William Scott.

The Christian remembrancer online

. (page 6 of 103)
Online LibraryWilliam ScottThe Christian remembrancer → online text (page 6 of 103)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

The sun was intensely hot. The long and dose confinement, on board a
small vessel, had unfitted us all for taking any violent or continued exer-
cise, without some previous training, and the country in which we had
landed, was of a more rocky and precipitous character than any I had
ever before seen; indeed 1 could not more accurately describe the hills,
than by saying, that they appeared to be the ruins of hills ; composed as
they were of huge blocks of red sand-stone^ confusedly piled together in
loose disorder, and so overgrown with spinifex and scrub, that the interstices
were completely hidden, and into these one or other of the party was
continually slipping and fidling.

<< The trees were small, and their foliage so scant and slight, that they
afforded no shelter whatever from the burning ra^s of the sun ; which
appeared to strike up again from the sand-stone with redoubled heat, so
mat it was really pamfiu to touch, or to stand upon a bare rock : we there-
fore kept moving onwards, in the hope of meeting with some spot favour-
able for a halting-place ; but the difficult nature of the ground which we
had to cross, rendered our progress slow and opnressively laborious.

'* A feeling of thirst and lassitude, such as I had never before experienced,
soon began to overcome all of us ; for such a state of things we had un-
fortunately landed ^uite unprepared, having only two pints of water with
us, a portion of which it was necessary to give to the dogs, who apparently
suffered from the heat in an equal degree with ourselves. These distressing
symptoms I can only ascribe to the extreme heat of the sun reflected from
the sand-stone rocks, and our previous long confinement on board.

« Our small supply of water, although but spanngly used, was soon ex-
hausted ; and the symptoms of lassitude, before so excessive, now became
fikr worse. As usual, the endurance of the animals gave way before that of
the men. We had not completed more than a mile of our route (altliough
it was far more, if the ascents and descents were taken into account), when
Ranger, a very fine young dog, dropped behind some rocks, and aldiough
we turned back to look for him directly he was missed, he could not be

'* The next to give way was Ringhalz, a fine Cape buckhound; he fell
amongst the rocks, and died almost instantly. The only dog now left was
a greyhound, who manifested his extreme distress by constantly lying
down. For some time we dragged him along, but he was at last, nrom
necessity, abandoned. The cry of water was at length raised by one of the
party, and immediately afterwards we foimd ourselves on the edge of a deep
ravine, the precipitous sides of which were composed of nearly horizontal
layers of red sandstone. Down these some of us contrived to scramble,
although not without difficulty ; but on reaching the bottom, we had the
mortification to find the water salt ; and as it would have been very labo-

Digitized by VjOOQ IC

Greys A ustralia. 89

rious to follow its course along the bottom of the ravine over the mnd,
mangroves, and rocks which filled it, we had the pleasure of scrambling up
again as we best could.

" For some short time we remained seated on the edge of the cliflBi above
the ravine ; but as there was no shelter here from the sun's rays, and the
pangs of thirst were pressmg, I roused the men at last, and moved on again,
loUowin^ Ae course of the ravine upwards — we had not walked more than
half a nule when the salt water inlet terminated, and the bed of the ravine
became thickly wooded. At the moment we gained this point, some white
cockatoos came soaring upwards from beneath our feet ; and, as we knew
that this was an infallible sign of tiie presence of water, we descended again
to renew our search for it"— Pp. 67 — 71.

Accordingly, in a few minutes they found a pool of water, which,
brackish as it was, afforded a most delicious draught to the weary,
thirsty travellers. Meanwhile the day was wearing on, and the
nature of the country was so rocky and difficult, that a night-march
was impossible. It became desirable, therefore, to make the sea-
coast before sunset ; it was easy to walk along tlie shore after dark,
and the firing of a gun would serve as a signal to the schooner to
send off a boaU

