Adventures of a Colonist by Thomas McCombie
CHAPTER I. THE INTRODUCTION--A CHARACTER.
THE distinguished American writer, Washington Irving, in his
introduction to "The Sketch Book," has depicted his ardent longing,
when young, for travel; in recording his own experience, he has
described the feelings of the young of Britain and America. We observe,
it is true, many young men, educated within the influence of strict
commercial discipline, who sink prematurely into the starched
neckcloths and saturnine countenances of their forefathers, while their
anxious faces little accord with their extreme youth, and their mock
anxiety is a caricature upon the profession. We are happy to think the
majority of our young men, especially those who have been born free
from the influence of commercial circles, are more or less addicted to
poetry and literary pursuits; many rear Utopian schemes in early life,
while a few--a favoured few--go beyond this, and end by becoming
enthusiasts. Out of this latter class, our intellectual great have
sprung--our beautiful prose writers and sublime poets, our finest
painters and most celebrated sculptors, our brave commanders, and most
distinguished circumnavigators and travellers. Indeed, were it our
object to write an essay on enthusiasm, we would draw a distinct line
of demarcation between practical and speculative enthusiasm; but this
is not our purpose, and we merely wish to introduce a young man of
enthusiastic temperament to our readers.
Godfrey Arabin was the third son of a respectable trader in a
county-town in England. At the early age of eight he was sent to the
care of a relative in the south of Scotland, and went to a school of
repute in the neighbourhood of his retation's dwelling. He attended the
school regularly; his relation was a bachelor, and he was allowed to
follow the bent of his wild fancy. He mixed with the country-people,
and acquired much information--for, as a people, the Scotch stand
pre-eminent for intellectual ability, and many of the lower orders are
passionately attached to the literature of their country. The
country-people are rather fond of fictitious and speculative
literature, and the schoolboy would often spend the winter evenings
with some one who would talk over the adventures of Ivanhoe. When he
did not meet with agreeable company, he used to wander among the
mountains, thinking on the warriors and people of the long-forgotten
past, until he would inspire the dull landscape with imaginary beings.
He stood in fancy at the head of an array of warriors, while on the
opposite side was the enemy's camp. He unsheathed his sword, gave his
war-cry, and led to the attack,--the opposing forces are scattered as
chaff before the wind. He remembered, when with his mother he went to
view one of England's "old cathedrals," and gazing with astonishment
upon the tombs of the Crusaders, his impression of that strange order
was vague and mazy, something like that we might derive from the
description of Coeur de Lion, Ivanhoe, and Conrad of Montserrat, in the
novel of "Ivanhoe." He would brood over the battles and sieges of the
Crusades until his heart throbbed and his cheek flushed. He was often
overpowered by an intense melancholy, which he however kept concealed,
yet at times the most trifling incidents would chill his heart. He
commonly took refuge in pious exercises, which he would perform
fervently for two or three weeks, when, we regret to add, some new
fancy would occupy his mind, or his attention would be captivated by
some one of the many fictitious works then emanating from both the
London and Edinburgh press.
When he had attained the age of fifteen, he was removed to Edinburgh
to finish his education at the University: he was unwilling to leave
his acquaintances, but at the same time was glad that he should have
opportunities of seeing life and procuring books. He was no sooner
established in a lodging-house, than he began to feast upon the
contents of the circulating libraries. Hitherto he had merely fallen in
with works of fiction by chance, and with the exception of one or two
of Sir Walter Scott's novels, they had been romances of the old
school--emanations of the Minerva Press, as it has been designated; but
now he revelled among the works of fiction which then almost daily
issued from the press. The great change in the quality of the
fictitious literature of the country was a leading feature of the time.
The vulgarity, crudeness, and mawkishness which had marked the former
school of fashionable romances was no longer to be observed; the works
of Miss Edgeworth were the first which marked a new school, and soon
after Sir Walter Scott was hailed as the head of a renovated style of
fictitious literature, for as before the most improbable tales had been
dished up with a seasoning of satyrs, hobgoblins, &c., Sir Walter
Scott's tales on the contrary were rounded upon the more permanent
basis of history, and being moreover executed in a style which almost
placed imitation at defiance, they were not only favourably received,
but the author acquired, perhaps, a more enduring fame than any former
prose writer in our literature. The young scholar often neglected his
lessons to indulge in his passion for novel-reading; he made little
distinction between the good and the bad; indeed, he devoured
everything in the shape of a romance which came within his reach. Here
we may remark, that many may observe in Arabin some resemblance to the
character of Waverly; we firmly assert, however, that we have not
copied from the great work of the "Wizard of the North"; indeed, it is
because the character is rounded upon truth and permanent that it must
resemble. The future career of Arabin will have no affinity with "the
fortunes of Waverley," for, from the peculiar constitution of society
in the present day, there are many Waverleys and Arabins.
In his humble sleeping-room Arabin lived in a fictitious world; from
the occasional neglect of his studies, he was regarded by his teachers
as a boy of slender abilities; nay, he often feigned bad health to
escape the irksome restraints of a public school. At certain periods,
however, the meanness of such conduct would break upon his mind, and
then he would decline the practice, and pay more attention to his
He had attained the age of eighteen before his teachers considered
he had a sufficient knowledge of languages. About this time he
determined to devote his attention to the science of medicine. The
medical college of Edinburgh is justly celebrated; and as the young
scholar had a taste for medical studies, his advances in the science
astonished many of his former friends, who had regarded him as a dull
boy. Even at this period the same feature of melancholy marked his
character; the translations from the German writers, which were just
then becoming the rage, were eagerly devoured by him, and their dreary
metaphysics pleased him, and increased the flame of melancholy which
glowed in his heart, engendered by solitary habits and the Byronian
style of fictitious literature. This morbid misanthropy bid fair at one
time to nip the flower in the morning of life, for he would crouch
about without enjoying the pleasures of nature. Then, again, he would
fancy himself a character of romance, and to keep up the deception
would wander among the ancient churches, and transport himself
centuries into the past. What magic exists in the past for novelist,
poet, and enthusiast!--how can we expect any admiration for our poor
labours, which are to be devoted to the present, and perhaps even
towards the future? In plain words, Arabin was a melancholy enthusiast.
Have we overdrawn the character? or, on the contrary, might it not be
found to assimilate with that of many young men of the present day,
even among the classes known as tradesmen? We have observed in the
world too great an anxiety to ape the misanthropy in which the Byron
school of poets have so completely enveloped their heroes.
Arabin passed the usual examinations, and having received his
diploma, left the metropolis of Scotland for his native land. His
father died, and he found himself possessed of £500, with the
world before him. He ruminated upon the course which he was called upon
to pursue, and being unable to come to a determination, went over to
the Continent, and travelled in France and Spain for some months. He
then decided upon returning to England, and on his arrival in London
tried to establish himself as a surgeon in one or two parts of that
vast metropolis without success. He returned to his native city rather
disconcerted; he had squandered a considerable portion of his small
patrimony, and the want of success which had attended his efforts
paralysed his energies and nourished the melancholy which preyed upon
his heart. His mind gave way, and reeled under the wild fancies of
which it had become the arena. The most horrible ideas would at times
suggest themselves, a constant dread of future calamity weighed down
his spirits, he bade fair to become a wreck at the age of
Arabin was decidedly an intellectual person, and as it has often
been noticed that the persons who have possessed the finest minds have
had to endure a large amount of mental anguish, it may not be out of
the way to give our opinion on the cause. The finest intellects are the
most grasping and the most restless; this very restlessness, however,
frequently becomes a curse, because it suggests fears and whims which
an inferior mind cannot perceive. Fine minds are from home in the tame
course of every-day life; common things appear "flat, stale, and
unprofitable." Few around can appreciate the peculiarities of genius,
and it has to retire within itself and create an ideal world peopled by
beings of a more remote character than the rotaries of the desk and
shop-table. They have a charm more potent than ever a witch
possessed--they wave their wand, and, as Sir Walter Scott has
"From haunted spring and grassy ring.
>Troop goblin, elf and fairy"---
Or, who does not remember the finest poem which Mrs. Hemans has left
upon record, on the funeral day of Sir Walter Scott? The following
lines are very beautiful :---
And he is silent! he whose flexile lips
Were but unsealed, and lo! a thousand forms
From every pastoral glen and fern-clad height.
In glowing life upsprang--vassal and chief.
Rider and steed, with shout and bugle-peal
Fast rushing through the brightly-troubled air.
Like the wild huntsman's band.
Mrs. Hemans was a kindred poet, who could bring a thousand forms
rushing through the brightly--troubled air at a beck; let her memory be
hallowed, for hers was a noble gift.
There was another very marked trait in the character of Arabin--his
independent spirit. He scorned to crouch or cringe to any person; his
manners, too, were abrupt, and he had but slender prospects at home.
The medical man of modern times must have studied politeness as well as
medicine--how to tie his cravat and dress; as well as how to amputate a
limb--and, above all, the art of pleasing, whether he knows the art of
healing or not. Now all this indispensable knowledge Arabin regarded as
contemptible, yet he knew without them he could not succeed; he however
cared not. "I have enough for the present," he would say; "and if I
cannot provide for the wants of this poor body in future, why, I shall
make quick work, for dependent I never shall be." To the genuine man of
the world, without mind or character, these feelings may appear absurd;
be that as it may, we are writing of a bird of a different tribe, with
whom they can have little in common, except to hear his history.
There was another marked feature in the character of Arabin at this
time; he would rush heedlessly into the most absurd speculations, and
without even affording them a fair trial, he would throw up one after
another and get out of them at any sacrifice of property. He found his
small capital dwindling away rapidly; no means of recovering it
presented themselves to his eager mind, and he began to consider his
case almost hopeless,--that he was destined to be unfortunate. We must
add, that he was very bashful; he could not endure the sight of those
whom he knew; he was afraid lest they should penetrate into his mind,
and become masters of his secret thoughts--that they should pity him,
which he could not endure. He was mistaken; his friends never regarded
him as possessing either a mind or feelings; they looked sour because
he was eccentric, which they misunderstood, and set him down as wild;
he was not of their class, and they did not know what to think of him.
He determined to return to London, and disappeared nearly as suddenly
as he had reappeared. "London again!" he exclaimed, as he found himself
one foggy November evening entering the dreary regions of Wapping,
having left a steam-boat the moment before; "London again!" he said, as
the faint traces of scenes he well knew broke upon his sight. "There is
no city like thee! but to me all your princely mansions and magnificent
marts of business form but a desert--it will not afford me bread." What
magic is there in the very name of London to the young!--how many have
longed to reach it,--how many have panted to try "their luck" in a city
so vast in extent, so dazzling in splendour, so rich in trade!
Thousands throng there: some are awed by the very extension of the
field, and depart without endeavouring to find an opening; others,
bolder, endeavour by every art to push forward, but they are lost in
the crowd, thrust hither and thither, and give over the attempt in
despair. Still young men swarm towards the mistress of the world, and
perhaps a few, a very few, may succeed; and after a life of toil behind
the shop--table, towards its close find themselves worth a little heap
of gold. If the acquirement of this be success, they have, we allow,
succeeded. Arabin once again endeavoured to push forward into business,
without any better success. He resolved therefore, as a last and
desperate measure, to go abroad, and he fixed upon the Australian
Colonies as the scene of future attempts; in fact, he determined to
emigrate with the crowd rushing towards the East. He soon found an
opportunity, and sailed in a vessel bound for the Australian
The detail of the long dull voyage would not interest the general
reader, and as it has been so often described, we pass it over.
CHAPTER II. COLONIAL POLITICS.
WE have introduced Dr. Arabin to our readers, but before we proceed
with his history we are compelled to offer a few preliminary remarks on
the Colonial policy of our Government. Reader, you have heard doubtless
of the Colonies of Britain; you are, however, peculiarly fortunate if
you happen to know the mighty interests comprehended under the name.
The Secretary of State for the Colonies enters upon the duties of his
office without perhaps having been aware of the existence of one-half
of the Colonies of Britain; yet the dictum of such a person is the law
which the oppressed Colonists must obey. We believe that many ministers
have discharged the functions of this onerous office with great ability
and energy; but, however anxious the Secretary of State for the time
may be to govern the Colonies impartially, and how noted soever he may
be for the possession of sagacity and energy, he must act in the
twilight, for it is a moral impossibility that any stranger could
legislate for so many conflicting interests. We must observe, moreover,
that too much confidence is placed in Governors. The Secretary of State
is very frequently misled by "Their Excellencies," who, altogether, are
far from being so honourable a class as might be at first expected.
Many of these "excellent" men are adventurers of rather a high grade.
It is far from uncommon to hear of Governors purchasing or reselling
land, while others are landowners and stockowners, and perhaps
speculators in Colonial trade. What more certain than that a large
holder of land should desire his land to be enhanced in value? and any
Governor who raises the Crown lands is certain to be popular with the
landowners for the time being, though the measure might entail the most
ruinous consequences on the Colony. Again, the majority of the
Governors have too much in view the favour of the Home Government. To
prevent unnecessary trouble, every complaint is studiously concealed;
the real feelings of the Colonists are kept in the background, and the
most arbitrary measures are carried into effect without any regard to
the feelings of the suffering Colonists. Many of them, too, are paltry
in their style of living, and instead of spending their salaries in the
scene from which they have been wrung, they speculate and save every
farthing: indeed, I could find many Governors with £3000 a year
who do not spend beyond £500 per annum. This is unfair: the
Colonial Secretary of State ought to know these persons, and prevent
them from obtaining other appointments. A well--meaning,
generous-hearted man of average ability will govern a Colony better (if
he do not mix too much in Colonial politics) than a keen, active man of
parsimonious habits, although the latter may possess abilities of a
There is but one opinion as to the abilities of Sir George
Gipps,--they are very good. Yet, strange to reflect upon, the Colony
has retrograded from prosperity to adversity during the time that he
has discharged the functions of Governor, and the causes of this
singular revolution we are now to detect and describe.
A race of English economists has been at great pains to inculcate
doctrines connected with Colonial policy, who happened at the same time
to know nothing about either the Colonies, or the development of their
resources. Edward Gibbon Wakefield ranks at the head of these fireside
economists. In an evil hour the Home Government adopted the new-fangled
principles; and since that time everything has gone wrong with our
Colonies in the East. These principles, as we could show, are absurd:
our limits, however, compel us to proceed. It is clearly impossible
that Governors or Parliaments should affix a certain value to waste
lands, and compel men to purchase; whatever the exchangeable value of
land may be, it is evident that its intrinsic value is exactly in a
ratio with the profits it can be made to yield. Speculation may advance
it beyond this price, but legitimate demand never.
The price of land in Australia was originally the same as in our
British American Colonies; in an evil hour it was advanced to 12s. an
acre--then the large landowners rejoiced, because they considered that
their property was doubled in value. South Australian land was settled
at 20s. an acre, upon the principles enunciated by Gibbon Wakefield;
and the Governor of New South Wales and the Bishop of Australia
represented to the Government, that land in New South Wales was worth
as much as land in South Australia, and the price of Crown land was
immediately settled at 20s. an acre in New South Wales. To show that
the measure had a contrary effect to what was intended, we may state,
that in a few years afterwards there were no buyers at any price; land
was when pressed into the market knocked down at anything, frequently
as low as 1s. 6d. an acre. In British America land is sold at about 6s.
an acre, and the price is determined by the Colonial Legislature; in no
respect is Australian land more valuable than Canadian, except from the
brighter skies of the former. The land in Canada is moist, and the
crops luxurious. Australia is frequently visited by droughts, and, in
some seasons, by myriads of destructive animalculae; therefore, the
greater portion of the country can only be occupied as grazing
stations. The rich "bottoms"--the deposits of alluvial soil, usually
yield, however, luxuriant crops: in many parts of the country 25 or 30
bushels may be grown upon an acre. In general, however, want of
moisture is the great drawback to agricultural pursuits. Of course we
do not include the rich soil of Australia Felix, where droughts are
almost unknown, and where anything may be produced.
When we take a retrospect of the policy of the Home Government
towards the Colony, we are almost inclined to curse the ignorance and
neglect which could have consigned a land so noble to almost premature
decay; we are positive that, but for the invention of steaming down
sheep for tallow, which affixed a minimum price to the surplus flocks
of the Colony, the whole of the Colonial interest would have been
ruined. View this in any way, it is a grand invention--tallow even at
the low price of 41s. in the London market, will make ordinary sheep
worth about 5s., and cattle £3; but the Government did not
foresee this, and it deserves no credit on account of it. Does not the
insolvency of nearly every man of note, in the length and breadth of
the land, demonstrate more powerfully than our feeble pen can, the
ignorance and baseness of our Colonial despots? more cruel and
rapacious from their personal insignificance, while the supreme power
in Downing Street knows nothing about the matter. What is there to
encourage capitalists to come here? Let the land be reduced to 5s. and
prosperity will once more dawn on our Australian settlers--an order
little known, but which deserves respect from the indomitable
perseverance, moral courage, untiring energy, and rough honesty of its
members. They may be poor, for the race is not to the swift, but at any
rate let them have bare justice: we should wish them to have fixity of
tenure. At the present moment, the Australian settler may be deprived
of his run of stock at the caprice of a Government pimp, called a land
commissioner. The authority of these officials is supreme: there is no
appeal from it, but to the land commissioner of a neighbouring
district, who, as a matter of course, confirms the decision of his
cotemporary; for, as the Scotch proverb goes, "one corbie will not
pluck out another corbie's een." These commissioners travel about the
country to settle the limits of the runs of the different settlers; in
all disputes they take part with those who happen to be favourites, and
those who are injured are afraid to take any notice, because the
commissioner might ruin them; they are idle fellows withal, and
commonly to be found in the town, instead of attending to public
business in their districts. We, therefore, hold that no settler will
be comfortable while such persons are allowed to oppress him. The land
should be given to the settler at so much per acre, with time to pay
the money, or the stations ought to be leased for nineteen years at a
certain annual rent. Were this effected, let us look on the probable
result. The settlers now live in huts, hardly fit for the beasts of the
field; their food is of the poorest quality, from negligence in
preparing it; their minds have been tainted--and some, we regret to
add, have sunk into immoral and dissipated courses; their independence
is gone, for they feel they must be dependent upon the Government
understrappers; they do not cultivate the soil, because any person
might go to the Government Office, and request that the station should
be put up to auction, and either purchase it, or purchase it for one
year, as the case might be. On the contrary, however, if the Australian
settler had fixity of tenure, he would conjoin agricultural and
pastoral pursuits; he would build a comfortable house, and eat his food
independently of the land commissioners. We except those whose souls
have rusted from neglect, and who scorn the habits of civilisation;
they are already independent, because they can go out into any part of
the wilderness with their flocks. Government influence preponderates
too much in Australia; the Governors can create their own tools
magistrates, and extend their influence. The respectable settlers know
but too well that no other door is open to preferment, but the door
which the Governor can open or shut at his pleasure. The young of
Australia know also that they must favour and flatter His Excellency
before they can become rich or great; and this tends to check the
development of that independent spirit which is so much to be
If land were reduced to 5s. an acre, many small capitalists would
hither emigrate; a demand would necessarily arise for stock and farming
implements, and both production and consumption would increase. Instead
of exporting £400,000 per annum in specie for wheat, as hitherto,
the Colony would export wheat in large quantities.
The political economist, it is true, may here argue that the Colony
imported grain at a cheaper rate than it could produce it; but we only
answer--Then you must prove first, that the Colonists were more
profitably employed--they were employed either in buying and selling
land worth nothing, or in rearing stock; the last was as unprofitable
as the first, because there did not exist a market for surplus stock;
and thus any argument against our position must crumble down, for we
are positive that before this splendid country can arrive at
prosperity, the occupiers of stations must have a vested interest in
the land, or they must have fixity of tenure. The next question would
be, what is land worth for sheep farming? We answer, that it might be
worth 2s. an acre, or it might be worth 40s. an acre. For sheep farming
it is, in our opinion, worth 5s. an acre, payable by annual instalments
for ten years. An acre is worth much more for agricultural purposes;
but, of course, it would sell by auction at what it might be thought to
be worth for either. The Home Government must bear in mind, that the
Australian Colonies deserve attention, because each Colonist consumes
more than twice the value of British manufactures that the Colonists of
British America or the West Indies do.
We must not blame the high rate of land alone for the large amount
of distress, because other causes have co-operated. These we must
notice without comment: the sudden want of cheap labour when the
assignment system ceased, at the very moment that land advanced, and
the withdrawal of the Commissariat expenditure, the fall in the price
of wool, and the advance in the price of labour; the extravagant credit
afforded by the banks to land speculators, principally on the
Government deposits, which were withdrawn for emigration purposes, in
1840; the ruin of both banks and speculators in consequence, the
breaking up of all the Colonial companies, including banks, and perhaps
the failure of the crops, in 1839 and 1840. We allow that much distress
has arisen from over-speculation and the decay of commerce, and
stoppage of emigration; but had the farming and grazing interests been
in a healthy state, it would not have extended beyond the social
conventions of the towns. Of late years, too, the Colonial shipping
interest has suffered, especially that portion of it embarked in the
The Insolvent Law, which was framed by His Honour Mr. Justice Burton
(and which has been facetiously termed "Burton's purge"), came into
operation in 1842, and was just in time for the crash. Many availed
themselves of the opportunity to clear accounts with their creditors by
going through the Insolvent Court, who had no occasion to adopt any
such course. The restraints which had bound society to honesty and
plain dealing broken down, men turned round upon their creditors at
pleasure. It was exactly the same as American repudiation. Those who
would not pay, often could have paid. Upon the same principle that the
bricks in a house hang by and support one another, are the members of
our commercial societies dependent: the one pulled down the other, and
the insolvency appeared nearly universal.
The storm has blown over: all the large speculators have been thrown
out of the commercial circles; the business is now in the hands of safe
men--the Colonial property is in the hands of real owners. It wants but
some reform, to be the most prosperous Colony in the world. The
settlers must, however, be protected in some way or other by the Home
CHAPTER III. AN ECLAIRCISSEMENT.
WE now proceed to open the first scene, not in Britain, but in
Australia. It was a beautiful day in January, about midday, that two
persons walked to and fro in a small garden which was laid out in front
of a white cottage. The one was a young lady of surpassing beauty; the
other, a man who appeared hardly more than twenty-five, but his
features were unnaturally worn, and his eye gave a quick, unsteady
glance, which altogether put it beyond the power of an observer to
hazard anything like an accurate guess of what his age might be. The
day was not oppressively hot, the air was pleasant, and the too
powerful rays of the sun were intercepted by the thick forest. The
casements of the house were open, the front rooms appeared to contain
no unwelcome listeners, and the two paced along without any dread of
The first surmise of a concealed observer would most probably have
been, that they were lovers. A rather more attentive inspection of
their manners and features would have occasioned a change in their
opinion. The face of the young settler, for such he seemed, betrayed
anxiety and mental irritation, while his lovely companion struggled
hard to repel the uneasiness she felt at her position. Her timid eye
wandered about, and her ear was on the stretch watching for some
friendly intruder to break the tete-a-tete, which every moment became
more irksome. The young man gazed earnestly in her face once or twice,
and seemed as if he was anxious to address her upon some powerfully
exciting topic; but his courage failed, and he turned off with some
common--place remark, like a soldier who would fain attempt a daring
deed, but whose valour fails at the critical moment. He seemed aware of
his weakness, and at last made a desperate effort--his breath almost
stopped, and his brain reeled, as he uttered, "Miss Waller, there is
something I wished to say to you."
The young woman looked as if the worst had occurred; but she did not
jump, or start, or scream, or blush,--nay, she did not either faint or
go into "hysterics." She replied quietly, that she should be happy to
hear anything which Mr. Willis could have to say to her.
"You must know," gasped the person addressed as Mr. Willis, "that I
am--in--love with you,--that is--that--I would--wish--to--to--to--marry
you. I have not got very much property, it is true; but what I have
will maintain us in a humble sphere of life. You will have to cast in
your lot with one who has few friends, but who is the more likely to
love you upon that account. I hope you will favour my addresses. I am
not, it is true, very much in the habit of speaking to ladies--or I
have not been for some time past; but if I express myself in a clownish
fashion, you must excuse my manner on account of my earnestness." His
companion had listened to his passionate address in silence. He
ventured to take her hand, and clasped it with something like ecstatic
fervour. A severe inward struggle had kept the young lady silent; but
when he took her hand, she answered---
"Mr. Willis, I am sorry to be placed in this disagreeable position;
you know that it must give me infinite pain to refuse your offer. My
affections are still disengaged; and even were it otherwise, I would
not marry without the consent of my relations--and their consent I do
not think you would get."
"Well," interrupted the settler, "will you let me ask it? Your
sister would not refuse me; Butler might, as he has no favour for me,
but he is only your brother-in-law."
"It would be of no service," replied she; "I cannot--in fact, it is
better to be plain and not deceive you, I am sorry I can never think of
accepting your offer. I wish you well and happy. I must go inside to my
"Stay but one moment, lady," said Mr. Willis, almost choking with
emotion. "Might not time effect some change in your feelings? Do not
deny me in a rash or harsh manner."
"Mr. Willis," replied the girl in a tone of severe dignity, "I have
heard of women who took time to consider offers, and battered their
hand for a certain specified amount of comfort and fine furniture; but
I despise them. I will not take a day to consider the offer--nor an
hour, nor a minute. Although I am an Australian, I am not mercenary; I
am not, thank God, tainted with the too common vice of my
countrymen--and, alas! countrywomen too. It may suit the old worn-out
cockney flirts whom I occasionally see here, to weigh the advantages or
disadvantages of offers, but it suits not me. I am sorry to repeat that
I cannot entertain your offer."
It was but too plain, even to the excited young man, that she was
resolute and determined. In a moment after, she excused herself and
entered the house. The settler remained standing in the same position;
who shall describe the reflections which tortured his mind? To be
refused by a mercenary woman who will weigh you in the scale with the
property you possess, is a lucky escape; but to be refused by one who
is worth possessing, is exquisite torture. The settler partially
recovered himself, and without re-entering, he left the garden and tore
himself from the spot. "What an eclaircissement!" he said mentally. "I
was an ass, a tom-fool, a spooney, to put it in the power of any person
to slight me. I was positive that she loved me, and how eminently I was
mistaken!--Loved me!--bah! what a contemptible dolt! what a sentimental
love-sick puppy! what a noodle! what a silly-billy! A man of the world,
too, like me, who has played his part in many a gay and noble scene, to
be slighted by a native 'cornstalk!' I cannot yet believe it,--it must
be but a dream and a lie.--But how I loved the girl, too! She is not to
blame; no, hang it! I must not censure the girl, only I mistook her
glances. I was a conceited idiot, and fancied, because she looked upon
me, that she loved me: I deserved it all. And then she will tell her
sister, and that puppy Butler, who will laugh in his sleeve at me, and
think me an inferior. Well, I wish them all well,--I am compelled to do
that; however bitter my heart is, I cannot curse them; but I curse
myself! I curse the country! I curse my station! I curse my agent! I
curse my lawyer! I curse my barber!" He threw himself on the ground,
and tore his hair with rage.
CHAPTER IV. A NIGHT IN THE AUSTRALIAN BUSH.
UPON one of those sultry afternoons which occur so often during
summer, a horseman was wending his way across the ---- Plains. The day
had been oppressive; a hot wind had blazed fiercely during the
forenoon; whilst towards evening the wind died away, but the heat still
increased. Everything around was parched and withered, the dust on the
roads was pulverised, the scorched ground seemed actually to pant for
rain. As night approached, the sky changed, and the clouds which were
gathering in the east warned the experienced Bushman that a
thunder--storm was brewing. In the west, however, the sky was
unstained, and the traveller's face being towards the setting sun, he
was too intently engaged in admiring its gorgeous splendour to heed the
danger in his rear. He was apparently about twenty-three; but a close
observer of mankind might have traced in the lines of his dark
countenance marks of sorrow--the sorrow which communion with a vain and
selfish world brings; or, shall we designate it by the term of warm
feelings turned into gall?
The vast plains which the young man was traversing lie adjacent to
the town of B----, which is indeed on one side of the range. They
extend thirty miles from east to west, and twenty miles from north to
south; but the view towards the north is bounded by Mount M----, the
towering summit of which stands in solitary magnificence, as a bold
relief to the monotonous plains. Lofty ranges may be seen far away in
the south; no other object is visible but the wide stony range, the
solitude perhaps occasionally partially interrupted by a stunted shrub
or tree, just well calculated to make the desolation of the landscape
more complete. Far as the eye can wander, it rests on the silent,
boundless plains; neither house nor living thing is visible, not even a
bird: the traveller might be buried in the bosom of an African desert,
There is, however, a grandeur present in the scene--a magnificence
derived from its vast proportions: compared with it, the scenery of
Britain is tame; its tiny parks and its petty forests, its mimic
mountains and brawling rivulets, are all insignificant. In an
Australian scene you have Nature in her grandest aspect and most
gigantic proportions; you gaze around, and the heart thrills, because
you feel you are nothing when alone with your Maker.
To return, however, to the traveller. It was already late in the
afternoon, and as he had been detained crossing a punt, he pressed his
horse to its utmost speed. In two hours or less it would be dark, and
he had many miles to ride across the dreary plain. He looked frequently
in the rear, and observed the thick drapery of dark clouds rising and
beginning to stretch across the horizon towards the west. Soon after,
the wind changed, and began to moan, and cross the plain in fitful
gusts, the certain indications of a thunder-storm in Australia. The
horseman was not indifferent to these symptoms, and he urged his jaded
steed; the animal, thoroughly ragged, only answered the spur by a
shuffling attempt to run away. So long as he had maintained the old
cart-track, dignified with the name of the road, the nag had kept
gallantly along; he had, however, diverged into the wide plain, and
then the beast, to the no little chagrin of the traveller, gave pretty
plain indications of its intentions not to proceed very much further
unless it were allowed to select its pace. After one or two vain
essays, the horseman shrugged his shoulders, and giving the attempt
over, was soon buried in deep thought.
We must put our readers out of pain, and acknowledge that we are
following the adventures of Arabin. Two years had passed since we took
leave of him in Britain; in that short time he had entered upon a new
sphere. He had emigrated to the Australian Colonies and settled in the
adjoining town. When he arrived, although he did not possess much
money, he would not deliver the few letters of introduction which he
had brought with him. He was shy, because he was perfectly aware that
he was poor; and he despised those who, superior, perhaps, in wealth,
were very inferior in mind. He scorned their patronage, and positively
determined to depend, in the struggle to get forward, on his own
exertions. He had been more than twelve months settled in Australia,
and, like most nervous men, had been unsuccessful; he had no quality to
recommend him--he was timid and independent. If sent for
professionally, he would perform his duty anxiously and faithfully; but
then he would not wait and hear the characters of half the town torn to
shreds--he could not sit an evening and make himself agreeable, and
therefore did not get on: indeed he was regarded as a self-conceited
person, and made himself very disagreeable. He had very little to do.
There were two other surgeons in the town: one was a dapper personage,
who would bow and scrape for half an hour, and who knew more scandal
than any other man in the place; he was ever riding about, touching his
well--brushed hat to everybody, and a ready companion for either a lady
or a gentleman: of course they employed this surgeon. He was not
popular with the lower orders; their favourite was the other surgeon:
he was a rough, vulgar man, and rather addicted to dissipated and
rakish courses; he might be observed at night in a tap, dressed in a
faded shooting-jacket, smoking an old black pipe, and keeping the
inmates laughing almost constantly, for he possessed a great deal of
humour; the lower orders would have no other attendant when he could be
had. The practice was pretty fairly divided between these two, and
Arabin therefore came in for the poorest share. But he cared little
about it, for he had hitherto managed to earn a precarious existence,
and did not envy his professional brethren for having been more
successful than him-self, because he was perfectly aware of the
reasons. He was careless too in matters of account, and seldom would
accept money from the wretched, although there are few poor in
Australia. For his kindness he received little recompense: indeed his
brethren laughed at him for attending the poor as regularly as the
rich, and not charging them. Arabin had been sent for, about a week
before, to visit a young settler or grazier: he had attended, was
requested to repeat the visit within the week, and was now on his way
to perform his professional duties. The visit was not likely to be
pleasant, as the settler had been labouting under mental derangement.
He had now arrived at a deep ravine which intercepted his progress. The
banks being steep and rocky, he could not perform the passage without
some danger, and therefore retraced his way along the banks until he
reached the cart-track. A road wended down the bank by many a fold, and
another zigzag path enabled him at last to reach the open plains
beyond. The first thing he did, after he had emerged from the dangerous
ravine, was to take a survey of the wide plain. A conical hill was just
visible, far, far away, across the plain: this was the desired
land-mark, and taking a course parallel with it, and keeping the
frowning masses of Mount M----- to the right, he recommenced his
journey across the wide, dreary level. It would have been a bold act
for an experienced Bushman to cross the plain with night
approaching--and such a night! Dr. Arabin was insensible to the danger,
and, not accustomed to calculate distances on extensive ranges, he
supposed the conical mount to be little more than eight miles from
where he then was; the real distance was about twenty miles, and on a
fine evening he could hardly have reached it by the light of day, and
would even then, most probably, have gone astray in the darkness.
It was far from agreeable on the plain, when the air became cold and
the evening to fall. He once more endeavoured to push forward, but his
horse was tired and would not increase its pace. The threatening clouds
which now canopied the heavens, and the sudden gusts of wind which from
time to time crossed the plains, at length brought conviction to the
mind of the traveller. He was frightened at the thoughts of a night on
the plain, and made a last desperate endeavour to cross the dreary
intervening waste and reach the land-mark already noticed by daylight.
Twenty miles is a long journey to ride across stony ridges; before he
had passed half the distance it was almost dark, the rain began to fall
slowly, it increased, it rained in torrents, and the lightning played
with awful sublimity; then came the slow muffled thunder, distant at
first, each successive peal sounded nearer,--it was crossing the plain,
and would pass directly overhead. It approached; Arabin was brave, but
the lurid blue flames of the electric fluid as it whirled past like a
thought, and the deafening peal of the thunder, almost daunted him. He
hesitated--should he attempt to cross the plain?--a shiver ran through
his frame,--he decided that he would proceed, but now he could not find
any land-mark to indicate the direction. He therefore determined, as
the forlorn hope, to make the best of his way back to the road, and
endearour to get under cover in some hut until morning.
Dr. Arabin was not exactly afraid,--perhaps startled would be the
proper expression; he repented of his temerity in attempting to
traverse the plains so late in the day, and stared wildly at the
fast-flashing lightning. To those in Europe who glance at these pages,
the terror of Arabin must appear childish; but perhaps, having never
been more than a few miles from the abodes of men, they have but an
imperfect conception of the utter desolation of the boundless plains of
Australia. The solitude is too awful for a creature formed for social
intercourse to bear; his littleness and his feebleness become apparent.
Then, when the Maker of all speaks in His thunders, it is time to
reflect upon former courses. To the reflecting mind He speaks as
powerfully in the majesty of nature,--the calm blue sky, the murmuring
or brawling stream, the luxuriant vegetation of the mimosa and
casuarina, the silent heave of the perpetual ocean. In courts and
cities the denizens may forget Him--here they scarcely can.
Still the rain fell in torrents; the attending obscurity rendered
objects invisible at a very limited distance. Dr. Arabin could not
regain the road; he lost confidence, and wavered in his course. At last
he came to a dead stop; he was bewildered, and reflected on the course
he should adopt. Oh, heavens! what an awful shock! a thunderbolt struck
a stone within a few yards of where he was (within two paces of his
horse's legs) and shattered it to atoms; the animal reared and fell
heavily with its rider on the ground, and at the same moment the
thunder broke overhead with a crash so horrible that he almost thought
nature laboured under a convulsion. He shook from head to foot, and put
his hands to his head almost instinctively to deaden the sound; the
earth shook palpably--it was awful. A moment, and it was over; he arose
from his watery pillow, for the whole plains were flooded by this time;
his face was wild and fearfully pale,--it was more fitted for the
charnel-house than the living earth. Shall we confess that he cried? We
may add, that he was proud of his manifold acquirements and of his
knowledge. How soon can conscience tell home! Arabin knew that he had
not placed his strength where alone men can rely. At length the
impression had partially vanished, and he looked after his horse; the
poor animal was in nearly as bad a plight as his master. Arabin laid
hold of the bridle, but for some moments he could not prevail upon the
animal to move. At last he proceeded, disconsolately leading the
trembling horse by the bridle. He looked now anxiously for the pathway;
for a long time he made but little progress. He recollected that as he
rode along the plains, the wind blew on his left cheek; had he taken
advantage of this, he might have pioneered his way across the whole
plain. He was now too much bewildered to take advantage of any
favourable circumstance. There was, however, good cause; for even a
person acquainted with the country might be in the vicinity of a
station without knowing it, and pass within a few hundred yards of a
hut, or even a dozen huts, unless dogs happened to be about, and be
ignorant of their vicinity.
But night was at hand, and what was he to do? If he could not reach
the pathway, he had no prospect but a wet couch on the plains. It was
now intensely cold, which is nearly always the case after a
thunder-storm. The poor traveller looked in a disconsolate mood on the
weary waste of waters which now lay about; the darkness began to shroud
the dreary prospect. He mounted his horse with difficulty, for his
limbs had become torpid, and once more endeavoured to pass along the
plains. The animal received every admonition of the heel with total
indifference--move it would not, and at length he was glad to allow it
to crawl along splashing and slipping at nearly every step. The
lightning at times illumined the wide plain from end to end, yet he
could not perceive his exact position; the thunder was grand as it
pealed overhead, but it was moving away to the east, yet it was so loud
as to make the traveller shudder.
"It is a terrible night!" exclaimed Arabin aloud; "would to Heaven I
could obtain the shelter of some friendly roof! I wish to be cheered by
the presence of one human being, for solitude in such a place as this,
and in such a night, is horrible. Many human beings have, I dare say,
been lost in the wide forest ranges in such storms, or have perished
from hunger and cold; many a brave Stockman, or even Bushman, has had
to lie in the forest. I pity all who are abroad to-night!"
It rained incessantly--not a drizzling rain, but a steady fall: the
pelt, pelt of the drops, as they rebounded from the water, sounded like
sea-music. He thought he perceived a range of forest in the east (as,
although he had gone round about several times, he still considered
that he knew his position); a swarthy shadow dimly perceived in that
quarter indicated that shelter might be found. He hastened thitherward;
perhaps a station might be nigh, which, if upon the borders of a creek,
was far from unlikely; at any rate, the shelter of the forest was not
to be despised. It was now night; the darkness veiled every object in
impenetrable gloom. He dismounted, and led his horse by the bridle; he
reached the much-coveted shelter, and penetrated among the trees. He
could not discover indications of the proximity of any habitation; at
times he found his progress opposed by the dense brushwood and the
closeness of the trees, then again wandering among clumps of trees with
the open plain between. He searched in vain for a creek; he listened
attentively for the sound of human voices, or the barking of dogs. No
other sound could be distinguished but the apparently eternal pelt,
pelt of rain among the branches of the trees. At length he relinquished
the attempt, and fastening his horse to a tree, seated himself beneath
a gigantic gum-tree; in this forlorn situation he ruminated on things
past and present, in no enviable frame of mind.
He had never been abroad in a night so dismal. The forest afforded
no shelter from the cold; and, wet, tired, and hungry, he stretched
himself on the soaked grass, shivering in every limb. He thought of the
comforts which the meanest hut in the country afforded, and the very
comparison caused him to smile in derision. Then he was naturally of a
delicate constitution, and the inclemency of the weather preyed upon
his mind. He thought of his cigar-case, and inserted his benumbed hands
into every pocket to procure a cheroot; but, to his no little
disappointment, he discovered that he had lost everything in scrambling
about in the Bush. He lay for some time on the ground, and, as it waxed
later, became frightened, and would start to his legs and move about.
