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Chapter X. [1846.]

TRIP TO THE SQUATTING DISTRICTS—A BUSTARD BAGGED—AN OUT-STATION—THE DINGO—THE SHEPHERD AND THE STOCKMAN—WORKMEN, WAGES, AND WASTE OF FOOD—COURSING AND SHOOTING AT BANGAROO—BUSH BOARD AND LODGING—A BUSH BED AND BEDFELLOWS—A BUSH BEAUTY—A BUSH BATH—RAIN AND FLOODS—THE BELL RIVER—PASTORAL HOSPITALITY—PASSAGE OF THE MACQUARIE—WELLINGTON—CLEANLINESS versus DIRT—A KANGAROO HUNT—AUSTRALIAN VENISON—GUANAS—SNAKES—THE TREE-GRUB GASTRONOMICALLY CONSIDERED.

November 24th.—Trip from Coombing into the squatting districts, within and beyond the boundaries of location.

The projected trip, commenced this day, is to take in Bangaroo, the chief grazing station of our host on the banks of the Lachlan, whence we are to describe a circle round the Conobolas Mountains to Wellington, the chief town of the county so named, on the Macquarie River; and from thence through the pastoral districts of the western portions of Wellington and Bathurst back to Coombing. Most of the quarters we were likely to occupy on this extended tour being reported too rough for a lady's accommodation, our party on this occasion was exclusively male. We made an early start, and, setting our heads westward, jogged at a steady travelling pace of about six miles an hour through the apparently interminable bush.




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About eight miles from Coombing, in a tolerably open part of the forest, my eye was attracted by the movement of some animal's head, which turned to look at us over a thicket not thirty yards from the road. It was a bustard, the first I had seen since the year 1829, on the plains of Bundelcund. No one perceiving it but myself, I allowed the carriage to proceed about a hundred yards, when, having put together my gun, I alighted, and, the bird rising, I got an unsuccessful shot, the charge taking an obstructing tree and cutting it in two. Away went the splendid bird through the tops of the gums, slowly flapping his enormous wings. Hastily dismounting a trooper, I jumped on his horse, followed at full speed, and soon had the satisfaction of marking down my quarry. Halting at a respectful distance, and quickly reloading, I attempted to convert my temporary charger into a stalking-horse. The brute, however, having an apparent antipathy to fire-arms and becoming unruly, I let him go, and back he went on our track all the way to Coombing. This incident caused a diversion favourable to my views; for the bustard gazed stupidly after the retreating steed, totally unaware that his real enemy was crawling up to him, like a chetah upon an antelope, screened by every intervening bush and hollow—when the snapping of a twig startled, too late, the unwary bird, and he had just lifted his body heavily into the air after running a few paces to catch the wind, when at about sixty yards the fatal cartridge pierced his head and neck in three or four places, and he fell dead. Being a fine young bird, weighing about fifteen pounds, he was sent back to Coombing as a present to the ladies.




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After a drive of twelve miles we reached the residence of Mr. Rothery, a near connexion of our host, where we breakfasted. He possesses a comfortable cottage, with a good wide clearing round it, a very pretty wife, and a quiver full of those arrows which are very useful weapons in a colony, although at home they are apt to be somewhat burthensome. Mr. R. has a singularly fine breed of horses proceeding from a magnificent English sire—“Associate” by name—which had probably broke down too early in life to make a reputation on the English turf, and had been transported to New South Wales for his little mishap. Of course at some distant squattage browse the flocks and herds that support this establishment, and feed the numerous mouths—as yet too young to earn their own subsistence.

At 2 P.M. we halted at Canoindra—a station on the Belabula River, where in a half-finished hut and in a tremendous storm of rain we enjoyed a capital lunch provided by the forethought of Mr. Icely. Wet weather had evidently set in; but, however unpropitious was such a circumstance for our journey, it was impossible to regret that which would freshen up the parched earth, and probably save from starving thousands of sheep and cattle. The rain had been falling for many days here, for the rich alluvial plains over which we now prosecuted our journey were terribly heavy for our horses. The grass was two and three feet high on the spacious savannahs between the rivers Belabula and Lachlan, the trees growing in fine clumps and of enormous magnitude, with wide open pasturage between


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them—very unlike anything we had previously seen in the country.

Here we came in sight of several bustards, flying in flocks of six or eight over the forest with slow and heavy wing, or stalking in twos and threes on the distant plain. Numerous bevies of quail arose from under our carriage wheels as we ploughed wearily through the deep loam. With our large and noisy cavalcade it was idle to hope to get within good shot of so wary a creature as the bustard on open ground. I brought one down indeed at a long distance; but the bird recovered and escaped. On a horse that will stand fire it is easy to approach and kill the bustard—still easier in a cart.

At 6 P.M., after twelve hours' work, we drew rein at Mr. Icely's station of Bangaroo, which is represented by a couple of ordinary huts built of split stuff and thatched with bark. One of these had been nicely whitewashed, and became our banquetting-hall by day, and at night the dormitory of his Excellency, his son, and myself. There was just room enough for the three little stretchers and the enormous fireplace. It was a night of united rain and heat, that made our lodging not unlike a forcing-house for orchidaceous plants. The rest of the party betook themselves to tents, which were quickly wet through. Nevertheless we all slept soundly through the night—for

“Weariness can snore upon a flint, When resty sloth finds the down pillow hard.”

