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THE AUSTRALIAN SHEPHERD'S STORY.
[Spell and write] peculiarities, solitary, actually, piteous, surrounded, impossible,
continued, horizontal, persuade, inhabitants. • When we first came up into the bush, we were like thousands of others : we knew nothing whatever of the country, or of its peculiarities. We came in the summer, and saw that all was dry and burned up. We saw, occasionally, a little brook that we could stride over, winding down the valley between deep banks, or a solitary waterfall, here and there. Here we built on a slight elevation, and a hundred yards or more from the creek.
* Well, all went on very well during the summer, but one day in autumn there came a regular drenching rain. In the evening as I looked out, I could see the creek actually running bank-full, “ If there is much more of this,” I said, “ the creek will be over its banks before morning.” But little did I then know of the sudden rise of these streams after rain. There had very likely been much rain up amongst the hills where this creek took its rise, before it began to rain here.
Be that as it may, however, about midnight my wife awoke me, saying : “Micky, what makes the sheep bleat so ?”
'I had camped them, about two thousand in number, on that swell there in the bend of the creek, as a dry place from its elevation. I listened, and sure enough there was a piteous bleating amongst the sheep. I listened a moment longer, for I thought I heard a rushing sound as of a stream, and at once it occurred to me that the creek was out.
“Oh !" I exclaimed ; “it is water! There a flood !"
I sprang out of bed : splash I went up to the knees in cold water. “What on earth is that, Micky?” cried my
wife. “Water, wife ! water it is, up to the very bed-stock. God help us ! but we must look out pretty quickly."
“Oh my child !” screamed out my wife. “ Where is the cradle-where is it?”
“Here it is,” I said ; “floating out of the door.” For I had opened the door, and there was, in reality, the wooden cradle, rushing out on the top of the eddying stream. My wife had sprung out of bed, and had seized the cradle, with which she was hastening out of doors.
“Take care, wife,” I cried ; “what you are about. Give me the cradle, and follow me close round the housecorner to the back, for if you go a few steps only forward in the front, you may be carried away by the flood."
“But the other children, Micky, the other childrenthey will all be drowned !"
“I hope not,” I said. “I'll fetch them; but first let us see how we can get out in the dark, and how far it is to dry land.”
My wife came close behind me. It was pitch-dark, was still raining very hard, and we had to wade distance before we were out of the water. Molly," said I at length, reaching yon huge old tree. “Here do you stay with the child, while go and fetch out the others.” But my wife would not stay behind ; she thought some of the children would be drowned, so she set down the child in the cradle by the tree-root, and taking hold of my coat-laps, followed my steps through the roaring, rushing waters, towards the hut. We found the children fast ep—there were three of
6 Here we are,
them-though the beds were beginning to swim on the water in the room. I seized two, and my wife the third, and we made our way back again to the tree. “Molly," I exclaimed, “listen to those poor sheep! I'll lay any. thing they are surrounded on the mound by the flood, and it is so pitch-dark it is impossible to see them. What shall I do? Hearken," I added, we must have a fire.
We must have something to light it with, and what? All is wet here, and wet in the hut, too. What must we do?”
“My wife at once thought of an old box on a shelf, containing sundries of little value. That we fetched out; and splitting it up, soon got a good blazing fire. By its light, I could see a sight that made my heart ache. It
as the whole flock crowded together on the mound, and totally surrounded by the waters that were now rushing along all muddy, and dashed with floating heaps of foam, and bearing along whole loads of dead-timber.
66 What can be done?” I exclaimed in agony. “The whole flock will be drowned if the flood rises higher. Molly,” says I, “I must run for Gryce”-that' was another shepherd, living in another hut a few hundred yards further down.
Meantime, get what you can out of the hut; but take care to keep close round the housecorner, or you may be carried off.”
• Away I ran for Gryce. When I reached near to where his hut was, I could hear wild screams, and a mingled clamour of voices. The waters were all out round the hut; and it was only by shouting with all my might, that I could make them hear me, they were making such outcries themselves.
Gryce !” I shouted, “ Gryce! here, man, here ; the sheep are all drowning! Come, make haste." .
“ The sheep!” replied Gryce; “don't you hear that my family is drowning ?"
“Drowning! Where are they? Where is the hut, for I can't see it?":
“No, nor any one else, for the flood has swept it clean away. It is all gone to pieces, and is washed down the stream. Come on, and help me to save my family.”
'I pushed on boldly towards where I heard Gryce's voice; the other voices were now silent, except some low cries and whimperings, for they thought that help was coming “Where are you, Gryce ?” I continued to call, as I waded on till I was up to the middle; and he continued to repeat: “Here, here !"
What a sight it was, when I got up to him! The hut was clean swept away, and everything in it, and the wife and two children were somewhere-I could not see where - but it seemed over my head, now again crying : dear, Mr Micky, help us ! for mercy's sake, save us !”
“Where are you ?” I cried in wonder; “where are
“ There ! there !” said Gryce, pointing into a great gum-tree. And sure enough, there I saw several figures in white, clinging to a large horizontal branch.
How,” I exclaimed, “how did your wife and children get there, Gryce ?"
“Get there !” cried the poor man, half frantic; “ why, they got first upon the top of the hut, but they very soon felt it going over; and on it swam, till it dashed against this tree, and they luckily seized on that great branch, and so saved themselves.”
“Come down,” said I, “and we will carry you out to our fire.”
“But how ?” cried the poor things; “ how? It is too
66 Take us away
6. Take us
far to jump down ; and there is no other way, unless we had a rope or a ladder.”
“ Then stay there a bit,” I cried ; "you are safe. We will bring you a rope at all events. But first, Gryce, we must see what we can do for the sheep, or they will all be lost.”
Sheep!” cried Gryce. “ What care I for the sheep; and you see where my family is ?"
“Yes; but I see that they are safe for the present, and the sheep are not. Come along." But it was no easy matter to get Gryce away, or to persuade the inhabitants of the tree to let him go.
you !” they screamed. along with you! We won't be left.” “ With all my heart,” I said, if
you will only tell me how to come at you. Jump down, Mrs Gryce, and I'll catch you!"
• But Mrs Gryce only answered by a scream of horror, and said : “No, not for all the world ! I should certainly be drowned.” As it was in vain to get them away, I persuaded Gryce
I -if it was only for a moment—to come and see if we could not save some of our master's property. We waded away again towards the light of our fire. We found my wife and our two lads bravely fetching away everything they could out of our hut. The wife brought them out of the hut, and carried them as far as to where the water was shallow enough to allow the lads to move, and thus they carried the things out. Gryce and I waded onward towards the bleating flock. There was a hollow to pass between us and the mound, and the water there was already up to our chests.
“We must make haste, James Gryce," I said,