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Chapter VIII.

HOT WEATHER—QUAIL SHOOTING—A DANCE UNDER DIFFICULTIES—BOILING DOWN—AUSTRALIAN WINES—HORSE-STOCK—A “MOB” DRIVEN IN—BREAKING AND BUCK-JUMPING—“MERRIMAN”—DRIVE TO COOMBING—SIDLING—LUNCH IN THE BUSH—A BLAZED ROAD—CARCOAR—CHAIN OF PONDS—LACK OF WATER—RESERVOIRS—A BUSH HOME—SQUATTERS, AMERICAN AND AUSTRALIAN—LEASE AND SALE OF LAND—THE PASTORAL INTERESTS—SQUATTERS AND SQUATTING—GENTLEMEN BUSHMEN—THE GRAZIER GRANDEES—THE PSEUDO, AND THE BONÂ FIDE, COLONIST.

THE reader will be kind enough to recollect that we are still under the hospitable roof of Mr. William Lawson.

This was a day of excessive sultriness—a day on which Diogenes would have desired Alexander to “stand fast” between him and the sun, instead of counter-marching the king to the rear of his tub. The plains were burnt brown and hard as a brick. The sky, from zenith to horizon, was one unveiled glare. The fervour of the atmosphere was visible in the hollows, quivering in misty wreaths. But the grain fields were full of quail: so, with two brother sportsmen, I sallied out for their destruction in what might appropriately have been called the warm of the evening.

Upwards of thirty couple were soon bagged, the son of “Nimrod,”note with his twenty years of Indian experience,


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following up the sport with untiring vigour; while F—— and myself, stumbling upon a small branch of the nearly dry Macquarie, deposited our guns and raiment on the bank of a water-hole, and hastening into the stream, remained there some time, wallowing with our noses above the surface like a couple of Mr. Gordon Cummins' Hippopotami. Nor was our aquatic pastime entirely unshared; for a huge Durham bull of the neighbouring pastures, coming up to look at us and seemingly approving of the idea, walked into a shallow near us, and, gravely fixing his great bo-optics upon us, treated himself to a shower-bath with his wet tail.

If the weather was unsuitable to out-door pursuits, neither did it better accord with a drawing-room held this day by Lady Mary Fitz Roy at Bathurst, nor with a dinner party of forty persons, followed by a ball, at Macquarie Plains.

Myself did not attend the former of these conventions; but rumour whispered, untruly of course, that serious discord had arisen owing to certain fair ones, savouring, it was thought, too strongly of “the shop,” having ventured to mingle with the local aristocracy in offering their devoirs to the Governor's much respected lady. There was something very ludicrous in this. Where all are trading in some shape for a livelihood, how microscopically fine must the social gradations necessarily be! It would require the Garter King at Arms, and would not mis-suit his title, to define the precise degree of precedence of the wife of him who sells the wool over her who vends the “extra-super merino hose,” made from the same staple. The cause of this not uncommon


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jealousy of position in provincial and colonial circles is obvious enough; where boundaries are ill-marked, trespasses are common.

Apropos to this subject, at a later date I had the pleasure of making the ocular acquaintance of a lady in a neighbouring colony, who, on some question of female precedence, did undoubtedly assert that she was “the rankest lady present!”

As for the ball, the thermometer stood steadily at 92°, while we, on the contrary, danced furiously on the brick floor of the verandah from nine o'clock till day-light. Patent leather boots and white satin shoes soon became, like the multitudinous sea, “one red.” The air we breathed was like a Sydney Brickfielder in hue. The music, or rather the band, was excruciating—I can find no milder term for it. It dimly reminded me—especially after I had retired to bed, and it “came over my soul” in dreams—of a description in some old book, where a company of musicians playing on claricorns, dulcimers, and such like instruments of torture, are described as causing “so delectable a noise, the like was never before heard!”

But “what's the odds, so long as you're happy?” says a shrewd though inelegant proverb. Every one danced with all his or her might—from the veteran captain, who emigrated fifty years ago, and who led the dancers all night, to his well-grown and handsome granddaughter.

Here we saw the proofs of a fine and genial climate, health, strength and spirit in extreme age and singular physical precocity in the young. There were girls of fourteen and fifteen tall and full formed women, ready,


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and perhaps willing, to prove themselves such by wedlock before very long.

The young men looked tanned and weather-worn, rather thin perhaps, but strong and active—their bronzed throats and hands appearing uneasy in straw-coloured kid and starched white muslin. As some amends for its want of lakes and rivers, Australia has, at any rate, none of the sallow and agueish faces and shaky forms the traveller meets at every step on the fertile banks of the Hooghly and the Mississippi. Even the mangrove swamps—nests of miasma elsewhere—exhale no noxious vapours in New South Wales.

There is no society, however limited, without its exquisite. And even here were one or two ladykillers by profession and practice—the damsel-desolator par excellence being an offshoot from the Emerald Isle and connected with a warlike profession. His exploits will long be remembered in these parts; indeed, they formed a topic of table-talk in town and country. Our party had somewhat hard work in performing the distance between Sydney and Bathurst in four days. That fast young gentleman rode in one day from Bathurst to Sydney, and dined at the regimental mess—121 miles—70 of them rough mountain miles.

