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Chapter VI.

GOVETT'S LEAP—VICTORIA PASS—HARTLEY—HASSAN'S WALLS—LOYAL MOUNTAINEERS—SLY GROG-SHOP—A MOUNTAIN GENERAL EMPORIUM—A MOUNTAIN STULTZ—THE LAUGHING JACKASS—DROUGHT AND DEAD CATTLE—“THE SOLITARY CREEK”—MOUNT LAMBEY—A CONVICT'S REVENGE—DESCENT TO THE PLAINS—MACQUARIE PLAINS—BATHURST—A DUSTY DEPUTATION—THE GAOL AND A GAOL-BIRD—SPIRITUAL DESTITUTION AND SPIRITUOUS PLENTY.

ABOUT two miles from Blackheath is the scenic “lion” to which I have before made allusion—namely, Govett's Leap. Under the guidance of Captain Bull, soon after our arrival at Blackheath, some of our party went to visit the spot.

Pushing our way for half an hour with no little labour through the thick and dark forest, suddenly a bright though filmy expanse of sun-lit air appeared through the close-growing trees, and in the next instant we stood on a bare rocky shelf, looking into and over a magnificent basin scooped among the mountains—about five miles across and perhaps a thousand feet in depth. The bottom of this wide and profound abyss is so densely overgrown with wood, that not a speck of earth is visible from above.

Its flanks are formed of precipitous cliffs crowned with timber and perpendicular as a wall. Through vertical


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clefts in these the sun shot its sidelong rays, right across the dark gulph, upon the Leap or Cataract—a slender thread of water which, hanging from the rim of the bowl, seemed to wave in the wind, the slightest breeze dissipating it into mere mist. A stronger gush occurred now and then, but the thin stream never appeared to reach the depths below. Australian waterfalls are indeed but sorry affairs. I fancy there are very few, if any, permanent ones.

As to the name of the place I could gather nothing further than that it was first discovered by one Mr. Govett, a surveyor; but whether this gentleman took a literal or only a poetical jump into his own punchbowl did not transpire. It is certainly one of the grandest freaks of nature I have seen in any country—quite beyond the power of pen or pencil to delineate. I have seen an attempt by the most talented artist in the colony to transfer this scene to canvass. It is a fine picture, but not “Govett's Leap!”

One very striking effect of thus breaking out of the forest gloom upon such a landscape is the beautifully clear and opaline tint of the atmosphere—an effect due perhaps to the transparent purity of the air in this climate and these altitudes; for Blackheath is nearly 4,000 feet above the sea.

In the bush around we found the Warătah growing in great perfection. Its noble crimson cone, shaped like a large artichoke, crowns a straight stem of hard wood from five to ten feet high, clothed with an oak-like leaf. This majestic wild-flower is well entitled to be called the Queen of the Bush.




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I saw here for the first time the black cockatoo, which, in a flock of about twenty, kept screaming at us as long as we were in sight. This handsome bird is as large and as black as a crow, with a fine crest, and a long fan-tail beautifully striped, sometimes with scarlet, sometimes with orange bars. He is very shy, and in no instance has been domesticated.

Pursuing our journey from Blackheath in the afternoon, a few miles brought us to Sir Thomas Mitchell's chef d'œuvre in road-engineering, the Victoria Pass. At two points on the summit the narrow parapeted ridge looks on either hand sheer down into deep bush valleys of immense extent, beyond which range after range of wooded mountains blend at length with the clouds in the indistinct distance. Were there, as in Switzerland, shining lakes and snowy peaks added to this landscape—the finest by far in the Blue Mountains—I know of nothing that could surpass it in wild beauty. The valley on the left looked dark, desolate, and wholly uninhabited; on the right lay the smiling Vale of Clywd and the little township of Hartley, upon which the road drops as gently as could possibly be contrived by human art.

Ere we reached this highland hamlet we came upon a considerable body of horsemen, who, saluting his Excellency with loud and hearty cheers, so astonished our horses, if not ourselves, as nearly to drive the whole cavalcade over the precipice. In a cloud of dust, and with wild huzzas, they closed round us and bore us away to the Court-house, where the usual duel of address and reply was instantly and warmly engaged in by the authorities of the place and the Governor. As we drove down


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the hill, with our loyal and uproarious escort galloping alongside, an individual spurring at my elbow suddenly disappeared, horse and man, over the edge of a rude bridge into the watercourse below. Not one of his townsmen pulled up—no one even looked behind; my servant however dropped from the carriage and ran to his assistance. The indifference of his companions was at once explained. He was only a negro!

The Court-house and Catholic chapel of Hartley are prettily situated. My sketch was taken from a spot just beyond these objects.

Our attention and admiration were next arrested by Hassan's Walls—an immense crescent of crags naturally castellated, four or five hundred feet high, towering above the forest, and frowning grimly down upon the road which winds round their base. Here are rampart and bastion, buttress and barbican, of nature's own building—the perfectly horizontal character of the strata and the cubic form of the blocks of stone, making the resemblance to ruined fortifications extremely striking. Had I been travelling in Hindostan, I should not have doubted that it was some hill fort we were approaching, and I should have expected to hear the clangour of gongs and the braying of shawms, and to have seen a brave cavalcade of elephants and camels, with the glittering of steel casques, the fluttering of gay pennons, and all the pomp of Oriental panoply, winding downwards through the umbrageous jungle.

