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Cloth so smooth it barely caressed the skin. Ambergris, pulled from the bellies of murdered whales, and fragrant incense. Magic items with strange and new properties.
Elaborately crafted magical weaponry and armor dyed bright colors and adorned with ostrich feathers. Endless shelves of rare magical reagents and jewels. Slaves, driven to open air slave markets, by the thousands. Fragrant spices, including the peppercorn, heaped in enormous baskets in huge open air stalls. An unimaginable bounty from the nexus of trade. The Halfling Thief, with extensive help from Tongues and a bit of prodding with Detect Thoughts, asked about the origins of peppercorns.
Did they come from this land? Is this the terminus of all our gold, our sweat, our tears, our hard work? We bring great bushels of grain and these strange animals to the market. We supply incense and skins. We send wax and wood. The peppercorns come from the far east across the ocean on the other side of the monsoon winds. They come here on the bottoms of boats.
See, the Westerner Agents will give us all their gold for the peppercorns we import at great cost. Farther than the horizon, the merchants said. Farther than the sun and moon. But you can follow them, if you wish, on our boats held together with coconut twine and adorned with great lanteen sails. Board one of our great trading dhows and follow the rising sun.
There, you will find the peppercorns where they grow wild and abundant on enormous vines. That is where your golden money flows, Halfling. Your source of infatuation, madness, and black gold lies over the sea. A sailor on the open ocean has only one true companion: Wizards help to keep the skies clear. Clerics of the storm and sea provide grace to the voyages. Past the shore pirates are not a threat but the sea itself kills.
But even with prayers and spells, many voyages are lost with all hands. A trip across the sea was much more dangerous than a dungeon crawl through ancient ruins looking for lost secrets. But on the other side of the ocean, what secrets we will find!
The Halfling Thief turned to consult the Wizard about the voyage but the Wizard was gone. Dazzled, the Wizard no longer had to crawl through filthy dungeons and dangerous ruins to learn new secrets. He had a lifetime of research here where spells came to him from all points of the world.
He simply waited for it to be unloaded off ships from distant lands. I asked the Halfling Thief if she was prepared for this journey. Our Fighter, Ranger, Cleric and Wizard were gone. We were all that was left.
The voyage was long and dangerous. Who knew what we would find on the other side? This one follows peppercorns over sea instead of over land simply because the sea route has fewer major stops. The influential Ajuran Sultanate of Eastern Africa is a huge, often unmined source for adventure and exploration. An easy way to get players out of their Western European adventures and into somewhere like that is to simply… follow the peppercorn.
And they are deadly—to anyone who tries to invade their territory. Use poison darts and mantraps. Anyway, we have no choice but to advance. Food— Almost all aliens had an innate curiosity about off-world food, especially if they lived in a rugged country on a near-starvation diet. And of all Terran foods there was one in particular which the Combatants always carried with them, one grown only on their native world, which most extraterrestrial life relished.
Intersystem Traders had been trying to export it for years. But the Terrans had ruled it a military supply and so controlled its production—keeping it for the troops and a few of their favored alien friends. As a bargaining point it had been too precious to destroy back at the last camp.
Their ration of it must be lashed on one of the carts he had helped to drag. He should ask the Medico for a supply. Ornaments—the veterans had stripped their wealth from the dress uniforms. Each man would carry his own in a waist treasure belt.
Kana must beg for the showiest pieces. Well, no time to lose. Neither Mic nor Rey owned anything worthwhile. But there was the whole camp to canvass. Kana dropped his blanket wearily and started off on his task, his first quarry being the Medico. Crawfur heard his plea and then detached one of the small boxes from the nearest cart.
When Kana left the group he had the packet of sugar , the sunstone, a chain of Terran gold about a foot long, a ring made in the form of a Zacathan water snake, and a tiny orb of crystal in which swam a weird replica of a Poltorian lobster fish.
Therefore Kinnison donned his light armor and was soon busily harvesting broad-leaf, which, he had been informed, was the richest source of thionite. He had been working for only a few minutes when a flat came crawling up to him, and, after ascertaining that his armor was not good to eat, drew off and observed him intently.
Here was another opportunity for practice and in a flash the Lensman availed himself of it. Having practiced for hours upon the minds of various Earthly animals, he entered this mind easily enough, finding that the trenco was considerably more intelligent than a dog.
So much so, in fact, that the race had already developed a fairly comprehensive language. And since he was ideally adapted to his idly raging Trenconian environment, he actually accomplished more than all the rest of the force combined. Since food was the only logical tender, Kinnison brought out from his speedster a small can of salmon, a package of cheese, a bar of chocolate, a few lumps of sugar, and a potato, offering them to the Trenconian in order.
The salmon and cheese were both highly acceptable fare. The morsel of chocolate was a delightfully surprising delicacy. He also ate the potato, of course—any Trenconian animal will, at any time, eat practically anything—but it was merely food, nothing to rave about. Knowing now what to do, Kinnison led his assistant out into the howling, shrieking gale and released him from control, throwing a lump of sugar up-wind as he did so. The trenco seized it in the air, ate it, and went into a very hysteria of joy.
This was an entirely new idea to the native, but after Kinnison had taken hold of his mind and had shown him how to do consciously that which he had been doing unconsciously for an hour, he worked willingly enough. In fact, before it started to rain, thereby putting an end to the labor of the day, there were a dozen of them toiling at the harvest and the crop was coming in as fast as the entire crew of Rigellians could process it.
And even after the spaceport was sealed they crowded up, paying no attention to the rain, bringing in their small loads of leaves and plaintively asking admittance. Finally, however, he succeeded in getting the idea across; and the last disconsolate turtle-man swam reluctantly away.
But sure enough, next morning, even before the mud had dried, the same twelve were back on the job, and the two Lensmen wondered simultaneously—how could those trencos have found the space-port? They have a sense of perception a psionic ESP sense that is not fooled by the fabric of space being warped like an amusement park mirror , Tregonsee, about the same thing, I judge, as yours—perhaps even more so.
I can converse with them a little, of course, but they have never before shown any willingness to cooperate with us. I was forgetting that many races do not use it at all. Starch is so much tastier and so much better adapted to our body chemistry that sugar is used only as a chemical.
We can, however, obtain it easily enough. But there is something else—you can tell these trencos what to do and make them really understand you. Also, I can let you have enough sugar to carry on with until you can get in a supply of your own. In the few minutes during which the Lensman had been discussing their potential allies, the mud had dried and the amazing coverage of vegetation was springing visibly into being.
So incredibly rapid was its growth that in less than an hour some species were large enough to be gathered. The leaves were lush and rank in color or a vivid crimsonish purple. Kinnison did so, and the trencos worked for Tregonsee as industriously as they had for Kinnison—and ate his sugar as rapturously.
He then paid off his now enthusiastic helpers, with instructions to return when the sun was directly overhead, for more work and more sugar. And this time they did not complain, nor did they loiter around or bring in unwanted vegetation. They were learning fast. Averted, in its strict form. Played straight in a loose form, in which certain worlds are known for certain of their mostly unique products, for example:.
For the Worlds as a whole, that would be Conclave Imperial Core , where the Conclave of Galactic Polities sits and attempts to bring some order to the chaos, with all the associated politicking, corruption, intrigue, and scandal you might expect. Qechra Imperial Core , a corporate conlegial colony world completely overtaken by autoindustrialism, with a manufacturing capacity of holy crap how much!?
Yes, in the sense that there are more than a few worlds that take pride in exporting their local specialist products, from specialist flowers to unique local booze. No, in the sense that just about every world, or at least system, can manage to feed itself locally, and there are no worlds absolutely dependent on their imports of agricultural products, or mighty grain-ships ploughing the spacelanes.
The closest you get to this are the systems in any given constellation which house the long-range gates to other constellations, and thus are about as close as anything gets to being bottlenecks. Also, to a lesser extent, the six systems out in the fringes where the IN keeps the mobile naval bases for its sextant fleets. Most notably, Seranth Imperial Core is the largest and most prosperous tradeworld the Empire, or even the Worlds, have to offer. Nepscia Galith Waste is infamous throughout the Worlds for its red market.
Litash Dark Sea was even more infamous for both that and acting as a major pirate center, before it got strangelet-bombed out of existence. Alice looked over the waist-high safety wall, then backed away from the edge. But a bird — hmmmm.
Think I've got a sampler head left. If it can eject the card. Willing to stake half your bandwidth with me if I can liberate it?
He hated to think how much it must have cost to haul those milligrams of entangled quantum dots across the endless light years between here and Turku by slower-than-light starwisp. Once used they were gone for good, coherence destroyed by the process that allowed them to teleport the state of a single bit between points in causally connected space-time. STL shipping prices started at a million dollars per kilogram-parsec; it was many orders of magnitude more expensive than FTL, and literally took decades or centuries of advanced planning to set up.
But if it could get them a secure, instantaneous link out into the interstellar backbone nets The reason trade exists is that different groups are efficient at doing different things. For example, let us say there are two countries, A and B. A takes 15 man-hours to make a widget, but only 5 to make a thingummy. B takes 5 to make a widget and 15 to make a thingummy.
Suppose each country produces as many thingummies as widgets, and each has man-hours to allocate. If A and B now open trade, each may concentrate on producing the item which it produces more efficiently; A will produce thingummies and B widgets. Since a thingummy costs A 5 man-hours, it can produce 20; similarly, B produces 20 widgets. They trade 10 thingummies for 10 widgets, since each wants as many thingummies as widgets. The final result is that each country has 10 thingummies and 10 widgets and each is twice as well off as before.
Indeed, trade is even in the best interest of both when one party has an efficiency advantage in both products, because trade will allow him to shift production into areas where his efficiency is greater. One problem not taken into account in the above analysis is the cost of transportation and other barrier costs, such as import and export duties which raise the cost of doing business with another group.