Bangaroo is situated in a bight formed by the confluence of the rivers Lachlan and Belabula, which at


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this point constitute the present boundary of the colony—properly so called. Beyond them are the “Unsettled Districts”—the waste lands, in which many thousands of the live stock of New South Wales find their subsistence, driven westward by the increasing demand for pasturage in a country where three or four acres are required to feed a sheep, and twice as many for an ox or horse. The run of Bangaroo contains an area of 16,000 acres. Its grazing capabilities, according to a Government return, are 1,000 cattle and 1,500 sheep. Our horses were as usual turned adrift, and seemed perfectly satisfied with their meals and bed of drenched grass. The Belabula, about fifty yards from the huts, afforded our beasts plenty of water in a chain of ponds which the heavy rains were just beginning to convert into a running stream. Enormous heaps of drift-timber proclaimed how furious are the torrents which occasionally force a channel along this now only too placid watercourse.

Most of the speculations of our worthy host are said to have proved remunerative, although he did not pass through the evil times of the colony without serious reverses. Since the time when we travelled over his broad lands on the Belabula, indications of copper have been discovered of so promising a nature as to induce a company to purchase one of his acres (probably bought by him for five shillings) at a price something like 2,000l. It was not long after that this “Belabula Mine” got the nickname of the Bubble-bubble Mine; but on account of what peculiarity I really do not know. About the same time, too, he bought a house and property


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on the Paramatta River which he did not want, and sold them the next day, putting upwards of 1,000l. in his pocket by the transaction. It is thus that capital rolls up in the hands of a man of skill and ability. Unluckily sometimes, after having rolled up like a snowball, it melts as quickly. Mr. Icely was launched on the world in early youth with slender means, has won wealth and wide possessions by his own exertions; and, having attained them, he is liberal and hospitable without extravagance, and lives comfortably and handsomely without the smallest parade or ostentation.

November 25th.—Halted at Bangaroo. At the generality of grazing stations each hut contains two shepherds and a hut-keeper. The folds are near the hut. The shepherds tend the flocks to their pastures by day, and bring them home at night. The hut-keeper cooks for the men, receives the sheep at night, and is answerable for them until morning. With the assistance of his collies, and a gun perhaps, he guards them against the attacks of the native dog, and what is worse, the native man. The mischief inflicted by the dingo is not confined to the mere killing a sheep or two. Sometimes at night this animal will leap into the fold amongst the timid animals, and so “rush” them—that is, cause them to break out and disperse through the bush,—when it becomes very difficult to recover them. I have heard that the dingo, warragal, or native dog, does not hunt in packs like the wolf and jackal; but occasionally two or three together have been known to follow on the scent of a stray foal or calf, and to catch and kill it in company.




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Cattle keeping requires fewer hands than the care of sheep. The beasts are strong enough to take care of themselves by day and night—except when the blacks get among them and take their tithes, as they sometimes do in the far interior when kangaroos and emus are scarce. The stockman, as he who tends cattle and horses is called, despises the shepherd as a grovelling, inferior creature, and considers “tailing sheep” as an employment too tardigrade for a man of action and spirit. The latter sits all day “sub tegmine gum-tree,” playing on the Jew's-harp or accordion; or sleeps supine, while his dog does his master's duty with one eye open. The importation and sale of the above instruments—substitutes for the ancient shepherd's reed—are immense. Five hundred accordions and fifty gross of the harps of Judah are considered small investments by one vessel. A shepherd has been known to walk 200 miles from a distant station of the interior, to purchase one of them at the nearest township.

The stockman lives on horseback. He has always a good horse—very likely has selected the best—horse in his employer's stud, and is the only person aware of his superior quality. He has need of a staunch and a fast horse, and one that is not afraid of a three-railed fence or a wild bullock's horn. The riding after cattle in the bush, for the purpose of driving them in or collecting them for muster, is very hard and sometimes dangerous work. It is so exciting an employment as not only to become a favourite one with stockmen, but of the bush-gentlemen; nay, the stock-horse himself is said to enjoy the sport—much as the high-mettled hunter at home,


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when not distressed, seems to relish his gallop with the hounds. By this rough work, however, many a fine young horse has been broken down or “stumpt up” before he has shed his colt's teeth; and many a broken rib or limb has fallen to the stockman's share.

The stockman brags of his horse's prowess and his own, and, as I have said before, contemns the shepherd's slothful life. You know the stockman by his chinstrapped cabbage-tree hat, his bearded and embrowned visage, his keen quick eye. He wears generally a jacket and trowsers of colonial tweed, the latter fortified with fustian or leather between his thin bowed legs. But the symbol of his peculiar trade is the stock-whip—a thick but tapering thong of twelve or fourteen feet, weighing perhaps a couple of pounds, affixed to a handle of a foot and a-half at most. At the end of this cruel lash is a “cracker,” generally made of a twisted piece of silk handkerchief, or, what is better than anything, a shred from an old infantry sash. The wilderness echoes for miles with the cracks of this terrible scourge, which are fully as loud as the report of a gun, and woe betide the lagging or unruly bullock who gets the full benefit of its stroke delivered by an experienced hand.

I have seen a pewter quart pot all but cut in two by one flank of the stock-whip. Practice alone gives the power of cracking this implement. It is as difficult as the use of the flail to the uninitiated, and is emphatically a bush accomplishment. The juvenile bush-brats apply themselves to its acquirement with grave devotion; and nothing pleases one of them more than to see the abortive and self-flagillating efforts of an adult in the infancy


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of the art. Dandy amateur bushmen have the handle of their stock-whip made of the Myâl, Acacia pendula, or violet wood, and are otherwise dainty about its ornaments. Myself did not fail to import to England a specimen of this implement—as an article of “vertu;” but I hereby give notice of my inability to afford instruction in the use of it.

