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CHAPTER IX. AN AUSTRALIAN HOTEL.—A JOURNEY BY DAYLIGHT.




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WE have stated that Arabin had determined upon visiting Captain Thomson, and calling at Willis's station on his road. On his way home from the theatre, he resolved to look in at the hotel where he had visited him upon one or two previous occasions, and inquire of the landlord, whom he knew, if any tidings of him had been received.

The house formed a pretty fair specimen of an Australian hotel, and therefore we shall describe it. It had two doors—one into the tap-room, and another into the house. The first-named apartment was probably the most profitable, and was crowded every hour of the day with carters, bullock-drivers, and tradesmen. The landlord attended here, and shone like a brilliant star among the lesser satellites, as much as ever did prime minister or monarch in the midst of an admiring host of courtiers and lesser dignitaries. He was an excellent manager, too, and could reduce his spirits so as to make one glass run out two. He had a quick eye “after the crumbs,” as he termed it, and never lost the chance of making a penny. There was one foible which interfered with this desire to accumulate—he had a peculiar taste for everything connected with the turf; he loved every jockey in the place, and would often treat them to


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grog; indeed, he might rather be regarded as a great jockey than anything else. This partiality was extended towards those who were proficient in the noble science of defence; he would himself strike if insulted, and his idea of a good fellow was, that he was “game.” This was a sine quâ non with him; a man might be rich, clever, anything,—but unless he was “game,” he was nobody. He was happy idling away his time in the front bar or tap, listening to the conversation of the fancy men who commonly frequented it; and we need scarcely say that the topics under discussion were commonly the ring and the turf. The conversation of the stockmen and bullock-drivers who frequented his tap afforded him no ordinary gratification: the whole delight of such worthies is centred in the tap; they have no satisfaction beyond drinking rum, and, when their money is exhausted, in asking the landlord out of bravado “if they owe him anything?” What pen could describe their self-importance when the landlord would smile upon them benignantly and declare they had paid him like gentlemen? Then to see them hardly able to understand the landlord's request not to get drunk—what singular advice to men so tipsy that they are scarcely able to walk! See them staggering, hardly able to light a short black pipe. What consequence! what is the Emperor of Russia in their estimation? they are greater than he,—they are drunk, and owe nothing. Alas! we regret that this is a true picture of the lowest class in Australia, and, we fear, in many other countries. They glory in their shame: they enjoy getting drunk; when sober, they are miserable. Would that taste and knowledge would spread


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in the country, and usurp the place now held by ignorance and dissipation!

In the front also was the parlour. Here the settlers congregated from morning till night. It was a mimic Tattersall's in the day, while during the night the drinking and fun were at times maintained until the landlord gave positive orders that the lights should be put out which, by the way, was not often. In the morning, one or two would be found asleep under the table, who had been too drunk or too poor to procure beds.

We have given our readers a brief sketch of the hotel and its worthy head, and we must follow the motions of Arabin as he entered the bar and asked for the landlord.

He was not there, but his locum tenens informed Dr. Arabin that he had not been gone above five minutes.

Arabin was retreating, when a rather dissipated— looking man, who stood by, offered to take him to the house were the landlord was.

Arabin stared at the interruption, but the man continued, “You need not stare; there are no flies about me—what I say I mean to do.”

Dr. Arabin was inclined to be angry with the fellow for his impertinence; but as he looked a character, he thought there might be fun to be picked out of him, so he answered that he would accompany him.

“That's blessed right,” replied the man; “there's no gammon in me, so stir your stumps and crawl along, you cripple.”

Passing along the street for some hundred yards, the two entered a narrow lane. It was dark, and the


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inhabitants had retired. There was however at least one exception, for the sound of dancing, blended with music, met the ear. The person who acted as conductor halted at the door of the house of festivity, and knocked. The door was opened, and Arabin was in the house before he had time to retreat. The person they wished to see was conspicuous, and the guide called him, by the name of “Jeremiah” to come out.

“Come in,” replied the landlord, putting his hand extended to his nose, in the fashion which is vulgarly called “a lunar.”— “Come in, Doctor,” said he, when he observed Arabin. “I did not think you had been accustomed to cruise about at night.”

“I am sorry,” replied the person addressed, coldly, “that I have interrupted you; but the fact is, I am leaving town to-morrow, and want to ask you if you know anything about the young settler whom I was called in to attend the other night?”

“I will go with you presently,” said the landlord, in a more serious tone; “I wish to wait here a few minutes longer to witness these pugilists. This is Larry O'Brien, as we call him, the great Irish champion; and the other is the Australian Cornstalk, who is open to fight any man in the Colonies. We are to have a mill at the race-course in a few days, and I came down to see how the Cornstalk is, as I have backed him for thirty ‘old shirts’ (pounds), and I should not like to lose.”