But all we collected in years of fringe-running was a reputation. The cargoes we carried never made a fortune, but they created rumours. The stories we could tell about ourselves were impressive, and contained enough truth for later voyagers to confirm that we might actually have done what we said.
Lapthorn liked people to talk about us. After the fringe, I tried to come back into the really big markets, in search of a killing. Guns, cosmetics, jewellery, and drugs were all hot markets, with constant demand and irregular supply. Anything in which fashion rules instead of utility is a good market for the trader — and that includes weaponry as well as decoration and edification. I reckoned that we had the initiative to dig out the best, and I was right, but times had moved on while we were out on the rim with the dropouts, and we failed at the other end — the outlets.
We couldn't get a fair price, with the middle-men moving into the star-worlds in droves, quoting the Laws of New Rome, and the ordinances of wherever they happened be, and never moving their hands from their gun butts. It was enough to sour anyone against life in the inner circle. I began to sympathise with Lapthorn's dislike of the human way of life. But it was useless.
The little people seemed to take an excessive delight in cheating us and leaning on us because we were known. The other free traders talked about us.
We were the best, by their lights. But we weren't system-beaters. We weren't equipped for dealing with that kind of problem, we had no alternative but to return to small trading, alien to alien. Lapthorn wasn't sorry, of course, and my sorrow was more for the evil ways of the world in general than for our own small part in the human condition. My associates have noticed—how shall I put it? Place of origin, dates, labels, ability to travel in free fall, what wines go with what foods.
I find it annoying and expensive that some of my ships must move under constant acceleration merely to protect a wine bottle from its own sediments. Why can they not simply be centrifuged on arrival? We preempt her for you, they lose thrustdown. They lose thrustdown, they lose the batch. They lose the batch, all the belters out of Ipsy Station want your heads to decorate their candles.
How badly do you want to harsh the local color? The main mechanism for trade is what is called "Arbitrage" , the practice of taking advantage of a price difference between two or more markets. In this context it boils down to "buy cheap and sell dear" , that is, purchase goods that are cheap at Planet A, then transport and sell them at Planet B where the goods are expensive. The money you make selling at Planet B, minus how much you spent purchasing at Planet A yields your gross profit. Subtract from that your transport expenses and other expenses and you'll find your net profit if any.
There is also the problem of price convergence. The profit is from the price difference between the two markets. The difference tends to shrink over time, which eliminates the profit.
Sometimes the market at your destination becomes saturated as the manufacturers of Beanie Babies found out , sometimes the supply at the origin dries up like petroleum. A trader would like a nice simple two-planet set up: But all too often one of the planets does not cooperate, such as when planet Bravo desired Alfan Aphrodisiac Apples, but the vegetarian Alfans look upon Bravo's major export with horror. The key to solving the problem is Triangular trade. The trader has to find a third planet, one that wants to import Bravo's export, and which exports something that Alfa wants.
The main historical example often cited is despicable, since one of the "trade items" is slaves. This vile period in history is euphemistically called the " African Diaspora ". Triangular trade or triangle trade is a historical term indicating trade among three ports or regions. Triangular trade usually evolves when a region has export commodities that are not required in the region from which its major imports come.
Triangular trade thus provides a method for rectifying trade imbalances between the above regions. The particular routes were historically also shaped by the powerful influence of winds and currents during the age of sail. For example, from the main trading nations of Western Europe it was much easier to sail westwards after first going south of 30 N latitude and reaching the so-called " trade winds "; thus arriving in the Caribbean rather than going straight west to the North American mainland.
Returning from North America, it is easiest to follow the Gulf Stream in a northeasterly direction using the westerlies. A similar triangle to this, called the volta do mar was already being used by the Portuguese, before Columbus' voyage, to sail to the Canary Islands and the Azores.
Columbus simply expanded the triangle outwards, and his route became the main way for Europeans to reach, and return from, the Americas. This gives the sky merchant a grasp of economics rarely achieved by bankers or professors.
He is engaged in barter and no nonsense. He pays taxes he can't evade and doesn't care whether they are called "excise" or "king's pence" or "squeeze" or straight-out bribes. It is the other kid's bat and ball and backyard, so you play by his rules — nothing to get in a sweat about By the Law of Supply and Demand a thing has value from where it is as much as from what it is — and that's what a merchant does; he moves things from where they are cheap to where they are worth more.
A smelly nuisance in a stable is valuable fertilizer if you move it to the south forty. Pebbles on one planet can be precious gems on another. The art in selecting cargo lies in knowing where things will be worth more, and the merchant who can guess right can reap the wealth of Midas in one trip. Or guess wrong and go broke The trade routes for a two-way swap show minimum profit; they fill up too quickly. But a triangular trade — or higher numbers — can show high profits.
Landfall had something — call it cheese — which was a luxury on Blessed — while Blessed produced — call it chalk — much in demand on Valhalla Work this in the right direction and get rich; work it backwards and lose your shirt. I walked on the other side of Uncle Q. He looked down at me curiously from time to time, a kind of bemused half-smile stamped on his face. Bulk fertilizer to Barsi, frozen food from Barsi to here. The Dwarves, who have strained relations to the High Elves but not with the people flying castles, exchange the holds of Elven textiles for Dwarven magical weapons and armor.
The Murder Hobos at home pay premium price in silver for Dwarven magical weapons and armor which they use to murder various indigenous demi-humans for more silver. Around and around the Flying Castle goes, taking a markup at each step, and selling to those who want things and buying oversupply. This is not limited to Elven textiles and Dwarven magical weapons — Flying Castles trade in rare and precious magic items and spells, spices, other textiles, rare food stuffs, inventions, technology, finished goods, and beings from far away continents.
Problems crop up in the otherwise tame and civilized triangle trade when two nations both want a monopoly in one rare and valuable good. For example, both Flying Castles wish to sell a high performing rare Elven mithril armor crafted only by one tribe of Elves living on a distant and nicely tropical island. Controlling that good — and the island — and monopolizing it allows one nation to reap the profits while the other nation to pay sky high and price-controlled prices. The potential profits are huge.
In go the swords and mercenaries. One might think the Elves on the island making armor would have something to say about all this. But to have a say, they need to get a Flying Castle. Right now what they have are coconuts and really nice hammocks. The Elves are out of luck. Here the nations do what nations do. They do enter into far off hostilities. They ship fireball-throwing cannons instead of cotton thread.
And they get into a hot shooting war over islands and Elves. The document serves essentially as a guarantee to the seller that it will be paid by the issuer of the letter of credit regardless of whether the buyer ultimately fails to pay. In this way, the risk that the buyer will fail to pay is transferred from the seller to the letter of credit's issuer. The letter of credit also insures that all the agreed upon standards and quality of goods are met by the supplier. Letters of credit are used primarily in international trade for large transactions between a supplier in one country and a customer in another.
The parties to a letter of credit are the supplier, usually called the beneficiary, the issuing bank, of whom the buyer is a client, and sometimes an advising bank, of whom the beneficiary is a client. Almost all letters of credit are irrevocable, i. In executing a transaction, letters of credit incorporate functions common to giros and traveler's cheques. It serves several purposes in international trade, both as transit information and title to the goods. A legal document between the shipper of a particular good and the carrier detailing the type, quantity and destination of the good being carried.
The bill of lading also serves as a receipt of shipment when the good is delivered to the predetermined destination. This document must accompany the shipped goods, no matter the form of transportation, and must be signed by an authorized representative from the carrier, shipper and receiver. The roads were bad and in poor repair. Ocean routes were treacherous. Brigands and pirates lurked in parts of the trade route far from any help.
Distant nations treated merchants with disdain at best and as rich people to rob at worst. And every single landowner along the trade route felt that they had a right to extort whatever tax they could get out of the trade caravan.
To fix these problems the medieval merchants found effective solutions, the most effective being the concept of a Merchant Guild. These were association of of traders. Guilds could invest the member's fees in such things as improving road conditions and suppressing pirates and brigands.
Lighthouses were erected at dangerous points, to prevent merchant shipwrecks. The guild would negotiate treaties of commerce with foreign nations, protecting the liberty and security of guild members sometimes the guild could even get an agreement for foreign troops to travel with a trade caravan.
And while a single trader could not do much about landowner's imposed taxes, a huge guild could negotiate from a position of power. Negotiations with a landowner would result in a Merchant Guild charter, where guild members would pay a fixed sum or an annual payment for right of passage. You can see how these concepts can be re-used in an interstellar trading future, the situations are much the same. The flip-side of course is that the guild members have to pay their dues to the guild, and obey all the guild regulations.
Members cannot engage in any type of trade forbidden by the Guild charter, fines were imposed on members who broke the rules, and guild members had to aid and support fellow guild members in times of trouble. If a guild member was killed, the guild would care for any orphans thus tragically created. Guilds also supplied health insurance, funeral expenses, and doweries for girls who could not afford them.
Naturally the guilds became quite powerful. Independent traders would find it difficult to compete. In a village, local craftsmen also found it difficult to compete with the Merchant guilds, which lead to the rise of Craft guilds in self-defense.
Eventually the merchant guild members delegated all the actual traveling and trading jobs in their profession to employees, and instead sat comfortably at home while their factors did all the hard work. In Andre Norton's novels the "Free Traders" are independent interstellar merchants owning little more than their starship. Often they are victimized by the megacorporation trading companies, who are too big for an individual free trader to fight. In the novel Moon Of Three Rings apparently the free traders have formed a Merchant guild called the "Legion", which collectively is powerful enough to defend the members from the megacorps.