He was often misled by faint flickerings of light at a great distance:
these phosphoric lights occasionally presented the appearance of a huge
fire. Arabin would frequently mount, and proceed in the direction where
they appeared; but, thrice disappointed, he determined to relinquish
the chase after meteors, as their transitory appearance proved them to
be. More dispirited than before, he stretched himself again on the wet
ground in all the agony of desperation.
And he lay for long hours listening to the rain; at length it ceased
almost as suddenly as it had come; but yet the dark chillness of the
atmosphere was almost worse than the rain. Sometimes he thought he
heard something moving close to where he lay, or creeping along by
stealth: once he was almost sensible of a clammy hand stretched out
towards his face; then again he fancied that, something breathed close
to where he lay.
The reader who amuses himself by criticising this adventure, and who
lolls in luxurious ease in an arm--chair with elastic seats, or, what
is more likely, on air--cushions or on a downy couch, may consider the
timidity of Arabin to have been effeminate. Alas! they know little of
the awful desolation which the plains of Australia present. Some of
them may have read a description of the gorge of Cordilleras in the
Andes. Lieutenant Charles Brand, in his work on Peru, published in
1828, describes a scene amongst the mighty and all--but-impassable
valleys of these mountains. One passage I will transcribe: "As we sat
shivering in the casucha, the mountains, from being so close to us,
appeared a wall of snow, their tops joining, as it were, in one mass,
with the clouds of snow lying around us. In vain did I look for a dark
spot to rest my painful eyes upon, tracing the mountains all round from
the base to the summits, pondering again over heaven and
earth;--all---all appeared a world of snow picturing desolation itself,
the miserable casucha alone standing in the middle of it." We can fancy
the desolation here pictured as complete; the desolation of a wide
plain in Australia upon such a night is no less perfect--it is "a waste
of waters picturing desolation." The poor, unfortunate traveller, who
happens to be overtaken by night and a thunderstorm, has no chance but
to sleep under the canopy of heaven, exposed to the severest weather;
saturated with the rain-water, which soaks through the strongest
garments in a few minutes. His only guide is the wind; if an
experienced person knew exactly the direction, he might make a station
by keeping the wind blowing upon the same part of the face. This is a
Arabin at length closed his eyes--
"He slept in calmest seeming--for his breath Was hush'd so
The visions which chased one another across his too--active mind
were tenfold more oppressive than even his waking phantasies. Every one
must be conscious of the vividness with which dreams are pictured forth
when a traveller is overtaken by sleep in a coach or sitting on the
ground. Many hideous and vapoury figures flitted before him, acting
strange characters as if in mockery of man and human happiness. For a
short time these visions disappeared. Again he found himself at home
preparing for a long journey; his panting horse stood at the door; he
mounted and was spurring swift as the winds across the very ranges of
plains upon which his dormant body was stretched. He even descried the
place where he longed to be--"a green spot of the past," where one
whose memory he yet cherished was wont to dwell; often had he longed to
revisit it, and now his wishes seemed about to be gratified. Then by
some strange fatality he became impotent--some strong but invisible
power had dried up the veins and muscles in his legs, and they shook
under him as if sense and animation were alike gone. The heavens once
more grew dark; the streams of light illuminated the plains, and the
wild thunder trembled overhead. He still mentally urged his horse on;
he could see the windows of the house, he reflected upon the happy
faces which would there welcome him, and his heart warmed once more;
the next moment every object was shrouded in total darkness, and he
gnashed his teeth in mental agony.
Once more he enjoyed a short respite: then visions of other years
crossed before his mind in quick succession; he appeared then conscious
that he was but dreaming, and laboured hard to shake off some incubus
from his chest and start up. He thought he was sensible; but, alas! he
A female figure of commanding presence, clothed in black, with her
face concealed from his view by a black veil, stood nigh. He was
strangely agitated, and gazed upon her for a moment; at last he spoke,
and asked her--"Who art thou?"
"The spirit of the absent," she answered.
What thoughts crowded through his brain! what pictures were vividly
before him of olden times!---pictures which had long been erased even
from his memory. "The absent!" what a term! does not the heart chill
even in sleep at its utterance?
For some minutes he was silent, then he spake again--
"Can you inform me of C----?"
"No, she is beyond my reach."
"Her mother, then,--can you inform me of her?"
"She is mourning for the dead," said the figure, in a cold unnatural
He started from his position, but fell heavily on the ground again:
he was now wide awake,--he was positive that he had heard truth even in
his slumber--that one he doted upon was gone, that the beautiful of
life had departed. Could he bring his mind to think that her fine
spirit had been hovering near him, he could have reconciled himself to
the loss; there was a strange joy in the reflection that her spirit
mingled with his, and watched him in his midnight agonies.
The night was dark, although one or two stars twinkled overhead; the
rain had long ceased to fall, the dampness had even disappeared. Nature
had flung off the load which oppressed life; the arrowy lightnings and
dark thunders had passed, the atmosphere had been purified, human
nature was invigorated, and life would be a pleasure.
Australia is frequently visited in the summer season with hot winds,
which are succeeded by violent thunder-storms. For two or three days
before, the sky will glow as if on fire; at other times it presents a
slaty or glazed appearance, of a mixed dingy hue, between dull copper
and half-hot iron. Never, however, has the country been visited by
earthquakes, like other lands subject to intense droughts; we ascribe
this to the level country and the absence of mountainous districts of a
stony and cavernous formation. There are in Australia lofty mountains,
but they are scattered over the wide country. In no district, so far as
I am aware, has stone, slate, or marble been met with to any extent;
although coal, copper, and lead ore are found in great profusion.
Arabin was not disposed to sleep; indeed, he preferred to wander
about, especially as his limbs were benumbed with the cold. He arose
with great difficulty, for the rheumatism already gnawed his body, and
having unfastened his horse from the tree, he once more resumed his
wanderings in a most wretched condition. He might have wandered on
through the trees for several miles, when his ears were welcomed by the
sound of dogs barking at no great distance. Never did the softest music
fall more sweetly upon the sense; he mounted, and, regardless of every
obstacle, galloped towards the spot. He might have travelled a mile,
when the horse came to a dead stop, and upon dismounting he found he
had reached the banks of a deep river or ravine; the bank was rocky and
precipitous, and unfortunately took a sharp turn at this very spot. He
could hardly distinguish objects, but he clearly perceived that he must
return by the way he had arrived or cross at this particular bend of
the stream. He ruminated for some moments upon the particular course
which it would be most prudent for him to adopt, when, to his no little
gratification, the nocturnal watchman began to howl once more. The
sound appeared quite near, and, pretty well acquainted with Bush
customs, he placed his hands to his mouth to form a natural trumpet,
and uttered a loud "cooie."
"Cooie," answered a voice at no distance.
"I am a stranger," said Arabin, "who have lost my way."
No answer was returned; he remained for about a quarter of an hour
expecting that some person would come to his assistance; nothing,
however, moved,--the very dogs were quiet. He was startled once by a
wild dog which ran against his legs in the darkness, but which scoured
away with a terrible howl when it found the vicinity of man.
He cooied again.
"Cooie!" said the voice.
"Can you render me any assistance?" shouted he.
No answer was returned; he tried again.
"What do you want?" exclaimed a voice.
"I want assistance," replied he.
"Then come along here," replied the invisible.
"I am afraid of the river," replied he.
"There is no river, it is only a ravine," replied the voice.
Dr. Arabin was determined to reach the place, and, no longer afraid
of the water, he spurred his horse down a frightful descent. When he
had reached the bottom of the ravine, he could perceive the flicker of
a light at some distance amongst the trees. He shouted again to the
hut, to ask if it was safe to come on.
"Come straight to the hut," shouted the voice.
Thus advised, he spurred his horse; but the animal would not move
from the spot. He tried hard to push him on, but it had no effect. At
last he fastened him to a tree, and proceeded towards the spot; but he
had not gone five paces, when he plunged over head into water. He had
been rushing through the thick brushwood which bordered the river, and
had not observed the water. The first intimation he had of it came too
late to save him; he would have perished but for the assistance of the
branch of a mimosa, which he seized, and kept himself above water.
Still he expected every moment that it would break off, and looked upon
himself as lost. He gradually assumed more courage, and at last raised
himself to the bank, and went on his knees to thank his Maker for
having rescued him from, his perilous situation.
"Where are you now?" once more shouted the voice.
"I have just escaped from the river," replied Dr. Arabin, almost
"Then what are you doing in the river?" shouted the voice.
"You told me to come on, that it was all a flat," replied he.
There was no answer returned, and Dr. Arabin stood wet and ashamed
for a few moments. He, however, was determined to find out what sort of
a person could have so coolly advised him to jump into the river, and
therefore began to explore the river-side for some means whereby he
might cross over.
Chance enabled him to discover the secret. The dog which had first
indicated the presence of civilisation came across and began smelling
at his heels. On examining the place where he came over, Arabin
discovered a tree laid down, and upon a closer inspection he thought he
might venture to cross; he crawled along on his hands and knees, and at
length reached the opposite side, and was within a few paces of the
hut. At the door stood a person half undressed, who had not a very
inviting aspect; his face was nearly covered with red hair, which
seemed to defy soap and steel; his eye was bloodshot and sinister.
Notwithstanding his extreme vulgarity, there was an affectation of
smartness which proved he belonged to the unfortunate order who are
sent into the country to expiate former crimes by a certain period of
bondage. A grim smile played about the features of this enchanting
individual. Arabin, however, entered the hut, which from its mean
appearance was evidently the residence of those engaged in tending some
flocks of sheep, or what is termed "an out-station." The floor was a
sheet of water. The only other person in this miserable hut lay upon a
bed formed of a few pieces of wood laid upon two supporters at the
ends. The person who had been standing outside re-entered, and having
lighted a pipe, placed himself upon a bed of a similar character in
another corner. Neither of these two worthies of the woods took the
least notice of the wet and weary traveller who stood before the fire
not a little disheartened at the cold reception he was receiving.
At last he extracted from them the information that the station
belonged to a person whose name he had never heard--a Mr. Butler; that
he was five miles from the place which he was to have visited. He asked
if it was far to the home-station of his master.
"Not very far," replied the shepherd.
"Will the gentleman have retired?" inquired Dr. Arabin.
"Let me see--will the cove have gone to bed, Jim?"
"Yes, I think it is certain he has gone to bed."
He reflected for a few moments--he could not stop well in this
comfortless abode; he would be certain of being politely received at
the home-station when he told his misfortunes. At last, he offered the
person who had given him the information a guinea if he would take him
to the residence of the master. At this offer the person jumped up, and
proceeded to envelop his body in a large thick coat. A cat of enormous
size which had been lying on the bed also began to prepare for a
journey. "You ain't a-coming with me," said the fellow, "so go back."
The cat, however, began to mew and dance about, and at last he was
softened by these marks of affection, and Tom was allowed passively to
follow, his owner merely declaring "that he would pelt or quilt him on
the first convenient opportunity."
The sky once more threatened a tempest. The shepherd informed the
traveller that it would be impossible to get the horse over, and that
he must allow him to remain there until morning. He promised to see to
him the first thing, and as he was in the bend of the river, there was
little danger of his straying.
The rain again fell heavily, and the darkness was terrific: the road
was broken, and the two fell into quagmires, and frequently tumbled
against stones and stumps of trees. The shepherd hurt his knee against
a fragment of rock, and this accident elicited a volley of the most
violent imprecations--he raved and swore, until Dr. Arabin became
terrified lest he might do him some bodily injury during the heat of
his passion. In a few minutes after he became quiet, as the sharp pangs
abated in violence, and he led the way in dogged silence.
Dr. Arabin already repented for many reasons that he had left the
shelter of the hut. The darkness made it impossible for the man to find
the way; he had to crawl along the extreme edge of the river-bank.
There was no contemptible danger in following this course, as either of
them by a false step might be precipitated many hundred yards into the
river. It now rained in torrents; the heavens seemed to have opened;
they could only find one another by speaking (cooing). At length, after
overcoming many obstacles, the travellers arrived at a fence; they
entered the paddock; it was, however, so dark, that although the house
stood within a few hundred yards of where they stood, they could not
"We must make a noise and have the dogs on us, or we shall have to
sleep in the open air, perhaps," said the guide. "We have got sticks to
keep them off."
They began to speak aloud, and in a few minutes two curs were upon
them, yelping most outrageously. Still they could not make out the
house, and were stumbling about at some distance, when a voice
"Is that you, Long Bob?" replied the guide; "where are you?"
"In my bed. What brings you here? Have the sheep been rushed?"
All this time the two had been groping about for the hut in the
direction indicated by the voice of Long Bob. At length, the head of
Dr. Arabin gave a sharp tap against a wall, and both were sensible that
they were in the rear of a small hut. The next moment the door was
opened, and the two travellers entered. Bob having scraped amongst the
embers, managed to light a fire, and demanded of the hut-keeper, for
such his guide was, "what cove it was he brought on such a night?"
The other replied, that he was a gentleman who had lost his way, and
that he had been under the necessity of bringing him to the cove's hut.
"Is he gone to bed?" "He has been in bed two hours," replied Bob, "and
I dare not call him up, as missus would be terrified for
"Well, never mind," replied Arabin; "I can sit by the fire."
The others here interchanged a few words, in a low tone. Bob
informed Dr. Arabin that he could have his bed, as he was wet, and he
would sit up. The weary traveller was but too happy to accept the
offer; he gave his guide the promised reward, and requested him once
more to look after his horse. Arabin next divested himself of his wet
clothes, and took refuge from all his woes in Long Bob's bed.
The fire was lighted with about half the fuss which an English
servant would make; both placed themselves before it upon logs. Tobacco
was produced and pipes filled, and afterwards they sat comfortably
enjoying themselves with every symptom of satisfaction, but in almost
total silence. Both glanced occasionally at the bed; and at length its
inmate, anticipating either amusement or information from the
conversation of two such originals, pretended to be fast asleep.
The guide winked to his companion, rose as if to go, and said
aloud--"Shall I bring the horse here in the morning, sir?" Receiving no
reply, he remarked to his companion, that the cove was asleep.--"I may
tell the truth now."
"Go on," said the other.
"Well, you sees, the spoony left his horse the other side--as he
thinks, because he does not know of the great bend. So he comes into my
hut and offers me this here money to take him to the station; so I
bringed him all the way round, and not straight across, because I must
earn my money, you know!"
"That is coming up! the cove might have come up to the other side of
"Yes; but look you, the hanimal, he is not a-goin to have the 'oss
at furst--we must plant him, you know!" whispered the faithful
"But," replied Bob, "suppose our cove finds it out, he will give us
"He find it out! he is as hinnocent as a child! We can find the
horse down the river to-morrow night; and when a reward is offered, the
next station people can hand him out, and we will divide the spile:
it's only taking money from our enemies, you knows. Have you any lush?
I want a ball considerable, after this lark."
"I have," replied Bob; "for the last time the cove got a keg of rum
out with the dray, I took out half a gallon and filled it up with
water. Let me see--the cove in the bed is asleep."
He arose, unlocked his box, and produced a case--bottle; a cracked
tea-cup was by, and the worthy couple helped themselves to a liberal
portion of the spirit it contained. The owner replaced his treasure,
not without some appearance of trepidation and very frequent glances
both towards the bed and the door, which caused a smile to wrinkle the
mouth of the attentive guide, who exclaimed--"I suppose the cove seldom
looks into your box?"
"I almost forgot the key this blessed day, and the cove or missus
might have looked into the box and found the rum."
"But, I say, what book is that? Is it the cove's?"
"Yes," replied Bob; "and there is such a regular fine story in it
about an Irishman."
The two began to spell through the story, which was contained in a
volume of "Chambers's Edinburgh Journal." The hero was Paddy O'Reardon,
or some such name, who did many excellent things in a trip which he
made to France. Neither of the characters could read,--the tale was so
exactly to their taste, that they spelled it through, waiting
occasionally to enjoy fits of inward mirth.
"I say, Bob," said the guide, "who wrote that? Was it
"Poh!" replied his companion. "Do you think Shakespeare could write
anything like that? Walter Scott wrote it in the 'Edinburgh Journal' to
"He was a clever cove," remarked the other, sagaciously. "But I
declare I must be off."
The two exchanged glances, and began to whisper. Dr. Arabin thought
he heard mention of the horse, and below the huts.
After the door had closed on his companion, the trusty guide, Bob,
sat with his face on his knees, most likely cogitating over some sage
axiom; he next stretched his legs to their full length, and rested
him--self on the box which contained the precious balls. In ten minutes
he was asleep.
Dr. Arabin passed the greater part of the morning in restless
endeavours after repose; towards daybreak he fell into a sound slumber,
and dreamed of the guide and his other adventures of the previous
CHAPTER V. THE ABODE OF A SETTLER.
"CAN you tell us anything of the life the Australian settlers lead?"
we think we hear a hundred young men ask. "Would a settler do?" sighs a
lone fair one, who remembers well the parting look of a lover, whom she
now learns is a settler or squatter in the wild plains of Australia. We
must give a short description of the order, in answer to such queries.
Do not be alarmed; we are not inclined to write hyperbolically of the
genus, to deceive the world by paradoxes at violence with truth--to
paint our grazing friends as unblemished--to abuse them without
foundation. We have but one wish,--to edify all with the picture of a
new order of beings, whose peculiarities were unknown to the world
until our own humble efforts brought them forward.
We are aware that a few have complained loudly of the author's
sketch of the settlers No.1 of the Australian Sketches. in "Tait's
Magazine." The character boldly drawn in it as the "outlandish settler"
is less frequently to be met with than formerly. It is, nevertheless,
formed on the solid basis of truth; at the present time it is the
exception, and the settlers of the old school are nearly extinct.
The term "settler" is peculiar to the Colonies. We have heard it
used in the African Colonies, and understand it is used in British
America. In the United States, "squatter" is the term most frequently
used; it is also frequently used in Australia, especially in the Middle
or Sydney District.
In every one of the Australian Colonies, the settlers constitute the
most opulent and the most respectable class. In New South Wales, the
industry of the squatting (grazing) interest has forced the Colony to
advance, notwithstanding the neglect which is chargeable to the
ignorance and obstinacy of our rulers--the contemptible shuffling and
robbing system of many of the merchants--the mismanagement of the
Colonial Banking establishments--the Utopian systems of Wakefield, and
others of the same stamp, who propagate opinions repugnant to common
sense and experience. Great must the resources of a poor country be
which could make head-way against such seas of trouble. The Colonists,
it is true, complain; yet their grievances are unredressed--the evil
system is continued, their prayers are slighted, their remonstrances
treated with contempt; Government is positive that its policy is
correct, and we blame it as erring more from ignorance than design. Let
it then take advice from such as are competent to give it. The extent
of the squatting interest may be conceived by the following table of
the stock in the Colony of New South Wales.
Horned Cattle. 897,219
This stock is all depasturing on Crown lands; the stock upon
purchased land is not included. The owners of it are "the settlers;"
the owners of it are under the surveillance of Crown Land
Commissioners; each is obliged to pay £10 for a licence to
depasture stock, and an assignment is levied upon their stock of so
much per head; but after July 1845, the owners of stock will be under
the necessity of paying in accordance with the new depasturing
licences' regulations, which issued from the Colonial Secretary's
office on the 2nd of April, 1844, and which directs that after that
date, a separate licence must be taken out, and a fee of £10 paid
for each station or run; that every station at a greater distance than
seven miles from any other occupied by the same party shall be deemed a
separate station, even although the area occupied may not exceed twenty
square miles; that no one licence shall cover a station capable of
depasturing more than 4000 sheep, or 500 head of cattle, or a mixed
herd of sheep or cattle equal to either 4000 sheep or 500 cattle. The
large stockholders would not sit tamely by and allow the Government to
tax them; the instant the Government Gazette containing these
regulations appeared, the most violent expressions of dissatisfaction
were used against His Excellency. Public meetings were held in every
part of the country. A society was formed under the name of the
Pastoral Association, including amongst its members the whole of the
extensive stockowners. The Committee framed a petition to the Houses of
Parliament, which was signed by the majority of the stockholders.
This document reflects great credit upon them as a class; it is
worded with caution, and respect for Government, while it sets forth in
temperate language the evils with which they are encompassed, their
remonstrances against increased taxation, and the grievances they wish
We have been witnesses of the sad effects which have attended upon
the present licence system, and the established high minimum price of
Crown lands, and we are glad to witness the influence of the great
grazing-land classes embattled against them.
If the author of the Australian Sketches said anything in "The
Settler" which would offend one of that respectable order, he is sorry,
very sorry, knowing that their indomitable perseverance has overcome
many difficulties, and that their eccentricities are the effects of the
precarious tenure by which they hold their leases. Fixity of tenure and
a moderate rent are all that the roamers of the Australian plains sue
for. The absence of the farmer has created more human misery than,
perhaps, any other grievance connected with the Colonies. We find young
men who have been reared in affluence, and educated in universities,
and who grew to manhood in the society of the great and wealthy,--in
Australia ruined, beggars, and prostrated in both physical and moral
dissipation, their minds contaminated by ghastly, loathsome vice. We
often find them revelling in low haunts of profligacy, associating with
the abandoned of both sexes; and why is it that such is the fact? It is
because they have no home--no heart--no society. Their independence is
fled--their spirit broken--their worldly prospects blasted. They are
sensible of their condition. Obliged to cringe to and fawn upon
contemptible Government officials, or lose their home and their all, is
it any wonder that they are often unable to bear up against
circumstances so infelicitous? Had these men their stations at an
equitable rent, with permament leases; were they at liberty to bring
home partners, without the risk of being turned upon the world without
a farthing but their stock, at any time; how different a picture might
we have to draw, of virtuous parents, brave sons, and chaste
Australia is a fine country; it has great natural advantages of
climate and soil; it possesses food for stock to an almost unlimited
extent. Why, then, shall man do his best to render these advantages of
There is one thing, however, certain: the excitement which these new
regulations have created--the strong and determined spirit of
opposition which they have aroused, must be productive of a vast amount
of good or evil. Either the petition of the pastoral Colonists will
open the eyes of the Government, and force it to ameliorate the
condition of the petitioners, or a crisis will be hastened on which we
fear to contemplate. If the petition be treated with contempt or
indifference, and the grievances be unredressed, the Colony may be
placed in inextricable confusion.
Government has had fair warning; let no person connected with it be
blind to the probable consequences. The crisis now over has brought
many to total ruin; not a few have, as already described, sunk into
habits of intemperance. Yet they look with hatred at the Government
which has spread ruin over the length and breadth of the land. Should
the well-affected settlers chime in with these malcontents, what chance
could any Government have against their united power?
It appears very unfair that in a free country every office of honour
or emolument should be bestowed by the Government officers. We find
that even this circumstance breaks the spirit of many persons of good
families. The Governors of the different Colonies have the sole power
to nominate the magistrates and members of Council; and every one of
the public situations is in the gift of the Colonial or the Home
Government. The Governor for the time may appoint men to be magistrates
who have no claim to expect such an honour at his hands, and he may
deeply wound the feelings of others who have every reason to expect
such a mark of approbation. From the very constitution of Colonial
society, also, such an omission is likely to wound more fatally than in
England; its elements are ever unsettled. Some men ascend the ladder of
fortune with gigantic strides; others are precipitated from it, and
disappear altogether, or appear in a far different guise. The Colonists
are much deceived by empty sounds, and a J. P. is in their eyes an
aristocratic distinction. Here they are to blame: they are too prone to
worship rank and wealth; they are not cognisant of Burns's
"The king can mak' a belted knight.
A marquis, duke, an' a' that;
But an honest man's aboon his might---"
We see no reason why the Government appointments should not, in
nearly every instance, be bestowed upon Colonists. Were this the case,
emulation would incite to mental exertion, and there would be always a
superior class. If the present system remain unaltered, there is too
good reason to dread that our future Colonial society will degenerate
into mere automaton farmers and sheep-owners.
To return from this political disquisition to the Australian
settler. We have already stated the extent of the stock which is vested
in this class in New South Wales alone; it is scattered over the face
of the country, both within and without the various counties which are
denominated the bounds of location. It may be interesting to state the
districts without the boundaries:--they are Bligh, Clarence River,
Darling Downs, Lachlan, Liverpool Plains, Mc Leay River, Maneroo,
Moreton Bay, Murrumbadgee, New England, Wellington, in the Middle
District. In the Port Phillip District, there are the Western Port and
Portland Bay Districts. These districts, with the twenty-four counties,
contain the stock, which is much larger than that depasturing upon
purchased land. Besides the licence, they pay an assessment of 1/2d. a
head for sheep, 11/2d. for cattle, and 3d. for horses. The money is
expended in maintaining the expenses of a Border Police. All fines go
towards the same purpose.
The expense of the Border Police, commencing with 1839 and ending
with 1843, for five years, is stated at £71,010 15s. 8d.
Theproceeds of the assessment and fines for the same period were
£69,607 6s. 6d.
A few of the settlers are married. The majority of them are young
men, who live mostly upon their stations; the reckless class, who were
nearly always in the towns, have, with few exceptions, gone through the
Insolvent Court within the last two years. A few have been able to
retain their stock, and manage upon their station for their creditors;
but it has been a total wreck with the majority.
It is really a pity to see so many fine young men who are lost, we
fear, for life. Those who recover steady habits, may get a start again;
but we hardly think that many who have had their names blazoned in the
Insolvent Court will do much good in the same sphere of action. It is
like American repudiation; those who once find so ready a way to pay
their debts may never take the trouble to be honest. But we are glad to
say, that many have nobly withstood the shock, and if the Government
give them a chancel they will very soon be independent.
Experience has been bought at a dear rate; but there is nothing like
experience, after all. Those who have maintained both their good name
and a moderate share of their property may be regarded, taking every
consideration of their position into view, as fortunate
A very large proportion of the settlers, or squatters, within the
boundaries of location, are married. Some have large families; they
ought, therefore, to be protected and fostered by Government.
There is a pretty extensive assortment of sons of the soil amongst
this class. They have never been out of their native country; and their
ideas of townlife are acquired from an occasional visit to an
Australian town, and it may be looked upon as a remarkable fact that
very few of them express any anxiety to see Europe. A few wish to go
out whaling, and this appears to them the most daring achievement they
Yet there are several exceptions. Mr. Wentworth, Member for Sydney,
a native of Norfolk Island, was educated in England. This gentleman
possesses considerable proficiency in classical literature, and has
occasionally made a very good figure as a debater. Several other
gentlemen who claim Australia for their native country were returned
for the first popular Assembly. We know several Australians now, hardly
more remarkable for ability than for sound sense and moral courage.
Many of them, however, are peculiarly ignorant of life. They know about
cattle and land, and they cultivate the latter with care, but allow
their minds to run to seed.
We must, however, return to our friend Dr. Arabin, whom we left
about to introduce himself into the dwelling-house of the "settler."
About twenty yards from the hut where Arabin had passed the night, was
a large, and, for the Bush, respectable-looking cottage. Entering at
the back, he passed through a narrow passage, and entered the front
parlour. He perceived that he was in the dwelling of a settler of
The walls of the room were plastered; the floor was covered with
matting: the furniture was of mahogany; a formidable array of weapons
were arranged about, which showed that the Australian settler is
occasionally visited by Bushrangers. The taste of well-cultivated
feminine hands was also to be observed in the elegant ornamental
trifles which adorned the mantelpiece. The piano and music-stool formed
a singular contrast to the fire-arms which were ranged alongside.
He had just made these observations, when a tall gentleman, dressed
in a shooting-jacket and girded by a large belt, arose and gave him a
"I am sorry," he said, "that I had not the pleasure of knowing of
your arrival last night; but the fact is, we were once terrified by
Bushrangers, and my poor wife has hardly yet recovered from the effects
of the frightful visitation we had about three months ago from these
horrid Bushrangers, and I suppose Bob was afraid to alarm the
As he finished, a tall elegant-looking woman, attired in a light
morning dress, entered from the side apartment, which communicated with
the parlour by a door.
This lady appeared to be confused at the sudden appearance of a
stranger. The settler again rose, and said.
"My dear, this is a gentleman who has lost his way, and who has
taken refuge at our station. Give him a kind welcome."
Like most reserved men, Dr. Arabin had a correct knowledge of human
nature and human feeling. He looked on the countenance of the settler's
wife, and observing a warm glow of satisfaction to diffuse itself
across her face---where female purity was pourtrayed--he was satisfied
that he had not come into contact with a niggard, but with a kind
warm-hearted woman. It is the keenest pleasure to one disgusted with
the selfishness and apathy of "the world."
"You must be very hungry," exclaimed the settler. "You know we have
not very many comforts in the Bush; but you are welcome, and a warm
welcome must excuse everything."
"My kind sir," replied Dr. Arabin, "few care so little for sumptuous
fare as myself. I would not exchange a crust of bread with kind faces
and a hearty welcome, for a luxurious feast accompanied by the freezing
etiquette of fashionable life."
"You and the women will suit each other," replied the settler,
smoking. "Come, Marie, prepare the breakfast; and call up your
sister--or, stay, I will call her myself."
He opened the door, and walked into the passage; here he knocked at
a door, saying in a loud tone, "Come out, Martha; you will be too late
for breakfast." A low voice replied, "It is very cold. Did you hear any
Bushrangers last night, Master B.?"
"Yes," replied the settler; "the men caught one. Come out, and you
shall have a sight of him."
The fair inmate laughed; but the settler protested he spoke the
truth. In a few minutes a young lady emerged from the back apartment,
and entered the parlour. The settler laid hold of her arm, and drawing
her towards the stranger, exclaimed, "We have caught a Bushranger."
We must admit that Dr. Arabin was not the most elegant figure in the
range of a young lady's imagination, for his coat was torn and his face
was scratched. He cared not for personal attractions--or, at any rate,
he supposed that he did not. He was not a little astonished when he
beheld the young lady scrutinise his countenance in some such fashion
as a London dame would examine an Iroquois hunter or an ourang-outang.
He was degraded in his own estimation--he felt a blush of shame tinge
his cheek at being mistaken for a Bushranger; he vowed that he would
not go rambling in the forest even professionally in future, but keep
in his humble home.
The young lady observed the blush, and appreciated its meaning; for
there exists a freemasonry among the young which is altogether
overlooked by the old and worldly. She replied to the jest of the
settler, in an angry tone.
"How can you be so cruel with your joking?"
"Well, well, it was but a trick, Martha. I only wished to have
breakfast, as I am very hungry. You must really forgive me." And the
young lady laughed and forgave him; and, will it be believed? Dr.
Arabin was gratified. What a singular anomaly is the mind of even
persons of the first intellect! Dr. Arabin was many degrees advanced in
his own estimation at being recognised as a gentleman in soiled
clothes; and yet had any person said that he cared two straws about his
personal appearance, he would not have believed them,--that is, unless
he had instituted a rigid search into his own feelings; and even then,
it is a question if he would have detected the joy he experienced. The
most intellectual are not above the feelings common to humanity, and
they too often share the vicious propensities of other men. The late
William Hazlitt (if we mistake not) justly remarks, that "the mind
soars to the lofty, and is at home in the low, the grovelling, and the
And we must say that Martha Waller was a young lady whose good
opinion most men would wish to possess. In appearance she seemed tall
and rather slender; her white dress was relieved by her rich dark hair,
"clasping a neck" which rivalled the snow for purity and whiteness.
These luxuriant tresses indeed added a dignity to her appearance, which
might else have been considered too delicate. Young, frank, and without
art, her presence appeared to cast a gladness around, like the flowers
in full bloom, which change even sterility into beauty. We must not
proceed: Dr. Arabin had seen the jewelled nobility--the proud and
fashionable dames of England--the more polished and gay female society
of the Continent; but, he avowed, a more complete model of beauty
bordering upon the ideal, he had never beheld. It seemed to him that a
sincere lover of beauty might bend to her as akin to perfection; and
yet he had loved before, but never told or breathed it.
The breakfast-table now withdrew his attention, and invited him to
recruit his strength; he had not even tasted food for twenty-four
hours. The shade which had darkened the fair countenance of the
youngest female had disappeared; the whole party assembled at the
breakfast-table were agreeable. Arabin was astonished to find himself
placed in so pleasant a party, and rallied his spirits. He could not
but reflect upon the strange admixture of good and bad which human
nature is, and that selfishness might possibly lurk beneath all the
frankness which distinguished the settler's family. "How very few are
above it!" muttered he.
The breakfast passed over, in course of conversation the settler
inquired how long he had been in the country?
"I have not been in it two years," replied he: "it is a short
period, and yet I can almost fancy it a lifetime--a dull, uninteresting
"Then you do not like the country, I suppose?"
"I might say I do, and I do not," replied Dr. Arabin. "It is a
lovely, romantic country; but the Colonists are too much of a
sheep-farming, matter-of-fact, pounds-shillings-and-pence class, for my
taste. I have never remained very long in any place, and am almost
inclined to be a second Robinson Crusoe, and wander up and down the
world for the remaining portion of my life."
"I cannot agree with you," replied the settler; "it is very fine to
move about, but very miserable, I am positive. Give me a comfortable
home, plenty of money, and allow me to live comfortably."
"That was never my disposition," said Arabin. "When a schoolboy, I
frequently wandered miles from home, and sometimes would beg my way, to
visit some antique ruin--a memento of former greatness. I would wander
about an old, deserted castle for days, and dream of its past
magnificence. I remember, when returning from a school in Scotland, how
I left the coach at a posting-town in Yorkshire, and walked on, on foot
and alone, to visit the city of York, and visit its far-famed Minster.
I entered its sacred precincts, and paced up and down its majestic
aisles, breathing the subdued majesty of the hallowed past. An old
gentleman adopted me as his companion for the hour, and we examined the
monuments. Amongst the first was one erected in memory of a Knight of
Malta. I can almost feel now the thrill which rushed through my veins:
thoughts of bands of Crusaders, horses and riders, started into living
forms; warriors were animate, brandishing sword and lance. First came a
band of Crusaders, in antique armour, fighting under the banner of him
whose ashes rested here beneath the pavement where we trod. Then
another scene: I thought I beheld the gallant knight, borne down by
numbers, fighting in a cause which to him seemed the most sacred. We
next ascended to the highest tower in the noble cathedral: we
endeavoured to acquire some fame by carving out the shape of our feet
upon the lead, and placing our initials in the middle of the
outlines.--But I am afraid my long tale tires you." "We are very much
interested," exclaimed all his listeners.
"I returned that evening to my humble lodgings in the Skeldergate. I
was astonished when my landlady informed me that she had never been to
the top of the cathedral, although she had lived in York all her days.
She was very kind, however. She inquired my motive for visiting York,
and chided me for not returning home; when I informed her of my little
secret, I recollect now that she would hardly accept any recompense for
the trouble I had given her, and that she placed me under the charge of
a Leeds waggoner, who saw me on the coach for the South."
"I think," replied the settler, "the author of the 'Sketch-Book' has
expressed the same feelings, and his anxiety to go far away with the
"I can assure you," said Dr. Arabin, "I have often experienced the
same feeling; and when a boy, I had an intense love for the sea-side. I
would lie for hours engaged in watching the vessels tossing about, and
long anxiously to partake the hardships of the mariners. When I had a
few shillings to spare, I frequently posted on board some vessel, and
bribed the seamen to give me a ship-biscuit, and allow me to remain and
fancy myself a sailor for a day. The feeling I have never been able to
totally subdue: the sight of a vessel always makes me uncomfortable,
and to wish to be off. The freedom of the sea suits me: I would wish no
purer liberty than to wander on the billowy foam, or to soar, like the
"Higher still, and higher.
From the earth thou springest;
Like a cloud of fire.
The deep-blue thou wingest."
But I fear I tire you. You must think me foolish; but I have lately
lived in almost solitary confinement, without any companion but my own
thoughts, and my thoughts rush out almost spontaneously."
"Do not mention anything of the kind," said the settler; "I am
certain my wife and Martha have had the same feelings, although perhaps
unable to give them expression by language. I confess, once upon a
time, I had nearly the same thoughts myself; but scabby sheep, and old
convicts for servants, have changed the current of my thoughts. You
know, men with families must look out for the 'crumbs'; and that
diverts much of their attention from mental improvement, and also wears
down the high sentimental sensibility of youth."
"Have you travelled much?" the young lady ventured to ask.
"No," replied he; "I have been in one or two foreign countries, but
my travels have been nothing: the more I have gone about, however, the
more anxious I have become to see more of the great world. I made one
voyage down the Baltic, and I have been on the Continent of Europe, and
now I have seen this strange new world also. I am very anxious to see
India and South America. Indeed, if I could gratify my own taste, I
should commence wandering over the globe: I would not rest until I had
looked upon every country it contains, and mixed with lower orders, and
caught something of their habits and notions. When death arrived, I
should lie down contented at the nearest human habitation--or by the
way-side, contented to be canopied by the pure sky."
"It would be a cold death," said the settler, "and you would require
a large sum of money to gratify your singular inclinations."
"Poverty is the very reason," sighed Dr. Arabin, "which ties me to
this or to any other country, and prevents me from following my
inclinations. I should not desire to increase my means by any
intercourse with those whom I inwardly despise."
"You owe the world no undue partiality," continued the settler.
"And have I ever received any favour at its hands?" replied Dr.
Arabin, a little hurt at the cold tone in which the settler spoke;
"have I not found my fellow--men, without almost an exception,
churlish, and mean, and selfish? No, I owe it no favour; I despise it
and its metallic-seeking inhabitants."
"Do you despise us women?" inquired the lady of the settler, in
rather an offended tone.
"Do we cheat and act the bear too?" archly inquired the young
"You take me aback," replied Dr. Arabin. "I know I have been
speaking too free to mere strangers,--but I hardly ever meet a kind
face and warm welcome, and I hope this will plead my excuse. I have
often attempted to subdue my singular disposition, but to little
purpose. I know it has seriously injured my prospects, which is no
serious matter with me; still I would not exchange my independence for
the wealth of a prince." "But," retorted the settler's ladies, "the
"I have never received anything but kindness from woman, and respect
and admire the sex," replied Dr. Arabin.
The breakfast had by this time been finished, and Arabin inquired
the nearest road to the hut where he had left his horse the evening
before. This elicited an explanation of the circumstances under which
he arrived, and the cause of his journey. The settler was far from
pleased with his convict servant; but he was, notwithstanding,
exquisitely amused at the recital of his adventures, especially the
council between the two in the hut.
Arabin wished to visit the neighbouring station to see his patient;
but before he took leave of the ladies, he promised either to return by
their house, or visit them at an early opportunity. He proceeded in
company with the settler to look after his horse.
It is nothing uncommon in Australia to have a lovely morning after a
tempestuous night: the convulsions exhausted, disappear with the
darkness---beauty returns with the dawn of day. They ascended the bank
of a river, and Arabin was overpowered with the change--the morning was
indeed lovely. He was on the bank of a river, high, but not
precipitous; along its sloping outline were ranges of casuarina, its
wiry branches waving gently in the morning breeze. Nearer the river
bloomed a line of mimosa, gorgeously decked out in yellow flowers. Nor
were there other trees wanting,--a laurel or myrtle might be observed
spreading a soft perfume, and a glorious flower of scarlet. Towards the
edge of the river, the wood became dense; indeed it was often a work of
some difficulty to pass, and in some places it was impossible for
either man or beast to penetrate the thick brushwood, where the thorn
and fern grew to the height of two or three feet. In many parts of the
Bush, the dense brushwood impedes the progress of the traveller;
indeed, an experienced Bushman would rather walk three miles on open
ground, than one mile through it. The eye looked away for miles over
the plain, bounded by clear blue mountains, rearing their towering
summits, just seen like a morning haze; or, in other places, their
glorious blue tints relieved the lighter sky. At times the sunbeams
would glance among the peaks, lighting up many miles of intervening
country; then, in an instant, mountain, glen, and plain would be
darkened by the cold shade.
