AMONG THE BLACKS.
Our preparation for this madcap expedition was very soon made. We took our horses, for on foot we could not keep up with Gioro, and it was better to have the full benefit of his fleetness. We strapped our blankets to the pommels of our saddles. Jack carried a small fowling-piece, and I carried a pistol. We both had serviceable knives. A few small packages of tea and tobacco and what we thought a fair supply of ammunition completed impedimenta.
We left our spare horse in charge of our man, and entrusted Mr. Fetherston with a cheque sufficient to pay the man's wages and to give him a small gratuity on his return to Adelaide. Meantime he was to be in Mr. Fetherston's service until we should rejoin the expedition, and if we did not rejoin it before its return to Adelaide then Tim Blundell was to have the horse. Early in the forenoon Gioro showed me a hill which seemed to be about ten miles away (it proved to be much further). He told us that at the foot of that hill we should find a creek which we had crossed at an earlier part of its course the afternoon before, and that creek we must follow down. Mr. Fetherston had the same hill marked on his chart, and his instructions were that when he was abreast of it he was to turn to the right nearly at right angles. So that when he should make this turn that must be our signal for parting with him. As we did not get abreast of the hill until it was rather late in the afternoon, we camped a little earlier than usual, and Gioro, Jack, and I deferred our departure until the next day. Shortly after sunrise we bade adieu to our friends with those noisy demonstrations on both sides which often serve the Englishman as a decent veil for those deeper feelings which he nearly always hesitates to show. The landscape here consisted of grassy slopes and plains, alternating with belts of well-forested country. We were in the middle of a plain when we parted from our fellow-travellers, and our courses were not in quite opposite directions; ours was about north-west, and theirs east-north-east. So while we remained in the plain we could see our fellow-travellers by simply looking to the right, and they us by looking to the left. So for a while there was much waving of hats on both sides. But the first belt of timber that we entered hid them from our sight. And then I think for the first time I became fully aware of the meaning of what we were doing.
"Jack, my boy!" said I, giving my horse a slight cut, so that he bounded forward, "we're in for it now."
"You don't seem sorry for if, Bob," said he, urging his horse to join me.
Truly neither of us was sorry for it. A new spirit of independence and love of adventure sprang up within us. We were young and well and strong. The morning air was fresh; the unaccustomed aspect of the forest, the screams of a flock of savage birds of the cockatoo sort that seemed as if they were making for the same hill as ourselves, the aspect of our native guide, who trotted on with his body slightly bent forward, and with the confident air of one who had "been there before," all stirred us to a sense of strangeness and expectance which was quite a joy. Even the warnings of Mr. Fetherston and Tim Blundell seemed only to intensify the joy.
"For if a path be dangerous known,
The danger's self is lure alone."
All the way from Port Augusta, Gioro had been dressed like the rest of us; he had worn a pair of moleskin trousers, a flannel shirt, and a cabbage-tree hat. But now he had discarded all these, and he wore nothing but a kilt of matting and a head-dress which consisted of a string bound round his brows adorned with the tails of the small wild animals of the bush and one large opossum tail hanging down behind. He ran on steadily towards the hill, which we reached in three or four hours from the start. It was rather a remarkable hill, as we saw when we reached it. Sloping gradually from the side on which we approached, it was on the opposite side steep and even precipitous. The creek ran on the far side, and the shadow of the hill lay still across it. It was about half-past ten when we reached it, and we rested until about an hour after noon. We made a can of tea and drank it. We had neither milk nor sugar, but we had a few biscuits and some slices of meat. Jack and I wondered where our next meal was to come from, but Gioro did not seem at all anxious. We could not, however, get a word out of him about the matter except "plenty duck."
