Page:The Irish in Australia.djvu/66

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and King committed the unfortunate error that cost two of them their lives. And, when they did resolve to start afresh, they made still another fatal mistake in branching off towards South Australia as being, in the opinion of Burke the nearest goal of relief, instead of continuing on the main homeward route. Had they adopted the latter course they would most assuredly have encountered Brahe, who was evidently not at peace with his conscience. His desertion of the depot, without knowing the fate of Burke and his companions, was troubling his mind, and he determined to make a final effort to ascertain if the explorers had returned. He accordingly retraced his steps to Cooper's Creek and, to all appearance, the site of the depot was in just the same condition as he had left it a few days before. All would yet have been well, if he had only thought it advisable to verify appearances by seeing in the cavity at the foot of his marked tree still contained what he had deposited in it on leaving. Had he taken that simple step, he would have found to his great surprise that the provisions and his letter were gone, and that that journals of the expedition occupied their place, thus affording conclusive testimony that Burke and his companions had returned and were somewhere in the vicinity. But Brahe, with characteristic thoughtlessness, forgot to do what ninety-nine men out of an average hundred would have done under similar circumstances. After a hurried inspection of the scene, he went away, fully convinced from very insufficient premises that no white man had visited the place since the breaking-up of the camp. By an extraordinary piece of ill-luck, Brahe was not long gone when poor Wills laboriously wended his way back to Cooper's Creek from the new direction that the ill-fated explorers had