Before sitting down, he had deposited upon the ground his useless rifle, and also a large bundle tied up in a gray shawl, which he had carried slung over his right shoulder. It appeared to be somewhat too heavy for his strength, for in lowering it, it came down on the ground with some little violence. Instantly there broke from the gray parcel a little moaning cry, and from it there protruded a small, scared face, with very bright brown eyes, and two little speckled dimpled fists.
Youve hurt me! said a childish voice, reproachfully.
Have I, though? the man answered penitently; I didnt go for to do it. As he spoke he unwrapped the gray shawl and extricated a pretty little girl of about five years of age, whose dainty shoes and smart pink frock with its little linen apron, all bespoke a mothers care. The child was pale and wan, but her healthy arms and legs showed that she had suffered less than her companion.
How is it now? he answered anxiously, for she was still rubbing the tousy golden curls which covered the back of her head.
Kiss it and make it well, she said, with perfect gravity, showing the injured part up to him. Thats what mother used to do. Wheres mother?
Mothers gone. I guess youll see her before long.
Gone, eh! said the little girl. Funny, she didnt say good-bye; she most always did if she was just goin over to aunties for tea, and now shes been away three days. Say, its awful dry, aint it? Aint there no water nor nothing to eat?
No, there aint nothing, dearie. Youll just need to be patient awhile, and then youll be all right. Put your head up agin me like that, and then youll feel bullier. It aint easy to talk when your lips is like leather, but I guess Id best let you know how the cards lie. Whats that youve got?
Pretty things! fine things! cried the little girl enthusiastically, holding up two glittering fragments of mica. When we goes back to home Ill give them to brother Bob.
Youll see prettier things than them soon, said the man confidently. You just wait a bit. I was going to tell you thoughyou remember when we left the river?
Well, we reckoned wed strike another river soon, dye see. But there was somethin wrong; compasses, or map, or somethin, and it didnt turn up. Water ran out. Just except a little drop for the likes of you, andand
And you couldnt wash yourself, interrupted his companion gravely, staring up at his grimy visage.
No, nor drink. And Mr. Bender, he was the fust to go, and then Indian Pete, and then Mrs. McGregor, and then Johnny Hones, and then, dearie, your mother.
Then mothers a deader too, cried the little girl, dropping her face in her pinafore and sobbing bitterly.
Yes, they all went except you and me. Then I thought there was some chance of water in this direction, so I heaved you over my shoulder and we tramped it together. It dont seem as though weve improved matters. Theres an almighty small chance for us now!
Do you mean that we are going to die too? asked the child, checking her sobs, and raising her tear- stained face.
I guess thats about the size of it.
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