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Bunyip Land: A Story of Adventure in New Guinea

George Manville Fenn

  Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

  Bunyip Land; a Story of Adventure in New Guinea,by George Manville Fenn.


  Joe Carstairs is a boy on a farm in Australia. His father is a keennaturalist who, some years before had set off for New Guinea in searchof specimens, and never been heard of again. Joe is old enough to mounta search expedition, and takes with him a local doctor and anaboriginal worker on his farm. They find themselves joined by astowaway, Jimmy, whose father is a squatter (farmer) nearby, togetherwith his dog, Gyp.

  This team sets off, arrive in New Guinea, hire some more porters, andtravel guided by some sixth sense straight to where Mr Carstairs hasbeen kept a prisoner, along with another Englishman, whose mind hasgone, under the stress of his imprisonment.

  There are the usual close shaves and tense moments, but finally theyachieve their end, and return home triumphantly.





  "Now, Master Joseph, do adone now, do. I'm sure your poor dear eyes'llgo afore you're forty, and think of that!"


  "What say, my dear?"

  "Don't bother."

  "You're always running your finger over that map thing, my dear. Ican't abear to see it."

  Nurse Brown looked over the top of her spectacles at me and shook herhead, while I bent lower over the map.

  Then the old lady sighed, and went on making cottage windows all over myworsted stockings, giving vent to comments all the time, for the oldlady had been servant to my grandmother, and had followed her youngmistress when she married, nursing me when I was born, and treating meas a baby ever since. In fact she had grown into an institution athome, moving when we moved, and doing pretty well as she liked in whatshe called "our house."


  "Bless the boy! don't bang the table like that," she cried. "How youmade me jump!"

  "It's of no use talking, nurse," I cried; "I mean to go."

  "Go!" she said. "Go where?"

  "Go and find my poor dear father," I cried. "Why, nurse, am I to sitdown quietly at home here, when perhaps my poor father is waiting for meto come to his help?"

  "Oh, hush! my dearie; don't talk like that I'm afraid he's dead andgone."

  "He isn't, nurse," I cried fiercely. "He's a prisoner somewhere amongthose New Guinea savages, and I mean to find him and bring him back."

  Nurse Brown thrust her needle into the big round ball of worsted, andheld it up as if for me to see. Then she took off her glasses with theleft hand in the stocking, and shaking her head she exclaimed:

  "Oh, you bad boy; wasn't it enough for your father to go mad after hisbotaniky, and want to go collecting furren buttercups and daisies, tobreak your mother's heart, that you must ketch his complaint and want togo too?"

  "My father isn't mad," I said.

  "Your father _was_ mad," retorted Nurse Brown, "and I was surprised athim. What did he ever get by going wandering about collecting his dryorchardses and rubbish, and sending of 'em to England?"

  "Fame," I cried, "and honour."

  "Fame and honour never bought potatoes," said nurse.

  "Why, four different plants were named after him."

  "Oh, stuff and rubbish, boy! What's the good of that when a man getslost and starves to death in the furren wilds!"

  "My father was too clever a man to get lost or to starve in the wilds,"I said proudly. "The savages have made him a prisoner, and I'm going tofind him and bring him back."

  "Ah! you've gone wandering about with that dirty black till you've quitegot into his ways."

  "Jimmy isn't dirty," I said; "and he can't help being black any morethan you can being white."

  "I wonder at a well-brought-up young gent like you bemeaning yourself toassociate with such a low creature, Master Joseph."

  "Jimmy's a native gentleman, nurse," I said.

  "Gentleman, indeed!" cried the old lady, "as goes about without a bit ofdecent clothes to his back."

  "So did Adam, nursey," I said laughing.

  "Master Joseph, I won't sit here and listen to you if you talk likethat," cried the old lady; "a-comparing that black savage to Adam! Youought to be ashamed of yourself. It all comes of living in thishorrible place. I wish we were back at Putney."

  "Hang Putney!" I cried. "Putney, indeed! where you couldn't go half ayard off a road without trespassing. Oh, nurse, you can't understandit," I cried enthusiastically; "if you were to get up in the dark onemorning and go with Jimmy--"

  "Me go with Jimmy!" cried the old lady with a snort.