Our worthy host has the reputation of great wealth. An intelligent and experienced man in the full vigour and activity of life, he derives great advantage from belonging to the second generation of a family naturalized in the colony. He possesses an immense range of pasturage, with countless flocks and herds, reckoned carefully, however, at periodical musters. His brand,


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particularly with respect to horse-stock, is reckoned about the best in the country, i.e. the W.L. with which his stock is marked is a certificate of good breed; and he exerts himself to uphold this character by importing from Europe fresh and first-rate blood, to prevent deterioration.

The mode of life and the business of a thriving stock-proprietor, or squatter, one who has funds to fall back upon in case of reverses, must be highly agreeable, exciting and healthful. But the prosperity of the ordinary stock-farmer, who has embarked all his capital in one venture, must be precarious in the extreme. One or two seasons of drought, or even of flood, one or two epidemics of “scab” or catarrh,” and the grazing settler is settled indeed! Thanks, however, to a modern invention, when threatened by shortness of “feed,” scarcity of shepherds, or disease, he has one partial remedy,—the pot; not the quart pot, English reader, the too common resource under reverses—but the melting-pot.

There is in this country no artificial or stored-up food for winter or bad seasons, as in Europe. The weal of the grazing interests, and indeed that of the colony, depends wholly on the natural grasses of the soil. When these fail, it is certainly better to convert flocks and herds into tallow, than to let them die and rot on the ground.

There are now “boiling down establishments” in most of the pasturing districts. Panics arising among the squatters from any of the above-named causes give them plenty of work. The public is made acquainted


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with their existence by advertisements in the papers, as follows:—

“TO THE STOCKHOLDERS OF MANEROO. “PANBULA STEAM MELTING ESTABLISHMENT.—Mr. C. W. Bell having taken the above establishment, will be prepared to make arrangements for rendering down stock, during the ensuing season, at the following prices:— “Cattle—Five shilling and sixpence per head. “Sheep—Sixpence each.”

The process of boiling down, or as the proprietor of the above establishment more daintily styles it, rendering down, is thus shortly described by a late writer. The stock are shot, flayed, hung up, quartered, chopped in pieces, and thrown into huge iron vats, licensed to carry sixteen to twenty-four oxen, or three times as many sheep, at once. In these the fat is boiled out, skimmed into buckets, poured thence into casks, which, after being headed up and branded, are shipped for England.

The fleshy fibre is thrown to the dogs or used as manure. It ought to be so used, but unfortunately not only are the legs and feet parboiled for pig's food, but these animals are permitted to devour and fatten on the offal. The lover of pork in New South Wales should never partake of that meat unless he knows the birth, parentage, and education of the pig producing it. These cannibal swine are truly disgusting beasts—mangy, half-savage, horrible to think of as human food.

Surplus stock, or the increase which overstocks the pastures, is often summarily disposed of through the medium of the melting-pot. These tallow-factories, or ol-factories as they deserve to be called, are a serious nuisance to the sensitive traveller—still worse to a


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resident neighbour; but they are, as I have shown, a saving help to the grazier in dry seasons.

In the year 1846 I find there were boiled down about 40,500 sheep, and 10,400 cattle. In 1849, no less than 743,000 sheep and 45,000 cattle were thus sacrificed, producing 160,000 cwt. of tallow. In 1851, the tables furnished by the Colonial Secretary make the amount of tallow for the previous year 217,000 cwt. and upwards, valued at 300,000l. This is a singular statistic of a country whose entire population is much below that of the English county of Northumberland and that of the towns of Dublin or Manchester.

It is a matter of painful reflection, too often dwelt on to need repetition, that British subjects in one part of her Majesty's dominions should be driven by necessity thus to waste the food which was given for the sustenance of man, and which in other parts of the same kingdom might have saved a million from starvation. In 1847 a member of the Legislative Council stated in his place that in that year there would probably be destroyed 64,000,000 pounds of meat by this process!

Far from the turmoil and distraction of the city, the tra-montane settlers live in peace and plenty—he who has a large family, cheaper than in any other part of the world; for meat is nothing in price when mutton is merely the soil on which wool is grown; grain, vegetables and fruit are plentiful; game, from the bustard to the quail, and the best of fish the fresh-water cod, are to be had for the shooting and netting. The colony will


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soon be tolerably independent of European wines. The soil and climate are peculiarly suited to the vine, for it thrives under a degree of drought fatal to other crops. The wines of this country have got a bad name by having been prematurely offered to the public taste, and they have therefore been deservedly condemned. I never met with any that I liked, except those made by the Messrs. Macarthur of Camden, where two excellent kinds appeared at table,—a sauterne very cordial and pleasant; and a muscat wine not unlike Malmsey Madeira.

During the last year of my residence in Sydney, I was never without a supply of “Camden” wine in my cellar, and deliberately preferred it to such Rhenish wines as reach the Sydney market. After a few more years of experience in the facture and treatment of wine very palatable kinds will doubtless be extensively produced; and, as they can be sold cheap, they will become for the working classes an infinitely better drink than the highly-drugged colonial beer. Wine-producing nations are always, it is said, more given to sobriety than those drinking malted liquors.

Mr. E. Cox, of Mulgoa, has a good wine from the Verdeilho grape, the whole of which is consumed on the estate—his people at the grazing stations purchasing it of him at 6s. a gallon, and preferring it very much to any liquor they can get at the public-houses. On the whole, I consider the Australian wine both wholesome and exhilarating. But there is a certain peculiar twang about it, either of the stalk or of the earth, to get over


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which a taste must be acquired. Perhaps some good specimens may have found their way to the Great Exhibition of 1851. I have no doubt, that not only will the Australians produce some day excellent wines, both red and white, but that they will grow their own tobacco and olive oil, silk, cotton, and flax.

