Project Gutenberg Australia
a treasure-trove of literature
treasure found hidden with no evidence of ownership


Title: 
Author: 
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1401641.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: April 2014
Date most recently updated: April 2014

Produced by: Walter Moore

Project Gutenberg Australia eBooks are created from printed editions
which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice
is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular
paper edition.

Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the
copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this
file.

This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions
whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms
of the Project Gutenberg Australia Licence which may be viewed online at
http://gutenberg.net.au/licence.html

To contact Project Gutenberg Australia go to http://gutenberg.net.au

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Title: A Backblocker's Pleasure Trip
Author: Edward S. Sorenson

*

Author of "Life in the Australian Backblocks," "Friends and Foes in the
Australian Bush," &c.

*

Published in The Catholic Press - Sydney, NSW
Beginning October 25, 1917

*

CONTENTS:

Forward
Chapter I. An Early Start--A Milkmaid of the Interior--A Digger's House.
Chapter II. On an Old Diggings.
Chapter III. A Lost Coach--The Mail Girl--"Returning Exiles."
Chapter IV. Social Life in the Backblocks.
Chapter V. The Home of the Duststorm--The Northwest Plains--"Looking for
           Thunderstorms:--Some Notable Waterholes.
Chapter VI. The Advent of the Overseer--Yarns by the Way.
Chapter VII. The Land of Tanks.
Chapter VIII.Women of the West.
Chapter IX. Glimpses of Lonely Lives.
Chapter X. The Carrier's Wife.
Chapter XI. Wayfarers--looking for Pyzer--"Bail Up!"--On the Road to Menindie.
Chapter XII. Holidaying on the Darling--The River of Rest.
Chapter XIII. Boogeying in the Bush.
Chapter XIV. Shopping in Town and Country.
Chapter XV. Broken Hill.
Chapter XVI. Seeing the Country--Lively Company--A Chap From Farrell's Flat.
Chapter XVII. The Romance of the Old Squattage Homesteads.
Chapter XVIII. The Altered Bush.
Chapter XIX. Through the Wheat Areas--The Farm Home--Gossip Along the Line.
Chapter XX. When the Bushman Visits the City.
Chapter XXI. The Suburbanite's Little Garden.
Chapter XXII. Going Down to Build the Federal Capital--Heroes of the Camp Fires.
Chapter XXIII. Tall Fishing on the Murray.
Chapter XXIV. The Overseer Tries to Have Forty Winks--No Respect for
Luggage--Rural Charm--The Tent-Dwellers of Ballarat.
Chapter XXV. In Canvas Houses.
Chapter XXVI. In the Smoker.
Chapter XXVII. A Good Hand at Cards--Melbourne--Seeing the Duke.
Chapter XXVIII. Hawkers.
Chapter XXIX. An Unpleasant Attachment--Armed and Feathered Women.
Chapter XXX. Giant Trees--A Day on a New Selection--Glenrowan and Wodonga.
Chapter XXXI. Settler's Homes.
Chapter XXXII. On the Track.
Chapter XXXIII. Refreshment Stalls--Business Cards and Signs.
Chapter XXXIV. Women and the Gun--The Australian Girl.
Chapter XXXV. The City Girl and the Country Girl.
Chapter XXXVI. Women in the Saddle.
Chapter XXXVII."Sydney, the Beautiful."
Chapter XXXVIII. The Rock and Fence-Rail Artist.
Chapter XXXIX. The Alderman and the Cow.
Chapter XL. Picnickers.
Chapter XLI. The Best Place to Live in When Hard Up.
Chapter XLII."Our Avenue."

*

FORWARD:

The "Catholic Press" has secured the rights of another Australian
story, by E. S. Sorensen, the best living writer of bush stories. No
man knows the secrets of the bush better than Sorensen. In his day he
has been a bush carpenter, a publican, a drover, a shearer and a
station hand. He was born on the Northern Rivers, and educated by the
Sisters of St. Joseph. He has travelled from one end of Australia to
the other. He is the author of many books.

In "A Backblocker's Pleasure Trip" he relates the experiences and
adventures of a party of backblock excursionists at the time of the
visit of the Duke of York, the itinerary being from the interior to
Sydney, via Mount Browne, Menindie, Broken Hill, Adelaide and
Melbourne. The narrative is interspersed with bush and town sketches,
humorous incidents and yarns by the way. It forms a sequel to "The
Swagman's Diary," which was published in the "Catholic Press" some
months back, but the treatment is different.

The first instalment of this delightful narrative will be published in
the "Press" next week.

Editor's Note: In this advertisment a week before the serial started,
the Catholic Press spelled the author's name Sorensen instead of
Sorenson.

CHAPTER I.
An Early Start--A Milkmaid of the Interior--A Digger's Home.

At certain seasons our several Governments combine to run excursion
trains from Broken Hill to Sydney (and vice-versa), via Adelaide and
Melbourne. I sampled the excursion at the time the Duke of York was
visiting Australia. A lot of people were going east then to see
Royalty. I had no appointment with him myself; in fact, I wasn't going
down to see the Duke at all--nor even the Duchess. The prolonged drought
of that period, with its heat and flies and thirst and duststorms, was
getting monotonous, and the cheap excursion decided me that I wanted a
change of climate.

Being at Tibooburra, 200 miles from the railway station, I had to start
early to catch the express. I started three weeks before hand. This was
to allow time to recover from the awful coach trip before beginning the
long train journey.

It was not a mere holiday trip with me; I was going for good. There was
nothing about Tibooburra to hold the affections of one who had known
the regions of great forests and perennial streams. It was a small
town, with only one street; but there were three hotels in it, and it
seemed to do a fairly good business for a far inland town that was
surrounded with endless miles of emptiness. It was a picturesque little
spot, in what the coastal people call the Land of Sunset, noticeable
particularly for the numerous huge cone-shaped piles of stones or
gibbers around it, and for the immense flocks of goats that dotted the
immediate landscape.

Turn where you would, Billy and Nanny and the kids were always in
evidence. They mooched through the street, and they slept on the
footpath, indifferent to passers-by. On a dark night the passer-by
sometimes passed over a prostrate form into the mud. They could be seen
like mere specks on the distant flat, and posed in all manner of
attitudes on the rocky hillsides, with one here and there silhouetted
against the sky line, standing like a living statue on the topmost rock
of a lofty pinnacle. It was the home of the goat; for there were no
other animals to be seen, excepting an odd horse and a stray dog here
and there. The sparse herbage and the rugged nature of the local
pasture did not support cows. Goat milk, goat meat and even goat butter
were common items in the family bill of fare.

Here the milkmaid was a familiar figure in the street. Where nearly
everybody who had time to attend to the animals kept goats, there was
only room for one in the dairying business. She was about 16, the main
support of a widowed mother. She did her round on foot, carrying a
quart measure and a billycan; but a bare-legged boy accompanied her
with a home-made goat-cart, on which the bulk of the milk was carried.
Her principal customers were the hotels and stores; and there were a
few houses outside the "main street" which the little milk-cart visited
regularly, rattling over the broken ground and among the rock heaps on
a narrow track of its own. She was truly a picture of the great, dry,
central region, this little milkmaid. Her turn out brought a smile from
visitors; but nobody else seemed to notice anything unusual about it.
Casual customers met the milk cart with their jugs, and toddlers looked
for a noggin when she came along.

At milking time you saw her and the mother and two small boys in the
midst of a flock, going busily from one goat to another with their
cans. They milked them anywhere in the yard, and when the work was over
the herd was turned loose among the gibbers. Now and again one was kept
back to be killed for meat, a task in which the girl was again the
chief actor. Mustering the flock was an interesting process. They
mingled with a thousand other goats, most of which bore a very striking
resemblance to each other to a stranger. There would be a score of
juveniles goat-hunting at once, running along the narrow valleys,
climbing up and down the piled-up rocks, searching every nook, and
roaming over the broken flats, calling their pets, and drafting them
out of the mixed mobs. They all had names for their goats; and they all
knew them individually. The little dairymaid owned about 300. In her
little world the goat was not only the family sustenance, but took the
place of the cow in all the other homes of the neighbourhood.

I carried away with me one other vivid picture of that place, the home
of a digger's wife; for here I picked up John Jovius Muggs, a shrewd
battler, who was also going "down below." He was some distant relation
of hers; and he called me over to help to recover a poddy foal that had
slipped into an old shaft.

The dwelling, like many another around it, was a patchwork structure,
built into an indentation in a huge pile of rocks. In this position it
had to conform somewhat to the natural outline of the limited site. It
was neither square, oblong, nor round, and the visitor had no idea of
its dimensions until he got inside. You had to stoop to enter, but
inside you could straighten yourself out and admire the craftsmanship
of the architect. The walls were partly of immovable rock and partly of
hessian; the floor was a mixture of soft granite and natural cement;
and in front, some distance from the verandah, was a high wind-break of
cane grass. The kitchen was in a wide angle, at the side, the spacious
fireplace being also in part built by nature, and in part by the digger
with rough stones and pug.

Nearly all the furniture was home-made. Packing-cases were transformed
into tables, easy chairs, chests of drawers, cupboards, dressers,
shelves and beds. The sofa or lounge, covered with cretonne, was
fashioned of the same rough material, padded with horsehair. The
cooking was done much in the same way as in a camp or a bushman's hut;
but there was no floor-scrubbing and no window cleaning.

Sometimes in the afternoon the woman visited a neighbour's place,
planted among other piles of rocks, and invisible until you got near
it. Sometimes she took the children along the little flats and gullies,
prospecting in the alluvial. In these rambles, especially after rain,
they picked up many specks of gold, and sometimes discovered a payable
claim for the old man. At night "mother" sat at the table, blowing the
black sand from the gold that "father" had obtained during the day,
before bottling it and putting it away for Saturday.

A little, oblong-shaped hole near the house showed the source of their
water supply. It was only a few feet deep, and the water in it looked
only enough to last a day or two. But it never gave out. Close by each
of the neighbours' places was a similar soakage. Besides being used for
household purposes, the water was run in little channels through a
cultivated plot; in another angle of the rock-heap, which supplied them
with vegetables and fruit. The rock-heap was their own little mountain,
over which their goats climbed and browsed, and in the nooks and
corners of which their fowls scratched and planted their nests. It was
a home suited to the hot, dusty, western clime, where people live under
different conditions from those of other parts of the State. It was the
typical digger's home in the region known as Mount Browne.

When I was called over by Mr. Muggs, the woman was assisting to hoist
the foal from the shaft, which was about 12ft. deep. A tripod and
blocking tackle were fixed up over it; and having fastened a rope round
the foal, we hauled it up. Then, while the woman and I hung on to the
rope, Mr. Muggs got behind the foal to shove it clear of the shaft. He
had no sooner put his hands against it than the suspended animal
struggled violently, and kicked him backwards into the shaft. We
couldn't run to his assistance, or to inquire if he had sustained any
damage. We had to hang on all we could; and meanwhile Mr. Muggs watched
the struggling beast from below, dreading every moment that we would
let it drop on top of him.

Luckily, the digger came home for his lunch, and in a moment or two we
were relieved of the poddy. Then we hauled up Mr. Muggs, who was mainly
suffering from the terror that had hung over him; after which we had
just time to get lunch before boarding the coach for the long road.

CHAPTER II.
On an Old Diggings.

Coaching through the lonely back country is not exhilarating. You
travel all day, all night, all next day, all that night, and all the
following day, by which time you are feeling rather tired of it. You
are also feeling drowsy. You stop only for meals--which are sometimes 18
hours apart, to change horses, and at the sandhills.

Our first halt was at Warratta, a wayside pub, where we washed down
some of the dust we had collected in climbing up and down many stony,
saltbush hills; and our next the little town of Milparinka, which after
more substantial refreshments and a ramble, we left at dusk.

Like Tibooburra, our starting point, Mount Browne, Warratta and
Milparinka were all goldfields that had known better days in the long
past, and still supported a good number of puddlers, dryblowers,
fossickers and others.

A queer lot of human derelicts one meets on some of the old alluvial
diggings. What answers to the description of good fossicking ground is
the last haven of the inveterate digger when old age creeps upon him.
Down the long river of life he has known many vicissitudes; like a
coracle he has drifted through the rushes and whirls of the golden
course, tearing wildly over rapids and tumbling over falls; buffeted
among the rocks, and stranded awhile in the shallows to float again
into calm waters, through little eddies and ripples, and at last to
drift out of the running stream into a by-wash and a dead end. That is
the fossicking ground as the old men know it, where all the excitement
of a rushing digger's life is gone and done with. There remains only
the necessity of scratching around for an existence, with the faint
hope, which really never entirely dies in any digger, of striking a
stray nugget or a rich pocket.

Some of them have handled fortunes in their time; in stirring days when
life was young, and money was not valued, and was parted with as
quickly as it came. In the neighbourhood of Mount Browne was one who
was known as Bendigo. He was very nearly a centenarian; bent, wrinkled,
and toothless, but still with energy and independence enough to potter
about with pick and shovel. He got his nickname from the fact that his
conversation usually bristled with references to the big Victorian
field. He made his first pile on Bendigo, and he made many a good rise
afterwards, at one time being possessed of 12,000.

When I first saw him he stood at the corner of the street, carefully
searching the pockets of his patched clothes, and wearing a deeply
thoughtful expression, as if he were trying to recollect what he had
done with his last sixpence. The pockets turning out all duffers, he
shuffled resignedly back to his camp, which happened then to be a
hessian hut, the home of a man who worked at anything in the district,
and did a bit of mining when there was nothing else to do. Bendigo had
no abiding place that he could call his own. There were several men who
had small dwellings on the field, and who were much of the year working
away from it, at shearing sheds and elsewhere. There were others, too,
who could not work their claims during the long, dry spells for want of
water. They were not content, like the old chaps, to get a couple of
pennyweights a week until rain came, and they left home to seek other
employment.

As one of these went out, Bendigo walked in, taking possession of the
hut and utensils, and sometimes any tools that were there. Bendigo did
not always possess a working kit. He couldn't obtain necessaries on
trust; and when hard up he had to sell his kit or leave it as security.
He had no mining claim either. He wandered about, working wherever he
could find shelter, and especially where there chanced to be a deserted
soakage. When the owner of the hut returned and temporarily
inconvenienced him by turning him out, he looked for some reward for
having acted as caretaker.

In the same locality was a hatter, who was popularly known as Dirty
Peter. He was a dryblower, and no local evidence was adducible that he
had ever washed either himself or his clothes. His name certainly
suited his appearance. I often noticed his humpy, for it was one that
had some eye arresting peculiarities about it. It was partly a dugout,
with a patchwork roof like a Chinaman's hovel, and a chimney some yards
in the rear composed of a pile of rough stones, topped with a broken
drainpipe. He descended into the dungeon by means of an arrangement
that was partly a ladder and partly a staircase. A wall of stones and
bushes enclosed the premises on three sides; the front was open, and
the ground thickly pitted right up to the door with old shafts. A
little track, a couple of feet wide, zigzagged among the gaping holes
to the entrance of Pete's happy home. The shafts had been there since
the days of the rush, and it was believed that Peter left them unfilled
as a deterrent to evening visitors. He was a hard worker. Early and
late he was at it, picking, shovelling, and blowing the dry soil on the
flat, always about the same place, year after year, and every day's end
he was seen zigzagging home with a log of wood on his shoulder. What he
made nobody knew. He never hung about town, even at race time or
election time. There was one thing about Peter that made him talked
about among the old brigade--he always had money, but he always looked
and pretended to be hard up.

Then there was "Old Ned," an old age pensioner. He had a neat little
hut, kept scrupulously clean, the path to which was also hemmed with
shafts. He, too, was something of a recluse. All day he kept to his
hut, for he had given up mining, and at night he emerged to prowl about
the vicinage. He liked to keep a fire burning, where he sat and smoked,
or absorbed any interesting literature he chanced to pick up; and as it
was a long way to the mulga ridges, he visited the unguarded woodheaps
at the back of the business places. If he heard anyone approaching from
the opposite direction while making home with the fuel, he dropped it
down a shaft, and returned for it later. His path was a short cut from
town across the flat, and sometimes he had several interruptions in
getting a log home. One night a digger came almost on to him as he was
busy hauling a heavy piece out of a hole. Ned let it slip back quickly,
and commenced to feel along the path with his hands. "Hulloa, there!"
said the digger, "what's up." "I've lost my pipe," said Ned, continuing
the search. The digger produced a box of matches, and was about to
strike one to help, when Ned hurriedly interrupted: "It's all right,
I've got it!" and straightening up, he thrust a short, knobby stick
between his teeth, and made a pretence of drawing through it.

Another curious character was Windyne, who was commonly known as Windy
the Fossicker, and to some as Cranky Windy. He dwelt alone in a little
slab hut that he had built in the centre of a square plot of ground,
containing about five acres. He earned his nickname from the fact that
he spent all his days fossicking about that selection. It was broken up
from side to side and from end to end, hardly a vestige anywhere being
left untouched. It had never panned out a colour, but that didn't
discourage Windy. When he wasn't digging, or measuring with a tape, he
was seen mooching about with a pick and shovel in one hand and a
tattered map in the other. How many years he had been thus unprofitably
employed nobody could recollect.

He was a very old man when I knew him, bald-headed, wrinkled, and
watery eyed. He lived on a small remittance, which he said, would be
paid to him by his loving relatives as long as he stayed away from
them. I took refuge under his humble roof one rainy day, and whilst we
sat over the fire he told me his story.

He and a mate had been digging together, and being on a good run of
dribbling gold, which kept them going comfortably, they invested some
of their spare cash in a Tattersall's sweep, and drew a winner. The sum
was about 10,000, according to Windy. The storekeeper collected the
money, and handed it over to Windy's mate, who stowed it away in their
tent. That night, Windy, celebrating his elevation to fortune, was
treating everybody he met in town, and wound up by assaulting the
constable. Ordinarily Windy was the most peaceful of citizens. His
lapse cost him a month in the local lockup. He had been cooling his
heels there about three weeks when he heard that his mate had been
found dead in the tent. The only money that could be found was a couple
of one pound notes in his pocket and some loose cash in a chamois bag
under his pillow.

"He must have known he was dyin'," said Windy, "for he left me a rough
chart--this old map 'ere that I've studied for ages and ages. There's
one word underneath--'Buried'--with the last letter only half formed, as
if he had a spasm or something just there, an' never went back to
finish what he'd meant to write.

"After I got out I spent six months searchin' and diggin' in vain for
the buried money. Then--for fear somebody else might start prospectin'
in the locality--I took up this homestead selection. It's no good for
anything, an' my good neighbors are convinced that I'm stark starin'
mad for selectin' such a plot; but the map says the gold's hidden
inside its boundaries. Lord knows, I've done a power o' diggin', but I
haven't struck the colour of it yet. Sometimes I think I've put the
house on it. If that's the case the house will have to shift. But
there's a few little virgin spots on the estate I must try first.
Likely enough it's in one of them; if it's not it's under the house;
and if it's not under the house--well, then, I must have put the fence
up wrong, an' left the fortune out in the bush...It must be
somewhere, that's sure. Blast old Bill; he couldn't take it with him,
could he? It's not my way to say anything against the dead, but old
Bill was always a fool of a feller with money. An' to snuff out like
that without finishin' the d---- map, that's what gets over
me!...Anyhow"--concluding with a gleam of cheerful philosophy--"if I
don't soon find it I won't want it."

CHAPTER III.
A Lost Coach--The Mail Girl--"Returning Exiles."

When you are shut up at night in a rocking, rolling, rattling coach,
packed for hour after hour in the form of a zigzag, even the heavy
sandhill can be a welcome variation to the tedium of travel. On coming
to one or the latter the horses pulled up of their own accord, and the
driver peremptorily ordered all hands to get out. We got out and
walked, and now and again we shoved and spoked the wheels, and
otherwise worked our passage over the bars. We paid 6 each for this
privilege.

We didn't mind walking over the sand. It was better to have it
underfoot than to meet it whirling through the atmosphere in dense
clouds. The scenery was like the weather--monotonous; and these little
breaks were a relief. We did not grumble either when the coachdriver
got lost at night, and we had to do some exploring with lamps and
matches. It might delay us a few minutes, or a few hours--what matter?
We were quite animated when we took our seats again. We exhibited
scratches and bruises as proof that we found trees and other vegetation
without the assistance of a guide; and we related how we discovered
numerous small gullies, without injury and without breaking or losing
the coach lamp.

We did lose the coach on one occasion. Everybody had gone road-hunting,
and when the thoroughfare was located and all hands had been summoned
to the spot, we found that we had mislaid the conveyance. No light had
been left to guide us, and the horses wouldn't answer a coo-ee like a
lost passenger. They wouldn't make any sound at all. On that lone,
benighted plain no team ever stood so still. So things looked serious
for a while.

When we set out to recover it, it was surprising what a lot of things
could look like a coach and horses. A small mulga tree and a colossal
hill equally resembled it. One, in his eagerness to be the saviour of
the party, would call out. "Here it is" and cause the rest to
concentrate there before he ascertained that his discovery was a
straggling shrub or a heap of roly polies. This circumstance was
treated jocularly at first, but its repetition became exasperating.

I believe we found everything in the neighbourhood, including rabbit
burrows, before we struck the vehicle. This happy event was brought
about by a man falling over a clump of saltbush; he bumped so hard that
the horses jumped and the rattle of the traces directed another man to
the place.

The driver came in for some abuse--in asides--that night. Not for losing
the road, but for leaving the team. The road across many level expanses
was often invisible in daytime; it had been buried in a duststorm or
blown away into the next State. A 20 mile plain, bare as a claypan, and
showing no sign of a wheel mark, had to be crossed by dead reckoning. I
like a wide road, but one that is 20 miles wide is a little too
extensive.

On these far tracks the traveller noticed here and there a candle box
or a biscuit tin nailed to a tree. There might be no habitation visible
from the road, but somebody lived not far away, somewhere through the
timber or over the hills; and that receptacle, placed convenient for
the coach driver, was the family mailbox, in which letters and papers
were posted and delivered. Much else at times was deposited there
besides mail matter. Mrs. Smith, for instance, sent along a sample of
her birthday cake, or a jar or two of some jam she had made, to a
distant friend. It was the custom, too, among settlers that when one
killed a beast a fresh joint was sent to the nearest neighbour. Fresh
meat was rare, for a beast, even half a beast, lasted an ordinary
family a long while. So a joint from time to time was appreciated.

On some of the long stretches between boxes there were spots well known
to the coach driver, which were marked only with a little bridle track
running off at right angles to the coach road. Here the mail girl was
met with. Sometimes she was riding, sometimes she drove down in a sulky
or a single buggy. Almost invariably she was waiting at the spot when
the coach arrived, either sitting on a horse, her hat tied down over
her ears, or sitting on a log or by the road side. Here and there two
mail girls met at the same spot, arriving from opposite directions.
Sometimes a little romance was interwoven in those trips for the mail--
when the party from the opposite way chanced to be a young man. The
trips were longer then, perhaps, and longer, too, seemed the intervals
between the Coach days.

"The returning exiles!" Said a passenger, in allusion to himself and
companions, as the coach extended the dull, grey miles behind us, and
the veil of haze was drawn over the austere face of Tongowoko and its
neighbouring counties.

The people of the eastern, southern and northern regions were wont to
style that part the Gates of Purgatory, and term its inhabitants the
exiles of Outback. But the speaker was not as happy as a stranger to
that land of suprises would have expected; and one of the returning
exiles, a lady, was crying--crying because she was leaving for ever the
pregnant, brooding spaces where the sun goes down. They had gone to
that corner to make money, with the intention of getting out of it
again as speedily as possible; and subtly, unconsciously, the place had
gripped them. Not with joy, but with a pang of regret, they saw the
glinting rock-caps at Mount Browne disappear behind the obscuring
curtain.

A more striking contrast to the cold, green isles beyond the Atlantic
could hardly be imagined; yet English, Irish and Scots were scattered
all over it, a great many of them in a position to purchase an estate
in their native land, and to live well on the interest of their money
for the rest of their days. But you couldn't drag them out of it.
Australians, too, who had tasted the sweets of the coastal climbs,
turned back, in spite of all the disadvantages, to that siren with the
austere countenance, and burning tresses.

We said as much to the man who had called us "the returning exiles,"
and he closed the argument by saying they were mad. Two years
afterwards he was carrying between Wilcannia and Warri Warri--the
extreme corner; and carrying out there was about the most trying
occupation he could have engaged in.

As a rule, the settler is a stickler for home. Many a one of middle age
has never seen a train or a ship; many a one who has grown up and
reared a family has never been 50 miles away from the selection where
he was born; and there are old men in plenty in the heart of Australia,
and nearer, who have never looked upon the sea. Though there are roving
spirits among them, the average, even when in search of work, keep
within certain limits like their native crows. When they go droving, on
a journey of several hundred miles, they make straight for their old
haunts on being paid off. At the same time there may be nothing to call
them back but familiar squattages where they have worked, or a few
mates they had worked with; no fixed home and no kindred, and never a
pair of bright eyes to induce them to "turn their greys once more to
the south"--or the west.

CHAPTER IV.
Social Life in the Backblocks.

If you are nobody in the social world, and want to rise from obscurity
now and again for a change, live in the backblocks--live at Milparinka,
the place that has become a synonym in New South Wales for the
outermost limit.

In big towns only people of distinction, people in high positions, and
those who have gained renown by accident, influence or merit, are
deemed worthy of mention in the social columns of the big newspapers.
The doings of our leading society women, of the butterflies of fashion,
are chronicled, however insignificant; and mostly they pertain to
weddings, engagements, receptions, dog parties, and flitting from place
to place. When Mr. Smith-Jones retires from duty, or departs for a new
field of activity, he receives a eulogistic notice; and particulars of
his send-off and the select circle who took part in it, or were among
those present, are duly published; also Mrs. Smith-Jones' dress is
described to the minutest detail when she graces the ballroom or the
lawn at Randwick. Her housemaid may be more attractive; but that
obscure young person is only noticed when she falls down stairs with
extra violence, or narrowly escapes drowning while surf bathing.
Neither is the engagement of Bill, the boundary rider, to the cook at
Wild Dog Hotel referred to in print. He receives no flattering
publicity, even when he marries the girl, though a bush wedding is
often a highly interesting function. Bill is only mentioned when he
breaks his neck, or does something equally disastrous to himself or to
somebody else. If, however, Bill came into a fortune, eloped with an
heiress, or discovered a gold mine, the amount of advertisement he
would receive all at once would make him blush.

In the country town distinctions are less rigidly drawn. An outbreak of
snobbery only brings humiliation on the snob. Everybody's weddings are
noticed in the local paper, and every bride, whatever her station in
life, looks charming. The only difference is that the squatter's
daughter gets more space than is allotted to pretty little Mary whose
father helps to keep the roads in repair. An old resident of any decree
is worthy of half a column or more when he dies. If he dies in an
uncommon or sensational fashion, the editor rejoices, and spreads
himself on the lamented demise. Even the dairyman gets a sympathetic
paragraph when he loses Strawberry, though Strawberry may not have been
any thing like a prize cow. There also Constable X. is a highly-
esteemed citizen, whose movements are recorded with a laudatory pen.
If, further, it becomes necessary to refer frequently to the lapses of
the town drunk, it is done more in sorrow than in anger. The lives of
the people are closely intermingled, and as the population to the
square mile grows less the inhabitants merge more on a plane of
equality.

The social life in these primeval parts is not a joy to those who have
been used to the mad whirl and gaiety of cities. At first some aspects
of it are amusing and entertaining; there is a freshness, novelty and
picturesqueness about it all that pleases and thrills; but that soon
wears off, and leaves behind it an atmosphere of deadly dullness. The
bushman and the bush maid are not conscious of any dullness; they
haven't time, and their lives are too busy to know the meaning of
ennui. In their natural element there is much to exercise the mind that
is meaningless to the visitor.

The main events in the way of public entertainments are the grass-fed
races, the hospital ball, and the cricket match. Some times there is a
blackfellows' corroboree. For the rest, home resourcefulness and
neighbourly cooperation keep the ball rolling in a spasmodic fashion.
In a widely scattered community, afternoon tea parties are hardly
possible. When one family visits another they set out early in the
morning, and return late in the evening. At squattages visitors arrive
at any time between midday and midnight, and stay till next morning;
sometimes they stay a week. Among humbler folk, horses and vehicles are
the means of locomotion, though many walk. They walk five or six miles
for a few hours' gossip, or to attend a dance; they often walk miles
after a horse before they start on their day's trip. Almost every
gathering or function that eventuates demands a long walk.

What great walkers were the old bush mothers--the mothers we knew on the
rivers where the big scrubs grew, when settlers were hewing daylight
into the tangled vegetation and making initial clearances in the dense
forests! What few horses the settlements boasted of were generally in
the use of the men, and there was seldom a vehicle in their possession
other than a heavy dray, which was mostly wanted for more necessary
purposes than pleasure driving. Many farmers at the beginning had to be
content with a slide. This at times was used as the family carriage, on
which they glided over the landscape to town or to a neighbour's place;
but, as a rule, when paying calls the women walked.

When, one decided to go visiting, she started away after breakfast,
with all the children in tow. There was an odd one who got lost, and
another who tramped for hours up and down hills and gullies in search
of the friend's house. Here and there they had to take their boots off
to get over a wet patch and to ford a running stream. By-and-bye those
streams were spanned by a log. The visitors made themselves presentable
when near the friend's house, and arrived in time for lunch. Soon after
lunch it was time to start back. A strenuous visiting day like that was
not a weekly event.

The bush dance is one of the most frequent socials in far-out parts. It
is a cheerful factor in the introduction of young couples, in the
development of acquaintances, and the ripening of friendships. Nearly
all the dances are distant outback, except to one or two families. If
the girl doesn't possess a horse and saddle, it is the young man's duty
to bring the necessary outfit with him when he calls for her. She will
ride 20 miles to a dance after doing a hard day's work; and after
dancing all night ride home in the shivering dawn and go straight to
work again. She will also walk a good many miles under similar
conditions when a horse is not available, over gullies and ridges, here
and there through mud and water, carrying her precious ball dress and
her dancing shoes in her hands.

The occasions for such communal gatherings are many and varied. It may
be somebody's birthday, somebody's golden wedding, or an old resident
may be leaving the district; there is a dance when a young couple gets
married, and a house-warming when their home is built. The housewarming
is a custom that introduces newcomers at once to everybody in the
neighbourhood. Sometimes a christening is seized upon as an excuse for
a dance; and always when a long-absent member of a family returns, when
a school is erected, and when someone comes in for a modest fortune,
there is a gathering of the clans. Then there is the "harvest home;"
and when nothing at all is happening in the locality a dance is held to
relieve the monotony.

Where houses are far apart, and a young man, who has been casually
attracted by a pair of bright eyes, hasn't excuses for calling at her
place frequently, the bush dance is a happy medium. Not that excuses
are scarce. He calls on all sorts of pretences by way of cultivating a
desirable acquaintance. One day he has lost his dog which he has taken
the precaution to tie up in the scrub; another day he reports that some
of her father's cattle are out (he probably let the sliprails down the
night before); but his favourite trick is borrowing things he doesn't
want, the returning of which provides with a legitimate excuse for
calling again.

A good example of the intrepid swain who would see his girl at any cost
was Captain John Slyney, one of the old coastal identities, who knew
the north-eastern rivers in the romantic days of the fifties. In his
youth he was a farmer, and farmers' hours were from daylight till dark.
On Sundays he had to mind cockatoos and hunt wallabies. For all that,
he got some recreation. "Girls were very scarce then," he would remark
reminiscently, "and it was nothing for a young fellow to walk 25 or 30
miles to see one of them." There were no bicycles or motor launches for
rapid transit then; so he and a youthful neighbour took turn about with
the wallabies and cockatoos so that they would have time alternately to
go courting.

Another strenuous courtship was that of a young boatbuilder on the
Richmond River . He built a little boat for himself, and in this he
used to pull 10 miles after he knocked off work on Saturday to see his
girl. Then he had to take her for a row. The return journey commenced
on Sunday night, and, bar accidents, he got back in time to begin work
on Monday morning. This continued for two years; then a rival, who
settled within easy reach of the girl, carried off the prize.

The backblocker has at least an advantage in the cost of his courting.
In the cities courting is expensive. In the backblocks it can be
carried on to any length of time without overtaxing the means of the
poorest. Bill's sweetheart expects to be taken to sports and
entertainments; but these don't make much of a gap in the year's
income. He can buy her a saddle, which will be a useful asset after
marriage, for the same amount as the cityite expends on a couple of
motor rides, and that sums up all his travelling expenses. He doesn't
travel anyway extensively; most times he is quite content to sit on a
log with his arms round her lissome waist, both sharing the mutual
feeling that their life is as one blissful Eden.

A lady visitor to a backblock squattage is apt to get a slight shock at
first. No strict formalities are observed; there is an unconventional
air about everything, and a confidential good fellowship existing
between mistress and servants, between boss and men. The evenings are
devoted to indoor games, private theatricals, music and singing; and if
Jim the stockman has a good voice he will probably add something to the
success of the entertainment. In her wanderings about the homestead, or
farther afield, every man she meets will speak to her, and he will be
grievously offended if she does not return the greeting, though they
may never have seen each other before. The good comradeship that
prevails among all classes soon infects her, and thaws the icy reserve
that she arrives with. She enters into the enjoyment of quite a new
social world, the freshness and freedom of which make some amends for
what it lacks in frequency of entertaining incidents.

Her first introduction to the tennis court will be among her liveliest
recollections. One that occurs vividly to me was a court near the
border, which had wire-netting stretched permanently across the centre.
It was a Saturday afternoon, and players were drawn impartially from
house and hut. Among the lady players were two young gins, both dressed
in pink prints, their hair tied with blue ribbon; and among the
gentlemen were a half-caste and a full blooded aborigine, both attired
in spotless white. These two stockmen were the smartest and most expert
players on the ground.

The picnic party is a common form of enjoyment, and it is much the same
old picnic that we see everywhere. Barke's Hole, on Koopa Creek, where
the explorers died is a favourite picnicking ground, where families
gather periodically from many miles around. The night picnic used in be
a great joy to me when I was a boy. That was down on the eastern side.
Our house and the next stood about three miles apart. Midway between
them was a small lagoon, where the two families met about sunset, the
men to fish, the women to talk, the children to play. This kind of
social gathering, combining business with pleasure, took place
occasionally on bright summer nights, when indoors was uncomfortably
hot, while outside was fresh and cool and fragrant.

On a carpet of soft couch grass by the lagoon, the parties set their
baskets. The men got to work at once with their lines, whilst the elder
children were put to gathering a pile of wood. A fire was made where
the women sat minding the toddlers. The day birds had disappeared by
this, and from somewhere in the darkening distance came the haunting
cry of the mopoke. Beetles came aeroplaning into the firelight, and
huge moths dropped with singed wings, to be eagerly pounced on by
youngsters squatting near the blazing sticks.

I was one of the wood-gatherers then, and I remember that camp most for
the cheery chirp of the crickets in the grass, the scent of flowering
rushes, and the howls of dingoes that came at long intervals with weird
and lonely cadence from beyond a spotted gum ridge.

For awhile there was darkness, until the moon rose above the trees.
Then the youngsters left the fireside to chase 'possums. Now and again
their hunting and playing were interrupted by a splash and a thud at
the lagoon edge, and they dashed down to see what sort of a marine
prize "father" had captured. Sometimes the splash was made by
waterfowl. Ducks and other night wanderers came swooping down into the
water, to fly off again in sudden alarm on discovering the intruders.

About 10 o'clock the billies were boiled. Then wood was heaped on the
fire, and all sat down to supper on the grass. Here the men told about
the big ones they had lost, and of pleasant nights in other places
which the scene recalled.

That picnic had more charm for us than a picnic in the day, when the
summer heat only made one wish to get into the lagoon and stop there.
There was a beauty and an alluring glamour also in the bush summer
night that was irresistible. There was, besides, a touch of the camp
life which children love, and which their elders had recourse to as a
wholesome change from the everlasting house.

CHAPTER V.
The Home of the Duststorm--The North West Plains--"Looking for Thunder
Storms"--Some Notable Waterholes.

From The Corner to Broken Hill, from Yulpunga to Bourke this great
triangle, the Cinderella of the State, is the home of the duststorm,
the place where the monsoon revels in all its might and glory. Samples
of real estate are blown up from these western plains, and distributed
over the continent, and rained into two oceans. Red sand that has been
swept up hereabouts and from farther out, after being borne a thousand
miles overland, has fallen on ships many leagues away from land. The
country is mostly flat, thinly grassed in dry summers, and the loose
surface soil is torn away and lifted to form the immeasurable clouds
that wreck havoc and misery where they rain, leaving the ground scarred
and swept as though it had been washed by a strong flood.

Sometimes the storms are gathering for days, and you see the sky
overcast with a muggy or reddish glare, and secretly dread the coming
blast. Yet as it appears here, it is a magnificent sight. The enormous
banks of dust come whirling and whizzing across the country, like
rolling folds upon folds of storm clouds bowling over the landscape and
seeming to touch the very heavens in the mighty wall that obscures
everything. Before this wall the air is quite clear; there are no
leaders, whiffs or puffs to indicate that the splendid, convulsive
columns are formed of dust. It is at times appalling in its magnitude
and fearful grandeur. Suddenly your world is plunged into darkness; you
see nothing; feel only the sting of the driving sand against your hands
and face. Your nostrils and eyes are filled; you are blinded and
suffocated, and tears stream from your eyes. Your horse turns from the
blast, and cattle turn and drive you before them. You are helpless; you
can only lie down flat, in a deep gully if possible, and let it sweep
over you. It is gone in a few minutes.

Three of us were one afternoon holding a mob of sheep on a plain when a
dust storm came on to us. It was not a very heavy one, but blinding. We
continued to ride round what we supposed to be the sheep, shouting at
intervals, and thanking our stars that they were giving so little
trouble. When the storm had passed we found that we had two old,
partially-blind ewes; the mob had disappeared into the timber two miles
across the plain.

On another occasion we were caught near an excavated tank. The latter
was deep, and had but little water in it. The cloud looked like a
colossal mountain being removed bodily, reaching as far as we could see
east and west, its top lost in limitless space. As it swept towards us,
in countless spinning folds like living monsters gambolling and rolling
over each other, we left our horses, and rushed down into the tank,
where we lay under a rain of sand until the desert demon had passed.

The now-defunct "Sturt Recorder," of Milparinka, gave the experience of
a couple of men in that same storm. "For half an hour it was darker
than the darkest night," said one. "I was holding a grey horse by the
bit, and could not see him. After he got away from me I lay flat down
on the batter of a tank, and tried several times to see my hand only a
few inches from my face, but could discern nothing." The other man
related: "My mate and I took shelter in a tent, and lit a candle, but
for a minute or two we could not even see the light, and for some time,
were unable to see each other, notwithstanding the candle was still
burning.'

Almost anywhere west of Broken Hill you would find trees standing on
the ends of their roots, the soil having been swept from under them.
Here and there you saw a few inches of the tops of a fence that had
been buried, and the boundary rider told you that there was a second
fence under it, and sometimes another under that, the three fences
having been erected one on top of the other, and successively buried by
drifting sand. On many runs men were following fences with shovels,
occasionally with teams and scoops, all through the summer, breaking up
the hard banks and scattering the stuff through the wires, so that the
wind would carry it on. It was remarkable, considering the penetrating
propensity of this fine sand, that a single wire a foot or even two
feet off the ground would cause a bank of sand to gather till the wire
was covered. Netting fences were buried very quickly.

In other places, instead of fences being buried, we found the ground
cut away from under the posts till they toppled over. I have seen a
couple of chains of fencing lying flat at a stretch, from 18 to 20
inches of earth being carried away to get under the posts. Where the
ground was very hard the earth round the uprights had been whisked out
by strong winds, leaving them toppling in all directions. It was rather
a difficult task to erect a permanent fence in such localities.

