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Title: My Experiences in Australia.
       Being Recollections of a Visit to the Australian Colonies in 1856-7.
Author: A Lady (Mrs Allan Macpherson, fl. 1857.)
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0900361.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: May 2009
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Title: My Experiences in Australia.
       Being Recollections of a Visit to the Australian Colonies in 1856-7.
Author: A Lady (Mrs Allan Macpherson, fl. 1857.)



MY EXPERIENCES IN AUSTRALIA.
BEING RECOLLECTIONS OF A VISIT TO THE AUSTRALIAN COLONIES IN 1856-7.
BY
A LADY.

[Hand-written annotation on title page: "(Miss MacPherson)"]

[National Library of Australia Catalogue shows author as:
Mrs Allan Macpherson, fl. 1857.]


"Let aged Britain claim the classic past,
A shining track of bright and mighty deeds;
For thee I prophesy the future vast,
Whereof the present sows its giant seeds."

BALLADS FOR THE TIMES.

LONDON:
J. F. HOPE, 16 GREAT MARLBOROUGH STREET.
1860.


[Hand-written note on flyleaf:
"First Class English Prize presented to Miss ????
by the Misses Price and Richards.
Xmas 1860."]


[Illustration: Frontspiece--"Vignette" (rural scene)]



PREFACE.


So much has been written of late years about the Australian colonies,
that it may seem at first sight that there is nothing new left to write
about.

But all the works which I have seen, though of far higher pretensions
than the little volume I venture to submit to the public, still appear
to me to leave something untold.

While they contain a large amount of information relative to Australia
interesting and valuable to the statesman, the man of science, the
merchant, and the emigrant, still, perhaps, they give but little notion
of everyday life in the colonies, as it would appear from a lady's point
of view.

I am aware that these recollections of a fifteen months' residence in
Australia do but little towards supplying the want referred to; still,
if the perusal of these pages has the effect of checking the
over-sanguine expectations of some of my lady readers, and of removing
the over-timid apprehensions of others, I shall feel that this record of
my own experience has not been without its use.



CONTENTS.


CHAPTER I.

Departure from England--Doubts and fears--Making the best of
things--_Pro's_ and _con's_ regarding the choice of a stern
cabin--Fellow-passengers--Sea unfavourable to development of more
pleasing features of character--The Line--A homeward bound ship--Off the
Cape--Fishing for sea birds--A shark--Phosphorescent balls--Land
ahead--Pilot aboard--Sydney harbour--First impressions of the
natives--Arrived at last.

CHAPTER II.

First impressions of Sydney--Half-disappointed--The streets--Irregular
style of building--Scarcity of private houses--Hyde Park--Its
surroundings--A colonial notability--Another--The value of a
character--A _model_ of colonial architecture--St. James's
Church--Its neighbours--Legislative Council Chambers--An odious
comparison--Newspapers--Literary taste in the colony--More about the
streets--Government gardens--Flower shows--Gardening "doesn't
pay"--Government House--A stranger's yearning for home.

CHAPTER III.

The suburbs of Sydney--View of the harbour from Paddington--No place
like home--The drives round Sydney--_Digging out_ an omnibus--A bouquet of
wild flowers--Flowering shrubs--Forest trees--The bush--Varieties of a
_scrub_--Snakes--Botany Road--Botany Bay--The menagerie--Cook's River--New
Town.

CHAPTER IV.

The climate of New South Wales--Variations of temperature--Australian
children--Their precocity in every respect--Resemblance to
Americans--Sydney society--Beadledom at the antipodes--The
squatters--The Sydney season--Balls and pic-nics--Fish--Beauties of the
Harbour--The Paramatta River--Oranges and orange groves--The Town of
Paramatta--Traditions of the Female Factory.

CHAPTER V.

Colonial government in the early days--Police regulations--The value of
a passport--An awkward predicament--The Governor's prerogatives--A model
editor--Emigrants and emancipists--The first constitutional
council--Playing at "Parliament"--Legislating in earnest--Responsible
government--New constitutions--Colonial munificence--A Brummagem
aristocracy--The British country gentlemen--The Australian legislator.

CHAPTER VI.

Starting for the interior--Travelling equipment--Preparations for
camping out--Our party--_Pro's_ and _con's_ for _camping out_--Not so pleasant
during a flood--The low countries--Fleeing to the tree tops--Best months
for travelling--The town of Newcastle--Hunter's River--The coal
districts--Carrying coals thereto--Morpeth--A bad start--The town of
Maitland--Our first encampment--The _réveillée_ of the bush--The laughing
jackass--Common bush birds.

CHAPTER VII.

Off at last--Roads of the interior--A thunderstorm--Making
the best of things--Division of labour--Our order of march--Harper's
Hill--Native indigo--Australian daisy--Refractory horses--Learning to be
a whip--Town of Singleton--A catacomb of trees--Glenny's Creek--Bush
fare--Edible birds and beasts--Bushrangers--Bush manners and travellers'
tales--Truth stranger than fiction.

CHAPTER VIII.

The town of Muswellbrook--A hurricane--Aberdeen--Scone and its
neighbourhood--Crossing the Waldron Ranges--Murrurundi--The backbone of
Australia--The squatters' barrier--A canine comparison--Eastern and
western waters--Liverpool Plains--A dismal anniversary--The mirage--Myal
tree--Tamworth--The river Namoi--A stock-keeper's cottage--Bush
hospitality--The tree lizard--Unpleasant visitors--The plague of insects.

CHAPTER IX.

Barraba--Going ahead--Bell's Mountain--The Slaty Gully--_Getting down_ a
difficulty--The Bingera Diggings--A panorama of hills--Crossing the
Ranges by night--A midnight bivouac--The Bundarra--Keera--An early
arrival--A squatter's cottage--Its surroundings--A station and its
belongings--The "shepherd's friend"--Cultivation of grain--Carriers at
a premium.

CHAPTER X.

Sheep shearing--The washpool--An ancient custom--Shearers and their
habits--Scarcity of servants--Convict days--Chinese servants--A horrid
story--Chinese emigration--_Revenons à nos moutons_--Cattle--An
Australian stock-keeper--A hunt after a _wild mob_--Agriculture
in the squatting districts--The vine--Fruit--Primitive wine
making--Qualifications for a bush housekeeper.

CHAPTER XI.

The Blacks' camp--Frequent change of quarters--_Patois_ spoken by
them--Their aversion to labour--Love of hunting--Varieties of game--Arts
of the chase--Their modes of cooking--Skin cloaks--The Bunya-bunya or
Australian bread-fruit--Native honey--Stingless bees--Native toilette--A
ball _à la_ Spurgeon Corroborees and Boroes.

CHAPTER XII.

Native superstitions--A burial place--Different modes of disposing of
the dead--Notions of a future state--Condition of their women--A
matrimonial dispute--Native children--Infanticide--Half-castes--Nurses
and washerwomen--"Black Charlie"--An awkward predicament--A sad
fate--Both sides of the question--Calling things by right names.

CHAPTER XIII.

Starting for a day of kangaroo hunting--A _contretemps_--Advantages of a
thick skull--The Tea free--Table land--Kangaroos in sight--An
unsuccessful burst--An "Old Man"--A formidable weapon--The Dingo--A
theory--The kangaroo rat--The Bandicoot--The Rock Wallaby--River
fishing--The _Platypus Ornithoryncus Paradoxus_--The Bunyip--A
flood--Flies and mosquitoes--Varieties of blight--Ophthalmia--Fifty
miles from a doctor--Visitors--Neighbours--Homeward ho!

CHAPTER XIV.

A false start--A fair one--Foul weather--A shepherd's hut--Bush tea--The
Rocky River--The Red Gum tree--Weather bound--The Rocky River
diggings--Gold finding--Alluvial diggings--Quartz crushing--A
nugget--"All is not gold that glitters"--A friend in need.

CHAPTER XV.

Salisbury Court--A squatter's residence--Lost horses--Ophthalmia--The
Moonboye Range--Tamworth--An unpleasant situation--The Burning
Mountain--Flood-bound--Another upset--Fording the river--A Canadian
traveller's tale--Driving _through_ a road--A "Slough of Despond "--The
last of the bogs--Megaethon--A philological reason.

CHAPTER XVI.

Anticipations--The Bush near Sydney--The roads again--The flood on the
Hunter of 1857--The Liverpool Railway--A roadside inn--Appin--More
rain--Retracing our steps--An unpleasant habit--Illawarra--The Cabbage
Tree Palm--The Garden of Australia--A case of plants--Our feathered and
four-footed fellow-passengers--Preparing to re-embark.

CHAPTER XVII.

Confined quarters--Baby provender--A model captain--Homoeopathy and
sea-sickness--Port of Melbourne--Its suburbs--The city--Fortunate
purchasers--"What is in a name?"--The rival queens of the
South--Melbourne streets--An argument for Bloomerism--Colonial gold
ornaments--The Yarra Yarra--A sound of _home_--The Botanical
Gardens--Waterfowl--A natural preserve--Canvas Town--The Houses of
Parliament--A senator in trouble--The land to make money in--The coast
of Western Australia--Albany--A trip ashore.

CHAPTER XVIII.

Our last look of Australia--A fishy fantasy--The order of the day on
shipboard--Point de Galle--Another trip ashore--The Cinnamon
Gardens--Re-embarking--Aden--A naval battle--The natives--Divers--The
Red Sea--A midnight alarm--On the rocks--All hands at the pumps--An
unpleasant alternative--Preparing to take to the boats--Ground
sharks--Afloat again--Noxious gases--Nubian natives--Coral
islands--"Passing on his way"--News from Jeddah--Off again--"Zeal
for the service"--Suez--Last adieus--A comparison--Transit through
Egypt--Malta--Home, sweet home!




ILLUSTRATIONS.

1. VIGNETTE.
2. A BUSH ENCAMPMENT.
3. A NATIVE BURIAL PLACE.
4. THE ROCKY RIVER DIGGINGS.
5. ALBANY-KING GEORGE'S SOUND.
6. NIGHT VIEW OF ADEN. [Not present in our copy of the book.]

7. THE BLACKS' CAMP [Not listed in our copy of the book.]


* * *


MY EXPERIENCES IN AUSTRALIA.



CHAPTER I.

Departure from England--Doubts and fears--Making the best of
things--_Pro's_ and _con's_ regarding the choice of a stern
cabin--Fellow-passengers--Sea unfavourable to development of more
pleasing features of character--The Line--A homeward bound ship--Off the
Cape--Fishing for sea birds--A shark--Phosphorescent balls--Land
ahead--Pilot aboard--Sydney harbour--First impressions of the
natives--Arrived at last.


"And fearfully and mournfully
We bid the land farewell,
Though passing from its mists away
In a brighter world to dwell."

Hemans.


On a cold, bleak day in March, 1856, my husband and myself stood leaning
against the bulwarks of the good ship ---- ----, gazing earnestly at a
little boat fast disappearing from our view. Even before she reached the
not very distant shore, she became enveloped in the dull grey mist that
hung around, and we lost sight of the dear friends who had left us by
her, and of whom we had just taken a long farewell.

For we belonged to the number of the outward-bound; the vessel on whose
deck we stood would, God willing, next cast anchor in the fair harbour
of Sydney, and for a time we were to be wanderers in that bright new
land, of which it has been said that--

"A soft clime and a soil ever teeming,
Summer's December and Winter's July;
The bright southern cross in the firmament gleaming,
There the safe harbours are bidding men try."

Before us were the perils of the wilderness, as well as the perils of
the sea; and on the eve of such a journey it certainly required a brave
heart to banish all doubts and fears, and look brightly and hopefully
into the future.

The day, too, was dark and stormy. The dull threatening sky, and the
wailing sough of the wind, whistling among the furled sails, added not a
little to our melancholy, being, moreover, suggestive of a state of
weather likely to prove very disagreeable to so bad a sailor as myself.

However, as we were not to raise our anchor till the following morning,
we had an evening of comparative quiet before us, and we thought it
would be wise to make use of it in putting our cabins in order, that
when the evil hour should come, we might be as comfortable as
circumstances would permit. So, adopting the "up and doing" philosophy,
I set to work, endeavouring to do my utmost to give them a homelike
appearance. To my inexperienced eyes the accommodation seemed very poor,
but I found afterwards, by comparison, that I had no reason to complain,
and that it was better than any to be obtained at present in the mail
steamers. We had one of the stern cabins for ourselves, and the side one
next to it for our little girl and her nurse. The clear space in both
was very small, but in ours there were famous lockers, and convenient
places to stow away our boxes, &c., which conveniences, indeed, I found,
after a little experience, constituted their principal recommendation.
On the whole, any advantages they possess do not, I think, compensate
for the great disadvantage of the motion being so much more sensibly
felt at the extreme ends, than nearer the centre of the ship, so that
all bad sailors should carefully avoid choosing a stern cabin.

I made this discovery when too late to remedy our mistake, and when
experience had taught me how impossible it is to struggle against sea
sickness--an impossibility which I would not believe in--on the
afternoon of our departure. I knew too well that I was by no means a
good sailor, but I tried to persuade myself that a week or ten days
would be the limit of my period of wretchedness; at all events it was
better to be sanguine on the subject, and to look as much as possible on
the bright side of things.

By the time we had put our cabins in some sort of order, we were
summoned to dinner, and had the opportunity of making the acquaintance
of our fellow-passengers, about whom I felt naturally a little curious.

We were but a small party, in all thirteen grown-up passengers and four
children.

It would be but an invidious task to particularize any in so small a
number; and I fancy that any sketch of character taken at sea would bear
a very caricature sort of resemblance to the original.

Certainly, petty miseries, and daily annoyances and privations, are not
favourable to the display of the more pleasing features of character;
and too frequently on board a ship one general rule of action is very
undisguisedly followed--that of "every one for himself."

Some allowances also must be made for people of totally different
dispositions and habits, of different stations in life, and engaged in
different pursuits, when gathered together in so small a space--deprived
of all their usual occupations and subjects of interest, and compelled
for a certain number of months to associate more or less intimately with
each other. Among a large number of passengers this remark is of course
less applicable, as then it is quite possible to select your own
associates, and to fight as shy as you like of the rest of your
fellow-passengers, whose peculiarities may serve rather to amuse you,
when you are not brought too closely in contact with them.

For instance, the small affectations and fine-lady airs of the wives of
the minor colonial officials, going out for the first time to share in
their husband's colonial dignities, are only amusing, when viewed from a
little distance; but you are apt to judge somewhat severely of the owner
of such accomplishments, when circumstances bring you into constant
communication with her, and you happen to be yourself to some extent a
sufferer from the constant attention she requires, and from her
monopolization of many small comforts, to the exclusion of all less
exacting passengers.

Then, no doubt, the petty miseries I have referred to affect one's own
mental vision, and make one take a jaundiced view of everything. For
instance, can there be a more agreeable addition to a pic-nic party
ashore than a lady who plays upon the guitar, adding to the melody thus
produced the music of her voice? Or could any one desire more harmless
and healthy exercise for some half-dozen young men, than a good game at
leap-frog? But if at the time chosen for the music you are at sea in a
ship pitching heavily, and you yourself suffering from a severe
headache; or if the place selected for the game be immediately above the
berth in which you are endeavouring to forget all your woes in the arms
of "sleep, the sweet consoler"--why, I am afraid you are apt to be a
little uncharitable, and wish the fair musician a slight taste of the
terrible _mal de mer_, and the uproarious youngsters safely back in the
playgrounds of their late respective schoolmasters.

So, board of ship is not a place to do justice to any characters, or to
make them appear in a favourable light; and I think the best plan to
adopt, at all events for the first few weeks of a voyage, is to think as
charitably of, and associate as sparingly with your fellow-passengers as
you find it possible to do.

This resolution, or at all events the latter part of it, I found it easy
enough to adhere to. On our first evening on board after a late dinner,
during which we just learned to know our fellow-passengers by sight, I
retired early to my cabin, and when I awoke the next morning we were
sailing down the Thames, and before the middle of the day were in such
rough water that we ladies were obliged to take to our sofas, and were
unable to reappear in public for several days. Oh! the horrors of that
time, and indeed of many succeeding days and weeks. I do not think it is
possible to portray, however faintly, the utter wretchedness of sea
sickness. I struggled, I think I may say bravely, but, alas! it was
vainly, with the malady. Urged by my husband's exhortations I contrived
to get upon deck for the first time on the third day.

My servant had also proved a very bad sailor, and my little girl had
just been sufficiently unwell to be content to lie quietly in bed--a
fact which I was unnatural enough not to lament over.

We had no stewardess on board, and my husband had had to act in many and
various capacities, including those of nurse and lady's maid; it was
therefore a matter of no small rejoicing to him to get us all safely on
deck, and as he hoped on a fair way towards recovery.

The day was bright and cheering, and the fresh air very pleasant. We
were getting near the mouth of the Channel, but the English coast was
still in sight, forming a blue line in the horizon. Several homeward
bound ships passed us, their white sails glistening so brightly in the
sunshine, and the sea was so calm and the sky so blue I almost made up
my mind that all my troubles were over, and began to indulge in some
pleasurable anticipations with respect to the remainder of the voyage;
they were doomed to receive another check, however for that evening the
wind sprang up again and continued blowing violently for some days.

In the Bay of Biscay, that place of ill renown, it amounted almost to a
hurricane, and continued blowing very violently till Friday, the 28th of
March, when we passed Madeira; I could not distinguish land, though I
believe it was to be seen through the telescope. The weather began to
get very pleasant from this time; we fell in with the trade winds, and
went bounding merrily along. I was much better, indeed quite well when
on deck, but unable to bear the close atmosphere of the saloon.

The captain's wife, a very pleasant person, was an equal sufferer with
myself, and we used to condole with one another on our lamentable
shortcomings as good sailors. I am afraid not even the sight of the
flying fish and the pretty paper nautilus with its gauze-like sails, or
the splendid sunsets and calm moonlight evenings, compensated for all I
underwent.

The heat, too, soon became very great, but still by no means
so intense as I had been led to expect. With the exception of two or
three days just on the line, when we were becalmed, and there was
positively not a breath of wind stirring, we always had a nice breeze
which prevented the weather from being absolutely oppressive. The day
before we crossed the line we had the good fortune to pass a homeward
bound vessel, which afforded us the opportunity of sending letters to
our friends. The excitement such an event causes far out at sea can
hardly be imagined by those who have not had the good or ill fortune to
experience it. We had public news of great importance to communicate to
them, being none other than the intelligence of the termination of the
war with Russia and the birth of an heir to the French throne, while
their good offices were to consist in carrying tidings of us to many
anxious hearts at home. In the evening before we parted we exchanged
rockets and blue lights, and the crews cheered one another very
heartily.

After crossing the line we fell in with the south-east trades,
and made a very good run to the Cape--only forty odd days from England.
After passing it the weather became very bad, very cold and stormy, and
for many days the hatches were battened down, and we ladies were unable
to get on deck. On one occasion, when it was blowing very hard, my
husband persuaded me to disobey orders and go out; I paid for my
rashness by getting drenched from head to foot by a sea which, had it
broken nearer where we were standing, the captain declared, would have
washed us overboard. So I made a hasty retreat, but considered that I
had been more than compensated for my bath by the magnificent spectacle
presented by the sea in a storm. The spray was drifting like snow, and
the large curling green waves looked as if they must overwhelm the good
ship as they kept breaking over her sides, flooding her decks, and
occasionally rushing down the companion ladder, and making their way
into the cabins situated in that part of the ship: our position at the
extreme end, saved us from any such unpleasant intruders.

This gale was the beginning of our bad weather, and the wind continued
blowing heavily, and generally against us, until we were off the coast of
Van Diemen's Land. With me this was a time of intense misery, I was
confined almost entirely to my berth; if the day chanced to be a little
calmer and milder than usual, I perhaps got on deck by twelve o'clock for
an hour or two. The captain was very kind in erecting a tarpaulin to
shelter us, in some measure, from the wind, rain, and snow; and in
lashing my chair firmly on the deck; and when I had sufficiently
recovered from the exertion of crawling upstairs, I used to find some
amusement in watching the flights of birds which came round our ship;
the large snowy white albatross, the mutton-bird with its silver grey
plumage, and the beautiful little Cape pigeon.

It was a favourite amusement with some of the young men on board, to bait
a line with salt pork, and fish for them. Sometimes they seized it eagerly,
and were hauled on the deck for our nearer inspection, though they showed
to much less advantage there than in their native element. If they were
not much injured, we ladies generally obtained their release, and they were
allowed to fly away, though in one or two instances, in the case of some
very beautiful specimens, we were cruel enough to sanction their death,
and petition for their skins. We once captured a small shark, and on
several occasions saw some tremendous monsters swimming close to the
ship. They are always accompanied by a beautifully-striped little fish,
called the pilot-fish, of which sailors tell funny stories. They say, in
times of danger the shark swallows them, and puts them up again when the
peril is past; and that in return for such kindly offices, these little
fish serve as guides to their huge protectors, and look out for prey for
them.

As we got into the more southern latitudes, we occasionally saw
whales at some little distance, spouting and blowing; and phosphorescent
substances in great abundance. In the evening, the sea used literally to
seem on fire. We once got the captain to lower a bucket and bring up one
of the glittering balls; by daylight its colour was of a dirty white,
and it had something of the consistency of a sponge. I think that the
general opinion is, that these balls are composed of a sort of
animalcula, in which the whales find their chief sustenance. We kept our
specimen in salt water, and were in hopes as night approached, to see it
again assume its brilliant appearance, but we were disappointed, as it
never shone brightly again, and after watching it for two or three
evenings we threw it overboard.

We had been some eighty-three days at sea, when the captain told us one
morning that that afternoon at about four o'clock, we should sight Cape
Pillar in Van Diemen's Land. The pleasurable excitement this
intelligence caused may easily be imagined, and every eye was eagerly
bent in the direction in which land was expected to appear.
At last there was a cry of "land ahead," and within half an
hour of the time named, we saw the fair land of Tasmania rising
as a cloud out of the sea; the wind at this time unfortunately failed,
and instead of reaching Sydney in some three or four days from this, it
was that day week before we sighted the lighthouse at the entrance to
Sydney Harbour.

Any land must appear beautiful to eyes that for three long months
have beheld nothing but one vast expanse of sea and sky; and the
south-east coast of Australia from Cape Howe to Sydney Heads, is
certainly in itself picturesque, wooded almost to the water's edge. We
ran in quite close to the shore, and obtained a view of Wollongong, and
the "Five Islands" opposite to it; and by twelve o'clock on Sunday, the
16th of June, we were opposite the entrance to Sydney Harbour. The wind
at this time very provokingly died away, and the whole afternoon was
passed in tacking and retacking, and when night came on, we were still
outside the Heads, and though the night was calm, the wind somewhat more
favourable, and the moon shining brightly, the captain most wisely
determined not to attempt entering till daylight, as this was his first
voyage to Sydney, and he was not well acquainted with all the
intricacies of the harbour. So we beat out to sea till the following
morning, when we stood in for the Heads, and by ten o'clock a.m., we
were safely anchored opposite the Quarantine Ground--our long and stormy
voyage brought to a happy conclusion.

A pilot soon boarded us to conduct us up the harbour, and he was
accompanied by a medical officer, who made the usual inquiries touching
our bill of health. It was fortunately, a very satisfactory one, and
there was nothing to prevent our proceeding on to Sydney as soon as the
sails could be furled, and a steamer procured to take us in tow. Long
before this, however, many boats from the town had come up to us,
bringing friends of the passengers, newspaper reporters, &c. Ours was
the latest news from the Old Country, and most eagerly it was received.
My first remark on seeing the younger, and for the most part native-born
among the new comers, was, "What a set of Yankees!" their appearance so
completely realised one's notions of a genuine New Yorker. Tall and
slight, with that go-ahead sort of expression of countenance, the cigar
in the mouth, and the broad-brimmed straw hat--all seemed to correspond
with the generally received opinion of the characteristics of the finest
nation in creation.

But, as I was not likely to recognise any familiar face among all who
came on board, arriving as I did, a "stranger in a strange land," and as
colonial news possessed but little interest for me, my attention was
principally engrossed by the surrounding scenery, which was very lovely.
There can be but one opinion on this point; every stranger must be
struck by its beauty.

The entrance is bold and rocky, the North Head rising perpendicularly
from the sea, to the height of many hundred feet; farther in, the style
of scenery changes, though it cannot be said to lose any of its beauty.

Wooded hills slope down to the water's edge; rocks festooned with
creeping plants, and picturesque little headlands, jut out into the deep
blue water, the white sparkling sand on the beach forming a pretty
contrast with the bright azure of the waves rippling gently over it;
while here and there are scattered pretty villas, half-hidden by the
dark wood that surrounds them. English eyes may miss the bright green
foliage of the trees of their own land; but to mine, which had been so
long accustomed to the darker hues of our Scotch fir woods, the sombre
tints of these trees, which are mostly of the _Eucalyptus_ tribe, wore a
home-like aspect, affording too, a very pleasing contrast with the deep
bright blue of the sky above and the water beneath. There is a wonderful
clearness in the Australian atmosphere, the outline of every object is
so distinctly defined; hills, trees, and buildings stand out so sharply;
and then the sky of cobalt, or ultramarine, forms so lovely a
background.

I had plenty of time on the morning of our arrival to admire all the
surrounding beauties, for we were at anchor for two or three hours off
the Quarantine Ground, and were afterwards towed very slowly up the
harbour, past the Island of Pinchgut (which, from its position
commanding the only navigable channel, has lately been fortified), and
many other small islets, and cast anchor opposite the Circular Quay,
where the Custom House is situated, and where most merchant vessels
unload.

And now we had really arrived at the end of our long voyage. How
inexpressibly thankful we all were! and I not the least among the
number, for I had been so very ill during the whole of the passage.

Certainly, Sydney stood a fair chance of having in me a very partial
observer, for I was quite prepared to be delighted with everything on
_terra firma_. I will, however, reserve the account of the impressions
it made on me for another chapter.



CHAPTER II.


First impressions of Sydney--Half-disappointed--The streets--Irregular
style of building--Scarcity of private houses--Hyde Park--Its
surroundings--A colonial notability--Another--The value of a
character--A _model_ of colonial architecture--St. James's
Church--Its neighbours--Legislative Council Chambers--An odious
comparison--Newspapers--Literary taste in the colony--More about the
streets--Government gardens--Flower shows--Gardening "doesn't
pay"--Government House--A stranger's yearning for home.


"That which they have done, but earnest of the things that they shall do."

--Tennyson.


Though I have stated in the previous chapter, that Sydney stood every
chance of finding in me a somewhat partial delineator, so truly
delighted was I once more to set foot on dry land, yet I cannot say that
the first impressions with which it inspired me were very favourable. I
suppose I had expected too much, for I fancy I ought to have been much
struck with it; this is a piece of common courtesy expected from every
stranger. The general remark used to be, "Were you not delighted with
the town--it must be so far in advance of what you could have expected?
Are not the shops in George Street very handsome?" Now, the simple truth
is, I was _disappointed_ in Sydney as a city; nothing can be more
beautiful than its situation, and its extent equalled my anticipations,
but the streets are straggling and irregular; here and there some fine
shops and public buildings, and adjoining them, miserable tumble-down
cottages, surrounded with old broken palings, all evidently erected in
the "year one" of the colony.

The city does not seem to have been built originally according
to any plan, but the ground was sold or given in patches to
private individuals, who erected all sorts of edifices, with
all sorts of aspects and accesses, such as seemed good in their own
eyes, and accorded best with their own private resources. The result,
naturally enough, is not very striking or imposing, although I am told
much has been done during the past few years, in opening _culs de sac_,
and thus adding to the length of the streets, if not to their width or
regularity. Still, if you take into consideration the fact that these
streets are badly paved--when paved at all--shockingly drained, and very
indifferently lighted: these circumstances must, I think, induce one to
admit that the good folks of Sydney, with their large municipal revenue,
have yet some reason to be ashamed of the architectural defects and
sanitary arrangements of their city. Another thing that struck me very
much in Sydney, was the absence of those rows of private houses which
give such an air of respectability, even to our second-rate provincial
towns at home. The best looking houses of this description in the town,
are in Wynyard Square, and are inhabited almost exclusively by rich
merchants, principally Jews. Then there are some few comfortable houses
in Elizabeth Street, opposite a large green which the old inhabitants
point to with no little pride and delight, and call Hyde Park. I call it
by courtesy a green, as, during the three or four winter months that I
beheld it, it might lay some claim to be thus designated, but for the
remainder of the year, the grass can boast of no such refreshing hue;
indeed, I have been told almost all traces of verdure disappear, partly
from the attacks of the sheep, cattle, and innumerable little droves of
goats, always to be found trespassing within its bounds, and partly from
the scorching effects of the summer sun, and the whirlwinds of dust with
which this favoured region is visited.

In speaking of Hyde Park, I must not omit to mention Lyons
Terrace, the miniature "Park Lane" of Sydney, containing some
six or eight houses, by no means remarkable for their architectural
beauty, but containing good public apartments, and forming
roomy and comfortable residences; but these buildings having been, I
believe, the first of their class erected in the city, "The Terrace,"
_par excellence_, is regarded with great pride and admiration alike by
the patriarchs and the rising generation. It was built by an old convict
of the name of Lyons--hence its designation; not, as some one suggested,
from its being the chosen residence of sundry of the colonial notables.
Some short account of its founder may not be wholly uninteresting, as
serving to give an idea of the extraordinary career of some of the old
convicts in former days.

This worthy was transported in the early times of the colony,
and, from conducting himself properly while passing through
the usual gradations of a convict's lot, he obtained in due time
his ticket of leave, and set up as an auctioneer. Being by this time
thoroughly convinced that honesty was the best policy, both in a moral
and money-making point of view, he wisely practised it, continued to
gain the confidence of the Sydney public, and died in the possession of
great wealth. A contemporary of his, as I have been told, another old
convict, of the name of Samuel Terry, contrived to amass a still larger
fortune (some £20,000 per annum) from very small beginnings; his first
possessions having been limited to his gains at the precarious game of
"pitch and toss." The money thus earned he laid out in buying spirits,
which he sold to old soldiers for their grants of land. In time these
grants became very valuable, and constituted a considerable portion of
the very large fortune referred to. There is a story told of this person
which seems almost too good to be genuine, but nevertheless I was
assured it was a fact. He was attended on the occasion of some severe
illness, by an old military or naval doctor, of well-known probity, to
whom he is reported to have said, "Ah, doctor! I would give ten thousand
pounds for your character." "Yes," was the somewhat cynical reply; "but
only that you might make twenty of it."

But I have been digressing somewhat from the subject under discussion.
To return to Sydney itself, and its public buildings. On the other side
of the "Park" is the Roman Catholic cathedral, a very handsome edifice,
which reflects no little credit on the liberality of the Roman Catholic
portion of the Sydney community; near it is the old Sydney College, a
plain unadorned building, a temporary substitute for the very handsome
University now in the course of erection on the outskirts of the town.

Within a short distance of the college is the Museum, a somewhat
unsightly edifice, which, I was told, a gentleman now well known in the
political world at home, had called "an exaggerated mouse-trap," from
its bearing, in outward appearance, no small resemblance to the useful
little contrivance in question. Last, but not least, in describing the
buildings situated round this "Park," or _Race course_ (for I should not
omit to state it is known also by this name, though now, at all events,
never used for the purpose it would suggest), I must not neglect to give
due honour to St. James's Church, a large edifice of red brick, with a
tall slated spire--about as ugly a building, both within and without, as
can well be imagined; but one of which the imaginary architectural
beauties are, nevertheless, regarded by the old colonists with much the
same sort of admiration, as may be felt by modern Romans for the mighty
dome of St. Peter's. To the younger members of the community, it is a
sort of St. George's, Hanover Square, a place where all fashionable
marriages are solemnized, and which is graced, moreover, every Sunday by
the presence of the beauty and fashion of the metropolis.

Flanking this building on either side are the old Criminal Courthouse, and
the original Convicts' Barracks the character of the former inhabitants of
these buildings seeming to offer an apt illustration of an old proverb.
A somewhat more fitting neighbour for a sacred edifice, is the hospital
situated just at the entrance of Macquarie Street. Adjoining the
hospital, are the Legislative Council Chambers but temporary buildings
it is to be hoped, as they are hardly in a style to do much credit to
the city, being in fact mere iron erections, by no means so imposing in
their external appearance as the edifices ought to be in which is
transacted the business of so large and thriving a colony as New. South
Wales. The interior, however, is neat and comfortable, though somewhat
small, and the halls, especially that of the Legislative Council, are
fitted up in good enough taste, although very insignificant when
compared with those of the younger colony of Victoria, of which I shall
speak in their place in this narrative.

On the opposite side of the same street is the subscription library--a
handsome building, but not, as I have understood, quite so well
supplied with books as it ought to be. In fact it must, I think,
be confessed that, with some few individual exceptions, the
public of Sydney is not a reading public. It is far too practical
to waste much time on general literature. Those whose time is
not wholly taken up by money-making pursuits, give all their leisure to
politics; and the few whose private resources admit of such indulgence,
not unfrequently devote every thought and faculty to this most
engrossing of all pursuits.

There are two daily papers, and several weekly ones, edited
with more or less talent and ability, and these organs of
public opinion are eagerly perused by all classes of society;
but books treating on abstract matters--indeed, all literary
publications not touching on the actual present interests of the
colony--are little sought after or cared for. Bookworms or authors would
meet with little sympathy there. I should much doubt whether even a
genuine poet would be made a lion of, even by the ladies, unless he was
particularly good looking or had a handle to his name: or by the
gentlemen, unless he was able and willing to write political squibs.
This want of literary tastes among the ladies I attribute partly to the
enervating effects of the climate, which disinclines the residents for
all mental as well as bodily exertion, and partly to the American custom
of introducing girls into society at such a very early age, that there
has been really but little time for mental culture, or for the
acquisition of the information without which these tastes are not likely
to exist. Of course I must be understood as speaking generally, and
among the acquaintances I formed, I could name some few exceptions to my
theory, but from what I heard and saw, I think it holds good as applied
to the class.

To return, however, to my description of the town: the streets I have
named are, I think, those in which most of the private dwelling houses
are situated, though there are a few of an inferior description in some
of the other thoroughfares, more in the business part of the town. The
most important of these thoroughfares is undoubtedly George Street--the
Regent Street of Sydney--in which most of the best shops are to be
found. It extends from the Circular Quay almost to the site of the New
University--a distance, I suppose, of some two or three miles--and
though known by different names at its two extremities, is in reality
one and the same street, running with many and various bends from north
to south, as do all the more important thoroughfares. Intersecting these
at all sorts of angles are other streets, generally of less importance,
but some of them boasting of many good shops, as is the case with King
Street and Hunter Street. The last, indeed (Hunter Street), contained
two which had more interest for me than any others in the town. They
belonged to bird-stuffers, and their windows were always full of many
curious and beautiful specimens of the feathered natives of Australia,
both alive and dead: parrots and parroquets of many and various hues,
the well-known white cockatoo, with its lemon-coloured crest, and the
far rarer and larger black one, with bright scarlet top-knot and
tail-feathers, a most magnificent bird, specimens of which are most
difficult to be obtained, from its wild shy habits.

These and many other denizens of the bush, down to the well-known
boodjerigah, or shell parrot, or love bird, as it is more commonly
called, with its beautiful plumage of soft vivid green, and the
still smaller and scarcely less beautiful diamond bird, with
its speckled wings and golden breast, made these shops points
of great attraction to me, and I plead guilty to many idle
moments passed in gazing in at their windows, and admiring and even
coveting their contents. But in a general way the streets of Sydney do
not strike a stranger as possessing any great attraction as promenades;
the pavements are narrow and generally out of repair, and excepting
immediately after a heavy fall of rain when the crossings are hardly
fordable, the streets are swept by whirlwinds of dust, which are most
particularly disagreeable to all foot passengers, and to ladies' dresses
ruinous in the extreme.

In general, however, the ladies of Sydney are no great pedestrians,
though, when they do venture on a walk, it is somewhat astonishing to
see their evident preference for the hot, dusty, crowded streets, to the
pleasantly shaded walks of the Government Domain. This same Government
Domain is in my estimation the great ornament and attraction, I had
almost said the redeeming feature, of Sydney. It was laid out during
General Macquarie's government, and does great credit to the good taste
of those who reserved it for the lungs of the future city. It is
situated on one of the small bays of the harbour, and commands many
beautiful views of different points and headlands. In addition to this,
it is well wooded and contains three or four miles of walks and drives,
comprising also within its limits the Upper and Lower Botanical Gardens.
The former are laid out somewhat stiffly in squares and geometrical
figures, and contain a small range of forcing houses, as extensive no
doubt as is necessary in this delightful climate, but still on a very
limited scale; so that any one familiar with the immense extent to which
glass is employed in the old country, cannot help smiling at the evident
pride with which the old colonists point to these small edifices--a
trifle larger than ordinary melon frames which seem to excite more of
their admiration and attention than do the natural beauties of the
gardens, which are really very considerable. Trees and plants from all
parts of the world flourish here in great profusion: the Bamboo, the
India-rubber tree, the Loquhat, the Norfolk Island pines, and Palms of
every variety. Fuchsias, Heliotropes, Geraniums, and Camellias, the
objects of so much care in our ungenial climate, grow here to a large
size, and form most beautiful objects in this garden landscape; but to
my eyes the most lovely of all these flowering plants are the creepers,
which grow in great profusion, and are trained over walls and
trellis-work.

Indeed, these and many beautiful exotics (of the old country) growing so
luxuriantly in the open air, serve more than anything else to remind the
stranger how far away he is from dear old England; for in many respects
Sydney is so like some of our provincial towns--there is so little to
strike any one as new or foreign in its appearance--that it is difficult
for the stranger to realise that so many thousands of miles lie between
this country of his adoption and his own dear native land.

Of the two Botanical Gardens which I have been describing, the most
attractive is undoubtedly the Lower Garden, as it is called, which
borders one of the many pretty little bays of the harbour; the walks in
it are laid out with very great taste, and form delightful promenades.
In the early mornings it is a favourite haunt of nursery-maids and
children, and once a week becomes a favourite resort of the colonial
world of fashion, one of the regimental bands playing there every
Tuesday afternoon. On Sundays, too, it is thrown open after morning
service, and is thronged by the mechanical and working classes, but at
other times this beautiful spot is comparatively deserted.

Three or four times in the course of the year flower shows are held
here. I was present at one of them (in October), but in my opinion these
exhibitions add very little to the everyday attractions of the gardens.
The exhibitors were very few in number, and one tent sufficed for all
the specimens collected. There were some fine samples of fruit and a few
rare and beautiful plants, but, generally speaking, the Sydney public
have something else to do than to spend much time or money in the
cultivation of their gardens, labour is so very expensive, and that sort
of thing "does not pay."

In my description of the Government Domain, I must not omit making
mention of the Government House. It is rather a fine building, in what I
think is called the "Tudor" style of architecture; the reception rooms
are good, and the windows command a most beautiful view over parts of
the harbour and north shore. It is the only building in Sydney or its
environs which can give the young Australians any idea of "the stately
homes of England." There are many other pretty residences belonging to
private individuals, erected in the outskirts of the town, but they are
all in the cottage or villa style. The enormous price of labour makes
building so very expensive, that the erection of a mansion at all
approaching in extent the large rambling manor houses so often to be met
with in the old country, would really swallow up a fortune; so that it
is not very surprising that the good folks of Sydney should be contented
with comparatively small residences; though I must own I was somewhat
astonished at the style of architecture most frequently adopted, it
seems so little suited to the climate of the country. Few precautions
are taken against the heat, which in summer is most excessive. In the
town but few of the houses are built with verandahs, or provided with
jalousies of any description. Even Government House is not much better
off in this respect, and though a handsome building, seems hardly
adapted for a country in which during six months out of the twelve the
thermometer varies from 70° to 90°.

