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Chapter I

Voyage Out

A MAN must be leading in Europe a very sad, solitary, or unsatisfactory existence, who can, without many a pang of regret, many a sigh of painful separation, gird up his loins, shoulder his wallet, and clutch his staff, for a pilgrimage to Australia.

Whether the sentence to be transported beyond the seas emanate in due course of law from a big-wig on the Bench, or in due course of service from a big-wig in the Colonial Office, the Horse Guards, or the Admiralty, he must be a hardened offender or an even-souled optimist who can hear it without emotion.

There are indeed two cases in which the shock may fall with mitigated rigour—the one where the individual, having both merited and expected the gallows, finds


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himself expelled his country for his country's good, instead of passing through the hands of the hangman; the other, when a step of promotion and an honourable appointment accompany the fiat of expulsion.

Give me credit, kind Reader, for belonging to the latter class of exiles.note

Life is but a span; and of that brief term few are the days that by a great majority of men, especially by Englishmen, and emphatically by younger sons and brothers, are destined to be spent in the home of their infancy, or even in the land of their birth. But however engrossing may be their pursuits in foreign climes—however vivid the excitement, cruel the misfortunes, or stirring the events wherein this portion of their life is passed—the memory of home will be intimately interwoven with all. Like a sunny streamlet flowing side by side with the traveller's path, it will cheer his eye and sing in his ear as he plods along his weary way. In health or sickness,


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wealth or ruin, joy or grief, victory or defeat, it is from home he looks for sympathy; it is at home that he hopes, sooner or later, to display his laurels and enjoy his gains, or, should fortune have frowned upon his lot, to lay down his burthen of sorrows and reverses.

The schoolboy blubbers openly, or manfully swallows his bitter feelings, as the chaise or train bears him off, for a few weeks only, from home and holidays to Latin and Greek. The fair and happy bride, while the four greys are pawing before the home no longer hers, throws herself—all tears—into her mother's arms, though well aware that almost ere the honeymoon has waned she will embrace her once more. In such cases parting is but sweet sorrow. There is little saccharine, believe me, in the affair, when The Antipodes is the point of destination!

The immense distance and the amount of time necessary to accomplish it, the tardiness of correspondence with home, the gradual alienation too surely springing from protracted absence, and the foreknowledge that this absence can only terminate by the repetition of the same tremendous voyage,—such are some of the drawbacks confronting him who meditates expatriation.

And the mental as well as corporeal miseries of these voyages—who shall paint them? The greater part of a precious year passed in a state of marine vegetation—the existence of a zoophyte! Imprisonment for an indefinite number of “lunar months,” with or without hard labour, according to the humour of the elements! for where is a wretch more literally “cabined, cribbed, confined,” than on board a ship; and how can hard


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labour be more effectually carried out than when the prison itself labours?

Fortunately the spirit of man is immeasurably buoyant and elastic; it will not long suffer depression. He must be a faint-hearted pilgrim indeed who fails to stow away hope in his wallet. There is no viaticum like it—for he may live upon it for ever!

On the afternoon of the 3d March, 1846, I arrived at Gravesend with a brother who had volunteered to see me on board, and took rooms for the night at the Falcon Hotel, from the windows of which we witnessed a somewhat ill-omened incident as a precursor of the voyage.

Scarcely had we got the Agincourt within the focus of the hotel telescope, as she lay at anchor in the stream, when a hulking collier, lumbering along with the ebb tide, fell right aboard of the barque, snapping off her jib-boom like a carrot, and inflicting other more trifling damage.

To find, to fashion, and to rig so considerable a spar, caused a delay of twenty-four hours. These we passed ashore, for a glance at the state of chaos presented by the decks, cuddy, and cabins of the vessel, aggravated as it was by the aforesaid accident, and at the groups of helpless and hapless passengers and puzzled servants standing aghast amongst the baggage, was sufficient to prevent any impetuous desire on my part to take possession of my temporary home. Indeed to have done so would have been an effort no less heroic and not very unlike the storming of a barricade—so impregnable was its present position, not only from the piles of my


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own effects, but from the outworks raised by my neighbours.

We felt that to escalade a wagon load of furniture, or to turn the flank of a breastwork of casks, containing hams and Allsop's ale, was feasible enough; but to carry by assault a line of sofas, bandboxes, and pianos, manned by half-a-dozen Abigails, was a feat too desperate to be lightly undertaken.

