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Chapter IX.

THE PARROT FAMILY CONSIDERED AS GARDENERS AND AGRICULTURISTS—THE ORGAN-MAGPIE—DICK SWIVELLER—THE LOCUST—SHEARING AND BRANDING—HOW TO MILK—LABOUR—A HAND FOR HIRE—A SETTLER OF SUBSTANCE—GAME—A BEAST WITH A BILL—THE PICTORIAL PRESS—HORSE TREATMENT IN TRAVELLING—A NIGHT BIVOUAC—UNPOETICAL PASTORALS—ABERCROMBIE CAVES—JOHN BULL ABROAD—DAMPER—HORSEMANSHIP—CONVERGENT NEWS—DEATH AT WORK.

November 18th.—COOMBING. A lovely morning. I was awakened early by a chattering of parrots absolutely stunning, and looking forth I found the standard cherry-trees thronged with these birds,—a thousand beautiful and mischievous creatures frisking among the branches, eating no small quantity of the fruit of these exotic plants reared with so much trouble, and wantonly destroying every berry and bud within reach of their strong little beaks. What wonder that the old Scotch gardener strewed the ground, in vain however, with their painted corpses, as he prowled round the garden with a vengeful face and a gun as long as himself!

Beyond the garden fence, down on the cultivated land, the fields were covered, as by a snow-drift, with flocks of the large white cockatoo,—a bird of the strongest anti-protectionist principles on the subject of the Corn Laws. The seed in the ground, the ripening or the


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ripe grain, are “all fish” to him. The havoc he commits is immense; and he is so wary as to preserve an absolute impunity from gun or snare.

In delightful contrast with the shrill harsh voices of these two feathered scolds came, from the garden hedge, the full soft note of the organ-magpie—like the low breathing of the flute-stop of that instrument. Some of the tones are as soft and sad as those of the cushat, but with even more of music in them. When trying afterwards to find some likeness for this bird's song, it suddenly struck me that it resembled in some degree the notes of an accordion, or rather a flutina, touched by a timid and uncertain hand, attempting over and over again the first two or three bars of “Nix my Dolly,” an air which, unsentimental as are its associations, I always thought full of beauty and originality. On my return to England after three years in America this tune was in possession of the London butcher and pot-boys. My friends, I remember, were much amused when I told them, on the first evening of our reunion, how charmed I had been with a certain song of the streets, and which proved to be no other than Blueskin's popular and vulgar air.

There is a sort of ventriloquism in this bird's voice. You may be looking out afar for the instrument of the seemingly distant music, when a note louder than the rest calls your attention nearer home, and you find the songster sitting on a branch within six feet of your head. The organ-magpie, pied crow, or barita, is somewhat larger than the English magpie, with a tail as much shorter as his voice is sweeter.




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There was another vocal bird that I frequently observed perched on the topmost branch of some tall tree, with its bill pointed skywards and singing with all its soul in a tone somewhat sharper, but not very unlike the magpie's. This bird appeared to be a kind of woodpecker, at least in shape; but I never detected him in the act of “tapping.” I could not learn his name, so gave him that of Dick Swiveller, because, to my “fanciful mind,” he seemed to have that gentleman's habit of indulging in snatches of song, the prevailing ditty sounding like the commencement of Macheath's solo, “When the heart of a man,” &c.

One of the greatest curiosities of animated nature at this season is the locust,—the Tettix of Anacreon,—the Latin Cicada, the very same insect, if I mistake not, whose figure is immortalized in ancient Egyptian sculpture. When the weather becomes warm the locust, which has been all winter laid up beneath the earth, perforates its surface and emerges in a full suit of russet armour. Crawling to the nearest tree he lays fast hold of the bark with his gauntlets, then, squaring his shoulders, he splits the back of his cuirasse,—and lo! a gay, bright green, gauze winged and gold spotted denizen of air,—his subterranean attire left hanging up like a fusty old garment at a Jew's door in Monmouth-street, or a rusty, battered suit of armour on the walls of an ancestral hall. Not a word is to be said in favour of this creature's voice; his stridulous notes ring through the air from morning to night with an effect so distracting that one can hardly afford to pity him when one hears him chirping through the closed fingers of the


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Sydney urchins—every one of whom, in the locust season, carries about in his clutches at least one of these living castanets. One species of locust, as is well known, reappears from his earthen retreat only once in seventeen years; no wonder he makes a noise in the world during his short holiday.

