― 184 ―
view facsimile

THERE is not perhaps a class of individuals who have accumulated more money than the tavern-keepers of the Eastern Colonies. The large hotels have frequently been the means by which fortunes might be accumulated. The inferior order of taverns have ever been profitable. The wild riots which daily occur in the taps of these houses would disgust in detail, and, in fact, are a disgrace to the Colony. The country inns are conducted upon a different principle: every article has acquired a fictitious value within their precincts. The landlords are in fact monopolists; they know too well that you require their accommodation, and that you are at their mercy—but mercy they have none. There is no competition in the Bush. Many hardy travellers make the vault of heaven a karavanserai, and sleep in a blanket, or in a hollow tree, rather than incur such extravagant expenses; but the majority have a salutary dread of cold and rheumatism, inciting them to occupy a comfortable shelter. The most profitable part of their trade is supplying the wants of the settlers' servants, who frequently adjourn to a Bush tavern to spend their wages. This class are more independent, and far more extravagant, than their masters. At times they become unmanageable, and as no police are near, they insult every person they can see.

  ― 185 ―
view facsimile

We have to introduce our readers into the bar of one of these houses of public entertainment. The landlord, however, was not by any means a good specimen of Bush publicans. He had just bought the house, and started in the trade, attracted by the great profits realised. He was a respectable man, with a quiet, handsome wife; and the pair appeared about as comfortable in their new calling, as a dissenting clergyman in a theatre. The coarse language used by the ruffianly barbarous Bushmen sent the blood of the hostess almost cold; while the landlord was almost as much shocked, and quite unable to exert his authority and maintain order. The two bemoaned the unlucky fate that had sent them to a line of business for which they were unfit. These severe remarks refer to the low roamers about the Bush.

It was drawing towards night, and the tap-room was filled with bullock-drivers, and the usual classes of Bush travellers. A young man entered of more respectable appearance; although his clothes were torn and soiled. A straw hat, worn in the Bush by almost every person, was drawn down over his brow, and the collar of his coat was fastened around his throat to protect him from the cold, so that his features were almost concealed. He seated himself at some distance from the others, and ordering a glass of brandy, for which he threw down half-a-crown, tasted it, and sat a silent spectator of the scene.

About half-a-dozen men were very agreeably employed in making an aborigine tipsy, and in disputing amongst themselves. The savage evinced the partiality to exciting liquor which has ever been the character

  ― 186 ―
view facsimile

of all uncivilised men. He was slim, yet an active-looking fellow; his eye was wild and rambling, his gait upright, and his step proud and easy. He was dressed in an old cast-off coat and straw hat, but he did not use trousers. His companions talked to him in a kind of broken English mixed with the native words; and to make themselves intelligible, they had recourse very often to motioning with the hand. It would be almost impossible to make sense of this conversation, from the unsteady countenances and wavering eyes, as well as from the loud husky voices, of every one of them; it seemed certain that they must have been there the greater part of the afternoon. They were becoming very quarrelsome, and the black fellow, too, was in a state of no ordinary excitement. The entrance of the young man as already described was observed only by the black man, who was looking towards the door, at the moment, (where his lubra was seated, huddled up in her sheep-skin rug,) and caught his eye. He looked once or twice towards him, and at length walked up with the freedom of a savage, and stared him full in the face. The stranger looked at him, and the black laughed with great satisfaction, and said in tolerably good English,

“Ah ha, Mr. Willis! me not seen you plenty long time.”

“Well, Dermott,” replied the other, “how are you? where you quambie now?”

“Me quambie here, small bit—plenty corroborie,” replied the aborigine.

“You got many black fellows at your corroborie?” inquired the stranger.

  ― 187 ―
view facsimile

“Not many black fellows. Plenty hungry now,— him belly's plenty sore.”

“You not steal sheep?”

“Wah! Plenty kill black fellow. One black fellow kill sheep, white fellow plenty take him, and him plenty killed. How you been long, long time? Me not seen you.”