Ploughs and scoops had to be used round some of the houses to prevent
the doors and windows being blocked up. Sand brakes were built at
tanks, wells and troughs, and some of the homesteads were walled in. A
strong wire fence was first run round, then brush or cane-grass was
woven among the wires so as to form a substantial wall eight or ten
feet high. It was far cheaper in the long run to thus fortify your
house against the besieging dry storms than to be eternally removing
the sandhills they dropped down at your doors. At Morney Plains Q. L. a
new drafting yard that cost 500 was entirely buried at the end of
1901. That was the sultry year we left the north west .

Conaulpie Downs, near the Queensland border, was a typical western
homestead. It had a retaining wall on the northern side, and clumps of
trees to protect it on the other sides. It was a fairly substantial
wooden building with iron roof, the ceiling and walls being lined with
hessian, and papered. After a big storm nothing in those rooms could be
seen for dust. It could be gathered in handfuls off tables and beds,
and shaken in showers from curtains. One visitation during my stay
there was so severe that men had to shovel the dust off the floors into
barrows and wheel it away. During the same summer the ceilings of two
rooms broke down with the weight of dust that had collected above them.

In other houses one noticed bulges in the canvas ceilings, showing
where little hillocks of sand had gathered on top. Where the ceilings
were painted or whitewashed, sewn-up slits in the canvas were
noticeable, showing where a knife had been thrust in to run off the
sand. Wooden ceilings gathered sufficient weight in time to render them
dangerous if not relieved of the pressure. No building was free from
the penetrating dust. It got into every crevice and corner. Wherever
air could enter it carried the nuisance with it. Imagine then the
cleaning up after a big blow--and big blows happened along frequently
through the summer.

I rode up to a tank one day immediately after a storm, and found about
a hundred rabbits groping blindly about near the water. They had been
caught there while drinking, and were unable to get away. They blinked
helplessly at me, their eyes being dammed up with a circular ridge of
wet sand, moistened with their own tears. In the same way sheep were
blinded, and before they could recover, ravens pounced on them,
clinging to their necks, and pecked their eyes out. I have seen
stockmen, boundary-riders and travellers wash their horses' eyes with
water from their canvas bags, and when no water was at hand they wiped
the animals' eyes with their handkerchiefs.

The maps showed numerous watercourses over this area, but like a good
many of the lakes shown in other parts, they were merely depressions in
the landscape. A heavy fall of rain would cause a roaring flood in any
of them. Often the water spread over the flat country in an unbroken
sheet for 30 miles or more; but in a week it had all vanished. The
winding dark lines of timber looming across the plains looked
promising, but a man might perish of thirst following the courses in
search of a pothole. There was plenty of water underground, but a
reservoir that had to be tapped with a boring plant wasn't much good to
a thirsty traveller

"Looking for thunderstorms" was a common phrase out west. Stockmen rode
out day after day (when weather conditions had been favourable),
looking for tracks of wet storms, and following them across the runs.
When any holes or tanks on a storm's course had received a few days'
supply sheep were at once shifted on to them, only to be removed on to
the track of another storm, perhaps many miles away, a week later. The
tracks of these storms, were often not more than half a mile wide, and
it was one of the most tantalising experiences of western squatting to
see storm after storm cross the parched runs and miss every hole and
tank upon them, while filling a long chain of claypans between. These
claypans next day presented the surface of miniature lakes, and a
couple of days after, the bare depressions showed hard and white under
a blistering sun. An alluring mirage hovered over each one, like a body
of water, until the horseman drew near; then it lifted, to appear again
at the next.

Cattle, viewed through the everlasting haze of the plains, looked like
giraffes, elongated monstrosities that seemed to hover on a shadowy
surface several feet above the earth. Sheep assumed the proportions of
oxen, and the whole atmosphere appeared to be filled with films of
dancing, shimmering silk. Distances were hard to gauge; horsemen
disappeared at no great distance on open plains. You saw something
coming towards you, but until quite close you could not tell whether it
was a footman or a camel, an emu or a bullock team; for all objects
seemed to float, sometimes to within speaking distance, till the haze
flitted beyond them when they resumed their normal shape and
dimensions.

Almost the only natural hole of water that had any claim to permanency
in the extreme north-west was that known as Depot Glen, in Evelyn
Creek. It was also called Sturts' Waterhole. Fish were fairly plentiful
in this water, consequently it was a great camping ground of the
aborigines. This was the place that Captain Sturt had the good fortune
to strike in the summer of 1844, when the whole country was sun-
scorched, barren and gaping, and where Surveyor Poole, the second in
command, left his bones. Sheltering the grave was a tree bearing the
inscription, "J.P., 1845," which was cut by a member of the party. A
pyramidal headstone, erected by Mr. Lang, of Mount Poole, also marked
the resting-place of the first white man buried in that corner of the
State. The place where Sturt had his underground dwelling was shown by
an indentation a few yards from it. Rocky Glen, half a mile away, was a
beautiful spot. Mount Poole was marked on the summit by a pyramidal
cairn, which was built by the explorers.

Sturt had expected to find here a vast inland sea, and the remains of
the boat he brought with him to sail across it were still treasured at
the homestead. Had he crossed Mount Poole in the rainy season, and seen
in place of the endless stony plains an expanse of brown water
extending away to the horizon, he would have thought for awhile that he
had really found the sea; he would have sailed upon it, only to find
the water disappear from under him in a few hours. Nevertheless,
scientific men who examined the country were convinced that a
turbulent, permanent sea once actually existed there, Sturt was only a
thousand years or so too late with his boat.

Delalah and Yantarn counties have several small lakes, as Gultamuleha,
Balwarry, Yantara, and the Salt Lake ; while Bulloo Lake, the largest
in that region, is only a short distance from the latter. It is the
headquarters and the great breeding-place of the western waterfowl.
Boulka Lake and Cobham Lake look well on the map, dotted right in the
north-west comer of New South Wales, where a lake is a greater desidera
than a gold mine. The "Corner" is an auriferous field, which has borne
a goodly population of dryblowers and fossickers for many decades; with
a lasting wet lake ever throwing white caps to the shimmering haze,
little Tibooburra and Milparinka might blossom info fine cities.

I had heard a lot of talk of Cobham Lake. To people along the western
border of Queensland, hundreds of miles away, the name was as familiar
as Broken Hill. Naturally I expected to find something special in the
way of lakes. I was disappointed. The lake was there, but it had no
water in it.

The oldest inhabitant said it was the first time it had ever been known
to go dry. He said it sorrowfully, bitterly, seeming to regard it as an
old friend who had gone back on him. He had so long crowed over his
fellow-patriarchs of Depot Glen; he had often said: "Pooh! Look at
Cobham!" when the other fossils had praised his own pond, that he felt
disgraced and humiliated. His dignity was injured; his pride was
wounded; his prestige was ruined; his spirit was broken. Cobham had
fallen from its grand eminence to a second-rate waterhole. It might
rise to greater magnificence than ever in the next wet season, but it
could never recover its good name. It wasn't permanent. Depot Glen had
beaten it; and henceforth for all time Depot Glen was the boss
waterhole. Worse than that, the ancient resident of the place wrote to
inquire how the fish were biting in his claypan. he wished he had died
before such ignominy had come upon him.

CHAPTER VI.
The Advent of the Overseer--Yarns by the Way.

We picked up a squattage overseer at Wonnaminta, which was another
celebrated waterhole, and before we had been long in his company we
wished that he had died too.

Learning that we were bound south and east, he asked: "Going to see the
Duke?"

Our acquaintances all down the road had asked us that question. We had
been told the pedigree and history of the whole royal family before we
started; and we were rather tired of the Duke. Besides, this person was
a Londoner, loyally enthusiastic, and we scented a long harangue on the
subject. No one was more weary of it than John Jovius Muggs, and it was
John Jovius who took up the cudgels on behalf of the company.

"Is that what they call him?" asked Mr. Muggs.

"Of course! What else would you call him?"

"Dunno. Mostly heard them called Jumbo."

"Why--what are you talking about?"

"The new elephant."

The overseer roared. He thought that a great joke.

"My dear fellow," he said, in a superior condescending sort of manner,
"I'm speaking of the Duke of York."

"Racehorse?"

The overseer laughed again, but not so much. John Jovius never relaxed
a muscle.

"The Prince of Wales' son," the overseer explained. "Haven't you heard
of his visit."

"Where's he from?"

"From England! Where in the name of heaven are you from?"

The overseer was getting exasperated. John Jovius kept an unwavering
eye on him all the time.

"Relation of yours?"

"Relation be dashed! Don't I say--"

"Well, what are you going down to see him for?"

"Ain't everybody going to see him! Why, they're paying 20 for a
balcony view of the show--the procession!"

"Is he a freak?"

Oh, d--it!...He was becoming apopletic. "God bless my soul--what
could put that silly notion into your head?"

"You say they're showing him at 20 a balcony?"

The overseer collapsed. He was red, perspiring, and choking, and when
we laughed he thrust his head through the window and studied the
scenery. But we hadn't heard the last of the overseer yet. We got on to
a bit of heavy road where a recent storm had passed, and this reminded
John Jovius of an incident on the Richmond River.

"A storm caught me in the bush, and I was riding along in heavy rain
when I came upon a man sitting on a log, stark naked, and holding a
horse with no saddle on it. 'What are you up to?' I says, to him.
'Havin' a shower bath.' he says, grinning. 'Where's your clothes?' He
tapped the log. 'In there.' 'What did you put them in there for.'
'Cause there wasn't room for me to get in, an' it's only a fool's game,
gettin' 'em wet in a shower; so I peeled off. See.' When the rain was
over he dressed and saddled up, and rode away as dry as a bone. I was
drenched to the skin."

This revived the overseer. He could cap that yarn. He opened his
shoulders at once, and narrated:

"I was out horse hunting one day, when a storm came on, and I crawled
into a hollow log for shelter. My cattle-pup came after me, and coiled
up on my legs. The storm lasted a good while, and I fell asleep. While
I was that way a carpet snake came in and swallowed the pup. In
searching for a warm place for a nap it took a couple of coils round my
legs. At this point there came in a wet and dripping bandicoot. The
snake promptly seized and swallowed him, too. Now, these animals made a
considerable bulge at each end of that snake, and as the intervening
portion of its body was round my legs; it could go neither forward nor
backward, and the effort to get the bandicoot down to the pup resulted
in my legs being bound tightly together. In this predicament I woke,
and though I risked being bitten, I was too tightly jambed by the coil
and the protuberances to force a way out. Not having a knife if seemed
evident that I must lie there until either the pup or the bandicoot
digested.

"But I hadn't seen the worst of things yet. Towards noon a goanna
crawled in and swallowed my right foot and part of the leg; and by-and-
bye its mate came along and swallowed the other foot and leg. Having
strong boots on, the only inconvenience I experienced was a feeling of
tightness. But the question presented itself: Would my feet digest in
the goannas before the pup or bandicoot was assimilated in the snake?

"I was debating that point when there came a sound of chopping, and
half an hour later a big tree soused down on the head end of my log,
splitting it from end to end. I escaped with sundry bruises, several
small cuts, and much shock. Two axemen stood by the stump. When they
saw me suddenly arise from the debris, girdled with a bulged snake and
goanna extremities, they belted for their lives. I shook the snake off
without any trouble: but to get free of the goannas I had to tie their
tails to a sapling and run backwards."

There was a dead silence for live minutes after the overseer concluded.
Then a quiet man, who had been dozing in a corner, sat up and remarked
drily that the yarn wasn't rounded off properly. The overseer looked at
him disapprovingly.

"Those goannas should have untied themselves and swallowed the snake,
one from each end," said the quiet man; "and when they met in the
middle they should have had a fight and swallowed each other. That
would have been a clean finish." The overseer turned to the window
again, and became absorbed in the grey embankments of a huge excavated
tank.

CHAPTER VII.
The Land of Tanks.

When you travel over the great western country, with the solitary
question of water in your mind (and you don't want a piece of string
tied round your finger to keep it slipping from your memory), you
realise the grim, dogged fight that has been made by the men who have
settled there. Thousands of creeks and gullies vein this region, just
the same as in other parts; but they are treacherous affairs to the
stranger, who is lured by the promising lines and clumps of timber to
search for potholes, such as his "inside" experience leads him to
expect. There are rivers, too, draining vast areas of one State, and
moistening hundreds of miles of another. They start far north with a
roaring flood, and are exhausted and lost in the immensity of their
travels, or they end their long journey with a brown trickle that
creeps into the Darling or Murray. When settlers along the upper
reaches of eastern rivers are flooded, warning is sent to those far
down to prepare for the coming rush; but the people at the lower end of
the outback waterways only hear casually that a big flood has happened
above them. Though it may sweep grandly for a couple of hundred miles,
only now and again do they expect it to run in their part of the
course. The great plain awaits it with parched lips. Thirstily,
greedily, it drinks up the river.

The great bulk of the inland drainage courses underground, down the
ever flowing subterranean channels. When you look at the surface
courses after a dry storm, you cannot but think that any other kind of
river is impossible without some gigantic scheme of afforestation. To
the small settler, who wants to wet his whistle in a hurry, the
underground river is hopeless. Still, he goes out, and prospers. One
whom I knew well, after working for some years on the roads with a
team, took up a dry selection in the Corner, starting with a few sheep.
He passed in his checks in 1909, leaving to his widow and children a
well watered estate and 32,000 in cash. He was a canny Scot. All he
did to make his pile was to put down a couple of tanks in the midst of
timber. Most western graziers made their tanks in the sun-baked,
windswept open, so that the sheep, after drinking, wouldn't camp round
the tank. Both sheep and tank suffered in consequence.

"Death's Corner" and "Hell's Gate" were not terms applied to the Big
Basin by thirst-tortured travellers from inside. The great, deceiving
distances, the sun-glitter on the stones, the mocking mirages, and the
apparent barrenness of everything around, are heart-breaking to the
peddler and the swagman. But they get a grip of the immense
possibilities of that territory when they know that, after years of
drought, fat sheep have been obtained there when they could not be got
anywhere else. The main stays of the land are mulga and saltbush. In
fair seasons Mitchell grass grows like wheat. Cut and stored, it is as
good as oaten hay. It is better, for the haymaker has not to plough or
sow--he merely reaps. When the grass is in ear, he drives his machine
across the plain, and within a few hours the "cut" is ready to stack.
The hay has been found to be sweet and fattening after being stacked
for 20 years. There is no trouble about feed. The great problem is
water. You daren't ride a few miles out on the run without taking a bag
of it with you, or the chances are there will be a funeral, and you'll
be in it.

When the "insider" goes on the land, the first thing he does is to put
up a hut; but when the westerner goes on to his block the first thing
he has to do is to make a water hole. That is the most important and
the most valuable improvement he can make. His wealth is reckoned and
his status in the community determined by the number of waterholes he
has. In putting down his first he has to choose his time; when rain has
left a pothole within reach to supply him and his teams with liquid
refreshment. Then it is a race between the sinking of the tank and the
sinking of the water. When the hole is completed he goes away, to wait
till the next rain comes and fills it. Then he may return and build his
home. It is a big undertaking for the small man, but once he has
amassed waterholes he can sit back and live comfortably on the
interest.

Most of the work while we were there was done by contract. In earlier
days tank sinkers reaped a rich harvest, getting a shilling a yard for
excavation which was now being done for as low as 4d. The landowner
found the plant--horses, ploughs, scoops and harness. Bullocks were
sometimes used for ploughing, but as a rule they were considered too
slow, and unwieldy. Horses were worked three and four abreast to save
time in turning, and to prevent unnecessary climbing and consequent
damage to the batters. Close by the work was a sapling yard, with
grindstones, water tanks on drays, and a small forge for pointing
shares and picks and shoeing horses. The men lived in tents or canvas
huts, walled in with bushes; and there was a long shed, walled and
roofed with boughs or cane grass for eating and cooking in, while out
in front was a fireplace, enclosed in a semi-circular wall of stones to
protect it from the wind. Round the fire, in this roofless enclosure,
the men sat and smoked their pipes and swapped yarns after tea.
Occasionally on moonlight nights they worked an hour or two at the
forge, repairing damaged swingle-bars or mounting new ones, and making
horseshoes and scoop-handles. He had to be a handy man, the tank-
sinker. On Sunday morning a tank or two of water was carted, and a load
of dry mulgar or gidgee for camp use. Besides all this, there were
broken chains to mend with split links, and horse collars and other
harness ware to attend to. The tank sinker made hay while the sun
shone, working from daylight till dark. Then the horses were driven
away to water and feed, a sheep was killed by starlight, and now and
again a bag of grass was cut and carried home on the pommel of the
saddle for the hack, which was kept in the yard all night for running
up the draught horses in the morning.

Some contractors kept a bullock team constantly drawing water so as to
save the plough and scoop horses by watering them in troughs, where
they work.

Hard years of experience taught the flock owners many economic points
in the excavating of tanks. The open-fronted tanks, into which
everything poured unchecked, and played havoc with the batters, were no
longer made: nor was the partially banked variety with a catch-tank in
front, from which the force of the overflow cut huge gutters through
the intervening space, carrying the silt into the main bank, or else it
ploughed through the light-wings and cut gutters down the outside of
the bank. The later tanks were banked high all round with earth scooped
out of the excavation. You saw these grey banks every now and again
from the coach. The Darling Downs, as I remember them, was a land of
wells and windmills. A part of Southern Queensland specialised in
substantially constructed overflows. In other parts, as the northern
area of South Australia, where water has a habit of running away at
short notice, the ordinary cheap variety of dam was the common
reservoir. But the north-west of New South Wales was the land of tanks.

Some of the tanks were so large that you could spend hours round them
shooting ducks. A few contained yellow-belly (golden perch), and in
most of them youngsters caught crayfish or yabbies with scoop nets or
traps. A small catch-tank was made at the top end, from which fluming
was laid through the banked-up earth, having a self-acting valve on the
inside, and from this a race made of galvanised iron, posts and rails,
ran down to the bottom of the main tank. These tanks held well if a
foot of water was first run in, and the bottom and sides were then
puddled and trampled by putting a mob of sheep in and driving them
round. The great bulk of the shifting sand was checked by the earth
walls, but still a lot got over, tons of dust being deposited during
every dry storm. The evaporation was very considerable. Roly-polies did
a great amount of damage. These huge, white balls of grass and burrs,
from two to three feet in diameter, rolled mile after mile across the
plains, banking up against fences, and completely smothering them, and
bowling down into unprotected tanks.

Here and there stub walls were built as a partial protection; but these
were soon buried under sand, and the roley poley took a flying leap
over them, and went gambolling on in triumph. A hundred rolies racing
across a plain in the moonlight was a weird sight; a few score bogged
in the silt round the edges of a tank meant a big fall in the value of
the reservoir.

Dams were made in some of the creeks. Many of them were constructed at
considerable expense, only to be swept away by the first flood that
came down. After heavy rains the water rushed down from the rocky hills
in foaming torrents, sometimes several miles wide, levelling fences,
yards, and all such structures before it. At these times half that
"desert" country presented the aspect of a vast inland sea; yet in a
little while a man might perish of thirst in the creek beds. All that
enormous bulk of water has run to waste, and the four winds began to
gather up the dust again. Only the tanks, the salvation of Outback,
remained.

CHAPTER VIII.
Women of the West.

One heard a lady passenger remark on the loneliness of the aspect as
the coach passed some hut or Cottage standing back from the little-
frequented road. "If I had to live in a place like that I'd die," she
declared.

The loneliness didn't trouble the settler much, though the want of
communion with other women made it a little hard for his wife. Still
the country bred woman found the noisy city much more distasteful.
There are people who cannot be happy away from the bustle of city
streets; there are others who can find happiness only in the quiet of
the bush. So the lone cottage is not always planted where it is because
the people cannot afford to live in closer contact with their kind.
City people, judging their country cousins by their own ideals, waste a
lot of sympathy in this respect.

Sydney women, despite all the comforts and conveniences that surrounded
them, and the beauty and delights of their environment, found no end of
things to grumble about and to worry over. The thorn in the rosy path
of Mrs. Potts Point was the difficulty of getting good and reliable and
inexpensive servants to do her work for her. It was a worry to ring up
the registry office every week or two, and to find the maid not quite
up to the high standard of proficiency required when she arrived, and
when the house was temporarily maidless, to have to get one's own
dinner--though it could be purchased ready cooked, to make the family
bed, and look after the intrusive baby.

While, the mental eye dwelt on this good lady, fuming impatiently at
her telephone, our moving picture show, the mail couch, introduced
Madame Merino, who was preeminent among the women of the west. Her
husband was a squatter; she was therefore comparatively free to have
what she liked, provided the finances were healthy, which depended on
the seasons. Yet she was going down for a change of sea air for the
first time in five years.

"At last!" she said smilingly to the driver as she met the coach, and
the driver understood. The expression was eloquent. She had promised
herself that trip year after year, and "at last" she was under weigh.

There were some, she told you, who made an annual pilgrimage for the
Show or the Melbourne Cup, and there were others who never left the
west. Those lived anywhere from 10 to 50 miles from a small town; and
once in a couple of moons or so they drove in for a short visit.

The town was little different from the squattage. You saw a few more
people: you saw an occasional dog fight, when the outside dog met the
town dog; you heard the scant news of the countryside; you could "Come
and have a drink," but the only other attractions were the grass fed
races and a ball once or twice a year, when the little town woke up for
a couple of days and a couple of nights.

Madame Merino lived 200 miles from a railway terminus. The house was
built of wood and iron, with papered walls and ceilings. There were
stables and yards and huts scattered about; but away from the homestead
there were no habitations for many miles. Except in the morning and
evening, when there were men bustling around, the place seemed in
sleep. Now and again drovers went by, and teams passed along the
distant road. Occasionally there were visitors, who arrived at any hour
between daylight and midnight. They might be a neighbouring squatter
and his family, who require board and lodgings at a moments notice; and
not infrequently they dropped in when she had no help. and was up to
her eyes in work. There were no regular "at home" days there; people
called when it suited them. Swagmen called between times, and in the
absence of the boss these sought "the missus" for rations.

She had a "maid and general" and a man cook. Sometimes she had a
governess or lady's help as well. Her nearest supply depot was the
town, 10 miles away, which supplied an odd demand at long intervals. As
a rule, she had to write to Broken Hill, or to Adelaide, or Sydney. The
first named was the cheapest for passage money had to be guaranteed
both ways. The single coach fare from Broken Hill was 6. The usual
term of engagement was six months. If the servant left before that she
had to pay the return fare out of her own pocket. With a 200 mile coach
journey to face, and a 10 mile drive, in a buggy in addition, to be
"bottled in the bush" for months, girls who had been used to a town
life were very chary of taking such a situation.

Mrs. Potts Point had the privilege of inspecting and catechizing her
maid before engaging her; but Madame Merino knew nothing about hers
until she arrived at the door with her trunk and hatbox. Generally
speaking, she was a good girl; the industrious sort, who had a savings
bank account, and who knew that the best place to swell that account
was the backblock squattage, where wages were higher, opportunities of
spending almost nil, and dress requirements considerably diminished.
Many put in a whole year without drawing a penny of their wages.
Another attraction was the scarcity of marriageable women.

"I prefer plain girls," said Madame, "for when I get a good looking one
I know the moment she arrives that I am spending 12 to provide
somebody with a wife. And she has to be uncommonly plain if some
lovelorn swain doesn't fall down and worship her before her half year
is up."

Then marriageable woman remained scarce, for the dull-greyness of the
general outlook more than counterbalanced the advantages. This, too,
left the way open for the domestic who was unable to keep town places;
and no matter how incompetent or now lazy she was, she couldn't be
sacked except on payment of six months' wages and her fare both ways.
It was no use quarrelling with a maid of that sort; she could hit back
with impunity: so Madame Merino had to put up with whims and caprices
and a lack of capacity that Mrs. Potts Point would not tolerate for a
day.

In the old days the aboriginal woman helped to smooth many a rugged
path. She made life in lonely places easier and more pleasant to the
white women. Only those who had to rely on her industry and bush
knowledge know how important a part she played, once she was properly
civilised, in the settlement of the hinterlands. Some there were who
did not care to have blacks about the place; others would not employ an
aborigine, as it frequently meant a camp following that required
something like a boarding-house to feed. But there were a great many
places, apart from squattage homesteads, that always had a blacks' camp
in the vicinity; and everybody who desired, rich and poor alike, had
aboriginal servants.

The aboriginal servant was cheap--except to feed. She carried away in
her dilly-bag all she could get. She was never selfish; if she belonged
to a camp in the neighbourhood she remembered everybody in it when
there was tucker about. As a set-off against this, she was useful in
obtaining wild game, fish and honey for her white mistress. For 5s a
week and meals, supplemented with any old clothes--whether a frock or a
pair of trousers didn't matter to her--and a bit of tobacco, she would
do anything required of her. But she was a rigid stickler for the eight
hour principle. She could not be persuaded to get up early--except to go
to the races. She arrived at the kitchen about breakfast time, and
required her breakfast--partaken of at the woodheap--before she commenced
work; then she liked to get back to camp before dark. Always she
returned with a miscellaneous collection of titbits in her vade mecum,
the dilly-bag.

She did the washing and scrubbing; she looked after the younger
children, being a gentle and attentive nurse; and she carried water,
balancing the bucket on her head; and she carried wood also, which she
picked up with her toes. Finally she chopped up the sticks with her
tomahawk, a task which she always sat down to. She was handy in running
messages, hunting up the horses and cows, and finding stolen nests in
grass and scrub when eggs were wanted. She instructed the white women
in bushcraft, especially in turning to use whatever nature had provided
in the locality. Often she was her mistress' only female companion, and
a comradeship existed between them that was hardly understandable among
later generations.

To any good girl, Madame Merino was comrade and friend. She told of a
time when she reached home with one just after a duststorm. They had
experienced the blinding fury of it on the road, which was misery
enough in one dose; but the sight that met her at the homestead filled
her with dismay. Men were in the room with barrows and shovels,
cleaning out the sand. Mistress and maid worked till midnight, dusting
and sweeping; and at daylight they started again, washing and
scrubbing. When they had got all nicely clean along came another
duststorm, and everything was smothered again. They sat down and cried,
but the experience cemented a friendship that was never forgotten.

It was a dry summer. In the midst of it the water gave out at the
homestead, and they shifted to an excavated tank 10 miles away. Here
they had a hessian hut, tents and bough shed, experiencing much of the
normal conditions under which the poorer class have to live; their
water carried in buckets or in an iron tank; their fire in the open,
baking done in a camp-oven, all structures and fittings rough and
temporary; no fruit nor vegetables, no milk or butter.

Not far away was a selector's hut. The selector was weatherbound down
country with a team, waiting for rain to get home. His wife and
daughters were drawing water and cutting scrub for stock. In the
evening they met for friendly gossip; these hard working women and
Madame Merino and her girls; and they talked of the country life they
had known in other parts, in the great, fruitful regions of the east
and the north and the south.

In the homes of her city friends the gas stove, the water laid on, the
fixed tubs and copper, with a tap over each, particularly appealed to
Madame Merino. She had stood so often over the washtub herself; that
tub that has to be carried away and emptied, and filled with the aid of
buckets. There were conveniences for cooking that were unknown in the
west, though the west had double the cooking to do. There all the
baking was done at home. She did most of her own sewing also. Yet, when
she looked around her, she considered herself fortunate in the
possession of a sewing machine. Her neighbours of the tank did all
their sewing by hand, making their own wearing apparel, sheets and
pillow-slips, and the men's shirts. Much of their furniture was made
out of packing-cases, draped with cretonne. There wasn't much in their
home, but the collection represented a prodigious amount of home-work.

They did not complain, these patient women of the west, though they
lived under hard conditions, buffering the torments of flies and ants
and dust and heat through the long summers, with no trains or trams to
run them away at week-ends--or month ends or year-ends--to the seaside or
to the mountains. Theirs was a combination of the simple life and the
strenuous life, but it had its compensations. With the passing of the
summer day they drifted into Elysium; and the east, with its more humid
climate, could show nothing comparable to the starry brilliance of the
western night.

CHAPTER IX.
Glimpses of Lonely Lives.

There are many lonely lives spent in the back country; none more so
than those of the mail-change groom, the shepherd, the hut-keeper,
road-mender, boundary-rider, prospector, and the mounted police
stationed alone on the outposts of civilisation. In some such cases the
billets are chosen by men who have a predilection for a hatter's
existence; but the majority are forced by necessity to take them. The
prospector is drawn into the wildest parts by the charm of fortune.
There he lives in a world of his own, with the environment of the
savage. He comes into town once a month, or once in three months, to
sell his gleanings and to obtain fresh supplies. Between times no one
may know anything of his whereabouts, for the veteran prospector
doesn't want the locale of his operation made public.

The post of the mail-change groom is about the least lonely of the lot.
His home is a small hut or tent by the roadside; his only companions a
dog and the coach horses. The horses run in the open bush, and his work
is to look after them, groom and feed them, and have them ready in the
sapling yard when the coach arrives. At half the places it arrives
during the night time. He helps with the changing, afterwards rubbing
down the sweat-covered animals that have been left. The coach passes
once or twice a week, staying only just long enough to change the
horses. Between times a traveller may call while passing along the
road, and is generally welcome to a night's rest there. It is the
grooms only chance of a yarn. The rouseabout gives him the news from
up and down the road, and he is a greedy man for news, too.

One, whom our driver called Peter, came 50 yards down the road to meet
the coach. He was short and stout, almost as broad as he was long; his
fat face three parts covered with thick, black stubble. He was short
winded; in his eyes the light of eagerness and excitement. We thought
there had been some extraordinary happening at the camp. We leaned out
to listen.

"What won." asked Peter, breathlessly.

The driver named three horses that had won first, second and third in a
Mulga handicap back at the border.

"Where did Streaker come?"

"Fair last."

Peter took off his hat, and slapped it against his leg.

"I knew it," he cried ecstatically. "Didn't I tell him so? Why, the
dashed cow couldn't gallop as fast as I could kick me hat."

From the Mulga Handicap Peter drifted to people and places along the
road. He knew everybody for a hundred miles either way. As the wheels
began to revolve again he fired after us: "Did Andy Payne find his
bullock?"

The most trivial items interested the groom. But the driver's time was
limited. It was always limited; and every trip he left Peter
unsatisfied. However, he brought him week-old papers, and now and again
a dog-eared book, which were perused with a relish only known to
isolated beings.

The mender of the coach roads was some what similarly situated, except
that his work required him to be more actively about in wet weather
than in dry times. For this reason the regulations required him to
provide himself with oilskins and watertight boots. Peter had to be out
in all weathers, and nobody cared whether he had waterproof clothing or
only a bathing suit.

The boundary-rider, whether posted on the rabbit-proof fence along the
State borders or on the outskirts of pastoral properties to look after
the stock, to watch the watering-places, and keep the fences in repair,
is a more energetic person. Sometimes he has a hut to live in; more
often only a light tent, which keeps him dry so long as it does not
rain too hard. It is mostly pitched in a lonely belt of gidgee or mulga
trees, where firewood and water are close at hand, and away from all
roads, so that he won't be interrupted by tourists. When his water
dries up, unless he happens to be camped at a permanent tank, he shifts
his residence to the next most convenient supply. He has no mate to
share his lot, except when scrub has to be cut for sheep, and when
there is extra work at the tanks pulling out the bogged, skinning the
dead, and generally attending to weak animals. From living so much
alone he is sometimes a trifle eccentric and particular about little
things.

The mounted police who patrol the great emptiness on the fringe of
settlement have a better time, though there is nothing in their
vicinity to become wildly hilarious over. The force is recruited from
experienced bushmen. One depot was at Turn Off Lagoon. The troopers
batched there for months at a time, doing their own washing and
mending. They worked a fairly large garden in their spare time, and
they had so much spare time that one year they grew two tons of
potatoes. They were glad to see anybody. The shakiest old swagman, if
one ever went so far astray, was hospitably received. The only
excitement that came their way was when a horse thief or a cattle
stealer attempted to get away to the back camps, as those of buffalo
shooters. Rogues who knew the ropes made for those places when pursuit
got too hot, returning to civilisation when the hue and cry had long
died out. The border police had to look for them; and at times they
took pack horses, riding hundreds of miles, and camping out at night.
They were in dead earnest in their pursuit. They seldom had the
opportunity of getting a prisoner. When, they did, they not only had
his company for a time at the depot, but one of them had the pleasure
of a trip with him to a more civilised quarter. Occasionally in their
wanderings, they spent a night in a hunters camp, and once in a while
they met overlanders from the north and west. The garden told
eloquently how time dragged when they were at home; and a kangaroo skin
here and there indicated that other chases were sometimes substituted
when there were no law breakers to run down.

The great advantage of these lonely places lay in their roominess. As
an overlander remarked, "A man's got plenty of room there to swing his
whip." And saith the hatter: "When I feel like I want to yell I can
yell without wakin' the baby."

The hut-keeper has only a lonely hut to look after--and that is about
the quietest and least troublesome thing a man can be set to look
after. It is such a tame, silent, monotonous charge that only a lazy
man would take it in hand. The salary is not munificent, though quite
commensurate with the labour involved. The hut stands in a locality
where it is occasionally necessary; it may be connected with an
expensive shearing-shed, or it may be a dummy selection, or one taken
over by a squatter. Anyhow, travellers pass that way, and there is some
danger of leaving it without a caretaker between times. Of course,
there may be cattle or horses or sheep in the paddock adjoining; but
these require no attention. He may walk round the fence once a week if
he feels in want of exercise. The only time he has to put on a little
steam is when the owner calls; for the owner wants lunch, and his
horses have to be taken out, and put in again when they have had a
spell. This unwonted labour exhausts the caretaker for an hour or two,
and he stretches out on his bunk and smokes, feeling the satisfaction
of a man who has done his duty. He spends much time on that bunk. He
has a collection of old books, and keeps up a reading supply by
swopping with travellers. He has cards, too, which while away an hour
or two when a player drops in. He is not the loneliest mortal on earth.
His existence is about on a par with that of the aborigine, only the
aborigine has to bestir himself a lot more in pursuit of a nimble
dinner. The hutkeeper's billet was designed for tired people.

Once, traveling from Sydney to Brisbane by boat, we passed Solitary
Island in the gloom of approaching night. The picture so affected me
that I could not have felt more depressed if I had just lost all my
ancestors; but afterwards, in lonely spots outback; the thought of it
always made me feel cheerful. To a landsman there is no isolation so
utterly dreary. The lighthouse keeper is usually a married man, and is
often provided with an assistant. Still, there is not much excitement
in his neighbourhood apart from the wind-lashed waves at his basement.
When his home is on the mainland he has many advantages that seldom
obtain on a rocky islet. The great bush lies behind him, possessing a
thousand interests to a nature lover, and supplying him with much that
a man needs. For this is a case where even the untrodden wilderness is
something to be thankful for. It is a relief from the sea-washed rocks
and the smell of seaweed. It allows of unlimited wanderings, of rides
and drives. If there is a settler within reach he can call there
occasionally, and receive a call in return. His visits and visitors are
limited to these. Being perched on a jutting headland, no roads pass
near him that would bring even an odd swagman to his door. He contrives
to make some sort of a garden, though, as a rule, there is not much
growing soil in such situations. He has a few fowls, a couple of cows
or goats and perhaps a pig or two. There is not a lot for those on an
island such as Solitary Island.

Lone and exiled as ever was Robinson Crusoe is he who guards the safety
of passing ships. His work is in the loneliest night hours, when,
perched above the smashing breakers, he hears the wailing of ghostly
mariners in the gale. Solitary Island is really three huge rocks. Two
of them are all but submerged; the other carries the lighthouse,
presenting rugged shelving and precipitous facets to an ever restless
sea. Seen from the distant deck of a coastal steamer, there is a gloom
and dreariness about that spot that gives one the blues to look at. In
its eloquent silence it seems to appeal to fleeting, glimpsed humanity.
It stands far out at sea, vessels passing between it and the mainland.
At long intervals a boat sails with supplies and mails. Sometimes in
bad weather the call is delayed, and supplies run short. There is only
the encircling sea and the fishing line to rely upon in such an
emergency. When sickness comes or an accident happens there is no way
of getting a doctor. The risks that the lighthouse keeper takes for the
safety of others are manifold; and when death comes to such places it
is in its most pathetic aspect.

At one lighthouse, where two families lived, the women had a quarrel,
and did not speak to one another for two years. At another place there
were three families, and these were not "playing speaks" either.

A lighthouse on a green isle, with sandy beaches, cocoanut palms, and
banana groves, would be quite a pleasant place, however isolated,
lending itself to languorous ease and the free and careless life of
primitive races. But the beacon lights are reared on some of the
bleakest and dreariest spots in the ocean and on the coasts, for
danger, and not beauty, is the deciding factor in the place of its
abode.

After visiting a lighthouse one feels inclined to tell the shepherd
that he has nothing to complain about. He is usually an old man,
unfitted for hard or active work. His only assistant is a dog, to whom
he talks as to a human being. He also talks to himself, and has got so
used to doing so that he sometimes lapses into self-confidences and
solo arguments when in the presence of others. His knowledge goes back
into the dimness of ages. His experiences cover half the earth, and
encompass a multitude of trades and callings, for, as likely us not, he
has been well launched from a big university, has been boss and lackey
by turns, school teacher, soldier, and sailor, too. With a stick in one
hand and a water bag in the other, he follows his flock all day,
returning with them to camp at sundown. It is in unfenced, dingo-
haunted country that he shepherds. A dingo raid provides about the only
excitement that comes his way. In the evening he meditates over an open
fire, and smokes the pipe of peace. He is a great man to meditate, and
the peace is profound and everlasting.

CHAPTER X.
The Carrier's Wife.

Another who knows the loneliness of outback roads is the carrier's
wife. Whether she accompanies the teams or abides in some centre where
she sees her husband at intervals of months, her life is not one that
would be envied by those who have been used to the ordinary customs and
comforts of home.

Domiciled in some country town, she is very much in the position of the
sailor's wife, counting the days and watching for the coming of the
team, as the other waits and watches for the return of the ship. But,
while the sailor's wife resides at some sea port where there is
animation and something of daily interest, the other dwells where there
is little movement; where there is nothing to see but the long road on
which for days only the "willy-willy" stirs up the dust; where the days
are dull and long and lonely. A town habitat, however small and dead
the town, is not as bad as a selection hut, standing back from the
road, and miles away from its nearest neighbour. Such a situation is
generally necessary for the teamster, who must have paddocks in which
to spell his weary brutes when he reaches home, and wherein to keep
them in slack times when the roads are impassable.

While he is absent, for months at a time, the wife is general manager
and caretaker of the estate as well as of the home. When the heap of
wood gives out, before the teams return, she has to gather her supplies
from the paddock; and, when the cask or iron tank runs dry, she has to
carry water daily from the creek. She has to keep an eye on what stock
there may be running there, and now and again she has to repair fences,
and pull out a beast that has got bogged. Fires sometimes break out,
which keep her in the fighting line, perhaps for hours into the night.
She bears the responsibilities and anxieties that commonly fall to the
lot of the men in addition to all that are inseparably woman's. Once a
week or so she may have a visitor, and occasionally she sees a horseman
passing along the road--the road that ever attracts her eyes like some
irresistible magnet, that she watches in leisure hours, sitting on the
verandah, as though all she hoped for could come to her by no other
way. As the dusk deepens she fastens the doors and windows, and sitting
in the lamplight or by the fire, listens, as a dog listens, to the
night voices and sounds outside.

