, talking about beasts, and horses, and what not — often talking about nothing at all, but riding along utterly without thought, if such a thing could be. But soon I noticed they would draw up closer, and regard the Doctor with some sort of attention, till toward the evening of the second day, one of them, our old acquaintance, Dick, asked the Doctor a question, as to why, if I remember right, certain trees should grow in certain localities, and there only. The Doctor reined up alongside him directly, and in plain forcible language explained the matter: how that some plants required more of one sort of substance than another, and how they get it out of particular soils; and how, in the lapse of years, they had come to thrive best on the soil that suited them, and had got stunted and died out in other parts. “See,” said he, “how the turkey holds to the plains, and the pheasant (lyrebird) to the scrub, because each one finds its food there. Trees cannot move; but by time, and by positively refusing to grow on unkindly soils, they arrange themselves in the localities which suit them best.”

So after this they rode with the Doctor always, both hearing him and asking him questions, and at last, won by his blunt kindliness, they grew to like and respect him in their way, even as we did.

So we fared on through bad weather and rough country, enjoying a journey which, but for him, would have been a mere trial of patience. Northward ever, through forest and plain, over mountain and swamp, across sandstone, limestone, granite, and rich volcanic land, each marked distinctly by a varying vegetation. Sometimes we would camp out, but oftener managed to reach a station at night. We got well across the dry country between the Murrumbidgee and the Lachlan, now abounding with pools of water; and, having crossed the latter river, held on our course toward Croker’s Range, which we skirted; and, after having been about a fortnight out, arrived at the lowest station on the Macquarrie late in the afternoon.

This was our present destination. The owner was a friend of ours, who gave us a hearty welcome, and, on our inquiries as to store cattle, thought that we might pick up a good mob of them from one station or another. “We might,” said he, “make a depot for them, as we collected them, on some unoccupied land down the river. It was poor country, but there was grass enough to keep them alive. He would show us a good place, in a fork, where it was impossible to cross on two sides, and where they would be easily kept together; that was, if we liked to risk it.”

“Risk what?” we asked.

“Blacks,” said he. “They are mortal troublesome just now down the river. I thought we had quieted them, but they have been up to their old games lately, spearing cattle, and so on. I don’t like, in fact, to go too far down there alone. I don’t think they are Macquarrie blacks; I fancy they must have come up from the Darling, through the marshes.”

We thought we should have no reason to be afraid with such a strong party as ours; and Owen, our host, having some spare cattle, we were employed for the next three days in getting them in. We got nearly a hundred head from him.

The first morning we got there the Doctor had vanished; but the third evening, as we were sitting down to supper, in he came, dead beat, with a great bag full of stones. When we had drawn round the fire, I said:

“Have you got any new fossils for us to see?”

“Not one,” said he; “only some minerals.”

“Do not you think, sir,” said Owen, our host, “that there are some ores of metals round this country? The reason I ask you is, we so often pick up curiouscoloured stones, like those we get from the miners at home, in Wales, where I come from.”

“I think you will find some rich mines near here soon. Stay; it can do you no harm. I will tell you something: three days ago I followed up the river, and about twenty miles above this spot I became attracted by the conformation of the country, and remarked it as being very similar to some very famous spots in South America. ‘Here,’ I said to myself, ‘Maximilian, you have your volcanic disturbance, your granite, your clay, slate, and sandstone upheaved, and seamed with quartz; — why should you not discover here, what is certainly here, more or less?’— I looked patiently for two days, and I will show you what I found.”

He went to his bag and fetched an angular stone about as big as one’s fist. It was white, stained on one side with rust-colour, but in the heart veined with a bright yellow metallic substance, in some places running in delicate veins into the stone, in others breaking out in large shining lumps.

“That’s iron-pyrites,” said I, as pat as you please.

“Goose!” said the Doctor; “look again.”

I looked again; it was certainly different to ironpyrites; it was brighter, it ran in veins into the stone; it was lumpy, solid, and clean. I said, “It is very beautiful; tell us what it is?”

“Gold!” said he, triumphantly, getting up and walking about the room in an excited way; “that little stone is worth a pound; there is a quarter of an ounce in it. Give me ten tons, only ten cartloads such stone as that, and I would buy a principality.”

Every one crowded round the stone open-mouthed, and James said:

“Are you sure it is gold, Doctor?”

“He asks me if I know gold, when I see it — me, you understand, who have scientifically examined all the best mines in Peru, not to mention the Minas Geraes in the Brazils! My dear fellow, to a man who has once seen it, native gold is unmistakeable, utterly so; there is nothing at all like it.”

“But this is a remarkable discovery, sir,” said Owen. “What are you going to do?”

“I shall go to the Government,” said he, “and make the best bargain I can.”

