Page:The Irish in Australia.djvu/65

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51
THE STORY OF BURKE AND WILLS.

from the effects of this terrible disappointment, they raised their weak voices in unison in the hope that possibly some of their old comrades, who ought to have been there to meet and welcome them, might still be within hearing. But no answering cry brought relief to their strained ears. Then, looking around, they descried the marked tree, and, eagerly turning up the soil beneath, found the food of which they were so much in need, together with a brief note from Brahe, bearing that morning's date and recording how he had broken up the camp and started homewards with all his men "in good condition." This latter statement was not correct, for it was afterwards proved conclusively that several members of Brahe's party were weak and sickly. Brahe may be acquitted of entertaining any deliberate intention to deceive, but to,his thoughtlessness in not setting down the plain unvarnished truth, the disasters that immediately ensued were in a great measure attributable. For the triumphant explorers held a consultation, and the opinion of Burke unfortunately prevailed, viz., that they could not hope to overtake a party "all in good condition" when they themselves were in the worst condition imaginable. If they had only pushed on for a few hours more they would actually have come up with Brahe and his party, who did not travel very far the first day. As the Rev. Father Woods remarks in his exhaustive "History of Australian Exploration," "they were camped within a few miles of each other, and either party would have sacrificed everything to know that the others were so near." In deciding to remain for awhile at Cooper's Creek to recruit their wasted strength, instead of at once advancing on the track of their comrades, Burke, Wills