Arabin reflected for some moments on the singular beauty of the
sunbeams gladdening the earth, and could not but think of the beautiful
Scripture allegory, where the Almighty is represented as a sun
diffusing light over worlds and myriads of animated things. "How
beautiful are the sunbeams wantoning on the mountain-tops!" muttered
he. "I can remember, when a boy, that I had gone to Scotland on a
visit, and lying on the far-famed Benahee, and observed the shades
which the sun cast upon a long range of yellow cornfields: like the
perpetual roll of the water in the Pacific Ocean, shadow after shadow
came in quick succession. I was young then, and the joy which soothed
my breast is not to be described--it was beauty, the very spirit of
"Again, in this strange world the sun shines unequally; he is like a
capricious coquette, first smiling on one favourite, then upon another;
and yet the melancholy beauty of the shade breathes sentiment.
"This is a strange new world! How mighty is the silence of these
woods! even like 'the great empire of silence.' The notes of the
bellbird break upon the ear; or the coachman's crack, warning that
snakes are in the vicinity; or the drowsy hum of the flies, careering
"It is a lovely scene!" continued Arabin, but now speaking aloud;
"and if I make up my mind to live and die in one portion of the globe,
it would be in such a spot as this."
"With a few thousand scabby sheep," replied the settler, whose name
"Most certainly not, Mr. Butler," replied Arabin. "Rather than
follow flocks of sheep, I would wander the country with an erratic
tribe of black men, and see one spot to-day, another to-morrow, and be
untrammelled by the artificial rules of society."
"And make love to the black lubras," interrupted the settler. "But
you will like sheep better if you continue long there."
Arabin continued, without noticing his companion--"Sheep-herding
might have been a delightful occupation to the ancients in the days of
Virgil; but I neither like it, nor, in candour, his Pastorals. Yet it
is a lovely scene! Where could I have been last evening?"
The settler turned his face towards another part of the scene.
Arabin had not looked in that direction, and he started at the contrast
between the view which now met his eye, and the scene which it had
lingered on before. He saw only a long stony plain; the earth had been
scorched by a recent Bush fire, In the dry weather, the long withered
grass on the plains will often ignite, and blaze away for many miles.
Houses, hurdles, flocks of sheep, and sometimes human beings, perish in
the flames; and where they approach crops of any kind, it is almost
impossible to save them with a miserable-looking mount beyond destitute
of herbage. This dreary sterility was by no means relieved by the clump
of miserable stunted trees which were visible at some distance. The two
gazed at one another, and Arabin exclaimed, "It is miserable!"
"You are right--it is named Mount Misery," replied the settler.
"So called, I suppose, after Mount Misery in St. Christopher's,"
said Arabin, "where a poor man who attempted to climb its precipice
fell back and was killed. A similar story is related of a person named
Ross, who went to the rock on the summit of Lochnagar in Aberdeenshire,
immortalised by Lord Byron. This unfortunate man ventured too near the
edge, and his foot slipped: I believe his blood is still on the
"Well," replied the settler, "this Mount has also its tale of
horror. There is not, I rejoice to say, anything like superstition in
this country; yet, although we do not believe in hobgoblins, few care
to be nigh Mount Misery at night; even the aborigines say the 'Dible,
Dible quambies there,' and avoid it. Near it, five lubras were
murdered; and the bodies were concealed in the woods. The real
perpetrators of the crime escaped." "In what manner were they
murdered?" inquired Arabin.
"Some young men came up the river on a frolic: they had brandy in
their boat, of which they drank large quantities. They became testy,
and quarrelled. Then the smoke of the encampment of blacks at this
Mount was perceived: the excited youths agreed to come on; mad with
drink, they came up, where a party of five lubras and a coolie were
seated round their miami, and shot them dead. They concealed the
bodies, and soon after departed.
"Next morning they recovered their senses, and of course remorse
began to prey on their minds; they had dyed their hands in human blood,
and troubled consciences and terror for the consequences would not
allow them to rest in peace. With one exception, they left the Colony.
Some went to Van Diemen's Land, and from thence to England; one went to
India, another to South America. The only one who remained had a
situation under Government.
"After some time, the facts of the case were disclosed. The one who
remained in the country, ended his days in a mad-house; and although
there was no sentence recorded against any of the party, it has been
remarked that they either fell,
'The shameless hand foully crimson'd o'er
or by violent deaths have gone down to the grave, and
With blood of its own lord,'
----'Like a storm that's spent.
Lie hush'd, and meanly sneak behind the covert--
Vain thought!--to hide them from the general scorn:'
which I remember Blair uses, in his Grave, as 'fit for
tyrants and oppressors.'"
"No wonder," replied Arabin, "that the blacks are unwilling to
approach the spot, and no wonder that I was afraid last night to be
The river here took a quick bend, and Arabin could perceive the
out-station at a very short distance. The trick which had been played
upon him was now apparent; the person who conducted him had evidently
gone round the bend, instead of having taken him fair across.
In a few minutes afterwards they began to walk towards the
out-station; the towering summits of the mountain ranges were visible,
and Arabin had an agreeable occupation for his mental faculties in
reflecting on the former state of the strange country. A very few years
back, and the existence of this mountain was unknown, except perhaps to
a few uncivilised aborigines. Now it rests in solitary grandeur, as if
proud of its position; the long range is broken into several crags or
peaks; the breeze seems almost to bring a rich perfume from the
luxuriant shrubs which grow on the sides in irregular clumps.
One projecting summit lies beetling over, more favoured by the sun
than the others, which appear more retiring; these are divided by
chasms, and stern in their outline. We believe that one of the most
beautiful mountains is Mount Macedon (spoken of by Richard Howitt) in
Australia Felix. The long, open, undulating plains before it are
peculiar to the Australasiatic continent. The writer lately spent a
summer day upon this mountain, and was much pleased with the scene
which lay spread before him. In front were the Wireby plains, the salt
water river winding along its uneven and circuitous course. Further to
the left, the Yarra Yarra and the town of Melbourne were visible. The
Plenty ranges were likewise visible, and a huge cleft through which the
river of the same name flows. The Bay of Port Phillip was just seen,
its mild relucent waters contrasting with the forests which environ it.
The effects of the sunshine are not exaggerated in this work; at times
the sun exercises a miraculous influence upon the scene. Upon this
occasion the earth would occasionally appear veiled in mourning; then
he would break forth like a minister of gladness, even like a day-dream
of childhood. The dull earth seemed transformed into realms of
enchantment. The Plenty ranges, with irregular craggy peaks, reflect
the brilliant gleams from rock and shrub, and flower and tree; the sun
silvers the level line of the horizon. The rivers gleamed from among
the luxuriant foliage which lined the banks. Anon all was in deep
shade. What pleasure has it afforded the exiles of the North to gaze
upon this range! which, by its extent and magnificence, must bring to
their memory the mountains of their own land. Everything around seems
to reflect the feeling of gladness on the heart.
"It is rather singular, is it not," remarked the settler, "that so
many have left their homes in Britain, and wander so far from home and
"No," returned Arabin; "we love change, and from the prince to the
peasant a desire to travel seems paramount. Mountains, oceans,
accidents, love, and even dread of imprisonment or death, are not
impediments; every other feeling is subdued by the anxiety to behold
strange lands, and what is termed 'the world'. The feeling may not
animate every breast; yet it will be found in the majority. It is that
which peoples our Colonies with strong, healthy emigrants; and,
combined with cupidity, it also brings capitalists. If men were to live
and die upon their cabbage-gardens, colonisation and improvement would
be things unknown, and might be expelled from our vernacular
"You are an enthusiastic young man," the settler retorted; "and
certainly, although I am a more everyday character, I admire the
feeling you display. I wish I had never come from Old England: not but
that I love the beauty of the wilderness, and my wife, who is a rose of
the desert; but it never can be to me like my native land."
"It is a beautiful wilderness," replied Arabin; "a man might live in
it with no friend but nature."
"You should have known Shelley," said the settler.
"And do I not know him?" broke out Arabin.
"Have I not communed in spirit with him for days--hours--years? It
is a sad pity he was an unbeliever, for he has a power of thought which
almost places him at the head of our English poets. He becomes indeed
often too plaintive--too melancholy. Shelley's poetry is like the wind
moaning wildly over a dark sea."
"I cannot admire your description of his poetry," said the settler.
"He is a writer of ability; at times, however, he becomes absurd,
ridiculous, and unintelligible: but, in justice, I must add, that he
has a power of sarcasm which has never been excelled."
The two now turned their faces towards the out--station, and began
to pursue their journey with all speed. They soon arrived at the
out-station. Arabin, however, did not at first recognise it as the same
which he had visited on the preceding evening. Three fellows were
seated upon rude logs around the fire, all smoking short black pipes.
Arabin recognised his guide of the previous night, and inquired how and
when he reached his hut.
"Very well," replied the hut-keeper. "I made a great infort, and
managed to keep the road without a--comin' round the bend."
Dr. Arabin observed that he had a great wish to use better language
than usual, and that he mispronounced every third word.
"You had not much difficulty," replied the settler sharply.
"I had great diffinculty, I insure you," pertly remarked the
"Where did you put my horse?" inquired Doctor Arabin.
"I could not find him when I comed round the river," replied the
man. "Where did you leave him?"
"I tied him to a tree, just at the spot I wished to have crossed
at," replied Dr. Arabin.
"I looked all the bend for him, I insure you," said the man; "he
must have broken away and incamped down theriver."
The conversation between this worthy and Bob, on the previous
evening, now rushed into the mind of Arabin, and he called the settler
aside and informed him of it, and inquired if he thought his men would
steal or conceal the horse.
"I have little doubt," replied the settler, "but they would plant
him; the rogues are capable of doing anything. But I must outwit them,
He called upon one of the men, and after they had walked a few
paces, he demanded of him abruptly if he knew where the gentleman's
horse was to be found. The man seemed confused, but denied stoutly that
he had planted the horse.
The settler re-entered the hut, and looking at the man whom he
suspected, said, in an angry tone.
"How dare you plant any gentleman's horse?"
"I did not plant him," retorted the man hoarsely.
"It is of no use denying it, because we see him standing in the
Bush; so turn him up at once."
"Then George must have pointed him out to you," replied the man.
"You planted him, and I will repay you, for your tricks, one of
those days," said the settler. "What I wish you now to do is to bring
him out; if not, I will turn you into the chain-gang."
"It is of no use, I suppose; so you'd better call George to turn him
"No," said the settler; "I shall do no such thing, because I wish
him to go upon another errand. Go yourself, and go immediately."
Thus admonished, the man rose, with every symptom of fatigue. He
went out into the forest, and in about ten minutes returned, leading
the identical animal by the bridle--and in sad plight he was!
The long period which had elapsed since Dr. Arabin left him, he had
passed tied to a tree by the bridle, and without food or water. The
settler recommended milk-and-water mixed with oatmeal, and they had to
return to the home-station to procure this. After he had taken it, the
saddle-belts were unbuckled, and he was allowed to go free. In a moment
he commenced rolling on the grass; then he stretched himself once or
twice, and was then refreshed and ready for the journey. Soon after Dr.
Arabin departed on his mission.
CHAPTER VI. A PATIENT.--MORE ADVENTURES.
WE have hitherto said nothing of the person whom Dr. Arabin had been
sent for to visit, because he knew nothing about him farther than that
he was in a state of mental excitement approaching almost to insanity.
Dr. Arabin had just mentioned his name to the settler, but he only
sighed and shook his head. We must confess that he was not a little
anxious to see this person; many a surgeon or physician, when called in
to visit a patient, thinks only of the fees he is likely to pay; but
Arabin speculated on the nature of his complaint, and the manner in
which he should heal him, for medical opinion rushes into opposite
extremes on this disease.
Is humanity responsible in every instance for its actions? Has the
human mind an innate faculty which prevents it from willing actions at
violence with what is right? Has the reason sway over desire and
action? In short, is insanity, in any case, responsible? A man may
acquire a great sway over his passions, and be possibly sane; the same
man, by resigning his reason and allowing his passions to overcome and
trample upon every other feeling, may commit the maddest acts and the
most awful crimes; in a word, such persons are led by passion--they are
intellectually insane. They are responsible, both to an earthly and a
heavenly tribunal, because they have voluntarily nursed the passions
which in the end have overmastered them and scorched their souls. How
many, for example, will be found who have disordered their intellectual
faculties by indulging in intoxicating drinks!--then they have the
power of volition without the power of reason to coerce their acts; yet
who shall say that the drunkard is not responsible? We do not confine
the principle to drunkards--those moral ruins that walk about the world
to warn the young and the good of danger--we include those who resign
their calm reason to intoxicating passions. If a man perpetrates a
crime in consciousness, no violence of passion can be brought forward
to palliate his guilt.
Dr. Arabin soon reached the station which he wished to visit. It
differed very much from that which he had just left. The hut was about
the same size, only there was no back hut,--nor was it required, as the
kitchen was in the back. The owner was a bachelor; the servants were
all men, because it appeared females of good character would not reside
upon the station. Perhaps it was in consequence of this that the place
had a dreary look. Man makes but a bad attendant upon the sick; his
presence there is intrusion--the presence of a woman in the sick
chamber is music.
"She moves upon this earth a shape of brightness;
A power that from its objects scarcely drew
One impulse of her being--in her lightness
Most like some radiant cloud of morning dew.
Which wanders through the waste air's pathless blue.
To nourish some far desert."
The eye of beauty in the sick chamber nourishes the poor sufferer;
her presence is a blessing like the beaming sun; her voice is earnest,
and sweet, and entreating. Meet her in early life, her ethereal form is
poetry; the blush of purity mantles her cheek; tenderness and beauty of
thought are expressed in her eye; worlds of feeling, fancy, sentiment,
are unsealed by her glance. Is she not a noble creature?
Arabin had disliked the prospect of the hut on his first visit, and
now he was disgusted with it altogether. His patient, the master of the
house, was labouring under fits of insanity, occasioned by too frequent
indulgence in intoxicating liquors. Dr. Arabin knew little of him--his
character was far from good, or, at least, he was regarded as a young
man of wild, extravagant, and reckless habits. He did not appear to be
in the receipt of any considerable income; yet he spent more than any
person in the neighbourhood could afford. He was often in town, his
drays were always on the road; wherever the money came from, there was
no want of it; indeed, he spent profusely when in town, which was very
often. When Dr. Arabin first saw him, he was almost insane from the
effects of brandy, and he had not taken very much notice. He came in
and found him better, although still in a very peculiar state. Upon the
former occasion he was insensible, but now he found him able to
converse upon general topics. The patient was a tall young man, of
peculiarly dark complexion, with wild, unsettled eyes; and there was a
mystery in his air and address, which was by no means
There was something also mysterious in the house. The servants were
a black man, a native of India, who acted as indoor servant, assisted
by the bullock-driver, a tall, taciturn man, with a very equivocal cast
of countenance. Dr. Arabin soon became uneasy, and informed the settler
that there was no danger if he did not recommence his intemperate
habits; but that if he did, the consequences would be serious: he then
took his leave. At parting, the settler asked the amount of his demand,
which having reluctantly wrung from him, he wrote out an order for the
amount. Arabin then took leave, politely declining the invitation of
the settler to wait for dinner. It was about one o'clock, and the
plains had to be crossed. He was fortunate enough to reach home before
the evening, without any adventure worthy to be recorded.
The dwelling-house occupied by Arabin stood in a quiet street in the
country town already mentioned. The passenger might perceive a neat
cottage, with two French casements in front, upon one of which was a
brass plate with his name and profession in large letters. This
building contained four rooms of rather limited dimensions; the parlour
and bedroom were towards the street; the kitchen and surgery were in
the rear. The parlour was the correct size for a gentleman's study or
library, and furnished very much after the fashion of such apartments.
In one of the recesses between the fire-place and the wall, books were
arranged upon shelves. Dr. Arabin had a small, but a select library,
containing not only works of science, but likewise the most approved
works in English literature, and a few German prose works. In other
parts of the room were natural curiosities and native weapons, waddies,
leanguils, &c.; in the other recess stood a table, upon which were
ranged his surgical instruments, and a case of beautiful pistols. The
room was neatly, although plainly furnished, and a large chair by the
fire spoke of the comforts of a bachelor's life.
It was a wet evening--one of those dull, rainy nights which usher in
the Australian winter. Dr. Arabin sat writing, occasionally raising his
head to glance at the cheerful fire which blazed in the hearth; a smile
of pleasure would curl about his mouth as he contrasted the comfortable
room with the storm which raged outside, and which made the comforts of
home thrice welcome.
There is not a word within the circle of language which finds so
quick a response in the human breast as "Home!" How different, in
almost every respect, are the homes of the rich and the noble from the
homes of the poor! yet, oh! how alike the language to the heart! The
poor man, indeed, has reason to love his humble abode more passionately
than even his superior in rank; for it is there alone that he finds
solace for poverty, and neglect, and contempt.
It is fanciful to wander through strange and distant countries, and
find their cities so very much alike--streets are the same, houses are
the same, with various alterations to suit the architectural taste of
the inhabitants; there is the neat window-curtain peeping from the
well-cleaned window, the lady or gentleman raising it and dropping it
when observed: and may not all these be seen in England, Scotland,
Ireland, on the Continent, in the United States--in Asia, Africa, and
We do not think that the great and noble possess the felicity of a
happy home. Such persons live an artificial life; they are too much in
the world: their souls are too much engrossed with ambitious thoughts;
their minds are too full of pleasure--envy---vanity. The indigent do
not enjoy home; they are often hard--worked and half-starved, and too
often ruin themselves altogether by indulging in intoxicating liquors.
No; it is but seldom that either the wretched abode of squalid poverty,
or the stately mansion of the great, possesses that indescribable
aspect of comfort which all have observed, but which we cannot picture.
On the contrary, does not the former disgust, and the latter repel? The
houses of the great wear the cold isolated magnificence which we
admire, but cannot love. The aristocratic exclusiveness of their noble
owners speaks in their stern and frowning bastions and turrets. Surely
their rank and great riches ought rather to be regarded as misfortunes
than blessings. Real comfort can only be found in middle life: it is to
be seen in the plain mansion of the merchant, in the neat cottage of
his hard-working clerk--in the farm or manor-house. The neat parterre
of flowers, the well-arranged garden, the snug parlour, the comfortable
glass of wine, are all peculiar to the middle rank of life. We hope
many in it are aware of the advantages incidental to their station, and
that their unpretending homes are preferable to a palace.
"I shall not continue my essay," muttered Arabin. "How unfortunate!
I have to go abroad. It is a poor woman, it is true; but I think she is
in imminent danger, and I must not neglect her, as that fawning fool
Dr.-------did. The heat in this room is too great; it almost engenders
sleep. It rains hard; but I have been abroad in more boisterous
He had now enveloped his person in a great-coat, and he opened the
casement and walked into the street. It was not so very bad a night as
he had expected, and he trudged on and quickly reached the residence of
his patient. It was much later than he was aware of, and the houses
were quiet and the shops were closed. He returned by another street. As
he reached the corner where the lamp suspended above a licensed house
shed a flickering light around, he heard a voice in earnest discourse.
He waited for some moments, and at length observed a person stretched
upon the ground close to the wall of the house: several persons smiled
and passed by, but Dr. Arabin stopped to listen to the intoxicated
person, as he supposed him to be, and advise him to go home.
"I don't know," said the man, louder; "I don't think it's any great
sin either; at least, not half so bad as cheating and swindling; but my
conscience is not easy upon the matter. Strange, I can never derive
benefit from the preaching of the Episcopal clergyman--I don't like
him, somehow. The Scotch minister is better, but he uses the paper too
much. Oh! that nasty Highland accent--it spoils all the good I would
derive from his sermons. Well, I hope the devil will not get me just
yet, if there be such a spirit. Oh! yes, there is! hold--away!"
"My good man," interrupted Dr. Arabin, "what is the meaning of
The man was silent for some time; then he replied, faintly, "That is
not a fair question to ask."
"Well, but, my good man," said Dr. Arabin, "you are lying in a very
uncomfortable position there, and you had better go home."
"Home!" laughed the man, now turning round; "I am afraid my home
will be the churchyard--no, the burying-ground. Dear me! it is dark,
and a bad night, too."
The person who was speaking had turned round, and Arabin recognised
his patient, the insane settler. He did not make any observation, but
allowed him to continue his incoherent remarks.
"It is a fearful thing to dwell with the shadows of night--the dark,
dismal night, when the morning will never break."
Dr. Arabin knew that he lodged in the Royal Hotel, and began to coax
him to rise; he made no resistance, and they walked down the street.
The young man still continued: "It was no sin; hundreds made their
money in the illicit trade. What if I am found out? Let them hang me!
Who would shed a tear for me-----? Did you hear about it?" said he,
stopping suddenly, and staring Dr. Arabin full in the face.
"Hear of what?"
"The men I killed last night, and the wild animals. Wait--hush! they
are up my trousers!" He shook his trousers very roughly with his hand;
at last, he imagined something came out, for he stamped with his foot
as if bruising a serpent, "It is all right now; I have done for
They soon reached the hotel. Dr. Arabin prevailed upon him to enter,
not without difficulty, and had him conveyed to his bedroom. He could
not do much for him; his frame was shattered by the dissipated course
of life he had been leading, which acting upon a natural irritability,
or a tendency towards insanity, had evidently been making a convulsion
in his mental faculties. Dr. Arabin did not like his symptoms all the
time he saw him in the country, but he expected much from rest and
retirement. We need hardly state that he was chagrined to meet him
under such circumstances. He saw that his mental faculties were
reeling, and he dreaded permanent derangement. All that he could do to
alleviate the disease he carefully performed, and gave warning to the
landlord of the house that he was very ill, leaving strict injunctions
to have him carefully attended upon.
Dr. Arabin returned to his home. He had taken rather more exercise
than he usually did, and retired to bed. He did not sleep well, and
towards the middle of the night he awoke from a dream, where he saw the
settler lying ghastly as the grave; as he awoke, he fancied something
cried: he could not be positive--it might have been his imagination. He
arose, and lighting a candle, looked out; but not a sound could be
heard; silence reigned in the town. Again he stretched himself upon the
bed, for about ten minutes all was still; he was just about to
extinguish the light, when he heard a footstep, and in another instant
a sharp knock at the door: he opened it, and a young man rushed in with
perturbation depicted in his countenance, and inquired for Dr.
"My name is Arabin," replied he.
"Then come, for God's sake, immediately! The poor young man you saw
at our house is ill--he is very ill. Come away!"
"What is the matter?" said Dr. Arabin.
"Oh! come away!" replied the man, "he has been attempting to shoot
himself; but it is all right. Come away!"
The man almost dragged Dr. Arabin with him. When he entered the
bedroom where the settler lay, he found two individuals supporting him:
he was pale, and a few streaks of blood marked his face; a slight wound
was visible on his forehead, which had been caused by the bullet from a
pistol. It had been intended for the brain; but some lucky accident had
occasioned the pistol to drop, and the awful crime was not committed.
The ball had touched the flesh as it slanted off, but Dr. Arabin
immediately pronounced it to be of a trifling character; he removed the
long black curls which clung to the brow of the evidently agonised
settler, and washed the wound. The poor fellow was quiet, and once as
Arabin raised his head, he observed a tear drop on the pillow; he
looked, and the dark, unsettled eye of the patient was immediately
withdrawn, and neither by word nor sign did he afterwards indicate that
he was conscious of his presence. He waited some time in the room, and
took a deliberate survey of the sufferer; he acknowledged that he had
an air about him different from common individuals: he had the
appearance of a retired genius--a deep and powerful thinker; but there
was also something displeasing in the profile of his countenance, which
almost repelled sympathy; his eye was brilliant and intellectual, but
roving and shy; in a word, he seemed one of the most intellectual of
the species who had degenerated into mental and moral depravity. He
observed also that his dress was finer in quality than squatters
commonly use, and that the various garments were fashionably made.
Before he left the house, he gave the landlord strict charge to watch
the poor youth carefully. The landlord appeared considerably affected,
and in answer to the questions of Dr. Arabin, allowed that the young
man had lately been indulging in habits which had caused these
occasional aberrations of mind. Before, he had been a well-behaved
young man, although even then something seemed to be weighing down his
spirits; and he appeared by far too often in town, although he had his
pockets filled with money, which he squandered without discrimination.
Some days now he was well enough; but not being under restraint, he
generally injured his mental faculties, and derangement was the
consequence. He had seen him ill, very ill, before, but never so bad as
upon this occasion.
This information agreed exactly with what Arabin knew of the young
settler, Mr. Willis; and wishing the sporting landlord good night, he
once more wended his way towards his home.
He seated himself in the parlour, and began to ruminate upon the
strange fate of the young settler whom he had been called upon so
unexpectedly to visit. He had apparently no relation or friend in the
country. The landlord thought only of his bill, that had always been
settled, and he was sorry for his inmate, and afraid of being deprived
of a remunerating customer.
Dr. Arabin once or twice thought there was some connexion between
Willis and the family of the settler already introduced. The only cause
which incited this thought was, that the settler and his lady exchanged
looks when he said he was about to visit Willis, and he thought he
observed the young lady change colour. "But why," thought Arabin,
"should I give myself a thought about this crack-brained youth, or the
family of the settler? I am a poor surgeon; and, perhaps, the settler
and his lady never once thought of me after my departure, and I may
resume my legitimate avocations and forget them. And this stranger, why
should I trouble my head about him?--he is nothing to me. I may never
see him above once or twice again."
The reader is aware that Dr. Arabin was but a light sleeper. He
retired; but every effort to compose himself, or to woo repose, was of
no avail. He lay in bed tossing to and fro, thinking of the settler's
family and of Willis; sometimes he would sleep lightly, when some idea
would play upon his imagination, and he would start once more awake.
Sleep came at last--heavy, but not sweet; indeed, feverish watchfulness
was nearly as unpleasant as the disturbed phantasms which flitted
around his imagination. He was once more at home--the home of early
years. His father--mother--sisters were around him. The scene shifted
imperceptibly to Scotland, and he looked upon mountains which he had
never expected to behold again; but then his mind was laden with
anxiety, he had to return to Australia; he sailed down a stream which
passed the door of the school where he had studied; he was among the
dashing and foaming billows--in the very vortex of the tempest's wrath;
he was sensibly conscious of
"The heavy-rolling surge! the rocking mast!
The hollow dash of waves! the ceaseless roar!"
Again the scene changed, and his inflamed fancy presented the
features of the deranged settler--the face paled, until it resembled
the leaden hue of the grave. He saw the house where he had been so
kindly entertained by the settler and his family, and he struggled to
reach it and to obtain relief from his troubles. He entered. It was
cold and empty; mire and filth were coagulated upon the walls; snakes
made a feast upon the floor; already he was grasping the vipers, and
plucking them from his throat, when he awoke.
"These dreams are more frightful than my waking melancholy," he
muttered. "I must have a light."
He started, and groped about for the candle. He was not able to find
the box of matches which commonly lay on the toilet-table, and he did
not wish to trouble or alarm his servant. He sat down rather
disappointed. The cold, raw atmosphere of the morning caused him to
shiver, and compelled him to take refuge in bed. In an hour afterwards
he became calm, and slept tranquilly.
It was late the following morning before he awoke. He was angry with
himself for wasting time in bed; for he held, that every hour which
rational beings abstracted from the pursuit of knowledge or of business
was a loss which could never be repaired. He was soon dressed, and
enveloped in a rich dressing--gown, the parting gift of a dear friend,
which he prized perhaps more than any article in his possession. He
opened the door which communicated with the parlour already described,
and entered. The table was covered, and, as usual, breakfast
appurtenances were arranged in the usual form; but he started with
unfeigned surprise to find a stranger seated in the room,--and that
stranger his patient of the preceding evening, Mr. Willis the settler.
He was perusing a volume of Shakspeare's dramas, as much at home as if
he had been domesticated in the house a twelvemonth.
When Willis observed him, he rose; and Arabin was very much
astonished at the change in his appearance. His dress had not only been
properly arranged, but the deadly hue on his countenance had been
succeeded by a slight flush which could hardly be natural--it was like
hectic fever. He bowed, and expressed his fears "that he would be
looked upon as an intruder. He wished, however, to call and express his
gratification at the kindness which had prompted Dr. Arabin to take
care of him on the preceding evening; he further hoped that Dr. Arabin
would overlook the unhappy circumstances--indeed he was almost ashamed
to see him--but the truth was, he was driven to it; indeed, he had been
terribly abused, and if he knew everything he would pity him."
As he concluded, he glanced behind him; and although Arabin had
before really been of opinion that he was better, yet when he observed
his restless glance, he became convinced that the disease had only
slightly changed its character.
Dr. Arabin answered him in the kindest manner possible, and, without
noticing the conclusion of his speech, asked him to be seated, and
stated the pleasure he experienced in his company; he hinted also that
what was past should be buried in oblivion. He solicited the honour of
Mr. Willis's company at breakfast. With this request he gladly
complied; with a single effort he appeared to forget everything, and he
folded back the collar of his coat, smiled sweetly upon his
entertainer, and bowed assent to his proposal.
Breakfast was now served up, and both gentlemen did justice to the
plain fare which was placed before them. The guest endeavoured to gain
the good opinion of his entertainer, and to a certain extent he
succeeded. Dr. Arabin had never before seen him to advantage, and was
obliged to confess that he was a gentleman in his manners. His
information, also, was rather extensive; but he displayed an
overweening regard for favourite opinions, and a peevish irritability
when opposed, which was far from agreeable. Once or twice, when Dr.
Arabin opposed him, his eye burned like coal, and he glared upon him;
but the steady gaze of his entertainer quieted him. He felt some
anxiety to know a little of the former history of the unfortunate
youth, but he was above showing this curiosity. He still wondered if
the settler's family already mentioned could in any way be connected
with Willis, and took advantage of some remark which was passed upon
the portrait of a young lady which adorned the wall of the parlour, to
inquire after the settler and his beautiful ladies.
Either the subject was unwelcome to him, or it turned the current of
his thoughts into a disagreeable channel. He gave a quick glance, and
his face became livid. His eye closed, his face became ghastly, his
lips lurid. He drew his hand forth, as Dr. Arabin thought, to lay hold
of something, but it grasped at empty space; he began to work his hands
and draw up his face; he would have fallen from his chair, had not
Arabin caught him in his arms. For several minutes he continued in this
state; his hands were clenched, his teeth grated upon each other, his
face convulsed. When spoken to, he would not reply. He talked
incoherently; sometimes he seemed addressing a lady in fond language;
the tone of his voice breathed tenderness--then it changed from this
melancholy sighing into genuine passion, as he continued in altercation
with some relative. He was at sea and sinking--oh, how the storm raged!
he was pursued by a pack of hell-hounds with coffins; how they tried to
get him within their grasp! he shouted as he rushed along.
Dr. Arabin, although not surprised, was annoyed; he was anxious to
have his patient put to rest without any delay, and he did not like to
transport him to his hotel in his present melancholy condition: on the
other hand, he had objections to keeping him in his house. His kindness
of heart, however, conquered all these doubts, and he had him laid upon
his own bed. In a few hours he was calm, and spoke of himself as a man
who had been grievously ill-used. He further complained that men had
been dogging him with coffins, and go where he would they were certain
to follow. "There they stand, just by the window--the wretches!--let me
get from them!" he shouted violently; "they want my blood--they will
put me in their coffins!--I must resist--there, did you see me kill
that hideous reptile and smash his coffin?" "Oh, yes!" replied Arabin,
coaxingly; "you did it very well."
"Yes," continued the maniac, "I have been chased for days on the
plains, by these men with coffins tied on by black snakes. I ran
along--ran for my life--passed miles upon miles, fleet as the wind; I
knew well enough that they wanted to kill me, and bury me in their
coffins, and torture me; but I escaped them all, and laugh and spit at
them." He became calmer, and Arabin expected that the paroxysm had
abated; in a few minutes afterwards he glanced round the room, and
observing Arabin, glared upon him with eyes fit for a Roman gladiator,
and demanded "what he wanted, or if he had any coffins, or why he was
waiting watching him."
Dr. Arabin endeavoured to recall the scene of the morning. Soon
afterwards the fit abated, and the lunatic recognised him, and chatted
sensibly enough upon ordinary matters; but on the subject of the
coffins he seemed the same. "What a shocking thing that was of the
coffins!" he said; "I murdered the wretch who entered the room with
them--did I not, sir?"
"He had but one coffin," replied Dr. Arabin, determined to humour
this wild phantasy.
"He had two," screamed Mr. Willis.
"Had he, indeed!" replied Arabin; "I only saw one."
"You're a liar, you ugly rascal!" screamed the other; "you saw me
throw out two."
"Well, then," continued Arabin, in a soothing tone, "there are no
coffins now." "They had better keep away; they will not catch me
He now became calmer, and continued quiet for some time; indeed, he
talked rationally, and evinced no little acuteness in maintaining a
favourite principle. If Arabin had not been acquainted with the
intermittent character of the disease, he would have been at a loss to
believe that the person with whom he was in conversation was a fit
person to inhabit a lunatic asylum. He was eager to find out if he now
gave credence to his narratives about the men and coffins, and he
hazarded a question which would perhaps allow him some insight into his
state of mind---"Shall I open the door?"
"Oh, no!" replied Mr. Willis; "you will have the diabolical wretches
with the coffins upon us. If they can lay hands on me, I am a dead man,
especially having killed that slave this morning. Are you certain you
buried him, sir?"
"Oh! yes; quite certain," replied Dr. Arabin.
"Was he quite dead?" inquired he.
"No, not quite dead," replied Arabin, with an internal shiver.
"You wretch!--why did you not kill him dead?" screamed the invalid.
"What!--ho!--Bragantia! conspiracy here! Slaves, rescue your leader
from the men and coffins."
He uttered these exciting exclamations with real melodramatic
effect. In about an hour, however, he fell into a soothing slumber. It
was necessary that Dr. Arabin should visit a patient: he called his
servant, and directed him to look sharply after the invalid during his
absence, and that if he should make any violent efforts to break out,
assistance was to be procured.
Dr. Arabin was delayed for about two hours, and when at last he
arrived at home, was not a little disappointed to find that Willis had
escaped. The bedclothes were folded down, and a clumsy attempt made to
arrange the bed; the casement was not open, but on examining it closely
he found that the fastenings were withdrawn: not a trace of his
unwelcome visitor remained. His servant averred that he looked in
frequently, and found the invalid in a sound sleep; he had not heard
any noise since then, and had been unwilling to disturb the "young
gentleman:" in fact, he had sat in the parlour during the time his
master was out, listening to hear any sound which might indicate that
he was awake. He seemed very much surprised when informed that the
stranger was not in the bedroom. There was no other information that he
"Poor wretched being!" thought Arabin, "I pity you. How lightly man
esteems the blessings of Providence! indeed, he only knows their value
when deprived of them. Superior to every favour which has been bestowed
upon us, is reason. What are riches--rank--fame, to a man whose mind is
darkened by insanity, and racked by its own fire? What would it
advantage any of those outcasts from the social circles and the
amenities of life to receive the fortune of a prince, or even to be
crowned the king of countless cities, to have his name pass from
continent to continent, carried by the breath of fame, while his
reasoning faculties are under an eclipse?"
We may here remark, that the cunning and agility which he had
displayed in making his escape induced Dr. Arabin to think more
unfavourably of the disease than he before had done.
CHAPTER VII. INTERNAL STRUGGLES.
IT is necessary, for the information of our readers, that we delay
our narrative to glance for a moment at the prospects of Arabin. We
have said that he was unacquainted with the inhabitants of the town in
which he resided; the society was not good enough for him, and he was
not good enough for it. In plain language, there exists in the Colonies
but one aristocracy, and that is of wealth: rank and talent are nothing
in the scales. The Colonists worship no god but Plutus: rank is not of
much account; talent is respected abstractedly, but it commands almost
no respect for individuals.
In some of our Eastern Colonies, attempts have been made to form an
exclusive circle by the more aristocratic emigrants; but in every
instance these attempts have turned out failures. For a time it is all
very well; but fine gentlemen are the most unfortunate set of
Colonists, and the more plebeian class soon acquire the money which
they expend. Without money, they sink beneath the very classes they had
treated with contempt. In fact, society must not be formed by
emigrants, whatever their pretensions; it must be first decomposed, and
the successful Colonists raise themselves into a superior rank by their
industry and good name. There has been a spirit of reckless speculation
abroad in the Australian Colonies, which has brought many of the
apparently wealthy to insolvency. The majority of them will do no good
in future; we think that when once a person is insolvent, he has no
chance of getting forward in business afterwards--at any rate, where he
is known. It is true, there are exceptions; there are honest as well as
dishonest insolvents: the former may succeed, the latter will not.
Fraud is bad policy; indeed, it is better (and we advise every person)
to act honestly, and have a clear conscience. This advice may seem
singular to many from a person who has evidently sojourned in New South
Wales, especially to such as remember Elia's letter to B. F. at Sydney,
New South Wales. There is a remnant, however, even in that tainted
country, untainted with crime.
Dr. Arabin had received no attention from any class, because he was
poor! Out upon the vile, disgraceful practice of adoring men for their
means, in a ratio with the amount of gold which they can command! Alas!
very few are above this practice. Men, in the confined sphere in which
he moved, "a solitary being," knew him not. He possessed no money, and
there was nothing to be gained by his acquaintance; he was distant in
his manners, and therefore an unpleasant medical adviser where gossip
is the order of the day. During the time he had resided in the country,
he had not been on intimate terms with any person; the few cases where
his services were required had not remunerated him; indeed, he was
occasionally rather anxious for the future. About this time he received
a small legacy which had been bequeathed to him two years before by a
relation in India. It was unexpected. The English lawyers had but
little hopes of being able to recover it; it was lying in a
banking-house, but as the will was informal, it could not be come at.
Another party had claimed it, and it was thrown into the Court of
Chancery. At the time Arabin sailed, there was no prospect of a speedy
termination to the case, and he had no idea of recovering the money.
His lawyer, however, had received instructions how to act, and he
recovered the money, and sent it in the form of a banker's bill payable
It was when negotiating this document that it transpired that he was
in possession of money. He was hardly aware of the cause which had
created the change in the tone of his fellow-townsmen when addressing
him; but it was evident that his society was more courted than before.
It is impossible to deny but that he was pleased with this reaction in
his favour--for who does not like to be caressed and courted?
For the whole period that he had resided in Australia, he had been
inclined to return to England, or proceed to India or New Zealand. We
may here say, that we have frequently known Colonists living in this
state of suspense from day to day, and from year to year. The labouring
classes too, although better fed, clothed, and paid than in Europe, are
invariably grumbling about the country, and threatening to leave it and
return. Dr. Arabin had lodged his money in the bank, and at the very
moment when he saw Willis lying in the street, was canvassing the
propriety of remaining longer in the Colony, and the advantages of
To the natives of Australia there is perhaps no boon in the world
which would compensate for absence from their sunny clime. The
Colonist, however, cannot forget the ties which bind him towards his
own land, and we find very few fully reconciled to remaining in
Australia for life. But, again, those who have been in it for any
length of time almost invariably return to it--so contradictory are
Dr. Arabin was rather better pleased with the country: he was
anxious to see the world, but he also had anxieties about his
prospects, and was eager to catch at any chance which presented hopes
of profit. The report had gone abroad that he was wealthy; it
spread--swelled, and it would have astonished ultimately even the first
promulgator to hear the town talk. He was now looked up to as a person
of some little consequence, and spoken of in the most respectful
manner. His practice also increased.
