A deserted gunya was found near a lonely, half-dry waterhole in the scrub, and there were rumours of a tribe of wild blacks having passed towards the outlying country in the Breeza Downs direction. No news came, however, of either racial or labour warfare. McKeith sent not a word of his doings, and Harry the Blower was not due yet on his postal, fortnightly round.
He looked at the spike-hole in the post, scowled, and went back around the house. At dawn Blake and Ashton drove up to the waterhole on Dry Fork with their camp equipment. There they left the outfit in the buckboard and proceeded with the line of levels on up the creek bed into the gorge from which it issued.
Having watered my horse, I turned him loose for a graze, and, making such a dinner as was possible under the circumstances, I lit a pipe and lay down on the long grass, under the flowering wattle-trees, smoking and watching the manoeuvres of a little tortoise, who was disporting himself in the waterhole before me.
For hours they traveled toward its head, and, long after night had set, found what they sought. Yielding to exhaustion, they slept, and next day were loath to leave the waterhole. Cool night spurred them on with canteens full and renewed strength. Morning told Cameron that they had turned back miles into the desert, and it was desert new to him.
"That is a nice song of yours." said the Kangaroo, "and I like it very much, but please stop singing now, as we are getting near the waterhole, for it's not etiquette to make a noise near water at sundown."
"Then of course we'll bring out a tent and camp kit for you tomorrow. Genevieve and I can ride or drive up to the waterhole each day, to picnic with you." "It will be delightful," agreed Mrs. Blake. "You ride on ahead and wait for us in the shade," said her husband. "We'll knock off for the day when we reach that dolerite dike above the waterhole. If you are ready, Ashton, we'll peg along."
Already Mercedes and he, and all of them, had begun to respond to the desert spirit. Moreover, Yaqui's strange influence must have been a call to the primitive. Thirty miles of easy stages brought the fugitives to another waterhole, a little round pocket under the heaved-up edge of lava. There was spare, short, bleached grass for the horses, but no wood for a fire.
The little waterhole where we learned to swim when we were boys was deep on one side and had a rocky ledge to jump off. The birds just began to give out a note or two; the sun was rising clear and bright, and we could see the dark top of Nulla Mountain getting a sort of rose colour against the sky.
At sunrise the two started out on their day's work, Ashton carrying his rifle and canteen and the level rod, Blake with the level and a bag containing their lunch and a two-quart sirup-can of water. "We'll run a new line from the dike bench, around the hill and across the valley the way we rode out yesterday," said the engineer, as they climbed the slope above the waterhole.
He made ten miles or more then by daylight, and after that proceeded cautiously along a road which appeared to be well worn from travel. He passed several thickets where he would have halted to hide during the day but for the fact that he had to find water. He was a long while in coming to it, and then there was no thicket or clump of mesquite near the waterhole that would afford him covert.