We witnessed to-day the several processes of shearing, sorting, packing, and pressing wool. The weather being extremely sultry, it seemed very hard and hot work—yet some of the best hands contrived to clip 70 sheep in a day. It was curious to observe how rapidly the poor panting, helpless, innocent beast was disrobed of its thick downy fleece, without breaking it, and was then let go naked and astonished back to its pen. It strongly resembled a process I have watched at Doncaster, Newmarket, and elsewhere, in which the patient looks equally sheepish after he has been done!

A more unpleasing and cruel operation is the branding of young stock. Every colt and heifer is marked with the initials or other cypher of its owner, burnt on some conspicuous point. On the shoulder of a fine horse it is very disfiguring, yet essentially necessary to prevent theft in a country where the animals, roving over their wide and wooded pastures, are sometimes not seen or heard of for months together. The roars and groans of the suffering juvenci, as they were hauled by ropes into a sort of wooden cage, proved how painful was the system of impressing upon them their A B C. But branding does not as a matter of course preclude cattle stealing; the marks are either cut out bodily or altered by rebranding,—some letters being easily changed to others.




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Among other stockyard sights I was attracted by seeing a lot of men preparing to capture, and as I thought to slaughter out of hand, a remarkably wild cow. She knocked down one of her pursuers and was making towards myself, who having a gun in my hand was conning the idea of shooting her through the head to save further trouble and expense, when I was quietly informed that they were only going to milk her. It was the most flagitious case of “violence with intent” to milk I had ever met with! Having lassoed her horns, and induced her to run her head through the rails of the yard, it was quickly belayed there; her legs were then tied with thongs of “green hide,” and the poor mad cow was milked accordingly by main force. Be it known to all dwellers in Cockaigne that green-hide rope, an article used here in various departments georgic and bucolic, is formed of long narrow strips cut from the raw skin of an ox. The epithets “green” and “raw” are synonymous, as some of my young friends know.

In large establishments, like that of our host, where many scores of hands are employed, the proprietor is compelled to keep a store well filled with all the requisites of consumption—such as slop-clothing, tea, sugar, tobacco, soap, rum, blankets, &c. All those extras not included in the stipulated ration are charged against the consumer at what is considered a fair price; and I have been assured that masters do not lose by the transaction—on the contrary, that some of them turn it to good account. Indeed some employers are accused of making too large a profit by this retail business,


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charging their servants 50 and 100 per cent. for the expense of carriage from Sydney or the nearest market town. Those gentlemen, and they are increasing in number, who make wine on their estates, sell it to their labourers—a good plan, as it prevents spirit drinking. At Coombing there is a regular office, with clerks, issuers, &c.—in short, a Commissariat of stores.

The scarcity of labour at the present juncture is severely felt by the country residents; indeed it threatens stagnation and ruin to those who work up to the extent of their capital. In New South Wales all the great annual business of a stock farmer is necessarily crowded into the summer months—sheep-washing and shearing, hay and grain harvests, operations connected with breeding, &c.; so that the pressure for labour falls heavily and at once. No wonder that convicts or any class of able workmen were welcome at Mr. Icely's establishment. Hands clean or dirty must be procured at the present busy time, and during the existing industrial destitution.

Our host indeed appears to feel no repugnance to the employment, in any department, of prisoners or of men who have “served their time.” This feeling is founded on his own personal experience. During the days of the old system, he had many hundreds of “Government men” assigned to his service, and most of them proved excellent servants. His present butler, a trusty and trusted man and quite a privileged character, did not expatriate himself voluntarily.

Like many capitalists in the earlier days of the colony, Mr. Icely received free grants of land on condition of


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employing and maintaining convicts; and on the other hand he entitled himself to a supply of prisoner labour by the extensive purchase of Crown land.