A trading post or "factory" is where a merchant or the merchant's factor carries on the merchant's business on a foreign planet. The trading post exchanges imported trade items for valuable local goods. In some cases a trading post and a couple of warehouses can grow into an actual colony. The trading post merchant or factor is responsible for the local goods logistics proper storage and shipping , assesing and packaging for spacecraft transport.
The factor is the representative for the merchant in all matters, reporting everything to the merchant headquarters. The longer the communication time delay between trading post and headquarters, the more trustworthy the factor has to be. Factors may work with native contract suppliers, called a comprador. Also interesting is how the rise of the 17th century Dutch seaborne empire was due in part to their superior utilization of wind energy in the form of their breakthrough cargo transport, the Fluyt ship.
Unlike other cargo ships of the time, the Fluyt was not designed to be easily converted into a warship. It was pure merchant vessel. This means it was cheaper to build, carried twice the cargo, and needed a smaller crew. It could also operate in much shallower water than a conventional ship, allowing it to get cargo in and out of ports other ships could not reach. The only trade route Fluyts could not be used on were long haul voyages to the East Indies and the New World, because Fluyts were unarmed.
If you are a science fiction writer or game creator, these ideas should start the wheels turning in your mind. It may be instructive to read a couple of history textbooks on the topic of Merchant Guilds, and look over the Nicholas van Rijn stories of Poul Anderson. While a trading post can be on a remote planet at the frontier of a long space route, a Transport Nexus will probably be more centrally located.
A trading post planet might be the only source of some valuable luxury good exotic gem stones, unique liquor, native artworks so it can be located on Planet Sticks in the Boondocks Cluster.
By way of contrast, transport nexuses are centers of commerce and will be "strategically" located. Its path roughly described a bent and swollen, meandering, broken ellipse along the edge of the rift and then out and across it and back again.
A closer examination might reveal that the trail of the convoy was actually a series of lesser arcs tracing through the spiral arm, then turning reluctantly out into the darkness of The Deep Rift, with one scheduled stopover at the forlorn worlds of Marathon, Ghastly, and George, then across The Great Leap and into the lips of the ghostly streamer known as The Purse on the opposite side, then around The Outbeyond, down toward The Silver Horn, and finally turning home again, leaping across at The Narrows and then down through The Valley of Death to The Heart of Darkness, then a sudden dogleg up to a place of desperate joy known as Last Chance, before finally sliding into The Long Ride Home and a golden world called Glory.
The Silk Road Convoy was the oldest of all the caravans on the route. It was not the largest fleet on the route, but it was definitely the richest and most prestigious. The convoy followed the path of an ancient exploration vessel.
Colonies had followed the vessel. Traders had followed the colonies. The trade had evolved over the centuries into a trade route called The Silk Road. Eventually, due to the twists and vagaries of luck and history and fate, it became one of the most profitable routes known in the Alliance.
At any given moment there might be as many as thirty different caravans scattered along its great curving length—but only the original Silk Road Convoy was entitled to bear the name of the trade route. This was because the partnership which had grown up with the original Silk Road Convoy also owned or controlled most of the directorships of the Silk Road Authority. The Silk Road Authority was larger than most governments. It held three seats in the Alliance and controlled almost all of the trade, both legal and otherwise, within the ellipse of its influence.
The Authority had major offices on every planet within thirty light-years of the primary route. Every merchant ship in the arm paid a license fee for the privilege of traveling the route and booking passengers and cargo through the offices of the Authority.
Some ships, like the notorious freebooter Eye of Argon, preferred to travel alone. Others paid for the privilege of traveling with a caravan. The caravans were near-permanent institutions. Imagine a chain of vessels nearly three light-days long, islands of light strung through the darkness.
The caravans provided service and safety—and safety had lately become a primary consideration for star travelers. Because of its name, because of its age and its prestige, the Silk Road Convoy was considered the safest of all. Too often in history a mercenary force has disappeared a moment before the battle; switched sides for a well-timed bribe; or even conquered its employer and brought about the very disasters it was hired to prevent.
Mercenaries, for their part, face the chances common to every soldier of being killed by the enemy. In addition, however, they must reckon with the possibility of being bilked of their pay or massacred to avoid its payment; of being used as cannon fodder by an employer whose distaste for "money-grubbing aliens" may exceed the enemy's; or of being abandoned far from home when defeat or political change erases their employer or his good will.
A solution to both sets of special problems was made possible by the complexity of galactic commerce. The recorded beginnings came early in the twenty-seventh century when several planets caught up in the Confederation Wars used the Terran firm of Felchow und Sohn as an escrow agent for their mercenaries' pay.
Felchow was a commercial banking house which had retained its preeminence even after Terran industry had been in some measure supplanted by that of newer worlds. Neither Felchow nor Terra herself had any personal stake in the chaotic rise and fall of the Barnard Confederation; thus the house was the perfect neutral to hold the pay of the condottieri being hired by all parties. Payment was scrupulously made to mercenaries who performed according to their contracts.
This included the survivors of the Dalhousie debacle who were able to buy passage off that ravaged world, despite the fact that less than ten percent of the populace which had hired them was still alive. Conversely, the pay of Wrangel's Legion, which had refused to assault the Confederation drop zone on Montauk, was forfeited to the Montauk government.
Felchow und Sohn had performed to the satisfaction of all honest parties when first used as an intermediary. Over the next three decades the house was similarly involved in other conflicts, a passive escrow agent and paymaster. It was only after the Ariete Incident of that the concept coalesced into the one stable feature of a galaxy at war.
The Ariete, a division recruited mostly from among the militias of the Aldoni System, was hired by the rebels on Paley. Their pay was banked with Felchow, since the rebels very reasonably doubted that anyone would take on the well-trained troops of the Republic of Paley if they had already been handed the carrot.
But the Ariete fought very well indeed, losing an estimated thirty percent of its effectives before surrendering in the final collapse of the rebellion. The combat losses have to be estimated because the Republican forces, in defiance of the "Laws of War" and their own promises before the surrender, butchered all their fifteen or so thousand mercenary prisoners.
Felchow und Sohn, seeing an excuse for an action which would raise it to incredible power, reduced Paley to Stone Age savagery. An industrialized world as Paley was is an interlocking whole. Off-planet trade may amount to no more than five percent of its GDP; but when that trade is suddenly cut off, the remainder of the economy resembles a car lacking two pistons.
It may make whirring sounds for a time, but it isn't going anywhere. Huge as Felchow was, a single banking house could not have cut Paley off from the rest of the galaxy.
When Felchow, however, offered other commercial banks membership in a cartel and a share of the lucrative escrow business, the others joined gladly and without exception. No one would underwrite cargoes to or from Paley; and Paley, already wracked by a war and its aftermath, shuddered down into the slag heap of history. Lucrative was indeed a mild word for the mercenary business. The escrowed money itself could be put to work, and the escrowing bank was an obvious agent for the other commercial transactions needed to run a war.
Mercenaries replaced equipment, recruited men, and shipped themselves by the thousands across the galaxy. With the banks' new power came a new organization. The expanded escrow operations were made the responsibility of a Bonding Authority, still based in Bremen but managed independently of the cartel itself. The Authority's fees were high. In return, its Contracts Department was expert in preventing expensive misunderstandings from arising, and its investigative staff could neither be bribed nor deluded by a violator.
For a ship moving at near light-speed, time dilation requires that in terms of your subjective, shipboard life span, the voyage won't be much more time-consuming than, say, one of Francis Drake's pirate raids. This brings us to problem number three: Assuming there are adequate ships and places to go, and the crew's lifespans aren't a problem, why would fleets of expensive vessels be launched to go there? That's another way of asking the Big Question, and we'll spend the rest of this essay trying to answer it.
But before continuing, let's be sure we're all together. I suspect that the Big Question may have taken some of you by surprise. After all, there are abundant examples of terrestrial, trans-oceanic trade, which at first glance seem to provide models for interstellar commerce. For example, the Japanese import raw materials to their resource-poor islands, transform the materials into automobiles, send the finished goods across the Pacific, and sell them in the United States—and they make a lot of money doing so.
Couldn't the same kind of thing work among the stars? The times and distances and therefore the costs involved are not analogous—not even close. The distance to the Sun's nearest stellar neighbor is approximately five billion times the distance from Japan to California.
Therefore, the model of transoceanic trade is virtually useless. It's often been assumed that there would be interstellar freighters and ore ships based on the trans-oceanic model, but is this assumption realistic? Consider the importation of raw materials to the Earth. Sure, resources might vanish from the Earth or become unimaginably expensive, although this is doubtful. Still, we won't be using starships to import raw materials.
We can always mine the asteroids, or Jupiter's moons. They're millions of times closer, and therefore far cheaper. So unless there are minerals out there we've never dreamed of, and that we can't synthesize closer to home, we can forget about interstellar ore boats.
It's not raw materials that we'll lack in the solar system, it's cheap labor. But the cost of labor on Earth would have to be incredibly high to justify an interstellar flow of manufactured goods. It's conceivable, of course. We can easily imagine a future political setup the post office scenario in which all nations on Earth are so bogged down with artificially high labor costs and archaic work rules that the "cheapest" Earth-made automobiles would cost, relatively, what a Rolls Royce costs now.
But ask yourself—would even that kind of economic insanity justify an interstellar transportation system, with a or year Earth viewpoint transit time? The unions would take care if they were clever that terrestrial prices never got so high that the interstellar freetraders would have a competitive advantage. Even if Earth was devastated by war a common science fiction scenario , we could rebuild our factories faster than we could import finished goods from the stars. So we need to assume a really amazing manufacturing advantage that would make goods from the stars so valuable as to be worth the cost—and years of transit time—of shipping them to Earth.