I think I have now described the most remarkable features of
the actual city of Sydney, and in my next chapter will give
some short account of the numerous suburbs which have lately
sprung up about it. I do not fancy that I have depicted it in
very glowing colours, but it is not a place, I think, which a stranger
is likely to be much taken with. Few new arrivals are much pleased with
it. After a time, no doubt, all would be viewed differently; interests
and occupations spring up, and it is as desirable as it is natural that
the land of one's adoption, where one's home is formed for life should
be viewed with partial eyes; but to the mere visitor, I know of few more
uninteresting places. There is not the charm of novelty, which renders a
short residence in a foreign town agreeable, and yet the very thing that
makes home dear--all old associations are also wanting, and at first and
for many a long day, constant and deep must be the yearnings of
emigrants, of almost all classes and characters, for "country, mother
country," and many an earnest prayer must be breathed for permission

"To gaze upon her shores again."



CHAPTER III.

The suburbs of Sydney--View of the harbour from Paddington--No place
like home--The drives round Sydney--_Digging out_ an omnibus--A bouquet of
wild flowers--Flowering shrubs--Forest trees--The bush--Varieties of a
_scrub_--Snakes--Botany Road--Botany Bay--The menagerie--Cook's River--New
Town.


"Their groves o' sweet myrtle let foreign lands reckon,
Where bright beaming summers exalt the perfume;
Far dearer to me yon low glen o' green breckan,
Wi' the burn stealing under the lang yellow broom."

--Burns.


Sydney has very much increased within the last few years, and its
suburbs now are numerous and extensive. On the opposite shore of the
inlet known as Darling Harbour, quite a new town has sprung up, and a
bridge, which has lately been thrown across, will give, no doubt, an
additional impetus to building in that direction. Land has become very
valuable there, and where a few years ago a few scattered cottages alone
were to be seen, now stand the flourishing suburbs of Balmain, Pyrmont,
and St. Leonard's.

[Illustration: Albany--King George's Sound.]

In quite an opposite direction, to the south of Sydney, extend
Darlinghurst, Wooloomooloo and Paddington, which from the beauty of
their situation, and from their hitherto having afforded easier access
to the town, have been generally preferred as places of residence. There
are many pretty villas and cottages scattered about here, and still
farther out on the road to the South Head are some very pretty places,
all, as I have before said, built in the villa style, but whose beauty
of situation forms their principal attraction. Nothing snore exquisite
can be conceived than the views that some of these command. As I sit
writing this on a dull February morning in Scotland, the snow beating
against the window panes, and myself ensconced in a large arm-chair with
my table drawn close to the fire, a picture of one of these views comes
vividly before my mind's eye: I am once more seated in a handsome stone
verandah, one of the very few to be met with near Sydney; a flight of
steps leads down to a small, neatly kept garden, with some really green
turf to refresh the eye, and remind one of home; a field beyond, and the
slanting roof of a cottage seen through some low growing trees; one or
two Norfolk pines, rearing their tall heads far above the others; these
form the foreground of my landscape: and beyond are the bright blue
waves breaking on the yellow sand, and picturesque headlands, crowned at
first with a dark glossy green and becoming more and more indistinct,
till at last it is difficult to believe those faint hazy lines are
really the outline of the bold North Head, or that that thread of white
is the lighthouse on the south shore. Then, looking in the distance like
birds of snowy plumage--

"The stately ships come on,
To their harbour under the hill."

And over all is the clear blue sky, and enlivening all, the bright
golden sunshine. Or I view the same scene by the soft light of the moon;
far in the distance are heard faint sounds of music, and steaming up the
harbour is one of the fine mail steamers hung with lamps from stem to
stern. The crew, delighted at the termination of their long voyage, fire
off rockets and blue lights, which are answered from the shore, and
illuminate quite brightly the surrounding scene. A prettier sight could
hardly be imagined, but I must own that the principal pleasure I derived
at the time from contemplating it, was in the thought it suggested, that
in the good ship's next voyage we should probably be among the homeward
bound passengers. So, remembering how I pined for my northern home when
far away, I feel little difficulty in reconciling myself to our ungenial
climate, with its hail and sleet, and frost and ice, and would not
exchange our snow-clad hills for a landscape of perpetual summer beauty.
Still, there is no doubt it is one of the pleasures of travelling, that
these lovely pictures do not pass away from the recollection, and that
as much delight is often experienced in dwelling on the remembrance of
these scenes as is felt at the time when actually witnessing them.

The drives about Sydney, as may well be imagined from what I have just
said, are very picturesque, especially the two in the direction of the
South Head, known respectively as the Old and New South Head Roads, and
they have the additional advantage of being kept in tolerably good
repair, which is more than can be said for most of the roads round
Sydney, or, in fact, of the streets themselves occasionally. During the
rainy weather which preceded our departure from the colony, I remember
seeing, nearly opposite Lyon's Terrace, an omnibus with one of its
wheels sunk up to the axles, the horses out, and the driver and
conductor gone also; probably in search of spades to dig out their
vehicle!

The drives referred to, when passable, used to be my favourite resorts,
and in the spring of the year they can boast of additional attractions,
in the shape of the wild flowers which grow by the road side. Oh, these
said wild flowers, what pleasure they afforded me! I am, unfortunately,
nothing of a botanist, and could get no work on the plants of Australia,
and very little information on the subject from any one to whom I
applied; so that of many of the most beautiful specimens I do not even
know the name. There was one beautiful creeper especially, Kennedia
Rubicunda, with pea-shaped flowers of a deep crimson, with a large
trefoil leaf of dark glossy green, and another with a smaller blossom of
brilliant scarlet, almost the texture of velvet, which covered the
ground in sandy spots. Extending from tree to tree, and spreading over
the bushes, looking at a little distance like a delicate gauze veil of
the most exquisite blue, was another beautiful runner whose name I could
never learn; it grew almost without leaves, and its stem was so slight
it could only be seen when quite close, so that really it often seemed
floating in the air. Then there was the _Sheep Vine_, with its purple
vetch-like blossom, growing in long wreaths; its botanical name,
_Kennedia Microfilla_, I do happen to know, as I found it in our
greenhouse at home among our most cherished creepers. Besides these, are
the _Bignonias_, the common white variety of which is most abundant in
the neighbourhood of Sydney, and two or three varieties of the white
_Clematis_, which all grow to a great height, running up the trunks and
entwining round the branches of the high forest trees, often clothing
some old decayed trunk with a life and beauty not its own.

One instance of this I remember particularly. In one of my many rambles
through the bush, which I enjoyed more than I did anything else in the
colony, my husband drew my attention to the trunk of a young tree, which
grew to the height of some ten or twelve feet, with a few branches drooping
downwards. Some one had, a few months previously, set fire to it, and
now round its blackened stem grew the native _Bignonia_, with its white
wax-like flowers, and bright glossy leaves, like those of the yellow
jasmine. It ran up to the full height of the tree, twined round the
remaining branches, and then drooped down again almost to the ground.
The most skilful hand could not have trained it more gracefully, and a
most beautiful picture it formed, standing out in relief against the
background of the dark evergreen bush, by which it was surrounded.

The evergreen flowering shrubs are far more numerous even than the
creepers, and some of the blossoms they bear are very beautiful. There is
the _Native rose_, as it is called, which, however, bears no other
resemblance than that of colour to the old garden favourite. It is known
to botanists, I believe, as the _Borronias serrulata_. The leaf is
small, more resembling the box than any other shrub I am familiar with,
but with the edges indented; the flowers grow in clusters at the end of
the stem, and are in shape, small cup-like bells of the brightest rose
colour; it has a strange pungent perfume, which is pleasant enough in
the open air, but rather too powerful in a room. There is also a native
_Jasmine_, its flower precisely resembling the white _Jasmine_ we are
all familiar with at home, but the plant itself bearing more likeness to
the broom. There is also the native tulip-tree or _Waratah_, as it is
more commonly called, with large scarlet blossoms, in size and shape
somewhat resembling a peony; and there is the native heath, or
_Epacris_, of which there are many varieties, the commonest, perhaps,
being one which grows in large bushes, and has crimson flowers tipped
with white. There is another variety, whose name I do not know; it grows
lower, and the flowers are more of a scarlet hue; and another, somewhat
more rare, with green blossoms. I have only named a few of the very many
flowering shrubs that abound near Sydney. Besides these are many
beautiful Orchidaceous and bulbous rooted plants. Of the former I may
mention the _Rock Lily_, which, with a coarse, ugly leaf, bears the most
beautiful flower, of the bush. It is generally of a pale straw colour,
though I have seen them of a rich mottled tortoiseshell hue, and it
grows in delicate little bells, along a stem perhaps a foot in length,
which hangs in a graceful curve. I have seen young ladies wear these
blossoms in their hair, and can bear witness how very well they looked.
The only other plant which, in my opinion, can contest the palm of
beauty with this feather-like flower, though quite unlike it in form and
hue, is that known as the _Fringed Violet_, a most exquisite little
thing, of the Iris tribe, I fancy; it is formed of three leaves, so
smooth and glossy in texture as to resemble satin, each leaf being
surrounded with a most delicate little fringe, such as might serve to
adorn the train of a fairy queen. In colour it is the most delicate
lilac or peach; it has a bulbous root, and long narrow leaves almost
resembling grass. This beautiful little flower is most difficult to
transplant, and I am not aware that it has ever been brought to this
country. We gathered some of its seeds, which we brought carefully home,
but have not succeeded in inducing any of them to grow; perhaps _roots_
might have done better; but stove-heat will not start the seed.

I have been tempted into a somewhat long dissertation on the
Bush-flowers, and can only plead as an excuse, their great beauty, and
the intense enjoyment that I derived from making acquaintance with them.
Among the smaller trees, or larger shrubs, of the bush may be mentioned
the _Acacias_, of which the variety is almost endless. I collected
specimens of some eighteen or twenty different species growing in the
immediate vicinity of Sydney; and I believe the varieties scattered over
the different colonies amount to nearly a hundred; they are very
beautiful, and make one think of the French name for the laburnum,
"_pluie d'or_." The credit of a still better comparison belongs to, I
think, Colonel Mundy, who says their branches look as if laden with "a
golden snow-storm." The _Banksias_, again, form some of the intermediate
growth of the bush. Among them may be mentioned the _Honeysuckle_ or
_Bottle-washer tree_; whence the derivation of its former name I never
could learn; the latter it is easy to account for, as the flowers are in
the form of long round tubes, composed of rough spiky fibres, and the
possibility might well be suggested of using them in the manner their
name implies. The trees of larger growth are almost all of the
_Eucalyptus_ tribe, characterized by their dark sombre colour, the
length and narrowness of their leaves, and the fact of their shedding
their bark instead of their foliage. They all bear white blossoms in the
spring, which have a strong perfume, and quite scent the air. The
principal distinction between them is in their bark, and it requires a
somewhat practised eye to distinguish between the _Red_, _White_, and
_Spotted Gums_, the _Stringy Bark_, and _Iron Bark_, all of which trees
are extensively employed for building purposes.

Around Sydney very few specimens remain of the original growth
of the forest; the timber has all been cut down, and the young
wood which has sprung up can give one a very poor idea of what
these same trees are when they attain their full size. Here
and there, it is true, a tall gum-tree raises its head, whose
white stem and spreading branches, often nearly void of foliage, make
one compare it to some hoary patriarch, a relic of byegone times; but,
in general, the trees near Sydney are low and bushy, many of them still
only forming brushwood; so that when you get into the centre of this
scrub, you may fairly call yourself in the bush, for you can often not
see many yards before you. Indeed, for this reason, the country in the
immediate neighbourhood of Sydney generally deserves this name far
better than that more in the interior, for there the trees grow farther
apart, and are very tall, with few lower branches, so that the view is
comparatively clear, and there is not generally much underwood; but in
fine seasons the country boasts of a fair enough sward of grass.

Of course, I must be understood as referring to the parts of the colony I
myself have visited. In the far interior, I am aware that there are
large tracts of country completely covered with scrub, and thus totally
unserviceable for all purposes of pasturage. Some, indeed, are quite
impenetrable, even to the aborigines. My husband relates that on one
occasion, during one of his exploring excursions in the far north-west,
he encountered one of these dense jungles or thickets, and on proposing
to enter it on horseback, was told by his black guide, "Bail yarraman
(no horse), only white fellow." Of a second he was informed, "Bail white
fellow, only black fellow;" and of a third, "Bail black fellow"--"Bail,"
the aboriginal negative, meaning that not even a native could penetrate
this scrub.

Of course, in no part of the neighbourhood of Sydney does the
bush come up to this last description; but even there a ramble
through it is not a little detrimental to ladies' dresses; indeed, I
much doubt whether many of the colonial ladies ever venture on such
expeditions. In the summer season, indeed, it would not be very safe to
undertake them, as the snakes of New South Wales are very numerous, and,
with few exceptions, very deadly; but in early spring and autumn such
rambles are truly delightful, especially to the stranger, to whom every
object has the extra attraction of novelty.

On the occasion of our last visit to Sydney, we were residing some eight
or ten miles out of town, in the very centre of a wilderness of trees and
flowers; and our host and hostess used to be not a little astonished
at the unfailing delight we had in exploring the neighbourhood, always
coming home laden with flowers. I pressed and dried a great many of them,
hoping to be able to give some idea to our friends at home of their great
variety and beauty; but they so completely lost their colour, that latterly
I took to sketching them; and although, from never having previously
attempted flower drawing, I did not succeed as well as I could have wished,
still my sketches gave a better idea of their form and colour than was
suggested by their own poor withered remains.

Among the many drives round Sydney, there is one which I have not yet
mentioned, which, on account of the poor soil through which it passes,
is more richly bordered with floral treasures than perhaps any other--I
allude to the Botany Road. Its name, however, suggests its only attraction;
for, were it not for the many new and beautiful plants and flowers which
flourish here, it would be as unpicturesque and uninteresting a drive or
ride as it is possible to imagine, passing through a perfectly flat level
tract entirely without wood, and by turns an arid sandy plain and a boggy
marsh. These marshes, known as the Lachlan Swamps, are, however, of very
great importance to Sydney, as, from the water collected here and kept
in large reservoirs, the whole of the town is supplied. Botany Bay, by
which name the whole colony of New South Wales seemed once to be best
known, is situated some five or six miles to the south of Sydney. One
wonders why it obtained such a lasting notoriety; for though, it is
true, it was here the first detachment of convicts were landed, under
the orders, I think, of Captain Phillip, the harbour was soon discovered
to be far inferior to that of Port Jackson, on the headlands of which
Sydney is now built; and the idea of forming a settlement at Botany was
soon abandoned.

On the north side of Botany Bay there is now a good hotel, with
a very fair road leading to it from Sydney. It is a favourite
resort for the honeymoon, I believe, among certain classes;
but I cannot fancy it can boast much to recommend it as a residence,
even at such a time. Its principal attractions are the neatly kept
pleasure grounds in front, sloping down to the Bay, and a small
menagerie dignified by the name of _Zoological Gardens_. The few
_native_ animals among the collection were the only ones that possessed
much interest for me. There was a Kangaroo, of course, and a Native dog,
a creature of the Jackal tribe, I believe; in colour it is generally a
sandy, reddish brown, sometimes brindled, with a fine bushy tail. There
was also the Native Bear, a small animal perhaps the size of a large
Persian cat, but far more clumsily made; it has sharp claws, and a very
knowing wicked little face; the fur is long and rough, and of a brown
colour; it lives in trees, and feeds, I believe, on the bark and young
shoots. Of native birds, there was the Emu, with its long legs and
curious _fibry_ feathers. This creature does not fly, not having the _de
quoi_, but runs at a tremendous pace, putting the swiftest horses and
hounds to their mettle to overtake it; when overtaken, I have heard it
said that it defends itself by kicking its pursuers, and that a
well-directed kick has been known to break a horse's leg; but I should
think this somewhat mythical. There were also specimens of the Native
companion (a species of crane), of the Pelican, the Black Swan, and many
other less remarkable members of the feathered tribes whose names I do
not recollect.

On the other side of Botany Bay may be seen the monument to La Perouse,
the unfortunate French navigator, who was killed in a skirmish with the
natives of one of the South Sea Islands. There is no carriage track
leading to it, so I only saw it from a distance. Falling into Botany Bay
is a small river known as Cook's River; if so called in honour of the
great navigator, it was certainly no great compliment to him. It is only
navigable for a short distance, and that merely for little boats; it
passes close to the flourishing suburb of New Town, and then through a
densely-wooded country, known as "The Forest;" beyond that I do not know
its course, but it soon dwindles down into a very insignificant stream.
With New Town I may end my account of the suburbs of Sydney; it is
certainly one of the largest and most flourishing, containing some
pretty villa residences, and a rather picturesque church, which reminds
one somewhat of the country churches in England. I believe that the land
here is held by a very doubtful sort of tenure, and that at present
there is a lawsuit going on, which, if decided in favour of the
plaintiff, will turn more than half the population out of their houses.
It is too long and intricate a case for me to know much about, nor do I
imagine that the details could possess much interest for any one in this
country, supposing I happened to be familiar with them.



CHAPTER IV.

The climate of New South Wales--Variations of temperature--Australian
children--Their precocity in every respect--Resemblance to
Americans--Sydney society--Beadledom at the antipodes--The
squatters--The Sydney season--Balls and pic-nics--Fish--Beauties of the
Harbour--The Paramatta River--Oranges and orange groves--The Town of
Paramatta--Traditions of the Female Factory.


I have heard so many different opinions touching the climate of New
South Wales, even from old residents, that I must be excused if, with my
limited experience, I have not quite made up my mind on the subject,
whether to praise or condemn. The winter months, from March to
September, are generally very delightful, reminding one of a fine August
or September at home. The air is fresh and bracing, the sky bright and
cloudless, and there is that peculiar clearness in the atmosphere which
adds so great a charm to the beauty of a landscape; but even at this
time, that great drawback to the Australian climate, its variableness,
is very remarkable. The mornings are quite chilly, and a fire is a very
agreeable companion; you venture out, perhaps, in a comfortable warm
dress and cloth cloak, and by twelve o'clock you long for the lightest
of muslins; the power attained by the sun at midday, even in the middle
of the winter, is always so great. Towards evening, again, it becomes
quite cold and even frosty; I do not remember ever noticing the
variations of the thermometer during the four-and-twenty hours, but can
easily believe there is frequently a difference of from 20 to 30
degrees. In the summer the alternations must be still greater. I
remember the only New Year's Eve I was in the colony, being quite glad
to draw my chair close to a large wood fire (this, I must mention, was
during a heavy flood, when the country round was fairly inundated), and
a week after, the heat was so great that the thermometer in my bedroom,
the coolest room in the house, stood at a hundred and two! These
excessive variations of the temperature must necessarily be productive
of a great deal of illness.

In the interior, where, from the description of their dwellings
and the character of their avocations, people are more exposed
to these changes of climate than in town, they produce rheumatism
in all its forms, and in many parts of the country fever and
ague also; but still, on the whole, I suppose the climate must be
admitted to be healthy. It is said to be particularly favourable to
children and very old people; the former assertion I can well believe,
as the children are generally the very picture of health, but the latter
I do not understand so well, as there seems to be so very small a
proportion of old people among the population of New South Wales; and
those few seem generally to have grown old before their time. The
remark, perhaps, is only meant to apply to those who, with a good sound
constitution, come to the colony just as old age is creeping on them,
and to these the change to a mild dry atmosphere (provided they are not
likely to be exposed to its vicissitudes) may be beneficial, but I
should not think the native-born Australians, or those who have
emigrated in childhood, are likely to be a very long-lived race. They
arrive so early at maturity--boys and girls of fourteen or fifteen
looking quite young men and women--I should fancy in the course of a
generation or two, that the European population of Australia will bear a
great resemblance to that of America. I have already said how much
struck I was by the typical similarity of the first Australian youths I
had seen, in figure, features, and expression, to my pre-conceived
notion of Yankees, which notions were not wholly derived from Punch. The
girls are, generally speaking, pretty; their great want no doubt is
complexion, but this is more than compensated for by their fine eyes and
hair, and slight graceful figures. Still, as we read of American
beauties, they go off very soon, and at four or five-and-twenty have
generally a worn faded look. There is something American, too, in the
treatment of children and young people in Australia; they are, if I may
venture to say it, terribly spoilt; everything is made to give way to
them, and it is half-amusing, half-sad to hear quite little things
passing their opinions on every subject, expressing their wishes, and
expecting everything to give way to their inclinations.

One would almost prefer the discipline of former times, in which our
grandfathers and grandmothers were trained up. Perhaps my remarks on
this subject are somewhat of a sweeping nature, but they are not only
the result of my own observations, but an expression of the
opinions of others whose experience better qualifies them to have
a voice on the subject; and though, no doubt, there are many
parents who have somewhat stricter, and in my opinion more
sensible, notions on the subject of education, yet, with the
greater number, excessive indulgence and freedom of speech and
action seem the order of the day.--Query, is this peculiar feature of
moral training, viz., the accordance of the fullest liberty or license
to those least able to use it discreetly, the invariable characteristic
of all free and enlightened states and individuals?

Perhaps I may here venture to say a little of Sydney society, but, in
hazarding a few remarks on the subject, I must premise by stating that
from my short residence in the colony, my personal experience is very
limited, and I can only pretend to give some notion of the impressions
it made on me, a perfect stranger, possessed however of more
opportunities of mixing in it than occurs to most new arrivals, from the
fact of my husband having been formerly for many years resident in the
colony. I may begin by stating that the present tone of society is, so
far as I could gather, very much higher and better than it was in the
late Governor's time; or at all events during the latter years of his
residence. To compare small things, or rather people, with great ones,
there is much the same difference between the _renommée_ of Government
House under the late Sir Charles Fitzroy and at present under Sir Wm.
Dennison, as between that of the Pavilion during George the Fourth's
time, and Osborne under the rule of our present Gracious Sovereign; and
it must be admitted that abroad, as well as at home, the private lives
of the most exalted individuals of the land cannot fail to have a great
influence on the moral tone of the community at large. But to pass on to
society as it now exists; it may not seem very surprising that in
Sydney, as in our country towns at home, the community should be very
much divided into cliques, the leading class piquing itself very much on
its exclusiveness; but of course here, as elsewhere, great wealth is an
"open sesame," that there is no withstanding; and it is only the union
of obscurity and poverty with disgrace or crime that is so carefully
shunned, so unsparingly stigmatized. The officers of government, civil,
military, and naval, the heads of the learned professions, and the
leading members of Parliament (so-called) are, however, the acknowledged
representatives of Antipodean aristocracy; and somewhat amused I used to
be at their amazing appreciation of their respective dignities, and the
eagerness with which they hug and cherish their official, parliamentary,
and police-office prefixes, of _honourable_ or _worshipful_, and the
equally esteemed adjuncts, M.P., M.L.C., J.P., &c., &c. All this
exaggerated respect for office and minor colonial dignities reminded me
not seldom of the well-known papers on "Beadledom," making me imagine
Sydney must be decidedly a city of refuge, if not the last stronghold,
of that respectable institution.

However, when we take into consideration the peculiar circumstances
under which the colony was first formed, and the great number of more
than doubtful characters who were, and perhaps still are to be met with
in it, we cannot wonder at the existence of a very decided desire on the
part of the more respectable classes to acquire what may be described as
_testimonials_ of respectability, and rather to hold themselves aloof
from those not similarly _décorés_. One might suggest, no doubt, a
higher standard of respectability than that universally acknowledged in
the colony, which partakes somewhat of the character of the test of
"keeping a gig," rendered famous by Carlyle; but if we have not arrived
at home, this indifference to the claims of _mere wealth_, and still
less of _position_, we cannot reasonably expect a greater amount of
philosophy in this gold-hunting colony.

There is another class which might fairly advance equal claims to the
highest rank in the social scale of the colony, but who, until lately,
were little known in the fashionable world of Sydney. I allude of course
to the squatters; generally young men of good family at home, many of
whom having enjoyed the advantages of a university education, and not
having left the old country till fully able to appreciate its
refinements, carry away some fragments of them to their rude bush
dwellings. They not unfrequently, too, contrive in after years, to
induce some fair countrywoman to share their fortunes in the land of
their adoption; so that there is often an air of more home-life
refinement round the rough cottages of the far interior, than pervades
many of the finely furnished drawing-rooms in and around Sydney.

Now, in these prosperous times, some of these "pastoral nabobs," as a
few of the most fortunate of the squatters may be termed, are beginning
to afford themselves town residences, and the infusion of this new
element into Sydney society, will, undoubtedly, be greatly to its
advantage.

On account of the great heat of summer, or perhaps because the Colonial
Legislators then give themselves a holiday in the country, the winter
months are the season of the principal festivities here. The first ball
at Government House is given on or about the 24th of May, in celebration
of Her Majesty's birthday; as some twelve hundred persons are generally
invited, it is not as may be supposed, by any means an exclusive or
particularly select affair, and I have been told that extraordinary
abuse of the Queen's English is occasionally perpetrated during the
intervals of the dances, and that various eccentricities are
occasionally exhibited at supper. Invitations to the private assemblies
at Government House, however, are more limited in number, and only
issued to the _quasi élite_ of Sydney society.

Besides these assemblies, there are generally in the course of the
season two or three large public balls, either at one or other of the
theatres, or at the barracks, given by the officers of the regiments
stationed there, and of course plenty of private parties, so that Sydney
is by no means wanting in gaiety. A visit to one of these balls gives a
stranger a very favourable idea of the good looks of the colonial
belles, who may be said to _light up well_, the prevailing style of
beauty being of a character which perhaps shows to the greatest
advantage in a ball-room. In summer pic-nics are much in vogue, and no
more delightful sites can be imagined than those offered by every bay
and headland of the lovely harbour for these _fêtes champêtres_. These
pleasantest of parties are not quite so much in fashion now, I am told,
as they used to be during the late _régime_. Of some that took place in
former days under distinguished patronage, scandal tells some wicked
stories, which would be very amusing if they were not very shocking.

Oystering, too, used to be a favourite amusement with the young folks of
Sydney, and every rock in the harbour was once covered with this
favourite little shell-fish, but they are fast disappearing from the
vicinity of the town, though the supply obtained for the market is very
abundant. Prawns, and a species of crawfish as large as a lobster, are
also very plentiful at certain seasons; but the fish generally is of a
far inferior description to that which we get at home. It is caught in
considerable abundance both in the harbour and Botany Bay, and it is not
surprising that from the advantages offered by these lovely pieces of
water, that fishing and boating should be somewhat favourite amusements
with the youth of Sydney.

The regattas which occasionally take place here, are, I have
heard, very pretty sights, and I can well believe it, as the
beautiful scenery of the harbour would form a lovely background
to any picture. My acquaintance with these said beauties, however, is
somewhat limited, for I am such a very wretched sailor that I could
never make up my mind to explore it in a boat. Once I ventured in a
small steamer to Manly Beach, as the head of one of the many little bays
of the harbour is called, and a very pleasant day we spent there,
partaking of our lunch under the spreading gum trees, with the calm blue
waters of the harbour on one side, and on the other the boundless South
Pacific Ocean, with its huge waves breaking in tremendous force on the
rocky shore. Another pleasant excursion is up the Paramatta River, the
whole course of which, but more especially the first ten miles after
leaving Sydney, is picturesque in the extreme. The first spot you notice
at the mouth of the river is Cockatoo Island, a barren rocky little
islet, to which most of the malefactors of the colony are now sent, and
where the few convicts from home whose sentences have not expired or
been commuted, are still confined.

These prisoners are principally employed in quarrying stone, and in the
erection of docks. Sentinels are posted at short distances all round the
island, and escape from it would be very difficult, more especially as the
harbour is known to abound with sharks, and the most active swimmer
would stand but a poor chance of reaching either bank of the river
in safety. After leaving Cockatoo Island, the steamer passes several
other small islets more promising in appearance, boasting generally
of plenty of vegetation and even tall trees; some pretty villa
residences have been built on them, as well as on either bank
of the river, whose turnings and wanderings are very picturesque.
Indeed, as far as Ryde, a prettier stream can hardly be imagined;
on its banks are some extensive orange orchards, and the dark
glossy green of the foliage contrasted with the bright golden fruit,
forms a new and lovely feature in the landscape.

From this neighbourhood come the greater number of oranges
that supply the Sydney and Melbourne markets, and these orange
groves are sources of great wealth to their fortunate possessors;
one was pointed out to me apparently of but small extent, not
larger than a good sized kitchen garden, and I was told that
either a thousand or twelve hundred pounds had been given that season
for the fruit. Many new orchards are being planted, which will in a few
years male the supply of fruit so much more abundant, that it will, of
course, greatly reduce the profits of those at present in bearing; but,
in the meantime, their owners are reaping a golden harvest.

The town of Paramatta is situated at the head of the navigation
of the river, some fifteen or sixteen miles from Sydney. It lies
very low, and in summer the heat there must be excessive, as it
has not the benefit of the sea breezes, which at this period are
the very life of the metropolis. I do not know anything for which
it is very remarkable; the streets are straggling, the good
shops not numerous--altogether it is much like one of our third
or fourth rate country towns at home. In former days it was
celebrated for an establishment called "The Factory," for what reason I
am not aware, it being a sort of house of correction for the reception
of the female prisoners on their first landing, previous to consignment
to private service, and for their punishment if returned there for
misbehaviour in the colony. The inmates were divided into three classes.
In the second, were placed the new arrivals, who by good conduct were
promoted to the first, or by bad degraded to the third. The third class
was consequently composed of of the worst of these unfortunates, who had
their heads shaved, were kept under very strict surveillance and
considered ineligible for service; but from the two higher classes
domestic servants might he chosen, who, occasionally, were promoted to
still higher positions in the households of the early settlers. Indeed,
I have been fold that it was no unusual thing for some forlorn bachelor
in want of a helpmate, to select one from this peculiarly Australian
establishment.

The formula gone through on such occasions was something as
follows. The would-be Benedict made his wishes known to the
Government, which, with true paternal consideration, ordered a muster of
its somewhat troublesome wards. When marshalled in fair array, the anxious
wooer passed down the ranks and made his selection from among the
candidates, and the object of his choice was then assigned to him for
"better or worse." I have heard that from marriages thus contracted,
have sprung more than one of the wealthiest families of the colony.

This institution is, however, no longer existing; Paramatta has lost one
of its greatest attractions, and, indeed, quite gives one the idea of a
place that has seen its beat days. Even the railway communication which
has been lately opened between it and Sydney, seems to have done little
for it in any respect. There are a few good residences in the immediate
neighbourhood of the town, but not so many as might be expected from the
fact of its short distance from Sydney, and the easy access to the
metropolis now afforded by steam communication both by land and water.
The former Governor had a country seat here, but it has been given up
lately, owing, I believe, to some colonial disciples of the school of
retrenchment having induced the Legislature to stop the supplies for
keeping up the establishment.



CHAPTER V.


Colonial government in the early days--Police regulations--The value of
a passport--An awkward predicament--The Governor's prerogatives--A model
editor--Emigrants and emancipists--The first constitutional
council--Playing at "Parliament"--Legislating in earnest--Responsible
government--New constitutions--Colonial munificence--A Brummagem
aristocracy--The British country gentlemen--The Australian legislator.


"Toil not for title, place, or touch
Of pensions, neither count on praise--
It grows to guerdon after-days;
Nor deal in watchwords over much.

"Not clinging to some ancient saw;
Not mastered by some modern term;
Not swift nor slow to change, but firm;
And in its season bring the law."

Tennyson.


Having written something as to the present state of society in the
colony, it may not be inappropriate to introduce here a slight sketch of
its Government, past and present, although I must premise by saying that
my knowledge on this subject is chiefly hearsay, and therefore I will
not venture upon dates. In the days of the first settlement of the
colony, nearly the whole population consisted of convicts, and the
military and civil officials appointed to look after them; so that in
these early times the terns of Governor was only another word for that
of head gaoler of the colony. The powers attached to his office were
naturally and necessarily very large, and, of course, those under him
were armed with similar authority in their respective situations; and
there can be no doubt that with such a population to keep in check,
measures which, under different circumstances, might have been justly
deemed cruel and oppressive, were actually necessary to preserve the
proper discipline of a penal settlement.

Even when free emigrants began gradually to arrive in the colony,
their numbers were for many years so disproportionate to that
of the convict and emancipist population, that it was not
deemed prudent to relax, except by vary slow degrees, and in
the most cautious manner, the iron rule which was at first a stern
necessity. But at the worst of these times, I believe the _free_
population had not much reason to complain of the acts or powers of the
Government, as far as _they_ were concerned, excepting that they had no
share or voice in it, and that they occasionally suffered some little
annoyance from the strictness of the police regulations, which at those
times, and indeed till within a comparatively very recent period, were
very stringent.

As an instance of this, I may mention that all persons travelling
from one part of the country to another were obliged to be
provided with a sort of passport, signed by a magistrate, describing
their persons, occupations, and habitations. All persons travelling
without this very necessary document were liable to be arrested at any
time, without warrant, by the police, and taken to the nearest police
station, which might be a hundred miles distant, to be identified; and
if this could not be done, they were passed on to Sydney, and detained
until they could find evidence to prove that they were not runaway
convicts. In some instances, however, the magistrate before whom a real
or imaginary delinquent was first taken would deal in a more summary
manner, and sentence him to corporal punishment, more or leas severe,
according to the supposed requirements of the case.

Many half-amusing stories are told of the scrapes which respectable
people got into from travelling without these said passes. It
is not, I believe, much more than twenty years ago, that an
Indian civil officer of high rank, during a visit to Sydney
for the benefit of his health, met with an adventure of this
kind. It appears that he had a taste, a very unusual one in the
colony, for taking a pedestrian tour, and that, in spite of the advice
of his friends, he started on some occasion for the interior, on foot
and unattended, and, alas! without the necessary pass. I suppose at the
commencement of his travels his _outward man_ was received as a
sufficient testimony of his respectability, and no unpleasant questions
were asked; but as he progressed farther into the interior, and his
garments became travel-stained and worn, the police became more pressing
in their inquiries, and at last lodged him in the lock-up of a police
station some hundred and fifty miles from Sydney.

In due time he was placed at the bar of the police court for
the purpose of identification; and, alas for our unfortunate
explorer! the impressions of the presiding magistrate coincided
with those of his captor, that his personal appearance bore
a strong resemblance to the description given of that of some
runaway prisoner; so he forthwith sentenced him to receive his
quantum of lashes, and afterwards to be returned to the gang from which
be was supposed to have escaped. The unfortunate gentleman's feelings,
at hearing this announcement of doom from the bench, may, I fancy, be
more easily imagined than described; but happily for him there happened
to be among the chance spectators in the court, a gentleman who had met
him in Sydney, and as the sentence was on the point of being carried
into execution, he recognised in the supposed runaway a distinguished
civilian in the East India Company's service, and by his good offices
rescued him from his unpleasant situation.

I may be pardoned this long digression, as it may serve to give
some idea of the manners and customs which prevailed in the
colony not a quarter of a century ago. Besides the Draconian
severity of their police regulations, the early Governors
themselves claimed and occasionally exercised the most arbitrary powers.
They could by their simple fiat banish from the colony any person who
committed any offence which, in their opinion, would have a tendency to
injure or weaken the Government for the time being; consequently the
liberty enjoyed by the Press at this time cannot be supposed to have
been very great. Indeed, on the principle that prevention is better than
cure, the little weekly newspaper, the only journal of the period, was,
I am told, submitted to the Governor's perusal before publication.
Moreover, as the editor of this publication was himself a ticket of
leave holder, and as such liable to severe corporal punishment, and to
the loss of his ticket of leave if convicted of speaking ill of those in
authority, it is not to be supposed that any very decided freedom of
discussion on the conduct of the powers that were, found admission in
the columns of the Sydney Gazette.

However, as the colony grew in population and importance, of
course all these restrictions peculiar to a penal settlement
were more and more relaxed, until the advent of its moral
millennium, 1836, in which year, I think, it ceased to be a place
to which convicts could be transported; although a large proportion of
the population still consisted either of convicts actually undergoing
their sentences, or of persons whose sentences had expired, and who were
thence known by the name of expirees or emancipists, as they were more
generally called. So long as this class preponderated in the community,
the establishment of anything like the free institutions of the mother
country would certainly not have tended to the welfare of the colony,
and I suppose would hardly have been consistent with the public safety;
but as their actual numbers were diminished by death, and their relative
proportion to the free inhabitants of the colony still further lessened
by the influx of free emigrants, the time at length arrived when the
population at large demanded and obtained a voice in the government of
the country.

In the first Constitutional Council, two thirds of the members were
elected by the public, and the remaining third consisted of officials of
the Colonial Government, and a few private persons nominated by the
Governor. The powers of this first Parliament, known as the Legislative
Council, were, however, very limited; there were, I believe, many
subjects on which they were not allowed to legislate at all, and all
offices of any importance were filled by persons appointed by the Home
Government, by whose orders alone they could be removed; so that, after
all, the grant of the first Legislative Council to New South Wales only
afforded the colonists the satisfaction of placing at Parliament, and of
amusing one another with a good deal of talk about "honourable members"
and their "honourable friends." However, it served as practice for
them, and for a little while they were satisfied with it, but soon began
to desire something more substantial in the way of power; and numerous
were the complaints and petitions with which they began to worry the
Home Government--documents, however, which were generally ruthlessly
consigned to the pigeon-holes of the "Circumlocution Office." It is
amusing to observe the mixture of indignation and triumph with which the
colonial patriot of the present day alludes to these petitions and their
reception; great is his wrath when he hints at the effect the
introduction of any question connected with Australia used to have in
emptying the benches of the British House of Commons, and as great his
triumph in his conviction of the interest _now_ felt by the British
public in colonies which contain in their mountains and rivers gold
enough to pay the national debt many times told. But the fact is, that
now, so far as Government is concerned, the Australian colonies and the
mother country have really very little to do with each other, for I
believe that they have all, with the exception of Swan River, obtained
the supreme object of their ambition--responsible government.

Whether the colonial public is better served under the new _régime_,
than under the old, is a question which I suppose they have hardly yet
had time to determine, but at all events, there is now a new field of
ambition and enterprise open to the Australian youth, which was before
closed to them, there being I believe hardly any instances of
Australians by birth and education having been under the old system
appointed to any of the colonial offices. The continuance of such a
system of exclusion, would in all probability have had the effect of
exciting in the minds of the rising generation, feelings of anger
towards the Home Government, and would no doubt have precipitated the
separation which sooner or later is supposed to be inevitable between a
mother country and its colonies.

At present, from what I have heard, I should say there is no desire
whatever for separation, but that the colonists are fully sensible that
by such a proceeding they would have everything to lose, and nothing to
gain. They could not desire a more absolute control of their own affairs
than they actually enjoy, and at the same time they have the benefit of
British fleets and armies, and above all of the British name, to protect
them against all aggressors.

Perhaps, no better proof could be offered of the kindly feelings
entertained by the colonists in general towards the mother country,
still called by them by the affectionate name of _home_, than the warm
interest universally taken in Great Britain's successes and reverses
during the late war with Russia, and in the munificent response to
appeal for aid for the widows and orphans of British soldiers, who
perished in it. For this object, one individual gave a thousand pounds,
and five hundred a year additional as long as the war lasted. I believe,
too, the subscriptions for the sufferers by the Indian mutiny have been
just as handsome.