An extensive auctioneer and agent had occasion for medical advice;
he sent for Dr. Arabin. It is true that he talked much, during the
visit, of the enormous sacrifices which he would be obliged to make of
various fine properties, &c., and a man of the world might have
been apt to regard him as a bargain-maker even in his domestic
arrangements. Dr. Arabin, however, never suspected that all this
battery of eloquence was directed against his own small deposit in the
Bank of----: he had no suspicion it could accomplish such extensive
purchases. In fact, had the auctioneer openly requested Dr. Arabin to
purchase any of his first-rate bargains, it is more than probable that
it would have frightened him, and caused him to determine upon
returning to England.
We are surprised that ordinary minds take so kindly to the "New
World" at first. It is a scene where the incidents, scenery, and
"dramatis personae" are new and strange. The fancy, too, frequently
recurs to old times and other scenes. Gradually the Colonists become
inwardly reconciled to the change, but they are outwardly grumblers for
Dr. Arabin's case was similar to most others. He came out partly
from anxiety to see the world, and partly from the wish to escape
poverty at home and to accumulate money. When he arrived, he found that
a fortune was not easily acquired. He wished to love the beautiful
wilderness in which his lot had been cast, but he longed also for the
high civilisation of Britain; his heart did not take kindly with the
pastoral life--he thought of the beautiful lines of Horace---
"Ludit herboso pecus omne campo
Cum tibi nonae redeunt Decembris;
Festus in pratis vacat otio suo
Cum bove pagus."
But the flocks did not appear to sport joyously; nor did the
December feast pass lightly off, as it was wont on the Tiber in the
days of the famous lyric poet. On the contrary, it appeared to Arabin,
for some time after his arrival, that he had retrograded in life, in
leaving a highly-cultivated and civilised country, and locating himself
in a semi-barbarous Colony, hardly even explored. He loved to find
books and music and rational amusement at hand, when he was inclined to
be amused: he had never known the want of them before, it is true, and
perhaps the craving after them now was but imaginary; but one half the
discontents of the world arise, after all, merely from ideal causes. He
was aware that the country had many advantages. The climate cannot be
equalled in any part of the globe; food must be cheap where stock is
abundant; wages are high, and the working classes are independent;
grazing and agriculture will ultimately be very profitable
speculations, but the Government must grant the squatter's right to the
soil upon moderate terms. We hope that refinement will then supplant
vulgarity, and that a taste for literature will advance the Australians
in the eyes of the world. How eagerly we hope this, we cannot
We have wandered from our narrative in describing the struggle which
agitated the breast of Arabin on this, to him, momentous subject.
"Should he remain?" was a far more important question than "Should he
leave his native land?" If he decided upon remaining, he severed the
last link from the chain which bound him to his native country--the
hills which looked so fragrant, the fields which looked so green; then
came the question--"Was it likely he would succeed in his profession in
Britain?" He was compelled to admit that the chances were fearfully
against this, while, on the contrary, he might succeed in Australia. He
was an enthusiast, but he had also an independent spirit. The certainty
of maintaining himself in a respectable manner was overcoming the
repugnance which, at first, he had entertained for the country. He
speculated now occasionally upon the manner in which he ought to invest
his small capital. House property, until within the last year or two,
has been about the best investment; and even now it will yield a large
annual return where it can be procured in first-rate situations for
business; it would be dear at the cost of the bricks and mortar in bad
situations. In former times, in the Australian Colonies, every kind of
property was at a fictitious value.
The Government had large deposits in every one of the Colonial
Banks; about three years ago these were drawn out and exported to pay
for the large bounty emigration of 1840, 1841, and 1842. About this
very period the land-mania was at an almost unparalleled height. In the
year 1840, the coin in the whole of the Banks of New South Wales was
£309,529 15s., and the land-sales were £316,626 7s. 5d.;
allowing for a small balance in the Colonial Treasury and the military
chest, it is evident that all the real money in circulation had been
used in purchasing land from Government. Then, when we examine the
magnitude of the private transactions in land, and the speculations in
stock, shipping, grain, merchandize, houses, machinery, &c., and
are sensible that at this very period the coin was being paid away for
the bounty emigrants, we can perceive that the late panic was
The circulation of all the Banks for 1840 was £215,720. In
1837, the Government had £237,000 in the Treasury, and
£127,000 in the Banks. In 1840 it had but £39,000 in the
vault, and £188,000 in the Banks. In September and in October, it
had £281,000 in the Banks. The reader will bear in mind that this
was when land speculation was at the extreme height. Mr. Riddell, the
Colonial Treasurer, says, that when the Government kept this large
capital in the Banks, the Banks distributed it in the way of discounts,
and afforded facilities to many to purchase land, and produced that
wild spirit of speculation which ruined all the merchants, and many of
the graziers. Between 1840 and 1841, the Government drew out in all
£260,000, leaving but a trifling balance in each of them. The
Banks were curtailing--the merchants and traders were alarmed--a panic
was the consequence, and a depreciation in the exchangeable value of
property which the most disastrous panic in Europe cannot perhaps
However small the town in which Dr. Arabin was, it supported a
company of strolling players. There was no theatre, but the saloon of a
large hotel afforded the lovers of the drama an opportunity of seeing
both tragedy and comedy performed. Arabin strolled into this building
upon the evening of the day in which Willis had escaped in a
clandestine manner from his house, for the express purpose of observing
if he should attend. The performances of the evening had commenced; the
room, although large, was densely thronged: he looked in vain for the
fugitive among the dark figures which met his gaze. He took little
interest in the operetta, but he found no ordinary gratification in
examining the numerous samples of the "squatter" species who crowded
about the room. They were all young men; some indeed, in Britain, would
have been regarded merely as boys. Their apparel was of coarse
material, and shaped after the most approved sporting fashions. Long
hair, which many a fashionable belle would have envied, was covered,
for the most part, with "cabbage-tree hats," set independently on
"three hairs." In their manners they were boisterous and abrupt; they
assimilated pretty closely to the young squires of Osbaldiston--Messrs.
Thorncliff, Richard, John, and Wilfred Osbaldiston, although the eye
wandered in vain for a Die Vernon to brighten the picture. Not even a
figure met his eye which bore the least resemblance to his old
favourite Archer Fairservice, and to look for the Baillie in Australia
would have been too absurd.
At last he had the excellent fortune to procure a seat. Before him
were two settlers who, instead of enjoying the performance, had been
engaged in a little private pastime; he could not but hear the
conversation which was passing.
"He is the most consummate story-teller in the country. Don't you
remember how he spread a report that Dicky Wood offered to back his
horse for fifty pounds, and it all turned out fudge? I would not
believe him on his oath."
"Yes," continued the other, coaxingly, "but I heard it from another
quarter--Joe Johnston told me." "He be----!"
"Come, then, it is of little use to quarrel over it," replied the
other. "Is it true, by-the-bye, that Captain Thomson is going away, and
is offering his sheep?"
"He has fine stock--I wonder what price he wants?" inquired the
"I don't know, but there are not sheep in the Colony I would give
more for, and his station is capital."
"I wish I had the money," said the settler; "but I am as poor as a
water-rat: a few thousand sheep now will scarcely support a squatter at
a good inn. I see none better off than myself, except that lucky dog
Willis, who has gold always at his command: he must steal it. Poor
devil! I hear he is out of his mind."
"Yes, so the waiters at my hotel tell me: there is something not
above-board there. There is a move which I am not up to--and I know
most of the queer moves too in this enchanting and particularly honest
"Well! well!" replied the person addressed, "time will show, I
suppose. We cannot deny that Willis is a liberal fellow, and we must
not inquire too strictly into the means by which he acquires the
"Of course not; but I am tired of this playing farce. I shall go;
The two young men extricated themselves from the crowd and
disappeared. Arabin sat for some time cogitating upon what he had heard
fall from them. Captain Thomson he knew, and had frequently heard that
his stock was of a very superior breed, and, what was more, the station
was very fine, and capable of running the increase of many years. It
was true, Captain Thomson had a great number; and his means, again,
were very limited. From every old Colonist, however, he learned that
stock was the best speculation, and he had some little anxiety to
invest his money in the "golden fleece," in hopes of being able to
arrive at independence through this aid. Captain Thomson's station
adjoined, and was about fifteen miles from the station of his patient
Willis; and so great was his anxiety about the poor lunatic, that
Arabin determined to ride out on the following morning, and, if
possible, extend his ride to Captain Thomson's. No sooner had he
arrived at this resolution, than all the former perplexities disturbed
his mind; at the time he resolved upon the journey, his mind was
settled. The idea of remaining in the country brought a relapse of his
disease--melancholy. The thoughts of dependence at home, and blighted
hopes and no prospect but genteel starvation, incited him to remain and
try to better his condition.
We assure you, reader, that we are not prone to exaggerate; these
are genuine human feelings. Those who have been reared amidst the
conventionalisms of highly-civilised countries are loth to settle down
in very new lands. Australia is a beautiful clime: its society,
however, wants tone; its alluvial lands want labour, properly applied;
its manufactures, commerce, and fisheries want capital. Give it but
these elements of success, and no country can compete with it.
CHAPTER VIII. A PATHETIC SCENE.
ABOUT mid-day, a young man fantastically dressed, with his clothes
soiled and torn, rushed up the little desolate mount known as Mount
Misery, and glanced about on the surrounding landscape. After a few
minutes he started off once more in the direction of the settler's
residence, with which our readers are already intimate. He soon arrived
at the bank, where he stood for some time, then quickly descended, and
calmly approached the garden, which was directly in front of the
To put our readers out of pain, we may as well state that this
person was the lunatic who had escaped from Dr. Arabin's bedroom the
previous morning. He reached the garden already noticed, and glanced
cautiously about as if afraid of being discovered. The front casement
was open, and a voice was heard singing plaintively---
"She wore a wreath of roses, the night when first we met; Her lovely
face was smiling beneath her curls of jet; Her footsteps had the
lightness, her voice the joyous tone, The token of a youthful heart,
where sorrow is unknown. I saw her but a moment, yet methinks I see her
now, With a wreath of summer flowers upon her snowy brow.
"A wreath of orange blossom, when next we met, she wore; The
expression of her features was more thoughtful than before."---The deep
swell of the pianoforte died away as the lady finished with a full
sweep o'er the "ivory keys:" the tones of the performer's voice were no
longer audible, and yet the traveller stood entranced. Once again the
singer allowed her fingers to wanton among the keys of the instrument;
she then closed it, and began to walk about the room, and pet a bird
which had been drinking in the tones of the music as if it had passions
to be moved.
"Poor little Dick! are you a lady-bird? You feel your captivity,
poor little fellow! would you like better to fly about the woods than
to be pent up in cage? You would nestle among the leaves, and talk love
to some other bird, and caress a mate. Poor Dick! I would give you the
liberty you seem to covet--only I should feel your loss, and pine away
for my own lady-bird. Poor Dick!"
As she uttered these words, she reached the door, and seeing a
stranger with disordered dress, and intoxication and insanity depicted
in his countenance screamed aloud.
"Do not alarm yourself, lady," said the stranger; "there is not the
least cause for alarm: it is but your poor heart-broken friend
"Is it indeed you, Mr. Willis?" replied she mournfully. "I have not
seen you for such a long time, I was almost afraid you had gone away
without wishing me good-bye. How have you been for a long time?"
"How can you ask me?" replied the young man with a downcast
look--"how can you ask me, when you know my feelings?"
"Do not recur to such unwelcome topics," replied the young lady.
"How did you come? where is your horse?"
"I came from the town of---," screamed the young man. "I have been
days on the road, chased by men with coffins, who wished to murder me,
and bury me in their coffins; but I escaped. I hope you will not allow
any of them to enter your house, Miss Martha," said the young man, with
a shiver and a glance in which both fear and imbecility were
The young lady listened to him surprised and terrified. There could
be no uncertainty; the wild eye, the incoherent talk, the disordered
dress, all indicated but too truly a mind diseased. She was
inexpressibly sorry, well aware of the probable cause; and to an
unconcerned observer, it was heart-breaking to see manhood overcome and
sunk so low. She did not answer his question, but asked if she might
order in something to eat. The current of the lunatic's ideas changed;
he smiled graciously, and replied that "he was so happy--only he was
afraid it would be giving Miss Martha trouble--but he certainly was
"Then," continued the lady, "perhaps you will excuse me. "
She had hardly got the door closed behind her, when she burst into
tears. She astonished her sister, who, busy in the kitchen
superintending her domestic arrangements, had not been aware of
Willis's arrival. She inquired tenderly of her sister if anything had
occurred, or if she were ill?
"Oh! sister, I have been so terrified! There is Willis in the
parlour, and he is mad and talking such absurdities! I become afraid;
what can we do with him--especially as Butler is from home?"
"Well, Martha," replied the elder sister, "you must not cry; we must
do our best. Surely poor Willis, however mad, will not hurt two
unprotected women. Do not cry; for we will go to him, and speak to him
kindly--and who is not overcome by kindness?"
The two sisters entered the parlour bearing preparations for dinner.
They found Willis seated at the pianoforte; his head was almost resting
on the instrument, and his attention was occupied with the song which
the young lady had just been singing. He raised his head as the door
opened, and they observed a tear drop from his eyelid. He started, and
politely bowed to the eldest, who had advanced to shake his hand, but
declined the proffered honour. "Miss Martha had not given him her hand,
and he was positive they did not wish for his company, and he should
retire, he would never remain where he was not welcome."
"How can you say that?" replied the younger sister. "You know that
you are welcome to shake my hand: here, Willis, take it."
"I wish," continued he, taking her hand, "you could love me as you
love your pretty bird; I would requite it better. Perhaps some cold
chill or frost might cut him off, or some strange cur might steal in
and kill him, or he might wander back into the woods; while you would
find me ever the same kind, devoted, and passionately fond."
"Where we cannot give our love, Willis," answered the young woman
mournfully, "we ought not to barter it. Love should not be bought and
sold like an article of merchandise. If I could have given you my love,
Willis, I would, and you had my respect before you commenced your
eccentric pranks; but love cannot be bestowed with the wishes of
parents or guardians, or even with one's own wishes: it is a
hallowed--a heavenly feeling. The heart which for years has been cold
and overshadowed by deep pride, will thaw at the smile of beauty or of
manhood. A new light, a combination of music and beauty, breaks upon a
mind hard as marble; an animation of delight bears the mind above
every-day life; the two leave father and mother, and almost
instinctively cleave to each other.
'And what unto them is the world beside.
With all its changes of time and tide?
Its living things--its earth and sky--
Are nothing to their mind and eye.
And heedless as the dead are they
Of aught around, above, beneath--
As if all else had pass'd away.
They only for each other breathe.'
"Alas! I regret that Byron was a licentious man; the beauty and
power which break out everywhere fascinate the mind. To return to the
subject--this is true love. The love of the fashionable world is as
artificial as the society in which it prevails; it is, in fact, a part
of a drama in a play, where the company are acting such characters as
may best push them forward."
The young man hung his head and listened to the speaker. Her words
appeared to fall on his ear like deep music, sweet as the fabled
strains of the AEolian harp. When she ended, he raised his face, and
the ladies were almost terrified at the intense anguish depicted in it.
He answered not, but walked to and fro across the room for some time in
silence. The table was covered, and preparations were being made for
dinner; and in reply to the question of Mrs. Butler whether he would
have tea or brandy for dinner, he replied, "Let me have brandy, by all
Mrs. Butler was by no means anxious to give him brandy; but she
thought it might afford him temporary relief. A decanter was placed on
the table, and he helped himself with no sparing hand. The ladies took
their places, and requested him to do the honours of the table. It may
be unnecessary to remark, that they had met him before; but never, even
in his best days, had he behaved more properly. He supplied their wants
in the most regular manner; nay, he was polite. They observed, however,
with alarm, that he paid by far too many visits to the decanter which
contained the brandy, and trembled for the effects upon his mind. Mrs.
Butler then remarked that Bob, the hut-keeper, would require to be
rewarded with a glass of brandy for his obliging behaviour; and she
took the decanter, and asked her sister expressively to take him one,
in a tone which was meant to convey a very different meaning.
Her motions were scrutinised by the young man; but by the time she
returned, the current of his thoughts appeared to have changed--he was
detailing his imaginary troubles. "You must have had a hard struggle;"
remarked the lady.
"Yes, you may well say so," he replied; "the men with coffins chased
me for days across those long, burning plains; but I was too swift for
them. They tried hard to get me down, but I knew better; I fled
hundreds of miles, and they ran behind me grinding their teeth for
sheer vexation. But at last, I could endure it no longer; but, about a
mile from Mount Misery, I turned upon one and buried him in his own
"You buried him, did you?" said the young lady.
"Oh, yes! I buried him: he was not quite dead, you know, but I
"Then," replied the young lady, "you need not be afraid of his
giving you any further disturbance, if you buried him."
"Oh! but mind," exclaimed Willis; "he was not dead, you know--he
might rise and chase me in his coffin. You see these two gentlemen," he
said, pointing expressively to two large flies which had settled upon
his face. "Now, what do you think they say?"
As a matter of course, the ladies expressed their total
"This nobleman," continued he, pointing to the largest, "is a
Puseyite, and is from Oxford; the other is a doctor, who teaches
water-cures--he says he is named the Hippodame. Then this little one
says he is a Methodist parson, and starved to death."
The ladies hardly understood if he really thought that the flies
were speaking to him, or if he intended it as a joke. It soon became
evident, however, that he believed himself in close conversation with
the gentlemen flies. He put several questions to the Puseyite on
polemical subjects; and of the Hippodame he inquired about the town he
had just left, and likewise how he liked the Australian country. The
ladies were aware that contradiction would but increase his malady, and
perhaps make their unwelcome guest frantic, and they allowed him to
continue his conversation with the flies without comment. They were
anxious for Mr. Butler's arrival, as it was just dark. Both feared the
night. It is true, there were menservants upon the station; but, still,
to have charge of him was a responsibility from which they shrank. An
internal shiver crossed the frame of the elder, as she reflected on the
emotion of her sister when she first observed Willis's frame of
They were surprised by the near approach of a horseman; each of the
ladies started, hoping to see the settler enter. At length the horse
stopped, and----but we must not mention the name of the intruder at
CHAPTER IX. AN AUSTRALIAN HOTEL.--A JOURNEY BY DAYLIGHT.
WE have stated that Arabin had determined upon visiting Captain
Thomson, and calling at Willis's station on his road. On his way home
from the theatre, he resolved to look in at the hotel where he had
visited him upon one or two previous occasions, and inquire of the
landlord, whom he knew, if any tidings of him had been received.
The house formed a pretty fair specimen of an Australian hotel, and
therefore we shall describe it. It had two doors--one into the
tap-room, and another into the house. The first-named apartment was
probably the most profitable, and was crowded every hour of the day
with carters, bullock-drivers, and tradesmen. The landlord attended
here, and shone like a brilliant star among the lesser satellites, as
much as ever did prime minister or monarch in the midst of an admiring
host of courtiers and lesser dignitaries. He was an excellent manager,
too, and could reduce his spirits so as to make one glass run out two.
He had a quick eye "after the crumbs," as he termed it, and never lost
the chance of making a penny. There was one foible which interfered
with this desire to accumulate--he had a peculiar taste for everything
connected with the turf; he loved every jockey in the place, and would
often treat them to grog; indeed, he might rather be regarded as a
great jockey than anything else. This partiality was extended towards
those who were proficient in the noble science of defence; he would
himself strike if insulted, and his idea of a good fellow was, that he
was "game." This was a sine qua non with him; a man might be rich,
clever, anything,--but unless he was "game," he was nobody. He was
happy idling away his time in the front bar or tap, listening to the
conversation of the fancy men who commonly frequented it; and we need
scarcely say that the topics under discussion were commonly the ring
and the turf. The conversation of the stockmen and bullock-drivers who
frequented his tap afforded him no ordinary gratification: the whole
delight of such worthies is centred in the tap; they have no
satisfaction beyond drinking rum, and, when their money is exhausted,
in asking the landlord out of bravado "if they owe him anything?" What
pen could describe their self-importance when the landlord would smile
upon them benignantly and declare they had paid him like gentlemen?
Then to see them hardly able to understand the landlord's request not
to get drunk--what singular advice to men so tipsy that they are
scarcely able to walk! See them staggering, hardly able to light a
short black pipe. What consequence! what is the Emperor of Russia in
their estimation? they are greater than he,--they are drunk, and owe
nothing. Alas! we regret that this is a true picture of the lowest
class in Australia, and, we fear, in many other countries. They glory
in their shame: they enjoy getting drunk; when sober, they are
miserable. Would that taste and knowledge would spread in the country,
and usurp the place now held by ignorance and dissipation!
In the front also was the parlour. Here the settlers congregated
from morning till night. It was a mimic Tattersall's in the day, while
during the night the drinking and fun were at times maintained until
the landlord gave positive orders that the lights should be put out
which, by the way, was not often. In the morning, one or two would be
found asleep under the table, who had been too drunk or too poor to
We have given our readers a brief sketch of the hotel and its worthy
head, and we must follow the motions of Arabin as he entered the bar
and asked for the landlord.
He was not there, but his locum tenens informed Dr. Arabin that he
had not been gone above five minutes.
Arabin was retreating, when a rather dissipated---looking man, who
stood by, offered to take him to the house were the landlord was.
Arabin stared at the interruption, but the man continued, "You need
not stare; there are no flies about me--what I say I mean to do."
Dr. Arabin was inclined to be angry with the fellow for his
impertinence; but as he looked a character, he thought there might be
fun to be picked out of him, so he answered that he would accompany
"That's blessed right," replied the man; "there's no gammon in me,
so stir your stumps and crawl along, you cripple."
Passing along the street for some hundred yards, the two entered a
narrow lane. It was dark, and the inhabitants had retired. There was
however at least one exception, for the sound of dancing, blended with
music, met the ear. The person who acted as conductor halted at the
door of the house of festivity, and knocked. The door was opened, and
Arabin was in the house before he had time to retreat. The person they
wished to see was conspicuous, and the guide called him, by the name of
"Jeremiah" to come out.
"Come in," replied the landlord, putting his hand extended to his
nose, in the fashion which is vulgarly called "a lunar."---"Come in,
Doctor," said he, when he observed Arabin. "I did not think you had
been accustomed to cruise about at night."
"I am sorry," replied the person addressed, coldly, "that I have
interrupted you; but the fact is, I am leaving town to-morrow, and want
to ask you if you know anything about the young settler whom I was
called in to attend the other night?"
"I will go with you presently," said the landlord, in a more serious
tone; "I wish to wait here a few minutes longer to witness these
pugilists. This is Larry O'Brien, as we call him, the great Irish
champion; and the other is the Australian Cornstalk, who is open to
fight any man in the Colonies. We are to have a mill at the race-course
in a few days, and I came down to see how the Cornstalk is, as I have
backed him for thirty 'old shirts' (pounds), and I should not like to
"No, that would not do for Larry," remarked the tall man
At this remark, the whole company laughed and shouted and screamed
"No, indeed," replied the landlord, "it would not do for Larry."
"Ah, no," replied the dark man;
"The furst thing I saw was a man without a head--'By my faith,
then,' said I, 'and you'd better been in bed, With your hauling, and
your bawling, and your fighting, and Larry.' Och! blood and thunder was
the game that they did carry. But that will never do for Larry
"You are a nice youth, Larry," remarked the landlord, "only you are
such a horrid rogue."
"There is no flies there," remarked another.
"Hold your tongue, Thunder-and-Turk!" replied Larry, "or I will bung
up your eye."
Arabin had often heard the names of these renowned Colonial
"bruisers," and he examined their appearance with no little attention.
The "Cornstalk" was a powerful man, with a good-natured countenance,
and very fair. The Hibernian, nicknamed "Larry O'Brien," from the
famous Irish song, was a tall man, very active, but his frame by no
means indicated the great strength for which he was famous. The
individual who has been already noticed as "Thunder-and-Turk," was a
short, stout seaman of about thirty, dressed in blue jacket and white
trousers. Two or three settlers were in the room, and a tipsy old man,
whose charge it was to give them music from a fiddle, sat behind the
door. It seems that bets had been made, as to which champion could
dance longest: the landlord informed him they had danced for two hours,
and had stopped, thinking it was impracticable to tire out either, from
the extraordinary lungs they possessed.
"We all thought Larry was not game to dance with the Cornstalk,"
said Thunder-and-Turk; "but he's nearly put the breath out of his
precious body already."
"You lie," said the Cornstalk.
"Come on, then," said Larry; and he jumped about the room, turning
his fingers into castanets. "You ain't game!"
"He ain't game!" repeated Thunder-and-Turk, Larry O'Brien, and all
the others, tauntingly.
"He ain't ga-ga-ga-game," said the tipsy fiddler.
"He ain't game!" said the whole, in a simultaneous shout of
"He's sick," said Thunder-and-Turk.
"He's dead knocked-up," said the landlord in a passion.
"Let the sickness go up the chimley," said the tipsy fiddler.
"Go and catch flies, you greenhorns! Look and see how many
paving-stones you can see in my eyes. Go on, you fool!" cried the
Cornstalk. "I'll dance you for five pounds."
"Hurrah!" shouted the company and the landlord, and once again the
fiddler struck up the favourite tune of Larry O'Brien, and the two
champions began to caper and dance at a rate that would soon have
knocked up ordinary mortals. Larry capered about the room, and turned
his face into the most grotesque shapes, to the great astonishment of
Dr. Arabin and the intense amusement of the company; his fingers were
busy too, and he went through many singular evolutions. The Cornstalk
continued to dance in the quietest manner possible; the exertion
appeared to have no more effect on him than any ordinary exertion of
his muscular powers.
The landlord was now once more called out by Dr. Arabin; and he
followed him, although most unwillingly. Not one of the company noticed
their exit, so entirely was their attention engrossed by the motions of
"Now, old fellow," said the landlord as they emerged from the
lane--"I beg your pardon, I mean young gentleman. You say you wished to
hear about flash Jack Willis. You see, he is mad, and ran away this
morning, and I have heard nothing of him since."
"And did you not think it necessary to inquire after him?"
"Not I," said the landlord: "he has paid me, and that is what I look
to. If he comes back, I shall be glad; and if not, I have lost a good
customer. He can follow the bent of his own inclinations, or follow his
nose, as they say in Aberdeen."
"And do you not think it necessary even to ask after him?" inquired
"Not I," replied the landlord. "If I were to run up a bill in
hunting him up, who would pay me?"
"Yes, my good man, but a human creature is not to be left to perish
by a death at once cruel and unnatural. You must inquire after the
young man, or I will expose your heartlessness."
"You had much better attend to your pill-polishing, for I do not
want to have anything to do with such characters."
"And I," replied Dr. Arabin, "beg to add, that you are a
calculating, selfish villain: and as for your impertinence to myself
individually, I could knock it out of you."
The landlord was rather surprised at the sharp answer, and reflected
a little upon whether it were better to pass it off as a joke, or take
it as a downright insult. He arrived at the latter determination, and
throwing himself into a fencing attitude, came close to the Doctor, and
made a feint, crying out, "Come on!--I will soon send you
Arabin was very much excited, and seizing the fellow by the middle,
he hurled him like a child to a considerable distance before he had
power to move a muscle. He was over him in an instant, and said, "You
vulgar dog! how dare you take advantage of our station and insult a
The innkeeper rose very sulky, although it was evident he had a far
better opinion of his companion than before, and asked him "what he
"Do you think I took you by surprise?" replied Arabin; "and shall we
fight it out?"
"It is of no consequence," said the other. "Perhaps I was rude to
you, and you have punished me."
"Where, then, do you think Willis is?" asked Dr. Arabin.
"He may have gone home--or he may be in town--or very likely he has
drowned himself," replied the landlord.
"What a strange category of events!--If he be in town, where might
"In one of the billiard-rooms," replied the landlord. "These form
his haunts when in ordinary health. I have seen him lose ten pounds in
a night at the billliard-table."
"Indeed!" replied Dr. Arabin. "He must have a long purse, then.
Where has he the money?"
"He never has money, that ever I saw," replied the landlord.
"You said, then, he had paid you your bill?"
"I have no doubt of it," replied the landlord; "but if he had, he
did not pay me in money. But that is my business.--Will you accompany
me to the billlard-room?"
Dr. Arabin was by no means partial to appearing in such places with
public men, but made no objection, and they directed their steps to the
billiard-room to search for the unfortunate. All this was attended with
unprofitable result; they were unable to hear any tidings of him from
the dare-devil young men who were assembled in the room.
A billiard-room in Australia presents rather an extraordinary scene.
Some settlers who figure there appear not merely to have lost the
proper taste for the refinement of civilisation, but also all desire
for communion with well-bred men. The freedom of the woods and plains
of Australia were depicted in their roving eyes; they could hardly
brook the glance of fashionable society, even of Australian cities.
Several were half-frantic with brandy, and betting with some knowing
hand of the town, who of course gained it at every turn. Dr. Arabin,
unable to learn tidings of Willis, made a hasty retreat. He was
occupied in reflecting upon the chances that he had returned to his
station. Many thoughts crossed his mind Could the poor young man really
have injured himself? The river--the cord--the knife--the many ways by
which a suicide may meet his doom. But then, what was it to him? He
knew almost nothing of him. "I must see Butler tomorrow," said he, "and
find out all the particulars of his history." There was not a little
mystery about him; the landlord said he squandered money, while he
contradicted himself and asserted that he had no money--that he had
never paid him a farthing in money. The only manner to reconcile this
discrepancy was to suppose that Willis paid him in stock.
It was later in the day than he had anticipated, that Arabin started
once more across the almost boundless plains; it was a beautiful day,
and the senses were soothed and gratified by the sweet repose in which
the landscape rested. He crossed a creek, and his horse drank from the
placid waters, which seemed to smile with actual delight. The infinite
varieties of foliage--the whispering wiry casuarina, the gigantic
eucalyptus with its frowning branches, the lonely mimosa, the wild
geranium--every leaf and blade appeared to be reposing, dreaming in the
wanton sunshine. The harmony of nature and the expressive silence of
the woods had some effect upon the traveller; for the heart must be
hard as the "nether mill-stone," which would not expand at the sensible
delights of nature,--at recognising a real feeling, a new life in
blade, and flower, and plant. When he emerged fairly upon the open
plain, the beautiful day formed a strange contrast with the stormy
night he had so lately passed on the same plain; but the change in the
features of nature was not more striking than that in his own feelings.
Then the soul was downcast, enveloped in a shadow--the world was a
mockery of happiness; now his spirits were light, and hope beat high.
And have we not all been subject to these lights and shades? We are
bound to nature by mysterious and invisible sympathies; we know of
agencies which we cannot comprehend--we see a few links, but the chain
eludes the grasp. Not a leaf falls, or a cloud shadows the heavens, not
a shade crosses the landscape--not a wind howls, or a vapour rises, but
must elicit pangs from the soul of the sensitive observer. There is a
hidden world of melancholy, into which every human mind occasionally is
driven by gloomy whispers and by surrounding mementoes; but the
sunshine soon dispels these vapours. Such moments of mental anguish are
not sent without a specific object. If the world were ever fair, if the
sun always shone and the flowers never quenched their lustre, then men
would be too happy to think. Suffering brings strange reflections and
startling thoughts. Nay, we are compelled to allow that the economy of
Omnipotence is the most salutary, after all.
We believe that poets have ever endured much mental anguish. Many of
the poets of modern times have groaned beneath loads of suffering; and
all this sensitiveness and irritation of mind, all these clouds which
render life oppressive, are the effects of melancholy. Life with them
is disrobed of the colouring with which the inferior orders of the
human species have invested it; imagination, the mainspring of human
activity, has no power to withdraw their minds from the cold, stern,
gloomy truth; rank, riches, fame, feeling, passion, have no longer
"The tree of knowledge has been plucked! all's known."
Cowper, Kirke White, Keats, Shelley, Landon, Hemans, and Byron, had
all plucked fruit from the tree of knowledge. The latter has pictured
too truly in Manfred the sufferings of genius--of a heart scorched:
--"Many a night on the earth.
On the bare ground, have I bow'd down my face.
And strew'd my head with ashes: I have known
The fulness of humiliation, for
I sank before my vain despair, and knelt
To my own desolation."
Dr. Arabin passed along the plains, which presented a very different
aspect from that of the night so often referred to. The grass was long,
but white and dead; occasionally a stony ridge would intersect them, or
a clump of dwarfish trees break the monotony without embellishing the
scene. Dr. Arabin remarked that the distances deceived the eye,
especially as the scene was on a large scale. He had travelled for
about eight miles on the plains, when all at once they appeared
transformed into vast lakes of burnished silver: the eye was pained by
the radiating and dazzling prospect. He rubbed his eyes, and gazed
again; he almost fancied himself in fairy-land, and looked for the
gorgeous palace--the mosque, with its golden minarets, and the imaum
praying with his face to Mecca--the pompous mausoleum--and, in a word,
splendid cities, with spire and cupola. He never was more astonished;
he could not believe that the waters of the living, rolling, speaking
ocean were not spread out; indeed, had he not seen the plain some
minutes before, he would not have believed other than that the eternal
sea was lying before him in the calm of a tropical latitude, and
canopied by the clarified, ethereal, beautiful sky of Australia. He was
not accustomed to travel in the Bush, or he would have been aware that
the plains often deceive the traveller with the appearance of water,
and after going miles in quest of it, he finds its plains in a state of
Dr. Arabin drew bridle, and stood many minutes absorbed in admiring
the magnificent illusion. Not a thing moved upon the illuminated
plains; not a beast or bird immerged into the glittering lakes--it was,
in fact, a phenomenon singular and solitary.
It is a remarkable and instructive fact, that inhabiting a country
where Nature is found in her grandest proportions, the natives of
Australia seem insensible to poetic emotion. Nearly all of the species
known as "currency" are matter-of-fact men, with very few elements of
originality in their composition, and ignorant of the pleasure to be
derived from the fine arts. It is true, they are commonly handsome and
active; in their characters, straightforward selfishness is the most
prominent feature. There is considerable talent in the Colony, but it
is of the multi-utilitarian kind, and knowledge of Colonial history and
politics is confused with the price of wood and the breed of cattle.
The press, that index of public opinion, although ably, and, for the
most part, respectably conducted, yet partakes of the same character.
The talent of the Colony is not perhaps of the first order of talent,
but it is about the best of its kind. There are many who can speak or
write about equal to an average M.P. or political economist in England;
there are a few who might make no contemptible figure in St.
There is a primitive character which is perhaps inseparable from the
occupations of Colonists, and which peculiarly characterises the
pastoral class of the Australian Colonies. Byron and other writers of
the ultra-sentimental caste only take in highly-civilised society: the
majority of Colonists have little taste for that which the more refined
and polished long for, because their mode of life is rough, and their
education but limited.
Many of the settlers, however, have emigrated, and are excellent
scholars. Indeed, we have heard it asserted, and with some show of
truth, that more talent is centred in the flockmasters than belongs to
any other trade in the world, in proportion to the number engaged in
it. These have but arrived in the country, and their influence must
effect a radical change in the mental standard of the native Colonists,
and, we firmly hope, overcome the pernicious influence which wealthy
emancipists and uneducated dealers have hitherto exercised upon the
minds of the rising generation, and who, being in many instances only
concealed rogues, masked their want of principle, and mingled with the
more reputable class, which tended to undermine the whole moral fabric,
and to sink the mental tone of the whole race of Colonists. The wheat
is separating from the chaff; the emancipists have no organ now to hurl
fetid fulminations throughout the length and breadth of the land;
society will be regenerated, unless, which Heaven forbid! British
convicts are once more sent to the Australian shores.
We left Arabin gazing on the imaginary sheets of water; he had not
witnessed a scene so romantic before, and he was in poetic raptures:
time, place, and circumstance were forgotten, and he remained for about
an hour absorbed in an ideal world, or, in the language of Milton.
"His eyes he closed, but open left the cell of fancy."
And, in the expression of Cornwall.
"He dreamt, and o'er his enchanted vision pass'd
Shapes of the elder time--beautiful things
That men have died for--as they stood on earth.
But more ethereal, and each forehead bore
The stamp and character of the starry skies."
Dr. Arabin was susceptible of the sublimest emotions of poetry, but
the feeling was now almost a stranger. In youth his life was a
day-dream;--"he lived in an ideal world;" he was "a thing of dark
imaginings:" his mind was naturally melancholy, and he fed it with the
misanthropy of Lord Byron's poems and the metaphysical fictions of
Shelley. But this was wearing off; communion with the world, like the
tide constantly breaking upon a reek, insensibly wore down the barrier,
and the feelings of the outer world oozed in. There were times when the
poetic fire would resume all its potency, when he would be more
enthusiastic even than in his youth. We need hardly add, that the above
was one of these occasions. He had determined to call at Mr. Buttler's,
and when he was satisfied with surveying the prospect, he turned
towards the valley where his house was concealed, and made the best of
his way towards it.
CHAPTER X. THE ARRIVAL.--BUSH HOSPITALITY.--THE ESCAPE.
WE may safely affirm, that never was man welcomed more cordially
than Dr. Arabin when he entered the dwelling-house of Mr. Butler. The
ladies had been unwilling to remain with their visitor alone,
especially as they expected the violence of his disorder would increase
with the wane of the evening. He had several times talked violently and
frightened both, and it was lucky that our old acquaintance Bob was in
the outer hut. They had looked for Mr. Butler's return, but, to their
great disappointment, he had not come. By a fortunate turn of the
conversation, they managed to engage his attention.
He was asked some question which caused him to speak of home--of the
home of his early days; his mind was abstracted from the present to the
"long--forgotten past;" the tears started as they heard him recall one
whom he had loved and reverenced before he came to wander, but she was
And here we cannot help remarking, that the tie which links the mind
of man so firmly to his birthplace appears to us more extraordinary
than the ties of consanguinity or love. What can withdraw the human
heart from the love it cherishes for the home of early years? Demand of
the rover by land or on the sea--the wanderer of the desert--the exile
who has acquired honour, fame, wealth, power abroad, if they ever met a
spot they loved half so well as that on which they first looked upon
life--the home where they were affectionately loved and cherished by
care which only a parent could bestow. The scene may be rugged and
barren, the habitation mean and destitute, the parents ground in the
dust by poverty and wasting disease; but from the softest skies and the
brightest scenes--from the highest pinnacles of power and the most
gorgeous abodes, the mind will unconsciously wander to the season of
infancy and the home of early years. Years, changes, distance, cease to
be impediments, and but serve to impress the past more indelibly--the
past dim, yet how vivid! Other times and other things may be
forgotten,--the persons we associated with yesterday--two years
ago,--but those rotting in the "pest--house" we never can forget. The
mind is, when disengaged or in deep sleep, once more in the scenes long
past. Even an outcast like this could think of home.
Dr. Arabin's entrance had the effect of recalling the singular
illusion which haunted his mind, and he asked him sharply if there were
any men with coffins coming? Arabin found him sensible upon every other
subject as on a former occasion, and he began to consider his disease
might be monomania. He could direct his attention from the morbid
delusion which oppressed it for some time, but in the end he was almost
certain to return to the same subject, and discourse incoherently about
the man he had buried in the coffin. But his glance showed evident
"He was not quite dead," he would say with a glance of terror; "do
you think he will recover?" "Oh, no," they replied; "he must have been
"I covered him over," continued Mr. Willis, "but I assure you he was
not quite dead."