** With this view," says Mr. Grey, " I moved onwards towards
the sea, requesting Mr. Lushingtdn, when I fired, to follow my
course with the men. As I walked a-head, I found the country very
rocky, with lofty bare pinnacles standing up every here and there in
the forest, one or two of which I climbed, but could see nothing of
the vessel.'^ Eventually, however, the shore was reached, and
Mr. GreVs first act was to strip off his clothes and plunge into the
water; the quantity of moisture taken into the system by absorp-
tion, as he lay in the sea, soon relieved his burning thirst, and by
the time the rest of the party came up, he was quite recovered.
Still there were no signs of the schooner, and Mr. Grey therefore
proceeded onwards in hopes of finding her, but he had hardly pro-
ceeded half a mile before his progress was arrested by an arm of the
sea, some four or five hundred yards across, from which the tide was
running out with fearful rapidity. What was to be done ? Night
was closing in ; the guns haa been repeatedly fired as a signal, without
any answer from the ship ; the beach afforded no wood wherewith to
make a fire ; the cliffs were too precipitous to be climbed ; and it
was evident that but very few of the party could swim so broad a
space of water. Mr. Grey, therefore, like a gallant fellow, as he is,
determined to run all risks alone, and swim the arm of the sea which
stopped his way.

'* I directed Coles to wait until the others came up, and then to remain
with them, until I returned in a boat. From the rugged nature of the shore
I could not have walked a yard without shoes, so I kept them on, as well as
my shirt and military cap, and I took a pistol in one hand, as a means of
defence against the natives, or else to fire it when I reached a spot where it
could be seen or heard from the vessel. '

" I plunged in, and very soon found myself caught in a tideway so violent^
that resistance to its force, so as either to get on or return, appeared at the

Digitized by VjOOQ IC

40 Greys Australia.

moment hopeless. My left hand, in wbicli I held the pbtol, was called into
requisition to save my life ; for the stream washed the cap from my head,
and the cap then filling with water, and being carried down by the strong
current, the chin-strap caught round my ne(£ and nearly throttled me, as
I dragged it aiter me through the water; whilst the loose folds of my shirt,
being washed out to seawards by the tide, kept getting entangled with my
arm. I grew weak and £iiint, but still swam my best, and at last I pro-
Tidentially reached a reef of rocks, which projected from the opposite shore,
and to which I clung until I had somewhat regained my strength.

'* I then dambered up on the rocks, and from thence made my vikj to the
beach ; but no sooner had I gained it, than I heard a native call from the
top of the cliffo, and the answering cries of his comrades rang through
the wood, as ^ey followed me along ; my pistol was so thoroughly soaked
in my passage across the inlet, that it was quite useless, except as a club.
To attempt to swim back again, after the narrow escape I had just had^
would have been madness ; besides which, if I had succeeded, I should have
lost die object for which I had put my life at hazard. Nothing therefore
was left, but to walk along shore to the schooner, trusting, in my defence*
less state, tiiat I might not fall in with any natives, it was now dark, and
the shore was so broken and rocky that I ^t terribly cut and bruised, and
was, moreover, so weak from my exertions m swimming, that when I arrived
opposite the vessel, I could scarcely hail. Some of those on board, how-
ever, heard me (as I found afterwards), and shouted in reply ; but their
voices never reached my ears, and I imagined they were too far, for I could
not now see the vesseL

" I made one or two more efibrts to hail the Lynhety but the noise I made
had now attracted the notice of the natives, and I heard their cries in
several directions round me ; this rendered my situation an unpleasant one,
for I was worn out, naked, and defenceless : at first I thought to return and
rejoin my party, and even turned back for a short distance with this inten-
tion, but I found myself too weak for such an undertaking, and changed
my i)lans ; resolving to remain nearlv opposite to the vessel until the
morning, and resting my chance of safety upon being discovered from it
before me natives found me.

*< With this intent I returned to the position firom which I had lately hailed,
and crept into a hole in the rocks, whence I could still occasionally hear
the cidls of the natives ; but being thoroughly worn out, I soon forgot my
toils and dangers in a very sound and comfortable sleep. I might have slept
for some two hours, when I was roused by hearing a voice shout, 'Mr. Grey;'
still, however, feeling rather distrustful of the truth of my mental impres-
sions, and imwilling to betray my whereabouts to the natives, I returned no
answer, but putting out my head from my secret place of rest, I waited
patiently for a solution of my doubts. But again I certainly heard the same
voice shout, * Mr. Grey,* and I moreover now distinctly recognised the noise
of oars working in the rullocks ; I therefore hiuled < Lynher, ahoy,' and all
my doubts were completely put at rest bv the hearty cheers which greeted
my ear, as Mr. Smith, the mate of the schooner, called out, ' Where shall
we pull in. Sir?'