It is these conditions that often cause the carrier's wife to forego
the doubtful joys of a home and travel up and down the road with a
house on wheels, furnished with all that is necessary for their
convenience and comfort, in which there is no packing up and unpacking
at the daily camp, and everything is always handy. One trip in this
travelling home just for a holiday is enjoyable, providing the roads,
are good, but it soon becomes wearisome on far-western roads.

Generally she travels in a tilted cart, driving along behind the team,
unless she knows the camping places, in which case she will drive on
after lunch and have the camp in order and the tea ready by the time
her husband reaches his days end. She is seldom without family,
sometimes there are four or five children, who share the joys and
adventures of the parents on the roads. The younger ones ride with the
mother in the cart; the others make themselves useful in various ways.
The oldest perhaps will be his father's help or offsider; another will
be in charge of the spare team horses or bullocks, whilst a third will
be a budding drover, whose work is to look after a flock of goats,
which supplies the family with milk and meat, and takes them from camp
to camp. They carry also a coop of fowls slung under the waggon. These
are let out for a run where the team stops, and they roost on a perch
usually provided near their moving residence. So accustomed do the
moving poultry become to the daily routine that they are easily got
back into their coop when it is time to move on.

Once on the Ward River I met a party of four families, who mustered
about 15 children. Their itinerary extended from Charleville, on the
Warrego--then the terminus of the south-western railway and a great
rendevous of teamsters--to places far beyond the Barcoo, towards
Blackall and down Koopa Creek. They went out laden with stores and
returned with wool. They were going into camp in the bend of a big
lagoon--a quiet spot where they customarily spelled for a few days.
There was good fishing and plenty of waterfowl in the lagoon, and fine
grassy downs spreading away to westward where the stock could be seen
for miles when the haze was off the plains.

First to arrive were two little girls and a boy, driving goats and
spare horses. Then came the women and younger children in tilted carts.
They took their own horses out, and unpacked utensils and bedding by
the side of a big log, whilst the youngsters gathered wood and carried
water. Soon fires were blazing and cooking was in full swing. The teams
drew up a little before sundown, and what with unharnessing, belling
and hobbling horses, erecting tents, milking goats, and spreading tea
things and tucker about on bags, it was a busy scene for an hour or two
after dark. The children romped joyously about among the trees, but the
women were tired, and welcomed the respite of a few days' camp by the
lagoon.

There are many other men whose calling keep them a good deal of their
time away from home, and whose womenfolk lead lonely lives. With no
help within miles of their doors, they are called upon to perform many
an arduous task and to undertake emergency duties that would appall one
who had never been used to the trials of the bush. You have only to
picture one with a child seriously ill; with fires raging around and
threatening the house on a scorching summer day; when flood waters are
gradually covering the near landscape and lapping around the rise where
she lives; to understand the fears and worries that come to her
intermittently when there is no one to counsel, to help and protect.
They are among the heroines of the bush, these brave women who help to
tame the wild places and smooth the rough tracks for the multitude.

CHAPTER XI.
Wayfarers--Looking for Pyzer--"Bail Up!"--On the Road to Menindie.

A journey from the Corner gives you a fine contrast to the travelling
in coastal latitudes. For much of the way the coach grinds over tracks
of its own making, with a few chains of macadamised road here and
there; over ruts and dunes, and crooks and gullies that rock the
passengers till their bones ache; over wind-swept plains that suggest
the dead end of the world. Over the eastern ranges, on the northern
watershed, and down by the southern sea, you have at least the charm of
scenic changes, the thrill of steep grades and sharply winding mountain
tracks; but out at the back of Bourke the way is as monotonous as the
rattle of wheels and the clinking of chains. Dinner time is
occasionally an exciting event, especially after a fast of 18 hours,
which was our experience at one stage. We had to walk a mile off the
road to a lonely hut where a robust selector, in mud-splattered
clothes, just as he had come in from a tank-sinking job, presided at
table. It being hot weather, the refreshments were provided in a bough
shed, on a long plank table, with planks for seats.

Through the door of the coach we obtained glimpses of the traffic of
the western roads. The ladies on the box seat had a big advantage in
this respect. They could see it coming in the far distance, and they
could look back at it till it disappeared over the horizon behind. Did
we pass a hawker's van, slowly plodding on its day's journey to the
next house, or a teamster's waggon laden with stores or wool, the
insiders leaned forward to view it as eagerly as though it were a
procession--which showed the extent of the traffic.

A mob of cattle on the way to Bourke and the Afghan's camel team,
filing westward, were items of special interest. The hardy old battler,
humping his swag to Farther-out, gave a fillip to the conversation, and
made us feel more comfortable in our cramped position; the bullock
team, strenuously dragging over a sandhill, or blocking the crossing of
a creek, was a spectacle that enlivened everybody; while a camel camp
alongside the road was quite an absorbing thing.

We came upon it in the early morning, while the Afghans were still
wrapped in their blankets. The driver cracked his whip, and the insides
yelled at them to get up and pay for their beds. One remembered
suddenly that he had a message for the coach. He leaped out in a hurry,
but ere he had taken three steps in our direction the shriek of the
box-seat reminded him that he had only a shirt on. He rushed back to
bed again, and covered his head up.

Cases and bales of merchandise lay about in heaps as they had been
dropped from the camels' backs, and here and there the desert beasts
were feeding on the mulga trees. None of them were near the road; but
the smell was there, and that was quite enough for the coach horses.
Tired though they were, they became excited, and threatened to bolt.

That was a good beginning for the day; it shook the drowsiness from our
eyes, and set us watching out quite cheerfully for the next sight. It
was a long time coming, but proved the most diverting of all when it
eventually intersected us. It was a two wheeled bullock-dray, drawn by
six bullocks, with two women and several youngsters on board. Obviously
they were going visiting.

The conveyance was emblematic of the Land of Lots of Time, and
reminiscent of old days down east, when our native river was young and
romantic. Same battered dray, same explosive driver, same old Brindle
and Rattler; we could follow the turn out from start to finish with our
eyes shut; we knew the delirious joy there had been among the young
ones when their best things had been got out of the box and placed on
the table and chairs in readiness for morning.

Bill was out before daylight, mustering the bullocks, greasing the
dray, and yoking up. In the meantime mother bathed the youngsters,
combed their hair, and put on their Sunday clothes. They set out soon
after sunrise, Bill walking and driving; the family squatted about the
dray, their teeth chattering in sympathy with the jolting of the
concern, and some already squabbling for lever places where there were
no protruding bolts. The huge wheels were conspicuous as the only part
of the turnout that was in anything like good condition. Half the
decking had vanished, and the youthful passengers plucked at the
saltbush and Mitchell grass through the gaps; the loosened railing
swung from side to side, adding to the din made by the bumping of loose
planks and the rattling of bolts that had lost their legitimate
occupation by the shedding of the first decking. The pace was not hair-
raising, except when the carriage dropped into a gully, when everybody
bounced and grabbed at their hats.

The arrival at the neighbour's house was announced by a stentorian
"Whey!" The whip was leaned carefully against a stump, and the human
cargo climbed out over the wheels or dropped down behind. Bill produced
his smoking paraphernalia from a huge leather pouch at his belt, and
approached the house filling his pipe. He sat on the verandah with his
friend, and yarned while the women gossiped inside, and the children
careered about the paddock like howling lunatics. Now and again the
babble was momentarily checked by a peremptory "Whey!" as the waiting
oxen became impatient. Dinner was interrupted intermittently by similar
admonitions. They departed early, the juvenile members of the combined
families loading the dray to its utmost capacity, and the women walking
ahead for a mile or so, when they sat on a log for a final gossip till
the express caught up.

But the coach was rolling on.

Miles farther down, the road we passed a horse and cart also laden with
a family in holiday attire. They had been shopping, as we inferred from
the fact that "mother" was trying new boots on the second eldest, and
looking at the number. As a means of enjoying a drive, the turnout
wasn't a howling success; but it got along with more celerity than the
other, and there was less risk of a passenger dropping through the
floor, or rolling out through the dilapidated railings and getting
lost.

Towards evening we met the up-coach. On the box seat sat a thin,
bedraggled, ferocious looking female. She gave the order to pull up, at
the same time signalling with a folded gingham to our driver to do the
same.

"Have you seen him?" she asked the latter.

"No, missus."

"Heard anything of him?"

"Not a word."

"Did you inquire?"

"Yes."

"Did you keep a lookout?"

"I did."

"Have you any men inside?"

"Three."

"I'll have a look at them. 'Tisn't as I doubt yer word, but I don't
feel so satisfied if I let a man go by without inspectin' him."

She climbed down, and, shuffling across to our conveyance, thrust her
head in, and subjected each of us in turn to a close scrutiny. Then she
said in a loud, harsh voice;

"Excuse me; do any of you gentlemen 'appen to know a man be the name of
George Pyzer?"

None of us had the honour of his acquaintance.

"You haven't heard of him?"

We hadn't.

"I hope I'm not on the wrong track," she mused, as she returned
disappointedly to her seat. "If I am, 'twill be all the worse for Pyzer
when I do get hold of him."

We elicited from our driver at the next gate that Mr. Pyzer was her
"lawful wedded 'usband," who had left her two years ago for the
shearing sheds. Advertisements to the effect that information
concerning his whereabouts would be gladly received by his anxious wife
being unfruitful, she had set out to find him, travelling by coach or
other vehicle when she could get a lift, and determinedly tramping when
nothing else availed.

Night had fallen, and we rocked and dozed in the coach as it lumbered
on towards the next "change." Only the rattling of the wheels and
chains, the voice of the driver and the swish of his whip broke the
silence of the great western plains. Suddenly the coach pulled up, and
simultaneously the blaze of a camp fire flashed upon us. We thrust our
heads out eagerly to investigate.

Around the fire, on tucker boxes and other campware, sat two women and
a couple of youths. Behind them were two tilted carts, and on either
side of the fire two or three beds spread out on the grass. In the
latter were several children, some of them sitting up and rubbing their
eyes; the others sleeping on undisturbed by the noise of our arrival.
They were two families the heads of which met the coach as it drew up
and received some mail from the driver.

"Have a drink of tea." said one of the men.

The driver accepted the invitation; and as he stood by the fire
regaling himself with tea and brownie, we slipped out of the coach and
walked on to stretch our legs. We had covered half a mile before the
coach overtook us.

"You see me take a rise out of Paddy," said the overseer.

He picked up a stick, and stepping forward as the coach swung round the
bend, where we waited, yelled out: "Bail up!"

The result was startling. Instead of pulling up, Paddy snatched out a
revolver and fired, then flogged his horses into a gallop, and
disappeared with a great clatter round a scrubby ridge.

The overseer had dropped with fright. We thought he was shot. When we
picked him up and ascertained that he was unhurt, we said earnestly it
was a great pity he wasn't shot.

We rushed down the road, cooeeing our hardest. But it was no use; Paddy
was making all speed away from the desperadoes. The mail-change was two
miles ahead, and our only hope of getting on board again was to
overtake the coach before it left that place. We had to stretch our
legs now to some purpose. When we kicked against a root, or dropped
unexpectedly into a hole, we stretched our whole bodies along the road.
Here and there we lost valuable minutes looking for our hats. Still we
found time to say a lot to the overseer.

"You fellows are never satisfied," he growled. "When you were in the
coach you were grumbling about the monotony."

"This is getting infernally monotonous, anyway," Mr. Muggs panted as he
stumbled and lost his hat again. "How far have we come?"

"One mile. I should reckon."

"Is that all. I thought we'd come nine."

A few minutes later we saw lights ahead. We kept our eyes on two small
red discs that stood close together a little way from the white lights,
all ready to give a concerted yell if they moved. They were the rear
lights of our coach.

However, it was a refreshment place, so we had plenty of time. But we
were too late for refreshments. Paddy and the groom were putting the
horses in.

"Hulloa!" said the former, innocently, "where have you fellows been?"

"Walking the blinded road we paid you to carry us over," Mr. Muggs
replied, with feeling. "What did you drive away for?"

"I didn't know you'd got out," said the driver.

"Did you see the bushrangers?" asked our of the box seat lady
passengers.

The ladies were still excited.

"This is the bushranger," said Mr. Muggs, pointing to the crestfallen
overseer. "Better put him in fetters; he might break out again."

Paddy eyed the culprit up and down, while the ladies stepped back with
indignant looks.

"You mean to tell me," said Paddy, "that it was this man who tried to
hold up the coach to-night?"

"Hold up your grandmother!" sneered the overseer. "I held up a stick
and called out to you to pull up so we could get aboard again." He
turned with a flourish of his arms to the bystanders. "And what does he
do?" he continued, dramatically. "Hauls out his revolver and fires at
me! Then drives off as if Old Nick were after him."

Having turned the laugh against the driver, he added tragically:

"Might 'a shot me."

"Twould have served you right if I had," Paddy retorted. "I could have
you arrested for that caper."

"We'll fine him drinks all round, and let it go at that," Mr. Muggs
interposed.

"Hurry up, then," said Paddy.

As we went into the bar the other men wanted to know more about the
sticking up, but the overseer sidestepped that incident at once.

"What do you call that lot back at the fire?" he asked the driver.

"Fossickers from the Corner," Paddy replied. "Goin' to Menindie."

"I see," said the overseer. "Case of breaking up the happy home and
starting afresh in distant fields."

"No," said Paddy. "They're going down for a swim."

"For--a--swim!" the overseer exclaimed, incredulously.

"With a bit of boatin' and fishin'," the driver added.

The overseer was still incredulous.

"They've come over a hundred miles, and they've got another hundred to
do," he said musingly. "Pretty long step to go fishin' and swimmin',
isn't it."

"It's a long drag all right." Paddy admitted. "But it's about the
nearest point the Corner people have for a waterside holiday.
Picnicking alongside a tank or water hole isn't the same thing as
alongside a navigable river. The Darling is a new world to a lot of
those people. The youngsters, at least, have never seen a rowing boat,
let alone a steamer. Of course, they don't go down for a mere day or
two; they'll spend a couple of months there while they're at it."

"Providin' they don't get stuck up by a bushranger," added Mr. Muggs,
which unkind remark raised a general laugh against the overseer just
when he was beginning to feel well again.

The coach driver saved him from further humiliation.

"Now, then, all aboard!"

CHAPTER XII.
Holidaying on the Darling--The River of Rest.

Seasiders, with their alluring wave lapped beaches, were accustomed to
consider such places as Boarke and Hay and Booligal as synonymous with
heat and dust and flies; to think of the Darling as an unreliable
stream that wound along for thousands of miles through monotonous
plains; to picture the country as dreary and lifeless, especially in
mid-summer, when the haze played weird tricks with all animate and
inanimate objects, and mirages mocked the traveller.

Yet scores of families spent their Christmas vacation on the banks of
that historic stream. They hailed from farther out--from Tongowoko,
Delalah, Thouleanna, Yantara, Marara, Mootwingee, Yungnulgra,
Yancowinna, and other western counties. It was only in wet seasons that
boating any where in that corner was possible; in fact, a boat of any
kind there was a curiosity; while a swim was a luxury to most.

The only public watering place for these far inlanders was the Darling
River. Some of them had to travel more than 500 miles to reach it. As
the journey had to be accomplished on horseback, in the mail coach, in
a shanghai or other vehicle, the trip was not made every year; a great
many only knew one such trip in a lifetime, and not a few of them never
got there at all. The floating population, such as shearers, were up
and down frequently; and squattage hands and others who had no family
cares made light of the journey. Families from town and squattage,
seeking change from the far western atmosphere, usually went to Broken
Hill, and thence by train to Adelaide. That meant, roughly, another 350
miles' travelling. To people of small means the Darling River offered
far more advantages.

Crowds went from the Silver City for a camp on its banks in preference
to the southern capital. Being much nearer, they travelled in drays,
vans, tilted carts, and any other vehicle available; the mail coach,
trip after trip, was packed inside and out; whilst numbers of the
miners lightheartedly shouldered tent and blanket, and tramped the
distance. The majority used the quicker motor car service, which
considerably shortened the journey; for, whereas the coach trip
occupied about 14 hours, the motor car travelled across in about five
hours.

To all of them it was a glorious change. The old, dull road was
enlivened by joyous excursionists, particularly where many clustered at
the night camps by some well known waterhole, the big camps at times
being reminiscent of the gold rushes. In these country places everybody
knew everybody else, and they knew people from hundreds of miles back
in consequence of miners in slack times going out shearing, and bush
workers joining the miners when nothing else was available. In the
festive season mates and families arranged to start away at the same
time, so that there was jovial company on the road and merriment in the
night camps. There was plenty of music, and dancing under the trees in
the moonlight was a not uncommon diversion. Songs were sung by men and
women, while the intervals were filled by gossip and yarns and the
merry gambolling of children.

Everybody was up early, for eager, excited children, together with the
chatter of birds, didn't permit much sleep in the daylight hours. Most
of them slept in the open, for on warm, fine nights there was no need
for any covering. Some of the elders used a tent or fly; the majority
were content to spread out behind a temporary screen, so that it was
necessary to "awake and arise" as soon as there was a stir in the camp.
While one lot was hunting up and harnessing horses, another was making
fires and boiling billies, the youngsters cheerfully running about, and
gathering wood; a third contingent was rolling up the tents and beds
and preparing for breakfast. Through it all there was frolic and fun,
for it was wholly a company of travellers on pleasure bent, to many of
whom the life on the road was novel. Then on the move again, numbers of
them walking and playing along the way until the sun got too hot and
legs began to tire. An early halt was made for lunch, and they rested
through the hottest part of the day to save the horses. When they
reached the river they were met by others who had preceded them; here,
too, they met old friends and mates from other parts of the State, who,
around the camp fires at night and in the shade of the trees by day,
talked over their days on the diggings, in the mines and the sheds, on
the runs and the overland. They pitched their tents near the water; in
a good grassy bend, there would at time be a fair sized calico
township.

The Darling River always struck me as being the River of Rest. No other
stream in N.S.W. was so much treasured by the floating population as a
camping place. Besides the occasional holiday-makers and the swagmen
and workmen who spent part of the summer in the bends, there were
whalers and old men who lived always there. These latter shifted up and
down, though a few, if wood held out, stuck to the same spot. They
didn't like to see their old river turned into a pleasure resort. The
coming of crowds, growing bigger and bigger each season, marked a
change of great purport to them. It had been their quiet abiding place
for years; a peaceful retreat where they could keep themselves
comfortably and do as they pleased. The holiday crowd changed the whole
aspect of the old home, bringing modernity suddenly into the heart of
the wilds. They hunted and fished on what the old whaler had come to
regard as his preserves; they used up in a week the firewood that he
had estimated would last him a year.

There was plenty of room along the Darling; but the old hands were not
used to town allotments, or even small paddocks; they had been used to
ten-mile blocks at least. If they could see the next house above them,
or the next tent below them, they began to feel crowded. Taking into
account the whole of the great waterway, part of which is called the
Murray, part the Darling, part the Macintyre, and part the Dumaresq; it
is one of the four longest rivers in the world, so that the pleasure-
seekers from the north-west corner did not use a very great portion of
its vast length. If the entire population of the Corner had spread
itself along the banks of the Darling section the old whaler would
still have had room to swing his rod without knocking the next man's
hat off. But he was looking into the future, when trains would run from
Menindie to Broken Hill; from Bourke to Hungerford; from Cobar to
Wilcannia; then excursionists would be conveyed there in thousands from
districts on both sides of the stream. There were 35,000 people in
Broken Hill alone; railways, locks, and irrigation schemes would plant
settlers as thickly on the rich western lands, as irrigation had
planted them at Mildura, Renmark, and other places lower down the
Murray--areas that were once regarded as hopeless, and which were now
the great fruit-producing centres of South Australia. The land in the
northwest would grow anything, the greater part of it being among the
richest in Australia; it only wanted water, and the River of Rest would
one day supply it, and at the same time become the busiest pleasure
resort away from the coast. The old whaler sighed when he thought of
that time, for the stream that harboured the black bream and fat cod
would then no longer be the River of Rest.

The spots most frequented lay along the western shore between Wilcannia
and Menindie, centralising about the latter place--the nearest river
town to Broken Hill. To western children it was paradise regained. Many
of them on arrival there saw a river for the first time; the majority
of them had no experience of angling. They were all equipped with
tackle, for cod, bream and other fish could be caught there in
abundance in all seasons; and their amateurish attempts at first at
casting and landing provoked snorts of disgust from the old whaler,
whilst their ecstasy on landing the first few fish provided the
ancients with a fund of new jokes. The visitors partly kept themselves
in food with their lines during their holiday. They fished for that
purpose, and for the pleasure of it; and many carried away with them to
their far-back homes enough smoked, salted and pickled fish to last
them for months afterwards.

The guns were not idle either, for there were ducks, pigeons, parrots,
and plain turkeys to be had. There the galahs and corellas and the
dainty little quarrians gathered in screeching flocks, their pinks, and
greys and whites flashing in the light of the setting sun as they
swooped and wheeled over the water and across the plains, forming a
delightful picture. In fair seasons those plains were covered with
flagrant flowers, miles upon miles of beautiful blooms, where the
children revelled, and from which they gathered armsful to decorate
their tent and cubby houses.

Two floral notables that were at home thereabouts were the Desert Peas
and the Darling Pea. The latter, despite its attractiveness, was
regarded as a pest by stockowners on account of the maddening effect it
was said to have on horses that ate it. "Darling pea" was a
colloquialism outback for madness. It was applied to any eccentric
person, to one who was something of a fool, or was weak in the
intellect, or "barmy." The superstition left the flower alone, for
there was a saying that anyone who picked it would not get away from
the river for seven years. The Darling Lily was another distinguished
flower. From the bulbs of this plant an excellent arrowroot was
obtained, the product being readily sold in Wileannia and thereabout in
times of stress. When carriage in bad seasons made flour expensive, or
delivery of supplies was delayed, the Darling Lily was valuable, and in
much request.

Morning and evening the visitors swam in the river, while rowing-boats,
house-boats and motor launches assisted in making the days enjoyable.
Steamers and barges passed up and down, and these, too, were availed of
by many of the campers for a trip up or down the river--when there was
an opportunity of getting back by another steamer in the time desired
by the camper. The steamers travelled on for days, generally tying up
at night; so that one could put in his whole vacation on the river trip
if he wished.

Old Bill Hodge, who made a bit of money on White Cliffs opal fields,
built himself a boat out of an old punt. It was half-decked, had
lockers, oars and a sail, and was roofed with canvas for three parts of
its length. His wife had often remarked in a vague way that she would
like a trip. She never said where to, or what sort of a trip; but when
this notion took shape, and he announced that they would go lazing down
the river for a change, it suited her and the three youngsters better
than anything. They took in a supply of provisions, shooting requisites
and fishing tackle, and one early morning they embarked, to drift and
row and sail for a week for rest and pleasure and adventure.

Theirs was not a proper houseboat. There was room enough for all to
loll about in while the boat was under weigh; but there was no room for
beds or for a table. That didn't matter; only on a wet day did they
find the shortcomings of the craft inconvenient. Some firewood was
stowed on board on the approach of rain, and a fire to boil the billy
was made in an oil drum stood on a shovelful of sand. The wet they
encountered was merely fleeting storms, which were more welcome than
otherwise; only the banks and the bush were damped with rain. The elder
children fished from the stern, the mother sat under the awning sewing
or reading, while father rowed or sailed, with a gun ready beside him
for game. When negotiating some of the long bends in the late afternoon
the children went ashore, and played and hunted about the bush till the
boat came round. Across the necks of some of those bights it was only a
few minutes' walk, while it was miles round by water. Sometimes the
mother went with them, strolling through a pleasant and fragrant
forest, where flocks of parrots made merry among the boughs.

At night they tied up and made their beds on shore. The beds had merely
to be thrown down and spread, and in the morning rolled up and stowed
on board again. A big campfire was made, and here father initiated them
into the bush art of making damper and brownie, items in themselves
which made a relishable change from ordinary diet. Fish and game
figured on the menu as often as they desired, which helped to cheapen
their picnic trip. It was a continuous picnic, never wearisome nor
monotonous. Steamers passed up now and again, heavily laden for the far
interior, and barges went twisting downstream piled with wool. Smiling
homesteads scattered along the shores; little townships now and again,
with woodmen's depots and whalers' camps between, and the ever changing
scenery of plain and forest and scrub and hill, with hunting and
fishing and little adventures on the way, kept them interested.

The Corner people knew their river's history, though they saw it
seldom; and many of the spots where they camped have an interest or
account of their association with some important event in the long
past. Many are remembered in connection with Captain Sturt; and there
are old camps of other explorers and of early overlanders. From
Menindie the ill-fated Burke and Wills expedition set out for the Gulf.
Their camel driver, who died there, was buried on the outskirts of the
town. Menindie was then an hotel and a store on the river bank. Burke
and party spelled there for six months, waiting for rain to carry them
to Koopa Creek. They left on October 19, 1860, with 12 camels and a
local guide, who accompanied them for 200 miles. They were well-
provisioned, yet died miserably of starvation on Koopa Creek in June,
1861. It was told by old blacks on the Koopa that a camel which was
carrying the explorers' rifles and blankets broke away from them
between the Depot and Lake Coongee, and was lost. This would explain
how the party came to perish in a district where game has always been
very plentiful, parrots and pigeons especially being found there in
myriads, for Burke, Wills and King knew about as much bushcraft as a
new arrival, and without firearms they would be stranded. Six years
later, W. Maiden, of Menindie, with two mates, rode over almost the
same track to within 180 miles of the Gulf, when they turned off to the
Cape River diggings. Over one stage of 400 miles they had only their
three horses and their guns, and they got through quite comfortably,
living on what the wilds provided.

CHAPTER XIII.
Bogeying in the Bush.

Most of those people who lived where only an occasional bogey in a
waterhole or tank could be indulged in were fair swimmers. In that
region the ability to swim might seem an unnecessary accomplishment;
but there were times when dwellers and travellers there found
themselves surrounded by miles of water, from which the only possible
way of escape was by alternately wading and swimming. Travellers were
often caught by sudden floods, and if they were in a low position they
had to swim to higher ground, which might be far enough away to occupy
them the best part of a day. Trees afforded them rest, and not
infrequently they were forced to spend a night in one. A person who was
unable to swim might be imprisoned on a small island for days or weeks.
Besides being faced with starvation, he had the unwelcome company of
innumerable insects and reptiles that sought refuge there from the
flood.

In those parts floods were usually crossed on horseback. Men who could
not swim did not hesitate to put their horses into fairly wide streams.
Women and girls also crossed flooded creeks in this way. Drovers in wet
weather were frequently intercepted by floods, through which they had
to swim, and stockmen when mustering on some runs, especially when
shifting stock in rainy seasons, had much swimming to do. A good
waterman, when the water was wide and the current strong, would slip
out of the saddle and hang on either by the horse's main or by its tail
to give the animal a better chance. There were times also when the
traveller, on turning out in the morning, found his horses cut off from
his camp by a wide stretch of deep water, and if he was unable to swim
he had to run the risk of losing them altogether.

On the mid-eastern tidal rivers, when we knew them in their natural
glory, it was hard to find any among the native-born who could not
swim. Bogeying was one of the principal delights of both men and women.
The passenger on the river steamer saw many groups enjoying themselves
every day in the week. Some of the men had a horse to add to the
amusement, three or four mounting it bareback and riding it in; some
had a buoyant leg, a springboard or other accessories. At public
schools that were close to a river, or near lagoons and creeks the boys
bogeyed in the dinner hour. They loved the water wherever they were;
and in the far inlands they would go out into the rain to revel in a
shower bath from the clouds.

It is strange that a man who has not been taught to swim has not even
the dog's instinct to paddle. Throw a dog into water, and though it has
never been wet before it will quite easily swim ashore. It holds its
nose too high, and makes a great splash with its front paws at first,
but it soon gets out of that. It uses its feet in the same way as it
does on land, and if a man who had not learnt the art of swimming were
to kick a "paw" in similar fashion, he, too, could save himself in the
majority of cases. Fear of the water and the want of a little presence
of mind accounts for most drownings. It almost amounts to fatalism, for
man is about the only animal on earth that sinks when he falls in.
Considering that the uninitiated human has more reasoning powers than a
cow or a horse, one might reasonably expect him to do at least as well
as either of those animals at the first attempt. But the quadrupeds
simply leave him nowhere. A cow, driven into river or sea, will swim
miles at the first asking, and no one can say that she is better fitted
by nature for aquatic exercises than man is.

Many of the newchums learnt to swim, and many of the early settlers who
could not swim themselves taught their children the art, in a way that
showed how much fear had to do with drowning. The teacher remained
safely on good solid bank, where there was no danger of his slipping
in. A rope was fastened round under the arms of the pupil, and the
latter, knowing that he could be quickly hauled ashore at any moment,
jumped boldly in and put up a really good performance. He kept afloat
some of the time, and even made progress in the water; whereas, without
the confidence that rope gave him, he would have sunk and drowned. The
aborigines thereabouts taught their piccaninnies to swim by throwing
them into the water, and leaving them struggling awhile before going
after them. A lubra, too, swam with a child on her back, now and again
diving from under it or shaking it off.

The man who taught me to swim couldn't swim a stroke himself, and he
had such a dread of deep water that nothing could induce him to make an
attempt. He was successful us a teacher, though the pupil wasn't
enthusiastic over his first experiments. He obtained two bladders from
the butcher, each when blown up about the size of a regulation
football, one of which he fastened to each of my ankles. He assured me
that these balloons would keep me afloat. I was only about 10 years old
then, and on being told to jump, I jumped with confidence. When those
windbags struck the water they bounced, and I dived involuntarily and
precipitately. Nor could I get my head up again, for my feet were
buoyed in the surface. The teacher had told me to call out "pull" when
I wanted to get out. I wanted to get out very badly, but I could only
make distress signals with my heels. Instead of being life-savers,
those floaters were an impediment--they were suicidal. When he did pull
I was too nearly asphyxiated to take any further lessons on that day.

Still he was not satisfied that the floaters were a failure. He next
fastened them under my arms with several yards of twine. When I jumped
the twine broke in several places, and the floaters slapped me hard
against the ears. They bobbed around in the way all the time, an
aggravating nuisance. On being hauled out and relieved of them, I
cheerfully agreed to go in anywhere with only the rope on. These
floaters held more terrors for me than the river did. I also resolved
to get rid of the teacher as early as possible. I did not meditate
drowning him; but after three more lessons I swam that river to and fro
without any assistance. It was a hard task; I would sooner have walked
a long way round; but as I scrambled breathlessly to the bank he said,
"You'll do." and retired.

CHAPTER XIV.
Shopping in Town and Country.

There was a little shopping to do as an occasional diversion. Most of
the visitors to the townships found more pleasure in spending their
surplus cash than they had known in making it. They had saved it up to
spend, and in spending it they enjoyed themselves.

In little country towns the centres of interest are the pub and the
store. Most travellers and holiday-makers have some business to do at
one or both, especially after a long journey; and very often the pub
and the store depend largely for custom on the moving population. While
the old man sometimes has a lot of business to engage him at the pub,
his wife has a jamboree among the laces and ribbons and the new
season's hats at the "general store."

Shopping in these remote parts is not the pleasant recreation and a
sort of fancy show that the city woman makes of it. The latter can
spend half a day buying a reel of cotton and a scrubbing-brush, which
she instructs the perspiring shopman she wants delivered at her address
next day without fail. She has an enjoyable run in tram or boat, has a
look round other shops, pricing a lot of things she has no intention of
buying: has afternoon tea, meets a friend or two, and has an
interesting gossip about a thousand things of no importance; all
incidental to the purchasing of the cotton and the scrubbing-brush. And
when she gets home she discovers that she wanted a packet of hairpins
as well. That, of course, makes another shopping-day. The outing
invariably includes a growl at the Tramway Commissioners, since there
is not a continuous stream of trams to obviate the annoyance of a
couple of minutes' waiting; a denunciation of the municipal authorities
for not having the footpaths like billiard tables; and complaints about
the weather, which is too dry or too wet or too cold or too hot.

In the lonesome regions we had been travelling the women did things
differently, and took their roads and their weather more
philosophically. One could note their ways conveniently in towns of the
dimensions of Menindie. The surrounding residents usually came in to do
their shopping on a Saturday. Not every Saturday; perhaps once a month,
perhaps once only in three months. They wanted things between times,
but unless it was something very urgent they managed without them "till
they went to town" at about the regular period.

You would see a family vehicle drive in; it might be a buggy, a
waggonette, a spring cart, or a heavy horse dray; and in it an old
couple and half a dozen, children. They drove to the hotel, where they
had dinner. Afterwards they repaired in a body to the store. It was
always called a store, not a shop. There the whole family, from the
youngest to the eldest, were fitted with boots and hats, and provided
with new Sunday suits. They had lots of things to buy for house and
field, and the missus was still buying while the old man fetched the
vehicle round and commenced to load up. But they were not hard to
please, and in a couple of hours they had got all they wanted. Besides
the load in the dray, nearly everybody was carrying something; every
pocket in their clothes was crammed, and the children, immensely proud
with all their new possessions, and enjoying themselves miserably in a
strange place and among strange faces, were eating lollies and
biscuits. They started for home about mid-afternoon, and when you were
told they had a dozen or twenty miles to go you knew they would be
driving till long after dark.

Another visitor was a woman on horseback. She did not go to the hotel
but rode into a little yard at the back of the store, where the
storekeeper, if he wasn't attending to a customer at the time, met her
and acted as groom. When she had done shopping he strapped her bundle
on to the saddle, stuffed sundry small articles into the saddle-pouch,
helped her on, and handed up several more parcels, which she carried in
her hands. She had a good load from the store, and sometimes she had a
baby to carry in front of her as well. She had a long ride, in the
course of which she had to open and shut two or three gates, and
dismount three or four times at sliprails. At these places she hung her
loose parcels on a post before she got off, and gathered them up after
she had mounted again. Sliprails on bush tracks were seldom light and
handy, and often there was an ugly puddle hole where they were let
down. The equestrienne was naturally dead tired after her day's
shopping.

Other women came in singly, driving in a buggy or sulky, which pulled
up in front of the store. The driver did her shopping, the storekeeper
packed her purchases in the vehicle, and the customer drove away down
the winding road, and disappeared among the trees. From the same
direction came a woman on foot, accompanied by a couple of children.
They had walked four or five miles, and bye-and-bye, all loaded up with
parcels, you saw them set out from the store on the return journey. The
mother enjoined this one and that one to mind they didn't drop
anything, and now and again they sat down on a log for a spell. There
were stops also to do up parcels that had come undone, and waitings for
the youngest, who dropped farther and farther in the rear as the last
weary miles were covered. There was not much pleasure in shopping for
those people; all the joy was in the store, and when the parcels were
opened at home. The trip itself was too laborious to go into raptures
over. The exertion of shopping left no craving for an early repetition
of the experience.

There was a spice of novelty, if there was less convenience, in the
shopping by the riverside, where the floating store, trading up and
down the river, tied up to the bank for a day or an afternoon to do
business with people living in the vicinity. This store naturally found
most customers away from towns, so it moored at regular intervals at
places that were convenient to a few scattered settlers. A farmhouse, a
squattage homestead, a timber-getter's or wood cutters' camp, and a
wayside hotel, were usual depots. There was seldom a wharf at any of
these places. The steamer was tied to a tree, a plank was thrown down,
and customers filed on board to do their shopping. The captain stood
behind the counter where general merchandise was served out; his wife
or daughter attended to the women in the drapery department, and the
mate acted as general rouseabout. He got the kerosene and the potatoes
and onions. The floating store saved a lot of travelling for a
scattered public and brought distant neighbours together, which gave a
zest to shopping.

CHAPTER XV.
Broken Hill.

Whether you arrived by day or night, in rain or shine, you heard Broken
Hill before you saw it. Its vital organs, the batteries and mills at
the mines, were always thumping. Though the city, which was clustered
on two flats, separated and hidden one from the other by the big silver
hill, had a population of 35,000, you could hear its heart-beats when
you had left it all behind. If its battering throbs stopped for a
night, the people couldn't sleep. They missed the noise. Likewise, the
whole business of their lives was regulated by the shift whistle. They
got up by it, they had their meals by it and they went to bed by it. It
was their time-keeper.

It was Paddy Green, of Menindie, who made the first discovery of silver
lead ore on the Harrier. That was in 1876, in the vicinity of
Thackaringa. Seven years later Charlie Rasp, who was employed as a
boundary rider on Mount Gipps, struck the first colour at Broken Hill,
then part of Mount Gipps run. He had the veteran prospector's eye for
likely places, and by means of his inveterate habit of fossicking here
and there while on his lonely rides among the rocky, mulga covered
ridges, the world's greatest silver mine was located. From these
inhospitable looking hills, with bleak and barren surroundings,
millions of ounces of silver were exported annually to India, China and
Japan, besides large quantities of lead and zinc concentrates to
England and Europe. Copper, gold, antimony and other minerals were also
obtained from the same sources, but the principal wealth of the mines
was in silver and lead. It was practically the output of this one rich
field that placed Australia fourth on the list of the world's pig-lead
producers.

For a big place the Silver City was as dull at ditch-water. Its,
streets were nearly always empty; when half the miners were at work the
other half were asleep; but on Saturday nights everybody got up, when
the main business part of Argent-street became thronged with sturdy,
good-natured, fellows who looked more like "gentlemen of means" than
hard-working miners. Working much of their time underground, their
complexions were unspoilt, their eyes unaffected by hot sun and wind
whirling dust. The bachelors, who stayed at hotels, went out in the
morning as though they were going to see their best girls; they came
back near sundown looking as though they were expecting company for
tea: and the stranger wouldn't have guessed that they had been toiling
in the mines in the interval. Before going to bed they put their boots
outside the door to be polished for them to go to work in.

Though unattractive to the visitor in its calm moments, when the male
population was divided between bed and mine, Broken Hill was never
dead. It was a revolutionary town that woke up every now and again and
did things that gave Capital the nightmare. It was a world leader, with
its co-operative stores, co-operative bakeries, co-operative bootshops,
and other cooperative concerns, whose object was to give the workers
the full results of their industry. It was the only place where the
people had struck against the price of bread being lowered. When we
arrived one of the hotels was being boycotted because it had lowered
the price of beer. The property had depreciated in value; grim ruin was
hovering about the doorstep, for the thirstiest pedestrian wouldn't be
seen going in there. The beer was too cheap. Ere long the price was
raised again, and business returned. It was a union town. If you were
struck on a Broken Hill girl, you had to show that you were a financial
unionist before you would have any hope of getting her. Girls had
struck work, and walked out of the hotels when the licensees permitted
non-unionists to remain on the premises. Here a Mayor of the
municipality has presided at strike meetings, and municipal officials
have marched through the streets with the strikers.

It was the most democratic city in existence, the capital of a big
territory that was peopled with men and women of the all Australian
principle. Having the borders of three States at their doors, and
passing to and fro for shearing, droving, mining, and bush work, they
recognised no divisions. Officially and territorially they were New
South Walers; commercially and in their local sympathies they were
South Australians. That was natural, since Adelaide was their nearest
seaport, being distant only 344 miles by rail, whereas Sydney was 725
miles away in a straight line, and twice that distance by rail. Most of
the mining trade went to Pirie; that South Australian town, in fact,
was almost wholly supported by the mines. The bulk of the vegetables
consumed by the miners was gown in the same State; and in drought time
they also got their water supply from that quarter, the precious liquid
being conveyed by train, and carted from the railway station in tanks,
and casks, and carried in tubs and buckets.