A scene highly entertaining to a stranger, especially if he be a lover of that noble animal the horse, is the driving in from their pastures of “a mob” of young horses for examination and selection. This scene we enjoyed to perfection at Macquarie Plains. Two or three mounted stockmen had started by daybreak to hunt up the number required. About 10 o'clock the sound of the stock-whip—an awful implement, having twelve or fourteen feet of heavy thong to two feet of handle, and crackable only by a practised hand,—accompanied by loud shouts, and a rushing mighty noise like the Stampedo of the South American Prairies, announced the approach of the steeds.

They came sweeping round the garden fence at full speed, shrouded in a whirlwind of dust; and in a few minutes, snorting, kicking and fighting, about one-hundred and fifty horses were driven within the stockyard, —a wide enclosure surrounded by stout railings seven or eight feet high.

The highest leaps I ever saw, were taken on this occasion by some of the wild young colts in their attempts to evade the halter for closer examination. Seven or eight feet of iron-bark rails were not too much for their courage, or rather their terror, and more than one heavy, perhaps ruinous fall was the result.




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Nothing could be more roughly nor worse managed. The poor colts' resistance was foolish, because it gained them at most a few minutes' liberty, man's supremacy being very quickly and strenuously asserted. The stockman's system was foolish, because cruel, dangerous and unnecessary. But time and labour are too precious in New South Wales to be thrown away on the amenities of horse management. The poor brute is broken by force in a few days,—broken in spirit if he be naturally gentle, made a “buckjumper” for life, if bad tempered. He is handled, lunged, backed, tamed, and turned out again—“a made horse”—in the shortest possible time. The purchaser who takes him as such had better lay in a stock of cobbler's wax, before he assumes the pigskin!

That expedient of the idle and unskilful rider, the martingale, is seen on every horse in the provinces, and is the cause of many a broken knee, and probably of not a few broken necks. One of the stockmen at Mr. Lawson's, a limping, crooked little old fellow, had hardly a whole bone in his skin from his riskful office of galloping down, “catching up,” and handling wild colts and cattle, through every kind of rough country on any kind of rough nag.

The price demanded sounded, at the first blush, very low, 20l. for the pick of the lot; but that must be a remunerative price to the breeder; for the horse's food, the natural grass, costs next to nothing, and, as I have hinted, his education is far from elaborate or expensive—the buyer having often to finish that at his own especial expense. The well-known Australian horse-play, called


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buckjumping,—the like of which I do not remember seeing in any other part of the world,—is not only very disagreeable but extremely dangerous even to the good horseman. To the equestrian “tailor” it is inevitable prostration.

The cross-roads just opposite my eventual residence in the suburb of Darlinghurst were quite an established field of battle between horse and rider. Often have I watched with amusement, sometimes with anxiety, the obstinate struggle of man and beast at this spot—where two or three roads lead away to different stables, paddocks, mangers, corn and fresh water; while one only points to deep sand, salt water and the South Head. When every other branch of equine argument failed, buckjumping frequently proved convincing; and the discreet cavalier, after ascertaining to his satisfaction that he was not observed, was seen from my look-out post to return to the place from whence he came, yielding with a bad grace and a profusion of kicks and cuffs his intention of a constitutional canter into the country or on the sands of Rose Bay—Rose Bay, whose sands have received the imprint of many a horseman's length, and have, alas! been the mould of softer and rounder forms—as I can personally testify.

The price of 20l. was established as a sort of general maximum for a good horse by Captain Apperley of the Honourable East India Company's Service, who was some years resident in this colony at the head of an establishment for purchasing and breaking New South Wales horses for the Indian military service.

India is an excellent general market for this stock, the


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handsome prices given there affording a brisk stimulus to the breeders. It will be the fault of these gentlemen if this advantageous vent for their produce fail them. Private speculations for that country are thus managed:—The proprietor, embarking his lot of horses in a ship fitted up at Sydney expressly for that kind of freight, pays 25l. passage money per head for every animal safely landed at the Indian port. Some very successful ventures have been made, although others indeed have proved dead failures. One great breeder told me that, a few years back, he sent two batches of horses to Calcutta, amounting in all to forty-five. On one batch he got a clear average profit of 60l., and on the other 50l. a-head.

The cavalier in New South Wales may mount himself at a lower rate than in any other quarter of the globe—short of horse stealing. It is astonishing to see the number and the tolerable stamp of horses knocked down at the auctions at from 2l. to 10l. I have heard more than one breeder say that 5l. per head, “all round,” would pay him. I have been offered a lot of one hundred horses at 4l. a-head.

The consequence of this absurdly low figure is that the best stock is seldom sent to Sydney by the distant breeders. In the far inland districts I saw many fine horses, from seven to eight years old, that had never been backed, because the expense of breaking and travelling to a market would have swallowed up all profit. Good, smart hacks, however, may generally be got at extremely moderate prices. Heavy-weight roadsters, or really handsome carriage horses, are very rare.