We made a start in the direction of west by north, or thereabouts, Gioro leading the way and we following blindly. He ran more carefully and rather more slowly, but there was still the same air of confidence about him. It was now very hot, but as we were well within the tropics, and the sun at noon was now as nearly as we could reckon vertical, the only wonder was that it was not much hotter. We must have been still high up on the watershed, although descending it on the northern slope. There was plenty of grass everywhere, and a good deal of timber, not so much, however, as to obstruct our passage or impede our view. The country was undulating, but there were no steep hills to be traversed. We passed a considerable herd of kangaroo and two or three dingoes, and there were many birds, chiefly crows, parrots, and cockatoos.
It was getting near sundown when we reached the summit of one of those low hills, and Gioro clapped his hands and shouted. We saw nothing but another hill, but it was clear that he recognised it, for he clapped his hands again and again, pointed towards it and said, "Plenty duck." He did not shape his course so as to cross the hill, but made for the point where it merged into the plain. And when we reached that point a sudden turn revealed a beautiful sheet of water, not very wide, but several hundred yards long, and consisting of two parts lying nearly at right angles to each other. This was the same creek which we had passed in the morning, but here it was much wider and deeper. Gioro stopped short and signed to us to stop. We did so at once, for we saw that the farther part of the water was alive with duck, and on the wider part nearer to us were several black swans. We turned immediately towards a grove of trees that lay between us and the water, and we dropped down. Gioro laid his hand on me, looked at Jack, pointed to the water and said, "Shoot." Jack stole to the water-side and shot a swan easily. It was not very near the others and none of the birds flew away. It was most likely the first time that firearms had been discharged there. Jack then shot several ducks and rejoined us. Gioro threw off his kilt and swam out for the birds. The moment his woolly head was seen over water all the birds flew away. We lit a fire at once, prepared and cooked our birds, and made a hearty meal. As we began to eat I remembered for the first time that we had no salt. I suppose I made a wry face, for Gioro grinned and pointed to a small bag which was fastened outside his kilt. This was full of salt, which he had thoughtfully provided for the dainty appetites of his white friends.
We slept sound and long that night, and in the morning Jack and I had a delicious bath, and washed our shirts and dried them in the sun. Going back to our camp we found a pleasant surprise awaiting us. Gioro had snared some wild creature—I think it was a bandicoot—and had baked it for breakfast. It was very nice, at least we thought so, and he was quite delighted when he saw that we enjoyed it. After breakfast we made an early start.
Two more days passed like this one. Each evening Gioro guided us to water and food, and all the time our course was in the main west by north or west-north-west. It was clear that we were following some river or creek downward, and so there were considerable occasional variations in the direction that we took, but we never headed south of west or east of north. On the morning of the third day Gioro speared a large fish. I think it was a variety of perch; it was very good eating.
This third morning we left the creek nearly at right angles and struck across the forest, and our guide was evidently more sharply on the watch than ever. He travelled very slowly now and he seemed to be looking everywhere for some local indications. After about two miles travelling we came again upon a creek, as far as I could judge a different one. It was very narrow and scarcely running. There was one very fair pond, however, but Gioro took scarce any notice of it, but ran on to the dry or nearly dry bed of the creek beyond. Here he set up a triumphant yell, and signed to us to come and see. I saw plainly enough what I thought at first to be a cattle track coming from the north-east and passing right across the bed of the creek. I looked at Gioro and said, "Sheep?" "No, no," he shouted, "no sheep; black fellow, black fellow," and stooping down he pointed at the track. I stooped also and examined it, and sure enough I could see plainly the mark of human feet. "When shall we catch them up, Sir Gioro?" said I. "Tonight," he shouted; "to-night, Corrobboree! Corrobboree!"
We followed the track without pause, and by-and-by more tracks joined it, all from the north or east or from some point between these. There could be no doubt at all that we were approaching some camping-place of the blacks. Our course was now almost directly westward, with a very slight trend to the north, and the country still continued much of the same sort, undulating perhaps a little more, well grassed and fairly but not very thickly timbered. Wild animals and birds were much more numerous.