“Me been very well. How you been? How you lubra and picaninnies?”

“Them quite well. You know them white fellows?” (pointing with his finger towards those who had been treating him.) “Plenty big rogues them.”

His former companions now found he had gone, and they called him back, rather abruptly. At first he seemed very much inclined to treat them with contempt; but his prudence prevailed, and he walked back towards them. They did not seem inclined to pardon the affront he had put upon their party, and began to abuse him. Dermott, however, was able to give them word for word, and cursed and roared with the best of them. The landlord appeared very much shocked at the riot, and looked in the most deploring manner at the party; but it is needless to say, that his looks were never even thought of by these ruffians. At length they attempted to turn Dermott out, but were kept at bay by the waddie which he held in his hand, and which was too deadly a weapon to encounter, especially in the experienced hands of Dermott. At last Dermott whispered to the stranger, and, after exchanging a few more angry words with the Bushmen, he joined his lubra at the door and departed.

The Bushmen soon after had a quarrel with the

  ― 188 ―
view facsimile

quiet landlord. They had expended their money— they were as drunk as possible—and the landlord, under these circumstances, considered it high time that they should be moving. Not one of them, however, agreed with him, and they evinced no inclination to start, but, on the contrary, seemed determined to remain. They were also resolved to have more drink, notwithstanding the reiterated replies of the landlord that he never gave credit. The inevitable consequence of this difference in opinion was a quarrel. One of the most insolent put his fingers into the inkstand and drew them suddenly across the face of the publican, when the whole party set up a shout of satisfaction. The publican bore the insult with more patience than could have been expected; he turned very pale, and asked the person to leave the house. He retaliated by placing himself in a fencing attitude, and taunted the landlord, if he were a man, to come forward and box with him. To this challenge the landlord would not reply, and his antagonist informed him he was not game to attack him. Many similar hostile demonstrations were made without the least effect, for fight the landlord would not, as he thought, with General Cope, that “it was best to sleep in a whole skin.”

We may remark, that the landlord was peculiar in this respect; for the majority of hosts are what is termed flash or sporting characters, and prize-fighters by profession. So far from not fighting, a Colonial landlord would have kicked the fellow out at the door upon the least hostile demonstration. An old “hand,” however, would have known their manners too well, and would have joked and tasted with them, or even

  ― 189 ―
view facsimile

perhaps gone the length of singing a song; and when their money was all gone, would have flattered them off the premises. Such characters are fit for their business; but to a person possessing the slightest delicacy of feeling, the attempt to make money by grog-dealing would be altogether absurd.

It was well for the landlord that the attention of his adversaries was attracted by internal quarrels. The most violent was for taking the bar by storm, as the landlord was not able to defend it; one of his companions objected to this, which he designated as “breach of promise,” his doctrine being “that every cove as sold liquor should be protected.”

The other person remarked that “he was no magistrate, and need not cheek up so precious fast.”

“How do you know I am not a Colonial ‘Justass of the East?’—my brother is one in England, and who knows but the Governor may make me a Justass?”

“Ah, you are coming too ———— clever, now; but you know I remember you working in a chain gang, and I have heard that you were lagged for stealing ten-pennorth of hay.”

“It is a lie!” screamed the insulted convict; “I was lagged by the Duke of Wellington for being one of Napoleon Bonaparte's generals. I am a gentleman, you snotty beggar, and don't care that for you!” snapping his fingers at the same instant.

“You are cramming us,” replied the other. “I know you were lagged for stealing ten-pennorth of hay; don't you mind you told us in the Kangaroo Inn, once when you were drunk, that you was lagged for stealing the hay, and that your wife who comed to see you in

  ― 190 ―
view facsimile

gaol used to say, as the coves with the big wigs could not lag you, as they could not stand to it —don't you mind now, and what's the use of stringing so precious fast about Wellington and Bonaparte?”