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As for blood horses, there are never more than two or three worthy of the turf current in the same season. Some of the “Walers” have, I understand, greatly distinguished themselves in Indian racing; and judging by “time” their performances on the colonial courses are quite equal to the average running at Home. Colonial sportsmen however do not, I think, take into consideration the extreme and almost uniform lightness of the ground as compared with the ordinary state of the race-courses in England.

Myself was fortunate in possessing several excellent saddle and driving horses, 25l. being the highest price. For the small sum of 38l. I got a pair of carriage horses of such figure and action as are not often outdone in Rotten Row. My faithful steed “Merriman,” who served me during the whole period of my sojourn in Australia, I doomed to a merciful death two days before I left the country, bringing away with me as a relic his splendid mane attached to the strip of skin on which it grew. The hair is 26 inches long, and the “rein,” i.e. the space along the ridge of the neck, from the spot where the mane springs on the wither to the root of the forelock, measures the uncommon length of four feet seven inches. His height was under fifteen hands three inches. Steady yet spirited as a charger, gentle and safe as a lady's horse, honest at the wheel, fiery yet tractable as a tandem leader, old Merriman was one in a thousand!

November 17th.—Mrs. Lawson's ball had barely ended, when our party were again en route, the day's journey being about thirty-six miles, our destination Mr. Icely's, of Coombing, near Carcoar.




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Passing through the town of Bathurst, we came upon a fine undulating, lightly wooded, and tolerably well grassed country. The upland soil seemed to be generally poor in quality, but the lowlands fertile, being much subject to inundation. The apple-tree and the box, mingling with the common gum, added a little variety to the monotonous character of the bush. The former tree has no right to its name. It bears no fruit, nor has it any resemblance to any pomiferous plant in Europe, that I am acquainted with. The pear-tree of the Australian forest has a better excuse for its title, its fruit having much of the external appearance of a large green jargonelle, but being, in fact, only the shell, hard as lignum vitæ, of the seed, which, on ripening and splitting, it drops to the ground. The box-tree rejoices also in an extravagant misnomer; it is as lofty as any of the bush. The apple-tree is very ornamental, its sturdy stem, twisted boughs, and dentated foliage, giving it a distant likeness to the British oak.

The road we took was a mere bush track; but the wheels ran lightly on the glittering granite soil, and tolerably smoothly, except when we fell among rocks on the crest of some ridge, or, in avoiding them, got upon a “sidling” on the slope of the hill. This “sidling,” which resembles the “slewing” of the Canadian sleigh, is very unpleasant, tiring to the horses, and even highly dangerous; for sidling towards a stump, a rock, a ditch, or a precipice, may cause an upset, with a correspondent degree of injury to the equipage and its occupants. To start off at full speed, and thus to get the


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wheels to “bite” again, is the only way to redeem an incipient sidling.

In a country more liberally endowed with water our drive of to-day might have been considered beautiful; but the dire want of that element is as fatal to the picturesque as it is, in this colony, to animal and vegetable life. There being no convenient half-way house, we made a mid-day halt at a spot called the “White Rocks,” a cluster of quartz crags in the very savagest part of the wilderness, holding out no particular temptation to the traveller beyond a meagre runlet of clear water, which gave us the means of preparing grog, and, about a hundred yards down the ravine, a muddy water-hole hardly solvent enough to meet the somewhat exorbitant draughts of nearly a dozen horses.

The picnic basket was, however, unpacked, the lunch spread, “sub tegmine gum-tree.” The servants and mounted policemen led away the horses to the pool, and, in spite of the heat of an Australian summer day, we enjoyed extremely our sylvan repast and a temporary release from the joltings of the carriages.

Four years later, travelling without a guide and with my family in this same direction, the horses almost knocked up, the weaker ones of the party tired, hungry and parched with thirst, I recognised and called a halt at this same place. Some chips of the inner bark of a tree, a fallen log, and a lucifer match soon procured us a fire wherewith to make our tea; our stores were displayed; my wife was charmed with my cleverness in finding this somewhat featureless halting-place.


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I hastened away with a jug, and with a complacent feeling of self-respect, to the runlet,—it was dry! I followed my organ of locality down to the muddy water-hole—not a drop! not even mud.

A bell tinkled through the trees, it was the bell of a bullock, walking loose before a dray drawn by ten others. One of the drivers, begrimed with dust and sweat, came hurrying down towards me, and I fear I derived some comfort from the blank dismay with which he eyed the patch of cracked clay, all that now remained of this diamond of the desert. The poor jaded bullocks turned their patient heads in vain to the well-known drinking-place; the disappointed drayman, swearing two or three fearful oaths, looked very much as if he would have liked to pick a quarrel with me; but, turning his wrath upon his wretched team, he brought down a hail of blows upon their scarred flanks and they passed on, the tinkling of the bell, the cracking of the long whip, and the objurgations of the reasoning animal growing fainter and fainter, until they were lost in distance. Luckily in our case we had with us some wine and a bottle of milk, so that neither adults nor infant died of thirst, but the poor horses were compelled to proceed unrefreshed. Such is a common event in Australian travel.

The vice-regal party was, as has been seen, more fortunate in regard to water. The last six miles of a new road into Carcoar had just been marked out and partially made by the inhabitants, expressly for the Governor. It was a well-chosen but rough track, designated by blazed trees on either hand, the unbarked


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parts being painted white in order to be more manifest in the dusk. After a long and latterly steep descent through a densely wooded and hilly country, we suddenly dropped down upon the little snug-looking village of Carcoar, seated on the banks of a river in a hollow vale.