Relanding our forces, therefore, we passed the night and the following day at Gravesend, seeing as much of the lions of the good but not very interesting town as nearly perpetual rain would permit.

Nothing very worthy of note occurred there, except perhaps that, having ordered a late dinner for my brother and self at the inn, and strolling into the coffee-room in quest of distraction from feelings full of gloom, I found one of the tables occupied by a solitary individual, who having already dined, and possibly discussed a pint of “Warren's Jet” in the shape of inn port, seemed absorbed in the contents of a memorandum-book.

Instinct prompting me, I addressed this gentleman with the words—“Sir, may I take the liberty of inquiring whether you are one of my fellow-passengers in the Agincourt, for Sydney?” He slowly raised his head, and with an expression of countenance as disconsolate as that of Liston in the “Illustrious Stranger,” when the procession, conducting him to a living tomb, crosses the stage, replied gravely—“I think, Sir, you might judge from the length of my visage that I am one of those unfortunate persons.”




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Such was the commencement of an acquaintance—of a friendship I may say—which beguiled for me many an otherwise dull and tedious hour during the passage. Mr. F—— will recognise and forgive this little sketch, while he accepts the acknowledgments due to him as an intelligent and intellectual companion.

In this capacity, as well as in that of the humorous and eccentric editor of our weekly newspaper—of which more anon—my friend of the Falcon deserved the gratitude of “all hands” on board the good ship Agincourt.

It was midnight, on the 4th March, when this gentleman and myself repaired on board for a permanence. The activity of a practised servant had reduced the hopeless looking confusion of yesterday into perfect symmetry, and my cabin now contained as much comfort as could well be compressed into nine feet square. In every corner of it some notable contrivance attested the care of a provident and affectionate hand;—it is difficult to outgrow a mother's care; years cannot place one beyond its influence, nor distance beyond its reach;—the babe in the cradle, the toil and clime-worn man, may equally benefit by its fosterage. “Vive la Maternité,” therefore, be my cry;—from the bottom of my soul I believe “La fraternité,” in the French sense at least, to be an arrant humbug—and not seldom a Cain in disguise.

It must be a soldier's wind that favours a vessel down the Thames and down the Channel too. We got none such. On the 5th we were at anchor in Margate Roads; the 6th and 7th off Deal, where my new friend and myself indulged ourselves with another hour or two of British soil, laying in an additional provision of sea stock,


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together with a tolerable dinner at the Royal Hotel, and a bottle of claret, which cost us ten shillings and a pain under the waistcoat.

A splendid summer-like Sunday was the 8th of March—Agincourt trying her paces successfully with twenty other large vessels, all taking advantage of a fresh N.E. breeze, as we rushed together in a body past the magnificent cliffs of Dover. At nine P.M. the following day we kissed hands to the “Oar's Light;”—it was the last sight of Albion as we thought; but the wind proving unsettled, we were enabled to send letters ashore at the Start Point by a fishing-boat on the 12th, on which evening we got fairly away—a shipful of strangers bound to a strange land.

If I were writing for any but English readers, I might be tempted to extract largely from my sea-log; but the passage of the Atlantic had nothing new for me; and almost every English family has at least one member who, while happy in an interim of home, can enlighten the fireside circle with reminiscences rendering seafaring life a household subject in the most rurally secluded nooks of our blessed islands.

Nothing, indeed, could well have been less eventful than our voyage. We had an excellent vessel of 600 tons and upwards,—well found in every particular; an active, skilful, liberal, and attentive captain, who had one very remarkable peculiarity as a “skipper;” he was never heard to utter an oath, nor anything approaching the nature of one, nor indeed any expression of harshness or abuse towards his people; yet the discipline on board was admirable.




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A most excellent table was kept; the roughest weather was not admitted as an excuse for meagre fare—as is often the case in passenger ships;—and let me hint that in the monotony of sea-life the vulgar pastime of eating and drinking is a point of more consequence than an animal possessing a soul likes altogether to confess.

