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Chapter X. A Colonial Lad.

TOM TURNER was not a bad specimen of a Colonial lad, more commonly called in Sydney a Currency lad. He proudly boasted of being a Tasmanian. There was at one time some confusion in the title, as the Aborigines were properly Tasmanians. But, alas! that difficulty has been removed by the destruction of all the men of all the tribes. The native-born of the white intruders have now the sole distinction of Tasmanians.

The Colonial boy is not a stupid fellow. He does not stare like an English clod-hopper, and scratch his


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head to find an answer to a question. He is more likely to propose a query himself. He is not clownish in appearance, nor awkward in gait. His hair does not grow down his forehead, nor do his legs come after him at an unwilling and clumsy drag. But he has not generally so grand a display of teeth as the grinning chaw-bacon, nor the same massing of muscle about the loins. He is taller and slighter in frame. It must not be supposed, however, that he is deficient in strength and stamina. His capacity for the endurance of fatigue is marvellous; and this, with his activity and nerve, gained compliments from the visiting English cricketers. He does not indulge in the slow and heavy pull of the British lad, but goes at the work with vigour, as if he wanted to get over it soon. The first is better at the steady collar, the other is apt to fret and plunge if the thing don't go off quickly. His higher nervous organization gives him, nevertheless, a capacity for accomplishing feats of strength and agility beyond what mere muscle might be supposed to do. Great on horseback, where he sits with grace as well as firmness, the Tasmanian is mighty on foot, walking up hills at a rate that would surprise the English field-boy.

Tom was a Colonial lad in zeal at cricket, a race, a row, a swim, a ride, a clamber, or a day's tramp. It would take a great deal to make him tired, while a short rest would fit him for fresh conflict. But, like other Currency boys, he had no fancy for boxing or


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wrestling. Quick at temper he might be, but rapidly cooling, and not given to enforce his will by blows. A fight between boys at school in the Colonies is as rare, as it is common with the same class in Great Britain.

That smartness of movement, that restlessness under restraint, that impatience for action, all indicative of a nervous type, indispose the Colonial lads for a steady, uniform round of duties. They want change of employment, and weary of monotonous toil. They could never brook a long apprenticeship to a trade. Plenty work at carpentering, bricklaying, stonemasonry, &c., but have served no time. They picked up the thing. Sharp at imitation, with a natural facility for using tools, they readily take up with a variety of trades, and move from one to another as circum stances require. This, in a region of unsettlement affairs, and great vicissitudes of fortune, is a decided good, if not a necessity. Every year the occasion lessens, as the Colonies are dropping down to the everyday condition of British life.

Tom's father had been in the service of Government, but had of late retired to a small farm near Hobart Town. He wanted the lad to take up a trade or profession, and stick to it. Some inducements were offered. Having been formerly somewhat connected with the law, and still possessing interests in that direction, he recommended the profession. Tom easily assented, with the lightheartedness of his tribe. He had sagacity enough to reason this way:—




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‘As Tasmania is not going ahead, there may not be much scope for me here. But I know lots of our fellows who have done first-rate in Melbourne, which always must go ahead; and so, when I have passed here, I can take a trip over the Straits, or go to one of the rising New Zealand townships. A Tasmanian lad, like a cat, will always fall on the feet.’

He was articled to a respectable Hobart Town solicitor, and showed the Colonial readiness in mastering details.

As to mental characteristics, there was less of the Baconian and more of the practical philosopher about him. He had no delight in the abstract, and seldom puzzled his brains about general principles. The matter of fact things brought professionally before him suited him, and he took pleasure in tracing out a case. He was not fond of reading for its own sake, and did not see any advantage in studying English literature outside of law-books, excepting Dickens and the newspapers. Dickens is pre-eminently adapted to the Colonial mind. His wit, his hearty mirth, his droll characters, his tender pathos, have all especial charms. An attempt was made to introduce to Australia low, trashy, flashy, dirty, and sensational stories from New York. But the introduction was a failure. There was too much common sense, too just an appreciation of morals, too healthy a passion, too much reverence for mothers and love for sisters, to incline young fellows to read them. A bad class of literature


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has less chance of success in the Colonies than in London, Manchester, and Glasgow. The newspapers are well sustained in tone. Public sentiment would put down a literature allowed in Britain, and welcomed in America.

