― 103 ―
view facsimile

IT is necessary, for the information of our readers, that we delay our narrative to glance for a moment at the prospects of Arabin. We have said that he was unacquainted with the inhabitants of the town in which he resided; the society was not good enough for him, and he was not good enough for it. In plain language, there exists in the Colonies but one aristocracy, and that is of wealth: rank and talent are nothing in the scales. The Colonists worship no god but Plutus: rank is not of much account; talent is respected abstractedly, but it commands almost no respect for individuals.

In some of our Eastern Colonies, attempts have been made to form an exclusive circle by the more aristocratic emigrants; but in every instance these attempts have turned out failures. For a time it is all very well; but fine gentlemen are the most unfortunate set of Colonists, and the more plebeian class soon acquire the money which they expend. Without money, they sink beneath the very classes they had treated with contempt. In fact, society must not be formed by emigrants, whatever their pretensions; it must be first decomposed, and the successful Colonists raise themselves into a superior rank by their industry and good name.

  ― 104 ―
view facsimile

There has been a spirit of reckless speculation abroad in the Australian Colonies, which has brought many of the apparently wealthy to insolvency. The majority of them will do no good in future; we think that when once a person is insolvent, he has no chance of getting forward in business afterwards—at any rate, where he is known. It is true, there are exceptions; there are honest as well as dishonest insolvents: the former may succeed, the latter will not. Fraud is bad policy; indeed, it is better (and we advise every person) to act honestly, and have a clear conscience. This advice may seem singular to many from a person who has evidently sojourned in New South Wales, especially to such as remember Elia's letter to B. F. at Sydney, New South Wales. There is a remnant, however, even in that tainted country, untainted with crime.

Dr. Arabin had received no attention from any class, because he was poor! Out upon the vile, disgraceful practice of adoring men for their means, in a ratio with the amount of gold which they can command! Alas! very few are above this practice. Men, in the confined sphere in which he moved, “a solitary being,” knew him not. He possessed no money, and there was nothing to be gained by his acquaintance; he was distant in his manners, and therefore an unpleasant medical adviser where gossip is the order of the day. During the time he had resided in the country, he had not been on intimate terms with any person; the few cases where his services were required had not remunerated him; indeed, he was occasionally rather anxious for the future.

  ― 105 ―
view facsimile

About this time he received a small legacy which had been bequeathed to him two years before by a relation in India. It was unexpected. The English lawyers had but little hopes of being able to recover it; it was lying in a banking-house, but as the will was informal, it could not be come at. Another party had claimed it, and it was thrown into the Court of Chancery. At the time Arabin sailed, there was no prospect of a speedy termination to the case, and he had no idea of recovering the money. His lawyer, however, had received instructions how to act, and he recovered the money, and sent it in the form of a banker's bill payable in London.

It was when negotiating this document that it transpired that he was in possession of money. He was hardly aware of the cause which had created the change in the tone of his fellow-townsmen when addressing him; but it was evident that his society was more courted than before. It is impossible to deny but that he was pleased with this reaction in his favour— for who does not like to be caressed and courted ?

For the whole period that he had resided in Australia, he had been inclined to return to England, or proceed to India or New Zealand. We may here say, that we have frequently known Colonists living in this state of suspense from day to day, and from year to year. The labouring classes too, although better fed, clothed, and paid than in Europe, are invariably grumbling about the country, and threatening to leave it and return. Dr. Arabin had lodged his money in the bank, and at the very moment when he saw Willis lying in the street, was canvassing the propriety of

  ― 106 ―
view facsimile

remaining longer in the Colony, and the advantages of returning home.

To the natives of Australia there is perhaps no boon in the world which would compensate for absence from their sunny clime. The Colonist, however, cannot forget the ties which bind him towards his own land, and we find very few fully reconciled to remaining in Australia for life. But, again, those who have been in it for any length of time almost invariably return to it—so contradictory are human feelings.

Dr. Arabin was rather better pleased with the country: he was anxious to see the world, but he also had anxieties about his prospects, and was eager to catch at any chance which presented hopes of profit. The report had gone abroad that he was wealthy; it spread —swelled, and it would have astonished ultimately even the first promulgator to hear the town talk. He was now looked up to as a person of some little consequence, and spoken of in the most respectful manner. His practice also increased.