“No, that would not do for Larry,” remarked the tall man sarcastically.

At this remark, the whole company laughed and shouted and screamed with mirth.




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“No, indeed,” replied the landlord, “it would not do for Larry.”

“Ah, no,” replied the dark man;

“The furst thing I saw was a man without a head —
‘By my faith, then,’ said I, ‘and you'd better been in bed,
With your hauling, and your bawling, and your fighting, and Larry.’
Och! blood and thunder was the game that they did carry.
But that will never do for Larry O'Brien.”

“You are a nice youth, Larry,” remarked the landlord, “only you are such a horrid rogue.”

“There is no flies there,” remarked another.

“Hold your tongue, Thunder-and-Turk!” replied Larry, “or I will bung up your eye.”

Arabin had often heard the names of these renowned Colonial “bruisers,” and he examined their appearance with no little attention. The "Cornstalk" was a powerful man, with a good-natured countenance, and very fair. The Hibernian, nicknamed “Larry O'Brien,” from the famous Irish song, was a tall man, very active, but his frame by no means indicated the great strength for which he was famous. The individual who has been already noticed as “Thunder-and-Turk,” was a short, stout seaman of about thirty, dressed in blue jacket and white trousers. Two or three settlers were in the room, and a tipsy old man, whose charge it was to give them music from a fiddle, sat behind the door. It seems that bets had been made, as to which champion could dance longest: the landlord informed him they had danced for two hours, and had stopped, thinking it was impracticable


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to tire out either, from the extraordinary lungs they possessed.

“We all thought Larry was not game to dance with the Cornstalk,” said Thunder-and-Turk; “but he's nearly put the breath out of his precious body already.”

“You lie,” said the Cornstalk.

“Come on, then,” said Larry; and he jumped about the room, turning his fingers into castanets. “You ain't game!”

“He ain't game!” repeated Thunder-and-Turk, Larry O'Brien, and all the others, tauntingly.

“He ain't ga-ga-ga-game,” said the tipsy fiddler.

“He ain't game !” said the whole, in a simultaneous shout of disappointed hope.

“He's sick,” said Thunder-and-Turk.

“He's dead knocked-up,” said the landlord in a passion.

“Let the sickness go up the chimley,” said the tipsy fiddler.

“Go and catch flies, you greenhorns! Look and see how many paving-stones you can see in my eyes. Go on, you fool!” cried the Cornstalk. “I'll dance you for five pounds.”

“Hurrah!” shouted the company and the landlord, and once again the fiddler struck up the favourite tune of Larry O'Brien, and the two champions began to caper and dance at a rate that would soon have knocked up ordinary mortals. Larry capered about the room, and turned his face into the most grotesque shapes, to the great astonishment of Dr. Arabin and the intense amusement of the company; his fingers were busy too,


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and he went through many singular evolutions. The Cornstalk continued to dance in the quietest manner possible; the exertion appeared to have no more effect on him than any ordinary exertion of his muscular powers.

The landlord was now once more called out by Dr. Arabin; and he followed him, although most unwillingly. Not one of the company noticed their exit, so entirely was their attention engrossed by the motions of the dancers.

“Now, old fellow,” said the landlord as they emerged from the lane—“I beg your pardon, I mean young gentleman. You say you wished to hear about flash Jack Willis. You see, he is mad, and ran away this morning, and I have heard nothing of him since.”

“And did you not think it necessary to inquire after him ?”

“Not I,” said the landlord: “he has paid me, and that is what I look to. If he comes back, I shall be glad; and if not, I have lost a good customer. He can follow the bent of his own inclinations, or follow his nose, as they say in Aberdeen.”

“And do you not think it necessary even to ask after him?” inquired Dr. Arabin.

“Not I,” replied the landlord. “If I were to run up a bill in hunting him up, who would pay me?”

“Yes, my good man, but a human creature is not to be left to perish by a death at once cruel and unnatural. You must inquire after the young man, or I will expose your heartlessness.”

“You had much better attend to your pill-polishing,


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for I do not want to have anything to do with such characters.”

“And I,” replied Dr. Arabin, “beg to add, that you are a calculating, selfish villain: and as for your impertinence to myself individually, I could knock it out of you.”

The landlord was rather surprised at the sharp answer, and reflected a little upon whether it were better to pass it off as a joke, or take it as a downright insult. He arrived at the latter determination, and throwing himself into a fencing attitude, came close to the Doctor, and made a feint, crying out, “Come on!—I will soon send you spinning.”

Arabin was very much excited, and seizing the fellow by the middle, he hurled him like a child to a considerable distance before he had power to move a muscle. He was over him in an instant, and said, “You vulgar dog! how dare you take advantage of our station and insult a gentleman?”

The innkeeper rose very sulky, although it was evident he had a far better opinion of his companion than before, and asked him “what he wanted?”

