Sunday, 20th November, Fanny Springs.
- Written by John McDouall Stuart
- Category: John McDouall Stuart - Third Expedition
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Sunday, 20th November, Fanny Springs. Got up at daybreak, and went to the top of Mount Charles, on which I had ordered the men to build a cone of stones after their arrival here yesterday. On my return to the camp the men informed me that Smith had absconded during the night. He generally made a practice of sleeping some little distance from the others, when I did not see him lie down; I had checked him for it several times. It did not appear that he had gone to sleep, but waited an opportunity to steal away, taking with him the mare which he used to ride, and harness, etc., also some provisions. As I had started very early to walk to Mount Charles, his absence was not observed until some time after I had left, and being detained some hours on the top of the hill, in consequence of the atmosphere being so thick that I could not obtain my observations, it was 7 a.m. before I heard of his departure. That moment I sent Kekwick for my own horse (he being the swiftest), and ordered him to saddle, mount, pursue, overtake, and bring Smith back; but during the time he was preparing, I had time to think the matter over, and decided upon not following him, as it would only knock up my horse and detain me three or four days. Smith must have started about midnight, for I was up taking observations from 12.30 a.m. until daybreak, and neither saw nor heard any one during that time. I could ill afford to lose the time in pursuing him, situated as I was in the midst of my survey, and he being a lazy, insolent, good-for-nothing man, and, worse than all, an incorrigible liar, I could place no dependence upon him. We are better without him; he has been a very great annoyance and trouble to me from the beginning throughout the journey. What could have caused him to take such a step I am at a loss to imagine; he has had no cause to complain of bad treatment or anything of that sort; he never mentioned such a thing to the other men, nor was he heard to complain of anything. Such conduct on an expedition like ours deserves the severest punishment: there is no knowing what fatal consequences may follow such a cowardly action. Had he not stolen the mare, I should have cared little about his running away, but I am short of riding horses and have a great deal for them to do during the time I am surveying and examining the country. The vagabond went off just as the heavy work was beginning, and it was principally for that work that I engaged him. He put on a pair of new boots, leaving those he had been wearing, evidently intending to push the mare as far as she would go, expecting he would be pursued, and then leave her and walk the rest. I expect, when he reaches the settled districts, he will tell some abominable lie about the matter. If such conduct is not severely dealt with, no confidence can be placed in any man engaged in future expeditions.