Following the course of the Finke, they arrived on the 25th at some springs which were rendered memorable by Mr. Stuart's favourite mare Polly. She became very ill, and on the morning of the 26th slipped her foal.
Polly had been with her master on all his previous journeys, and was much too valuable and faithful a creature to be left behind; besides, she was second to none in enduring hardship and fatigue. They therefore waited another night to give her time to recover, and Mr. Stuart named the springs Polly Springs in her honour.
On the 27th they again moved northwards, still following the course of the Finke, and, after a short journey of ten miles, camped at what were afterwards called Bennett Springs.
It is worthy of remark that while the horses were in this water drinking, one of them kicked out a fish about eight inches long and three broad--an excellent sign of the permanency of the water.
Here several of the horses were taken violently ill, and the next morning one of them could not be found.
Mr. Stuart writes:
"Thursday, 28th February, The Finke, Bennett Springs. Found all the horses but one named Bennett.
Sent two of the party out in search of him; at 9 a.m. they returned, having been all round, but could see nothing of him. I then sent out four, to go round the tracks and see if he had strayed into the sand hills. At noon they returned unsuccessful. Sent five men to search, but at 2 p.m. they likewise returned without having discovered him.
I then went out myself, and, in half-an-hour, found the poor animal lying dead in a hole, very much swollen. Blood seemed to have come from his mouth and nostrils. He must have died during the night.
I am afraid that there is some description of poisonous plant in the sand hills, and that the horses have eaten some of it.
As he lay he appeared to have been coming from the sand hills, and making for the water. He seemed to have fallen down three times before he died.
I never saw horses taken in the same way before--in a moment they fell down and became quite paralysed.
The cream-coloured horse, that was taken so ill last night, must also have eaten the poison. We were upwards of two hours before we could get him right. As soon as he got on his legs, his limbs shook so that he immediately fell down. This he did for more than a dozen times.
As we were very much in want of hobble-straps, I sent Mr. Kekwick, with three others, to take Bennett's skin and shoes off.
We found no indication of poison on opening him.
This is a very great loss to me, for he was one of my best packhorses--one that had been with me before, and that I could depend upon for a hard push."