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DISTRESS FOR WATER.
over the grassy plains. For six hours they continued to travel due south, silently and uninterruptedly; then the morning light cheered their spirits, they realized the fact of their freedom, and they rejoiced as they rested on a rich plain while the horses fed, and lifted up their voices in praise and thanksgiving that they were once more free in a savage land ; and even poor David, with tears of penitence, united humbly with them in prayer.
All the party needed the refreshment they knew not where to seek, when Baldabella produced a netted bag of cakes and nuts, with which they were obliged to content themselves; and hoping that they might meet with water before they were again compelled to rest, they set forward with gratitude and cheerfulness. But they were somewhat disheartened as they proceeded; for though herbage and trees were plentiful, water was rarely to be met with. Hollows in the earth, which contained a muddy remnant of the wellfilled pools of the rainy season, were their sole dependence—a scanty and unpleasant supply. They had long ago lost sight of the river, from which they had designedly diverged in order to mislead their pursuers, leaving it on their left hand. Fig-trees were common on the plains, but no longer bearing fruit ; still, they continued to be frequented by the cockatoos and pigeons, and having made bows and arrows, they procured as many as they wished for food.
On the fourth day, Baldabella, who was before them, summoned them by the welcome cry, “ Yarrai ! yarrai !-water! water !” and they saw a narrow full streamlet, rushing to the south-east, probably to swell some large river ; a consideration very tempting to the travellers, who could not venture on the direct track
which David was acquainted with, lest they should be overtaken. They resolved, therefore, to continue by the water, so necessary to preserve their own strength and that of their horses; and though the approach towards a large river might place them amongst the black tribes again, they would still be on the highway which led to civilization.
They now selected their resting-places close by the refreshing stream, and without adventure, till it happened that one day they had indulged for some hours in a noonday repose under the shelter of some trees. Then the young men set out to beat the wood for birds; but Gerald soon cried out, “ To horse! to horse! bold hunters. Emus aro in view !” and, on skirting the wood, the whole family had a view of a flock of those huge birds, at some distance on the plain, grazing with all the tranquillity of domestic cattle. - “We are not in want of emus, Gerald,” said Mr. Mayburn. “These creatures are as free to live as we are ourselves. Why wil men become hunters from mere wantonness ?”
“We could do cannily with one, master,” said Jenny. “ They're fair good eating, and ye see, sir, great strong men gets tired of these bits of birds."
Mr. Mayburn sighed at the necessity of disturbing the peace of the happy creatures, and duly impressed on Arthur his wish that only one bird should be killed. All the young men, roused at the thoughts of the chase, sprang upon their horses, and, armed with spears and bows, galloped off to the field. Crafty and swift as these birds are, they were not entirely able to elude their mounted enemies, who attacked them with spears and arrows, and at last succeeded in separating from the rest and surrounding one large
suddenly mong spear to oppose and Gerald, pie
bird, in which several arrows had been previously lodged. Enfuriated with pain and fright, the bird ran frantically round the circle, in fruitless endeavours to escape between the horses; and Gerald, piercing it with his long spear to oppose its retreat, it turned suddenly round, and, striking out backwards with its powerful leg, inflicted such a blow on the horse he was riding, that it staggered and fell.
Alarmed at the accident, the hunters all rode up to assist Gerald ; and the wounded emu profited by the opportunity, and effected a retreat to its companions, to the great vexation of the sanguine young men. They soon raised the horse and his rider. Gerald had escaped unhurt ; but the horse was so bruised by the kick of the powerful creature, that Arthur saw with consternation that their journey must be delayed some time, till it recovered from the blow; if, indeed, it was not rendered entirely incapable of further service.
Mortified and dejected, the discomfited hunters returned to the encampment, where they were received by Mr. Mayburn with a lesson on humanity to animals, by Margaret with friendly raillery, and by Jenny with ill-repressed murmurs; but all were grieved at the sufferings of the poor horse.
“That beast must just lie where he is for one day, however,” said Wilkins; "and I question whether that'll sarve to mend a bad job. I say, some of ye slips of lads, run up them trees, and take a look round, to see if t coast 's clear.”
It was at once employment and amusement for the active boys, Hugh and Gerald, to climb two tall figtrees that grew in front of the wood, and scan the wide scene around.
“ Now, sentinels,” cried Margaret from below, "please to report what you have observed.”
“I can see our little rivulet," said Hugh, “ winding like a silver thread over the plains to the south-east, even to the very horizon, where a gray line terminates the view. That may be the hem of the large river Arthur has planned.”
“I say, Arthur, come up,” cried Gerald ; “I want you to look at a dark mass far away north. I could almost fancy I saw it moving.”
Arthur was soon by his side, and, after examining the object pointed out, he said with a sigh, “ You are right, Gerald, it does move ; and I fear we are pursued at this unlucky moment, when we cannot, I fear, continue our flight. You, boys, remain to watch, while I descend to hold a council about our perilous situation.”
“Hand us up the guns, then, Arthur," answered Gerald, " and see if we will not guard the pass. Not a single rogue shall advance, but we will mark him and bring him down from our watch-tower.”
“That plan will not do, Gerald,” said Arthur. “Your office is to watch, and, as soon as you can, to ascertain their strength.”
Then the distressed youth descended to report his lamentable tidings to the tranquil party below, and great was the dismay felt by the timid.
“We might send off master and Miss Margaret," said Jack. “What think you of that, Mr. Arthur ? We could hold out here a good bit, to let them have a good start down south ; and then, if God helped us, we might get after them.”
“Margaret, what do you say to this plan ?" asked Mr. Mayburn. “There is Davy, who seems honest,
could we not trust him to conduct us and our two poor women to our friends the Deverells ? "
" It must not be so, dear papa,” answered Margaret ; “ we must live or die together. Think how unhappy we should be to leave them exposed to dangers for our sakes. But could we not hide in this thick wood ? It might be that the pursuers would not discover us.”
“ But the trail, Margaret,” answered Arthur," the trail would betray us. Is there any mode left us to escape, do you think, Wilkins ?”
“Ay, ay, Mr. Arthur, ye fancy it's best to set one rogue to cheat another,” replied Wilkins. “ Keep up your heart, miss ; I'se thinking we can lead 'em on a wrong scent yet.”
The wood behind them spread for a considerable way along the side of the rivulet, from which it was about a hundred yards distant. The opposite banks were hemmed up to the water with a broad growth of reeds, beyond which lay a vast entangled scrub.
“We'll see if we cannot manage to send 'em ower yonder,” continued Wilkins, pointing to the opposite side ; “so bring t' horses here, and come along wi' ye.”
By the orders of Wilkins the men mounted the five sound horses, having first led the lame one, with Margaret, Mr. Mayburn, and the women, into the intricacies of the wood, and left them, carefully arranging the bush, so that no trail could be seen. Then the horsemen, making a broad track, by riding abreast, proceeded to the shallow rivulet, crossed it, and breaking down the reeds before them, forced a pass to the scrub. Here it was unnecessary to proceed, as on the brushcovered ground it was easy to suppose the trail might be lost ; they therefore returned, carefully retracing their steps to the river, and riding the horses