To return to the forms of government of the Australian colonies. I
cannot of course pretend to give any particular description of them; but
I may remark, that they are all more or less after the model of the
British constitution, and consist of an Upper and Lower House--the
Governor in each colony representing the Sovereign. The formation of an
upper house in a colony, is always I fancy, a difficulty; it is not easy
in a new country to find a body of men sufficiently distinguished by
wealth, birth, or personal abilities, to give them individually, or as a
body, that position and influence among their fellow-colonists which
belongs to the House of Lords in Great Britain.

With a view to create such a body, one great colonial statesman proposed
that a hereditary patrician class should be formed, from the members of
which a certain number should be selected, either by the Queen, or her
representative, as legislators for life, in fact as life Peers.

This plan, for and against which I suppose a good deal could be said,
obtained little favour in the eyes of the colonists, and was a good deal
ridiculed in the old country; nevertheless, as everything must have a
beginning, I suppose that the colonial gentlemen who are entitled to
prefix "Honourable" to their name, in virtue of their seats in the Upper
House, think that in time they or their successors might develop into
very respectable "Peers," even although the _Times_ should be so rude
as to describe them as a "Brummagem aristocracy."

Perhaps, it may seem strange to my readers, that in a lady's
reminiscences so much space should have been given to remarks on the
government of the Australian colonies; but the fact is, that there
politics are so much a matter of every-day conversation among the middle
or upper classes, that it is hardly possible for a lady to live a few
months in Sydney, without hearing more about constitutions, ministries,
land questions, franchise, &c., &c., than she would probably either hear
or read of during a long life in Great Britain.

The reason of this is easily found in the fact, that at home the number
of public men, or even that of the whole of the numbers of the Houses of
Lords and Commons, is so small in proportion to that vast body which
constitutes the middle class of society, that few gentlemen, and still
fewer ladies of that class, take much interest in the measures of
government, its changes, or the sayings and doings of its various
members of high and low degree.

But in the Australian colonies, the case is very different; there the
number of legislators and public servants is so large in proportion to
that of the middle classes, that any person possessed of moderate means
and ability, and with a little spare time on his hands, can, if he
chooses, enter into political life.

It is easy to fancy that to many of what are called the active country
gentlemen in Great Britain, somewhat of the "village Hampden" order, who
waste their eloquence, real or supposed, at Poor-law Boards and County
meetings, this peculiar feature of life in Australia would not be
without its attractions.

It is certainly a more worthy object of ambition to aspire to be a
Legislator or a member of the government of one of these _skeleton
nations_, whose vast proportions are yearly filling out at a rate almost
incomprehensible to the older communities of Europe, than to be the
great man of a country village, or to hold a respectable position in
one's native county.

Taking, however, into consideration all the pleasures of life in the old
country, and its many disagreeables in the new, I do not think the
ladies of the said country gentlemen would in general be as well pleased
as their lords with such a change of position.

What I have said, however, may perhaps be taken as a fair reason why the
ladies of Australia are generally greater politicians than those of
England or Scotland.



CHAPTER VI.

Starting for the interior--Travelling equipment--Preparations for
camping out--Our party--_Pro's_ and _con's_ for _camping out_--Not so pleasant
during a flood--The low countries--Fleeing to the tree tops--Best months
for travelling--The town of Newcastle--Hunter's River--The coal
districts--Carrying coals thereto--Morpeth--A bad start--The town of
Maitland--Our first encampment--The _réveillée_ of the bush--The laughing
jackass--Common bush birds.



We arrived in Sydney as I have before said about the middle of June, but
my husband found so much business to attend to both in New South Wales
and in the neighbouring colony of Victoria, that it was the beginning of
October before he was ready to start for the interior on a visit to his
sheep station in the Gwydir district, on the borders of New England,
some three or four hundred miles from Sydney. Most delighted I was at
the prospect of escaping from the dust and confinement of the town, and
beginning in earnest to taste a little of life in the bush. I had
become thoroughly tired of Sydney, more especially as during the five or
six weeks of my residence there my husband had been in Melbourne, and I
had been thus almost alone, a stranger in a strange land. Indeed, my
sojourn in Sydney offered such a contrast to the many enjoyments of our
country life at home in one of the most beautiful counties in Scotland,
that it is not wonderful that I viewed the town and the manners and
customs of its inhabitants through a somewhat distorted medium, and
invested the whole with tints the very reverse of _couleur de rose_.

But everything mortal comes to an end; the months of August and
September passed slowly away, and the close of the latter brought my
husband back, and then we commenced in good earnest our preparations for
our bush journey. All my newly made acquaintances said I was not very
wise in venturing on such an undertaking, but the thoughts of a longer
stay in Sydney was not to be endured, and as my husband's presence up
the country was urgently required, I did not hesitate about accompanying
him. Besides, I felt some confidence in my own powers of making light of
the inconveniences and hardships incidental to travelling, and
anticipated much interest in seeing the interior of a country so little
known to me, so that it was with much pleasure that I commenced making
the necessary preparations for the journey. The very novelty was of
itself exciting and amusing. We had brought out with us a dog-cart built
at home under my husband's directions, in anticipation of our bush
journey; in appearance it was much like the ordinary run of such
vehicles, or their plebeian cousin--the baker's cart--perhaps somewhat
longer and more roomy, the wheels a little higher, and the springs a
good deal stronger than is generally found requisite for the macadamized
roads of the old country. It was also provided with a waterproof canvas
tilt, which formed a complete shelter from sun or rain; and as the seats
were moveable and provided with extra cushions at night, it answered the
purpose of a small bed-room, and thus formed a very important feature in
our travelling equipment. For our own accommodation at night we had
brought out with us a tent of very comfortable dimensions, some ten feet
square; also the necessary tent furniture, two small iron stretchers or
Crimean bedsteads, as they were called, with cork mattresses, gotta
percha rugs, &c., a canteen containing a small assortment of plated ware
and crockery, a small table, camp stools, and washing apparatus.

Our culinary utensils were not very numerous, consisting of two or three
saucepans, some half dozen quart pots for the manufacture of tea--the
bushman's great solace--a frying pan and gridiron, and a water-can and
bucket. All this paraphernalia, our personal luggage, and provender for
ourselves and horses, were to be carried on a tilted cart or dray which
we had purchased in Sydney. Our servants consisted of a man who was to
drive the cart, his wife who was to cook for us, both on the journey and
when we should arrive at our station, and the girl we had brought out
with us from Scotland, and who, to the surprise of every one and the
falsifying of many predictions on the subject, actually returned home
with us, despite the inducement of the high wages of the colony, and to
the profound despair, I suppose, of all the unmarried shepherds and
stockmen on our station. The rest of our party consisted of our two
selves, our little Jessie, and a lad of about sixteen or seventeen, the
son of a connection of my husband's, who was desirous of seeing
something of bush life, with the hopes of some day becoming a squatter
himself.

I must, in justice to the colony, state that this patriarchal
mode of travelling was not absolutely necessary in the district through
which we had to pass, as to within twelve miles of our station, there
are at certain distances on the road, inns or small public-houses,
professing to provide all necessary accommodation for man and horse; but
my husband gave a very indifferent account of the greater number of them
(which his ante-golden era recollections of some nine or ten years ago,
no doubt justified much more fully then their present character could
do). I own I required few arguments to induce me to give my vote in
favour of the more independent method of carrying our own roof with us.

Now that I have had a trial of both kinds of travelling accommodation, I
certainly prefer the camping out system. If the weather is fine, and you
are tolerably provided with servants, it is really very enjoyable, and
in case of a day or two's rain, there are still the inns to take refuge
in, as a _dernier ressort_. But without a good prospect of fine weather,
no one who could help it would set out on a bush journey, for rain soon
converts the roads into regular swamps, and progression is all but
impossible. I have often heard my husband give doleful accounts of
journeys he has been compelled to undertake, during heavy floods, across
the low country on the banks of the Barwin and Bolloon rivers, in the
far north-west. On one occasion, when travelling inwards from a very
distant sheep station with an empty dray drawn by four powerful horses,
he was overtaken in the middle of his journey by heavy rains, which
terminated in a general flood, the whole country becoming so entirely
submerged in the short period of three days, that it was only by the
utmost exertions of himself and his carter that the jaded horses could
be urged on, through mud and water nearly breast high, to the nearest
cattle station, some ten miles distant from where he was when the rains
set in, the distance performed being little more than three miles a day!
There he left the team and driver, and proceeded on with a saddle horse
to his home station, about a hundred and fifty miles distant, walking
and wading a great part of the way, and of course swimming all the
intervening streams and rivers.

On his return six weeds afterwards, when the flood had abated,
to the station where he had left his cart and horses and their
driver, he found that the water had risen so high that he and
the other inmates of the hut had been obliged to take refuge in
the loft! In fact the flood had been so extensive, that there was no hut
on the whole line of road passing through the low country without its
watermark out and inside its walls. Indeed the inhabitants of these low
districts must live in perpetual fear of being drowned, the plains being
one dead level for very many miles round; so that when the rivers once
overflow their banks, there are no hills to have recourse to, the
highest elevations in the neighbourhood being really the huge conical
ant-hills. The roofs of their huts, when not swept away, form the first
refuge of these "dwellers on the plain;" and failing them they have
recourse to the tall branches of the trees. But the shepherds and
stockmen not being "to the manner born," do not take kindly to this mode
of life, like some of the tree-inhabiting races of the interior of
India. These great floods, however, although supposed to be to some
extent periodical, occur only at long intervals, and have hitherto been
attended with less loss of human and even of animal life than their
extent might have led us to anticipate. The human beings generally
contrive to escape in the way indicated, and the natural instinct of all
animals prompts them, when unconfined, to seek the high ground, however
distant, before escape is impossible.

Speaking of these low plains which constitute so large a portion
of the explored interior of Australia, the concurrent testimony
of all explorers would seem to prove that the farther you advance
towards the centre of the island, the more entirely low and flat
the country becomes, approaching nearer and nearer to the sea
level, and it is now a generally received opinion, fortified
especially by the discoveries of Captain Sturt and the lamented lost
explorer Leichhardt, that the actual centre is a dried up salt lake
surrounded by a vast sandy desert, and consequently totally unsuitable
for the habitation of man.

But all this is a somewhat wide digression from the narrative of our
journey, so to return to our travelling party: October is, I believe,
considered as favourable a month for setting out on such an expedition
as can be selected. The nights are no longer sufficiently chilly to make
one wish for some further protection from the weather than that afforded
by the canvas walls of a tent, and yet the sun does not attain that
excessive power at midday which renders travelling in the summer months
of the year almost unendurable, at least to those who are not thoroughly
acclimatized.

So, with a fair prospect of good weather before us, we left Sydney one
fine moonlight night, embarking ourselves, our four horses, and our two
vehicles with our household goods in them, in a small coasting steamer
bound for Maitland, a town of considerable importance, on the banks of
the Hunter (one of the few navigable rivers of New South Wales), some
thirty miles above its junction with the sea. The voyage was not a very
formidable one, as by six o'clock the following morning we were at
Newcastle, at the mouth of the river. At the entrance are two
picturesque-looking rocks known as the "Nobbies," which make the
approach to the town rather pretty; they are connected with the mainland
by a breakwater, constructed by convicts, which must have been a work of
considerable labour, and occupied, I believe, many years in completing.

Though a very bad sailor, I had contrived to get up on deck at the
earliest peep of day, in order to see all that was to be seen. The town
of Newcastle is principally celebrated as being the port of the coal
district of New South Wales, whence no doubt its name. The whole of the
country bordering, on the lower course of the Hunter, or _Coal River_,
as it used to be called, abounds in this most useful mineral, which lies
so near the surface (in many places actually appearing above the
ground), as to be obtainable at the cost of very little labour.

Now that the primeval forests have almost disappeared in the neighbourhood
of Sydney and other large towns, and that wood is comparatively scarce,
coal is very generally used, and the mines are worked to a much greater
extent than was formerly the case; still, I am told, so high is the rate
of labour in the colony, and so indifferently are these undertakings
managed there, that the Royal Mail Company actually found it cheaper to
send out fuel for their steamers all the way from England, than to
purchase coal at Sydney or Newcastle, although any quantity may be
obtained there; and I am told the quality is very nearly equal to
English coal, and is improving as the workings become deeper. In former
days, a monopoly of the right of working coal was granted by the British
Government to a company--the Australian Agricultural Company, I think it
was called--who possessed neither funds nor energy to work them at all
efficiently. Now, however, their exclusive right to dig for this mineral
has been done away with, and though the company still retains its
original large possessions in this district, it has no longer the power
of preventing individuals or companies from working coal found on their
own private estates; and it is to be hoped, that in a few years this
very abundant supply of fuel may be made more available. After leaving
Newcastle, the country on the banks of the Hunter as far as Morpeth, the
head of steam-boat navigation, cannot certainly be called very
picturesque, though the river itself is a fine wide stream, for an
Australian river at all events. Its banks are flat and low, and
considerable portions of them are in a high state of cultivation, that
is _high_ according to colonial notions, though probably Scotch farmers
might hold a different opinion when they viewed the large stumps with
which the fields are besprinkled.

Steaming slowly up, on account of the many shoals and sandbanks to be
met with in the river, it was some two or three hours after leaving
Newcastle before we reached Morpeth, a dirty-looking little town. There
was something in the approach to it from the river which reminded me of
that to Liege from the Meuse, though of course in regard to its present
extent, it bears no comparison with the city of Quentin Durward
notoriety. It was about nine o'clock in the morning when we landed, and
as the disembarking our two vehicles and four horses was likely to be a
work of some little time, and the wharf was not a very pleasant place to
linger on, neither did there seem to be any very desirable inns within
sight, I walked on a little way with my little girl and her nurse, till
we came to an open space, and then we sat down under the trees, awaiting
the approach of our caravan.

Our patience was doomed to be sorely tried, for the horses not being
accustomed to work in each others' company, and objecting to the
heavy load in the dray, refused to progress. One of them, on
being much urged to do so, actually lying down and declining to
move, the only thing to be done was, to take the leader out of our
dog-cart, and make it lend its aid to its unwilling brethren. This was
rather a bad beginning to our travels, as much of the comfort of a bush
journey depends on having good horses; however, trusting to get more
efficient ones at Maitland, we made the best of our way on to that town,
which is only some five or six miles from Morpeth, beyond which the
Hunter is navigable only for boats, and for them only in rainy seasons.

The road between Morpeth and Maitland is not very interesting, the only
object of any note that you pass, being the Bishop of Newcastle's
palace, by which dignified name his tolerably comfortable looking
country residence is known. Maitland is a town of some considerable
size, and from the straggling irregular manner in which it is built, may
strike a stranger as being larger than it is in reality. It derives its
importance from being the depôt, so to speak, for the northern
districts, and contains many large stores--I was going to say "notion
shops"--from which the settler in the far interior gets his supplies of
flour, tea, sugar, wearing apparel, and other necessaries of bush-life.

As we were likely to be detained some two or three days in Maitland, we
engaged some rooms for ourselves at an inn, which was strongly
recommended to us, and our caravan encamped in a small paddock, the use
of which was lent us by our agents, this being rather too public a place
for us to take up our sojourn under a tent. We soon, however, got
excessively tired of our stay at the Mivarts of Maitland, as it happened
unfortunately for us that the house was undergoing the process of
white-washing and painting, and the only accommodation we could get was
truly wretched, while the prices charged for everything were exorbitant
in the extreme. So, after sleeping there two days, and finding we should
be obliged to remain some time longer the neighbourhood of Maitland, we
determined to adopt at once the free and independent mode of living, and
to pitch our tent in an accommodation paddock, some two or three miles
out of the town. We proceeded accordingly to carry this plan into
execution, and arrived at our camping ground on a beautiful evening,
shortly after sunset, pitching our tent for the first time by the light
of a beautiful moon. The sketch in the vignette, which was taken at one
of our subsequent encampments, may serve to give better idea of them
than any long description would do.

_We_ took up our headquarters in the tent, and really managed
to make it very tolerably comfortable; our two little iron
stretchers which served as beds at night, and as sofas in
the day-time, looked well enough with their bright scarlet blankets, and
with the help of our cabin carpet, a small table, and a couple of camp
stools, our small apartment, parlour and bedroom in one, was quite
sufficiently furnished. The dog-cart, as I have before said, formed a
comfortable dormitory for our servant girl, indeed it was dryer than the
tent, so that when there had been rain during the day, and the ground
was at all damp, I generally made my little girl sleep with her; our
other servants, the man and his wife, used to spread their mattresses
in the dray; while the lad who accompanied us, laid his on some oilcloth
on the ground under shelter of the cart; so that we all contrived to get
some sort of roof for our heads, and with one, or sometimes two roaring
fires, as close to us as safety would permit, we never, during the whole
of our journey, suffered from cold in any shape, unless I except a
severe attack of face-ache with which my husband was for some time
tormented, and of which he was a little ashamed, as he thought it almost
disgraceful that be, the old bushman of the party, should be the only
one to suffer from the exposure.

We were late in arriving at our camping ground on this the first evening
of our bivouack, and were very glad, as soon as we had got things a
little in order, to test our powers of sleeping on cork mattresses under
a canvas roof. I may here remark, in passing, that I very much objected
to the cork mattresses, after a fatiguing days journey they afforded but
little repose and refreshment; so in future I substituted in their stead
a couple of hair ones we had fortunately brought with us, which formed
much more comfortable couches, and gave us more chance of a good night's
rest.

Our sleep never lasted very long, for very early in the morning, when
the first streak of day became visible in the horizon, we were awoke by
the chattering and chirping of the birds--such a very pleasant sound.

I consider it is a great libel on the Australian birds to call them a
voiceless, tuneless race. It is true they have not the song of the
nightingale, or lark of England, or of the "mavis and merle" of
Scotland; but many of them have very pretty melodious notes, like bars
of music. There was one little songster I used to fancy whistled this
stave: [illustration of 2 bars of music] and another one: this:
[illustration of 2 bars of music]. I do not know the names, nor did I
ever catch sight of these little choristers, but often in the early dawn
they have awoke me with their matin song. Then there is the Curlew, a
night-bird, whose sweet thrilling call has a depth of pathos in it
impossible to describe. Many a night I have lain awake listening to its
low musical plaint, till I have almost fancied it the voice of some
spirit doomed to wander in mid-air, and bewailing its destiny in these
sweet melancholy straits.

Another sweet songster is the Bellbird, whose Clear ringing Hate is
generally heard shortly before sunset; and gladly is it welcomed by the
weary traveller, from the fast of its always betokening the vicinity of
water, and the probable existence of some little oasis in the desert of
the bush, where he may find rest and refreshment for himself, and grain
and water for his exhausted horses. Again, another bird with a very
decided and peculiar note of its own, is the "Laughing jackass," as it
is called, a species of kingfisher, which makes the woods ring with its
hoarse loud chuckle, much resembling a rude sort of laughter. This clown
of the bush cannot boast of a very prepossessing exterior, its feathers
are brown and mottled, something like those of the thrush, but it has
the large ungainly head of all the kingfisher tribe, and is an
awkward-looking creature, in size resembling the crow, perhaps a little
larger.

Notwithstanding its unattractive appearance, however, the "laughing
jackass" is a great favourite among the settlers, who extend to
it the kind of protection awarded to robins in this country. The
reason of the favour it enjoys, is that it is supposed to be the deadly
enemy of the serpent tribe, and frequently even to come off victorious
in its contests with these dangerous reptiles. I have heard one of these
conflicts described, though I cannot say I have myself ever witnessed
one. The winged combatant poises himself in the air fluttering over the
head of his destined victim, and while taking care to avoid the deadly
fangs of his foe, he contrives with his powerful beak to inflict mortal
wounds on its head and neck. I suppose as these battles are generally
believed in, they are not wholly mythical; at all events, the credence
given to them is a very fortunate event for the bird in question, as it
serves to protect it from the gun of the sportsman, who would fear
drawing down on himself some terrible misfortune, by injuring this
little friend of the human race.

Besides all these birds I have mentioned, whose decided notes go far to
redeem the feathered tribes of Australia from the charge of being a
voiceless, tuneless race, there are numberless others whose pleasant
chirping and chattering, without being decidedly musical, have a harmony
of their own, which is very pleasing. If the birds here do not sing,
they are at all events a very sociable set, having plenty to say to each
other; and as in the human race it will often happen that the voices of
those who do not sing are the pleasantest in conversation, so it seems
to be with them, and I was never tired of hearing the sweet loud
chirping sound they made. But I was the only one of our party who had
leisure to indulge myself in listening to them, as all the rest had to
be up with the first peep of morning, and busy at their different
avocations.

It is true we were stationary for the first two or three days,
and there was not the same occasion for despatch; still, as the
formation of good habits was very desirable, my husband used to rout up
all the party between four and five, and set them about their different
employments. After our early breakfast he generally went into Maitland
on business, and had I not been well provided with books and drawing
materials, I should have found the days a little wearisome. However, as
it was, I got on pretty well, and the evenings I thought very
delightful, and much enjoyed the moonlight rambles through the bush.
Altogether, it was a great improvement on being shut up in the small
dirty rooms of a Maitland inn; though still we were anxious to get on,
and were not at all sorry when, business matters being concluded, we
could make a fair start for the interior.



CHAPTER VII.


Off at last--Roads of the interior--A thunderstorm--Making
the best of things--Division of labour--Our order of march--Harper's
Hill--Native indigo--Australian daisy--Refractory horses--Learning to be
a whip--Town of Singleton--A catacomb of trees--Glenny's Creek--Bush
fare--Edible birds and beasts--Bushrangers--Bush manners and travellers'
tales--Truth stranger than fiction.


"We forded the river, and clomb the high hill,
Never our steeds for a day stood still.

"We had health, and we had hope,
Toil and trouble, but no sorrow."

--Byron.


It was the afternoon of Wednesday, the 15th of October, that we struck
our tents, packed up our belongings, and fairly set out on our bush
journey. Our start was somewhat late, owing to our horses having strayed
away that morning and not choosing to reappear until the middle of the
day. However, as we were all prepared for a move, we thought it better
to be contented with accomplishing even a very short distance, than
ignominiously to re-pitch our tents on the same spot, so we set out,
resolving to make Lochinvar (a small village some six or seven miles
from Maitland) our halting place for the night. In estimating the length
of bush journeys, one must cast away all recollections of the rate of
travelling in Europe, even by the slowest of mail coaches or diligences.
In the first place, it must be remembered that the roads of Australia
are very different affairs from those of the old country. Even the
principal thoroughfares of the interior are really nothing more than
tracks from one part of the country to another, and are more or less
defined, according to the number of vehicles which pass over them.

So long as the land on both sides of them remains the property of the
Government, when any portion of the traditional track becomes
impassable, either from increase of traffic, from trees falling across
it, or from any other cause, the traveller strikes out a fresh track for
himself, to the right or to the left at his pleasure, and returns or not
to the original track, as seems best in his own eyes.

Hence it is often found in colonial travelling, that the distance
between two given points on the same road varies according to
circumstances.

[Illustration: A Bush Encampment.]

But when the land on both sides of a line of road has been granted or
sold to private individuals (whose ownership is exercised chiefly in the
erection of strong fences), then only a limited breadth is reserved for
the use of the public, and this over-worked strip naturally becomes a
bog in wet weather, and a prolonged dust-heap in dry. When the increased
traffic, caused by the gold fields on the main thoroughfares leading to
them, is taken into consideration, their general condition can scarcely
be imagined by those who have not seen them, and can with difficulty be
described by those who have. It is true that during late years some
money and labour have been expended on portions of roads near the larger
towns, and turnpike gates have followed as a matter of course; but the
present condition of most of these thoroughfares is by no means
calculated to wake those feelings of gratitude for their engineers,
which were expressed by the Highland poet in the well-known lines--

"If you had seen these roads before they were made,
You'd lift up your hands, and bless General Wade."

To return from this long digression to our start for the interior. I may
say that we never contemplated being able to travel more than fifteen
or, at the outside, twenty miles a day with our heavily-laden baggage
dray, but, alas, we had often to be contented with half the least of
these distances, so that an advance of five or six miles was not to be
despised. Before we arrived at our encampment on the afternoon in
question we were destined to have some slight idea of the first of the
two conditions, which after-experience induced me to look on as the
normal ones of the roads of the interior.

A violent thunderstorm overtook us, and in the course of half an hour
made a regular marsh or bog of the whole country; I own to having felt
somewhat daunted by the sight of our camping ground when we drove into
the Lochinvar paddocks. I do net exaggerate when I say that the whole
place was a bog, however there was nothing for it but to make the best
of things; the tilt of our dog-cart was fortunately waterproof, and
inside it we were comfortable enough, so we wrapped our little girl in
plaids and laid her on the soft rug at the bottom, where she slept quite
soundly, while we set about preparing for our bivouack.


The first thing to be done was to light enormous fires all round, which
to a certain extent dried the ground and the surrounding atmosphere;
then we pitched our tent on the most elevated spot we could find, made
plenty of hot tea, and quickly got to bed, awaking the neat morning,
none the worse for all we had gone through; though the ground about, it
must be owned, still looked better adapted to be the abiding place of
frogs than of human beings. However, the sun was shining brightly, and
there appeared no immediate prospect of more bad weather, so that our
spirits, which had been somewhat damped by this unpropitious
commencement of our travels, rose again, and we set cheerfully about our
various avocations. My task consisted in dressing my little girl, and
spreading the table for breakfast, which one of our servant-women
prepared, while the other rolled up the beds, picked up the carpet-bags,
&c.; my husband and the manservant in the meantime going in search of
the horses, which would often wander half a mile from the encampment,
even when _hobbled_--a precaution always necessary to adopt when fairly
in the bush. For the benefit of the uninitiated, I may mention that the
process of hobbling a horse consists in partially fastening his
fore-legs together, by means of two leathern straps and buckles united
by a short chain, which, without depriving him of the power of
locomotion, renders rapid progress a matter of some difficulty to any
except old stagers of confirmed rambling habits, whom nothing but a
tether rope will secure at night in the open bush. However, all of our
horses were tolerably will-behaved in the matter of not straying a very
unreasonable distance from the encampment, which may, in some degree, be
accounted for by the fact that we carried with us a supply of corn for
them--a practice formerly rarely adopted, but which increased traffic,
and consequent diminution of natural pasture along the main lines of
road, has now rendered necessary.

The horses found and fed, and our own breakfast despatched, the
operation of striking our tent and packing the cart commenced, each of
us setting about our allotted task; _mine_ consisting in the somewhat
easy one of washing the breakfast things, and putting them back into the
canteen; this done I used to sit with my little girl under the trees
reading or looking on, while she amused herself with gathering flowers,
until at length the last horse was harnessed, and our cavalcade was
ready to proceed on its journey. Our dog-cart, as I have before said,
was very roomy, and my husband had contrived to make my seat very
comfortable by means of a softly-stuffed back and footstool, so that
notwithstanding the many hours we were often on the road, I never
suffered much from fatigue. Neither was the heat very oppressive, even
at midday, so long as we were moving, however slowly, as the tilt
protected us from the direct rays of the sun, and when opened before and
behind, the current of air which passed through it was deliciously
refreshing.

Our second day's journey lay across a high hill known as Harper's Hill,
on various parts of which I believe many curious fossils and
petrifactions have been discovered, but it is difficult to obtain any
specimens of these natural curiosities, as it is only the more practical
branch of geology--metallurgy, to wit--which finds many votaries in the
colony.

Growing here by the side of the road I saw, for the first time, the
"native Indigo," as it is called; a plant of or allied to, the tare
species, with a flower of a lilac hue, much resembling the blossom of
the vetch, though somewhat larger: in the neighbouring colony of
Victoria, this plant, or one of its near relations, attains nearly the
size of a shrub; but in New South Wales it seldom grows more than one
or, at the most, two feet from the ground: Its common colour as I have
said is lilac, but I have seen a red and white variety--this change of
colour arising, I fancy, from some peculiarity of the soil. I also saw
here, for the first dime, a species of colonial daisy, not exactly the

"Wee modest crimson-tipped flower"

of our own country however; this Australian variety growing somewhat
higher, and its blossoms being less round and full, without the crimson
tint that distinguishes its sister flower. The difference in appearance
between these sister daisies reminds one somewhat of that which exists
between those fair blossoms of the "rosebud garden of girls," the
delicate-looking natives of Australia, and the rosier maidens of
England.

The distance we succeeded in accomplishing to-day, was not such as to
hold forth much hope of our bringing our journey to a speedy conclusion,
but I own that so far as I was concerned I cared very little about this,
for I enjoyed this open-air life exceedingly. People talk much of the
delightful feeling of freedom and independence that the solitude of the
bush gives rise to--with me it had more of a soothing influence: the
vastness and stillness of these primeval forests formed such a pleasant
contrast to the bustle and petty worries of a town life. Yet there was
nothing oppressive in the quietness and silence by which we were
surrounded; the faint chirping of the birds told of life stirring among
the dark branches of the trees, and the golden sunbeams played among the
leaves, and glanced on the shining white bark, making it glisten like
silver.

I should have liked nothing better than to recline among the
cushions, and contemplate the scenes through which we were passing, but,
alas, the _dolce far niente_ is rarely the lot of mortal in the bush,
and I was not destined to a long enjoyment of it. The horses in our dray
soon began to give us trouble; my husband had procured a new one in
Maitland, a fine strong-looking animal, from whom he anticipated great
things; but it turned out, that torment of the colonial traveller, a
confirmed jib; so that though we had given up one of the horses destined
for our dog-cart, still the dray made very little progress, and at the
smallest difficulty in the shape of a heavy bit of ground, or the
slightest rise, my husband had to go to the assistance of our servant,
and by the help of a good stick and a great deal of shouting, to
endeavour to induce our refractory steeds to continue their journey.

Then of course I was obliged to undertake the charioteership of _our_
vehicle; a task I particularly disliked, as I can never at any time
boast of much courage, and my confidence in my driving powers was very
limited. However there was no help for it, if I did not wish to be left
behind, and I was obliged to assume the reins. In time I managed to get
over my nervousness, and really became a tolerably good whip, which was
a fortunate circumstance, as it was always at the most dangerous parts
of the road that my powers were called into requisition.

It was not till the third day after leaving Maitland that we passed
through Singleton, or "Patrick's Plains," the first township of any note
that lay on our route. It is one of the largest, but I may also say one
of the ugliest, of the small towns of the interior with which I became
acquainted; the country, on the side from which we approached it, is a
dead flat. Formerly it was well wooded, but from the grass becoming
valuable for pasture, all the trees have been _ringed_, that is a ring
of bark a foot or so in depth has been cut out all round the trunks, and
the trees have in consequence perished. But as the labour of cutting
them down and removing the limber would have been too great, the tall
white stems still remain. We passed through from a mile to a mile and
half, of what may fairly be termed a _catacomb_ of trees, and as I have
a sort of half-belief in trees and flowers being endowed with a higher
kind of life than is generally imagined, it made me quite melancholy to
contemplate these ghastly-looking skeletons. We crossed the Hunter for
the first time at Singleton; there is no bridge over it, but it is
easily forded, except during heavy floods, when the only communication
between the opposite banks is by means of a whale-boat, which is kept to
ferry over passengers, and even heavy carts and drays may be got across
by the same means. There was not, however, more than some twelve or
fifteen inches of water at this time in the river, and though its banks
are somewhat steep, I managed to drive across it very easily.

We got on the same afternoon as far as a small stream called Glenny's
Creek, on the banks of which we formed our encampment, and very pleasant
after the fatigue of the day's journey was the rest under the trees on
the soft fresh grass. Our evening meals were very enjoyable; there was
not much variety in the way of provisions; a large dish of beefsteaks,
or mutton-chops being always the "_pièce de resistance_;" but my Scotch
servant displayed great skill in concocting cakes and _scones_ of
different kinds, and we generally contrived to purchase a supply of
fresh butter, eggs, and milk, from any small farm we passed on our day's
journey; so that of plain fare we had abundance, and we always managed
to do justice to it, as the bush air sharpened our appetites not a
little. In giving our bush bill of fare I must on no account omit making
honourable mention of the "damper," the great stand-by of all true
bushmen. It is a large flat cake of unleavened bread, made of flour and
water, without any yeast, kneaded together with much trouble and labour,
and baked in the ashes of a wood fire. I often had to partake of it as
our only substitute for bread, but I never liked it much, and should
consider that from its heaviness it must be very unwholesome to persons
possessing only ordinary powers of digestion.

The traveller in the bush generally contrives to vary his fare with some
of the birds, which in certain parts of the country and at particular
seasons, are to be met with in tolerable abundance. There are parrots
and pigeons of various descriptions, both of which, but especially the
latter, form a very delicate dish, and are easily procured. The Squatter
pigeon in particular is so little frightened at the approach of man,
that it seems almost cruel to betray its confidence. Birds of this
description will often fly up actually from under your horse's feet, and
I remember on one occasion my husband pointing out one to me, that had
been killed by the wheel of a dray passing over it. Parrots, though not
held in such high favour as these pigeons, are by no means to be
despised by way of a variety, and some of them, especially the Lories
and Rosellas, make capital pies. Cockatoos are not much esteemed,
excepting when made into soup. I have never partaken of them even in
this form, but my husband assures me that they make a very respectable
_potage_, which bears a strong resemblance to hare-soup.

Any hopes of procuring kangaroos or wallabies, the best known among the
native quadrupeds, would however prove fallacious, for they keep at a
long distance from the beaten road track, being all very secluded in
their habits. Opossums might be obtained were parties to employ a Black
or two to procure them, but these little creatures are rarely eaten by
the settler, though for what reason they are despised I really do not
know, for I think them quite equal to a rabbit in flavour. However, we
were unable at this time to procure any of these sylvan delicacies, for
we were entirely unprovided during the greater part of the journey with
powder and shot, having left them to come on by the heavy drays; a fact,
the mention of which will prove how entirely unapprehensive of danger
from thieves, bushrangers or aborigines,[*] the Australian traveller is
now-days in all well-known districts. A fear of being robbed never once
crossed our minds. Most of the bad characters I fancy are to be found in
the immediate vicinity of the large towns, and the gold-diggings; but
still, I have heard on good authority, that the diggers as a class are a
much maligned race, by no means so black as they are occasionally
painted.

[* This word is almost universally employed in the colony when speaking
of the "Blacks," the term native being generally applied to persona of
European parentage born in the colony; although to my English ears the
former term sounds so pedantic that I have rarely used it when speaking
of our dark friends.]

It would be going too far to say that no greater number of crimes are
committed in Australia, than among an equal number of persons at home,
as the colonial papers prove the reverse; but I do not really think that
people feel less secure in the interior of Australia than in this
country.

From the few people we met on our journey, we never experienced anything
but civility, and a rough independent sort of kindness, with every
disposition to render assistance in any little difficulty. Not
unfrequently, a travelling shepherd or gold digger would ask permission to
boil his quart pot at our fire, and in return would help us in erecting
our tent, fetching water from the creek, or in performing some similar
small service; and after all was done, would entertain our servants with
wonderful stories of life at the gold-diggings, or of adventures to be
met with in the far interior. Frequently many wild tales have been
repeated to me, by my half-frightened servant girl, and improbable and
exaggerated as they might sound at home, it was not difficult to believe
them in the silence, solitude and darkness of nightfall in those
primeval forests. Besides, I knew well that no fiction could exceed in
wildness and improbability, the real histories of some of the early
settlers of the colony--the "pioneers of civilization," as they have
well been called.

Some twelve years ago my husband was one of the first explorers
of the country due west of Moreton Bay. Innumerable were the
difficulties and dangers he encountered in his endeavours to farm a
station in this remote locality. The journal he kept at the time is full
of accounts of hairbreadth escapes, and most unequal contests with the
fierce aborigines. Indeed so wild and improbable do many of the
adventures he met with appear, that a publisher to whom he submitted his
manuscript, strongly advised him to omit some of the most remarkable
parts of his narrative, as they would hardly find credence in this
country, and would win for their narrator the reputation of being a
second Baron Munchausen.



CHAPTER VIII.


The town of Muswellbrook--A hurricane--Aberdeen--Scone and its
neighbourhood--Crossing the Waldron Ranges--Murrurundi--The backbone of
Australia--The squatters' barrier--A canine comparison--Eastern and
western waters--Liverpool Plains--A dismal anniversary--The mirage--Myal
tree--Tamworth--The river Namoi--A stock-keeper's cottage--Bush
hospitality--The tree lizard--Unpleasant visitors--The plague of insects.


The next small town through which we passed was Muswellbrook, a place of
which I retain very unpleasant recollections, as we were detained here
several days encamped on a dusty barren knoll close to the public road,
and suffered much all the time from the oppressive heat, which we felt
much more when stationary than when on the move. Of course we did all we
could to make our tent habitable, erecting a second roof of wet blankets
over the canvas one, still, at times the heat was really most
oppressive. We suffered, too, from a regular plague of insects. In the
daytime our tent was filled with swarms of flies, and at night the
mosquitoes tormented us sadly.

At last, one evening we experienced a sort of hurricane, which,
terrible as it was at the time, did us some service, as it
dispersed the closeness and oppressiveness of the atmosphere
from which we had been suffering so much, and inflicted sudden
death on the ranks of our small enemies, for they troubled us
very little for some time after. This storm of wind came on very
suddenly, about midnight--the previous day having been calm and sultry
in the extreme, and lasted for about an hour and a half. I was very much
alarmed, I own, and fully expected our tent to give way; but even this
catastrophe, unpleasant as it would have been, was not the worst we had
to fear; we were in great terror lest some of the tall trees by which we
were surrounded might be blown down and fall on us. Not unfrequently,
terrible accidents happen from this cause in the bush. It is often
impossible to find a clear apace whereon to take refuge; and these
hurricanes come on so suddenly, and are so violent while they last, that
they often uproot the tallest trees; and many a time has some
unfortunate traveller, unable to effect his escape, been maimed or even
killed by a blow from the falling branches.

Most providentially, on the night in question we all escaped
from accident, but our whole party was on foot while the hurricane
lasted, providing for the safety of our several tenements. I
hardly thought it possible that our tent-pole could stand the
gusts of wind which swept past it with such fury; but my
husband and our man servant managed to keep it up between them, and the
whole of our little encampment weathered the gale most manfully. When
morning came it showed us the ground literally covered with large
branches, and even some of smaller trees which had been torn up by the
roots, and very thankful we felt that we had escaped all injury from
them.

We remained several days at Muswellbrook, my husband spending his time
in various endeavours to meet with a horse to replace one of ours that
had fallen lame; at last, an odd acquaintance taking pity on us, parted
with a favourite animal in consideration of our greater need, and we had
the pleasure of once more making a start. We recrossed the Hunter some
eight or ten miles from Muswellbrook, at a little township called
Aberdeen; and some five or six miles farther on, passed through Scone--a
pretty little village, not unlike its Scotch namesake. In the distance
are visible the Great Liverpool Range and the Waldron Mountains--fair
substitutes in height for our Scotch Grampians and Ochils, and in
beauty, I am afraid it must be confessed, surpassing them, at least to
eyes which, like mine, have early learned to love forest scenery; for
the hills round Scone, like all the mountains of Australia which I have
seen, are thickly wooded to the very summits.

