Page:The life of Matthew Flinders.djvu/358

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275
AUSTRALIA CIRCUMNAVIGATED

quitting these tropical coasts. Mosquitoes, swarms of black flies, the debility induced by the moist heat of the climate, and the scarcity of nourishing food, made everybody on board anxious to return. Scorbutic ulcers broke out on Flinders' feet, so that he was no longer able to station himself at his customary observation-point, the mast-head. Nevertheless, though driven by sheer necessity, it was not without keen regret that he determined to sail away. "The accomplishment of the survey was, in fact," he said, "an object so near to my heart, that could I have foreseen the train of ills that were to follow the decay of the Investigator and prevent the survey being resumed, and had my existence depended upon the expression of a wish, I do not know that it would have received utterance; but Infinite Wisdom has, in infinite mercy, reserved the knowledge of futurity to itself."

Even in face of the troubles facing him, Flinders fought hard to continue his work to a finish. He planned to make for the Dutch port of Kupang, in Timor, and thence send Lieutenant Fowler home in any ship bound for Europe to take to the Admiralty his reports and charts, and a scheme for completing the survey. He hoped then to spend six months upon the north and north-west coasts of Australia, and on the run to Port Jackson, and there to await Fowler's return with a ship fit for the service. But this plan was frustrated. He reached Timor at the end of March, and was courteously received by the Dutch Governor, also renewing acquaintance with Baudin and his French officers, who had put into port to refresh. But no ship bound for England was met. A homeward-bound vessel from India had touched at Kupang ten days before the Investigator arrived, but when another one would put in was uncertain. A vessel was due to sail for Batavia in May, and the captain consented to take