The tribe were assembled at the camp fire, engaged in one of their many rites to propitiate the evil spirits whom alone they worship. Beyond the glow, darkness complete and compelling hung like a pall. The stars were hid by a curtain of clouds.
“Come,” I whispered to Moira, and reckless of consequences, we fled into the pitch black of the scrub.
THE ONLY WHITE MAN IN NEW HOLLAND
After leaving the blacks’ camp I made my way through the forest, guided by Moira, who could see in the dark. I was fearful lest we might be pursued, in which case I resolved I would not be taken alive. Moira, however, did not believe that we would be followed. Her people, she told me, were afraid to enter the forest at night, when evil spirits were supposed to be abroad, and indeed her own terror was so great that I realized her devotion to me in having braved, for my sake, the superstition in which she had been reared.
Moira was right in thinking we would not be followed, for no attempt was made to follow us. But now a fresh anxiety arose. There were shapes among the trees which were visible to Moira, though I could not see them, which caused her such terror that I was obliged almost to carry her, and I sometimes thought by the chill of her body that she had died in my arms. With the dawn, however, the shapes disappeared, and Moira’s fears were dispelled.
Daylight found us several miles on our way to the coast, which we made, as I reckoned, about noon, to the north of where I had first landed. The cliffs here were high and rocky, the waves breaking at the foot in fountains of spray. The sky was dull and overcast, which betokened a storm. A number of white birds with yellow crests, such as I had seen on my first landing, flew inland, and several fur-coated animals, with heads resembling deer, and powerful tails, hopped across the stubble to the shelter of the trees. The prospect was a dreary one, and a feeling of melancholy oppressed me, which I found it hard to dispel.
Moira did her best to cheer me, but I could not rid myself of the dread of being the only white man upon this desolate shore. When we had walked for some distance we came to a sandy beach, where we found a cave in which to shelter from the storm which now burst upon us. For an hour or more the elements raged with a fury only to be equalled in the tropics. Lightning flashed and thunder rolled, whilst rain fell with the force of a deluge. Then, suddenly, the storm passed, and the sun shone with renewed splendour, decking the dripping foliage with myriads of raindrop gems.