In the earlier days of the colony—as the Attorney-General stated one day in the Legislative Council—the condition of shepherd or stockman was the only one aspired to by the Australian youth. At that time Government situations went a begging in favour of such employment. Those were, doubtless, the days when the gentlemen squatters played whist at sheep points and a bullock on the rubber; and remunerated a doctor for setting a broken limb (no other ailment is ever heard of in the bush) with a cow-fee.

Another important “hand” employed by the squatter is the bullock-driver—or teamster; he who conducts the huge wains full of wool from the station to the port for shipment, and brings back the yearly supply of stores. Through heat and dust, rain and mud, over rock and sand, plain and mountain, he plods his slow and weary journey of three or four months—never, perhaps, seeing the inside of a human dwelling during its monotonous continuance. With his blankets and mattrass, his iron pot and tin tot—stretched at night under the tarpaulin of his dray, with a smouldering log-fire before him, and his vigilant dog as sentry over his charge, his mind aspires not after higher luxuries. In spite of his rough and reckless character when unemployed, or only employed


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in spending his accumulated wages, and his sometimes barely human exterior, the bullock-driver is generally trustworthy to his employer—although occasionally his virtue does succumb to the temptations offered by a cargo of rum or tobacco. I could put my finger on more than one person engaged in this capacity who came out to the colony as men of birth, education, and capital, but, having been ruined by misfortune, misplaced confidence, or misconduct, have betaken themselves to an employment so uncivilized.

The worst feature of bush-labour is the almost exclusive employment of males. This is a remnant, of course, of the old convict system. The habit of engaging married couples to do the duty of shepherds and hutkeepers is, however, growing into use, and even children are made of service in carrying the rations to the men in charge of flocks. The wages of this class ranged very high during the whole period of my stay in the country—from 15l. to 25l. for shepherds, stockmen, and draymen; watchmen or hut-keepers, 15l. The usual ration allowed consists of 10 lbs. of meat, 10 lbs. of bread, ¼ lb, of tea, ¾lbs. of sugar, per week. Any extra supplies are booked against their wages.

It is needless to say that tobacco is an absolute necessary of the bush. High and low all indulge in smoking—smoking, solace of the empty head among the rich, of the empty stomach among the poor!

During busy seasons a handsome addition is given to the wages of those employed. All workmen lodge gratis, and at many farms or cattle stations where milk is plentiful a supply is furnished to them. Some of


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them find time to cultivate a few vegetables. The bush affords them fuel “galore” for warmth and cooking. As for meat, it is such a drug that twice as much as the ration is often devoured or wasted. Alas! what a pity that some of the lusty paupers of the 10 or 11 per cent. of England's population receiving parochial relief are not sharing in the excessive abundance of these colonies, and giving their labour in return for it! What pity that the small capitalists, who are daily trenching on their principal under the pressure of rates, and taxes, and dear food, do not more frequently bring their money to a market, where with common industry they may make it the nucleus of a handsome competence, and meanwhile assist in the development of the still latent resources of the colony.

Trifling as this journal is, I feel some degree of responsibility in making remarks of the above tendency, because, as I have said before, it is not to be disputed that hundreds have met ruin in New South Wales, whether engaged in pastoral or other pursuits; and that, in the cases of some, no human exertion could have averted the catastrophe; yet I cannot but gather from all I have heard and read, that the mishaps of the majority are clearly traceable to the idleness, ignorance, or imprudence of the sufferers.

Halting at Bangaroo this day, the whole of our party went out, in different directions, in search of game. Some taking with them greyhounds rode a circuit of nearly thirty miles in hopes of getting a kangaroo, but only succeeded in killing two or three of the smallest kind, called the kangaroo rat. It is about the size of a


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hare, and afforded pretty good coursing, although the ground, being rocky and scrubby, was very unfavourable for the sport. Others followed the bustard on the Plains. Owing to the wet weather these birds were more than usually shy. Although I found full a dozen of them I did not get a fair shot all day.

A curious instance occurred of the method in which the bustard conceals himself from observation—an instance by no means confirmatory of the old story of this bird, in common with the ostridge, hiding his head only and then fancying his whole body secure. Espying a very fine bird descending in his flight, I marked him down on flat, open ground about a mile distant, and immediately galloped to the spot. The grass was thin, and not six inches high. There was indeed one trifling bush or tuft which might have held a pheasant. I examined it at the distance of twenty yards, but feeling satisfied that it was not capable of containing an animal four feet high and weighing from fifteen to twenty pounds, I passed on, sorely puzzled; for, measuring my powers of marking a bustard by what I could do with regard to a snipe, I thought I could hardly be mistaken with the former. After proceeding about 100 yards, I returned with a feeling of doubt towards the tuft, when, sure enough, up jumped the mighty bird, and after two or three strides, took to his wings. I gave him a shot which broke his thigh for him, and might have broken my own neck, for my horse shied and plunged at the report, and for some time refused to be comforted. A stockman on a fast little horse pursued the stricken bird at full speed, and had almost reached him with his whip


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when he rose again from a mound on which he had alighted, and with renewed strength swept out of sight.

Mr. Fitz Roy was more fortunate. Cantering home towards the station in the evening through the bush, a bustard started up almost under his horse's feet, and so slow was the bird in getting under sail that he had time to pull up, dismount, and make a successful shot before he was out of reach. This was a very fine bird, weighing upwards of twenty pounds.

