config

July 7. — Getting up the horses early, we proceeded up the King’s river, with a view of attempting to cross, but upon sounding the depths in one or two places, I found the tide, which was rising, was too high; I had only the alternative, therefore, of waiting for several hours until the water ebbed, or else of leaving the horses, and proceeding on without them. Under all the circumstances, I decided upon the latter; the rain was still falling very heavily, and the river before us was so wide and so dangerous for horses, from its very boggy character, that I did not think it prudent to attempt to force a passage, or worth while to delay to search for a proper crossing place. There was good feed for the horses where they were, and plenty of water, so that I knew they would fare better by remaining than if they were taken on to the Sound; whilst it appeared to me more than probable that I should have no difficulty, whenever I wished to get them, to procure a guide to go for and conduct them safely across, at the proper crossing place.

Having turned our horses loose, and piled up our baggage, now again greatly reduced, I took my journals and charts, and with Wylie forded the river about breast high. We were soon on the other side, and rapidly advancing towards the termination of our journey; the rain was falling in torrents, and we had not a dry shred about us, whilst the whole country through which we passed, had, from the long-continued and excessive rains, become almost an uninterrupted chain of puddles. For a great part of the way we walked up to our ankles in water. This made our progress slow, and rendered our last day’s march a very cold and disagreeable one. Before reaching the Sound, we met a native, who at once recognised Wylie, and greeted him most cordially. From him we learnt that we had been expected at the Sound some months ago, but had long been given up for lost, whilst Wylie had been mourned for and lamented as dead by his friends and his tribe. The rain still continued falling heavily as we ascended to the brow of the hill immediately overlooking the town of Albany — not a soul was to be seen — not an animal of any kind — the place looked deserted and uninhabited, so completely had the inclemency of the weather driven both man and beast to seek shelter from the storm.

For a moment I stood gazing at the town below me — that goal I had so long looked forward to, had so laboriously toiled to attain, was at last before me. A thousand confused images and reflections crowded through my mind, and the events of the past year were recalled in rapid succession. The contrast between the circumstances under which I had commenced and terminated my labours stood in strong relief before me. The gay and gallant cavalcade that accompanied me on my way at starting — the small but enterprising band that I then commanded, the goodly array of horses and drays, with all their well-ordered appointments and equipment were conjured up in all their circumstances of pride and pleasure; and I could not restrain a tear, as I called to mind the embarrassing difficulties and sad disasters that had broken up my party, and left myself and Wylie the two sole wanderers remaining at the close of an undertaking entered upon under such hopeful auspices.


Arrival at King George’s Sound, J. Neill

Whilst standing thus upon the brow overlooking the town, and buried in reflection, I was startled by the loud shrill cry of the native we had met on the road, and who still kept with us: clearly and powerfully that voice rang through the recesses of the settlement beneath, whilst the blended name of Wylie told me of the information it conveyed. For an instant there was a silence still almost as death — then a single repetition of that wild joyous cry, a confused hum of many voices, a hurrying to and fro of human feet, and the streets which had appeared so shortly before gloomy and untenanted, were now alive with natives — men, women and children, old and young, rushing rapidly up the hill, to welcome the wanderer on his return, and to receive their lost one almost from the grave.

It was an interesting and touching sight to witness the meeting between Wylie and his friends. Affection’s strongest ties could not have produced a more affecting and melting scene — the wordless weeping pleasure, too deep for utterance, with which he was embraced by his relatives, the cordial and hearty reception given him by his friends, and the joyous greeting bestowed upon him by all, might well have put to the blush those heartless calumniators, who, branding the savage as the creature only of unbridled passions, deny to him any of those better feelings and affections which are implanted in the breast of all mankind, and which nature has not denied to any colour or to any race.

Upon entering the town I proceeded direct to Mr. Sherrats’, where I had lodged when in King George’s Sound, in 1840. By him and his family I was most hospitably received, and every attention shewn to me; and in the course of a short time, after taking a glass of hot brandy and water, performing my ablutions and putting on a clean suit of borrowed clothes, I was enabled once more to feel comparatively comfortable, and to receive the many kind friends who called upon me.

I feel great pleasure in the opportunity now afforded me of recording the grateful feelings I entertain towards the residents at Albany for the kindness I experienced upon this occasion. Wet as the day was, I had hardly been two hours at Mr. Sherrats before I was honoured by a visit from Lady Spencer, from the Government-resident, Mr. Phillips, and from almost all the other residents and visitors at the settlement, — all vying with each other in their kind attentions and congratulations, and in every offer of assistance or accommodation which it was in their power to render.

Finding that a vessel would shortly sail for Adelaide, I at once engaged my passage, and proceeded to make arrangements for leaving King George’s Sound.

To the Governor of the Colony, Mr. Hutt, I wrote a brief report of my journey, which was forwarded, with a copy both of my own and Wylie’s depositions, relative to the melancholy loss of my overseer on the 29th April. I then had my horses got up from the King’s river, and left them in the care of Mr. Phillips, who had in the most friendly manner offered to take charge of them until they recovered their condition and could be sold.

Wylie was to remain at the Sound with his friends, and to receive from the Government a weekly allowance of provisions, [Note 29: This was confirmed by Governor Hutt.] by order of Mr. Phillips; who promised to recommend that it should be permanently continued, as a reward for the fidelity and good conduct he had displayed whilst accompanying me in the desert.