He would talk quietly and sensibly for some time; then he would
start, and his countenance would cloud, and looks of withering agony
would cross it. "The coffins!" he would shout; "there they come!"
During these fits the ladies were terrified, but they soon found out
that the best remedy was to withdraw his attention as soon as
It is unnecessary to say, that the opportune arrival of Dr. Arabin
afforded ease to the minds of the ladies, who did not suspect he had
followed the lunatic; indeed, they conceived his coming was the result
of accident. He soon informed them that he was on his way to Captain
Thomson's station, and inquired how far off it was.
"It's twenty miles from here," replied Willis--"from this house, and
you have gone out of the way."
"I am not sorry," replied Dr. Arabin, "since it has afforded me the
pleasure of seeing you."
"Do you see them?" whispered Willis, with the manner of Macbeth when
the ghost of Banquo rose, and he said---
"Ne'er shake thy gory locks at me.
Thou canst not say I did it!"
"Do you see them, man?" he continued, with a glance of terror; "they
want to run me on the plains again." He then recounted to Arabin once
more how he had been chased by men with coffins, and likewise how
effectually he had done up one of his pursuers. He concluded with once
more expressing his fears that he was not dead, but alive, and would
return and kill him.
Dr. Arabin had seen, the moment he entered, that the ladies were
alarmed. He began to think that it was monomania or temporary insanity
under which the young settler laboured, and that a few days' rest might
soothe and perhaps lead to his speedy recovery. The married lady took
Dr. Arabin out during the time the servant was arranging the
multifarious contents of the side-board. It was agreed that Willis
should be under the espionage of Arabin for the night, and that he
should take him home if practicable on the following morning. The
ladies were particularly anxious to have him removed.
The evening passed, and the party were more comfortable than had
been expected by any of them. The ladies played on the piano, and sang
their favourite songs.
It is a strange contrast to listen to the voice of an accomplished
woman in a Bush cottage; the comforts of England rush to the mind,
oceans all but interminable are traversed at a thought. The imaginative
may fancy that they are in London, in the heart of Lancasshire, or in
the metropolis of Scotland or Ireland. They may wait to hear the deep
clang of the church bell, warning the thousands of those Christian
lands to their devotions, or the quiet muffled toll, ascending from the
ivy-grey country church, speaking in soothing tones of consolation to
the careworn heart. But once beyond the confines of the room, and the
wilderness of Australia, or rather "the Bush," dissipates such flights
The settler's dwelling was in a valley already described, which
bordered the plains. The vast ranges were thinly timbered in one or two
places, and on one side the deep dark forest stretched away upon the
banks of the river, the rocky ranges hardly perceptible in the
distance, and the glorious cloudless azure sky above.
The evening passed off tolerably well. The ladies retired early, and
Dr. Arabin was left alone with the lunatic. Their bedroom was situated
in the rear of the house; the furniture was homely, for few travellers
intruded upon the worthy settler's hospitality.
Arabin was uneasy, and had no inclination to sleep; he therefore
resolved to return to the parlour, and read for an hour or two. The
other was in bed, and quiet; he locked the back door and put the key in
his pocket, and left the door of the parlour and the door of the
bedroom ajar, so that the slightest motion might be heard.
Dr. Arabin was excited, and wished to recover his usual tone by
reading and reflection. It was a singular trait in his character, that
with a mind of considerable and increasing power, he had for some time
back had no great relish for reading. He had fixed his intellect upon
particular studies, which range he pursued with avidity, and to the
neglect of every comfort. His favourite speculations were, that
knowledge would be progressive; that discoveries hitherto without
parallel would be effected; that air, ocean, and land would be
navigated by electricity; that the various nations of the earth would
be amalgamated by communication almost instantaneous; that population
would be equalised, and the beautiful wilderness and fruitful valley
peopled in every part of the known globe. The very plain over which he
had travelled might, he considered, be fertilised; and during his
journey across, he sketched a plan for irrigating the landscape, by
cutting canals to convey the water to all parts, by means of which the
country might be flooded, and the soil, instead of being hard and
scorched, would be moist and fruitful. He thought of India, and its
tanks and rice-fields; of Egypt, the riches of which depended upon the
inundation of the Nile, even in the days of Pharoah, the oppressor, and
Moses, the deliverer of the Israelites, as in the first chapters of the
Bible, where it is upon record that when Abraham was driven into Egypt,
he found that it was a land of plenty, for he departed from it
"very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold."
(Genesis xiii. 2.)
The most distinguished writers of Greece--Herodotus, the first
writer of profane history--Diodorus Siculus, the universal historian,
and a host of others, record the astonishing wealth of the first seat
of the arts, caused solely by the rise of the famous Egyptian river
once a year. It is a sad pity that no proper attempt has hitherto been
made to irrigate the soil upon the banks of the great Australian
rivers: instead of being a pastoral country alone, the small Colony of
South Australia, or the yet more fertile district of Australia Felix,
might export many thousand bushels of wheat to the English market. The
Australian Colonies have but one fault, the want of inland
communication to convey the produce of the interior to market.
Dr. Arabin turned over the books on the side table. He made a
running commentary upon their authors as he proceeded. "Shakspeare, the
greatest man that ever lived, for intellectual power. 'Falconer's
Shipwreck,' don't know him. Bulwer, a dandified author, but a writer of
considerable repute. Shelley, my favourite, is not here. Pope, a fine
versifier out of fashion. Byron, a powerful writer, but a little man.
Virgil, pooh! 'Hume and Smollett's History of England,' a valuable work
of reference. 'Moroe's Works,' a thing of tinsel, a peacock in the most
gorgeous feathers; gay nonsense, which has nevertheless acquired for
the author an ill-merited reputation. "He opened work with a sneer, and
chaunted from it
"Beautiful are the maids that glide.
On summer eves, through Yeman's dales;
And bright the summer locks they hide
Beneath their litter's roseate veils;
And brides as delicate and fair
As the white jasmine flowers they wear.
Hath Yemen in her blissful clime," &c.
"Fee-fa-la-de! there is not a thought worth retaining in a cart-load
of such poetry; one thought from Burns or Bunyan is worth the whole
work, to a real judge of poetry. If I might guess the manner in which
it was composed, I should say it was with a dictionary open before the
poet, that he might extract fine, sweet--sounding words, and that these
words were put down as ideas by mistake. I would sooner have Geoffrey
Chaucer's original vulgarity, and that he had said the maids were
'softer than the wolle is of a wether,' or
"Winsing she was as is a jolly colt, Long as a mast, and upright as
a bolt. He shoon were laced on hire legges hie; She was a primerole, a
piggesnie, For any lord to liggen in his bedde, Or yet for any good
yemen to wedde."
A goggling in the inner room startled him, and he returned the work
to the table, and hastened to see what was wrong. The young man
screamed as he entered--"Keep away!" he shouted; "I am down, but I will
resist to the last."
Dr. Arabin saw him sitting upright, glaring at something; so hideous
was the apparition, that he shrunk back appalled. He conquered this
feeling, and entered the apartment. The eye of the maniac was firmly
fixed on the window. The blind was not exactly long enough, and a small
crevice remained at the foot uncovered. At this opening he fancied men
and coffins were entering. "Look at them!" he screamed; "they enter;"
and he gibbered and contorted his countenance, until he could almost
fancy he looked upon a demon. For a minute he continued in a state of
terror, but reflection enabled him to overcome it. He came near, and
the maniac directed his eye towards him; he started up, and before
Arabin was conscious of his movement he had him by the throat, and,
with a strength almost supernatural, dashed him on the floor against
the corner of the room. The maniac yelled frightfully, and rushed
through the front room into the garden, and from thence up the road and
into the plains.
So terrified had the two ladies been at the yells of the madman as
he rushed from the house, that it was an hour before either would leave
their room. At last they found heart to peep out first into the outer
room, next into the inner apartment, where they found Dr. Arabin lying
in a state of insensibility. His face was covered with blood, his coat
and vest were torn in front. They called up the servant, Long Bob. This
functionary soon appeared, and carried the sufferer into the parlour
and stretched him on the sofa. Long Bob had seen many skirmishes with
Bush-rangers, and was in no degree frightened at the blood. He assured
the ladies that there was no danger, only "all was as bad when they got
a knock-me-down blow in the eyes, or a heavy fall." He washed the blood
from his face, which had proceeded from the nose or the teeth, and
applied powerful stimulants, which were of little use. At last, he
opened his eyes and looked round the apartment, which was strange to
him; next his eye rested on those who waited upon him, whom he did not
recognise. He soon began to be sensible of pain, and the circumstances
which preceded the accident flashed upon his mind.
The two ladies were more perplexed than before. That the young
settler had escaped was evident, and that something had occurred,
although there was a mystery to be brought to light in the affray
between him and Dr. Arabin. Some means ought to be immediately adopted
to recover the maniac if possible; but there was only one male in the
house, and he was engaged in attending upon Arabin, and neither of the
ladies was disposed to remain to watch by the stranger, and the
unfortunate was left to his fate until morning.
Dr. Arabin had fallen heavily upon his head, and been stunned. He
soon recovered, and the ladies were agreeably surprised to find him
much better in the morning. They were all anxious about the lunatic,
and Long Tom was despatched to his station to warn the servants of his
situation, and to give them instructions to spare no trouble in their
endeavours to recover him.
Captain Thomson's station was in a different direction, and Arabin
determined to pursue his journey, and look for the lunatic in the way
up, and send out Captain Thomson's men to search the country.
CHAPTER XI. AN AUSTRALIAN MERCHANT.
WE must now introduce another character to our readers. We are
certain in the following portrait of Captain Thomson; our readers will
at once recognise one of the Australian speculators of the former
times, whose name was Legion.
Captain Thomson said he was a merchant, but he had never had a store
or an office. He did not import merchandise from any part of the world,
nor did he speculate much in any article with the exception of wheat
and sugar. He had no account books, his transactions were only recorded
in memoranda which he had in his pocket-book. At different periods he
had been a sugar speculator, a land-jobber, a farmer, a grazier, a
houseowner; he had been always changing about and trying to accumulate
a fortune by some lucky chance. He commonly resided in the town; but
since the times had altered the prospects of the innumerable tribes of
speculators that hovered about the Australian towns, he had been
compelled to reside upon his station, which, more fortunate than many,
he had managed to save from the crash.
He was at the door superintending the manufacture of ropes from
cow-hides; and as Dr. Arabin rode up, he advanced and welcomed him to
the Bush. We must say this for the squatters or settlers of the Colony,
that whatever their faults are, their hospitality ought to cover them.
The majority of them are delighted at the sight of a stranger; the
solitude of the Bush is seldom enlivened with a stray traveller, and in
many parts it is a momentous occurrence.
There exist a large tribe of unfortunate young men that have been in
business for themselves--or, as the saying is, have seen better days.
Having no occupation, they lead a peculiar life, wandering about the
country, depending solely upon the hospitality of the settlers. So
firmly are these erratic habits grounded, that it is next to impossible
to eradicate them. Many, after exhausting the hospitality of the
settler, will cast in their lot with the wandering tribes of
aborigines, and degenerate into total barbarism. It is surprising to
observe the latent talent which is in the Australian wilds: many
keepers of cattle and bullock--drivers have emigrated with property and
sunk from inexperience; a few years hence they get a little money,
commence in a small way, and creep up by slow and painful gradation to
Captain Thomson received Dr. Arabin as a friend, and entertained him
with the utmost kindness. A messenger was despatched to Willis's
station to find out if the owner had returned. The saddle was taken
from his horse's back, and the animal was turned out into the paddock;
the spirits were brought out, an unusual thing in the Bush, and a
dinner was got up in the very best Bush style. The messenger returned
with the pleasing information that Willis had been found that forenoon,
and was at home and much better. Captain Thomson insisted that the
traveller should partake of his hospitality for that evening, and as he
wished for much information, he agreed to this at once.
The usual plentiful Australian meal passed over, the rum-bottle and
the tea-kettle were at hand, and the captain, who was an excellent
compounder of punch, set to work.
"I have had many engagements with the teetotallers, but nothing they
can urge shall ever prevent me from taking my comfortable glass of
"I am not partial to it," replied Arabin.
"You certainly will join me in this decanter of punch, which I can
assure you is compounded upon the real West Indian principle."
"I will take a single glass with you," replied Arabin.
After the first was finished, he was prevailed upon to take one
more. Beyond this he would not go, and sat attentively watching the
gallant soldier, who swallowed glass after glass without being the
worse. He related many adventures, which Arabin relished. From the way
in which he spoke, it was evident that his life had been chequered with
hard vicissitudes, and also by singular turns of good luck. Since he
arrived in Australia he had been in good repute as a speculator, and
soon after he lost all but the solitary station which he had lately
made his home. He talked ambiguously of something which he had planned,
and from which he expected to become more independent than he had ever
been. Dr. Arabin, thinking this a favourable opportunity, suggested to
him the probability of his becoming a purchaser of stock. The captain
pricked up his ears at this intelligence, and began to expatiate on the
superiority of his own stock.
"I must give you the history of these flocks, which I now mean to
sell. About five years ago, I was in possession of a considerable sum
of money, all of which had been accumulated by lucky speculations. I
saw that money was abundant and property scarce, and I had little doubt
but that money would be scarce in a few years and property plentiful.
If I had sold everything off then, I should have acted right. I had
doubts and fears at the moment, and determined to buy three hundred
ewes, with lambs by their sides, of the finest breed in the Colony. I
looked long before I could see anything to suit me, but at last I made
a good purchase and put them upon this very station. Time passed on; I
appeared to be accumulating, but all I had was invested in property;
money became very scarce, and property declined. Most thought this was
but a temporary depression, that it would wear away in a month or two.
Property became unsaleable, and as speculators failed one after
another, every kind of business was brought to a stand-still. I was
involved, and lost all I had, with the exception of the little flock of
sheep, which had by that time increased to seven hundred and fifty. I
retired to this spot, thankful, in such fearful times, to have a house
above my head, and more fortunate than many whom I had known in
affluence. My creditors took my property, and allowed me to keep this
little station, because it would have sold for almost nothing then. I
have attended to them punctually, and now I have more than two
thousand, the produce of the three hundred ewes. There is no question
but that sheep are the best stock in the Colony. When wool is high,
money can be made; and even when low, they are a good livelihood. I
have always found the wool pay the expenses, while the increase is
"Then," said Arabin, "you purpose selling your station?"
"I do," replied the other: "I have been anxious to sell for some
time, as I see a plan by which I might soon be made more independent
than ever I have been hitherto."
"And what do you want for them?"
"I want a long price, but the stock is fine. I ask fifteen shillings
a-head for the sheep, and three pounds for one hundred cattle; but I
would sell either separately."
"That is far beyond my mark," replied Dr. Arabin. "I have not so
much money as would pay for them."
"Well, to be plain with you," said the Captain, "if you tell me
about how much you have, I would be better able to advise."
"The utmost I could muster," replied Dr. Arabin, "would be a
"Now I will be frank with you," said the Captain: "that sum would
suit me. If I succeed, I shall want no more; if I fail, I ought to have
something to fall back upon; and if you will allow three hundred maiden
ewes to remain upon the station for me, and keep them and their
increase for three years without any charge, I will give you the
station for the sum you have; and I assure you it is the best bargain
which has been given for a long time." Dr. Arabin soon found out that
he had some scheme in view which required both money and immediate
attendance, and as it is very difficult in dull times to sell stock, or
in fact any property, so he contrived to make a most excellent purchase
of him. Captain Thomson was in high spirits, and after the bargain was
fairly settled informed his guest of the undertaking he had in
prospect. "A person has just been discovered in the Colony who is the
lawful heir to a very extensive property in England; his father had
been transported to New South Wales for forgery, and although of good
family no notice had been taken of him, in consequence of a false
report of his death having been circulated by a younger brother, who
thus acquired his property by the dishonest deception. All the family
having died, the property was thrown into Chancery, and the nearest of
kin advertised for. By a singular chance the news reached the lawful
heir in this Colony, who is a labouring man, and every inquiry has been
made, and it appears that he may have the property by going home and
putting the case in the hands of a good lawyer. I knew the man long
ago, and he has offered to give me a third of the whole if I go home
and recover it for him. The property is large, in fact it is nearly
incredible, and if he recovers it I shall be a man of fortune and shall
never return to claim the stock I leave with you. I have little doubt
but we shall succeed, and many have offered to subscribe money upon
condition that he repays them with a handsome present when he recovers
his property. I have had great difficulty to subdue his impatience to
be off for the last three months; indeed, I was afraid he might put
himself under the protection of some other individual, and that I
should lose the only good thing which ever fell in my way. You are now
fully aware of the circumstances of my case, which have put me in the
hands of almost any person of respectability with money. The sheep will
be a sure income to you, if you keep them clean and manage them well. I
think I shall give my small herd of cattle out on halves to some
person, or take them down the country and sell them by auction. The
sooner I can get away the better, as there is some danger of the
property being claimed by other parties."
Before the two retired to rest, the bargain was finally concluded.
The settler prevailed upon his guest to partake of another glass of his
punch, and he entertained him with many tales of Colonial characters,
which were exquisitely amusing. At length a substantial supper made its
appearance, which, however, was only required by the settler; the other
was of too abstemious habits to eat at so late an hour, and soon after
they took possession of sofas for the night. In the morning the settler
had his inmate up at daybreak, and they went to see the sheep counted
out to the different shepherds. We may remark, that the sheep are
folded every night in hurdles, and that the hut-keepers watch them both
summer and winter. There is commonly a watch-box, which resembles a bed
to shut up, and so contrived that it can be moved with the hurdles.
Even when the hut-keepers are married, they sleep in these machines
with their wives, and often two or three children. It is necessary that
the sheep should be watched, to prevent the depredations of the wild
dogs. These scourges will attack the flocks at night, and often rush on
them, and take several off before the hut-keeper can arrive on the
scene of action. The hurdles are frequently shifted to keep the sheep
Dr. Arabin, although no judge of stock, was yet aware that Captain
Thomson's little flock was of a very superior breed. The Captain showed
him the fineness of the wool, and also informed him that wool marked
with his brand of was in more demand and fetched a higher price than
any other in the district. He then showed him the run, which was very
fine. No scrubs or stony ground were visible. The soil appeared good,
the grass luxuriant, and the country thinly wooded. The river ran the
whole length of the run, and therefore no fear could be entertained of
a scarcity of water. The huts were very comfortable, and a paddock,
which was cultivated, added to the apparent comfort of the residence.
After breakfast, Arabin was amused for several hours in looking over
the run, and having partaken of an early dinner, he started for town,
in the direction of Willis's station, where he intended to call.
CHAPTER XII. A DANGEROUS INTERVIEW.
DR. ARABIN had not an intimate acquaintance with the country; and
although the distance from Captain Thomson's station to that of the
poor insane settler was but trifling, yet it was wearing late before he
reached it. The Bush is bewildering to strangers: only experienced
hands can thread its intricacies without straying from the route. The
scene is upon such an extensive scale, that unless the traveller
understands the country, and can guide his progress by the sun or some
prominent landmark, it is impossible to march on a correct line. The
moment the traveller in these solitary regions is at a stand-still, he
is certain to go wrong, because the country everywhere around presents
almost the same aspect and proportions. We have frequently known
strangers go forward for ten or twenty miles--diverge--change
again--and ultimately turn round, and towards night approach the very
station from which they had started in the morning. These bewildered
travellers are unwilling to credit their senses; it requires not merely
the sight of the station, but also the sight of the faces connected
with it, to convince them. It is very fortunate for poor wanderers in
the Bush that a liberal hospitality is exercised by the settlers, with
very few exceptions. It is true, there are exceptions; we have known
weary and hungry travellers turned away without a kind look or word. We
cannot too severely censure such conduct, especially in the wilderness,
where houses for the accommodation of travellers are rarely to be met
with, and where inhospitality is a crime of the most atrocious
To return to our narrative. Dr. Arabin had been directed to Willis's
station by Captain Thomson, and, as it was but fifteen miles off, it
appeared next to impossible that he should mistake the route. At first,
he pursued his journey devoid of hesitation or fear. He then reached a
thinly-wooded ravine, over which it was necessary to pass. There was no
water visible, but the stones in the bed of the deep rut marked where
winter torrents had thundered along. The banks were steep and shelving,
and wooded with a thick scrub, into which the horse appeared unwilling
to enter. Arabin, by means of his spurs, forced him about ten yards
into this dense brushwood, where he came to a dead halt, and refused
both the admonitions of the spur and whip with dogged indifference. In
another moment an enormous black snake raised itself from the thick
wiry grass, and darted its hissing mouth and tongue at his legs; the
horse wheeled round in an instant, and rushed out of the brushwood.
Dr. Arabin was unable to extricate his legs from the brushwood, and
one of them having been entangled, was seriously injured: the pain was
severe, and he repented his temerity in rushing through the scrub,
instead of searching for a pathway across. We may remark, that the
black snake is the largest of the species to be met with in Australia.
They are of a dusky colour, and generally lie coiled in the long grass,
or in haystacks or about dwelling-houses. In the cold weather they
retire to holes in the ground; they are rather unwieldy in their
motions, and not so dangerous as others of smaller proportions. The
best remedy for the bite of these venomous reptiles is a quantity of
warm Madeira wine taken internally, with an outward application of
eau-de-luce to the punctures.
Arabin was rather angry with himself that he had not struck the
reptile with his whip, and turned to kill it, but it had escaped. The
pain of the injured limb made him more anxious than before to get home
if possible, and he commenced a strict scrutiny for a passage over the
He passed several miles up the bank, and at length was gratified by
finding a bank almost without a tree or a blade of herbage. When he
reached the opposite side, he found himself at fault: the ravine had a
strange curve at this particular spot, and it was difficult for a total
stranger to discover the direction in which Willis's station lay. We
assure European readers that they can have but a faint conception of
the difficulties frequently experienced in finding places out in the
wilderness. We knew a settler's house which was concealed in a ravine
so effectively, that a person might have lived for years within a few
hundred yards of it and not been aware of its existence; nay, the very
owner was at times puzzled to find it in broad daylight.
Arabin retreated some distance down the bank, to consider the
country attentively. Unfortunately, the most prominent landmarks were
not visible, and as he stood upon rather a flat spot, the country
appeared nearly all the same. He caught a glimpse of the spot where
Captain Thomson's station lay, as he thought; he once more studied the
direction, and proceeded towards the point where Willis's station was
situated. He had lost time by this hesitation, and the sun was already
sinking towards the west. He saw this with some concern, as he was
perfectly aware that to a stranger it was awkward to commence a journey
towards nightfall in the Bush: it was probable, also, that he might be
detained some time at Willis's station.
"A good fire!" he muttered, as he observed a thick smoke issuing
from the kitchen chimney of the hut. He saw no one about the house, and
he dismounted and entered. Not a person was in the front apartment,
although the expiring embers proved that a fire had been burning in the
morning. He then walked into the kitchen, and was surprised to find no
one there. He had observed, as he approached, a large volume of smoke
issuing from the chimney; and now upon entering the apartment he could
not discover any cause for this phenomenon, because the fireplace was
cold and empty. He looked through the house, but not a creature did he
see. He walked to the door, and was positive that he heard the sound of
voices. It was by no means pleasing to have to wait and night
approaching, yet he could not well pass on without inquiring after his
patient. He shouted at the top of his voice, and in a short time he was
surprised at the appearance of Willis himself.
He was not prepared for this. As a matter of course, he expected to
find him under proper restraint; but the only attendant was the black
servant. The terrible scene in the bedroom flashed on his mind, and he
wished himself a hundred miles from the spot. He had not time to
retreat, for the settler entered and welcomed him in his usual manner.
He seemed better; but Arabin did not like his eyes' "wild radiance,"
and inwardly resolved to be off as soon as possible.
The settler had no intention of parting with him, and insisted upon
his waiting for tea. He would not take as an excuse that night was
approaching, and that his visitor had far to travel over a country with
which he was but partially acquainted. Dr. Arabin exceeded the bounds
of politeness in endeavouring to get away, without effect; and at
length he agreed to remain and partake of a Bush tea, upon condition
that it should be prepared without delay. This he did with a very bad
grace; he had no wish to contradict the settler, and bring on a violent
fit of the slumbering disease. The delay would put it out of his power
to reach town, and he determined to ride over to Mr. Butler's for the
The black servant was so long in preparing tea, that he cursed his
good-nature in remaining. The shadows of evening began to fall before
it was placed before them. By the time it was finished, the room was so
dark that candles were necessary. When the tea-things were removed, the
settler insisted upon his taking a parting glass; and the spirit
decanter having been placed upon the table, he was asked to help
"You must excuse me, Willis," replied Dr. Arabin, "I never drink; I
think that spirits are very injurious to you in your present delicate
state of health, and I must deter you from using them."
"You must take a 'doch-an'-dorris,' as they say in Scotland, before
"I shall not," said Dr. Arabin.
Willis here rose, and walking across the room, turned the key of the
door, which he put in his pocket; the other door was shut, so that
Arabin had not a very comfortable prospect before him.
"I am determined," continued Willis, "that you shall take a glass
with me, and you do not leave the room before you swallow it."
Dr. Arabin, upon mature reflection, saw that it was no use to reason
with a madman, and therefore agreed to follow his advice and partake of
a glass with him before he left.
The tea-kettle was upon the fire, and the singular companions mixed
a glass of spirits and water each, and sipped it. Even this would not
please Willis, who now insisted that Arabin should drink all that was
upon the table. This he positively refused to do. He saw that his
companion was becoming violent, and he determined to look out for his
own safety. The only way to get out was to coax or overawe the lunatic.
He tried frequently to catch his eye, as he had heard that a stern look
fixed upon any one labouring under mental derangement would have an
instantaneous effect. It was impossible to catch the eye of his
companion, who seemed to guess his intention and purposely to avoid
meeting his glance. He would not allow him to leave the room, and kept
the keys of both doors in his pocket. He ordered him once or twice to
drink the spirits on the table, and on his continued refusal became
Arabin repented of his rash visit. It was now late, and he
determined upon a strenuous resistance if any violence should be
offered. The only other person in the house was the black servant, and
he appeared to be ignorant of the state in which his master was. The
evening wore on; the lunatic walked to and fro across the room without
speaking or looking towards the other. At length a fit of utter madness
seized him, and he raved about the men in coffins, and about the horned
devils and murders, nearly as incoherently as when Dr. Arabin had last
seen him. He then noticed Arabin, and grinding his teeth at him,
absolutely foamed at the mouth in impotent passion. Arabin expected he
would have attempted his life, but he did not lay hands upon him; he
only called to the black servant to bring his gun, and this command the
poor fellow was compelled to obey. He then procured his flask and
shot-belt, loaded his gun with the greatest attention, and turned round
and spoke as follows:--"Dr. Arabin, I know you to be my bitter enemy:
you have taken away my lady-love and blasted my hopes; you have come
here to find out my secrets to take to the Government, and you want to
make me out mad and have me put into the lunatic asylum. You are in
league with the men in coffins to ruin me, and you die. I have tasted
bread with you, and must not dip my hands in your blood until after
twelve o'clock; when the new day commences I am free. Prepare for
death, and do not think of escape. Every effort is fruitless, so be
prepared." As he finished, he put a cap on his piece, and walked to and
fro across the room in great pomp.
Arabin was taken rather aback at the turn of affairs. He cursed his
stupidity, and vowed that if he were once well off the station, he
would have Willis sent to a madhouse without further delicacy. It did
not seem probable that he should get away; it was little use to try to
overpower the madman, who, at times, appeared to possess superhuman
strength; it was impossible to coax him into a more lenient frame of
mind;--in a word, Arabin was very uneasy; he hardly knew what means to
adopt to avert the horrible calamity with which he was threatened.
The lunatic suspended his watch by a silk guard to a nail in the
wall; and continued to walk up and down the room, gun in hand. It was
about eight o'clock, and the only chance in favour of Arabin seemed to
be that an accident might prevent Willis from carrying his threat into
execution. Time passed; at length the other got tired of walking about
the room, and calling in the black servant from the kitchen, locked the
door of communication; he ordered his servant to watch Arabin closely,
and to prevent him from moving or speaking, while he went and rested
himself for half an hour. He then retired to the inner room, the door
of which he left open, and extended himself upon a rude bed.
Dr. Arabin observed this movement with inward satisfaction, and
turned his glance at once towards the window. It was very small, yet it
appeared practicableto get through, and at any rate he resolved to make
the attempt. The black servant who had charge of him appeared to
commiserate his condition in so far as his confined intellect permitted
him to understand it, and Arabin now tried to open a communication with
him, so that he might find out how he was disposed. It was becoming
rather cool, and Arabin asked him to "blow up the fire;" this he
attempted to do, when Willis screamed out, "Hillo! is the prisoner
safe? What noise is that, Mango?"
"All right, sir," replied the black.
While he was speaking to the servant, Arabin had managed to get his
hand upon a piece of paper, and taking a pencil from his pocket, he
wrote, "Does your master mean to murder me?" and handed it over to the
black. He shook his head, and returned it without any reply.
Foiled in this attempt, he almost lost hope; yet, before he
reconciled himself to a death terrible and sudden, he resolved to
escape if any chance should offer.
The black man appeared willing to assist him, but he was terrified
at the violence of his master; once or twice he tried to get him into
conversation, but the instant a murmur disturbed the utter silence of
the night, the terrible voice from the inner room screamed out, "Is the
prisoner safe, Mango?" About eleven o'clock he rose, and entered the
room gun in hand. Arabin expected he would despatch him. This was not,
however, his intention. The wild, haggard air of the poor fellow
reminded him of the description of a mountain bandit in "Italy:"
"'Tis a wild life, fearful and full of change---
The mountain robber's. On the watch he lies.
Levelling his carbine at the passenger.
* * * * *
Tasso approaches--he whose song beguiles
The day of half its hours, whose sorcery
Dazzles the sense, turning our forest glades
To lists that blaze with gorgeous armoury.
'Hence, nor descend till he and his are gone;
Let him fear nothing.'"
"I love these banditti, and their captain Marce di Sciarra," thought
Arabin, "for the respect they showed to the talented and unfortunate
Tasso. I have now to deal with a person who has no noble feelings to
work upon--or, rather, whose feelings are obliterated by insanity."
Willis walked across the room and looked at the watch; it was but
eleven, and his fearful resolve could not be executed before twelve
o'clock. Once or twice he handled his gun and glanced towards his
prisoner; the resolution was present in his mind, and he lowered the
piece and once more returned to the room.
Arabin had no time to lose. He pointed towards the room, and then
towards his throat, and by signs gave the black servant to understand
that unless he escaped, his master would murder him. The black
understood him, and whispered, "The window is your only chance." Arabin
made signs to indicate that if he attempted to escape, the other would
shoot him. The black man shook his head, as much as to say there was no
hope. Dr. Arabin reflected for a moment, and inquired of the black
servant where he slept. He pointed with his finger towards the bedroom;
the door was ajar, and Arabin observed that it fastened on his side. He
drew a couple of guineas from his pocket, and placed them in the hands
of the black. "Now, Mango," he whispered, "you go into bed, and I will
shut the door." Mango reflected for a few minutes, and at length
signified his consent to this. Arabin placed himself in such a position
that he could draw the bolt the moment Mango entered. This aroused the
suspicion of the lunatic, who cried, "Mango, is the prisoner safe?"
Mango made a rush into the bedroom crying, "Oh, yes! massa, him all
right--quiet, massa.--D----n," he shouted, as Arabin slammed the door
in his face--"d------n the prisoner!" This was said with such
well--feigned astonishment, that his betrayed employer had no suspicion
of his treachery. Arabin rushed to the window, which was small and
difficult to push up. He was gifted with supernatural strength; he
forced it up, shot out, and unfortunately stuck--the window being very
difficult to push open.
While he lay sprawling in the window, unable either to get out or
in, the lunatic was sensible by the noise that he was endeavouring to
escape. He thundered in a frantic manner at the door, and shouted that
unless he opened it, he would blow out his brains. The black man also
thought it necessary to make a noise, which increased the tumult. At
length Arabin made one effort more potent than the others, for the
window flew up just as the united strength of the lunatic and his
servant burst the door. Arabin made an enormous spring, turned the
corner, and ran just as he heard the lunatic scream, "The prisoner has
escaped. Mango!--follow--shoot him! What, ho! Signor Braganza, ho!" It
may well be supposed that Arabin lost no time in making off, sore as
his leg was. He was destined to meet another interruption of this
eventful evening. He had just reached the corner of the paddock, when a
fellow interrupted him, and asked him to wait a moment. Not taking much
notice, the other admonished him rather quickly, by throwing a stout
walking-stick between his legs. As he was walking rather smartly, he
ploughed the ground with his nose before he was conscious of the
When he was able to stand upon his legs, he found himself surrounded
by three men: the person who had stopped him once more addressed him
"Now, my young beauty, where might you be running to?"
"Who are you?" sternly demanded Arabin.
"I am the inspector of distilleries, and have my commission in my
pocket. What may your name be?"
"Dr. Arabin, a person with whom you can have nothing to do."
"You don't know that; my commission is very general, and I would
stop the Governor himself if it was necessary."
"Well, I wait your commands," said Arabin.
"Can you inform us where Mr. Willis is usually to be found?"
inquired the leader.
"I think he is generally at home; I parted with him only this
"And why were you running so fast?" "Because Mr. Willis is insane
and wished to murder me," replied Arabin. "May I ask you what you want
"Suppose I was on the look-out for an illicit still?"
"I advise you," replied Arabin, "not to approach the house at the
present moment: Willis is insane, and has a gun, with which he would
have shot me had I not escaped."
"Never mind," said the officer; "we shall see him presently. You
will wait a few moments?"
"Forward," said the officer.
The whole party now approached the house. Willis had been looking
out, and saw them approaching. He did not seem to care much who they
were, but fired his piece at random, and ran into the house. Before he
could close the door, the whole party had made a rush and were in the
"Lay hands on him!" shouted the leader. "Knock him down!" he cried,
as he saw him preparing to fight. He rushed forward, and giving a quick
jump, his stick descended with violence on the head of the lunatic, and
he fell sprawling on the ground.
The officers now commenced their search. Arabin expected they would
find a still, for the circumstance of the smoke issuing from the
kitchen-chimney when there was no fire on the hearth recurred to him
just then. It was no business of his, and he did not say a word. They
looked into every hole and upon every shelf in the house, in the garden
and the outhouses, but not a single indication could they discover of
an illicit still.
"This is certainly singular," said the officer, who was a fierce man
in half uniform: "we are positive there is a still at work upon this
station, and yet we cannot find out where it is."
"It must be under-ground," replied a constable, who had the
character "vagabond" branded on his countenance in indelible
The party again looked over the house and in the garden with no
better success; the officer was about to give up the attempt to
discover the still, when the constable inquired if he would allow him
any part of the reward if he made the discovery.
"Five pounds and a pardon, you convict ragamuffin!" said the
It appeared that this fellow had considered the premises, and
concluded that if there really was a still, it must be in some
subterranean place, and that the smoke from thence would be emitted by
means of the chimney. This was a happy thought. The fellow procured a
spade, and with great exertion cut a trench along the end of the house,
close to the wall. His ingenuity was rewarded with success. He came
upon a large iron pipe, which conducted the smoke into the
kitchen-chimney. He had now only to follow the direction of this pipe:
this was rather difficult, as it was deeply imbedded in the earth.
After great trouble, they traced it some distance in the direction in
which the stable was situated. The party returned to examine it even
more attentively than upon the previous occasion. Each article was
carried out, and the convict already mentioned searched every corner.
At last, in one of the mangers he discovered a rent, and on trying the
board it shifted in his hand. He next attempted to take it out, which
he accomplished without very great difficulty. Beneath, there seemed a
cellar or vault. No one of the party would venture down, as the candle
seemed inclined to go out. At last the officer discovered that the
depth was not more than six feet; and he laughed at the convict, and
said he would not get the reward unless he discovered the still. The
reward incited the fellow to renewed exertion: and without another word
he leaped into the den. He found the candle burned below, and he was at
once followed by the officer and the other constable.
The apartment was about eight feet by six, and contained a still,
with all the necessary appurtenances for distilling: there were also
two kegs filled with whiskey, and about twenty bushels of malt. There
was no person in the distillery, and the operation seemed to have been
left off in haste. The officer was happy at the idea of pocketing his
half of the penalty, and the convict was glad that he had earned his
five pounds. Each of them tried the spirit, and pronounced it
"It is run down partly from molasses," remarked the convict.
"You know the way to make it, I suppose?" observed his
"Yes I do; many a good gallon of spirits I have made."
The spirits were seized, and the usual mark having been placed upon
the casks, the whole party left. Arabin went and had Willis undressed
and put to bed, where he continued insensible for some time, and then,
mounting his horse, rode to the out--station to procure assistance. It
was becoming evident to him that the proper course was to confine him.
He had apparently no relations in the Colony, and it was a difficult
and delicate thing to place him under restraint and put his property
into the hands of mercenary individuals. He resolved, however, to take
the advice of one or two gentlemen, and if they should approve of the
measure, to have a commission de lunatico inquirendo, as to the sanity
of the belligerent settler.
He found two shepherds on the out-station, who accompanied him with
a very bad grace to the house. Willis still remained in a stupor, but
he occasionally started and opened his eyes; he appeared writhing with
pain, for a few minutes conscious, and then he went off as before. Dr.
Arabin gave the shepherds strict charge to watch him attentively until
He now remounted his horse, and rode off in the direction in which
Mr. Butler's house was situated. The grey dawn was usurping the place
of the darkness, and every object had a singular aspect viewed in the
twilight. He had a very correct knowledge of the spot from the bearings
of the different mountains, and yet it was not without some difficulty
and several hours' unnecessary delay that he reached it.
The settler had only been home about four hours, and was fatigued.
It was, of course, unpleasant to start upon another journey, and he
grumbled at first, but at last consented. Arabin joined the family at
the breakfast-table; and did excellent justice to the fare which was
placed before him. He conversed for some time upon the proper course to
pursue with regard to the lunatic, and the settler agreed with his
views, and advised him to apply to the Coroner, or the Police
Magistrate, and have a commission issued as soon as possible. The
difficulty, however, was this:--who should make the application? what
business had they with his affairs, which did not concern them? On the
other side, it was evidently a matter not to be neglected. Mr. Willis
would do himself, or some other person, serious injury unless instantly
confined: this reason prevented them from abandoning the idea.
CHAPTER XIII. A GENERAL RECORD.
ON the following day a summons was sent to Willis's station,
requiring that person to answer an information filed by the Inspector
of Distilleries, according to a certain section of a certain act, on
which he was charged with having twenty gallons of illicit spirits on
his premises. As Arabin had not returned, and as the lunatic seemed in
a convalescent state, the officer prevailed upon him to start for town.
The strangers present did not oppose this, but, on the contrary, sent a
letter by the officers of the law to warn Dr. Arabin of the
He was out of town that evening, and did not reach home until the
succeeding morning: before he opened the letter it was too late to
afford assistance, and he walked to the Police Office just in time to
hear the case called on. The Office was crowded with settlers, for
Willis had long been a favourite amongst them; and the long-talked-of
mystery was now cleared up, for it was evident that Willis had been
able to live in good style for a length of time by means of the illicit
traffic which he had thus carried on.
