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comfortable predicament. The the chips fly in all directions. route, according to the sketchmaps, lay round and over steep mountain ranges, and through dense forests. It would, we estimated, have taken us at least a week to cover this distance, and it was extremely doubtful that we could have lasted out such a long period without food, particularly with the hard gruelling work such a journey would entail. Even if we survived the trip, there was no certainty that we could have forded the Gordon up by the Great Bend-the nearest point to the osmiridium field. It was a very wide river even up there.

We wandered for miles up and down the banks of the Gordon vainly looking for a ford, but there was not such a thing to be found. We, however, discovered an island in the middle of the river upon which several large trees grew. Warwick suddenly had an inspiration, and promptly set to work with an axe to fell a large gum-tree, so that it would fall out on the near bank of the island. From there, he said, we could fell another tree to the opposite side of the river, thus making a bridge for us to cross over. We both worked in shifts on that tree for several hours, desperation lending strength to our already weakening arms. The wood of the gum-tree was like cast-iron, and our axe was so blunt that it would have better served the purpose of a butter-knife, but still we laboured on, making

At last our strenuous efforts were rewarded by a slight creaking sound. It was as music to our ears. Then with a grinding crash the huge tree suddenly fell outwards in the desired direction. But, alas! it was not tall enough; its top branches missed the island by fully six feet. The tree hit the river with a mighty smack, and being green gum, sank from sight like a stone, merely leaving the butt protruding out of the water, just below where we stood. It was the death-knell of our hopes, and slowly and sadly we retraced our steps back to the foodless and cheerless camp.

The next day the river dropped a little, but it was still quite unfordable. This was now our second day without food, and we were beginning to feel very weak and depressed. We felled a small Huon pine in case we were forced to try and effect a crossing with a raft. The raft was only to be a last resource. In such a deep river there was no means by which we could control it, and it was highly probable that it would have been smashed to matchwood in the rapids lower down the river before we could have ever hoped to reach the opposite bank. The river was just one long series of rapids in the gorges which occurred every mile or so, and we decided that it was just as well to try to effect a crossing here as elsewhere. Happily, we never had

to trust ourselves to such a flimsy craft. By the evening of the following day the river had fallen sufficiently to permit of our making a crossing. It was by no means at its normal level, but we kept close together, each gripping the end of a long sapling so as to help us to retain our equilibrium. Although it was midsummer, the water was icy cold, and in one short stretch it nearly reached our arm-pits. It was just touch and go whether we could get across or not, but we managed to do it somehow. Then we made a bee-line for our depot. Our friends the tiger-cats had visited it in our absence, and had climbed up on the covering tent-fly, tearing it to shreds in their endeavours to get at the pack suspended underneath. They had even got on the pack, and had torn a large hole in the bagging with which it was covered, but luckily for us, they were not successful in unearthing its contents. Altogether we only had a few handfuls of oatmeal and about 4 lb. of wholemeal flour left to last us back to Adams River. We immediately set to work, and made a large billyful of liquid gruel, and another of tea. We had now been foodless for three days, and our hunger had turned into one long dull ache. I never enjoyed a meal so much as that repast of gruel and tea on the banks of the Gordon, but it had unpleasant after-effects. We made the usual mistake


eating too much, as people frequently do after a long period of fasting; that night we were both violently ill, and suffered all the pangs of cramp. The next day, however, we had recovered sufficiently to make tracks homewards, which we did with all possible speed and without any regrets. We had to ration ourselves carefully on the trip back, one small portion of wholemeal gruel per diem being our allowance. On such occasions it is wonderful how one's thoughts revert to food. All we could talk about was grilled steak, onions, potatoes, and bottled beer, or similar luxuries. The more we talked about them the hungrier we became. I almost believe we should have travelled better without that gruel-it only tickled our palates and made us wish for more. It took us nearly five weary days to get back, travelling with very light swags, and when we did, we started to make up for lost time by having a glorious feast, once again suffering painfully from the result of over-eating after a fast.

It took us days before we recovered from the hardships of our most unprofitable prospecting trip, and we have both sworn that we will never go out on such wild-goose chases again.

Warwick, however, does not mean what he says. Once anybody is infected with the prospecting virus, as he is, the call of the wild cannot be resisted when it comes.



IT was Davies, as fine an example of the genuine beachcomber as you could want, although he rarely saw a beach, who recognised the danger at first sight. At the start of the business his absurdly serious attitude towards it was naturally considered as merely the outcome of his exuberant imagination; but, as the thing developed and the chances of something very like tragedy became more and more apparent, people were compelled to

acknowledge that Davies must keep a streak of clear reason hidden about him somewhere.