Some goods are unique—like the products of newly created technologies. Ah, but would new colonies develop such technologies? And even if they did, there's always the risk of industrial espionage; and anyway, by the time the products got to their distant market Earth , would they still be state of the art? A dozen years of transport time can dull a product's competitive advantage. Besides, absent a new terrestrial dark age another common SF scenario , interstellar shipments are going to be pretty much a one-way street.
Earth will have technologies the new worlds need, at least in the early stages of our interstellar expansion. They the colonies will need goods from Earth, but not vice versa. In marketing terms, they're going to be like the natives of Bangladesh—we know they're out there, and they want what we produce, but what's in it for us? The problem for an interstellar merchant is finding something Earth can buy from the new worlds.
Well, what can the new worlds export? It'll be a long time until the new worlds are out-inventing Earth. All their technology will be old stuff, made with machines they took with them.
But even old technology can be unique if it involves secret processes. Sure, but does Coke's secret formula justify the cost of interstellar freight? What else have they got? Persian rugs are regionally specific, labor-intensive products.
Havana cigars and French wines require special climatic conditions. Extraterrestrial analogs of such items could be traded. But it would take a lot of future Picassos, cases of Coca-Cola, bottles of Chateau Betelgeuse, Oriental carpets, and interstellar stogies to support a galactic merchant fleet. There's the possibility of Dune-like spice, or Star Trek's dilithium crystals, or some other wonder goods—but we can't count on their existence.
For the moment, let's ignore this problem, and arbitrarily assume that something, say automobiles, will be worth shipping from one planetary system to another. This the Toyota scenario is our biggest, wildest assumption so far, but let's play with it for a while, and see how it goes. If you were a star-faring merchant considering the purchase of a shipload of cars from, say, Epsilon Eridani, which is almost 11 light-years away from Earth, how would you know what market conditions were like on Earth?
It'll take you 11 years actually By the time you got that reply, the information would be 11 years out of date. Perhaps Marco Polo could operate like that, but things were somewhat different then. Instead, imagine that Earth is always broadcasting its needs, so you touch down on a manufacturing planet circling Epsilon Eridani which we'll call "EE" and you get the latest info 11 years old from Earth—"Hot market here for cars from EE.
Now you start thinking like a merchant. What kind of mark-up could you expect that would justify buying a starship-load of cars and tying up your capital or paying interest on a loan for the dozen years you would need to get those cars to your destination?
I said a dozen years, because your ship will certainly be slower than the communications system. Bear in mind that you'd be making an investment in goods that might very well be obsolete when they finally arrived.
And if Earth is dominated by strong labor unions as they would have to be to make scarce, extraterrestrial labor a bargain they'll have a full range of protectionist legislation to keep out cheap imports. And what kind of import duties would you have to pay in order to clear your cargo through Earth customs?
The only way your venture could work is if you could know, a dozen years in advance of your arrival on Earth, what your sales price and other costs would be. It's possible for that broadcast of Earth's needs to be some kind of continuing offer, containing price and terms, and by acting on it you could be assured of selling your cargo at those prices—even though your cargo would be a dozen years old when your ship arrives on Earth.
That would require an automobile dealer on Earth to commit himself, years in advance, to pay a healthy price for cargo he hoped would be arriving—some day. Maybe his broadcast offer would say, "Irving's Interstellar Imports needs cars, as of the year Will pay 30 Heinleins each, plus all import taxes, if they get here by the year that's 11 years for Irving's offer to get to EE, and 13 more for the goods to be produced and sent from EE to Earth.
This offer guaranteed by irrevocable letter of credit from Bank of Terra. The "offer" would have to be officially registered somewhere at EE, and if you accepted it, that too would be registered, so the next interstellar entrepreneur arriving at EE wouldn't duplicate the order.
Irving only wants cars, not million. A message would then be sent to Earth saying that the goods were on the way. Would that do it? Perhaps, if there were strict laws that made that kind of deal a binding contract, if the Bank of Terra were still in business when you arrived, if there were no currency depreciation, and perhaps a thousand other things.
Maybe a local branch of the Bank of Terra on EE would use that broadcast offer as collateral, and make you a loan equal to the cost of your cargo and the cost of the loan, plus some profit. Then you pay for the cars, leave the profit on deposit with interest compounding and you head for Earth to deliver your cargo to Irving. The bank should do quite well, too.
The loan is secure it's backed by the Bank of Terra on Earth, and your ship is insured by Interstellar Lloyds. Your profit deposit is going to sit on EE, waiting about 24 years until you return. With a loan portfolio and a deposit base like that, interstellar banking should be a super-profitable industry.
When you arrive on Earth with your cargo in good condition, the Bank of Terra on Earth broadcasts to its branch on EE that everything's fine, and you can withdraw your funds. We've just described how a "letter of credit" works today in international trade. And observe, future bankers, that it can take decades for funds to clear.
That's one hell of a profitable float. Faster-than-light communications would probably be a banking disaster! Now you dash back to EE, most likely with an outward bound cargo arranged in the same manner.
That sounds like it could be workable, but does this Toyota scenario make any sense? Would an automobile dealer on Earth or any other interstellar destination offer to pay for a shipload of cars or whatever which wouldn't arrive for two dozen years? It's unlikely, but not impossible. So our terrestrial auto dealer only has to put up a small deposit now with the Bank of Terra to have the payment guaranteed in 24 years.
And, if the deposits come from his customers, the auto dealer isn't even investing his own funds. The only risks are structural ones—the bank may fail, the laws may change, the currency may depreciate, there may be war, plague, and so on. But these are risks that could be faced, and gladly—if the lure of huge profits were there. It makes even more sense if the customer doesn't have to wait 24 years, which is possible. His car is waiting for him, all paid for.
Of course it's an old-style car, but that's OK. He's technologically like Rip Van Winkle. Unlike Rip, he's still young, but he's hopelessly out of date, and not trained to use new vehicles. We're assuming rapid technological progress, remember? Interstellar travelers need old-style goods and probably live in behind-the-times communities with their contemporaries so the years of transit time your cargo requires turns out to be a desirable feature.
We're getting desperate now. We've got ships, we've got places to go. Time and distance are no problem. Compound interest makes long voyages worthwhile, and we've worked out a system of interstellar finance. We can even imagine some kind of commerce going on.
But how can we get interstellar colonies organized and self-sufficient? Where will the funds come from? The Big Question looms as large as ever. Can it be done?
Remember the tremendous profits to be made from the banking system, if only we could think of a way to get it started. Surely, with wealth like that waiting to be made, someone will think of a way. Our venturers might not have to wait decades for a return on their investment. Remember time dilation—a round trip to EE takes about 24 years, Earth time, but only about 3 years, ship's time.
Investors could get a much quicker payoff subjectively if they go along for the ride. Not that they'd have any desire to become settlers. All they want is to stay alive long enough to reap the rewards of their enterprise. A rich man could put part of his portfolio at interest on Earth, invest the rest in an exploration company, and then climb aboard ship.
After 24 years have passed on Earth, he returns only 3 years older, finds a potful of money waiting for him in the bank his left-behind deposit has multiplied five or ten times, depending on interest rates and he also owns the beginning of a thriving business on EE.
After another trip or two, he's incredibly rich, still relatively young, and now his investment on EE should be starting to pay off. This is the scenario of star-traveling investors, who become centuries old by Earth's reckoning, with fortunes and maybe families established on several worlds. It's quite possible that something like this will happen. In fact, this scenario is so tempting that it may be the answer to the Big Question! In the May issue of Analog , in an article titled " The Economics of Interstellar Commerce ," I explained that even if there were no technological barriers to star travel, a species nevertheless needs economic incentives to build ships and go voyaging to other stars.
The investment required for star travel is huge; the payoff is centuries or at best, decades away. Why would any species bother with such a costly activity, except perhaps for the extravagance of a few exploratory ships? The only motivation I could think of to justify the multi-generational expense of establishing extra-solar colonies would be the combined benefits to be derived from time dilation and compound interest.
Greatly simplified, my idea was this: What will ultimately lure investors' money into building starships won't be the stars, it'll be superfast compound interest relativistically speaking. Your Earth-bound bank account, piling up interest over the decades, would make you rich when you returned, still young, after a long interstellar voyage.
This is relativity's famous "twin paradox," applied to you and your bank account. I predicted that it would probably be star-traveling and thus long-lived bankers who found it profitable to invest in starting mankind's interstellar expansion. Only after the passage of centuries might other activities justify the continuing expense of maintaining fleets of starships. And if I'm right about this, then we may seem to be alone for a very understandable reason—no other species has seeking motivation.
SETI is cheap; all it really requires is off-the-shelf radio technology. Yet in the absence of a profit motive, we can't even keep SETI afloat. You can imagine, therefore, how impossible it would be to raise funds for a fleet of non-profit starships—even if they weren't all that difficult to build. I don't want to minimize the technological end of things, but interstellar travel really boils down to this: Assuming a species' engineers can do the job, economics is the whole ball of wax.
Could economics be the key missing factor in the Drake equation, as well as an explanation for the Great Silence? Drake himself suspects something like this.
Could this explanation apply to every intelligent species in the galaxy? What does it take to develop our particular brand of economic incentives? It requires that a species generate several intellectual concepts, and that they take each of these concepts seriously.
At minimum, they need: Observe that none of these requirements is an engineering development. None is a tangible technological achievement. Each is invisible, intangible, and abstract. Therefore, it seems probable that our from being universal; it could actually be unique to us, and incomprehensibly "alien" to other species in our galaxy. We have no difficulty assuming that many intelligent aliens will develop technology, because technology depends on observing and rationally responding to the tangible, objective world.
Any reasonably bright, land-dwelling, tool-wielding species can eventually do that although in retrospect, it certainly took us long enough. But what is the likelihood of another species' hitting upon and adopting every single one of the abstract economic ideas listed above?