November 26th.—Breaking up our quarters at Bangaroo, we retraced our steps amid a storm of rain across the beautiful parklike Plains, to Canoindra, with the intention to cross the Belabula at that point, in prosecution of our tour. Here a council was held as to the abandonment of or the perseverance in the original plan of operations; for the roads in advance were merely bush tracks, easily rendered impassable by heavy rains, and traversed by many rivers and water-courses liable to floods. I gave the casting vote. “En avant,” was the word; and, dashing through the mingled mud and water of the Belabula, the Governor, guided by the police, led the way across the heavy loam of an alluvial country, the rest following on his track. The whole day's journey was like a ploughing match; but in due course of time—without one moment's reprieve of the elements—we gained, after sunset, the little bush-settlement of the Clements Brothers.

Here, “far removed from noise and strife,” except such as may arise among themselves, four of a family with their wives and children reside in as many slabhuts,


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within a few hundred yards of each other. Would not experience predict family jars and disunion under such circumstances? I fear me the fraternal establishments so strongly bound to support each other in the solitude they had chosen, were not connected by such peaceful relations as the ties of blood should have warranted. Whether the Clements themselves or the Clements's wives were of inclement temperament I did not inquire, but the domestic atmosphere was manifestly cloudy, and doubtless the question of which of the four tenements was to shelter the person of her Majesty's representative, was calculated to bring on a storm.

The cottage allotted to the Governor, his son, and myself had evidently undergone some considerable beautifying in the expectation of its becoming a temporary palace. The windows were shaded by clean white dimity curtains, festooned with pink calico. A coarse but snowy table-cloth was spread on the old cedar table, and a regiment of ricketty chairs were drawn round the capacious newly whitewashed chimneylug, in which crackled a cheerful wood-fire. All this, with a suit of dry clothes and a hot beaker of negus, after a substantial and wholesome meal, was far from unenjoyable, while the rain fell in ceaseless cadence on the bark roof, and splashed in torrents off the eaves.

Heavy rain in Australia is so completely an exception to the general rule, that I always contemplated it with that degree of interest and curiosity with which one observes a phenomenon of whatsoever sort. After a year or two in this country it becomes a new sensation to be wet through; and the grave adult feels as much


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pleasure in personal experiments on a puddle as the street urchins in England appear to do.

The nuptial couch of the proprietors of the hut, with a green gauze mosquito net and a fine patch-work quilt, was decently spread for his Excellency. His secretary was accommodated with the sofa in the sitting-room, while myself was consigned to what appeared to be the dairy. I cannot enlarge on my share of enjoyment of the bed that fell to my lot, not being its only tenant by some thousands. I can only answer for myself. Suffice it, that I had rather for ever “press my pillow alone” than in such sprightly company, Odious, filth-engendered insect! There is bliss in shedding the blood of the guilty mosquito caught in the fact—though, after all, it is our own blood that we spill. There may be felicity in the cracking of a flea in flagrante delictu. But there is no retribution for the bug—his life and death are alike offensive!

I was too tired, however, to care for the discomforts of a bed consisting of a sheet of bark half a foot too short laid across tressels, and covered with a bag of chaff and vermin acting as a mattrass; for the night-winds blowing through my hair, nor for the raindrops plashing on the earthen floor till a “water-hole” was formed large enough to float my slippers. So I slept until I was awakened, with a start, by a gentle pull at my counterpane. What sort of an adventure was this to turn out? I could see the grey dawn through the chinks in the split logs that formed the outer wall; and, carrying my eyes downward, I perceived a white object intruding through a crevice, and


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clutching my bed-clothes. Jumping out of bed, I seized my stick, and was about to strike, when my visitor gave tongue in those well-known tones that saved the Capitol of Rome. It was indeed a goose: but why the bird took pleasure in nibbling a dirty rug through a hole in the wall, remains a mystery.

Our hostess was assisted in her household operations by a remarkably pretty girl, apparently about sixteen years of age, who I was surprised to see carrying a bouncing child which she said was her own. She was the daughter, it appeared, of one of the brothers, and the wife of a soldier serving in New Zealand. When I told her that the head-quarters of the regiment—for he was in the band—was on its way from the land of the cannibal to Sydney, the sunny beam of blushing delight which ought to have suffused the young bride's cheek at the unexpected news, would have fallen warmly on the heart of an old soldier and bachelor like myself. Unluckily for connubial sentiment—the deuce a beam was there! On the contrary, a dark cloud passed across the pretty countenance of the absent soldier's wife, and was succeeded by a deadly pallor.

On a much slenderer substratum than this, a “Loiterer,” or a “Penciller-by-the-Way” might have founded his tale of “The Bush Bride of Mŏgōng;” for such was the name of the sequestered settlement. There were whispers regarding the visits of a handsome stockman at the family hamlet—“one,” perhaps, “who had blighted many a flower before.” I closed my ears to the details; yet some months afterwards the dénoûment was, as it were, forced upon


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me: the returned soldier was in hospital, mad, having lost his reason through repeated paroxysms of jealousy!

November 27th.—Duly roused at 4 A.M. by the before-mentioned early bird, I called up my fellow-traveller on the sofa; and, putting on our slippers, we repaired through the dusk of daybreak to a pool hard by, where plunging in we cooled our flea-bitten skins. The water seemed deliciously fresh to our feverish sensations, and I mention the trifling circumstance as a warning to inexperienced Australian travellers. The extreme muddiness of the rain-swollen water-hole, imperceptible in the dark, was a bagatelle; but we heard on returning to the house that the pool was full of horse-leeches, and that, but for the freshet of rain and our hasty bath, we might have suffered phlebotomy to an extent extremely inconvenient on a long journey.

