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Chapter II.

A glance at the the earlier history of Mr and Mrs Stubble.—Their arrival in Australia and settlement at Luckyboy station.

JOSEPH STUBBLE and Peggy Budd were born in the village of Chumleigh in Devonshire. Their parents being too poor to keep them, they were apprenticed to neighbouring farmers by the parochial authorities, and received such a breaking in as few young Australians can experimentally comprehend. To turn out of their beds before daylight in frosty mornings, and go into the fields to pull turnips or herd cows, was not the severest part of their discipline, for they often got their duty to their masters drilled into them with a stick, and were made to toil like slaves for coarse fare, a scanty allowance of clothing, and sixpence a week. It was fun to hear Mr Stubble, in after years, tell his listening children (when mother was absent), how fortunate he fancied himself when his wages were raised to two shillings a week; and how proud his dear Peggy felt when she had saved enough money to buy a Dunstable bonnet and a plaid shawl, in which smart attire she had captivated his susceptible heart.

After their terms of apprenticeship expired, Joe hired with his old master as ploughman for eight shillings a week without board, and Peggy went to Farmer Fursells as dairymaid, and got three shillings a week and her keep. Out of their meagre wages, however, they managed to save a little, and after four years' courtship they were married, Peggy being then about twenty-one years of age, and Joe a few years older. They took a little thatched cottage in their native village, and though they had not much furniture in it, they were happy and contented, for they were both of cheerful disposition, and loved each other fondly. Joe had constant employment, and Peggy sometimes got a day's work from her old mistress, which was a help to their income; besides, they had a small plot of garden ground, with a stye for a pig in one corner of it.

Fortunately for them, about that time a gentleman who had lived many years in Australia, paid a visit for a few days to

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their village, and meeting by chance with Joe, he explained to him how much better he might get on in this great country, than he could hope to do at home, and so excited his ambition that all his prejudices against foreign lands vanished, and his born fondness for old England began to waver, inasmuch as he resolved that if he could manage it, he would be off, bag and baggage, and try his fortune on the other side of the world, for he had no better prospect than hard fare and hard toil all his lifetime on his native side of it. The gentleman used his influence to get Joe and his wife a free passage, and two months afterwards they were on board a fine ship bound for Sydney.

They had hard struggling to tear themselves from kith and kin in the village where they were born, and from which they had never been fifty miles away, but the bright pictures of the land of plenty which their Australian friend had drawn were most alluring when contrasted with the realities of their hard everyday life, and especially as there was a prospect of a family to add to their expenses. So they bade a tearful adieu to their native land, and in less than four months afterwards they arrived at their destination.

Of course there were a few hardships to brave on the voyage— no reasonable person expects wholly to avoid discomfort on shipboard; but Joe and his wife were thoroughly healthy and as hardy as gipsies: so, little things which would have been made into great trials by some people, did not affect them at all.

Their friend, the Australian gentleman, had given them a good deal of advice, and had especially warned them against the danger of contracting idle habits during the many weeks they would be at sea. Joe had wisdom enough to attend to that practical hint. He was a handy man with tools of almost every sort; and as his uncle Dan, the cobbler, had died a few months before, Joe bought his kit cheap, and he not only soled and heeled several pairs of old boots for himself and Peggy, but he got odd jobs in the cobbling way from the sailors and passengers. Thus he was not only kept usefully employed, and spared the ennui which idleness always produces, but he made money, for at the end of the voyage he had five pounds in his pocket, which was more ready cash than he had ever before possessed.

They arrived in Port Jackson one bright summer's morning, a few days after Christmas. That was a glorious day in their history, a day of new emotions, which were fresh in their memories twenty years afterwards. How their hearts throbbed

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with delight and gratitude as they gazed around them, and tried to express their admiration of the scenic beauties which might inspire the dullest soul with poetic rapture!

“I say, Peggy, us never seed anything half so grand as this afore, lass!” said Joe with an enthusiasm which he had never before manifested.

“It is an uncommon pretty place, sure enough!” replied Peggy, while tears started to her eyes as she thought of her dear old father and mother, and wished they could see the bright land of promise which seemed to smile such a gladdening welcome to the poverty-stricken wanderers from the old country.

The next day they landed in Sydney, and were very soon engaged by an up-country settler at the astounding wages of £65 a year and rations. Their exultation at their good fortune was highly amusing to some of the old colonists, who were reminded of their own exuberant feelings when they first landed long ago, with very light baggage, and with still lighter pockets. Never did any poor mortals feel themselves more thoroughly independent than Joe and Peggy did, as they rambled arm in arm through the dusty streets that day in their heavy boots, and puffed and perspired with the heat till their smiling faces grew deepest blush colour. How amazed they were at the grand shops, showing English wares in profusion, and ticketed as temptingly as could possibly be done even in London itself! How Peggy laughed when she first saw a mosquito; and thought it was a Devonshire gnat that had slyly secured a passage inside her bonnet box, for she had previously imagined that mosquitoes were formidable creatures, of proportions somewhere between a dragon-fly and a lobster. How highly honoured they looked when some waggish “old hand” told them that all “new chums” were invited to dine with the Governor off a king parrot roasted whole, on the first Sunday after their arrival, and how vexed Peggy got with Joe because he said “he would not go to the Governor's house to dine if he were paid for it!”