Most of the human cultures in Earth's past and even today would fail such a test. A hive-like species, or a species that lives in communes, or that is always dominated by tyrants, or which consists of solitary individuals, may be scientifically brilliant and extraordinarily curious, but they will probably never develop the essential concepts of banking and interest and commercial finance that make interstellar travel a profitable, affordable activity.
To such aliens, our "mysterious" banks, our profit-seeking corporations, our compound-interest calculations so vital to time-dilated star travelers , and certainly our stock exchanges, might be viewed as exotic manifestations of a bewildering alien religion.
Even after studying us, they may utterly fail to grasp our motivation or would they call it obsession? The economic explanation tells us why, with the whole shining Universe beckoning to them, no alien species has ever been sufficiently motivated to build and launch ships to the stars.
They're isolated, not by necessity, but by their own lack of imagination. They're not even sending out messages; nor are they listening for ours. The Great Silence, therefore, is the silence of poverty. The galaxy is stagnant, with each alien species tragically isolated from the others. Each is a potential supplier of products and information, each is a potential buyer as well, but there is no interstellar intercourse.
That's because we haven't arrived on the interstellar scene. When we do, we can be the merchant princes of the galaxy. Who cares if the aliens never understand that our traders, engaged in a ten-year subjective voyage, are primarily motivated by a century of compound interest piling up at home? As long as we're willing to build and fly the ships—and reap the profits—let the aliens think we're crazy! We can do for the stay-at-home aliens what was done for us by the great railroad and canal builders, the merchant sea captains, the leaders of caravans.
This is not merely the business opportunity of a lifetime, it's the biggest opportunity of all time! The Great Silence is our clue that the galaxy needs us—it needs us very much. There's a lesson in all of this for those who like to dream up exotic, Utopian visions of mankind's future. There are those who long for the day when we shall "progress" beyond the need for private property.
They imagine that when we achieve that glorious un-propertied state. They never say precisely what's going to happen. It's supposed to be obvious, and perhaps it is to them, but it certainly isn't obvious to me. Presumably they imagine that when we finally achieve that "lofty" level of existence, we'll automatically start building starships—somehow.
But it doesn't stand up to rational scrutiny. Your savings account and mutual fund shares and insurance policies aren't keeping mankind from the stars.
When the Utopian day of socio-economic "liberation" comes, we'll have a society modeled after such "noble" people as the North American Indians—people who, to their everlasting misfortune, had not developed our economic incentives, or even the concept of land ownership—people who therefore causal linkage implied here numbered among their greatest accomplishments such technological wonders as I can hear the knees jerking out there, so let me hasten to add that I'm criticizing an economic system, not a race.
Those "thinkers" who imagine that we shall become an "advanced" star traveling species when we have developed "beyond" such "primitive" concepts as ownership of private property are dreaming of a future that can never be. You can have a society without property, or you can have the stars. You cannot have both. So there it is—the likeliest reason why we seem to be alone—we're the only capitalists in the cosmos. And if that's really true, then even though the Universe is seething with intelligent life and probably has been for hundreds of millions or possibly billions of years, we have absolutely nothing to fear.
Ladies and Gentlemen of Earth, I bring you tidings of great joy: The stars belong to us! In the field of stability, perhaps one of the most useful ideas is the concept of feedback. There were many other interesting circumstances connected with the surrounding country, some of which have been already mentioned.
Smith this day complained of weakness, not sufficiently however in the least to alarm me. He had hitherto been nearly always in the rear of the party without lagging, but I thought two of the men in a much weaker state than he was. We moved off this morning on a course of degrees. The first mile of our journey was over low scrubby ironstone hills. We then came down upon rich flats through which the main branch of the Hutt ran; and followed the course of this branch for about two miles.
It was not running but there were many pools with water in its bed: As I saw that the ground in front of us was very steep and abrupt, so that the weak and weary would have found it a difficult task to master such an ascent, I turned off on a course of degrees, ascending a sandy tableland covered with scrub.
When we had walked three miles in this direction the table-hill of Captain King bore east by south distant five miles. We now proceeded parallel to the sea, which was distant one mile through an indifferent country. This course continued for about five miles, and on the ranges to the eastward the country still appeared to be grassy and good.
Although we had walked very slowly many of the party were completely exhausted, and one or two of the discontented ones pretended to be dreadfully in want of water, notwithstanding they carried canteens and had only walked eight miles since leaving the bank of a river; I was therefore obliged to halt, and could not get them to move for three hours.
I am sorry to say that some who should have known much better endeavoured to instil into the minds of the men that it was preferable only to walk a few miles a day and not to waste their strength by long marches; utterly forgetting that most of the party had now only seven or eight pounds of fermented flour left, and that if they did not make play whilst they had strength their eventually reaching Perth was quite hopeless. This however was a very popular doctrine for thoughtless and weary men, who were overloaded and yet from a feeling of avarice would not abandon any portion of what they were carrying.
The majority of the party not only adopted these views in theory but doggedly carried them into practice; and from this moment I abandoned all hope of getting the whole party into the settled districts in safety. Smith, with his usual spirit, was for pushing on, although his strength was inadequate to the task. I laid under the shade of a bush lost in gloomy reveries and temporary unpopularity; Kaiber by my side lulled me with native songs composed for the occasion, and in prospective I saw all the dread sufferings which were to befall the doomed men who sat around me, confident of their success under the new plan; but like all prophets I was without honour amongst my own acquaintance; and after considering the matter under every point of view I thought it better for the moment to succumb to the general feeling, yet to lose no opportunity on every subsequent occasion of endeavouring to rouse the party into a degree of energy suited to our desperate circumstances.
At the end of the three hours I again begged several of the party, who appeared to be in an exhausted state, to abandon a portion of their useless loads; but they were quite sure that by making short marches, not exhausting their strength, and now and then halting for a day or two to refresh, they could carry them into Perth, and therefore refused to part with them.
Smith and myself found that stopping in this way and getting cold rendered our limbs so stiff and painful when we walked on again that we could scarcely move; and I suspect that such was the case with the other men, for when we started again I could hardly get them along.
One man of the name of Stiles, who was a stout supporter of the new theory, made us stop for him nearly every five minutes. After walking one mile we fortunately came to a very deep valley, having such steep limestone cliffs on each side that it assumed quite the character of a ravine: We however only found water in pools; the course of the stream was very tortuous and its mouth was almost blocked up by sandhills.
The valley itself was both picturesque and fertile, and the appearance of the country to the east and north-east was highly promising. The stream I called the Bowes. This spot was a favourite halting-place of the natives; and from the number of huts and other indications which we saw the district must be very densely populated.
The huts were of the same superior construction as those which we had seen near the Hutt, and the traces were very recent, but the natives themselves were either at a distance or kept carefully out of our way. The valley that we were now in, as well as the other limestone valleys in this province, partook exactly of the character of those in the carboniferous limestone districts of England inasmuch as they were deep gorges, or ravines, now traversed by watercourses or streams apparently much too insignificant to have grooved them out.
Our finding water here was fortunate for I now showed the men that, had they walked one mile farther instead of halting in the manner they had done, they would have had abundance of it, and would have been, at this moment, at least, five miles nearer home. I also directed Mr. Walker to examine Stiles and to state whether he was in good health or not. He did so and reported him quite well.
I therefore when we started again gave Stiles warning that I should not halt every minute for him but would leave him behind, at the same time ordering him to walk in front of the party, next after me. I continued a course of degrees up a steep limestone range, behind which apparently ran a branch of the watercourse we had just passed: Stiles now delayed us so much that some of his comrades spoke to him very warmly on the subject, whilst others still held to the opinion that walking a few miles a day and sometimes halting a day or two to refresh was the true mode of proceeding.
We only made two miles this evening and I threw myself on the ground so worn and harassed that I could not sleep. Before the sun had appeared above the horizon I managed to get the party fairly started, and we followed a course of degrees over elevated sandy downs which rested on a limestone formation.
The first four miles of our journey was not very encouraging; we could only see as far to the eastward as the flat-topped range; and although the slopes of these hills looked very fertile I had no means of judging how far back this good country extended; we had however been creeping gradually up an ascent, and when we gained the summit of this I turned to look to the northward after the straggling party, who were slowly mounting the hill, some of them staggering along under loads so heavy that I should have hated the tyranny of any man who could have compelled them to carry such a weight; but as it was I could only grieve to see men, from the hope of gain, rushing so inevitably on their fate.
Having gazed till weary at this painful picture of the weakness of human nature, I turned to the north-eastward, and there burst upon my sight a most enchanting view.
In the far east, that is, some twenty or five-and-twenty miles away, stretched a lofty chain of mountains, flat-topped and so regular in their outline that they appeared rather the work of art than of nature. Between this range and the nearest one lay a large rich valley vying with the most fertile I have ever seen in an extra-tropical country.
In front of us lay another valley which drained a portion of the large one, and in both rose gently swelling hills and picturesque peaks, wooded in the most romantic manner. Whilst I stood and looked on this scene, my woes were forgotten.
Such moments as these repay an explorer for much toil and trouble. The distant range I at once named the Victoria in honour of Her Majesty; and being now certain that the district we were in was one of the most fertile in Australia I named it the Province of Victoria. There is no other part of extra-tropical Australia which can boast of the same number of streams in an equal extent of coast frontage, or which has such elevated land so near the sea; and I have seen no other which has so large an extent of good country.
It is however bounded both to the north and south by comparatively-speaking unproductive districts; but what the character of the country to the north-east and south-east may be still remains to be ascertained. Another mile on a course of degrees brought us to the valley in our front; it was of the same rich and romantic character as that which I have just described, being in depth about two hundred feet, down limestone rocks, in places assuming the character of cliffs.