The case had just been called on, and the magistrates were examining
the act on which the information was laid. The Inspector of
Distilleries came forward: the information was read; it contained no
fewer than eight counts, but the first count was the one selected upon
which to take the evidence. It appeared that the magistrates had no
favour for the pert official; the Bench inquired his name, and he
replied, "Francis Augustus----, Esquire." "Esquire!" said the clerk
with a sneer; "where of?" "Where of?" demanded the Bench. "Why,"
replied the officer with the utmost sang-froid, "of nowhere in
particular." This reply excited the mirth of the bystanders, and the
Inspector turned sharp round and glanced magnificently upon the
assembled throng. The worthies on the bench, who indeed seemed about as
fit to act as bishops as magistrates, thought this display of feeling
as infra dig. and ordered silence; this created another laugh, and the
magistrates looked tenfold more fierce than before.
The case was now proceeded with, and as there seemed no question of
the guilt of the party implicated, he was fined in the full penalty of
one hundred pounds, or in default to twelve months' imprisonment. Dr.
Arabin came forward and explained, that as he was the medical attendant
of the defendant, he considered it his duty to mention that he was not
in a sound state of mind. The Inspector of Distilleries here
interfered, and suggested that it was of no consequence, that the act
did not regard the state of mind in which the defendant on a summons
for illicit distillation might be; and the Bench, after a long
conversation, agreed with him.
The Court looked for the defendant, but he was nowhere to be found.
At the moment when the Court was attending to Arabin's communication,
he had disappeared. He was under no restraint; and the Bench thought it
was very probable he had gone to try and raise the money.
Arabin left the Police Office, and walked home rather sharply. It
was possible the lunatic might have wandered thitherward; he glanced
around the streets as he passed along, but there was no person of his
appearance to be met with: on his arrival he was disappointed to find
that he had not been there. He was about to depart again, when he
observed Captain Thomson approaching. This was a welcome arrival, and
he was immediately put in possession of what had occurred, and his
"Poor fellow!" he said, "I was aware many months ago that he had the
concealed still, but, of course, never informed one human being of the
fact. I liked him, although he was a madcap, and am really sorry for
"Then, where do you think he may be found?" inquired Arabin.
"It is almost impossible to tell. He may have gone home, or up the
country with some erratic tribe of blacks; or he may have proceeded to
some of his old haunts. If he is on his way home, we might overtake him
on the plains."
"An excellent thought!" replied Arabin. "We will set out, the moment
my horse is ready. We must keep a respectable distance, however, for I
nearly met a violent death at his hands."
"He is particularly violent when in his mad fits," said Captain
Thomson. "Indeed, for some time, not one of the servants, with the
exception of the black boy Mango, would approach the house where he
resided. I believe he commonly paraded the house with loaded fire-arms
the livelong night, and threatened to shoot any person who dared to
"I wonder, then," continued Arabin, "that he was not put under the
charge of proper keepers a long time ago."
"He had no friends," said Captain Thomson; "and no person would
interfere. What surprises me most is, that none of his servants
informed upon him before. But when pretty well, he was very kind and
generous, and always allowed them to have their own way, and I suppose
he was too good a master to ruin."
Dr. Arabin now mounted his horse, and the two rode off towards the
plains. They took a wide circuit and looked carefully for the wanderer,
but no trace of him could they discover. They returned to town and
looked everywhere for him, but the search was of no avail. He had
escaped to some hiding-place which they were unable to discover.
Captain Thomson had come into town to settle the bargain with
Arabin, because he was very anxious to depart, and business withdrew
their attention for a time from the poor sufferer. It was not difficult
to make a final arrangement with Captain Thomson; he was usually a hard
person to deal with, but upon this occasion every moment was precious,
which forced him to be generous. Arabin purchased his stock, with the
exception of the few maiden ewes he had reserved for himself. The money
was paid, and all that now remained was to take possession. The
following day was spent in vain endeavours to discover the retreat of
Mr. Willis; but upon the next they both started at daylight for the
In another week Arabin was fairly established in his new possession.
The squatters of Australia now had him amongst their number. Who has
not heard of these strange beings endenizened in the wilderness, and
who live so solitary a life? Arabin was not disgusted now with the
trade of a settler; it had attractions of which he had not dreamed; his
flocks pleased him. He did not, however, throw up his own profession,
but still continued to practise in town, while the station remained
under the charge of an overseer. Every week the owner found time to
visit it, and see how things were going on; indeed, he was very much
surprised at the turn which his feelings had taken, and at the interest
which he began to feel in the affairs of the station when he found it
would pay. We are not aware that any stock in the Colony is equal to
sheep. They have been a fortune to those who have contrived to keep
them free from disease. When wool was as low as 1s. a pound in the
English market, sheep were a fortune; the wool paid more than the
expenses, and the increase was profit. When wool advanced to 1s. 6d. a
pound, settlers were accumulating very fast; and they are accumulating
now at the present moment. The boiling-down of stock for tallow
established a minimum price of 5s. 6d. a-head for sheep, and £2
for cattle, below which they never can remain for any length of time.
This has made stock in Australia always worth a certain amount, and
always saleable at a price.
CHAPTER XIV. A CHAPTER ON LOVE.
LOVE is an old threadbare subject in print; but it is ever present,
ever fresh, ever beautiful in real life. It in fact forms a part of the
vast unfathomable depths of poetry. Poetry, who can afford a legitimate
definition of what it means? Poetry itself is old in books, but ever
varied, ever new, ever present in the world. Some have regarded poetry
as an idle art; many men have written books of rhyme, who might have
been better engaged in acquiring useful knowledge; yet that cannot be
urged against poetry which is genuine, and often devotional feeling.
The intense reverence which the uneducated peasant feels for his Maker
is poetry of the most beautiful description. "The ladder which Jacob
saw in his dream" says Richard Howitt in a letter published in the Port
Phillip Gazette, "was poetry," and indeed he might have added that the
whole of the Bible records sparkle with the most sublime, the most
brilliant poetical effusions. Milton copied but from the Bible, and he
has been placed in the temple of Apollo first--no mean honour. We find,
then, that poetry and love are human feelings, and that wherever human
beings are they will love.
It is true that love is a more ardent, potent, refined, and hallowed
feeling among the highly civilised and the educated than among the
vulgar or semi-barbarous. Poetry sheds an illusory colouring over the
loved one; happiness is present only where that one is; we cannot trace
the feeling any farther than to poetry, for all genuine feeling is
poetry. Have any of our readers--our young readers--at any time dreamed
of some one they loved, and enjoyed a pleasure such as the dull world,
with all its learning, grandeur, and pleasures, cannot grant? Richard
Howitt has named this feeling in "Sleep's Phantasy." He says--
"I had a deep and pleasant sleep, And such a dream of joy I dreamt;
If I such mood awake could keep, My life would be from care exempt, And
this dull world of dreary hours."
"We introduce a chapter on love with this apology. However
diffident, we must proceed with our history."
"What signifies the life of man, An' 'twere na for the lasses,
So writes Burns, a natural poet, and a person who possessed
considerable literary attainments; and we ask the young reader, what
would be the use of writing a biography unless a true account be given
of the loves of the person we are endeavouring to crown with
immortality? Without this, it would be but a dry record; when it is
found, the dry bones are reanimated; it is like the comparison of
Shelley's lovely woman---
"There was a lady beautiful as morning.
Sitting beneath rocks upon the sand
Of the waste sea--fair as one flower adorning
An icy wilderness."
The many journeys which Arabin had to perform from town to his
station were very convenient for cementing the friendship accidentally
formed with Mr. Butler and his family. When he was upon his own
station, he was dull, with not a creature to speak to. He had often
tried to devote the evenings to study, but he could not bring his mind
into the proper frame out of his own little parlour where he was
accustomed to read and write. He could not smoke or drink, and he would
soon have become half insane but for the kind neighbours. He often
tried to spend the evening with them; and indeed he began insensibly to
be unhappy every hour in the day when absent. Time stole on, and his
visits were more frequent. At last he was unable to disguise the truth
even from himself--he was in love.
We have already mentioned the young lady, but done scanty justice to
her merits. We shall not even attempt to enter into their detail. For
some time after she was introduced to the "Bushranger"--for our readers
must remember that he was introduced to her as a professional of that
character--she did not look upon him in the light of a lover, but
For quickly comes such knowledge, that his heart
Was darken'd with her shadow."
And she did not discover this with indifference. We must tell the
truth, that she had already a sincere regard for him, and at every
visit she found out new beauties in his mind. As his character had
never been tainted with the breath of slander, her sister and her
sister's husband favoured him. Everything went forward prosperously,
and Arabin had so far changed his opinion that he now said he should be
well contented to remain in Australia during the remainder of his
existence, if--he did not finish the sentence, and we can only guess at
We must bring this chapter to a conclusion. We beg to give the
history of Arabin's first love as he recited it one evening, when alone
with Mr. Butler, in his most humorous style.
"The first person I fell in love with was the sister of the wife of
an old friend; rather singular, by-the-bye. She was an old, young lady,
with all the prim airs of a fine woman, which took with me most
astonishingly; in the same manner that Miss Cecilia Stubbs captivated
the heir of Waverley Honor, did the superannuated beauty cast her
spells over me. I can remember to this hour her well-worn black silk
dress and dingy straw bonnet, and how she paraded in an old cap adorned
with blue ribands in the drawing-room. I was mad with love. It is of
little purpose to add whether the belle returned the passion; I believe
she did at first, because I bad been misrepresented as a rich young
doctor and a great catch. She sighed, and returned my amorous looks. I
wrote her amorous songs, after the fashion of Barry Cornwall's pieces
of poetry: one compared her to the flower of Arabia, which flattered
her exceedingly. At last my passion could no longer be controlled; I
tried once or twice to speak it, but I could only think it, for my face
grew pale and the words died on my lips. At last I was unable to eat or
live, and I determined to write my sentiments, being unable to screw my
courage to the sticking-point. The letter I still have; I retained it
as a literary curiosity--in its way it most decidedly is one. I have it
in my pocket; I shall read it--let it speak for itself.
'As I have often wished to speak to you on a subject nearest my
heart, but not having the power, I write you this line. I love you, and
if you like to cast in your lot with me, I have no doubt we shall be
happy for life. I have little but my profession and an unimpeached
character, but think there is little doubt we shall be happy in our
little way. Please give me an answer as soon as convenient, and we will
talk over our little arrangements. If you should not incline to my
suit, please return me this note.
'I am, Madam.
'Yours for ever and ever.
"Well, my lady-love read this letter, and went to her sister. That
worthy lady came as a delegate from her to me, and expressed her
general approval of the match, and cross-examined me about the means I
had to support her when we were married. I seemed to take this in good
part; I however would not reply then, but gave her an evasive answer. I
promised to make a full explanation of the money I had, and my future
prospects, after, and the matter stood over. They waited patiently for
a week or two, but I was silent, for, in truth, I had become sick of
them; my lady-love became suspicious, and, to be beforehand with me,
returned my note and declined my offer--the offer she had conditionally
accepted before. How it must have stuck in her throat! I took a curious
mode to revenge myself. I called once, and only once, again, and made
them believe I had just received my uncle's fortune, who was in India,
and very rich. I left them bursting with jealousy, which they vainly
endeavoured to conceal under an air of indifference. I was young then,
and had but little experience of the world: I have to thank my lucky
stars that I escaped the worst at that time. I think many have been
ruined by marrying when very young. There is a noble ambition in the
young, which wears down after marriage; although it is impossible to
dispute that it is an honourable state. I should not allow any child of
mine, with brilliant abilities, either to marry or go into the
Colonies. There is much of enthusiasm in genius which should be
fostered, and marriage injures the poetic fire, which ought to be
studiously preserved, because there is frequently only a shade of
difference between a genius and an enthusiast."
CHAPTER XV. A COLONIAL INN.
THERE is not perhaps a class of individuals who have accumulated
more money than the tavern-keepers of the Eastern Colonies. The large
hotels have frequently been the means by which fortunes might be
accumulated. The inferior order of taverns have ever been profitable.
The wild riots which daily occur in the taps of these houses would
disgust in detail, and, in fact, are a disgrace to the Colony. The
country inns are conducted upon a different principle: every article
has acquired a fictitious value within their precincts. The landlords
are in fact monopolists; they know too well that you require their
accommodation, and that you are at their mercy--but mercy they have
none. There is no competition in the Bush. Many hardy travellers make
the vault of heaven a karavanserai, and sleep in a blanket, or in a
hollow tree, rather than incur such extravagant expenses; but the
majority have a salutary dread of cold and rheumatism, inciting them to
occupy a comfortable shelter. The most profitable part of their trade
is supplying the wants of the settlers' servants, who frequently
adjourn to a Bush tavern to spend their wages. This class are more
independent, and far more extravagant, than their masters. At times
they become unmanageable, and as no police are near, they insult every
person they can see.
We have to introduce our readers into the bar of one of these houses
of public entertainment. The landlord, however, was not by any means a
good specimen of Bush publicans. He had just bought the house, and
started in the trade, attracted by the great profits realised. He was a
respectable man, with a quiet, handsome wife; and the pair appeared
about as comfortable in their new calling, as a dissenting clergyman in
a theatre. The coarse language used by the ruffianly barbarous Bushmen
sent the blood of the hostess almost cold; while the landlord was
almost as much shocked, and quite unable to exert his authority and
maintain order. The two bemoaned the unlucky fate that had sent them to
a line of business for which they were unfit. These severe remarks
refer to the low roamers about the Bush.
It was drawing towards night, and the tap-room was filled with
bullock-drivers, and the usual classes of Bush travellers. A young man
entered of more respectable appearance; although his clothes were torn
and soiled. A straw hat, worn in the Bush by almost every person, was
drawn down over his brow, and the collar of his coat was fastened
around his throat to protect him from the cold, so that his features
were almost concealed. He seated himself at some distance from the
others, and ordering a glass of brandy, for which he threw down
half-a-crown, tasted it, and sat a silent spectator of the scene.
About half-a-dozen men were very agreeably employed in making an
aborigine tipsy, and in disputing amongst themselves. The savage
evinced the partiality to exciting liquor which has ever been the
character of all uncivilised men. He was slim, yet an active-looking
fellow; his eye was wild and rambling, his gait upright, and his step
proud and easy. He was dressed in an old cast-off coat and straw hat,
but he did not use trousers. His companions talked to him in a kind of
broken English mixed with the native words; and to make themselves
intelligible, they had recourse very often to motioning with the hand.
It would be almost impossible to make sense of this conversation, from
the unsteady countenances and wavering eyes, as well as from the loud
husky voices, of every one of them; it seemed certain that they must
have been there the greater part of the afternoon. They were becoming
very quarrelsome, and the black fellow, too, was in a state of no
ordinary excitement. The entrance of the young man as already described
was observed only by the black man, who was looking towards the door,
at the moment, (where his lubra was seated, huddled up in her
sheep--skin rug,) and caught his eye. He looked once or twice towards
him, and at length walked up with the freedom of a savage, and stared
him full in the face. The stranger looked at him, and the black laughed
with great satisfaction, and said in tolerably good English.
"Ah ha, Mr. Willis! me not seen you plenty long time."
"Well, Dermott," replied the other, "how are you? where you quambie
"Me quambie here, small bit--plenty corroborie," replied the
"You got many black fellows at your corroborie?" inquired the
"Not many black fellows. Plenty hungry now,--him belly's plenty
"You not steal sheep?"
"Wah! Plenty kill black fellow. One black fellow kill sheep, white
fellow plenty take him, and him plenty killed. How you been long, long
time? Me not seen you."
"Me been very well. How you been? How you lubra and
"Them quite well. You know them white fellows?" (pointing with his
finger towards those who had been treating him.) "Plenty big rogues
His former companions now found he had gone, and they called him
back, rather abruptly. At first he seemed very much inclined to treat
them with contempt; but his prudence prevailed, and he walked back
towards them. They did not seem inclined to pardon the affront he had
put upon their party, and began to abuse him. Dermott, however, was
able to give them word for word, and cursed and roared with the best of
them. The landlord appeared very much shocked at the riot, and looked
in the most deploring manner at the party; but it is needless to say,
that his looks were never even thought of by these ruffians. At length
they attempted to turn Dermott out, but were kept at bay by the waddie
which he held in his hand, and which was too deadly a weapon to
encounter, especially in the experienced hands of Dermott. At last
Dermott whispered to the stranger, and, after exchanging a few more
angry words with the Bushmen, he joined his lubra at the door and
The Bushmen soon after had a quarrel with the quiet landlord. They
had expended their money--they were as drunk as possible--and the
landlord, under these circumstances, considered it high time that they
should be moving. Not one of them, however, agreed with him, and they
evinced no inclination to start, but, on the contrary, seemed
determined to remain. They were also resolved to have more drink,
notwithstanding the reiterated replies of the landlord that he never
gave credit. The inevitable consequence of this difference in opinion
was a quarrel. One of the most insolent put his fingers into the
inkstand and drew them suddenly across the face of the publican, when
the whole party set up a shout of satisfaction. The publican bore the
insult with more patience than could have been expected; he turned very
pale, and asked the person to leave the house. He retaliated by placing
himself in a fencing attitude, and taunted the landlord, if he were a
man, to come forward and box with him. To this challenge the landlord
would not reply, and his antagonist informed him he was not game to
attack him. Many similar hostile demonstrations were made without the
least effect, for fight the landlord would not, as he thought, with
General Cope, that "it was best to sleep in a whole skin."
We may remark, that the landlord was peculiar in this respect; for
the majority of hosts are what is termed flash or sporting characters,
and prize-fighters by profession. So far from not fighting, a Colonial
landlord would have kicked the fellow out at the door upon the least
hostile demonstration. An old "hand," however, would have known their
manners too well, and would have joked and tasted with them, or even
perhaps gone the length of singing a song; and when their money was all
gone, would have flattered them off the premises. Such characters are
fit for their business; but to a person possessing the slightest
delicacy of feeling, the attempt to make money by grog-dealing would be
It was well for the landlord that the attention of his adversaries
was attracted by internal quarrels. The most violent was for taking the
bar by storm, as the landlord was not able to defend it; one of his
companions objected to this, which he designated as "breach of
promise," his doctrine being "that every cove as sold liquor should be
The other person remarked that "he was no magistrate, and need not
cheek up so precious fast."
"How do you know I am not a Colonial 'Justass of the East?'--my
brother is one in England, and who knows but the Governor may make me a
"Ah, you are coming too--clever, now; but you know I remember you
working in a chain gang, and I have heard that you were lagged for
stealing ten--pennorth of hay."
"It is a lie!" screamed the insulted convict; "I was lagged by the
Duke of Wellington for being one of Napoleon Bonaparte's generals. I am
a gentleman, you snotty beggar, and don't care that for you!" snapping
his fingers at the same instant.
"You are cramming us," replied the other. "I know you were lagged
for stealing ten-pennorth of hay; don't you mind you told us in the
Kangaroo Inn, once when you were drunk, that you was lagged for
stealing the hay, and that your wife who comed to see you in gaol used
to say, as the coves with the big wigs could not lag you, as they could
not stand to it---don't you mind now, and what's the use of stringing
so precious fast about Wellington and Bonaparte?"
The man was apparently unable to answer this question, for he had
recourse to blows, and putting himself in a fencing attitude, hit his
opponent a sharp smack on the face. He was upon him in an instant and
the two closed and worried each other like two bull-dogs. After
exercising themselves in this manner for some time, they got tired, and
again had recourse to a war of words, which continued for a quarter of
an hour. At length, finding it impossible to extort drink from the
landlord, they shuffled off, but not before they had each abused the
man in power in their best style. Just at the moment they made their
exit, another party entered. One was a bullock-driver; the next was a
little man, who seemed a hut-keeper or shepherd; while their companion
was evidently of superior education, although it seemed more than
probable that his necessities had compelled him to accept some such
menial occupation. It appeared that the stranger already mentioned had
no intention of making their acquaintance, for he drew his hat lower
over his face, and turned round to escape observation. The person last
mentioned now smiled upon the landlord, and addressing him by the
quaint title of "my learned friend," ordered three noblers of rum.
The liquor had a perceptible effect in opening the heart of this
worthy triumvirate, if we can be allowed the expression, and their
tongues soon were heard.
"I say, Porcupine," commenced the person who had been standing
treat, "how have you been getting on this eternal long time?"
"Aisy like," replied the bullock-driver. "You know that my old
master went out of his mind, and I had to look for another situation.
He was a good cove to serve, was that old Willis, although a bit cranky
"What!" exclaimed the other, with excellent feigned astonishment,
"and is old Willis gone wrong in his mind? I was the most intimate
friend he had. Many a good bottle have we cracked. Poor old fellow, I
am sorry for him. Where is he?"
The solitary stranger gave his shoulders a shrug, and changed his
"Ay, that's it," said the bullock-driver; "where is he? I wish I
knew where he was, for he was a good master."
"Well, I must tell you all the story. You see, he was quick; he
would have the year's clip of wool spent long before it had grown on
the backs of the sheep, and as he was wild he soon became short of
money, and took to making whiskey. Not a creature knew of this but me
and Mango the black man, and many a fine keg I have carried in. We used
to pack it in rice bags, and leave it at an old canting, cheating
grocer's in the town. Maister began to be bad and made strange kick-up;
but we liked him, and never informed mortal of what was going on. I
forgot to say, that the cove wanted a gal as lives with Mr. Butler, but
who was frightened of his going insenti, as the doctors calls it, and
killing her before she could have him sent to a asylum. This put him
wrong, and then everything went wrong: the grocer was discovered, and
he imposed the cove; the Expector of Distilleries came out and took the
still away, and master too, who was clean mad, and had just before
nearly killed Dr. Arabin, and Mango the black man. He was had before
the Bench, and was to be put in chokey; the cove ran for it, and has
never since been heard of."
"Has no accounts of him arrived?" inquired the young man.
"Some," replied the bullock-driver, "say that he has left the
Colony, and some say he is residing with the blacks and turned chief,
and some that he is a Bushranger. I wish him well, for he was a good
master, and liked me for his bullock-driver."
"And how were you turned away from the station?" inquired the
"The cove called Harobin and old Butler were put to manage it--and
they are a pair of low blackguards. They said I was too long on the
station, and paid me off. The scamp Harobin is to be married in a few
days to the young lady that the cove was arter."
"You don't say that!" remarked the young man, who, by his own
account, was such an intimate friend of Mr. Willis the settler.
"I do, indeed" replied the bullock-driver. "They turned me away, and
I would go up to my knees in blood to see them disappointed: that
Harobin is a snotty, broken-down swell, who has got as many fine ways
with him as a stage-playactoring missus."
"Then, what are you going to do?" inquired the other.
"Me and this other person," replied the passionate bullock-driver,
"are to start a consarn in the wood line, you see, as wood is in
request about the towns, and we only wants a chay and bullocks to start
in the trade. We have money enough to start a chay, and we are looking
"And do you expect to get them?" inquired the young man.
"No," replied the bullock-driver; "but we may find some in the
"Take care, though," said the other, "that the police do not find
out your place."
"Oh, never mind, we will risk that," replied the worthy
bullock-fancier; "I wish my old master was alive now, and I should not
want bullocks. I hear there is great writins come, and talk that he is
to be a nobleman; and yil see, I should like to meet the cove; and,
mayhap, if he wos a-comin it very strong, the gal might not have the
snobby swell after all. I a'heard on it in town, that the postmaster
had a letter to him from the King of Hingland. The cove would not give
it up to any person but himself."
In such conversation the time passed; the bullock--driver stood
treat, and then the companion of his adventure, and, by all accounts,
his co-partner in the wood speculation--who was a little miserable
creature, in an old jacket and trousers, and a straw hat with enormous
rim--insisted upon giving them another ball of rum. They were becoming
as troublesome as the former party, and to every appearance a similar
scene would be enacted when the money was all spent.
We must, however, leave them, and follow the stranger so often
mentioned, who, as the reader will have understood from the expressions
of the black, already introduced as Dermott, was in fact Willis
His eye had turned several times wistfully towards the glass of
brandy which remained untasted: he reflected,--"What a singular power
lies concealed in that cursed liquor! I feel well now--quite well, but
were I to drink this glass, the mind would stagger and I could not end
with it. Another would follow, and then another, until I should be
worse than these poor ignorant fellows. They have not got that inward
gnawing which high mental power and education always bring. The
gifted--those who have genius and greatness combined, are often more to
be pitied than the clods who have no existence but in the gratification
of their animal passions--for those persons whom I have noticed here
this night have no mental appetite to gratify or surfeit. When they are
tipsy, they fight or sing, and drink on till stupified. I, again,
belong to that class, the members of which 'do become old in their
youth, and die ere middle age.' At this moment I am well; but were I to
renew the course I had at one time been following, I should again be
mad. How inviting it looks! I would try the one tumbler, but for the
state of excitement into which it might plunge me."
He had sat reflecting, during the time that the bullock--driver was
relating his misfortunes, without betraying emotion; he was not angry
with Arabin or his intended, then; he was calm; he did not say
anything; he did not think much about what he had heard until the man
who had formerly been his servant stated that the postmaster had news
for him of the utmost importance; then he certainly did look a little
anxious; his eye rested on the glass again, his hand itched to seize
it, and his throat was parched with a burning thirst. He was upon this
occasion the conqueror, for he rose and walked out of the room. Had not
the old bullock-driver been tipsy, he would have recognised him; but
his senses were blunted by the effects of the liquor. The other young
man who had been upon such intimate terms with the drover he did not
know, and he appeared to have no knowledge of Willis. He was safe with
He walked sharply along the road when he had once fairly escaped
from the inn; he was thankful that he had overcome the temptation of
drink, yet the cold air and the desolation of darkness had a singular
impression on his mind. He found his heart sink, and gloomy clouds of
melancholy depressed his spirits. In such moments the heart pants for
home, for the home where something that is dear is to be found. But he
had no home to flee to: he was disheartened, without that beacon light
to indicate the fatal reefs of Despondency, and the calm waters of
Resignation Bay, just beyond Point Hope: all before him was stormy
waters, with reefs and breakers on every side. To how many have the
lines which our great poet Shakspeare has put into the mouth of Hamlet
come home when labouring under the same malady!---
"To be, or not to be? that is the question:---
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind, to suffer
The stings and arrows of outrageous fortune;
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles.
And, by opposing, end them?"
The hearts of the great and gifted have often breathed similar
sentiments. We wonder if the majestic Bonaparte ever found his heart
sink when chained to that lonely rock of the ocean on which he ended
his days. How glorious the early career of this great general!--how sad
to reflect that it was afterwards sullied by cruelty and bloodshed, and
the most appalling crimes! Did he ever, we wonder, in the wane of his
fortunes, think of these lines?--did his heart not speak their truth?
It is a melancholy thing to see a portion of the English press lauding
the late Emperor of France. As a tyrant, he deserved a worse treatment
than he received.
To return to Willis. He felt the sting without knowing the antidote.
If he knew it, he was too proud and too hardened to apply it: he bore
the withering chill without a murmur. He once indeed appeared to
contemplate re-entering the temple of intoxication; but his anxiety to
discover the extent to which the bullock--driver had spoken truth,
incited him to proceed.
It was a raw, cold night, for the winter season is frequently
excessively severe in Australia: the wind howled dismally among the
high trees; their branches creaked and moaned like the furies of the
tempest; and still the poor solitary pushed forward. The night wore on,
and the rain increased to a storm; he was unable to cope with it
longer, and crouched into the shelter which a hollow tree afforded,
listening to the mournful howling of the blast, which lulled and
returned with fitful starts. At length, having turned his face in a
contrary direction, his eye met a red glare of light, the reflection of
a huge fire at some distance in the Bush. He was not confident about
venturing towards it: if it should prove a black camp, he would ask
shelter; but if whites were around the fire, which was far from
unlikely, he determined to pass on and not solicit their hospitality.
He started up and bent his steps in the direction where the light
burned. When within a short distance, he stooped down and reconnoitred.
The miamis were visible, and Willis, who knew their ways, gave a loud
co-oie. This signal aroused a storm of howling from the bands of lean,
lanky brutes of dogs which swarm about the black camps. The blacks were
asleep, exhausted with the corroborie which they had just finished, but
many started up when the noise was audible. He now walked up, and was
well received by his old friend Dermott, who appeared in some authority
amongst them. There was nothing for him to eat: he had the shelter of a
miami, which is formed by placing an upright stick in the ground, with
a forked end up, near to a tree; another plank, or rather thick branch,
is placed in this, with the other end fastened into the tree; against
this are placed bark and branches of trees to protect the blacks from
the inclemency of the weather; and they sleep with their feet spread
out towards the large fires.
Willis slept a short time, and spent the night far more comfortable
than he had expected. In the morning he thanked Dermott for his
hospitality, and then departed for town.
It is singular how much good there exists in the mental composition
of persons outwardly abandoned. Behold the squalid prostitute, lurid
with debauchery, and in her drunken revel breathing blasphemous and
indecent language, and allow that human nature never could descend
beyond this phase of crime; that the once noble and beautiful, the warm
and interesting, the gay and lively, has changed into the bold,
polluted, guilty, indecent thing which humanity shudders to
contemplate;--in a word, the thing of life and soul is changed into a
loathsome corpse. Now look on another picture, and blame not too
rashly. That same woman was once the belle of the circle in which she
moved, and loved by all for her humble accomplishments. She attended
her father with untiring assiduity in his last illness; she was poor,
but struggled against poverty and neglect. Her beauty attracted
admirers. She loved; her fine feelings and ignorance of the world
induced her to listen to the picture of felicity which the deceiver
painted, and she was ruined. For this she was repaid with scorn,
contempt, and neglect. She was spurned by her own sex, and her
self-respect was gone for ever. She wept tears of blood; then she was
eagerly seized upon by the vile and abandoned of her own sex, and
soothed her misery in forgetfulness. Lower and lower she descended
through the frightful abyss, and now she has become the dregs, the
offal of humanity, without a spark of feeling or a blush of shame. And
was she altogether to blame? No; it was society, which ejected her from
its bosom upon the first fault appearing, which is to blame, after the
spoiler had crushed the blooming flower. Yet how many days has she
pined after her lost fame, and sobbed at the thought of former times
and virtuous friends! But she had lost her equilibrium, and could not
recover. She was in the position of one hurled from a high pinnacle and
east into a deep chasm. It is to be regretted that so much licentious
literature has emanated from the English Press for some years back,
which has had the most pernicious effect upon the minds of the romantic
and sensitive. We hope that it will recover its tone, and that the
literature of the age may be distinguished alike for intellectual power
and moral beauty.
In Willis's mind there was strangely blended many great, noble, and
poetic feelings, with debauched habits and licentious sentiments. At
times he was passionately fond of reading; he would study the history
of Hannibal, the great Carthagenian general, and weep tears of joy over
his brilliant career and the greatness of his genius; he would feel for
his reverses in later life as strongly as if he were his dear friend,
and yet the very next day would drown his melancholy in drunken revels,
and make himself more stupid than the beasts of the field, or bring on
insanity. He could not live without excitement.
The morning on which he left the blacks was very beautiful; for in
Australia, as has already been noticed, this is no uncommon event after
a stormy night, when the tempest has vented its fury. The sun burst out
encircled with a cloud of glory, brightening glade, and dale, and
plain; the grass, the trees, the flowers were fresh and brilliant with
dew-drops, which sparkled in the sunshine like diamonds or pearls; and
Willis was alive to this beauty as he sauntered along the Bush. Even in
the wilds of Australia the Spirit of Beauty unfolds herself to the
lover of nature, and breathes a freshness, a light over all creation.
She is present in the utter stillness of the sleeping forest, and in
the magnificent lustre the summer sun throws over its dusky ranges.
--"as he chequers the forest dun
Into light and shade"
in the still, smooth-flowing river edged by the most luxurious
display of forest beauty--in her vaulted skies which are heavenly and
more beautiful than those of Italy--in her solitary and inaccessible
mountain ranges--in her wild flowers of the brightest hues opening
their petals in tenderness, but
"--born to blush unseen.
And waste their sweetness on the desert air."
Nay, there is poetry in the vast weary plains from their utter
desolation; the traveller is like the last man--neither life nor living
thing meets his eye. But although there is much of the grand and
beautiful in nature to be found, man has subdued and overcome it. The
Colonies are the regions of stern reality; romance in the Colonies
would not be tolerated; plain matter--of-fact is what the majority look
to--something about the squatting interest, about sheep or cattle, or
money, is their summum bonum. Wealth is very well, but it is not to be
compared with mental culture, and it is our earnest desire that the
taste of the public mind in the Colonies should refine and improve. The
Press might do much towards this, and a decided improvement has
certainly been made manifest during the last years in some of the
Colonies; but a system of slander and vulgar recrimination and
scandal--mongering is still continued in others. The various editors
ought to reflect upon the consequences, and for the sake of society
adopt a better system. We hope they will soon be devoting their
energies towards the cause of literature and science. The Eastern
Colonies are peculiarly situated at the antipodes of Europe, the
mistress of civilisation; in this isolated situation they form, as it
were, a little world within themselves. They have arrived at no
contemptible greatness within the last few years, in consequence of
their own resources. They have prospered against adverse fortunes, and
in spite of distance and neglect. And would it not be a pity that these
fine new countries should descend in the scale of civilisation?--Heaven
To return from this digression. Mr. Willis was pleased with the
beauty of the morning, and wandered onwards through the forest. The
birds warbled sweetly in the trees;--what a relief, what a contrast
from the dismal shadows of night, which chilled him and flightened him!
He walked forward for twenty-five miles, and at last stopped at the
first human habitation he had met with to solicit a drink of tea and a
slice of bread. It was an humble abode, being only an out--station, but
what there was to give was soon brought forth. The poor traveller
partook rather sparingly of even this humble fare, and having recruited
his strength, he again set forward and walked about twenty miles
further. He might have remained at a station during the night, but he
preferred to sleep in the air, although the cold was excessive. In his
present mood, he was averse to mix with men. We take leave of him for
the present at about fifteen miles' distance from the town; he wished
to get within such a distance, that he might reach it before breakfast
on the following morning.
CHAPTER XVI. THE WEDDING MORNING.--AN UNBIDDEN GUEST.
ALL things looked gay and bright in the valley where Mr. Butler's
dwelling-house lay; it was morning, one of the gayest of even
Australian mornings: it was a joyful morning to two beings, for it was
to consummate their happiness. At twelve, the ceremony which would
unite our old friend Dr. Arabin with Miss Martha was to be
Arabin was in town. He was expected to arrive with the clergyman and
one friend at twelve o'clock; at one the clergyman would do the duties
of his office, and at two an early dinner was ordered. If a fine
afternoon, they had agreed to ride into town immediately afterwards;
but if the weather seemed unsettled, the whole party would spend the
night at the station.
We need hardly add, that the bride did not sleep much the night
before, and that she was up early. Before a single soul in the house
had moved, she crept from her bed-chamber, opened the lattice, and
jumped lightly into the little garden. The flowers were more beautiful
than before, and appeared to invite her caresses. She was sad. The
little plants, and the tender flowers she used so often to care for,
were weeping for her loss; the sun was rising, and his warmth revived
them. The dew dropped from their petals, and they laughed again in the
morning lustre. She could not wait here, and she wandered down the
beautiful valley in which the settler's house was situated: the
bell-birds tuned their little throats, and warbled beautifully. Morning
in Australia is more agreeable than any other season of the day, and
the heart of the young lady was sensible of balm which floated on the
glistening dew-bright earth. But thoughts of her own prospects were
first in her heart--the change so long looked forward to, as the door
to future bliss was now nigh at hand, and she loved--yes! even in the
Colonies there has been a case of love. She had never had but two
lovers: one was kind and gentle, and everything she could look for; and
the other was wild and daring, and she could not love him--she would
have been afraid to have loved him, he was so untameable and so like a
madman. Yet she was interested about him, very sad and anxious about
him; she wondered where he could have gone to, and whether her refusal
could have driven his mind wrong and unhinged his fine faculties; and
there was even a tenderness in this feeling, which she would hardly
allow in her own mind. From these thoughts her attention was called to
a rustling at her side; and on looking up, she perceived Willis close
by--the person whom she had been thinking about, the person of all
others whom she least wished to see. She did not lose her presence of
mind; she was not afraid, for what had she to fear? the blush of female
delicacy and purity was in her cheek, and she had a higher opinion of
Willis than to think that he would harm aught so lovely, so pure. He
very soon gave her the opportunity to judge of his intentions. At first
he seemed a little startled; but he advanced boldly, and addressed
"Have you," he said, "a heart as tender as your angelic countenance
would indicate? Look upon one who is the victim of your displeasure,
who wanders about the world hating the light of the day, and say if you
do not compassionate me, and deeply feel for the evil you have wrought.
I have been wandering the country communing but with uneducated
savages, and loathing nourishment. My heart is scorched and blighted,
and you have done all this; do you not pity me?"
"You must not speak this way to a young and unprotected female,"
replied the bride. "This day I am to be married to a most deserving
young man. I have before told you that your suit was vain, and you
ought not to presume so much on my good nature as to surprise me in
"And you are to be married, then!" said Willis rather sharply. "You
have determined at last to cast me on the wide world without hope; and
you are to be married to a canting, whining hypocrite--a ravenous
professional, without honour or honesty!"
"Stop," almost screamed she; "I am a bride, and will not hear a word
against the honour of the man I have resolved to wed."
"Hear me out," replied the settler. "When I crouched at your feet a
poor suppliant, you regarded me as a ruined flock-owner--as a man
involved in endless schemes and mysteries. I humbled myself then,
because I loved you; but you thought you would not be safe with such a
character--that I would neither keep you from the chills and colds of
winter, nor shade you from the sweltering sun of summer. But I can
alter all this. My future prospects you never knew, because I wished to
wed you as an outcast. Now know that my father is, or was rather, a
nobleman; although I am but his youngest son, I can mingle with the
peers of the land. Circumstances gave me a distaste to home; I
quarrelled with my father, and he struck me, when I fled an exile to
these Colonies, where I have lived for years unknown. I saw you, and
loved you; but when in this valley I asked you, you despised
me--perhaps not despised, but slighted my suit. I laughed then in my
agony; I gnashed my teeth to think that I, who might marry with the
noblest and the fairest of Britain's daughters, should have been unable
to win the heart of an unsophisticated maiden in the Bush of Australia.
I never believed in the possibility of such an event; and so deeply, so
bitterly, so poignantly did it sting, that it finished what dissipation
had commenced,--it unsettled my reason. It was a sad event for me. For
many weeks I wandered among the natives, and subsisted upon their
scanty hospitality. Chance drew me into town a few days ago, where I
found that my concealment had been discovered. My brother was dead, and
I was the only son now remaining to succeed to either the titles or the
estates. My wildness has departed; I am calm now: what I may have been
is of little consequence--I am henceforward to redeem my character. I
determined to see you once more before you threw yourself away upon
that wolf in sheep's clothing, to offer you wealth, rank, power,
admiration, love. Do not think I mock you; I have the documents now
with me to prove that my statement is correct. You have but to say the
word, and we shall leave this country and enter upon a new sphere of
action. Whatever may be urged against the character of Willis, the
Australian Bushman, will be forgotten when he is metamorphised into the
great and powerful English Milord."
"I have heard you, Mr. Willis," said the lady; "not that I wished,
but that it was beyond my power to stop you. I do not doubt that all
you say is true, but wealth and rank are worthless in my eyes. For your
good fortune I am glad--I sincerely rejoice that you are to reform your
course of life, and turn towards some nobler course of action; but I
cannot express myself farther. My sentiments towards you are unaltered.