“Do you think I took you by surprise?” replied Arabin; “and shall we fight it out?”

“It is of no consequence,” said the other. “Perhaps I was rude to you, and you have punished me.”

“Where, then, do you think Willis is?” asked Dr. Arabin.

“He may have gone home—or he may be in town —or very likely he has drowned himself,” replied the landlord.




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“What a strange category of events!—If he be in town, where might he be?”

“In one of the billiard-rooms,” replied the landlord. “These form his haunts when in ordinary health. I have seen him lose ten pounds in a night at the billliard-table.”

“Indeed!” replied Dr. Arabin. “He must have a long purse, then. Where has he the money?”

“He never has money, that ever I saw," replied the landlord.

“You said, then, he had paid you your bill?”

“I have no doubt of it ,” replied the landlord; “but if he had, he did not pay me in money. But that is my business.—Will you accompany me to the billlard-room?”

Dr. Arabin was by no means partial to appearing in such places with public men, but made no objection, and they directed their steps to the billiard-room to search for the unfortunate. All this was attended with unprofitable result; they were unable to hear any tidings of him from the dare-devil young men who were assembled in the room.

A billiard-room in Australia presents rather an extraordinary scene. Some settlers who figure there appear not merely to have lost the proper taste for the refinement of civilisation, but also all desire for communion with well-bred men. The freedom of the woods and plains of Australia were depicted in their roving eyes; they could hardly brook the glance of fashionable society, even of Australian cities. Several were half-frantic with brandy, and betting with some knowing hand of the town, who of course gained it at every turn.




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Dr. Arabin, unable to learn tidings of Willis, made a hasty retreat. He was occupied in reflecting upon the chances that he had returned to his station. Many thoughts crossed his mind Could the poor young man really have injured himself? The river—the cord— the knife—the many ways by which a suicide may meet his doom. But then, what was it to him? He knew almost nothing of him. “I must see Butler tomorrow,” said he, “and find out all the particulars of his history.” There was not a little mystery about him; the landlord said he squandered money, while he contradicted himself and asserted that he had no money— that he had never paid him a farthing in money. The only manner to reconcile this discrepancy was to suppose that Willis paid him in stock.

It was later in the day than he had anticipated, that Arabin started once more across the almost boundless plains; it was a beautiful day, and the senses were soothed and gratified by the sweet repose in which the landscape rested. He crossed a creek, and his horse drank from the placid waters, which seemed to smile with actual delight. The infinite varieties of foliage—the whispering wiry casuarina, the gigantic eucalyptus with its frowning branches, the lonely mimosa, the wild geranium—every leaf and blade appeared to be reposing, dreaming in the wanton sunshine. The harmony of nature and the expressive silence of the woods had some effect upon the traveller; for the heart must be hard as the “nether mill-stone,” which would not expand at the sensible delights of nature,—at recognising a real feeling, a new life in blade, and flower, and plant. When he emerged fairly


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upon the open plain, the beautiful day formed a strange contrast with the stormy night he had so lately passed on the same plain; but the change in the features of nature was not more striking than that in his own feelings. Then the soul was downcast, enveloped in a shadow—the world was a mockery of happiness; now his spirits were light, and hope beat high. And have we not all been subject to these lights and shades? We are bound to nature by mysterious and invisible sympathies; we know of agencies which we cannot comprehend —we see a few links, but the chain eludes the grasp. Not a leaf falls, or a cloud shadows the heavens, not a shade crosses the landscape—not a wind howls, or a vapour rises, but must elicit pangs from the soul of the sensitive observer. There is a hidden world of melancholy, into which every human mind occasionally is driven by gloomy whispers and by surrounding mementoes; but the sunshine soon dispels these vapours. Such moments of mental anguish are not sent without a specific object. If the world were ever fair, if the sun always shone and the flowers never quenched their lustre, then men would be too happy to think. Suffering brings strange reflections and startling thoughts. Nay, we are compelled to allow that the economy of Omnipotence is the most salutary, after all.

We believe that poets have ever endured much mental anguish. Many of the poets of modern times have groaned beneath loads of suffering; and all this sensitiveness and irritation of mind, all these clouds which render life oppressive, are the effects of melancholy. Life with them is disrobed of the colouring


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with which the inferior orders of the human species have invested it; imagination, the mainspring of human activity, has no power to withdraw their minds from the cold, stern, gloomy truth; rank, riches, fame, feeling, passion, have no longer sway— “The tree of knowledge has been plucked ! all's known.”

Cowper, Kirke White, Keats, Shelley, Landon, Hemans, and Byron, had all plucked fruit from the tree of knowledge. The latter has pictured too truly in Manfred the sufferings of genius—of a heart scorched: —— “Many a night on the earth,
On the bare ground, have I bow'd down my face,
And strew'd my head with ashes: I have known
The fulness of humiliation, for
I sank before my vain despair, and knelt
To my own desolation.”