" In a few minutes more I was in the boat, and rejoiced to find all the
party safely there before me. My next question was, * Have you a little
water here V *iPlenty, Sir,' answered Corporal Coles, *as he handed me a
little, which I greedily swallowed.' " — Pp. 76 — 78.

Such was the perilous commencement of Mr. Grey's expedition,
and such it continued throughout ; and nothing, humanly speaking,
could have saved this band of adventurers from destruction over and
over again, but the prompt decision, self-possession, and fortitude of
their admirable commander.

Digitized by VjOOQ IC

Grey's Australia. 41

Early in the following January, the Lynher^ which in the interim
had been despatched to Timor for ponies for the service of the
proposed expedition into the interior, appeared off Hanover Bay,
and on the ^th the march commenced ; but Mr. Orey was destined
to what the sailors call "a run of bad luck.*" The ponies were
unmanageable, the sheep drooped under the influence of the climate,
the rains were incessant, the rivers were swollen, the nature of the
ground became more and more inaccessible, and to crown all, when
their misfortunes were apparently at their height, an incident occurred
which we must leave Mr. Grey to tell in his own simple and
affecting words*

" It was the duty of the Cape mau who accompanied me, to mark a tree
every here and there by chipping the bark, so that the party miffht the
next day easily recognise the route which thev had to pursue ; upon looking
back I now perceived that he had n^lected a very remarkable tree about
twenty or thuty yards behind us, and which stood close to the si)ot where
I had fired at the kangaroo. I desired him to ^ back and chip it, and
then to rejoin us ; in the mean time I stood musmg as to the best means
of avoiding the little rocky ravine in o^T front

" Finding that the man remained absent longer than I had expected,
I called loudly to him, but received no answer, and therefore passed round
some rocks which hid the tree from my view to look after him. Suddenly
I saw him close to me breathless, and speechless with terror, and a native
with his spear fixed in a thro wing-stick, m full pursuit of him ; immediately
numbers of otiier natives burst upon my sight ; each tree, each rock, seemed
to give forth its black denizen, as if by en(£antment

" A moment before, the most solemn silence pervaded these woods, we
deemed that not a human being moved within miles of us, and now they
rang with savage and ferocious yeUs, and fierce armed men crowded round
us on every side, bent on our destruction.

" There was something very terrible in so complete and sudden a sur-
prise. Certain death appeared to stare us in the face : and from the deter-
mined and resolute air of our opponents, I immediately suessed that the
man who had first seen them, instead of boldly standing his ground, and
calling to Coles and myself for assistance, had at once, uke a coward, run
away ; thus giving the natives confidence in themselves, and a contempt for
us : and this conjecture I afterwards ascertained was perfecUy true.

<< We were now fidrly engaged for our lives ; escape was impossible, and
siurrender to such enemies out of the question.

*< As soon as I saw the natives around me, I fired one barrel of my gun
over the head of him who was pursuing my dismayed attendant, hoping the
report would have checked his further career. He proved to be the tall
man seen at the camp, painted with white. My shot stopped him not : he
still closed on us, and nis spear whistied by my head ; out whilst he was
fixing another in his throwing-stick, a ball from my second barrel struck
him m the arm, and it fell powerless by his side. He now retired behind
a rock, but the others still pressed on.

« I now made the two men retire behind some neighbouring rocks, which
formed a kind of protecting parapet along our front and riffht fiank, whilst
I took post on tne left Both my barrels were now exhausted; and I
de»red the other two to fire separately, whilst I was reloading; but to my
horror. Coles, who was armed with my rifle, reported hurriedly, that the
doth case with which he had covered it for protection against rain, had
become entangled. His services were thus lost at a most critical moment,
whilst trying to tear off the lock cover ; and the other man was so para-

NO. xill. — V. s. G

Digitized by VjOOQ IC

42 Grei/'s Australia^

lyzed with fear, that he could do noibing but cry out, ' Ob, God ! Sur, look
at tbem ! look at tbem ! '

<<In the meantime, our opponents pressed more closely round; tbcir
spears kept whistling by us, and our fate seemed inevitable. The light-
coloured man, spoken of at the camp, now appeared to direct their move-
ments. He sprang forward to a rock not more than thirty yards from us.
and posting himself behind it, threw a spear with such deadly force and
aim, that had I not drawn myself forward by a sudden jerk, it must have
gone through my body, and as it was, it touched my back in flying by.
Another well-directed spear, ^om a different hand, would have pierc^ me
in the breast, but, in the motion I made to avoid it, it struck upon the stock
of my gun, of which it carried away a portion by its force.