Our road lay across the Waldron Hills, or mountains--a spur
from the main or Liverpool range; and our next halting place,
after leaving Scone, was at the foot of the pass, near a small
inn known as the "Highland Home." Here we encamped for the
night, making an early start the following morning, to enable us
to accomplish the great undertaking before us. To cross one of the
passes of the Great Range is quite an episode in a bush journey. In
addition to the steepness of the ascent, the traveller has to contend
with the roughness and badness of a road, intersected with tremendous
ruts (which often become watercourses), and dotted over with large
stones and pieces of rock, in avoiding which the most careful
charioteership is called into requisition; so that I was really not a
little proud of managing to drive our dog-cart over this mountain of
difficulty, and it proved a still more troublesome business to get up
our heavy cart.

It is really often a very troublesome undertaking to induce a
team of bullocks to perform a similar exploit. These animals
are much more generally employed than horses in drawing the heavy drays
which are sent up into the interior with supplies for the different
stations, and return laden with wool for the Sydney market. Though much
slower than horses, bullocks are much more easily kept, and they are
able to exist, although they can hardly be said to thrive, on the scanty
fodder afforded by the pasturage of the bush. Generally they are very
obedient, and give little trouble to the drivers, plodding on slowly but
steadily, and accomplishing ten or fifteen miles in the course of the
day; but when any particular demand is made on their energies, it is
difficult to induce them all to pull together, and these steep ascents
are altogether too great a task on bovine endurance.

Their drivers declare there is only one method of inducing them
to attempt a sudden rise, and be unanimous in a pull, and this
consists in adjuring them in very forcible language--a habit only
too common in the bush. I have heard a story told of a gentleman
of our acquaintance, who had very proper conscientious scruples
about permitting his servants to have recourse to such measures;
and on one occasion, when travelling with his drays, he strictly
forbade any departure from a gentle form of remonstrance,
accompanied with a moderate application of the whip. However,
it was all in vain; fair means were of no avail; master and men
were alike unsuccessful in inducing these obdurate animals to move till
at last our acquaintance, making a desperate effort to reconcile his
conscience to the necessary adjurations, stipulated that he should be
allowed to walk on out of hearing, and agreed that then the drivers
might use their customary form of persuasion. The result was that the
bullocks were soon brought to a sense of their duty, and accomplished
the ascent without further trouble.

From the summit of the Waldron Ranges, I observed, in the distance, to
our right, a cloud of smoke, which excited my wonder not a little. I was
told it arose from a burning mountain, known as Mount Wingen. With my
usual love of seeing all that was to be seen, I was of course very
anxious to visit it, but my husband disuaded me from attempting the
ascent on this occasion, as it lies some four or five miles off the
road, and there is not even a bridle track leading to it. However, on
our journey down the country we managed to accomplish the undertaking,
and found it well worth the fatigue and trouble of the long walk. After
crossing the Waldron Range we came on the township of Murrurundi, a
pretty little place situated on the river Page. It is the last township
in the settled districts to the northward of Maitland, and lies at the
foot of the Liverpool Mountains--the dividing range of New South Wales,
the "backbone of the colony," as they have often been termed.

These barriers once passed, the traveller finds himself in the Squatting
districts, so called from the land there being rented in large blocks to
the squatters, instead of being sold in comparatively small portions as
is the case in the more settled parts of the country I have been
describing. Of course, it cannot be expected that I should be able to
discuss the merits of the land question--a topic on which there is so
much diversity of opinion in the colony; and, as an ex-squatter's wife,
I may be supposed to have somewhat one-sided views on the matter; but
perfectly impartial people might, perhaps, think it reasonable to
inquire of those who join Mr. Dickens in calling the squatters a race of
cormorants and land sharks; what the lands on which they are said to
prey are fitted for? and whether, at the present time, or for many years
to come, they would return a larger revenue to the Government if
disposed of or attempted to be disposed of, in any other manner? For my
part, I have always thought that the conduct of those who would turn the
squatter out of, before the agriculturist was ready to step into, the
country, which, in many--I may say, in all--cases, the former has been
the first to discover, might be compared to the behaviour attributed, in
nursery fables, to a certain dog, held up for youthful animadversion on
account of his conduct to "Colly, the Cow."

But, to return to our caravan, which I left encamped on the outskirts of
Murrurundi. We accomplished, though with no little difficulty, the
ascent of those barriers of civilization--according to the maps--the
Liverpool Mountains.

This chain of mountains, some ten or twelve hundred miles in length, is
better known, as I think I have previously mentioned, by the name of the
Dividing Range, from the fact of its dividing the two systems of
watercourses, which flow through the eastern and south-eastern parts of
New Holland, the tract which is at present divided into the three
colonies of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia.

All rivers whose source is on the eastern side of this range, flow into
the sea on the eastern coast, and are known as "Eastern Waters." The
source of all the other rivers and streams of the interior is on the
western aide of this range of hills, and they are consequently known as
"Western Waters," all of which eventually empty themselves into the
Darling, itself a tributary of the Murray, which falls into Lake
Alexandrina, near Adelaide, the capital of South Australia.

On the western side of the Liverpool Range, where we crossed it, lies a
large tract of level country, known as the "Liverpool Plains," over
which we made somewhat more rapid progress than we had hitherto been
able to effect, despite the rainy weather, which slightly retarded our
movements. One very wet day I particularly remember; it was the 29th of
October, my birthday, and the recollection of former anniversaries only
tended to make me more melancholy, as I sat shivering on my little iron
bedstead, the rain falling in torrents on the roof of our tent,
rendering it a difficult matter to keep in a fire.

My husband, more unfortunate still, was suffering from a very severe
attack of tic-douloureux; and our little girl, by no means satisfied
with the fate which confined her to bed as the only safe place, bewailed
her lot most piteously. Nor would it have consoled me very much could I
have seen in a magic glass where I should pass the next anniversary of
the day--a vision of a burning sky a desert shore, a coral reef, and a
stranded ship; but such knowledge is wisely withheld from us; and I was
able to solace myself by somewhat more pleasurable anticipations of what
a year might bring forth.

The very heavy rain fortunately only lasted one day, and on the
following day we were able to resume our journey, though the quantity of
rain that had fallen made the ground very heavy, and we made but slow
progress.

One of the distinguishing features of these plains is the comparative
absence of wood. This, which is considered their principal
recommendation as pasture land, renders them rather disagreeable to the
traveller. In some places they are comparatively quite clear, and in
warm weather the heat in crossing them is very great.

I have been told that the mirage is occasionally seen here to great
advantage, but we were not fortunate enough to witness this phenomenon.

On the more wooded parts of these plains I noticed for the first time a
beautiful tree known as the Myall.[*] The colour of the foliage is a
pale, silvery green, and it grows most gracefully, the branches often
drooping down quite to the ground. The wood is highly scented, being
almost as aromatic as sandal wood, when freshly cut, but losing its
perfume after a time. It is remarkably closely grained, and of a very
hard texture, almost resembling ebony.

[* The _Acacia pendula_.]

Tamworth is the principal township of the Liverpool Plains district.
It is a prettily situated little place on the Peel River, a very small
stream, though one of the principal rivers of the district.

One cannot but be struck by the great scarcity of water in Australia;
the navigable rivers are very few, and the largest streams I saw in the
interior struck me as containing little more running water than most of
our small Highland streams.

This was my impression on first seeing them; on our way down the country
they presented, I must admit, a very different appearance. It was in the
time of very heavy floods, and we had, on more than one occasion, to
wait days before we could attempt to cross the swollen streams.
The greater number of the colonial rivers being rapid mountain currents,
a few days' rain in the hills converts them for a short time almost into
little seas.

Fortunately, the banks of the rivers I have mentioned, with the
exception of those of the Hunter at Maitland, are generally tolerably
high, so that the damage they do the country is not considerable; but,
as I have before mentioned, a flood in one of the large rivers in the
low lands near the coast, or in those of the interior, is often terribly
destructive.

On leaving Tamworth, there were two roads for us to choose between,
which both led to our station; one leading across the edge of the
table-land of New England; the other, the Lower Road, as it was called,
going by way of Barabba, and through the Bingera Diggings, in the Gwydir
district; and on this occasion we preferred taking the latter track,
leaving the other for our return.

Some miles from Tamworth we crossed a pretty river, called the Namoi,
the banks of which are completely fringed with a graceful looking tree
known as the Swamp Oak, so called from the resemblance its wood, when
manufactured, bears to that of the English tree of that name. But in
foliage and growth the Australian oak is very unlike our monarch of the
forest; it more resembles a tall, very graceful pine; its dark green
feathery branches curve down to the water's edge; for it is never found
excepting on the banks of rivers and water courses.

There is a somewhat similar tree known as the _Forest_ oak, but it is
much stiffer and straighter in its growth, and has not all the
graceful waviness of its stream-loving congener.

While we were making our mid-day halt on the banks of this river, one of
the stock-keepers on the run through which we were passing, who had
formerly been a servant of my husband, came up to us, and was greatly
pleased at seeing his former master. He entreated us to come to his
cottage, or hut, as all bush dwellings are called, though this deserved
a better name; it was quite a picturesque little place, situated so
prettily on the banks of the river, and surrounded with a neat well-kept
garden. His wife had a nice little dairy, and there was a good supply of
poultry pecking about. Altogether an air of comfort pervaded the little
place, which bespoke abundance of all the necessaries of life, and made
one reflect somewhat painfully on the contrast it offered to the houses
of the working classes in the old country. And this man's career had
been marked by no particular success; the situation he occupied was such
as might be obtained by any respectable hard-working man after a year or
two's experience in the colony. A wife, too, if an industrious person,
would find many ways of adding a little to the common stock, even if the
care of a number of children prevented her being able to take a regular
situation. A woman's services are always in requisition in washing and
working for the men of an establishment; and children at a very early
age learn to give a little help too; and as in the patriarchal days, so
now in the bush, it may really be said, "Blessed is the man that hath
his quiver full of them"--a beatitude in the old country not generally
very eagerly coveted.

On taking leave of this worthy couple, they pressed on our acceptance
some new-laid eggs, fresh butter, and other home-made delicacies; and
though they were, of course, more eager to serve us from having been
formerly in my husband's employment, yet such offers would have been
extended even to a stranger.

Nothing can exceed the hospitality of the bush, extended as it is
indiscriminately by all classes, to high and low, rich and poor. It
arises, no doubt, in some measure, from the feeling that no one can tell
how soon another's wants may be his own; and thus the full force of the
injunction, "Do unto others as you would they should do unto you," is
felt and acted upon. But from whatever motive it may first spring, its
effect on individual characters, both among the upper and lower classes,
is undoubtedly good, promoting as it does a kindly feeling towards one
another.

One of the results of my limited experience of bush society, has been to
induce me to believe that a more kindly feeling there pervades the
intercourse of all classes with each other, than is to be met with in a
more polished state of society. People in the bush are really glad to
see one another, and seem to have simple genial ways of thinking of
things in general, and what concerns their friends in particular. Of
course this primitive mode of viewing things will wear away, as these
settlers in far-off regions become gradually more and more mired up with
the pomp and vanities of their own little antipodean world; even now
what I am describing may belong rather to past times, but I saw enough
of it to understand my husband's repeated encomiums on the kindness
and hospitality he had experienced in former days in these out of the
way parts of the world.

The country we travelled over after leaving the Namoi, between that
river and its tributary the Manilla, is well wooded, and I appreciated
even the scant shade afforded by the gum-tree after the heat of the open
plains.

Here, basking on the branch of a tall tree, I saw for the first time an
Iguana or tree lizard, a common enough reptile in the bush. It is a very
ugly-looking creature, in shape like an alligator, varying from two to
four feet in length. Its colour is a pale dirty brown; the one I saw I
could at first hardly distinguish from the bark of the tree to which it
was clinging. Its flesh is considered rather palatable by some people.
I have heard it compared to that of a chicken and of an eel, and
suppose it somewhat resembles both.

Its eggs, too, are sometimes eaten. I remember being much amused by a
discussion on this subject between a philosophical friend of ours and a
Sydney lady. Our friend maintained the propriety of bringing up young
people without any foolish prejudices on the subject of food, and in
order to reduce his theory to practice, on one occasion set before his
own children for breakfast a dish of the eggs in question. His
fashionable acquaintance was exceedingly horrified, though in general
rather piquing herself on her strong-mindedness. I think she excused her
weakness by arguing that children fed on such savage diet would be apt
to imbibe savage tastes and propensities. At all events she had a natural
horror of eating anything belonging to such a near congener of the snake
tribe, a dislike in which most people would heartily sympathize.

The iguana, however, though like all the lizard tribe, seeming to bear
such a strong likeness to the snake, has none of the deadly qualities of
the latter. When provoked it snaps like a dog, but it has no poisonous
fang, and there is nothing dangerous in its bite. Lizards of various
kinds are very common in Australia, and are all perfectly harmless.
There is one known as the Jew lizard, which name it is said to have
obtained from its having a long beard, which gives it such a ludicrous
appearance. I do not know if it is common elsewhere, but I do not
remember to have seen or heard of it.

I saw another curious creature on the journey which I thought at the
time was a scorpion, but from the description I gave of it I was told I
must be mistaken, and that it was probably some kind of land crab. It
was about the size of a baby's hand, and had a dark blue shell litre a
lobster's, with a tail curled over its back. The Australian scorpion is
very much smaller, and has no shell, but a rough dirty-brown skin.

Certainly, one of the principal disagreeables of camping-out in the bush
is the dread you are always in of the swarms of reptiles and insects by
which you are surrounded; not that you are a great deal better off in
the log huts, the most usual description of bush dwelling, for they come
in through the chinks of the walls and floors; and the new arrival must
be very strong minded indeed who does not for some time live in a
perpetual dread of them.

To particularize all the flying, crawling, creeping, and hopping
nuisances with which the bush is infested, would be indeed a troublesome
task; their name truly is legion. I may, however, mention a few of the
more conspicuous and generally known of the creatures whose existence in
Australia forms one of the features which distinguish it from a certain
green isle in which St. Patrick is said to have destroyed everything
that was venomous--unendowed with reason.

To begin with the most dreaded of all the reptile tribe, the snake, of
which there are many varieties in Australia. The most fatal, perhaps,
are the death adder, the black snake, and the brown snake; the
former is a sluggish reptile, and never attacks any one unless
it is molested or trodden upon; but neither does it ever attempt
to run away, and when lying on the ground it so closely resembles in
appearance a dead stick that it may easily be mistaken for one by the
pedestrian. The black and brown snakes are much more active, and
generally glide away when they catch sight of a human being; though I
have heard that when pursued they will turn round and attack their
enemy.

The Blacks have a story also of a large yellow snake, which lives (they
used to tell us) in the hills round our station. They held this reptile
in great horror, and affirmed that it always runs after any one it sees,
and is able to overtake the swiftest runner on an ascent or on level
ground; the only chance a human being would have of escape from it would
be by running down hill. I cannot, however, vouch for the truth of this
account, as I never met with a European who had encountered this
formidable creature. Besides the snakes I have mentioned there is a
green snake that lives in trees; the whip snake, very small and slender,
like a piece of cord, but none the less deadly; the yellow snake, and a
host of others, the bite of all of which is poisonous and generally
fatal. Indeed, there are only one or two species whose bite is not
fatal, especially in the spring and early summer, when they first make
their appearance.

Less venomous individually, no doubt, are the innumerable insects which
especially delight to crawl and buzz on and around the new arrival, but
if the aggregate venom of all the tormentors which simultaneously
threaten the same individual were simultaneously expended, no doubt the
result to the sufferer would be as fatal as a snake bite.

Ants of all kinds abound, beginning with the universal pest, the sugar
ant--so called from its known love of sweets. A basin of sugar or a jar
of preserves left open for a few minutes is sure to be invaded by these
saccharine Vandals, whose touch is pollution, imparting a peculiar and
most disagreeable flavour to everything it falls on--a fact of which
most incontestable evidence will be furnished by the nose and palate of
any one who attempts to eat or drink out of the same cup with them.

Then there is the large soldier ant, who generally sticks pretty close
to the outskirts of his hill or castle, and if you do not trouble him he
will not frequently trouble you, but when he does, his bite is for the
moment like the application of a red hot iron. The pain does not last
very long, however, in which respect it differs from that of the
poisonous little green ant, which is absolute torture at the time, and
its effects last often for several days afterwards.

There is no lack of spiders either, of all sorts and sizes, up to the
large tarantula, or _tri-antelope_, as the common people persist in
calling it. The most deadly variety of this species is that known as the
_black_ spider, whose bite is said to be as fatal as a snake's.

There are centipedes, too, of all dimensions, whose bite is very
poisonous, and occasionally fatal. So numerous are they, and so
universal is their _habitat_, that you can hardly turn over a log
without arousing one from its lair.

Considering the prodigious number of reptiles and venomous insects which
infest Australia, comparatively very few persons are injured by them,
but none can escape the chronic persecutions of flies and mosquitoes.
The former rule the day after a fashion fully as despotic as that
attributed to their Egyptian ancestors, and when they retire to rest at
sunset, they are relieved by clouds of mosquitoes, whose songs of
triumph during the livelong night are special sounds of fear to the
new-comer, who invariably suffers most from their continued attacks.



CHAPTER IX.


Barraba--Going ahead--Bell's Mountain--The Slaty Gully--_Getting down_ a
difficulty--The Bingera Diggings--A panorama of hills--Crossing the
Ranges by night--A midnight bivouac--The Bundarra--Keera--An early
arrival--A squatter's cottage--Its surroundings--A station and its
belongings--The "shepherd's friend"--Cultivation of grain--Carriers at
a premium.


Barraba, on the banks of the Manilla, was the scene of our last
encampment. As it is only about forty-five miles from our station, we
hoped when leaving it on the morning of the 7th of November to be able
to reach Keera that same evening. However, as it was the last seat of
quasi-civilization we expected to pass; the last spot where we should
meet with that fashionable lounge of Bushmen--_a store_; we had some
shopping to get through, and were somewhat late in starting.

The road before us was very mountainous and rugged, and our horses were
pretty nearly done up with the hard work of the past month; so we
determined on leaving our dray behind in charge of the man-servant and
his wife, and endeavouring to push on ourselves with two horses in our
dog-cart, in order to send back a fresh team, to relieve our poor tired
steeds. Therefore, taking off the tilt and leaving behind all
unnecessary encumbrances, in order to make our conveyance as light as
possible, we parted company with the rest of our caravan, and set out,
hoping to arrive at our station by nightfall. So terrible was the road
or track over which we had to pass, that had I known the nature of the
country, I should not have indulged in such a hope. My husband, however,
only reflecting on his exploits in his bachelor days, was very
confident; forgetting with how many more encumbrances he was at present
travelling. The first obstacle that presented itself was a high
mountain, known as Bell's Mountain. The road over it, if not so steep as
those across the main ranges, is certainly much rougher, and the ascent
on the whole nearly as formidable.

This difficulty surmounted, we came down into some comparative level
country, where we rested the horses and partook of a hasty lunch. We
then went on again till we came to the banks of a creek, where a settler
had formed his homestead. The crossing place of this little stream was
close to the cottage, and its owner came out, in the kindly manner of
the bush, to give us some directions touching the proper place to ford it.

On recognising my husband, and knowing our destination, he strongly
urged our remaining the night at his place; however, as we were bent on
getting on, we declined his invitation, crossed the creek, and pushed
through a dense thicket of trees. At last we were stopped by such a
deep ravine! _colonicè_ gully. On looking down, it seemed almost
perpendicular. The sides were of a grey kind of slate, whence its name
of the Slaty Gully. To get down on foot was a difficult matter, and
could only be accomplished by making good use of one's hands in
clutching at the trees and shrubs, which grew in the fissures of the
rock. To get a vehicle of any kind across, seemed to me little short of
an impossibility. My husband rather regretted the want of a rope, by
which to lower our dog-cart gradually, the usual method of overcoming
such difficulties; however, as we had none with us, we could only do the
best that was possible under the circumstances. The leading horse was
taken off and committed to the charge of our servant-girl; and with the
assistance of the young lad who was with us in keeping up the head of
the horse in the shaft, the vehicle was got _down_ in safety. Then while
it was at the bottom of the gully, the leader had to be harnessed on to
take the chief part in pulling up the load. At last, after using most
super-equine exertions, they contrived to accomplish the ascent--not a
little to my astonishment, for it was really like walking up the side of
a house. I thought I had become pretty well used to these ravines before,
but nothing that I had ever seen equalled this one.

Safely landed on the other side, we continued our journey, and at sunset
reached the Bingera Diggings, some seventeen miles by the dray track
from our destination. It mould certainly have been wiser to have
remained the night here, in compliance with the suggestions of the
innkeeper, but we had set our hearts on reaching the goal of our
travels; and though around us

"The shades of night were falling fast,"

yet, trusting to the light of a full moon, and my husband's knowledge of
the country, on we went, Excelsior fashion, higher, ever higher, till we
reached the summit of a lofty hill, one of the rocky and auriferous
range bounding our sheep run (which an acquaintance of ours once
described as being infinitely more picturesque than profitable). From
this eminence a magnificent panorama of hills met our view; very
beautiful they looked in the soft moonlight, rising peak upon peak,
stretching far away in the hazy distance. I sat down on a rock and gazed
at them for some time, and felt I could well understand the enthusiastic
admiration my husband had always expressed for his Australian home, even
in bonny Scotland.

However, I had not much time for contemplation; it was getting
late, and the night air was very chilly on that high tableland.
Not that there was much fear of our taking cold; for, almost
immediately on leaving Bingera, we had had to get down and walk, so very
dangerous was the rough track we were following--now passing over the
sloping sides of mountains on such an incline that it required a man's
weight hanging on the upper aide of the dog-cart to prevent its turning
over, and now winding among huge rocks and boulders which in the
uncertain moonlight it was hardly possible always to succeed in
avoiding; though so tired and wearied was I with the distance we had
already performed, that I think at almost any risk I would have remained
in the carriage, could I have obtained permission to do so. Our little
girl, too, poor little toddler, had to run along by my side, though in
some places where the road was very rough, she could not keep her
footing, and I had to take her up in my arms and pick my way as best I
might; the rest of our party having enough to do in looking after our
horses. In this fashion on we went for many a weary mile, the distance
seeming so very great, farther than it really was--as is always the case
when one travels in the dark, or even by moonlight.

At last, after accomplishing a terrific descent of a high mountain,
known even in that hilly region as the "Big Hill," we found
ourselves in a grassy valley, through which ran a creek, the
banks of which were, as usual, fringed with the graceful swamp
oak. A wild picturesque spot it was, hemmed in on all sides
but one by high precipitous hills. However, for the present
we had done with the mountains, and our course now ran through the
valley, following the course of the creek to within a short distance of
its junction with the river, on the banks of which, some six miles
farther up, our station was situated. We trusted still to reach it that
night, but unfortunately the night, which had hitherto been clear,
became cloudy and overcast, till it was at last totally impossible to
distinguish the wheel track.

We had long since left the regular road, and even in daylight it
required practised eyes to make sure of the track, so faint and
indistinct had it become. My husband's knowledge of the country guided
us for some time, but his recollections were not very fresh after a
seven years' absence, so that at last we were stopped by the creek,
across which we could find no safe ford. It was now getting darker every
minute, the moon was just setting, and it was after midnight, so we
thought it better not to attempt further progress until daylight, being
obliged to confess ourselves fairly lost in the bush. Indeed we had not
much choice in the matter of stopping, for our horses were quite wearied
out; so we drew up at a large log, groped about for sticks, and lighted
a tremendous fire. Unfortunately we had no covering for the dog-cart, as
the tilt had been taken off to lessen its weight, but we wrapped our
little Jessie in a warm shawl, and laid her under the seat, where she
slept as peacefully as she could have done in her little cot at home.
For ourselves, we made an equitable division of the gig-cushions and
wraps, and getting as close as was prudent to the fire, we prepared for
our night's rest as best we might.

Fortunately the night was fine, though somewhat chilly, as the nights
always are in that part of Australia. But besides the cold, we had
another subject of complaint, namely, hunger. We had eaten nothing since
one o'clock, when we despatched our last slice of meat and bit of
damper, and had even boiled the last handful of tea we had with us,
having made over our main stock of provisions to the servants we had
left with the dray. We had fortunately a small flask of brandy, and a
quart pot, in which we heated some water, and with the assistance of
some brown sugar, we made a beverage, which if not very palatable,
served in some degree to warm us. My servant routed out some eggs also,
which had been given to us a few days before, and which had most happily
escaped being smashed in the jumble over the mountains. These we roasted
in the ashes, but when cooked, the difficulty was how to eat them; we
had no spoons, consequently there was only one primitive method to
adopt.

After this somewhat peculiar meal we composed ourselves to sleep, that
is the rest of the party did, but I was too much fatigued to close my
eyes, so I lay watching the strange scene, and wondering what my friends
at home would think, if they could catch a glimpse of us bivouacked in
this fashion, with no roof over our heads but the dark blue sky, now
studded with myriads of stars.

At the first dawn of day I woke the tired sleepers; the horses were soon
found and harnessed, and before sunrise we were again on our journey. I
was still at a loss to discover any traces of a road, but my husband
soon found out a practicable crossing place of the creek, a short
distance from our camp. Soon after we came in sight of the river, a fine
broad stream, known as the "Big River," or "Bundarra," the latter more
musical appellation having been given it by one of the earlier
squatters, on account of its banks being favourite haunts of the
kangaroo, in the native tongue also called _bundarra_. The native name
of the river I do not know, for it has never been adopted by the
settlers, and is now quite lost. In sight of the river we kept our
course for some five or six miles, the horses bounding swiftly on over
the level green sward, until we came to a range of hills immediately at
the back of our station, happily the last we should have to surmount.

Steep enough they were, and as I toiled up them "wearily, wearily," I
felt truly thankful we had not another day of hard travelling before us.
The summit gained, I saw before me in the valley below, through a dense
thicket of trees, a cluster of white cottages, looking so picturesque,
so secluded and peaceful, quite realizing one's ideas of an Arcadian
home; and this was Keera, the goal of our long journey, and our destined
resting place for some months at all events. Tired and ill as I was
feeling, an exclamation of delight burst from me when first the scene
broke on my view. A prettier little spot could hardly be imagined,
embosomed in the midst of beautifully wooded hills, a fine river winding
in the distance, the whole landscape looking so bright and sunny in the
peculiar clearness and freshness of early morning; the dew still on the
grass, and the birds chirping among the trees.

On approaching somewhat nearer, however, we found that distance had lent
something of its usual enchantment to the view; a master's eye had so
long been wanting on the spot, that a somewhat ruinous state of affairs
was discernible: broken down fences, out-houses out of repair, and walks
grown over with grass and weeds.

It was little more than six o'clock when we drew up in the courtyard,
somewhat to the surprise of our superintendent, who though daily
expecting our arrival, hardly looked for us at such an early hour. Very
gladly I entered the principal cottage, which was to serve as our abode,
though it certainly did not then promise to prove a very comfortable
one.

It was a low one-storied building, some seventy feet in length by
twenty-two in breadth; containing four rooms in front; the largest, the
general sitting-room, measuring some twenty-four feet by thirteen. Next
to it was a tiny little place, all doors and windows, which I made my
own especial _sanctum_, and beyond this were two other rooms, each about
eighteen feet by thirteen, which we used respectively as a nursery and
bedroom.

Behind, looking into the courtyard, were three smaller rooms which also
served for bedrooms, the kitchen and servant's apartments were in a
separate hut, another building served as a store, and the men's
dwellings were still farther off.

In front of the cottage was a verandah into which all the best rooms
opened, and beyond that was a pretty flower garden--the only thing about
the place which had been got into any sort of order in anticipation of
our arrival. It had formerly been a great hobby of my husbands, and the
old gardener had trimmed it up so that it really looked very pretty and
home-like. The turf was tolerably green and nicely shaven, and the beds
of bright coloured verbenas, geraniums, and annuals, and fine bushes of
roses, made it seem quite gay. A passion-flower hedge planted all round,
in full bloom, also greatly excised my admiration, which was to a great
extent shared by our little girl, who clapped her tiny hands with
delight at all the pretty flowers.

Inside, however, I must confess, the cottage wore a very forlorn
appearance. It looked more like a large barn than anything else. The
walls and ceilings of some of the rooms were covered with a coarse kind
of calico, but in others the wooden walls and rafters had nothing over
them. The rooms, with the exception of the sitting room, were almost
entirely void of furniture. However, in one of the bedrooms I happily
discovered a large iron bedstead, which I had put in order, and laid
down on it thoroughly worn out; nor did I, I am ashamed to say, get up
again till the evening of the following day.

In the meantime my husband, with the help of our servant girl, did what
he could towards making the place a little more habitable. It was
impossible to effect much improvement, until the arrival of our cart and
some drays we were expecting should provide us with some few of the
necessaries of life; still, what could be done they set about doing.

A pailful of water, some soap, and a scrubbing brush in our servant's
hands, brought about a great improvement in the state of the walls and
floors, while my husband rooted out an old table with a white cloth to
cover it, patched up two or three chairs, laid some carpet round the
bed, and with the help of some green boughs in the huge fireplace, and a
banquet of beautiful fresh flowers, the room soon lost its desolate
look. At all events, I was more than satisfied when I saw the result of
the proceedings I had been lazily watching; indeed, I question if I had
ever before been half so well pleased with the most comfortable room I
ever occupied, as I was with this most primitive barn-like apartment.

We had arrived at a very busy time at our station; shearing--the harvest
of the squatter--had just commenced, and everyone about the place found
more than enough to do; which was the reason so little labour had been
bestowed in making preparations for our reception, for the house had
really great capabilities for a bush residence. We soon contrived to
make it very comfortable, with the aid of paper for the walls, matting
for the floor, chintz covers for the queer old-fashioned furniture, and
muslin curtains for beds and windows. While lazily taking my rest I
amused myself by planning these various improvements, and congratulated
myself that we had provided the necessary materials for slightly
civilizing and polishing up the place.

As soon as I felt at all equal for any exertion I was anxious to see a
little more of our bush home. Accordingly, on the evening of the day
after our arrival I got up and took a short ramble of discovery about
the cottage and garden, extending my walk to the banks of the river. On
the whole, I was much pleased with the result of my observations.
Our station, as I have before mentioned, was situated in a beautiful
valley, surrounded by high hills lightly wooded to the very summits.

Besides being in the immediate vicinity of the river, there was a large,
and at the time rapid brook, _colonicè_ creek, flowing by one end of the
cottage, the ground sloping down from the bank on which the buildings
were erected, to the water's edge. On this gentle incline, and on the
margin of the stream, had been formed the orchard and vegetable garden
of the establishment, containing plenty of peach, nectarine, and apricot
trees; melon, cucumber and pumpkin vines, with tolerably thriving crops
of peas and beans. In front of the cottage was the flower garden, which
had so excited my admiration; beyond it, and to the right, extended the
vineyard, comprising some two or three acres.

The vines were generally trained low, to stakes, though in one place
they had been trellised over woodwork, and formed a pleasant arcade to
walk beneath. Beyond the vineyard was the stockyard, used for containing
the wild cattle and horses, when driven in from the different parts of
the run, for the purpose of being branded, or at a general mustering
time. This stockyard consisted of about an acre of ground, enclosed and
subdivided into several smaller yards by a high and strong fence, too
high to be leaped over, and strong enough to resist the charge of any
infuriated animal.

In another direction, behind the cottage, were the huts of all the men
employed about the home station; and on the side farthest from the creek
was the woolshed, a rough wooden building roofed with bark, some hundred
and twenty or thirty feet in length, in which were conducted the grand
operations of the squatter's year--those of shearing the sheep, sorting
and rolling up the fleeces, and afterwards pressing and packing them
into bales, prior to being sent on bullock drays to Maitland, and thence
by water to Sydney.

I have been told that on many of the larger and better conducted sheep
establishments, the woolshed is quite the show place of the station,
being fitted up at great expense with all modern improvements for
sorting the wool, and pressing and packing it in the most expeditious
manner; but, as I have before hinted, everything on our station wore the
semi-ruinous look, which appears to be one of the necessary consequences
of absenteeism in all parts of the world, and nowhere more decidedly and
rapidly than in Australia.

In no part of a bush establishment is the progress of neglect so rapid
and so visible as at a head Station. I do net remember whether I have
before mentioned that this term of _head_ or _home_ station is applied
to the residence of the proprietor or manager of a grazing
establishment. In the immediate vicinity of these residences it seldom
happens that any flocks are grazed, except perhaps a small one, of
animals intended for domestic consumption. The great body of the sheep
are located on different parts of the run known as out-stations, with a
_walk, colonicè run_ (query, are these two terms indicative of the
relative progress of the _old_ and _new_ country?), attached to each,
varying in extent according to the character of the country, and the
size of the flocks depastured thereon. In tolerably open wooded country,
the size of the flocks, I believe, ranges from twelve hundred to two
thousand, but I have heard on plains and downs of flocks of four or five
thousand and upwards.

Two of these flocks are generally located at every out-station, each
under the charge of a shepherd, who, accompanied by his dogs, takes out
his charge during the day, and brings them home to the sheep yards (with
which each out-station is provided) at night. Were it not for the
_native dogs_, this latter precaution world be unnecessary.

This animal has therefore been nicknamed the "shepherd's friend," as but
for its dreaded ravages, the shepherd's fleecy charge might be suffered
to range the wilds without his constant guardianship; the necessary
consequence of which would be that a much smaller number of men would
suffice to take charge of all the sheep in the colony; and the shepherds
infer from this that as their services would not be so much in demand,
they would not be so largely remunerated.

I do not know whether this is good political economy, as it puts one in
mind of the old complaints of the improvements in machinery being
adverse to the condition of the working classes, of which the very
reverse his proved to be the case; so, whether the native dog really is
or is not the Australian shepherd's friend, I do not take upon myself to
determine.

In the neighbouring colony of Victoria, the sheep owners in various
districts have contrived entirely to extirpate the native dog, by
simultaneously laying baits poisoned with strychnine over an extensive
tract of country; but I have not heard of any association for this
purpose in New South Wales.

To return from this digression to our own station matters: I have only
to add that all the homestead buildings I have described were situated
in a large paddock containing some four or five hundred acres, and
extending on both sides of the creek down to the banks of the river.

Here all the horses required for work on the station were kept, perhaps
some fifteen or twenty in number; and it would delight the heart of a
British farmer to see in what good condition colonial horses contrive to
keep themselves, merely on the natural pasturage, and without the
necessity of any shelter being provided for them.

It is not usual, except on a journey, to feed horses with corn in the
Bush; the grain used, when such sumptuous diet is considered necessary,
is maize or Indian corn--not oats, which do not thrive in this country.
They are grown, but not for the sake of the grain, but for that of the
straw, which is the description of hay most commonly used in the colony.
We sowed, or to use the colonial expression, _planted_ a small quantity
of this Indian corn, with the intention of using it on our return
journey to Sydney.

Besides this large horse paddock, there was a space cleared of trees,
some twenty to thirty acres in extent, on the banks of the creek, known
as the "Cultivation Paddock," where in former days my husband had grown
a sufficient supply of wheat for home consumption; but two or three
unfavourable seasons had induced his superintendents to fancy that the
best mode of securing a supply of flour for the establishment, was to
give up cultivation, and obtain it regularly from Maitland. This is the
mode now commonly adopted amongst the squatters; but though a saving of
trouble, I can hardly fancy it an economical proceeding. It is true that
the value of labour in the interior is enormous, and there is great
difficulty in obtaining servants at any rate of wages; but then the price
paid for the carriage of goods is also something very considerable. At
the time we were in the colony it was at the rate of about thirty
shillings per hundredweight for a distance of about three hundred miles!
and even at this enormous rate we had great difficulty in procuring
carriers, the hilly nature of the country round our station having given
the road to it a very ill reputation.

I have been betrayed into a somewhat lengthy and discursive description
of our Bush home and its surroundings; but it may not, perhaps, be
wholly uninteresting to the ladies of England, "who sit at home at
ease," to know something of the abodes of some of their countrywomen,
who are roughing it far away in the wilds of Australia; and this sketch
of our own station may serve as a fair portrait of the general run of
such Bush dwelling-places as I have seen in New South Wales.



CHAPTER X.


Sheep shearing--The washpool--An ancient custom--Shearers and their
habits--Scarcity of servants--Convict days--Chinese servants--A horrid
story--Chinese emigration--_Revenons à nos moutons_--Cattle--An
Australian stock-keeper--A hunt after a _wild mob_--Agriculture
in the squatting districts--The vine--Fruit--Primitive wine
making--Qualifications for a bush housekeeper.


"We will rear new homes under trees that glow
As if gems were the fruitage of every bough;
On our white walls we will train the vine,
And sit in its shadow at day's decline,
And watch our herds as they range at will
O'er the boundless plains ever bright and still.

   "But oh! the grey chum tower,
    And the sound of Sabbath bell,
   And the sheltered garden bower--
    We have bid them all farewell."

--Hemans.


We arrived at our station at a very busy season of the year, the
business of shearing being just at its height, aid I was quite glad of
this opportunity of seeing something of the mode in which this operation
is performed. The flocks are gathered in from the different stations,
and first undergo the preliminary process of washing, a curious enough
sight to witness. The washpool is generally formed in a creek or river,
where the natural body of water is increased by the construction of a
rude dam; a pen is then made on the banks into which the flock is
driven, and from which the sheep are flung out, one by one, into the
pool, by some of the sturdiest hands, who are stationed there for that
purpose.

Extended in a line across the pool or stream up to their waists in water
are the rest of the washers, and the poor sheep has to run the gauntlet
of this formidable array, receiving from each individual of the company
a thorough sousing, prior to being "passed on" to the tender mercies of
the next operator.

There is a tradition that it was formerly the custom, after a flock had
undergone this ordeal, to pass its shepherd through it also, especially
if his personal appearance warranted the presumption that such an
ablution would be beneficial to him.

Perhaps one of the reasons why this custom is at present more honoured
in the breach than in the observance is, that the practice of supplying
the men with large quantities of spirits during the process of sheep
shearing has been very generally discontinued, a large supply of hot tea
or coffee being substituted in its place--a change of system no doubt
very beneficial to all parties.

After a flock has been washed it is sent back to the pastures for three
or four days prior to being shorn, in order that the wool may recover
its natural softness, of which washing deprives it for a time. At the
end of a few days the sheep are driven into the woolshed, where they are
quickly despoiled of their fleeces by the practised hands of the
shearers. It is astonishing with what rapidity this operation is
performed. The whole fleece is taken off in one piece, a very
troublesome feat for a novice, I should fancy, but the experienced
shearer contrives to despatch from eighty to a hundred and twenty
animals in the course of the day. As the shearers are paid so much for
every score of sheep shorn, there is every inducement for them to get
through as much work as possible.

These shearers are not generally a very pleasant set of people to have
anything to do with. Even in their respectable moments when hard at work
they are very rough and rude to their employer, always ready to take
offence and be off at a moment's notice, and then sure to do all in
their power to prevent others from offering their services to their
former employer; so that stern necessity compels the settler to put up
with much that is disagreeable, and that at home he would not dream of
submitting to. But it is when the shearer has done his work and received
his pay that his carnival comes; and he keeps it like a sailor returning
from a cruise. Resorting to the nearest public house he spends his
earnings in the most lavish extravagance, holding a sort of drinking
tournament for the benefit of all comers, calling for champagne by the
dozen, drinking it in tin cups out of washing tubs, and committing
similar excesses, only rivalled or excelled by those of a successful
gold digger. The duration of these orgies depends of course on the
amount of the performer's funds. I have been told that not unfrequently
the earnings of a whole year are got rid of by their owner in a week or
ten days, during which period it may be presumed he is never sober.