It was after sunset, the moon which was now nearly half way between new and full was well up in the sky, there was a strange glimmer in the west that looked like an aurora, and Gioro was in a state of high excitement when the pathway bending round the foot of a somewhat steeper hill than we had seen during the day suddenly brought us within sight of a single fire. It was evidently just freshly kindled, but there was no one near it now. Gioro stopped, looked at us, and put his hand to his mouth. Then we made a half turn silently, still following the track, and all in a moment we came in view of the most striking sight that I had yet seen in Australia, or for the matter of that anywhere in the world.
We saw an irregular line of large fires burning before us, and immediately behind them stretched a sheet of water much wider and longer than any that we had yet seen in the country. The fires were vividly reflected in the water, and seemed at the first glance quite innumerable. After a time one saw that there were at least sixty or eighty of them. Near each fire was a group of black men, clad like Gioro, holding in their hands long staves or spears, and dancing furiously. They kept springing into the air with their feet quivering, and striking their spears, butt ends downwards, violently upon the ground. Presently they burst into a wild shout, or series of shouts. The shouts came in measured cadence, but were frightfully discordant. Their dance kept time to their music, and the whole effect was wildly barbarous. There were huts in great numbers built of branches, and covered with leaves and bark. As far as I could see there was a hut for each fire, and women and children of all ages were to be seen in front of the huts, some few of them apparently partaking of the excitement of the dancers, but far the greater number stolidly looking on. The dress of the women was nearly the same as that of the men. The kilt of matting was the same, but the head-dress showed more effort after ornament. It covered more of the head, and it was adorned with the feathers of cockatoos and parrots. The children who ran about were mostly naked. There were several dogs, not at all Australian dingoes, but miserable half-starved mongrels of European breed. Many of the women were engaged in cooking food, and some whiffs of smoke which reached us were by no means of unpleasant flavour.
All the while the song and dance lasted we lay quite still, hidden by the scrub which grew very thick here, and seemed to be a sort of stunted eucalyptus, and very like the mallee of Southern Australia. Our horses were hidden by the turn of a hill, and by a large tree near, and when the song and dance would pause for a moment, we could hear them munching the grass. I was at first greatly afraid that they would be startled by the noise and by the fires, but somehow they seemed to take no notice. They were accustomed to camp fires and singing, but not to such singing as that. When the song and the dance were ended, Gioro touched us, pointed and whispered, "Bomero, boss black fellow, see!" We looked in the direction of his finger, and could easily see a very tall and bulkily built black, with a very massive head, and dressed with some attempt at distinction. His kilt of matting was larger than any of those worn by others, and was rather elaborately ornamented with feathers. His head-dress was very much larger, and he wore besides a sort of little cloak of skins thrown over his shoulder, and fastened with some kind of thong. Gioro whispered again, "Stay! Gioro speak to Bomero, then come back." With this he stood erect, spear in hand, and advanced towards the fire where the tall black stood, dancing all the time rather gently, and singing rather softly, but exactly the same step and tune which we had just heard and seen. We followed him closely with our eyes, and we were in a state of great excitement and suspense.
He was noticed almost immediately, but there was hardly any sign of surprise, and none at all of hostility. I suppose that his dance and song secured him for the time from either. Bomero stepped out to meet him, followed by three or four other blacks. Gioro continued his dance and song till he came quite up to them, and then he went round them still dancing and singing. He stopped right in front of Bomero. And there seemed to follow a sort of obeisance and salutation, and then a palaver.
As the palaver proceeded the blacks became greatly excited, and more of them gathered round. No doubt he was telling them about us. I felt for my pistol, and looked towards the horses. I could still hear them munching the grass.
Presently Gioro came towards us, looking quite cheerful and confident. He told us that Bomero wished to see us and bid us welcome. We fetched our horses, and we led them with us, holding ourselves in readiness to mount at a moment's notice.
