- Category: Edward John Eyre - Vol 1 - Ch 18
- Written by Edward John Eyre
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April 25. — During the night dense clouds, accompanied by gusts of wind and forked lightning, passed rapidly to the south-west, and this morning the wind changed to that quarter. Heavy storms gathered to seawards with much thunder and lightning, but no rain fell near us; the sea appearing to attract all the showers. The overseer shot a very large eagle to-day and made a stew of it, which was excellent. I sent the boy out to try and shoot a wallabie, but he returned without one.
In the evening, a little before dark, and just as we had finished our tea, to my great astonishment our two runaway natives made their appearance, the King George’s Sound native being first. He came frankly up, and said that they were both sorry for what they had done, and were anxious to be received again, as they found they could get nothing to eat for themselves. The other boy sat silently and sullenly at the fire, apparently more chagrined at being compelled by necessity to come back to us than sorry for having gone away. Having given them a lecture, for they both now admitted having stolen meat, not only on the night they were detected but previously, I gave each some tea and some bread and meat, and told them if they behaved well they would be treated in every respect as before, and share with us our little stock of provisions as long as it lasted.
I now learnt that they had fared in the bush but little better than I should have done myself. They had been absent four days, and had come home nearly starved. For the first two days they got only two small bandicoots and found no water; they then turned back, and obtaining a little water in a hollow of the cliffs, left by the shower which had passed over, they halted under them to fish, and speared a sting-ray; this they had feasted on yesterday, and to-day came from the cliffs to look for us without any thing to eat at all.
During the night some heavy clouds passed over our heads, and once a drop or two of rain fell. The 26th broke wild and stormy to the east and west, and I determined to remain one day longer in camp, in the hope of rain falling, but principally to rest the two natives a little after the long walk from which they had returned. Breakfast being over, I sent the overseer and one native to the beach, to try to get a sting-ray, and to the other I gave my gun to shoot wallabie: no fish was procured, but one wallabie was got, half of which I gave to the native who killed it, for his dinner.
Being determined to break up camp on the 27th, I sent the King George’s Sound native on a-head, as soon as he had breakfasted, that, by preceding the party, he might have time to spear a sting-ray against we overtook him. The day was dull, cloudy, and warm, and still looking likely for rain, with the wind at north-east. At eleven we were ready, and moved away from a place where we had experienced so much relief in our extremity, and at which our necessities had compelled us to remain so long. For twenty-eight days we had been encamped at the sand-drifts, or at the first water we had found, five miles from them. Daily, almost hourly, had the sky threatened rain, and yet none fell. We had now entered upon the last fearful push, which was to decide our fate. This one stretch of bad country crossed, I felt a conviction we should be safe. That we had at least 150 miles to go to the next water I was fully assured of; I was equally satisfied that our horses were by no means in a condition to encounter the hardships and privations they must meet with in such a journey; for though they had had a long rest, and in some degree recovered from their former tired-out condition, they had not picked up in flesh or regained their spirits; the sapless, withered state of the grass and the severe cold of the nights had prevented them from deriving the advantage that they ought to have done from so long a respite from labour. Still I hoped we might be successful. We had lingered day by day, until it would have been folly to have waited longer; the rubicon was, however, now passed, and we had nothing to rely upon but our own exertions and perseverance, humbly trusting that the great and merciful God who had hitherto guarded and guidedus in safety would not desert us now.
Upon leaving the camp we left behind one carbine, a spade, some horse hobbles, and a few small articles, to diminish as much as possible the weight we had to carry. For eight miles we traced round the beach to the most north-westerly angle of the Bight, and for two miles down its south-west shore, but were then compelled by the rocks to travel to the back, through heavy scrubby ridges for four miles; after which we again got in to the beach, and at one mile along its shore, or fifteen miles from our camp, we halted for the night, at a patch of old grass. The afternoon had been hot, but the night set in cold and clear, and all appearance of rain was gone. The native I had sent on before had not succeeded in getting a fish, though he had broken one or two spears in his attempts.