The Lost Explorers_ A Story of the Trackless Desert
Obvious typographic errors have been corrected.
THE LOST EXPLORERS
"AND ALL THIS TIME THE HAPPY-GO-LUCKY SHADOW WAS
PLUGGINGALONG OVER THE THIRSTY DESERT SANDS"
THE LOST EXPLORERS
A STORY OF THE TRACKLESS DESERT
F.R.G.S., F.R.S.G.S., F.R.C.I.
"In Search of El Dorado"
"The Trail of the Pioneer"
"Pioneering in Klondike"
ILLUSTRATED BY ARTHUR H. BUCKLAND
BLACKIE AND SON LIMITED
LONDON GLASGOW DUBLIN BOMBAY
Copyrighted in the United States, America
by Blackie & Son, Limited
In this work I have endeavoured to portray a phase of life in a far-awayland, a land concerning which we have only too little knowledge at thepresent time, though it is one of our Empire's greatest colonies. I amaware that to make a book composed largely of realhappenings—especially when one writes for the youth of the nation—is asomewhat unusual thing to do. In The Lost Explorers I have given atale of gold-digging and of exploration—a tale, for the most part, ofevents that have actually happened. My characters are all drawn—howevercrudely—from life; my descriptions are those of one who has seen andfelt in a similar environment. My boys in the story were real boys, andthey dared and suffered and accomplished together. As for Mackay, he isstill a power in the land, ready and willing always, as he said to hisyoung companions, "to shed the light of his great knowledge abroad forthe benefit of mankind in general".
The last few chapters of the book are based on an explorer's naturaldeductions. We all, who have forced a painful path over CentralAustralia's arid sands, hope—ay, believe—in the existence of awonderful region in the vague mists of the Never Never Land. Perhapsthe[Pg 6] very strenuousness of the wish brings about the belief. Who cansay? My descriptions of the strange aborigines beyond the mysticmountains are not altogether fanciful. In my own wanderings I haveencountered more than one tribe whose mental development was far inadvance of that usually credited to the untutored savage of the greatIsland Continent. What I have written, I have written faithfully, and tothe best of my ability. If The Lost Explorers gives pleasure to myreaders, I shall indeed be more than content.
|I.||A Momentous Decision||11|
|IV.||The Treasure of the Mine||66|
|V.||The Rush at Golden Flat||93|
|VI.||The Shadow's Great Effort||112|
|IX.||Into the Unknown||192|
|X.||An Awkward Predicament||207|
|XI.||The Finding of Fortunate Spring||227|
|XII.||A Night Attack||244|
|XIII.||The Mystic Mountain||267|
|XIV.||The Struggle by the Mountain||285|
|XV.||The Secret of the Mountain||304|
|XVI.||The Prisoners by the Mount||342|
|"And all this Time the Happy-go-lucky Shadow was |
plugging along over the Thirsty Desert Sands"
|"Look what's coming, Boys"||48|
|"Jack felt a Ball graze his Temple; then his own |
|"He unfolded a Long Track Chart which he carried in |
|"It looked as if Nothing could stand against that |
|"Emu Bill gently pillowed his Dying Comrade's Head |
upon his Knee"
|"Mackay rushed to meet the New-comer"||341|
|"Mackay, clutching fast to the Armoury of the |
Expedition,was hauled to the Surface"
THE LOST EXPLORERS
CHAPTER I A Momentous Decision
"I'm full up of this ceaseless grind, Jack," suddenly broke out RobertWentworth, a tall, slenderly built young man of about eighteen years ofage, throwing down the paper he had been reading with unnecessaryenergy.
Jack Armstrong aroused himself from a reverie, and looked up with anamused gleam in his grey eyes. He was a medium-sized, squarely builtyouth about two years the junior of the first speaker.
"I believe I have heard you say that before, Bob," he said; "but all thesame you echo my sentiments exactly. Still, what can we do? Ourmunificent salaries do little more than pay for our board in thesedigs"—he waved his hand comprehensively around the little room whichthey shared together—"and consequently we haven't saved enough to buyour steam yacht yet!" He laughed with affected cheerfulness.
Wentworth's strong, studious-looking face clouded momentarily.
