The Eye of Balamok by Victor Rousseau
Dying of thirst in the Great Victoria Desert of Australia, a man finds a small hut built of stone next to a small fresh water spring. Inside the hut he finds a manuscript from an earlier traveler.
The Eye of Balamok (1920) – Dying of thirst in the Great Victoria Desert of Australia, a man finds a small hut built of stone next to a small fresh water spring. Inside the hut he finds a manuscript from an earlier traveler.
The Eye of Balamok – Over the rim of hell he went, wanderlust-driven into a land more strange than his mad dreams. . . .
Chapter I. Sand And Salt.
Chapter II. Introducing Sewell.
Chapter III. The Lure Of The M’Donnell Range.
Chapter IV. A Death In The Desert.
Chapter V. Water And A Woman.
Chapter VI. Priest And Princess.
Chapter VII. A Grain Of Treachery.
Chapter VIII. On The March.
Chapter IX. The Last Word.
Chapter X. Queens In Council.
Chapter XI. Wallaby Whisperings.
Chapter XII. Ptuth Speaks.
Chapter XIII.Out Of The Serpent’s Mouth.
Chapter XIV. From A Balcony.
Chapter XV. The Fall Of The Faithless.
Chapter XVI. Life And Death.
Chapter XVII. The Boost Of Thaxas.
Chapter XVIII. A Pyrrhic Victory.
Chapter XIX. A Little Hidden Dagger.
Chapter XX. The Eye Of Balamok.
Chapter XXI. The Prophecy Of Old.
Chapter XXII. Symbols.
Victor Rousseau Emanuel (1879-1960), was originally born as Avigdor Rousseau Emanuel in England. He died in 1960 in Tarryton, New York. He wrote predominantly under the pen names Victor Rousseau, H. M. Egbert, and V. R. Emanuel, but, in the 1930s, he abandoned these pseudonyms to establish Victor Rousseau as a recognizable name in pulp fiction magazines. He wrote “spicy” stories under the pen name Lew Merrill.
The Eye of Balamok was written in 1920 and published as a three part serial novel in All-Story Weekly.
The Eye of Balamok has 2 illustrations.
Excerpt: The Eye of Balamok
Sand And Salt.
IT was an eternity since the young Englishman had had any clear consciousness of his surroundings. When he forced his numbed brain to function, he knew, of course, that he was somewhere in the heart of the most howling, pitiless desert in the world —Central Australia. But that knowledge seemed as unreal as the reeling body which he was driving on by sheer force of will.
He was in the extreme northeastern part of the Great Victoria Desert, upon the boundary —which could be represented only by a longitudinal parallel— between West and South Australia. Three hundred miles eastward lay the Trans-Continental telegraph. North, west and south, for twice that distance, there was nothing but sand.
He had been striking eastward, shouldering his “billy” —his dwindling stock of tea, flour, matches and baking-powder. There was plenty of water in this region. But it was all salt. It varied from the salinity of the sea —bitter, purging, maddening stuff, to that of brackish seashore-resort water.
When he reached a pool it was a toss-up whether he would go mad or quell the fever in him with a kettle of tea that did not reek of Epsom. For days together he was mad. He was mad now. But all through his delirium something, cool and collected, sat in his brain and drove him eastward.
“It’s been a fool’s chase.” it said. “But you were warned in the beginning that nobody ever crossed the Great Victoria. Your natives wouldn’t go with you. The camel died—died of thirst—and—do you remember how you carried that nine-pound nugget of gold three days, to prove those stories of the Mother Lode were true, and then threw it away? You weren’t mad then, as you are now. If you had been, you would have slipped it into the flour bag.
“Keep going! You’ve done three hundred miles since the camel dropped. You’re half-way to the Trans-Continental. You’ll strike a station there. Go by sheer grit. If you can’t make it just drop down as the camel did. It may be you’ll come across fresh water. If you can, the remaining three hundred miles will be nothing. Nobody knows what’s in the Great Victoria. Remember those stories at Coolgardie?”
He set his teeth and staggered onward, through the blazing heat that had tanned him brown as a Kanaka.
He was lean, gaunt, staring of eye, whitebreasted where the projecting bones compressed the sunken flesh. Sometimes he laughed, and sometimes scowled; he shouted as he saw the school competitors breasting the tape together; two or three times he found himself seated upon the ground straining at an imaginary oar in his college races.