Hassan's Walls are, in outline, not unlike Gwalior; but the latter formidable fortress is situated in a plain. Who was Hassan? and whence the Moslem


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and Byronic name? — We got no answer from the echoes! At one extremity of the “walls,” there stands an isolated pillar of rock, known by travellers as the Duke's Head.

Not far from this spot, at a little wayside tavern, with two or three cottages near it, where we did not stop, a party of women and children came forward, smiling and curtseying, and carrying arms and aprons full of flowers, which they threw before the Governor's carriage—a sight we hardly expected to see among the wild recesses of the Blue Mountains.

Not so pleasing a feature, although a characteristic one, was the scene occurring in a small hut a little further on. A drunken man and his wife, or more likely his concubine, equally drunk, were swearing and fighting, with bloody faces, over their cups; they rushed out and gave us a maniacal shout as we passed. This was what is called a “sly grog-shop,” where all sorts of liquors are drunk without licence, and all sorts of ruffians get drunk “on the premises” with every kind of licence. There was a still, perhaps, on the hill side, not far off.

We passed this day through large tracts of country of the most dreary and most unavailable character; yet here and there were very grand and even lovely peeps of distance through the trees. At length—and indeed it was a hard day's work in weather so hot and roads so dusty and rough—at length, shortly after dusk, we came in sight of Binning's Inn, which we approached through a triumphal arch of foliage and flowers, while fireworks fizzed and cracked their compliments to the Viceroy and his lady.




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This inn is decidedly the best on the line, with active and obliging people, good plain cookery and clean beds. Doubtless, the foreknowledge of the Governor's visit had produced along the road no little furbishing and refitting of the mountain taverns; for we found humble but successful attempts at neatness and comfort in almost all of them; although, if I recollect right, a fair and clever, but somewhat severe writer, my predecessor by a few years, has condemned them wholesale as a parcel of filthy dens.

In some of the Australian houses of entertainment, and particularly those far inland, it has indeed occasionally been my fate to be allotted a very small and very hard bed, more thickly peopled than was pleasant—the blankets with insects, the chaff paliasse with mice; a soup-plate, a milk-jug, and one small cotton rag, for basin, ewer, and towelry; a public hair-brush and comb, that looked as if they had curried bullock-drivers for a whole summer; and a looking-glass grimly corrective of personal conceit. In one pothouse on this journey, I was the successor to a stout and cross gentleman, who, I fear, had been turned out of his room on my account, for he growled exceedingly as he removed a very tiny travelling-bag and an enormous pair of slippers, both of carpet,—the latter article of outfit absorbing twice as much Kidderminster as the former. But in general we found all prepared for us; plenty of clean white dimity and huckaback, water and brown Windsor. A requisition for a matutinal tub did, indeed, in the minds of some hosts and hostesses, produce as much surprise and speculation as though some act of


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necromancy were the object in view; and at the smaller taverns, so little were the worthy people prepared for this particular demand, that there was always a severe run upon the stable-buckets.

But, after all, this is not an Australian peculiarity. In England itself—clean and comfortable England—the traveller (sometimes the visitor) who habitually practises what may be called general ablution, is too often stigmatized by the race of chambermaid, housemaid, and housekeeper, as “a nasty, dirty man, always messing and slopping about!”

Mr. Binning is a sculptor and stonemason by trade. He possesses several hundred acres of land, and a capital stone-built private residence, apart and on the opposite side of the road from the tavern. I heard the sound of a piano from within the drawing-room curtains of the former, and was told that the young ladies were practising with the governess who lives with them.

18th November.—To Mr. William Lawson's, of Macquarie Plains,—about 32 miles.

We were up and off “with the first cock.” It was a beautiful morning, cool almost to coldness. A light haze in the hollows was soon dispelled by the sun, which, travelling the same way with ourselves, never gave us much annoyance until after midday. Then, indeed, he confronted us, and we all wore “his burnished livery” ere the journey was over. Early in the morning, when the dew is yet on the leaf, a peculiarly aromatic odour arises from the gum-forest. Sometimes I have fancied the scent resembled that of cloves, of mace, or of pepper; but that of camphor is very general. These balmy and


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spicy exhalations from the “medicinal gum,” so different from those of other hot climates where the soil is richer and the vegetation rankly abundant, must be a healthful ingredient of the air we breathe.

I have heard prophets of evil foretel that the rapid increase of European and deciduous plants in and around Sydney, and the proposed formation of water reservoirs in its vicinity, and in that of all the larger towns, will in time produce epidemic disease. It will take, I conjecture, a good many “falls of the leaf” to make the sands of Sydney a subsoil: but on the other hand, if a population of 50,000 persons are permitted to herd together much longer in such a climate without a thorough underground drainage, it requires no inspiration to predict that, sooner or later, they will be decimated by some sweeping malady.

It was, as I have said, a beautiful morning: the aspect of the country too became more smiling. In place of the eternal sandstone, the granite with its glittering mica was now the prevailing rock. The trees were larger and not so closely set; and the undulating slopes were covered with tolerably good grass. Here was to be seen a herd of sheep browsing straight a-head according to their wont—lingering where the pasture was abundant, and nibbling at a trot across tracts that, having been lately burnt, were thinly covered with nice young shoots of grass. A tail-less colley gathered, unbidden, a troop of frisking lambs from under our carriage-wheels; while the shepherd lay lazily supine, reading “Bentley's Miscellany”—as I was near enough to perceive. Far below the road, near the


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water-courses, we descried here and there the variegated skins of a herd of cattle sheltering themselves under the dark shade of the Casuarinas. It was a decided improvement in external nature.