The cook was a phœnix in his way. Rarely visible, never heard to speak; in heat or cold, “blow high, blow low,” he silently and steadfastly performed his important ministry. The caboose was his house and home, cloak and clothing,—for he had seldom any other covering than its roof. It was miraculous to count the number and variety of dishes that, about three o'clock, issued from his narrow den,—soups, fish, joints, side-dishes, pies, puddings,—all neatly served up. Roll, and plunge, and dive as the vessel might, this inimitable sea-cook never failed us. No difficulty existed in the creation of the repast. It lay in getting its components along the deck to the cabin-table, keeping them there when on, and receiving them thankfully and discreetly with the proper implements and through the proper channels.

This marine Ude, when one caught a glimpse of him, looked like an old raven in an iron cage. Some ascribed to his character a touch of the supernatural. As for me, I incline to the opinion that he was merely human, although he did cook, and cook well, for fourteen cabin passengers, and a crew of some thirty men, under all weathers and circumstances.

Like the cook, there was another faithful servant on board, whose duties were performed with unswerving zeal—the cow, namely. She was a wretched-looking


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creature, all skin and bone,—and indeed the skin was quite worn off some of the acute angles of her frame; yet, in spite of dry food and a wet berth,—for the sea constantly broke over her stall,—she yielded her daily dole of eight or ten quarts a-day throughout the passage.

March 22d.—Passing Madeira, I hailed this gem of the sea as an old acquaintance, but felt no desire for a second visit.

In a long voyage going ashore unsettles the mind and the body. Once at my oar I think only of the end of my pull, and have no wish to loiter on the way. Not that I would voluntarily pass by any spot worthy of notice; but it is well to be spared the occasion of tasting the delights of dry land for a few hours or days, and of thereby renewing the feelings of repugnance arising from the exchange of spacious rooms and the wide firm earth for the prison-like cabin, and the narrow and heaving deck.

To the Agincourt the great highway of nations appeared, at least on her present journey, like the most unfrequented by-way, for we touched nowhere, and spoke only one vessel during a passage of nearly sixteen weeks.

What a happy endowment is the elasticity of spirit with which most of us are gifted by nature! In whatever position chance may deposit a man for the nonce, it requires no great exertion of philosophy to discover some causes of comfort, some ingredients of amusement; and so, indeed, I found it in the present case. I left England with a heavy heart; yet in a short month my


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bosom's lord sat lightly on his throne once more; my mind gleaning employment and entertainment from a hundred unthought-of sources. On board a ship every trifling event is magnified into importance, and indeed nothing is unimportant that adds to our stock of knowledge. One day a porpoise is speared from the jibboom, and you are taught by the tars who are cutting him up that a meal of salmon and beef-steaks may be obtained from his flesh, and some two gallons of good oil from his blubber. A dolphin, a flying fish, one hauled, the other coming voluntarily on board, are submitted to your inspection. You perceive that the former is, as far as figure goes, by no means the odd fish the Ancients have portrayed him. You cease to wonder that the latter has no peace either under the water or above it—when you find, yourself, how very good he is to eat. A grand draught of albucors takes place. Crew and passengers partake largely of the delicacy; crew and passengers pronounce it no bad substitute for mackarel; and crew and passengers soon after call for the doctor—the lesson they learn being that this fish, though not always unwholesome, is when out of season extremely so.

A perfect museum of marine ornithology is opened to your study. The several subjects are hooked and hauled over the taffrail, and the indefatigable ship-surgeon, killing each of them with one drop of some “fast speeding gear,” proceeds to “cure” them with another deadly poison. It is almost terrible to see the huge albatross, twelve feet across the wings, drop stone dead as the homêopathic dose touches his palate. One must harden his heart in


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order to justify the “experimentum in corpore vili,” for science and its pursuit cover a multitude of cruelties.

Time is so carefully cut up on board ship that it is difficult to find the day very long. The breakfast at eight or nine, the lunch at twelve, the dinner at three, and the tea at seven o'clock, are all efficient time-killers. Every one throws his small store of books into the common stock, and after a little practice one can enjoy an hour's reading very well in the “cleated” arm-chair, from whose cozy depths the owner may, without rising, open the window, the door, or the drawers, take a book from the shelf, a dip from the inkstand, or a “nip” from the liqueur case.

The old school-boy trick of blotting out each day from the calendar as it passes was performed with a mixture of pleasure and spite.