The start of the affair, where Davies saw clearly and no one else saw at all, was very ordinary. Ryder, known to almost every white man in the district as Bung, on account, one assumes, of a certain barrellike corpulence, was a singularly easy-going and popular District Commissioner. He knew his job, and did it well; but official dignity gave him no sort of pleasure, and although he was of the heavenborn it was difficult to remember the fact in his company. Consequently, when Ryder's time in Sin Byu was up and his successor was appointed, there was genuine regret in the white community, particularly among the white

traders, and traders, and a good deal of anxiety to know what manner of fellow the new D.C. might be. Ryder knew very little about him, except that he was a bachelor and a pillar of the Secretariat, who had for some reason or other sought a spell of District work. The other officials of the station, with the exception of Jenkins, the Sessions Judge, knew nothing at all of him. Jenkins had never met him, but had heard him spoken of as a brilliant young man, who was destined to occupy high places. That and his name-Esme St John Harmington-were sufficiently alarming, but they were all the station had to go upon pending the man's arrival.

Vincent, the policeman, might have known something about the fellow, having come from Rangoon only six months or so before the appointment was made. made. But Vincent was out on tour when the news came through, and anyhow, although a useful retailer of gossip, he was too junior to have any intimate acquaintance with the great ones of the earth. The billet of police officer at Sin Byu was his first job in that line, and he took the semiindependence of his command with much enthusiasm and due pride. He had gone straight from a minor public school in

England to the army, where he had done very well in France and Belgium during the last two years of the war. After a spell of unsuccessful search for a means of livelihood, he had discovered and entered the Indian Police Service. Having gone through the preliminaries, he found himself attempting to maintain the peace in the Sin Byu district of Burma, and, apparently, liking the attempt. He was healthily enthusiastic about the chances of his new life, and immensely keen on the prospects of sport, which had never come his way before. He was, perhaps, a trifle too sure of himself, especially about matters to which he had recently been introduced, but not to an extent that was really dangerous to him or seriously annoying to other people. He was, for instance, an indifferent horseman and a more than indifferent horsemaster, but because he had been through a rough-riding school and a course in horsemastership, had won a paperchase, and played a few games of fourth-class polo, he was inclined to regard his knowledge of all things relating to horses as profound. The same thing applied in the same degree to other matters; and the degree was by no means serious. He only wanted more experience to teach him. On the whole a sound enough boy, who had made and was making the best of his opportunities.

Vincent and Ryder hit it off

extremely well. While everybody was genuinely sorry that Ryder was going, Vincent was certainly the most affected, and he had arranged for a runner to fetch him from the jungle, wherever he might be, before Bung left. He declared that all the dacoits in Burma might be on the warpath, but that he would leave their tracks and come into the station for the send-off. As a matter of fact, which was quite characteristic of his professional enthusiasm, he hung on to the job he was putting through till the last possible moment, and only got into Sin Byu about eight o'clock on the night when the launch, which was to take Ryder to the mailboat, was due to start down river before midnight.

Harmington had arrived from the mail-boat that morning. There must have been some sort of sort of official forgathering that afternoon, for when Ryder brought the new D.C. into the club in the evening Harmington had apparently already made the acquaintance of his colleagues-that is, with the exception of Vincent, who had not arrived in the station. As usual on mail nights, the large, bare, dilapidated main room of the club was fairly full; there must have been ten people in it, and half a dozen at the bar in the billiard-room. Some two-thirds of the white population of the district were gathered together for the purpose of inspecting the new illustrated papers and the new D.C.;

and to that selection of that white community, which is remote, not fashionable, dull, and usually tired, Harmington came as something of a shock.


As he followed Ryder into the main room, where hanging lamps were, according to their regular habit, either winking or smoking, he seemed too perfect to be true, and far too wonderful for his surroundings. He was tall and very slight; he carried himself well, and there was no doubt about his good looks; but his clothes compelled awe and consternation. On a hot night before the rains, without fans and with only one torn punkah in action, it seemed indecent that any man should wear conventional black dinner-dress without any sign of the moist discomfort which he ought to feel.

While Ryder began a round of introductions and Harmington made known the fact that he had a pleasant voice and a pleasant manner, Mrs Lathom turned to Mrs Murray.

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Meanwhile Harmington added to the consternation which the beauty of his clothes had produced on the members of the club, for he said something appropriate, something that was not banal, to each individual to whom he was introduced. The uncomfortable fact that the man might be as perfect as his clothes produced despondency.

Then Vincent came in, cheery and hurrying. He was always neat, and he never overworked a white suit; but he did not attempt to disguise the fact that he was hot, and he mopped his face with a gaudy silk handkerchief.

"Hullo, Bung," he called, making straight for his friend with no more than a quick nod and smile to the ladies present. "I thought at one time that I was going to miss the bus properly to-night. But once I hit the road and my luxurious Ford I had the blinking son of Nimshi absolutely outclassed. What about it? There's time for a quick one, isn't there, before we begin to eat your dinner?

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"Time for as many as you can hold, my lad," Ryder told him, and then introduced Harmington.

Davies, who was one of the

But Mrs Murray dealt with group about Ryder, subsemore immediate issues.

"A ladder, my dear," she stated. "Right stocking! Half-way down from the knee. I shall have to remain seated, cross-legged, when I feel I ought to get up and curtsey."

quently stated at considerable length to any one who would listen to him that the affair actually started while Vincent was crossing the room, and that it was definitely fixed and confirmed when the boy com

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