During these rare periods, washing day supplied a striking lesson in
economy. The Sydney or Melbourne woman would think, after the family
washing had been put through a tub of water, that there was no further
use for the resultant dirty suds, except to pour at the root of a tree
in the garden. But the Broken Hill woman did not throw them away. She
cleared them with copi which could be picked up here and there all over
the north west corner; or with permanganate of potash; and the cleared
water was used again, perhaps several times over. Copi was also used
for clearing muddy water, obtained from small pools and dams, for
drinking and cooking purposes. Even in times of plenty Broken Hill
water presented difficulties not met with elsewhere. The sand blown
from the dumps was laden with acids and particles of lead, and had a
peculiar effect on water caught near the mines. Soap would only
dissolve in it when it was cold. If any soap got into the copper, even
through insufficient rinsing, as soon as the water got hot the soap
formed into tough, rubber-like lumps that stuck tenaciously to clothes
and copper. When the blue-bag was used in the ordinary way, the blue
went straight to the bottom, leaving the water unchanged. To overcome
this difficulty soap extract and blue were dissolved together in a
little unmineralised water, which was then stirred into the tub.

The original name of the Hill was Willyama; the name given to the ugly
hump where the ores came from has replaced it by popular usage. In its
street nomenclature it set an excellent example for the little aldermen
who have a habit of naming thoroughfares and places after persons whom
most people know nothing about, and nobody but their intimate friends
want to remember; burdening often a place of beauty and interest with
an uncouth name that a conscientious man wouldn't give to his dog.
Broken Hill got a long start of the little aldermen, and thus its
streets are named Carbon, Argent, Cobalt, Garnet, Oxide, Bromide,
Chloride, Sulphide, Iodide, Crystal, Slag, Beryl, Graphite, Kaolin,
Talc, Gossan, Gypsum, Blendo, Mica, Nickel, Wolfram, Bismuth, Galona,
&c.

The bulk of the population being mine workers, their homes, which are
mostly built on leases, are not imposing; and they come and go and
shift about with more frequency than in other places. When one was
leaving, his house and furniture were sold, but not the ground. The
purchaser, having a block of his own, removed the house. Sometimes a
man removed from a distant block to one nearer the mines, in which case
he took his residence with him. A good many put up huts near the foot
of the mines, which were in the centre of the city, and as the dump
encroached on their allotments, they had to shift too. People were used
to seeing cottages travelling about there, leaving gaps in one street
and filling vacancies in another. Buildings were also drawn up to the
auction mart and sold. I saw three standing side by side on trucks at
one auction mart, each large enough to accommodate an average family.
People were climbing up and passing through them, examining the rooms.
Two of them were sold, and were delivered to the purchasers when
required like any other goods.

There was also a distraint for rent sale. The A. M. A. had previously
carried a resolution "That members be notified and asked to be present
for the purpose of trying to prevent any person purchasing goods and
chattels." About 200 people rolled up, a majority of whom were women.
The sale lasted about 10 minutes, and realised about 10s; nothing that
was put up, from a clock to a suite of furniture, bringing more a
shilling. The monotonous "bob" bid came from one man, who subsequently
handed the goods and chattels back to the original owners.

Accommodation was not easy to get. The hotel upon which we conferred
our valuable patronage let its rooms by the week to miners. The rooms
were always occupied, the night shifts sleeping there through the day,
and the day shifts at night. This was not a convenience to the casual
lodger; in fact, the casual lodger wasn't wanted at our hotel. We were
admitted only on giving a solemn promise, so that we wouldn't stay
long; and we were permitted to have our meals there on the same
understanding, and as a great personal favour. All but three of the
regular lodgers got their meals at the restaurants. I don't know how
the trio obtained this tremendous consideration, unless they were
related to the family, or intended to be. "Apartments to let and grog
to sell" summed up the whole business of hotel keeping. Any expansion
was undertaken grudgingly, boarders being particularly objectionable.
They disturbed the sleeping miners. We felt like intruders. We were
unwelcome guests. Even the buoyant overseer who could adapt himself to
most circumstances, slunk in and out; and Mr. Muggs, who always made
friends with the girls wherever he went, never got beyond a deferential
"good morning" here. He made a valiant attempt once or twice at the
beginning, but the girl's eyes seemed to say, "You are making
unnecessary work for me by staying here; why don't you buy a house?"
And he froze. They went about with a mind-you-don't-wake-the-baby air,
those girls. We got into that habit, too. We tiptoed in and out of our
room; we talked in whispers, and when we took our boots off we put them
down as though they were glass. If we were out late we took them off at
the bottom of the stairs, and sneaked up in our socks, each cautioning
the other to "be careful, baby's asleep."

"I can't make this out," said the overseer one morning. "There's
something incongruous about it. All that infernal clatter at the mines
day and night doesn't disturb these fellows a bit; yet if we only walk
about near their rooms they complain. Can't sleep for the row.
'Struth!"

"It's, second nature," Mr. Muggs replied. "The sound of the stampers
and crushers is as the droning of waters to them, and any noise that
doesn't happen regularly is out of harmony. If you fell downstairs, for
instance, say, once a week, the bump you'd make would be a discord; but
if you went falling down continuously that noise would come to
harmonise with the other, and pretty soon they wouldn't sleep unless
you were bumping."

The show piece of the place was the unsightly pile known as the Big
Mine, and its two principal features of interest to us were the open
cut and the registered crowd. When you saw the landslides and rocks
hurtling down the broken sides every now and then, and the men dropping
their tools and running for safety, those far up the slopes sliding
away, spider-like, on hands and feet, the Open Cut struck you as a fine
place to keep out of. All the same, we went down, and when we had got
to the bottom the overseer remarked: "What a fine tank it would make!"
Several big rocks just then broke loose near the top and came whizzing
down. "But," he added, starting to run, "it looks better from the top."

The registered crowd were those who were waiting for a job. Their
names, together with the kind of work they wanted, were listed in the
company's books, and when new hands were wanted the names were called
over from the office verandah until the required number of men had
answered. The names of absentees, unless someone else answered for
them, were separated out and re-entered at the bottom of the list.
Twice only was this done with each name; the third time it was struck
of the register. Generally the roll was called when the shifts were
changing; but there were so many accidents and other emergencies that
it was likely to be called at any time in the day or night. So there
was always a crowd waiting about. Some brought their lunches; some
brought their blankets, especially when they knew their names were near
the top of the list. One old fellow, whom we found lunching among the
rocks, said he had been waiting three weeks; but the "call" might come
at any minute now. His name was "top." We saw him again a couple of
hours later, when he was walking moodily homeward.

"My name was called to-day, as I expected," he told us, "an' hang me if
I wasn't dead asleep."

"That was hard luck after waiting three days."

"An' keepin' awake all the time," he rejoined. "We're like a pack o'
cards--always being shuffled. I was trumps this mornin', an' now I'm at
the bottom of the pack. I've a good mind to go shearin'."

Broken Hill was the end of the first section for us. Our travel
southward halted there for some weeks, during which time we sampled the
Mendindie trip and before returning to the Silver City lazed awhile on
the River of Rest.

CHAPTER XVI.
Seeing the Country--Lively Company--A Chap From Farrell's Flat.

It was something to have seen the biggest silver mine on earth; but
there was nothing else to see in Broken Hill--no parks or gardens, no
lakes or streams, only a dull, dusty town, with an environment of bleak
hills. We left it cheerfully; we did not even look back from the
windows for a last glimpse at its myriad lights as we rolled out on a
Sunday night. We thought only of making things comfortable for the 344
mile run to Adelaide, and training our voices back to their natural
pitch. It was a relief to trip over the carpet and not feel called upon
to apologise for the noise your head made against the wall, and to be
able to draw a cork without considering the pop of it.

When you have sampled many ways and means of getting elsewhere in the
great spaces of the interior, including rides on donkey back and camel
back, in shanghais, sulkies and waggonettes, in mail coaches, carts and
bullock-drays, per boot and per bike, you can appreciate a railway car
much more than when you come off a sea voyage, or have been used to
motoring on civilised roads. It is the most satisfactory way of
travelling when you have to cover long distances--but as a means of
seeing the country it is a dead failure.

Most oversea visitors whose object is a book on Australia stick to the
comfortable railroad, which accounts for the preponderance of false
impressions. The main scenery on a railway line is embankments,
interspersed with tunnels and long lines of heavy fences, the bleached
rails whereof invite you to try Killem's pills and to drink Hogg's
whisky.

From the seat of a vehicle you have a broad panorama spread around you
most of the time. On horseback you get in closer touch with it.
Travelling on a bike you see little but the track in front of you; like
the donkey, familiar to South Australian back-country roads, the wheel
required too much attention. The camel affords you a fine, lofty view--
well shaken as you take it. Perched among the elaborate trappings with
which the Centralian fits his riding camel, and enjoying a fragrant
cheroot, you might imagine yourself an Asiatic potentate, especially
when you find a little place called Jericho on your northern track. But
the best way of all to see the country and to absorb the scenery, and
all the local features and peculiarities, and to learn the habits and
character of the inhabitants, is per boot. There is no one living who
knows Australia more intimately than the swag man.

The express is different from an ordinary train. It is always in a
hurry, begrudging you five minutes to swallow a cup of tea: and people
rush it so that you are uncomfortably crowded. Furthermore, when you
leave your seats for refreshments, with no one in charge, you find them
jumped on your return, and you have to crush in somewhere else.

An experience of this sort introduced us to lively company about
midnight. Two volunteers bound for South Africa, and a long, dark-
bearded man in leggings were making merry on their way to Melbourne.
They had a bottle on board, besides which they had been nipping at
every hotel we touched at. They played cards for money on the seat,
"refreshed" between games,. disagreed about what was trumps, talked
louder and louder and more disrespectfully to each other, and at last
the long one in leggings and one of the khaki men got to blows. They
tumbled all over the rest of us, who soon mounted the seats, and they
pounded each other from one side of the carriage to the other--which
wasn't far. I think the carriage got the worst of the fight, which was
ended by a portmanteau, falling off the rack on to the long one, and
flattening him out. We helped him on to the platform at the next
station, and did the same kind action for his mates. Everyone in the
compartment seemed to be actuated by the one generous impulse; while
half of them assisted the disturbers to alight, the other half carried
their coats and bags out for them. They were quite overcome by so much
civility and kindness. Nobody assisted them in again.

We were far into the mid-State then, for Cockburn, where the border is
crossed, is only a short run from the Silver City. This place was
important, for border customs had not been abolished then. Travelling
from the north-west of New South Wales to the south-east of the same
State by train, you had to pass through three of them--at Cockburn,
Serviceton, and Albury, though the through passenger, by bonding all
luggage "not wanted on the voyage," had no bother anywhere. But he had
more anxiety when there was a break in the journey as at Adelaide and
Melbourne, for he wasn't allowed possession of his trunks unless he
went through the official formula.

This line stood over all for ticket-clipping. You began to wonder, as
puncture after puncture was made in your bit of cardboard, if there
would be enough of it to carry you through. The overseer made a study
of it. He counted the perforations each time to make sure that it had
really acquired a fresh brand, or had been merely struck in an old
puncture; and he would carefully spread out the ruin and estimate how
many more earmarks could be got on to it.

A simple old chap from Farrell's Flat used to slip his ticket inside
the top of his long boot for safety. When the marker came round he had
to take off his boot to get it; and as his memory was not very good he
mostly took the wrong one off first; and sometimes it got inside his
socks, which necessitated taking them off also. He was several times
threatened with violent expulsion; but he would meet the official's
impatient remonstrance's with a bland smile and a confident shake of
his head.

"Just hold on a bit, sonny." he would say; "it's about one o' me feet
somewhere, an' we'll round him up directly, you take it from me."

When he did round him up the official clipped it with a vengeful snap,
and banged the door afterwards with extra force.

The country was uninteresting, being for the most part low, stony
hills, covered with stunted growth, and great lonely, grey plains,
sprinkled with sheep and goats, and where kangaroos stood and watched
the passing train.

Right down to the busy junction town of Petersburg you traversed a big
belt of territory so densely populated that everybody's wells and
everybody's dams were marked on the map. More than half the places were
dams. We were in the Land of Dams. It was a good way of filling a map.
Queenslanders did the same; every squattage homestead, and many of the
outcamps--often only a boundary rider's humpy--were marked in their
proper latitudinal and longitudinal positions. It gave the territories
an appearance of being settled. The traveller heard frequent allusions
to The Corners by people living hundreds of miles away in four States;
and when he arrived there he found only a solitary post standing in a
wilderness of mulga. There was a similarly lonely mark on the south-
east coast which some people went into rapture over. It was only a
cairn of stones, marking the boundary of New South Wales and Victoria:
but there the coaster could be in both States at once. You could be in
more than that at The Corners; you could sleep in New South Wales,
Queensland, South Australia, and the Northern Territory at one and the
same time, by coiling up against the corner post. It was the only spot
in Australia where you could be in so many places at once.

CHAPTER XVII.
The Romance of Old Squattage Homesteads.

In most parts of Australia the chief squattage residences are the
oldest country homes. In the long stretches we were travelling, many of
them had stood as the only places for as long as the oldest inhabitant
could remember. So it was also in other parts. The buildings
themselves, in all cases, were not old; but the homesteads were, and
many relics remained of the earliest times, even when the main
dwellings had been replaced with new. Wrapped around every one was a
story full of incident and adventure, scraps of which were told from
time to time as the big runs were cut up for closer settlement. Old
hands dipped then into the half-forgotten history, recalling scenes and
episodes that were strange and romantic to the new generation; and
their reminiscences went back to the exciting days when the squattage
was formed; how they rode forth into the unknown west, in search of
grazing country, up and down creeks and rivers, and over hills and
mountains, making their fires at sunset, and quietly moving on for a
mile or two after tea to camp. This was done to dodge the blacks, who,
attracted by the blaze, would sometimes gather round with, perhaps,
hostile intentions to the invaders.

When the exploring was completed, and the new run decided upon, a line
was blazed for the guidance of teams taking out stores and tools, and
of the men going out with the first mobs of cattle. These had to be
tailed until they settled down on the new run, for watercourses and
mountains were the only boundaries; afterwards they had to be watched
to guard against disturbance by the blacks, who for ages had been
accustomed to kill what they liked in their own towri. They had to be
taught that the invaders had superior rights. Armed men rode about the
runs then on the lookout for cattle-spearing. The manager of
Wooroowoalgoh, on the Richmond River, while riding along a rise one
morning, chanced to look up as he drew close to a broad-topped wild
apple tree. The fine shadow it cast had taken his eye; but what he saw
aloft was disconcerting. Perched like birds among the limbs were a
score of naked blacks. All were armed, some sitting and some standing,
and everyone was as still and quiet as an ebon statue. What their
object was he did not stop to inquire. He rode straight home and gave
an order for the immediate ring barking of several hundred acres around
the homestead.

A few of the pioneers took timber with them for building; but when
hundreds of miles of trackless bush had to be covered, the distance
being increased by deviations in quest of crossings over water and
passages through rugged ranges, the majority preferred to produce all
their material on the spot. For a few months, therefore, they lived in
tents and bark humpies. Residences of split slabs and bark roof
followed, though some were well built with sawn timber, which was cut
in sawpits. Yulgilbar home, on the upper part of the Clarence River, is
a castle--the only one in Australia. Built in a wild and rocky region in
the days when settlements were few and far between, it was an imposing
structure.

In the central parts of the country stone and mud were much used for
building purposes. In Western Queensland are still found at this time a
main residence here and there constructed of mud and straw, whilst many
owners and managers were domiciled in slab and bark structures.
Currawilla, in the neighborhood of Windorah, had a wall eight feet high
and eight feet thick all round it, made of earth and tallow. This was
to keep back the flood waters that come down Farrar's Creek and spread
over miles of the surrounding country. In flood time the homestead was
a unique sight, lying low and dry in the midst of a swirling brown sea.
The floors of the dwellings were also made of earth and tallow. The
owner of this place, W. H. Watson, was a crack shot with a rifle, used
to consider it a trifling performance to put bullet through a matchbox
stood on a blackfellow's head; and on one occasion he got two blacks to
hold a matchbox between their noses, then he cut it away with a bullet.

However humble a lot of these places might be, they were marked on the
map; whilst selection houses in the same regions were not. As a rule,
the selector didn't give his place a name. The squattages were the
principal marks in the wide spaces out back, and the names were as well
known as the names of towns. Many of them were respectable villages; a
commodious residence nestling in a cluster of ornamental trees, with
broad lawns and beds of flowers around it; and nearby stables, stores,
smithy, carpenter's shop, and numerous huts and sheds. At a little
distance the big cattle yards and branding shed, or sheep yards and
shearing shed, as the case might be; and the gallows and haystacks were
conspicuous.

Crows, hawks and magpies were always about then; every homestead had
its individual flocks. In the noontide of a hot day, when all other
life was still, the crows that gave greeting to the traveller suggested
a dead place. When travelling once through lonely country, a near-
sighted stockman, who was with me used to ask, when he thought it time
for the next place to be getting near: "See any crows ahead?"

The magpies gathered there for the sake of the broad clearings. They
seemed to have a fondness for the neighbourhood of houses; but the
squattage homestead was favoured more than any other. Hundreds of the
birds were often to be seen there; distributed about the spaces between
the buildings, in the yards and gardens, and on the fences and trees.
They took no active notice of anybody, and treated dogs with scorn.

Planted here and there, like an oasis in a desert, the average
homestead looked comfortable, and made an attractive picture. It had
not the architectural finish and ornamentation of city houses; it was
low and spreading with broad verandahs, coolness and utility being of
more importance than elegance. On the dry, western plains coolness was
the main consideration, Built usually in a commanding position, and in
the most favoured and convenient part of the run, the natural beauties
of the environment made it attractive to the eye, and the white walls
and gleaming roof showed boldly in the far distance. There were some
that you came upon suddenly, where there was no suggestiveness of a
homestead, until you were almost within stone-throw of the door.

In the rich districts, where the aborigines were numerically strong,
nearly every homestead had its history of sieges, of raids and
robberies, murders and dispersals. Here and there the graves of
murdered men and women were pointed on to the visitor; at some places,
like Hornet Bank, on the Dawson River, there was a little cemetery.
"And what happened," asked the visitor, "after the murders?" A long
mound heaped over with dead wood was shown him. It was the grave of
slaughtered blacks. I was shown one near Killarney, on the Warengo,
where 57 had been buried--all thrown into one big trench.

Tomki, on the Richmond River, had stone steps at the back facing the
river. The floor was about three feet from the ground. A man stepped
out there one night to get a drink of water, and a black fellow, who
had been crouched against the wall, cut him down with a tomahawk. After
awhile another man went out to see what was keeping the first, and he
too was struck down. By-and-bye a third followed to see what had become
of the others. He, however, paused on the step, and by so doing
narrowly escaped the same fate.

About this homestead were many huge boilers--which told another tale.
Woram, near by, had the ruins of an overhead truck way at one side of
the cattle yards, leading from a slaughter-house to rows of these
boilers, all set like massive coppers. In the early days of these
squattages meat became so cheap that the graziers boiled their cattle
down for tallow. About this time there were boiling-down works near
Sydney, and similar works were erected here and there to within a short
distance of the northern border. Woran was one of the largest.

A hutkeeper, years after the works had fallen into disuse, while
walking along the high rails, slipped and fell into one of the boilers,
where he was imprisoned for two days before his cries were heard.

The boiling-down was a busy scene in its days of activity. Large mobs
of cattle were ever pouring into it, and in addition to the band of
stockmen and yardmen there were butchers, stokers, woodcutters and
carters, and men who looked after the boiling and the tallow. Excepting
the huts and tents connected with the works, there was not a habitation
of any kind within miles of this hive of industry. It was a picturesque
scene in a wild spot, just a little back from the bank of the river.

Cattle that would in the nourishing days of squatting that were to come
be worth 10 to 20 a head, were boiled down there for their fat, and
the meat was thrown out to the crows. When cattle improved in price,
only the culls were boiled down. Gradually this slackened until killing
for tallow was discontinued, and the extensive plant was left to rot
and rust.

Numerous homesteads were famed as the scenes of stirring episodes in
the bushranging days, and there were a few that dated back to the
earliest times, around which clung some ugly memories. Segenhoe, on the
Hunter, was a fortified place, flanked by cannon; and standing brazenly
in an open space was a triangle, where unruly servants were tied and
flogged. It was abandoned by the pioneers; who they were was unknown.
When it was rediscovered there was only a jabbering imbecile--an ex-
convict--on the premises. The new owner of the squattage worked it with
convict labour. A special herd of prize cattle were kept to provide
milk for his wife to bath in, the milk being afterwards served out to
the convicts. This lady at a later period became a leading beauty in
London. The run was afterwards cut up into small holdings, and only the
homestead and its memories remained.

CHAPTER XVIII.
The Altered Bush.

Once or twice in those wide stretches we saw a motor car whizzing over
the weary miles, where only the shortcomings of the bush road imposed a
limit to speed; and the presence of that vehicle there had more
significance to us who had long lived out back than it could have had
to coastal dwellers.

It may be said that modern inventions, more than the spread and
increase of settlement, had altered the aspect of life in the bush
within recent years. Among the most potent factors in this change must
be reckoned the motor car and the telephone. They had shortened
distances, brought once remote places near to populous centres; and
that alone had enveloped the outposts with a different atmosphere to
what was formerly experienced. They took away the feeling of isolation,
so that the settler no longer considered himself an exile as he once
did. Nor was he an age behind the times in his ideas and methods, or
individualised in a world of his own, as he used to be, for he was as
much in touch with the hub of the universe as the rest of his kind.
These two mediums of comparatively rapid connection had removed forever
a phase of Australian life that had its charm and its romance, but was
invested in no small degree with peril and hardship. No matter where
the new settlements were formed in these later days, even in the virgin
tracts of the Northern Territory, the exact circumstances of the former
periods did not prevail, and so far as communities, however scattered,
were concerned, could never return.

To the dusky inhabitants of the far lands, the motor was a terror at
first, when it tripped tentatively into the heart of the primitive. It
astonished them even more than did the first camel they saw. They ran
from it as from a smoke-snorting debil-debil. They understood horse and
camel drawn vehicles; but this thing that whizzed across the country
without any apparent aid was an uncanny mystery. And the goggle-eyed
being it carried added to its alarming aspect. The medicine-man, who
concocted tales of the wahwee and the bunyin, had never imagined
anything like that. When it flashed its huge, glaring white eyes in the
dusk, and showed a red eye right behind, he gasped with amazement and
ran for his natural life.

Though both the car and the telephone were yet the privileges of the
rich in the outback where homesteads were widely separated, the
selector, the lonely boundary rider, and even the swagman on the road,
were benefited by their introduction. There might be but one or two in
the district owned by a couple of squatters, but they crept
unconsciously into the services and lives of everybody. This was best
exemplified in the matter of mails and news. When there was no means of
rapid transit, mails were delivered by horse-mailmen along a main route
about once a month, the squattage homesteads being the principal
depots. There were many homesteads in the parts of the States we had
passed through that were 50 miles or more back from the mailman's
track. To get the periodical mail meant a long ride each way. On some
places a boy was kept for this purpose, who acted as private mail
carrier for everybody in the neighbourhood. At other places the manager
drove in to the depot in a buggy. In either case two or more days were
occupied, which, with the motor car, was reduced to a morning run in
and an afternoon run out.

Earlier still the mails drifted to the out posts about once in three
months; often they were brought out only by teams carrying supplies.
Newspapers came in big bundles, the acumulation of weeks, and were
leisurely digested in the long interim before the next mail day. Those
were leisurely times, but they bred independent men and women, people
who had to rely on their own resources and who abided by the law of
common sense. Today the motor is taking the place of the mail coach,
and making a daily mail possible where a weekly service was considered
good.

What was to the pioneer a long wearisome journey, occupying a week or
more with relays of horses, was merely a few hours' run in the new era.
The ogre of ever-threatening death from thirst had been banished from
the dry tracks. A hundred-mile stage without water! It was a serious
undertaking for a horseman, laden though he was at the start with
waterbags; for the man in the motor car it was only a brief
exhilarating spin between drinks.

The car broke down at times, or refused to go, and in the midst of a
semi-desert region that was apt to be attended with very serious
consequences. Still, with the amount of liquid refreshment it could
carry, the risk was not as great as with knocked-up horses. The
dangerous period of motor overlanding was passed, and with improvements
ever being made there was no part of the untracked interior that could
not be brought into quick touch with commercial centres. The Never
Never was no more, and the horrors of outback life for womenkind
disappeared. In old squatting days it was no small difficulty to get
women to brave the distances. The squatter's wife had to be content
with lubras for servants and companions; most of the men lived bachelor
lives, but once a woman ventured into their homes she stayed there. The
miles were too many, travelling too slow and difficult, for tripping to
town, and so only an odd one could be persuaded to journey out and
share their exile.

The exiles of outback they were called, those pioneers, who thinly
peopled the wide spaces. Exiles they were for a hundred years, but
quick transit made a wonderful change. It made the farthest places
accessible and endurable to women, and where the women went, settlement
progressed.

It was when sickness called, when some serious accident happened, that
the isolation told hardest on women and children. In the early annals
of the bush we find many trials of endurance, many a deed of heroism;
we read of long hard rides for a doctor, occupying all day and all
night, and not infrequently undertaken by girls and women. In such
cases the journey back, accompanied by the doctor, was harder still.
There was no way of sending a telegram without an equally long ride,
and when a patient had to be taken in he was subjected to a slow, rough
trip that endangered his chances of recovering.

Nowadays, the motor car was available in such emergencies. It might be
a few hours' ride to the nearest owner, but in serious cases it was
always ready, and it made short work of what would be an all night ride
on horseback. It enabled the mother to nurse her sick child on the
journey in comparative comfort, whereas formerly the child was carried
in front of a desperate horseman.

Here, too, the telephone was a factor in calling for aid, in the saving
of time and labour and horseflesh. On big runs the homesteads were
connected by telephone with the boundary-riders' huts and out camps,
and with the townships. The wires about the run were usually carried on
the fences. Until this innovation cheapened and facilitated the control
of runs, the boundary-rider was a lonely person who rarely saw a human
being between mustering times and the fortnightly or monthly occasions
when he was visited by the ration carrier. He might be thrown or
injured, or be seized with sickness, and lie helpless in his camp until
some casual visitor happened to look in. Now he could ring up
headquarters or a neighbouring camp. He was in communication with his
boss and fellows almost daily. Also, those camps were handy to
surrounding settlers, and the service of the telephone saved many a
long ride and many a life. In conjunction with the motor car it had
stripped the lone places of half their terrors, and made the outposts
more habitable to women and children.

CHAPTER XIX.
Through the Wheat Areas--The Farm Home--Gossip Along the Line.

From Petersburg down we got glimpses of pretty valleys and grassy
slopes, picturesque homesteads and villages, and big wheat fields. But
the giant timber, the grandeur of mount and gorge that flashed past on
the line from Melbourne to Albury and from Albury to Sydney were
wanting. The enthusiasm of Broken Hillites and Centralians when the
scent of burning bush and grass came to them, and the smoke of small
bush fires floated over us, was a joke to Victorians and East Coasters.
Nobody got burnt out in Centralia. Perhaps they would not either in the
eastern regions if they could run sheep instead of cattle. A
blackfellow, finding his native game disappearing, observed of the
mooching merino: "No good that pfella. All day feed; all night walk
about. Turkey can't lay um egg; emu can't sit--him ruin in the country."

Through the wheat areas farmers watched the passing train with anxiety,
not only because it belched sparks, but because careless travellers had
a way of unburdening themselves of their superfluous glassware as they
passed along. Numbers of passengers carried bottles on long journeys,
the contents of which might be milk, or ginger beer, or lime juice; and
as these were emptied they were pitched through the windows, regardless
of the fact that gangers were always working somewhere on the line, and
children were often standing in unexpected places watching the train go
by. The offenders rarely knew where they were when they cast the dead
marine, nor did they know from a moving train where it would land. Many
a bush fire has been started by a bottle or a piece of broken glass,
lying among dry quick-kindling stuff with a hot sun shining on it. For
this reason the wheat-growers gathered them up and threw them into
creeks, or stood them on stumps. When a bottle-disgorging train passed
every second day or so this was no joke.

In these parts the wax match was taboo, and anybody seen carrying a
firestick would be chased as a lunatic, or arrested by the nearest
trooper for imperilling life and property. Nearly everybody used safety
matches, and no one was allowed to smoke an uncovered pipe in the
august presence of a wheatfield.

When the grass was long and the wheat was maturing, the settlers formed
themselves into amateur fire brigades, and each man was pledged to look
carefully around himself every five minutes for smoke, and to keep a
telescopic eye and blunderbuss trained on any chance swagman who
obtruded on the horizon. New handles were wedged into tomahawks; the
wood axe was ground in readiness for chopping bushes, and a supply of
bags, tied on the ends of sticks, was kept on hand. Instructions were
given to station masters to transmit telegraphic and telephonic
messages free of cost, so that when Jones dropped a match, or a spark
from his pipe, he could ring up Smith, Brown and Robinson to come and
put their conjoint foot on it and prevent a national disaster.

We had an argument about matches along here, and the conclusion arrived
at was that those farmers were protecting the safety match
manufacturers more than themselves. Fires did not result, except in
rare cases, from carelessly dropping matches about where a hot sun
would cause combustion; but from throwing them down after they had been
struck by smokers, and there was nothing about the safety to preclude
its being thrown down in a similar way and doing just as much damage.

The overseer said he had seen fires started by horses striking sparks
from stones with their shod hooves. From this it was deduced that a man
wearing hobnails or protectors in his boots was also a menace to the
community; and we resolved that when we became farmers that it should
be penal to wear boots at all in dry weather, and any man with a glass
eye was to be shifted off the premises with the greatest despatch.

On one occasion, in New South Wales, several months after bush fires
had swept Albury district, the police presented a report as to the
causes of 36 of the outbreaks. Phosphorus (laid for rabbits) was
credited with 12 disasters; wax matches (dropped accidentally), 2;
sun's rays, through glass, 1; persons wilfully setting fire to grass,
3; careless use of fire, 3; machinery bearings becoming heated, 1;
lightning, 1; sparks from railway engines, 2. In the other cases the
causes were not ascertainable. To a smart officer who could track up a
wax match, dropped accidentally, and consumed in the conflaguation a
long time previously, any cause at all should have been ascertainable.

Here and. there we passed a cosy farm house, which took the eyes of
such of our lady travellers who had lived only in congested areas.
There were some things which the farm wife had which they envied; there
were other things which "would never suit them." They envied the
roominess of the country home and its environment, and the plenitude of
necessaries which their rustic sister enjoyed, and which cost so much
in town. There was no call to pay bills every day in the week; there
were none of the rates and taxes that the town dweller knew--though the
conveniences begotten of such were also absent; and living and dressing
were comparatively cheap. Dresses and hats lasted longer, for farm life
was more unconventional than city life. There was an abundance of wood
in the paddock, and plenty of water in the creek. The farm supplied
milk fresh and pure; butter, eggs, poultry, bacon, and other meat in
wholesale quantities, and fruit and vegetables in any variety. There
was also fish, which they could catch for themselves. Horses and
vehicles suggested pleasant rides and drives, where the outlook
promised entrancing country views, and where little adventures and
incidents enlivened the way. Above all, there was a wholesome
atmosphere, freedom from contaminating ills, an air of supreme
ownership, complete privacy, and a home that was more really home, more
comforting and more satisfying in itself.

That was the bright side; but, alack, for the dreamer of rural
simplicity, there was a seamy side as well. In the view of most city
women the disadvantages outweigh the advantages. The farm wife gets up
with the hens. She bustles through her housework in the morning, does a
turn in the dairy, washes a pile of cans and dishes, takes tea and
scones down to the men about 10.30, then cooks dinner. No butcher or
baker calls; there is no ham and beef shop, nor any other shop, to run
to in emergencies; she must prepare everything herself. In the
afternoon, besides taking crib to the men and getting tea ready, she
found time to hunt for eggs, to make and mend. After tea, when all the
washing-up was done, she sat darning and knitting, or sewing, or
perhaps helped for an hour or two in the barn. Washing day was her busy
day; harvesting was her busiest time of all. Often she lent a hand at
some light work in the field, but she managed to keep cheerful through
it all, and look after several young children at the same time. She
didn't want a neighbour to gossip with over the garden fence. Neither
did she look for trams and busses on the quiet, grey road, nor yearn
for the shows and entertainments, the gaiety and pleasures of the town.
But these were things the visitor found hardest to cut adrift from. She
saw dullness in their stead, and that with the long hours and the extra
work made her shake her head doubtfully, and deny herself and her
children the benefit of the farm home.

It was interesting to note the leading topics of conversation on the
sections of a long line. Leaving the Silver City, and until you got to
Petersburg, whence the line branched to Port Pirie, where the Broken
Hill ores were treated, everyone was interested in mining, and
discussed the fluctuations in the price of lead and silver; you heard
of the perils of tunnelling, the dangers of the open cut, of men being
leaded, of odd ones being roasted in boiling slag, of creeps in Block
10, and of falls of earth in the Big Mine. You could hear the whole
history of the Barrier if you cared to keep awake; and when you reached
the Burra you heard something about copper; but on nearing Gawler, and
until the lights of Port Adelaide blazed across the flat to the
rightward, you found that all newcomers were concerned about the price
of wheat, and the state of the weather, and they stripped and threshed
and harvested over the whole hundred and thirty odd miles. Thence on to
Adelaide the topic was--the City of Churches.

So, too, on the run to Melbourne. From Adelaide to the Murray, and to
Glenorchy, on the Wimmera River, it was dried fruits, vineyards and
wine, timber and agriculture; while from Stawell, one of the prettiest
of Victorian towns, right down to Bacchus Marsh, it was of gold--gold
and Eureka! Indeed, you could not help talking of gold, and
resuscitating the golden tales of old; for on nearing Ararat, and
thence onward till you passed Ballarat, you saw the miners' tents
gleaming whitely through the suckers on either side, and you passed
along between thousands of mining shafts, with little heaps of dirt
dotting hill and flat for miles. Here generations after generations had
chased the golden speck; it had been a diggings of world-wide fame from
the earliest times, and would continue so for generations hence. Its
glory would never die.

But we are ahead of our train. A rest in Adelaide to stretch our legs
in the broad parks and gardens, to see the animals in the Zoo, and for
a row on the Torrens, floating under graceful willow trees, is a good
tonic before we go rushing across Victoria.

Adelaide, designated the City of Churches, and the City of Light, was
the best laid-out of all the capital cities, thanks to Colonel Light,
its founder. It was sweet and clean, and delighted one with its
straight, wide streets, its grassy squares and spacious parks, and its
beautiful background of billowy hills.

The centre of attraction outside was Mt. Gambler, with its wonderful
Blue Lake and the underground river. One could sail a long distance
down the subterranean stream, which flowed seawards through a great,
cave-like channel. The Blue Lake, the banks of which were 300ft. high,
almost sheer, and the water 240ft. deep in the centre, with its sister
lakes, the Middle and the Valley, had for their basins the craters of
extinct volcanoes that had made the vicinity very sultry in their day
of active eruption. The unpleasantnesses had been extinct for many
thousands of years. But the overseer said you could never trust a
volcano. Though it might be apparently dead for ages, it was always
liable to spring up again without warning and overwhelm the trusting
inhabitants. To make an abiding place on an old crater was tempting
Fate. He much preferred the other end of the continent for a
residential site.

The central State had many peculiar features that were sometimes grimly
fascinating to the traveller, notably the bottomless, natural wells,
from a yard to three yards wide in diameter, and going down as straight
as a gun barrell, how far no one had ever been able to determine.
Biscuit Flat, which was thickly strewn with biscuit like stones, as
novel as the skull hills on Whittabranah Creek, in the Corner, which
were strewn with stones resembling petrified human skulls cut off just
below the neck; Dismal Swamp, a vast marsh, 80 miles in circumference,
and dotted with green islets; and "The Monster," a huge granite rock,
from which oozed a spring of crystal clear water. The latter
centralised, and was the only natural water in the great Mallee scrub,
several thousand square miles in area, known as the Ninety-Mile Desert.
It was a gloomy-looking land, seen from the top of "The Monster," and
that appeared to be the only reason why the term desert was applied to
it, for it was entirely covered with almost impenetrable scrub. This
Mallee territory was pioneered by Edward Harewood Lascelles, of Lake
Coorong squattage, and subsequently through his lead and encouragement
settled by farmers.

CHAPTER XX.
When the Bushman Visits the City.

Some folks are never contented away from home; they like to be always
amid their own familiar surroundings. But the typical Australian likes
to move about, especially in his young days. The wanderlust is in most
of those who never travel; want of opportunity or lack of freedom
keeping them continuously in the place they were born in; and there are
few who do not desire to see the State's capital city.

To the people outback, Adelaide or Melbourne or Sydney is a wonderland;
they picture it as something immensely more attractive than what it
really is. The first visit is often a delusion--if not a snare. The
bushman who has hitherto been used to a homely hotel in a quiet little
country town feels lost and out of place at once, no matter what
quarters he gets into. The friendliness and comradeship that exists
even among strangers outback is totally wanting here. In the country
every man trusts his neighbour, whether he knows him or not; he is
taken to be worthy and honest until he proves himself otherwise; in the
city any stranger who is disposed to be friendly is treated with
suspicion until his honesty is assured.

That is the first shock that the bushman receives; he is lost and lone
in the midst of crowds. No one takes any friendly notice of him on the
road or in the street; whereas, if he passed a wayfarer on a country
road without some kind of greeting, that party would feel slighted.

He gets another shock when he finds himself temporarily out of tobacco
or matches, and asks the nearest smoker to accommodate him, as he has
been used to doing in his own district. The nearest smoker is almost
certain to be out of the needful himself, and he accompanies the
information with a look that is usually bestowed on the park loafer.
The bushman tries one or two more, but he is not very long in the city
before he drops that country habit.

On the other hand, he is a good mark for the spongers and sharpers in
the city. They pick him out at sight. Though he may dress like the men
around him; though he may walk along as they do, with all the unconcern
he can muster, and showing no unusual interest in the shop windows, he
still fails utterly to conceal the fact that he is not a townsman, that
he hails from the realm of the gums and the gidgees.

It is mainly the way he carries himself, and especially his hands, that
gives him away. His fellows in the bush have told him not to stare
about him, or stand looking at the shops; but he observes that most
cityites do both, and no notice is taken of them--except by the traffic
constable, while everybody notices him, though he affects the greatest
indifference to everything around him. He has an air about him as he
moves along that distinguishes him easily from the frequenters of the
pavements.

The undesirable class who prowl around in search of the guileless
stranger take him down in some way or other, however careful he is, and
in spite of all the good advice he has received. Good-natured and
trusting at first, he gives freely to the hardened cadgers who ask him
for the price of a bed or a meal; and when he grows suspicious of that
appeal, the plausible tale of hardship and suffering, of poverty and
misfortune, that is readily poured out by the accomplished dead-beat
still penetrates to his pocket.

Occasionally he discovers that his cash has evaporated, and his watch
and chain have likewise disappeared; for he is shepherded by men and
women who spin no pitiful tales, but deftly help themselves in moments
when he has struck something of absorbing interest, or become wedged in
a crowd.

There is another party who meets him boldly, and calls him by name; he
knows all about the district Bushy comes from, having possibly
ascertained certain facts previously at his hotel, or from labels on
his luggage when he arrived; and he is surprised that Bushy doesn't
remember him. They have a drink, and from that drink any one of a dozen
humiliating adventures may happen. It may lead to a game of cards, to a
visit to a shady saloon or a gambling den, to an introduction to two or
three associates of the "confidence" class. Whatever course is shaped,
one thing is certain--he will come out of it with empty pockets. Even
the rich uncle in Fiji at times still makes a little haul at his
expense.

The first man who sets out to exploit him on his arrival is the runner
at the hotel. This person receives commission in several lines of
business, principally from tailors, tobacconists, secret betting shops,
and small vendors of hats and boots. He tells Bushy that he can show
him where to get a good suit dirt cheap; a suit that was made to order
for a man of his build who did not call for it, and so it was left on
the tailor's hands. The price was four guineas; but as the man who
ordered it paid a guinea deposit, he can have it for the balance.
Thinking he is getting a bargain, Bushy accompanies the runner to the
shop, and it doesn't matter whether the suit fits him or not, they
mostly sell him something before he goes out.