In its bottom was a watercourse containing water in pools only; but it must be borne in mind that it was now the very end of the dry season. The party all came up, and we laid ourselves down under the grateful shade of the mimosas.
Those who chose took their fill of water. I had made a rule never to taste it except to wash out my mouth from sunrise until we halted for the night; for I found that drinking water promoted profuse perspiration and more ardent thirst, and I preferred practising a little self-denial to enduring the greater pangs arising from indulgence.
Whilst I stretched my weary length along under the pleasant shade I saw in fancy busy crowds throng the scenes I was then amongst. I pictured to myself the bleating sheep and lowing herds wandering over these fertile hills; and I chose the very spot on which my house should stand, surrounded with as fine an amphitheatre of verdant land as the eye of man has ever gazed on.
The view was backed by the Victoria Range, whilst seaward you looked out through a romantic glen upon the great Indian Ocean. I knew that within four or five years civilization would have followed my tracks, and that rude nature and the savage would no longer reign supreme over so fine a territory. Smith entered eagerly into my thoughts and views: The stream we were on I named the Buller; we rested some time by it and when we moved on some of the advocates of the eight or ten mile a day system very unwillingly followed the party.
We fell in with a native path which wound up through a thick scrub in pleasing sinuosities, and emerged upon a tableland similar to the one we had traversed this morning.
I now followed a course of degrees, and after walking three miles more we arrived at the edge of a valley of the same character as that wherein the Buller flowed, and through it we had another view of the fertile country to the eastward: Walker now came up with the remainder of the party and reported that Stiles was missing.
As he could have no difficulty in finding us I merely took the precaution to make the men sit in such positions that he could distinguish us from the summit of the opposite cliffs when he arrived there, and we patiently awaited that moment. Time however wore on, and some of the men finding a species of geranium with a root not unlike a very small and tough parsnip, we prepared and ate several messes of this plant.
At length, no signs of Stiles having been seen, I sent Mr. Walker, Corporal Auger, and Kaiber to the top of the cliffs we had descended to try if they could discern anything of him or his tracks. During their absence I expressed, in the hearing of some of the men, my anxiety lest he should have lingered behind and have fallen in with the natives; upon which they smiled and said that "Tom Stiles was a man who did not care about the natives; and that only that morning he had said he didn't mind for all the natives in the island, d them;" and that they thought he had stopped behind on purpose.
The absence of Mr. Walker and his party continued much longer than I expected, and just at the moment that I had become rather alarmed about it Coles reported to me that he saw natives on the opposite cliff, jumping about and running up and down brandishing their spears in the manner they do before and after a fight.
Coles was at this time posted as sentry on a terrace just above where we were, and the ascent to which was very difficult. I got up on this as fast as I could; it was only two or three yards broad and ran apparently along the whole length of the valley. The natives used it as a path, and a very steep hill rose behind it. I could not however make out the natives, and as the opposite cliffs were a long way off I thought that Coles might have been mistaken. When I told him this he merely said "Look there, then, Sir," and pointed to the top of Mount Fairfax, distant about yards due north of us, and sure enough there were a party of natives, well armed and going through a variety of ceremonies which the experience of centuries had proved to be highly efficacious in getting rid of evil spirits.
In the present instance however their wonted efficacy failed, but the natives appeared every moment to be getting more vehement in their gestures. Our situation by no means pleased me: Stiles and a separate party of our own men had mysteriously disappeared in the direction where Coles had first seen the natives, by whom we were in a manner surrounded, and that in an abominable position, for they could steal amongst the underwood close above us in our rear, and annoy us with missiles of all sorts; whilst from the extent and thickness of the scrub it was impossible to occupy it effectually against treacherous or rather, bold and skilful enemies.
On the other hand I could not quit my present position and occupy a more favourable one, for, in the event of Mr. Walker and Corporal Auger being pressed by the natives and retreating on us, it was our duty to be at that spot where they would calculate on finding us and an effectual assistance.
I made therefore the best disposition of my little force I could, and, occupying the centre of the party, I had the satisfaction of seeing our wild friends on Mount Fairfax, blowing strongly at us and capering more furiously than ever when they beheld our unaccountable manoeuvres. It was fortunate that poor Kaiber was absent, for so fearful an exhibition of sorcery would have altogether upset his nerves; but the British soldiers and sailors I had with me remained surprisingly calm; whilst the natives, having exhibited their antics for a few minutes more, suddenly withdrew in a hurried manner.
I therefore made up my mind for a surprise, and we anxiously waited to see from what quarter the attack would come. The cause of their disappearance was however soon explained. Walker, Corporal Auger, and Kaiber came winding down the hills under Mount Fairfax, and gave the following account of their proceedings: On ascending the cliffs opposite to us they had found Stiles's tracks, and had followed them until they reached the sea beach; on passing the stream on their way there they found a place where he had halted and made up all his flour into dampers; but on coming out on the shore they saw a large party of natives seated on the sandhills in front, whilst others were fishing in the sea at this point; and the tracks of Stiles turned off into the interior: Walker had been unable to follow his tracks any further and had therefore thought it most prudent to return to the main party.
From the circumstances of Stiles having thrown away part of his clothes, and having made such a large quantity of dough to bake into dampers at the first convenient opportunity, together with various expressions he had dropped in the presence of the men, there could be no doubt but that he had purposely quitted the party; yet to abandon him to his fate amongst natives, who were by no means friendly in their gestures and appearance, required a degree of resolution I was unprepared at that moment to exercise.
To leave him without a search was to sacrifice one life, to allow one man to perish, whilst occupying one or two days in looking for him would merely increase the temporary sufferings of the rest; whilst the loss of time would probably occasion no other bad result than a little more personal privation; and this, in order to try to save the life of a fellow-creature, I conceived it to be my own duty and that of the rest of the party to undergo.
Influenced by these reasons I desired all hands to prepare to start in search of Stiles. Strange however to say, my resolution was scarcely made known ere much grumbling arose; and this chiefly amongst those men who had lately been loudest in their praises of the system of only marching a few miles a day and occasionally halting for a day or two where we could get native roots to eat, in fact, amongst those whose foolish ideas had led Stiles to desert the party.
We however moved on in the direction of the spot where Kaiber had lost the tracks, and on our way over the high ground we met a native with his spear and a handful of fish; he was lost in thought and we were close to him before he saw us: As he evidently did not wish to communicate with us I directed the men not to take the least notice of him, and thus we passed one another.
He must have been a very brave fellow to act so coolly as he did when an array so strange to him met his eye.
The natives now mustered a very large force and occupied the high hills almost cliffs which lay a few hundred yards to our left, and, as they had such an advantageous position and could at any moment surprise us amongst the low sandhills where we were searching for Stiles's footsteps, our situation was one of great danger. At length, finding it impossible to keep the men steady, I moved them up to the higher ground, where we could have met the natives upon a footing of equality.
They appeared, although very numerous, to be now by no means hostile, merely standing on a high hill, watching us and calling out "Yoongar kaw," or "Oh, people! We started very early this morning and Kaiber exerted himself to the utmost to find Stiles's traces. At the end of three miles, on a course of degrees, we descended from the elevated scrubby plains we had been moving along to the lowlands, and on reaching this came upon the bed of a small watercourse.
I here halted the party; and as it was uncertain when we might again fall in with water I commenced a search for it with Kaiber, but after travelling rapidly over a good deal of ground without seeing either water or any traces of Stiles we rejoined the party very much fatigued.
For the next two and a half miles we wound along low, grassy, swampy plains, thinly wooded with clumps of Acacias, and then entered upon low scrubby plains bounding the sea-shore. I here caught sight of Stiles just ahead of us and coming in from the eastward: Four miles further over similar plains in a south by east direction brought us to a river, about five-and-twenty yards wide, which I named the Greenough; and travelling up it a short distance we found a spot where we could cross by stepping from rock to rock.
Its waters were quite salt. I continued our route for about three miles, when I found it was impossible to induce some of the men to walk any further; they laid sullenly down and were so fully convinced that I was pursuing a wrong system in marching so far in a day, and never halting for two or three days to refresh, as they wished, that I could do nothing with them, and was therefore forced to sit down too.
Corporal Auger soon afterwards found water near us, and I moved the party down to it. Finding water in some degree revived their spirits and I contrived to get them to proceed seven miles more before nightfall, the way being over sandy open plains very favourable for walking.
We passed a large assemblage of native huts of the same permanent character as those I have before mentioned: We halted for the night in the dry bed of a watercourse, abounding in grass, so that we again enjoyed the luxury of a soft bed. At first I thought that we were near natives from hearing a plaintive cry like that of a child, but Kaiber assured me that it was the cry of the young of the wild turkey.
In the course of this day we travelled across the heads of two bays, which were indistinctly visible through the woods. The first three miles of our route this day lay over sandy scrubby plains; we saw however a good country to the eastward. I found that a man of the name of Charley Woods was much knocked up; he was a supporter of the eight or nine miles a day system, and had a very heavy load with no portion of which could I induce him to part; he however insisted on sitting down every half mile and detaining the party, and as I found that they got more worn out and weaker, and the impression in favour of long rests and short marches became much stronger, I thought it more prudent to acquiesce for the present.
We now reached a very thick belt of trees, pushing through which was a task of great difficulty, but at length we emerged upon some clear hills overlooking a very extensive and fertile valley, from which arose so dense a fog that portions of it appeared to be a large lake. Into this valley we descended, and the remainder of the day until near noon was spent by me in endeavouring to get the men to move. We this morning for the first time met with Zamia trees, and about 12 P. Water was found at a great depth, but so shallow that we could not dip it up.
Some of the men saw four native boys playing in the grassy plains near us; directly however the little fellows perceived us, they scampered off at their utmost speed, and no doubt ever since that period they have been firm believers in the existence of ghosts.