In giving a geographical and a literal description of this river, it would be incorrect to say that it runs through the town. On occasions of inordinate rains it may form a continuous stream. At present, and in general, it constitutes what is well known in Australia as “a chain of ponds,” the periodical predicament of most of the rivers of this land of drought; except indeed when the water disappears altogether.

To the grazier these chains of ponds are links of gold. Without them—and they fail him but too often—he might consign his flocks and herds to the tallowvat and himself to the Insolvent Court—no uncommon lot, unfortunately, for both stock-owner and stock; the great difference being that the tallow will always yield a shilling or two in the pound avoirdupois, while the owner, when “rendered down,” produces, perhaps, but twopence halfpenny in the pound sterling.

The lack of water is indeed the bête noire of the colony. It has rendered agriculture, as a general pursuit, except in a few favoured districts, hopeless; and even pastoral pursuits are precarious where this great essential of life is not a property of the earth but a thing to be hoped for, and prayed for, and expected from the clouds.

This want, too, is more likely to increase than to


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diminish, for all the well-watered runs have already been appropriated, and those coming later into the squatting-field will have to put up with the pastures avoided by their precursors. The blacks say, “When white fellow come, water go away.” The cutting down the trees and the trampling of stock do doubtless produce this effect. It is said, moreover, by geologists, that a gradual upheavement of the Australian continent is laying dry many of its original water-beds and courses.

No traveller can fail to remark how greatly favourable is the surface formation of this country for the structure of artificial reservoirs. Wherever, in the different lines of road, a causeway or dam has been thrown across a hollow in lieu of a bridge, there is almost uniformly a considerable collection of water. Yet the farmers and squatters have, with scarcely an exception, been blind to the practical hints given them by the road-makers. I do not remember to have seen an acre of land laid under water by artificial means in New South Wales.

But the mere lack of drink for man and beast, and of humidity for grass and grain, are not the only disasters attendant upon drought. The excessive dryness of the herbage and the fierce hot winds prepare the earth for those awful bush-fires which—whether they owe their origin to the flash of the thunder cloud or the spark of the bushman's pipe, or, as some will have it, to the lens offered to the sun by a broken bottle!—do yearly ravage vast tracts of land, destroying not only pasturage and agricultural produce, but flocks, herds, homesteads, and even human life.

To the general exploration of the country drought


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has opposed one of the sternest obstacles. Mr. Eyre, now Lieutenant-Governor in New Zealand, while prosecuting discoveries along the southern coast, found himself in a position where there was no water to be obtained within 150 miles, either by advancing or retreating. In order to recruit his dying horses, he remained several weeks encamped by the little well which he had dug on a damp looking spot fortunately discovered after many days of fearful distress, during which he had recourse to the dew of heaven for a draught, gathering it in a sponge from off the leaves before sunrise. To this expedient the blacks are often driven, bunches of fine grass supplying the place of a sponge. Perhaps whilst I am revising these notes the gallant Leichart, toiling in the cause of science, may be suffering all the extremities of thirst—if his bones and those of his comrades be not already bleaching in the wilderness!

I can hardly reconcile the general rule of a bright cloudless sky and a dusty earth with the assertion of the accomplished traveller and philosopher Strzelecki, that “New South Wales has been shown to receive a larger amount of rain than does Brussels, Berlin, Geneva, York, and lastly London, so celebrated for its humidity.”

If it be true that as much water falls upon this continent as upon others, it must fall in larger quantities and at fewer periods, and does not remain on the earth. At Sydney, at least in the heavy rains, in ten minutes after the first drop has fallen the discoloured floods are seen rushing off the baked soil, carrying away the edges


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of the surcharged gutters, and soon disappearing in the sea. In the country the rains tear up courses for themselves on the sides of the hills, and quickly leave them—fertilizing the valleys alone.

The lay of the land is, as has been said, peculiarly favourable for the formation of reservoirs. The “bunds” and “tanks” of Hindostan, the “awais” of Mesopotamia—two regions liable to drought—are monuments of ancient enterprise and ingenuity. What the Assyrians did three or four thousand years ago the Nova-Cambrians may and must do now, if they would hope ever to be an agricultural nation, and to continue to be—as they are now become—the great stand-by of the wool-consumers of England and of Europe. It was not until 1850 that the Lacklan Swamp, on which Sydney is dependent for her water supply, was fenced in from the intrusion of cattle.

At the loyal town of Carcoar his Excellency was received with triumphal arches, pistol shots—for I saw no ordnance of larger calibre—cheers, agitated cabbage-tree hats, and of course an address. These addresses were uniformly most flattering, and therefore, of course, most satisfactory to the newly-arrived ruler of the colony. The replies, framed on the model of ministerial speeches in older countries, were, it need hardly be remarked, lucid and explicit in the extreme.

Our exit from the town suffered somewhat in dignity from the jaded state of our horses. His Excellency had to double thong his wheelers and “tip the silk” to his leaders up a very steep ascent from the river with an emphasis not irrelevant to the necessity of the case.


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The Colonial Secretary and myself, although we flanked up our pair and even cheered imaginary leaders, were at one moment—with the eyes of Carcoar upon us—in a state of abject fear lest our phaëton should perform the humiliating act of retrogression.