I felt strong and well and joyous—having left Sydney in other mood of mind and body; and I thought that he must be of morose or obtuse temperament who failed to relish a journey like this—and with such a companion (I must add) as him who sat by my side.

Uniting the freshness and buoyancy of youth, with the acquirements and experience of middle age, and a stock of general information, the fruits of an onerous and responsible post, I had at once a tutor and a playmate in this prince of colonial secretaries and good fellows!

“Toujours gum-tree!” exclaimed he this morning as we plunged for another day's work into the eternal avenue of Eucalyptus, called the Bathurst road—“Toujours, toujours gum-tree!”—But the tiresome monotony of the bush did not affect our spirits. On the contrary, that same bush often rang with our laughter as we pushed along our good steeds, “Punch” and “Merryman,” exchanging anecdotes and reciprocating light nonsense.

It does not take much to make a man laugh when his health is good and his heart is light. We laughed at a notice stuck up on a painted board by the road side, threatening prosecution with the utmost rigour “to any person trespassing on this property”—the country for twenty miles round looking as innocently unpeopled and primeval as when it first emerged from chaos!




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We laughed at the pompous inscription, “General Store and Provision Warehouse,” scrawled in white-wash over the door of a wretched little bark hovel, where were exposed for sale on a sheet of the same material, a cabbage-tree hat or two, a few bottles of ginger beer, a tumbler full of bulls' eyes and lollipops, and half a dozen shrivelled oranges. Nor did we look particularly grave while deciphering with difficulty the abstruse sentence, “Tailor and Habitmaker,” chalked on a plank which was nailed against a tree, above an equally small and solitary shieling, perfectly out of humanity's reach, and more particularly of any human being entitled to wear a habit. But we laughed, “holding both our sides,” when at the “Solitary Creek,” where we stopped for breakfast, we heard (myself for the first time,) the ludicrous song of the “Laughing Jackass.”

It is no uncommon thing for a writer to pronounce an object to be utterly indescribable, and forthwith to set to work to describe it. I must try my hand at a description of this absurd bird's chaunt, although no words can possibly do him justice.

He commences, then, by a low cackling sound, gradually growing louder, like that of a hen in a fuss. Then, suddenly changing his note, he so closely imitates Punch's penny-trumpet that you would almost swear it was indeed the jolly “roo-to-to-too” of that public favourite you heard. Next comes the prolonged bray of an ass, done to the life; followed by an articulate exclamation, apparently addressed to the listener, sounding very like “Oh what a Guy!” And the


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whole winds up with a suppressed chuckle, ending in an uproarious burst of laughter, which is joined in by a dozen others hitherto sitting silent. It is impossible to hear with a grave face the jocularities of this feathered jester. In spite of all reasoning I could never help feeling that it was myself he was quizzing!

The Laughing Jackass, or Dacelo gigantea, is a large species of woodpecker, black and grey in colour, with little or no tail, and an enormously disproportionate head and bill — a most ugly and eccentric-looking fellow.

During the last two days we saw and heard many things not so suggestive of merriment, and these chiefly caused by the crowning and fatal failing of the country—the want of water.

The road was strewed with the rotting carcasses and the bleached skeletons of draught bullocks, which had fallen victims to the drought and to the cruelty of their brutal drivers. We saw them dead or dying in the yokes of the teams; in the water-holes into which they had rushed in a fury of thirst: the dingo sneaked away from his foul feast at every resting-place. Some were sticking fast in the muddy pools, too weak to extricate themselves, and no one had been merciful enough to spare a bullet to put an end to their sufferings. All the ordinary watering-places were nearly dry, trodden into a consistency resembling peasoup.

I shall never forget the rapture of our party — man and horse—after toiling twenty-one miles without


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seeing a drop of water, at the appearance of a beautiful spring of the perfectly pellucid element in an arched grotto of rock by the road-side — nearly the only instance, I believe I may say, that I ever met with in my Australian travels of any such provision at the hands of man. With the ten thousand convict power employed on this great road, fine covered tanks might easily have been cut in the rock at many points where springs are now losing themselves in the sand.

Lamentable accounts, too, reached us of the pastoral districts. No rain, and therefore no grass; cattle and sheep dying of famine, or driven off in flocks and herds to the newly discovered resource of the grazier—the boiling-down establishment, to be converted into tallow; lambs knocked on the head as soon as dropped because there was no “feed” for their dams and themselves. A herd of fat cattle, intended for the Sydney market, was sold on the road on account of the want of grass and water for their subsistence in their journey down. Divided into three lots their prices were as follows:—The best lot at 2l. 10s. per head; the second at 1l. 10s.; and the third lot, consisting of forty good beasts, were sold for 30l. collectively.

I cannot but think that the camel, so patient of thirst, and the mule and ass so much more independent of water than the horse or ox, might be advantageously introduced into this country for the purposes of draught and carriage. I believe there are three or four of the former animals near Melbourne, and the Australian Agricultural Company have a train of mules. In


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Sydney you might as well expect to meet an elephant as either of these useful beasts.

