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Chapter II. Excursion to Illawarra, or the Five Islands.

EXCURSION TO ILLAWARRA—A STEAM TORTOISE—THE MARINE HOTEL—A CHILDISH WAITER—A BABY CARPENTER'S MATE—WOLLONGONG—TRADE OF THE DISTRICT—FINE ESTATES—A “LORD OF THE ISLES”—THOUGHTS ON SHOOTING—CREEKS AND LAGOONS—WOODCRAFT—DEATH OF THE BLACK SWAN—MY RETRIEVER—THE FIVE ISLANDS—LAKE ILLAWARRA — HOME SCENES—SOLDIER SETTLERS—“WATERLOO” AND “ALBUERA”—CLEARING LEASES—GIGANTIC NETTLE-CEDAR—MOUNT KEERA—COAL—A PILLION PAIR—AGRICULTURAL EXHIBITION—A FAMILY PORTRAIT—STRIKING A BARGAIN—A BUMP ON BRADLEY'S HEAD—SYDNEY.

IN the summer of 1849 I made a trip to Illawarra, a sea-coast district, about sixty-six miles south of Port Jackson. This district may be sixty miles long, is hemmed in and narrowed to the westward by a lofty range of mountains, and has the character of being the garden of New South Wales. Wollongong is the chief town. Strange and shameful to say, there is no road practicable for carriages from Sydney to this long-established, fertile, and beautiful province—the passage of the mountains presenting difficulties weighty enough to deter private enterprise and public effort, and thereby virtually shutting up the most fruitful lands in the colony from the markets of the neighbouring metropolis.




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As fifty years of prisoner labour had failed to produce a suitable means of communication by land, I was driven to the sole alternative of adopting the existing most unsuitable one by sea. With many misgivings I removed my household gods, my wife, two servants, and a horse, on board a wretched little tub of a steam-boat—which it was absolute disloyalty to have named after England's Sailor King, and which seemed to have been built expressly to disprove the omnipotence of steam as a motive agent. On the morning of the 24th of January we got on board and under weigh—a perfect understanding existing on the part of the captain, the engineer, the boilers, the passengers and the winds, that if anything like a moderate breeze was to blow up from the south we were to consider ourselves weather-bound, and bound in honour to remain within the Heads until more favourable auspices should supervene. Accordingly up sprung, about mid-day, a tolerably fresh air from the proscribed point, and, after paddling six miles down the harbour, our craft laid itself up snugly in one of the great port's little offshoots, called Vaucluse Bay, where, within an hour's drive of our own comfortable drawing-room, dinner, and bed, we indulged in the variety of dining and sleeping on board this little floating dungeon. Fortunately the old engineer, who was the pink of politeness, suggested an oyster-hunt to pass the time, and the skipper falling good-humouredly into the proposal, all hands landed on a cluster of rocks, well known as the “Bottle and Glass,” where we pursued that sport with as much satisfaction


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as success. A surfeit of shell-fish, it was pleasant to know, could only produce very temporary inconvenience, with the certain prospect of sea-sickness on the morrow. The antidote followed the poison quicker than was looked for. At seven o'clock, P.M., we again got under weigh, and, after a rough night, reached our destination on the following morning at eight o'clock. There were on board several Illawarra settlers, who seemed proud of their little sea-port, town, and picturesque district—describing with admiration and minuteness the various objects as we neared the anchorage. I have always looked upon my countrymen's catlike attachment to (not merely contentment with, but absolute enthusiasm for) the spot of their adoption, as a special and precious dispensation of Providence to a nation destined to replenish unpeopled countries; I have always treated it with becoming respect, (although in the indulgence of this feeling the one step between the sublime and the ridiculous is often passed,) and I have experienced becoming pain when an unguarded expression on my part may have hurt such feelings. “Pray, Sir!” said I to a gentleman of responsible and courteous exterior, who had been kindly supplying information on the different points of view around us,—“Pray, Sir, what may be that singular looking building near the beach?” “That, Sir,” replied he readily, “is popularly styled Brown's Folly—my name's Brown, Sir!”

The boat harbour of Wollongong—for it is little more —consists of a basin and jetty, constructed by convict


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labour. The remains of the old stockade, and the officer's cottage, crown the top of a verdant promontory, which protects the port from the southern gales. The site of the town, with Mounts Keera and Kembla in the background, is extremely picturesque. Its salubrious sea breezes and quiet seclusion have made this little place a sort of sanitarium for Sydney.

We took rooms at “The Marine Hotel,”—“nice hairy apartments,” as they were described by the civilest of hostesses,—the same apartments, we were assured, as were lately occupied by his Excellency the Governor, whose visit to Wollongong was to the good folks of the hotel what the famous “disjeune” of King James was to the Lady of Tillytudlem. Nothing could be cleaner, quieter, or more comfortable than this establishment, which I hereby recommend to all tourists for health or pleasure. The house is only separated by a field from the sandy beach, whereon a heavy surf continually thunders. Many curious shells are to be picked up along the shore, some of which are prettily worked up into necklaces by the native women.

We had the inn nearly to ourselves. Only one other family shared it with us. We had actual and visual cognisance of a ladylike matron, a nice fat baby, and a fatter boy of three or four years, whose bashfulness took the awkward form of always hiding his face on the floor,—so that, like the ostrich evading his pursuer, all other parts of his person were exposed. There was presumptive evidence of a male head of the family; for we saw


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his capacious slippers,—we heard his sonorous “hem!” —occasionally we met his hot meat breakfast on the stairs,—but to this day he remains in our memory as our invisible neighbour of Wollongong!

At the Marine Hotel we enjoyed, or rather endured, a singular proof of the want of adult labour in New South Wales, and of the consequent early importance of children. The posts of waiter and “laquais de place” were filled by a lad of eleven or twelve years, the eldest son of the landlord;—(it was funny enough to hear the chamber-maid calling to the waiter, “Master Charles, your Pa wants you!”) Sharp and intelligent, but terribly spoilt, nothing could be done in the house, or out, without the interposition of this little meddlesome Puck. He brought up our meals, waited at table, joined in the conversation, drew and helped to drink the wine, knew everybody and everything about the place, and was just the fellow to fill a gaping tourist like myself with a budget of incorrect information. He constituted himself my guide in our rides to the “lions” of the vicinity,—assuring me that “his three-year old filly, by ‘young Theorem,’ out of a ‘Scamp’ mare,” was nearly clean bred; that he had broken her himself, and that she was a pleasant hack;—that he had lent his gun, “a first-rate one,” to a black, to get some wild ducks for us, but would be happy to accompany me a-shooting, as he had heard I was a sportsman,—was one himself!—although to be sure his idea of sport was somewhat bashaw-like. He could get me a boat with a pair of


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oars, and a man who would fish and shoot for me at 7s. 6d. per diem,—a mode of action like that of the king of Oude, who, astonished at the personal exertions of the English ladies and gentlemen in dancing gallopes and singing sonatas, explained that all oriental gentlefolks had their singing and dancing done by proxy.