The man was apparently unable to answer this question, for he had recourse to blows, and putting himself in a fencing attitude, hit his opponent a sharp smack on the face. He was upon him in an instant and the two closed and worried each other like two bull-dogs. After exercising themselves in this manner for some time, they got tired, and again had recourse to a war of words, which continued for a quarter of an hour. At length, finding it impossible to extort drink from the landlord, they shuffled off, but not before they had each abused the man in power in their best style. Just at the moment they made their exit, another party entered. One was a bullock-driver; the next was a little man, who seemed a hut-keeper or shepherd; while their companion was evidently of superior education, although it seemed more than probable that his necessities had compelled him to accept some such menial occupation. It appeared that the stranger already mentioned had no intention of making their acquaintance, for he drew his hat lower over his face, and turned round to escape observation. The person last mentioned now smiled upon the landlord, and addressing him by the quaint title of “my learned friend,” ordered three noblers of rum.

The liquor had a perceptible effect in opening the heart of this worthy triumvirate, if we can be allowed the expression, and their tongues soon were heard.

“I say, Porcupine,” commenced the person who had

  ― 191 ―
view facsimile

been standing treat, “how have you been getting on this eternal long time?”

“Aisy like,” replied the bullock-driver. “You know that my old master went out of his mind, and I had to look for another situation. He was a good cove to serve, was that old Willis, although a bit cranky at times.”

“What!” exclaimed the other, with excellent feigned astonishment, “and is old Willis gone wrong in his mind? I was the most intimate friend he had. Many a good bottle have we cracked. Poor old fellow, I am sorry for him. Where is he?”

The solitary stranger gave his shoulders a shrug, and changed his position.

“Ay, that's it,” said the bullock-driver; “where is he? I wish I knew where he was, for he was a good master.”

“Well, I must tell you all the story. You see, he was quick; he would have the year's clip of wool spent long before it had grown on the backs of the sheep, and as he was wild he soon became short of money, and took to making whiskey. Not a creature knew of this but me and Mango the black man, and many a fine keg I have carried in. We used to pack it in rice bags, and leave it at an old canting, cheating grocer's in the town. Maister began to be bad and made strange kick-up; but we liked him, and never informed mortal of what was going on. I forgot to say, that the cove wanted a gal as lives with Mr. Butler, but who was frightened of his going insenti, as the doctors calls it, and killing her before she could have him sent to a asylum. This put him wrong, and then everything went wrong: the grocer was discovered,

  ― 192 ―
view facsimile

and he imposed the cove; the Expector of Distilleries came out and took the still away, and master too, who was clean mad, and had just before nearly killed Dr. Arabin, and Mango the black man. He was had before the Bench, and was to be put in chokey; the cove ran for it, and has never since been heard of.”

“Has no accounts of him arrived?” inquired the young man.

“Some,” replied the bullock-driver, “say that he has left the Colony, and some say he is residing with the blacks and turned chief, and some that he is a Bushranger. I wish him well, for he was a good master, and liked me for his bullock-driver.”

“And how were you turned away from the station?” inquired the other.

“The cove called Harobin and old Butler were put to manage it—and they are a pair of low blackguards. They said I was too long on the station, and paid me off. The scamp Harobin is to be married in a few days to the young lady that the cove was arter.”

“You don't say that!” remarked the young man, who, by his own account, was such an intimate friend of Mr. Willis the settler.

“I do, indeed” replied the bullock-driver. “They turned me away, and I would go up to my knees in blood to see them disappointed: that Harobin is a snotty, broken-down swell, who has got as many fine ways with him as a stage-playactoring missus.”

“Then, what are you going to do?” inquired the other.

“Me and this other person,” replied the passionate

  ― 193 ―
view facsimile

bullock-driver, “are to start a consarn in the wood line, you see, as wood is in request about the towns, and we only wants a chay and bullocks to start in the trade. We have money enough to start a chay, and we are looking for bullocks.”

