The past three days have seen a marked improvement in both our invalids. Clissold’s inside has been got into working order after a good deal of difficulty; he improves rapidly in spirits as well as towards immunity from pain. The fiction of his preparation to join the motor sledge party is still kept up, but Atkinson says there is not the smallest chance of his being ready. I shall have to be satisfied if he practically recovers by the time we leave with the ponies.
Forde’s hand took a turn for the better two days ago and he maintains this progress. Atkinson thinks he will be ready to start in ten days’ time, but the hand must be carefully nursed till the weather becomes really summery.
The weather has continued bad till to-day, which has been perfectly beautiful. A fine warm sun all day – so warm that one could sit about outside in the afternoon, and photographic work was a real pleasure.
The ponies have been behaving well, with exceptions. Victor is now quite easy to manage, thanks to Bowers’ patience. Chinaman goes along very steadily and is not going to be the crock we expected. He has a slow pace which may be troublesome, but when the weather is fine that won’t matter if he can get along steadily.
The most troublesome animal is Christopher. He is only a source of amusement as long as there is no accident, but I am always a little anxious that he will kick or bite someone. The curious thing is that he is quiet enough to handle for walking or riding exercise or in the stable, but as soon as a sledge comes into the programme he is seized with a very demon of viciousness, and bites and kicks with every intent to do injury. It seems to be getting harder rather than easier to get him into the traces; the last two turns, he has had to be thrown, as he is unmanageable even on three legs. Oates, Bowers, and Anton gather round the beast and lash up one foreleg, then with his head held on both sides Oates gathers back the traces; quick as lightning the little beast flashes round with heels flying aloft. This goes on till some degree of exhaustion gives the men a better chance. But, as I have mentioned, during the last two days the period has been so prolonged that Oates has had to hasten matters by tying a short line to the other foreleg and throwing the beast when he lashes out. Even when on his knees he continues to struggle, and one of those nimble hind legs may fly out at any time. Once in the sledge and started on three legs all is well and the fourth leg can be released. At least, all has been well until to-day, when quite a comedy was enacted. He was going along quietly with Oates when a dog frightened him: he flung up his head, twitched the rope out of Oates’ hands and dashed away. It was not a question of blind fright, as immediately after gaining freedom he set about most systematically to get rid of his load. At first he gave sudden twists, and in this manner succeeded in dislodging two bales of hay; then he caught sight of other sledges and dashed for them. They could scarcely get out of his way in time; the fell intention was evident all through, to dash his load against some other pony and sledge and so free himself of it. He ran for Bowers two or three times with this design, then made for Keohane, never going off far and dashing inward with teeth bared and heels flying all over the place. By this time people were gathering round, and first one and then another succeeded in clambering on to the sledge as it flew by, till Oates, Bowers, Nelson, and Atkinson were all sitting on it. He tried to rid himself of this human burden as he had of the hay bales, and succeeded in dislodging Atkinson with violence, but the remainder dug their heels into the snow and finally the little brute was tired out. Even then he tried to savage anyone approaching his leading line, and it was some time before Oates could get hold of it. Such is the tale of Christopher. I am exceedingly glad there are not other ponies like him. These capers promise trouble, but I think a little soft snow on the Barrier may effectually cure them.
E.R. Evans and Gran return to-night. We received notice of their departure from Hut Point through the telephone, which also informed us that Meares had departed for his first trip to Corner Camp. Evans says he carried eight bags of forage and that the dogs went away at a great pace.
In spite of the weather Evans has managed to complete his survey to Hut Point. He has evidently been very careful with it and has therefore done a very useful bit of work.