One night, when on the point of going to bed, my self-elected brother-shot rushed into my dressing-room, and informed me that the lagoon near the house was covered with wild ducks, which had alighted in a large flight. Full of an old sportsman's zeal, I hurried on my clothes again, loaded my trusty Wesley Richards—carefully chalking the barrels, according to Hawker's advice for night-shooting, and, having by great exertion of woodcraft got within shot of the wary game, was in the act of opening upon them what despatches call “a galling and destructive fire,” when, fortunately, a “lilly-white duck” sailed across the moon-beams, and saved me the disgrace and disbursement consequent upon exterminating whole broods belonging to neighbouring poultry-yards.

I have cited young Hopeful as a living proof of the scarcity of adult labour here. But there was a still stronger illustration of the early enumeration of children among the working hands, brought to our notice. A female servant of the hotel told us that one of her boys, only four years old, had been adopted by a relative, a carpenter by trade, and that “he found him very useful in


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carrying his tool-basket, and doing odd jobs.” It is a pity that the juvenile mob of Sydney—the idlest and the most mischievous, for their inches, ever known—were not in like manner harnessed to some employment, and thus kept out of mischief.

The town of Wollongong contains about 120 houses, and 500 or 600 inhabitants. One-fifth of the buildings are tumbling down or tenantless, two-fifths are publichouses, and the rest belong to settlers, shopkeepers, and professional men. There are places of worship for all shades and tastes of creed. Besides the four or five which, as the French say, “jump to the eyes” of the traveller, there are others of less demonstrative exterior; so that spiritual destitution, if it exist—and we hear a good deal of it in New South Wales—must be voluntary.

In the Protestant church, on Sunday morning, I found about sixty grown-up persons, exclusive of the minister and an individual in a holland blouse and clarionet, personating the organ. The Roman Catholics here, as generally in these colonies, appear to have increased in numbers and consequence at a much greater ratio than other denominations. The reason is obvious. Union is strength: the Romanists are devoted to one set of tenets—bound up in one common cause—presenting the strongest “formation” for resistance, if not for conquest. The Protestants are split into sects; every man must set up a creed for himself; and Dissent appears to be the rule rather than the exception. A handsome stone


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chapel, nearly finished, will shortly replace the present modest wooden edifice. The priest, it need hardly be added, possesses a most comfortable cottage, a clever hack, and a sleek exterior.

There is a painful appearance of by-gone better days about Wollongong and its neighbourhood. The fictitious value of land, at that period of the history of the colony when its follies and misfortunes formed its leading features, was one of the causes of the decline of this town. Mechanics came in crowds to what they imagined a good market for their labour and skill, houses were run up, but, disappointed in their expectations, they went off to Port Phillip and elsewhere.

The agricultural produce of this fertile district is greater than can be sold or consumed. The starving condition of the poor in the old countries recurs with bitterness to the mind when one hears a colonist say, —“We should be as well off, or better, if we produced less. We have not mouths to eat, nor markets to purchase our meat and grain.” What sad tales of misery, poverty, crime, violence, sedition, and death might be spared us, if plenty and population could be more justly balanced!

The chief exports from Wollongong are eggs, cheese, butter, calves, poultry, and grain. Some excellent horses are bred in the district, especially adapted for harness—for they attain a larger size here than in the drier parts of the colony, as is well known to be the case all over the world. The arid and sandy deserts produce the


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thorough-bred and beautiful Arab of fourteen or fifteen hands. The old original Flanders mares, which were imported to England to drag at a snail's pace the gilded coaches of our ancestors, are the natural production of a soft swampy soil; and the Lincoln fens grow the tall black steeds destined to carry our sesquipedalian Life-guardsmen. Horses, however, are not by knowing settlers considered good stock, because a mare and foal, you are told, will consume the grass of three cows; and nothing except very shapely colts will fetch a remunerative price.

There are some splendid estates in Illawarra. The author of an interesting work called “Rambles and Observations in New South Wales,” thus writes regarding the possessions of two brothers residing together in the southern part of the province. “Another twenty-five miles brings us to the banks of the Shoalhaven, on which are rich alluvial flats, and a farm that cannot be equalled in the colony, nor yet excelled in England. The owners of this noble property hold as freehold 80,000 acres of fine land, of which 20,000 are naturally clear and fit for the plough; and I speak within bounds when I say that on the estate there are 5,000 acres of white clover. This indeed spreads so fast, that in a few years the greater part of the property will be covered with it: but a mixture of clover and ryegrass is preferred. On this estate and on the adjoining waste lands are maintained upwards of 3,000 head of cattle and several herds of horses.….

“Great pains have been taken to improve the breed of


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cattle, and bulls have been imported from England at great expense. ‘Ella,’ a short-horned Durham, is a splendid creature, and cost 500l., and there are also some beautiful Ayrshire bulls.… Some of the bullocks reared and fed on the swamps attain a great size. A few weigh 1,500 pounds, and the rolls of fat on their backs form hollows something like a saucer. From the woods that skirt the swamps they come out to feed; and during the heat of the day retire into them to rest and enjoy the shade… I have never seen in England cattle equal in size and weight to those on this princely property (and none of them are stall fed); and the overseer at Ulla-dulla, an experienced farming man, confessed that he had never seen finer animals than the general run of cattle here, excepting on the estate of the late Sir Charles Morgan in Monmouthshire.….

“Their hospitality is unbounded, and the traveller's room, with its neat and clean beds, has been the place of rest of many a weary pilgrim.”

This sounds like wealth, acquired as well as merited; but the author concludes some further details by a remark which I fancy might be applied only too generally throughout the country,—“Yet the owners of it can never become rich by farming it, for want of a market.”

Within the scope of a ride from the town, there is some very picturesque scenery, new to the eye accustomed to the sandy flats and undulating scrub-land of Sydney. The pretty valley of “Fairy Meadows” is close at hand, separated by a ridge of highish land from the sea


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board, backed by the mountain range, with a meandering stream of fresh water running through its length. Here are water-mills on the flat, settlers' houses perched on the hills, bark huts overgrown with passion flowers, vines, ivy, or gourds; fields of wheat, stubble, or growing maize with its tall green flags and yellow plumes; rude barns at the corners of enclosures, whence the cheerful sound of the flail reaches the traveller's ear; and many other things that—more than anywhere else in this country—might recal England, were it not for two things:—one of them is the untidy and un-homelike look of the half-cleared fields, cumbered with stumps and logs, or with dead single trees—for the forest tree, impatient of solitude, generally dies when left to stand alone. The other thing is the cabbage palm-tree, some few specimens of which are still left growing in the valley. The appearance of this graceful tree carried me at once back to the East. The slender stems seemed to be from sixty to eighty feet high, and they swayed to the breeze as it whistled through the round tuft of foliage at their tops. The well-known cabbage-tree hat of the squatter, the farmer, the sailor—in short, of every “gentleman, apothecary, ploughboy, thief,” in and out of Sydney, is made from the leaves of this palm; and the raw material forms an article of export to Sydney. These beautiful and useful trees are becoming scarce, from the reckless destruction of the trunk for the sake of the leaf by the whites, as well as from the blacks cutting them down for the edible shoots at the top—whence the cabbage.