“Solitary Creek,” where we stopped to breakfast, is indeed well named. A lonely house, “The Woodman's Inn,” is situated in a dreary hollow among the hills, with a small clearing at its rear, through which meanders—in wet weather—the brook whence its name. At present the “Creek” is indeed “solitary,” for it has not even its ordinary companion, water.

We found here a portly but keen-looking old landlord, with a pretty young wife, who gave us a tolerable breakfast. We congratulated ourselves, however, at not being compelled to stay a night in such gloomy and unpromising quarters; the more so when it was whispered to me—perhaps by a prejudiced informant—that the head of the establishment was an “old hand,” and “as big a rogue as any on the mountain—and that's saying a good deal.”

“Solitary Creek” is just the locality for a tale of robbery and murder, such as in early boyhood made one's flesh creep, one's eyes grow round, and one's hair to stand an end at the will of the narrator. The belated and lonely traveller with lame and stumbling steed perceives, at length, through the obscurity of the night and of the forest, the welcome glimmer of a light. He knocks impatiently at the door, in opening which there is some delay, and confusion is heard within. He is admitted, of course, by a withered crone. A tall black-a-vised man is sleeping or feigning sleep on an oak-settle by the fire. Then comes the supper. Worn out with fatigue, after having swallowed some food he


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wishes to retire, and, as he is guided to his bedroom by the beldame, a young girl passes through the kitchen and seems to lift a finger to him with a gesture of warning. The sleeping apartment is large and unfurnished, except with a low couch in one corner. He throws himself upon it in his clothes. He cannot sleep. He rises, relumes the lamp, and scrutinises certain stains on the floor at which his dog is smelling. Amid the roaring of the wind through the forest, and the heavy plash of the rain drops, he fancies he hears suppressed voices under his casement. He finds the room-door bolted outside. Overpowered, however, by fatigue and by an unaccountable drowsiness, he again approaches the bed, and is about once more to consign himself to sleep, when his faithful dog seizes him by the tunic and drags him furiously back! A sound as of machinery is now heard—and, aghast with horror, the traveller sees the bed sinking slowly through the floor into a dark vault beneath. Another instant, and three or four brigands throw themselves upon it, and drive their poniards into the—bolster!

Some such dream as this—suggested by I know not what recollections—did indeed haunt my pillow when, two or three years later, fate decided that I should sleep at this dismal hostelry. New faces were there. They tried their best to make me comfortable, and nothing more disastrous or more romantic befel me than a severe biting by fleas and their fellows.

The landlord of the Woodman's Inn complained bitterly of the ravages of native dogs on his poultry-yard and piggery. He had often seen them in packs


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of forty and fifty at the creeks early in the morning; and he believed that they feed chiefly on the kangaroos which abound in the neighbouring rocky dells. He had found a remedy against the wild dogs, by keeping tame ones of a fierce, swift, and powerful breed,—one of which, a splendid animal, half mastiff half greyhound, he assured me would go out of his own accord and of malice prepense, accompanied by a small cur which hunted by scent, and would not only kill, but bring home the dead dingo.

Immediately beyond Solitary Creek the road begins to climb, or rather is dragged by the resolute will of the engineer, right over the summit of Mount Lambey—one of the highest peaks of the Blue Mountains,—a work which earns the hearty curses of every bullock-driver, and the objurgations of every traveller of a higher grade who is compelled to follow the vaulting ambition of its originator. Cut an orange in two—lay one-half of it flat on a plate—then ask yourself is it easier to go round it or over it, and is there any difference in distance?

That Mount Lambey is avoidable we ourselves proved on our return trip, by taking the valley of Piper's Flat. But we were told of a better line than either that has long been known to the mountaineers.

From the summit of Mount Lambey Sir Thomas Mitchell succeeded in intersecting at night the lighthouse on the heads of Port Jackson—a distance of about ninety miles. To reach the top of this hill we had about five miles of terribly steep and rough ascent—yet hardly more difficult than some other passages we


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had encountered and overcome in this toilsome journey. Sometimes at a trot, oftener at a walk, we pushed on “with difficulty and labour hard.” Heat, dust, swarms of flies, scarcity of water, jaded horses, rocky steps, broken bridges, deep mud-holes, and awfully yawning precipices, did not prevent “the sportingest Governor that ever I see,” (for thus was my distinguished cousin eulogized by a well-known Sydney publican,) from sticking to his box the whole of this tour: nor do I believe that any other individual of the party, gentle or simple, could have got that carriage and those four horses over such an extent of rough and dangerous roads without breakage. (In my humble opinion, his Excellency handles the reins of his government with no less skill, judgment, and temper.)

As to my own vehicle it is not too much to say that scarcely a fragment of its original materials got back to Sydney. One or two of our fractures were of so complicated a nature, that my companion and myself had to contemplate the puzzle for some moments before we could comprehend its details—much less remedy it. I particularly remember one case where the phaeton, plumping suddenly into a hole, the hind wheels actually ran over the fore ones—a mode of “changing front” unheard of in military manœuvres. In choosing a carriage for a rugged journey, low fore-wheels should especially be avoided.

Sir Charles's tool-box was in constant requisition by us; and great was the ingenuity of the mounted policemen, two old bush-hands, in repairing damages with straps, ropes, and poles cut from the roadside.




