A narrow escape [by Henry Lawson]

[Editor: This story by Henry Lawson was published in Short Stories in Prose and Verse, 1894.]

A narrow escape

I suppose the reader has experienced or heard of hair breadth escapes, the memory of which has caused his own hair to stand on end; yet, when he has read the following untruthful story, he will be ready to exclaim in a tone of intense conviction that truth is indeed stranger than fiction.

A few years ago I was travelling with a prospecting party in some place, and one morning I awoke and found my horse gone.

Without disturbing my companions, I took a bridle and started to follow up the horse’s tracks across the sand.

The horse must have broken loose some time in the night, for I followed his tracks a good distance until they disappeared in a grass patch. I wandered about for some time in a vain endeavour to pick up the trail, and ended up by getting lost myself.

The morning passed away, and I was still wandering hopefully, when, about noon, I descried three dark figures on the horizon of the plain. I soon saw that they were blacks, and that they were coming in my direction. As they advanced nearer I saw that one was armed with a nulla nulla or club, whilst the other two carried spears which they brandished in an unpleasant manner. I knew there was not a moment to lose if I wished to save my life, — (which I did) — so I started to run. It was an awful race. I felt my underclothing sticking to my body with the perspiration, and my braces and bootlaces gently giving out.

I kept on under the broiling heat, with the blacks steadily gaining in the rear, until at last I felt that I could run no longer. My time was come. I fell on the glistening sand and prayed for a sudden and comparatively painless death.

The blacks came up and surrounded me, and I saw in their looks that I could not expect mercy at their hands. The memories of my life went through my brain like a flash of lightning, or rather like flashes of lightning. The two blacks, who were armed with spears, raised their weapons to a horizontal position and aimed the points at my heart.

They swayed the spears backward and forward several times to gain momentum. The suspense was very trying indeed. I drew a long breath and attempted to close my eyes; but just as they swung their spears back for a final and fatal thrust the blackfellow who carried the club, and who had up to this moment stood perfectly still and silent, suddenly raised his weapon and brought it down on my head with a sickening crash, and I fell at his feet a ghastly corpse.



Source:
Henry Lawson, Short Stories in Prose and Verse, L. Lawson, Sydney, [1894], pages 6-7

Editor’s notes:
There was some text missing in this story in the book; the following text, which fills that gap, comes from: Leonard Cronin (editor), A Camp Fire Yarn: Henry Lawson, Complete Works, 1885-1900, Lansdowne: Sydney, 1984, page 162
“I could run no longer. My time was come. I fell on the glistening sand and prayed for a sudden and comparatively painless death. The blacks came up and surrounded me, and I saw in their looks that I”

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