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I had a visit from the chief of the Illawarra tribe, “Jemmi-Jemmi,” as inscribed on the brazen gorget round his neck—the usual gift of the Government to distinguished natives;—or Jem, as he was popularly styled. He is a wretched-looking old man, and his “gin” an equally miserable specimen of old woman-hood—a perfect skeleton; yet she seemed strong and active, although but lately she had been half burnt to death. There was with them a fine full-blown young woman, the mother of two pretty children, both of them evidently indebted for paternity to some white-skinned dweller in the wilderness. The old man gave his protection moreover to an orphan girl. “Moder tumble down (died), me keep him. Master give me coppers for get him beer.” Eight dogs trotted at the heels of the family. And this was the hereditary chieftain of Illawarra!—The Lord of the Isles! demanding tribute from me, a stranger and intruder in the land, —for so I considered my small offering of “white money,” which the poor old fellow was too modest to ask for.

I had once the honour of tipping a fourpenny-piece to a well-dressed and rather fine-looking Aboriginal, in the Sydney Botanic Gardens. He approached me with a profusion of graceful bows, his somewhat seedy hat sweeping the ground at every reverence, and, pointing to his medallion, thus made known his name, as well as his wants. “Count D'Orsay” was inscribed in large letters on the brass. My friend, the original Count, is not perhaps aware that he has an Australian representative. A year afterwards I encountered the Aboriginal nobleman


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in bettered circumstances, riding a good horse, and enjoying 10l. per annum in the service of Mr. Icely.

I had been led to expect some good shooting at Wollongong, and had contrived to borrow from an old sportsman, through the intervention of “Master Charles,” a brace of dogs. There was little game to be found, however, for the season was unusually dry and fearfully hot; the stubbles had been burnt, and the dogs hunted entirely on their own account. In spite of them nevertheless—for I could not catch them to tie them up—I killed a good many quail, and a few bronzed-winged pigeons. One day I was joined by an old man, who proffered his aid to show me likely spots. Observing his sportsman-like demeanour and language, I asked him if he was a native of the colony. He said no; that he had served Squire Osbaldiston in England. In this colony, for reasons that may be guessed, I was rarely inquisitive regarding the private history of strangers—who might, or might not, volunteer some account of themselves. So I heard no more of my chance companion's biography. He was a pleasant old fellow; but I thought he looked like one who would be a troublesome customer at the corner of a covert on a moonlight night. The wildest hope I entertained regarding the cause of his “exeat regno” was, that it had fallen short of bagging a gamekeeper!

January 28th.—Bulwer makes Pelham say, “that same shooting is a most barbarous amusement, only fit for royal dukes, majors in the army, and that sort of people,”


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and that the shooter endures “a state of painful fatigue enlivened by the probability of being killed.” It is difficult indeed to account for the popularity of this pastime; for sportsmen as ardent are to be found among the intellectual and refined, as among the empty-headed and uneducated. The pursuit is shared by the greatest statesmen, (it is soothing to reflect!) the profoundest scholars, the wisest jurists, the most conservative physicians, the most successful captains—as well as the fattest majors and fastest subalterns of the day! These quotations and reflections, pro and con, are introduced apparently by way of exordium or apology to a sporting incident which I find marked with white chalk in my Illawarra diary. In a work published many years ago, the author of these volumes gave his reader perhaps too weighty proofs of his addiction to field sports. Time, the tamer of such tastes, and the scarcity of game in Australia, are sufficient guarantee for his not sinning in the same shape in the present work. When he occasionally burns a little powder in his “Rambles” personal and literary, he trusts the ebullitions of an old “shot” may meet with indulgence.

This day being Sunday, after morning service I mounted my mare for a solitary canter on the beach to the northwards of Wollongong; but the drifting of the sand before a fierce south-east wind was such as to drive me into the bush for a more sheltered ride and a more endurable atmosphere. Soon after turning inland I lost my way,—becoming involved sometimes in


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thick tea-scrub, which almost swept me from my saddle; sometimes among sluggish and sinuous salt creeks, which forced me to meander in my course like themselves; now scrambling among rocks and roots of huge gumtrees; now floundering in and out of some bog, into which, deceived by the pink-flowered shrub that covered it, my beast had leapt before she looked.

The sun,—the bushman's guide,—had set; but with the lofty ridge of Mount Keera within view on my right, and with the surf thundering not far off on the other hand, my mind was quite at ease as to my direction. At length, hitting upon a cattle track, and throwing the reins upon the mare's neck, she ambled away at a pace indicating that her nose was pointing due mangerward. A thick and high scrub rising just a-head threatened a sudden stoppage to our course. It looked like an English privet hedge of incalculable width; yet the little path dived, rather than ran, right into its depths. Had I not already abdicated my reason in favour of “Nelly's” instinct, I might have turned her back; but sticking to my compact with her,—as well as to my saddle as tight as possible,—and lowering my head, we rushed full butt into the vegetable phalanx. A short and desperate struggle, and, like the Life Guards at Waterloo, out we came on the opposite side, covered, not, like them, with laurels, but with profuse wreaths of a blue-flowering creeper, more picturesque than pleasant, in the capacity of a cravat.

We stood upon the shore of a beautiful and romantic


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lagoon,—narrow in some parts, at others swelling out to a considerable expanse,—a perfect mirror framed in the tallest and thickest bush. This salt lake, (a feature common to the district of Illawarra,) like its fellows falls into the sea by a narrow mouth, which in dry weather and low tides is filled up with sand-drifts. In heavy rains, however, the sandy barrier is swept away for a time, to be again rebuilt by the south-eastern gales and the surf. I remembered having crossed the mouth of the lagoon earlier in the day, and knew therefore that I could hardly be more than two miles from the town; and I was admiring the wildness and seclusion of the spot,—more interesting to me from the general absence of inland water in the colony,—when, as my eye wandered carelessly across the face of the water, it was electrified by the sight of a splendid black swan, (the only one I had ever seen wild,) sailing out of the rushes on the margin of the lagoon, about fifty yards from my station. Sportsman reader! what would you have done? Mine inn was within two miles, there was still plenty of light, my mare was fast as her Arab sire; but, as I have before stated, it was Sunday. Sportsman reader! I ask, what would you have done? Perhaps I might as well have galloped at once for my gun, for it is vain to deny that I had already committed cycnicide in my heart. But no—I rode quietly home, breaking twigs to form a trail, and promising myself success to-morrow for to-day's forbearance. Doubtless I talked black swans all the evening; but a sister of “Frank Forrester”


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was not likely to resent her husband's sporting infatuation. I dreamt of black swans!

Daylight found me in my saddle, clad from head to heel in drab, the most invisible of colours, my trusty double barrel charged with Eley's No. 2 green cartridge, slung on one shoulder, a telescope on the other, and a hank of twine at my pummel to secure my bird. I had no retriever, for there was none I could trust on such an expedition. A cloudy morning and the rustling of a fresh breeze through the bush, were circumstances in my favour. I soon reached the lagoon. The bright mirror of yesterday was now dark and ruffled: truly it looked a wild and gloomy spot.