I shall have to descant on the plague of Australian servants in another place. The present tour—to go a little a head—afforded us apt illustration of its excess. The several hospitable gentlemen who received us were naturally anxious to afford the new Governor the best reception in their power; but wherever we went, almost without exception, the domestic upon whom depended the well-being of the party took this particular occasion to get drunk—and perhaps to quarrel with his master in order to show his independence. To violate still further the chronological order of this journal, I may here remark that in 1851 matters had but little mended on this head. Really good domestic servants, especially males, were still hardly known; really bad ones vibrated from pantry to pantry, from coach box to coach box of the Sydney gentry, and smiled impudently in the face of the master who last discharged them—or whom they had discharged—well knowing that if they could lay a table or drive a pair of horses they could always get a place, and no impertinent question asked as to character. It is a regular Doularchy—a servile tyranny, which nothing but competition, an influx of five hundred or a thousand good house servants can rectify. This very day, as I was busy sketching in the midst of the bush about a mile from the house, I was surprised by a rough voice close to my ear,—“Any hands wanted on this 'stablishment?” It was a tall ruffianly looking fellow, with his personals wrapped up in an opossum


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rug which he carried on his stick, and followed by two as rascally looking dogs. “What can you do?” said I, as if I were the lord of the manor. “Well, most things,” replied he, “split, saw, wash, shear, break horses—what not.” “Go away up to the office. The overseer will put you on the books, I dare say,” I rejoined, only anxious to get rid of so unpromising a comrade; and it was so. In a town he would have been arrested on suspicion. In the country and at shearing time he got 1l. a-week and full rations, and no questions asked.

The great extent of Mr. Icely's concerns renders him peculiarly vulnerable by a dearth of labour. The great graziers and even the wealthiest landed proprietors of the Old Country may hide their diminished heads when compared with him in point of territory, stock, and numbers of persons employed. This gentleman's estate and live stock are said to consist of 50,000 acres of purchased land—purchased when the price was 5s. an acre; how much of granted land, I did not learn; with of course hundreds of thousands of acres of pasture rented from the Crown; 25,000 sheep, 3,000 head of cattle, and some 300 horses.

Near the dwelling-house is one paddock—as it is modestly styled—consisting of 3,000 acres, another of 1,500 acres; and there are about 45 miles of substantial three-railed fencing on the property. This latter article alone must have cost a small fortune. On one occasion of the reduction of his stock, i.e. the sale of the surplus above the depasturing capabilities of his runs, Mr. Icely, as I have been informed, sold by auction horses, cattle, and sheep to the amount of 25,000l.; but this


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occurred when prices were more than double their present rate.

In the afternoon the ladies took a drive, and the gentlemen a ride in the “park”—as it is styled, although to merit the name some portions of it should be cleared and thrown open. The undulating and lightly wooded uplands are very beautiful. These are occasionally diversified by naturally clear and swampy savannahs, in which the cattle luxuriated up to their knees in herbage. The pastures of this district are in general pretty abundant—the forest runs being better grassed than the plains, by reason of the shade afforded from the sun. We saw some very handsome cattle—two or three Durham bulls, for which the owner had paid large sums—100l. and 200l. in England, and a few well-bred and clever horses. He has one of the finest Arab sires I ever saw, even in India; as well as one of first-rate English blood.

We were pursued and pestered during our ride by flocks of the large white cockatoo—one of which, by dint of stratagem,—the mounted policeman attracting his attention from me by a few curvets—I contrived to shoot. This bird needs no description. The large shrieking snowy creature with the orange toppin brushed up like Mr. Pecksniff's is always to be seen and heard in the aviary of the London Zoological Gardens. Hundreds of parrots of various sorts, sizes, and hues, darted through the air in flocks, giving us a shrill scream and a flash of brilliant colours as they passed—or climbed among the gum-tree branches, busily engaged in eating the seeds. In the moister grounds we flushed several snipe, like the English bird but larger, some wild ducks


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of more than one sort, and a good many pigeons of the bronze-winged kind; specimens of all of which I brought to bag. Later in the afternoon too, not being so ardent an admirer of farm-stock as his Excellency, I betook myself to a lucerne field near the house, and in about an hour shot fourteen brace of quail, and could easily have doubled the number.

