Page:Last of the tasmanians.djvu/188

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161
FALSE ALARMS IN CAMP.

stories came rolling into camp. The print of heavily-nailed boots had been seen, which was distinctly shown to be those of a white man out with the tribes. Some were sure that they had heard an English voice by night in the Bush. One came with an exclamation of horror, as he had traced the mark of the butt end of a gun on a discovered track of the Blacks. The Bushrangers had perhaps allied themselves with their old foes of the forest. Runaway assigned servants were doubtless, from hatred to officialdom, sympathising with the hunted ones, and had gone to warn them of their danger, and assist them in their escape. Several were quite ready to swear that they had heard a whistle at night-watch, and had seen something just like a white man flit hastily through the dense foliage. A shivering terror ran along the Line; for who knew how many might have left the cause of White dominion for Bush freedom and Black Gins!

The shrewd ones suspected that a fertile fancy, and the hope of gain as well as notoriety, might have produced the narrative. It was certainly singular that the lost clothes were found in an old tree, where people believed Savage had planted them; that no Natives were ever known to be in that quarter; that the man Brown was proved to have been in quite another district at the time; and that Savage declined to take an oath as to the veracity of his statement.

But where were the Natives? With thousands of men beating the Bush and scouring the Tiers, to what possible retreat could they fly? A tribe of forty, seen westward of Norfolk Plains, were chased by one of the Line parties till they crossed the Shannon, and were lost in the labyrinths of the scrub. The baffled Whites left a notice of the affair on a piece of bark, and nailed this to a tree. Among the spoils collected from the fugitives were a chemise and a little child's frock. Jorgen Jorgenson saw them under circumstances which he narrates in a letter:—"As I went this morning over the Brown Mountain, rising a steep hill from a very deep gully, my horse began to rear and snort. Everything was thrown off, saddle, and all. My trousers were literally torn to pieces; and, just as I had got the horse quieted, there stood over me three Blacks." Some men might have been nervous; but our heroic Dane informs us that he had but to draw his cutlass, when the warriors of the wilds scampered away.