My horse was quickly tied up at the entrance of the trail of broken branches, and, pursuing it quickly in a stooping posture, I arrived at an open spot of sand. This I crossed snakewise, and found myself, a good deal out of breath, in a fine covert of rushes on the edge of the lake, which was here not more than 150 yards wide. A sweeping glance told me that the object of my visit was not within ken, if he was at home at all. There stood on a dead tree opposite a large white fishing eagle, motionless as stone; and an old grey-headed raven was croaking and peeping at me from another; but no black swan! Suddenly there was a distant snap of a branch which the mare had broken; and immediately there appeared from above the reeds on the opposite side of the water the long sable neck and bright crimson bill I so anxiously looked for.




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The proud bird, with his head turned in the direction of the mare, sailed from the covert directly towards my hiding-place; but, when within seventy yards, seemingly suspicious, he wheeled round again, and putting himself before the wind, with half-open pinions sheared slowly off. Now or never, thought I; and I sprung to my feet and the bird to his wings at the same instant. The first barrel was fired as he rose, the second when he was in full flight. I heard the shot strike, and a broken feather fell whirling towards the water; yet the magnificent bird flew on apparently unhurt. An old shooter, however, knows better than to withdraw his eye from his game too soon on such an occasion; and very shortly I had the satisfaction to see the swan perform a sudden turn in the air, and then tumble with a heavy “thud” into the mid lagoon. His head was erect, however, and he swam strongly towards the most distant part of the water. It was evidently a wounded pinion that had given way. Immediately after firing I dropped down into my covert, reloaded, and with my glass reconnoitred the movements of my destined victim and first ornament of my museum. He steered right down the lake, and entered the sedges on the further shore, about half a mile off.

Marking well the spot (for good marking, young shooter! is one of the first requisites of a sportsman), and quickly remounting my steed, I made a wide circuit at full speed, until my bearings informed me that I had


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reached a spot in the bush precisely opposite to my former post. Once more taking to my feet, and carefully avoiding to pass under the gum-trees, whose crackling bark strewed the ground, but stepping on the soft turf beneath a line of swamp oaks, I came down for the second time upon the water's edge, and, looking cautiously through the reeds, I perceived—not the swan, but his “wake” on the smooth water just beyond them. The direction of the ripples betrayed that of the bird; so, retiring quickly and noiselessly from the bank, I again made a round through the bush wide enough to avoid a spot destitute of cover, and in about five minutes had ensconced myself on a reedy promontory exactly suited to my purpose. No track on the water was visible here —my game was evidently “ringed.” Stretched on the wet ground, with my gun resting on a log, the barrels forming an embrasure for themselves through the long flags—all eyes, ears, and expectation—I had, fortunately, not long to wait. The swan came into sight paddling swiftly, looking back as if he feared an attack from the rear—forward, as if he felt nowhere safe, and directing his course diagonally away from the shore, at about sixty yards distant. Sing your death-song, beautiful bird! Ebon lord of the flood, sing your dirge—for your hour is come! The deadly tube is lifted—not unseen, for the bird attempts to rise, but one wing is useless, and the effort is vain. The first barrel rings through the bush, and the long graceful neck and neat small head droops


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on the water. It needed no second shot, for the black swan was stone dead.

“And the weeping mosses and clambering weeds,
And the willow branches hoar and dank,
And the wavy swell of the soughing reeds,
And the wave worn horns of the echoing bank,
And the silvery marish-flowers that throng
The desolate creeks and pools among,
Were flooded over with eddying song.”note

The black swan was dead—but he was full sixty yards from the shore, and the wind or current was setting him further off every minute. I had no dog—what would I have given for my faithful old Juno, who was rearing a litter of mongrels at Sydney! I tried to get round to a point of land, towards which the bird seemed drifting, but a deep creek cut me off. Spirit of Hawker! what was to be done? (I invoke his living spirit—for I trust the veteran sportsman still lives and thrives.) Reader! once more I take the liberty to ask you, what would you have done? Doubtless, exactly what I did—only with less hesitation, for you are probably younger and stronger than I.

Since my earliest childhood I have been somewhat addicted to superstition—an old nurse of mine took good care that I should not be otherwise.… It was the most wild and sequestered nook of this almost awfully solitary lake—a lake

“Whose gloomy shore
Skylark never warbled o'er.”

The grey fish-eagle, scared by my shot, wheeled overhead with shrill discordant screams. The old grizzled


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raven—“Sinistra cornix!” —that had followed me, like an evil spirit, in all my manœuvres, was perched on a burnt branch, croaking all sorts of villainous omens. The sheet of brackish water, overhung by gigantic gums and dismal swamp oaks—a fringe of them standing dead and gaunt in the shallows—and darkened by the shadow of the mountain, looked black and forbidding. Tall flagreeds growing out of slimy mud and mingled with rotting timber, skirted the shore;—just the spot, thought I, for the monstrous, and, perhaps, really extant bunyip to establish his amphibious lair! There might be sharks too in these unexplored waters issuing to the sea; or some huge anonymous fish, fulfilling all the intents and purposes of the shark!

These were not encouraging reflections;—but the black swan was to be had. First, then, I addressed myself to stopping the forebodings of the feathered augur on the burnt tree; and, if I have any skill in drawing omens from the flight of birds, the shot allotted to that service must have given him cause to confine his croakings to his own grievances. Then, stripping, I selected a long light pole from the bush, and hanging my clothes on a bough to mark the spot, waded into the rushes, the mud nearly reaching my knees. Instantly my unprotected person was attacked by countless swarms of mosquitos and sand-flies; so, running quickly along the huge stem of a fallen tree that projected beyond the reedy border, I plunged into deep water, pole and all, and in a few minutes reached my object. Catching the


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bird by a leg I turned towards the shore, but his wings expanding I found it impossible to tow him in that manner. His long neck made a more convenient “painter,” and the feathers, lying the right way, the body followed easily enough. There was, however, a strong current and a high wind against us, and, becoming tired, I felt half inclined to desert my prize. The pole showed me there was no bottom, so passing it under one arm and the huge bird under the other by way of floats, I lay quiet for a time, and soon recovered my breath. Once more tackling the swan I pushed for the shore. When about half-way a new obstacle assailed me; for long slimy weeds trailed themselves round my limbs, and made me shiver as I thought of the monstrous polypus,note with a hundred feelers, common to these seas; but, turning on my back, the weeds unravelled themselves, and eventually I had the satisfaction of bringing my prize safe into port, and hauling it high and dry on terra firma. Nelly did the rest—and before mid-day the black swan was handed over to my servant to be skinned and cured. I little expected to be haunted by the black swan, or anything belonging to him, after his death; but I must relate, as a curious fact of natural history, that on getting home it took me a good hour of washing and brushing to rid my hair of an insect—a sort of tick—which in hundreds had migrated from the dead bird to the living man. I have since heard that many of the


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birds and beasts of Australia carry about with them this kind of parasite.

It was something, I thought, to have found, shot, and “retrieved,” my own rara avis! Moreover, it enabled me to make a somewhat singular sporting boast, involving no contracted sphere of travel,—namely, that I have shot in their naturally wild state, in their own native climes, specimens of all the domestic birds now found in the English farm-yard—turkey, peafowl, jungle poultry, &c.

