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CHAPTER XX. A BUSH PARTY.—THE OUTLANDISH SETTLER'S TALE.




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IN this work it has been our object to give as many striking Colonial scenes as it was possible within the confined limits we have allotted ourselves. Without egotism, we may safely say, that not a single line has been written which will not afford the reader both amusement and instruction. We are afraid that the refined and intellectual reader may observe a dissonance in the variety of scenery introduced, in the abrupt changes of characters and scenery. Should any critic observe this fault, we beg him to reflect upon our materials, and upon our object. Our materials are far from luxuriant, unless of character, which in the Colonies is rich, originaI, glowing. We are liable to be coerced at every turn by our plain matter-of-fact Colonists, who carry dates in their waistcoat pockets. Our object is to instruct as well as to amuse—to bring forward the Colonies and Colonisation, confident that the future greatness of England must be from her children's power and wealth. Our desire has been to show that the interest of England is clearly to foster, protect, and reform her Colonies.

After Dr. Arabin had so far recovered from his illness that he could be moved with safety, he was taken to Mr. Butler's station. He was still weak, but the country air had a wonderful effect upon his constitution.


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The summer was now almost at an end, and the weather had already broken—the days were cool and agreeable, and Dr. Arabin was pleased with the Bush, for its solitary sublimity was in keeping with his feelings. Sickness has a perceptible effect upon reflective minds, and frequently turns out a blessing instead of a misfortune.

Dr. Arabin had, fortunately, not endured racking, excruciating agony; his strength had been prostrated by a low fever, which would not depart for several weeks, and the mind was a little diseased. At first he was irritable, untameable; but towards the end, he became reconciled to his temporary affliction, and determined to endure it with patience and fortitude. Upon his arrival at Mr. Butler's house, he was more disposed for calm reflection and contemplation than he had ever been before. He loved to wander alone or in the company of his wife in the solitary Bush, in the romantic valley in which the house was situated, or upon the wild plains, and admire the beauties which nature everywhere presented. There is a lovely, melancholy magnificence in the Australian Bush, which requires to be seen to be appreciated. It was now the season to see the country in all its beauty and luxuriance of scenery. In the summer months desiccation had given it a barren appearance: autumn, however, changes the outward appearance of nature; “The sap rushes from its cells,
And clothes them in fresh robes of green.”

In these moments of calm reflection, Dr. Arabin perceived much to censure in his former dissatisfaction.


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The Bible but promises bread and water, while he had every comfort which he could desire. Then he asked himself why he should long for travel and adventure, and in his melancholy moments for death? He decided that it was nothing more nor less than tempting his Maker with unworthy repinings. A resolution was formed to fulfil his duties as a respectable member of society, and to be thankful to Providence, which had caused his “lines to fall in pleasant places.”

In Australia there is a great want of objects calculated to cheer the human soul, with the outward picture of comfort they present. The sociable, comfortable, and jovial farmers of England, which class has been regarded as the happiest on earth, are confined to their own parks and meadows. In Australia no scenes of happy comfort are to be .met with; the wild, lonely grandeur of the untrodden wilderness is, however, some recompense. Dr. Arabin had never had so much time to admire and reflect. He daily discovered new beauties blushing in the face of Nature—new voices speaking home to the heart in the sublimity of the silent forest. There was a harmony even in these wild scenes, the sense of which broke upon the mind by imperceptible degrees. The tender, devoted, undivided attention which he received from his young wife, was also gratifying to him: he formed the centre of her cares and wishes; who could be insensible to these attentions from one so young and so beautiful? Dr. Arabin certainly was not; things were seen by him in another prospect than before. He was now contented with his lot; he might have done better and


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been more advanced in the world, but he might have been in far worse circumstances.

The weather changed, and one of those floods of rain peculiar to the winter season fell. It was impossible to stir out now; he was unhappy at the loss of his lone walks in the Australian forest. He had the society of his devoted wife to console him, and Mr. Butler and his lady were very kind and attentive to their sickly visitor. He had books too, to wile away a leisure hour, and altogether he did pretty well.

The prospect out-of-doors was now dreary enough. The river, which in warm weather had been dry in many places, and which could have been crossed by a leap at any place, was swollen into a great stream of water. It thundered along now a foaming torrent, which no power could stem or stay. It was utterly impossible to cross it, and travellers were brought upon its banks.