During this day's work we occasionally came near the Belabula river, whose course was easily distinguishable by the dark selvage of casuarinas fringing its banks. It forms, at present, the frontier between the located and the unsettled districts, and will probably long remain so, unless the upset price of waste land be reduced.

Traversing a remarkably fine pastoral country, with a good deal of land well calculated for agriculture, we passed the grazing stations of Tolong and Roreecabon; making our mid-day halt for rest and refreshment at Boree-narang, the homestead of Mr. Barton, who gave us as hearty a welcome as a fine, English-looking, and I believe, English-hearted gentleman could offer, while


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lying on his couch with a desperately fractured leg; his lady being prevented from appearing by a less melancholy cause of confinement.

The rain rattling down as though on purpose to convince the new Governor that the general colonial croak of “Drought, drought,” was a thorough humbug,—a bugbear got up to frighten the Legislature out of further concessions to the “suffering squatters,”—onward we went through miles after miles of mud, always haunted by the doubt whether the next creek (as the fresh-water streams of the interior are absurdly called) would place a bar to our further advance.

At about five P.M. we found ourselves on the bank of the Mŏlong creek, which separated us from our destination for the night,—the Mŏlong Inn,—a lone house on the opposite plain. It was an ugly-looking turbid stream, of the consistency of pea-soup, with greasy and rotten banks. However, our night's lodging lay before us as well as the obstacle. Sir Charles, appearing to consider the circumstances such as to warrant the remark of the old huntsman to the “craning” rider—“The more you look at it the less you'll like it,”—pushed his tired team boldly at the brook; and, after a pause in the middle that looked very like sticking, the yellow drag was seen to emerge from the black slough, the last spot of its original colour completely blotted out.

A few minutes brought our cavalcade to the inn, where we were politely received by M. Hyeronimus, the host of the Mŏlong Hotel as well as of the chief hotel at Wellington, twenty-eight miles from this spot. A foreigner, civil and civilized, with a good deal of the courier-cut


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about him, Monsr. H. gave us excellent fare and beds, nor did he forget to charge for them.

The bar of the house was filled by a dozen of regular bush-boys—great hulking fellows, labouring under a temporary plethora of pay, and hanging about the rum butt until it should be spent. There was a fiddler, too, for their delectation; and these boisterous, half-drunken clowns continued to dance together the greater part of the night, apparently as much inspired by the cracked violin, “real Old Tom,” and the rough-muzzled, fustianclad partner, redolent of rum and “nigger-head”—indeed very much more inspired than I have often seen the white-waistcoated, patent-leather-booted dandy, with his Weippert, his iced Roman punch, and the belle of the season as his associate in the valtz.

These good fellows, uncouth as they appeared, were civil in their way, and did not persevere in their uproarious pastimes when told that the Governor and his party were tired and gone to bed. Many a large and rapid fortune has been made in New South Wales by publicans, from no other customers than such as those I have just sketched.

November 28th.—Up at four o'clock. A regular “old country” rainy day: “very dirty weather,” as they say at sea. The carriages came out as dirty as they went in. The sky above was black as ink, the earth below black. The Governor looked black too, as he scanned the clouds and the soaked soil, and started his team with the prospect of twenty-eight miles to be run off the reel, and three flooded streams to ford.

During the last two days we had enjoyed various


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fine views of the Canobolas Range, the highest peak of which is 4,500 feet. In a country so comparatively flat, we doubtless owed a good deal of the rain that fell upon us to the great surcharged cloud-butts that rested continually on the shoulders of these hills. It was a really fine tract of alluvial land we traversed this day. The grass was plentiful, and two or three feet high; the trees were more shapely, and less stag-headed than is the case in the sandstone districts.

We halted for an hour at the Head Station of the Messrs. Burton, where three brothers, living together, conduct the provincial part of the business, while a fourth attends to its interests at Sydney. The station is one of the simplest construction—a log-hut or two, bark roofed, for a dwelling-house, and some farm buildings somewhat more carefully put together. The locality is well chosen for grazing purposes, and there appears to be plenty of game in the neighbourhood; but the idea of comfort could hardly be connected in my mind with so homely a lodging and so few of the less absolute requirements of civilized life as are enjoyed by these gentlemen.

It is needless to say a word about the high spirits with which the plentiful supply of rain inspired every one we met. The drenching we had endured for four or five days we were glad to compound for in consideration of the benefit accruing from the same cause to all the farming interests.

We crossed three several times this day the river Bell. Each attempt was both hazardous and doubtful, and delayed us much; for the stream had overflowed its banks, (Australian rivers possess two sets of banks, one


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for dry, another for wet seasons,) and the strength and depth of the water could only be proved by actual experiment,—a duty which devolved upon, and was well performed by, the troopers. The annexed Plate will give some idea of the plan adopted with perfect success at these perilous passages. The leaders, being unmanageable in deep rapid water, were taken off, and, with the police horses, assisted in carrying over to the opposite bank the servants, the policemen, and some of the gentlemen, and, with them, a stout green-hide rope, one end of which had been affixed to the carriage-pole. Sir Charles gallantly kept his seat on the box, myself standing on the seat behind him to help in case of need. When all was ready, the wheel-horses were urged into the stream; eight or ten men hawled on the rope, thus assisting in the draught and keeping the pole straight, and we were soon tumbling about, like a ship at sea, over stumps and stones, some of which were heard rumbling along the bottom of the current. However, after a brief struggle, Cæsar and his fortunes were safely delivered on the opposite shore.