“And do you expect to get them?” inquired the young man.

“No,” replied the bullock-driver; “but we may find some in the woods.

“Take care, though,” said the other, “that the police do not find out your place.”

“Oh, never mind, we will risk that,” replied the worthy bullock-fancier; “I wish my old master was alive now, and I should not want bullocks. I hear there is great writins come, and talk that he is to be a nobleman; and yil see, I should like to meet the cove; and, mayhap, if he wos a-comin it very strong, the gal might not have the snobby swell after all. I a'heard on it in town, that the postmaster had a letter to him from the King of Hingland. The cove would not give it up to any person but himself.”

In such conversation the time passed; the bullock-driver stood treat, and then the companion of his adventure, and, by all accounts, his co-partner in the wood speculation—who was a little miserable creature, in an old jacket and trousers, and a straw hat with enormous rim—insisted upon giving them another ball of rum. They were becoming as troublesome as the former party, and to every appearance a similar scene would be enacted when the money was all spent.

We must, however, leave them, and follow the stranger so often mentioned, who, as the reader

  ― 194 ―
view facsimile

will have understood from the expressions of the black, already introduced as Dermott, was in fact Willis himself.

His eye had turned several times wistfully towards the glass of brandy which remained untasted: he reflected,—“What a singular power lies concealed in that cursed liquor! I feel well now—quite well, but were I to drink this glass, the mind would stagger and I could not end with it. Another would follow, and then another, until I should be worse than these poor ignorant fellows. They have not got that inward gnawing which high mental power and education always bring. The gifted—those who have genius and greatness combined, are often more to be pitied than the clods who have no existence but in the gratification of their animal passions—for those persons whom I have noticed here this night have no mental appetite to gratify or surfeit. When they are tipsy, they fight or sing, and drink on till stupified. I, again, belong to that class, the members of which ‘do become old in their youth, and die ere middle age.’ At this moment I am well; but were I to renew the course I had at one time been following, I should again be mad. How inviting it looks! I would try the one tumbler, but for the state of excitement into which it might plunge me.”

He had sat reflecting, during the time that the bullock-driver was relating his misfortunes, without betraying emotion; he was not angry with Arabin or his intended, then; he was calm; he did not say anything; he did not think much about what he had heard until the man who had formerly been his servant stated that the postmaster had news for him of the utmost importance;

  ― 195 ―
view facsimile

then he certainly did look a little anxious; his eye rested on the glass again, his hand itched to seize it, and his throat was parched with a burning thirst. He was upon this occasion the conqueror, for he rose and walked out of the room. Had not the old bullock-driver been tipsy, he would have recognised him; but his senses were blunted by the effects of the liquor. The other young man who had been upon such intimate terms with the drover he did not know, and he appeared to have no knowledge of Willis. He was safe with him.

He walked sharply along the road when he had once fairly escaped from the inn; he was thankful that he had overcome the temptation of drink, yet the cold air and the desolation of darkness had a singular impression on his mind. He found his heart sink, and gloomy clouds of melancholy depressed his spirits. In such moments the heart pants for home, for the home where something that is dear is to be found. But he had no home to flee to: he was disheartened, without that beacon light to indicate the fatal reefs of Despondency, and the calm waters of Resignation Bay, just beyond Point Hope: all before him was stormy waters, with reefs and breakers on every side. To how many have the lines which our great poet Shakspeare has put into the mouth of Hamlet come home when labouring under the same malady!— “To be, or not to be ? that is the question: —
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind, to suffer
The stings and arrows of outrageous fortune;
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And, by opposing, end them?”