When the shearer's money is all gone, he packs up his scanty wardrobe in
his opossum skin rug, and sets off for the nearest station where he
learns his services are likely to be accepted. After the shearing season
is over he generally resorts to the gold fields, or engaged as a bullock
driver or generally useful man, or adopts whatever other calling he
knows anything of, or which most coincides with hie tastes--always sure
of being able to get employment at any station he may resort to.

Of course, in speaking of the wandering and extravagant habits of
shearers, I am describing _the general characteristics_ of the class. No
doubt, there are many intelligent and industrious exceptions who
invariably meet with their reward, by becoming, in the course of a few
years, owners of property, and in their turn employers of labour.

A terrible drawback to the colony is this said scarcity of labour; how
much domestic discomfort it occasions may readily be imagined. I have
heard many old colonists speak in terms very like regret of the old
convict days when forced labour was plentiful, and servants had very
strong reasons for preserving a respectful demeanour towards their
masters. Not that I believe many, if any, of the settlers in New South
Wales would like to see the resumption of transportation to that colony,
still, I fancy there are a few of those who, having once participated in
the benefits of a system bearing in some respects a considerable
resemblance to the Domestic Institution of America, have still a
hankering after this establishment of the good old times.

Now-a-days, there is no one who has lived a short time either in the
towns or in the interior of Australia but must feel that it is a
universally acknowledged fact that here "_the servant_ is greater than
his lord," and that the former confers an obligation on the latter by
entering his service. No doubt in a new country, especially one teeming
with gold, such a state of things is not only perfectly natural, but
perhaps, in a commercial point of view, even desirable, from the
inducements it offers to emigration, but still it is none the less
disagreeable; and this reversal of what people in the old country look
on as the natural order of things makes it easy to understand why few
persons in the rank of employers care to emigrate to Australia if they
can possibly live at home, and fewer still stay there, after they have
acquired a sufficiency to retire on. Speaking of domestic servants, I
may mention that of late years Chinamen have been employed to some
extent in the interior in various domestic offices, especially as cooks,
and very tolerable ones they make, but I own to a great dislike of them
myself, and never would have them about me if I could possibly help it.
They are generally considered very quarrelsome, are easily offended, and
so terribly revengeful and treacherous. While we were residing in the
bush a circumstance occurred which, no doubt, strengthened my belief in
this opinion of their character. There had been in my husband's
employment a shepherd and his wife of the name of Howard, also at the
same time a Chinaman with some unpronounceable cognomen. Once they had
all been great friends, and there had been some talk of their becoming
partners in the ownership of a team of bullocks, towards the purchase of
which the Chinaman advanced some small sum; but afterwards the friends
fell out, and Howard made some difficulty about giving back the money.
The Chinaman bided his time, and some months after, when they had both
left our service, he attacked Howard's wife, murdered her with his
knife, at the same time mangling her little children most cruelly.
Cowardice had prevented him from attacking the party who had really
injured him, the husband of the unfortunate woman, but he wreaked his
vengeance on the innocent and helpless. The murderer escaped un
punished; it is such a difficult matter to identify individuals of this
nation; they bear to European eyes so striking a resemblance to each
other, _I_ never knew one of our Chinese servants apart.

As may be supposed, the Chinese are regarded with very jealous eyes by
the European working classes, for they naturally imagine that the great
influx of Chinese emigrants is likely to lessen very considerably the
price of labour.

The legislators of the colonies give as other reason for their dislike
to the arrival of such large numbers of enterprising Celestials. They
say that they only come to our colonies to _accumulate_ money, that they
never _spend_ any of their earnings in the land of their adoption, but
save them carefully to take back to their own native land.

So strong is this feeling (of dislike to the Chinese emigrant) in the
colony of Victoria, that the legislature levies a heavy tag--ten pounds
a head, I believe--on each Chinaman setting his foot in the colony,
besides calling on him to pay a certain sum monthly as a residentiary
licensee--somewhat despotic measures, one would think, for a colony
boasting such very free and liberal principles. This is rather a wide
digression from our station matters, so literally _revenons â nos
moutons_. One gets somewhat tired of these said moutons after a short
residence at a bush station. They seem to afford the sole food for mind
as well as body. All one's visitors (and gentlemen visitors are not
such a rare phenomenon as might be supposed) seem to think of little
else, and rarely broach any subject but those touching on ovine or
bovine concerns, till one wonders how so much can be said about such
useful but well-known creatures. Of the mysteries of a _cattle station_
I know but little, for the few hundred head on our station had been
suffered to run wild so long that they were hardly considered worth the
trouble of collecting; but from what I have heard I believe a cattle
station to be a much more easily conducted establishment than a sheep
station, and one capable of being carried on at much leas expense,
returning more certain though perhaps more limited profits. The hosts of
shepherds and supernumeraries required on a sheep station are a constant
drain on its owner's resources, and require the most vigilant
superintendence, whereas where cattle alone have to be looked after, two
or three active stockmen are sufficient to take charge in favourable
situations of several thousand.

Where there are several cattle stations in the same neighbourhood, the
stock-keepers assist each other alternately in the grand operations of
mustering, branding, and collecting and selecting animals intended to be
sent to market, either to be killed for the safe of the meat, or boiled
down for their fat only; though, since the gold discovery, this latter
practice has, I believe, been given up, the meat being now too valuable
to be thrown away. When one hears of the hundreds of thousands of sheep
and cattle which, only a few years ago, were annually boiled down and
their flesh absolutely wasted, while, at the same time, so many poor
people in Ireland and in the highlands of Scotland were literally dying
from starvation, one feels what a pity it was that no means were
discovered to bring together the _wasted food_ and the _wanting people_.

This is the sad view of the case--a semi-ludicrous one suggested itself
to me, by my recollection of the old story of the hens who had a meeting
to pass a resolution that they would no longer lay eggs at twopence a
dozen. One wonders whether the sheep and cattle would not also in time
have come to a resolution not to get fat for the purpose of becoming
eventually soap and candles, instead of fulfilling their natural
destiny, and gracing some hospitable table in the shape of sirloins and
saddles.

A strange, rough, half-civilized animal is the Australian stock-keeper,
with no more resemblance to the quiet British herd-boy, than the more
than half-wild cattle of Australia bear to their British cousins, the
gentle and docile milch cows of the old country.

More like a hunter than a herdsman, the Australian stock-keeper tracks
his charge through the boundless forests, over the wide plains and
rugged mountains of the Australian interior, and with the spirit of an
Arab, has a hearty contempt for all who are engaged in the less exciting
labour of agriculture, only exceeded by that which he entertains for his
more natural brethren, whom he is pleased to denominate "crawling
shepherds."

I need hardly say that all stock-keepers require to be first-rate
riders. I fancy there is no rough riding in this country, perhaps in any
other, that requires the nerve, courage and good horsemanship, demanded
for running down cattle in the Australian mountains.

Ours was a particularly hilly run, indeed many of the descents were so
precipitous, I could only compare them to some of the Alpine passes; and
to see horses and their riders tearing down these precipices at a hard
gallop, was really a fearful sight. The stockman's theory is, that
wherever cattle rush in their fear and fury, a horseman may venture to
follow, and it certainly is wonderful how few accidents do occur, in
this wildest of all wild hunts.

I was once taking our usual evening ride with my husband, when we met
the gentleman who had purchased our station, with one or two of his
stockmen, returning from an unsuccessful search for a drove of cattle.
We rode on together for a short distance, when suddenly we came on a
small number, _colonicè_ "mob," gently grazing under the trees. Directly
they heard our horses' hoofs off they tore at full gallop, and after
them at a tremendous pace went our horses. The creature I was riding
happened to be an old stock-horse, and though generally very quiet and
easily guided, was possessed with a very ardent love of the chase, and
was thoroughly determined that I should have the honour of turning or
heading, as I believe it is termed, this wild mob--a feat I was by no
means ambitious of performing, and it was with very great difficulty
that I at last induced him to stop and leave the glory of such an
achievement to others. When I had reined in my own horse, and could give
my attention to my companions, I was perfectly horror-stricken, at the
reckless way they dashed on over thickly wooded slopes, and down
precipitous ravines, till in a few moments they were lost to sight.
However, as I have before said, accidents really very rarely happen;
both horse and rider are so well trained, and so thoroughly accustomed
to this break-neck sort of work. When a wild mob has been driven up to
the station all difficulty is by no means over; it is no easy matter to
get them into the stock-yard. The arrival of wild cattle used to me to
be quite an event, and not a very pleasant one. The first sound that
heralded their approach was the crack of the stock whip, the report of
which when wielded by skilful hands resembles the discharge of a gun;
then came the tramp of hoofs which seemed almost to shake the earth, and
the loud bellowing of the affrighted infuriated animals, with the voices
of their pursuers distinctly heard in the tumult. The feat of driving
them into the stock-yard accomplished, the noise was still far from
subsiding, for the poor animals bemoan their fall and lament their lost
liberty in bellowings loud and deep. At first after the arrival of a
fresh drove, I used to find it impossible to sleep at night, the uproar
they made was most distracting, but one gets accustomed to all
continuous noises, so at last I ceased to hear, or at all events to
notice the disturbance.

It must not be supposed that the occupations and avocations of the
squatter are wholly confined to the management of his stock.

As I have before said, the greater number of those who live in districts
where agriculture is possible, put some small portion of their land
under cultivation to supply grain for home consumption, so that they are
also farmers an a small scale. In some places, too, where the soil is
favourable enough for the growth of the vine, he has lately become a
vine grower, and very respectable wines the Australian vintage produce,
wanting in strength perhaps, but on this account all the better suited
to the climate. At is only in some particular districts that the vine
can be cultivated with success; but I have heard it frequently asserted,
that where it does thrive, it will in time be a source of great wealth
to the settler, and that he may perhaps eventually substitute the
manufacture of wine for the growing of wool and tallow. At present,
however, the culture of the vine for wine making purposes is not
generally very well understood, but it is becoming the custom to employ
German labourers in the vineyards, and I doubt not that in a few years
Australian wines will be held in great repute. They strongly resemble in
character the lighter Clarets, Burgundies, and some of the Rhenish
wines, and when mixed with soda water, form a very refreshing beverage
in a warm climate. During our stay in the interior we contrived to make
a few hogsheads of some very light wine, but our vines had been terribly
neglected, and the supply of grapes they yielded was comparatively
small. Besides, our private consumption of the latter was something very
extravagant.

The greatest possible luxury in a warm climate is fruit; we literally
lived on it for two or three months. Such peaches, and apricots, as grew
in our garden!

"I ne'er had seen the like before, and ne'er may see again."

The trees were standards of course, and attained a very large size, and
the fruit that grew on them was most splendid--far surpassing, in size
and flavour, any I have ever seen or tasted at home.

Some idea may be formed of the luxuriant abundance of the fruit they
bore, from the following circumstance. My husband had spoken of his
intention of sending a cart for sale to the neighbouring diggings at
Bingera, and once, when taking my usual evening walk in the garden, I
asked him when he meant to despatch the fruit. Great was my astonishment
when he told me he had already had some two thousand peaches and
nectarines gathered that morning. I really could hardly believe it;
familiar as I was with the trees I did not notice any diminution in the
quantity of fruit still hanging on the branches. Unfortunately, however,
they had been gathered when somewhat too ripe, and the heat of the
weather united to the jumbling of the cart over the terrible Bingera
road, destroyed the greater number before they reached their destined
market. Had they arrived in good preservation, they would have realized
some five and twenty or thirty pounds. The greater number of grapes we
sent met with a similar fate, so we gave up this means of disposing of
them, and converted the remainder into wine. Of the regular process of
wine-making we were very ignorant, and had no presses or proper
contrivances for extracting the juice, so we had recourse to a somewhat
primitive method for effecting this purpose. We first tried squeezing
with the hand, but this was such a very tedious process, that we were
soon tired, and began to reason that feet might be applied to this
purpose with as much propriety and a good deal more efficacy.

The most _poetical_ member of our party (which happened just then to be
increased in number by the presence of one or two acquaintances), quoted
in defence of this proceeding some lines of Macaulay's:--

"And in the vats of Luna,
This year the must shall foam,
Round the white feet of laughing girls
Whose sires have marched to Rome."

while the most _practical_ person present retired to pull off his boots
and perform all necessary ablutions, &c., and clad in very light
costume, he plunged boldly into the tub with a courage and devotion
worthy of a better cause, commencing his somewhat arduous undertaking
amid the laughter, instead of the cheers of the spectators.

Certainly, the work progressed much more quickly in this manner, the
grapes being crushed as fast as they could be emptied into the vat.

The juice in the meantime was drawn off and poured into other casks, a
small quantity being allowed to ferment on the skins for the purpose of
deepening the colour of the wine.

I believe the best wine is never adulterated with sugar or spirits, it
is the pure juice of the grape, but we were obliged to put sugar to
ours; the season had been very unfavourable for the vine, owing to the
quantity of rain that had fallen, and the juice of the grapes was so
thin and watery, it would not have kept without some help.

The must requires to be racked several times, that is, poured from cask
to cask; any sediment that may have collected, of course being carefully
rejected.

Some care must be taken while the necessary fermentation is going on, to
keep the casks in a cool well-sheltered place, lest the wine should
become sour, or what is called the vinous fermentation be superseded by
the acetous, in which case the contents of the whole cask are entirely
spoilt.

As we were obliged to convert our verandah into a cellar for the time, I
was very glad when the fermentation was over, for the fumes of the wine
were really quite oppressive and very disagreeable. On the whole, we
were tolerably successful in our wine making--at least so we were told
by a gentleman who had had some experience in the art, and who
pronounced our wine the best he had tasted of that year's vintage. We
began to drink it as soon as the active fermentation was over, as, from
its slightly acid flavour, it formed a very pleasant, though perhaps not
a very wholesome beverage; but to do wine justice, it ought to be kept
at least a year, till the season when the sap rises again in the vine,
at which time a second slight fermentation takes place, till the
subsidence of which, the wine does not attain its groper body or
flavour.

The best grapes for the manufacture of Australian wines are the small
"Black Cluster," and the "Gouet."

From the Muscatel grape, which grows very readily in sheltered
situations, raisins are often prepared. Several modes are adopted for
drying them, the simplest being to break the stalk of the branch, so as
to prevent the sap from flowing to the fruit, and to leave the cluster
still hanging to the vine, till dried by the sun, and very delicious
raisins may thus be procured. Other fruits are also dried and laid by
for winter use. Peaches and apricots are taken when not entirely ripe,
cut in two, threaded on a piece of string, and hung up in some warm
sheltered spots where they keep for a long time. Preserves, too, are
manufactured to a great extent, and very useful they are, in enabling
the housekeeper to form some little variety in the scanty or rather
monotonous fare of the bush.

So the fruit season is a busy time in a bush household, though indeed at
no season is idleness an admitted guest, and even ladies must not expect
exemption from the universal law of labour.

The mistress of a bush household ought to be in all respects a notable
housewife, with the knowledge how to perform all domestic offices,
baking and churning, starching and ironing, &c., &c. I really mean
this--it is not a mere _façon de parler_; not that it will be often
necessary for a lady to do these things herself, but she should be able
to direct others, since it will most probably happen, that in the course
of her experience of bush life, she will have at some time or other to
trust to her own skill in such matters, and it is only with very great
geniuses that the necessary cunning and sleight of hand comes by
intuition. I speak from doleful experience. I used to hold the doctrine
that nothing could be easier than getting a cookery book, and following
the recipes it contained; but I found that besides having overlooked
the little fact, that neither Dr. Kitchener nor M. Soyer contemplated
the very limited cooking apparatus of a bush-kitchen, or the very
limited resources of a bush-larder, I had not attached sufficient
importance to the truth, that practice alone makes perfect; and alas!
when I tried my hand at making a cake, or concocting a stew, I must
confess it required the greatest stretch of good nature to pronounce my
productions eatable.

Again, if I attempted another branch of the domestic arts, and tried to
"get up" some of my muslin dresses, or my baby's robes, I found it the
work of many a weary hour to make them at all presentable, and there are
many pleasanter occupations than ironing with the thermometer at 106°.
The two women servants we had in our employment, I had hoped would have
exempted me from the necessity of occupying myself so much about
household matters; but unfortunately one of them had a long and
dangerous illness soon after our arrival at our station, and in the
meantime, to add to my numerous occupations, our little baby was born.
After his arrival, I had indeed hardly an hour's leisure. Long before I
ought to have thought of anything but rest, I had to be up and doing.
The care of any baby by night and day devolved on me of course; not the
mere superintendence which at such a time ladies generally find a
sufficient tax on both mental and bodily powers, but such nursing as
only falls to the lot of the poorest labourer's wife at home; few even
of them are without some kind neighbour to help them at such time of
need. Besides this, I had my little girl to look after (who at two and a
half could not be supposed to be very independent), and to superintend
my servant-girl's operations in house and kitchen.

Think of this, young ladies for whom the romance of the primitive mode
of bush-life has bright attractions.

It was easy enough for _me_ to bear up under it all. I knew it was only
for a few months, and I anticipated the amusement it would afford me in
after-life, to talk over these adventures; but I confess I should not
have much liked the notion of a permanent residence in the wilds of
Australia. Those who like myself have little natural aptitude for
household matters, must be terribly harassed by the continuance of these
petty worrying cases, while those whose _forte_ lies in that line, run
no little danger of allowing every thought and faculty to become
absorbed on their good housewifery, to the complete exclusion of more
intellectual pursuits; so that when they have children to train up, it
is out of their power to form their minds properly, or fit them for
moving in anything like refined Society.

Life in the bush is really a trial for any lady, and certainly the wife
who fulfills all the domestic requirements of her station, and still
retains her intellectual testes and refinement, may fairly be termed a
crown to her husband.

Not that I mean to assert that existence in the bush is wholly void of
its pleasures, for, independently of the happiness always following
duties well fulfilled, there is an intense appreciation of the hour or
two's leisure, which those who have the whole day at their command can
hardly understand.

The evening ride over hill and dale, the strolls by the banks of the
river, the perusal of some new book--which like angels' visits, come few
and far between--are indeed sources of very great enjoyment; and though,
as I have before said, I must plead guilty to having had occasional
longings for our home in fair Perthshire, yet had the first home of my
married life been our wild bush station, I can believe I might have been
happy in it, and even become in time a notable housewife. So I would not
wish by my cautions to deter any young lady from undertaking the
multifarious duties of a settler's wife, but it is better she should not
be ignorant of them. She ought to bear in mind that hers should be in
the superlative degree a cheerful easy temper, a brave steadfast heart,
an active willing hand, and a more than ordinary degree of affection for
the one for whom she renounces home and country, and all former ties;
for frequent must be the exile's yearning for the friends and scenes of
her childhood, and experience alone can teach how bitter a thing it is
to be a stranger in a strange land.



CHAPTER XI.


The Blacks' camp--Frequent change of quarters--_Patois_ spoken by
them--Their aversion to labour--Love of hunting--Varieties of game--Arts
of the chase--Their modes of cooking--Skin cloaks--The Bunya-bunya or
Australian bread-fruit--Native honey--Stingless bees--Native toilette--A
ball _à la_ Spurgeon--Corroborees and Boroes.


"Look now abroad! Another race has filled
Those populous borders--wide the wood recedes,
And towns shoot up and fertile realms are tilled."

--Bryant.


One of the most interesting features of the landscape in the vicinity of
our station was an encampment of aborigines, about a quarter of a mile
from our cottage. When we first arrived it consisted only of some eight
or ten individuals, men, women, and children, who belonged to that
neighbourhood, or to use their own phrase looked on Keera as their
_tourai_, the little domain which belonged to them and they to it; but
no sooner did the news of our coming spread among the neighbouring
tribes or families than the size of the encampment greatly increased,
and during the whole of our residence we had some thirty or forty of
these poor creatures encamped in our immediate neighbourhood. My husband
had always taken a great interest in them, and been perhaps a little too
liberal to them, so directly they heard of his return they flocked to
see him, and remained about the station until we left--a very lengthened
residence; for they have in general a great dislike to remain so long in
one place--a dislike partly arising, no doubt, from the game in the
neighbourhood becoming quickly exhausted, but also founded on some
superstitious reason which we could never understand. Even while they
remained in our paddock they would change the site of their little bark
huts or _guneyahs_ every eight or ten days, sometimes encamping on one
side of the creek, sometimes on the other, and sometimes not moving
above twenty or thirty yards from their former situation, but always
making some move, however slight. I was naturally very anxious to learn
all I could about this strange race, and their encampment was a source
of great interest to me. It used to be a very favourite resort of ours
in the evenings, and my husband would get into conversation with some of
the more sociable individuals, and try to extract from them all the
information likely to interest me, but they were very chary in
communicating anything touching their ways and customs.

[Illustration: The Blacks' Camp.]

Nor is it quite easy to understand them, for although all those I ever
came in contact with spoke a sort of English, it is so much of a jargon,
consisting principally of a sort of prison slang not bearing much
resemblance to the pure vernacular, that one requires to become familiar
with it before it conveys much meaning for ears uninstructed. The
original concocters of this singular gibberish, the universal medium of
intercourse between Europeans and the aborigines, appear to have
anticipated Mrs. Plornish's style of conversing with Calvallo (in
Dickens's "Little Dorrit")--the ludicrous result of which is, that the
speakers on both sides are under the impression that the principal terms
made use of are peculiar to the language of the other, whereas in
reality they belong to neither, nor to any known language whatever.

The actual native language, as spoken among themselves, appeared to me
rather musical and pretty, from the frequent use of single and double
vowels at the termination of the words.

They have no written alphabet, nor indeed any means of recording past
events. The nearest approach to hieroglyphics in use among them are the
rude carvings on trees in the vicinity of their burial places.

I am afraid it has been a long acknowledged fact that the natives of
Australia occupy almost the lowest place among the human race. I say
afraid, for I really took a great interest in our black acquaintances--I
had almost written friends--and they in turn were very fond of us, even
condescending occasionally to work for us--a great stretch of good
feeling, for they are by nature very lazy. They seem to hold to the
opinion that the _dolce far niente_ constitutes the summit of earthly
happiness, and that nothing can really repay them for performing any
labour beyond that necessary to procure them enough game to enable them
to exist from day to day. They know quite well that there is no station
in the interior where their services would not be acceptable and amply
remunerated in clothes, food, and money, yet it is very rarely that they
can be induced to work at all steadily, though when an occasional
industrious fit seizes them they make good shepherds and stock-keepers.

For some months during our residence in the bush my husband had three or
four of his flocks tended by blacks, another served as a stock-keeper,
and another as a sort of groom; while others, who were too idle to
undertake any fixed employment, would come and work occasionally in the
garden or vineyard, expecting merely food for their services.

But they all looked on working for us as a personal favour, and gave us
to understand as much, for it was only when my husband was unable to get
European servants that he could induce them to shepherd for him; even
then they always stipulated that in a certain number of days, weeks, or
at the outside, "moons," he would get "white fellow" to relieve them
of their uncongenial occupation. No doubt they like the white man's food
well enough, yet they prefer trusting for their subsistence to the pre
carious gains of a hunter, rather than to the weekly "ration cart" of an
employer.

Not that they are without a relish for beef and mutton, especially when
taken or killed by themselves, but still they retain a partiality for
their native delicacies, such as the flesh of the kangaroo, opossum,
emu, native turkey, and wild duck, which constitute the principal
variety of game in the forests and plains of Australia. They show great
skill in all the arts of the chase; indeed their instincts, as in the
case of all savage races, are wonderfully strong and acute. To see them
fired out and follow up the trail of their game is really a marvellous
proof of the sort of animal sagacity with which they are gifted. The
kangaroo they generally catch in nets, into which the animal is hunted,
by aid of the mongrel cure which swarm at every bush encampment; though
occasionally a more than usually expert hunter will stalk one much as
sportsmen stalk the deer in our country, the "waddy" or spear generally
taking the place of the dun or rifle; although many of the more
civilized natives are by no means unskilful in the use of the latter,
when they can obtain the loan of them from the Europeans. But the more
usual plan adopted by the native to procure Australian venison is either
to lay a net across the trail of a single animal, or for a whole tribe,
aided by the before-mentioned mongrel dogs, to form a cordon round a
certain tract of country until the game is driven into the nets, which
have been stretched across a narrow corner or some other convenient
situation. These nets are the handiwork of the "gins," as the native
women are called, and are generally made of the fibres of the
"corryjong" tree, or of the bulrush and "wongul" roots. These fibres are
separated by maceration, and afterwards twisted together. The netting
needle they use is a piece of hard smooth wood, and the string is wound
round it. They work without a mesh, yet the regularity of the loops is
quite astonishing.

A more common article of food among the natives than the flesh of the
kangaroo is that of the opossum. This little animal they obtain in a
very curious manner. The hunter selects some tree which he imagines
likely to be "possum's" abiding place, and examines the bark carefully
to see if there are any fresh marks of claws, indicating that one has
recently gone "up a gum tree." This fact ascertained, he makes
preparations for his ascent.

As I think I have before remarked, it is one peculiarity of the full
grown trees of Australia that they generally reach an immense height,
frequently forty or fifty feet, before putting forth any branches, so
that to the most practised of schoolboys the ascent would seem an utter
impossibility. Not so, however, to the expert savage--with his stone
hatchet he cuts notches in the bark for his toes, and quickly runs up
the highest trees; or he makes a sort of belt or ring from some strong
creeper, passes it round the trunk of the tree to be ascended and his
own body, and by the alternate action of his hands and toes (which
latter form the point of the angle his body makes with the tree), he
contrives to jerk himself up to a great height, after a fashion
calculated to excite the admiration of an acrobat or slack rope dancer.

The tree ascended, he strikes one or two of the hollow decayed branches,
till he ascertains by hearing its movements in which of them his quarry
has taken refuge. Soon he cuts into his retreat with his hatchet, seizes
his victim by the tail, drags it out in spite of its most piteous cries
and lamentations, and puts an end to its complainings and its existence.

The common opossum is rather a pretty looking little creature, about the
size of a rabbit, but with short ears and a fine bushy tall. There is
another variety called the ring-tailed opossum from the power it has of
curling its long slender tail round branches and bidding on by it.

It is smaller than the common species, but of the same dark grey colour,
and with same bright black eyes I was anxious to taste this Australian
delicacy, and prevailed on one of our black friends to get me one. I had
it stewed, after soaking it in salt and water all night, to take away
the astringent flavour which its diet of gum leaves imparts to it, and
really it made is very palatable dish; the flesh is very brown, but not
unlike that of a rabbit in taste. There is another great delicacy of the
aboriginal bill of fare, which I certainly never qualified myself to
pass an opinion on, but which I have heard some gentlemen commend
greatly. I allude to a large white grub which lives in trees,
frequenting particularly the swamp oak and apple tree, and is regarded
as a special _bonne bouche_ by the natives. Snakes, too, are much
esteemed by them, but they will only eat those which they have killed
themselves, for the snake when mortally wounded has a curious habit of
biting itself, and its poison, though only _fatal_ when acting on the
blood, still has the effect, the blacks imagine, of rendering any flesh
unwholesome; so when they kill these creatures with the further
intention of eating them, they take care, by knocking them first on
their head, to prevent their having the opportunity of inflicting any
wound as themselves.

The Iguana, too, finds great favour in native eyes, as also do wild fowl
of all descriptions. The wingless Emu, and the bustard or wild turkey,
their noblest specimens of feathered game, are very shy and difficult of
approach. The natives generally steal up to them under the cover of a
bush, and when near enough strike them with boomerang, waddy, or spear.

I have heard, too, of another mode by which they entrap the latter of
these birds. They make a noose at the end of a long string and secure
some small bird in it. The turkey is attracted to it, and the hunter who
is hidden behind a bush and still retains one end of the string, no
sooner sees his game in his power than by twisting and pulling it
judiciously, he manages to secure his prey. Smaller birds, such as the
wood-pigeon and quail, are caught by means of snares. Waterfowl they
have, I believe, many ways of entrapping. Sometimes, I have heard, they
keep under water breathing through a reed, and draw down the ducks
floating above, or hide behind bushes on the bank of the stream, and
with their, boomerangs and waddles manage to secure the fattest of the
flock.

They are very expert also in fishing, every native is almost amphibious,
and sometimes they dive under wafer armed with a light spear, feel in
the holes for a fish and transfix it. Other tribes depend principally on
the use of their nets. The rivers contain a very fair supply of fish. In
the Western Ratera the best of these is a sort of fresh water cod, very
much resembling in flavour its salt water congener. It attains a large
size. At our station it was no unusual thing to catch one weighing
eight-and-twenty or thirty pounds.

There is another smaller fish not unlike the perch in flavour, and
another known as the Jew fish or Cat fish, so called from the antennae
or feelers which surround its mouth, bearing some sort of resemblance to
a beard or to cats' whiskers. Besides these three species there are
others whose names I do not know, and abundance of a small crawfish or
prawn; so that, except in particular seasons of drought or flood, the
river furnishes the natives with a tolerable supply of food.

Their mode of cooking is very primitive: each family has a small fire
burning in front of its guneyah, which it is the business of the "gin"
to keep alight; the game is cast with little preparation on the embers,
and thus roasted. In the case of the kangaroo or opossum, the skin is
generally carefully taken off and pegged out on a little board to dry.

When a sufficient number of skins have been collected they are sewn
together by the women, whose needles are wooden skewers, and their
thread the sinews of some animal, or the fibres of some plant, and thus
are formed the skin cloaks, the only native garment of the Australian
black.

Fish and game, however, though forming the, _pièces de resistance_ at
the native table, are by no means the only species of food to be
obtained in the Australian forests. Roots of various kinds are to be met
with everywhere, and in some parts the fruit of the trees form the chief
sustenance of the natives. In the Northern districts there is a species
of pine, the _Araucaria Bidwellii_, also knows as the Bunya-bunya, or
native _bread fruit_, which, every alternate year, produces a nut not
unlike the chestnut, which is really the staff of life to the
inhabitants of those regions, who live upon it entirely during several
months of the year, but are not, I believe, sufficiently provident to
store it for the remainder. It is however, of so great use to them, that
Government has very properly given orders that in the Bunya Districts
these trees are an no account to be felled for any purpose. There is
also a species of grass growing in some districts known to the learned
as the _Panicum Laevonide_, the seeds of which the natives gather and
make into cake.

Indeed, I do not think it can with justice be said that there is any
scarcity of food for the native inhabitants of Australia, especially
considering their greatly diminished and annually diminishing numbers.
But they have very strict regulations, sumptuary laws I suppose we may
call them, regulating the rights of individuals to partake of all the
delicacies I have been describing. Children up to ten years of age may
eat anything, and so may old people, but young men and girls are
prohibited from partaking of various kinds of game, such as the crane,
the wallabi, the large kangaroo, the snake, and some others. There is
one really delicious concomitant of bush fare which all may enjoy alike,
however; I allude to the mild honey, which is really very nice. I used
to think it superior to that made by the European bee. It is quite
liquid, and has a alight acidity which I thought very pleasant. The mode
in which the natives collect it is rather curious. When they see a
native bee returning home laden with spoil, they catch the tiny insect,
which is stingless, and bears more resemblance to a fly than a bee, and
fasten a small piece of white down to its wing, then let it go and watch
its flight; having ascertained the tree in which it has its home, they
ascend it as before described and carry off its nest with its sweet
spoils. Native honey being generally found deposited in decayed branches
of trees, it becomes so mined with the bark and fragments of the wood by
the process of cutting it out, that it requires, to be carefully
strained before it is fit for table. The native, however, is by no means
particular, and devours as eagerly as a child the _olla podrida_ which
he terms a _sugar bag_. I am afraid it is not often his poor gin comes
in for any of his treasure, but she frequently makes exploring
excursions, and secures some on her own account. In some districts, too,
a kind of manna is found, which is also much esteemed by the aborigines,
and where the _Wattle_ [*] tree grows they eat the gum, which it yields
very abundantly.

[* _Acacia Mollissima_.]

I am not aware that there is any description of, grain indigenous in any
of the colonies (unless the grass I have before mentioned can be
considered as one); and this circumstance, as has been before remarked,
may partly account for the roving unsettled habits of the natives, who
have never had the inducement to remain stationary, which would have
arisen had they followed any agricultural pursuits. With regard to the
native toilette: in the wild districts, I believe it is in the lightest
possible style, every description of garment being in general dispensed
with excepting in cold or wet weather, when the "skin cloak" answers all
requirements. But in more civilized regions, some sort of Clothing is
always worn. Frequently, instead of the fur rug a blanket of some bright
colour, scarlet being held in especial favour, is thrown over their
shoulders, mantle fashion, and reaches almost to the ground. This forms
rather a picturesque costume, and "scarlet," as we all know, "looks well
through the trees." A less becoming mode of dress is that of adopting
some of the cast-off garments of the settler, and most queer-looking
figures many of the natives present when they are arrayed, for they
rarely don the whole costume. The possessor of a great coat, for
instance, would think his toilette perfect, or the still more fortunate
owner of a pair of inexpressibles and a bright coloured waistcoat would
present himself before you with a smile of the proudest satisfaction.
Nor are light muslin or barège dresses made in the last European fashion
more becoming to the women, who are nevertheless mulch delighted with
any article of old finery that they can procure.

The men generally contrive to monopolize all the native means of
adornment. On all grand occasions they decorate themselves with the
feathers of the cockatoo, emu, swan, &c., and pace in their hair the
teeth of the kangaroo and the claws of birds, adorning themselves also
with belts and necklaces made of small pieces of reed strung together.
They also bedaub themselves with a species of red and yellow ochre, and
admire one another greatly when thus decorated. I remember on one
occasion I had my colour box with me when at their camp; their delight
in examining the different paints was very great, and one old man (known
among them as "King Sandy" from being the acknowledged head of their
tribe) was made especially happy by my husband executing some remarkable
hieroglyphics in bright tint on his face and forehead. I soon made him
desist, however, for there was something melancholy in seeing the
childish eagerness with which this really fine looking old savage
submitted or rather petitioned to be thus bedaubed. The custom of
tattooing, so much in favour among the New Zealanders, is not practised
by the Australian natives, though they have a somewhat similar one of
cutting themselves on the chest and shoulders with sharp stones on
attaining the age of twelve or fourteen; the wounds thus inflicted
produce lasting cicatrices or raised scars, which are looked on as great
personal ornaments.

A very curious sight is a corroboree or native dance, in which the men
alone take part. One of these Australian realizations of Mr. Spurgeon's
ideas of what a ball should be, was held in our paddock during our stay
in the interior, and though the "at home" was not very largely
attended, as it was the only one I was likely to have an opportunity of
witnessing, I walked down with my husband and looked on at a respectful
distance. It was really a curious sight, those wild looking figures seen
in the dark night by the red glow of the fires, performing all sorts of
strange evolutions, their naturally savage appearance rendered still
more striking by the streaks of red and white clay with which they were
bedaubed, and the quantities of feathers and down with which they had
covered their hair. The women sat round in an admiring circle, chanting
in chorus a sort of wild recitation, all the singers beating time, and
admirable time too, with their "paddy melon" sticks on a sort of a drum
made by a fold of their opossum shin cloaks, which was stretched between
their knees, the monotony of the never-ending air being relieved by the
shoutings and howlings of the dancers. It really hardly occurred to me
that they were human beings, the whole picture in the lurid glare of
their torches seemed so unreal, I could only compare it to a scene of
diablerie from _Der Freischütz_ or _Faust_. The continuation of sounds
produced by this primitive orchestra was rarely loud enough to be
disagreeable, and was not wanting in a sort of musical power well suited
to the scene. Some experienced elder of the band marked the time by
knocking together two sticks--not exactly after the fashion of M.
Jullien, however, inasmuch as he only uses one.

I do not think that the meaning of these "Corroborees" has ever been
exactly understood. I fancy myself that they are looked on partly as
superstitious observances proper to be performed at certain seasons of
the year, and during certain phases of the moon. There are other
meetings they hold, knows in our part of the country as "Boroes," which
they acknowledge are for the purpose of celebrating some superstitious
rites practised when their youth arrive at years of manhood, but they
are particularly jealous of the presence of Europeans at these rites and
I never met with any one who had witnessed their celebration. The tribes
assemble from great distances to be present at these gatherings, and as
the call to a "boro" is as argent and imperative as was that of the
fiery cross in days of yore, it is, as may be imagined, a sound of fear
to a poor squatter who has three or four of his flocks in the hands of
native shepherds.

[Illustration: A Native Burial Place.]



CHAPTER XII.


Native superstitions--A burial place--Different modes of disposing of
the dead--Notions of a future state--Condition of their women--A
matrimonial dispute--Native children--Infanticide--Half-castes--Nurses
and washerwomen--"Black Charlie"--An awkward predicament--A sad
fate--Both sides of the question--Calling things by right names.


Though the natives of Australia have many superstitions, as may be
gathered from what I have related in the last chapter, and are observant
of some few rites and ceremonies, I think they can hardly be said to
have any regular creed beyond the belief in the existence of evil
spirits, of whom they are much afraid, and from the ill effects of whose
influence they seem to imagine that fire affords them the best
protection; for this reason, they rarely move from their camp even by
day-time without carrying a fire-stick with them, and at night nothing
would induce them to stir without such a talisman.

They have a great dislike to hear death spoken of, or the names of their
deceased friends mentioned. Not far from our station was one of their
burial places, and as I was anxious to visit it, after one or two
ineffectual attempts to find it by ourselves, we repaired to our friend
"King Sandy," and asked him to direct us to the spot. He shuddered and
literally turned _pale_ when we broached the subject, and when we
pressed it said in a low tone: "No, no, too much dibil, dibil, sit down
there." On my husband's questioning him as to which of his former
acquaintances were interred there, he at first refused to reply, and
when at last induced to mention their names, did so in a whisper,
scarcely above his breath, at the same time looking round fearfully, as
though he expected to see some dark form hovering near him.

We contrived at last with no little difficulty to find among the tribe
one more valiant than the rest, to conduct us to the burial ground. We
followed him for about half a mile, when he stopped abruptly, pointed
with his hand to a very tall tree, some few yards off, and darted away
like an arrow, unwilling to linger near the terrible spot. We walked on
to the place indicated, and under the spreading branches of a monster
cypress pine, the first of these graves met our view. It was a large
mound made of gravel, surrounded and supported by branches of trees
evidently lately placed there, and bore the appearance of being tended
with no little care; so that it would appear that, however much they may
dislike to name the dead or visit their last abodes, they do not allow
the tombs of their friends to suffer from their neglect. There were
three or four similar mounds within sight, and the trunks of the
surrounding trees were carved with the hieroglyphics to which I have
before alluded; rude representations of weapons, such as the boomerang,
waddy, &c., and others supposed to delineate opossums and other kinds of
game. I could not but remark the fitness with which they had chosen the
site of their cemetery, under the shadow of the grey iron bark, and the
sombre cypress pine--a spot that nature seemed to have planted for such
a purpose.

It must not be supposed, however, that it is a universal practice among
the aborigines to bury their dead. Some of the tribes in the Northern
districts expose their dead on trees, or on wooden stages erected for
that purpose. Others, I have heard, burn their corpses and collect the
ashes, which they carry about with them; while it is said some even take
the entire bodies of their deceased friends, after they have undergone
some rude process of mummification.

Cannibalism, though not frequently practised, is by no means unknown
among them, as many well authenticated stories would prove. When
indulged in, it is said to be a proof either of great enmity or intense
love and admiration of the deceased: A very general custom, I have
heard, once prevailed among them of anointing themselves with the fat of
their deceased foes; their notion being that they thus communicated to
themselves a portion of the skill and valour which had belonged to the
deceased.