I have promised to marry Arabin, and for weal or woe I will keep my
"I see that you think I have condescended to a trick to gain my
point," replied Willis, "but I assure you solemnly that it is a
mistake. I swear to you that these documents are not fictitious; that,
on the contrary, they are real. Examine them with your own eyes--read
them, and you will find that I am not a villain. I may have been rash
and tricky in some transactions, but am incapable of doing aught mean
"I believe it from my heart," replied the lady; "I really and truly
believe it from my heart."
"You speak earnestly," said the young man; "you seem as if your
heart inclined towards me. Oh! then harden it not. If you decide
against me, I am but a wretched being for life; my honours and riches
are but a mockery."
He seized her hand as he finished, and held it. The tears gushed
from the eyes of the bride. It was a fearful moment; and she had a hard
struggle. She spoke not, but disengaging her hand with dignity, she
said, "I have already answered you, Willis, and it is cruel of you to
ask me farther. Let me depart in peace, or I will call; I am not far
from the house, and it may be worse for you."
"I have no desire to detain you against your wish; but is it thus we
are to part?"
"I cannot, will not, ought not to remain longer; I shall be glad to
see you with my friends, but I ought not to continue any longer alone
with you; therefore I return."
"Then you will not listen to what I have got to say?" the young
"I have given you my answer," she replied, "and must return, for I
ought not to remain longer alone with you."
Once more the rage of the young settler outweighed his love; he
actually foamed with suppressed passion. His horse was concealed in a
thicket close by, and he had half a mind to lay hold of the girl and
ride off with her. His sense of honour and right prevailed. She was a
young, artless girl, and it would be a shame to show her any
disrespect; he would be a villain who could have heart to stain the
unsullied reputation of one so innocent, and the thought was spurned.
Unconscious of her danger, the young woman walked towards the house.
The distance was not very far, not more than half a mile; she did not
increase her pace, because she deemed it unseemly. She had no fear, for
she never considered Willis in his wildest moods capable of doing her
any serious injury. At the same time, it afforded her no ordinary
satisfaction that he did not follow her, and pester her with his
importunities. She felt for him; she regarded him as a relation almost;
but scenes such as she had just trembled under, must in future be
avoided for her own sake, and for her own peace.
She entered the house, and now that she was safe beneath the shelter
of her sister's roof, her forced composure forsook her; she burst into
tears, and surprised her sister, by rushing into her room in a state of
"What is the matter, Martha?" inquired her more matronly sister, in
a tone of mingled kindness and tenderness. "What is the matter, my own
dear sister? Why, this is a bad omen; it is your wedding morning, my
own little Martha--tell me all about it."
"I just walked out there," replied Martha, "and I met Willis."
"Met Willis!" said Mrs. Butler, very much startled. "How, where did
you meet him?"
Martha explained how and where the meeting took place, and what
"Well, now, my dear sister, you must not let your spirits down about
this. Willis was civil, and although I wish the event had not occurred,
yet I am thankful nothing worse happened. I do not like Willis--he is a
very bad young man in some respects, although he is generous, and I
believe kind; but he is a lunatic, or at least he is liable to
periodical fits of insanity, and we never would have allowed you to
marry him. I wonder Butler did not see you, for he has but just gone to
see the sheep counted out and looked after."
"I wish, sister, I had not met him," said the young lady,
"Oh, you must cheer up, as it is your wedding day; forget all about
it, my good girl; it will be a bad thing for any person to see you
crying on the morning of your marriage."
Her sister endeavoured to compose the poor timid girl, and after
some time she succeeded. Mr. Butler now returned, and having heard the
story, commenced firing off his batteries of raillery against the
bride. This had a perceptible effect, and after breakfast was over, she
dressed herself in better spirits than any of them had expected. She
resolved, however, that so long as Willis remained, she would not go
out without protection.
The eager bridegroom and the clergyman were there before the
appointed hour. It was the wish of the young lady and all connected
with her, and the bridegroom had expressed the same opinion, that the
marriage should be solemnised without display. The Bush soon wears down
the desire for finery, as well as for splendour of any kind. A plain
but substantial meal was served up early, almost immediately after the
conclusion of the marriage ceremony, and the party was ready to start
And shall we notice the feelings of either the bride or bridegroom?
A new world had been opened to them. They no longer lived for their own
pleasure, they had another to look to. It was a hard struggle for the
young lady to take leave of her only sister, who had protected and
cherished her, and of the house where so many days had passed
"She look'd on the vine at her father's door.
Like one who is leaving his native shore---
She hung on the myrtle once call'd her own.
* * * * * *
She wept--yet laid her hand awhile
In his, that waited her dawning smile;
She lifted her graceful head at last---
The choking swell of her heart was past."
What need of farther description? She was happy, and likely to be
happy, but naturally loath to throw off the kind feelings which had
chained her to the home where all she loved was. That anchor was now
raised. A home of her own would invite her; the domestic ties of her
wedded life would endear her humble home, wherever it might happen to
They started early in the day, to allow them time on the road; it
was not oppressively hot, and the ride was agreeable. They cantered
across the plains, and at last struck into the road. When about five
miles from town, they came up with two men walking along. It may not be
uninteresting to know that these men were the two persons we took a
hasty leave of in the public-house, when Willis walked away; and who,
our readers may remember, were wandering about in quest of bullocks, to
start a timber-dray. The big man, whose eye was never at ease, detected
the party many miles off, and informed his more stupid companionand
co-partner in the timber speculation, that "he seed a mob o' men
a-comin, and it was a mercy they had nothin that was not their own, or
they would have had to go and look for someweres to plant themselves."
By and by, he could discover them plainly, and he pronounced them as "a
set of snobby swells from the cove's old station. By--! there is a
lady. Oh! I'm a-blessed, but the precious cove's been a-marrying the
gal!--whew!" They soon overtook this worthy couple, and the tall man
gave them a most ferocious scowl as they passed. Had they spoken, he
was determined to insult them; but they rode onwards without taking any
"I think that fellow looked at us in a most impertinent manner,"
remarked the clergyman.
"I know the scamp," said Arabin. "When I was put in charge of
Willis's station, I found that fellow comfortably settled down as
master of the station. He had all the men in a state of mutiny, and I
was compelled to discharge him, very much against my inclination."
"There they go, Jim!" said the bullock-driver, "and may they drown
themselves in the river before they get home! I hate that cove; he
deserves to have his hide well tanned. I wish old Willis would come
back; he was a brick, that feller, with all his temper. You see, when
the fit of passion had blown over, he would let you take your own way.
But this other cove is always civil; and he said to me in the perlitest
way possible, says he, 'You may go, and here is your wages.' Who would
stand that from a stupid man who would not know a fat bullock from a
two-year old steer? I say, Jim, ain't he an hugly one?--he's no treat,
"Don't know--can't say," said Jim. "When shall we have a ball of
"You are always a-thinking about rum," replied the other,
"And what is there else to think about?" inquired the other,
"Why, ain't there bullocks, man?" said the more knowing one; "and
ain't there sheep?"
"That there is," replied the other.
"And ain't there baccy?"
"I wish we could find a lot of bullocks without any brand upon 'em,
or a brand as could be done up; it's a sin as two old-stagers can't
find no bullocks."
"We must be quiet, or we may have a chain-gang again for a treat,"
replied the other.
"Ah, never mind; the best are subject to misfortunes. I have a mind,
as the cove's out, to go back to the old place and bring two bullocks
away at night. I know two as would follow me like dogs."
The two came to a halt and held a council of war on this point. At
length they agreed to proceed towards the old station, and pick up any
stray cattle they might see.
CHAPTER XVII. DESCRIPTIVE AND GENERAL.
WILLIS seemed perfectly recovered. He took possession of his
station, paid off the fine which had been levied upon him, and prepared
to leave the Colony. Although he appeared well in the eyes of the
world, he was not even convalescent. His black servant could have told
strange tales regarding him; for, with a cunning peculiar to those in
his state, he would only keep this person in the house, who was of so
taciturn a disposition, that a bench of judges or a bar of counsellors
would have been fairly at a loss, and unable to extract a single
sentence from him. He had been a long time in his service, and looked
upon his eccentricities as matters of course. With the world Willis
mixed little, and exercised due precaution when compelled to go out.
Could he have made up his mind to live on low diet, and abstain
altogether from ardent spirits, we have every reason to believe that he
would have recovered. Then what was there for a young man like him to
do all alone in the country?--it might be agreeable to those who had
their families with them, but what was he to do? There is something
worth noticing in this. Every emigrant who can land in Australia with
£500, and who is contented to lead the life of a farmer of stock,
ought to bring a wife with him. He is safe in ordinary times, and so
long as sheep are low, in coming out with that sum clear: when sheep
are high, more would be required. The only thing he has to dread is
disease amongst the flocks; and with proper care this, too, might be
To live in town until a vessel was ready to sail, Willis considered
would be worse, because he knew he should very soon fall into his old
habits; thus he continued upon his station.
Dr. Arabin continued in the town. His practice was now extensive,
and although not remunerative, was yet sufficient for his wants. The
station was more profitable than he had expected; and indeed it
appeared evident that Captain Thomson had thrown it away, in his
anxiety to go home and settle up the other person's business. He had
the stock some time, and found when he sent his wool to market that it
fetched, as Captain Thomson had said, the highest price. He saw that in
an ordinary year he could pay his men and have at least a couple of
hundred pounds to himself from the wool, with the capital doubling
every two years, and he was for the first time cheered by the prospect
of plenty and to spare.
The long struggle had ended; he no longer wished to leave the
country and wander about the world. The comfortable had charms for him,
as well as the beautiful and the sentimental. For weal or woe he had
cast his lot among the sheep-farmers and merchants of Australia, and he
must be contented to remain. He had been well repaid for this; for he
had an amiable and accomplished woman, who was not however above work
when necessity demanded exertion. He had a comfortable home--he had all
his real wants satisfied, and if at times he sighed after adventure, or
after literary and civilised Europe, that wish never formed itself into
language, but died away unuttered and almost unnoticed. He had the
comforts and even the luxuries of life; he could procure the latest
works without much trouble, Colonial and Home newspapers, and, in a
word, everything that a country gentleman in England could have got.
Then the climate was the finest perhaps in the world. In the summer
months the heat is oppressive at certain seasons, and when the wind
blows from the north. These hot winds seldom continue beyond a week,
very often not longer than two or three days; for nine months in the
year the weather cannot be equalled. Occasionally a week of rain breaks
it up in winter, but for months upon a stretch the days will be beyond
And his lady, our reader's old acquaintance, and we hope favourite,
Martha Waller, was happier than the majority of her sex: she respected
her husband, and she also respected herself; she was comfortable in
circumstances, and near her sister; she had all her old favourite books
to read, and a little flower-garden to cultivate. At times a sensation
of dread would pervade her delicate frame, as she thought of Willis and
remembered that he was still near her. He was often present in her
mind, always as a dark phantom, such a figure as Salvator Rosa would
have delighted to paint. It was a singular trait in his character, that
he obstinately remained in the Colony. There was no question but that
he was the person he had described himself to Martha on the morning of
her marriage. He appeared at one time eager to be off, but, with an
inconsistency inseparable from a lunatic, he changed his mind and
quarrelled suddenly with the person who was in treaty with him for his
station. He did not attempt to sell it after this; very few knew what
he was about, and for some days he would be invisible even to his own
shepherds. The only person who seemed in his confidence was the Asiatic
servant. Dr. Arabin was peremptorily forbidden, and he had experienced
too good a sample of his hospitality ever to press his services upon
him. Mr. Butler was also disliked by him. Thus his two nearest
neighbours were on bad terms with him, and the others did not care
anything about the matter.
It is an excellent thing for young men to experience misfortunes in
early life. The man who has been so tried acquires both caution and
experience. It is bad for those who have to push forward in life, to
have been reared in the lap of luxury; they seldom make good
adventurers in new Colonies. They fear nothing, and regard nothing: so
long as they have money in their hands to spend, they will spend it;
and when it is gone, they are left to have recourse to mean expedients.
Willis was reared in affluence, and had mixed with the nobles of
England: a family quarrel was the reason of his forced exile, and his
own unfortunate temper, which preyed upon itself and scorched up the
purer affections. It is more than likely, it was a family complaint,
that he had an hereditary taint. The melancholy which preyed upon his
mind obliged him to mix promiscuously with the young settlers of the
wildest class, and squander money in extravagant living. The little he
had was soon gone, and he was now worse off than ever. He was nobody
with the settlers unless he drank and revelled with them, and money
must be had. He had recourse to disgraceful expedients--he carried on
his illegitimate still for years, and kept his pockets filled with
money. It is also strange, that although he was a severe and eccentric
master, yet neither of his servants would betray him. Latterly he
indulged in dissipation at home, and from time to time his mind was
clouded; he could often keep well for weeks, especially when anything
excited him, and with kind and proper treatment he might have been
reformed, and perhaps the seeds of the disease been eradicated.
Providence had willed it otherwise. The shadows of night fell very fast
upon the young man. In a few weeks he would have been lost beyond
redemption; but even this brief career was not afforded him: the short
span of his existence was snapped asunder by an accident which we shall
relate in due time.
Let us now, in contradistinction, look for a single instant at the
character of Arabin. He was of humble parentage, and born to earn his
bread by the sweat of his brow. In his youth he had been severely
tried, and well was it for him that such had been his fate. He
entertained the most scrupulous regard for his honour; he would not
have descended to conduct such as Willis had been guilty of, although
the latter had received a superior education, and was before him in
many respects. Dr. Arabin could not have willingly hurt the feelings of
any man, or wronged any person of a farthing. He would not have mixed
with the class we have described; he would not have been seen in the
company of any one who belonged to it. The deep vein of sentiment which
mingled with his thoughts and actions was a beautiful trait in his
character: it might lead him to commit many eccentric acts at which the
worldly-wise would sneer, but it was also a certain guarantee for the
probity and honesty of his actions. He succeeded well in life, but not
one whit better than his perseverance and probity deserved; and we
affirm, without fear of contradiction, that all who act like him,
either in the Colonies or in Europe, must sooner or later be
CHAPTER XVIII. A CATASTROPHE.
NEWS had spread that Willis had received an enormous sum of money,
and many even thought he had it upon his station. His strange conduct
was very much calculated to give some colour to these reports. At one
time he used always to be wandering about; but now he never left home,
and would not see any person at his house. The majority of the
neighbours believed that Willis had treasure concealed in the dwelling,
and this impression proved very unfortunate for him, as the sequel will
The tall bullock-driver and his partner had got bullocks and started
a team, but the speculation turned out unfortunate. They were wandering
about the country like two spirits of evil, open to any adventure,
ready to perpetrate any crime. The bullock-driver was well acquainted
with Willis's house, and when he heard the rumours of the concealed
treasure, the idea started into his mind at once to plunder the hut
during the time its inmates were asleep. It is true that with the
bullock-driver Willis had formerly been a favourite; but since then he
had refused him a favour, and he now threatened him with retaliation.
True, when the bullock-driver was in his employment he would not inform
on him; he was too confirmed a scoundrel to think of informing, and he
was paid for his secrecy; but now he was at his wit's end, and his
temper had been ruffled by some words that Willis had said to him in
one of the violent fits to which that gentleman was so prone. He would
not hurt him more than the babe unborn; he would steal in gently and go
to the box where he knew the money was deposited, and steal off with
it, and what worse off would he be? he would have sheep and cattle in
abundance afterwards, and the money only would be gone.
The bullock-driver had long entertained this project, and had been
prevented from putting it in execution by various obstacles. At length
all was prepared, and the eventful die was to be cast.
At the last moment his courage failed him, and he was compelled to
defer it for that night. Willis was known to be a desperate man, and
hardy as the ruffian was, he shrank from coming into single combat or
the chance of it with him. In this emergency he called in another
ruffian to his aid, who, attracted by the rich booty, agreed to join
him in the attempt.
It was on a dull wet night that these worthies crossed the plains
intent upon carrying out their criminal scheme. The rain fell almost
incessantly; the plain in many parts was flooded, and the road was
heavy, and in some places almost impassable. The two, for the little
man had lost courage and remained in town, pushed forward in dogged
silence, looking neither to one side nor the other. The dull day had a
perceptible effect even upon their spirits, and a strange feeling stole
over each of them. Darkness began to fall. The Bush looked solitary,
wild, dreary, melancholy, in the almost sepulchral twilight; the sun
went down, and the dim glare was superseded by the thick shadows of
darkness. They were now within about four miles of the settler's huts,
but it required the utmost exertion on the part of the bullock-driver
to find them, notwithstanding his knowledge of localities. They were
three hours in searching for them, and only came upon the paddock fence
by chance, after all.
The bullock-driver now knew his way, and, followed by his companion,
crouched down and crept along towards the main hut. Not a creature
moved about the place. They came in front of the hut; the blind was
drawn, and although a light burned in the room, it was impossible to
perceive objects within it. The stillness of night was over everything
within, as well as over outward objects.
The worthy pair made a precipitate retreat, and took shelter in an
empty hut at some distance, waiting, as the Scripture has very
beautifully described it, "like a thief in the night," to steal
unawares upon the devoted place. The rain pelted incessantly throughout
the evening; it was such just a night as those who possess a
comfortable home would enjoy it, and those who required it, would long
the more eagerly to possess it.
Within lay Willis stretched upon the bed; he was no better--his
malady was gaining ground. His life was but a continual state of
misery. The partial insanity under which he was labouring was tenfold
worse than the total wreck of the mental faculties. Then sense is gone,
but in his state sensitiveness remained to goad him with a whip of
scorpions. Truly it is a dreadful punishment which the drunkard often
suffers. We have seen several dying from the effects of intoxication,
and we can only compare their state of mind to those who are shut out
from hope or pardon. Shall we draw this picture of human misery in more
indelible characters? It is almost needless. We might deepen the
sympathy of our readers by the aid of groans and cries, but would it be
in good taste? No! The mind would reel; we should be unequal to the
Towards midnight the two ruffians advanced towards the building,
prepared to carry out their scheme. As had been anticipated by the
leader, the window was unfastened, and he endeavoured to raise it
without noise. This was rather difficult, because it was but of limited
proportions, and because it was stiff, having extended in the frame. At
length it was accomplished, and the window being raised, the
bullock--driver entered cautiously into the parlour. The noise
disturbed Willis, who was not asleep, and he struck a light and rushed
out without a moment's delay. The only weapon he had in his hand,
either of offence or defence, was a leanguil or waddie, a deadly kind
of weapon used by the blacks. He saw and recognised the bullock-driver
on the instant, and aimed a blow at his head, which would have settled
his accounts for ever, had he not evaded it by springing to one side:
before he could steady himself, the bullock-driver drew a pistol with a
bayonet attached from his pocket; the bayonet sprang open by a touch of
the finger, and in a moment it was buried in the heart of the
unfortunate settler. He did not die unrevenged: for the black servant
so often mentioned had been sleeping in the back room, and, for the
mutual safety of himself and his master, he had stolen his gun, which
was loaded. Hearing the noise, he had unlocked the door, and seeing the
danger, he took aim at the bullock-driver's head and fired. At first
the ruffian did not fall; and the black man was looking about for some
other weapon. The fellow then moved slowly back, and fell with a shock
on the floor. His companion did not wait to see the result, but fled as
if the avenger of blood was behind him.
This was the end of an unfortunate man, who had every advantage in
respect to birth and education. Instead of having his remains interred
in some noble vault, with a magnificent mausoleum in some public place
to his memory, he rests in the wilderness. He died unhonoured, and,
unless by one family, unlamented.
We cannot end this chapter without pointing a moral to young men who
intend expatriating themselves to the Colonies or British Possessions
abroad. The vast Colonies of Britain present an exhaustless field for
capital and skill. It is towards them that Britain must took for future
support. They are her offspring, and they will protect her, and extend
her commerce, and literally renew her youth. The super--abundant
population of Britain cannot remain at home starving--they must go to
the Colonies: ultimately, therefore, these new countries will in almost
everything resemble the provincial parts of the United Kingdom.
The Australian Colonies present an almost unlimited field for
Iabourers, or young men of education, with some capital, who are
willing to work at first. At times there may be a superabundance of
labour, but the resources of these new Colonies soon absorb it.
Government, therefore, should lose no time in making arrangements to
colonise upon a general system. Misery stares them in the face;
thousands are starving in the streets; confidence is totally lost.
Colonisation only can save the country--they must go out.
Now the young adventurer may draw a moral from these pages.
A Colonist must land with a determination to pursue an even, steady
course; he must resolve that no temptation shall ever wean him from
habits of industry. His aim must be to get a fair start. For two or
three years he may have to toil hard, and fare indifferently; but if at
the end of that time he can get a fair start, he may think himself
fortunate. The life which Colonists in the old-established districts
lead resembles that of farmers in Britain. But perhaps the emigrant may
not find it convenient to settle in the established districts; if his
means are limited, he would be nobody among the old rich Colonists. The
new districts often present a better field; he may settle there, and
grow up to wealth in a ratio with the advance of the country. Then in
time the district becomes thickly populated, and, like his neighbours,
he will become wealthy and independent.
He may then enjoy all the comforts, and many of the luxuries of
life, including even good and reputable society. Thus, in the lapse of
years, the settlers are independent, the country is full, and new
districts or Colonies have to be opened up--Colonisation thus extends
itself in every direction.
The evil is here:--Many young men are sent out totally
inexperienced, who have a small sum to invest, and yet do not know how
to invest it properly. They waste their time in looking about and
sojourning in the towns. They must be looked upon as great men just at
once; they .spend their money in the towns, and do nothing, or embark
in some foolish undertaking. They acquire habits of intoxication, and
too frequently sink to the level of the dregs of even Colonial society.
Now how easily might they procure information! Let them ride into the
country, and mix with the practical and working Colonists. There is not
a remote chance of their being misled by them. It is true, one might
have sheep, cattle, or land to sell; but it would be impossible for all
to be so situated, and the inquirer would only need to receive
cautiously statements from parties who seem to be interested,
especially who are sellers of any kind of Colonial property.
CHAPTER XIX. A FAMILY PARTY.--AN ECLAIRCISSEMENT.
IT was about six weeks after the sad catastrophe detailed in the
last chapter, that Arabin sat down to dinner with his wife, her sister,
and Mr. Butler. Ever since the melancholy event, he had been labouring
under severe indisposition; for some time indeed he was in danger, but
"there were more days for him," A beautiful Scotch saying, and he was
now once more restored to health. His wife had watched over him in his
illness with tenderness and affection. She had her own little troubles
too, for she could not forget that Willis had been a devoted admirer,
and although unfortunate, he was a talented gentleman. His very
misfortunes and his violent end excited her pity. We cannot attempt to
deny that Martha Waller did entertain some little tender regard for the
deceased. Before the mists of insanity began to cloud his intellect, he
possessed good, or rather fascinating manners. She did not love him
then; she did not perhaps know what the term expressed; but she was
partial to him. She sincerely wished his success; she feared his dark,
untameable spirit. Had his disposition been kind and gentle, like that
of Arabin, she very likely would have loved him.
Man in his natural state, when uninfluenced by religion, is a
singular and an incongruous compound of good and evil; he will change
his temper as often as the chameleon its colour. At one moment his
heart seems to overflow with meekness and generosity, and love towards
all created beings. He treads the wilderness, and feels his heart bound
in unison with the grand and beautiful in nature. He gazes upon the
summer sunset, and admires the gorgeous blazonry of the ever-changing
sky, until he is in reality a poet, an enthusiast. He turns towards the
perpetual sea, and finds its holy beauty bring balm to the soul. Then,
in a few hours, or weeks, or days, we find the same person pursuing a
course of the most debasing intoxication, or acting a mean and
shuffling part. We once knew a notorious thief and drunkard, who was a
writer of poetry of a high quality: in his writings he breathed the
loftiest sentiments; in private life he was a mean swindler, and a
bloated debauchee. Lord Byron, too, was a melancholy instance: he
possessed the finest feelings of our nature, with a brilliant genius, a
fertile imagination, and a depth of feeling almost beyond humanity; and
yet he possessed the most debasing in common with the most exalting
virtues. Woman is very different, and singular in her feelings. She
will love strongly, and conceal it from every eye; yea, even from the
person who inspired the passion. Many never allow that they love; the
secret is buried in their bosoms for ever. How many have gone away
sorrowing from the presence of those they loved, who, had they dreamed
that it was reciprocated, would never have departed! Woman, in addition
to her tenderness of disposition, has that equanimity of character, the
want of which is so remarkable in man. There are among the sex monsters
who, naturally vain and ignorant, cannot resist the insatiable desire
for admiration and for flattery, and who would wish to receive this
impure and poisonous incense from the whole world. Such women are a
libel upon their sex: possessing the outward form of woman, they lack
every noble feeling which would gain them respect or esteem.
To return to our reeord. Mr. Butler had had a decided antipathy to
Willis; he could never see anything in his melancholy, misanthropic
character to approve. This was the first time they had assembled since
his sad end, and the conversation naturally turned to that event, and
he could not agree with Dr. Arabin in the discussion which ensued. We
may just mention, that there was a mental superiority in the character
of the latter, which Mr. Butler did not like to allow, although he was
inwardly sensible of it; and the fact was rather galling. He despised
this superiority in the person before him, but he admired it in the
abstract. This caused him frequently to be more positive in his
opinions than he would otherwise have been; but he really was partial
to his new connexion, and very fond of his pretty sister-in-law.
The dinner passed without a single word being uttered by any person
at table; the settler inquired of Dr. Arabin if he thought it would be
prudent to drink a glass of wine?
"No" replied Arabin; "I am certainly very much better, but I should
be mad to drink wine: I have had a narrow escape, and I must take great
care of myself."
"You are all well again," replied the settler.
"There is only one thing which forces me to wish to live," said Dr.
Arabin: "for her sake (pointing to his wife) I rejoice that I am likely
"Nonsense," replied Mr. Butler: "you are young, and have had too
little trouble, and not knowing real difficulties, you brew for
yourself artificial annoyances. You should go into the world and mix
with society; I do not mean with any or all men, but with a select few.
You should learn to make a calculation of the value of sheep-farming,
and write a letter to the editor of one of the papers on 'squatting,'
that all--important Colonial topic of conversation, and you will become
a Colonial character. If you could descend to truckle to the Executive,
you would be a J. P.; but I think that is a questionable honour. I once
had a spice of sentiment myself, and would sigh for hours after a fine
belle; but it has all worn off now."
Arabin smiled faintly, but made no reply. The conversation then
turned upon Willis, and every countenance was overcast with gloom. How
indebted men are to the circumstances of the moment for happiness! the
mere mention of the name of an unfortunate will cloud the faces of a
"I think, for my part," said the settler, "that he met exactly the
fate he deserved. I never could bear him myself, and think those who
allowed him to go at large incurred a fearful responsibility. The worst
trait in his character, however, was his duplicity and dishonesty."
"Poor Willis!" replied Arabin; "even from the first time I saw him, I
was interested; he was an eccentric character, but latterly his
vagaries assumed a darker aspect, and it was not difficult to decide
what his fate would be. I think, however, he possessed fine abilities
awfully misapplied. Under better auspices, he might have been a
splendid character. It is melancholy to find a person born to wealth
and rank end his days in the Australian Bush without a friend, and by a
"It is melancholy," said the settler; "but it was the man's own
fault. He would come out here without informing his friends, and he
would not go back. His obstinacy was the cause of all his misfortunes,
and I must say he deserved them."
"I think he deserves your pity," remarked Dr. Arabin. "If he erred,
his inward sufferings were a fearful retribution."
"We will not quarrel about it, then," said the settler. "Have you
sent in your bill against him?"
"No, I do not intend to do so; he only owes me a trifle--he used to
pay me regularly while attending him."
"If he owes you anything, you ought to get it; he has died
intestate, and no heir will appear, because the name is assumed. His
real name was Lord Mount Albion, and he was heir to the Marquis of
C----, who has a fine property in the West of England. I saw the
papers, which arrived some time ago,--for it appears they had
discovered his retreat, after the death of two elder brothers,--and
from the abridged copy of a letter found in his desk, it would appear
that he had replied he would return immediately, and I suppose they
still expect him."
"I suppose his station and stock will be forthwith sold?" said Dr.
"It is advertised. I would not give much for it. The station is not
a very fine one, and what stock he had was spoiled and neglected,
although originally very good indeed."
They were here interrupted by the servant, who carried a letter
which the postman had just left. It was addressed to Dr. Arabin.
"Who can this be from?" inquired he. "Why, as I live, it is from
Captain Thomson! Has he had time to be home?--Yes, he has."
He opened the letter, and its contents amused and surprised him. He
gave it to Mr. Butler, who read it aloud.
MY DEAR FRIEND.
I am glad to say that my health is still good, although nothing but
vexation seems to be my lot. I never was so humbugged in all my born
days. I hope, though, that my 300 ewes are in good health, for I shall
have to fall back upon them at last. I do believe that before I reach
the old country, I shall be as poor as a church-mouse; but am very glad
that I have the sheep and their increase, and my few cattle, to fall
back upon, else I should not have known where to cover myself or what
to be at in my old age, for I was never so humbugged in all my born
days.--But to begin at the beginning. I went, the very moment I
received the money from you, and made arrangements with the great
person, the lawful heir of so much money and property, for going to
England and securing it as fast as possible. The person who knew the
case, and who was acquainted with the property, and where the documents
were situated, we were obliged to take with us: for our passage and
other expenses I paid about £300. We had a long and a rough
voyage, and I landed with my two proteges quite confident of success.
We took up our abode at an inn near Blackfriars' Bridge, and after
going about for two or three days like noblemen, we thought it but
proper that we should see to business. I went with him to an attorney
in Red Lion Square, and told him to commence proceedings, and offered
to pay him before, if he doubted our inability to take up the case.
"I can't take up the case," replied the gentleman, "unless you show
me that you have a case. How do you know that your friend is the heir
to this property?"
"His father used to say that he ought to have had a large property,"
"Is that all the grounds you have for an action?" replied the
"No; there is a young man who knows the property: I think he states
that Lord H-----has unlawful possession of it now."
"Very well," replied the lawyer. "Call with this young man
On the following morning we called, and the attorney examined him at
some length. He was clear about the property--that it had been for many
years in Chancery, that Lord H-----had got it; but that he had always
heard it reported that he was in unlawful possession, and that the real
heir was in New South Wales in poor circumstances. After this, his
evidence became confused, nor could he trace the property by any link
to the person in whose success we were interested. The solicitor
inquired, rather sarcastically, if I had any other evidence; but I was
at a loss. I had heard many in the Colonies say that he was positively
the heir to an enormous property, and that he would be one day the
wealthiest commoner in England, but I could not trace the report
further. In fact, I had been so positive of the thing, that I had never
displayed any great curiosity, for fear that my selfishness would
appear. The case seemed already to me most likely to tumble down;
however, I put a good face on the matter, and resolved to wait until
the solicitor should make the necessary inquiries. We still lived in
the hotel like gentlemen, and went about town spending money in very
fine style. At last we ventured to return and receive the solicitor's
answer. When we entered, he peered at us rather sharply, and said--"I
have made every inquiry and find that such a case as you mention never
was in Chancery; therefore, you have no case that I can discover."
We stood like so many statues; such a disappointment never was
before experienced: we paid his costs and departed. I, for one, cried
with vexation. To have been made a fool of was too bad; but, in
addition, to have been taken away sixteen thousand miles from home and
totally ruined, was a horrible misfortune. When too late, I discovered
my error. Who then was to blame? Of course I was, for rushing rashly
into a thing about which I knew nothing certain, nothing except by
hearsay, and these vague reports could not be traced to anything after
all. But the disappointment was perhaps not one whit the less severe
upon me, that I was the author of it--the very shame of having been so
green was enough; and I know the settlers about you will laugh at old
Thornson's misfortunes, and ascribe them all to his being so cunning in
his own estimation. I must just let them laugh, and you can spread it
over the country, that the laugh may have died away before I return to
There is no business to be done here; everything appears
overstocked--hardly bread-and-cheese to be got with severe bodily and
mental exertion; so I shall just go out again, and gather the wreck of
my fortune together, and make a fresh start somewhere, with my few
cattle and sheep. I shall be better off now than when I first went upon
the fine station I sold you, and which cannot be equalled in Australia.
You may always depend upon the wool; it is of beautiful quality. Give
my respects to Mr. Butler and his lady, and Miss Waller, (I compliment
you on your taste,) and to the wild devil Willis, if he be still alive;
and I am, my dear friend.
Your unfortunate acquaintance.
J. VALLENTINE THOMSON.
The Knight of the Rueful Countenance
When the letter was finished, Butler laughed and said it served him
well right for his cupidity, and that he was very glad he had been
deceived. Arabin, on the other hand, was sorry for his misfortunes, and
thought he deserved pity rather than ridicule.
"You do not know his temper," continued Mr. Butler: "he will bring
back five hundred pounds with him, as he could not have spent more than
four hundred when he found out the falsehood of the case, and he will
come back in the intermediate cabin of some trader. When he comes out
again, he has about seven hundred sheep with you, and his cattle are on
thirds upon another station. With five hundred pounds expended
properly--and he will know the value of ready money now--he will sit
down comfortable for life in the Bush. So had he been totally ruined, I
would have pitied him; but now I shall laugh and roast him about his
voyage to England."
"I see," replied Dr. Arabin, "that he will be comfortable after all,
if he reserves the sum you state, which I think is the most probable
conjecture. Yet he has suffered much inconvenience and loss, and
deserves some commiseration."
The conversation here ended, and the ladies were allowed to commence
CHAPTER XX. A BUSH PARTY.--THE OUTLANDISH SETTLER'S TALE.
IN this work it has been our object to give as many striking
Colonial scenes as it was possible within the confined limits we have
allotted ourselves. Without egotism, we may safely say, that not a
single line has been written which will not afford the reader both
amusement and instruction. We are afraid that the refined and
intellectual reader may observe a dissonance in the variety of scenery
introduced, in the abrupt changes of characters and scenery. Should any
critic observe this fault, we beg him to reflect upon our materials,
and upon our object. Our materials are far from luxuriant, unless of
character, which in the Colonies is rich, originak, glowing. We are
liable to be coerced at every turn by our plain matter-of-fact
Colonists, who carry dates in their waistcoat pockets. Our object is to
instruct as well as to amuse--to bring forward the Colonies and
Colonisation, confident that the future greatness of England must be
from her children's power and wealth. Our desire has been to show that
the interest of England is clearly to foster, protect, and reform her
After Dr. Arabin had so far recovered from his illness that he could
be moved with safety, he was taken to Mr. Butler's station. He was
still weak, but the country air had a wonderful effect upon his
constitution. The summer was now almost at an end, and the weather had
already broken--the days were cool and agreeable, and Dr. Arabin was
pleased with the Bush, for its solitary sublimity was in keeping with
his feelings. Sickness has a perceptible effect upon reflective minds,
and frequently turns out a blessing instead of a misfortune.
Dr. Arabin had, fortunately, not endured racking, excruciating
agony; his strength had been prostrated by a low fever, which would not
depart for several weeks, and the mind was a little diseased. At first
he was irritable, untameable; but towards the end, he became reconciled
to his temporary affliction, and determined to endure it with patience
and fortitude. Upon his arrival at Mr. Butler's house, he was more
disposed for calm reflection and contemplation than he had ever been
before. He loved to wander alone or in the company of his wife in the
solitary Bush, in the romantic valley in which the house was situated,
or upon the wild plains, and admire the beauties which nature
everywhere presented. There is a lovely, melancholy magnificence in the
Australian Bush, which requires to be seen to be appreciated. It was
now the season to see the country in all its beauty and luxuriance of
scenery. In the summer months desiccation had given it a barren
appearance: autumn, however, changes the outward appearance of
"The sap rushes from its cells.
And clothes them in fresh robes of green."
In these moments of calm reflection, Dr. Arabin perceived much to
censure in his former dissatisfaction.
The Bible but promises bread and water, while he had every comfort
which he could desire. Then he asked himself why he should long for
travel and adventure, and in his melancholy moments for death? He
decided that it was nothing more nor less than tempting his Maker with
unworthy repinings. A resolution was formed to fulfil his duties as a
respectable member of society, and to be thankful to Providence, which
had caused his "lines to fall in pleasant places."
In Australia there is a great want of objects calculated to cheer
the human soul, with the outward picture of comfort they present. The
sociable, comfortable, and jovial farmers of England, which class has
been regarded as the happiest on earth, are confined to their own parks
and meadows. In Australia no scenes of happy comfort are to be met
with; the wild, lonely grandeur of the untrodden wilderness is,
however, some recompense. Dr. Arabin had never had so much time to
admire and reflect. He daily discovered new beauties blushing in the
face of Nature--new voices speaking home to the heart in the sublimity
of the silent forest. There was a harmony even in these wild scenes,
the sense of which broke upon the mind by imperceptible degrees. The
tender, devoted, undivided attention which he received from his young
wife, was also gratifying to him: he formed the centre of her cares and
wishes; who could be insensible to these attentions from one so young
and so beautiful? Dr. Arabin certainly was not; things were seen by him
in another prospect than before. He was now contented with his lot; he
might have done better and been more advanced in the world, but he
might have been in far worse circumstances.
The weather changed, and one of those floods of rain peculiar to the
winter season fell. It was impossible to stir out now; he was unhappy
at the loss of his lone walks in the Australian forest. He had the
society of his devoted wife to console him, and Mr. Butler and his lady
were very kind and attentive to their sickly visitor. He had books too,
to wile away a leisure hour, and altogether he did pretty well.
The prospect out-of-doors was now dreary enough. The river, which in
warm weather had been dry in many places, and which could have been
crossed by a leap at any place, was swollen into a great stream of
water. It thundered along now a foaming torrent, which no power could
stem or stay. It was utterly impossible to cross it, and travellers
were brought upon its banks.
One day, while Mr. Butler and his lady, with their visitors, were
seated at dinner, a queer figure suddenly entered, dressed in a blue
flannel shirt, and cord inexpressibles, with an old jacket, and part of
a hat, minus the brim. The ladies started, as this charming figure
entered, and screamed "Bushrangers!" They were mistaken. He proved to
be an outlandish settler from the interior, who had not been to town
for ten years before; he had been upon intimate terms with Butler at
some period, and therefore made himself perfectly at home. One or two
stray travellers also took refuge at his house; they were waiting to
cross the river, and it was impossible to refuse them the shelter of
the roof. There was now a regular Bush party; and Dr. Arabin, who had
never been in contact with so many squatters before, had the
opportunity to see and hear without mixing much in the conversation,
for he was excused on the plea of ill health. The persons assembled
were all settlers or squatters, and excellent specimens of the
squatting interest. There was the outlandish settler, a rough,
half-civilised (in manner) kind of fellow. There was a more dandified
settler, whose station was just across the river; and a stock--owner
and jobber, who had stations in different parts of the country. The
staple of the conversation was about stock. The next topic of
importance was Colonial politics. Town and country news formed also
part of their discourse, and occasionally they wandered as far as
England and Europe. Dr. Arabin was at times very much gratified with
the conversation of these children of the woods, which displayed
singular practical knowledge and shrewdness, on whatever subject they
discoursed. Did time permit, we would give some of the conversations
that passed, or at any rate give their ideas upon Colonial affairs. Our
space is limited, and we shall conclude the chapter with a story which
the outlandish settler told them while sitting by the fire on a rainy
I was not surprised that you took me for a Bushranger, in my worn
clothes. These gentry are becoming scarce. When I first came into these
Colonies, we used to fight with them every year; but now the majority
of the Colonists are free, and Bushranging will soon be out of date. In
Van Diemen's Land it is still carried on to a frightful extent. In my
opinion, the Press is to blame for recording the exploits of these Bush
gentry; indeed, I am positive that more turn Bushrangers to acquire a
little temporary fame, than from any other motive.