As for the joint phaëton of the Colonial Secretary and myself, every article of baggage having been removed, my servant, sitting up to his waist in water, drove it across, assisted by the rope. Old “Merriman” looked more like a mer-man, as his long mane floated on the waves; and poor “Punch” was terribly diluted, his ears alone at one time remaining above the face of the waters.

At one of these fords an old settler, living on a bit of cleared land near it, stopped our progress by his well-timed advice to wait awhile for the partial subsidence


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of the flood, which the tide-mark proved to be sinking. He brought us some black damper and a dry chip of cheese, (for we were famished,) together with a hot beverage in a tin pot which richly deserved the epithet of “post and rail” tea; it might well have been a decoction of “split stuff” or “iron bark shingles,” for any resemblance it bore to the Chinese plant. Another notorious ration tea of the bush is called “Jack the painter.” This is a very green tea indeed, its viridity evidently produced by a discreet use of the copper drying pans in its manufacture. Hunger is indeed the best sauce; for, sitting on a fallen log, and watching the gradual retrocession of the water-mark, like “Rusticus” awaiting the flood's recess, we discussed our damper and discoloured hot water with more appetite than many a better repast under more facile circumstances.

In recalling to mind, on subsequent occasions, the several perils by water encountered this day, it has always appeared to me that our escape from losing carriages, and horses, and even human life,—a loss that the smallest accident in so fierce a torrent must have rendered nearly inevitable,—was almost miraculous. The passages of the Bell, indeed, could not have been accomplished at all, but for the strong manual power of our party, assisted by persons sent to help us.

These sudden floods are one of the many scourges of the squatter—as destructive as the blacks, the dingoes, scab, catarrh, drought, or bush-fires. I read in a newspaper lately of a flock of 2,000 or 3,000 sheep being hemmed in, with a single shepherd, on an insulated patch of ground hardly wide enough for them to stand


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upon. On the third day, (the poor sheep having long before nibbled off the very roots of the narrow pasture, and the shepherd having swallowed his last crust,) the latter plunged into the current, in the hope of reaching the mainland. His ductile and famished charge followed him to a sheep, the faithful colley followed the last of the flock, and shepherd, sheep, and dog were swept away together.

Accounts of loss of life in the bush generally follow news of heavy rains, and minor accidents are of every day occurrence. We hear of Commissioners of Crown Lands, or other itinerant gentlemen, being carried away in their gigs; losing one or more horses; and sometimes of their own lives being sacrificed, or only saved by the skill and intrepidity of the despised black fellow.

We saw a good deal of game to-day, four or five bustards, and several kinds of water-fowl; but there was too much rain and hard work to allow of our pursuing them.

At the third crossing of the Bell, we were met by Mr. Maxwell, our host for the night, who welcomed us to his flourishing sheep station of Narrigâl. The proprietor repairs to this place in the shearing season only, his chief homestead being far away elsewhere. He possesses, however, purchased land having eleven miles of water frontage to it on the located side of the river, and extensive runs on the opposite bank, the Bell here forming the frontier of the Colony proper. Mr. Maxwell has the reputation of being what is financially styled “a warm man.” With such a mountain of wool as we saw piled under tarpaulins, he can hardly be otherwise. He had “lots of sheep,” he said, (which probably


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meant 30,000 or 40,000;) “but only a few head of cattle,” (1,000, or so!)

The dwelling-house at Narrigâl is a mere shieling. The abodes of the servants, (as the performers of any kind of labour, domestic or agrarian, are called in Australia,) form a village street of whitewashed bark-huts, with stables, stack-yards, &c., and a huge wool-shed, like a railway engine-house, in which (the bales having been for the purpose turned out) we dined sumptuously—claret, hock, champagne, and of course bottled ale, as plentiful as though our carouse had taken place on the banks of the “blue Rhine,” the “arrowy Rhone,” or the beery Trent, rather than on those of an Australian bush-river only a few years ago discovered by the enterprising surveyor, Mr. Oxley.

There was a large party of natives, men, women and children, camped behind the station, that is, squatted before a fire and behind a sloping sheet of bark turned from the wind,—in bush lingo, a break-weather,—or in guneeahsnote of boughs thatched with grass. From the half-drunken looks of some of the men, the greedy begging of others, and certain indications of good understanding between their women and the station-men, (not a single white woman was to be seen there,) I set them down as one of the many families or tribes of the Aborigines who have nothing to thank the English for but demoralization and deeper degradation.

As for the Christian inhabitants of a squatting hamlet like the one I am describing, they may be


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all honest men and trusty servants; but whether they have ever set eyes on a parson, their foot in a place of worship, or their minds upon the contemplation of a future state, can hardly be said to be a doubtful question.

November 29th.—Started early on horseback, and leaving the vehicles to follow, rode to Wellington, fifteen miles, through a fine rich valley of naturally clear pasture land framed in wooded hills. The road passes close to the famed caves of Wellington, where many curious fossil remains, specimens of which were sent home for the examination of Professor Owen, have been discovered. Mitchell describes, I think, three distinct caverns, full of fragments of bones, apparently belonging to a gigantic species of kangaroo. I entered the larger of the caves with another of the party, but having no better light than that procured by lucifers and a bit of bark, we could explore but little. The roof and sides are of limestone, with a floor of soft snuff-like dust, and a temperature, on a day of uncommon heat, cool as a catacomb.