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Somewhat later in our tour, while trotting merrily down a hill not far from Bathurst, we were far from edified by seeing one of our fore-wheels taking an independent and divergent course of its own; and we had hardly time to calculate on the consequences ere they occurred! As a proof of the readiness of resource which necessity imparts to persons of all conditions living in the Bush, Mr. Suttor (who accompanied the party at that moment), on seeing our accident came to our assistance, and from an old boot and an old nail manufactured a couple of new washers and a new linchpin for the recreant wheel, to such good purpose that it carried us safely to Sydney—about one hundred and twenty miles.

During the journey we passed several spots where the road-gangs had been established in temporary stockades. In one of these there is an excellent stone house, the quarters of the officer of the guard, abandoned to decay; and of the hut village of the prisoners nothing remains but a Stonehenge of tall grey chimneys. These road-gang relics give additional gloom to the dismal character of the mountain scenery. The superintendence of convict stockades was an unseemly duty to be thrust upon an officer of the army. He was a slave driver—a gaoler—a captain of banditti—without the excitement and profits of the post. He had absolute power as a magistrate. The condition of the prisoners depended almost wholly on the disposition of the officer in charge. He could encourage or flog, pet or torment them, according to his temper. He could do worse—namely, leave them to the mercies of


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subordinates, convict constables, and others. The consequences may be imagined.

The following instance of vulgar tyranny and its punishment was related to me by a servant who had been a prisoner at the time of the occurrence. In digging the portion of soil allotted as his task, a prisoner of an ironed gang broke in upon an ants' nest of that large and venomous kind called the Lion Ant. Being severely stung he jumped out of the hole. The overseer ordered him to get in again. The man proposed that the nest should be blasted with gunpowder. The overseer repeated his order; the man obeyed, but, tortured by the fierce bites of the insects, he again desisted from his work. Upon this the other seized him and thrust him once more into the ants' nest. The prisoner plied his shovel for a few minutes, but the tempter was busy at his heart; when, suddenly springing out of the hole, he cleft the skull of the overseer with his spade, and killed him on the spot. It is quite needless to add that the perpetrator of this act of “justifiable homicide” was hanged.

From Mount Lambey the general tendency of the road is downwards. We stopped to bait at a little wild-looking inn near “Diamond Swamp.” In New South Wales the word swamp is generally significant of good alluvial land, and in the populated parts it is usually found covered with crops of grain instead of the water which originally lay upon it. The numerous dried bogs and waterless lakes of this country give likelihood to the theory that its surface has risen considerably, and is still being thrust upwards from the earth's centre.


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Near Sydney, the swamp-grounds in the immediate vicinity of hills of sand fifty feet deep are wonderfully fruitful; one acre is worthless except, perhaps, to make glass of, (when a manufacture of that material shall be opened at Sydney,) while its immediate neighbour lets to market-gardeners for 8l. to 10l. a-year.

The trees were now larger and fewer in number; the character of the country less rugged. We were leaving rocks and ravines, peaks and precipices, for the swelling moor and curving upland. These, in their turn, gradually subsided like a calming sea, until the hills became gentle undulations, the thickset scrub open glade; and, at length, the troubled ocean of the Blue Mountains rippled out in wavy hillocks upon the smooth and wide expanse of the Bathurst Plains. How must the hearts of the toil-worn explorers have leapt with joy when, bursting from the dense bush of this rough Sierra, their eyes first fell upon the splendid champaign tract below them, containing not less than 50,000 acres of naturally clear land, covered with grass, and with a fine river flowing through the midst! What a God-send, in the truest sense of the world, for the crowded and quickly multiplying flocks and herds, hitherto confined to the sea-ward of the mountains! It was, indeed, a rich reward of a gallant enterprise.

The eldest son of Mr. Lawson, one of the three discoverers, and to whom a large grant of this valuable land was justly awarded by the Government, is to be the Governor's host for a few days.

Looking at the Bathurst Plains merely as a military and migratory stranger, without the slightest vocation


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towards “settling,” or sheep-farming, I could only contemplate them, at first sight, as affording a pleasant relief from the mental and bodily suffocation always experienced by me in a protracted journey through a thickly wooded country; as a famous locale for a gallop highly refreshing after seventy or eighty miles of precipices and gullies; as a likely spot for the production of mutton, humbly imitative of Southdown; and as a promising beat for quail-shooting—for I observed, as we descended rapidly to the level land, many fine patches of grain pretty sure to abound with the only representative of England's agrarian game found in the colony. One ought to be an Australian to appreciate Bathurst Plains as fully as he does. He looks at these very ugly and featureless prairies of scanty pasture land through a woolly medium. He “grows” wool, as the term is, and rich at the same time, by dint of these same plains, and others of a like nature—by the natural grasses of the country, in short; his admiration of them is, therefore, quite intelligible. Except in unusually wet seasons, there is little water on them and less verdure. The grass grows in separate tufts like the strawberry plant instead of forming a connected turf, a reddish calcareous earth showing itself through the interstices in some parts, and a black sun-cracked soil in others. A hardy kind of everlasting, with a stiff yellow flower and a minute pink convolvulus mix with the herbage, occupying the places of our daisy and buttercup.