Other tailors and shopkeepers have men posted on the footpath to watch
for the party who has just come down. They accost any likely-looking
person who might be persuaded into buying something he doesn't want;
but the man from outback is the best mark. It is easier to get his
attention than that of the cityite, who gazes straight ahead with eyes
that see everything but appear to see nothing; he is more easily
inveigled into the shop, and once there it is pretty certain he won't
come out without a parcel.

The city at first bewilders him. Though he can travel unerringly
through trackless bush, and strike straight for home from any point, in
the city he will possibly get lost if he only turns a couple of
corners. In the strange environment he looks a dull, stupid sort of
person; while in the bush he is probably one of the smartest of men.
The cityite, however, is far more conspicuous when dumped down in the
bush; he is much more of a laughing-stock there than the bushman is in
the city. The latter gets used to his new surroundings in a few weeks;
but the new chum from town takes years to become a smart, practical
bushman.

Again, the man from wayback can ride full gallop on a dark night
through thick timber to stem the rush of frightened cattle, and never
make a blunder, or for a moment lose his presence of mind; yet a few
trams and motor cars passing and repassing in a city street confuse
him, and he hesitates or runs when a city woman will walk serenely
across, leading a child by the hand.

When we had to cross a busy street the overseer acted as if he wanted
somebody to take his hand. He saw people jumping off trams before the
trams had stopped. He had done more wonderful things than that; he had
jumped off bucking horses, and he had sprung clear from animals falling
over logs and fences; so with every confidence he too stepped off the
moving tram, and when he struck the ground with the back of his head he
wondered how it had happened.

That was the first shock we got, for he professed to be a travelled
man, used to big towns. He acted as leader. The first place he struck
for was the waxworks. Then the Zoo, the Gardens, the Museum, the Art
Gallery, and the racecourse followed in order. At the last place he won
5, in consequence of which he acquired a somewhat lordly air on the
way home; but when he put his hand in his pocket to pay his fare there
was nothing in it. He was skinned out. We had to lend him half a crown
to take him home.

CHAPTER XXI.
The Suburbanite's Little Garden.

Our boarding-house had a narrow side verandah, which was so crowded
with plants in pots and tubs and tins that there was barely room for a
person to walk along the edge of it. You brushed the staghorn fern
going into the dining-room; the herring-bone fern threatened to go with
you into your bedroom; and "mind the magnolias, please," was the sweet
injunction of the old lady when two or three of us stepped outside
together.

That pathetic little garden directed our attention to a host of similar
plots else where.

There is in the most prosaic and town-ridden person some inkling love
for Dame Nature. Though born and bred in the cramped environment of
endless rows of jerry-built houses, abutting on the pavement in front
and with a backyard that could be covered with an ordinary table cloth,
the love and yearning still persists within him, as is shown by his
desperate efforts to make something grow. In the most sordid
surroundings, in the most cramped positions, you will find some
evidence, however trifling, of the old love struggling to assert
itself. It may be merely a staghorn fern nailed to the wall, a pot of
ferns on the front window-sill, a creeper trained up the post, or an
array of old tins and flower-pots on a stand, whose architecture is
crude and amateurish. Still, the old instinct of the gardener is there.

It is said that no man or woman can be really bad who has an
infatuation for gardening. The tending of a delicate plant, watching it
growing from day to day, and budding, blooming and seeding, with the
studies of the secrets and mysteries of inanimate life, while it
improves the mind, must have some influence for good on the character;
and there is no physical occupation that is healthier than the ancient
one of tickling the soil to make it bear fruit. The gardener lives and
works in close communion with Nature, especially if his field of
operations is in country parts, where he can swing his hoe without
hitting the clothes-line. It is here that the inherent savage of the
enthusiast is suggested, harking back to the days when our ancestors
sat on the grass and cracked nuts; for these two characteristics, the
tendency to run wild like an unguarded plant, and the desire to scratch
around and grow nuts, only want the time and place and opportunity to
assert themselves. Some people maintain that it is essentially modern,
and an illustration of the highly-civilised state of our home-life, to
surround our dwellings with flowers and trees and cabbages; but it is
merely the old instinct at work, the influence of the prehistoric
forest that can't be shaken off; the call of the wild that the ages
will never silence.

Parts of Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane are noted for their
beautiful gardens, and fine houses almost hidden in a wilderness of
trees--as they should be; but the average urban and suburban garden,
which would take an active caterpillar nearly half an hour to cross, is
a mixture of the humorous and the pathetic. Though the inclination is
strong, the knowledge of the art hasn't been inherited, while the soil
is not always up to requirements. In Sydney it is a hungry, thirsty
soil that supplies all necessary exercise to the muscles to keep it in
order. Some of the more enthusiastic have shifted the surface-strata of
their backyards on to the vacant allotment, and replaced it with
promising-looking soil from elsewhere, carrying it in buckets and bags.
Gardening is an arduous task that requires this beginning, particularly
when it has to be done in the evening, after the day's "work" is over,
or in the morning before breakfast is ready. Poor people, one might so
conclude, who want to grow a few vegetables to eke out the weekly wage?
No; they want to grow geraniums or a massed bed of cosmos. They are
lovers of flowers.

Properly, the flower garden should be in the foreground, and here and
there you see a few blooms gracing the front of the limited dwelling.
The plants may be common, but they receive no less attention for that.
Both husband and wife take an interest in them; they admire them, and
talk about them more than they do of the finest blossom in the Botanic
Gardens. The plot may be six feet wide and quite three yards long, but
the care of it has its annoyances. Children pluck the flowers within
reach as they pass, and when no one is about they climb the fence and
strip the garden. "You can't keep a thing from them," the women tell
you. That is why you so often see the flowers in the backyard, and the
front plot covered with buffalo grass--which is the lawn--with perhaps a
palm in the corner.

Flowers naturally appeal to a woman's artistic taste; she is in her
natural setting, in her proper element, among flowers. What she knows
and what she doesn't know about them is a marvellous mixture. She can
tell man their names and their colours off hand, when they come in and
when they go out, and the proper time of the year to plant them--matters
which he is always uncertain about; but he has to show her how to plant
them and how to look after them. She works with toy tools--ladies' sets.
"Hen-scratching," he calls it. In dry weather she uses a toy watering
can, which gently sprinkles the plant and leaves the roots dry. There
is nothing she loves better than treading among the beds with a pair of
scissors in her hand. Snipping with a scissors is a morning recreation
she enjoys. She doesn't cut the hidden blooms and those at the bottom;
she darts for the best and biggest, which are usually at the top, thus
spoiling the plant. When she undertakes the task of thinning, trimming
and pruning, the ruination is complete.

For one who is painstaking, skilled and natty in a house, in various
arts and crafts, her awkwardness and want of efficiency in
horticultural pursuits is surprising. It is a field of labour eminently
suited to her--a field which she leaves to the old man. That is, she
leaves all the work to him, while she potters around in his way,
telling him what to do. She regards the flower garden as part of her
own domain--where she is boss and hubby is the underdog. At the same
time hundreds of young women waste their energies with dumbells and
other physical drill. The best developers are garden tools, and the
most robust health is obtained in the sunshine, among the flowers.

There was one man a few doors from our boarding house who grew all his
flowers in pots, and, having nowhere else to put them, he stood them
along on the bottom rail of the divisional fence. He thought this a
secure and satisfactory place for his favourites; but it wasn't. His
next-door neighbour had purchased a rooster for a Sunday treat, and not
being experienced in slaughtering poultry, and having no one to hold it
for him, he hung it by the hind legs to the top of the palings. Then he
got the wood axe, and measuring his distance, aimed a terrific blow at
its neck--and missed. He had been unaware of the horticultural
exhibition on the other side; but when he heard the crash and the
smashing of pottery, followed immediately by hurried footsteps through
the other house, he dropped the axe and fled indoors.

For 20 minutes or so he listened to the caustic remarks of the injured
party, and not until all was quiet again did he step out to complete
the butchering. Being a little unnerved by the result of his first
effort, and in a hurry to get the job over, his aim this time was even
more erratic; but the crash on the other side was greater than before.
The horticulturist had replanted the flowers and rearranged the
collection during the interim, a fact which the chook-slayer had not
suspected. He fled again; and though presently he was invited in a loud
voice to come out and explain what he meant by it, he remained
squatting behind the door in the scullery. Not till long after the
commotion had ceased did he venture to look out. Then he saw his fowl
lying in the yard, and its head was off. The injured flower-grower had
decapitated it with neatness and determination.

This man, who had no open space for his flowers, used all the spare
land he had at the back of his premises for growing vegetables. When a
strip was taken out of it for a path to the back gate its area was not
extensive. Then the clothes-line hung across it diagonally, and every
washing-day left its stamp on that plot. Sheets and such things flapped
against the tomatoes, and when the prop slipped, which it did with
monotonous regularity, it mostly fell on the beans. His eye could
detect, too, where his wife's little foot had trodden his new beds,
though her careful hands had brushed over the surface soil to hide the
imprint. But he was a patient soul, and could overlook little things
like that. What annoyed him was the street urchins' football, which
would thump down into the lettuce and bounce off them into the beet-
root; and their cricket ball, which bowled over the asparagus, and
threw out the young squashes every half-hour or so. Should none of the
occupants of the house be about to recover the balls, the boys climbed
over the fence and got them themselves; and going out they unbolted the
gate and left it open, thereby tempting the small fry to look on the
strawberries when they're red. At night the cats made the plot a common
meeting-place. It was a nice change from asphalt and road metal, and
the softer he kept it the more they scratched and rolled around. They
also settled their differences there, fighting gory battles over the
onions, and smashing down the cabbages.

Despite all drawbacks he persevered. Home-grown vegetables, he would
tell you, were so much nicer than what you buy. They were a long way
from perfection when matured, but they were fresh, and free from
certain ugly suspicions that hang about the Chinaman's garden. Neither
were they cheap, for, no matter what he planted, some persistent pest
came along to live on it, and required all manner of directions and
solutions to keep under. He spent tedious hours day after day in
killing small grubs and caterpillars and aphis, and in gathering up
snails and slugs. The snail was comparatively easy to hunt down and
exterminate, but the slug had to be pursued at night with a lantern.
When other men were taking their proper rest after tea, and smoking the
pipe of peace, this suburbanite was spearing slugs with a pin-pointed
skewer. When he found them in a bunch he vanquished them with salt. In
the dusk, too, as well as early morning, the clatter of his watering-
cans could be heard. Gallons upon gallons of water he emptied upon that
plot, which kept the plants alive between showers.

The study of his neighbours' gardens was sometimes fruitful, for here
he saw a dozen experiments at once, and could adopt the most successful
without paying anything for the idea. Not that the gardeners were
scientists, or the experiments deliberate. Smith sowed his beans in
dense clusters like stools of cane, each cluster a yard apart, because
he thought that the proper way. Jones planted his in a circle like a
circus ring, with a pelargonium in the centre, either for the same
reason, or because there was no other way of doing it in the space
available. Brown grew pumpkins and cucumbers in barrels and cases and
tubs, standing on the asphalt, and trained the vines along the fences.
Robinson sowed corn and peas together, so that the peas would run up
the cornstalks and save sticks.

An observant man could not fail to pick up points about gardening where
so many experiments were going on. In one little plot there was no room
for experiments, but when there were many little plots, and the owner
of each had his own ideas about agriculture, they answered the purpose
just as well. Especially were they serviceable in showing the most
suitable time for planting, for rain decided with many when to put in
the crop. Nor were their methods of working devoid of interest. The
sight of a man or woman breaking up the plantation with a tomahawk or
an axe would arrest anyone's attention. The butcher's knife and the
carving forks were other handy tools in use. The spade, which cut the
roots of everything growing, was the common tool; and in the handling
of that simple implement the awkwardness of the suburbanite was
notorious. If you want to know if an applicant for a gardening job has
had experience in that department gave him a spade, and the matter will
be clear in two minutes. To a man who has been used to digging post
holes or trenches the spade will be familiar; but digging post holes
and digging garden-beds level are widely different things.

The little gardens were not without their value to the municipality.
Some of them required an awful lot of nourishment. So, early and late,
Smith, Jones, Brown and Robinson were seen wandering about the streets
and back lanes, each with a bucket in one hand and a fire-shovel or
coal-scuttle in the other, collecting manure. By this means they saved
the street-sweepers a lot of work, besides keeping the neighbourhood
clean. Sometimes there was a one-horse stable in the vicinity, and the
only trouble the owner had was in trying to oblige so many with the
pleasure of clearing his stable litter away for him.

The little garden was also a fine object lesson for the children. The
suburbanite was delighted to see his little boy interested in turnips,
and he explained to him the mysteries of the beetroot, which neither of
them understood. The boy sowed seeds all over the premises, and by-and-
bye the miscellaneous crop became a source of wonder to his elders. At
this stage of the garden's perplexities the boy knew more than the man.
He watched his father put out tomato plants; next day he carefully
lifted each one to see if it had taken root. The bee in the flower also
attracted him; but when he had caught his first one he learnt all he
wanted to know about bees in two seconds.

The suburbanite's little garden was a convenience--especially to the
next-door neighbour, whose greengrocer never seemed to have any parsley
or sage or mint or marjoram, when these herbs were growing alongside.
Suburbanite didn't begrudge trifles of this sort, only it appeared to
affect next-door's greengrocer, who became even more remiss. When the
crop of five cabbages and nine turnips were ready for harvesting, a
head popped over the fence, and the owner, after explaining that the
old man would soon be home, and that she was behind with dinner through
the hawker and the shop not having the greens she required, said in a
most ingratiating tone of voice: "Would you mind lending me a cabbage
and three turnips till Saturday?" Suburbanite wouldn't have minded that
either, but the cabbage and the turnips became even as the mystery of
the good ship Waratah. Nothing more was ever heard about them.

CHAPTER XXII.
Going Down to Build the Federal Capital--Heroes of the Camp Fires.

We left Adelaide late in the afternoon, and so much of the daylight was
spent in going through long, dark tunnels and narrow cuttings, numerous
in the Mount Barker and Mount Lofty country, that it might as well have
been night. There was nothing to be seen in a tunnel, and the cutting
was a device that shut out all the countryside.

We were locked in like prisoners before starting, and only released at
places where there was at least three minutes' interval between the
arrival and departure of the train. Then we were locked up again for
safe custody. On the Melbourne end of the line we enjoyed more freedom.
A passenger could lean out through the open window without fear of
having his thinking end dashed against a junk of rock, or something
equally unpleasant; and he might break his journey if he felt that way
inclined by taking a dive on to the swimming ballast without hindrance.
There were people who did that sort of thing, and it was a thoughtful
Government that ukased that railway passengers should be kept securely
under lock and key. It was necessary for their own well-being and the
good of the country.

The bulk of our luggage, which we had not removed from the station at
Adelaide, was now travelling in bond; and as we did not remove it from
the Melbourne station either, it remained in that happy condition until
we got back into New South Wales. We didn't have any contraband about
us that I know of; still, this not-wanted-on-the-voyage method saved us
a lot of inconvenience with Customs officials. Travelling by the
ordinary train, which stopped overnight at Serviceton, on the Victorian
border, you had another Customs house to negotiate; and there was still
another at Albury on the N.S.W. border; and yet another at Cockburn, on
the S.A. border.

These matters naturally turned one's attention to Federation. We had
some people from the back country on board, who, anticipating a rush of
work and good wages when the building of the Federal capital was
started, were going down in a hurry to get a pick of the choice jobs.
When I look back to that time, nearly 20 years ago, and recollect that
our statesmen were still wrangling over the capital, it seems to me
that those people would not have missed much if they had waited for the
next train.

When the subject of the city was first seriously introduced the
estimate was that it would be built and everything in full swing in
three years. More than that time was exhausted in the squabble of the
territory. Then commenced the long series of picnics in connection with
the choosing of the site, and the disputes and debates concerning it,
that made it a laughing stock throughout Australia. Almost every
representative in Parliament after Parliament deemed it necessary to
make a personal inspection of the place. There were so many picnics
thereabouts in the course of years that the local inhabitants could
hardy find footroom for bottles and tins. These not only covered the
landscape, but threatened to choke up the famous Cotton River. When it
all ended and the boldest Parliamentarian was ashamed to go near it any
more, it was expected that there would really be some push and
progress. Word came from time to time that surveyors were at work; they
were at work a very long while; but it seemed that their surveys and
delineations were for the information of architects all over the
universe, who might engage in competition for the prizes offered for
town plans. Then the debate about the name piled up sheaves of
volubility before Canberra was decided upon. When the grand buildings
began tardily to rear their domes and minarets to the sky, the site of
the noble city was very old and familiar to the surviving debaters, who
were able to point out to their great-grandchildren the historic spots
where they camped and picnicked in their youth.

The passengers on our train who were going down to build this city were
men who worked at many occupations, from mining to bush-carpentering,
from shearing to farming; and hour after hour they talked of these and
kindred professions, and discussed the heroes of the camp fires.

Every shearing season city people heard a good deal about champion
shearers and the big tallies that were cut in various sheds. The big
tally somehow interested all classes of people, and so the champion
shearer was a subject that never died. No name was better known
throughout Australia for the time being than that of the man who could
take off more fleeces in a day than anybody else. Who was not familiar,
for instance, with the names of Jacky Howe and Jimmy Power, who held
the records in their time for hand and machine work respectively? There
were 50 others whose names were almost as well known to newspaper
readers, and who attracted crowds from many miles away to the sheds
where they worked.

The champion buckjump rider was another who had become familiar to the
cities; so also had the skilled axemen and the stockwhip expert. Cattle
drafting on horseback in the open, as was done everywhere on the big
runs; lassooing and throwing beasts, and throwing them without ropes,
were other items that brought a few of the cracks together at times to
display their skill on the showgrounds. But the bush held many giants
who never came on to the public stage. The bush man took a pride in his
work, no matter what the work might be. Though he laboured in many
capacities he usually excelled in one. That was his speciality, and in
that it was his ambition to beat his rivals.

Every calling--in every district--had its best man, who was known to
everybody else and whose feats were discussed around the campfires. To
those who worked among timber the champion oarsman or the champion
runner was of less importance than the man who could split the most
palings in a day, or cut out the greatest number of sleepers. In the
days when shingle-roof houses were fashionable there were many proud
wielders of the "throw" who established phenomenal records in turning
out shingles; and more than one match had taken place between rival
claimants of the championship. The same rivalry existed among the pit-
sawyers about the same time in many a cedar scrub and rich forest.

The aspirant to fencing honours had several tall marks to aim for--the
record number of postholes sunk in a day, the greatest quantity of
posts mortised for rails, the highest total bored for wire, and the
best tally in erecting one or two-rail fencing. By way of encouraging
him he was told that one man put up such a lot in a day that it took
him two days to walk back to his starting point. He was also
enlightened as to the tricks of the unscrupulous--for there were tricks
in all trades. There were men. who sunk their posts only a few inches
in the ground, splitting them short, or cutting the bottom end off
where the ground was hard; and there was the party who took a contract
of boring several miles of posts, and who merely entered the bit on
each side of the posts to give them the appearance of being bored.

The adze and the squaring axe were tools that had their noted wielders
in the same region. They were dangerous implements in the hands of a
newchum; but the expert could take either and with it chip the stubbles
from a man's chin as neatly as a barber could shave it off with a
razor. The squarer worked among heavy bridge timber, piles and heavy
logs, which were squared before being trucked away to the mill. Barns
and sheds were largely built of rough timber, which the adze and the
squaring axe had to lick into shape; and many a bush hut was
constructed of split timber, including the floor, doors and shutters,
all trimmed and levelled by the adept use of the same tools.

To make a name on a farm required the ability to pull more corn, to
husk more cobs, to dig more spuds or milk more cows than anybody else.
Sowing up bags of wheat and baling wool had their experts, whose deeds
were occasionally reported in the newspapers; so had tossing sheaves on
the hayfields; so had the loading and stacking of hay. It was not every
agricultural worker who could build a stack, even a small one. Properly
constructed, the immense pile would stand in the open for years,
impervious to weather. It resembled a hobble-skirt, with squared
extremities and gable top, being narrowed at the feet, bulged out at
the waist, and topped like the roof of a house. Every big harvest field
had its specials whose functions was to pile up hay artistically.

A couple of unprofessionals took on a stacking job once on a Hunter
River farm. It was only a small one, and they had barely finished when
a windstorm arrived. As forking hay in the wind only loaded the air
with flying straws, the farmer sat under the stack to smoke till the
blow was over. A strong gust suddenly toppled the heap over on top of
him, and before the builders could fork him out the lighted pipe had
set fire to it. When last seen in that vicinity the two rescuers were
making a bee-line for the high road in a frenzied condition.

Before the days of labour-saving machinery the expert wielder of the
scythe was a person of considerable renown. An acre a day of thick oats
or barley was quite an ordinary task. It was said of one flyer on the
Hunter that it was dangerous to employ him on a dry crop, as he whizzed
through it so rapidly that the heat generated in his blade sometimes
set fire to the field. The scrub farmer who planted with a hoe was also
in the habit of sailing after records. His object was to plant more
rows than any other man on the river; but to gain the belt he would
start hours before daylight and work till long after dark. The
ploughing championship was decided on the sports ground on gala days,
and carried a substantial money prize.

The smartness of cattle men, apart from riding and driving, was tested
in the branding yard. To throw 200 nuggety calves in three hours before
breakfast might be considered a good morning's work; but when the
cracks got going with the object of throwing and branding more than the
velocipedes on another squattage there was seldom enough calves yarded
to fill in the time. And the branding was merely a preliminary to the
day's work. From breakfast time till late in the afternoon they were
mustering more cattle on the run, and the remainder of the day was put
in with strenuous drafting in the yards. As nearly every second horse
that was mounted gave the rider a bit of lively exercise to begin with--
by way of shaking his breakfast down--and he did six or seven hours hard
riding in the brush before starting the yard work, his records could
not be said to be put up under the most favourable conditions.

There were champion cane cutters, cane strippers, kangaroo shooters,
rabbit trappers, buffalo hunters, drovers, pearl divers, and even
bullock drivers. Every calling, however humble, had its leading lights,
and you were never long among any group before you knew their
whereabouts, who and what they were, and all about them, for no men
talked "shop" more than these enthusiasts. And it was worth while being
a leader too, if it was only at breaking stones, for such a one could
get a job anywhere, and he got better wages than his fellows.

CHAPTER XXIII.
Tall Fishing on the Murray.

Murray Bridge, 60 miles from Adelaide, brought everybody to the
windows, and the sight of Australia's boss river, which we cross but a
few miles above where it empties into Lake Alexandrina, awoke some
enthusiasm in the overseer. He had to connect some personal experience
with that river or burst something. He posed as a travelled man.

"Great river for fish," he remarked, after a little reflection. "Many a
glorious hour I've spent on its banks. We used to have fishing
competitions along between Gol Gol and Morquong. I was on a station
thereabouts at the time, and belonged to the Gol Gol Cod Club. There
were 20 members, and each one had a boy to look after his fire and keep
his brands hot--"

"His w-what?"

"Brands. Every member had an iron brand. You see, we caught so many
fish that it was impossible to use a fraction percentage of 'em; so
each member used to put his brand on the big ones he caught, and return
them to the water. If any of them were caught again they didn't count,
as the man whose brand was on it claimed it. All told, my Murray River
stock must number about 9000, I should say. You'll know if ever you
catch any o' them--G7 on the near rump."

" 'Tis a great pity you didn't have yards an' paddocks to put 'em in,
as I see they do along be the rivers with oysters," said Brogan, a big
Irishman, we had picked up at Balhannah. "Then you could have rounded
them up and sold off the fat ones when you had buyers. An' you'd have
had all the progeny, too."

"We thought of that," the overseer declared, "but it wasn't
practicable. It takes a lot to keep a Murray cod, though it eats pretty
near anything. It will make a breakfast off old boots quite cheerfully,
if nothing else is available, and it can sleep well after a late supper
of shark-bones and kerosene tins. I'll tell you a strange thing. I was
crossing the Murray one time with cattle for Wodonga, when I lost a
gold chronometer. Two days later, after delivering the cattle, I was
fishing a couple of miles below the spot, and succeeded in hooking a
2cwt. cod. Pulled it out by tying the line to my horse's tail, and
flogging him up the bank. Inside it was a 1cwt. cod, and inside it
again was one of 50lb. in weight. That one contained a 20-pounder, and
out of it I got one of 10lb. The latter had a fair-sized perch, and a
tin of sardines on board, and out of the perch I cut another of the
same species. Terrible cannibals, fish are. When I opened the last one,
I'm blest if there wasn't my watch--still ticking!"

"Ah-h!" said Progan. "You caught him just in the nick of time."

"Why so?"

"If he had dilly-dallied a bit longer, now, it's ten to one the watch
would a got into them sardines."

"But the sardines were in a tin," Mr. Muggs reminded him.

"Oh, aye," said Brogan; "but what's a bit of a tin to a watch like
that! 'Twould a got in all right, an' 'twouldn't a lost a kick of its
tickin', either. It would have ticked more so with the good oil about
it."

The overseer maintained an unruffled dignified aspect. He was watching
out for Tailem Bend, where we skimmed the Murray bank again. " 'Tis a
great wonder to me," Brogan went on, "when them fish fit into one
another so convenient, that there's any but the old governor-general
left alive. But I suppose the tickin' of the gold watches they pick up
keeps their minds off their relations, an' that gives the poor devils a
chance to grow."

Here the overseer turned a disapproving eye on him.

"I don't think you've had much to do with watches--or with fish either,"
he remarked.

"Well, now, you ask me a question," said Bogan reflectively, "an' I'll
tell you, square an' all. I've got a watch of me own that I bought when
Micky 'ere was on the bottle."

Micky was a lanky, bashful youth, sitting beside him.

"That's many a year ago, as you can see by the boy, an' it's going yet.
'Tis a nickel-plated chronometer. I paid three an' six for it, I did. I
left it home so 's the old woman would know when to go to bed an' when
to get up again. She do be lonely an' lost without the ticker. An' I've
got lines, too, as good as there is in Balhannah. Mind that."

"Ever catch anything with them?" the overseer asked with sarcasm.

"I do then. I catch ducks with them; I catch 'possums with them; I
catch hawks with them; an' when I've a mind I catch fish with them. I
remember one day I went fishing in the Severn--up be Texas, d'yer mind.
I was after cod, but 'twas meself I caught. That's true as you're
sittin' there. I was doing a bit of a camp by the lagoon at the time,
an' a fellow who didn't seem to have anything to do but dispense
information to travellers tells me there's plenty o' cod to be had in
the stream just contiguous. 'Good luck to it,' says I. 'It's myself
will have one.' "

"Of course, the first thing I wants is bait. So I pokes about in the
grass, shufflin' me feet so; an' what do I find but a whopper of a
frog. Says I, 'You're the identical creature I'm after;' an' with that
I overtakes him; and I sticks the hook through his bottom lip. Then I
whizzed an' whizzed an' whizzed him round to give him a good hoist, an'
jerked him well out into the river, kickin' like the very devil. He had
the power in the leg, he had. You mind it. Micky?"

Micky merely looked abashed on being appealed to.

"I sat down then on the bag I had, and lights the dudeen. 'Tis a fine
smoke you can have when the fish ain't biting. I smoked and I waited,
and I waited and I smoked, for I don't know how long; and the devil a
bite did I get at all. Several times the line tugged, like something
nibbling, you understand, and every time I pulled up hand over me fist,
and it was only the frog' was biting. 'The cod take you,' I says, and I
hoists him out again.

"Then I lays on me back, and drops off to sleep unintentional. 'Tis
easy to doze off when you're fishin'. But I was roused mighty sudden
by-and-bye, I can tell you. I had the line tied to me left leg, and the
same was bein' tugged fit to dislocate it. 'Sure, there must be a fish
on the frog end of it,' says I; and with that I starts pullin' in as
smart as make haste.

"Then me other leg starts rearin' up in the atmosphere. At that I stops
and takes a general squint about the premises. Then I sees two varmints
of boys laughin' fit to bust up on top of the bank. You mind it well,
Micky? And there was me line hangin' over the limb of a tree. The frog
had swum ashore, you see, and nothing less must do him but he must get
up the tree; and he walks along the first limb on his belly and falls
off the wrong side, so he has the line hanging over the limb. You under
stand? 'Twas then the two squint-essences of mischief gets hold of the
line and sticks the hook through the bottom of me pants--of the right
leg, mind you. And what do they do next but pull on the frog end and
have it so that I'd think the fish was bitin'. I thought so sure; and
that was the way I caught myself."

CHAPTER XXIV.
The Overseer Tries to Have Forty Winks--No Respect for Luggage--Rural
Charm--The Tent-Dwellers of Ballarat.

He knocked the ashes from his pipe, and made some lightning changes in
his toilet, substituting a woollen cap for his hardhitter, and rolling
three yards of comforter round his neck. Then he yawned cavernously,
and lolled back as far as the limited space would allow, using Micky
for a pillow. The overseer likewise went into evening dress. He did
more. He spread his rug along the aisle, got down on it with apologies,
covered himself with his overcoat, said "good-night," and went to
sleep. Being used to droving, he could sleep anywhere. He was a
nuisance at first, but once he was fairly off he came handy to put our
feet on. He was warmer and softer than the floor; and whenever he
started to snore we had only to put some pressure on sharply to
regulate him. Still we envied him. It was a long night. We got too
tired to talk; we dozed and woke and nodded and swayed, being mostly
jerked in to the perpendicular and wakefulness by somebody's elbow. We
began to resent the overseer's monopoly of the bed; we felt that we
could get along much better if he was up and there was no bed at our
feet. It was like being at a wake with the corpse not dead yet, and no
whisky on tap.

When the whistle blew, Mr. Muggs laid violent hands on him, and
bellowed in his ear:

"Hey, mate! Wake up!"

The overseer sprang into a sitting position, and looked at us with
rounded eyes like a startled bullock.

"You're missing all the sites. This is Coonalbyn," Mr. Muggs informed
him.

"Precious lot that is to wake a man up for!" the overseer grumbled, and
muffled up again in a determined manner.

That was grand. It banished sleep from our eyes, and made us cheerful.

He was well asleep when Brogan touched him. "Hi! Now, then!"

"What's up?"

"We're at Tintinara now."

"On, go to the devil!"

Beautiful! We were all smiles again.

After a while Brogan nudged me with his elbow. I took him gently. I
drew the coat back from his head, and inquired softly if he was asleep.

"Slee-eep!" he snorted, glowering at me.

"We've just passed the bore. Thought you might like to--"

"Passed one," mumbled the overseer. "I thought all the infernal bores
were on this train."

Excellent! Half the company were acting as if they were trying to ward
off a fit.

By-and-bye Mr. Muggs charged down on him with both feet.

"What is it?" sharply.

"This is Wirrega; we'll be at Border Town directly--"

"D---- pity you weren't buried there!" grunted the overseer, covering his
head up with vengeful tugs.

But peace was denied him, for Brogan pounced on him again shortly.

"Up with you! We're crossin' the border now," he shouted. "Bet you a
bob yer chronometer's wrong."

"Oh, let's have five minutes' sleep, can't you? God bless my soul--"

He shut off, and buried his head once more.

Then we drew up at Serviceton, 196 miles from Adelaide, and as soon as
the door was opened a bare-legged urchin, with a bundle of papers
tucked under his arm, thrust his head in and bellowed at him: "Ere y'
are! Latest edition! All about the duke!"

The audible smile this evoked from his companions only annoyed him
slightly; but when the girls on the platform saw him getting out of
bed, the resultant shrieks made him blush, and he hurried out to efface
himself in the crowd. Having refreshed, he looked at his chronometer,
glanced up at the clock, paused in surprise, held the ticker to his
ear, and looked again. It was wrong. Thence onward he was interested in
clocks. He compared notes whenever he saw one, but they all showed the
same discrepancy. Still doubtful, he asked a man at Horsham who carried
a watch what the time was, and it was then explained to him that
Victorian time was 30 minutes in advance of South Australian time.

We changed trains at Serviceton, and while waiting we learn why
passengers' luggage got more knocked about on trains than on any other
conveyance under the sun. Porters rushed in, grabbed anything handy,
tore it out, and banged it into the next van. They always tore at the
bottom things, and pretty soon the top lot, toppling over, hit the
floor with a resounding crash. My trunk started brand-new from Broken
Hill. It reached Melbourne with the clasp and one hinge broken, while
the bottom was the only part of it where there was room for another
dint.

We had breakfast at Horsham and lunch at Ballarat. The places were 130
miles apart by rail, and when a person puts that space between his
meals he doesn't digest much of what he sees, however well he might
digest what he eats.

The traveller was frequently tempted to break his journey through this
part of Victoria. Besides the numerous diggings, with their early-time
associations, their cradle-echo of the roaring days, there were many
fine lakes, as Lake Manna, near Horsham, and Lake Windermere, or
Windouree. To people from the dry interior, who were wont to admire the
broad, rippling bosom of an excavated tank, the sight of those sea-like
expanses was exhilarating. These lakes were respectable; they were
reliable; they didn't shame the old inhabitants by drying up in summer,
and exasperate them by flooding them out in winter.

To the nature lover one of the most alluring parts of the bush is the
large, ready swamp, set like an emerald basin in the midst of a deep
forest, and backed by low, girdling hills. There is invariably a broad
pool of clear water, partly screened by a bed of buoyant rushes, and
surrounded by a wide expanse that is studded with green reeds, soft,
trailing grasses, and beautiful flowering lilies. With here and there a
clump of sweet-blossoming tee-tree, where myriads of bees keep up an
incessant hum; with the gaudy-winged dragon flies hovering over the
scented broom and the tasselling rushes; with its teeming bird life,
its wild voices of day and night; its morning fragrance, and its
mysterious evening whispers--it has a charm that grows on those who
dwell near it, and that calls, ever calls, to them through all the
after years.

Ballarat, one of the oldest and most historic goldfields in Australia,
still rewarded the patient diggers with rich lumps of gold from time to
time. Though it had grown into a big town--a pretty one, with numerous
statues in memory of the heroes who fell on the little battleground of
Eureka: the heroes who struck the first blow for freedom on Australian
soil--there had always been a canvas township attached to it right down
from the exciting days of the golden era. For over 50 years the
diggers' tents had gleamed whitely along hill and valley; and though
men had searched and dug through all that time, there were still good
prizes for the patient and persevering.

Among the inhabitants of Canvas Town were many old men who made
fortunes in the long-ago rushes and lost them; who had wandered from
field to field, from State to State, and drifted back finally to the
old ground. A big section of diggers pottered about old fields in
preference to prospecting for new finds. In the case of some, they knew
the ground was too hurriedly worked of yore for every ounce of gold to
be taken from it; and the low weight of the dish that paid the
fossicker now was considered too poor to be worth bothering about then.
Thousands had gone over old grounds for that reason in the intervening
years; but still the digger ever thought that there must be some gold
remaining yet; he couldn't believe that all the place contained had
been discovered as though the searchers had been directed by a magnet.
There must be some slugs left yet, some rich pockets remaining. That
was what the digger said to-day; his successors a hundred years hence
will be saying the same.

They managed to keep themselves from year to year, some of them by
working the old tailings; and when they occasionally struck a pocket or
a small nugget they were rich. Abandoned shafts had also a strong
attraction for these fossickers. They picked around the sides, and sank
a foot or two deeper; and many a fortune has been made with no more
labour than that.

The tent-dwellers who clustered near Ballarat--and also at Ararat--were
not those who were here to-day and gone to-morrow; they were always
there. Some of them had names on their tents, as other people had on
their houses; and all were known to the grocer, to the baker, the
butcher, and other tradesmen, whose carts called regularly, and had
marked out for them their roads and streets. Even the woodman called at
lots of the tents, though tall eucalypts were still plentiful where the
majority were pitched. The occupants were mostly men who had no family
cares. The train ran partly through their field of operations, miles
upon miles of little earth heaps showing on either side.

This canvas village in an old and populous centre was novel to most;
but it was not unique in Australia. Other goldfield towns had their
canvas suburbs--the canvas having clung perpetually from the long-ago
days of the rush. And when one of the veteran diggers who inhabited
them struck it rich the chances were he would establish himself more
permanently and comfortably on the same spot; he would buy a new tent.

CHAPTER XXV.
In Canvas Houses.

Properly the canvas house belonged to the dry, inland regions. In the
coastal belt there was seldom any necessity for it, for timber and bark
were plentiful in almost any locality where one's avocation required
him to make a temporary residence. The more humid atmosphere, the
colder climate, and long spells of wet weather, made the light dwelling
of the interior plains unsuitable.

A man could be comfortable anywhere in a tent; but for a family it was
inconvenient and cheerless, however big it was. Many families managed
in tents in places where their stay was only for a brief period. For
all that they had to make a place of bark or iron for cooking in. Even
then the conditions were unpleasant for a woman with children. In wet
weather she was half her time plodding through mud, and everything in
the cramped domicile was damp.

In those timbered regions the common material of the temporary
habitation was bark. It did not take long to strip enough sheets for a
commodious hut, and its erection was merely a matter of a few days.
This hut was all bark. The more permanent structures--the "Old Bark Hut"
of our early history--had slab walls. Out west iron was used; but it was
hot, and altogether unsuitable to people whose abiding places were
never permanent. There was no bark there that could be used for this
purpose. Over vast areas of the interior there was no timber. Carting
material for a fresh residence whenever one shifted, or removing the
old residence to a new site, was a laborious and expensive proceeding--
something light, and portable, with the roominess of an ordinary
dwelling, was required. At first the largest sized tent was adapted to
suit this purpose. It was erected on a high ridge pole, and the walls
were lengthened with canvas or common bagging. This was comfortable
enough for a married couple; but still it was only one small room, and
when they had three or four children its limitations were impressed on
everybody at every turn. It was common on far-back mining fields that
did not peter out in a month or two, and from it the canvas house was
evolved.

This house was deliciously cool in the hot summers of the western
plains of N.S.W.; the winters were too short to be taken into account.
It was neat and clean, roomy and snug; and in that latitude it was one
of the very healthiest kinds of habitations one could live in. It was
not a place where you had to mind the paint and the polish and be
careful of muddy boots on the floor. The floor took care of itself.
Neither had you to tiptoe about when the baby was asleep. Everything
was simplified--and it was a refreshing simplicity. The house and all
its contents, together with much outside paraphernalia, could be packed
into one heavy dray. Yet a man and his wife, and half-a-dozen children
might live in it, and enjoy every comfort and convenience of a bush
home.

The canvas house was much in favour by wandering bush workers and
contractors. A few light pieces of pine wood, well fitted and bolted
together, served for the frame, which could be put up while the dinner
was cooking. The rest, including doors and windows, was canvas or
hessian. The house was generally long and narrow, divided into three
rooms. The living room was in the centre; the fireplace was outside,
well away from the inflammable material with which the place was
constructed. This dwelling imposed the minimum of housekeeping work on
the women. There were no windows to clean, no floors to scrub--nothing
to spoil. I have seen such a place, standing alone in a wide dry
paddock, with "water laid on." This was accomplished by means of a
three feet length of pipe, with a tap on the end of it, being screwed
into an iron tank standing on a dray outside the back wall. The
furniture was mostly in keeping with the building--folding canvas chairs
and beds, boxes that made chests of drawers when stacked in the
bedroom, and benches that stood on trestles.

The canvas building with its appropriate fittings, or with ordinary
furniture, formed the first home of many a new selector and his family.
The cheap material lasted a long while, and when repairs or complete
renovation was necessary, it was easily effected. The householder did
not need to call in a carpenter, paper-hanger, painter or plumber; he
could do it all himself, and complete the job in a day. It was an
economical residence all round, was the canvas house.