" All this took place in a few seconds of time, and no shot had been fired,
but by me. I now recognbed in the light-coloured man an old enemy, who
had led on the former attack against me on the 22d of December. By his
cries and gestures, he now appeared to be urging the others to surround
and press on us, which they were rapidly doing.

" I saw now that but one thing could be done to save our lives, so I gave
Coles my gun to complete the reloading, and took the rifle which he had
not yet disengaged from the cover. J tore it off, and stepping out from
behind our parapet, advanced to the rock which covered my light-coloured
opponent. I had not made two steps in advance when three spears struck
me nearly at tlie same moment, one of which was thrown by him. I felt
severely wounded in the hip, but knew not exactly where the others had
struck me. The force of all knocked me down, and made me very giddy
and faint, but as I fell, I heard the savage yells of the natives* delight and
triumph ; these recalled me to myself, and, roused by momentary rage and
indignation, I made a strong effort, rallied, and in a moment was on my
legs ; the spear was wrenched from my wound, and my havresack drawn
closely over it, that neither my own party nor the natives might see it, and
I advanced again steadily to the rock. The man became alarmed, and
threatened me with his dub, yelling most furiously ; but as I neared the
rock, behind which all but his head and arm was covered, he fled towards
an ac^oining one, dodging dexterously, according to the native manner of
confusing an assailant and avoiding the cast of his spear; but he was
scarcely imcovered in his flight, when my rifle ball pierced him through the
back, between the shoulders, and he fell heavily on his face with a deep

<< The effect was electrical. The tumult of the combat had ceased : not
another spear was thrown, not another yell was uttered. Native after
native dropped away, and noiselessly disappeared. I stood alone with the
wretched savage dying before me, and my two men dose to me behind the
rocks, in the attitude of deep attention ; and as I looked round upon the
dark rocks and forests, now suddenly silent and lifeless, but for the sight of
the unhappy being who lay on the ground before me, I could have thought
that the whole ai&ir had been a horrid dream.

<' For a second or two I gazed on the scene, and then returned to my
former position. I took my gun from Coles, which he had not yet finished
loading, and save him the rifle. I then went up to the other man, and
gave him two balls to hold, but when I placed them in his hands they rolled
upon the earth, — he could not hold them, for he was completely paralyzed
with terror, and they fell through his flngers ; the perspiration streamed
from every pore ; he was ghastly pale, and trembled n*om nead to foot ; his
limbs refused their functions ; his eyes were so fixed in the direction in
which the natives had disappeared that I could draw his attention to nothi4g
else ; and he still continued repeating, < Good God, Sir ! look at them, —
look at them ! '

'' The natives had all now concealed themselves, but they were not far
off Presently the wounded man made an effort to raise himself slowly-

Digitized by VjOOQ IC

Grey'i Australia. 43

from the eround : some of them instantly came from behind the rocks and
trees, withoat their spears, crowding round him with the greatest tender-
n^s and solicitude; two passed their arms round him, his head drooped
senselessly upon his chest, and with hurried steps, the whole party wound
their way through the forest, their black forms oeing scarcely distinguish-
able from the charred trunks of the trees, as they re^ed in the distance.

" To have fired upon the other natives, when they returned for the
wounded man, would, in my belief, hare been an unnecessary piece of baf^
barity. I alreadj felt deeply the death of him I had been compelled to
shoot : and I beheve that when a fellow-creature falls b^ one's hand, even
in a single combat rendered unavoidable in self-defence, it is impossible not
sincerely to regret tbe force of so cruel a necessity.

" I had now time to attend to my own state and that of mjr men, and
found that thev were uninjured. I had been severely wounded in the hip ;
another spear had just cut my right arm, and a third had deeply indented
my powder-flask, whflst lying in a havresack, immediately over my stomach.
The men were not, up to this moment, aware of my being wounded, as I had
thought it better to conceal this circumstance from them as long as I could.
The natives had gone off in the direction of the tents ; and as I felt doubt-
ful whether they might seize upon a favourable opportunity to surprise the
party there, and thus revenge their defeat, I was anxious to reach the en-
campment as soon as possible. We, therefore, bound up my wound as
well as we could, picked up the spear which I had drawn out from my hip,
and started homewards.