Presently we came in sight of a most extensive crop of the great staple of the colony—WOOL—flourishing on the fat saddles of some two or three thousand sheep,


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which, under charge of a shepherd or two, were crawling like white maggots over the distant flats, carrying with them a cloud of dust nearly as dense as if they had been travelling on a turnpike road in the dog-days. Other object there was none, with the exception of a great black eagle, tearing carrion on the edge of a water-hole.

Trotting with a free rein along the natural road, smooth as a race-course—no little treat after three days of cautious driving—a few miles brought us to “Macquarie Plains,” the seat (as the Guide-books say) of Mr. William Lawson, where we were most kindly received, and comfortably accommodated. The house looks over a wide extent of the Plains. In its rear are extensive offices, farm-buildings, stock-yards, stables, &c. requisite for one of the largest grazing and breeding establishments in Australia. Detached, at a short distance, is a garden, useful and ornamental, a mixture of the flower and kitchen-garden, full of English productions; roses and other old floral friends in great profusion; cherries, peaches, apricots, apples, pears, and grapes; abundance of fine vegetables, not one of which plants, ornate or esculent, or, indeed, any other that I know of, is indigenous to this originally outlandish and unproductive country. The cherry, by the way, is unknown eastward of the mountains, and never seen in Sydney except in the sophisticated shape of cherrybounce.note

Besides Mr. Lawson's family, there were several guests at Macquarie Plains; and, although the house is not


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much larger than a moderate country parsonage at home, it was stretched by the hospitality of its owners large enough to contain the whole of the Governor's party, a spacious additional room having been, however, temporarily erected for purposes of refection. In this same room there dined, to meet his Excellency, no fewer than thirty-five ladies and gentlemen, whom the provincial journal described as “a select party of the élite of Bathurst,” a phrase conveying the idea of an extraordinary degree of social sifting!

Yes, at this Australian country seat, 120 miles from Sydney, at which emporium European supplies arrive, after four or five months' voyage, enhanced nearly double in price, and with the superadded risk, difficulty, and expense consequent on a dray journey of another half month across almost impassable mountains, we found a well-damasked table for thirty-five or forty persons, handsome china and plate, excellent cookery, a profusion of hock, claret, and champagne, a beautiful dessert of European fruits—in short, a really capital English dinner. Now I assert that this repast afforded as strong and undeniable proof of British energy, in the abstract, as did the battle of the Nile, the storming of Badajoz, the wonderful conflict of Meanee, or any other exploit accomplished by the obstinate resolution, as well as dashing valour, of John Bull. Wonderful people! plodding, adventurous; risking all; ruined, yet rising again; oakhearted, hardbitten Britons! You and your descendants shall reclaim, and occupy, and replenish all those portions of the globe habited by the savage. A few more turns of the year-glass, and the English language


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—who can doubt it?—will be universal, except in a few of the old-established and time-mouldy nations of little Europe, to whom, by some inscrutable dispensation, it is denied to reproduce themselves beyond their own original limits of empire. We have accepted the glorious commission; may we prove worthy instruments of the great work!note

A feast of creature comforts may appear an unfit text for such a subject; but perhaps my deduction will not seem extravagant when it is remembered that within the memory of many hale old men there was no white inhabitant of this vast continent, and nothing more eatable than a haunch of kangaroo, more drinkable than a cup of water, even where Sydney now stands; and that, little more than a quarter of a century ago, these Plains, to which most of the luxuries of the Old World now find their way, were not even known to exist.

One of the delicacies of Mr. Lawson's table on the above occasion was the fresh-water cod, cod perch, or Grystes Peelii, only found on this side the mountains. One fish was more than sufficient for the whole party.

November 14th.—Halted at “Macquarie Plains.” Macquarie! what an all-pervading name in New South Wales is this! Rivers, mountains, plains, counties, ports, forts, harbours, lakes, streets, places, public buildings, promenades, &c., all are the namesakes of this creative Governor! a nominal monopoly, which, as I remarked to his present Excellency, acts unfairly upon his successors; for it leaves them so little to be known


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by, that “The Fitz Roy polka coat, silk lined, at 30s.;” and “The Fitz Roy omnibus, fare 6d.” are the only innovations for the public good to which the patronage of Sir Charles has hitherto given birth. The explorers of those days fathered all their foundlings upon the willing Governor, so that he was driven at length to affiliate some of them under his Christian name; thus we meet with “Lachlan Swamps,” “Lachlan Rivers,” cum multis aliis. The façades of nearly every public edifice attest the vigour with which, during his long reign, the worthy general wielded the enormous convict power with which his office invested him. Their utility is beyond doubt, though many are going to ruin. There may be two opinions as to their beauty of design; in mine, his Excellency's architect well merits the epitaph accorded to a famous predecessor, Van Brugh perhaps:—

“Lie heavy on him Earth, for he
Laid many a heavy load on thee.”

This morning we drove to Bathurst, the capital of the district, eight miles, for the purpose of receiving an address and visiting the township. The road lay across the terrestrial billows, the long “ground swell” of the Plains, which reminded me in some degree of the “rolling prairies” of Iowa and Wisconsin, although the herbage of the latter is immeasurably superior.