Bore contractors and tanksinkers lived in canvas houses, for both must
reside alongside their work, which was usually in some lonely open
space. Both were employers of labour. The boss and family lived in the
house which contained a dining-room big enough to accommodate all
hands, the men. in bough-screened tents scattered around it. Putting
down an artesian bore was a long contract. The boring machinery worked
all through the night, as well as all day. It was always a busy scene;
always was the throb of life in it like the unceasing thump-thump of
the Broken Hill mines. One that was put down at the Warri Warri, near
the Queensland border, took over two years. The contractor's house had
a wide skillion, which was chiefly occupied by the cook. His bedroom
was at one end, a wide fireplace at the other, and in between was a
long plank table. The furniture of the residence included a piano,
pictures, bookcase and books, and other furnishings of an ordinary
well-to-do home. There was also a verandah in front, a mere awning of
canvas, under which the canvas chairs, set on the bare ground, were
inviting in the afternoon to a hot traveller. Here the men sprawled and
smoked after their midday meal; here, too, the family spread their
beds, and slept on hot nights.

The tanksinker's contract lasted from three to six months, according to
the size of the tank, and the hardness of the ground. His house was
built by the side of the excavation, water for domestic purposes having
to be carted to it in iron tanks. It was partly surrounded with a bush
or canegrass break. There were horse yards, cart and harness sheds,
sheep pens, a forge and work shop, the whole suggesting a selector's
homestead, especially when one saw children playing merrily about it,
and heard the familiar cackle of laying hens. But when the tank was
finished the house and all the busy life that was about it suddenly
disappeared.

An advantage of the canvas house was that it could be erected anywhere
like a tent, and however much you shifted about you were always in the
same old familiar home. You only changed your neighbourhood and
scenery. For the new selector or farmer who wasn't overburdened with
capital, and wanted to get to work at once on his land, it was the
cheapest and most convenient form of residence. He could take his wife
and children with him, when he went on to his block; and they would be
comfortably domiciled and settled down to their housekeeping within 24
hours. It was the lightning process of home-making.

CHAPTER XXVI.
In the Smoker.

The whole stretch of country traversed from the Murray River to
Ballarat was pleasing to the eye. Victoria has innumerable beauty
spots, with no repelling background like N.S.W., South Australia, and
West Australia. Nearly every inch of her territory, like that of
Queensland (excepting where the beastly imported prickly pear had
formed choking wildernesses), was inviting to the settler.

But we had a grievance now. Our accommodation had deteriorated,
whereas, considering the tedium of a long journey, it should have
improved with successive trains. The cars were full enough before; now
they almost bulged at the sides. Some of the passengers were full, too.
A comatose bulk or a half-drunken wight, lolling and bumping against
you on one side; a portly, straight-laced old dame, surrounded with
parcels and baskets, on the other, and two or three youngsters sleeping
among a bundle of shawls and pillows and feeding bottles on the floor,
was a proposition that could only be taken seriously. I have been
tightly sandwiched at times among nice girls, and didn't find it
uncomfortable a bit. A vagrant tress, playing teasingly across one's
face, and twining amorously around one's neck, in such circumstances
imparted only delectable thrills. This company was too mixed and too
old and too fat to make sandwiches with, while its hair only irritated.
Neither could you enjoy a pipe there, for the portly old dame objected
to smoking; and, though it was a smoking carriage, you were expected to
consider the license suspended while she was present.

A wrinkle-faced man with a sour expression wanted to know why women who
didn't smoke frequented the smoking compartments of trains and trams.
He knew plenty of women who indulged in private--and made grimaces at
tobacco smoke in public; but all manner of women seemed to seek the
company of smokers, without wanting the smoke. What did they want? Was
it merely woman's perversity?

There were women whose lips were never polluted with nicotine, yet who
confessed to a liking for tobacco and cigar smoke; and there were many,
on the other hand, who looked daggers at a man who dared to blow a
whiff in their vicinity, who made audible remarks that put the
offender's pipe out with the chill atmosphere engendered around him.
These invaded the weed-lover's compartment: in greater numbers than the
others. When their own compartment was full there was a justifiable
excuse for the intrusion; but how often did we find them wedged among
the men when there was plenty of room on the seats specifically
reserved for them. Some rude people applied the opprobrious term "cats"
to women, because, like the feline race, they seldom agreed together.
Did these latter then prefer the smoke atmosphere because of animosity
to their own sex?

One female complainant said that "women appreciate the feeling which
prompts a man to rise and offer his seat." This prompts half a dozen
queries, while directing investigation in quite a different channel. It
was the feminine nature to crave admiration, sympathy, praise,
attention and so forth; but when one went out of her way to force such
little courtesies as surrendering a seat from the male person, he might
be excused for the assumption that she was a poor, neglected being,
whose life was empty of all that panders to woman's vanity, and adds to
woman's pleasure, whose heart was lonely, and whose soul was hungry.
But why rebel against tobacco in tobacco's realm?

One might reasonably expect that a young lady--or an old one, for that
matter--who was looking for courtesies would be magnanimous enough to
condone a little adulteration. Still, it being a discourtesy on a man's
part not to remove his pipe in her august presence, she might
reasonably consider that the one counteracted the other, while woman's
beautiful inconsistency did not permit of an argument about proper
places.

Then, again, man was a much shyer animal now than formerly, and hard to
hook, with the most alluring baits; and maybe in place of being chased
by him she had taken to chasing him. It was much easier to corner him
in trains and trams than to overtake him in the open; and as the brute
was a necessary adjunct he had to be accepted with his pernicious
habits; at least, he must be courted in the malodorous atmosphere with
which he surrounded himself, and any amelioration that could be
accomplished in respect to that was, in her opinion, to be commended.

But this theory, too, must go overboard, The intruders were not all
young maids; the majority were married women--mothers and grandmothers.
This reduces one to the Chinaman's comprehensive protest, "Whaffor?"
One thing was indisputable; they caused no end of annoyance by
encroaching on man's preserves and objecting to what he did there. Men
wouldn't mind the presence of women; they rather like their society;
but when her ladyship says, tacitly or otherwise, that a man mustn't
smoke in a compartment specially provided for him to smoke in when she
chose to plant herself there instead of in her own quarter, she became
an objectionable quantity that called for suppression. It was an
occasion when the lord of creation might be pardoned for getting up in
a hurry and slamming the door.

In a general way, women were indiscriminate and inconsiderate. In the
rush and confusion at the platform they plunged in wherever they saw a
vacant seat, irrespective of what the carriage might be. Often a man
entered a smoking carriage to enjoy the luxury of a pipe or two on the
way, and his wife or daughters or other female attaches, rather than be
separated, elected to share the compartment with him; and this they did
to the inconvenience of other male passengers. Their presence also
attracted other women, and it was no uncommon thing to find the smoker
almost entirely filled with women. Under such circumstances the man who
entered it in the first place to smoke had to forego the pleasure or
suffer the withering looks and inuendoes of the petticoated fraternity
around him.

On one occasion a soldier, who had been imbibing rather freely, entered
our compartment, and, taking the pipe from his mouth, said:

"Any of you ladies object to smoking"

The ladies glared at him, but no one answered.

"Cause if you do," he continued, "there's carriages reserved specially
for non-smokers. This is mine." And down he sat, and puffed huge,
curling clouds to the ceiling.

At Nhill, the little town that the big cyclone played skittles with
years ago, we had lost all our ladies but an 18st. dame from Border
Town, who looked immaculate in a sheeny black silk dress, bedecked with
shimmering black beads, and in a quaint little toque skewered to the
bundled thatch at the back of her cranium. A roughly dressed, bluff old
farmer, who had been ousted from somewhere else by the aforesaid
ladies, got in "for a bit of a run to Ballarat," and edged towards the
little vacant space beside her. He took out his pipe, but before he lit
it he turned to the old lady in silk.

"Do you smoke, ma'am?" he asked politely. The old lady started, and
peered at him from under knitted brows.

"I do not!" she snapped.

"You're in the smoker, ma'am," continued the irrepressible farmer.

"That needn't stop you from smoking," she returned. "Though I don't
smoke myself," she added more graciously, "I have no objection to
tobacco smoke."

"All right, old woman," said the farmer, and a grin ploughed round to
his ears, as he winked at us.

Then we all drew out our pipes and lit up, and therewith the scenery on
each side of us improved wonderfully.

CHAPTER XXVII.
A Good Hand at Cards--Melbourne--Seeing the Duke.

The overseer had purchased a pack of cards at Ballarat to relieve the
tedium of travel. Just before the train started again we were joined by
a well-conditioned clergyman. The overseer, who had been directing our
attention to the joker, dropped some cards in his hurry to conceal
them. The clergyman smiled. The overseer blushed, and when he had
awkwardly gathered up the cards he put them in his pocket. Then said
the new-comer: "Don't let me interrupt you, gentlemen. I rather like a
game of cards myself." in two shakes whist was elected, and the cards
dealt out.

The clergyman whispered, with a roguish twinkle in his eye: "I'm only a
novice, but I'm a good loser. We'll make it a shilling a head if you
like, just to give a little zest to the game."

We liked nothing better. We played while the train roared along; we
played on our best behaviour, feeling the fascination of the gambler
and the influence of the Church. The clergyman won.

We were pleased at his success. We had secretly engineered the game to
that end. Now we played our best, each one endeavouring to scoop the
pool for himself. We considered one victory an hour would be sufficient
tonic for the good shepherd. It was more exciting than the first game,
but less satisfactory. The clergyman won.

We were a little chagrined on starting again. We were also less honest,
and tried to work points on the good man by telegraphing to one
another. But we were a scratch team, and didn't understand one
another's cheat code. Play became still more absorbing. The scenery was
forgotten. Even conversation dropped in our desperate efforts. Every
mind was keenly concentrated on the business in hand, till the final
card was played. The clergyman won.

I never did see a novice play so well against old hands. His luck was
wonderful. When he at last departed hence with his bag and brolly in
his hands, a jovial smile on his face, and a valedictory "God bless
you," we were the most flabbergasted crowd in the train. We had played
ten games by that time. The clergyman had won them all!

From Stawell into Melbourne the view was replete with scenic beauty,
and you passed many historic spots that would never be erased from the
memory of Australians. The gold towns were fairly big places, and
pretty enough to attract a painter's eye. One of the loveliest spots
was Bacchus Marsh, viewed at sunset as you traversed its long girdling
hills.

It was late when we reached Melbourne. It was raining, too, and
bitterly cold at that. Cramped, worn out and sleepy, we were glad to
take the first accommodation that was offered. This was an alleged
boarding-house kept by two persons named McGregor. We met McGregor pere
at the station, acting as "runner" for himself. He had fiery-red
whiskers, worn monkey fashion, and there was a country air about him
that appealed to us. It transpired that he had made money with pigs,
and had lately embarked in business in town. He said we were lucky to
drop on to his establishment, as he believed it was the only one that
had a vacancy left in Melbourne just then. Before we had been there
many hours we understood why it had vacancies. Melbourne was
overcrowded with visitors at the time, and it was the worst kind of
recommendation for any place to have vacancies begging to be filled.
Besides the visit of the Duke, it was the season of the Eight Hour
festival, and the whole city was beflagged and ablaze--at night time--
with coloured lights. We had arrived at a time to see Melbourne at its
best, but the multitude that arrived contemporaneously made it the
worst time to see anything. Still, we saw the Zoo and the Museum before
the rush set in for the sights.

We stayed three days at McGregor's, then restored the vacancy, having
in the meantime discovered a furnished room to let in a quiet street
near the railway station. The menu for breakfast at McGregor's (the
only meal we partook of on the premises) never altered--fried steak and
onions, cold and greasy. Our host carved the bread against his shirt
with a butcher's knife. Slices half-loaf size and an inch thick. He
also waited at table. He had the old bog habit of stealing round on
tiptoe, and breathing confidentially in one's ear, when he thought
anything was wanted. Whatever he had been among pigs, he was a misfit
in a boarding house. The duke wasn't staying there.

The price of meals had risen 150 per cent, since the city had been
exalted by the presence of a real live member of the nobility. We
breathed his name with great fervour each time we parted up. All the
restaurants were crowded to the doors. Our plan was to note who was
eating pudding--the last course--and mortgage his chair by standing over
it till he was finished, and then fight for it if necessary. Once a
Bendigo soldier (you couldn't look twice in two places without seeing
three soldiers these regal days) had mortgaged the next chair to mine,
and caused much indignation to a fat old gentleman by the simple
remark: "I'd rather keep this fellow a week than a fortnight; he must
have lost his appetite and found a horse's." The old party rose with
his mouth full of hot jam roll, and told us that he was opposed to
jingoism since, soldiers stood over civilians in cafes and placed
restrictions on their appetites. After which he had some more jam roll.

On Melbourne's gala day we mingled with the dense crowd that lined the
muddy street. It was a damp day, and a long wait didn't help to make it
brighter. The crowd grew weary and impatient, but still it stood there,
craning its hydra-neck forward and upward. Then a sanitary cart came
crawling along the living avenue. Somebody shouted, "Here it comes!"
and a few of the more boisterous cheered. It was the signal for an
ovation. Both lines took it up, and clapped and hoorayed with
enthusiasm. The astonished driver, who had been indulging in a quiet
smoke, sprang up quickly, and looked back towards Prince Bridge.
Nothing was coming that way. He looked towards the Exhibition
Buildings, and nothing appeared in that direction either. The crowd
cheered encouragingly. He was puzzled. He directed his gaze at the
balconies and roofs, scanned his vehicle, and finally glanced along the
rows of smiling faces. All eyes were fixed on him--thousands of them. He
dropped into his seat, limp, blushful, and cowed; and, gathering the
reins up, he struck the tired horse sharply with the ends. Thunderous
applause! If he only shook the reins they applauded it; if he said "Get
up!" they encored him vociferously. His pipe had gone out; in fact, he
had sneaked it away into his pouch; and, glancing left and right, he
answers the applauding multitude with sickly grins. So much popularity
unnerved him; he had never dreamed he was so popular in Melbourne. It
was a lengthy avenue of people, and all along it they hailed him with
clamorous voices, with hand-clapping, with waving hats and agitated
handkerchiefs. They overwhelmed him with applause. He shrank up
visibly. I believe, if the cart had not been full, he would have
crawled under the covering and hid there till he was out of sight.

When the cheering had ceased, Mr. Muggs touched the overseer on the
arm, and asked:

"Was that him?"

"Who--what?"

"The duke?"

"Duke--be--hanged!" with pitying scorn.

"Eh?" said Mr. Muggs, pretending not to hear. "Is that the procession?"

"Pro--God bless my soul--Why--?" Words failed him; he turned away with a
sniff, craning to see "if it was coming."

Of course, we saw the grand pageant, and the fireworks, and all the
rest of it later; but that municipal cart was better than anything in
the whole show.

CHAPTER XXVIII.
Hawkers.

Every big town has its complement of hawkers. Melbourne had a plague of
them, their raucous voices compelling notice day and night. To lovers
of quiet and peace they were a nuisance; especially in those hours when
there was a hush over all mundane things. The rattle of carts and the
clutter of driven quadrupeds, combined with the musical tones of
grumptious bipeds, struck one as an outrage on nature when they were
raised under the soft light of peaceful stars. An old maxim impresses
upon all sluggards that the early bird catches the worm; but it omits
to add that birds have the grace to wait for daylight, and the worm
which is thus caught owes its downfall to dilatory habits.

Another old-time adage instructs us that "early to bed and early to
rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise." If all humanity acted
upon that there would at least be a reasonable span of calm occurring
regularly in every 24 hours. But the busy man goes to bed late and gets
up early. In any case, the old adage is a fool. I tried it when I
couldn't help it, and can speak from personal experience. In the bush
we got up early to start on a journey. To begin with, horse hunting in
the dark occupied ten times longer than would have sufficed in
daylight, to say nothing of stubbing one's toes, falling over logs,
stumbling into ruts and gullies, and damaging one's eyes against twigs
and branches. You run the same risk in riding, besides the risk of
losing the road, and every now and again you are smothered in the great
yellow, viscous net of the forest spider. Once I fell in the river
through getting up early, and I have suffered numerous inconveniences,
besides losing much valuable time fiddling around, through being too
previous. Certainly the habit made me wiser; it taught me the wisdom of
staying in bed till the sun got up; but I am quite positive it never
made me wealthy.

The most noticeable early risers in town are milkmen, bakers, and
newsvendors. They beat the daylight-saving cocky farmer every day in
the week. We all like our papers early, but we don't like their arrival
announced with a yell that wakes the baby, and a clamorous tattoo on
the door. Some distributors make a tight roll of the paper, so as to
shy it across the front garden, and it bangs against a reposeful
residence like a battering-ram.

It is also necessary for the milkman to be starlight early at some
places to complete his round before breakfast; though one might
reasonably expect him to deliver the cow product with much less uproar.
Whether jugs are waiting or not, he wakes the neighbourhood with his
welkin-splitting "Milk-o-o!" and the clatter of his cans, intermingled
with door-knocking and a frequent stentorian "Whey-whoa-back." I have
never known an early milkman's horse that didn't require admonitions of
this sort every five minutes. He seems to drive an unusually restive
breed of animal. It appears to be obstinate also, for the milkman has
to shout "Get up" loudly and often to get him going again. The younger
the milkman the more cyclonic he is with the cans; the more anxious to
let everybody know he's up, and the more obstreperous the horse he
drives.

As for the early baker, new bread being bad for the digestion, there
was no need to work with the owls and go roaring round like a tornado
with it before day had properly begun. These, people, too, have horses
that require a lot of talking to, and they throw the bread at the
doorstep, ring the bell with emphasis, and bang the gate in a manner
that vibrates through the suburb. Then more "whey," more "whoa-back,"
more "gee-up," and more bang and clatter all down the thoroughfare.

Between breakfast and tea a motley crowd of the peddling fraternity
waits on both ends of the premises. "Scissors to grind and umbrellas to
mend" is exclusively a town product. Sometimes he has a special light
vehicle carrying a grindstone, worked with a treadle; more often he
plods around on foot, with a bundle of wrecked ginghams as the sign of
his trade. The hawkers of stale cabbages and inferior fruit parade in
great variety, the handcart and wheelbarrow forming links between the
greengrocer's horse and cart and Quong Fat's pendulous baskets. "Tripe-
cow-heel," "Photo to enlarge free of charge" (the frame of which
subsequently costs you 21s), "Rabbit-O, clothes props, brushware,
scrubbing mats, door rolls, bottle-o, taffy for treacle tins, plants
for the garden, all growing, all blowing; hokey-pokey, penny a lump;
fish-o, all alive-o, and fresh eggs (when they were laid), and garden
honey, among other canvassers, are essentially urban identities; whilst
the insurance agent, sewing machines, pianos, books, tinware, and pots
to mend, and chairs and couches to repair, are familiar in town and
country. Some accept your refusal to buy in a polite manner; others
drop curses at your front gate as they go out--and they invite curses on
their own heads by leaving the gate open.

In the greengrocery line there are many specialties and grades. There
is the man who tramps round with a basket of salad vegetables, another
with watercress, a third with rhubarb and celery, others with tomatoes,
lettuce and radish, lemons, and so forth. When one tots up the contents
value of any of these baskets, and deducts the outlay, and takes into
consideration the time lost in waiting at each door, about one call in
a dozen being profitable, he wonders what sort of a dividend shoe-
leather will have when tucker has finished with the profits. They
represent a class whose labour the community would never miss.

Some of these peddling wares are some times mere cloaks, adopted by
Burlgar Bill to spy out the land, note likely cribs to crack, ascertain
the habits and position of the residents, and map out the premises. One
of the brethren called at my address one morning, hawking a few
diseased oranges. He stood on the verandah, eyeing a pair of newly-
pressed pants that were airing on a chair. I had been reading in the
bedroom with the door shut, pending the airing process; and was now
watching through the window curtains. There being no answer to his
knock, he glanced round, then snatched up the pants, and was rolling
them up smartly, when a man, who was fully dressed for going out,
except that he had no pants on, rushed frantically to the rescue. He
would have caught the thief, too, only for the distracting disturbance
the landlady made in the hall. She had been coming on slippered feet to
say lunch was ready but instead she threw up her arms with a wild
scream and fainted.

The swe-e-ep, with his brooms and brushes, his midnight countenance and
sooty garments, is one who fills a long-felt want next door; wood and
coal is a wandering worker of like utility; and rags and bags, and old
bedsteads and old iron are a convenience at times; but a robust fellow
hawking round a few bootlaces and buttons seems to be a misapplication
of energy; while jewellery, new music, notepaper and postcards,
pictures to frame, matches--two a penny, and the like, invoke the
householder to shoo them off the premises with more dispatch than
civility.

Just when night is setting in there is a great disturbance at the back
gate. The lady (all women are ladies to these itinerant callers), going
out, finds a seedy-looking individual contemplating a melancholy moke,
which is attached to a wheeled relic of ye olden times, and lamenting
his misfortunes. He has a barrowful of wood in the cart, the tailboard
is down, and some of the firing material is spilled on the road.

He has a pitiful tale to tell, this man, and he tells it better than
Bland Holt. The wood was intended for a party two blocks away; but his
horse was knocked up, and he wanted to get home, so he will sell her
the lot dirt cheap.

"It's real good dry box, lady. Look at it!" He almost shoves some of it
into her arms. "I'm losing on it, lady, honour bright," he adds; while
there is a pathetic, appealing look in his eyes. "If it wasn't that 'm
fair done in an' the horse is dead beat, an' won't pull it another
yard, I wouldn't sell it. As I said, I've a customer waitin' for it."

She hesitates for a moment; then remembers that she has been taken in
before in after-dark wood-dealing, and tells him that she has just
bought some from his brother. As the gate closes he straightens up his
outfit, takes hold of the reins, and the knocked-up horse walks
straight away. He is a by-product, this sundown woodman, for it's
sundown before he starts out, and his object is to trade on people's
sympathy.

"He reminds me of the yarn of two scheming Back-o'-Bourke aborigines.
The pair appeared one day at a squatter's homestead, carrying a lubra
on an improvised stretcher. They were taking her to the hospital, they
said, as she was very sick. None of them had anything to eat that day,
and they would be "cobbon much obliged" if Mr. and Mrs. Squatter could
give them some tucker and tobacco and a drop of brandy for Maggie; also
some clothes for her to go into the hospital in. The only sympathy they
got was a curt order to clear out. A little while afterwards Maggie was
seen to rise from the stretcher, which the bearers threw away in
disgust, and load herself with the blankets. "Thought you were sick?"
remarked a man as she strode off. "Ugh!" she answered. "No ploomin'
good bein' sick when nobody gib it anyting." So, in the same way, it
was no use of the woodmans' horse being knocked up when he couldn't
sell the wood.

The latest disturber in the vicinity of our Melbourne lodgings raised a
loud voice about the time the average household was retiring for the
night. You heard him in the distance, too far away to distinguish his
cry; but as he drew nearer. "Hot pies and saveloy-y-ys" came hurtling
through your bedroom window. This person's blatant call was with you an
hour from the time you first heard it till it died away in other
streets. Sometimes he had a bell, so as to leave you with no excuse for
not hearing him; and now and again he circulated in a cart, which
seemed to crunch more gravel to the mile than any ten carts could in
daytime. He was first cousin by a former marriage to the ice-creamer,
who drifted up and down with his foreign yell of "I-scream-a-wafer,"
and the blast of his abominable trumpet.

But there is one hawker who dispenses a little sunshine as he goes, the
one who leaves sample tins and packets of useful commodities at one's
door. Sometimes, however, he calls back in a day or two to ascertain if
you liked the goods, and if so, would you give him an order? When he
boomerangs like that he makes himself unwelcome.

CHAPTER XXIX.
An Unpleasant Attachment--Armed and Feathered Women.

By the time we started on our final stage, from Melbourne to Sydney,
the overseer had become such a confirmed rusher that there was no
steadying him anywhere. He had been elbowed aside, and knocked down so
much and left behind so often in the rush for trams and boats and
buses, in the struggle for seats and the crush at theatres, that he
became desperate.

He was familiar with rushing cattle and scurrying sheep; but the
stampeding human animal was a new departure. It was no use saying
"Whey!" to him. It was equally useless to crack a whip at him; you
could only stop him with a gatling gun.

The overseer wasn't slow. He was a big man, with long legs, and when he
stampeded he was a holy terror in himself. He got off scratch with
celerity. If a mob intervened, and it was too solid to plough a lane
through with his shoulders, he dived under its coat-tails. He worked
through or charged through as the occasion required.

During the first day or two he would stand aside for the ladies to
enter a bus or tram first; now he drove himself through and mounted
like a leaping gorilla over the wheel of the 'bus or the step of the
tram. He got so confirmed in this habit that it was difficult to
restrain him from rushing an empty cab that nobody else wanted, He
simply couldn't go anywhere without being in a tearing hurry.

I encountered another velocipede at the railway station. We were seeing
our luggage on board when I was suddenly hooked up by a young woman,
and dragged away by main force. She wore a straw hat, which just
bristled with murderous pins, the sharp points protruding all round. As
she dived into the crowd one of these ploughed into the back of my
hand, and jerked it along after her. I said, "Excuse me, that's my hand
you've got." But she didn't take any notice. Didn't pause or look back,
though she must have had a glimmering of an idea that she had something
hanging to her head.

She was a bull-necked female, and took long strides, with her head well
forward, as though she had been used to hauling logs. I took long
strides, too, and stirred up the bile in a dozen people in half as many
seconds. Couldn't help bumping them and shoving them rudely aside, and
knocking their hats off and treading on their toes. Had to follow my
hand if I knocked the duke down. I endeavoured to inform her that I
wasn't the proper thing to wear in a hat; that I hadn't come into
fashion yet as an ornament. She didn't hear. I shouted to her that her
hat was getting damaged, but she still reefed on.

A man and a woman were darting along in front of her, and I saw now
that she was frantically trying to keep them in sight.

I grabbed her by the lace work round her neck, and steadied her
somewhat until I tore my bleeding hand free of the dagger. Even then
she didn't look back. I think she must have come from the solitudes of
Mallee.

I delivered some remarks very feelingly on feminine headgear, as I
wiped the blood off and returned to my companions. "Friend of yours?"
asked Mr. Muggs.

"No!"

"What were you running after her for?"

"Because I was attached to her."

"Ah! So I thought."

The overseer was hurrying to catch the train, which wouldn't start for
half an hour yet, and Mr. Muggs, quite satisfied with his own solution,
went after him before I could explain.

I set myself in a safe corner, and watched the armoured women, and the
feathered women, as they filed in to their seats. In the street a man
takes little notice of how a woman is dressed. He might talk to her for
an hour, or walk with her for half a day, and not be able to tell five
minutes later what was the colour of her dress. A married man might be
expected to take a little more notice of such things than the bachelor,
as he hears so much about fashions and materials from his wife; but
when he mentions that he met a lady friend, or was talking to Mrs. So-
and-So, and she asks the perennial question: "How was she dressed?" he
hasn't the slightest idea.

A woman notices the entire garb at a glance. If she merely passes
another woman in the street, she will give a full description of the
fabric and style of the costume and the decorations distributed about
it, the trimmings of the hat, the colour of the gloves, and the sort of
bag she carried. Fashion fancies form the greatest interest in the
average woman's life. Other things come and go, engaging her or
delighting her for the time being; but interest in feminine fashions
goes on for ever.

At Flemington or Randwick, and at the Agricultural Show, it is the
chief attraction; the racing and the exhibits merely distract attention
from it for fleeting moments. In the church even it is not forgotten.

In the thousand and one things that interest a man dress comes nowhere.
If it were not for the influence of women he would not care a pin what
he put on, providing it was something warm in winter and something
light and cool in summer. It is only the exceptional garb, something
very much out of the common, that he notices. The hobble skirt at first
took his eyes, and the scarem skirt tickled his fancy immensely. For
all that, in most cases he would fail to describe the shade and
material when they had passed beyond his purview.

There are two items, however, in a woman's outfit that no man fails to
take particular notice of--her cartwheel hat and the menacing daggers
with which it is skewered on. He knows these intimately because there
is no escaping them. They demand his attention, with deadly threats
every day of his life, in the throng on the pavement, at election
meetings, in the theatres and on the sports grounds; above all, in the
crowded trams, trains, 'buses, and ferry boats. In the morning and
evening crushes, when everybody is hurrying to and from business, the
hatpin is always a troublesome item, much more so when it protrudes its
long point through the top of the cartwheel hat. The latter is so
outrageous that the wearer in getting in and out of trams has to twist
and manoeuvre like a long horned cow getting into a bail; and it takes
up the room of three persons; while the pins, standing out all round
like the spines of a porcupine, keep the eyes of those nearest
nervously riveted on them.

When she stands in a packed passageway, swaying to the jolting of the
tram, and in diving in and out, screwing her headpiece at various
angles, they are a positive danger to everybody. Mere man has reason to
welcome the change whereby she economises with material in the bottom
part of her dress; if she wore the old crinoline in addition to the
cartwheel hat and yard-long stabbers, she would want a tram compartment
to herself.

The leathered woman offends with her bloodstained millinery by the
shameful practice of decorating her hat with the skins and plumes of
the loveliest and rarest birds. Over and over again the cruelty has
been pointed out; how the harmless egret is shot in her nest, and in
the act of feeding her tender babes, which are left to die of
starvation, for the sake of its fatal plume; how the exquisite lyre
bird is ruthlessly dealt with while performing its marvellous mimicry
and pleasant coquetry on its dancing ground; but it has all failed to
touch the heart of the "gentle" sex. What matters the suffering, the
destruction and waste, to woman, if she can have their fine feathers to
put in her hat.

It has been explained time and again that the birds are nature's
police, with a most important part to fulfil in maintaining the balance
of nature; and with their decrease there follows a proportionate
increase in insect life; that, if all the birds were exterminated, the
insects would eat up every living thing on the earth in two and a half
years; but still she has remained unmoved. Her new hat, especially with
a feather cocked up in it, is more important than the fate of worlds.
She has been appealed to on behalf of posterity, for the sake of her
children and her children's children, to preserve for them their God-
given heritage; and she has only looked enviously at another woman's
hat, and decided that her own wanted new feathers. It has been clearly
shown that it is a disgrace for any woman, a discredit to her sex, to
sport the plumes of innocent birds that have been murdered for
decoration; but her vanity has survived the shock. In spite of
everything, the feathered woman refuses to be plucked of her murderous
millinery; and while wearing it she pleads, on humane grounds, for
homes for stray dogs, and seriously holds meetings and collects money
for such purpose!

It is in the theatre that man takes the most particular notice of
woman's headgear. He can't help it. It is part of the scenery. It is
often the whole show. Whether we are in Germany, America, England or
Australia, the theatre hat is the same old source of annoyance; it is
always with us--that is--always in front of us--go where we may. It has
been anathematised in all languages; it has caused quarrels and undying
enmity. Women's good sense and better reasoning have been continuously
appealed to all over the universe; she has been railed at, caricatured,
ridiculed, and abused; she has been assailed with orange peel, peanut
shells, and banana skins; but she has stuck tenaciously to her hat all
through.

The theatre hat is not a necessity; there is no excuse for wearing it;
and every woman knows what an unmitigated nuisance it is to those
sitting behind her. The majority of our own fair sex have a
consideration for others. At theatres and picture shows they either
wear caps or remove their hats as soon as the entertainment begins; but
there is a minority who keep their hats on, and stubbornly refuse to
remove them, though repeatedly and politely requested to do so. They
take offence at any such suggestion. Their hats are a yard wide, more
or less; or they have an elevation like a church steeple, with
something resembling a poultry yard after a cockfight, or a miniature
botanic garden, as a top-storey decoration. As specimens of headgear
they are doubtless interesting to a milliner, but even a milliner
doesn't go to such places to see hats.

Having paid her money to see the play, she is apt to become exasperated
when she finds herself seated directly behind a big commonplace hat
that blocks her view of the stage or the screen. And how she hates that
kind of hat ever afterwards! It gets on her nerves, becomes an eyesore;
she wouldn't be found dead in such a contraction. If the wearer's neck
is not clean, or she has big ears, the hat exasperates all the more.
When several of the massive adornments get together, what a fine view
the back row doesn't have! Many a good temper and many a kind nature
are spoilt by the nuisance so frequently met with in places of
entertainment. The opportunity of enjoying a delightful evening is
destroyed, and good humour is turned into disappointment and vexation
of spirit. A male victim at a picture show remarked that a woman who
removes her hat unasked has usually a kindly nature; one who removes
the obstruction when requested is "courteous and obliging;" one who
apologises in addition is "a good sort, but thoughtless;" and the one
who declines to uncover, or is offended when it is gently intimated to
her that her roof is not made of glass, is a person to be shunned. She
is obviously ignorant and ill-mannered, and if she is not one of
nature's mistakes she is a female who has been badly brought up. If she
is married, her husband is deserving of sympathy; if she is a maid--
well, pity the poor unfortunate who gets her. What a vitriolic
termagant she will be at 40!

CHAPTER XXX.
Giant Trees--A Day on a New Selection--Glenrowan and Wodonga.

Going from Melbourne to Sydney was like travelling through another
world. It was a world of giant trees, of vast wildernesses, deep gorges
and towering mountains. This was the paradise of timber-getters and
bark-strippers, and the haunt of bullock teams. You caught glimpses of
bush homes high up on the hillsides or nestling deep down in a far-off
valley, and here and there you saw late settlers erecting a future home
in the heart of the timber, or grubbing and burning off a strip of land
for cultivation. For miles and miles there was scarcely room anywhere
to pitch a tent without shifting a few gums, messmates or supplejacks.
They took some shifting, too, and wanted a lot of room to fall,
particularly in Gippsland. The only trees in the world that could
challenge these for height and girth were the redwoods of California.
School children showed for a moment and disappeared into the forest of
trees, following various bridle tracks away to hidden homes. The tall,
wooden telegraph posts (straight as gun barrels) contrasted markedly
with the low metal posts that carried the wires across the north-west
corner of N.S.W. and through the interior of South Australia.

"Talking of giant trees," said the over seer, "reminds me of two uncles
of mine. They started one Monday morning to chop down a big tree in
Gippsland, and when they knocked off at dinner time on Saturday--"

"Monday," corrected Mr. Muggs.

"Saturday," the overseer repeated. "Didn't I say they started on
Monday?"

"What were they doing all the rest of the week"

"Chopping. When they knocked off at dinner time they reckoned they must
be half-way through. To make sure, they took a stroll round in the
afternoon--"

"I thought they would," Mr. Muggs interrupted again. "I met a lot of
the gladiators who wrestled with that stick, and they all did that."

"If you know so much about it, let's hear you finish the yarn," said
the overseer irascably.

"When they got to the back," Mr. Muggs proceeded, "they met two other
timber warriors who had been belting in for a fortnight on that side of
her."

"No, they didn't."

"What, then?"

"Thought you knew all about it!"

"Can't be the same sapling."

"Can't be." He folded his arms and meditated.

"Well, what happened?"

"Eh?" asked the overseer, looking up in surprise. "Happened! What?" He
had evidently forgotten all about it.

"Oh, when your uncle's aunt's sister's grandmother sat on the
porcupine," Mr. Muggs answered impatiently.

"Your uncles were having a walk round the vegetable to see how much
more they had to cut," another exasperated passenger reminded him.

"Ah! Yes, I remember now. Well--lend's a match." He took quite a minute
to light his pipe, and drew slowly and attentively at it for another
minute. Everybody was watching him, the attitude and expressions of
some indicating that he was running a risk of being chucked out of the
train.

"It's so long ago I almost forget it," he said at last. "Let's see.
Uncle Mart's been dead these five and twenty years, and Uncle Jesse--"

"Didn't they cut the tree down before the funeral?" the man in front of
him asked fiercely.

"They never cut it down."

"Why?"

"There was a big hollow on the other side, walled up, and a selector
and his family living in it. The woman opened the door just as they got
round, and she asked them if they had called before that morning. 'I
could have sworn,' she said, 'I heard somebody knocking on the back
wall before dinner."

Impressive silence.

"One of those uncles died, you say," remarked Mr. Muggs. "The other
uncle must be the old identity that's in Fiji."

Some women at work in one of the many new clearings among the densely-
timbered hills recalled to mind a day on a new selection farther north.

The house stood near the creek, but it was a long, steep climb to the
top of the bank. It was the family's first year on the selection, and
they had not yet got out of the roughing stage of humping water for
household use. I arrived there on washing day--and it was the "washing
day," that particularly impressed me in regard to that selection. The
woman, wearing an old felt hat and a pair of heavy boots of her
husband's for the occasion, was at work down near the water. Her tub
stood on a slab bench under a red bean tree, which was covered with
beautiful yellow flowers and huge green beans. Clothes were boiling
near by in a big boiler standing on two stones. One of the girls was
carrying wood, and looking after the fire. She helped to lift the
boiler off with a potstick, and to lift the tub when it wanted
emptying. The younger carried the soiled clothes down from the house,
and between whiles amused herself paddling and swimming in the creek.
They washed there every week instead of carrying water to the house.


"It saves such a drag," she explained. The clothes when washed were
carried up in a tub, and hung out on a line stretched between two
trees. At first they had spread them on the grass, and one day the
grass caught alight, and some of them were burnt. Once she picked up a
snake while taking in the dry clothes, and another time she slipped in
the creek, and was nearly drowned. Again, she told, on climbing up the
bank with a tub of clothes, she found a cow making a meal of some
pillow-slips which she had spread out to dry an hour before.

"The fence wasn't up then," she said, "and we had to keep the cows away
when we had clothes out."

A little lower down from the shady tree, which served her for a
washhouse, two black gins were washing for a neighbour, whose house
stood nearly a mile back from the creek. They carried the things to and
fro in buckets on their heads, and they washed most of them in the
creek from a half-sunken log. Half a dozen piccaninnies disported in
the water meanwhile, and on the bank by the boiler squatted an old
lubra, smoking her pipe.

"I could get the gins to wash my clothes, too," said my selector
friend. "But I'd have to find meals for a dozen of them, and they use
too much soap. Well, it isn't altogether what they use; they gammon
they use it, and they take it to camp to wash their own clothes.
Anyhow, I don't mind washing as long as I've got plenty of water, and
the bank isn't slippery or boggy. Sometimes it's both, and when you
slip down in the mud with your washed things, and have to wash them all
over again--as I've had to do more than once--then washing-day isn't your
happiest day in the week, I can tell you."

The picture of that cheerful soul, singing softly over her tub under
the bean tree, comes to me often when I hear Mrs. Sudds of Suburbia
grumbling over her task as she draws a plug to let the dirty water into
the sink, then turns on a tap to fill the tub again.

But to return to our train--which wasn't allowing much time even for
visual explorations. The towns on this line were not an interesting
feature. One felt disappointed on finding such widely known places as
Glenrowan--famed as the scene where the careers of the Kellys ended--and
Wodonga--the Mecca of northern and western cattlemen--were small and
commonplace. The ambition of every drover was to make the trip to
Wodonga. To them there was more magic in the name than there was in
"marvellous Melbourne" or "Sydney the Beautiful."

You didn't hear so much of Homebush; the New South Wales terminal for
western drovers was generally Bourke. There was nothing romantic or
attractive about these; but Wodonga was famous, alluring--it was always
calling. The backblocker who had been through with stock to those yards
was some considerable shucks of a person when he got back to his own
cattle camp. Yet Albury, on the opposite side of the Murray, could hold
its head high, and put on airs when it looked across at the little
place with a big name, and Wagga Wagga, Yass, and Goulburn, on the same
line, were more interesting to look at than Albury.

