—Starting the Journey. —
There was a sinister look in the sky when the special drew up at the Murray Bridge wharf. Under the white blaze of the electric light, the Ruby and the Marion, of the Gem Navigation Company— I should really have mentioned the second lady first because she was the flagship— looked like fairy hotels. We were soon all aboard and disposed in our various bunks. The process had been rendered easy by the smooth efficiency of the arrangements, and when it was over there was a capital supper waiting in the dining rooms. We were to be twin ships floating over the bosom of the Murray, for the Marion and the Ruby had been laced abreast, and, with a planked thoroughfare from deck to deck we were as one happy community. And so the alliance remained throughout the whole trip excepting a few hours’ break at the top end. There the river was so tricky in its depths that the boats proceeded in single file, while the skippers, who know every gumtree on the banks and every snag in the river, steered a course as if chased by a submarine. This was the folly of neglect in menacing illustration. After the warm companionship of supper our twin ships shouted, kicked. There were no stars pricking out of the black curtain of the threatening sky, but the funnels sent a whirl of sparks like a dancing banner of fire, and they were not missed. Bending willows pencilled their delicate tracery in shadows on the water, and amid the far-spreading radiance of the steamers’ lights was the grey-white definition of the river banks. Off down-stream to Tailem Bend, we passed under the ghostly perspective of the massive pillars of Murray Bridge, and the next morning, in the murky but restful tones of an early dawn were returning again ‘twixt the verdant triumphs of the reclaimed settlements. As keen as any among the enquiring spectators were the Governor General and our own State Governor. They found the Director of Irrigation (Mr. S. McIntosh) a responsive guide. He was such a big and interesting book of knowledge that wherever he was there was a crowd! And right in the centre of the crowd were Sir Ronald Munro-Ferguson and Sir Henry Galway. They were insatiable seekers after knowledge, and Sir Ronald knew enough to argue the point.