I had better mention here that he afterwards did go to the Government, and announce his discovery. Rather to the Doctor’s disgust, however, though he acknowledged the wisdom of the thing, the courteous and able gentleman who then represented his Majesty informed him that he was perfectly aware of the existence of gold, but that he for one should assert the prerogative of the Crown, and prevent any one mining on Crown-lands: as he considered that, were the gold abundant, the effects on the convict population would be eminently disastrous. To which obvious piece of good sense the Doctor bowed his head, and the whole thing passed into oblivion — so much so, that when I heard of Hargreave’s discovery in 1851, I had nearly forgotten the Doctor’s gold adventure; and I may here state my belief that the knowledge of its existence was confined to very few, and those well-educated men, who never guessed (how could they without considerable workings?) how abundant it was. As for the stories of shepherds finding gold and selling it to the Jews in Sydney, they are very mythical, and I for one entirely disbelieve them.

In time we had collected about 250 head of cattle from various points into the fork of the river, which lay further down, some seven miles, than his house. As yet we had not been troubled by the blackfellows. Those we had seen seemed pretty civil, and we had not allowed them to get familiar; but this pleasant state of things was not to last. James and the Doctor, with one man, were away for the very last mob, and I was sitting before the fire at the camp, when Dick, who was left behind with me, asked for my gun to go and shoot a duck. I lent it him, and away he went, while I mounted my horse and rode slowly about, heading back such of the cattle as appeared to be wandering too far.

I heard a shot, and almost immediately another; then I heard a queer sort of scream, which puzzled me extremely. I grew frightened and rode towards the quarter where the shots came from, and almost immediately heard a loud call. I replied, and then I saw Dick limping along through the bushes, peering about him and holding his gun as one does when expecting a bird to rise. Suddenly he raised his gun and fired. Out dashed a black fellow from his hiding place, running across the open, and with his second barrel Dick rolled him over. Then I saw half-a-dozen others rise, shaking their spears; but, seeing me riding up, and supposing I was armed, they made off.

“How did this come about, Dick, my lad?” said I. “This is a bad job.”

“Well,” he said, “I just fired at a duck, and the moment my gun was gone off, up jumped half-a-dozen of them, and sent a shower of spears at me, and one has gone into my leg. They must a’ thought that I had a single-barrel gun and waited till I’d fired it; but they found their mistake, the devils; for I gave one of them a charge of shot in his stomach at twenty yards, and dropped him; they threw a couple more spears, but both missed, and I hobbled out as well as I could, loading as I went with a couple of tallow cartridges. I saw this other beast skulking, and missed him first time, but he has got something to remember me by now.”

“Do you think you can ride to the station and get some help?” said I. “I wish the others were back.”

“Yes,” he replied, “I will manage it, but I don’t like to leave you alone.”

“One must stay,” I said, “and better the sound man than the wounded one. Come, start off, and let me get to the camp, or they will be plundering that next.”

I started him off and ran back to the camp. Everything was safe as yet, and the ground round being clear, and having a double-barrel gun and two pistols, I was not so very much frightened. It is no use to say I was perfectly comfortable, because I wasn’t. A Frenchman writing this, would represent himself as smoking a cigar, and singing with the greatest nonchalance. I did neither. Being an Englishman, I may be allowed to confess that I did not like it.

I had fully made up my mind to fire on the first black who showed himself, but I did not get the opportunity. In about two hours I heard a noise of men shouting and whips cracking, and the Doctor and James rode up with a fresh lot of cattle.

I told them what had happened, and we agreed to wait and watch till news should come from the station, and then to start. There was, as we thought, but little danger while there were four or five together; but the worst of it was, that we were but poorly armed. However, at nightfall, Owen and one of his men came down, reporting that Dick, who had been speared, was getting all right, and bringing also three swords, and a brace of pistols.

James and I took a couple of swords, and began fencing, in play.

“I see,” said the Doctor, “that you know the use of a sword, you two.”

“Lord bless you!” I said, “we were in the Yeomanry (Landwehr you call it); weren’t we, Jim? I was a corporal.”

“I wish,” said Owen, “that, now we are together, five of us, you would come and give these fellows a lesson; they want it badly.”

“Indeed,” I said, “I think they have had lesson enough for the present. Dick has put down two of them. Beside, we could not leave the cattle.”

“I am sorry,” said James, “that any of our party has had this collision with them. I cannot bear shooting the poor brutes. Let us move out of this, homeward, tomorrow morning.”

Just before dark, who should come riding down from the station but Dick! — evidently in pain, but making believe that he was quite comfortable.

“Why, Dick, my boy,” I said, “I thought you were in bed; you ought to be, at any rate.”

“Oh, there’s nothing much the matter with me, Mr. Hamlyn,” he said. “You will have some trouble with these fellows, unless I am mistaken. I was told to look after you once, and I mean to do it.”