An extensive auctioneer and agent had occasion for medical advice; he sent for Dr. Arabin. It is true that he talked much, during the visit, of the enormous sacrifices which he would be obliged to make of various fine properties, &c., and a man of the world might have been apt to regard him as a bargain-maker even in his domestic arrangements. Dr. Arabin, however, never suspected that all this battery of eloquence was directed against his own small deposit in the Bank of —— : he had no suspicion it could accomplish such extensive purchases. In fact, had the auctioneer openly requested Dr. Arabin to purchase any of his first-rate

  ― 107 ―
view facsimile

bargains, it is more than probable that it would have frightened him, and caused him to determine upon returning to England.

We are surprised that ordinary minds take so kindly to the “New World” at first. It is a scene where the incidents, scenery, and “dramatis personae” are new and strange. The fancy, too, frequently recurs to old times and other scenes. Gradually the Colonists become inwardly reconciled to the change, but they are outwardly grumblers for life.

Dr. Arabin's case was similar to most others. He came out partly from anxiety to see the world, and partly from the wish to escape poverty at home and to accumulate money. When he arrived, he found that a fortune was not easily acquired. He wished to love the beautiful wilderness in which his lot had been cast, but he longed also for the high civilisation of Britain; his heart did not take kindly with the pastoral life—he thought of the beautiful lines of Horace— "Ludit herboso pecus omne campo
Cum tibi nonae redeunt Decembris;
Festus in pratis vacat otio suo
Cum bove pagus.”

But the flocks did not appear to sport joyously; nor did the December feast pass lightly off, as it was wont on the Tiber in the days of the famous lyric poet. On the contrary, it appeared to Arabin, for some time after his arrival, that he had retrograded in life, in leaving a highly-cultivated and civilised country, and locating himself in a semi-barbarous Colony, hardly even explored. He loved to find books and music and rational amusement at hand, when he was inclined to

  ― 108 ―
view facsimile

be amused: he had never known the want of them before, it is true, and perhaps the craving after them now was but imaginary; but one half the discontents of the world arise, after all, merely from ideal causes. He was aware that the country had many advantages. The climate cannot be equalled in any part of the globe; food must be cheap where stock is abundant; wages are high, and the working classes are independent; grazing and agriculture will ultimately be very profitable speculations, but the Government must grant the squatter's right to the soil upon moderate terms. We hope that refinement will then supplant vulgarity, and that a taste for literature will advance the Australians in the eyes of the world. How eagerly we hope this, we cannot express.

We have wandered from our narrative in describing the struggle which agitated the breast of Arabin on this, to him, momentous subject. “Should he remain?” was a far more important question than “Should he leave his native land?” If he decided upon remaining, he severed the last link from the chain which bound him to his native country—the hills which looked so fragrant, the fields which looked so green; then came the question—“Was it likely he would succeed in his profession in Britain?” He was compelled to admit that the chances were fearfully against this, while, on the contrary, he might succeed in Australia. He was an enthusiast, but he had also an independent spirit. The certainty of maintaining himself in a respectable manner was overcoming the repugnance which, at first, he had entertained for the country. He speculated now occasionally upon the manner in which he ought to invest

  ― 109 ―
view facsimile

his small capital. House property, until within the last year or two, has been about the best investment; and even now it will yield a large annual return where it can be procured in first-rate situations for business; it would be dear at the cost of the bricks and mortar in bad situations. In former times, in the Australian Colonies, every kind of property was at a fictitious value.

The Government had large deposits in every one of the Colonial Banks; about three years ago these were drawn out and exported to pay for the large bounty emigration of 1840, 1841, and 1842. About this very period the land-mania was at an almost unparalleled height. In the year 1840, the coin in the whole of the Banks of New South Wales was £309,529 15s., and the land-sales were £316,626 7s. 5d.; allowing for a small balance in the Colonial Treasury and the military chest, it is evident that all the real money in circulation had been used in purchasing land from Government. Then, when we examine the magnitude of the private transactions in land, and the speculations in stock, shipping, grain, merchandize, houses, machinery, &c., and are sensible that at this very period the coin was being paid away for the bounty emigrants, we can perceive that the late panic was inevitable.

The circulation of all the Banks for 1840 was £215,720. In 1837, the Government had £237,000 in the Treasury, and £127,000 in the Banks. In 1840 it had but £39,000 in the vault, and £188,000 in the Banks. In September and in October, it had £281,000 in the Banks. The reader will bear in mind that this was when land speculation was at the extreme height.