Their notions regarding a future state appear to be very vague and
unformed, the general reply to any question on the subject being, "How
me know?" or "Me none able to tell;" but some enunciate the somewhat
startling theory, "Me jump up white fellow."

I have heard an anecdote of some poor creature who was to expiate on the
gallows a murder he had committed, and his last words previous to
execution were, "Very good, me jump up white fellow; plenty sixpence
than." There are traditions that the belief in this superstition has
saved the life of more than one European, who was believed to be the
embodied spirit of one of the departed members of a tribe. Their
marriage ceremonies are not formal; the old story used to be, that when
a black fellow wanted a wife, he lay in wait for some girl of a
neighbouring tribe, pounced upon her, and dragged her off to his
quarters. I do not know that such summary proceedings are always
practised, but there are generally blows given and received on both
sides, "Plenty spear and boomerang," before the contract is concluded.
Tho fate of these poor wives or "gins," as they are called, is a very
hard one, and if the consideration in which women are held among a
nation is, as some gallant writer has suggested, a fair test of the
civilization of that people, then I think the Australian aboriginal
would sink very low indeed in the scale of civilized humanity. The gin
is little else but the slave and beast of burden of her lord. All the
hard work falls to her share: collecting wood for firing, gathering and
preparing roots for the family consumption, carrying the children (of
course), and also all the household goods when the family is on the
march, are the lifelong and unaided tasks of the poor gin. Then, when
any dissensions arise--or, as is now too often the case, when the men
get intoxicated--the poor gins come very badly off; not unfrequently
they are killed in some domestic feud, and often have fearful wounds
inflicted on them by their lords and masters. I remember once being very
much startled by one of the native women rushing into my bedroom,
trembling with fear, bleeding from a wound on the head, and hardly able
to speak, taking refuge under the bed. My husband, who was fortunately
in the room, at last succeeded in drawing from her that her owner in a
fit of jealousy had inflicted this blow on her, and threatened to kill
her, and that there was a great fight going on between him and her
friends and relations. On hearing this, my husband armed himself with
his stockwhip, and stowing her away in a spare closet, went out (in
spite of my entreaties) to terminate the fray. On arriving at the scene
of combat he found spears and boomerangs were being flung about in great
numbers, but somewhat imprudently disregarding these weapons, he rushed
into the middle of the combatants with his formidable stockwhip, and
cutting right and left soon cooled the courage of the most valiant, who
intimated that they had had enough fighting, and were willing to keep
the peace. Still, the poor frightened gin would not leave our cottage
that night, and indeed returned with great reluctance to her camp on the
following morning. She was the Hebe of the tribe, and considered a great
beauty, and frequent were the quarrels of which she was the cause;
though in what her beauty consisted I could never discover, unless it
was in her superior dimensions, as she was decidedly the fattest of her
tribe.

The number of children in a tribe is generally very small and
disproportionate to its numbers, so that there really is every
probability, in the course of a few more generations, of the race
becoming extinct. This decrease in the native population may partly be
accounted for by the fact of the practice of infanticide being still
common among them. It is still a frequent custom to destroy all infants
born before the former child has attained the age of three or four
years, until which time it is considered too young to take care of
itself, or to perform the journeys undertaken by its tribe. Half castes,
too, are almost invariably destroyed, but to such of their children as
they allow to grow up, the parents are generally very indulgent. I have
also been told, that the native women make kind and careful nurses to
European children, but I never had sufficient confidence to trust them
with my baby out of my own sight, though I used to get one of the young
girls to carry him for me when I went out for a stroll, or to walk up
and down the verandah with him while I sat at work; and very glad I was
of such assistance, for nursing in hot weather is a somewhat fatiguing
business. Of course there were one or two little processes, the first
being a bath in the river, which I made my sable attendant go through
before I allowed her to touch any wee one, but these observances duly
performed and the frock donned, which I kept for her use on such
occasions, she really made a useful elfin-like little nurse. We also
occasionally contrived to induce two of the native women to wash for us,
but all services, though duly paid for, they looked an as so many
favours conferred, and it is as I have before said very difficult to
retain a native in your service, indeed, though they may have been
months or years with you, you can never be sure of the day or the hour
that they may not take to the woods and disappear.

Occasional examples of striking fidelity may, however, in rare
instances, be met with. My husband in former days, when living in the
far North-West, and waging a perpetual guerilla warfare with the wild
tribes by whom he was surrounded, had one black fellow in his
employment, whose courage, fidelity, and attachment to him far surpassed
anything of the kind that he had ever met with among any of the
Europeans in his service. On one occasion, when he could get no one else
to accompany him to a station which had been attacked by aborigines and
abandoned by the terrified shepherds, after several of their
fellow-servants had been killed, and a large number of sheep driven
away, "Black Charlie" volunteered his services, and he and his master
garrisoned the deserted hut, which they held in the midst of hostile
tribes (their nearest European neighbour being sixty miles off), until
reinforcements arrived, which enabled them to re-establish the station
and to save a quantity of wool which had been abandoned in the first
panic. Poor Charlie! it makes me melancholy to write of him, for he came
to an untimely end!

He, and his master, and a European servant were once suddenly surprised at
their midday camp by a large tribe of natives, numbering a couple of hundred at
least. They had lain in ambush and surrounded this small party, which they did
not care to attack till they had seen them dismount and lap down their arms in
preparation for a meal; then they formed a cordon round them, and with hideous
yells began to close in on their intended victims. Their horses were unsaddled,
and it required no little nerve deliberately at such a moment to adjust girth
and bridle, and unfasten the hobbles which confined their feet. Doing so,
however, and keeping a firm bold bearing to the enemy during the process, was
their only chance of safety. My husband walked up to his horse, which
fortunately allowed itself to be caught, saddled and mounted it, having
previously directed his companions to do the same. All this time the circle of
savages was closing in around them, and it was no great wonder that poor
Charlie lost his presence of mind and omitted, as it was afterwards discovered
he must have done, to unhobble his horse. The animal he rode had strayed in a
different direction from the others, and Charlie had cleared the terrible
cordon in search of it long before my husband had left the camp, so that when
my husband, after some hair-breadth escapes from the weapons flung at him from
all sides, and after hazarding his life by dismounting when once on the saddle
to secure a note-book which contained some valuable information, at last
succeeded in breaking the belt of foes which girdled him round, got out of
spear's throw and drew his rein to look round for his companions, it excited
little alarm in his mind to find Charlie absent, for he imagined he had taken
some other road to the station, as he had been seen in comparative safety
beyond the limits of the circle. Rejoining his European servant, who had
cleared the ring some time before, they made a détour to see if they
could discover anything of Charlie, but not finding him they hastened to the
head station, some twenty miles distant, hoping to find him thre. He not having
arrived, however, my husband procured fresh horses and attendants, and rode
back to look for him, but no traces of him could they discover. My husband
subsequently took another black to the spot where Charlie had last been seen,
and he pointed out marks on the ground from which he inferred that Charlie had
caught and mounted his horse, but neglected to unhobble it, for there
were marks of a horse's fore feet evidently chained together. Eventually
the animal appeared to have fallen with its rider, who then took to his
heels, but his enemies ales! had evidently overtaken him and killed him. No
more authentic particulars were ever heard of his fate, but, poor fellow!
he could expect no mercy at the hands of his foes. A sad loss he was to
his master, who had every reason to mourn his untimely death, for
besides the courage and fidelity he had always displayed, the instincts of a
savage are of the greatest use and protection in savage warfare.

There has often been a great deal said against this guerilla warfare
with the blacks, and no doubt at times and in certain districts horrible
atrocities have been committed against them, which have brought well
merited punishment on the heads of the perpetrators; but it must be
remembered these atrocities are not confined to one side, and it is
generally the aborigines who commence the warfare by spearing some
unfortunate shepherd or stock-keeper, dispersing and driving off his
sheep and cattle, thus drawing down on their heads the vengeance of the
injured settler. If it be argued that we have no right to any portion of
their land, this principle, if admitted anywhere, must for consistency's
sake be carried out everywhere. Is there a foot of ground in the colony
to which we have any right but that of the strong arm? The land on which
Sydney itself is built, how did it become ours? Let our restitution be
complete, let the remaining representative of the Sydney tribe (a poor
old cripple who haunts the fashionable drive in the environs of the
city) be installed in due state in Government House, and then, and not
till then, can the squatter with any consistency be called on to give up
the homestead he has formed with so much labour and at so much peril. If
the interests of humanity and the cause of civilization and progress
justified our taking possession of one acre of the soil, these
justifications exist still, and the adventurous explorers and settlers
of the present day are no more to be condemned than were those of a past
generation.

But, instead of condemning either, does it not rather seem that it was
the especial hand of Providence which, when the old world was fast
becoming too limited in space for its rapidly increasing population,
discovered to her over-crowded children this fair new land where the
hard-working emigrant from the mother country might find a new field for
his labours, and reap in due time an abundant harvest?

That the claims of the aboriginal inhabitants should be entirely
disregarded, is far from what I mean to assert. As much care as possible
should be taken to interfere as little as may be with their pursuits.
Their hunting grounds, except in the vicinity of large towns, have been
by no means destroyed by our settlements; the game may be somewhat
scarcer than formerly, but there is still enough and to spare; and were
it not so, labour, the primeval sentence pronounced on our first
parents, would always procure them the necessaries of life in abundance.

Indeed, any one who knows anything of the squatter's condition will
readily understand how important it is to his interest to cultivate a
good understanding with the surrounding tribes. This is almost
invariably the first attempt and always the earnest desire of the new
settler. But it must be remembered, he is far beyond the reach of the
protection of the laws, he depends solely on his own strong arm to
defend both life and property, and if he finds his best endeavours at
conciliation prove vain--if he sees his homestead destroyed, his flocks
dispersed, his servants cruelly murdered, and feels that there is no
court of justice to appeal to, that. Government is powerless to help
him--then it Would be hard indeed to say that he must look calmly on all
all this devastation, and not avail himself of the best means he may
possess of defending life and property, and preventing the recurrence of
such atrocities.

Every person of right feeling; however, will and does most deeply
deplore the necessity of using any severe measures, and strives as far
as lies in his power to prevent all occasion for employing them. But to
call the conflict which occasionally take place with the aborigines by
the name of _murder_ is simply absurd, unless all acts of defence, not
to speak of warfare, are to be invariably so termed, when attended with
loss of life. The, numbers are generally ten to one against the
Europeans, and their foes are not destitute of other advantages afforded
by their perfect knowledge of the surrounding country; so that this
border warfare is as fair legitimate fighting as may be, only as it
concerns the liven and properties of a few unknown individuals instead
of those of powerful nations, and as the loss of life it entails is as
units to thousands, so it is that those concerned in it are so much
blamed and cavilled at by those who are either ignorant of the fact, or
desirous of making capital by the enunciation of absurdly exaggerated
philanthropical sentiments.

I hardly like to end in this way my chapter on the blacks, for I would
not seem guilty of disregarding their claims on our kindness or
consideration, but I have so often been provoked at the nonsense talked
by those who know nothing about the matter, and can have very little
right to form an opinion on the subject. For my own part, though daring
to hold and confess to such apparently cruel sentiments as I have
expressed, I fancy there are very few who ever felt more kindly towards
the natives than I did. Indeed, to tell the truth, I felt more regret in
bidding adieu to our dark friends at the black encampment, than in
parting with the greater number of persons and things whom we left
behind in New South Wales.



CHAPTER XIII.


Starting for a day of kangaroo hunting--A _contretemps_--Advantages of a
thick skull--The Tea free--Table land--Kangaroos in sight--An
unsuccessful burst--An "Old Man"--A formidable weapon--The Dingo--A
theory--The kangaroo rat--The Bandicoot--The Rock Wallaby--River
fishing--The _Platypus Ornithoryncus Paradoxus_--The Bunyip--A
flood--Flies and mosquitoes--Varieties of blight--Ophthalmia--Fifty
miles from a doctor--Visitors--Neighbours--Homeward ho!


"A thousand suns may stream on thee,
A thousand moons may quiver,
But not by thee my steps shall be
For ever and for ever."

--Tennyson.


I was very desirous to be present at a kangaroo hunt before leaving the
Bush. Kangaroos were rather scarce in the immediate vicinity of our
station, and I had never seen one during our evening rides, so at last
we fined on a day for our expedition to their favourite haunts on the
Table ground, some fifteen or eighteen miles from our cottage. An early
start was of course desirable, so one fine March morning before sunrise
we were all in our saddles ready for our expedition, having partaken of
a cup of coffee, but preferring to defer breakfast till we should reach
our hunting ground.

Our party consisted of my husband and myself, a young acquaintance who
was living with us, a European servant, and an aboriginal (on whose good
horsemanship and skill as a guide we greatly depended); last but not
least were two magnificent hounds, to run down our game. The regular
kangaroo hound is really a very fine animal, something between the
staghound and the greyhound, combining the spirit and strength of the
former with the swiftness of the latter. In colour they are generally a
light brown or tan, sometimes black, and rarely brindled. Some of them
are smooth haired and others rough, the latter being the most esteemed.

When we were all assembled, a fair division was made of the breakfast
material, so that each horse might only have its due share of extra
weight to carry; to one were given the quart and pint pots, to another
the tea and sugar, and to a third the beef and damper, for we had wisely
resolved not to rely on the products of our chase, for our morning or
midday meal. All preparations at length concluded we set off at a gentle
pace, my husband and I in advance; we had hardly cleared our fences,
however, when hearing a slight confusion behind us, we looked back, and
saw our poor aboriginal attendant actually under his horse's feet. He
had mounted a very vicious animal that had hardly ever been ridden
before, and this is the way it had served him. I really thick a European
would have been killed by the accident, for the creature after it had
thrown him literally danced on his head, but the thickness of a black
fellow's skull is quite proverbial, and though stunned for a moment, he
soon recovered himself, remounted the animal and ride on a long way with
us; he was obliged to turn back, however, at the end of some five or six
miles, and from his departure our hopes of being able to capture a
kangaroo were much damped, as we had quite depended on him to be in at
the death, a feat to which I did not feel myself at all equal, nor
should I have liked my husband to leave me behind in the chase. However,
as I might not have another opportunity of ever seeing a kangaroo in its
native forests, and as the day was very fine and pleasant, we determined
to continue our ride, and trust to our own prowess. The road, or rather
track, we were following led us through beautiful country; it ran now on
one side, now on the other of a rapid little stream called the "Tea
tree" Creek, from the number of trees or rather shrubs known by this
name which fringe its banks. The "Tea tree" is rather a pretty shrub,
something like a stunted cypress; whence its appellation is derived I
could never learn. After crossing this creek six and twenty times, we
arrived at a very steep ascent, which we had to surmount before reaching
the table land, the rocky heights of which are favourite haunts of the
kangaroos. This table land is the commencement of the New England
districts, and abounds in the bogs and marshes which are the
characteristics of that part of New England which I had the opportunity
of making acquaintance with. After riding some little distance without
seeing anything of the creatures we sought, we determined to halt for
breakfast before advancing any farther. Accordingly we dismounted,
lighted afire and boiled our tea, bush fashion, enjoying it not a little
after our long ride, and rendering ample justice to the homely beef and
damper. When rested and refreshed we remounted our horses, and after
riding a little farther were rewarded by coming on two large kangaroos
browsing quite close to the track we were following. I caught sight of
one first, and forgetting for a moment where we were and what we were in
search of, I exclaimed "Look at those deer," so much did they resemble,
even at a very short distance, the graceful inhabitants of our parka.
Their first movements, however, dispelled the illusion, as they bounded
high in the air and alighted some ten or twelve feet in advance,
repeating this leap with wonderful rapidity and yet with the greatest
apparent ease to themselves, contriving soon to distance our horses,
though urged to the greatest speed with which it was at all safe to
traverse that rocky ground. Indeed, I think for the time we all forgot
the rocks and steep descents, at least I can answer for myself, the most
cowardly of the party, so anxious was I to witness the capture of one of
these creatures, but alas! we soon lost sight of them, and turned back
somewhat disconsolately on our track. Of course we blamed our dogs for
our discomfiture; they were certainly a great deal too fat to be in
proper hunting condition. On our way home we saw at some distance two
other kangaroos, one a very large one standing not less than six feet in
height, a description known in bush phraseology as an "Old Man." These
are much less fleet than a smaller kind known as "flyers," which it is
considered a feat for horses and hounds to run down.

These large creatures, though comparatively easy to overtake, make a
desperate defence when at bay, often killing more than one of their
canine assailants. Their weapon of offence and defence, really a very
formidable one, is the large claw on their hind foot, with which they
inflict fearful gashes, literally tearing open the bodies of their
enemies. The hunter has to approach them very cautiously, as they do not
hesitate when hard pressed to attack even a human foe. The one we saw
was perched on a tall cliff far above us, so that pursuit was
impossible, and as the day was now wearing on we were obliged to retrace
our steps and to content ourselves with the sight of our game. On our
return home we started two kangaroo rats, or rabbits as they are more
appropriately called, and our dogs caught one of them, a pretty little
creatures about the size of a rabbit, but with short fore legs, and the
_pouch_--the characteristic of nearly all the Australian quadrupeds,
almost the only exception being the Dingo, or native dog. We fell in
also with one of those jackal-like creatures on our homeward ride, but
we were all too tired to give it chose, so it escaped unmolested.

Speaking of these "dingoes," I may mention that many persons are of
opinion that they are not indigenous to New Holland, but were brought
across at some very remote period by the natives of New Guinea or some
of the islands opposite the Northern coast, and thence by degrees
gradually spread themselves southward, and in time over the whole island
of New Holland. The only possible ground for this theory is, that the
dingo is found in every part of New Holland except the island of
Tasmania, which geologists maintain once constituted a portion of the
main island, from which it is now separated by Bass's Straits. The
conclusion drawn from this by those who hold this opinion is, that the
four-footed _Freekirkers_ in question only came to New Holland after the
_Disruption_.

It was quite late at night when we reached our station, having ridden in
all some forty miles or so--something of a feat for me to accomplish, my
powers of horsemanship being by no means very great. Our show of game
was, alas, a somewhat ignominious one; it consisted only of the poor
little kangaroo rat, which dangled in solitary grandeur from the saddle
bow. We had in vain attempted to rescue a Bandicoot from the fangs of
one of our dogs, to add a little to our display, but "Whitefoot" chose
to regard it as his part of the days spoils, and could not be prevailed
on to part with it till too much mangled to be cared for even as a
trophy. The _Bandicoot_ is a small animal about the size of the
guinea-pig, and, I believe, somewhat resembles it in form and habits;
but this I learned only from hearsay, as I never had the opportunity of
seeing one to greater advantage than in Whitefoot's jaws. The kangaroo
rabbit I had dressed the next day, roasted and stuffed, in hare fashion,
and very nice it proved, by no means inferior to our European rabbit.
Another small variety of the kangaroo tribe, the "Rock Wallaby," bears a
very close resemblance to the hare; indeed when dressed in the same way
and eaten with currant jelly, it would be by no means easy to
distinguish them apart, always supposing that there was the slightest
possibility of their being partaken of in the same place.

These little creatures live always among rocks and cliffs, and a
moonlight night affords the best opportunity for shooting them. In, the
daytime they hide among the nooks and crevices of the rocks, and one may
wander over their favourite haunts without seeing anything of these shy
night-loving animals; but as the evening closes they come out in
hundreds, and I have been fold that it is really a very pretty sight to
watch their graceful gambols.

Fishing was an occasional amusement of ours--though I ought, perhaps,
hardly to say of ours, for I don't think I ever succeeded myself in
securing a single finery captive, but nevertheless the banks of the
river were a very favourite resort of mine, and many a pleasant hour I
have spent despite the mosquitoes, seated ender the shade of a large
swamp oak, with rod and line and book, now reading, and now watching my
more skilful or more fortunate companions--for I really do think there
is nothing but luck in fishing. Of course I am not now speaking of the
highest branch of the art, fly fishing--which, I am willing to believe,
requires both skill and practice, and its votaries I hold in all due
respect--but of simple fishing with the worm. It was in vain that I got
the most skilful hands to adjust my bait, that I chose the best hole for
my throw, or that I exhibited the most praiseworthy patience--not a
single nibble was I ever favoured with; while some one else standing by
my side would pull out one fish after another in triumphant succession,
to my sore discomfiture and mortification.

The most curious inhabitant of the streams in New South Wales is a water
mole, the _Platypus Ornithoryncus Paradoxus_ of the naturalists. This
little creature bears a strong resemblance to a beaver in some respects,
but it has the broad bill of the duck, and is well called the link
between the world of fowls and beasts--it might almost be added, of
fishes too, for its habits are quite amphibious, or rather it is more at
home in the water than on land. The aborigines assert it lays eggs, and
showed some to my husband, but he fancies those they exhibited were the
produce of the Iguana. The "Platypus" is, as may be supposed, an
awkward-looking creature, but its fur is beautifully fine and soft, a
mixture of silvery grey and black; and could skins be procured in
sufficient numbers, they would form a beautiful material for boas,
muffs, &c.; but it is by no means easy to get a shot at these little
creatures, they are very shy, and at the least alarm dive into the water
and, I suppose, reach their nests or warrens by orifices under water, as
at all events they do not re-appear in the same part of the river for
hours after having been disturbed. Another supposed inhabitant of the
deep water holes of the large rivers is the _Bunyip_. The many stories
told by the blacks concerning this monster were long supposed to be
mythical, indeed some people still consider them to be so, but I believe
it is beginning to be a generally received opinion that these stories
have some foundation in fact, and that the bunyip has a real tangible
existence. It is supposed to be a species of alligator, and this seems
the more probable as it has lately been ascertained beyond a doubt that
the alligator does exist in the more northern parts of New Holland.
There was a large water-hole, or, as we should call it, reach, in the
Bundarrah about a mile from our cottage, in which nothing could induce
the aborigines to bathe, as it was the reported haunt of one of these
monsters.

The Bundarrah, though known also as the Big River, was not generally
either very wide or very deep, though always a rapid stream. Sometimes,
however, an immense volume of water comes down from the hills, its bunks
are overflown, and the whole of the surrounding country flooded. On one
occasion, while I was at our station, the backwater from the river
running with the waters of the creek entirely submerged our lower
garden, and effected an entrance into the most distant of our huts;
another four-and-twenty hours' rain would have obliged us to take refuge
on the hills, which would have been a matter of some little difficulty,
had the water once reached our cottage, for it was built on a slight
eminence, the adjacent ground being lover all round. Most fortunately,
however, the rain ceased, and the waters subsided almost as rapidly as
they had risen. Fearfully hot weather succeeded this flood, and the
plague of mosquitoes during this period was almost unendurable. As a new
arrival they regarded me as their legitimate prey, and most cruelly they
tormented me. After all, they are more to be dreaded than any member of
the insect or reptile tribe; their only rivals in the art of tormenting
are the flies, which, though generally stingless, yet manage to tease
and worry one almost more than their venomous cousins. There is a most
troublesome member of this family, the Sandfly, which attacks the eye;
its bite produces little pain at the time, but causes the eyeballs and
lids to swell most fearfully in the course of a few hours, utterly
blinding and disfiguring the unhappy victim for some days. This disease
is commonly called the "swelling blight," and very painful it is for the
time it lasts, though it causes no permanent injury to the eye. Far more
to be dreaded is the "sandy blight," really a terrible complaint,
leaving its bad effects for months, and even years; indeed, I doubt if a
really bad attack is ever entirely recovered from. It closely resembles
the Egyptian ophthalmia. I have had the misfortune to suffer from bad
attacks of both, and I fancy they are really the same complaint.
Children suffer terribly from it, and most distressing it is to see the
poor little things. The remedy, too, is very painful: a caustic lotion,
sometimes blue stone dissolved in water, sometimes in the milder form of
sulphate of zinc--the safer remedy of the two, I think, and also very
effective in preventing the complaint, if applied during the first
symptoms. A few drops of this every now and then, and cold applications,
with a dose or two of calomel in as large doses as can be taken, are now
the most approved remedies in this complaint, though it leaves great
dimness and weakness in the eyes for a length of time, and those who
have once suffered from it are very liable to a second attack. With the
aborigines it is as common and as fatal as ophthalmia is in Egypt,
frequently causing the loss of one or both eyes, and a very miserable
spectacle the poor blind Blacks present; deprived of the power of
procuring their own food, they are often half starved, as there is
seldom much help extended to them by their own tribe, and they have to
tract for their subsistence principally to the charity of the settlers.
The great prevalence of ophthalmia, especially in some districts, I
really look on as one of the greatest drawbacks of the Bush. Generally
speaking, however, there is very little illness in the interior--a
fortunate circumstance, as medical assistance is so very difficult to be
procured. We were no worse off than the generality of residents in the
Bush, but we were fifty miles from a doctor! And there was every
probability that a messenger dispatched to "Warialda," his head
quarters, would find that he had been sent for by some one living in
another direction, so that little dependence could be placed on medical
aid, and a slight acquaintance with medicine is a most useful species of
knowledge for the squatter to possess. We were the same distance, too,
from a church and clergyman, and our nearest visitable neighbours lived
five and twenty miles off. Only once during a residence of six months
did I receive a visit from a lady, though gentlemen not unfrequently
made our cottage their resting place for the night. Fresh faces are
always welcomed at a Bush table; and though often our visitors were not
very refined specimens of their class, yet when they could be got to
speak of something else but the eternal sheep and cattle, and literally
call back their wits from _wool gathering_, it used to amuse me much to
hear them talk; for they had all curious bits of information on colonial
subjects, and many had gone through strange adventures, which they
related with great _naiveté_, and were listened to by me with much
interest; my colonial experience was something so new after our quiet
home life, and I had not during my short residence time to get wearied
of it. Nevertheless, it was a great delight to me when we did leave
Keera, and paid a visit to our nearest neighbours, old friends of my
husbands, to find myself once more in civilized society, and among
ladies with whom I could talk over all small matters--from our babies'
wardrobes to old London parties and acquaintances; for curiously enough
one of our hosts I had last met in a London ball-room, where we little
expected our next encounter would be in his cottage on the Bundarrah,
far in the wilds of Australia. Not that I had by any means felt unmixed
pleasure in leaving Keera, it was such a very pretty spot, and endeared
to me, moreover, as my baby's birthplace; there was such a weeping and
wailing, too, among the tribe of Blacks assembled to witness our
departure, that I could not help feeling somewhat sorry to wish them
good bye. When we reached the crossing place of the creek, the last spot
from which the cottage was visible, I reined up my horse, and took a
long, last look at the little homestead. Then, with the words "Homewards
ho!" on our lips, we cantered briskly on to overtake our dog-cart,
which had started before us, and which contained our small living,
treasures and their nurse; by whose side we kept for the rest of our
day's journey. It was rather a tedious one, the road being a very bad
one for any wheeled conveyance, so that it was quite late when we
arrived at "Beverly," a pretty little cottage on the banks of the
Bundarrah, belonging to an acquaintance of my husband's, who, though
away from home, had kindly, placed his cottage at our disposal. There we
remained for the night, hoping to be able to cross over to "Tienga," our
ultimate destination, early the following morning; but we found to our
dismay that owing to recent floods the river was not fordable, so that
at Beverly my husband left me and returned to Keera, as he had still
some business arrangements to make there.

I really hardly regretted the absence of our kind host during my stay,
for I thought the presence of two babies would have sufficed to upset
the good temper of the most benevolent of bachelors, especially as in a
Bush cottage the slightest sound is heard from one end of the building
to the other: However, our stay was not destined to be a long one; the
following day, one of our friends "aver taie water," having heard of our
situation, came across and drove us round by a safer ford to his
cottage, where in the course of four or five days my husband joined me,
and where we spent the pleasantest fortnight we passed in the colony; a
period marked mentally with a white stone, and often now recalled with
much pleasure.



CHAPTER XIV.


A false start--A fair one--Foul weather--A shepherd's hut--Bush tea--The
Rocky River--The Red Gum tree--Weather bound--The Rocky River
diggings--Gold finding--Alluvial diggings--Quartz crushing--A
nugget--"All is not gold that glitters"--A friend in need.


We were not a little sorry when the time arrived for us to leave Tienga
and set out once more on our travels; but as there still remained a good
deal of business to be got through in Sydney, and we were most anxious
to get home again, we thought it beat soon to be once more up and doing.
As we wished to perform the journey as quickly as possible, we decided
against camping; and, moreover, the autumn was so far advanced, that
sleeping in a tent would have been rather cold work for any of us, and
particularly trying to my wee baby, who was only three months old; so we
resolved by making tolerably lengthy stages, to make our run a station
every night. Our travelling equipage, consequently, was much less
formidable in appearance than it had been on our previous journey,
consisting only of our dog-cart, with two horses driven tandem, and my
saddle-horse which my servant-girl rode, as we found that besides our
many packages, the dog-cart would only contain ourselves, our two
children, and man-servant. Our first start was not a very propitious
one. The horses had proved a little restive when brought round, and our
friends had most kindly, and as it turned out most fortunately,
volunteered to accompany us part of the way, taking my nurse and
children in their carriage, while I rode on horseback. We got on pretty
well for some five or six miles, till we came to the crossing place of a
creek, where my husband somewhat imprudently allowed his horses to stop
and drink; the leader being first satisfied, lifted up his head suddenly
and twitched the blinkers off the creature in the shafts, it immediately
started off, jolting the dog-cart with such force over some rocks in the
bed of the stream, that both my husband and our servant were thrown out
with considerable violence; my husband fortunately alighted in a
somewhat deep water hole, receiving no injury beyond a thorough soaking,
while the servant contrived to hang on to the railing of the vehicle
until the horses gained the bank, when he cleverly managed to slip off
on the soft sand just before the vehicle turned over and brought the
horses to a stand-still. Fortunately, on examination, little damage
proved to have been done; some few things had been tossed into the
stream, but these were easily fished out again, and the dog-cart itself
had received no material injury; however, we thought it as well not to
continue our journey that day, as this fright had by no means served to
render our horses more tractable, and, moreover, the delay caused by the
accident rendered it somewhat doubtful whether we could have reached the
neighbouring station before nightfall; so, not every sorry for an excuse
for prolonging our visit, we returned once more to Tienga, and, after
two or three days spent by my husband in getting his horses into
somewhat better working order, we made a second and a more successful
start, reaching Abingdon, the station to which we were bound, by sunset.

[Illustration: Rocky River Diggings.]

A very pretty homelike little place it was--a handsome verandah in front
of the house, and a pretty garden surrounding it, in which grew some of
the finest willows I ever remember having seen; my husband had but a
slight acquaintance with the resident proprietor, and to me he was a
perfect stranger; but we experienced from him the same kind hospitality
that is still so extensively practised in the Bush of Australia. After a
night's rest, we started again on a somewhat cloudy morning, trusting to
be able to reach the next station without rain; but our expectations
were destined to be disappointed, and ourselves and luggage most
thoroughly drenched by a succession of merciless showers. Little idea
can be formed of rain in Australia from the slow, steady-going drizzle,
or even down-pour of this country. Australian torrents descend with a
most vindictive sort of vehemence, so that in five minutes all wearing
apparel is thoroughly soaked through; and two or three hours of this is
terribly trying work, especially with two young children to take care
of. Baby could be wrapped up and stowed away in the folds of my cloak;
but our poor little Jessie had to endure all the violence of rain and
wind, and most anxiously on her account did I look out for some
sheltering roof. At last we came to a sheep station, consisting of two
rather miserable-looking cottages, one a mere shed, which had formerly
been the proprietor's head station; and although we knew his present
residence could not be above five or six miles off, still, as we were
not quite clear about the road to it, and there was no inn within
eighteen or twenty miles, we preferred remaining where we were to the
chance of two or three more hours of wandering up and down in search of
better quarters. The shepherds being out with their flocks, we could
not, however, get into the main building, but were obliged to content
ourselves with the shed, which was fortunately waterproof _at one end_,
and contained, moreover, a fireplace. In it we soon contrived to have a
famous fire blazing, near which we spread our plaids and opossum rugs
for the children, whose clothes we changed, administered some hot
arrowroot to them, and soon had the satisfaction of seeing them fast
asleep, apparently none the worse for their cold Shower-bath.
Travelling with such little things had this advantage, that it made us
very regardless of all small troubles and disagreeables which only
affected ourselves, if we could only contrive to prevent the children
from suffering from the roughing and exposure; and the many worries
which would have tried our temper in other circumstances, we learned to
care very little about. My servant-girl, too, was very happily not one
of the complaining class; and the children once made comfortable, we
seated ourselves round the fire, hung our drenched garments before it,
and drank medicinally very hot weak tea without milk, and with the very
blackest sugar. If I recollect rightly, we had nothing eatable with us
but children's food, which I would not allow to be touched. At last a
grand discovery was made of a sack of potatoes placed in the verandah of
the other cottage, and to these we helped ourselves unsparingly,
roasting them in the ashes. We also ascertained, by peeping through a
window, that a fire was still smouldering in the fireplace, which must
evidently have been lighted that morning, so we argued from this, that
the occupant would probably return at sunset, and were much consoled by
the discovery. The result proved that we were right in our
anticipations, as about six o'clock the bleating of sheep, and barking
of dogs, told of the near approach of a flock and its shepherd, who, on
becoming aware of our situation, unlocked the cottage doors and placed
such accommodation as it offered, at our disposal. This was by no means
very extensive, but, discovering a small room freer from draughts than
the shed outside, and consequently more desirable as quarters for the
night, we removed our rugs and shawls into it, and made up a couple of
beds on the floor, which my nurse and I took possession of with, the
children, while my husband and the man-servant stretched themselves
before the kitchen fire, having first contrived to despatch some of the
beef and damper offered us by our host. It was to the melancholy music
of fast-falling rain pattering against the roof, that I closed my eyes
and I had a sort of dreamy consciousness of hearing, through the thin
walls, the shepherd telling my husband that the rivers would get up with
this rain, and that we might have to remain there a week--a not very
cheering prospect, it must be owned. However, next morning brought a
temporary cessation of the storm, and, by starting very early we hoped
to get across the river before the "fresh" had come down, in colonial
parlance; and fortunately we succeeded in doing so. The stream whose
course we were following up, was still our old friend the "Bundarrah,"
of which the Rocky River, the Pactolus of New England, is a branch. In
the bed and on the banks of the river, gold is found in considerable
quantities, and as I was anxious not to leave the colony without having
visited a gold field, we proposed making a slight _détour_, and passing
through these Rocky River diggings.

This was reserved for another day's journey, however, for this night we
had to be contented with reaching "Balala," another station belonging to
the proprietors of Abingdon, our previous resting-place. Our day's
journey was a very pleasant one; passing through picturesque country,
our horses by this time had got accustomed to their work, and I used to
think the long stages really quiet enjoyable, our baby very
considerately sleeping the greater part of the day, and our little girl
apparently quite liking the travelling, never being the least
troublesome. Sometimes towards evening she would get a little tired,
and her delight as we approached a station was very amusing. "Oh, mamma,
there are fences," she would cry out, poor little thing, and clap her
tiny hands with pleasure. As we drove across the plain round "Balala," I
observed, for the first time, a tree of the _Eucalyptus_ tribe, known as
the "Red Gum," from the colour of its wood, I believe; though a more
appropriate name, if derived from its appearance, would have been the
"Striped Gum or Zebra Tree," I thought. Its trunk was most curiously
variegated, the bark being apparently in stripes of different
colours--dark shining green and purple, red and straw colour--suggesting
the idea of a natural kaleidoscope. So remarkable was the appearance of
these trees (which are not known in the Gwydir district), that they
attracted the attention of a favourite dog that had insisted on
accompanying us on our travels, and the first tree that it saw, it
stopped before it, barking furiously, and ran round and round it,
evidently not knowing what to make of it. I fancy the dog's first
impressions accorded with mine, that a huge snake of various hues had
curled round and round the trunk; and it was a long time before it got
sufficiently familiar with the singular appearance of these trees to
pass them without some demonstration of fear or astonishment.

We reached Balala without any adventure about sunset, and most fortunate
we were in having been able to make it that evening, for another night's
rain swelled the rivers so much that we were obliged to remain there for
two or three days, congratulating ourselves that this fate had befallen
us in comfortable quarters, and not in the small unfurnished room of the
shepherd's hut. The family who generally resided here was absent in
England, but a brother, who had been our host at Abingdon two or three
days previously, made us welcome here also, and we waited with tolerable
patience the subsiding of the flood. _My_ troubles began here, however,
inasmuch as I awoke the morning after our arrival without the power of
opening my right eye, and reluctantly concluded I was destined to an
attack of the much dreaded ophthalmia. The next day it happened to be a
good deal better, and I most imprudently ventured to make a sketch of
one of the curious Red Gums Trees, which of course made it much worse
again; and I did not mend matters the following day by taking a sketch
of the Diggings, through which we passed. On the second occasion,
however, I took the precaution of bandaging the inflamed eye, and using
only the sound one.

It was a very curious scene, this town of tents and bark huts, and the
swarms of diggers busily engaged in the bed of the stream and on its
banks. The diggings here are what are called "alluvial" that is, the
gold is found in the form of fine dust sparingly mingled with the soil
of the river's bed and banks, and the precious particles are obtained by
carefully washing the earth.