Tom was a good lad at home. He got on well with father, was doated on by mother, was a dear fellow with sisters, and a jolly companion to brothers. There was a famous household of them all, and a merry one. Nothing like a large family for the interests of children. Favourites cannot be had, and spoiled ones are unknown. Such a well regulated establishment is a good school of life, as well as a nursery of virtue. Its members are likely to battle better with the world, put up with inconveniences and annoyances, exhibit more self-denial, and get along easier with their fellow-men.

The temperance of Colonial youth is well known, and Tom was no exception to the rule. However common the plague of drink may be in Australia and Tasmania, the infirmity is witnessed in those trained amidst the supposed superior moral and intellectual advantages of Great Britain and Ireland, and not with those born under the Southern Cross.

The only charge substantiated against some Currency lads has been that of complicity with the Bushranger. But this, though confined to New South Wales, has, perhaps, arisen less from sympathy with crime than from a feeling of liking for bold deeds.


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English gentlemen once openly expressed their admiration for Buccaneers, and our fathers had a sneaking kindness for the bold Dick Turpin, as their ancestors had for Robin Hood.

Colonial lads, in spite of the origin of some of them, are seldom seen at the bar of justice. In business they have a reputation for shrewdness, but not a character for sharpness. Without any prominent organ of veneration, with no particular taste for stimulants, they have been pronounced susceptible to religious impressions, and, for a time at least, will yield to the eloquence of a revivalist. But there is a sad deficiency in the argumentative for faith, and not a few sects would suffer in their distinctiveness if the special marks were left to the defences of Colonial youth. They are too gregarious to separate, like cattle on a run, into independent camps.

One good thing can be said on their behalf. They are not given to the display of their own intellectual excellence, in contemptuous treatment of others' opinions; nor are they guilty of exhibiting their own particular wisdom in the ridicule of sacred subjects, or in coarse jokes at the credulity of others. Tom went to church himself, and listened respectfully there. But he thought his mate who went to chapel was as good as himself, and went to as proper a place.

Colonial lads are not sentimental. A certain class of gushing English ladies would pronounce them boors and bores. They have no idea of assuming romantic


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attitudes, or of simulating emotions they do not feel. They are too honest for a make-believe. But they really are defective in point of sentiment, are not quick in the discernment of finer shades of sensibilities, and lack the power of more delicate sympathies. They do not realise the wild passions of excited poets, nor enter into the tender distresses of susceptible heroines. Having a country not overburdened with romantic associations, they are indisposed to be interested deeply in famous places, and not renowned for heroworship. A landscape may be admired by them, but not for those suggested forms, and colours, and thoughts which the man of refined taste has brought before him in the view. The fine arts are not in their way.

Worse than all, though such lads will think about the other sex, will fall in love, will marry, indeed, they do not indulge in those raptures usually attributed, in books, to European lovers. It is questionable if any of them call their sweetheart ‘adorable charmer,’ ‘angelic Angelina,’ or ‘divine goddess.’ One has been known to weep bitterly over rejected addresses. But, generally, in the event of such an accident, the young gentleman would have pitied the lady rather than himself, and would certainly have sought consolation in the doctrine that there were as good fish in the sea as ever were caught.

The girl who calculates upon being treated as a fairy or a goddess, although she does not swallow


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whole oysters or drink porter, had better not submit herself to the attentions of a colonial lad. But a girl who is natural and honest herself, with simple modesty, and tolerable looks, would run a great risk of being naturally, honestly, and modestly courted by the aforesaid Colonial lad. Though not stringing together many pretty speeches, and indulging in many pretty ways, he would be an ardent lover, and make a right-down home-staying, honourable, good husband.

Now Tom was in all this true to the standard. As to girls, he was fond of their society, plagued them in a pleasant manner, was thoroughly familiar, did them many a good turn, but brought no blush of shame upon the cheek of any of them. And yet he was attached to no one in particular, though his sisters knew of half-a-dozen they were sure he had been thinking of, at one time or another, and could name more than a dozen who would jump at him.

Out of his articles, twenty-two years of age, and able to keep a wife, after the moderate and sensible Colonial fashion, some wondered Tom had no sweetheart yet.

May the good Colonial way of early marriages, virtuous unions, and lots of olive branches, never give place to the modern civilisation of wild youth, illsorted mates, and heartless homes without the laughter of a child!

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