A chain of ponds just outside the park abounds, as I was informed, with that curious animal, the Platipus, alias Ornithorhyncus Paradoxus, alias Water-mole, which latter is perhaps the plainest and most descriptive name. The Platipus is always cited among the inconsistencies of Australian natural history; and is very like a large mole, with the head and mandibles of a duck;—he is in short a beast with a bill, like a Christmas tradesman! The fur is soft and prettily shaded from black to silver-grey. The natives spear and trap them, and they are easily shot by any one liberally endowed with patience, perseverance and immobility of person, and who can shoot straight and sharp just as they rise bubbling to the surface of the water. As for myself, I had the best intentions towards themselves and their skins; but the swarms of flies at the water-side acting as their allies tormented my face and eyes so desperately that quiet was out of the question; and the water-mole is so shy that a fidgety sportsman has no chance of success.

It is not in shooting alone that the (in Europe) harmless insect, the common fly, is troublesome on this side of the Blue Mountains. The houses, the fields, the wildest parts of the bush, swarm with them at this


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season; and, not to mention the intolerable nuisance of their continual teazing, their attacks are apt to cause what is called the fly-blight in the human eye. It is common to see two out of three people suffering under this malady, which is caused either by the bite of the insect or by the deposit of its larvæ. Acute inflammation and temporary deprivation of sight are the results attending the attacks of this petty creature—results painful to any one, but disastrous to the working-man. We sometimes met a dozen bullock-drivers in a day more or less affected by this blight—poor wretched fellows, with large green leaves bound over their eyes, staggering along almost blind, but unwilling to give in.

The ladies at Coombing employed their inventive faculties and fair fingers very charitably and usefully—as we found afterwards—in making a kind of netting for the hats of the travellers, so contrived as to drop round the face; and, although the meshes were large and therefore did not obstruct the air, the insects never entered within the precincts of the “Fitz Roy paramouche”—as the appendage was aptly named.

The evenings at Coombing were passed very agreeably: music and singing were not wanting; there was plenty of books; and on the table, just as might be in a country house fifty miles from London, lay the last numbers (four or five months old, of course) of the Illustrated London News, Punch, and other periodical publications.

The pictorial press is a very important and valuable vehicle of general information to the people of these


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colonies—especially to those who have never visited the Old World—the plates conveying impressions more distinct and probably more lasting than could ever be afforded by verbal description alone. Through the pleasant medium of the pencil they learn the beauty and grandeur of the Mother country, and the effect is to incite her children to follow and emulate her. Some of the minor points of instruction indeed are not particularly consequential to a colonist—such as the laying the first stone of some English church or bridge, or the laying of civic tables for turtle feasts; “the late extensive conflagration at St. Giles,” or the last “prize two-year old heifer at St. Albans,”—however accurate may be the representation of such incidents and animals. As for dear old “Punch”—he always does one good. Besides, the Australians, through his intervention, have become indelibly acquainted with the external peculiarities of most of the notable personages of Europe. They are perfectly convinced, for instance, that Louis Philippe had a face shaped like a huge pear with a topknot of hair curling up, flame-like, above it, and no straps to his trowsers; that Lord Brougham has a square end to his nose, wears his chin in his cravat and plaid pantaloons day and night; that a very fat white waistcoat and a double eye-glass are part and parcel of the late Sir Robert Peel's idiosyncracy; and that Mr. D'Israeli has no end of spiral curls.

As a resident in the distant interior, our host has a great advantage over many of his order in the creation of a township so near to him as is Carcoar. One tradesman, for instance, gives him 150l. a-year for his


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premises, another 10l. a-year for half an acre, the fee simple for the purchase of which by the proprietor was probably half-a-crown.

November 19th. Coombing.—A trip to the Abercrombie Caves.

Our party was a large one, occupying two carriages-and-four, one tandem, and two gigs. We had, besides, an officer and two privates of the mounted police, with several other horsemen; fourteen persons in all and twenty horses. A dray with tents, provisions, &c. preceded us at daylight—the cavalcade itself following at 8 A.M.