One day, while Mr. Butler and his lady, with their visitors, were seated at dinner, a queer figure suddenly entered, dressed in a blue flannel shirt, and cord inexpressibles, with an old jacket, and part of a hat, minus the brim. The ladies started, as this charming figure entered, and screamed “Bushrangers!” They were mistaken. He proved to be an outlandish settler from the interior, who had not been to town for ten years before; he had been upon intimate terms with Butler at some period, and therefore made himself perfectly at home. One or two stray travellers also took refuge at his house; they were waiting to cross the river, and it was impossible to refuse them the shelter of the roof. There was now a regular Bush party; and Dr.


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Arabin, who had never been in contact with so many squatters before, had the opportunity to see and hear without mixing much in the conversation, for he was excused on the plea of ill health. The persons assembled were all settlers or squatters, and excellent specimens of the squatting interest. There was the outlandish settler, a rough, half-civilised (in manner) kind of fellow. There was a more dandified settler, whose station was just across the river; and a stock-owner and jobber, who had stations in different parts of the country. The staple of the conversation was about stock. The next topic of importance was Colonial politics. Town and country news formed also part of their discourse, and occasionally they wandered as far as England and Europe. Dr. Arabin was at times very much gratified with the conversation of these children of the woods, which displayed singular practical knowledge and shrewdness, on whatever subject they discoursed. Did time permit, we would give some of the conversations that passed, or at any rate give their ideas upon Colonial affairs. Our space is limited, and we shall conclude the chapter with a story which the outlandish settler told them while sitting by the fire on a rainy evening.

THE BUSHRANGERS.

I was not surprised that you took me for a Bushranger, in my worn clothes. These gentry are becoming scarce. When I first came into these Colonies, we used to fight with them every year; but now the majority of the Colonists are free, and Bushranging will soon be out of date. In Van Diemen's Land it


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is still carried on to a frightful extent. In my opinion, the Press is to blame for recording the exploits of these Bush gentry; indeed, I am positive that more turn Bushrangers to acquire a little temporary fame, than from any other motive.

But the Bushrangers of the old days were of a more ferocious character. They had no pity. Woman was not safe; they violated maid and matron before the eyes of their husbands and relatives. They were refined at torture. Many a cruel story I know of them, but I shall relate but one.

I emigrated first to Van Diemen's Land, and had a farm not far from Pitt Water for two years. The country at that time was infested with Bushrangers. My neighbours were generally frightened at them, and I cannot say but that I was a little timid at first; however, like everything else, you get used to it by degrees. I was very partial to one of my neighbours, named Parker. He was a fine, jolly, middle-aged farmer from Lincoln; and his wife was a stout, comely person, an excellent specimen of an English farmer's wife, who had received a good education. They had a pretty little farm, and were well in. I had frequently received little favours from them, and I was always partial to them.

Well, one night, about midnight, four armed Bushrangers broke into their bedroom while they slept; and it may be necessary to say that Mrs. Parker expected to be a mother in a few months. These Bushrangers got a light, dragged the poor fellow out of bed, and tied him hand and foot, telling him if he stirred they would plaster his brains to the wall. The


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woman was wakened with the noise, and the inhuman brutes abused her before the eyes of the husband. How his feelings must have been agonised at the sight! how he must have suffered at this excruciating torture! The leader of the Bushrangers was one of the most ferocious ruffians in the profession, but none ever displayed such unrelenting cruelty. He had twice escaped from Port Arthur, and was in fact a double-distilled villain. After he had violated the person of the poor woman, whose situation would have called for pity from any one but a demon, he seized a child by the hair, and was just on the point of dashing it against the wall, when the heroic conduct of the woman changed the aspect of affairs. Like all settlers of those days, there were fire-arms in the house; a brace of pistols were in the bed, ready loaded; and if the ruffians had not got in by stealth, they would have met a determined resistance. In the excitement of despair, the woman caught one of the weapons—they were ready, and she took a slow aim at the ruffian, who was unconscious of his danger; he fell, pierced to the brain by the bullet: another weapon remained, and another Bushranger bit the dust. Still her fury was not by any means assuaged. She attacked the remaining two with the courage of a lioness: after a determined resistance, they fled. They had not well left the house, when the noble-spirited woman who had so bravely revenged her own injuries was seized with the pains of premature labour. The husband was too confused to be of any assistance; she untied the cords with which he was bound, but his legs refused their office. Servant there was none;


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their sole helper was in Hobart Town with the dray. The poor woman was now in the extreme of misery; but she regarded not—she wished for death, there was nothing to live for that could compensate her for what she had lost. In the morning she was still alive, and the husband was now well enough to get assistance. A surgeon was procured; but the aid he was able to afford could not save the noble-hearted woman. she would none of his aid;he could not “———— minister to a mind diseased,
Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow.”