As we marched up to the camp great excitement prevailed, and we were presently surrounded by a vast concourse of men, women, and children. Some half dozen of the blacks around Bomero armed themselves with boughs of trees, and kept the crowd at a sufficient distance.
Bomero came towards us with spear in hand, and two men on each side of him also with spears. We made a sort of military salute, which he seemed to understand, and made an attempt to return. Then he began to talk. When he ceased, I turned to Gioro and said, "What says Bomero?"
Gioro looked first at Bomero, and then at me, then quite rapidly, "Bomero, say, know all about white fellow; white fellow ride on horse, keep cattle, keep sheep, carry fire spear. Bomero say white fellow hold fire spear in hand, throw away only point, but point kill. Sometime one point, sometime two, three points, two three. Bomero say, Good-morrow to white fellow. White fellow all same black fellow. Black fellow take white fellow to great Corrobboree far away west when the one white, star rise, and red star and little stars go."I replied with all the dignity that I could muster, "Right, all right; say to Bomero, 'thanks.' King Bob and king Jack all same king Bomero. King Bob and king Jack will go with king Bomero to great Corrobboree when the one white star rises, and the red star and the little stars go."
Then we were told that our miami must be built and that we must have meat and sleep, as we should have to start with the sun. They fell to work, Gioro and two or three others, and built a sort of hut in an incredibly short time, and then we supped on fish and wild duck and paste made with water of the seeds of some native grass. I think it was "nardoo." We had also a fruit which I have seen nowhere else, about the size of a loquat, of a pinkish colour and subacid in taste. After supper we had a palaver, Gioro being the interpreter, and then we went to bed. Jack and I slept well and rose before sunrise in order to get a bath before starting. Several of the blacks followed us to the water's edge and some of them plunged into the water after us. I didn't half like it as they swam round and round us; but they were more afraid of us than we of them.
Then we breakfasted and made a start. For twelve days we travelled on, still heading mainly westward, running down a watercourse, then crossing to another. Bomero was the leader always, and he seemed to know the way quite well. We always camped at water, and when we crossed from one creek to another the distance was usually no more than three or four miles. We passed a good many hills, but none of them I should say rising more than a thousand feet from the plain, and few of them so much as that. As far as I could reckon we must have travelled twenty-five to thirty miles a day, and the greater part of that was westing. I believe that on the evening of the twelfth day after we fell in with Bomero's people we must have been all of three hundred or three hundred and fifty miles to the west of the telegraph wire.During those twelve days we did our best to study the people and the country so as to prepare ourselves for anything that might happen. Jack made a rough chart of each day's march, and we both made an attempt to keep a sort of dead reckoning. It was very hard, however, to make any available record of our observations. The curiosity and perhaps the suspicion of the blacks made it next to impossible to write or draw by daylight, and at night we had only the light of our fires and a sort of torch that we managed to make of bark and fat.
We were beginning to know something of the language. There was a palaver every night, or, to speak more exactly, there were several palavers, in one of which we always joined, with Gioro for interpreter. And on several occasions Bomero harangued the tribe. These harangues were very interesting, even before we could understand any part of them or before Gioro explained a word of them. The manner and mode of delivery were very remarkable. Bomero was highly demonstrative, but he was never carried away by his own eloquence. The spirit of the prophet was always subject to the prophet. He could pull himself together in a moment and be as cool as you please. The matter of his harangues was chiefly the greatness of his tribe, and above all of the king of the tribe, the king's ability to guide his people to food and water, to beat any two or three men of his own tribe, and as many as you like of any other tribe, the great Corroborree that they were going to keep out away west, and the greatness of the tribes who kept it, of which tribes they were the greatest, and Bomero was the greatest of them.
These harangues were his method, it seemed, of keeping up his influence over his people in time of peace. And one could not but liken him, as Carlyle says, to "certain completed professors of parliamentary eloquence" nearer home.