The men now began to complain much of the want of water, and I for some time followed the traces of these native boys, who had come from the southward and eastward, in the hope that their tracks would lead us to it, but the grumbling and discontent of some of the men was so great that I found it almost impossible to induce them to move.
My object was to get them to walk to a high peaked hill distant about five miles from us in a due south-east direction, and under which I felt certain, from its height, that we should find water, but I was obliged at last to give up this idea: Charles Woods would not stir at all, and several of the men followed his example; they laid down on the ground and no inducement could prevail on them either to move or to abandon a portion of their loads; and this obstinacy on their part was accompanied in some instances with the most blasphemous and horrid expressions.
Indeed I could not conceal from myself the fact of its being the general impression that my mode of proceeding was "killing the men," and that consequently some of them had arrived at the resolution of compelling me by their conduct to adopt their favourite system of short marches and long halts. But I was still aware of the disastrous consequences which must necessarily result from such a mode of proceeding, and determined to have nothing to do with it.
In the course of the afternoon I managed to get the party to move about a mile and a half in an easterly direction, but they here again sat down and could neither be induced to walk or to part with their bundles. As they had not tasted water today I selected the best walkers, namely, Corporals Auger and Coles, Hackney, Henry Woods, and Kaiber, and went off to look for some to bring to the rest. We were now on a well-beaten native path which traversed a fertile tract of country, and along this we continued our route, walking as rapidly as we could, for night was coming on apace.
From this path we made frequent divergencies but found no water; in one instance we met with a native well of great depth, where a party of them had been drinking a few days before, but it was now quite dry. We therefore continued our search, and just as it was growing dark had made about seven miles of a circuitous course and found ourselves at the foot of the high-peaked hill seen this morning, named by me Water Peak.
I still hurried along the native path, and was so wrapped up in the thoughts of our present position that I passed, without seeing it, a beautiful spring that rose to within a few inches of the surface.
Near this the natives had built a small hut, covered with boughs, concealed in which they might kill the birds and animals which came to drink at this lone water; the keen eye of Coles in a moment detected the little pool, and our thirst was soon assuaged. For a few minutes we lay on the bank of this clear spring, resting our wearied limbs and admiring the scenery around us. There is a something in the wild luxuriance of a totally new and uncultivated country which words cannot convey to the inhabitant of an old and civilized land, the rich and graceful forms of the trees, the massy moss-grown trunks which cumber the soil, the tree half uptorn by some furious gale and still remaining in the falling posture in which the winds have left it, the drooping disorder of dead and dying branches, the mingling of rich grasses and useless weeds, all declare that here man knows not the luxuries the soil can yield him: I roused the men again and we commenced our return to the party, loaded with a supply of water.
It was now dark and we soon wandered from the path. Kaiber took a star for his guide and led us straight across the country; but our route lay through a warran ground, full of holes, and in the darkness of the night we every now and then had a tremendous tumble, so that at the end of about four miles I thought that it would be imprudent to proceed farther, as we every moment were in danger of breaking a limb or seriously injuring ourselves. I therefore halted for the night, and as we were unable to light a fire both on account of the heavy dew and of having no proper materials with us, the first portion of it passed wretchedly enough, indeed, weary as I was, I found it necessary to walk about in order to preserve some slight degree of warmth in my frame.
At length however the men, who were much too cold to sleep, got up and, renewing their efforts, succeeded in kindling a blaze. Kaiber soon collected plenty of wood, and as I was unable to sleep I passed the night in meditating on our present state. I felt sure that if the men persisted in their resolution of moving slowly a lingering and dreadful death awaited us all; yet my opinion was a solitary one.
Walker had in many instances plainly and publicly shown that he on this point differed with me; and he was a medical man, and one who certainly never shrank from any danger or toil which he thought it his duty to encounter.
The most therefore I could say against those who were opposed to my system of moving was that I conceived them to be guilty of a grievous error in judgment; but it was not until our separate opinions had been tested by the future that it could be definitely pronounced who was right. Nevertheless those who have been much with men compelled to make long marches cannot fail to have remarked how readily and foolishly they find excuses to enable them to obtain a halt, and such persons would probably have agreed with me in suspecting that natural indolence of disposition, strengthened by fatigue and privation, might induce men to adopt, without a very strict investigation, any opinion falling in with their immediate feelings of feebleness.
Being firmly convinced that these men intended to pursue a plan of operations which would entail great misery both upon themselves and the others, I considered that I ought undoubtedly to endeavour to save them from the danger which I foresaw impending over them; and this could only be accomplished by my making forced marches to Perth and sending out supplies to meet them before they were reduced to the last extremities.
Had I foreseen a week ago that I should be compelled eventually to adopt such a step I would then have taken with me all such as were willing to march and have left the others; but this time had passed. My movement to Perth must now be accomplished with the greatest expedition or it would be useless; and to take anyone with me who was so much reduced as to have delayed, impeded, or perhaps altogether to have arrested our progress, would have sacrificed the lives of all.
The morning's dawn found us in the vicinity of our comrades, and, just as the thick grey mists began heavily to ascend from the low plains on which I had left the party, we emerged from the bush upon the native path down which we had travelled the preceding evening; here I turned northward, and a few minutes more placed the party in our view. Some of them were missing. I felt alarmed lest a new misfortune had happened and, hurrying on, eagerly asked where they were.
The answer given will describe more truly their position than the most minute detail could do; it was: We moved on in the direction of the spring of water which lay about half a mile to the eastward of our true line of route. Our movements were soon again delayed by Woods, who began as usual to lie down and declare his inability to proceed any further.
I desired him to leave behind the heavy load he was carrying; but as upon former occasions he again declared his determination to die rather than part with this mysterious bundle, which appeared to possess an extraordinary value in his estimation.
It was easy to see from his appearance that he was now really ill and unable to carry such a weight as he was striving to do. At length he again laid himself down, declaring that he was dying, and, as I determined no longer to see his life endangered by his so obstinately insisting on carrying this bundle, I took it up, and, informing him of my intention to pay him the full value of any property of his that I might destroy, I proceeded to open it with the intention of throwing all useless articles away.
Upon this announcement of mine he burst into tears, deplored alternately his dying state and the loss of the bundle, and then poured forth a torrent of invectives against me, in the midst of which I quietly went on unfolding the treasured parcel and exposing to view the following articles: Three yards of thick heavy canvas; some duck which he had purloined; a large roll of sewing thread, ditto; a thick pea jacket which I had abandoned at the boats, and had, at his request, given to him; and various other old pieces of canvas and duck; also a great part of the cordage of one of the boats, which he had taken without permission.
When these various articles were produced it was difficult to tell which was the prevailing sentiment in the minds of some of the party--mirth at thus seeing the contents of the mysterious bundle exposed, or indignation that a man should have been so foolish as to endanger his own life and delay our movements for the sake of such a collection of trash.
A pair of shoes and one or two useful articles were retained, the remainder were thrown away, and in a few minutes we were again under weigh for the spring of water.
Another hour's march brought us to the spring; and those who with me had been marching through a great part of the night gladly laid down to rest; but I soon roused myself again, being urged by the pangs of hunger.
Fortunately I had shot a crow in the morning, and now, gathering a few wild greens that grew about the water, I cooked a breakfast for myself and the native without being obliged to draw upon my little store of flour. This frugal repast having been washed down by a few mouthfuls of water, I resumed my meditations of the previous night. The following appeared to be our true position. We were about one hundred and ninety miles from Perth, in a direct line measured through the air.
None of the party had more than six or seven pounds of flour left; whilst I had myself but one pound and a half, and half a pound of arrowroot; the native had nothing left and was wholly dependant on me for his subsistence.
Now we had been seven days on our route, and had made but little more than seventy miles, and as the men were much weaker than when they first started it appeared to me to be extremely problematical whether we should ever reach Perth unless some plan different from what we had hitherto pursued was adopted.
And even granting that we did eventually make this point, it was evident that we must previously be subjected to wants and necessities of the most cruel and distressing nature.
Yet it was quite manifest from recent events that the majority of the party had not only made up their minds not to accelerate their movements, but had fully resolved to compel me to pursue their system of short marches and long halts.
Being fully aware of the danger which threatened them, it remained for me to act with that decision which circumstances appeared to require, and to proceed by rapid and forced marches to Perth, whence assistance could be sent out to the remainder. For this purpose it was necessary that all those who accompanied me should be good walkers and resolute men; for if any accident happened to the portion of the party I took with me, arising either from want of energy, want of discipline, or any other causes, that portion of the party which remained behind would have been reduced to the last extremity.
Having formed this resolution, it became necessary to make a selection of those who were to accompany me. In determining however upon this point I had but little difficulty; for it was evident that those men who during our late toils had shown themselves the most capable of enduring hardships, privations, and the fatigue of long and rapid marches, were those who were the best suited for the service I now destined them for.
The following was the division I made of the party: In making my arrangements with Mr. Walker a very serious difficulty arose upon his part, and one from which I immediately augured the worst of consequences. On quitting the boats I brought away with me Captain King's chart of the coast between North-west Cape and Cape Leeuwin, and had hitherto carried it along with my papers and sketches.
Walker to take this chart with him for the purpose of recognising his position by means of the islands and headlands as he advanced along the coast. No inducements upon my part could however persuade him to take charge of it. It was in vain that I urged on him the well known fact that nothing encourages men in a long journey so much as knowing the exact distance they have travelled and what extent of country they have still left to traverse.
It was in vain that I assured him he would, from his inexperience in calculating distances in the bush, soon get confused in his reckoning; and that the men, finding out his error, would lose all trust and confidence in him, whence would spring want of discipline and disorders of various kinds; he knew that I much valued this chart and had apparently taken it into his head that I wished to disencumber myself of it and to entail the duty of carrying it on him.