Sunday and Thursday were champagne days!—Wednesday, the day on which our newspaper, “The Weekly Weed,” was published. My friend of the Falcon, heretofore honourably mentioned, was, as I have said, the editor—his cabin window the “lion's mouth,” for the receipt of contributions. If such were furnished—well; if not, he himself possessed so strong a determination of ideas to the pen as to be never at a loss for a couple of sheets of entertaining matter; which moreover it was his further duty to read aloud as soon as dessert was placed on the table. A good laugh is a good thing, and we owe our worthy editor many a one.

It were a breach of copyright to publish without special permission any of his entertaining “leaders” and other articles; but I owe no apology to any one except to


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the reader for introducing here a single specimen of the contributions. It appears to have been penned early in the voyage, when the writer was suffering under home-sickness, love-sickness, or sea-sickness—all three perhaps! and was considered almost too sentimental for the poet's corner of The Weekly Weed.

On Hearing a Robin Sing on Board a Ship Bound to New South Wales.

I.

WEE feather'd friend with russet coat,
And scarlet vest and tuneful throat—
Right welcome here!
I never thought mid ocean's roar,
So far from England's bowery shore,
Thy song to hear.

II.

Each note that through my cabin rings
Of bygone days some memory brings—
Beguiled I roam
Through hawthorn-glade and holly-grove
In dreams of beauty, joy, and love,
And happy Home.

III.

When winter bound the frosted earth,
Thou sought'st my ever friendly hearth,
Hungry and cold.
I smiled to see thee “sidling”note come
To dry thy plumes and pick the crumb,
Half shy, half bold.

IV.

And now—how true that kindly deed
Or soon or late shall find its meed—
Now I am sad;
And thou my favours dost repay,
For with thy merry roundelay
Thou mak'st me glad.





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It is painful to relate that the attempt to introduce into Australia our small friend in the red waistcoat was unsuccessful. Of a large cageful not one lived to reach Sydney.

Cock-robin belongs to the lawns and drawing-room windows of England's country houses and cottages. In benighted climes, possessing neither snow nor ice, he would have no excuse to intrude where he alone of the feathered tribes finds his way and a welcome. No— the proud and patriotic little fellow could die—but he could not emigrate! There is certainly something sacred about the person and the character of the robin: for that child of wrath the British school-boy hesitates to make the redbreast the object of a cock-shy; and even the French sportsman spares him—unless game happens to be unusually scarce.

If a journal, like history, have a certain conventional dignity to uphold, it may be sadly violated by the admission of such trifles as the above; but if the reader has condescended to accept the writer for a companion, he must make his account to laugh with him or at him sometimes, and to trifle with him pretty often by the way.

April 10th.—Crossed the equator.

Neptune sent his usual message inviting himself and suite on board for this afternoon. Our captain, however, an enemy to any species of tom-foolery liable to end in drunkenness, riot, and ill-blood, snuffed out the affair at once; and the passengers, approving of his decision, collected a bonus of 5l. to indemnify the crew for the loss of their frolic.




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There were on board certain juveniles, whose chins escaped by this negotiation a terrible scrape from the sea-god's rusty razor.

Although the strict discipline of a man-of-war may confine within moderate bounds this time-honoured opportunity for uproarious licence, it is open to serious abuse when the scene is a trading vessel, and when—as is not impossible—the master happens to be a coarse and despotic character, and his passengers are of a more refined order.

I remember a case where a military officer was roughly informed by the skipper of the vessel, in which he was a passenger on duty, that he should be shaved whether he paid the fine or not; and when the officer replied that he intended to remain in his cabin during the ceremony, but was willing to give a handsome present to the men, he was assured that he would be dragged upon deck and forced to undergo what others did who had not previously crossed the Line. “My cabin is my castle,” was the answer, “and I shall shoot any man who attempts to enter against my will.”

The skipper laughed at this threat; and, in short, when the time arrived, a noisy half-drunken rabble besieged his door, and, being refused admittance, proceeded to force the lock. The officer, who had no intention to trifle, had cocked his pistol and pointed it towards the door;—when, sluice! from some unseen source came a thin but solid jet of water, which drenched the priming of the fire-arm and struck it from his hand. While his whole attention had, it seems, been directed towards his front, an unsuspected foe had removed the bull's


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eye in the deck above his head, and the fire-engine had done the rest!