The Pleiades were now seen to be setting earlier and earlier every evening. They were for a few nights obscured by clouds, and the next time they appeared they were perceptibly nearer the sun. This fact was observed at once and they hailed it with what at first seemed to be a series of shouts, but which proved to be a sort of barbaric chant, each stave of which ended with this refrain:—
Red star and little stars."
And this was a chant as Gioro told us (and Bomero confirmed him) which their fathers and their fathers' fathers had sung before them from time immemorial. I wish that some of our savants would investigate this matter, for I cannot but think that this festival and its obvious connection with the constellation Taurus would throw some important light on the origin of these people and their connection with the other races of mankind.
Jack and I for obvious reasons gave them some illustrations of the use of our "fire spears." Mine they said was a "fire spear" of one point, and Jack's of two three points, two three; that is to say I used a bullet and Jack used shot. We were beginning to be favourites, and even Bomero himself liked us, for although he showed at first some signs of being jealous, we treated him with such deference that he soon forgot his jealousy. Jack had a black leather belt for wearing round the waist, and we made Bomero a formal present of this. We explained its use to him and put it round his kilt. We could see that he was nearly overcome with childish delight, and yet the wily fellow was knowing enough to repress all show of this feeling and to receive the gift with stolid gravity. He gave us in turn an eagle's feather each, which he took off the kilt just where the belt would cover it, and these we received with becoming gratitude.
A serious misfortune befell us about the eighth day, which was the occasion of another compliment to Bomero. Jack's horse fell dead lame, and we were obliged to let him loose in the bush. We presented the saddle to our black prince, and made a throne of it for him, and one evening that we camped earlier than usual we persuaded him to hold a levee. Jack explained the matter to Gioro, and Gioro to Bomero. This was how Jack explained it.
Gioro. What's levee?
Jack. Boss white fellow stands on daïs. No, sits on throne, throne all same saddle and stirrups; other white fellows march up, march down again, come this way, go that way, all same little stars and red star. Bow to boss white fellow. Boss white fellow bows to them. Boss black fellow all same boss white fellow.
Bomero took readily to the proposal. We picked out a fallen tree high enough and wide enough. We fixed up the saddle upon it, the stirrups touching the ground. Bomero got astride of this with a spear in each hand. I passed before him bowing, and Jack followed me. All the others followed him. They took to it as if they had been born courtiers. They would not be satisfied until every adult man had made his bow, and we had something to do to keep them from beginning all over again. It was ludicrous to the last degree. The tall, bulky black fellow sat on the saddle with the tree under him like a hobby-horse, his head was all stuck over with feathers and the tails of opossums; his little cloak of skins and kilt of platted leaves were fastened with Jack's belt, and he held his two spears, one in each hand, and he looked as sober and solemn as a judge, and the other fellows as much in earnest as if they were freemasons in full regalia, or doctors of divinity in academic dress. I stole a look at Jack, and the villain replied with one of those winks which never fail to upset me. He let the lid of one eye fall completely, the other eye remaining wide open, and not a wrinkle in his face. A loud laugh would have spoiled the fun, and might even have been dangerous, but I saved myself with a fit of coughing. After the levee Bomero told off two men to have charge of the saddle. And for the next few days Jack and I walked, each of us, half the march, and rode the other. Once only during these twelve days did I see anything to give me any special uneasiness. One evening we camped a little earlier than usual and I noticed that Gioro was watched and dogged by two very ill-looking fellows whom I had noticed as being in some sort leaders. They stepped behind a clump of trees as he was passing, and as he returned they hid themselves again while he passed. I mentioned this to Gioro and he proved to be aware of their hostility. They were big men, he said, in the tribe, but Bomero was the biggest of all the men, and he was Gioro's friend.
About the morning of the twelfth day there was some trouble. We had come to a point where it was necessary to leave the course of one creek and to strike that of another. But a very destructive fire had passed over the place, followed, as it seemed, by heavy rains, and the track was quite obliterated. Certain trees also which would have served as guides had been entirely destroyed. And to increase the confusion the weather was foggy. Dense clouds rested on and hid some hills which might have served as landmarks.