  ― 110 ―
view facsimile

Mr. Riddell, the Colonial Treasurer, says, that when the Government kept this large capital in the Banks, the Banks distributed it in the way of discounts, and afforded facilities to many to purchase land, and produced that wild spirit of speculation which ruined all the merchants, and many of the graziers. Between 1840 and 1841, the Government drew out in all £260,000, leaving but a trifling balance in each of them. The Banks were curtailing—the merchants and traders were alarmed—a panic was the consequence, and a depreciation in the exchangeable value of property which the most disastrous panic in Europe cannot perhaps parallel.

However small the town in which Dr. Arabin was, it supported a company of strolling players. There was no theatre, but the saloon of a large hotel afforded the lovers of the drama an opportunity of seeing both tragedy and comedy performed. Arabin strolled into this building upon the evening of the day in which Willis had escaped in a clandestine manner from his house, for the express purpose of observing if he should attend. The performances of the evening had commenced; the room, although large, was densely thronged: he looked in vain for the fugitive among the dark figures which met his gaze. He took little interest in the operetta, but he found no ordinary gratification in examining the numerous samples of the “squatter” species who crowded about the room. They were all young men; some indeed, in Britain, would have been regarded merely as boys. Their apparel was of coarse material, and shaped after the most approved sporting fashions. Long hair, which

  ― 111 ―
view facsimile

many a fashionable belle would have envied, was covered, for the most part, with “cabbage-tree hats,” set independently on “three hairs.” In their manners they were boisterous and abrupt; they assimilated pretty closely to the young squires of Osbaldiston— Messrs. Thorncliff, Richard, John, and Wilfred 0sbaldiston, although the eye wandered in vain for a Die Vernon to brighten the picture. Not even a figure met his eye which bore the least resemblance to his old favourite Archer Fairservice, and to look for the Baillie in Australia would have been too absurd.

At last he had the excellent fortune to procure a seat. Before him were two settlers who, instead of enjoying the performance, had been engaged in a little private pastime; he could not but hear the conversation which was passing.

“He is the most consummate story-teller in the country. Don't you remember how he spread a report that Dicky Wood offered to back his horse for fifty pounds, and it all turned out fudge? I would not believe him on his oath.”

“Yes,” continued the other, coaxingly, “but I heard it from another quarter—Joe Johnston told me.” “He be —— !”

“Come, then, it is of little use to quarrel over it,” replied the other. “Is it true, by-the-bye, that Captain Thomson is going away, and is offering his sheep?”


“He has fine stock—I wonder what price he wants?” inquired the other settler.

“I don't know, but there are not sheep in the

  ― 112 ―
view facsimile

Colony I would give more for, and his station is capital.”

“I wish I had the money,” said the settler; “but I am as poor as a water-rat: a few thousand sheep now will scarcely support a squatter at a good inn. I see none better off than myself, except that lucky dog Willis, who has gold always at his command: he must steal it. Poor devil! I hear he is out of his mind.”

“Yes, so the waiters at my hotel tell me: there is something not above-board there. There is a move which I am not up to—and I know most of the queer moves too in this enchanting and particularly honest country.”

“Well! well!” replied the person addressed, “time will show, I suppose. We cannot deny that Willis is a liberal fellow, and we must not inquire too strictly into the means by which he acquires the money.”

“Of course not; but I am tired of this playing farce. I shall go; come along.”

The two young men extricated themselves from the crowd and disappeared. Arabin sat for some time cogitating upon what he had heard fall from them. Captain Thomson he knew, and had frequently heard that his stock was of a very superior breed, and, what was more, the station was very fine, and capable of running the increase of many years. It was true, Captain Thomson had a great number; and his means, again, were very limited. From every old Colonist, however, he learned that stock was the best speculation, and he had some little anxiety to invest his money in the “golden fleece,” in hopes of being able

  ― 113 ―
view facsimile

to arrive at independence through this aid. Captain Thomson's station adjoined, and was about fifteen miles from the station of his patient Willis; and so great was his anxiety about the poor lunatic, that Arabin determined to ride out on the following morning, and, if possible, extend his ride to Captain Thomson's. No sooner had he arrived at this resolution, than all the former perplexities disturbed his mind; at the time he resolved upon the journey, his mind was settled. The idea of remaining in the country brought a relapse of his disease—melancholy. The thoughts of dependence at home, and blighted hopes and no prospect but genteel starvation, incited him to remain and try to better his condition.

We assure you, reader, that we are not prone to exaggerate; these are genuine human feelings. Those who have been reared amidst the conventionalisms of highly-civilised countries are loth to settle down in very new lands. Australia is a beautiful clime: its society, however, wants tone; its alluvial lands want labour, properly applied; its manufactures, commerce, and fisheries want capital. Give it but these elements of success, and no country can compete with it.