During the last four miles we were encompassed round about by an equestrian escort of all ranks and ages, in number about two hundred, which took us into its keeping for the remainder of the drive. There were


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“gents” in green cutaways and cords; “parties” in black dress coats, satin vests à la Doudney, and white Berlin gloves; and one or two old soldier-like figures, with stiff stocks, formal whiskers, and upright seats. These contrasted well with many gradations of the real “currency” cavalier, handsome looking men in loose tunics and blouses, broad belts, tweed pantaloons strapped inside the legs with wide leathern stripes, cabbage-tree hats tied under the throat, bare necks, and beards and ringlets in hirsute profusion. There was an inferior class of the same order, wearing light drab jackets of colonial tweed, some with black velvet collars and cuffs, the everlasting cabbage-tree hat, white trowsers up to the knees, hunting spurs and whips. Here and there among the throng rode an individual of a Puritan or Romish cut, hurried by the general excitement out of his usual demeanour and pace. Next came a legion of lathy lads, standing in their stirrups, and plainly showing by their first-rate equitation that their education had taken the direction of cattle-hunting and stock-driving rather than that of the humanities. All alike came charging alongside, around, and behind; gallop, trot, canter, pull up, and gallop again; themselves and ourselves in one continual cloud of dust—all apparent confusion, yet not one horse's nose at any time shot ahead of the vice-regal equipage.

If ever the circumstances of the colony should compel it to raise a local force for the preservation of internal order, I would recommend the authorities to enrol a light dragoon corps, to be called the Australian Hussars. It would be a popular service with certain individuals


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of all classes, fit, perhaps, for nothing else. There are plenty of old soldiers to instruct and command them; and plenty of light, long-armed, bow-legged, (and, as James loves to depict his ruffling cavaliers,) “deep-chested and hollow-flanked” fellows, who have been on horseback ever since they were born, and who know how to rough it in the bush, ready for the ranks of a regiment with good pay, a showy uniform, and a discipline not too stringent. There are, moreover, plenty of active, wiry, and hardy horses, ready to “mount” such a body.

At length we came down in one grand swoop upon the Macquarie River—the Wambool of the blacks—now a shallow gravelly stream shrunk between the wide-apart and lofty banks, but after heavy rains an impassable and destructive torrent.

It was an amusing and cheering sight to see the troop of horsemen accompanying us, and even the gentry delighting in gigs, like Ossian's car-borne heroes, taking the river at full gallop in the height of their glee, and making the water spin twenty feet into the air. All was loyalty and hilarity, pleasant to the eye and to the mind of an Old Country man and a good subject. Every one smiled and shouted a warm welcome to the new representative of the Crown.

Your Englishman will sometimes talk, sometimes write like a Republican. Your British colonist, when the shoe pinches will sometimes vapour about separation. But in his heart of hearts he feels the real value of our glorious constitution—our admirable institutions. His fealty may be dormant, but it is not extinct. I truly believe that a


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ruler or a government must personally and repeatedly injure or wrong a Briton—wherever naturalized—before he shall be driven to the serious entertainment of a rebellious thought against his country and his sovereign—especially when that sovereign is a young and virtuous lady.

I cannot conscientiously compliment Bathurst on its external aspect. It is as yet the mere promise of a red-brick rectangular town, looking, as his Excellency remarked, (and Governors' jokes are always applauded and recorded!) looking as if it had just been put down to bake on the hot, bare and bright slope which forms its site. This site seems singularly ill-chosen. There is no shade from sun nor shelter from wind. The want of fuel will soon be severely felt—indeed has already been so, nearly all the neighbouring timber having been cut down, and no coal-mines existing in this Australian Traz os Montes. It is said that coal of good quality may be had at Piper's Flat, though none has yet been “got” there.

Mrs. Black's hotel, whither his Excellency repaired to receive the address, is an excellent specimen of an Australian provincial inn. In his inland hotels, however, Brother Jonathan beats Brother Cornstalk hollow; but then the Americans, having less taste for domesticity than the Australians or Canadians, frequent such establishments infinitely more. In the little prairie town of Chicago, on the western shore of Lake Michigan, full 1,800 miles up the St. Lawrence, I found better French cookery at Shelly's hotel than is to be had at any table, public or private, in New South Wales—and wine as


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good, with moderate charges. Yet Chicago was at that time not seven years old.

Most of the members of the deputation destined to present the address having for the last hour revelled in the vice-regal dust as well as their own, the weather being moreover fearfully hot, and themselves (for they were substantial citizens and settlers) apparently in soft condition, a little delay was allowed them for ablutionary purposes;—and indeed such was the plight we were all in, that it required the utmost aid of soap and water to ensure our recognition by our nearest friends.

Meanwhile, the Governor retired with his ministers and suite to a private council chamber to discuss—beer, or rather a bland beverage called “Apperley's mixture,” concocted by that oriental gentleman—our companion on this part of our tour—and having bottled ale, ginger beer, mint, and sugar for its ingredients. Ah! a Sybarite in search of a new pleasure might wisely compound for a throat-full of dust, to have it laid by such a draught as that cooling cup!

After the reception of the address we proceeded to visit the county gaol—a fine building, and one which in Australian towns has always hitherto—perhaps for obvious reasons—been the first public edifice erected; except indeed the public-houses, whereof at Bathurst there are two at the corners of every street, while along each side of them the sign-posts are so numerous, as to form something like a vista of pictorial gibbets. This, however, is not a feature peculiar to the good town of Bathurst. Windsor, Campbell-town, and others, have all the same family likeness.




