config

March 30. — Getting up as soon as the day dawned, I found that some of the horses had crossed the sand ridge to the beach, and rambled some distance backwards. I found, too, that in the dark, we had missed a patch of tolerable grass among the scrub, not far from our camp. I regretted this the more, as during the night a very heavy dew had fallen, and the horses might perhaps have fed a little.

Leaving the overseer to search for those that had strayed, I took a sponge, and went to try to collect some of the dew which was hanging in spangles upon the grass and shrubs; brushing these with the sponge, I squeezed it, when saturated, into a quart pot, which, in an hour’s time, I filled with water. The native boys were occupied in the same way; and by using a handful of fine grass, instead of a sponge, they collected about a quart among them. Having taken the water to the camp, and made it into tea, we divided it amongst the party, and never was a meal more truly relished, although we all ate the last morsel of bread we had with us, and none knew when we might again enjoy either a drink of water, or a mouthful of bread. We had now demonstrated the practicability of collecting water from the dew. I had often heard from the natives that they were in the habit of practising this plan, but had never before actually witnessed its adoption. It was, however, very cold work, and completely wet me through from head to foot, a greater quantity of water by far having been shaken over me, from the bushes, than I was able to collect with my sponge. The natives make use of a large oblong vessel of bark, which they hold under the branches, whilst they brush them with a little grass, as I did with the sponge; the water thus falls into the trough held for it, and which, in consequence of the surface being so much larger than the orifice of a quart pot, is proportionably sooner filled. After the sun once rises, the spangles fall from the boughs, and no more water can be collected; it is therefore necessary to be at work very early, if success is an object of importance.

The morning was very hazy, and at first nothing could be seen of the country before us; but as the mist gradually cleared away a long point was seen to the south-west, but so very distant that I felt certain our horses never would get there if it lay between us and the water. To our astonishment they kept moving steadily along the beach, which was tolerably firm near the sea, in which were many reefs and shelves of rocks, covered with muscles below low water mark. As we progressed, it was evident that the country was undergoing a considerable change; the sea shore dunes and the ridges immediately behind them were now of a pure white sand, and steep, whilst those further back were very high and covered with low bushes. Upon ascending one of the latter I had a good view around, and to my inexpressible pleasure and relief saw the high drifts of sand we were looking for so anxiously, in the corner between us and the more distant point of land first seen. The height of the intervening ridges and the sand-drifts being in the angle prevented us from noticing them sooner.

We had now travelled ten miles, and the sand-hills were about five miles further. The horses were, however, becoming exhausted, and the day was so hot that I was compelled to halt, and even now, in sight of our long-expected goal, I feared we might be too late to save them. Leaving the boys to attend to the animals, I took the overseer up one of the ridges to reconnoitre the country for the purpose of ascertaining whether there was no place near us where water might be procured by digging. After a careful examination a hollow was selected between the two front ridges of white sand, where the overseer thought it likely we might be successful. The boys were called up to assist in digging, and the work was anxiously commenced; our suspense increasing every moment as the well was deepened. At about five feet the sand was observed to be quite moist, and upon its being tasted was pronounced quite free from any saline qualities. This was joyous news, but too good to be implicitly believed, and though we all tasted it over and over again, we could scarcely believe that such really was the case. By sinking another foot the question was put beyond all doubt, and to our great relief fresh water was obtained at a depth of six feet from the surface, on the seventh day of our distress, and after we had travelled one hundred and sixty miles since we had left the last water. Words would be inadequate to express the joy and thankfulness of my little party at once more finding ourselves in safety, and with abundance of water near us. A few hours before hope itself seemed almost extinguished, and those only who have been subjeet to a similar extremity of distress can have any just idea of the relief we experienced. The mind seemed to have been weighed down by intense anxiety and over-wrought feelings. At first the gloomy restlessness of disappointment or the feverish impatience of hope had operated upon our minds alternately, but these had long since given way to that calm settled determination of purpose, and cool steady vigour of action which desperate circumstances can alone inspire. Day by day our prospects of success had gradually diminished; our horses had become reduced to so dreadful a state that many had died, and all were likely to do so soon; we ourselves were weak and exhausted by fatigue, and it appeared impossible that either could have gone many miles further. In this last extremity we had been relieved. That gracious God, without whose assistance all hope of safety had been in vain, had heard our earnest prayers for his aid, and I trust that in our deliverance we recognized and acknowledged with sincerity and thankfulness his guiding and protecting hand. It is in circumstances only such as we had lately been placed in that the utter hopelessness of all human efforts is truly felt, and it is when relieved from such a situation that the hand of a directing and beneficent Being appears most plainly discernible, fulfilling those gracious promises which he has made, to hear them that call upon him in the day of trouble.

[Note 27: “When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them.”

“I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.” — Isa. xli. 17, 18.

“I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.” — Isa. xliii. 19.]

As soon as each had satisfied his thirst the pots were filled and boiled for tea, and some bread was baked, whilst the overseer and natives were still increasing the size of the well to enable us to water the horses. We then got a hasty meal that we might the better go through the fatigue of attending to the suffering animals. Our utmost caution now became necessary in their management; they had been seven days without a drop of water, and almost without food also, and had suffered so much that with abundance of water near us, and whilst they were suffering agonies from the want of it, we dared not give it to them freely. Having tied them up to some low bushes, we gave each in turn about four gallons, and then driving them away for half a mile to where there was a little withered grass, we watched them until the evening, and again gave each about four gallons more of water.

Whilst thus engaged, a very fine looking native with his wife and family, passed us and halted for a few moments to observe us, and procure a drink from the well we had made. This man did not seem at all alarmed, and made signs that he was going to sleep, a little further along the coast, where there was also water, pointing to the white sandhills about five miles from us. The language he spoke seemed to be the same as that of the other natives we had met with along the Great Bight, nor did the King George’s Sound native understand him a bit better than he had done the others.

At night one of our two remaining sheep was killed, and the overseer and myself proceeded to watch the horses for the night. The poor creatures were scarcely able to crawl, yet were restless and uneasy, and fed but little, they had tasted water and they were almost mad for it, so that it was a severe task to both myself and the overseer to keep them from returning to the well. The single sheep now left had also given us a good deal of trouble, it was frightened at being alone, and frustrated all our efforts to yard it, preferring to accompany and remain with the horses, — an arrangement we were obliged to acquiesce in.