The overseer dismissed it with the off hand remark: "I've seen some
merry times here, finishing up long trips from the Gulf, and with wild
cattle from the Mooni."

He was too busy chasing Ned Kelly and other notorious acquaintances
around Glenrowan and Benalla at the time. He spoke quite familiarly of
Ned and Dan. He was stockriding at Benalla in those days, and on one
occasion was mistaken for a detective, and greeted with a broadside
from the ironclad.

"Were you killed?" asked the man in front of him, leaning eagerly
forward.

The overseer regarded him ferociously for a moment; then he turned to
the window, and devoted his talents to the study of landscapes. He
never told another yarn. He was silenced. He was killed

CHAPTER XXXI.
Settler's Homes.

The region of log timber was always a fascinating study to me; but the
homes of the settlers, standing in the small clearings, were rarely
remarkable for beauty. They were generally commodious and fairly
comfortable; but they were not elegant. With the space the settler has--
miles of it all around him--and the abundant material at hand, this fact
was surprising to the traveller, especially in situations where the
natural features appealed strongly to the artistic taste. Instead of
improving these features, or designing in harmony with them, the
settler almost invariably went to work in a way that destroyed their
beauty. To the artist in search of striking material the house was
picturesque; but to the average man from town it was positively ugly,
uninviting, cheerless.

Only here and there, as the train rolled on over hundreds of miles, did
one notice a place, in some smiling green valley, or perched on a low
hill, that pleased the eye, and struck one as a snug-looking home. Most
of the houses were rough, ramshackle places; with glistening iron roofs
that suggested an oven in summer time. Particularly was this so in the
northern and western parts of the country. A globe-trotter, sweltering
in our inland heat, and gazing on the burning iron roofs "out at the
back o' Bourne," might well question the sanity of the people who lived
there. There was nothing about them that was artistic; there was
nothing that deceived the eye--they were just as drab, rugged and bare
in front as at the back. Farm houses were notorious for their bleak and
ugly exteriors. There was an occasional home that was pretty and
graceful, but the ideal home was a rare place.

From the comfort point of view, the squatters homes were the most
uniformly satisfying among bush dwellings. They were seldom neat or
ornamental, being low, spreading places, with little architectural
finish about them; but they were roomy, fairly cosy, convenient, set in
a broad garden of trees and flowers, and had a wide, cool verandah on
two or three sides; some times all round. From the near-distant road
they looked attractive, inviting; and that was how every country home
should look. Whether a small place or a big place, with the bountiful
assistance that nature lent throughout the coastal regions, it could be
made beautiful and snug with little trouble and expense; and a home
that was beautiful and snug was more loved by mother and children than
one that looked no better than a shed.

A flower garden in front, a few shrubs and ornamental trees, or a small
orchard, would relieve the repelling bareness of the humblest
homestead. A few peach trees alone, when covered with blossom, have a
pleasant effect. But too often the country residence stood bare of all
decoration, like a boundary rider's hut, looking directly out on a big
paddock. No garden railings being in front, the cows fed up to the
door, and sometimes on cold nights one or two camped on the verandah.
Townspeople usually endeavoured to grow something to make their places
look nicer, even when the places were only rented. Perhaps a
familiarity with the luxuriance of nature's garden had bred contempt in
most bushmen. To them the grandest trees in the forest were merely so
much building and fencing material; all that they had no immediate use
for were in the way. The drudgery of splitting and clearing, together
with the commonness of the article, had brought about this purely
commercial aspect of the situation.

The settler had an infinite variety of trees and shrubs at hand that
could be utilised for beautifying purposes, and which in the course of
years would have a high commercial value. Such trees as pines, cedars,
tulip, maple, beech, rosewood, maiden's blush, bean, myrtle, mountain
ash, coachwood, walnut, butter-bush, wild cherry, lillipilli, silky
oak, marara, kedgy kedgy, wilga, belar, borea, yarran, myall, koko-
minni, (beef wood), kurrajong, bottle tree, bauhinia, quondong,
Christmas tree, layunya, bingum (flame tree), and wattles, were both
ornamental and useful. If planted, a few now and again on slack days,
around his boundaries, and along his main roads, they would give the
selection a very pleasing appearance. Every tree so planted would add
to the value of his homestead, and every year would add to the value of
the trees. But instead of planting he destroyed, for he reckoned every
inch of ground as so many blades of grass.

When he first goes on his selection he, is not blind to the natural
beauties about him, but foremost in his mind is, not how he is going to
make the most of them, and build up an attractive home that his wife
could take a pride in, but to select a site, nearest the spot where
water is most easily obtained. That is where the tent is pitched during
the time he is splitting timber, and naturally when he is ready to
build, the material is dumped down near it. The rough timber requires a
lot of trimming, and it is, of course, an advantage to him to be camped
close at hand while doing this, and during the time the house is being
erected. Thus the situation is decided. Whatever of an attractive
nature happens to be thereabouts is sacrificed, while all timber is cut
where it is handiest to house and fences, no matter what the effect may
be, or how much damage a falling tree may do in the immediate
neighbourhood. He completes the ruin by ringbarking almost everything
except an odd tree here and there that will be useful for splitting.
Always he is on the lookout for splitting trees, and if a saw mill is
within reach for milling timber; but never is a thought given to the
ornamental.

Coming from the comparatively timberless interior, it was positively
painful to us to see the waste of timber-wealth in the rich coastal
regions. On most of the old places the timber that was wantonly
destroyed would now be a veritable gold mine to the possessors. Land
that was not intended for agriculture was all ringbarked, not even a
few of the majestic gums being left for future home use. As the trees
died they were burnt off, so that when towns sprang up in the vicinity
what might still have been a valuable asset in the form of firewood was
a missing quantity. When poles, girders, and railway sleepers were
wanted, these people who once had plenty at their doors, had to go
miles away into forests that had not yet been selected to get them.
Thousands on the land have to buy timber to make repairs or additions
to their homes who had scarcely house room between the standing trees
when they first built and fenced. Many fine trees were destroyed for
the sake of a few sheets of bark, and saplings were cut down for birds'
nests, and to get a 'possum or a koala to kill. Timber is logically a
national asset, of which unborn generations have as much right to a
share as the current population.

The bushman is a handy person, but he is improvident in many ways, and
he doesn't spend much time on anything that is not of some immediate
practical use to him. He will work quite happily in the rain to grow
vegetables, whereas he would not devote a leisured half-hour to the
cultivation of flowers. He can't eat flowers; nor does anybody want to
buy them in his neighbourhood. In the planning and building of his
house the same spirit is displayed--weather proof, and containing just
as much room as is necessary--those are his requirements. He is his own
architect. The plan is drawn on the ground with a stick. Perhaps it is
drawn only to give his wife an idea what the mansion will be like, to
show the position of the big fireplace that take up more than half one
end; and where the doors and windows will be. For himself, the plan is
fixed in his mind, he makes no elaborate measurements when laying out
the building, depending greatly on his eye and his stepping.
Considering that he uses very few tools, dispensing with levels,
squares, planes, and even chisels, he makes a very good job with the
material. Many a substantial hut is built with only a fencer's kit.
Others are constructed from ground to roof without the use of a nail or
a screw. Economy is studied from beginning to end. Following no rigid
specifications, the construction has to conform a good deal to the
demands of the material, whilst the little details are planned as he
goes along. In populous districts 80 per cent of the houses are
constructed of sawn timber, brick and stone; but these are the work of
skilled tradesmen. Bush carpenters work mostly in rough timber, getting
what they need from the trees around them. But, however rough the home
may be, it could still be attractive if the settler made good use of
the natural wealth about him, instead of destroying it.

Beautiful surroundings mean a more contented and happier home life, and
induces those enjoying them to take greater interest in their locality.
What is more pleasant than to come into a country town that is green
with trees, and radiant with flowers, and where the approaching roads
are lined with native foliage, and the air is sweet with the fragrance
of native blossom.

Such a place is attractive in all seasons; and what a painful contrast
is presented by the town that is a mere conglomeration of bare houses
dumped on a plain! There are many such in all the States, and the
traveller at first sight of any of them remarks to his neighbour that
he would not care to live in such a dreary hole as that. Yet the
dreariest hole can be made inviting by a few trees and flower gardens.
Most of the N.S.W. country towns have a repelling influence: they drive
people away--or to drink, instead of enticing people into them. We found
the Victorian towns generally much more attractive, and probably that
was one of the reasons why the population was more evenly distributed
over the southern State than it was in New South Wales.

CHAPTER XXXII.
On the Track.

One of the passengers was an old drover, whose talking apparatus was
set going by the scenes around Wodonga and Albury, and for a long
stretch he entertained us with reminiscences of the overland.

"In my 25 years' experience on the overland," he said, 'I've had to do
with a good many kinds of marketable stock, an' there's no two kinds
that can be managed an' drove the same way. If I was asked which was
the worst and which was the best to travel with, I'd say pigs an'
mules.

"You mostly find me with cattle, because they're driven more than
anything else, an' the trips are longer. I'm more used to 'em an' after
all I prefer them. They're cheerier, livelier sort of company. They
keep you interested, no matter how long you're with them, supplyin' a
thrill an' a spice of danger every now an' again that keeps you alive.
It's the little sensations occurrin' when you least expect them that
brings you through a lonely six-months' journey as lively as a cricket.
You haven't time to get dull an' mopy; an' I'll guarantee there's
nothing will wake a man up quicker, when he's dozin' in his saddle on
night watch than a sudden stampede. It electrifies him; his first shout
to 'em is so spontaneous that it startles himself. Nor does anything
sharpen his wits so much. At the first rumble of hoofs on a dark night
he doesn't know which direction they're takin', but he knows they're
not particular whether they run over him or not to save themselves from
bein' run over by the crush behind. He's got to think an' act pretty
quick, especially when he's caught in an awkward position.

"I remember one night we were camped close to a big lagoon. I had to
ride along it on watch, because there was a shallow neck where they
could cross. It was a very frosty night in midwinter. I was well
wrapped up, but that dead sleepy I could scarcely keep my eyes open.
We'd been doin' some shoppin' in a township the evenin' before. All at
once, as I was dozin' along by the water, they sprang up, and before I
knew where I was they were almost on top of me, an' that was enough; I
wheeled a sharp round an' plunged straight in. That scamper an' the
plunge into the icy water woke me up so completely that I could 'ave
watched all night then without gettin' sleepy.

"Cattle are the most dangerous to travel with, 'specially bullocks that
have never been worked much on their native runs. It's in the wild
rides they set you through thick timber on dark nights, an' without
notice, that the risk lies. You have to trust your horse to clear logs
an' holes, an' the trunks of trees, an' you want the eyes of an owl to
save your head from being bashed against limbs. Bullocks are always
liable to rush, even when they come from the quietest herds. Cows are
less timid, but they are restless; while the most troublesome of horny
mobs is a mixed lot. The best is a mob of bulls. Nothing scares those
chaps. They won't be bustled on the way, an, exceptin' that they want
to interview every strange beast they see, they are well-behaved; and
when they go to camp you could have a corroboree around 'em without
disturbin' them.

"Sheep are tame things, but tiresome. They're, the most stupid animals
you can handle, an' on a dry track about the most stubborn. Whether
you're mounted or on foot, an' even when you've got a good dog to do
most of the roundin' up and runnin' about, you put in a good hard day's
work coverin' the average six-miles stage. Sheep won't go without a
leader; and when the leader sees anything unusual he stops an' stares
at it, an' the whole mob stops an' stares, too. When you've got a flock
of several thousands it's no easy matter getting 'em all movin' again.
Maybe the front lot will turn back an' make a packed bunch in the
centre. You have that trouble at every gate an' at every little creek
an' gully that has to be crossed. To avoid bein' delayed while they
stand starin' at the strange scenery, you have to rush a few through,
or drag a few over, an' then the others will follow. When you come to a
river or creek that they can't get over without swimmin', you have to
pitch camp an' build a bridge--which might take anything from a day to a
fortnight. No simple makeshift of a bridge will do. It has to have a
low wall of bushes along the sides, an' strong enough to keep them from
goin' through, for if one happened to take it into his head to jump
over into the river, the others would follow him, one after the other.
The decking has to be covered with bags, an ' the bags in turn covered
with earth or sand. Then you carry two or three over to the other side
as decoys, an' after a lot of shoutin' an' dancin' an' rushin' about,
you get them stringin' across.

"One good point about them, they're not much trouble at night. With
calico hurdles run round them, you can sit an' watch them from the camp
fire. Without hurdles, you stroll round on foot, or just up and down on
one side. A few beasts might go off a cattle camp at a time, but when
one sheep goes it's almost a certainty all the others will go after
him. So as long as you can see a few woollies in front of you, you're
pretty sure they're all there. They rush sometimes, an' I've seen 'em
flatten out a wire fence more than once. One night a mob rushed over
me. They'd been feedin' down a slope, and I was crowdin' 'em back, when
a dingo makes a big stir among them at the top. I stumbled over one
just as the whole flock started full rip down the hill. A sheep hasn't
got very big feet, and it isn't very heavy; but I tell you it ain't a
bed of roses bein' run over by a lot of 'em all close together.
However, after about a dozen had stumbled over me there came a bit of a
break, which allowed the next one to see the obstruction in front of
him. He jumped, an' thereafter everyone on the same track, whether it
saw me or not, made a bound at the same place--excepting a couple at the
tail end, which jumped too soon, and landed on top of me.

"They're aggravatin' things, is sheep. All the same, nobody in his
proper senses would chuck up a billet 'of drovin' them to take on
turkeys. I've seen odd flocks of geese bein' drove short journeys, an'
I think they're about the limit. One lot I had under observation was in
charge of a boy and a girl. They reminded me of sheep in some ways.
Anything at all uncommon would pull them up; they travelled dead slow,
with their heads all the while on the swing--studyin' the landscape, but
they didn't jib when they saw water; they let out a joyous cackle, an'
set sail for it. Musterin' 'em up out of a boggy swamp, or gettin' 'em
out of a small lake, was not as easy as ketchin' 'em in a paddock. They
had no dog, as the boy said they couldn't do anything with the poultry
while there was a dog about; so he had to do all the splashing and
swimming himself whenever the flock made a stampede for water.

"However, gobblers was as far as I got down to on the overland. I was
spellin' the mokes on a selection at the time, an' the selector's wife
asked me would I mind goin' with young Tommy into town with a flock.
There were about 10 of them, male an' female, an' we had to overland
them on foot, two comfortable days' journey with fair travelling. I
thought it would be dead easy, as they seemed quite tractable about
their own yard. The family gave us a start, and we got on fine until
the road cut through a patch of thick scrub. Keepin' them out of that
scrub was the deuce's own job, an' it was a tangle of lawyer vines an'
stingin' trees that gave us fits every time we had to plunge into it;
an' every time we got them back on the track we had to count them
carefully to make sure we hadn't missed any. 'Twasn't more 'an a mile
from side to side, but we were two solid hours gettin' through it.

"Towards evenin' we came on to a bit of grass that was inhabited by a
thick, strong-winged variety of grasshopper. Those gobblers had been
partly reared on grasshoppers, an' they were pretty hungry just them. A
couple would fly up, an' half the mob would go after one, an' the rest
of them after the other. We'd get them together again, after a lot of
running and shooing, and they'd be goin' along fine, when several
'hoppers would be flushed at once, an' away would go the whole lot of
them, scattering towards all the points of the compass, some racin'
away back behind us. There's no mistake they had us fairly flogged out
by the time we got to our night camp. Then we had to get them into
trees to roost out of harm's way, an' you know what cantankerous things
they can be when it comes to gettin' them on to strange roosts. The
only good point about 'em was they didn't want watchin' once they
settled down.

"I thought pigs couldn't be worse than them, but I was mistaken. If you
take the bad travellin' points of the turkey an' the goose an' mix 'em
together, the pig can still go one worse. You can't lead or drive a mob
of pigs like any other animals. They go along gruntin' an' rootin' an'
foragin' all the time; you've got to work every yard of the way to keep
them movin' on the right track. Stop a minute, an' they'll stop; try to
bustle them an' they'll split in all directions an' say 'Whugh.' An'
when they come to a bog or a waterhole they'll plough in an' lie there.
You can shout yourself hoarse, an' caper around an' pelt 'em till
you're knocked up, an' all you'll get from them is a grunt. They don't
take much notice of dogs either; they stand an' smack their chops at a
dog, or run backwards an' say "Whugh.' You've got to go in an' root
them out; if it's a hot day, an' they're a bit tired, you've got to
pretty well drag them out. An' they're not animals that keep any
regular hours. They don't stampede at night time, but they get up at
any hour to go rootin' about for something to eat. A black pig is hard
to see in the dark, an' he goes moochin' off so quietly that it's the
simplest thing out to lose him off camp.

"On long trips you've got to take one or two waggons piled full of
pumpkins or corn. You camp at a good watering place, an' after a feed
of pumpkin or corn they'll' settle down fairly well for the night. In
the morning, when they've got used to the track, they'll be nosin' an'
gruntin' around the waggons for breakfast an' makin' trouble with the
cook. They're always ready for tucker time; you can make 'em finish a
hard day well by going ahead an' ringin' the dinner bell.

"I carried a big football on one trip. When they were extra
cantankerous I'd get away in front, call out 'Pig, pig, pig,' an' start
bouncin' the ball hard. At the second thump I'd hear 'em cheering, an'
then they'd come along with their ears flappin', as if there was
nothin' they enjoyed so much as brisk trottin' exercise on the
overland. They thought I was breakin' up pumpkins.

"The best on the track, as I said, is the mule. Horses are good; with
one man riding in front an' one at the tail, you go along serenely all
day. They don't jib at gates or crossings, but at night, when you let
them go, they have a habit of wanderin' an' scatterin', an' making
back. Donkeys are' fairly good, too, an' goats are not bad. But the
mule takes the palm for good conduct on the track. I travelled six
weeks with a mob, an' after the first week all I had to do when
startin' away from camp was to sing out 'Hee-haw,' like one of
themselves, an' every one would answer, an' then trot together an'
follow after me like so many foals. The mule is a stubborn animal in
some ways, but on the droving track I respect him.'

CHAPTER XXXIII.
Refreshment Stalls--Business Cards and Signs.

One thing which struck the traveller on these various lines was the
manner, of catering at the refreshment stalls. In South Australia, from
Mannahill to Adelaide, and thence to Murray Bridge, the waiters gave
one the impression of being all new hands; they bustled about a great
deal without appearing to get much done. They were not particular
whether you paid your 3d or 4d when you got your cup of tea or when you
brought back the cup. Either they were too flurried or else they had
marvelious faith in the honesty of travellers. If the latter, their
confidence was sadly misplaced in some instances. The tea was always
boiling hot, and a three or five minutes' stay didn't always suffice to
drink it. Women mostly kept their seats, and men carried cups of tea in
to them. They sat sipping till the train started on--and the crockery
was carried away. And the breakage was tremendous. Five cups were
broken at one carriage door at Gawlor, and altogether 30 were broken
along the train through careless or hurried handling in passing from
one to another. At some places boys and girls ran along the platform to
receive cups and saucers from passengers before the train started, and
even then a good many departed for tables new.

Through Victoria and on the New South Wales side the stallkeepers were
more wary, and did more service with less show. You paid for the cup as
well as for your tea, the cup money being refunded when you returned
the vessel. It was remarkable how much quicker the ladies got through
their tea under this system, while the breakages were scarcely worth
mentioning. At one place in Victoria we had to return empty-handed to
our protegees, and inform them they must come and get their own tea, as
all the cups were on chains, and could only be carried away in pieces.
We were glad. This style enabled us to get a drink ourselves, whereas
our only refreshment hitherto was the steam from the cups as we carried
them out.

At one place two merry girls presented us with cards, on the backs of
which these set rules were printed for the guidance of travellers:

"Federal Railway Rooms. Board, 6d per foot. Breakfast at 5 a.m., dinner
at 6 a.m., supper at 7 a.m. Guests wishing to get up without being
called can have self raising flour for supper. Guests are requested not
to speak to the dumb waiter--he is deaf. Guests wishing to do a little
driving will be supplied with hammer and nails on application. The
rooms are convenient to three cemeteries; hearses to hire at 1s 11d
per day. If you are fond of athletics, and like good jumping, lift the
mattress and see the bed spring. If the room gets too warm, open the
window and see the fire escape. If your lamp goes out, take a feather
out of the pillow--that's light enough for anyone. Anybody troubled with
nightmare will find a halter on the bedpost. Don't worry about paying
the bill; the house is supported by its foundations."

A card picked up further back was more to the point. It contained this:

"Boarders taken by the day, week, or month. Those who do not pay
promptly, taken by the neck.

Another place, called the Beehive Hotel, had the following scrap of
verse written under a representation of a beehive:

Now, in this hive, we're all alive;
We're all as sweet as honey;
And if you want a drink step in,
But don't forget the money.

These lines were inscribed on a slab of a wayside pub near Bright,
Gippsland:

One swallow does not make a spring,
If you believe that story; come
With me into the bar, and try
One swallow of this fellow's rum.
Then you are sting and acid proof
If you don't spring clean through the roof.

The Green Gate Inn, at Orange, used to display the sign of a green
painted gate with the couplet:

This gate hangs well, and hinges none.
Refresh and pay, and travel on.

CHAPTER XXXIV.
Women and the Gun--The Australian Girl.

From Albury to Sydney was the best span of all for scenery. It was
everchanging and ever-beautiful. The other sections were dotted with
beauty spots; but along here they crowded on top of one another. They
were all beauty spots; mountain, valley, town and river; orchards,
gorges, hamlets and waterfalls, swam past the watching eyes. And there
was a succession of names familiar to every Australia school boy. Wagga
Wagga and the Murrumbidgee River recalled two old friends to John
Jovius Muggs--Wagga rugs and Murrumbidgee blankets. The latter was a
bare bag, split open. The former was also a bag, likewise split, with
an old woollen' blanket that had become too thin to keep out cold, sewn
on for lining. It was common on farms and selections, and scores of
travellers with horses and vehicles carried it, also shearers, drovers,
and squattage hands used it. This river, too, was the happy hunting
ground of the Murrumbidgee whaler and his brother the sundowner. There
were some whalers still in the bends, and perhaps always would be; but
the sundowners sundowned no more.

We watched the boards now with the growing interest of homing exiles,
like long absent members going back to the old homestead, and seeing a
story in every landmark.

Cootamundra--Binalong--Yass--Goulburn, "the cathedral city of the south,"
a grand place for a summer holiday. Besides the Wollondilly River and
the Mulwarree Ponds at your feet, you have in proximity Lake Bathurst,
Lake George, the Wombeyan Caves, and the Look Down on the Shoalhaven
River.

Along here we had a glimpse of a fair Australian girl striding
nonchalantly through the bush with a gun on her shoulder, and an alert
eye directed towards the treetops.

Those among the passengers who lived in cities craned their necks and
stared as though she was the latest thing in freaks. The bush men had a
better knowledge of their big country; they looked at her with soft
eyes, remembering days when they had rambled with her prototypes in
far-off forests.

Most Australian girls and women living in the bush could shoot. They
used light, single-barrel guns. Many of the girls accompanied their
brothers when shooting pigeons and wallabies along the edges of scrubs
near their homes, and not a few of them could bring down a bird on the
wing or a wallaby in full flight, just as well as their male
companions. They shot 'possums also when the animals came on to the
roof at night, on the sheds, or into the neighbouring trees. Shooting
was an accomplishment that came useful at some time or other to nearly
every woman in the bush, and the more lonely or isolated her home the
more necessary was it for her to be able to handle a gun.

The first women on the north-eastern farms and selections could tell
many a laughable tale of their early experiences with a gun. The men
were much away from home, and in their absence many occasions arose
when it was necessary for the women to arm themselves. The blacks were
generally cheeky and hard to get rid of if there were no men about; but
a little demonstration with the "shooting stick" altered their
demeanour. It wasn't necessary for a woman to threaten them; all she
had to do was to shoot a hawk or a crow in their presence, or show them
how she could hit a small tree, and thereafter she was safe.

But the use of the gun was principally for protection against bird and
animal pests. A man would usually teach his wife first to load and fire
light blank charges, mainly to frighten parrots and cockatoos from the
crops, and ravens and hawks from the poultry run. Gradually she became
accustomed to the weapon, and by degrees learned to shoot well.

A woman on the Orara River, who had received no instruction at all, one
day when alone was horrified to discover a big snake, stretched along
between the ridge-pole and the capping of her house. She tried at first
to poke it out with a clothes-prop, but could not get at it; and as it
shifted along the ridge she dreaded that it would slide down and get
under the floor, when she would be terrified with the thoughts of it
all night.

Looking about, her eye lit on the gun--a heavy, double-barrelled
muzzleloader--hanging on the wall. She took it down and loaded it in the
way she had seen her husband do. Then, tremblingly, she held it under
her arm, and, pointing it towards the roof, shut her eyes, and fired.
When the smoke had cleared away, and she had got her breath back, she
looked eagerly for the result.

The snake had not moved, and there wasn't the mark of a shot anywhere.
This puzzled her. She was sure she could not have missed the house, for
the door was shut, and she had stood near the centre of the room with
the windows directly behind her. However, she loaded again, with a
heavier charge, and this time she put the gun to her shoulder. She
aimed as carefully as her shaking hands would permit, then shut her
eyes tight, and pulled the trigger. There followed a thunderous report,
a frantic scream, a heavy fall, mingled with the noise of breaking
glass.

She had held the gun loosely, and with the heavy charge of shot she had
put in it the "kick" had knocked her backwards. It took her some
seconds to realise that she wasn't shot. Then she looked about timidly
for the remains of the snake. But it was still on the ridge-pole,
moving away uninjured; while a picture of her grandmother, hanging
half-way up on the wall, was shattered to pieces.

However, she triumphed in the end. The snake slid down the wall
outside, when she despatched it with a handy waddy. It was only after
her husband's return, when he found a charge of shot in one of the
barrels, that the mystery of her first effort was explained. She had
put the powder in one barrel and the shot in the other.

The incident in the pretty Goulburn valley started a general
conversation on the Australian girl. She was discussed from all points,
in all her phases. After due comparison with other girls she carried
the vote of the compartment. The well-seasoned globe-wanderer, who had
inspected the beauties of many lands, agreed that, looked at in any way
you liked, she was a plum.

She presented to you an attractive face, whether you found her on the
farm or in the factory, on a backblock squattage or in a city home; in
domestic service, or in the Governor's drawing-room. With her facial
beauty and sparkling, mischievous eyes, she combined a graceful
carriage, a charming personality, and a rare beauty of form. Like a gay
butterfly in the sunshine--of sprightly but sympathetic nature, warm,
vivacious, athletic and courageous; but, at all times, delightfully
womanly, handy and industrious.

One of her most admirable traits was that she worked with a good will
all day if need be; worked without grumbling, making a trouble of
nothing; singing cheerily the day through, always with a smile on her
lips and a pleasantry for those about her.

Like her brother, she was not a one-job girl; she could turn her hands
to a hundred things; and when times were bad for the town-bred her busy
fingers still enabled her to make ends meet. Not only was she generally
useful indoors; but outside she could apply her energies readily to
many things. She was not exclusively domestic, though mostly trained in
all domestic arts. Her sturdy health and sprightliness owed much to the
admixture that made up the life of every bush girl. Her heroism, too,
stood out as one of the most admirable features of Australian
settlement. Through all the periods of history, in the perils and
dangers that threatened communities, the brightest gleams were the
heroism and endurance of our bush girls and women. Whether menaced by
flood or fire, or greater calamities, they played their part nobly. In
emergencies they tackled the hard tasks of men as readily as they
mounted a horse in times of sudden sickness, and rode long night
journeys through the bush.

The Australienne showed creditably in many branches of sport that
required agility, skill and stamina. In a land ever bright and cheery,
it would be surprising if they were not of a buoyant nature; and to
their general smartness, their neatness and their athletics they owed,
in a large measure, their fine physique. Old grandmother smiled and
thought of her prime girlhood, as she saw the 20th century lasses
gambolling on the grass, climbing hills and rocky gorges after flowers,
rivalling man on the tennis court, playing hockey and cricket; she saw
the ghosts of prude matrons peer with shocked faces through the veil of
the past at young women rowing and running races in public, and
spinning along the streets on bicycles.

There were some who held that the women of to-day were going beyond
their sphere in recreation and avocation, that her proper place was in
her home. But a woman who was always in her home did not live naturally
or make home happy. The medical profession recognised--demanded--that in
girlhood, at, least, latitude in vigorous out door exercise was
necessary for her health and development. We laughed to-day at what was
considered ladylike 50 years ago, and the people of next century would
be laughing at us; for the whole tribe of us--men included--were but
fashion's tools, and the slaves of convention, after all.

CHAPTER XXXV
The City Girl and the Country Girl.

Moss Yale--the last refreshment room. We had our money's worth at this
place Here we began to meet with Sydney excursionists, for hereabouts
was one of the beauty spots of Australia--a wild, luxuriant, romantic
belt, in which were gorges a thousand feet deep, and numerous droning
waterfalls. We were getting home--and the subject of conversation had
drifted to the city and country girl. We had a long argument about
them, and while agreeing that both were charming, the argument
crystallised into the fact that they weren't the same girl. One of the
most noticeable differences between them was to be observed in their
home life. One moved in an atmosphere of placid domesticity; the other
in a continuous social whirl. Home training, as the country girl
understood it, was a negligible quantity with the average city girl. On
the same parable she could hardly be said to have any love of home. Her
interests day and evening were out of doors--outside the family doors,
that is; which does not necessarily mean in the open air, for anybody
else's house, if there were congenial spirits there, was preferred to
her own in leisure hours. She loved to gad about in fine clothes, to
air them by the seaside, in public parks and gardens; to fly around in
trains and trams and vehicles; to go boating with young fellows on
rivers and harbours. Theatres, concerts, picture shows, and sports of
various kinds helped to make up the continual round of entertainments
that became to her an important part of existence. She led a butterfly
kind of life, fluttering from one attraction to another; and she
suggested the moth also--chasing the gleams of brightness in the night
hours. She no sooner returned from one amusement than she was thinking
of where or what she could go to next. Rarely did a thought occur of
what she could do at home.

This gay butterfly, who was smart and charming in a social way, did not
throw many compliments to her rustic sister, whom she regarded as being
behind the times. But the country girl on changing places soon adapted
herself to city ways. On the other hand, it took the city girl a long
while to adapt herself to country life, and to succeed in that sphere.
The secret was in the home training.

The country girl was brought up amid the old and admirable institutions
associated with the home. In her environment, there was not so much to
distract from the family circle, and brothers and sisters found the
greatest and constant companionship amongst themselves. The old home
was endeared to her, and by her early life habits and the childhood
memories that clung to them she became for ever a lover of home. To her
there was no place like it, however humble it might be; to her "home"
was a love word, meaning almost everything that was precious. Sports
and dances and other amusements came her way from time to time; but no
matter how enthusiastic she might be over them she was always "glad to
get home." Every member of the family made for the door like homing
pigeons as night came on, and they gathered round the table or round
the fire, reading books and papers, playing indoor games, chatting and
telling stories. Those homely customs in childhood make all the
difference in after life. Instead of spending her girlhood in
continuous pleasure-seeking, she learned all the duties of home, and by
the time she married was as efficient as her handy and resourceful
mother.

One might say that almost from her tender years the country girl learnt
to be useful. Her mother's home was an industrial school, in which all
the domestic arts were ever actively under her notice. The mother had
to make and fashion for herself many things which city women had made
and fashioned for them by others. To be able to prepare an appetising
meal with very little material was a great advantage to a young wife,
for much of the happiness of married life rested on the table, and on
efficient household management. The country home was lacking in many of
the conveniences that lightened work in a city house, and initiative
and resourcefulness were the results.

The city girl hadn't much need to think and contrive for herself. She
was the product of an attractive environment, whose home was made dull
by the countless allurements around it, and the license to follow her
own bent at the impressionable period of her life. The winter hearth,
around which clung so many fond associations for her grandmother, was
cold and meaningless to her. Rather than sit moping there, she could go
out in the forest and rain in search of a new thrill. She must have
thrills, frequent doses of little sensational shocks, or life became a
boredom. When she had to earn her own living, she preferred the factory
to domestic service for that reason. As a factory hand she had more
time to herself, more company, and more tram rides. Naturally, her
knowledge of housekeeping was limited to the masculine degree. Nor did
she want very much to learn; she would go to a restaurant rather than
bother about cooking her own dinner.

Very often she had to begin to teach herself after marriage what she
should have learned from her mother. Her early experiences, too, with
plenty of freedom and pocket money, and opportunities for going about
and enjoying all kinds of amusements, did not incline her later to
stick contentedly at home, to be careful and saving. Nor had she always
a love of children in the same sense as her country sister, not
infrequently regarding such as encumbrances.

It was the homeliness, the home-loving nature, domestic proficiency and
cheerful industry of the country-bred girl that made her eminently
successful as a wife and mother. Because home had been her world in
infancy, she moved in almost perpetual calm, looking on life with quiet
and softened eyes.

CHAPTER XXXVI.
Women in the Saddle.

Bowral Mittagong, of the chalybeate spring; the home of the waratah,
and the locale of the State Cottage Homes for invalid Children. Bowral
to Mittagong was an interesting three miles, passing under "The Gib,"
through a tunnel 716 feet long. In this neighbourhood was the old town
of Berrima. It was a small place for its age, and unique in that it
owed its prominence to a gaol. Terrible Berrima Gaol, once a name to
conjure with, and immortalised in "Robbery Under Arms."

In this scenic stretch, a couple of equestriennes, riding astride,
struck a new note in the advancement of the Australian girl. It was a
note that sent a thrill of pride and satisfaction through the overseer
and myself. Both being horsemen, we admired the horsewoman when we saw
her riding in the only sensible style that was suited to her and the
horse.

The side-saddle was disappearing from the bush without regrets. At one
time almost every woman had a riding habit in her wardrobe, and a side-
saddle in the harness room. Women rode a lot then, and if the
bifurcated style had been in vogue they would have ridden still more,
and with less trouble. Riding would probably have continued in
universal favour among women instead of giving way for a long period to
driving. The horse was the principal means of locomotion in the
country. Distances were far between places, with no roads or merely
bush tracks to travel on. So when "the missus" went visiting she had to
ride, often carrying a baby on her knee. Shopping entailed long
journeys. Sometimes she went alone, starting away at daylight, and
returning after dark. There were sliprails to put down on the way, and
after dismounting at these she would remount by means of a log or
stump. If no such friendly aid was at hand, she led her horse alongside
the fence, and sprang into the saddle from the bottom rail. This was
not a simple accomplishment when she had parcels strapped in front, and
at the side of the saddle, and, perhaps a bag or basket in her hand.
When hubby was working far from home she carried his dinner to him on
horseback, and sickness in the family sent her galloping many a journey
by day and night. How or why she stuck so long to the side-saddle was a
mystery and a marvel.

A woman sitting comparatively on one side of the horse hadn't the same
advantage to follow its movements as the other had who sat
equilaterally and centrally over the animal, whilst the lop-sided
burden was harder on the horse. Some women had long held that it was
one of their rights to ride as a man did. Mrs. Alex. Tweedie, writing
in the "Lady's Magazine," advised the cross-saddle for her sex.
"Practical ways and means," she wrote, "always receive recognition in
the end, however much Mrs. Grundy may growl. Cross-riding will come.
The bicycle was an innovation, and as women could not possibly ride
sideways, and there was no conservative party accustomed to a side-
saddle to shriek at the suggestion of a cross one, cycling became
general, and women among its chief devotees. Society, says: "The side-
saddle is the right thing; it has been here since it was introduced
into England by Anne, of Bohemia, the wife of Richard II., and being
here, it is, of course, quite right and proper that it should remain."
They forget that the good dame used the side-saddle to show off her
gorgeous robes and as velvets, satins and embroideries were more
important than hard riding, the pommelled, chair-like seat suited the
purpose. Gradually evolution has dropped these flowing robes and
embroideries, because women ride in earnest nowadays, and no longer
amble out on a palfrey, merely for show."

The clumsy and cumbersome gear was following into the limbo of
discarded things. The ugliness and awkwardness of the side-saddle was
marked in contrast with the neatness of the new style. Nothing could be
more graceful on horseback than these country girls riding astride.
When properly groomed, their seat in the saddle, with the lithe forms
following rythmically the movements of the horse, were attractive to
the eye.

Riding and hunting were common under many flags, but in this field the
Australienne stood easily first, though she mounted last. Her only
serious rival was the American cow-girl, who had shown her skill on
bucking bronchos on show grounds. She rode in a saddle that the bush
girl considered dead easy. The latter was at home in all saddles. To
know her at her best, one must see her in the wide spaces, where she
rode hard through thick timber, over mountainous country, hunting and
mustering; where she swam her horse fearlessly over flooded streams,
and undertook journeys of a thousand miles and more across unsettled
territory.

Women were not given to riding after records, unless there was
something more substantial than vain glory at the end of the trip. For
all that, many a long journey was made in the cross-saddle of which
little was heard outside the local districts. The daughter of the house
might be the only one available to carry an urgent message, or to
obtain something of immediate importance, and when the mail coach was
not due for a couple of days there was nothing for it but saddle up and
ride. The most pathetic case I have heard of was that of a Milparinka
girl, who rode to a distant place on a burning summer day to get a bag
of rain water for her father, who was sick. In that dry locality,
people depended for water on soakages, dams and excavated tanks. The
heat was so severe that endeavours were made to persuade her not to go.
She went, however, and she got the precious water; but she was swaying
in her saddle as she returned to her home, and she died shortly after
they had lifted her down.

I think the best overland journey for women was that accomplished by
two daughters of Mr. Sid Kidman, the Cattle King, who rode from their
home in South Australia, to Cunnamulla, in Queensland. The journey was
over a thousand miles, a good deal of it across trackless country. Both
girls used the cross-saddle. They were accompanied only by a blackboy
guide, and some days covered as much as 60 miles. They camped out at
night, for there was nothing else but the tent and the camp-fire for
them on long stretches of their way. They were bound for Brisbane, and
their shortest way was via Cunnamulla, from which place they took the
train.

CHAPTER XXXVII.
"Sydney, the Beautiful."

The boards were swimming past. Picton--Campbelltown (which flowed with
milk and wine)--Liverpool (the portmanteaux and ginghams, were hauled
down from the racks, coats were folded and strapped, and miscellaneous
property collected from divers places and stowed away)--Granville (the
women put their gloves on and asked each other if their hats were
straight)--Sydney, the Queen of Australian cities--and a general scatter.

This congested centre, which contained within its boundaries about
three-parts of the population of the State, was called "Sydney the
Beautiful" and "The City of the Beautiful Harbour." With its notorious
bottle-neck railway system, its narrow, crooked streets and their
numerous dead ends, and the hoardings that everywhere met the eye, and
its thousands of jerry built houses, we found it beautiful only in
spots. Nor was it as clean as Adelaide and Melbourne. The council's
idea of cleaning the city was to sweep up the backyard and dump the
smellful refuse in the front garden. The rubbish was punted a few miles
out to sea, whence a good deal of it was shortly washed back and strewn
along the beaches, where thousands of people gathered on holidays for
fresh air and surf bathing. They went there on Saturday afternoons and
Sundays to recuperate after a week in a packed, stuffy city.
Particularly did they resort to these places for their children's sake,
and when the beaches and the water were polluted by the dirty methods
of civic housekeepers, what should be a health resort and magnificent
recreation ground became a positive danger to them.

In Sydney we saw the ludicrous spectacle of uniformed patrolmen
watching for the unwary citizen who dropped a tram ticket, the same
being calculated to make the city look untidy. To throw down a piece of
paper or a cigar butt or an empty matchbox in the streets was an
offence punishable under the city by-laws. There were placards posted
up in the trams and in conspicuous places about the main thoroughfares,
requesting the careless citizen to "keep the city clean." And all the
while the council, whose business it was to look after the health of
the people, to keep its own domain respectable and sanitary, and show a
good example to suburban aldermen, was turning the "beautiful harbour"
into pollution, and making the littoral offensive to residents and
disgusting to visitors.

