Page:Aboriginesofvictoria02.djvu/365

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
337
HUNTING THE BLACKS

gunyahs, as those tribes call them—for the night. We went very cautiously a little further, until we could, by glimpses through the wood, just ascertain they were about to encamp a few hundred yards ahead on the opposite side of a narrow scrub of young trees. We halted in silence until it was quite dark, and then I gave the signal to move on. We crept stealthily along, one of our guides hovering about a little ahead to reconnoitre their exact place. I was very near him; in fact, in the scrub itself; and we were cautiously prowling forward, when he trod upon a rotten twig—unavoidable in the dark. Snap went the twig, sounding in the silent dark solitudes like a pistol shot: instantly, within a few yards of me, jumped up about a dozen or score blacks. I was taken very much aback, for in the dark we had not thought them so near. They had all spears, and I had never been in war before. I must confess I felt rather qualmish at the sight of those stout fellows so near me; however, I had resolution enough to cry out—'Now, boys, fire away.' The men fired—the natives uttered a fearful yell, shouting 'white fellow,' threw down their spears, and ran off like kangaroos. I now found my courage much restored, and ordered to reload; but, in my anxiety to lose no time, I put the wrong end of my cartridge into my piece, so it was of no use just then. We then set a watch, and waited until morning. I don't think many of us slept for fear of a surprise. Nothing, however, occurred, and in the morning we found we had killed three big fellows. They had left several of their spears and liangles and other things; amongst the rest was the cross-cut saw with which they had murdered the poor stockman, all covered with blood. We concluded we had now driven them off our side of the country, and taking off the tip of the ears of the dead blacks, according to orders, set off back, and without further adventure got to the settlement.

"When I reported progress to old Major ———, the head Government officer there, he swore we had only half served them out; they were too daring to be easily driven away; and ordered me to recruit my party, and, with fresh supplies, to be after them again, and make an example of them. I had had quite enough for one spell. However, go I must."

"But how," interrupted I, "did you get food?"

"Why, this time we had two extra men—Weenick named them our pack-bullocks—to carry an extra supply. The first expedition each man carried his own."

"And water?"

"Oh, we never found any difficulty. The blacks know every spot of the country, and always take care to travel where there is water. Besides, we had a favorable season for it: it was winter. Well, we set off and reached the limit of our former journey, and got again upon the trail of the blacks. The long and slender kangaroo-grass, trodden down as here and there it occurred in their line of march, had not yet sprung up again. It is not so difficult to follow a track in the bush after all; but it's keen work, too, and wants a quick and practised eye. Anything eatable quickly disappears with the wild dogs and wild cats, as well as by the natives themselves and their dogs. But a little twig lying on the ground cut off, or merely with the branches and leaves stripped off, which show that man had done it, and the condition of freshness