  ― 196 ―
view facsimile

The hearts of the great and gifted have often breathed similar sentiments. We wonder if the majestic Bonaparte ever found his heart sink when chained to that lonely rock of the ocean on which he ended his days. How glorious the early career of this great general!— how sad to reflect that it was afterwards sullied by cruelty and bloodshed, and the most appalling crimes! Did he ever, we wonder, in the wane of his fortunes, think of these lines?—did his heart not speak their truth? It is a melancholy thing to see a portion of the English press lauding the late Emperor of France. As a tyrant, he deserved a worse treatment than he received.

To return to Willis. He felt the sting without knowing the antidote. If he knew it, he was too proud and too hardened to apply it: he bore the withering chill without a murmur. He once indeed appeared to contemplate re-entering the temple of intoxication; but his anxiety to discover the extent to which the bullock-driver had spoken truth, incited him to proceed.

It was a raw, cold night, for the winter season is frequently excessively severe in Australia: the wind howled dismally among the high trees; their branches creaked and moaned like the furies of the tempest; and still the poor solitary pushed forward. The night wore on, and the rain increased to a storm; he was unable to cope with it longer, and crouched into the shelter which a hollow tree afforded, listening to the mournful howling of the blast, which lulled and returned with fitful starts. At length, having turned his face in a contrary direction, his eye met a red glare of light, the reflection of a huge fire at some

  ― 197 ―
view facsimile

distance in the Bush. He was not confident about venturing towards it: if it should prove a black camp, he would ask shelter; but if whites were around the fire, which was far from unlikely, he determined to pass on and not solicit their hospitality. He started up and bent his steps in the direction where the light burned. When within a short distance, he stooped down and reconnoitred. The miamis were visible, and Willis, who knew their ways, gave a loud co-oie. This signal aroused a storm of howling from the bands of lean, lanky brutes of dogs which swarm about the black camps. The blacks were asleep, exhausted with the corroborie which they had just finished, but many started up when the noise was audible. He now walked up, and was well received by his old friend Dermott, who appeared in some authority amongst them. There was nothing for him to eat: he had the shelter of a miami, which is formed by placing an upright stick in the ground, with a forked end up, near to a tree; another plank, or rather thick branch, is placed in this, with the other end fastened into the tree; against this are placed bark and branches of trees to protect the blacks from the inclemency of the weather; and they sleep with their feet spread out towards the large fires.

Willis slept a short time, and spent the night far more comfortable than he had expected. In the morning he thanked Dermott for his hospitality, and then departed for town.

It is singular how much good there exists in the mental composition of persons outwardly abandoned. Behold the squalid prostitute, lurid with debauchery, and in her drunken revel breathing blasphemous and

  ― 198 ―
view facsimile

indecent language, and allow that human nature never could descend beyond this phase of crime; that the once noble and beautiful, the warm and interesting, the gay and lively, has changed into the bold, polluted, guilty, indecent thing which humanity shudders to contemplate; —in a word, the thing of life and soul is changed into a loathsome corpse. Now look on another picture, and blame not too rashly. That same woman was once the belle of the circle in which she moved, and loved by all for her humble accomplishments. She attended her father with untiring assiduity in his last illness; she was poor, but struggled against poverty and neglect. Her beauty attracted admirers. She loved; her fine feelings and ignorance of the world induced her to listen to the picture of felicity which the deceiver painted, and she was ruined. For this she was repaid with scorn, contempt, and neglect. She was spurned by her own sex, and her self-respect was gone for ever. She wept tears of blood; then she was eagerly seized upon by the vile and abandoned of her own sex, and soothed her misery in forgetfulness. Lower and lower she descended through the frightful abyss, and now she has become the dregs, the offal of humanity, without a spark of feeling or a blush of shame. And was she altogether to blame? No; it was society, which ejected her from its bosom upon the first fault appearing, which is to blame, after the spoiler had crushed the blooming flower. Yet how many days has she pined after her lost fame, and sobbed at the thought of former times and virtuous friends! But she had lost her equilibrium, and could not recover. She was in the position of one hurled from a high pinnacle and

  ― 199 ―
view facsimile

east into a deep chasm. It is to be regretted that so much licentious literature has emanated from the English Press for some years back, which has had the most pernicious effect upon the minds of the romantic and sensitive. We hope that it will recover its tone, and that the literature of the age may be distinguished alike for intellectual power and moral beauty.