The reader smiles—perhaps he frowns—as he sees how unmercifully I have been riding an old hobby over the last half-dozen pages. Let me, therefore, dismount, and turn to some other theme.

January 30th.—A trip to “The Five Islands” in the boat of and in company with Sandy Macpherson—the “harbour-master,” as he calls himself, of Wollongong. This rocky group, which gives its name to the district, is about eight or nine miles from the port. We landed at Rabbit Island, in hopes of finding a few of the coney tribe from which it derives its English appellation. The colony, however, planted by English hands, has by the same hands been extirpated or nearly so. Its existence, however, proves that the rabbit might be introduced with success into this colony, so devoid of four-footed game. Close to the warren are the burrows of the sooty petrel, or mutton bird, which forms to itself a sort of underground rookery, very curious to behold—out of which you may pull them or their eggs


  ― 59 ―
by dozens, if so inclined. I know not how this bird got its ovine name, unless it was from the people of H. M. S. Sirius, which was wrecked at Norfolk Island when freighted with convicts—the crew, escort, and prisoners feeding on the mutton bird until other provisions arrived from Sydney.

There is only one tenant of Rabbit Island of a higher order than the rabbits and petrels. It is a venerable Billy-goat, whose wives and children have all been carried off by coasting vessels. He is very wild, and doubtless very tough—qualities to which he is probably indebted for his life. We caught a momentary glimpse of him among the distant rocks, but he instantly disappeared. Some plans were talked over for furnishing the involuntary hermit with one or two companions; and if some “unholy bark” touch at the “Sainted Isle” with a partner for him, the bearded sage may thank me for the acquisition. Our pleasant little repast, which we cooked too near the dry scrub growing at a short distance from the shore, ended with a grand conflagration, which it is to be feared must have temporarily destroyed all the vegetation of the island,—for it was seen smoking like a Stromboli for some days afterwards.

Rabbit Island is not more than half a mile from a salient point of the coast, extensively cleared and cultivated. The wind preventing our return by water to Wollongong, we landed, and, hiring a cart at a farmhouse, went back by the shore at a foot's pace—


  ― 60 ―
enjoying a delightful drive by moonlight through a tract embracing many of the peculiarities of Illawarra scenery —sand and swamp, forest and savannah, lagoon and dry land alternate. In India we might have looked for tigers and bears, in Africa for lions, on such a belated expedition;—in some other parts of New South Wales for bush-rangers of a biped kind. Here we met with nothing more alarming than the whistle of the curlew, the quacking of the wild duck and widgeon, as they rose in hundreds from the waters of “Tom Thumb's Lagoon,” about two miles from the town; the shrill scream of the heron, and the rough trumpet of the pelican busily fishing in the shallows.

February 3d.—Having hired the hack carriage of Wollongong, we made a trip this day to Lake Illawarra —an immense salt estuary, about seven miles distant. Our route led us through a line of country not only picturesque by nature but charmingly embellished—(for after all, “nature unadorned” is but a naked savage)—by the presence and improvements of man. Right and left were proofs of successful agriculture, very rare in this most pastoral of countries. Handsome and solid houses, with spacious pleasure-grounds; snug homesteads, flanked by a regiment of ricks housed in with bark roofs; neat little dairy-farms, with all their picturesque appurtenances; modest slab huts, embowered in vines and woodbines and climbing roses; blooming orchards of peaches and apricots; long and busy ranges of bee-hives—some of them fixed in the


  ― 61 ―
upper windows of two-storied houses; yellow stubble-fields, plots of green and waving maize, and rich meadows in which, in spite of the season's drought, the fat cattle stood up to their dewlaps in clover! There was the humble hedge-school—or rather bush-school, for there is hardly a mile of hedge in Australia—and a crowd of flaxen and Saxon children rushing from its porch in frantic glee; and, what I do not remember seeing elsewhere in this colony, jolly rustic pairs trotting to market on one horse, the rosy wife seated behind her lord on the old-fashioned pillion—time-honoured mode of family locomotion!—mode that has brought home from the “flaunting town” many a gudeman with sober head, whole limbs, and full pocket, who without the guardianship of his thrifty dame would have returned drunk as an owl, penniless as a poet, and bruised and battered like “the man wot won the fight!” Many of these cozy-looking Darbys and Joans were mounted on rough, round-ribbed cart mares, with skittish little foals trotting and whinnying at their heels. These were cheering sights in a strange land, generative of pleasant Home thoughts. The wretched shieling of poor Paddy, with his dudeen, his caubeen, his piggeen —his “large family of small children,” his dirt and destitution, and withal his merriment that went to the heart; and the deserted clearing of the improvident retired soldier, were subjects for rumination less agreeable.

Of the vast numbers of small grants of land made to


  ― 62 ―
old soldier settlers during the government of Sir Richard Bourke, I believe there is in the district of Illawarra only one instance of the grantee retaining and residing on his allotment. Unaccustomed to business habits, and unwilling to quit town for country, many of them would have sold their land in Sydney without ever setting eyes upon it, but for a regulation which enforced a certain term of residence. As it was, the solid acres were quickly converted into liquid ruin. The attempt to make the soldier-colonist a landed proprietor succeeded no better than the attempt to make him a capitalist by commuting his pension. These children in arms—“heroes with the bayonet, dastards with the spade”note—deprived of the dry nursing of their officers and noncommissioned officers, have almost uniformly proved incapable of their own guardianship; and, had the demand for unskilled labour been less urgent, many of them must unquestionably have died of starvation as a consequence of their much craved release from the service. To such straits were reduced some of these crippled veterans who had sold their pensions for a sum of ready money and squandered the latter, and had bartered their land for a gallon or two of rum, that the late Lieut.-General commanding in these colonies obtained from the Home authorities a “compassionate allowance” of 4½d. a day for the most destitute among them,—a small sum for food, raiment, and lodging;


  ― 63 ―
but, in a country where a poor man may get his pound of meat for a penny, a sum eagerly sought for by the really starving.

Just after my return to Sydney from Illawarra, I became acquainted with a singular pair of old soldiers, well known by some persons in Sydney, and in receipt of this charitable allowance. Living together in a rocky cave on the shore of Double Bay—one of the romantic coves of Port Jackson, about two miles from Darling-hurst—they eked out a wretched livelihood by making and selling besoms. They were known respectively by the war-names of Waterloo and Albuera; no one cared about the real names of the poor old fellows. They were inseparable. They worked together, fed together, slept together, walked together to Sydney to sell their brooms, got drunk together almost daily, and together staggered home to their habitation in the rock—which by saving them lodging money, afforded them each no less than three-and-sixpence a week for extra drink! Waterloo had served in the Grenadier Guards, Albuera in the 57th regiment; the former a fine tall old man, the latter a regular little bandy-legged rear-ranker. Each was aged about seventy; each was invariably accompanied by a well-fed cur-dog, which trotted at his heels. Inseparable, and perhaps truly attached as were this “par nobile fratrum,” they were not always on the best of terms. It was amusing to encourage one to talk of the other in his absence. Albuera professed the greatest regard for Waterloo:—




  ― 64 ―

“Oh, yes, your honour,” said he to a friend of mine who patronised the poor old soldiers, and was talking with him, “Oh, yes, we are the best of friends and comrades, but that Waterloo—you wouldn't think it, may be—that Waterloo is the proudest man I ever knew.”