But the Bushrangers of the old days were of a more ferocious
character. They had no pity. Woman was not safe; they violated maid and
matron before the eyes of their husbands and relatives. They were
refined at torture. Many a cruel story I know of them, but I shall
relate but one.
I emigrated first to Van Diemen's Land, and had a farm not far from
Pitt Water for two years. The country at that time was infested with
Bushrangers. My neighbours were generally frightened at them, and I
cannot say but that I was a little timid at first; however, like
everything else, you get used to it by degrees. I was very partial to
one of my neighbours, named Parker. He was a fine, jolly, middle-aged
farmer from Lincoln; and his wife was a stout, comely person, an
excellent specimen of an English farmer's wife, who had received a good
education. They had a pretty little farm, and were well in. I had
frequently received little favours from them, and I was always partial
Well, one night, about midnight, four armed Bushrangers broke into
their bedroom while they slept; and it may be necessary to say that
Mrs. Parker expected to be a mother in a few months. These Bushrangers
got a light, dragged the poor fellow out of bed, and tied him hand and
foot, telling him if he stirred they would plaster his brains to the
wall. The woman was wakened with the noise, and the inhuman brutes
abused her before the eyes of the husband. How his feelings must have
been agonised at the sight! how he must have suffered at this
excruciating torture! The leader of the Bushrangers was one of the most
ferocious ruffians in the profession, but none ever displayed such
unrelenting cruelty. He had twice escaped from Port Arthur, and was in
fact a double-distilled villain. After he had violated the person of
the poor woman, whose situation would have called for pity from any one
but a demon, he seized a child by the hair, and was just on the point
of dashing it against the wall, when the heroic conduct of the woman
changed the aspect of affairs. Like all settlers of those days, there
were fire-arms in the house; a brace of pistols were in the bed, ready
loaded; and if the ruffians had not got in by stealth, they would have
met a determined resistance. In the excitement of despair, the woman
caught one of the weapons--they were ready, and she took a slow aim at
the ruffian, who was unconscious of his danger; he fell, pierced to the
brain by the bullet: another weapon remained, and another Bushranger
bit the dust. Still her fury was not by any means assuaged. She
attacked the remaining two with the courage of a lioness: after a
determined resistance, they fled. They had not well left the house,
when the noble-spirited woman who had so bravely revenged her own
injuries was seized with the pains of premature labour. The husband was
too confused to be of any assistance; she untied the cords with which
he was bound, but his legs refused their office. Servant there was
none; their sole helper was in Hobart Town with the dray. The poor
woman was now in the extreme of misery; but she regarded not--she
wished for death, there was nothing to live for that could compensate
her for what she had lost. In the morning she was still alive, and the
husband was now well enough to get assistance. A surgeon was procured;
but the aid he was able to afford could not save the noble-hearted
woman, she would none of his aid; he could not
"-----minister to a mind diseased.
Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow."
Her time was come; and when we take every circumstance of the case
in prospect, we cannot but think she was better in that place "where
the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest."
The ruffians who had been spectators of the cruel act did not
escape. They crossed the country, and plundered one or two unprotected
stations. They next approached a small town, where they were not known,
and gave out that they were constables from Hobart Town in pursuit of a
gang of Bushrangers. The landlord was an experienced Colonist, and knew
pretty well "the cut of their jib." He did not betray any distrust at
first, until he had armed one or two of the neighbours, whom he walked
into the room where they were seated. As they could not give any
evidence that they were in the constabulary, he took them prisoners,
and sent for the police. They were marched to Hobart Town, and
recognised as the remnant of the cruel band who had robbed Parker's
station. In a fortnight after, they were executed. I have seen a few
Bushrangers in New South Wales, but they were gentlemen compared with
these ruffians. I have no doubt but that Bushranging will be altogether
discontinued here in future. The free population have gained such an
ascendancy, that I can foresee a radical change for the better already;
and, what is yet more singular, the descendants of the convicts are
commonly virtuous and honest. We hope the guilt of the parents may
never be a reproach to the children.
We cannot help here making the remark, that we agree with the
settler who recited the foregoing adventure with Bushrangers. We hope
in a few years the population of New South Wales will be virtuous and
principled. We think we see the change gradually working; we think at
the present moment society is in a state of transitionfrom ignorance
and crime to knowledge and virtue.
We observe here also, that we long for an improvement in the better
order of Colonial society. Hitherto only a favoured few of our young
Colonists have had the advantage of a good education. There were not
schools in the country, and it was both expensive and troublesome to
send their children to England to be educated. Now over the length and
breadth of the inhabited districts we observe temples of instruction
rearing their heads. In the metropolis there are several most excellent
schools, not to notice the Sydney College, which has improved very much
within the last two years. We may therefore look for the fruit in the
mental character of the ensuing generation; we may reasonably expect
that these schools will send forth some men of genius and mental power,
whose fame may mark the country and the age. We are ever prone to
charge the Colonists with being a matter-of-fact class, who are only
fit to follow sheep and cattle; but we do not know, but that with the
advantages of education, men of brilliant abilities and gifted with
unconquerable enthusiasm may not start up and shed a lustre over their
names and country; we look and long for such men. There is too much of
stern reality in the Colonies; they have been regarded hitherto as only
a refuge for the destitute; and it has been considered that those only
emigrate whose chance of success at home is desperate, who would rather
go to the Colonies than to prison. But now, young men of capital and of
respectable connexions are desirous of embarking for the Colonies, and
we look to a radical change.
The weather broke up, and the settlers could now pursue their
journey. The river was still dangerous, but their horses were
accustomed to swim, and they took the water famously. It was capital
fun to see them cross. One only was a little timid, the others were
quite at home in the matter. The horses one after another plunged into
the turbid stream, and breasted the waves in gallant style. All crossed
over in safety, and forming in regular order on the opposite banks of
the stream, gave a loud huzza; they then pursued their way, no doubt
very glad to have got across without accident.
Arabin was very happy to see them depart; the bustle and noise
consequent on so large a party confined in so small a house had excited
him, and he required rest and fine weather to recruit his exhausted
The days were now beautiful, neither too hot nor too cold. It was
fortunate for the invalid that the weather broke just then; had it
continued much longer wet, his health might have been irreparably
injured. The interval of wet weather had sharpened his zest for the
pleasures of the country, and he began to ramble the country again. He
would rise with the lark, and admire the beauty of the mornings. We
think we have remarked elsewhere that the mornings are very beautiful
in Australia. It is healthy to be abroad at this season of the day;
there is a freshness visible in nature, which has its effect upon the
dullest heart. The sluggard in this climate is not a sensible person.
The fine weather revived our hero--he recovered his health rapidly;
every day that passed brought him an accession of strength, and saw him
in better spirits.
CHAPTER XXI. CONCLUSION.
THE last chapter of the work has now to be written, and it shall be
short. Arabin recovered, and was soon able to ride about as well as
before; his affairs prospered, and he was as comfortable as he could
have expected. He was again residing in town.
About three months after the letter had arrived from Captain
Thomson, his servant entered to say that a person waited to speak to
"Who may it be, Mary?" he inquired.
"I can't say, sir," replied the girl, attempting to conceal a laugh.
"He winked at me sir, and told me to excuse his game eye. I think he
must be a sailor."
"Show him in," said Dr. Arabin sharply.
A person dressed in a Jim Crow cap and pea-jacket here rolled into
the room. Arabin bowed with forced politeness, his usual practice
towards strangers, and said, "What can I do for you, sir?"
"I am troubled with a consumption," said the man.
Arabin stared; the person was the picture of robust health. His
round mottled countenance had an expression of roguery, as he added,
"It is a consumption of the finances, though."
Dr. Arabin recognised in this sickly patient his former friend
Captain Thomson, and he welcomed him back with great pleasure. After
the usual compliments had passed, the Captain began to unburthen
himself of his many mishaps.
"You see I was an ass to leave this here Colony upon any such scheme
as trying to recover the property, without first finding out that it
was to be recovered, and I have suffered for it by the loss of a great
part of my property. The scamp, too, turned right round upon me,
because I would not pay his passage back in the cabin. That's what one
gets for being kind and obliging. Nothing like number one after all.
But when I saw that I was wrong, I determined to make the most of what
I had remaining. So you see it struck me that wool-bags would run high
this year, and I invested my money in them. I knew I could not lose, as
they are always saleable. I took my passage out in the steerage. When I
arrived in Sydney, woolpacks happened to be scarce, and every person
asked if any woolpacks had come. Mine was the only lot in the vessel,
and all wished to buy. I sold to the best account possible, at 100 per
cent premium. I had £500 invested, and just got my £1000
back, which I never expected to see. I don't care a fig now for any
mortal man. I have had a voyage for nothing, but that is all over, and
I will look before I leap next time."
"I think" said Arabin, "you have managed to get very cleverly out of
"Yes, I am no Johnny Raw," replied the other. "There are no
paving-stones about my eyes."
"And what are you going to do with the money?" inquired Arabin.
"I hardly yet know; I must do the best I can with it: a thousand
pounds will go some way in this Colony even now."
The worthy old fellow remained to dinner, and amused all of them
with accounts of his misfortunes and his adventures. He did not like
England; his heart had been set upon coming out extensively when the
money was recovered, and he could not brook the idea of remaining idle
there. He allowed the Colonies were now the only field upon which he
should figure, and that the profession at which he would amuse himself
would be sheep-farming.
It happened that the station which had belonged to Willis was still
in the market; to it the attention of Captain Thomson was directed. He
found it might be made to answer his purpose, and he purchased it a
very great bargain from the officers of the crown, who have the charge
of intestate estates. Thus, after all his wanderings, he found himself
once more comfortably settled within a few miles of his former
We do not know whether the example set him by Dr. Arabin was
contagious, but in a few months afterwards he disappeared rather
mysteriously for some weeks. When he returned, he was not single: he
had grown tired of celibacy, and the hardships he had experienced in
his voyage had imbued him with a desire for comfort. A nice little
woman, whom he had wooed and won, graced his fireside. As neighbours,
this couple were liked, notwithstanding some of the Captain's eccentric
whims. The Butlers, the Arabins, and the Thomsons were upon the best
and most intimate terms, and contributed not a little towards the
happiness of each other.
And now our history is at an end. We take leave of all our friends
who have figured in these pages. To enter into a detail of their
domestic felicity would be but to tire our readers. We could not endure
to be deemed tedious, and we bring our tale here to a conclusion,
without any further apology.
AN ESSAY ON THE ABORIGINES OF AUSTRALIA.
SEVERAL causes--the most prominent, the effects of communion with
civilised man, which has enervated the constitution of the race; the
deplorable custom of murdering the new-born infant, or exciting
abortion; the inroads of the white man, and the enforcing of the laws
of Great Britain, (although why the blacks of Australia can be
subjected to such laws, without their own consent, I cannot dearly
perceive)--have tended to thin the various tribes of Australian
aborigines; nay, more, to create fears of their speedy extirpation. I
would preserve every trace of this peculiar race. In appearance the
native Australian stands about five feet and a half; his complexion is
not darker than that of the American Indian, although the former has
been named the black, and the other the red man. Their complexions are
similar. The American Indian is not so very superior in natural parts
to the Australian savage as has commonly been supposed; in cunning at
least he is equal. The roamer of the forests of the "far west" excels
in hunting, fishing, and in predatory warfare; the black aborigine of
Australia, so far as he has field for exertion, is both an experienced
hunter and fish-catcher, and no mean enemy at the "spear, boomerang, or
It is a mistake to suppose an Australian black man simple; in every
art with which he could possibly have become acquainted he is perfect.
To throw the spear, boomerang, or waddie, seems almost "a second
nature." Place a gun in the hands of a black, he shames the best shots
of sporting nations in Europe. Set him on horseback, he is a splendid
rider. The young men of a warlike tribe will follow a hostile tribe for
days to cut off some enemy, or do some other daring act. The parties
sent out with this object commonly skulk to the river or water-hole,
where they conceal their bodies in water, leaving their heads
occasionally above, to imbibe the necessary amount of air. The person
for whom they have watched at length approaches; he is dealt with in
the most summary manner, for a blow of the cranguil or waddie, planted
on some part of the head, sends him beyond the reach of foeman's
When at a tender age, the Australian aborigine is active and
stately; there is nothing in his features expressive of sordidness or
deceit. The mind appears active, and the spirits buoyant; sport and
intrigue are anxiously pursued; but kindness, hospitality, and
generosity seem to glisten in the sharp, jovial features. As years pass
on, however, the whole character changes: the native becomes withered
and disgusting; selfishness 'and deceit are depicted in the wrinkled,
withered features; low-cunning gleams concealed in the fading,
glistening eye; and instead of the bounding footstep, the foot now
falls upon the grass with a cat-like, stealthy motion. In fact, as age
creeps upon a savage, so he loses the fire of youth, and having no
mental treasure to withdraw to for comfort, the natural organs of
acquisitiveness and secretiveness become more prominently developed;
and instead of becoming a quiet sharper, open thief, or penurious
trader, he changes into a cunning savage, an adept at petty theft or
sheep-stealing; and such characters are peculiarly dangerous, from the
influence age gives them in the tribe to which they belong. Few or none
are long--livers; at thirty they look old and ugly, while at forty they
seem almost supernaturally aged. Many, however, die in youth. Wars are
not uncommon between the different tribes; and even the members of a
tribe occasionally quarrel and fight, and slay their own friends.
Polygamy is allowed: an elder generally happens to possess himself of
the finest young women in the tribe for his own bed; the young man (or
Coolie) is compelled to content himself with one lubra (or gin) to cook
in his miam; and it is no uncommon occurrence for this single woman to
be old and ugly. It may hence be easily supposed that infidelity is not
uncommon. Intrigues are of every-day occurrence; and when the elder
discovers that one of his lubras has been guilty of intriguing with
some younger member of the tribe, he punishes her, and not unfrequently
both, in the severest manner possible. It has been asserted by some
writers who have laid claim to an acquaintance with the customs of the
aborigines of the continent of New Holland, that there exists a rite of
marriage amongst the various tribes. I have given some little attention
to the subject, and have come to the conclusion that no such rite ever
did exist. It appears to me that every member of the tribe takes as
many females under his protection as he can, from the extent of
influence he possesses in the tribe, lay hold of. The younger men
intrigue with the females, and thus the intercourse between the sexes
is almost promiscuous. The grand error, however, rests here--the system
which allows the old to lay violent hands upon the flower of the tribe
is iniquitous; we can scarce wonder that the young lubras violate the
bed of these withered old chiefs, and that daily feuds ensue in
consequence of the jealousy of the old blacks.
The natural colour of the Australian aborigine is copper-colour or
tawny-red. The hair is naturally fine, dark, and very long.They are
habitually addicted to the use of paints of a dark colour, by which the
complexion appears unnaturally swarthy. It is therefore a mistake to
term them blacks, and the American natives Red Indians. Their natural
complexions are alike. The head of the Australian is not flat; in
general it is round and oval, with a rather low forehead, but not by
any means remarkably low or flat, such as the natives of Southern
Africa, where I have travelled. From the large acquaintance I have had
with the tribes in the districts of Australia Felix, I am inclined to
think that the aborigines possess average abilities. Their minds
resemble rather a treasure which has been hermetically sealed ab
initio, 'than a vacuum where all is void. At painting rude figures, and
drawing likenesses, they display exquisite powers of imitation: in
examining a picture with a young black, you cannot but be startled at
his clever observations; not a trace or an outline escapes him. They
display likewise some ability in vocal music, of which I shall speak
more fully shortly. Their quickness in detecting game also deserves to
be noticed. In following a kangaroo they often creep for a mile; when
the eye of the animal is towards them, they remain fixed as so many
statues--the trees around are not to all appearance more devoid of
volition; by slow progress they come up to the animal, and, secured
behind some favourable tree, the hunter takes deadly aim with the
kangaroo spear, and lays the monarch of the Australian forest low. I
have often hunted with the tribes on the Goulburn, Ex, and Yarra, and
been astonished to remark their accurate aim with the boomerang. This
singular weapon is thrown one way and returns straight upon the object
in view when the aim was taken. With the light spear they are excellent
marksmen. It is thrown by a long handle into which the spear is fixed,
and again ejected by a sudden motion of the hand. The handle is
commonly termed a namera. With this weapon they will strike a man at a
hundred yards to a certainty; but although he may be killed outright,
the chance is he only receives a wound in the side or back, for the
blacks commonly throw at a person when his back is turned; and indeed
it must be allowed they are rather too prone to this cowardly game. I
have long wished to reconcile an apparent 'contradiction in their
characters. They are in general bold and warlike, yet when a tribe is
attacked by a few men the whole will generally scamper off; if they can
get an advantage, they will fire from behind any object in the way, and
even maintain their situation in a very gallant manner. I can only
reconcile these discrepancies in this way,--the blacks of Australia are
naturally cowards, but on the contrary are ferocious and far from
devoid of brute courage. It is the want of a perception of general
discipline which renders them cowards. Each man looks rather upon the
personal danger he incurs than upon the aggregate strength of the
tribe. He reflects upon his own chance of being shot, and says, "This
must not be; I am not going to be shot for the good of the tribe;" and
thus he is prone to take to his heels at a sharp contest when not
protected by any cover. Did the poor savage reflect upon the numerical
strength of the tribe as opposed to the assailing foe, and upon the
necessity of each fighting for the safety of the tribe, the general
result of engagements with whites would be very different.
I have now to give my opinion with regard to the health of the
Australian aboriginal tribes. Few of the blacks I have seen are
healthy, and the idea which civilised men generally entertain that all
savages are hardy and healthy is a mistake. The constitution of the
black man is peculiarly fragile; he shoots up to manhood like a reed,
his form is very light and elastic, but although he could run for some
time with remarkable velocity, yet he is soon tired out, and compelled
to halt and draw his breath. While yet in the very 'bloom of youth, his
form changes; he becomes stiff, withered, and frightfully ugly. The
constitution, therefore, of the aborigine appears peculiarly delicate;
and few either young or old enjoy good health. Cutaneous disease
prevails to a great extent; and among many tribes, not a single member
is free from it. Venereal is likewise common, and as they are unable to
treat it by art, or administer medical relief, it not unfrequently
undermines the constitution, engenders loathsome disease, or kills the
patient outright. Low fever is often to be met with, especially in the
hot weather; this the natives cannot understand. They remove the
patient to a distance from the camp, where no aid is afforded him,
except a drink of cold water; there he is in a blazing sun and
scorching hot wind, in the most excruciating agony: few recover it.
Inflammatory complaints are far from uncommon; and I have an idea that
pulmonary consumption is not altogether unknown, although I could never
clearly ascertain the fact. Rheumatism and rheumatic fever are
prevalent; few aborigines are without this complaint, and many suffer
extreme pain. The only remedy they know of or care to use is, stripping
bark from the trees, and knotting it tight over the part affected; when
they can procure cord, or any other kind of bandage, they use it
I come now to the mental capacity of the aborigines, and may state
that in general it is far superior to preconceived opinion. The race
are habitually indolent; there is little or nothing to excite them in
their general routine of living; to hunt a few hours a day for food,
then to lie stretched on the ground by their miams (vulgo myamy) for
days and nights with sullen indifference, is not a life calculated to
excite their minds to any kind of mental exertion. The mind of a savage
is the picture of the life he leads; it is one complete vacuum. He
appears to have nothing to do, nothing to think about, nothing to care
about. His wants are few, unless where converse with civilised men has
created a craving for the artificial luxuries of civilisation, such as
tea, tobacco, or spirits; then the whole nature of the savage changes,
and he will take any trouble, and descend to the meanest artifices, to
gratify the insatiable cravings of sense. Before, however, his wants
are easily supplied, although at times a tribe will be in great
destitution when food is scarce. There are no objects to excite their
mental capacities, nothing to draw forth exertion; they know no better
than to follow their erratic mode of life, wandering from one part of a
district to another in quest of game or food, and they are set down as
possessed of no mind superior to the brutes which perish; they have
been prejudiced, and I shall speak of this again when I come to the
Protectorate system. To display their habits as fully as lies in my
power, I shall here give the description of an Indian camp.
It is situated in the heart of some vast range of forest. The miams
of the blacks stretch over a space of ten or twenty acres, or perhaps
twice as many. A miam (or myamy) is a very primitive structure. Two
saplings are placed upright, having forked ends; another is placed at
right angles; a triangular space thus marked out, sticks are fastened
into the forks of the uprights, and against this barrier, sticks, bark,
and 'leaves of trees are placed; and this forms a miam, which affords
no despicable shelter when, as is generally the case, the shelter is
from the weather. However, we suppose it is a warm day, and the
aborigines all out of their miams, sitting or sleeping under the
shelter of the large Eucalyptus, in parties of from five to twenty.
Before each miam is the spear of the owner planted upright in the
ground, a warning to all intruders. Small parties occasionally leave
the camp in quest of food, while a few may be seen now and again
returning from the chase. You pass group after group, and find them
sunk in the very depth of ennui and indolence. Most of them lie on the
ground enveloped in blankets or opossum rugs; all you observe is the
shape, for every inch of the body is invisible to the eye. Sometimes
one fellow looks up, gives a broad stare, and then sinks once more into
his former quiescent state. Beside them lie their weapons and bags
containing their meagre supply of provisions, with a few half--starved
dogs keeping watch over this valuable property. Around some fires may
be seen those who are awake, sitting round a fire in a complete circle,
and devouring what food they happen to possess with great voracity.
Here and there a man may be observed forming rude implements of war,
or turning opossum skins to form them into rugs; this is the only
useful occupation which you can notice. The day wears away, and towards
evening the men begin to rise, and some may be seen painting their
faces and persons for the corroborie. The various hunting and shooting
parties 'now begin to return; the men are loaded with kangaroo and
opossum, and having lighted their fires, they cook their meal and
devour it in haste. Large fires are lighted, and at dusk the corroborie
A man commonly sits on a rug with two hard sticks, and a number of
women sit round him with their opossum rugs tied into bundles. The man
beats with the sticks, and the women keep time with the palm of the
hand upon the rugs. To this rude music several chaunt some of their low
monotonous songs, which are but an endless repetition of the same
sounds, and at the same time the corroborie dance is progressing. The
blacks commonly dance in a line; they strike their toes and heels
alternately on the ground, bending their bodies, and turning out the
knees: by these short leaps, they go a considerable distance, keeping
correct time to the music. Some of them dance throwing the arms about,
and making many kinds of wild gesticulations; there is commonly one who
acts the clown, and excites considerable mirth by his frolics. The
whole has an harmonious and pleasing effect--the beat of the song, the
sticks, rugs, and dance, all keeping time.
This is the life of an Indian rover of the Australian wilderness;
and whatever their mental powers naturally are, they have little field
for their development. I cannot, however, say that their rude manner of
life would lead any to suppose them capable of thinking.
Their means of living is however very precarious; they have to
travel over great tracts of country when game is not to be found; what
use therefore for them to erect better huts, when they seldom continue
longer than three or four days in a place? From these erratic habits
nothing can wean them.
Lady Darling educated a number of females in a school near Sydney;
but ultimately they all returned, if not to a barbarous life, at least
to erratic habits, for they wander to and fro about the country from
station to station, and all the kindness of the whites is unable to
keep them in any fixed situation for any length of time. I believe,
however, that these girls displayed considerable ability and aptitude
for acquiring education; and upon a close inspection of the heads of
the aborigines, we find them commonly fine, with deep elevated
eyebrows. I hold that it is not proved that the blacks are inferior in
mental capacity, and am prepared to bring forward several instances to
prove how easily they might be reclaimed.
About the year 1836, upon the recommendation of Captain Maconachie,
superintendent of Norfolk Island, and Captain Longsdale, police
magistrate, Melbourne, a native police force was established, and the
command entrusted to M. de Villiers. It was, however, unsuccessful; it
was again attempted in 1841, and the command of the corps given to M.
Dana. Few expected it would succeed, but it did succeed. The troop now
numbers twenty fine young aborigines: they possess the requisite
intelligence for soldiers; education has improved their minds, and
discipline has informed them of their united strength, and inspired
them with courage. These soldiers are faithful, although in several
instances, when sent against some tribe to seize a malefactor, one of
the troop has betrayed the secret, and allowed the aboriginal offender
against the laws to escape.
In many engagements with the native tribes these men have displayed
the most indomitable courage. There cannot be a doubt but they have
been reclaimed within the pale of civilisation; and no soldiers have
ever given more convincing proofs of sagacity.
The Buntingdale station, Geelong, next deserves to be noticed, where
the Rev. Francis Tuckfield has reclaimed fifty-two persons. This
gentleman confined his labours to one tribe, and having placed it upon
an isolated situation upon this reserved station, and kept every other
tribe at a respectful distance, by the assistance of the police, he has
succeeded in exterminating the darkening passions of the savage from
their breasts, and brought each of the number to a clear understanding
of his state, and to a firm belief in Divine truth. Mr. Tuckfield has
taught them to read the Scriptures, to attend upon the ordinances of
religion, and to seek for the salvation of their souls, and all this
within the short space of twelve months. He finds them employment upon
the station in cultivating the soil, while some of them have learned to
make clothes and shoes. Mr. Tuckfield has a decided advantage over
many, inasmuch as he possesses an intimate acquaintance with their
language, habits, and customs. The success of his undertaking at the
Buntingdale station demonstrates that the aborigine naturally possesses
some degree of intellectual power.
I would not wish, however, to confound the present state of the
savage of the Australian Continent with what it might be. I am sorry to
say, that many tribes at the present moment are not only barbarous in
their habits, but also in mind unrelenting, obstinate in cruelty, and
ferocious: in fact, the character of the race is anomalous. Some white
men have been tortured and murdered by them, while others have been
saved from death through their interference. Nay, one black man has
been faithful to one white and treacherous to another, as in the case
of the man Bob, executed at Port Phillip in 1842 for murder. This man
had been many years with Mr. Robertson, Chief Protector of Aborigines,
to whom he was sincerely attached. He left Mr. Robertson, and performed
two overland journeys with Mr. Langhorn, and saved his life in a severe
conflict he had on the Murray with a tribe of wild natives. He left his
employment, and was soon after guilty of the most treacherous and
barbarous murder upon record.
The tribes in the Sydney and Port Phillip Districts are now pretty
well accustomed to the whites, and seldom attack them: formerly,
however, the settlers in the latter district were frequently cut off by
the aborigines; in fact, at one period the Port Phillip tribe attempted
to surprise the town, and, but for the merest accident in the world,
would have cut off every one of the original settlers. Many settlers in
the interior were surprised and cut off by the tribes; and, to this
day, upon the banks of the Murray, no settler can regard his person or
property altogether secure from the wandering aborigines. In the
neighbourhood of Adelaide, the natives appear to give no trouble; but
to the north of Sydney, on the Clarence River, and at Moreton Bay,
neither good treatment nor coercion can tame 'them. All the way north,
from such accounts as I have been able to find (for I have never
travelled that country), the aborigines are a fierce, untameable race,
debased by the grossest superstitions and vices, and addicted to
cannibalism. They are not, however, of the same character at Port
Essington; for several gentlemen who have explored that country have
informed me that the natives are, in some situations, rather ignorant
than sanguinary in character. Where the character changes, it would be
almost impossible to say, as many crews of vessels wrecked in Torres'
Straits on landing have been massacred by the natives. In fact, it is
dangerous to approach this shore, or any island in the South Seas,
unless the crew be fully armed, as many whalers have been cut off by
these barbarian islanders.
The aborigines of Australia wander about; but each tribe possesses a
certain acknowledged territory, and any inroad from another tribe is
considered a gross insult, and treated accordingly. Properly speaking,
there is no supreme authority in a tribe, although some person of
repute as a warrior, statesman, and hunter, is looked upon as the
leader, and very frequently assumes the empty title of king, or chief,
of a tribe. There is a great chief on the Goulburn, in Australia Felix,
named Billy Hamilton: he, however, has to hunt, fish, and provide for
his belly the same as the meanest man in the tribe; and the influence
he possesses is very limited indeed, and altogether of a political
character (if I may use the word). The tribe is constantly moving about
in quest of game. The men go hunting in parties of ten or twelve at a
time, 'perhaps singly or in pairs. At certain seasons, they find fish
and game in abundance, and live right royally, in one round of feasting
and corrobories; but at other seasons they are more than half-starved.
The kangaroo is the particular animal they generally hunt. They observe
him grazing in the Bush, and proach him with extreme caution. The
weapon used for this purpose is the kangaroo spear--a long spear
pointed with glass; this they hurl with unerring aim when they approach
within a respectable distance. Of opossums they are also particularly
fond: they frequently find out the concealment of this animal by
knocking on the trees; and where they find a hollow sound, they cut the
tree and lay hold of the opossum. Turkeys, pigeons, parrots, &c.,
are occasionally killed by the boomerang, which they throw very well.
The fish are speared for: they seem to entertain no idea of taking
anything by line and hook. Some kind of snakes they regard as good food
and eat eagerly, as also magpies, crows, hawks, &c. When very
hungry, they pull the bark from the trees, and pick out the vermin,
which they devour with singular and disgusting eagerness. They look for
a particular kind of grass and several vegetable roots, which they eat.
When very hungry, they boil the leaves of trees and fill their
Although not generally, so far as I have observed, prone to
sheep-stealing or robbery, yet, when very hungry, any tribe in the
country will resort to it, the general method being, upon such
occasions, to attack an out-station, or a single flock under the charge
of one individual. Sometimes the blacks take the whole flock; but upon
other occasions they only take a few of the best, and tell the shepherd
to keep the others until they return for them. They break the legs of
the sheep when interrupted, and very commonly escape, although a good
number may chance to fall by the rifle of some furious settler. Upon
other occasions the blacks show fight, and the settlers either recover
their flocks with loss, or are worsted. It commonly happens that the
blacks are most in want of food in wet weather; the country is then
flooded so that horses cannot be brought into play against them. The
long, dark nights, and at times the hazy atmosphere, are also
advantages of which they take good care to avail themselves--and they
have a considerable advantage over the settler, and generally escape
with a great booty. In many districts, however, the aborigines keep up
a constant warfare with the settlers, attacking their huts and
attempting to steal the flour or sheep without any cloak or attempt at
concealment. When an attack is contemplated, the natives are abroad by
break of day and surround the hut. When the first straggler opens the
door and walks abroad, he is met by half-a-dozen spears, and a rush is
made on the hut. If the person has presence of mind enough to shut the
door, the chances are that the aborigines are repulsed. Should he fall,
or forget to shut the door, the blacks rush into the hut and massacre
the inhabitants. When laying siege to a settler's hut, they are brave;
if once fairly repulsed, they retreat without endeavouring to take the
place. In some districts they have the in--human practice of setting
the hut on fire, and thus 'compelling the family to come forth, when
they spear them without mercy.
The Australian savages entertain but very dark and confused ideas of
another world. They are afraid of the "dibble dibble," or Spirit of
Evil, and propitiate him by offerings; but of a Supreme Being of Good
they entertain no belief. They however hold that the blacks, when they
die, go to Van Diemen's Land, or some other island, and return as white
men and women. In this manner do they account for the arrival of the
whites among them.
Few, indeed, have ever been brought to the truth; yet a very few
have, by the exertions of some missionaries, been brought within the
pale of Christianity, and anxious to procure their salvation. Others,
however, after being instructed by godly men, have fallen away, and
casting in their lot with some wild tribe, have turned tenfold more
dangerous to the whites from their mental superiority; and all they
remember of the Holy Scriptures they turn into a jest. I might enlarge
on this subject, but to no purpose, as I have already said everything
which those who know the blacks intimately could say with regard to
their religious feelings.
I now arrive at a very important question--not merely important as
far as regards the blacks personally, but important as regards
civilisation and colonisation. This question is,--Has the Government of
England a right to take possession of the country, and, without any
consent from the original proprietors, sell the land, and make them
amenable to the laws of Britain, of which they know nothing, and very
likely 'could not be brought to believe that such a country was, or
ever existed? Has it a right, in short, to declare them--ignorant and
superstitious as they must necessarily be, from their savage mode of
life--to be subjects of Britain, and compel them to become so nolens
votens? Has it authority to do this?
I leave this question unanswered. But whether England did or did not
possess the power to act in this manner is little to the purpose: the
aborigines have had their country taken from them;--and, after this
robbery, the blacks are informed that trey are British subjects. Nay,
even as if they were liege subjects to the Crown of the United Kingdom,
they are compelled to fulfil the code of laws which has been
administered to Englishmen. And there is another question--Even did
England possess the power to take possession of the country, has it
authority to administer its own laws to the original owners, without
It is unfortunate that no two statesmen or public writers can agree
about the treatment which the aborigines ought to receive, and in no
two Colonies have the tribes been treated alike. Some wish a system of
rigid coercion, and even urge that unless the children are taken from
their parents at a very early age, there is not the least chance of
their imbibing the element of civilisation, "habits of industry." This
class advocate a system something like that described already as
adopted by the Rev. W. Tuckfield at Buntingdale station, Geelong, and
argue that the various tribes should be separated, and confined within
the Reserves appointed for them; that the children ought to be
separated at an early age from their parents, and placed out as
apprentices to tradesmen in the town. That the blacks may to a certain
extent be civilised, is quite apparent from the abilities the troopers
of the native police have displayed. These men are distinguished for
intelligence and fidelity. To their captain they have ever showed
respect and love, and have fought and bled, even against their own
people, at his side. They show none of the passion of the wild, uncouth
native, but their conduct is uniformly marked by sagacity and firm
forbearance. Rigid discipline has been the cause of much good in this
corps. But we regret to record our firm belief, that were this troop
dis--banded, each member would return to savage life, and become a
leader, cruel and sanguinary in purpose. Such has ever been the case,
and there are instances upon record without number which prove it; and
this is the argument urged, by the party who wish coercion, on the
The other party hold, that the aborigines have peculiar claims upon
the Government, and, therefore, that their whims ought, in some degree,
to be studied, and their lives and liberties protected. Government were
partly of the same opinion; and, for the object described, the
Protectorate Establishment was formed in the Port Phillip District. We
are compelled to say, that these men who were appointed to the offices
of Protectors managed so miserably, that, after spending a great deal
of money--as much as £15,000 a-year--the system proved a total
failure. The Protectors, instead of learning the language of the
blacks, as instructed by Lord Glenelg, or attempting to instruct them
in the grand truths of religion, went about the country hunting, with
or without the natives--for, by their instructions, they were ordered
to follow the movements of the natives. When any depredation was
committed by the aborigines under their protection, they attempted to
screen the offender from justice by a tissue of fraud. The most common
method to defeat the ends of justice, was for the native, when placed
at the bar, to pretend either that he was imbecile, or that he could
not understand the language when asked to plead. It was the Protector's
business to interpret for him; but even if the prisoner could
understand him, he would ever make it appear he could not. Thus the
public were led to believe, that aboriginal men and women were ignorant
and imbecile creatures which, for my part, I regard as a perfect error.
The Protectors likewise gave great offence to the settlers. A murder
was committed at Muston's Creek, we believe on the 23rd of February,
1842. A native woman, named Conger, was barbarously murdered in a
tea-tree scrub. Three settlers, Richard Gumeas Hill, John Beswick, and
Joseph Betts, were indicted for the murder, and tried before Mr.
Justice Jeffcot, at Port Phillip, on the 31st July, 1848. It was
evident a murder had been committed, and several even thought that the
prisoners were the murderers; but opinion was divided, and the evidence
being contradictory, the men were found "Not guilty." So far well--the
men were tried before a jury, and they had a chance, and it would have
been cruel to deprive 'them of their chance. The Protectors thought
otherwise: they spoke of the jury in terms which would disgust my
readers; and there were even mysterious hints abroad of unfair
play--as, certainly, a man named McGuiness, the principal witness
against the three prisoners, received a present of fifty pounds from
the Government or the Protectorate.
The eyes of the Government were then opened, and the perfect failure
of the system became but too evident. Much blame attaches to the
Protectors, inasmuch as having it in their power to work a large amount
of good, they allowed the opportunity to pass. They were men with
hearts set upon the comforts and luxuries of life; they had no
curiosity to acquire a correct knowledge of the language, history, and
manners of the aborigines. The only intelligent person, in the
Protectorate was Dr. Bailie, a medical gentleman attached to the
Goulburn Protectorate station; and even his information, to my certain
knowledge, is superficial, and little to be relied upon.
The Protectorate having proved a failure, the Government resolved to
abolish it and dismiss the whole posse of Protectors. It comes
therefore to be considered, what the ultimate fate of the blacks is to
be. As civilisation extends into the backwoods and almost boundless
plains of the Australian Continent, it is evident that instead of the
kangaroo, the sheep and ox will be found, and that the poor blacks will
have no resource but to depend upon the chary charity of the settlers
for a miserable existence, or to turn Bushrangers and take with the
strong hand. The seeds of disease are already 'deeply sown in their
constitutions, famine and punishment for the crime of theft will do
their work, and within a century the race will be nearly extinct. This
seems almost their inevitable fate, and we cannot but deplore it. A
fate nearly similar occurred to the natives of Van Diemen's Land about
eight years ago. When the country became settled, the natives were
found troublesome. At last the inhabitants rose and captured the
miserable remnants, and had them sent in vessels from Hobart Town to
Flinder's Island, in Bass's Straits, where a few still linger; but,
alas! what a contrast to the tribes which inhabited Van Diemen's Land
only twenty-five years before! The ultimate fate of the Australian
aboriginal tribes will be similar.
I intended to have entered into a full explanation of the language;
but as it would require an essay to do the subject anything like
justice, I shall confine my observations, and draw this essay to a
The language is guttural, and the natives speak with no ordinary
volubility. It is, however, full of music, and permanent in its rules
of construction. From Port Phillip to Port Essington, on the Gulf of
Carpentaria, the language is the same in reality, although it varies
with different tribes in particular words and idioms. The great
peculiarity is, the double pronunciation in nouns, especially in proper
names, such as Jacky Jacky, Billy Billy, the Yarra Yarra, &c. The
songs are monotonous, and commonly a few lines frequently repeated. The
tone is generally a deep "bumming," very peculiar; and they appear to
derive extravagant pleasure from the 'exercise. I have heard a black,
at this exercise, repeat one verse for four or six hours without hardly
waiting even to draw breath. In the corrobories, as afore--mentioned,
they dance to the music, and a man keeps time with two hard sticks, and
the women beat on their opossum skin rugs.
A few of their words are very much in vogue with the lower orders in
Australia. So generally are they used, that in all probability they
will be incorporated with the vernacular language of Australia. As it
would be impossible to enter into a consideration of the structure of
the language, I must conclude with a list of words used in the
Colonies, which have been extracted from the aboriginal dialect:
Bulgally A sheep.
Gego To walk.
Merry gig Good, or me good.
Borack Gammon, nonsense.
Combollie Come here.
Combie A hut.
Myamy or Miami A sleeping--place or hut.
Coolie A man.
Lubra A female.
Gin A wife or mother.
Picaninny A child.
A leap A long walk or day's journey.
Corroborie A dance.
Gimbolock A fool.
The native weapons are, the spear (or geraor), which they throw by
means of the wamera (or ulma) to an immense distance;--the waddie
(gorgeran, or largon), which is of many different shapes, is a deadly
weapon;--the boomerang, or curved weapon, and the neram, formed from
the leg-bone of the emu, and a stout cord;--the shield (geraniem) is a
large thick piece of wood, finely cut and carved.