"That's all very well, Jack," he answered severely; "but you know thatthere is little chance of our present[Pg 12] positions improving to anyextent. Engineering is good enough for the few; but I can plainly seethat life is too short for us to make a fortune at the game. The factis," he added, in a more moderate tone, "this country is too crowded forus, and too old. Everything is standardized so accurately that we arelittle more than machines; and we must exist on our paltry pittances,seeing nothing but grime and smoke and rain and fogs, until we becomeold and brain-sodden, with never a hope beyond the morrow. No, I amtired of it—absolutely full up of it." He picked up the discarded paperonce more, and directed Armstrong's attention to a paragraph under theheading of General News, and this was what the younger man read—
"Mr. James Mackay, who was the only survivor of the ill-fated BentleyExploring Expedition in Central Australia, arrived in the city lastnight, and is staying at the Central Hotel. It will be remembered thatMr. Bentley's party was massacred by the blacks some months ago, theonly man escaping being Mr. Mackay, chief bushman to the expedition,who, fortunately, was not with the others when they were attacked. It isgenerally supposed that the unknown tracks in Western and CentralAustralia hold vast treasure of gold and gems in their keeping, and theyprovide the incentive which sends the explorer across these tracklesswastes."
"So that's the country you would like to go to, Bob," he saidquizzically, "where explorers get killed by the natives?"
"Not exactly," replied Wentworth; "but it attracts me all the same. Myonly uncle went out to Australia about ten years ago, and we never heardof him again; I[Pg 13] suppose that has given me an interest in the country,for I remember him well as one of the finest men one could wish to meet.Anyhow, there can be no gain without risk, Jack, and I have oftenthought of trying my luck at the goldfields in Australia, though I don'tsuppose there can be much danger from the natives where they are."
"But there is time enough yet," ventured Armstrong. "We are not so veryold——"
"All the more reason," returned his companion, quickly, "that we shoulddecide on our future while our brains are fresh. If we continue on inthe same groove here, we'll get so accustomed to it that we won't wantto leave it. No, Jack, I am in earnest. I have decided to get out ofit."
"You can't get out of it without me, Bob," said Armstrong, quietly. "Youknow I go with you. We haven't been chums these two years for nothing.And," he added proudly, "I am as strong as most men, and able to takecare of myself in any part of the world."
Wentworth laughed grimly. "We'll face it together, Jack," said he.
"And we'll carve our way in it successfully, too," cried the boy,enthusiastically, now completely won over. "Hurrah for Australia, theland of gold!"
They arose and clasped hands, Wentworth's face expressing determinedresolve, Armstrong's shining with the light of eagerness and hope.
Robert Wentworth and Jack Armstrong were chums in the truest sense ofthe word. They had been attracted to each other from their first day ofmeeting, when Armstrong, whose father had just died leaving him anorphan, homeless and well-nigh penniless, arrived at the Clyde[Pg 14]Engineering Works, to take up the post secured for him by a thoughtfulfriend who understood the boy's independent spirit. Wentworth had bythis time served a year at his profession, but had made few friends,being too reserved and distant by nature to please the otherapprentices; indeed, these unthinking, though well-meaning, individualshad grown inclined to misconstrue his quiet demeanour, until they got arude awakening. A few of the rowdier spirits had surrounded Armstrongduring the luncheon hour of his first day among them, and wereendeavouring to get as much fun as they could at the new-comer'sexpense; and he, poor fellow, fresh from his sad bereavement, was in nomood to appreciate their witticisms.
"Can't you let the youngster alone?" said Wentworth, approaching thegroup.
They turned in amazement at his interruption; and one of them, athick-set, pugnacious lad, inquired contemptuously, if irrelevantly—
"Well, and what could you do, anyhow, Mr. Philosopher? I didn't thinkyou would care to risk a fight."
"Didn't you?" came the cool response, as the young engineer calmlydoffed his coat. "You will think differently in a few minutes."
And when he had polished off his antagonist in a scientific manner thatdelighted the hearts of the beholders, even the defeated champion couldnot forbear his tribute.
"You are too much for me, Wentworth," he said feelingly, when he hadrecovered himself. "But I think it was mighty mean of you deceiving usso long."
After that Wentworth and Armstrong were always together; a bond ofsympathy had sprung up between them, and before long they were sharingthe same room,[Pg 15] and were known as David and Jonathan by theirengineering associates. Wentworth's history was none of the brightest.His father had been a sea captain, and though ten years had elapsedsince he and his ship had gone to the bottom in