“Proud!” demanded his colloquist, “how is that?”

“Why he's proud because he was a guardsman, and I was only in the line,—that's why he's proud. Lord bless you, sometimes he would not speak to me for a week together—that he wouldn't.”

Thus it seems pride may live in a cave, dress in rags, accept a “compassionate allowance” of 4½d. per diem, and make besoms!

One evening I perceived old Waterloo slowly passing my house towards his own abode. He was, contrary to custom, solus and sober, and the two dogs jogged dolefully after him. I guessed at once what had happened. Albuera was dead. Pathos is sometimes composed of strange materials; and to me there was something really pathetic in the mere spectacle of those two dogs, abject mongrels as they were, following that wretched white-headed and feeble old man to his solitary and surf-beaten retreat. A few days afterwards the old Grenadier gave the following description of his comrade's last hours and character:—

“On Friday, howsomever, he was took wus. I got a cab and sent him to the Infirmary. He died on the road. Next morning I went down to the Infirmary, and gave in his effects—an old pair of trowsers, not much


  ― 65 ―
good, and a quart pot. That's his tomahawk, Sir, for cutting the broom; it's a better one than mine. It's all that's left to me of poor old Albuera! Well, Sir,” continued Waterloo—shaking his head meditatively, as if recalling to mind the many virtues of his deceased comrade—“Well, Sir, he was, he was the … but he's gone!. … Ah! well, he was the foul-mouthisest old blackguard that ever I saw—that he was!” And the old soldier seemed relieved by this tribute to his departed friend and comrade.

Some time later in the year, I rode out with my wife to pay a visit to the now lonely veteran, and had some difficulty in finding his retreat, which is situated in an unfrequented spot, cut off from the high road to the South Head by a thick wood. The “twa dogs” rushing out to bay at the intruders, discovered its locality; and, as we rode up, the tall, thin figure of the old Grenadier appeared upon a rocky point, his tattered garments flying in the wind as he stood up at the mouth of his cave, shading his eyes with his hand. His bare head was covered with curly snow-white hair, thick as in youth. His long arms, burnt black by the sun, looked like dry oaken sticks through his ragged shirt-sleeves. The old man was sober, and was about to cook his supper over a little fire of sticks, under the shelving rock that “served him for parlour and kitchen and hall.” We talked a good deal about the officers of his old corps. I saw that he did not recognise me in plain clothes. In course of conversation, I told him that his


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former captain, Lieut.-Colonel * * *, had retired from the army, and taken holy orders. Upon this the old Guardsman came a step nearer, and, laying his withered brown hand on my knee, as I sat on horseback, said, in a tone of instruction not a little edifying,

“No, Sir,—I beg your pardon, Sir,—but that couldn't be. No one after being a soldier would go for to be a parson; not that it's no ways disgraceful,—I wouldn't say that it is,—but you see, Sir——oh! no, damme, that couldn't be, no how!” And he looked at me with a grim smile of contemptuous unbelief.

It was clear that the retired Household Brigade-man was every bit as “proud” as his defunct comrade had asserted him to be! I asked him what made him come to this country. “Oh! you see, I did not know when I was well off. I had twelve shillings a-week, my pension, and the rent of two small cottages. I had a sister at Manchester, well to do in the world, owner of five or six good houses. Says she to me,—‘I've room for you, Joe;—there's tea of a-morning, and coffee of an evening for you if you'll stay with me. You need not go and spend your money in a public-house; for I've beer, strong and small, in my cellar for you, and a hearty welcome.’ But, as I said before, I did not know when I was well off.”

I was not without hopes that the loss of his boon companion might have reformed the old man's habits. Alas! the very next day, returning from my evening's ride, I met him, not drunk, but worse,—suffering under


  ― 67 ―
all the mental and muscular flaccidity of returning sobriety,—the liquor dying in him, as it is called. His brooms were sold, his money spent, his square bottle of strong waters empty! The wretched old sot felt keenly the misery of his predicament. The prospect of his solitary “cave,

“By the sad sea wave,”

and a night of spirituous destitution was too much for his manhood; and he wept! The hardy old troglodyte had not slept under a roof for seven years. He survived his comrade longer than I expected; for he was still alive, although much broken, when I left the colony in 1851.

The beneficent project of Government to create a large community of small freeholders in Illawarra does not appear to have met with much more success when exercised in favour of civil, than it did in the cases of military settlers. They could not compete in the markets with more moneyed neighbours. The great properties swallowed up the little ones by degrees; and the poor man who had cherished the laudable ambition of becoming a cultivator of his own acres, and, perhaps, an employer of labour, was compelled, after all, to work for hire himself. It is a trite truth, that if the earth's surface were equally apportioned to all, it would soon be again accumulated into the hands of the few. Communism is, indeed, a vain dream! In Illawarra, as elsewhere in this colony, it is usual for the poorer class of settlers to take portions of wild land—twenty or thirty acres, perhaps—on what is called a clearing lease,


  ― 68 ―
from the larger proprietors. The tenant builds his log or bark hut, sets to work with his axe and saw on the forest; fences, cultivates and improves, and holds possession, rent free, for six years; at the expiration of which term, he is expected to commence paying rent or to vacate his lot. Some of the great landowners have scores of tenants on this plan.

At the instance of our intelligent driver we went a short distance up the avenue of a wealthy resident on the road-side, for the purpose of seeing a curiosity in vegetation, and were well repaid for our trespass.

On the banks of a little fresh-water stream, over which the approach to the house leaps by a rustic bridge, there grows a cluster of the finest cabbage-palms in the country, eighty or a hundred feet high perhaps; and singular and beautiful to behold, the entire columns as well as the palmated capitals of these graceful trees were clothed with a luxuriant large-leafed creeper, so that the original tree itself was only to be guessed at by its general form.

Thousands of the Bell-bird were sounding their tinkling notes among the thick myrtle-like shrubs on the brook-side, and flocks of the large white cockatoo screamed overhead among the huge gum-trees. The former bird, which generally contrives to be invisible, is not much larger than a titmouse, and of a greenish colour. Strange, that so small an organ can produce so powerful a note, clear and metallic as that of a silver bell. I got a good specimen of this bird; but failed with the cockatoos, although firing with the longest range cartridge—


  ― 69 ―
so lofty were the trees these wary creatures selected for their perch.

At one passage of the high road to Lake Illawarra, stands a most remarkable fig-tree, well known in the vicinity for its gigantic growth. It must be fifty feet in girth, and at least one hundred feet in height before the branches divaricate. Notwithstanding its great age, the foliage is most abundant and glossy; and at this season the branches are loaded with the small bastard fig so prized by the wild pigeons. Yet I was told that this splendid tree, like most if not all of its fellows, is but a parasite after all. A seed dropped by a bird on the stem of some forest tree—the gum perhaps—germinates, and in process of time the lodger entirely obliterates its protector.