  "And get right out towards the mountain and see the sunrise, and theparrots in flocks, and the fish glancing like arrows down the silverriver--"

  "There's just how your poor dear pa used to talk, and nearly broke yourpoor ma's heart."

  "No, he didn't; he was too fond of her," I said; "only he felt it hisduty to continue his researches, the same that brought him out here,and--oh, I shall find him and bring him back."

  "Don't, don't, don't! there's a good boy; don't talk to me like that.You're sixteen now, and you ought to know better."

  "I don't want to know any better than that, nurse. I know it's my dutyto go, and I shall go."

  "You'll kill your poor ma, sir."

  "No, I sha'n't," I said. "She won't like my going at first, because itwill seem lonely for her out here; but she'll be as pleased as can beafterwards. Look here: my mother--"

  "Say _ma_, Master Joe, dear. Doey, please; it's so much more genteel."

  "Stuff! it's Frenchy; mother's old English. Mother don't believefather's dead, does she?"

  "Well, no, my dear; she's as obstinate as you are about that."

  "And she's right. Why, he's only been away four years, and that isn'tso very long in a country where you have to cut every step of the way."

  "Cooey--cooey--woo--woo--woo--woo--why yup!"

  "Cooey--cooey!" I echoed back, and nurse held he hands to her ears.

  "Now don't you go to him, Master Joseph; now please don't," said the oldlady.

  "Mass Joe! hi Mass Joe! Jimmy fine wallaby. Tick fass in big hole bigtree."

  Just then my first-lieutenant and Nurse Brown's great object of dislike,Jimmy, thrust his shiny black face and curly head in at the door.

  "Go away, sir," cried nurse.

  "Heap fis--come kedge fis--million tousand all up a creek. Jimmy goway?"

  He stood grinning and nodding, with his hands in the pocket holes of hisonly garment, a pair of trousers with legs cut off to about mid-thigh.

  "If you don't take that nasty black fellow away, Master Joseph, I shallbe obliged to complain to your poor ma," said nurse.

  "Get out!" I said; "Jimmy won't hurt you; and though it don't show,he's as clean as a new pin."

  "He isn't clean; he can't be, dear. How can any one be clean who don'twear clothes, Master Joseph? and look at his toes."

  Nurse Brown always fell foul of Jimmy's toes. They fidgeted her, forthey were never still. In fact Jimmy's toes, which had never probed therecesses of a pair of boots, were more like fingers and thumbs, and hada way of twiddling about when he was supposed to be standing still--stand perfectly still he never did--and these toes belonged to feet thatin climbing he could use like hands. More than once I've seen him pickstones off the ground--just like a monkey, nurse said--or stand talkingto any one and keep his att
ention while he helped himself to somethinghe wanted with his feet.

  "There, be off Jimmy," I said, for I wanted to stop indoors.

  "Come kedge fis."

  "No, not to-day."


  Jimmy threw himself into an attitude, snatching a small hatchet from thewaistband of his trousers, and made believe to climb a tree, chop a holelarger, and draw out an animal, which he seemed to be swinging round byits tail.

  "No, not to-day, Jimmy," I cried.

  "Sleep, sleep," said Jimmy, imitating a kangaroo by giving a couple ofhops into the verandah, where he chose a sunny place, well haunted byflies, curled up, and went to sleep.

  "Good morning!" cried a hearty voice, and I ran out to welcome ourneighbour the doctor, whose horse's hoofs had not been heard, and whowas now fastening the rein to the hook in one of the verandah posts.

  "Well, Joe," he said as I shook hands and looked up admiringly in hisbold well-bearded face.

  "Well, doctor, I'm so glad you've come; walk in."

  "Ah! nurse," he cried; "how well you look!"

  "Yes, yes; but I am glad you're come," she said. "I want you to look atMaster Joseph."

  "I did look at him."

  "Isn't he feverish or something, sir? He's that restless as never was."

  "Sign he's growing," cried the doctor. "How's mamma?"

  "Oh, she's pretty well," I said. "Gone to lie down."

  "That's right," said the doctor. "I had to come and look at Bowman'sbroken arm, so I came on here to beg a bit of dinner."

  "I'm so glad!" I said: for Jimmy, the half-wild black, was my onlycompanion, there being no boys within miles of our run; "stop a week andhave some fishing."

  "And what's to become of my patients?"