The usual mode of search for alluvial gold is somewhat in this fashion.
From three to four diggers unite, forming themselves into a sort of
joint stock company, sharing their labour and their gains, and having
each obtained a licence from the Gold Commissioner of the District,
proceed at once to a locality which the experience of, other diggers has
proved to be productive; a pit of considerable depth is first made, the
earth which is supposed to be auriferous being thrown up in a bank. It
is first, carefully examined by some of the party for nuggets (which are
occasionally though not very frequently found in this soil, they being
more generally embedded in or mixed with quartz rock). After this has
been done; the, earth is conveyed in barrows to the edge of the water,
where portions of it are from time to time placed in the cradle--a
wooden box having a sort of coarse sieve fitted into it at one end,
which allows earth and sand to pass through, but retains coarser gravel
and stones, which are thrown away. When a sufficiency of auriferous
earth has been placed in the cradle, water is poured on it, and it is
kept continually rocked by the washer; so that in time the earth and
lighter particles are washed away, and nothing but the gold with a very
small admixture of sand remains at the bottom. When gold is found mixed
with quartz, it is far more difficult to obtain. Occasionally some lucky
adventurer may make his fortune by the discovery of a colossal nugget;
but generally its extraction is a tedious and laborious project,
requiring the aid of expensive machinery for crushing the quartz to a
fine powder; this is afterwards mixed with quicksilver, which searches
out the minute particles of gold, and uniting with them forms an
amalgam, which is separated by being squeezed through chamois leather,
the quicksilver escaping and the gold remaining pure. This, however,
though the surest mode of obtaining gold, can only be adopted by
companies, or by people possessing large capital, who can afford to wait
some time for a return on their outlay, and even then, though quartz
crushing may yield a very _fair_ return, the average profits are said to
be by no means extraordinary. Some idea may be formed of the vast labour
and trouble attending this process, from the fact that a superintendent
of one of these works, at the Bendigo Diggings, told my husband, that
they considered the concern paid them fairly, if from a ton of rock they
could succeed in extracting four ounces of the precious metal. Pretty
specimens of quartz veined or mixed with gold are not very easy to be
obtained. A very beautiful one was given us by a friend, which came from
one or other of the Victoria Diggings. The quartz was a pure white, with
here and there the faintest tinge of pink, and the gold stood up in
points almost like tiny stalactites. I thought of having it set as a
brooch or bracelet clasp, but so very brittle was it, that though packed
with a good deal of care, pieces here and there chipped of and I
found it was hopeless to think of fixing a pin to it. The largest
nugget I ever saw was the property of one of our homeward bound
fellow-passengers, and was supposed to be worth seven hundred pounds;
its weight, as may be supposed, was enormous, in appearance it somewhat
resembled those meteorites, the bright shiny appearance of which excites
so largely the admiration of children. I believe mica is sometimes found
embedded in quartz in the same manner, and with much the same
appearance, as gold, so that a novice may easily be led to form a very
exalted idea of the worth of his treasure trove, but the more
experienced hand knows easily from the weight of the nugget, what is its
real value. I remember, at the Rocky Diggings, very much amusing my
husband by pointing out to him what I conceived to be gold dust, shining
brightly in the sand on the river's banks, but which he informed me was
really only a collection of minute particles of this brilliant but
worthless substance. Our sojourn at the Diggings was not a very lengthy
one; after watching the process of gold washing for some time, and
purchasing a small sample of the gold dust, we set out again on our
journey, hoping to reach Salisbury, the headquarters of one of the
largest Sheep owners of the colony, that same evening. Before leaving
the Diggings we had the river to cross, not a very simple undertaking,
as it was much swollen by the late rains. We had fortunately met our
late host in the neighbourhood, and he very kindly insisted on seeing us
safely across the stream, taking the children over on his horse, and
leading mine across, while his servant took the leader's head, and
materially assisted my husband in getting our dog-cart safely over. So
we arrived, without accident, on the opposite bank, having only narrowly
escaped drowning some birds, whose cage was hung from the footboard
behind, and who looked all the worse for their cold bath. After saying
good-bye to our kind acquaintance, we drove on as rapidly as the bad
roads would permit, to Salisbury. We were now fairly in New England, on
the high tableland, generally a very favourite part of the colony, but
one which I confess did not prepossess me much in its favour. It is
true, the season I saw it in was a very unfavourable one; there had been
a great deal of rain--an unusual thing in Australia; and the country
through which we passed seemed converted into a vast marsh or bog. We
saw several cranes flying about, and once caught sight of a "Native
companion" standing among the tall reeds at the verge of a large piece
of water. This bird, a species of the crane family, is a great lover of
wet marshy ground, a predilection which we by no means shared on the
evening in question. It really was very cold, there was a raw dampness
in the air which seemed to chill us through and through--almost what we
should call in Scotland an "East ha'." It was quite late at night before
we reached our journeys end, and drew up before Mr. M.'s comfortable
homestead; and very glad we were to exchange the bitter cold of outside
for the genial warmth and glow of the bright fires within; and a great
relief it was to my mind to see my children comfortably deposited in
warm beds, none the worse for their exposure to the chilly atmosphere of
a winter's night in New England.



CHAPTER XV.


Salisbury Court--A squatter's residence--Lost horses--Ophthalmia--The
Moonboye Range--Tamworth--An unpleasant situation--The Burning
Mountain--Flood-bound--Another upset--Fording the river--A Canadian
traveller's tale--Driving _through_ a road--A "Slough of Despond "--The
last of the bogs--Megaethon--A philological reason.


The following day being Sunday, we were glad to accept our host's
invitation and make it a day of rest. "Salisbury Court" is certainly
one of the most favourable specimens of a Bush residence in the colony,
and the visitor to it may almost fancy himself in one of the old country
houses of England. The rooms are numerous and spacious, and--rarest and
most valuable of luxuries in the far interior--the establishment even
boasts of an excellent library! A great ornament to the house is the
spacious verandah floored with polished wood, its railing gracefully
festooned with vines and many lovely creepers, among which I remember
noticing particularly the graceful "_Morandea_" with its bright azure
bells; a few steps lead down to the flower garden, which at the time we
saw it wore a somewhat wintry aspect, but which in spring and summer no
doubt forms a very attractive feature in the landscape.

The fruit and vegetable gardens are also well kept, and on a somewhat
extensive scale; indeed, the whole establishment gives one the idea of
its proprietor possessing something rarer in the colony than great
wealth, a refined and cultivated taste. He is at present residing at
home, and is member for one of our cathedral towns, having, I suppose,
little intention of returning to his bush home, picturesque and
comfortable as it is. His brother, who superintends his station, was our
host, and somewhat lengthy he must have thought our visit, as
circumstances obliged us to trespass on his hospitality for some days.

On the Monday, when preparing for a start, our horses were not
forthcoming, and to our dismay a broken panel was discovered in the
fence surrounding the paddock, through which little doubt remained that
they had effected their escape. Nothing could be seen or heard of them
in the neighbourhood that day, or the next, and the following my husband
set out in pursuit of them, making sure that they had gone in the
direction of Keera--the birth-place of two of them. And so it proved to
be, for after having ridden some fifty miles in that direction, on the
Saturday morning he met with a gentleman who told him he had seen them
shortly before, and recommended him to make for a creek which they would
have to pass, and where they might probably indulge in a midday
_siesta_. He did so, and found the runaways in the middle of the
stream--not at the usual crossing-place, however, which was in sight of
a station--and the cunning creatures knowing they were doing wrong,
thought that if seen they would be caught and impounded in the
stockyard. They really must have had some such notion, as from what we
heard of their movements they had always kept the road, excepting when
in the vicinity of a house, and had then regularly made a _détour_ to
avoid it. Very sheepish they looked, my husband said, when they caught
sight of him, and allowed themselves to be driven back to Salisbury
without attempting to run away. All this time I had been confined to my
room, almost to my bed, with a terrible attack of ophthalmia. I shall
never forget what I suffered, or the agony caused by the admission of
one ray of light into my room; and although it was made as dark as
possible, it always seemed to me as if a hundred suns were blazing on
it. A more distressing complaint I cannot imagine. I do not think I ever
suffered as much from anything, and months passed before my eyes were
strong enough to admit of my doing anything by candle-light; indeed,
even now I often suffer from them in the evening. I was fortunately a
little better when my husband's return enabled us to set out once more
on our journey, though for several days I was obliged to keep a thick
bandage over my eyes; and pleasanter situations may well be imagined
than mine was--quite unable to see anything and perched up on a high
dog-cart, with my little baby in my arms, holding on as best I might,
with one hand to the side railing. The road, too, was very rough, so
that it was often as much as I could do to prevent myself from being
jolted out, and alas! our troubles by no means ended with the day's
journey; any hopes we might entertain of a good night's rest after it,
generally being destined to prove delusive and a snare, for Master Baby
thought he did his duty properly if he abstained from worrying us on the
road, and that after sleeping all day no mortal infant could be expected
to sleep all night too; so just as we had accomplished the day's work
and were longing

"To draw around the weary head
The curtain of repose,"

our small tormentor would wake up, looking as bright as possible; and on
more than one occasion I have had to give up all idea of sleeping, and
play or walk about with him the whole night--a somewhat trying
occupation--especially if it be taken into consideration that each rap
of candlelight caused me no small amount of pain.

The route we took on this occasion was necessarily a different one from
that by which we had journeyed up the country, as we had to descend from
the high table-land of New England to the level country known as
"Liverpool Plains." After leaving Salisbury our first resting place was
a small inn on the banks of a creek known as "Carlisle's Gully," and our
next a little town called "Bendemeer," on the Macdonald River, where we
arrived early in the day, in order to give our horses a long rest before
attempting the descent of the Moonboye Range, which was to be our next
day's undertaking. The ascent of these mountains from the New England
side is (as I have before said) a mere nothing, as in New England we
were on the lofty table land, several hundred feet above the elevation
of the Liverpool Plains, across which our road lay; but the descent is
something tremendous, worse in my opinion than that of either the
Waldron or Liverpool Ranges. The numerous skeletons of working bullocks
strewn all over the pass, prove what a terrible trial of strength it is
to these poor animals to accomplish the ascent from the plains, and one
or two teams stuck midway, unable for the time to progress any further,
are sure to meet the traveller's eye.

A great difference in climate and vegetation is observable between the
table-land and the plains, the latter being in the winter season the
pleasantest place of residence, though at other times the palm is
awarded to "New England" by those most qualified to form an opinion on
the subject; still I confess, for my own part, I was not prepossessed in
favour of this district, it is true I saw very little of it, but its
swamps and bogs seemed never ending; more than once we got engulphed in
them, and had no little difficulty in extricating ourselves and horses.

Tamworth was our first resting place on the Liverpool Plains. It is
rather a nice little township, as colonial towns go, and we were
somewhat late in leaving it the following morning for our next stage,
Currabubla, which we did not reach in consequence till late in the
evening. As it was a very dark night and the road was a very bad one, we
deemed it safer to walk for the last mile of our journey; so, having
arranged that my husband was to take on the dog-cart and return for us,
we groped on as best we might, my servant girl carrying baby, and I
leading my little girl with one hand and my riding horse with the other,
trying to keep up poor little Jessie's spirits by telling her wonderful
stories. At last my narrative was checked and my consternation not a
little roused by discovering that we had contrived to get into the
middle of a drove of not very quiet cattle, which we afterwards found
were being driven down to the Maitland market. I do not think I was ever
more frightened in my life than on making this discovery, more
especially as I gathered from the tones of the stockmen that they were
not quite so sober as they ought to have been. To retrace our steps was,
of coarse, my first endeavour, but this was not so easy in the darkness
of night; my horse, too, was getting restive, and my little girl
clinging to my dress in tears. The relief it was to me to hear my
husband's voice may be imagined, and by his assistance we soon
extricated ourselves from our most unpleasant situation, and were soon
ensconced in the worst inn's best room. These roadside inns are by no
means very comfortable, though I believe much improved of late years,
and we never failed in getting a private sitting room, a luxury in
former days not often attainable, I have heard.

We continued our journey for some days without meeting with any
adventure worth recording, crossing the Liverpool and Waldron Ranges
with great ease; the ascent, as is the case with the Moonboyes, is by no
means so arduous for the traveller down the country as for one going
into the interior, as each day's journey is a descent more or less
gradual all the way to Maitland. At the foot of the Waldrons we stopped,
though we arrived there very early in the day, in order to afford me an
opportunity of seeing Mount Wingen, better known as the "Burning
Mountain."

Our resting place was a little inn called, not inappropriately, the
"Highland Home," and its host informed us that we should easily find our
way to the crater, or rather to the burning portion of the hill, which
he assured us was not above a couple of miles from his house;
accordingly, trusting to his directions and to my husband's
recollections of a visit there many years ago, we set off, but after
wandering about in all directions for two or three hours, we were
obliged to confess ourselves quite unable to discover any traces of the
object of our search, which I own I should have been inclined to look on
as a myth had I not seen the clouds of smoke rising from the summit of
the range. Thoroughly knocked up, we returned to the inn, but very much
disliking the notion of being defeated in the object for which we had
stopped here, we persuaded the innkeeper to promise to show us the way
to it himself the next morning; so, starting at sun-rise, by seven
o'clock we found ourselves in the promised land, after a walk of some
four or five miles, instead of the two we had been told of. And really
it was a serious undertaking, even to one who knew something of Alpine
passes, the track now leading across gullies, now skirting deep ravines,
and finally ascending the most precipitous part of the mountain, so that
I was more than once tempted to give up our expedition; however, my
husband urged me on, and at last the summit was won.

A curious sight here presented itself. The place where the fire is at
present raging is a flat or slightly concave surface, some acres in
extent, surrounded by still higher hills, one of the nearest bearing
traces of having once been the prey of the devouring element which now
ravages the plateau at its feet. The soil has the appearance of red
gravel, while here and there are deep fissures from which the white
smoke ascends in clouds. At night, I am told, flames may also be seen
issuing from it, and even in the broad daylight, by peeping down one of
the fissures we plainly saw the fire and the red hot stones. Our guide
assured us that for upwards of seven years he had been in the habit of
lighting his pipe at this same spot, and that in his time he had
observed little alteration in the course of the flames.

The generally received opinion touching the nature of this phenomenon
is, that its origin is not volcanic, but that it is simply a seam of
coal on fire. I believe the celebrated geologist Mr. Clark pronounced in
favour of this theory, but it seems rather extraordinary that the very
same crevices should continue smoking for so many years; the extent of
the seam must be very enormous, one would imagine. We remained long
enough on the spot to enable me to make a slight sketch of it, and then
hurried back to the inn, got breakfast, and were off by nine o'clock,
not wishing to lose another day; however, had we known the melancholy
fate that was before us we should not have hurried ourselves.

We had observed the state of the roads becoming gradually worse and
worse as we got nearer to Maitland, and between the "Highland Home" and
Scone they surpassed in badness anything I had ever before experienced,
giving proof that large quantities of rain must have lately fallen. A
few miles beyond Scone we should have the Hunter to cross, and my
husband was beginning to have unpleasant forebodings touching the
possibility of getting over it, so we questioned the first individual we
met in the vicinity of the township touching its fordability. "Won't get
across for a week at least, sir," was the not very consolatory
answer--intelligence which damped our spirits not a little. A week in a
miserable little township in the far interior, with nothing in the world
to do, no books procurable, was certainly by no means a cheering
prospect. But we were obliged to make the best of it, as we found our
informant's intelligence only too correct. And for a whole week we there
vegetated. I have no very clear recollection of what we did with
ourselves, beyond going to bed very early and getting up very late. I
think our principal recreation consisted in gathering mushrooms, which
grew in considerable quantities in the outskirts of the town. Once we
varied this amusement and spent the afternoon at a farm in the
neighbourhood, belonging to a gentleman of our acquaintance, but not
being so learned as I ought to be in farm matters, I am afraid I noticed
little else in this establishment excepting the untidiness and generally
ruinous look of the cottage residence and farm buildings, so little in
keeping with the large extent of land composing the estate; indicating
on the whole a slipshod system of managing things in general, which
would have much distressed one of our Scotch agriculturists. But then
the proprietor was not in the habit of residing there, which, no doubt,
in part accounted for its uncomfortable neglected appearance. After a
week's sojourn at Scone, we had the satisfaction of hearing one evening
that the river had subsided considerably, and that in all probability it
would be fordable on the morrow, so we packed up our things and prepared
for an early start. The following morning was bright and fine, and by an
early hour we were all ready; however, we were not destined to make a
good beginning of this day's journey, whatever the ending might be. Our
leading horse, frightened, I suppose, by the terrible state of the
roads, and remembering his comfortable quarters in the stables of the
inn, when urged to begin his work, instead of starting properly, swerved
slightly round in the direction of his old lodgings; in doing so he
missed his footing in the slippery soil, plunged one leg into a hole
nearly up to his chest, and fell down, thereby dragging the blinkers
from the horse in the shafts, which in consequence immediately plunged,
reared, made a bound forward, and over went the dog-cart, all of us
being thrown out in the thick mud. Fortunately, from the accident having
occurred at the very door of the inn, there was plenty of assistance at
hand, and the horses were immediately secured.

My first thought of course was for baby, who was sleeping quietly in my
lap at the time of the upset, and though thrown out of my arms and to
some little distance by the jolt, he had fallen so comfortably on the
soft mud that he was still fast asleep when picked up; not so my little
girl, however, who was so very much frightened that she would hardly
allow herself to be lifted into the dog-cart again, and used constantly
to say in most piteous tones when afraid of any future catastrophe,
"Don't kill Dettie." However, she was only frightened, not hurt in the
very least, and my husband escaped equally well. I, too, had very little
to complain of merely bruising my left arm on which I fell, and slightly
spraining the wrist; nor was the damage done to dog-cart or harness
considerable, so that by the end of an hour we were ready once more to
set off. We crossed the river without any accident, though it was still
so high as to be only just fordable, the water actually coming into the
dog-cart; the children were carried across by some persons encamped on
the banks, who afterwards led my horse over and then returned to do a
similar good office for my servant girl, affording us indeed all the
assistance in their power, in the kindly fashion of the Bush.

The river once crossed, we managed to get on the same evening to
Muswelbrook, through _such_ roads!--nothing I could say about them would
enable any one at home to conceive the state they were in.

The only thing that could give one who had never been out of England any
idea of their condition, is the well-known though somewhat apocryphal
tale of a traveller on a Canadian Corderoy road, whose right of treasure
trove in a hat which he observed moving about on the surface of a bog by
the roadside, was disputed by its submerged wearer, who claimed the aid
of the traveller to get him out of his rather serious difficulty, and
afterwards put in a word for his horse, which, being under him, was in a
still worse predicament.

It is really a marvel to me that _our_ bones are not at this moment
whitening in some of the Australian bogs.

Driving tandem with skittish horses over or rather _through_ this
terrible soil, and across flooded rivers, is really somewhat nervous
work, especially when you have two young children with you. There really
was not a moment during that journey down the country that I was not
fully prepared for, and indeed, rather expecting an accident; it was
really a constant strain on the nerves which, though not naturally very
easily frightened, I do not think I got over for months. After such a
confession, it may seem ridiculous to say that there was an excitement
in it all which I did not altogether dislike, but so it was, and it was
really with feelings of something like regret that I hailed the
approaching termination of our Bush journeying. Before we reached
Maitland, however, we had some terrible "Sloughs of Despond" to get
over, indeed I hardly know how our horses contrived to pull us through
them. On one occasion we got thoroughly bogged, the wheels sinking into
the mud till the naves were barely visible, and the horses, in their
strenuous endeavours to extricate us from our dilemma, pulled till
traces and harness all gave way, and they fairly walked out of the
shafts. Fortunately, when this catastrophe happened we were not more
than a hundred yards from a little public-house, a very wretched place,
but still affording shelter for the night; and as good luck would have
it, mine host had, in former days, been a cobbler, so he and my husband
together managed to patch up the harness in the course of the evening,
and the next day we set off early for Maitland; reaching it in such a
travel-stained dilapidated condition, that the people fairly turned out
of their houses to look at us; and such was the well-known state of the
country, that when they heard where we had came from, the somewhat
contemptuous looks with which they had hitherto regarded our turnout
were exchanged for glances of reverence and admiration, such as might be
bestowed as a veteran warrior returning from the wars. We only stayed
in Maitland long enough to make a few very necessary purchases, and
drove on the same evening to Morpeth, intending to embark for Sydney the
following morning, but circumstances detained us here a day longer; as I
was not a little fatigued with all the travelling, I was glad to make
the day of detention a time of rest. My husband spent some hours of it
in visiting an old acquaintance who was encamped in the neighbourhood,
awaiting some amendment in the state of the roads before attempting to
make any further progress. He had lately returned from England, and had
brought out with him some wonderful machine, a "self-laying endless
railway" as the newspapers styled it, or the "Megaethon," as its owner
had christened it. I did not see this wonderful affair, but was told it
was a steam engine, which would lay its own rails, and thus be of great
service in taking supplies up the country; that it would also plough
land, work as a stationary engine, turn a flour mill, &c. Its name
puzzled us not a little, and my husband asked his friend from what he
had derived it. He said he meant to have called it "Megathaerion," from
some antediluvian monster, but that there was not room on the board to
paint the whole word, so he cut it down to "Megaethon." After this
original explanation, it amused me not a little when, on some subsequent
occasion, I heard some _savans_ discussing its origin and tracing it to
some Greek root.

We were sorry to hear afterwards what we were, however, somewhat
inclined to suspect from the first, that as a locomotive this engine did
not answer. It might do very well on the smooth turnpike roads of the
old country, but was not likely to succeed on the rough and steep
ascents of a Bush track, in ploughing through swamps, or in crossing
swollen rivers; and the last we heard of our friend and his steam hobby
was, that after waiting some weeks in hopes of the state of the roads
improving, and making one or two vain starts, he had "Megaethon" taken
to pieces, placed on a bullock dray, and with the aid of a couple of
teams of bullocks, conveyed to his station, where as a stationary engine
it is to be hoped it will answer his most sanguine anticipations.



CHAPTER XVI.


Anticipations--The Bush near Sydney--The roads again--The flood on the
Hunter of 1857--The Liverpool Railway--A roadside inn--Appin--More
rain--Retracing our steps--An unpleasant habit--Illawarra--The Cabbage
Tree Palm--The Garden of Australia--A case of plants--Our feathered and
four-footed fellow-passengers--Preparing to re-embark.


The voyage from Morpeth to Sydney was rather rough and unpleasant, and
as I lay on the sofa of the little cabin, almost too ill to attend even
to baby, I only remember having one distinct thought, which assumed the
form of a speculation as to whether I should ever survive the voyage to
England, and if (should I ever find myself at home again), any
inducement sufficiently powerful _could_ arise to make me set foot again
in sailing ship or steamer.

The first week after our arrival in Sydney was devoted to some very
necessary shopping; at the end of this time my husband was obliged to go
to Melbourne on some law business. I remained behind, in the hopes that
he would be able to rejoin me in two or three weeks, and glad on my
children's account of a little rest and quiet.

However, week after week passed away without my husband's being able to
get away, and it was not until the end of July, after an absence of
nearly two months, that he was at last enabled to return to Sydney. I
had been residing in the meantime some ten miles out of town, near the
small railway station of Ashfield, at an out-of-the-way place, prettily
situated quite in the Bush; I found it both healthier and pleasanter
than a residence in Sydney, and used very much to enjoy the long rambles
through the woods with my nurse and children in search of the wild
flowers which were just beginning to come into blossom. In-doors I had
plenty of occupation in preparing for our coming voyage, so the time did
not hang so very heavily on my hands. After my husband's return we had
plenty to do, our few leisure days we devoted to exploring the
neighbourhood on foot and on horseback.

Driving was not very practicable, so very bad were the roads, even at
this short distance from Sydney. In one place, close to the main track,
was a quagmire, which we were particularly cautioned against, as not
many weeks before an unfortunate cow had got bogged in it, and actually
died there, all endeavours to extricate her proving useless. This fact
may give some notion of the state of the country at that time; it is not
always quite so bad, but the season had been an unusually rainy one, and
the roads were really hardly passable. Indeed, unfortunate as we had
considered ourselves at the time, in the weather we had met with in our
journey down the country, we had reason afterwards to congratulate
ourselves that we had not been a month later in setting out, as we
should then have found the country really impassable. The months of June
and July, 1857, will, I fancy, be long remembered by the inhabitants of
the Hunter River district.

So severe were the floods, that great part of the town of Maitland was
swept away, and the damage done to property was very considerable. The
papers of the day were full of the disasters that were occurring; many
travellers were reported to have perished, and the losses among flocks
and herds were very great. One gentleman, an acquaintance of my
husband's, was said to have lost not less than twenty thousand sheep!
Many of the small settlers were still more to be pitied, as everything
they possessed was swallowed up by the remorseless waters. Homesteads
that had been erected at the expense of much personal labour, the fruit
of many years of privation and toil, were all swept away, and sad tales
of destitution were told on all sides. On the other hand, to prove the
truth of the old proverb "It's an ill wind that blows nobody good,"
there were some who benefited by the inundation, for I have heard that
lands in the vicinity of these rivers, which were formerly considered of
little value, have been so much enriched by the alluvial deposit left on
them by the receding waters, as now to be considered available for
agricultural purposes. As I have before remarked, these great floods
appear to recur at something like stated periods, and it is to be hoped
that, learning from experience, future settlers may take care to choose
elevated situations for the erection of their dwellings, and that when
floods next occur the damage done by them may be comparatively slight.
There being no large river in the vicinity of Sydney, the principal
inconvenience caused to its inhabitants by these heavy rains is the
terrible condition the roads get into, almost preventing all
communication with the interior, excepting in the direction of
Liverpool, to which place there is now railway communication; though
even this mode of travelling is not very safe in wet weather, the
embankments, &c., being somewhat apt to give way from becoming
undermined by the rain. I never used to fancy the colonial railways very
safe, the motion was always so great, and at all the little stations
there seems to be less care and order exercised than is the case at
home; however, as I am not aware that any serious accident [*] has ever
taken place on either of the lines at present open, namely, between
Sydney. and Liverpool, and between Maitland and Newcastle, we must hope
the negligence is only in little matters, and that in the management of
their railroads, at all events, the colonists are not disposed to adopt
American "go-aheadism," and carelessness of risk to human life. After my
husband's return to New South Wales, we were able to make arrangements
for embarking for home by the September mail steamer. Before leaving the
colony, however, I was desirous of seeing something of the Illawarra
district--"The Garden of New South Wales," I had heard it called--and we
determined to avail ourselves of a week's leisure, and the improved
state of the roads, for accomplishing this undertaking. Our most direct
route world have been by steamer to Wollongong or Kiama, but as our wish
was to see as much of the country as possible, we determined on taking
the bridle track leading across Mount Keera into the valley of the
Illawarra, and returning to Sydney by sea, embarking ourselves and
horses on board one of the little coasting steamers at one or other of
the above-named ports. Accordingly, one fine morning we set off; leaving
our children in charge of a friend, who had promised to take care of
them during the short period we were likely to be absent. Our road led
us in the first instance past Paramatta, which we left to the right, and
thence through flat uninteresting country to Liverpool, a little town,
(some twenty miles from Sydney), the present terminus of the railway in
this direction.

[* Since our return to Great Britain, there has been one serious
accident attended with the loss of many lives; amongst others, that of a
well-known lawyer in Sydney, whose widow claimed and received as
compensation a sum equivalent to a pension of £500 a year for her life,
besides large allowances for each of her children.]

Here we stopped for lunch, and were detained some little time at the inn
by a violent thunder-storm. When the weather cleared up we proceeded in
the direction of Campbelltown, hoping to reach it before nightfall; but
heavy rain coming on again we were compelled to take refuge at a little
roadside inn, where drenched through we bemoaned our lot over a smoky
wood fire, eventually solacing ourselves with some warm tea and an odd
volume of one of Mrs. Radcliffe's romances.

The next morning was fine and bright, and with somewhat better spirits
we set out again, but the roads were heavy, and our progress
consequently not very rapid, so that it was one or two o'clock before we
reached "Appin," a small village, the last resting place on the Sydney
side of Mount Keera. As it was too late to attempt crossing the
mountain--at all times a formidable undertaking--that evening, we were
obliged to make up our minds to stay here. We were not by this time very
difficult to please in the way of accommodation, but it seemed doubtful
if we should meet with any in this out-of-the-way little place. At last
the landlord of a little inn took compassion on us, and let us in,
though giving us to understand it was quite as a favour, for he was
giving up his business that week, and his house was in a great state of
confusion. I afterwards learnt we owed the accommodation, such as it
was, to the compassion of the landlord's wife, who chose to weave a
little romance about us to the effect that we were a newly married
couple, and who was not a little disappointed when I informed her I had
been married several years, and had three children! I must be excused if
my recollections of Appin are not very favourable, for at this
half-dismantled little inn we were detained three days by incessant
torrents of rain, such as I had hardly ever witnessed before, even in
the colony. What to do with ourselves we really hardly knew. We had
neither writing nor drawing materials, nor were they procurable.

Our sole resources were a few Sydney newspapers a week or two old, and
two or three books of a controversial tendency, written by Roman
Catholics, with which my friend the hostess supplied us, in some hopes,
I suppose, of effecting our conversion. At all events she might reckon
pretty securely on my reading them "faute de mieux." At last, on the
Saturday morning when the weather did clear up, we were obliged to give
up all thoughts of an expedition to Illawarra. There was a stream to be
crossed, at all times troublesome to ford, but which in its present
state it would certainly have been unsafe to have attempted for a week,
and besides this our time was getting very short, and unless we had made
up our minds to wait for another steamer, the two or three weeks that
remained had to be devoted to business. I began to long to see some
little faces again, too, so we determined to retrace our steps, though
we were both not a little disappointed at having to renounce all
prospect of seeing the beautiful country round Kiama and Wollongong. We
made an early start, hoping to reach home early that evening, but we had
not calculated on the sea of mud and water that we should have to wade
through. It was impossible to venture out of a foot pace, and even at
this gentle rate of progression we got splashed from head to foot.
Before we reached Liverpool my riding habit was such a mass of mud that
the weight of it nearly dragged me off my saddle. This may seem an
exaggeration to my readers, but to me it was a melancholy and most
uncomfortable fact; indeed, so wretched was I and so forlorn was my
appearance, that on the outskirts of the town I dismounted, and doffing
my long skirt, with my husband's assistance washed it in a waterhole,
threw it across my horse's back, and made my entrance on foot in a
somewhat ignominious though unencumbered fashion. We found we were
fortunately in time to catch the last train to Sydney, for on horseback
I could have gone no farther that day, so utterly worn out was I with
our morning's adventure; so, making up our minds to send our servant
back the following day for our equally tired horses, we availed
ourselves of modern improvements, and while comfortably ensconced in the
soft cushions of a first-class railway carriage, voted the palm of
precedence to this mode of travelling. An hour or two's ride over a well
beaten road or smooth even downs, is a very delightful recreation, but a
journey of thirty or forty miles on horseback, performed at a foot pace,
say at the rate of three, four, or at the utmost five miles an hour, is
quite a different thing, and by no means a very enjoyable sort of
undertaking. We left the train at Ashfield, and had then a walk of some
three or four miles before we could reach our temporary home. There was
a bridge to be passed, too, which we were not very certain of finding in
crossing order. However, we managed to get over it, though the day
before, we were told, it had been quite submerged by the rise of the
river. This difficulty surmounted, our troubles were ended, and we were
soon comfortably seated round a bright fire, congratulating ourselves at
being at home again. This ended our expedition to Illawarra, and quite
sorry I was to leave the country without seeing something of this
district. Its scenery, I believe, is very lovely, but its plants and
flowers were our great attraction. They are very beautiful, quite
different in character to those around Sydney and in the interior,
partaking more of the nature of tropical vegetation. A species of palm
known as the Cabbage Tree Palm (from the foliage of which the well-known
cabbage-tree hat is made) used formerly to flourish there in great
abundance, and gave an Oriental aspect to the landscape. Latterly it has
become scarce, many of the trees having been wantonly destroyed by
people who, I suppose, had nothing better to do. It derives its name
from the fact of its young shoots being very generally used as a
vegetable by the natives, and bearing no small resemblance in flavour
and consistency to the common garden cabbage.

Great varieties of orchidaceous plants are to be met with in this
beautiful valley, and some rare ferns; lovely creepers--_colonicè_
vines--also abound, and climbing from tree to tree, and from rock to
rock, form a lovely drapery to the landscape. We had set our hearts on
taking home a case of Australian plants, and so had been particularly
anxious to get some of those indigenous to the Garden of Australia, as
the Illawarra district has been called, but were obliged to content
ourselves with the commoner flora to be met with in the neighbourhood of
Sydney. Of these, alas! not many survived the homeward voyage, and had
we trusted entirely to the plants we brought, our green-house would be
but ill stocked with Australian flowers; a few Warratahs (the tulip-tree
of the colony), a _Bignonia_, and three or four specimens of the Norfolk
Island pine, and the Araucaria Bidwellii (the native Breadfruit), with
some two or three rare ferns, forming all the survivors of our
originally rather large collection. But fortunately we also provided
ourselves with plenty of seeds, upwards of a hundred different
varieties, of which four-fifths were given us by the superintendent of
the Botanical Gardens at Melbourne, the remainder having been obtained
from the like public functionary in Sydney; and as many of these have
come up they promise in time to form a very fine collection.

Besides these specimens of the flora of the country, we were anxious to
take home some of the native birds, and we had collected at different
times and in different ways some thirty or forty parrots and parroquets
of various hues and sizes. We were told it would be impossible to take
them home, that crossing the desert especially with such encumbrances
was an unheard-of thing; however, we determined to try, trusting to
making interest with some one in authority, for we knew that to keep
them in our small cabins would be out of the question, and that we
should have to depend all along on the good nature of the ship's
officers. As it happened we were very fortunate, we had a most
good-natured captain, who gave permission to keep our cages in the fore
saloon of the ship, and afforded us every facility for looking after
them, &c. And when we landed in England very few deaths had occurred
among our favourites, but I should not recommend any one to follow our
example; one or two pet birds may be an amusement on board of ship, but
more are a great trouble, and though they may survive the voyage, the
cold of an English winter plays sad havoc among them, only the hardiest
kinds ever getting properly acclimatized.

Besides our birds we had a four-footed _protégé_ in the shape of a large
kangaroo hound, which had been our companion in so many troubles and
difficulties, that we did not like to leave it behind. So "Keera," as
we named it in remembrance of our Bush residence, was to accompany us
home, and remind us when once more settled in the old country of our
adventures in the far interior of Australia. Altogether we formed a
large party; unfortunately we were very late in engaging our cabins, and
obtained but poor accommodation. Indeed, we were almost tempted to wait
for the next steamer, and as circumstances turned out it would have been
better had we done so, but our desire to be once more at home prevailed
over our dread of a little discomfort; so we resolved to put up with the
small cabins which alone we could secure, and with but few regrets
prepared in good earnest to bid adieu to New South Wales.



CHAPTER XVII.


Confined quarters--Baby provender--A model captain--Homoeopathy and
sea-sickness--Port of Melbourne--Its suburbs--The city--Fortunate
purchasers--"What is in a name?"--The rival queens of the
South--Melbourne streets--An argument for Bloomerism--Colonial gold
ornaments--The Yarra Yarra--A sound of _home_--The Botanical
Gardens--Waterfowl--A natural preserve--Canvas Town--The Houses of
Parliament--A senator in trouble--The land to make money in--The coast
of Western Australia--Albany--A trip ashore.


The steamer in which we were destined to perform our homeward voyage,
was not perhaps the one on the line best fitted for tropical climates.
Though a fine vessel, the accommodation for passengers was not
particularly good, the cabins were small and not very well ventilated,
and we were very unfortunate in having been so late in selecting ours.
My husband got a small closet in the extreme stern of the vessel, while
I, my servant girl, and the two children had to content ourselves with a
cabin in the centre of the ship some eight feet by six, or thereby. It
required no little management to stow away our properties in so limited
a space. One case which I had placed under my sofa to be always at hand,
caused no little amusement among the ship's officers, it being marked
"toasted bread." But I had suffered so much from having to live on ship's
biscuit on my outward voyage, that I determined to provide a supply of
something more digestible for my baby on our homeward journey. The baker
who supplied me with my stores was quite a character, and had much to my
amusement written our name and address in full, with many other
interesting particulars on the cover of the deal case--"For you see,
ma'am, if you're all lost, may be this case will be washed ashore, and
it will be a mighty comfort to your friends," was his consolatory remark
as he stowed the box away in the most convenient corner. The minds of
all the good people of Sydney were just then very naturally running on
shipwrecks, the sad loss of the Dunbar having quite recently occurred,
which accounted for this melancholy prognostication.

I need not, I found afterwards, have encumbered myself with such a large
package, for we were quite as well supplied on board with all the
necessaries, and even luxuries of life as we could have been at home.
Even milk, in general that most unprocurable of luxuries at sea, I
always obtained in abundance for my baby, and everything else that I
could possibly desire, thanks in no small measure to the kindness and
consideration of the captain, with whom my little boy became a great
favourite.

Indeed, if anything could have reconciled me to a sea voyage, it would
have been the unwearying and unceasing kindness and attention which I,
in common with all the rest of the passengers, received from Captain
Small, and that too in circumstances of no ordinary trial and danger. My
anticipations of the voyage, however, were by no means so pleasant as my
retrospections on the same subject are. I looked forward to six or eight
weeks of utter misery; I almost wonder now how I nerved myself to the
undertaking, for I do not think any one ever suffered at sea more than I
had done on our outward voyage, and now, to add to my troubles, I had
a very tiresome little baby to look after, and such very, very poor
accommodation. Experience had taught me the uselessness of all common
remedies for the most terrible "_mal de mer_;" as a last resource, an
acquaintance suggested homoeopathy; I expected to derive very little
benefit from it, as I did not consider I possessed the necessary faith,
but I thought there would be no harm in giving the system a trial, and
accordingly consulted a homeopathic doctor, and provided myself with a
case of _select poisons_, which I took at proper intervals during the
voyage between Sydney and Melbourne; and as, notwithstanding the very
rough weather we experienced, I escaped _actual sea-sickness_, I really
think I had some reason to believe in the efficacy of the system. I beg
to state I am by no means a convert to homoeopathy generally, I almost
laugh at myself for thinking it possible such tiny sugar-plum doses
could have any effect; but still I certainly _did_ escape in great
measure the honours of this most unsentimental complaint, when all the
ladies and many of the gentlemen on board were quite prostrated by it.
For we had a very bad passage from Sydney to Melbourne, taking four days
to reach the latter place, a distance often accomplished by the smaller
coasting-steamer in forty-eight hours. We had left Sydney on the Friday,
and it was ten o'clock on Tuesday morning before we cast anchor off
Sandridge, the port of Melbourne. The harbour known as Hobson's Bay, is
of far greater extent than that of Port Jackson, but not to be compared
with it in point of picturesque beauty. On the shores of the bay have
lately sprung up watering places of considerable extent, much frequented
by the inhabitants of Melbourne; "St. Kilda" and "Brighton" may be
mentioned as the principal of these marine suburbs; I only saw them from
the deck of our steamer, but was told they were of considerable extent.
We were to remain two days at Melbourne, and as I had never been there
before, I was of course anxious to see all I could of this really
wonderful place, "the metropolis of the South," as its citizens love to
call it. The view of it from our anchorage was by no means
prepossessing; distance (it being still nine miles off) not lending its
usual enchantment. The city lies very low, and the tract of country
between it and Sandridge is flat scrubby, and singularly unpicturesque;
a railway has been formed across it, and in ten minutes from our seating
ourselves in the train, we found ourselves in the heart of the busy
city.

The stranger, who for the first time views the crowds which throng its
broad thoroughfares, and listens to the busy hum which pervades them,
can hardly realize the fact that little more than twenty years have
elapsed since the first sod, so to speak, was turned of this golden
city, which has since progressed with truly railway speed.

The woodcock shot in Regent Street in the days of Charles the Second, as
recorded by Macaulay, is as nothing when compared with running down a
kangaroo in Bourke Street, in the year 1836.

In the following year, it was, I believe, that Sir Richard Bourke, the
then Governor of New South Wales, of which Port Phillip was then a
province, came down to fix the site of the future city, which was named
after the premier of the day, a compliment which it is very doubtful if
he then properly appreciated.

Land was of course at that time to be purchased at very low rates, and
some of the early purchasers of the town allotments have since realized
profits which would have seemed enormous, even to the original
projectors of the famous Glen Mutchkin Railway.

In 1850, the inhabitants of Port Phillip obtained their long-cherished
desire of separation from the colony of New South Wales, and, I suppose
as a manifestation of loyal gratitude, solicited and obtained permission
to change their name, whereby the province of Port Philip became the
colony of Victoria. Since that time they have had their own Governor and
Legislature, but as a salve to the pride of the inhabitants of New South
Wales, its Governor is still styled Governor General, with nothing to
govern beyond its limits.

There is at present no little jealousy between the two colonies, and
from what I could learn, New South Wales stands a fair chance of being
left behind in the race of progress by her younger rival.

The _go-ahead_ spirit and devotion to business, which strikes a
new-corner in Sydney, is even more perceptible in Melbourne; indeed it
is impossible even for a stranger not to remark the air of progress worn
by everything about the latter place. But the jealousy and rivalry
between the two cities is most apparent in the way that the one
pooh-poohs any advantage that may be obtained by the other, or ridicules
any _lion_ that exists in the other's precincts; for instance, Sydney
obtained a mint, of which she was very proud--Melbourne for a long time
refused to allow the new coinage circulation; though it is a well-known
fact, that Australian sovereigns are of a slightly higher value than
British. Again, Melbourne instituted a Punch, which has proved to be
really a clever production.--Sydney tried something of the same kind,
but failed, consequently Sydney votes Punches in general low. It is
quite sufficient for one city to extol the merits of any actor or
actress, to make sure of their being cried down in the other, and _vice
versa_.