However, after a toilsome three miles we joyfully hailed the sight of Mr. Icely's fence. There was a clearing of some two or three hundred acres; an approach through flourishing grain-fields; we left on one hand an extensive range of farm buildings, and, driving through a modest white gate and a neat English-like garden—the road lined with shouting tenants, servants and shearers (for the sheep-shearing had commenced), we drew up at the portico of a romantic cottage surrounded by a wide verandah whose columns and eaves were completely overshadowed with climbing roses, honey-suckles and other flowering creepers. The front looks over a garden luxuriant with European flowers and standard fruit-trees oppressed with their glowing produce. Beyond are large enclosures yellow with ripening grain and sloping to a winding watercourse; and all around the prospect is, somewhat too closely, bounded by lightly wooded hills, some of them almost aspiring to be mountains. Indeed Mount Macquarie, which is seen in the background of the plate, has secured that title to itself.note

So pretty and romantic did the cottage of Coombing, with its “woodbines wreathing and roses breathing,”


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its upland forests, grassy glades, and rural seclusion appear, that some of the bachelors of the party agreed that love in such a cottage could hardly be bored to death in less than a moon—duly considering a proper supply of new novels, a fair amount of quail and snipe shooting, an inventive cook, and a case or two of champagne! The propounder of this theory, however, yawned a good deal, and admitted that he had taken a sanguine view of the case.

Mr. Icely is a widower. His family at home consisted, at the time of this my first visit, of three young daughters under tuition of a governess, and a son at school. Their happiness—and they appear to form a truly happy circle—must be contracted within a narrow sphere and be independent of what is commonly called gaiety from extraneous sources; for Carcoar contains but few associates for them beyond the parson's family, and neighbours' visits, for excellent reasons, must resemble those of angels in the hackneyed old quotation. The sameness of their existence must be increased by what to me appeared the wearisome uniformity of the bush, spread on all sides within a few hundred yards of their windows. Walk—ride—or even fly—and for miles around all is wilderness—beautiful indeed, but wilderness—“toujours gum-tree!” the prospect may be said to be gummed up in all directions—singular contrast to Macquarie Plains, where the eye ranges over some 50,000 acres of open landscape.

Mr. Icely, like Mr. W. Lawson, is accounted a squatter in Australian phrase, and like him—some reverses apart —a most successful and opulent one.




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The term squatter—inelegant as it may appear—is an official term in this colony. But it is applied to a very different class from that to which it belongs in America, whence it is borrowed. The squatter of America is generally a small farmer or labouring man, with as much capital as he can carry in an old stocking, who, wandering beyond the limits of the districts surveyed by the Government and consequently open to sale, has sat down or squatted on wild land, as the buffalo or moose might do, with as great a right and no greater to its occupancy, and no more liable to distraint for rent, licence, or assessment than his quadruped neighbour on the prairie. As the frontier of the State extends and the surveyor approaches his “form,” the squatter either removes to “fresh diggins,” or, taking advantage of the right of preemption, purchases for the fixed price of a dollar and a quarter an acre as much of his original squattage as he may need or can afford to make his own.

I have lodged with an American thus situated near the head-waters of the Mississippi. His hut, built of substantial logs cut from the “oak opening” or grove on the edge of which he was located, looked over a wide expanse of the rolling prairie as far as eye could range, dotted only with occasional clumps of timber. His herds, therefore, however far dispersed, were still within his ken and needed no further care than that of himself and his sons; how different from the forest pastures of Australia! He was but twenty-two miles from a navigable lake communicating with the St. Lawrence, and the same distance from his market, a small frontier


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town containing about 6,000 inhabitants. He and his family, male and female, worked hard with their own hands, fed on tea, Indian corn bread, dairy produce and plain meat; and were glad to receive remuneration from travellers in return for rough board and lodging and the use of a light waggon and horses. In seven years from the date of his first founding his station he calculated on being able to lay by enough to buy three or four hundred acres when his location should come into the market. Such for the most part are the squatters of the far west: and such were some of the original squatters of this colony.

Men of mark and likelihood, “gentlemen and well derived,” soon embarked in the lucrative pursuit. The flocks increasing at that wonderful ratio only perhaps known in Australia, the granted lands and those purchased even at the low rate of five shillings an acre were unequal to their subsistence. They spread themselves therefore over the country, and their owners followed them either in person or by proxy. Other individuals, who had reasons of their own for preferring a frontier life, got possession of sheep or cattle and located themselves on the waste lands.

Government might have winked at this informal style of occupation in favour of the increase of the stock of the colony thereby caused, had not the wild and lawless life of these earlier borderers compelled the higher powers to frame laws for their better government. Judge Lynch was not to be trusted in a country where half the population were convicts, emancipated prisoners of equivocal character, land-jobbers, stock-robbers and


  ― 277 ―
idle and ignorant people, who had got possession of large tracts which they either could not or would not improve or cultivate.

I fear that retired officers and persons from the “ranks” of the army must be enumerated amongst the improvident grantees under Government. It was soon discovered that the system of the free alienation of land by Government was nothing short of “making ducks and drakes” of the Crown's most valuable property and most powerful source of influence. Various plans were concocted, and revoked, both for sale and the lease of Crown lands. They resulted at length in the creation of a land fund, to be expended on the introduction of free labour to cultivate that land, and in the licensing of tracts within and beyond the boundaries of location, for depasturing purposes, at small rents, with an assessment on live stock, for the maintenance of a border police and for internal improvements.