The plan intended was to reach the caves and encamp there in one day's march—distance 35 miles. The dray however could not keep up. One of the drivers got the fly-blight; the horses knocked up; so after a council of procedure we agreed to halt at a place called “Fiddes Station” for the night. Whether the said Fiddes was a being still in the flesh, extinct, or purely imaginary, no one, I fancy, inquired. The station, which was well situated on a slope looking over a well-watered flat, consisted of an empty house with two rooms in it which we left in undisputed possession of its present occupants—legions of bugs; and of a range of bark hut offices, which the attendants appropriated to themselves.

The treatment of the horse in journeys through the bush is in the last degree simple, inexpensive and unceremonious. Having pulled him reeking and panting out of his harness, you give him—not corn, or even a promise of it, but a “tchik” (horse language), or a slap on the quarter, which means “be off till further orders


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and help yourself;” and away he goes to pastures new, happy if he find a few blades of grass among the dust and stones for food, and a muddy puddle for drink.

The strangest part of the story is, that the next morning he comes up looking sleek and hearty and ready for the longest day's work. The fact is, there is much good and hard nourishment in Australian grass, nourishment greatly better than that yielded by ranker pasturage. A steed that had passed his night revelling in a Cheshire meadow would make but a poor figure in a series of journeys of forty to sixty miles a-day under a semi-tropical sun. Hereabouts the feed is abundant; the hills lightly wooded and grassed up to their tops—the valleys bare of trees, with chains of pools running along them.

After a merry if not a very delicately dressed meal al fresco—fresco, with the thermometer at 85°—we all set to work to hut ourselves for the night. The Governor and his lady had a bell tent. Other canvas contrivances were pitched or half pitched, for we had few practised hands and the ground was almost impenetrable to the pegs. A more loose and lop-sided camp I never saw. My tent, viewed by moonlight, looked like a drunken giantess staggering in quest of adventures.

Then came the serving out of blankets, the purloining of carriage cushions for pillows, the pulling on of various but not picturesque or becoming nightcaps; (whoever saw a male nightcap that was not quizzical?—quizzical enough to injure materially, perhaps fatally, the dignity of the husband in the eyes of the wife! what hero continues


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to be a hero in a cotton nightcap with a tassel to it? Ladies and gentlemen, I pause for a reply.)

Lastly, there supervened such a night as I would not wish my direst enemy to undergo. The heat, the damp, the smoke of the fires, the mosquitos, the flying bugs! the ants they crept in, and the ants they crept out of the inmost penetralia of our clothing—sleep, in short, with most of us was out of the question. Need it be told to any one conversant with human nature that the snores of those possessed of greater powers of somnolence were cruel aggravations of our painful vigils! Twice I made tours nocturnal round the camp, and was charmed to find several fellow-sufferers—several who could not forget their grievances in sleep.

“Oh! these detestable items of entomology!” exclaimed the voice of one crying in the bush not far off—of one whose profession moved him doubtless to apostrophize his tiny tormentors in euphuistic terms rather than in those of execration. I fear however that there was more of swearing than of praying in our camp that night. Myself was heard to exclaim in my trouble, “If this be pleasure, what is pain?” an interjection duly recorded against me the next morning. Nevertheless I hold it a stale and ungracious deed to challenge the amount of enjoyment accruing from a picnic or pleasure party. Pluck your rose, without thorns if you can; but if you do prick your fingers, don't grumble! that is the best philosophy. Mr. Mark Tapley would have been quite “jolly” under our circumstances, because it would have been creditable so to be.

November 20th.—Early rising this morning required


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no great effort. We were up and off by four o'clock. Away we went through pathless woods—for here no track guided our steps; nor in any other country in the world could a four-in-hand carriage have been safely driven over the natural surface of the forest soil.

We passed one or two small sheep stations. Nothing of the Arcadian, the romantic, or the picturesque was there; nothing to recal Florian and his meadows émaillées de fleurs, his brebis, his bergéres, and their garlanded houlettes. There was poverty, dirt, and rags, only to be surpassed in the worst provinces of poor Ireland. The women, who were acting as hut-keepers, and their children looked half starved and dejected, and their huts were totally devoid of any of the ordinary domestic utensils or articles of comfort. At one of these places it was with difficulty that we procured a tin cup of very bad water. Whenever I met in New South Wales with such cases of family destitution as this, I suspected that a drunken husband and father was the cause thereof.

