The Ghost Camp or the Avengers
The Ghost Camp or the Avengers
"The Divide," as John Carter called it, was an improvement upon the track they quitted. It was less rocky, and passably level. There was a gradual ascent however, which Mr. Blount did not notice until he observed that the timber was becoming more sparse, while the view around them was disclosing features of a grand, even awful character. On either side the forest commenced to slope downwards, at an increasingly sharp gradient. Instead of the ordinary precipice, above which the travellers rode, on one or other side of the bridle track, having the hill on the other, there appeared to be a precipice of unknown depth on either hand . As the ascent became more marked, Blount perceived that the winding path led towards a pinnacle from which the view was extensive, and in a sense, dreadful, from its dizzy altitude-its abysmal depths,-and, as he began to realise, its far from improbable danger.
"This here's what we call the leadin' range; it follers the divide from the head waters of the Tambo; that's where we stopped last night. It's the only road between that side of the country and the river. If you don't strike this 'cut,' and there's not more than a score or so of us mountain chaps as knows it, it would take a man days to cross over, and then he mightn't do it."
"What would happen to him?" asked Blount, feeling a natural curiosity to learn more of this weird region, differing so widely from any idea that he had ever gathered from descriptions of Australia.
"Well, he'd most likely get bushed, and have to turn back, though he mightn't find it too easy to do that, or make where he come from. In winter time, if it come on to snow, he'd never get home at all. I've known things happen like that. There was one poor cove last winter, as we chaps were days out searchin' for, and then found him stiff, and dead-he'd got sleepy, and never woke up!"
While this enlivening conversation was proceeding, the man from a far country discovered that the pathway, level enough for ordinary purposes, though he and his guide were no longer riding side by side, was rapidly narrowing. What breadth it would be, when they ascended to the pinnacle above them, he began to consider with a shade of apprehension. His hackney, which Mr. Jack Carter had regarded with slightly-veiled contempt as a "flat country horse, as had never seen a rise bigger than a haystack," evidently shared his uneasiness, inasmuch as he had stopped, stared and trembled from time to time, at awkward places on the road, before they came to the celebrated "leading range."
In another mile they reached the pinnacle, where Blount realised the true nature and surroundings of this Alpine Pass. Such indeed it proved to be. A narrow pathway, looking down on either side, upon fathomless glens, with so abrupt a drop that it seemed as if the wind, now rising, might blow them off their exposed perch.
The trees which grew at the depths below, though in reality tall and massive eucalypts, appeared scarce larger than berry bushes.
The wedge-tailed eagles soared above and around. One pair indeed came near and gazed on them with unblenching eye, as though speculating on the duration of their sojourn. They seemed to be the natural denizens of this dizzy and perilous height, from which the vision ranged, in wondering amaze over a vast lone region, which stretched to the horizon; appearing indeed to include no inconsiderable portion of the continent.
Below, around, even to the far, misty sky-line, was a grey, green ocean, the billows of which, through the branches of mighty forest trees, were reduced by distance to a level and uniform contour. Tremendous glens, under which ran clear cold mountain streams, tinkling and rippling ever, mimic waterfalls and flashing rivulets, the long dry summer through diversified th