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Here the gaol is not only the first-born Government building, but it is full grown; while, sad to say, the church is still swaddled in scaffolding, without roof or belfry. It must be recollected that I am writing in 1846. In my subsequent visit to this town in 1850 the church was in a complete state. “All Saints” is of brick, the style Norman, and the design very good.

During the interval between those two years a great deal had been done by the Bishop in procuring the erection of small places of worship, and in appointing clergy for the thinly and somewhat wildly peopled Bush-districts. Yet the spiritual destitution of both rich and poor in the far interior must be still very great—thousands who have no place of worship within a hundred miles, thousands who are gradually losing sight of the ordinances of religion, or who have never known them.

There must be many parts of New South Wales where the first rites over the infant and the last over the dead are not performed by ecclesiastics—where there is no one, bearing a divine commission, to strengthen the wavering faith of the living, nor to cheer the departing and despairing soul! The very sight of the steeple and the sound of “the church-going bell” are useful mementos of the higher designs of our being for the thoughtless or depraved, the idle, the busy, and the vicious. Protestant as I am, when travelling or serving in Roman Catholic countries, I have felt a wholesome influence from the common symbol of our faith—the crucifix, upreared on the lonely roadside or niched on the angle of the crowded street, as is the common practice among nations professing that more demonstrative creed.


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I can imagine the mind of the reprobate, bent on mischief, being diverted from its purpose by the sudden sight of even the rudest image of the cross and passion of Him who died for the sins of mankind!

I have hinted that ample provision for the spirituous wants of the community has been made in the township of Bathurst, as in other country towns. A stranger would argue that there cannot be customers for so many grog-shops. The fact is, that every month or there-abouts comes an influx of bush-labourers to the town, with their pockets full of wages, for the express purpose of spending them. There is a glorious scene of drinking and riot for a few days or weeks; their money is soon exhausted, pouched by the unscrupulous publican; and away they go again to their teams, their flocks, or their saw-pits, to earn money sufficient for another periodical debauch. Nor, when very flush of coin, do these rough fellows confine themselves to vulgar drinks. Sometimes they indulge in a bout at the “swells' tipple,” as they call champagne, starting a dozen or two into a pail, and baling it down their throats with their tin mugs. Nay, for want of a baler, some of them have been known to lap up their liquor as cats do cream! Grangosier himself could hardly outdo the bibulous capabilities of some of these spongy revellers. Almost incredible tales are told of the reckless sotting of the bushmen of the interior. I will adduce one only as related in 1849 by a provincial newspaper.

Five labourers, who had “stopped out” the reaping and shearing at a long distance from the town of Geelong, put up at a well-known bush-tavern on the road;


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and in the course of two or three days spent amongst them 130l., besides selling the whole of their clothes, bedding, shears, and reaping-hooks to the servants and hangers-on about the house, the price of which was also spent in drunkenness and riot.

The worst of it is, that to encourage these brutal habits is directly conducive to the interests of the employers of labour, for no man in New South Wales—no unmarried man at least—will do a “hand's-turn” of work so long as he has a shilling in his pocket.

But I must not be too sweeping in an accusation of drunkenness against the bush-people. Teetotalism—that practical confession of the subservience of the soul to the body, of the power of the animal propensities over the reason—is prevalent among all classes in the provinces. Many indeed are Rechabites by force of circumstances rather than by choice,—living in tents, and drinking no wine,—because they can get no better lodging or beverage in the remote wilderness.

I have mentioned our visit to the gaol at Bathurst, because here I witnessed the effects of protracted confinement upon an Aboriginal prisoner. This man, Fishhook by name, had been sentenced to imprisonment for cattle-stealing—although it was by no means certain that he had not been the mere cat's-paw of white depredators. When brought out of his cell for the inspection of the Governor, he showed little or no sign of intellect, and when I saw him again a month later he was quite idiotic. The poor black had left within those high brick walls the little mind he ever had, whilst his soul-case looked in the highest preservation—for he was


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naturally of athletic frame, and to him prison fare was profusion. Sir Charles ordered his immediate release; and my excellent friend the member for Bathurst, undertook to interpret his Excellency's merciful intention to the culprit, and to convey to him at the same time a suitable admonition.

Now I have no wish to be presumptuous, but I do believe that, in spite of my late arrival in the colony and my utter ignorance of the blacks, I could have given utterance to as much genuine Australian as was comprised in the spirited and ingenious harangue of the worthy senator. The language, or rather lingo, he employed occasioned us all much surprise at the time; but we subsequently found that it was by no means an original invention of this gentleman. This kind of bush patois, chiefly composed of very broken English mixed with other words quite foreign to either the British or native tongues, has long been the established mode of oral communication with the blacks.

With the open mouth and drooping lip of perfect vacancy, yet with a kindling eye, the poor “black fellow” received his liberty.

All imprisonment—indeed all punishments hitherto invented—it is obvious enough are extremely unequal and therefore unjust in their operation; the solitary system preeminently so. The dull, lethargic, and ignorant sleep or doze through the heavy hours. The active, energetic, and imaginative suffer cruelly. To the free roaming savage, fresh from his boundless forests, the dark contracted cell must be madness and martyrdom. I am well pleased to be able to interpolate here the


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remark, that in the year 1850 I saw Mr. Fishhook for the third time, when, thanks to the kindness of Mr. Suttor, who had taken him into his protection and service from the moment of his manumission, his mental health was perfectly reestablished.

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