Bomero went out to reconnoitre, and he took Gioro and another with him, and when they returned I could see that his mind was made up as to the course he would take, but that he was, nevertheless, as much perplexed as ever. He gave the word and we struck out a little north of west, and after travelling about three times as far as it had yet fallen us to get from water to water we struck another creek. We marched along the creek for another day, scarce ever losing sight of it, and then we camped by the water again. Next morning we left the women and children in camp, and about half the men, and Bomero with the ablest and quickest of the men marched away in search of another creek. Jack and I went with him, and as my horse was in good working condition we took him with us. We struck water somewhat sooner than before and camped for the night. I saw that Bomero was still perplexed, and I gathered from Gioro that his perplexity was caused by the conviction that he was now considerably out of his course, that he had gone too far north and had overshot the mark, and that we should have to go a day's march south and east before we could resume the straight course to the place of meeting. The horizon was still clouded, and there was no sign at present of the clouds lifting soon.
All this, however, was by no means enough to account for Bomero's evident perturbation of mind. He was undoubtedly a clever and cool fellow, and one of much resource; there was abundance of water and food, we could not be far out of the track, and we had plenty of time, for as far as I could judge by the astronomical indications, we were a great many days and even weeks too soon; and the weather, barring the clouds, was everything that could be wished.
Jack and I talked it over, and Jack reminded me of Gioro's tale of the "dibble dibble all same white man" that Bomero had seen in the far west. "Depend upon it," said Jack, "he thinks he is coming upon them again. The place, as Gioro said, was 'more far' than the place of meeting for the great Corrobboree, and he thinks that he is now getting 'more far' than there."
"And what of the dibble dibble that he saw there?" said I.
"Oh, that's the point," said Jack. "No doubt they were white men; some pioneers from the north coast, perhaps, or maybe the men on some outlying station of some western squatter's run, and if so we shall get back to civilisation sooner than we think."
"I don't see much in it, Jack," said I; "we're not far enough west for that; if we were on the head-waters of the western slope we might be on the look-out for white pioneers, but I am afraid we are near as far from there as from the telegraph wire. Bomero's 'dibble dibble' was either a pure invention or the suggestion of a dream, or if he did come across white men he must have been farther west than he is here."
On the morning of the fourteenth day Bomero harangued the men who were with him; he stood upon a veritable stump, a huge tree near the creek had been undermined by the flood waters and had fallen and lay along the ground roots and all. Bomero stood upon it and spoke, Jack and I stood by and listened, Gioro stood between us; he was in a state of great excitement, and he threw in every now and then a word of interpretation for our benefit, but indeed, by this time, we were able to follow the speaker fairly enough ourselves. It very soon became quite evident that Gioro's tale of "dibble dibble" was at the bottom of our trouble; it was quite evident also that the spirit of the prophet was no longer subject to the prophet. Bomero pointed westward, where the clouds were now slowly rising from some not very distant hills, and what he said was to this effect.
There was a hill away west where certain doleful creatures dwelt. He had once been very near there, and they had tried to take his life. They had tried to spear him through the air, and he who never feared men, feared them. He should know in a few minutes if that hill yonder was their hill; and if it was then he and his people must run and run till they got well out of sight of that hill. They had missed the way to the great Corroboree, but that was no matter; they would easily find it again, and there was plenty of time yet before the red star and the little stars would be gone. If they saw when the clouds rose (and they were now rising) that the hill was not their hill, then they would stay where they were to-day, and the witch fellows would dance the witch dance until all was clear, and on the next day they would go back to where the women were, and then they would strike the track, and be the first at the meeting-place. But if when the clouds rose, and they were now rising, they saw three peaks, a tall one in the middle, a crooked one on one side, and a straight one on the other, then Bomero and Bomero's men must run, run, run, and never stop, except to breathe, while any one of the three peaks was to be seen. Let the black man knock his brains out with his waddy, or let the white man spear him with his fire spear, but the devils that rode through the air on clouds, faster than eagles, were worse than any black men or white men."