" We did not take with us any of the other spears or native weapons,
which were lying about in abundance; for I still wished to shew this people
that I was actuated by no ill will towards them. They did not, however,
deal so generously with us ; for Coles, unfortunately, forgot a note-book
which he was carrying for me, containing many observations of great value ;
and I sent back a party to look for it, but the natives had returned to the
place, and carried off all their own spears, and other weapons, and my note-
book likewise.

" The first part of our march homewards was managed tolerably well ;
we saw the tracks of the natives, as if they were still retiring in the direc-
tion of the tents ; and at one place, dose to a group of detached rocks,
were several tame native dogs, near which, I Imve no doubt, a party of
men or women were concealed, as these animals seldom wander &r from
their masters. We did not, however, see any natives, and continued our
route unmolested.

" My wound began, by degrees, to get very stiff and painfld, and I was,
moreover, excessively weak and fislint from loss of blood ; indeed, I grew so
dizzy that I could scarcely see, and neither of the others were capable of
leading the party hack to the tents ; yet I was afraid to halt and rest, for
I imagmed that if I allowed m^ wound to grow cold and benumbed I should
then be unable to move ; leaning, therefore, on Coles's arm, I walked on as
rapidly as I could, directing the men which way to go. Unfortunately,
however, we lost our track, and after walking for nearly two hours, 1 found
that we were far from the encampment, whilst my sight and strength were
momentarily failing. Under these circumstances, I told Coles to walk in a
direction whidi I gave him, and which led directly across the beaten track
of the party ; having reached which, he could easily make out the en-
campment, and, leaning on his arm more heavily than before, we again
moved on.

" Having reached the track of the party, and turned southward to follow
it, I still pushed on until we were within two miles of the tent, when, as
I tried to cross a stream, I strained ray wounded hip severely, just reached
the opposite shore, and fell utterly unable to rise again. Coles, with his
usual courage and devotion to me, volunteered to jo on alone to the party
and send assistance ; the other man was to remam with me, and keep a

Digitized by VjOOQ IC

44 Greifi Australia.

look-out for tbe nativeSi and had they again attacked us, I should still have
had strength enough to have shot two of them, and thus have sold my life
dearly. I desired Coles to say that a tent, stores, the surgeon, and two
men were to be sent to me, for that I was not well enough to be moved.

<< The water of the stream revived me considerably. Mv wound, how-
ever, was very painful, and the interim between Corporal Coles leaving me,
and assistance arriving from the tent, was spent m meditations, arising
naturally from my present circumstances. I sat upon the rocky ed^ of a
cool dear brook, supported by a small tree. The sun shone out brightly,
the dark forest was alive with birds and insects, — on such scenery I had
loved to meditate when a boy, but now how changed I was ; — wounded,
fatigued, and wandering in an unknown land ! In momentary expectation
of being attacked, my finger was on the tri^r, my gun ready to be raised,
my eyes and ears busily engaged in detecting the slightest sounds, that I
might defend a life which I at that moment believed was ebbing with my
blood away; the loveliness of nature was around me, the sun r^oidng in
his cloudless career, the birds were filling the woods with their songs, and
my friends fiir away and unapprehensive of my condition, — whilst I ^It that
I was dying there.' —Pp. 147—155.

Our extracts have been already so long that we can only find space
to say that the grand result of this expedition was the discovery of
the Glenelg River, which at the spot where Mr. Grey first saw it
was three or four miles across, and which flows through a country
admirably adapted both for commerce and agriculture.

The remainder of the first volume, and tne whole of the second,
(with the exception of an Appendix by Mr. Gray, of the British
Museum, on tne Natural History of Australia,) are filled with
" hair-breadth 'scapes " of a similar description, each one making the
reader shudder as ne peruses it, and filling him with more and more
admiration of Captain Grey. Into the details of these various expedi-
tions we cannot enter, and we would not spoil our readers^ pleasure
by letting them know beforehand all that they are likely to find in

Online LibraryWilliam ScottThe Christian remembrancer → online text (page 6 of 103)