(He referred to the letter that Lee had sent him years before.)

That night Owen stayed with us at the camp. We set a watch, and he took the morning spell. Everything passed off quietly; but when we came to examine our cattle in the morning, the lot that James had brought in the night before were gone.

The river, flooded when we first came, had now lowered considerably, so that the cattle could cross if they really tried. These last, being wild and restless, had gone over, and we soon found the marks of them across the river.

The Doctor, James, Dick, and I started off after them, having armed ourselves for security. We took a sword a-piece, and each had a pistol. The ground was moist, and the beasts easily tracked; so we thought an easy job was before us, but we soon changed our minds.

Following on the trail of the cattle, we very soon came on the footsteps of a black fellow, evidently more recent than the hoof-marks; then another footstep joined in, and another, and at last we made out that above a dozen blacks were tracking our cattle, and were between us and them.

Still we followed the trail as fast as we could. I was uneasy, for we were insufficiently armed, but I found time to point out to the Doctor, what he had never remarked before, the wonderful difference between the naked foot-print of a white man and a savage. The white man leaves the impression of his whole sole, every toe being distinctly marked, while your black fellow leaves scarce any toe-marks, but seems merely to spurn the ground with the ball of his foot.

I felt very ill at ease. The morning was raw, and a dense fog was over everything. One always feels wretched on such a morning, but on that one I felt miserable. There was an indefinable horror over me, and I talked more than any one, glad to hear the sound of my own voice.

Once, the Doctor turned round and looked at me fixedly from under his dark eyebrows. “Hamlyn,” he said, “I don’t think you are well; you talk fast, and are evidently nervous. We are in no danger, I think, but you seem as if you were frightened.”

“So I am, Doctor, but I don’t know what at.”

Jim was riding first, and he turned and said, “I have lost the black fellows’ track entirely: here are the hoof-marks, safe enough, but no foot-prints, and the ground seems to be rising.”

The fog was very thick, so that we could see nothing above a hundred yards from us. We had come through forest all the way, and were wet with pushing through low shrubs. As we paused came a puff of air, and in five minutes the fog had rolled away, and a clear blue sky and a bright sun were overhead.

Now we could see where we were. We were in the lower end of a precipitous mountain-gully, narrow where we were, and growing rapidly narrower as we advanced. In the fog we had followed the cattle-track right into it, passing, unobserved, two great heaps of tumbled rocks which walled the glen; they were thickly fringed with scrub, and, it immediately struck me that they stood just in the place where we had lost the tracks of the black fellows.

I should have mentioned this, but, at this moment, James caught sight of the lost cattle, and galloped off after them; we followed, and very quickly we had headed them down the glen, and were posting homeward as hard as we could go.

I remember well there was a young bull among them that took the lead. As he came nearly opposite the two piles of rock which I have mentioned, I saw a black fellow leap on a boulder, and send a spear into him.

He headed back, and the other beasts came against him. Before we could pull up we were against the cattle, and then all was confusion and disaster. Two hundred black fellows were on us at once, shouting like devils, and sending down their spears upon us like rain. I heard the Doctor’s voice, above all the infernal din, crying “Viva! Swords, my boys; take your swords!” I heard two pistol shots, and then, with deadly wrath in my heart, I charged at a crowd of them, who were huddled together, throwing their spears wildly, and laid about me with my cutlass like a madman.

I saw them scrambling up over the rocks in wild confusion; then I heard the Doctor calling me to come on. He had reined up, and a few of the discomfited savages were throwing spears at him from a long distance. When he saw me turn to come, he turned also, and rode after James, who was two hundred yards ahead, reeling in his saddle like a drunken man, grinding his teeth, and making fierce clutches at a spear which was buried deep in his side, and which at last he succeeded in tearing out. He went a few yards further, and then fell off his horse on the ground.

We were both off in a moment, but when I got his head on my lap, I saw he was dying. The Doctor looked at the wound, and shook his head. I took his right hand in mine, and the other I held upon his true and faithful heart, until I felt it flutter, and stop for ever.

Then I broke down altogether. “Oh! good old friend! Oh! dear old friend, could you not wait for me? Shall I never see you again?”

Yes! I think that I shall see him again. When I have crossed the dark river which we must all cross, I think he will be one of those who come down to meet me from the gates of the Everlasting City. ——


“A man,” said the Doctor to me, two days after, when we were sitting together in the station parlour, “who approached as nearly the model which our Great Master has left us as any man I know. I studied and admired him for many years, and now I cannot tell you not to mourn. I can give you no comfort for the loss of such a man, save it be to say that you and I may hope to meet him again, and learn new lessons from him, in a better place than this.”

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 21:44