Close to this fig-tree there is a tolerably fine specimen of the Urtica gigas, or stinging-nettle-tree, the first we had seen. It may be forty feet high and the stem nine or ten feet round. A botanical gentleman of my acquaintance told me that he had measured one more than thirty feet in circumference. The sting is so painful as to paralyse a limb for a time, as may well be imagined if its venom be proportionate to its bulk. The spiculæ on the leaf, which is as large as that of the dock, look like so many shining “silver-steel” needles.

On reaching the Lake we bivouacked for an hour or two during the heat of the day on the verge of a fine grove near its shore, embowered among the dark foliage of myrtaceous trees mingled with a few small cedars,


  ― 70 ―
and looking out upon the paddocks of a considerable farm. If we were not merry over our rural repast, it was not for want of a jovial example; for a large flock of the Laughing Jackass, obstinately hanging about our resting-place, kept up an unceasing and stunning guffaw. Situated as we were, the gloomiest of ascetics could hardly have maintained his gravity. Elsewhere I have made a poor attempt to describe the vocal peculiarities of this eccentric woodpecker. On the present occasion there could be no doubt as to the personality of their jollity, for ten or twelve of these scoffers sat around us on different trees, with their ungainly large heads and wide mouths pointedly converging towards our party. “Il rit bien qui rit le dernier!” muttered I as, my self-esteem becoming more and more irritated, my finger sought the trigger of my gun. But I did not want a specimen; and my fair spouse pleading for the feathered humourists, the charges were reserved for some bronze-winged pigeons—a bird culinarily useful—several of which were flushed by our carriage as we returned through a line of slip-rails across a roughly cultivated tract towards the high road.

In the grove where we rested there were, as I have said, a few single trees of the red cedar—the great succedaneum for mahogany in New South Wales—for the trade in which this district was once famous. There are now, I fancy, no really fine cedars within reach of the chance tourist. They have long ago been cut down and sawn


  ― 71 ―
up for Sydney furniture. An old sawyer told me that he did not know where he could put his hand upon “a good fall of cedar” hereabouts; but that if I did not mind a rough walk up the mountain he could show me one or two “pretty fair sticks;” and that these would have been felled, pitted, sawn, and sent home to the upholsterers years back, but for their being “bad to get” —that is, growing in some inaccessible gully—where, indeed, the tree might be cut down, but whence it would be as impossible to move it, as it unfortunately was, in my time, to bring to a market the magnificent pine timber of the Hymalaias. The lumberers of America and northern Europe have in winter no small advantage over the woodmen of Australia and other hot countries; for the snow affords a road where no possibility of transport exists in summer, and where the timber-sled, with its ponderous log, runs glibly down to the creek to be rafted and floated to the mill, wherein it is destined to be “chawed up” by the inexorable teeth of the circular saw.

North of Sydney, it is said that cedar is still plentiful —if not on the banks of rivers and on alluvial flats, at least in the mountain ravines not so accessible to the trade.

Lake Illawarra appears to be about twenty miles in circumference. Its shores are flat and ugly; but there are sprinkled over its expanse many pretty islets, covered with noble timber, which owes its exemption from the axe—as England does her safety from her many enemies


  ― 72 ―
and enviers—to its insular position. The distant range of the Bong-Bong mountains affords a fine background to a landscape which, but for the wide sheet of inland water, would not be particularly engaging. Wherever there is a salt-marsh there are dead trees, and large tracks round this lagoon are thus deformed.

The little town of Dapto was visible from the hill where we diverged from the high road, but we had not time to visit it.

No lady, I think, ever travelled over rougher tracks than were jumbled over by us this day; for the greater part of our route lay through bush-roads winding from one settler's homestead to another and thickly set with stumps, through fields full of felled timber all on a blaze to destroy it, through scores of slip-rails—the primitive gate of Australia—and along the bush-ranges, where the track was often invisible. Yet we got home to our comfortable inn with whole bones, springs, and wheels,—pleased with our excursion, and gradually falling very much in love with Illawarra.

February 6th.—A ride to Mount Keera, one of the lions of Wollongong. Just at the foot of the mountain, on the estate of a gentleman, who, it is to be hoped, will make the best of his good luck, a fine vein of coal has been discovered; indeed it discovers itself, for portions of the lode may be seen cropping out in the middle of the road which crosses the mountain. Here it has the appearance of anthracite or Kilkenny coal, but I believe


  ― 73 ―
where the works are to be opened it is of superior quality. It is supposed to be the southern rim of a great coal basin, the northern rim of which appears above the surface about the same distance north of Sydney, at Newcastle, where it has long been worked by the Australian Company. Hereabouts I found many curious specimens of petrifaction—one especially, a section of a palm-tree with its annulated bark, rayed grain, and curled roots, so little changed in appearance by Nature's chemistry, that its weight alone convinced one that it was a block of stone. The beach near the town is thickly strewed with pebbles of petrified wood, some of them formed out of burnt trees—the white and black cinders, and the charred vein of the timber, quite as fresh as if just out of the fire. Of course the action of the tides has given these atoms their present rounded shape. I rode for some distance up the mountain in order to examine the magnificent trees clothing its flanks, and to obtain a good bird's-eye view of the district; and soon found what I sought. The road swept round the back of a small clearing, where a modest hut, covered with vines and pumpkins, stood in the midst of its “rood of ground,” in which was a thriving potato-patch and a clump of standard peach-trees in full blossom. This tranquil little domain was seated, as it were, in the lap of the mountain, surrounded on three sides by acclivities, clothed with such gigantic trees as to keep out the light and sight of the heavens, except such as were caught


  ― 74 ―
from a triangular slice of the sky directly in front. The view plunged hence upon the wide and fertile plain below. The prospect was bounded on the right by the long wall-like range of the Bong-Bong hills trending away to the southward, and fencing out this favoured province from the interior country; on the left by the Pacific—the surf-beaten group of the Five Islands breaking the dull uniformity of the coast line. Amongst the timber growing on the hill-sides were box-trees of immense size, fine specimens of the cabbage palms, of which there are two distinct kinds, of the tree fern, the grass tree, and of a sort of date. The hybiscus, attaining a height of twenty or thirty feet, was in full flower; bignonias clomb from branch to branch, and many other fine creeping plants, among which was one with a leaf and a bud—for the flower had not yet opened—like a camellia —whose delicious perfume filled the air around. Here and there, surrounded by the wrecks of smaller trees, crushed in their fall, lay huge logs of the gum or ironbark, some sawn through into lengths, but apparently abandoned by the woodman in despair of removing such unwieldy masses, or because they were rotten at the heart.

In my exploration of the bush, I was more than once only saved by the sagacity of my mare from being stung by the giant nettle—which she always avoided with peculiar care.