Toward evening the delirium lessened. With it there came a languor of the limbs, the heave of the stomach against the anticipated douche of saline water. The camping-place lay plain before him —a large, flat lake, blue and inviting, set in the middle of the inevitable salt crystals fringing it. All around were great, single rocks, aglisten with salt, rising like monoliths out of the hard, salty sand, which gradually began to change from yellow to white, as the salt grew denser.
“I’m going to drop here,” he said, stretching out his arm toward the water.
He had said that every night. But this night he meant it. He had meant that every night, too. But he knew that this night was the last of his journeying, unless -—miracle of miracles! —unless this were fresh water.
Unless he could soak the salt out of his flesh and bones, he would die as the camel had died. And its death had not been hard. In fact, he had not guessed it was going to die. He had thought camels’ humps grew smaller as the beasts went without water. The camel had refused the salt water for five days, but its hump remained the same.
On the sixth morning it refused to be saddled, and, instead of crouching under a rock, lay down in the sun. It died upon its knees within an hour. Not a hard death!
The Englishman let his swag fall beneath a rock, took his “billy,” and walked out over the salt crystals. This lake looked saltier than any he had encountered. It was one of the vast chain of salt lakes extending across the dead heart of unknown Australia.
Not more than five years ago it was discovered by an explorer that underneath the greater portion of the central continent —at least, beneath the explored portion— there flows perpetual water. Once, in past ages, it flowed in river-beds upon the surface. Then Australia must have been an earthly paradise. Something happened—some subsidence, such as the sinking of Atlantis; something of which even the blackfellow retains no tradition.
The young man was ignorant of this discovery. It did not tantalize him as he splashed out through the salt-crystal swamp and dipped his “billy” into the pellucid depths. The thirst which always racked him was like a personal enemy. He had personified it in his madness, and he fought it at every lake and pond. Had he done more than moisten his cracked lips upon his journeying he would never have gone halfway to the Trans-Continental telegraph. It was only at evenfall that he made his salt tea and set himself to his night battle with the salt torturer.
He filled the “billy,” raised it to his lips, and drank. The water was as fresh as from a bubbling spring.
He drained the “billy,” filled it again, and dashed it from his hand before his lips touched it. He flung himself down upon the salt incrustation. At first he thought it was his madness. But the madness which had given him delirious visions had never sweetened his lips with such nectar as that!
Cautiously he tasted of the water again. It was fresh lake water. A sudden revulsion came over him. He knew now how near he had been to death. This was life! This meant the world of men once more! He would rest here for two weeks, till he had grown strong, till he had purged his veins of their incrustations. Then he would continue eastward. What he had done he could do again. And there was water about the station that he was aiming for. His flour would last him. He could do it again. He could face it again. But. . . . .
The reaction of joy was followed by that of hopelessness. Could he duplicate that awful eastward march? He staggered wearily toward the spot where he had left his pack.
Then, literally “lifting up his eyes,” as one does in a wilderness, he saw, quite near at hand, a little hut of stone. The stones were great blocks, evidently dragged with great exercise of strength and labor from their resting-places on the sand. And all about were larger blocks, great solitary monoliths, that seemed like ruins of some prehistoric city, now silted with sand up to their pediments.
It was a marvel of toil, for the stones had been squared with other stones, and fitted till the stone hut was constructed. The Englishman went inside, incredulous, half thinking it was a dream, until the shadow of the walls fell about him. The sand had drifted in to a depth of some three feet. It was almost upon a level with the stone bedstead in one corner, made by the same ingenious brain.
Upon a stone peg, chiseled out of a block, hung something that caused the traveler to shout with joy. It was a water-bag, made from the hide of a large animal. Examining a piece of fleece that adhered to it, the traveler concluded that it was a camel foal. Perhaps he, too, had brought a camel with him, and it had given birth to young, though the fleece was almost like that of a guanaco or llama. But of course there were no llamas in the Australian desert.
With this the young man knew that the remaining half of his journey could be accomplished safely. But who had lived there, and what fate had befallen him?
He dismissed his speculations as idle, dragged in his pack, and, before he knew it, he was asleep.
Excerpt From: Victor Rousseau. “The Eye of Balamok.”
Also available on Google Play Books
More by Victor Rousseau