  "You haven't got any," I said. "You told me so last time."

  "True, O King Joseph! I've come to the wrong place; you don't want manydoctors in Australia. Why, nurse, how this fellow grows!"

  "I wish he'd grow good," cried the old lady. "He's always doingsomething to worry away his poor ma's and my life."

  "Why, what's the matter now, nurse?"

  "Matter, sir! Why, he's took it into his head to go looking for hispoor dear dead-and-gone pa. Do, do please tell him he mustn't think ofsuch things."

  "Why, Joe!" cried the doctor, turning sharply round to me, and ceasingto beat his high boots with his long-thonged whip.

  "I don't care what anybody says," I cried, stamping my foot. "I've madeup my mind, and mean to go to New Guinea to find my father."

  "There, doctor, did you ever hear any one so wickedly obstinate before?"cried nurse. "Isn't it shocking? and his ma that delicate and worriedliving all alone, like, here out in these strange parts, and him asought to be a comfort to her doing nothing but hanker after running awayto find him as is dead and gone."

  "He's not dead, nurse; he's only gone," I cried; "and I mean to findhim, as sure as I live. There, that I will."

  "There, doctor, did you ever hear such a boy?" cried nurse.

  "Never," said the doctor. "Why, Joe, my boy," he cried as I stoodshrinking from him, ready to defend myself from his remonstrances, "yourideas do you credit. I didn't think you had it in you."

  "Then you don't think it is wrong of me, doctor?" I said, catching hishand.

  "No, my boy, I do not," he said gravely; "but it is a task for strongand earnest men."

  "But I am strong," I said; "and if I'm not a man I'm in real earnest."

  "I can see that, my lad," said the doctor, with his brown foreheadfilling with thoughtful wrinkles; "but have you counted the cost?"

  "Cost!" I said. "No. I should get a passage in a coaster and walk allthe rest of the way."

  "I mean cost of energy: the risks, the arduous labours?"

  "Oh, yes," I said; "and I sha'n't mind. Father would have done the sameif I was lost."

  "Of course he would, my lad; but would you go alone?"

  "Oh, no," I replied, "I should take a guide."

  "Ah, yes; a good guide and companion."

  "There, Master Joseph, you hear," said nurse. "Doctor Grant means thatsarcastical."

  "No, I do not, nurse," said the doctor quietly; "for I think it a verybrave and noble resolve on the part of our young friend."


  "It has troubled me this year past that no effort has been made to findthe professor, who, I have no doubt, is somewhere in the interior of theisland, and I have been for some time making plans to go after himmyself."

  Nurse Brown's jaw dropped, and she stared in speechless amazement.

  "Hurray, doctor!" I cried.

  "And I say hurray too, Joe," he cried. "I'll go with you, my lad, andwe'll bring him back, with God's help, safe and sound."

  The shout I gave woke Jimmy, who sprang to his feet, dragged a boomerangfrom his waistband, and dashed to the door to throw it at somebody, andthen stopped.

  "You'll break his mother's heart, doctor," sobbed nurse. "Oh! if shewas to hear what you've said!"

  "I did hear every word," said my mother, entering from the next room,and looking very white.

  "There, there," cried nurse, "you wicked boy, see what you've done."

  "Mother!" I cried, as I ran to her and caught her--poor, little, light,delicate thing that she was--in my arms.

  "My boy!" she whispered back, as she clung to me.

  "I must go. I will find him. I'm sure he is not dead."

  "And so am I," she cried, with her eyes lighting up and a couple of redspots appearing in her cheeks. "I could not feel as I do if he weredead."

  Here she broke down and began to sob, while I, with old nurse's eyesglaring at me, began to feel as if I had done some horribly wicked act,and that nothing was left for me to do but try to soothe her whose heartI seemed to have broken.

  "Oh, mother! dear mother," I whispered, with my lips close to her littlepink ear, "I don't want to give you pain, but I feel as if I must--Imust go."

  To my utter astonishment she laid her hands upon my temples, thrust mefrom her, and gazing passionately in my great sun-browned face she bentforward, kissed me, and said:

  "Yes, yes. You've grown a great fellow now. Go? Yes, you must go.God will help you, and bring you both safely back."