Her time was come; and when we take every circumstance of the case in prospect, we cannot but think she was better in that place "where the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest."

The ruffians who had been spectators of the cruel act did not escape. They crossed the country, and plundered one or two unprotected stations. They next approached a small town, where they were not known, and gave out that they were constables from Hobart Town in pursuit of a gang of Bushrangers. The landlord was an experienced Colonist, and knew pretty well “the cut of their jib.” He did not betray any distrust at first, until he had armed one or two of the neighbours, whom he walked into the room where they were seated. As they could not give any evidence that they were in the constabulary, he took them prisoners, and sent for the police. They were marched to Hobart Town, and recognised as the remnant of the cruel band who had robbed Parker's station. In a fortnight after, they were executed. I have seen


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a few Bushrangers in New South Wales, but they were gentlemen compared with these ruffians. I have no doubt but that Bushranging will be altogether discontinued here in future. The free population have gained such an ascendancy, that I can foresee a radical change for the better already; and, what is yet more singular, the descendants of the convicts are commonly virtuous and honest. We hope the guilt of the parents may never be a reproach to the children.

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We cannot help here making the remark, that we agree with the settler who recited the foregoing adventure with Bushrangers. We hope in a few years the population of New South Wales will be virtuous and principled. We think we see the change gradually working; we think at the present moment society is in a state of transitionfrom ignorance and crime to knowledge and virtue.

We observe here also, that we long for an improvement in the better order of Colonial society. Hitherto only a favoured few of our young Colonists have had the advantage of a good education. There were not schools in the country, and it was both expensive and troublesome to send their children to England to be educated. Now over the length and breadth of the inhabited districts we observe temples of instruction rearing their heads. In the metropolis there are several most excellent schools, not to notice the Sydney College, which has improved very much within the last two years. We may therefore look for the fruit in the mental character of the ensuing generation;


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we may reasonably expect that these schools will send forth some men of genius and mental power, whose fame may mark the country and the age. We are ever prone to charge the Colonists with being a matter-of-fact class, who are only fit to follow sheep and cattle; but we do not know, but that with the advantages of education, men of brilliant abilities and gifted with unconquerable enthusiasm may not start up and shed a lustre over their names and country; we look and long for such men. There is too much of stern reality in the Colonies; they have been regarded hitherto as only a refuge for the destitute; and it has been considered that those only emigrate whose chance of success at home is desperate, who would rather go to the Colonies than to prison. But now, young men of capital and of respectable connexions are desirous of embarking for the Colonies, and we look to a radical change.

The weather broke up, and the settlers could now pursue their journey. The river was still dangerous, but their horses were accustomed to swim, and they took the water famously. It was capital fun to see them cross. One only was a little timid, the others were quite at home in the matter. The horses one after another plunged into the turbid stream, and breasted the waves in gallant style. All crossed over in safety, and forming in regular order on the opposite banks of the stream, gave a loud huzza; they then pursued their way, no doubt very glad to have got across without accident.

Arabin was very happy to see them depart; the bustle and noise consequent on so large a party confined


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in so small a house had excited him, and he required rest and fine weather to recruit his exhausted frame.

The days were now beautiful, neither too hot nor too cold. It was fortunate for the invalid that the weather broke just then; had it continued much longer wet, his health might have been irreparably injured. The interval of wet weather had sharpened his zest for the pleasures of the country, and he began to ramble the country again. He would rise with the lark, and admire the beauty of the mornings. We think we have remarked elsewhere that the mornings are very beautiful in Australia. It is healthy to be abroad at this season of the day; there is a freshness visible in nature, which has its effect upon the dullest heart. The sluggard in this climate is not a sensible person. The fine weather revived our hero—he recovered his health rapidly; every day that passed brought him an accession of strength, and saw him in better spirits.

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