As we approached the Caves the scenery grew wilder and rougher, reminding me somewhat of the Lower Himalayas; but the eucalyptus and acacia are poor substitutes for the tree-rhododendron and the splendid deodara pine. It would have been beautiful, but for the total absence of water and the dismal aspect of the myriads of fire-blackened logs, erect or lying about in all directions, encumbering our path. Path, indeed, there was none: for some time we had been driving through brushwood up to the horses' knees, as thick and not


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unlike moorland heather. But we had no fear of losing ourselves, for we were under the guidance of Mr. Davidson, who, on a surveying expedition, had originally discovered these caves.

At length we reached the brow of a hill about half a mile from the object of our visit, beyond which the carriages could not proceed. Right below us, in the cleft of a deep ravine overhung by grassy hills, lay a huge black rock about a quarter of a mile in extent, which we reached after a severe scramble. The mass is perforated by a natural tunnel, 200 feet in length, from 50 to 80 feet high, and from 30 to 50 in width, whence numerous minor caverns and galleries ramify to the right and left. The tunnel has the appearance, by the subdued light within, of an immense Pagan temple, numerous idol-like crags and stalagmites assisting the similitude. Water has evidently been both the excavator and the beautifier of this grand natural edifice. About half way through there remains a dark pool, exquisitely pure and cold. The caves are the night lodgings of numerous wallabis and wombats, the former a small kind of kangaroo, the latter a sort of marsupial bear nearly resembling the sloth. Swallows were the only day boarders we found there.

The police-officer and myself explored with lighted tapers many of the galleries and vaulted chambers, the colonnades, chapels, and aisles of this singular spot. To get into some of them, we had to crawl on our hands and knees. All were as cold as death, and smelling of the grave, hot and healthy as was the atmosphere above ground. A horrid reflection crossed my mind more than once that a trifling fragment of the vast arch might fall,


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and, (not crush us to atoms, for that would have been comparative mercy!) but close the narrow passage between the upper world and our living tomb! A momentary effort of the imagination took in all this and a host of other concomitant pleasantries, including a meal upon sperm candles, another upon boots and gloves, and, lastly—closing scene of the subterranean tragedy!—the “terrific combat” for whether of the twain was to devour the survivor. After all, there are things upon the cards more serious than a sleepless night in company with crawling and stinging insects!

The Abercrombie Caves are certainly a magnificent freak of Nature. Yet I will not press my Derbyshire friends to lose no time in coming to visit them, because a journey of 16,000 miles might possibly interfere with the ordinary course of life of quiet domestic people; and besides, there are caves very similar to them, and quite as beautiful, at Matlock. Upon my life! I might almost fancy myself there now; for at this distant spot among the wild Australian hills, where there is not a man to a million acres, I descry remnants of the well-known black bottle, proof positive of the presence of the beer and beeffed Briton, and great vulgar names scrawled on the white quartz rocks and snowy stalactites. Thus fares it with the Pyramids; thus with the Table Rock of Niagara; thus with that monument of exquisite and delicate taste, the Tâj Mahâl of Hindostan.

An honest man need never be ashamed of his name; and such, I suppose, is John Bull's apology. Woe betide the leaden roof of any architectural chef-d' œuvre John


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may climb to under the guidance of Mr. Murray, for there he, without fail, leaves to posterity the figure of his hoof with his name and the date within it,—thus:

image

Such a getting up a mountain as we had to perform, under a shower of hot rain, in order to regain the equipages, I never wish again to encounter, except under the stimulus of gun and grouse. Nothing but blood and breeding could have enabled the amiable lady who accompanied the expedition, and whose health was scarcely equal to the effort, to accomplish the feat. The rain, like a tepid shower-bath, continued to fall as we retraced our steps towards home. The “sidling” on the moistened ground was not only annoying, but dangerous.

Our carriage, having a low axle, slewed once or twice across stumps just high enough to bring us up all standing, to the imminent risk of our horses continuing the journey with the pole, bars, and traces, and our vehicle and selves being left behind in the bush. As it was, the phaëton (as unlucky as the celestial coachman from whom it derived its name) suffered considerable breakage, which, without the travelling tool-box above alluded to, we should never have been able to repair en route. It was a pleasure to gain even the filthy hovel of a man named Ireland, which we reached at 4 P.M., very wet, and where we remained for the night.