He at length proposed to me to allow him to cut the chart up, in which case he said he would carry on the part he wanted and leave the rest. I would not however part with so valuable a document, for it contained my route up to that point, and the public utility of the expedition mainly depended on the preservation of it. He next requested me to make a copy of it for him; this I assured him under existing circumstances it was utterly impossible for me to do with sufficient accuracy to answer the intended purpose, and I therefore would not attempt it.
He then applied to Mr. Smith, who coincided in my opinion; but ever willing to oblige he made as accurate a copy as he could, which I in vain represented to Mr. Walker he would find utterly useless. His unreasonable reluctance however I could not overcome. The next matter to arrange was what place should be fixed on as the point of rendezvous to which assistance was to be sent to those who were left to follow with Mr.
This was soon arranged. Smith had previously been with me to a place called Goonmarrarup, on the Moore River about fifty-five miles to the north of Perth; and it was agreed that the party should proceed along the coast as they best could until they made the Moore River, where I would have another party stationed with provisions to meet them; and in order that they might not pass this river it was settled that the party who went out to meet them should separate into two, one of which would remain at this point on the Moore River, about twelve miles from the sea, whilst the other was to proceed down to it, leaving, besides their tracks, marks to show where they had passed; and then, in the event of not finding those they were in search of, this last detachment was to push still further northward to look for them.
As soon as the arrangements were concluded I assembled the men and publicly repeated these directions to them; and to such as Clotworthy I addressed strong admonitions as to their future conduct. Many of them did not appear to be in the least aware of the critical situation they were placed in; I however entertained great fears for the safety of some of them. Poor Smith was at this time in a very delicate state of health, and his courage and gentleness had so endeared him to me that the sight of his sickly face made me long to be on the march to send out help to him.
Walker I had no fear; I have never known anyone endowed with a greater degree of patient endurance; indeed had he not, from a mistaken good nature, been too familiar with the men, no one could have been more admirably adapted for the trying position in which he was placed; and even as events turned out I doubt if anyone could have been found who would have endured more, or would have gone through greater exertions to save those under his command.
Smith, Thomas Ruston, C. Before parting with Mr. Smith I again urged them to push steadily onwards and never to idle for an instant; but I do not think that either of them were fully aware of the dangers they had to contend with. Poor Smith, as he squeezed my hand, begged me to send out a horse for him, if one could be procured, and also some tobacco; he said the only thing he dreaded was want of water.
Walker smiled and told me to look out for myself that he was not in Perth before me, and several others seemed to participate in his feeling and to regard my plan of proceeding as the height of folly. I left with Mr. Walker's party everything that was really useful, such as the cooking saucepan and the only hatchet we had. These were very valuable to them, for had they come into a grass-tree country they might have subsisted for a long time upon the tops of these trees, as Mr.
Elliott did upon a former occasion; for he together with two men lived upon them for fourteen days. This very useful implement they however threw away the second day after we parted. We also left them all the fishing-hooks. Walker's party instantly commenced on the system of halting, and instead of moving on in the afternoon remained where they were that day for the purpose of resting themselves.
The country we travelled over for the first two miles was pretty good, being a series of grassy plains. At this point we came to a belt of thick wood which we found exceedingly difficult to traverse.
We then continued our south by east course for four miles further over undulating sandy downs, and halted for the night in a small clump of Banksia trees which afforded plenty of wood for our fires. About an hour before daylight I roused the party, and as soon as it was light enough to distinguish the surrounding objects we started. Our route lay along a series of undulating sandy hills which sloped down to a fertile plain, four or five miles in width, on the western side of which rose a low range of dunes, and beyond these was the sea.
We found the walking along these hills very difficult on account of the prickly scrub with which they were covered, and the general appearance of the country to the eastward was barren and unpromising. The course I pursued was about south by east, but we soon found ourselves embarrassed in thick woods through which it was almost impossible to force a way: It was however absolutely necessary to make our way through one of these which formed a belt of nearly a mile in width, running almost east and west as far as the eye could see in each direction.
I therefore gave a bold plunge into the bushes, followed by the native and slowly by the other men, who kept alternately groaning from fatigue and pain and uttering imprecations against the country they were in. Having cleared this wood I turned rather more inland, and we pursued our route over barren scrubby plains, and, after having travelled about fifteen miles over this uninteresting description of country, we suddenly found ourselves on the top of a low range which overlooked a most luxuriant valley of about three miles in width, its general direction appearing to be from the east-south-east.
I immediately knew from the appearance of the country that we were near some large river; and whilst descending into the valley I indulged in speculations as to the size of that we were about to discover, and as to whether Providence would grant me once again to drink a draught of cool river water.
I soon however began to fear that my expectations were to be disappointed. We had already proceeded more than two miles of the distance across the valley; and although the soil was rich and good we had yet seen nothing but dry watercourses, inconsiderable in themselves yet apparently when united forming a large river.
I still however entertained hopes of finding water, for I saw numerous tracks of natives about, and the whole of this valley was an extensive warran ground in which they had that very morning been digging for their favourite root. At length, just as my patience began to wear out, we ascended, out of a dry watercourse, a rise rather more elevated than the others we had met with in crossing the valley; and from the summit of this a curious sight met our view: I picked out the most shady spot I could for the men to halt at, then descended into the bed of the river to search, with the native, for water; and immediately on scraping a hole a few inches deep in the bed of the river the water came streaming into it, for the sand composing the bottom of the watercourse was completely saturated, and I afterwards found that there were large pools of it immediately above and below where we were.
The wants of the men having been thus supplied I determined, as it was intensely hot, to halt for an hour or two; we each of us therefore ate a little doughboy, or piece of damper, and the men then lay down to rest. As I sat musing alone the first thought that struck me was how providentially it happened that we had not fallen in with this river in the season of the floods, as our crossing it then would have been utterly impossible.
But my reveries were soon disturbed by hearing the call of a native from the opposite bank, and I roused up poor Kaiber from his sleep that he might ascertain what was going on upon the other side. His quick eyes soon detected natives moving about amongst the bushes; but on farther examination he ascertained that there was only one man, who walked as if he had been wounded, the rest of the party being made up of women and children, who were digging for roots.
They were quite unconscious of our presence, and we lay snugly behind a bush, watching all their movements. As soon as they had dug a sufficient quantity of roots for their purpose they descended to the bed of the river and walked up to a pool about one hundred yards above our position, where they all drank and then sat down to cook their roots. I ordered the men to keep themselves as quiet as possible so that we in no way disturbed these poor creatures; and when at length the party moved off we passed them in a diagonal direction so as to give them an opportunity of seeing us without frightening them.
When first we emerged into view they began to run away; but when they saw that we still moved steadily on without noticing them they were no longer alarmed, but stood still, gazing at us with the greatest wonder and amazement; the youngest children standing behind their mothers, peeping cautiously out at us; and many a strange thought must have passed through the breasts of these natives as they saw us wind in regular order up the opposite hill.
This tribe was the most northern one that I had seen wear the kangaroo-skin cloak. Another mile and a half in a south by east direction brought us to a low range to the south of this river, which I named the Arrowsmith River after Mr.
John Arrowsmith, the distinguished geographer. From this range we had a fine view of the rich valleys drained by this important stream. These valleys ran nearly north and south between the interior range and the sandy limestone range parallel to the coast on which we now were; but the river must also, of course, from its magnitude, penetrate the interior range, which was only distant about sixteen miles from us.
A very remarkable peak in the latter, which bore east-north-east from this point, I named Mount Horner, after my friend Leonard Horner, Esquire. It appears from the report of the party who came along the coast that this river loses itself in a large lake, between which and the sea a great bar of dry sand intervenes in the dry season; there is however a very fair proportion of good country in the neighbourhood of the Arrowsmith. In the course of the evening we travelled six and a half miles further in a south-south-east direction, over barren, sandy, scrubby plains, which extended on all sides as far as the eye could see, and even the interior range appeared to be perfectly bare.
Towards nightfall we were all quite worn out from the difficulty we had experienced in walking through the prickly scrub, yet I could see no place that afforded sufficient wood to enable us to make a fire and, as most of us had no covering with us, and the nights were intensely cold, we had every prospect of passing a most wretched one; but at length I spied two clumps of Banksia trees, the nearest of which we just reached as it became quite dark.
The other clump was about a quarter of a mile to the eastward of us, at which I soon distinguished native fires; as the men were however much exhausted I thought it better not to mention this circumstance to them, and Kaiber and myself, who always slept at a little fire alone, kept a good look out during the night.
This evening we found the Bohn or Boh-rne, a native esculent root, and it is the most northern point at which I have met with it. Before dawn this morning our native neighbours, who doubtless were not pleased at our sleeping so near them, began to cooee to each other, which is their usual signal for collecting their forces; and, as our safety depended upon none of the party being incapacitated by a wound or other cause from proceeding with the utmost rapidity, I at once roused the men and we resumed our way.
In the course of the day we made a march of twenty-five miles in a south-south-east direction, the whole of this distance being across elevated undulating sandy plains, covered with a thick prickly scrub, about two and a half feet high; these plains were however occasionally studded with a few Banksia trees, but anything more dark, cheerless, and barren than their general appearance can scarcely be conceived.
About half an hour before sunset we came to the bed of a dry watercourse, the direction of which was from south-east to north, so that it was probably a tributary of the Arrowsmith. We were fortunate enough to find a small pool of water in it, yet the large flights of birds of every description that came here for the purpose of drinking showed the rarity of water in these parts.
We made several attempts to get a shot at them but they were so wild, and we were so worn out and weak, that all our exertions were unsuccessful. In the course of the evening one of the men made up my last pound of flour into a damper for me, and I supped on a spoonful of arrowroot.
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