We passed, en route, the ruined Apsley Mission station, whereof I have previously given some account, and where, I believe, a most patient experiment of several years' duration, and the united endeavours of two or three zealous Clergymen, did not produce as many true converts amongst these wild and intractable tribes. The situation of the abandoned establishment is beautiful and every way suitable for the habitation of civilized man. It was sad to trace the almost obliterated foundations of some of the buildings, and the deserted state


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of others which slight repairs might still render habitable and useful; and to see the spacious gardens relapsing into wilderness. The Government had formerly in this fine valley a considerable stock-farm, and an establishment for the custody and employment of convicts.

After a delightful canter of about three hours across a country where a horse might well be left to his own pace and guidance, and where the falconer might follow his hawk without one glance at the ground under foot, we found ourselves stopped short at the confluence of the Bell with the Macquarie, just beyond which junction the township of Wellington stands. The latter river, the same that waters Bathurst about 150 miles to the eastward, had increased in importance very much since we last crossed its stream almost with dry axles—increased both from the tributaries it has received in its winding course, and from the late heavy rains. There was now no question of axles. The ordinary ford was quite impassable. Trees denoting its original rivage stood trembling in the midst of a rushing muddy torrent. A naked black attempted to swim our horses over, beginning with an old experienced bush-horse whose very experience taught him to refuse the doubtful voyage. So the project of passing them over was abandoned, and, saddles and bridles having been stripped off, the quadrupeds were turned loose into the luxuriant meadows within the loop of the two rivers. Ourselves and our saddles were transported, two by two, across the stream in a rudely-fashioned punt, trough, or quadrangular tub, with a pair of paddles—all which apparatus


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looked as if it had been growing in the bush and in the full pride of leaves and life not half an hour before. Mr. Wright, formerly of H. M. army, the present Crown Commissioner for the district, who had been our very agreeable fellow-traveller for some days, received the Governor and his suite most handsomely at his residence just beyond the town.

The duties of Commissioner of Crown Lands are multifarious and important. He is general superintendent of the Crown's demesne, the waste lands of the colony; looks after the revenue, in so far as it depends upon depasturing licences and assessment of live stock; and as a government functionary and justice of the peace is in other points a potential person. This officer is furnished with a house, and is tolerably well paid.

The dwelling-house of the gentleman holding this post in the district of Wellington, although rude in structure, has all the neatness and order of a barrack. It is beautifully situated on a bend of the Macquarie, which here rolls between high banks, on the further of which Mount Arthur rears its wooded crest, dominating the Plains. Mr. Wright had erected a spacious temporary pavilion in addition to the not very liberal residence afforded him by the public; and, within its walls, this most comfortable of Australian bachelors afforded us practical proof that, even on the confines of civilization, a cuisine recherchée, with perfect cleanliness, may be obtained under the eye of an experienced and attentive master. Every part and article of furniture of the cottage shone with cleanliness. It was possible in this establishment to ask in the morning for a tub of water


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without impressing the servants with the notion that you were about to fulfil the conditions of “every man his own washerwoman,” or to perform some rare experiment in hydraulics. The plate, linen, and servants' dress were neatness itself. Such-like domestic observances are too much lost sight of in the bush—more's the pity, because they cost nothing, and without cleanliness household comfort is a word of mockery. If in some of the Australian houses in which I have temporarily lodged a couple of hours a-week were devoted to domestic purification, it is fair to suppose that the travelling guest from cleaner quarters would escape the endurance of a severe course of practical entomology, which, science and joking apart, becomes a serious affair when pursued through a week of wakeful nights.

The township of Wellington is 117 miles from Bathurst, and 238 miles from Sydney; from which city it is the most distant settlement directly inland, or to the westward.

Nothing can give a clearer impression of the vastness of the insular continent of New Holland, and of the comparative insignificance of its occupancy by civilized man, than the taking on a map a step of the compasses from Sydney to Wellington, and from thence describing a stride of that instrument across the unknown wilderness of the interior to the settlement of Swan River on the western coast. The step would cover, as the crow flies and the compass walks, hardly 200 miles, the stride not less than 2,300 miles! From north to south the measurement is computed at 2,000 miles. New Holland is indeed a cruelly compact mass of earth.


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Look at its form on the map, and pursue with your eye the coast line; there is scarcely an indentation on the whole circuit of sufficient magnitude, nor a river of sufficient importance, to assist in the least degree the explorer in penetrating its distant and mysterious interior regions.

November 30th.—This day was devoted by some of the resident gentlemen of the vicinity to an attempt to show the Governor the sport, par excellence, of the country,—kangaroo hunting. Under their guidance, accordingly, well mounted and accompanied by three or four greyhounds of a powerful breed, we traversed a wide extent of forest-land where in ordinary seasons this animal was known to abound. In a long day's ride, however, we only found one kangaroo, fortunately a good specimen of that kind known as a red-flyer, a strong and fleet animal not less than five feet high. The bush was tolerably open, hampered only by fallen timber and occasional rocky or boggy bits. The find was very fine. The kangaroo, which was feeding in a patch of long grass, jumped up under our horses' feet, and at first starting looked very much like a red-deer hind. Its action was less smooth though equally swift; but no one could have guessed that it consisted only of a series of jumps, the fore-feet never touching the ground. A shrill tallyho from one of the finest riders I ever saw made all the dogs spring into the air. Two of them got away on pretty good terms with our quarry, and, while facing the hill at a pace considerably greater than an ordinary hunting gallop, I thought we should have had a “whoo—whoop!” in less than five minutes. After