How proud they were to tell any one who would patiently listen, that they had just arrived in the Flying Buck, and with what innocent hyperbole they eulogised that good ship, which had carried them in safety over so many miles of rolling ocean! Never was such another clipper for speed or seaworthiness! Such a brave captain too! He was never scared a bit even when “the white squall came over the surging

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wave,” and took the ship aback. What a lark they had when crossing the line! What a terrible fright they got one night in a storm! What a tremendous shark they caught one day in a calm! What a funny man the second mate was; how kind the steward was to Peggy; and what an awful fellow the cook was to curse and chew tobacco! Those and a hundred other reflections on their long voyage, were related with the simple earnestness so peculiar to new arrivals just off their first sea-voyage, and they seemed wholly unconscious that their quizzical listeners were slyly laughing at them. They were detained three weeks in Sydney, waiting for their master, who was going up with them to their distant location. In the interval of leisure Joe wrote a very long letter to friends at home, giving his first ideas of the new land, with a graphic description of everything which struck his fancy, and also a general price current of domestic necessaries and luxuries, especially noting the price of peaches, which he said were as cheap as apples were in Devonshire. Though Peggy could not write, she could handle a pen; so she ornamented the margins of the letter with little ink stars to represent kisses. The letter also enclosed a draft for £2 as a Christmas-box for dear father and mother, and doubtless the poor old folks shed tears of joy over it, a few months afterwards.

Most new emigrants have a veneration for the ship which brought them across the sea, especially if the voyage have been an ordinarily pleasant one. Nor does the feeling soon die out, for the subsequent career of the “good old ship” is watched with a peculiar interest, and any serious mishap befalling it is heard of with a sorrow akin to what we might feel on hearing of the burning of our childhood's home, or the downfall of the bell tower of our old village church.

That feeling was particularly strong in Joe and Peggy, for never had they fared so well as they did on board the Flying Buck. Meat every day, and “plum duff” twice a week, were luxuries worthy of remembrance, to say nothing of the peasoup, and the lob-skouse, or the frequent “tit-bits” from the cabin table which the steward gave to Peggy. But it was higher sentiments than reminiscences of good victuals which influenced them, on the afternoon before they left Sydney, to stroll down to the grassy knoll near Dawes Battery, to take a farewell look at the dear old ship, which was lying at anchor off Sydney Cove, taking in ballast for her voyage to India.

The sailors were hoisting in the long-boat, and singing

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“Hey O! cheerily, man!” The noisy chorus thrilled Peggy's sensitive system like the parting words of old friends, and Joe himself was almost affected to tears.

“It seems funny to me that only four months ago that ship was in Plymouth Sound, and here she is at Sydney looking just the same as ever. Doesn't it seem funny to you, Joe?”

“It does so, lass. And bean't it queer, when us call to mind the old ship dashing, and foaming, and tossing, and wobbling about in them great big waves off the Cape, to see her floating yonder as quietly as a dead duck? Eh, Peggy?”

With many such colloquial recollections of their memorable voyage, they beguiled the hours of the afternoon, while they feasted on ripe fruit, with which they had filled their pockets. When four bells struck, the boatswain's whistle piped all hands to “knock off work and go to supper.” Peggy and Joe then arose from their grassy seat, and after a last fond look at the ship, they said “Good-bye, old Flying Buck!” and walked away to their lodgings.

A few weeks afterwards they were settled in their new home in the far bush. It was a little stringy-bark hut, and though far from comfortable at first, it soon underwent a transformation. Joe had stopped up all the squanches or gaps between the slabs, so as to keep out snakes or other noxious vermin, and had given the whole edifice, both inside and outside, two coats of thick lime-wash. He made many other improvements in the outside arrangement of his homestead; while Peggy was equally energetic in securing convenience and comfort inside. And when their master brought his wife over to see them, that lady was highly pleased with the skill and industry of Joe and Peggy, which had turned a ruinous old slab hut into a home comfortable enough for any humble couple to live in.

I cannot relate all Joe's early “colonial experience.” Of course he had difficulties at times—who in the world has not? —but a cheerful courage helped him to endure even the worst trials that he met with, and which his energy could not surmount or his sagacity avoid. At the expiration of two years, he “totted” up his reckoning, as he called it, while his wife sat beside him nursing a chubby little boy. His arithmetic showed a wonderful improvement in their circumstances, and they again blessed the day that they landed on the shores of Australia; while their hearts glowed with gratitude to the good friend who had induced them to leave their native land

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and poverty. Joe had deposited ninety pounds in the savings-bank, and had sent ten pounds each year to “the old folks at home,” besides buying many little things which were necessary for the comfort of his own household. His master was so much pleased with him that he had made him overseer, and advanced his wages. He often earned a little money in his own time too, for he was a good practical horse-doctor, and could put on a shoe with any farrier in the bush. On the whole, Joe's financial statement was most cheering; and Peggy's glistening eyes showed as much thorough approval as was ever testified by a forest of upraised hands at an annual meeting of joint-stockholders in the act of carrying unanimously a satisfactory report.