But, seriously speaking, this horse-(marine) play is incompatible with the ordinary intercourse of different grades of men; and brute violence, even when exerted in joke, deserves to be violently repelled.

On the 4th May we sailed right through the group of Tristan Da Cunha—passing “Nightingale” and “Inaccessible” Islands on our right and left—the latter at the distance of half a mile. It is a rock-scarped table-land covered with a stunted shrub-like gorse. Several fine fresh-water cascades—one of them apparently as considerable as any in Switzerland — were seen leaping down the whole depth of the cliff, probably five hundred feet.

About six miles to our left appeared the chief island of Tristan Da Cunha, with its snow-capped mountain in the midst. It is probably the most utterly secluded spot inhabited by man. Here resides the so-called Governor of the Group, Corporal Glass, and twenty or thirty other Europeans—most of them descendants from the one or two patriarchal pairs who were originally wrecked there.

Agincourt's approach to this solitary cluster of islands gave occasion for a forcible editorial article in The Weed. In the doubt whether the corporal had been duly accredited from home, or had usurped the supreme authority, it was proposed to effect a landing upon the main island, and to impose upon the united islands a new constitution concocted during the editor's cigar and gin-and-water hours.




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The only feature of the meditated scheme of government, worthy of record perhaps for the benefit of future statesmen, was the mode of election of the governor and his principal officers. Parties ambitious of public employment were to be invited to tender their terms. The best man—that is, the lowest contractor for the work required—would be chosen, and good security would be exacted for the due performance of his contract—a business-like notion, not repugnant to the dictum of Sir Robert Peel, “that the very best men that can be found should be placed in the administration of colonial affairs!”

One of our fellow-passengers, remarkable for rather desultory habits, was nominated to the pluralist post of collector of revenue, registrar of births, &c. &c., and commissioner of woods and forests for “Inaccessible Island”—there not being a stick, a stiver, or a specimen of mankind on that utterly desert rock!

Fortunately the breeze freshened to half a gale of wind, and Corporal Glass had no opportunity of repudiating our bran-new constitution, as he would certainly have done—if for no better reason than his perfectly natural preference of despotic rule to a form of government of a more responsible cast!

Thus wiled we away, as well as we could, the tedious and monotonous hours of a voyage to the Antipodes.

I say nothing of storms and calms, breezes fair or foul, light or stiff, weather bright or hazy, hot or icy, thunder, rain, or hail, tumid clouds or minacious billows. We had our share of all these. And indeed no slight variations of climate were crowded for us into


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a short space; for, singular as it may appear, in nine weeks we ran fairly through the seasons. We had winter weather at Deal, overtook spring in the vicinity of Madeira, plunged into midsummer on the equator, found autumn in latitude 35°; and, soon after passing Tristan Da Cunha, winter helped us on with our pea-jackets again.

June 20th.—Land ho! Cape Otway twenty miles distant.

At this first indication of our destined bourne, those of the passengers who had previously visited New Holland, or who had adopted it for their country, began to show strong symptoms of excitement and impatience, and indeed they had occasion to suffer the pangs of hope deferred, for the slashing breeze that had brought us as straight as a crow's flight from the Cape of Good Hope, suddenly deserted us in Bass's Straits, leaving the good ship to drift about like a log within view of the islet of Rodondo, the Devil's Tower, and Hogan's Group.

After forty-eight hours, however, the wind again arose, and carried us forth from this dangerous though picturesque Archipelago.

For myself, the yearning to step upon the strange land likely to be my place of sojourn for some years by no means affected me to a painful degree. Although tired of the sea and ship life, and eager to plant my foot once more on terra firma, the “Terra Australis Incognita” of the old navigators was not precisely the choice I should have made—if I had had one; for in all that land there was not one human face, as far as I knew, that I had ever seen before.




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Meanwhile the Agincourt rounded Cape Howe, the south-eastern point of New Holland, with a favouring breeze. On the 24th, I found myself in my solitude of the main-crosstrees,—solitude rarely disturbed by any of my brother landsmen,—sweeping with my telescope the forest hills of Twofold Bay—beyond these the huge salient promontory of the Dromedary with the pretty Montagu Island at its foot—and the long dim line of scarped and inhospitable coast stretching away to the northward of these points.

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