THE FAITHFUL LITTLE LIZARD
By Lieutenant-Colonel W. Hill James
On the diggings near the Avoca River the lizard's future master
had, as was the digger's custom, come out of his hole, or shaft, at
eleven o'clock for a short half-hour's rest between breakfast and
the midday meal. He threw himself down in a half-sitting posture,
and was dreamily smoking his pipe when from beneath a neighboring
rock, popped out a little lizard who eyed the stranger with
inquisitive interest, as quickly retiring, to return again in a few
This was repeated several times, the lizard's keen eyes always
fixed on the face of the intruder.
Presently the digger's foot was approached, and evidently approved
of for its warmth. After a retreat to the rock a farther advance
was made, this time to the knee of the stranger, to whose face the
two brilliant little eyes were still enquiringly directed. Before
the half-hour's rest was over the left arm of the smoker had been
mounted, his neck rounded, and the right arm descended, the
venturesome journey ended by the lizard squatting contentedly on
the back of his new-found friend's right hand. Confidence had thus
been established between the two, but not to the extent of capture,
for on the gold-seeker attempting to place his left hand over his
new acquaintance, he scuttled away to his rock with almost
inconceivable quickness. The digger's smoke over, he returned to
his work in the hole, leaving his blouse where he had sat.
When the work of the day was finished the tired gold-seeker mounted
to the surface and, taking up his blouse, was about to march to his
camp, three miles away, when, to his great surprise, he discovered
his little four-footed friend lying hidden in the fold of the
garment. He carried him gently in the blouse to the camp, and
there, with the usual courage and confidence of his race, the
little reptile quickly adapted himself to his new surroundings in
the digger's tent. He was carefully fed, kept warm at night, and
soon began to like his new quarters with the gold-seekers. In
return for much affectionate attention he was, in a few days, quite
at home with all the party.
On the walk to camp he had made his home in his master's serge
blouse, running up the arm of the loose garment or round the full
front above the tight waistband, as fancy took him, and enjoying
the warmth of his master's body. It was very interesting and
amusing to see him poke his little head out between the buttons, or
through a buttonhole of the blouse at intervals to ask, with
glittering eye and jerky movement, for an occasional fly from his
master's hand caught on the shafts or cover of the cart.
When the camp was pitched for the night, Master Lizard would employ
himself by making the most inquisitive scrutiny and inspection of
the immediate surroundings within and without the tent. He made
himself acquainted with every stone, tuft, stump, or hole, within
what he considered his domain, eventually retiring with the sun to
the blanket on his master's bed, where he invariably slept.
On one occasion, during the darkness of the night, he became
extremely restless, and ran about on the bed, evidently with a view
to awakening his protector, who, being a sound sleeper, was not
easily disturbed. Failing to attract attention, he proceeded to run
rapidly backwards and forwards over the sleeper's face, making at
the same time a low spitting noise, like an angry cat. By this
means he at length roused his friend, who gently pushed him away
several times, speaking soothingly to him in the hope of quieting
the excited little animal.
But the lizard would not be soothed. Having attracted attention, he
continued his inexplicable movements with redoubled energy, until
at length his master, convinced that something must be amiss, got
up, struck a light, and looked round the tent, the sharp eyes of
the lizard following every movement with intense interest. As
nothing unusual could be seen, the gold-hunter retired once more,
after pooh-poohing the lizard for his fears.
Scarcely had he dropped off to sleep, when he was again disturbed,
and, losing patience at these repeated interruptions to his
slumbers, he seized the lizard and threw him lightly across the
tent. In this involuntary flight the little creature unfortunately
struck the tent-pole with considerable force, and half of his tail
was broken off—a matter of no very great importance to a lizard,
perhaps, but still a discouraging reward for a well-meant warning.
Notwithstanding this the little reptile returned to the bed,
keeping close to his master, but he continued to be very restless
and excited for the remainder of the night.
When day dawned, preparations were begun for the day's march. The
tents were struck and the bedding was rolled up, ready to be placed
on the rough digger's cart. Then the mystery was explained. In the
twigs and ferns thrown underneath the scanty bedding, to keep it
from the bare ground, a huge tiger snake with several young ones
was discovered. This snake is of a deadly description and is much
feared by the colonists. Like all snakes, it gives forth a strong
odor, which, no doubt, made the lizard aware of his enemy's
presence, unless, perhaps, he saw it creep under the curtain of the
tent. Of course, the snakes were killed at once.
After this our little friend with half a tail became a greater
favorite than ever, because we recognized that he was protector as
well as friend.