  "Aw--ugh! Aw--ugh! Aw--ugh!" came from the verandah, three hideousyells, indicative of the fact that Jimmy--the half-wild black who hadattached himself to me ever since the day I had met him spear-armed, andbearing that as his only garment over the shoulder, and I shared withhim the bread and mutton I had taken for my expedition--was in a stateof the utmost grief. In fact, he had thrown himself down on the sand,and was wallowing and twisting himself about, beating up the dust withhis boomerang, and generally exciting poor old nurse's disgust.

  "Mother!" I cried; and making an effort she stood up erect and proud.

  "Mr Grant," she exclaimed, "do you mean what you say?"

  "Most decidedly, my dear madam," said the doctor. "I should be unworthyof the professor's friendship, and the charge he gave me to watch overyou in his absence, if I did not go."

  "But your practice?"

  "What is that, trifling as it is, to going to the help of him who gaveme his when I came out to the colony a poor and friendless man?"

  "Thank you, doctor," she said, laying her hand in his.

  "And I go the more willingly," he said smiling, "because I know it willbe the best prescription for your case. It will bring you back yourhealth."

  "But, doctor--"

  "Don't say another word," he cried. "Why, my dear Mrs Carstairs, it isfive years since I have had anything even approaching a holiday. Thiswill be a splendid opportunity; and I can take care of Joe here, and hecan take care of me."

  "That I will--if I can," I cried.

  "I know you will, Joe," he said. "And we'll bring back the professorwith all his collection of new plants for that London firm, on conditionthat something fresh with a big red and yellow blossom is named afterme--lay th
e Scarlet Grantii, or the Yellow Unluckii in honour of mynon-success."

  "You're never going to let him start, Miss Eleanor?" cried nurse.

  "Would you have me stand between my son and his duty, nurse?" cried mymother, flushing.

  "Dearie me, no," sighed the old lady; "only it do seem such a wild-goosechase. There'll be no one to take care of us, and that dreadful black,Jimmy"--nurse always said his name with a sort of disrelish--"will behanging about here all the time."

  "Iss, dat's him, Jimmy, Jimmy, here Jimmy go. Hi--wup--wup--wup, Jimmygo too."

  "Nonsense, Jimmy!" I said; "I'm going to New Guinea to seek my father."

  "Iss. Hi--wup--wup--wup, Jimmy going to look for his fader."

  "Why, you said he was dead," I cried.

  "Iss, Jimmy fader dead, little pickaninny boy; Jimmy go look for him,find him dere."

  "Be quiet," I said, for the black was indulging in a kind of war-dance;"you don't understand. I'm going across the sea to find my father."

  "Dat him. Jimmy want go 'cross sea find him fader bad. Hi! want gothere long time."

  "Why, you never heard of the place before," I said.

  "No, never heard him fore; want to go long time. Jimmy go too."

  "Why, what for?" I said.

  "Hunt wallaby--kedge fis--kill black fellow--take care Mass Joe--find umfader. Hi--wup--wup--wup!"

  "He would be very useful to us, Joe," said the doctor.

  "And I should like to take him," I said eagerly.

  "Iss, Jimmy go," cried the black, who contrived, in spite of his badmanagement of our language, to understand nearly everything that wassaid, and who was keenly watching us all in turn.

  "He would be just the fellow to take," said the doctor.

  "Hi--wup--wup! Jimmy juss a fellow to take."

  "Then he shall go," I said; and the black bounded nearly to the ceiling,making nurse utter a shriek, whereupon he thrust his boomerang into hiswaistband, and dragged a waddy from the back, where it had hung downlike a stumpy tail, and showing his white teeth in a savage grin, hebegan to caper about as if preparing to attack the old lady, till Icaught him by the arm, and he crouched at my feet like a dog.

  "Come long," he said, pointing out at the sun, "walk five six hour--allblack dark; go sleep a morning."

  "All in good time, Jimmy," I said. "Go out and wait." The black ranout, and crouched down upon his heels in the verandah, evidently underthe impression that we were about to start at once; but Europeans boundon an expedition want something besides a waddy, boomerang, and spear;and with nurse shaking her head mournfully the while, my mother, thedoctor, and I held a council of war, which, after a time, wasinterrupted by a curious noise between a grunt and a groan, which provedto be from Jimmy's throat, for he was preparing himself for his journeyby having a nap.