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crossing a ridge and commencing the descent on the opposite side, however, the red-flyer showed us quite “another pair of shoes,” and a pretty fast pair too. I never saw a stag in view go at all like our two-legged friend; and, in short, after a sharp burst of twelve or fourteen minutes, both dogs and men were fairly distanced. In about half that time I had lost my place by riding at full speed into the fork of a fallen tree concealed in long grass, a predicament out of which there is only one means of extrication, namely, retreat; for cavalry has no chance against a good abattis. The Australian gentlemen present rode with snaffle bridles pretty nearly at full speed, through, under, or over the forest trees, according to their position standing or prostrate, the great art being, it should seem, to leave the horse as much as possible to his own guidance. On the whole, taking into consideration the hardness of the ground, the stump-holes, sun-cracks and deep fissures caused by water, the stiffness of the underwood and the frequency of the trees, living, dying, and dead, burnt and burning, the riding in a kangaroo hunt may be considered tolerably dangerous. It affords, in short, to English manhood that quantum of risk which seems to form the chief seasoning of the dish called sport. In a good run with fox-hounds your person, on a race-course your purse, are just sufficiently jeopardized to promote a pleasing degree of excitement.

The dogs employed to-day were in no condition to cope with a “red-flyer,” or “old soldier,” as a large kind of kangaroo is called, on good ground. In deep ground, either is soon caught by really good dogs.




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I think I perceive the reason why the animal always, if possible, takes a down-hill course when pursued. The hare, which, like the kangaroo, has very long hind-legs, prefers running up hill, but she makes good use also of her fore-legs. At full speed the kangaroo's fore-feet, as I have said, never touch the ground, and therefore, in going down hill he has more time to gather up his hinder limbs to repeat his tremendous spring than he could have in facing an ascent. I wish I had had time to measure the stroke of the “red-flyer” we chased to-day when at his best pace. I am convinced it would have equalled the well-known stride of the great “Eclipse.”

The G. M. on the shoulder of the horse in my sketch will give an idea of the disfiguring manner in which Australian horses are branded by their breeders.

At bay, the kangaroo is dangerous to young and unwary dogs from the strength with which he uses the long sharp claw of his hind foot, a weapon nearly as formidable as the wild boar's tusk. The animal, when hard pressed, not unfrequently takes to a water-hole, where from his stature he has a great advantage over the dogs, ducking them under water and sometimes drowning them as they swim to the attack. The tail of the kangaroo makes excellent soup; the haunch is tolerable venison, but, like most really wild venison, it is too lean. A good bushman, or a black, knows, however, where to find a certain portion of fat when he is about to make a hunter's dish, which might with propriety be called an Australian kabaub. The directions are as follows:—Skewer, or skiver (to use my informant's


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stronger word), skiver alternate slices of lean and fat on your ramrod, roast at a fire that any native will make with two sticks, or yourself with a flash of gunpowder, (if you have no match-box;) and if you happen to be hungry you will not require knife or fork, salt, pepper, or pressing. Kangaroo “steamer” is another bush-dish—a sort of haggis of venison and salt pork, very popular with those who have time and patience for the culinary process called simmering.

An officer from Van Diemen's Land told me that he had once killed in that colony a kangaroo of such magnitude, that, being a long way from home, he was unable, although on horseback, to carry away any portion except the tail, which alone weighed 30 lbs. This species is called the boomah, and stands about seven feet high. Besides the single kangaroo, we saw this day no other animals with the exception of a few kangaroo rats, which the dogs occasionally bounded after with little success among the scrubby rockland, two large guanas, about two feet long swarming lazily up a tree, one of which a black fellow brought down dead with a cast of his boomerang, and a poisonous ash-coloured snake, which I cut in pieces with my hunting whip under my horse's legs.

There were also a good many quail, which, as we flushed them, were swooped at by a large black falcon that kept his place near us on the march, now on a tree, now on the wing—and thus shared our sport. In the grass lands a sort of ground pigeon, called the dudu, a very handsome little bird, got up and went off like a partridge, strong and swift; and re-alighted on the


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ground, running into cover. I never saw the bird except on this occasion.

Our hunt led us through some fine tracts of forest pasture. The “intervals,” as alluvial flats near rivers are called in Canada, were extremely rich. The trees too were of the most majestic proportions. I measured the girth of one of these bush Falstaffs, and found it no less than thirty-three feet.

Along the surface roots of the largest trees, the soil, we observed, had been turned up as if by swine. This is done, as we were told, by the blacks in their search for a species of grub, a favourite article of food with them, and reported to be quite as palatable as marrow. There is something truly revolting in the idea of eating a great white maggot; the very thought makes one shudder; yet, after all, the man who first tested the qualities of the raw oyster, “ripped untimely” from its mother shell, was no less adventurous than the grub-eating Australian savage. Poor blackey! although the white usurper will exterminate, devour, or drive away your kangaroo, emu, and wallabi, and shoot you if you indulge in mutton chops in return; I do believe he will leave you in undisputed possession of your tree-grub—the only grub in which the British maw cannot follow you; except indeed human steaks, which, I imagine, have never yet been deliberately eaten by white man—although it is notorious that dogs, cats, and horses, in unrecognised forms, do occasionally find their way into the London meat-market.

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