The only living creatures I met with on the mountain


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were a rustic couple on horseback, descending from the opposite side after a long journey. Both riders and beasts had suffered much from the heat of the sun—which was indeed intense—and from thirst. I believe the fair dame was saved from fainting by a timely sip from my sherry-flask. As for her partner, he turned it up as though he were taking a solar observation; and, not having the heart to cry halt! I had to carry home what I have heard an old toper characterise as the most despicable thing in the world next to an empty purse—namely, an empty bottle. This worthy and very thirsty pair had emigrated from England seven years before, and were doing well, they said, in a small farm. This year they were out of pocket, owing to the excessive drought. Indeed the country is dreadfully burnt up—the cattle dying in great numbers from want of water and scantiness of herbage, even in this district, less than any other vulnerable in these points. In the upland pastures it has been found necessary to cut down the growing maize crops for forage. I do not know whether I have mentioned the fact before, but the English farmer and horse-owner will be surprised to hear that maize, or Indian corn, is the “feed,” in lieu of oats, and the oat itself is sown, grown, and cut down green in New South Wales, in order to make “hay” for the horses. Oats in the grain, for those who fancy the maize too heating, may be got reasonably enough from Van Diemen's Land.




  ― 76 ―

Our time being limited, we had none to visit the southern division of the district, where are to be seen some of the finest scenery, rarest natural curiosities, and best estates of Illawarra. On the day preceding the termination of our sojourn at this little Brighton of New South Wales, the town was enlivened by an event of considerable local importance, namely, the annual exhibition of the Illawarra Agricultural Society. All the beauty and fashion of the county attended. Among the more interesting products of the soil there were not wanting a few particularly fine looking “currency lasses;” and there were plenty of long-legged, cabbage-hatted, tweed-coated sons of the same soil, much more worthy of the name of corn-stalks than the undersized native-born denizens of the Sydney streets and grog-shops. The show of vegetables was remarkably good—as good as any in the world probably; and the flowers, although less remarkable, evinced a creditable desire on the part of the settlers to embellish their dwellings; for a well tended flower-garden is one of the surest, and certainly a very pleasant indication of competence, leisure, and taste.

The Market-green just opposite our inn was allotted for the exhibition of live stock, amongst which were some well-bred cattle of the Durham race, and more than one “good cut of a horse.” Among the rest, was “Diamond” by “Cantator,” as handsome a steed “as one could wish to throw one's eye or one's leg over”—for


  ― 77 ―
such was the remark of an old loiterer, who it was easy to see had lived among horses all his life.

“Sweet little mare of yours, Sir, in the stable there. Do you know how she was bred?”

“No,” said I, “she is not my property, only lent to me by”—

“I know all about her,” interrupted he triumphantly. “I can show you a picture of her dam and her dam's master, Sir!” And, as we were going the same way, he pointed out to me a sign over a large inn, representing Governor Sir Richard Bourke mounted, in full uniform, on a chestnut charger. “Do you see the white hindfoot? but she was an English imported huntress, twice the strength of her filly.”

All this of course I thought was what is called at sea a “yarn;” but it was all true, for “Nelly” had been lent me by a son-in-law of Sir Richard's, and he confirmed the old “breaker's” story when I mentioned it to him.

The little quiet village hotel was converted for the nonce into a noisy tavern, reeking with spirits, beer, and tobacco. I dare say our excellent host put more money into his pocket this day by bar-custom alone, than accrued to him from our fortnight's patronage. It was very thirsty weather—very sultry, very dusty—some excuse for profuse ingurgitation of malt liquors, ginger beer, &c.; none for the really frightful consumption of ardent spirits by the men, young and old, and for the


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consequent rapidity with which many of the lords of the creation reduced themselves to the level—infinitely below the level—of the beasts they came to exhibit and inspect, to buy and to sell. I have descanted elsewhere upon the wild drinking bouts of bushmen, and of the sums squandered therein.

The persons assembled here had probably no accumulated wages to veer away upon, but, in default of this, every bargain, every meeting, greeting, and parting was solemnized by liberal libations; not, as will be readily believed, poured out upon the dusty earth in honour of the gods, but down throats that must have had all the dust in them laid long before. The usually cold and undemonstrative Englishman warmed up as ale or rum dictated. They shook hands, laughed; d——d each other's old eyes and limbs, (the acmé of British and brutish cordiality;) and slapped on the back and “treated” each other over and over again. Paddy was himself, undiluted by expatriation—what more need be said, when a fair was going on? Even Sandy's habitual caution was at fault—at least in one instance; for a tall, rawboned lowland gardener, at least fifty years old, forced a quarrel upon a strapping young Swedish sailor, whose torn shirt and fiery eye betokened previous cuffs and combats; and the result was, that the Caledonian got well thrashed, and was carried off by his one-eyed wife.

Of the business transactions which came under my notice, take the following instance:—A chestnut colt was


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the object; two countrymen the actors. After much chaffering, half-whispered half-aloud, and a good deal of unsteady mutual fondling—for they were both very far gone in what Mrs. Butler calls “a state of how-came-you-so?”—the would-be purchaser muttered a proposal into the bushy whisker of the seller.

“No, I'm blessed if I do!” cried the latter.

“Will you split the difference?” pursued the buyer.

“I will not,” responded the other, “but I'll tell you what I will do. I'll take six pounds down, and drink a sovereign of it now with you, my son!”

Upon this the worthy and ingenious couple vehemently shook hands, and dived together head-foremost into the bar.

At different periods of the day their progressive career was forced upon my notice. When they parted at dusk it was evident that the liberal seller had considerably more than fulfilled his treaty and his treat. The purchaser, after sundry attempts at mounting his new acquisition, which stood as steady as an iron-bark fence —attempts which reminded one of “vaulting ambition,” and certain equestrian feats at Astley's—at length got safely away. His disconsolate friend kissed his hand several times to him as he departed; and after looking around with a maudlin and bewildered air, laid himself down by the rails and fell fast asleep.

At night the Market-square looked like a field of battle; but it is only fair to the conservators of the


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public peace of Wollongong to record the fact, that before we retired to our couches there was a general collection of the killed and wounded—and I may add prisoners—by the constabulary, under the orders of an important functionary in a blue coat and gilt buttons, black velvet vest, red face, and black and tan terrier. The last objects having reference to the Illawarra Agricultural meeting that my eyes closed upon were a brace of disorderlies in handcuffs meandering under escort to the lock-up; and an utterly insensible seaman, proceeding in a wheelbarrow to join his vessel—and ours—in the harbour.

On the morning of the 9th of February, in the midst of a thick fog, we once more entered Port Jackson, and shortly afterwards our steamer ran, or rather walked—for she could make no running—plump upon a rock off Bradley's Head—a promontory half way up the harbour. Had the vessel possessed more than half-a-dozen donkey power, she must have left her—if not our—bones there. As it was, the shock was but small, although the consequent confusion was great. There was some talk of lightening the vessel; and, my mare and another alongside of her—the only horses on board—becoming alarmed, some considerate persons proposed throwing them overboard. I moved as an amendment that the calves, pigs, butter tubs, trusses of hay and cabbage-tree leaves, with other provincial products, should first be got rid of—a motion which at least induced the withdrawal


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of the original resolution. Fortunately no removal of cargo was requisite. A kedge was sent out and hawled upon; and after twenty minutes' see-sawing upon the reef—far from the pleasant game it is on dry land—she was got off with little or no damage, and soon after discharged ourselves and chattels in Darling Harbour.

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