But to return to the city itself. I may mention that Melbourne has been
laid out with much more attention to regularity than Sydney. Its
principal streets are very wide, and the shops and houses well built;
the public buildings, too, are on a far finer scale, and the private
dwelling-houses within the city seem more numerous. Altogether, its
inhabitants seem determined that it shall eventually boast all the
superiority that man's art can give it over the rival city; but nature
has done far the most for Sydney in point of beauty, and I should think,
for healthiness of situation, the metropolis of Victoria cannot for a
moment compete with that of New South Wales. But there is one point, on
which it would really be rather difficult to determine which city might
claim the palm of precedence. It is really difficult to say whether the
streets of Melbourne, or of Sydney might with the greatest propriety be
cited as the most impassable, not to say unfordable thoroughfares in the
whole world. The story goes, that not so very long ago, the announcement
in the papers of "another child drowned in the streets of Melbourne,"
produced no very extraordinary sensation among the public of Victoria.

Really the state of the streets in both these cities is very
discreditable to the authorities of the place; why their condition
should be so disgraceful, I cannot tell. The situation, both of Sydney
and Melbourne, seems to offer every natural facility for proper
drainage, especially that of Sydney, and yet the river of mud which
flows down the side of each street, can hardly be imagined. In
Melbourne, at the time of my visiting it, the gentlemen had pretty
generally adopted the fashion of high waterproof boots, by the aid of
which and by washing them at intervals in these _flowing_ rivers, they
walked about the streets in tolerable comfort; but as this fashion had
not extended to the ladies, the condition presented by their long
flowing dresses was pitiable in the extreme; I really think they will
have eventually to adopt the Bloomer costume, which, if allowable under
any circumstances, would certainly be so there, for the purpose of
traversing these terrible quagmires.

The principal commission I had to execute in Melbourne, was that of
procuring a few specimens of colonial workmanship in the native gold.

The ornaments at present exhibited for sale consist principally of
brooches, breast pins, and studs, which are really often very prettily
executed, sometimes in gold mixed with quartz in its native state; but
more frequently the fine gold is filigreed, and is occasionally relieved
by stones also found in the colony, garnets, and also a species of
sapphire, with pretty crystals of different colours. Like everything
else in Melbourne, these ornaments are rather expensive, their intrinsic
value being but trifling, but they are really worth getting, as a proof
of colonial advancement in the more elegant as well as the simply
utilitarian arts and manufactures.

After having seen a little of the principal streets and shops of the
city, we took a small boat and sailed up the river, the "Yarra Yarra,"
or ever-flowing stream, as it is somewhat poetically named. Our
destination was a friend's house, some four or five miles from
Melbourne, named curiously enough after our own dear home. A tenant of
my husband's grandfather had emigrated to Australia, purchased land on
the banks of the Yarra, and named it after his native place far away in
bonnie Perthshire; from him our friend had purchased the property, and
had allowed it to retain its original appellation, which sounded so
pleasantly in our ears. A twenty minutes' sail on the Yarra Yarra (which,
notwithstanding its name, is a small and not very picturesque stream),
brought us to the Botanical Gardens, where we landed, purposing to walk
through them on our road to our friend's house. They are rather prettily
situated, sloping down to the river, and certainly the most has been
made of the situation; still they are not to be compared in point of
scenery with those of Sydney. In size, however, I should think they
equal, or perhaps surpass their rival, and contain, I believe, as
valuable a collection of trees and plants; though, from the gardens
having been formed but very recently, the greater number of the shrubs
have not at present attained anything like their full size or vigour. Of
Australian indigenous plants in particular, I noticed a great variety,
some of which were quite new to me, and which I examined with much
interest. We had a beautiful day for our walk, and very much I enjoyed
it, after four days' confinement in the close cabins of the steamer. Our
little girl, who accompanied us, was as much pleased as we were, and ran
about clapping her hands and almost screaming with delight. Her
attention was particularly attracted by the large numbers of waterfowl
collected in one part of the garden, where a sort of natural preserve
exists in the shape of a small reedy lake or marsh, formed by an inlet
of the waters of the river. Numerous curious specimens of wild fowl,
both native and foreign are collected here, and they seem to afford as
much amusement to the juveniles of Melbourne as I remember deriving in
former days from the swans in the Regent's Park. By the middle of the
day we reached our friend's house, and after resting a short time we
gladly availed ourselves of his offer to drive us again into Melbourne,
that I might kill a few more of its _lions_. On our way into the city we
passed the site of the "Canvas Town," of former days. The tents which
formerly covered this spot have now however entirely disappeared, and
this mushroom-like town now exists but in recollection. Our first
destination was the Houses of Parliament, to which our friend, as a
member of the Lower House, had at all times the _entrée_. These
buildings were then in an uncompleted state, the halls of assembly being
finished, but many of the necessary offices still in the course of
erection. When the whole edifices are completed, they will present a
very imposing appearance, and will well justify the pride taken in them
by the inhabitants of Melbourne. The cost of the buildings must have
been something enormous. I think I have heard more than a hundred
thousand pounds has already been laid out on them. Their exterior is
massive and imposing, and the dark grey stone of which they are built
gives them a solemn, almost a venerable appearance. The halls are fitted
up with great elegance and good taste, that of the Upper House might be
almost called gorgeous in its arrangements. The Houses were sitting at
the time of our visit, so from the benches reserved for visitors I had
the opportunity of listening to the speeches of some of the colonial
celebrities.

All the forms and ceremonies in use in the British Parliament are
adopted here with great rigour. Indeed, the members of the Colonial
Legislature are not a little jealous of their senatorial privileges, a
great regard being always shown to all the requirements of Parliamentary
etiquette. The subject of discussion in the Upper House at the time of
our visit, was the conduct of a member who had left the colony on his
marriage trip without giving due intimation of his intention to his
brother legislators, and who was consequently declared to have been
guilty of contempt of Parliament.

I was rather amused at listening to the proceedings, especially at the
vehemence displayed by one old gentleman in a black velvet cap, who I
afterwards found was a well-known character in the Victoria Parliament.
As it was getting late, however, we did not give much time to listening
to the debates, but after driving about Melbourne a little, returned to
our friend's house.

The next morning we again drove into the city, and afterwards through
Collingwood, one of its most flourishing suburbs, and thence to the
"Plenty Road," where my husband had some land which he was anxious that I
should see. We had not time to go very far, as we were to be on board
the steamer again by four o'clock, but we had the consolation of
thinking we had certainly made the most of our time, and seen as much as
it was possible to see in the course of twenty-four hours, of the
Southern metropolis. My personal knowledge of it is of course very
limited, but my husband, who at different periods had spent some three
months there, was much pleased both with the city and its environs, and
maintains that, despite its want of the natural advantages which Sydney
can boast of he would prefer Melbourne as a place of residence. The land
in the interior of the colony boasts, I have heard, in fertility of
soil, a great superiority over New South Wales, and was well named
Australia Felix, by one of its first explorers, Sir Thomas Mitchell. The
rich and extensive gold fields found within its limits have undoubtedly
done much for the importance of the colony, and have, to use the words
of a celebrated colonial statesman, "precipitated it into a nation." For
young men I can imagine no better field of enterprise than the colony
generally, and the busy bustling city of Melbourne in particular, but
still it is rather the place to make a fortune in, than to enjoy it in
when made. All the luxuries, and even many of the necessaries of life
are still enormously expensive there, and the possessor of what would be
at home considered a very handsome income, in Melbourne can barely
afford any indulgences. After all, there is no place like the old
country to form one's home in, and I fancy most of us were of this
opinion as from the deck of the "Emeu," we saw the shore of Victoria
fade away in the distance.

We had not yet, however, bid a last adieu to Australia--a week more of
tossing about on the rough waters of those stormy Southern seas, and we
cast anchor in the fine harbour of King George's Sound, off the port of
Albany in Western Australia.

The scenery of this part of the Australian coast is rocky and
picturesque, but differs very essentially from any other part of the
country that I have seen, in being wholly void of trees. The grey rocks
are generally concealed by a kind of low brushwood, but as I stood on
the deck of the vessel looking around on all sides, not a single tree
could I discern.

The town of Albany is built close to the water's edge; it is very small,
and boasts of but few tolerable houses, leading a stranger to suppose
that the question of "how to settle and succeed" in that part of
Australia would be answered with considerable difficulty.
Notwithstanding the unprepossessing appearance of the country, _terra
firma_ has always attractions for sea-sick mariners, and we were only
too glad to avail ourselves of the ship's boats to land for a few hours
on this barren-looking coast. On the shore some fifteen or twenty of the
original inhabitants were assembled to do us honour, or rather to see
what begging could extract from these invaders of their native soil; a
miserable-looking set they were, appearing even lower and more degraded
than the aborigines of New South Wales. Some of the women held in their
hands bunches of wild flowers, which we eagerly purchased for a few
halfpence; very lovely they were, and on looking round we discovered
among the brushwood which had looked so unpromising, quantities of the
prettiest flowering plants and shrubs. We were really perfectly
enchanted with them, and determined to spend the few hours we were on
shore in exploring the surrounding hills. We provided ourselves at the
small inn with a loaf of bread, some cheese, and some beer--the only
refreshments obtainable there--and giving them into the charge of one of
the blacks who was to act as cicerone, we set off with two or three of
our fellow-passengers for a good ramble. Every step we took, our
admiration increased, for we were all enthusiastic lovers of flowers.
Mrs. L---- the only other lady of our party, and myself, contented
ourselves with gathering large bouquets, but my husband less easily
satisfied, pulled many up by their roots, with the intention of
transferring them to our case of plants, while the doctor of the ship,
who formed one of our party, put each new specimen in a little book,
which, with more foresight than we had possessed, he had brought on
shore for the purpose of preserving them in. The Australian wild flowers
possess much the same sort of beauty as our own native blossoms; they
are generally rather pretty and curious than gorgeously beautiful, but
still they are very well worth collecting, and form a most interesting
study for the botanist. King George's Sound abounds in more striking
varieties than any other part of the colony that I have visited. I
recognised one or two new species of the Epacris, and of the Banksia,
but with a few exceptions the names of our treasures trove were quite
unknown to me. After a delightful stroll of about a couple of miles, we
arrived at the summit of a high hill, overlooking the town, from which
we obtained a most beautiful view of hill and water. The town looked
really quite picturesque from this eminence, and the colouring of the
landscape was very beautiful. In the distance sea and sky of the deepest
azure relieved by the soft warm tints of the rocks, and the subdued
green of the vegetation that covered them. Then, somewhat nearer, the
white houses of the town prettily situated close to the water's edge,
and in the immediate foreground, this underwood of flowers.

We stayed some four or five hours on shore, and returned to the ship to
dinner, when we enjoyed some fresh fish which had just been caught in
the harbour. Some were a species of mullet, and others whiting; none of
them remarkable for any great delicacy of flavour, but still good enough
to meet with great appreciation from us. Early next morning we were
again under weigh, and had a fortnight's voyage before us, ere we could
hope to catch sight of the fair shores of Ceylon, our next place of
destination.



CHAPTER XVIII.


Our last look of Australia--A fishy fantasy--The order of the day on
shipboard--Point de Galle--Another trip ashore--The Cinnamon
Gardens--Re-embarking--Aden--A naval battle--The natives--Divers--The
Red Sea--A midnight alarm--On the rocks--All hands at the pumps--An
unpleasant alternative--Preparing to take to the boats--Ground
sharks--Afloat again--Noxious gases--Nubian natives--Coral
islands--"Passing on his way"--News from Jeddah--Off again--"Zeal
for the service"--Suez--Last adieus--A comparison--Transit through
Egypt--Malta--Home, sweet home!


"But soon our glorious course was lost,
And treacherous was the deep;
Ne'er thought we there was peril more
When tempest seemed asleep."

--M. Howitt.


After leaving King George's Sound, we had a day or two more tossing
about and feeling very miserable, till the 26th of the month, on which
day we passed Cape Leeuwin, and fairly took leave of the Australian
coast. A few days after we were in the tropics, and for some time made
rapid progress, the good ship averaging 250 or 300 knots a day. If it
had not been for the extreme heat I should really have enjoyed this part
of our voyage; we had a few very pleasant fellow passengers, and a
captain who was a favourite with everybody, and especially with the
ladies, whose hearts he won by his extreme kindness to their children.
The heat, however, was dreadfully oppressive. I suffered from it very
much, feeling it more than others of our fellow-passengers from the bad
situation of our cabin, which was close to the engine room. It was
curious how much more we felt the heat at sea than on shore. I do not
think the thermometer ever rose above 95° in the shade on our homeward
voyage, while at Keera. I had often seen it at 105° in the coolest part
of our house, and yet it was far more oppressive on board of ship than
we had ever found it on land. The nights in particular were very trying.
I always slept with our port open, to get the benefit of the faintest
breath of air. I must confess, however, to a nervous fear which always
haunted me while lying beneath the open port-hole. One of our
fellow-passengers had told me that a flying fish had paid a visit to the
steward's pantry through his little window, which was next to ours, and
I was beset by the constant dread of being woke out of my sleep some
night by a cold slimy creature falling suddenly on my face.

Board of ship life is at the best monotonous. Breakfast at half-past
eight (a repast of which I always partook on deck), then a game of
chess, a glance at some novel, with a fair amount of chit-chat and
grumbling, passed the time till lunch, afterwards I generally indulged
in a _siesta_, finding it hardly possible to sleep at night.

Dinner was at four. I was rarely well enough to bear the heated
atmosphere of the saloon, and therefore generally dined on deck. About
six o'clock we began to feel that we were really alive, conversed a
little less languidly, perhaps took a turn on deck, or listened to one
of our fellow-passengers who sang very nicely. So one day followed
another with little variety. What I suffered from most, however, though
it may seem laughable to say, was idleness, which I could not conquer;
for though I saw other ladies busy at their work, or scanning the pages
of some interesting volume, I could do nothing, all energy having left
me--really a distressing complaint indeed, but one I am rarely troubled
with on shore, having generally little appreciation of the _dolce far
niente_. At last on the morning of Thursday the 8th of October, we
anchored in the harbour of Point de Galle, a place too well known to
need any description from my pen. To us it was our first glimpse of
tropical scenery, and very lovely it appeared, the novelty of vegetation
adding so greatly to its charms. Boat-loads of natives soon surrounded
our ship, bringing fruit in large quantities, bananas, pineapples, water
melons, and green oranges. One or two traders also came on board with
specimens of native workmanship in tortoiseshell and ivory, another with
a collection of precious stones, pearls, &c., but I do not think their
enterprising spirit met with much reward. We were all bound for the
shore, and preferred postponing our purchases for a little. Two of our
fellow-passengers with their nurse and child joined our party, and with
some little difficulty we all embarked in one of the native boats. The
sea was so rough, however, that I felt very nervous, and regretted
having taken our children with us.

With, some little difficulty we at last effected a landing, and walked
on to the principal hotel, where we left our children and their nurses.
Then I was no longer sorry we had brought them, the large cool rooms and
verandahs formed such a delightful change from the closeness and
confinement of the ship.

After indulging in some delicious pineapples and bananas, we ordered a
carriage and drove down to the Cinnamon Gardens, the principal sight of
the neighbourhood. I do not remember ever enjoying anything more than
that drive, everything was so new to us. The recollection of it seems
like a dream of the East. Our road lay close to the sea, through a grove
of cocoa-nut palms--such luxuriance of vegetation I could hardly have
imagined; and then the flowers, how lovely they were! so gorgeous in
their hues, so graceful in their forms. I was fairly enchanted. A drive
of an hour or two brought us to the object of our visit, the Cinnamon
Gardens, and we dismounted from our funny little vehicle, and proceeded
to explore them. I do not know that these gardens themselves are very
interesting, it is the drive to them that is so enjoyable.

The cinnamon plant is, I fancy, a kind of laurel; its appearance is very
similar to that of the Portugal laurel, its leaves dark, glossy, and
somewhat pointed in shape. The young shoots are of a delicate yellow
colour, tinged with red, and are the prettiest part of the shrub. I made
some inquiries about the operation of cinnamon peeling, which I was told
usually takes place twice in the year. The first crop is the best and
most abundant. This is obtained between April and August; the second
between November and January. It is carried on much in the following
manner: the first operation is to cut off the shoots of a year old, which
vary from one to three feet in length, and are about the thickness of a
finger, all the leaves are stripped off them, and an incision is made
the whole length of the shoot. The bark is then separated from the wood,
the grey outer skin and the green inner rind are carefully scraped off,
so that the bark re& mains quite free from all extraneous substance. It
is then spread out in heaps to dry, and the power of the sun changes its
colour from a greenish white to a deep brown, causing it also to roll
closely round. It is then tied up in bundles or sheaves, and is ready
for sale. While the operation of cinnamon peeling is actually carried
on, the aromatic scent is, I have been told, perceptible for some
distance round, but at other times the strongest imagination cannot
detect the faintest aroma. The blossom has scarcely any scent, the fruit
is very small, less even than a pea, and in shape like an acorn. By
boiling this fruit or berry an oil is obtained, which, when cold,
becomes a solid substance like wax, and is sometimes made into candles.

The gardens were bounded on one side by a stream, whose name I did not
learn; on its opposite banks were rice plantations, paddy fields, I
think they are called. Floating on the surface of the water were some
beautiful lotuses, of the brightest blue and rose colour. We got a bunch
of them, but they faded so quickly before we reached our hotel, their
beauty had quite gone. On our return to the town we drove about some of
the streets, and made a few purchases at some of the shops. We returned
on board of ship late in the afternoon. As we were walking down to the
landing place we met a large party who had just disembarked from one of
the Peninsular and Oriental Company's steamers, which was in the harbour
laden with troops for India. At Point de Galle we heard the first
particulars of the terrible Sepoy mutiny, and a very painful excitement
it caused among us all, though I do not think there were many on board
who had near relatives or friends exposed to peril.

We got on board of ship after much trouble, the sea running so very
high, that we almost feared it would swamp our boat. Glad, therefore,
was I to find myself once more on the deck of our good ship. The
following morning we steamed out to sea again, our party having been
augmented by some thirteen or fourteen new fellow-passengers.

After a pleasant enough voyage of some eight days, we arrived at Aden on
the afternoon of the 17th of October. We went on shore for two or three
hours, but not having time to go to the cantonments we were obliged to
content ourselves with a ramble along the coast, and a visit to the only
shop near, which contained a pretty assortment of Bombay work, and
carvings in wood, ivory, &c.

A more miserable place than Aden to live at can hardly be
conceived--nothing but sand and rock, not a tree to be seen; but still
there is something striking and picturesque in the appearance of its
bold rocky cliffs, and the pinnacle-shaped hills which occupy so much of
the inland horizon. We remained till it was quite dark, sitting on the
beach, gazing upon sea and shore, and watching the bright phosphorescent
waves as they rippled in at our feet. As the sun's last rays were lost
behind the peaks, I made a slight sketch of this our first view of the
Arabian coast. At length it was time to think of returning to our ship,
and we walked back to the landing place and got into a boat.

By some mistake it was not the one which had brought us ashore, and a
squabble immediately arose between its owners and those of our former
craft, who looked upon us as their natural prey. The chattering and
shouting we did not much mind, but when the combatants began to use their
oars as weapons of offence, I own I was somewhat frightened. Two other
ladies were with us, and most willingly would we all have got out, but
our boatmen (to prevent our escape) pushed into deep water, and were
followed by their rivals.

A naval battle now commenced; my husband and Mr. L. rather enjoyed it
than otherwise, I think, while we expected every moment that the boat
would capsize, and give us an opportunity of enjoying a bath in the
Arabian Sea. This conflict was summarily ended, however, by a native
policeman, as he called himself, jumping into our boat, which had
drifted near the jetty, and restoring order with his truncheon. The
principal offender threw himself overboard, and peace was established,
so that at last we reached the ship in safety, though one of our boatmen
all the way muttered threats of deadly vengeance on his opponent, much
to Mrs. L.'s horror, and she endeavoured eloquently, though alas! I fear
vainly, to convince him of his wickedness.

The natives of Aden are certainly a very low race, still, with my
recollections of the Australian aborigines, they did not strike me as
being so remarkably degraded and repulsive in their appearance as I had
heard them described. One very curious habit they have, that of dyeing
their hair a bright red, a custom which certainly does not tend to
heighten any beauty they may have to boast of. They are generally almost
amphibious, being, I suppose, the best divers in the world. The morning
we started they came swimming round the ship, and dived for anything
that was thrown to them; it was quite curious to see them.

Soon after leaving Aden we passed through the "Straits of
Bab-el-Mandeb," and entered the Red Sea. The heat we here suffered from
far surpassed anything we had before endured, there was such a heaviness
and oppression in the atmosphere. What it must be in the month of August
I am at a loss to imagine. However, we consoled ourselves by thinking
four days would soon pass, and at the rate we were going they would see
us at Suez. On the second day after leaving Aden, we made up parties for
the vans we were to cross the desert in, and drew lots for the turns in
which we were to start. A merry happy party we all were, counting the
days, almost the hours, that must still elapse before we would reach our
home and friends.

That evening--I shall never forget it--was very fine and clear, though
not moonlight, and we sat on deck till a late hour conversing cheerfully
and listening to the endless stock of songs of our musical
fellow-passenger. It must have been nearly eleven o'clock before we
ladies left the deck and retired to our cabins. I had just fallen
asleep, and was dreaming of shipwrecks and disasters, when I was awoke
by the captain's voice crying "Stop her," and instantaneously followed a
violent shock, a grating sound, and all was still. To jump to my feet,
strike a light, and call to my servant-girl were the work of a moment.
"Ellen, we are on a rock, get up quickly, remember the _Dunbar_," were
my waking words. Instantly my husband was at our cabin door, calling to
us to wrap up ourselves and children, while he went on deck to see what
was amiss. How quickly one thinks and acts at moments of danger. Cloaks
and shawls I always kept at hand, and these were soon thrown on, and
well do I remember selecting for myself and children our largest hats,
to shelter us from the sun, seizing umbrellas for the same purpose, and
last, but not least, securing a tin of rusks.

I even recollected, as I took out the tin, the baker's precaution of
writing our name and address on the case, with the chance of its being
found if we were shipwrecked, and wondered if it would ever be
discovered. All this occurred in much less time than I have taken to
describe it; fortunately my servant was even less nervous than I was,
and assisted me quietly and readily. When my husband returned and
reported that there was no immediate danger, that the ship was evidently
not in a sinking state, and that we might be quite composed, we dressed
ourselves and the children. My poor wee baby! I remember his looking up
in my face laughing and crowing at the unusual light and bustle. Leaving
the children with my servant at the foot of the stairs, I went upon deck
for a few minutes to see the state of things. They were just then
letting off blue lights from the head of the ship, with the object of
ascertaining our position. My husband went forward to the forecastle and
learnt from the sailors what we had expected--that we were on a coral
reef--and to render this beyond a doubt one of the sailors went down
over the head of the ship and brought up some pieces of the coral. There
seemed no present danger in our position, the sea was perfectly calm,
and the ship's officers spoke confidently of our safety, so I went
downstairs, laid my children in their berths, only taking off their
hats, however, and recommended my servant-girl to lie down also. Sleep
for me, however, was out of the question, so I went upon deck again, and
trying to find a corner where I should be least in the way, I sat down
and watched all the proceedings. The first thing done was to reverse the
engines, and endeavour to steam off the rock, but with no avail; then
every effort was made to lighten the forepart of the ship, the cannons
were brought aft, then the heavy chain cable, and lastly a great portion
of the stores, which were all laid upon the quarter-deck. This took some
time to accomplish, some of the gentlemen passengers lending their aid
to the crew, and all working hard. Early the next morning the report
arose that the water was gaining on the ship, and all hands on board
were in request for the pumps. There were two, one on each side of the
vessel, the one was worked by the crew, and some of the gentlemen
volunteered for the other. The "great pumps" were in connection with
the engine, and unfortunately could only be used when the vessel was in
motion. However, the smaller ones were made of as much use as possible,
the gentlemen working hard, though not all equally well. Those who were
best able for it, the young men, with but few exceptions, generally
rather shirked their turns, the middle-aged married ones doing a good
deal more than their own share; yet I did hear something of an endeavour
afterwards made on the part of some of the former to obtain salvage on
the cargo--a proposition laughed at by most of those who had really
worked well.

Pumping day and night, however, was certainly not a very pleasant
occupation in that intensely hot weather; by way of refreshment, claret
and soda water were drunk by the pumpers out of buckets, until, dreading
fever, we Australian ladies suggested tea as a substitute, and from that
time we had plenty of work in making and dispensing it, taking
possession of the captain's cabin for this purpose. Poor Captain Small!
how sorry we all were for the disaster on his account. Not that any
portion of the blame could be justly laid on him; we had taken in a
pilot at Aden, and the ship was of course in his charge. The very
morning of the accident, I was told that the captain (although neither
he nor any of his officers had been in the Red Sea before) had given it
as his opinion that proper allowance was not being made for some
current, and that consequently we were too near the Nubian coast. The
pilot had differed from him in his opinion, however, and I suppose had
taken his own way.

The day and night after the accident passed, and another day dawned
without any change in our position.

The water, despite the exertions made by all who worked to keep it down,
was gaining fast upon us, and our situation was anything but pleasant.
It is true we were within ten miles of the shore, but such a shore--a
sandy Nubian desert; to think of landing there was altogether out of the
question. The nearest port we could hope to make was Jeddah, on the
Arabian coast, and the voyage there would have taken three or four days
at least in our little boats. This last expedient would have been very
terrible, the exposure to the sun would, I think, have almost killed our
little children, but still it appeared our only alternative. Accordingly
the boats were lowered and provisioned, a paper was laid on the saloon
table allotting to each boat its complement of passengers, and we were
entreated, should it be necessary to embark in them, to observe the
order there set down. We were to be allowed a small carpet bag between
every two passengers, and it was not very easy to select what we wished
to save, and induce it all to go into so small a compass.

I congratulated myself in having at hand some rather valuable jewels,
which I sewed into a bag and wore round my waist as a pocket. I also
deposited therein, as equally valuable at the time, some sulphate of
zinc, the only specific against ophthalmia, which past experience had
taught me to dread, and which I knew was very prevalent in these
regions. In one bag I packed a change of linen for each, some valuable
papers, and a digger's belt, containing rather a large amount in gold.
These preparations ended, I proceeded to cover our largest umbrellas
with white towels, to make them more impervious to the rays of the sun.

In the meantime a little boat had put off from the shore, and came up to
our ship. Its crew consisted of the natives of the place, half-Arab
half-Nubian. They are a wandering race, and frequent this part of the
coast for the purpose of fishing, their families living in tents on the
beach, while they are engaged in this pursuit.

At this their first visit they seemed friendly enough, bringing us water
of which they imagined we might be in want. The captain retained them
near our ship, as in case of our having to take to the boats he thought
their skiff might contain some of the passengers, and their knowledge of
the coast would be very valuable to us. It certainly was a comfort to
have even such help at hand, for we had none of us much idea that our
poor ship would weather out her troubles. Yet, strange to say, though
we knew the danger, I do not think we were much alarmed--I can at all
events answer for myself--after the first shock. It seemed quite natural
to be there, and quite difficult to realize that with that calm sea
there could be any cause for fear. The first evening I went upon the
forecastle with my friend Mrs. L., under the escort of one of the ship's
officers, our husbands being hard at work at the pumps.

The cause of our misfortunes, the reef of coral, was rather a pretty
sight to look down on. Curious shells and sea-weed were attached to it,
and in the day-time fish of every hue were swimming in the shallow
water, reminding one of the marvellous brightly coloured fish described
in the "Arabian Nights." Far less pleasant to look at were the enormous
sharks which swam in the deep water at the stern of the ship. I own I
slightly shuddered when gazing on these monsters; they came quite in
shoals, and remained constantly by us--by no means pleasant companions.

On the evening of the second day after our accident, the weather, which
had hitherto been very calm and fine, caused us some little anxiety. The
sky became dark and cloudy, and flashes of lightning in the horizon,
with low peals of distant thunder, threatened a storm of some violence.
This, in our situation, would really have been cause for fear; with the
wind, the sea would have got up and dashed our vessel, perhaps, to
pieces against the rocks, while the boats would have run much risk of
being swamped by the waves. But, most providentially, the storm passed
over in another direction. I lay down for a little rest that evening,
but at twelve o'clock was awakened by the captain, who himself came and
knocked at our doors, telling us to dress immediately. The ship had
drifted nearly off the rocks, and so large was the hole knocked in her
two fore compartments that the fear was that she would go down
immediately she got into deep water. Accordingly all night we ladies sat
up in the saloon, our children sleeping on the sofas. Between five and
six o'clock in the morning, my husband came down with the news that she
was clear of the reef. He looked quite exhausted, and in reply to my
questions said that some of the ship's stewards had relieved his party
at the pumps, and that he was very glad of a little rest to recruit his
strength, which he feared would be wanted. This his first desponding
expression rather staggered me, and when in reply to some one's remark
that we should now get on to Suez, he said, "God grant that the ship may
reach the nearest land," I certainly felt alarmed. Of course the captain
knew better than to attempt reaching Suez in such a plight; he made for
the nearest shoal harbour on the coast of Nubia, known as Dubberdab (I
will not answer for the orthography), and we just managed to reach it.
It was with no little difficulty that we got there, however. The vessel
plunged onwards with her bows almost buried in the water, and the screw
nearly out of it. We were afterwards told that had it tilted a foot more
the screw would not have worked, and the ship must have become
water-logged, even if the sound compartments had still kept her afloat.

However, we reached the harbour at last, and the vessel was run aground
on a sandy beach, and for the present we were in comparative safety,
though we had little thought that the poor "Emeu" would ever again be
fit for sea. So hopeless did our situation seem in the eyes of the
Admiralty Agent, that he immediately made arrangements for taking on the
mails to Jeddah in a native boat, intending also to send us succour as
soon as possible; accordingly, the next morning he left us, accompanied
by the master of the ship and two passengers. Our principal hope of
rescue was, that some steamer might sight us, or might be met by one or
other of the boats, despatched to be on the look-out; for, though in
safety, our situation was most unpleasant. Added to the heat, which was
very intense, we were suffering dreadfully from the terrible effluvia
caused by the decomposition of the stores, which had been saturated with
the sea water. Some idea may be formed of the noxious gases thus
produced, when I state that in three or four days, all the white paint
about the ship turned black, and the plate used at table became of the
colour of copper. Several of the crew suffered from the effects of this
bad air, my only wonder was, that some terrible fever did not break out;
it could not have been as unhealthy as it was disagreeable, I suppose.

Two or three times, to escape this terrible annoyance for a time, we got
permission to take one of the ship's boats, and the gentlemen rowed us
some little distance from the ship. Our first expedition was to the
mainland, not a quarter of a mile distant. Here some twenty or thirty of
the natives had formed a small encampment on the beach. Their huts or
tents were of the rudest construction imaginable, consisting of two
large bags, made of a coarse sort of matting attached together, and
fastened to the ground by a large stick. Inside these bags the women and
children crept for shelter, and sat doubled up at the mouth, so to
speak, of the sack, gazing in wonder at us. The men sat round in a
circle outside. They seemed quiet and friendly enough then, offering us
sour milk, and a mixture of grain and salt, which we tasted as a pledge
of good will. The land had a most desolate appearance; there was not a
tree in sight, nothing but sand. In the background were high rocky
mountains. Behind the first range of hills we were told a small village
was situated, and I was rather anxious to visit it, but this was our
first and last excursion to the mainland, for the next morning some of
the natives came on board and addressed the captain in rather a
threatening manner, demanding money as tribute. In reply, the captain
showed them the large arm-chest, which he ordered to be kept on deck.
This offer of lead and steel, in lieu of gold or silver, seemed to cool
their courage; at all events they troubled us no more, but it was deemed
prudent to keep a watch on deck from that time, and not to venture
unarmed among them.

Our future excursions, consequently, were confined to the little islands
around us, where we found a few shells, and pretty pieces of coral. No
very rare specimens, however, were to be discovered. In the meantime a
boat was constantly kept cruising about, in the hopes of its coming
across one of the P. & O. steamers, and bringing it to our rescue.
However, no friendly vessel came in sight, and we feared no help would
come to us until the Admiralty Agent should report our condition at
Suez--rather a forlorn hope, for as it turned out, he was some three or
four weeks before making that port.

It will hardly be credited, that during this period, while stranded on
the Nubian coast, we were seen by one of the Bombay steamers (who
reported us at Suez), but who never came to our aid, alleging that we
made no signal of distress.

It was late at night when she passed us, and we did not see her, but
were at that moment engaged in exchanging rockets with one of our own
boats. Surely that circumstance and our situation told plainly enough
our tale of need. I do not of course know anything of the rules of
maritime etiquette, but it certainly seemed a want of common humanity to
pass us by in that fashion.

The Admiralty Agent, as I have mentioned, left us with the mails for
Jeddah the day after our reaching the harbour. On the afternoon of the
sixth day from his departure the native boat that had taken him returned
to the ship, having on board a Greek who brought letters from Captain G.

In them he held out little hopes of assistance. He had been four days
reaching Jeddah (though the same boat returned in two), and no larger
vessel was to be found there than the small craft he had gone in. In a
similar one, he told us, he and his fellow-passengers purposed going on
to Suez, despite the sufferings they endured in their passage to Jeddah
from the heat, which was very intense. We tried to elicit a little
further information from the Greek, but he only spoke Italian, and mine had
got a little rusty from long disuse, and the rest of the passengers were
in the predicament of the stewardess, who when I asked her the news,
said in a majestic tone of voice, "_Je ne puis pas speak Italiano_." One
of the stewards, fortunately, had been a great deal in the
Mediterranean, and spoke the _patois_ Italian in use in Egypt tolerably
well; so through him we obtained all the information the Greek could
give, which was little enough however.

The news he brought was by no means consolatory, but we were not much
cast down by it, for it had been for a day or two rumoured on board,
that there was after all some chance of our getting to Suez in our own
ship. The crew had worked most indefatigably. The hold was to a great
extent cleared of water, and the leak partially stopped by the means of
bedding, old sails, trusses of hay, straw, and all sorts of unconsidered
trifles of a heterogeneous character, which were all crammed together
into the damaged compartments, and were afterwards battened down; and in
the calm waters of the Red Sea, the captain did not fear venturing to
continue his journey, especially as when once in motion, the great pumps
worked by the engine would keep the ship tolerably free of water. The
difficulty was to get her clear of the sand. How this was effected I
never understood, I suppose we had gradually drifted off; at all events,
on the evening of the eighth day from beaching her in the shoal-harbour,
the good ship was once more floating in deep water, and we were under
weigh for Suez. The Greek from Jeddah was still on board, and would have
it we were bound for that port to pick up the mails. This the captain
would not venture on, however, thinking probably that it would be as
much as we could do to reach Suez in safety, and that in making this
latter port, we should be in sight of land the whole way, whereas in
going to Jeddah, we should have to cross the Red Sea, a distance of one
hundred and fifty to two hundred miles, which would have been running a
great risk, in case of the leak again getting the better of us.

This I explained as well as I could to the Greek, urging him to return
in one of the native boats, but either my Italian or powers of rhetoric
were at fault, for I could not prevail on him to do so, and his despair
when he found we were actually taking him to Suez was great. However,
next morning we sighted the P. & O. steamer "Hindoostan" and prevailed
on her to go in search of our mails, and our friend the Greek took his
departure by her. I afterwards heard that when the "Hindoostan" reached
Jeddah, it was found that the Admiralty Agent, having either become
tired of waiting, or moved by zeal for the service, or perhaps from both
reasons, had embarked himself, his mails, and his fellow-passengers in
another native boat, for Suez, and at length after a cruise of eighteen
days, the pleasures of which may be imagined, was picked up by a P. & O.
steamer, presenting then a pitiable, as well as practical proof of the
truth of an old saying, that people always get into trouble "who
exaggerate their duty." We reached Suez with no further adventure than
that of sighting a stranded vessel, a small schooner; despite our
disabled condition _our_ captain went some miles out of his route to
offer assistance to her, but we found she had been abandoned by her
crew, so we continued our course. It was night when we landed at Suez,
and bid adieu to the poor crippled "Emeu." Truly thankful we were to
reach our port after such a narrow escape from shipwreck, and yet I
think there were few of us who had not some little regret in leaving her
for her captain's sake, we had all become attached to her; his kindness
and attention I shall never forget, it was unceasing to the last moment.
The last glimpse I caught of him was standing at the door of our van
just as we were starting for our desert journey, his hands full of
oranges, which he had taken some trouble to procure for my children. It
was a marvel to me, how, in the midst of his arduous duties, even in the
time of our troubles, he never omitted his thoughtful attentions for the
comfort of all on board; he always had a kind word for every one. If it
should ever be my fate to take that long voyage again, I would not
hesitate to renounce the better accommodation of the "Australasian," for
the small cabins of the "Emeu," I would even wait a month or two in
Australia to secure going by her, and the force of language can no
further go.

The transit through Egypt was quickly performed, and has been so often
described, I need not dwell upon it. For the first five-and-twenty miles
we were all packed in the old fashioned vans which took us to the Desert
Railway Station, an assemblage of tents where we got some refreshment,
and waited the arrival of the train which was to take us on to Cairo.

I cannot forbear mentioning the bad management attending this part of
the journey. We had left Suez at four in the morning, and arrived at the
station soon after nine. Here we were detained in the tents under a
burning sun till six in the evening, no other refreshment being provided
for us excepting the breakfast ready for us on arriving. From that time
till ten at night, when we reached Cairo, we had nothing to eat; it was
with difficulty that I managed to obtain even a little goat's milk, and
some biscuit for my children. The heat all this time, and the plague of
flies which we had to endure, can only be imagined by other travellers.
In Egypt I have a very faint recollection of the railway journey to
Cairo, I was suffering all the time from an attack of tic-douloureux,
which was not favourable to observation; still, I remember being struck
by the wondrous beauty of Cairo, its domes and minarets, and the
graceful forms of the palm-trees, appearing to great advantage in the
soft moonlight.

After seeing my children in bed, late as it was, my husband and I
strolled out for a short time along the deserted streets, but were
afraid to venture very far. The next morning, by six o'clock, we were in
the train bound for Alexandria; we arrived there at about four in the
afternoon, and by six were on board the "Australasian," which had been
long waiting for us, so my recollections of Egypt are very slight. A
desert of burning sand, a city of fairy-like beauty, fields of the
intensest deepest green, one glimpse at the mighty Nile--these are all
my recollections of the land of the Pharaohs, the once all-powerful
Egypt, now how fallen and degraded!

Of our wanderings I have nothing more to tell. One day we spent at
Malta, and the next shore we trod was that of our own dear England. How
truly rejoiced we were once more to see the land of our home and friends
none can tell but those who, like ourselves, have been for a while
sojourners in a land of strangers, far away from many very dear to them.
The latter part of our voyage, too, had been very unpleasant, my husband
and children had all been suffering from severe illness--the effects, no
doubt, of the malaria to which we had been so long exposed.

A weary anxious time I had of it, and very happy I was to be once more
at my own home, with kind friends to assist me in nursing my invalids;
and not unmindful were we, I trust, of Him whose works are in the deep,
and Who had brought us safely through much peril to the haven where we
would be.


THE END.



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