In Willis's mind there was strangely blended many great, noble, and poetic feelings, with debauched habits and licentious sentiments. At times he was passionately fond of reading; he would study the history of Hannibal, the great Carthagenian general, and weep tears of joy over his brilliant career and the greatness of his genius; he would feel for his reverses in later life as strongly as if he were his dear friend, and yet the very next day would drown his melancholy in drunken revels, and make himself more stupid than the beasts of the field, or bring on insanity. He could not live without excitement.

The morning on which he left the blacks was very beautiful; for in Australia, as has already been noticed, this is no uncommon event after a stormy night, when the tempest has vented its fury. The sun burst out encircled with a cloud of glory, brightening glade, and dale, and plain; the grass, the trees, the flowers were fresh and brilliant with dew-drops, which sparkled in the sunshine like diamonds or pearls; and Willis was alive to this beauty as he sauntered along the Bush. Even in the wilds of Australia the Spirit of Beauty unfolds herself to the lover of nature, and breathes a freshness, a light over all creation.

  ― 200 ―
view facsimile

She is present in the utter stillness of the sleeping forest, and in the magnificent lustre the summer sun throws over its dusky ranges, ——— "as he chequers the forest dun
Into light and shade”

in the still, smooth-flowing river edged by the most luxurious display of forest beauty—in her vaulted skies which are heavenly and more beautiful than those of Italy—in her solitary and inaccessible mountain ranges—in her wild flowers of the brightest hues opening their petals in tenderness, but “———— born to blush unseen,
And waste their sweetness on the desert air.”

Nay, there is poetry in the vast weary plains from their utter desolation; the traveller is like the last man—neither life nor living thing meets his eye. But although there is much of the grand and beautiful in nature to be found, man has subdued and overcome it. The Colonies are the regions of stern reality; romance in the Colonies would not be tolerated; plain matter-of-fact is what the majority look to—something about the squatting interest, about sheep or cattle, or money, is their summum bonum. Wealth is very well, but it is not to be compared with mental culture, and it is our earnest desire that the taste of the public mind in the Colonies should refine and improve. The Press might do much towards this, and a decided improvement has certainly been made manifest during the last years in some of the Colonies; but a system of slander and vulgar recrimination and scandal-

  ― 201 ―
view facsimile

mongering is still continued in others. The various editors ought to reflect upon the consequences, and for the sake of society adopt a better system. We hope they will soon be devoting their energies towards the cause of literature and science. The Eastern Colonies are peculiarly situated at the antipodes of Europe, the mistress of civilisation; in this isolated situation they form, as it were, a little world within themselves. They have arrived at no contemptible greatness within the last few years, in consequence of their own resources. They have prospered against adverse fortunes, and in spite of distance and neglect. And would it not be a pity that these fine new countries should descend in the scale of civilisation?— Heaven forbid!

To return from this digression. Mr. Willis was pleased with the beauty of the morning, and wandered onwards through the forest. The birds warbled sweetly in the trees;—what a relief, what a contrast from the dismal shadows of night, which chilled him and flightened him! He walked forward for twenty-five miles, and at last stopped at the first human habitation he had met with to solicit a drink of tea and a slice of bread. It was an humble abode, being only an out-station, but what there was to give was soon brought forth. The poor traveller partook rather sparingly of even this humble fare, and having recruited his strength, he again set forward and walked about twenty miles further. He might have remained at a station during the night, but he preferred to sleep in the air, although the cold was excessive.In his present

  ― 202 ―
view facsimile

mood, he was averse to mix with men. We take leave of him for the present at about fifteen miles' distance from the town; he wished to get within such a distance, that he might reach it before breakfast on the following morning.