We thought on seeing so many hoardings that the council was deriving a
good income from the unsightly things. We discovered later that the
license fees from this source aggregated only 80 a year, which wasn't
half the salary of the officer employed to supervise hoardings. Besides
being objectionable in the aesthetic sense, they were costing the
ratepayers about a hundred pounds a year.

To the proprietors they were more remunerative, in some instances, than
shops and houses. One little space in a good locality was worth over
100 per annum to the owner. It had previously been occupied by a shop,
which returned only about 60 in rent. The shop was burnt down. In this
way hoardings hindered progress. Hundred's of vacant blocks in Sydney
were used solely for poster purposes. One alderman, whose name was
tacked up on a central thoroughfare, said he was always in favour of
pictorial hoardings; he contended that the hoardings were covered by
works of art. In his estimation they transformed uninteresting
thoroughfares in beautiful open-air art galleries, where the thirsty
Domainite could see the virtues of Hogg's whisky pictorially displayed.

A long-suffering public entered a protest now and again to the effect
that if their civic representatives must have these decorations about
them, they should at least see that the ratepayers were not made to pay
for them.

After which they went on paying.

CHAPTER XXXVIII.
The Rock and Fence-Rail Artist.

The rock and fence-rail artist was almost ubiquitous; but he seemed to
flourish more exuberantly about Sydney and its environs than anywhere
else. His work made an impression on the visitor because there was no
escaping it. One of the first things to catch the eyes of passengers on
the incoming mailboats was "Drink Hogg's Whisky." The artist did some
Alpine climbing to emblazon that motto on the city's front gate. Beside
it, pigmenting the rugged grandeur of the towering cliffs, he saw the
imperative notice, "Get your hair cut at McShaver's." It flashed across
his vision like a jackal-of-trade yelling at him as he approached.

He saw a prominent point ahead, with a bold inscription across its
nose. Some historic landmark, probably. With the interest of an
observant sea-rover he raised his glasses, and read: "Fang and Molar.
Teeth extracted while U wait." The boat passed the next point quite
close. It was a picturesque spot, with a small bay and a semicircular
sandy beach in perspective. He took a snapshot of it with the camera.
Later, when he examined the result, he found himself being asked a
number of impertinent questions: "Do you suffer with cold feet?" "How's
your appetite?" "Do you sleep well? If not, take Stiffner's Paralyser
before going to bed."

The scenery was obscured, if not obliterated, by the brush-prints of
the rock and fence-rail artist. As the passenger proceeded to the Quay
he learnt quite a heap about women's wear, of figure improvers and
remodellers, intermixed with Scab's ointment for sore legs, and
Scratcher's powder for bugs and fleas. These things hung in his memory
as the scenic, features of Port Jackson. The sordid commercialism of
the place hit him in the eye wherever he looked.

The rock and fence-rail artist was an industrious wanderer, whose
masterpieces you came upon in the most unexpected places. A fence rail
was eminently suitable for his impressionist work, providing it was
where everybody could see it, or where it was likely to stamp itself on
the memory. His was an art that required some cunning and imagination,
however much it might be maligned by people of artistic tastes. He
roamed abroad, picking out the places that were certain to catch the
eye of the picnicker, the tourist, and the ordinary traveller.

He missed no prominent spot that he could operate upon without getting
into trouble. Not merely on fences along the public highway; not only
on the cliff faces of bays and rivers, and the rock outcrops on vacant
allotments, but deep among the gorges and tangled shrubbery that
holiday-makers explored for wild flowers, he imprinted imperishably the
virtues of Sudd's Gorilla Soap. The scenic resorts were spotted with
his handiwork; the hills and valleys were made to efface themselves and
speak in loud capitals of "Quack's Rejuvenator for dead people;" the
flowers but bloomed to form decorations for "Lazey's infallible remedy
for tired husbands."

There was nothing so pleasing to the eye as ever-changing landscapes;
but the nature lover, however keen he might be on variety, did not like
his scenery to be mixed up with "Towser's Dog Tablets." He embraced the
promised peace and unsullied charm of rural hills and deep ravines; and
spectre-like in a lonely glen a rock suddenly appeared before him, and
warned him in huge, sprawling letters, to "Beware of that cough!" A
sister rock sought to calm his fears by advising him to "Take Killem's
mixture for influenza."

He followed a narrow track that wound through dense vegetation over a
farther hill, which he began to imagine was still the abode of the
bounding wallaby, for the spot was remote and unfrequented; and by-and-
bye he came to a two-rail fence, the only sign of civilisation, and on
the top rail he read: "Wear Tyle's hats." It gave him a bit of a shock
in such a retired spot. In desperation he left the track, and plunged
farther and farther into the bush; and when he thought he had at last
got away from the peregrinating artist, he came upon a big, white log,
upon which he discovered this cheering inscription: "Go to Diggam's for
funerals. Your relatives buried promptly and cheaply. Mourners supplied
at lowest rates."

The rock and fence-rail artist was not a man with soul so dead that the
natural beauties of his surroundings did not appeal to him; he had a
keen eye for nature's beauty spots. See how he picked them out. Here
was a point where trailing hardenbergia adorned a rough rock with
purple blooms, and at one side, grew a fine Christmas bush that would
blossom generously in the gayest holiday season. He discerned at once
that the eye of everyone who passed along there would be attracted to
that particular point. So down went his tools, and he searched about
for a prominent surface to work upon. So pleased was he with the
prospect that he took observations from many points of view. Perhaps he
would do some pruning to improve on nature. Then he set to work with
paint pot and brushes; and thereafter visitors found the pretty floral
corner labelled, "Bunion's plaster for aching corns." The spot was
ruined; the desecration made the nature lover yearn to consign Bunion
and his disgusting plaster to the bottom of the deep sea.

But the artist smiled serenely, and went on his way. Here was a
peculiar rock formation, a wonderful pile heaped up by nature in one of
her most fantastic moods, that must certainly attract the studious
attention of all visitors. He spent the day at a notable landmark like
that, and when he had gone, it was a disfigured monument to "Bilge's
distilled lightning for biliousness." When he came upon a bit of wet
road, or a patch of swampy ground, he judged it a good place to make an
impression; and therefore every traveller who trudged through was
mocked with the legend, "Leatherhead's Watertight Boots" on either side
of him.

Meanwhile, the artist had gone to fresh fields. He was a diligent
explorer. He missed no opportunity. So the fisherman, no matter where
he went, by sea, river, or lake, was bound to see "Wriggler's Potted
Worms for Bait" at his elbow; and in juxtaposition "Use Hooker's
Crooked Hooks." One of that ilk, who was something of a sarcastic
humorist, came upon an old black horse grazing upon a quiet flat. The
horse was very poor, and no doubt the artist realised that the animal's
days of active work were over. Anyhow, he painted on one side of the
derelict, in blue letters, "Use Knagg's Horse-Rugs," and across his
opposite ribs, in white, "Bald head Hair Restorer."

The fathers of Vaucluse, in a day gone by, made a valiant attempt to
suppress the wandering painter. They thought no end of their little
suburb, and as zealously guarded its rights as a doting mother did her
first child. Parsley Bay, which is its shipping port, so to speak, used
to be a place where the Sydneyite could bathe all day long without
being in fancy dress; but the time came when he could scarcely cough in
that neighbourhood without being asked if he had got a license to do
so. The council contemporaneously put its conjoint feet down heavily on
the rock and fence-rail artist. The man who wanted to advertise the
merits of "Pickled Pills for Boiled People" or direct public attention
to "Sprouter's Moustache Invigorator," or "Slapdab's Patent
Complexions," per aid of red and blue paint and the suburb's natural
resources, were shoo'd off the premises with noise and despatch. When
the despoiler did his fancy work by night, the council followed in the
morning, and with a smile wrinkling round its cigar, drowned the
glaring advertisements with more paint. Unluckily, the method left a
big splash here, and a great smudge there, so that the suburb looked as
if it had been on a spree in a pigment factory.

All the same, it won public approbation by the effort it made to jump
on the rock and fence-rail artist. As the common desire was that nature
should wear her own complexion, that elusive person was not one who
could be conscientiously regarded as a benefactor to mankind.

CHAPTER XXXIX.
The Alderman and the Cow.

Coming from the backblocks, we expected to find the metropolis of the
oldest State something better than a promiscuous cattle ranch. We
thought that stockriding, droving, and browsing herds were unknown
there; that Sydneyites had long ago lost sight of that phase of
Australian life. We were disillusioned.

It was soon forced upon our notice that several stock routes traversed
the residential centres. Sydenham road, one of the busiest
thoroughfares in the populous suburb of Marrickville, was one. This we
knew as the Long-Grey-road. Mobs of sheep passed along almost every
night. They travelled late, and down the road they were heralded by a
clatter on each side as windows were banged down to keep out the dust
they raised; whilst the shouting of the drovers and the yapping of dogs
woke up everybody who had got to sleep. If the mob passed before 10
p.m., a crowd of street urchins joyfully apprenticed themselves to the
droving profession, and raised more row and more dust than a gang of
rouseabouts in a drafting yard at shearing time. Sometimes the stock
passings were recorded in the small hours, when the reposing residents
would be wakened long before it was time to get up. In the bush the
drover was a quiet workman; but in the city droving seemed to be
impossible without the accompaniment of a tremendous lot of noise. The
cattle route exacted more than the mere sheep road. The cattleman's
motto seemed to be: "We're awake; let's wake everybody else."

The overseer knew Sydney fairly well, so we trusted to his leadership
whenever we wandered beyond the city lights. To show us how well
acquainted he was with the various suburbs, he took short cuts across
vacant allotments and through dark lanes to whatever parts we
particularly wanted him to go to. The short cuts proved tiresomely long
at times, and it caused the overseer to wear an anxious expression, and
to look about more sharply than usual, as though he didn't want to miss
anything that might be going on: but he never admitted that he was
lost.

In the course of these night rambles we became closely acquainted with
various herbiverous quadrupeds that formed a considerable portion of
the inhabitants of Sydney, and came to memorise many un-notable places
on the patchwork run. Visitors from the city were wont to make humorous
remarks about the livestock that were allowed to stray on the footpaths
and streets in country towns; but the country town, we discovered, was
not singular in that respect. The docile cow and the overworked horse
did not browse in the streets in the city itself--that is, for a radius
of a mile or so round the G.P.O.; but in the suburbs the straying
animal was as rampant a nuisance as in any country town that could be
mentioned.

In unlighted and dimly-lighted thoroughfares one had to pick his steps
carefully, or take the risk of falling over a recumbent beast, which
gave no warning of its presence until the collision happened, then
leaped up with a suddenness that helped the biped to execute an
unpremeditated somersault. The overseer, being in front, and looking
about for familiar landmarks, collided more frequently than anybody
else; he kissed the pavement with so much violence once or twice that
his friends were ashamed to be seen with him for a day or two
afterwards.

Even the aldermen fell over the strays, and when an alderman fell over
a cow on the footpath, one would imagine that he would take the
earliest opportunity of having the bovine removed. But, as the nuisance
persisted, he evidently regarded falling over cows on his way home from
council meetings as a fine joke. A Bexley alderman declared at one
council meeting that he had bumped a cow at night tethered to a picket
fence. The animal was stretched across the footpath.

"A friend of mine," he added, "going home one night, ran into a young
steer that showed fight. My friend tried to frighten the animal from
the footpath, but it charged. Had he not been armed with a bottle of
stout, there is no telling what may have happened. As it was, he had to
defend himself with the bottle, and in the conflict broke it, but
probably saved his life."

A suspicious member of the council interjected something about not
being able to steer straight, and that remark indicated the attitude of
the average alderman towards the nuisance. The incident, recalled an
aldermanic discussion on a similar subject in another municipality, in
the course of which the following letter, written by a Frenchman, was
read--which showed that there were some aldermen who shifted stock from
the secrets at least, if the animals died or threatened to die:

"Your chairman he did instruct me to remove and burn one old mare with
cancer that had been lying on the road for two days near the river
crossing. I did walk four miles, and find the mare as specified. She
was nearly dead, but not yet. I have a kind heart, which has caused me
to lose much moneys in my life. I did not like to burn the poor old
creature while some little wind was left in its insides, so I did hit
him first, when, presot! the old villain did stagger up on its front
legs, and after sitting up some time like a dog, did by-and-bye get up
altogether and walk away, and escape me, and I did lose my 15s. Now,
gentlemen, would you look kindly on the situation; my whole day did
lose, walk I did eight miles, my stick blow did remove the horse as per
instructed, but burn the old thing I could not. I could not catch him."

Some suburbs, as on the northern side of the harbour, had a partiality
for goats. Large herds of them were spread over the vacant spaces; you
met them everywhere, either feeding on the paths and the allotments or
having a comfortable camp where you least expected an obstacle. Some of
them were so tame that they had to be shoved out of the way, if there
was no room to go round. The black ones, lying prone on a grassy slope,
were not easy to see at night; and a man who speared headlong over one
when jogging down hill with an armful of groceries, might at least
plead provocation for the subsequent violence he displayed.

The goat was an intrusive quadruped. It pried round fences, squeezing
in or underneath wherever there was room to do so, and slipping into
the garden when the gate was left open for five minutes, destroying the
work of months before it was discovered. If it got into the backyard it
would make a meal of the baby's nightdress, and the householder's white
shirt just as readily as it would crop the succulent herbage.

Other suburbs, like Enmore, Marrickville, and Dulwich Hill were covered
with cows. There were numerous dairies in these places, each with
enough cows to stock a selection. Nearly all of them were pastured on
the streets and vacant allotments. On rainy nights, and when the flats
were wet and muddy, they lay under the paling fences and on the
footpaths, because it was warmer and drier there. An old lady in
Marrickville was going home one night, holding a gingham in front of
her against a driving mist, when she stumbled over somebody's over-
quiet milker, and dived into the open gingham on the other side of it.
The gingham was wrecked, her best hat was ruined, and her clothes
covered with mud. She had no redress, because she couldn't swear to the
cow. Another lady in the same neighbourhood, who had been enjoying a
gossip round the corner, on returning to her own house, discovered an
old cart-horse in her bedroom. She had left the front gate and the
front door open; and being used to stables, Bowler had mooched in,
looking for a feed. Luckily it was daytime; the discovery of a monster
like that in the bedroom at night would have been startling.

As a rule, the horses had better manners than cows and goats; they
didn't go to bed on the footpath; and if they happened to be standing
or feeding there when any one came along, they moved away with heavy
treads that could be heard to the end of the block. But they reached
over the front railings and clipped down the hedges, ornamental trees,
or whatever might be growing within reach. One horse could do a
tremendous amount of damage in a night in this way. It was exasperating
to see a man who had been trying to make his home attractive to find
one morning that his careful work of months had been destroyed or
seriously damaged by a straying horse. This was not a matter to joke
about, though to the ratepayer there was a lot of humour in the
spectacle of a policeman or a fat alderman falling over a recumbent
cow. It was only in that way that the average alderman was brought to
realise that animals straying in the streets were apt to get in
people's way.

CHAPTER XL.
Picnickers.

It would be hard to find another place that possessed as many picnic
baskets, in proportion to population, as the city of Sydney. Picnicking
was a common way of holidaying all over the continent; even in
Centralia, when an outing was arranged among neighbours, it merely took
the form of a picnic by some waterhole, with games and dancing on the
grass for the young, and fishing and gossip for those who were past the
age of participation in active amusements; but nowhere did you see such
unanimity as in Sydney.

Despite the variety of entertainments provided, the picnic basket was a
conspicuous object on every holiday. You met it under all manner of
conditions, in the streets and on the less-frequented roads; you found
it dotting the greensward in parks and gardens; you bumped it in trams
and trains, in 'buses and boats; wherever the eye wandered on holiday
morning it encountered a hurrying troop; and in that troop there was at
least one who was burdened with the bulging basket. The Sydney home
that did not possess one was an exception, and few were the inmates,
whether rich or poor, who did not wander forth with it in the sweet
time when the buds were bursting. In fact, it did not matter much what
the season was; they sallied forth in midwinter just the same as in
spring and summer; on dull, threatening days, as well as when the skies
were blue and the air was sweet and warm; they went out in the rain
gaily, trusting that it would clear up by-and-bye; and they trudged
through mud and water, and picnicked under any old cover available.
Even when the morning promised a flood, if the forecast in the paper
was "fine," they pinned their faith to that, and out they went, with
the beloved basket, though ultimately, for want of a dry spot, they
might have to sit on it under an umbrella. To them the call of the open
was always in the atmosphere.

The amount of exertion that was cheerfully expended in this pleasure
was prodigious. An onlooker, observing a perspiring person struggling
through a crowd with a weighty hamper, lugging it in and out of
impatient trams and trains; humping it to the top of 'buses and down
again, and looking after his following at the same time, might imagine
that one such experience would be quite enough for any man in his right
senses, especially as he was never rid of the burden until he had
carried it right home again. Doubtless he called that basket lots of
names that would not look well in print; but he never seemed to swear
off it altogether. The family vote would be against him if he did.

This picnicking habit enabled hundreds of people to make a very fair
income by selling water. Every regular picnic resort had at least one
establishment where hot water was dispensed at about 3d a quart, and
billycans and teapots were loaned at their full value. They sold water
day and night, winter and summer; they sold it when it was raining.

The streaming picnickers was one of the sights of suburban Sydney to
those whose turn it was to stay at home. They watched from front
windows and balconies as the crowds hurried along to the trams and to
railway stations; young couples with a little basket, which said
plainly that two's company; parties of young fellows and merry girls,
with fun and romance wrapped up in their bulging loads; older couples
with half a dozen youngsters in tow, like steps and stairs; and
companies of several families who were going to picnic together. Men
with baskets on their shoulders, in their hands, and under their arms;
and an odd one with the hamper on his head, or slung on his back,
marched strenuously with the jovial precession; women and girls, flush
faced and breathless, bustled laboriously along with the universal
luggage, carrying it alone or in pairs, and putting it down frequently
for a spell, but picking it up again in a moment as though the missing
of a certain locomotive and having to wait for the next would be a
calamitous affair. Of course, it was annoying to the parties to have to
wait half an hour "after busting ourselves hurrying," but that was one
of the humours of picnicking.

Everybody was gay; everybody was in good humour, and bubbling over with
benevolence and generosity. Old men felt quite young again, and
cheerfully helped strange girls with their loads; others carried
toddlers along for women they had never seen before. Gallantry
characterised the whole male section; they helped the ladies into tram
and train; they gave up their seats to them, and found enjoyment in
standing; and if they slightly bumped one another in the crush, or
stepped on one another's toes, they apologised most politely. If one
asked for a match, half a dozen were eager to oblige him. Someone said,
"Have a cigar?" Another, seeing a man alongside about to fill his pipe,
handed out his tobacco pouch, and said: "Try some of this." Nobody was
inconvenienced by being jambed in the crowd like a compressed sardine;
they laughed and cracked jokes about it.

The same spirit pervaded the children. They were excited and joyous;
they were so energetic and good-natured that they must really carry
something, and made brave attempts to carry burdens twice too heavy for
their years; they were so full of life and merriment that they were
racing and playing all the while their hands were empty; and they were
so eager to get to their destination that the parents had frequently to
call them back and admonish them for going too far ahead. Above all,
they were prettily dressed, spotless, neat, bright and proud. That was
in the morning.

In the evening the watchers, who were now sitting on the front
verandahs or standing by the garden gates, saw quite a different
picture. It was the same stream of picnickers who went out so merrily
when the day was young, and yet the stream was different. All the
vivacity, gaiety and sprightliness was gone. There was discontentment
and insubordination in the ranks; nobody wanted to carry the awful
basket; and there were frequent complaints that it was somebody else's
turn.

"Father" was grumbling, too. He didn't know what "mother" wanted to
take crockery and tablecloths for when they went picnicking--making a
beast of burden of a man when there was no necessity for it. She
reminded him that she had consulted him concerning what should be
taken, and he had said: "Take what you like; it won't be much to
carry;" and now, lessened by the weight of victuals and bottles, "It is
as heavy to carry home as it was to carry out." And he was dead weary,
more tired than he had felt at any time through the week after a hard
day's work.

Children who had raced ahead in the morning were straggling far behind,
and there were frequent requests to "Come on!" and "Hurry up!"
intermingled with dark threats of "Wait till I get you home!" Many were
crying, some were squabbling, odd ones were getting cuffed and shaken
and scolded; while clothes and hats spoke eloquently of the fine time
the wearers had been having.

The erstwhile gallantry and good humour had also suffered. The man who
gave up his seat to the old lady going out now made a scramble to get
there before her; and only reluctantly did he surrender it, even to a
woman with a child in her arms. If somebody bumped against him he was
apt to make disagreeable remarks; whilst he was only tempted to assist
the prettiest and most engaging girls on their way home with their
baskets. If one tried to borrow a match he met only with sour looks.
Some times he overheard somebody mumble, "Go and buy matches." The
least crushing was exasperating; the slightest hitch in the tram
service roused a general desire to lynch the Commissioner. The roads
were a disgrace to the council. The weather was beastly. The movement
and bearing of everybody bore testimony to the strenuousness of the
holiday.

But there was one section who returned as fresh and as merry and as
happy as they went out. These were the lovers, to whom picnicking was a
joy for ever; for whom the day sped all too swiftly, and the way home
was far too short.

CHAPTER XLI.
The Best Place to Live in When Hard Up.

Is it better to be hard up in the city or hard up in the country?

The question occurred when John Jovius Muggs began to read the "wanted"
columns of the daily papers, and the overseer showed an interest in the
cards in the windows of the registry offices. The end of their holiday
was being determined by financial considerations.

No one would willingly be hard up anywhere; but as there are more hard-
up people than millionaires knocking around, it is a question that
exercises the minds of a good many at one time and another, and it may
be a satisfaction to some of them to have it definitely settled. Often
a man who is frying in the pan of poverty remarks that he would shift
his address if he could be sure that he wasn't going to step out into
the fire. There is a degree of respectable poverty which the luckless
one who bottoms it considers the limit; he says to himself that things
can't be worse, no matter where he goes. There is another degree of
poverty known as the lowest ebb, as exemplified by the chronic dosser
in Sydney Domain and the sundowner in the bush. They never improve, and
they can't get worse--unless they change places. If the Domain dosser
were dumped down in a far back locality, where, the population has so
much room to breathe in that one house is lost sight of long before the
next comes into view, he would think he was faced with bitter times
indeed, in comparison with which the Domain, with its seething life
surroundings, would seem a place of joyous comfort; whilst the
sundowner, missing the hospitality and freedom of his whilom haunts,
would soon discover that he had not known before what it was to be hard
up. Neither of these persons has any ambition beyond scraping up enough
day by day to live on, and the query propounded at the beginning of
this dissertation has no bearing on anybody who has no ambition.

It particularly concerns the married man who has a young family, and
who wants to do his best for them. Two such persons, we'll say, are
Theophilus Smith and Solomon Jones. Both are industrious, but through
no fault of their own have drifted into bad times. It is so very easy
to be come hard up--about the easiest thing I know--that no plans and
specifications are needed to show the way. Smith belongs to the
country, and the only time he would ever think of visiting the city
would be when he had plenty of money in his pocket.

He uses no sweet adjectives in his description of the bush, and is
blind to the sublime beauties of all that is rural, when his financial
statement shows a deficit and there is no immediate prospect of making
an improvement. He promises himself all his life through that when his
fortune ship by some miraculous means arrives at his door he will
transplant himself in town, where he can see something and enjoy life.

Meantime he considers the town the worst place on earth to be hard up
in. Nor does he speak without experience. He has sampled it in past
pleasure jaunts, when he invaded it in the Christmas and Show seasons,
and once, when he lost his money in the company of some new
acquaintances who had formerly resided in his district and knew his
father (grand old man his father was, too, when those chaps knew him),
he made the alarming discovery that meals and beds weren't sold on the
time payment system; nobody wanted to associate with him if he hinted
that he was "broke;" and whenever he answered an advertisement for an
able-bodied man of his qualifications he found 49 other able-bodied men
there before him. He went to the registry offices, but none of them had
a job for an impecunious person. The humblest position demanded
references and a 5s deposit, besides a guarantee that the first week's
wages he earned would be paid over to the agent. And Smith only wanted
a temporary job to earn enough to pay his fare back to the rustic
charms of the old homestead and the green splendours of the everlasting
bush. Those wide, lone spaces were alluring then; he saw them as in a
vision splendid; whilst the endless rows of brick piles and the rushing
traffic depressed him. He was an outcast in a crowd, an exile in his
own capital; lost and lonesome in the hub of a continent. And that was
a more hopeless feeling than ever came to him in the most solitary
parts of an unpeopled interior.

At last he exchanged his holiday clothes, including hat and boots, for
an old rig-out and a blanket, and with a fruit tin for a billycan, a
transformed Theophilus Smith set out for home on foot. He had no dinner
to start with, and no idea when it would be ready. That only put him in
a greater hurry to get out of town; to hit the road where houses
dwindle into mile posts; to propel himself into the wide spaces where
people are less plentiful and more thought of. Scattered settlers at
first did not rush forth and embrace him; nobody showed any great
pleasure at seeing him. The boosted hospitality of a generous land wore
a peculiar complexion in urban and suburban areas; it was reserved for
the well-to-do. Hospitality in the bush is the real thing without
trimmings; it takes no account of the wayfarer's condition. Far on the
outward track he came upon a teamster's camp, and the teamsters greeted
him cheerily: "Good day, mate. Come and have a feed." By-and-bye he
reached a settler's hut, and the settler said: "There's not much doin'
just now; but I can give you a week's grubbin', if you care to tackle
that." He had arrived; and thenceforth he had no fear of to-morrow.

Though Theophilus Smith has now a modest hut of his own, which rears
its unpretentious roof in the centre of a small selection, he is still
hard up, but under what he reckons much better circumstances. The
selection, being untilled and remote from butter factories and saw
mills, produces nothing that can be turned into money; but it produces
a lot that saves money. He has only to pick up his wood and cart it
home from the paddock, so that the homely fire burns on, however bad
the times are, and strikes in the coal mines or on the wharves never
worry him. If he has to cart his water also, or even carry it in
buckets from the creek, he has the satisfaction of knowing that he has
no water rates to pay, and can use as much of the precious liquid as he
feels inclined to carry. Milk, butter, honey, jam, eggs, poultry,
bacon, vegetables, fruit, wild fowl and other game the small selection
provides him with. In the creek or lagoon he can catch fish; and in
very bad seasons, when ordinary meat goes up to famine prices, he can
fall back on a wallaby or a kangaroo. At a pinch he can kill old
Strawberry. Of timber he has more than he requires; he can burn his own
bricks, if he wants bricks; and he can roof his sheds with bark. If
he's out of work for a year at a stretch he won't starve, whilst there
is always plenty to do about the premises to keep him in healthy
exercise. Flour he has to buy always, unless he is extra energetic and
economical, when he may even grow, thrash and grind that for himself.
As the country storekeeper gives him at least three months' credit, he
prefers to buy flour, together with what little clothes and sundries he
requires in the leanest days that come his way. His wife has to make
her own bread and her own pies and puddings and tarts; but, living in a
clean atmosphere, with trees and grass all around, instead of dusty
streets and grime belching chimney stacks, for this labour there is
compensation in the comparatively light house-cleaning.

Smith makes his 200lb. bag of flour hang out as long as possible. Being
an honest, law-abiding citizen, he reflects that he ought to pay what
he owes before running up another big account, and to keep down
expenses he draws freely on the selection's natural resources. Its
productiveness is merely a matter of will; the fruition of Smith's
activity. Potatoes, pumpkins, maize-meal, arrowroot, and other homemade
foods lengthen the life of the flour bag, not only in season, but
throughout the year, for they are comestibles easily grown, easily
made, and easily stored.

Though Smith lacks many of the conveniences that Jones considers
necessary to a comfortable existence, he has conveniences in other ways
that Jones is a stranger to. Jones belongs to the city. The first
upsetting knock he gets when hard times come is the landlord's. The
landlord comes on Monday morning; he comes every Monday morning, and
his face grows longer and longer as Jones continues to find a new
explanation as to why he hasn't got the rent. Jones's resourcefulness
in that respect is wonderful; but there are no other resources about
the premises--except the furniture and that is not negotiable while the
rent is unpaid. The backyard grows only clothes lines, and the front
flower-pot develops nothing eatable.

Jones has to depend wholly on tradesmen, and the tradesmen can't depend
on Jones, so a deadlock is reached before his meditations on the
scarcity of jobs has got half way to an idea. The baker wants his
money, or he is apt to forget in three days where Jones lives; the
milkman presents his bill, and if it isn't promptly paid he will be
sure to run short of milk next day, and remain so indefinitely; and the
woodman must be remunerated on the spot or the fire will go out. In
desperation Jones might steal some of his own fence, or boil the kettle
with a picture-frame, or a superfluous door. He can't shoulder his axe
and go down the street for a load of wood when he wants it. He can't do
a hundred things that are commonplaces to his friend Smith. Where it is
an advantage to the latter to be well known to business people, it is
some times a great disadvantage to Jones. The shopkeepers know when he
is out of work, and they know that he has nothing to fall back on, and
no securities. Credit is soon stopped everywhere. Perhaps the first to
stop his credit is the landlord, who gives him short notice to find a
new home. That is nearly as difficult as finding a billet, and when he
has succeeded in discovering a tenement in keeping with his reduced
circumstances he can't get a carrier to remove what is left of his
movable property without cash, and in the end he has to do some heavy
lumping in the starlight. In a week or two the new landlord begins to
look askance on his new tenant, and Jones in consequence becomes
addicted to moonlight flitting. Smith, on the other hand, should he
find himself turned out of house and home, could shift on to an
unsettled part of the creek, and stick up a bark humpy to shelter the
family until he had time to look around.

Jones has not had the experience of the country that Smith has of the
city. If he had, he would find some means of getting on to the land.
With a little taste of it he would soon come to think with Smith that
it is better to be hard up in the bush than hard up in the city.

Both Mr. Muggs and the overseer came to that conclusion eventually. The
registry office, when it came to be sampled, proved to be a delusion
and a snare. Good jobs were not plentiful, and they went to the clients
who could buy them. The man who hadn't a bean, though he might have a
big family, had no chance of getting on the track of a crust through
that medium. In desperation he had often to tie himself to the
pawnbroker before he could open negotiations with the registry office.

For a pleasant billet at a wage of 3 a week, and warranted to last, as
much as 10 would be demanded; but hard work, coupled with irregular
hours, and carrying a minimum wage, could be had at bargain rates. An
assortment of such engagements were always in stock; but prime work,
like prime fruit, was scarce and expensive. The character the boss had
also much to do with prices--often affecting rates more than the class
of work or its locality. An exacting boss was worth very little; a
mean, hard-driving boss, who was always on the watch, in the estimation
of would-be employees, wasn't worth picking up, but the good-natured,
fair-minded and considerate boss was rushed, and in consequence of the
spirited competition he always brought a high figure. In most cases,
however, the buyer was given no information about the nature or quality
of the goods until after he had bought and paid for them. One victim
paid 3 10s for a job worth 4 10s a week--which was considered a cheap
lot. Another paid 1 for a billet worth 1 a week--and which only ran to
one week. A 200 a year occupation for a married couple ("without
encumbrance") changed hands for 7. Most job-hunters had to pay a
registration fee of 5s before their applications for any vacancy were
considered; then they had to buy the job in a bag, as it were, since
they were not enlightened as to its whereabouts or the identity of the
employer until the pride had been handed over, or an agreement signed
that the first week or fortnight or month's earnings were to be paid to
the office. Subsequently the purchaser might find that his purchase was
300 miles away, and he had no means of connecting with it.

In the end Mr. Muggs and the overseer shaped their course for Bourke,
in company with a couple of droving pals they had met, who were making
back for the wide lands they knew, where no man was asked to buy work,
and where Jack was as good as his boss.

CHAPTER XLII.
"Our Avenue."

Sydney was the terminus of my pleasure trip. In the beginning of my
acquaintance with the city I became temporarily domiciled in an
unpretentious tenement in a narrow street in the vicinity of Hyde Park.
All narrow streets may not be the same; but a casual inspection of a
few others failed to discern any striking difference. They are usually
the foundation on which slum areas are built. The narrower and more
crooked the streets are the quicker the place becomes a slum area.

The women called it 'Our Avenue,' because that sounded genteel. I was
told it was a quiet place, and that I would find life very dull there.
However, I found it quite exciting.

The front doors opened directly off the footpaths, and the backyards
were about the area covered by a whaler's tent. There was generally a
dilapidated paling fence between (when a previous tenant hadn't used it
for firewood), over the top of which the gossip of the neighbourhood
was ventilated. Dirty-looking, ill-built places they were; damp and
mouldy, rat-haunted and mouse haunted, and clothed with cockroaches as
with a garment. Beside them, the average bush hut, which the town
person sneered at, was almost luxurious in its comforts. When there was
not much room inside there was plenty outside--miles of it; but in the
narrow street of Sydney there was little room inside and none outside.
And winter nights called back the ghosts of big bush fireplaces and
blazing logs, the circle of healthy, sun-browned faces, the chatter and
the yarning; while washing day brought visions of long wire lines
stretched between trees, where the sheets flapped in the wind like
thunderclaps. Then there were the hunting and shooting and sugar-
bagging--Ah, well! we couldn't expect to find those things in "Our
Avenue."

In the mornings the women swept the footpaths, and did battle with the
short frocked sisters that chalked out hop-scotch grounds there. The
short-frocked sisters did it often for devilment. In the case of an
extra-irascible female, or one with whom they were "not friends," they
chalked her door also, and smeared her window--after watching her clean
it; and now and again they knocked and ran round the corner. At night
time they tied cotton to the knocker, and, seated on the opposite side,
rap-tapped gently every few minutes. They looked little dreams of
innocence when Mother Firelight came out and glanced up and down with
murder in her eye. Perhaps she would open the door three or four times
before she discovered the ruse. Then there was a shriek and a stampede,
followed by much vituperative language and fist-shaking on the woman's
part, and hilarious laughter from the miscreants.

Between 9 and 10 o'clock in the morning, when bed-making was in
progress, a row of heads protruded from upstairs windows on each side,
and the owners talked in loud voices to their opposite neighbours. The
smallest items at any time brought these heads into view--a tin whistle,
a dog fight, the arrival of a piece of furniture, and the removal of a
tenant were matters of special interest. They discussed one another and
one another's business freely; quizzed comers and goers and passers-by,
and passed remarks about them; and personal and sensational bits and
scandal items were caught up quickly and bandied from mouth to mouth to
the end of 'Our Avenue."

Each one knew what the other one had in her house, and how she kept it,
without going in. They watched the rent man on Monday mornings, and
noted who paid regularly and who was short; heads popped out when a
cart stopped at anyone's door, and the purchase was noted and commented
upon, if it was only a penn 'orth of apples or a mouldy banana; they
knew the carts from the time-payment shops, and likewise the men who
called from those places. The fact that Mrs. Smith got her furniture in
this way was a relishable item to Mrs. Brown, who paid cash; and the
information was enthusiastically circulated, to Mrs. Smith 's
disparagement. When one bought a new hat or a new blouse it was known
almost immediately by the street, and all inspected and criticised it
(caustically) when the owner sported it for the first time, while
everyone endeavoured to find out what it cost. If they could discover
the shop where it was bought, several of them would go there for no
other reason than to price the hats or the blouses; and if the lines
were cheap the sneers of some of them would trip up an elephant. They
were a motley collection of people, who minded everybody's business but
their own.

The street was divided into cliques, and when a new tenant arrived
there was a keen competition for the favour of her smiles. She was
warned against "that dreadful woman" applied to nearly everybody. If
she was wise she lay low until she knew the ropes. She soon learnt
everybody's pedigree over the back fences from the women on each side
of her. When she had become recognised as belonging to any one set, she
at once became taboo with all the others. Friendships were quickly
formed, and as quickly turned to hatred. One's neighbour might be a
borrowing sort, who never had anything; and if Next-door made an excuse
when asked for the washing-board or a few pegs or a saucepan, she was
described behind her back in language which would be an exaggeration if
applied to L. Borgia. The pair left off speaking, and passed each other
in the street in silent scorn. The feud was shared by the whole family
down to the baby, which poked its tongue out at the other baby.

"Our Avenue" could not have been eloquent if steam trains rushed
through it, and the German band and the blue-metal roller lived there.
The baby learned to crawl in its gutters, the youth made love there;
and day and night betweens of both sexes were in noisy evidence, racing
and howling, playing marbles and rounders, and other games that seemed
to demand incessant shouting and argument. Cricket, with somebody's
rubbish tin for wicket, held possession in season; football was beloved
by the adolescent and the small boy, so the blown leather in its turn
boomed delightfully morning and evening, on moonlight nights, and all
day on Sunday. They followed the Bear-cum-Monkey war, too. They built
forts in mid-street with cases and tins, and bombarded each other with
stones, meat cans, and decayed boots, charged with brooms and
gridirons, and tore wildly round with flags made of dungarees, red
shirts and the dishcloth.

The thoroughfare was the common play ground. The children pretty well
lived there, and kept the women at daggers drawn with each other. One
youngster hit another, or tore its hat or its pinny; then the mothers
interfered, and embellished each other's names with an assortment of
choice adjectives; and occasionally the males were drawn in, and "The
Avenue" brought its collective baby out to see the fun. Generally the
tired head of the family was only seen after tea, when he sat and
smoked on the doorstep--barefooted.

Saturday nights saw "The Avenue" at its best. Pushes gathered here and
there with "constant screamers" and mouth organs and tin whistles, and
jubilated till midnight. Late hawkers, who "wanted to sell out cheap
and get home," went rapping and bawling from door to door; and after
bedtime, when the community wanted to sleep, a couple of drunks
staggering home from the corner pub, would stop under the window and
argue about Rozhdestvensky and Togo, or the merits of the best cricket
teams, until something wet dropped down and drowned the barney. Then a
woman's shrieks broke out suddenly, mingled with cries of "murder!"
There was breaking of glass and furniture, bad language, and a banging
and thumping like a lost earthquake going downstairs. A crowd gathered,
and as a white-faced female got on to the roof through the back window,
they smashed more glass, and broke the door in. Then the police
appeared, and summary justice was tripped up on the threshold.

But the street, was never very quiet, and it broke out violently when
least expected. Towards dawn, when the bushman's environment is
blissfully still, "Our Avenue's" cats fought in wild spasms about the
premises; the pup next door woke up and howled with renewed vigour,
cocks crowed enthusiastically in all direction, and the man who had to
go to work early started chopping wood, falling over tubs and tins,
banging things at large, and talking loudly to nobody in particular.
Then three or four different milkmen began "knocking the doors down"
and bawling out "Milk-o;" and ere long the endless string of hawkers
began their noisy round again.

On New Year's Eve the whole population turned out into the street, the
youths lit bonfires in the roadway, and around them the crowd saw the
Old Year out and the New Year in, to the tooting and screeching of
trumpets, bugles,, whistles, mouth organs, and other instruments of
torture. The police scattered the fire, and the crowd hooted them; when
they departed the fire was made up again. Sometimes the police made a
dart after a ringleader, and the crowd pretended to help by rushing in
front to point him out, and got so tangled up around the arm of the law
that the culprit escaped. So they could only look on until "Our Avenue"
exhausted its enthusiasm around the dying embers of its annual blaze.
And I looked on, too--for only a dead man could sleep--and thought of old
campfires in the great and glorious bush.

THE END



This site is full of FREE ebooks - Project Gutenberg Australia