Bomero was evidently no longer master of himself or of his men. Whatever the cause of it was, there was a dreadful panic imminent, and no one could tell what was going to happen.
Just then the clouds lifted quite away from the hill, and there, sure enough, were the three peaks, the tall one in the middle, and the crooked one and the straight one on either side.
A low murmur burst from the men, and Bomero uttered a frightful howl, and plunged away madly round a hill that rose gently from the creek, and right on into the forest. All the men ran after him, most of them howling and shrieking; and my horse, which hung by the bridle to a branch close by, started, and snorted, and broke his rein, and rushed away before them at full gallop.
The catastrophe was so sudden that our breath seemed to be taken away, and I don't know how many minutes passed before either spoke. I know that every man of the blacks had got clean out of sight, and my horse, too, and there was as dead a silence as before the world was made, and still there was not a word from either of us. Then Jack said in a hollow voice:
"Why wasn't the horse hobbled, Bob?"
"Why, Jack, I had just taken the hobbles off, and made him ready for the road."
"Never mind, old fellow, I hardly know what I said; Gioro will come back."
"Yes," I said, "Gioro will come back."
And then, as if our confidence in Gioro's fidelity cleared the air, we sat down and lit our pipes. I don't know how much time passed, it seemed to be hours, but it couldn't have been near an hour, and Jack and I never exchanged a word. Then, sure enough, we saw Gioro coming, and he was leading my horse. I saw him first, and I jumped up and shouted for joy. Then Jack jumped up, but the shout died on his lips, and he said only, "There is something the matter."
And so there was. Both Gioro and the horse were wounded, and the wounds were deadly, for the spears that inflicted them were poisoned. The horse died first. I took Gioro's head on my lap, and gave him a few drops of water. He told me that he had caught the horse by the bridle in passing, and that then he stopped and returned. He had not forgotten us, he said, not for a moment, nor would he have started at all if the horse had not started. The horse had stopped several times, and when he had come up with him had gone on again. But at last he had secured him and was returning. But several spears were flung at him, and many missed him, but the big men who had watched and dogged him took better aim, and struck both horse and man. At first he thought nothing of it, but presently he knew that the spears were poisoned, and now he must die.
"Take care," said the poor fellow, almost with his last breath, "keep away, kill you too, like Gioro; back, back to the big long wire."
He died quite easily, and I felt as he lay in my arms that it would be the best thing that couldif the poisoned arrows of the blacks had made an end of us as well as of him. The poor fellow's faithfulness would have helped us to face death without flinching.
We found a large hole in the earth where a tree had been uprooted by a storm, and there, with the help of his boomerang and our own knives, we managed to give him decent burial. We both fell on our knees for a few minutes, but no words passcd our lips, although I am sure our hearts were full enough.
Then we stood up, and with one impulse held out a hand each to the other. The grip that followed was a silent English grip. But it meant that we knew that our case was desperate, and that we would stand by one another to the last.
- The red star is certainly Aldebaran, and the little stars the Pleiades. I could not for a long time understand "the one white star." There is at present no large white star in opposition to Aldebaran. I first thought that Arcturus might be meant, and that the feast had perhaps come down from a period when Arcturus was a white star. But I now think that Spica Virginis is "the one white star." I think that by "rises," or more properly, "has risen," Gioro meant "has culminated;" for Gioro usually spoke of "rising" and "setting" as "coming" and "going;" so if he had meant to speak of stars in opposition he would have said, "when the white star comes and the red star goes." Spica culminates about the time that Aldebaran sets; also there are no large stars near Spica, this may be why it is called "the one white star." I think I have read that some people for the same reason call it "the lonely one." Gioro probably meant, "When the lone white star has culminated, and the red star and the little stars are set."—R. E.