Let not my reader fear that I am about to inflict even a digest of the Land Regulations upon him. Those now in force, which have of course been compressed into the smallest useful dimensions, form a neat little book of fifty pages — published “by authority” at Sydney in 1848, and doubtless obtainable at the Colonial Office.

For purposes of squatting, the waste lands (a term very improperly and imprudently given to the splendid territorial inheritance held by the Crown as trustee for the public) are divided into three classes—the Settled, the Intermediate, and the Unsettled districts. In the Settled, the lease is enjoyable for one year only; in the Intermediate, for eight years; in the


  ― 278 ―
Unsettled, or ultra-frontier lands, for fourteen years. The rent is 10l. per annum for a “run” capable of carrying 4,000 sheep or 640 head of cattle or horses. The runs are not open to purchase during the lease, except by the lessee. On the expiration of a lease it is competent for Government to put up all or any part of the lands for sale, the lessee having the right of preemption at its fair value, which shall never be less than 1l. per acre. The assessment on stock is 3½d. for horses, 1½d. for cattle, ½d. for sheep, per head.

At the period of my first excursion to the Bathurst district, the squatters were clamouring for the share of fixity of tenure yielded by these regulations, which enable them to carry on their avocations with a degree of security unpermitted by former enactments.

With respect to the purchase of Crown lands, it is enough to state that the upset auction price was raised in 1838 from 5s. to 12s., and again in 1842 to 1l. an acre—at which figure it now stands. Whether the theory of a high minimum for waste lands be good or bad, is a question hot and heavy to handle, and fortunately no business of mine. It is quite as warmly disputed now as when it was first mooted by Mr. Wakefield. Its avowed chief intentions are to prevent land-jobbing, the accumulation of land in the hands of persons without capital or the means of introducing labour, the undue dispersion of the population, and to exclude the labourer from the possession of a freehold.

Opponents of this system affirm that it makes land dear and scarce instead of plentiful and cheap; that it discourages the immigration of small capitalists from England and diverts them to the United States, where


  ― 279 ―
freeholds may be purchased, better land, at one-fourth of the price. One of the statistical proofs offered is that only as many hundreds emigrated to New South Wales in 1845 as thousands in 1842. The alteration is favourable for the squatting interests. With the waste lands at the present price the leaseholders are little likely to be dispossessed by purchasers. But it cuts two ways: without land sales there can be no land fund; without land fund no emigration at the public expense; without emigrant-labourers or convicts the wages of shepherds, stockmen and farm-servants must rise. High wages infer paucity of hands; paucity of hands causes hasty and careless tending, washing, shearing, and getting up of wool—and consequent depreciation of the great staple in the European markets.

I confess I find it difficult to understand why the half rocky, half sandy, densely wooded and ill-watered acre of New South Wales is worth four times as much as the deeply alluvial, ready cleared and well irrigated acre of Wisconsin or Illinois—the former lying three times the distance from England.

It seems to me that if small capitalists were permitted to purchase at a low price as much land as they wanted for culture, the natural bias of man to herd with his kind would induce him to pitch his tabernacle near his neighbour; give them a church and a bit of common land and there would soon be a village: no danger of dispersion, and if dispersion be an evil what so like to cause it as the squatting system?

The English reader must understand that the lessees of Crown lands, the squatters, are debarred by law from


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cultivating any part of their runs except for the consumption of their families and establishments. Immense tracts must therefore remain untouched by the plough, and continue to be primeval deserts.

The pastoral state, it is but a stale truism to remark, is the first step, a great one certainly, beyond that of the hunting and fishing savage. It implies location, but on somewhat loose terms, and a collection of some few stationary comforts and conveniences; but the cultivation of the soil, as has been well said, is a condition absolutely necessary to high civilization and to the permanent organization of society.

Let no one, however, underrate the value of the pastoral interests as they now stand in New South Wales. In 1850 it was publicly stated by one of the greatest flock-masters and statesmen in the country, and never publicly refuted, that the whole produce of the agricultural interests of the colony, including Port Phillip, did not exceed 600,000l. a-year; while those proceeding from the pastoral interests amounted to 1,500,000l. a-year. I think this speaker further stated that, from his own squatting properties alone, 10,000/. worth of produce passed yearly through the hands of the Sydney merchants.

The immense area of this continent and the exceeding poverty of by far the greater part of the soil point it out as a country better adapted to grazing than to grain-culture. Less skill and experience are required in the former occupation. The returns are more rapid and more simple: and besides, there is something fascinating, especially to the Englishman who has been pent up in a


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single acre of the Old Country, in the feeling that he can count his horses by the hundred, his cattle by the thousand, and his sheep by the tens of thousands, and can gallop for a week across his territories without touching their confines.

That the pursuit is popular is pretty plain. There are squatters of all classes, high and low,—squatters, (and these really deserve the name,) who reside constantly at their stations, never moving to the city except, perhaps, to receive from the merchants the price of their yearly clip of wool and to load the return drays with stores. There are squatters who drive other trades in the metropolis, leaving their country interests in the hands of resident agents, and who should therefore be rather designated proprietors of stock than squatters. There are, for instance, physicians picking up their fees in the towns and carrying on in the country extensive sheep-farming concerns. There are lawyers by dozens who practise the art of fleecing both in town and country. Half the members of the Legislative Council are squatters. The Speaker squats equally and alternately on the woolsack of the House and at his wool-stations on the Murrumbidgee.