Dr. Arabin passed along the plains, which presented a very different aspect from that of the night so often referred to. The grass was long, but white and dead; occasionally a stony ridge would intersect them, or a clump of dwarfish trees break the monotony without embellishing the scene. Dr. Arabin remarked that the distances deceived the eye, especially as the scene was on a large scale. He had travelled for about eight miles on the plains, when all at once they appeared transformed into vast lakes of burnished silver: the eye was pained by the radiating and dazzling prospect. He rubbed his eyes, and gazed again; he almost fancied himself in fairy-land, and looked for the gorgeous palace—the mosque, with its golden minarets, and the imaum praying with his face to


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Mecca—the pompous mausoleum—and, in a word, splendid cities, with spire and cupola. He never was more astonished; he could not believe that the waters of the living, rolling, speaking ocean were not spread out; indeed, had he not seen the plain some minutes before, he would not have believed other than that the eternal sea was lying before him in the calm of a tropical latitude, and canopied by the clarified, ethereal, beautiful sky of Australia. He was not accustomed to travel in the Bush, or he would have been aware that the plains often deceive the traveller with the appearance of water, and after going miles in quest of it, he finds its plains in a state of desiccation.

Dr. Arabin drew bridle, and stood many minutes absorbed in admiring the .magnificent illusion. Not a thing moved upon the illuminated plains; not a beast or bird immerged into the glittering lakes—it was, in fact, a phenomenon singular and solitary.

It is a remarkable and instructive fact, that inhabiting a country where Nature is found in her grandest proportions, the natives of Australia seem insensible to poetic emotion. Nearly all of the species known as “currency” are matter-of-fact men, with very few elements of originality in their composition, and ignorant of the pleasure to be derived from the fine arts. It is true, they are commonly handsome and active; in their characters, straightforward selfishness is the most prominent feature. There is considerable talent in the Colony, but it is of the multi-utilitarian kind, and knowledge of Colonial history and politics is confused with the price of wood and the breed of cattle. The press, that index of public opinion, although ably,


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and, for the most part, respectably conducted, yet partakes of the same character. The talent of the Colony is not perhaps of the first order of talent, but it is about the best of its kind. There are many who can speak or write about equal to an average M.P. or political economist in England; there are a few who might make no contemptible figure in St. Stephen's.

There is a primitive character which is perhaps inseparable from the occupations of Colonists, and which peculiarly characterises the pastoral class of the Australian Colonies. Byron and other writers of the ultra-sentimental caste only take in highly-civilised society: the majority of Colonists have little taste for that which the more refined and polished long for, because their mode of life is rough, and their education but limited.

Many of the settlers, however, have emigrated, and are excellent scholars. Indeed, we have heard it asserted, and with some show of truth, that more talent is centred in the flockmasters than belongs to any other trade in the world, in proportion to the number engaged in it. These have but arrived in the country, and their influence must effect a radical change in the mental standard of the native Colonists, and, we firmly hope, overcome the pernicious influence which wealthy emancipists and uneducated dealers have hitherto exercised upon the minds of the rising generation, and who, being in many instances only concealed rogues, masked their want of principle, and mingled with the more reputable class, which tended to undermine the whole moral fabric, and to sink the mental tone of the whole race of Colonists. The wheat is


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separating from the chaff; the emancipists have no organ now to hurl fetid fulminations throughout the length and breadth of the land; society will be regenerated, unless, which Heaven forbid! British convicts are once more sent to the Australian shores.

We left Arabin gazing on the imaginary sheets of water; he had not witnessed a scene so romantic before, and he was in poetic raptures: time, place, and circumstance were forgotten, and he remained for about an hour absorbed in an ideal world, or, in the language of Milton, “His eyes he closed, but open left the cell of fancy.”

And, in the expression of Cornwall, “He dreamt, and o'er his enchanted vision pass'd
Shapes of the elder time—beautiful things
That men have died for—as they stood on earth,
But more ethereal, and each forehead bore
The stamp and character of the starry skies.”

Dr. Arabin was susceptible of the sublimest emotions of poetry, but the feeling was now almost a stranger. In youth his life was a day-dream;—“he lived in an ideal world;” he was “a thing of dark imaginings:” his mind was naturally melancholy, and he fed it with the misanthropy of Lord Byron's poems and the metaphysical fictions of Shelley. But this was wearing off; communion with the world, like the tide constantly breaking upon a reek, insensibly wore down the barrier, and the feelings of the outer world oozed in. There were times when the poetic fire would resume all its potency, when he would be more enthusiastic even than in his youth.


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We need hardly add, that the above was one of these occasions. He had determined to call at Mr. Buttler's, and when he was satisfied with surveying the prospect, he turned towards the valley where his house was concealed, and made the best of his way towards it.

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