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Here some of us tasted for the first time the Australian bush-bread, a baked unleavened dough, called damper—a damper, sure enough, to the stoutest appetite—whence its name, I suppose, for it is as heavy as lead. Its manufacture is as follows:—a wheaten paste is made, kneaded for a short time, flattened out into a muffinshaped dough, about the size of the top of an ordinary band-box, and an inch or two thick. A part of the hearth-stone is cleared of the wood ashes, the dough is dropped upon it, and the hot ashes raked over it. If not made too thick, the damper comes out done to a turn in about half an hour. The Indian Chupâtee is akin to the damper, but of much more flimsy fabric. I soon learnt to think it very palatable, preferring it to ordinary bread. Human love of change is apt to relish the coarse after long feeding on the superfine. 'Tis in the spirit of the legendary ceremony of being “sworn at Highgate,” wherein the neophyte is made to vow “not to eat brown bread if he can get white; not to kiss the maid if he can kiss the mistress, &c.; unless he prefers it.”

November 21st.—A pleasant drive back to Coombing; the police troopers leading the way, pointing out the best track where our course was interrupted by fallen trees or other obstructions, and otherwise acting as the feelers of our long cavalcade. When out of sight of Sydney and Paramatta, and in bush duties and excursions, these rough and ready fellows discard the cumbrous chacôt and useless forage-cap, and adopt the cabbage-tree hat—an excellent substitute. The metal sword-scabbard is the worst part of their accoutrements;


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a bush-ranger may hear its clang half a mile off. But I suspect they do not trouble themselves much with side-arms. A short Roman sword, heavy enough to split a skull or lop a branch, would be a more suitable weapon.

One of our equestrian companions on this occasion afforded a good specimen of the gentleman bushman of New South Wales. Tall and spare, wiry and active, with face, hands, and throat burnt to a ruddy bronze, his saddle seemed his natural home. As he thrust through the thickest bush, leaping with loose rein over the fallen trees, some of which presented an obstacle no less formidable than an Irish stone wall, he and his powerful and well-trained steed seemed one centaur. There was neither daylight nor grip in his easy horsemanship—it was the seat of balance. Scarcely less skilfully did two young lads of twelve and thirteen manage their poneys. It is well if the grammar-school be not neglected for the riding-school.

At Coombing, this evening—fifty miles to the west-ward of the Australian Blue Mountains—letters reached me from my parents in London, from one brother in Jamaica, and another in Borneo. If I ever was guilty of a pun, I should say we are a Mundi-vagant family! Verily, thought I, as I conned the domestic intelligence from such distant quarters,—verily, most respectable Mother Britannia, sitting in thy cosy arm-chair with spectacles on nose, thou cuttest out with the old-fashioned scissors hanging from thy farthingale a good deal of work and wanderings for thy children! From Pahatanui to Penetanguishine, from Ootacamund to


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Amapondaland—places never heard of, perhaps, by other European nations, and not much known by the “gentlemen of England who stay at home at ease,”—from Timbuctoo to Tipperary—regions not utterly civilized—the names of thy sons are familiar in the wildest and uttermost parts of the earth! Venerable dame! may thy shadow never be less! It extends already pretty nearly over the surface of the globe.

November 22d.—Attended Divine service in the little court-house of Carcoar. About fifty persons were present. It was performed by an Oxford gentleman, thus far from his Alma Mater.

When I revisited this secluded village, a handsome church stood on the hill, and a large parsonage near it. The cottage occupied by the former minister had been swept away, and the worthy pastor himself had gone to man's last resting-place;—whither, alas! he had been preceded by the excellent and amiable lady whose society formed the first charm, as her comfort and safety were the first care of her travelling companions on this tour and of the kindly colonists whose guests we were.

Thus it is, as we advance in life. Scarcely can we look back a few short years upon pleasurable occurrences in which we have been associated with a group of friends, without sadly reflecting that one or more of the well-remembered and perhaps well-beloved circle have been taken from its numbers; and without wondering why we ourselves should have been spared by the scythe of the destroyer.

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