The moment the session is prorogued, honourable members, honourable and gallant members, honourable and learned members, and for aught I know, the honourable and reverend member (for he has tried all trades) hasten away to the bush and to their flocks and herds, returning in a month or two, sometimes with smiling, at others with long faces—always with sun-burnt ones.




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Squatting is a pursuit pliable according to the means, and to the other avocations of those engaging in it. One may squat on a large or on a small scale, squat directly or indirectly, squat in person or by proxy. One may buy stock, borrow stock, hire stock, or take stock on the system of “thirds,” in which the working partner gets one third of the wool and of the increase, while the proprietary partner, as he may be called, follows some other profession, or his pleasures, or holds some Government appointment at the capital or elsewhere. Two friends conjoin in a squatting concern, and take it by turns to enjoy “a spell” in Europe. Two or three brothers unite their resources, the two younger perhaps conducting the business of the stations, while the elder—a bit of a dandy—manages the mercantile and shipping part.

When the squatter is a married man, and carries with him into the bush the courtesies and amenities of life, his retrogression from a high standard of social polish need not be very visible. But it is pinned on the sleeve of the bachelor squatter. You may know him anywhere. He brings the bush into Sydney with him, like the burr on the fleece. Shy and ungainly, or tigerish and impudent, he prefers the upper boxes of the theatre to the drawing-room, and the company of gamblers, adventurers, and horse-dealers, to that of the more respectable, and what he would probably call the “slower” classes.

Even the more favourable specimens of this order,—and there are many formed to move in the best society,—are not unapt to relapse into what an old Indian


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calls jungle habits on their return to the interior from a temporary sojourn at the capital. The same young man whom you may meet in a Sydney ball-room, well-dressed, well-looking, getting handsomely through a quadrille, decently through a valse, and something of a buckjumper in the polka, you would be clever—in short you must be a French préfet de police (Vidocq himself) to recognise a month later, after he has rebushed himself. Cabbage-tree hat, colonial tweed jacket, fustian trowsers, rusty boots, ditto short pipe, unshorn beard—one would suppose that soap and water, dressing cases, clean shirts, and other such like effeminacies had been discarded the moment Sydney was out of sight. In the bonâ fide working bushman, gentle or simple,—him who passes the hot hours of the day in riding after stock and “looking up” sheep, the growth of the beard is not only excusable but advisable. You see by the way in which his nose is barked that his mouth and chin are none the worse for their natural shelter.

Among the poorer of the single men engaged in it, pastoral life in Australia is almost savage life—the life of the savage without the softening influence of squaw, wyenee, or gin. But the grazier princes, the squatting magnates, like some I had the pleasure of visiting, are the aristocrats of the land. Many of them are well-educated gentlemen—Eton and Oxford, Westminster and Cambridge men, who contrive to spare time for the culture of the mind as well as that of wool, and tallow, “hides, horns, and hoofs;” and who maintain their connexion with the higher aspirations of humanity by a constant supply of books, periodical publications, correspondence


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with Home, as well as by their hospitality extended to persons of other pursuits, who are able to import fresh subjects of discussion to their distant and secluded homesteads.

The worst feature of bush-life for family persons must be the difficulty of obtaining education for their children, especially in “the more elegant branches.” Perhaps, however, if accomplishments were attainable the cares and duties of life become so early the lot of young women in this country that they have no time to acquire them. Indeed there are not a few establishments where a help-mate, in the strict sense of the term, rather than a helpless mate endowed with all the gifts of the muses and graces combined, is the domestic desideratum.

Although it may not require any great amount of intellect to manage grazing affairs, let no man embark on it heedlessly. The bush, believe me, is no rose-bush; or if it be it has its thorns, its cares, its fluctuations, its reverses. Nowhere more than in this colony is verified the quaint adage,—“Many go out for wool, and come home shorn.” Sheep-farming has been the ruin of hundreds. But, grown wise through their own and others' misfortunes, the squatters of the present day conduct their concerns with more prudence and foresight than of old; and the majority of them, I hope and believe, are laying up for themselves, if not very large fortunes, at least certain competence. There are many enemies to the squatter. The rivalry of other wool-growing nations nearer England may be the greatest. Their chief local foes are bush-fires and blacks, drought, dingoes and disease.




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There are two great leading classes into which the squattocracy may be divided, those who are but temporary sojourners in the land—younger sons or brothers of opulent English families, who have ventured their 10 or 20,000l. in a grazing investment with the very natural intention of making a good round sum of money—enough to live “like a gentleman” in England—and of carrying their gains to their still cherished home; and on the other hand, those bonâ fide settlers who, on planting their foot on Australian ground, adopt it as their country and resolve to invest in it what they win on its soil.

No need to say which of the two is the better colonist. It is sometimes, however, not easy to distinguish the one from the other. Of course, he who deliberately intends to make of the colony a sponge to wring wealth out of, does not think it necessary to publish his resolution. Indeed I have heard individuals—especially those who value local popularity—take the very opposite course, in publicly and privately vapouring about their “adopted country,” its future prospects, and their own vested interests therein, whilst in fact they were only counting the number of days, and of bales of wool, that would enable them to shake Australian dust from off their feet for ever.

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